By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Practical Politics; or, the Liberalism of To-day
Author: Robbins, Alfred Farthing, 1856-1931
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Practical Politics; or, the Liberalism of To-day" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.


or the





_"Five Years of Tory Rule;" "William Edward Forster, the Man and
his Policy;" "The Marquis of Salisbury, a Personal and
Political Sketch," &c._



My Father,


The Articles here republished are from the columns of the _Halfpenny
Weekly_, to the Proprietors of which the Author is indebted for much
courtesy and consideration. They were written originally in the form of
letters to a friend, but, though they stand substantially as first
printed, various alterations have been made consequent upon the
necessities of a permanent rather than a serial form. The Author does
not profess to have exhaustively discussed every political question
which is of practical importance to-day--for that, within the limits
assigned, would have been impossible; but he has attempted to furnish a
body of information regarding the principles and aims of present-day
Liberalism, not easily accessible elsewhere, which may be useful to
those whose ideas upon public affairs are yet unformed, and helpful to
the political cause he holds dear.

_May, 1888._


      I. WHAT IS THE USE OF A VOTE?                                  11


    III. WHY NOT LET THINGS ALONE?                                   21

     IV. OUGHT ONE TO BE A PARTISAN?                                 25

      V. WHY NOT HAVE A "NATIONAL" PARTY?                            31

     VI. IS ONE PARTY BETTER THAN THE OTHER?                         35

    VII. WHAT ARE LIBERAL PRINCIPLES?                                41

   VIII. ARE LIBERALS AND RADICALS AGREED?                           47

     IX. WHAT ARE THE LIBERALS DOING?                                52

      X. SHOULD HOME RULE BE GRANTED TO IRELAND?                     58

     XI. WHAT SHOULD BE DONE WITH THE LORDS?                         66

    XII. IS THE HOUSE OF COMMONS PERFECT?                            71

   XIII. IS OUR ELECTORAL SYSTEM COMPLETE?                           77

    XIV. SHOULD THE CHURCH REMAIN ESTABLISHED?                       83

     XV. WOULD DISENDOWMENT BE JUST?                                 89

    XVI. OUGHT EDUCATION TO BE FREE?                                 97

   XVII. DO THE LAND LAWS NEED REFORM?                              102


    XIX. OUGHT LEASEHOLDS TO BE ENFRANCHISED?                       112

     XX. WHOSE SHOULD BE THE UNEARNED INCREMENT?                    117


   XXII. HOW IS LOCAL OPTION TO BE EFFECTED?                        127

  XXIII. WHY AND HOW ARE WE TAXED?                                  132

   XXIV. HOW OUGHT WE TO BE TAXED?                                  137

    XXV. HOW IS TAXATION TO BE REDUCED?                             144

   XXVI. IS FREE TRADE TO BE PERMANENT?                             149

  XXVII. IS FOREIGN LABOUR TO BE EXCLUDED?                          155


   XXIX. IS A PEACE POLICY PRACTICABLE?                             165

    XXX. HOW SHOULD WE DEAL WITH THE COLONIES?                      171


  XXXII. HOW FAR SHOULD THE STATE INTERFERE?                        182




  XXXVI. HOW OUGHT WE TO DEAL WITH SOCIALISM?                       200



  XXXIX. IS PERFECTION IN POLITICS POSSIBLE?                        216

     XL. WHERE SHALL WE STOP?                                       220



There are many persons, who, though possessing the suffrage, often put
the question, "What is the use of a vote?" Giving small heed to
political affairs, the issue of elections has as little interest for
them as the debates in Parliament; and they imagine that the process of
governing the country is mainly a self-acting one, upon which their
individual effort could have the least possible effect.

This idea is wrong at the root, and the cause of much mischief in
politics. We are governed by majorities, and every vote counts. Even the
heaviest polls are sometimes decided by a majority of a single figure.
In the history of English elections, many instances could be found
wherein a member was returned by the narrowest majority of all--the
majority of one; and when a member so elected has been taunted with its
slenderness, he has had a right to reply, as some have replied, in
well-known words: "'Tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church
door; but 'tis enough, 'twill serve." And not only in the
constituencies, but in Parliament itself, decisions have been arrived at
by a solitary vote. The great principle animating the first Reform Bill
was thus adopted by the House of Commons; and the measure shortly
afterwards was taken to the country with the advantage thus given it.
As, therefore, everything of importance in England is decided first in
the constituencies, and then in Parliament, by single votes, it is
obvious that in each possessor of the franchise is vested a power which,
however apparently small when compared with the enormous number of
similar possessors elsewhere, may have a direct bearing in turning an
election, the result of which may affect the fate of some important

So far most will doubtless agree without demur; but, in their
indifference to political questions, may think that it is only those
interested in them who have any real concern with elections. This is
another mistake, for political questions are so intimately bound up with
the comfort, the fortune, and even the fate of every citizen of a free
country, that, although he may shut his eyes to them, they press upon
him at every turn. It would be a very good world if each could do as he
liked and none be the worse; but the world is not so constituted, and it
is politics that lessen the consequent friction. For the whole system of
government is covered by the term; and there is not an hour of the day
in which one is free from the influence of government.

It is not necessary for one to be conscious of this in order to be
certain that it is so. When he is in perfect health he is not conscious
that every part of his body is in active exercise, but, if he stumble
over a chair, he is made painfully aware of the possession of shins. And
so with the actions of government. As long as things work smoothly the
majority of people give them little heed, but, if an additional tax be
levied, they are immediately interested in politics. And although taxes
are not the least unpleasant evidence that there is such a thing as a
government, it is far from the most unpleasant that could be afforded.
The issues of peace and war lie in the hands of Parliament, although
nominally resting with the Executive, for Parliament can speedily end a
war by stopping the supplies; and it is not necessary to show how the
progress and result of an armed struggle might affect each one of us.
The State has a right to call upon every citizen for help in time of
need, and that time of need might come very quickly at the heels of a
disastrous campaign. It is easy enough in times of peace to imagine that
such a call upon every grown man will never be made; but it is a
possible call, and one to be taken into account when the value of a vote
is considered.

Those who are sent to Parliament have thus the power of embarking in
enterprises which may diminish one's revenue by increased taxation and
imperil his life by enforced service. And in matters of less importance,
but of considerable effect upon both pocket and comfort, they wield
extensive powers. They can extend or they can lessen our liberties; they
can interfere largely with our social concerns; their powers are nowhere
strictly defined, and are so wide as to be almost illimitable. And for
the manner in which they exercise those powers, each man who possesses a
vote is in his degree responsible.

There are persons who affect, from the height of a serene indifference,
to look down upon all political struggles as the mere diversions of a
lower mental order. That kind of being, or any approach to its attitude
of mind, should be avoided by all who wish well to the government of the
country. To sit on the fence, and rail at the ploughman, because his
boots are muddy and his hands unwashed, is at once useless and
impertinent; and to stand outside the political field, and endeavour to
hinder those who are doing their best within, deserves the same
epithets. When it is said that hypocrites, and humbugs, and self-seekers
abound in politics, and that there is no place there for honest men,
does not the indictment appear too sweeping? Has not the same argument
been used against religion; and is it not one of the poorest in the
whole armoury of controversy? If there are hypocrites, and humbugs, and
self-seekers in politics--and no candid person would deny it, any more
than that there are such in religion, in business, in science, and in
art--is it not the more necessary that every honest man should try and
root them out? If every honest man abstained from politics, with what
right could he complain that all politicians were rogues? But no sober
person believes that all politicians are rogues, and those superior
beings who talk as if they are deserve condemnation for doing nothing to
purify the political atmosphere.

Some who would not go so far as those who are thus condemned, still
labour under the idea that politics are more or less a game, to the
issue of which they can afford to be indifferent. This, it may be
feared, is the notion of many, and it is one to be earnestly combatted.
Every man owes the duty to the State to assist, as far as he can, those
whom he considers the best and wisest of its would-be governors. There
is nobility in the idea that every elector can do something for the
national welfare by thoughtfully and straightforwardly exercising the
franchise, and aiding the cause he deems best. Young men especially
should entertain this feeling, for youth is the time for burning
thoughts, and it is not until a man is old that he can afford to
smoulder. The future is in the hands of the young of to-day; and if
these are indifferent to the great issues of State, and are prepared to
let things drift, a rude awakening awaits them.

The details of political work need not here be entered upon. All that is
now wanted is to show that that work is of very real importance to every
one; and that, unless taken in hand by the honest and capable, it will
fall to the dishonest and incapable for accomplishment. And as the vote
is a right to which every free Englishman is entitled, and a trust each
possessor of which should be called upon to exercise, there ought not to
remain men on the registers who persistently decline to use it. Absentee
landlords have been the curse of Ireland, and they will have to be got
rid of. Abstentionist voters might, in easily conceivable circumstances,
be the curse of England, and they would have to be got rid of likewise.

The value of a vote may be judged from the fact that it saves the
country from a periodical necessity for revolution. Everything in our
Constitution that wants altering can be altered at the ballot-box; and
whereas the vote-less man has no direct influence upon those affairs of
State which affect him as they affect every other citizen, the possessor
of the franchise can make his power directly felt. We are within sight
of manhood, it may be of adult, suffrage; and if the vote were of no
value it would be folly--almost criminal folly--to extend its use. Those
who deem it folly are of a practically extinct school in English
politics. For better or worse, the few are now governed by the many,
and the many will never again be governed by the few.

Those who are of the many may be tempted to urge that that very fact
lessens the worth of the vote in that every elector has the same value
at the polling booth, and that, however intelligent may be the interest
he takes in politics, his ignorant neighbour's vote counts the same as
his own. But that is to forget what every one who mixes with his
fellow-men must soon learn--that the intelligent have a weight of
legitimate influence upon their less-informed fellows which is
exceedingly great. Our vote counts for no more than that of the man who
has sold his suffrage for beer; but our influence may have brought
twenty waverers to the poll, while that of our beer-drinking
acquaintance has brought none.

A cynic has observed that "politics are a salad, in which office is the
oil, opposition the vinegar, and the people the thing to be devoured."
But to approach public affairs from that point, and to judge them solely
on that principle, is as reasonable as to use green spectacles and
complain of the colour of the sky. Politics should be looked at without
prejudice, but with the recollection that in them are concerned many of
our best and wisest men. If that be done, and the mind kept open for the
reception of facts, there is little doubt of the admission that there is
a deep reality in politics, and a reality in which every one is


All will possibly admit that, in conceivable circumstances, a vote may
be useful, but many will not be prepared to allow that politics are an
important factor in our daily life. War, they would urge, is a remote
contingency, and a conscription is, of all unlikely things, the most
unlikely; our liberties have been won, and there is no chance of a
despot sitting on the throne; and, even if taxes are high, what can any
one member of Parliament, much less any one elector, do to bring them
down? From which questions, and from the answers they think must be made
to them, they would draw the conclusion that, whatever might have been
the case formerly, there is nothing practical in the politics of to-day.

It would not be hard to show that a conscription is by no means an
impossibility; that our liberties demand constant vigilance; and that
individual effort may greatly affect taxation. But even if the answer
desired were given to each question, the points raised, except the last,
are admittedly remote from daily life; and, if politics are to be
considered practical, they must concern affairs nearer to us. This they
do; and if they affected only the greater issues of State, they would
not be practical in the sense they now are. It is the small troubles,
whether public or private, which worry us most. The dust in one's eye
may be only a speck, but, measured by misery, it is colossal.

The law touches us upon every side, and the law is the outcome of
politics in having been enacted by Parliament. From the smallest things
to the greatest, the Legislature interferes. A man cannot go into a
public-house after a certain hour because of one Act of Parliament; he
cannot deal with a bank upon specified days because of another. One Act
of Parliament orders him, if a householder, to clean his pavement;
another prohibits him from building a house above a given height in
streets of a certain width. And while the law takes care of one's
neighbour by affixing a well-known penalty to murder, it is so regardful
of oneself that it absolutely prohibits suicide. We are surrounded, in
fact, by a network of regulations provided by Parliament. We are no
sooner born than the law insists upon our being registered; we cannot
marry without the interference of the same august power; and when we
die, those who are left behind must comply with the formalities the law

It may be answered that this does not sound like politics; that there is
nothing of Liberal or Tory in all this; but there is. Liberals, for
instance, have been mainly identified with the demand for the better
regulation of public-houses; it is to the Liberals that we owe a
long-called-for reform in the burial laws; and it is due to the Liberals
that a change in the marriage regulations, particularly affecting
Nonconformists, is on the eve of being adopted. Social questions are not
necessarily divorced from party concerns, and the moment Parliament
touches them they become political. If one looks down a list of the
measures presented to the House of Commons he will see that from the
purity of beer to the protection of trade-marks, from the enactment of a
close-time for hares to the provision of harbours of refuge, from a
declaration of the size of saleable crabs to the disestablishment of a
Church--every subject which concerns a man's external affairs,
political, social, or religious, is dealt with by Parliament.

Even if only those political matters are regarded which have a
distinctly partisan aspect, there is more that is practical in them than
would at first be perceived. "What," it may be asked, "is local option,
or county councils, or 'three acres and a cow' to me? I have no
particular liking for drink; I have not the least ambition to become a
combination of guardian and town councillor; and I am in no way
interested in agricultural concerns. When you require me to take an
active part in promoting the measures here indicated, how, I want to
know, am I concerned in any one of them?"

The answer is that any and all of them should concern the questioner a
great deal. He imagines he is not directly interested because of the
reasons put forward. Is he certain those reasons cover the whole case?
He has "no particular liking for drink," and, therefore, would not
trouble himself to obtain local option. But has he not been a
sufficiently frequent witness of the crime and misery caused by drink to
be persuaded that it is the duty of every good citizen to do all that in
him lies to lessen the evil effects? And as such good results have
flowed from the stricter regulation of the sale of intoxicating liquors,
ought it not to be his endeavour to place a further power of regulation
in the hands of those most interested--the people themselves?

Establishing county councils may not touch the individual citizen so
nearly, though it is in that direction that a solution of the local
option problem is being attempted to be found; and the supposed
questioner has "not the least ambition to become a combination of
guardian and town councillor." Perhaps not; other people have, and it is
a legitimate ambition that does them honour. The work performed by town
councillors, and guardians, and members of school boards is excellent
service, not only to the locality but the State. The freedom which
England enjoys to-day is largely owing to the habits of self-government
fostered by local institutions, the origin of which is as old as our
civilization, and the roots of which have sunk deeply into the soil. And
seeing how our towns have thriven since their government was taken from
a privileged few and given to the whole body of their inhabitants, is
there not fair reason to hope that the county districts will similarly
be benefitted by institutions equally representative and equally free?
And, as the improvement of a part has good effect upon the whole, even
those who may never have a direct connection with the suggested county
councils, will profit by their establishment.

With equal certainty it may be asserted that the condition of the
labourer is of practical importance to every citizen. "I am in no way
interested in agricultural concerns," it is said; and if by that is
simply meant that the objector does not work upon a farm, has no direct
dealings with agricultural produce, and no money invested in land, he,
of course, would be right. But even these conditions do not exhaust the
possibilities of connection with agriculture, which is the greatest
single commercial interest this country possesses; and, so
inter-dependent are the various interests, if the largest of all is not
in a satisfactory state the others are bound to suffer. It is those
others in which most of us may be specially concerned, but we are
generally concerned in agriculture; and as the latter cannot be at its
best as long as the labourers are in their present condition, is it not
obvious that all are interested in every honest endeavour to get that
condition improved? This is not the moment to argue the details of any
plan; but the principle is plain--the condition of the agricultural
labourer has passed into the region of practical politics.

There is a school among us, and perhaps a growing one, which, affecting
to despise such matters as these, wishes to make the State a huge
wage-settling and food-providing machine. If one talks to its members of
public affairs, they reply that the only practical politics is to give
bread-and-cheese to the working classes. But fact is wanted instead of
theory, demonstration rather than declamation, and, in place of a
platitude, a plan. For it is easy to talk of a State, in which there
shall be no misery, no poverty, and no crime; but the practical
politician will want to know how this is to be secured; and while
waiting for a plain answer, will decline to be drawn from the questions
of the immediate present.

No one need sigh for other political worlds to conquer while even such
problems as have just been noted ask for settlement; and there are
further departments of public affairs which demand attention, and which
are pressing to the front. Most would admit that a vote may be useful
sometimes. I say it is useful always. All would own that the greater
matters of law and liberty may fairly be called practical politics. I
add that the lesser matters with which Parliament has to deal, and which
affect us daily, are equally worthy the name. Let one look around and
say if "everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds."
If he cannot, he ought to strive for the reform of that which is not for
the best. And as long as he has to strive for that reform, so long will
there be something practical in politics.


"Why can't you let things alone?" is a question which has often been put
by those who either care little for politics or who wish to stave off
reform. It was the favourite exclamation of a Whig Prime Minister, Lord
Melbourne, and it is still used by many worthy persons as if it were
really applicable to matters of government. "Things"--that is public
affairs--can no more be let alone than one can let himself alone, or his
machinery alone, or his business alone. The secret of perpetual motion
has not been discovered in the State any more than in science. If one is
a workman and leaves things alone, he will be dismissed; if a tradesman
or manufacturer, he will become bankrupt; if a property-owner, ruin will
equally follow. A man would not leave his face alone because it had been
washed yesterday; he would not argue that as a face it was a very good
face, and that one thorough cleansing should last it a lifetime. And the
Constitution needs as careful looking after as one's business or his

A sound Radical of a couple of centuries ago--and though the name
Radical had not then been invented, the man Radical was frequently to
the fore--put this point in plain words. "All governments and societies
of men," said Andrew Marvell, "do, in process of time, gather an
irregularity and wear away. And, therefore, the true wisdom of all ages
hath been to review at fit periods those errors, defects, or excesses
that have crept into the public administration; to brush the dust off
the wheels and oil them again, or, if it be found necessary, to choose a
set of new ones." And if Marvell be objected to as an authority, one can
be given which should satisfy even the staunchest Conservative. "There
was never anything by the wit of man so well devised or so sure
established which in the continuance of time hath not been corrupted."
That expression of opinion is not taken from any Whig, Liberal, or
Radical source, but from the preface to the Book of Common Prayer.

There is an older authority still, and that is the proverb which says "A
stitch in time saves nine." One can scarcely read a page of English
constitutional history without seeing the advances made in the comfort,
prosperity, and liberty of the people by timely reform; and no man would
seriously urge our going back to the old standpoints. Yet every reform,
though we may now all agree that it was for the greatest good of the
greatest number, was opposed by hosts of people, who talked about "the
wisdom of our ancestors," and asked, "Why can't you let things alone?"
It may be said that the grievances under which men labour to-day are
nothing like as great as those against which our fathers fought.
Happily--and thanks to the enthusiasts of old--that is so; but if they
are grievances, whether small or large, they ought to be removed. There
are some who think that a man with a grievance is a man to be
pitied--and put on one side. But, even if those so afflicted are apt to
prove bores, such complaints as are well founded should be attended to.

It is a fact beyond question that there is no finality in politics, and,
to take two examples from the present century--the Reform Act of 1832,
which was thought by its authors to be a "final" measure, and at the Act
of Union with Ireland, which the first Salisbury Administration
described in their Queen's Speech as "a fundamental law"--it will be
seen that the dream of finality in each case has been and is being
roughly dispelled. What man has done, man can do--and can undo.

The instances mentioned deserve a closer examination, because they so
perfectly show the impossibility of standing still in political affairs.
If ever there was a measure which statesmen of both parties held to be
final, the Reform Act was that one. During the discussions upon it, the
word "finality" was more than once used; Sir Robert Peel two years later
declared that he considered it "a final and irrevocable settlement of a
great constitutional question;" and in 1837, as in 1832, its author,
Lord John Russell, spoke of it as "a final measure." Final it was in the
sense that England would never go back to the days of borough-mongering,
but there the finality ended. As early as the year after it passed, a
Liberal member declared in his place in the House that "he for one had
never conceded the monstrous principle that any legislative measure was
to be final; still less had he ever conceded the yet more monstrous
principle that the members of that House were entitled by any sort of
compromise to barter away the rights and privileges of the people." The
views thus plainly laid down have been put in practice by men of both
parties; the ten-pound franchise of 1832 gave place in 1867 to household
suffrage for the boroughs, and this in 1884 was extended to the
counties. So much for the "finality" of the one great Act of this
century to which the word has been applied.

The so-called "fundamental law" of the Union with Ireland is threatened
with alteration and amendment in the same fashion as the "final" Reform
Act. Already, by the disestablishment of the Irish Church, a large hole
has been made in it; and a larger will be made when Home Rule is gained.
There is in England no law of so "fundamental" a nature that it cannot
be mended or ended just as the people wish. No generation has power to
bind its successors; and if the Parliament of 1800 was able to make the
Legislative Union, the Parliament of to-day is able to unmake it. Upon
this point--and it affects not only the general question now being
argued, but a particular question yet to be discussed--one of the most
distinguished "Liberal Unionists" may be quoted. Mr. Bright, speaking at
Liverpool in the summer of 1868, observed--"I have never said that
Irishmen are not at liberty to ask for and, if they could accomplish it,
to obtain the repeal of the Union. I say that we have no right whatever
to insist upon a union between Ireland and Great Britain upon our terms
only.... I am one of those who admit--as every sensible man must
admit--that an Act which the Parliament of the United Kingdom has
passed, the Parliament of the United Kingdom can repeal. And further, I
am willing to admit what everybody in England allows with regard to
every foreign country, that any nation, believing it to be its
interest, has a right both to ask for and to strive for national
independence." If, then, even a "fundamental law" can be got rid of, if
occasion demands and the people wish, what hope can the most lukewarm
have that things will be let alone?

Politics, in fact, may fairly be called a sort of see-saw: we are
constantly going up and down, and can never be still. As long as a
public grievance remains unremedied, so long will there be a call for
reform; and one may be sure that, though he may come to a ripe old age,
he will not live enough years to see every wrong made right. Some may
hide behind the question put and answered eighteen centuries ago; may
ask, as was then asked, "Who is my neighbour?" and may seek to avoid
doing as they would be done by. But, as citizens of a free State, they
have no right to shirk their duty to those around them. No man who looks
at society with open eyes can doubt that much can be done by the
Legislature to better the conditions of daily life. We do wrong if we
allow others to suffer when efforts of ours can remove at least some of
their pain.

Therefore, things cannot be let alone in politics any more than in daily
life; and even if they could, it would not be right to let them. It does
not need that one should give all his leisure moments to politics, and
all the energies he can spare from business to public life. But it does
need that he should pay some heed to that which concerns his fellow-man
and the society in which he lives; and all should be politicians in
their degree, not for love of place, or power, or excitement, but
because politics really mean much to the happiness and welfare of the


When we come from "first principles" to the more immediate topics of the
day, party considerations at once enter in; and to the question, "Ought
one to be a partisan?" I answer "Certainly." On the political barometer
a man ought distinctly to indicate the side he takes--not stand in the
middle and point to "change."

There is a great deal talked of the beauty of non-partisanship, of the
necessity for looking at public matters in a clear white light, and of
the exceeding glory of those who put country before party. Such of this
as is not commonplace is cant, and in politics Johnson's advice to
"clear your mind of cant" is especially to be taken. When a public man
talks of putting his country before his party, he surely implies that he
has been in the habit of putting his party before his country, and that
man's record should be carefully scanned. For it will very often be
found that those who boast of placing country before party place
themselves before either.

"Party is a body of men united for promoting by their joint endeavours
the national interest upon some particular in which they are all
agreed." That is Burke's definition, and it holds good to-day. Superfine
folk speak as if there were something derogatory in the fact of
belonging to a party, some lessening of liberty of judgment, some
forfeiting of conscience. That need not be. There must be give-and-take
among members of the same party, just as there must be among those of
the same household, of the same religious connection, and often of the
same business concern. The necessity to bear and to forbear is as
obvious in politics as in other matters of daily life, which is only
saying in a different fashion that in politics, as in everything, a
man's angles have to be rubbed off if he is to work in company with
anybody else. But he gives up a portion of his opinions only to retain
or strengthen those he considers essential. A Churchman is still a
Churchman whether he is labelled High, Low, or Broad; he may believe
with Canon Knox-Little, with Bishop Ryle, or with Archdeacon Farrar, and
continue a member of the Established Church; and it is only when
conscience compels him to differ from them all upon some essential point
of doctrine or practice that he becomes a Protestant Dissenter, a
Unitarian, a Roman Catholic, or, it may be, an Atheist.

As with religion, so with politics. A Conservative is still a
Conservative, whether he be called a Constitutionalist, a Tory Democrat,
a Tory, or, as Mr. William Henry Smith was accustomed to describe
himself, an Independent-Liberal-Conservative. He may be of the school of
the late Mr. Newdegate, of Lord Salisbury, or of Lord Randolph
Churchill, and the party bond is elastic enough to embrace him. And when
it is remembered that the name "Liberal" covers all sorts and conditions
of friends of progress, from Lord Hartington to Mr. Labouchere, it will
be seen that a man must be querulous indeed who cannot find rest for the
sole of his foot in one or other of the great parties of the State.

No doubt it is easy to quote opinions from some eminent persons in
condemnation of the party system. There is a saying of Dr. Arnold that a
Liberal is "one who gets up every morning in the full belief that
everything is an open question;" and with this may be coupled a chance
expression of Carlyle, that "an English Whig politician means generally
a man of altogether mechanical intellect, looking to Elegance,
Excitement, and a certain refined Utility as the Highest; a man halting
between two Opinions, and calling it Tolerance;" while there may be
added the quotation, better known than either, "Conservatism discards
Prescription, shrinks from Principle, disavows Progress; having rejected
all respect for Antiquity, it offers no redress for the Present, and
makes no preparation for the Future." It was the author of these last
words who uttered also the caustic remark, "It seems to me a barren
thing, this Conservatism, an unhappy cross-breed; the mule of politics,
that engenders nothing." And that author was Benjamin Disraeli,
afterwards Earl of Beaconsfield.

Of course, this merely shows that hard things have been and can be said
of all parties, but if they have been as bad as thus represented, is it
not strange that England has done so well under their rule? It may be
replied that, whatever has been the case, the fact now is that the old
parties are dead, and the idea may be echoed of those who wish to keep
the Tories in power, that only "Unionists" and "Separatists" are left;
but, setting aside the circumstance that the Liberals emphatically
disclaim the latter title, the facts are against the original

The history of our Constitution will show that parties bring the best
men to the front, groups the worst--the most pushing, pertinacious, and
impudent of those among them. And when men talk, as some are talking
to-day, of new combinations--combinations of persons rather than of
principles--to take the place of the old parties, they should be watched
carefully to see whether they do not degenerate, as other men in similar
circumstances have done, into mere hungry scramblers for place.

Much of the flabby feeling which pervades some minds in antagonism to
partisanship has been nourished by the cry of "measures, not men." "To
attack vices in the abstract, without touching persons, may be safe
fighting indeed, but it is fighting with shadows." These words of Pope
were taken by Junius to enforce his opinion that "'measures and not men'
is the common cant of affected moderation--a base counterfeit language,
fabricated by knaves and made current among fools." "What does it
avail," he asked, "to expose the absurd contrivance or pernicious
tendency of measures if the man who advises or executes shall be
suffered not only to escape with impunity, but even to preserve his
power?" If this opinion be put aside as being only that of a clever but
venomous pamphleteer, an equally strong condemnation of the old
cuckoo-cry can be quoted from the greatest philosopher who ever
practically dealt with English politics. "It is an advantage," said
Burke, "to all narrow wisdom and narrow morals, that their maxims have a
plausible air, and, on a cursory view, appear equal to first principles.
They are light and portable. They are as current as copper coin, and
about as valuable. They serve equally the first capacities and the
lowest; and they are at least as useful to the worst men as the best. Of
this stamp is the cant of 'not men, but measures'; a sort of charm by
which many people get loose from every honourable engagement." And, if
we go to the gaiety of Goldsmith from the gravity of Burke, it is
significant that the author of "The Good-Natured Man" puts in the mouth
of a bragging political liar and cheat the expression, "Measures, not
men, have always been my mark."

But, it is sometimes said, the very fact of not being a partisan argues
freedom from prejudice. Does it not equally argue freedom from
principle? If a man holds a principle strongly, he can hardly avoid
being what the unthinking call prejudiced. It is surely better to be
fast anchored to a principle, even at the risk of being called
prejudiced, than to be swayed hither and thither by every passing
breeze, like the "independent" politician--defined by the late Lord
Derby as "a politician not to be depended upon"--with the liability of
being wrecked by some more than usually stirring gust.

We have only to look at the political history of the past half-century
to find that it is the "prejudiced" men who have done good work, and the
"independent" politicians who have made shipwreck of their public lives.
The former held their principles firmly; they lost no opportunity of
pushing them to the front; and success attended their efforts. As for
the politicians who were too proud, or too unstable, or too quarrelsome
to work in harness with their fellows, the shores of our public life
have been strewn with their wrecks. The glorious opportunities for good
that were missed by Lord Brougham, the wasted career of the once popular
Roebuck are matters of history. And in our own day we can point to Earl
Grey and Mr. Cowen--and the narrow escape from a similar fate of Mr.
Goschen--as striking instances of the fact that no good thing in
politics can be done by men who cannot or will not join with a great
party to secure the ends for which they strive. The independent
politician, in fact, must of necessity appear an incomplete sort of
man--always leading up to something and never getting it; everlastingly
striking the quarters, but never quite reaching the finished hour.

It is not only, however, the crotchety man, or the quarrelsome man, or
the tactless man, who, because he cannot work with anybody else, poses
as "independent." There are also "men of no decided character, without
judgment to choose, and without courage to profess any principle
whatever--such men can serve no cause for this plain reason, they have
no cause at heart." Burke here clearly describes a large section of
"armchair politicians," who turn many an election without a distinct
idea of what will be the ultimate result of their action. They are of
the kind even more forcibly characterized by Dryden a century before--

     Damn'd neuters, in their middle way of steering,
     Are neither fish, nor flesh, nor good red herring;
     Nor Whigs, nor Tories they; nor this, nor that;
     Nor birds, nor beasts; but just a kind of bat;
     A twilight animal; true to neither cause,
     With Tory wings, but Whiggish teeth and claws.

Trimmers of this type live and flourish to-day as they lived and
flourished in the age of Dryden and of Burke, and the airs they give
themselves of superiority over the ordinary run of politicians deserve
all the ridicule men of more practical tendencies can pour upon them.
One would fancy that it must sometimes occur even to them that, as in
warfare the efforts of two opposing mobs, led by generals who
perpetually differed among themselves, would cause more rapine and
confusion, and ensure an even less satisfactory result, than those of
two armies captained by men accustomed to discipline, and striking blows
only where blows could be effective; so in the constant movement of
public affairs a multitude of wrangling counsellors would bring ruin
upon the State, where a struggle between two opposing parties,
representing distinct principles, would clear a path in which it could
safely tread.

No one, therefore, should be frightened out of taking part in politics
by the idea that there is anything wrong in being a partisan. A working
man joins a trade union, in order that by strengthening his fellows he
may strengthen himself; a religious man becomes a member of a Christian
church, so as to assist in spreading the truth he cherishes; and any one
who dearly holds a political principle ought to attach himself to a
party, that he may secure for that principle the success which, if it is
worth believing in, is worth striving for.


It is sometimes asked, even by those who would agree generally that
partisanship is not unworthy, whether all the old distinctions of
Liberal and Conservative, Tory and Radical, are not out of date, and
whether it is not possible to form a "National" party. The idea of such
a formation has been "in the air" for a long time, and has been put
forward with more frequency since the breach in the Liberal ranks upon
the Irish question. But although politicians as eminent as Mr.
Chamberlain and Lord Randolph Churchill have given countenance to the
idea, it has as yet resulted in nothing of practical value.

Mr. Chamberlain has argued that "our old party names have lost their
force and meaning," but, even if they had, the suggested appellation
must be held to be a misnomer. It is a contradiction in terms. If the
whole nation be agreed upon a certain course, it is not a national
"party" which advocates it; if it be not agreed, no section, no
half-plus-one, has the right to arrogate to itself the adjective. The
last time any faction did so was at the general election of 1880, when
the supporters of Lord Beaconsfield attempted to claim the title even
when they were being swept out of their seats wholesale by the flowing
tide of national indignation. All honest politicians work for what they
consider the benefit of the nation, and no portion of them has a title
to assume that it alone is righteous.

The inappropriateness of the name, moreover, is not only general but
particular. The proposed combination, according to the statesman already
quoted, is to "exclude only the extreme sections of the party of
reaction on the one hand, and the party of anarchy on the other." But
who is to define how far a reactionary may go without being considered
"extreme," and who in the English Parliament is "an anarchist"?

Further, a "national party" must be presumed to represent the
nation--that is the whole of the United Kingdom. But the projected body,
if it opposed Home Rule, would ignore the wishes of 85 out of the 101
popularly elected representatives of Ireland; 44 out of the 70 popularly
elected representatives of Scotland; and 26 out of the 30 popularly
elected representatives of Wales; as well as the whole body of the
Gladstonian Liberals in England. At the last general election, 1,423,765
persons in this kingdom cast their votes on the "Unionist," and
1,341,131 on the Liberal side; and the latter number could scarcely be
ignored when a "national" party is being formed.

In accordance with the words of the immortal Mr. Taper--"A sound
Conservative Government, I understand; Tory men and Whig measures"--the
Tories have promised to bring in Liberal Bills; but the process will be
regarded by many with the same feelings as those of Mr. Disraeli when he
charged Sir Robert Peel with the petty larceny of Whig ideas, as did
Lord Cranborne (now Lord Salisbury) when he denounced Mr. Disraeli's
political legerdemain in perpetrating a similar offence, and as did
another prominent politician when he said, "The consistency of our
public life, the honour of political controversy, the patriotism of
statesmen, which should be set above all party considerations--these are
things which have been profaned, desecrated, and trampled in the mire by
this crowd of hungry office-seekers who are now doing Radical work in
the uniform of Tory Ministers.... I will say frankly that I do not like
to win with such instruments as these. A democratic revolution is not to
be accomplished by aristocratic perverts; and I believe that what the
people desire will be best carried into effect by those who can do so
conscientiously and honestly, and not by those who yield their assent
from purely personal or party motives." These words were spoken in 1885;
and the speaker was Mr. Chamberlain.

The new party to exist must have organization, and as by its very
constitution all Liberal and Radical associations would have to be
excluded, the Primrose League alone would be ready to hand. But he who
pays the piper calls the tune, and what that tune would be can easily be
guessed. Liberals and Radicals would necessarily be kept out of the
combination, for men who consider themselves entitled to twenty
shillings in the pound, and who might be content to accept ten as an
instalment, would not take ten as payment in full of some of their
bills, and a "first and final dividend" of nothing on others they hold
of value. And the Radicals and other Gladstonian Liberals being left
out, the remaining party must be overwhelmingly Conservative, and the
fighting opinion of a party is that of its majority.

It is thus not an enticing prospect for any thoroughgoing lover of
progress. What hope is there of a sound reform of the House of Lords
from a party closely wedded to the aristocracy? Of disestablishment in
Scotland and Wales, to say nothing of England, from a party relying for
much of its power upon the clergy? Of a drastic change in the land or
the game laws from a party propped up by landlords and game preservers?
Of an improved magistracy from a party deriving great influence from the
country squires? Of a popular veto upon licensing from a party to which
belong nine-tenths of the publicans? Of a progressive income tax or the
more equitable arrangement of the death duties from a party which has
become increasingly attractive to the large capitalists? Of, in fact,
any great reform whatsoever from a party which places "vested interests"
in the forefront to the frequent exclusion of justice?

A party formed in the fashion thus projected would be simply a house of
cards, carefully built, as such houses usually are, by those who have
nothing better to do--pretty to look at, but turned over by the first
breeze. Lobby combinations such as this are hothouse plants; brought
into the open they die. In Carlyle's "French Revolution," much ridicule
is poured upon the wondrous paper constitutions of the Abbé Siéyes,
which somehow would not "march." Within the last few years the Duc de
Broglie was famous throughout Europe for the clockwork arrangements he
made for France, and the constant failure that awaited them. The
"national party" recalls the works of both duke and abbé, and, like
them, would resemble nothing so much as a flying machine, constructed
upon the most approved principles by really skilled workmen, and
scientifically certain to succeed, but having, when tested, only one
defect--it will not fly.


It is perfectly natural to be asked, after trying to prove that
partisanship is praiseworthy, and that a "national" party is out of the
question, whether one party is so much better than the other that it
deserves strenuous and continued support. For the purposes of the
argument, it is necessary to consider only the two great parties in the
State--the Liberal and the Tory. These represent the main tendencies
which actuate mankind in public affairs--the go-ahead and the
stand-still. Differences in the expression of these tendencies there are
bound to be, according as circumstances vary; but, generally speaking,
the Tory is the party of those who, being satisfied with things as they
are, are content to stand still, while the Liberal is the party of those
who, thinking there is ample room for improvement, desire to go ahead.

The recent history of our country is all in favour of the Liberal
contention. If two men ride on a horse one must ride behind, and if two
parties take opposite views of the same measure one must be wrong. The
best testimony to the fact that, as a whole, the Liberal policy pursued
by this country for more than half a century has been right, is,
therefore, that even when the Tories have been in the majority they have
not attempted to reverse it. Every great question that has been agitated
for by the Liberals as a body, except Home Rule, which has yet to be
settled, has been settled in the way they wished; and has more than once
been carried to the last point of success by the Tories themselves. Not
even the staunchest Conservative would urge a return to the system of
rotten boroughs, would repeal the Education Act, re-establish the Irish
Church, or renew open voting; and the Tories who would re-enact the Corn
Laws continue few.

Lord Salisbury has contended that, even if the Liberals have always been
right and the Tories wrong, it should make no difference to the
present-day voter; and, speaking at Reading in the autumn of 1883, he
asked--"Would any of you go to an apothecary's shop because the previous
tenant was a very good man at curing rheumatism? You would say, 'It
matters little to me whether the former tenant was a skilful man or not;
all that concerns me is the skill of the present tenant of the
establishment.'" But supposing, to carry on Lord Salisbury's
illustration, this new tenant could say, "I have in my possession a
recipe of my predecessor which proved itself an infallible cure for
rheumatism; I prepare it in the same fashion; it will have the same
result." Would one not reply, "I will rather trust the recipe which has
always done good, even though in the course of nature it has changed
owners, than put myself in the hands of the opposition chemist, who,
though exceedingly old and eminently respectable, never effects a cure,
but whenever he is called in leaves the patient worse than he finds

And when Lord Salisbury strove to make his point more clear, he did not
mend matters much. "It is only the existing party, whether Liberal or
Conservative," he said, "that really concerns you; success, wisdom, and
justice do not stick to organizations or buildings--they are the
attributes of men. It is by their present acts and their present
principles that the two parties must be judged." Even if this be
allowed--and, carried to its logical extent, it would justify every
piece of "political legerdemain" (the phrase applied by Lord Salisbury
himself to Mr. Disraeli's Reform Bill) the Tory party has ever
perpetrated, or may ever attempt--Liberals need not shrink from the
test. For the Tories, as they have ever done, are now shrinkingly and
fearsomely following in the paths the Liberals years ago laid down, with
just sufficient deviation to prove that the old Adam of reaction is not
dead. Whether it be free trade, or parliamentary reform, or the
closure, they initiate nothing; but when the Liberals have cleared the
way, they are eager to adopt all that they have previously denounced,
and to claim as their own principles they have throughout professed to
abhor. Seeing that the Liberals borrow nothing from the Tories, while
the Tories borrow a very great deal from the Liberals, we can judge the
two parties, as Lord Salisbury wished, by their present acts and their
present principles, and show that the Liberal is the more worthy of
popular support.

