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: Not Guilty - A Defence Of The Bottom Dog
Author: Blatchford, Robert, 1851-1943
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 "Not Guilty - A Defence Of The Bottom Dog" ***

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



By Robert Blatchford


Dedicated to my Old Friend & Fellow Worker W.T. WILKINSON


THIS is not a stiff and learned work, written by a professor for
professors, but a human book, written in humanity's behalf by a man, for
men and women.

I shall not fret you with strange and stilted language, nor weary
you with tedious and irksome science, nor gall you with far-fetched
theories, nor waste your time in any vain word-twisting nor splitting of

A plain-dealing man, speaking frankly and simply to honest and
plain-dealing readers, I shall trust to common sense and common
knowledge and common English to make my meaning clear.

I have been warned that it is easier to write a book on such a theme as
this than to get people to read it when written. But I am hopeful, and
my hope springs from the living interest and deep significance of the

For in defending the Bottom Dog I do not deal with hard science only;
but with the dearest faiths, the oldest wrongs, and the most awful
relationships of the great human family, for whose good I strive, and to
whose judgment I appeal.

Knowing, as I do, how the hard-working and hard-playing public shun
laborious thinking and serious writing, and how they hate to have their
ease disturbed or their prejudices handled rudely, I still make bold to
undertake this task, because of the vital nature of the problems I shall

The case for the Bottom Dog should touch the public heart to the quick,
for it affects the truth of our religions, the justice of our laws, and
the destinies of our children and our children's; children.

Much golden eloquence has been squandered in praise of the successful
and the good; much stern condemnation has been vented upon the wicked. I
venture now to plead for those of our poor brothers and sisters who are
accursed of Christ and rejected.

Hitherto all the love, all the honours, all the applause of this? world,
and all the rewards of heaven, have been lavished on the fortunate
and the strong; and the portion of the unfriended Bottom Dog, in his
adversity and weakness, has been curses, blows, chains, the gallows, and
everlasting damnation.

I shall plead, then, for those who are loathed and tortured and branded
as the sinful and unclean; for those who have hated us and wronged us,
and have been wronged and hated by us. I shall defend them for right's
sake, for pity's sake, and for the benefit of society and the race.
For these also are of our flesh, these also have erred and gone astray,
these also are victims of an inscrutable and relentless Fate.

If it concerns us that the religions of the world are childish dreams,
or nightmares; if it concerns us that penal laws and moral codes
are survivals of barbarism and fear; if it concerns us that our most
cherished and venerable ideas of our relations to God and to each other
are illogical and savage, then the case for the Bottom Dog concerns us

If it moves us to learn that disease may be prevented, that ruin may be
averted, that broken hearts and broken lives may be made whole; if it
inspires us to hear how beauty may be conjured out of loathliness and
glory out of shame; how waste may be turned to wealth and death to life,
and despair to happiness, then the case for the Bottom Dog is a case to
be well and truly tried.

If man's flesh and woman's flesh are merchandise or carrion; if the
defiled and trampled souls of innocent children are no more to us than
are the trodden blossoms under the feet of swine; if love lies to us and
pity is a cheat; if whips and chains and contumely and the gibbet are
meet for our sisters and our brothers and if dishonourable ease and
beggarly pride and the flatteries of fools are worthy of ourselves, then
we have the Yellow Press and the painted altar and the Parliamentary
speeches and a selfish heaven and a hell where the worm never dies; and
everything is for the best in, this best of all possible worlds.

But because I believe "men needs must love the highest when they see
it," because I believe that the universal heart is sweet and sound,
because I believe there are many who honour truth and seek happiness and
peace for all, I do not fear to plead for the Bottom Dog, nor to ask a
patient hearing.

Rightly or wrongly, happily or unhappily, but with all the sincerity of
my soul, I shall here deny the justice and reason of every kind of blame
and praise, of punishment and reward--human or divine.

Divine law--the law made by priests, and attributed to God--consists of
a code of rewards and punishments' for acts called good or bad. Human
law--the law made by Kings and Parliaments--consists of a code of
punishments for acts called criminal and unlawful.

I claim that men should not be classified as good and bad, but as
fortunate and unfortunate; that they should be pitied, and not blamed;
helped instead of being punished.

I claim that since we do not hold a man worthy of praise for being born
beautiful, nor of blame for being born ugly, neither should we hold him
worthy of praise for being born virtuous, nor of blame for being born

I base this claim upon the self-evident and undeniable fact that man
has no part in the creation of his own nature.

I shall be told this means that no man is answerable for his own acts.

That is exactly what it does mean.

But, it will be urged, every man has a free will to act as he chooses;
and to deny that is to imperil all law and order, all morality and

I deny both these inferences, and I ask the reader to hear my case
patiently, and to judge it on its merits.

Let us first test the justice of our laws, divine and human: the
question of their usefulness we will deal with later.


DIVINE law says that certain acts are good, and that certain acts are
evil; and that God will reward those who do well, and will punish those
who do ill. And we are told that God will so act because God is _just_.

But I claim that God _cannot_ justly punish those, who disobey, nor
reward those who obey His laws.

Religious people tell us that God is "The Great First Cause": that God
created _all_ things--mankind, the universe, nature and all her laws.
Who is answerable for a thing that is caused: he who causes it, or he
who does not cause it?

He who causes it is answerable. And God is "The First Great Cause" of
_all_ things. And the cause of all things is answerable for all things.

If God created _all_ things He must have created the evil as well as the

Who, then, is responsible for good and evil? Only God, for He made them.

He who creates all is responsible for all. God created all: God is
responsible for all.

He who creates nothing is responsible for nothing. Man created nothing:
man is responsible for nothing.

Therefore man is not responsible for his nature, nor for the acts
prompted by that nature.

Therefore God cannot justly punish man for his acts.

Therefore the Divine law, with its code of rewards and punishments, is
not a just law, and cannot have emanated from a just God.

Therefore the Christian religion is built upon a foundation of error,
and there are no such things as God's wrath, God's pardon; heaven or

That argument has never been answered. But attempts have been made to
evade it, and the plea most commonly put forward has been so gracefully
expressed by Mr. G. K. Chesterton that I will quote it in his own words:

Now, the question round which this controversy has circled for ages is
simply this: Clearly God can, in the exercise of His omnipotence, give
part of Himself to His creatures; can give His strength to the bull,
or His beauty to the lily. Could God possibly, in the exercise of His
omnipotence, give to one of His creatures some portion of that other
quality of His--His originating power, His power of primal invention,
this making things from nothing or Himself? If God can do all things,
can He not make man free? Can He not give man the power to create
actions as God creates stars? He can give His force; can He give a
little of his sovereignty? Can He, in short, create a kind of little
God--an "imago Dei?"

The answer to that quaint piece of reasoning is that it begs the
question. For I do not say that God cannot give to man any power He
chooses; but that God is responsible, and man is not responsible, for
the nature and the acts of any power by God bestowed.

If man did not invent, nor create himself; if man did not create "the
power" bestowed upon him by God; if man did not bestow that power upon
himself, how can man be responsible for the power or for its acts?

God not only created man; He created the material of which man was made,
and the laws of the universe into which man was introduced.

God is the "First Great Cause": He created all things: the evil and the
good. How can God blame man for the effects of which God is the cause?

For the defeat of all Christian apologists it is not necessary for me to
add another word; the argument is invincible as it stands. But for the
reader's sake it may be as well to deal rather more fully with what
may be to him a new and startling idea. Let us then return to Mr.
Chesterton's plea.

God is said to give to man a "power": a power which, Mr. Chesterton
says, God "made out of Himself." And this power will create thoughts,
will create actions as God creates stars.

But we see that man cannot create the thoughts nor cause the actions
until God gives him the "power." Then it is the "power" that creates
the thoughts or acts. Then it is not man, but the "power"--the power God
made out of Himself and bestowed upon man--that creates the thoughts or
acts. Then the "power" is a kind of lord or ruler made by God, and put
by God over man, as a rider is placed upon a horse, or a pilot on a
ship. Then man is no more responsible for the acts or the thoughts of
this ruling power than a horse is responsible for the acts of a jockey,
or a ship for the acts of a pilot.

In fact, the "power" given by God to man is only another name for the
"will of God," or the "power of God"; and if man's acts are ruled, or
created, by the will or power of God, how can God justly punish man for
those acts?

If God created man as well as this imaginary "power" which God is said
to give to man, God is responsible for the acts of both.

It is claimed by others that man is responsible to God for his acts
because God gave him "reason," or because God gave him a "conscience,"
or because God gave him a "will" to choose.

But these words, "conscience," "reason," and "will," are only other
names for Mr. Chesterton's imaginary "power."

Let us be careful to keep our thoughts quite clear and unentangled. If
we speak of "will," or "power," or "reason," as a thing "given to man,"
we imply that "will," or "power," is a thing _outside_ of man, and not a
part of him.

Having failed to saddle man with responsibility for himself, our
opponents would now make him responsible for some "power" outside
himself. The simple answer is that man made neither himself nor his
powers, and that God made man and the power given to man; therefore God
and not man is responsible. Conscience and reason and the "power" are
rulers or guides given to man by God. God made these guides or rulers.

These guides must be true guides, or false guides: they must be good or

God is all-knowing, as well as all-powerful. Not only has He power to
create at will a true guide or a false guide, but He _knows_ when He
creates a guide, and when He bestows that guide upon man, whether it
will be a true or a false guide. Therefore, when God created the reason
or the conscience and gave it to man, He _knew_ whether the reason or
the conscience would guide man right or wrong. If the power made and
bestowed by God leads man wrongly, it is leading man as God _willed_ and
_knew_ it would lead him. How, then, can God justly blame man for the
acts that reason or power "creates"?

God creates a number of good propensities, and a number of evil
propensities, packs them up in a bundle and calls them "man." Is the
skinful of propensities created and put together by God responsible for
the proportion of good and evil powers it comprises?

But then Mr. Chesterton suggests that God puts over the bundle a "power"
of control. That power controls man for evil: as God must have known it
would. Is the bundle of God's making responsible for the failure of
the power God made and sent to manage it? God must have known when He
created and put the "power" in control that it would fail.

Tell me now, some wise philosopher, or great divine, or learned
logician, which is the _man?_ Is it the good propensities, or the evil
propensities, or the power of control? And tell me how can any one or
all of these be responsible to the God who invented them, who created
them, who joined them together; who made and united them, knowing they
would fail?

Here is a grand conception of an "all-wise," "all-powerful," perfectly
"just" God, who creates a man whom He knows _must_ do evil, gives him a
guide who cannot make him do well, issues commands for him to act as
God has made it impossible for him to act, and finally punishes him for
failing to do what God knew from the first he was incapable of doing.

And the world is paying millions of money, and bestowing honours and
rewards in profusion upon the learned and wise and spiritual leaders who
teach it to believe such illogical nonsense as the above.

When we turn from the old idea of instantaneous creation to the new idea
of evolution, the theories about "God's mercy" and "God's wrath" are
still more impossible and absurd.

For now we are to believe that God, the "First Great Cause," "in the
beginning" created not man and beast, and forest and sea, and hill and
plain, but "matter," and "force," and "law."

Out of the matter and force God made, working to the law God made, there
slowly developed the nebulæ, the suns, the planets.

Out of the same matter and force, changed in form by the working of
God's laws, there slowly developed the single-celled jelly-like creature
from which, by the working of God's laws, all other forms of life have
since evolved.

Out of matter and force, working to God's laws, man has been evolved.

Is there any step in the long march of evolution from the first creation
of matter and force to the evolution of man, when the jelly speck, or
the polyp, or the fish, or the reptile, or the beast, or the ape, or the
man, had power to change, or to assist, or to resist the working of the
laws God made?

Is there any step in the long march of evolution, any link in the long
chain of cause and effect, when any one of the things or beings evolved
by law working on matter and force could by act or will of their own
have developed otherwise than as they did?

Is it not plain that man has developed into that which he is by slow
evolution of matter and force, through the operation of divine laws over
which he had no more control than he now has over the revolution of the
suns in their orbits?

How, then, can we believe that man is to blame for being that which he

Is there any quality of body or of mind that has not been _inevitably_
evolved in man by the working of God's laws?

You are not going to tell me that I am answerable or blame-able for the
nature of matter and force, nor for the operations of God's laws, are

You will not suggest that I am responsible for the creation: so long
ago, and I so new, so weak, so small!

God, when He created matter and force and law, knew the nature of matter
and force, and the power and purpose of law. He knew that they must work
as He had made and meant them to work. He knew that we _must_ be as His
agents _must_ make us.

Will He punish or reward us, then, for the acts of His agents: the
agents He made and controlled? Absurd.

But, it may be urged, "man has a soul." So! He got that soul from God.
God made the soul and fixed its powers for good and evil.

It is the soul, then, that is responsible, is it? But the soul did not
create itself, and can only act as God has ordained that it shall and
must act.

If man is not to blame for his own acts he is not to blame for the acts
of his soul; and for the same reason.

"Soul," or "man," "reason," or "conscience," responsibility lies with
the causer, and not with the thing caused.

And God is "The First Great Cause," and how then can God justly punish
any of His creatures for being as He created them?

It is impossible. It is unthinkable. But upon this unthinkable and
impossible absurdity the whole code of divine laws is built.

Therefore the Christian religion is untrue, and man is not responsible
to God for his nature nor for his acts.


COMMON law and common usage all the world over hold men answerable for
their acts, and blame or punish them when those acts transgress the laws
of custom.

Human law, like the divine law, is based upon the false idea that men
know what is right and what is wrong, and have power to choose the

Human law, like divine law, classifies men as good and bad, and punishes
them for doing "wrong."

But men should not be classified as good and bad, but as fortunate and
unfortunate, as weak and strong.

And the unfortunate and weak should not be blamed, but pitied; should
not be punished but helped.

The just and wise course is to look upon all wrong-doers as we look upon
the ignorant, the diseased, the insane, and the deformed.

Many of our wrong-doers are ignorant, or diseased, or insane, or
mentally deformed. But there are some who are base or savage by nature.
These should be regarded as we regard base or savage animals: as
creatures of a lower order, dangerous, but not deserving blame nor
hatred. And this is the sound view, as I shall show, because these
unhappy creatures are nearer to our brutish ancestors than other men,
the ancient strain of man's bestial origin cropping out in them through
no fault of their own.

Religion says man is the product of God; science says he is the product
of "heredity" and "environment." The difference does not matter much to
my case. The point is that man does not create himself, and so is not to
blame for his nature, and, therefore, is not to blame for his acts.

For man did not help God in the act of his creation, nor did he choose
his own ancestors.

"What! do you mean to say that the ruffian, the libertine, and the knave
are not to be blamed nor punished for any of the vile and cruel acts
they perpetrate?" asks "the average man."

Yes. That is what I mean. And that is not a new and startling "craze,"
as many may suppose, but is a piece of very ancient wisdom; as old as
the oldest thought of India and of Greece. In the _Bhagavad-gita_ it is

He sees truly who sees all actions to be done by nature alone, and
likewise the self not the doer.

And Socrates said:

It is an odd thing that if you had met a man ill-conditioned in body you
would not have been angry; but to have met a man rudely disposed in mind
provokes you.

Neither am I unsupported to-day in my heresies. Most theologists are
opposed to me, but most men of science are with me: they look upon man
as a creature of "heredity" and "environment."

What a man _does_ depends upon what he _is_; and what he _is_ depends
upon his "breed" and his "experience."

We admit that no two men are quite alike. We should not expect men who
are unlike in nature and in knowledge to do like acts. Where the causes
are different it is folly to expect identical effects.

Every man is that which his forbears (his ancestors) and his experiences
(his environment) have made him. Every man's character is formed
partly by "heredity" (breed, or descent) and partly by "environment"
(experience, or surroundings). That is to say, his character depends
partly upon the nature of his parents, and partly upon the nature of his

He comes into the world just as his ancestors have made him. He did not
choose his ancestors; he had nothing to do with the moulding of their
natures. Every quality, good or bad, in his own nature, has been handed
down to him by his forbears, without knowledge or consent.

How can we blame the new-born or unborn baby for the nature and
arrangement of the cells--which are _he?_

Born into the world as he was made, he is a helpless infant, dependent
upon his nurses and his teachers. He did not choose his nurses, nor
his teachers; he cannot control their conduct towards him, nor test the
truth nor virtue of the lessons he learns from them.

He grows older the nature he inherited from his ancestors is modified,
for better or for worse, by the lessons and the treatment given to him
by his nurses, his companions, and his teachers.

So, when he becomes a man he is that which his forbears and his fellow
creatures have made him.

That is to say, he is the product of his heredity and his environment.
He could not be otherwise.

How, then, can it be just to blame him for being that which he _must_

But, it may be objected, a man has power to change, or to conquer, his
environment; to train, or to subdue, his original nature.

That depends upon the strength of his original nature (which his
ancestors handed down to him) and of his environment--which consists,
largely, of the actions of his fellow-creatures.

A man has power to do that which his forbears have made him able to do.
He has power to do no more.

He has certain powers given him by his forbears, which may have been
developed or repressed by his surroundings. With those powers, as
modified by the influences surrounding and outside himself, he may do
all that his nature desires and is able to do. Up to the limit of his
inherited powers he may do all that his environment (his experiences)
have taught or incited him to do.

To speak of a man conquering his environment is the same thing as to
speak of a man swimming against a stream. He can swim against the stream
if he has strength and skill to overcome the stream. His strength is his
heredity: his skill is the result of his environment. If his strength
and skill are more than equal to the force of the stream he will
conquer his environment; if the stream is too strong for him he will be
conquered by his environment.

His acts, in short, depend wholly upon his nature and his environment:
neither of which is of his own choosing. Of this I will say more in its

A man gets his nature from his forbears, just as certainly as he gets
the shape of his nose, the length of his foot, and the colour of his
eyes from his forbears.

As we do not blame a man for being born with red or black hair, why
should we blame him for being born with strong passions or base desires?

If it is foolish to blame a child for being born with a deformed or
weak spine, how can it be reasonable to blame him for being born with a
deformed or weak brain?

The nature and quality of his hair and his eyes, of his spine and his
brain, of his passions and desires, were all settled _for_ and not _by_
him before he drew the breath of life.

If we blame a man because he has inherited fickleness from an Italian
grandfather, or praise him because he has inherited steadfastness from
a Dutch grandmother, we are actually praising or blaming him because,
before he was born, an Italian married a Hollander.

If we blame a man for inheriting cupidity from an ancestor who was
greedy and rapacious, or for inheriting licentious inclinations from an
ancestor who was a rake, we are blaming him for failing to be born of
better parents.

Briefly, then, heredity makes, and environment modifies, a man's nature.
And both these forces are _outside_ the man.

Therefore man becomes that which he is by the action of forces outside
himself. Therefore it is unjust to blame a man for being that which he
is. Therefore it is unjust to blame him for doing that which he does.

Therefore our human laws, which punish men for their acts, are unjust

Now, before we go fully into the meanings of the words "heredity" and
"environment," let us make a short summary of the arguments above put

Since man did not create his own nature, man is not responsible for his
own acts.

Therefore all laws, human or divine, which punish man for his acts are
unjust laws.


I HOPE the reader will not fight shy of heredity. I trust he will find
it quite simple and interesting; and I promise him to use no unfamiliar
words, nor to trouble him with difficult and tedious scientific

I deal with heredity before environment, because it is needful to take
them one at a time, and heredity comes first; as birth before schooling.

But we must not fall into the bad habit of thinking of heredity and
environment apart from each other, for it is _both_, and not either of
them that make man's character.

It is often said that neither heredity nor environment accounts for a
man's conduct. And that is true. But it is true, also, that heredity
_and_ environment account for every quality in the human "make-up." A
pianist, an artist, or a cricketer is "made as well as born," and so is
every man. A good batsman is a good batsman for two reasons: (1) He was
born with good sight, steady; nerves, and sound sense, all of which he
owes to his ancestors. (2) He has been well taught, or has practised
well, and this practice, this endeavour to succeed, he owes to his
inherited ambition, and to the precept and example of other men. So if
a man plays a fiddle well, or steers a ship well, or devotes his life to
charity, the excellence is always due to heredity _and_ environment.
For the cricketer would never have been a cricketer, nor the violinist
a violinist, had he been born in a country where cricket and violin
playing were unknown. And, on the other hand, a man bred amongst
cricketers or musicians will never excel in music nor in cricket unless
he has what is called "a gift"; and the gift is "heredity."


Heredity is "descent," or "breed." Heredity, as the word is here used,
means those qualities which are handed down from one generation to the
next. It means those qualities which a new generation inherits from the
generation from whom it descends.

It means all that "is bred in the bone." If a man inherits a Grecian
nose, a violent temper, well-knit muscles, a love of excitement, or a
good ear for music, from his father or mother, that quality or feature
is part of his heredity. It is "bred in him."

Every quality a child possesses at the moment of birth, _every_ quality
of body or of mind, is inherited from his parents and their ancestors.
And the whole of those qualities--which _are_ the child--are what we
call "heredity."

No child brings into the world one single quality of body or mind that
has not been handed down to it by its ancestors.

And yet no two children are exactly alike, and no child is exactly like
any one of its forbears.

This difference of children from each other and from the parent stock is
called "variation."

Hundreds of books and papers have been written about "variation," and
to read some of them one might suppose variation to be a very difficult
subject. But it is quite simple, and will not give us any trouble at
all. Let us see.


The cause of variation can be easily understood.

Variation is due to the fact that every child has two parents. If these
two parents were exactly alike, and if their ancestors had been all
exactly alike, their children would be exactly like each other and like
their parents.

But the father and mother are of different families, of different
natures, and perhaps of different races. And the ancestors of the father
and mother--millions in number--were all different from each other in
nature and in descent.

Now, since a child inherits some qualities from its father and some from
its mother, it follows that if the father and mother are different from
each other, the child must differ from both, and yet resemble both.
For he will inherit from the father qualities which the mother has
not inherited from her ancestors, and he will inherit from the mother
qualities which the father did not inherit from his ancestors. So the
child will resemble both parents, without being an exact copy of either.
It "varies" from both parents by inheriting from each.

The child of a black and a white parent is what we call a half-caste: he
is neither a negro nor a white man. The pup of a bulldog and a terrier
is neither a bull-dog nor a terrier; he is a bull-terrier terrier.

But heredity goes farther than that, and variation is more complex than

We must not think of a man as inheriting from his father and mother
only. He inherits from the parents of both his parents; and from
thousands of ancestors before those. He inherits from men and women
who died thousands of years before he was born. He inherits from the
cave-man, from the tree-man, from the ape-man, from the ape, and from
the beast before the ape.

The child in the womb begins as a cell, and develops through the stages
of evolution, becoming an embryo worm, fish, quadruped, ape, and,
finally, a human baby.

The child is born with the bodily and mental qualities inherited from
many generations of beasts and many generations of men.

Any one of the many ancient qualities of mind or body may crop up again
in a modern child. Children have been born with tails: children have
been born with six nipples, like a dog, instead of with two, like a
human being.

And now I will explain, simply and briefly, what we mean by the word


"Atavism," or "breeding back," or "reversion," may reach back through
thousands of generations, and some trait of the cave-man, or the beast,
may reappear in a child of Twentieth Century civilisation.

Darwin, in _The Descent of Man_, Chapter II, gives many instances
of "atavism," or breeding back, by human beings to apish and even
quadrupedal characteristics. Alluding to a case cited by Mr. J. Wood, in
which a man had seven muscles "proper to certain apes," Darwin says:

It is quite incredible that a man should through mere accident
abnormally resemble certain apes in no less than seven of his muscles,
if there had been no genetic connection between them. On the other hand,
if man is descended from some apelike creature, no valid reason can
be assigned why certain muscles should not suddenly reappear after
an interval of many thousand generations, in the same manner as with
horses, asses, and mules, dark-coloured stripes suddenly reappear on the
legs and shoulders after an interval of hundreds, or, more probably, of
thousands of generations.

Dr. Lydston, in The Diseases of Society (Lippincott: 1904) says:

The outcropping of ancestral types of mentality is observed to underlie
many of the manifestations of vice and crime. These ancestral types
or traits may revert farther back even than the savage progenitors of
civilised man, and approximate those of the lower animals who, in their
turn, stand behind the savage in the line of descent.

This "reversion to older and lower types," or "breeding back," is
important, because it is the source of much crime--the origin of very
many "Bottom Dogs," as we shall see. But at present we need only notice
that heredity, or breed, reaches back through immense distances of time;
so that a man inherits not only from savage ancestors, but also from
the brutes. And man has no power to _choose_ his breed, has no choice of
ancestors, but must take the qualities of body and mind they hand down
to him, be those qualities good or bad.

Descent, or breed, does not work regularly. Any trait of any ancestor,
beast or man, near or remote, may crop up suddenly in any new
generation. A child may bear little likeness to its father or mother: it
may be more like its great-grandfather, its uncle, or its aunt.

It is as though every dead fore-parent back to the dimmest horizon of
time, were liable to put a ghostly finger in the pie, to mend or mar it.

Let us now use a simple illustration of the workings of heredity,
variation, and atavism, or breeding back.

There is no need to trouble ourselves with the scientific explanations.
What we have to understand is that children inherit qualities from their
ancestors; that children vary from their ancestors and from each
other; and that old types or old qualities may crop out suddenly and
unexpectedly in a new generation. Knowing, as we do, that children
inherit from their parents and fore-parents, the rest may be made, quite
plain without a single scientific word.

In our illustration we will take for parents and children bottles, and
for hereditary qualities beads of different colours.


Now, take a bottle of red beads, and call it male. Take a bottle of blue
beads, and call it female.

From each bottle take a portion of beads; mix them in a third bottle and
call it "child."

We have now a child of a red father and a blue mother; and we find that
this child is not all red, nor all blue, but part red and part blue.

It is like the father, for it has red beads; it is like the mother, for
it has blue beads.

It is unlike the father, for the father has no blue, and it is unlike
the mother, for the mother has no red.

Here we have a simple illustration of "heredity" and "variation."

Now, could we blame the "child" bottle for having red and blue beads
in it; or could we blame the "child" bottle for having no yellow and no
green beads in it?

But that is an example of a simple mixture of two ancestral strains. We
have to do with mixtures of millions of strains.

Let us carry our illustration forward another generation.

Take our blue and red "child" and marry him to the child of a black
bottle and a yellow bottle.

This gives us a marriage between Red-Blue and Black-Yellow.

The "child" bottle mixed from these two bottles of double colours will
contain four colours.

He will "inherit" from grandfather Red and grandmother Blue, from
grandfather Black and grandmother Yellow, and from father Red-Blue and
mother Black-Yellow.

He will be like the six fore-parents, but different from each of them.

Can we blame this "child" bottle for being made up of red, blue, black,
and yellow? Can we blame it for having no purple nor white beads in its
composition? No. These colours were mixed _for_ the child, and not _by_

How could there be white or purple beads in this bottle, when there were
no white nor purple beads in the bottles from which it was filled?

But what of the variation amongst brothers and sisters?

That is easily understood. If the four colours in the ancestral bottles
are evenly mixed, the grandchildren bottles will vary from their
ancestors, but not from each other.

As we know that brothers and sisters do vary from each other, we must
conclude that the hereditary qualities are not evenly mixed.


For the scientific explanation of this fact I must refer you to _The
Germ Plasm_, by Weissmann.

For our purposes it is enough to know that brothers and sisters do vary
from each other, and that they so vary because the ancestral qualities
are not evenly distributed amongst the "sperms" and the "ova." On this
head our own knowledge and observation do not leave any room for doubt.

It is as if in the case of our marriage of Red-Blue and Black-Yellow
there were three child-bottles, of which one got more red and yellow,
one more blue and red, and one more yellow and blue than the others. So
that the three brother-bottles would differ from their fore-parents and
from each other.

And as it would be foolish to blame the second bottle for having less
red in it than the first, so it is foolish to blame a human child for
having less intellect or less industry than his brothers.

If you refer to the masterly description of the impregnation of the ova
given in Haeckel's great work, _The Evolution of Man_, you will find
that the heredity of brothers is largely a matter of accident. See the
plate and explanation on page 130 in the first volume.

The "variation" in brothers and sisters is like the variation in the
mixing of beads in our bottles.

It is as though we made several tartan plaids of the same four colours,
but in different patterns.

It is like dealing hands of cards from a shuffled pack. There are four
suits, but one hand may be rich in clubs, another in diamonds.

And who in a game of whist would blame his partner for holding no trumps
in his hand? The partner could only play the trumps dealt out to him.

In no way can a child control the pre-natal shuffling or dealing of the
ancestral pack.

Now, as to atavism, or breeding back. In the ancestral bottles called
men and women there are millions of different kinds of beads. And it
sometimes happens that a particular kind of bead (or quality) which has
lain dormant for a long time--perhaps for a thousand years--will crop
up in a new mixing that goes to make a "child-bottle," and so that child
may be less like its own parents than like some ancestor who has been
dead and forgotten for centuries.

In the case of the man with the seven ape muscles, mentioned by Darwin,
the breeding back must have reached millions of years.

This "lying doggo," or inactive, of some hereditary trait, may be
likened to the action of a kaleidoscope. We do not see all the fragments
of coloured glass at every turn. But they are all there.

We do not see the same pattern twice; yet the patterns are made almost
of the same colours and the same pieces.

And now I think we have got a clear idea of the meanings of the words
"heredity," "variation," and "atavism," and the most timid reader will
not be afraid of them any more.

There is no need, for our purpose, to wrestle with severe science. The
reader may find for himself all about "pangenesis" in Darwin, and about
the "germ plasm" in Weissmann. Here we will not tax our memories
with such weird words as "biophors," "gemmules," "ids," "idents," and
"determinants." Our similes of beads, tartans, and cards will serve us
well enough.

The only objection to our similes is that they are too simple.

The mixture of bloods in descent is very much more extensive | than our
mixture of cards or beads.

If we trace a child's descent back only four generations we find that
he has no less than thirty fore-parents belonging to sixteen different
families. Another generation would reach thirty-two families. If we go
back to twenty generations we find the number of families drawn upon to
be over a million.

But Darwin speaks of "thousands of generations." Does not! this suggest
the wonderful possibilities of variation and atavism?

Imagine the variety of character and physique in a city like London.
Then remember that each one of us is descended from more ancestors, and
of much wider varieties, than all the population of London. And to hold
a man answerable for his inheritance from those motley myriads of men
and women is to hold him answerable for the natures and the actions of
millions of human beings whom he never saw, of whom he never heard.

We all know that the different races of men differ from each other in
colour, in features, and in capacity. We have only to think for a little
of the Japanese, the Americans, the Spaniards, and the Swedes, to feel
the full force of the term "racial characteristics."

We know that there is a great difference between the Irish and the
Scotch. We know that there is a great difference between the Italians
and the Dutch. We know the strongly marked peculiarities of the Jews and
the Greeks.

Now, to blame a man for his nature is to blame him for not being like
some other man. And how absurd it would be to blame a Norwegian for not
being like a Jew, or a Gascon for not being like a Scot.

The Italians are wayward and impulsive: the Dutch are steadfast and
cautious. Is it reasonable to blame the one for not being like the

If a child is born of an Italian father and an Irish mother, is it
reasonable to expect that child to be as cool and methodical as the
child of Dutch and Scottish parents?

Is it not the same with personal as with racial traits?

We have all heard of "Spanish pride," and of "Irish wit"; we have all
heard of the pride of the Howards, and the genius of the Bachs.

To blame a Spaniard for being proud is to blame him for being born of
Spanish parents. To blame a Howard for his pride is to blame him for
being a son of the Howards.

Bach was a musical genius, Sheridan was witty, Nelson was brave,
Rembrandt was a great painter, because there were golden beads in their
ancestral bottles. But _they_ did not put the golden beads there. They
inherited them, as Lord Tomnoddy inherits his lands, his riches, and his
plentiful lack of wit.

We should not expect the daughter of Carmen to be like the daughter
of Jeannie Deans, nor the son of Rawdon Crawley to be like the son of
Parson Adams. We should, indeed, no more think of praising a man for
inheriting the genius or the virtues of his ancestors, than we should
think of praising a man for inheriting his parents' wealth.

We have laughed over the Gilbertian satire on our patriotic

     For he himself has said it,
     And it's greatly to his credit,
     That he is an Englishman.
     He might have been a Rooshian,
     A Frenchman, Turk, or Prooshian,
     Or even Italian;
     But in spite of all temptations
     To belong to other nations,
     He remains an Englishman.

All of us can feel the point of those satirical lines; but some of
us have yet to learn that a man can no more help being born "good" or
"bad," "smart" or "dull," than he can help being born English, French,
or Prooshian, or "even Italian."

Some of our ancestors conquered at Hastings, and some of them did not
Some of our ancestors held the pass at Thermopylae, and others ran away
at Bunker's Hill. Some were saints, and some were petty larcenists; some
were philosophers, and some were pirates; some were knights and some
were savages; some were gentle ladies, some were apes, and some were
hogs. And we inherit from them all.

We are all of us great-great-grandchildren of the beasts. We carry the
bestial attributes in our blood: some more, some less. Who amongst us
is so pure and exalted that he has never been conscious of the bestial
taint? Who amongst us has not fought with wild beasts--not at Ephesus,
but in his own heart?

Some of our ancestors wore tails! Is it strange that some of our
descendants should have what Winwood Reade called "tailed minds"? The
ghosts of old tragedies haunt the gloomy vestibules of many human minds.
The Bottom Dog may often be possessed of ancestral devils.

He that is without inherited taint among us, let him cast the first


WHAT do we mean by the words "sin" and "vice," and "crime"?

Sin is disobedience of the laws of God.

Crime is disobedience of the laws of men.

Vice is disobedience of the laws of nature.

I say that there is no such thing as a known law of God: that the
so-called laws of God were made by men in God's name, and that therefore
the word "sin" need trouble us no more. There is no such thing as sin.

I say that since there are bad laws as well as good laws, a crime may
be a good instead of a bad act. For though it is wrong to disobey a good
law, it may be right to disobey a bad law.

And now what do we mean by the words "good" and "bad," "moral" and

We call an act good when it "makes good"; when its effects are
beneficial. We call an act bad when it "makes bad"; when its effects are

What are "morals"? My dictionary says, "the doctrine of man's moral
duties _and social relations_"; and in Crabbe's _Synonyms_ I find: "By
an observance of good morals we _become good members of society_."

The italics are mine. Morals are the standard of social conduct. All
immoral conduct is anti-social, and all anti-social conduct is immoral.

If there were only one man in the world he could not act immorally, for
there would be no other person whom his acts could injure or offend.

Where two persons live together either may act immorally, for he may so
act as to injure or offend his companion.

Any act is immoral and wrong which needlessly injures a fellow creature.
But no act is immoral or wrong which does not directly or indirectly
inflict needless injury upon any fellow creature.

I say, "needless injury"; for it may sometimes be right and necessary to
injure a fellow creature.

If it is wrong to inflict needless injury upon our fellows, it is right
to defend our fellows and ourselves from the attacks of those who would
needlessly injure us.

Any act which inflicts "needless" injury upon a fellow creature is
immoral; but no act which does not inflict needless injury upon a fellow
creature is immoral.

That is the root of my moral code. It may at first seem insufficient,
but I think it will be found to reach high enough, wide enough, and deep
enough to cover all true morality. For there is hardly any act a man can
perform which does not affect a fellow creature.

For instance, if a man takes to drink, or neglects his health, he
injures others as well as himself. For he becomes a less agreeable and a
less useful member of society. He takes more from the common stock, and
gives back less. He may even become an eyesore, or a danger, or a burden
to his fellows. A cricketer who drank, or neglected to practise, would
be acting as immorally towards the rest of the team as he would if
he fielded carelessly or batted selfishly. Because, speaking morally, a
man belongs not only to himself, but also to the whole human race.


Morals do not come by revelation, but by evolution. Morals are not based
upon the commands of God, but upon the nature and the needs of man. Our
churches attribute the origin of morals to the Bible. But the Egyptians
and Babylons had moral codes before Moses was born or the Bible written.
Thousands of years, tens of thousands of years, perhaps millions of
years before Abraham, there were civilisations and moral codes.

Even before the coming of man there were the beginnings of morals in the
animal world.

