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Title: Essays: Scientific, Political, and Speculative, Volume III (of 3) - Library Edition (1891), Containing Seven Essays not before - Republished, and Various other Additions.
Author: Spencer, Herbert
Language: English
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Libraries)



 ESSAYS: SCIENTIFIC, POLITICAL, & SPECULATIVE.

 BY
 HERBERT SPENCER.

 LIBRARY EDITION,
 (OTHERWISE FIFTH THOUSAND,)
 _Containing Seven Essays not before Republished,
 and various other additions_.

 VOL. III.

 WILLIAMS AND NORGATE,
 14, HENRIETTA STREET, COVENT GARDEN, LONDON;
 AND 20, SOUTH FREDERICK STREET, EDINBURGH.
 1891.



 LONDON:
 G. NORMAN AND SON, PRINTERS, HART STREET,
 COVENT GARDEN.



CONTENTS OF VOL. III.


                                                        PAGE

 MANNERS AND FASHION                                       1

 RAILWAY MORALS AND RAILWAY POLICY                        52

 THE MORALS OF TRADE                                     113

 PRISON-ETHICS                                           152

 THE ETHICS OF KANT                                      192

 ABSOLUTE POLITICAL ETHICS                               217

 OVER-LEGISLATION                                        229

 REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT—WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?          283

 STATE-TAMPERINGS WITH MONEY AND BANKS                   326

 PARLIAMENTARY REFORM: THE DANGERS AND THE SAFEGUARDS    358

 “THE COLLECTIVE WISDOM”                                 387

 POLITICAL FETICHISM                                     393

 SPECIALIZED ADMINISTRATION                              401

 FROM FREEDOM TO BONDAGE                                 445

 THE AMERICANS                                           471

 THE INDEX.

{1}



MANNERS AND FASHION.

[_First published in_ The Westminster Review _for April 1854_.]


Whoever has studied the physiognomy of political meetings, cannot
fail to have remarked a connexion between democratic opinions and
peculiarities of costume. At a Chartist demonstration, a lecture
on Socialism, or a _soirée_ of the Friends of Italy, there will be
seen many among the audience, and a still larger ratio among the
speakers, who get themselves up in a style more or less unusual.
One gentleman on the platform divides his hair down the centre,
instead of on one side; another brushes it back off the forehead, in
the fashion known as “bringing out the intellect;” a third has so
long forsworn the scissors, that his locks sweep his shoulders. A
sprinkling of moustaches may be observed; here and there an imperial;
and occasionally some courageous breaker of conventions exhibits a
full-grown beard.[1] This nonconformity in hair is countenanced by
various nonconformities in dress, shown by others of the assemblage.
Bare necks, shirt-collars _à la_ Byron, waistcoats cut Quaker fashion,
wonderfully shaggy great coats, numerous oddities in form and
colour, destroy the monotony usual in crowds. Even those exhibiting
no conspicuous peculiarity, frequently indicate by something in the
pattern of their clothes, that they pay small regard to what their {2}
tailors tell them about the prevailing taste. And when the gathering
breaks up, the varieties of head gear displayed—the number of caps,
and the abundance of felt hats—suffice to prove that were the world at
large like-minded, the black cylinders which tyrannize over us would
soon be deposed.

 [1] This was written before moustaches and beards had become general.

This relationship between political discontent and disregard of
customs exists on the Continent also. Red republicanism is everywhere
distinguished by its hirsuteness. The authorities of Prussia, Austria,
and Italy, alike recognize certain forms of hat as indicative of
disaffection, and fulminate against them accordingly. In some places
the wearer of a blouse runs a risk of being classed among the
_suspects_; and in others, he who would avoid the bureau of police,
must beware how he goes out in any but the ordinary colours. Thus,
democracy abroad, as at home, tends towards personal singularity.
Nor is this association of characteristics peculiar to modern times,
or to reformers of the State. It has always existed; and it has been
manifested as much in religious agitations as in political ones. The
Puritans, disapproving of the long curls of the Cavaliers, as of
their principles, cut their own hair short, and so gained the name of
“Roundheads.” The marked religious nonconformity of the Quakers was
accompanied by an equally-marked nonconformity of manners—in attire,
in speech, in salutation. The early Moravians not only believed
differently, but at the same time dressed differently, and lived
differently, from their fellow Christians. That the association between
political independence and independence of personal conduct, is not
a phenomenon of to-day only, we may see alike in the appearance of
Franklin at the French court in plain clothes, and in the white hats
worn by the last generation of radicals. Originality of nature is sure
to show itself in more ways than one. The mention of George Fox’s suit
of leather, or Pestalozzi’s school name, “Harry Oddity,” will at
once suggest the {3} remembrance that men who have in great things
diverged from the beaten track, have frequently done so in small things
likewise. Minor illustrations may be gathered in almost every circle.
We believe that whoever will number up his reforming and rationalist
acquaintances, will find among them more than the usual proportion of
those who in dress or behaviour exhibit some degree of what the world
calls eccentricity.

If it be a fact that men of revolutionary aims in politics or religion,
are commonly revolutionists in custom also, it is not less a fact that
those whose office it is to uphold established arrangements in State
and Church, are also those who most adhere to the social forms and
observances bequeathed to us by past generations. Practices elsewhere
extinct still linger about the head quarters of government. The monarch
still gives assent to Acts of Parliament in the old French of the
Normans; and Norman French terms are still used in law. Wigs, such as
those we see depicted in old portraits, may yet be found on the heads
of judges and barristers. The Beefeaters at the Tower wear the costume
of Henry VIIth’s body-guard. The University dress of the present year
varies but little from that worn soon after the Reformation. The
claret-coloured coat, knee-breeches, lace shirt-frills, white silk
stockings, and buckled shoes, which once formed the usual attire of a
gentleman, still survive as the court-dress. And it need scarcely be
said that at _levées_ and drawing-rooms, the ceremonies are prescribed
with an exactness, and enforced with a rigour, not elsewhere to be
found.

Can we consider these two series of coincidences as accidental and
unmeaning? Must we not rather conclude that some necessary relationship
obtains between them? Are there not such things as a constitutional
conservatism, and a constitutional tendency to change? Is there not a
class which clings to the old in all things; and another class so in
love with progress as often to mistake novelty for {4} improvement? Do
we not find some men ready to bow to established authority of whatever
kind; while others demand of every such authority its reason, and
reject it if it fails to justify itself? And must not the minds thus
contrasted tend to become respectively conformist and nonconformist,
not only in politics and religion, but in other things? Submission,
whether to a government, to the dogmas of ecclesiastics, or to that
code of behaviour which society at large has set up, is essentially
of the same nature; and the sentiment which induces resistance to the
despotism of rulers, civil or spiritual, likewise induces resistance
to the despotism of the world’s usages. All enactments, alike of the
legislature, the consistory, and the saloon—all regulations, formal or
virtual, have a common character: they are all limitations of men’s
freedom. “Do this—Refrain from that,” are the blank forms into which
they may severally be written; and throughout the understanding is
that obedience will bring approbation here and paradise hereafter;
while disobedience will entail imprisonment, or sending to Coventry,
or eternal torments, as the case may be. And if restraints, however
named, and through whatever apparatus of means exercised, are one in
their action upon men, it must happen that those who are patient under
one kind of restraint, are likely to be patient under another; and
conversely, that those impatient of restraint in general, will, on the
average, tend to show their impatience in all directions.

That Law, Religion, and Manners are thus related, and that they have
in certain contrasted characteristics of men a common support and a
common danger, will, however, be most clearly seen on discovering
that they have a common origin. Little as from present appearances we
should suppose it, we shall yet find that at first, the control of
religion, the control of laws, and the control of manners, were all
one control. Strange as it now seems, we believe it to be demonstrable
that the rules of etiquette, the provisions of the statute-book, and
the commands of the {5} decalogue, have grown from the same root. If
we go far enough back into the ages of primeval Fetishism, it becomes
manifest that originally Deity, Chief, and Master of the Ceremonies
were identical. To make good these positions, and to show their bearing
on what is to follow, it will be necessary here to traverse ground that
is in part somewhat beaten, and at first sight irrelevant to our topic.
We will pass over it as quickly as consists with the exigencies of the
argument.

       *       *       *       *       *

That the earliest social aggregations were ruled solely by the will
of the strong man, few dispute.[2] That from the strong man proceeded
not only Monarchy, but the conception of a God, few admit: much as
Carlyle and others have said in evidence of it. If, however, those who
are unable to believe this, will lay aside the ideas of God and man
in which they have been educated, and study the aboriginal ideas of
them, they will at least see some probability in the hypothesis. Let
them remember that before experience had yet taught men to distinguish
between the possible and the impossible; and while they were ready on
the slightest suggestion to ascribe unknown powers to any object and
make a fetish of it; their conceptions of humanity and its capacities
were necessarily vague, and without specific limits. The man who by
unusual strength, or cunning, achieved something that others had failed
to achieve, or something which they did not understand, was considered
by them as differing from themselves; and, as we see in the belief of
some Polynesians that only their chiefs have souls, or in that of the
ancient Peruvians that their nobles were divine by birth, the ascribed
difference was apt to be not one of degree only, but one of kind. Let
them remember next, how gross were the notions of God, or {6} rather
of gods, prevalent during the same era and afterwards—how concretely
gods were conceived as men of specific aspects dressed in specific
ways—how their names were literally “the strong,” “the destroyer,”
“the powerful one,”—how, according to the Scandinavian mythology, the
“sacred duty of blood-revenge” was acted on by the gods themselves,—and
how they were not only human in their vindictiveness, their cruelty,
and their quarrels with each other, but were supposed to have amours
on earth, and to consume the viands placed on their altars. Add to
which, that in various mythologies, Greek, Scandinavian, and others,
the oldest beings are giants; that according to a traditional genealogy
the gods, demi-gods, and in some cases men, are descended from these
after the human fashion; and that while in the East we hear of sons
of God who saw the daughters of men that they were fair, the Teutonic
myths tell of unions between the sons of men and the daughters of the
gods. Let them remember, too, that at first the idea of death differed
widely from that which we have; that there are still tribes who, on
the decease of one of their number, attempt to make the corpse stand,
and put food into its mouth; that the Peruvians had feasts at which
the mummies of their dead Incas presided, when, as Prescott says, they
paid attention “to these insensible remains as if they were instinct
with life;” that among the Fijians it is believed that every enemy has
to be killed twice; that the Eastern Pagans give extension and figure
to the soul, and attribute to it all the same members, all the same
substances, both solid and liquid, of which our bodies are composed;
and that it is the custom among most barbarous races to bury food,
weapons, and trinkets along with the dead body, under the manifest
belief that it will presently need them. Lastly, let them remember
that the other world, as originally conceived, is simply some distant
part of this world—some Elysian fields, some happy hunting-ground,
accessible even to the living, and to which, {7} after death, men
travel in anticipation of a life analogous in general character to that
which they led before. Then, co-ordinating these general facts—the
ascription of unknown powers to chiefs and medicine men; the belief
in deities having human forms, passions, and behaviour; the imperfect
comprehension of death as distinguished from life; and the proximity
of the future abode to the present, both in position and character—let
them reflect whether they do not almost unavoidably suggest the
conclusion that the aboriginal god is the dead chief: the chief not
dead in our sense, but gone away, carrying with him food and weapons to
some rumoured region of plenty, some promised land, whither he had long
intended to lead his followers, and whence he will presently return
to fetch them. This hypothesis once entertained, is seen to harmonize
with all primitive ideas and practices. The sons of the deified chief
reigning after him, it necessarily happens that all early kings are
held descendants of the gods; and the fact that alike in Assyria,
Egypt, among the Jews, Phœnicians, and ancient Britons, kings’ names
were formed out of the names of the gods, is fully explained. The
genesis of Polytheism out of Fetishism, by the successive migrations of
the race of god-kings to the other world—a genesis illustrated in the
Greek mythology, alike by the precise genealogy of the deities, and by
the specifically-asserted apotheosis of the later ones—tends further
to bear it out. It explains the fact that in the old creeds, as in the
still extant creed of the Otaheitans, every family has its guardian
spirit, who is supposed to be one of their departed relatives; and that
they sacrifice to these as minor gods—a practice still pursued by the
Chinese and even by the Russians. It is perfectly congruous with the
Grecian myths concerning the wars of the Gods with the Titans and their
final usurpation; and it similarly agrees with the fact that among the
Teutonic gods proper was one Freir who came among them by adoption,
“but was born {8} among the _Vanes_, a somewhat mysterious _other_
dynasty of gods, who had been conquered and superseded by the stronger
and more warlike Odin dynasty.” It harmonizes, too, with the belief
that there are different gods to different territories and nations,
as there were different chiefs; that these gods contend for supremacy
as chiefs do; and it gives meaning to the boast of neighbouring
tribes—“Our god is greater than your god.” It is confirmed by the
notion universally current in early times, that the gods come from this
other abode, in which they commonly live, and appear among men—speak to
them, help them, punish them. And remembering this, it becomes manifest
that the prayers put up by primitive peoples to their gods for aid in
battle, are meant literally—that their gods are expected to come back
from the other kingdom they are reigning over, and once more fight the
old enemies they had before warred against so implacably; and it needs
but to name the Iliad, to remind every one how thoroughly they believed
the expectation fulfilled.[3]

 [2] The few who disputed it would be right however. There are stages
 preceding that in which chiefly power becomes established; and in many
 cases it never does become established.

 [3] In this paragraph, which I have purposely left standing word for
 word as it did when republished with other essays in Dec. 1857, will be
 seen the outline of the ghost-theory. Though there are references to
 fetishism as a primitive form of belief, and though at that time I had
 passively accepted the current theory (though never with satisfaction,
 for the origin of fetishism as then conceived seemed incomprehensible)
 yet the belief that inanimate objects may possess supernatural powers
 (which is what was then understood as fetishism) is not dwelt upon as
 a primitive belief. The one thing which is dwelt upon is the belief in
 the double of the dead man as continuing to exist, and as becoming an
 object of propitiation and eventually of worship. There are clearly
 marked out the rudiments which, when supplied with the mass of facts
 collected in the _Descriptive Sociology_ developed into the doctrine
 elaborated in Part I. of _The Principles of Sociology_.

All government, then, being originally that of the strong man who has
become a fetish by some manifestation of superiority, there arises,
at his death—his supposed departure on a long-projected expedition,
in which he is accompanied by the slaves and concubines sacrificed
at his tomb—there arises, then, the incipient division of religious
{9} from political control, of spiritual rule from civil. His son
becomes deputed chief during his absence; his authority is cited
as that by which his son acts; his vengeance is invoked on all who
disobey his son; and his commands, as previously known or as asserted
by his son, become the germ of a moral code: a fact we shall the more
clearly perceive if we remember, that early moral codes inculcate
mainly the virtues of the warrior, and the duty of exterminating some
neighbouring tribe whose existence is an offence to the deity. From
this point onwards, these two kinds of authority, at first complicated
together as those of principal and agent, become slowly more and more
distinct. As experience accumulates, and ideas of causation grow more
precise, kings lose their supernatural attributes; and, instead of
God-king, become God-descended king, God-appointed king, the Lord’s
anointed, the vicegerent of Heaven, ruler reigning by Divine right.
The old theory, however, long clings to men in feeling, after it has
disappeared in name; and “such divinity doth hedge a king,” that even
now, many, on first seeing one, feel a secret surprise at finding him
an ordinary sample of humanity. The sacredness attaching to royalty
attaches afterwards to its appended institutions—to legislatures,
to laws. Legal and illegal are synonymous with right and wrong; the
authority of Parliament is held unlimited; and a lingering faith
in governmental power continually generates unfounded hopes from
its enactments. Political scepticism, however, having destroyed the
divine _prestige_ of royalty, goes on ever increasing, and promises
ultimately to reduce the State to a purely secular institution, whose
regulations are limited in their sphere, and have no other authority
than the general will. Meanwhile, the religious control has been little
by little separating itself from the civil, both in its essence and
in its forms. While from the God-king of the barbarian have arisen
in one direction, secular rulers who, age by age, have been losing
{10} the sacred attributes men ascribed to them; there has arisen in
another direction, the conception of a deity, who, at first human in
all things, has been gradually losing human materiality, human form,
human passions, human modes of action: until now, anthropomorphism
has become a reproach. Along with this wide divergence in men’s ideas
of the divine and civil ruler has been taking place a corresponding
divergence in the codes of conduct respectively proceeding from them.
While the king was a deputy-god—a governor such as the Jews looked
for in the Messiah—a governor considered, as the Czar still is, “our
God upon earth,”—it, of course, followed that his commands were the
supreme rules. But as men ceased to believe in his supernatural origin
and nature, his commands ceased to be the highest; and there arose a
distinction between the regulations made by him, and the regulations
handed down from the old god-kings, who were rendered ever more sacred
by time and the accumulation of myths. Hence came respectively, Law
and Morality: the one growing ever more concrete, the other more
abstract; the authority of the one ever on the decrease, that of
the other ever on the increase; originally the same, but now placed
daily in more marked antagonism. Simultaneously there has been going
on a separation of the institutions administering these two codes of
conduct. While they were yet one, of course Church and State were
one: the king was arch-priest, not nominally, but really—alike the
giver of new commands and the chief interpreter of the old commands;
and the deputy-priests coming out of his family were thus simply
expounders of the dictates of their ancestry: at first as recollected,
and afterwards as ascertained by professed interviews with them. This
union between sacred and secular—which still existed practically
during the middle ages, when the authority of kings was mixed up
with the authority of the pope, when there were bishop-rulers having
all the powers of feudal lords, and when priests punished {11} by
penances—has been, step by step, becoming less close. Though monarchs
are still “defenders of the faith,” and ecclesiastical chiefs, they
are but nominally such. Though bishops still have civil power, it is
not what they once had. Protestantism shook loose the bonds of union;
Dissent has long been busy in organizing a mechanism for religious
control, wholly independent of law; in America, a separate organization
for that purpose already exists; and if anything is to be hoped from
the Anti-State-Church Association—or, as it has been newly named,
“The Society for the Liberation of Religion from State Patronage and
Control”—we shall presently have a separate organization here also.
Thus, in authority, in essence, and in form, political and spiritual
rule have been ever more widely diverging from the same root. That
increasing division of labour which marks the progress of society in
other things, marks it also in this separation of government into civil
and religious; and if we observe how the morality which now forms the
substance of religions in general, is beginning to be purified from
the associated creeds, we may anticipate that this division will be
ultimately carried much further.

Passing now to the third species of control—that of Manners—we shall
find that this, too, while it had a common genesis with the others,
has gradually come to have a distinct sphere and a special embodiment.
Among early aggregations of men before yet social observances existed,
the sole forms of courtesy known were the signs of submission to the
strong man; as the sole law was his will, and the sole religion the awe
of his supposed supernaturalness. Originally, ceremonies were modes of
behaviour to the god-king. Our commonest titles have been derived from
his names. And all salutations were primarily worship paid to him. Let
us trace out these truths in detail, beginning with titles.

The fact already noticed, that the names of early kings among divers
races are formed by the addition of certain {12} syllable to the
names of their gods—which certain syllables, like our _Mac_ and
_Fitz_, probably mean “son of,” or “descended from”—at once gives
meaning to the term _Father_ as a divine title. And when we read, in
Selden, that “the composition out of these names of Deities was not
only proper to Kings: their Grandees and more honorable Subjects”
(no doubt members of the royal race) “had sometimes the like;” we
see how the term _Father_, properly used by these also, and by their
multiplying descendants, came to be a title used by the people in
general. As bearing on this point, it is significant that in the
least advanced country of Europe, where belief in the divine nature
of the ruler still lingers, _Father_ in this higher sense, is still a
regal distinction. When, again, we remember how the divinity at first
ascribed to kings was not a complimentary fiction but a supposed fact;
and how, further, the celestial bodies were believed to be personages
who once lived among men; we see that the appellations of oriental
rulers, “Brother to the Sun,” &c., were probably once expressive of
a genuine belief; and have simply, like many other things, continued
in use after all meaning has gone out of them. We may infer, too,
that the titles God, Lord, Divinity, were given to primitive rulers
literally—that the _nostra divinitas_ applied to the Roman emperors,
and the various sacred designations that have been borne by monarchs,
down to the still extant phrase, “Our Lord the King,” are the dead and
dying forms of what were once living facts. From these names, God,
Father, Lord, Divinity, originally belonging to the God-king, and
afterwards to God and the king, the derivation of our commonest titles
of respect is traceable. There is reason to think that these titles
were originally proper names. Not only do we see among the Egyptians,
where Pharaoh was synonymous with king, and among the Romans, where to
be Cæsar, meant to be Emperor, that the proper names of the greatest
men were transferred to their successors, and so became class-names;
{13} but in the Scandinavian mythology we may trace a human title of
honour up to the proper name of a divine personage. In Anglo-Saxon
_bealdor_, or _baldor_, means _Lord_; and Balder is the name of the
favourite of Odin’s sons. How these names of honour became general is
easily understood. The relatives of the primitive kings—the grandees
described by Selden as having names formed on those of the gods, and
shown by this to be members of the divine race—necessarily shared
in the epithets descriptive of superhuman relationships and nature.
Their ever-multiplying offspring inheriting these, gradually rendered
them comparatively common. And then they came to be applied to every
man of power: partly from the fact that, in those early days when men
conceived divinity simply as a stronger kind of humanity, great persons
could be called by divine epithets with but little exaggeration; partly
from the fact that the unusually potent were apt to be considered as
unrecognised or illegitimate descendants of “the strong, the destroyer,
the powerful one;” and partly, also, from compliment and the desire
to propitiate. As superstition diminished, this last became the sole
cause. And if we remember that it is the nature of compliment, to
attribute more than is due—that in the ever widening application of
“esquire,” in the perpetual repetition of “your honour” by the fawning
Irishman, and in the use of the name “gentleman” to any coalheaver or
dustman by the lower classes of London, we have current examples of the
depreciation of titles consequent on compliment—and that in barbarous
times, when the wish to propitiate was stronger than now, this effect
must have been greater; we shall see that there naturally arose from
this cause an extensive misuse of all early distinctions. Hence the
facts that the Jews called Herod a god; that _Father_, in its higher
sense, was a term used among them by servants to masters; that _Lord_
was applicable to any person of worth and power. Hence, too, the fact
that, in the later periods of the Roman Empire, every man saluted his
neighbour as {14} _Dominus_ or _Rex_. But it is in the titles of the
middle ages, and in the growth of our modern ones out of them, that
the process is most clearly seen. _Herr_, _Don_, _Signor_, _Seigneur_,
_Señor_, were all originally descriptive names of rulers. By the
complimentary use of these names to all who could, on any pretence,
be supposed to merit them, and by successive descents to still lower
grades, they have come to be common forms of address. At first the
phrase in which a serf accosted his despotic chief, _mein Herr_ is now
familiarly applied in Germany to ordinary people. The Spanish title
_Don_, once proper to noblemen and gentlemen only, is now accorded to
all classes. So, too, is it with _Signor_ in Italy. _Seigneur_ and
_Monseigneur_, by contraction in _Sieur_ and _Monsieur_, have produced
the term of respect claimed by every Frenchman. And whether _Sire_ be
or be not a like contraction of _Signor_, it is clear that, as it was
borne by sundry of the ancient feudal lords of France, who, as Selden
says, “affected rather to bee stiled by the name of _Sire_ than Baron,
as _Le Sire de Montmorencie_, _Le Sire de Beaujeu_, and the like,”
and as it has been commonly used to monarchs, our word _Sir_, which
is derived from it, originally meant lord or king. Thus, too, is it
with feminine titles. _Lady_, which, according to Horne Tooke, means
_exalted_, and was at first given only to the few, is now given to
all women of education. _Dame_, once an honourable name to which, in
old books, we find the epithets of “high-born” and “stately” affixed,
has now, by repeated widenings of its application, become relatively
a term of contempt. And if we trace the compound of this, _ma Dame_,
through its contractions—_Madam_, _ma’am_, _mam_, _mum_, we find that
the “Yes’m” of Sally to her mistress is originally equivalent to “Yes,
my exalted,” or “Yes, your highness.” Throughout, therefore, the
genesis of words of honour has been the same. Just as with the Jews and
with the Romans, has it been with the modern Europeans. Tracing these
everyday names to their primitive significations of _lord_ and _king_,
and {15} remembering that in aboriginal societies these were applied
only to the gods and their descendants, we arrive at the conclusion
that our familiar _Sir_ and _Monsieur_ are, in their primary and
expanded meanings, terms of adoration.

Further to illustrate this gradual depreciation of titles, and to
confirm the inference drawn, it may be well to notice in passing, that
the oldest of them have, as might be expected, been depreciated to the
greatest extent. Thus, _Master_—a word proved by its derivation, and by
the similarity of the connate words in other languages (Fr., _maître_
for _maistre_; Dutch, _meester_; Dan., _mester_; Ger., _meister_)
to have been one of the earliest in use for expressing lordship—has
now become applicable to children only, and, under the modification
of “Mister,” to persons next above the labourer. Again, knighthood,
the oldest kind of dignity, is also the lowest; and Knight Bachelor,
which is the lowest order of knighthood, is more ancient than any
other of the orders. Similarly, too, with the peerage: Baron is alike
the earliest and least elevated of its divisions. This continual
degradation of all names of honour has, from time to time, made it
requisite to introduce new ones having the distinguishing effects
which the originals had lost by generality of use; just as our habit
of misapplying superlatives has, by gradually destroying their force,
entailed the need for fresh ones. And if, within the last thousand
years, this process has worked results thus marked, we may readily
conceive how, during previous thousands, the titles of gods and
demi-gods came to be used to all persons exercising power; as they have
since come to be used to persons of respectability.

If from names of honour we turn to phrases of honour, we find similar
facts. The oriental styles of address, applied to ordinary people—“I
am your slave,” “All I have is yours,” “I am your sacrifice”—attribute
to the individual spoken to the same greatness that _Monsieur_ and _My
Lord_ do: they ascribe to him the character of an {16} all-powerful
ruler, so immeasurably superior to the speaker as to be his owner. So,
likewise, with the Polish expressions of respect—“I throw myself under
your feet,” “I kiss your feet.” In our now meaningless subscription
to a formal letter—“Your most obedient servant”—the same thing is
visible. Nay, even in the familiar signature “Yours faithfully,” the
“yours,” if interpreted as originally meant, is the expression of a
slave to his master. All these dead forms were once living embodiments
of fact; were primarily the genuine indications of that submission to
authority which they verbally assert; were afterwards naturally used by
the weak and cowardly to propitiate those above them; gradually grew
to be considered the due of such; and, by a continually wider misuse,
have lost their meanings, as _Sir_ and _Master_ have done. That, like
titles, they were in the beginning used only to the God-king, is
indicated by the fact that, like titles, they were subsequently used
in common to God and the king. Religious worship has ever largely
consisted of professions of obedience, of being God’s servants, of
belonging to him to do what he will with. Like titles, therefore, these
common phrases of honour had a devotional origin. Perhaps, however,
it is in the use of the word _you_ as a singular pronoun that the
popularizing of what were once supreme distinctions is most markedly
illustrated. This addressing of a single individual in the plural,
was originally an honour given only to the highest—was the reciprocal
of the imperial “we” assumed by such. Yet now, by being applied to
successively lower and lower classes, it has become all but universal.
Only by one sect of Christians, and in a few secluded districts, is the
primitive _thou_ still used. And the _you_, in becoming common to all
ranks, has simultaneously lost every vestige of the distinction once
attaching to it.

But the genesis of Manners out of forms of allegiance and worship, is
above all shown in modes of salutation. Note first the significance of
the word. Among the Romans, the {17} _salutatio_ was a daily homage
paid by clients and inferiors to their superiors. This was alike the
case with civilians and in the army. The very derivation of our word,
therefore, is suggestive of submission. Passing to particular forms of
obeisance (mark the word again), let us begin with the Eastern one of
baring the feet. This was, primarily, a mark of reverence, alike to
a god and a king. The act of Moses before the burning bush, and the
practice of Mahometans, who are sworn on the Koran with their shoes
off, exemplify the one employment of it; the custom of the Persians,
who remove their shoes on entering the presence of their monarch,
exemplifies the other. As usual, however, this homage, paid next to
inferior rulers, has descended from grade to grade. In India it is
a common mark of respect; the lower orders of Turks never enter the
presence of their superiors but in their stockings; and in Japan,
this baring of the feet is an ordinary salutation of man to man.
Take another case. Selden, describing the ceremonies of the Romans,
says:—“For whereas it was usuall either to kiss the Images of their
Gods, or, adoring them, to stand somewhat off before them, solemnly
moving the right hand to the lips, and then, casting it as if they had
cast kisses, to turne the body on the same hand (which was the right
forme of Adoration), it grew also by custom, first that the Emperors,
being next to Deities, and by some accounted as Deities, had the like
done to them in acknowledgment of their Greatness.” If, now, we call to
mind the awkward salute of a village school-boy, made by putting his
open hand up to his face and describing a semicircle with his forearm;
and if we remember that the salute thus used as a form of reverence in
country districts, is most likely a remnant of the feudal times; we
shall see reason for thinking that our common wave of the hand to a
friend across the street, represents what was primarily a devotional
act.

Similarly have originated all forms of respect depending {18} upon
inclinations of the body. Entire prostration is the aboriginal sign
of submission. The passage of Scripture—“Thou hast put all under his
feet,” and that other one, so suggestive in its anthropomorphism—“The
Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand, until I make
thine enemies thy footstool,” imply, what the Assyrian sculptures
bear out, that it was the practice of the ancient god-kings of the
East to trample on the conquered. As there are existing savages who
signify submission by placing the neck under the foot of the person
submitted to, it becomes obvious that all prostration, especially when
accompanied by kissing the foot, expressed a willingness to be trodden
upon—was an attempt to mitigate wrath by saying, in signs, “Tread on
me if you will.” Remembering, too, that kissing the foot, as of the
Pope and of a saint’s statue, still continues in Europe to be a mark of
extreme reverence; that prostration to feudal lords was once general,
and that its disappearance must have taken place, not abruptly, but by
gradual change into something else; we have ground for deriving from
these deepest of humiliations all inclinations of respect: especially
as the transition is traceable. The reverence of a Russian serf,
who bends his head to the ground, and the salaam of the Hindoo, are
abridged prostrations; a bow is a short salaam; a nod is a short bow.
Should any hesitate to admit this conclusion, then perhaps, on being
reminded that the lowest of these obeisances are common where the
submission is most abject; that among ourselves the profundity of the
bow marks the amount of respect; and lastly, that the bow is even now
used devotionally in our churches—by Catholics to their altars, and by
Protestants at the name of Christ—they will see sufficient reason for
thinking that this salutation also was originally worship.

The same may be said, too, of the curtsy, or courtesy, as it is
otherwise written. Its derivation from _courtoisie_, courteousness,
that is, behaviour like that at court, at once {19} shows that it
was primarily the reverence paid to a monarch. And if we call to mind
that falling on the knees, or on one knee, has been a common obeisance
of subjects to rulers; that in ancient manuscripts and tapestries,
servants are depicted as assuming this attitude while offering the
dishes to their masters at table; and that this same attitude is
assumed towards our own queen at every presentation; we may infer, what
the character of the curtsy itself suggests, that it is an abridged act
of kneeling. As the word has been contracted from _courtoisie_ into
curtsy; so the motion has been contracted from a placing of the knee on
the floor, to a lowering of the knee towards the floor. Moreover, when
we compare the curtsy of a lady with the awkward one a peasant girl
makes, which, if continued, would bring her down on both knees, we may
see in this last a remnant of that greater reverence required of serfs.
And when, from considering that simple kneeling of the West, still
represented by the curtsy, we pass Eastward, and note the attitude of
the Mahommedan worshipper, who not only kneels but bows his head to
the ground, we may infer that the curtsy also, is an evanescent form
of the aboriginal prostration. In further evidence of this it may be
remarked, that there has but recently disappeared from the salutations
of men, an action having the same proximate derivation with the curtsy.
That backward sweep of the right foot with which the conventional
stage-sailor accompanies his bow—a movement which prevailed generally
in past generations, when “a bow and a scrape” went together, and
which, within the memory of living persons, was made by boys to their
master when entering school, with the effect of wearing a hole in the
floor—is pretty clearly a preliminary to going on one knee. A motion
so ungainly could never have been intentionally introduced; even if
the artificial introduction of obeisances were possible. Hence we must
regard it as the remnant of something antecedent: and {20} that this
something antecedent was humiliating may be inferred from the phrase,
“scraping an acquaintance;” which, being used to denote the gaining of
favour by obsequiousness, implies that the scrape was considered a mark
of servility—that is, of servile position.

Consider, again, the uncovering of the head. Almost everywhere this
has been a sign of reverence, alike in temples and before potentates;
and it yet preserves among us some of its original meaning. Whether
it rains, hails, or shines, you must keep your head bare while
speaking to the monarch; and no one may keep his hat on in a place of
worship. As usual, however, this ceremony, at first a submission to
gods and kings, has become in process of time a common civility. Once
an acknowledgment of another’s unlimited supremacy, the removal of
the hat is now a salute accorded to very ordinary persons; and that
uncovering originally reserved for entrance into “the house of God” or
the residence of the ruler, good manners now dictates on entrance into
a labourer’s cottage.

Standing, too, as a mark of respect, has undergone like extensions
in its application. Shown, by the practice in our churches, to be
intermediate between the humiliation signified by kneeling and the
self-respect which sitting implies, and used at courts as a form of
homage when more active demonstrations of it have been made, this
posture is now employed in daily life to show consideration; as seen
alike in the attitude of a servant before a master, and in that rising
which politeness prescribes on the entrance of a visitor.

Many other threads of evidence might have been woven into our argument.
As, for example, the significant fact, that if we trace back our
still existing law of primogeniture—if we consider it as displayed by
Scottish clans, in which not only ownership but government devolved
from the beginning on the eldest son of the eldest—if we look further
back, and observe that the old titles of lordship, {21} _Signor_,
_Seigneur_, _Señor_, _Sire_, _Sieur_, all originally mean senior, or
elder—if we go Eastward, and find that _Sheick_ has a like derivation,
and that the Oriental names for priests, as _Pir_, for instance, are
literally interpreted _old man_—if we note in Hebrew records how far
back dates the ascribed superiority of the first-born, how great the
authority of elders, and how sacred the memory of patriarchs—and if,
then, we remember that among divine titles are “Ancient of Days,”
and “Father of Gods and men;”—we see how completely these facts
harmonize with the hypothesis, that the aboriginal god is the first
man sufficiently great to become a tradition, the earliest whose power
and deeds made him remembered; that hence antiquity unavoidably became
associated with superiority, and age with nearness in blood to “the
powerful one;” that so there naturally arose that domination of the
eldest which characterizes the history of all the higher races, and
that theory of human degeneracy which even yet survives. We might
further dwell on the facts, that _Lord_ signifies high-born, or, as
the same root gives a word meaning heaven, possibly heaven-born; that,
before it became common, Sir or _Sire_, as well as _Father_, was the
distinction of a priest; that _worship_, originally worth-ship—a term
of respect that has been used commonly, as well as to magistrates—is
also our term for the act of attributing greatness or worth to the
Deity; so that to ascribe worth-ship to a man is to worship him. We
might make much of the evidence that all early governments are more
or less distinctly theocratic; and that among ancient Eastern nations
even the commonest forms and customs had religious sanctions. We
might enforce our argument respecting the derivation of ceremonies,
by tracing out the aboriginal obeisance made by putting dust on the
head, which symbolizes putting the head in the dust; by affiliating the
practice found in certain tribes, of doing another honour by presenting
him with a portion of hair torn from the head—an act which {22} seems
tantamount to saying, “I am your slave;” by investigating the Oriental
custom of giving to a visitor any object he speaks of admiringly, which
is pretty clearly a carrying out of the compliment, “All I have is
yours.”

Without enlarging, however, on these and minor facts, we venture
to think that the evidence assigned is sufficient. Had the proofs
been few, or of one kind, little faith could have been placed in the
inference. But numerous as they are, alike in the case of titles, in
that of complimentary phrases, and in that of salutes—similar and
simultaneous, too, as the process of depreciation has been in all of
these; the evidences become strong by mutual confirmation. And when
we recollect, also, that not only have the results of this process
been visible in various nations and in all times, but that they are
occurring among ourselves at the present moment, and that the causes
assigned for previous depreciations may be seen daily working out
others—when we recollect this, it becomes scarcely possible to doubt
that the process has been as alleged; and that our ordinary words,
acts, and phrases of civility originally expressed submission to
another’s omnipotence.

Thus the general doctrine, that all kinds of government exercised over
men were at first one government—that the political, the religious,
and the ceremonial forms of control are divergent branches of a
general and once indivisible control—begins to look tenable. When,
with the above facts fresh in mind, we read that in Eastern traditions
Nimrod, among others, figures in all the characters of hero, king, and
divinity—when we turn to the sculptures exhumed by Mr. Layard, and
contemplating in them the effigies of kings driving over enemies, and
adored by prostrate slaves, then observe how their actions correspond
to the primitive names for gods, “the strong,” “the destroyer,” “the
powerful one”—and when, lastly, we discover that among races of men
still living, there are current {23} superstitions analogous to those
which old records and old buildings indicate; we begin to realize the
probability of the hypothesis that has been set forth. Representing
to ourselves the conquering chief as figured in ancient myths, and
poems, and ruins; we may see that all rules of conduct spring from
his will. Alike legislator and judge, quarrels among his subjects
are decided by him; and his words become the Law. Awe of him is
the incipient Religion; and his maxims furnish his first precepts.
Submission is made to him in the forms he prescribes; and these give
birth to Manners. From the first, time developes political allegiance
and the administration of justice; from the second, the worship of a
being whose personality becomes ever more vague, and the inculcation of
precepts ever more abstract; from the third, forms and names of honour
and the rules of etiquette. In conformity with the law of evolution of
all organized bodies, that general functions are gradually separated
into the special functions constituting them, there have grown up in
the social organism for the better performance of the governmental
office, an apparatus of law-courts, judges, and barristers; a national
church, with its bishops and priests; and a system of caste, titles,
and ceremonies, administered by society at large. By the first, overt
aggressions are cognized and punished; by the second, the disposition
to commit such aggressions is in some degree checked; by the third,
those minor breaches of good conduct which the others do not notice,
are denounced and chastised. Law and Religion control behaviour in
its essentials; Manners control it in its details. For regulating
those daily actions which are too numerous and too unimportant to
be officially directed there comes into play this subtler set of
restraints. And when we consider what these restraints are—when we
analyze the words, and phrases, and movements employed, we see that
in origin as in effect, the system is a setting up of temporary {24}
governments between all men who come in contact, for the purpose of
better managing the intercourse between them.

       *       *       *       *       *

From the proposition, that these several kinds of government are
essentially one, both in genesis and function, may be deduced several
important corollaries, directly bearing on our special topic.

Let us first notice, that there is not only a common origin and
office for all forms of rule, but a common necessity for them. The
aboriginal man, coming fresh from the killing of bears and from lying
in ambush for his enemy, has, by the necessities of his condition, a
nature requiring to be curbed in its every impulse. Alike in war and
in the chase, his daily discipline has been that of sacrificing other
creatures to his own needs and passions. His character, bequeathed
to him by ancestors who led similar lives, is moulded by this
discipline—is fitted to this existence. The unlimited selfishness,
the love of inflicting pain, the blood-thirstiness, thus kept active,
he brings with him into the social state. These dispositions put him
in constant danger of conflict with his equally savage neighbour. In
small things as in great, in words as in deeds, he is aggressive; and
is hourly liable to the aggressions of others like natured. Only,
therefore, by rigorous control exercised over all actions, can the
primitive unions of men be maintained. There must be a ruler strong,
remorseless, and of indomitable will; there must be a creed terrible
in its threats to the disobedient; there must be servile submission
of inferiors to superiors. The law must be cruel; the religion must
be stern; the ceremonies must be strict. The co-ordinate necessity
for these several kinds of restraint might be largely illustrated
from history were there space. Suffice it to point out that where the
civil power has been weak, the multiplication of thieves, assassins,
and banditti, has indicated the approach of social dissolution; that
when, {25} from the corruptness of its ministry, religion has lost
its influence, as it did just before the Flagellants appeared, the
State has been endangered; and that the disregard of established social
observances has ever been an accompaniment of political revolutions.
Whoever doubts the necessity for a government of manners proportionate
in strength to the co-existing political and religious governments,
will be convinced on calling to mind that until recently even elaborate
codes of behaviour failed to keep gentlemen from quarrelling in the
streets and fighting duels in taverns; and on remembering that even now
people exhibit at the doors of a theatre, where there is no ceremonial
law to rule them, an aggressiveness which would produce confusion if
carried into social intercourse.

As might be expected, we find that, having a common origin and like
general functions, these several controlling agencies act during each
era with similar degrees of vigour. Under the Chinese despotism,
stringent and multitudinous in its edicts and harsh in the enforcement
of them, and associated with which there is an equally stern domestic
despotism exercised by the eldest surviving male of the family, there
exists a system of observances alike complicated and rigid. There is a
tribunal of ceremonies. Previous to presentation at court, ambassadors
pass many days in practising the required forms. Social intercourse
is cumbered by endless compliments and obeisances. Class distinctions
are strongly marked by badges. And if there wants a definite measure
of the respect paid to social ordinances, we have it in the torture to
which ladies submit in having their feet crushed. In India, and indeed
throughout the East, there exists a like connexion between the pitiless
tyranny of rulers, the dread terrors of immemorial creeds, and the
rigid restraint of unchangeable customs. Caste regulations continue
still unalterable; the fashions of clothes and furniture have remained
the same for ages; suttees are so ancient as to be mentioned by Strabo
and {26} Diodorus Siculus; justice is still administered at the
palace-gates as of old; in short, “every usage is a precept of religion
and a maxim of jurisprudence.” A similar relationship of phenomena was
exhibited in Europe during the Middle Ages. While its governments,
general and local, were despotic, while the Church was unshorn of its
power, while the criminal code was full of horrors and the hell of the
popular creed full of terrors, the rules of behaviour were both more
numerous and more carefully conformed to than now. Differences of dress
marked divisions of rank. Men were limited by law to certain widths
of shoe-toes; and no one below a specified degree might wear a cloak
less than so many inches long. The symbols on banners and shields were
carefully attended to. Heraldry was an important branch of knowledge.
Precedence was strictly insisted on. And those various salutes of which
we now use the abridgments, were gone through in full. Even during our
own last century, with its corrupt House of Commons and little-curbed
monarchs, we may mark a correspondence of social formalities. Gentlemen
were still distinguished from lower classes by dress; and children
addressed their parents as _Sir_ and _Madam_.

A further corollary naturally following this last, and almost, indeed,
forming part of it, is, that these several kinds of government
decrease in stringency at the same rate. Simultaneously with the
decline in the influence of priesthoods, and in the fear of eternal
torments—simultaneously with the mitigation of political tyranny,
the growth of popular power, and the amelioration of criminal codes;
has taken place that diminution of formalities and that fading of
distinctive marks, now so observable. Looking at home, we may note that
there is less attention to precedence than there used to be. No one in
our day ends an interview with the phrase “your humble servant.” The
employment of the word _Sir_, once general in social intercourse, is
at present considered bad breeding; and on the occasions {27} calling
for them, it is held vulgar to use the words “Your Majesty,” or “Your
Royal Highness,” more than once in a conversation. People no longer
formally drink one another’s healths; and even the taking wine with one
another at dinner has ceased to be fashionable. It is remarked of us
by foreigners, that we take off our hats less than any other nation in
Europe—a remark which should be coupled with the other, that we are the
freest nation in Europe. As already implied, this association of facts
is not accidental. These modes of address and titles and obeisances,
bearing about them, as they all do, something of that servility which
marks their origin, become distasteful in proportion as men become more
independent themselves, and sympathize more with the independence of
others. The feeling which makes the modern gentleman tell the labourer
standing bareheaded before him to put on his hat—the feeling which
gives us a dislike to those who cringe and fawn—the feeling which makes
us alike assert our own dignity and respect that of others—the feeling
which thus leads us more and more to discountenance forms and names
which confess inferiority and submission; is the same feeling which
resists despotic power and inaugurates popular government, denies the
authority of the Church and establishes the right of private judgment.

A fourth fact, akin to the foregoing, is, that with decreasing
coerciveness in these several kinds of government, their respective
forms lose their meanings. The same process which has made our monarch
put forth as his own acts what are the acts of ministers approved
by the people, and has thus changed him from master into agent—the
same process which, making attendance at church very much a matter of
respectability, has done away with the telling of beads, the calling
on saints, and the performance of penances; is a process by which
titles and ceremonies that once had a meaning and a power have been
reduced to empty forms. Coats of arms which served to distinguish
{28} men in battle, now figure on the carriage panels of retired
merchants. Once a badge of high military rank, the shoulder-knot has
become, on the modern footman, a mark of servitude. The name Banneret,
which originally marked a partially-created Baron—a Baron who had
passed his military “little go”—is now, under the modification of
Baronet, applicable to any one favoured by wealth or interest or party
feeling. Knighthood has so far ceased to be an honour, that men honour
themselves by declining it. The military dignity _Escuyer_ has, in the
modern Esquire, become a wholly unmilitary affix.

But perhaps it is in that class of social observances comprehended
under the term Fashion (which we must here discuss parenthetically)
that this process is seen with the greatest distinctness. As contrasted
with Manners, which dictate our minor acts in relation to other
persons, Fashion dictates our minor acts in relation to ourselves.
While the one prescribes that part of our deportment which directly
affects our neighbours; the other prescribes that part of our
deportment which is primarily personal, and in which our neighbours
are concerned only as spectators. Thus distinguished as they are,
however, the two have a common source. For while, as we have shown,
Manners originate by imitation of the behaviour pursued _towards_
the great; Fashion originates by imitation of the behaviour _of_ the
great. While the one has its derivation in the titles, phrases, and
salutes used _to_ those in power; the other is derived from the habits
and appearances exhibited _by_ those in power. The Carrib mother who
squeezes her child’s head into a shape like that of the chief; the
young savage who makes marks on himself similar to the scars carried
by the warriors of his tribe; the Highlander who adopts the plaid worn
by the head of his clan; the courtiers who affect greyness, or limp,
or cover their necks, in imitation of their king, and the people who
ape the courtiers; are alike acting under a kind of government connate
with that of Manners, {29} and, like it too, primarily beneficial.
For notwithstanding the numberless absurdities into which this copying
has led people, from nose-rings to ear-rings, from painted faces to
beauty-spots, from shaven heads to powdered wigs, from filed teeth and
stained nails to bell-girdles, peaked shoes, and breeches stuffed with
bran, it must yet be concluded that as the men of will, intelligence,
and originality, who have got to the top, are, on the average, more
likely to show judgment in their habits and tastes than the mass,
the imitation of such is advantageous. By and by, however, Fashion,
decaying like these other forms of rule, almost wholly ceases to be an
imitation of the best, and becomes an imitation of quite other than
the best. As those who take orders are not those having a special
fitness for the priestly office, but those who hope to get livings;
as legislators and public functionaries do not become such by virtue
of their political insight and power to rule, but by virtue of birth,
acreage, and class influence; so, the self-elected clique who set the
fashion, do this, not by force of nature, by intellect, by higher
worth or better taste, but solely by unchecked assumption. Among the
initiated are to be found neither the noblest in rank, the chief in
power, the best cultured, the most refined, nor those of greatest
genius, wit, or beauty; and their reunions, so far from being superior
to others, are noted for their inanity. Yet, by the example of these
sham great, and not by that of the truly great, does society at large
now regulate its habits, its dress, its small usages. As a natural
consequence, these have generally little of that suitableness which
the theory of fashion implies they should have. Instead of a progress
towards greater elegance and convenience, which might be expected to
occur did people copy the ways of the really best, or follow their
own ideas of propriety, we have a reign of mere whim, of unreason,
of change for the sake of change, of wanton oscillations from either
extreme to the other. And so life _à la mode_, instead of being life
conducted in the {30} most rational manner, is life regulated by
spendthrifts and idlers, milliners and tailors, dandies and silly women.

To these several corollaries—that the various orders of control
exercised over men have a common origin and a common function, are
called out by co-ordinate necessities and co-exist in like stringency,
decline together and decay together—it now only remains to add that
they simultaneously become less needful. The social discipline which
has already wrought out great changes in men, must go on eventually
to work out greater ones. That daily curbing of the lower nature and
culture of the higher, which out of cannibals and devil-worshippers has
evolved philanthropists, lovers of peace, and haters of superstition,
may be expected to evolve out of these, men as much superior to them
as they are to their progenitors. The causes that have produced past
modifications are still in action; must continue in action as long as
there exists any incongruity between men’s desires and the requirements
of the social state; and must eventually make them organically fit
for the social state. As it is now needless to forbid man-eating, so
will it ultimately become needless to forbid murder, theft, and the
minor offences of our criminal code. Along with growth of human nature
into harmony with the moral law, there will go decreasing need for
judges and statute-books; when the right course has become the course
spontaneously chosen, prospects of future reward or punishment will
not be wanted as incentives; and when due regard for others has become
instinctive, there will need no code of ceremonies to say how behaviour
shall be regulated.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus, then, may be recognized the meaning of those eccentricities of
reformers which we set out by describing. They are not accidental;
they are not mere personal caprices. They are inevitable results of
the law of relationship above illustrated. That community of genesis,
function, {31} and decay which all forms of restraint exhibit, is
simply the obverse of the fact at first pointed out, that they have
in two sentiments of human nature a common preserver and a common
destroyer. Awe of power originates and cherishes them all; love of
freedom undermines and weakens them all. The one defends despotism
and asserts the supremacy of laws, adheres to old creeds and supports
ecclesiastical authority, pays respect to titles and conserves forms;
the other, putting rectitude above legality, achieves periodical
instalments of political liberty, inaugurates Protestantism and works
out its consequences, ignores the senseless dictates of Fashion and
emancipates men from dead customs. To the true reformer no institution
is sacred, no belief above criticism. Everything shall conform itself
to equity and reason; nothing shall be saved by its prestige. Conceding
to each man liberty to pursue his own ends and satisfy his own tastes,
he demands for himself like liberty; and consents to no restrictions
on this, save those which other men’s equal claims involve. No matter
whether it be an ordinance of one man, or an ordinance of all men, if
it trenches on his legitimate sphere of action, he denies its validity.
The tyranny that would impose on him a particular style of dress and
a set mode of behaviour, he resists equally with the tyranny that
would limit his buyings and sellings, or dictate his creed. Whether
the regulation be formally made by a legislature, or informally
made by society at large—whether the penalty for disobedience be
imprisonment, or frowns and social ostracism, he sees to be a question
of no moment. He will utter his belief notwithstanding the threatened
punishment; he will break conventions spite of the petty persecutions
that will be visited on him. Show him that his actions are inimical
to his fellow-men, and he will pause. Prove that he is disregarding
their legitimate claims, and he will alter his course. But until you
do this—until you demonstrate that his proceedings are essentially
inconvenient or {32} inelegant, essentially irrational, unjust, or
ungenerous, he will persevere.

Some, indeed, argue that his conduct _is_ unjust and ungenerous. They
say that he has no right to annoy other people by his whims; that the
gentleman to whom his letter comes with no “Esq.” appended to the
address, and the lady whose evening party he enters with gloveless
hands, are vexed at what they consider his want of respect or want of
breeding; that thus his eccentricities cannot be indulged save at the
expense of his neighbours’ feelings; and that hence his nonconformity
is in plain terms selfishness.

He answers that this position, if logically developed, would deprive
men of all liberty whatever. Each must conform all his acts to the
public taste, and not his own. The public taste on every point having
been once ascertained, men’s habits must thenceforth remain for ever
fixed; seeing that no man can adopt other habits without sinning
against the public taste, and giving people disagreeable feelings.
Consequently, be it an era of pig-tails or high-heeled shoes, of
starched ruffs or trunk-hose, all must continue to wear pig-tails,
high-heeled shoes, starched ruffs, or trunk-hose to the crack of doom.

If it be still urged that he is not justified in breaking through
others’ forms that he may establish his own, and so sacrificing the
wishes of many to the wishes of one, he replies that all religious and
political changes might be negatived on like grounds. He asks whether
Luther’s sayings and doings were not extremely offensive to the mass of
his cotemporaries; whether the resistance of Hampden was not disgusting
to the time-servers around him; whether every reformer has not shocked
men’s prejudices and given immense displeasure by the opinions he
uttered. The affirmative answer he follows up by demanding what right
the reformer has, then, to utter these opinions—whether he is not
sacrificing the feelings {33} of many to the feelings of one; and so
he proves that, to be consistent, his antagonists must condemn not only
all nonconformity in actions, but all nonconformity in beliefs.

His antagonists rejoin that _his_ position, too, may be pushed to an
absurdity. They argue that if a man may offend by the disregard of some
forms, he may as legitimately do so by the disregard of all; and they
inquire—Why should he not go out to dinner in a dirty shirt, and with
an unshorn chin? Why should he not spit on the drawing-room carpet, and
stretch his heels up to the mantle-shelf?

The convention-breaker answers, that to ask this, implies a confounding
of two widely-different classes of actions—the actions which are
_essentially_ displeasurable to those around, with the actions which
are but _incidentally_ displeasurable to them. He whose skin is so
unclean as to offend the nostrils of his neighbours, or he who talks
so loudly as to disturb a whole room, may be justly complained of, and
rightly excluded by society from its assemblies. But he who presents
himself in a surtout in place of a dress-coat, or in brown trousers
instead of black, gives offence not to men’s senses, or their innate
tastes, but merely to their bigotry of convention. It cannot be said
that his costume is less elegant or less intrinsically appropriate
than the one prescribed; seeing that a few hours earlier in the day it
is admired. It is the implied rebellion, therefore, which annoys. How
little the cause of quarrel has to do with the dress itself, is seen
in the fact that a century ago black clothes would have been thought
preposterous for hours of recreation, and that a few years hence some
now forbidden style may be nearer the requirements of Fashion than the
present one. Thus the reformer explains that it is not against the
natural restraints, but against the artificial ones, that he protests;
and that manifestly the fire of angry glances which he has to bear,
{34} is poured upon him because he will not bow down to the idol which
society has set up.

Should he be asked how we are to distinguish between conduct which is
in itself disagreeable to others, and conduct which is disagreeable by
its implication, he answers, that they will distinguish themselves,
if men will let them. Actions intrinsically repugnant will ever be
frowned upon, and must ever remain as exceptional as now. Actions
not intrinsically repugnant will establish themselves as proper. No
relaxation of customs will introduce the practice of going to a party
in muddy boots, and with unwashed hands; for the dislike of dirt would
continue were Fashion abolished to-morrow. That love of approbation
which now makes people solicitous to be _en règle_ would still
exist—would still make them careful of their personal appearance—would
still induce them to seek admiration by making themselves
ornamental—would still cause them to respect the natural laws of good
behaviour, as they now do the artificial laws. The change would simply
be from a repulsive monotony to a picturesque variety. And if there be
any regulations respecting which it is uncertain whether they are based
on reality or on convention, experiment will soon decide, if due scope
be allowed.

When at length the controversy comes round, as controversies often do,
to the point whence it started, and the “party of order” repeat their
charge against the rebel, that he is sacrificing the feelings of others
to gratify his own wilfulness, he replies once for all that they cheat
themselves by mis-statements. He accuses them of being so despotic,
that, not content with being masters over their own ways and habits,
they would be masters over his also; and grumble because he will not
let them. He merely asks the same freedom which they exercise; they,
however, propose to regulate his course as well as their own—to cut
and clip his mode of life into {35} agreement with their approved
pattern; and then charge him with wilfulness and selfishness, because
he does not quietly submit! He warns them that he shall resist,
nevertheless; and that he shall do so, not only for the assertion of
his own independence, but for their good. He tells them that they are
slaves, and know it not; that they are shackled, and kiss their chains;
that they have lived all their days in prison, and complain because the
walls are being broken down. He says he must persevere, however, with a
view to his own release; and, in spite of their present expostulations,
he prophesies that when they have recovered from the fright which the
prospect of freedom produces, they will thank him for aiding in their
emancipation.

Unamiable as seems this find-fault mood, offensive as is this defiant
attitude, we must beware of overlooking the truths enunciated, in
dislike of the advocacy. It is an unfortunate hindrance to all
innovation, that in virtue of their very function, the innovators stand
in a position of antagonism; and the disagreeable manners, and sayings,
and doings, which this antagonism generates, are commonly associated
with the doctrines promulgated. Quite forgetting that whether the thing
attacked be good or bad, the combative spirit is necessarily repulsive;
and quite forgetting that the toleration of abuses seems amiable merely
from its passivity; the mass of men contract a bias against advanced
views, and in favour of stationary ones, from intercourse with their
respective adherents. “Conservatism,” as Emerson says, “is debonnair
and social; reform is individual and imperious.” And this remains true,
however vicious the system conserved, however righteous the reform to
be effected. Nay, the indignation of the purists is usually extreme in
proportion as the evils to be got rid of are great. The more urgent
the required change, the more intemperate is the vehemence of its
promoters. Let no one, then, confound with the principles {36} of this
social nonconformity the acerbity and the disagreeable self-assertion
of those who first display it.

       *       *       *       *       *

The most plausible objection raised against resistance to conventions,
is grounded on its impolicy, considered even from the progressist’s
point of view. It is urged by many of the more liberal and
intelligent—usually those who have themselves shown some independence
of behaviour in earlier days—that to rebel in these small matters is
to destroy your own power of helping on reform in greater matters.
“If you show yourself eccentric in manners or dress, the world,” they
say, “will not listen to you. You will be considered as crotchety, and
impracticable. The opinions you express on important subjects, which
might have been treated with respect had you conformed on minor points,
will now inevitably be put down among your singularities; and thus, by
dissenting in trifles, you disable yourself from spreading dissent in
essentials.”

Only noting, as we pass, that this is one of those anticipations which
bring about their own fulfilment—that it is because most who disapprove
these conventions do not show their disapproval, that the few who do
show it look eccentric—and that did all act out their convictions, no
such argument as the above would have force;—noting this as we pass,
we go on to reply that these social restraints are not small evils but
among the greatest. Estimate their sum total, and we doubt whether they
would not exceed most others. Could we add up the trouble, the cost,
the jealousies, vexations, misunderstandings, the loss of time and the
loss of pleasure, which these conventions entail—we should perhaps come
to the conclusion that the tyranny of Mrs. Grundy is worse than any
other tyranny. Let us look at a few of its hurtful results; beginning
with those of minor importance.

It produces extravagance. The desire to be _comme il faut_, which
underlies all conformities, whether of manners, {37} dress, or styles
of entertainment, is the desire which makes many a spendthrift and many
a bankrupt. To “keep up appearances,” to have a house in an approved
quarter furnished in the latest taste, to give expensive dinners and
crowded _soirées_, is an ambition forming the natural outcome of the
conformist spirit. It is needless to enlarge on these follies: they
have been satirized by hosts of writers, and in every drawing-room. All
which here concerns us, is to point out that the respect for social
observances, which men think so praiseworthy, has the same root with
this effort to be fashionable in mode of living; and that, other things
equal, the last cannot be diminished without the first being diminished
also. If, now, we consider what this extravagance entails—if we count
up the robbed tradesmen, the stinted governesses, the ill-educated
children, the fleeced relatives, who have to suffer from it—if we mark
the anxiety and the many moral delinquencies which its perpetrators
involve themselves in; we shall see that this regard for conventions is
not quite so innocent as it looks.

Again, it decreases the amount of social intercourse. Passing over the
reckless, and those who make a great display on speculation with the
occasional result of getting on in the world to the exclusion of better
men, we come to the far larger class who, being prudent and honest
enough not to exceed their means, and yet wishing to be “respectable,”
are obliged to limit their entertainments to the smallest possible
number; and that each of these may be turned to the greatest advantage
in meeting the claims on their hospitality, issue their invitations
with little or no regard to the comfort or mutual fitness of their
guests. A few inconveniently-large assemblies, made up of people mostly
strange to each other or but distantly acquainted, are made to serve
in place of many small parties of friends intimate enough to have some
bond of sympathy. Thus the quantity of intercourse is diminished, and
the quality deteriorated. Because it is the custom to make costly {38}
preparations and provide costly refreshments; and because it entails
both less expense and less trouble to do this for many persons on few
occasions than for few persons on many occasions; the reunions of our
less wealthy classes are rendered alike infrequent and tedious.

Let it be further observed, that the existing formalities of social
intercourse drive away many who most need its refining influence; and
drive them into injurious habits and associations. Not a few men,
and not the least sensible men either, give up in disgust this going
out to stately dinners and stiff evening-parties; and instead, seek
society in clubs, and cigar-divans, and taverns. “I’m sick of this
standing about in drawing-rooms, talking nonsense, and trying to look
happy,” will answer one of them when taxed with his desertion. “Why
should I any longer waste time and money, and temper? Once I was ready
enough to rush home from the office to dress; I sported embroidered
shirts, submitted to tight boots, and cared nothing for tailors’ and
haberdashers’ bills. I know better now. My patience lasted a good
while; for though I found each night pass stupidly, I always hoped
the next would make amends. But I’m undeceived. Cab-hire and kid
gloves cost more than any evening party pays for; or rather—it is
worth the cost of them to avoid the party. No, no; I’ll no more of
it. Why should I pay five shillings a time for the privilege of being
bored?” If, now, we consider that this very common mood tends towards
billiard-rooms, towards long sittings over cigars and brandy-and-water,
towards Evans’s and the Coal Hole; it becomes a question whether these
precise observances which hamper our set meetings, have not to answer
for much of the prevalent dissoluteness. Men must have excitements of
some kind or other; and if debarred from higher ones will fall back
upon lower. It is not that those who thus take to irregular habits
are essentially those of low tastes. Often it is quite the reverse.
Among half a dozen intimate friends, abandoning {39} formalities and
sitting at ease round the fire, none will enter with greater enjoyment
into the highest kind of social intercourse—the genuine communion of
thought and feeling; and if the circle includes women of intelligence
and refinement, so much the greater is their pleasure. It is because
they will no longer be choked with the mere dry husks of conversation
which society offers them, that they fly its assemblies, and seek
those with whom they may have discourse that is at least real, though
unpolished. The men who thus long for substantial mental sympathy,
and will go where they can get it, are often, indeed, much better at
the core than the men who are content with the inanities of gloved
and scented party-goers—men who feel no need to come morally nearer
to their fellow-creatures than they can come while standing, tea-cup
in hand, answering trifles with trifles; and who, by feeling no such
need, prove themselves shallow-thoughted and cold-hearted. It is true,
that some who shun drawing-rooms do so from inability to bear the
restraints prescribed by a genuine refinement, and that they would be
greatly improved by being kept under these restraints. But it is not
less true that, by adding to the legitimate restraints, which are based
on convenience and a regard for others, a host of factitious restraints
based only on convention, the refining discipline, which would else
have been borne with benefit, is rendered unbearable, and so misses
its end. Excess of government defeats itself by driving away those to
be governed. And if over all who desert its entertainments in disgust
either at their emptiness or their formality, society thus loses its
salutary influence—if such not only fail to receive that moral culture
which the company of ladies, when rationally regulated, would give
them, but, in default of other relaxation, are driven into habits and
companionships which often end in gambling and drunkenness; must we not
say that here, too, is an evil not to be passed over as insignificant?

Then consider what a blighting effect these {40} multitudinous
preparations and ceremonies have upon the pleasures they profess
to subserve. Who, on calling to mind the occasions of his highest
social enjoyments, does not find them to have been wholly informal,
perhaps impromptu? How delightful a pic-nic of friends, who forget
all observances save those dictated by good nature! How pleasant the
unpretending gatherings of small book-societies, and the like; or those
purely accidental meetings of a few people well known to each other!
Then, indeed, we may see that “a man sharpeneth the countenance of his
friend.” Cheeks flush, and eyes sparkle. The witty grow brilliant, and
even the dull are excited into saying good things. There is an overflow
of topics; and the right thought, and the right words to put it in,
spring up unsought. Grave alternates with gay: now serious converse,
and now jokes, anecdotes, and playful raillery. Everyone’s best nature
is shown; everyone’s best feelings are in pleasurable activity; and,
for the time, life seems well worth having. Go now and dress for some
half-past eight dinner, or some ten o’clock “at home;” and present
yourself in spotless attire, with every hair arranged to perfection.
How great the difference! The enjoyment seems in the inverse ratio of
the preparation. These figures, got up with such finish and precision,
appear but half alive. They have frozen each other by their primness;
and your faculties feel the numbing effects of the atmosphere the
moment you enter it. All those thoughts, so nimble and so apt awhile
since, have disappeared—have suddenly acquired a preternatural power
of eluding you. If you venture a remark to your neighbour, there comes
a trite rejoinder, and there it ends. No subject you can hit upon
outlives half a dozen sentences. Nothing that is said excites any real
interest in you; and you feel that all you say is listened to with
apathy. By some strange magic, things that usually give pleasure seem
to have lost all charm. You have a taste for art. Weary of frivolous
{41} talk, you turn to the table, and find that the book of engravings
and the portfolio of photographs are as flat as the conversation. You
are fond of music. Yet the singing, good as it is, you hear with utter
indifference; and say “Thank you” with a sense of being a profound
hypocrite. Wholly at ease though you could be, for your own part, you
find that your sympathies will not let you. You see young gentlemen
feeling whether their ties are properly adjusted, looking vacantly
round, and considering what they shall do next. You see ladies sitting
disconsolately, waiting for some one to speak to them, and wishing
they had the wherewith to occupy their fingers. You see the hostess
standing about the doorway, keeping a factitious smile on her face,
and racking her brain to find the requisite nothings with which to
greet her guests as they enter. You see numberless traits of weariness
and embarrassment; and, if you have any fellow feeling, these cannot
fail to produce a sense of discomfort. The disorder is catching;
and do what you will, you cannot resist the general infection. You
struggle against it; you make spasmodic efforts to be lively; but
none of your sallies or your good stories do more than raise a simper
or a forced laugh: intellect and feeling are alike asphyxiated. And
when, at length, yielding to your disgust, you rush away, how great
is the relief when you get into the fresh air, and see the stars!
How you “Thank God, that’s over!” and half resolve to avoid all such
boredom for the future! What, now, is the secret of this perpetual
miscarriage and disappointment? Does not the fault lie with these
needless adjuncts—these elaborate dressings, these set forms, these
expensive preparations, these many devices and arrangements that
imply trouble and raise expectation? Who that has lived thirty years
in the world has not discovered that Pleasure is coy; and must not
be too directly pursued, but must be caught unawares? An air from a
street-piano, heard while at work, will often gratify more than the
{42} choicest music played at a concert by the most accomplished
musicians. A single good picture seen in a dealer’s window, may give
keener enjoyment than a whole exhibition gone through with catalogue
and pencil. By the time we have got ready our elaborate apparatus by
which to secure happiness, the happiness is gone. It is too subtle to
be contained in these receivers, garnished with compliments, and fenced
round with etiquette. The more we multiply and complicate appliances,
the more certain are we to drive it away. The reason is patent enough.
These higher emotions to which social intercourse ministers, are of
extremely complex nature; they consequently depend for their production
upon very numerous conditions; the more numerous the conditions,
the greater the liability that one or other of them will not be
fulfilled. It takes a considerable misfortune to destroy appetite; but
cordial sympathy with those around may be extinguished by a look or
a word. Hence it follows, that the more multiplied the _unnecessary_
requirements with which social intercourse is surrounded, the less
likely are its pleasures to be achieved. It is difficult enough to
fulfil continuously all the _essentials_ to a pleasurable communion
with others: how much more difficult, then, must it be continuously to
fulfil a host of _non-essentials_ also! What chance is there of getting
any genuine response from the lady who is thinking of your stupidity
in taking her in to dinner on the wrong arm? How are you likely to
have agreeable converse with the gentleman who is fuming internally
because he is not placed next to the hostess? Formalities, familiar
as they may become, necessarily occupy attention—necessarily multiply
the occasions for mistake, misunderstanding, and jealousy, on the part
of one or other—necessarily distract all minds from the thoughts and
feelings which should occupy them—necessarily, therefore, subvert those
conditions under which only any sterling intercourse is to be had.

And this, indeed, is the fatal mischief which these {43} conventions
entail—a mischief to which every other is secondary. They destroy those
pleasures which they profess to subserve. All institutions are alike in
this, that however useful, and needful even, they originally were, they
in the end cease to be so, but often become detrimental. While humanity
is growing, they continue fixed; daily get more mechanical and unvital;
and by and by tend to strangle what they before preserved. Old forms
of government finally grow so oppressive, that they must be thrown off
even at the risk of reigns of terror. Old creeds end in being dead
formulas, which no longer aid but distort and arrest the general mind;
while the State-churches administering them, come to be instruments
for subsidizing conservatism and repressing progress. Old schemes
of education, incarnated in public schools and colleges, continue
filling the heads of new generations with what has become relatively
useless knowledge, and, by consequence, excluding knowledge which is
useful. Not an organization of any kind—political, religious, literary,
philanthropic—but what, by its ever-multiplying regulations, its
accumulating wealth, its yearly addition of officers, and the creeping
into it of patronage and party feeling, eventually loses its original
spirit, and sinks into a lifeless mechanism, worked with a view to
private ends—a mechanism which not merely fails of its first purpose,
but is a positive hindrance to it. Thus is it, too, with social usages.
We read of the Chinese that they have “ponderous ceremonies transmitted
from time immemorial,” which make social intercourse a burden. The
court forms prescribed by monarchs for their own exaltation, have, in
all times and places, ended in consuming the comfort of their lives.
And so the artificial observances of the dining-room and saloon, in
proportion as they are many and strict, extinguish that agreeable
communion which they were intended to secure. The dislike with which
people commonly speak of society that is “formal,” and “stiff,” and
“ceremonious,” {44} implies a general recognition of this fact; and
this recognition involves the inference that all usages of behaviour
which are not based on natural requirements, are injurious. That
these conventions defeat their own ends is no new assertion. Swift,
criticising the manners of his day, says—“Wise men are often more
uneasy at the over-civility of these refiners than they could possibly
be in the conversation of peasants and mechanics.”

But it is not only in these details that the self-defeating action of
our arrangements is traceable; it is traceable in the very substance
and nature of them. Our social intercourse, as commonly managed, is a
mere semblance of the reality sought. What is it that we want? Some
sympathetic converse with our fellow-creatures:—some converse that
shall not be mere dead words, but the vehicle of living thoughts and
feelings—converse in which the eyes and the face shall speak, and the
tones of the voice be full of meaning—converse which shall make us
feel no longer alone, but shall draw us closer to others, and double
our own emotions by adding their’s to them. Who is there that has
not, from time to time, felt how cold and flat is all this talk about
politics and science, and the new books and the new men, and how a
genuine utterance of fellow-feeling outweighs the whole of it? Mark
the words of Bacon:—“For a crowd is not company, and faces are but a
gallery of pictures, and talk but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no
love.” If this be true, then it is only after acquaintance has grown
into intimacy, and intimacy has ripened into friendship, that the real
communion which men need becomes possible. A rationally-formed circle
must consist almost wholly of those on terms of familiarity and regard,
with but one or two strangers. What folly, then, underlies the whole
system of our grand dinners, our “at homes,” our evening parties—crowds
made up of many who never met before, many who just bow to one another,
many who though well known feel mutual indifference, with just a few
{45} real friends lost in the general mass! You need but look round
at the artificial expressions of face, to see at once how it is. All
have their disguises on; and how can there be sympathy between masks?
No wonder that in private every one exclaims against the stupidity of
these gatherings. No wonder that hostesses get them up rather because
they must than because they wish. No wonder that the invited go less
from the expectation of pleasure than from fear of giving offence. The
whole thing is an organized disappointment.

And then note, lastly, that in this case, as in others, an organization
inoperative for its proper purpose, it is employed for quite other
purposes. What is the usual plea put in for giving and attending these
tedious assemblies? “I admit that they are dull and frivolous enough,”
replies every man to your criticisms; “but then, you know, one must
keep up one’s connexions.” And could you get from his wife a sincere
answer, it would be—“Like you, I am sick of these formal parties; but
then, we must get our daughters married.” The one knows that there is a
profession to push, a business to extend; or parliamentary influence,
or county patronage, or votes, or office, to be got: position,
berths, favours, profit. The other’s thoughts run upon husbands
and settlements, wives and dowries. Worthless for their ostensible
purpose of daily bringing human beings into pleasurable relations
with each other, these cumbrous appliances of our social intercourse
are now perseveringly kept in action with a view to the pecuniary and
matrimonial results which they indirectly produce.

Who then shall say that the reform of our system of observances
is unimportant? When we see how this system induces fashionable
extravagance, with its occasional ruin—when we mark how greatly
it limits the amount of social intercourse among the less wealthy
classes—when we find that many who most need to be disciplined by
mixing {46} with the refined are driven away by it, and led into bad
courses—when we count up the many minor evils it inflicts, the extra
work which its costliness entails on all professional and mercantile
men, the damage to public taste in dress and decoration by the setting
up of its absurdities as standards for imitation, the injury to health
indicated in the faces of its devotees at the close of the London
season, the mortality of milliners and the like, which its sudden
exigencies yearly involve;—and when to all these we add its fatal
sin, that it withers up and kills that high enjoyment it professedly
ministers to—shall we not conclude that to rationalize etiquette and
fashion, is an aim yielding to few in urgency?

       *       *       *       *       *

There needs, then, a protestantism in social usages. Forms which have
ceased to facilitate and have become obstructive—have to be swept
away. Signs are not wanting that some change is at hand. A host of
satirists, led on by Thackeray, have long been engaged in bringing
our sham-festivities, and our fashionable follies, into contempt; and
in their candid moods, most men laugh at the frivolities with which
they and the world in general are deluded. Ridicule has always been a
revolutionary agent. Institutions that have lost their roots in men’s
respect and faith are doomed; and the day of their dissolution is not
far off. The time is approaching, then, when our system of social
observances must pass through some crisis, out of which it will come
purified and comparatively simple.

How this crisis will be brought about, no one can say. Whether by the
continuance and increase of individual protests, or whether by the
union of many persons for the practice and diffusion of better usages,
the future alone can decide. The influence of dissentients acting
without co-operation, seems inadequate. Frowned on by conformists, and
expostulated with even by those who secretly sympathize with them;
subject to petty persecutions, and {47} unable to trace any benefit
produced by their example; they are apt, one by one, to give up their
attempts as hopeless. The young convention-breaker eventually finds
that he pays too heavily for his nonconformity. Hating, for example,
everything that bears about it any remnant of servility, he determines,
in the ardour of his independence, that he will uncover to no one.
But what he means simply as a general protest, he finds that ladies
interpret into a personal disrespect. In other cases his courage
fails him. Such of his unconventionalities as can be attributed only
to eccentricity, he has no qualms about; for, on the whole, he feels
rather complimented than otherwise in being considered a disregarder of
public opinion. But when they are liable to be put down to ignorance,
to ill-breeding, or to poverty, he becomes a coward. However clearly
the recent innovation of eating some kinds of fish with knife and fork
proves the fork-and-bread practice to have had little but caprice for
its basis, yet he dares not wholly ignore that practice while fashion
partially maintains it.[4] Though he thinks that a silk handkerchief
is quite as appropriate for drawing-room use as a white cambric one,
he is not altogether at ease in acting out his opinion. Then, too, he
begins to perceive that his resistance to prescription brings round
disadvantageous results which he had not calculated upon. He had
expected that it would save him from a great deal of social intercourse
of a frivolous kind—that it would offend the silly people, but not the
sensible people; and so would serve as a self-acting test by which
those worth knowing would be separated from those not worth knowing.
But the silly people prove to be so greatly in the majority that,
by offending them, he closes against himself nearly all the avenues
through which the sensible people are to be reached. Thus he finds,
that his nonconformity is frequently misinterpreted; that there are
but few directions in which he dares {48} to carry it consistently
out; that the disadvantages it entails are greater than he anticipated;
and that the chances of his doing any good are very remote. Hence he
gradually loses resolution, and lapses, step by step, into the ordinary
routine of observances.

 [4] This was written before the introduction of silver fish-knives.

Abortive as individual protests thus generally turn out, it may
possibly be that nothing effectual will be done until there arises
some organized resistance to this invisible despotism, by which our
modes and habits are dictated. It may happen, that the government of
Manners and Fashion will be rendered less tyrannical, as the political
and religious governments have been, by some antagonistic union.
Alike in Church and State, men’s first emancipations from excesses
of restriction were achieved by numbers, bound together by a common
creed or a common political faith. What remained undone while there
were but individual schismatics or rebels, was effected when there
came to be many acting in concert. It is tolerably clear that these
earliest instalments of freedom could not have been obtained in any
other way; for so long as the feeling of personal independence was weak
and the rule strong, there could never have been a sufficient number
of separate dissentients to produce the desired results. Only in these
later times, during which the secular and spiritual controls have been
growing less coercive, and the tendency towards individual liberty
greater, has it become possible for smaller and smaller sects and
parties to fight against established creeds and laws; until now men may
safely stand even alone in their antagonism. The failure of individual
nonconformity to customs, suggests that an analogous series of changes
may have to be gone through in this case also. It is true that the
_lex non scripta_ differs from the _lex scripta_ in this, that, being
unwritten, it is more readily altered; and that it has, from time to
time, been quietly ameliorated. Nevertheless, we shall find that the
analogy holds substantially good. For in this case, as {49} in the
others, the essential revolution is not the substituting of any one
set of restraints for any other, but the limiting or abolishing the
authority which prescribes restraints. Just as the fundamental change
inaugurated by the Reformation, was not a superseding of one creed by
another, but an ignoring of the arbiter who before dictated creeds—just
as the fundamental change which Democracy long ago commenced, was not
from this particular law to that, but from the despotism of one to
the freedom of all; so, the parallel change yet to be wrought out in
this supplementary government of which we are treating, is not the
replacing of absurd usages by sensible ones, but the dethronement of
that power which now imposes our usages, and the assertion of the
rights of individuals to choose their own usages. In rules of living,
a West-end clique is our Pope; and we are all papists, with but a mere
sprinkling of heretics. On those who decisively rebel, comes down the
penalty of excommunication, with its long catalogue of disagreeable
and, indeed, serious consequences. The liberty of the subject asserted
in our constitution, and ever on the increase, has yet to be wrested
from this subtler tyranny. The right of private judgment, which our
ancestors wrung from the church, remains to be claimed from this
dictator of our habits. Or, as before said, to free us from these
idolatries and superstitious conformities, there has still to come a
protestantism in social usages. Parallel, therefore, as is the change
to be wrought out, it seems not improbable that it may be wrought out
in an analogous way. That influence which solitary dissentients fail to
gain, and that perseverance which they lack, may come into existence
when they unite. That persecution which the world now visits upon them
from mistaking their nonconformity for ignorance or disrespect, may
diminish when it is seen to result from principle. The penalty which
exclusion now entails may disappear when they become numerous enough to
form {50} visiting circles of their own. And when a successful stand
has been made, and the brunt of the opposition has passed, that large
amount of secret dislike to our observances which now pervades society,
may manifest itself with sufficient power to effect the desired
emancipation.

Whether such will be the process, time alone can decide. That community
of origin, growth, supremacy, and decadence, which we have found among
all kinds of government, suggests a community in modes of change
also. On the other hand, Nature often performs substantially similar
operations, in ways apparently different. Hence these details can never
be foretold.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile, let us glance at the conclusions that have been reached. On
the one side, government, originally one, and afterwards subdivided
for the better fulfilment of its function, must be considered as
having ever been, in all its branches—political, religious, and
ceremonial—beneficial; and, indeed, absolutely necessary. On the other
side, government, under all its forms, must be regarded as subserving
an office, made needful by the unfitness of aboriginal humanity for
social life; and the successive diminutions of its coerciveness in
State, in Church, and in Custom, must be looked upon accompanying the
increasing adaptation of humanity to its conditions. To complete the
conception, there requires to be borne in mind the third fact, that the
genesis, the maintenance, and the decline of all governments, however
named, are alike brought about by the humanity to be controlled; from
which may be drawn the inference that, on the average, restrictions of
every kind cannot last much longer than they are wanted, and cannot
be destroyed much faster than they ought to be. Society, in all its
developments, undergoes the process of exuviation. These old forms
which it successively throws off, have all been once vitally united
with it—have severally served as the protective envelopes within which
a higher humanity {51} was being evolved. They are cast aside only
when they become hindrances—only when some inner and better envelope
has been formed; and they bequeath to us all that there was in them
of good. The periodical abolitions of tyrannical laws have left the
administration of justice not only uninjured, but purified. Dead
and buried creeds have not carried with them the essential morality
they contained, which still exists, uncontaminated by the sloughs of
superstition. And all that there is of justice and kindness and beauty,
embodied in our cumbrous forms of etiquette, will live perennially when
the forms themselves have been forgotten.

{52}



RAILWAY MORALS AND RAILWAY POLICY.

[_First published in the_ Edinburgh Review _for October 1854_.]


Believers in the intrinsic virtues of political forms, might draw an
instructive lesson from the politics of our railways. If there needs
a conclusive proof that the most carefully-framed constitutions are
worthless, unless they be embodiments of the popular character—if
there needs a conclusive proof, that governmental arrangements in
advance of the time will inevitably lapse into congruity with the
time; such proof may be found over and over again repeated in the
current history of joint-stock enterprises. As devised by Act of
Parliament, the administrations of our public companies are almost
purely democratic. The representative system is carried out in them
with scarcely a check. Shareholders elect their directors, directors
their chairman; there is an annual retirement of a certain proportion
of members of the board, giving facilities for superseding them;
and, by this means, the whole ruling body may be changed in periods
varying from three to five years. Yet, not only are the characteristic
vices of our political state reproduced in each of these mercantile
corporations—some even in an intenser degree—but the very form of
government, while remaining nominally democratic, is substantially
so remodelled as to become a miniature of our national constitution.
The direction, ceasing to fulfil its theory as a {53} council formed
of members who possess equal powers, falls under the control of some
one member of superior cunning, will, or wealth, to whom the majority
become so subordinate, that the decision on every question depends on
the course he takes. Proprietors, instead of constantly exercising
their franchise, allow it to become on all ordinary occasions a dead
letter. Retiring directors are so habitually re-elected without
opposition, and have so great a power of insuring their own election
when opposed, that the board becomes practically a close body; and
it is only when the misgovernment grows extreme enough to produce a
revolutionary agitation among the shareholders, that any change can
be effected. Thus, a mixture of the monarchic, the aristocratic, and
the democratic elements, is repeated with such modifications only as
the circumstances involve. The modes of action, too, are substantially
the same; save in this, that the copy outruns the original. Threats of
resignation, which ministries hold out in extreme cases, are commonly
made by railway-boards to stave off disagreeable inquiries. By no
means regarding themselves as servants of the shareholders, directors
rebel against dictation from them; and construe any amendment to their
proposals into a vote of want of confidence. At half-yearly meetings,
disagreeable criticisms and objections are met by the chairman with
the remark, that if the shareholders cannot trust his colleagues and
himself, they had better choose others. With most, this assumption of
offended dignity tells; and, under fear that the company’s interests
may suffer from any disturbance, measures quite at variance with the
wishes of the proprietary are allowed to be carried. The parallel holds
yet further. If it be true of national administrations, that those in
power have the support of public _employés_; it is not less true of
incorporated companies, that the directors are aided by the officials
in their struggles with shareholders. If, in times past, there have
been ministries who spent public money to secure party ends; there
are, in {54} times present, railway-boards who use the funds of the
shareholders to defeat the shareholders. Nay, even in detail, the
similarity is maintained. Like their prototype, joint-stock companies
have their expensive election contests, managed by election committees,
employing election agents; they have their canvassing with its sundry
illegitimate accompaniments; they have their occasional manufacture of
fraudulent votes. And, as a general result, that class-legislation,
which has been habitually charged against statesmen, is now habitually
displayed in the proceedings of these trading associations: constituted
though they are on purely representative principles.