It is, of course, not to be wondered at that such a desire to ignore the
past should be expressed by a politician who, from his maiden speech to
his most recent efforts, has denounced Liberal ideas; who, at various
stages of his parliamentary career, has opposed the spread of popular
education, the extension of the suffrage, the creation of the ballot,
the emancipation of the Jews, the extinction of Church rates, the full
admission of Dissenters to the Universities, the abolition of purchase
in the army, the repeal of the taxes on knowledge, the throwing open of
the Civil Service to the people, the right of Nonconformists to be
buried in their parish churchyard, the remission of long-standing and
obviously unpayable Irish arrears, and the destruction of the property
qualification for members of Parliament; whose sympathy for his fellows
may be gathered from his insinuated comparison of the Irish to
Hottentots, and his declaration that it is "just" that the children of
those who have contracted marriage with their deceased wife's sister
should be bastardized; whose taste for diplomacy was shown by his
direction to a Viceroy to "create" a pretext for forcing a quarrel upon
Afghanistan; whose regard for the strictness of truth was displayed in
his denial of the authenticity of a well-remembered secret memorandum;
whose love for liberty was evidenced by the lukewarmness with which he
watched the struggles for freedom in Italy and Bulgaria, and the hearty
and continuous support he gave to the slave-holding faction in America;
and whose affection for the people may be judged from the fact that,
throughout his political life, his name has never been identified with a
single piece of constructive legislation for their welfare. "By their
fruits shall ye know them" is applicable to politics, therefore; as
Lord Salisbury, by so strenuously endeavouring to ignore the maxim,
practically admits; and at the risk of putting aside the canon of
criticism adopted by the noble marquis, let me show some of the fruits
of modern Liberal policy.

I rise in the morning and go to my breakfast; my tea, my coffee, my
sugar, and my ham are all of easy price because of the reductions in
import duties made by Liberal Governments. I take up my newspaper, and I
have it so cheaply because Mr. Gladstone, despite the utmost efforts of
the Conservatives, secured the repeal of the paper duty. I go to
business, and, as I write my letter or my postcard, I cannot but reflect
that a Liberal Ministry in 1840 allowed me to send the one for a penny,
and a Liberal Ministry in 1870 to send the other for half that sum. I
proceed to dinner, and find that bread, cheese, and much of my dessert
are the more available because of Liberal remissions. And as in the
evening I visit the theatre, the very opera glasses I hold in my hand
are the cheaper because, in one of his Budgets, Mr. Gladstone included
these among the hundreds of other articles from which he removed a small
but galling tax.

These are some, and only some, of the material benefits resulting from
the Liberal policy. What of the political, what of the social, what of
the moral benefits? If I am an Englishman, I am proud of the fact that
no longer is the national flag allowed to float over a slave; if I am a
Scotchman, I rejoice that my country has been freed from the
extraordinary system of mis-representation which weighed upon it like a
nightmare before 1832; if I am an Irishman, I am not forced at the point
of the bayonet to pay tithes to an alien Church, to liquidate arrears
for rack-rents owing from the time of the famine, or to give an
exorbitant rent for the result of my own improvements; if I am a
Churchman, my Church has been strengthened by the repeal of enactments
which provoked opposition, while providing no good for the Establishment
they professed to serve; if I am a Nonconformist, I am no longer liable
to have my goods seized in support of a Church in which I do not
believe, I have the right to be married in my own place of worship, and
to be buried by my own minister by the side of my fathers; if I am a
Catholic, I have been liberated from certain restrictions upon my
religion, which I resented as an insult and a wrong; if I am a Jew, I
can sit with the peers, in the Commons, or on the judicial bench; if I
belong to the army, and am an officer, my rise is made easy--if I am a
private, my rise is made possible, by the abolition of purchase; if I am
either soldier or sailor, I owe it mainly to Liberal exertions that
discipline is no longer maintained by the lash; if I am a merchant
seaman, my life is the better protected because of the efforts of a
Liberal member of Parliament; if I am in the Civil Service, I have the
greater chance of success because of the destruction of that system of
nomination, which, however advantageous to the aristocracy, was fatal to
modest merit; if I am a student, I can go to a University with the
certainty that not now shall I be deprived of the reward of my exertions
because my conscience prevents me from subscribing the Thirty-nine
Articles; if I am a tradesman, my goods are freed from many a customs
duty which formerly restricted their sale; if I am a farmer, I can vote
without fear of my landlord, my lands have been to some extent saved
from the depredations of hares and rabbits, and my tenure has been
rendered more certain than ever before; if I am an artisan, the fruits
of combination have been secured to me, my employer has been made liable
for accidents arising from either his carelessness or his greed, my vote
has been obtained, and by the ballot has been protected; if I am the
child of the poorest, a school has been opened for me where a sound
education can be procured at a small cost; in fact, in whatever station
I may chance to be placed, I cannot but feel in my every-day life the
beneficent influences of the policy advocated by leaders of advanced
thought, and adopted by Liberal Ministries during the past fifty years.

If, then, I am asked to justify the Liberal party by showing what it has
done, I answer that, by timely reform, it has saved England from the
continental curse of frequent revolution; that, in striving for the
greatest happiness of the greatest number, it has in especial elevated
and educated the masses, for whom it has provided cheap food for both
body and mind; and that it has struggled, and in the main successfully
struggled, to secure civil and religious equality for all. And in the
future as in the past, with perfect liberty as its fixed ideal, and with
peace, retrenchment, and reform as the methods by which it wishes that
ideal to be obtained, it will press onward and upward, and ever onward
and upward, until England, now regarded as the mother of free nations,
shall be but one of a gigantic brotherhood of freedom, embracing every
civilized people that may then inhabit the globe.


After this recital of Liberal deeds, it may fairly be asked, "What are
Liberal principles?" and these it is not easy to define off-hand. There
are certain general truths which are the commonplaces of both parties,
and no serious attempt has yet been made to lay down a system of
principles with which none except Liberals can agree. But there are
differences that underlie the action of the two parties which are
unmistakable, and are worth finding out.

If one were to ask the first half-dozen Liberals he met for a definition
of their principles, varying and perhaps vague replies would be
received. For in politics, as in other matters that combine speculation
with practical action, it is only the few who speculate, while the many
are content to act. And even most of those who tried to answer would be
apt to reply that Liberal principles could be summed up in the old party
watch-word--"Peace, Retrenchment, and Reform," thus confounding Liberal
principles with Liberal aims.

That these aims are well worth striving for has long been an accepted
doctrine of the party; but, in trying to gain them, we have to adapt
them to circumstances, and are not called upon in every single emergency
to push them to their logical extent. Logic, after all, is only a pair
of spectacles, not eyesight itself; and attempts to arrange human
affairs upon too precise a basis frequently end, as France so often has
shown, in failure. We long for peace, but not for peace at any price; we
ask for retrenchment, but not an indiscriminate paring down of
expenditure for the sake of showing a saving; and we struggle for
reform, but not to cut all the branches off the trees on the chance of
improving their appearance.

Before, in fact, we have been able to struggle at all for these or any
other points in politics, certain principles have had to be acted upon
by generations of progressive thinkers, which have developed and
strengthened our liberties. It is, perhaps, presumptuous to attempt to
lay down in a few words a basis of Liberal principle, but I would submit
that that basis may be found in the contention that

_All men should be equal before the law_;

that, as a consequence,

_All should have freedom of thought, freedom of speech, and freedom of

and that, in order to secure and retain these liberties,

_The people should govern themselves_.

With regard to the first point, I do not contend that all men are, or
ever can be, equal. Differences of mental and physical strength, of
energy and temperament, and of will to work, there must always be; and
in the struggle for existence, which is likely to grow even keener as
the world becomes more filled, the fittest must continue to come to the
top, as they have done and deserve to do. A law-made equality would not
last a week, but much law-made inequality has lasted for centuries, and
it is against this that Liberals as Liberals must protest. We object to
all law-made privilege, and we ask that men gifted with equal capacities
shall have equal chances. We do not claim any new privilege for the
poor, but we demand the abolition of the old privileges, express and
un-express, of the rich. Something was done in the latter direction when
the system of nomination in most departments of the civil service and
that of purchase in the army were got rid of. But as long as in the
higher departments of public affairs a man has a place in the
legislature merely because he is the son of his father; as long as in
the humbler branches no one unpossessed of a property qualification can
sit on certain local boards; and as long as in daily life the facilities
for frequent appeal, devised by lawyers within the House for the benefit
of lawyers without, provide a power for wealth that is often used to
defeat the ends of justice, so long, to take these alone out of many
instances, shall we lack that equality of opportunity which we demand
not as a favour but a right.

But if every man is to be equal before the law, he must have the right
to think as his reason directs; to discuss as freely as he thinks; and
to act as he pleases, so long as his neighbour is not injured in the
honest discharge of his duties, or the common weal put in jeopardy.
"Give me," said Milton, "the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue
according to conscience, above all liberties"--for it is certain that
with freedom of thought and discussion all other liberties will follow.
John Mill carried this principle to the fullest extent when he argued
that "if all mankind, minus one, were of one opinion, and only one
person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified
in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be
justified in silencing mankind." To all such sweeping generalizations
there are, however, possible exceptions. No man would be much inclined
to blame Cromwell for suppressing the pamphlet "Killing no Murder,"
which directly advocated his own assassination; even the strongest lover
of free discussion would not be prepared to allow the systematic
circulation of exhortations to blow up our public buildings, and
directions as to the best way of doing it; and instances may conceivably
arise--and an invasion one of them--where absolute freedom of
publication and debate would form a national danger. Our liberties,
therefore, would be sufficiently protected if we recognized the right of
every man to speak and to act as he pleases, "so long as his neighbour
is not injured in the honest discharge of his duties, or the common weal
put in jeopardy."

In order, however, that men may be able to think, speak, and do as they
deem right, it is necessary that the people shall rule, and that the
majority, when it has made up its mind, shall have the power to carry
out its decree. Even the Tories of these days will not dispute this
principle, and, therefore, Liberals cannot claim it as at this moment
their own; and yet, broadly speaking, the root idea of the Tory party is
the aristocratic theory that the few ought to govern the many, while
that of the Liberal party is the democratic, that the many ought to
govern the few.

In the days before the mass of the people were a real power in the
affairs of the State, this difference was very clearly marked, for the
Tories then were under no necessity to conceal their belief that the
"common herd" were not to be trusted in political concerns. And it is
useful, as showing what the high Tory doctrine on this point really was,
to recall the fact that a judge on the bench, less than a century ago,
in summing up at a political trial, laid it down as a doctrine not to be
questioned that "a government in every country should be just like a
corporation; and in this country it is made up of the landed interest,
which alone has a right to be represented. As for rabble, who have
nothing but personal property, what hold has the nation of them? What
security for the payment of their taxes? They may pack up all their
property on their backs, and leave the country in the twinkle of an eye;
but landed property cannot be removed." And another judge at a political
trial within the present century went even further in denying to the
people not merely the right of interference with public affairs, but
even of comment upon them. "It is said," he observed, "that we have a
right to discuss the acts of our legislature. This would be a large
permission indeed. Is there to be a power in the people to counteract
the acts of the Parliament; and is the libeller to come and make the
people dissatisfied with the Government under which he lives? This is
not to be permitted to any man,--it is unconstitutional and seditious."
We have outgrown such doctrines as these; and, thanks to the efforts of
generations of Liberals who have passed to their rest, the right of the
"rabble who have nothing but personal property"--or, for the matter of
that, no property at all--to take part in settling the affairs of the
State, whether by criticism or active interference, is solidly

It may be argued that as the Tories of to-day have accepted democracy,
the Liberals have no right to claim the principles here laid down as if
they were without exception their own. But this Tory acceptance of
democratic ideas is only partial, and a party which mainly depends upon
the aristocracy for support can never adopt them with consistency and
enthusiasm. The very existence of an hereditary legislature violates the
principle that all men should be equal before the law; the theory upon
which a State-established Church rests is equally a violation of the
right of every one to think, speak, and act as he chooses; and the
continuous efforts of the Tories to limit the franchise, and to erect
barriers against the majority having their will, are utterly opposed to
the view that the people should govern, and harmonize with the old idea
that the people should be governed.

It must not be imagined that these differences between the parties mean
nothing, or that we are beyond all danger of losing the advance we have
made. The ease with which we might slip back into despotism is shown by
the manner in which the Tories resort to coercion--or, as they prefer to
term it, "exceptional legislation"--when a majority of the Irish people
has to be cowed. The suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, the abolition
of trial by jury, the extinction of liberty of the press, and the denial
of the right of public meeting have been frequently enacted against the
majority of the people of Ireland, because their views on the political
situation have not accorded with those of the majority of the people of
England. And though they have all failed, and repeatedly failed, a
variation of the same old plan is put in operation to-day as if it were
a newly-discovered and infallible remedy for every popular ill.

Easy-going folk are apt to reply that, as these things concern only
Ireland, it is of no special moment to ourselves, and that England is
safe from any revival of a despotic system. Even if this were true it
would be false morality, and false morality makes bad politics. But it
is not true. Despotism is a disease which spreads, and any development
of it applied to one part of the body politic might, in conceivable
circumstances, be used as a precedent to apply it to the whole. And if
it be said that in these happy days the men of England have the
undisputed right to think as they like and talk as they will, it can be
answered that not one of the shackles upon freedom of thought and
freedom of action has been voluntarily struck off by the Tories, and
that it is only lately that they prevented a member of Parliament for
years from taking the seat to which he had been four times elected,
because he avowed what he believed upon theological questions.

The difference between the two parties, even in the present general
acceptance of a democratic system, may be put in words once used by Mr.
Chamberlain--"It is the essential condition, the cardinal principle of
Liberalism, that we should recognize rights, and not merely confer
favours." With us, the suffrage is the right of every free citizen; with
the Tories, it is a favour conferred upon the working by the moneyed
classes. We demand religious equality; the Tories are willing to give
toleration. But favours we do not ask, and toleration we will not have.

Liberals, in fact, are prepared substantially to subscribe to the
principles laid down more than a century since in the American
Declaration of Independence--a document which sounded the knell of
despotism on its own side of the Atlantic, and awoke echoes which shook
down another despotism on ours. "We hold," said that document, "these
truths to be self-evident--that all men are created equal; that they are
endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among
these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure
these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just
powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of
government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the
people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government,
laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in
such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and

These, broadly speaking, are Liberal principles; and when one has
absorbed them thoroughly, there comes to him that Liberal sentiment,
that enthusiasm for his fellows, which feels a blow struck at any man's
freedom, in any part of the whole world, as keenly as if it were struck
at his own.


It may be thought that by dealing only with "the fundamental principles
of the Liberal party," the Radicals were put aside as if they had no
separate existence; and to a large extent this is true, for Radicals are
simply advanced Liberals. The principles just asserted are common to all
members of the progressive party. There are differences as to the time
at which certain measures directly flowing from them shall become a
portion of the party's platform; and that is all.

A great deal of the prejudice which used to exist against those called
"Radicals" has died away, but traces of it linger still; and it will be
well to see what Radicalism, as a phase of Liberalism, really is. It may
sound strange to be told that the Whigs were the Radicals of an earlier
day, and that they sometimes carried their Radicalism to the point of
revolution. In these times it is becoming increasingly doubtful whether
those who call themselves by what was once the honourable title of
"Whig" have any claim to be considered members of the Liberal party; and
there are many who consider that they are now more truly conservative
than the Conservatives themselves. The Whigs tell us that they are only
acting as the drag on the wheel; but this implies that we are always
going down hill. That we do not believe. We hold that we are
progressing; and a drag which would act upon the coach as it climbs the
hill is a product neither of prudence nor common sense.

The bulk of the party of progress in these days may be said to combine
Liberal traditions with Radical instincts. The two can mingle with the
utmost ease, and, though they may run side by side for some time before
they join, the steady stream of the one and the rapid rush of the other
always unite at last in one broad river of liberalizing sentiment, which
fertilizes as it flows.

From the time when Bolingbroke wrote of some measure that "such a remedy
might have wrought a _radical cure_ of the evil that threatens our
constitution" to the date, a century later, when those who wished to
introduce a "radical reform" into our representative system were called
by the name, there were many Whigs who talked Radicalism without being
aware of it; but when the title had been given to a section of the
Liberal party, it became for a long period a term of reproach. Mr.
Gladstone, once speaking at Birmingham, quoted a definition of the early
Radicals which described them as men "whose temper had been soured
against the laws and institutions of their country;" and he admitted
that there was much justification for their having been so. But one can
quite understand that men of a soured temper were not likely to be
popular with the placid politician who stayed at home, or the
place-hunter who went to the House of Commons; and the bad meaning, once
attached to the name, remained affixed to it for a very long time.

Mr. Gladstone, in the speech referred to, was the first great English
statesman to try and remove the reproach; and this he did by defining a
Radical as "a man who is in earnest." This was flattering, but as a
definition lacked precision, for Tories are often in desperate earnest.
Many Radicals would assert that the very name--coming, as it of course
does, from the Latin word for "root"--tells everything; that it
signifies that they go to the root of all matters with which they deal,
and that, where reform is needed, it is a root and branch reform they

To this it may be replied that to go to the root of everything is not
always practicable and is not necessarily judicious. If a tree be
thoroughly rotten, if it be liable to be shaken to the ground by the
first blast, and thereby to injure all its surroundings, it should
certainly be cut down, and as soon as it conveniently can be. But if the
tree has only two or three rotten branches, there is no necessity to go
to its root. If one does, it will very probably kill a good tree which,
with only the decayed portions removed, might bear valuable fruit. As
with trees, so with institutions; and what seems to be forgotten by many
who call themselves Radical is that, in a highly-complex civilization
such as ours, we have to bear with some things that are far from ideal,
simply because of that force of do-nothingness which, powerful in
mechanics, is as great in political life.

A friend who has long worked in the Liberal cause once observed: "The
misfortune is that it is difficult to tell what a man's ideas of public
policy are from the mere fact of his calling himself a Radical. If by
Radical is meant Advanced Liberal--a Liberal determined to push forward
with all practicable speed, a Liberal who is in earnest--then I can
understand it, and I will readily take the name. But if by Radical is
meant a somewhat hysterical creature, who is ready to fight for every
fad that tickles his fancy, as he seems to be in some cases, or a
cantankerous being whose crotchets compel him to sever himself from all
other workers, as he is in others; if he is of the extreme Spencerian
school, and demurs to most legislation on the ground that it is
over-legislation, or of the extreme Socialist school, and demands that
Government shall do everything, and individual effort be practically
strangled by force of law, I am not a Radical, and hope never to be
called one."

But the practical Radicalism which is one of the greatest factors in
Liberal policy at the present day, is far removed from the schools just
depicted. The reasonable Radical is not a believer in any of the
schemes--as old as the hills and yet unblushingly preached
to-day--which, by some legislative hocus-pocus, some supreme stroke of
statecraft, will "put a pot on every fire and a fowl in every pot;" will
endow each widow and give a portion to all unmarried girls; will feed
the poor without burdening the community; and will make all the crooked
paths straight without undue trouble to ourselves. He holds that

                     Diseases desperate grown
     By desperate remedies are removed,
     Or not at all;

but he does not consider all diseases to be of the character described;
he does not refuse the half-loaf because for the moment the whole one is
impossible of attainment; and he does not repudiate other honest workers
in the cause of progress because their pace is not quite so swift, and
their point of view somewhat different.

In the constant striving after a high ideal, there is in the Radical's
heart a resolute desire to emerge from any rut into which politics may
have degenerated. For the very reason of his existence is that, if there
be an abuse in Church or State which agitation and argument can remove,
all honest endeavours must be made to remove it. He cannot forget that
many abuses have been got rid of by these means, and he profits by the
lesson to attack those which remain. It is their extinction at which he
aims. Earnestness, enthusiasm, and devotion to principle are his
weapons, and these he will not waste in fruitless longings after a
perfect State, but will use them to make the State we possess as perfect
as is possible. In all things he will aim at the practical; he will
remember that compromise is not necessarily cowardly, and that it is
possible for those who disagree with him to be as honest in their views
and as pure in their aims as himself. And in striving for the greatest
happiness of the greatest number, he will never forget that the greatest
number is all.

The answer may be made that this is an ideal Radical, and that the real
article is very different. So many have been taught to think, but they
are wrong. There are some rough diamonds in the Radical party, it is
true; but, so long as they be diamonds, we can afford to wait a little
for the polish. They are bigoted it may be said, and bigotry is hateful.
But bigots are just as useful to a reform as backwoodsmen to a new
community; they clear away obstacles from which gentler men would
shrink; rough and occasionally awkward to deal with, they make the
pathways along which others can move.

But, it is sometimes asked, where are the old philosophical
Radicals--men of the stamp of Bentham, and Grote, and James Mill? Dead,
all of them, having done their life's work faithfully and well; and
their successors have to look at politics from the standpoint of
to-day, and not of half a century ago. And when the Tories say that
these were especially admirable men, it must not be forgotten that their
ideas were as strongly opposed and their persons as bitterly assailed by
the Tories of their own day as are the ideas and the persons of the
unphilosophical Radicals--if they are to be called so--of this present
year of grace.

The Radicals of to-day have their faults, and there shall be no attempt
to conceal them. Many who call themselves by the name discredit it by
impatience of opposition, readiness to attribute interested motives to
those differing from them, and intolerance towards those who exercise in
another direction what they emphatically claim for themselves--absolute
freedom of thought, speech, and action. Some among them also are prone
to be led aside by a catching phrase, without troubling to ask what it
really means; and, in order to strengthen their forces, allow themselves
to be connected with any movement that may for the moment be popular.
And even more, but these of a much higher stamp, are carried away by the
dangerous delusion that in any political system can be found perfect

No honest Radical will deny the existence of these faults or be offended
that they should be pointed out. But the essential purity of aim and
depth of honest fervour possessed by the Radicals of this country
deserves all recognition. At heavy sacrifice to themselves they have led
the van in every great political movement, and their instinct has been
proved to be right. They have held aloft the lamp of liberty in times of
depression when Liberals of feebler soul would have hidden it beneath a
bushel in the hope of brighter days. And, even were their failings more
far-reaching than any that can be urged against them, their services as
pioneers of freedom would entitle them to the heartiest thanks of all
who have entered into their heritage because of the efforts the Radicals
have made.

Radicals and Liberals, then, are agreed as to principle though they
differ in methods, for the Liberal is a very good lantern, but a lantern
which requires lighting; and it is the Radical who strikes the match.


There has now been told a great deal about the principles which the
Liberals entertain, and a list has been given of the many glorious
things the Liberals have done; but the question of greatest immediate
interest is what the Liberals are doing, for we cannot live upon the
exploits of the past, but upon the performances of the present and the
promises of the future.

Although the Liberals at this moment are concentrating their main
attention upon the question of self-government for Ireland, there are
other important matters affecting the remainder of the United Kingdom
which occupy a place in their thoughts, and which will form their future
party "cry."

It has, of course, often been remarked that men when in Opposition call
out for a great deal which they fail to accomplish when in office; but
discredit does not of necessity ensue. It certainly shows that in
certain instances men do not come up to their ideal, but does that prove
the ideal to be wrong? Does it not rather prove that those who adopted
it, like mortal men everywhere and in all ages, were fallible? Despite
every drawback and every backsliding--and such drawbacks and
backslidings are admittedly many--it is better to have a high ideal and
fail frequently to attain it, than to have no definiteness of purpose
and take the chance of blundering into the right.

None should think lightly of the power of a popular cry. It was with the
shout of the leading tenet of their new creed that the Arabs fought
their way from Mecca to Madrid; it was with the exclamation "Jerusalem
is lost!" that the Crusaders marched across Europe to battle with the
Saracen; it was with the device "For God and the Protestant Religion"
that William of Orange swept the Stuarts out of Britain; and it was with
the burning words of the "Marseillaise" that the raw levies of France
defied and defeated the trained armies of Europe. For the popular cry
voices the popular emotion, and when the popular emotion is at its
height its force is irresistible.

To touch the heart of the people must, therefore, be one aim of any
democratic party; and that is why the politician who makes no allowance
for human passion, prejudice, or prepossession is a mere dreamer, who
deserves and is bound to fail. The fashion of the German philosopher
who, on being asked to describe a camel, evolved the animal from his
inner consciousness, is that in which some of our political guides
create their ideas of the world around them. They sit in the same
armchair as of old, and do not perceive how the conditions have changed.
They continue to imagine that the clique of some club-house controls
public events, and that the whisper of the party whip is all-powerful
with the constituencies. They do not recognize that voters are not now
an appanage of the Reform or the Carlton, because the groove they have
hollowed out for themselves is too deep to allow them to look over the
edge. But in nothing more than in politics is it true that the proper
study of mankind is man.

And, if one moves among the masses of his fellows, he will find a
growing desire to put to practical use the tools the State has given
them. Household suffrage and the ballot were not an end but a means, and
the question which politicians should ask themselves in this day of
comparative quiet is to what end these means shall be put. Those who
talk with working men know that there is a vague discontent with things
as they are, which, if not directed into proper channels, may become
dangerous, for in many quarters the old ignorant impatience of taxation
is giving place to an ignorant impatience of the rich. No good will come
of shutting our eyes to the existence of this feeling; the question is
how in the fairest and fittest manner it can be eradicated.

It must not be forgotten that the working classes have only recently
obtained direct political power, and that there is still much
uncertainty among them as to the best uses to which it can be put. There
would be nothing immoral in their using that power to better their own
interests. Men, after all, are but mortal; and, just as the upper
classes before 1832 used the power of Parliament to further their own
ends, and just as later the middle classes, when they were uppermost,
attended carefully to themselves, so the working classes will do when
they recognize their strength. And this is only saying that men being as
they are, "Number One" will be the most prominent figure in their
political calculations, whether that number represents a peer of the
realm or a labourer on the roads.

This is not the place to enter into the question of how far the State
ought to interfere with social problems. The fact to be emphasized is
that there is an increasing body of opinion, especially among the
working classes, that certain social problems will have to be attended
to. Any politician who attempts to forecast the future--more especially
any Liberal who wishes to draw up a party programme--must recognize
this, and act according to his convictions after fully considering it.

The politics of the future will, therefore, have a distinctly social
tinge, but they must include also many questions which are regarded
to-day, and will continue to be regarded, as of a partisan character. It
is requisite, then, to the right understanding of Liberal policy that a
broad view should be taken of the matters which are likely within no
distant date to become planks of the party platform. Calm discussion now
may save misapprehension then, and if we can see exactly whither we are
going, we shall be able with the more certainty to pursue our journey.
And if, in the course of the discussion, what at the first blush appears
an extreme view is taken, remember always the old truth that half a loaf
is better than no bread--that is, if the half-loaf be good bread and
honestly earned, and not to be accepted as an equivalent for the whole,
if that be wished for and attainable.

Subject to this condition, the Liberal party can do no better than
consider what is likely to come within the scope of its future
exertions; and although it is right to take up one thing at a time in
order that that one thing may be done well, good will be effected by at
once endeavouring to answer the main questions now before us. Upon the
spirit in which these are discussed, and the manner in which they are
replied to, much of the future of popular government in England will
depend. The scientific naturalist of to-day tells us that it is an idle
fable which states that the ostrich hides its head in the sand with the
idea of escaping observation; but really so many of our leading
politicians execute a variation of this manoeuvre in regard to the
questions of the future, that the ostrich need not be ashamed to be
stupid in such eminent company.

A preliminary to the discussion in detail of questions which go to the
root of many of the most important matters in politics is a resolution
not to be led aside from any course one may think right by the fear of
being called hard names, or by the use of certain venerable but
weather-worn phrases. It is so easy to endeavour to damage political
opponents by applying to them such names as Separatists or Socialists,
Atheists or Revolutionaries, that one cannot wonder that the practice is
frequently adopted by the Tory party. But hard words break no bones, and
the politician who is frightened by a nickname may be a very estimable
person, but he is no good in a fight.

Similarly we can afford to despise certain of the phrases which with
some politicians do duty for argument. No one should be turned back from
doing what he thought to be right in the circumstances of to-day by
being reminded of that mysterious entity "the wisdom of our ancestors."
What sane man would conduct a shop as it was conducted 500 years since?
And where would science be if we still swore by the skill of the
alchemists? Accumulated experience in the varied transactions of life is
held to improve man's judgment and capacity; why should it not be
similarly held to improve the judgment and capacity of States? Let any
one who sighs after the wisdom of our ancestors apply in imagination the
political maxims in vogue even a hundred years ago to the affairs of
this present, and then let him say honestly whether he would wish by
them to be governed.

Another fine-crusted example of a worn-out phrase is that in praise of
"the good old times." We are invited to believe that in some unnamed
age, England was better and brighter, and her people happier and richer,
than to-day, and mainly because rulers were obeyed in all things and no
questions asked. But particulars are lacking; and these sketches of the
glories of "the good old times" are like nothing so much as Chinese
pictures, displaying an abundance of colour but no perspective, an
amazing imagination but an absence of exact likeness to anything ever
seen by mortal man.

"Dangerous innovations" also is a phrase at which no one should be
alarmed. No great good has ever been accomplished without many excellent
persons considering it a "dangerous innovation." The Scribes and the
Pharisees, and, after them, the Roman Empire, denounced and persecuted
the Christian religion upon this ground; the most powerful Church in
Christendom, with similar belief and similar lack of success, used every
engine at its command to suppress the Reformation. As in religious so in
political affairs. King John would doubtless have described Magna Charta
in just such terms; the partisans of Charles the First certainly held
that opinion concerning the demand of Parliament to control the Church,
the army, and the monarchy itself; the opponents of every measure of
reform--political, social, or religious--have used the phrase. From the
greatest to the smallest reform it has been the same. In the early years
of this century a Parochial Schools Bill, because it did not give all
power to the clergy, was opposed by the then Archbishop of Canterbury
with the words, "Their lordships' prudence would, and must, guard
against innovations that might shake the foundations of religion." When,
in later times, gas was introduced, the aristocratic dwellers in western
London protested with equal force against such an innovation as the new
illuminant; and Lord Beaconsfield, in the opening chapters of the last
of his novels, sketched with ironic pen the attempts of high-born ladies
to prevent the spread of light. Thus, in things sublime and in things
ridiculous, the cry of "dangerous innovation" has been raised until it
has been rendered contemptible.

Equally futile is the fear that the Liberals are about to propose "the
impossible." There is nothing in politics to which that word can be
applied, as even the most cursory study of our history will show. When
men say that certain measures can "never" be carried, they are more
likely to be wrong than right. In 1687 it would have been deemed
impossible to place the Crown upon a strictly parliamentary basis; in
1689 this was accomplished. In 1830 the most sanguine reformer scarcely
dared hope that borough-mongering would in his lifetime be destroyed,
and the first popularly elected Parliament was chosen in 1832. In 1865,
none could have dreamed that household suffrage in the boroughs was
near; in 1867 it was adopted by a Tory Government. In 1867 he would have
been a hardy prophet who would have foretold the speedy downfall of the
Irish Episcopal Establishment; and the Act of Disestablishment was
placed upon the statute book in 1869. Such instances should of a surety
teach men to be modest in their forecasts of what is possible in

In, therefore, pursuing our search into the why and the wherefore of the
politics of the future, we must put aside phrases and come to facts. The
phrases will die, but the facts will remain; and the more closely we
grasp these latter the more certain will those Liberal principles which
have done so much for the past, do even more for the future.

And, when we come to the facts, we must not forget that a political
question is not necessarily unpractical because it cannot be immediately
dealt with; for good is accomplished by the calm discussion of points
which are bound some time to be raised, and which, if undebated now, may
be settled in a gust of popular passion. As Mr. John Morley has well
observed--"The fact that leading statesmen are of necessity so absorbed
in the tasks of the hour furnishes all the better reason why as many
other people as possible should busy themselves in helping to prepare
opinion for the practical application of unfamiliar but weighty and
promising suggestions, by constant and ready discussion of them upon
their merits."


The question of Irish self-government is for the present the greatest
that concerns the Liberal party, and in current politics, as Mr.
Gladstone has truly and tersely put it, Ireland blocks the way. This, of
course, is not so simply because Mr. Gladstone said it, and even less is
it so because he wished it. The question stands in the path of all other
great measures of legislative reform, for the sufficient reason that, at
the first opportunity after the franchise was enjoyed by every
householder, Ireland declared emphatically, and by a majority
unparalleled in modern political history, in favour of freedom to manage
her own domestic affairs.

It must be obvious that, when all the popularly-elected members for
three out of four provinces into which one of the countries which form
this kingdom is divided, pronounce against the existing system of
government, and when a majority of those for the other province side
with them, that that system cannot continue to exist with the good will
of those whom it most intimately affects, and can only be maintained by
force. Such as have followed Mr. Gladstone in this matter do not believe
in the maintenance of a government against the constitutionally declared
will of the governed, and are agreed that the Irish demand for the
management of purely domestic affairs ought to be granted on the grounds
of justice, expediency, and sound Liberal principles.

They hold that to grant the demand would be just, because under the
present system the vast majority of Irishmen have no practical control
over those by whom they are governed; that it would be expedient,
because the kingdom is weakened by the continual disaffection of one of
its component parts; and that it would accord with sound Liberal
principles, in that the overwhelming majority of the Irish electorate
have asked for Home Rule through the constitutional medium of the

"The liberty of a people," says Cowley, "consists in being governed by
laws which they have made themselves, under whatever form it be of
government." This definition, which applies strictly to England, applies
not at all to Ireland. The English system of government has broken down
there so completely that all parties profess to be agreed that something
must be devised in its place. Liberals have always held that a people or
a class knows better what is good for it than any other people or any
other class, however enlightened or well-meaning. That has been one of
the main reasons for giving the suffrage to the poor, the ignorant, and
the helpless, because the experience of ages has taught that the rich,
the educated, and the powerful, while well able to take care of
themselves, are either too careless or have too little knowledge to take
the same care of others. And as with the suffrage, so with
self-government. Any extension must be granted upon broad principles:
small concessions grudgingly given are always accepted without
gratitude, and used to extort greater.

"Well," it may be said, "I am willing to give Ireland a large measure of
self-government, but I won't yield to agitators." This is one of the
oldest of all replies to demands for reform. How could anything be
gained in politics without agitation? The Tories swear they will yield
nothing until agitation has ceased; and if it ceases, if only for a
moment, they declare it is evident there is no popular wish for reform.
"Proceed, my lords," said Lord Mansfield, when the American colonies
revolted--"proceed, my lords, with spirit and firmness; and when you
shall have established your authority, it will then be time to show
lenity." And their lordships proceeded; but the "time to show lenity"
never came, for it was such counsels which lost the American colonies to
the British Crown.

"But," it will be added, "this is not an ordinary agitation; it is a
revolutionary one." In some of its phases that is true, and it is all
the more reason why its cause should be closely examined. It is the
English themselves who have taught the Irish that ordinary
constitutional agitation gains them nothing. If it had not been for the
organization of the Volunteers, Grattan's Parliament of 1782 would never
have been granted; the Duke of Wellington in 1829 admitted that he
yielded Catholic Emancipation to the threat of civil war; it needed the
terrible crimes of the early "thirties" to arouse England to the
necessity for abolishing an iniquitous system of levying tithe; the
Fenian outbreaks, the attack on a prison van at Manchester, and the
blowing up of a gaol in London, opened the eyes of the English to the
need for disestablishing the Irish Church and clipping the claws of the
Irish landlords; the fearful winter of 1880 led to the granting of still
further protection to the tenants; and to the "plan of campaign" of the
winter of 1886 was it owing that a Tory Government felt compelled to
still further encroach upon the property and privileges of the landlords
of Ireland. As long as Ireland has held to constitutional agitation--as
witness that for Catholic Emancipation from 1801 to 1825, and that for
tenant right from 1850 to 1868--so long has England refused to grant a
single just demand; and this is exactly what the Tories are doing now.
Is it any wonder that Irish agitation should have become revolutionary
when that is the only kind we have rewarded? In the relations between
the governing classes and popular movements there has all through been
this difference--in England, revolution has been staved off by reform;
in Ireland, reform has been staved off till there was revolution.

"But," it may be continued, "it is not so much that the agitation is
revolutionary as that it is criminal which makes me object." But a
movement ought not to be called criminal because of the excesses of a
few of its extreme partisans. No great popular agitation has ever been
free from lewd fellows of the baser sort, who have given occasion to the
enemy to blaspheme. But did English Liberals hesitate to support Mazzini
because he was accused of favouring assassination; to sympathize with
the French Republicans because Orsini prepared bombs for the destruction
of Napoleon III.; or to-day to wish well to those Russians who conspire
for liberty because the wilder spirits among them have assassinated one
Czar and attempted to assassinate another? In our own history, are the
Covenanters to be condemned because some of them murdered Archbishop
Sharpe; the early Radicals because Thistlewood and his fellows plotted
to kill King and Cabinet; the Reformers of 1831 because of the Bristol
riots and the destruction of Nottingham Castle; or those of 1866 because
the Hyde Park railings were thrown down? When it is remembered that even
such a man as Peel could, in the midst of a heated controversy, accuse
such another as Cobden of conniving at assassination, we should be
careful how we accept the testimony of any partisan concerning the
criminality of an agitation to which he is opposed.

These objections touch, after all, only the fringe of the matter, and
another which is frequently urged--that the Irish agitation is a
"foreign conspiracy" because it receives aid from the United
States--does not go much closer to the root. But this, like the others,
may be disposed of by English examples. Did not Englishmen aid, both by
men and money, in liberating Greece and uniting Italy? Did they not help
by subscriptions the insurrections in Hungary and Poland, and, when the
former failed, did not many of them take the refugees into their homes?
Did they not even raise a fund to assist the slave-holding States when
in rebellion? And in all these cases, except in a remote degree the
last, they had no tie in blood, but only one in sympathy, with those
concerned. That the Nationalist movement has been largely aided from the
United States is undoubted; but that aid has mainly come from those of
Irish birth or parentage who have been driven across the Atlantic to
seek a home. And when it is said that, because of this help, a
self-governed Ireland would rely upon the United States to the detriment
of England, may we not ask why it is that Italy does not rely upon
France, though it was France that struck the first effective blow for
Italian unity; or Bulgaria upon Russia, though without the
blood-sacrifice of Russia that principality would never have occupied a
place on the European map? However much it may be to be regretted,
gratitude does not play any large part in international affairs.

When the more serious objections to the granting Home Rule are urged
they are no more difficult to meet. "Ireland is not a nation," it is
said; "its people are of different races." The argument has been used
before by the Tories, and the value of it may be judged by an example.
The late Lord Derby, as leader of the Tory party, addressed the House of
Lords in 1860 in savage denunciation of the efforts then being made to
secure the unity of Italy; and to the contention that all the
inhabitants of that peninsula were Italians, he answered, in the words
of _Macbeth_ to his hired murderers,

       Aye, in the catalogue ye go for men;
     As hounds and greyhounds, mongrels, spaniels, curs,
     Shoughs, water-rugs, and demi-wolves are cleped
     All by the name of dogs.

And those who remember the unbridgeable differences which then appeared
to exist between the Sardinian and the Sicilian, the Florentine and the
Neapolitan, the dweller in Venice and the resident in Rome, will know
that the perfect unity between them which now makes Italy one of the
Great Powers would have been considered as unlikely as any between a
Belfast man and an inhabitant of Cork to-day.

"The Irish are not fit for self-government," is the next contention. If
this be so, the shame is ours in not having given them the opportunity
for being trained. We did not refuse to liberate the slaves until they
were proved to be fit for freedom; we did not decline to give the
labourers the suffrage until they were proved to be capable of rightly
using it; for we knew in each case that no such proof could be afforded
until the opportunity was offered. No proof that the Irish are not able
to manage a Parliament is given by the corruption of the
semi-independent body which they enjoyed from 1782 to 1799; for that
consisted entirely of Protestants, mainly chosen by a band of
borough-mongers, whom Pitt had to buy out at a high price. The same
thing exactly was said by the Tories--sneers about the pigs and all--of
the Bulgarians in 1876; and they have had good reason since to change
their minds. What reason is there to believe that the Irish would be
less able to manage their own affairs than the people of Bulgaria?