When I was a boy, we were taught that acts were right or wrong as they
were pleasing or displeasing to the God of the Hebrew Bible.

There were two kinds of men--good men and bad men. The good men might
expect to succeed in business here and go to heaven hereafter. The bad
men were in peril of financial frosts in this world, and of penal fires
in the world to come.

As I grew older and began to think for myself, I broke from that
teaching, and at last came to see that all acts were wrong which caused
needless injury to others; that the best and happiest man was he
who most earnestly devoted himself to making others happy; that
all wrong-doing sprang from selfishness, and all welldoing from
unselfishness; that all moral acts were social acts, and all immoral
acts unsocial acts; and that therefore Socialism was good, and
Individualism was evil.

But as to the beginning of the social virtues I was puzzled.

In most religions morality is supposed to have been established by
divine revelation. Men did not know right from wrong until God gave them
codes of laws ready-made; and even after men had the divine laws given
to them they were by nature so depraved that they could only obey those
laws by the special grace of God.

The idea that morality was slowly built up by evolution was first given
to the world by Spencer and Darwin. It has since been elaborated by
other writers, notably by Winwood Reade and Prince Kropotkin.

The notions of "the struggle for existence" and "the survival of the
fittest" have been too commonly taken to mean that life in the animal
world is one tragic series of ruthless single combats; that every man's
hand always was and ever must be against the hand of every man, and
every beast's tooth and claw against the tooth and claw of every beast.

But if we read Darwin's _Descent of Man_ and Prince Kropotkin's _Mutual
Aid Among Animals_ and Winwood Reade's _Martyrdom of Man_, we shall
find that the law of natural selection does not favour any such horrible

Self-preservation may be the first law of nature; but it is not the last
law of nature. In union is strength. The gregarious animals--those which
live in communities of flocks and herds--as the apes, the deer, the
rooks, the bees, the bison, the swallows, and the wolves, gain by mutual
aid in the struggle for existence, for, by reason of their numbers
and their union, they are better able to watch for the approach and to
defeat the attacks of their enemies.

From this union and mutual aid of the gregarious animals arose the
social instincts.

The sociable animals would doubtless be first drawn together partly for
safety and partly for company.

Sheep, deer, buffalo, wild dogs, ants, rooks, and other social animals
enjoy the companionship of their own kind. They play together, feed
together, sleep together, hunt together, and help each other to evade or
resist their common foes. They share in social pleasures, and practise
some of the social virtues.

And as the more sociable animals would be safest, and the less sociable
animals most exposed to danger, natural selection would tend to raise
the level of sociability, because the stock would be bred more from
sociable than from unsociable animals.

The apes are social animals, and also imitative animals. The ape-like
forbears of man would unite for safety and for society, and, being
imitative, would observe and copy any invention or discovery due to
lucky accident or to the sharper wits amongst their number.

Like the lower animals, they would play together, feed together, fight
in companies, defend or rescue their young, and post sentinels to watch
for the approach of danger.

Long before man had thought of any ghost or God, some rude form of order
and morality would exist in the families and tribes of men, as some rude
form of order and morality exists to-day amongst the wild elephants, the
bees, the deer, and other creatures.

I once saw two horses fighting in a field. A third and older horse came
up and parted them, and then drove them away in opposite directions.
So in the earliest human tribes would the leaders prevent brawling and
exact obedience.

Partly from such action, and partly from the training of the young,
would be formed the habit of resenting and of punishing certain unsocial
acts which the herd or tribe felt to be opposed to the general welfare.

One of the first faults man would brand as immoral would be cowardice.
One of the earliest moral laws would, perhaps, resemble the Viking law
that men who proved cowards in battle should be buried in the swamp
under a hurdle.

Imitation, habit, natural selection, and the love of approbation, would
all tend to fix and improve these crude customs, and from these simple
beginnings would grow up laws and morals and conscience.

Very likely the earliest human groups were family groups, or clans.
These clans would fight against other clans.

The next step may have been the union of clans into tribes, and the next
the banding of tribes into nations.

At present men are mostly united as nations. Each nation has its own
laws, its own morality, and its own patriotism, and the different
nations are more or less hostile to each other; as formerly were the
tribes or clans.

The final triumph will be the union of the nations in one brotherhood,
and the abolition of war.

The red Indian does not think it immoral to murder an Indian of another
tribe. The European does not think it immoral to kill thousands of men
in battle. The evolution of morality has not yet carried us as far as
universal peace. Nor has any revelation of God forbidden war.

We do not need to think long, nor to look far to see that different
conditions have evolved different moral codes.

But all morals may be divided into two classes: True Morals and
Artificial Morals.

True morals are all founded on the rule that it is wrong to cause
needless injury to any fellow-creature.

Artificial morals are those morals invented by priests, kings, lawyers,
poets, soldiers, and philosophers.

Moral codes made by rulers, or by ruling classes, are generally founded
on expediency; and expediency, as understood by the rulers or the ruling
classes, usually means those things that are expedient for themselves.

Now that which is expedient for a king, a tyrant, or an aristocracy may
be far from expedient for the people over whom they rule. So we need not
be surprised to find that many of the laws of barbarous and civilised
nations are immoral laws. Our British game laws, land laws, poor laws,
and very many of the criminal laws, and the laws relating to property,
are immoral laws.

But there is no revelation of God condemning those laws. Nor does any
European church oppose those laws, nor denounce them as immoral.

Then as to public opinion--our unwritten moral code--there is no clear
and logical system of moral principles. For instance, the public think
it a pity that men should be out of work, that women should starve, that
little children should be sent to school unwashed and unfed. But the
public do not think these things immoral. The fact is, the British
people, after more than a thousand years of Christian teaching, do
not know what true morality is. And how should they know, when their
teachers in the church do not know?

The churches have always drawn their morality from the Bible, and
have always tried to fit it in with the immoral codes made by kings,
soldiers, landlords, money-lenders, and other immoral persons.

The Church has often pleaded for "charity" to the poor, but has never
come to the rescue of the "Bottom Dog"; because the churches have never
understood morality nor human nature.

It is science, and not the revelation of God, nor the teaching of
priests, that has enabled us to begin to understand human nature, and
has made it possible to build up a systematic code of true morality.

As to what morality is, I claim it is the rule of social conduct: the
measure of right conduct between man and man; and I shall build up my
whole case upon the simple moral rule that "every act is immoral which
needlessly injures any fellow-creature." This rule is only an old truth
in a new form. It is, indeed, just a modern reading of the "Golden
Rule." It is not the rule itself, but the use I shall put it to, that is
likely to flutter certain moral dovecotes. As to the rule, the teachings
of most great moralists, of all times and nations, go to prove it. As,
for instance:

Lao Tze, a Chinese moralist, before Confucius, said: "The good I would
meet with goodness, the not-good I would also meet with goodness."

Confucius, Chinese moralist, said: "What you do not want done to
yourself, do not do to others."

He also said: "Benevolence is to be in one's most inward heart in
sympathy with all things; to love all men; and to allow no selfish

The same kind of teaching is found in the Buddhist books, and in the
rock edicts of King Asoka. Here is a Buddhist precept, which has a
special interest as touching the _origin_ of morals.

"Since even animals can live together in mutual reverence, confidence,
and courtesy, much more should you, O brethren, so let your light shine
forth that you may be seen to dwell in like manner together."

The Hebrew moralists often sounded the same note. In Leviticus we find:
"Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

In Proverbs: "If thine enemy be hungry give him bread to eat, and if he
be thirsty give him water to drink."

In the Talmud it is written: "Do not unto others that which it would
be disagreeable to you to suffer yourself; that is the main part of the

We have the same idea expressed by Christ: "All things therefore
whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also
unto them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." Sextus, a teacher of
Epictetus, said: "What you wish your neighbours to be to you, such be
also to them."

Isocrates said: "Act towards others as you desire others to act towards

King Asoka said: "I consider the welfare of all people as something for
which I must work."


In the Buddhist "Kathâ Sarit Sâgara" it is written: "Why should we cling
to this perishable body? In the eye of the wise the only thing it is
good for is to benefit one's fellow creatures." And another Buddhist
author expresses the same idea with still more force and beauty: "Full
of love for all things in the world, practising virtue in order to
benefit others--this man alone is happy."

But even when the moralists did not lay down the "Golden Rule," they
taught that the cause of sin and of suffering was selfishness; and
they spoke strongly against self-pity, and self-love, and

What is the lesson of Buddha, and of the Indian, Persian, and Greek
moralists? Buddha went out into the world to search for the cause of
human sin and sorrow. He found the cause to be self-indulgence and the
cure to be self-conquest. "The cause of pain," he said, "is desire."
And this lesson was repeated over and over again by Socrates, Plato,
Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Plutarch, and Seneca..

The moral is that selfishness is bad, and unselfishness is good. And
this moral is backed by the almost universal practice of all men in all
ages and of all races in testing or weighing the virtue or the value of
any person's conduct.

What is the common assay for moral gold? The test of the _motive_. Sir
Gorgio Midas has given £100,000 to found a Midas hospital. What says
the man in the street? "Ah! fine advertisement for the Midas pills!" Mr.
Queech, the grocer and churchwarden, has given £5 to the new Methodist
Sunday School. "H'm!" says the cynical average man, "a sprat to catch a
mackerel." Sir Norman Conquest, Bart, M.P., has made an eloquent speech
in favour of old-age pensions. Chigwin, the incorruptible, remarks with
a sniff that "it looks as if there would soon be a General Election."

What do these gibes mean? They mean that the benevolence of Messrs.
Midas, Queech, and Conquest is inspired by selfishness, and therefore is
not worthy, but base.

Now, when a gang of colliers go down a burning pit to save life, or when
a sailor jumps overboard in a storm to save a drowning fireman, or when
a Russian countess goes to Siberia for trying to free the Russian serfs,
there is no sneer heard. Chigwin's fierce eye lights up, the man in the
street nods approvingly, and the average man in the railway compartment
observes sententiously:

"That's pluck."

Well. Is it not clear that these acts are approved and held good? And is
it not clear that they are held to be good because they are felt to be

Now, I make bold to say that in no case shall we find a man or woman
honoured or praised by men when his conduct is believed to be selfish.
It is always selfishness that men scorn. It is always self-sacrifice or
unselfish service they admire. This shows us that deep in the universal
heart the root idea of morality is social service. This is not a divine
truth: it is a human truth.

Selfishness has come to be called "bad" because it injures the many
without benefiting the one. Unselfishness has come to be called "good"
because it brings benefit and pleasure to one and all. "It is twice
bless'd: it blesseth him that gives and him that takes." As Marcus
Aurelius expresses it: "That which is not for the interest of the whole
swarm is not for the interest of a single bee." And again he puts
it: "Mankind are under one common law; and if so they must be
fellow-citizens, and belong to the same body politic. From whence it
will follow that the whole world is but one commonwealth."

And Epictetus, the Greek slave, said that as "God is the father of all
men, then all men are brothers."

For countless ages this notion of human brotherhood, and of the evil of
self-love, has been to morality what the sap is to the tree. And now let
us think once more how the notion first came into being.

I said that morality--which is the knowledge of good and evil--did not
come by revelation from God, but by means of evolution. And I said that
this idea was first put forth by Spencer and Darwin, and afterwards
dealt with by other writers.

Darwin's idea was two-fold. He held that man inherited his social
instincts (on which morality is built) from the lower animals; and he
thought that very likely the origin of the social instinct in animals
was the relation of the parents to their young. Let us first see what
Darwin said.

In Chapter Four of _The Descent of Man_ Darwin deals with "moral sense."
After remarking that, so far as he knows, no one has approached the
question exclusively from the side of natural history, Darwin goes on:

The following proposition seems to me in a high degree probable--namely,
that any animal whatever, endowed with well-marked social instincts,
the parental and filial affections being here included, would inevitably
acquire a moral sense, or conscience, as soon as its intellectual powers
had become as well, or nearly as well, developed as in man.

For, firstly, the social instincts lead an animal to take pleasure in
the society of its fellows, and feel a certain amount of sympathy with
them, and to perform various services for them....

Every one must have noticed how miserable dogs, horses, sheep, etc., are
when separated from their companions, and what strong mutual affection
the two former kinds, at least, shown on their reunion....

All animals living in a body, which defend themselves or attack their
enemies in concert, must indeed be in some degree faithful to one
another; and those that follow a leader must be in some degree obedient.
When the baboons in Abyssinia plunder a garden, they silently follow a
leader, and if an imprudent young animal makes a noise, he receives a
slap from the others to teach him silence and obedience....

With respect to the impulse which leads certain animals to associate
together, and to aid one another in many ways, we may infer that in most
cases they are impelled by the same sense of satisfaction or pleasure
which they experience in performing other instinctive actions....

In however complex a manner this feeling (sympathy) may have originated,
as it is one of high importance to all those animals which aid and
defend one another, it will have been increased through natural
selection for those communities which included the greatest number of
sympathetic members would flourish best and rear the greatest number of

Thus the social instincts, which must have been acquired by man in a
very rude state, and probably even by his early apelike progenitors,
still give the impulse to some of his best actions; but his actions are
in a higher degree determined by the expressed wishes and judgment of
his fellow-men, and unfortunately very often by his own strong selfish

Those quotations should be enough to show Darwin's idea of the origin
of the social, or moral, feelings. But I shall quote besides Haeckel's
comment on Darwin's theory.

Speaking of the "Golden Rule" in his _Confessions of Faith of a Man of
Science_, Haeckel says:

In the human family this maxim has always been accepted as self-evident;
as ethical instinct it was an inheritance derived from our animal
ancestors. It had already found a place among the herds of apes and
other social mammals; in a similar manner, but with wider scope, it was
already present in the most primitive communities and among the hordes
of the least advanced savages. Brotherly love--mutual support, succour,
protection, and the like--had already made its appearance among
gregarious animals as a social duty; for without it, the continued
existence of such societies is impossible. Although at a later period,
in the case of man, these moral foundations of society came to be much
more highly developed, their oldest prehistoric source, as Darwin has
shown, is to be sought in the social instincts of animals. Among the
higher vertebrates (dogs, horses, elephants, etc.), the development
of social relations and duties is the indispensable condition of their
living together in orderly societies. Such societies have for man also
been the most important instrument of intellectual and moral progress.

There is a very able article in the March, 1905, issue of the
_Nineteenth Century_, by Prince Kropotkin, the author of _Mutual Aid_,
on Darwin's theory of the origin of the moral sense, in which the
striking suggestion is made that primitive man, besides inheriting from
animals the social instinct, also copied from them the first rudiments
of tribal union and mutual aid. This notion may be gathered from the
following picturesque passages:

Primitive man lived in close intimacy with animals. With some of them he
probably shared the shelters under the rocks, occasionally the caverns,
and very often food....

Our primitive ancestors lived _with_ the animals, in the midst of them.
And as soon as they began to bring some order into their observations
of nature, and to transmit them to posterity, the animals and their life
supplied them with the chief materials for their unwritten encyclopaedia
of knowledge, as well as for their wisdom, which they expressed in
proverbs and sayings. Animal psychology was the first psychology man was
aware of--it is still a favourite subject of talk at the camp fires;
animal life, closely interwoven with that of man, was the subject of
the very first rudiments of art, inspiring the first engravers and
sculptors, and entering into the composition of the most ancient epical
traditions and cosmogonic myths....

The first thing which our children learn in natural history is something
about the beasts of prey--the lions and the tigers; But the first
thing that primitive savages must have learned about nature was that
it represents a vast agglomeration of animal clans and tribes; the
ape tribe, so nearly related to man, the ever-prowling wolf tribe, the
knowing, chattering bird tribe, the ever-busy insect tribe, and on. For
them the animals were an extension of their own kin--only so much wiser
than themselves. And the first vague generalisation which men must
have made about nature--so vague as to hardly differ from a mere
impression--was that the living being and his clan or tribe are
inseparable. _We_ can separate them--_they_ could not; and it seems even
doubtful whether they could _think_ of life otherwise than within a clan
or a tribe....

And that man who had witnessed once an attack of wild dogs, or dholes,
upon the biggest beasts of prey, certainly realised, once and for ever,
the irresistible force of the tribal unions, and the confidence and
courage with which they inspire every individual. Man made divinities of
these dogs, and worshipped them, trying by all sorts of magic to acquire
their courage.

In the prairies and the woods our earliest ancestors saw myriads of
animals, all living in clans and tribes. Countless herds of red deer,
fallow deer, reindeer, gazelles, and antelopes, thousands of droves of
buffaloes and legions of wild horses, wild donkeys, quaggas, zebras, and
so on, were moving over the boundless plains, peacefully grazing side
by side. Even the dreary plateaus had their herds of llamas and wild
camels. And when man approached these animals, he soon realised how
closely connected all these beings were in their respective droves or
herds. Even when they seemed fully absorbed in grazing, and apparently
took no notice of the others, they closely watched each other's
movements, always ready to join in some common action. Man saw that
all the deer tribe, whether they graze or merely gambol, always kept
sentries, which never release their watchfulness and never are late to
signal the approach of a beast of prey; he knew how, in case of a sudden
attack, the males and the females would encircle their young ones and
face the enemy, exposing their lives for the safety of the feeble ones;
and how, even with such timid creatures as the antelopes, or the fallow
deer, the old males would often sacrifice themselves in order to cover
the retreat of the herd. Man knew all that, which we ignore or easily
forget, and he repeated it in his tales, embellishing the acts of
courage and self-sacrifice with his primitive poetry, or mimicking them
in his religious tribal dances....

Social life--that is, _we_, not _I_--is, in the eyes of primitive man,
the normal form of life. _It is life itself_. Therefore "we" must have
been the normal form of thinking for primitive man: a "category" of
his understanding, as Kant might have said. And not even "we," which
is still too personal, because it represents a multiplication of the
"_I's_," but rather such expression as "the men of the beaver tribe,"
"the kangaroo men," or "the turtles." This was the primitive form of
thinking, which nature impressed upon the mind of man.

Here, in that identification, or, we might even say, in this absorption
of the "I" by the tribe, lies the root of all ethical thought. The
self-asserting "individual" came much later on. Even now, with the lower
savages, the "individual" hardly exists at all. It is the tribe, with
its hard-and-fast rules, superstitions, taboos, habits, and interests,
which is always present in the mind of the child of nature. And in that
constant, ever-present identification of the unit with the whole lies
the substratum of all ethics, the germ out of which all the subsequent
conceptions of justice, and the still higher conceptions of morality,
grew up in the course of evolution.

Besides these excellent contributions to the subject, Prince Kropotkin
gives us other new and striking thoughts, bearing upon the parental
source of the social feelings indicated by Darwin. But first let us go
back to Darwin. In Chapter Four of _The De-scent of Man_ Darwin says:

The feeling of pleasure from society is probably an extension of the
parental or filial affections, since the social instinct seems to be
developed by the young remaining for a long time with their parents,
and this extension may be attributed in part to habit, but chiefly to
natural selection. With those animals which were benefited by living in
close association, the individuals which took the greatest pleasure in
society would best escape various dangers, whilst those that cared least
for their comrades, and lived solitary, would perish in greater numbers.

Dr. Saleeby, in the _Academy_ in the spring of 1905, had some
interesting remarks upon the origin of altruism. He "finds in the breast
of the mammalian mother the fount whence love has flowed," and points
out that the higher we go in the mammalian scale the more dependent are
the young upon their mothers.

After describing the helplessness of the human baby, he continues thus:

Yet, this is the creature which has spread over the earth so that
he numbers some fifteen hundred millions to-day. He is the "lord of
creation," master of creatures bigger, stronger, fleeter, longer-lived
than himself. The earth is his and the fulness thereof. Yet without love
not one single specimen of him has a chance of reaching maturity, or
even surviving for a week. Verily love is the greatest thing in the

Well, upon this subject of the parental origin of altruism, Prince
Kropotkin throws another light. First, alluding to Darwin's cautious
handling of the subject of the maternal origin of social feelings,
Prince Kropotkin, quotes Darwin's own remarkable comment, thus:

This caution was fully justified, because in other places he pointed
out that the social instinct must be a _separate instinct in itself_,
different from the others--an instinct which has been developed
by natural selection _for its own sake_, as it was useful for the
well-being and preservation of the species. It is so fundamental,
that when it runs against another instinct, even one so strong as the
attachment of the parents to their offspring, it often takes the upper
hand. Birds, when the time has come for their autumn migration, will
leave behind their tender young, not yet old enough for a prolonged
flight, and follow their comrades.

He then offers the following suggestion:

To this striking illustration I may also add that the social instinct is
strongly developed with many lower animals, such as the land-crabs, or
the Molucca crab; as also with certain fishes, with whom it hardly could
be considered as an extension of the filial or parental feelings.
In these cases it appears rather an extension of the _brotherly_ or
_sisterly_ relations or feelings of _comradeship_, which probably
develop each time that a considerable number of young animals, having
been hatched at a given place and at a given moment, continue to live
together--whether they are with their parents or not. It would seem,
therefore, more correct to consider the social and the parental
instincts as _two_ closely connected instincts, of which the former is
perhaps the earlier, and therefore the stronger, and which both go
hand in hand in the evolution of the animal world. Both are favoured by
natural selection, which as soon as they come into conflict keeps the
balance between the two, for the ultimate good of the species.

To sum up all these ideas. We find it suggested that the social feelings
from which morality sprang, were partly inherited by man from his animal
ancestors, partly imitated from observation of the animals he knew so
well in his wild life.

And we find it suggested that these social feelings probably began
in the love of animals for their young, and in the brotherhood and
comradeship of the young for each other.

It was the social feelings of men that made their Bibles: the Bibles did
not make the social feelings.

Morality is the result of evolution, not of revelation.


I HAVE spoken of the "nature" handed down to us by our fore-parents. I
might have said "natures," for our inheritance, being not from one, but
from many, is not simple, but compound.

We too commonly think of a man as an Englishman or a Frenchman; as a
Londoner or a Yorkshireman; as good or bad.

We too commonly think of a man as one person, instead of as a mixture of
many persons. As though John Smith were _all_ John Smith, and _always_
John Smith.

There is no such thing as an unmixed Englishman, Irishman, or

There is no such thing as an unmixed John Smith.

Englishmen are bred from the Ancient Briton, from the Roman, from
the Piets and Scots, from the Saxons, the Danes, the Norwegians, the
Normans, the French. All these varied and antagonistic bloods were mixed
in centuries ago.

Since then the mixing has gone on, plentifully varied by intermarriage
with Irish, Scots, Dutch, Germans, Belgians, French, Italians, Poles,
and Spaniards. We have had refugees and immigrants from all parts of
Europe. We have given homes to the Huguenots, and the Emigrés from
France, to the Lollards and Lutherans from the Netherlands, to crowding
fugitives from Russia, Holland, Hungary, Italy, and Greece. We have
absorbed these foreigners and taken them into our blood. And the
descendants of all these mixed races are called Englishmen.

The Londoner is a mixture of all those races, and more. From every part
of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales; from most parts of Europe, from
many parts of America and Asia, and even Africa, streams of foreign
blood have flowed in to make the Londoner.

In Yorkshire there are several distinct races, though none of them are
pure. There is one Yorkshire type bearing marks of descent from the
Norsemen, another bearing marks of descent from the Flemish and French
immigrants, and another from the Normandy invaders. I have seen Vikings,
Belgians, and Normans all playing cricket in the Yorkshire County team.

In Ireland there are Irishmen from Denmark and Norway, Irishmen from
Ancient Mongolia, and, especially in Kerry, Irishmen who seem to be of
almost pure Iberian type.

The Iberian Irishman is short, dark, aquiline, and sardonic, with black
hair and eyes, and a moustache more like a Tartar's than a European's.
The Viking Irishman is big and burly, with blue or grey eyes, and
reddish hair and beard; the difference between these two types is as
great as that between a Saxon and a Spaniard.

One of these Irish Iberians marries a Yorkshire Dane. Their son marries
the daughter of a Lancashire Belgian and an Ancient Briton from Flint;
and their children are English.

As I said just now, we think of John Smith as _all_ John Smith and
_always_ John Smith.

But John is a mixture of millions of men and women, many of them as
different from each other as John Ridd is different from Dick Swiveller,
or as Diana of the Crossways is different from Betsy Trotwood. And these
uncountable and conflicting natures are not extinct: they are alive and
busy in the motley jumble we call John Smith.

John is not all John. He is, a great deal of him, Roman soldier, Ancient
Briton, Viking pirate, Flemish weaver, Cornish fisherman, Lowland
scholar, Irish grazier, London chorus girl, Yorkshire spinner, Welsh
dairymaid, and a host of other gentle and simple, wild and tame, gay
and grave, sweet and sour, fickle and constant, lovable and repellent
ancestors; from his great-great-grandparent, the hairy treeman, with
flat feet and club like a young larch, to his respectable father, the
white-fronted, silk-hatted clerk in the Pudsey Penny Savings Bank.

And, being as he is, not all John Smith, but rather the knotted,
crossed, and tangled mixture of Johns and Marys, and Smiths and Browns
and Robinsons, that has been growing more dense and intricate for tens
of thousands of years, how can we expect our good John to be always the
same John?

We know John is many Johns in the course of a summer's day. We have seen
him, possibly, skip back to the cave-man in a spasm of rage, glow
with the tenderness of the French lady who died of the plague in the
Fourteenth Century, and then smile the smile of the merry young soldier
who was shot at Dettingen--all in the time it takes him to clench and
unclench his hand, or to feel in his pocket for a penny, or to flash a
glance at a pretty face in the crowd.

John Smith is not English, nor Yorkshire; but human. He is not one man;
but many men, and, which counts for more, many women.

And how can we say of John Smith that he is "good" or "bad"? It is like
saying of a bottle of beads, mixed of fifty colours, that it is red,
or blue. As John's ancestors were made up of good and bad, and as he is
made up of them, so John is good and bad in stripes or patches: is good
and bad by turns.

We speak of these mixed natures which a man inherits from his
fore-parents as his "disposition": we call them "the qualities of
his mind," and we wonder when we find him inconsistent, changeable,
undecided. Ought we to be surprised that the continual struggle for
the mastery amongst so many alien natures leads to unlooked-for and
unwished-for results?

Take the case of a council, a cabinet, a regiment, composed of
antagonistic natures; what happens? There are disputes, confusion,
contradictions, cross-purposes. Well: a man is like a crowd, a
Parliament, a camp of ill-matched foreign allies. Indeed, he _is_ a
crowd--a crowd of alien and ill-sorted ancestors.

The Great Arteries of Human Nature

But, differ from each other as we may, there are some general
qualities--some _human_ qualities--common to most of us.

These common qualities may be split into two kinds, selfish and

The selfish instincts come down to us from our earlier brute ancestors.

The unselfish instincts come down to us from our later brute ancestors,
and from our human ancestors.

Amongst the strongest and the deepest of man's instincts are love
of woman, love of children, love of pleasure, love of art, love of
humanity, love of adventure, and love of praise.

I should say that the commonest and most lasting of all human passions
is the love of praise: called by some "love of approbation."

From this great trunk impulse there spring many branches. Nearly all our
vanities, ambitions, affectations, covetings, are born of our thirst
for praise. It is largely in the hope of exciting the wonder or the
admiration of our fellows that we toil and scramble and snatch and
fight, for wealth, for power, for place; for masterly or daring

None but misers love money for its own sake. It is for what money will
buy that men covet it; and the most desired of the things money will buy
are power and display: the value of which lies in the astonishment they
will create, and the flattery they will win.

How much meaning would remain to such proud and potent words as glory,
riches, conquest, fame, hero, triumph, splendour, if they were bereft of
the glamour of human wonder and applause?

What man will bear and do and suffer for love of woman, and woman for
love of man; what both will sacrifice for the sake of their children;
how the devotee of art and science, literature, or war, will cleave to
the work of his choice; with what eagerness the adventurer will follow
his darling bent, seeking in the ends of the earth for excitement, happy
to gaze once more into the "bright eyes of danger"; with what cheerful
steadfastness and unwearied self-denial benevolence will labour for the
good of the race; is known to us all. What we should remember is that
these and other powers of our nature act and react upon each other: that
one impulse checks, or goads, or diverts another.

Thus the love of our fellows will often check or turn aside our love
of ourselves. Often when the desire for praise beckons us the dread of
blame calls us back again. The love of praise may even lure us towards
an act, and baulk us of its performance: as when a cricketer sacrifices
the applause of the crowd in order to win the praise of captain or

So will the lust of pleasure struggle against the lust of fame; the love
of woman against the love of art; the passion for adventure against the
desire for wealth; and the victory will be to the stronger.

Let us look into the human heart (the best way is to look into our own)
and see how these inherited qualities work for and against each other.

One of the strongest checks is fear; another is what we call conscience.

Fear springs sometimes from "love of approbation"; we shrink from an act
from fear of being found out, which would mean the loss of that esteem
we so prize. Or we shrink from fear of bodily pain: as those knew well
who invented the terrors of hell-fire.

There is a great deal of most respectable virtue that ought to be called
cowardice. Deprive virtue of its "dare nots," and how many "would nots"
and "should nots" might survive? Good conduct may not mean the presence
of virtue, but the lack of courage, or desire.

But, happily, men do right, also, for right's sake; and because it is
right; or they refrain from doing wrong because it is wrong.

The bent towards right conduct arises from one of two sources:

1. Education: we have been _taught_ that certain acts are wrong.

2. Natural benevolence: a dislike to injure others.

The first of these--education--has to do with "environment"; the second
is part of heredity. One we get from our fellow-men, the other from our

Here let us pause to look into that much-preached-of "mystery" of the
"dual consciousness," or "double-self."

We all know that men often do things which they know to be wrong. When
we halt between the desire to do a thing, and the feeling that we ought
not to do it, we seem to have two minds within us, and these two minds
dispute about the decision.

What is this "mysterious" double-self? It is nothing but the contest
between heredity and environment; and is not mysterious at all.

Heredity is very old. It reaches back, to the beasts. It passes on
to us, generation after generation, for millions of years, certain
instincts, impulses, or desires of the beast.

Environment is new. It begins at the cradle. It prints upon us certain
lessons of right and wrong. It tells us that we ought not to do certain

But the desire to do those things is part of our heredity. It is in our
blood. It is persistent, turbulent, powerful. It rises up suddenly, with
a glare and a snarl, like a wild beast in its lair. And at the sound of
its roar, and the flame of its lambent eyes, and the feel of its fiery
breath, memory lifts its voice and hand, and repeats the well-learned
lesson with its "shall-nots."

We are told that the animal impulses dwell in the "hind brain," and that
morals and thought dwell in the "fore brain." The "dual personality,"
then, the "double-self," consists of the two halves of the brain; and
the dispute between passion and reason, or between desire and morality,
is a conflict between the lower man and the higher; between the old Adam
and the new.

But it is also, to a great extent, a conflict between the average man
and the hero, or leader.

We inherit the roots of morality, that is ta say, the "social
instincts," or impulses of unselfish thoughts for others, from the
sociable animals. But what we call "ethics," the rules or laws of moral
conduct, have been slowly built up by human teachers. These teachers
have been men with a special genius for morals. They have made codes of
morals higher than the nature of the average man can reach.

But the average man has been taught these codes of morals in his
childhood, and has grown up in unquestioning respect for them.

So when his baser nature prompts him to an act, and his memory repeats
the moral lesson it has learnt, we have the nature of the average man
confronted by the teaching of the superior or more highly moral man.

And there is naturally a conflict between the desire to do evil, and
the knowledge of what things are good. It is not easy for Wat Tyler,
Corporal Trim, or Sir John Falstaff to follow the moral lines laid down
by such men as Buddha, Seneca, or Socrates. Sir John knows the value of
temperance; but he has a potent love of sack. Wat knows that it is
good for a man to govern his temper; but he is a choleric subject,
and "hefty" with a hammer. There was a lot of human nature in the
shipwright, who being reminded that St. Paul said a man was better
single, retorted that "St. Paul wasn't a North Shields man."


We know very well that some qualities may make either for good or bad.
Strength, ability, courage, emulation, may go to the making of a great
hero, or a great criminal..

If a man's bent, or teaching, be good, he will do better, if it be
evil he will do worse by reason of his talents, his daring, or his

Dirt has been defined as "matter in the wrong place": badness might
be often defined as goodness misapplied. Courage ill-directed is
foolhardiness; caution in excess is cowardice; firmness overstrained is

Many of our inherited qualities are what we call "potentialities": they
are "possibilities," capabilities, strong, or potential for good or

Love of praise may drive a man to seek fame as a philanthropist, a
tyrant, a discoverer, or a train-robber.

Love of adventure and love of fame had as much to do with the exploits
of Gaude Duval and Morgan, the buccaneer, as with those of Drake or

Nelson was as keen for fame as Buonaparte: but the Englishman loved his
country; the Corsican himself.

Doubtless Torquemada had as much religious zeal as St. Francis; but the
one breathed curses, the other blessings.

Pugnacity is good when used against tyranny or wrong; it is bad when
used against liberty or right.

Men of brilliant parts have failed for lack of industry or judgment. Men
of noble qualities have gone to ruin because of some inborn weakness,
or bias towards vice. Our minds "are of a mingled yarn, good and ill
together." Many of life's most tragic human failures have been "sweet
bells jangled out of tune and harsh." Ophelia was not the first woman,
nor the last by many millions, to perish through reaching for flowers
that grow aslant the brook. If virtue is often cowardice, frailty is
often love; and the words of Laertes to the "churlish priest" might
frequently be spoken for some poor "Bottom Dog" in reproach of the
unjust censure of a Pharisee: "a ministering angel shall my sister be,
when thou liest howling."

We must remember, then, that the happiness or unhappiness of our nature
depends not so much upon any special quality as upon the general balance
of the whole.

Poor Oscar Wilde had many fine qualities, but his egotism, his vicious
taint, and, perhaps, his unfortunate surroundings, drove him to
shipwreck, with all his golden talents aboard. Every day noble ships
run upon the rocks; every day brave pennons go down in the press of the
battle, and are trampled in the blood and dust; every day lackeys ride
in triumph, and princes slave on the galleys; every day the sweet buds
go to the swine-trough, and the gay and fair young children to shame or
the jail.

Some fall through loving too much, others through loving not at all.
Some are shattered by a single fault, like a ruby cup with one flaw in
its radiant heart. Some are twisted out of all hope from birth, like one
of Omar's pots, which the potter moulded awry. Some seeds of innocent
lilies, or roses of loveliness, or passion flowers divine, are scattered
upon the rocks, or blown by harsh winds out to sea.

Do you know Thomas Carlyle's burning words concerning these tragic

Cholera doctors, hired to dive into black dens of infection and despair,
they, rushing about all day, from lane to lane, with their life in their
hand, are found to do their function; which is a much more rugged one
than Howard's. O, what say we, Cholera Doctors? Ragged losels, gathered
by beat of drum from the over-crowded streets of cities, and drilled a
little, and dressed in red, do not they stand fire in an uncensurable
manner; and handsomely give their life, if needful, at the rate of a
shilling per day? Human virtue, if we went down to the roots of it, is
not so rare. The materials of human virtue are everywhere abundant as
the light of the sun: raw materials--O woe, and loss, and scandal thrice
and three-fold, that they so seldom are elaborated, and built into a
result. That they lie yet unelaborated and stagnant in the souls of
widespread dreary millions, fermenting, festering; and issue at last as
energetic vice instead of strong practical virtue! A Mrs. Manning "dying
game"--alas, is not that the foiled potentiality of a kind of heroine
too? Not a heroic Judith, not a mother of Gracchi now, but a hideous
murderess, fit to be mother of hyenas! To such extent can potentialities
be foiled.

Let us bear in mind, then, that a man's powers, like the powers of a
state, will work for good or for evil, as they are ill or well governed.

And the government of human powers and desires depends partly upon
heredity, and largely upon environment, of which in its due place.

How Does Heredity Make Genius?

I shall not weary the reader with proofs of heredity. It would be a
waste of words to quote pages of Darwin, Spencer, Weissmann, and Galton
for the sake of proving the obvious. Our own observation and common
sense will convince us that our traits and qualities of body and mind
are inherited.

We know that rabbits do not breed kittens, nor eagles geese, nor apples
oranges, nor negroes whites. We know that in all cases where the breed
is pure the descent is pure; and we understand that where a black
sheep is born into a white flock, or a fair child is born of dark
fore-parents, the "sport," as it is called, is due to atavism, or
breeding back. Somewhere, near or far, the breed has been "crossed."