These last assertions will surprise not a few. The general public who
never see a railway-journal, and who skip the reports of half-yearly
meetings which appear in the daily papers, are under the impression
that dishonesties like those gigantic ones so notorious during the
mania, are no longer committed. They do not forget the doings of
stags and stock-jobbers and runaway-directors. They remember how
men-of-straw held shares amounting to £100,000, and even £200,000;
how numerous directorates were filled by the same persons—one having
a seat at twenty-three boards; how subscription-contracts were made
up with signatures bought at 10_s_ and even 4_s_ each, and porters
and errand-boys made themselves liable for £30,000 and £40,000
a-piece. They can narrate how boards kept their books in cipher, made
false registries, and refrained from recording their proceedings in
minute-books; how in one company, half-a-million of capital was put
down to unreal names; how in another, directors bought for account
more shares than they issued, and so forced up the price; and how in
many others, they repurchased for the company their own shares, paying
themselves with the depositors’ money. But, though more or less aware
of the iniquities which have been practised, the generality think
of them solely as the accompaniments {55} of bubble schemes. More
recent enterprises they know to have been _bonâ fide_ ones, mostly
carried out by old-established companies; and knowing this, they do
not suspect that in the getting-up of branch lines and extensions,
there are chicaneries near akin to those of Capel Court; and quite as
disastrous in their ultimate results. Associating the ideas of wealth
and respectability, and habitually using respectability as synonymous
with morality, it seems to them incredible that many of the large
capitalists and men of station who administer railway affairs, should
be guilty of indirectly enriching themselves at the expense of their
constituents. True, they occasionally meet with a law-report disclosing
some enormous fraud; or read a _Times_ leader, characterising
directorial acts in terms which are held libellous. But they regard
the cases thus brought to light as entirely exceptional; and, under
that feeling of loyalty which ever idealises men in authority, they
constantly tend towards the conviction, if not that directors can do no
wrong, yet that they are very unlikely to do wrong.

A history of railway management and railway intrigue, however, would
quickly undeceive them. In such a history, the tricks of projectors
and the mysteries of the share-market would occupy less space than
the analysis of the multiform dishonesties which have been committed
since 1845, and the genesis of that elaborate system of tactics
by which companies are betrayed into ruinous undertakings which
benefit the few at the cost of the many. Such a history would not
only have to detail the doings of the personage famed for “making
things pleasant;” nor would it have merely to add the misdeeds of his
colleagues; but it would have to describe the kindred corruptness
of other railway administrations. From the published report of an
investigation-committee, it would be shown how, not many years since,
the directors of one of our lines allotted among themselves 15,000
new shares then at a premium in the {56} market; how to pay the
deposits on these shares they used the company’s funds; and how one of
their number thus accommodated himself in meeting both deposits and
calls to the extent of more than £80,000. We should read in it of one
railway chairman who, with the secretary’s connivance, retained shares
exceeding a quarter of a million in amount, intending to claim them as
his allotment if they rose to a premium; and who, as they did not do
so, left them as unissued shares on the hands of the proprietors, to
their vast loss. We should also read in it of directors who made loans
to themselves out of the company’s floating balances at a low rate of
interest, when the market rate was high; and who paid themselves larger
salaries than those assigned: entering the difference in an obscure
corner of the ledger under the head of “petty disbursements.” There
would be a description of the manœuvres by which a delinquent board,
under impending investigation, gets a favourable committee nominated—“a
whitewashing committee.” There would be documents showing that the
proxies enabling boards to carry contested measures, have in some
cases been obtained by garbled statements; and, again, that proxies
given for a specified purpose have been used for other purposes. One
of our companies would be proved to have projected a line, serving as
a feeder, for which it obtained shareholders by offering a guaranteed
dividend, which, though understood by the public to be unconditional,
was really contingent upon a condition not likely to be fulfilled.
The managers of another company would be convicted of having carried
party measures by the aid of preference-shares standing in the names of
station-masters; and of being aided by the proxies of the secretary’s
children too young to write.

That the corruptions here glanced at are not exceptional evils, but
result from some deep-seated vice in our system of railway-government,
is sufficiently proved by the fact, that notwithstanding the falling
of railway-dividends {57} produced by the extension policy, that
policy has been year after year continued. Does any tradesman, who,
having enlarged his shop, finds a proportionate diminution in his
rate of profits, go on, even under the stimulus of competition,
making further enlargements at the risk of further diminutions? Does
any merchant, however strong his desire to take away an opponent’s
markets, make successive mortgages on his capital, and pay for each sum
thus raised a higher interest than he gains by trading with it? Yet
this course, so absurd that no one would insult a private individual
by asking him to follow it, is the course which railway-boards, at
meeting after meeting, persuade their clients to pursue. Since 1845,
when the dividends of our leading lines ranged from 8 to 10 per cent.,
they have, notwithstanding an ever-growing traffic, fallen from 10
per cent. to 5, from 8 to 4, from 9 to 3 1/4; and yet the system of
extensions, leases, and guarantees, notoriously the cause of this,
has been year by year persevered in. Is there not something needing
explanation here—something more than the world is allowed to see?
If there be any one to whom the broad fact of obstinate persistence
in unprofitable expenditure does not alone carry the conviction
that sinister influences are at work, let him read the seductive
statements by which shareholders are led to authorize new projects,
and then compare these with the proved results. Let him look at the
estimated cost, anticipated traffic, and calculated dividend on some
proposed branch line; let him observe how the proprietary before whom
the scheme is laid, are induced to approve it as promising a fair
return; and then let him contemplate, in the resulting depreciation
of stock, the extent of their loss. Is there any avoiding the
inference? Railway-shareholders can never have habitually voted for
new undertakings which they knew would be injurious to them. Every
one knows, however, that these new undertakings have almost uniformly
proved injurious to them. Obviously, therefore, railway-shareholders
have been {58} continually deluded by false representations. The
only possible escape from this conclusion is in the belief that
boards and their officers have been themselves deceived; and were the
discrepancies between promises and results occasional only, there
would be grounds for this lenient interpretation. But to suppose
that a railway-government should repeatedly make such mistakes,
and yet gain no wisdom from disastrous experiences—should after a
dozen disappointments again mislead half-yearly meetings by bright
anticipations into dark realities, and all in good faith—taxes
credulity somewhat too far. Even, then, were there no demonstrated
iniquities to rouse suspicion, we think that the continuous
depreciation in the value of railway-stock, the determined perseverance
of boards in the policy which has produced this depreciation, and
the proved untruth of the statements by which they have induced
shareholders to sanction this policy, would of themselves suffice to
show the viciousness of railway-administration.

That the existing evils, and the causes conspiring to produce them,
may be better understood, it will be needful to glance at the mode in
which the system of extensions grew up. Earliest among the incentives
to it was a feeling of rivalry. Even while yet their main lines were
unfinished, a contest for supremacy arose between our two greatest
companies. This presently generated a confirmed antagonism; and the
same impulse which in election contests has sometimes entailed the
squandering of a fortune to gain a victory, has largely aided to make
each of these great rivals submit to repeated sacrifices rather than be
beaten. Feuds of like nature are in other cases perpetually prompting
boards to make aggressions on each other’s territories—every attack
on the one side leading to a reprisal on the other; and so violent is
the hostility occasionally produced, that directors might be pointed
out whose votes are wholly determined by the desire to be revenged
on their opponents. {59} Among the first methods used by leading
companies to strengthen themselves and weaken their competitors, was
the leasing or purchase of subordinate neighbouring lines. Of course
those to whom overtures were made, obtained bids from both sides; and
it naturally resulted that the first sales thus effected, being at
prices far above the real values, brought great profits to the sellers.
What resulted? A few recurrences of this proceeding, made it clear to
quick-witted speculators, that constructing lines so circumstanced as
to be bid for by competing companies, would be a lucrative policy.
Shareholders who had once pocketed these large and easily-made gains,
were eager to repeat the process; and cast about for districts in which
it might be done. Even the directors of the companies by whom these
high prices were given, were under the temptation to aid in this; for
it was manifest to them that by obtaining a larger interest in any such
new undertaking than they possessed in the purchasing company, and
by using their influence in the purchasing company to obtain a good
price or guarantee for the new undertaking, a great advantage would be
gained. That this motive has been largely operative, railway history
abundantly proves. Once commenced, sundry other influences conspired
to stimulate this making of feeders and extensions. The non-closure
of capital-accounts rendered possible the “cooking” of dividends,
which was at one period carried to a great extent. Expenditure that
should have been charged against revenue was charged against capital;
works and rolling stock were allowed to go unrepaired, or insufficient
additions made to them, by which means the current expenses were
rendered delusively small; long-credit agreements with contractors
permitted sundry disbursements that had virtually been made, to be
kept out of the accounts; and thus the net returns were made to
appear greater than they really were. Naturally new undertakings put
before the moneyed world by companies whose stock and dividends had
been thus artificially raised, {60} were received with proportionate
favour. Under the prestige of their parentage their shares came out
at high premiums, bringing large profits to the projectors. The hint
was soon taken; and it presently became an established policy, under
the auspices of a prosperity either real or mock, to get up these
subsidiary lines—“calves,” as they were called in the slang of the
initiated—and to traffic in the premiums their shares commanded.
Meanwhile had been developing, a secondary set of influences which
also contributed to foster unwise enterprises; namely, the business
interests of the lawyers, engineers, contractors, and others directly
or indirectly employed in railway construction. The ways of getting up
and carrying new schemes, could not fail, in the course of years, to
become familiar to all concerned; and there could not fail to grow up
among them a system of concerted tactics for achieving their common
end. Thus, partly from the jealousy of rival boards, partly from
the greediness of shareholders in purchased lines, partly from the
dishonest schemings of directors, partly from the manœuvres of those
whose occupation it is to carry out the projects legally authorized,
partly, and perhaps mainly, from the delusive appearance of prosperity
maintained by many established companies, there came the wild
speculations of 1844 and 1845. The consequent disasters, while they
pretty well destroyed the last of these incentives, left the rest much
as they were. Though the painfully-undeceived public have ceased to aid
as they once did, the various private interests that had grown up have
since been working together as before—have developed their methods of
co-operation into still more complex and subtle forms; and are even now
daily thrusting unfortunate shareholders into losing undertakings.

Before proceeding to analyze the existing state of things, however,
we would have it clearly understood that we do not suppose those
implicated to be _on the average_ morally lower than the community
at large. Men taken at random {61} from any class, would, in all
probability, behave much in the same way when placed in like positions.
There are unquestionably directors grossly dishonest. Unquestionably
also there are others whose standard of honour is far higher than that
of most persons. And for the remainder, they are, doubtless, as good as
the mass. Of the engineers, parliamentary agents, lawyers, contractors,
and others concerned, it may be admitted that though custom has
induced laxity of principle, yet they would be harshly judged were the
transactions which may be recorded against them, used as tests. Those
who do not see how in these involved affairs, bad deeds may be wrought
out by men not correspondingly bad, will readily do so on considering
all the conditions. In the first place, there is the familiar fact that
the corporate conscience is inferior to the individual conscience—that
a body of men will commit as a joint act, that which each one of them
would shrink from, did he feel personally responsible. And it may
be remarked that not only is the conduct _of_ a corporate body thus
comparatively lax, but also the conduct _towards_ one. There is ever a
more or less distinct perception, that a broad-backed company scarcely
feels what would be ruinous to a private person; and this perception is
in constant operation on all railway-boards and their _employés_, as
well as on all contractors, landowners, and others concerned: leading
them to show a want of principle foreign to their general behaviour.
Again, the indirectness and remoteness of the evils produced, greatly
weaken the restraints on wrongdoing. Men’s actions are proximately
caused by mental representations of the results to be anticipated; and
the decisions come to, largely depend on the vividness with which these
results can be imagined. A consequence, good or bad, that is immediate
and clearly apprehended, influences conduct far more potently than
a consequence that has to be traced through a long chain of actions
or influences, and, as eventually reached, is not a particular and
{62} readily conceivable one, but a general and vaguely conceivable
one. Hence, in railway affairs, a questionable share-transaction,
an exorbitant charge, a proceeding which brings great individual
advantage without apparently injuring any one, and which, even if
traced to its ultimate results, can but very circuitously affect
unknown persons living no one knows where, may be brought home to
men who, could the results be embodied before them, would be shocked
at the cruel injustices they had committed—men who in their private
business, where the results _can_ be thus embodied, are sufficiently
equitable. Further, it requires to be noted that most of these great
delinquencies are ascribable not to the extreme dishonesty of any one
man or group of men, but to the combined self-interest of many men
and groups of men, whose minor delinquencies are cumulative. Much as
a story which, passing from mouth to mouth, and receiving a slight
exaggeration at each repetition, comes round to the original narrator
in a form scarcely to be recognised; so, by a little improper influence
on the part of landowners, a little favouritism on the part of members
of Parliament, a little intriguing of lawyers, a little manœuvring
by contractors and engineers, a little self-seeking on the part of
directors, a little under-statement of estimates and over-statement
of traffic, a little magnifying of the evils to be avoided and the
benefits to be gained—it happens that shareholders are betrayed into
ruinous undertakings by grossly untrue representations, without any
one being guilty of more than a small portion of the fraud. Bearing
in mind then, the comparative laxity of the corporate conscience; the
diffusion and remoteness of the evils which malpractices produce;
and the composite origin of these malpractices; it becomes possible
to understand how, in railway affairs, gigantic dishonesties can be
perpetrated by men who, on the average, are little if at all below the
generality in moral character.

With this preliminary mitigation we proceed to detail the {63} various
illegitimate influences by which these seemingly insane extensions and
this continual squandering of shareholders’ property are brought about.

       *       *       *       *       *

Conspicuous among these is the self-interest of landowners. Once the
greatest obstacles to railway enterprise, owners of estates have of
late years been among its chief promoters. Since the Liverpool and
Manchester line was first defeated by landed opposition, and succeeded
with its second bill only by keeping out of sight of all mansions, and
avoiding game preserves—since the time when the London and Birmingham
Company, after seeing their project thrown out by a committee of peers
who ignored the evidence, had to “conciliate” opponents by raising
the estimate for land from £250,000 to £750,000—since the time when
Parliamentary counsel justified resistance by the flimsiest excuses,
even to reproaching engineers with having “trodden down the corn
of widows” and “destroyed the strawberry-beds of gardeners”—since
then, a marked change of policy has taken place. Nor was it in
human nature that it should be otherwise. When it became known that
railway-companies commonly paid for “land and compensation,” sums
varying from £4000 to £8000 per mile; that men were indemnified
for supposed injury to their property, by sums so inordinate that
the greater part has been known to be returned by the heir as
conscience-money; that in one case £120,000 was given for land said
to be worth but £5000—when it was noised abroad that large bonuses
in the shape of preference shares and the like, were granted to buy
off opposition—when it came to be an established fact that estates
are greatly enhanced in value by the proximity of railways; it is not
surprising that country gentlemen should have become active friends of
schemes to which they were once the bitterest enemies. On considering
the many temptations, we shall see nothing wonderful in the fact that
in 1845 they were zealous {64} provisional committee-men; nor in the
fact that their influence as promoters enabled them to get large sums
for their own acres. If we are told of squires soliciting interviews
with the engineer of a projected railway; prompting him to take their
side of the country; promising support if he did, and threatening
opposition if he did not; dictating the course to be followed through
their domains; and hinting that a good price would be expected; we are
simply told of the special modes in which certain private interests
show themselves. If we hear of an extensive landowner using his
influence as chairman of a board of directors, to project a branch
running for many miles through his own estate, and putting his company
to the cost of a parliamentary contest to carry this line; we hear
only of that which was likely to occur under such circumstances. If
we find now before the public, a line proposed by a large capitalist,
serving among other ends to effect desirable communications with his
property, and the estimates for which line, though considered by the
engineering world insufficient, are alleged by him to be ample; we have
but a marked case of the distorted representations which under such
conditions self-interest is sure to engender. If we discover of this or
that scheme, that it was got up by the local nobility and gentry—that
they employed to make the survey a third-rate engineer, who was ready
in anticipation of future benefit to do this for his bare expenses—that
principals and agent wearied the directors of an adjacent trunk-line
to take up their project; threatened that if they did not their great
rival would; alarmed them into concession; asked for a contribution
to their expenses; and would have gained all these points but for
shareholders’ resistance—we do but discover the organized tactics
which, in course of time, naturally grow up under such stimuli. It
is not that these facts are particularly remarkable. From the gross
instance of the landowner who asked £8000 for that which he eventually
accepted £80 for, down to the {65} every-day instances of influence
used to get railway accommodation for the neighbourhood, the acts of
the landed class are simply manifestations of the average character
acting under special conditions. All that it now behoves us to notice,
is, that we have here a large and powerful body whose interests are
ever pressing on railway extension, irrespective of its intrinsic
propriety.

The great change in the attitude of the Legislature towards railways,
from “the extreme of determined rejection or dilatory acquiescence,
to the opposite extreme of unlimited concession,” was simultaneous
with the change above described. It could not well fail to be so.
Supplying, as the landowning community does, so large a portion of both
Houses of Parliament, it necessarily follows that the play of private
interests seen in the first, repeats itself in the last under modified
forms, and complicated by other influences. Remembering the extent to
which legislators were themselves implicated in the speculations of
the mania, it is unlikely that they should since have been free from
personal bias. A return proved, that in 1845 there were 157 members of
Parliament whose names were on the registers of new companies for sums
varying from £291,000 downwards. The supporters of new projects boasted
of the numbers of votes they could command in the House. Members
were personally canvassed, and peers were solicited. It was publicly
complained in the upper chamber, that “it was nearly impossible to
bring together a jury, some members of which were not interested in
the railway they were about to assess.” Doubtless this state of things
was in a great degree exceptional; and there has since been not only
a diminution of the temptations, but a marked increase of equitable
feeling. Still, it is not to be expected that private interests should
cease to act. It is not to be expected that a landowner who, out of
Parliament, exerts himself to get a railway for his district, should,
when in Parliament, not employ the power his new position gives him to
the same {66} end. It is not to be expected that the accumulation of
such individual actions should leave the legislative policy unchanged.
Hence the fact, that the influence once used to throw out railway bills
is now used to carry them. Hence the fact, that railway committees no
longer require a good traffic case to be made out in justification
for the powers asked. Hence the fact, that railway directors having
seats in the House of Commons, are induced to pledge their companies
to carry out extensions. We could name a member of Parliament who,
having bought an estate fitly situated, offered to an engineer, also
in Parliament, the making of a railway running through it; and having
obtained the Act (in doing which the influence of himself and his
friend was of course useful), pitted three railway companies against
each other for the purchase of it. We could name another member of
Parliament who, having projected and obtained powers for an extension
through his property, induced the directors of the main line, with
whom he had great influence, to subscribe half the capital for his
extension, to work it for fifty per cent. of the gross receipts, and to
give up all traffic brought by it on to the main line until he received
four per cent. on his capital; which was tantamount to a four per
cent. guarantee. But it is not only, nor indeed mainly, from directly
personal motives that legislators have of late years unduly fostered
railway enterprises. Indirectly personal motives of various kinds have
been largely operative. The wish to satisfy constituents has been one.
Inhabitants of an unaccommodated district, are naturally urgent with
their representatives to help them to a line. Not unfrequently such
representatives are conscious that their next elections may perhaps
turn upon their successful response to this appeal. Even when there is
no popular pressure there is the pressure of their leading political
supporters—of large landholders whom it will not do to neglect; of
local lawyers, important as electioneering friends, to whom a railway
always brings {67} business. Thus, without having immediately private
ends, members of Parliament are often almost coerced into urging
forward schemes which, from a national point of view, or from a
shareholder’s point of view, are very unwise ones. Then there come the
still less direct stimuli. Where neither personal nor political ends
are to be gained, there are still the interests of a relative to be
subserved; or, if not those of a relative, still those of a friend.
And where there is no decided impulse to the contrary, these motives,
of course, have their weight. Moreover, it requires in fairness to be
said, that possessed as most members of Parliament are, with the belief
that all railway-making is nationally beneficial, there exist in their
minds few or no reasons for resisting the influences brought to bear on
them. True, shareholders may be injured; but that is their own affair.
The public will be better served; constituents will be satisfied;
friends will be pleased; perhaps private ends gained: and under some
or all of these incentives, affirmative votes are readily given.
Thus, from the Legislature also, there has of late years proceeded a
factitious stimulus to railway extensions.

From Parliament to Parliamentary agents, and the general body of
lawyers concerned in railway enterprise, is a ready transition. With
these, the getting up and carrying of new lines and branches is a
matter of business. Whoever traces the process of obtaining a railway
Act, or considers the number of legal transactions involved in the
execution of railway works, or notes the large sums that figure in
half-yearly reports under the head of “law charges;” will at once
see how strong are the temptations which a new project holds out to
solicitors, conveyancers, and counsel. It has been shown that in past
years, parliamentary expenses have varied from £650 to £3000 per
mile; of which a large proportion has gone into the pockets of the
profession. In one contest, £57,000 was spent among six counsel and
twenty solicitors. At a late {68} meeting of one of our companies
it was pointed out, that the sum expended in legal and parliamentary
expenses during nine years, had reached £480,000; or had averaged
£53,500 a-year. With these and scores of like facts before them, it
would be strange did not so acute a body of men as lawyers use vigorous
efforts and sagacious devices to promote fresh enterprises. Indeed, if
we look back at the proceedings of 1845, we shall suspect, not only
that lawyers are still the active promoters of fresh enterprises, but
often the originators of them. Many have heard how in those excited
times the projects daily announced were not uncommonly set afloat by
local solicitors—how these looked over maps to see where plausible
lines could be sketched out—how they canvassed the local gentry to
obtain provisional committeemen—how they agreed with engineers to make
trial surveys—how, under the wild hopes of the day, they found little
difficulty in forming companies—and how most of them managed to get as
far as the Committee on Standing Orders, if no farther. Remembering
all this, and remembering that those who were successful are not
likely to have forgotten their cunning, but rather to have yearly
exercised and increased it, we may expect to find railway lawyers
among the most influential of the many parties conspiring to urge
railway proprietaries into disastrous undertakings; and we shall not be
deceived. To a great extent they are in league with engineers. From the
proposal to the completion of a new line, the lawyer and the engineer
work together; and their interests are throughout identical. While the
one makes the survey, the other prepares the book of reference. The
parish plans which the one gets ready, the other deposits. The notices
to owners and occupiers which the one fills in, the other serves upon
those concerned. And there are frequent consultations between them
as to the dealing with local opposition and the obtainment of local
support. In the getting up of {69} their case for Parliament, they
necessarily act in concert. While, before committee, the one gets
his ten guineas per day for attending to give evidence, the other
makes profits on all the complicated transactions which carrying a
bill involves. During the execution of the works they are in constant
correspondence; and alike profit by any expansion of the undertaking.
Thus there naturally arises in each, the perception that in aiding the
other he is aiding himself; and gradually as, in course of years, the
proceedings come to be often repeated, and a perfect familiarity with
railway politics gained, there grows up a well-organized system of
co-operation between them—a system rendered the more efficient by the
wealth and influence which each has year by year accumulated.

Among the manœuvres employed by railway solicitors thus established
and thus helped, not the least remarkable is that of getting their own
nominees elected as directors. It is a fact, which we state on good
authority, that there are puppet-directors who vote for this or that at
the instigation of the company’s lawyer. The obtainment of such tools
is not difficult. Vacancies are about to occur in the directorate.
Almost always there are men over whom a solicitor, conducting the
extensive law-business of a railway, has considerable power: not only
connexions and friends, but persons to whom in his legal capacity he
can do great benefit or great injury. He selects the most suitable of
these; giving the preference, if other things are equal, to one living
in the country near the line. On opening the matter to him, he points
out the sundry advantages attendant on a director’s position—the free
pass and the many facilities it gives; the annual £100 or so which the
office brings; the honour and influence accruing; the opportunities for
profitable investment that are likely to occur; and so forth. Should
ignorance of railway affairs be raised as an objection, the tempter, in
whose eyes this ignorance is a chief recommendation, {70} replies that
he shall always be at hand to guide his votes. Should non-possession of
a due amount of the company’s stock be pleaded, the tempter meets the
difficulty by offering himself to furnish the needful qualification.
Thus incited and flattered, and perhaps conscious that it would be
dangerous to refuse, the intended puppet allows himself to be put in
nomination; and as it is the habit of half-yearly meetings, unless
under great indignation, to elect any one proposed to them by those in
authority, the nomination is successful. On subsequent occasions this
proceeding can, of course, be repeated; and thus the company’s legal
agent and those leagued with him, may command sufficient votes to turn
the scale in their own favour.

Then, to the personal interest and power of the head solicitor, have
to be added those of the local solicitors, with whom he is in daily
intercourse. They, too, profit by new undertakings; they, therefore,
are urgent in pressing them forwards. Acting in co-operation with
their chief, they form a dispersed staff of great influence. They are
active canvassers; they stimulate and concentrate the feeling of their
districts; they encourage rivalry with other lines; they alarm local
shareholders with rumours of threatened competition. When the question
of extension or non-extension comes to a division, they collect
proxies for the extension party. They bring pressure to bear on their
shareholding clients and relatives. Nay, so deep an interest do they
feel in the decision, as sometimes to create votes with the view of
influencing it. We have before us the case of a local solicitor, who,
before the special meeting called to adopt or reject a contemplated
branch, transferred portions of his own shares into the names of sundry
members of his family, and so multiplied his seventeen votes into
forty-one; all of which he recorded in favour of the new scheme.

The morality of railway engineers is not much above {71} that of
railway lawyers. The gossip of Great George Street is fertile in
discreditable revelations. It tells how So-and-so, like others before
him, testified to estimates which he well knew were insufficient. It
makes jocose allusion to this man as being employed to do his senior’s
“dirty work”—his hard-swearing; and narrates of the other that, when
giving evidence before committee, he was told by counsel that he was
not to be believed even on his knees. It explains how cheaply the
projector of a certain line executed the parliamentary survey, by
employing on it part of the staff in the pay of another company to
which he was engineer. Now it alludes to the suspicion attaching to a
certain member of the fraternity from his having let a permanent-way
contract, for a term of years, at an extravagant sum per mile. Again it
rumours the great profits which some of the leaders of the profession
made in 1845, by charging for the use of their names at so much the
prospectus: even up to a thousand guineas. And then, it enlarges on the
important advantages possessed by engineers who have seats in the House
of Commons.

Thus lax as is the ethical code of engineers, and greatly as they are
interested in railway enterprise, it is to be expected that they should
be active and not very scrupulous promoters of it. To illustrate the
vigour and skill with which they further new undertakings, a few facts
may be cited. Not far from London, and lying between two lines of
railway, is an estate lately purchased by one of our engineers. He has
since obtained Acts for branches to both of the adjacent lines. One
of these branches he has leased to the company whose line it joins;
and he has tried to do the like with the other, but as yet without
success. Even as it is, however, he is considered to have doubled the
value of his property. Again, an engineer of celebrity once nearly
succeeded in smuggling through Parliament, in the bill for a proposed
railway, a clause extending the limits of deviation, to several miles
on each side of the line, {72} throughout a certain district—the
usual limits being but five chains on each side; and the attempt is
accounted for by the fact, that this engineer possessed mines in this
district. To press forward extensions by the companies with which they
are connected, they occasionally go to great lengths. Not long since,
at a half-yearly meeting, certain projects which the proprietary had
already once rejected, were again brought forward by two engineers
who attended in their capacity of shareholders. Though known to be
personally interested, one of them moved and the other seconded, that
some new proposals from the promoters of these schemes be considered
without delay by the directors. The motion was carried; the directors
approved the proposals; and again, the proprietors negatived them. A
third time a like effort was made; a third time a conflict arose; and
within a few days of the special meeting at which the division was to
take place, one of these engineers circulated among the shareholders a
pamphlet denying the allegations of the dissentient party and making
counter-statements which it was then too late to meet. Nay, he did
more: he employed agents to canvass the shareholders for proxies in
support of the new undertaking; and was obliged to confess as much when
charged with it at the meeting.

Turn we now to contractors. Railway-enterprise has given to this class
of men a gigantic development; not only in respect of numbers, but
in respect of the vast wealth to which some of them have acquired.
Originally, half a dozen miles of earthwork, fencing, and bridges, was
as much as any single contractor undertook. Of late years, however it
has become common for one man to engage to construct an entire railway;
and deliver it to the company in a fit condition for opening. Great
capital is required for this. Great profits are made by it. And the
fortunes accumulated in course of time have been such, that sundry
contractors are named as being each able to make a railway at his own
{73} cost. But they are as insatiable as millionaires in general;
and so long as they continue in business at all, are, in some sort,
forced to provide new undertakings to keep their plant employed. As
may be imagined, enormous stocks of working appliances are needed:
many hundreds of earth-waggons and of horses; many miles of temporary
rails and sleepers; some dozen locomotive engines, and several fixed
ones; innumerable tools; besides vast stores of timber, bricks, stone,
rails, and other constituents of permanent works, that have been bought
on speculation. To keep the capital thus invested, and also a large
staff of _employés_, standing idle, entails loss, partly negative,
partly positive. The great contractor, therefore, is both under a
strong stimulus to get fresh work, and enabled by his wealth to do
this. Hence the not unfrequent inversion of the old arrangement under
which companies and engineers employed contractors, into an arrangement
under which contractors employ engineers and form companies. Many
recent undertakings have been thus set on foot. The most gigantic
project which private enterprise has yet dared, originated with a
distinguished contracting firm. In some cases this mode of procedure
may, perhaps, be advantageous; but in far more numerous cases its
results are disastrous. Interested in promoting railway extensions,
even in a greater degree than engineers and lawyers, contractors
habitually co-operate with these, either as agents or as coadjutors.
Lines are fostered into being, which it is known from the beginning,
will not pay. Of late, it has become common for landowners, merchants,
and others personally interested, who, under the belief that their
indirect gains will compensate for their meagre dividends, have
themselves raised part of the capital for a local railway, but cannot
raise the rest—it has become common for such to make an agreement with
a wealthy contractor to construct the line, taking in part payment
a portion of the shares, amounting to perhaps a third of the whole,
and to charge for his work according to {74} a schedule of prices to
be thereafter settled between himself and the engineer. By this last
clause the contractor renders himself secure. It would never answer
his purpose to take part payment in shares likely to return some £2
per cent., unless he compensated himself by unusually high profits;
and this subsequent settlement of prices with one whose interests,
like his own, are wrapped up in the prosecution of the undertaking,
ensures him high profits. Meanwhile, it is noised abroad that all the
capital has been subscribed and the line contracted for; these facts
unduly raise the public estimate of the scheme; the shares are quoted
at much above their true worth; unwary persons buy; the contractor
from time to time parts with his moiety at fair prices; and the new
shareholders ultimately find themselves part owners of a railway which,
unprofitable as it originally promised to be, had been made yet more
unprofitable by expensiveness of construction. Nor are these the only
cases in which contractors gain after this fashion. They do the like
with lines of their own projecting. To obtain Acts for these, they
sign the subscription-contracts for large amounts; knowing that in the
way above described, they can always make it answer to do this. So
general had the practice latterly become, as to attract the attention
of committees. As was remarked by a personage noted for his complicity
in these transactions—“Committees are getting too knowing; they won’t
stand that dodge now.” Nevertheless, the thing is still done under a
disguised form. Though contractors no longer enter their own names on
subscription lists for thousands of shares; yet they effect the same
end by making nominal holders of their foremen and others: themselves
being the real ones.

Of directorial misdoings some samples have already been given; and more
might be added. Besides those arising from directly personal aims,
there are sundry others. One of these is the increasing community
between railway {75} boards and the House of Commons. There are
eighty-one directors sitting in Parliament; and though some of these
take little part in the affairs of their respective railways, many of
them are the most active members of the boards to which they belong.
We have but to look back a few years, and mark the unanimity with
which companies adopted the policy of getting themselves represented
in the Legislature, to see that the furtherance of their respective
interests—especially in cases of competition—was the incentive. How
well this policy is understood by the initiated, may be judged from
the fact, that gentlemen are now in some cases elected on boards,
simply because they are members of Parliament. Of course this implies
that railway legislation is affected by a complicated play of private
influences; and that these influences generally work towards the
facilitation of new enterprises, is obvious. It naturally happens that
directors having seats in the House of Commons can more or less smooth
the way of their annual batch of new bills through committees. It
naturally happens that those whose companies are not opposed, exchange
good offices. Not only do they aid the passing of schemes in which they
are interested, but they are solicited to undertake further schemes by
those around them. It is a common-sense conclusion that representatives
of small towns and country districts needing railway accommodation, who
are daily thrown in contact with the chairman of a company capable of
giving this accommodation, do not neglect the opportunity of furthering
their ends. It is a common-sense conclusion that by hospitalities,
by favours, by flattery, by the many means used to bias men, they
seek to obtain his assistance. And it is an equally common-sense
conclusion that in many cases they succeed—that by some complication of
persuasions and temptations they swerve him from his calmer judgment;
and so introduce into the company he represents, influences at variance
with its welfare.

Under some motives however—whether those of direct {76} self-interest,
of private favour, or of antagonistic feeling, matters not here—it is
certain that directors are constantly committing their constituents
to unwise enterprises; and that they frequently employ unjustifiable
means for either eluding or overcoming their opposition. Shareholders
occasionally find that their directors have given to Parliament,
pledges of extension much exceeding any they were authorised to
give; and they are then persuaded that they are bound to endorse
the promises made for them by their agents. In some cases, among
the misleading statements laid before shareholders to obtain their
consent to a new project, will be found an abstract of the earnings
of a previously-executed branch to which the proposed one bears some
analogy. These earnings are shown (not always without “cooking”)
to be tolerably good and improving; and it is argued that the new
project, having like prospects, offers a fair investment. Meanwhile,
it is not stated that the capital for this previously-executed branch
was raised on debentures or by guaranteed shares at a higher rate of
interest than the dividend pays; it is not stated that as the capital
for this further undertaking will be raised on like terms, the annual
interest on debt will swallow up more than the annual revenue; and
thus unsuspecting shareholders—some unacquainted with the company’s
antecedents, some unable to understand its complicated accounts—give
their proxies, or raise their hands, for new works which will tell
with disastrous effect on their future dividends. In pursuit of their
ends, directors will from time to time go directly in the teeth of
established regulations. Where it has been made a rule that proxies
shall be issued only by order of a meeting of the proprietors, they
will yet issue them without any such order, when by so doing they can
steal a march on dissentients. If it suits their purpose, they will
occasionally bring forward most important measures without due notice.
In stating the amount of the company’s stock which has {77} voted with
them on a division, they have been known to include thousands of shares
on which a small sum only was paid up, counting them as though fully
paid up.

To complete the sketch, something must be said on the management of
board meetings and meetings of shareholders. For the first—their
decisions are affected by various manœuvres. Of course, on fit
occasions, there is a whipping-up of those favourable to any project
which it is desired to carry. Were this all, there would be little to
complain of; but something more than this is done. There are boards
in which it is the practice to defeat opposition by stratagem. The
extension party having summoned their forces for the occasion, and
having entered on the minutes of business a notice worded with the
requisite vagueness, shape their proceedings according to the character
of the meeting. Should their antagonists muster more strongly than
was expected, this vaguely-worded notice serves simply to introduce
some general statement or further information concerning the project
named in it; and the matter is passed over as though nothing more
had been meant. On the contrary, should the proportion of the two
sides be more favourable, the notice becomes the basis of a definite
motion committing the board to some important act. If due precautions
have been taken, the motion is passed; and once passed, those who,
if present, would have resisted it, have no remedy; for in railway
government there is no “second reading,” much less a third. So
determined and so unscrupulous are the efforts sometimes made by the
stronger party to overcome and silence their antagonists, that when
a contested measure, carried by them at the board, has to go before
a general meeting for confirmation, they have been known to pass a
resolution that their dissentient colleagues shall not address the
proprietary!

That, at half-yearly and special meetings, shareholders should be so
readily misled by boards, even after repeated {78} experience of their
untrustworthiness, seems at first sight difficult to understand. The
mystery disappears, however, on inquiry. Very frequently, contested
measures are carried against the sense of the meetings before which
they are laid, by means of the proxies previously collected by the
directors. These proxies are obtained from proprietors scattered
everywhere throughout the kingdom, who are mostly weak enough to
sign the first document sent to them. Then, of those present when
the question is brought to an issue, not many dare attempt a speech.
Of those who dare, but few are clear-headed enough to see the full
bearings of the measure they are about to vote upon; and such as
can see them are often prevented by nervousness from doing justice
to the views they hold. Moreover, it must be borne in mind that
proprietors displaying antagonism to the board are usually regarded
by their brother proprietors with more or less reprobation. Unless
the misconduct of the governing body has been very glaring and very
recent, there ever arises in the mass a prejudice against all playing
the part of an opposition. They are condemned as noisy, and factious,
and obstructive; and often only by determined courage avoid being put
down. Besides these negative reasons for the general inefficiency of
shareholders’ resistance, there are sundry positive ones. As writes to
us a Member of Parliament who has been an extensive holder of stock in
many companies from the first days of railway enterprise:—“My large
and long acquaintance with Railway Companies’ affairs, enables me
to say, that a large majority of shareholders trust wholly to their
directors, having little or no information, nor caring to have any
opinion of their own. . . . . Some others, better informed but timid,
are afraid, by opposing the directors, of causing a depreciation
of the value of their stock in the market, and are more alarmed at
the prospect of this temporary depreciation than at the permanent
loss entailed on the company by the useless, and therefore {79}
unprofitable, outlay of additional capital. . . . . Others again,
believing that the impending permanent evil is inevitable, resolve on
the spot to sell out immediately, and to keep up the prices of their
shares, also give their support to the directors.” Thus, from lack of
organization and efficiency among those who express their opposition,
and from the timidity and double-facedness of those who do not, it
happens that extremely unwise projects are carried by large majorities.
Nor is this all. The tactics of the aggressive party are commonly as
skilful as those of their antagonists are bungling. The chairman, who
is generally the chief promoter of the contested scheme, has it in his
power to favour those who take his own side, and to throw difficulties
in the way of opponents; and this he not unfrequently does to a great
extent—refusing to hear, putting down on some plea of breach of order,
browbeating, even using threats.[5] It generally turns out too, that,
whether intentionally or not, some of the most important motions are
postponed until nearly the close of the meeting, when the greater part
of the shareholders are gone. Large money-votes, extensive powers,
unlimited permits to directors to take, in certain matters, “such
steps as in their judgment they may deem most expedient,”—these, and
the like, are hurried over during the last half-hour, when the tired
and impatient remnant will no longer listen to objectors; and when
those who have personal ends to serve by outstaying the rest, carry
everything their own way. Indeed, in some cases, the arrangements
are such as almost ensure the meeting becoming a pro-extension one
towards the end. {80} This result is brought about thus:—A certain
portion of the general body of proprietors are also proprietors of
some subordinate work—some branch line, or canal, or steamboats, which
the Company has purchased or leased; and as holders of guaranteed
stock, ready to take up further such stock if they can get it, these
lean towards projects that are to be executed on the preference-share
system. They hold their meeting for the declaration of dividend, &c.,
as soon as the meeting of the Company at large has been dissolved; and
in the same room. Hence it happens that being kept together by the
prospect of subsequent business, they gradually, towards the close of
the general meeting, come to form the majority of those present; and
the few ordinary shareholders who have been patient enough to stay, are
outvoted by those having interests distinct from their own and quite at
variance with the welfare of the Company.

 [5] We may remark in passing, that the practice of making the chairman
 of the board also chairman of the half-yearly meetings, is a very
 injudicious one. The directors are the servants of the proprietary; and
 meet them from time to time to render an account of their stewardship.
 That the chief of these servants, whose proceedings are about to
 be examined, should himself act as chief of the jury is absurd.
 Obviously, the business of each meeting should be conducted by some one
 independently chosen for the purpose; as the Speaker is chosen by the
 House of Commons.

And here this allusion to the preference-share system, introduces
us to a fact which may fitly close this detail of private interests
and questionable practices—a fact serving at once to illustrate the
subtlety and concert of railway officialism, and the power it can
exert. That this fact may be fully appreciated, it must be premised,
that though preference-shares do not usually carry votes, they
are sometimes specially endowed with them; and further, that they
occasionally remain unpaid up until the expiration of a time after
which no further calls can be legally made. In the case in question,
a large number of £50 preference-shares had thus long stood with but
£5 paid. Promoters of extensions, &c., had here a fine opportunity of
getting great power in the Company at small cost; and, as we shall see,
they duly availed themselves of it. Already had their party twice tried
to thrust the proprietors into a new undertaking of great magnitude.
Twice had they entailed on them an expensive and harassing contest. A
third time, notwithstanding a professed relinquishment of it, they {81}
brought forward substantially the same scheme, and were defeated only
by a small majority. The following extracts from the division lists we
take from the statement of one of the scrutineers.

 +──────────────────────────+──────────+──────────────────────+────────+────────+──────────+
 │                          │  50_l._  │                      │Recorded│ Total  │ Number   │
 │                          │Preference│ Additional Stock or  │Stock at│ actual │of Votes  │
 │                          │  Shares  │        Shares        │the Poll│Capital │ scored   │
 │                          │with 5_l._│                      │as held.│paid up.│ for the  │
 │                          │ paid up. │                      │        │        │Extension.│
 +──────────────────────────+──────────+──────────────────────+────────+────────+──────────+
 │                          │          │                      │    £   │   £    │          │
 │                          │          +──────────────────────+────────+────────+──────────│
 │                          │          │ 7,500_l._ stock, and │        │        │          │
 │The Company’s solicitor   │      500 │  100 50_l._ shares,  │        │        │          │
 │                          │          │  with 42_l._ 10_s._  │        │        │          │
 │                          │          │  paid up.            │ 75,650 │ 18,140 │      188 │
 │                          │          │                      │        │        │          │
 │Ditto in joint account    │          │                      │        │        │          │
 │  with another            │      778 │        None.         │        │        │          │
 │                          │          +──────────────────────+────────+────────+──────────│
 │The solicitor’s partner   │       60 │        None.         │  3,000 │    300 │       20 │
 │The Company’s engineer    │      150 │        None.         │  7,500 │    750 │       33 │
 │The engineer’s partner    │    1,354 │   4,266_l._ stock.   │ 71,966 │ 11,036 │      161 │
 │One of the Company’s      │          │                      │        │        │          │
 │  parliamentary counsel   │      200 │   1,000_l._ stock.   │ 11,000 │  2,000 │       40 │
 │Another ditto, ditto      │      125 │     200_l._ stock.   │  6,450 │    825 │       30 │
 │Local solicitor for       │          │                      │        │        │          │
 │  the proposed extension  │        7 │        None.         │    350 │     35 │        7 │
 │The Company’s contractor  │          │                      │        │        │          │
 │  for permanent-way       │      347 │      52,833_l._      │ 70,183 │ 54,568 │      158 │
 │The Company’s conveyancer │    1,003 │     333_l._ stock.   │ 50,483 │  5,348 │      118 │
 │The Company’s furniture   │          │                      │        │        │          │
 │  printer                 │       35 │  10,000_l._ stock.   │ 11,750 │ 10,175 │       41 │
 │The Company’s surveyor    │      360 │   1,250_l._ stock.   │ 19,250 │  3,050 │       56 │
 │The Company’s architect   │      217 │14,916_l._ stock; 119 │ 32,230 │ 20,416 │       82 │
 │                          │          │  50_l._ shares, with │        │        │          │
 │                          │          │  42_l._ 10_s._ paid  │        │        │          │
 │                          │          │  up; and 13 40_l._   │        │        │          │
 │                          │          │  shares, with 34_l._ │        │        │          │
 │                          │          │  paid up.            │        │        │          │
 │One of the Company’s      │          │                      │        │        │          │
 │  carriers.               │       17 │     833_l._ stock.   │  1,683 │    918 │       14 │
 │The Company’s bankers:—   │          │                      │        │        │          │
 │  One Partner             │  .. ..   │        ..    ..      │ 33,666 │ 32,366 │       90 │
 │  Another partner         │  .. ..   │        ..    ..      │  2,500 │  2,500 │       18 │
 │  Ditto in joint account  │          │                      │        │        │          │
 │    with another          │  .. ..   │        ..    ..      │  1,000 │    850 │       12 │
 +──────────────────────────+──────────+──────────────────────+────────+────────+──────────+

To this list, some seven or eight of the Company’s tradesmen, similarly
armed, might be added; raising the number of the almost factitious
shares held by functionaries to about 5200, and increasing the votes
commanded by them, from its present total of 1068 to upwards of
1100. If now we separate the £380,000, which these gentlemen bring
to bear against their brother shareholders, into real and nominal;
we find that while not quite £120,000 of it is _bonâ fide_ property
invested, the remaining £260,000 is nine {82} parts shadow and one
part substance. And thus it results, that by virtue of certain stock
actually representing but £26,000, these lawyers, engineers, counsel,
conveyancers, contractors, bankers, and others interested in the
promotion of new schemes, outweigh more than a quarter of a million of
the real capital held by shareholders whom these schemes will injure!

       *       *       *       *       *

Need we any longer wonder, then, at the persistence of Railway
Companies in seemingly reckless competition and ruinous extensions?
Is not this obstinate continuance of a policy that has year after
year proved disastrous, sufficiently explicable on contemplating the
many illegitimate influences at work? Is it not manifest that the
small organized party always out-manœuvres the large unorganized one?
Consider their respective characters and circumstances. Here are the
shareholders diffused throughout the kingdom, in towns and country
houses; knowing nothing of each other, and too remote to co-operate
were they acquainted. Very few of them see a railway journal; and
scarcely any know much of railway politics. Necessarily a fluctuating
body, only a small number are familiar with the Company’s history—its
acts, engagements, policy, management. A great proportion are
incompetent to judge of the matters that come before them, and lack
decision to act out such judgments as they may form—executors who do
not like to take steps involving much responsibility; trustees fearful
of interfering with the property under their care, lest possible loss
should entail a lawsuit; widows who have never in their lives acted for
themselves in any affair of moment; maiden ladies, alike nervous and
innocent of all business knowledge; clergymen whose daily discipline
has been little calculated to make them acute men of the world;
retired tradesmen whose retail transactions have given them small
ability for grasping large considerations; servants possessed of {83}
accumulated savings and cramped notions; with sundry others of like
helpless characters—all of them rendered more or less conservative by
ignorance or timidity, and proportionately inclined to support those in
authority. To these should be added the temporary shareholders, who,
having bought stock on speculation, and knowing that a revolution in
the Company is likely to depress prices for a time, have an interest in
supporting the board irrespective of the goodness of its policy. Turn
now to those whose efforts are directed to railway expansion. Consider
the constant pressure of local populations—of small towns, of rural
districts, of landowners: all of them eager for branch accommodation;
all of them with great and definite advantages in view; few of them
conscious of the loss those advantages may entail on others. Remember
the influence of legislators, prompted, some by their constituents,
some by personal aims, and encouraged by the belief that additional
railway facilities are in every case nationally beneficial; and then
infer the extent to which as stated to Mr. Cardwell’s committee,
Parliament has “excited and urged forward” Companies into rivalry.
Note the temptations under which lawyers are placed—the vast profits
accruing to them from every railway contest, whether ending in success
or failure; and then imagine the range and subtlety of their extension
manœuvring. Conceive the urgency of engineers; to the richer of whom
more railway-making means more wealth; to the mass of whom more
railway-making means daily bread. Estimate the capitalist-power of
contractors; whose unemployed plant brings heavy loss; whose plant when
employed brings great gain. Then recollect that to lawyers, engineers,
and contractors the getting up and executing of new undertakings is a
business—a business to which every energy is directed; in which many
years of practice have given great skill; and to the facilitation of
which, all means tolerated by men of the world are thought justifiable.
{84} Finally, consider that the classes interested in carrying out
new schemes, are in constant communication, and have every facility
for combined action. A great part of them live in London, and most
of these have offices at Westminster—in Great George Street, in
Parliament Street, clustering round the Legislature. Not only are they
thus concentrated—not only are they throughout the year in frequent
business intercourse; but during the session they are daily together,
in Palace-Yard Hotels, in the lobbies, in the committee-rooms, in the
House of Commons itself. Is it any wonder then, that the wide-spread,
ill-informed unorganized body of shareholders, standing severally
alone, and each pre-occupied with his private affairs, should be
continually out-generalled by the comparatively small but active,
skilful, combined body opposed to them, whose very occupation is at
stake in gaining the victory?

“But how about the directors?” it will perhaps be asked. “How can they
be parties to these obviously unwise undertakings? They are themselves
shareholders; they gain by whatever benefits the proprietary at large;
they lose by whatever injures it. And if without their consent, or
rather their agency, no new scheme can be adopted by the Company, the
classes interested in fostering railway enterprise are powerless to do
harm.”

This belief in the identity of directorial and proprietary interests,
is the fatal error commonly made by shareholders. It is this which,
in spite of bitter experiences, leads them to be so careless and so
trustful. “Their profit is our profit; their loss is our loss; they
know more than we do; therefore let us leave the matter to them.”
Such is the argument which more or less definitely passes through the
shareholding mind—an argument of which the premises are delusive, and
the inference disastrous. Let us consider it in detail.

Not to dwell on the disclosures that have in years past {85} been made
respecting the share-trafficking of directors, and the large profits
realized by it—disclosures which alone suffice to disprove the assumed
identity between the interests of board and proprietary—and taking for
granted that little, if any, of this now takes place; let us go on
to notice the still-prevailing influences which render this apparent
community of aims illusive. The immediate interests which directors
have in the prosperity of the Company, are often much less than is
supposed. Occasionally they possess only the bare qualification of
£1000 worth of stock. In some instances even this is partly nominal.
Admitting, however, as we do frankly, that in the great majority of
cases the full qualification, and much more than the qualification, is
held; yet it must be borne in mind that the indirect advantages which
a wealthy member of a board may gain from the prosecution of a new
undertaking, will often far outweigh the direct injury it will inflict
on him by lowering the value of his shares. A board usually consists,
to a considerable extent, of gentlemen residing at different points
throughout the tract of country traversed by the railway they control:
some of them landowners; some merchants or manufacturers; some owners
of mines or shipping. Almost always some or all of them are advantaged
by a new branch or feeder. Those in close proximity to it, gain either
by enhanced value of their lands, or by increased facilities of transit
for their commodities. Those at more remote parts of the main line,
though less directly interested, are still frequently interested in
some degree; for every extension opens up new markets either for
produce or raw materials; and if it is one effecting a junction with
some other system of railways, the greater mercantile conveniences
afforded to directors thus circumstanced, become important. Obviously,
therefore, the indirect profits accruing to such from one of these
extensions, may more than counterbalance the direct loss upon their
railway investments; {86} and though there are, doubtless, men too
honourable to let such considerations sway them, yet the generality can
scarcely fail to be affected by temptations so strong. Then we have to
remember the influences brought to bear upon directors having seats in
Parliament. Already these have been noticed; and we recur to them only
for the purpose of pointing out that the immediate evil of an increased
discount on his £1000 worth of stock, may be to a director of much less
consequence than the favours, patronage, connexions, which his aid in
carrying a new scheme will bring him. So that here too the supposed
identity of interests between directors and shareholders does not hold.

Moreover, this disunion of interests is increased by the system of
preference-stock. Were there no other cause in action, the raising
of capital for supplementary undertakings, by issuing shares bearing
a guaranteed interest of 5, 6, and 7 per cent., would destroy that
community of motives supposed to exist between a railway proprietary
and its executive. Little as the fact is recognized, it is yet readily
demonstrable that by raising one of these mortgages, a Company is
forthwith divided into two classes; the one consisting of the richer
shareholders, inclusive of the directors, and the other of the poorer
shareholders; of which classes the richer one can protect itself from
the losses which the poorer one has to bear—nay, can even profit by the
losses of the poorer one. This assertion, startling as it will be to
many, we will proceed to prove.

When the capital required for a branch or extension is raised by
means of guaranteed shares, it is the custom to give each proprietor
the option of taking up a number of such shares proportionate to the
number of his original shares. By availing himself of this offer, he
partially protects himself against any loss which the new undertaking
may entail. Should this, not fulfilling the promises of its advocates,
diminish in some degree the general {87} dividend; yet, a high
dividend on the due proportion of preference-stock, may nearly or
quite compensate for this. Hence, it becomes the policy of all who
can do so, to take up as many guaranteed shares as they can get.
But what happens when the circular announcing this apportionment of
guaranteed shares is sent round? Those who possess much stock, being
generally capitalists, accept as many as are allotted to them. On the
other hand, the smaller holders, constituting as they do the bulk of
the Company, having no available funds with which to pay the calls
on new shares, are obliged to part with their letters of allotment.
What results? When this additional line has been opened, and it turns
out, as usual, that its revenue is insufficient to meet the guaranteed
dividend on its shares—when the general income of the Company is
laid under contribution to make up this guaranteed dividend—when as
a consequence, the dividend on the original stock is diminished;
then the poorer shareholders who possess original stock only, find
themselves losers; while the richer ones, possessing guaranteed shares
in addition, find that their gain on preference-dividends nearly or
quite counterbalances their loss on general dividends. Indeed, as above
hinted, the case is even worse. For as the large share-proprietor who
has obtained his proportion of guaranteed stock, is not obliged to
retain his original stock—as, if he doubts the paying character of the
new undertaking, he can always sell such of his shares as will suffer
from it; it is obvious that he may, if he pleases, become the possessor
of preference-shares only; and may so obtain a handsome return for his
money at the expense of the Company at large and the small shareholders
in particular. How far this policy is pursued we do not pretend to
say; though the table given some pages back suggests extensive pursuit
of it. All which it here concerns us to notice, is, that directors,
being mostly men of large means, and being therefore able to avail
themselves of this guaranteed {88} stock, are liable to be swayed
by motives different from those of the general proprietary. And that
they often are so swayed there cannot be a doubt. Without assuming
that any of them deliberately intend to benefit at the cost of their
co-proprietors; and believing, as we do, that few of them duly perceive
that the protection they will have, is a protection not available by
the shareholders at large; we think it is a rational deduction from
common experience, that this prospect of compensation often turns the
scale in the minds of those who are hesitating, and diminishes the
opposition of those who disapprove.

Thus, the belief which leads most railway shareholders to place
implicit faith in their directors, is an erroneous one. It is not true
that there is an identity of interest between the proprietary and its
executive. It is not true that the board forms an efficient guard
against the intrigues of lawyers, engineers, contractors, and others
who profit by railway-making. Contrariwise, its members are not only
liable to be drawn from their line of duty by various indirect motives,
but by the system of guaranteed shares they are placed under a positive
temptation to betray their constituents.

       *       *       *       *       *

And now what is the proximate origin of these corruptions? and what is
the remedy for them? What error in railway legislation is it that has
made possible such complicated chicaneries? Whence arises this facility
with which interested persons thrust companies into unwise enterprises?
We believe there is a very simple answer to these questions. It is an
answer, however, which will at first sight seem quite irrelevant; and
we doubt not that the corollary we propose drawing from it, will be
forthwith condemned by so-called practical men. Nevertheless, we are
not without hope of showing, both that the evils laboured under would
be excluded were this corollary recognized, and that recognition of it
is not only feasible, but would {89} even open the way out of sundry
perplexities in which railway legislation is at present involved.

We conceive, then, that the fundamental vice of our system, as hitherto
carried out, lies in _the misinterpretation of the proprietary
contract_—the contract tacitly entered into between each shareholder
and the body of shareholders with whom he unites; and that the remedy
for these evils which have now become so great, lies simply in the
enforcement of an equitable interpretation of this contract. In reality
the contract is a strictly limited one. In practice it is treated
as altogether unlimited. And the thing needed is, that it should be
clearly defined and abided by.

Our popular form of government has so habituated us to seeing public
questions decided by the voice of the majority, and the system is
so manifestly equitable in the cases daily before us, that there
has been produced in the general mind, an unhesitating belief that
the majority’s right is unbounded. Under whatever circumstances men
co-operate, it is held that if difference of opinion arises among
them, justice requires that the will of the greater number shall be
executed rather than that of the smaller number; be the question at
issue what it may. So confirmed is this conviction, that to most this
mere suggestion of a doubt will cause astonishment. Yet it needs but
a brief analysis to show that the conviction is little better than
a political superstition. Instances may readily be selected which
prove, by _reductio ad absurdum_, that the right of a majority is a
purely conditional right, valid only within specific limits. Let us
take a few. Suppose that at the general meeting of some philanthropic
association, it was resolved that in addition to relieving distress
the association should employ home-missionaries to preach down popery.
Might the subscriptions of Catholics, who had joined the body with
charitable views, be rightfully used for this end? Suppose that of the
members of a book-club, the greater number, thinking {90} that under
existing circumstances rifle-practice is more important than reading,
should decide to change the purpose of their union, and to apply the
funds in hand for the purchase of powder, ball, and targets. Would the
rest be bound by this decision? Suppose that under the excitement of
news from Australia, the majority of a Freehold Land Society should
determine, not simply to start in a body for the gold diggings, but
to use their accumulated capital to provide outfits. Would this
appropriation of property be just to the minority? and must these join
the expedition? Scarcely any one would venture an affirmative answer
even to the first of these questions; much less to the others. And why?
Because everyone must perceive that by joining with others, no man
can equitably be committed to acts utterly foreign to the purpose for
which he joined them. Each of these supposed minorities would properly
reply to those seeking to coerce them:—“We combined with you for a
defined object; we gave money and time for the furtherance of that
object; on all questions thence arising, we tacitly agreed to conform
to the will of the greater number; but we did not agree to conform
on any other questions. If you induce us to join you by professing a
certain end, and then undertake some other end of which we were not
apprised, you obtain our support under false pretences; you exceed
the expressed or understood compact to which we committed ourselves;
and we are no longer bound by your decisions.” Clearly this is the
only rational interpretation of the matter. The general principle
underlying the right government of every incorporated body, is, that
its members contract with each other severally to submit to the will of
the majority _in all matters concerning the fulfilment of the objects
for which they are incorporated; but in no others_. To this extent
only can the contract hold. For as it is implied in the very nature of
a contract, that those entering into it must know what they contract
to do; and as those who unite with others for a specified object,
{91} cannot contemplate all the unspecified objects which it is
hypothetically possible for the union to undertake; it follows that the
contract entered into cannot extend to such unspecified objects. And if
there exists no expressed or understood contract between the union and
its members respecting unspecified objects, then for the majority to
coerce the minority into undertaking them, is nothing less than gross
tyranny.

Now this almost self-evident principle is wholly ignored, alike in our
railway legislation and the proceedings of our companies. Definite as
is the purpose with which the promoters of a public enterprise combine,
many other purposes not dreamed of at the outset are commonly added
to it; and this, apparently, without any suspicion that such a course
is unwarrantable, unless taken with the _unanimous_ consent of the
proprietors. The unsuspecting shareholder who signed the subscription
contract for a line from Greatborough to Grandport, did so under the
belief that this line would not only be a public benefit but a good
investment. He was familiar with the country. He had been at some
trouble to estimate the traffic. And, fully believing that he knew
what he was embarking in, he put down his name for a large amount.
The line has been made; a few years of prosperity have justified his
foresight; when, at some fatal special meeting, a project is put before
him for a branch from Littlehomestead to Stonyfield. The will of the
board and the intrigues of the interested, overbear all opposition;
and in spite of the protests of many who like him see its impolicy,
he presently finds himself involved in an undertaking which, when he
joined the promoters of the original line, he had not the remotest
conception would ever be proposed. From year to year this proceeding is
repeated. His dividends dwindle and his shares go down; and eventually
the congeries of enterprises to which he is committed, grows so vast
that the first enterprise of the series becomes but a small fraction
of the whole. Yet it is in virtue of his {92} consent to this first
of the series, that all the rest are thrust upon him. He feels that
there is injustice somewhere; but, believing in the unlimited right of
a majority, fails to detect it. He does not see that when the first of
these extensions was proposed, he should have denied the power of his
brother-shareholders to implicate him in an undertaking not named in
their deed of incorporation. He should have told its proposers that
they were perfectly free to form a separate Company for the execution
of it; but that they could not rightfully compel dissentients to
join in a new undertaking, any more than they could rightfully have
compelled dissentients to join in the original. Had such a shareholder
united with others for the specified purpose of _making railways_, he
would have had no ground for protest. But he united with others for
the specified purpose of _making a particular railway_. Yet such is
the confusion of ideas on the subject, that there is absolutely no
difference recognized between these cases!

It will doubtless be alleged in defence of all this, that these
secondary enterprises are supplementary to the original one—are in
part undertaken for the furtherance of it; professedly minister to
its prosperity; cannot, therefore, be regarded as altogether separate
enterprises. And it is true that they have this for their excuse. But
if it is a sufficient excuse for accessories of this kind, it may
be made a sufficient excuse for any accessories whatever. Already,
Companies have carried the practice beyond the making of branches and
extensions. Already, under the plea of bringing traffic to their lines,
they have constructed docks; bought lines of steam-packets; built vast
hotels; deepened river-channels. Already, they have created small towns
for their workmen; erected churches and schools; salaried clergymen and
teachers. Are these warranted on the ground of advancing the Companies’
interests? Then thousands of other undertakings are similarly
warranted. If a view to the development of traffic, justifies the
making {93} of a branch to some neighbouring coal-mines; then, should
the coal-mines be inefficiently worked, the same view would justify
the purchase of them—would justify the Company in becoming coal-miner
and coal-seller. If anticipated increase of goods and passengers is a
sufficient reason for carrying a feeder into an agricultural district;
then, it is a sufficient reason for organizing a system of coaches and
waggons to run in connexion with this feeder; for making the requisite
horse-breeding establishments; for hiring the needful farms; for buying
estates; for becoming agriculturists. If it be allowable to purchase
steamers plying in conjunction with the railway; it must be allowable
to purchase merchant vessels to trade in conjunction with it; it must
be allowable to set up a yard for building such vessels; it must be
allowable to erect depôts at foreign ports for the receipt of goods;
it must be allowable to employ commission agents for collecting such
goods; it must be allowable to extend a mercantile organization all
over the world. From making its own engines and carriages, a Company
may readily progress to manufacturing its own iron and growing
its own timber. From giving its _employés_ secular and religious
instruction, and providing houses for them, it may go on to supply them
with food, clothing, medical attendance, and all the needs of life.
Beginning simply as a corporation to make and work a railway between
A and B; it may become a miner, manufacturer, merchant, shipowner,
canal-proprietor, hotel-keeper, landowner, house-builder, farmer,
retail-trader, priest, teacher—an organization of indefinite extent
and complication. There is no logical alternative between permitting
this, and strictly limiting the corporation to the object first agreed
upon. A man joining with others for a specific purpose, must be held to
commit himself to that purpose only; or else to all purposes whatever
which they may choose to undertake.

But proprietors dissenting from one of these supplementary projects
are told that they have the option of {94} selling out. So might the
dissentients from a new State-enforced creed be told, that if they
did not like it they might leave the country. The one reply is little
more satisfactory than the other would be. The opposing shareholder
sees himself in possession of a good investment—one perhaps which,
as an original subscriber, he ran some risk in obtaining. This
investment is about to be endangered by an act not named in the deed of
incorporation. And his protests are met by saying, that if he fears the
danger he may part with his investment. Surely this choice between two
evils scarcely meets his claims. Moreover, he has not even this in any
fair sense. It is often an unfavourable time to sell. The very rumour
of one of these extensions frequently causes a depreciation of stock.
And if many of the minority throw their shares on the market, this
depreciation is greatly increased; a fact which further hinders them
from selling. So that each is in a dilemma: he has to part with a good
investment at much less than its value; or to run the risk of having
its value greatly diminished.

The injustice thus inflicted on minorities is, indeed, already
recognized in a vague way. The recently-established Standing Order
of the House of Lords, that before a Company carry out any new
undertaking, three-fourths of the votes of the proprietors shall be
recorded in its favour, clearly implies a perception that the usual
rule of the majority does not apply. And again, in the case of The
Great Western Railway Company _versus_ Rushout, the decision that the
funds of the Company could not be used for purposes not originally
authorized, without a special legislative permit, involves the doctrine
that the will of the greater number is not of unlimited validity. In
both these cases, however, it is taken for granted that a State-warrant
can justify an act which without it would be unjustifiable. We must
take leave to question this. If it be held that an Act of Parliament
can make murder proper, or can give rectitude to robbery; it may be
consistently held that it {95} can sanctify a breach of contract;
but not otherwise. We are not about to enter upon the vexed question
of the standard of right and wrong; and to inquire whether it is the
function of a government to make rules of conduct, or simply to enforce
rules deducible from the laws of social life. We are content, for the
occasion, to adopt the expediency-hypothesis; and adopting it, must
yet contend that, rightly interpreted, it gives no countenance to this
supposed power of a Government to alter the limits of an equitable
contract against the wishes of some of the contracting parties. For,
as understood by its teachers and their chief disciples, the doctrine
of expediency is not a doctrine implying that each particular act is
to be determined by the particular consequences that may be expected
to flow from it; but that the general consequences of entire classes
of acts having been ascertained by induction from experience, rules
shall be framed for the regulation of such classes of acts, and each
rule shall be uniformly applied to every act coming under it. Our whole
administration of justice proceeds on this principle of invariably
enforcing an ordained course, regardless of special results. Were
immediate consequences to be considered, the verdict gained by the rich
creditor against the poor debtor would generally be reversed; for the
starvation of the last is a much greater evil than the inconvenience
of the first. Most thefts arising from distress would go unpunished; a
large proportion of men’s wills would be cancelled; many of the wealthy
would be dispossessed of their fortunes. But it is clearly seen that
were judges thus guided by proximate evils and benefits, the ultimate
result would be social confusion; that what was immediately expedient
would be ultimately inexpedient; and hence the aim at rigorous
uniformity, spite of incidental hardships. Now, the binding nature
of agreements is one of the commonest and most important principles
of civil law. A large part of the causes daily heard in our courts,
involve the {96} question, whether in virtue of some expressed or
understood contract, some of those concerned are, or are not, bound to
certain acts or certain payments. And when it has been decided what
the contract implies, the matter is settled. The contract itself is
held sacred. This sacredness of a contract being, according to the
expediency-hypothesis, justified by the experience of all nations in
all times that it is generally beneficial, it is _not_ competent for
a Legislature to declare that contracts are violable. Assuming that
the contracts are themselves equitable, there is no rational system
of ethics which warrants the alteration or dissolving of them, save
by the consent of all concerned. If then it be shown, as we think it
has been shown, that the contract tacitly entered into by railway
shareholders with each other, has definite limits; it is the function
of the Government to _enforce_, and not to _abolish_, those limits. It
cannot decline to enforce them without running counter, not only to all
theories of moral obligation, but to its own judicial system. It cannot
abolish them without glaring self-stultification.

Returning, now, to the manifold evils of which the cause was asked;
it only remains to point out that, were the just construction of the
proprietary contract insisted upon, such evils would, in great part, be
excluded. The various illicit influences by which Companies are daily
betrayed into disastrous extensions, would necessarily be inoperative
when such extensions could not be undertaken by them. When such
extensions had to be undertaken by independent bodies of shareholders,
with no one to guarantee them good dividends, those who are locally
and professionally interested would find it a less easy matter than at
present to aggrandize themselves at the expense of others.

       *       *       *       *       *

And now as to the policy of thus modifying railway legislation—the
commercial policy we mean. Leaving out of sight the more general social
interests, let us glance at {97} the effects on business interests—the
proximate instead of the ultimate effects. The implication contained
in the last paragraph, that the making of supplementary lines would
no longer be so facile, will be thought to prove the disadvantage of
any such limit as the one advocated. Many will argue, that to restrict
Companies to their original undertakings would fatally cripple railway
enterprise. Many others will remark, that, however detrimental to
shareholders this extension system may have been, it has manifestly
proved beneficial to the public. Both these positions seem to us more
than questionable. We will first look at the last of them.

Even were travelling accommodation the sole thing to be considered, it
would not be true that prodigality in new lines has been advantageous.
The districts supplied have, in many cases, themselves been injured
by it. It is shown by the evidence given before the Select Committee
on Railway and Canal Bills, that in Lancashire, the existence of
competing lines has, in some cases, both diminished the facilities
of communication and increased the cost. It is further shown by this
evidence, that a town obtaining branches from two antagonist Companies,
by-and-by, in consequence of a working arrangement between these
Companies, comes to be worse off than if it had but one branch; and
Hastings is quoted as an example. It is again shown that a district may
be wholly deprived of railway accommodation by granting a superfluity
of lines; as in the case of Wilts and Dorset. In 1844–5, the Great
Western and the South Western Companies projected rival systems of
lines, supplying these and parts of the adjacent counties. The Board of
Trade, “asserting that there was not sufficient traffic to remunerate
an outlay for two independent railways,” reported in favour of the
Great Western schemes; and bills were granted for them: a certain
agreement, suggested by the Board of Trade, being at the same time
made with the South Western, which, in {98} return for specified
advantages, conceded this district to its rival. Notwithstanding
this agreement, the South Western, in 1847, projected an extension
calculated to take most of the traffic from the Great Western
extensions; and in 1848, Parliament, though it had virtually suggested
this agreement, and though the Great Western Company had already spent
a million and a half in part execution of the new lines, authorized
the South Western project. The result was, that the Great Western
Company suspended their works; the South Western Company were unable,
from financial difficulties, to proceed with theirs; the district has
remained for years unaccommodated; and only since the powers granted
to the South Western have expired from delay, has the Great Western
recommenced its long-suspended undertakings.

And if this undue multiplication of supplementary lines has often
directly decreased the facilities of communication, still more has
it done this indirectly, by maintaining the cost of travelling on
the main lines. Little as the public are conscious of the fact,
it is nevertheless true, that they pay for the accommodation of
unremunerative districts, by high fares in remunerative districts.
Before this reckless branch-making commenced, 8 and 9 per cent. were
the dividends returned by our chief railways; and these dividends were
rapidly increasing. The maximum dividend allowed by their Acts is 10
per cent. Had there not been unprofitable extensions, this maximum
would have been reached many years since; and in the absence of the
power to undertake new works, the fact that it had been reached could
not have been hidden. Lower rates for goods and passengers would
necessarily have followed. These would have caused much additional
traffic; and with the aid of the natural increase otherwise going on,
the maximum would shortly again have been reached. There can scarcely
be a doubt that repetitions of this process would, before now, have
reduced the fares and {99} freights on our main lines by at least
one-third. This reduction, be it remembered, would have affected those
railways which subserve commercial and social intercourse in the
greatest degree—would, therefore, have applied to the most important
part of the traffic throughout the kingdom. As it is, however, this
greater proportion of the traffic has been heavily taxed for the
benefit of the smaller proportion. That the tens who travel on branches
might have railway communication, the hundreds who travel along
main lines have been charged 30, or 40 per cent. extra. Nay, worse:
that these few might be accommodated, the many who would have been
brought on to the main lines by lower fares have gone unaccommodated.
Is it then so clear that undertakings which have been disastrous to
shareholders have yet been beneficial to the public?

But it is not only in greater cost of transit that the evil has been
felt; it has been felt also in diminished safety. The multiplication of
railway accidents, which has of late years drawn so much attention, has
been in no inconsiderable degree caused by the extension policy. The
relation is not obvious; and we had ourselves no conception that such
a relation existed, until the facts illustrative of it were furnished
to us by a director who had witnessed the whole process of causation.
When preference-share dividends and guarantees began to make large
draughts upon half-yearly returns—when original stock was greatly
depreciated, and the dividends upon it fell from 9 and 8 per cent. to
4 1/2 and 4 and 3 1/2, great dissatisfaction necessarily arose
among shareholders. There were stormy meetings, motions of censure,
and committees of investigation. Retrenchment was the general cry;
and retrenchment was carried to a most imprudent extent. Directors
with an indignant proprietary to face, and under the fear that their
next dividend would be no greater, perhaps less, than the last,
dared not to lay out money for the needful repairs. {100} Permanent
way, reported to them as requiring to be replaced, was made to serve
awhile longer. Old rolling stock was not superseded by new to the
proper extent; nor increased in proportion to the demand. Committees,
appointed to examine where the expenditure could be cut down, went
round discharging a porter here, dispensing with a clerk there, and
diminishing the salaries of the officials in general. To such a length
was this policy carried, that in one case, to effect a saving of £1200
per annum, the working staff was so crippled as to cause, in the course
of a few years, a loss of probably £100,000: such, at least, is the
opinion of the gentleman on whose authority we make this statement,
who was himself one of the retrenchment committee. What, now, was the
necessary result of all this? With the line out of condition; with
engines and carriages neither sufficient in number nor in the best
working order; with drivers, guards, porters, clerks, and the rest,
decreased to the smallest number with which it was possible to work;
with inexperienced managers in place of the experienced ones driven
away by reduced salaries; what was likely to occur? Was it not certain
that an apparatus of means just competent to deal with the ordinary
traffic, would be incompetent to deal with extraordinary traffic? that
a decimated body of officials under inferior regulation, would fail
in the emergencies sure from time to time to occur? that with way and
works and rolling stock all below par, there would occasionally be a
concurrence of small defects, permitting something to go wrong? Was
not a multiplication of accidents inevitable? No one can doubt it. And
if we trace back this result step by step to its original cause—the
reckless expenditure on new lines—we shall see further reason to doubt
whether such expenditure has been as advantageous to the public as
is supposed. We shall hesitate to indorse the opinion of the Select
Committee on Railway and Canal Bills, that it is {101} desirable “to
increase the facility for obtaining lines of local convenience.”

Still more doubtful becomes the alleged benefit accruing to the
public from extensions which cause loss to shareholders, when, from
considering the question as one of traffic, we turn to consider it as
a general commercial question—a question of political economy. Were
there no facts showing that the travelling facilities gained were
counterbalanced, if not more than counterbalanced, by the travelling
facilities lost; we should still contend that the making of branches
which do not return fair dividends, is a national evil, and not a
national good. The prevalent error committed in studying matters of
this nature, consists in looking at them separately, rather than in
connexion with other social wants and social benefits. Not only does
one of these undertakings, when executed, affect society in various
ways, but the effort put forth in the execution of it affects society
in various ways; and to form a true estimate, the two sets of results
must be compared. The axiom that “action and re-action are equal, and
in opposite directions,” is true, not only in mechanics—it is true
everywhere. No power can be put forth by a nation to achieve a given
end, without producing, for the time being, a corresponding inability
to achieve some other end. No amount of capital can be abstracted
for one purpose, without involving an equivalent lack of capital for
another purpose. Every advantage wrought out by labour, is purchased
by the relinquishment of some alternative advantage which that labour
might else have wrought out. In judging, therefore, of the benefits
flowing from any public undertaking, it is requisite to consider
them not by themselves, but as compared with the benefits which the
invested capital would otherwise have secured. But how can these
relative benefits be measured? it may be asked. Very simply. The rate
of interest which the capital will bring as thus respectively {102}
employed, is the measure. Money which, if used for a certain end,
gives a smaller return than it would give if otherwise used, is used
disadvantageously, not only to its possessors, but to the community.
This is a corollary from the commonest principles of political
economy—a corollary so obvious that we can scarcely understand how,
after the free-trade controversy, a committee, numbering among its
members Mr. Bright and Mr. Cardwell, should have overlooked it. Have
we not been long ago taught, that in the mercantile world capital
goes where it is most wanted—that the business which is at any time
attracting capital by unusually high returns, is a business proved by
that very fact to be unusually active—that its unusual activity shows
society to be making great demands upon it; giving it high profits;
wanting its commodities or services more than other commodities or
services? Do not comparisons among our railways demonstrate that
those paying large dividends are those subserving the public needs
in a greater degree than those paying small dividends? and is it not
obvious that the efforts of capitalists to get these large dividends
led them to supply the greater needs before the lesser needs? Surely,
the same law which holds in ordinary commerce, and also holds between
one railway investment and another, holds likewise between railway
investments and other investments. If the money spent in making
branches and feeders is yielding an average return of from 1 to 2 per
cent.; while if employed in land-draining or ship-building, it would
return 4 or 5 per cent.; it is a conclusive proof that money is more
wanted for land-draining and ship-building than for branch-making. And
the general conclusions to be drawn are, that that large proportion
of railway capital which does not pay the current rate of interest,
is capital ill laid out; that if the returns on such proportion were
capitalized at the current rate of interest, the resulting sum would
represent its real value; and that {103} the difference between this
sum and the amount expended, would indicate the national loss—a loss
which, on the lowest estimate, would exceed £100,000,000. And however
true it may be that the sum invested in unprofitable lines will go on
increasing in productiveness; yet as, if more wisely invested, it would
similarly have gone on increasing in productiveness, perhaps even at a
greater rate, this vast loss must be regarded as a permanent and not as
a temporary one.

Again then, we ask, is it so obvious that undertakings which have
been disastrous to shareholders have been advantageous to the public?
Is it not obvious, rather, that, in this respect, as in others, the
interests of shareholders and the public are in the end identical? And
does it not seem that instead of recommending “increased facilities
for obtaining lines of local convenience,” the Select Committee might
properly have reported that the existing facilities are abnormally
great, and should be decreased?

There remains still to be considered the other of the two objections
above stated as liable to be raised against the proposed interpretation
of the proprietary contract—the objection, namely, that it would be a
serious hindrance to railway enterprise. After what has already been
said, it is scarcely needful to reply, that the hindrance would be no
greater than is natural and healthful—no greater than is requisite
to hold in check the private interests at variance with public ones.
This notion that railway enterprise will not go on with due activity
without artificial incentives—that bills for local extensions “rather
need encouragement,” as the Committee say, is nothing but a remnant
of protectionism. The motive which has hitherto led to the formation
of all independent railway companies—the search of capitalists for
good investments—may safely be left to form others as fast as local
requirements become great enough to promise fair returns—as fast, that
is, as local requirements {104} should be satisfied. This would be
manifest enough without illustration; but there are facts proving it.

Already we have incidentally referred to the circumstance, that it has
of late become common for landowners, merchants, and others locally
interested, to get up railways for their own accommodation, which they
do not expect to pay satisfactory dividends; and in which they are
yet content to invest considerable sums, under the belief that the
indirect profits accruing to them from increased facilities of traffic,
will outbalance the direct loss. To so great an extent is this policy
being carried that, as stated to the Select Committee, “in Yorkshire
and Northumberland, where branch lines are being made through mere
agricultural districts, the landowners are _giving their land_ for the
purpose, and taking shares.” With such examples before us, it cannot
rationally be doubted that there will always be capital forthcoming
for making local lines as soon as the sum of the calculated benefits,
direct and indirect, justifies its expenditure.

“But,” it will be urged, “a branch that would be unremunerative as an
independent property, is often remunerative to the company which has
made it, in virtue of the traffic it brings to the trunk line. Though
yielding meagre returns on its own capital, yet, by increasing the
returns on the capital of the trunk line, it compensates, or more than
compensates. Were the existing company, however, forbidden to extend
its undertaking, such a branch would not be made; and injury would
result.” This is all true, with the exception of the last assertion,
that such a branch would not be made. Though in its corporate capacity
the company owning the trunk line would be unable to execute a work of
this nature, there would be nothing to prevent individual shareholders
in the trunk line from uniting to execute it; and were the prospects as
favourable as is assumed, this course, being manifestly advantageous to
individual shareholders, would be pursued by many of them. If, acting
in concert with others similarly {105} circumstanced, the owner of
£10,000 worth of stock in the trunk line, could aid the carrying out
of a proposed feeder promising to return only 2 per cent. on its cost,
by taking shares to the extent of £1000, it would answer his purpose
to do this, providing the extra traffic it brought would raise the
trunk-line dividend by one-fourth per cent. Thus, under a limited
proprietary contract, companies would still, as now, foster extensions
where they were wanted: the only difference being that, in the absence
of guaranteed dividends, due caution would be shown; and the poorer
shareholders would not, as at present, be sacrificed to the richer.

In brief, our position is, that whenever, by the efforts of all parties
to be advantaged—local landowners, manufacturers, merchants, trunk-line
shareholders, &c., the capital for an extension can be raised—whenever
it becomes clear to all such, that their indirect profits plus their
direct profits will make the investment a paying one; the fact is proof
that the line is wanted. On the contrary, whenever the prospective
gains to those interested are insufficient to induce them to undertake
it, the fact is proof that the line is not wanted so much as other
things are wanted, and therefore _ought not to be made_. Instead, then,
of the principle we advocate being objectionable as a check to railway
enterprise, one of its merits is, that by destroying the artificial
incentives to such enterprise, it would confine it within normal limits.

A perusal of the evidence given before the Select Committee will show
that it has sundry other merits, which we have space only to indicate.

It is estimated by Mr. Laing—and Mr. Stephenson, while declining to
commit himself to the estimate, “does not believe he has overstated
it,”—that out of the £280,000,000 already raised for the construction
of our railways, £70,000,000 has been needlessly spent in contests,
in duplicate lines, in “the multiplication of an immense number of
schemes prosecuted at an almost reckless {106} expense;” and Mr.
Stephenson believes that this sum is “a very inadequate representative
of the actual loss in point of convenience, economy, and other
circumstances connected with traffic, which the public has sustained
by reason of parliamentary carelessness in legislating for railways.”
Under an equitable interpretation of the proprietary contract, the
greater part of this would have been avoided.

The competition between rival companies in extension and branch-making,
which has already done vast injury, and the effects of which, if not
stopped, will, in the opinion of Mr. Stephenson, be such that “property
now paying 5 1/2 per cent. will in ten years be worth only 3 per
cent., and that on twenty-one millions of money”—this competition
could never have existed in its intense and deleterious form under the
limiting principle we advocate.

Prompted by jealousy and antagonism, our companies have obtained powers
for 2000 miles of railway which they have never made. The millions thus
squandered in surveys and parliamentary contests—“food for lawyers and
engineers”—would nearly all have been saved, had each supplementary
line been obtainable only by an independent body of proprietors with no
one to shield them from the penalties of reckless scheming.

It is admitted that the branches and feeders constructed from
competitive motives have not been laid out in the best directions for
the public. To defeat, or retaliate upon, opponents, having been one of
the ends—often the chief end—in making them, routes have been chosen
especially calculated to effect this end; and the local traffic has
in consequence been ill provided for. Had these branches and feeders,
however, been left to the enterprise of their respective districts,
aided by such other enterprise as they could attract, the reverse would
have been the fact; seeing that on the average, in these smaller cases
as in the greater ones, the routes which most accommodate the public
must be the routes most profitable to projectors.

Were the illegitimate competition in extension-making {107} done away,
there would remain between companies just that normal competition which
is advantageous to all. It is not true, as is alleged, that there
cannot exist between railways a competition analogous to that which
exists between traders. The evidence of Mr. Saunders, the secretary of
the Great Western Company, proves the contrary. He shows that where
the Great Western and the North Western railways communicate with the
same towns, as at Birmingham and Oxford, each has tacitly adopted the
fare which the other was charging; and that while there is thus no
competition in fares, there is competition in speed and accommodation.
The results are, that each takes that portion of the traffic which, in
virtue of its position and local circumstances, naturally falls to its
share; that each stimulates the other to give the greatest advantages
it can afford; and that each keeps the other in order by threatening
to take away its natural share of the traffic if, by ill-behaviour or
inefficiency, it counterbalances the special advantages it offers. Now,
this is just the form which competition eventually assumes between
traders. After it has been ascertained by underselling what is the
lowest remunerative price at which any commodity can be sold, the
general results are, that that becomes the established price; that
each trader is content to supply those only who, from proximity or
other causes, naturally come to him; and that only when he treats his
customers ill, need he fear that they will inconvenience themselves by
going elsewhere for their goods.

       *       *       *       *       *

Is there not, then, pressing need for an amendment of the laws
affecting the proprietary contract—an amendment which shall transform
it from an unlimited into a limited contract; or rather—not _transform_
it into such, but _recognize_ it as such? If there be truth in our
argument, the absence of any limitation has been the chief cause of the
manifold evils of our railway administration. The share-trafficking
{108} of directors; the complicated intrigues of lawyers, engineers,
contractors, and others; the betrayal of proprietaries—all the
complicated corruptions which we have detailed, have primarily arisen
from it, have been made possible by it. It has rendered travelling more
costly and less safe than it would have been; and while apparently
facilitating traffic, has indirectly hindered it. By fostering
antagonism, it has led to the ill laying-out of supplementary lines;
to the wasting of enormous sums in useless parliamentary contests; to
the loss of an almost incredible amount of national capital in the
making of railways for which there is no due requirement. Regarded in
the mass, the investments of shareholders have been reduced by it to
less than half the average productiveness which such investments should
possess; and, as all authorities admit, railway property is, even
now, kept below its real value, by the fear of future depreciations
consequent on future extensions. Considering, then, the vastness of
the interests at stake—considering that the total capital of our
companies will soon reach £300,000,000—considering, on the one hand,
the immense number of persons owning this capital (many of them with
no incomes but what are derived from it), and, on the other hand, the
great extent to which the community is concerned, both directly as to
its commercial facilities, and indirectly as to the economy of its
resources—considering all this, it becomes extremely important that
railway property should be placed on a secure footing, and railway
enterprise confined within normal bounds. The change is demanded
alike for the welfare of shareholders and the public. No charge of
over-legislation can be brought against it. It is simply an extension
to joint-stock contracts, of the principle applied to all other
contracts; it is merely a fulfilment of the State’s judicial function
in cases hitherto neglected; it is nothing but a better administration
of justice.