"But they are naturally lawless." Where is the proof? It is true that in
certain mountainous districts of Kerry and Clare there have been
outbursts of moonlighting, but these have been as nothing compared with
the prevalence of brigandage in Greece before the Greeks were allowed to
rule themselves, or in Italy before the Italians founded their united
kingdom. Where there is little popular respect for the law, there
lawlessness flourishes; where the people make their own laws, there
lawlessness is put down with a strong hand.

"If they had the power they would persecute the Protestants." This is a
prophecy, and a prophet has the advantage of being able to soar above
proofs. But the fact that every prominent defender of national rights in
Ireland for the last century and a half, except O'Connell, from Dean
Swift down to Mr. Parnell, has been a Protestant, should count for
something. The fact that Protestants have again and again been returned
to the Corporations of the most Catholic cities should count for much.
And the fact that, when for years not a single one of the 450 English
members was a Roman Catholic, several of the 103 Irish members, even
from the most Catholic districts, were Protestants, should count for
more. Such religious persecution as exists in Ireland is certainly more
at Belfast than at Cork.

"Giving them a Parliament would break up the empire." Why should the
empire be broken up because there was extended to Ireland the principle
we have granted to Australia and Canada, New Zealand and the Cape? How
is it that the German Empire continues united, though the Reichstag, its
Imperial Parliament, is one body, and the Prussian Parliament, the Saxon
Parliament, the Würtemberg Parliament, and the Bavarian Parliament are
quite others? Is there no union between Austria and Hungary, or between
Sweden and Norway, though each has its Parliament, and are the United
States disintegrated because every one of the States has its own Senate
and House of Representatives? If one were asked to name two of the
strongest nations outside our own, Germany and the United States would
be the reply; and in each there is a system of Home Rule for the
separate portions.

"But did not the United States crush the Confederates when secession
was demanded?" Of course they did; the United States fought against the
South separating from the North, as we should against Ireland separating
from England. But every State which joined the Confederacy possessed as
ample a measure of Home Rule as the Liberals now propose for Ireland;
and, to the lasting honour of the Northern States, that measure was
restored soon after the war. Home Rule the South had, and has still;
separation the South asked for, and did not receive.

"The Irish are ungrateful people; whatever you give them they ask for
more." Would it not be well to first ask what the Irish have had to be
grateful for? Granting that we yielded Catholic Emancipation, reformed
the tithe system, disestablished the Church, and legalized tenant right;
why, after all these things, should we expect gratitude? The old phrase
that "gratitude is a lively sense of favours to come" may be unduly
cynical; but is it not absurd to ask that recompense for the doing of
acts of simple justice? Former generations of Englishmen deprived the
Irish of their rights. To what thanks are later generations entitled for
simply restoring to the Irish the rights of which they had been robbed?
"Be just and fear not," was said of ancient time: "Be just and expect
not gratitude," should be added to-day. And when it is stated that "the
Irish ought to accept what we choose to give them," it must be replied
that this is the purely despotic argument which has already done England
sufficient injury by losing her the United States.

It is only in this, the briefest, fashion that an answer has been
sketched to the various arguments and assumptions against Home Rule. In
determining to grant it, the Liberals are acting strictly according to
their old policy of favouring struggling nationalities. The support
given by Burke to the cause of America; by Fox to Ireland; by Canning
(in this, as in some other matters, truly Liberal) to Greece; by
Palmerston to Italy; and by Mr. Gladstone to Bulgaria, indicates with
sufficient clearness the traditional Liberal position. For a century we
have been telling the whole world the advantages of autonomy; are we
now to decline to adopt, in similar circumstances, the remedy for
discontent we have all along preached to, and sometimes forced upon,

The Liberals say with Landor, "Let us try rather to remove the evils of
Ireland than to persuade those who undergo them that there are none."
They are utterly opposed to the idea that it is right to give a people
free representation and then deliberately to ignore all that that
representation asks. They are, it is true, in a minority at this moment,
but they do not forget that all great causes have three stages--first to
be laughed at, next to be looked at, and last to be loved. Home Rule has
certainly reached the second stage; it will soon reach the third. The
Liberals have been beaten before, but they have always won in the end.
And it is well to be beaten sometimes. If life were all sunshine we
should find it oppressive; an occasional cloud serves to temper the
heat. To the Liberals, as to nature itself, a misty morning is often the
prelude to the brightest day.


In dealing with the other questions which the Liberals will have to
consider, it will be well to take them in what may be called their
constitutional order, and a beginning, therefore, may be made with the
reform of the House of Lords. The theory upon which that House is upheld
is that it is an assembly of our most notable men, called to rule either
by descent from the great ones of the past, or by the proved capacity of
themselves in the present, who discuss every question laid before them
with impartiality, and who act as a check upon the hasty and
ill-considered legislation of the House of Commons.

So much for the theory: what of the fact? Those peers who are not
creations of to-day mainly spring either from Pitt's plutocrats or from
those who have been granted their patents because of having lavishly
spent their money in electoral support of some party; those who can
claim their peerage by direct descent from the great ones of the past
can be numbered by tens, while the whole body is numbered by hundreds;
and just as a sprinkling of successful lawyers, soldiers, and brewers
adds nothing to its historical character, it in no sense brings the
peerage into clear and close contact with the people. As to the
impartiality displayed by the House of Lords, it is notorious that in
these days it is little other than an appanage of the Carlton Club, and
that, whatever the Tory whips desire it to do, it accomplishes without
demur. And its power as a check upon hasty and ill-considered
legislation may be judged from the fact that it never dares reject a
measure which public opinion strongly demands and upon which the Commons

When the history of the House of Lords is studied, it will be found
that during the past century it has initiated no great measure for the
public good, and a hundred times has wantonly mutilated or impotently
opposed the reforms the people asked. The mischief it has done touches
every department of public life. Whether it was to throw out a bill
abolishing the penalty of death for stealing in a shop to the value of
five shillings, on the ground stated by one of the bishops in the
majority that it was "too speculative to be safe;" to again and again
vote down every proposal to relieve Roman Catholics and Jews from civil
disabilities; to pander to the will of George IV. in the prolonged
persecution of his wife; or to defeat measures calculated to place the
electoral power in the hands of the people--the House of Lords has
always been one of the main forces in the army of darkness and
oppression. Remember that every one of the reforms the Liberals have
secured within the last 50 years has been distasteful to the House of
Lords, and calculate the worth or wisdom of that institution.

It does not add to the estimation of either the worth or the wisdom that
the Lords have ultimately accepted what they have bitterly opposed, for
if they have consistently been a stumbling-block in the path of every
reform which the people now cherish their tardy repentance is of little
avail as long as they pursue the same obstructive course. And it is not
merely measures which they throw out, but measures which they mutilate,
that render them a power for harm. For the Lords are like rabbits; it is
not so much what they swallow as what they spoil which makes them so

Those who defend the institution as it exists should, therefore, be
called upon to point to some one definite case in recent history in
which it can be said, "Here has the House of Lords done good." Mere talk
about the admirable administrators and the dexterous debaters it
contains is no argument; for if the legislative functions of the peers
were abolished to-morrow, those among them who were worthy a seat in the
House of Commons would have no difficulty in securing it. What Liberals
object to is the being subjected to the caprices, the passions, and the
prejudices of some five hundred men, the majority of whom are not
merely unskilled in legislative faculty and unqualified in
administrative experience, but are drawn from a single class out of
touch and sympathy with the mass of the people.

It is not the least of the evils of the present system that the
attendance at the sittings of the Lords is of so perfunctory a nature.
Even during the discussion of important measures not more than sixty or
seventy peers, out of over five hundred, are commonly present, while ten
or twelve is not an unusual number to deal with Bills. As Erskine May
has pointed out, "Three peers may wield all the authority of the House.
Nay, even less than that number are competent to pass or reject a law,
if their unanimity should avert a division, on notice of their imperfect
constitution." And he furnishes an instance where an Irish Land Bill,
"which had occupied weeks of discussion in the Commons, was nearly lost
by a disagreement between the two Houses, the numbers, on a division,
being seven and six."

Adding to their number does not improve the average attendance, and yet
the pace at which that number is growing is a scandal. In 1885, the
first time since 1832, the total membership of the House of Commons was
enlarged, not without trepidation and despite the fact that every member
would be directly responsible to a constituency. The increase was only
twelve, and a Premier often creates within a year as many legislators on
his own account, who, with their successors, are responsible to no one
for their public conduct. Is it not an absurdity to speak of ourselves
as freely governed and ruled only by our own consent when a Prime
Minister can make as many legislators as he chooses, and there be none
to gainsay him?

If it were only that under the present system the drunken and the
dissolute, the blackleg and the debauchee are allowed to sit in the
Lords and make laws for us and our children, we should have a right to
demand that the institution should be "mended or ended." The former
process has now distinctly been adopted as a plank in the Liberal
platform, and the question of reform can, therefore, no longer be put on
one side.

There are many Radicals who say that as the House of Lords, if it agrees
with the Commons, is useless, and if it disagrees is dangerous, its
abolition as a legislative body should at once be made a plank in the
party programme. They argue further, that to reform will be to
strengthen it, and that, by the reasoning just given, this is
undesirable. But the main point is to secure the best legislative
machine we can, and there is much to be said for the improvement of the
House of Lords into a Senate which shall be in fact what the present
institution is in theory--a body of sage statesmen, experienced in
affairs, and elected for a specified term, so as to be directly amenable
to the people, and not removed from obedience to public opinion.

As a first step to any reform, the creation of hereditary peerages,
conferring a power to legislate, ought to be stopped. "The tenth
transmitter of a foolish face" ought no longer to be able to transmit
with the foolishness a power over the lives and liberties of his
fellow-men. If there is any one who continues honestly to believe that
because a man has secured a peerage by his brains (and the proportion of
creations upon that ground is exceeding small) his successors are likely
to prove good legislators, he would do well to procure a list of those
peers who are descended from "law lords;" and he would find that while
not one of them is distinguished for great political or administrative
skill, there are various notorious instances, which will occur to every
reader of the daily newspaper, of those distinguished for exactly the

One minor reform in the constitution of the House of Lords ought to be
pressed at once, and that is the removal of the bishops from their
present place within it. Not only has no one section of religious
persons the right to a State-created ascendency over others, but all
parties are agreed in the most practical form that bishops as bishops
have no inherent right to legislative power. In 1847, when the bishopric
of Manchester was created, it was provided that the junior member of the
episcopal bench for the time being should not have a seat in the Lords,
and thirty years later, when the Government of Lord Beaconsfield made
further new bishoprics, it similarly did not venture to add to the
number of spiritual peers; there are consequently always four or five
waiting outside the gilded chamber until the death of their seniors
shall let them in.

What Liberals, therefore, demand is that the House of Lords shall be
thoroughly reformed. The bishops must be excluded, no more hereditary
legislators created, and a system devised by which the House shall
become a Senate so chosen as to be directly responsible to the people,
whose interests it is assumed to serve. A sprinkling of life peers would
aggravate instead of lessen the difficulty. An hereditary legislator
may, for the sake of his successors, be careful not too grievously to
offend the people; an elected legislator, for his own sake, will be the
same; but a legislator who was neither one nor the other would have no
such check, and all experience has shown that corporations elected for
life become cliquish or even corrupt, for want of the frequent and
wholesome breeze of public opinion.


There was a time, and that not far distant, when the question "Is the
House of Commons perfect?" would have been considered by many
well-intentioned and easy-going persons to be impertinent, even if not
actually irreverent. But we live in days when every institution has to
submit to the test of free discussion, and its usefulness and efficiency
have to be proved, if it is to retain its place in the political system.
And as there can be little doubt that, for many reasons, a feeling has
been widely growing within the past few years that the House of Commons
is neither as useful nor as efficient as it ought to be, the popular
reverence for that great assembly has somewhat diminished; and it
behoves all who wish to preserve parliamentary government in its fullest
and freest form to examine the causes of apparent decay and to suggest
methods of amelioration.

The preservation intact of the powers and privileges of the House of
Commons must be the desire of every lover of freedom; but the conduct of
its business must be brought into harmony with modern methods, and the
mechanical side of the assembly made as perfect as possible. Not from me
will fall one word derogatory to the venerable "mother of free
parliaments." The House of Commons has done too much for England, its
example has done too much for liberty the wide world through, to allow
any but the ribald and the unthinking to speak lightly of its history or
scornfully of its achievements. For the People's Chamber is not merely
the most powerful portion of the High Court of Parliament; it is not
alone the central force of the British Constitution, to which kings and
nobles have had, and may again have, to bow; it is the directly elected
body before whose gaze every wrong can be displayed, and to whose power
even the humblest can look for redress. It deals forth justice to the
myriad millions of India as to a solitary injured Englishman; it is a
sounding board which echoes the claims of a single peasant or an entire
people; and it practically commands the issues of peace and war,
involving the fate of thousands, and of life and death, involving that
of only one. No policy is vast beyond its conception, no person
insignificant beyond its sight. It is a mighty engine of freedom,
responsive to the heart-throbs and aspirations of a whole people, which
has baffled tyrants, liberated slaves, and raised England to that
position among the nations which our children and our children's
children should be proud to maintain.

Such is the assembly which needs reform. Often enough and with much
success has there been raised a cry for "parliamentary reform," but this
has meant an amendment of the method of electing members, not of the
manner of conducting business; and it is this latter which now is
urgently required. The stately ship which has sailed the ocean of public
affairs for six centuries has naturally attracted weeds and barnacles
which cling to its hull and retard its progress. These must be swept
away if the vessel is to pursue a safe and speedy course; and as little
irreverence is involved in the process as in cleaning and repairing the
old _Victory_ herself.

The cardinal defect of the existing system is that it strives to do
modern work by ancient modes, an attempt which is as certain to fail in
public concerns as it would be if any one were sufficiently ill-advised
to try it in private. And when there is contemplated on the one side the
vast and growing mass of affairs cast upon the consideration of
Parliament, and on the other the rusty and creaking machinery employed
to cope with it, little wonder can be felt that much needful work is
left undone, and a deal of that which is accomplished is done badly.

By granting to Ireland the right to manage her domestic affairs, and by
providing some system by which England, Scotland, and Wales can in local
assemblies each deal for herself with her own concerns, much will be
accomplished in the way of real parliamentary reform. But even then more
will remain to be done. The multiplied stages of each measure laid
before the House of Commons must be lessened. It is possible to-day to
have a debate and a division upon the motion for leave to introduce a
bill, upon the first reading, the second reading, the proposal to go
into committee, the report stage, the third reading, and the final
proposition "That the bill do pass," while financial bills have even
more stages to go through; and although, of course, all these
opportunities for almost unlimited obstruction are not often made use
of, they exist and should be diminished.

Another fruitful source of wasted parliamentary time is the provision
that if a bill is dropped at the end of a session, however far it may
have progressed short of actual passing, it has to be started afresh
when the House re-assembles, and every stage has to be as laboriously
again gone through as if the measure had never been heard of before. One
can understand why a new Parliament should start with a clean sheet, for
no decision of a previous one in favour of the principle of a certain
measure can bind it to pass that measure into law. But within the limits
of the same Parliament, a decision once given should be so far binding
that it should not be necessary for a bill to pass the stage of second
reading four or five years running, because effluxion of time had
prevented it passing into law during any of the sessions.

Against such waste of time as this--waste which is imposed by the very
rules under which Parliament works--the closure is no remedy. It is a
weapon with which it is right that the majority should be armed, but it
requires great skill in the wielding lest the legitimate efforts of the
minority be stifled. What is wanted is the better ordering of the whole
machine. When private bills and purely local business are taken
elsewhere, when the stages of each measure are lessened, and when bills
which have passed their second reading are not killed at the session's
end, but allowed to remain in a state of animated expectancy, even then
other means will have to be sought to make the machine move more surely
and with greater expedition.

Something has been done to this end by the earlier hour of assembling
and fixed hour of adjourning which the House has now adopted. But why
should not the process be carried further, and the affairs of the
country be settled by day instead of by night? The first answer is that
it would not be possible for a legislative body to do its business
during the day; and a sufficient answer should be that the French
Assembly and the German Reichsrath do theirs during that period. The
next is that Ministers could not get through their work if the hours of
meeting were made earlier; the reply is to the same effect--that what
French and German Ministers can accomplish, English Ministers must be
taught to do. A further contention is that such barristers and business
men as are members would not be able to attend sooner than at present;
and the answer of many as to the barristers would be that it were well
for the country if three-fourths of those in the House never attended at
all, for it is largely owing to the number of lawyers in Parliament that
the law is a complicated and costly process, often proving an engine of
injustice in the hands of the rich, and a ruinous remedy for the injured
poor; while as to the business men who cannot attend earlier than now,
their number is so exceedingly limited that their convenience ought not
to be consulted to the detriment of parliamentary institutions. There is
one more argument which would be of greater weight than all the rest if
present conditions were likely to continue, and that is, that it would
be a serious hindrance to private bill legislation, because members
would be loth to serve on committees during the time the House was
deliberating; but it is obvious to all observers of the parliamentary
machine that the greater portion of private business will have soon to
be delegated to other bodies, and the main point of an undeniably strong
argument will thus be destroyed.

But even such a reform in the hours of work would not expedite matters
to a sufficient extent, if the present power of unlimited talk be
preserved. Every member has the right of speaking once at each stage of
a bill, and as many times as he likes during committee. If the number of
stages be lessened, as they are likely to be, there will not be much to
be objected to in the continuance of this right; but its retention
should be contingent upon the shortening of each speech. This is a
proposal which can be justified on "plain Whig principles," and has
certainly a plain Whig precedent. For Lord John Russell, when Prime
Minister, brought forward in 1849 a proposal to limit the duration of
all speeches to one hour, except in the case of a member introducing an
original motion, or a minister of the Crown speaking in reply. The
proposal fell through, but that it was made by so cautious a Premier is
a proof that there is much to be said in favour of compulsorily
shortening speeches.

The proposition that Parliaments should be chosen more frequently in
order that they may preserve a closer touch with the people should be
earnestly pressed forward. In the early days of the House of Commons
annual Parliaments were practically the rule, an assembly being summoned
to vote supplies and do certain necessary business and then dissolved.
When matters were put upon a more certain footing, after the Great
Rebellion, Parliaments elected for three years were ordained, and this
term was extended to seven years shortly after the Hanoverian Accession,
in order to guard against a Jacobite success at the hustings, which
might seriously have endangered an unstable throne. The time has now
come to ask that a term adopted in a panic, and for reasons which have
long passed away, should be shortened. A four years' Parliament has been
found to be long enough for France, Germany, and the United States; and
as the average of the last half-century has proved a seven years' period
to be unnecessarily long for England, the briefer should be enacted. Now
that the suffrage is on so wide a basis, it is essential that members of
Parliament should be in as close touch with the people as possible. Once
elected, members frequently forget that they are not the masters of
those who have chosen them, and that, though called in one sense to rule
the country, there is another sense in which they are called to serve.
It is necessary that this truth should be enforced upon such members as
are apt to ignore it, and shorter Parliaments would enforce it.

There are some who believe that by payment of members a better
representation of the people would be secured. The example of other
countries can certainly be quoted in favour of such a proposition, but
there appears no necessity for any general payment in England. As,
however, it is in the highest degree desirable that representatives of
every class in the community should appear at Westminster, some
provision should be made by which members, upon making a statutory
declaration of the necessity for such a course, would be able to claim a
certain moderate allowance for their expenses during the session. There
would be nothing revolutionary in this; the fact of members being paid
would be merely a return to the practice which prevailed for close upon
four centuries after the House of Commons was established upon its
present basis.


Many would be surprised if told that there remained serious deficiencies
in our electoral system; and would ask, "How can that be? We now have
the ballot at elections, household suffrage in both counties and
boroughs, and a nearer approach to equal electoral districts than the
most sanguine Radical ten or even five years ago would have thought

But has the suffrage really been extended to every householder? As a
fact, it has not; it is largely a merely nominal extension; and tens of
thousands of qualified citizens are disfranchised for years at a time by
the needless restrictions and petty technicalities which now clog the
electoral law. Registration should be so simplified that every qualified
person would be certain of finding his name on the list; and the duty of
compiling a correct register should be imposed upon some local public
official, compelled under penalty to perform it.

The common belief is that a twelvemonth's occupation qualifies for a
vote, but all that it does is to qualify for a place on the register,
which is an altogether different matter, the register being made up
months before it comes into operation. At the very least, a man must
have gone into a house a year and a half before he has a vote for it,
and it often happens that he has to be in it for two years and a
quarter, and even more, before he possesses the franchise. Let me state
such a case. A man goes into a house at the half-quarter in August,
1888; he will not be entitled to be placed on the register in the
autumn of 1889, because he was not occupying on July 15 of the previous
year; if he continues to occupy, he will, however, be placed there in
the autumn of 1890; but it is not until January 1, 1891, that he will be
able to exercise the suffrage. So that all taking houses from July 15,
1888, are in the same position as those who take them up to July 15,
1889, and will have to wait for a vote until 1891.

"But," it may be said, "when a man once has his vote he is able to
retain it as long as he holds any dwelling by virtue of 'successive
occupation.'" That is so only as long as he remains within the
boundaries of the constituency wherein he possessed the original
qualification. He may move from one division of Liverpool to another, or
from one division of Manchester to another, or from one division of
Birmingham to another, and retain his vote by successive occupation; but
if he goes from Liverpool to Birkenhead, from Manchester to Salford, or
from Birmingham to Aston, his vote is lost for the year and a half or
the two years and a quarter before explained. The effect of this is most
apparent in London, where thousands of working men are continually
moving from one district to another, treating the whole metropolis as
one great town, but by passing out of their original borough they are
disfranchised. And this is the more a grievance because the
Redistribution Act, though dividing the larger provincial towns into
single-member districts, left them as boroughs intact; while the old
constituencies in London were not merely divided, but split up into
separate boroughs. Lambeth thus became three boroughs--Lambeth,
Camberwell, and Newington--each with its own divisions; Hackney was
severed into the boroughs of Hackney, Shoreditch, and Bethnal Green;
Marylebone into the boroughs of Marylebone, Paddington, St. Pancras, and
Hampstead; and so throughout the metropolis. And the consequence of the
purely artificial nature of the boundary lines thus created is that many
a man who merely moves from one side of the street to the other, or even
from one house to another next door, is disfranchised for a couple of
years. The obvious remedy for this peculiar evil is that London should
be treated as one single borough, like Liverpool, Manchester, and
Birmingham; but the remedy for the whole evil is that when a man has
once qualified for a place on the register, proof of successive
occupation in any part of the country should suffice to give him his
vote in the constituency to which he moves.

When we pass from the household to the lodger franchise, we are faced by
one of the hugest shams in the electoral system. There are certain
constituencies which contain hundreds of lodgers, and of these not more
than tens are on the register. The reason is twofold: it is not merely a
trouble to get a vote, but there is a yearly difficulty in retaining it.
For a lodger, as for a household vote, a twelvemonth's occupation is
necessary to qualify, and the purely nominal nature of this
qualification is the same in both; but the lodger has the additional
hardship of being deprived of even as much benefit as "successive
occupation" gives the householder, for if he moves next door, though
with the same landlord, he is disfranchised, while the landlord retains
his vote. And, further, he has to make a formal claim for the suffrage
every succeeding summer, an operation too troublesome for the vast
majority of lodgers to undergo, and one from which the householder is
spared. And thus this particular franchise is a mockery, and the
proportion of lodger voters to qualified lodgers is absurdly small.

Of course, the term "householder," equally with the term "lodger,"
presupposes at present that the one who bears it is a man, and, equally
of course, an agitation is on foot to give the franchise to women. This
is a matter which is likely to be settled in favour of the other sex,
and the only question is as to how far it should go. The extreme
advocates of female suffrage would give it to married women, but what
appears the growing opinion is that spinsters and widows, qualified for
the suffrage as men are qualified, should receive it; and this is a
settlement which will probably soon be reached.

Much dissatisfaction would continue to be felt, even were these points
granted, if "faggot-voting" were still suffered, or a single person
allowed to possess a multitude of votes. The "forty-shilling freehold"
is a prolific source of bogus qualifications: abolished in Ireland by
the Tories because it gave the people too much power, it ought to be got
rid of throughout the kingdom by the Liberals because it leaves the
people too little. For it is largely by its means that some men are able
to boast that they can exercise the franchise in six, or ten, or even a
dozen constituencies. Men of this type occupy themselves at a general
election by travelling around, dropping a vote here and a vote there,
and they ought to be restrained. That this can be done without violating
any right is evident even under the present system. However many
qualifications a man obtains, he can vote for only one of them in any
constituency; and more, if he has qualifications in every division of
the same borough he has, when the register is made up, to state for
which division he will vote, and in that division alone can he claim a
ballot paper. If it is right to prevent him from having more than a
single vote in any one division--or, which is a still stronger point, in
any one borough--it must be equally right to limit him to a single vote
throughout the country. "One man, one vote," should be the rule in a
democratic state. If a person possesses qualifications for various
constituencies, let him be called upon to do what he is now compelled to
do if he has qualifications for different parts of the same
constituency--vote for only one of them; and that one should be the
place in which he habitually resides.

An indirect method of practically securing the "one man, one vote,"
result would be to have all the elections throughout the country on the
same day. Under the existing system, the polls drag on for weeks, and
not only does this distract the attention of the nation and put a
hindrance to business for a far longer period than is necessary, but it
has the further evil effect of causing many voters in the constituencies
which are later polled to waver until they see whither the majority
elsewhere are tending, and then "go with the stream." The only instance
in recent electoral history when the later polls reversed the verdict of
the earlier was at the general election of 1885, when the boroughs,
speaking broadly, voted Tory and the counties Liberal; but that, owing
to the recent extension of the county franchise, was an abnormal period,
and the rule is that the stream gathers as it goes, and the waverers are
swept into the torrent. That it is possible for a great country to be
polled on the same day is evident from the examples of Germany and
France, and it is only adherence to worn-out forms which prevents its
accomplishment here.

The remedy, therefore, for the anomalies caused by the defective
"successive occupation," the presence of "faggot voters," and the
prolongation of the pollings, is simply to treat the kingdom as one vast
constituency, in which a man once on the register remains as long as he
has a qualification, in which no one has more than a single vote, and in
all the divisions of which the poll is taken on the same day.

This suggested single constituency would, of course, resemble the great
county and borough constituencies of to-day in having divisions, but it
would not be single in the sense proposed in Mr. Hare's original scheme
of "proportional representation," by which the possessor of a vote could
cast it where and for whom he liked. Those who have adopted Mr. Hare's
ideas, while modifying his methods, have not been successful in
discovering any feasible plan for representing public opinion in the
proportion in which it is held, the sort of Chinese puzzle proposed by
Sir John Lubbock and Mr. Courtney having failed to commend itself to any
practical politician. It is wrong, however, to imagine that the present
system of single-member districts roughly secures that the minority
shall be duly represented while the majority retains its due share of
power; for it was proved in some striking instances, the very first time
it was put in operation, that, so far from retaining, it often
sacrifices the rights of the majority. At the general election of 1885
the Liberals of Leeds cast 23,354 votes, and the Tories 19,605, and yet
the latter gained three seats and the former only two; the Sheffield
Liberals won but two seats with 19,636 votes, while the Tories secured
three with 19,594; and the Hackney Liberals could win only one seat with
9,203 votes, and the Tories two with 8,870; while, on the other side,
the Southwark Tories, with 9,324 votes, returned one member, and the
Liberals, with 9,120, returned two. The reason is obvious: a party with
overwhelming majorities in one or two districts is liable to be beaten
by narrow majorities in most of the divisions, and the minority thus
elects a majority of members. The present system, therefore, is
evidently imperfect. It was adopted in haste and without due
discussion; it has failed in France, Switzerland, and the United States;
and in at least the divided boroughs it ought to give place to double or
triple member districts.

The question of having second ballots, so as to provide that, as in
Germany and France, where there are several candidates and none secures
an absolute majority of votes given, another ballot shall be held, is
not an immediately pressing one, though much may be said in its favour;
but that of the payment of election expenses out of the rates ought to
be dealt with at once. It is highly unfair that a candidate should be
fined heavily, by the enforced payment of the official expenses, for his
desire to serve the country in Parliament; and it is the more unfair
because the official expenses of elections for town councils, school
boards, and boards of health and of guardians are paid by the public.

This fine helps to keep men of moderate means out of the House, though
their abilities might prove to be most useful there; and another method
by which the wealthy have the advantage in parliamentary contests ought
equally to be attended to. People are forbidden by law to hire
conveyances for carrying voters to the poll, but they are allowed to
borrow them, with the result that constituencies on an election day
swarm with carriages of peers and other rich people, who have nothing
whatever to do with the district, and who yet affect by this influence
the voting. The use of carriages should not be prohibited, for the aged
and infirm ought not to be disfranchised; but no importation of vehicles
should be allowed, and while an elector, and an elector only, should be
entitled to use his own, it should, as a means of identification, be
driven by himself. Such a provision would largely diminish the present
interference of peers in elections. They may address as many meetings as
they like; but, as long as they have a legislative assembly of their
own, they must not be allowed to use their wealth and position to
interfere with the voters for the Commons House of Parliament.


From the great concerns of the State it is natural to come to the
Church, and when that point is arrived at, the problem of
disestablishment at once arises. "_Can_ the Church be disestablished?"
is a question sometimes put, and the answer is plain, for that answer is
"Most certainly," and a further question "Where is the Act establishing
the Church?" as if the non-production of such an enactment would prevent
Parliament from severing the link which binds Church and State, may be
replied to by another. Supposing one asked, "Where is the Act
establishing the monarchy?" would the non-production of that measure
prove that it is not a parliamentary monarchy under which we live? By
the Act of Succession, Parliament "settled" the monarchy; by various
Acts in the reigns of Henry VIII., Edward VI., Elizabeth, and Charles
II., Parliament has "settled" the Church. There is no authority in this
realm higher than Parliament; and if Parliament chooses to "unsettle"
either monarchy or Church, it can do so.

This is no new-fangled Radical idea; it is an old Whig principle.
Charles Fox, in a debate just a century since, observed, while
favourable to the principle of religious establishments, "If the
majority of the people of England should ever be for the abolition of
the Established Church, in such a case the abolition ought immediately
to follow." Macaulay, in his essay on Mr. Gladstone's youthful book on
"Church and State," was clearly of the same opinion. And Lord
Hartington, in his declaration a few years ago that if the majority of
the people of Scotland desired disestablishment their desire ought to
be satisfied, completed the chain of Whig traditional opinion.

If upon such a matter one is not content to swear by the Whigs, the
verdict of the bishops may be accepted. Dr. Magee, of Peterborough, has
declared that "Our Church is not only catholic and national: she is
established by law--that is to say, she has entered into certain
definite relations with the State, involving on the part of the State an
amount of recognition and control, and on the part of the Church
subjection to the State."

The very use of the common term "The Church of England as by law
established" involves recognition of the fact that what the law has done
the law can undo. And if any one doubts the power of Parliament in this
matter, let him read a table of the statutes passed in the session of
1869, and he will find that the most important of all of them was "An
Act to put an end to the Establishment of the Church of Ireland." Now,
the legal position of the Irish Establishment and the English
Establishment was identical. Is any further proof required that, if
Parliament chooses, the latter can at any moment be severed from the

It is sometimes said that Nonconformist bodies are equally established
with the Church because they are subject to the law, as regards the
construction of their trust-deeds, and other matters, of which the
courts of justice have occasionally to take cognizance. But that is as
if it were argued that all persons who come within the enactments
affecting the relations between employer and employed should be
considered servants of the Crown as well as those engaged in the
government offices. The difference is plain: the law regulates all, the
Government employs only some. The Crown appoints the Archbishop of
Canterbury, but has no right to choose the President of the Wesleyan
Conference; Parliament can deal with the salaries of the bishops, but
cannot touch the stipend of a single Congregational minister.

There being no doubt that, if the people will, the Church can be
disestablished, a further question remains, "Ought it to be so dealt
with?" and the reply in the affirmative is based upon the lessons of
the past, the experiences of the present, and the possibilities of the

The Church, though possessed of every advantage which high position and
vast wealth could supply, has failed to be "national" in any true sense
of the word. So far from embracing the whole people, it has gradually
become but one of many sects; and, had it not been for the efforts of
those who conscientiously dissented from its doctrines and its practice,
a great portion of the religious life we see in England to-day would not
have existed. Further, and from the time of its settlement on the
present basis, it has been the consistent friend to the privileged
classes, and foe to any extension of liberties to the mass of the
people. In defence of its position and emoluments it has struck many a
blow for despotism. The harassing and often bloody persecutions of
Nonconformists and Roman Catholics in England and Wales, and of
Covenanters and Cameronians in Scotland, were undertaken at its desire
and in its defence; while the hardships and indignities inflicted for
centuries upon the Catholics of Ireland were avowedly in support of "the
Protestant interest"--a Protestantism of the Establishment, in which the
Presbyterians were allowed little share. In its pulpits were found the
most eloquent defenders of the English slave trade, which was from them
declared to be "in conformity with principles of natural and revealed
religion;" and when Romilly strove to lessen the horrors of the penal
code, its bishops again and again came to the rescue of laws the
disregard of which for the sanctity of human life can in these days
scarcely be conceived. And when it was proposed to give to some extent
the government of the country to the people whom it mainly concerned, it
was the bishops who threw out the first Reform Bill.

At this present the efforts of the better men within the Establishment
are hampered by the State connection. It cannot bring its machinery into
harmony with the growing needs of the time without appealing to a
Parliament in which orthodox and heterodox, Catholic and Atheist, Jew
and Quaker, Unitarian and Agnostic sit side by side, and to which a
Hindoo has twice narrowly escaped election. By a Prime Minister
dependent upon the will of this body its bishops are chosen; by a Lord
Chancellor equally so dependent are many of its ministers appointed.
Because of the necessity for going to Parliament for every improvement,
little improvement is made. Private patronage is left untouched; the
scandal of the sale of livings remains unchecked; criminous clerks are
often allowed to escape punishment because of the cumbrous methods now
provided; and disobedient clergymen defy their bishops and go to prison
rather than conform to discipline, the law which permits persistent
insubordination and provides an unfitting penalty remaining unaltered
because Parliament has too much to do to attend to the Church.

As to the future, things are likely to be worse instead of better. Then,
as now, the connection between State and Church will injure both--the
State because it is an injustice to all outside the Establishment that a
single sect should be propertied and privileged by Parliament, and the
Church because it is as a strong man in chains attempting to walk but
only succeeding to painfully hobble.

In how many ways disestablishment would benefit the Church, let Dr.
Ryle, Bishop of Liverpool, declare:--"(1) It would doubtless give us
more liberty, and enable us to effect many useful reforms. (2) It would
bring the laity forward into their rightful position, from sheer
necessity. (3) It would give us a real and properly constituted
Convocation. (4) It would lead to an increase of bishops, a division of
dioceses, and a reconstruction of our cathedral bodies. (5) It would
make an end of Crown jobs in the choice of bishops, and upset the whole
system of patronage. (6) It would destroy all sinecure offices, and
drive all drones out of the ecclesiastical hive. (7) It would enable us
to make our worship more elastic, and our ritual better suited to the
times." True, the bishop adds that the value of these gains must not be
exaggerated; but if disestablishment can do even as much good as this to
the Church, it cannot be the bad thing some of its opponents would have
us believe.

But it is sometimes urged that if the Church were disestablished, there
would be no State recognition of religion, and England would become
un-Christian. Is not this a technical rather than a real argument? Would
the number of Christians in this country be lessened by a single one if
the Church were deprived of State support? Was not the same thing said
when Jews were admitted to Parliament and Atheists claimed admission?
And has England ceased to be Christian because Baron de Worms is sitting
on one side of the Speaker and Mr. Bradlaugh on the other?

A more real argument is that disestablishment would break up the
parochial system; but those who use it impute a discreditable
lukewarmness to their own community. Seeing what the Wesleyans, the
Congregationalists, the Baptists, and the other dissenting denominations
have done to spread religion in every village in England and Wales; what
the Free Kirk has accomplished in Scotland; and what the Roman Catholic
Church has effected in Ireland--and all without a penny of State
endowment, and dependent alone for success upon the gifts of their
members--is it to be believed that the adherents of the Episcopal
Church, among whom are included the wealthiest men in the country, will
permit that institution to perish for lack of aid? Is not experience all
the other way? Is not that of Ireland in particular a striking testimony
to the wisdom of substituting the voluntary system for State support?
Upon this point the testimony of two Irish Protestant bishops is
abundant proof. The Bishop of Ossory, Ferns, and Leighlin averred, in
1882, that "no one could look attentively upon our Church's history
during the last ten or twelve years without perceiving that, by the good
hand of God upon them, there had been a decided growth in all that was
best and purest and most important. Never in his recollection had their
Church been more clear or united in her testimony to Christian truth, or
more faithful in every good word and work;" and Lord Plunket, the
Archbishop of Dublin, has congratulated his clergy that disestablishment
saved the Church from being involved in the land agitation, adding, "The
very disaster which seemed most to threaten our downfall has been
overruled for good."

The question is likely, however, to be considered a more immediately
pressing one for Scotland and Wales than for England. In Scotland it is
the Presbyterian and not the Episcopalian form of Christian government
which is State supported; and the fact that forms so opposed in striking
points of doctrine and practice should be established on the two sides
of the Tweed, is an interesting commentary upon the system generally.
When the majority of the members for Scotland demand disestablishment,
and press that demand upon us, it will as assuredly be granted as was
the like demand from Ireland just twenty years ago. And "the Church of
England in Wales"--supported by a small minority, and never enjoying the
confidence of the body of the people--should similarly be dealt with,
according to the wish of the Welsh parliamentary representatives.

The continued existence of the Church of England as an establishment is
the largest question of all, and it is one which politicians will have
to face, if not this year or next year, yet in the early years to come.
It is only its continued existence "as an establishment" which is in
dispute, for it would be a slanderous imputation upon its sons if it
were said that a withdrawal of State support would cause its collapse as
a religious body. The very strides it has made during the last few
years, which are sometimes urged in its defence, have been made not by
State help but by voluntary effort; and if that voluntary effort had
free scope, the good effect would be greater and more lasting.

What is wanted is that which Cavour asked, "A Free Church in a Free
State," for both would be benefited by the process, and particularly the
former. When the late Lord Beaconsfield was asked why, in the height of
Tory reaction, he made no effort to re-establish the Irish Church, he
replied that there was a difference between cutting off a man's head and
putting it on again. But the illustration was imperfect, for it is a
strange kind of decapitation which strengthens the patient; and that was
the effect in Ireland. And the Irish Church was not only disestablished
but _disendowed_. In the mind of the practical politician the two
processes are inseparable.


The question, "Would disendowment be just?" is admittedly a crucial
point to determine when the whole subject comes up for settlement, for
there are many defenders of the Establishment who exclaim, "We are quite
prepared for the severance of the Church from the State, but only upon
condition that she retains her endowments."

But the two concerns cannot be separated. Supposing the Government
engaged an officer to perform certain functions, and that, in process of
time, finding these functions not fulfilled, it determined to sever the
connection, would the officer be justified in demanding not only
consideration for his long service and his life interests, but that his
salary should be paid to himself and his descendants in perpetuity,
though directly neither he nor they would again render service to the
State? If it be contended that the illustration is not applicable,
because the Church receives no aid from the State, issue can be joined
at once.

For what is the first question that naturally arises? It is as to the
source from which the Church originally derived her revenues. "Pious
benefactors, stimulated by the wish to benefit their fellows and save
themselves," is the reply of the average Church defender. But any
attempt to prove this fails. Does a solitary person believe that every
proprietor of land in each parish of England and Wales voluntarily and
spontaneously imposed a tithe upon his possessions? Is it not an
admitted fact that it was by royal ordinance such an impost was first
levied, and by force of law that it has since been maintained?