But there is one question that has caused a good deal of doubt and
perplexity, and, as the answer to that question is not obvious, we will
consider it here.

A "sport" is "an individual departure from a type." A sport is a "freak
of nature." A genius is a "sport"; and the question we are to answer
here is:

How does heredity account for genius?

To make the matter quite clear, and to meet all doubts, we will split
our question into two:

1. How is it that genius does not always beget genius?

2. How is it mediocrity does sometimes beget genius?

Take the first question. How is it that genius does not always beget
genius? Mr. Galton has disposed of the objection that clever men do not
have clever sons by showing that clever men often do have clever sons.

But the fact remains that such men as Shakespeare, Plato, Cæsar, and
Socrates never have children as great as themselves.

And it has been claimed that this fact belies heredity.

But to those who know even a very little about heredity it is quite
obvious that we ought not to expect the son of a very great genius to be
equal to his father.

Such a recurrence is rendered almost impossible by the law of variation.

A great man is a lucky product of heredity and environment. He is a
fortunate, and accidental, blending of several qualities which make
greatness possible.

But the great man's son is not born of the same parents as his father.
His blood is only half of it drawn from the families which produced his
father's greatness; the other half is from another family, which may
contain no elements of greatness.

Thus so far from its being strange that genius does not beget genius, we
see that it would be strange if genius did beget genius.

The children of Shakespeare would not be Shakespeareans: they would be
half Shakespeare and half Hathaway; and it is quite possible that their
intellectual qualities might come chiefly from the mother's side.

Now, if Ann Hathaway's family were not intellectually equal to
Shakespeare's family, how could we expect the children of those two to
be equal to the child of the superior breed?

We should not expect a mixture of wine and water to be all wine; nor the
foal of a blood horse and a half-bred mare to be a thoroughbred horse.
So much for the first question. Those who ask such a question have lost
sight of the law of variation.

Now for the second question. How is it that mediocrity breeds genius?
The answer to that is that mediocrity does _not_ breed genius.

Let us take a case that is often cited: the case of the great musician,

George Frederick Handel was a musical genius; and we are told that
heredity does not account for his genius, as no other member of his
family had ever displayed any special musical talent. Whence, then, did
Handel get his musical genius? What are the qualities that go to the
making of a great composer?

First, an exquisite ear; that implies great gifts of time and tune.
Second, a great imagination. Third, an "infinite capacity for taking
pains." Fourth, a quick and sensitive nervous system.

Now, a man might possess great industry, or ambition, and sensitive
nerves, and not be an artist of any kind.

He might have a great imagination, and lack the industry or the ambition
to use it effectively.

He might have industry, ambition, sensitive nerves, and great
imagination, and yet without the musical ear he would never be a

And the same may be said of any one or more of his ancestors.

Therefore, there may have been amongst Handel's foreparents all the
qualities needed for the making of a great musician without those
qualities ever happening to be united in one person.

Let us suppose a case. A man of energy and ambition, but with average
imagination, and an average ear, marries a woman of ordinary mind. Their
son marries a woman of strong imagination. The child of this second,
union marries a woman of refined nature and considerable imagination.
The son of this union may be ambitious, imaginative, and energetic, for
he may inherit all those qualities from his foreparents.

Then the only trait left to be accounted for is the fine musical ear.

Now that gift for music may have come down to him from some distant
foreparent, living in an age when such a quality had no outlet. Or it
may have come down to him from some foreparent who lacked ambition or
energy to use it in a striking way.

It happens very often that a son inherits his finest intellectual and
emotional qualities from his mother.

And we know that a talent of any kind is more likely to lie dormant in a
woman than in a man. For the woman may spend all her time and attention
upon her home, her husband, her children.

I knew a case in which two sisters possessed considerable artistic
talent Yet, so far as anyone knew, none of their foreparents had shown
artistic ability. But one of the sisters told me that her mother had a
remarkable gift for drawing, which she had never used, "except to amuse
her children."

Now, when we come to look into the case of Handel, we find that his
father's family never gave any sign of musical talent But of
his mother's family, and of the families of his grandmother and
great-grandmother we know little.

But Handel's father was ambitious and energetic, and his mother is
described as follows:

The mother was thirty-three years old, and, we are told, was
"clear-minded, of strong piety, with a great knowledge of the Bible... a
capable manager, earnest, and of pleasant manners."

Is there any proof that Handel's mother had not a good musical ear?
None. Is there any proof that she had not, lying dormant, some special
gift for music, inherited from some ancestor? None.

In that day, and in that part of Germany, music was set little store by,
and musicians were regarded much as actors were in England. Therefore
any great musical gift which happened to be inherited by a woman would
have small chance of being developed or used. And it is quite possible
that Handel may have inherited his ear from his mother's family.

Again, the musical talent may have been a quality that had been
improving by marriage for several generations. Or it may have been an
accident, due to some physical process about which we cannot possibly
have any direct knowledge.

For instance, just as some special excellence of some special organ
may be handed down, so may some special defect A child may inherit the
defect, or the excellence. Or he may inherit a talent from both parents,
and so may excel them both.

A man may inherit his genius piecemeal from a hundred ancestors, some
of them dead for centuries, or he may owe his special brilliance to some
excitement, or even to some derangement of the nervous system. In fact,
to what Lombroso calls "degeneracy." He may be like a river, fed by
several ancestral streams. He may be the descendant of some "mute
inglorious Milton." But one thing he is not--he is not a "mystery."
There is nothing in his greatness more mysterious than the accumulation
of money in a bank, or the agrandisement of a river by its tributary
streams, or the sudden appearance of a pattern of unusual beauty in a

There is nothing in genius to belie heredity. There is nothing in genius
that cannot be accounted for by heredity--if we remember the laws of
variation, and of atavism, or breeding back.


Speaking strictly, there are no "born criminals"; but there are some
unfortunate creatures born with a nature prone to crime, just as there
are others born with a nature prone to disease.

These "born criminals," regarded by their better-endowed or luckier
brothers and sisters as "wicked," are the victims of "atavism" or of

They are as much to be pitied, and as little to be blamed, as those born
with a liability to insanity or consumption.

Atavism, as we have seen, is a reversion to an older and a lower type, a
"breeding back," in some points, to the savage or the brute.

"Degeneracy" is the inherited result of vice, insanity, or disease in
the parent Lombroso describes degeneracy as "the action of heredity
in the children of the inebriate, the syphilitic, the insane, the
consumptive, etc.; or of accidental causes, such as lesions of the
head, or the action of mercury, which profoundly change the tissues,
perpetuates neuroses or other diseases in the patient, and, which is
worse, aggravates them in his descendants."

The atavist is a man born with the nature, or some of the traits of
bestial or savage ancestors. He is bred back to the type that was before
morals. He is born with strong animal traits, with few social qualities;
with little or no moral brain. He is a modern child, born with the
passions, or the appetites, or the intelligence, of an ape, or a
cave-man. To expect him to rise to the moral standard of to-day, and to
blame him if he fail, is as unreasonable as it would be to expect the
same conduct from a gorilla, or a panther.

If the atavist is "wicked," the shark, and the wolf, and the adder are

To say that the atavistic man has "reason" is no answer; he has _not_
the kind of reason that makes for peace and order. His misfortune just
lies in the fact that he is "bred back" to the kind of reason which,
amongst the cave-men, perhaps, made a man a leader, or a hero, but
amongst civilised Western people makes him a "born criminal."

I said before, that to blame a Spaniard for being proud is to blame him
for being born of Spanish parents. It is just as true to say that to
blame a man for being a "born criminal" is to blame him because some
of his baser ancestors have accidentally passed on to him the traits of
their lower natures.

Indeed, it is plainly absurd to blame a man for being "born" anything,
since he had no hand nor part in his birth.

All we can do with regard to the "born criminal" is to pity him for his
unhappy inheritance, and try to make the best of him. So far we have
never tried to make the best of him; but have usually made almost the
worst of him, by meeting his hate with our hate, his ignorance with our
ignorance, his ferocity with our ferocity. Nature, or God, having cursed
the poor wretch with a heritage of shame, we have come forward, in the
name of humanity and justice, to punish and execrate him for his fatal
mischoice of ancestors. It is as though we should flog a gorilla or a
hyæna for having wickedly refused to be born a Canon of St. Paul's, or a
Primitive Methodist Sunday school teacher.

But some will suppose that the "born criminal" might be a sober,
law-abiding, and God-fearing man, "if he would try"; and they do not
understand that the man with the atavistic brain _cannot_ try.

He has not got the kind of brain that can try to be what we think he
ought to be. We do not expect the bear to "try" to be polite, nor the
hog to "try" to be cleanly. We know they cannot try to be either of
those things. Neither can the atavistic man _try_ to be something for
which his nature was not made.

What is sauce for the atavist is sauce for the degenerate. He also is
the victim of cruel fate. He also inherits misfortune, or shame, or
disaster from his fathers. His nature is not a casting back to an
ancient type: it is a nature poisoned, maimed, perverted, or spoiled
through the vices or the diseases of those who brought him into the

The degenerate may inherit from a diseased or drunken parent an
imperfect mind or an imperfect body. He may be born with a weak moral
sense, or with weak lungs, or with an ill-balanced brain.

Proneness to crime or proneness to disease may be born in him through
no fault of his own. The cause is the same in both cases: the vice or
disease of a parent.

Now it is certain that we do not blame, but pity, and that we do not
punish but help the victim whose degeneracy takes the form of disease.
But we do blame and we do punish the victim whose degeneracy takes the
form of immorality or crime.

In neither case is the degeneracy the fault of the degenerate: in both
cases it is handed down to him by his parent or parents. Yet in the one
case he gets our sympathy, and in the other case our censure.

There is neither justice nor reason in such treatment of those who have
the misfortune to be born--in the true sense of the words--of "unsound

Those who have made a scientific study of crime tell us that "psychic
atavism is the dominant characteristic of the born criminal."

What is "psychic atavism"? It is a breeding back, or "casting back" to
a lower type of mind. This atavistic mind is inherited by the "born
criminal" just as certain "muscles common to apes" are inherited by some
other men.

And we are told that this inherited atavistic mind is "the dominant
characteristic of the criminal born." In other words, those men whom
we have always blamed and punished as exceptionally "wicked," have
inherited an atavistic, or criminal, mind from ancestors who died
millions of years ago. The most noticeable and striking fact about the
born criminal is his unfortunate inheritance of that atavistic mind.

And in the plenitude of our wisdom and the glow of our righteous wrath,
we hang a man, or flog him, or brand him, or loathe him, because a cruel
fate has visited upon him an affliction more pitiable than blindness, or
lameness, or paralysis, or consumption.

In cases of psychic atavism the actual form of the brain, or the skull,
is more or less like that of the older and lower type to which the
luckless atavist has been cast back. The skull of the "born criminal" is
the skull of the ape-man, or the cave-man. It has a low and retreating
forehead, a heavy and square jaw, and is large behind, where the baser
animal parts of the brain are placed.

Now, to expect the same morals and the same intelligence from a man
cursed with the skull of a gorilla, or the brain of a wild hog, as from
the man blest with the skull and brain of a Socrates or a Shakespeare,
is like expecting figs to grow upon thistles, or fish to breathe without

And to blame a man for the shape of his skull, or the balance of his
brain, is as foolish as to blame him because he has no eye for colour
or no ear for music, or because his "having in beard is as a younger
brother's revenue."

Speaking on this subject in his excellent book, "The Diseases of
Society," Dr. Lydston, Professor of Criminal Anthropology, who is a
well-known authority in America, says:

Atavism, or reversion of type, is a most important phase of the relation
of evolutionary law to criminal and vice tendencies.... Reversion of
type may be psychic (mental) or physical or both.

Whether associated with obvious physical reversions or not, psychic
atavism is the dominant characteristic of the criminal. It is certainly
the principal phenomenon involved in the study of the crime question,
because it constitutes the dynamics of crime. The outcropping of
ancestral types of mentality is observed to underlie many of the
manifestations of vice and crime. These ancestral types or traits may
revert farther back even than the savage progenitors of civilised man,
and approximate those of the lower animals who, in turn, stand behind
the savage in the line of descent....

Lombroso assigns to atavism a position of pre-eminence in the etiology
of crime. In effect he thinks that crime is a return to primitive and
barbarous ancestral conditions, the criminal being practically a savage,
born later than his day. Obviously this view fits very accurately
the so-called born criminal, comprising about one-tenth of the entire
criminal population.

But what of the other victims of heredity: the criminal, or immoral
"degenerate"? Let us take a few facts, and see what they will teach us.

Dr. Lydston testifies as follows:

Rev. O. McCulloch has traced the life histories of seventeen hundred and
fifty degenerate criminal and pauper descendants of one "Ben Ishmael,"
who lived in Kentucky in 1790.

The Rev. Dr. Stocker, of Berlin, traced eight hundred and thirty-four
descendants of two sisters, who lived in 1825. Among them were
seventy-six who had served one hundred and sixteen years in prison, one
hundred and sixty-four prostitutes, one hundred and six illegitimate
children, seventeen pimps, one hundred and forty-two beggars, and
sixty-four paupers.

It has been estimated by Sichart, Director of Prisons in Wurtemburg,
that over twenty-five per cent, of the German prison population comes
from a degenerate ancestry. Vergilis claims thirty-two per cent, for
Italian criminals.

Now, bearing in mind that the unfortunate children of drunken, diseased,
criminal, vicious, and insane parents may, and in very many cases will,
either become criminal or immoral, or, becoming imbecile or diseased,
will breed other degenerate children who will become criminal or
immoral, let us consider the following plain facts taken from a London
daily paper of the present year (1905).

It is estimated that there are 50,000 epileptic children in the
United Kingdom, and that one child in every 100 of the population is

In the last few years special schools have been opened for these
children, and they are trained until they are sixteen years of age.
At that age they are turned out into the world. A few are able to look
after themselves. The majority drift into imbecility and vice, and flood
the workhouses and prisons.

At a meeting in the Guildhall, London, called to discuss the means of
dealing with imbeciles and epileptics, a speech was made by Dr. Potts,
of Birmingham, of which the following is a condensed report, cut by me
from the _Daily Express_:

Terrible facts with regard to feeble-minded and defective women were
given by Dr. Potts. He paid a visit to a girls' night shelter, and
investigated the first twelve cases he found there. Here is their

1. Consumptive, both parents died of the disease.

2. Neurotic drunkard, with a family who had suffered from St. Vitus'

3. Normal.

4. Deaf and mentally defective.

5. Neurotic and mentally defective.

6. No congenital defect, but health ruined by drink.

7 and 8. Feeble character.

9. Suffering from persistent bad memory.

10. Twice imprisoned for theft; daughter of drunken loafer.

11. Normal.

12. Mentally defective and suffering from heart disease. Thus, out of
twelve only two were normal individuals. Yet the ten were free to go as
they liked, and to bring up defective children.

"It is well known," said Dr. Potts, "that a large number of the inmates
of penitentiaries are feeble-minded women."

We see, then, that a great many poor imbeciles are regularly sent to
prison as criminals. On that point allow me to put in the evidence
of Sir Robert Anderson, late of Scotland Yard. Speaking of the
feeble-minded, Sir Robert said (I quote again from the London Press):

My deliberate, conviction is that our present prison methods and prison
discipline are absolutely brutal to these poor persons. People say the
law of Moses is brutal, but it is not so brutal as the present criminal
system of England.

No one who has not been behind the scenes can understand in any measure
the misery and cruelty of it. It is "seven days' hard labour," "a
month's hard labour," time after time for these poor creatures, who
ought to be dealt with like children. In prison they spend their
miserable lives. Out of gaol they add to the number of their own
species, and commit offences which send them back once more.

Our magistrates simply send them for another month or six months. But it
is not the magistrates' fault. It is the fault of the law. And this goes
on in what promises to be the most intellectually conceited age since
God made man upon earth. Surely we might have some pity for these poor
creatures! If we have no pity for them we should have regard for the

That is the testimony of the late head of the Criminal Investigation
Department: an Assistant Commissioner of Police, and Barrister at Law.

Let us now return to Dr. Potts, of Birmingham, for a moment. In the
speech above quoted Dr. Potts gave the causes of mental defects--which
are the causes that lead these poor creatures to immorality and to
crime, as follows:

1. Defective nutrition in early years of life.

2. Hereditary tendency to consumption.

3. Descent from insane or criminal stock.

4. Chronic alcoholism of one or both parents.

We have here, added by Dr. Potts, another cause of degeneracy: that is,
defective nutrition in early life. In plain words, improper feeding, or

Later, when we come to deal with environment, I shall show that there
are many other causes of degeneration and of crime. But here I only
point out that atavism and degeneration account for from thirty to
forty per cent, of the criminals of the present day. That atavism
and degeneration are forced upon the unborn child by heredity; that
therefore these forty per cent, of our criminals are unfortunate victims
of fate, and are no more blameworthy nor wicked than the victims of
a railway accident, or an earthquake, or an epidemic of cholera or

They should, as I claimed before, be pitied, and not blamed; they should
be helped, not punished.

Unhappy, unblest atavistic man, that in lieu of love has only lust, in
lieu of wisdom only cunning, in lieu of power violence; and with a whole
world to walk in, as in a garden fair, lies wallowing hideously in the
foul dungeon of his own unlightened soul.

Unhappy criminal born, most pitiful dreadful of developed creatures;
lonelier and more accursed than banded wolf or solitary tiger: a waif, a
spoil, a pariah "born out of his due time":

A scribe's work writ awry and blurred,

Spoiled music, with no perfect word, a wretched, horrible Ishmael with
his hand against the hand of every man, and every man's hand implacably
against his.

On him, it would appear, has fallen the doom of the prophet, and
instead of sweet spices there is rottenness, instead of a girdle a rope:
branding instead of beauty.

In the barren garden of his mind no flowers will blow, his trees will
bear no fruit All human pleasure is to him a Circe cup; he finds no
pathos in the children's laughter, no beauty in the dawn-shine; no glory
in the constellations.

What are we to do for this wretched desperate brother who will not love
us though we whip him with whips of wire, who will not make friends
of us though we spurn and spit upon him; who, though we preach to him,
cannot understand; who, though we teach him, cannot learn; who, though
we hang him high as, Haman, will "die game," cursing us with his
strangled breath, mocking us with his blinded eyes; and in spite of
all our intellect and righteousness going back from us unbettered and
untamed into the abyss of eternity and the laboratory of evolution,
whence he and we were drawn: going back from us a savage still, and in
his angry heart and baffled mind holding our half-fledged knowledge and
green morality in derision.

Well, he is dead; his stiff neck broken, and his body wrapped in a
winding sheet of lime.

And we? We remain the superior persons we are. We are civilised, and
holy. We punish weakness with blows, and misfortune with chains. We
teach sweet reasonableness with the cat-o'-nine-tails--steeped in brine.
We exemplify gentleness and mercy with the gibbet and the axe. We brand
the blind, and torture the imbecile, and execrate the miserable, and
damn the diseased, and revile the fallen; we set our righteous heel upon
the creeping thing, and thank our anomalous and hypothetical God of Love
and Justice that we are not as those others--our atavistic brother and
his degenerate children.

And our atavistic brother, the criminal born! He does not understand us,
he does not admire us, he cannot love us. We fail, in some inexplicable
way, to charm the deaf adder, charm we never so wisely.

But some day, perhaps, when the superior person has achieved humility,
even the outlawed Bottom Dog may come by some crumbs of sympathy, some
drops of the milk of human kindness, and--then?


WHAT is environment?

When we speak of a man's environment we mean his surroundings, his
experiences; all that he sees, hears, feels, and learns from the instant
that the lamp of life is kindled to the instant when the light goes out.

By environment we mean everything that develops or modifies the child or
the man for good or for ill.

We mean his mother's milk; the home, and the state of life into which he
was born. We mean the nurse who suckles him, the children he plays with,
the school he learns in, the air he breathes, the water he drinks, the
food he eats. We mean the games he plays, the work he does, the sights
he sees, the sounds he hears. We mean the girls he loves, the woman he
marries, the children he rears, the wages he earns. We mean the sickness
that tries him, the griefs that sear him, the friends who aid and the
enemies who wound him. We mean all his hopes and fears, his victories
and defeats; his faiths and his disillusionments. We mean all the harm
he does, and all the help he gives; all the ideals that beckon him,
all the temptations that lure him; all his weepings and laughter, his
kissings and cursings, his lucky hits and unlucky blunders: everything
he does and suffers under the sun.

I go into all this detail because we must remember that everything
that happens to a man, everything that influences him, is a part of his

It is a common mistake to think of environment in a narrow sense, as
though environment implied no more than poverty or riches. Everything
outside our skin belongs to our environment.

Let us think of it again. Education is environment; religion is
environment; business and politics are environment; all the ideals,
conventions, and prejudices of race and class are environment;
literature, science, and the Press are environment; music, history, and
sport are environment; beauty and ugliness are environment; example and
precept are environment; war and travel and commerce are environment;
sunshine and ozone, honour and dishonour, failure and success, are
environment; love is environment.

I stress and multiply examples because the power of environment is so
tremendous that we can hardly over-rate its importance.

A child is not born with a conscience; but with the rudiments of a
conscience: the materials from which a conscience may or may not be
developed--by environment.

A child is not born with capacities, but only with potentialities, or
possibilities, for good or evil, which may or may not be developed--by

A child is born absolutely without knowledge. Every atom of knowledge he
gets must be got from his environment.

Every faculty of body or of mind grows stronger with use and weaker with
disuse. This is as true of the reason and the will as of the muscles.

The sailor has better sight than the townsman, because his eyes get
better exercise. The blind have sharper ears than ours, because they
depend more on their hearing.

Exercise of the mind "alters the arrangement of the grey matter of the
brain," and so alters the morals, the memory, and the reasoning powers.

Just as dumb-bells, rowing, or delving develop the muscles, thought,
study, and conversation develop the brain.

And everything that changes, or develops, muscle or brain is a part of
our environment.

There must be bounds to the powers of environment, but no man has yet
discovered the limits, and few have dared to place them wide enough.

But the scope of environment is undoubtedly so great, as I shall try to
prove, that, be the heredity what it may, environment has power to save
or damn.

Let us think what it means to be born quite without knowledge. Let us
think what it means to owe all that we learn to environment.

So it is. Were it not for the action of environment, for the help
of other men and women, we should live and die as animals; without
morality, without decency, without the use of tools, or arms, or arts,
or letters. We should be savages, or superior kinds of apes. That we are
civilised and cultured men and women we owe to the fellow-creatures
who gave into our infant hands the key to the stored-up knowledge and
experience of the race.

The main difference between the Europe of to-day and the Europe of the
old Stone Age is one of knowledge: that is, of environment

Suppose that a child of Twentieth-Century parents could be born into the
environment of an earlier century. Would he grow up with the ideas of
to-day, or with the ideas of those who taught and trained him? Most
certainly he would fall into step with his environment: he would think
with those with whom he lived, and from whom he learnt.

Born into ancient Athens, he would look upon slavery as a quite natural
and proper thing born into ancient Scandinavia, he would grow up a
Viking, would worship Thor and Odin, and would adopt piracy as the only
profession for a man of honour born into the environment of the Spanish
prime, he would think it a righteous act to roast heretics or to
break Lutherans on the wheel. Born into the fanatical environment of
Sixteenth-Century France, he would have no scruples against assisting in
the holy massacre of St. Bartholomew's.

Born a Turk, he would believe the Koran, and accept polygamy and
slavery. Born a Red Indian, he would scalp his slain or wounded enemies,
and torture his prisoners. Born amongst cannibals, he would devour his
aged relatives, and his faded wives, and most of the foes made captive
to his bow and spear.

Suppose a child of modern English family could be born into the
environment of Fourteenth-Century England!

He would surely believe in the Roman Catholic religion, in a personal
devil, and in a hell of everlasting fire.

He would believe that the sun goes round the world, and that any person
who thought otherwise was a child of the devil, and ought to be broiled
piously and slowly at a fire of green faggots.

He would accept slave-dealing, witch-burning, the Star Chamber, the
whipping-post, the pillory, and the forcing of evidence by torture, as
comfortably as we now accept the cat-o'-nine-tails, the silent system,
and the gallows.

He would look upon education, sanitation, and science as black magic and
defiance of God.

He would never have learnt from Copernicus, Newton, Harvey, Bacon,
Spencer, Darwin, Edison, or Pasteur.

He would be ignorant of Shakespeare, Cromwell, the French Revolution,
the Emancipation of Slaves, the Factory Acts, and the Household

He would never have heard of electricity, steam, cheap books, the free
Press, the School Board, the Fabian Society.

He would never have heard of the Australian Colonies, of the Indian
Empire, of the United States of America, nor of Buonaparte, George
Washington, Nelson, Queen Elizabeth, Abraham Lincoln, nor Florence

Not one of these great men, not one of these great things would form a
part of his environment.

Nor may we lightly claim that he, himself, would be of a more highly
developed type, that his propensities would be more humane, his nature
more refined.

For we must not overlook such examples as Alfred the Great, Joan of Arc,
Chaucer, Mallory, and Sir Thomas More.

We must not forget that the refined John Wesley believed in
witch-burning, that the refined Jeremy Taylor thought all the millions
born in heathen darkness would be doomed to eternal torment.

Nor must we forget that many educated, cultured, and well-meaning
Europeans and Americans to-day believe that unbaptised babies, and
free-thinkers, and unrepentant Christians will lie shrieking forever in
a lake of fire and brimstone.

We must not forget that it is now, in the Twentieth Century, that I,
an Englishman, am writing this book to plead that men and women,
our brothers and sisters, should not be hated, degraded, whipped,
imprisoned, hanged, and everlastingly damned for being more ignorant and
less fortunate than others, their fellows.

Taken straight from the cradle and brought up by brutes, a child would
be scarcely human. Taken straight from the cradle and brought up amongst
savages, the child must be a savage.

Taken straight from the cradle and brought up amongst thieves, the child
must be a thief.

Every child is born destitute of knowledge, and every child is born with
propensities that may make for evil or for good.

And the men and women amongst whom the child is born and reared are the
sole source from which he can get knowledge.

And the men and women amongst whom the child is born and reared are the
sole means by which his propensities may be restrained from evil and
developed for good.

The child's character, then, his development for good or evil, depends
upon his treatment by his fellow-creatures.

His propensities depend upon his ancestors.

That is to say, a child must inevitably grow up and become that which
his ancestors and his fellow-creatures make him.

That is to say, that a man "is a creature of heredity and environment."
He is what he is made by a certain kind of environment acting upon a
certain kind of heredity.

He does not choose his ancestors: he does not choose his environment.
How, then, can he be blamed if his ancestors give to him a bad heredity,
or if his fellow-creatures give to him a bad environment?

Should we blame a bramble for yielding no strawberries, or a privet bush
for bearing no chrysanthemums?

Should we blame a rose tree for running wild in a jungle, or for
languishing in the shadow of great elms?

There are no figs on thistles, because the heredity of the thistle does
not breed figs.

And the lily pines, and bears leaves only, in darkness and a hostile
soil, because the conditions are against it.

The breed of the rose or the fig is its heredity: the soil and the
sunshine, or the darkness and the cold, and the gardener's care or
neglect, are its environment.

Let any one who under-rates the power of environment exercise his
imagination for a minute.

Suppose he had never learnt to read! Suppose he had never learnt to
talk! Suppose he had never learnt to speak the truth, to control his
temper, to keep his word, to be courteous to women, to value life!

Now, he had nothing of this when he was born. He brought no knowledge
of any kind into the world with him. He had to be _taught_ to read, to
speak, to be honest, to be courteous; and the teaching was part of his

And suppose none had cared to teach him good. Suppose, instead, he had
been taught to lie and to steal, to hate and to fight, to gamble and to
swear! What manner of man would he have been?

He would have been that which his environment had made him.

And would he have been to blame? Would it have been his fault that he
was born amongst thieves? Would it have been his fault that he had never
heard good counsel, but had been drilled and trained to evil?

But the objector may say that as he got older and knew better he could
mend his ways.

And it is really necessary, strange as it may seem, to point out that he
never _could_ "know better," unless some person _taught_ him better. And
the teaching him to "know better" would be a change in his environment:
it would be a part of his environment, for which he himself would
deserve no credit.

The point is that, since he is born destitute of knowledge, he never
could know good unless _taught_ good by some other person. And that this
other person would be outside himself, and part of his environment.

Now, how could the ignorant child be blamed if some power outside
himself teaches him evil, or how can he be praised if some power outside
himself teaches him good?

But he would have a conscience? He would be born with the rudiments of a
conscience. But what his conscience should become, what things it would
hold as wrong, would depend wholly upon the teaching he got from those
who formed part of his environment.

In a cannibal environment he would have a cannibal conscience; in a
Catholic environment a Catholic conscience; in a piratical environment
a pirate's conscience. But of that more in its due place. Let us now
examine some of the effects of environment.


The brain is the mind. When the brain is diseased the mind is diseased.
When the brain is sick the mind is sick.

But the brain is part of the body. We see, hear, smell, feel, and taste
with the brain. The nerves of the toes and fingers are connected with
the brain; they are like twigs on a tree, of which the brain is the
root. The same blood which circulates through the heart and limbs
circulates through the brain.

It is only a figure of speech to speak of the mind and the body as
distinct from each other. The mind and the body are one.

A wound in any part of the body--a burn, a stab, a lash--is felt in the
brain. When the body suffers from illness or fatigue, the brain suffers
also. When a limb is paralysed, the real paralysis is in a part of the
brain. When the brain is paralysed the man can neither move nor speak,
nor think nor feel. When the heart is weak the brain does not get enough
blood, and the mind is languid, or syncope sets in ana the man dies.

We do not need a prophet nor a doctor to tell us that sickness affects
the mind. We know that dyspepsia, gout, or sluggish liver makes us
peevish, stupid, jealous, suspicious, and despondent.

We know that illness or weariness turns a sweet temper sour, makes a
patient man impatient, a grateful man ungrateful. We know how trying are
the caprices and whims of an invalid, and we commonly say of such, "he
cannot help it: he is not himself to-day."

But we do not know, as doctors know, how searching and how terrible are
the effects of some diseases on the brain. Dr. Lydston, in _The Diseases
of Society_, says:

The old adage, _mens sana in corpore sano_, is too often forgotten.
Especially is it ignored by the legislator and penologist. A normal
psychic balance and a brain fed with blood that is insufficient in
quantity or vicious in quality are physiologic incompatibles. The nearer
we get to the marrow of criminality, the more closely it approximates

That is to say that the sound mind depends largely on the sound body;
that a brain fed with diseased blood, or with too little blood, cannot
work healthily and well; and that the more we know of crime the closer
do we find its relation to disease.

I quote again from Dr. Lydston:

Despite the scant and conflicting testimony of cerebrologists with
reference to the brain defects of criminals, there is so much clinical
evidence of the aberration of morals and conduct from brain disease or
injury that we are justified in believing that brain defects of some
kind affecting the mental and moral faculties is the _fons origo_
of criminality. This defect, as already seen, may be congenital or
acquired, and may consist of a lack of development due to vicious
environment and faulty education, mental and physical.

The fountain from which crime arises, says this authority, is some form
of disease, or defect of the brain. And such disease or defect may be
inherited, or may be caused by bad environment: by improper teaching,
food, and exercise. To feel the full force of this statement we must
bear in mind that "children are not born with intellect and conscience,
but only with capacities for their development."

Therefore, if the capacities for intellect and morals are _not_
developed, we cannot expect to find the intellect and morals.

In other words, we have no right to hope nor to expect that the
neglected child will grow up into the good and clever man.

Neither is it reasonable to hope for a cure by pumping moral lessons
into a brain in which no moral sense has been developed.

That epilepsy has a bad effect on morals, and that epileptics are often
untruthful, treacherous, and dangerous is as well known as that epilepsy
is a form of degeneracy, and is often caused by improper feeding and
neglect in childhood.

Hysteria also affects the moral nerves of the brain. Dr. Lydston says:

Hysterical women often bring accusations of crime against others. The
victim is generally a man, and the alleged crime, assault. Physicians
recognise this as one of the dangers to be guarded against in their
work. Hysterical women in the primary stage of anaesthesia, sometimes
imagine themselves the victims of assault. In one well-known case the
woman accused a dentist of assault while he was administering nitrous
oxide to her. Her husband was in the room during the imaginary assault.

Dr. Lydston tells us that Flesch examined the brains of fifty criminals,
and found imperfections in all.

In twenty-eight he found, in different cases, meningeal disease, such
as adhesions, pachy-meningitis, interna hæmorrhagica, tubercular
meningitis, leptomeningitis, edema of the pia mater, and hæmorrhagic
spinal meningitis; also atheroma of the bisillary arteries, cortical
atrophy, and cerebral haemorrhage. In most cases the pathologic
conditions were not associated with the psychoses that are usually found
under such circumstances.

How many men have been hanged or sent to prison who ought to have been
sent to lunatic asylums? According to Dr. Lydston, very many. As bearing
upon that point I quote two passages from _The Diseases of Society_,
which "give one furiously to think." The first is from page 172:

Cases of moral turpitude, _mania furiosa_, and other mental disturbances
are met with in which the patient is harshly treated, because of
supposed moral perverseness, and only the autopsy has shown how
undeservedly the patient has been condemned. When a tumour or other
disease of the brain is found in a punished criminal, the case is most

The other passage is from page 221, and is as follows:

If the foregoing premises be correct, vice and crime will be one day
shown more definitely than ever to be a matter to be dealt with by
medical science rather than by law.

The "foregoing premises" here alluded to concern the increase in vice
and crime through autotoxemia, or unconscious self-poisoning, due to
over-strain and other evil conditions of life.

As to this self-poisoning, a few words may be said. It is known that
birds who die of fright are poisonous. That is because the violence of
the emotion, by some chemical action, evolves poison.

It is also known that when the human system is out of order it secretes
poison. This poison affects the brain, and excites the baser passions,
or injures the moral sense.

Self-poisoning may be due to the presence of poisonous matter in the
system, or to the over-strain, or over-excitement, of business, or

We all know the effects of violent anger, of violent grief, or violent
love, or violent emotion of any kind upon the health. We know also the
effect of "worry," and the effects of fatigue and of improper food.

One of these effects is self-poisoning, and one of the results of
self-poisoning is brain sickness, resulting often in vice or in crime.

We find, then, that disease may be caused by neglect in childhood, by
starvation or improper food, by over-work, by terror, by excitement, and
by worry, amongst a thousand other causes.

And we find that disease affects the brain, and very often leads to
vice, to crime, to dishonesty, falsehood, and impurity.

And disease is one part of our environment.

A wound or a shock may have a wonderful effect on the mind. A man may
slip and strike his head on a stone, and may get up an idiot A gunshot
wound in the neck, a sword-cut on the head, may cause madness, or may
cause an injury of the brain which will quite change the injured man's
moral nature.

As to the effects of such accidents on the mind there are many
interesting particulars in Lombroso's book, _The Man of Genius_, from
which I am tempted to quote some lines:

It has frequently happened that injuries to the head, and acute
diseases, those frequent causes of insanity, have changed a very
ordinary individual into a man of genius.... Gratry, a mediocre singer,
became a great master after a beam had fractured his skull. Mabillon,
almost an idiot from childhood, fell down a stone staircase at the
age of twenty-six, and so badly injured his skull that it had to be
trepanned; from that time he displayed the characteristics of genius....
Wallenstein was looked upon as a fool until one day he fell out of a
window, and henceforward began to show remarkable ability.

Lombroso also gives many examples and proofs of the influence of weather
and climate on the mind; but for these I have no room.

Now, disease, and weather, and climate, and injuries are all parts of


We have seen that one cause of insanity and disease, and of immorality
and crime, is degeneration. And we have seen that one cause of
degeneration is "insufficient or improper food."

Children who are half starved suffer in body and in mind: therefore they
suffer in intelligence and in morals.

Says Dr. Hall, of Leeds:

It matters but little whether a child be born and bred in a palace or
a cottage--of pure pedigree or mongrel--if he does not receive a proper
supply of bone-making food he will not make a good bony framework, which
is the first essential of true physical well-being.