       *       *       *       *       *


POSTSCRIPT.—That the proprietary contract should be {109} strictly
adhered to, and no undertakings beyond those specified in the
deed of incorporation entered upon, is a doctrine unpalatable to
those in authority. A friend who, as chairman of one of our great
railway-companies, has been familiar with railway-politics and
parliamentary usages in connexion with them, contends that such a
restrictive interpretation would be unworkable; and, further, that the
legislature would never allow itself to be shackled in the implied way.

That he is right in the last of these assertions I think highly
probable. In face of the currently accepted dogma that an Act of
Parliament can do anything, it is foolish to expect that Parliament
would, by ethical considerations, be restrained from breaking
contracts and authorizing the breaking of contracts. When we see this
dogma habitually acted upon to the extent of trampling under foot
State-guarantees (as in the case of those who purchased land under
the Irish Encumbered Estates Act, or as in the case of agreements
originally entered into with companies to confer on them certain powers
under certain conditions) it would be absurd to suppose that any tender
regard for the claims of dissentient proprietors would deter the
ruling body from cancelling the understanding under which shareholders
consented to co-operate. Men must be much more conscientious than they
are before any such check is likely to be effective.

To the other objection—that such a restriction would entail an
unworkable complication—I entirely demur. That its consequences would
be awkward under our present form of railway-administration may be
true; but it is also true that had such a restriction been insisted on,
another and better form of railway-administration would have arisen.
This will probably be thought an unwarranted assertion. Nevertheless
I make it with some confidence, since the form of administration to
which I refer is one which was, in a different guise, contemplated
when railways {110} were originally authorized. To those whose only
conception of the mode of carrying on railway-traffic is that derived
from their daily observations, this will be an incomprehensible
statement; but those who remember how railways were originally intended
to be used will know what I mean.

Novel schemes are always more or less shaped by old habits. At the time
when the first railways were authorized, the experience men had of
coach-travelling on high roads, affected in various ways the structures
of the new appliances and the natures of the new arrangements. The
railway gauge was determined by the width between the wheels of a
stage-coach. Early first-class carriages were made to appear like the
central parts of three stage-coaches joined together: preserving their
convex panels and curved outlines, and frequently having, on the centre
one, the words “_Tria juncta in uno_.” The inside of the first-class
carriage was fitted up to resemble the inside of a stage-coach; and
the original second-class carriage, having bare wooden seats over
which, on vertical iron rods, was supported a roof allowing the wind
and rain to blow through from side to side, was so designed as to be
scarcely more comfortable than the outside of a coach. For some years
the guard had a seat on the outside, at the end of a carriage, as on
a coach; and for many years the luggage, covered with tarpaulin, was
placed on the roofs of carriages, as on the outsides of coaches. Once
more the booking-offices were at first like the booking-offices for
stage-coaches—places where passengers entered their names to secure
seats. Little as the fact is now recognized, this kinship of ideas
extended to the contemplated arrangements for working. Men thought
that traffic on railways might be carried on after the same manner as
traffic on high roads. It was assumed that on lines of rails, where the
passing of vehicles going in the same direction is impracticable, the
system pursued might be like that in use on high roads, {111} where
vehicles can pass and re-pass in any direction and join or leave the
stream at will. Does the reader ask proof of this? The proof lies in
the fact, well-known to those who were adult in the early days of
railways, that in the office or waiting-room of every railway-station
was fixed up a table of tolls, like that which was fixed up at every
toll-gate; but in this case specifying the rate chargeable per mile for
all things carried—passengers, horses, cattle, goods, &c. This table
of tolls implied that it was within the power of others besides the
company to run vehicles on the company’s line, and pay them at such and
such rates for the privilege of doing so—a privilege which, so far as
I know, was never made use of, for the sufficient reason that it would
have been impossible to carry on business amid the confusion which
would have resulted.

But while this arrangement, in the form implied, would have been
impracticable, it foreshadows an arrangement which would have been
practicable; and one which would have grown up had each railway company
been limited to the undertaking specified in its deed of incorporation.
After experience of inefficient co-operation, when so many independent
bodies owning branches and extensions had to adjust their train
services, &c., there would, in all probability, have been formed what
we may call running-companies or traffic-companies, separate from the
original railway-companies. Each one of these would have proposed to
the companies owning the various main lines, extensions, and branches,
within some large district conveniently delimited, to undertake the
working of their various lines: either taking them severally on lease,
or agreeing to give a specified share of the net returns annually
received, or agreeing to pay certain tolls for passengers and goods.
Under such an arrangement the original companies, standing in the
position of landlords, would have had for their chief business to keep
the embankments, cuttings, bridges, permanent way, stations, &c., in
working {112} order; while the running-companies, standing in the
position of tenants, but owning the rolling-stock, would have had for
their business to conduct the passenger and goods traffic throughout
the whole area, with power to arrange the workings of the various
subdivisions of the system in a harmonious manner. Clearly, if there
is an advantage in division of labour in other cases, there would have
been an advantage in this case. The fixed works constituting each of
these inter-connected railways would have been kept in more perfect
repair, had preservation of them been the exclusive business of the
companies owning them; while the running-companies, with nothing
to attend to beyond the keeping in order of their rolling-stock
and the management of train-services &c. would have done this more
satisfactorily.

A further reason for believing that better results would have been
achieved than are now achieved, is that under such circumstances
there would have been no absorption of directors’ time in carrying on
railway-wars and getting new acts of parliament—a business which, under
the existing system, has chiefly occupied the attention of boards.

The enforcement of equitable arrangements is often fraught with
unanticipated benefits; and there seems reason to think that
unanticipated benefits would have resulted in this case also.

{113}



THE MORALS OF TRADE.

[_First published in_ The Westminster Review _for April 1859_.]


We are not about to repeat, under the above title, the often-told
tale of adulterations: albeit, were it our object to deal with this
familiar topic, there are not wanting fresh materials. It is rather the
less-observed and less-known dishonesties of trade, to which we would
here draw attention. The same lack of conscientiousness which shows
itself in the mixing of starch with cocoa, in the dilution of butter
with lard, in the colouring of confectionery with chromate of lead and
arsenite of copper, must of course come out in more concealed forms;
and these are nearly, if not quite, as numerous and as mischievous.

It is not true, as many suppose, that only the lower classes of the
commercial world are guilty of fraudulent dealing. Those above them
are to a great extent blameworthy. On the average, men who deal in
bales and tons differ but little in morality from men who deal in yards
and pounds. Illicit practices of every form and shade, from venial
deception up to all but direct theft, may be brought home to the higher
grades of our commercial world. Tricks innumerable, lies acted or
uttered, elaborately-devised frauds, are prevalent: {114} many of them
established as “customs of the trade;” nay, not only established, but
defended.

Passing over, then, the much-reprobated shopkeepers, of whose
delinquencies most people know something, let us turn our attention to
the delinquencies of the classes above them in the mercantile scale.

       *       *       *       *       *

The business of wholesale houses—in the clothing-trades at least—is
chiefly managed by a class of men called “buyers.” Each wholesale
establishment is usually divided into several departments; and at the
head of each department is placed one of these functionaries. A buyer
is a partially-independent sub-trader. At the beginning of the year he
is debited with a certain share of the capital of his employers. With
this capital he trades. From the makers he orders for his department
such goods as he thinks will find a market; and for the goods thus
bought he obtains as large a sale as he can among the retailers of his
connexion. The accounts show at the end of the year what profit has
been made on the capital over which he has command; and, according
to the result, his engagement is continued—perhaps at an increased
salary—or he is discharged.

Under such circumstances, bribery would hardly be expected. Yet we
learn, on unquestionable authority, that buyers habitually bribe and
are bribed. Giving presents, as a means of obtaining custom, is an
established practice between them and all with whom they have dealings.
Their connexions among retailers they extend by treating and favours;
and they are themselves influenced in their purchases by like means. It
might be presumed that self-interest would in both cases negative this.
But apparently, no very obvious sacrifice results from yielding to such
influences. When, as usually happens, there are many manufacturers
producing articles of like goodness at the same prices, or many buyers
between whose commodities and whose terms there is little room for
choice, there exists no {115} motive to purchase of one rather than
another; and then the temptation to take some immediate bonus turns
the scale. Whatever be the cause, however, the fact is testified to
us alike in London and the provinces. By manufacturers, buyers are
sumptuously entertained for days together, and are plied throughout the
year with hampers of game, turkeys, dozens of wine, etc.: nay, they
receive actual money-bribes; sometimes, as we hear from a manufacturer,
in the shape of bank-notes, but more commonly in the shape of discounts
on the amounts of their purchases. The extreme prevalence—universality
we might say—of this system, is proved by the evidence of one who,
disgusted as he is, finds himself inextricably entangled in it. He
confessed to us that all his transactions were thus tainted. “Each of
the buyers with whom I deal,” he said, “expects an occasional bonus in
one form or other. Some require the bribe to be wrapped up; and some
take it without disguise. To an offer of money, this one replies—‘Oh,
I don’t like that sort of thing,’ but nevertheless, does not object to
money’s-worth; while my friend So-and-so, who promises to bring me a
large trade this season, will, I very well know, look for one per cent.
discount in cash. The thing is not to be avoided. I could name sundry
buyers who look askance at me, and never will inspect my goods; and I
have no doubt about the cause—I have not bought their patronage.” And
then our informant appealed to another of the trade, who agreed in the
assertion that in London their business could not be done on any other
terms. So greedy do some of these buyers become, that their perquisites
absorb a great part of the profits, and make it a question whether
it is worth while to continue the dealing with them. Next, as above
hinted, there comes a like history of transactions between buyers and
retailers—the bribed being now the bribers. One of those above referred
to as habitually expecting douceurs, said to the giver of them, whose
testimony we have just repeated—“I’ve spent pounds and pounds over
――― {116} (naming a large tailor), and now I think I have gained him
over.” To which confession this buyer added the complaint, that his
house did not make him any allowance for sums thus disbursed.

Under the buyer, who has absolute control of his own department
in a wholesale house, come sundry assistants, who transact the
business with retail traders; much as retail trader’s assistants
transact the business with the general public. These higher-class
assistants, working under the same pressure as the lower, are similarly
unscrupulous. Liable to prompt dismissal as they are for failure in
selling; gaining higher positions as they do in proportion to the
quantities of goods they dispose of at profitable rates; and finding
that no objections are made to any dishonest artifices they use, but
rather that they are applauded for them; these young men display a
scarcely credible demoralization. As we learn from those who have been
of them, their duplicity is unceasing—they speak almost continuous
falsehood; and their tricks range from the simplest to the most
Machiavellian. Take a few samples. When dealing with a retailer, it is
an habitual practice to bear in mind the character of his business; and
to delude him respecting articles of which he has least experience. If
his shop is in a neighbourhood where the sales are chiefly of inferior
goods (a fact ascertained from the traveller), it is inferred that,
having a comparatively small demand for superior goods, he is a bad
judge of them; and advantage is taken of his ignorance. Again, it is
usual purposely to present samples of cloths, silks, etc., in such
order as to disqualify the perceptions. As, when tasting different
foods or wines, the palate is disabled by something strongly flavoured,
from appreciating the more delicate flavour of another thing afterwards
taken; so with the other organs of sense, a temporary disability
follows an excessive stimulation. This holds not only with the eyes
in judging of colours, but also, as we are told by one who has been
in the trade, it holds with the fingers in judging of textures; and
cunning {117} salesmen are in the habit of thus partially paralysing
the customers’ perceptions, and then selling second-rate articles as
first-rate ones. Another common manœuvre is that of raising a false
belief of cheapness. Suppose a tailor is laying in a stock of broad
cloths. He is offered a bargain. Three pieces are put before him—two of
good quality, at, perhaps, 14_s._ per yard; and one of much inferior
quality, at 8_s._ per yard. These pieces have been purposely a little
tumbled and creased, to give an apparent reason for a pretended
sacrifice upon them. And the tailor is then told that he may have
these nominally-damaged cloths as “a job lot,” at 12_s._ per yard.
Misled by the appearances into a belief of the professed sacrifice;
impressed, moreover, by the fact that two of the pieces are really
worth considerably more than the price asked; and not sufficiently
bearing in mind that the great inferiority of the third just balances
this; the tailor probably buys; and he goes away with the comfortable
conviction that he has made a specially-advantageous purchase, when
he has really paid the full price for every yard. A still more subtle
trick has been described to us by one who himself made use of it, when
engaged in one of these wholesale-houses—a trick so successful that he
was often sent for to sell to customers who could be induced to buy
by none other of the assistants, and who ever afterwards would buy
only of him. His policy was to seem extremely simple and honest, and,
during the first few purchases, to exhibit his honesty by pointing
out defects in the things he was selling; and then, having gained the
customer’s confidence, he proceeded to pass off upon him inferior
goods at superior prices. These are a few out of the various manœuvres
in constant practice. Of course there is a running accompaniment of
falsehoods, uttered as well as acted. It is expected of the assistant
that he will say whatever is needed to effect a sale. “Any fool can
sell what is wanted,” said a master in reproaching a shopman for not
having persuaded a customer to buy something quite unlike that which
he asked {118} for. And the unscrupulous mendacity thus required by
employers, and encouraged by example, grows to a height of depravity
that has been described to us in words too strong to be repeated.
Our informant was obliged to relinquish his position in one of these
establishments, because he could not lower himself to the required
depth of degradation. “You don’t lie as though you believe what you
say,” observed one of his fellow-assistants. And this was uttered as a
reproach!

As those subordinates who have fewest qualms of conscience are those
who succeed the best, are soonest promoted to more remunerative posts,
and have therefore the greatest chances of establishing businesses of
their own; it may be inferred that the morality of the heads of these
establishments, is much on a par with that of their _employés_. The
habitual malpractices of wholesale houses, confirm this inference.
Not only, as we have just seen, are assistants under a pressure
impelling them to deceive purchasers respecting the qualities of the
goods they buy, but purchasers are also deceived in respect to the
quantities; and that, not by an occasional unauthorized trick, but by
an organized system, for which the firm itself is responsible. The
general practice is to make up goods, or to have them made up, in
lengths that are shorter than they profess to be. A piece of calico
nominally thirty-six yards long, never measures more than thirty-one
yards—is understood throughout the trade to measure only so much. And
the long-accumulating delinquencies which this custom indicates—the
successive diminutions of length, each introduced by some adept in
dishonesty, and then imitated by his competitors—are now being daily
carried to a still greater extent, wherever they are not likely to be
immediately detected. Articles that are sold in small bundles, knots,
packets, or such forms as negative measurement at the time of sale, are
habitually deficient in quantity. Silk-laces called six quarters, or
fifty-four {119} inches, really measure four quarters, or thirty-six
inches. Tapes were originally sold in grosses containing twelve knots
of twelve yards each; but these twelve-yard-knots are now cut of all
lengths, from eight yards down to five yards, and even less—the usual
length being six yards. That is to say, the 144 yards which the gross
once contained, has now in some cases dwindled down to 60 yards. In
widths, as well as in lengths, this deception is practised. French
cotton-braid, for instance (French only in name), is made of different
widths; which are respectively marked 5, 7, 9, 11, etc.: each figure
indicating the number of threads of cotton which the width includes, or
rather should include, but does not. For those which should be marked
5 are marked 7; and those which should be marked 7 are marked 9: out
of three samples from different houses shown to us by our informant,
only one contained the alleged number of threads. Fringe, again, which
is sold wrapped on card, will often be found two inches wide at the
end exposed to view, but will diminish to one inch at the end next the
card; or perhaps the first twenty yards will be good, and all the rest,
hidden under it, will be bad. These frauds are committed unblushingly,
and as a matter of business. We have ourselves read in an agent’s
order-book, the details of an order, specifying the actual lengths of
which the articles were to be cut, and the much greater lengths to be
marked on the labels. And we have been told by a manufacturer who was
required to make up tapes into lengths of fifteen yards, and label them
“warranted 18 yards,” that when he did not label them falsely, his
goods were sent back to him; and that the greatest concession he could
obtain was to be allowed to send them without labels.

It is not to be supposed that in their dealings with manufacturers,
these wholesale-houses adopt a code of morals differing much from
that which regulates their dealings with retailers. The facts prove
it to be much the {120} same. A buyer for instance (who exclusively
conducts the purchases of a wholesale-house from manufacturers) will
not unfrequently take from a first-class maker, a small supply of
some new fabric, on the pattern of which much time and money have
been spent; and this new-pattern fabric he will put into the hands
of another maker, to have copied in large quantities. Some buyers,
again, give their orders orally, that they may have the opportunity of
afterwards repudiating them if they wish; and in a case narrated to us,
where a manufacturer who had been thus deluded, wished on a subsequent
occasion to guarantee himself by obtaining the buyer’s signature to his
order, he was refused it. For other unjust acts of wholesale-houses,
the heads of these establishments are, we presume, responsible. Small
manufacturers working with insufficient capital, and in times of
depression not having the wherewith to meet their engagements, are
often obliged to become dependants on the wholesale-houses with which
they deal; and are then cruelly taken advantage of. One who has thus
committed himself, has either to sell his accumulated stock at a
great sacrifice—thirty to forty per cent. below its value—or else to
mortgage it; and when the wholesale-house becomes the mortgagee, the
manufacturer has little chance of escape. He is obliged to work at the
wholesale-dealer’s terms; and ruin almost certainly follows. This is
especially the case in the silk-hosiery business. As was said to us by
one of the larger silk-hosiers, who had watched the destruction of many
of his smaller brethren—“They may be spared for a time as a cat spares
a mouse; but they are sure to be eaten up in the end.” And we can the
more readily credit this statement from having found that a like policy
is pursued by some provincial curriers in their dealings with small
shoe-makers; and also by hop-merchants and maltsters in their dealings
with small publicans. We read that in Hindostan the ryots, when crops
fall short, borrow from the Jews to buy seed; and {121} once in their
clutches are doomed. It seems that our commercial world can furnish
parallels.

Of another class of wholesale-traders—those who supply grocers with
foreign and colonial produce—we may say that though, in consequence
of the nature of their business, their malpractices are less numerous
and multiform, as well as less glaring, they bear the same stamp as
the foregoing. Unless it is to be supposed that sugar and spices are
moral antiseptics as well as physical ones, it must be expected that
wholesale dealers in them will transgress much as other wholesale
dealers do, in those directions where the facilities are greatest. And
the truth is that, both in the qualities and quantities of the articles
they sell, they take advantage of the retailers. The descriptions they
give of their commodities are habitually misrepresentations. Samples
sent round to their customers are characterized as first-rate when
they are really second-rate. The travellers are expected to endorse
these untrue statements; and unless the grocer has adequate keenness
and extensive knowledge, he is more or less deceived. In some cases,
indeed, no skill will save him. There are frauds that have grown up
little by little into customs of the trade, which the retailer must
submit to. In the purchase of sugar, for example, he is imposed on
in respect alike of the goodness and the weight. The history of the
dishonesty is this. Originally the tare allowed by the merchant on each
hogshead, was 14 per cent. of the gross weight. The actual weight of
the wood of which the hogshead was made, was at that time about 12 per
cent. of the gross weight. And thus the trade-allowance left a profit
of 2 per cent. to the buyer. Gradually, however, the hogshead has grown
thicker and heavier; until now, instead of amounting to 12 per cent.
of the gross weight, it amounts to 17 per cent. As the allowance of 14
per cent. still continues, the result is that the retail grocer loses
3 per cent.: to the extent of 3 per cent. he buys wood {122} in place
of sugar. In the quality of the sugar, he is deluded by the practice
of giving him a sample from the best part of the hogshead. During its
voyage from Jamaica or elsewhere, the contents of a hogshead undergo a
slow drainage. The molasses, of which more or less is always present,
filters from the uppermost part of the mass of sugar to the lowermost
part; and this lowermost part, technically known as the “foots,” is
of darker colour and smaller value. The quantity of it contained
in a hogshead varies greatly; and the retailer, receiving a false
sample, has to guess what the quantity of “foots” may be; and, to his
cost, often under-estimates it. As will be seen from the following
letter, copied from the _Public Ledger_ for the 20th Oct., 1858, these
grievances, more severe even than we have represented them, are now
exciting an agitation.

 “_To the Retail Grocers of the United Kingdom._

 “Gentlemen,—The time has arrived for the trade at once to make a move
 for the revision of tares on all raw sugars. Facts prove the evil of
 the present system to be greatly on the increase. We submit a case as
 under, and only one out of twenty. On the 30th August, 1858, we bought
 3 hogsheads of Barbados, mark TG
                                K

      Invoice Tares.                 Re Tares.
 No.   cwt.  qrs.  lb.  lb.        No.  cwt.  qrs.  lb.
  1     1     2    14    6 drft.    1    1     3    27
  7     1     2     7               7    1     3    20
  3     1     2    21               3    1     3    27
        ─────────────                    ─────────────
        4     3    20                    5     3    18
                        Deduct           4     3    20
                                         ─────────────   _s._  £  _s._  _d._
                                         0     3    26 at 42 — 2   1     3

 “We make a claim for £2. 1_s._ 3_d._; we are told by the wholesale
 grocer there is no redress.

 “There is another evil which the retail grocer has to contend with,
 that is, the mode of sampling raw sugars: the foots are excluded
 from the merchants’ samples. Facts will prove that in thousands of
 hogsheads of Barbados this season there is an average of 5 cwt. of
 foots in each; we have turned out some with 10 cwt., which are at
 least 5_s._ per cwt. less value than sample, and in these cases we are
 told again there is no redress.

 “These two causes are bringing hundreds of hard-working men to ruin
 {123} and will bring hundreds more unless the trade take it up, and
 we implore them to unite in obtaining so important a revision.

 “We are, Gentlemen, your obedient servants,

 “WALKER and STAINES.[6]

 “Birmingham, October 19, 1858.”

   [6] The abuses described in this letter have now, we believe, been
   abolished.

A more subtle method of imposition remains to be added. It is the
practice of sugar-refiners to put moist, crushed sugar into dried
casks. During the time that elapses before one of these casks is opened
by the retailer, the desiccated wood has taken up the excess of water
from the sugar; which is thus brought again into good condition. When
the retailer, finding that the cask weighs much more than was allowed
as tare by the wholesale dealer, complains to him of this excess, the
reply is—“Send it up to us, and we will _dry it_ and weigh it, as is
the custom of the trade.”

Without further detailing these malpractices, of which the above
examples are perhaps the worst, we will advert only to one other
point in the transactions of these large houses—the drawing-up of
trade-circulars. It is the habit of many wholesale dealers to send
round to their customers, periodic accounts of the past transactions,
present condition, and prospects of the markets. Serving as checks on
each other, as they do, these documents are prevented from swerving
very widely from the truth. But it is scarcely to be expected that
they should be quite honest. Those who issue them, being in most
cases interested in the prices of the commodities referred to in
their circulars, are swayed by their interests in the representations
they make respecting the probabilities of the future. Far-seeing
retailers are on their guard against this. A large provincial grocer,
who thoroughly understands his business, said to us—“As a rule, I
throw trade-circulars on the fire.” And that this estimate of their
trustworthiness is not unwarranted, we gather from the expressions of
those engaged in other businesses. From two leather-dealers, one in
the country and one in London, we have heard the same complaint {124}
against the circulars published by houses in their trade, that they
are misleading. Not that they state untruths; but that they produce
false impressions by leaving out facts which they should have stated.

       *       *       *       *       *

In illustrating the morality of manufacturers, we shall confine
ourselves to one class—those who work in silk. And it will be the most
convenient method of arranging facts, to follow the silk through its
various stages; from its state when imported, to its state when ready
for the wearer.

Bundles of raw silk from abroad—not uncommonly weighted with rubbish,
stones, or rouleaux of Chinese copper coin, to the loss of the
buyer—are disposed of by auction. Purchases are made on behalf of the
silk-dealers by “sworn brokers;” and the regulation is, that these
sworn brokers shall confine themselves to their functions as agents.
From a silk-manufacturer, however, we learn that they are currently
understood to be themselves speculators in silk, either directly or
by proxy; and that as thus personally interested in prices, they
become faulty as agents. We give this, however, simply as a prevailing
opinion, for the truth of which we do not vouch.

The silk bought by the London dealer, he sends into the manufacturing
districts to be “thrown;” that is, to be made into thread fit for
weaving. In the established form of bargain between the silk-dealer
and the silk-throwster, we have a strange instance of an organized and
recognized deception; which has seemingly grown out of a check on a
previous deception. The throwing of silk is necessarily accompanied
by some waste, from broken ends, knots, and fibres too weak to wind.
This waste varies in different kinds of silk from 3 per cent. to 20 per
cent.: the average being about 5 per cent. The per-centage of waste
being thus variable, it is obvious that in the absence of restraint,
a dishonest silk-throwster might abstract a portion of the silk; and,
on returning the rest to the dealer, might plead {125} that the great
diminution in weight had resulted from the large amount of loss in the
process of throwing. Hence there has arisen a system, called “working
on cost,” which requires the throwster to send back to the dealer
the same weight of silk which he receives: the meaning of the phrase
being, we presume, that whatever waste the throwster makes must be at
his own cost. Now, as it is impossible to throw silk without _some_
waste—at least 3 per cent., and ordinarily 5 per cent.—this arrangement
necessitates a deception; if, indeed, that can be called a deception
which is tacitly understood by all concerned. The silk has to be
weighted. As much as is lost in throwing, has to be made up by some
foreign substance introduced. Soap is largely used for this. In small
quantity, soap is requisite to facilitate the running of the threads
in the process of manufacture; and the quantity is readily increased.
Sugar also is used. And by one means or other, the threads are made to
absorb enough matter to produce the desired weight. To this system all
silk-throwsters are obliged to succumb; and some of them carry it to
a great extent, as a means of hiding either carelessness or something
worse.

The next stage through which silk passes, is that of dyeing. Here,
too, impositions have grown chronic and general. In times past, as we
learn from a ribbon-manufacturer, the weighting by water was the chief
dishonesty. Bundles returned from the dyer’s, if not manifestly damp,
still, containing moisture enough to make up for a portion of the silk
that had been kept back; and precautions had to be taken to escape
losses thus entailed. Since then, however, there has arisen a method
of deception which leaves this far behind—that of employing heavy
dyes. The following details have been given us by a silk-throwster.
It is now, he says, some five-and-thirty years since this method was
commenced. Before that time silk lost a considerable part of its weight
in the copper. The ultimate fibre of silk is coated, in issuing from
the spinneret of the silk-worm, with {126} a film of varnish which is
soluble in boiling water. In dyeing, therefore, this film, amounting
to 25 per cent. of the entire weight of the silk, is dissolved off;
and the silk is rendered that much lighter. So that originally, for
every sixteen ounces of silk sent to the dyer’s, only twelve ounces
were returned. Gradually, however, by the use of heavy dyes, this
result has been reversed. The silk now gains in weight; and sometimes
to a scarcely credible extent. According to the requirement, silk is
sent back from the dyer’s of any weight, from twelve ounces to the
pound up to forty ounces to the pound. The original pound of silk,
instead of losing four ounces, as it naturally would, is actually,
when certain black dyes are used, made to gain as much as twenty-four
ounces! Instead of 25 per cent. lighter, it is returned 150 per cent.
heavier—is weighted with 175 per cent. of foreign matter! Now as,
during this stage of its manufacture, the transactions in silk are
carried on by weight, it is manifest that in the introduction and
development of this system, we have a long history of frauds. At
present all in the trade are aware of it, and on their guard against
it. Like other modes of adulteration, in becoming established and
universal, it has ceased to be profitable to any one. But it still
serves to indicate the morals of those concerned.

The thrown and dyed silk passes into the hands of the weaver; and here
again we come upon dishonesties. Manufacturers of figured silks sin
against their fellows by stealing their patterns. The laws which have
been found necessary to prevent this species of piracy, show that it
has been carried to a great extent. Even now it is not prevented. One
who has himself suffered from it, tells us that manufacturers still
get one another’s designs by bribing the workmen. In their dealings
with “buyers,” too, some manufacturers resort to deceptions: perhaps
tempted to do so by the desire to compensate themselves for the heavy
tax paid in treating, etc. Goods which have already been seen {127}
and declined by other buyers, are brought before a subsequent one with
artfully-devised appearances of secrecy, accompanied by professions
that these goods have been specially reserved for his inspection:
a manœuvre by which an unwary man is sometimes betrayed. That the
process of production has its delusions, scarcely needs saying. In the
ribbon-trade, for example, there is a practice called “top-ending;”
that is, making the first three yards good, and the rest (which is
covered when rolled up) of bad or loose texture—80 “shutes” to the inch
instead of 108. And then there comes the issuing of imitations made
of inferior materials—textile adulterations as we may call them. This
practice of debasement, not an occasional but an established one, is
carried to a surprising extent, and with surprising rapidity. Some new
fabric, first sold at 7_s._ 6_d._ per yard, is supplanted by successive
counterfeits; until at the end of eighteen months a semblance of it is
selling at 4_s._ 3_d._ per yard. Nay, still greater depreciations of
quality and price take place—from 10_s._ down to 3_s._, and even 2_s._
per yard. Until at length the badness of these spurious fabrics becomes
so conspicuous, that they are unsaleable; and there ensues a reaction,
ending either in the reintroduction of the original fabric, or in the
production of some novelty to supply its place.

       *       *       *       *       *

Among our notes of malpractices in trade, retail, wholesale, and
manufacturing, we have many others that must be passed over. We cannot
here enlarge on the not uncommon trick of using false trade-marks; or
of imitating another maker’s wrappers. We must be satisfied with simply
referring to the doings of apparently-reputable houses, which purchase
goods known to be dishonestly obtained. And we are obliged to refrain
from particularizing certain established arrangements, existing under
cover of the highest respectability, which seem intended to facilitate
these nefarious transactions. The frauds we have detailed {128} are
but samples of a state of things which it would take a volume to
describe in full.

The further instances of trading-immorality which it seems desirable
here to give, are those which carry with them a certain excuse: showing
as they do how insensibly, and almost irresistibly, men are thrust
into vicious practices. Always, no doubt, some utterly unconscientious
trader is the first to introduce a new form of fraud. He is by-and-by
followed by others who wear their moral codes but loosely. The more
upright traders are continually tempted to adopt this questionable
device which those around them are adopting. The greater the number who
yield, and the more familiar the device becomes, the more difficult
is it for the remainder to stand out against it. The pressure of
competition upon them becomes more and more severe. They have to fight
an unequal battle: debarred as they are from one of the sources of
profit which their antagonists possess. And they are finally almost
compelled to follow the lead of the rest. Take for example what
has happened in the candle-trade. As all know, the commoner kinds
of candles are sold in bunches, supposed to weigh a pound each.
Originally, the nominal weight corresponded with the real weight. But
at present the weight is habitually short by an amount varying from
half an ounce to two ounces—is sometimes depreciated 12 1/2 per
cent. If, now, an honest chandler offers to supply a retailer at, say,
six shillings for the dozen pounds, the answer he receives is—“Oh, we
get them for five-and-eightpence.” “But mine,” replies the chandler,
“are of full weight; while those you buy at five-and-eightpence are
not.” “What does that matter to me?” the retailer rejoins—“a pound
of candles is a pound of candles: my customers buy them in the
bunch, and won’t know the difference between yours and another’s.”
And the honest chandler, being everywhere met with this argument,
finds that he must either make his bunches of short weight, or give
up business. Take another case, which, {129} like the last, we have
direct from the mouth of one who has been obliged to succumb. It is
that of a manufacturer of elastic webbing, now extensively used in
making boots, etc. From a London house with which he dealt largely,
this manufacturer recently received a sample of webbing produced by
some one else, accompanied by the question, “Can you make us this
at ——— per yard?” (naming a price below that at which he had before
supplied them); and hinting that if he could not do so they must go
elsewhere. On pulling to pieces the sample (which he showed to us),
this manufacturer found that sundry of the threads which should have
been of silk were of cotton. Indicating this fact to those who sent
him the sample, he replied that, if he made a like substitution, he
could furnish the fabric at the price named; and the result was that
he eventually did thus furnish it. He saw that if he did not do so, he
must lose a considerable share of his trade. He saw further, that if
he did not at once yield, he would have to yield in the end; for that
other elastic-webbing-makers would one after another engage to produce
this adulterated fabric at correspondingly diminished prices; and that
when at length he stood alone in selling an apparently-similar article
at a higher price, his business would leave him. This manufacturer we
have the best reasons for knowing to be a man of fine moral nature,
both generous and upright; and yet we here see him obliged, in a sense,
to implicate himself in one of these processes of vitiation. It is a
startling assertion, but it is none the less a true one, that those
who resist these corruptions often do it at the risk of bankruptcy;
sometimes the certainty of bankruptcy. We do not say this simply as
a manifest inference from the conditions, as above described. We say
it on the warrant of instances which have been given to us. From one
brought up in his house, we have had the history of a draper who,
carrying his conscience into his shop, refused to commit the current
frauds of the trade. He would not represent his {130} goods as of
better quality than they really were; he would not say that patterns
were just out, when they had been issued the previous season; he
would not warrant to wash well, colours which he knew to be fugitive.
Refraining from these and the like malpractices of his competitors;
and, as a consequence, daily failing to sell various articles which
his competitors would have sold by force of lying; his business was so
unremunerative that he twice became bankrupt. And in the opinion of
our informant, he inflicted more evil upon others by his bankruptcies,
than he would have done by committing the usual trade-dishonesties.
See, then, how complicated the question becomes; and how difficult to
estimate the trader’s criminality. Often—generally indeed—he has to
choose between two wrongs. He has tried to carry on his business with
strict integrity. He has sold none but genuine articles, and has given
full measure. Others in the same business adulterate or otherwise
delude, and are so able to undersell him. His customers, not adequately
appreciating the superiority in the quality or quantity of his goods,
and attracted by the apparent cheapness at other shops, desert him.
Inspection of his books proves the alarming fact that his diminishing
returns will soon be insufficient to meet his engagements, and provide
for his increasing family. What then must he do? Must he continue his
present course; stop payment; inflict heavy losses on his creditors;
and, with his wife and children, turn out into the streets? Or must he
follow the example of his competitors; use their artifices; and give
his customers the same apparent advantages? The last not only seems
the least detrimental to himself, but also may be considered the least
detrimental to others. Moreover, the like is done by men regarded as
respectable. Why should he ruin himself and family in trying to be
better than his neighbours? He will do as they do.

Such is the position of the trader; such is the reasoning by which
he justifies himself; and it is hard to visit him {131} with harsh
condemnation. Of course this statement of the case is by no means
universally true. There are businesses in which, competition being
less active, the excuse for falling into corrupt practices does not
hold; and here, indeed, we find corrupt practices much less prevalent.
Many traders, too, have obtained connexions which secure to them
adequate returns without descending to small rogueries; and they have
no defence if they thus degrade themselves. Moreover, there are the
men—commonly not prompted by necessity but by greed—who introduce
these adulterations and petty frauds; and on these should descend
unmitigated indignation: both as being themselves criminals without
excuse, and as causing criminality in others. Leaving out, however,
these comparatively small classes, most traders by whom the commoner
businesses are carried on, must receive a much more qualified censure
than they at first sight seem to deserve. On all sides we have met with
the same conviction, that for those engaged in the ordinary trades
there are but two courses—either to adopt the practices of their
competitors, or to give up business. Men in different occupations and
in different places—men naturally conscientious, who manifestly chafed
under the degradations they submitted to, have one and all expressed to
us the sad belief that it is impossible to carry on trade with strict
rectitude. Their concurrent opinion, independently given by each, is
that the scrupulously honest man must go to the wall.

       *       *       *       *       *

But that it has been, during the past year, frequently treated by
the daily press, we might here enter at some length on the topic of
banking-delinquencies. As it is, we may presume all to be familiar with
the facts, and shall limit ourselves to making a few comments.

In the opinion of one whose means of judging have been second to those
of few, the directors of joint-stock-banks have rarely been guilty of
direct dishonesty. Admitting {132} notorious exceptions, the general
fact appears to be that directors have had no immediate interests
in furthering these speculations which have proved so ruinous to
depositors and shareholders; but have usually been among the greatest
sufferers. Their fault has rather been the less flagitious, though
still grave fault, of indifference to their responsibilities. Often
with very inadequate knowledge they have undertaken to trade with
property belonging in great part to needy people. Instead of using as
much care in the investment of this property as though it were their
own, many of them have shown culpable recklessness: either themselves
loaning the entrusted capital without adequate guarantee, or else
passively allowing their colleagues to do this. Sundry excuses may
doubtless be made for them. The well-known defects of a corporate
conscience, caused by divided responsibility, must be remembered in
mitigation. And it may also be pleaded for such delinquents that
if shareholders, swayed by reverence for mere wealth and position,
choose as directors, not the most intelligent, the most experienced,
and those of longest-tried probity, but those of largest capital or
highest rank, the blame must not be cast solely on the men so chosen,
but must be shared by the men who choose them. Nay, further, it must
fall on the public as well as on shareholders; seeing that this
unwise selection of directors is in part determined by the known bias
of depositors. But after all allowances have been made, it must be
admitted that these bank-administrators who risk the property of their
clients by lending it to speculators, are near akin in morality to the
speculators themselves. As these speculators risk other men’s money in
undertakings which they hope will be profitable; so do the directors
who lend them the money. If these last plead that the money thus lent
is lent with the belief that it will be repaid with good interest, the
first may similarly plead that they expect their investment to return
the borrowed capital along with a {133} handsome profit. In each
case the transaction is one of which the evil consequences, if they
come, fall more largely on others than on the actors. And though it
may be contended, on behalf of the director, that what he does is done
chiefly for the benefit of his constituents, whereas the speculator has
in view only his own benefit; it may be replied that the director’s
blameworthiness is not the less because he took a rash step with a
comparatively weak motive. The truth is that when a bank-director lends
the capital of shareholders to those to whom he would not lend his own
capital, he is guilty of a breach of trust. In tracing the gradations
of crime, we pass from direct robbery to robbery one, two, three, or
more degrees removed. Though a man who speculates with other people’s
money is not chargeable with direct robbery, he is chargeable with
robbery one degree removed: he deliberately stakes his neighbour’s
property, intending to appropriate the gain, if any, and to let his
neighbour suffer the loss, if any: his crime is that of contingent
robbery. And hence any one who, standing like a bank-director in the
position of trustee, puts the money with which he is entrusted into a
speculator’s hands, must be called an accessory to contingent robbery.

If so grave a condemnation is to be passed on those who lend
trust-money to speculators, as well as on the speculators who borrow
it, what shall we say of the still more delinquent class who obtain
loans by fraud—who not only pawn other men’s property when obtained,
but obtain it under false pretences? For how else than thus must we
describe the doings of those who raise money by accommodation-bills?
When A and B agree, the one to draw and the other to accept a bill
of £1000 for “value received;” while in truth there has been no sale
of goods between them, or no value received; the transaction is not
simply an embodied lie, but it becomes thereafter a living and active
lie. Whoever discounts the bill, does so in the {134} belief that B,
having become possessed of £1000 worth of goods, will, when the bill
falls due, have either the £1000 worth of goods or some equivalent,
with which to meet it. Did he know that there were no such goods in the
hands of either A or B, and no other property available for liquidating
the bill, he would not discount it—he would not lend money to a man of
straw without security. Had A taken to the bank a forged mortgage-deed,
and obtained a loan upon it, he would not have committed a greater
wrong. Practically, an accommodation-bill is a forgery. It is an error
to suppose that forgery is limited to the production of documents
that are _physically_ false—that contain signatures or other symbols
which are not what they appear to be: forgery, properly understood,
equally includes the production of documents that are _morally_ false.
What constitutes the crime committed in forging a bank-note? Not the
mere mechanical imitation. This is but a means to the end; and, taken
alone, is no crime at all. The crime consists in deluding others into
the acceptance of what seems to be a representative of so much money,
but which actually represents nothing. It matters not whether the
delusion is effected by copying the forms of the letters and figures,
as in a forged bank-note, or by copying the form of expression, as in
an accommodation-bill. In either case a semblance of value is given to
that which has no value; and it is in giving this false appearance of
value that the crime consists. It is true that generally, the acceptor
of an accommodation-bill hopes to be able to meet it when due. But if
those who think this exonerates him, will remember the many cases in
which, by the use of forged documents, men have obtained possession of
moneys which they hoped presently to replace, and were nevertheless
judged guilty of forgery, they will see that the plea is insufficient.
We contend, then, that the manufacturers of accommodation-bills should
be classed as forgers. That if the law so classed them, much good
would result, we are {135} not prepared to say. Several questions
present themselves:—Whether such a change would cause inconvenience,
by negativing the many harmless transactions carried on under this
fictitious form by solvent men? Whether making it penal to use the
words “value received,” unless there _had_ been value received, would
not simply originate an additional class of bills in which these words
were omitted? Whether it would be an advantage if bills bore on their
faces proofs that they did or did not represent actual sales? Whether
a restraint on undue credit would result, when bankers and discounters
saw that certain bills coming to them in the names of speculative or
unsubstantial traders, were avowed accommodation-bills? But these
are questions we need not go out of our way to discuss. We are here
concerned only with the morality of the question.

Duly to estimate the greatness of the evils indicated, however, we
must bear in mind both that the fraudulent transactions thus entered
into are numerous, and that each generally becomes the cause of
others. The original lie is commonly the parent of further lies, which
again give rise to an increasing progeny; and so on for successive
generations, multiplying as they descend. When A and B find their
£1000 bill about to fall due, and the expected proceeds of their
speculation not forthcoming—when they find, as they often do, either
that the investment has resulted in a loss instead of a gain; or that
the time for realizing their hoped-for profits, has not yet come; or
that the profits, if there are any, do not cover the extravagances of
living which, in the meantime, they have sanguinely indulged in—when,
in short, they find that the bill cannot be taken up; they resort to
the expedient of manufacturing other bills with which to liquidate
the first. And while they are about it, they usually think it will be
as well to raise a somewhat larger sum than is required to meet their
outstanding engagements. Unless it happens that great success enables
{136} them to redeem themselves, this proceeding is repeated, and
again repeated. So long as there is no monetary crisis, it continues
easy thus to keep afloat; and, indeed, the appearance of prosperity
which is given by an extended circulation of bills in their names,
bearing respectable indorsements, creates a confidence in them which
renders the obtainment of credit easier than at first. And where, as
in some cases, this process is carried to the extent of employing men
in different towns throughout the kingdom, and even in distant parts
of the world, to accept bills, the appearances are still better kept
up, and the bubble reaches a still greater development. As, however,
all these transactions are carried on with borrowed capital, on which
interest has to be paid; as, further, the maintenance of this organized
fraud entails constant expenses, as well as occasional sacrifices;
and as it is in the very nature of the system to generate reckless
speculation; the fabric of lies is almost certain ultimately to fall;
and, in falling, to ruin or embarrass others besides those who had
given credit.

Nor does the evil end with the direct penalties from time to time
inflicted on honest traders. There is also a grave indirect penalty
which they suffer from the system. These forgers of credit are
habitually instrumental in lowering prices below their natural level.
To meet emergencies, they are obliged every now and then to sell goods
at a loss: the alternative being immediate stoppage. Though with each
such concern, this is but an occasional incident, yet, taking the whole
number of them connected with any one business, it results that there
are generally some who are making sacrifices—generally some who are
unnaturally depressing the market. In short, the capital fraudulently
obtained from some traders is, in part, dissipated in rendering the
business of other traders deficiently remunerative: often to their
serious embarrassment.

If, however, the whole truth must be said, the condemnation visited on
these commercial vampires is not to be {137} confined to them; but
is in some degree deserved by a much more numerous class. Between the
penniless schemer who obtains the use of capital by false pretences,
and the upright trader who never contracts greater liabilities than
his estate will liquidate, there lie all gradations. From businesses
carried on entirely with other people’s capital, obtained by forgery,
we pass to businesses in which there is a real capital of one-tenth
and a credit-capital of nine-tenths; to other businesses in which the
ratio of real to fictitious capital is somewhat greater; and so on
until we reach the very extensive class of men who trade but a little
beyond their means. To get more credit than would be given were the
state of the business known, is in all cases the aim; and the cases
in which this credit is partially unwarranted, differ only in degree
from those in which it is wholly unwarranted. As most are beginning to
see, the prevalence of this indirect dishonesty has not a little to
do with our commercial disasters. Speaking broadly, the tendency is
for every trader to hypothecate the capital of other traders, as well
as his own. And when A has borrowed on the strength of B’s credit; B
on the strength of C’s; and C on the strength of A’s—when, throughout
the trading world, each has made engagements which he can meet only by
direct or indirect aid—when everybody is wanting help from some one
else to save him from falling; a crash is certain. The punishment of a
general unconscientiousness may be postponed, but it is sure to come
eventually.

       *       *       *       *       *

The average commercial morality cannot, of course, be accurately
depicted in so brief a space. On the one hand, we have been able to
give but a few typical instances of the malpractices by which trade is
disgraced. On the other hand, we have been obliged to present these
alone; unqualified by the large amount of honest dealing throughout
which they are dispersed. While, by accumulating such evidences, the
indictment may be made heavier; by diluting them {138} with the
immense mass of equitable transactions daily carried on, the verdict
would be mitigated. After making every allowance, however, we fear
that the state of things is very bad. Our impression on this point
is due less to the particular facts above given, than to the general
opinion expressed by our informants. On all sides we have found
the result of long personal experience, to be the conviction that
trade is essentially corrupt. In tones of disgust or discouragement,
reprehension or derision, according to their several natures, men in
business have one after another expressed or implied this belief.
Omitting the highest mercantile classes, a few of the less common
trades, and those exceptional cases where an entire command of the
market has been obtained, the uniform testimony of competent judges
is, that success is incompatible with strict integrity. To live in
the commercial world it appears necessary to adopt its ethical code:
neither exceeding nor falling short of it—neither being less honest
nor more honest. Those who sink below its standard are expelled;
while those who rise above it are either pulled down to it or ruined.
As, in self-defence, the civilized man becomes savage among savages;
so, it seems that in self-defence, the scrupulous trader is obliged
to become as little scrupulous as his competitors. It has been said
that the law of the animal creation is—“Eat and be eaten;” and of
our trading community it may similarly be said that its law is—Cheat
and be cheated. A system of keen competition, carried on, as it is,
without adequate moral restraint, is very much a system of commercial
cannibalism. Its alternatives are—Use the same weapons as your
antagonists or be conquered and devoured.

Of questions suggested by these facts, one of the most obvious
is—Are not the prejudices which have ever been entertained against
trade and traders, thus fully justified? do not these meannesses
and dishonesties, and the moral degradation they imply, warrant the
disrespect shown to men in business? A prompt affirmative answer will
{139} probably be looked for; but we very much doubt whether it
should be given. We are rather of opinion that these delinquencies are
products of the average character placed under special conditions.
There is no reason for assuming that the trading classes are
intrinsically worse than other classes. Men taken at random from higher
and lower ranks, would, most likely, if similarly circumstanced, do
much the same. Indeed the mercantile world might readily recriminate.
Is it a solicitor who comments on their misdoings? They may quickly
silence him by referring to the countless dark stains on the reputation
of his fraternity. Is it a barrister? His frequent practice of putting
in pleas which he knows are not valid, and his established habit of
taking fees for work he does not perform, make his criticism somewhat
suicidal. Does the condemnation come through the press? The condemned
may remind those who write, of the fact that it is not quite honest
to utter a positive verdict on a book merely glanced through, or to
pen glowing eulogies on the mediocre work of a friend while slighting
the good one of an enemy; and they may further ask whether those who,
at the dictation of an employer, write what they disbelieve, are not
guilty of the serious offence of adulterating public opinion. Moreover,
traders might contend that many of their delinquencies are thrust on
them by the injustice of their customers. They, and especially drapers,
might point to the fact that the habitual demand for an abatement of
price, is made in utter disregard of their reasonable profits; and
that, to protect themselves against attempts to gain by their loss,
they are obliged to name prices greater than those they intend to take.
They might also urge that the straits to which they are often brought
by non-payment of large sums due from their wealthier customers, is
itself a cause of their malpractices: obliging them, as it does, to
use all means, illegitimate as well as legitimate, for getting the
wherewith to meet their engagements. And then, after proving that
those without {140} excuse show this disregard of other men’s claims,
traders might ask whether they, who have the excuse of having to
contend with a merciless competition, are alone to be blamed if they
display a like disregard in other forms. Nay, even to the guardians
of social rectitude—members of the legislature—they might use the _tu
quoque_ argument: asking whether bribery of a customer’s servant,
is any worse than bribery of an elector? or whether the gaining
of suffrages by clap-trap hustings-speeches, containing insincere
professions adapted to the taste of the constituency, is not as bad as
getting an order for goods by delusive representations respecting their
quality? No; few if any classes are free from immoralities which are as
great, _relatively to the temptations_, as these we have been exposing.
Of course they will not be so petty or so gross where the circumstances
do not prompt pettiness or grossness; nor so constant and organized
where the class-conditions have not tended to make them habitual. But,
taken with these qualifications, we think that much might be said for
the proposition that the trading classes, neither better nor worse
intrinsically than other classes, are betrayed into their flagitious
habits by external causes.

Another question, here naturally arising, is—Are not these evils
growing worse? Many of the facts we have cited seem to imply that they
are. Yet there are many other facts which point as distinctly the
other way. In weighing the evidence, we must bear in mind that the
greater public attention at present paid to such matters, is itself a
source of error—is apt to generate the belief that evils now becoming
recognized are evils that have recently arisen; when in truth they
have merely been hitherto disregarded, or less regarded. It has been
clearly thus with crime, with distress, with popular ignorance; and
it is very probably thus with trading-dishonesties. As it is true of
individual beings, that their height in the scale of creation may be
measured by the degree of their self-consciousness; {141} so, in a
sense, it is true of societies. Advanced and highly-organized societies
are distinguished from lower ones by the evolution of something that
stands for a _social self-consciousness_. Among ourselves there
has, happily, been of late years a remarkable growth of this social
self-consciousness; and we believe that to this is chiefly ascribable
the impression that commercial malpractices are increasing. Such facts
as have come down to us respecting the trade of past times, confirm
this view. In his _Complete English Tradesman_, Defoe mentions, among
other manœuvres of retailers, the false lights which they introduced
into their shops, for the purpose of giving delusive appearances
to their goods. He comments on the “shop rhetorick,” the “flux of
falsehoods,” which tradesmen habitually uttered to their customers;
and quotes their defence as being that they could not live without
lying. He says, too, that there was scarce a shopkeeper who had not a
bag of spurious or debased coin, from which he gave change whenever he
could; and that men, even the most honest, triumphed in their skill in
getting rid of bad money. These facts show that the mercantile morals
of that day were, at any rate, not better than ours; and if we call to
mind the numerous Acts of Parliament passed in old times to prevent
frauds of all kinds, we perceive the like implication. As much may,
indeed, be safely inferred from the general state of society. When,
reign after reign, governments debased the coinage, the moral tone of
the middle classes could scarcely have been higher than now. Among
generations whose sympathy with the claims of fellow-creatures was so
weak, that the slave-trade was not only thought justifiable, but the
initiator of it was rewarded by permission to record the feat in his
coat of arms, it is hardly possible that men respected the claims of
their fellow-citizens more than at present. Times characterized by an
administration of justice so inefficient, that there were in London
nests of criminals who defied the law, and on all high roads robbers
who eluded it, cannot {142} have been distinguished by just mercantile
dealings. While, conversely, an age which, like ours, has seen so many
equitable social changes thrust on the legislature by public opinion,
is very unlikely to be an age in which the transactions between
individuals have been growing more inequitable. Yet, on the other hand,
it is undeniable that many of the dishonesties we have described are
of modern origin. Not a few of them have become established during
the last thirty years; and others are even now arising. How are these
seeming contradictions to be reconciled?

The reconciliation is not difficult. It lies in the fact that while
the _direct_ frauds have been diminishing, the _indirect_ frauds have
been increasing: alike in variety and in number. And this admission we
take to be consistent with the opinion that the standard of commercial
morals is higher than it was. For if we omit, as excluded from the
question, the penal restraints—religious and legal—and ask what is the
ultimate moral restraint to the aggression of man on man, we find it to
be—sympathy with the pain inflicted. Now the keenness of the sympathy,
depending on the vividness with which this pain is realized, varies
with the conditions of the case. It may be active enough to check
misdeeds which will manifestly cause great suffering, and yet not be
active enough to check misdeeds which will cause but slight annoyance.
While sufficiently acute to prevent a man from doing that which will
entail immediate injury on a known person, it may not be sufficiently
acute to prevent him from doing that which will entail remote injuries
on unknown persons. And we find the facts to agree with this deduction,
that the moral restraint varies according to the clearness with which
the evil consequences are conceived. Many a one who would shrink
from picking a pocket does not scruple to adulterate his goods; and
he who never dreams of passing base coin will yet be a party to
joint-stock-bank deceptions. Hence, as we say, the multiplication of
the more subtle and complex forms of {143} fraud, is consistent with
a general progress in morality; provided it is accompanied with a
decrease in the grosser forms of fraud.

       *       *       *       *       *

But the question which most concerns us is, not whether the morals
of trade are better or worse than they have been? but rather—why are
they so bad? Why in this civilized state of ours, is there so much
that betrays the cunning selfishness of the savage? Why, after the
careful inculcations of rectitude during education, comes there in
after-life all this knavery? Why, in spite of all the exhortations to
which the commercial classes listen every Sunday, do they next morning
recommence their evil deeds? What is this so potent agency which almost
neutralizes the discipline of education, of law, of religion?

Various subsidiary causes that might be assigned, must be passed over,
that we may have space to deal with the chief cause. In an exhaustive
statement, something would have to be said on the credulity of
consumers, which leads them to believe in representations of impossible
advantages; and something, too, on their greediness, which, ever
prompting them to look for more than they ought to get, encourages
sellers to offer delusive bargains. The increased difficulty of living
consequent on growing pressure of population, might perhaps come in
as a part cause; and that greater cost of bringing up a family, which
results from the higher standard of education, might be added. But
the chief inciter of these trading malpractices is intense desire for
wealth. And if we ask—Why this intense desire? the reply is—It results
from the _indiscriminate respect paid to wealth_.

To be distinguished from the common herd—to be somebody—to make a
name, a position—this is the universal ambition; and to accumulate
riches is alike the surest and the easiest way of fulfilling this
ambition. Very early in life all learn this. At school, the court
paid to one whose {144} parents have called in their carriage to see
him, is conspicuous; while the poor boy whose insufficient stock of
clothes implies the small means of his family, soon has burnt into
his memory the fact that poverty is contemptible. On entering the
world, the lessons which may have been taught about the nobility of
self-sacrifice, the reverence due to genius, the admirableness of high
integrity, are quickly neutralized by experience: men’s actions proving
that these are not their standards of respect. It is soon perceived
that while abundant outward marks of deference from fellow-citizens
may almost certainly be gained by directing every energy to the
accumulation of property, they are but rarely to be gained in any other
way; and that even in the few cases in which they are otherwise gained,
they are not given with entire unreserve, but are commonly joined
with a more or less manifest display of patronage. When, seeing this,
the young man further sees that while the acquisition of property is
possible with his mediocre endowments, the acquirement of distinction
by brilliant discoveries, or heroic acts, or high achievements in
art, implies faculties and feelings which he does not possess; it is
not difficult to understand why he devotes himself heart and soul to
business.

We do not mean to say that men act on the consciously reasoned-out
conclusions thus indicated; but we mean that these conclusions are the
unconsciously-formed products of their daily experiences. From early
childhood the sayings and doings of all around them have generated
the idea that wealth and respectability are two sides of the same
thing. This idea, growing with their growth, and strengthening with
their strength, becomes at last almost what we may call an organic
conviction. And this organic conviction it is which prompts the
expenditure of all their energies in money-making. We contend that the
chief stimulus is not the desire for the wealth itself, but for the
applause and position which the wealth brings. And in this belief, we
{145} find ourselves at one with various intelligent traders with whom
we have talked on the matter. It is incredible that men should make
the sacrifices, mental and bodily, which they do, merely to get the
material benefits which money purchases. Who would undertake an extra
burden of business for the purpose of getting a cellar of choice wines
for his own drinking? He who does it, does it that he may have choice
wines to give his guests and gain their praises. What merchant would
spend an additional hour at his office daily, merely that he might
move into a house in a more fashionable quarter? He submits to the
tax not to gain health and comfort but for the sake of the increased
social consideration which the new house will bring him. Where is the
man who would lie awake at nights devising means of increasing his
income, in the hope of being able to provide his wife with a carriage,
were the use of the carriage the sole consideration? It is because
of the _éclat_ which the carriage will give, that he enters on these
additional anxieties. So manifest, so trite, indeed, are these truths,
that we should be ashamed of insisting on them, did not our argument
require it.

For if the desire for that homage which wealth brings, is the chief
stimulus to these strivings after wealth, then the giving of this
homage (when given, as it is, with but little discrimination) is the
chief cause of the dishonesties into which these strivings betray
mercantile men. When the shopkeeper, on the strength of a prosperous
year and favourable prospects, has yielded to his wife’s persuasions,
and replaced the old furniture with new, at an outlay greater than
his income covers—when, instead of the hoped-for increase, the next
year brings a decrease in his returns—when he finds that his expenses
are out-running his revenue; then does he fall under the strongest
temptation to adopt some newly-introduced adulteration or other
malpractice. When, having by display gained a certain recognition, the
wholesale trader begins to give dinners {146} appropriate only to
those of ten times his income, with other expensive entertainments to
match—when, having for a time carried on this style at a cost greater
than he can afford, he finds that he cannot discontinue it without
giving up his position; then is he most strongly prompted to enter
into larger transactions, to trade beyond his means, to seek undue
credit, to get into that ever-complicating series of misdeeds which
ends in disgraceful bankruptcy. And if these are the facts then is it
an unavoidable conclusion that the blind admiration which society gives
to mere wealth, and the display of wealth, is the chief source of these
multitudinous immoralities.

Yes, the evil is deeper than appears—draws its nutriment from far
below the surface. This gigantic system of dishonesty, branching out
into every conceivable form of fraud, has roots which run underneath
our whole social fabric, and, sending fibres into every house, suck
up strength from our daily sayings and doings. In every dining-room
a rootlet finds food, when the conversation turns on So-and-so’s
successful speculations, his purchase of an estate, his probable
worth—on this man’s recent large legacy, and the other’s advantageous
match; for being thus talked about is one form of that tacit respect
which men struggle for. Every drawing-room furnishes nourishment
in the admiration awarded to costliness—to silks that are “rich,”
that is, expensive; to dresses that contain an enormous quantity of
material, that is, are expensive; to laces that are hand-made, that
is, expensive; to diamonds that are rare, that is, expensive; to china
that is old, that is, expensive. And from scores of small remarks and
minutiæ of behaviour which, in all circles, hourly imply how completely
the idea of respectability involves that of costly externals, there is
drawn fresh pabulum.

We are all implicated. We all, whether with self-approbation or not,
give expression to the established feeling. Even he who disapproves
this feeling finds himself unable to {147} treat virtue in threadbare
apparel with a cordiality as great as that which he would show to the
same virtue endowed with prosperity. Scarcely a man is to be found who
would not behave with more civility to a knave in broadcloth than to
a knave in fustian. Though for the deference which they have shown to
the vulgar rich, or the dishonestly successful, men afterwards compound
with their consciences by privately venting their contempt; yet when
they again come face to face with these imposing externals covering
worthlessness, they do as before. And so long as imposing worthlessness
gets the visible marks of respect, while the disrespect felt for it is
hidden, it naturally flourishes.

Hence, then, is it that men persevere in these evil practices which
all condemn. They can so purchase a homage which, if not genuine, is
yet, so far as appearances go, as good as the best. To one whose wealth
has been gained by a life of frauds, what matters it that his name is
in all circles a synonym of roguery? Has he not been conspicuously
honoured by being twice elected mayor of his town? (we state a fact)
and does not this, joined to the personal consideration shown him,
outweigh in his estimation all that is said against him; of which
he hears scarcely anything? When, not many years after the exposure
of his inequitable dealing, a trader attains to the highest civic
distinction which the kingdom has to offer, and that, too, through the
instrumentality of those who best know his delinquency, is not the fact
an encouragement to him, and to all others, to sacrifice rectitude to
aggrandizement? If, after listening to a sermon that has by implication
denounced the dishonesties he has been guilty of, the rich ill-doer
finds, on leaving church, that his neighbours cap to him, does not
this tacit approval go far to neutralize the effect of all he has
heard? The truth is that with the great majority of men, the visible
expression of social opinion is far the most efficient of incentives
and restraints. Let any one who wishes to estimate the strength {148}
of this control, propose to himself to walk through the streets in the
dress of a dustman, or hawk vegetables from door to door. Let him feel,
as he probably will, that he had rather do something morally wrong
than commit such a breach of usage and suffer the resulting derision.
He will then better estimate how powerful a curb to men is the open
disapproval of their fellows, and how, conversely, the outward applause
of their fellows is a stimulus surpassing all others in intensity.
Fully realizing which facts, he will see that the immoralities of trade
are in great part traceable to an immoral public opinion.

Let none infer, from what has been said, that the payment of respect
to wealth rightly acquired and rightly used, is deprecated. In its
original meaning, and in due degree, the feeling which prompts such
respect is good. Primarily, wealth is the sign of mental power; and
this is always respectable. To have honestly-acquired property, implies
intelligence, energy, self-control; and these are worthy of the homage
that is indirectly paid to them by admiring their results. Moreover,
the good administration and increase of inherited property, also
requires its virtues; and therefore demands its share of approbation.
And besides being applauded for their display of faculty, men who gain
and increase wealth are to be applauded as public benefactors. For he
who, as manufacturer or merchant, has, without injustice to others,
realized a fortune, is thereby proved to have discharged his functions
better than those who have been less successful. By greater skill,
better judgment, or more economy than his competitors, he has afforded
the public greater advantages. His extra profits are but a share of the
extra produce obtained by the same outlay: the other share going to the
consumers. And similarly, the landowner who, by judicious investment
of money, has increased the value (that is, the productiveness) of his
estate, has thereby added to the stock of national capital. By all
means, then, {149} let the right acquisition and proper use of wealth
have their due share of admiration.

But that which we condemn as the chief cause of commercial dishonesty,
is the _indiscriminate_ admiration of wealth—an admiration that has
little or no reference to the character of the possessor. When, as
generally happens, the external signs are reverenced where they
signify no internal worthiness—nay, even where they cover internal
unworthiness; then does the feeling become vicious. It is this idolatry
which worships the symbol apart from the thing symbolized, that is
the root of all these evils we have been exposing. So long as men
pay homage to those social benefactors who have grown rich honestly,
they give a wholesome stimulus to industry; but when they accord a
share of their homage to those social malefactors who have grown
rich dishonestly, then do they foster corruption—then do they become
accomplices in all these frauds of commerce.

       *       *       *       *       *

As for remedy, it manifestly follows that there is none save a
purified public opinion. When that abhorrence which society now shows
to direct theft, is shown to theft of all degrees of indirectness;
then will these mercantile vices disappear. When not only the trader
who adulterates or gives short measure, but also the merchant who
over-trades, the bank-director who countenances an exaggerated report,
and the railway-director who repudiates his guarantee, come to be
regarded as of the same genus as the pickpocket, and are treated with
like disdain; then will the morals of trade become what they should be.

We have little hope, however, that any such higher tone of public
opinion will shortly be reached. The present condition of things
appears to be, in great measure, a necessary accompaniment of our
present phase of progress. Throughout the civilized world, especially
in England, and above all in America, social activity is almost wholly
expended in material development. To subjugate Nature {150} and bring
the powers of production and distribution to their highest perfection,
is the task of our age, and probably will be the task of many future
ages. And as in times when national defence and conquest were the chief
desiderata, military achievement was honoured above all other things;
so now, when the chief desideratum is industrial growth, honour is
most conspicuously given to that which generally indicates the aiding
of industrial growth. The English nation at present displays what we
may call the commercial diathesis; and the undue admiration for wealth
appears to be its concomitant—a relation still more conspicuous in
the worship of “the almighty dollar” by the Americans. And while the
commercial diathesis, with its accompanying standard of distinction,
continues, we fear the evils we have been delineating can be but
partially cured. It seems hopeless to expect that men will distinguish
between that wealth which represents personal superiority and benefits
done to society, from that which does not. The symbols, the externals,
have all the world through swayed the masses, and must long continue to
do so. Even the cultivated, who are on their guard against the bias of
associated ideas, and try to separate the real from the seeming, cannot
escape the influence of current opinion. We must therefore content
ourselves with looking for a slow amelioration.

Something, however, may even now be done by vigorous protest against
adoration of mere success. And it is important that it should be done,
considering how this vicious sentiment is being fostered. When we have
one of our leading moralists preaching, with increasing vehemence,
the doctrine of sanctification by force—when we are told that while
a selfishness troubled with qualms of conscience is contemptible,
a selfishness intense enough to trample down everything in the
unscrupulous pursuit of its ends is worthy of admiration—when we find
that if it be sufficiently great, power, no matter of what kind or how
directed, is held up for our reverence; we may fear lest the prevalent
applause {151} of mere success, together with the commercial vices
which it stimulates, should be increased rather than diminished. Not at
all by this hero-worship grown into brute-worship is society to be made
better, but by exactly the opposite—by a stern criticism of the means
through which success has been achieved, and by according honour to the
higher and less selfish modes of activity.

And happily the signs of this more moral public opinion are showing
themselves. It is becoming a tacitly-received doctrine that the
rich should not, as in bygone times, spend their lives in personal
gratification; but should devote them to the general welfare. Year
by year is the improvement of the people occupying a larger share of
the attention of the upper classes. Year by year are they voluntarily
devoting more energy to furthering the material and mental progress
of the masses. And those among them who do not join in the discharge
of these high functions, are beginning to be looked upon with more or
less contempt by their own order. This latest and most hopeful fact in
human history—this new and better chivalry—promises to evolve a higher
standard of honour, and so to ameliorate many evils: among others those
which we have detailed. When wealth obtained by illegitimate means
inevitably brings nothing but disgrace—when to wealth rightly acquired
is accorded only its due share of homage, while the greatest homage is
given to those who consecrate their energies and their means to the
noblest ends; then may we be sure that, along with other accompanying
benefits, the morals of trade will be greatly purified.

{152}



PRISON-ETHICS.

[_First published in_ The British Quarterly Review _for July 1860_.]


The two antagonist theories of morals, like many other antagonist
theories, are both right and both wrong. The _a priori_ school has
its truth; the _a posteriori_ school has its truth; and for the
proper guidance of conduct, there must be due recognition of both. On
the one hand, it is asserted that there is an absolute standard of
rectitude; and, respecting certain classes of actions, it is rightly
so asserted. From the fundamental laws of life and the conditions of
social existence, are deducible certain imperative limitations to
individual action—limitations which are essential to a perfect life,
individual and social; or, in other words, essential to the greatest
happiness. And these limitations, following inevitably as they do
from undeniable first principles, deep as the nature of life itself,
constitute what we may distinguish as absolute morality. On the other
hand it is contended, and in a sense rightly contended, that with men
as they are and society as it is, the dictates of absolute morality
are impracticable. Legal control, which involves infliction of pain,
alike on those who are restrained and on those who pay the cost of
restraining them, is proved by this fact to be not absolutely moral;
seeing that absolute morality is the regulation of conduct in such way
that pain shall not be inflicted. {153}

Wherefore, if it be admitted that legal control is at present
indispensable, it must be admitted that these _a priori_ rules cannot
be immediately carried out. And hence it follows that we must adapt
our laws and actions to the existing character of mankind—that we must
estimate the good or evil resulting from this or that arrangement,
and so reach, _a posteriori_, a code fitted for the time being. In
short, we must fall back on expediency. Now, each of these positions
being valid, it is a grave mistake to adopt either to the exclusion
of the other. They should be respectively appealed to for mutual
qualification. Progressing civilization, which is of necessity a
succession of compromises between old and new, requires a perpetual
readjustment of the compromise between the ideal and the practicable
in social arrangements: to which end both elements of the compromise
must be kept in view. If it is true that pure rectitude prescribes a
system of things too good for men as they are; it is not less true
that mere expediency does not of itself tend to establish a system
of things any better than that which exists. While absolute morality
owes to expediency the checks which prevent it from rushing into
utopian absurdities; expediency is indebted to absolute morality for
all stimulus to improvement. Granted that we are chiefly interested in
ascertaining what is _relatively right_; it still follows that we must
first consider what is _absolutely right_; since the one conception
presupposes the other. That is to say, though we must ever aim to do
what is best for the present times, yet we must ever bear in mind what
is abstractedly best; so that the changes we make may be _towards_ it,
and not _away_ from it. Unattainable as pure rectitude is, and will
long continue to be, we must keep an eye on the compass which tells
us whereabout it lies; or we shall otherwise wander in the opposite
direction.

Illustrations from our recent history will show very conclusively,
we think, how important it is that {154} considerations of abstract
expediency should be joined with those of concrete expediency—how
immense would be the evils avoided and the benefits gained, if _a
posteriori_ morality were enlightened by _a priori_ morality. Take
first the case of free trade. Until recently it has been the practice
of all nations, artificially to restrict their commerce with other
nations. Throughout past centuries this course was defensible as
conducing to safety. Without saying that law-givers had the motive of
promoting industrial independence, it may yet be said that in ages when
national quarrels were perpetual, it would not have been well for any
people to be much dependent on others for necessary commodities. But
though there is this ground for asserting that commercial restrictions
were once expedient, it cannot be asserted that our corn-laws were thus
justified: it cannot be alleged that the penalties and prohibitions
which, until lately, hampered our trade, were needful to prevent us
from being industrially disabled by a war. Protection in all its forms
was established and maintained for other reasons of expediency; and
the reasons for which it was opposed and finally abolished were also
those of expediency. Calculations of immediate and remote consequences
were set forth by the antagonist parties; and the mode of decision was
by a balancing of these various anticipated consequences. And what,
after generations of mischievous legislation and long years of arduous
struggle, was the conclusion arrived at, and since justified by the
results? Exactly the one which abstract equity plainly teaches. The
moral course proves to be the politic course. That ability to exercise
the faculties, the total denial of which causes death—that liberty to
pursue the objects of desire, without which there cannot be complete
life—that freedom of action which his nature prompts every individual
to claim, and on which equity puts no limit save the like freedom
of action of other individuals, involves, among other corollaries,
freedom of exchange. {155} Government which, in protecting citizens
from murder, robbery, assault or other aggression, shows us that it
has the all-essential function of securing to each this free exercise
of faculties within the assigned limits, is called on, in the due
discharge of its function, to maintain this freedom of exchange;
and cannot abrogate it without reversing its function, and becoming
aggressor instead of protector. Thus, absolute morality would all along
have shown in what direction legislation should tend. Qualified only by
the consideration that in turbulent times they must not be so carried
out as to endanger national life, through suspensions in the supply of
necessaries, these _a priori_ principles would have guided statesmen,
as fast as circumstances allowed, towards the normal condition. We
should have been saved from thousands of needless restrictions. Such
restrictions as were needful would have been abolished as soon as was
safe. An enormous amount of suffering would have been prevented. That
prosperity which we now enjoy would have commenced much sooner. And
our present condition would have been one of greater power, wealth,
happiness, and morality.

Our railway-politics furnish another instance. A vast loss of national
capital has been incurred, and great misery has been inflicted, in
consequence of the neglect of a simple principle clearly dictated by
abstract justice. Whoso enters into a contract, though he is bound to
do that which the contract specifies, is not bound to do some other
thing which is neither specified nor implied in the contract. We do
not appeal to moral perception only in warranty of this position. It
is one deducible from that first principle of equity which, as above
pointed out, follows from the laws of life, individual and social;
and it is one which the accumulated experience of mankind has so
uniformly justified, that it has become a tacitly-recognized doctrine
of civil law among all nations. In cases of disputes about agreements,
the question in each case brought to trial {156} always is, whether
the terms bind one or other of the contracting parties to do this
or that; and it is assumed, as a matter of course, that neither of
them can be called upon to do more than is expressed or understood
in the agreement. Now this almost self-evident principle has been
wholly ignored in railway-legislation. A shareholder, uniting with
others to make and work a line from one specified place to another
specified place, binds himself to pay certain sums in furtherance of
the project; and, by implication, agrees to yield to the majority
of his fellow-shareholders on all questions raised respecting the
execution of this project. But he commits himself no further than
this. He is not required to obey the majority concerning things
not named in the deed of incorporation. Though with respect to the
specified railway he has bound himself, he has not bound himself,
with respect to any _un_specified railway which his co-proprietors
may wish to make; and he cannot be committed to such unspecified
railway by a vote of the majority. But this distinction has been
wholly passed over. Shareholders in joint-stock undertakings have been
perpetually involved in other undertakings subsequently decided on by
their fellow-shareholders; and, against their will, have had their
properties heavily mortgaged for the execution of projects that were
ruinously unremunerative. In every case the proprietary contract for
making a particular railway, has been dealt with as though it were a
proprietary contract for making railways! Not only have directors thus
misinterpreted it, and not only have shareholders allowed it to be
thus misinterpreted, but legislators have so little understood their
duties as to have endorsed the misinterpretation. To this simple cause
has been owing most of our railway-companies’ disasters. Abnormal
facilities for getting capital have caused reckless competition in
extension-making and branch-making, and in needless opposition lines,
got up to be purchased by the companies they threatened. Had each new
scheme been {157} executed by an independent body of shareholders,
without any guarantee from another company—without any capital raised
by preference shares—there would have been little or none of the
ruinous expenditure we have seen. Something like a hundred millions of
money would have been saved, and thousands of families preserved from
misery, had the proprietary-contract been enforced according to the
dictates of pure equity.

These cases go far to justify our position. The general reasons we
gave for thinking that the ethics of immediate experience must be
enlightened by abstract ethics, to ensure correct guidance, are
strongly enforced by these instances of the gigantic errors which are
made when the dictates of abstract ethics are ignored. The complex
estimates of relative expediency, cannot do without the clue furnished
by the simple deductions of absolute expediency.

       *       *       *       *       *

We propose to study the treatment of criminals from this point of view.
And first, let us set down those temporary requirements which have
hitherto prevented, and do still, in part, prevent the establishment of
a just system.

The same average popular character which necessitates a rigorous form
of government, necessitates also a rigorous criminal code. Institutions
are ultimately determined by the natures of the citizens living under
them; and when these citizens are too impulsive or selfish for free
institutions, and unscrupulous enough to supply the requisite staff
of agents for maintaining tyrannical institutions, they are proved
by implication to be citizens who will tolerate, and will probably
need, severe forms of punishment. The same mental defect underlies
both results. The character which originates and sustains political
liberty, is a character swayed by remote considerations—a character
not at the mercy of immediate temptations, but one which contemplates
the consequences likely to arise in future. We have only to remember
that, among ourselves, a political encroachment is {158} resisted,
not because of any direct evil it inflicts, but because of the evils
likely hereafter to flow from it, to see how the maintenance of
freedom presupposes the habit of weighing distant results, and being
chiefly guided by them. Conversely, it is manifest that men who dwell
only in the present, the special, the concrete—who do not realize
with clearness the contingencies of the future—will put little value
on those rights of citizenship which profit them nothing, save as a
means of warding off unspecified evils that can possibly affect them
only at a distant time in an obscure way. Well, is it not obvious
that the forms of mind thus contrasted, will require different kinds
of punishment for misconduct? To restrain the second, there must be
penalties which are severe, prompt, and specific enough to be vividly
conceived; while the first may be deterred by penalties which are less
definite, less intense, less immediate. For the more civilized, dread
of a long, monotonous, criminal discipline may suffice; but for the
less civilized there must be inflictions of bodily pain and death. Thus
we hold, not only that a social condition which generates a harsh form
of government, also generates harsh retributions; but also, that in
such a social condition, harsh retributions are requisite. And there
are facts which illustrate this. Witness the case of one of the Italian
states, in which the punishment of death having been abolished in
conformity with the wish of a dying duchess, assassinations increased
so greatly that it became needful to re-establish it.

Besides the fact that in the less-advanced stages of civilization, a
bloody penal code is both a natural product of the time and a needful
restraint for the time, there must be noted the fact that a more
equitable and humane code could not be carried out from want of fit
administration. To deal with delinquents not by short and sharp methods
but by such methods as abstract justice indicates, implies a class of
agencies too complicated to exist in a low society, {159} and a class
of officers more trustworthy than can be found among its citizens.
Especially would the equitable treatment of criminals be impracticable
where the amount of crime was very great. The number to be dealt with
would be unmanageable. Some simpler method of purging the community of
its worst members becomes, under such circumstances, a necessity.

The inapplicability of an absolutely just system of penal discipline to
a barbarous or semi-barbarous people, is thus, we think, as manifest
as is the inapplicability of an absolutely just form of government
to them. And in the same manner that, for some nations, a despotism
is warranted; so may a criminal code of the extremest severity be
warranted. In either case the defence is, that the institution is
as good as the average character of the people permits—that less
stringent institutions would entail social confusion and its far more
severe evils. Bad as a despotism is, yet where anarchy is the only
alternative, we must say that, as anarchy would bring greater suffering
than despotism brings, despotism is justified by the circumstances. And
similarly, however inequitable in the abstract were the beheadings,
crucifyings, and burnings of ruder ages, yet, if it be shown that,
without penalties thus extreme, the safety of society could not
have been insured—if, in their absence, the increase of crime would
have inflicted a larger total of evil, and that, too, on peaceable
members of the community; then it follows that morality warranted this
severity. In the one case, as in the other, we must say that, measured
by the quantities of pain respectively inflicted and avoided, the
course pursued was the _least wrong_; and to say that it was the least
wrong is to say that it was _relatively right_.

But while we thus admit all that can be alleged by the defenders
of Draconian codes, we go on to assert a correlative truth which
they overlook. While fully recognizing the evils that must follow
the premature establishment of a {160} penal system dictated by
pure equity, let us not overlook the evils that have arisen from
altogether rejecting the guidance of pure equity. Let us note how
terribly the one-sided regard for immediate expediency has retarded the
ameliorations from time to time demanded.

Consider, for instance, the immense amount of suffering and
demoralization needlessly caused by our severe laws in the last
century. Those many merciless penalties which Romilly and others
succeeded in abolishing, were as little justified by social necessities
as by abstract morality. Experience has since proved that to hang men
for theft, was not requisite for the security of property. And that
such a measure was opposed to pure equity, scarcely needs saying.
Evidently, had considerations of relative expediency been all along
qualified by considerations of absolute expediency, these severities,
with their many concomitant evils, would have ceased long before they
did.

Again, the dreadful misery, demoralization, and crime, generated by the
harsh treatment of transported convicts, would have been impossible,
had our authorities considered what seemed just as well as what seemed
politic. There would never have been inflicted on transports the
shocking cruelties proved before the Parliamentary Committee of 1848.
We should not have had men condemned to the horrors of the chain-gang
even for insolent looks. There could not have been perpetrated such
an atrocity as that of locking up chain-gangs “from sunset to sunrise
in the caravans or boxes used for this description of prisons, which
hold from twenty to twenty-eight men, but in which the whole number
_can neither stand upright nor sit down at the same time, except with
their legs at right angles to their bodies_.” Men would never have been
doomed to tortures extreme enough to produce despair, desperation,
and further crimes—tortures under which “a man’s heart is taken
from him, and there is given to him the heart of a {161} beast,” as
said by one of these law-produced criminals before his execution. We
should not have been told, as by a chief justice of Australia, that
the discipline was “carried to an extent of _suffering, such as to
render death desirable, and to induce many prisoners to seek it under
its most appalling aspects_.” Sir G. Arthur would not have had to
testify that, in Van Diemen’s Land, convicts committed murder for the
purpose “_of being sent up to Hobart Town for trial, though aware that
in the ordinary course they must be executed within a fortnight after
arrival_;” nor would tears of commiseration have been drawn from Judge
Burton’s eyes, by one of these cruelly-used transports placed before
him for sentence. In brief, had abstract equity joined with immediate
expediency in devising convict discipline, not only would untold
suffering, degradation, and mortality have been prevented; but those
who were responsible for atrocities like those above-named, would not
themselves be chargeable with crime, as we now hold them to be.

Probably we shall meet with a less general assent when, as a further
benefit which the guidance of absolute morality would have conferred,
we instance the prevention of such methods as those in use at
Pentonville. How the silent and the separate systems are negatived by
abstract justice we shall by and by see. For the present, the position
we have to defend is that these systems are bad. That but a moderate
per-centage of the prisoners subjected to them are re-convicted, may be
true; though, considering the fallaciousness of negative statistics,
this by no means proves that those not re-convicted are reformed. But
the question is not solely how many prisoners are prevented from again
committing crime? A further question is, how many of them have become
self-supporting members of society? It is notorious that this prolonged
denial of human intercourse not unfrequently produces insanity or
imbecility; and on those who remain sane, its depressing influence
must almost {162} of necessity entail serious debility, bodily and
mental.[7] Indeed, we think it probable that much of the apparent
success is due to an enfeeblement which incapacitates for crime as
much as for industry. Our own objection to such methods, however, has
always been, that their effect on the moral nature is the reverse of
that required. Crime is anti-social—is prompted by self-regarding
feelings and checked by social feelings. The natural prompter of right
conduct to others, and the natural opponent of misconduct to others,
is sympathy; for out of sympathy grow both the kindly emotions, and
that sentiment of justice which restrains us from aggressions. Well,
this sympathy, which makes society possible, is cultivated by social
intercourse. By habitual participation in the pleasures of others, the
faculty is strengthened; and whatever prevents this participation,
weakens it. Hence, therefore, shutting up prisoners within themselves,
or forbidding all interchange of feeling, inevitably deadens such
sympathies as they have; and so tends rather to diminish than to
increase the moral check to transgression. This _a priori_ conviction,
which we have long entertained, we now find confirmed by facts. Captain
Maconochie states, as a result of observation, that a long course
of separation so fosters the self-regarding desires, and so weakens
the sympathies, as to make even well-disposed men very unfit to bear
the little trials of domestic life on their return to their homes.
Thus there is good reason to think that, while silence and solitude
may cow the spirit or undermine the energies, it cannot produce true
reformation.

 [7] Mr. Baillie-Cochrane says:—“The officers at the Dartmoor prison
 inform me that the prisoners who arrive there even after one year’s
 confinement at Pentonville, may be distinguished from the others
 by their miserable downcast look. In most instances their brain is
 affected; and they are unable to give satisfactory replies to the
 simplest questions.”

“But how can it be shown,” asks the reader, “that these injudicious
penal systems are inequitable? Where is the method which will enable us
to say what kind of {163} punishment is justified by absolute morality,
and what kind is not?” These questions we will now attempt to answer.

       *       *       *       *       *

So long as the individual citizen pursues the objects of his desires
without diminishing the equal freedom of any of his fellow citizens
to do the like, society cannot equitably interfere with him. While
he contents himself with the benefits won by his own energies, and
attempts not to intercept any of the benefits similarly won for
themselves by others, or any of those which Nature has conferred on
them; no legal penalties can rightly be inflicted on him. But when,
by murder, theft, assault, arson, or minor aggression, he has broken
through these limits, the community is warranted in putting him under
restraint. On the relative propriety of doing this we need say nothing:
it is demonstrated by social experience. Its absolute propriety not
being so manifest, we will proceed to point out how it is deducible
from the ultimate laws of life.