This most ancient property of the Church in England, the tithe, is a
law-created and law-extorted impost for the benefit of a particular
sect. As far back as the Heptarchy, royal ordinances were given in
various of the kingdoms of which England was composed directing the
payment of tithes; and that the far greater portion of these were not
voluntary offerings is indicated in Hume's account of the West Saxon
grant in 854. "Though parishes," he observes, "had been instituted in
England by Honorius, Archbishop of Canterbury, two centuries before, the
ecclesiastics had never yet been able to get possession of the tithes;
they therefore seized the present favourable opportunity of making that
acquisition when a weak, superstitious prince filled the throne, and
when the people, discouraged by their losses from the Danes and
terrified with the fear of future invasions, were susceptible of any
impression which bore the appearance of religion."

When England became one kingdom, and tithes were extended by royal
decree to the whole realm, penalties soon began to be provided for
non-payment, Alfred ordaining "that if any man shall withhold his
tithes, and not faithfully and duly pay them to the Church, if he be a
Dane he shall be fined in the sum of twenty shillings, and if an
Englishman in the sum of thirty shillings;" and William the Norman,
speedily after the Conquest, directed that "whosoever shall withhold
this tenth part shall, by the justice of the bishop and the king, be
forced to the payment of it, if need be." These provisions are part of
the common law of England, and they effectually dispose of the idea that
the tithe was a voluntary offering which the farmer to-day ought to pay
because of the supposed piety of unknown ancestors.

The proceeds of the tithe--which originally, according to Blackstone,
were "distributed in a fourfold division: one for the use of the bishop,
one for maintaining the fabric of the church, a third for the poor, and
a fourth to provide for the incumbent"--were the first great source of
revenue to the Church; but in the course of centuries that revenue was
largely added to by gifts. It was not uncommon for a man to hand over
his property to a monastery upon condition that he was allowed a
sufficiency to keep him; while the money given for the provision of
masses for the dead was a considerable aid to the Church in the Middle
Ages. And as the monks were exceedingly keen traders, their wealth was
increased by farming, buying, and selling to a degree that at length
tempted the cupidity of a rapacious king. It was during that period that
our great cathedrals and all our old parish churches were built; and
when, because of a divorce dispute, the Eighth Henry resolved to cut the
Church in England altogether adrift from the Church of Rome, he adopted
a measure of Disendowment which, though not complete, was very sweeping,
and proved in the most absolute form the right of the State to deal as
it willed with the property of the Church.

In the preamble of the Act dissolving the lesser monasteries, it is
declared that "the Lords and Commons, by a great deliberation, finally
be resolved that it is and shall be much more to the pleasure of
Almighty God, and for the honour of this His realm, that the possessions
of such small religious houses, now being spent, spoiled, and wasted for
increase and maintenance of sin, should be used and committed to better
uses." The State in this asserted a right it had never forfeited, and
which, by successive Acts of Parliament, has been specifically retained.
No one to-day would defend the fashion in which Henry took property
which had been devoted to certain public uses and lavished it upon
favourites and friends. The main point, however, is not the manner of
disposal, but the fact that it could be disposed of at all; and when any
one doubts the power of the State regarding the property of the Church,
a reference to what Parliament has done in the matter is sufficient to
show constitutional precedent for Disendowment.

But though much was taken from the Church at the Reformation period,
much was left, and it was left to a body differing in many important
particulars from that which had been despoiled. As Mr. Arthur Elliott,
M.P., a Whig writer, observes in his book "The State and the Church,"
"It would be to give a very false notion of the position of the Church
towards the State to omit all mention of the sources from which, as
regards its edifices, the Church of England finds itself so
magnificently endowed. In the main, the wealth of the Church in this
respect was inherited, or rather acquired, at the time of the
Reformation, from the Roman Catholics, who had created it. The Roman
Catholics and the English nation had been formerly one and the same.
When the nation, for the most part, ceased to be Catholic, these
edifices, like other endowments devoted to the religious instruction of
the people, became the property of the Protestant Church of England, as
by law established."

The new Act of Parliament Church--for it had its doctrines and its
discipline defined by statute--became possessed, therefore, of the
cathedrals, the churches, much of the glebe, and a large portion of the
tithe that had been given or granted to the Roman Catholic communion,
which had held the ground for centuries. And succeeding monarchs, with
the exception of Mary, so confirmed and added to these gifts that "the
Judicious Hooker" was led to exclaim--"It might deservedly be at this
day the joyful song of innumerable multitudes, and (which must be
eternally confessed, even with tears of thankfulness) the true
inscription, style, or title of all churches as yet standing within this
realm, 'By the goodness of Almighty God and His servant Elizabeth, we

And it was not only "His servant Elizabeth" who, among monarchs since
the Reformation, has assisted the Houses of the Legislature to
pecuniarily aid the Church. Queen Anne surrendered the first fruits, or
profits of one year, of all spiritual promotions, and the tithe of the
revenue of all sees, in order to create a fund for increasing the
incomes of the poor clergy; but Queen Anne's Bounty comes straight out
of the national pocket, for, had our monarchs retained this source of
income, it would have been taken into account when the Civil List was
settled at the commencement of the reign, and at least £100,000 a year
saved to the Exchequer. And the nation has even more directly helped the
fund, Parliament having, between 1809 and 1829, voted considerably over
a million towards it.

But this is not all. Dealing merely with national money appropriated to
Church purposes during the present century, it may be added that in 1818
Parliament voted a million sterling for the purpose of building
churches, that in 1824 a further sum of half a million was granted for
the same purpose, and that a subsequent amount of close upon ninety
thousand pounds has to be added to the total. And not only by large
grants did Parliament help the Church. In the old days of Protection,
when almost every conceivable article was taxed, the duty chargeable on
the materials used in the building of churches was remitted, this
amounting between 1817 and 1845 to over £336,000. A drawback was also
granted on the paper used in printing the Prayer Book, and this, while
the paper duty was levied, could scarcely have averaged less than a
thousand a year. In small things, as in great, Parliament helped the
Church, for an Act of George IV. specifically exempted from toll the
carriage and horses used by a clergyman when driving to visit a sick

I claim, therefore, that the State has a right to dispose of such
property of the Church as was not given to it in recent times by private
donors, knowing it would be appropriated to the purposes of a sect; and
I claim it because the tithes were law-created, because the bulk of the
possessions passed from one communion to another by force of law, and
because the State has continued to pecuniarily aid the Church throughout
the centuries during which she has existed. And, if constitutional
precedent be demanded, they are to be found in abundance upon the
statute book, notably in the measures affecting the monasteries, the
Tithe Commutation Act, and the Act putting an end to the Established
Church in Ireland.

If it be urged, as it sometimes is, that, because the original royal
ordinance enforcing tithes was granted before our regular parliamentary
system was in existence, Parliament has no power to deal with it, it
must be answered that in all matters within these realms, touching
either life or property, Parliament is supreme. And, as bearing even
more directly upon the point raised, it may be added that rights of toll
and market, granted to boroughs by royal charter before Parliaments were
chosen as at present, have been altered and abolished by Parliaments
since; and that Magna Charta itself, signed many years before Simon de
Montfort called the first House of Commons into being, has been
modified, and often modified, since that event.

If further proof be wanted, not only of the power but of the will of
Parliament to interfere directly in the monetary affairs of an
Established Church, the Act disendowing the Irish Establishment eighteen
years ago, and another passed fifty years since, chopping and changing
the salaries of the English bishops, may be referred to. And, regarding
a further measure of the last half-century, the words of such a sturdy
Conservative as Lord Brabourne, used in a letter written in 1887, are
eminently satisfactory:--"The Tithe Commutation Act was nothing more nor
less than the assertion by the State of its right to deal with tithes as
national property."

But, it may be said, the property, whether contributed by private
benefaction or royal grant, was distinctly given to the Church, and
ought not, therefore, to be taken away. I dispute both points of the
contention. The property was allotted to a Church which acknowledged the
supremacy of the Pope, and it is used by one which abjures it; to a
Church possessed of seven sacraments, and used by one with only two; to
a Church believing in transubstantiation, and used by one holding that
doctrine to be a dangerous heresy; to a Church with an unmarried clergy,
and used by one in which the large families of the poorer parsons are
their stumbling-block and reproach; to a Church which performed its most
sacred mysteries in the Latin tongue, and used by one whose ceremonies
are delivered in a language understanded of the people. If it be true
that the Church to-day is the Church as it has always been, why, in the
name of common reason, was Cranmer, the Protestant, burned by Mary, and
Campion, the Jesuit, hanged by Elizabeth?

From the fact that the Church of England is not a corporation--that is,
it has not property in its own right, and what is possessed by its
members is vested in them not as proprietors but as trustees--there
flows the consequence that it is mainly the life interests of those
engaged in clerical work which have to be considered. And those life
interests will be considered and generously dealt with when the time for
disendowment arrives.

And then comes a question which many will deem of all-importance--"How
is the Church to exist afterwards?" or, to put the point in the
extremest fashion, and in the words addressed to the clergy in the very
first of the "Tracts for the Times," "Should the Government of the
country so far forget their God as to cut off the Church, to deprive it
of its temporal honours and substance, on what will you rest the claims
to respect and attention which you make upon your flock?" And the answer
is that, if the Church be worthy to exist, it will be able, like other
religious bodies, to stand upon the open and constant manifestation of
its own excellences.

Look around and see what the voluntary system has done. In England it
has planted a place of worship in every corner of the kingdom; in Wales
it has saved from spiritual starvation a populace neglected by the
Establishment; in Scotland it has founded a Free Church by sacrifices
which were the marvel and the pride of a preceding generation; and in
Ireland it has secured to the mass of the people the ministrations of
their own religion, despite every bribe, persecution, and lure. Is it in
England, where the Episcopalian system has most that is wealthy and all
that is socially influential on its side, that a State endowment is
needed to provide for its professors what the miners of Cornwall and the
labourers of Carmarthen, the hardy toilers in the Highlands, and the
poverty-stricken peasants of Connemara provide for themselves? If this
be so, then no greater indictment could be levelled against the process
of Establishment, no more certain proof could be afforded of the evils
which follow in its train, than that it produced such a mean coldness of
soul. But the supposition is so dishonouring to the great body of
church-goers that its use proves the straits in which the defenders of
the existing system find themselves.

Disendowment would undoubtedly reduce the larger salaries allotted to
the clergy, and probably increase the smaller. A parson would then be
paid according to his value to the parish, whether as preacher or
administrator, and he would not draw a thousand a year for doing
nothing, while his curate received eighty or a hundred for performing
the work. The Church would no longer be a rich man's preserve, wherein
younger sons could obtain comfortable family livings, while their duty
was done by ill-paid deputies. We should no longer see an Archbishop of
Canterbury, with a salary of £15,000 a year, begging upon a public
platform for worn-out garments for the poorer working clergy. A primate
is conceivable at a third the cost, and the money thus saved to the
Church alone would prevent the necessity for such a humiliating
proceeding as openly asking for old clothes for toiling clergymen. With
disendowment, in short, men would be paid according to their merits and
not their family connections--according to their work and not their
birth. And, further, the scandal of the sale of livings--the shame of
the public advertisement of cures of souls as eligible according as they
are in a hunting country, or near a fishing river, or close to "good
society"--would be done away with. Would all these gains count as
nothing to the Church, considered as a religious body?

The process of disendowment, then, is the necessary accompaniment of
disestablishment; it is possible; it is just; and its effects would make
for good. It is necessary, because if the Church is to be severed from
the State on the ground that it has failed in its mission, it would be
obviously out of the question to leave it possessed of the property
given to it to secure that mission's due performance. It is possible,
because Parliament is not merely supreme in all such matters, but has
shown within the past few years its capacity for disendowing a Church
having precisely the same rights and privileges as the English
Establishment. It is just, because no one sect has the right to property
granted it on the ground that it represented the religious sentiment of
the whole nation. And it would make for good in giving a more
distinctively religious character to the clergy, in paying them
according to their deserts and not according to the length of the purse
that purchased them their livings, and in freeing a religious system
from the ignoble associations of the auction mart.

Upon these grounds it is demanded that, with disestablishment,
disendowment shall come. Life interests will be respected; all modern
gifts to the Episcopalians as a distinct sect will be fairly dealt with;
further than this the Establishment is not entitled to demand, and
further than this Liberals will not be prepared to go.


A question which is intimately connected in many minds with the Church
is that of national education. It stood next to it in order in that
early programme of Mr. Chamberlain which demanded "Free Church, free
schools, free land, and free labour."

This matter of free schools is not likely to create as much opposition
as it would have done even a short time since, for no question awaiting
settlement is ripening so rapidly. Experience is teaching in an
ever-increasing ratio that certain defects exist in our system of
national education which hinder its full development, some of which, at
least, could be avoided by the abolition of fees.

The progress which has been made in public opinion within only half a
century regarding the amount of aid that should be given to elementary
schools, encourages the hope that more will yet be given, and that very
speedily. It is but a little more than fifty years ago that a Liberal
Ministry led the way in devoting a portion of the national funds to this
purpose; and no one unacquainted with the history of that period could
guess the number and the weight of the obstacles thrown in the way of
even such a modest proposal as that Ministry made. The Tories, while not
particularly anxious that the mass of the people should be educated at
all, were decidedly desirous that such teaching as was given should be
under the direct control of the Church. Archbishops and bishops, Tories,
high and low, joined to continually hamper the development of any system
of national education which afforded the Nonconformists the least
privilege; but despite their every effort the movement spread. The
annual grant of £20,000, which was commenced in 1834, grew by leaps and
bounds. In a little more than twenty years it had become nearly half a
million for Great Britain alone; in thirty years it had increased by
close upon another quarter of a million; and in fifty years (and the
growth in the meantime had been mainly the fruit of the Education Act,
passed by the Liberal Ministry in 1870) it had touched three millions.
And that sum, vast as it was, represented only the amount granted from
the national exchequer, being supplemented by an even larger total
raised by local rates.

So far has the nation gone in the path of State-aided and rate-aided
education, and the question is whether it is not worth while to go the
comparatively little way further which is needed to make elementary
education free. For the fees which are now paid do not represent a
quarter of the amount which the teaching costs. And not only so, but the
existence of these fees is a continual hindrance to the working of the
Act. The effect of the fee is to keep out of the board schools thousands
of children who ought to be in them; and the attempt to enforce its
payment increases the odium which almost necessarily attends upon

"But," it will be said, "where a parent is too poor to pay, the fee can
be remitted." That is true, and the extent to which the system of such
remission is carried in some districts is one of the strongest arguments
in favour of free education. It is desirable to get the children into
the schools, but it is highly undesirable to do this by practically
pauperizing the parents. If elementary education were free to all, all
could partake of it without any appearance of favour on the one hand or
shame on the other. But the independent poor have now the choice of
making themselves still poorer by paying the fee for the education they
are bound to have administered, or of losing their independence by
asking the school board or the poor-law guardians for relief. And the
consequence, of course, is that many who have no independence to lose,
and are the least deserving of help, receive the assistance they are
never backward to ask.

"What is worth having is worth paying for" is a remark sometimes made
in this connection, but is it not as applicable to the State as to the
individual? For it is for no philanthropic but for a decidedly practical
reason that the country assists education. All men in these days admit
that the most cultivated people, like the most cultivated individual
man, has the best chance of success. With educated Germany, and educated
France, and educated America pressing us hard, it is a necessity of
existence for England to be equally educated. And seeing that the school
board rate and the Government grant mount higher and higher and the fees
become lower and lower, the only practical question is whether the State
had not better boldly step in, abolish fees which are a hindrance to
educational progress, pay the whole amount instead of three-quarters,
and provide free teaching for all.

If such a consummation were secured, the status of what are now called
voluntary schools would of necessity be materially altered. As at
present applied, the name "voluntary" affixed to the schools of the
National Society and similar bodies is very much a misnomer. It conveys
that the schools are supported by voluntary subscriptions; but this is
true in only a limited degree, for it is the Government grant--that is,
money taken out of the pocket of every one who pays taxes, direct or
indirect--which keeps them in existence. And, therefore, when Churchmen
complain, as some of them are occasionally ill-advised enough to do,
that they not only subscribe to their own schools but have to pay the
rate as well, ought it not to be enough to remind them that their
schools are supported not alone for educational but for sectarian
purposes, and that, if they wish to proselytize, they must pay, in
however inadequate a degree, for the privilege? The real hardship is
that those who do not believe in the clerical system of education have
to pay heavily by means of taxation to keep up establishments over which
they have not the least control, and which are used by the clergy for
denominational ends.

One result, then, of free education would be, not to destroy the
voluntary schools, but to put them under the control of those who really
and not nominally pay for keeping them up. If Churchmen demand schools
of their own, they must support them out of their own pocket and not out
of other people's, though it may be well that, under a stringent
"conscience clause" and with direct popular control, they should still
share in the taxpayers' grants. As matters stand, the national
schoolmaster is too often treated as if he were a mere servant of the
clergyman, an idea which, with free education and popular government of
all State-aided schools, would be bound to cease.

The cry raised by some clergymen when the Education Act was passed, that
the undenominational system would be fruitful only in producing "astute
scoundrels and clever devils," has died away. It is doubtful whether
anybody ever really believed it; it is certain that no man with a
reputation to lose would now repeat it. And, that being the case, the
excuse for keeping up at the public expense two rival sets of
schools--one sectarian and the other undenominational--has so largely
disappeared that the onus of proving its necessity lies upon its
advocates, and the burden of paying for it should be shifted upon the
right shoulders.

Of course it is said that this proposal of free education is only
another step towards Socialism, but no one should be frightened by
phrases. Socialism has as many varieties as religion--some as bad and
some as good--and from them must be selected those worth having. If,
upon consideration of the whole case, free education be thought to be
one of these, the fact that it is called Socialistic will not weigh to
its disadvantage with a single sensible man.

What, then, is it that is asked, and why is it demanded? It is asked
that elementary schools shall be freed from fees, and entirely supported
out of the public funds, local and imperial; that advanced and technical
education shall be made cheap and accessible, in order that those who
want to progress can do so with as few hindrances as possible; and that
all schools supported by public money shall be placed under popular
control, and the schoolrooms, out of educational hours, made available
for public use.

These things are demanded because by the present arrangements the
progress of compulsion is hampered, the deserving and independent poor
are inequitably dealt with, and the cost of collecting the fees is out
of all proportion to their value when received. Already the public pay
three-quarters of the cost of elementary education, and they do it for
the benefit of the community; if payment of the remaining quarter would
increase the efficiency of the system, even only to a corresponding
degree, it would be worth making. "Vested interests" might object; but
the national welfare must override them, though there is no intention of
dealing with them otherwise than fairly. Due allowance would be made for
the subscriptions which have been raised towards the erection and
support of the voluntary schools; but the nation has rights as well as
individuals, and, in considering any compensation which may be demanded
by the managers of such institutions, if free education be adopted, the
public money which has been expended upon them must be taken into
account equally with the private.

This much is certain: although England will not be able to hold her own
simply with "the three R's," and advanced and technical education
should, therefore, be widely spread, it is our duty to make "the three
R's" as widely known as we can. It is not a question of principle, but
of policy. Opposition to any education at all for the masses has
disappeared; the State and the parish already pay most of the cost; if
the system can be made more perfect by the abolition of fees, fees will
have to be abolished.


Immediately the question of the land is touched, a whole host of
opponents to progress are roused to fierce and continuous action,
though, as all politicians in these days affect a belief in the
necessity for land reform, the question appears at first to be more one
of degree than of principle. But, at the very outset, it is necessary to
face the fact that there is an active propaganda going on which denies
that any reform, even the most sweeping, will be of avail, and asserts
that it is the very existence of private property in land which must be
done away with.

In what is termed "Land Nationalization" a very dangerous fallacy
exists. The first thing to be asked of any one who advocates it is to
define the term. It is vague; it is high-sounding; but what does it
mean? If it means that the State is to take into its keeping all the
land without compensating the present holders, it proposes robbery; if
it means that the process is to be accompanied by compensation, it would
entail jobbery. There are thousands who, by working hard, have saved
sufficient to buy a small plot on which to erect a house. Is that plot
to be seized by the State without payment? And if fair payment be given,
and the taint of theft thus removed, does a single soul imagine that a
Government department would be able to manage the land better than it is
managed at present? Are our Government departments such models of
efficiency and economy that such a belief can be entertained for a
moment? What may fairly be demanded of all advocates of the
nationalization or municipalization of the land is that they shall
clearly show that the process would be honest in itself, just to the
present holders, and likely to benefit the whole community. Unless they
can do all these things, generalities are of no avail.

The land, it is sometimes urged, has been stolen from the people; but it
cannot have been stolen from those who never directly possessed it: and,
whatever may be said of the manner in which the large properties were
secured centuries ago, much of the land has changed hands so often that
most, at least, of the present holders have fairly paid for it. There is
an old legal doctrine that the title of that which is bought in open
market cannot afterwards be called in question, and that applies to the
present case. And when we are told that there cannot exist private
property in land because that commodity is a gift of God to all, is it
not the fact that, in an old country like ours, land is worth little
except it be highly cultivated; that the labour, the manure, and the
seed are private property without the shadow of a doubt; and that it is
these we largely have to pay for when agricultural commodities are
bought? Upon the same ground it is sometimes contended that we should
have our water free because it falls from the heavens; but nature did
not provide reservoirs, or lay mains, or bring the pipes into our
houses; and for the sake of obtaining water easily we must pay for the
labour and appliances used in collecting and distributing it. And the
value of these illustrations, both as to land and to water, is to teach
an avoidance of sounding generalities and a resolve to look at all
questions in a practical light.

Recognizing, therefore, that private property in land has existed, is
existing, and is not likely to be abolished, the duty of progressive
politicians is to see how the laws affecting it can be so modified as to
benefit a considerably larger portion of the community than at present.
And three of the points which have been most discussed, and which now
are nearest settlement, are the custom of primogeniture, the law of
entail, and the enactments relating to transfer.

After spurning for many years the Liberal demand for the abolition of
the custom of primogeniture--by which the land of a man dying without a
will passes to the eldest son, to the exclusion of the rest of the
family--the Tories in 1887 themselves proposed it; and in the House of
Lords only one peer had sufficient courage to stand up in defence of a
custom which the whole peerage had sworn by until that time. It puzzles
any one not a peer to understand how a distinctly dishonest practice
could have existed so long, save for the utterly inadequate reason that
its tendency was to prevent large estates from being broken up, and that
there were those who imagined that large estates were a benefit to the
country. In actual working, however, it did not affect the largest
estates but the smallest, and primogeniture was thus a question touching
much more closely those of moderate means than the possessors of great
wealth. A large holder of land is an exceedingly unlikely person to die
without a will; a small holder frequently does so, with the result of
much injustice to and suffering among his family.

A practical instance is worth a hundred theories upon a point like this,
and here are some such which have come under my own notice within the
past few months. A man possessed of a small landed property died
intestate; his daughter, who had ministered to his wants for years, was
left penniless, the whole of the property going to the eldest son.
Another similarly circumstanced, whose stay and comfort during his old
age had likewise been a daughter, shrank, with the foolish obstinacy of
the superstitious, from making a will; his friends, recognizing that, if
he failed in this obvious duty, the daughter would be thrown without a
penny on the world, while the eldest son, who for various reasons had
not the least claim upon his father, would take everything, besought the
old man to act reasonably; and almost at the last moment he did. In a
third case, a fisherman, who for eighteen years had been paying for a
piece of land through a building society, was drowned in a squall; and
his savings, designed for the support of himself and his wife, were
swept straight into the pocket of his eldest son. Now in all these
instances, had the money been invested in houses, ships, consols--in
fact, anything but land--it would, in case of no will being made, have
been divided among the whole family in fair proportion. The accident of
it being put into land caused wrong and suffering in two cases, and
wrong and suffering were very narrowly avoided in the third. The
abolition of primogeniture, therefore, is much more needed by the
working and the middle classes than by the rich, whose lawyers very
seldom allow them to die without a will.

The law of entail is on its last legs, as well as the custom of
primogeniture, and the Tories, by Lord Cairns' Settled Land Act, and a
subsequent amending measure, have practically admitted that it is
doomed. Entail affects the community by giving power to a man to fetter
his land with a multitude of restrictions for an indefinite period; it
makes the nominal owner only in reality a life tenant; and by cramping
him upon the one side with conditions which may have become out of date,
and tempting him on the other to limit his expenditure on that which is
not wholly his own, the development of the land is impeded, and the
progress of agriculture hampered by force of law. Entail, like
primogeniture, has been defended on the ground that it tends to keep
large estates intact; but it is now so generally believed that a more
widespread diffusion of land is desirable, that it is only necessary
here to state the argument.

A more widespread diffusion of the land will not, however, be attained
unless the process of transfer is at once cheapened and simplified. The
lawyers reap too much advantage from the present system, and many a man
refrains from buying a plot he would like because the cost of transfer
unduly raises the price. If it were provided that all estates should be
registered and their boundaries clearly defined, there would be no more
difficulty and expense in transferring a piece of land than is now
involved in selling a ship. In these days buyer and seller are parted by
parchments; and many who would like a plot, but who do not see why they
should pay, because of the lawyers, ten, or fifteen, or twenty per cent.
more than its value, put their money into concerns in which
meddlesomeness created by Act of Parliament does not mingle.

Simpler and cheaper transfer would be a step towards the more general
ownership of land by those who till it. Let all artificial aids to the
holding together large estates by power of Parliament be abolished, let
transfer be cheapened and simplified, and then let him who likes buy.
Free trade in land is what we ask, and when it is attained land will be
able to be dealt with the same as any other commodity, and those who
want a piece can have it by paying for it.

But although it may not be desirable for the State to interfere in
England for the creation of a peasant proprietary, it is needful that
Parliament should do something tangible in the direction of securing
allotments for the labourers. Upon that point, as upon primogeniture and
entail, the Tories profess to be converted; but as their Allotments Bill
of 1887 appears in practice to be a sham, it is necessary that such
amendments should be introduced as may render it a reality.


A dozen or fourteen years ago the questions attempted now to be answered
were put much more frequently than at present. In the last days of the
first Gladstone Administration and the earliest of the second Government
of Mr. Disraeli, Liberals were looking for other worlds to conquer; and
many of them, not venturing upon such bold courses on the land question
as have since been adopted by even moderate politicians, fastened their
attention upon the waste lands and the game laws. No great results came
from the movement; other and more striking questions forced themselves
to the front; and we are almost as far from a legislative settlement of
the two just mentioned as in the days of a more restricted suffrage.

This is the more surprising because the points named are of practical
importance to the agricultural labourer, and the agricultural labourer
now holds the balance of political power. But it is not likely that this
state of quietude upon two such burning topics will long continue, for
the country voter is certain soon to profit by the example of his
brethren in the towns, and to demand that his representatives shall
attend to those concerns immediately affecting his interests.

And first as to the question of waste lands. Town-bred theorists who
have never walked over a mile of moorland are apt sometimes to talk as
if all the uncultivated land in the country was in that condition
because of the wicked will of those who own it, and to argue that, if
only an Act of Parliament could be secured, the waste lands would
blossom like the rose. They have the same touching faith in the efficacy
of legislation as had Lord Palmerston when he put aside some difficulty
with the exclamation, "Give me an Act of Parliament, and the thing will
be done." But facts are often too strong for legislation, however well
intentioned and skilfully devised, and those about much of our waste
land come within the list.

A large portion of uncultivated land is mountain and moor, the greater
part of which it would be impossible to make productive at any price,
and the remainder could not be turned to account under a sum which would
never make a profitable return. Those who think it an easy matter to
cultivate waste land should visit that portion of Dartmoor which is
dominated by the convict establishment. There they would see many an
acre reclaimed, but, if they were told the cost in money and labour,
they would be convinced that, were it not for penal purposes, both money
and labour might be put to better use elsewhere. And if it be argued
that the State should step in and advance all that is required to
cultivate such waste as can by any possibility be brought under the
plough, it must be asked why the taxpayer (for in this connection the
State and the taxpayer are one and the same) should add to his burdens
for so small a return.

But there is, without doubt, a large amount of land in this country
which now produces nothing, and which could be made to produce a deal.
That which is absorbed by huge private parks, scattered up and down the
kingdom, forms a great portion of this; and though, for reasons which
are mainly sentimental, one would not wish to see all such private parks
turned into sheep-walks or turnip-fields, there is the consideration
that property--and peculiarly property in land--has its duties as well
as its rights, and that those who wish to derive pleasure from the
contemplation of large spaces of cultivable but not cultivated land, and
in this way prevent such from being of any direct value to the
community, ought to pay for the privilege. The rating of property of
this kind at the present moment is ridiculously low; it should at least
be made as high as if the land were devoted to some distinctly useful

As with parks, so with sporting lands. The rating of the latter is
utterly inadequate; and although it maybe true that much of the land,
especially in England, devoted to sporting purposes, is of little value
for anything else, it is equally true that a great deal of it,
particularly in Scotland, is fit for cultivation, and that tenants have
been cleared from it to make room for deer and grouse. In all cases
where the land would have value if cultivated, the owner ought to be
made pay as if that value were obtained, seeing that for his own
pleasure he is depriving the community of the chance of obtaining
increased food. It would be too drastic a measure to adopt the Chinese
method of hanging proprietors who did not till cultivable land; but many
a landowner, if made to feel his duty through his pocket, would do that
duty rather than pay.

From the question of sporting lands to that of the game laws is a very
short step. It may be that we have heard less of the latter during the
last few years, because the Hares and Rabbits Act, passed by the second
Gladstone Government in the first flush of its power, has done much to
reconcile the tenant-farmers to the present state of things, by removing
the grievance they most keenly felt.

The Act referred to provides (to quote Mr. Sydney Buxton's summary)
"that every occupier of land shall have an inalienable right to kill the
ground game (hares and rabbits) concurrently with any other person who
may be entitled to kill it on the same land; that the ground game may
only be killed by the occupier himself or by persons duly authorized by
him in writing; that the use of firearms is confined to himself and one
other, and they may only be used during the day; that those authorized
to kill the game in other ways (poison and traps, except in
rabbit-holes, are prohibited) must be resident members of his household,
persons in his ordinary service, and any one other person whom he
employs for reward to kill the game; that tenants on lease do not come
under the provisions of the Act until the termination of their lease."

This was such a concession to the tenant-farmers that it is little
wonder that those of them who had groaned under the ground game should
have felt generally satisfied with it; and although a wail has been
going up from certain sportsmen that if the Act be not speedily amended
the hare will become as extinct as the mastodon, it is not the least
likely to be altered in the direction they wish. If amended at all, it
will be so as to bring winged game within its provisions.

No one acquainted with rural life can doubt that the game laws, as at
present administered, are a fruitful source of demoralization and crime.
They demoralize all round, for they pollute the seat of justice by
allowing such game preservers as are county magistrates to wreak
vengeance upon all who transgress upon their pleasures; they lower the
moral standard of the gamekeepers, whose miserable employment turns them
into spies of a peculiarly unpleasing description; they make the rural
police a standing army for the preservation of game; and they consign to
gaol many a man who, but for these laws, would be honest and free.

Such as would see justice most openly travestied should sit in a country
police court and hear game cases tried. Let them notice the ostentatious
fashion in which some magistrate, while a summons in which his game is
concerned is being heard, will (as is carefully noted in the local
papers) "withdraw from the bench" by taking his chair a foot back from
his fellows and friends. Let them hear evidence upon which no man
charged with any other offence would ever be convicted. Let them see the
vindictive sentences that are passed. And then let them go home and
think over the fashion in which that which is nicknamed "justice" is
administered to any man unlucky enough to have offended a gamekeeper or
a policeman, and to be charged as a poacher.

In the good old hanging days, a man was sentenced to death in a western
county for sheep-stealing. The sentence was the usual one, but other
sheep-stealers had been let off the capital penalty for so many years
that it was greatly to the astonishment of the district that this one
was hanged. Then people began to think, and, remembering that he had the
reputation of being a clever poacher, they saw that he had been paid off
for the new and the old. It is much the same in the rural districts
to-day. In game cases the presumption of the English law courts that a
man shall be held to be innocent until he is proved guilty is
systematically reversed. The unsupported word of a gamekeeper is
considered to be worth that of half-a-dozen ordinary men; and it is not
uncommon for a defendant convicted of some offence, totally unconnected
with the game laws, to have his penalty increased because the
superintendent of police has whispered to the justices' clerk, and the
clerk to the magistrates, the fatal word "poacher." Those who live in a
town can scarcely conceive the open fashion in which justice is degraded
by the county magistrates when the game is in question. But, if any
would bring it home to themselves--and the strongest words are too faint
to picture the reality--let them go to some rural court, where the
justices do not imagine that the light of public opinion can be brought
to bear upon them, and see how poachers are tried.

If it were only because of the widespread demoralization they cause, the
game laws ought to be repealed. They are avowedly kept up for the
benefit of the class which does little or no work, and they fill the
prisons at our expense to preserve a sport in which we have no share and
no wish to share. And, if they are to be retained on the statute book at
all, their administration should, at the very least, be taken from those
who are practically prosecutor, jury, and judge in one, and placed in
impartial hands.


The proposal to enfranchise leaseholds--that is, to enable a
leaseholder, upon paying a fair price, to claim that his tenure be
turned into freehold--is a comparatively new one in the field of
practical politics; but it has come to the front so rapidly that it is
already far nearer solution than others which have agitated the public
mind for many years. The grievance had for a long time been felt, and in
some parts of the kingdom sorely felt; but a ready remedy had not
suggested itself, and the subject slept.

The grievance is this--that the present system of leases for lives or
for a term of years causes frequent loss to the leaseholder and much
injury to the community, benefiting only the owner of the soil. The
remedy would be to empower a leaseholder to demand from the ground
landlord that the land shall be transferred to him upon payment of its
fair value, as appraised by some public tribunal.

And first as to the results which flow from the present state of things.
These vary with the circumstances, and some of the circumstances demand
study. Leases, broadly speaking, are of two kinds--those which are
granted on lives and those which are for a specified term of years. Of
the two, the former are the more objectionable, as they frequently work
gross injustice. A lease is granted which shall expire at the death of
the third of three persons named in the deed. Under that lease a man
builds a house; the first life expires, and the leaseholder has to pay a
fine--or, as it is called, a heriot--of a specified sum; the second
dies, and another fine has to be paid; and when the third passes away,
the property and all upon it revert to the landlord. Is it not easy to
see that no particular chapter of accidents is required to terminate any
three given lives within a comparatively short period, while, if an
epidemic occurred, ground landlords everywhere would reap a rich harvest
from the ready falling in of leases for lives?

One instance out of thousands may be quoted of how the system works. "A
piece of land which let for £2 an acre as an agricultural rent was let
for building purposes at £9 an acre, and divided into eleven plots. On
one of these a poor man built a cottage, at a cost of £60, on a ground
rent of 16s. 6d. The term was for three lives and one in reversion. The
charge for the lease was £5. On the expiration of each of the three
lives £1 was payable as a fine or heriot, and £10 was to be paid on
nominating the life in reversion. All the four lives expired in
twenty-eight years. The landlord thereupon took possession of the house.
He had thus received in twenty-eight years, besides the annual ground
rent, the following sums:--£5 for the lease, £10 for nomination of life
in reversion, £3 as heriot on the expiration of the three lives--in all
£18; and, in addition, the house built at the expense of the victim,
which he sold for £58."

The reply may be made, "But, granting that leases for lives often have
cruel results, is not the remedy in the hands of those who want leases?
Why do they take those for lives?" For this reason--that in some parts
of the country it is the only way by which a building plot can be
obtained, and that, as long as the possibility of securing so good a
bargain is legalized, so long will the more unscrupulous among the
landlords force an intending tenant to accept that or nothing.

Leases for long terms of years do not as readily lend themselves to the
chance of legal robbery, but they have their own ill effects. Houses are
built in flimsy fashion upon the express idea that they are intended to
last only the specified term; and during the expiring years of the
lease, repairs are grudged, and the dwellings rendered unhealthy to the
occupier and unsafe to the passers-by. If a man has a house which is
erected upon leasehold land, and therein builds up, by his own skill
and industry, a good business, he is absolutely at the mercy of the
ground landlord when the lease expires. The rent is raised because of
the success his own faculties have secured, onerous conditions in the
way of repairs are imposed, and what can he do? "If you don't like it,
you can leave it," is the landlord's reply; but there is many a business
which does not bear transplanting, and if the tenant be on a large
estate it might happen that, if he did not accede to the owner's terms,
he would have to move to a far-distant part of the town, or even--as at
Devonport and Huddersfield among other places--out of the town
altogether, and that would mean ruin. And thus he is practically
compelled to struggle on in order to increase the wealth of the
landlord, who has done nothing, at the expense of himself, who has done

And this is not always the worst, for in many cases landlords for
various reasons will not renew at any price, and the tenant has perforce
to go the moment his lease expires. A certain Whig duke--and, of course,
a zealous defender of "the rights of property"--conceived the idea, upon
coming into his estates some years ago, that a village stood too near
his park gates. Not brooking that herdsmen and traders should stand
between the wind and his nobility, he directed that, as leases fell in,
the tenants should be cleared out, graciously, however, offering them
other plots some three miles away. And the tenants had to leave the
homes in which they had been born and where their parents had lived
before them, and to see them tumble down in utter ruin, in order that so
mighty a person as a duke should not be shocked by the sight of the
common herd. It was one of the thousand cases in life where a man had a
right to do that which it was not right for him to perform.

Another fashion in which grievous injustice to the leaseholder can be
done is frequently illustrated. It has happened, and happened very
recently, that a ground landlord has granted leases for a term of years;
that, upon the strength of these agreements, houses have been built; and
that upon the landlord's decease it has been discovered by some skilful
lawyer that the dead man had had no power, under an entail or
settlement, to grant such leases; whereupon the heir has invoked the law
to cancel the whole, and has seized everything upon the land. This is
legal, but is it commonly honest?

In other ways the leasehold system is an injury not only to individuals
but to the community. A west country town, where all the land is held by
one man, has been crippled in every attempt to expand and improve by the
impossibility of obtaining a freehold plot. What person in his senses
would erect a substantial factory or a large concern of any kind upon a
comparatively short lease? Men embark upon such enterprises in order
that, as year follows year, their property may become more valuable, not
that year by year it may become less so by the growing nearness of the
time when it will pass to the landlord, who has never contributed a
penny or a thought to the success of the concern, the building
containing which, at the expiration of the lease, he can call his own.

For all these unfairnesses to individuals, hindrances to trade, and
injuries to the community, is proposed the remedy stated--that a
leaseholder who has twenty (or, as some suggest, ten or fifteen) years
to run, shall be empowered to demand that his land be made freehold upon
the payment of its value, as assessed by some specified tribunal.

The first objection is that this would be an undue interference with
"the rights of property." But it has already been laid down by
Parliament that such "rights" can be set aside in the public interest
upon the payment of fair compensation; and what has been done in regard
to the making of railways can be done respecting the building or the
preserving of houses. The existing system is an injury to the community;
and as the price to be paid for its abolition, whether wholly or in
part, would be assessed by a tribunal constituted by Parliament, the
landlords would have no more reason to complain than they now have when
compelled to sell a portion of their property to a railway company.

The next plea is that it would interfere with "freedom of contract."
Upon the general question of what that freedom is, how far it now
exists, and in how large a degree the State has a right to interfere
with it, one need not speak, for in this matter of leases Parliament
has already stepped in to "interfere with freedom of contract." It
having been found that some landlords were accustomed to insert in
leases oppressive provisions for forfeiture in certain conditions, the
Legislature empowered the courts to lift from the leaseholders covenants
which unduly burdened them. And if a precedent is asked for the
particular remedy proposed, the Acts enabling any copyholder to
enfranchise his holding should be consulted.