Amongst the poor it is a common thing for children to want food: not to
have enough food. This is not the fault of the children, but is due to
the poverty of their parents.

But it is common also amongst the poor for children to be fed upon
improper food. Quite young infants, babies, indeed, are often fed upon
salt fish, rancid bacon, impure milk. Cases are too numerous in which
babies are given beer, gin, coarse and badly cooked meat, inferior
bread, and tea.

This is not the fault of the children, but is due to the ignorance of
their parents.

The results of such feeding, and of such starvation, are weakness,
poorness of blood, deafness, sore eyes, defective intelligence, rickets,
epilepsy, convulsions, consumption; degeneration and death.

Professor Cunningham says:

One point which is established beyond all question is the remarkable
influence which environment and nurture exercise upon the development
and growth of the child, as well as upon the standard of physical
excellence attained by the adult According to the statistics supplied to
the British Association Committee, children vary to the extent of 5 in.
in stature, and adults to the extent of 3 1/2 in. in stature, according
as the circumstances under which they are reared are favourable or

Dr. R. J. Collie, M.D., speaking of the mentally defective children in
the London Board Schools, says:

In a large number of instances, after the careful individual attention
and mid-day dinner of the special schools, they are returned, after from
six to eighteen months, to the elementary school with a new lease of
mental vigour. These children are functionally mentally defective. Their
brains are starved, and naturally fail to react to the ordinary methods
of elementary teaching. In a certain proportion of the cases it is the
result of semi-starvation.

The headmaster of a large school in London said to a Press

Not 5 per cent, of my 400 boys know the taste of porridge. New bread,
and margarine at fourpence per pound, with a scrap of fried fish and
potatoes at irregular intervals, is responsible for their pinched,
unhealthy appearance and their stunted growth.

Dr. Lydston, in _The Diseases of Society_, says:

The quantity, quality, and assimilation of food pabulum is the keynote
of stability of tissue-building. With the source of the architect's own
energy sapped by innutrition, and the materials brought to his hand
made pernicious or defective in quality or insufficient in quantity,
structural degeneracy must needs result. The importance of this as
regards the brain is obvious. It bears directly upon the question of the
relation of malnutrition to social pathology.

So much has been written and said of late about the evil effects of
starvation and improper food upon the health and minds of children,
and so much and such strong evidence has been put forward as to the
seriousness and the prevalence of the evil, that I need not go more
fully into the matter here.

Millions of children are ruined in body and mind, millions of
degenerates are made by bad feeding or under-feeding.

And the good and the bad feeding are both part of our environment.

Poverty, Labor, and Overcrowding

As the health affects the brain, and the brain the morals, all healthy
and unhealthy influences have a moral bearing.

Bad air, bad water, bad drainage, bad ventilation, damp and dark streets
and houses, dirtiness and over-crowding, all tell against the health,
against the health of children most seriously, and all help on the
deadly progress of degeneration.

Greyness and monotony of life, unclean, unsightly, and sordid
surroundings, tedious and soulless toil, all tend to blunt the senses,
to cloud the mind, and to oppress the spirit.

Millions of the working poor, who live in great and noisy cities, whose
neighbourhoods are vast, huddled masses of sunless streets and airless
courts, whose lives are divided between joyless labour and joyless
leisure; the conditions of whose comfortless and crowded homes are such
as make cleanliness and decency and self-respect well nigh impossible:
millions of men, women, and children are here starved in soul as well as
in body.

These people, throughout their anxious and laborious lives, sleep in
the overcrowded cottages and tenements, ride in the overcrowded and
inconvenient third-class carriages, sit in the crowded and stifling
galleries at the theatre, are regaled with crudest melodrama, the
coarsest humour, the most vapid music. When they read they have the
Yellow Press and the literature of crime. When they get to the
seaside they spend their brief and rare holiday in the rowdiest of

They have no taste for anything higher? True. They have never been
taught to know the highest. And their ignorance, and their slums, and
their clownish pleasures, are part of their environment We need not ask
whether such environment makes for culture, for joy, for health.

They have no refinement in their lives, these poor working millions.
They have no flowers, no trees, no fields, no streams; no books, no art,
no healthy games.

Worse than that, perhaps, they are paid neither honour nor respect: they
are without pride and ambition; they have no ideals, no hope.

The environment that denies to human beings all pride and honour and
hope, all art and nature and beauty, does not make for health, nor for

The straitness of means, the uncertainty of employment, the looming
shadow of hunger and the workhouse, send some to suicide and some to
crime, but leave the impress of their dreaded and evil presence upon the
hearts and minds of nearly all.

We must remember that these poor creatures human. The difference between
them and us is more a difference of environment than of heredity. The
hunger for pleasure, for excitement and romance, is as strong in their
soul as in ours. Like ourselves, they cannot live by bread alone.
Excitement, pleasure of some kind, they must have, will have. The hog
is contented to snore in his sty, the cat is happy with food and a place
before the fire; but the human being needs food for the soul as well as
for the body. And there is ample environment to feed the hunger of the
ignorant and the poor for excitement: the environment of betting, and
vice, and adulterated drink.

In the poor districts the drinking dens are planted thickly. There is
money to be made. And they are blatant and frowsy places, and the drink
is rubbish--or poison.

I have seen much of the poor. I could tell strange, pathetic histories
of the slums, the mines, the factories: of the workhouses and the
workhouse school, and the police-courts where the poor are unfairly
tried and unjustly punished.

Let me dip back into some of my past work, and show a few pictures. Here
is a rough sketch of the women in the East End slums:


"Have you any reverence for womanhood? Are you men? If you come here and
look upon these women, you shall feel a burning scorn for the blazoned
lies of English chivalry and English piety and English Art.

"Drudging here in these vile stews day after day, night after night;
always with the wolf on the poor doorstep gnashing his fangs for the
clinging brood; always with the black future, like an ominous cloud
casting its chill shadow on their anxious hearts; always with the mean
walls hemming them in, and the mean tasks wearing them down, and the
mean life paralysing their souls; often with brutal husbands to coax
and wait upon and fear; often with loafing blackguards--our poor
brothers--living on their earnings; with work scarce, with wages low,
in vile surroundings, and with faint hopes ever narrowing, these London
women face the unrelenting, never-ceasing tide of inglorious war.

"If you go there and look upon these women, you will feel suddenly
stricken old. Look at their mean and meagre dress, look at their warped
figures, their furrowed brows, their dim eyes. In how many cases are the
poor features battered, and the poor skins bruised? What culture have
these women ever known; what teaching have they had; what graces of life
have come to them; what dowry of love, of joy, of fair imagination? As
I went amongst them through the mud and rain, as I watched them plying
their needles on slop-garments, slaving at the wash-tub, gossiping or
bandying foul jests in their balcony cages, drinking at the bars with
the men--the thought that rose up most distinctly in my mind was, 'What
would these poor creatures do without the gin?'

"The gin--that hellish liquor which blurs the hideous picture of life,
which stills the gnawing pain, which stays the crushing hand of despair,
and blunts the grinding teeth of anguish when the child lies dead of the
rickets, or the 'sticks' are sold for the rent, or the sweater has no
more work to give, or the husband has beaten and kicked the weary flesh
black and blue! What would they do, these women, were it not for the
Devil's usury of peace--the gin?

"My companion took me to a bridge across a kind of dock, and told me
it was known thereabouts as 'The Bridge of Sighs.' There is a constable
there on fixed-point duty. Why? _To prevent the women from committing
suicide_. The suicides were so numerous, he said, that special
precautions had to be taken. And since the constable has been set there,
so eager are the women to quit this best of all possible worlds that
they have been known to come there at night with a couple of women
friends, and to leap into the deep, still water while those friends
engaged the constable in conversation.

"Do you understand it? The woman has been wronged until she can endure
no more; she has sunk till she can struggle no longer; she has been
beaten and degraded until she loathes her life--even gin has ceased
to buy a respite; or she is too poor to pay for gin, and she drags her
broken soul and worn-out body to the Bridge of Sighs, and her friends
come down to help her to escape from the misery which is too great for
flesh and blood to bear. It is a pretty picture, is it not? While our
sweet ladies are sighing in the West End theatre over the imaginary
sorrows of a Manon Lescaut or repeating at church, with genteel reserve,
the prayer for 'all weak women and young children'--here to the Bridge
of Sighs comes the battered drudge, to seek for death as for a hidden
treasure, and rejoice exceedingly because she has found a grave."

Many of these poor women, perhaps most, are mothers. What kind of
environment, what land of stamina can they give their children?

"Take care of the women, and the nation will take care of itself." Here
is another sketch from the _life_, taken in the chain and nail-making
districts of Staffordshire.


"In the chain shops of the Black Country the white man's burden presses
sore. It presses upon the women and the children with crushing weight.
It racks and shatters and ruptures the strongest men; it bows and twists
and disfigures the comeliest women, and it makes of the little children
such premature ruins that one can hardly look upon them without tears or
think of them without anger and indignation.

"At Cradley I saw a white-haired old woman carrying half a hundredweight
of chain to the fogger's round her shoulders; at Cradley I saw women
making chain with babies sucking at their breasts; at Cradley I spoke
to a married couple who had worked 120 hours in one week and had earned
18s. By their united labour; at Cradley I saw heavy-chain strikers who
were worn-out old men at thirty-five; at Cradley I found women on strike
for a price which would enable them to earn twopence an hour by dint
of labour which is to work what the Battle of Inkerman was to a Bank
Holiday review. At Cradley the men and the women are literally being
worked to death for a living that no gentleman would offer his dogs."

Thence to the domestic workshops. Old women, young girls, wives and
mothers working as if for dear life. Little children, unkempt and
woebegone, crouching amongst the cinders. No time for nursing or
housewifery in the chain trade. These women earned from 6s. to 9s. a
week. Some of them are, I see, in an advanced state of pregnancy.

And what pleasures have these people: what culture and beauty in their
lives? This:

"Were they ever so anxious to 'improve their minds,' what leisure have
they, what opportunity? Their lives are all swelter and sleep. Their
town a squalid, hideous place, ill-lighted and unpaved--the paths and
roads heel-deep in mire. Their houses are not homes--they have neither
comfort nor beauty, but are mere shelters and sleeping-pens.

"In all the place there is no news-room nor free library, nor even a
concert-hall or gymnasium. There is no cricket-ground, no assembly-room,
no public bath, no public park, nor public garden. Throughout all that
sordid, dolorous region I saw not so much as one tree, or flower-bed, or
fountain. Nothing bright or fair on which to rest the eye.

"But there are public-houses. And in several of them I tasted the
liquor, and spilled it on the floor."

Of how many towns and villages in Europe and America might the same be

Of how many women are these terrible descriptions true?

In the evidence given before the Royal Commission on Canal Labour, it
was stated in evidence that men and women often worked for seven days
and nights on the canals, and in the winter.

Some of the witnesses declared that the work was unfit for women, that
it was "degrading." The Royal Commissioners could not understand the
word degrading, and asked how it could degrade a woman to steer a boat.
Here is one reply given by an angry witness:

Do you think it womanly work to push with a twenty-foot pole a boat
laden with 30 tons of coal? If you saw a mother of a family climbing
a four-foot wall, you'd think it was no work for women. I have seen a
woman knocked into the lock with a child at her breast by a sudden blow
of the tiller. I have seen my own sister-in-law climb the lock-gates at
one end to go and shut them at the other.

Many of the "cabins" on the narrow boats are about seven feet by five.
In such cabins sleep the "captain" and his family; in one case a man and
his wife, a girl of ten, a couple of younger children, and two boys of
fourteen and sixteen years of age.

Those are a few glimpses of the environment of the women and the
children of the poor.

I cannot quit the subject without again telling an experience which hurt
me like a wound. It was in a workhouse school: a school where master
and matron did the best they could do for the children so unfortunately

Love Hunger

"As we crossed a bridge from one building to another the master said
something about a fish-pond, adding, 'We do not catch fish here, but we
catch a good many mice.'

"'Have you many mice?' I asked.

"'Yes,' said he, with a peculiar smile; 'there is hardly one of our big
boys but has a live mouse in his pocket.'

"'A live mouse? What for?'

"'Well,' said the master, 'human nature is human nature, and the little
fellows want something to love. Some time ago the inspector cautioned a
boy about putting his hand in his pocket, and ordered him to be still.
The boy repeated the action, and as I guessed what was the cause, I
called him out. He had a live mouse in his trousers pocket, and was
afraid of its climbing out and showing itself in school. He took it out
on his hand It was quite tame.'

"But still more touching was a curious demonstration of the infants
as we crossed their playground. Released from the restraint of parade
discipline, these little creatures, girls and boys between three and
seven years of age, came crowding round us. They took hold of our hands,
several of them taking each hand; they stroked our clothes, and embraced
our legs. Several of them seemed fascinated by my gold watch-guard (it
is rather loud), and wanted to kiss it. I gave one the watch to play
with--my own children have often used it roughly--and his little eyes
dilated with admiration. They followed us right up to the barrier, and
shook hands with us.

"'That,' said the master, 'is a peculiarity of all workhouse children.
They will touch you. They will handle and kiss any glittering thing you
have about you. It is because you are from the outside world.'"

What an environment. It set me thinking of the stories I had read about
savages crowding round white men who have landed on their shores.

"From the outside world." "Something to love." In England--where some
five millions a year are spent on hunting--such environment is forced
upon an innocent and defenceless child.

One wonders as to the "hooligan." and the tramp, and the harlot, and the
sot; how were _they_ brought up, and had they anything to love?


There are many who under-rate the power of environment But there are
few who deny the value of education. And education is environment. All
education, good or bad, in the home or the school, is environment.

And we all know, though some of us forget, that good education makes us
better and that bad education makes us worse. And we all know, though
some of us forget, that we have to be educated by others, and that
those others are part of our environment. For even in the case of
self-education we must learn from books, which were written by other

And if we take the word education in its widest sense, as meaning all
that we learn, the importance of this part of our environment stares
us in the face. For as we are born not with morals, nor knowledge, nor
capacities, but only with the rudiments of such, it is plain to every
mind that our goodness or badness, our ignorance or knowledge, our
helplessness or power, depends to a very great extent upon the kind of
teaching we get.

The difference between the lout and the man of refinement is generally a
difference of education, of knowledge, and training.

The root cause of most prejudice and malice, of much violence, folly,
and crime, is ignorance. There would be no despised and under-paid poor,
no slums, no landless peasants, no serfs, were it not for the ignorance
of the masses, _and_ the classes. The rich impose upon the poor, and the
poor submit, for the one reason: they do not understand.

If they were taught better they would do better. And the better teaching
would be--improved environment.

It is not enough that people should be "educated," in the narrow sense
of the word. Teaching may do harm, as surely as it may do good. All
depends upon the things that are taught.

Much of the teaching in our Board Schools, our Public Schools, and our
Universities is _bad_.

If teaching is to be "good environment," the teaching must be good.

National or local ideals are part of our environment. We are born into
these ideals as we are born into our climate, and few escape their rule.

The ideals of England are not good. To succeed, to make wealth, to win
applause--these are not high ideals. To buy in the cheapest market and
sell in the dearest; to make England the workshop of the world; to seize
all rich and unprotected lands, and force their inhabitants into the
British Empire--these are not great ideals.

But such national ideals are part of our environment, and tell against,
or for, the development of our noblest human qualities.

A gospel of greed, vanity, and empire does not tend to make a people
modest, nor just, nor kindly. Indeed, it is chiefly because of their
greediness for commerce and wealth, and their ambition for empire,
that the nations to-day are armed and jealous rivals. And it is chiefly
because of their hunger for wealth, and their worship of vain display
and empty honours, that the classes and the masses are hostile and
divided. Ignorance again: they do not understand.

The force of environment, and especially the uses of education,
are stamped upon our proverbs, are bedded deep in universal custom.
"Knowledge is power," "As the twig is bent----" "He who touches pitch
shall be defiled," "Evil communications corrupt good manners." And what
educated parent would allow his children to grow up in ignorance, or
would expose them to the evil influences of impure literature or bad

Every church and chapel, every school and college, every book
that teaches, every moral lesson, every chaperon and tutor, is an
acknowledgment of the power of environment to wreck or save our young.

In practice we all fear or prize the influences of environment--upon
ourselves, and upon those we love.

It is when we have to deal with the "Bottom Dog" that we ignore the
facts which plead so strongly in his defence.


Of home influences it is hardly necessary to speak. The blessing of
a wise and good mother; the disaster of an ignorant, vicious, or
neglectful mother call for no reminder. The influence of husbands and
wives upon each other; the transformation wrought by a fortunate or
unfortunate love passion in the life of a woman or a man are equally
obvious and well understood. So with friendship: most men have known at
least one friend whose counsel, conversation, or example has affected
the entire current of their thoughts--perhaps has changed the direction
of their life. These instances being noted, it remains for us only to
remember that the influence of a wife, a lover, a mother, or a friend
may be as powerful for evil as for good.

But there are other personal influences as potent, but not so generally
nor so wisely recognised. Such are the influences of good or bad books,
and of great leaders and teachers--good and bad.

What tremendous powers over the lives and thoughts of millions
were wielded by such teachers as Confucius, Buddha, Socrates, Plato,
Aristotle, and Jesus Christ.

How vast a difference was wrought amongst the masses of humanity by
Caesar, Mahomet, Alexander, Oliver Cromwell.

Who can estimate the importance to the world of Copernicus, Galileo;
Luther, Calvin, Bacon, Darwin; of Rousseau, Wycliffe, Tyndall, Marx,
Homer, Harvey, Watt, Caxton, and Stephenson?

Which of us can assess his debt to such men as Shakespeare, Dante,
Shelley, Dickens, and Carlyle?

Then consider our account with the scientists, priests, and lawgivers of
Babylon and Egypt. Recall the benefits conferred upon us by the men who
invented written language; the wheel, the file, the plough. Think of
all the laborious and gradual building up of the arts, the ethics,
the sciences of the world. The making of architecture, mathematics,
sculpture, painting, agriculture, working in wood or metals; the
evolution of literature and music, the invention and improvement of
the many decencies, courtesies, and utilities of life; from the first
wearing of loin cloths, the fashioning of flint axes, to the steel pen,
the use of chloroform, and the custom of raising one's hat to a lady.

All the arts and crafts; the ethics, sciences, and laws; the
tools, arms, grammars; the literatures, dramas, and newspapers; the
conveniences and luxuries, the morals and the learning--all that goes
to the making of modern civilization we owe to the genius, the industry,
and the humanity of countless men and women whom we have never seen.

Into all the wealth of knowledge and freedom, of wisdom and virtue they
created and bequeathed, we are born, as we are born to the light and the
air. But for the labours and the sacrifices of the workers, fighters,
and thinkers of the past we were shorn of all our pride and power,
and reduced below the social, intellectual, and moral level of the
Australian Bushmen.

And yet, to see the airs and graces of many educated and superior
persons, one might suppose that they invented and discovered and
developed all the knowledge and wisdom, all the virtues and the graces
by which they benefit, of their own act and thought. One would suppose,
to behold the scorn of these superior persons for their more rude and
ignorant and unfortunate brothers and sisters, that _they_ had designed
and tailored all the moral and intellectual finery in which they are
arrayed. Whereas all their plumes are borrowed plumes; all they know
they have been taught by other men; all they have has been made by other
men; and they have become that which they are through the generosity and
the tenderness of other men and women.

The rich young scholar fresh from Harvard or Cambridge is blessedly
endowed with health, and strength and grammar, and mathematics, a
sprinkle of dead languages, and more or less graceful manners. He
despises the lout at the plough or the coster at the barrow because of
their lack of the benefits given to him as a dole. He forgets that the
University was there centuries before he was born, that Euclid, Lindley
Murray, Dr. Johnson, Cicero, Plato, and a million other abler men than
himself, forged every link of the chain of culture with which his proud
young neck is adorned. He forgets that it is to others, and not to
himself, that he owes all that makes him the man of whom he is so vain.
He forgets that the coster at the barrow and the hind at the plough
differ from him chiefly by the accident of birth, and that had they
been nursed and taught and trained like himself they would have been
as handsome, as active, as clever, as cultured, and very probably as
conceited and unjust as he.

For all the mighty dead, and the noble works they have bequeathed us,
and all the faithful living, and all the tender services they render us
and the shielding love they bear us, are parts of our environment.

And for the blessings these good men and gentle women, with their golden
heritage, have wrought in us, we are no more responsible and no
more praiseworthy than we are for the flowers of the field, or the
constellations in the sky, or the warmth of the beneficent sun that
shines alike upon the sinner and the saint.

And since we are but debtors to the dead, but starvelings decked out by
charity in the braveries made by other hands, and since we are deserving
of no praise for our grandeur and our virtues, how shall we lift up our
vainglorious and foolish faces to despise and contemn our less fortunate
brothers and sisters, who have been made evil, even as we have been
made good, who have been left uncouth and ignorant, even as we have been
polished and instructed?

"But for the grace of God," said the tinker of Elstow--but for the
graces of environment, say we--there, in the hangman's cart, in the
felon's jacket, in the dunce's cap, in the beggar's rags, in the
degradation of the drunkard or the misery of the degenerate weed of the
slums--go We.


THERE are many who have some understanding of heredity and of
environment when taken separately who fail to realise their effects upon
each other.

The common cause of the stumbling is easy to remove.

It is often said that two men are differently affected by the same
environment, or what seems to be the same environment, and that
therefore there must be some power in men to "overcome" their

I have dealt with this argument already, showing that the contest
between a man and his environment is really a contest between heredity
and environment, and may be compared to the effort of a man to swim
against a stream.

A given environment will affect two different men differently because
their heredity is different.

But remembering that we are born without any knowledge, and that we are
born not with intellect nor conscience, but only with the rudiments
of such, it must be insisted that the hereditary power to resist
environment is very limited. So much so that we may amend our figure of
the swimmer and the stream, and say that no man, howsoever strong and
brave, could swim against a stream unless he had learnt to swim.

And the learning to swim is environment, and works against the contrary
environment, typified by the stream.

Let us take the case of two children. One has bad and one good heredity.
One is a healthy baby, born of moral stock. The other is a degenerate,
born of immoral stock. We will call the healthy baby Dick, and the
degenerate baby Harry.

They are taken at birth into an environment of theft, drunkenness, and
vice. They are taught to lie, to steal, and to drink. They never hear
any good, never see a good example.

Harry, the degenerate, will take to evil as a duck to water. Of that, I
think, there is no question. But what of Dick, the healthy baby?

Dick is born without knowledge. He is also born with undeveloped
propensities. He will learn evil. His propensities will be trained
to evil. How is he to "overcome his environment and become good"? He
_cannot_. What will happen in Dick's case is that he will become a
different kind of criminal--a stronger and cleverer criminal than Harry.

But, I hear some one say, "we know that children, born of thieves and
sots, and reared in bad surroundings, have turned out honest and sober
men." And the inference is that they rose superior to their environment.

But that inference is erroneous. The _fact_ is that these children were
saved by some _good_ environment, acting against the bad.

For there is hardly such a thing as an environment that is _all_ bad.
In the case of Dick and Harry we supposed an environment containing no
good. But that was for the sake of illustration.

For the environment to be _all_ bad, the child must be prevented from
ever seeing a good deed, or reading a good book, or meeting a good man,
woman, or child.

Now, we can imagine no town, nor slum, in which a child should never
hear nor see anything good. He is almost certain at some time or other
to encounter good influences.

And these good influences will affect a healthy child more strongly than
they will affect a degenerate, just as the evil influences will affect
him less fatally than they will affect a degenerate. Because the poor
degenerate is born with a bias towards disease or crime.

Two children may be born of the same parents, reared in the same hovel,
in the same slum, taught the same evil lesson. But they will meet
different companions, and will have different experiences.

One may meet a good boy, or girl, or man, or woman, and may be
influenced for good. The other may chance upon the very worst company.

Let us suppose that two children are born in a Hoxton slum, and that one
of them falls under the influence of a Fagin, and the other has the good
fortune to meet such a manly and sensible parson as our friend Cartmel!
Would not the effects be very different? Yet at first sight the
environment of the two boys would seem to be precisely alike.

And we shall always find that the man who rises above his environment
has really been helped by good environment to overcome the bad
environment He has learnt some good. And that learning is part of his
environment He must have been _taught_ some good if he knows any, for he
was born destitute of knowledge.

A good mother, a wise friend, a pure girl, an honest teacher, a noble
book, may save a child from the bad part of his environment.

It would appear at first sight that two boys taught in the same school,
by the same teacher, would have the same school environment. But at a
second thought we find that need not be the case.

We know what one bad boy can do in a class or in a room. We may know,
then, that the boys who share a class or a room with a bad boy have a
worse environment than the boys who escape his evil influences.

It is a mistake to think of heredity as all good, or all bad. It is
mixed. We inherit, _all_ of us, good and bad qualities.

It is a mistake to think of environment as all good or all bad. It is
mixed. There are always good and bad influences around every one of us.

It is a mistake to think that any two men ever did or can have exactly
the same environment.

It is as impossible for the environment of any two men to be identical,
as for their heredity to be identical. As there are no two men exactly
alike, so there are no two men whose experiences are exactly alike.

Good and bad environment work against each other. All kinds of
environment work with or against heredity. Different heredities make
different natures; different natures are differently affected by similar
environments. But the child, being born without knowledge and with
rudimentary faculties, is, whatever his heredity, almost wholly at the
mercy of his environment.

I hope I have made that clear.

One man is afflicted with colour-blindness, another with kleptomania.
The kleptomaniac may be the most troublesome to the community; but is he
more wicked than the others?

Why does an apple tree never bear bananas? Because it cannot

Why does a French peasant never speak English? Because he has never been

Why is an English labourer deficient in the manners of polite society?
Because he has never moved in polite society.

Why does not Jones the engineer write poetry? Why does not Smith of
the Stock Exchange paint pictures? Why does not Robinson the musical
composer invent a flying machine?

Because they have not the gifts nor the skill.

Why does Jarman play the violin so evilly? He has no ear, and has been
badly taught. Why does Dulcett play the violin so well? He has a good
ear, and has been taught properly.

Would proper teaching have made a Jarman a proper player? It would have
made him a less villainous player than he has become. But teach him
never so wisely, Jarman will not play as Dulcett plays. He has not _the

Is it Jarman's fault that he has no gift? It is not. He did not make his
own ear. Whence did he derive that defect of ear? From some ancestor,
near or remote.

Is Dulcett's fine musical ear due to any merit of Dulcett's? No. He did
not make his own ear; he derived it from some ancestor, near or remote.

Here are four brothers Brown. John Brown is a drunkard. Thomas, William,
and Stephen Brown do not drink. Does John deserve censure, and do his
brothers deserve praise? Let us see.

Why is John a drunkard? His grandfather was a drunkard, and he was
sent as a boy to work in a shop where the men drank. Then how is it his
brothers do not drink? Thomas had the same hereditary inclination to
drink, and he derived it from the same source. But he worked in
an office where all the clerks were steady, and when on one or two
occasions he indulged in liquor, a wise friend warned him, and with a
hard struggle he escaped from the danger.

William, although the same blood runs in his veins, has escaped the
hereditary taint To use the colloquial parlance, "he does not take after
his grandfather." He never felt inclined to take liquor, and although he
worked with men who drank, he remained steady without an effort.

Stephen also was free from the hereditary taint. He mixed with men who
drank, and he gradually formed the habit, which gradually formed the
taste for drink. But he married a good woman just in time, and she saved
him. Thus:

John is a drunkard from heredity and environment

Thomas was a drunkard from heredity, and was saved by environment.

William was always steady from heredity and environment.

Stephen was steady from heredity, almost became a drunkard from
environment, and was finally saved by new environment.

John owed his ruin to his grandfather and his shopmates.

Thomas owed his safety to his shopmates, who rescued him from the taint
of his grandfather's evil legacy.

William owed his safety to his blood.

Stephen, after being endangered by his companions, was saved by his

Assuming all other conditions to be equal, and all other traits of
character similar, how are we to blame one or praise another of these
four brothers? Each is what descent and surroundings have made him.

An apple tree cannot bear bananas. A rose tree cannot bear lilies. A
rose tree in good soil bears well; a rose tree in bad soil bears poorly.
In times of drought the crops perish for lack of water. In rainy weather
the hay rots instead of drying.

Let us now consider some of the arguments actually used in denying the
power of environment.

Some little time ago the Rev. R. J. Campbell, of the London City Temple,
preached a sermon on environment. From a report of that sermon I take
the following passage:

His argument was that it was all nonsense to say that environment made
the man. The man who had any manhood in him could rise above and beyond
his environment, just as Bunyan soared above his tin kettles.

This is an example of the confusion of mind into which educated men fall
when they deal with this simple subject.

Mr. Campbell's first mistake is the mistake of separating heredity from
environment. Of course, it is nonsense to say that environment makes the
man. But who did say anything so silly?

Heredity "makes the man," and environment modifies him. Having made that
clear, let us consider Mr. Campbell's second sentence:

The man who had any manhood in him could rise above and beyond his
environment, just as Bunyan soared above his tin kettles.

Mr. Campbell says: "The man who has any manhood in him." But suppose
he has not any manhood in him! Suppose he is a poor human weed born
of weeds. Can he bear wheat or roses? And if he only bears prickles or
poison, who is to blame? Not the man, surely, for he did not choose his
parents nor his nature. Shall we blame a mongrel born of curs of low
degree' because he is not a bulldog?

A man can only realise the nature that he has, and can only realise that
in accordance with environment.

But this same sentence shows that Mr. Campbell does not understand what
we mean when we use the word "environment".

For he tells us that a man can rise above and beyond his environment.

Now, a man's environment is composed of every external influence which
affects him in any way, from the moment of his birth to the moment of
his death.

Therefore a man cannot rise above and beyond his environment until he
ceases to exist.

Mr. Campbell cites John Bunyan as a man who "rose above his
environment." The fact being that Bunyan's good environment saved him
from his bad environment.

From the preface to my edition of _The Pilgrim's Progress_ I quote the
following suggestive words:

How was it, one naturally asks, that a man of little education could
produce two centuries ago a masterpiece which is still read wherever the
English language is spoken, and has been translated into every European
tongue? It is not sufficient to answer that the author of the work was a
genius: it is necessary to show _what the conditions were which enabled
his genius to develop itself_, led him to find the form of expression
which best suited its character, and secured for what if produced
immediate popularity and lasting fame.

Bunyan was a poor boy of very little education. But he was born with a
great imagination, a sensitive nature, and keen powers of assimilation.
He was, in short, a born literary genius.

In his youth he got amongst bad companions, and led a lewd and wicked
sort of life.

How, then, came he to reform his life, and to write his wonderful book?
To listen to Mr. Campbell, one would suppose that the tinker's boy
rose against his environment, and without any help for good from that
environment. But did he?

We find he served for some years in Cromwell's army. Would the fierce
religious atmosphere of Cromwellian camps have no effect upon his
sensitive and imaginative nature?

We find that he and his wife read together two religious books: _The
Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven_ and Bishop Bayley's _Practice of Piety_.
Would such books, so read, make no impression upon his impressionable

We find that he was drawn to go to church. That he was "over-run with
the spirit of superstition." Would that affect him naught?

We find that his neighbours at last took him "to a very godly man, a new
and religious man, _and did much marvel_ to see such a great and famous
alteration in my life and manners."

Beyond this we need not go. The religious soldiers of Cromwell, the
pious books and the pious wife, the spirit of superstition, and the
godly man, were all parts of John Bunyan's environment, and, acting upon
the peculiar nature given to him by heredity, these and other facts of
his environment lifted him up, made him what we know, and enabled him to
write his glorious book. Instead of a man who rose above his environment
we have in Bunyan a man who was led by one kind of environment to gamble
and drink and blaspheme, and by another kind of environment was made
into a fanatical religious enthusiast.

John Bunyan was John Bunyan when he played tipcat, and used profane
language on the Sabbath. Up to that time the "manhood that was in him"
had not saved John Bunyan.

If, as Mr. Campbell suggests, it is the inherent manhood that saves
a man, how was it that Bunyan's manhood, up to a certain point in his
life, failed to raise him above his environment.

And, when the change came, what was it that brought that change about?
Bunyan had only the same manhood: the same manhood which had already
been defeated by the environment. How was it that same manhood now
served to raise him above the environment?

John Bunyan was the same John Bunyan; it was the environment that
changed. It was the pious Ironsides, the pious wife, the godly man, the
atmosphere of superstition, that made John Bunyan the profane tinker
into John Bunyan the man of religion.

Bad environment got John Bunyan down: there is no doubt of that. Good
environment lifted him up. The manhood was the same at both periods. It
was the environment that changed.

If ever there was an example of the power of environment to save or sink
a man, that example is John Bunyan, tinker and poet.

Another instance of misunderstanding is afforded by Mr. G. K.
Chesterton, who, in an article in the _Daily News_, argues against the
power of heredity and environment, as follows:

The well-bred man--literally speaking, that is the man with a heredity
and environment much above the normal--can put forth all the cardinal
sins like scarlet flowers in summer. He has lands that meet the horizon,
but he steals like a starving man. He has had armies of comrades in
great colleges, yet he snarls like a hunchback hissed in the street He
has treasuries of gold that he cannot remember; yet he goads poor men
for their rent like a threadbare landlady in the Harrow Road. He is
only meant to be polite in public, and he cannot even be that. The whole
system of his country and constitution only asks one thing of him, that
he should not be an unpresentable beast--and he often is. That is a type
of aristocrat that does from time to time recur to remind us of what is
the real answer to the argument for aristocracy founded on heredity and
environment. The real answer to it is in two words--Original Sin.

Had Mr. Chesterton understood the subject upon which he wrote the above
picturesque but fallacious paragraph, he never would have sent it to
the Press. But he is always falling into blunders about heredity and
environment because he has never learnt what heredity and environment

He seems to think that the West End means good environment, and that the
East End means bad environment. He seems to think that noble blood means
good heredity, and that simple blood means bad heredity.

And he calls atavism "original sin."

Let us now consider the rather melodramatic nobleman Mr. Chesterton has
portrayed for us.

He does not tell us much about the nobleman's environment. He has lands
and wealth, and has been to college.

Does it tend to the moral elevation of a man to be like the "Chough" in
Shakespeare, "spacious in the possession of dirt"? Are the wise men
of all ages agreed that the possession of great wealth is a good
environment? Or do they not rather teach that luxury and wealth are
dangerous to their possessor?

In so far as this noble was a very wealthy man, I should say that his
environment was not good, but bad.

There remains the college. Now, men may learn good at colleges, and they
may learn bad. Is not that so? But let us give Mr. Chesterton the credit
and score the college down as good environment.

There remains unaccounted for--what? All the life and experiences of a
rich young man.

What were his parents like? Did his mother nurse him, or neglect him?
Did his father watch over him, or let him run wild? Were his companions
all men and women of virtue and good sense? Did he read no bad books?
Did he make no dangerous friendships? Did he ever do any work? Was
he ever taught that there art nobler ways of life than shooting dumb
animals, seducing vain or helpless girls, debauching at bachelors'
parties, playing at bridge, reading French novels, and running loose in
the gilded hells of Europe and America?

Because, until we have these and a few thousand other questions
answered, we cannot accept Mr. Chesterton's assurance that this wicked
nobleman had a good environment.

Then, as to that question of "original sin." Is Mr. Chesterton in a
position to inform us that his bold bad peer is not a degenerate? Is
Mr. Chesterton sure that he has not inherited a degenerate nature from
diseased or vicious ancestors?

No insanity in the family? No gout? No consumption? No drunkenness? No
diseases contracted through immorality or vice? All his family for a
hundred generations back certified as having united "the manners of a
marquis and the morals of a Methodist"?

_Quite_ sure the noble was _not_ a degenerate? _Quite_ sure that his
failure was not due to bad environment instead of to bad heredity?

Then I should advise Mr. Chesterton to study Darwin, Galton, Lombroso,
Weissmann, and Dr. Lydston, and he will find that a man of good descent
may cast back, or "breed back," to the ape or hog, may be born an
atavist; and may be incapable of being a gentleman for the simple
reason that he is a wild beast.

In which connection I may remark that in _The Diseases of Society_ Dr.
Lydston mentions that Benedikt's experiments upon criminal skulls showed
that the skull of "the born criminal" (atavist) "approximates that
of the carnivora." That is to say, a man may be cursed with a skull
resembling that of a tiger.