Life depends on the maintenance of certain natural relations between
actions and their results. If respiration does not supply oxygen to
the blood, as in the normal order of things it should do, but instead
supplies carbonic acid, death quickly results. If the swallowing of
food is not followed by the usual organic sequences—the contractions
of the stomach, and the pouring into it of gastric juice—indigestion
arises, and the energies flag. If active movements of the limbs fail
in exciting the heart to supply blood more rapidly, or if the extra
current propelled by the heart is greatly retarded by an aneurism
through which it passes, speedy prostration ensues. In which, and
endless like cases, we see that bodily life depends on the maintenance
of the established connexions between physiological causes and their
consequences. Among the intellectual processes, the same thing
holds. If certain impressions made on the senses do not induce the
appropriate muscular adjustments—if the brain is clouded with wine, or
consciousness is {164} pre-occupied, or the perceptions are naturally
obtuse; the movements are so ill-controlled that accidents happen.
Where, as in paralytic patients, the natural link between mental
impressions and the appropriate motions is broken, the life is greatly
vitiated. And when, as during insanity, evidence fitted, according to
the usual order of thought, to produce certain convictions, produces
convictions of an opposite kind, conduct is reduced to chaos, and
life endangered—perhaps cut short. So it is with more involved
phenomena. Just as we here find that, throughout both its physical
and intellectual divisions, healthful life implies continuance of the
established successions of antecedents and consequents among our vital
actions; so shall we find it throughout the moral division. In our
dealings with external Nature and our fellow men, there are relations
of cause and effect, on the maintenance of which, as on the maintenance
of the internal ones above instanced, life depends. Conduct of this
or that kind tends to bring results which are pleasurable or painful;
and the welfare of every one demands that these natural sequences
shall not be interfered with. To speak more specifically, we see that
in the order of Nature, inactivity entails want. There is a connexion
between exertion and the fulfilment of certain imperative needs. If,
now, this connexion is broken—if labour of body or mind has been gone
through, and the produce of the labour is intercepted by another,
one of the conditions to complete life is unfulfilled. The defrauded
person is physically injured by deprivation of the wherewithal to
make good the wear and tear he had undergone; and if the robbery be
continually repeated, he must die. Where all men are dishonest a
reflex evil results. When, throughout a society, the normal relation
between work and benefit is habitually broken, not only are the lives
of many directly undermined, but the lives of all are indirectly
undermined by destruction of the motive for work, and by the consequent
poverty. Thus, to demand that there shall {165} be no breach of the
natural sequence between labour and the rewards obtained by labour,
is to demand that the laws of life shall be respected. What we call
the right of property, is simply a corollary from certain necessary
conditions to complete living. It is a formulated recognition of the
relation between expenditure of force and the need for force-sustaining
objects obtainable by the expenditure of force—a recognition in full
of a relation which cannot be wholly ignored without causing death.
And all else regarded as individual rights, are indirect implications
of like nature—similarly insist on certain relations between man and
man, as conditions without which there cannot be fully maintained that
correspondence between inner and outer actions which constitutes life.
It is not, as some moralists and most lawyers absurdly assert, that
such rights are derived from human legislation; nor is it, as asserted
by others with absurdity almost as great, that there is no basis for
them save the inductions of immediate expediency. These rights are
deducible from the established connexions between our acts and their
results. As certainly as there are conditions which must be fulfilled
before life can exist, so certainly are there conditions which must be
fulfilled before complete life can be enjoyed by the respective members
of a society; and those which we call the requirements of justice,
simply answer to the most important of such conditions.

Hence, if life is our legitimate aim—if absolute morality means, as it
does, conformity to the laws of complete life; then absolute morality
warrants the restraint of those who force their fellow-citizens into
non-conformity. Our justification is, that life is impossible save
under certain conditions; that it cannot be entire unless these
conditions are maintained unbroken; and that if it is right for us to
live completely, it is right for us to remove any one who either breaks
these conditions in our persons or constrains us to break them.

Such being the basis of our right to coerce the criminal, {166} there
next come the questions:—What is the legitimate extent of the coercion?
Can we from this source derive authority for certain demands on him?
and are there any similarly-derived limits to such demands? To both
these questions there are affirmative answers.

First, we find authority for demanding restitution or compensation.
Conformity to the laws of life being the substance of absolute
morality; and the social regulations which absolute morality dictates,
being those which make this conformity possible; it is a manifest
corollary that whoever breaks these regulations, may be justly required
to undo, as far as possible, the wrong he has done. The object being to
maintain the conditions essential to complete life, it follows that,
when one of these conditions has been transgressed, the first thing
to be required of the transgressor is, that he shall put matters as
nearly as may be in the state they previously were. The property stolen
shall be restored, or an equivalent for it given. Any one injured by an
assault shall have his surgeon’s bill paid, compensation for lost time,
and also for the suffering he has borne. And similarly in all cases of
infringed rights.

Second, we are warranted by this highest authority in restricting
the actions of the offender as much as is needful to prevent further
aggressions. Any citizen who will not allow others to fulfil the
conditions to complete life—who takes away the produce of his
neighbour’s labour, or deducts from that bodily health and comfort
which his neighbour has earned by good conduct, must be forced to
desist. And society is warranted in using such force as may be found
requisite. Equity justifies the fellow-citizens of such a man in
limiting the free exercise of his faculties to the extent necessary for
preserving the free exercise of their own faculties.

But now mark that absolute morality countenances no restraint beyond
this—no gratuitous inflictions of pain, no revengeful penalties. The
conditions it insists on being such as make possible complete life, we
cannot rightly abrogate {167} these conditions, even in the person
of a criminal, further than is needful to prevent greater abrogations
of them. Freedom to fulfil the laws of life being the thing insisted
on, to the end that the sum of life may be the greatest possible, it
follows that the life of the offender must be taken into account as an
item in this sum. We must permit him to live as completely as consists
with social safety. It is commonly said that the criminal loses all his
rights. This may be so according to law, but it is not so according
to justice. Such portion of them only is justly taken away, as cannot
be left to him without danger to the community. Those exercises
of faculty, and consequent benefits, which are possible under the
necessary restraint, cannot be equitably denied. If any do not think it
proper that we should be thus regardful of an offender’s claims, let
them consider for a moment the lesson which Nature reads us. We do not
find that those processes of life by which bodily health is maintained,
are miraculously suspended in the person of the prisoner. In him, as in
others, good digestion waits on appetite. If he is wounded, the healing
process goes on with the usual rapidity. When he is ill, as much effect
is expected from the _vis medicatrix naturæ_ by the medical officer, as
in one who has not transgressed. His perceptions yield him guidance as
they did before he was imprisoned; and he is capable of much the same
pleasurable emotions. When we thus see that the beneficent arrangements
of things, are no less uniformly sustained in his person than in that
of another, are we not bound to respect in his person such of these
beneficent arrangements as we have power to thwart? are we not bound
to interfere with the laws of life no further than is needful? If
any still hesitate, there is another lesson for them having the same
implication. Whoso disregards any one of those simpler laws of life
out of which, as we have shown, the moral laws originate, has to bear
the evil necessitated by the transgression—just that, and no more. If,
careless of your footing, you fall, the {168} consequent bruise, and
possibly some constitutional disturbance entailed by it, are all you
have to suffer: there is not the further gratuitous penalty of a cold
or an attack of small-pox. If you have eaten something which you know
to be indigestible, there follow certain visceral derangements and
their concomitants; but, for your physical sin, there is no vengeance
in the shape of a broken bone or a spinal affection. The punishments,
in these and other cases, are neither greater nor less than flow from
the natural workings of things. Well, should we not with all humility
follow this example? Must we not infer that, similarly, a citizen who
has transgressed the conditions to social welfare, ought to bear the
needful penalties and restraints, but nothing beyond these? Is it not
clear that neither by absolute morality nor by Nature’s precedents, are
we warranted in visiting on him any pains besides those involved in
remedying, as far as may be, the evil committed, and preventing other
such evils? To us it seems manifest that if society exceeds this, it
trespasses against the criminal.

Those who think that we are tending towards a mischievous leniency,
will find that the next step in our argument disposes of any such
objection; for while equity forbids us to punish the criminal otherwise
than by making him suffer the natural consequences, these, when
rigorously enforced, are quite severe enough.

Society having proved in the high court of absolute morality, that
the offender must make restitution or compensation, and submit to
the restraints requisite for public safety; and the offender having
obtained from the same court the decision, that these restraints shall
be no greater than the specified end requires; society thereupon makes
the further demand that, while living in durance, the offender shall
maintain himself; and this demand absolute morality at once endorses.
The community having taken measures for self-preservation, and having
inflicted on the aggressor no punishments or disabilities beyond those
{169} involved in these necessary measures, is no further concerned in
the matter. With the support of the prisoner it has no more to do than
before he committed the crime. It is the business of society simply
to defend itself against him; and it is his business to live as well
as he can under the restrictions society is obliged to impose on him.
All he may rightly ask is, to have the opportunity of labouring, and
exchanging the produce of his labour for necessaries; and this claim
is a corollary from that already admitted, that his actions shall not
be restricted more than is needful for the public safety. With these
opportunities, however, he must make the best of his position. He must
be content to gain as good a livelihood as the circumstances permit;
and if he cannot employ his powers to the best advantage, if he has
to work hard and fare scantily, these evils must be counted among the
penalties of his transgression—the natural reactions of his wrong
action.

On this self-maintenance equity sternly insists. The reasons which
justify his imprisonment, equally justify the refusal to let him have
any other sustenance than he earns. He is confined that he may not
further interfere with the complete living of his fellow-citizens—that
he may not again intercept any of those benefits which the order
of Nature has conferred on them, or any of those procured by their
exertions and careful conduct. And he is required to support himself
for exactly the same reasons—that he may not interfere with others’
complete living—that he may not intercept the benefits they earn. For,
if otherwise, whence must come his food and clothing? Directly from
the public stores, and indirectly from the pockets of all tax-payers.
And what is the property thus abstracted from tax-payers? It is the
equivalent of so much benefit earned by labour. It is so much means
to complete living. And when this property is taken away—when the
toil has been gone through, and the produce of it is intercepted by
the tax-gatherer on behalf of the convict; the conditions to {170}
complete life are broken: the convict commits by deputy a further
aggression on his fellow-citizens. It matters not that such abstraction
is made according to law. We are here considering the _dictum_ of that
authority which is above law; and which law ought to enforce. And this
_dictum_ we find to be, that each individual shall take the evils and
benefits of his own conduct—that the offender must suffer, as far
as is possible, all pains entailed by his offence; and must not be
allowed to visit part of them on the unoffending. Unless the criminal
maintains himself, he indirectly commits an additional crime. Instead
of repairing the breach he has made in the conditions to complete
social life, he widens this breach. He inflicts on others that very
injury which the restraint imposed on him was to prevent. As certainly,
therefore, as such restraint is warranted by absolute morality; so
certainly does absolute morality warrant us in refusing him gratuitous
support.

These, then, are the requirements of an equitable penal system:—That
the aggressor shall make restitution or compensation; that he shall
be placed under the restraints requisite for social security; that
neither any restraints beyond these, nor any gratuitous penalties,
shall be inflicted on him; and that while living in confinement, or
under surveillance, he shall maintain himself. We are not prepared
to say that such dictates may at once be fully obeyed. Already we
have admitted that the deductions of absolute expediency must, in
our transition state, be qualified by the inductions of relative
expediency. We have pointed out that in rude times, the severest
criminal codes were morally justified if, without them, crime could
not be repressed and social safety insured. Whence, by implication, it
follows that our present methods of treating criminals are warranted,
if they come as near to those of pure equity as circumstances permit.
That any system now feasible must fall short of the ideal sketched out,
is probable. It may be that the enforcement of restitution or {171}
compensation, is in many cases impracticable. It may be that on some
convicts, penalties more severe than abstract justice demands must be
inflicted. On the other hand, it may be that entire self-maintenance
would entail on the wholly-unskilled criminal, a punishment too
grievous to be borne. But any such shortcomings do not affect our
argument. All we insist on is, that the commands of absolute morality
shall be obeyed as far as possible—that we shall fulfil them up to
those limits beyond which experiment proves that more evil than good
results—that, ever keeping in view the ideal, each change we make shall
be towards its realization.

       *       *       *       *       *

But now we are prepared to say, that this ideal may be in great part
realized at the present time. Experience in various countries, under
various circumstances, has shown that immense benefits result from
substituting for the old penal systems, systems that approximate to
that above indicated. Germany, France, Spain, England, Ireland, and
Australia, send statements to the effect that the most successful
criminal discipline, is a discipline of decreased restraints and
increased self-dependence. And the evidence proves the success to
be greatest, where the nearest approach is made to the arrangements
prescribed by abstract justice. We shall find the facts striking: some
of them even astonishing.

When M. Obermair was appointed Governor of the Munich State-Prison―

  “He found from 600 to 700 prisoners in the jail, in the worst state
 of insubordination, and whose excesses, he was told, defied the
 harshest and most stringent discipline; the prisoners were all chained
 together, and attached to each chain was an iron weight, which the
 strongest found difficulty in dragging along. The guard consisted of
 about 100 soldiers, who did duty not only at the gates and around
 the walls, but also in the passages, and even in the workshops and
 dormitories; and, strangest of all protections against the possibility
 of an outbreak or individual invasion, twenty to thirty large savage
 dogs, of the bloodhound breed, were let loose at night in the passages
 and courts to keep their watch and ward. {172} According to his
 account the place was a perfect Pandemonium, comprising, within the
 limits of a few acres, the worst passions, the most slavish vices, and
 the most heartless tyranny.”

M. Obermair gradually relaxed this harsh system. He greatly lightened
the chains; and would, if allowed, have thrown them aside. The dogs,
and nearly all the guards, were dispensed with; and the prisoners
were treated with such consideration as to gain their confidence. Mr.
Baillie-Cochrane, who visited the place in 1852, says the prison-gates
were

 “Wide open, without any sentinel at the door, and a guard of
 only twenty men idling away their time in a guard-room off the
 entrance-hall. . . . . None of the doors were provided with bolts
 and bars; the only security was an ordinary lock, and as in most of
 the rooms the key was not turned, there was no obstacle to the men
 walking into the passage. . . . . Over each workshop some of the
 prisoners with the best characters were appointed overseers, and M.
 Obermair assured me that if a prisoner transgressed a regulation, his
 companions generally told him, ‘Es ist verboten’ (it is forbidden),
 and it rarely happened that he did not yield to the opinion of his
 fellow-prisoners. . . . . Within the prison walls every description
 of work is carried on; the prisoners, divided into different gangs
 and supplied with instruments and tools, make their own clothes,
 repair their own prison walls, and forge their own chains, producing
 various specimens of manufacture which are turned to most excellent
 account—the result being, that each prisoner, by occupation and
 industry, maintains himself; the surplus of his earnings being given
 him on his emancipation, avoids his being parted with in a state of
 destitution.”

And further, the prisoners “associate in their leisure hours, without
any check on their intercourse, but at the same time under an efficient
system of observation and control”—an arrangement by which, after many
years’ experience, M. Obermair asserts that morality is increased.

And now what has been the result? During his six-years’ government
of the Kaiserslauten (the first prison under his care), M. Obermair
discharged 132 criminals, of which number 123 have since conducted
themselves well, and 7 have been recommitted. From the Munich prison,
between 1843 and 1845, 298 prisoners were discharged.

Of these, 246 have been restored, improved, to society. Those whose
characters are doubtful, but have not been {173} remanded for any
criminal act, 26; again under examination, 4; punished by the police,
6; remanded, 8; died, 8. This statement, says M. Obermair, “is based
on irrefutable evidence.” And to the reality of his success, we have
the testimony not only of Mr. Baillie-Cochrane, but of the Rev. C. H.
Townsend, Mr. George Combe, Mr. Matthew Hill, and Sir John Milbanke,
our Envoy at the Court of Bavaria.

Take, again, the case of Mettray. Every one has heard something about
Mettray, and its success as a reformatory of juvenile criminals.
Observe how nearly the successful system there pursued, conforms to the
abstract principles above enunciated.

This “Colonie Agricole” is “without wall or enclosure of any sort, for
the purposes at least of confinement;” and except when for some fault a
child is temporarily put in a cell, there is no physical restraint. The
life is industrial: the boys being brought up to trades or agriculture
as they prefer; and all the domestic services being discharged by them.
“They all do their work by the _piece_;” are rewarded according to
the judgment of the _chef d’atelier_; and, a portion being placed at
the disposal of the child, the rest is deposited in the savings-bank
at Tours. “A boy in receipt of any money has to make payment for any
part of his dress which requires to be renewed before the stated
time arrives at which fresh clothing is given out; . . . . . on the
other hand, if his clothes are found in good condition at such time,
he receives the benefit of it by having the money which would have
been laid out in clothes placed to his account. Two hours per day are
allowed for play. Part-singing is taught; and if a boy shows any turn
for drawing he receives a little instruction in it. . . . . . Some
of the boys also are formed into a fire-brigade, and have rendered
at times substantial assistance in the neighbourhood.” In which few
leading facts do we not clearly see that the essential peculiarities
{174} are—no more restraint than is absolutely necessary; self-support
as far as possible; extra benefits earned by extra labour; and as much
gratifying exercise of faculties as the circumstances permit.

The “intermediate system” which has of late been carried out with much
success in Ireland, exemplifies, in a degree, the practicability of
the same general principles. Under this system, prisoners working as
artizans are allowed “such a modified degree of liberty as shall in
various ways prove their power of self-denial and self-dependence, in
a manner wholly incompatible with the rigid restraints of an ordinary
prison.” An offender who has passed through this stage of probation,
is tested by employment “on messenger’s duties daily throughout the
city, and also in special works required by the department outside the
prison-walls. The performance of the duties of messengers entails their
being out until seven or eight in the evening, unaccompanied by an
officer; and although a small portion of their earnings is allowed them
weekly, and they would have the power of compromising themselves if
so disposed, not one instance has as yet taken place of the slightest
irregularity, or even the want of punctuality, although careful checks
have been contrived to detect either, should it occur.” A proportion
of their prison-earnings is set aside for them in a savings-bank; and
to this they are encouraged to add during their period of partial
freedom, with a view to subsequent emigration. The results are:—“In the
penitentiary the greatest possible order and regularity, and an amount
of willing industry performed that cannot be obtained in the prisons.”
Employers to whom prisoners are eventually transferred, “have on many
occasions returned for others in consequence of the good conduct of
those at first engaged.” And according to Captain Crofton’s pamphlet
of 1857, out of 112 conditionally discharged during the previous year,
85 were going on satisfactorily, “9 have been discharged {175} too
recently to be spoken of, and 5 have had their licences revoked. As
to the remaining 13, it has been found impossible to obtain accurate
information, but it is supposed that 5 have left the country, and 3
enlisted.”

The “mark system” of Captain Maconochie, is one which more fully
carries out the principle of self-maintenance, under restraints
no greater than are needful for safety. The plan is to join with
time-sentences certain labour-sentences—specific tasks to be worked out
by the convicts. “No rations, or other supplies of any kind, whether
of food, bedding, clothing, or even education or indulgences, to be
given _gratuitously_, but all to be made exchangeable, at fixed rates,
at the prisoners’ own option, for marks previously earned; it being
understood, at the same time, that only those shall count towards
liberation which remain over and above all so exchanged; the prisoners
being thus caused to depend for every necessary on their own good
conduct; and their prison-offences to be in like manner restrained by
corresponding fines imposed according to the measures of each.” The
use of marks, which thus play the part of money, was first introduced
by Captain Maconochie in Norfolk Island. Describing the working of his
method, he says―

 “First, it gave me wages and then fines. One gave me willing and
 progressively-skilled labourers, and the other saved me from the
 necessity of imposing brutal and demoralizing punishments. . . . .
 My form of money next gave me school fees. I was most anxious to
 encourage education among my men, but as I refused them rations
 gratuitously, so I would not give them schooling either, but compelled
 them to yield marks to acquire it. . . . . I never saw adult schools
 make such rapid progress. . . . . My form of money next gave me
 bailbonds in cases of minor or even great offences; a period of close
 imprisonment being wholly or in part remitted in consideration of a
 sufficient number of other prisoners of good character becoming bound,
 under a penalty, for the improved conduct of the culprit.”

Even in the establishment of a sick-club and a burial-club, Captain
Maconochie applied “the inflexible principle of giving nothing for
nothing.” That is to say, here, as throughout, he made the discipline
of the prisoners as {176} much like the discipline of ordinary life
as possible: let them experience just such good or evil as naturally
flowed from their conduct—a principle which he rightly asserts is
the only true one. What were the effects? The extreme debasement of
Norfolk Island convicts was notorious; and on a preceding page we have
described some of the horrible sufferings inflicted on them. Yet,
starting with these most demoralized of criminals, Captain Maconochie
obtained highly-favourable results. “In four years,” he says, “I
discharged 920 doubly-convicted men to Sydney, of whom only 20, or
2 per cent., had been re-convicted up to January, 1845;” while, at
the same time, the ordinary proportion of re-convicted Van Diemen’s
Land men, otherwise trained, was 9 per cent. “Captain Maconochie,”
writes Mr. Harris in his _Settlers and Convicts_, “did more for the
reformation of these unhappy wretches, and amelioration of their
physical circumstances, than the most sanguine practical mind could
beforehand have ventured even to hope.” Another witness says—“a
reformation far greater than has been hitherto effected in any body
of men by any system, either before or after yours, has taken place
in them.” “As pastor of the island, and for two years a magistrate,
I can prove that at no period was there so little crime,” writes the
Rev. B. Naylor. And Thomas H. Dixon, Chief Superintendent of Convicts
in Western Australia, who partially introduced the system there in
1856, asserts that not only was the amount of work done under it
extraordinary, but that “even although the characters of some of the
party were by no means good previously (many of them being men whose
licences had been revoked in England), yet the transformation which
in this and all other respects they underwent, was very remarkable
indeed.” If such were the results, when the method was imperfectly
carried out (for the Government all along refused to give any fixed
value to the marks as a means to liberation); what might be {177}
expected if its motives and restraints were allowed their full
influence?

Perhaps, however, of all evidence, the most conclusive is that afforded
by the prison of Valencia. When, in 1835, Colonel Montesinos was
appointed governor, “the average of re-committals was from 30 to 35
per cent. per annum—nearly the same that is found in England and other
countries in Europe; but such has been the success of his method, that
for the last three years _there has not been even one re-committal to
it_, and for the ten previous years they did not, on an average, exceed
1 per cent.” And how has this marvellous change been brought about? By
diminished restraint and industrial discipline. The following extracts,
taken irregularly from Mr. Hoskins’s _Account of the Public Prison at
Valencia_, will prove this:―

 “When first the convict enters the establishment he wears chains, but
 on his application to the commander they are taken off, unless he has
 not conducted himself well.”

 “There are a thousand prisoners, and in the whole establishment I did
 not see above three or four guardians to keep them in order. They
 say there are only a dozen old soldiers, and not a bar or bolt that
 might not be easily broken—apparently not more fastenings than in any
 private house.”

 “When a convict enters, he is asked what trade or employment he will
 work at or learn, and above forty are open to him. . . . . There
 are weavers and spinners of every description; . . . . blacksmiths,
 shoemakers, basketmakers, ropemakers, joiners, cabinetmakers, making
 handsome mahogany drawers; and they had also a printing machine hard
 at work.”

 “The labour of every description for the repair, rebuilding, and
 cleaning the establishment, is supplied by the convicts. They were
 all most respectful in demeanour, and certainly I never saw such
 a good-looking set of prisoners, useful occupations (and other
 considerate treatment) having apparently improved their countenances.
 . . . . [And besides a] garden for exercise planted with orange trees,
 there was also a poultry yard for their amusement, with pheasants and
 various other kinds of birds; washing-houses, where they wash their
 clothes; and a shop, where they can purchase, if they wish, tobacco
 and other little comforts out of one-fourth of the profits of their
 labour, which is given to them. Another fourth they are entitled to
 when they leave; the other half goes to the establishment, and _often
 this is sufficient for all expenses, without any assistance from the
 Government_.”

Thus the highest success, regarded by Mr. Hoskins as {178} “really
a miracle,” is achieved by a system most nearly conforming to those
dictates of absolute morality on which we have insisted. The convicts
are almost, if not quite, self-supporting. They are subject neither
to gratuitous penalties nor unnecessary restrictions. While made to
earn their living, they are allowed to purchase such enjoyments as
consist with their confinement: the avowed principle being, in the
words of Colonel Montesinos, to “give as much latitude to their free
agency as can be made conformable to discipline at all.” Thus they are
(as we found that equity required they should be) allowed to live as
satisfactorily as they can, under such restraints only as are needful
for the safety of their fellow-citizens.

To us it appears extremely significant that there should be so close
a correspondence between _a priori_ conclusions, and the results
of experiments tried without reference to such conclusions. On the
one hand, neither in the doctrines of pure equity with which we set
out, nor in the corollaries drawn from them, is there any mention of
criminal-reformation: our concern has been solely with the rights of
citizens and convicts in their mutual relations. On the other hand,
those who have carried out the improved penal systems above described,
have had almost solely in view the improvement of the offender: the
just claims of society, and of those who sin against it, having been
left out of the question. Yet the methods which have succeeded so
marvellously in decreasing criminality, are the methods which most
nearly fulfil the requirements of abstract justice.

That the most equitable system is the one best calculated to reform
the offender, may indeed be deductively shown. The internal experience
of every one must prove to him, that excessive punishment begets,
not penitence, but indignation and hatred. So long as an aggressor
suffers nothing beyond the evils which have naturally resulted from
his misconduct—so long as he perceives that his fellow-men have done
no more than was needful for self-defence—he {179} has no excuse for
anger; and is led to contemplate his crime and his punishment as cause
and effect. But if gratuitous sufferings are inflicted on him, a sense
of injustice is produced. He regards himself as an injured man. He
cherishes animosity against all who have brought this harsh treatment
on him. Glad of any plea for forgetting the injury he has done to
others, he dwells instead on the injury others have done to him. Thus
nurturing a desire for revenge rather than atonement, he re-enters
society not better but worse; and if he does not commit further crimes,
as he often does, he is restrained by the lowest of motives—fear.
Again, this industrial discipline, to which criminals subject
themselves under a purely equitable system, is the discipline they
especially need. Speaking generally, we are all compelled to work by
the necessities of our social existence. For most of us this compulsion
suffices; but there are some whose aversion to labour cannot be thus
overcome. Not labouring, and yet needing sustenance, they are compelled
to obtain it in illegitimate ways; and so bring on themselves the legal
penalties. The criminal class being thus in great part recruited from
the idle class; and the idleness being the source of the criminality;
it follows that a successful discipline must be one which shall cure
the idleness. The natural compulsions to labour having been eluded, the
thing required is that the offender shall be so placed that he cannot
elude them. And this is just what is done under the system we advocate.
Its action is such that men whose natures are ill-adapted to the
conditions of social life, bring themselves into a position in which a
better adaptation is forced on them by the alternative of starvation.
Lastly, let us not forget that this discipline which absolute morality
dictates, is salutary, not only because it is industrial, but because
it is voluntarily industrial. As we have shown, equity requires that
the confined criminal shall be left to maintain himself—that is, shall
be {180} left to work much or little, and to take the consequent
plenitude or hunger. When, therefore, under this sharp but natural
spur, a prisoner begins to exert himself, he does so by his own will.
The process which leads him into habits of labour, is a process by
which his self-control is strengthened; and this is what is wanted
to make him a better citizen. It is to no purpose that you make him
work by external coercion; for when he is again free, and the coercion
absent, he will be what he was before. The coercion must be an internal
one, which he shall carry with him out of prison. It avails little that
you force him to work; he must force himself to work. And this he will
do, only when placed in those conditions which equity dictates.

Here, then, we find a third order of evidences. Psychology supports
our conclusion. The various experiments above detailed, carried out
by men who had no political or ethical theories to propagate, have
established facts which we find to be quite concordant, not only with
the deductions of absolute morality, but also with the deductions of
mental science. Such a combination of different kinds of proof, cannot,
we think, be resisted.

       *       *       *       *       *

And now let us try whether, by pursuing somewhat further the method
thus far followed, we can see our way to the development of certain
improved systems which are coming into use.

Equity requires that the restraint of the criminal shall be as great
as is needful for the safety of society; but not greater. In respect
to the _quality_ of the restraint, there is little difficulty in
interpreting this requirement; but there is considerable difficulty in
deciding on the _duration_ of the restraint. No obvious mode presents
itself of finding out how long a transgressor must be held in legal
bondage, to insure society against further injury from him. A longer
period than is necessary, implies an actual injustice to {181} the
offender. A shorter period than is necessary, implies a potential
injustice to society. And yet, without good guidance, one or other of
these extremes is almost sure to be fallen into.

At present, the lengths of penal sentences are fixed in a manner
that is wholly empirical. For offences defined in certain technical
ways, Acts of Parliament assign transportations and imprisonments,
having durations not greater than so much nor less than so much: these
partially-determined periods being arbitrarily fixed by legislators,
under the promptings of moral feeling. Within the assigned limits
the judge exercises his discretion; and in deciding on the time over
which the restraint shall extend, he is swayed, partly by the special
quality of the offence, partly by the circumstances under which it was
committed, partly by the prisoner’s appearance and behaviour, partly
by the character given to him. And the conclusion he arrives at after
consideration of these data, depends very much on his individual
nature—his moral bias and his theories of human conduct. Thus the mode
of fixing the lengths of penal restraints, is from beginning to end,
little else than guessing. How ill this system of guessing works, we
have abundant proofs. “Justices’ justice,” which illustrates it in
its simplest form, has become a bye-word; and the decisions of higher
criminal court frequently err in the directions of both undue severity
and undue lenity. Daily there occur cases of extremely-trifling
transgressions visited with imprisonments of considerable lengths; and
daily there occur cases in which the punishments are so inadequate,
that the offenders time after time commit new crimes, when time after
time discharged from custody.

Now the question is whether, in place of this purely empirical method
which answers so ill, equity can guide us to a method which shall more
correctly adjust the period of restraint to the requirement. We believe
it can. We believe that by following out its dictates, we shall arrive
{182} at a method that is in great measure self-acting; and therefore
less liable to be vitiated by errors of individual judgment or feeling.

We have seen that were the injunctions of absolute morality obeyed,
every transgressor would be compelled to make restitution or
compensation. Throughout a considerable range of cases, this would
itself involve a period of restraint varying in proportion to the
magnitude of the offence. It is true that when the malefactor possessed
ample means, the making restitution or compensation would usually be
to him but a slight punishment. But though in these comparatively few
cases, the regulation would fall short of its object, in so far as its
effect on the criminal was concerned, yet in the immense majority of
cases—in all cases of aggressions committed by the poorer members of
the community—it would act with efficiency. It would involve periods
of detention that would be longer or shorter according as the injury
done was greater or less, and according as the transgressor was idle or
industrious. And although between the injury done by an offender and
his moral turpitude, there is no constant and exact proportion, yet
the greatness of the injury done, affords, on the average of cases,
a better measure of the discipline required, than do the votes of
Parliamentary majorities and the guesses of judges.

But our guidance does not end here. An endeavour still further to do
that which is strictly equitable, will carry us still nearer to a
correct adjustment of discipline to delinquency. When, having enforced
restitution, we insist on some adequate guarantee that society shall
not again be injured, and accept any guarantee that is sufficient, we
open the way to a self-acting regulator of the period of detention.
Already our laws are in many cases satisfied with securities for future
good behaviour. Already this system manifestly tends to separate the
more vicious from the less vicious; seeing that, on the average, the
difficulty of {183} finding securities is great in proportion as the
character is bad. And what we propose is that this system, now confined
to particular kinds of offences, shall be made general. But let us be
more specific.

A prisoner on his trial calls witnesses to testify to his previous
character—that is, if his character has been tolerably good. The
evidence thus given weighs more or less in his favour, according to
the respectability of the witnesses, their number, and the nature of
their testimony. Taking into account these several elements, the judge
forms his conception of the delinquent’s general disposition, and
modifies the length of punishment accordingly. Now, may we not fairly
say that if the current opinion respecting a convict’s character could
be brought _directly_ to bear in qualifying the statutory sentence,
instead of being brought _indirectly_ to bear, as at present, it
would be a great improvement? Clearly the estimate made by a judge
from such testimony, must be less accurate than the estimate made by
the prisoner’s neighbours and employers. Clearly, too, the opinion
expressed by such neighbours and employers in the witness-box, is
less trustworthy than an opinion which entails on them serious
responsibility. _The desideratum is, that a prisoner’s sentence shall
be qualified by the judgment of those who have had life-long experience
of him; and that the sincerity of this judgment shall be tested by
their readiness to act on it._

But how is this to be done? A very simple method of doing it has
been suggested.[8] When a convict has fulfilled his task of making
restitution or compensation, let it be possible for one or other of
those who have known him, to take him out of confinement, on giving
adequate bail for his good behaviour. Always premising that such
an arrangement shall be possible only under an official permit, to
be withheld if the prisoner’s conduct has been unsatisfactory; and
always premising that the person who offers bail shall {184} be
of good character and means; let it be competent for such a one to
liberate a prisoner by being bound on his behalf for a specific sum,
or by undertaking to make good any injury which he may do to his
fellow-citizens within a specified period. This will doubtless be
thought a startling proposal. We shall, however, find good reasons to
believe it might be safely acted on—nay, we shall find facts proving
the success of a plan that is obviously less safe.

 [8] We owe the suggestion to the late Mr. Octavius H. Smith.

Under such an arrangement, the liberator and the convict would usually
stand in the relation of employer and employed. Those to be thus
conditionally released, would be ready to work for somewhat lower wages
than were usual in their occupation; and those who became bound for
them, besides having this economy of wages as an incentive, would be
in a manner guaranteed by it against the risk undertaken. In working
for less money, and in being under the surveillance of his master,
the convict would still be undergoing a mitigated discipline. And
while, on the one hand, he would be put on his good behaviour by the
consciousness that his master might at any time cancel the contract
and surrender him back to the authorities, he would, on the other
hand, have a remedy against his master’s harshness, in the option of
returning to prison, and there maintaining himself for the remainder of
his term.

Observe, next, that the difficulty of obtaining such conditional
release would vary with the gravity of the offence which had been
committed. Men guilty of heinous crimes would remain in prison; for
none would dare to become responsible for their good behaviour. Any one
convicted a second time would remain unbailed for a much longer period
than before; seeing that having once inflicted loss on some one bound
for him, he would not again be so soon offered the opportunity of doing
the like: only after a long period of good behaviour testified to by
prison-officers, would he be likely to get another chance. Conversely,
those whose transgressions were not serious, and who had usually been
{185} well-conducted, would readily obtain recognizances; while to
venial offenders this qualified liberation would come as soon as
they had made restitution. Moreover, when innocent persons had been
pronounced guilty, as well as when solitary misdeeds had been committed
by those of really superior natures, the system we have described would
supply a remedy. From the wrong verdicts of the law and its mistaken
estimates of turpitude, there would be an appeal; and long-proved worth
would bring its reward in the mitigation of grievous injustices.

A further advantage would by implication result, in the shape of a
long industrial discipline for those who most needed it. Speaking
generally, diligent and skilful workmen, who were on the whole useful
members of society, would, if their offences were not serious, soon
obtain employers to give bail for them. Whereas members of the criminal
class—the idle and the dissolute—would remain long in confinement;
since, until they had been brought by habitual self-maintenance under
restraint, to something like industrial efficiency, employers would not
be tempted to become responsible for them.

We should thus have a self-acting test, not only of the length of
restraint required for social safety, but also of that apprenticeship
to labour which many convicts need; while there would be supplied a
means of rectifying sundry failures and excesses of our present system.
The plan would practically amount to an extension of trial by jury. At
present, the State calls in certain of a prisoner’s fellow-citizens to
decide whether he is guilty or not guilty: the judge, under guidance of
the penal laws, being left to decide what punishment he deserves, if
guilty. Under the arrangement we have described, the judge’s decision
would admit of modification by a jury of the convict’s neighbours. And
this natural jury, while it would be best fitted by previous knowledge
of the man to form an opinion, would be rendered cautious by the sense
of grave responsibility; inasmuch as {186} any one of its number who
gave a conditional release, would do so at his own peril.

And now mark that all the evidence forthcoming to prove the safety
and advantages of the “intermediate system,” proves, still more
conclusively, the safety and advantages of this system which we would
substitute for it. What we have described, is nothing more than an
intermediate system reduced to a natural instead of an artificial
form—carried out with natural checks instead of artificial checks.
If, as Captain Crofton has experimentally shown, it is safe to give
a prisoner conditional liberation, on the strength of good conduct
during a certain period of prison-discipline; it is evidently safer to
let his conditional liberation depend not alone on good conduct while
under the eyes of his jailors, but also on the character he had earned
during his previous life. If it is safe to act on the judgments of
officials whose experience of a convict’s behaviour is comparatively
limited, and who do not suffer penalties when their judgments are
mistaken; then, manifestly, it is safer (when such officials can show
no reason to the contrary), to act on the additional judgment of one
who has not only had better opportunities of knowing the convict, but
who will be a serious loser if his judgment proves erroneous. Further,
that surveillance over each conditionally-liberated prisoner, which
the “intermediate system” exercises, would be still better exercised
when, instead of going to a strange master in a strange district, the
prisoner went to some master in his own district; and, under such
circumstances, it would be easier to get information respecting his
after-career. There is every reason to think that this method would be
workable. If, on the recommendation of the officers, Captain Crofton’s
prisoners obtain employers “who have on many occasions returned for
others, in consequence of the good conduct of those at first engaged;”
still better would be the action of the system when, instead of the
employers having “every {187} facility placed at their disposal for
satisfying themselves as to the antecedents of the convict,” they were
already familiar with his antecedents.

Finally, let us not overlook the fact, that this course is the only one
which, while duly consulting social safety, is also entirely just to
the prisoner. As we have shown, the restraints imposed on a criminal
are warranted by absolute equity, only to the extent needful to prevent
further aggressions on his fellow-men; and when his fellow-men impose
greater restraints than these, they trespass against him. Hence, when
a prisoner has worked out his task of making restitution, and, so far
as is possible, undone the wrong he had done, society is, in strict
justice, bound to accept any arrangement which adequately protects
its members against further injury. And if, moved by the expectation
of profit, or other motive, any citizen sufficiently substantial and
trustworthy, will take on himself to hold society harmless, society
must agree to his proposal. All it can rightly require is, that the
guarantee against contingent injury _shall_ be adequate; which, of
course, it never can be where the contingent injury is of the gravest
kind. No bail could compensate for murder; and therefore against
this, and other extreme crimes, society would rightly refuse any such
guarantee, even if offered, which it would be very unlikely to be.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such, then, is our code of prison-ethics. Such is the ideal which we
ought to keep ever in view when modifying our penal system. Again we
say, as we said at the outset, that the realization of such an ideal
wholly depends on the advance of civilization. Let no one carry away
the impression that we regard all these purely equitable regulations as
immediately practicable. Though they may be partially carried out, we
think it highly improbable that they could at present be carried out
in full. The number of offenders, the low average of enlightenment,
the ill-working of {188} administrative machinery, and above all,
the difficulty of obtaining officials of adequate intelligence, good
feeling, and self-control, are obstacles which must long stand in
the way of a system so complex as that which morality dictates. And
we here assert, as emphatically as before, that the harshest penal
system is ethically justified if it is as good as the circumstances
of the time permit. However great the cruelties it inflicts, yet
if a system theoretically more equitable would not be a sufficient
terror to evil-doers, or could not be worked, from lack of officers
sufficiently judicious, honest, and humane—if less rigorous methods
would entail a diminution of social security; then the methods in use
are extrinsically good though intrinsically bad. They are, as before
said, the least wrong, and therefore relatively right.

Nevertheless, as we have endeavoured to prove, it is immensely
important that, while duly considering the relatively right, we should
keep the absolutely right constantly in view. True as it is that, in
this transition state, our conceptions of the ultimately expedient must
ever be qualified by our experience of the proximately expedient; it is
not the less true that the proximately expedient cannot be determined
unless the ultimately expedient is known. Before we can say what is as
good as the time permits, we must say what is abstractedly good; for
the first idea involves the last. We must have some fixed standard,
some invariable measure, some constant clue; otherwise we shall
inevitably be misled by the suggestions of immediate policy, and wander
away from the right rather than advance towards it. This conclusion is
fully borne out by the facts we have cited. In other cases, as well as
in the case of penal discipline, the evidence shows how terribly we
have erred from obstinately refusing to consult first principles and
clinging to an unreasoning empiricism. Though, during civilization,
grievous evils have occasionally arisen from attempts suddenly to
realize absolute rectitude, yet a {189} greater sum total of evils
has arisen from the more usual course of ignoring absolute rectitude.
Age after age, effete institutions have been maintained far longer
than they would else have been, and equitable arrangements have been
needlessly postponed. Is it not time for us to profit by past lessons?

       *       *       *       *       *


POSTSCRIPT.—Since the publication of this essay in 1860 further
evidence supporting its conclusions has been made public. Dr. F.J.
Mouat, late Inspector-General of Gaols in Lower Bengal, has given,
in various pamphlets and articles, dating from 1872, accounts of his
experiences, which entirely harmonize with the foregoing general
argument. Speaking of three leading systems of prison-discipline,
“based on opposite theories,” he says:―

 “The oldest is, that a prison should be rendered a terror to evil
 doers by the infliction of as much pain as can be inflicted, without
 direct injury to health or risk to life. The second plan is a
 graduated system of punishment, from which the direct infliction of
 pain is eliminated, and the prisoner is allowed to work his way to
 freedom and mitigation of sentence, by mere good conduct in jail.
 The third, and in my humble judgment the best, is to convert every
 prison into a school of industry, labour being used as an instrument
 of punishment, discipline, and reformation.”—_Prison Industry in its
 Primitive, Reformatory, and Economic Aspects_ (London, Nov. 1889).

In his pamphlet on the _Prison System of India_, published in 1872, Dr.
Mouat contends:―

 “That remunerative prison labour is an efficient instrument of
 punishment and reformation by occupying the whole available time of
 criminals in uncongenial and compulsory employments; by teaching
 them the means of gaining an honest livelihood on release; by the
 inculcation of habits of order and industry, to the displacement of
 the irregularity and idleness which are the sources of so much vice
 and crime; and by repaying to the State the whole or part of the cost
 of repression of crime by the compulsory industry of the unproductive
 classes, and thus relieving the community at large from a burden which
 it is at present compelled to bear.

 “That the economic objections to the remunerative employment of
 convicts are unsound and untenable; and that even if they were true
 as respects individuals and small sections of the community, the
 interests of the minority should yield to the general welfare.”

Once more, under the title _Prison Discipline and its Results in
Bengal_, first published in the _Journal of the {190} Society of Arts_
in 1872, Dr. Mouat, after describing an exhibition of gaol-manufactures
held in Calcutta in 1856, urges “that every prisoner sentenced to
labour should be made to repay to the State the whole cost of his
punishment in gaol; . . . and that prisons should be made, as much as
possible, schools of industry, as combining, more completely than can
be effected by any other system, the punishment of the offender, with
the protection of society.” He then goes on to show what have been the
results of the self-supporting system:―

 “The net profits realized from the labour of the convicts actually
 employed in handicrafts, after deducting the cost of production, were,
 in round numbers, as follows:―

              £
 1855–56   11,019
  ’56–57   12,300
  ’57–58   10,841
  ’59–60   14,065
  ’60–61   23,124
  ’61–62   54,542
  ’62–63   30,604
  ’63–64   54,542
  ’64–65   32,988
  ’65–66   35,543
  ’66      14,287
  ’67      41,168
  ’68      56,817
  ’69      46,588
  ’70      45,274

 In all, nearly half a million of money. In 1866, the accounts were
 made up for only eight months, to introduce the calendar in place of
 the official year, which ended on the 30th of April.

 “If the limits of time and space permitted, I could show you in minute
 detail that each skilled prisoner employed in handicrafts, striking
 the average of all the jails, earned considerably more than he cost;
 that five of the prisons under my charge were at various times
 self-supporting, and that one of them, the great industrial prison at
 Alipore, a suburb of Calcutta, has repaid very considerably more than
 its cost, for the last ten years continuously.”

As Dr. Mouat held the position of Inspector-General of Gaols in Lower
Bengal for 15 years, and as, during that period, he had under his
control an average of 20,000 prisoners, it may, I think, be held that
his experiences have been tolerably extensive, and that a system
justified by such experiences is worthy of adoption. Unfortunately,
however, men pooh-pooh those experiences which do not accord with their
foregone conclusions.

I have occasionally vented the paradox that mankind go {191} right
only when they have tried all possible ways of going wrong: intending
it to be taken with some qualification. Of late, however, I have
observed that in some respects this paradox falls short of the truth.
Sundry instances have shown me that even when mankind have at length
stumbled into the right course, they often deliberately return to the
wrong.

{192}



THE ETHICS OF KANT.

[_From the_ Fortnightly Review _for July 1888. This essay was called
forth by attacks on me made in essays published in preceding numbers of
the_ Fortnightly Review—_essays in which the Kantian system of ethics
was lauded as immensely superior to the system of ethics defended by
me. The last section now appears for the first time._]


If, before Kant uttered that often-quoted saying in which, with the
stars of Heaven he coupled the conscience of Man, as being the two
things that excited his awe, he had known more of Man than he did, he
would probably have expressed himself somewhat otherwise. Not, indeed,
that the conscience of Man is not wonderful enough, whatever be its
supposed genesis; but the wonderfulness of it is of a different kind
according as we assume it to have been supernaturally given or infer
that it has been naturally evolved. The knowledge of Man in that large
sense which Anthropology expresses, had made, in Kant’s day, but small
advances. The books of travel were relatively few, and the facts which
they contained concerning the human mind as existing in different
races, had not been gathered together and generalized. In our days the
conscience of Man, as inductively known, has none of that universality
of presence and unity of nature, which Kant’s saying tacitly assumes.
Sir John Lubbock writes:―

  “In fact, I believe that the lower races of men may be said to be
 deficient {193} in the idea of right. . . . . That there should be any
 races of men so deficient in moral feeling, was altogether opposed
 to the preconceived ideas with which I commenced the study of savage
 life, and I have arrived at the conviction by slow degrees, and even
 with reluctance.”—_Origin of Civilization_, 1882, pp. 404–5.

But now let us look at the evidence from which this impression
is derived, as we find it in the testimonies of travellers and
missionaries.

 Praising his deceased son, Tui Thakau, a Fijian Chief, concluded “by
 speaking of his daring spirit and consummate cruelty, as he could kill
 his own wives if they offended him, and eat them afterwards.”—_Western
 Pacific._ J. E. Erskine, p. 248.

 “Shedding of blood is to him no crime, but a glory . . . . to be
 somehow an acknowledged murderer is the object of the Fijian’s
 restless ambition.”—_Fiji and the Fijians._ Rev. T. Williams, i., p.
 112.

 “It is a melancholy fact that when they [the Zulu boys] have arrived
 at a very early age, should their mothers attempt to chastise them,
 such is the law, that these lads are at the moment allowed to kill
 their mothers.”—_Travels and Adventures in Southern Africa._ G.
 Thompson, ii., p. 418.

 “Murther, adultery, thievery, and all other such like crimes, are here
 [Gold Coast] accounted no sins.”—_Description of the Coast of Guinea._
 W. Bosman, p. 130.

 “The accusing conscience is unknown to him [the East African]. His
 only fear after committing a treacherous murder is that of being
 haunted by the angry ghost of the dead.”—_Lake Regions of Central
 Africa._ R. F. Burton, ii., p. 336.

 “I never could make them [East Africans] understand the existence of
 good principle.”—_The Albert N’Yanza._ S. W. Baker, i., pp. 241.

 “The Damaras kill useless and worn-out people; even sons smother their
 sick fathers.”—_Narrative of an Explorer in Tropical South Africa._ F.
 Galton, p. 112.

 The Damaras “seem to have no perceptible notion of right and
 wrong.”—_Ibid._ p. 72.

Against these we may set some converse facts. At the other extreme
we have a few Eastern tribes—pagans they are called—who practise the
virtues which Western nations—Christians they are called—do but teach.
While Europeans thirst for blood-revenge in much the same way as the
lowest savages, there are some simple peoples of the Indian Hills,
as the Lepchas, who “are singularly forgiving of injuries;”[9] and
Campbell exemplifies “the effect of a {194} very strong sense of duty
on this savage.”[10] That character which the creed of Christendom
is supposed to foster is exhibited in high degree by the Arafuras
(Papuans) who live in “peace and brotherly love with one another”[11]
to such extent that government is but nominal. And concerning various
of the Indian Hill-tribes, as the Santáls, Sowrahs, Marias, Lepchas,
Bodo and Dhimáls, different observers testify of them severally that
“they were the most truthful set of men I ever met,”[12] “crime and
criminal officers are almost unknown,”[13] “a pleasing feature in their
character is their complete truthfulness,”[14] “they bear a singular
character for truthfulness and honesty,”[15] they are “wonderfully
honest,”[16] “honest and truthful in deed and word.”[17] Irrespective
of race, we find these traits in men who are, and have long been,
absolutely peaceful (the uniform antecedent), be they the Jakuns of the
South Malayan Peninsula, who “are never known to steal anything, not
even the most insignificant trifle,”[18] or be it in the Hos of the
Himalaya, among whom “a reflection on a man’s honesty or veracity may
be sufficient to send him to self-destruction.”[19] So that in respect
of conscience these uncivilized people are as superior to average
Europeans, as average Europeans are superior to the brutal savages
previously described.

 [9] Campbell in _Journal of the Ethnological Society_, July, N. S. vol.
 i., 1869, p. 150.

 [10] _Ibid._ p. 154.

 [11] Dr. H. Kolff, _Voyages of the Dutch brig “Dourga.”_ Earl’s
 translation, pp. 161.

 [12] W. W. Hunter, _Annals of Rural Bengal_, p. 248.

 [13] _Ibid._ p. 217.

 [14] Dr. J. Shortt, _Hill Ranges of Southern India_, pt. iii., p. 38.

 [15] Glasfind in _Selections from the Records of Government of India_
 (Foreign Department), No. xxxix., p. 41.

 [16] Campbell in _Journal of the Ethnological Society_, N. S. vol. i.,
 1869, p. 150.

 [17] B. H. Hodgson in _Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal_,
 xviii., p. 745.

 [18] Rev. P. Favre in _Journal of the Indian Archipelago_, ii., p. 266.

 [19] Col. E. T. Dalton, _Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal_, p. 206.

Had Kant had these and kindred facts before him, {195} his conception
of the human mind, and consequently his ethical conception, would
scarcely have been what they were. Believing, as he did, that one
object of his awe—the stellar Universe—has been evolved, he might by
evidence like the foregoing have been led to suspect that the other
object of his awe—the human conscience—has been evolved, and has
consequently a real nature unlike its apparent nature.

       *       *       *       *       *

For the disciples of Kant living in our day there can be made no such
defence as that which may be made for their master. On all sides of
them lie classes of facts of various kinds, which might suffice to make
them hesitate, if nothing more. Here are a few such classes of facts.

Though, unlike the uncultured, who suppose everything to be what it
appears, chemists had for many generations known that multitudinous
substances which seem simple are really compound, and often highly
compound; yet, until the time of Sir Humphrey Davy, even chemists had
believed that certain substances which resisted all their powers of
decomposition, were to be classed among the elements. Davy, however,
by subjecting the alkalies to a force not before applied, proved that
they are oxides of metals; and, suspecting the like to be the case with
the earths, similarly proved the composite nature of these also. Not
only the common sense of the uncultured, but the common sense of the
cultured was shown to be wrong. Wider knowledge has, as usual, led to
greater modesty, and, since Davy’s day, chemists have felt less certain
that the so-called elements are elementary. Contrariwise, increasing
evidence of sundry kinds leads them to suspect more and more strongly
that they are all compound.

Alike to the labourer who digs it out and to the carpenter who uses it
in his workshop, a piece of chalk appears a thing than which nothing
can be simpler; and ninety-nine people out of a hundred would agree
with them. Yet a {196} piece of chalk is highly complex. A microscope
shows it to consist of myriads of shells of _Foraminifera_; shows,
further, that it contains more kinds than one; and shows, further
still, that each minute shell, whole or broken, is formed of many
chambers, every one of which once contained a living unit. Thus by
ordinary inspection, however close, the true nature of chalk cannot be
known; and to one who has absolute confidence in his eyes the assertion
of its true nature appears absurd.

Take again a living body of a seemingly uncomplicated kind—say a
potato. Cut it through and observe how structureless is its substance.
But though unaided vision gives this verdict, aided vision gives a
widely different one. Aided vision discovers, in the first place, that
the mass is everywhere permeated by vessels of complex formation.
Further, that it is made up of innumerable units called cells, each of
which has walls composed of several layers. Further still, that each
cell contains a number of starch-grains. And yet still further, that
each of these grains is formed of layer within layer, like the coats
of an onion. So that where there appears perfect simplicity there is
really complexity within complexity.

From these examples which the objective world furnishes, let us turn to
some examples furnished by the subjective world—some of our states of
consciousness. Up to modern times any one who, looking out on the snow,
was told that the impression of whiteness it gave him was composed of
impressions such as those given by the rainbow, would have regarded his
informant as a lunatic; as would even now the great mass of mankind.
But since Newton’s day, it has become well known to a relatively small
number that this is literal fact. Not only may white light be resolved
by a prism into a number of brilliant colours, but, by an appropriate
arrangement, these colours can be re-combined into white light: the
visual sensation which seems perfectly simple proves to be highly
compound. Those who {197} habitually suppose that things are what they
seem, are wrong here as in multitudinous other cases.

Another example is supplied by the sensation of sound. A solitary note
struck on the piano, or a blast from a horn, yields through the ear a
feeling which appears homogeneous; and the uninstructed are incredulous
if told that it is an intricate combination of noises. In the first
place, that which constitutes the more voluminous part of the tone is
accompanied by a number of over-tones, producing what is known as its
_timbre_: instead of one note, there are half a dozen notes, of which
the chief has its character specialized by the others. In the second
place, each of these notes, consisting objectively of a rapid series
of aërial waves, produces subjectively a rapid series of impressions
on the auditory nerve. Either by the appliance of Hooke or by Savart’s
machine or by the siren, it is proved to demonstration that every
musical sound is the product of successive units of sound, each in
itself unmusical, which, as they succeed one another with increasing
rapidity, produce a tone which progressively rises in pitch. Here
again, then, under an apparent simplicity there is a double complexity.

Most of these examples of the illusiveness of unaided perception,
whether exercised upon objective or subjective existences, were unknown
to Kant. Had they been known to him they might have suggested other
views concerning certain of our states of consciousness, and might
have given a different character to his philosophy. Let us observe
what would possibly have been the changes in two of his cardinal
conceptions—metaphysical and ethical.

       *       *       *       *       *

Our consciousness of Time and Space appeared to him, as they appear to
everyone, perfectly simple; and the apparent simplicity he accepted
as actual simplicity. Had he suspected that, just as the seemingly
homogeneous and undecomposable consciousness of Sound really consists
of multitudinous units of consciousness, so might the {198} apparently
homogeneous and undecomposable consciousness of Space, he would
possibly have been led to inquire whether the consciousness of Space
is not wholly composed of infinitely numerous relations of position,
such as those which every portion of it presents. And finding that
every portion of Space, immense or minute, cannot be either known or
conceived save in some relative position to the conscious subject,
and that, besides involving the relations of distance and direction,
it invariably contains within itself relations of right and left,
top and bottom, nearer and farther; he might perhaps have concluded
that our consciousness of that matrix of phenomena we call Space, has
been built up in the course of Evolution by accumulated experiences
registered in the nervous system. And had he concluded this, he would
not have committed himself to the many absurdities which his doctrine
involves.[20]

Similarly, if, instead of assuming that conscience is simple because
it seems simple to ordinary introspection, he had entertained the
hypothesis that it is perhaps complex—a consolidated product of
multitudinous experiences received, mainly by ancestors and added
to by self—he might have arrived at a consistent system of Ethics.
That the habitual association of pains with certain things and acts,
generation after generation, may produce organic repugnance to such
things and acts,[21] might, had it been known to him, have made him
suspect that conscience is a product of Evolution. And in that case his
conception of it would not have been incongruous with the facts above
named, showing that there are widely different degrees of conscience in
different races.

 [20] See _Principles of Psychology_, § 399.

 [21] See _Principles of Psychology_, § 189 (note) and § 520.

In brief, as already implied, had Kant, instead of his incongruous
beliefs that the celestial bodies have had an evolutionary origin, but
that the minds of living beings on them, or at least on one of them,
have had a {199} non-evolutionary origin, entertained the belief
that both have arisen by Evolution, he would have been saved from the
impossibilities of his Metaphysics, and the untenabilities of his
Ethics. To the consideration of these last, let us now pass.

       *       *       *       *       *

Before doing this, however, something must be said concerning abnormal
reasoning as compared with normal reasoning.

Knowledge which is of the highest order in respect of certainty, and
which we call exact science, is distinguished from other knowledge by
its definitely quantitative previsions.[22] It sets out with data,
and proceeds by steps which, taken together, enable it to say under
what specified conditions a specified relation of phenomena will be
found; and to say in what place, or at what time, or in what quantity,
or all of them, a certain effect will be witnessed. Given the factors
of any arithmetical operation, and there is absolute certainty in the
result reached, supposing there are no stumblings: stumblings which
always admit of detection and disproof by the method which we shall
presently find is pursued. Base and angles having been accurately
measured, that sub-division of geometry which is called trigonometry
yields with certainty the distance or the height of the object of
which the position is sought. The ratio of the arms of a lever having
been stated, mechanics tells us what weight at one end will balance
an assigned weight at the other. And by the aid of these three exact
sciences, the Calculus, Geometry, and Mechanics, Astronomy can predict
to the minute, for each separate place on the Earth, when an eclipse
will begin and end, and how near it will approach to totality.
Knowledge of this order has infinite justifications in the successful
guidance of infinitely numerous human actions. The accounts of every
trader, the operations of every workshop, the navigation of every
vessel, depend for their trustworthiness {200} on these sciences. The
method they pursue, therefore, verified in cases which pass all human
power to enumerate, is a method not to be transcended in certainty.

 [22] See Essay on “Genesis of Science.”

What is this method? Whichever of these sciences we examine, we
find the course uniformly pursued to be that of setting out with
propositions of which the negations are inconceivable, and advancing
by successive dependent propositions, each of which has the like
character—that its negation is inconceivable. In a developed
consciousness (and of course I exclude minds of which the faculties
are unformed) it is impossible to represent things that are equal
to the same thing as being themselves unequal; and in a developed
consciousness, action and re-action cannot be thought of as other
than equal and opposite. In like manner, every _because_ and every
_therefore_, used in a mathematical argument, connotes a proposition of
which the terms are absolutely coherent in the mode alleged: the proof
being that an attempt to bring together in consciousness the terms
of the opposite proposition is futile. And this method of testing,
alike the fundamental propositions and all members of the fabrics of
propositions raised upon them, is consistently pursued in verifying
the conclusion. Inference and observation are compared; and when they
agree, it is held inconceivable that the inference is other than true.

In contrast to the method which I have just described, distinguishable
as the legitimate _a priori_ method, there is one which may be called—I
was about to say, the illegitimate _a priori_ method. But the word is
not strong enough; it must be called the inverted _a priori_ method.
Instead of setting out with a proposition of which the negation is
inconceivable, it sets out with a proposition of which the affirmation
is inconceivable, and therefrom proceeds to draw conclusions. It is
not consistent, however: it does not continue to do that which it does
at first. Having posited an inconceivable proposition to begin with,
it does not {201} frame its argument out of a series of inconceivable
propositions. All steps after the first are of the kind ordinarily
accepted as valid. The successive _therefores_ and _becauses_ have
the usual connotations. The peculiarity lies in this, that in every
proposition save the first, the reader is expected to admit the logical
necessity of an inference drawn, for the reason that the opposite is
not thinkable; but he is not supposed to expect a like conformity to
logical necessity in the primary proposition. The dictum of a logical
consciousness which must be recognized as valid in every subsequent
step, must be ignored in the first step. We pass now to an illustration
of this method which here concerns us.

The first sentence in Kant’s first chapter runs thus:—“Nothing can
possibly be conceived in the world, or even out of it, which can be
called good without qualification, except a Good Will.”[23] And then on
the next page we come upon the following definition:―

 “A good will is good not because of what it performs or effects, nor
 by its aptness for the attainment of some proposed end, but simply by
 virtue of the volition, that is, it is good in itself, and considered
 by itself is to be esteemed much higher than all that can be brought
 about by it in favour of any inclination, nay even of the sum total of
 all inclinations.”[24]

   [23] _Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason and other works on the
   Theory of Ethics_, trans. by T. K. Abbott, p. 11.

   [24] _Ibid._ pp. 12–13.

Most fallacies result from the habit of using words without fully
rendering them into thoughts—passing them by with recognitions of their
meanings as ordinarily used, without stopping to consider whether
these meanings admit of being given to them in the cases named. Let
us not rest satisfied with thinking vaguely of what is understood
by “a Good Will,” but let us interpret the words definitely. Will
implies the consciousness of some end. Exclude from it every idea of
purpose and the conception of Will disappears. An end of some kind
being necessarily implied by the conception of Will, the quality of
the Will is determined {202} by the quality of the end contemplated.
Will itself, considered apart from any distinguishing epithet, is
not cognizable by Morality at all. It becomes cognizable by Morality
only when it gains its character as good or bad by virtue of its
contemplated end as good or bad. If any one doubts this, let him try
whether he can think of a good will which contemplates a bad end. The
whole question, therefore, centres in the meaning of the word good. Let
us look at the meanings habitually given to it.

We speak of good meat, good bread, good wine; by which phrases we mean
either things that are palatable, and so give pleasure, or things that
are wholesome, and by conducing to health conduce to pleasure. A good
fire, good clothing, a good house, we so name because they minister
either to comfort, which means pleasure, or gratify the æsthetic
sentiment, which also means pleasure. So it is with things which more
indirectly further welfare, as good tools or good roads. When we speak
of a good workman, a good teacher, a good doctor, it is the same:
efficiency in aiding others’ well-being is what we indirectly mean.
Yet again, good government, good institutions, good laws, connote
benefits yielded to the society in which they exist: benefits being
equivalent to certain kinds of happiness, positive or negative. But
Kant tells us that a good will is one that is good in and for itself
without reference to ends. We are not to think of it as prompting acts
which will profit the man himself, either by conducing to his health,
advancing his culture, or improving his inclinations; for all these
are in the long run conducive to happiness, and are urged only for
the reason that they do this. We are not to think of a will as good
because, by fulfilment of it, friends are saved from sufferings or have
their gratifications increased; for this would involve calling it good
because of beneficial ends in view. Nor must conduciveness to social
ameliorations, present or future, be taken into account when we attempt
to conceive {203} a good will. In short, we are to frame our idea of a
good will without any material out of which to frame the idea of good:
good is to be used in thought as an eviscerated term.

Here, then, is illustrated what I have called above the inverted _a
priori_ method of philosophizing: the setting out with an inconceivable
proposition. The Kantian Metaphysics starts by asserting that Space is
“nothing but” a form of intuition—pertains wholly to the subject and
not at all to the object. This is a verbally intelligible proposition,
but one of which the terms cannot be put together in consciousness;
for neither Kant, nor any one else, ever succeeded in bringing into
unity of representation the thought of Space and the thought of Self,
as being the one an attribute of the other. And here we see that, just
in the same way, the Kantian Ethics begins by positing something which
seems to have a meaning but which has really no meaning—something
which, under the conditions imposed, cannot be rendered into thought at
all. For neither Kant, nor any one else, ever has or ever can, frame a
consciousness of a good will when from the word good are expelled all
thoughts of those ends which we distinguish by the word good.

       *       *       *       *       *

Evidently Kant himself sees that his assumption invites attack, for he
proceeds to defend it. He says:―

 “There is, however, something so strange in this idea of the absolute
 value of the mere will, in which no account is taken of its utility,
 that notwithstanding the thorough assent of even common reason to the
 idea [!], yet a suspicion must arise that it may perhaps really be the
 product of mere high-flown fancy, &c.” (p. 13).

And then to prepare for a justification, he goes on to say:―

 “In the physical constitution of an organized being we assume it as
 a fundamental principle that no organ for any purpose will be found
 in it but what is also the fittest and best adapted for that purpose”
 (pp. 13–14).

Now, even had this assumption been valid, the argument he bases upon
it, far-fetched as it is, might be considered of very inadequate
strength to warrant the supposition that there can be a will conceived
as good without any reference {204} to good ends. But, unfortunately
for Kant, the assumption is utterly invalid. In his day it probably
passed without question; but in our day few if any biologists would
admit it. On the special-creation hypothesis some defence of the
proposition might be attempted, but the evolution-hypothesis tacitly
negatives it entirely. Let us begin with some minor facts which
militate against Kant’s supposition. Take, first, rudimentary organs.
These are numerous throughout the animal kingdom. While representing
organs which were of use in ancestral types, they are of no use in the
types possessing them; and, as being rudimentary, they are of necessity
imperfect. Moreover, besides being injurious by taxing nutrition to no
purpose, they are almost certainly in some cases injurious by being
in the way. Then, beyond the argument from rudimentary organs, there
is the argument from make-shift organs, which form a large class. We
have a conspicuous case in the swimming organ of the seal, formed by
the apposition of the two hind limbs—an organ manifestly inferior to
one specially shaped for its function, and one which, during early
stages of the changes which have produced it, must have been very
inefficient. But the untruth of the assumption is best shown by
comparing a given organ in a low type of creature with the same organ
in a high type. The alimentary canal, for example, in very inferior
creatures is a simple tube, substantially alike from end to end, and
having throughout all its parts the same function. But in a superior
creature this tube is differentiated into mouth, æsophagus, stomach
(or stomachs), small and large intestines with their various appended
glands pouring in secretions. Now if this last form of alimentary canal
is to be regarded as a perfect organ, or something like it, what shall
we say of the original form; and what shall we say of all those forms
lying between the two? The vascular system, again, furnishes a clear
instance. The primitive heart is nothing but a dilatation of the great
blood vessel—a pulsatile {205} sac. But a mammal has a four-chambered
heart with valves, by the aid of which the blood is propelled through
the lungs for aëration, and throughout the system at large for general
purposes. If this four-chambered heart is a perfect organ, what is
the primitive heart, and what are the hearts possessed by all the
multitudinous creatures below the higher _vertebrata_? Manifestly the
process of evolution implies a continual replacing of creatures having
inferior organs, by creatures having superior organs; leaving such of
the inferior as can survive to occupy inferior spheres of life. This
is not only so throughout the whole animal creation up to Man himself,
but it is so within the limits of the human race. Both the brains and
the lower limbs of various inferior races are ineffective organs,
compared with those of superior races. Nay, even in the highest type
of Man we have obvious imperfections. The structure of the groin is
imperfect: the frequent ruptures which result from it would have been
prevented by closure of the inguinal rings during fœtal life after they
had performed their office. That all-important organ the vertebral
column, too, is as yet but incompletely adapted to the upright posture.
Only while the vigour is considerable can there be maintained, without
appreciable effort, those muscular contractions which produce the
sigmoid flexure, and bring the lumbar portion into such a position
that the “line of direction” falls within it. In young children, in
boys and girls who are admonished to “sit up,” in weakly people, and
in the old, the spine lapses into that convex form characteristic of
lower _Primates_. It is the same with the balancing of the head. Only
by a muscular strain to which habit makes us insensible, as it does to
the exposure of the face to cold, is the head maintained in position.
Immediately certain cervical muscles are relaxed the head falls
forward; and where there is great debility the chin rests permanently
on the chest.

So far, indeed, is the assumption of Kant from being true that the very
reverse is probably true. After {206} contemplating the countless
examples of imperfections exhibited in low types of creatures, and
decreasing with the ascent to high types, but still exemplified in the
highest, anyone who concludes, as he may reasonably do, that Evolution
has not yet reached its limit, must infer that most likely no such
thing as a perfect organ exists. Thus the basis of the argument by
which Kant attempts to justify his assumption that there exists a good
will apart from a good end, disappears utterly; and leaves his dogma in
all its naked unthinkableness.[25]

 [25] I find that in the above three paragraphs I have done Kant
 less than justice and more than justice—less, in assuming that
 his evolutionary view was limited to the genesis of our sidereal
 system, and more, in assuming that he had not contradicted himself.
 My knowledge of Kant’s writings is extremely limited. In 1844 a
 translation of his _Critique of Pure Reason_ (then I think lately
 published) fell into my hands, and I read the first few pages
 enunciating his doctrine of Time and Space: my peremptory rejection
 of which caused me to lay the book down. Twice since then the same
 thing has happened; for, being an impatient reader, when I disagree
 with the cardinal propositions of a work I can go no further. One
 other thing I knew. By indirect references I was made aware that Kant
 had propounded the idea that celestial bodies have been formed by
 the aggregation of diffused matter. Beyond this my knowledge of his
 conceptions did not extend; and my supposition that his evolutionary
 conception had stopped short with the genesis of sun, stars, and
 planets, was due to the fact that his doctrine of Time and Space, as
 forms of thought anteceding experience, implied a supernatural origin
 inconsistent with the hypothesis of natural genesis. Dr. Paul Carus,
 who, shortly after the publication of this article in the _Fortnightly
 Review_ for July, 1888, undertook to defend the Kantian ethics in the
 American journal which he edits, _The Open Court_, has now (Sept. 4,
 1890), in another defensive article, translated sundry passages from
 Kant’s _Critique of Judgment_, his _Presumable Origin of Humanity_,
 and his work _Upon the different Races of Mankind_, showing that Kant
 was, if not fully, yet partially, an evolutionist in his speculations
 about living beings. There is, perhaps, some reason for doubting the
 correctness of Dr. Carus’s rendering of these passages into English.
 When, as in the first of the articles just named, he failed to
 distinguish between consciousness and conscientiousness, and when,
 as in this last article, he blames the English for mistranslating
 Kant, since they have said “Kant maintained that Space and Time are
 intuitions,” which is quite untrue, for they have everywhere described
 him as maintaining that Space and Time are _forms_ of intuition, one
 may be excused for thinking that possibly Dr. Carus has read into some
 of Kant’s expressions, meanings which they do not rightly bear. Still,
 the general drift of the passages quoted makes it tolerably clear
 that Kant must have believed in the operation of natural causes as
 largely, though not entirely, instrumental in producing organic forms:
 extending this belief (which he says “can be named a daring venture of
 reason”) in some measure to the origin of Man himself. He does not,
 however, extend the theory of natural genesis to the exclusion of the
 theory of supernatural genesis. When he speaks of an organic habit
 “which in the wisdom of nature appears to be thus arranged in order
 that the species shall be preserved;” and when, further, he says “we
 see, moreover, that a germ of reason is placed in him, whereby, after
 the development of the same, he is destined for social intercourse,”
 he implies divine intervention. And this shows that I was justified in
 ascribing to him the belief that Space and Time, as forms of thought,
 are supernatural endowments. Had he conceived of organic evolution in
 a consistent manner, he would necessarily have regarded Space and Time
 as subjective forms generated by converse with objective realities.

 Beyond showing that Kant had a partial, if not a complete, belief in
 organic evolution (though with no idea of its causes), the passages
 translated by Dr. Carus show that he entertained an implied belief
 which it here specially concerns me to notice as bearing on his theory
 of “a good will.” He quotes approvingly Dr. Moscati’s lecture showing
 “that the upright walk of man is constrained and unnatural,” and
 showing the imperfect visceral arrangements and consequent diseases
 which result: not only adopting, but further illustrating, Dr.
 Moscati’s argument. If here, then, there is a distinct admission, or
 rather assertion, that various human organs are imperfectly adjusted
 to their functions, what becomes of the postulate above quoted “that
 no organ for any purpose will be found in it but what is also the
 fittest and best adapted for that purpose?” And what becomes of the
 argument which sets out with this postulate? Clearly, I am indebted to
 Dr. Carus for enabling me to prove that Kant’s defence of his theory
 of “a good will” is, by his own showing, baseless.

       *       *       *       *       *

One of the propositions contained in Kant’s first chapter {207} is
that “we find that the more a cultivated reason applies itself with
deliberate purpose to the enjoyment of life and happiness, so much the
more does the man fail of true satisfaction.” A preliminary remark to
be made on this statement is that in its sweeping form it is not true.
I assert that it is untrue on the strength of personal experiences. In
the course of my life there have occurred many intervals, averaging
more than a month each, in which the pursuit of happiness was the
sole object, and in {208} which happiness was successfully pursued.
How successfully, may be judged from the fact that I would gladly
live over again each of those periods without change—an assertion
which I certainly cannot make of any portions of my life spent in
the daily discharge of duties. That which Kant should have said is
that the _exclusive_ pursuit of what are distinguished as pleasures
and amusements, is disappointing. This is doubtless true; and for
the obvious reason that it over-exercises one group of faculties and
exhausts them, while it leaves unexercised another group of faculties,
which consequently do not yield the gratifications accompanying their
exercise. It is not, as Kant says, guidance by “a cultivated reason”
which leads to disappointment, but guidance by an uncultivated reason;
for a cultivated reason teaches that continuous action of a small
part of the nature joined with inaction of the rest, must end in
dissatisfaction.

But now, supposing we accept Kant’s statement in full, what is its
implication? That happiness is the thing to be desired, and, in one way
or another, the thing to be achieved. For if not, what meaning is there
in the statement that it will not be achieved when made the immediate
object? One who was thus admonished might properly rejoin:—“You say I
shall fail to get happiness if I make it the object of pursuit? Suppose
then I do not make it the object of my pursuit; shall I get it? If I
do, then your admonition amounts to this, that I shall obtain it better
if I proceed in some other way than that I adopt. If I do not get it,
then I remain without happiness if I follow your way, just as much
as if I follow my own, and nothing is gained.” An illustration will
best show how the matter stands. To a tyro in archery the instructor
says:—“Sir, you must not point your arrow directly at the target.
If you do, you will inevitably miss it. You must aim high above the
target; and you may then possibly pierce the bull’s eye.” What now is
implied by the warning and the {209} advice? Clearly that the purpose
is to hit the target. Otherwise there is no sense in the remark that it
will be missed if directly aimed at; and no sense in the remark that to
be hit, something higher must be aimed at. Similarly with happiness.
There is no sense in the remark that happiness will not be found if it
is directly sought, unless happiness is a thing to be somehow or other
obtained.

“Yes; there is sense,” I hear it said. “Just as it may be that the
target is not the thing to be hit at all, either by aiming directly or
indirectly at it, but that some other thing is to be hit; so it may be
that the thing to be achieved immediately or remotely is not happiness
at all, but some other thing: the other thing being duty.” In answer
to this the admonished man may reasonably say:—“What then is meant by
Kant’s statement that the man who pursues happiness ‘fails of true
satisfaction’? All happiness is made up of satisfactions. The ‘true
satisfaction’ which Kant offers as an alternative, must be some kind of
happiness; and if a truer satisfaction, must be a better happiness; and
better must mean on the average, and in the long run, greater. If this
‘true satisfaction’ does not mean greater happiness of self,—distant if
not proximate, in another life if not in this life—and if it does not
mean greater happiness by achieving the happiness of others; then you
propose to me as an end a smaller happiness instead of a greater, and I
decline it.”

So that in this professed repudiation of happiness as an end, there
lies the inavoidable implication that it _is_ the end.

       *       *       *       *       *

The last consideration introduces us naturally to another of Kant’s
cardinal doctrines. That there may be no mistake in my representation
of it, I must make a long quotation.

 “I omit here all actions which are already recognized as inconsistent
 with duty, although they may be useful for this or that purpose, for
 with these the question whether they are done _from duty_ cannot
 arise at all, since they even conflict with it. I also set aside
 those actions which really conform to {210} duty, but to which men
 have _no_ direct _inclination_, performing them because they are
 impelled thereto by some other inclination. For in this case we can
 readily distinguish whether the action which agrees with duty is done
 _from duty_, or from a selfish view. It is much harder to make this
 distinction when the action accords with duty, and the subject has
 besides a _direct_ inclination to it. For example, it is always a
 matter of duty that a dealer should not overcharge an inexperienced
 purchaser, and wherever there is much commerce the prudent tradesman
 does not overcharge, but keeps a fixed price for every one, so that
 a child buys of him as well as any other. Men are thus _honestly_
 served; but this is not enough to make us believe that the tradesman
 has so acted from duty and from principles of honesty: his own
 advantage required it; it is out of the question in this case to
 suppose that he might besides have a direct inclination in favour of
 the buyers, so that, as it were, from love he should give no advantage
 to one over another [!]. Accordingly the action was done neither from
 duty nor from direct inclination, but merely with a selfish view. On
 the other hand, it is a duty to maintain one’s life; and, in addition,
 every one has also a direct inclination to do so. But on this account
 the often anxious care which most men take for it has no intrinsic
 worth, and their maxim has no moral import. They preserve their life
 _as duty requires_, no doubt, but not _because duty requires_. On the
 other hand, if adversity and hopeless sorrow have completely taken
 away the relish for life; if the unfortunate one, strong in mind,
 indignant at his fate rather than desponding or dejected, wishes
 for death, and yet preserves his life without loving it—not from
 inclination or fear, but from duty—then his maxim has a moral worth.

 “To be beneficent when we can is a duty; and besides this, there are
 many minds so sympathetically constituted that without any other
 motive of vanity or self-interest, they find a pleasure in spreading
 joy around them, and can take delight in the satisfaction of others
 so far as it is their own work. But I maintain that in such a case
 an action of this kind, however proper, however amiable it may be,
 has nevertheless no true moral worth, but is on a level with other
 inclinations” (pp. 17–19).

I have given this extract at length that there may be fully understood
the remarkable doctrine it embodies—a doctrine especially remarkable as
exemplified in the last sentence. Let us now consider all that it means.

Before doing this, however, I may remark that, space permitting, it
might be shown clearly enough that the assumed distinction between
_sense_ of duty and inclination is untenable. The very expression
sense of duty implies that the mental state signified is a feeling;
and if a feeling it must, like other feelings, be gratified by acts
of one kind and offended by acts of an opposite kind. If we take
the {211} name conscience, which is equivalent to sense of duty,
we see the same thing. The common expressions “a tender conscience”
“a seared conscience,” indicate the perception that conscience is a
feeling—a feeling which has its satisfactions and dissatisfactions,
and which _inclines_ a man to acts which yield the one and avoid the
other—produces an _inclination_. The truth is that conscience, or the
sense of duty, is an inclination of a complex kind as distinguished
from inclinations of simpler kinds.

But let us grant Kant’s distinction in an unqualified form. Doing
this, let us entertain, too, his proposition that acts of whatever
kind done from inclination have no moral worth, and that the only acts
having moral worth are those done from a sense of duty. To test this
proposition let us follow an example he sets. As he would have the
quality of an act judged by supposing it universalized, let us judge of
moral worth as he conceives it by making a like supposition. That we
may do this effectually, let us assume that it is exemplified not only
by every man but by all the acts of every man. Unless Kant alleges that
a man may be morally worthy in too high a degree, we must admit that
the greater the number of his acts which have moral worth the better.
Let us then contemplate him as doing nothing from inclination but
everything from a sense of duty.

When he pays the labourer who has done a week’s work for him, it
is not because letting a man go without wages would be against his
inclination, but solely because he sees it to be a duty to fulfil
contracts. Such care as he takes of his aged mother is prompted not by
tender feeling for her but by the consciousness of filial obligation.
When he gives evidence on behalf of a man whom he knows to have been
falsely charged, it is not that he would be hurt by seeing the man
wrongly punished, but simply in pursuance of a moral intuition showing
him that public duty requires him to testify. When he sees a little
child in danger of {212} being run over, and steps aside to snatch,
it away, he does so not because thought of the impending death of the
child pains him, but because he knows it is a duty to save life. And
so throughout, in all his relations as husband, as friend, as citizen,
he thinks always of what the law of right conduct directs, and does
it because it is the law of right conduct, not because he satisfies
his affections or his sympathies by doing it. This is not all however.
Kant’s doctrine commits him to something far beyond this. If those acts
only have moral worth which are done from a sense of duty, we must not
only say that the moral worth of a man is greater in proportion as the
number of the acts so done is greater. We must also say that his moral
worth is greater in proportion as his sense of duty makes him do the
right thing not only apart from inclination but against inclination.
According to Kant, then, the most moral man is the man whose sense of
duty is so strong that he refrains from picking a pocket though he is
much tempted to do it; who says of another that which is true though
he would like to injure him by a falsehood; who lends money to his
brother though he would prefer to see him in distress; who fetches the
doctor to his sick child though death would remove what he feels to
be a burden. What, now, shall we think of a world peopled with Kant’s
typically moral men—men who, in the one case, while doing right by one
another, do it with indifference, and severally know one another to be
so doing it; and men who, in the other case, do right by one another
notwithstanding the promptings of evil passions to do otherwise, and
who severally know themselves surrounded by others similarly prompted?
Most people will, I think, say that even in the first case life would
be hardly bearable, and that in the second case it would be absolutely
intolerable. Had such been men’s natures, Schopenhauer would indeed
have had good reason for urging that the race should bring itself to an
end as quickly as possible.

Contemplate now the doings of one whose acts, according {213} to
Kant, have no moral worth. He goes through his daily work not thinking
of duty to wife and child, but having in his mind the pleasure of
witnessing their welfare; and on reaching home he delights to see his
little girl with rosy cheeks and laughing eyes eating heartily. When
he hands back to a shopkeeper the shilling given in excess of right
change, he does not stop to ask what the moral law requires: the
thought of profiting by the man’s mistake is intrinsically repugnant
to him. One who is drowning he plunges in to rescue without any idea
of obligation, but because he cannot contemplate without horror the
death which threatens. If, for a worthy man who is out of employment,
he takes much trouble to find a place, he does it because the
consciousness of the man’s difficulties is painful to him, and because
he knows that he will benefit not only him but the employer who engages
him: no moral maxim enters his mind. When he goes to see a sick friend
the gentle tones of his voice and the kindly expression of his face
show that he is come not from any sense of duty, but because pity and
a desire to raise his friend’s spirits have moved him. If he aids in
some public measure which helps men to help themselves, it is not in
pursuance of the admonition “Do as you would be done by,” but because
the distresses around make him unhappy, and the thought of mitigating
them gives him pleasure. And so throughout: he ever does the right
thing not in obedience to any injunction but because he loves the right
thing in and for itself. And now who would not like to live in a world
where everyone was thus characterized?

What, then, shall we think of Kant’s conception of moral worth, when,
if it were displayed universally in men’s acts the world would be
intolerable, and when if these same acts were universally performed
from inclination, the world would be delightful?

       *       *       *       *       *

But now, from these indirect criticisms, let us pass to a {214} direct
criticism of the Kantian principle—the principle often quoted as
distinctive of his ethics. He states it thus:―

 “There is therefore but one categorical imperative, namely this: _Act
 only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it
 should become a universal law_.” (pp. 54–5.)

Again, subsequently, we read:―

 “_Act on maxims which can at the same time have for their object
 themselves as universal laws of nature._ Such then is the formula of
 an absolutely good will.” (p. 80.)

Here, then, we have a clear statement of that which constitutes the
character of a good will; which good will, as we have already seen,
is said to exist independently of any contemplated end. Let us now
observe how this theory is reduced to practice. Speaking of a man who
is absolutely selfish and yet absolutely just, he represents him as
saying:―

 “Let everyone be as happy as heaven pleases or as he can make himself;
 I will take nothing from him nor even envy him, only I do not wish
 to contribute anything either to his welfare or to his assistance in
 distress! Now no doubt if such a mode of thinking were a universal
 law, the human race might very well subsist, and doubtless even better
 than in a state in which every one talks of sympathy and good will, or
 even takes care occasionally to put it into practice, but on the other
 side, also cheats when he can, betrays the rights of men or otherwise
 violates them. But although it is possible that a universal law of
 nature might exist in accordance with that maxim, it is impossible to
 _will_ that such a principle should have the universal validity of a
 law of nature. For a will which resolved this would contradict itself,
 inasmuch as many cases might occur in which one would have need of the
 love and sympathy of others, and in which by such a law of nature,
 sprung from his own will, he would deprive himself of all hope of the
 aid he desires.” (pp. 58–9.)

Thus we see illustrated the guidance of conduct in conformity with
the Kantian maxim; and what is the process of guidance? It is that
of considering what, in the particular case, would be the result if
the suggested course of conduct were made universal; and then being
deterred from willing such conduct by the badness of the conceived
result. Now, in the first place, what here becomes of the doctrine of a
good will, which we are told exists “without paying {215} any regard
to the effect expected from it”? (p. 24). The good will, characterized
by readiness to see the act it prompts made universal, has, in this
particular case, as in every other case, to be decided by contemplation
of an end—if not a special and immediate end then a general and remote
end. And what, in this case, is to be the deterrent from a suggested
course of conduct? Consciousness that the result, if such conduct were
universal, might be suffering to self: there might be no aid when it
was wanted. So that, in the first place, the question is to be decided
by the contemplation of happiness or misery as likely to be caused by
the one or the other course; and, in the second place, this happiness
or misery is that of the individual himself. Strangely enough, this
principle which is lauded because of its apparently implied altruism,
turns out, in the last resort, to have its justification in egoism!