If it be said that, should such a power be granted by law, no one
possessing land would let on a long lease, it may be answered that this
would be no great evil, seeing how the leasehold system has worked. But
as landowners will want in the future as in the past to let or to sell,
and as it is not to be supposed that any man will take a lease of less
than twenty years and build upon the land, the owners will accommodate
themselves to circumstances, and dispose of their property as best they

Owners in other countries do so, and why not here? Such a leasehold
system as that of England is practically unknown elsewhere. In France,
it is true, something of the kind exists, but we seek for it in vain in
Germany and Austria, in Russia and Switzerland, or in Spain and
Portugal; while in Italy, where no leases for over thirty years are
permitted, a tenant can convert his property into freehold by redeeming
the rent.

The supporters of leasehold enfranchisement, therefore, have on their
side not only the practical evils of the present system, but
parliamentary precedent and continental custom. These should suffice to
persuade all who study the matter that the time for a change has come,
and that the way in which that change is proposed to be effected is just
and equitable.


There is a school of politicians which reply to all such proposals as
have been sketched for practical land reform: "They do not go far
enough, for they would merely transfer the unearned increment from the
present freeholders to the present leaseholders, and we want it
transferred to the community." This "unearned increment" is a matter of
which we are likely to hear a deal in the immediate future, for since
John Mill stated the theory it has been much talked of, and to-day more
than ever. It is sometimes contended, in fact, that, supposing all the
projected reforms carried and in full and untrammeled action, "the
absorption of the unearned increment by private individuals would
perpetuate an evil which would swallow up whatever good those reforms
might have a tendency to bring about."

What then is the theory upon which so much may depend? It cannot be
better stated than in the words of Mill:--"Suppose that there is a kind
of income which constantly tends to increase, without any exertion or
sacrifice on the part of the owners: those owners constituting a class
in the community, whom the natural course of things progressively
enriches, consistently with complete passiveness on their own part. In
such a case it would be no violation of the principles on which private
property is grounded, if the State should appropriate this increase of
wealth, or part of it, as it arises. This would not properly be taking
anything from anybody; it would merely be applying an accession of
wealth, created by circumstances, to the benefit of society, instead of
allowing it to become an unearned appendage to the riches of a
particular class. Now this is actually the case with rent."

When Mill's "Principles of Political Economy" was published, this theory
of the State absorbing, in whole or in part, the "unearned increment" of
the land, was regarded by many as so utopian that it was put aside with
a scoff, and was thought to have been settled with a sneer. But it has
struck deep root into many a Radical mind, and those who believe in it
ask it to be shown how it is either dishonest as a theory or would be
impossible in practice.

There need be no attempt to do either, for Mill himself made an
important restriction in his definition of what should be done which
relieves it from the stigma of dishonesty or impracticability. He
believed that "it would be no violation of the principles on which
private property is grounded, if the State should appropriate this
increase of wealth, _or part of it_, as it arises." It may be agreed
that the State could fairly appropriate a part of this increment, and
this might be done by means of taxation. But that is a very different
matter from taking the whole.

One who argues in favour of the latter plan, submits this
contention:--"The area of a county, for purposes of illustration, may be
taken as a fixed quantity. Now, the demand for land will increase, and
as a corollary the price of land will rise, exactly in proportion to the
increase of population. This additional value is not brought about by
either independent industry, ingenuity, or the outlay of capital on the
part of any private individual: it is a growth entirely due to the
increase of the community: it is of enormous value, is extracted from
the dire necessities of the whole population, and goes into the pockets
of private individuals who have never done anything to create it."

But does the illustration hold good whether applied to such a limited
area as a county or to the country at large? It is not the case that the
demand for land increases and its price rises exactly in proportion to
population; and it is as little the case that its increased value, if
any, is "extracted from the dire necessities of the whole population."
For while the number of our inhabitants is increasing, the value of such
land as ministers directly to their wants in the provision of food and
clothing is decreasing. If all the bread that is eaten, beef that is
killed, and wool that is worn, were raised within these shores, there
would be a semblance of truth in the illustration; but we have left the
days when we lived on our own produce far behind, and the British farmer
would only be too happy if the picture thus presented were even
approximately like reality.

It may be replied that bread and beef and wool do not exhaust the
catalogue of men's requirements from the land; and they do not, for we
require plots upon which to build, and good houses are just as necessary
as cheap food. But even where land is made more valuable by its becoming
used for building purposes, is there any justice in either the State or
a municipality taking the whole increased value? Let the case be that of
a man who thinks that he sees a chance of a town expanding, and who
purchases a piece of land which will be of little use to anybody unless
his idea proves correct, but which will bring him a good profit if he
has skilfully foreseen. Why should he not be as fairly paid for his
skill and foresight as if he had bought a house on a similar belief? The
reply is, "The quantity of land is limited; that of houses is not;" but
that is only true up to a certain and very definite point; and with the
reforms which have already been suggested, and with a fairer system of
taxing the land, the community would gain all it could fairly ask.

My contention, shortly put, is this--That the State has a right to share
in the increased value of all property, landed or otherwise; and that,
in the case of land, it has an additional, though limited, claim,
because of the conditions upon which that commodity passed into private
ownership. Those who work for wages have to pay income tax immediately
those wages touch a certain point; as they rise, so does the payment
increase; and, after a given amount, the tax is proportionately much
heavier. Why should not the same principle be applied to income of every
sort from land as to income of every sort from wages, profits, or
invested capital?

It is not so at present, as a study of the land tax will show.
Nominally that tax is four shillings in the pound on the full annual
value, but actually what does it stand at? It was fixed by Parliament in
the seventeenth century, the semi-owners of the land, who had held their
property under certain weighty conditions of contributing military
strength to the King, and who had managed by degrees to slip through
their obligations, agreeing thus to tax themselves as a compensation for
the burden that had been lifted from them. But in 1798 it was
enacted--by a Parliament in which practically only landowners were
represented--that the valuation upon which the tax was to be paid should
be that of 1692, when on its then conditions it was first levied. And
the consequence is that, although this later Act directed that it should
be assessed and collected with impartiality, in parts of the country
which have stood still the tax now is not far from the original sum,
while it amounts in the immediate neighbourhood of such a city as
Liverpool to about a fifth of a farthing in the pound. It may not be
feasible, because of the manner in which much of the impost has been
"redeemed," and it might in some cases be unjust, to raise the land tax
at once to four shillings in the pound on the valuation of 1888 instead
of 1692; but the same Parliament which put the clock back has the power
to bring it up to the proper time; and, at least, something could be
done to lessen the loss the State is now made to suffer.

There is another way in which landowners could justly be called upon to
pay a portion of the unearned increment to the State, and that is
through the taxation of ground-rents. This is a point which keenly
touches the towns, and deserves the early attention of Parliament. At
present the great ground landlords escape their fair share of the
burdens which fall heavily upon those who take their leases. And, so
certain are some of them that the taxing time will soon come, that they
are already selling a portion of their town estates, so as to "get out
from under" before that period arrives.

It may therefore be submitted that, with a fairer land tax and the
taxation of ground rents, we should secure to the State the proportion
of the "unearned increment" to which she is justly entitled. Those who
would go further must be prepared to prove that property in land is so
different in every essential from all other kinds that it would be
honest for the State to absorb the whole unearned increment of the one,
and to levy only an income and property tax on the other.


It is always consolatory to find amid the welter of party politics some
topic upon which all say they agree, and such a topic certainly is that
of the reform of local government. Politicians of every shade have long
professed their desire for such a reform, and it ought now to be within
measurable distance of accomplishment.

Upon the great question of the extension of self-government to Ireland I
have already spoken; and in regard to the purely domestic affairs of all
the four divisions of the kingdom--England, Scotland, and Wales, as well
as Ireland--it need only here be added that the solution of much of the
difficulty which springs from an overburdened Parliament will be found
in devolving upon a special authority for each the right of dealing with
its own local concerns. But, as to three of the four divisions, it is
not so pressing a question as that which is commonly known as the reform
of local government, and the main proposition touching which is summed
up in the demand for county councils.

This is a matter which more intimately touches the country districts
than the towns, for in all the latter of any size there are popularly
elected municipal councils, which exercise much power over local
affairs. The only exception is the greatest town of all, for London was
specifically exempted (by the action of the House of Lords) from the
reform effected in all other cities and boroughs by the Municipal
Corporations Act of 1835. There is a Corporation of the City of London;
but this body, against which a very great deal can be said, has
authority only over one square mile of ground, the remaining 119 square
miles upon which the metropolis stands being governed by vestries,
trustee boards, and district boards of works, all connected with and
subject to the Metropolitan Board of Works--or Board of Words, as it was
once irreverently but truly called--which is not chosen directly by the
ratepayers, but is selected by the vestries, who themselves are elected
by handfuls of people, the general public paying them no heed. And thus
it comes to pass that the greatest and wealthiest city in the world is
worse governed than the smallest of our municipal boroughs, for nine out
of ten ratepayers take not the least interest in electing the vestries,
and not one ratepayer in a hundred could tell the name of his district
representative on the Metropolitan Board of Works, now proposed, by even
a Conservative Administration, to be abolished.

It is not a small concern, this of reforming the government of London,
for it affects four millions of people--a number not far short of the
population of Ireland; but politicians in the mass, as even the keenest
metropolitan municipal reformer will admit, are more interested in the
general question of local government.

Speaking broadly, the defects of the system proposed to be reformed are
that of the popularly elected bodies there are too many, and that the
great governing body is not elected at all. In a certain town of 3000
inhabitants, there are at this moment a Town Council, a School Board, a
Burial Board, and (because under the Public Health Act an adjoining
parish was tacked on) a Local Board of Health; while, notwithstanding
that it sends representatives to a Board of Guardians for the whole
Union, it had until recently, and in addition to the other bodies, a
Local Board of Guardians, chosen under a special Act. And, beyond all
these, a Highway Board meets within its borders, which has to be
consulted and negotiated with whenever a road leading into the town
needs to be re-metalled or an additional brick is required for a
neighbouring bridge.

As if all these boards were not sufficient to keep the district in good
order, there is the Court of Quarter Sessions, which has jurisdiction
in various details that the multitude of small bodies cannot touch.
These latter have one justification, however, that the former cannot
claim, and that is that, despite there being magistrates who are members
of the boards of guardians by virtue of their office, and although the
more property one possesses the more votes one can give for certain of
the local bodies, these in the main are popularly elected, and are,
therefore, directly responsible to the ratepayers for the manner in
which their trust is used.

It is quite otherwise with the Court of Quarter Sessions. This consists
only of magistrates, such magistrates being appointed by the
Lords-Lieutenant of counties, and the appointments being made mainly on
political grounds. As a rule, the holders of that distinguished position
are Tories, and they take good care that the magistrates shall be Tories
also. It is not long since it would have been impossible to find a
single Liberal on the commission of the peace for Huntingdonshire; and
when comparatively recently it was pointed out to the Lord-Lieutenant of
Essex that an almost exactly similar state of things prevailed in that
shire, he replied he did not consider there was a Liberal in the whole
county who was socially qualified for the magisterial bench. The idea of
making a banker or a merchant a justice of the peace was too shocking;
and thus the commercial classes and a good half of the population
(giving the other half to the Tories) were completely unrepresented, not
merely on the bench, but in the Court of Quarter Sessions, which
governed the affairs and spent the money of the county.

There is no necessity to prove that these courts have spent the county
monies wantonly or with conscious impropriety in order to show this
condition of things to be wrong. In imperial affairs, the doctrine that
taxation without representation is tyranny has been asserted to the
full; in municipal matters, since the Act of 1835, the same has
prevailed; but in county concerns it has been non-existent. The
magistrates represent no one but themselves, their party, and their own
class; they are necessarily swayed by the passions and prejudices that
party and class possess; and, seeing that the English people long ago
refused power over the national purse to an unrepresentative body like
the House of Lords, it is surprising they have until now allowed power
over the local purse to be in the hands of such equally unrepresentative
bodies as the courts of quarter sessions.

The line which the immediate reform of local government must take is,
therefore, the creation of a directly-elected body to deal with county
affairs, and the federation of such of the smaller boards as have to do
with the more purely district concerns, both of which points the Cabinet
of Lord Salisbury appear disposed to concede. But upon the former point
Liberals will claim that the whole--and not merely three-fourths--of the
County Councils shall be directly elected, for the system of aldermen,
included in the Municipal Reform Act by the House of Lords, has been
used for partisan purposes, as it was intended to be, and the same
effect will follow in the case of the counties if the same cause is

Any system, in fact, which involves "double election" tends to make the
body concerned hidebound and cliquish. A county alderman once chosen,
especially if he were a squire, as he most likely would be, would have
to behave himself in most outrageous fashion ever to lose his post. The
ratepayers might grumble, but it would be difficult in the extreme to
dislodge him, for he would be removed from their direct control, and the
Council would consider it ungracious to get rid of an "old servant." If
one wants to know how this double election operates, let him ask some
clear-sighted Londoner who is acquainted with the manner in which his
own city is ruled. He will be answered that for scandalous and wanton
expenditure not many bodies can equal the Metropolitan Asylums Board,
the members of which are mainly chosen by the various boards of
guardians; while for jobbery and general mismanagement it is even beaten
by the Metropolitan Board of Works, which is elected by the several
vestries. And he will add that this chiefly arises from the fact that
the ratepayers have no direct control over either of these bodies, and
that the good result of such direct control was shown by this fact--that
when the metropolitan ratepayers considered that the School Board, which
is directly elected, was practising extravagance, they placed at the
bottom of the poll those responsible for the policy, with the effect
that considerable savings were speedily effected.

And therefore now, when County Councils are being established, all
Liberals will have very carefully to watch the points upon which the
Tories and Whigs may combine in an attempt to give the country a
semblance without the reality of representative local self-government.
What must be insisted upon is--(1) That the Councils shall be entirely
elective; (2) that the ratepayers shall directly elect; (3) that there
shall be no property qualification for membership; (4) that the voting
shall be by household suffrage--one householder one vote; and (5) that
women ratepayers shall have the same right of voting for county as for
town councils.

With such a Council in each county, or, in the case of Lancashire and
Yorkshire, in each great division of a county, we should have a central
local organization, to which highway boards, local boards of health,
village school boards, and other small bodies could be affiliated; and
it is not impossible that, as a development of the system, the various
bodies controlling the destinies of our lesser towns could be federated
to save friction, trouble, and expense; while, above all, it must be
insisted that the representatives of the ratepayers shall have full
control over the police.

It is a truism that without good citizens the best of governments must
fail; but our experience of the House of Commons and of the many town
councils has shown that the improvement of the machinery and the handing
over of control to the great body of the people have brought
public-spirited men to the front to do the duties required. As it has
been at Westminster and in the towns, so will it be in the counties.
England has become greater and freer, our towns have expanded and
benefited, owing to the whole of the inhabitants having a direct voice
in the rule; and the counties will correspondingly improve when the same
is applied.


Intimately connected with the question of county government is that of
local option; and the problem of transferring the licensing power from
an irresponsible bench of magistrates to a specially elected body, or to
a direct vote of the ratepayers, has ripened towards settlement in a
remarkable degree since the day--just twenty years since--when Mr.
Gladstone wrote to the United Kingdom Alliance that his disposition was
"to let in the principle of local option wherever it is likely to be
found satisfactory," and thus used in relation to this question for the
first time, as far as is known, a phrase which has become famous.

No leading politician to-day disputes that some form of local option
must speedily be provided; but, as a body, they have been shy of
touching a problem that presents a host of difficulties, and the attempt
to settle which could not fail to arouse a number of enemies. What
those, therefore, who wished for local option have had to do was to show
the body of electors that it was reasonable and just, and to trust that
their appreciation of these two qualities would lead them to its

As to its being reasonable, the very fact that the granting of licences
even now is in the hands of the magistrates, and not in those of a
Government department, indicates that it is intended that local feeling
shall be consulted. This, in fact, was specifically stated in an Act of
1729, which, after reciting that "inconveniences have arisen in
consequence of licences being granted to alehouse-keepers by justices
living at a distance, and, therefore, not truly informed of the occasion
or want of ale-houses in the neighbourhood, or the character of those
who apply for licences," enacted that "no licences shall in future be
granted but at a general meeting of the magistrates acting in the
division in which the applicant dwells."

Just a hundred years later, Parliament thought fit to withdraw from the
magistrates--who, at the least, knew something of "the occasion or want
of alehouses in the neighbourhood, or the characters of those who apply
for licences"--the power over applications for beerhouse licences; and
the result showed that even the most modified form of local option was
better than none. The Act of 1830, "to permit the general sale of beer
and cider by retail in England," provided that "any householder desirous
of selling malt liquor by retail in any house" might obtain a licence
from the Excise without leave from the magistrates. Within five years
another Act had to be passed demanding better guarantees for the
character of those applying for such licences, the preamble declaring
this to be necessary because "much evil had arisen from the management
of houses" created by the previous statute. Other amending Acts
followed, and in 1882 the magistrates were once more given complete
jurisdiction over beer off-licences, with the result that in the borough
of Over Darwen alone the renewal was at once refused of 34 out of 72
licences of the kind, a decision which, it is important to note as
bearing upon a point yet to be raised, was upheld by the Queen's Bench
on appeal.

It is not merely a matter of historical interest, but it has very
distinctly to do with the argument in favour of local option, to show
that the magistrates for four centuries have had committed to them the
duty of seeing that the needs of the district were no more than
satisfied. In 1496, a statute directed "against vacabounds and beggers"
empowered two justices of the peace "to rejecte and put awey comen
ale-selling in tounes and places where they shall think convenyent;" and
in 1552 another Act confirmed this exercise of authority. In 1622, the
Privy Council peremptorily directed the local justices to suppress
"unnecessary alehouses;" and in 1635 the Lord Keeper, in his charge to
the judges in the Star Chamber previous to their going circuit,
denounced alehouses as "the greatest pests in the kingdom," and added
this significant hint: "In many places they swarm by default of the
justices of the peace, that set up too many; but if the justices will
not obey your charge therein, certify their default and names, and I
assure you they shall be discharged. I once did discharge two justices
for setting up one alehouse, and shall be glad to do the like again upon
the same occasion."

These facts show that the theory upon which our licensing system has
grown up is that the wants of a locality shall be strictly borne in
mind, and of late years the wishes of a locality have more and more been
considered. No one would deny that magistrates as a whole pay greater
attention to those wishes to-day than they were accustomed to do even as
recently as fifteen years ago; and when new licences are applied for
memorials against their grant, signed by the inhabitants, are allowed to
have considerable weight with the bench. But that, after all, is only
the result of indirect and irregular pressure. What Local Optionists
desire is that the pressure shall be made direct and customary.

The reasonableness of demanding that local wishes shall control the
issue of licences is proved by the facts adduced, and the justice is
equally capable of being shown. If a locality determines that no fresh
licences shall be granted, or that certain old ones shall be taken away,
no more injustice will be done than if the magistrates under the present
system did the like. No compensation has ever been granted to the holder
of a licence the renewal of which a bench has refused; and although the
majority of such refusals has been because of ill-conduct, there have
been many cases (and those at Over Darwen were among them) where the
magistrates have not renewed because they did not think the house was
required. The fact stands that a publican's tenure is in its nature
precarious; he holds his licence from year to year at the pleasure of
the magistrates; he would hold it in the same fashion were Local Option
secured. And the fact that the power of refusal to renew a licence would
pass from an irresponsible bench to either the whole of the ratepayers
or a body specially elected by them for the duty, would not entitle him
to demand a compensation then that does not exist for him now.

A great difficulty of the problem lies in consideration of the manner
in which the popular power shall be exercised. "Local Option" is a
somewhat elastic phrase, adopted by many who have never troubled to
think what it may involve. Broadly speaking, there are three methods by
which it might be carried into effect: (1) By placing the power of
licensing in the hands of the Town Councils or the proposed County
Councils; (2) in those of specially-elected licensing boards; or (3) in
those of the ratepayers, who would exercise by ballot a "direct veto."

It is the first plan that finds favour with most of our statesmen. It
was prepared to be adopted by the last Liberal Ministry, and is by no
means so novel as many suppose. The Municipal Corporations Act of 1835,
as originally drawn, contained a clause giving the Town Councils the
power of granting alehouse licences, but the proposition was abandoned.
The Local Government Bill of Lord Salisbury's Administration has a
similar provision, giving the licensing to the County Councils; but to
this has been urged the objection that these bodies will have sufficient
business to attend to without having the public-houses placed on their
shoulders. When our system of popular education was fixed upon its
present basis, it was resolved that the work should be done by specially
chosen school boards. Mr. Forster at first proposed that these boards
should in the towns be selected by the Municipal Councils; but it was
felt by the House of Commons that so special a function demanded direct
election, and direct election was provided, with the best results. And
if the licensing power is to be vested in a representative assembly and
local option is to be anything but a sham, it must be placed in the
hands of those elected by the ratepayers for that special purpose, so
that no bye-issues of waterworks, or paving, or the increase of rates
shall affect the one distinct question of the public-house.

The extreme temperance section argue that even such Licensing
Boards--directly elected by the ratepayers for the specific
purpose--would not meet the requirements of the case, and that nothing
short of a popular vote can be accepted. But why should the
representative system be abolished and a direct vote established in this
case, any more than in the equally burning questions settled every day
by Parliament, and the lesser but still important matters decided by
town councils and school boards? We in England long ago made up our
minds that the most excellent way to get public work done is to choose
the best men, give them the requisite authority, and then allow them to
do the duty to which they are called. And if we can disestablish a
church, revolutionize the land system, or reform our institutions from
top to bottom through our representatives, without a direct vote of the
people, the question of renewing public-house licences can scarcely
demand so exceptional a process as is by some suggested.

My answer, therefore, to the question, "How is Local Option to be
worked?" as well as to the kindred temperance question, "How is Sunday
closing to be settled?" is, "By means of licensing boards, directly
elected by the ratepayers." And if this solution be adopted, our
licensing system will be placed upon a basis at once more safe and more
free from friction or the likelihood of injustice than any other that
has been proposed.


Taxes are the price we pay for being governed: they defray interest upon
money borrowed and wages for protection and service. The fact that they
are called by a name which is to many obnoxious, or that they are handed
to the State instead of to an individual, ought not to blind us to their
real nature--that they are the price of services rendered. The name is
nothing. In churches the money we pay is called a pew-rent or an
offertory; in clubs it is a subscription; to doctors or lawyers a fee;
to tradesmen a price; to railway companies a fare; for personal services
wages; for the loan of a house rent; for life or fire insurance a
premium; and for water a rate. All are in a measure taxes; and if it be
answered that the difference is that these payments are voluntary, may
not the same be said of much that is called "indirect taxation"?

When the subject is considered, there are three questions which
naturally demand reply.

     1. Why are we taxed?
     2. How are we taxed? and
     3. How ought we to be taxed?

To the first question some answer has already been given. Put in the
simplest fashion, the reply would be that it is cheaper to pay taxes and
be taken care of than not to pay them and have to take care of
ourselves. As members of an organized society, we have to provide for
external protection and internal service--for the army and navy as a
safeguard against enemies from without, for the officers of the law as a
safeguard against depredators within, for the means of government, for
education, and for a large number of other matters designed for the
security of our persons and property and for the welfare and advancement
of the community. We have further to pay the interest upon the National
Debt--money borrowed by the State at times of emergency to prosecute
such wars as Parliament had sanctioned.

In point of fact, taxes are a substitution for personal service. The
State in England once compelled this as a means of raising an army; and,
though this form of personal service was long ago commuted by the
payment of a sufficient sum through taxation for the maintenance of a
standing force, the State has only waived, not abrogated, the right.
Even as lately as the last century people in our country districts had
to give six days in the year to the repair of such highways as were
under the management of the justices of the peace. In the one case the
personal service has been commuted into a tax, in the other into a
rate--the difference being that a tax is imperially and a rate locally
levied--it being found that forced labour of the kind indicated is more
wasteful and less efficacious than hired labour; and, if any want to
know how wasteful and how inefficient, they can find abundant
illustrations in the history of the old _régime_ in France, or that of
the Egyptian fellaheen.

There has been indicated the difference between imperial and local
taxation--the one being a tax imposed by the State and the other a rate
levied by a local authority. The object in each case is similar; but,
while the cost of the central administration, the army and navy, and the
superior courts of justice, with the interest on the National Debt, is
paid by taxes, that of lighting, draining, and other purely local
matters is defrayed by rates, and that of the police, the poor, the
highways, and education comes out of taxes and rates combined.

So much for the _why_ of being taxed; let us now consider the _how_. At
present the receipts of the State are derived from direct and indirect
taxation, together with a form which may be said to come under both
these heads. The most familiar mode of direct taxation is the Income
Tax; of indirect, the Customs and Excise; and of that which savours of
both, the stamp duties and the profits from the Post Office.

These methods of taxation are, as far as England is concerned,
comparatively modern. In the earlier days of settled government in this
country, the mode of taxing was different and somewhat fitful, causing
much trouble in the collection, and sometimes forming the pretext for
revolt. "Aids" to the King were a frequent means of oppression long ago;
and as far back as the time of John they were felt as a grievance, Magna
Charta providing that the King should take no aids without the consent
of Parliament, except those for knighting the lord's eldest son, for
marrying his eldest daughter, and for ransoming the lord from captivity
(the lord, it being remembered, holding at that time his land direct
from the sovereign). "Benevolences"--a charming name for an unpleasing
idea--were also in vogue in the Middle Ages, and, although specifically
declared by an Act of Richard III. to be illegal, were levied in a
fashion which caused much discontent. "Loans" were another form of
raising money which the nation resented, as Charles I. found to his
cost; while a "Poll Tax," as all men know, drove Wat Tyler into
rebellion. "Subsidies" and "Tenths" and other taxing devices equally
failed in the long run to answer the desired purpose of filling the
National Exchequer; and after the Restoration all such gave place to a
system by which the Customs, the Excise, and the Land Tax provided most
of the money required.

Gradually the proceeds of the Land Tax dwindled, and direct taxation was
almost extinct when, in the throes of the great war with France, which
lasted, with slight intervals, for twenty-two years, the younger Pitt
revived it in an Income Tax, the form in which it is now mainly known.
With the end of the war this ceased, and the proceeds of indirect
taxation were again chiefly those upon which the State relied. What the
result was, how in every direction trade was hampered and public comfort
destroyed, has been summed up for all time in one of Sydney Smith's
essays; and the quotation is worth re-perusal by everybody interested in
the subject, and especially by those who to-day are wishing to get rid
of the main form of direct taxation we possess--the Income Tax, as
revived by Sir Robert Peel.

Uttering, in 1820, a warning to the United States to avoid that spirit
which we now call "Jingoism," Sydney Smith wrote--"We can inform
Jonathan what are the inevitable consequences of being too fond of
glory--TAXES upon every article which enters into the mouth, or covers
the back, or is placed under the foot; taxes upon everything which it is
pleasant to see, hear, feel, smell, or taste; taxes upon warmth, light,
and locomotion; taxes on everything on earth and the waters under the
earth--on everything that comes from abroad or is grown at home; taxes
on the raw material; taxes on every fresh value that is added to it by
the industry of man; taxes on the sauce which pampers man's appetite,
and the drug that restores him to health; on the ermine which decorates
the judge, and the rope which hangs the criminal; on the poor man's
salt, and the rich man's spice; on the brass nails of the coffin, and
the ribands of the bride--at bed or board, couchant or levant, we must
pay. The schoolboy whips his taxed top; the beardless youth manages his
taxed horse, with a taxed bridle, on a taxed road; and the dying
Englishman, pouring his medicine, which has paid 7 per cent., into a
spoon that has paid 15 per cent., flings himself back upon his chintz
bed, which has paid 22 per cent., and expires in the arms of an
apothecary who has paid a licence of a hundred pounds for the privilege
of putting him to death. His whole property is then immediately taxed
from 2 to 10 per cent. Besides the probate, large fees are demanded for
burying him in the chancel; his virtues are handed down to posterity on
taxed marble; and he is then gathered to his fathers--to be taxed no

Ludicrous as the picture seems, it was correctly painted for the time it
depicted; and it is first to Sir Robert Peel and next to his greatest
pupil, Mr. Gladstone, that we owe the change from the harassing indirect
taxation of the past to the comparatively innocuous forms of it we have
to-day. But it is still from indirect taxation that most of our revenue
is derived. The heads of that revenue, as given officially, are--(1)
Customs, (2) Excise, (3) Stamps, (4) Land Tax, (5) House Duty, (6)
Income Tax, (7) Post Office, (8) Telegraph Service, (9) Crown Lands,
(10) Interest on Advances for Local Works and Purchase Money of Suez
Canal shares, and (11) Miscellaneous. Of all these, Excise stands first
by several millions, while Customs are far ahead of any of the rest,
Stamps and Income Tax being the next best paying sources of revenue.
And, in some form or other, every one among us--the peer who smokes a
cigarette, the peasant who drinks a pint of beer, and the very pauper
who sends a letter to a friend--has indirectly to contribute his quota
to the Exchequer, while all who earn more than £150 a year have to pay
Income Tax; and those who inherit property, probate, legacy, or
succession duty.


It being certain that, as long as we are citizens of any sort of State,
we shall be called upon to pay for its maintenance, the question "How
ought we to be taxed?" is one of considerable moment to all. Grumble we
may, but pay we must.

Some think they would solve the problem at a stroke by substituting
direct for indirect taxation. They argue that people should know exactly
what they are paying for the service of the State; and that direct
taxation is not only a more logical but a more economic method of
raising the revenue. They show that the consumer of duty-bearing
articles pays not only the duty but a percentage upon it as interest to
the middleman; and a striking instance of this was afforded in the fact
that when, in 1865, Mr. Gladstone, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, took
sixpence a pound off the tax on tea, the retail price of that article
immediately fell eightpence.

But it may be feared that those who argue in favour of entirely direct
taxation make small allowance for the weaknesses of human nature. I may
prove to demonstration to the first person I meet that he is paying more
than he ought to do because of the working of the indirect system, and
that to this wastefulness is added the sin of ignorance as to what he
actually does pay; but the chances are ten to one that he will reply
that, hating all taxation as the natural man does, he would rather not
know to what extent he was being mulcted, and that, if the whole amount
were annually and in a lump sum presented to his view, he would never
find it in his heart or his pocket to pay it.

To the sternly logical this attitude will appear sad, if not absolutely
sinful; but we have to take man as we find him, and it is of little use
attempting to run straight athwart his deepest prepossessions for so
small a result as even the substitution of direct for indirect taxation
would attain. But there is a further point, which even the political
logician must bear in mind, and that is what the practical effect would
be of sweeping away all duties of Customs and Excise.

If we could secure a "free breakfast table" by liberating from toll tea,
coffee, cocoa, currants, raisins, and other articles of domestic
consumption, all would rejoice--though, in the present state of our
finances, no Chancellor of the Exchequer is likely to sacrifice the five
millions of revenue now raised from those commodities. But the English
people will think a good many times before striking tobacco, spirits,
and wine off the Customs list, with the more than 13 millions they
produce, or spirits and beer off the list of the Excise, with the 13
millions in the one case and the 8½ millions in the other that we now
receive from them. Even if any one can imagine for a moment that the 27
millions here involved could be made up by some new direct tax, it does
not need an extensive acquaintance with our social history to be aware
that the result of removing the duties from the various intoxicants
would be widespread national demoralization.

The taxation of the future, therefore, as of the past, will certainly
include Customs and Excise. Some items may be struck off both; that a
free breakfast table can be secured should be no dream; and it may be
fairly hoped that the hindrances to trade involved in such licences as
those for auctioneers and hawkers--who ought no more to be fined by the
Government for practising their employment than butchers, bakers, or
other traders--will soon be swept away. But upon beer, wine, spirits,
and tobacco--their importation, manufacture, and sale--the tax-gatherer
will continue, and rightly continue, to lay his hand.

Similarly, there will be no disposition to abolish the probate, legacy,
and succession duties, but every disposition to strengthen them, and
especially the last of them. The "Death duties" at present are
inequitably levied; great fortunes do not pay as large a proportion as,
relatively to small ones, they ought to do: and landed property is
lightly let off compared with other forms.

But it is a comparative few who will be touched even by this much-needed
reform; and taxation, to be fair, must touch all round. The Income Tax,
obnoxious as from some aspects all will admit it to be, has almost
infinite capacities of being made useful to the State; and the question
which practical statesmen will soon have to consider is the direction in
which that usefulness can best be developed.

As at present levied, this tax does not affect those whose incomes are
below £150; if their incomes are between that sum and £400, the tax is
paid upon £120 less than the correct figure; while if they exceed £400
the full tax is levied.

Now these regulations act unfairly in various directions. In the first
place, the tax starts at too high a figure. Until a few years ago it
began at an income of £100--a deduction of £80 being allowed--and there
is no reason why it should not begin at £50, so that every man earning a
pound a week in wages should be made to see as by a barometer how the
national expenditure was rising or falling--though it never falls. And,
however little he might be called upon to pay, there would be a distinct
gain in so many additional capable citizens knowing from experience what
an extra penny on the Income Tax means, for they would thereby be taught
more closely to watch how the national money is got rid of, and their
pockets consequently made the lighter.

In the next place, the regulations now in force make no distinction
between a precarious and a settled income, causing the tradesman or
professional man, whose revenue dies with him, to pay as heavily as his
neighbour who has inherited or acquired property, of which those
dependent upon him will not be deprived by his decease. As the point was
put in a motion made many years ago in the House of Commons by Mr.
Hubbard (now Lord Addington), "the incidence of an Income Tax touching
the products of invested property should fall upon net income, and the
net amounts of industrial earnings should, previous to assessment, be
subject to such an abatement as may equitably adjust the burden thrown
upon intelligence and skill as compared with property." Upon this point,
it is true, Mr. Gladstone has been antagonistic to the view here held;
he opposed this very motion, and years before it was introduced he
declared that it was not possible for him to conceive a plan which would
secure the desired end. But it is also true that more than thirty years
ago, and in his very first Budget speech, he intimated that "the public
feeling that relief should be given to intelligence and skill as
compared with property ought to be met, and may be met"; and that as
plans he could not conceive in 1853 have become realized achievements
with him before 1888, this concerning a differentiated Income Tax may
yet be added to the number.

The words of Cobden upon the point are as true to-day as when they were
uttered. Speaking upon the Budget of 1848, he dwelt upon the
inequalities of the Income Tax, which was then still talked of by
Chancellors of the Exchequer as a temporary measure. "Make your tax
just," he said, "in order that it may be permanent. It is ridiculous to
deny the broad distinction that exists between incomes derived from
trades and professions, and those drawn from land. Take the case of a
tradesman with £10,000 of capital; he gets £500 a year interest, and
£500 more for his skill and industry. Is this man's £1000 a year to be
mulcted in the same amount with £1000 a year derived from a real
property capital of £25,000? So with the cases of professional men, who
literally live by the waste of their brains. The plain fair dealing of
the country revolts at an equal levy on such different sorts of
property. Professional men and men in business put in motion the wheels
of the social system. It is their industry and enterprise that mainly
give to realized property the value that it bears; to them, therefore,
the State first owes sympathy and support."

There is a further injustice under the present system, and that is that,
when a man has passed the £400 limit, he has to pay as heavy a
percentage upon his income, precarious or permanent, as the wealthiest
millionaire among us. The struggling tradesman, the hardly-pressed
professional man, every one who depends upon his brains for his living,
has to pay as heavily as the Duke of Bedford, the Duke of Westminster,
and the Duke of Portland, to whom the brains they possess makes no
difference to their income, and whose property has been secured not by
efforts of their own, but of others.

Is it any wonder, then, that the demand should be growing for a
graduated Income Tax? It is one upon which Mr. Chamberlain has spoken
plainly. At Ipswich, in January, 1885, he said--"Is it really certain
that the precarious income of a struggling professional man ought to pay
in the same proportion as the income of a man who derives it from
invested securities? Is it altogether such an unfair thing that we
should, as in the United States, tax all incomes according to their
amount?... Prince Bismarck some time ago proposed to the Reichstag an
Income Tax, to be graduated according to the amount of the income, and
to vary according to the character of the income. We already have done
something in that direction in exempting the very smallest incomes from
taxation. But I submit that it is well worthy of careful consideration
whether the principle should not be carried a little further." And at
Warrington, eight months later, he observed--"I think that taxation
ought to involve equality of sacrifice, and I do not see how this result
is to be obtained except by some form of graduated taxation--that is,
taxation which is proportionate to the superfluities of the taxpayer.
When I am told that this is a new-fangled and a revolutionary doctrine,
I wonder if my critics have read any elementary book on the subject;
because if they had, they must have seen that a graduated Income Tax is
not a novelty in this country. It existed in the Middle Ages, when those
who exercised authority and power did so with harshness to their equals,
but they knew nevertheless how to show consideration for the necessities
of those beneath them."

The first answer to the demand for a graduated Income Tax will, of
course, be that it would be "confiscation"--a word by which the rich are
ever striving to frighten others from making them pay their proper share
to the State; and one may be content to rest in this matter upon the
apparent paradox of Disraeli: "Confiscation is a blunder that destroys
public credit; taxation, on the contrary, improves it; and both come to
the same thing." The fact, as has before been stated, is that taxation
is the price we pay for protection; and the more we have to protect, the
more we ought to pay.

And, as Mr. Chamberlain observed, this suggestion of a graduated tax is
no new-fangled or revolutionary idea: it is one for instances of which
it is not even necessary to go back with him to some vague reminiscences
of the Middle Ages, for it exists in various degrees at the present
time. It is only dwellings of over the annual value of £20 that are
liable to inhabited house duty; houses of less than £30 rateable value
have in various districts certain water privileges for nothing which
those of greater value have to pay for; and the difference in the death
duties, according to the degree of relationship of the legatee,
indicates that the law recognizes the reasonableness of graduating the
burden according to the shoulders which have to bear it. And when we
come to the Income Tax itself, we find not merely that incomes under
£150 are exempt, while those between that sum and £400 are subject to
reductions which lessen the percentage of the tax to be paid compared
with those above the last given figure, but that no other a Chancellor
of the Exchequer than Mr. Gladstone has acknowledged the principle of
graduation, and that in the most practical way; for in his Budget of
1859, when the rate of the tax stood at 5d. and he proposed to add
another 4d., he coupled with it the proviso that incomes from £100 to
£150 (£100 being the then initial point) should pay only 1½d. extra.

The argument sometimes used that the heavier taxation of large incomes
would tend to discourage thrift by putting a penalty upon its results is
disposed of by every-day experience. Does a man cease to wish to earn
£150 because that sum will make him liable to Income Tax, or £400
because that will bring him fully within its scope? We know such a man
does not exist, and why should the conditions be changed if the
graduation went further than at present?

Here, then, is the claim for a graduated Income Tax, and, after the
examples which have been given, it cannot honestly be argued that such a
system is either immoral in design or impossible of execution. What is
wanted is that the burden of taxation shall be equalized by fixing the
greater weight upon the shoulders that ought most to bear it. No single
citizen should be exempt from a share, and by preserving indirect
taxation upon luxuries and starting a direct tax at the lowest
reasonable point, every one will have to pay something. But by
rearranging the death duties and graduating the Income Tax we shall
secure that those who have most to lose, and, therefore, who demand most
from the State, shall pay the State in proportion to their demand.


At no moment in recent years was it more desirable to urge a demand for
retrenchment in the national expenditure, and probably at no moment
could such a demand be urged with more chance of good result. For the
recent revelations made upon the highest authority as to the
wastefulness which characterizes our Government departments have aroused
in the public mind not merely indignation at the spendthrifts who rule
us but determination to put an end to much of their extravagance.