Is it any wonder that such men, to repeat Mr. Chesterton's poetical
simile, "put forth sins like scarlet flowers in summer"?

I am grateful to Mr. Campbell and to Mr. Chesterton for their arguments:
they serve the useful purpose of exemplifying the confusion of thought
upon this subject which exists in quarters where we should least expect
to find it.

As it is of the utmost importance that we should thoroughly understand
the relations to each other of heredity and environment, this being a
subject upon which there is much stumbling, we shall do well to make
quite sure of our ground before we go a step farther.

It is erroneous to speak of "a struggle between a man and his
environment," or of a man "rising above his environment".

What we call "a man" is a product of heredity _and_ environment.

The "man" is largely what environment has already made him.

At the instant of birth a child may be regarded as wholly a product of
heredity. But his first breath is environment. The first touch of the
nurse's hands is environment. The first washing, the swaddling clothes,
the "binder," and the first drop of mother's milk are parts of his

And from the first moment of his birth until the time of his manhood, he
is being continually moulded and affected by environment.

All his knowledge, all his beliefs, all his opinions are given to him by

And now, with this in our mind, we can see the absurdity of Mr.
Campbell's talk about John Bunyan.

Before his conversion Bunyan was already "a creature of heredity _and_
environment." The very conscience of the man, which his wife, and the
godly man, and Cromwell's soldiers, and the preachings in the church he
frequented, were to awaken, had been created _by_ environment.

For a child is born without conscience: with only the rudiments of a
conscience, to be developed or destroyed--by environment.

Now let us reconsider the example of our swimmer and the stream. The
swimmer is something more than a mere "heredity." He is a man, and
he has learnt to swim. Therefore in his battle with the stream of
environment he is using heredity _and_ environment For environment
taught him to swim.

Let us take another simile. A man is rowing a boat across a bay. The
tide, the currents, and the wind may be regarded as environments. All
these environments may be with him, or against him. Or the tide may be
against him, and the wind in his favour, and the currents dangerous if
not avoided.

But "the man" is largely what environments have made him. His
knowledge of rowing came from environment, his knowledge of the bay
is environment, his knowledge of the run and position of the
dangerous currents is environment, the boat and the oars belong to his

And with all the useful and favourable environments, _plus_ his
hereditary qualities, he fights the adverse environments of the wind,
and the tide, and the currents.

Now, let us suppose the sea to be rough, and the tide and wind strong,
and against the oarsman. And then let us imagine the cases of two men,
one of whom was an expert sailor, in a good boat, well found, and one
a landsman, who could not row, who did not know the bay, who did not
understand wind and tide, who was ignorant of the currents, who had bad
oars and a leaky boat.

It is evident that the sailor would have a chance of getting safely
across the bay, and that the landsman would be in grave peril of being
capsized, or carried out to sea.

And the difference between the sailor and the landsman would be entirely
a difference of environment.

But suppose, farther, that the sailor was of healthy descent, that he
was, by heredity, strong, and brave, and intelligent; and suppose that
the landsman was a degenerate: weak, nervous, fainthearted, and stupid;
then the difference would be one of heredity and environment.

And if the landsman were drowned and the sailor came safely to shore,
should we curse and revile the one, and applaud and reward the other. Or
should we take the sailor's success as a matter of course, and give our
pity to the landsman?

Well: in such a crazy boat, with such useless oars, with such a faint
heart, a lack of knowledge and skill, and such a feeble mind, does the
"Bottom Dog" put out, to wrestle with the winds and storms, and escape
the dangerous currents of life.

And how can we expect the badly bred, badly trained, badly taught
degenerate to succeed like the well-bred, well-trained, and well-taught

What Mr. Campbell calls John Bunyan's "manhood"--the manhood that
"raised him above his environment"--was largely composed of environment.

There never yet has been a hero whose heroism was not in a great measure
due to his environment. Let any one who doubts this look back to our
suggestions of the fate of a child born into evil environments.

Every man is largely what environment has made him. No man can be
independent of environment: but for environment he could never live to
be a man at all.

And now let us consider some of the good and evil things environment may


THERE are many who always think of environment as something bad.

We hear a good deal about men who "rise above their environment"; but we
seldom hear of men who are uplifted by their environment.

Yet, as I have shown, no man rises above bad environment unless he is
helped by good environment.

Those who dread the power of environment cannot have given much thought
to the subject.

Instead of being a menace to the human race, the power of environment is
the source of our brightest hope.

Environment has shaped evolution, and has raised man above the beasts.
Environment has created morality and conscience.

Environment, feared as a power for evil, is also a power for good. If
bad teaching, and evil surroundings make bad men; then good teaching,
and good surroundings will make good men.

If bad food, bad air, ignorance, and vice, degrade mankind; then good
food, good air, knowledge, and temperance will uplift mankind.

If men and women are largely that which environment makes them, then, by
improving the environment we can improve men and women.

And here I come into touch with a certain school of dismal scientists
who would have us believe that it is useless to improve environment,
because men are what heredity makes them, and because we cannot control

Let us dispose of these pessimists before we go any farther. Happily,
the cases in which heredity is stronger than environment are few.

Environment cannot make a model citizen of the "born criminal," or
atavist. But good environment will make the worst man better than he
would be under bad environment.

Environment cannot make a genius. No amount of feeding, training, and
teaching will make an average man into a Shakespeare, or a Plato.
But good environment will do more for the dullest of men than bad
environment will do.

Environment cannot prevent atavism. It may happen that the best of stock
will "breed back" to a lower type. It may happen that a criminal or an
incapable will crop out suddenly in a line of good and intelligent men
and women. But good environment will abolish degeneracy, as certainly as
bad environment will cause it.

For the occasional genius we need feel no concern. He will come when
heredity produces him; and he is welcome. And for the atavist, or "born
criminal," we may be thankful that he is comparatively rare, and may
content ourselves with doing the best we can with him, in future,
instead of the worst, as heretofore.

I am assuming that the worst type of born criminal is quite hopeless;
but I am not sure of that. We can tame wild beasts, and why not wild

But the dismal scientists will tell us that even good environment
cannot improve the race, because "acquired characteristics cannot be
transmitted": which is to say that knowledge cannot be handed down
hereditarily from father to son, and that, therefore, all that the best
environment can do is to begin at the beginning with each generation, to
teach and train them.

I deny that, and will give my reasons. But suppose we admit it. What

Is it not better to teach and to train each generation well, than to
teach and train them ill?

If mental and physical culture cannot be handed down; if the children
of the educated and the well-developed must be born uneducated and
undeveloped, is it not better to have a generation of strong and
cultured men and women than a generation of degenerate weeds? Because
we cannot, by education, raise a breed of Washingtons and Darwins, and
Miltons and Nelsons, are we to content ourselves with a population of
hooligans and boors?

If environment cannot permanently improve the breed, is that any reason
for making the worst, instead of the best, of the breed we now possess?

And now, as to that question of improving the breed, I claim that
environment would improve the breed, and would improve it as it has
improved it in the past, by "natural selection."

How do cattle-breeders improve their stock? By breeding from the best
animals, and not from the worst.

Men of weak or base moral natures, and men of weak minds and bodies
will, I believe, generally reproduce their faults in their descendants.
But, to marry, they must find wives.

I said a little way back, "take care of your women, and the race will
take care of itself."

Good environment would "take care of the women." The women being
properly nursed, fed, taught, and honoured, would select partners who
would not shock them morally, nor disgust them physically.

Virtuous, refined, and intelligent women do not, in general--there
are exceptions--love and marry men of weak minds, nor men of diseased
bodies, nor men of low moral type.

Therefore, given proper environment, the "born criminal" and the mental
weakling would not be able to find wives. But that is not the only
way in which good environment would affect the breed. Nearly all
degeneration is caused by bad environment, and good environment would
stop degeneration, and by that means would improve the mental, moral,
and physical average.

It has been suggested, by some of the most dismal scientists, that to
prevent the spread of degeneration we should prevent degenerates from
marrying. But I think a sounder method would be to stop the production
of degenerates, by abolishing the environment that produces them.

As to the atavist, or "born criminal," I would point out that one of the
laws of heredity is the tendency to "revert to the normal." That is
to say, genius and atavism do not "persist." In a few generations the
atavist and the genius have bred back to the average level.

That, as I have pointed out, is due to the mixture of blood by marriage.

Thanks to this law, even the "born criminal" cannot often reappear. An
example of the working of this law is afforded by the descendants of the
Australian convicts, who have turned out excellent men and women.

I think, then, that we need not be seriously troubled by the gloomy
forebodings of our pessimists. With bad environment human nature has no
chance: with good environment human nature will take care of itself.

And now let us look at some of the facts in proof of the magical results
of improved environment.

I have before me a newspaper report of an interview with Mr. George
Jackson, secretary of the Middlemore Children's Emigration Homes. This
society was founded some thirty years ago, and has since sent out to
Canada more than three thousand children from the slums.

The children came from the worst of slums, and from the worst of homes.
They are spoken of by the reporter as being rescued from homes "where
they are in daily contact with grinding poverty and misery, in an
atmosphere of moral and physical foulness, with parents who are drunken,
criminal, and inhuman." And of these three thousand waifs _not two in a
hundred turned out badly_.

To give an idea of the working of a changed environment in the case of
these children, I will quote from the report of the _Birmingham Daily

Mr. Jackson's view ranges over some three thousand children of both
sexes rescued from the very lowest haunts of misery and vice, picked up
forlorn and deserted from the gutters of Birmingham, snatched from the
evil influence of parents who had carried active cruelty or passive
neglect to such terrible lengths that the retributive hand of human law
had at last fallen upon them, from parents who would have deliberately
forced their offspring to mendicancy, to thievery, or to prostitution.
These three thousand worse than destitute little ones, these infants
"crying in the night, and with no language but a cry." who had started
their sad lives on the very threshold of that dark door over which is
written, "All hope abandon," were rescued by kindly hands and carried
into the sunshine. For a time they were fed, and clothed, and
schooled, taught that there was something more in life than squalor and
selfishness and vice, and then they were taken thousands of miles away
from those foul slums in which their eyes had first opened to the murky
light, their tender sensibilities first awakened to the bitter lesson
of human pain and misery. They were taken to where God's fresh, free air
sweeps across leagues of virgin forest and prairie, to where existence
is vigorous, it may be, but healthy, and pure, and invigorating, to
where conditions are such as to develop strong, self-reliant manhood,
instead of debased and neurotic criminality. It was in the complete and
sweeping character of the change that lay the wisdom of the scheme. On
the lone backwood farmstead of Canada the slum child had no opportunity,
even had he wished, of once more coming within the range of vicious
influences such as he had left. There was no temptation to many of the
vices with which cruel circumstances had made him so terribly familiar.
Heredity of evil was cheated of its chances, and whatever tendencies
to good remained were fostered and given full scope for development.
Further, the degraded relatives were no longer able to act the part of
a millstone around the child's neck, to fetter his every aspiration to
a better life, to drag him down or keep him down to their own dark
state.... Hundreds upon hundreds of prosperous farmers in Canada at this
day can look back to the dim past, when they sold matches or papers, or
picked up as best they could, in the streets of Birmingham, a few stray
coppers to take home to their dissolute parents; to the time when,
with empty stomachs and with the rain and snow beating through ragged
garments onto their little pinched bodies, they cried through the
rigours of winter nights on a sheltered doorstep rather than face the
blows and curses which awaited them in the only place which they could
call home. They were born to poverty and crime "as the sparks fly
upward," and they have lived to thank God for that kindly agency which
rescued them from their inheritance of misery.

Of these three thousand children two thousand nine hundred and forty
were saved--by a change of environment. Had the environment been left
unchanged probably not 2 per cent, would have escaped ruin. As their
parents were, so would they have been. Had their parents been rescued in
_their_ youth only 2 percent of them would have failed.

The experience of Dr. Bamado and his friends with the children taken
from the slums was very similar. The percentage of failures was small,
and the London papers, in their obituaries of the good doctor, speak
enthusiastically of the value of his work, and say that thousands of
children rescued by him and his agents "are now steady and prosperous
citizens beyond the seas." Since Dr. Bamado took up the work over
fifty-five thousand children have been saved--by changed environment.

From an article by Mr. R. B. Suthers in the _Clarion_ of August, 1904,
I quote the following account of the George Junior Republic, an American
institution, founded by Mr. William R. George, in 1896.

The Junior Republic is a collection of 100 hooligans, juvenile
criminals, and unfortunate boys and girls who live under a constitution
based on that of the United States. The government is government of the
citizens, for the citizens, and by the citizens. Children of all ages
are admitted, but the rights of citizenship are not granted to those
under 12, and at 21 the juniors are drafted into the great republic
outside. Schooling is compulsory up to the age of 16, after which the
citizen has the choice of many trades, in the Junior Republic, including
farming, carpentering, printing, dairying, or he may be a cook, waiter,
store keeper, or office boy. The girls may go in for dressmaking,
cooking, and laundry work.

These boys and girls, recruited from the slums and the criminal forcing
beds of the great cities, _govern_ themselves. They make their own laws,
appoint their own officials, run their own gaol, and are practically
as free as the citizens of the big republic of which they become
full-fledged members when grown up.

Mr. George asserts that he has never known them when administering the
law, to give an unjust or foolish decision.

Remember they were hooligans, criminals, and wastrels.

It ought not to be necessary to argue that children well brought up will
turn out better than children ill brought up. We all know that such must
be the case: we all see every day of our lives that, such is the case:
we all _know_ the power of environment for good as well as for evil. But
facts are stubborn things, and the above are stubborn facts.

I have hitherto dealt almost wholly with the environment of the poor,
but it is needful also to say something as to the environment of the
rich, as Mr. Chesterton's mistakes have shown.

The chief evils of the environment of the rich are wealth, luxury,
idleness, and false ideals.

It is not healthy for young people to be brought up to do nothing but
spend money and hunt for excitement. It is not good for young or old to
have unlimited wealth and leisure. It is not good for men, nor women,
nor children, to be flattered and fawned upon. Flunkeyism and slavery
degrade and debase the master as well as the servant: the snob lord, as
well as the snob lackey.

We have hundreds of religions in the world; but how many teachers of
true morality? True morality condemns all forms of selfishness, all acts
that are hurtful to our neighbours, to the commonwealth, to the race.
In the light of true morality, a rich landowner, or a millionaire
money-lender, is a greater criminal than a burglar or a foot-pad; and a
politician or a journalist who utters base words is worse than a coiner
who utters base coin.

This being so, all the rich are bred and reared in an immoral

But the atmosphere is polluted in other ways. The children of the rich
are perverted with false ideals. They are taught to regard themselves as
superior to the workers, who keep them. They are taught that it is sport
to murder helpless and harmless birds and beasts and fishes. They are
taught to toady to those above, and to expect toadyism from those below
them. They are given tacitly to understand that it is their lordly right
to command, and that it is the duty of the masses to obey. They are
allowed to believe that to be born "spacious in the possession of dirt,"
or free to wallow in unearned money, is honourable, and that to be poor
and landless is a proof of inferiority.

They are puffed up with false ideas of value, and suppose that to
possess an opulence of pride and a beggarly smattering of useless and
often hurtful knowledge, is more creditable than to be capable of making
honest pots and pans, and boots and trousers; of laying level pavements,
and cutting invaluable drains. They have their unfurnished minds
lumbered with immoral ideas of empire, of conquest, of titles, of stars
and garters. They are the spoilt children of Vanity Fair, and very many
of them are the lamentable failures which their environment would lead
us to expect.

No man is educated who has never learnt to do any kind of useful work;
no man lives in a good environment who has not been taught to think of
the welfare of his fellow creatures before his own, no life is sound,
nor sweet, nor moral, which is not based on useful service. Therefore
the environment of the rich is generally evil and not good.

These are not the reckless utterances of any angry demagogue. Every word
I have written about the evils of idleness, of luxury, of arrogance, of
vain-glory and self-love, is endorsed by the teachings of the wisest
and the best men of all ages; every word is supported by the records
of history, by the known facts of contemporary life; every word is in
accord with the new and the old morality.

It is a matter of common knowledge that the environment of the rich
"puts forth sins like scarlet flowers in summer."


THE religious mind loves mysteries. Conscience has always been set down
as a mystery by religious people. It has been called "the still small
voice," and we have been taught that it is a supernatural kind of sense
by which man is guided in his knowledge of good and evil.

Now, I claim that conscience is no more supernatural than is the sense
of smell, and no more mysterious than the stomach.

If conscience were what religious people think it is--a kind of heavenly
voice whispering to us what things are right and wrong--we should expect
to find its teachings constant. It would not chide one man, and approve
another, for the same act. It would not warn men that an act was wrong
in one age, and assure them in another age that the same act was
right. It would not have one rule of morality for the guidance of an
Englishman, and another rule of morality for the guidance of a Turk.
It would not change its moral code as the man it is supposed to guide
changes his beliefs through education and experience. It would not give
such widely different men of the same age and nation.

If conscience were really a supernatural guide to right conduct it would
always and everywhere tell man what is eternally right or eternally

But conscience is changeable and uncertain. It is a magnetic needle that
points North at one time and South at another time; that points East on
one ship and West on another ship; that points all round the compass
for all kinds of travellers on life's ocean; that has no relation to the
everlasting truths at all.

Sceptics have pointed out that "conscience is geographical"; that it
gives different verdicts in different countries, on the same evidence.

But I shall show that conscience is:

1. Geographical: that it is not the same in one country as in another.

2. Historical: that it is not the same in one age as in another.

3. Personal: that it is not the same in one person as in another.

4. Changeable: it alters with its owner's mind.

And that, therefore, conscience is not a true and certain guide to
right, and cannot be the voice of God.

First, as to geographical, or local, conscience. The English conscience
looks with horror or disgust upon polygamy, child murder, cannibalism,
and the blood feud.

The Turkish conscience allows many wives; the Redskin conscience allows
the scalping of enemies; the Afghan conscience applauds the dutiful son
who murders the nephew of his father's enemy; the cannibal conscience
is silent at a feast of cold missionary; the Chinese conscience goes
blandly to the killing of girl babies; the Rand conscience sees no evil
in the flogging of Kaffirs and Chinese; the aristocratic conscience
is not ashamed of taking the bread from starving peasants and their
children; the capitalist conscience permits the making of fortunes out
of sweated labour.

Now, cannibalism, murder, cheating, tyranny, the flogging of slaves, and
the torture of enemies are all immoral and evil things. They cannot be
good things in the East and bad things in the West. But conscience--the
mysterious and wonderful "still small voice"--blames man in one part of
the world and praises him in another for committing those acts.

Conscience is _local_: it tells one tale in Johannesburg or Pekin, and
quite a different tale in Amsterdam or Paris.

And to find out which tale is the true one we have to use our _reason_.

As to historical conscience. What men thought good a few centuries ago
they now think bad.

Take only a few examples. Men once saw no wrong in slavery, in trial
by wager of battle, in witch-burning, in the torture of prisoners
to extract evidence, in the whipping of lunatics, in the use of
child-labour in mines and factories, in duelling, bear-baiting,
prize-fighting, and heavy drinking.

Not very long ago men would tear out a man's tongue for "blasphemy,"
would hang a woman for stealing a turnip, would burn a bishop alive for
heresy, would nail an author to the pillory by his ear for criticising a
duke, would sell women and children felons into slavery; and conscience
would never whisper a protest.


Now, it was wrong to burn heretics, and pillory reformers, and work
babies to death in the mill and the mine in those days, or it is right
to do the same things now.

But conscience now condemns as wrong the same acts which it once
approved as right; it now approves as right what it once condemned as

Conscience, then, differs in different ages. Conscience tells two quite
different tales at two different times.

And if we want to find out which tale is the true one we have to use our

As to personal conscience. We all know that one man's conscience differs
from another. We all know that in any English town on any day there are
as many varieties of conscience as there are varieties of hands, and
eyes, and feet, and noses.

There are the Nonconformist conscience, the Roman Catholic conscience,
the Rationalist conscience, the Aristocratic conscience, the Plebeian
conscience, the Military conscience, the Commercial conscience, the Tory
conscience, and the Socialist conscience.

One man's conscience forbids him to swear, to eat meat, to drink wine,
to read a newspaper on Sunday, to go to a ball or a theatre, to make a
bet, to play at cards or football, to stay away from church.

Another man's conscience permits him all those indulgences, but compels
him to pay trade union wages, to speak courteously to servants and poor
persons, to be generous to beggars, and kind to dumb animals.

A very striking example of this personal difference in the ruling
of conscience is afforded by the quite recent contrast between the
sentiments of Northern and Southern Americans on the question of negro

Another equally striking example is the difference to-day between the
rulings of the consciences of Socialists and sweaters.

My own conscience, for instance, never chides me for "Sabbath breaking"
nor for "neglect of God"; but it would not allow me to grow rich on the
rent of slum houses, nor on the earnings of half-starved children, nor
on the sale of prurient novels, or adulterated beer, or sized calico.

Now, it is either right or wrong to do all these things. It cannot be
right for one man to dance and wrong for another to dance; it cannot be
right for one man to bet, and wrong for another man to bet; it cannot be
right for one man to draw rents for slum houses, and wrong for another
man to draw rents for slum houses.

But conscience tells some men that it is right to do these things, and
tells other men it is wrong to do the same things.

Conscience is not the same thing to one man that it is to another man.
It praises Brown and blames Jones for doing the same thing. It tells
different tales to different men.

An when we want to know which is the _true_ tale we have to use our

As to changeable conscience. We all know very well that conscience does
not keep to one rule of right and wrong even with one man; but that it
changes its rule whenever the man changes his belief through teaching or

I need not give many examples of these changes. Every reader can supply
them for himself. When I was a boy my conscience pained me severely if
I stayed away from Sunday school or neglected to say my prayers. But it
does not chide me now for not going to church, nor for not reading the
Bible, nor for not praying. Why has conscience thus changed its tone
with me? Simply because I have changed my opinions.

But those things could not have been wrong then if they are right now.
Conscience has changed. Conscience changes as the mind changes. It tells
one tale in our youth, and another in our prime, and perhaps yet another
in our decay.

And if we want to know which tale is the _true_ tale we must use our

And now we find that conscience is different in different nations,
in different cities, in different classes, in different persons, in
different ages, in different circumstances, in different moods.

And, when we come to think about it, we find that conscience never tells
us anything we do not know. It is a voice which always tells us what we
do know: what we believe. It does not teach us what acts are right and
what acts are wrong. It _reminds_ of what we have been _taught_ about
right or wrong.

It is not a divine voice, for it often leads us wrong. It is not a
divine voice, for it is no wiser and no better than ourselves.

What is it? What is conscience? Conscience is chiefly _habit_: it
is chiefly _memory_: but it is partly, perhaps, inherited instinct.
Conscience is habit. We all know that it is easier to do a thing which
we have often done before than to do a thing we have never done before.

We all know that what we call practice improves an organ or power of our
body or our mind.

As the proverbs put it: "Use is second nature." "Practice makes

Most of us know that an organ develops with use and decays with disuse.

If you wish to develop your muscles you must use them. If you wish to
improve your memory or to sharpen your wits you must use them.

When a man is first taught to use a rifle he finds to his surprise that
he cannot pull the trigger just exactly when he wants it. But in time
he does that quite without thought or effort. The muscles of his finger
have been "educated" to act with his eye.

Some men, when they first begin to shoot, shrink from the rifle. They
fear the recoil or the sudden explosion, and the muscles of their
shoulder flinch. If a man gives way to that habit it grows upon him, and
he can never shoot straight. The muscles have learnt to flinch; and they

One man falls into the habit of swearing. The habit grows upon him. The
words come ever more readily to his tongue, and he swears more and more.

Now, let us suppose a boy has been taught that it is wrong to swear.
In his memory lies the lesson. It has been repeated until it has grown
strong. When he hears swearing it shocks him. But the more he hears it
the less it shocks him. The words grow more familiar to his ear, just as
the sound of a waterfall or of machinery grows familiar to the ear.

Then suppose he swears. That is a very unusual act for him. And his old
lesson that to swear is wrong is still firm and ready. It is not his
habit to swear: it is his habit to shrink from swearing.

So if he swears, his memory, which has been educated to resent all
swearing, brings up at once to his notice the lessons of years.

The same kind of thing is seen on the cricket field. A batsman is
playing steadily. He has been trained to play cautiously against good
bowling. But he has a favourite stroke. The bowler knows it He sends a
ball very aptly called a "ticer" to entice the batsman to hit, in
the hopes of a catch. The desire to make that pet cut or off-drive is
strong; but the "habit" of caution is stronger; he lets the ball go by.
Or the habit is not as strong as the desire, and he cuts the ball; and,
even as he watches it flash safely through the field for the boundary,
he feels that he ran a foolish risk, and must not repeat it.

What is it tells him he did wrong? It is his memory: his memory, which
has been educated to check his rashness. In fact, it is his cricketer's
conscience that warns him.

So with the youth who swears. No sooner has the word passed his lips
than his educated memory, which has been trained to check swearing,
brings up the lesson, and confronts him with it.

But let him swear again and again, and in time the moral lessons in his
memory will be overlaid by the familiar sound of curses; the habit of
flinching from an oath will grow weak, and the habit of using oaths will
grow strong.

It is really what happens with the rifleman who gives way to the recoil
and forms a habit of flinching, or with the cricketer who allows his
desire to score to overcome his habit of caution. The old habit fades
from disuse; the new habit grows strong from use. The rifleman becomes
a hopelessly bad shot; the batsman degenerates into a slogger: the young
man swears every time he speaks, and his conscience loses all power to
check him.

Take the case of the letter "h." The young Lochinvar who comes out of
the West sounds his aitches properly and easily--just as properly and
as easily as a fencer makes his parries, as a pianist strikes the right
notes, as C. B. Fry plays a straight bat. It is a matter of teaching and
of use, and has become a habit. From his earliest efforts at speech he
has heard the "h" sounded, has been checked if he failed to sound it,
has corrected himself if he made a slip.

But the young Lochinvar who comes out of the East drops his aspirates
all over the place without a blush or a pang. He has never been taught
to sound the "h." He has not practised it. He has formed the habit of
not sounding it, and it would take him years of painful effort to change
the habit.

Now what happens in the case of a letter "h" is what happens in the case
of the rifle, of the ticing ball, of the swearing. One man's memory is
educated to remind him not to swear, not to slog, not to flinch, not to
drop the "h." The other man's memory is not so trained.

And this trained memory we call conscience. It is purely habit: and it
is wholly mechanical.

There is a good story of a gang of moonlighters who had shot a landlord,
and were afterwards sitting down to supper. One man was just raising
a piece of meat to his lips when the clock struck twelve. Instantly he
dropped the meat. "Be jabers!" he said, "'tis Friday!"

That was the _habit_ of abstaining from meat on a Friday. It had been
drilled into his memory, and it acted mechanically.

Conscience, then, is largely a matter of habit: it depends a great deal
on what we are taught. But it is not wholly a matter of habit, nor does
it depend wholly on our teaching.

We all know that two brothers, born of the same parents, brought up
in the same home, educated at the same school, taught the same moral
lessons, may be quite different in the matter of conscience. One will
shrink from giving pain, the other will be cruel; one will be quite
truthful, the other will tell lies.

And so to go back to our rifleman and our cricketer. Every novice does
not flinch from the recoil, every batsman is not prudent. No. Because
men are different by _nature_.

Some boys are easy to train; some are not. Some are naturally obedient;
some are not. Some are naturally cruel; some are naturally merciful.

The conscience of a boy depends upon what he is by nature and what he is

If the emotion of anger is naturally strong in a boy it will need a
better-drilled memory to check his anger than if the emotion of anger
were weak.

I do not mean it will need more teaching to curb his "will," but it
will need more teaching to build up his conviction that anger is wrong,
because the motion resists the teaching.

But in the case of a boy gentle and merciful by nature it needs no
teaching to prevent him from torturing frogs, and very little to make
him know that to torture frogs is wrong.

It is a common mistake in morals to say that a man is to blame for an
act because he "knew it was wrong." He may have been told that it was
wrong. But until he _feels_ that it is wrong, and _believes_ that it
is wrong, it is not true to say that he knows it _is_ wrong; for he
may only know that some other person says it is wrong, which is a very
different thing.

For instance, it might be said in this way that I am wicked for
listening to Beethoven on the Sabbath, "because I know that it is
wrong." But I do not know that is wrong. I do not believe that it is
wrong. I only know that some people say it is wrong.

So I claim that conscience is what a man's nature and teaching make it:
that it is a habit of memory, and no more mysterious than the habit of
smoking, or dropping the aspirate, or eating peas with a knife.

Let us now look at some of the scientific evidence.


I will quote first from Darwin, "Descent of Man," Chapter 4:

The following proposition seems to me in a high degree probable, namely,
that any animal whatever, endowed with well-marked social instincts,
the parental and filial affections being here included, would inevitably
acquire a moral sense or conscience as soon as its intellectual
powers had become as well, or nearly as well, developed as in man....
_Secondly_, as soon as the mental faculties had become highly developed,
images of all past actions and motives would be incessantly
passing through the brain of each individual; and that feeling of
dissatisfaction, or even misery, which invariably results, as we shall
hereafter see, from any unsatisfied instinct would arise as often as it
was perceived that the enduring and always present social instinct,
had yielded to some other instinct, at the time stronger, but neither
enduring in its nature nor leaving behind it a very vivid impression.

Now let us see what Darwin means. The social instincts include human
sympathy and the desire for the company of our fellows; love of
approbation, which is the desire to be loved, or to be thought well of,
by our fellows; and gratitude, which is the love we pay back for the
love which is given us:

These social instincts are sometimes so strong, even in animals, as to
overcome the powerful maternal instinct; so that migratory birds, as
Darwin shows, and as we all know who have read our Gilbert White, will
go with the flock and leave their new broods defenceless and unprovided

The social instincts, then, are very strong, and they lead us to conform
to social rule or sentiment.

But now Darwin tells us that in the case of man "images of all past
actions and motives would be incessantly passing through the brain."
These "images" are mental pictures, and they are printed on those brain
cells which make what we call "memory." Now, Darwin tells us that these
memory pictures would cause us pain as often as they reminded us that we
had broken the social rule or outraged the social sentiment in order to
indulge some instinct of a selfish kind.

And Darwin makes it clear to us that such a selfish desire may be strong
before it is gratified, and may yet leave an impression of pleasure
after it is gratified which is weak indeed in presence of the
deep-rooted social memories.

Let us take a few examples. The desire for a pleasure may be strong
enough to drive us to enjoy it, and yet the pleasure may seem to us not
worth the cost or trouble after the desire has been sated. When we are
hungry the desire for food is intense.

After we have eaten we are no longer hungry. But we grow hungry again,
and then the desire for food is as intense as ever.

Dick Swiveller goes to a bachelor party, and the desire for the
convivial glass is strong within him. He drinks too much, and the next
morning calls himself a fool for drinking. He is ashamed of his excess,
and he has the headache, and the temptation is now absent. But when he
is well again, and at another party, the old desire comes back with the
old power. So Dick once more indulges too freely in "the rosy," and has
another sick head in consequence. And then the social instincts rise
up and reproach him, and the sated appetite, being weak, appears to him

The social instinct is constant: the selfish desire is intermittent. The
passion is like a tide which leaps the moral wall and then falls back
to low water. The wall remains: it may be sullied or shaken, but it is
still a moral wall, and only a long succession of such tides can break
it down. When passion has broken down the moral wall the man is at the
mercy of his passions. They flood the dwelling of his soul again and
again until he is a ruin.

This, I think, explains Darwin's idea of the struggle between the social
and selfish instincts.

In "Adam Bede" George Eliot blames the seducer of Hettie Sorrel for
doing a terrible wrong for the sake of a brief selfish indulgence. But
that charge is unfair. It implies that the deed was planned and done in
cold blood. But the fact was that both Hettie and Arthur were carried
away by a rush of passion. The great tide of desire, a desire made
terribly strong by Nature, had overleapt the walls of morality and

Anger has been called a brief madness. The same kind of thing might
be said of all the passions. It is as easy to be virtuous after the
temptation as to be wise after the event We can all be brave in the
absence of the enemy. The result of a struggle between the sea and a
wall depends upon the force of the tide and the strength of the wall.
It behoves us all to see that moral walls are builded strong and kept in
good repair.

Let us go back to the action of the memory in the making of morals.
Dr. C. W. Saleeby, who is doing good work in this field, gives us clear
light in his book, "The Cycle of Life." He says:

Memory means a change impressed more or less deeply on the grey surface
of the brain.

A _change_. Those "images" which Darwin tells us are continually passing
through the mind have actually made a _change_ in the brain. That is to
say, they have made a change in the _mind_: they have made a change in
the personality.

After showing how a singer learns to produce a note properly by practice
until he is almost incapable of producing it improperly, and until its
proper production has become mechanical, Dr. Saleeby says:

The effect of practice, as in any other art, mechanical, mental, or
both, has been so to alter the constitution of the nerve cells as to
produce a new mode of action.

The nerve cells have been _re-arranged_, and the _habit_ of the person
has been _altered_. He is no longer quite the same person. He now acts
and thinks differently.

Now, these changes in the arrangement of the brain cells and fibres may
be looked upon as the building up of the moral wall. And the desires and
aversions are like the rising and falling tide.

And the tide of our desires is a tide of nature. Because our desires and
aversions seem to work by reflex action. What is reflex action?

Reflex action, as I use the term here, is the mechanical action of the
nerves. We do not grow hungry, or thirsty, or angry, or compassionate on
purpose: we do not fall in love on purpose. The stomach, working,
like the heart and lungs, by reflex action, without our knowledge or
direction, uses up the food, and our nerves demand more. The desire for
food, for love, for revenge, is due to reflex action. The desire makes
itself felt first without our asking, and we have to refuse or to grant
its request after it is made.

We do not say: "Behold, there is a pretty face: I will be attracted by
it." We cannot _help_ being attracted by the face that attracts us, any
more than we can help being hungry. The face attracts us, more or less,
and we decide to seek out its owner, according to the strength of the
attraction and of the reason for resisting the attraction. We see
a diamond. We do not say: "There is a diamond. I will not think it
beautiful." We _cannot_ think it anything but beautiful; but whether or
not we shall buy it or steal it depends upon the strength of our desire
and the strength of the reasons against gratifying that desire.

Now, let us see how these conflicting ideas act. A man sees a beautiful
woman, and desires to see more of her. But he fears if he sees much of
her he will fall in love with her. And he is engaged to marry another
woman. What goes on in his mind? Memory reminds him that he is engaged,
and that it would be "wrong" to follow his desire. And every time the
temptation draws him to follow his desire he calls up the "image" of the
other woman, and he calls up the images of old lessons, of old thoughts,
of old opinions read and heard by him. And the stronger the temptation
grows the more earnestly does he invoke these images. Now, what does
all this show? It shows the contest between the reflex action of desire,
backed by the memories of love's pleasures, on the one part; and, on the
other part, of the moral feelings of memories of what he has learnt or
thought to be right and wrong. It is then a battle between memory and

A man is never tempted by a woman who does not attract him.

He never steals a thing he does not want. He does not drink a liquor he
does not like. The desire must be there before his will is put to the
test. And the desire is independent of his will.

A child has no morals. It has only desires. If it likes sugar it will
take sugar. If it is angry it will strike. It is only when it is told
that to steal sugar or strike its nurse is "naughty" that it begins to
have a moral sense. And its moral sense consists entirely of what it
_learns_--that is to say, its moral sense is _memory_. And its memory
is a _change_ in the arrangement of the cells of the grey matter of the
brain. And these changes make the brain into a different kind of brain:
make the child into a different kind of child.

Now, the child does not teach _itself_ these moral lessons. It does not
know them. It has to be taught by those who do know. And its moral sense
depends upon what it is taught. And its conscience depends upon what it
is taught.

And, that being so, is it not quite evident that the conscience is _not_
the voice of God; that the conscience is not an innate knowledge of
right and wrong born with the child; but it is nothing more nor less
than the action of the memory?