The essential truth here to be noted, however, is that the Kantian
principle, so much vaunted as higher than that of expediency or
utilitarianism, is compelled to take expediency or utilitarianism as
its basis. Do what it will, it cannot escape the need for conceiving
happiness or misery, to self or others or both, as respectively to
be achieved or avoided; for in any case what, except the conceived
happiness or misery which would follow if a given mode of action were
made universal, can determine the will for or against such mode of
action? If, in one who has been injured, there arises a temptation to
murder the injurer; and if, following out the Kantian injunction, the
tempted man thinks of himself as willing that all men who have been
injured should murder those who have injured them; and if, imagining
the consequences experienced by mankind at large, and possibly on some
occasion by himself in particular, he is deterred from yielding to the
temptation; what is it which deters him? Obviously the representation
of the many evils, pains, deprivations of happiness, which would be
caused. If, on imagining his act to be {216} universalized, he saw
that it would increase human happiness, the alleged deterrent would not
act. Hence the conduct to be insured by adoption of the Kantian maxim
is simply the conduct to be insured by making the happiness of self or
others or both the end to be achieved. By implication, if not avowedly,
the Kantian principle is as distinctly utilitarian as the principle
of Bentham. And it falls short of a scientific ethics in just the
same way; since it fails to furnish any method by which to determine
whether such and such acts _would_ or _would not_ be conducive to
happiness—leaves all such questions to be decided empirically.

{217}



ABSOLUTE POLITICAL ETHICS.

[_Originally published in_ The Nineteenth Century _for January 1890.
The writing of this essay was consequent on a controversy carried on
in_ The Times _between Nov. 7 and Nov. 27, 1889, and was made needful
by the misapprehensions and misrepresentations embodied in that
controversy. Hence the allusions which the essay contains. The last few
paragraphs of it in its original form were mainly personal in their
character; and, not wishing to perpetuate personalities, I have omitted
them_.]


Life in Fiji, at the time when Thomas Williams settled there, must
have been something worse than uncomfortable. One of the people who
passed near the string of nine hundred stones with which Ra Undreundre
recorded the number of human victims he had devoured, must have had
unpleasant waking thoughts and occasionally horrible dreams. A man
who had lost some fingers for breaches of ceremony, or had seen his
neighbour killed by a chief for behaviour not sufficiently respectful,
and who remembered how King Tanoa cut off his cousin’s arm, cooked
it and ate it in his presence, and then had him hacked to pieces,
must not unfrequently have had “a bad quarter of an hour.” Nor could
creeping sensations have failed to run through women who heard Tui
Thakau eulogizing his dead son for cruelty, and saying that “he could
kill his own wives if they offended him, and eat them afterwards.”
Happiness {218} could not have been general in a society where there
was a liability to be one among the ten whose life-blood baptized the
decks of a new canoe—a society in which the killing even of unoffending
persons was no crime but a glory; and in which everyone knew that his
neighbour’s restless ambition was to be an acknowledged murderer.
Still, there must have been some moderation in murdering even in Fiji.
Or must we hesitate to conclude that unlimited murder would have caused
extinction of the society?

The extent to which each man’s possessions among the Biluchis are
endangered by the predatory instincts of his neighbours, may be judged
from the fact that “a small mud tower is erected in each field, where
the possessor and his retainers guard his produce.” If turbulent
states of society such as early histories tell of, do not show us so
vividly how the habit of appropriating one another’s goods interferes
with social prosperity and individual comfort, yet they do not leave
us in doubt respecting these results. It is an inference which few
will be hardy enough to dispute, that in proportion as the time of
each man, instead of being occupied in further production, is occupied
in guarding that which he has produced against marauders, the total
production must be diminished and the sustentation of each and all less
satisfactorily achieved. And it is a manifest corollary that if each
pushes beyond a certain limit the practice of trying to satisfy his
needs by robbing his neighbour, the society must dissolve: solitary
life will prove preferable.

A deceased friend of mine, narrating incidents in his life, told me
that as a young man he sought to establish himself in Spain as a
commission agent; and that, failing by expostulation or other means
to obtain payment from one who had ordered goods through him, he, as
a last resource, went to the man’s house and presented himself before
him pistol in hand—a proceeding which had the desired effect: the
account was settled. Suppose now that everywhere {219} contracts had
thus to be enforced by more or less strenuous measures. Suppose that
a coal-mine proprietor in Derbyshire, having sent a train-load to a
London coal-merchant, had commonly to send a _posse_ of colliers up to
town, to stop the man’s wagons and take out the horses until payment
had been made. Suppose the farm-labourer or the artisan was constantly
in doubt whether, at the end of the week, the wages agreed upon would
be forthcoming; or whether he would get only half, or whether he
would have to wait six months. Suppose that daily in every shop there
occurred scuffles between shopman and customer, the one to get the
money without giving the goods, and the other to get the goods without
paying the money. What in such case would happen to the society? What
would become of its producing and distributing businesses? Is it a rash
inference that industrial co-operation (of the voluntary kind at least)
would cease?

“Why these absurd questions?” asks the impatient reader. “Surely
everyone knows that murder, assault, robbery, fraud, breach of
contract, &c., are at variance with social welfare and must be punished
when committed,” My replies are several. In the first place, I am quite
content to have the questions called absurd; because this implies a
consciousness that the answers are so self-evident that it is absurd to
assume the possibility of any other answers. My second reply is that
I am not desirous of pressing the question _whether_ we know these
things, but of pressing the question _how_ we know these things. Can
we know them, and do we know them, by contemplating the necessities
of the case? or must we have recourse to “inductions based on careful
observation and experience”? Before we make and enforce laws against
murder, ought we to inquire into the social welfare and individual
happiness in places where murder prevails, and observe whether or not
the welfare and happiness are greater in places where murder is rare?
Shall robbery be allowed to go on until, {220} by collecting and
tabulating the effects in countries where thieves predominate and in
countries where thieves are but few, we are shown by induction that
prosperity is greater when each man is allowed to retain that which he
has earned? And is it needful to prove by accumulated evidence that
breaches of contract impede production and exchange, and those benefits
to each and all which mutual dependence achieves? In the third place,
these instances of actions which, pushed to extremes, cause social
dissolution, and which, in smaller degrees, hinder social co-operation
and its benefits, I give for the purpose of asking what is their
common trait. In each of such actions we see aggression—a carrying on
of life in a way which directly interferes with the carrying on of
another’s life. The relation between effort and consequent benefit in
one man, is either destroyed altogether or partially broken by the
doings of another man. If it be admitted that life can be maintained
only by certain activities (the internal ones being universal, and the
external ones being universal for all but parasites and the immature),
it must be admitted that when like-natured beings are associated, the
required activities must be mutually limited; and that the highest
life can result only when the associated beings are so constituted as
severally to keep within the implied limits. The restrictions stated
thus generally, may obviously be developed into special restrictions
referring to this or that kind of conduct. These, then, I hold are
_a priori_ truths which admit of being known by contemplation of the
conditions—axiomatic truths which bear to ethics a relation analogous
to that which the mathematical axioms bear to the exact sciences.

I do not mean that these axiomatic truths are cognisable by all. For
the apprehension of them, as for the apprehension of simpler axioms, a
certain mental growth and a certain mental discipline are needed. In
the _Treatise on Natural Philosophy_ by Professors Thomson and Tait
[1st ed.], {221} it is remarked that “physical axioms are axiomatic
to those only who have sufficient knowledge of the action of physical
causes to enable them to see at once their necessary truth.” Doubtless
a fact and a significant fact. A plough-boy cannot form a conception
of the axiom that action and reaction are equal and opposite. In the
first place he lacks a sufficiently generalized idea of action—has not
united into one conception pushing and pulling, the blow of a fist,
the recoil of a gun, and the attraction of a planet. Still less has he
any generalized idea of reaction. And even had he these two ideas, it
is probable that, defective in power of representation as he is, he
would fail to recognize the necessary equality. Similarly with these
_a priori_ ethical truths. If a member of that Fijian slave-tribe who
regarded themselves as food for the chiefs had suggested that there
might arrive a time when men would not eat one another, his implied
belief that men might come to have a little respect for one another’s
lives, condemned as utterly without justification in experience, would
be considered as fit only for a wild speculator. Facts furnished by
every-day observation make it clear to the Biluchi, keeping watch
in his mud-tower, that possession of property can be maintained
only by force; and it is most likely to him scarcely conceivable
that there exist limits which, if mutually recognized, may exclude
aggressions, and make it needless to mount guard over fields: only an
absurd idealist (supposing such a thing known to him) would suggest
the possibility. And so even of our own ancestors in feudal times,
it may be concluded that, constantly going about armed and often
taking refuge in strongholds, the thought of a peaceful social state
would have seemed ridiculous; and the belief that there might be
a recognized equality among men’s claims to pursue the objects of
life, and a consequent desistence from aggressions, would have been
scarcely conceivable. But now that an orderly social state has been
maintained for generations—now that in daily {222} intercourse men
rarely use violence, commonly pay what they owe, and in most cases
respect the claims of the weak as well as those of the strong—now
that they are brought up with the idea that all men are equal before
the law, and daily see judicial decisions turning upon the question
whether one citizen has or has not infringed upon the equal rights
of another; there exist in the general mind materials for forming
the conception of a _régime_ in which men’s activities are mutually
limited, and in which maintenance of harmony depends on respect for the
limits. There has arisen an ability to see that mutual limitations are
required when lives are carried on in proximity; and to see that there
necessarily emerge definite sets of restraints applying to definite
classes of actions. And it has become manifest to some, though not it
seems to many, that there results an _a priori_ system of absolute
political ethics—a system under which men of like natures, severally
so constituted as spontaneously to refrain from trespassing, may work
together without friction, and with the greatest advantage to each and
all.

“But men are not wholly like-natured and are unlikely to become so. Nor
are they so constituted that each is solicitous for his neighbour’s
claims as for his own, and there is small probability that they ever
will be. Your absolute political ethics is therefore an ideal beyond
the reach of the real.” This is true. Nevertheless, much as it seems to
do so, it does not follow that there is no use for absolute political
ethics. The contrary may clearly enough be shown. An analogy will
explain the paradox.

There exists a division of physical science distinguished as abstract
mechanics or absolute mechanics—absolute in the sense that its
propositions are unqualified. It is concerned with statics and dynamics
in their pure forms—deals with forces and motions considered as free
from all interferences resulting from friction, resistances of media,
and special properties of matter. If it enunciates a law of motion,
it {223} recognizes nothing which modifies manifestation of it. If
it formulates the properties of the lever it treats of this assuming
it to be perfectly rigid and without thickness—an impossible lever.
Its theory of the screw imagines the screw to be frictionless; and in
treating of the wedge, absolute incompressibility is supposed. Thus
its truths are never presented in experience. Even those movements
of the heavenly bodies which are deducible from its propositions
are always more or less perturbed; and on the Earth the inferences
to be drawn from them deviate very considerably from the results
reached by experiment. Nevertheless this system of ideal mechanics is
indispensable for the guidance of real mechanics. The engineer has
to deal with its propositions as true in full, before he proceeds
to qualify them by taking into account the natures of the materials
he uses. The course which a projectile would take if subject only
to the propulsive force and the attraction of the Earth must be
recognized, though no such course is ever pursued: correction for
atmospheric resistance cannot else be made. That is to say, though,
by empirical methods, applied or relative mechanics may be developed
to a considerable extent, it cannot be highly developed without
the aid of absolute mechanics. So is it here. Relative political
ethics, or that which deals with right and wrong in public affairs
as partially determined by changing circumstances, cannot progress
without taking into account right and wrong considered apart from
changing circumstances—cannot do without absolute political ethics; the
propositions of which, deduced from the conditions under which life
is carried on in an associated state, take no account of the special
circumstances of any particular associated state.

And now observe a truth which seems entirely overlooked; namely, that
the set of deductions thus arrived at is verified by an immeasurably
vast induction, or rather by a great assemblage of vast inductions.
For what else are the laws and judicial systems of all civilized
nations, and of {224} all societies which have risen above savagery?
What is the meaning of the fact that all peoples have discovered the
need for punishing murder, usually by death? How is it that where any
considerable progress has been made, theft is forbidden by law, and
a penalty attached to it? Why along with further advance does the
enforcing of contracts become general? And what is the reason that
among fully civilized peoples frauds, libels, and minor aggressions
of various kinds are repressed in more or less rigorous ways? No
cause can be assigned save a general uniformity in men’s experiences,
showing them that aggressions directly injurious to the individuals
aggressed upon are indirectly injurious to society. Generation after
generation observations have forced this truth on them; and generation
after generation they have been developing the interdicts into greater
detail. That is to say, the above fundamental principle and its
corollaries arrived at _a priori_ are verified in an infinity of cases
_a posteriori_. Everywhere the tendency has been to carry further
in practice the dictates of theory—to conform systems of law to the
requirements of absolute political ethics: if not consciously, still
unconsciously. Nay, indeed, is not this truth manifest in the very name
used for the end aimed at—equity or equalness? Equalness of what? No
answer can be given without a recognition—vague it may be, but still a
recognition—of the doctrine above set forth.

Thus, instead of being described as putting faith in “long chains of
deduction from abstract ethical assumptions” I ought to be described as
putting faith in simple deductions from abstract ethical necessities;
which deductions are verified by infinitely numerous observations and
experiences of semi-civilized and civilized mankind in all ages and
places. Or rather I ought to be described as one who, contemplating
the restraints everywhere put on the various kinds of transgressions,
and seeing in them all a common principle everywhere dictated by the
necessities {225} of the associated state, proceeds to develop the
consequences of this common principle by deduction, and to justify both
the deductions and the conclusions which legislators have empirically
reached by showing that the two correspond. This method of deduction
verified by induction is the method of developed science at large. I
do not believe that I shall be led to abandon it and change my “way of
thinking” by any amount of disapproval, however strongly expressed.

Are we then to understand that by this imposing title, “Absolute
Political Ethics,” nothing more is meant than a theory of the needful
restraints which law imposes on the actions of citizens—an ethical
warrant for systems of law? Well, supposing even that I had to answer
“Yes” to this question (which I do not), there would still be an ample
justification for the title. Having for its subject-matter all that is
comprehended under the word “Justice,” alike as formulated in law and
administered by legal instrumentalities, the title has a sufficiently
large area to cover. This would scarcely need saying were it not for a
curious defect of thought which we are everywhere led into by habit.

Just as, when talking of knowledge, we ignore entirely that familiar
knowledge of surrounding things, animate and inanimate, acquired in
childhood, in the absence of which death would quickly result, and
think only of that far less essential knowledge gained at school
and college or from books and conversation—just as, when thinking
of mathematics, we include under the name only its higher groups of
truths and drop out that simpler group constituting arithmetic, though
for the carrying on of life this is more important than all the rest
put together; so, when politics and political ethics are discussed,
there is no thought of those parts of them which include whatever
is fundamental and long settled. The word political raises ideas of
party-contests, ministerial changes, prospective elections, or else of
the Home-Rule question, the {226} Land-Purchase scheme, Local Option,
or the Eight-Hours movement. Rarely does the word suggest law-reform,
or a better judicial organization, or a purified police. And if ethics
comes into consideration, it is in connexion with the morals of
parliamentary strife or of candidates’ professions, or of electoral
corruptions. Yet it needs but to look at the definition of politics
(“that part of ethics which consists in the regulation and government
of a nation or state, for the preservation of its safety, peace, and
prosperity”), to see that the current conception fails by omitting
the chief part. It needs but to consider how relatively immense a
factor in the life of each man is constituted by safety of person,
security of house and property, and enforcement of claims, to see that
not only the largest part but the part which is vital is left out.
Hence the absurdity does not exist in the conception of an absolute
political ethics, but it exists in the ignoring of its subject-matter.
Unless it be considered absurd to regard as absolute the interdicts
against murder, burglary, fraud and all other aggressions, it cannot
be considered absurd to regard as absolute the ethical system which
embodies these interdicts.

It remains to add that beyond the deductions which, as we have seen,
are verified by vast assemblages of inductions, there may be drawn
other deductions not thus verified—deductions drawn from the same
data, but which have no relevant experiences to say yes or no to
them. Such deductions may be valid or invalid; and I believe that
in my first work, written forty years ago and long since withdrawn
from circulation, there are some invalid deductions. But to reject a
principle and a method because of some invalid deductions, is about as
proper as it would be to pooh-pooh arithmetic because of blunders in
certain arithmetical calculations.

       *       *       *       *       *

I turn now to a question above put—whether, by absolute political
ethics, nothing more is meant than an ethical {227} warrant for
systems of law—a question to which, by implication, I answered No.
And now I have to answer that it extends over a further field equally
wide if less important. For beyond the relations among citizens taken
individually, there are the relations between the incorporated body of
citizens and each citizen. And on these relations between the State and
the man, absolute political ethics gives judgments as well as on the
relations between man and man. Its judgments on the relations between
man and man are corollaries from its primary truth, that the activities
of each in pursuing the objects of life may be rightly restricted
only by the like activities of others: such others being like-natured
(for the principle does not contemplate slave-societies or societies
in which one race dominates over another); and its judgments on the
relations between the man and the State are corollaries from the allied
truth, that the activities of each citizen may be rightly limited
by the incorporated body of citizens only as far as is needful for
securing to him the remainder. This further limitation is a necessary
accompaniment of the militant state; and must continue so long as,
besides the criminalities of individual aggression, there continue
the criminalities of international aggression. It is clear that the
preservation of the society is an end which must take precedence of the
preservation of its individuals taken singly; since the preservation
of each individual and the maintenance of his ability to pursue the
objects of life, depend on the preservation of the society. Such
restrictions upon his actions as are imposed by the necessities of
war, and of preparedness for war when it is probable, are therefore
ethically defensible.

And here we enter upon the many and involved questions with which
relative political ethics has to deal. When originally indicating
the contrast, I spoke of “absolute political ethics, or that which
ought to be, as distinguished from relative political ethics, or that
which is at present the nearest practicable approach to it;” and had
any {228} attention been paid to this distinction, no controversy
need have arisen. Here I have to add that the qualifications which
relative political ethics sets forth vary with the type of the society,
which is primarily determined by the extent to which defence against
other societies is needful. Where international enmity is great and
the social organization has to be adapted to warlike activities, the
coercion of individuals by the State is such as almost to destroy
their freedom of action and make them slaves of the State; and where
this results from the necessities of defensive war (not offensive war,
however), relative political ethics furnishes a warrant. Conversely,
as militancy decreases, there is a diminished need both for that
subordination of individuals which is necessitated by consolidating
them into a fighting machine, and for that further subordination
entailed by supplying this fighting machine with the necessaries
of life; and as fast as this change goes on, the warrant for
State-coercion which relative political ethics furnishes becomes less
and less.

Obviously it is out of the question here to enter upon the complex
questions raised. It must suffice to indicate them as above. Should I
be able to complete Part IV. of _The Principles of Ethics_, treating
of “Justice,” of which the first chapters only are at present written,
I hope to deal adequately with these relations between the ethics of
the progressive condition and the ethics of that condition which is
the goal of progress—a goal ever to be recognized, though it cannot be
actually reached.

{229}



OVER-LEGISLATION.[26]

[_First published in_ The Westminster Review _for July 1853_.]


From time to time there returns on the cautious thinker, the conclusion
that, considered simply as a question of probabilities, it is unlikely
that his views upon any debatable topic are correct. “Here,” he
reflects, “are thousands around me holding on this or that point
opinions differing from mine—wholly in many cases; partially in most
others. Each is as confident as I am of the truth of his convictions.
Many of them are possessed of great intelligence; and, rank myself high
as I may, I must admit that some are my equals—perhaps my superiors.
Yet, while every one of us is sure he is right, unquestionably most
of us are wrong. Why should not I be among the mistaken? True, I
cannot realize the likelihood that I am so. But this proves nothing;
for though the majority of us are necessarily in error, we all labour
under the inability to think we are in error. Is it not then foolish
thus to trust myself? When {230} I look back into the past, I find
nations, sects, theologians, philosophers, cherishing beliefs in
science, morals, politics, and religion, which we decisively reject.
Yet they held them with a faith quite as strong as ours: nay—stronger,
if their intolerance of dissent is any criterion. Of what little worth,
therefore, seems this strength of my conviction that I am right! A like
warrant has been felt by men all the world through; and, in nine cases
out of ten, has proved a delusive warrant. Is it not then absurd in me
to put so much faith in my judgments?”

 [26] Some of the illustrations used in this essay refer to laws
 and arrangements changed since it was written; while many recent
 occurrences might now be cited in further aid of its argument. As,
 however, the reasoning is not affected by these changes; and as to
 keep it corrected to the facts of the day would involve perpetual
 alterations; it seems best to leave it substantially in its original
 state: or rather in the state in which it was republished in Mr.
 Chapman’s _Library for the People_.

Barren of practical results as this reflection at first sight appears,
it may, and indeed should, influence some of our most important
proceedings. Though in daily life we are constantly obliged to act out
our inferences, trustless as they may be—though in the house, in the
office, in the street, there hourly arise occasions on which we may not
hesitate; seeing that if to act is dangerous, never to act at all is
fatal—and though, consequently, on our private conduct, this abstract
doubt as to the worth of our judgments, must remain inoperative;
yet, in our public conduct, we may properly allow it to weigh. Here
decision is no longer imperative; while the difficulty of deciding
aright is incalculably greater. Clearly as we may think we see how a
given measure will work, we may infer, drawing the above induction from
human experience, that the chances are many against the truth of our
anticipations. Whether in most cases it is not wiser to do nothing,
becomes now a rational question. Continuing his self-criticism, the
cautious thinker may reason:—“If in these personal affairs, where
all the conditions of the case were known to me, I have so often
miscalculated, how much oftener shall I miscalculate in political
affairs, where the conditions are too numerous, too wide-spread, too
complex, too obscure to be understood. Here, doubtless, is a social
evil and there a desideratum; and were I sure of doing no mischief I
would forthwith try to cure the one and achieve {231} the other. But
when I remember how many of my private schemes have miscarried—how
speculations have failed, agents proved dishonest, marriage been
a disappointment—how I did but pauperize the relative I sought to
help—how my carefully-governed son has turned out worse than most
children—how the thing I desperately strove against as a misfortune
did me immense good—how while the objects I ardently pursued brought
me little happiness when gained, most of my pleasures have come from
unexpected sources; when I recall these and hosts of like facts, I am
struck with the incompetence of my intellect to prescribe for society.
And as the evil is one under which society has not only lived but
grown, while the desideratum is one it may spontaneously obtain, as it
has most others, in some unforeseen way, I question the propriety of
meddling.”

       *       *       *       *       *

There is a great want of this practical humility in our political
conduct. Though we have less self-confidence than our ancestors, who
did not hesitate to organize in law their judgments on all subjects
whatever, we have yet far too much. Though we have ceased to assume
the infallibility of our theological beliefs and so ceased to enact
them, we have not ceased to enact hosts of other beliefs of an
equally doubtful kind. Though we no longer presume to coerce men
for their _spiritual good_, we still think ourselves called upon to
coerce them for their _material good_: not seeing that the one is
as useless and as unwarrantable as the other. Innumerable failures
seem, so far, powerless to teach this. Take up a daily paper and you
will probably find a leader exposing the corruption, negligence, or
mismanagement of some State-department. Cast your eye down the next
column, and it is not unlikely that you will read proposals for an
extension of State-supervision. Yesterday came a charge of gross
carelessness against the Colonial office. To-day Admiralty bunglings
are burlesqued. To-morrow brings the question—“Should there {232}
not be more coal-mine inspectors?” Now there is a complaint that
the Board of Health is useless; and now an outcry for more railway
regulation. While your ears are still ringing with denunciations of
Chancery abuses, or your cheeks still glowing with indignation at some
well-exposed iniquity of the Ecclesiastical Courts, you suddenly come
upon suggestions for organizing “a priesthood of science.” Here is a
vehement condemnation of the police for stupidly allowing sight-seers
to crush each other to death. You look for the corollary that official
regulation is not to be trusted; when, instead, _à propos_ of a
shipwreck, you read an urgent demand for government-inspectors to see
that ships always have their boats ready for launching. Thus, while
every day chronicles a failure, there every day reappears the belief
that it needs but an Act of Parliament and a staff of officers, to
effect any end desired. Nowhere is the perennial faith of mankind
better seen. Ever since society existed Disappointment has been
preaching—“Put not your trust in legislation;” and yet the trust in
legislation seems scarcely diminished.

Did the State fulfil efficiently its unquestionable duties, there
would be some excuse for this eagerness to assign it further duties.
Were there no complaints of its faulty administration of justice; of
its endless delays and untold expenses; of its bringing ruin in place
of restitution; of its playing the tyrant where it should have been
the protector—did we never hear of its complicated stupidities; its
20,000 statutes, which it assumes all Englishmen to know, and which not
one Englishman does know; its multiplied forms, which, in the effort
to meet every contingency, open far more loopholes than they provide
against—had it not shown its folly in the system of making every petty
alteration by a new act, variously affecting innumerable preceding
acts; or in its score of successive sets of Chancery rules, which so
modify, and limit, and extend, and abolish, and alter each other, that
not even Chancery lawyers know {233} what the rules are—were we never
astounded by such a fact as that, under the system of land registration
in Ireland, 6000l. have been spent in a “negative search” to establish
the title of an estate—did we find in its doings no such terrible
incongruity as the imprisonment of a hungry vagrant for stealing a
turnip, while for the gigantic embezzlements of a railway director it
inflicts no punishment;—had we, in short, proved its efficiency as
judge and defender, instead of having found it treacherous, cruel, and
anxiously to be shunned, there would be some encouragement to hope
other benefits at its hands.

Or if, while failing in its judicial functions, the State had proved
itself a capable agent in some other department—the military for
example—there would have been some show of reason for extending its
sphere of action. Suppose that it had rationally equipped its troops,
instead of giving them cumbrous and ineffective muskets, barbarous
grenadier caps, absurdly heavy knapsacks and cartouche-boxes, and
clothing coloured so as admirably to help the enemy’s marksmen—suppose
that it organized well and economically, instead of salarying an
immense superfluity of officers, creating sinecure colonelcies
of 4000_l._ a year, neglecting the meritorious and promoting
incapables—suppose that its soldiers were always well housed instead of
being thrust into barracks that invalid hundreds, as at Aden, or that
fall on their occupants, as at Loodianah, where ninety-five were thus
killed—suppose that, in actual war, it had shown due administrative
ability, instead of occasionally leaving its regiments to march
barefoot, to dress in patches, to capture their own engineering
tools, and to fight on empty stomachs, as during the Peninsular
campaign;—suppose all this, and the wish for more State-control might
still have had some warrant.

Even though it had bungled in everything else, yet had it in one case
done well—had its naval management alone been efficient—the sanguine
would have had a colourable {234} excuse for expecting success in a
new field. Grant that the reports about bad ships, ships that will
not sail, ships that have to be lengthened, ships with unfit engines,
ships that will not carry their guns, ships without stowage, and ships
that have to be broken up, are all untrue—assume those to be mere
slanderers who say that the _Megœra_ took double the time taken by
a commercial steamer to reach the Cape; that during the same voyage
the _Hydra_ was three times on fire, and needed the pumps kept going
day and night; that the _Charlotte_ troop-ship set out with 75 days’
provisions on board, and was three months in reaching her destination;
that the _Harpy_, at an imminent risk of life, got home in 110 days
from Rio—disregard as calumnies the statements about septuagenarian
admirals, dilettante ship building, and “cooked” dockyard accounts—set
down the affair of the Goldner preserved meats as a myth, and
consider Professor Barlow mistaken when he reported of the Admiralty
compasses in store, that “at least one-half were mere lumber;”—let
all these, we say, be held groundless charges, and there would remain
for the advocates of much government some basis for their political
air-castles, spite of military and judicial mismanagement.

As it is, however, they seem to have read backwards the parable of
the talents. Not to the agent of proved efficiency do they consign
further duties, but to the negligent and blundering agent. Private
enterprise has done much, and done it well. Private enterprise
has cleared, drained, and fertilized the country, and built the
towns—has excavated mines, laid out roads, dug canals, and embanked
railways—has invented, and brought to perfection, ploughs, looms,
steam-engines, printing-presses, and machines innumerable—has built
our ships, our vast manufactories, our docks—has established banks,
insurance societies, and the newspaper press—has covered the sea
with lines of steam-vessels, and the land with electric telegraphs.
Private enterprise has brought agriculture, manufactures, {235} and
commerce to their present height, and is now developing them with
increasing rapidity. Therefore, do not trust private enterprise. On
the other hand, the State so fulfils its judicial function as to ruin
many, delude others, and frighten away those who most need succour;
its national defences are so extravagantly and yet inefficiently
administered, as to call forth almost daily complaint, expostulation,
or ridicule; and as the nation’s steward, it obtains from some of our
vast public estates a minus revenue. Therefore, trust the State. Slight
the good and faithful servant, and promote the unprofitable one from
one talent to ten.

Seriously, the case, while it may not, in some respects, warrant this
parallel, is, in one respect, even stronger. For the new work is not
of the same order as the old, but of a more difficult order. Ill as
government discharges its true duties, any other duties committed to
it are likely to be still worse discharged. To guard its subjects
against aggression, either individual or national, is a straightforward
and tolerably simple matter; to regulate, directly or indirectly, the
personal actions of those subjects is an infinitely complicated matter.
It is one thing to secure to each man the unhindered power to pursue
his own good; it is a widely different thing to pursue the good for
him. To do the first efficiently, the State has merely to look on while
its citizens act; to forbid unfairness; to adjudicate when called on;
and to enforce restitution for injuries. To do the last efficiently,
it must become an ubiquitous worker—must know each man’s needs better
than he knows them himself—must, in short, possess superhuman power and
intelligence. Even, therefore, had the State done well in its proper
sphere, no sufficient warrant would have existed for extending that
sphere; but seeing how ill it has discharged those simple offices which
we cannot help consigning to it, small indeed is the probability that
it will discharge well offices of a more complicated nature.

Change the point of view however we may, and this {236} conclusion
still presents itself. If we define the primary State-duty to be
that of protecting each individual against others; then, all other
State-action comes under the definition of protecting each individual
against himself—against his own stupidity, his own idleness, his own
improvidence, rashness, or other defect—his own incapacity for doing
something or other which should be done. There is no questioning this
classification. For manifestly all the obstacles that lie between
a man’s desires and the satisfaction of them, are either obstacles
arising from other men’s counter desires, or obstacles arising from
inability in himself. Such of these counter desires as are just,
have as much claim to satisfaction as his; and may not, therefore,
be thwarted. Such of them as are unjust, it is the State’s duty to
hold in check. The only other possible sphere for it, therefore, is
that of saving the individual from the consequences of his nature,
or, as we say—protecting him against himself. Making no comment, at
present, on the policy of this, and confining ourselves solely to
the practicability of it, let us inquire how the proposal looks when
reduced to its simplest form. Here are men possessed of instincts,
and sentiments, and perceptions, all conspiring to self-preservation.
The due action of each brings its quantum of pleasure; the inaction,
its more or less of pain. Those provided with these faculties in due
proportions, prosper and multiply; those ill-provided, tend to die out.
And the general success of this human organization is seen in the fact,
that under it the world has been peopled, and by it the complicated
appliances and arrangements of civilized life have been developed. It
is complained, however, that there are certain directions in which this
apparatus of motives works but imperfectly. While it is admitted that
men are duly prompted by it to bodily sustenance, to the obtainment
of clothing and shelter, to marriage and the care of offspring, and
to the establishment of the more important industrial and commercial
agencies; it is argued that there are many desiderata, as pure air,
{237} more knowledge, good water, safe travelling, and so forth,
which it does not duly achieve. And these short-comings being assumed
permanent, it is urged that some supplementary means must be employed.
It is therefore proposed that out of the mass of men a certain number,
constituting the legislature, shall be instructed to attain these
various objects. The legislators thus instructed (all characterized, on
the average, by the same defects in this apparatus of motives as men in
general), being unable personally to fulfil their tasks, must fulfil
them by deputy—must appoint commissions, boards, councils, and staffs
of officers; and must construct their agencies of this same defective
humanity that acts so ill. Why now should this system of complex
deputation succeed where the system of simple deputation does not? The
industrial, commercial, and philanthropic agencies, which citizens
form spontaneously, are directly deputed agencies; these governmental
agencies made by electing legislators who appoint officers, are
indirectly deputed ones. And it is hoped that, by this process of
double deputation, things may be achieved which the process of single
deputation will not achieve. What is the rationale of this hope? Is it
that legislators, and their employés, are made to feel more intensely
than the rest these evils they are to remedy, these wants they are to
satisfy? Hardly; for by position they are mostly relieved from such
evils and wants. Is it, then, that they are to have the primary motive
replaced by a secondary motive—the fear of public displeasure, and
ultimate removal from office? Why scarcely; for the minor benefits
which citizens will not organize to secure _directly_, they will not
organize to secure _indirectly_, by turning out inefficient servants:
especially if they cannot readily get efficient ones. Is it, then, that
these State-agents are to do from a sense of duty, what they would
not do from any other motive? Evidently this is the only possibility
remaining. The proposition on which the {238} advocates of much
government have to fall back, is, that things which the people will
not unite to effect for personal benefit, a law-appointed portion of
them will unite to effect for the benefit of the rest. Public men
and functionaries love their neighbours better than themselves! The
philanthropy of statesmen is stronger than the selfishness of citizens!

No wonder, then, that every day adds to the list of legislative
miscarriages. If colliery explosions increase, notwithstanding
the appointment of coal-mine inspectors, why it is but a natural
sequence to these false methods. If Sunderland shipowners complain
that, as far as tried, “the Mercantile Marine Act has proved a total
failure;” and if, meanwhile, the other class affected by it—the
sailors—show their disapprobation by extensive strikes; why it does
but exemplify the folly of trusting a theorising benevolence rather
than an experienced self-interest. On all sides we may expect such
facts; and on all sides we find them. Government, turning engineer,
appoints its lieutenant, the Sewers’ Commission, to drain London.
Presently Lambeth sends deputations to say that it pays heavy rates,
and gets no benefit. Tired of waiting, Bethnal-green calls meetings
to consider “the most effectual means of extending the drainage of
the district.” From Wandsworth come complainants, who threaten to
pay no more until something is done. Camberwell proposes to raise
a subscription and do the work itself. Meanwhile, no progress is
made towards the purification of the Thames; the weekly returns show
an increasing rate of mortality; in Parliament, the friends of the
Commission have nothing save good intentions to urge in mitigation of
censure; and, at length, despairing ministers gladly seize an excuse
for quietly shelving the Commission and its plans altogether.[27]
As architectural {239} surveyor, the State has scarcely succeeded
better than as engineer; witness the Metropolitan Buildings’ Act. New
houses still tumble down from time to time. A few months since two
fell at Bayswater, and one more recently near the Pentonville Prison:
all notwithstanding prescribed thicknesses, and hoop-iron bond, and
inspectors. It never struck those who provided these delusive sureties,
that it was possible to build walls without bonding the two surfaces
together, so that the inner layer might be removed after the surveyor’s
approval. Nor did they foresee that, in dictating a larger _quantity_
of bricks than experience proved absolutely needful, they were simply
insuring a slow deterioration of _quality_ to an equivalent extent.[28]
The government guarantee for safe passenger ships answers no better
than its guarantee for safe houses. Though the burning of the _Amazon_
arose from either bad construction or bad stowage, she had received
the Admiralty certificate before sailing. Notwithstanding official
approval, the _Adelaide_ was found, on her first voyage, to steer ill,
to have useless pumps, ports that let floods of water into the cabins,
and coals so near the furnaces that they twice caught fire. The _W.
S. Lindsay_, which turned out unfit for sailing, had been passed by
the government agent; and, but for the owner, might have gone to sea
at a great risk of life. The _Melbourne_—originally a State-built
ship—which took twenty-four days to reach Lisbon, and then needed to
be docked to undergo a thorough repair, had been duly inspected. And
lastly, the notorious _Australian_, before her third futile attempt
to proceed on her {240} voyage, had, her owners tell us, received
“the full approbation of the government inspector.” Neither does the
like supervision give security to land-travelling. The iron bridge
at Chester, which, breaking, precipitated a train into the Dee, had
passed under the official eye. Inspection did not prevent a column
on the South-Eastern from being so placed as to kill a man who put
his head out of the carriage window. The locomotive that burst at
Brighton lately, did so notwithstanding a State-approval given but ten
days previously. And—to look at the facts in the gross—this system of
supervision has not prevented the increase of railway accidents; which,
be it remembered, has arisen _since_ the system was commenced.

 [27] So complete is the failure of this and other sanitary bodies,
 that, at the present moment (March, 1854) a number of philanthropic
 gentlemen are voluntarily organizing a “Health Fund for London,”
 with the view of meeting the threatened invasion of the Cholera;
 and the plea for this _purely private enterprise_, is, that the
 Local Boards of Health and Boards of Guardians are inoperative, from
 “_ignorance_, 1st, _of the extent of the danger_; 2nd, _of the means
 which experience has discovered for meeting it; and_ 3rd, _of the
 comparative security which those means may produce_.”

 [28] The _Builder_ remarks, that “the removal of the brick-duties
 has not yet produced that improvement in the make of bricks which we
 ought to find, . . . . . but as bad bricks can be obtained for less
 than good bricks, so long as houses built of the former will sell
 as readily as if the better had been used, no improvement is to be
 expected.”

“Well; let the State fail. It can but do its best. If it succeed, so
much the better: if it do not, where is the harm? Surely it is wiser
to act, and take the chance of success, than to do nothing.” To this
plea the rejoinder is that, unfortunately, the results of legislative
intervention are not only negatively bad, but often positively so.
Acts of Parliament do not simply fail; they frequently make worse. The
familiar truth that persecution aids rather than hinders proscribed
doctrines—a truth lately afresh illustrated by the forbidden work of
Gervinus—is a part of the general truth that legislation often does
indirectly, the reverse of that which it directly aims to do. Thus has
it been with the Metropolitan Buildings’ Act. As was lately agreed
unanimously by the delegates from all the parishes in London, and as
was stated by them to Sir William Molesworth, this act “has encouraged
bad building, and has been the means of covering the suburbs of the
metropolis with thousands of wretched hovels, which are a disgrace to
a civilized country.” Thus, also, has it been in provincial towns. The
Nottingham Inclosure Act of 1845, by prescribing the structure of the
houses to be built, and the extent of yard or garden to be allotted
to each, has rendered it impossible to build working-class dwellings
at such moderate {241} rents as to compete with existing ones. It is
estimated that, as a consequence, 10,000 of the population are debarred
from the new homes they would otherwise have, and are forced to live
crowded together in miserable places unfit for human habitation; and
so, in its anxiety to insure healthy accommodation for artisans, the
law has entailed on them still worse accommodation than before. Thus,
too, has it been with the Passengers’ Act. The terrible fevers which
arose in the Australian emigrant ships a few months since, causing in
the _Bourneuf_ 83 deaths, in the _Wanota_ 39 deaths, in the _Marco
Polo_ 53 deaths, and in the _Ticonderoga_ 104 deaths, arose in vessels
sent out by the government; and arose _in consequence_ of the close
packing which the Passengers’ Act authorizes.[29] Thus, moreover, has
it been with the safeguards provided by the Mercantile Marine Act. The
examinations devised for insuring the efficiency of captains, have
had the effect of certifying the superficially-clever and unpractised
men, and, as we are told by a shipowner, rejecting many of the
long-tried and most trustworthy: the general result being that _the
ratio of shipwrecks has increased_. Thus also has it happened with
Boards of Health, which have, in sundry cases, exacerbated the evils
to be removed; as, for instance, at Croydon, where, according to the
official report, the measures of the sanitary authorities produced an
epidemic, which attacked 1600 people and killed 70. Thus again has it
been with the Joint Stock Companies Registration Act. As was shown
by Mr. James Wilson, in his late motion for a select committee on
life-assurance associations, this measure, passed in 1844 to guard the
public against bubble schemes, actually facilitated the rascalities
of 1845 and subsequent years. The legislative sanction, devised as
a guarantee of genuineness, and supposed by the people to be {242}
such, clever adventurers have without difficulty obtained for the most
worthless projects. Having obtained it, an amount of public confidence
has followed which they could never otherwise have gained. In this way
literally hundreds of sham enterprises that would not else have seen
the light, have been fostered into being; and thousands of families
have been ruined who would never have been so but for legislative
efforts to make them more secure.

 [29] Against which close packing, by the way, _a private mercantile
 body_—the Liverpool Shipowners’ Association—unavailingly protested when
 the Act was before Parliament.

Moreover, when these topical remedies applied by statesmen do not
exacerbate the evils they were meant to cure, they constantly induce
collateral evils; and these often graver than the original ones. It
is the vice of this empirical school of politicians that they never
look beyond proximate causes and immediate effects. In common with the
uneducated masses they habitually regard each phenomenon as involving
but one antecedent and one consequent. They do not bear in mind that
each phenomenon is a link in an infinite series—is the result of
myriads of preceding phenomena, and will have a share in producing
myriads of succeeding ones. Hence they overlook the fact that, in
disturbing any natural chain of sequences, they are not only modifying
the result next in succession, but all the future results into which
this will enter as a part cause. The serial genesis of phenomena,
and the interaction of each series upon every other series, produces
a complexity utterly beyond human grasp. Even in the simplest cases
this is so. A servant who puts coals on the fire sees but few effects
from the burning of a lump. The man of science, however, knows that
there are very many effects. He knows that the combustion establishes
numerous atmospheric currents, and through them moves thousands of
cubic feet of air inside the house and out. He knows that the heat
diffused causes expansions and subsequent contractions of all bodies
within its range. He knows that the persons warmed are affected in
their rate of respiration and their waste of tissue; and that these
physiological {243} changes must have various secondary results. He
knows that, could he trace to their ramified consequences all the
forces disengaged, mechanical, chemical, thermal, electric—could he
enumerate all the subsequent effects of the evaporation caused, the
gases generated, the light evolved, the heat radiated; a volume would
scarcely suffice to enter them. If, now, from a simple inorganic change
such numerous and complex results arise, how infinitely multiplied and
involved must be the ultimate consequences of any force brought to bear
upon society. Wonderfully constructed as it is—mutually dependent as
are its members for the satisfaction of their wants—affected as each
unit of it is by his fellows, not only as to his safety and prosperity,
but in his health, his temper, his culture; the social organism cannot
be dealt with in any one part, without all other parts being influenced
in ways which cannot be foreseen. You put a duty on paper, and
by-and-by find that, through the medium of the jacquard-cards employed,
you have inadvertently taxed figured silk, sometimes to the extent of
several shillings per piece. On removing the impost from bricks, you
discover that its existence had increased the dangers of mining, by
preventing shafts from being lined and workings from being tunnelled.
By the excise on soap, you have, it turns out, greatly encouraged the
use of caustic washing-powders; and so have unintentionally entailed
an immense destruction of clothes. In every case you perceive, on
careful inquiry, that besides acting upon that which you sought to act
upon, you have acted upon many other things, and each of these again
on many others; and so have propagated a multitude of changes in all
directions. We need feel no surprise, then, that in their efforts to
cure specific evils, legislators have continually caused collateral
evils they never looked for. No Carlyle’s wisest man, nor any body of
such, could avoid causing them. Though their production is explicable
enough after it has occurred, it is never anticipated. {244} When,
under the New Poor-law, provision was made for the accommodation of
vagrants in the Union-houses, it was hardly expected that a body of
tramps would be thereby called into existence, who would spend their
time in walking from Union to Union throughout the kingdom. It was
little thought by those who in past generations assigned parish-pay
for the maintenance of illegitimate children, that, as a result, a
family of such would by-and-by be considered a small fortune, and the
mother of them a desirable wife; nor did the same statesmen see that,
by the law of settlement, they were organizing a disastrous inequality
of wages in different districts, and entailing a system of clearing
away cottages, which would result in the crowding of bedrooms, and in
a consequent moral and physical deterioration. The English tonnage law
was enacted simply with a view to regulate the mode of measurement.
Its framers overlooked the fact that they were practically providing
“for the effectual and compulsory construction of bad ships;” and
that “to cheat the law, that is, to build a tolerable ship in spite
of it, was the highest achievement left to an English builder.”[30]
Greater commercial security was alone aimed at by the partnership
law. We now find, however, that the unlimited liability it insists
upon is a serious hindrance to progress; it practically forbids the
association of small capitalists; it is found a great obstacle to the
building of improved dwellings for the people; it prevents a better
relationship between artisans and employers; and by withholding from
the working-classes good investments for their savings, it checks
the growth of provident habits and encourages drunkenness. Thus on
all sides are well-meant measures producing unforeseen mischiefs—a
licensing law that promotes the adulteration of beer; a ticket-of-leave
system that encourages men to commit crime; a {245} police regulation
that forces street-huxters into the workhouse. And then, in addition
to the obvious and proximate evils, come the remote and less
distinguishable ones, which, could we estimate their accumulated
result, we should probably find even more serious.

 [30] Lecture before the Royal Institution, by J. Scott Russell, Esq.,
 “On Wave-line Ships and Yachts,” Feb. 6, 1852.

       *       *       *       *       *

But the thing to be discussed is, not so much whether, by any amount of
intelligence, it is _possible_ for a government to work out the various
ends consigned to it, as whether its fulfilment of them is _probable_.
It is less a question of _can_ than a question of _will_. Granting
the absolute competence of the State, let us consider what hope there
is of getting from it satisfactory performance. Let us look at the
moving force by which the legislative machine is worked, and then
inquire whether this force is thus employed as economically as it would
otherwise be.

Manifestly, as desire of some kind is the invariable stimulus to action
in the individual, every social agency, of what nature soever, must
have some aggregate of desires for its motive power. Men in their
collective capacity can exhibit no result but what has its origin in
some appetite, feeling, or taste common among them. Did not they like
meat, there could be no cattle-graziers, no Smithfield, no distributing
organization of butchers. Operas, Philharmonic Societies, song-books,
and street organ-boys, have all been called into being by our love
of music. Look through the trades’ directory; take up a guide to the
London sights; read the index of Bradshaw’s time-tables, the reports
of the learned societies, or the advertisements of new books; and
you see in the publication itself, and in the things it describes,
so many products of human activities, stimulated by human desires.
Under this stimulus grow up agencies alike the most gigantic and the
most insignificant, the most complicated and the most simple—agencies
for national defence and for the sweeping of crossings; for the daily
distribution of letters, and for the collection of bits of coal out
{246} of the Thames mud—agencies that subserve all ends, from the
preaching of Christianity to the protection of ill-treated animals;
from the production of bread for a nation to the supply of groundsel
for caged singing-birds. The accumulated desires of individuals being,
then, the moving power by which every social agency is worked, the
question to be considered is—Which is the most economical kind of
agency? The agency having no power in itself, but being merely an
instrument, our inquiry must be for the most efficient instrument—the
instrument that costs least, and wastes the smallest amount of the
moving power—the instrument least liable to get out of order, and most
readily put right again when it goes wrong. Of the two kinds of social
mechanism exemplified above, the spontaneous and the governmental,
which is the best?

From the form of this question will be readily foreseen the intended
answer—that is the best mechanism which contains the fewest parts. The
common saying—“What you wish well done you must do yourself,” embodies
a truth, equally applicable to political life as to private life. The
experience that farming by bailiff entails loss, while tenant-farming
pays, is an experience still better illustrated in national history
than in a landlord’s account books. This transference of power from
constituencies to members of parliament, from these to the executive,
from the executive to a board, from the board to inspectors, and from
inspectors through their subs down to the actual workers—this operating
through a series of levers, each, of which absorbs in friction
and inertia part of the moving force; is as bad, in virtue of its
complexity, as the direct employment by society of individuals, private
companies, and spontaneously-formed institutions, is good in virtue of
its simplicity. Fully to appreciate the contrast, we must compare in
detail the working of the two systems.

Officialism is habitually slow. When non-governmental agencies are
dilatory, the public has its remedy: it ceases {247} to employ them
and soon finds quicker ones. Under this discipline all private bodies
are taught promptness. But for delays in State-departments there is
no such easy cure. Life-long Chancery suits must be patiently borne;
Museum-catalogues must be wearily waited for. While, by the people
themselves, a Crystal Palace is designed, erected, and filled, in the
course of a few months, the legislature takes twenty years to build
itself a new house. While, by private persons, the debates are daily
printed and dispersed over the kingdom within a few hours of their
utterance, the Board of Trade tables are regularly published a month,
and sometimes more, after date. And so throughout. Here is a Board of
Health which, since 1849, has been about to close the metropolitan
graveyards, but has not done it yet; and which has so long dawdled over
projects for cemeteries, that the London Necropolis Company has taken
the matter out of its hands. Here is a patentee who has had fourteen
years’ correspondence with the Horse Guards, before getting a definite
answer respecting the use of his improved boot for the Army. Here is a
Plymouth port-admiral who delays sending out to look for the missing
boats of the Amazon until ten days after the wreck.

Again, officialism is stupid. Under the natural course of things each
citizen tends towards his fittest function. Those who are competent
to the kind of work they undertake, succeed, and, in the average of
cases, are advanced in proportion to their efficiency; while the
incompetent, society soon finds out, ceases to employ, forces to
try something easier, and eventually turns to use. But it is quite
otherwise in State-organizations. Here, as every one knows, birth, age,
back-stairs intrigue, and sycophancy, determine the selections rather
than merit. The “fool of the family” readily finds a place in the
Church, if “the family” have good connexions. A youth too ill-educated
for any profession, does very well for an officer in the Army. Grey
{248} hair, or a title, is a far better guarantee of naval promotion
than genius is. Nay, indeed, the man of capacity often finds that, in
government offices, superiority is a hindrance—that his chiefs hate
to be pestered with his proposed improvements, and are offended by
his implied criticisms. Not only, therefore, is legislative machinery
complex, but it is made of inferior materials. Hence the blunders we
daily read of—the supplying to the dockyards from the royal forests
of timber unfit for use; the administration of relief during the
Irish famine in such a manner as to draw labourers from the field,
and diminish the subsequent harvest by one-fourth[31]; the filing
of patents at three different offices and keeping an index at none.
Everywhere does this bungling show itself, from the elaborate failure
of House of Commons ventilation down to the publication of _The London
Gazette_, which invariably comes out wrongly folded.

A further characteristic of officialism is its extravagance. In its
chief departments, Army, Navy, and Church, it employs far more officers
than are needful, and pays some of the useless ones exorbitantly. The
work done by the Sewers Commission has cost, as Sir B. Hall tells
us, from 300 to 400 per cent, over the contemplated outlay; while
the management charges have reached 35, 40, and 45 per cent. on the
expenditure. The trustees of Ramsgate Harbour—a harbour, by the way,
that has taken a century to complete—are spending 18,000_l._ a year
in doing what 5000_l._ has been proved sufficient for. The Board of
Health is causing new surveys to be made of all the towns under its
control—a proceeding which, as Mr. Stephenson states, and as every tyro
in engineering knows, is, for drainage purposes, a wholly needless
expense. These public agencies are subject to no such influence as
that which obliges private enterprise to be economical. Traders and
mercantile bodies succeed by serving society cheaply. Such of them
{249} as cannot do this are continually supplanted by those who can.
They cannot saddle the nation with the results of their extravagance,
and so are prevented from being extravagant. On works that are to
return a profit it does not answer to spend 48 per cent. of the capital
in superintendence, as in the engineering department of the Indian
Government; and Indian railway companies, knowing this, manage to
keep their superintendence charges within 8 per cent. A shopkeeper
leaves out of his accounts no item analogous to that 6,000,000_l._ of
its revenues, which Parliament allows to be deducted on the way to
the Exchequer. Walk through a manufactory, and you see that the stern
alternatives, carefulness or ruin, dictate the saving of every penny;
visit one of the national dockyards, and the comments you make on any
glaring wastefulness are carelessly met by the slang phrase—“Nunky
pays.”

 [31] See Evidence of Major Larcom.

The unadaptiveness of officialism is another of its vices. Unlike
private enterprise which quickly modifies its actions to meet
emergencies—unlike the shopkeeper who promptly finds the wherewith
to satisfy a sudden demand—unlike the railway company which doubles
its trains to carry a special influx of passengers; the law-made
instrumentality lumbers on under all varieties of circumstances through
its ordained routine at its habitual rate. By its very nature it is
fitted only for average requirements, and inevitably fails under
unusual requirements. You cannot step into the street without having
the contrast thrust upon you. Is it summer? You see the water-carts
going their prescribed rounds with scarcely any regard to the needs
of the weather—to-day sprinkling afresh the already moist roads;
to-morrow bestowing their showers with no greater liberality upon
roads cloudy with dust. Is it winter? You see the scavengers do not
vary in number and activity according to the quantity of mud; and if
there comes a heavy fall of snow, you find the thoroughfares remaining
for nearly a week in a scarcely passable state, without an effort
being {250} made, even in the heart of London, to meet the exigency.
The late snow-storm, indeed, supplied a neat antithesis between the
two orders of agencies in the effects it respectively produced on
omnibuses and cabs. Not being under a law-fixed tariff, the omnibuses
put on extra horses and raised their fares. The cabs on the contrary,
being limited in their charges by an Act of Parliament which, with
the usual shortsightedness, never contemplated such a contingency as
this, declined to ply, deserted the stands and the stations, left
luckless travellers to stumble home with their luggage as best they
might, and so became useless at the very time of all others when they
were most wanted! Not only by its unsusceptibility of adjustment does
officialism entail serious inconveniences, but it likewise entails
great injustices. In this case of cabs for example, it has resulted
since the late change of law, that old cabs, which were before saleable
at 10_l._ and 12_l._ each, are now unsaleable and have to be broken
up; and thus legislation has robbed cab-proprietors of part of their
capital. Again, the recently-passed Smoke-Bill for London, which
applies only within certain prescribed limits, has the effect of taxing
one manufacturer while leaving untaxed his competitor working within a
quarter of a mile; and so, as we are credibly informed, gives one an
advantage of 1500_l._ a year over another. These typify the infinity
of wrongs, varying in degrees of hardship, which legal regulations
necessarily involve. Society, a living growing organism, placed within
apparatuses of dead, rigid, mechanical formulas, cannot fail to be
hampered and pinched. The only agencies which can efficiently serve it,
are those through which its pulsations hourly flow, and which change as
it changes.

How invariably officialism becomes corrupt every one knows. Exposed to
no such antiseptic as free competition—not dependent for existence,
as private unendowed organizations are, on the maintenance of a
vigorous {251} vitality; all law-made agencies fall into an inert,
over-fed state, from which to disease is a short step. Salaries flow
in irrespective of the activity with which duty is performed; continue
after duty wholly ceases; become rich prizes for the idle well born;
and prompt to perjury, to bribery, to simony. East India directors are
elected not for any administrative capacity they have; but they buy
votes by promised patronage—a patronage alike asked and given in utter
disregard of the welfare of a hundred millions of people. Registrars
of wills not only get many thousands a year each for doing work which
their miserably paid deputies leave half done; but they, in some cases,
defraud the revenue, and that after repeated reprimands. Dockyard
promotion is the result not of efficient services, but of political
favouritism. That they may continue to hold rich livings, clergymen
preach what they do not believe; bishops make false returns of their
revenues; and at their elections to fellowships, well-to-do priests
severally make oath that they are _pauper_, _pius et doctus_. From
the local inspector whose eyes are shut to an abuse by a contractor’s
present, up to the prime minister who finds lucrative berths for his
relations, this venality is daily illustrated; and that in spite of
public reprobation and perpetual attempts to prevent it. As we once
heard said by a State-official of twenty-five years’ standing—“Wherever
there is government there is villainy.” It is the inevitable result of
destroying the direct connexion between the profit obtained and the
work performed. No incompetent person hopes, by offering a _douceur_
in the _Times_ to get a permanent place in a mercantile office. But
where, as under government, there is no employer’s self-interest to
forbid—where the appointment is made by some one on whom inefficiency
entails no loss; there a _douceur_ is operative. In hospitals, in
public charities, in endowed schools, in all social agencies in which
duty done and income gained do not go hand in hand, the like corruption
is found; and is great in {252} proportion as the dependence of income
upon duty is remote. In State-organizations, therefore, corruption is
unavoidable. In trading-organizations it rarely makes its appearance;
and when it does, the instinct of self-preservation soon provides a
remedy.

To all which broad contrasts add this, that while private bodies are
enterprising and progressive, public bodies are unchanging, and,
indeed, obstructive. That officialism should be inventive nobody
expects. That it should go out of its easy mechanical routine to
introduce improvements, and this at a considerable expense of thought
and application, without the prospect of profit, is not to be supposed.
But it is not simply stationary; it resists every amendment either
in itself or in anything with which it deals. Until now that County
Courts are taking away their practice, all agents of the law have
doggedly opposed law-reform. The universities have maintained an
old _curriculum_ for centuries after it ceased to be fit; and are
now struggling to prevent a threatened reconstruction. Every postal
improvement has been vehemently protested against by the postal
authorities. Mr. Whiston can say how pertinacious is the conservatism
of Church grammar-schools. Not even the gravest consequences in
view preclude official resistance: witness the fact that though, as
already mentioned, Professor Barlow reported in 1820, of the Admiralty
compasses then in store, that “at least one-half were mere lumber,” yet
notwithstanding the constant risk of shipwrecks thence arising, “very
little amelioration in this state of things appears to have taken place
until 1838 to 1840.”[32] Nor is official obstructiveness to be readily
overborne even by a powerful public opinion: witness the fact that
though, for generations, nine-tenths of the nation have disapproved
this ecclesiastical system which pampers the drones and starves the
workers, and though commissions have been appointed to rectify it, it
still remains substantially as it {253} was: witness again the fact
that though, since 1818, there have been a score attempts to rectify
the scandalous maladministration of Charitable Trusts—though ten times
in ten successive years, remedial measures have been brought before
Parliament—the abuses still continue in all their grossness. Not only
do these legal instrumentalities resist reforms in themselves, but they
hinder reforms in other things. In defending their vested interests the
clergy delay the closing of town burial-grounds. As Mr. Lindsay can
show, government emigration-agents are checking the use of iron for
sailing-vessels. Excise officers prevent improvements in the processes
they have to overlook. That organic conservatism which is visible in
the daily conduct of all men, is an obstacle which in private life
self-interest slowly overcomes. The prospect of profit does, in the
end, teach farmers that deep draining is good; though it takes long
to do this. Manufacturers do, ultimately, learn the most economical
speed at which to work their steam-engines; though precedent has long
misled them. But in the public service, where there is no self-interest
to overcome it, this conservatism exerts its full force; and produces
results alike disastrous and absurd. For generations after book-keeping
had become universal, the Exchequer accounts were kept by notches cut
on sticks. In the estimates for the current year appears the item,
“Trimming the oil-lamps at the Horse-Guards.”

 [32] “Rudimentary Magnetism,” by Sir W. Snow Harris. Part III. p. 145.

Between these law-made agencies and the spontaneously formed ones,
who then can hesitate? The one class are slow, stupid, extravagant,
unadaptive, corrupt, and obstructive: can any point out in the other,
vices that balance these? It is true that trade has its dishonesties,
speculation its follies. These are evils inevitably entailed by the
existing imperfections of humanity. It is equally true, however, that
these imperfections of humanity are shared by State-functionaries;
and that being unchecked in them by the same stern discipline, they
grow to far worse results. {254} Given a race of men having a certain
proclivity to misconduct and the question is, whether a society of
these men shall be so organized that ill-conduct directly brings
punishment, or whether it shall be so organized that punishment is but
remotely contingent on ill-conduct? Which will be the most healthful
community—that in which agents who perform their functions badly,
immediately suffer by the withdrawal of public patronage; or that in
which such agents can be made to suffer only through an apparatus
of meetings, petitions, polling booths, parliamentary divisions,
cabinet-councils, and red-tape documents? Is it not an absurdly utopian
hope that men will behave better when correction is far removed and
uncertain than when it is near at hand and inevitable? Yet this is the
hope which most political schemers unconsciously cherish. Listen to
their plans, and you find that just what they propose to have done,
they assume the appointed agents will do. That functionaries are
trustworthy is their first postulate. Doubtless could good officers be
ensured, much might be said for officialism; just as despotism would
have its advantages could we ensure a good despot.

If, however, we would duly appreciate the contrast between the
artificial modes and the natural modes of achieving social desiderata,
we must look not only at the vices of the one but at the virtues of the
other. These are many and important. Consider first how immediately
every private enterprise is dependent on the need for it; and how
impossible it is for it to continue if there be no need. Daily are new
trades and new companies established. If they subserve some existing
public want, they take root and grow. If they do not, they die of
inanition. It needs no agitation, no act of Parliament, to put them
down. As with all natural organizations, if there is no function for
them no nutriment comes to them, and they dwindle away. Moreover, not
only do the new agencies disappear if they {255} are superfluous, but
the old ones cease to be when they have done their work. Unlike public
instrumentalities—unlike Heralds’ Offices, which are maintained for
ages after heraldry has lost all value—unlike Ecclesiastial Courts,
which continue to flourish for generations after they have become an
abomination; these private instrumentalities dissolve when they become
needless. A widely ramified coaching-system ceases to exist as soon as
a more efficient railway-system comes into being. And not simply does
it cease to exist, and to abstract funds, but the materials of which
it was made are absorbed and turned to use. Coachmen, guards, and the
rest, are employed to profit elsewhere—do not continue for twenty years
a burden, like the compensated officials of some abolished department
of the State. Consider, again, how necessarily these unordained
agencies fit themselves to their work. It is a law of all organized
things that efficiency presupposes apprenticeship. Not only is it true
that the young merchant must begin by carrying letters to the post,
that the way to be a successful innkeeper is to commence as waiter—not
only is it true that in the development of the intellect there must
come first the perceptions of identity and duality, next of number,
and that without these, arithmetic, algebra, and the infinitesimal
calculus, remain impracticable; but it is true that there is no part
of an organism but begins in some simple form with some insignificant
function, and passes to its final stage through successive phases of
complexity. Every heart is at first a mere pulsatile sac; every brain
begins as a slight enlargement of the spinal chord. This law equally
extends to the social organism. An instrumentality that is to work
well must not be designed and suddenly put together by legislators,
but must grow gradually from a germ; each successive addition must be
tried and proved good by experience before another addition is made;
and by this tentative process only, can an efficient instrumentality be
produced. From a {256} trustworthy man who receives deposits of money,
insensibly grows up a vast banking system, with its notes, checks,
bills, its complex transactions, and its Clearing-house. Pack-horses,
then waggons, then coaches, then steam-carriages on common roads, and,
finally, steam-carriages on roads made for them—such has been the slow
genesis of our present means of communication. Not a trade in the
directory but has formed itself an apparatus of manufacturers, brokers,
travellers, and retailers, in so gradual a way that no one can trace
the steps. And so with organizations of another order. The Zoological
Gardens began as the private collection of a few naturalists. The best
working-class school known—that at Price’s factory—commenced with
half-a-dozen boys sitting among the candle-boxes, after hours, to teach
themselves writing with worn-out pens. Mark, too, that as a consequence
of their mode of growth, these spontaneously-formed agencies expand to
any extent required. The same stimulus which brought them into being
makes them send their ramifications wherever they are needed. But
supply does not thus readily follow demand in governmental agencies.
Appoint a board and a staff, fix their duties, and let the apparatus
have a generation or two to consolidate, and you cannot get it to
fulfil larger requirements without some act of parliament obtained only
after long delay and difficulty.

Were there space, much more might be said upon the superiority of what
naturalists would call the _exogenous_ order of institutions over the
_endogenous_ one. But, from the point of view indicated, the further
contrasts between their characteristics will be sufficiently visible.

Hence then the fact, that while the one order of means is ever failing,
making worse, or producing more evils than it cures, the other order
of means is ever succeeding, ever improving. Strong as it looks at the
outset, State-agency perpetually disappoints every one. Puny as are its
first {257} stages, private effort daily achieves results that astound
the world. It is not only that joint-stock companies do so much—it is
not only that by them a whole kingdom is covered with railways in the
same time that it takes the Admiralty to build a hundred-gun ship; but
it is that public instrumentalities are outdone even by individuals.
The often quoted contrast between the Academy whose forty members took
fifty-six years to compile the French Dictionary, while Dr. Johnson
alone compiled the English one in eight—a contrast still marked enough
after making due set-off for the difference in the works—is by no
means without parallel. That great sanitary desideratum—the bringing
of the New River to London—which the wealthiest corporation in the
world attempted and failed, Sir Hugh Myddleton achieved single-handed.
The first canal in England—a work of which government might have
been thought the fit projector, and the only competent executor—was
undertaken and finished as the private speculation of one man—the
Duke of Bridgewater. By his own unaided exertions, William Smith
completed that great achievement, the geological map of Great Britain;
meanwhile, the Ordnance Survey—a very accurate and elaborate one, it
is true—has already occupied a large staff for some two generations,
and will not be completed before the lapse of another. Howard and
the prisons of Europe; Bianconi and Irish travelling; Waghorn and
the Overland route; Dargan and the Dublin Exhibition—do not these
suggest startling contrasts? While private gentlemen like Mr. Denison,
build model lodging-houses in which the deaths are greatly below the
average, the State builds barracks in which the deaths are greatly
above the average, even of the much-pitied town populations: barracks
which, though filled with picked men under medical supervision, show
an annual mortality per thousand of 13·6, 17·9 and even 20·4; though
among civilians of the same age in the same places, the mortality
{258} per thousand is but 11·9.[33] While the State has laid out
large sums at Parkhurst in the effort to reform juvenile criminals,
who are _not_ reformed, Mr. Ellis takes fifteen of the worst young
thieves in London—thieves considered by the police irreclaimable—and
reforms them all. Side by side with the Emigration Board, under whose
management hundreds die of fever from close packing, and under whose
licence sail vessels which, like the _Washington_, are the homes of
fraud, brutality, tyranny, and obscenity, stands Mrs. Chisholm’s Family
Colonisation Loan Society, which does not provide worse accommodation
than ever before but much better; which does not demoralize by
promiscuous crowding but improves by mild discipline; which does not
pauperize by charity but encourages providence; which does not increase
our taxes, but is self-supporting. Here are lessons for the lovers of
legislation. The State outdone by a working shoemaker! The State beaten
by a woman!

Stronger still becomes this contrast between the results of public
action and private action, when we remember that the one is constantly
eked out by the other, even in doing the things unavoidably left to
it. Passing over military and naval departments, in which much is done
by contractors and not by men receiving government pay,—passing over
the Church, which is constantly extended not by law but by voluntary
effort—passing over the Universities, where the efficient teaching is
given not by the appointed officers but by private tutors; let us look
at the mode in which our judicial system is worked. Lawyers perpetually
tell us that codification is impossible; and some are simple enough
to believe them. Merely remarking, in passing, that what government
and all its employés cannot do for the Acts of Parliament in general,
was done for the 1500 Customs acts in 1825 by the energy of one
man—Mr. Deacon Hume—let us see {259} how the absence of a digested
system of law is made good. In preparing themselves for the bar, and
finally the bench, law-students, by years of research, have to gain
an acquaintance with this vast mass of unorganized legislation; and
that organization which it is held impossible for the State to effect,
it is held possible (sly sarcasm on the State!) for each student to
effect for himself. Every judge can privately codify, though “united
wisdom” cannot. But how is each judge enabled to codify? By the
private enterprise of men who have prepared the way for him; by the
partial codifications of Blackstone, Coke, and others; by the digests
of Partnership Law, Bankruptcy Law, Law of Patents, Laws affecting
Women, and the rest that daily issue from the press; by abstracts of
cases, and volumes of reports—every one of them unofficial products.
Sweep away all these fractional codifications made by individuals, and
the State would be in utter ignorance of its own laws! Had not the
bunglings of legislators been made good by private enterprise, the
administration of justice would have been impossible!

 [33] See “Statistical Reports on the Sickness, Mortality, and
 Invaliding amongst the Troops.” 1853.

Where, then, is the warrant for the constantly-proposed extensions of
legislative action? If, as we have seen in a large class of cases,
government measures do not remedy the evils they aim at; if, in another
large class, they make these evils worse instead of remedying them;
and if, in a third large class, while curing some evils they entail
others, and often greater ones—if, as we lately saw, public action is
continually outdone in efficiency by private action; and if, as just
shown, private action is obliged to make up for the shortcomings of
public action, even in fulfilling the vital functions of the State;
what reason is there for wishing more public administrations? The
advocates of such may claim credit for philanthropy, but not for
wisdom; unless wisdom is shown by disregarding experience.

       *       *       *       *       *

“Much of this argument is beside the question,” will {260} rejoin our
opponents. “The true point at issue is, not whether individuals and
companies outdo the State when they come in competition with it, but
whether there are not certain social wants which the State alone can
satisfy. Admitting that private enterprise does much, and does it well,
it is nevertheless true that we have daily thrust upon our notice many
desiderata which it has not achieved, and is not achieving. In these
cases its incompetency is obvious; and in these cases, therefore, it
behoves the State to make up for its deficiencies: doing this, if not
well, yet as well as it can.”

Not to fall back upon the many experiences already quoted, showing
that the State is likely to do more harm than good in attempting this;
nor to dwell upon the fact that, in most of the alleged cases, the
apparent insufficiency of private enterprise is a _result_ of previous
State-interferences, as may be conclusively shown; let us deal with
the proposition on its own terms. Though there would have been no need
for a Mercantile Marine Act to prevent the unseaworthiness of ships
and the ill-treatment of sailors, had there been no Navigation Laws to
produce these; and though were all like cases of evils and shortcomings
directly or indirectly produced by law, taken out of the category,
there would probably remain but small basis for the plea above put; yet
let it be granted that, every artificial obstacle having been removed,
there would still remain many desiderata unachieved, which there was
no seeing how spontaneous effort could achieve. Let all this, we say,
be granted; the propriety of legislative action may yet be rightly
questioned.

For the said plea involves the unwarrantable assumption that social
agencies will continue to work only as they are now working; and will
produce no results but those they seem likely to produce. It is the
habit of this school of thinkers to make a limited human intelligence
the measure of phenomena which it requires omniscience to grasp. {261}
That which it does not see the way to, it does not believe will
take place. Though society has, generation after generation, been
growing to developments which none foresaw, yet there is no practical
belief in unforeseen developments in the future. The parliamentary
debates constitute an elaborate balancing of probabilities, having
for data things as they are. Meanwhile every day adds new elements
to things as they are, and seemingly improbable results constantly
occur. Who, a few years ago, expected that a Leicester-square refugee
would shortly become Emperor of the French? Who looked for free trade
from a landlords’ ministry? Who dreamed that Irish over-population
would spontaneously cure itself, as it is now doing? So far from
social changes arising in likely ways, they usually arise in ways
which, to common sense, appear unlikely. A barber’s shop was not a
probable-looking place for the germination of the cotton manufacture.
No one supposed that important agricultural improvements would come
from a Leadenhall-street tradesman. A farmer would have been the last
man thought of to bring to bear the screw propulsion of steam-ships.
The invention of a new species of architecture we should have hoped
from any one rather than a gardener. Yet while the most unexpected
changes are daily wrought out in the strangest ways, legislation daily
assumes that things will go just as human foresight thinks they will
go. Though by the trite exclamation—“What would our forefathers have
said!” there is a frequent acknowledgment of the fact that wonderful
results have been achieved in modes wholly unforeseen, yet there seems
no belief that this will be again. Would it not be wise to admit such a
probability into our politics? May we not rationally infer that, as in
the past so in the future?

This strong faith in State-agencies is, however, accompanied by so weak
a faith in natural agencies (the two being antagonistic), that, spite
of past experience, it will by {262} many be thought absurd to rest in
the conviction that existing social needs will be spontaneously met,
though we cannot say how they will be met. Nevertheless, illustrations
exactly to the point are now transpiring before their eyes. Instance
the scarcely credible phenomenon lately witnessed in the midland
counties. Every one has heard of the distress of the stockingers—a
chronic evil of some generation or two’s standing. Repeated petitions
have prayed Parliament for remedy; and legislation has made attempts,
but without success. The disease seemed incurable. Two or three years
since, however, the circular knitting machine was introduced—a machine
immensely outstripping the old stocking-frame in productiveness, but
which can make only the legs of stockings, not the feet. Doubtless, the
Leicester and Nottingham artizans regarded this new engine with alarm,
as likely to intensify their miseries. On the contrary, it has wholly
removed them. By cheapening production it has so enormously increased
consumption, that the old stocking-frames, which were before too many
by half for the work to be done, are now all employed in putting feet
to the legs which the new machines make. How insane would he have been
thought who anticipated cure from such a cause! If from the unforeseen
removal of evils we turn to the unforeseen achievement of desiderata,
we find like cases. No one recognized in Oersted’s electro-magnetic
discovery the germ of a new agency for the catching of criminals and
the facilitation of commerce. No one expected railways to become agents
for the diffusion of cheap literature, as they now are. No one supposed
when the Society of Arts was planning an international exhibition of
manufactures in Hyde Park, that the result would be a place for popular
recreation and culture at Sydenham.

But there is yet a deeper reply to the appeals of impatient
philanthropists. It is not simply that social vitality may be trusted
by-and-by to fulfil each much-exaggerated {263} requirement in some
quiet spontaneous way—it is not simply that when thus naturally
fulfilled it will be fulfilled efficiently, instead of being botched
as when attempted artificially; but it is that until thus naturally
fulfilled it ought not to be fulfilled at all. A startling paradox,
this, to many; but one quite justifiable, as we hope shortly to show.

It was pointed out some distance back, that the force which produces
and sets in motion every social mechanism—governmental, mercantile,
or other—is some accumulation of personal desires. As there is no
individual action without a desire, so, it was urged, there can be no
social action without an aggregate of desires. To which there here
remains to add, that as it is a general law of the individual that the
intenser desires—those corresponding to all-essential functions—are
satisfied first, and if need be to the neglect of the weaker and
less important ones; so, it must be a general law of society that
the chief requisites of social life—those necessary to popular
existence and multiplication—will, in the natural order of things, be
subserved before those of a less pressing kind. As the private man
first ensures himself food; then clothing and shelter; these being
secured, takes a wife; and, if he can afford it, presently supplies
himself with carpeted rooms, and piano, and wines, hires servants and
gives dinner parties; so, in the evolution of society, we see first a
combination for defence against enemies, and for the better pursuit
of game; by-and-by come such political arrangements as are needed
to maintain this combination; afterwards, under a demand for more
food, more clothes, more houses, arises division of labour; and when
satisfaction of the animal wants has been provided for, there slowly
grow up literature, science, and the arts. Is it not obvious that these
successive evolutions occur in the order of their importance? Is it not
obvious, that, being each of them produced by an aggregate of desires,
they _must_ occur in the order of their importance, if it be a law of
the individual that the {264} strongest desires correspond to the most
needful actions? Is it not, indeed, obvious that the order of relative
importance will be more uniformly followed in social action than in
individual action; seeing that the personal idiosyncrasies which
disturb that order in the latter case are _averaged_ in the former? If
any one does not see this, let him take up a book describing life at
the gold-diggings. There he will find the whole process exhibited in
little. He will read that as the diggers must eat, they are compelled
to offer such prices for food that it pays better to keep a store than
to dig. As the store-keepers must get supplies, they give enormous sums
for carriage from the nearest town; and some men, quickly seeing they
can get rich at that, make it their business. This brings drays and
horses into demand; the high rates draw these from all quarters; and,
after them, wheelwrights and harness-makers. Blacksmiths to sharpen
pickaxes, doctors to cure fevers, get pay exorbitant in proportion
to the need for them; and are so brought flocking in proportionate
numbers. Presently commodities become scarce; more must be fetched
from abroad; sailors must have increased wages to prevent them from
deserting and turning miners; this necessitates higher charges for
freight; higher freights quickly bring more ships; and so there rapidly
develops an organization for supplying goods from all parts of the
world. Every phase of this evolution takes place in the order of its
necessity; or as we say—in the order of the intensity of the desires
subserved. Each man does that which he finds pays best; that which
pays best is that for which other men will give most; that for which
they will give most is that which, under the circumstances, they most
desire. Hence the succession must be throughout from the more important
to the less important. A requirement which at any period remains
unfulfilled, must be one for the fulfilment of which men will not pay
so much as to make it worth any one’s while to fulfil it—must be a
_less_ requirement than all the {265} others for the fulfilment of
which they will pay more; and must wait until other more needful things
are done. Well, is it not clear that the same law holds good in every
community? Is it not true of the latter phases of social evolution, as
of the earlier, that when things are let alone the smaller desiderata
will be postponed to the greater.

Hence, then, the justification of the seeming paradox, that until
spontaneously fulfilled a public want should not be fulfilled at all.
It must, on the average, result in our complex state, as in simpler
ones, that the thing left undone is a thing by doing which citizens
cannot gain so much as by doing other things—is therefore a thing which
society does not want done so much as it wants these other things done;
and the corollary is, that to effect a neglected thing by artificially
employing citizens to do it, is to leave undone some more important
thing which they would have been doing—is to sacrifice the greater
requisite to the smaller.

“But,” it will perhaps be objected, “if the things done by a
government, or at least by a representative government, are also done
in obedience to some aggregate desire, why may we not look for this
normal subordination of the more needful to the less needful in them
too?” The reply is, that though they have a certain tendency to follow
this order—though those primal desires for public defence and personal
protection, out of which government originates, were satisfied through
its instrumentality in proper succession—though, possibly, some other
early and simple requirements may have been so too; yet, when the
desires are not few, universal and intense, but, like those remaining
to be satisfied in the latter stages of civilization, numerous,
partial, and moderate, the judgment of a government is no longer to be
trusted. To select out of an immense number of minor wants, physical,
intellectual, and moral, felt in different degrees by different
classes, and by a total mass varying in every case, the want that is
most pressing, is a task which no legislature can accomplish. No man or
men {266} by inspecting society can _see_ what it most needs; society
must be left to _feel_ what it most needs. The mode of solution must be
experimental, not theoretical. When left, day after day, to experience
evils and dissatisfactions of various kinds, affecting them in various
degrees, citizens gradually acquire repugnance to these proportionate
to their greatness, and corresponding desires to get rid of them, which
by spontaneously fostering remedial agencies are likely to end in the
worst inconvenience being first removed. And however irregular this
process may be (and we admit that men’s habits and prejudices produce
many anomalies, or seeming anomalies, in it) it is a process far more
trustworthy than are legislative judgments. For those who question this
there are instances; and, that the parallel may be the more conclusive,
we will take a case in which the ruling power is deemed specially fit
to decide. We refer to our means of communication.

Do those who maintain that railways would have been better laid out
and constructed by government, hold that the order of importance would
have been as uniformly followed as it has been by private enterprise?
Under the stimulus of an enormous traffic—a traffic too great for the
then existing means—the first line sprung up between Liverpool and
Manchester. Next came the Grand Junction and the London and Birmingham
(now merged in the London and North Western); afterwards the Great
Western, the South Western, the South Eastern, the Eastern Counties,
the Midland. Since then subsidiary lines and branches have occupied
our capitalists. As they were quite certain to do, companies made
first the most needed, and therefore the best paying, lines; under the
same impulse that a labourer chooses high wages in preference to low.
That government would have adopted a better order can hardly be, for
the best has been followed; but that it would have adopted a worse,
all the evidence we have goes to show. In default of materials {267}
for a direct parallel, we might cite from India and the colonies,
cases of injudicious road-making. Or, as exemplifying State-efforts to
facilitate communication, we might dwell on the fact that while our
rulers have sacrificed hundreds of lives and spent untold treasure in
seeking a North-west passage, which would be useless if found, they
have left the exploration of the Isthmus of Panama, and the making
railways and canals through it, to private companies. But, not to make
much of this indirect evidence, we will content ourselves with the one
sample of a State-made channel for commerce, which we have at home—the
Caledonian Canal. Up to the present time (1853), this public work has
cost upwards of 1,100,000_l._ It has now been open for many years, and
salaried emissaries have been constantly employed to get traffic for
it. The results, as given in its forty-seventh annual report, issued
in 1852, are—receipts during the year, 7,909_l._; expenditure ditto,
9,261_l._—loss, 1,352_l._ Has any such large investment been made with
such a pitiful result by a private canal company?

And if a government is so bad a judge of the relative importance of
social requirements, when these requirements are _of the same kind_,
how worthless a judge must it be when they are of different kinds.
If, where a fair share of intelligence might be expected to lead them
right, legislators and their officers go so wrong, how terribly will
they err where no amount of intelligence would suffice them,—where
they must decide among hosts of needs, bodily, intellectual, and
moral, which admit of no direct comparisons; and how disastrous must
be the results if they act out their erroneous decisions. Should any
one need this bringing home to him by an illustration, let him read
the following extract from the last of the series of letters some time
since published in the _Morning Chronicle_, on the state of agriculture
in France. After expressing the opinion that French farming is some
century behind English farming, the writer goes on to say:―

  “There are two causes principally chargeable with this. In the first
 {268} place, strange as it may seem in a country in which two-thirds
 of the population are agriculturists, agriculture is a very unhonoured
 occupation. Develope in the slightest degree a Frenchman’s mental
 faculties, and he flies to a town as surely as steel filings fly to
 a loadstone. He has no rural tastes, no delight in rural habits. A
 French amateur farmer would indeed be a sight to see. Again, this
 national tendency is directly encouraged by the centralising system
 of government—by the multitude of officials, and by the payment of
 all functionaries. From all parts of France, men of great energy and
 resource struggle up, and fling themselves on the world of Paris.
 There they try to become great functionaries. Through every department
 of the eighty-four, men of less energy and resource struggle up to the
 _chef-lieu_—the provincial capital. There they try to become little
 functionaries. Go still lower—deal with a still smaller scale—and
 the result will be the same. As is the department to France, so
 is the arrondissement to the department, and the commune to the
 arrondissement. All who have, or think they have, heads on their
 shoulders, struggle into towns to fight for office. All who are, or
 are deemed by themselves or others, too stupid for anything else, are
 left at home to till the fields, and breed the cattle, and prune the
 vines, as their ancestors did for generations before them. Thus there
 is actually no intelligence left in the country. The whole energy, and
 knowledge, and resource of the land are barreled up in the towns. You
 leave one city, and in many cases you will not meet an educated or
 cultivated individual until you arrive at another—all between is utter
 intellectual barrenness.”—_Morning Chronicle._ August, 1851.

To what end now is this constant abstraction of able men from rural
districts? To the end that there may be enough functionaries to achieve
those many desiderata which French governments have thought ought to
be achieved—to provide amusements, to manage mines, to construct roads
and bridges, to erect numerous buildings—to print books, encourage the
fine arts, control this trade, and inspect that manufacture—to do all
the hundred-and-one things which the State does in France. That the
army of officers needed for this may be maintained, agriculture must go
unofficered. That certain social conveniences may be better secured,
the chief social necessity is neglected. The very basis of the national
life is sapped, to gain a few non-essential advantages. Said we not
truly, then, that until a requirement is spontaneously fulfilled, it
should not be fulfilled at all?

       *       *       *       *       *

And here indeed we may recognise the close kinship {269} between the
fundamental fallacy involved in these State-meddlings and the fallacy
lately exploded by the free-trade agitation. These various law-made
instrumentalities for effecting ends which might otherwise not yet be
effected, all embody a subtler form of the protectionist hypothesis.
The same short-sightedness which, looking at commerce, prescribed
bounties and restrictions, looking at social affairs in general,
prescribes these multiplied administrations; and the same criticism
applies alike to all its proceedings.

For was not the error that vitiated every law aiming at the artificial
maintenance of a trade, substantially that which we have just been
dwelling upon; namely, this overlooking of the fact that, in setting
people to do one thing, some other thing is inevitably left undone? The
statesmen who thought it wise to protect home-made silks against French
silks, did so under the impression that the manufacture thus secured
constituted a pure gain to the nation. They did not reflect that the
men employed in this manufacture would otherwise have been producing
something else—a something else which, as they could produce it without
legal help, they could more profitably produce. Landlords who have
been so anxious to prevent foreign wheat from displacing their own
wheat, have never duly realized the fact that if their fields would not
yield wheat so economically as to prevent the feared displacement, it
simply proved that they were growing unfit crops in place of fit crops;
and so working their land at a relative loss. In all cases where, by
restrictive duties, a trade has been upheld that would otherwise not
have existed, capital has been turned into a channel less productive
than some other into which it would naturally have flowed. And so, to
pursue certain State-patronized occupations, men have been drawn from
more advantageous occupations.