The only way in which taxation can be reduced is to lessen the need for
taxes, and that can be done in no other fashion than by reducing the
expenditure. Ministry after Ministry has entered Downing Street with the
announced determination to exercise retrenchment, and Ministry after
Ministry has left that haven for office-seekers with the expenditure
higher than ever. The stock excuse for this state of things is, that as
the national needs increase, the national expenditure must increase with
them; but, allowing that this will justify a rise upon certain items,
the question which will have to be pressed home to every Minister and
would-be Minister, to every member of Parliament and would-be member, is
this--"Is the money that is disposed of spent in economical fashion and
to the best advantage?" And he will have to be a very thick-skinned
specimen of officialdom who will venture to reply "Yes" to the question.

In the estimates for the navy, the army, and the Civil Service, there is
abundant room for the pruning knife, while to the principle which
underlies the granting of many of the pensions there ought to be
applied the axe. Of course, as long as we possess an empire which
exceeds any the world has ever seen for the vastness of its extent and
its resources, so long must an army and navy be maintained; and even if,
by a reverse of fortune, every one of our colonies were cut off from us,
an army and navy would still be needed for our own protection. They are
as necessary to a nation, situated like our own, as a fire-brigade to a
town; and it would be folly, and worse, to starve them into
inefficiency. What money is needed, therefore, to place the defences of
the country--whether those defences be men, ships, forts, or coaling
stations--in such a state of efficiency as shall avoid the chance of
national disaster should war burst upon us, ought to be definitely
ascertained and cheerfully granted.

But is the money now voted for the army and navy expended to the best
advantage, or is not a large portion of it wasted in useless and
ornamental adjuncts? We have not yet reached the point attained by that
Mexican force which is traditionally stated to have contained
twenty-five thousand officers and twenty thousand men: but the number of
superior officers of both services is altogether out of proportion to
the size of the force. In order to stimulate what is called the "flow of
promotion," officers are placed on the retired list at a ridiculously
early age, and the country is deprived of, while having to pay for, the
services of those who are in the prime of life, and still capable of
doing their full duty, in order that room may be made for their juniors
to climb into their places, those juniors themselves being soon
supplanted, and the "flow of promotion" going merrily on--at our
expense. And the hollowness of the pretension that all this is for the
country's good is shown by the fact that, while a determined effort was
made by the Horse Guards to compulsorily retire Sir Edward Hamley, the
finest tactician England possesses, the Duke of Cambridge is suffered to
remain commander-in-chief long after the age at which any other officer
would have been shifted. This is only one example of how all rules,
salutary and otherwise, are put aside when courtiership demands, for
there is a distinct danger, to which the country should be awakened, of
our services being royalty-ridden.

Royalty, it is true, has not yet invaded the Civil Service, though the
scions of the reigning house are so rapidly increasing in number that
the prizes even of this department are likely, at no distant date, to be
snatched from the skilled and deserving; but this particular Government
department has plenty to be purged of, notwithstanding. Put in the
shortest fashion, the complaint the public have a right to bring against
the Civil Service is that it is over-manned and over-paid. A large
section of its members--and those located at the various offices in
Whitehall afford a glaring instance--commence work too late, leave off
too early, and even when on their stools have not enough to do. Their
number should be lessened, and their hours increased. Ten to four, with
an interval for lunch, is a working period so scandalous in its
inadequacy that even the Salisbury Ministry has condemned it, and has in
some fashion, but at the country's expense, been striving to make it
longer. No private business could possibly pay if it adopted such a
system; and what must be done is to treat the Government service upon
the same lines as a flourishing private concern. The old notion that a
State should provide a maximum of pay for a minimum of work, and that a
Government office should be a paradise for the idle and incompetent,
must be swept away. It is nothing less than a scandal that taxes should
be wrung in an ever-increasing amount from the toilers of the country to
pay for work which, under efficient management, could be better done at
a less price.

With this question of pay there is linked that of pensions. It is often
urged that men join the public service at a less rate of pay than the
same abilities could obtain in other walks of business life, not merely
because of the security of tenure, but because they know there is a
pension to follow the work. This is exceedingly to be doubted; and
although it would be unjust to deprive of pensions those who have
entered Government employment under present conditions, the question
ought very seriously to be considered whether it would not be wise for
the State to pay, as private firms do, for the services actually
rendered, and for individual thrift to be allowed to provide for illness
or old age. Or, if it be thought desirable to maintain the pension
system, the Government servants should be called upon, like the police,
to contribute out of their wages to a superannuation fund. The system of
pensions, as at present in operation, is indefensible upon sound
business principles, and taxpayers have something better to do with
their money than continue to spend it for sentimental reasons.

As to hereditary pensions, there is no need to say much. Thanks to Mr.
Bradlaugh these are in a fair way to be disposed of; but it will still
need that a keen watch be kept, to prevent the State being further
robbed by any fanciful scheme of commutation. It may be taken as settled
that no further pensions will be granted for more than one life; but
pensions for a single life, as now arranged, often prove an intolerable
burden upon the revenue. A favourite device of the Government offices is
to "reorganize" departments, with the result of placing a new set of
officials upon the pay sheet and an old set upon the pension list. Many
of the latter will be comparatively young men, capable of doing service
in other departments; and, if they are not wanted in one, they ought to
work for their pay in another. But that is not the way in which the
State does its business. They are pensioned off with such astounding
results as was seen in the case of one official, whose place was
abolished in 1842, who was pensioned at the rate of nearly £2500 a year,
and who lived until 1880; or of another, whose office was abolished in
1847, who was pensioned in £3100, and who, up to this date (for he is
believed still to be living), has drawn over £120,000 from our pockets
without having done a single day's work for the money. And not only is
the "reorganization" system a means of lightening the national pocket
without good result, but the "ill-health" device has the same effect.
Annuitants live long, as all insurance offices will tell you, and it is
proved by the fact that there are pensioners still on the list who
retired from the Government service between forty and fifty years ago
because of "ill-health."

Here, then, are some of the fashions in which the country is defrauded;
they could be multiplied, but the samples should suffice to arouse the
attention of all who bewail the continual increase of taxation. The
State is evidently regarded by a large section of the population as a
huge milch-cow, which shall provide an ever-flowing stream; and this
view will continue to be held as long as our legislators are not forced
by the constituencies to give due heed to economy. Nothing practical in
that direction can be done until the House of Commons has a thorough
control over the national expenditure. At present the control it
exercises partakes so largely of the nature of a sham that it is not
worth considering; its scrutiny must become active and persistent, and
it should be directed to the pickings secured in high places as well as
in low--to the receivers of heavy salaries as well as of light wages.
The tendency has too long been to exhibit economy in regard to the small
people and to pass over the extravagances which feed the large, and that
is a tendency which will have to be stopped.

No one desires to lessen the efficiency of the public service; but as no
one would seriously dream of saying that that quality is at this moment
its most distinguishing feature, good rather than harm would be done by
the exercise of sound economy. It is only by lopping off the
extravagances which have grown up like weeds in our Government
departments, and which are now choking much of their power for good,
that the taxes can ever be reduced. And so it is the bounden duty of the
Liberals to raise their old banner of Retrenchment once again.


Before leaving the consideration of taxes, the question of Free Trade
must be dealt with. A very few years ago it would have been thought as
unnecessary to discuss the wisdom of continuing our system of Free Trade
as of lengthening the existence of the House of Commons; but we are
to-day threatened with the revival of a Protectionist agitation, and it
is necessary to be argumentatively prepared for it.

It is impossible within my limits to say all that can be said in favour
of Free Trade or all that ought to be said against Protection; but it
should be the less necessary to do the former, because the proof that it
is working evil to the country must rest with those who assert it, and
that proof they do not afford.

The main contention of the Protectionists--Fair Traders some of them
call themselves, but the old distinctive name is preferable--is that the
free importation of corn has ruined agriculture, and of other goods has
crippled manufactures. And, having assumed this to be correct, their
remedy is to place such a duty upon all imported articles which compete
with our own productions as to "protect British industry."

First for the complaint. Is it true that the system of free imports has
ruined agriculture and crippled manufactures? There is no doubt that the
farming interest has been very seriously hit by a series of inadequate
harvests and the growth of foreign competition; and there is as little
doubt that, if such a duty were placed upon imported grain as would make
its culture in England profitable under the present conditions, the
farmers would thrive, even if the poorer among us starved. No one can
deny that, if there is to be Protection at all, the agricultural
interest demands it the most, but we will see directly whether such a
tariff as would make profitable the growth of wheat is practicable. As
to the crippling of manufactures, there is something to be said which is
as true as it may be unpalatable. Without denying that the free
importation of foreign goods, coupled with the heavy duties levied by
other countries upon our exported articles, has seriously diminished the
profits of certain of our manufacturers, and has thereby injured the
persons by them employed, those who have watched the recent course of
British trade are compelled to see that other causes have been at work
to account for much of the depression.

Making haste to be rich has had more to do with that depression than the
weight of foreign competition. Manufacturers who scamp and merchants who
swindle; folks who endow churches or build chapels to compromise with
their conscience for robbing their customers and blasting the honour of
the English name--these are the men who deserve to be pilloried when we
talk of depression. We _do_ want fair trade in the sense of honest
trade, for it is the burning desire for gain, the resolve to practise
any device that leads to money-making, which is injuring the British
manufacturing industry far more than the foreigner. The sick man who
disliked a wash was at last, in desperation, recommended by his doctor
to try soap; the manufacturers who size their cottons to the rotting
point, and the merchants who have been accustomed to sell German cutlery
with a Sheffield label, should be told, when they cry out upon
depression, to try honesty. And when they whine, as they sometimes do,
that it is the demand for cheap goods that makes such a supply, they
must be reminded that the butcher who sells bad meat, or the baker who
adulterates his bread, pleads the same excuse, but it does not save
either from being branded as a cheat.

There is a further point which will account for the loss of British
trade in foreign markets, and that is the lack of adaptability to new
circumstances shown by English traders. And this is displayed all
round. Our farmers ought to know by this time that they cannot compete
by wheat-growing with the United States, Canada, or India; but they will
not comprehend that they can compete with foreign countries in the
matter of butter, eggs, cheese, fruit, and poultry. And the consequence
is that we are paying many millions yearly to France, Holland, Belgium,
and America for articles that our own farmers ought to supply; and that
the largest cheesemongers in London find it cheaper, easier, and quicker
to import all their butter from Normandy than to buy a single pound in
England. It is the same with our manufacturers. An American firm had a
large order to give for cutlery; they asked terms which the English
manufacturer rejected because they were novel; and a German at once
seized the chance, and kept the trade. In New Zealand there was wanted a
light spade for agricultural purposes; the English manufacturer would
not alter his pattern to suit his customers; and the whole order went to
the United States. In China the people wish for a cotton cloth which
will not vanish at the first shower of rain; Manchester is so accustomed
to heavily size its goods that it cannot change; and the China trade in
that commodity is going elsewhere. Before, then, we complain of foreign
competition--a complaint which is bitterly heard to-day as against
England in France, Germany, Austria, and the United States--let us be
certain that we are doing all we honestly can to cope with it.

Some there are who say that they are in favour of Free Trade in the
abstract, but that they will not support it as long as it is not
accepted by other nations. This is about as sensible as a decision to
cheat in business as long as some of our neighbours cheat would be
honest, and is exactly on a level with the old death-bed injunction of
the miserly parent--"My son, make money--honestly if you can, but make
money." And when it is stated, as it sometimes is, that Free Trade was
adopted by this country only on the understanding that it would be
universally agreed to, it is a sufficient answer that Sir Robert Peel,
in introducing his measure for the repeal of the Corn Laws,
observed:--"I fairly avow to you that in making this great reduction
upon the import of articles, the produce and manufacture of foreign
countries, I have no guarantee to give you that other countries will
immediately follow our example."

When the Protectionists, call themselves by what name they will and use
what arguments they may, ask us to change our present system, we first
then deny their assumption that England is going to the dogs, and next
we ask what they propose to put in its place. Upon a plan they find it
impossible to agree. Some would tax corn lightly, others as heavily as
would be required to make its growth certainly profitable to the farmer;
some would fix a duty only upon manufactured articles, others upon
everything which is imported that can be raised here; some would admit
goods from our colonies at a lighter rate than from foreign countries,
others would put them all on the same level. Out of this chaos of
contradictions no definite plan has yet been evolved, and none is likely
to be.

The corn question is the first difficulty, and will long remain so.
Wheat, in the autumn of 1887, was selling at 28s. a quarter; on the
average it cannot be grown to pay at less than 45s.; yet it is only a
5s. duty which is being dangled before the farmer. But if he is to lose
12s. a quarter he will be little farther removed from ruin than if he
loses 17s.; he will as much as ever resemble the traditional refreshment
contractor who lost a little upon every customer, but thought to make
his profit by the number he served; and the agricultural interest in its
wildest dreams cannot imagine that Englishmen are likely to impose a
duty raising the price of wheat 60 per cent. A rise of 10 per cent. in
the price of bread means a rise of 1 per cent. in the death-rate, and if
a duty of 17s. were imposed, that rise would be 6 per cent. What would
this mean? That where 100 persons die now, 106 would die then, and the
added number would perish from that most awful of all forms of
death--death from lack of food. And those extra six would not be drawn
from the well-to-do, from the trading classes, or from the ranks of
skilled labour, but from those who even now are struggling their hardest
for bread, and to whom the rise in price of a loaf from threepence to
fourpence three-farthings would mean starvation. For let it never be
forgotten that it is upon the poorest that a corn-tax would fall most
heavily. The peer eats no more bread--probably he eats less--than the
peasant; even when all his family and servants are reckoned, the
quantity of bread consumed is comparatively little more than in an
artisan's household; but while the peasant and the artisan would be made
to feel with every mouthful that they were being starved in order that
others might thrive, the few shillings a week that the peer would have
to pay would be but a drop spilt from a full bucket, the loss of which
no one could perceive.

Arising out of the proposal for the re-imposition of a corn-tax is a
consideration which bears upon the idea of levying a duty upon other
imports. India is rapidly becoming more and more a corn-growing country;
if it were decided to admit its wheat free, the British farmer would
continue handicapped; if it were resolved to tax it, India would
necessarily retaliate by protecting its own cotton industries: and what
would Lancashire say to that?

The fact is that, when the proposal to protect industries all round is
considered, the difficulties of securing a feasible plan are found to be
insurmountable. The simplest way, of course, would be to place a duty
upon everything that entered our ports, and to follow that American
tariff which commenced with a tax upon acorns, and was so jealous of
interference with native industries that it fixed a duty upon skeletons.
And if it be replied that the line should be drawn at manufactured
articles, the question must be asked at once how these are to be
defined. One can understand shoemakers desiring to place a duty upon
foreign-made boots, but they would object to have the price of leather
increased by a tax upon the imports of that material. The tanner and
currier would strongly favour a tax upon leather, while perfectly
willing that hides should be admitted free. But the free importation of
hides would affect the farmer, who would have as much right to
protection as either tanner or bootmaker. And so the price of boots from
the beginning would be raised to everybody, less boots would be bought,
and the whole community, as well as the particular trades concerned,
would suffer. Take the woollen industries again. Manufacturers might
like cloths to be taxed, but would be willing to see yarns admitted
free. Spinners would place a duty upon yarns, but would let wool alone.
But the farmer would again step in and demand that the price of his wool
should not be lowered by free importation. If Protection is started
there is no stopping it; no line can fairly be drawn between the
importation of raw material and manufactured articles; every trade will
want to be taken care of. And we shall be driven back to the time when,
in order to protect the farmer, all bodies had to be buried in woollen
shrouds; and, to protect the buckle maker, the use of shoestrings was by
law prohibited. More; we shall be driven back to the period when the
artisan and the labourer saw wheaten bread but once a year, when it was
barley alone they could afford to eat, and when the rent of the landlord
was the one consideration for which Parliament cared, and the welfare of
the poor the last thing of which Parliament dreamed.

One can understand why the Protectionist movement should have supporters
in high places. There are landlords who are tired of seeing their rents
continuously fall, and are as anxious as ever their fathers were to make
the community pay the difference between what the land can honestly
yield and the return its possessor desires; and there are manufacturers
who are disgusted to find that the days when colossal fortunes could be
rapidly made are departing.

It is the duty, therefore, of every Liberal to resist the least approach
to a reversal of the present fiscal policy. For it is not a mere
question of taxation; it is not even a question only of money; it is a
question of life and death to the poor. And every man who knows to what
a depth of misery Protection brought this country less than fifty years
since, and who feels for those who are hardly pressed, will strive to
the uttermost against any renewal of the system which, while enriching a
few, impoverishes the many, and, to add bitterness to its injustice,
involves death by starvation.


Another of the remedies suggested by political quacks for depression in
trade is the revival of the system of "protecting British labour" by
preventing the immigration of foreigners--a process which, by the good
sense of all Englishmen, has been abolished for centuries.

It is easy, of course, to take what at first sight may seem the
"popular" side upon this question. There would be no difficulty in
summoning a meeting of English bakers in London, and telling them that
they were being ruined because German bakers are overrunning their
trade; or gathering a small army of clerks, and informing them that but
for foreign, and particularly German, competition, the native article
would have a better chance; or assembling a serried array of
costermongers, and persuading them that, if it were not for Russian,
Polish, and German Jews, who swarm the metropolitan thoroughfares with
their handcarts, their own barrows would attract more customers. But the
whole idea of excluding foreigners because they become competitors is
not merely a confession of weakness and incapacity which Englishmen
ought never to make, but it is so contrary to the spirit of freedom
which has been cherished in this country for ages that no Liberal ought
for a moment to give it countenance.

And, to put it on the most sordid ground, where would England and
English trade have been had such a principle been acted upon by other
countries? No people in the world has so much benefited by freedom of
movement in foreign lands as ourselves. Go where one may, he will find
Englishmen to the fore--not only as traders but as workers. What they
have done in the colonies and in the United States is patent to all men,
but it is not alone in Saxon-speaking lands that they have flourished.
If one visits Italy to-day, he will find Englishmen working in the
Government dockyards; when Russia wanted railways it was Brassey and his
navvies who made them, and when she needed telegraphs it was English
linesmen who stretched the wires; while in Brazil on every hand
Englishmen are pushing to the front. And there is a lesson to be learned
from that passage in the diary of Macaulay, which records how, on a
visit to France, he met some English navvies, with the leader of whom he
entered into talk: "He told me, to my comfort, that they did very well,
being, as he said, sober men; that the wages were good, and that they
were well treated, and had no quarrels with their French

China for a long series of ages acted upon the principle of keeping out
the foreigner, and upon various pretexts we fought her again and again
to secure our own admission. Japan was equally exclusive, and for a
longer time; but even Japan has found out the mistake of trying to live
in "a garden walled around." As far back as the date when Magna Charta
was signed, the right of foreign merchants to reside and to possess
personal effects in England was recognized; and although the blindness
and bigotry of succeeding times banished the Jews in one age and the
Flemings in another, we long ago established the right of free entry. It
is true that, in the fit of reaction provoked by the French Terror,
Alien Acts were passed conferring upon the Crown the power of banishing
foreigners, but these were superseded half a hundred years ago, and
their revival is not to be looked for.

It may be retorted that the United States Congress has taken a different
view, for, in addition to various measures adopted in recent years to
prevent the immigration of Chinamen, an Act was passed in 1885 "to
prohibit the importation and migration of foreigners and aliens, under
contract or agreement to perform labour in the United States, its
territories, and the district of Columbia." The effect of that measure,
coupled with an amending Act adopted two years later, according to
English official authority, is "to subject to heavy penalties any person
who prepays the transportation, or in any way assists the importation or
migration of any alien or foreigner into the said countries under
agreement of any kind whatsoever made previously to such importation, to
perform there labour or service of any description (with a few
exceptions). Masters of vessels knowingly conveying such aliens render
themselves liable to fine or imprisonment, and the aliens themselves are
not allowed to land, but are returned to the country whence they came."

This law, even if it had not been rendered ridiculous by an attempt to
bring ministers of religion within its scope, and even also if it had
not proved practically a dead letter, does not, however, go far in the
direction of excluding foreign labour. For men of all nations are as
free to proceed to the United States to-day as ever they were, the only
condition being that they shall not, before landing, have made
themselves secure of finding work. If the same law were applied in
England, and even if not a single person evaded (as it would be
remarkably easy to evade) its provisions, it would not affect one in a
hundred of the foreigners who come hither to compete with our own
people. Does any one imagine that the German bakers and clerks and
costermongers, who are now so much in evidence, have before landing
entered into a contract of service?

If they have not, what further measure could be taken? Ought we to pass
a law prohibiting every foreigner from landing? Should we add to it the
condition that, if he will swear he is a _bonâ fide_ traveller, he may
be allowed to remain a few weeks under strict surveillance of the
police, who will not only watch very carefully that he does no stroke of
work while in England, but will see to it that he is promptly expelled
when his time is up? Are our customs officers to search incoming ships
for aliens as they do for tobacco, and is the penalty for smuggling
foreigners to be the same as for smuggling snuff? The project of totally
excluding foreign labour would be as impossible of accomplishment as it
would be repellent to attempt.

"But," some will answer, "is it right that we should be deluged with
foreign paupers, who come upon our rates without paying a penny towards
them?" That is quite another matter, and does not affect the question of
foreign labour in any but an indirect way. It certainly is not right
that we should be burdened by foreign paupers; and England would be
acting in perfect consistence with the principles of liberty and justice
if she did as the United States and the Continental countries have done,
in prohibiting the landing of paupers, and insisting upon sending them
back to the place whence they came. This is a matter of municipal rather
than international law; and a repetition of such a scandal as that of
the Greek gipsies, who were excluded from various European ports, and
were yet suffered to land here and to become a nuisance and a burden,
ought not to be allowed.

What is being argued against is not the enactment of a law to exclude
foreign paupers, but of one to exclude foreign workers. But even if the
former were to be proposed, it would have to be narrowly watched, lest
it should be so drafted as to deprive England by a sidewind of the title
of an asylum for the oppressed which she has so long and proudly worn.
For it is at the right of asylum that some of the advocates of exclusion
wish to strike. In the United States there is being formed a party to
strengthen the "Contract to Labour" Law, which avowedly wishes "to stop
the import of lawless elements"--an elastic phrase which might cover any
body of persons who wished for reform. And in England, Mr. Vincent, the
proposer of the Protectionist resolution adopted by the Tory conference
at Oxford in 1887, stated that "the indiscriminate asylum afforded here
has long been regarded by continental Governments as an outrage on good
order and civilization." He may rely upon it, however, that the English
love for the right of asylum is not to be destroyed by the wish or the
opinion of any despotic Government on earth, and that a right which
shook down the strong Administration of Lord Palmerston, when in an evil
hour he menaced it at the bidding of Louis Napoleon 30 years since, will
withstand the threatenings even of a conclave of chosen Conservatives.

Many things are possible to a Tory Government, and it may be that, in
the endeavour to secure some puff of a popular breeze to fill its
sails, it will pander to the section which demands the exclusion of
foreigners. But how could such a measure be proposed by a Ministry which
has among its members the Duke of Portland, whose family name, Bentinck,
proclaims his Dutch descent; Mr. Goschen and Baron Henry de Worms, whose
names no less emphatically announce them to have sprung from German
Jews; and Mr. Bartlett, who, though he tells the world by means of
reference-books that he was born at Plymouth, forgets to add that this
is not the town in England but one in the United States?

But it is not to be believed that England will in this matter forget her
traditions. We, who are descended from Briton and Saxon, from Norman and
Dane, have had reason to be proud of our faculty of absorbing all the
foreign elements that have reached these shores, and turning them to
good account. When our Puritan fathers were hunted down in England, it
was in a foreign clime they made their home; when other Englishmen have
lacked employment, it is to foreign lands they have gone; and the
hospitality extended to them by the foreigner we have returned. Go into
Canterbury Cathedral to-day, and there see the chapel set apart for the
French refugees, driven from their country for conscience' sake;
remember how, after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, the unhappy
Huguenots fled to England to do good service to their adopted country by
establishing here the manufacture of silk. Never forget how advantageous
it has been for Englishmen to have the whole world open to their
endeavours; and hesitate long before attempting to deny to others that
right of free movement in labour which has been and is of such immense
advantage to ourselves.


By a natural process of thought, the consideration of the proposed
exclusion of foreign labour leads to that of foreign policy generally;
and although the vast questions involved in our external relations are
not to be solved in a few lines, an attempt to lay down some general
principles upon the matter can hardly be wasted, for of all things
connected with public affairs, foreign policy is that of which the
average voter knows the least, and for which he pays the most. The
yearly twenty-seven millions as interest on the National Debt is a
perpetual legacy from the foreign policy of the past; while an equally
turbulent one in the present would increase the already heavy
expenditure on the navy and army to an alarming extent. But as all
questions covered by the phrase cannot be put in the simple form "Shall
we go to war?" there is a necessity for the leading principles which
should govern them to be considered.

A good guide to the future is experience of the past, and our English
history will have taught us little if it has not shown that many a war
has been waged which patience and wisdom might have avoided. And
although we have never avowedly gone to war "for an idea," as Louis
Napoleon said that France did concerning the expedition in which he
stole two Italian provinces, it has been because of the devotion of our
statesmen to certain pet theories that much shedding of blood is due.

One of these theories is that some nation or other is "our natural
enemy." France for several centuries held that position, and it was as
obvious to one generation that the word "Frenchman" was synonymous with
"fiend" as it was for another to link "Spaniard" with "devil" and for a
nearer still to consider that the Emperor Nicholas of Russia and "Old
Nick" were one and the same. Just now the "natural enemy" idea is
happily dormant, if not dead; but its evil effect upon our foreign
policy has been all too plainly marked in many a page of history.

Another theory, and one which has had a more far-reaching extent, is
that it is incumbent upon the nations of Europe to maintain "the balance
of power." This, again, is a phrase which has lost much of its old
force; but a Continental struggle might cause it to bloom once more with
all its baleful effects. Speaking about a quarter of a century ago, Mr.
Bright, considering the theory to be "pretty nearly dead and buried,"
observed of it to his constituents: "You cannot comprehend at a thought
what is meant by that balance of power. If the record could be brought
before you--but it is not possible to the eye of humanity to scan the
scroll upon which are recorded the sufferings which the theory of the
balance of power has entailed upon this country. It rises up before me,
when I think of it, as a ghastly phantom which during 170 years, whilst
it has been worshipped in this country, has loaded the nation with debt
and with taxes, has sacrificed the lives of hundreds of thousands of
Englishmen, has desolated the homes of millions of families, and has
left us, as the great result of the profligate expenditure which it has
caused, a doubled peerage at one end of the social scale and far more
than a doubled pauperism at the other. I am very glad to be here
to-night, amongst other things, to be able to say that we may rejoice
that this foul idol--fouler than any heathen tribe ever worshipped--has
at last been thrown down, and that there is one superstition less which
has its hold upon the minds of English statesmen and of the English

The theory which was thus unsparingly denounced held that we, as a
nation, have a right to interfere to prevent any other nation from
becoming stronger than it now is, lest its increased strength should
threaten our interests. Politicians of the old school were accustomed to
assure us that, although the name might not have been known to the
ancients, the idea was; and, with that almost superstitious regard which
used to be paid to Greek and Roman precedents, Hume, in one of his
"Essays," related that "in all the politics of Greece, the anxiety with
regard to the balance of power is apparent, and is expressly pointed out
to us even by the ancient historians;" he was of opinion that "whoever
will read Demosthenes' oration for the Megalopolitans may see the utmost
refinements on this principle that ever entered into the head of a
Venetian or English speculatist;" and, having quoted a passage from
Polybius in support of the theory, he observed: "There is the aim of
modern politics pointed out in express terms."

But "the aim of modern politics" has been changed within the past
century. Since the era which closed with Waterloo in 1815, England,
Austria, Russia, France, and Germany have held in turn the dominant
power in the councils of Europe, and the balance has been so frequently
disturbed that the mapmakers have scarcely been able to keep pace with
the changes of the frontiers. Look back only thirty years, and see what
has occurred. Instead of Italy being "a fortuitous concourse of atoms,"
or merely "a geographical expression," she is the sixth great Power, the
kingdom of Sardinia, the kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the Papal States,
the grand duchies of Lucca, Parma, Tuscany, Modena, and the rest, with
Venetia (in 1858 an Austrian possession) thrown in, having been combined
to form that old dream of Mazzini, Garibaldi, and their
fellow-revolutionaries, "United Italy, with Rome for its capital." In
the place of a congeries of petty kingdoms and states, always jarring,
and with Austria and Prussia ever struggling for the mastery, we see a
German Empire, formed by the kingdom of Hanover being swept out of
existence, and those of Bavaria, Saxony, and Wurtemburg, with various
grand duchies, placed under the domination of Prussia. In the same
period Russia has gained and France has lost territory; the Ottoman
Empire has been "consolidated" into feebleness; and the kingdoms of
Roumania and Servia, with the principality of Bulgaria, have been called
in their present shape into being. All this has seriously disturbed the
"balance of power;" but what could England have done to hinder the
process if she had wished, and what right would she have had to attempt
it if she had dared?

And in addition to the disturbance of the "balance of power" by process
of war and revolution, there is that which comes from physical,
educational, industrial, and moral causes. Some nations have a greater
faculty than others of securing success in the markets of the world, and
these develop their natural resources in such fashion as to outstrip
their neighbours. If we ought to be continually fighting to prevent
other countries from aggrandizing themselves in point of territory, we
ought equally to do so to hinder them from becoming disproportionately
powerful in point of wealth. But as there is no man among us so insane
as to suggest the latter, so, it may be hoped, will there soon be none
to instigate the former. It is now over twenty years since even a Tory
Administration felt constrained to omit from the preamble of the Mutiny
Bill some words relating to the preservation of the "balance of power";
and if anything had been needed to cast undying ridicule upon the theory
it was the plea of King Milan that he went to war with Prince Alexander
in 1885, because the union of Bulgaria with Eastern Roumelia had
disturbed the "balance of power" in the Balkan States.

Another idea upon which it is often sought to provoke war is "regard for
the sanctity of treaties." There is an honest sound about this which has
caused it to deceive many worthy folk, but who in his heart believes
that there is any "sanctity" about treaties? Nations, as a fact, abide
by treaties just as long as it suits their purpose, and not a day
longer. Take the Treaty of Vienna, which after 1815 was to settle the
affairs of Europe for ever. The disruption of Belgium from Holland was
the first great blow at its provisions, and one after another of these
subsequently became a dead letter. The Treaty of Paris, concluded after
the Crimean War, Russia deliberately set aside in a most important part
as soon as she conveniently could. The Treaty of Frankfort, between
Germany and France, will last only as long as the French do not feel
themselves equal to the task of wresting back Alsace-Lorraine. And the
Treaty of Berlin, the latest great European compact of all, entered into
after the Russo-Turkish War, has already been violated in various
directions, and is daily threatened with being violated in more. A
treaty, in fact, is not like an agreement between equal parties, in
which one gives something to the other for value received; it is
customarily a bargain hardly driven by a conqueror as regards the
conquered, and one from which the latter intends to free himself as soon
as he has the chance. And so, whenever any one talks about the "sanctity
of treaties," let us first see what the treaties are, and under what
circumstances they were obtained. It will then be sufficient time to
consider the amount of reverence which is their due.

But there is a further theory upon which war is made, and that is the
most sordid of all, for, discarding all notions of honour and glory, it
simply avers that we ought to physically fight for commercial
advancement. A recent writer who seeks to tell us all about "Our
Colonies and India; how we got them, and why we keep them," devotes his
first chapter to attempting to prove that nothing but desire for gain
actuated our forefathers in every one of their great wars, or, to use
his own illustration, "we were afraid that our estate was going to be
broken up; we had a large family; and we spent money and borrowed money
to keep the property together, and to extend it. From our point of view,
as a nation, we have to set one side of our account against the other
and see whether our transaction paid. It is," he adds, "very often said
that England has very little to show for her National Debt. Nothing to
show for the National Debt! It is the price we pay for the largest
Colonial Empire the world has ever seen." This is probably the most
naked exposition of the worst side of the saying that "Trade follows the
flag" which has in late years been published; but that the idea which
underlies it still actuates a certain school of statesmen is shown by
the fact that Lord Randolph Churchill justified the expedition to Upper
Burmah--as long, tedious, and destructive a business as it was promised
to be short, easy, and dangerless--on the ground that the new territory
would "pay."

Now here are certain principles which have guided the foreign policy of
the past, and which stand as beacons to warn us against dangers in the
future. That we shall escape war for all time to come is not to be hoped
for, but, by considering the crimes and blunders and bloodshed which
have flowed from previous methods, something may be done to avoid it.


The question whether a settled adherence to the principles of
non-intervention is compatible at once with our interests and our honour
is one upon which much of the future of England may depend. The answer
is not to be found in sneers at a "peace-at-any-price policy," which has
never been adopted by any section of our countrymen, or in panegyrics
upon the virtues evolved by war, made by men who sit comfortably in
their arm-chairs while they hound others on to bloodshed. It is a
question which of necessity can only be answered in certain cases as the
circumstances arise, but there is nothing either cowardly or
dishonourable in considering the general principles involved in a reply.

Looking at the world as it stands, it seems almost beyond hope that war
will ever cease. It is true that we have got rid of blood-letting in
surgery and that we have got rid of blood-letting in society, and it
may, therefore, seem to some that there is a chance of getting rid of
blood-letting between States. A century since, the doctor's lancet and
the duellist's pistol were rivals in slaughter, and all but fanatics
thought their abolition impossible. What will be said of war in the time
to come?

Whatever may be said of it then, we know what can be said of it now. It
is a grievous curse to the nations engaged, and a calamitous hindrance
to civilization. It is a barbarous and illogical method of settling
international disputes, which decides only that one side is the
stronger, and never shows which side is the right. The cynical saying
that God is on the side of the big battalions is true at bottom. We
laugh to-day at the old custom of "Trial by battle," recognizing that
the innocent combatant was often the weaker or less skilful, and that
the guilty consequently triumphed. But "Trial by battle," as between
nations, is equally absurd, if any one imagines that it shows which is
the righteous. Who would contend that France was in the right when
Napoleon Bonaparte, in his early career, by his superior skill in
tactics, swept the nations of Europe before him at Arcola and Marengo,
Austerlitz and Jena, and that he was in the wrong when, in the waning of
his powers, he was irretrievably ruined at Waterloo? That Denmark was in
the wrong because the combined forces of Austria and Prussia crushed her
in the struggle over Schleswig-Holstein, and that Prussia was in the
right when, after she and her neighbour had quarrelled like a couple of
thieves over their booty, she placed the needle-gun against the
muzzle-loader and overwhelmed Austria? The spirit which impels each
combatant to call upon the Almighty as of right for assistance, and
which leads the victor to sing a _Te Deum_ at the struggle's close, is a
blasphemous one, which should not blind us to the criminality of most
wars. To hurl thousands of men into conflict in order to extend trade or
acquire territory is an iniquity, disguise it by what phrases we will.
In private life the man who steals is called a thief, the man who kills
is called a murderer; why in public life should the nation which steals,
and which kills in order to steal, be differently treated? If there be
retributive justice beyond the grave, Frederick the Great and Napoleon
Bonaparte, who in cold blood and for selfish motives sacrificed tens of
thousands of lives, will stand at the murderers' bar side by side with
those lesser criminals who have gone to the gallows for a single

Let us look at war, therefore, as it is--a direful necessity, even when
justified by self-preservation, a flagrant crime when entered upon for
the extension of territory or trade. It is easy to raise the cry of
patriotism whenever a war is undertaken, but the patriotism that pays
others to fight is a cheap article which deserves no praise. As for the
bloodthirsty bray of the music halls, which even English statesmen have
not disdained to stimulate in favour of their policy, it is abhorrent to
cleanly-minded men; the ethics of the taproom and the patriotism of the
pewter-pot are not to their taste; and when it is seen that the most
sanguinary writers and the most blatant talkers are the last to put
their own bodies in peril, it cannot but be concluded that their theory
is that patriotism is a virtue to be preached by themselves and
practised by their neighbours.

But though a reckless or merely aggressive war is not only the greatest
of human ills but the gravest of national crimes, an armed struggle is
in certain instances a necessity. Self-preservation is the first law of
nature; and as no man would condemn another for slaying, if no milder
measure would do, one who attempted to kill him, and the law would
regard such a course as justifiable homicide, so a nation is right to
fight against invasion, and would deserve to be extinguished or enslaved
if it did not. "Defence, not defiance," the motto of our volunteers,
should be the motto of our statesmen; and then, if an enemy attacked us,
we should be able to give a good account of ourselves.

In order to act up to this motto, we must dabble as little as possible
with affairs that do not directly concern us. We should cease to think
that we are the arbiters of the world's quarrels--we have enough to do
to look after our colonies and ourselves--and we should withdraw from
such entangling engagements as we have, and enter upon no fresh ones.
When, for instance, we are urged to formally join the Triple Alliance,
we must ask why we should bind ourselves to fight France and Russia
because Germany would like to pay off old scores, Austria wishes to get
to Salonica, and Italy is eager to assert her position as the
latest-created "Great Power." As it is, a Continental struggle, such as
is bound to come in the near future, may sufficiently involve us. No one
seems quite to know whether we are or are not bound by treaty to defend
the territorial independence of Belgium; but as it is through "the
cockpit of Europe" that Germany may next attempt to assail France, or
France try to reach Germany, the question is a very important one.
Would it not be better to settle that before we proceed to bind
ourselves with the chains of an alliance which could do us little good,
but might easily effect considerable harm?

Non-intervention has again and again been proved to be an honourable and
beneficent policy. There has been scarcely a great war within the last
thirty years in which we have not been urged by some section in this
country to interfere. The Franco-Austrian conflict in 1859, the civil
war in America, the Austro-Prussian attack upon Denmark, the
Franco-German war, and the Russo-Turkish struggle--in every one of these
we were urged to interfere on behalf of our interests or our honour, or
both. In none did we do so, and who to-day will argue that abstention
was wrong? There are some politicians who appear wishful to see
England's finger in every international pie, and the same old arguments,
the same vehement appeals, are used whenever there is a struggle abroad.
And when the next occurs, and these weather-beaten arguments and appeals
are again brought to the fore, let those who may be swayed by them turn
to the files of the newspapers which instigated intervention in all of
the cases named; and let them reflect that non-intervention proved the
best course in every one, and that what did so well before is most
likely to do well again.

But, even if we sedulously pursue this policy, there are occasions when
differences arise with other States, and the question is how these can
be composed. In the large majority of cases the remedy will be found in
arbitration. Here, again, we shall be confronted with assertions about
honour and patriotism, which experience has proved to be worthless. Two
striking instances have been afforded of the value of international
arbitration. The greater is that which solved the difficulty between
ourselves and the United States concerning the Alabama claims. Here was
a matter in which England was distinctly in the wrong, and, as long as
the sore remained open, so long was there danger of war ensuing between
the two great English-speaking nations of the earth. When Mr.
Gladstone's first Government resolved to submit it to arbitration, no
language was too vehement for some of our Tories to apply to the
process. It was dishonourable, unpatriotic, and pusillanimous; but Mr.
Gladstone persevered, and with what result? The dispute was settled, the
sore was healed; and is there a solitary man among us who will contend
that the better plan would have been to send into their graves thousands
of unoffending men, and to perpetuate, perhaps for generations, a
quarrel which has been so happily decided as now to have almost faded
out of mind? The other instance is afforded by the resolve, in the
spring of 1885, to refer the dispute with Russia concerning the Penjdeh
conflict to arbitration. There were threatenings of slaughter on every
hand, for weeks there appeared a danger of our being launched into war
for a strip of Afghan territory, worthless alike to Russians, Afghans,
and ourselves, and upon a conflict of testimony as to the original
aggression, which even yet has not been composed. The agreement to
submit the matter to the King of Denmark, though his arbitrament
ultimately was dispensed with, gave a breathing time to Russia and
England both; and who now would argue that we ought to have gone to war
because of Penjdeh?