The whole of this subject is ably and exhaustively treated by Luys in
"The Brain and Its Functions," but I have not room here to go into it
fully. Briefly put, the scientific explanation may be expressed thus:
The brain cells have power to receive and to _repeat_ impressions. When
a new sensory impulse arises it awakens these impressions by means of
the fibres of association. It is as though the brain were a phonographic
"record." Upon this "record" there is printed, let us say, some moral
lesson, as "Look not upon the wine when it is red in the cup." On the
word "wine" being heard the association fibre which links the idea of
wine to the moral idea of temperance sets the "record" in motion, and
memory recalls the caution, "Look not upon the wine in the cup." It is
as if a "record" on which is printed a song by Dan Leno were joined
up with a battery which, upon hearing the word "Leno," would start the
"record" to repeat the song.

I hope I have made that clear. I will now conclude by quoting from Dr.
Saleeby a passage dealing with the important subject of "association." I
take it from "The Cycle of Life":

Nerve cells are significantly incapable of division and reproduction....
All the experience of living merely modifies, the state of the cells
already present. The modification is memory.

But though a nerve-cell cannot divide, it can send forth new processes,
or nerve-fibres from itself--what we call a nerve being simply a
collection of processes from a nerve-cell. Throughout the brain and
spinal cord we find great numbers of nerve processes which simply
run from one set of nerve-cells to another, instead of running to
a sense-organ, or a muscle, or a gland. Such fibres are called
_association_ fibres, their business being to associate different sets
of nerve-cells.

It is conceivable that an exceptional development of such fibres may
account for the possession of a good memory, or, at any rate, for
the power easily to learn such co-ordinations as are implied in
violin-playing, billiards, cricket, or baseball. Granting the power
of nerve-cells, even when adult, to form new processes, it might be
supposed that the exercise of this power accounts for the acquirement of
certain habits of thought or action.

Now, whether or not nerve-cells have power to form new association
fibres late in life, it is important to notice that the association
fibres which exist at birth or form in childhood are the means by which
one idea suggests another; and the means by which, as I said just now,
upon the utterance of the word "wine" all we have remembered to have
read or heard about wine is repeated by the memory "record."

And, just as a phonograph record can only repeat the song or speech that
is printed upon it, so the memory can only repeat what it contains, and
it contains nothing that has not been printed there through the medium
of the senses.

That is why the word "marriage" carries with it no moral revulsion
against polygamy in the mind of a Turk. The brain of a Turk has no
"record" on its grey matter of any moral teaching against polygamy. And
the "still small voice" does not make good the absence of the "record,"
and tell him that polygamy is wrong. This being so, what becomes of the
theory that conscience is a mysterious agent of God implanted in the
mind of man to guide him to do right and to shun wrong?

A cannibal chief was told by a missionary that it was wicked to have two
wives. He went away and _ate_ one wife. The missionary had printed on
his brain "record" the lesson that to have two wives was wrong; but
there was no "record" there to tell him he must not kill one wife and
eat her.

Where was the "still small voice," the "divine guide to right conduct"?


THE free will delusion has been a stumbling block in the way of human
thought for thousands of years. Let us try whether common sense and
common knowledge cannot remove it.

Free will is a subject of great importance to us in this case; and it is
one we must come to with our eyes wide open and our wits wide awake; not
because it is very difficult, but because it has been tied and twisted
into a tangle of Gordian knots by twenty centuries full of wordy
but unsuccessful philosophers, The free will party claim that man is
responsible for his acts, because his will is free to choose between
right and wrong.

We reply that the will is not free; and that if it were free man could
not know right from wrong until he was taught.

As to the knowledge of good and evil the free will party will claim
that conscience is an unerring guide. But I have already proved that
conscience does not and cannot tell us what is right and what is wrong:
it only reminds us of the lessons we have learnt as to right and wrong.

The "still small voice" is not the voice of God: it is the voice of
heredity and environment.

And now to the freedom of the will.

When a man says his will is free, he means that it is free of all
control or interference: that it can over-rule heredity and environment.

We reply that the will is ruled by heredity and environment.

The cause of all the confusion on this subject may be shown in a few

When the free will party say that man has a free will, they mean that he
is free to act as he chooses to act.

There is no need to deny that. _But what causes him to choose?_

That is the pivot upon which the whole discussion turns.

The free will party seem to think of the will as something independent
of the man, as something outside him. They seem to think that the will
decides without the control of the man's reason.

If that were so, it would not prove the man responsible. "The will"
would be responsible, and not the man. It would be as foolish to blame a
man for the act of a "free" will, as to blame a horse for the action of
its rider.

But I am going to prove to my readers, by appeals to their common sense
and common knowledge, that the will is not free; and that it is ruled by
heredity and environment.

To begin with, the average man will be against me. He knows that he
chooses between two courses every hour, and often every minute, and he
thinks his choice is free. But that is a delusion: his choice is not
free. He can choose, and does choose. But he can only choose as his
heredity and his environment cause him to choose. He never did choose
and never will choose except as his heredity and his environment--his
temperament and his training--cause him to choose. And his heredity and
his environment have fixed his choice before he makes it.

The average man says "I know that I can act as I wish to act."

But what causes him to wish?

The free will party say, "We know that a man can and does choose between
two acts." But what settles the choice?

There is a cause for every wish, a cause for every choice; and
every cause of every wish and choice arises from heredity, or from

For a man acts always from temperament, which is heredity, or from
training, which is environment.

And in cases where a man hesitates in his choice between two acts,
the hesitation is due to a conflict between his temperament and his
training, or, as some would express it, "between his desire and his

A man is practising at a target with a gun, when a rabbit crosses his
line of fire. The man has his eye and his sights on the rabbit, and his
finger on the trigger. The man's will is free. If he press the trigger
the rabbit will be killed.

Now, how does the man decide whether or not he shall fire? He decides by
feeling, and by reason.

He would like to fire, just to make sure that he could hit the mark. He
would like to fire, because he would like to have the rabbit for supper.
He would like to fire, because there is in him the old, old hunting
instinct, to kill.

But the rabbit does not belong to him. He is not sure that he will not
get into trouble if he kills it. Perhaps--if he is a very uncommon kind
of man--he feels that it would be cruel and cowardly to shoot a helpless

Well. The man's will is free. He can fire if he likes: he can let the
rabbit go if he likes. How will he decide? On what does his decision

His decision depends upon the relative strength of his desire to kill
the rabbit, and of his scruples about cruelty, and the law. Not only
that, but, if we knew the man fairly well, we could guess how his free
will would act before it acted. The average spoiling Briton would kill
the rabbit. But we know that there are men who would on no account shoot
any harmless wild creature.

Broadly put, we may say that the sportsman would will to fire, and that
the humanitarian would not will to fire.

Now, as both their wills are free, it must be something outside the
wills that makes the difference.

Well. The sportsman will kill, because he is a sportsman: the
humanitarian will not kill, because he is a humanitarian.

And what makes one man a sportsman and another a humanitarian? Heredity
and environment: temperament and training.

One man is merciful, another cruel, by nature; or one is thoughtful and
the other thoughtless, by nature. That is a difference of heredity.

One may have been taught all his life that to kill wild things is
"sport"; the other may have been taught that it is inhuman and wrong:
that is a difference of environment.

Now, the man by nature cruel or thoughtless, who has been trained to
think of killing animals as sport, becomes what we call a sportsman,
because heredity and environment have made him a sportsman.

The other man's heredity and environment have made him a humanitarian.

The sportsman kills the rabbit, because he is a sportsman, and he is a
sportsman because heredity and environment have made him one.

That is to say the "free will" is really controlled by heredity and

Allow me to give a case in point. A man who had never done any fishing
was taken out by a fisherman. He liked the sport, and for some months
followed it eagerly. But one day an accident brought home to his mind
the cruelty of catching fish with a hook, and he instantly laid down his
rod, and never fished again.

Before the change he was always eager to go fishing if invited: after
the change he could not be persuaded to touch a line. His will was free
all the while. How was it that his will to fish changed to his will not
to fish? It was the result of environment. He had learnt that fishing
was cruel. This knowledge controlled his will.

But, it may be asked, how do you account for a man doing the thing he
does not wish to do?

No man ever did a thing he did not wish to do. When there are two wishes
the stronger rules.

Let us suppose a case. A young woman gets two letters by the same post;
one is an invitation to go with her lover to a concert, the other is a
request that she will visit a sick child in the slums. The girl is very
fond of music, and is rather afraid of the slums. She wishes to go to
the concert, and to be with her lover; she dreads the foul street and
the dirty home, and shrinks from the risk of measles or fever. But she
goes to the sick child, and she foregoes the concert. Why?

Because her sense of duty is stronger than her self-love.

Now, her sense of duty is partly due to her nature--that is, to her
heredity--but it is chiefly due to environment. Like all of us, this
girl was born without any kind of knowledge, and with only the rudiments
of a conscience. But she has been well taught, and the teaching is part
of her environment.

We may say that the girl is free to act as she chooses, but she _does_
act as she has been _taught_ that she _ought_ to act. This teaching,
which is part of her environment, controls her will.

We may say that a man is free to act as he chooses. He is free to act
as _he_ chooses, but _he_ will choose as heredity and environment cause
_him_ to choose. For heredity and environment have made him that which
he is.

A man is said to be free to decide between two courses. But really he is
only free to decide in accordance with his temperament and training.

Brown is a Member of Parliament. He is given to understand that by
suppressing his principles he may get a seat in the next Cabinet.

Brown is very anxious to get into the Cabinet. He is ambitious. His wife
is ambitious. He wants to make a name; he wants to please his wife. But
he has been taught that to sacrifice one's principles for a bribe is

Now, his ambition is part of his heredity; the things he has been taught
are part of his environment.

The conflict in his mind is a conflict between the old Adam and the
new; between the older egotism and the newer altruism. It is a
conflict between good heredity and bad heredity; between heredity and
environment; and the victory will be to the stronger.

If Brown is very ambitious, and not very conscientious, he will take the
bribe. If his conscience is stronger than his ambition, he will refuse
it. But to say that he is free to choose is a misuse of terms: he is
only free to decide as the stronger of the two motives compels him to
decide. And the motives arise from heredity and environment.

Macbeth was ambitious; but he had a conscience. He wanted Duncan's
crown; but he shrank from treason and ingratitude. Ambition pulled him
one way, honour pulled him the other way. The opposing forces were so
evenly balanced that he seemed unable to decide. Was Macbeth free to
choose? To what extent was he free? He was so free that he could arrive
at no decision, and it was the influence of his wife that turned the
scale to crime.

Was Lady Macbeth free to choose? She did not hesitate. Because her
ambition was so much stronger than her conscience that she never was in
doubt. She chose as her over-powering ambition compelled her to choose.

And most of us in our decisions resemble either Macbeth or his wife.
Either our nature is so much stronger than our training, or our training
is so much stronger than our nature, that we decide for good or evil
as promptly as a stream decides to run down hill; or our nature and our
training are so nearly balanced that we can hardly decide at all.

In Macbeth's case the contest is quite clear and easy to follow. He was
ambitious, and his environment had taught him to regard the crown as a
glorious and desirable possession. But environment had also taught him
that murder, and treason, and ingratitude were wicked and disgraceful.

Had he never been taught these lessons, or had he been taught that
gratitude was folly, that honour was weakness, and murder excusable
when it led to power, he would not have hesitated at all. It was his
environment that hampered his will.

We may say that Wellington was free to take a bribe. But his heredity
and environment had only left him free to refuse one. Everyone who knew
the Iron Duke knew how his free will would act if a bribe were offered

We may say that Nelson was free to run away from an enemy. But we know
that Nelson's nature and training had left him free only to run after an
enemy. All the world knew before the event how Nelson's free will would
act when a hostile fleet hove into view. Heredity and environment had
settled the action of Nelson's free will in that matter before the
occasion to act arose.

We may say that Nelson's will was free in the case of Lady Hamilton. But
it seems only to have been free to do as Lady Hamilton wished.

When Nelson met an enemy's fleet, he made haste to give them battle;
when he met Lady Hamilton he struck his flag. Some other man might have
been free to avoid a battle; some other man might have been free to
resist the fascinations of a friend's wife. Horatio Nelson was only free
to act as _his_ nature and _his_ training compelled _him_ to act. To
Nelson honour was dearer than life; but Lady Hamilton was dearer than

Nelson's action in Lady Hamilton's case was largely due to the influence
of environment. To hesitate in war was universally regarded as shameful.
But, in Nelson's environment, a love intrigue was condoned as an amiable
human weakness. Hence the failure of Nelson's will and conscience to
resist the blandishments of the handsome Emma.

We may say that Jack Sheppard and Cardinal Manning were free to
steal, or to refrain from stealing. But we know that the heredity and
environment of the thief had made robbery, for him, a proof of prowess,
and a question of the value of the spoil; and we know that the Cardinal
would not have stolen the Crown jewels if he could; that he did not want
them, and would not have taken them if he had wanted them.

We say that a drunkard and a lifelong abstainer are free to drink or to
refuse a glass of whisky. But we know that in both cases the action of
the free will is a foregone conclusion.

In all cases the action of the will depends upon the relative strength
of two or more motives. The stronger motive decides the will; just as
the heavier weight decides the balance of a pair of scales.

In Macbeth's case the balance seemed almost even: Lady Macbeth's
persuasion brought down the scale on the wrong side.

If the will were free, it would be independent of the temperament and
training, and so would act as freely in one case as in another. So that
it would be as easy for the drunkard as for the lifelong abstainer to
refuse to drink; as easy for the thief as for the Cardinal to be honest;
as easy for Macbeth as for Lady Macbeth to seal the fate of Duncan.

But we all know that it is harder for one man than for another to be
sober, or honest, or virtuous; and we all know that the sobriety, or
honesty, or virtue of any man depends upon his temperament and training;
that is to say, upon his heredity and his environment.

How, then, can we believe that free will is outside and superior to
heredity and environment?

In the case of the slum children rescued by Dr. Baraado and others we
know that had they been left in the slums their wills would have willed
evil, and we know that when taken out of the slums their wills willed

There was no change in the freedom of the will; the will that is free in
Whitechapel is free in Manitoba. The difference was the environment. In
Canada as in London the environment controlled the will.

"What! Cannot a man be honest if he choose?" Yes, if he choose. But that
is only another way of saying that he can be honest if his nature and
his training lead him to choose honesty.

"What! Cannot I please myself whether I drink or refrain from drinking?"
Yes. But that is only to say you will not drink because it pleases _you_
to be sober. But it pleases another man to drink, because his desire for
drink is strong, or because his self-respect is weak.

And you decide as you decide, and he decides as he decides, because you
are _you_, and he is _he_; and heredity and environment made you both
that which you are.

And the sober man may fall upon evil days, and may lose his
self-respect, or find the burden of his trouble greater than he can
bear, and may fly to drink for comfort, or oblivion, and may become a
drunkard. Has it not been often so?

And the drunkard may, by some shock, or some disaster, or some passion,
or some persuasion, regain his self-respect, and may renounce drink, and
lead a sober and useful life. Has it not been often so?

And in both cases the freedom of the will is untouched: it is the change
in the environment that lifts the fallen up, and beats the upright down.

We might say that a woman's will is free, and that she could, if she
wished, jump off a bridge and drown herself. But she cannot _wish_. She
is happy, and loves life, and dreads the cold and crawling river. And
yet, by some cruel turn of fortune's wheel, she may become destitute
and miserable; so miserable that she hates life and longs for death, and
_then_ she can jump into the dreadful river and die.

Her will was free at one time as at another. It is the environment that
has wrought the change. Once she could not wish to die: now she cannot
wish to live.

The apostles of free will believe that all men's wills are free.

But a man can only will that which he is able to will. And one man is
able to will that which another man is unable to will. To deny this is
to deny the commonest and most obvious facts of life.

The will is as free in one nation and in one class as in another. Who
would more willingly return a blow, an Irish soldier, or an English
Quaker? Who would be readier to stab a rival, an English curate, or a
Spanish smuggler? The difference does not concern the freedom of the
will: it is a difference of heredity and environment.

The wills of a priest and a sailor are free--free to make love in
every port, and to swear in every breeze. The difference is one of

The free will party look upon a criminal as a bad man, who could be good
if he wished: _but he cannot wish_.

The free will party say that if Smith wills to drink he is bad. But we
say that Smith drinks, and to drink is bad; but Smith drinks because he
is Smith.

The free will party say, "then he was born bad." But we say "no: he was
born Smith."

We all know that we can foretell the action of certain men in certain
cases, because we know the men.

We know that under the same conditions Jack Sheppard would steal and
Cardinal Manning would not steal. We know that under the same conditions
the sailor would flirt with the waitress, and the priest would not; that
the drunkard would get drunk, and the abstainer would remain sober. We
know that Wellington would refuse a bribe, that Nelson would not run
away, that Buonaparte would grasp at power, that Abraham Lincoln would
be loyal to his country, that Torquemada would not spare a heretic. Why?
If the will is free, how can we be sure, before a test arises, how the
will must act?

Simply because we know that heredity and environment have so formed and
moulded men and women that under certain circumstances the action of
their wills is certain.

Heredity and environment having made a man a thief, he will steal.
Heredity and environment having made a man honest, he will not steal.

That is to say, heredity and environment have decided the action of the
will, before the time has come for the will to act.

This being so--and we all know that it is so--what becomes of the
sovereignty of the will?

Let any man that believes that he can "do as he likes" ask himself
_why_ he _likes_, and he will see the error of the theory of free will,
and will understand why the will is the servant and not the master of
the man: for the man is the product of heredity and environment, and
these control the will.

As we want to get this subject as clear as we can, let us take one or
two familiar examples of the action of the will.

Jones and Robinson meet and have a glass of whisky. Jones asks Robinson
to have another. Robinson says, "no thank you, one is enough." Jones
says, "all right: have another cigarette." Robinson takes the cigarette.
Now, here we have a case where a man refuses a second drink, but takes
a second smoke. Is it because he would like another cigarette, but would
not like another glass of whisky? No. It is because he knows that it is
_safer_ not to take another glass of whisky.

How does he know that whisky is dangerous? He has learnt it--from his

"But he _could_ have taken another glass if he wished."

But he could not wish to take another, because there was something he
wished more strongly--to be safe.

And why did he want to be safe? Because he had learnt--from his
environment--that it was unhealthy, unprofitable, and shameful to get
drunk. Because he had learnt--from his environment--that it is easier to
avoid forming a bad habit than to break a bad habit when formed. Because
he valued the good opinion of his neighbours, and also his position and

These feelings and this knowledge ruled his will, and caused him to
refuse the second glass.

But there was no sense of danger, no well-learned lesson of risk to
check his will to smoke another cigarette. Heredity and environment did
not warn him against that. So, to please his friend, and himself, he

Now suppose Smith asks Williams to have another glass. Williams takes
it, takes several, finally goes home--as he often goes home. Why?

Largely because drinking is a habit with him. And not only does the mind
instinctively repeat an action, but, in the case of drink, a physical
craving is set up, and the brain is weakened.

It is easier to refuse the first glass than the second; easier to refuse
the second than the third; and it is very much harder for a man to keep
sober who has frequently got drunk.

So, when poor Williams has to make his choice, he has habit against him,
he has a physical craving against him, and he has a weakened brain to
think with.

"But Williams could have refused the first glass."

No. Because in his case the desire to drink, or to please a friend,
was stronger than his fear of the danger. Or he may not have been so
conscious of the danger as Robinson was. He may not have been so well
taught, or he may not have been so sensible, or he may not have been
so cautious. So that his heredity and environment, his temperament and
training, led him to take the drink, as surely as Robinson's heredity
and environment led him to refuse it.

And now, it is my turn to ask a question. If the will is "free,"
if conscience is a sure guide, how is it that the free will and the
conscience of Robinson caused him to keep sober, while the free will and
the conscience of Williams caused him to get drunk?

Robinson's will was curbed by certain feelings which failed to curb
the will of Williams. Because in the case of Williams the feelings were
stronger on the other side.

It was the nature and the training of Robinson which made him refuse the
second glass, and it was the nature and the training of Williams which
made him drink the second glass.


We are told that _every_ man has a free will, and a conscience.

Now, if Williams had been Robinson, that is to say if his heredity and
his environment had been exactly like Robinson's, he would have done
exactly as Robinson did.

It was because his heredity and environment were not the same that his
act was not the same.

Both men had free wills. What made one do what the other refused to do?

Heredity and environment. To reverse their conduct we should have to
reverse their heredity and environment.

Let us take another familiar instance. Bill Hicks is a loafer. He
"doesn't like work." He used to work, but he was out on strike for six
months, and since then he has done no more work than he could help. What
has changed this man's free will to work into a free will to avoid work?

Hicks used to work. He was a steady young fellow. Why did he work? He
did not know. He had always worked. He went to work just as he ate his
dinner, or washed his hands. But he did not think much. He lived chiefly
by custom; habit. He did things because he had always done them, and
because other men did them. He knew no other way.

He worked. He worked hard: for nine hours a day. He got twenty-five
shillings a week. He paid twelve shillings for lodging and board, and
he spent the rest, as others spent it, on similar boots and coats, and
a better suit, and the usual amount of beer and tobacco, and the usual
music hall.

He thought those things were necessary, or rather he felt that they

He did not love his work. There was no interest in it. It was hard, it
was dirty, there was no credit to be got by doing it. It was just an
affair of habit--and wages.

Then he was half a year on strike. He had less food, and less beer, and
no music hall. But he had a very great deal less work, and more liberty,
and--no "boss".

Men love liberty. It is a love that is bred in the race. They do not
love shovelling clay into a barrow, and pushing the barrow up a plank.
There is nothing in it that appeals to their humanity: and it is dirty,
and laborious, and it makes a man a prisoner and a slave.

Hicks found that the difference between working and loafing was a
difference of food, clothing, and beer, on the one hand, and on the
other hand, of unpleasant and hard labour.

He found he could do with much less beer and beef, and that liberty
was sweet. He did not think this out. He seldom thought: he was never
trained to think. But the habit of toil was broken, and the habit of
freedom was formed. Also he had found out that he could live without so
much toil, and live more pleasantly, if more sparely.

What had changed the free will of Hicks from a will to work to a will to
loaf? Change of experience: change of environment.

Now Hicks is as lazy, as useless, and as free as a duke.

But, someone asks, "where was his pride; where was his sense of duty;
where was his manhood?" And it seems to me those questions ought to be
put to the duke. But I should say that Bill Hicks' pride and sense of
duty were just overpowered by his love of liberty, his distaste for
soulless toil, and his forgetfulness of the beautiful moral lesson that
a man who will not work like a horse for a pound a week is a lazy beast,
whilst the man who does nothing--except harm--for a hundred thousand a
year, is an honourable gentleman, with a hereditary seat in the House of

In fact Hicks had found his heredity too strong for his training. But
what had free will to do with it?

The duke has a free will. Does it ever set him wheeling clay up a plank?
No. Why not? Because, as in the case of Hicks, heredity and environment
cause the duke to love some other.

"But the duke has no need to work." That is how Hicks feels. "But Hicks
could work if he liked." So could the duke. But neither of these men
_can_ "like." That is just what is the matter with them both.

Two boys work at a hard and disagreeable trade. One leaves it, finds
other work, "gets on," is praised for getting on. The other stays at the
trade all his life, works hard all his life, is poor all his life, and
is respected as an honest and humble working man; that is to say, he is
regarded by society as Mr. Dorgan was regarded by Mr. Dooley--"he is a
fine man, and I despise him."

What causes these two free wills to will so differently? One boy knew
more than the other boy. He "knew better." All knowledge is environment.
Both boys had free wills. It was in knowledge they differed:

Those who exalt the power of the will, and belittle the power of
environment, belie their words by their deeds.

For they would not send their children amongst bad companions or allow
them to read bad books. They would not say the children have free will
and therefore have power to take the good and leave the bad.

They know very well that evil environment has power to pervert the will,
and that good environment has power to direct it properly.

They know that children may be made good or bad by good or evil
training, and that the will follows the training.

That being so, they must also admit that the children of other people
may be made good or bad by training.

And if a child gets bad training, how can free will save it? Or how can
it be blamed for being bad? It never had a chance to be good. That they
know this is proved by their carefulness in providing their own children
with better environment.

As I have said before, every church, every school, every moral lesson is
a proof that preachers and teachers trust to good environment, and not
to free will, to make children good.

In this, as in so many other matters, actions speak louder than words.

That, I hope, disentangles the many knots into which thousands of
learned men have tied the simple subject of free will; and disposes of
the claim that man is responsible because his will is free. But there is
one other cause of error, akin to the subject, on which I should like to
say a few words.

We often hear it said that a man is to blame for his conduct because "he
knows better."

It is true that men do wrong when they know better. Macbeth "knew
better" when he murdered Duncan. But it is true, also, that we often
think a man "knows better," when he does not know better.

For a man cannot be said to know a thing until he believes it.

If I am told that the moon is made of green cheese, it cannot be said
that I _know_ it to be made of green cheese.

Many moralists seem to confuse the words "to know" with the words "to

Jones reads novels and plays opera music on Sunday. The Puritan says
Jones "knows better," when he means that Jones has been told that it is
wrong to do those things.

But Jones does not know that it is wrong. He has heard someone say that
it is wrong, but does not believe it. Therefore it is not correct to say
that he knows it.

And, again, as to that matter of belief. Some moralists hold that it is
wicked not to believe certain things, and that men who do not believe
those things will be punished.

But a man cannot believe a thing he is told to believe: he can only
believe a thing which he _can_ believe; and he can only believe that
which his own reason tells him is true.

It would be no use asking Sir Roger Ball to believe that the earth is
flat. He _could not_ believe it.

It is no use asking an agnostic to believe the story of Jonah and the
whale. He _could not_ believe it. He might pretend to believe it. He
might try to believe it. But his reason would not allow him to believe

Therefore it is a mistake to say that a man "knows better," when the
fact is that he has been told "better" and cannot believe what he has
been told.

That is a simple matter, and looks quite trivial; but how much ill-will,
how much intolerance, how much violence, persecution, and murder have
been caused by the strange idea that a man is wicked because _his_
reason _cannot_ believe that which to another man's reason seems quite

Free will has no power over a man's belief. A man cannot believe by
will, but only by conviction. A man cannot be forced to believe. You may
threaten him, wound him, beat him, burn him; and he may be frightened,
or angered, or pained; but he cannot _believe_, nor can he be made to
believe. Until he is convinced.

Now, truism as it may seem, I think it necessary to say here that a man
cannot be convinced by abuse, nor by punishment He can only be convinced
by _reason_.

Yes. If we wish a man to believe a thing, we shall find a few words of
reason more powerful than a million curses, or a million bayonets. To
burn a man alive for failing to believe that the sun goes round the
world is not to convince him. The fire is searching, but it does not
seem to him to be relevant to the issue. He never doubted that fire
would burn; but perchance his dying eyes may see the sun sinking down
into the west, as the world rolls on its axis. He dies in his belief.
And knows no "better."


THE subject of self-control is another simple matter which has been made
difficult by slovenly thinkers.

When we say that the will is not free, and that men are made by heredity
and environment, we are met with the astonishing objection that if such
were the case there could be no such things as progress or morality.

When we ask why, we are told that if a man is the creature of heredity
and environment it is no use his making any effort: what is to be, will

But a man makes efforts because he wants something; and whether he be
a "free agent," or a "creature of heredity and environment," he will
continue to want things, and so he will continue to make efforts to get

"But," say the believers in free will, "the fact that he tries to get
things shows that his will is free."

Not at all. The fact is that heredity and environment compel him to want
things, and compel him to try for them.

The earth does not move of its own free will; but it moves. The earth
is controlled by two forces: one is centrifugal force, the other is the
force of gravity. Those two forces compel it to move, and to move in a
certain path, or orbit.

"But a man does not move in a regular path or orbit." Neither does the
earth. For every planet draws it more or less out of its true course.
And so it is with man: each influence in his environment affects him in
some way.

In every case the force of heredity compels us to move, and the force of
environment controls or changes our movements.

And as this is a subject of great importance, and one upon which there
is much confusion of thought, I shall ask my readers to give me their
best attention, so that we may make it thoroughly clear and plain.

The control of man by heredity and environment is not the end of all
effort; on the contrary, it is the beginning of all effort.

We do not say that the control of the earth by gravity and centrifugal
force is the end of its motion: we know that it is the _cause_ of its

But, we shall be told, "the earth cannot resist. It is compelled to act
Man is free."

Man is not free. Man is compelled to act. Directly a child is born it
begins to act From that instant until the end of its life, it continues
to act It _must_ act It cannot cease from action. The force of heredity
compels it to act.

And the nature of its actions is decided:

1. By the nature of the individual: which is his heredity.

2. By his experiences and training: which are his environment

Therefore to cease from all action is impossible. Therefore it is
nonsense to say that if we are creatures of heredity and environment we
shall cease to act.

But, it may be said, a man can cease from action: he has power to kill

Well: the earth has power to destroy itself if it is caused to destroy
itself. And man cannot destroy himself unless he is caused to destroy

For the nature of a man--through heredity--is to love life. No man
destroys himself without a cause. He may go mad, he may be in great
grief, he may be disappointed, jealous, angry. But there is always a
cause when a man takes his own life. And, be the cause what it may,
it belongs to environment. So that a man cannot even take his own life
until heredity and environment cause him to do it.

But there is a second argument, to the effect that if we believe
ourselves to be creatures of heredity and environment we shall cease to
make any effort to be good, or to be better than we are.

Those who use such an argument do not understand the nature and power of
environment. Environment is powerful for good as well as for evil.

Well. We have seen that it is impossible for us to cease to act. Now we
are told that we shall cease to act well.

But our acting well or ill depends upon the nature of our heredity and

If our heredity be good, and if our environment be good, we _must_ act
well: we cannot help it.

If our heredity be bad, and if our environment be bad, we must act ill:
we cannot help it.

"What? Do you mean to say I cannot be good if I try?"

Is it not evident that you must have some good in you if you wish to
try? That good is put there by heredity and environment.

"But even a bad man sometimes tries to be good."

That is slovenly thinking. 'A man who is _all_ bad has no desire for
good. Any man who has a desire for good is not all bad.

Therefore a man who is "bad" never tries to be good, and a man who tries
to be good is not "bad." When it is said that a bad man tries to be good
the idea is that a very imperfect man tries to be rather better.

And he tries to be rather better because heredity or environment causes
him to wish to be rather better.

Before a man can wish to be good he must know what goodness is. All men
are born destitute of knowledge. To know what goodness is he must learn.
All learning is environment.

But when a man knows what is good, and wishes to be good, he will try to
be good. He cannot help trying. And he will try just as hard, and just
as long as his temperament and training cause him to try; and he will
succeed in being just as good as his temperament and training cause him
to be. And his temperament is heredity, and his training is environment.

It does not follow, then, that because a man is that which heredity
and environment make him, he will be nothing, for they will _make_ him
something. It does not follow that he will be bad, for they will make
him good or bad, as they are good or bad.

"Then," exclaims the confused opponent, "the man himself counts for
nothing: he is a mere machine."

No. He is not a "mere machine": he is a mere man; and he counts for just
as much as his heredity and environment amount to, for his heredity and
environment are _he_.

"But to tell a youth that he is a creature of heredity and environment
would discourage him." Not if he understood what was meant. As we want
to get this subject perfectly clear let us put a speech in two ways.

A youth tells his father that he would like to be a painter. The
father's reply may be varied as follows. First, let us suppose the
father says:

"You will be just as good a painter as your heredity and environment
allow, or compel you to be.

"If you have any hereditary talent for the art, so much the better. But
painting requires something more than talent: it requires knowledge, and
practice. The more knowledge and practice you get the better you will
paint. The less hereditary talent you possess, the more knowledge and
practice you will need. Therefore, if you want to be a good painter, you
must work hard."

The second speech would leave out the word hereditary before the word
talent, and would begin, "You will be just as a good a painter as your
talent and industry will make you." Otherwise the speeches would not

But are we to suppose that the first speech would discourage a boy who
wanted to be a painter? Not at all: if the boy understood what heredity
and environment mean. It tells him that he can only be as good a
painter as _his_ talent and _his_ industry will make him. But it does
not tell him what are the limits of his industry and talent, for nobody
knows what the limits are. That can only be settled by trying.

To know that he cannot get more out of a gold reef than there is in it,
does not discourage a miner. What he wants is to get all there is in it,
and until he wants no more, or believes there is no more, he will keep
on digging.

It is so with any human effort. We all know that we cannot do more than
we can, whether we believe in free will or no. But we do not know how
much we can do, and nobody can tell us. The only way is to try. And we
try just as hard as our nature and our desire impel us to try, and just
as long as any desire or any hope remains.

Not only that, we commonly try when the limit of our attainment is in
sight. For we try to get as near the limit as we can.

For instance. A young man adopts literature as his trade. He knows that
before he dips a pen into a bottle that he will _never_ reach the level
of Shakespeare and Homer. But he tries to do as well as he can. A miner
might be sure that his reef would not yield a million; but he would go
on and get all he could.

So it is in the case of a desire for virtue. A man knows that he cannot
be better than his nature and his knowledge allow him to be. He knows
that he will never be as good as the best. But he wants to be good, and
he tries to be as good as he can. The fact that a private soldier is
not likely to get a commission does not prevent him from trying to get
a sergeant-major's stripes. The knowledge that he is not likely to
get twenty-one bull's-eyes in a match does not prevent a rifleman from
getting all the bull's-eyes he can.

So with our young painter. All desire is hereditary. All knowledge is
environment. The boy wants to be a painter, and he knows that industry
and practice will help to make him a good painter. Therefore he
tries. He tries just as hard as his desire (his heredity) and the
encouragements of his master and his friends (environment) cause him to

We do not say that it is no use trying to be good, no use trying to be
clever. On the contrary, we say that no man can be good or clever unless
he does try; but that his desire to try, his power to try, and
his knowledge of the value of trying are parts of his heredity and
environment A boy says, "I cannot do this sum." His friend says, "Try
again. I had to try six times; but I did it." That encouragement is

A man says, "I cannot keep steady. I have tried." His friend says, "Yes,
you can. Try again. Keep on trying. Try for your children's sake."
That speech is environment. We advise a weakly lad to try a course of
gymnastics, and encourage him to persevere. That is environment.

In another book of mine, "God and My Neighbour," I said something that
was pounced upon as inconsistent with my belief. One paper asked what I
would give to "cancel that fatal admission." Many critics said in their
haste that I had "given my case away."

But I am so far from regretting that paragraph that I will repeat it
here, and will prove that it is not inconsistent with my belief, and
that it does not "give my case away." The passage is as follows:

I believe that I am what heredity and environment made me. But I know
that I can make myself better or worse if I try. I know that because I
have learnt it, and the learning has been part of my environment.

What is there in that paragraph that is inconsistent with my belief?

"I know"--how do I know anything? _All_ knowledge is from environment.
"I know" (through environment) that I can do something "if I try."

What causes me to try? If I try to write better, or to live better, it
is evident that I wish to write better, or to live better. What makes me
wish? Heredity and environment.

It may be inherited disposition to do the things called good. It may be
love of approbation. Those are parts of my heredity.

It may be that I wish to do the things called good because I have
been taught that I ought to do them. That teaching would be part of
my environment Therefore the desire to be good, or better, and the
knowledge that I can be good, or better, if I try, arise from and belong
to heredity and environment.

"But to try. Does not that show free will?" I have just proved that I
try because I wish to succeed, and that environment has taught me that I
cannot succeed without trying.

"But does not the free will come in when I decide whether to do good or
bad things?" No. For that has already been decided for me by heredity
and environment, which have made me wish to do good things.

So there is nothing wrong with that paragraph. The fault was in my
critics, who had failed to understand the subject upon which they were
trying to argue.

A man can only try if heredity or environment causes him to want to try,
and he can only keep on trying as long as heredity and environment cause
him to keep on.

One man is born with more talent than another. And one man is born
with more industry, or with more ambition, or with more hope, patience,
determination, than another.

And the man who is more ambitious, or more patient, or more hopeful, or
more determined, will try harder, and will try longer than the man who
is less ambitious, or hopeful, or determined.

Heredity settles that.

But the man who has less of the qualities that make one try, may be
spurred on by a teacher, a friend, or a powerful motive, and so may try
harder and longer than the stronger man.

As, for example, a man who has given up trying to succeed in some
enterprise, may fall in love, and then the added desire to marry the
woman he loves, may cause him to try harder than ever, and may lead him
to succeed.