Clearly then, as above alleged, the same oversight runs through all
these interferences; be they with commerce, or be they with other
things. In employing people to achieve {270} this or that desideratum,
legislators have not perceived that they were thereby preventing the
achievement of some other desideratum. They have habitually assumed
that each proposed good would, if secured, be a pure good, instead of
being a good purchasable only by submission to some evil which would
else have been remedied; and, making this error, have injuriously
diverted men’s labour. As in trade, so in other things, labour will
spontaneously find out, better than any government can find out for
it, the things on which it may best expend itself. Rightly regarded,
the two propositions are identical. This division into commercial and
non-commercial affairs is quite a superficial one. All the actions
going on in society come under the generalization—human effort
ministering to human desire. Whether the ministration be effected
through a process of buying and selling, or whether in any other way,
matters not so far as the general law of it is concerned. In all cases
it must be true that the stronger desires will get themselves satisfied
before the weaker ones; and in all cases it must be true that to get
satisfaction for the weaker ones before they would naturally have it,
is to deny satisfaction to the stronger ones.

       *       *       *       *       *

To the immense positive evils entailed by over-legislation have to be
added the equally great negative evils—evils which, notwithstanding
their greatness, are scarcely at all recognized, even by the
far-seeing. While the State does those things which it ought not to do,
_as an inevitable consequence_, it leaves undone those things which it
ought to do. Time and activity being limited, it necessarily follows
that legislators’ sins of _commission_ entail sins of _omission_.
Mischievous meddling involves disastrous neglect; and until statesmen
are ubiquitous and omnipotent, must ever do so. In the very nature
of things an agency employed for two purposes must fulfil both
imperfectly; partly because, while fulfilling the one it cannot be
fulfilling {271} the other, and partly because its adaptation to both
ends implies incomplete fitness for either. As has been well said _à
propos_ of this point,—“A blade which is designed both to shave and to
carve, will certainly not shave so well as a razor or carve so well
as a carving-knife. An academy of painting, which should also be a
bank, would in all probability exhibit very bad pictures and discount
very bad bills. A gas company, which should also be an infant-school
society, would, we apprehend, light the streets ill, and teach the
children ill.”[34] And if an institution undertakes, not two functions
but a score—if a government, whose office it is to defend citizens
against aggressors, foreign and domestic, engages also to disseminate
Christianity, to administer charity, to teach children their lessons,
to adjust prices of food, to inspect coal-mines, to regulate railways,
to superintend house-building, to arrange cab-fares, to look into
people’s stink-traps, to vaccinate their children, to send out
emigrants, to prescribe hours of labour, to examine lodging-houses, to
test the knowledge of mercantile captains, to provide public libraries,
to read and authorize dramas, to inspect passenger-ships, to see that
small dwellings are supplied with water, to regulate endless things
from a banker’s issues down to the boat-fares on the Serpentine—is it
not manifest that its primary duty must be ill-discharged in proportion
to the multiplicity of affairs it busies itself with? Must not its
time and energies be frittered away in schemes, and inquiries, and
amendments, in discussions, and divisions, to the neglect of its
essential business? And does not a glance over the debates make it
clear that this is the fact? and that, while parliament and public are
alike occupied with these mischievous interferences, these Utopian
hopes, the one thing needful is left almost undone?

 [34] _Edinburgh Review_, April, 1839.

See here, then, the proximate cause of our legal abominations. We drop
the substance in our efforts to catch shadows. While our firesides,
and clubs, and taverns are {272} filled with talk about corn-law
questions, and church questions, and education questions, and poor-law
questions—all of them raised by over-legislation—the justice question
gets scarcely any attention; and we daily submit to be oppressed,
cheated, robbed. This institution which should succour the man who
has fallen among thieves, turns him over to solicitors, barristers,
and a legion of law-officers; drains his purse for writs, briefs,
affidavits, subpœnas, fees of all kinds and expenses innumerable;
involves him in the intricacies of common courts, chancery courts,
suits, counter-suits, and appeals; and often ruins where it should
aid. Meanwhile, meetings are called, and leading articles written,
and votes asked, and societies formed, and agitations carried on, not
to rectify these gigantic evils, but partly to abolish our ancestors’
mischievous meddlings and partly to establish meddlings of our own. Is
it not obvious that this fatal neglect is a result of this mistaken
officiousness? Suppose that external and internal protection had been
the sole recognized functions of the ruling powers. Is it conceivable
that our administration of justice would have been as corrupt as now?
Can any one believe that had parliamentary elections been habitually
contested on questions of legal reform, our judicial system would
still have been what Sir John Romilly calls it,—“a technical system
invented for the creation of costs?” Does any one suppose that, if
the efficient defence of person and property had been the constant
subject-matter of hustings pledges, we should yet be waylaid by a
Chancery Court which has now more than two hundred millions of property
in its clutches?—which keeps suits pending fifty years, until all the
funds are gone in fees—which swallows in costs two millions annually?
Dare any one assert that had constituencies been always canvassed
on principles of law-reform versus law-conservatism, Ecclesiastical
Courts would have continued for centuries fattening on the goods of
widows and orphans? The questions are next to absurd. A child may {273}
see that with the general knowledge people have of legal corruptions
and the universal detestation of legal atrocities, an end would long
since have been put to them, had the administration of justice always
been _the_ political topic. Had not the public mind been constantly
pre-occupied, it could never have been tolerated that a man neglecting
to file an answer to a bill in due course, should be imprisoned
fifteen years for contempt of court, as Mr. James Taylor was. It would
have been impossible that, on the abolition of their sinecures, the
sworn-clerks should have been compensated by the continuance of their
exorbitant incomes, not only till death, but for seven years after,
at a total estimated cost of £700,000. Were the State confined to its
defensive and judicial functions, not only the people but legislators
themselves would agitate against abuses. The sphere of activity and
the opportunities for distinction being narrowed, all the thought,
and industry, and eloquence which members of Parliament now expend on
impracticable schemes and artificial grievances, would be expended in
rendering justice pure, certain, prompt, and cheap. The complicated
follies of our legal verbiage, which the uninitiated cannot understand
and which the initiated interpret in various senses, would be quickly
put an end to. We should no longer frequently hear of Acts of
Parliament so bunglingly drawn up that it requires half a dozen actions
and judges’ decisions under them, before even lawyers can say how they
apply. There would be no such stupidly-designed measures as the Railway
Winding-up Act, which, though passed in 1846 to close the accounts
of the bubble schemes of the mania, leaves them still unsettled in
1854—which, even with funds in hand, withholds payment from creditors
whose claims have been years since admitted. Lawyers would no longer
be suffered to maintain and to complicate the present absurd system
of land titles, which, besides the litigation and loss it perpetually
causes, lowers the value of estates, prevents the {274} ready
application of capital to them, checks the development of agriculture,
and thus hinders the improvement of the peasantry and the prosperity
of the country. In short, the corruptions, follies, and terrors of law
would cease; and that which men now shrink from as an enemy they would
come to regard as what it purports to be—a friend.

How vast then is the negative evil which, in addition to the positive
evils before enumerated, this meddling policy entails on us! How many
are the grievances men bear, from which they would otherwise be free!
Who is there that has not submitted to injuries rather than run the
risk of heavy law-costs? Who is there that has not abandoned just
claims rather than “throw good money after bad?” Who is there that
has not paid unjust demands rather than withstand the threat of an
action? This man can point to property that has been alienated from
his family from lack of funds or courage to fight for it. That man can
name several relations ruined by a law-suit. Here is a lawyer who has
grown rich on the hard earnings of the needy and the savings of the
oppressed. There is a once wealthy trader who has been brought by legal
iniquities to the workhouse or the lunatic asylum. The badness of our
judicial system vitiates our whole social life: renders almost every
family poorer than it would otherwise be; hampers almost every business
transaction; inflicts daily anxieties on every trader. And all this
loss of property, time, temper, comfort, men quietly submit to from
being absorbed in the pursuit of schemes which eventually bring on them
other mischiefs.

Nay, the case is even worse. It is distinctly proveable that many of
these evils about which outcries are raised, and to cure which special
Acts of Parliament are loudly invoked, are themselves _produced_
by our disgraceful judicial system. For example, it is well known
that the horrors out of which our sanitary agitators make political
capital, {275} are found in their greatest intensity on properties
that have been for a generation in Chancery—are distinctly traceable
to the ruin thus brought about; and would never have existed but for
the infamous corruptions of law. Again, it has been shown that the
long-drawn miseries of Ireland, which have been the subject of endless
legislation, have been mainly produced by inequitable land-tenure
and the complicated system of entail: a system which wrought such
involvements as to prevent sales; which practically negatived all
improvement; which brought landlords to the workhouse; and which
required an Incumbered Estates Act to cut its gordian knots and render
the proper cultivation of the soil possible. Judicial negligence, too,
is the main cause of railway accidents. If the State would fulfil
its true function, by giving passengers an easy remedy for breach of
contract when trains are behind time, it would do more to prevent
accidents than can be done by the minutest inspection or the most
cunningly-devised regulations; for it is notorious that the majority
of accidents are primarily caused by irregularity. In the case of bad
house-building, also, it is obvious that a cheap, rigorous, and certain
administration of justice, would make Building Acts needless. For is
not the man who erects a house of bad materials ill put together, and,
concealing these with papering and plaster, sells it as a substantial
dwelling, guilty of fraud? And should not the law recognize this fraud
as it does in the analogous case of an unsound horse? And if the
legal remedy were easy, prompt, and sure, would not builders cease
transgressing? So is it in other cases: the evils which men perpetually
call on the State to cure by superintendence, themselves arise from
non-performance of its original duty.

See then how this vicious policy complicates itself. Not only does
meddling legislation fail to cure the evils it aims at; not only does
it make many evils worse; not only does it create new evils greater
than the old; but while doing {276} this it entails on men the
oppressions, robberies, ruin, which flow from the non-administration
of justice. And not only to the positive evils does it add this vast
negative one, but this again, by fostering many social abuses that
would not else exist, furnishes occasions for more meddlings which
again act and re-act in the same way. And thus as ever, “things bad
begun make strong themselves by ill.”

       *       *       *       *       *

After assigning reasons thus fundamental, for condemning all
State-action save that which universal experience has proved to be
absolutely needful, it would seem superfluous to assign subordinate
ones. Were it called for, we might, taking for text Mr. Lindsay’s work
on “Navigation and Mercantile Marine Law,” say much upon the complexity
to which this process of adding regulation to regulation—each
necessitated by foregoing ones—ultimately leads: a complexity which, by
the misunderstandings, delays, and disputes it entails, greatly hampers
our social life. Something, too, might be added upon the perturbing
effects of that “gross delusion,” as M. Guizot calls it, “a belief in
the sovereign power of political machinery”—a delusion to which he
partly ascribes the late revolution in France; and a delusion which
is fostered by every new interference. But, passing over these, we
would dwell for a short space upon the national enervation which this
State-superintendence produces.

The enthusiastic philanthropist, urgent for some act of parliament
to remedy this evil or secure the other good, thinks it a trivial
and far-fetched objection that the people will be morally injured by
doing things for them instead of leaving them to do things themselves.
He vividly conceives the benefit he hopes to get achieved, which is
a positive and readily imaginable thing. He does not conceive the
diffused, invisible, and slowly-accumulating effect wrought on the
popular mind, and so does not believe in it; or, if he admits it,
thinks it beneath consideration. Would he but {277} remember, however,
that all national character is gradually produced by the daily action
of circumstances, of which each day’s result seems so insignificant as
not to be worth mentioning, he would perceive that what is trifling
when viewed in its increments may be formidable when viewed in its
total. Or if he would go into the nursery, and watch how repeated
actions—each of them apparently unimportant,—create, in the end, a
habit which will affect the whole future life; he would be reminded
that every influence brought to bear on human nature tells, and, if
continued, tells seriously. The thoughtless mother who hourly yields
to the requests—“Mamma, tie my pinafore,” “Mamma, button my shoe,”
and the like, cannot be persuaded that each of these concessions is
detrimental; but the wiser spectator sees that if this policy be long
pursued, and be extended to other things, it will end in inaptitude.
The teacher of the old school who showed his pupil the way out of every
difficulty, did not perceive that he was generating an attitude of
mind greatly militating against success in life. The modern teacher,
however, induces his pupil to solve his difficulties himself; believes
that in so doing he is preparing him to meet the difficulties which,
when he goes into the world, there will be no one to help him through;
and finds confirmation for this belief in the fact that a great
proportion of the most successful men are self-made. Well, is it not
obvious that this relationship between discipline and success holds
good nationally? Are not nations made of men; and are not men subject
to the same laws of modification in their adult years as in their early
years? Is it not true of the drunkard, that each carouse adds a thread
to his bonds? of the trader, that each acquisition strengthens the
wish for acquisitions? of the pauper, that the more you assist him the
more he wants? of the busy man, that the more he has to do the more
he can do? And does it not follow that if every individual is subject
to this process of adaptation to conditions, a whole nation must be
{278} so—that just in proportion as its members are little helped by
extraneous power they will become self-helping, and in proportion as
they are much helped they will become helpless? What folly is it to
ignore these results because they are not direct, and not immediately
visible. Though slowly wrought out they are inevitable. We can no
more elude the laws of human development than we can elude the law of
gravitation; and so long as they hold true must these effects occur.

If we are asked in what special directions this alleged helplessness,
entailed by much State-superintendence, shows itself; we reply
that it is seen in a retardation of all social growths requiring
self-confidence in the people—in a timidity that fears all difficulties
not before encountered—in a thoughtless contentment with things as
they are. Let any one, after duly watching the rapid evolution going
on in England, where men have been comparatively little helped by
governments—or better still, after contemplating the unparalleled
progress of the United States, which is peopled by self-made men, and
the recent descendants of self-made men;—let such an one, we say, go
on to the Continent, and consider the relatively slow advance which
things are there making; and the still slower advance they would
make but for English enterprise. Let him go to Holland, and see that
though the Dutch early showed themselves good mechanics, and have
had abundant practice in hydraulics, Amsterdam has been without any
due supply of water until now that works are being established by an
English company. Let him go to Berlin, and there be told that, to give
that city a water-supply such as London has had for generations, the
project of an English firm is about to be executed by English capital,
under English superintendence. Let him go to Vienna, and learn that
it, in common with other continental cities, is lighted by an English
gas-company. Let him go on the Rhone, on the Loire, on the Danube,
and discover that Englishmen established steam {279} navigation on
those rivers. Let him inquire concerning the railways in Italy, Spain,
France, Sweden, Denmark, how many of them are English projects, how
many have been largely helped by English capital, how many have been
executed by English contractors, how many have had English engineers.
Let him discover, too, as he will, that where railways have been
government-made, as in Russia, the energy, the perseverance, and
the practical talent developed in England and the United States
have been called in to aid. And then if these illustrations of the
progressiveness of a self-dependent race, and the torpidity of
paternally-governed ones, do not suffice him, he may read Mr. Laing’s
successive volumes of European travel, and there study the contrast
in detail. What, now, is the cause of this contrast? In the order of
nature, a capacity for self-help must in every case have been brought
into existence by the practice of self-help; and, other things equal, a
lack of this capacity must in every case have arisen from the lack of
demand for it. Do not these two antecedents and their two consequents
agree with the facts as presented in England and Europe? Were not the
inhabitants of the two, some centuries ago, much upon a par in point
of enterprise? Were not the English even behind in their manufactures,
in their colonization, in their commerce? Has not the immense relative
change the English have undergone in this respect, been coincident with
the great relative self-dependence they have been since habituated
to? And has not the one been caused by the other? Whoever doubts it,
is asked to assign a more probable cause. Whoever admits it, must
admit that the enervation of a people by perpetual State-aids is
not a trifling consideration, but the most weighty consideration. A
general arrest of national growth he will see to be an evil greater
than any special benefits can compensate for. And, indeed, when, after
contemplating this great fact, the overspreading of the Earth by the
English, he remarks the {280} absence of any parallel achievement
by a continental race—when he reflects how this difference must
depend chiefly on difference of character, and how such difference of
character has been mainly produced by difference of discipline; he will
perceive that the policy pursued in this matter may have a large share
in determining a nation’s ultimate fate.

       *       *       *       *       *

We are not sanguine, however, that argument will change the convictions
of those who put their trust in legislation. With men of a certain
order of thought the foregoing reasons will have weight. With men
of another order of thought they will have little or none; nor
would any accumulation of such reasons affect them. The truth that
experience teaches, has its limits. The experiences which teach, must
be experiences which can be appreciated; and experiences exceeding a
certain degree of complexity become inappreciable to the majority.
It is thus with most social phenomena. If we remember that for these
two thousand years and more, mankind have been making regulations for
commerce, which have all along been strangling some trades and killing
others with kindness, and that though the proofs of this have been
constantly before their eyes, they have only just discovered that they
have been uniformly doing mischief—if we remember that even now only a
small portion of them see this; we are taught that perpetually-repeated
and ever-accumulating experiences will fail to teach, until there exist
the mental conditions required for the assimilation of them. Nay, when
they are assimilated, it is very imperfectly. The truth they teach is
only half understood, even by those supposed to understand it best. For
example, Sir Robert Peel, in one of his last speeches, after describing
the immensely increased consumption consequent on free trade, goes on
to say:―

  “If, then, you can only continue that consumption—if, _by your
 legislation_, under the favour of Providence, _you can maintain the
 demand for labour and make your trade and manufactures prosperous_,
 you are not only increasing the {281} sum of human happiness, but are
 giving the agriculturists of this country the best chance of that
 increased demand which must contribute to their welfare.”—_Times_,
 Feb. 22, 1850.

Thus the prosperity really due to the abandonment of all legislation,
is ascribed to a particular kind of legislation. “_You_ can maintain
the demand,” he says; “_you_ can make trade and manufactures
prosperous;” whereas, the facts he quotes prove that they can do this
only by doing nothing. The essential truth of the matter—that law had
been doing immense harm, and that this prosperity resulted not from law
but from the absence of law—is missed; and his faith in legislation in
general, which should, by this experience, have been greatly shaken,
seemingly remains as strong as ever. Here, again, is the House of
Lords, apparently not yet believing in the relationship of supply and
demand, adopting within these few weeks the standing order―

 “That before the first reading of any bill for making any work in the
 construction of which compulsory power is sought to take thirty houses
 or more inhabited by the labouring classes in any one parish or place,
 the promoters be required to deposit in the office of the clerk of
 the parliaments a statement of the number, description, and situation
 of the said houses, the number (so far as they can be estimated) of
 persons to be displaced, _and whether any and what provision is made
 in the bill for remedying the inconvenience likely to arise from such
 displacements_.”

If, then, in the comparatively simple relationships of trade, the
teachings of experience remain for so many ages unperceived, and are
so imperfectly apprehended when they are perceived, it is scarcely
to be hoped that where all social phenomena—moral, intellectual, and
physical—are involved, any due appreciation of the truths displayed
will presently take place. The facts cannot yet get recognized as
facts. As the alchemist attributed his successive disappointments to
some disproportion in the ingredients, some impurity, or some too
great temperature, and never to the futility of his process or the
impossibility of his aim; so, every failure of State-regulations
the law-worshipper explains away as being caused by this trifling
oversight, or that little {282} mistake: all which oversights and
mistakes he assures you will in future be avoided. Eluding the facts
as he does after this fashion, volley after volley of them produce no
effect.

Indeed this faith in governments is in a certain sense organic; and
can diminish only by being outgrown. From the time when rulers were
thought demi-gods, there has been a gradual decline in men’s estimates
of their power. This decline is still in progress, and has still far
to go. Doubtless, every increment of evidence furthers it in _some_
degree, though not to the degree that at first appears. Only in so
far as it modifies character does it produce a permanent effect. For
while the mental type remains the same, the removal of a special error
is inevitably followed by the growth of other errors of the same
genus. All superstitions die hard; and we fear that this belief in
government-omnipotence will form no exception.

{283}



REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT—WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?

[_First published in _The Westminster Review_ for October 1857._]


Shakspeare’s simile for adversity―

 Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
 Wears yet a precious jewel in his head,

might fitly be used also as a simile for a disagreeable truth.
Repulsive as is its aspect, the hard fact which dissipates a cherished
illusion, is presently found to contain the germ of a more salutary
belief. The experience of every one furnishes instances in which an
opinion long shrunk from as seemingly at variance with all that is
good, but finally accepted as irresistible, turns out to be fraught
with benefits. It is thus with self-knowledge: much as we dislike to
admit our defects, we find it better to know and guard against than to
ignore them. It is thus with changes of creed: alarming as looks the
reasoning by which superstitions are overthrown, the convictions to
which it leads prove to be healthier ones than those they superseded.
And it is thus with political enlightenment: men eventually see cause
to thank those who pull to pieces their political air-castles, hateful
as they once seemed. Moreover, not only is it always better to believe
truth than error; but the repugnant-looking facts are ever found to
be parts of something far better than the ideal which they {284}
dispelled. To the many illustrations of this which might be cited, we
shall presently add another.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is a conviction almost universally entertained here in England,
that our method of making and administering laws possesses every
virtue. Prince Albert’s unlucky saying that “Representative Government
is on its trial,” is vehemently repudiated: we consider that the
trial has long since ended in our favour on all the counts. Partly
from ignorance, partly from the bias of education, partly from that
patriotism which leads the men of each nation to pride themselves in
their own institutions, we have an unhesitating belief in the entire
superiority of our form of political organization. Yet unfriendly
critics can point out vices that are manifestly inherent. And if we
may believe the defenders of despotism, these vices are fatal to its
efficiency.

Now instead of denying or blinking these allegations, it would
be wiser candidly to inquire whether they are true; and if true,
what they imply. If, as most of us are so confident, government by
representatives is better than any other, we can afford to listen
patiently to all adverse remarks: believing that they are either
invalid, or that if valid they do not essentially tell against its
merits. If our political system is well founded, this crucial criticism
will serve but to bring out its worth more clearly than ever; and to
give us higher conceptions of its nature, its meaning, its purpose. Let
us, then, banishing for the nonce all prepossessions, and taking up a
thoroughly antagonistic point of view, set down without mitigation its
many flaws, vices, and absurdities.

       *       *       *       *       *

Is it not manifest that a ruling body made up of many individuals,
who differ in character, education, and aims, who belong to classes
having antagonistic ideas and feelings, and who are severally swayed
by the special {285} opinions of the districts deputing them, must
be a cumbrous apparatus for the management of public affairs? When we
devise a machine we take care that its parts are as few as possible;
that they are adapted to their respective ends; that they are properly
joined with one another; and that they work smoothly to their common
purpose. Our political machine, however, is constructed upon directly
opposite principles. Its parts are extremely numerous: multiplied,
indeed, beyond all reason. They are not severally chosen as specially
qualified for particular functions. No care is taken that they shall
fit well together: on the contrary, our arrangements are such that
they are certain not to fit. And that, as a consequence, they do not
and cannot act in harmony, is a fact nightly demonstrated to all the
world. In truth, had the problem been to find an appliance for the
slow and bungling transaction of business, it could scarcely have been
better solved. Immense hindrance results from the mere multiplicity of
parts; a further immense hindrance results from their incongruity; yet
another immense hindrance results from the frequency with which they
are changed; while the greatest hindrance of all results from the want
of subordination of the parts to their functions—from the fact that the
personal welfare of the legislator is not bound up with the efficient
performance of his political duty.

These defects are inherent in the very nature of our institutions;
and they cannot fail to produce disastrous mismanagement. If proofs
be needed, they may be furnished in abundance, both from the current
history of our central representative government, and from that of
local ones, public and private. Let us, before going on to contemplate
these evils as displayed on a great scale in our legislature, glance at
some of them in their simpler and smaller manifestations.

We will not dwell on the comparative inefficiency of deputed
administration in mercantile affairs. The {286} untrustworthiness
of directorial management might be afresh illustrated by the recent
joint-stock-bank catastrophies: the recklessness and dishonesty of
rulers whose interests are not one with those of the concern they
control, being in these cases conspicuously displayed. Or we could
enlarge on the same truth as exhibited in the doings of railway-boards:
instancing the malversations proved against their members; the
carelessness which has permitted Robson and Redpath frauds; the
rashness perseveringly shown in making unprofitable branches and
extensions. But facts of this kind are sufficiently familiar.

Let us pass, then, to less notorious examples. Mechanics’ Institutions
will supply our first. The theory of these is plausible enough.
Artizans wanting knowledge, and benevolent middle-class people wishing
to help them to it, constitute the raw material. By uniting their
means they propose to obtain literary and other advantages, which
else would be beyond their reach. And it is concluded that, being all
interested in securing the proposed objects, and the governing body
being chosen out of their number, the results cannot fail to be such as
were intended. In most cases, however, the results are quite otherwise.
Indifference, stupidity, party-spirit, and religious dissension,
nearly always thwart the efforts of the promoters. It is thought good
policy to select as president some local notability; probably not
distinguished for wisdom, but whose donation or prestige more than
counterbalances his defect in this respect. Vice-presidents are chosen
with the same view: a clergyman or two; some neighbouring squires,
if they can be had; an ex-mayor; several aldermen; half a dozen
manufacturers and wealthy tradesmen; and a miscellaneous complement.
While the committee, mostly elected more because of their position
or popularity than their intelligence or fitness for co-operation,
exhibit similar incongruities. Causes of dissension quickly arise. A
book much wished for by the mass of the members, is tabooed, because
{287} ordering it would offend the clerical party in the institution.
Regard for the prejudices of certain magistrates and squires who figure
among the vice-presidents, forbids the engagement of an otherwise
desirable and popular lecturer, whose political and religious opinions
are somewhat extreme. The selection of newspapers and magazines for
the reading-room, is a fruitful source of disputes. Should some,
thinking it would be a great boon to those for whom the institution
was established, propose to open the reading-room on Sundays, there
arises a violent fight; ending, perhaps, in the secession of some of
the defeated party. The question of amusements, again, furnishes a bone
of contention. Shall the institution exist solely for instruction, or
shall it add gratification? The refreshment-question, also, is apt to
be raised, and to add to the other causes of difference. In short,
the stupidity, prejudice, party-spirit, and squabbling, are such as
eventually to drive away in disgust those who should have been the
administrators; and to leave the control in the hands of a clique, who
pursue some humdrum middle course, satisfying nobody. Instead of that
prosperity which would probably have been achieved under the direction
of one good man-of-business, whose welfare was bound up with its
success, the institution loses its prestige, and dwindles away: ceases
almost entirely to be what was intended—a _mechanics_’ institution; and
becomes little more than a middle-class lounge, kept up not so much by
the permanent adhesion of its members, as by the continual addition of
new ones in place of the old ones constantly falling off. Meanwhile,
the end originally proposed is fulfilled, so far as it gets fulfilled
at all, by private enterprise. Cheap newspapers and cheap periodicals,
provided by publishers having in view the pockets and tastes of the
working-classes; coffee-shops and penny reading-rooms, set up by men
whose aim is profit; are the instruments of the chief proportion of
such culture as is going on.

In higher-class institutions of the same order—in Literary {288}
Societies and Philosophical Societies, etc.—the like inefficiency of
representative government is generally displayed. Quickly following
the vigour of early enthusiasm, come class and sectarian differences,
the final supremacy of a party, bad management, apathy. Subscribers
complain they cannot get what they want; and one by one desert to
private book-clubs or to Mudie.

Turning from non-political to political institutions, we might, had
we space, draw illustrations from the doings of the old poor-law
authorities, or from those of modern boards of guardians; but omitting
these and others such, we will, among local governments, confine
ourselves to the reformed municipal corporations.

If, leaving out of sight all other evidences, and forgetting that
they are newly-organized bodies into which corruption has scarcely
had time to creep, we were to judge of these municipal corporations
by the town-improvements they have effected, we might pronounce
them successful. But, even without insisting on the fact that such
improvements are more due to the removal of obstructions, and to that
same progressive spirit which has established railways and telegraphs,
than to the positive virtues of these civic governments; it is to be
remarked that the execution of numerous public works is by no means
an adequate test. With power of raising funds limited only by a
rebellion of ratepayers, it is easy in prosperous, increasing towns,
to make a display of efficiency. The proper questions to be asked
are:—Do municipal elections end in the choice of the fittest men who
are to be found? Does the resulting administrative body, perform well
and economically the work which devolves on it? And does it show
sound judgment in refraining from needless or improper work? To these
questions the answers are by no means satisfactory.

Town-councils are not conspicuous for either intelligence or high
character. There are competent judges who think that, on the average,
their members are inferior to those of {289} the old corporations
they superseded. As all the world knows, the elections turn mainly on
political opinions. The first question respecting any candidate is,
not whether he has great knowledge, judgment, or business-faculty—not
whether he has any special aptitude for the duty to be discharged;
but whether he is Whig or Tory. Even supposing his politics to be
unobjectionable, his nomination still does not depend chiefly on his
proved uprightness or capacity, but much more on his friendly relations
with the dominant clique. A number of the town magnates, habitually
meeting probably at the chief hotel, and there held together as much
by the brotherhood of conviviality as by that of opinion, discuss the
merits of all whose names are before the public, and decide which are
the most suitable. This gin-and-water caucus it is which practically
determines the choice of candidates; and, by consequence, the
elections. Those who will succumb to leadership—those who will merge
their private opinions in the policy of their party, of course have
the preference. Men too independent for this—too far-seeing to join in
the shibboleth of the hour, or too refined to mix with the “jolly good
fellows” who thus rule the town, are shelved; notwithstanding that they
are, above all others, fitted for office. Partly from this underhand
influence, and partly from the consequent disgust which leads them
to decline standing if asked, the best men are generally not in the
governing body. It is notorious that in London the most respectable
merchants will have nothing to do with the local government. And in
New York, “the exertions of its better citizens are still exhausted
in private accumulation, while the duties of administration are left
to other hands,” It cannot then be asserted that in town-government,
the representative system succeeds in bringing the ablest and most
honourable men to the top.

The efficient and economical discharge of duties is, of course,
hindered by this inferiority of the deputies chosen; {290} and it
is further hindered by the persistent action of party and personal
motives. Not whether he knows well how to handle a level, but
whether he voted for the popular candidate at the last parliamentary
election, is the question on which may, and sometimes does, hang the
choice of a town-surveyor; and if sewers are ill laid out, it is a
natural consequence. When, a new public edifice having been decided
on, competition designs are advertised for; and when the designs,
ostensibly anonymous but really identifiable, have been sent in; T.
Square, Esq., who has an influential relative in the corporation,
makes sure of succeeding, and is not disappointed: albeit his plans
are not those which would have been chosen by any one of the judges,
had the intended edifice been his own. Brown, who has for many years
been on the town-council and is one of the dominant clique, has a
son who is a doctor; and when, in pursuance of an Act of Parliament,
an officer of health is to be appointed, Brown privately canvasses
his fellow-councillors, and succeeds in persuading them to elect his
son; though his son is by no means the fittest man the place can
furnish. Similarly with the choice of tradesmen to execute work for
the town. A public clock which is frequently getting out of order, and
Board-of-Health water-closets which disgust those who have them (we
state facts), sufficiently testify that stupidity, favouritism, or
some sinister influence, is ever causing mismanagement. The choice of
inferior representatives, and by them of inferior _employés_, joined
with private interest and divided responsibility, inevitably prevent
the discharge of duties from being satisfactory.

Moreover, the extravagance which is now becoming a notorious vice of
municipal bodies, is greatly increased by the practice of undertaking
things which they ought not to undertake; and the incentive to do this
is, in many cases, traceable to the representative origin of the body.
The system of compounding with landlords for municipal {291} rates,
leads the lower class of occupiers into the erroneous belief that
town-burdens do not fall in any degree on them; and they therefore
approve of an expenditure which seemingly gives them gratis advantages
while it creates employment. As they form the mass of the constituency,
lavishness becomes a popular policy; and popularity-hunters vie with
one another in bringing forward new and expensive projects. Here is
a councillor who, having fears about his next election, proposes an
extensive scheme for public gardens—a scheme which many who disapprove
do not oppose, because they, too, bear in mind the next election. There
is another councillor, who keeps a shop, and who raises and agitates
the question of baths and wash-houses; very well knowing that his trade
is not likely to suffer from such a course. And so in other cases:
the small direct interest which each member of the corporation has in
economical administration, is antagonized by so many indirect interests
of other kinds, that he is not likely to be a good guardian of the
public purse.

Thus, neither in respect of the deputies chosen, nor the efficient
performance of their work, nor the avoidance of unfit work, can
the governments of our towns be held satisfactory. And if in these
recently-formed bodies the defects are so conspicuous, still more
conspicuous are they where they have had time to grow to their full
magnitude: witness the case of New York. According to the _Times_
correspondent in that city, the New York people pay “over a million
and a half sterling, for which they have badly-paved streets, a police
by no means as efficient as it should be, though much better than
formerly, the greatest amount of dirt north of Italy, the poorest
cab-system of any metropolis in the world, and only unsheltered wooden
piers for the discharge of merchandize.”

       *       *       *       *       *

And now, having glanced at the general bearings of the question in
these minor cases, let us take the major case of {292} our central
government; and, in connexion with it, pursue the inquiry more closely.
Here the inherent faults of the representative system are much more
clearly displayed. The greater multiplicity of rulers involves greater
cumbrousness, greater confusion, greater delay. Differences of class,
of aims, of prejudices, are both larger in number and wider in degree;
and hence arise dissensions still more multiplied. The direct effect
which each legislator is likely to experience from the working of
any particular measure, is usually very small and remote; while the
indirect influences which sway him are, in this above all other cases,
numerous and strong: whence follows a marked tendency to neglect
public welfare for private advantage. But let us set out from the
beginning—with the constituencies.

The representative theory assumes that if a number of citizens,
deeply interested as they all are in good government, are endowed
with political power, they will choose the wisest and best men for
governors. Seeing how greatly they suffer from bad administration of
public affairs, it is considered self-evident that they must have
the _will_ to select proper representatives; and it is taken for
granted that average common sense gives the _ability_ to select proper
representatives. How does experience bear out these assumptions? Does
it not to a great degree negative them?

Several considerable classes of electors have little or no _will_ in
the matter. Not a few of those on the register pique themselves on
taking no part in politics—claim credit for having the sense not to
meddle with things which they say do not concern them. Many others
there are whose interest in the choice of a member of Parliament is
so slight, that they do not think it worth while to vote. A notable
proportion, too, shopkeepers especially, care so little about the
result, that their votes are determined by their wishes to please
their chief patrons or to avoid offending them. In the minds of a
yet larger class, small sums of money, or {293} even _ad libitum_
supplies of beer, outweigh any desires they have to use their political
powers independently. Those who adequately recognize the importance of
honestly exercising their judgments in the selection of legislators,
and who give conscientious votes, form but a minority; and the election
usually hangs less upon their wills than upon the illegitimate
influences which sway the rest. Here, therefore, the theory fails.

Then, again, as to intelligence. Even supposing that the mass of
electors have a sufficiently decided _will_ to choose the best rulers,
what evidence have we of their _ability_? Is picking out the wisest
man among them, a task within the range of their capacities? Let any
one listen to the conversation of a farmer’s market-table, and then
answer how much he finds of that wisdom which is required to discern
wisdom in others. Or let him read the clap-trap speeches made from the
hustings with a view of pleasing constituents, and then estimate the
penetration of those who are to be thus pleased. Even among the higher
order of electors he will meet with gross political ignorance—with
notions that Acts of Parliament can do whatever it is thought well they
should do; that the value of gold can be fixed by law; that distress
can be cured by poor-laws; and so forth. If he descends a step, he will
find in the still-prevalent ideas that machinery is injurious to the
working-classes, and that extravagance is “good for trade,” indices
of a yet smaller insight. And in the lower and larger class, formed
by those who think that their personal interest in good government is
not worth the trouble of voting, or is outbalanced by the loss of a
customer, or is of less value than a bribe, he will perceive an almost
hopeless stupidity. Without going the length of Mr. Carlyle, and
defining the people as “twenty-seven millions, mostly fools,” he will
confess that they are but sparely gifted with wisdom.

That these should succeed in choosing the fittest {294} governors,
would be strange; and that they do not so succeed is manifest. Even as
judged by the most common-sense tests, their selections are absurd, as
we shall shortly see.

It is a self-evident truth that we may most safely trust those whose
interests are identical with our own; and that it is very dangerous
to trust those whose interests are antagonistic to our own. All
the legal securities we take in our transactions with one another,
are so many recognitions of this truth. We are not satisfied with
_professions_. If another’s position is such that he must be liable
to motives at variance with the promises he makes, we take care, by
introducing an artificial motive (the dread of legal penalties), to
make it his interest to fulfil these promises. Down to the asking for
a receipt, our daily business-habits testify that, in consequence of
the prevailing selfishness, it it extremely imprudent to expect men to
regard the claims of others equally with their own: all asseverations
of good faith notwithstanding. Now it might have been thought that
even the modicum of sense possessed by the majority of electors,
would have led them to recognize this fact in the choice of their
representatives. But they show a total disregard of it. While the
theory of our Constitution, in conformity with this same fact, assumes
that the three divisions composing the Legislature will severally
pursue each its own ends—while our history shows that Monarch, Lords,
and Commons, _have_ all along more or less conspicuously done this;
our electors manifest by their votes, the belief that their interests
will be as well cared for by members of the titled class as by members
of their own class. Though, in their determined opposition to the
Reform-Bill, the aristocracy showed how greedy they were, not only of
their legitimate power but of their illegitimate power—though, by the
enactment and pertinacious maintenance of the Corn-Laws, they proved
how little popular welfare weighed in the {295} scale against their
own profits—though they have ever displayed a watchful jealousy even of
their smallest privileges, whether equitable or inequitable (as witness
the recent complaint in the House of Lords, that the Mercantile Marine
Act calls on lords of manors to show their titles before they can claim
the wrecks thrown on the shores of their estates, which before they
had always done by prescription)—though they have habitually pursued
that self-seeking policy which men so placed were sure to pursue;
yet constituencies have decided that members of the aristocracy may
fitly be chosen as representatives of the people. Our present House
of Commons contains 98 Irish peers and sons of English peers; 66
blood-relations of peers; and 67 connexions of peers by marriage: in
all, 231 members whose interests, or sympathies, or both, are with the
nobility rather than the commonalty. We are quite prepared to hear the
doctrine implied in this criticism condemned by rose-water politicians
as narrow and prejudiced. To such we simply reply that they and their
friends fully recognize this doctrine when it suits them to do so. Why
do they wish to prevent the town-constituencies from predominating
over the county-ones; if they do not believe that each division of the
community will consult its own welfare? Or what plea can there be for
Lord John Russell’s proposal to represent minorities, unless it be the
plea that those who have the opportunity will sacrifice the interests
of others to their own? Or how shall we explain the anxiety of the
upper class, to keep a tight rein on the growing power of the lower
class, save from their consciousness that _bonâ fide_ representatives
of the lower class would be less regardful of their privileges than
they are themselves? If there be any reason in the theory of the
Constitution, then, while the members of the House of Peers should
belong to the peerage, the members of the House of Commons should
belong to the commonalty. Either the constitutional theory is sheer
nonsense, or else {296} the choice of lords as representatives of the
people proves the folly of constituencies.

But this folly by no means ends here: it works out other results quite
as absurd. What should we think of a man giving his servants equal
authority with himself over the affairs of his household? Suppose
the shareholders in a railway-company were to elect, as members of
their board of directors, the secretary, engineer, superintendent,
traffic-manager, and others such. Should we not be astonished at
their stupidity? Should we not prophesy that the private advantage of
officials would frequently override the welfare of the company? Yet our
parliamentary electors commit a blunder of just the same kind. For what
are military and naval officers but servants of the nation; standing to
it in a relation like that in which the officers of a railway-company
stand to the company? Do they not perform public work? do they not
take public pay? And do not their interests differ from those of the
public, as the interests of the employed from those of the employer?
The impropriety of admitting executive agents of the State into the
Legislature, has over and over again thrust itself into notice; and
in minor cases has been prevented by sundry Acts of Parliament.
Enumerating those disqualified for the House of Commons, Blackstone
says―

 “No persons concerned in the management of any duties or taxes created
 since 1692, except the commissioners of the treasury, nor any of the
 officers following, _viz._ commissioners of prizes, transports, sick
 and wounded, wine licences, navy, and victualling; secretaries or
 receivers of prizes; comptrollers of the army accounts; agents for
 regiments; governors of plantations, and their deputies; officers of
 Minorca or Gibraltar; officers of the excise and customs; clerks and
 deputies in the several offices of the treasury, exchequer, navy,
 victualling, admiralty, pay of the army and navy, secretaries of
 state, salt, stamps, appeals, wine licences, hackney coaches, hawkers
 and pedlars, nor any persons that hold any new office under the crown
 created since 1705, are capable of being elected, or sitting as
 members.”

In which list naval and military officers would doubtless have been
included, had they not always been too powerful a body and too closely
identified with the dominant classes. {297} Glaring, however, as
is the impolicy of appointing public servants to make the laws;
and clearly as this impolicy is recognized in the above-specified
exclusions from time to time enacted; the people at large seem totally
oblivious of it. At the last general election they returned 9 naval
officers, 46 military officers, and 51 retired military officers,
who, in virtue of education, friendship, and _esprit de corps_, take
the same views with their active comrades—in all 106: not including
64 officers of militia and yeomanry, whose sympathies and ambitions
are in a considerable degree the same. If any one thinks that this
large infusion of officialism is of no consequence, let him look in
the division-lists. Let him inquire how much it has had to do with the
maintenance of the purchase-system. Let him ask whether the almost
insuperable obstacles to the promotion of the private soldier, have
not been strengthened by it. Let him see what share it had in keeping
up those worn-out practices, and forms, and mis-arrangements, which
entailed the disasters of our late war. Let him consider whether the
hushing-up of the Crimean Inquiry and the whitewashing of delinquents
were not aided by it. Yet, though abundant experience thus confirms
what common sense would beforehand have predicted; and though,
notwithstanding the late disasters, exposures, and public outcry for
army-reform, the influence of the military caste is so great that the
reform has been staved-off; our constituencies are stupid enough to
send to Parliament as many military officers as ever!

Not even now have we reached the end of these impolitic selections.
The general principle on which we have been insisting, and which is
recognized by expounders of the constitution when they teach that
the legislative and executive divisions of the Government should be
distinct—this general principle is yet further sinned against; though
not in so literal a manner. For though they do not take State-pay, and
are not nominally Government-officers, yet, {298} practically, lawyers
are members of the executive organization. They form an important part
of the apparatus for the administration of justice. By the working of
this apparatus they make their profits; and their welfare depends on
its being so worked as to bring them profits, rather than on its being
so worked as to administer justice. Exactly as military officers have
interests distinct from, and often antagonistic to, the efficiency
of the army; so, barristers and solicitors have interests distinct
from, and often antagonistic to, the cheap and prompt enforcement of
the law. And that they are habitually swayed by these antagonistic
interests, is notorious. So strong is the bias, as sometimes even
to destroy the power of seeing from any other than the professional
stand-point. We have ourselves heard a lawyer declaiming on the damage
which the County-Courts-Act had done to the profession; and expecting
his non-professional hearers to join him in condemning it there-for!
And if, as all the world knows, the legal conscience is not of the
tenderest, is it wise to depute lawyers to frame the laws which they
will be concerned in carrying out; and the carrying out of which must
affect their private incomes? Are barristers, who constantly take fees
for work which they do not perform, and attorneys, whose bills are so
often exorbitant that a special office has been established for taxing
them—are these, of all others, to be trusted in a position which would
be trying even to the most disinterested? Nevertheless, the towns and
counties of England have returned to the present House of Commons 98
lawyers—some 60 of them in actual practice, and the rest retired,
but doubtless retaining those class-views acquired during their
professional careers.

These criticisms on the conduct of constituencies do not necessarily
commit us to the assertion that _none_ belonging to the official and
aristocratic classes ought to be chosen. Though it would be safer to
carry out, in these important {299} cases, the general principle
which, as above shown, Parliament has itself recognized and enforced
in unimportant cases; yet we are not prepared to say that occasional
exceptions might not be made, on good cause being shown. All we aim
to show is the gross impolicy of selecting so large a proportion of
representatives from classes having interests different from those of
the general public. That in addition to more than a third taken from
the dominant class, who already occupy one division of the Legislature,
the House of Commons should contain nearly another third taken from
the naval, military, and legal classes, whose policy, like that of
the dominant class, is to maintain things as they are; we consider a
decisive proof of electoral misjudgment. That out of the 654 members,
of which the People’s House now consists, there should be but 250 who,
as considered from a class point of view, are eligible, or tolerably
eligible (for we include a considerable number who are more or less
objectionable), is significant of anything but popular good sense. That
into an assembly established to protect their interests, the commonalty
of England should have sent one-third whose interests are the same as
their own, and two-thirds whose interests are at variance with their
own, proves a scarcely credible lack of wisdom; and seems an awkward
fact for the representative theory.

If the intelligence of the mass is thus not sufficient even to choose
out men who by position and occupation are fit representatives,
still less is it sufficient to choose out men who are the fittest
in character and capacity. To see who will be liable to the bias
of private advantage is a very easy thing; to see who is wisest is
a very difficult thing; and those who do not succeed in the first
must necessarily fail in the last. The higher the wisdom the more
incomprehensible does it become by ignorance. It is a manifest fact
that the popular man or writer, is always one who is but little in
advance of the mass, and consequently {300} understandable by them:
never the man who is far in advance of them and out of their sight.
Appreciation of another implies some community of thought. “Only the
man of worth can recognize worth in men. . . . . . The worthiest, if he
appealed to universal suffrage, would have but a poor chance. . . . . .
Alas! Jesus Christ, asking the Jews what _he_ deserved—was not the
answer, Death on the gallows!” And though men do not now-a-days stone
the prophet, they, at any rate, ignore him. As Mr. Carlyle says in his
vehement way―

 “If of ten men nine are recognisable as fools, which is a common
 calculation, how, . . . in the name of wonder, will you ever get a
 ballot-box to grind you out a wisdom from the votes of these ten men?
 . . . . . I tell you a million blockheads looking authoritatively into
 one man of what you call genius, or noble sense, will make nothing but
 nonsense out of him and his qualities, and his virtues and defects, if
 they look till the end of time.”

So that, even were electors content to choose the man proved by general
evidence to be the most far-seeing, and refrained from testing him
by the coincidence of his views with their own, there would be small
chance of their hitting on the best. But judging of him, as they do, by
asking him whether he thinks this or that crudity which they think, it
is manifest that they will fix on one far removed from the best. Their
deputy will be truly representative;—representative, that is, of the
average stupidity.

       *       *       *       *       *

And now let us look at the assembly of representatives thus chosen.
Already we have noted the unfit composition of this assembly as
respects the interests of its members; and we have just seen what the
representative theory itself implies as to their intelligence. Let us
now, however, consider them more nearly under this last head.

And first, what is the work they undertake? Observe, we do not say the
work which they _ought_ to do, but the work which they _propose_ to do,
and _try_ to do. This comprehends the regulation of nearly all actions
going on throughout society. Besides devising measures to prevent {301}
the aggression of citizens on one another, and to secure each the
quiet possession of his own; and besides assuming the further function,
also needful in the present state of mankind, of defending the nation
as a whole against invaders; they unhesitatingly take on themselves
to provide for countless wants, to cure countless ills, to oversee
countless affairs. Out of the many beliefs men have held respecting
God, Creation, the Future, etc., they presume to decide which are
true; and authorize an army of priests to perpetually repeat them to
the people. The distress resulting from improvidence, they undertake
to remove: they settle the minimum which each ratepayer shall give
in charity, and how the proceeds shall be administered. Judging that
emigration will not naturally go on fast enough, they provide means for
carrying off some of the labouring classes to the colonies. Certain
that social necessities will not cause a sufficiently rapid spread
of knowledge, and confident that they know what knowledge is most
required, they use public money for the building of schools and paying
of teachers; they print and publish State-school-books; they employ
inspectors to see that their standard of education is conformed to.
Playing the part of doctor, they insist that every one shall use their
specific, and escape the danger of small-pox by submitting to an attack
of cow-pox. Playing the part of moralist, they decide which dramas are
fit to be acted and which are not. Playing the part of artist, they
prompt the setting up of drawing-schools, provide masters and models;
and, at Marlborough House, enact what shall be considered good taste
and what bad. Through their lieutenants, the corporations of towns,
they furnish appliances for the washing of peoples’ skins and clothes;
they, in some cases, manufacture gas and put down water-pipes; they lay
out sewers and cover over cess-pools; they establish public libraries
and make public gardens. Moreover, they determine how houses shall be
built, and what is a safe construction for a ship; they take measures
for the {302} security of railway-travelling; they fix the hour
after which public-houses may not be open; they regulate the prices
chargeable by vehicles plying in the London streets; they inspect
lodging-houses; they arrange for burial-grounds; they fix the hours
of factory hands. If some social process does not seem to them to be
going on fast enough, they stimulate it; where the growth is not in the
direction which they think most desirable, they alter it; and so they
seek to realize some undefined ideal community.

Such being the task undertaken, what, let us ask, are the
qualifications for discharging it? Supposing it possible to achieve
all this, what must be the knowledge and capacities of those who
shall achieve it? Successfully to prescribe for society, it is
needful to know the structure of society—the principles on which
it is organized—the natural laws of its progress. If there be not
a true understanding of what constitutes social development, there
must necessarily be grave mistakes made in checking these changes and
fostering those. If there be lack of insight respecting the mutual
dependence of the many functions which, taken together, make up the
national life, unforeseen disasters will ensue from not perceiving
how an interference with one will affect the rest. That is to say,
there must be a due acquaintance with the social science—the science
involving all others; the science standing above all others in
complexity.

And now, how far do our legislators possess this qualification? Do
they in any moderate degree display it? Do they make even a distant
approximation to it? That many of them are very good classical scholars
is beyond doubt: not a few have written first-rate Latin verses, and
can enjoy a Greek play; but there is no obvious relation between a
memory well stocked with the words spoken two thousand years ago,
and an understanding disciplined to deal with modern society. That
in learning the languages of the past they have learnt some of its
history, is true; but considering that this history is mainly a {303}
narrative of battles and plots and negociations and treacheries, it
does not throw much light on social philosophy—not even the simplest
principles of political economy have ever been gathered from it. We
do not question, either, that a moderate per centage of members of
Parliament are fair mathematicians; and that mathematical discipline
is valuable. As, however, political problems are not susceptible of
mathematical analysis, their studies in this direction cannot much aid
them in legislation. To the large body of military officers who sit as
representatives, we would not for a moment deny a competent knowledge
of fortification, of strategy, of regimental discipline; but we do not
see that these throw much light on the causes and cure of national
evils. Indeed, considering that war fosters anti-social sentiments,
and that the government of soldiers is necessarily despotic, military
education and habits are more likely to unfit than to fit men for
regulating the doings of a free people. Extensive acquaintance with
the laws, may doubtless be claimed by the many barristers chosen by
our constituencies; and this seems a kind of information having some
relation to the work to be done. Unless, however, this information
is more than technical—unless it is accompanied by knowledge of the
ramified consequences which laws have produced in times past and are
producing now (which nobody will assert), it cannot give much insight
into Social Science. A familiarity with laws is no more a preparation
for rational legislation, than would a familiarity with all the
nostrums men have ever used be a preparation for the rational practice
of medicine. Nowhere, then, in our representative body, do we find
appropriate culture. Here is a clever novelist, and there a successful
maker of railways; this member has acquired a large fortune in trade,
and that member is noted as an agricultural improver; but none of
these achievements imply fitness for controlling and adjusting social
processes. Among the many who have passed through the public {304}
school and university _curriculum_—including though they may a few
Oxford double-firsts and one or two Cambridge wranglers—there are none
who have received the discipline required by the true legislator. None
have that competent knowledge of Science in general, culminating in
the Science of Life, which can alone form a basis for the Science of
Society. For it is one of those open secrets which seem the more secret
because they are so open, that all phenomena displayed by a nation are
phenomena of Life, and are dependent on the laws of Life. There is
no growth, decay, evil, improvement, or change of any kind, going on
in the body politic, but what has its cause in the actions of human
beings; and there are no actions of human beings but what conform to
the laws of Life in general, and cannot be truly understood until those
laws are understood.

See, then, the immense incongruity between the end and the means. See
on the one hand the countless difficulties of the task; and on the
other hand the almost total unpreparedness of those who undertake
it. Need we wonder that legislation is ever breaking down? Is it
not natural that complaint, amendment, and repeal, should form the
staple business of every session? Is there anything more than might be
expected in the absurd Jack-Cadeisms which disgrace the debates? Even
without setting up so high a standard of qualification as that above
specified, the unfitness of most representatives for their duties is
abundantly manifest. You need but glance over the miscellaneous list
of noblemen, baronets, squires, merchants, barristers, engineers,
soldiers, sailors, railway-directors, etc., and then ask what training
their previous lives have given them for the intricate business of
legislation, to see at once how extreme must be the incompetence. One
would think that the whole system had been framed on the sayings of
some political Dogberry:—“The art of healing is difficult; the art of
government easy. The understanding of {305} arithmetic comes by study;
while the understanding of society comes by instinct. Watchmaking
requires a long apprenticeship; but there needs none for the making
of institutions. To manage a shop properly requires teaching; but the
management of a people may be undertaken without preparation.” Were
we to be visited by some wiser Gulliver, or, as in the “Micromegas”
of Voltaire, by some inhabitant of another sphere, his account of our
political institutions might run somewhat as follows:―

“I found that the English were governed by an assembly of men, said to
embody the ‘collective wisdom.’ This assembly, joined with some other
authorities which seem practically subordinate to it, has unlimited
power. I was much perplexed by this. With us it is customary to define
the office of any appointed body; and, above all things, to see that
it does not defeat the ends for which it was appointed. But both the
theory and the practice of this English Government imply that it may do
whatever it pleases. Though, by their current maxims and usages, the
English recognize the right of property as sacred—though the infraction
of it is considered by them one of the gravest crimes—though the laws
profess to be so jealous of it as to punish even the stealing of a
turnip; yet their legislators suspend it at will. They take the money
of citizens for any project which they choose to undertake; though
such project was not in the least contemplated by those who gave them
authority—nay, though the greater part of the citizens from whom the
money is taken had no share in giving them such authority. Each citizen
can hold property only so long as the 654 deputies do not want it. It
seemed to me that an exploded doctrine once current among them of ‘the
divine right of kings,’ had simply been changed into the divine right
of Parliaments.

“I was at first inclined to think that the constitution of things
on the Earth was totally different from what it is with us; for the
current political philosophy here, implies {306} that acts are not
right or wrong in themselves but are made one or the other by the votes
of law-makers. In our world it is considered manifest that if a number
of beings live together, there must, in virtue of their natures, be
certain primary conditions on which only they can work satisfactorily
in concert; and we infer that the conduct which breaks through these
conditions is bad. In the English legislature, however, a proposal to
regulate conduct by any such abstract standard would be held absurd.
I asked one of their members of Parliament whether a majority of the
House could legitimize murder. He said, No. I asked him whether it
could sanctify robbery. He thought not. But I could not make him see
that if murder and robbery are intrinsically wrong, and not to be made
right by decisions of statesmen, that similarly _all_ actions must be
either right or wrong, apart from the authority of the law; and that if
the right and wrong of the law are not in harmony with this intrinsic
right and wrong, the law itself is criminal. Some, indeed, among the
English think as we do. One of their remarkable men (_not_ included in
their Assembly of Notables) writes thus:―

 “‘To ascertain better and better what the will of the Eternal was
 and is with us, what the laws of the Eternal are, all Parliaments,
 Ecumenic Councils, Congresses, and other Collective Wisdoms, have
 had this for their object. . . . . Nevertheless, in the inexplicable
 universal votings and debatings of these Ages, an idea or rather a
 dumb presumption to the contrary has gone idly abroad; and at this
 day, over extensive tracts of the world, poor human beings are to be
 found, whose practical belief it is that if we “vote” this or that,
 so this or that will thenceforth _be_. . . . . Practically, men have
 come to imagine that the Laws of this Universe, like the laws of
 constitutional countries, are decided by voting. . . . It is an idle
 fancy. The Laws of this Universe, of which if the Laws of England are
 not an exact transcript, they should passionately study to become
 such, are fixed by the everlasting congruity of things, and are not
 fixable or changeable by voting!’

“But I find that, contemptuously disregarding all such protests, the
English legislators persevere in their hyperatheistic notion, that an
Act of Parliament duly enforced by State-officers, will work out any
object: no question being {307} put whether Laws of Nature permit.
I forgot to ask whether they considered that different kinds of food
could be made wholesome or unwholesome by State-decree.

“One thing that struck me was the curious way in which the members of
their House of Commons judge of one another’s capacities. Many who
expressed opinions of the crudest kinds, or trivial platitudes, or
worn-out superstitions, were civilly treated. Follies as great as that
but a few years since uttered by one of their ministers, who said that
free-trade was contrary to common sense, were received in silence. But
I was present when one of their number, who, as I thought, was speaking
very rationally, made a mistake in his pronunciation—made what they
call a wrong quantity; and immediately there arose a shout of derision.
It seemed quite tolerable that a member should know little or nothing
about the business he was there to transact; but quite intolerable that
he should be ignorant on a point of no moment.

“The English pique themselves on being especially practical—have a
great contempt for theorizers, and profess to be guided exclusively
by facts. Before making or altering a law it is the custom to appoint
a committee of inquiry, who send for men able to give information
concerning the matter in hand, and ask them some thousands of
questions. These questions, and the answers given to them, are printed
in large books, and distributed among the members of the Houses of
Parliament; and I was told that they spent about £100,000 a year in
thus collecting and distributing evidence. Nevertheless, it appeared
to me that the ministers and representatives of the English people,
pertinaciously adhere to theories long ago disproved by the most
conspicuous facts. They pay great respect to petty details of evidence,
but of large truths they are quite regardless. Thus, the experience
of age after age has shown that their state-management is almost
invariably bad. The national estates are so miserably administered as
often to bring loss {308} instead of gain. The government ship-yards
are uniformly extravagant and inefficient. The judicial system works
so ill that most citizens will submit to serious losses rather than
run risks of being ruined by law-suits. Countless facts prove the
Government to be the worst owner, the worst manufacturer, the worst
trader: in fact, the worst manager, be the thing managed what it may.
But though the evidence of this is abundant and conclusive—though,
during a recent war, the bunglings of officials were as glaring and
multitudinous as ever; yet the belief that any proposed duties will
be satisfactorily discharged by a new public department appointed to
them, seems not a whit the weaker. Legislators, thinking themselves
practical, cling to the plausible theory of an officially-regulated
society, spite of overwhelming evidence that official regulation
perpetually fails.

“Nay, indeed, the belief seems to gain strength among these fact-loving
English statesmen, notwithstanding the facts are against it. Proposals
for State-control over this and the other, have been of late more rife
than ever. And, most remarkable of all, their representative assembly
lately listened with grave faces to the assertion, made by one of their
high authorities, that State-workshops are more economical than private
workshops. Their prime minister, in defending a recently-established
arms-factory, actually told them that, at one of their arsenals,
certain missiles of war were manufactured not only better than by the
trade, but at about one-third the price; and added, ‘_so it would be in
all things_.’ The English being a trading people, who must be tolerably
familiar with the usual rates of profit among manufacturers, and the
margin for possible economy, the fact that they should have got for
their chief representative one so utterly in the dark on these matters,
struck me as a wonderful result of the representative system.

“I did not inquire much further, for it was manifest that {309} if
these were really their wisest men, the English were not a wise people.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Representative government, then, cannot be called a success, in so far
as the choice of men is concerned. Those it puts into power are the
fittest neither in respect of their interests, nor their culture, nor
their wisdom. And as a consequence, partly of this and partly of its
complex and cumbrous nature, representative government is anything
but efficient for administrative purposes. In these respects it is
manifestly inferior to monarchical government. This has the advantage
of simplicity, which is always conducive to efficiency. And it has the
further advantage that the power is in the hands of one who is directly
concerned in the good management of national affairs; seeing that the
continued maintenance of his power—nay, often his very life—depends
on this. For his own sake a monarch chooses the wisest councillors he
can find, regardless of class-distinctions. His interest in getting
the best help is too great to allow of prejudices standing between
him and a far-seeing man. We see this abundantly illustrated. Did not
the kings of France take Richelieu, and Mazarin, and Turgot to assist
them? Had not Henry VIII. his Wolsey, Elizabeth her Burleigh, James his
Bacon, Cromwell his Milton? And were not these men of greater calibre
than those who hold the reins under our constitutional _régime?_ So
strong is the motive of an autocrat to make use of ability wherever it
exists, that he will, like Louis XI., take even his barber into council
if he finds him a clever fellow. Besides choosing them for ministers
and advisers, he seeks out the most competent men for other offices.
Napoleon raised his marshals from the ranks; and owed his military
success in great part to the readiness with which he saw and availed
himself of merit wherever found. We have recently seen in Russia how
prompt was the recognition and promotion of engineering talent in
the case of Todleben; and know to {310} our cost how greatly the
prolonged defence of Sebastopol was due to this. In the marked contrast
to these cases supplied by our own army, in which genius is ignored
while muffs are honoured—in which wealth and caste make the advance
of plebeian merit next to impossible—in which jealousies between
Queen’s service and Company’s service render the best generalship
almost unavailable; we see that the representative system fails in
the officering of its executive, as much as in the officering of its
legislative. A striking antithesis between the actions of the two forms
of government, is presented in the evidence given before the Sebastopol
Committee respecting the supply of huts to the Crimean army—evidence
showing that while, in his negotiations with the English Government,
the contractor for the huts met with nothing but vacillation, delay,
and official rudeness, the conduct of the French Government was
marked by promptitude, decision, sound judgment, and great civility.
Everything goes to show that for administrative efficiency, autocratic
power is the best. If your aim is a well-organized army—if you want
to have sanitary departments, and educational departments, and
charity-departments, managed in a business-like way—if you would have
society actively regulated by staffs of State-agents; then by all means
choose that system of complete centralization which we call despotism.

       *       *       *       *       *

Probably, notwithstanding the hints dropped at the outset, most have
read the foregoing pages with surprise. Very likely some have referred
to the cover of the _Review_, to see whether they have not, in mistake,
taken up some other than the “_Westminster_;” while some may, perhaps,
have accompanied their perusal by a running commentary of epithets
condemnatory of our seeming change of principles. Let them not be
alarmed. We have not in the least swerved from the confession of faith
set forth in our prospectus. On the contrary, as we shall shortly show,
{311} our adhesion to free institutions is as strong as ever—nay, has
even gained strength through this apparently antagonistic criticism.

The subordination of a nation to a man, is not a wholesome but a
vicious state of things: needful, indeed, for a vicious humanity; but
to be outgrown as fast as may be. The instinct which makes it possible
is anything but a noble one. Call it “hero-worship,” and it looks
respectable. Call it what it is—a blind awe and fear of power, no
matter of what kind, but more especially of the brutal kind; and it is
by no means to be admired. Watch it in early ages deifying the cannibal
chief; singing the praises of the successful thief; commemorating the
most blood-thirsty warriors; speaking with reverence of those who had
shown undying revenge; and erecting altars to such as carried furthest
the vices which disgrace humanity; and the illusion disappears. Read
how, where it was strongest, it immolated crowds of victims at the tomb
of the dead king—how, at the altars raised to its heroes, it habitually
sacrificed prisoners and children to satisfy their traditional appetite
for human flesh—how it produced that fealty of subjects to rulers which
made possible endless aggressions, battles, massacres, and horrors
innumerable—how it has mercilessly slain those who would not lick the
dust before its idols;—read all this, and the feeling no longer seems
so worthy an one. See it in later days idealizing the worst as well
as the best monarchs; receiving assassins with acclamation; hurrahing
before successful treachery; rushing to applaud the processions and
shows and ceremonies wherewith effete power strengthens itself;
and it looks far from laudable. Autocracy presupposes inferiority
of nature on the part of both ruler and subject: on the one side a
cold, unsympathetic sacrificing of other’s wills to self-will; on the
other side a mean, cowardly abandonment of the claims of manhood.
Our very language {312} bears testimony to this. Do not _dignity_,
_independence_, and other words of approbation, imply a nature at
variance with this relation? Are not _tyrannical_, _arbitrary_,
_despotic_, epithets of reproach? and are not _truckling_, _fawning_,
_cringing_, epithets of contempt? Is not _slavish_ a condemnatory
term? Does not _servile_, that is, serf-like, imply littleness,
meanness? And has not the word _villain_, which originally meant
bondsman, come to signify everything which is hateful? That language
should thus inadvertently embody dislike for those who most display
the instinct of subordination, is alone sufficient proof that this
instinct is associated with evil dispositions. It has been the parent
of countless crimes. It is answerable for the torturing and murder of
the noble-minded who would not submit—for the horrors of Bastiles and
Siberias. It has ever been the represser of knowledge, of free thought,
of true progress. In all times it has fostered the vices of courts, and
made those vices fashionable throughout nations. With a George IV. on
the throne, it weekly tells ten thousand lies, in the shape of prayers
for a “most religious and gracious king.” Whether you read the annals
of the far past—whether you look at the various uncivilized races
dispersed over the globe—or whether you contrast the existing nations
of Europe; you equally find that submission to authority decreases as
morality and intelligence increase. From ancient warrior-worship down
to modern flunkeyism, the sentiment has ever been strongest where human
nature has been vilest.

This relation between barbarism and loyalty, is one of those beneficent
arrangements which “the servant and interpreter of nature” everywhere
meets with. The subordination of many to one, is a form of society
needful for men so long as their natures are savage, or anti-social;
and that it may be maintained, it is needful that they should have an
extreme awe of the one. Just in proportion {313} as their conduct
to one another is such as to breed perpetual antagonism, endangering
social union; just in that proportion must there be a reverence for
the strong, determined, cruel ruler, who alone can repress their
explosive natures and keep them from mutual destruction. Among such a
people any form of free government is an impossibility. There must be a
despotism as stern as the people are savage; and, that such a despotism
may exist, there must be a superstitious worship of the despot. But
as fast as the discipline of social life modifies character—as fast
as, through lack of use, the old predatory instincts dwindle—as fast
as the sympathetic feelings grow; so fast does this hard rule become
less necessary; so fast does the authority of the ruler diminish; so
fast does the awe of him disappear. From being originally god, or
demi-god, he comes at length to be a very ordinary person; liable to
be criticized, ridiculed, caricatured. Various influences conspire to
this result. Accumulating knowledge gradually divests the ruler of
those supernatural attributes at first ascribed to him. The conceptions
which developing science gives of the grandeur of creation, as well
as the constancy and irresistibleness of its Omnipresent Cause, make
all feel the comparative littleness of human power; and the awe once
felt for the great man is, by degrees, transferred to that Universe of
which the great man is seen to form but an insignificant part. Increase
of population, with its average per-centage of great men, involves
the comparative frequency of such; and the more numerous they are the
less respect can be given to each: they dwarf one another. As society
becomes settled and organized, its welfare and progress become more
and more independent of any one. In a primitive society the death of a
chief may alter the whole course of things; but in a society like ours,
things go on much as before, no matter who dies. Thus, many influences
combine to diminish autocratic power, whether political or other. It
is true, {314} not only in the sense in which Tennyson writes it, but
also in a higher sense, that―

 . . . “the individual withers, and the world is more and more.”

Further, it is to be noted that while the unlimited authority of the
greatest man ceases to be needful; and while the superstitious awe
which upholds that unlimited authority decreases; it at the same time
becomes impossible to get the greatest man to the top. In a rude social
state, where might is right, where war is the business of life, where
the qualities required in the ruler, alike for controlling his subjects
and defeating his enemies, are bodily strength, courage, cunning, will,
it is easy to pick out the best; or rather—he picks himself out. The
qualities which make him the fittest governor for the barbarians around
him, are the qualities by which he gets the mastery over them. But
in an advanced, complex, and comparatively peaceful state like ours,
these are not the qualities needed; and even were they needed, the
firmly-organized arrangements of society do not allow the possessor of
them to break through to the top. For the rule of a settled, civilized
community, the characteristics required are—not a love of conquest but
a desire for the general happiness; not undying hate of enemies but
a calm dispassionate equity; not artful manœuvring but philosophic
insight. How is the man most endowed with these to be found? In no
country is he ordinarily born heir to the throne; and that he can be
chosen out of thirty millions of people none will be foolish enough
to think. The incapacity for recognizing the greatest worth, we have
already seen illustrated in our parliamentary elections. And if the few
thousands forming a constituency cannot pick out from among themselves
their wisest man, still less can the millions forming a nation do it.
Just as fast as society becomes populous, complex, peaceful; so fast
does the political supremacy of the best become impossible. {315}

But even were the relation of autocrat and slave a morally wholesome
one; and even were it possible to find the fittest man to be autocrat;
we should still contend that such a form of government is bad. We
should not contend this simply on the ground that self-government is a
valuable educator. But we should take the ground that no human being,
however wise and good, is fit to be sole ruler over the doings of an
involved society; and that, with the best intentions, a benevolent
despot is very likely to produce the most terrible mischiefs which
would else have been impossible. We will take the case of all others
the most favourable to those who would give supreme power to the
best. We will instance Mr. Carlyle’s model hero—Cromwell. Doubtless
there was much in the manners of the times when Puritanism arose, to
justify its disgust. Doubtless the vices and follies bequeathed by
effete Catholicism still struggling for existence, were bad enough to
create a reactionary asceticism. It is in the order of Nature, however,
that men’s habits and pleasures are not to be changed suddenly. For
any _permanent_ effect to be produced it must be produced slowly.
Better tastes, higher aspirations, must be developed; not enforced
from without. Disaster is sure to result from the withdrawal of
lower gratifications before higher ones have taken their places; for
gratification of some kind is a condition to healthful existence.
Whatever ascetic morality, or rather immorality, may say, pleasures
and pains are the incentives and restraints by which Nature keeps her
progeny from destruction. No contemptuous title of “pig-philosophy”
will alter the eternal fact that Misery is the highway to Death; while
Happiness is added Life and the giver of Life. But indignant Puritanism
could not see this truth; and with the extravagance of fanaticism
sought to abolish pleasure in general. Getting into power, it put down
not only questionable amusements but all others along with them. And
{316} for these repressions Cromwell, either as enacting, maintaining,
or allowing them, was responsible. What, now, was the result of this
attempt to dragoon men into virtue? What came when the strong man
who thought he was thus “helping God to mend all,” died? A dreadful
reaction brought in one of the most degraded periods of our history.
Into the newly-garnished house entered “seven other spirits more wicked
than the first.” For generations the English character was lowered.
Vice was gloried in, virtue was ridiculed; dramatists made marriage the
stock-subject of laughter; profaneness and obscenity flourished; high
aspirations ceased; the whole age was corrupt. Not until George III.
reigned was there a better standard of living. And for this century of
demoralization we have, in great measure, to thank Cromwell. Is it,
then, so clear that the domination of one man, righteous though he may
be, is a blessing?

Lastly, it is to be remarked that when the political supremacy of the
greatest no longer exists in an overt form, it still continues in a
disguised and more beneficent form. For is it not manifest that in
these latter days the wise man eventually gets his edicts enforced
by others, if not by himself. Adam Smith, from his chimney-corner,
dictated greater changes than prime ministers do. A General Thompson
who forges the weapons with which the Anti-Corn-Law battle is fought—a
Cobden and a Bright who add to and wield them, forward civilization
much more than those who hold sceptres. Repugnant as the fact may
be to statesmen, it is yet one not to be gainsayed. Whoever, to the
great effects already produced by Free-trade, joins the far greater
effects which will be hereafter produced, must see that the revolution
initiated by these men is far wider than has been initiated by any
potentate of modern times. As Mr. Carlyle very well knows, those
who elaborate new truths and teach them to their fellows, are {317}
now-a-days the real rulers—“the unacknowledged legislators”—the
virtual kings. Thus we have the good which great men can do us, while
we are saved from the evil.

No; the old _régime_ has passed away. For ourselves at least, the
subordination of the many to the one has become alike needless,
repugnant, and impossible. Good for its time, bad for ours, the ancient
“hero-worship” is dead; and happily no declamations, be they never so
eloquent, can revive it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Here seem to be two irreconcileable positions—two mutually-destructive
arguments. First, a condemnatory criticism on representative
government, and then a still more condemnatory criticism on monarchical
government: each apparently abolishing the other.

Nevertheless, the paradox is easily explicable. It is quite possible
to say all that we have said concerning the defects of representative
government, and still to hold that it is the best form of government.
Nay, it is quite possible to derive a more profound conviction of its
superiority from the very evidence which appears so unfavourable to it.

For nothing that we have urged tells against its goodness as a means
of securing justice between man and man, or class and class. Abundant
evidence shows that the maintenance of equitable relations among its
subjects, which forms the essential business of a ruling power, is
surest when the ruling power is of popular origin; notwithstanding the
defects to which such a ruling power is liable. For discharging the
true function of a government, representative government is shown to be
the best, alike by its _origin_, its _theory_, and its _results_. Let
us glance at the facts under these three heads.

Alike in Spain, in England, and in France, popular power embodied
itself as a check upon kingly tyranny, that is—kingly injustice. The
earliest accounts we have of the Spanish Cortes, say that it was their
office to advise {318} the King; and to follow their advice was
his duty. They petitioned, remonstrated, complained of grievances,
and supplicated for redress. The King, having acceded to their
requirements, swore to observe them; and it was agreed that any act
of his in contravention of the statutes thus established, should be
“respected as the King’s commands, but not executed, as contrary to
the rights and privileges of the subject.” In all which we see very
clearly that the special aim of the Cortes was to get rectified the
injustices committed by the King or others; that the King was in the
habit of breaking the promises of amendment he made to them; and that
they had to adopt measures to enforce the fulfilment of his promises.
In England we trace analogous facts. The Barons who bridled the tyranny
of King John, though not formally appointed, were virtually impromptu
representatives of the nation; and in their demand that justice should
neither be sold, denied, nor delayed, we discern the social evils
which led to this taking of the power into their own hands. In early
times the knights and burgesses, summoned by the King with the view
of getting supplies from them, had for their especial business to
obtain from him the redress of grievances, that is—the execution of
justice; and in their eventually-obtained and occasionally-exercised
power of withholding supplies until justice was granted, we see both
the need there was for remedying the iniquities of autocracy, and the
adaptation of representative institutions to this end. And the further
development of popular power latterly obtained, originated from the
demand for fairer laws—for less class-privilege, class-exemption,
class-injustice: a fact which the speeches of the Reform-Bill agitation
abundantly prove. In France, again, representative government grew into
a definite form under the stimulus of unbearable oppression. When the
accumulated extortion of centuries had reduced the mass of the people
to misery—when millions of haggard faces were seen throughout the {319}
land—when starving complainants were hanged on “a gallows forty feet
high”—when the exactions and cruelties of good-for-nothing kings and
vampire-nobles had brought the nation to the eve of dissolution; there
came, as a remedy, an assembly of men elected by the people.

That, considered _a priori_, representative government is fitted for
establishing just laws, is implied by the unanimity with which Spanish,
English, and French availed themselves of it to this end; as well as
by the endeavours latterly made by other European nations to do the
like. The _rationale_ of the matter is simple enough. Manifestly,
on the average of cases, a man will protect his own interests more
solicitously than others will protect them for him. Manifestly, where
regulations have to be made affecting the interests of several men,
they are most likely to be equitably made when all those concerned are
present, and have equal shares in the making of them. And manifestly,
where those concerned are so numerous and so dispersed, that it is
physically impossible for them all to take part in the framing of
such regulations, the next best thing is for the citizens in each
locality to appoint one of their number to speak for them, to care
for their claims, to be their representative. The general principle
is that the welfare of all will be most secure when each looks after
his own welfare; and the principle is carried out as directly as the
circumstances permit. It is inferable, alike from human nature and from
history, that a single man cannot be trusted with the interests of a
nation of men, where his real or imagined interests clash with theirs.
It is similarly inferable from human nature and from history, that no
small section of a nation, as the nobles, can be expected to consult
the welfare of the people at large in preference to their own. And it
is further inferable that only in a general diffusion of political
power, is there a safeguard for the general welfare. This has all
along been the conviction under which representative government has
been advocated, {320} maintained, and extended. From the early writs
summoning the members of the House of Commons—writs which declared it
to be a most equitable rule that the laws which concerned all should be
approved of by all—down to the reasons now urged by the unenfranchised
for a participation in political power, this is the implied theory.
Observe, nothing is said about wisdom or administrative ability. From
the beginning, the end in view has been _justice_. Whether we consider
the question in the abstract, or whether we examine the opinions men
have entertained upon it from old times down to the present day, we
equally see the theory of representative government to be, that it is
the best means of insuring equitable social relations.

And do not the results justify the theory? Did not our early
Parliaments, after long-continued struggles, succeed in curbing the
licentious exercise of royal power, and in establishing the rights
of the subject? Are not the comparative security and justice enjoyed
under our form of government, indicated by the envy with which other
nations regard it? Was not the election of the French Constituent
Assembly followed by the sweeping away of the grievous burdens that
weighed down the people—by the abolition of tithes, seignorial dues,
gabelle, excessive preservation of game—by the withdrawal of numerous
feudal privileges and immunities—by the manumission of the slaves in
the French colonies?—And has not that extension of our own electoral
system embodied in the Reform-Bill, brought about more equitable
arrangements?—as witness the repeal of the Corn-Laws, and the
equalization of probate and legacy duties. The proofs are undeniable.
It is clear, both _a priori_ and _a posteriori_, that representative
government is especially adapted for the establishment and maintenance
of just laws.

And now mark that the objections to representative government awhile
since urged, scarcely tell against it at all, so long as it does
not exceed this comparatively limited {321} function. Though its
mediocrity of intellect makes it incompetent to oversee and regulate
the countless involved processes which make up the national life; it
nevertheless has quite enough intellect to enact and enforce those
simple principles of equity which underlie the right conduct of
citizens to one another. These are such that the commonest minds can
understand their chief applications. Stupid as may be the average
elector, he can see the propriety of such regulations as shall prevent
men from murdering and robbing; he can understand the fitness of
laws which enforce the payment of debts; he can perceive the need of
measures to prevent the strong from tyrannizing over the weak; and he
can feel the rectitude of a judicial system that is the same for rich
and poor. The average representative may be but of small capacity, but
he is competent, under the leadership of his wiser fellows, to devise
appliances for carrying out these necessary restraints; or rather—he is
competent to uphold the set of appliances slowly elaborated by the many
generations of his predecessors, and to do something towards improving
and extending them in those directions where the need is most manifest.
It is true that even these small demands upon electoral and senatorial
wisdom are but imperfectly met. But though constituencies are blind
to the palpable truth that if they would escape laws which favour the
nobility at the expense of the commonalty, they must cease to choose
representatives from among the nobility; yet when the injustice of
this class-legislation is glaring—as in the case of the Corn-Laws—they
have sense enough to use means for getting it abolished. And though
most legislators have not sufficient penetration to perceive that
the greater part of the evils which they attempt to cure by official
inspection and regulation, would disappear were there a certain,
prompt, and cheap administration of justice; yet the County-Courts-Act
and other recent law-reforms, show that they do eventually recognize
the importance of more efficient {322} judicial arrangements. While,
therefore, the lower average of intelligence which necessarily
characterizes representative government, unfits it for discharging the
complex business of regulating the entire national life; it does not
unfit it for discharging the comparatively simple duties of protector.
Again, in respect of this all-essential function of a government, there
is a much clearer identity of interest between representative and
citizen, than in respect of the multitudinous other functions which
governments undertake. Though it is generally of but little consequence
to the member of Parliament whether state-teachers, state-preachers,
state-officers of health, state-dispensers of charity, etc., do their
work well, it is of great consequence to him that life and property
should be secure; and hence he is more likely to care for the efficient
administration of justice than for the efficient administration of
anything else. Moreover, the complexity, incongruity of parts, and
general cumbrousness which deprive a representative government of
that activity and decision required for paternally-superintending
the affairs of thirty millions of citizens; do not deprive it of the
ability to establish and maintain the regulations by which these
citizens are prevented from trespassing against one another. For the
principles of equity are permanent as well as simple; and once having
been legally embodied in their chief outlines, all that devolves
on a government is to develop them more perfectly, and improve the
appliances for enforcing them: an undertaking for which the slow and
involved action of a representative government does not unfit it.
So that while by its origin, theory, and results, representative
government is shown to be the best for securing justice between class
and class, as well as between man and man, the objections which so
strongly tell against it in all its other relations to society, do not
tell against it in this fundamental relation.

Thus, then, we reach the solution of the paradox. Here is the
reconciliation between the two seemingly-contradictory {323} positions
awhile since taken. To the question—What is representative government
good for? our reply is—It is good, especially good, good above all
others, for doing the thing which a government should do. It is bad,
especially bad, bad above all others, for doing the things which a
government should not do.

       *       *       *       *       *

One point remains. We said, some distance back, that not only may
representative government be the best, notwithstanding its many
conspicuous deficiencies; but that it is even possible to discern
in these very deficiencies further proofs of its superiority.
The conclusion just arrived at, implying, as it does, that these
deficiencies tend to hinder it from doing the things which
no government should do, has already furnished a key to this
strange-looking assertion. But it will be well here to make a more
specific justification of it. This brings us to the pure science of the
matter.

The ever-increasing complexity which characterizes advancing societies,
is a complexity that results from the multiplication of different parts
performing different duties. The doctrine of the division of labour
is now-a-days understood by most to some extent; and most know that
by this division of labour each operative, each manufacturer, each
town, each district, is constantly more and more restricted to one
kind of work. Those who study the organization of living bodies find
the uniform process of development to be, that each organ gradually
acquires a definite and limited function: there arises, step by step,
a more perfect “physiological division of labour.” And in an article
on “Progress: its Law and Cause,” published in our April number, we
pointed out that this increasing specialization of functions which goes
on in all organized bodies, social as well as individual, is one of
the manifestations of a still more general process pervading creation,
inorganic as well as organic.

Now this specialization of functions, which is the law of {324} all
organization, has a twofold implication. At the same time that each
part grows adapted to the particular duty it has to discharge, it grows
unadapted to all other duties. The becoming especially fit for one
thing, is a becoming less fit than before for everything else. We have
not space here to exemplify this truth. Any modern work on physiology,
however, will furnish the reader with abundant illustrations of it,
as exhibited in the evolution of living creatures; and as exhibited
in the evolution of societies, it may be studied in the writings of
political economists. All which we wish here to point out is, that the
governmental part of the body politic exemplifies this truth equally
with its other parts. In virtue of this universal law, a government
cannot gain ability to perform its special work without losing such
ability as it had to perform other work.

This then is, as we say, the pure science of the matter. The original
and essential office of a government is that of protecting its
subjects against aggression external and internal. In low, undeveloped
forms of society, where yet there is but little differentiation of
parts, and little specialization of functions, this essential work,
discharged with extreme imperfection, is joined with endless other
work: the government has a controlling action over all conduct,
individual and social—regulates dress, food, ablutions, prices, trade,
religion—exercises unbounded power. In becoming so constituted as
to discharge better its essential function, the government becomes
more limited alike in the power and the habit of doing other things.
Increasing ability to perform its true duty, involves decreasing
ability to perform all other kinds of actions. And this conclusion,
deducible from the universal law of organization, is the conclusion
to which inductive reasoning has already led us. We have seen that,
whether considered in theory or practice, representative government
is the best for securing justice. We have also seen that, whether
{325} considered in theory or practice, it is the worst for all other
purposes. And here we find that this last characteristic is a necessary
accompaniment of the first. These various incapacities, which seem to
tell so seriously against the goodness of representative government,
are but the inevitable consequences of its more complete adaptation to
its proper work; and, so understood, are themselves indications that
it is the form of government natural to a more highly-organized and
advanced social state.

We do not expect this consideration to weigh much with those whom
it most concerns. Truths of so abstract a character find no favour
with senates. The metamorphosis we have described is not mentioned in
Ovid. History, as at present written, makes no comments on it. There
is nothing about it to be found in blue-books and committee-reports.
Neither is it proved by statistics. Evidently, then, it has but small
chance of recognition by the “practical” legislator. But to the select
few who study the Social Science, properly so called, we commend
this general fact as one of the highest significance. Those who know
something of the general laws of life, and who perceive that these
general laws of life underlie all social phenomena, will see that this
dual change in the character of advanced governments, involves an
answer to the first of all political questions. They will see that this
specialization in virtue of which an advanced government gains power to
perform one function, while it loses power to perform others, clearly
indicates the true limitations of State-duty. They will see that, even
leaving out all other evidence, this fact alone shows conclusively what
is the proper sphere of legislation.