Therefore, if we adhere to a policy of non-intervention in disputes that
do not directly concern us, and of arbitration in those in which we
become involved, we shall be following a course which the immediate past
has proved to be not only peaceful but honourable and agreeable to our
interests. "The greatest of British interests is peace," once observed
the present Lord Derby; and the truth of the saying is unimpeachable.
And when we are told that, strive as we will, war sometimes must come,
one is reminded of the saying of a far greater statesman than Lord
Derby, and one upon whose patriotism none has been able to cast a slur.
It was Canning who, when told that a war in certain circumstances was
bound to come sooner or later, replied, "Then let it be later."

If, however, we wish England to pursue a peaceful policy, we must teach
the people to believe that it is as honourable as it is practicable, and
as truly patriotic as both. It is a mistake to think that the masses
will oppose war merely because of the suffering and loss it entails;
there are considerations beyond these which the artisan feels as keenly
as the aristocrat, the peasant as the peer. The sentiment which resents,
even to blood-shedding, an insult to the national flag, may be often to
be deprecated but never to be despised; for when the people shall care
nothing for the country's honour, the days of independent national
existence will be drawing to a close. And, therefore, when it is argued
that a peace policy is practicable, it is held to be so only because it
is honourable, patriotic, and just.


The foreign relations of England are necessarily complicated by her
colonial concerns; and these deserve the most careful consideration,
because at any moment they may arouse the hottest political dispute of
the day. In considering the colonies we have to ask three questions: (1)
How and why did we get them; (2) How and why do we keep them; and (3)
Ought we to force them to stay?

At the history of the why and how we acquired our colonies, it is
impossible here to do more than glance. By settlement as in the case of
Australasia, by conquest as in that of Canada, and by treaty cession as
in that of the Cape, have been obtained within the past three centuries
practically all that we have. The wish for expansion has continually
made itself felt, and the frequent result of war as well as of peaceful
discovery has been to gratify it. And the consequence of both conquest
and discovery has been the acquisition of a colonial empire vaster in
extent and resources than the world has ever seen.

Having got our colonies, there are various reasons for retaining them.
The imperial spirit, which is elated by expansion and would be deeply
wounded by contraction, has been a prominent factor in causing England
to take a leading position in the world's affairs; and it is one which
none interested in her prosperity will despise. Even if there were no
material reasons for keeping our colonies, this sentiment would cause
many Englishmen, and probably the majority, to regard with the deepest
distrust any movement having a tendency to separate the colonies from
the mother country.

But there are material reasons for binding the colonies to us which
none will ignore. They form not only an outlet for our surplus labour
and enterprise, but give us markets of high importance to our trade.
Emigrants who go to Canada or Australia not merely remain attached by
obvious considerations to the English connection, but continue to be our
customers in a very much larger degree than if they went to the United
States or any other foreign country. Those who study the statistics of
our export trade will recognize that if we lost the custom of our
colonies--and this we should be likely to do if we lost the colonies
themselves--the consequences to our commerce would be very serious.

Thus there are reasons of the highest sentiment, as well as of
commercial expediency, for retaining the possessions the hard fighting
and determined enterprise of many generations of Englishmen have
acquired; but the question which is needed to be answered in much more
fulness than either of the others is that which may affect the politics
of the near future: Ought we, if any of our self-governing colonies
desire to secede, to force them to stay?

A distinct difference has been made in the form of this question between
the self-governing colonies and the dependencies--a distinction arising
from the very nature of things. There is a chasm between the
consideration of letting Australia or letting India go, which is too
wide to be bridged. Australia consists of various colonies, peopled by
Englishmen or the descendants of Englishmen, who have the fullest means
of constitutionally expressing their desires. India has a vast concourse
of deeply-divided peoples, who have no bond of union, whether of race,
religion, or common descent, and who are in no sense self-governed. In
the argument about to be set forward, therefore, it is to be understood
that only the colonies, and not the dependencies, are in consideration.

Broadly speaking, it may be submitted with regard to our self-governing
colonies that we are bound in honour to keep them as long as they will
stay, and in conscience not to detain them when they are able and
willing to go. Having acquired them, and given the most practical
guarantees to protect them, we ought to hold to our implied bargain at
any cost, and to defend them with as much energy as our native soil.
But, just as a parent's duty to a child is to do everything to protect
and assist him in his period of growth, so is it equally his duty, when
the training-time has been accomplished, to set no hindrance in the path
of his acquiring an independent position. And the relation of parent to
child has a true likeness to that of England to her self-governing

If it be asked whether this question of what should be done in case of a
proposed separation ought to be raised at the present moment, the reply
is that events are forcing the matter forward, and that it is well to
consider in a time of comparative quiet a problem which may convulse the
nation from end to end if urged upon us in a storm.

For rumblings of the storm have already been heard from the three great
self-governing portions of our colonial empire. Sir Henry Parkes, the
Premier of New South Wales, in an article published no long time since,
and in the very act of proposing a scheme by which he imagined the
mother country and the colonies might be knit more closely together,
uttered a warning that separation might within the next generation be
pushed to the front, for "there are persons in Australia, and in most of
the Australian Legislatures, who avowedly or tacitly favour the idea."
And he added: "In regard to the large mass of the English people in
Australia, there can be no doubt of their genuine loyalty to the present
State, and their affectionate admiration for the present illustrious
occupant of the throne. But this loyalty is nourished at a great
distance, and by tens of thousands, daily increasing, who have never
known any land but the one dear land where they dwell. It is the growth
of a semitropical soil, alike tender and luxuriant, and a slight thing
may bruise, even snap asunder, its young tendrils."

When we turn from Australia to Canada, the same warning is in the air.
In the autumn of 1887, the remarks of Mr. Chamberlain at Belfast,
repudiating the principle of commercial union between Canada and the
United States, evoked strong protests from some leading newspapers in
the Dominion against the idea of England interfering if such a union
were agreed upon. The Toronto _Mail_ put the matter in a nutshell when
it observed--"Let there be no misunderstanding on this point. Canadians
have not ceased to love and venerate England, but have simply reached
that stage of development when their choice of what is best for
themselves, be it what it may, must prevail over all other
considerations." Should it be said that this is only an utterance of our
old friend "the irresponsible journalist," it may be added that the
practice of Canadian statesmen appears to be in accordance with the
principles of Canadian writers. This was certainly the opinion of our
own _Standard_, which, in an article in 1887 upon the increases in the
Canadian tariff directed against imported iron and steel, wrote--"The
obvious truth of the matter is that Canada has given no thought to our
interests at all, but only to her own.... Of course these Canadians are
a most 'loyal' people for all that, and if they can get us to lend them
our money they will flatter us and heap sweet-sounding phrases upon us,
till the most voracious appetite for such is cloyed to sickness. It is
only when we expect them to pay us our money back, or at least to put up
no barriers against our trade with them, that we find out how hollow
these phrases are. No federation of the empire can take place under any
guise while its leading colonies, which love us so exceedingly, strive
their utmost to injure our trade.... Why should we waste a drop of our
blood or spend a shilling of our means to shelter countries whose
selfishness is so great that they never give a thought to any interest
of ours? That is the question the Protectionist colonies are forcing
Englishmen to ask themselves, and it is as well that it should be
bluntly put to them now."

Cape Colony is as ready as Australia or Canada to resent the least
interference from the mother country. Sir Gordon Sprigg, its Premier,
referring at a public meeting late in 1887 to a Bill which the Imperial
Ministry had been asked to disallow, observed that, if it should be
disallowed, it was not a question of this particular Bill, but whether
the colony was to have a free government, or whether necessary
legislation in South Africa was to be checked by irresponsible persons
at home, and they were to go back to the old Constitution, and be
governed by a people six thousand miles away, knowing little of the
requirements of the inhabitants of the Cape.

Therefore, we have to face a growing opinion among the self-governing
colonies that they will allow England no controlling voice in their
internal affairs; and the question will present itself to many
Englishmen whether it is right that we should be saddled with the
responsibility of defending colonies which resent any interference, and
use their tariffs to lessen our trade. As long as they require help we
are bound in honour to give it; but when they demand, as at some time
they will demand, separation, the conviction they are now impressing
upon us that they can do without England, will materially strengthen the
desire to say to them, "Go in peace."

Even if such a consideration did not exist, one might hope that England
would never repeat the enterprise once attempted against what are now
the United States, and try to crush a growing nation of our own children
when wishing to take its own place in the economy of the world. Some
will answer that all danger of such a contingency would be avoided by
the adoption of a sound plan of imperial federation; but where is that
sound plan to be looked for? Even the most ardent advocates of the
principle do not venture upon a plan. They are content to talk of
sympathy rather than develop a system; but sympathy does not go far when
practical considerations are concerned. It may be argued that sympathy
went a long way when a detachment from New South Wales assisted our
military operations in the Soudan; but the experiment was a dangerous
one which ought not to be often repeated. Franklin in his autobiography
tells us that it was the defeat of Braddock's force which first taught
the American colonists that it was possible to hope for independence;
and the lesson needs remembering.

What those who advocate imperial federation have to prove is that it is
practicable to persuade each portion of this vast empire to pay and to
fight for every other portion. As long as England does both the paying
and the fighting, things may go smoothly. But if England went to war
with France over the New Hebrides, in order to protect the interests of
Australia, what would Newfoundland say on being asked to share the
bill? Similarly, if England engaged France over the bait question, so as
to preserve the fishing trade of Newfoundland, how would Australia like
to be taxed for the fray? And if we fought the United States on the
fisheries dispute in order to please Canada, does any one imagine that
Australia or Cape Colony would agree to additional imposts for the
lessening of our National Debt? It is when considerations like these are
discussed that imperial federation appears a pleasing dream rather than
a probable reality.

And, therefore, when we discuss our future dealings with the colonies,
we ought to know how far we intend to go. As long as they remain with
us, we ought to do our utmost to preserve the most friendly relations;
but, having given them self-government, we ought to impress upon them
the necessity for self-preservation. And if, when they can not only rule
but protect themselves, they should ask to be freed from even the
nominal allegiance to the English Crown which is all they now give, they
should be suffered to go, in the hope and belief that they would


Though we have been discussing at this length our foreign and colonial
relations, we must never forget that there is a "condition of England
question" which claims the closest attention. The politics of the future
will be largely coloured by considerations arising from our social
developments; and it is important to decide whether the State ought to
attempt to solve social problems, and how far it ought to interfere in
the relations between man and man.

There is just now so much talk about Socialism that it is desirable to
examine the principles which underlie State-interference with private
affairs. Those who like to divide men into strictly defined parties are
accustomed to describe their fellows as Socialists and Individualists;
and, although there is no Socialist who would prevent all liberty of
personal action, and no Individualist who would protest against every
form of State-interference, the distinction is fair enough if it be
understood that the Socialist believes that the State should do as much
as possible, and the Individualist that it should do as little as
possible, for those who dwell within its limits.

The view of the former is concisely stated in the programme of the
Social Democratic Federation, in which are urged the immediate
compulsory construction of healthy artisans' and agricultural labourers'
dwellings, free compulsory education for all classes, with at least one
wholesome meal a day in each school, an eight hours' working day,
cumulative taxation upon all incomes above a fixed minimum, State
appropriation of railways with or without compensation, the
establishment of national banks absorbing all others, rapid extinction
of the National Debt, nationalization of the land, and organization of
agricultural and industrial armies under State control on co-operative
principles. These are merely claimed to be palliative measures, which
should be followed by others more drastic; but they suffice to show the
present-day Socialistic idea.

Against this extreme Socialist view must be set the extreme
Individualist, which has been expressed by Mr. Spencer, who says--"There
is reason to believe that the ultimate political condition must be one
in which personal freedom is the greatest possible, and governmental
power the least possible; that, namely, in which the freedom of each has
no limit but the like freedom of all; while the sole governmental duty
is the maintenance of this limit." And the main idea of this statement
had been anticipated in the remark, a couple of thousand years ago, by
one of the greatest of Greek philosophers--"The truth is that the State
in which the rulers are most reluctant to govern is the best and most
quietly governed, and the State in which they are most willing is the

The real question, of course, is not between any such extreme views, for
Mr. Spencer would not deny that the State sometimes must interfere, and
Mr. George would be the last to plead against the use of all individual
effort. But though the limits of State-interference are what we have to
determine, it is necessary first to consider whether the State should
interfere at all.

An obvious answer is that the State interferes already in many a social
problem, and that no one seriously proposes to do away with that
interference. But even those who would thus reply may not be aware of
the extent to which the State makes its influence felt in social
affairs. The administration of justice and the protection of the
commonwealth are necessarily, in all civilized communities, the affair
of the State. But beyond these limits, the ruling authority, whether
exercised through imperial or local officials, wanders at many a point.

The Poor-law is a striking instance of this fact, for it is a piece of
legislation the Socialistic tendency of which none can gainsay, the
State practically asserting that no one need starve, and providing food
and shelter, under certain conditions, for all who are unable, or even
unwilling, to work. The system of national education is another instance
of Socialistic legislation; it makes me pay towards the education of my
neighbour's child, not for any immediate benefit to myself, but for my
ultimate benefit as a citizen of an improved State. And the ruling
authority goes further even than compelling me to feed the poor and
educate the young, for it interferes, presumably for my good, with my
liberty in many a detail.

From birth to death the State, even under present conditions, steps in
at point after point to direct one's path. Within forty days of being
born I am compelled by the State to be registered; within three months I
am equally constrained to be vaccinated; from five years old to
thirteen, with certain limitations, I have to be sent to school; and,
should my parents be so sensible as to apprentice me to a trade, a fee
has to be paid to the State for the indentures. When I marry it is at a
State-licensed institution; when I die it is by a State-appointed
officer that my decease is certified. And in the interval, the State
prevents me from obtaining intoxicating liquor except from certain
individuals and within specified hours; it compels me, if I am a
house-owner, to effect my sanitary arrangements in a given way; and if I
am a house-holder, to keep my pavement free from snow. From the highest
details to the lowest, then, the State even now interferes; whether I
fail to have my child vaccinated or my chimney swept, it steps in; and
those who argue that Individualism is a theory so true that
State-interference should be abolished, have a number of fruits of that
State-interference to get rid of before they can claim the victory.

But probably even those who imagine that they are extreme Individualists
would not wish to remove from the Statute Book such specimens of
State-interference as are now upon it. If they did, the clearance would
indeed be great. For imagine what the effect would be if, in addition to
the other measures indicated, we got rid of all the enactments affecting
labour, and again allowed the employment of climbing boys as
chimney-sweeps, of women and small children in mines, of men and women
in white-lead works without precaution of any kind, of sailors in the
merchant service without the protection of lime-juice against scurvy and
of survey against sinking; picture what the population of our
manufacturing districts would by this time have become without the
protection afforded by the Factory Acts; remember what an improvement
has been made in the way of guarding dangerous machinery, owing to the
penalties inflicted upon careless owners by the Employers' Liability
Act; and then answer whether State-interference is necessarily a bad

Within the limits which experience has shown to be desirable, it is a
good thing; and it is no answer to this assumption that it has sometimes
failed to secure the object aimed at. As long as nothing in this world
is perfect, we cannot expect the action of the State to be; the only
test in every case is an average test. If such State-interference as we
see has on the whole done well, the balance must be struck in its
favour; and in human affairs a favourable balance is all we have a right
to anticipate.

The Individualistic ideal may be a good one, but it is the
Individualistic real we have to examine. And what would become of the
poor, the weak, and the helpless if the State stood aside from all
interference with the affairs of men? That the rich and the powerful
would grind them to powder in their struggles for more riches and
greater power. The days of universal brotherhood have never
existed--and, what is more, never will exist--and that State which
protects the weak against the strong and the poor against the rich is
the best worth striving for.

An ideal condition of society would be that in which every able-bodied
person would have to work for a living with body, brains, or both; but
birth and bullion play so large a part under present circumstances that,
while we may sigh for the ideal, we must recognize the real. And this
applies to all thinkers on our social affairs--to the extreme Socialist
as to the extreme Individualist. The mystery of life cannot be solved by
logic, and the pain, the poverty, and the crime which that mystery
involves dissipated by law.

It must constantly also be borne in mind that mankind is not governed
by material considerations alone, but is largely swayed by sentiment;
and any system which ignores this and treats men simply as calculating
machines is bound to fail. Thus it is that, while men accept the latest
doctrines of social science, they do not act upon them. They sympathize
with Mr. Spencer's account of an ideal State in which the governmental
power is the least possible, but they pay the education rate, support
compulsory vaccination, and express not the slightest wish to see
public-houses open all night. It is in this as in other theoretical
affairs--our minds agree, but our hearts arbitrate. A parent may accept
most thoroughly the doctrine of the survival of the fittest, but he will
strive his utmost to preserve life to a crippled or lunatic child. And a
trader may indicate assent when he hears that the employed ought to be
paid only the amount which would secure similar services in the labour
market; but, if he is even commonly honest in his dealings with his
fellows, he will not discharge an old servant because he can obtain
another for something less.

But no sooner do some men secure a fact than it begets a theory, and
truth thus becomes the father of many lies. It is well enough that every
one should strive to be independent of external help, but it is not
within the bounds of the possible that every one can be perfectly so;
and that being the case, the State, as the protector of all, is bound to
interfere. What has to be decided is the limit of such interference; and
although upon that point no precise line can be drawn, for as conditions
vary so must the limit change, discussion may serve to show that all the
truth lies in neither of the contending theories, but in a judicious use
of both.


To precisely limit the interference of the State in private affairs has
been urged to be impossible, for the boundaries of such interference are
ever changing, and will continue ever to change as the circumstances
vary. In some respects the State has more to say about our domestic
concerns, in others less, than it formerly had; but there never was a
time when it left us altogether alone, and there is never likely to be.

When people groan about "grandmotherly government," and talk hazily of
"good old times" when such was unknown, they speak with little knowledge
of the social history of England. They forget that there was a day when
under penalty men had to put out their fires at a given hour; that later
they were directed to dress in a fashion presumed to be becoming to
their several ranks; that at one period they had to profess Catholicism
under fear of the fagot, and at another Protestantism under penalty of
the rope; that in later days they had to go to church to escape being
fined, and even until this century had to take the Sacrament in order to
qualify for office; that in other times they were allowed to bury their
dead only in certain clothing; that a section of them had to give six
days in the year to the repair of the highways; and that in divers
further ways their individual liberty was fettered in a fashion which
would not now be tolerated for a day.

The State, in fact, has always claimed to be all-powerful, and has never
assigned set limits to its demands. It has asserted, and still asserts,
rights over that which is intangible, which it has not created, and
which in its origin is superhuman. If a man has used a stream for his
own purposes for a given period, the State secures him a right of use,
protecting him from interference in or providing him compensation for
that which neither he nor the State made or purchased. If another has a
window which is threatened with being darkened by a newer building
adjacent, the State steps in to assure him of the retention of his
"ancient light." And when people have for a series of years walked
without hindrance across land belonging to others, the State gives to
the commonalty a right of way, which, however seemingly intangible,
often seriously deteriorates the value of the property over which it is

In the gravest concerns of man as well as in those which merely affect
his comfort or his purse, the State intervenes. It used to assert by
means of the press-gang its right to seize men for service in war; and
it could at this day order a conscription which would compel all in the
prime of life to pass under the military yoke. It can and does direct
property to be seized for public purposes, upon compensation paid, from
an unwilling owner; and it can and does take out of our pockets a
proportion of our income, which proportion it has the power to largely
increase, in order to pay its way.

That which does all these things is for convenience called "the State,"
but in present circumstances it is really ourselves. The nation is
simply the aggregate of the citizens who compose it, and each one of
us--especially each possessor of a vote--is a distinct portion of the
State. The misfortune which attends upon the frequent use of the word is
that many persons seem to think that there is some mystic power called
"the State" or "the Government," which can dispense favours, spend
money, and do great things--all from within itself. But neither State
nor Government has any money save that which we give it, and no power
except that which is accorded by the constituencies. And, therefore,
when people cry out for "the State" to do this or "the Government" to do
that, they should remember that _they_ are portions of the force they
beseech, and that if what is to be done costs money they will have to
pay their share; and this much it is highly useful to recollect when
appeals are more and more being made to the State for help.

Let us start, therefore, with the conviction that the State, which is
simply ourselves and others like us, has no power beyond what the people
give it, and no money but what the people pay; that it has throughout
our history attempted to solve social problems, and is doing so still;
and that it is as sure as anything human can be that if it did not
interfere in certain cases to aid the struggling, to put a curb upon the
tyrannous, and to regulate divers specified affairs, the poor and the
helpless would be the principal sufferers, and greed of gain and lust of
power would be in the ascendant.

But it would be easy to push this interference too far. Admitted that
the State has done certain things for us, and, in the main, done them
well, this affords no argument that it should do everything in the hope
that equal success would follow. There is an assumption dear to pedants
and schoolboys that because one does _this_ he is bound to do _that_,
but neither our daily lives nor our State concerns are or ought to be so
governed. They are largely regulated by circumstances, with the idea of
doing the best possible under existing conditions. For there is no
infallible scheme of government or of society, and the system must be
made to suit the people and not the people to suit the system.

And although the State, in certain departments of its interference, has
done well, it has not brilliantly succeeded where it has entered into
competition with private enterprise. Just as public companies are worked
at a greater cost than the same concerns in the hands of individual
proprietors, so Government enterprises are always highly expensive and
often disastrous failures. It did not need the recent revelations
concerning the waste, the jobbery, and the wanton extravagance of
certain of our departments to inform those who knew anything of the
public offices or the Government dockyards, that such things were the
customary results of the system. Stroll through a private dockyard and
then through a public one; visit a large mercantile office and then a
Government department in Whitehall; and decide whether the State is a
model master. It may be said that it is simply the system that is to
blame, but surely the universality of evil result from the same cause
should teach a lesson.

There may be asserted the possible exception of the Post-office to the
charge that the State fails where it competes with private enterprise;
and no one would deny that that department does good work, and that, if
all others were like it, there would be less reason to complain. But it
must not be forgotten that the Post-office, as far as the main portion
of its business--letter-carrying--is concerned, does not compete with
private enterprise, for it possesses by law the monopoly of the work;
and that the cheapness of postage, upon which it prides itself, is
largely secured by making the people of London pay at least twice as
much as they would if competition existed for the letters they send
among themselves, in order that they and others may, for the same money,
forward letters to Perth or Penzance. As to the Government monopoly of
the telegraphs, the result, while beneficial in a certain degree, has
had this effect--it has partially strangled the telephone system; and
that will hardly be claimed as a triumph.

Any suggestion, therefore, for making the State interfere still further
with private enterprise ought to be most carefully weighed. The question
really is whether it has not already done as much in this direction as
it ought, and whether, generally speaking, the limits now laid down are
not sufficiently broad.

What it does is this: it undertakes by means of an army and navy our
external defence; secures by the police our internal safety; makes
provision by which no person need starve; enforces upon all a certain
amount of education; and enjoins a set of sanitary regulations for the
protection of the community from infectious or contagious disease. These
are the main items of its work, but beyond them it provides the means of
communication by post and telegraph; fixes in certain degree the fares
on railways and the price of gas; encourages thrift by the institution
of savings banks; and gives us all an opportunity for religious exercise
by the provision of an Established Church.

The objectionable part of this is that which directly interferes with
personal opinion or private enterprise. The noble saying of
Cromwell--"The State, in choosing men to serve it, takes no notice of
their opinions; if they be willing faithfully to serve it, that
satisfies"--spoken before its time, as even some of the Protector's
friends may have considered, must now be extended to the contention that
the State has no concern whatever with the opinions of its citizens, and
that it ought not to endow any sect at the expense of the rest.
Concerning the competition with private enterprise, the State, in
providing a system of national education and a postal and telegraph
service, has gone to the verge of what it should do in such a direction.

While, therefore, the State should not abandon any function it now
exercises, the severest caution ought to be used before another is
undertaken. All attempts of the ruling power to interfere too closely
with the private concerns of men--as witness the sumptuary laws and
those against usury--have defeated themselves, and it is not for us to
revive systems of interference which, even in the Middle Ages, broke
down. It is no answer that some things are going so badly that
State-interference may be considered absolutely necessary, and that it
is merely the extremity of nervousness that hinders the experiment being
tried. Caution is not cowardice, and no man is called upon to be
foolhardy to prove his freedom from fear.

When it is said that, in certain directions, matters have come to such a
pass that the State must more actively interfere, let us note that
extremes meet upon this as upon so many other matters; for the cry that
"the country is going to the dogs" is nowadays raised as lustily by some
friends of the working man as ever it has been by the retired colonels
and superannuated admirals whose exclusive possession it was so long.
And the remedy suggested is that the State should do this, that, and the
other, with an utter ignoring of the fact, which all history proves,
that the creation of an additional army of officials would strangle
enterprise and stifle invention. Thus from the general, it will be
necessary to go to the particular, and to ask how far the proposed
remedy would be effectual. The principle here argued is that the State
should concern itself simply with external defence, internal safety,
the protection of those unable to guard themselves, and the undertaking
of such work for the general good as cannot be better done by private
enterprise; and this principle holds good against many a nostrum now put
forward as an infallible remedy for social ills.


Among the many social questions which the pressure of circumstances may
soon make political is that of the State regulation of the hours of
labour. The president of the Trades Union Congress for 1887 advocated,
for instance, the passing of an Eight Hours Bill; and it is desirable to
consider whether this would in any respect be a step in a right

The argument for such a measure appears in principle to be this: that
the classes dependent upon manual labour for their livelihood have too
many hands for the work there is to do; that those who do get work toil
too long; and that both evils would be remedied by restricting the hours
of labour, more men thus finding employment and all working well within
their strength.

Against these points may be set others: that England has already been
severely affected by competition with countries where the hours are
longer and the pay less; that any further restriction of hours without a
corresponding reduction of pay would be ruinous to our trade; and that
it is highly probable that the majority of workmen would prefer to
labour for nine hours at their present wages than for eight hours at
less. The last contention, of course, might be answered by an enactment
fixing not only the hours to be worked but the wages to be paid. If this
is wished for, it should be clearly put; but before any step is taken
towards either such measure, several points concerning each, which now
appear more than doubtful, should be made clear.

A fallacy underlying much of the contention in favour of any such
enactment is the idea that the community is divided into two distinct
classes--the producing and the consuming. As a fact, there are no
producers who do not consume, though there are some consumers who do not
produce. But is even that an unmixed evil? There is a further fallacy
which arbitrarily divides us into capitalists and labourers; but every
man who can purchase the result of another's labour is a capitalist, and
that much-denounced person will never be got rid of as long as it is
easier to buy than to make.

A third class which secures the condemnation of many is "the
middle-man." It is easy to denounce him, but he is a necessity at once
of commerce and of comfort. If one wants some coffee at breakfast, he
cannot go to Java for the berry, the West Indies for the sugar, the
dairy-farm for the milk, and the Potteries for the cup from which to
drink. So far from the middle-man unduly increasing the price of those
articles, he lessens it by dealing in bulk with what it would pay
neither the producer nor the purchaser to deal with in small quantities;
and not only lessens the price but, in regard to the commodities of a
distant land, renders it practically possible for us to have them at

It is equally useless to rail at competition as if it were inherently
evil, for there will be competition as long as men exist to struggle for
supremacy. And competition keeps the world alive, as the tide prevents
the sea from stagnating. Occasionally the waves break their bounds, and
loss and tribulation result; but the power for good must not be ignored,
because the power for evil is sometimes prominent.

To talk of the working classes as if they thought and acted in a body is
another delusion. Not only this. The frequent assumption that somebody
or other can speak on behalf of "the people" is a mistake. When it is
done, one is entitled to ask what the phrase means? "The people" are the
whole body of the population, and no one section, even if a majority has
a right to exclusively claim the title. In legislating, regard must be
had to the interests of all and not to those of a part, however
numerous; and this brings us straight to the question of interfering by
enactment with the price or the amount of labour.

It is curious to note that the demand which is now being raised by some
Trade Unionists on behalf of labour is similar in principle to that
which was used for centuries by the propertied classes against labour.
The Statute of Labourers, passed in the reign of Edward III., fixed
wages in most precise fashion, settling that of a master mason, for
instance, at fourpence and of journeymen masons at threepence a day. And
as lately as only eight years after George III. came to the throne, all
master tailors in London and for five miles round were forbidden under
heavy penalties from giving, and their workmen from accepting, more than
2s. 7½d. a day--except in the case of a general mourning. Subsequently,
statesmen grew more wise, and, in the closing years of last century, the
younger Pitt refused to support a bill to regulate the wages of
labourers in husbandry. But it is singular that, whereas Adam Smith
could say that "whenever the Legislature attempts to regulate the
difference between masters and their workmen, its counsellors are always
the masters," to-day it is the workmen who promise to become so.

If it be replied that it is State interference with the hours alone and
not with the wages that is demanded, it may be submitted that if the one
is done it will be a hardship to the worker rather than a boon if the
other be not attempted. For, if a man, by working nine hours a day,
could earn, say, 27s. a week, it is obvious that for eight hours a day
he would not earn more in the same period than 24s., unless Parliament
insisted that he should receive the higher sum for the less work. But is
Parliament likely to do anything of the kind; if it did do it, would it
be found to be practicable; and, if it were found to be practicable,
would it be just?

Parliament is not likely to do anything of the kind, because the
experience of centuries has taught us that it is impossible to fix wages
by statute. It was tried over and over again, first by enactments
applying to the whole country, and then by regulations for each county,
settled by the local justices of the peace; but, though the experiment
was backed by all the forces of law, it broke down so utterly that in
time it had to be got rid of.

Even if the return could be secured of a majority to Parliament pledged
to the proposal, would it be likely to be any more practicable to-day
than it was in olden times? We are now an open market for the world. If
hours were lessened and wages not reduced, imported articles from
foreign countries would become much cheaper than our own goods, and
would be bought to the detriment of English workers. Is it proposed by
the promoters of a compulsory eight-hours working day that we should
have Protection once more, and a prohibitory tariff placed upon all
manufactured goods brought from abroad in order to keep up the price of
English articles?

And, further, if it were practicable, would it be just? It would be
unjust to the employers, who would have to pay present prices for
lessened work; it would be unjust to the toilers, in that it would
prevent them from making a higher income by working more; and it would
be unjust to the consumers, in making them give a greater price for the
commodities they required. Those who propose the compulsory eight hours
would presumably wish wages to be maintained at the present standard; it
would hardly be a popular cry if it would have the effect of bringing
wages down.

If the Legislature is to interfere at all in this direction, the old
proposal had better be put forward at once--

     Eight hours' work, eight hours' play,
     Eight hours' sleep, and eight shillings a day.

This, at least, would have the merit of simplicity, and the more
comprehensive proposal is as just and as practicable as the limited one
now put forward. But even as to the limited one, it would be well to
know how far and to what persons it would be applied. If the answer is
"The working classes," the further question is "How are these to be
defined?" Sailors, for instance, are working men, but no one would
seriously propose to apply the eight hours' system to them. Granting
they form an extreme exception, how are we to deal with shopkeepers and
all whom they employ? The shopkeepers may be put aside as "capitalists"
or "middle men," and, therefore, undeserving of sympathy or
consideration; but those behind their counters are distinctly workers.
Are they all to be included in the eight hours' proposal? If so, either
one of two things: the shops will be shut sixteen hours out of the
twenty-four, or their keepers will have to employ half as many hands
again as they now do. "Good for the unemployed" may be replied, but who
would have to pay for the additional labour? The consumers, of course,
for no law is going to be passed keeping tea and sugar, hats and coats
at their present price; and it would be those that live by weekly wages
who would thereby suffer the most. And if, in order to obviate such
consequences, all who work in shops were to be excluded from the
benefits of an Eight Hours Act, it would be grossly unjust that tens of
thousands of toilers, as much entitled to consideration as those
employed in any factory or mill, should be kept at work in order to
minister to the convenience of their fellows, set free from a portion of
their labour by the action of Parliament.

And this leads to a consideration of the proposal that all shops, with
certain limited exceptions, shall be closed at a given hour. For the
general reasons applicable to other employments, any such proposition
ought to be strongly opposed. It would be a grievous hardship to the
smaller tradesmen, with many of whom the best chance of making a living
is after the great establishments have closed, and an intolerable
nuisance to the working classes who can only shop at what a legislator
might consider a late hour. If attempted to be put in operation, it
would necessitate the creation of an army of informers and inspectors to
see that it was not evaded, and it would create an amount of annoyance
to honest and hard-working traders for which no expected benefits from
it could compensate. The small tradesman, threatened by the co-operative
society on the one side and the "monster emporium" on the other, has
enough to do to live, without being harassed by a law which he would be
tempted constantly to evade, and which, if not evaded, might prove his

Much the same argument may be used concerning a point which, if the
State interferes with the hours of labour, is certain to be raised, for
it would have to be plainly stated whether all men would be forbidden
under penalty to work overtime. If any such proposal is to be made, how
is it to be carried out? Are we to have an additional body of
inspectors, prying into every man's house to see whether extra work was
being done; or is the hateful system of "the common informer" to be
revived for the special benefit of working men?

The argument is not weakened by the fact that, in various directions,
not only has the Legislature passed enactments interfering with the
amount and the price of labour, but that some of these continue in
active operation. By means of the Factory Acts, for instance, it has
directly intervened for the protection of women and children, and in so
doing has been acting within that part of its duty which demands that it
shall stand between the unprotected and overwhelming power. But there is
no strict parallel between the case of the adult males of the working
classes and that of those women and children who have to toil. The
former have again and again shown their power of preserving their own
interests by combination; and the evils of State interference where it
can possibly be avoided appear sufficient to induce the belief that it
is to combination that the working classes ought still to trust. If they
cannot by this means put down overtime--and as yet they have not been
able to do so--they cannot expect their countrymen to raise prices and
run the risk of commercial ruin by doing for them what they ought to be
able to do for themselves.


Having dealt with the manner in which the State interferes with labour,
which to most is their only property, it is necessary to consider how it
deals with capital, which is the fruit of labour, and how it thus
interferes with some of what are termed "the rights of property."

This has been done in order to avoid greater ills, as in the case of the
fixing of fair rents by judicial courts in Ireland and certain districts
of the Highlands of Scotland; in others to prevent endless dispute and
loss, as in the disposal, in specified proportions, of the personal
property of those who die without a will; in a further series to prevent
a virtual monopoly from becoming tyrannous, as in the compulsion of
railway companies to run certain third-class trains, and not to charge
beyond a stated fare, or the restriction of the profits of gas companies
to 10 per cent. unless a specified reduction in price is made to the
consumers; in others, yet, for the supposed advantage of a class, as in
the custom of primogeniture, which gives all real property (that is,
land) to the eldest son of a father who dies intestate; and, in others,
for the presumed benefit of the community, at the expense of individual
efforts, as in the limitation of the duration of patents for inventions
to seven, fourteen, or twenty-one years, and of copyright in books to
forty-two years from the date of publication, or for the author's life
and seven years after, whichever of these terms may be the longer.

As to the first three points--the fixing of fair rents in Ireland and
the Highlands, the due division of the personal property of those who
die without a will, and the limitation of the power of virtual
monopolies--there is no need at this day to argue, for all are
irrevocable. As to the fourth, there is no practical disagreement among
leading politicians on both sides regarding the desirability of doing
away with the custom of primogeniture, as enforced by law. But as to the
fifth, it may be submitted that the State goes too far or not far

Our legislators have been exceedingly tender towards every description
of property except that created by certain of the highest phases of
brain-power. If a man invents a machine which may save millions to the
community, he loses all specific property in his invention after a given
period of years; if he writes a book which may elevate mankind, his
family are similarly condemned after a certain period to forfeit all
claim upon the fruits of his labour. But if, instead of putting his
brain to such uses, he merely makes a machine or lends a book for hire,
there is no law to step in and deprive him of the profits if either
machine or book lasts a century.

Why this difference? The theory appears to be that the community is
entitled to profit after a certain period by the brains of its members,
when used in the creative or inventive direction; but if the claim be
good, has not the State an equal right to profit after a similar period
by the brains of its members when used in trading ways? Why should
brains exercised in one direction be handicapped in comparison with
those exercised in another? The answer may be that the inventor or
author employs no capital, that the trader does, and that, therefore,
whatever profit the former is allowed to make is a profit upon nothing,
while in the latter case the profit is directly upon the capital
employed, which ought not to be interfered with.

But this is to adopt the fallacy that capital is necessarily the same
thing as money. The capital of an inventor or an author is his brains,
which he expends upon his invention or his book; and the community has
exactly the same right to deprive the widow and the orphan of a fortune
because it was made by a lucky speculation, for instance, forty-two
years before, as of their property in a book because it was published
that length of time previous. It is true that the State does not fully
exercise this right, and protects the family of the mere money-maker
while it despoils that of the brain-worker; but the principle is one
which contains larger possibilities than the former have yet realized.

The argument that it is for the benefit of the community that only a
certain amount of time should be given to the inventor or the author in
which to make a profit is dangerous, because it can so easily be applied
to other species of property. Why not to the body of the machine as well
as to its principle, why not to the pages of the book as well as to what
they contain? And even if it is never pushed so far, there are certain
species of property now protected by the law which will not improbably
be attacked upon this same ground of "the benefit of the community"
before very long; and it is difficult to see how they can be defended as
long as the statutes affecting copyright and patents exist.

The most striking of such kinds of property is that in minerals. A man
buys an estate for farming, grazing, or, it may be, purposes of
pleasure. Some time afterwards minerals are found beneath it, and,
though he has neither placed them there nor may assist to get them out,
he is privileged to charge "mining royalties" upon every ton that is
raised as long as there is any to be obtained. Why should not his power
in this direction be limited? He takes everything and gives nothing; the
author or inventor gives everything and takes little. It would be as
much for "the benefit of the community" to have the former's minerals
after a given period, with no reward to himself, as to have the latter's
books or machines. Why, then, should bullion be carefully protected and
brains despoiled? If it be replied that when a man has bought a plot of
ground it is his to the centre of the earth at one side and to the sky
on the other, may it not be submitted that the former portion of the
right ought to be restricted, while the latter certainly does not exist,
for the law steps in at point after point to control his use of the land
between the surface and the sky?

The State, therefore, interferes with property, as it is, in a most
material degree: instances of such interference have been scattered
through these pages, and the tendency of the future is likely to be
towards more than less interference. And there is hardly any that can be
proposed, even of the extremest kind, for which it would not be possible
to find a precedent.


The State thus interfering with both capital and labour, it is sometimes
contended that its duties ought to be so extended as to find food and
work for all. There is a captivating sound about the proposition which
has commended it to many without a due weighing of the probable results.
It is a matter upon which a hasty generalization, though springing from
the purest motives, may do vast harm, and is one, therefore, which all
ought most carefully to consider before expressing an opinion upon it.

Cardinal Manning, in an article published in the winter of 1887, carried
the theory of the public duty of feeding the hungry to its extremest
point in these words--"All men are bound by natural obligations, if they
can, to feed the hungry. But it may be said that granting the obligation
in the giver does not prove a right in the receiver. To which I answer
that the obligation to feed the hungry springs from the natural right of
every man to life, and to the food necessary for the sustenance of life.
So strict is this natural right that it prevails over all positive laws
of property. Necessity has no law, and a starving man has a natural
right to his neighbour's bread."

With all deference, the last sentence must be stated to be false, both
in logic and morals. If it were true, it would justify immediate raids
by the starving upon the nearest baker's shop, and one wonders what the
Cardinal would say if he happened to be the baker. Granting that every
one has a right to live, there is no equivalent right to live at other
people's expense. It is true that, by our Poor Law, a system has been
created by which no one need starve, but that does not justify the theft
of bread. There is a preliminary question to be put even in the case of
the starving, and that is as to why they are in that condition. If it be
because they have been idle, or drunken, or generally worthless, as in
many cases it is, the mere fact that they are starving does not entitle
them to sack a baker's shop. They will be fed by the Poor Law if they
take the necessary steps, but if they are able-bodied they will have to
work for their food; and as most human beings have to do the same, where
is the hardship?