But these things belong to his environment.

Not only that, but they are a proof that environment can move a man when
free will fails. For the man has a free will before he falls in love.
But he loses heart, and does not succeed in his enterprise. But love,
which is environment, supplies a new desire, and he does succeed.

Why does he succeed? Because he wants to marry, and he cannot marry
until he succeeds. This desire to marry comes of environment, and it
rules the will, and compels the will to will a further effort. Is it not

Although we say that man is the creature of heredity and environment,
we do not say that he has no self-control. We only say that his
self-control comes from heredity and environment, and is limited and
controlled by heredity and environment.

He can only "do as he likes" when heredity and environment cause him "to
like," and he can only "do as he likes," so far and so long as heredity
and environment enable him to go on.

A man "can be good if he tries," but not unless heredity and environment
cause him to wish to try.

But for heredity he could not lift a finger: he would not have a finger
to lift. But for environment he could not learn to use a finger. He
could never know good from bad.

We all know that we can train and curb ourselves, that we can weed out
bad habits, and cultivate good habits. No one has any doubt about that.
The question is what causes us to do the one or the other. The answer
is--heredity and environment.

We can develop our muscles, our brains, our morals; and we can develop
them enormously.

But before we can do these things we must _want_ to do them, and we must
know that we _can_ do them, and how to do them; and all knowledge, and
all desire comes from environment and heredity.

A youth wishes to be strong. Why? Say he has been reading Mr. Sandow's
book. He is told there that by doing certain exercises every day he
can very greatly increase his strength. This sets him to work at the
dumb-bells. There may be many motives impelling him. One group form a
general desire to be strong: that is heredity. But the spur that moves
him is Sandow's book, and that spur, and the information as to how to
proceed, are environment.

The youth begins, and for a few months he does the exercises every
morning. But they begin to get irksome.

He is tired, he has a slight cold, he wants to read or write. He
neglects the exercises. Then he remembers that he cannot get strong
unless he perseveres and does the work regularly, and he goes on again.
Or he neglects his training for awhile, until he meets another youth who
has improved himself. Then he goes back to the dumb-bells.

Is not this, to our own knowledge, the kind of thing that happens to us
all, in all kinds of self-training, whether it be muscular, mental, or

What causes the fluctuations? Let the reader examine his own conduct,
and he will find a continual shifting and conflict of motives. And he
will never find a motive that cannot be traced to his temperament or
training, to his heredity or environment.

A man wants to learn French, or shorthand. Let him ask himself why he
wants to learn, and he will find the motive springs from temperament or
training. He begins to learn. He finds the work difficult and irksome.
He has to spur himself on by all kinds of expedients. Finally he learns,
or he gives up trying to learn; and he will find that his action
has been settled by a contest between his desire to be able to write
shorthand, or to speak French, and his dislike to the drudgery of
learning; or that his action has been settled by a conflict between
his desire to know shorthand, or French, and his desire to do something
else. He does the thing he most desires to do. And all desire comes from
heredity or from environment.

Every member of his body, every faculty, every impulse is fixed for him
by heredity; every kind of knowledge, every kind of encouragement or
discouragement comes of environment.

I hope we have made that quite clear, and now we may ask to what it
leads us.

And we shall find that it leads us to the conclusion that everything a
man does is, at the instant when he does it, the only thing he _can_ do:
the only thing _he_ can do, _then_.

"What! do you mean to say-?" Yes. It is startling. But let us keep our
heads cool and our eyes wide open, and we shall find that it is quite
true, and that it is not difficult to understand.


WE are to ask whether it is true that everything a man does is the only
thing he could do, at the instant of his doing it.

This is a very important question, because if the answer is yes, all
praise and all blame are undeserved.


Let us take some revolting action as a test.

A tramp has murdered a child on the highway, has robbed her of a few
coppers, and has thrown her body into a ditch.

"Do you mean to say that tramp could not help doing that? Do you mean to
say he is not to blame? Do you mean to say he is not to be punished?"

Yes. I say all those things; and if all those things are not true this
book is not worth the paper it is printed on.

Prove it? I have proved it. But I have only instanced venial acts, and
now we are confronted with murder. And the horror of murder drives men
almost to frenzy, so that they cease to think: they can only feel.

Murder. Yes, a brutal murder. It comes upon us with a sickening shock.
But I said in my first chapter that I proposed to defend those whom God
and man condemn, and to demand justice for those whom God and man have
wronged. I have to plead for the _bottom_ dog: the lowest, the most
detested, the worst.

The tramp has committed a murder. Man would loathe him, revile him, hang
him: God would cast him into outer darkness.

"Not," cries the pious Christian, "if he repent."

I make a note of the repentance and pass on.

The tramp has committed a murder. It was a cowardly and cruel murder,
and the motive was robbery.

But I have proved that all motives and all powers; all knowledge
and capacity, all acts and all words, are caused by heredity and

I have proved that a man can only be good or bad as heredity and
environment cause him to be good or bad; and I have proved these things
because I have to claim that all punishments and rewards, all praise and
blame, are undeserved.

And now, let us try this miserable tramp--our brother.


The tramp has murdered a child for her money. What is his defence?

I appear for the prisoner, and claim that he is not responsible for his

(Cries of shame! bosh! lynch him!)

I will first of all remind the court of the reasons upon which I base my

(Gentleman in white tie rises and declaims vehemently against the
immorality of the defence. Talks excitedly about the flood gates of
anarchy, and the bulwarks of society, and is with difficulty persuaded
to resume his seat.)

Clerical environment does not make for toleration and sweet
reasonableness. I proceed to open my case.

Every quality of body or mind possessed by a child at birth has been
handed down to the child by its ancestors.

The child could not select its ancestors; could not select its own
qualities of body and mind.

Therefore the child is not to blame for any evil quality of body or mind
with which it is born.

Therefore this tramp was not to blame if, at the moment of birth, his
nature was prone to violence or to vice.

The prisoner is a criminal. He is either a criminal born, or a criminal

If he is a "born criminal" he is a victim of atavism, and ought not to
be blamed, but pitied. For it is not a fault, but a misfortune, to be
born an atavist.

Had a tiger killed the child, we should have to admit that such is the
tiger's nature; as it is the nature of a lark to sing.

But, if the prisoner is an atavist it is _his_ nature to be furious and

We cannot, however, be sure that a man is a "born criminal" because he
commits a murder. So great is the power of environment for evil, as well
as for good, that perhaps the most innocent and humane man in this court
might, by the influence of an evil environment, have been made capable
of an act as horrible.

If the prosecution adopt the course I expect them to adopt, and claim
that the unfortunate prisoner "knew better": if they succeed in proving
that the prisoner was well-educated, carefully brought up, and never in
all his life was once exposed to any evil influence, then I shall claim
that such evidence proves the prisoner to be atavist, and entitles him
to a verdict of unsound mind.

Because no man whose whole environment had been good, would be capable
of murdering a child for a few coppers, unless he were an atavist or

On the other hand, if it should appear, in the course of evidence, that
the prisoner was born of criminal and ignorant parents, was brought
up in an atmosphere of violence and crime, was sent out, untaught, or
evilly taught, and undisciplined, to scramble for a living; if it should
be proved that he fell into bad company, that he turned thief, that he
was sent to prison and branded as a felon: if it should be proved that
he has been hunted by the police, flogged with the "cat" by warders,
bullied by counsel, denounced by magistrates and judges; if it should be
proved that he has been treated at every turn of his wretched career
as a wild beast or a pariah; if it should be proved that he has been
allowed to degenerate into an ignorant, a savage, a bestial and a
drunken loafer; then, I shall plead that this miserable man has
been reduced to his present morose, cruel, and immoral state by evil
environment; and I shall ask for a verdict in his favour. (Cries of
Monster! Hang him! Lynch him!)

It is said the prisoner is an inhuman monster. He has been made a
monster by a monstrous heredity; or he has been made a monster by a
monstrous environment.

No man of sound heredity ever becomes a monster save by the action of an
evil environment.

Say the prisoner is an atavist; a man bred back to the beasts. Then he
is entitled to be judged by the standard we apply to beasts.

Some of you will remember Poe's story of the murder in the Rue Morgue,
in which a terrible murder is done by an ape. In such a case our horror
and our anger would probably cause us to shoot the ape. But that would
be the uprising within us of our own atavistic and brutish passions; it
would not be the result of our promptings of our human reason. Reason
might prompt us to kill the ape as a precaution against a repetition of
violence. But anger and hate are not reasonable, not human: all anger
and all hate are bestial--like the hate and the anger of the tramp. But
if the prisoner is not an atavist, or brute-man, if he has been reduced
to his present moral state of environment, ask for some measure of
compensation from the society; unjust laws, and dishonest social
conditions, and immoral neglect are responsible for the fact that a
brother man has been allowed, or rather compelled, by society, to grow
up an ignorant and desperate savage.

Be that as it may, the prisoner is a creature of heredity and
environment; and, as he is bad, the heredity, or the environment, or
both, must be bad. And I ask for a verdict in the prisoner's favour.

Will any man on the jury say me nay? The prisoner has defied the law,
he has injured society, has outraged morality. Have law and morality not
injured him? Has society not injured him?

He has committed a terrible crime, for which it is claimed that he
should be punished. Who shall be punished for the crimes of the law and
of society against him?

There is much proper and natural sympathy expressed by the prosecution
with the parents of the murdered child. Is there no sympathy with this
unhappy victim of atavism, or of society? This prisoner has been bred
as a beast, or treated as a savage, until he has become a savage and a

Here stands a human being, poisoned, battered, and degraded beyond all
human semblance. Here stands a brother man, whose soul has been murdered
by inches, has been murdered by the society that now hales him here to
be denounced, and execrated, and hanged.

Do I speak truth, or falsehood? Is logic true? Are facts true? That
which society has here planted it has here to reap. Not all the law, the
piety, and education in the wide, wide earth can make this ruined and
degraded prisoner the man he might have been. Not all the repentance we
can feel, not any compensation we can offer can buy him back the soul we
have destroyed. It is too late.

Gentlemen of the jury, is it nothing to you? You are accessories to the
fact. I appeal to your justice, to your pity--

(A voice: How much pity had he for the child?)

None. There is no pity in his soul. Either his forefathers put none
there, or society has destroyed it.

(Cries of monstrous! immoral! preposterous! shame!)

I hear cries of monstrous and immoral. But I do not hear any voice say
"false." Is there a man in court can impeach my reasoning, or disprove
my facts? Is there a man in court can deny one statement I have made?
Is there a man in court can break one link of the steel chain of logic
I have riveted upon our metaphysicians, our moralists, our kings, our
judges, and our gods?

You say my defence is unreasonable and immoral. You dread the effects
of justice and of reason upon society. You talk of crime and cruelty, of
law and order. You want the prisoner punished. You ask for justice:
but you want revenge. Give me a fair hearing, and I will speak of these
things to you.

When you cry out that to deny responsibility is immoral you are
thinking, at the back of your heads, that men can only be kept within
the law by fear; that wrong-doing can only be repressed by punishment.

It is the old and cruel conventions of society that hold you fast to
the error that blame and punishment are righteous and salutary. It is
ignorance of human nature that betrays you into the belief that men can
be made honest and benevolent by cruelty and terror.

Punishment has never been just, has never been effectual. Punishment has
always failed of its purpose: the greater its severity, the more abject
its failure.

Men cannot be made good and gentle by means of violence and wrong.
The real tamers and purifiers of human hearts are love and charity and

You seem to think it is a noble thing to be angry with a criminal, and
to be angry with me for defending him. But it is always ignoble to be

Some of you deny this blood-stained murderer for your brother; but
directly your features are distorted by passion, directly your fury
overcomes your reason, directly you begin to shriek for his blood, your
close relationship to him appears.

Reason, patience, self-control, these are lacking in the savage
criminal: I look around for them in vain amongst the crowd in this

I said that I would take note of what our Christian friend said about
repentance. I will speak to that question now. There are few who so
often forget the tenets of their own religion as the clergy. I have
found it so.

The clergy are always amongst the first to raise the cry of immorality
when one speaks against punishment as unjust, or useless.

Yet the clergy preach the doctrine of repentance. It is only a few weeks
since the English papers printed a letter from a murderer under sentence
of death, in which he spoke of meeting his relatives "at the feet of

In a week from the date of his letter he expected to be in heaven. In
a month from the time when he murdered his wife, he expected to be with
Jesus, and to live in happiness and glory for ever.

That is what the prison chaplain had taught him. It is what the clergy
do teach. They talk of the folly and the immorality of abolishing prison
and gallows; and then they offer the perpetrators of the most inhuman
and terrible crimes a certainty of everlasting bliss in a sinless

If it is immoral and absurd to say that all criminals are sinned against
as well as sinning; if it is immoral and absurd to say that we ought not
to hang a man, nor to flog, nor to imprison him, what kind of morality
and wisdom lie in offering all criminals an eternity of happiness and

The clergy are that which their environment has made them. What kind of
reasoning can we expect from men who have been taught that it is wicked
to think?

Before you are angry with me for defending the prisoner be sure that you
are not confounding the ideas of the criminal and the crime. I hate the
crime as much as any man here; but I do not hate the criminal. I am not
defending evil; I am defending the evil-doer.

Before you plume yourselves too much upon your superior morality and
greater love of justice, allow me to remind you that I am asking that
the world shall be moral, and not only this man: I am demanding justice
for _all_ men, and not for a few. But you--you think you have acted
righteously and honourably when you have hanged a murderer; but you have
not a thought for the inhuman social conditions that make men criminals.
This prisoner is but a type: a type of the legion victims of a selfish
and cowardly society. Every day, in every city, in every country,
innocent children are being poisoned and perverted by millions. Which of
you has spoken a word or lifted a hand to prevent this wholesale wrong?
What man of you all, who are so fierce against crime, so loud in praise
of morality, has ever tried in act or speech to combat the crime and the
immorality which society perpetuates: with your knowledge and consent?
You who are so anxious to punish crime, what are you doing to prevent

When I ask for a verdict in the prisoner's favour you assume that I
would set him free, assuring him that he is an injured man and that fate
compelled him to the act of murder.

Do you think, then, that I would release a tiger amongst the crowd in a
circus, or that I would allow a homicidal maniac to go at large in the
streets of a city?

It would be folly to give to this brutalised and ignorant tramp a
message which hardly a man in this court is sufficiently educated and
refined to understand; it would be folly to set at liberty a besotted
savage: it would be unsafe.

But I say to _you_ that the prisoner is a victim of heredity and
environment, that he has been debased and wronged by society, and that
to punish him is unjust.

(A woman's voice: "The monster! Kill him.")

Madam, there is not a woman here can be sure that any child she bears
may not be driven by society to stand some day in the dock.

But still. You are not satisfied. Some of you, at any rate, still frown
and set your teeth hard. Logic or no logic, he has murdered a baby.

There stands my clerical friend, with knitted brows, and fire in his
eyes. But that his calling checks his fierce old Saxon heredity
this parson would echo the stern speech of Carlyle to the criminal:
"Scoundrel! Know that we for ever hate thee!"

Ah! I thought so. The cloud begins to clear from the face of my clerical
friend: the crowd look hopeful. Grim old Thomas appeals to you. The
prisoner _is_ a scoundrel, and you _do_ hate him. Nothing I have said,
so far, has shaken that feeling. He is a scoundrel, and you hate him.
What is more, you cannot forgive me for not hating him. You cannot
believe that I am a natural man. I _ought_ to hate him. Well, my
friends, how do we feel about a shark? I think you will find that men
hate a shark. And I think you will find that they hate him more bitterly
than they hate a tiger. And I think you will find that they believe they
hate the shark because he is cruel. But that seems to me a mistake. The
shark is not so cruel as a cat; it is not so cruel as a shrike; it is
nothing like so cruel as a European lady. For though the shark will
devour any animals it can reach, it does not deliberately torture them.
Now the cat tortures the mouse, the shrike impales flies or beetles upon
a thorn, and leaves them to die, and the European lady eats lobster,
which has, to her knowledge, been boiled, alive.

But the shark kills human beings. So do tigers, so do lions, and so do

But the shark is horrible. Yes; now we are getting nearer the real root
of our hatred. The shark is horrible. And so is the murderer.

But there is a difference between horror and hate. The murderer is
horrible to me, far more horrible than the shark, just as a mad man is
more horrible than a mad dog; just as a human corpse is more awful than
the carcase of a deer.

The criminal makes me shudder, he makes my flesh creep; my whole nature
recoils from him. But I do not hate him, and I do not blame him.

Which of us does not admire and honour an innocent, graceful, and
charming girl? To all of us, men and women, her presence is more
delightful than a garden of sweet flowers.

Think of some such amiable and gentle creature. Then imagine that we
meet her ten years hence, and find her a drunken harlot, wallowing in
the gutter. Think of her then so hideous, filthy, and obscene; think of
her debased, indecent, treacherous; think of her incapable of honesty,
of gratitude, of truth; think of her sullied and broken and so vile that
she would betray her only friend for a glass of gin: think of her well,
and ask yourselves how should we feel towards her.

Some of us would blame her: some of us would pity her: some of us would
try to befriend her: but hardly one of us could endure her touch, her
speech, her gaze. She has become a horror in the light of the day.

My clerical friend and I would stand before her sick and sorry and
ashamed. We should be alike dismayed and shocked: we should be alike
touched and repelled. But there in that tragic moment would appear the
likeness and the difference between us. He would not _understand_.

The unfortunate woman has been rendered physically and morally loathsome
to us. So has this murderer. But that should cause us to pity, and not
to hate them; it should inspire us not to destroy them; but to destroy
the evil conditions that have brought them, and millions as unfortunate
as they, to this terrible and shameful pass. The bitterest wrong of all
is the fact that these fellow-creatures of ours have been degraded below
the reach of our help and our affection.

Looking into my own heart, and recalling my experience of men and women,
I must own that there is not one in a thousand of us who might not have
become a shame and a horror to our fellows had our environment been
as cruel and as hard as the environment of these from whom we shrink

And when I read of a murder, when I see some human wreck, so repulsive
and unsightly that my soul is sick within me, and my flesh shudders away
from the contact, I crush the anger out of my heart, and remember what
I am and might have been, and that this man, this woman, now so dreadful
or so vile, is a victim of a state of society which most of us believe
in and uphold.

I cannot hate these miserables, but I cannot love them. I could not
sleep in a dirty bed, nor eat a rotten peach, nor listen to a piano
out of tune, nor drink after a leper or a slut, nor make a friend of
a sweater, nor shake the hand of an assassin, nor sit at table with a
filthy sot.

But to drive our fellow-creatures into disgrace and crime beyond
redemption, and then to hate them or to hang them; is that just?

To loathe and punish the victims of society, and never lift a hand
against the wrongs that are their ruin, is that reasonable?

I ask for a verdict in the prisoner's favour; but I cannot ask that
he be set at liberty. We could not liberate a smallpox patient nor a

Although the prisoner ought not to be punished, it is imperative that he
be restrained.

Being what he is: being what society has made him, he is not fit to be
at large.

We must defend ourselves against him. We must protect our children from
him, even although we have failed to protect other children against

I ask the jury for a verdict in the prisoner's favour. I leave the
prisoner to their justice and to their reason. That is my case.


DOES it do a man any good to hang him? Does it do us any good to hang
him? Is any human being in the wide world edified or bettered when a man
is hanged? Is it any _use_ hanging men?

That it is unjust to hang a man we have seen. But is it any use?

There is a certain school of moralists who are angered and alarmed
by the mere suggestion that men should cease to blame and punish each
other. They protest that virtue would die out and morality become a
mockery if we ceased to scold, and whip, and execute each other. They
seem to believe that injustice and ferocity are the best exemplars of
justice and human kindness.

Dr. Aked, minister of Pembroke Chapel, Liverpool, declaiming against
what he called "this preposterous notion of moral irresponsibility,"
declared that "it is the doctrine of every coward, of every cur, of
every thief who ever pilfered from his master's till, of every seducer
and traitor the world has seen." I whisper the name of Torquemada, and
pass on.

Dr. Aked, supposing, for the sake of illustration, that he who has been
a bad man, said:

If, in the mercy of God, the day comes when I see myself as I am, when
there is no more shuffling, when to myself Myself is compelled, even to
the teeth and forehead of my faults, to give in evidence--if such a
day comes, no juggling with words, _no nonsense about not knowing any
better_ or being driven by education upon organisation, by environment
acting on heredity, will serve to conceal from my soul the hideous view
of its own guilt.

And yet Dr. Aked is a minister of the Christian religion, and a
professed follower of Christ, who said of his murderers, "_Father
forgive them, for they know not what they do_."

I might imitate Dr. Aked, and denounce the idea that punishment makes
men virtuous and docile as the idea of every tyrant, of every religious
persecutor, of every wife-beater, of every martinet, of every bully and
brute the world has ever seen. But I prefer to look calmly and sensibly
at the evidence.

That mighty moral ruler, King Henry VIII., during his reign did,
according to the author of _Elizabethan England_, hang up seventy-two
thousand thieves, rogues, and vagabonds.

Now, Sir Thomas More, who was one of the finest men England ever bred,
and was Lord High Chancellor under Henry VIII., has put it upon record,
in his great and noble work, _Utopia_, that these severe punishments
were not only unjust, but ineffectual.

I will quote from Sir Thomas:

One day when I was dining with him (Cardinal Archbishop Morton) there
happened to be at table one of the English lawyers, who took occasion to
run out in a high commendation of the severe execution of justice upon
thieves, who, as he said: were then hanged so fast, that there were
sometimes twenty on one gibbet; and upon that he said he could not
wonder enough how it came to pass, that since so few escaped, there were
yet so many thieves left who were still robbing in all places.

Upon this, I, who took the boldness to speak freely before the Cardinal,
said there was no reason to wonder at the matter, since this way of
punishing thieves was neither just in itself, nor good for the public;
for as the severity was too great, so the remedy was not effectual;
simple theft not being so great a crime that it ought to cost a man his
life; and no punishment, how severe soever, being able to restrain those
from robbing, who can find out no other way of livelihood; and in this,
said I, not only you in England, but a great part of the world, imitate
some ill masters that are readier to chastise their scholars than to
teach them. There are dreadful punishments enacted against thieves,
but it were much better to make such good provisions by which every man
might be put in a method how to live, and so be preserved from the fatal
necessity of stealing, and dying for it.... If you do not find a
remedy to these evils, it is a vain thing to boast of your severity of
punishing theft; which, though it may have the appearance of justice,
yet in itself is neither just nor convenient; for if you suffer your
people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their
infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first
education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but
that you first make thieves, and then punish them?

In confirmation of the statement of Henry the Eighth's Lord Chancellor,
we have the evidence of Harrison, that after these 72,000 executions of
Henry, there were more thieves than ever in the next reign.

Harrison, who wrote in the reign of Elizabeth, says of the "rogues and
vagabonds": "the punishment that is ordained for this kind of people is
very sharp, and yet it cannot restrain them from their gadding."

In that day any one convicted, "on the testimony of two honest and
credible witnesses," of being a "rogue," "he is then immediately
adjudged to be grievously whipped, and burned through the gristle of the
right ear, with a hot iron of the compass of an inch about." Amongst
the "rogues" were included actors, jugglers, fencers, minstrels, and

Harrison toasts that our laws against felons were more humane than those
of the Continent. Let us consider the leniency of Elizabeth's day. A
woman who poisoned her husband was burnt alive. Other poisoners were
boiled alive, or scalded to death in "seething water or lead." Heretics
and witches were burnt alive. Murderers were hanged alive in chains.
Harrison adds: "We have use neither of the wheel nor of the bar as in
other countries; but when wilful manslaughter is perpetrated, besides
hanging, the offender hath his right hand commonly stricken off, before
or near the place where the act was done, after which he is led forth to
the place of execution and there put to death according to the law."

For treason men were "hanged, drawn, and quartered."

For felony, which was anything from highway robbery to theft of a piece
of bread, men, women, and children were hanged. There were over 250
offences for which the penalty was death.

For "speaking sedition against a magistrate" the offender had both his
ears cut off.

If a prisoner refused to plead he was pressed to death under heavy

Harrison says that "there is not one year" in which three or four
hundred "rogues" are not "eaten up by the gallows." And then he goes
on to remark that so many are the idle rogues, that "except some better
order be taken, or the laws already made be better executed, such as
dwell in uplandish towns and little villages shall live but in small
safety or rest."

A hundred years ago there were over two hundred offences for which
the punishment was death. Boys and girls were hanged for theft. Mr.
Collinson, in _Facts about Floggings_, says that in 1816 there were at
one time over fifty prisoners in England waiting to be hanged, and that
one of them was a child of tender years. Mr. Collinson says:

The inefficiency and brutality of all this torture and bloodshed became
obvious to the people, through the propaganda of a few daring and
enlightened reformers, and it was swept away.

But let us come nearer home. About a dozen years ago the late Mr.
Hopwood, K.C., Recorder of Liverpool, was good enough to give me his
opinions on the subject of harsh and lenient punishment. Mr. Hopwood

I was first convinced of the uselessness of harsh sentences by
attendance at two courts of sessions about thirty-five years ago. The
two courts were those of Manchester and Salford--towns very similar
as to population and conditions of life. In Salford the sentences were
uniformly lenient. In Manchester they were uniformly severe. People said
Manchester would be purged of crime; that all the criminals would flock
to Salford. It was not so. The state of things continued for some years,
and caused no increase of crime in the one, nor decrease of crime in
the other town. Hence it becomes evident that a great deal of useless
punishment was inflicted in Manchester. I was a young barrister at the
time, and I took the lesson to heart.

Mr. Hopwood only claimed a negative result. He said: "I do not say I
have reduced crime, but only that I have reduced punishment without
increasing crime. For instance, I claim that during my six years at this
court I have saved three thousand years of imprisonment."

When I remarked "that saved a great waste of money," he answered that it
was "a great saving of humanity." He claimed that life and property were
at least as secure under a clement judge as under a cruel one, and that
his system saved much suffering and shame, not only to the prisoners,
but also to those dependent upon them. He said that very often his
treatment had a good effect upon the prisoners: "Do you know, often they
are ashamed to come back."

Mr. Hopwood told me that at first he met with strong opposition, but
that his example had such an effect that the local magistrates had come
"to give six or ten months' imprisonment in cases where formerly the
offenders would have got seven years." Asked whether his leniency had
caused criminals to flock to Liverpool, Mr. Hopwood answered, "Not at
all"; and his denial was backed by the statement of the Chief Constable
that "crime was decreasing to an appreciable extent."

Mr. Hopwood told me he would like to release one-third of those men
then in prison, and, he added, "another third ought never to have gone
there." Asked what that meant, he said that one-third of the prisoners
were innocent. My own observation, in the police-courts afterwards,
convinced me that he was quite right. Finally, after showing me that the
boasted cure of garrotting by "the cat" was a fiction, "there never was
a garrotter flogged," Mr. Hopwood asked me to go and see some of our
prisons, remarking, gravely:

The prison system is cruel and vile. The prisoners are starved,
tortured, and degraded. The system should be altered at once. It is
inhumanly severe upon the guilty, and, in my opinion, a good third of
those in our gaols are _not_ guilty.

Dr. James Devon, medical officer at Glasgow Prison, told the Royal
Philosophical Society in that city, in 1904, that "with milder methods
of repression we have not more, but less, crime: and certainly much less

Dr. Hamilton D. Wey, of Elmira Reformatory, 'Elmira, N. Y., says:

"The time will come when every punitive institution in the world will
be destroyed, and be replaced by hospitals, schools, workshops, and

Dr. Lydston, professor of criminal anthropology, writes as follows:

"Try to reform your man, try to purify and elevate his soul, and if
he does not come to time, lock him up or hang him." This has been the
war-cry of the average reformer through all the ages. "Make a healthy
man of your criminal, or prospective criminal, give him a sound,
well-developed brain to think with, and rich, clean blood to feed it
upon, and an opportunity to earn an honest living--then preach to him
if you like." This is the fundamental principle of the scientific
criminologist. Which is the more rational?

Havelock Ellis says in his work on "the criminal," "Flogging is
objectionable, because it is ineffectual, and because it brutalises and
degrades those on whom it is inflicted, those who inflict it, and those
who come within the radius of its influence."

The Recorder of Liverpool told me that millions were wasted upon prisons
which ought to be spent upon detection. "Make detection swift and
certain," said he, "and crime will cease. No one will steal if he is
sure he will be caught every time."

This is proved by the Revenue service. Penalties did not stop smuggling;
but it has now become almost impossible to run a cargo: the coast is so
closely guarded.

Dr. Lydston, in _The Diseases of Society_, says:

The prospective criminal once born, what does society do to prevent
his becoming a criminal? Practically nothing.... What is the remedy at
present in vogue? Society punishes the vicious child after a criminal
act has been committed, and sends the diseased one to the hospital to be
supported by the public, after he has become helpless. Even in this, the
twentieth century, the child who has committed his first offence is in
most communities thrown by the authorities into contact with older and
more hardened criminals--to have his criminal education completed. The
same fate is meted out to the adult "first offender." We have millions
for sectarian universities, millions for foreign missions, but few
dollars for the redemption of children of vicious propensities or
corrupting opportunities, who are the product of our own vicious social
system. Every penal institution, every expensive process of criminal
law, is a monument to the stupidity and wastefulness of society--and
expenditure of money and energy to cure a disease that might be largely
prevented, and more logically treated where not prevented.

Lombroso, the great Italian criminologist, said, in 1901:

There are few who understand that there is anything else for us to do,
to protect ourselves from crime, except to inflict punishments that
are often only new crimes, and that are almost always the source of new


From the day of Sir Thomas More to the present hour, it has been claimed
by wise and experienced men that punishment is not only unjust, but
worse than useless. And the statistics of crime have always supported
the claim.

There was more crime in the fifteenth century, when penalties were so
severe, than there is to-day. There were worse crimes. There was more

The abolition of cruel punishments has diminished crime. The abolition
of flogging in the army and navy has not injured either service. The
improvement in school discipline has not lowered the moral standard of
boys and girls.

But, it may be urged, the decrease in crime, and the improvement in
morals are not due only to the increased leniency of punishments. They
are due also to the spread of education, and to the improved conditions
of life.

Exactly. That is my case. Decrease of punishment, and increase of
education, have diminished crime and improved morals.

Punish less, and teach more; blame less, and encourage more; hate less,
and love more; and you will get not a lowering, but a raising of the
moral standard; not an increase in crime, but a decrease. And the
improvement will be due to alteration for the better of--environment.

Chance has placed me very often in positions of authority. I have been
in charge of rough and reckless men: soldiers, militiamen, navvies,
workers of all sorts. I have never found it necessary to be harsh, nor
to threaten, nor to drive. I have always found that to respect men as
men, to treat them fairly and quietly, and to show a little kindness now
and again, has sufficed to get the best out of them.

I have gone into the midst of a crowd of Irish soldiers, all drunk, and
all fighting in true Donnybrook fashion, and have got order without a
hard word, without making a single prisoner. Directly they recognised me
they calmed down. Had I been a sergeant disliked by them they would have
thrown me downstairs.

I have found the wildest and the lowest amenable to reason and to
kindness. One of the greatest ruffians in the regiment once spoke rudely
to me in camp, and even threatened me. I was then a lance-corporal,
and a mere boy. I sat down and talked to the bruiser quietly for a few
minutes, and from that day he would have done anything for me.

There was a blackguard in my company who once threatened to murder me.
A few months later he was taken ill in the night and I attended to him,
and probably saved his life. He never forgot it. It was but a small
kindness, and he was what is generally called a scoundrel, but he showed
his gratitude to me all the rest of the time I was in the army.

As a child I was brought up under strict discipline. I felt that it was
a wrong method. I have "spoilt" my children; and they are better than I
ever was.

Parents beat their children for their own errors. If a father cannot
gain the respect and obedience of his children, it is because he is
foolish, or violent, or ignorant. Children, soldiers, and animals are
alike in one respect: they know and respect strength and reason. The
quiet manager, officer, sergeant, parent, who knows his own mind, who
keeps his temper, who is not afraid, can always get discipline and
order. If I thought any one under my control or care was afraid of me, I
should feel ashamed. If a master rules only by fear of punishment he is
not fit to rule at all. When those over whom we happen to be placed in
authority feel that we deserve their respect, we get it If you want
to know whether a man is fit for command, put him with men who are not
bound to obey him. Put him with his equals, where he has no power to
punish nor to harm. Thus you will find the real leader of men: the man
who leads with his brains.

I knew a young lieutenant once, a boy of twenty. He met a boy private in
town, and saw that he had been drinking. Had he made a prisoner of the
boy, the private would have got punished for drunkenness, and would have
got drunk again. But the young officer sent for the boy the next day and
said, "If I were you, Thomas, I wouldn't drink. It is a poor game, and
your people would not like it" That boy was cured.

That same officer, if the men were unsteady on parade, would stand quite
still and _look_ at them. He had clear blue eyes, and his look was
not stern, it was calm and confident. It brought the whole company to
attention without a word. The officer was a _man_, and the men knew it,
and they knew it because _he_ knew it The boss who begins to bully is
not sure of himself. Children, soldiers, workers, and animals know by
instinct when the boss is not sure of himself.

Those who put so much trust in blame and punishment do not understand
human nature. I said in a previous chapter that a man could not believe
a thing unless his reason told him that it was true. I now say that a
man cannot help believing a thing when his reason tells him it is true.
The secret of reform is to make men understand.

The terrors of capital punishment, the terrors of the "cat," even the
terrors of hell-fire fail to awe the criminal. That is because the
criminal is stupid or ignorant, and lacks imagination. He hears of hell,
and of death. But he cannot imagine either. He seldom thinks. He seldom
looks beyond the end of his nose.

Discipline is not preserved in the army by the dread of the "cat," nor
of the cells. It is kept by the fact that the wildest and most reckless
man knows that he _must_ obey, that the whole physical and moral force
of the army is united to insist upon obedience.

If he disobey an order he will be punished. He does not care a snap of
his fingers for the punishment. But he knows that after he has done his
punishment drill the order will be repeated, and that he will be obliged
to obey. He knows that the sentiment of the army is against him until he
does obey.

I have seen an officer get a battalion into a mess on parade, and then
lose his temper and bully the men.. And I have seen another officer
on the same day drill the men and get them to work like a machine. The
first officer did not know how to give the orders. The second knew his
business, was sure that he did know it, and so let the men feel that he
knew it.

It is with parents as with those two officers. The one who knows his
duty, and does it properly, never has any occasion to lose his temper.

It is time Solomon's rod followed the witches' broom. It is time the
"cat," and the chain, and the cell, and the convict's dress, and
the oakum and the skilly, and the gallows followed the rack and the
thumbscrew and the faggot and the wheel. It is time the leaders of the
people were taught to lead. It is time the educated and the uneducated
were given some real education. It is time that tyranny, cruelty,
self-righteousness, superstition, and the bad old conventions of an
ignorant past, gave place to reason, to science, to manhood.

"But," the penal moralist will demand, "if you propose to abolish blame
and punishment, what do you propose to put in their place?"

And I answer, "Justice, knowledge, and reason--in fact, an improved

The cause of most of our social and moral troubles is ignorance.

By ignorance I do not mean illiteracy only: there are many classical
scholars who are really ignorant men. No: I mean ignorance of human
nature and of the essentials to a happy and wholesome human life. It is
this kind of ignorance which divides the people into two classes: rich
and poor--masters and slaves. It is this kind of ignorance which causes
men to sacrifice health, happiness, and virtue for the sake of vanity,
and idleness, and wealth. It is the kind of ignorance which keeps twelve
millions of people in a rich and fertile country always on the verge of
destitution. It is this kind of ignorance which saddles mankind with the
cost of armies, and fleets, and prisons, and police. It is this kind
of ignorance which breeds millions of criminals, and educates them in
crime. It is this kind of ignorance which splits a great nation into
castes, and sects, and makes the realisation of the glorious ideal of
human brotherhood impossible. It is this kind of ignorance which drives
professing Christians to neglect the teachings of Christ. It is this
kind of ignorance which makes possible the millionaire, the aristocrat,
the sweater, the tramp, the thief, the degenerate, and the slave. It is
this kind of ignorance which keeps the children hungry, drives the men
to drunkenness, and the women to shame. It is this kind of ignorance
which is answerable for all evil environments from which hate, and
greed, and poverty, and immorality spring, like weeds from a rank and
neglected soil.