{326}



STATE-TAMPERINGS WITH MONEY AND BANKS.

[_First published in_ The Westminster Review _for January 1858_.]


Among unmitigated rogues, mutual trust is impossible. Among people
of absolute integrity, mutual trust would be unlimited. These are
truisms. Given a nation made up of liars and thieves, and all trade
among its members must be carried on either by barter or by a currency
of intrinsic value: nothing in the shape of _promises_-to-pay can pass
in place of _actual_ payments; for, by the hypothesis, such promises
being never fulfilled, will not be taken. On the other hand, given a
nation of perfectly honest men—men as careful of others’ rights as of
their own—and nearly all trade among its members may be carried on
by memoranda of debts and claims, eventually written off against one
another in the books of bankers; seeing that as, by the hypothesis,
no man will ever issue more memoranda of debts than his goods and his
claims will liquidate, his paper will pass current for whatever it
represents. Coin will be needed only as a measure of value, and to
facilitate those small transactions for which it is physically the most
convenient. These we take to be self-evident truths.

From them follows the corollary that in a nation neither wholly honest
nor wholly dishonest, there may, and eventually will, be established a
mixed currency—a currency {327} partly of intrinsic value and partly
of credit-value. The ratio between the quantities of these two kinds of
currency, will be determined by a combination of several causes.

Supposing that there is no legislative meddling to disturb the
natural balance, it is clear from what has already been said, that,
fundamentally, the proportion of coin to paper will depend on the
average conscientiousness of the people. Daily experience must ever
be teaching each citizen, which other citizens he can put confidence
in, and which not. Daily experience must also ever be teaching him how
far this confidence may be carried. From personal experiment, and from
current opinion, which results from the experiments of others, every
one must learn, more or less truly, what credit may safely be given.
If all find that their neighbours are little to be trusted, but few
promises-to-pay will circulate. And the circulation of promises-to-pay
will be great, if all find that the fulfilment of trading engagements
is tolerably certain. The degree of _honesty_ characterizing a
community, being the first regulator of a credit-currency; the second
is the degree of _prudence_. Other things equal, it is manifest that
among a sanguine, speculative people, promissory payments will be taken
more readily, and will therefore circulate more largely, than among
a cautious people. Two men having exactly the same experiences of
mercantile risks will, under the same circumstances, respectively give
credit and refuse it, if they are respectively rash and circumspect.
And two nations thus contrasted in prudence, will be similarly
contrasted in the relative quantities of notes and bills in circulation
among them. Nay, they will be more than similarly contrasted in this
respect; seeing that the prevailing incautiousness, besides making
each citizen unduly ready to give credit, will also produce in him
an undue readiness to risk his own capital in speculations, and a
consequent undue demand for credit from other citizens. There will be
both an increased pressure for credit and a diminished resistance; and
therefore a more {328} than proportionate excess of paper-currency.
Of this national characteristic and its consequences, we have a
conspicuous example in the United States.

To these comparatively permanent moral causes, on which the ordinary
ratio of hypothetical to real money in a community depends, have to
be added certain temporary moral and physical causes, which produce
temporary variations in the ratio. The prudence of any people is liable
to more or less fluctuation. In railway-manias and the like, we see
that irrational expectations may spread through a whole nation, and
lead its members to give and take credit almost recklessly. But the
chief causes of temporary variations are those which directly affect
the quantity of available capital. Wars, deficient harvests, or losses
consequent on the misfortunes of other nations, will, by impoverishing
the community, inevitably lead to an increase in the ratio of
_promissory payments to actual payments_. For what must be done by
the citizen disabled by such causes from meeting his engagements?—the
shopkeeper whose custom has fallen off in consequence of the high
price of bread; or the manufacturer whose goods lie in his ware-rooms
unsaleable; or the merchant whose foreign correspondents fail him? As
the proceeds of his business do not suffice to liquidate the claims on
him that are falling due, he is compelled either to find other means
of liquidating them, or to stop payment. Rather than stop payment, he
will, of course, make temporary sacrifices—will give high terms to
whoever will furnish him with the desired means. If, by depositing
securities with his banker, he can get a loan at an advanced rate of
interest, well. If not, by offering an adequate temptation, he may
mortgage his property to some one having good credit; who either gives
bills, or draws on his banker for the sum agreed to. In either case,
extra promises to pay are issued; or, if the difficulty is met by
accommodation-bills, the same result follows. And in proportion to the
number of citizens obliged to resort to one {329} or other of these
expedients, must be the increase of promissory payments in circulation.

Reduce this proposition to its most general terms, and it becomes
self-evident. Thus:—All bank-notes, cheques, bills of exchange, etc.,
are so many _memoranda of claims_. No matter what may be the technical
distinctions among them, on which upholders of the “currency principle”
seek to establish their dogma, they all come within this definition.
Under the ordinary state of things, the amount of available wealth in
the hands, or at the command, of those concerned, suffices to meet
these claims as they are severally presented for payment; and they are
paid either by equivalents of intrinsic value, as coin, or by giving
in place of them other memoranda of claims on some body of undoubted
solvency. But now let the amount of available wealth in the hands
of the community be greatly diminished. Suppose a large portion of
the necessaries of life, or of coin, which is the most exchangeable
equivalent of such necessaries, has been sent abroad to support an
army, or to subsidize foreign states; or, suppose that there has
been a failure in the crops of grain or potatoes. What follows? It
follows that part of the claims cannot be liquidated. And what must
happen from their non-liquidation? It must happen that those unable to
liquidate them will either fail, or they will redeem them by directly
or indirectly giving in exchange certain memoranda of claims on their
stock-in-trade, houses, or land. That is, such of these claims as the
deficient _floating_ capital does not suffice to meet, are replaced
by claims on _fixed_ capital. The memoranda of claims which should
have _dis_appeared by liquidation, _re_-appear in a new form; and the
quantity of paper-currency is increased. If the war, famine, or other
cause of impoverishment, continues, the process is repeated. Those
who have no further fixed capital to mortgage, become bankrupt; while
those whose fixed capital admits of it, mortgage still further, and
still further increase the promissory {330} payments in circulation.
Manifestly, if the members of a community whose annual returns but
little more than suffice to meet their annual payments suddenly lose
part of their annual returns, they must become proportionately in
debt to one another; and the documents expressive of debt must be
proportionately multiplied.

This _a priori_ conclusion is in perfect harmony with mercantile
experience. The last hundred years have furnished repeated
illustrations of its truth. After the enormous export of gold in
1795–6 for war-loans to Germany, and to meet bills drawn on the
Treasury by British agents abroad; and after large advances made under
a moral compulsion by the Bank of England to the Government; there
followed an excessive issue of bank-notes. In 1796–7, there were
failures of the provincial banks; a panic in London; a run on the
nearly-exhausted Bank of England; and a suspension of cash-payments—a
State-authorized refusal to redeem promises to pay. In 1800, the
further impoverishment consequent on a bad harvest, joined with
the legalized inconvertibility of bank-notes, entailed so great a
multiplication of them as to cause their depreciation. During the
temporary peace of 1802, the country partly recovered itself; and
the Bank of England would have liquidated the claims on it had the
Government allowed. On the subsequent resumption of war, the phenomenon
was repeated; as in later times it has been on each occasion when the
community, carried away by irrational hopes, has locked up an undue
proportion of its capital in permanent works. Moreover, we have still
more conclusive illustrations—illustrations of the sudden cessation of
commercial distress and bankruptcy, resulting from a sudden increase of
credit-circulation. When, in 1793, there came a general crash, mainly
due to an unsafe banking-system which had grown up in the provinces
_in consequence_ of the Bank of England monopoly—when the pressure,
extending to London, became so great as to alarm the Bank-directors
and to cause {331} them suddenly to restrict their issues, thereby
producing a frightful multiplication of bankruptcies; the Government
(to mitigate an evil indirectly produced by legislation) determined
to issue Exchequer-Bills to such as could give adequate security.
That is, they allowed hard-pressed citizens to mortgage their fixed
capitals for equivalents of State-promises to pay, with which to
liquidate the demands on them. The effect was magical. £2,202,000 only
of Exchequer-Bills were required. The consciousness that loans could be
had, in many cases prevented them from being needed. The panic quickly
subsided; and all the loans were very soon repaid. In 1825, again,
when the Bank of England, after having intensified a panic by extreme
restriction of its issues, suddenly changed its policy, and in four
days advanced £5,000,000 notes on all sorts of securities, the panic at
once ceased.

And now, mark two important truths. As just implied, those expansions
of paper-circulation which naturally take place in times of
impoverishment or commercial difficulty, are highly salutary. This
issuing of securities for future payment when there does not exist the
wherewith for immediate payment, is a means of mitigating national
disasters. The process amounts to a postponement of trading-engagements
which cannot at once be met. And the alternative questions to be asked
respecting it are—Shall all the merchants, manufacturers, shopkeepers,
etc., who, by unwise investments, or war, or famine, or great losses
abroad, have been in part deprived of the means of meeting the claims
upon them, be allowed to mortgage their fixed capital? or, by being
debarred from issuing memoranda of claims on their fixed capital, shall
they be made bankrupts? On the one hand, if they are permitted to avail
themselves of that credit which their fellow-citizens willingly give
them on the strength of the proffered securities, most of them will
tide over their difficulties; and in virtue of that accumulation of
surplus capital ever going on, they will be {332} able, by-and-by, to
liquidate their debts in full. On the other hand, if they are forthwith
bankrupted, carrying with them others, and these again others, there
follows a disastrous loss to all the creditors: property to an
immense amount being peremptorily sold at a time when there can be
comparatively few able to buy, must go at a great sacrifice; and those
who in a year or two would have been paid in full, must be content with
10_s._ in the pound. Added to which evil comes the still greater one—an
extensive damage to the organization of society. Numerous importing,
producing, and distributing establishments are swept away; tens of
thousands of their dependents are left without work; and before the
industrial fabric can be repaired, a long time must elapse, much labour
must lie idle, and great distress be borne. Between these alternatives,
who, then, can pause? Let this spontaneous remedial process follow its
own course, and the evil will either be in great measure eventually
escaped, or will be spread little by little over a considerable period.
Stop this remedial process, and the whole evil, falling at once on
society, will bring wide-spread ruin and misery.

The second of these important truths is, that an expanded circulation
of promises to pay, caused by absolute or relative impoverishment,
contracts to its normal limits as fast as the need for expansion
disappears. For the conditions of the case imply that all who have
mortgaged their fixed capitals to obtain the means of meeting their
engagements, have done so on unfavourable terms; and are therefore
under a strong stimulus to pay off their mortgages as quickly as
possible. Every one who, at a time of commercial pressure, gets a loan
from a bank, has to give high interest. Hence, as fast as prosperity
returns, and his profits accumulate, he gladly escapes this heavy
tax by repaying the loan; in doing which he, directly or indirectly,
takes back to the bank as large a number of its credit documents as he
originally received, and so diminishes the {333} credit-circulation
as much as his original transaction had increased it. Considered apart
from technical distinctions, a banker performs, in such case, the
function of an agent in whose name traders issue negotiable memoranda
of claims on their estates. The agent is already known to the public
as one who issues memoranda of claims on capital that is partly
floating and partly fixed—memoranda of claims that have an established
character, and are convenient in their amounts. What the agent does
under the circumstances specified, is to issue more such memoranda of
claims, on the security of more fixed, and partially-fixed, capital
put in his possession. His clients hypothecate their estates through
the banker, instead of doing it in their own names, simply because
of the facilities which he has and which they have not. And as the
banker requires to be paid for his agency and his risk, his clients
redeem their estates, and close these special transactions with him, as
quickly as they can: thereby diminishing the amount of credit-currency.

Thus we see that the balance of a mixed currency of voluntary origin
is, under all circumstances, self-adjusting. Supposing considerations
of physical convenience out of the question, the average ratio of paper
to coin is primarily dependent on the average trustworthiness of the
people, and secondarily dependent on their average prudence. When,
in consequence of unusual prosperity, there is an unusual increase
in the number of mercantile transactions, there is a corresponding
increase in the quantity of currency, both metallic and paper, to meet
the requirement. And when from war, famine, or over-investment, the
available wealth in the hands of citizens is insufficient to pay their
debts to one another, the memoranda of debts in circulation acquire an
increased ratio to the quantity of gold: to decrease again as fast as
the excess of debts can be liquidated.

That these self-regulating processes act but imperfectly, is doubtless
true. With an imperfect humanity, they cannot {334} act otherwise
than imperfectly. People who are dishonest, or rash, or stupid,
will inevitably suffer the penalties of dishonesty, or rashness, or
stupidity. If any think that by some patent legislative mechanism,
a society of bad citizens can be made to work together as well
as a society of good ones, we shall not take pains to show them
the contrary. If any think that the dealings of men deficient in
uprightness and foresight, may be so regulated by cunningly-devised
Acts of Parliament as to secure the effects of uprightness and
foresight, we have nothing to say to them. Or if there are any (and
we fear there are numbers) who think that in times of commercial
difficulty, resulting from impoverishment or other natural causes, the
evil can be staved-off by some ministerial sleight of hand, we despair
of convincing them that the thing is impossible. See it or not, the
truth is that the State can do none of these things. As we shall show,
the State can, and sometimes does, _produce_ commercial disasters.
As we shall also show, it can, and sometimes does, _exacerbate_ the
commercial disasters otherwise produced. But while it can create and
can make worse, it cannot prevent.

All which the State has to do in the matter is to discharge its
ordinary office—to administer justice. The enforcement of contracts is
one of the functions included in its general function of maintaining
the rights of citizens. And among other contracts which it is called
on to enforce, are the contracts expressed in credit-documents—bills
of exchange, cheques, bank-notes. If any one issues a promise-to-pay,
either on demand or at specified date, and does not fulfil that
promise, the State, when appealed to by the creditor, is bound in its
protective capacity to obtain fulfilment of the promise, at whatever
cost to the debtor, or such partial fulfilment of it as his effects
suffice for. The State’s duty in the case of the currency, as in other
cases, is sternly to threaten the penalty of bankruptcy on all who make
engagements which they cannot meet, and sternly to inflict the {335}
penalty when called on by those aggrieved. If it falls short of this,
mischief ensues. If it exceeds this, mischief ensues. Let us glance at
the facts.

       *       *       *       *       *

Had we space to trace in detail the history of the Bank of England—to
show how the privileges contained in its first charter were bribes
given by a distressed Government in want of a large loan—how, soon
afterwards, the law which forbad a partnership of more than six persons
from becoming bankers, was passed to prevent the issue of notes by
the South-Sea Company, and so to preserve the Bank-monopoly—how the
continuance of State-favours to the Bank, corresponded with the
continuance of the Bank’s claims on the State; we should see that, from
the first, banking-legislation has been an organized injustice. But
passing over earlier periods, let us begin with the events that closed
the last century. Our rulers of that day had entered into a war—whether
with adequate reason needs not here be discussed. They had lent vast
sums in gold to their allies. They had demanded large advances from
the Bank of England, which the Bank durst not refuse. They had thus
necessitated an excessive issue of notes by the Bank. That is, they
had so greatly diminished the floating capital of the community, that
engagements could not be met; and an immense number of promises-to-pay
took the place of actual payments. Soon after, the fulfilment of these
promises became so difficult that it was forbidden by law; that is,
cash-payments were suspended. Now for these results—for the national
impoverishment and consequent abnormal condition of the currency, the
State was responsible. How much of the blame lay with the governing
classes and how much with the nation at large, we do not pretend to
say. What it concerns us here to note is, that the calamity arose from
the acts of the ruling power. When, again, in 1802, after a short
peace, the available capital of the community had so far increased
that the redemption of promises-to-pay became {336} possible, and the
Bank of England was anxious to begin redeeming them, the legislature
interposed its veto; and so continued the evils of an inconvertible
paper-currency after they would naturally have ceased. Still more
disastrous, however, were the results that by-and-by ensued from
State-meddlings. Cash-payments having been suspended—the Government,
instead of enforcing all contracts, having temporarily cancelled a
great part of them, by saying to every banker, “You shall not be called
on to liquidate in coin the promises-to-pay which you issue;” the
natural checks to the multiplication of promises-to-pay, disappeared.
What followed? Banks being no longer required to cash their notes in
coin; and easily obtaining from the Bank of England, supplies of its
notes in exchange for fixed securities; were ready to make advances to
almost any extent. Not being obliged to raise their rate of discount in
consequence of the diminution of their available capital; and reaping a
profit by every loan (of notes) made on fixed capital; there arose both
an abnormal facility of borrowing, and an abnormal desire to lend. Thus
were fostered the wild speculations of 1809—speculations that were not
only thus fostered, but were in great measure _caused_ by the previous
over-issue of notes; which, by further exaggerating the natural rise
of prices, increased the apparent profitableness of investments. And
all this, be it remembered, took place at a time when there should have
been rigid economy—at a time of impoverishment consequent on continued
war—at a time when, but for law-produced illusions, there would have
been commercial straitness and a corresponding carefulness. Just when
its indebtedness was unusually great, the community was induced still
further to increase its indebtedness. Clearly, then, the progressive
accumulation and depreciation of promises-to-pay, and the commercial
disasters which finally resulted from it in 1814–15–16, when ninety
provincial banks were broken and more dissolved, were State-produced
evils: partly due to {337} a war which, whether necessary or not,
was carried on by the Government, and greatly exacerbated by the
currency-regulations which that Government had made.

Before passing to more recent facts, let us parenthetically notice
the similarly-caused degradation of the currency which had previously
arisen in Ireland. When examined by a parliamentary committee in 1804,
Mr. Colville, one of the directors of the Bank of Ireland, stated
that before the passing of the Irish Bank-Restriction-Bill (the bill
by which cash-payments were suspended) the directors habitually met
any unusual demand for gold by diminishing their issues. That is to
say, in the ordinary course of business, they raised their rate of
discount whenever the demand enabled them; and so, both increased
their profits and warded-off the danger of bankruptcy. During this
unregulated period their note-circulation was between £600,000 and
£700,000. But as soon as they were guaranteed by law against the danger
of bankruptcy, their circulation began rapidly to increase; and very
soon reached £3,000,000. The results, as proved before the committee,
were these:—The exchange with England became greatly depressed;
nearly all the good specie was exported to England; it was replaced
in Dublin (where small notes could not be issued) by a base coinage,
adulterated to the extent of fifty per cent.; and elsewhere it was
replaced by notes payable at twenty-one days’ date, issued by all sorts
of persons, for sums down even as low as sixpence. And this excessive
multiplication of small notes was _necessitated_ by the impossibility
of otherwise carrying on retail trade, after the disappearance of
the silver coinage. For these disastrous effects, then, legislation
was responsible. The swarms of “silver-notes” resulted from the
exportation of silver; the exportation of silver was due to the great
depression of the exchange with England; this great depression arose
from the excessive issue of notes by the Bank of Ireland; and this
{338} excessive issue followed from their legalized inconvertibility.
Yet, though these facts were long ago established by a committee
of the House of Commons, the defenders of the “currency-principle”
are actually blind enough to cite this multiplication of sixpenny
promises-to-pay, _as proving the evils of an unregulated currency_!

Returning now to the case of the Bank of England, let us pass at once
to the Act of 1844. While still a protectionist—while still a believer
in the beneficence of law as a controller of commerce—Sir Robert Peel
undertook to stop the recurrence of monetary crises, like those of
1825, 1836, and 1839. Overlooking the truth that, when not _caused_ by
the meddlings of legislators, a monetary crisis is due, either to an
absolute impoverishment, or to a relative impoverishment consequent
on speculative over-investment; and that for the bad season, or the
imprudence, causing this, there is no remedy; he boldly proclaimed that
“_it is better to prevent the paroxysm than to excite it_:” and he
brought forward the Bank-Act of 1844 as the means of prevention. How
merciless has been Nature’s criticism on this remnant of Protectionism,
we all know. The monetary sliding-scale has been as great a failure as
its prototype. Within three years arose one of these crises which were
to have been prevented. Within another ten years has arisen a second
of these crises. And on both occasions this intended safeguard has so
intensified the evil, that a temporary repeal of it has been imperative.

We should have thought that, even without facts, every one might have
seen that it is impossible, by Act of Parliament, to prevent imprudent
people from doing imprudent things; and, if facts were needed, we
should have thought that our commercial history up to 1844 supplied a
sufficiency. But a superstitious faith in State-ordinances disregards
such facts. And we doubt not that even now, though there have been two
glaring failures of this professed check on over-speculation—though
the evidence conclusively {339} shows that the late commercial
catastrophes have had nothing whatever to do with the issue of
bank-notes, but, as in the case of the Western Bank of Scotland,
occurred along with diminished issues—and though in Hamburg, where the
“currency principle” has been rigidly carried out to the very letter,
there has been a worse crisis than anywhere else; yet there will remain
plenty of believers in the efficiency of Sir R. Peel’s prophylactic.

But, as already said, the measure has not only failed; it has made
worse the panics it was to have warded-off. And it was sure to do
this. As shown at the outset, the multiplication of promises-to-pay
that occurs at a period of impoverishment caused by war, famine,
over-investment, or losses abroad, is a salutary process of
mitigation—is a mode of postponing actual payments till actual payments
are possible—is a preventive of wholesale bankruptcy—is a spontaneous
act of self-preservation. We pointed out, not only that this is an
_a priori_ conclusion, but that facts in our own mercantile history
illustrate at once the naturalness, the benefits, the necessity of it.
And if this conclusion needs enforcing by further evidence, we have
it in the recent events at Hamburg. In that city, there are no notes
in circulation but such as are represented by actual equivalents of
bullion or jewels in the bank: no one is allowed, as with us, to obtain
bank-promises-to-pay in return for securities. Hence it resulted that
when the Hamburg merchants, lacking their remittances from abroad,
were suddenly deprived of the wherewith to meet their engagements;
and were prevented by law from getting bank-promises-to-pay by
pawning their estates; bankruptcy swept them away wholesale. And
what finally happened? To prevent universal ruin, the Government
was obliged to decree that all bills of exchange coming due, should
have a month’s grace; and that there should be immediately formed a
State-Discount-Bank—an office for issuing State-promises-to-pay in
return for securities. That is, having first by its {340} restrictive
law ruined a host of merchants, the Government was obliged to legalize
that postponement of payments which, but for its law, would have
spontaneously taken place. With such further confirmation of an
_a priori_ conclusion, can it be doubted that our late commercial
difficulties were intensified by the measure of 1844? Is it not,
indeed, notorious in the City, that the progressively-increasing demand
for accommodation, was in great part due to the conviction that, in
consequence of the Bank-Act, there would shortly be no accommodation
at all? Does not every London merchant know that his neighbours who
had bills coming due, and who saw that by the time they were due the
Bank would discount only at still higher rates, or not at all, decided
to lay in beforehand the means of meeting those bills? Is it not an
established fact that the hoarding thus induced, not only rendered the
pressure on the Bank greater than it would otherwise have been, but, by
taking both gold and notes out of circulation, made the Bank’s issues
temporarily useless to the general public? Did it not happen in this
case, as in 1793 and 1825, that when at last restriction was removed,
the mere consciousness that loans could be had, itself prevented them
from being required? And, indeed, is not the simple fact that the panic
quickly subsided when the Act was suspended, sufficient proof that the
Act had, in great measure, produced it.

See, then, for what we have to thank legislative meddling. During
ordinary times Sir R. Peel’s Act, by obliging the Bank of England,
and occasionally provincial banks, to keep more gold than they would
otherwise have kept (and if it has not done this it has done nothing),
has inflicted a tax on the nation to the extent of the interest on such
portion of the gold-currency as was in excess of the need: a tax which,
in the course of the last thirteen years, has probably amounted to some
millions. And then, on the two occasions when there have arisen the
crises that were to {341} have been prevented, the Act, after having
intensified the pressure, made bankrupt a great number of respectable
firms which would else have stood, and increased the distress not only
of the trading but of the working population, has been twice abandoned
at the moment when its beneficence was to have been conspicuous. It
has been a cost, a mischief, and a failure. Yet such is the prevailing
delusion that, judging from appearances, it will be maintained!

“But,” ask our opponents, “shall the Bank be allowed to let gold drain
out of the country without check? Shall it have permission to let its
reserve of gold diminish so greatly as to risk the convertibility of
its notes? Shall it be enabled recklessly to increase its issues, and
so produce a depreciated paper-currency?”

Really, in these Free-trade days, it seems strange to have to answer
questions like these; and, were it not for the confusion of facts and
ideas which legislation has produced, it would be inexcusable to ask
them.

In the first place, the common notion that the draining of gold out of
the country is intrinsically, and in all cases, an evil, is nothing
but a political superstition—a superstition in part descended from the
antique fallacy that money is the only wealth, and in part from the
maxims of an artificial, law-produced state of things, under which
the exportation of gold really _was_ a sign of a corrupted currency:
we mean, during the suspension of cash-payments. Law having cancelled
millions of contracts which it was its duty to enforce—law having
absolved bankers from liquidating their promises-to-pay in coin, having
rendered it needless to keep a stock of coin with which to liquidate
them, and having thus taken away that natural check which prevents the
over-issue and depreciation of notes—law having partly suspended that
_home_ demand for gold which ordinarily competes with and balances
the _foreign_ demand; there resulted an abnormal exportation of gold.
By-and-by it {342} was seen that this efflux of gold was a consequence
of the over-issue of notes; and that the accompanying high price of
gold, as paid for in notes, proved the depreciation of notes. And then
it became an established doctrine that an adverse state of the foreign
exchanges, indicating a drain of gold, was significant of an excessive
circulation of notes; and that the issue of notes should be regulated
by the state of the exchanges.

This unnatural condition of the currency having continued for a quarter
of a century, the concomitant doctrine rooted itself in the general
mind. And now mark one of the multitudinous evils of legislative
meddling. This artificial test, good only for an artificial state, has
survived the return to a natural state; and men’s ideas about currency
have been reduced by it to chronic confusion.

The truth is that while, during a legalized inconvertibility of
bank-notes, an efflux of gold may, and often does, indicate an
excessive issue of bank-notes; under ordinary circumstances an efflux
of gold has little or nothing to do with the issue of bank-notes,
but is determined by merely mercantile causes. And the truth is
that far from being an evil, an efflux of gold thus brought about
by mercantile causes, is a good. Leaving out of the question, as of
course we must, such exportations of gold as take place for the support
of armies abroad; the cause of efflux is either an actual plethora
of all commodities, gold included, which results in gold being sent
out of the country for the purpose of foreign investment; or else an
abundance of gold as compared with other leading commodities. And
while, in this last case, the efflux of gold indicates some absolute
or relative impoverishment of the nation, it is a means of mitigating
the bad consequences of that impoverishment. Consider the question as
one of political economy, and this truth becomes obvious. Thus:—The
nation habitually requires for use and consumption certain quantities
of commodities, of which gold is one. These commodities {343} are
severally and collectively liable to fall short; either from deficient
harvests, from waste in war, from losses abroad, or from too great
a diversion of labour or capital in some special direction. When a
scarcity of some chief commodity or necessary occurs, what is the
remedy? The commodity of which there is an excess (or if none is in
excess, then that which can best be spared) is exported in exchange
for an additional supply of the deficient commodity. And, indeed, the
whole of our foreign trade, alike in ordinary and extraordinary times,
consists in this process. But when it happens either that the commodity
which we can best spare is not wanted abroad; or (as recently) that a
chief foreign customer is temporarily disabled from buying; or that the
commodity which we can best spare is gold; then gold itself is exported
in exchange for the thing which we most want. Whatever form the
transaction takes, it is nothing but bringing the supplies of various
commodities into harmony with the demands for them. The fact that gold
is exported, is simply a proof that the need for gold is less than
the need for other things. Under such circumstances an efflux of gold
will continue, and _ought_ to continue, until other things have become
relatively so abundant, and gold relatively so scarce, that the demand
for gold is equal to other demands. And he who would prevent this
process, is about as wise as the miser who, finding his house without
food, chooses to starve rather than draw upon his purse.

The second question—“Shall the Bank have permission to let its reserve
of gold diminish so greatly as to risk the convertibility of its
notes?” is not more profound than the first. It may fitly be answered
by the more general question—“Shall the merchant, the manufacturer,
or the shopkeeper, be allowed so to invest his capital as to risk the
fulfilment of his engagements?” If the answer to the first be “No,” it
must be “No” to the second. If to the {344} second it be “Yes,” it
must be “Yes” to the first. Any one who proposed that the State should
oversee the transactions of every trader, so as to insure his ability
to cash all demands as they fell due, might with consistency argue
that bankers should be under like control. But while no one has the
folly to contend for the one, nearly all contend for the other. One
would think that the banker acquired, in virtue of his occupation, some
abnormal desire to ruin himself—that while traders in other things are
restrained by a wholesome dread of bankruptcy, traders in capital have
a longing to appear in the _Gazette_, which law alone can prevent them
from gratifying! Surely the moral checks which act on other men will
act on bankers. And if these moral checks do not suffice to produce
perfect security, we have ample proof that no cunning legislative
checks will supply their place. The current notion that bankers
can, and will, if allowed, issue notes to any extent, is one of the
absurdest illusions—an illusion, however, which would never have arisen
but for the vicious over-issues induced by law. The truth is that,
in the first place, a banker _cannot_ increase his issue of notes at
will. It has been proved by the unanimous testimony of all bankers who
have been examined before successive parliamentary committees, that
“the amount of their issues is exclusively regulated by the extent of
local dealings and expenditure in their respective districts;” and that
any notes issued in excess of the demand are “immediately returned
to them.” And the truth is, in the second place, that a banker _will
not_, on the average of cases, issue more notes than in his judgment it
is safe to issue; seeing that if his promises-to-pay in circulation,
are much in excess of his available means of paying them, he runs a
great risk of having to stop payment—a result of which he has no less
a horror than other men. If facts are needed in proof of this, they
are furnished by the history of both the Bank of England and the Bank
of Ireland; which, {345} before they were debauched by the State,
habitually regulated their issues according to their stock of bullion,
and would probably always have been still more careful but for the
consciousness that there was the State-credit to fall back upon.

The third question—“Shall the Bank be allowed to issue notes in such
numbers as to cause their depreciation?” has, in effect, been answered
in answering the first two. There can be no depreciation of notes
so long as they are exchangeable for gold on demand. And so long as
the State, in discharge of its duty, insists on the fulfilment of
contracts, the alternative of bankruptcy must ever be a restraint
on such over-issue of notes as endangers that exchangeability. The
bugbear of depreciation is one that would have been unknown but for
the sins of governments. In the case of America, where there have been
occasional depreciations, the sin has been a sin of omission: the
State has not enforced the fulfilment of contracts—has not forthwith
bankrupted those who failed to cash their notes; and, if accounts are
true, has allowed those to be mobbed who brought back far-wandering
notes for payment.[35] In all other cases the sin has been a sin of
commission. The depreciated paper-currency in France, during the
revolution, was a State-currency. The depreciated paper-currencies
of Austria and Russia have been State-currencies. And the only
depreciated paper-currency we have known, has been to all intents and
purposes a State-currency. It was the State which, in 1795–6, _forced_
upon the Bank of England that excessive issue of notes which led to
the suspension of cash-payments. It was the State which, in 1802,
_forbad_ the resumption of cash-payments, when the Bank of England
wished to resume them. It was the State which, during a quarter of a
century, _maintained_ that suspension of cash-payments from which the
excessive multiplication and depreciation of notes resulted. The entire
corruption {346} was entailed by State-expenditure, and established
by State-warrant. Yet now the State affects a virtuous horror of the
crime committed at its instigation! Having contrived to shuffle-off
the odium on to the shoulders of its tools, the State gravely lectures
the banking-community upon its guilt; and with sternest face passes
measures to prevent it from sinning!

 [35] This was written in 1858; when “greenbacks” were unknown.

We contend, then, that neither to restrain the efflux of gold, nor to
guard against the over-issue of bank-notes, is legislative interference
warranted. If Government will promptly execute the law against all
defaulters, the self-interest of bankers and traders will do the
rest: such evils as would still result from mercantile dishonesties
and imprudences, being evils which legal regulation may augment but
cannot prevent. Let the Bank of England, in common with every other
bank, simply consult its own safety and its own profits; and there
will result just as much check as should be put, on the efflux of
gold or the circulation of paper; and the only check that can be put
on the doings of speculators. Whatever leads to unusual draughts on
the resources of banks, immediately causes a rise in the rate of
discount—a rise dictated both by the wish to make increased profits,
and the wish to avoid a dangerous decrease of resources. This raised
rate of discount prevents the demand from being so great as it would
else have been—alike checks undue expansion of the note-circulation;
stops speculators from making further engagements; and, if gold is
being exported, diminishes the profit of exportation. Successive rises
successively increase these effects; until, eventually, none will give
the rate of discount asked, save those in peril of stopping payment;
the increase of the credit-currency ceases; and the efflux of gold,
if it is going on, is arrested by the home-demand out-balancing the
foreign demand. And if, in times of great pressure, and under the
temptation of high discounts, banks allow their circulation to expand
to {347} a somewhat dangerous extent, the course is justified by the
necessities. As shown at the outset, the process is one by which banks,
on the deposit of good securities, loan their credit to traders who
but for loans would be bankrupt. And that banks should run some risks
to save hosts of solvent men from inevitable ruin, few will deny.
Moreover, during a crisis which thus runs its natural course, there
will really occur that purification of the mercantile world which many
think can be effected only by some Act-of-Parliament ordeal. Under the
circumstances described, men who have adequate securities to offer will
get bank-accommodation; but those who, having traded without capital
or beyond their means, have not, will be denied it, and will fail.
Under a free system the good will be sifted from the bad; whereas the
existing restrictions on bank-accommodation, tend to destroy good and
bad together.

Thus it is not true that there need special regulations to prevent
the inconvertibility and depreciation of notes. It is not true that,
but for legislative supervision, bankers would let gold drain out of
the country to an undue extent. It is not true that these “currency
theorists” have discovered a place at which the body-politic would
bleed to death but for a State-styptic.

       *       *       *       *       *

What else we have to say on the general question, may best be joined
with some commentaries on provincial and joint-stock banking, to which
let us now turn.

Government, to preserve the Bank of England-monopoly, having enacted
that no partnership exceeding six persons should become bankers;
and the Bank of England having refused to establish branches in the
provinces; it happened, during the latter half of the last century,
when the industrial progress was rapid and banks much needed, that
numerous private traders, shopkeepers and others, began to issue
notes payable on demand. And when, of the four {348} hundred small
banks which had thus grown up in less than fifty years, a great
number gave way under the first pressure—when, on several subsequent
occasions, like results occurred—when in Ireland, where the Bank of
Ireland-monopoly had been similarly guaranteed, it happened that
out of fifty private provincial banks, forty became bankrupt—and
when, finally, it grew notorious that in Scotland, where there had
been no law limiting the number of partners, a whole century had
passed with scarcely a single bank-failure; legislators at once
decided to abolish the restriction which had entailed such mischiefs.
Having, to use Mr. Mill’s words, “actually made the formation of
safe banking-establishments a punishable offence”—having, for one
hundred and twenty years, maintained a law which first caused
great inconvenience and then extensive ruin, time after time
repeated—Government, in 1826, conceded the liberty of joint-stock
banking: a liberty which the good easy public, not distinguishing
between a right done and a wrong undone, regarded as a great boon!

But the liberty was not without conditions. Having previously, in
anxiety for its _protégé_, the Bank of England, been reckless of
the banking-security of the community at large, the State, like a
repentant sinner rushing into asceticism, all at once became extremely
solicitous on this point; and determined to put guarantees of its own
devising, in place of the natural guarantee of mercantile judgment.
To intending bank-shareholders it said—“You shall not unite on
such publicly-understood conditions as you think fit, and get such
confidence as will naturally come to you on those conditions.” And to
the public it said—“You shall not put trust in this or that association
in proportion as, from the character of its members and constitution,
you judge it to be worthy of trust.” But to both it said—“You shall the
one give, and the other receive, my infallible safeguards.”

And now what have been the results? Every one knows {349} that these
safeguards have proved anything but infallible. Every one knows that
these banks with State-constitutions have been especially characterized
by instability. Every one knows that credulous citizens, with a faith
in legislation which endless disappointments fail to diminish, have
trusted implicitly in these law-devised securities; and, not exercising
their own judgments, have been led into ruinous undertakings. The evils
of substituting artificial guarantees for natural ones, which the
clear-sighted long ago discerned, have, by the late catastrophes, been
made conspicuous to all.

When commencing this article we had intended to dwell on this
point. For though the mode of business which brought about these
joint-stock-bank failures was, for weeks after their occurrence, time
after time clearly described; yet nowhere did we see drawn the obvious
corollary. Though in three separate City-articles of _The Times_, it
was explained that, “relying upon the ultimate liability of large
bodies of infatuated shareholders, the discount houses supply these
banks with unlimited means, looking not to the character of the bills
sent up, but simply to the security afforded by the Bank endorsement;”
yet, in none of them was it pointed out that, but for the law of
unlimited liability, this reckless trading would not have gone on.
More recently, however, this truth has been duly recognized, alike in
Parliament and in the Press; and it is therefore needless further to
elucidate it. We will simply add that as, if there had been no law of
unlimited liability, the London houses would not have discounted these
bad bills; and as, in that case, these provincial joint-stock-banks
could not have given these enormous credits to insolvent speculators;
and as, if they had not done this, they would not have been ruined; it
follows, inevitably, that these joint-stock-bank failures have been
_law-produced disasters_.

A measure for further increasing the safety of the provincial public,
was that which limited the circulation of provincial bank-notes. At the
same time that it established {350} a sliding-scale for the issues of
the Bank of England, the Act of 1844 fixed the maximum circulation of
every provincial bank-of-issue; and forbad any further banks-of-issue.
We have not space to discuss at length the effects of this restriction;
which must have fallen rather hardly on those especially-careful
bankers who had, during the twelve weeks preceding the 27th April,
1844, narrowed their issues to meet any incidental contingencies; while
it gave a perennial license to such as had been incautious during that
period. All which we can notice is, that this rigorous limitation of
provincial issues to a low maximum (and a low maximum was purposely
fixed) effectually prevents those local expansions of bank-note
circulation which, as we have shown, _ought_ to take place in periods
of commercial difficulty. And further, that by transferring all local
demands to the Bank of England, as the only place from which extra
accommodation can be had, the tendency is to concentrate a pressure
which would else be diffused, and so to create panic.

Saying nothing more, however, respecting the impolicy of the measure,
let us mark its futility. As a means of preserving the convertibility
of the provincial bank-note, it is useless unless it acts as some
safeguard against bank-failures; and that it does not do this is
demonstrable. While it diminishes the likelihood of failures caused by
over-issue of notes, it increases the likelihood of failures from other
causes. For what will be done by a provincial banker whose issues are
restricted by the Act of 1844, to a level lower than that to which he
would otherwise have let them rise? If he would, but for the law, have
issued more notes than he now does—if his reserve is greater than,
in his judgment, is needful for the security of his notes; is it not
clear that he will simply extend his operations in other directions?
Will not the excess of his available capital be to him a warrant either
for entering into larger speculations himself, or for allowing his
customers to draw on {351} him beyond the limit he would else have
fixed? If, in the absence of restriction, his rashness would have led
him to risk bankruptcy by over-issue, will it not now equally lead
him to risk bankruptcy by over-banking? And is not the one kind of
bankruptcy as fatal to the convertibility of notes as the other?

Nay, the case is even worse. There is reason to believe that bankers
are tempted into greater dangers under this protective system. They can
and will hypothecate their capital in ways less direct than by notes;
and may very likely be led, by the unobtrusiveness of the process, to
commit themselves more than they would else do. A trader, applying to
his banker in times of commercial difficulty, will often be met by the
reply—“I cannot make you any direct advances, having already loaned
as much as I can spare; but knowing you to be a safe man I will lend
you my name. Here is my acceptance for the sum you require: they will
discount it for you in London.” Now, as loans thus made do not entail
the same immediate responsibilities as when made in notes (seeing that
they are neither at once payable, nor do they add to the dangers of a
possible run), a banker is under a temptation to extend his liabilities
in this way further than he would have done, had not law forced him to
discover a new channel through which to give credit.

And does not the evidence that has lately transpired go to show
that these roundabout ways of giving credit _do_ take the place
of the interdicted ways; and that they _are_ more dangerous than
the interdicted ways? Is it not notorious that dangerous forms of
paper-currency have had an unexampled development since the Act of
1844? Do not the newspapers and the debates give daily proofs of this?
And is not the process of causation obvious?

Indeed it might have been known, _a priori_, that such a result was
sure to take place. It has been shown {352} conclusively that,
when uninterfered with, the amount of note-circulation at any given
time, is determined by the amount of trade going on—the quantity of
payments that are being made. It has been repeatedly testified before
committees, that when any local banker contracts his issues, he simply
causes an equivalent increase in the issues of neighbouring bankers.
And in past times it has been more than once complained, that when
from prudential motives the Bank of England withdrew part of its
notes, the provincial bankers immediately multiplied their notes to
a proportionate extent. Well, is it not manifest that this inverse
variation, which holds between one class of bank-notes and another,
also holds between bank-notes and other forms of paper-currency?
Will it not happen that just as diminishing the note-circulation of
one bank, merely adds to the note-circulation of other banks; so, an
artificial restriction on the circulation of bank-notes in general,
will simply cause an increased circulation of some substituted kind
of promise-to-pay? And is not this substituted kind, in virtue of its
novelty and irregularity, likely to be a more unsafe kind? See, then,
the predicament. Over all the bills of exchange, cheques, etc., which
constitute nine-tenths of the paper-currency of the kingdom, the State
exercises, and can exercise, no control. And the limit it puts on the
remaining tenth vitiates the other nine-tenths, by causing an abnormal
growth of new forms of credit, which experience proves to be especially
dangerous.

Thus, all which the State does when it exceeds its true duty is to
hinder, to disturb, to corrupt. As already pointed out, the quantity
of credit men will give each other, is determined by natural causes,
moral and physical—their average characters, their temporary states of
feeling, their circumstances. If the Government forbids one mode of
giving credit, they will find another, and probably a worse. Be the
degree of mutual trust prudent {353} or imprudent, it must take its
course. The attempt to restrict it by law is nothing but a repetition
of the old story of keeping out the sea with a fork.

And now mark that were it not for these worse than futile
State-safeguards, there might grow up certain natural safeguards, which
would really put a check on undue credit and abnormal speculation. Were
it not for the attempts to insure security by law, it is very possible
that, under our high-pressure system of business, banks would compete
with each other in respect of the degree of security they offered—would
endeavour to outdo each other in the obtainment of a legitimate
public confidence. Consider the position of a new joint-stock-bank
with limited liability, and unchecked by legal regulations. It can
do nothing until it has gained the general good opinion. In the way
of this there stand great difficulties. Its constitution is untried,
and is sure to be looked upon by the trading world with considerable
distrust. The field is already occupied by old banks with established
connexions and reputations. Out of a constituency satisfied with the
present accommodation, it has to obtain supporters for a system which
is apparently less safe than the old. How shall it do this? Evidently
it must find some unusual mode of assuring the community of its
trustworthiness. And out of a number of new banks so circumstanced, it
is not too much to suppose that ultimately one would hit on some mode.
It might be, for instance, that such a bank would give to all who held
deposits over £1000 the liberty of inspecting its books—of ascertaining
from time to time its liabilities and its investments. Already this
plan is frequently adopted by private traders, as a means of assuring
those who lend money to them; and this extension of it might naturally
take place under the pressure of competition. We have put the question
to a gentleman who has had long and successful experience, as manager
of a joint-stock-bank, and his reply is, that some such course would
very probably be adopted: adding that, {354} under this arrangement, a
depositor would practically become a partner with limited liability.

Were a system of this kind to establish itself, it would form a double
check to unhealthy trading. Consciousness that its rashness would
become known to its chief clients, would prevent the bank-management
from being rash; and consciousness that his credit would be damaged
when his large debt to the bank was whispered, would prevent the
speculator from contracting so large a debt. Both lender and borrower
would be restrained from reckless enterprize. Very little inspection
would suffice to effect this end. One or two cautious depositors would
be enough; seeing that the mere expectation of immediate disclosure, in
case of misconduct, would mostly keep in order all those concerned.

Should it however be contended, as by some it may, that this safeguard
would be of no avail—should it be alleged that, having in their own
hands the means of safety, citizens would not use them, but would still
put blind faith in directors, and give unlimited trust to respectable
names; then we reply that they would deserve whatever bad consequences
fell on them. If they did not take advantage of the proffered
guarantee, the penalty be on their own heads. We have no patience
with the mawkish philanthropy which would ward-off the punishment of
stupidity. The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of
folly, is to fill the world with fools.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few words in conclusion respecting the attitude of our opponents.
Leaving joint-stock-bank legislation, on which the eyes of the public
are happily becoming opened; and returning to the Bank-Charter, with
its theory of currency-regulation; we have to charge its supporters
with gross, if not wilful, misrepresentation. Their established policy
is to speak of all antagonism as identified with adhesion to the
vulgarest fallacies. They daily present, as the only alternatives,
their own dogma or some wild doctrine too {355} absurd to be argued.
“Side with us or choose anarchy,” is the substance of their homilies.

To speak specifically:—They boldly assert, in the first place, that
they are the upholders of “principle;” and on all opposition they seek
to fasten the title of “empiricism.” Now we are at a loss to see what
there is “empirical” in the position, that a bank-note-circulation
will regulate itself in the same way that the circulation of other
paper-currency does. It seems to us anything but “empirical,” to say
that the natural check of prospective bankruptcy, which restrains the
trader from issuing too many promises-to-pay at given dates, will
similarly restrain the banker from issuing too many promises-to-pay on
demand. We take him to be the very opposite of an “empiric,” who holds
that people’s characters and circumstances determine the quantity of
credit-memoranda in circulation; and that the monetary disorders which
their imperfect characters and changing circumstances occasionally
entail, can be exacerbated, but cannot be prevented, by State-nostrums.
On the other hand, we do not see in virtue of what “principle” it
is, that the contract expressed on the face of a bank-note must be
dealt with differently from any other contract. We cannot understand
the “principle” which requires the State to control the business of
bankers, so that they may not make engagements they cannot fulfil, but
which does _not_ require the State to do the like with other traders.
To us it is a very incomprehensible “principle” which permits the Bank
of England to issue £14,000,000 on the credit of the State; but which
is broken if the State-credit is mortgaged beyond this—a “principle”
which implies that £14,000,000 of notes may be issued without gold to
meet them, but insists on rigorous precautions for the convertibility
of every pound more. We are curious to learn how it was inferred from
this “principle” that the average note-circulation of each provincial
bank, during certain twelve weeks in 1844, was exactly the {356}
note-circulation which its capital justified. So far from discerning a
“principle,” it seems to us that both the idea and its applications are
as empirical as they can well be.

Still more astounding, however, is the assumption of these
“currency-theorists,” that their doctrines are those of Free-trade.
In the Legislature, Lord Overstone, and in the press, the _Saturday
Review_, have, among others, asserted this. To call that a Free-trade
measure, which has the avowed object of restricting certain voluntary
acts of exchange, appears so manifest a contradiction in terms that
it is scarcely credible it should be made. The whole system of
currency-legislation is restrictionist from beginning to end: equally
in spirit and detail. Is that a Free-trade regulation which has all
along forbidden banks of issue within sixty-five miles of London?
Is that Free-trade which enacts that none but such as have now the
State-warrant, shall henceforth give promises-to-pay on demand? Is that
Free-trade which at a certain point steps in between the banker and his
customer, and puts a veto on any further exchange of credit-documents?
We wonder what would be said by two merchants, the one about to draw
a bill on the other in return for goods sold, who should be stopped
by a State-officer with the remark that, having examined the buyer’s
ledger, he was of opinion that ready as the seller might be to take
the bill, it would be unsafe for him to do so; and that the law, in
pursuance of the principles of Free-trade, negatived the transaction!
Yet for the promise-to-pay in six months, it needs but to substitute a
promise-to-pay on demand, and the case becomes substantially that of
banker and customer.

It is true that the “currency-theorists” have a colourable excuse
in the fact, that among their opponents are the advocates of
various visionary schemes, and propounders of regulations quite as
protectionist in spirit as their own. It is true that there are some
who contend for inconvertible “labour-notes;” and others who argue
that, in times of {357} commercial pressure, banks should not raise
their rates of discount. But is this any justification for recklessly
stigmatizing all antagonism as coming from these classes, in the
face of the fact that the Bank-Act has been protested against by
the highest authorities in political economy? Do not the defenders
of the “currency-principle” know that among their opponents are Mr.
Thornton, long known as an able writer on currency-questions; Mr.
Tooke and Mr. Newmarch, famed for their laborious and exhaustive
researches respecting currency and prices; Mr. Fullarton, whose
“Regulation of Currencies” is a standard work; Mr. Macleod, whose
just-issued book displays the endless injustices and stupidities of our
monetary history; Mr. James Wilson, M.P., who, in detailed knowledge
of commerce, currency, and banking, is probably unrivalled; and Mr.
John Stuart Mill, who both as logician and economist, stands in the
first rank? Do they not know that the alleged distinction between
bank-notes and other credit-documents, which forms the professed basis
of the Bank-Act (and for which Sir R. Peel could quote only the one
poor authority of Lord Liverpool) is denied, not only by the gentlemen
above named, but also by Mr. Huskisson, Professor Storch, Dr. Travers
Twiss, and the distinguished French Professors, M. Joseph Garnier and
M. Michel Chevalier?[36] Do they not know, in short, that both the
profoundest thinkers and the most patient inquirers are against them?
If they do not know this, it is time they studied the subject on which
they write with such an air of authority. If they do know it, a little
more respect for their opponents would not be unbecoming.

 [36] See Mr. Tooke’s “Bank Charter Act of 1844,” etc.

{358}



PARLIAMENTARY REFORM: THE DANGERS AND THE SAFEGUARDS.

[_First published in_ The Westminster Review _for April 1860_.]


Thirty years ago, the dread of impending evils agitated not a few
breasts throughout England. Instinctive fear of change, justified as
it seemed by outbursts of popular violence, conjured up visions of the
anarchy which would follow the passing of a Reform Bill. In scattered
farm-houses there was chronic terror, lest those newly endowed with
political power should in some way filch all the profits obtained by
rearing cattle and growing corn. The occupants of halls and manors
spoke of ten-pound householders almost as though they formed an army
of spoilers, threatening to overrun and devastate the property of
landholders. Among townspeople there were some who interpreted the
abolition of old corruptions into the establishment of mob-government;
which they thought equivalent to spoliation. And even in Parliament,
such alarms found occasional utterance: as, for instance, through the
mouth of Sir Robert Inglis, who hinted that the national debt would not
improbably be repudiated if the proposed measure became law.

There may perhaps be a few who regard the now pending change in the
representation with similar dread—who think {359} that artizans
and others of their grade are prepared, when the power is given
to them, to lay hands on property. We presume, however, that such
irrational alarmists form but a small percentage of the nation. Not
only throughout the Liberal party, but among the Conservatives, there
exists a much fairer estimate of the popular character than is implied
by anticipations of so gloomy a kind. Many of the upper and middle
classes are conscious of the fact that, if critically compared, the
average conduct of the wealthy would not be found to differ very
widely in rectitude from that of the poor. Making due allowance for
differences in the kinds and degrees of temptations to which they are
exposed, the respective grades of society are tolerably uniform in
their morals. That disregard of the rights of property which, among
the people at large, shows itself in the direct form of petty thefts,
shows itself among their richer neighbours in various indirect forms,
which are scarcely less flagitious and often much more detrimental
to fellow-citizens. Traders, wholesale and retail, commit countless
dishonesties, ranging from adulteration and short measure up to
fraudulent bankruptcy—dishonesties of which we sketched out some of
the ramifications in a late article on “The Morals of Trade.” The
trickeries of the turf; the bribery of electors; the non-payment of
tradesmen’s bills; the jobbing in railway-shares; the obtainment of
exorbitant prices for land from railway-companies; the corruption that
attends the getting of private bills through Parliament—these, and
other such illustrations, show that the unconscientiousness of the
upper class, manifested though it is in different forms, is not less
than that of the lower class: bears as great a ratio to the size of the
class, and, if traced to its ultimate results, produces evils as great
if not greater.

And if the facts prove that in uprightness of intentions there is
little to choose between one class of the community and another, an
extension of the franchise cannot rationally {360} be opposed on the
ground that property would be directly endangered. There is no more
reason to suppose that the mass of artizans and labourers would use
political power with conscious injustice to their richer neighbours,
than there is reason to suppose that their richer neighbours now
consciously commit legal injustices against artizans and labourers.

       *       *       *       *       *

What, then, is the danger to be apprehended? If land, and houses,
and railways, and funds, and property of all other kinds, would be
held with no less security than now, why need there be any fears that
the franchise would be misused? What are the misuses of it which are
rationally to be anticipated?

The ways in which those to be endowed with political power are likely
to abuse it, may be inferred from the ways in which political power has
been abused by those who have possessed it.

What general trait has characterized the rule of the classes hitherto
dominant? These classes have not habitually sought their own _direct_
advantage at the expense of other classes; but their measures have
nevertheless frequently been such as were _indirectly_ advantageous to
themselves. Voluntary self-sacrifice has been the exception. The rule
has been so to legislate as to preserve private interests from injury;
whether public interests were injured or not. Though, in equity, a
landlord has no greater claim on a defaulting tenant than any other
creditor; yet landlords, having formed the majority of the legislature,
have made laws giving them power to recover rent in anticipation
of other creditors. Though the duties payable to government on the
transfer of property to heirs and legatees, might justly have been
made to fall more heavily on the wealthy than on the comparatively
poor, and on real property rather than on personal property; yet the
reverse arrangement was enacted and long maintained, and is even
still partially in force. Rights of presentation to places in the
Church, {361} obtained however completely in violation of the spirit
of the law, are yet tenaciously defended, with little or no regard
to the welfare of those for whom the Church ostensibly exists. Were
it not accounted for by the bias of personal interests, it would be
impossible to explain the fact that, on the question of protection
to agriculture, the landed classes and their dependents were ranged
against the other classes: the same evidence being open to both.
And if there needs a still stronger illustration, we have it in the
opposition made to the repeal of the Corn-Laws by the established
clergy. Though, by their office, preachers of justice and mercy—though
constantly occupied in condemning selfishness and holding up a supreme
example of self-sacrifice; yet so swayed were they by those temporal
interests which they thought endangered, that they offered to this
proposed change an almost uniform resistance. Out of some ten thousand
_ex officio_ friends of the poor and needy, there was but one (the Rev.
Thomas Spencer), who took an active part in abolishing this tax imposed
on the people’s bread for the maintenance of landlords’ rents.

Such are a few of the ways in which, in modern times, those who have
the power seek their own benefit at the expense of the rest. It is
in analogous ways that we must expect any section of the community
which may be made predominant by a political change, to sacrifice the
welfare of other sections to its own. While we do not see reason to
think that the lower classes are intrinsically less conscientious than
the upper classes, we do not see reason to think that they are more
conscientious. Holding, as we do, that in each society and in each
age, the morality is, on the average, the same throughout all ranks;
it seems to us clear that if the rich, when they have the opportunity,
make laws which unduly favour themselves, the poor, if their power was
in excess, will do the like in similar ways and to a similar extent.
Without knowingly enacting injustice, they will be unconsciously biased
by personal {362} considerations; and our legislation will err as much
in a new direction as it has hitherto done in the old.

This abstract conclusion we shall find confirmed on contemplating the
feelings and opinions current among artizans and labourers. What the
working classes now wish done, indicates what they would be likely to
do, if a reform in the representation made them preponderate. Judging
from their prevailing sentiments, they would doubtless do, or aid in
doing, many things which it is desirable to have done. Such a question
as that of Church-rates would have been settled long ago had the
franchise been wider. Any great increase of popular influence, would
go far to rectify the present inequitable relation of the established
religious sect to the rest of the community. And other remnants of
class-legislation would be swept away. But besides ideas likely to
eventuate in changes which we should regard as beneficial, the working
classes entertain ideas that could not be realized without gross
injustice to other classes and ultimate injury to themselves. There is
among them a prevailing enmity towards capitalists. The fallacy that
machinery acts to their damage, is still widely spread, both among
rural labourers and the inhabitants of towns. And they show a wish, not
only to dictate how long per day men shall work, but to regulate all
the relations between employers and employed. Let us briefly consider
the evidence of this.

When, adding another to the countless errors which it has taught the
people, the Legislature, by passing the Ten-Hours-Bill, asserted that
it is the duty of the State to limit the duration of labour, there
naturally arose among the working classes the desire for further
ameliorations to be secured in the same way. First came the formidable
strike of the Amalgamated Engineers. The rules of this body aim to
restrict the supply of labour in various ways. No member is allowed
to work more than a fixed number of hours per week; nor for less
than a fixed rate of wages. {363} No man is admitted into the trade
who has not “earned a right by probationary servitude.” There is a
strict registration; which is secured by fines on any one who neglects
to notify his marriage, removal, or change of service. The council
decides, without appeal, on all the affairs, individual and general,
of the body. How tyrannical are the regulations may be judged from the
fact, that members are punished for divulging anything concerning the
society’s business; for censuring one another; for vindicating the
conduct of those fined, etc. And their own unity of action having been
secured by these coercive measures, the Amalgamated Engineers made a
prolonged effort to impose on their employers, sundry restrictions
which they supposed would be beneficial to themselves. More recently,
we have seen similar objects worked for by similar means during the
strike of the Operative Builders. In one of their early manifestoes,
this body of men contended that they had “an equal right to share with
other workers, that large amount of public sympathy which is now being
so widely extended in the direction of shortening the hours of labour:”
thus showing at once their delusion and its source. Believing, as they
had been taught by an Act of Parliament to believe, that the relation
between the quantity of labour given and the wages received, is not
a natural but an artificial one; they demanded that while the wages
remained the same, the hours should be reduced from ten to nine. They
recommended their employers so to make their future contracts, as to
allow for this diminished day’s work: saying they were “so sanguine as
to consider the consummation of their desire inevitable:” a polite way
of hinting that their employers must succumb to the irresistible power
of their organization. Referring to the threat of the master-builders
to close their works, they warned them against “the responsibility
of causing the public disaster” thus indicated. And when the breach
finally took place, the {364} Unionists set in action the approved
appliances for bringing masters to terms; and would have succeeded had
it not been that their antagonists, believing that concessions would
be ruinous, made a united resistance. During several previous years,
master-builders had been yielding to various extravagant demands, of
which those recently made were a further development. Had they assented
to the diminished day’s work, and abolished systematic overtime, as
they were required to do, there is no reason to suppose the dictation
would have ended. Success would have presently led to still more
exacting requirements; and future years would have witnessed further
extensions of this mischievous meddling between capital and labour.

Perhaps the completest illustration of the industrial regulations
which find favour with artizans, is supplied by the Printers’ Union.
With the exception of those engaged in _The Times_ office, and in
one other large establishment, the proprietors of which successfully
resisted the combination, the compositors, pressmen, etc., throughout
the kingdom, form a society which controls all the relations between
employers and employed. There is a fixed price for setting up type—so
much per thousand letters: no master can give less; no compositor being
allowed by the Union to work for less. There are established rates for
press-work; and established numbers less than which you cannot have
printed without paying for work that is not done. The scale rises by
what are called “tokens” of 250; and if but 50 copies are required,
the charge is the same as for printing 250; or if 300 are wanted,
payment must be made for 500. Besides regulating prices and modes of
charging to their own advantage, in these and other ways, the members
of the Union restrict competition by limiting the number of apprentices
brought into the business. So well organized is this combination that
the masters are obliged to succumb. An infraction of the rules in any
{365} printing-office leads to a strike of the men; and as this is
supported by the Union at large, the employer has to yield.

That in other trades artizans would, if they could, establish
restrictive systems equally complete with this, we take to
be sufficiently proved by their often-repeated attempts. The
Tin-plate-Workers’ strike, the Coventry-Weavers’ strikes, the
Engineers’ strike, the Shoemakers’ strike, the Builders’ strike,
all show a most decided leaning towards a despotic regulation of
trade-prices, hours, and arrangements—towards an abolition of free
trade between employers and employed. Should the men engaged in our
various industries succeed in their aims, each industry would be so
shackled as seriously to raise the cost of production. The chief
penalty would thus fall on the working classes themselves. Each
producer, while protected in the exercise of his own occupation, would
on every commodity he bought have to pay an extra price, consequent
on the protection of other producers. In short, there would be
established, under a new form, the old mischievous system of mutual
taxation. And a final result would be such a diminished ability to
compete with other nations as to destroy our foreign trade.

Against results like these it behoves us to guard. It becomes a grave
question how far we may safely give political power to those who
entertain views so erroneous respecting fundamental social relations;
and who so pertinaciously struggle to enforce these erroneous views.
Men who render up their private liberties to the despotic rulers of
trades-unions, seem scarcely independent enough rightly to exercise
political liberties. Those who so ill understand the nature of freedom,
as to think that any man or body of men has a right to prevent employer
and employed from making any contract they please, would almost
appear to be incapacitated for the guardianship of their own freedom
and that of their fellow-citizens. When their notions of rectitude
are so confused, that they think it a duty to obey the arbitrary
{366} commands of their union-authorities, and to abandon the right
of individually disposing of their labour on their own terms—when,
in conformity with this inverted sense of duty, they even risk the
starvation of their families—when they call that an “odious document”
which simply demands that master and man shall be free to make their
own bargains—when their sense of justice is so obtuse that they are
ready to bully, to deprive of work, to starve, and even to kill,
members of their own class who rebel against dictation, and assert
their rights to sell their labour at such rates and to such persons
as they think fit—when in short they prove themselves ready to become
alike slaves and tyrants, we may well pause before giving them the
franchise.

The objects which artizans have long sought to achieve by their private
organizations, they would, had they adequate political power, seek
to achieve by public enactments. If, on points like those instanced,
their convictions are so strong and their determination so great, that
they will time after time submit to extreme privations in the effort
to carry them; it is a reasonable expectation that these convictions,
pushed with this determination, would soon be expressed in law, if
those who held them had predominant power. With working men, questions
concerning the regulation of labour are of the highest interest.
Candidates for Parliament would be more likely to obtain their
suffrages by pandering to their prejudices on such questions, than in
any other way. Should it be said that no evil need be feared unless
the artizan-class numerically preponderated in the constituencies;
it may be rejoined that not unfrequently, where two chief political
parties are nearly balanced, some other party, though much smaller,
determines the election. When we bear in mind that the trades-unions
throughout the kingdom number 600,000 members, and command a fund of
£300,000—when we remember that these trades-unions are in the habit of
aiding each other, and have even been incorporated into one national
association—when we also remember that {367} their organization
is very complete, and their power over their members mercilessly
exercised; it seems likely that at a general election their combined
action would decide the result in many towns: even though the artizans
in each case formed but a moderate portion of the constituency. How
influential small but combined bodies are, the Irish Members of
our House of Commons prove to us; and still more clearly the Irish
emigrants in America. Certainly these trade-combinations are not less
perfectly organized; nor are the motives of their members less strong.
Judge then how efficient their political action would be.

It is true that in county-constituencies and rural towns, the artizan
class have no power; and that in the antagonism of agriculturists
there would be a restraint on their projects. But, on the other hand,
the artizans would, on these questions, have the sympathy of many not
belonging to their own body. Numerous small shopkeepers and others who
are in point of means about on their level, would go with them in their
efforts to regulate the relations of capital and labour. Among the
middle classes, too, there are not a few kindly-disposed men who are
so ignorant of political economy as to think the artizans justified in
their aims. Even among the landed class they might find supporters. We
have but to recollect the antipathy shown by landowners in Parliament
to the manufacturing interest, during the ten-hours’ agitation, to see
that it is quite possible for country squires to join the working men
in imposing restrictions unfavourable to employers. True, the angry
feeling which then prompted them has in some measure died away. It is
to be hoped, too, that they have gained wisdom. But still, remembering
the past, we must take this contingency into account.

Here, then, is one of the dangers to which an extension of the
franchise opens the door. While the fear that the rights of property
may be directly interfered with, is absurd, it is a very rational fear
that the rights of property may be indirectly interfered with—that, by
cramping laws, {368} the capitalist may be prevented from using his
money as he finds best, and the workman from selling his labour as he
pleases. We are not prepared to say what widening of the representation
would bring about such results. We profess neither to estimate what
amount of artizan-power a £6 or a £5 borough-franchise would give; nor
to determine whether the opposing powers would suffice to keep it in
check. Our purpose here is simply to indicate this establishment of
injurious industrial regulations, as one of the dangers to be kept in
view.

       *       *       *       *       *

Turn we now to another danger, distinct from the foregoing though
near akin to it. Next after the evils of that over-legislation which
restricts the exchange of capital and labour, come the evils of that
over-legislation which provides for the community, by State-agency,
benefits which capital and labour should be left spontaneously to
provide. And it naturally, though unfortunately, happens, that those
who lean to the one kind of over-legislation, lean also to the other
kind. Men leading laborious lives, relieved by little in the shape of
enjoyment, give willing ears to the doctrine that the State should
provide them with various positive advantages and gratifications. The
much-enduring poor cannot be expected to deal very critically with
those who promise them gratis pleasures. As a drowning man catches at
a straw, so will one whose existence is burdensome catch at anything,
no matter how unsubstantial, which holds out the slightest hope of a
little happiness. We must not, therefore, blame the working-classes for
being ready converts to socialistic schemes, or to a belief in “the
sovereign power of political machinery.”

Not that the working-classes alone fall into these delusions.
Unfortunately they are countenanced, and have been in part misled, by
those above them. In Parliament and out of Parliament, well-meaning men
among the upper and middle ranks, have been active apostles of these
false {369} doctrines. There has ever been, and continues to be, much
law-making based on the assumption, that it is the duty of the State,
not simply to insure each citizen fair play in the battle of life, but
to help him in fighting the battle of life: having previously taken
money from his, or some one else’s, pocket to pay the cost of doing
this. And we cannot glance over the papers without seeing how active
are the agitations carried on out of doors in furtherance of this
policy; and how they threaten to become daily more active. The doings
of the Chadwick-school furnish one set of illustrations. From those
of the Shaftesbury-school other illustrations may be gathered. And in
the transactions of the body, absurdly self-entitled “The National
Association for the Promotion of Social Science,” we find still more
numerous developments of this mischievous error.

When we say that the working-classes, and more especially the
artizan-classes, have strong leanings towards these Utopianisms which
they have unhappily been encouraged to entertain by many who should
have known better, we do not speak at random. We are not drawing an _a
priori_ inference as to the doctrines likely to find favour with men
in their position. Nor are we guided merely by evidence to be gathered
from newspapers. We have a basis of definite fact in the proceedings
of reformed municipal governments. These bodies have from year to year
extended their functions; and so heavy has in some cases become the
consequent local taxation, as to have caused a reaction against the
political party which was responsible. Town-councils almost exclusively
Whig, have of late been made comparatively Conservative, by the efforts
of those richer classes who suffer most from municipal extravagance.
With whom, then, has this extravagance been popular? With the poorer
members of the constituencies. Candidates for town-councillorships
have found no better means of obtaining the suffrages of the mass,
than the advocacy of this or the other local undertaking. To {370}
build baths and wash-houses at the expense of the town, has proved a
popular proposal. The support of public gardens out of funds raised
by local rates, has been applauded by the majority. So, too, with
the establishment of free libraries, which has, of course, met with
encouragement from working-men, and from those who wish to find favour
with them. Should some one, taking a hint from the cheap concerts now
common in our manufacturing towns, propose to supply music at the
public cost, we doubt not he would be hailed as a friend of the people.
And similarly with countless socialistic schemes, of which, when once
commenced, there is no end.

Such being the demonstrated tendencies of municipal governments, with
their extended bases of representation, is it not a fair inference
that a Central Government having a base of representation much wider
than the present, would manifest like tendencies? We shall see the
more reason for fearing this, when we remember that those who approve
of multiplied State-agencies, would generally ally themselves with
those who seek for the legislative regulation of labour. The doctrines
are near akin; and they are, to a considerable extent, held by the
same persons. If united the two bodies would have a formidable power;
and, appealed to, as they would often be, by candidates expressing
agreement on both these points, they might, even though a minority,
get unduly represented in the legislature. Such, at least, seems to us
a further danger. Led by philanthropists having sympathies stronger
than their intellects, the working-classes are very likely to employ
their influence in increasing over-legislation: not only by agitating
for industrial regulations, but in various other ways. What extension
of franchise would make this danger a serious one, we do not pretend
to say. Here, as before, we would simply indicate a probable source of
mischief.

       *       *       *       *       *

And now what are the safeguards? Not such as we {371} believe will
be adopted. To meet evils like those which threaten to follow the
impending political change, the common plan is to devise special
checks—minor limitations and qualifications. Not to dry up the evil at
its source but to dam it out, is, in analogous cases, the usual aim.
We have no faith in such methods. The only efficient safeguard lies
in a change of convictions and motives. And, to work a change of this
kind, there is no certain way but that of letting men directly feel
the penalties which mistaken legislation brings on them. “How is this
to be done?” the reader will doubtless ask. Simply by letting causes
and effects stand in their natural relations. Simply by taking away
those vicious arrangements which now mostly prevent men from seeing the
reactions that follow legislative actions.

At present the extension of public administrations is popular, mainly
because there has not been established in the minds of the people,
any distinct connexion between the benefits to be gained and the
expenses to be paid. Of the conveniences or gratifications secured to
them by some new body of officials with a fund at its disposal, they
have immediate experience; but of the way in which the costs fall
on the nation, and ultimately on themselves, they have no immediate
experience. Our fiscal arrangements dissociate the ideas of increased
public expenditure and increased burdens on all who labour; and thus
encourage the superstition that law can give gratis benefits. This is
clearly the chief cause of that municipal extravagance to which we have
above adverted. The working men of our towns possess public power,
while most of them do not directly bear public burdens. On small houses
the taxes for borough-purposes are usually paid by the landlords; and
of late years, for the sake of convenience and economy, there has grown
up a system of compounding with landlords of small houses even for the
poor-rates chargeable to their tenants. Under this {372} arrangement,
at first voluntary but now compulsory, a certain discount off the
total rates due from a number of houses is allowed to the owner, in
consideration of his paying the rates, and thus saving the authorities
trouble and loss in collection. And he is supposed to raise his rents
by the full amount of the rates charged. Thus, most municipal electors,
not paying local taxes in a separate form, are not constantly reminded
of the connexion between public expenditure and personal costs; and
hence it happens that any outlay made for local purposes, no matter
how extravagant and unreasonable, which brings to them some kind of
advantage, is regarded as pure gain. If the corporation resolves,
quite unnecessarily, to rebuild a town-hall, the resolution is of
course approved by the majority. “It is good for trade and it costs us
nothing,” is the argument which passes vaguely through their minds. If
some one proposes to buy an adjoining estate and turn it into a public
park, the working classes naturally give their support to the proposal;
for ornamental grounds cannot but be an advantage, and though the rates
may be increased that will be no affair of theirs. Thus necessarily
arises a tendency to multiply public agencies and increase public
outlay. It becomes an established policy with popularity-hunters to
advocate new works to be executed by the town. Those who disapprove
this course are in fear that their seats may be jeopardized at the next
election, should they make a vigorous opposition. And thus do these
local administrations inevitably lean towards abnormal developments.

No one can, we think, doubt that were the rates levied directly on
all electors, a check would be given to this municipal communism.
If each small occupier found that every new work undertaken by the
authorities cost him so many pence extra in the pound, he would begin
to consider with himself whether the advantage gained was equivalent
to the price paid; and would often reach a {373} negative conclusion.
It would become a question with him whether, instead of letting the
local government provide him with certain remote advantages in return
for certain moneys, he might not himself purchase with such moneys
immediate advantages of greater worth; and, generally, he would
decide that he could do this. Without saying to what extent such a
restraint would act, we may safely say that it would be beneficial.
Every one must admit that each inhabitant of a town ought constantly
to be reminded of the relation between the work performed for him by
the corporation and the sum he pays for it. No one can deny that the
habitual experience of this relation would tend to keep the action of
local governments within proper bounds.

Similarly with the Central Government. Here the effects wrought by
public agencies are still more dissociated from the costs they entail
on each citizen. The bulk of the taxes being raised in so unobtrusive
a way, and affecting the masses in modes so difficult to trace, it is
scarcely possible for the masses to realize the fact that the sums paid
by Government for supporting schools, for facilitating emigration,
for inspecting mines, factories, railways, ships, etc., have been in
great part taken from their own pockets. The more intelligent of them
understand this as an abstract truth; but it is not a truth present to
their minds in such a definite shape as to influence their actions.
Quite otherwise, however, would it be if taxation were direct; and
the expense of every new State-agency were felt by each citizen as an
additional demand made on him by the tax-gatherer. Then would there
be a clear, constantly-recurring experience of the truth, that for
everything which the State gives with one hand it takes away something
with the other; and then would it be less easy to propagate absurd
delusions about the powers and duties of Governments. No one can
question this conclusion who calls to mind the reason currently given
for maintaining {374} indirect taxation; namely, that the required
revenue could not otherwise be raised. Statesmen see that if instead of
taking from the citizen here a little and there a little, in ways that
he does not know or constantly forgets, the whole amount were demanded
in a lump sum, it would scarcely be possible to get it paid. Grumbling
and resistance would rise probably to disaffection. Coercion would
in hosts of cases be needed to obtain this large total tax; which,
indeed, even with this aid, could not be obtained from the majority
of the people, whose improvident habits prevent the accumulation of
considerable sums. And so the revenue would fall immensely short of
that expenditure which is supposed necessary. This being assented to,
it must perforce be admitted that under a system of direct taxation,
further extension of public administrations, entailing further costs,
would meet with general opposition. Instead of multiplying the
functions of the State, the tendency would obviously be to reduce their
number.

Here, then, is one of the safeguards. The incidence of taxation
must be made more direct in proportion as the franchise is
extended. Our changes ought not to be in the direction of the
Compound-Householders-Act of 1851, which makes it no longer needful for
a Parliamentary elector to have paid poor-rates before giving a vote;
but they ought to be in the opposite direction. The exercise of power
over the national revenue, should be indissolubly associated with the
_conscious_ payment of contributions to that revenue. Direct taxation
instead of being limited, as many wish, must be extended to lower and
wider classes, as fast as these classes are endowed with political
power.

Probably this proposal will be regarded with small favour by statesmen.
It is not in the nature of things for men to approve a system which
tends to restrict their powers. We know, too, that any great extension
of direct taxation will be held at present impossible; and we are not
prepared {375} to assert the contrary. This, however, is no reason
against reducing the indirect taxation and augmenting the direct
taxation as far as circumstances allow. And if when the last had
been increased and the first decreased to the greatest extent now
practicable, it were made an established principle that any additional
revenue must be raised by direct taxes, there would be an efficient
check to one of the evils likely to follow from further political
enfranchisement.

       *       *       *       *       *

The other evil which we have pointed out as rationally to be feared,
cannot be thus met, however. Though an ever-recurring experience of
the relation between State-action and its cost, would hinder the
growth of those State-agencies which undertake to supply citizens with
positive conveniences and gratifications; it would be no restraint on
that negative and inexpensive over-legislation which trespasses on
individual freedom—it would not prevent mischievous meddling with the
relations between labour and capital. Against this danger the only
safeguards appear to be, the spread of sounder views among the working
classes, and the moral advance which such sounder views imply.

“That is to say, the people must be educated,” responds the reader.
Yes, education is the thing wanted; but not the education for which
most men agitate. Ordinary school-training is not a preparation for the
right exercise of political power. Conclusive proof of this is given by
the fact that the artizans, from whose mistaken ideas the most danger
is to be feared, are the best informed of the working classes. Far
from promising to be a safeguard, the spread of such education as is
commonly given appears more likely to increase the danger. Raising the
working classes in general to the artizan-level of culture, threatens
to augment, rather than to diminish, their power of working political
evil. The current faith in Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, as fitting
men for citizenship, seems to us quite {376} unwarranted; as are,
indeed, most other anticipations of the benefits to be derived from
learning lessons. There is no connexion between the ability to parse
a sentence, and a clear understanding of the causes which determine
the rate of wages. The multiplication-table affords no aid in seeing
through the fallacy that the destruction of property is good for
trade. Long practice may have produced extremely good penmanship
without having given the least power to understand the paradox that
machinery eventually increases the number of persons employed in the
trades into which it is introduced. Nor is it proved that smatterings
of mensuration, astronomy, or geography, fit men for estimating the
characters and motives of Parliamentary candidates. Indeed we have only
thus to bring together the antecedents and the anticipated consequents,
to see how untenable is the belief in a relation between them. When we
wish a girl to become a good musician, we seat her before the piano:
we do not put drawing implements into her hands, and expect music to
come along with skill in the use of pencils and colour-brushes. Sending
a boy to pore over law-books would be thought an extremely irrational
way of preparing him for civil engineering. And if in these and all
other cases, we do not expect fitness for any function except through
instruction and exercise in that function; why do we expect fitness
for citizenship to be produced by a discipline which has no relation
to the duties of the citizen? Probably it will be replied that by
making the working man a good reader, we give him access to sources of
information from which he may learn how to use his electoral power; and
that other studies sharpen his faculties and make him a better judge
of political questions. This is true; and the eventual tendency is
unquestionably good. But what if for a long time to come he reads only
to obtain confirmation of his errors? What if there exists a literature
appealing to his prejudices, and supplying him with fallacious
arguments for the mistaken beliefs which he naturally takes {377} up?
What if he rejects all teaching that aims to disabuse him of cherished
delusions? Must we not say that the culture which thus merely helps the
workman to establish himself in error, rather unfits than fits him for
citizenship? And do not the trades’-unions furnish evidence of this?

How little that which people commonly call education prepares them
for the use of political power, may be judged from the incompetency
of those who have received the highest education the country affords.
Glance back at the blunders of our legislation, and then remember that
the men who committed them had mostly taken University-degrees; and
you must admit that the profoundest ignorance of Social Science may
accompany intimate acquaintance with all which our cultivated classes
regard as valuable knowledge. Do but take a young member of Parliament,
fresh from Oxford or Cambridge, and ask him what he thinks Law should
do, and why? or what it should not do, and why? and it will become
manifest that neither his familiarity with Aristotle nor his readings
in Thucydides, have prepared him to answer the very first question a
legislator ought to solve. A single illustration will suffice to show
how different an education from that usually given, is required by
legislators, and consequently by those who elect them: we mean the
illustration which the Free-trade agitation supplies. By kings, peers,
and members of Parliament, mostly brought up at universities, trade had
been hampered by protections, prohibitions, and bounties. For centuries
had been maintained these legislative appliances which a very moderate
insight shows to be detrimental. Yet, of all the highly-educated
throughout the nation during these centuries, scarcely a man saw how
mischievous such appliances were. Not from one who devoted himself to
the most approved studies, came the work which set politicians right
on these points; but from one who left college without a degree,
and prosecuted inquiries which the established education ignored.
Adam {378} Smith examined for himself the industrial phenomena of
societies; contemplated the productive and distributive activities
going on around him; traced out their complicated mutual dependences;
and thus reached general principles for political guidance. In recent
days, those who have most clearly understood the truths he enunciated,
and by persevering exposition have converted the nation to their views,
have not been graduates of universities. While, contrariwise, those
who have passed through the prescribed _curriculum_, have commonly
been the most bitter and obstinate opponents of the changes dictated
by politico-economical science. In this all-important direction, right
legislation was urged by men deficient in the so-called best education,
and was resisted by the great majority of men who had received this
so-called best education!

The truth for which we contend, and which is so strangely overlooked,
is, indeed, almost a truism. Does not our whole theory of training
imply that the right preparation for political power is political
cultivation? Must not that teaching which can alone guide the citizen
in the fulfilment of his public actions, be a teaching that acquaints
him with the effects of his public actions?

The second chief safeguard to which we must trust is, then, the spread,
not of that mere technical and miscellaneous knowledge which men are
so eagerly propagating, but of political knowledge; or, to speak more
accurately—knowledge of Social Science. Above all, the essential thing
is the establishment of a true theory of government—a true conception
of what legislation is for, and what are its proper limits. This
question which our political discussions habitually ignore, is a
question of greater moment than any other. Inquiries which statesmen
deride as speculative and unpractical, will one day be found infinitely
more practical than those which they wade through Blue Books to master,
and nightly spend many hours in debating. The considerations that
every morning fill a dozen columns {379} of _The Times_, are mere
frivolities when compared with the fundamental consideration—What is
the proper sphere of government? Before discussing the way in which
law should regulate some particular thing, would it not be wise to
put the previous question—Whether law ought or ought not to meddle
with that thing? and before answering this, to put the more general
questions—What law should do? and what it should leave undone? Surely,
if there are any limits at all to legislation, the settlement of these
limits must have effects far more profound than any particular Act of
Parliament can have; and must be by so much the more momentous. Surely,
if there is danger that the people may misuse political power, it is
of supreme importance that they should be taught for what purpose
political power ought alone to be used.

Did the upper classes understand their position they would, we think,
see that the diffusion of sound views on this matter more nearly
concerns their own welfare and that of the nation at large, than
any other thing whatever. Popular influence will inevitably go on
increasing. Should the masses gain a predominant power while their
ideas of social arrangements and legislative action remain as crude
as at present, there will certainly result disastrous meddlings with
the relations of capital and labour, as well as a disastrous extension
of State-administrations. Immense damage will be inflicted: primarily
on employers; secondarily on the employed; and eventually on the
nation as a whole. If these evils can be prevented at all, they can be
prevented only by establishing in the public mind a profound conviction
that there are certain definite limits to the functions of the State;
and that these limits ought on no account to be transgressed. Having
learned what these limits are, the upper classes ought to use all means
of making them clear to the people.

       *       *       *       *       *

In No. XXIV. of this Review, for October, 1857, we {380} endeavoured
to show that while representative government is, by its intrinsic
nature, better than any other for administering justice or insuring
equitable relations among citizens, it is, by its intrinsic nature,
worse than any other for all the various additional functions which
governments commonly undertake. To the question—What is representative
government good for? our reply was—“It is good, especially good, good
above all others, for doing the thing which a government should do.
It is bad, especially bad, bad above all others, for doing the things
which a government should not do.”

To this truth we may here add a correlative one. As fast as a
government, by becoming representative, grows better fitted for
maintaining the rights of citizens, it grows not only unfitted for
other purposes, but dangerous for other purposes. In gaining adaptation
for the essential function of a government, it loses such adaptation
as it had for other functions; not only because its complexity is a
hindrance to administrative action, but also because in discharging
other functions it must be mischievously influenced by class bias. So
long as it is confined to the duty of preventing the aggressions of
individuals on one another, and protecting the nation at large against
external enemies, the wider its basis the better; for all men are
similarly interested in the security of life, property, and freedom to
exercise the faculties. But let it undertake to bring home positive
benefits to citizens, or to interfere with any of the special relations
between class and class, and there necessarily enters an incentive to
injustice. For in no such cases can the immediate interests of all
classes be alike. Therefore do we say that as fast as representation is
extended, the sphere of government must be contracted.

       *       *       *       *       *


POSTSCRIPT.—Since the foregoing pages were written, Lord John Russell
has introduced his Reform Bill; and in {381} application of the
general principles we contend for, a few words may fitly be added
respecting it.

Of the extended county-franchise most will approve, save those whose
illegitimate influence is diminished by it. Adding to the rural
constituencies a class less directly dependent on large landowners,
can scarcely fail to be beneficial. Even should it not at first
perceptibly affect the choice of representatives, it will still be a
good stimulus to political education and to consequent future benefits.
Of the re-distribution of seats little is to be said, further than
that, however far short it may fall of an equitable arrangement, it is
perhaps as much as can at present be obtained.