It will be replied by some that the Poor Law works harshly towards the
deserving poor, but that is an argument for amendment, not for abolition
or indiscriminate extension. And if it be further said that the food
supplied is meagre and the lodgings rough, it must be remembered that
the poor-rate is paid by a very large number whose food is no more
plentiful and whose lodgings are certainly worse. As for the argument
that some people starve rather than "enter the house," it is not easy to
see what relief could be given by the State without infringing that

But there is a question most intimately affecting this matter which,
though of the highest importance, cannot be discussed here as it
deserves, and that is the question of population, concerning which Mill
truly says, "Every one has a right to live. We will suppose this
granted. But no one has a right to bring creatures into life, to be
supported by other people. Whoever means to stand upon the first of
these rights must renounce all pretension to the last. If a man cannot
support even himself unless others help him, those others are entitled
to say that they do not also undertake the support of any offspring
which it is physically possible for him to summon into the world.... It
would be possible for the State to guarantee employment at ample wages
to all who are born. But if it does this, it is bound in
self-protection, and for the sake of every purpose for which government
exists, to provide that no person shall be born without its consent....
It cannot, with impunity, take the feeding upon itself and leave the
multiplying free."

And so, while the Poor Law ought to be carried out in the humanest and
most liberal fashion compatible with the interests of the poor who pay
the rates as well as the poor who benefit by them, any movement for so
extending it as to bring more persons under its operation, and thus to
further pauperize the community, would be dangerous. We had enough of
that under the system swept away by the Act of 1834, the hideous
demoralization caused by which should be studied to-day by those who are
eager for a freer dispensation of State relief.

The arguments against the State going further than at present in the
direction of giving food to all are equally good as against providing
work for all. Relief works have ever been centres of corruption and
waste of the worst type, while "national workshops" have not been so
brilliant a success in the form of dockyards and arsenals as to warrant
an extension of the system to all the trades we practise.

The theory that the State is bound to provide work for all was never
more concisely put than in the original draft of the French Republican
Constitution after the Revolution of 1848, the seventh article of which
ran thus: "The right of labour is the right which every man has to live
by his labour. It is the duty of Society, through the channels of
production and other means at its command, hereafter to be organized, to
provide work for such able-bodied men as cannot find it for themselves."
But even a Government imbued with Socialistic tendencies found this to
be much too strong, and modified it thus: "It is the duty of Society by
fraternal assistance to protect the lives of necessitous citizens,
either by finding them work as far as possible, or by providing for
those who are incapacitated for work and who have no families to support
them." Yet the modified form was not found to work well in actual
practice, and the history of the failure of the French National
Workshops of 1848 remains as an eloquent testimony to the fact that the
State ought to interfere as little as possible with industrial
enterprises and private concerns.


Even the considerations already put forward do not exhaust the social
question, for only in the briefest fashion have been touched the
important points which that question involves. And there is yet left to
be discussed the attitude which ought to be adopted towards that body of
opinions upon public affairs vaguely known as "Socialism."

The attitude of some is simply denunciatory, for there is a class of
politician which always imputes base motives to those with whom it
disagrees, and which is so proficient in abuse that it apparently thinks
it a waste of time to argue. That class has been painfully in evidence
in regard to the Socialists. It is considered that--so true is the old
proverb that if you give a dog a bad name you may as well hang
him--nothing more need be done respecting a new and therefore unpopular
doctrine than to so label it as to ensure its repudiation by honest but
unthinking men. And thus the name "Socialist" is applied as equivalent
to thief; and men utterly ignorant of what the words imply link
Socialist to Nihilist, Communist to Anarchist, as if each were equal to
each, and all therefore equal to one another.

This has been the favourite device of the opponents of all new
doctrines, political or social, philosophical or religious. To be
ridiculed, to be persecuted, even to be slain has been the fate of the
would-be elevators of their kind, as the roll of fame, which includes
the names of Socrates and Galileo, Luther and Savonarola, Voltaire and
Roger Bacon, Mazzini and Darwin will testify. The Socialists now are
hardly called worse names than were applied to geologists fifty years
ago, and to Evolutionists but the other day. Atheists, of course, they
have been named, for Atheist is the epithet customarily applied by
ignorant and bigoted men, who have made God in their own image, to those
more zealous in endeavouring to raise humanity.

Against any such method of dealing with public questions all fair-minded
men should strongly, and without ceasing, protest. And as Socialism is
spreading among the masses, it is in the highest degree important that
the fact should be studied calmly and without prejudice. Hard words
break no bones, and contumely tends to strengthen any cause in which
there is an atom of good.

Socialism, therefore, should be dealt with in an inquiring and not an
abusive spirit, and with the determination to accept from it whatever of
good to the community we may find it to contain. There is another method
which Prince Bismarck has been trying for years, and with the signal
lack of success that always comes from trying to stamp out an opinion by
force of law. In presumed defence of "society" and "order"--two
excellent things, but often the excuse for despots to perpetrate cruel
injustice upon the liberty-loving and the poor--he has secured law after
law for the purpose of "putting down Socialism;" men have been torn from
their homes because of their opinions; the right of public meeting has
been placed at the mercy of the police; the press has been gagged, and
every means taken to stamp out a body of opinions some of which even the
German Chancellor himself cannot help sharing. And with what result?
That, after ten years of this wretched work, the Socialists--though
prevented from public meeting, speaking, or writing--are multiplying in
Germany in an ever-growing proportion; that in Berlin, the capital of
the empire, they number tens of thousands of electors as their
adherents; and that Prince Bismarck is ever asking for extended powers
to crush a force which, in its free state, as yielding to the touch as
water, is mighty when compressed.

With an even greater power of police, and no restriction at all from the
laws, the Czar has failed as signally to extirpate Nihilism. Ideas
cannot be killed in this fashion, though their holders can be and are
rendered more dangerous. Mill certainly considered that "the dictum
that truth always triumphs over persecution is one of those pleasant
falsehoods which men repeat after one another till they pass into
commonplaces, but which all experience refutes;" and he was of opinion
that "no reasonable person can doubt that Christianity might have been
extirpated in the Roman Empire." But it may be submitted that, when
arguing about the persecution of ideas to-day, we must not forget the
immense additional force given to them by means of printing. The secret
presses of Germany and Russia "spread the light;" and there is nothing
so certain as that the very charm which comes from the possession of
that which is prohibited aids in strengthening a movement which is under
the ban of the law.

But, it may be said, the efforts of those who would attempt to put down
Socialism are not to be considered in the light of political
persecution, and are not to be compared with religious persecution, for
they are directed solely to the suppression of "anti-social" doctrines,
the adoption of which would be fatal not only to States as they now
exist, but to society itself. A more precise definition must be asked,
however, of the doctrines thus described. Though opposed to an eight
hours' bill, to land nationalization, and to national workshops, leading
points in the Socialist programme, I cannot conceive how, if they were
all adopted within the next year, such dire results could from them

Every new body of doctrine which gives hope to the masses and threatens
the domination of the privileged among men has been described with equal
virulence by its antagonists. Read the charges upon which Christians
were condemned under the Roman Empire; read those brought against Luther
and his co-reformers when first Protestantism threatened the Church of
Rome; remember those thrown at the Puritans when they tried to secure
for Englishmen liberty of thought and action. They were in every case
that the doctrines were anti-social; that if adopted they would wreck
the then condition of society; and that they were in the highest degree
perilous to the State. For it is the fate of all preachers of a new
doctrine to be treated as rogues until their persecutors are proved to
be fools.

Admittedly there are some theories advanced by men calling themselves
Socialists which, if adopted, would seriously conflict with the existing
order of society; but to condemn every proposal put forward as Socialist
because there are Socialists who have said strange, and sometimes
stupid, things would be monstrous. It is a controversial trick of a
peculiarly poor order to attempt to hold the leaders of any movement
responsible for the hare-brained ideas of some of their followers. Not
to repudiate them is not to signify agreement, or our party leaders
would possess some of the most extravagant doctrines ever conceived by

Besides, one must always sever the conventional beliefs from the real.
No sensible person considers Christianity untrue because even the
churches would regard him as a madman who literally adopted the
injunction to sell all that he had to give to the poor. In any body of
doctrines there are always some which its adherents hold, but do not
stand by.

And, therefore, charity as well as common sense demands that the tall
talk on both sides--for there is not a great deal to choose between them
in this respect--should cease; but the trick is too easily learned to be
quickly dropped. The idea of the well-to-do that all would go smoothly
if it were not for "agitators" and "mob-orators" is as absurd as the
contention of the Socialist that most of our ills are due to the
"profit-monger." Your "agitator" or your "mob-orator" would have not the
least influence if he did not voice the feelings, the longings, and the
hopes of his silent friends. And as for the "profit-monger," is not the
workman who is better off than the poorest among his fellows deserving
the name?

Let us have fair play all round to ideas as well as to men. If, in the
supposed interests of society, every movement designed to upraise the
poor is suppressed, the tendency must be to force men towards Anarchism
and Nihilism, by causing them to wish to destroy that order of things
which to them acts so unjustly. Despair is a fatal counsellor, and those
who would identify the welfare of the State with that of the mere
money-getter are its frequent cause. It is easier to raise the devil
than to lay him, and appeals to the merely animal instinct in
man--whether to protect his own property or to take that of others,
with a complete ignoring of his duties as well as his rights--must end
in ruin and shame.

"There is among the English working classes," once observed Sir Robert
Peel, "too much suffering and too much perplexity. It is a disgrace and
a danger to our civilization. It is absolutely necessary that we should
render the condition of the manual labourer less hard and less
precarious. We cannot do everything, but something may be effected, and
something ought to be done." Though nearly forty years have passed since
that statesman's death, we are still groping blindly for the something
which ought to be done for the poor; and such strength as Socialism
possesses is derived from the general spread of the feeling which Peel
put into words, and which no politician--much more no statesman--can
afford to neglect.

And that is why the politics of the future will be largely affected by
the social questions now coming to the front. From the opinions of many
who are pressing them forward one may profoundly differ, but justice
demands that all they advance should be examined without prejudice, and
with the determination to accept that which is good, from whatever
quarter it may come.


While the social problem, however, is developing, we have the political
problem to face; and, therefore, the immediate programme of the Liberal
party now demands consideration. In some detail have been presented the
arguments from a Liberal point upon all the great public questions which
are either ripe or ripening for settlement. It has not been possible to
go minutely into every point involved; a broad outline of each subject
has had to suffice; but it may be trusted that each has been
sufficiently explained for us now to consider which should occupy the
forefront in the Liberal platform.

Mr. Bright observed, in days not long since, when he was honoured by
every man in the party as one of its most trusted leaders, that he
disliked programmes. What he preferred, it was evident, was that when
some great question--such as the repeal of the Corn Laws or the
extension of the suffrage, with both of which his name will be ever
identified--should thrust itself to the front by force of circumstances,
it should be faced by the Liberal party and dealt with on its merits;
and what he opposed, it was equally evident, was the formulation of any
cut-and-dried programme, containing a number of points to be accepted as
a shibboleth by every man calling himself Liberal or Radical, and by its
hide-bound propensity tending to retard real progress.

The Irish question is one of those great matters which has thrust itself
to the front by force of circumstances, which should be faced by the
Liberal party and dealt with on its merits, and which, until it is so
faced and dealt with, will stand in the path of any real reforms. The
evil effects of the discontent of four millions of people at our very
doors are not to be got rid of by shutting our eyes to them; and the
intensification of those evil effects which is to-day going on is a
matter which must engage the attention of every Liberal.

But, out of dislike for any cut-and-dried programme of several measures
to be accepted wholesale and without question, the party must not be
allowed to drift into aimlessness. As long as it exists it must exist
for work, and its fruit must not be phrases but facts. Liberalism can
never return to the days when it munched the dry remainder biscuit of
worn-out Whiggery. A hide-bound programme may be a bad thing, but
nothing worse can be imagined than the string of airy nothings which
used to do duty for a policy among the latter-day Whigs. Take the
addresses issued by them at the general election of 1852 as an instance,
and which have been effectively summarized thus:--"They promised (in the
words of Sir James Graham) 'cautious but progressive reform,' and (in
those of Sir Charles Wood) 'well-advised but certain progress.' Lord
Palmerston said he trusted the new Liberal Government would answer 'the
just expectation of the country,' and Lord John Russell pledged it to
'rational and enlightened progress.'"

Now, in these days, we want something decidedly more definite than that,
and, if our leaders could offer us nothing better, we should have either
to find other leaders or abandon our aims. Happily we need do neither,
for the Liberal chiefs, with Mr. Gladstone at their head, are prepared
to advance with the needs of the times, and to advocate those measures
which the circumstances demand and their principles justify.

In the forefront of our efforts at this moment stands, and must continue
to stand until it is settled, the question of self-government for
Ireland. Stripped of all quarrel upon point of detail, the Liberal party
is pledged, while upholding the unity of the Empire and the supremacy of
the Imperial Parliament, to give the sister country a representative
body sitting in Dublin to deal with exclusively Irish affairs. The day
cannot be long delayed when an attempt must be made to place the local
government of Ireland upon a sounder and broader basis than at present.
When it arrives, the Liberal party has its idea ready. Details can be
compromised; the principle cannot be touched. For Liberals are convinced
that, by whatever name it may be called, and by whatever party it may be
introduced, Home Rule must come, and that, for the sake of all the
interests involved, Imperial and Irish, it will be in the highest degree
desirable to grant it frankly and fully, with due regard to the
interests concerned.

Linked with this point is another regarding Ireland upon which the
Liberal party will entertain not the smallest doubt. The Coercion Act
has been used for partisan purposes by dependent and often incompetent
magistrates, and it must be repealed. Upon this point there can be no
compromise. Every man hoping to be returned by Liberal votes at the next
election must pledge himself to the immediate, total, and unconditional
repeal of the Crimes Act of 1887.

The next item in the accepted Liberal programme is the disestablishment
of the Church in Wales, as well as of the Scottish Kirk. Each is a
purely domestic matter which ought to be settled according to the wishes
of the majority of the people affected. As to the wishes of Wales, no
one can have a doubt; and though the declaration of Scotland, through
its representatives, is not so emphatic, it is sufficiently clear for
Liberals to support the demand.

But, after all, these points touch only Ireland, Wales, and Scotland.
England is the largest portion of this kingdom, and its claims must not
be ignored. A great Parisian editor used to say that the description of
a woman run over on the Boulevards was of more interest to his readers
than that of a battle on the Nile. It would be well if politicians would
take this idea to heart. Little use is it to talk of the despotism
practised in Ireland, of the hardships endured by the crofters in
Scotland, and of the injustice done to the tithepayers in Wales, if we
are not prepared to apply the same principles to London as to Limerick,
to Chester as to Cardigan, and to Liverpool as to the Lews. The average
man will not be satisfied of the sincerity of those who keep their eyes
fixed upon distant places, and are full of sympathy for the oppressed
who are afar off, but can spare no time for the grievances existing at
their doors.

And as, therefore, if Liberalism is to be again in the ascendant in the
councils of the Empire, England must be won, it is well to emphasize the
contention that England will never be won by a party which ignores her
wants. Home Rule for Ireland, disestablishment for Scotland and Wales,
are good things, and they will have to be granted when our majority
comes; but what will that majority do for England?

Without attempting to lay down a programme, it may be said that there is
one English problem to which Liberalism will have at once to apply
itself, and that is the problem of the land. The time is past for
talking comfortable platitudes upon this matter, for we find that Tories
can do that as glibly as Liberals, and with the same lack of good
result. The very least that can be demanded--in addition to the
abolition of the custom of primogeniture and an extensive simplification
of the process of transfer--is a thorough reform of the laws affecting
settlement, the taxing of land at death in the same proportion as other
descriptions of property, the placing of the land tax upon a basis more
remunerative to the Exchequer, and a large measure of leasehold
enfranchisement. And when candidates talk in future of being in favour
of "land reform," they must be definitely pinned down as to their views
upon such points as these.

That Free Trade will remain a plank in the Liberal platform, not to be
dropped or tampered with, goes without saying. It is a point as much
beyond question as the existence of Parliament itself, and concerning it
as much cannot be observed as regarding the latter. For, while our trade
system must remain free, both Houses stand in need of reform. The Lords,
in Mr. John Morley's phrase, must be mended or ended, and the path of
legislative progress in the Commons made more smooth. The laws in every
way affecting the return of members to the latter likewise stand sorely
in need of reform, and that reform cannot be ignored by the Liberal

Further, Liberals are agreed that localities shall have greater power in
various directions, and upon the liquor traffic in especial, of
deciding upon their own affairs. The tendency of recent days has been to
take these out of the hands of those most intimately concerned, and to
vest supreme power in a body of Government clerks at Whitehall. That is
a tendency which must be reversed. We are advocating decentralization in
regard to Ireland; we are being led to advocate it in regard to Wales
and Scotland; England must similarly be benefited, and the red-tape of
Whitehall unwound from our purely local concerns.

Peace and Retrenchment must continue to be inscribed on the Liberal
banner as well as Reform. Preference for international arbitration over
war must distinguish our party; a determination to be as free as
possible from all entangling engagements with foreign powers must always
be with us. And there must ever be displayed a resolve to place the
Government service upon the same business-like and efficient basis as
private concerns, to get rid of the notion that it is work to be lightly
undertaken and highly paid, and to emphasize the contention that the
taxbearer shall have full value from every one of his servants for the
wages he pays.

Above all, the greatest care must be taken by every Liberal to
preserve--aye, and to extend--individual liberty. Men cannot dance in
fetters, and all enactments which unnecessarily hinder the development
of private enterprise, and all traditions which interfere with the
fullest enjoyment of the rights of speech and action, must be swept

While thus giving our attention to the more purely political questions
as they arise, Liberals must never forget that the poor we always have
with us. Ours is a gospel of hope for the oppressed; it must equally be
a gospel of hope for the hard-working. We want our working men to be
civil, not servile; our working women to use courtesy, and not a
curtsey. We wish to see the end of a system by which a bow is rewarded
with a blanket and a curtsey with coal. The man who too frequently bends
his back is likely to become permanently affected with a stoop, and the
old order of hat-touching, bowing, and scraping must disappear. We do
not deny that it is right that men should respect others, but it is
often forgotten that it is equally right that they should respect

In dealing with things social, as well as things political, we must
always remember that it is flesh and blood with which in the result we
have to deal. Some thinkers ignore sentiment, do not believe in
kindness, and treat men like machines, forgetting that even machines
require oil. It is not for philosophers with homes and armchairs and a
settled income to ask whether life is worth living; that question is for
the poor and the lowly and the down-trodden, to whom the struggle for
existence is not a matter for theorizing or moral-drawing, but is a
never-ending, heart-breaking, soul-destroying reality.

So, if Liberalism is to live, it must be liberal in fact as well as in
name. A Liberal who talks of equal rights on the platform and swears at
his servants at home, who waxes wroth against a national oppressor and
treats those poorer than himself like serfs, is as little deserving of
respect as a Liberal policy which solely considers the externals of
either liberty or life. A programme based upon such a policy must fail,
and deserves to fail; and if we are to have a platform at all, it must
be one upon which the rich man and the son of toil can stand side by


It is natural to ask how, when the Liberal programme has been framed, it
is to be attained. Measures no more come with wishing than winds with
whistling; and if our principles are to be put into practice, it will
only be by our joining those of similar mind.

Not every politician, even if his ideas be sound, is a practical man.
The disposition to insist that no bread is better than half a loaf is
one that commends itself to me neither in business nor in daily life,
but it is one upon which many a man of Liberal leanings acts, to the
detriment of the principles he professes to hold dear. Insistence upon
the one point to the exclusion of the ninety-nine, and readiness to join
enemies who disagree on the whole hundred rather than friends who
disagree on only the one, are qualities unpleasantly prominent in many
otherwise worthy men. It cannot too often be urged that politics, like
business or married life, can only be carried on by occasional
give-and-take. The partner who persists in always having his own way;
the husband who is ever asserting authority over his wife; and the
politician who will never yield an iota to his friends--all are alike
objectionable, and deserve no particle of consideration from those
around them.

A spurious independence is another hindrance in the path of progress.
Faith without works is occasionally worth commendation in public life;
but one must be certain that the faith is genuine, and for most
political "independence," that cannot be claimed. Diseased vanity,
disappointed ambition, and deliberate place-hunting have more to do with
that kind of thing than devotion to principle. "The fact is that
individualism is very often a mere cloak for selfishness; it is the name
with which pedants justify the pragmatic intolerance which will not
yield one jot of personal claim or unsatisfied vanity to secure the
triumph of the noblest cause and the highest principles." When Mr.
Chamberlain wrote those words he was undoubtedly right.

Whenever, therefore, one is called upon to admire some outburst of
independence which splits a political party or hinders the progress of a
cause, he should look very closely at the history of those concerned. He
should not forget that, just as there are people who are much too
independent to touch their hats for civility, though they would for a
sixpence, there are politicians who are far too spirited to stick to
their party but not to bid for place. Happily these latter seem never
able to avoid using certain stock phrases, which should put others on
their guard. When a man says he prefers country to party, or vaunts that
his motto is "measures not men," he lays himself open to just suspicion,
because he talks as political impostors have long been accustomed to
talk; when he proclaims his readiness to recognize the virtues of his
enemies, you may be certain that he will speedily show himself keenly
alive to the failings of his friends; and a politician never begins to
boast that he is a representative and not a delegate until he has ceased
to represent the opinions of those who sent him to Parliament.

More estimable than these, but still people who must not be allowed to
hamper the operations of the Liberal party, are the constitutional
pedant and the rigid doctrinaire. Nothing is more lamentable than the
endeavours of the former to prove by precedent that nothing ought to be
done in the nineteenth century differently to how it was done in the
seventeenth; and nothing more filled with the promise of disappointment
than the theorizings of the latter as to what measures would secure us a
perfect State.

It is with persons as well as with principles that we have to deal, and
in politics we must not despise the humblest instruments. History, like
the coral reef, is made grain by grain and day by day, and often by
agents as comparatively insignificant. The old idea that the people's
leaders must come from "the governing classes," or, better still, "the
governing families," does not harmonize with democratic institutions. As
to "the governing families" part of it, that may be brushed aside at
once as being as absurd in theory as it is untrue to all recent English
history; for who have been our most brilliant and successful statesmen
since the present fashion of constitutional government was established?
Who were Walpole, Pitt, Burke, Fox, Canning, Peel, Cobden, Gladstone,
and Disraeli? Even as this book is written the Tories in the House of
Commons are nominally led by Mr. Smith, and practically by Mr. Goschen.
The instinct of the people has taught them the best leaders, as it has
taught them the best principles.

A clear-headed working man is a better political counsellor than a
muddle-minded peer. There are plenty of working men who are not
clear-headed, as there are plenty of peers who are not muddled of mind;
but the instinct of the mass is far more likely to be sound than that of
the class. In the course of English history the masses have usually been
right and the classes wrong. The former have been less selfish, more
ready to redress injuries, and keener to oppose tyranny. And even where
the masses have been in the wrong, it has often been because their
instinctive sense of right has led them to sympathize with a man or a
cause, undeserving of regard, but apparently exposed to the persecutions
of the great.

Thus, in order to make the Liberal cause succeed, zeal must be combined
with unity and toleration with courage, and our energies must be so
concentrated by organization as to make them most effective when battle
is joined. For the private soldiers in the great army of progress, there
is no advice so sedulously to be rejected as that of Talleyrand, "Above
all, no zeal." If there is not within Liberals a burning desire to
forward their principles, they have no right to complain if those
principles stand still. A Liberal who is lukewarm is like a joint
half-cooked--of no practical service until possessed of more heat; and
it is the duty of every earnest man among us to keep the political oven
at baking point.

But with zeal there must be unity. Differences on details must not be
allowed to separate friends. There is not always a sufficiency of
tolerance displayed towards those who do not see eye to eye with the
others. Agreement in principle is the pass-key which should open to all
Liberals the door to unity with their brethren; divergence on detail
should be settled inside. "Take heed," said Cromwell, "of being sharp,
or too easily sharpened by others, against those to whom you can object
little but that they square not with you in every opinion concerning
matters of religion." To no modern Liberal can his principles be dearer
than was his religion to Cromwell, and the great champion of liberty's
words ought to be laid to heart by each one of us.

With all toleration, there must be no lack of courage. It is not asked
of most to make sacrifices in the Liberal cause, far less to become
martyrs in its behalf; but unless the martyr-spirit remains to the
party, ready for action should occasion arise, Liberalism will wither
into wastedness. But even courage will fail of its result without
concentration, for the undisciplined mass is no match for the
disciplined army. To succeed, there must be organization; and if
Liberals will not associate for common purposes they will deserve to be
beaten. All holders of progressive principles ought to attach themselves
to the Liberal Association of their own constituency; if there is a
Radical Club as well, they cannot do better than join it; for the more
links that exist between all sections of the party, the stronger will be
the bond uniting them. Personal likes or dislikes ought not to affect
men in the matter. A Liberal is not worthy the name who, because he is
not asked to the house of the president of the local association,
declines to join; and equally unworthy of it is he who, because he does
not ask the president of the Radical Club to his own house, objects to
put up for membership. Personal and social considerations of this kind
are out of place in politics, and a man's freedom from them may almost
be taken as a test of the reality of his Liberalism.

There are many ready to criticize those who do a party's work, but who
never lift a finger to assist their efforts. These are the beings who,
at election times, hinder the helpers by carpings, who are never slow to
assume a share of credit in case of victory, and are ever eager to throw
the blame upon others in event of defeat. Battles are not won by such as
these. Every Liberal to whom his principles are dear should show it by
joining with his fellows, striving his hardest in his own constituency,
and never ceasing to display in his life and by his works that
Liberalism to him is not a name but a principle, increasingly dear as it
is hampered by desertion, threatened with danger, or in peril of defeat.
If he did that, there would be needed no further answer to the question,
"How is the Liberal Programme to be attained?" for what was required
would have been accomplished.


It is sometimes asked whether, after all the struggling of public life,
perfection in politics is possible. But in what department of human
affairs _is_ perfection possible? Is it in medicine? Mark the proportion
of those born who die before they are five years old. Is it in science?
The scientist is still engaged, as Newton was, in picking up shells on
the shore of a vast ocean of knowledge which he is unable yet to
navigate. Is it in religion? Ask the Christian and the Confucian, the
Mahommedan and the Buddhist to define the word, before giving an answer.
When medicine, and science, and religion have reached universally
acknowledged perfection, politics may be hoped to follow in their wake;
but until that period it is needless to expect it.

The very idea that it is possible has been the cause of many delusions,
and delusions are dangerous. Read Plato's "Republic," More's "Utopia,"
and Harington's "Oceana," and you will perceive how far the ideal is
removed from any conceivable real. It may be that from these works good
has flowed, since the evident impossibility of making the whole plan of
use has not prevented political thinkers taking from them such ideas as
were practicable, and grafting these upon existing institutions, with
benefit to the State. But the dreamy schemes of the eighteenth century,
the influence of which has not yet died away, were of a different order.
For, in the endeavour to change society at a stroke, blunders were made
which have caused lasting injury; and these should teach us that the
true ideal in politics is that which does not attempt to bend men, or
break them if necessary, to suit the machine, but makes the machine to
fit the men. The philosopher is a useful personage, but the attempt to
rule men from a library customarily results in disaster. The problem of
life cannot be solved like a proposition in Euclid; there, squares
always are squares and circles never anything else; but in every-day
existence the square is often forced to be circular by the rubbing off
of the angles. And too often it will be found that the philosopher,
because of his lack of practical acquaintance with his fellow men,
exaggerates both what he knows and what he does: he blows a bubble and
calls it the globe; lighting a candle, he thinks it the sun.

All history teaches that the road to heaven does not lie through Acts of
Parliament, and that under the best laws the saints would not be many
and the sinners would be far from few. No more pernicious nonsense is
talked than that all our social misery, crime, and degradation is due to
bad laws. The political student cannot doubt that much misery may be
mitigated, crime prevented, and degradation made impossible by good
laws, and it is that knowledge which should stimulate every Liberal to
lose no opportunity of improving the conditions under which we live. But
it is to display an ignorance of human nature that is really lamentable,
or a desire to flatter human weakness that is beneath contempt, to tell
the people that, if only certain changes were made in the constitution
of the State or of society, all would be well, none would suffer, and
crime and poverty would be known only as traditions of the past.

It is not necessary to assert the old theological dogma that, left to
himself, man is irredeemably bad, in order to believe that a great many
bearing the name are very far from good. There is, unhappily, hardly a
family in the country that has not one black sheep--or, at the best, one
speckled specimen--to deplore. Do we not all know the idle worthless son
of good and hard-working parents, a curse to his own and to all with
whom he comes in contact? The laws affecting him are the same as those
which affect his brothers: they prosper, he fails. Why? Because they
are worthy, he is worthless; and there is no conceivable state of
society in which he could be, or ought to be, served as well as they.
Certainly there are bad men who flourish, and good who wither away; but
the political system which should prevent the possibility of this has
not yet been invented--and never will be.

Therefore it is one of the most dangerous of political delusions to
believe that any possible reform can make all men prosperous and
contented. It is just as likely as that this would be brought about by
the universal practice of the old distich--

     Early to bed and early to rise
     Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise,

as if chimney sweeps, milkmen, and market gardeners had a monopoly of
those excellent qualities. The possession of an ideal is a good thing,
as long as it is not allowed to overshadow the real; and those whose
ideal causes them to ignore the indolence and vice of their fellows are
blind guides who would lead us into a ditch.

Therefore, while perfection in politics will never be realized, and the
belief that it can be is fraught with danger, it should be urged upon
all to think out the possibilities of the future, and to have a
political ideal at which to aim. Mine is a State in which all men shall
be equal before the law, every one have a fair chance according to his
virtues, his talents, and his industry, and none be advanced because of
hereditary or legalized privilege. A State in which all men are free,
and wherein there is a fair field and no favour, is that for which
Liberals should strive. Even when it is secured we shall still have with
us the idle and the vicious, for those specimens of humanity will never
perish from out the land; but the workful and the sober-minded will have
a better chance of success than they have to-day, and the State will be
benefited thereby.

Extension of individual liberty, abolition of inherited or other
privilege--those points really sum up the Liberal ideal. If it be said
that it does not promise to fill the people's stomachs, it must be
replied that stomach-filling is not the special concern of political
life. That is a matter for the people to accomplish; let us remove every
legalized hindrance to their doing it by their own capacities, but when
we have done that they must do the stomach-filling for themselves. The
State may and does feed the unfortunate, but, if it is to feed the idle,
it will have to make the idle work for their food. There is no necessity
either in law or in morals to tax those who work for the advantage of
those who do not; and the most perfect State will be that in which the
lazy and worthless will be made to labour, and the toilers be protected
from being by them despoiled.

What we ask is equality of opportunity, and we have much to do before
that can be obtained. There are some who say that they do not believe in
elevating the working classes, because it would leave the ground floor
of the social edifice untenanted. But the tenants are tired of being on
the ground, and wish to see how the upper story justifies its existence,
and in that they are right. With equality of opportunity, many to whom
we are now called upon by convention to bow will sink to their proper
level, while the men who work by brain or hands will acquire their
rightful position in the social state. But without the fullest political
liberty, this will never be attained, and we must strive jointly for

The political ideal at which we should aim is embraced in the words of
Lincoln--"that government of the people, by the people, for the people,
shall not perish from the earth," and to that may be added that equality
of opportunity shall be conceded to each one of us. Let us gain this,
and as perfect a State as imperfect human nature can design or deserve
will be ours.


When the late Lord Shaftesbury was in the House of Commons, and was
engaged in the apparently endless task of attempting to reform the
factory laws, he brought in a bill to regulate the labour of children in
calico-print works. He had already done much, but he wished to do more,
and on being asked by his opponents, "Where will you stop?" he replied,
"Nowhere, so long as any portion of this gigantic evil remains to be

In the same spirit may be answered the question sometimes asked as to
where Liberals will be prepared to stay the reforming hand. A period
cannot be put to progress any more than a limit to literature, or to
science a stopping-place. True, we have got rid of the greater
tyrannies: divine right of kings, personal rule, borough-mongering--all
are dead. We have got rid of the greater inequalities: purchase in the
army, nomination in the civil service, have gone the way of the separate
form at school, the distinctive tuft at the University, for the sons of
peers. We have got rid of the old Tory idea that the people have nothing
to do with the laws except to obey them; we now possess household, we
may soon possess adult, suffrage. But are we, therefore, to do no more?
Because we travel faster than our fathers, do we frown upon all
improvements in locomotion? Because we no longer suffer from the Plague,
the Sweating Sickness, and the Black Death, do the doctors sit with
folded arms? No; for the motto of the race is progress, and until every
tyranny, every iniquity, and every inequality which trouble us in
public life are vanquished, we cannot in our conscience cease from

Remember always the saying of Turgot, the great French economist, "It is
not error which opposes the progress of truth: it is indolence,
obstinacy, the spirit of routine, everything that favours inaction."
Much that hinders our advance comes from forgetfulness of what
Liberalism has done, and what, therefore, it is still capable of doing.
A politician once remarked, "Suppose that for but a month after the
passing of any great measure of reform, such as the repeal of the Corn
Laws, the extension of the suffrage, or the establishment of a national
system of education, only the Liberals could have gained the benefit and
the Tories been left outside, wouldn't the Tories have joined us in a
hurry to help reap the advantage the Liberals had secured?" There is no
doubt as to the answer; but even as the sun shines upon the unjust as
well as upon the just, so the beneficent stream of Liberal legislation
fertilizes the waste lands of Toryism equally with the possessions of
those who have prepared its course.

Yet it is this forgetfulness against which we have mainly to contend.
The age in which we live is so distinguished for progressive sentiment,
so noteworthy for the number and the magnitude of its reforms, that even
Liberals are occasionally in danger of letting slip some of the good
effects which struggle has won by nodding contentedly at the strides
that have been taken, heedless of the enemy ever anxious to push back
the shadow on the dial. Fortunately for the preservation of our
liberties, the drowsiness is seldom allowed to glide into sleep, for an
awakening is furnished by the premature shouts of triumph of those whose
highest interest would be to remain silent, for it is only thus that
success to them is possible.

But while in the calm of supposed security, while, for instance,
enjoying the belief that the Crown, as a governing power, is now in
England non-existent, we are suddenly aroused by the argument that the
possible feelings of the Sovereign with regard to a probable Irish
Ministry are to be considered in antagonism to Home Rule; while we are
indulging the hope that Free Trade rests upon as firm a basis as
parliamentary government, we see the Conservative party coquetting with
Protection; while we regard equality before the law as practically
admitted by all, we have constantly brought to our notice the belief of
the county magistrate that that which done by his son would be food for
laughter, done by his hind deserves hard labour; while sunning ourselves
with the thought that religious liberty has been absolutely secured, we
have witnessed a member of Parliament, thrice elected by a free
constituency, thrice rejected by the House of Commons, and even thrown
by the police from its doors, upon theological grounds and theological
grounds alone; and while imagining that freedom of speech, of action,
and of the press was beyond challenge even by the Tories, men in London
have been wounded and imprisoned for asserting the right of public
meeting, and many sent to gaol in Ireland for doing that which in
England, Wales, and Scotland would be as perfectly legal as it was
perfectly right: when we see such things we are brought to recognize
that our liberties, after all, hang by a thread.

It is well, however, that we should have these rude awakenings in order
to teach us that Toryism is not dead, that it is as ready as ever to
seize every opportunity for depriving the people of their liberty, to
rivet the yoke of ascendency upon their shoulders, and to subvert that
freedom which only slowly and by prolonged struggle has been wrested
from the great. The adherents of proscription and privilege do not in
these days talk of the divine right of kings--though even that doctrine
peeps out when they have occasion to flatter a monarch or an
heir-apparent; but the equally false doctrine of the divine right of
Parliaments is persistently put forward, and with the audacious pretence
that to dispute it is treason to the democracy. We are told that a House
of Commons once chosen can do as it likes for seven years, and no one
dare say it "nay;" that its majority may break the pledges upon which it
was elected, may practise coercion where it promised conciliation, may
deprive us of every single liberty it was returned to support and
extend, and that it is the duty of every good subject to sit with folded
arms, to quietly submit to be despoiled of his rights, and to wait with
patience until such time as the Prime Minister is sufficiently gracious
to permit a dissolution, or the Septennial Act closes the Parliament's
life. The doctrine is fatal to liberty, disguise it by what pretence of
love for the democracy its upholders may. And is the danger which lurks
beneath it imaginary? Read the promises upon which the present majority
in the House of Commons obtained its power; study the fashion in which
these have been broken; and then consider whether a denial of the divine
right of Parliaments is, as the Tories contend, treason to the

Liberalism, at all events, will have neither act nor part in any denial
of popular rights; rather it will be ever on the move towards a fuller
extension of them. When it is said that the Tories of to-day are to be
trusted because they go farther than the Liberals of twenty years ago,
it can be fairly replied, "Even if true (which, if the spirit of things
be examined, is doubtful), what does it prove? Words change their
meaning as the world grows older; what yesterday was revolution is
to-day reform, and to-morrow will be called reaction."

"Onward, and ever onward," must be the motto of the Liberal party. As
the conditions change, so must our institutions be changed to fit them.
It cannot be too strongly repeated that in these days we have so much of
liberty, compared with our forefathers, that some of us are tempted to
fold our hands, to rest, and to be thankful, and to lose by sloth that
which has been gained by struggle. The tendency to think that we possess
all the freedom that the heart of man can desire is one that may act
upon us as the wish for repose does upon those toiling through the
snowdrifts, and, in the guise of slumber, may bring death. The heights
of liberty are not yet scaled; much remains to be done before perfect
freedom is attained. Let each be able to say with Erskine, "I shall
never cease to struggle in support of liberty. In no situation will I
desert the cause. I was born a free man, and I will never die a slave."

The very reason of a Liberal's existence is that, if there is an abuse
in Church or State which argument and agitation can remove, all honest
endeavours shall be made to remove it. Many abuses have been abolished
by these means, but many remain, and it is at the extinction of these
that Liberals should aim. Let them not lose themselves in fruitless
longing after a perfect State; let them use their best endeavours to
make the State we possess as perfect as is possible. In all things let
them aim at the practical, and let them remember that compromise is not
necessarily cowardly, and that minor differences should count for little
when great ends are to be achieved.

The task I allotted myself has now been accomplished. Something has been
told of the beneficent results of Liberalism, but with the qualification
that Macaulay added to his description of what has been effected by the
Baconian system--"These are but a part of its fruits, and of its
first-fruits; for it is a philosophy which never rests, by which
finality is never attained, which is never perfect. Its law is progress.
A point which yesterday was invisible is its goal to-day, and will be
its starting-point to-morrow." The future also has been attempted to be
sketched--how imperfectly no one knows better than the author. But as
clearly and concisely as was possible have been stated the principles
and the aims of the Liberal party. It is to that party that modern
England owes its liberties, and it is to that party alone that it can
look for their preservation and extension. Clouds may overshadow its
immediate future, old friends may drop away, the enemy may be pressing
at the gate, but Liberalism will live, will thrive, and will make the
hearts of our descendants glad that there are those who remain faithful
to it to-day in the midst of dangers and discouragements, which cause
sinking of heart only to the faint of spirit, and doubt only to the weak
of soul. Resolved to broaden and strengthen the bounds of freedom, we
who continue attached to the principles of our party will never swerve
from the straight course, will never be daunted by the virulence or the
violence of our opponents, will never forget to strive for that ideal of
Liberalism--liberty of thought, equality of opportunity, and fraternity
of aim.


*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Practical Politics; or, the Liberalism of To-day" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.