We cannot get rid of this most deadly form of ignorance by means of
blame and punishment. There is only one way to drive out ignorance, and
that is by spreading knowledge.

What knowledge? Knowledge of human nature and of the essentials to a
happy and wholesome life.

It is bad for men to be rich and idle; it is bad for men to be ill-fed,
ill-clothed, ill-housed, ill-taught, unhonoured, and unloved.

Whilst life is a sordid scramble, in which the prizes are pernicious
wealth, and luxury, and idleness, and in which the blanks are hunger,
ignorance, vice, unhappiness, the prison, and the gallows; immorality
and crime must flourish as pestilence flourishes in a filthy, pent, and
insanitary city. It is sad to see the custodians of the public morality
bewailing the wickedness of men, and fostering the evil surroundings
from which evil springs. It is as foolish as to bewail the presence of
malarial fever, to punish the victims for spreading the disease, and at
the same time to refuse to drain the marsh from which the malaria comes,
because it is the property of a grand duke, who wishes to shoot wildfowl

What do I propose should be done. Why that, my friends, is another
story. What I propose at present to do is to prove that crime and
immorality are _caused_: to show what the causes are; and to point out
that the recognised remedies are ineffectual.

While we have an idle rich, and a hungry and ignorant poor, we cannot
get rid of vice and crime. To punish the criminals we have made, is
unjust and useless; to pray for deliverance from plague: we must look to
the drains--we must improve the environment.

No man should be idle. No man should be rich. No man should be ignorant,
no man destitute. Every man should have a chance to earn the essentials
to a wholesome, happy, temperate, and useful life. Every child should be
nourished, and taught, and trained.

Crime, vice, disease, poverty, idleness: all these are preventable

But we cannot drain our marshes, because, little as we heed the misery
of the people, the ignorance and hunger of the children, the despair of
the men and the degradation of the women, we are marvellously tender of
Grand Ducal sport.

It is Mammon we worship, not God; it is property we prize, not life;
it is vanity we love, and not our fellow-creatures. We are an ignorant,
atavistic people; and our priests are wondrous moral.


THE upholders of the doctrine of free will commonly fall into the error
of considering heredity and environment apart from each other.

Father Adderley, in a lecture given at Saltley, told his hearers that
"all our great scientists agree that people have the power to overcome
their hereditary tendencies." Perhaps: but they can only get that power
from environment; and if the environment is bad they will not get that

But the most surprising example of this mental squinting is afforded by
the Rev. C. A. Hall, who may be said to squint with both eyes. For, in
a lecture given at Paisley, this gentleman first shows that we
can overcome our heredity, and then shows that we can overcome our
environment And yet it never occurred to him that to prove the freedom
of the will we must be able to overcome our heredity and environment

Mr. Hall's argument may be stated thus: By the aid of environment we can
overcome our heredity; by the aid of heredity, or of good environment we
can overcome bad environment; therefore we are superior to heredity and

It is like saying: by means of natural intelligence and a good teacher
I can become a good scholar; by means of natural intelligence and a good
teacher I can correct the errors of a bad teacher. Therefore I do not
depend upon intelligence nor teaching for my knowledge.

But I have answered Messrs. Adderley and Hall in my chapter on

An example of a similar error is afforded by a clergyman who wrote to me
from Warrington. He said:

You can never hope to improve the social environment until you
_persuade_ men that they can rise superior to their circumstances.

The men are to be "persuaded" to rise. And what is that persuasion,
but a part of their environment? And if men are "persuaded" to try, and
succeed, to whom is the victory due? Is it not due to the "persuasion"?
Of course it is. And the persuasion came from outside themselves, and is
part of their environment.

The same clergyman said, "If heredity and environment have made the
individuals of whom society is made up, heredity and environment have
made society itself," and asked me how I could logically accuse society
of injuring any one.

A strange question based upon a misunderstanding. The criminal injures
society, society injures the criminal.

I accuse both of injurious action. I _blame_ neither. I say both are
that which heredity and environment made them. I say neither can help
it. But I say that both can be _taught_ to help it, and that _both_
should be taught to help it. Is there anything illogical in that?

This brings me to the Rev. Charles Marson, a very clever and witty man,
who is hopelessly muddled over the simple matter. In "The Religious
Doubts of Democracy," Mr. Marson says:

Now, as reform starts by a feeling and conviction of blame, and cannot
start at all unless it can say: "This is wrong. It might be right. This
ought not to be and is, and need not be" so, if the answer is: "But this
was as mathematically fixed at its birth as the path of a planet in
its orbit," the poor reformed can only say, "Sorry I spoke"; and if
he speaks again it will be to laugh at the Clarion for wasting ink in
blaming orbits which are mathematically fixed.

Indeed, if I were a burglar, I would invest part of my swag in endowing
Determinists to pour arguments and ridicule upon Christian magistrates
and criminal codes, with their active and irritating blame. Certainly,
if I were Lord Rackrent, I should invite my anti-reform friends, the
Determinists, to dinner, take them to the opera, and send them round to
address the Socialists, at my expense.

Mr. Blatchford, being anxious to fight against the doctrine of sin,
builds a fatalist rampart, looks over the top, and says: "Can man sin
against God? His actions are fixed." We walk round behind him and say:
"Can man sin against man? Can social systems sin against man?" And the
very rampart of fatalism he has erected hinders him from escaping from a
withering fire, except by backing into obscurantism and ultra-Toryism.

This is the same error, differently stated. If man cannot be blamed,
society cannot be blamed: therefore everything must remain as it is. I
often wonder where the clergy learn their logic.

Men cannot be blamed: society cannot be blamed. But both can be
_altered_: by environment. That is to say, if heredity and environment
have endowed some man with reason and knowledge and inclination for the
task, that man may be able to improve society, or the individual, by
_teaching_ one or both. And the teaching will be environment.

We cannot, as Mr. Marson pointed out in his article, "blame"
environment; but we can attribute evils to the action of environment,
and we can change the environment, always provided that heredity and
environment have endowed us with the needful knowledge and brains for
the purpose.

Let us look at the facts. There is a very terrible disease called
diphtheria. It is caused by a small fungoid bacillus, and it has killed
myriads of children, and caused much suffering and grief.

Do we blame "the vegetable bacillus"? No. We cannot blame a bacillus.

So I say we cannot blame diphtheria for killing children. No sane person
ever suggested blame in such a case. But do we take any the less trouble
to fight against diphtheria?

We do not "blame" a rat for eating our chickens, nor a boat for
capsizing in a breeze, nor a lunatic for setting fire to a house, nor a
shark for eating a sailor. But has any sane person ever suggested that
we should not try to keep rats out of the henhouse, nor to ballast a
faulty boat, nor restrain a madman from playing with fire, nor to rescue
a sailor from a shark?

Mr. Marson asks ironically whether a social system "can be naughty,"
whether a social system may be praised logically, blamed logically, and
held responsible logically.

I reply that a social system cannot be logically "blamed," any more than
a shark, a disease, a fool can be logically blamed. But a social system
may be approved or disapproved, and may be altered and abolished.

We cannot "blame" a man's environment, in the strict meaning of the
word. But we may attribute a man's crime, or shame, or ruin to his

We do not blame prussic acid for being lethal; but we do not allow
chemists to sell it in large quantities to every casual stranger. _Why?_
Because it is _poison_.

Well, the influenza bacillus is poison, falsehood is poison, vice is
poison, greed and vanity and cruelty are poison; and it behooves us to
destroy those poisons, and so to improve our social system and the
environment of our fellow-men.

We come now to the idea that to teach men that all blame is unjust is to
encourage them to do wrong. This idea is expressed, with characteristic
clumsiness and obscurity, by Bishop Butler, in that monument of loose
thinking and foggy writing, "The Analogy of Religion."

What Butler wanted to say, and tried to say, in more than 800 words of
his irritating style, is simply that a child brought up to believe that
praise and blame were unjust, would be a plague to all about him, and
would probably come to the gallows. The reader will find it in Chapter
VI. of "The Analogy."

Now, I quite believe that if the matter had to be explained to a child
by Bishop Butler the effect would be fatal, because the poor bishop did
not understand it himself, and was not good at explaining things he did
understand. But the child would be in no danger if he were instructed
by a man who knew what he was talking about, and was able to say what
he knew in plain words and clear sentences. And I can say from my
experience of children that I find them readier of apprehension, and
clearer thinkers than I have found most clergymen.

As I have dealt with this argument in my chapter on self-control I need
not go over the ground again. But I may say that we should teach a child
that some things are right and some are wrong, and why they are right
and why they are wrong; and that he was not to blame others because they
either do not know any better, or are unable to do any better, and we
should teach him that one learns to be good as one learns to write or
to swim, and that the harder one tries the better one succeeds. And
we should feel quite sure that the child would be just as good as
his heredity and our training made him; and as for his coming to the
gallows, if _all_ children were taught on our system _there would be no
gallows to come to_, and very few looking for that sacred instrument,
the sight of which convinced Gulliver that he was "once more in a
Christian country."

Is it necessary for me to answer the charge of presumption brought
against me by Dr. Aked? Dr. Aked says I am presumptuous because I
deny the belief of great and holy men of past ages. He says that the
agreement of Cheyne and Perowne in praise of the fifty-first Psalm is
typical of the world's consensus of opinion. And this Psalm is the cry
of a broken heart for deliverance from sin. Dr. Aked goes on as follows:

To-day we are asked to believe that all this is a delusion.

We are told that man could not and cannot sin against God. We are
invited to believe that the men of every age and nation whose hearts
have bled in sorrow over accomplished sin, who have cried in anguish
of soul for deliverance from the body of this death, whose joy in the
realisation of divine forgiveness has flowed in strains of immortal joy
over countless generations, were ignorant and foolish persons, inventing
their sufferings and imagining their solace, and needing some journalist
of the twentieth century to teach them that no man could really sin
against God! We are, apparently, expected to believe that the author
of this Psalm and the author of the "second Isaiah," that Paul and
Augustine, the author of "Thomas A'Kempis," and John Bunyan, knew
nothing of psychology and nothing of divinity, that they never
understood their own experience, and, though they have interpreted
humanity to uncounted millions of the children of men, yet lived
and died in crass ignorance of the workings of the human heart The
proposition is not modest. That any man should be found, however
flippantly, to advance it is marvellous. That any human being should be
found to accept it seriously is incredible.

Dr. Aked's argument amounts to a claim that we should believe in Free
Will because most men believe in it, because many good and great men
have believed in it.

But many millions of men have believed in a material hell. In which
Dr. Aked does not believe. Many good and great men have believed in a
material hell, and millions of men (some of them good and clever) still
believe in a material hell. And Dr. Aked does not believe in it.

And when the doctrine of hell-fire was first assailed, what did the Dr.
Akeds of the time declare? That without the fear of hell men would be
wicked, and would do wrong in defiance of God; and that the theory that
there was no hell of fire was "incredible." And what is this charge of
audacity which Dr. Aked brings against me for denying sin? It is just
the charge that was brought against Charles Darwin when he had the
immodesty to declare that the human species was evolved from lower

How was that theory met by the Dr. Akeds of the time? Darwin was
ridiculed and denounced, and nearly all the religious world was aghast
at his folly and his irreverence, and his presumption in advancing a
theory which was contrary to the teachings of Holy Writ. But Darwin's
theory was _true_.

Darwin's theory was true, and I claim that this theory is true. Is it
any answer to tell me that I am presumptuous in opposing the beliefs
of great men past and present? Darwin opposed the general belief,
and Darwin was right and the general belief was wrong. Is it any more
reasonable to condemn this theory for traversing the fifty-first Psalm
than it was to condemn Evolution for traversing the Book of Genesis?

Are we never to deviate from the beliefs of our forefathers, be the
evidence against those beliefs never so strong? How, then, shall
knowledge increase or progress be possible?

Presumptuous to deny what great men in the past believed? Then the world
is flat, and the sun goes round the world, and polygamy is right, and
Saturday is the Sabbath day, and all Jews, Mohammedans, Buddhists,
Confucians, and pagans will be damned, and the abolition of
witch-burning was a mistake, and Luther was presumptuous for resisting
the authority of the Church of Rome, and Dr. Aked is presumptuous for
differing from the Church of England. In such absurdities does the
clerical mind entangle itself when it tries to think.

Mr. Marson says that if he were a burglar he would spend some of the
money he stole in paying lecturers to teach the doctrine that men ought
not to be blamed for their actions. But if all men were trained upon our
principles there _would not be any burglars_.

However, let us see what Mr. Marson means. He means that if punishment
and blame were abolished burglars and other wrongdoers might go scot
free, and might rob, or kill, or cheat; and no one should say them nay.
But Mr. Marson is a clergyman, and does not understand.

It is a strange notion this, that if you do not blame a man you cannot
interfere with him. We do not blame a lunatic: even a Christian does not
blame a lunatic. But we do not allow a madman to go round with an axe
and murder people. We do not hang a madman, nor punish him in any way.
If a murderer is proved to be mad he is pardoned and--restrained.

So, although we might not blame a thief, or a sweater, or a poisoner, it
does not follow that we should allow him to go on stealing, or sweating,
or murdering.

We propose to defend society from the individual; but we propose to do
more than that: we propose to do what the Christian does not attempt to
do--we propose to defend the individual from society.

The Christian method of dealing with the burglar is to neglect him in
his childhood and his youth, to allow him to become a burglar, from
sheer lack of opportunity to become anything else, and then to lecture
him and send him to prison.

But, my Christian friends, how do you find your system work? If you tell
Bill Sykes he is a bad man, that the angels will not love him, that the
fat successful sweater or idler will loathe and despise him, and if you
send Bill to prison and hard labour for a term of years, will it always
happen that William will repent and reform, and become a building
society or a joint-stock bank himself?

Or do you find that poor Bill hardens his heart, and hates you; and that
he comes out of your shameful prison, and from your cowardly and savage
whips and chains, and burgles and drinks again, and learns to carry a

If we want to get rid of evil we must remove the _cause_ of evil. It is
useless to punish the victim.

It is with moral evils as with physical evils. When an epidemic of fever
or smallpox comes upon us we do not punish the sick, nor blame them.
But we isolate the sick, and we attack the _cause_ of the sickness, by
attending to matters of hygiene and sanitation. That is how we ought to
deal with moral sickness.

Men do not live badly because they are "wicked," but because they are
ignorant. The remedy lies in the study and adoption of the laws of the
science of human life.

If we are to have a moral people we must first of all have a healthy
people. If the working classes are to be made sober and pure and wise,
the other classes must be made honest, and to be made honest they must
be taught what honesty is.

But the Christian cannot teach what honesty is because he does not
know. He cannot attack the causes of vice and crime, because he does not
understand that vice and crime are caused. He has been taught that men
do wrong because they will not do right, and that they can do right if
they will.

The Christian blames the criminal, and punishes him, because the
Christian believes that the criminal has a "free will."

But we should not blame nor punish the criminal, because we know that
he is a victim of heredity and environment. So we should restrain the
criminal, and try to reform him; and we should attack the environment
which made him a criminal, and is still making more criminals, and we
should try to alter that environment, and so prevent the making of more

For the hardened criminal, restraint may be necessary. It may be
impossible to reform him. It may be too late.

But it is not too late to save millions of innocent children from a like
disaster and disgrace. It is not too late to prevent evil in the future,
though we cannot atone for the evil wrought in the past.

We know, and the Christian knows, that where a murderer destroys one
life society destroys thousands. We know that all through our pursy
civilisation, in all the fine cities of our wealth, our culture, and our
boastful piety, the ruin of children, the production of monsters, the
desecration of human souls, is going steadily and ruthlessly on. We know
this, and the Christian knows this; but we propose to prevent it, to
stop it, by striking at the root _cause_: the Christian hopes to check
it by lopping off here and there one of the fruits.

That is one reason why I claim that Humanism is a better religion than
Christianity; that is one reason why I claim that Christianity is a

What is the cause of crime? The Christian does not know. What is the
cause of ignorance? The Christian does not know. What is the cause of
poverty? The Christian does not know.

For ages the Christians trusted to religion to rid them of pestilence.
Science taught them to _prevent_ pestilence. Now they trust to religion
to rid the world of vice and crime. It is the same old error. Science
has shown us the causes of vice and crime: science teaches us that we
must attack the causes.

But the world is very ignorant in affairs of moral sanitation; and has
an almost religious veneration for the sacredness of Grand Ducal ducks.

As for the children--why do not their parents take care of them? Perhaps
because the parents were neglected by _their_ parents.

And which is the better, to go back for a dozen generations blaming
parents, or to begin now and teach and save the children?


FRIENDS, I write to defend the Bottom Dog. It is a task to stagger the
stoutest heart. With nearly all the power, learning, and wealth of the
world against him; with all the precedents of human history against
him; with law, religion, custom, and public sentiment against him, the
unfortunate victim's only hope is in the justice of his case. I would he
had a better advocate, as I trust he some day will.

The prosecution claim a monopoly of learning, and virtue, and modesty.
They may be justified in this. I do not grudge them such authority as
their shining merits may lend to a case so unjust, so feeble, and so
cruel as theirs.

Many of the gentlemen on the other side are Christian ministers. They
uphold blame and punishment, in direct defiance of the teaching and
example of Jesus Christ.

The founder of their religion bade them love their enemies. He taught
them that if one stole their coat they should give him their cloak also.
He prevented the punishment of the woman taken in adultery, and called
upon him without sin to cast the first stone. He asked God to forgive
his murderers, because they knew not what they did. In not one of these
cases did Christ say a word in favour of punishment nor of blame.

Christians pray to be forgiven, as they forgive; they ask God to "have
mercy upon us miserable sinners"; they ask Him to "succour, help, and
comfort all that are in danger, necessity, and tribulation," and
to "show His pity upon all prisoners and captives"; how, then, can
Christians advocate the blame of the weak, and the punishment of the
persecuted and unfortunate?

I suggest that men who do not understand their own religion are not
likely to understand a religion to which they are opposed.

As I am generally known as a poor man's advocate, I ask you to remember
that I am not now appearing for the poor, but for the wrong-doer. There
are many very poor who do no serious wrong; there are many amongst the
rich, the successful, and the respectable, whose lives are evil.

One does not live half a century without knowing one's world pretty
well. I know the honourable and noble lord, full of gout, vainglory, and
stealthy vices; I know the fashionable divine, with pride in his
heart, milk on his lips, and cobwebs in his brain; I know the smug
respectability, with low cunning under his silk hat, and chicanery
buttoned up in his irreproachable frock coat; I know the fine lady,
beautiful as a poppy, who is haughty from sheer lack of sense; I know
the glib orator of mean acts and golden words; I know the elected person
of much dignity and little wit,' and the woman of much loveliness and
little love.

I have to defend men and women whose deeds revolt me, whose presence
disgusts me. I have to defend them against the world, and against my own
prejudices and aversion. For I also have a heredity and an environment,
and therefore crochets, and passions, and antipathies. Though I can
defend all victims of heredity and environment, though I can demand
justice for the worst, yet my nature loathes the bully and the tyrant,
and still more does it loathe the mean: the man of the Judas spirit, who
barters children's lives, and women's souls, and the manhood of cities,
for dirty pieces of silver. Such a wretch is not to be hated, is not to
be punished: he is to be pitied and I am to defend him. But when I
think of him my soul is sick. I feel as if a worm had crawled over me.
I cannot help this. I cannot endure him. I am not big enough: I lack
the grace. I pity him profoundly; but my pity is cold. I pity the
devil-fish, and the conger eel; but I could not touch them. They are
repulsive to me.

It is very difficult for us to separate the man from his acts. It is
very difficult for us to hate and to loathe the acts, without hating and
loathing the man. This is the old, old Adam in us, rebelling against
the new altruism and the new reason. We are still a long way behind our

It is no part of my plan to flatter the world. I know you, my brothers
and sisters, too well for that. There is a strong family resemblance
between us. Your ancestors, also, had tails. And then, like Thoreau,
"I know what mean and sneaking lives many of you lead." The majority of
you, indeed, are still little better than barbarians. The mass of you
waste your lives and starve your souls for the sake of beads and scalps,
and flesh and firewater. Your heroes are, too, often, mere prowling
appetites, or solemn vanities, ravenous for pudding and praise; mere
tailor-made effigies, to stick stars upon, or feathers into; mere
painted idols for ignorance to worship; embroidered serene-emptiness for
flunkeys to bow down to: kings and things of shreds and patches.

Yes. We are all painfully human, and under a régime of blame and
punishment may count ourselves extremely lucky if we have never been
found out.

Do not let us stand in too great awe of our ancestors. They also
trafficked and junketted in Vanity Fair. The prosecution lay stress
upon the universal custom and experience of mankind The world has never
ordered its life by rules of wisdom and understanding. It has paid more
court to the rich than to the good, and more heed to the noisy than to
the wise. The world has imprisoned as many honest men as rogues, has
slain more innocent than guilty, has decorated more criminals than
heroes, has believed a thousand times less truth than lies. Is it not
so, men and women? Does not common experience support the charge?

Let us, then, understand each other, before we go any farther. The glory
of manhood and womanhood is not to have something, but to be something;
is not to get something, but to give something; is not to rule but to

The greatness of a nation does not lie in its wealth and power, but in
the character of its men and women. With greatness in the people all the
rest will follow, as surely as when the greatness of the people wanes
the rest will be quickly lost. The history of all great empires tells us
this: Japan is just now repeating the lesson.

What is it most men strive for? Wealth and fame. These are prizes for
little men, not for big men. They are prizes that often inflict untold
misery in the winning, and are nearly always a curse to the winner. Vice
and crime are fostered by luxury and idleness on the one hand, and by
ignorance and misery on the other hand. The poor are poor that the rich
may be rich; and the riches and the poverty are a curse to both.

Consider all the vain pride and barbaric pomp of wealth and fashion, and
all the mean envy of the weakly snobs who revere them, and would sell
their withered souls to possess them. Is this decorative tomfoolery, are
this apish swagger and blazoned snobbery worthy of _men_ and _women?_

The powdered flunkeys, the gingerbread coaches, the pantomime
processions, the trumpery orders and fatuous titles: are they any nobler
or more sensible than the paint, the tom-toms, and the Brummagen jewels
of darkest Africa?

And the cost! We are too prone to reckon cost in cash. We are too prone
to forget that cash is but a symbol of things more precious. We bear too
tamely all the bowing and kow-towing; all the fiddling and fifing, all
the starring and gartering, and be-feathering and begemming, all the
gambling and racing, the saluting and fanfaring, the marching and
counter-marching, all the raking in of dividends, and building up of
mansions, all the sweating and rackrenting, all the heartless vanity,
and brainless luxury, and gilded vice: we should think of them more
sternly did we count up what they cost in men and women and children,
what they cost in brawn and brain, and honour and love, what they cost
in human souls--what they cost in Bottom Dogs.

Happiness cannot be stolen; nor won by cheating, as though life were a
game of cards. The man who would be happy must find his duty, and do it.
In no other way can man or woman find real happiness, under the sun.
But the world, so far has quite a different creed. And the common
experience, on which the Christians so much depend, is not on the side
of the angels. And that is why the Bottom Dogs are so numerous, and why
so many of us lead "such mean and sneaking lives."

Descendants of barbarians and beasts, we have not yet conquered the
greed and folly of our bestial and barbarous inheritance. Our nature is
an unweeded garden. Our hereditary soil is rank. Talk about the trouble
of bringing up children: what is that to the trouble of educating one's
ancestors? O, the difficulty I have had with mine.

My friends: you have read my statement of the case for the Bottom Dog;
you have read the arguments I have used in support of that statement:
you have read the evidence, and you have read my answers to the
arguments of the other side.

I claim to have proved that all human actions are ruled by heredity
and environment, that man is not responsible for his heredity and
environment, and that therefore all blame and all punishment are unjust.

I claim to have proved that blame and punishment, besides being unjust
are ineffectual.

I claim that the arguments which apply to heredity and environment apply
also to the soul, for since man did not create the soul he cannot be
responsible for its acts.

I claim to have explained the so-called "mysteries" of conscience, and
of the "dual personality," and to have proved them to be the natural
action of heredity and environment.

I claim to have proved that morality comes through natural evolution,
and not by any kind of super-natural revelation.

I claim to have proved that the argument from universal experience is
fallacious, and to have shown that universal experience has misled us in
the manner of human responsibility as in so many other matters.

I claim to have proved that the theory here advocated is based upon
justice and reason, and is more moral and beneficient than the Christian
religion, under which so much wrong, and waste, and misery continue to
exist unchecked and unrebuked.

I claim to have proved that the prosecution do not understand the case,
and that their arguments are for the most part mere misrepresentations
or misunderstandings of the issues and the facts.

It remains for me now to say a few words as to the wrongs suffered by my
unfortunate client; and as to the necessity for so altering the laws and
customs of society as to prevent the perpetration of all this cruelty
and injustice; of all this waste of human love, and human beauty, and
human power.

We are sometimes asked to think imperially: it would be better to think
universally. Illimitable as is the universe, it appears in all its
parts to obey the same laws. Its suns may be told by millions; but
matter and force compose and rule them all. Carlyle spoke of the
contrast between heaven and Vauxhall; but Vauxhall is in the heavens,
by virtue of the same law that there holds Canopus and the Pleiades. We
think of the dawn-star as of something heavenly pure, and of the earth
as grey in sorrow and sin; but the earth is a star--a planet, bright and
beautiful as Venus in a purple evening sky.

We gaze with wondering awe at the loveliness and mystery of the Galaxy,
that bent beam of glory whose motes are suns, that luminous path of
dreams whose jewels are alive; but we forget that Whitechapel, and
Oldham, and Chicago, and the Black Country, are in the Milky Way. In
that awful ocean of Space are many islands; but they are all akin.
In the "roaring loom of time." howsoever the colours may change, the
pattern vary, the piece is all one piece; it is knit together, thread to
thread. All men are brothers. From the age beyond the Aryans the threads
are woven and joined together. _All_ of us had ancestors with tails. All
the myriads of human creatures, since the first ape stood erect, have
been like leaves upon one tree, nourished by the same sap, fed from the
same root, warmed by the same sun, washed by the same rains. All our
polities, philosophies, and religions, grow out of each other. We
can never fully understand any one of them until we know the whole.
Comparative anatomy, comparative philology, comparative mythology, all
comparative sciences, tell us the same story of growth, of evolution, of
kinship. Babylon and Egypt, India and Persia, Greece and Rome, Gothland
and Scandinavia, Britain and Gaul; Osiris, Krishna, Confucius, Brahma,
Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, Mahomet: all are parts of one whole, all
parts related each to other. The oldest nations speak in our languages
to-day, the oldest savages survive in our bodies, the oldest gods have
part in our religious forms and ceremonies, the oldest superstitions and
faults and follies, still obscure our minds and impede our action. We
cannot thrust the dead aside and stand alone: the dead are part of us.
We cannot take a man and isolate him, and judge and understand him,
as though he were a new and special creation. He is of kin to all the
living and the dead. He stands one figure in the great human pageant,
and cannot be taken out of the picture: cannot be cut out from the
background--that background of a thousand ages, and of innumerable women
and men. He belongs to the great human family: he, also, is in the Milky

Old families, and noble families are made of parchment or paper: there
is but one real family of flesh and blood, and that reaches back to the
clot of jelly in the sea, and we all belong to it.

When I hear some little Brick Lane Brother talking about the true faith,
as taught in a tin chapel in Upper Tooting, I think of the star-readers
of the Aryan hills, of the dead gods, and the obliterated beliefs of
ancient conquerors, long since eaten by worms, and of the shrivelled
corpse in the museum who has lain grinning in his sandhole for thirty
thousand years, amongst his grave pots, and ghost charms, and the
uneaten food for the long journey to the great beyond. When I hear
honourable members prating in the House about "Imperial questions," I
think of the famished seamstress, the unemployed docker, the girl with
the phossy jaw, whom the honourable gentleman "represents." When I read
of the gorgeous stage-management of the royal pageants, I remember the
graves of the Balaclava men, in the Manchester workhouse field, where
the sods were spread out level over the neglected dead. When I see
beautiful sculptures and paintings of Greek womanhood, I remember how,
coming out of the art gallery where I had been looking at the picture of
Andromache, I saw a white-haired old Englishwoman carrying a great bag
of cinders on her bent old back. When I hear the angelic voices of
the choirs, and see the golden plate on cathedral altars, I ask myself
questions about that Bridge of Sighs where London women drown themselves
in their despair, and about that child in the workhouse school who tamed
a mouse because he must have something to love. When a callow preacher
babbles to his grown-up congregation about sin and human nature, I
remember the men and women I have known: the soldiers, the navvies, the
colliers, the doctors, the lawyers, the authors, the artists; I remember
the dancing-rooms in the garrison town, and the girls, and how they were
womanly in their degradation, and sweet in spite of their shame; and I
wondered what the reverend gentleman would answer them if they spoke to
him as they often spoke to me, in words that were straight as blades,
and cut as deep.

And often, when I mix with the crowds in the streets, or at the theatre,
or in public assemblies, I feel that I am in the presence of the haunted
past, and the whole human story unfolds itself to my mind: the primeval
savage with "his fell of hair," fighting with other savages, under
"branching elm, star-proof"; the Ethiopian warrior in his battle
chariot; the bent slave, toiling on the pyramid; the armed knight
errant, foraying, and redressing sentimental wrongs; the fearless
Viking, crossing oceans in his open galley, to discover continents;
the gladiator in the Roman arena; the Greek Stoics, discoursing at
the fountain; Drake singeing the King of Spain's beard; St. Francis
preaching to the birds; the Buddha, giving his body to the famished
tigress; the Aryan at the plough, the Phoenician in his bark, the
Californian seeking gold, the whaler amongst the ice, the ancient Briton
in his woad--all the mysterious and fascinating human drama of love
and hate, of hunger and riches, and laughter and tears, and songs and
sobbings, and dancing and drunkenness, and marriage and battle, and
heroism and cowardice, and murder and robbery, and the quest of God.

That wonderful human mystery-play, how softly it touches us, how deeply
it moves us, with its hum of myriad voices, its vision of white arms,
and flashing weapons, and beckoning fingers, and asking looks, and the
ripple of its laughter, like the music of hidden streams in leafy woods,
and the lisp of its unnumbered feet, and the weird rhythm of its war
songs, and the pathos of its joy-bells, and the pity of its follies, and
its failures, and its crimes--the pity; "the pity of it, the pity
of it."

Possessed, then by this dreaming habit, this Janus-like bent of mind,
I cannot think of the Bottom Dog apart from the whole bloodstained,
tearstained tragedy of man's inhumanity to man. For the Bottom Dog is a
child of all the ages, he plays his part in a drama whereof the scene
is laid in the Milky Way. He recalls to us the long wavering war between
darkness and light, the life and death struggle of the brute to be a
man, the painful never-ceasing effort of man to understand.

We cannot look back over that trampled and sanguinary field of
history without a shudder; but we must look. It reaches back into the
impenetrable mists of time, it reaches forward to our own thresholds,
which still are wet with blood and tears, and on every rood of it,
in ghastly horror, are heaped the corpses of the men, and women, and
children slain by the righteous, in the name of justice, and in the
name of God. Though the gods perished, though the vane of justice veered
until right became wrong, and wrong right, yet the crimes continued, the
horrible mistakes were repeated; the holy, and the noble, and cultivated
still cried for their brother's blood, still trampled the infants under
their holy feet, still forced the maidens and the mothers to slavery and

Men and women, is it not true?

From fear of ghosts and devils, and for the glory of the gods of India,
of Babylon, of Egypt, of Greece, of Rome, of France, of Spain, of
England, were not millions tortured, and burnt, and whipped, and hanged,
and crucified?

Witchcraft, and heresy, idolatry, sacrifice, propitiation, divine
vengeance; what seas of blood, what holocausts of crime, what long-drawn
tragedies of agony and Moody sweat do these names not recall? And they
were all mistakes! They were all nightmares, born of ignorance and
superstition! We have awakened from those nightmares. Our gods no longer
lust after human blood. We know that heresy is merely difference of
education, that there never was a witch; we know that all those millions
wept and bled and died for nothing: that they were tortured, enslaved,
degraded and murdered, by the holy, through ignorance, and fear, and

If we turn from the crimes and blunders of prophets and of priests to
the laws of Kings and Parliaments, we find the same ignorance, the same
ferocity, the same futility. I could fill a bigger book than mine with
the mere catalogue of the punishments and the instruments of torture
invented by tyrants, and land-grabbers, and superior persons for the
protection of their privileges, and their plunder, and their luxury and
ease. For thousands of years the whip, the chain, the rack, the gibbet,
and the sword, have been used to uphold the laws made by robbers, and
by idlers, and by ambitious lunatics., to punish the "crimes" of the
ignorant and the weak.

Men and women, is it not true?

And all the agony and blood and shame were ineffectual. And always blame
and punishment bred hate, and savagery, and more crime.

"But it is different to-day."

It is the same to-day. The laws to-day are defences of the foolish rich
against the ignorant and hungry poor. The laws to-day, like the laws of
the past, make more criminals than they punish. The laws keep the people
ignorant and poor, and the rich idle and vicious. The laws to-day, as
in the day of Isaiah, enable the rich to "add field to field, until
the people have no room." The laws to-day sacrifice a thousand innocent
children to preserve one useful, lazy, unhappy, superior person. The
laws to-day punish as a criminal the child who steals a loaf, or a pair
of boots, and honour as a grandee the man whose greed and folly keep the
workers off the land, and treble the rents in the filthy and indecent
slums where age has no reverence, and toil no ease, and where shame has
laid its hand upon the girl child's breast.

What was the old denunciation of those who cried "peace, peace, when
there is no peace," and what shall we say of those priests and holy men
who cry "morality, morality," where there is no morality, where usury
and exploitation are honoured arts: where crime and vice are taught to
the children as in a school?

If you sow tares, can you reap wheat? If you sow hate can you reap love?
If you sow wrong can you reap right? If you teach and practise knavery,
can you ask for purity and virtue?

The laws were made by ignorant and dishonest men, they are administered
by men ignorant and selfish; they are dishonest laws; good for neither
rich nor poor; evil in their conception, evil in their enforcement, evil
in their results.

There need not be any such things as poverty and ignorance in the world.
The earth is bounteous, and yields enough, and more than enough, for

Men and women: I beg of you to do all that is in your power to change
the unjust laws, and the uncharitable and unreasonable opinions, which
make the deadly environment that fosters vice and crime.

For, besides that the laws are unjust, that the teachings of our
superior persons are untrue, that blame and punishment must fail as they
have always failed, there is the awful _waste_--the waste of life, and
love, of beauty and power that the present cruel system entails.

Think of the loveliness of a good woman, the blessing of her; think
of the sweetness and the joy of an innocent child, of the value and
nobility of an honest man. Picture to yourself the kind of woman you
would wish your daughter to be, the kind of man you would wish your son
to be. Then remember what good or bad environment can make of the young.

I tell you there is hardly a battered drab, a broken pauper, a hardened
thief, a hopeless drunkard, a lurking tramp, a hooligan, but who might
have been an honest and a useful citizen under fair conditions.

Good women: if ever you felt the thrill of a dear child's fingers on
your throat or breast, think what millions of such children in our
cities must become.

Good men: if you honour womanhood, if you love your daughters and your
wives, think of the women and the girls in the streets, in the fields,
in the factories, and in the jails, and then look into your mirrors for
a friend to save them.

Men and women: as the little children are now the ruffian and the harlot
once were; as the ruffian and the harlot are now millions of helpless
children must become unless you give them sympathy and aid.

It is no use looking for help to heaven: we must look upon the earth. It
is no use asking God to help us: we must help ourselves.

My friends: for the sake of good men, who are better than their gods;
for the sake of good women, who are the pride and glory of the world;
for the sake of the dear children, who are sweeter to us than the
sunshine or the flowers; for the sake of the generation not yet spoiled
or lost; for the sake of the nations yet unborn; in the names of
justice, of reason and truth, I ask you for a verdict of Not Guilty.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Not Guilty - A Defence Of The Bottom Dog" ***

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.