Whether the right limit for the borough-franchise has been chosen is,
on the other hand, a question that admits of much discussion. Some
hesitation will probably be felt by all who duly weigh the evidence on
both sides. Believing, as we do, that the guidance of abstract equity,
however much it may need qualification, must never be ignored, we
should be glad were it at once practicable more nearly to follow it;
since it is certain that only as fast as the injustice of political
exclusion is brought to an end, will the many political injustices
which grow out of it disappear. Nevertheless, we are convinced that
the forms which freedom requires will not of themselves produce
the reality of freedom, in the absence of an appropriate national
character; any more than the most perfect mechanism will do its work
in the absence of a motive power. There seems reason to think that the
degree of liberty a people is capable of in any given age, is a fixed
quantity; and that any artificial extension of it in one direction
brings about an equivalent limitation in some other direction. French
republics show scarcely any more respect for individual rights than
the despotisms they supplant; and French electors use their freedom
to put themselves again in slavery. In America the feeble restraints
imposed by the {382} State are supplemented by the strong restraints
of a public opinion which, in many respects, holds the citizens in
greater bondage than here. And if there needs a demonstration that
representative equality is an insufficient safeguard for freedom,
we have it in the trades’-unions already referred to; which, purely
democratic as are their organizations, yet exercise over their members
a tyranny almost Neapolitan in its rigour and unscrupulousness. The
greatest attainable amount of individual liberty being the true end;
and the diffusion of political power being regarded mainly as a means
to this end; the real question when considering further extensions of
the franchise, is—whether the average freedom of action of citizens
will be increased?—whether men will be severally freer than before to
pursue the objects of life in their own way? Or, in the present case,
the question is—whether the good which £7, £6, or £5 householders would
do in helping to abolish existing injustices, will be partly or wholly
neutralized by the evil they may do in establishing other injustices?
The desideratum is as large an increase in the electorate as can be
made without enabling the people to carry out their delusive schemes of
over-legislation. Whether the increase proposed is greater or less than
this, is the essential point. Let us briefly consider the evidence on
each side.

As shown by Lord J. Russell’s figures, the new borough-electors
will consist mainly of artizans; and these, as we have seen, are
in great part banded together by a common wish to regulate the
relations of capital and labour. As a class, they are not as Lord J.
Russell describes them, “fitted to exercise the franchise freely and
independently.” On the contrary, there are no men in the community so
shackled. They are the slaves of the authorities they have themselves
set up. The dependence of farmers on landlords, or of operatives on
employers, is much less servile; for they can carry their capital
or labour elsewhere. But {383} the penalty for disobedience to
trades-union dictates, pursues the rebel throughout the kingdom. Hence
the great mass of the new borough-electors must be expected to act
simultaneously, on the word of command being issued from a central
council of united trades. Even while we write we meet with fresh reason
for anticipating this result. An address from the Conference of the
Building Trades to the working classes throughout the kingdom, has
just been published; thanking them for their support; advising the
maintenance of the organization; anticipating future success in their
aims; and intimating the propriety of recommencing the nine-hours’
agitation. We must, then, be prepared to see these industrial questions
made leading questions; for artizans have a much keener interest in
them than in any others. And we may feel certain that many elections
will turn upon them.

How many? There are some thirty boroughs in which the
newly-enfranchised will form an actual majority—will, if they act
together, be able to outvote the existing electors; even supposing
the parties into which they are now divided were to unite. In
half-a-dozen other boroughs the newly-enfranchised will form a virtual
majority—will preponderate unless the present liberal and conservative
voters co-operate with great unanimity, which they will be unlikely
to do. And the number proposed to be added to the constituency, is
one-half or more in nearly fifty other boroughs: that is, in nearly
fifty other boroughs, the new party will be able to arbitrate between
the two existing parties; and will give its support to whichever of
these promises most aid to artizan-schemes. It maybe said that in this
estimate we assume the whole of the new borough-electors to belong to
the artizan-class, which they do not. This is true. But, on the other
hand, it must be remembered that among the £10 householders there is a
very considerable sprinkling of this class, while the freemen chiefly
consist of it; and hence the whole artizan body in each constituency
will probably {384} be not smaller than we have assumed. If so, it
follows that should the trades-union organization be brought to bear
on borough-elections, as it is pretty certain to be, it may prevail in
some eighty or ninety places, and sway the votes of representatives in
from 100 to 150 seats—supposing, that is, that it can obtain as many
eligible candidates.

Meanwhile, the county-constituencies in their proposed state, as much
as in their existing state, not being under trades-union influence,
may be expected to stand in antagonism to the artizan-constituencies;
as may also the small boroughs. It is just possible, indeed, that
irritated by the ever-growing power of a rich mercantile class,
continually treading closer on their heels, the landowners, carrying
with them their dependents, might join the employed in their dictation
to employers; just as, in past times, the nobles joined the commonalty
against the kings, or the kings joined the commonalty against the
nobles. But leaving out this remote contingency, we may fairly expect
the rural constituencies to oppose the large urban ones on these
industrial questions. Thus, then, the point to be decided is, whether
the benefits that will result from this extended suffrage—benefits
which we doubt not will be great—may not be secured while the
accompanying evil tendencies are kept in check. It may be that these
new artizan-electors will be powerful for good, while their power to
work evil will be in a great degree neutralized. But this we should
like to see well discussed.

On one question, however, we feel no hesitation; namely, the question
of a ratepaying-qualification. From Lord John Russell’s answer to Mr.
Bright, and more recently from his answer to Mr. Steel, we gather
that on this point there is to be no alteration—that £6 householders
will stand on the same footing that £10 householders do at present.
Now by the Compound-Householders-Act of 1851, to which we have
already referred, it is provided that tenants of £10 houses whose
rates are paid by their {385} landlords, shall, after having _once_
tendered payment of rates to the authorities, be thereafter considered
as ratepayers, and have votes accordingly. That is to say, the
ratepaying-qualification is made nominal; and that in practice it has
become so, is proved by the fact that under this Act, 4000 electors
were suddenly added to the constituency of Manchester.

The continuance and extension of this arrangement we conceive to be
wholly vicious. Already we have shown that the incidence of taxation
ought to be made more direct as fast as popular power is increased, and
that, as diminishing the elector’s personal experience of the costs of
public administration, this abolition of a ratepaying-qualification
is a retrograde step. But this is by no means the sole ground for
disapproval. The ratepaying-qualification is a valuable test—a test
which tends to separate the more worthy of the working classes from the
less worthy. Nay more, it tends to select for enfranchisement, those
who have the moral and intellectual qualities especially required for
judicious political conduct. For what general mental characteristic
does judicious political conduct presuppose? The power of realizing
remote consequences. People who are misled by demagogues, are those who
are impressed with the proximate results set forth to them but are not
impressed by the distant results, even when these are explained—regard
them as vague, shadowy, theoretical, and are not to be deterred by
them from clutching at a promised boon. Conversely, the wise citizen
is the one who conceives the distant evils so clearly that they are
practically present to him, and thus outweigh the immediate temptation.
Now these are just the respective characteristics of the two classes
of tenants whom a ratepaying-qualification separates:—the one having
their rates paid by their landlords and so losing their votes; the
other paying their own rates that they may get votes:—the one unable to
resist present temptations, unable to save money, {386} and therefore
so inconvenienced by the payment of rates as to be disfranchised rather
than pay them; the other resisting present temptations and saving
money, with the view, among other ends, of paying rates and becoming
electors. Trace these respective traits to their sources, and it
becomes manifest that, on the average, the pecuniarily improvident must
be also the politically improvident; and that the politically provident
must be far more numerous among those who are pecuniarily provident.
Hence, it is folly to throw aside a regulation under which these
spontaneously separate themselves—severally disfranchise themselves and
enfranchise themselves.

{387}



“THE COLLECTIVE WISDOM.”

[_First published in_ The Reader _for April 15, 1865_.]


A test of senatorial capacity is a desideratum. We rarely learn how
near the mark or how wide of the mark the calculations of statesmen
are: the slowness and complexity of social changes, hindering, as
they do, the definite comparisons of results with anticipations.
Occasionally, however, parliamentary decisions admit of being
definitely valued. One which was arrived at a few weeks ago furnished a
measure of legislative judgment too significant to be passed by.

On the edge of the Cotswolds, just above the valley of the Severn,
occur certain springs, which, as they happen to be at the end of the
longest of the hundred streams which join to form the Thames, have been
called by a poetical fiction “the sources of the Thames.” Names, even
when poetical fictions, suggest conclusions; and conclusions drawn from
words instead of facts are equally apt to influence conduct. Thus it
happened that when, recently, there was formed a company for supplying
Cheltenham and some other places from these springs, great opposition
arose. The _Times_ published a paragraph headed “Threatened Absorption
of the Thames,” stating that the application of {388} this company
to Parliament had “caused some little consternation in the city of
Oxford, and will, doubtless, throughout the valley of the Thames;”
and that “such a measure, if carried out, will diminish the water
of that noble river a million of gallons per day.” A million is an
alarming word—suggests something necessarily vast. Translating words
into thoughts, however, would have calmed the fears of the _Times_
paragraphist. Considering that a million gallons would be contained
by a room fifty-six feet cube, the nobility of the Thames would not
be much endangered by the deduction. The simple fact is, that the
current of the Thames, above the point at which the tides influence it,
discharges in twenty-four hours eight hundred times this amount!

When the bill of this proposed water-company was brought before the
House of Commons for second reading, it became manifest that the
imaginations of our rulers were affected by such expressions as the
“sources of the Thames,” and “a million gallons daily,” in much the
same way as the imaginations of the ignorant. Though the quantity of
water proposed to be taken bears, to the quantity which runs over
Teddington weir, about the same ratio that a yard bears to half a
mile, it was thought by many members that its loss would be a serious
evil. No method of measurement would be accurate enough to detect the
difference between the Thames as it now is, and the Thames _minus_ the
Cerney springs; and yet it was gravely stated in the House that, were
the Thames diminished in the proposed way, “the proportion of sewage to
pure water would be seriously increased.” Taking a minute out of twelve
hours, would be taking as large a proportion as the Cheltenham people
wish to take from the Thames. Nevertheless, it was contended that to
let Cheltenham have this quantity would be “to rob the towns along the
banks of the Thames of their rights,” Though, of the Thames flowing by
each of these towns, some 999 parts out of 1,000 pass by unused, it was
held {389} that a great injustice would be committed were one or two
of these 999 parts appropriated by the inhabitants of a town who can
now obtain daily but four gallons of foul water per head!

But the apparent inability thus shown to think of causes and effects
in something like their true quantitative relations, was still more
conspicuously shown. It was stated by several members that the Thames
Navigation Commissioners would have opposed the bill if the commission
had not been bankrupt; and this hypothetical opposition appeared to
have weight. If we may trust the reports, the House of Commons listened
with gravity to the assertion of one of its members, that, if the
Cerney springs were diverted, “shoals and flats would be created.” Not
a laugh nor a cry of “Oh! oh,” appears to have been produced by the
prophecy, that the volume and scouring power of the Thames would be
seriously affected by taking away from it twelve gallons per second!
The whole quantity which these springs supply would be delivered by a
current moving through a pipe one foot in diameter at the rate of less
than two miles per hour. Yet, when it was said that the navigability
of the Thames would be injuriously affected by this deduction, there
were no shouts of derision. On the contrary, the House rejected the
Cheltenham Water Bill by a majority of one hundred and eighteen to
eighty-eight. It is true that the data were not presented in the
above shape. But the remarkable fact is that, even in the absence of
a specific comparison, it should not have been at once seen that the
water of springs which drain but a few square miles at most, can be
but an inappreciable part of the water which runs out of the Thames
basin, extending over several thousand square miles. In itself, this is
a matter of small moment. It interests us here simply as an example of
legislative judgment. The decision is one of those small holes through
which a wide prospect may be seen, and a disheartening prospect it
is. In a very simple case there {390} is here displayed a scarcely
credible inability to see how much effect will follow so much cause;
and yet the business of the assembly exhibiting this inability is that
of dealing with causes and effects of an extremely involved kind. All
the processes going on in society arise from the concurrences and
conflicts of human actions, which are determined in their nature and
amounts by the human constitution as it now is—are as much results of
natural causation as any other results, and equally imply definite
quantitative relations between causes and effects. Every legislative
act presupposes a diagnosis and a prognosis; both of them involving
estimations of social forces and the work done by them. Before it can
be remedied, an evil must be traced to its source in the motives and
ideas of men as they are, living under the social conditions which
exist—a problem requiring that the actions tending toward the result
shall be identified, and that there shall be something like a true idea
of the quantities of their effects as well as the qualities. A further
estimation has then to be made of the kinds and degrees of influence
that will be exerted by the additional factors which the proposed
law will set in motion: what will be the resultants produced by the
new forces coöperating with preëxisting forces—a problem still more
complicated than the other.

We are quite prepared to hear the unhesitating reply, that men
incapable of forming an approximately true judgment on a matter of
simple physical causation may yet be very good law-makers. So obvious
will this be thought by most, that a tacit implication to the contrary
will seem to them absurd; and that it will seem to them absurd is one
of the many indications of the profound ignorance that prevails. It
is true that mere empirical generalizations which men draw from their
dealings with their fellows suffice to give them some ideas of the
proximate effects which new enactments will work; and, seeing these,
they think they see as far as needful. Discipline in physical {391}
science, however, would help to show them the futility of calculating
consequences based on such simple data. And if there needs proof that
calculations of consequences so based are futile, we have it in the
enormous labour annually entailed on the Legislature in trying to undo
the mischiefs it has previously done.

Should any say that it is useless to dwell on this incompetency, seeing
that the House of Commons contains the select of the nation, than whose
judgments no better are to be had, we reply that there may be drawn
two inferences which have important practical bearings. In the first
place, we are shown how completely the boasted intellectual discipline
of our upper classes fails to give them the power of following out in
thought, with any correctness, the sequences of even simple phenomena,
much less those of complex phenomena. And, in the second place, we may
draw the corollary, that if the sequences of those complex phenomena
which societies display, difficult beyond all others to trace out,
are so unlikely to be understood by them, they may advantageously be
restricted in their interferences with such sequences.

In one direction, especially, shall we see reason to resist the
extension of legislative action. There has of late been urged the
proposal that the class contemptuously described as dividing its
energies between business and bethels shall have its education
regulated by the class which might, with equal justice, be described
as dividing its energies between club-rooms and game preserves. This
scheme does not seem to us a hopeful one. Considering that during the
last half century our society has been remoulded by ideas that have
come from the proposed pupil, and have had to overcome the dogged
resistance of the proposed teacher, the propriety of the arrangement
is not obvious. And if the propriety of the arrangement is not
obvious on the face of it, still less obvious does it become when the
competency of {392} the proposed teacher comes to be measured. British
intelligence, as distilled through the universities and re-distilled
into the House of Commons, is a product admitting of such great
improvement in quality, that we should be sorry to see the present
method of manufacture extended and permanently established.

{393}



POLITICAL FETICHISM.

[_First published in_ The Reader _for June 10, 1865_.]


A Hindoo, who, before beginning his day’s work, salaams to a bit of
plastic clay, out of which, in a few moments, he has extemporized a god
in his own image, is an object of amazement to the European. We read
with surprise bordering on scepticism of worship done by machinery, and
of prayers which owe their supposed efficacy to the motion given by the
wind to the papers they are written on. When told how certain of the
Orientals, if displeased with their wooden deities, take them down and
beat them, men laugh and wonder.

Why should men wonder? Kindred superstitions are exhibited by their
fellows every day—superstitions that are, indeed, not so gross, but
are intrinsically of the same nature. There is an idolatry which,
instead of carving the object of its worship out of dead matter, takes
humanity for its raw material, and expects, by moulding a mass of this
humanity into a particular form, to give it powers or properties quite
different from those it had before it was moulded. In the one case as
in the other, the raw material is, as much as may be, disguised. There
are decorative appliances by which the savage helps himself to think
that he has something more than wood before him; and the {394} citizen
gives to the political agencies he has helped to create, such imposing
externals and distinctive names expressive of power, as serve to
strengthen his belief in the benefits prayed for. Some faint reflection
of that “divinity” which “doth hedge a king” spreads down through every
state department to the lowest ranks; so that, in the eyes of the
people, even the policeman puts on along with his uniform a certain
indefinable power. Nay, the mere dead symbols of authority excite
reverence in spite of better knowledge. A legal form of words seems to
have something especially binding in it; and there is a preternatural
efficiency about a government stamp.

The parallelism is still more conspicuous between the persistency of
faith in the two cases, notwithstanding perpetual disappointments. It
is difficult to perceive how graven images, that have been thrashed
for not responding to their worshipper’s desires, should still be
reverenced and petitioned; but the difficulty of conceiving this is
diminished when we remember how, in their turns, all the idols in
our political pantheon undergo castigations for failing to do what
was expected of them, and are nevertheless daily looked up to in the
trustful hope that future prayers will be answered. The stupidity,
the slowness, the perversity, the dishonesty of officialism, in one
or other of its embodiments, are demonstrated afresh in almost every
newspaper that issues. Probably half the leading articles written have
for texts some absurd official blunder, some exasperating official
delay, some astounding official corruption, some gross official
injustice, some incredible official extravagance. And yet these
whippings, in which balked expectation continually vents itself, are
immediately followed by renewed faith: the benefits that have not
come are still hoped for, and prayers for others are put up. Along
with proof that the old State-machines are in themselves inert, and
owe such powers as they seem to have to the public opinion which
sets their parts in motion, there are continually proposed {395}
new State-machines of the same type as the old. This inexhaustible
credulity is counted on by men of the widest political experience.
Lord Palmerston, who probably knows his public better than any other
man, lately said, in reply to a charge made in the House—“I am quite
convinced that no person belonging to the government, in whatever
department he may be, high or low, would be guilty of any breach of
faith in regard to any matter confided to him.” To assert as much in
the face of facts continually disclosed, implies that Lord Palmerston
knows well that men’s faith in officialism survives all adverse
evidence.

In which case are the hopes from State-agency realized? One might
have thought that the vital interests at stake would have kept the
all-essential apparatus for administering justice up to its work; but
they do not. On the one hand, here is a man wrongly convicted, and
afterward proved to be innocent, who is “pardoned” for an offence
he did not commit; and has this as consolation for his unmerited
suffering. On the other hand, here is a man whose grave delinquencies
a Lord Chancellor overlooks, on partial restitution being made—nay,
more, countenances the granting of a pension to him. Proved guilt is
rewarded, while proved innocence is left without compensation for
pains borne and fortunes blasted! This marvellous antithesis, if not
often fully paralleled in the doings of officialism as administrator
of justice, is, in endless cases, paralleled in part. The fact that
imprisonment is the sentence on a boy for stealing a pennyworth of
fruit, while thousands of pounds may be transferred from a public
into a private purse without any positive punishment being adjudged,
is an anomaly kept in countenance by numerous other judicial acts.
Theoretically, the State is a protector of the rights of subjects;
practically, the State continually plays the part of aggressor. Though
it is a recognized principle of equity that he who makes a false charge
shall pay the costs of the {396} defence, yet, until quite recently,
the Crown has persisted in refusing to pay the costs of citizens
against whom it has brought false charges. Nay, worse, deliberate
attempts used to be made to establish charges by corrupt means. Within
the memory of those now living, the Crown, in excise-prosecutions,
bribed juries. When the verdict was for the Crown, the custom was to
give double fees; and the practice was not put an end to until the
counsel for a defendant announced in open court that the jury should
have double fees if their verdict was for his client!

Not alone in the superior parts of our judicial apparatus is this
ill-working of officialism so thrust on men’s notice as to have
become proverbial; not alone in the life-long delays and ruinous
expenses which have made Chancery a word of dread; not alone in the
extravagances of bankruptcy courts, which lead creditors carefully to
shun them; not alone in that uncertainty which makes men submit to
gross injustice rather than risk the still grosser injustice which
the law will, as likely as not, inflict on them; but down through the
lower divisions of the judicial apparatus are all kinds of failures
and absurdities daily displayed. If may be fairly urged in mitigation
of the sarcasms current respecting the police, that among so many men
cases of misconduct and inefficiency must be frequent; but we might
have expected the orders under which they act to be just and well
considered. Very little inquiry shows that they are not. There is a
story current that, in the accounts of an Irish official, a small
charge for a telegram which an emergency had called for, was objected
to at the head office in London, and, after a long correspondence,
finally allowed, but with the understanding that in future no such
item would be passed, unless the department in London had authorized
it! We cannot vouch for this story, but we can vouch for one which
gives credibility to it. A friend who had been robbed by his cook
went to the police-office, detailed the case, gave good reasons for
inferring the direction of her {397} flight, and requested the police
to telegraph, that she might be intercepted. He was told, however,
that they could not do this without authority; and this authority was
not to be had without a long delay. The result was that the thief, who
had gone to the place supposed, escaped, and has not since been heard
of. Take another function assumed by the police—the regulation of
traffic. Daily, all through London, ten thousand fast-going vehicles,
with hard-pressed men of business in them, are stopped by a sprinkle
of slow-going carts and wagons. Greater speed in these comparatively
few carts and wagons, or limitation of them to early and late hours,
would immensely diminish the evil. But, instead of dealing with these
really great hinderances to traffic, the police deal with that which
is practically no hindrance. Men with advertisement-boards were lately
forbidden to walk about, on the groundless plea that they are in the
way; and incapables, prevented thus from getting a shilling a day,
were driven into the ranks of paupers and thieves. Worse cases may be
observed. For years past there has been a feud between the police and
the orange-girls, who are chased hither and thither because they are
said to be obstructions to foot-passengers. Meanwhile, in some of the
chief thoroughfares, may constantly be seen men standing with toys,
which they delude children and their parents into buying by pretending
that the toys make certain sounds which they themselves make; and when
the police, quietly watching this obtainment of money under false
pretences, are asked why they do not interfere, they reply that they
have no orders. Admirable contrast! Trade dishonestly, and you may
collect a small crowd on the pavement without complaint being made that
you interrupt the traffic. Trade honestly, and you shall be driven from
the pavement-edge as an impediment—shall be driven to dishonesty!

One might have thought that the notorious inefficiency of officialism
as a protector against injustice would have {398} made men sceptical
of its efficiency in other things. If here, where citizens have such
intense interests in getting a function well discharged, they have
failed through all these centuries in getting it well discharged—if
this agency, which is in theory the guardian of each citizen, is
in so many cases his enemy, that going to law is suggestive of
impoverishment and possible ruin; it might have been supposed that
officialism would scarcely be expected to work well where the interests
at stake are less intense. But so strong is political fetichism, that
neither these experiences, nor the parallel experiences which every
state-department affords, diminish men’s faith. For years past there
has been thrust before them the fact that, of the funds of Greenwich
Hospital, one-third goes to maintain the sailors, while two-thirds go
in administration; but this and other such facts do not stop their
advocacy of more public administrations. The parable of straining
at gnats and swallowing camels they see absolutely paralleled by
officialism, in the red-tape particularity with which all minute
regulations are enforced, and the astounding carelessness with which
the accounts of a whole department, like the Patent Office, are
left utterly uncontrolled; and yet we continue to hear men propose
government-audits as checks for mercantile companies! No diminution
of confidence seems to result from disclosure of stupidities which
even a wild imagination would scarcely have thought possible: instance
the method of promotion lately made public, under which a clerk in
one branch of a department takes the higher duties of some deceased
superior clerk, without any rise of salary, while some clerk in another
branch of the department gets the rise of salary without any increase
in his responsibilities!

Endless as are these evils and absurdities, and surviving generation
after generation as they do, spite of commissions and reports and
debates, there is an annual crop of new schemes for government agencies
which are expected {399} to work just as legislators propose they
shall work. With a system of army-promotion which insures an organized
incompetence, but which survives perpetual protests; with a notoriously
ill-constituted admiralty, of which the doings are stock-subjects of
ridicule; with a church that maintains effete formulas, notwithstanding
almost universal repudiation of them; there are daily demands for
more law-established appliances. With building acts under which
arise houses less stable than those of the last generation; with
coal-mine inspection that does not prevent coal-mine explosions; with
railway inspection that has for its accompaniment plenty of railway
accidents—with these and other such failures continually displayed,
there still prevails what M. Guizot rightly calls that “gross delusion,
a belief in the sovereign power of political machinery.”

A great service would be done by any man who would analyze the
legislation, say of the last half century, and compare the expected
results of Acts of Parliament with their proved results. He might make
it an instructive revelation by simply taking all the preambles, and
observing how many of the evils to be rectified were evils produced by
preceding enactments. His chief difficulty would be that of getting
within any moderate compass the immense number of cases in which the
benefits anticipated were not achieved, while unanticipated disasters
were caused. And then he might effectively close his digest by showing
what immense advantages have, in instance after instance, followed
the entire cessation of legislative action. Not, indeed, that such an
accumulation of cases, however multitudinous and however conclusive,
would have an appreciable effect on the average mind. Political
fetichism will continue so long as men remain without scientific
discipline—so long as they recognize only proximate causes, and never
think of the remoter and more general causes by which their special
agencies are set in motion. Until the thing which now usurps the name
of education {400} has been dethroned by a true education, having
for its end to teach men the nature of the world they live in, new
political delusions will grow up as fast as old ones are extinguished.
But there is a select class existing, and a larger select class
arising, on whom a work of the kind described would have an effect, and
for whom it would be well worth while to write it.

{401}



SPECIALIZED ADMINISTRATION.

[_First published in_ The Fortnightly Review _for December 1871_.]


It is contrary to common-sense that fish should be more difficult to
get at the sea-side than in London; but it is true, nevertheless. No
less contrary to common-sense seems the truth that though, in the
West Highlands, oxen are to be seen everywhere, no beef can be had
without sending two or three hundred miles to Glasgow for it. Rulers
who, guided by common-sense, tried to suppress certain opinions
by forbidding the books containing them, never dreamed that their
interdicts would cause the diffusion of these opinions; and rulers who,
guided by common-sense, forbade excessive rates of interest, never
dreamed that they were thereby making the terms harder for borrowers
than before. When printing replaced copying, any one who had prophesied
that the number of persons engaged in the manufacture of books would
immensely increase, as a consequence, would have been thought wholly
devoid of common-sense. And equally devoid of common-sense would have
been thought any one who, when railways were displacing coaches,
said that the number of horses employed in bringing passengers and
goods to and from railways, would be greater than the number directly
displaced by railways. Such cases might {402} be multiplied. Whoso
remembers that, among quite simple phenomena, causes produce effects
which are sometimes utterly at variance with anticipation, will see how
frequently this must happen among complex phenomena. That a balloon
is made to rise by the same force which makes a stone fall; that
the melting of ice may be greatly retarded by wrapping the ice in a
blanket; that the simplest way of setting potassium on fire is to throw
it into the water; are truths which those who know only the outside
aspect of things would regard as manifest falsehoods. And, if, when the
factors are few and simple, the results may be so absolutely opposed
to seeming probability, much more will they be often thus opposed when
the factors are many and involved. The saying of the French respecting
political events, that “it is always the unexpected which happens”—a
saying which they have been abundantly re-illustrating of late—is
one which legislators, and those who urge on schemes of legislation,
should have ever in mind. Let us pause a moment to contemplate a
seemingly-impossible set of results which social forces have wrought
out.

Up to quite recent days, Language was held to be of supernatural
origin. That this elaborate apparatus of symbols, so marvellously
adapted for the conveyance of thought from mind to mind, was a
miraculous gift, seemed unquestionable. No possible alternative way
could be thought of by which there had come into existence these
multitudinous assemblages of words of various orders, genera, and
species, moulded into fitness for articulating with one another,
and capable of being united from moment to moment into ever-new
combinations, which represent with precision each idea as it arises.
The supposition that, in the slow progress of things, Language grew
out of the continuous use of signs—at first mainly mimetic, afterward
partly mimetic, partly vocal, and at length almost wholly vocal—was an
hypothesis never even conceived by men in early stages of civilization;
and when {403} the hypothesis was at length conceived, it was thought
too monstrous an absurdity to be even entertained. Yet this monstrous
absurdity proves to be true. Already the evolution of Language has
been traced back far enough to show that all its particular words,
and all its leading traits of structure, have had a natural genesis;
and day by day investigation makes it more manifest that its genesis
has been natural from the beginning. Not only has it been natural
from the beginning, but it has been spontaneous. No language is a
cunningly-devised scheme of a ruler or body of legislators. There
was no council of savages to invent the parts of speech, and decide
on what principles they should be used. Nay, more. Going on without
any authority or appointed regulation, this natural process went on
without any man observing that it was going on. Solely under pressure
of the need for communicating their ideas and feelings—solely in
pursuit of their personal interests—men little by little developed
speech in absolute unconsciousness that they were doing any thing more
than pursuing their personal interests. Even now the unconsciousness
continues. Take the whole population of the globe, and there is
probably not above one in a million who knows that in his daily talk he
is carrying on the process by which Language has been evolved.

I commence thus by way of giving the key-note to the argument which
follows. My general purpose, in dwelling a moment on this illustration,
has been that of showing how utterly beyond the conceptions of
common-sense, literally so called, and even beyond the conceptions
of cultivated common-sense, are the workings-out of sociological
processes—how these workings-out are such that even those who have
carried to the uttermost “the scientific use of the imagination,” would
never have anticipated them. And my more special purpose has been
that of showing how marvellous are the results indirectly and {404}
unintentionally achieved by the coöperation of men who are severally
pursuing their private ends. Let me pass now to the particular topic to
be here dealt with.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have greatly regretted to see Prof. Huxley strengthening, by his
deservedly high authority, a school of politicians which can scarcely
be held to need strengthening: its opponents being so few. I regret it
the more because, thus far, men prepared for the study of Sociology by
previous studies of Biology and Psychology, have scarcely expressed
any opinions on the question at issue; and that Prof. Huxley, who by
both general and special culture is so eminently fitted to judge,
should have come to the conclusions set forth in the last number of the
_Fortnightly Review_, will be discouraging to the small number who have
reached opposite conclusions. Greatly regretting however, though I do,
this avowed antagonism of Prof. Huxley to a general political doctrine
with which I am identified, I do not propose to make any reply to his
arguments at large: being deterred partly by reluctance to dwell on
points of difference with one whom I so greatly admire, and partly by
the consciousness that what I should say would be mainly a repetition
of what I have explicitly or implicitly said elsewhere. But with one
point raised I feel obliged to deal. Prof. Huxley tacitly puts to me a
question. By so doing he leaves me to choose between two alternatives,
neither of which is agreeable to me. I must either, by leaving it
unanswered, accept the implication that it is unanswerable, and the
doctrine I hold untenable; or else I must give it an adequate answer.
Little as I like it, I see that the latter of these alternatives is
that which, on public as well as on personal grounds, I must accept.

Had I been allowed to elaborate more fully the Review-article from
which Prof. Huxley quotes, this question would possibly not have been
raised. That article closes {405} with the following words:—“We
had hoped to say something respecting the different types of social
organization, and something also on social metamorphoses; but we
have reached our assigned limits.” These further developments of the
conception—developments to be hereafter set forth in the _Principles of
Sociology_—I must here sketch in outline before my answer can be made
intelligible. In sketching them, I must say much that would be needless
were my answer addressed to Prof. Huxley only. Bare allusions to
general phenomena of organization, with which he is immeasurably more
familiar than I am, would suffice. But, as the sufficiency of my answer
has to be judged by the general reader, the general reader must be
supplied with the requisite data: my presentation of them being under
correction from Prof. Huxley if it is inaccurate.

       *       *       *       *       *

The primary differentiation in organic structures, manifested alike
in the history of each organism and in the history of the organic
world as a whole, is the differentiation between outer and inner
parts—the parts which hold direct converse with the environment and
the parts which do not hold direct converse with the environment. We
see this alike in those smallest and lowest forms improperly, though
suggestively, sometimes called unicellular, and also in the next higher
division of creatures which, with considerable reason, are regarded as
aggregations of the lower. In these creatures the body is divisible
into endoderm and ectoderm, differing very little in their characters,
but serving the one to form the digestive sac, and the other to form
the outer wall of the body. As Prof. Huxley describes them in his
_Oceanic Hydrozoa_, these layers represent respectively the organs of
nutrition and the organs of external relation—generally, though not
universally; for there are exceptions, especially among parasites. In
the embryos of higher types, these two layers severally become double
by the splitting of a layer formed between {406} them; and from the
outer double layer is developed the body-wall with its limbs, nervous
system, senses, muscles, etc.; while from the inner double layer there
arise the alimentary canal and its appendages, together with the heart
and lungs. Though in such higher types these two systems of organs,
which respectively absorb nutriment and expend nutriment, become so
far connected by ramifying blood-vessels and nerves that this division
cannot be sharply made, still the broad contrast remains. At the very
outset, then, there arises this separation, which implies at once a
coöperation and an antagonism—a co-operation, because, while the outer
organs secure for the inner organs the crude food, the inner organs
elaborate and supply to the outer organs the prepared materials by
which they are enable to do their work; and an antagonism, because
each set of organs, living and growing at the cost of these prepared
materials, cannot appropriate any portion of the total supply without
diminishing by so much the supply available for the other. This general
coöperation and general antagonism becomes complicated with special
coöperations and special antagonisms, as fast as these two great
systems of organs develop. The originally simple alimentary canal,
differentiating into many parts, becomes a congeries of structures
which, by coöperation, fulfil better their general function, but
between which there nevertheless arise antagonisms; since each has to
make good its waste and to get matter for growth, at the cost of the
general supply of nutriment available for them all. Similarly, as fast
as the outer system develops into special senses and limbs, there arise
among these, also, secondary coöperations and secondary antagonisms. By
their variously-combined actions, food is obtained more effectually;
and yet the activity of each set of muscles, or each directive nervous
structure, entails a draft upon the stock of prepared nutriment which
the outer organs receive, and is by so much at the cost of the rest.
Thus the method of {407} organization, both in general and in detail,
is a simultaneous combination and opposition. All the organs unite in
subserving the interests of the organism they form; and yet they have
all their special interests, and compete with one another for blood.

A form of government, or control, or coördination, develops as fast
as these systems of organs develop. Eventually this becomes double.
A general distinction arises between the two controlling systems
belonging to the two great systems of organs. Whether the inner
controlling system is or is not originally derived from the outer,
matters not to the argument—when developed it is in great measure
independent.[37] If we contemplate their respective sets of functions,
we shall perceive the origin of this distinction. That the outer organs
may coöperate effectively for the purposes of catching prey, escaping
danger, etc., it is needful that they should be under a government
capable of directing their combined actions, now in this way and
now in that, according as outer circumstances vary. From instant to
instant there must be quick adjustments to occasions that are more or
less new; and hence there requires a complex and centralized nervous
apparatus, to which all these organs are promptly and completely
obedient. The government needful for the {408} inner system of organs
is a different and much simpler one. When the food obtained by the
outer organs has been put into the stomach, the coöperation required
of the viscera, though it varies somewhat as the quantity or kind of
food varies, has nevertheless a general uniformity; and it is required
to go on in much the same way whatever the outer circumstances may
be. In each case the food has to be reduced to a pulp, supplied with
various solvent secretions, propelled onward, and its nutritive part
taken up by absorbent surfaces. That these processes may be effective,
the organs which carry them on must be supplied with fit blood; and to
this end the heart and the lungs have to act with greater vigor. This
visceral coöperation, carried on with this comparative uniformity, is
regulated by a nervous system which is to a large extent independent
of that higher and more complex nervous system controlling the
external organs. The act of swallowing is, indeed, mainly effected by
the higher nervous system; but, being swallowed, the food affects by
its presence the local nerves, through them the local ganglia, and
indirectly, through nervous connexions with other ganglia, excites the
rest of the viscera into coöperative activity. It is true that the
functions of the sympathetic or ganglionic nervous system, or “nervous
system of organic life,” as it is otherwise called, are imperfectly
understood. But, since we know positively that some of its plexuses,
as the cardiac, are centres of local stimulation and coördination,
which can act independently, though they are influenced by higher
centres, it is fairly to be inferred that the other and still larger
plexuses, distributed among the viscera, are also such local and
largely independent centres; especially as the nerves they send into
the viscera, to join the many subordinate ganglia distributed through
them, greatly exceed in quantity the cerebro-spinal fibres accompanying
them. Indeed, to suppose otherwise is to leave unanswered the
question—What are their functions? as well as the {409} question—How
are these unconscious visceral coördinations effected? There remains
only to observe the kind of co-operation which exists between the two
nervous systems. This is both a general and a special coöperation.
The general coöperation is that by which either system of organs is
enabled to stimulate the other to action. The alimentary canal yields
through certain nervous connexions the sensation of hunger to the
higher nervous system; and so prompts efforts for procuring food.
Conversely, the activity of the nervo-muscular system, or, at least,
its normal activity, sends inward to the cardiac and other plexuses
a gush of stimulus which excites the viscera to action. The special
coöperation is one by which it would seem that each system puts an
indirect restraint on the other. Fibres from the sympathetic accompany
every artery throughout the organs of external relation, and exercise
on the artery a constrictive action; and the converse is done by
certain of the cerebro-spinal fibres which ramify with the sympathetic
throughout the viscera: through the vagus and other nerves, an
inhibitory influence is exercised on the heart, intestines, pancreas,
etc. Leaving doubtful details, however, the fact which concerns us here
is sufficiently manifest. There are, for these two systems of organs,
two nervous systems, in great measure independent; and, if it is true
that the higher system influences the lower, it is no less true that
the lower very powerfully influences the higher. The restrictive action
of the sympathetic upon the circulation, throughout the nervo-muscular
system, is unquestionable; and it is possibly through this that,
when the viscera have much work to do, the nervo-muscular system is
incapacitated in so marked a manner.[38]

 [37] Here, and throughout the discussion, I refer to these controlling
 systems only as they exist in the _Vertebrata_, because their
 relations are far better known in this great division of the animal
 kingdom—not because like relations do not exist elsewhere. Indeed,
 in the great sub-kingdom _Annulosa_, these controlling systems have
 relations that are extremely significant to us here. For while an
 inferior annulose animal has only a single set of nervous structures,
 a superior annulose animal (as a moth) has a set of nervous structures
 presiding over the viscera, as well as a more conspicuous set
 presiding over the organs of external relation. And this contrast is
 analogous to one of the contrasts between undeveloped and developed
 societies; for, while among the uncivilized and incipiently civilized
 there is but a single set of directive agencies, there are among the
 fully civilized, as we shall presently see, two sets of directive
 agencies, for the outer and inner structures respectively.

 [38] To meet the probable objection that the experiments of Bernard,
 Ludwig, and others, show that in the case of certain glands the
 nerves of the cerebro-spinal system are those which set up the
 secreting process, I would remark that in these cases, and in many
 others where the relative functions of the cerebro-spinal nerves
 and the sympathetic nerves have been studied, the organs have been
 those in which _sensation_ is either the stimulus to activity or its
 accompaniment; and that from these cases no conclusion can be drawn
 applying to the cases of those viscera which normally perform their
 functions without sensation. Perhaps it may even be that the functions
 of those sympathetic fibres which accompany the arteries of the outer
 organs are simply ancillary to those of the central parts of the
 sympathetic system, which stimulate and regulate the viscera—ancillary
 in this sense, that they check the diffusion of blood in external
 organs when it is wanted in internal organs: cerebro-spinal inhibition
 (except in its action on the heart) working the opposite way. And
 possibly this is the instrumentality for carrying on that competition
 for nutriment which, as we saw, arises at the very outset between
 these two great systems of organs.

The one further fact here concerning us is the contrast {410}
presented in different kinds of animals, between the degrees of
development of these two great sets of structures that carry on
respectively the outer functions and the inner functions. There are
active creatures in which the locomotive organs, the organs of sense,
together with the nervous apparatus which combines their actions, bear
a large ratio to the organs of alimentation and their appendages; while
there are inactive creatures in which these organs of external relation
bear a very small ratio to the organs of alimentation. And a remarkable
fact, here especially instructive to us, is that very frequently there
occurs a metamorphosis, which has for its leading trait a great change
in the ratio of these two systems—a metamorphosis which accompanies a
great change in the mode of life. The most familiar metamorphosis is
variously illustrated among insects. During the early or larval stage
of a butterfly, the organs of alimentation are largely developed,
while the organs of external relation are but little developed; and
then, during a period of quiescence, the organs of external relation
undergo an immense development, making possible the creature’s active
and varied adjustments to the surrounding world, while the alimentary
system becomes relatively small. On the other hand, among the lower
invertebrate animals there is a very common metamorphosis of an
opposite kind. When young, the creature, with scarcely any alimentary
system, but supplied {411} with limbs and sense organs, swims about
actively. Presently it settles in a _habitat_ where food is to be
obtained without moving about, loses in great part its organs of
external relation, develops its visceral system, and, as it grows,
assumes a nature utterly unlike that which it originally had—a nature
adapted almost exclusively to alimentation and the propagation of the
species.

       *       *       *       *       *

Let us turn now to the social organism, and the analogies of structure
and function which may be traced in it. Of course these analogies
between the phenomena presented in a physically coherent aggregate
forming an individual, and the phenomena presented in a physically
incoherent aggregate of individuals distributed over a wide area,
cannot be analogies of a visible or sensible kind; but can only be
analogies between the systems, or methods, of organization. Such
analogies as exist result from the one unquestionable community
between the two organizations: _there is in both a mutual dependence
of parts_. This is the origin of all organization; and determines what
similarities there are between an individual organism and a social
organism. Of course the similarities thus determined are accompanied
by transcendent differences, determined, as above said, by the
unlikenesses of the aggregates. One cardinal difference is that, while
in the individual organism there is but one centre of consciousness
capable of pleasure or pain, there are, in the social organism, as many
such centres as there are individuals, and the aggregate of them has no
consciousness of pleasure or pain—a difference which entirely changes
the ends to be pursued. Bearing in mind this qualification, let us now
glance at the parallelisms indicated.

A society, like an individual, has a set of structures fitting it to
act upon its environment—appliances for attack and defence, armies,
navies, fortified and garrisoned places. At the same time, a society
has an industrial organization {412} which carries on all those
processes that make possible the national life. Though these two sets
of organs for external activity and internal activity do not bear to
one another just the same relation which the outer and inner organs
of an animal do (since the industrial structures in a society supply
themselves with raw materials, instead of being supplied by the
external organs), yet they bear a relation otherwise similar. There is
at once a coöperation and an antagonism. By the help of the defensive
system the industrial system is enabled to carry on its functions
without injury from foreign enemies; and by the help of the industrial
system, which supplies it with food and materials, the defensive
system is enabled to maintain this security. At the same time the two
systems are opposed in so far that they both depend for their existence
upon the common stock of produce. Further, in the social organism, as
in the individual organism, this primary coöperation and antagonism
subdivides into secondary coöperations and antagonisms. If we look at
the industrial organization, we see that its agricultural part and its
manufacturing part aid one another by the exchange of their products,
and are yet otherwise opposed to one another; since each takes of the
other’s products the most it can get in return for its own products.
Similarly throughout the manufacturing system itself. Of the total
returns secured by Manchester for its goods, Liverpool obtains as much
as possible for the raw material, and Manchester gives as little as
possible—the two at the same time coöperating in secreting for the
rest of the community the woven fabrics it requires, and in jointly
obtaining from the rest of the community the largest payment in other
commodities. And thus it is in all kinds of direct and indirect ways
throughout the industrial structures. Men prompted by their own needs
as well as those of their children, and bodies of such men more or
less aggregated, are quick to find every unsatisfied need of their
fellow-men, and to {413} satisfy it in return for the satisfaction of
their own needs; and the working of this process is inevitably such
that the strongest need, ready to pay the most for satisfaction, is
that which draws most workers to satisfy it, so that there is thus a
perpetual balancing of the needs and of the appliances which subserve
them.

This brings us to the regulative structures under which these two
systems of coöperating parts work. As in the individual organism, so
in the social organism, the outer parts are under a rigorous central
control. For adjustment to the varying and incalculable changes in the
environment, the external organs, offensive and defensive, must be
capable of prompt combination; and that their actions may be quickly
combined to meet each exigency as it arises, they must be completely
subordinated to a supreme executive power: armies and navies must be
despotically controlled. Quite otherwise is it with the regulative
apparatus required for the industrial system. This, which carries on
the nutrition of a society, as the visceral system carries on the
nutrition of an individual, has a regulative apparatus in great measure
distinct from that which regulates the external organs. It is not by
any “order in council” that farmers are determined to grow so much
wheat and so much barley, or to divide their land in due proportion
between arable and pasture. There requires no telegram from the Home
Office to alter the production of woollens in Leeds, so that it may
be properly adjusted to the stocks on hand and the forthcoming crop
of wool. Staffordshire produces its due quantity of pottery, and
Sheffield sends out cutlery with rapidity adjusted to the consumption,
without any legislative stimulus or restraint. The spurs and checks
to production which manufacturers and manufacturing centres receive,
have quite another origin. Partly by direct orders from distributors
and partly by the indirect indications furnished by the market reports
throughout the kingdom, they are prompted to {414} secrete actively
or to diminish their rates of secretion. The regulative apparatus by
which these industrial organs are made to coöperate harmoniously, acts
somewhat as the sympathetic does in a vertebrate animal. There is a
system of communications among the great producing and distributing
centres, which excites or retards as the circumstances vary. From
hour to hour messages pass between all the chief provincial towns,
as well as between each of them and London; from hour to hour prices
are adjusted, supplies are ordered hither or thither, and capital is
drafted from place to place, according as there is greater or less need
for it. All this goes on without any ministerial overseeing—without
any dictation from those executive centres which combine the actions
of the outer organs. There is, however, one all-essential influence
which these higher centres exercise over the industrial activities—a
restraining influence which prevents aggression, direct and indirect.
The condition under which only these producing and distributing
processes can go on healthfully, is that, wherever there is work
and waste, there shall be a proportionate supply of materials for
repair. And securing this is nothing less than securing fulfilment of
contracts. Just in the same way that a bodily organ which performs
function, but is not adequately paid in blood, must dwindle, and
the organism as a whole eventually suffer; so an industrial centre
which has made and sent out its special commodity, but does not get
adequately paid in other commodities, must decay. And when we ask what
is requisite to prevent this local innutrition and decay, we find
the requisite to be that agreements shall be carried out; that goods
shall be paid for at the stipulated prices; that justice shall be
administered.

One further leading parallelism must be described—that between the
metamorphoses which occur in the two cases. These metamorphoses are
analogous in so far that {415} they are changes in the ratios of the
inner and outer systems of organs; and also in so far as they take
place under analogous conditions. At the one extreme we have that
small and simple type of society which a wandering horde of savages
presents. This is a type almost wholly predatory in its organization.
It consists of little else than a coöperative structure for carrying
on warfare—the industrial part is almost absent, being represented
only by the women. When the wandering tribe becomes a settled tribe,
an industrial organization begins to show itself—especially where, by
conquest, there has been obtained a slave-class that may be forced
to labour. The predatory structure, however, still for a long time
predominates. Omitting the slaves and the women, the whole body
politic consists of parts organized for offence and defence, and
is efficient in proportion as the control of them is centralized.
Communities of this kind, continuing to subjugate their neighbours,
and developing an organization of some complexity, nevertheless retain
a mainly-predatory type, with just such industrial structures as are
needful for supporting the offensive and defensive structures. Of this
Sparta furnished a good example. The characteristics of such a social
type are these—that each member of the ruling race is a soldier; that
war is the business of life; that every one is subject to a rigorous
discipline fitting him for this business; that centralized authority
regulates all the social activities, down to the details of each man’s
daily conduct; that the welfare of the State is every thing, and that
the individual lives for public benefit. So long as the environing
societies are such as necessitate and keep in exercise the militant
organization, these traits continue; but when, mainly by conquest
and the formation of large aggregates, the militant activity becomes
less constant, and war ceases to be the occupation of every free man,
the industrial structures begin to predominate. Without tracing the
transition, it will suffice to take, as a sample {416} of the pacific
or industrial type, the Northern States of America before the late
war. Here military organization had almost disappeared; the infrequent
local assemblings of militia had turned into occasions for jollity, and
every thing martial had fallen into contempt. The traits of the pacific
or industrial type are these—that the central authority is relatively
feeble; that it interferes scarcely at all with the private actions of
individuals; and that the State, instead of being that for the benefit
of which individuals exist, has become that which exists for the
benefit of individuals.

It remains to add that this metamorphosis, which takes place in
societies along with a higher civilization, very rapidly retrogrades if
the surrounding conditions become unfavorable to it. During the late
war in America, Mr. Seward’s boast—“I touch this bell, and any man in
the remotest State is a prisoner of the Government” (a boast which was
not an empty one, and which was by many of the Republican party greatly
applauded)—shows us how rapidly, along with militant activities, there
tends to be resumed the needful type of centralized structure; and
how there quickly grow up the corresponding sentiments and ideas.
Our own history since 1815 has shown a double change of this kind.
During the thirty years’ peace, the militant organization dwindled,
the military sentiment greatly decreased, the industrial organization
rapidly developed, the assertion of the individuality of the citizen
became more decided, and many restrictive and despotic regulations were
got rid of. Conversely, since the revival of militant activities and
structures on the Continent, our own offensive and defensive structures
have been re-developing; and the tendency toward increase of that
centralized control which accompanies such structures has become marked.

       *       *       *       *       *

And now, closing this somewhat elaborate introduction, {417} I am
prepared to deal with the question put to me. Prof. Huxley, after
quoting some passages from that essay on the “Social Organism” which I
have supplemented in the foregoing paragraphs; and after expressing a
qualified concurrence which I greatly value as coming from so highly
fitted a judge, proceeds, with characteristic acumen, to comment on
what seems an incongruity between certain analogies set forth in that
essay, and the doctrine I hold respecting the duty of the State.
Referring to a passage in which I have described the function of
the individual brain as “that of _averaging_ the interests of life,
physical, intellectual, moral, social,” and have compared it to the
function of Parliament as “that of _averaging_ the interests of the
various classes in a community,” adding that “a good Parliament is one
in which the parties answering to these respective interests are so
balanced that their united legislation concedes to each class as much
as consists with the claims of the rest;” Prof. Huxley proceeds to say:―

 “All this appears to be very just. But if the resemblances between the
 body physiological and the body politic are any indication, not only
 of what the latter is, and how it has become what it is, but what it
 ought to be, and what it is tending to become, I cannot but think that
 the real force of the analogy is totally opposed to the negative view
 of State function.

 “Suppose that, in accordance with this view, each muscle were to
 maintain that the nervous system had no right to interfere with its
 contraction, except to prevent it from hindering the contraction of
 another muscle; or each gland, that it had a right to secrete, so long
 as its secretion interfered with no other; suppose every separate cell
 left free to follow its own “interests,” and _laissez-faire_ Lord of
 all, what would become of the body physiological?”

On this question the remark I have first to make is, that if I held the
doctrine of M. Proudhon, who deliberately named himself an “anarchist,”
and if along with this doctrine I held the above-indicated theory of
social structures and functions, the inconsistency implied by the
question put would be clear, and the question would be unanswerable.
But since I entertain no such view as that of Proudhon—since I hold
that within its proper limits {418} governmental action is not
simply legitimate but all-important—I do not see how I am concerned
with a question which tacitly supposes that I deny the legitimacy
and the importance. Not only do I contend that the restraining power
of the State over individuals, and bodies or classes of individuals,
is requisite, but I have contended that it should be exercised much
more effectually, and carried out much further, than at present.[39]
And as the maintenance of this control implies the maintenance of a
controlling apparatus, I do not see that I am placed in any difficulty
when I am asked what would happen were the controlling apparatus
forbidden to interfere. Further, on this general aspect of the
question I have to say that, by comparing the deliberative assembly of
a nation to the deliberative nervous centre of a vertebrate animal,
as respectively averaging the interests of the society and of the
individual, and as both doing this through processes of representation,
I do not mean to _identify_ the two sets of interests; for these in
a society (or at least a peaceful society) refer mainly to interior
actions, while in an individual creature they refer mainly to exterior
actions. The “interests” to which I refer, as being averaged by a
representative governing body, are the conflicting interests between
class and class, as well as between man and man—conflicting interests
the balancing of which is nothing but the preventing of aggression and
the administration of justice.

 [39] See _Social Statics_ chap. xxi., “The Duty of the State.” See also
 essay on “Over-Legislation.”

I pass now from this general aspect of the question, which does not
concern me, to a more special aspect which does concern me. Dividing
the actions of governing structures, whether in bodies individual or
bodies politic, into the _positively regulative_ and the _negatively
regulative_, or those which stimulate and direct, as distinguished
from those which simply restrain, I may say that if there is raised
the question—What will happen when the controlling {419} apparatus
does not act? there are quite different replies according as one or
other system of organs is referred to. If, in the individual body,
the muscles were severally independent of the deliberative and
executive centres, utter impotence would result: in the absence of
muscular coördination, there would be no possibility of standing,
much less of acting on surrounding things, and the body would be a
prey to the first enemy. Properly to combine the actions of these
outer organs, the great nervous centres must exercise functions that
are both positively regulative and negatively regulative—must both
command action and arrest action. Similarly with the outer organs of a
political body. Unless the offensive and defensive structures can be
despotically commanded by a central authority, there cannot be those
prompt combinations and adjustments required for meeting the variable
actions of external enemies. But if, instead of asking what would
happen supposing the outer organs in either case were without control
from the great governing centres, we ask what would happen were the
inner organs (the industrial and commercial structures in the one case,
and the alimentary and distributive in the other) without such control,
the answer is quite different. Omitting the respiratory and some
minor ancillary parts of the individual organism, to which the social
organism has nothing analogous; and limiting ourselves to absorptive,
elaborative, and distributive structures, which are found in both; it
may, I think, be successfully contended that in neither the one case
nor the other do they require the positively regulative control of the
great governing centres, but only the negatively regulative. Let us
glance at the facts.[40]

 [40] Lest there should be any misunderstanding of the terms
 _positively regulative_ and _negatively regulative_, let me briefly
 illustrate them. If a man has land, and I either cultivate it for
 him, partially or wholly, or dictate any or all of his modes of
 cultivation, my action is positively regulative; but if, leaving him
 absolutely unhelped and unregulated in his farming, I simply prevent
 him from taking his neighbour’s crops, or from making approach-roads
 over his neighbour’s land, or from depositing rubbish upon it,
 my action is negatively regulative. There is a tolerably sharp
 distinction between the act of securing a citizen’s ends for him or
 interfering with his mode of securing them, and the act of checking
 him when he interferes with another citizen in the pursuit of his
 ends.

Digestion and circulation go on very well in lunatics {420} and idiots,
though the higher nervous centres are either deranged or partly absent.
The vital functions proceed properly during sleep, though less actively
than when the brain is at work. In infancy, while the cerebro-spinal
system is almost incapable, and cannot even perform such simple
actions as those of commanding the sphincters, the visceral functions
are active and regular. Nor in an adult does that arrest of cerebral
action shown by insensibility, or that extensive paralysis of the
spinal system which renders all the limbs immovable, prevent these
functions from being carried on for a considerable time; though they
necessarily begin to flag in the absence of the demand which an active
system of outer organs makes upon them. These internal organs are,
indeed, so little under the positively directive control of the great
nervous centres, that their independence is often very inconvenient. No
mandate sent into the interior stops an attack of diarrhœa; nor, when
an indigestible meal excites the circulation at night, and prevents
sleep, will the bidding of the brain cause the heart to pulsate more
quietly. It is doubtless true that these vital processes are modified
in important ways, both by general stimulation and by inhibition,
from the cerebro-spinal system; but that they are mainly independent
cannot, I think, be questioned. The facts that peristaltic motion of
the intestines can go on when their nervous connexions are cut, and
that the heart (in cold-blooded vertebrates, at least) continues to
pulsate for some time after being detached from the body, make it
manifest that the spontaneous activities of these vital organs subserve
the wants of the body at large without direction from its higher
governing centres. And this is made even {421} more manifest if it
be a fact, as alleged by Schmulewitsch experimenting under Ludwig’s
direction, that, under duly-adjusted conditions, the secretion of bile
may be kept up for some time when blood is passed through the excised
liver of a newly-killed rabbit. There is an answer, not, I think,
unsatisfactory, even to the crucial part of the question—“Suppose every
separate cell left free to follow its own interests, and _laissez
faire_ Lord of all, what would become of the body physiological?”
Limiting the application of this question in the way above shown to
the organs and parts of organs which carry on vital actions, it seems
to me that much evidence may be given for the belief that, when they
follow their respective “interests” (limited here to growing and
multiplying), the general welfare will be tolerably well secured. It
was proved by Hunter’s experiments on a kite and a sea-gull, that a
part of the alimentary canal which has to triturate harder food than
that which the creature naturally eats, acquires a thicker and harder
lining. When a stricture of the intestine impedes the passage of its
contents, the muscular walls of the intestine above, thicken and propel
the contents with greater force. When there is somewhere in the course
of the circulation a serious resistance to the passage of blood,
there habitually occurs hypertrophy of the heart, or thickening of
its muscular walls; giving it greater power to propel the blood. And
similarly, when the duct through which it discharges its contents is
obstructed, the gall-bladder thickens and strengthens. These changes go
on without any direction from the brain—without any consciousness that
they are going on. They are effected by the growth, or multiplication,
or adaptation, of the local units, be they cells or fibres, which
results from the greater action or modified action thrown upon them.
The only pre-requisite to this spontaneous adaptive change is, that
these local units shall be supplied with extra blood in proportion as
they perform extra function—a pre-requisite answering to that secured
{422} by the administration of justice in a society; namely, that more
work shall bring more pay. If, however, direct proof be called for
that a system of organs may, by carrying on their several independent
activities uncontrolled, secure the welfare of the aggregate they
form, we have it in that extensive class of creatures which do not
possess any nervous systems at all; and which nevertheless show, some
of them, considerable degrees of activity. The Oceanic Hydrozoa supply
good examples. Notwithstanding “the multiplicity and complexity of the
organs which some of them possess,” these creatures have no nervous
centres—no regulative apparatus by which the actions of their organs
are coördinated. One of their higher kinds is composed of different
parts distinguished as cœnosarc, polypites, tentacles, hydrocysts,
nectocalyces, genocalyces, etc., and each of these different parts is
composed of many partially-independent units—thread-cells, ciliated
cells, contractile fibres, etc.; so that the whole organism is a group
of heterogeneous groups, each one of which is itself a more or less
heterogeneous group. And, in the absence of a nervous system, the
arrangement must necessarily be such that these different units, and
different groups of units, severally pursuing their individual lives
without positive direction from the rest, nevertheless do, by virtue of
their constitutions, and the relative positions into which they have
grown, coöperate for the maintenance of one another and the entire
aggregate. And if this can be so with a set of organs that are not
connected by nerves, much more can it be so with a set of organs which,
like the viscera of a higher animal, have a special set of nervous
communications for exciting one another to coöperation.

Let us turn now to the parallel classes of phenomena which the social
organism presents. In it, as in the individual organism, we find that
while the system of external organs must be rigorously subordinated
to a great governing centre which positively regulates it, the system
{423} of internal organs needs no such positive regulation. The
production and interchange by which the national life is maintained,
go on as well while Parliament is not sitting as while it is sitting.
When the members of the Ministry are following grouse or stalking
deer, Liverpool imports, Manchester manufactures, London distributes,
just as usual. All that is needful for the normal performance of these
internal social functions is, that the restraining or inhibitory
structures shall continue in action: these activities of individuals,
corporate bodies, and classes, must be carried on in such ways as not
to transgress certain conditions, necessitated by the simultaneous
carrying on of other activities. So long as order is maintained, and
the fulfilment of contracts is everywhere enforced—so long as there
is secured to each citizen, and each combination of citizens, the
full return agreed upon for work done or commodities produced; and so
long as each may enjoy what he obtains by labour, without trenching
on his neighbour’s like ability to enjoy; these functions will go on
healthfully—more healthfully, indeed, than when regulated in any other
way. Fully to recognize this fact, it is needful only to look at the
origins and actions of the leading industrial structures. We will take
two of them, the most remote from one another in their natures.

The first shall be those by which food is produced and distributed.
In the fourth of his _Introductory Lectures on Political Economy_,
Archbishop Whately remarks that:―

 “Many of the most important objects are accomplished by the joint
 agency of persons who never think of them, nor have any idea of acting
 in concert; and that, with a certainty, completeness, and regularity,
 which probably the most diligent benevolence, under the guidance of
 the greatest human wisdom, could never have attained.”

To enforce this truth he goes on to say:—“Let any one propose to
himself the problem of supplying with daily provisions of all
kinds such a city as our metropolis, containing above a million of
inhabitants.” And then he points out the many immense difficulties of
the task {424} caused by inconstancy in the arrival of supplies; by
the perishable nature of many of the commodities; by the fluctuating
number of consumers; by the heterogeneity of their demands; by
variations in the stocks, immediate and remote, and the need for
adjusting the rate of consumption; and by the complexity in the
process of distribution required to bring due quantities of these many
commodities to the homes of all citizens. And, having dwelt on these
many difficulties, he finishes his picture by saying:―

 “Yet this object is accomplished far better than it could be by any
 effort of human wisdom, through the agency of men who think each of
 nothing beyond his own immediate interest—who, with that object in
 view, perform their respective parts with cheerful zeal—and combine
 unconsciously to employ the wisest means for effecting an object, the
 vastness of which it would bewilder them even to contemplate.”

But though the far-spreading and complex organization by which foods
of all kinds are produced, prepared, and distributed throughout the
entire kingdom, is a natural growth and not a State-manufacture; though
the State does not determine where and in what quantities cereals and
cattle and sheep shall be reared; though it does not arrange their
respective prices so as to make supplies last until fresh supplies can
come; though it has done nothing toward causing that great improvement
of quality which has taken place in food since early times; though it
has not the credit of that elaborate apparatus by which bread, and
meat, and milk, come round to our doors with a daily pulse that is as
regular as the pulse of the heart; yet the State has not been wholly
passive. It has from time to time done a great deal of mischief.
When Edward I. forbade all towns to harbour forestallers, and when
Edward VI. made it penal to buy grain for the purpose of selling
it again, they were preventing the process by which consumption is
adjusted to supply: they were doing all that could be done to insure
alternations of abundance and starvation. Similarly with the many
legislative attempts {425} since made to regulate one branch or other
of the food-industry, down to the corn-law sliding-scale of odious
memory. For the marvellous efficiency of this organization we are
indebted to private enterprise; while the derangements of it we owe
to the positively-regulative action of the Government. Meanwhile, its
negatively-regulative action, required to keep this organization in
order, Government has not duly performed. A quick and costless remedy
for breach of contract, when a trader sells, as the commodity asked
for, what proves to be wholly or in part some other commodity, is still
wanting.

Our second case shall be the organization which so immensely
facilitates commerce by transfers of claims and credits. Banks were
not inventions of rulers or their counsellors. They grew up by small
stages out of the transactions of traders with one another. Men who
for security deposited money with goldsmiths, and took receipts;
goldsmiths who began to lend out at interest the moneys left with
them, and then to offer interest at lower rates to those who would
deposit money; were the founders of them. And when, as presently
happened, the receipt-notes became transferable by indorsement, banking
commenced. From that stage upward the development, notwithstanding many
hinderances, has gone on naturally. Banks have sprung up under the
same stimulus which has produced all other kinds of trading bodies.
The multiplied forms of credit have been gradually differentiated
from the original form; and while the banking system has spread and
become complex, it has also become consolidated into a whole by a
spontaneous process. The clearing-house, which is a place for carrying
on the banking between bankers, arose unobtrusively out of an effort
to economize time and money. And when, in 1862, Sir John Lubbock—not
in his legislative capacity but in his capacity as banker—succeeded
in extending the privileges of the clearing-house to country banks,
the unification was made {426} perfect; so that now the transactions
of any trader in the kingdom with any other may be completed by the
writing off and balancing of claims in bankers’ books. This natural
evolution, be it observed, has reached with us a higher phase than
has been reached where the positively-regulative control of the State
is more decided. They have no clearing-house in France; and in France
the method of making payments by checks, so dominant among ourselves,
is very little employed and in an imperfect way. I do not mean to
imply that in England the State has been a mere spectator of this
development. Unfortunately, it has from the beginning had relations
with banks and bankers: not much, however, to their advantage, or
that of the public. The first kind of deposit-bank was in some sense
a State-bank: merchants left funds for security at the Mint in the
Tower. But when Charles I. appropriated their property without consent,
and gave it back to them only under pressure, after a long delay, he
destroyed their confidence. Similarly, when Charles II., in furtherance
of State-business, came to have habitual transactions with the richer
of the private bankers; and when, having got nearly a million and a
half of their money in the Exchequer, he stole it, ruined a multitude
of merchants, distressed ten thousand depositors, and made some
lunatics and suicides, he gave a considerable shock to the banking
system as it then existed. Though the results of State-relations with
banks in later times have not been so disastrous in this direct way,
yet they have been indirectly disastrous—perhaps even in a greater
degree. In return for a loan, the State gave the Bank of England
special privileges; and for the increase and continuance of this
loan the bribe was the maintenance of these privileges—privileges
which immensely hindered the development of banks. The State did
worse. It led the Bank of England to the verge of bankruptcy by a
forced issue of notes, and then authorized it to break its promises
{427} to pay. Nay, worse still, it prevented the Bank of England
from fulfilling its promises to pay when it wished to fulfil them.
The evils that have arisen from the positively-regulative action of
the State on banks are too multitudinous to be here enumerated. They
may be found in the writings of Tooke, Newmarch, Fullarton, Macleod,
Wilson, J. S. Mill, and others. All we have here to note is, that
while the enterprise of citizens in the pursuit of private ends has
developed this great trading-process, which so immensely facilitates
all other trading-processes, Governments have over and over again
disturbed it to an almost fatal extent; and that, while they have done
enormous mischief of one kind by their positively-regulative action,
they have done enormous mischief of another kind by failing in their
negatively-regulative action. They have not done the one thing they
had to do: they have not uniformly insisted on fulfilment of contract
between the banker and the customer who takes his promise to pay on
demand.

Between these two cases of the trade in food and the trade in money,
might be put the cases of other trades: all of them carried on by
organizations similarly evolved, and similarly more or less deranged
from time to time by State-meddling. Passing over these, however, let
us turn from the positive method of elucidation to the comparative
method. When it is questioned whether the spontaneous coöperation
of men in pursuit of personal benefits will adequately work out the
general good, we may get guidance for judgment by comparing the results
achieved in countries where spontaneous coöperation has been most
active and least regulated, with the results achieved in countries
where spontaneous coöperation has been less trusted and State-action
more trusted. Two cases, furnished by the two leading nations on the
Continent, will suffice.

In France, the École des Ponts et Chaussées was founded in 1747 for
educating civil engineers; and in 1795 was {428} founded the École
Polytechnique, serving, among other purposes, to give a general
scientific training to those who were afterward to be more specially
trained for civil engineering. Averaging the two dates, we may say that
for a century France has had a State-established and State-maintained
appliance for producing skilled men of this class—a double gland,
we may call it, to secrete engineering faculty for public use. In
England, until quite recently, we have had no institution for preparing
civil engineers. Not by intention, but unconsciously, we left the
furnishing of engineering faculty to take place under the law of supply
and demand—a law which at present seems to be no more recognized as
applying to education, than it was recognized as applying to commerce
in the days of bounties and restrictions. This, however, by the way. We
have here simply to note that Brindley, Smeaton, Rennie, Telford, and
the rest, down to George Stephenson, acquired their knowledge, and got
their experience, without State-aid or supervision. What have been the
comparative results in the two nations? Space does not allow a detailed
comparison: the later results must suffice. Railways originated in
England, not in France. Railways spread through England faster than
through France. Many railways in France were laid out and officered by
English engineers. The earlier French railways were made by English
contractors; and English locomotives served the French makers as
models. The first French work written on locomotive engines, published
about 1840 (at least I had a copy at that date), was by the Comte de
Pambour, who had studied in England, and who gave in his work nothing
whatever but drawings and descriptions of the engines of English makers.

The second illustration is supplied to us by the model nation, now so
commonly held up to us for imitation. Let us contrast London and Berlin
in respect of an all-essential appliance for the comfort and health of
citizens. When, {429} at the beginning of the seventeenth century, the
springs and local conduits, supplemented by water-carriers, failed to
supply the Londoners; and when the water-famine, for a long time borne,
had failed to make the Corporation do more than propose schemes, and
had not spurred the central government to do any thing; Hugh Myddleton,
a merchant citizen, took in hand himself the work of bringing the New
River to Islington. When he had half completed the work, the king came
to his help—not, indeed, in his capacity of ruler, but in the capacity
of speculator, investing his money with a view to profit: his share
being disposed of by his successor after the formation of the New
River Company, which finished the distributing system. Subsequently,
the formation of other water-companies, utilizing other sources, has
given London a water-supply that has grown with its growth. What,
meanwhile, happened at Berlin? Did there in 1613, when Hugh Myddleton
completed his work, grow up there a like efficient system? Not at all.
The seventeenth century passed, the eighteenth century passed, the
middle of the nineteenth century was reached, and still Berlin had no
water-supply like that of London. What happened then? Did the paternal
government at length do what had been so long left undone? No. Did
the citizens at length unite to secure the desideratum? No. It was
finally achieved by the citizens of another nation, more accustomed to
coöperate in gaining their own profits by ministering to public needs.
In 1845 an English company was formed for giving Berlin an adequate
water-supply; and the work was executed by English contractors—Messrs.
Fox and Crampton.

Should it be said that great works of ancient nations, in the shape
of aqueducts, roads, etc., might be instanced in proof that State
agency secures such ends, or should it be said that a comparison
between the early growth of inland navigation on the Continent, and
its later growth here, {430} would be to our disadvantage, I reply
that, little as they at first seem so, these facts are congruous with
the general doctrine. While the militant social type is dominant, and
the industrial organization but little developed, there is but one
coördinating agency for regulating both sets of activities; just as we
saw happens with the lower types of individual organisms. It is only
when a considerable advance has been made in that metamorphosis which
develops the industrial structures at the expense of the militant
structures, and which brings along with it a substantially-independent
coördinating agency for the industrial structures—it is only then that
the efficiency of these spontaneous coöperations for all purposes of
internal social life becomes greater than the efficiency of the central
governing agency.

Possibly it will be said that though, for subserving material needs,
the actions of individuals, stimulated by necessity and made quick
by competition, are demonstrably adequate, they are not adequate for
subserving other needs. I do not see, however, that the facts justify
this position. We have but to glance around to find in abundance
similarly-generated appliances for satisfying our higher desires, as
well as our lower desires. The fact that the Fine Arts have not thriven
here as much as in some Continental countries, is ascribable to natural
character, to absorption of our energies in other activities, and to
the repressive influence of chronic asceticism, rather than to the
absence of fostering agencies: these the interests of individuals have
provided in abundance. Literature, in which we are second to none,
owes, with us, nothing to State-aid. The poetry which will live is
poetry which has been written without official prompting; and though
we have habitually had a prize-poet, paid to write loyal verses, it
may be said, without disparaging the present one, that a glance over
the entire list does not show any benefit derived by poetry from
State-patronage. Nor are other {431} forms of literature any more
indebted to State-patronage. It was because there was a public liking
for fiction that fiction began to be produced; and the continued public
liking causes a continued production, including, along with much that
is worthless, much that could not have been made better by any academic
or other supervision. And the like holds of biographies, histories,
scientific books, etc. Or, as a still more striking case of an agency
that has grown up to meet a non-material want, take the newspaper
press. What has been the genesis of this marvellous appliance, which
each day gives us an abstract of the world’s life the day before? Under
what promptings have there been got together its staffs of editors,
sub-editors, article-writers, reviewers; its reporters of parliamentary
debates, of public meetings, of law cases and police cases; its critics
of music, theatricals, paintings, etc.; its correspondents in all
parts of the world? Who devised and brought to perfection this system
which at six o’clock in the morning gives the people of Edinburgh a
report of the debates that ended at two or three o’clock in the House
of Commons, and at the same time tells them of events that occurred
the day before in America? It is not a Government invention. It is
not a Government suggestion. It has not been in anyway improved or
developed by legislation. On the contrary, it has grown up in spite of
many hinderances from the Government and burdens which the Government
has imposed on it. For a long time the reporting of parliamentary
debates was resisted; for generations censorships and prosecutions
kept newspapers down, and for several subsequent generations the
laws in force negatived a cheap press, and the educational benefits
accompanying it. From the war-correspondent, whose letters give to
the very nations that are fighting their only trustworthy accounts of
what is being done, down to the newsboy who brings round the third
edition with the latest telegrams, the whole organization is a product
of spontaneous {432} coöperation among private individuals, aiming to
benefit themselves by ministering to the intellectual needs of their
fellows—aiming also, not a few of them, to benefit their fellows by
giving them clearer ideas and a higher standard of right. Nay, more
than this is true. While the press is not indebted to the Government,
the Government is enormously indebted to the press; without which,
indeed, it would stumble daily in the performance of its functions.
This agency which the State once did its best to put down, and has
all along impeded, now gives to the ministers news in anticipation of
their dispatches, gives to members of Parliament a guiding knowledge of
public opinion, enables them to speak from the House of Commons benches
to their constituents, and gives to both legislative chambers a full
record of their proceedings.

I do not see, therefore, how there can be any doubt respecting the
sufficiency of agencies thus originating. The truth that in this
condition of mutual dependence brought about by social life, there
inevitably grow up arrangements such that each secures his own ends
by ministering to the ends of others, seems to have been for a long
time one of those open secrets which remain secret because they are so
open; and even now the conspicuousness of this truth seems to cause
an imperfect consciousness of its full meaning. The evidence shows,
however, that even were there no other form of spontaneous coöperation
among men than that dictated by self-interest, it might be rationally
held that this, under the negatively-regulative control of a central
power, would work out, in proper order, the appliances for satisfying
all needs, and carrying on healthfully all the essential social
functions.

But there is a further kind of spontaneous coöperation, arising,
like the other, independently of State-action, which takes a large
share in satisfying certain classes of needs. Familiar though it
is, this kind of spontaneous coöperation is habitually ignored in
sociological discussions. Alike {433} from newspaper articles and
parliamentary debates, it might be inferred that, beyond the force
due to men’s selfish activities, there is no other social force than
the governmental force. There seems to be a deliberate omission of
the fact that, in addition to their selfish interests, men have
sympathetic interests, which, acting individually and coöperatively,
work out results scarcely less remarkable than those which the selfish
interests work out. It is true that, during the earlier phases of
social evolution, while yet the type is mainly militant, agencies
thus produced do not exist: among the Spartans, I suppose, there were
few, if any, philanthropic agencies. But as there arise forms of
society leading toward the pacific type—forms in which the industrial
organization develops itself, and men’s activities become of a kind
that do not perpetually sear their sympathies; these structures which
their sympathies generate become many and important. To the egoistic
interests, and the coöperations prompted by them, there come to be
added the altruistic interests and their coöperations; and what the
one set fails to do, the other does. That, in his presentation of the
doctrine he opposes, Prof. Huxley did not set down the effects of
fellow-feeling as supplementing the effects of self-regarding feelings,
surprises me the more, because he displays fellow-feeling himself in
so marked a degree, and shows in his career how potent a social agency
it becomes. Let us glance rapidly over the results wrought out among
ourselves by individual and combined “altruism”—to employ M. Comte’s
useful word.

Though they show a trace of this feeling, I will not dwell upon the
numerous institutions by which men are enabled to average the chances
throughout life by insurance societies, which provide against the evils
entailed by premature deaths, accidents, fires, wrecks, etc.; for these
are mainly mercantile and egoistic in their origin. Nor will I do more
than name those multitudinous Friendly Societies that have arisen
spontaneously among the {434} working-classes to give mutual aid in
time of sickness, and which the Commission now sitting is showing to be
immensely beneficial, notwithstanding their defects; for these also,
though containing a larger element of sympathy, are prompted chiefly
by anticipations of personal benefits. Leaving these, let us turn to
the organizations in which altruism is more decided: taking first that
by which religious ministrations are carried on. Throughout Scotland
and England, cut away all that part of it which is not established by
law—in Scotland, the Episcopal Church, the Free Church, the United
Presbyterians, and other Dissenting bodies; in England, the Wesleyans,
Independents, and the various minor sects. Cut off, too, from the
Established Church itself, all that part added in recent times by
voluntary zeal, made conspicuous enough by the new steeples that have
been rising on all sides; and then also take out, from the remainder
of the Established Church, that energy which has during these three
generations been infused into it by competition with the Dissenters: so
reducing it to the degraded, inert state in which John Wesley found it.
Do this, and it becomes manifest that more than half the organisation,
and immensely more than half its function, is extra-governmental.
Look round, again, at the multitudinous institutions for mitigating
men’s ills—the hospitals, dispensaries, alms-houses, and the like—the
various benevolent and mendicity societies, etc., of which London alone
contains between six and seven hundred. From our vast St. Thomas’s,
exceeding the palace of the Legislature itself in bulk, down to Dorcas
societies and village clothing-clubs, we have charitable agencies,
many in kind and countless in number, which supplement, perhaps too
largely, the legally-established one; and which, whatever evil they
may have done along with the good, have done far less evil than the
Poor-Law organization did before it was reformed in 1834. Akin to
these are still more striking examples of power in {435} agencies
thus originating, such as that furnished by the Anti-slavery Society,
which carried the emancipation of the slaves, notwithstanding the
class-opposition so predominant in the Legislature. And if we look for
more recent like instances, we have them in the organization which
promptly and efficiently dealt with the cotton-famine in Lancashire,
and in that which last year ministered to the wounded and distressed
in France. Once more, consider our educational system as it existed
till within these few years. Such part of it as did not consist of
private schools, carried on for personal profit, consisted of schools
or colleges set up or maintained by men for the benefit of their
fellows, and the posterity of their fellows. Omitting the few founded
or partially founded by kings, the numerous endowed schools scattered
throughout the kingdom, originated from altruistic feelings (so far,
at least, as they were not due to egoistic desires for good places in
the other world). And then, after these appliances for teaching the
poor had been almost entirely appropriated by the rich, whence came
the remedy? Another altruistic organization grew up for educating the
poor, struggled against the opposition of the Church and the governing
classes, eventually forced these to enter into competition and produce
like altruistic organizations, until by school systems, local and
general, ecclesiastical, dissenting, and secular, the mass of the
people had been brought from a state of almost entire ignorance to one
in which nearly all of them possessed the rudiments of knowledge. But
for these spontaneously-developed agencies, ignorance would have been
universal. Not only such knowledge as the poor now possess—not only
the knowledge of the trading-classes—not only the knowledge of those
who write books and leading articles; but the knowledge of those who
carry on the business of the country as ministers and legislators,
has been derived from these extra-governmental agencies, egoistic or
altruistic. Yet now, strangely enough, the {436} cultured intelligence
of the country has taken to spurning its parent; and that to which
it owes both its existence and the consciousness of its own value is
pooh-poohed as though it had done, and could do, nothing of importance!
One other fact let me add. While such teaching organizations, and their
results in the shape of enlightenment, are due to these spontaneous
agencies, to such agencies also are due the great improvements in the
quality of the culture now happily beginning to take place. The spread
of scientific knowledge, and of the scientific spirit, has not been
brought about by laws and officials. Our scientific societies have
arisen from the spontaneous coöperation of those interested in the
accumulation and diffusion of the kinds of truth they respectively deal
with. Though the British Association has from time to time obtained
certain small subsidies, their results in the way of advancing science
have borne but an extremely small ratio to the results achieved
without any such aid. If there needs a conclusive illustration of
the power of agencies thus arising, we have it in the history and
achievements of the Royal Institution. From this, which is a product
of altruistic coöperation, and which has had for its successive
professors Young, Davy, Faraday, and Tyndall, there has come a series
of brilliant discoveries which cannot be paralleled by a series from
any State-nurtured institution.

I hold, then, that forced, as men in society are, to seek satisfaction
of their own wants by satisfying the wants of others; and led as they
also are by sentiments which social life has fostered, to satisfy
many wants of others irrespective of their own; they are moved by two
sets of forces which, working together, will amply suffice to carry
on all needful activities; and I think the facts fully justify this
belief. It is true that, _a priori_, one would not have supposed that
by their unconscious coöperations men could have wrought out such
results, any more than one would have supposed, _a priori_, that by
their unconscious coöperation they could {437} have evolved Language.
But reasoning _a posteriori_, which it is best to do when we have the
facts before us, it becomes manifest that they can do this; that they
have done it in very astonishing ways; and perhaps may do it hereafter
in ways still more astonishing. Scarcely any scientific generalization
has, I think, a broader inductive basis than we have for the belief
that these egoistic and altruistic feelings are powers which, taken
together, amply suffice to originate and carry on all the activities
which constitute healthy national life: the only pre-requisite being,
that they shall be under the negatively-regulative control of a
central power—that the entire aggregate of individuals, acting through
the legislature and executive as its agents, shall put upon each
individual, and group of individuals, the restraints needful to prevent
aggression, direct and indirect.

And here I might go on to supplement the argument by showing that
the immense majority of the evils which government aid is invoked to
remedy, are evils which arise immediately or remotely because it does
not perform properly its negatively-regulative function. From the
waste of, probably, £100,000,000 of national capital in unproductive
railways, for which the Legislature is responsible by permitting the
original proprietary contracts to be broken,[41] down to the railway
accidents and loss of life caused by unpunctuality, which would never
have grown to its present height were there an easy remedy for breach
of contract between company and passenger; nearly all the vices of
railway management have arisen from the non-administration of justice.
And everywhere else we shall find that, were the restraining action of
the State prompt, effective, and costless to those aggrieved, the pleas
put in for positive regulation would nearly all disappear.

 [41] See Essay on “Railway Morals and Railway Policy.”

       *       *       *       *       *

I am thus brought naturally to remark on the title given {438} to this
theory of State-functions. That “Administrative Nihilism” adequately
describes the view set forth by Von Humboldt, may be: I have not read
his work. But I cannot see how it adequately describes the doctrine I
have been defending; nor do I see how this can be properly expressed by
the more positive title, “police-government.” The conception suggested
by police-government does not include the conception of an organization
for external protection. So long as each nation is given to burglary,
I quite admit each other nation must keep guards, under the forms
of army or navy, or both, to prevent burglars from breaking in. And
the title police-government does not, in its ordinary acceptation,
comprehend these offensive and defensive appliances needful for
dealing with foreign enemies. At the other extreme, too, it falls
short of the full meaning to be expressed. While it duly conveys the
idea of an organization required for checking and punishing criminal
aggression, it does not convey any idea of the no less important
organization required for dealing with civil aggression—an organization
quite essential for properly discharging the negatively-regulative
function. Though latent police-force may be considered as giving
their efficiency to legal decisions on all questions brought into
_nisi prius_ courts, yet, since here police-force rarely comes into
visible play, police-government does not suggest this very extensive
part of the administration of justice. Far from contending for a
_laissez-faire_ policy in the sense which the phrase commonly suggests,
I have contended for a more active control of the kind distinguishable
as negatively regulative. One of the reasons I have urged for
excluding State-action from other spheres, is, that it may become
more efficient within its proper sphere. And I have argued that the
wretched performance of its duties within its proper sphere continues,
because its time is chiefly spent over imaginary duties.[42] The facts
that often, in bankruptcy {439} cases, three-fourths and more of
the assets go in costs; that creditors are led by the expectation of
great delay and a miserable dividend to accept almost any composition
offered; and that so the bankruptcy-law offers a premium to roguery;
are facts which would long since have ceased to be facts, had citizens
been mainly occupied in getting an efficient judicial system. If the
due performance by the State of its all-essential function had been
the question on which elections were fought, we should not see, as we
now do, that a shivering cottager who steals palings for firewood,
or a hungry tramp who robs an orchard, gets punishment in more than
the old Hebrew measure, while great financial frauds which ruin their
thousands bring no punishments. Were the negatively-regulative function
of the State in internal affairs dominant in the thoughts of men,
within the Legislature and without, there would be tolerated no such
treatment as that suffered lately by Messrs. Walker, of Cornhill;
who, having been robbed of £6,000 worth of property and having spent
£950 in rewards for apprehending thieves and prosecuting them, cannot
get back the proceeds of their property found on the thieves—who bear
the costs of administering justice, while the Corporation of London
makes £940 profit out of their loss. It is in large measure because
I hold that these crying abuses and inefficiencies, which everywhere
characterize the administration of justice, need more than any other
evils to be remedied; and because I hold that remedy of them can go on
only as fast as the internal function of the State is more and more
restricted to the administration of justice; that I take the view which
I have been re-explaining. _It is a law illustrated by organizations
of every kind, that, in proportion as there is to be efficiency, there
must be specialization, both of structure and function—specialization
which, of necessity, implies accompanying limitation._ And, as I have
elsewhere argued, the development of representative government is the
development of a type of {440} government fitted above all others for
this negatively-regulative control, and, above all others, ill fitted
for positively-regulative control.[43] This doctrine, that while the
negatively-regulative control should be extended and made better,
the positively-regulative control should be diminished, and that the
one change implies the other, may properly be called the doctrine of
Specialized Administration—if it is to be named from its administrative
aspect. I regret that my presentation of this doctrine has been such as
to lead to misinterpretation. Either it is that I have not adequately
explained it, which, if true, surprises me, or else it is that the
space occupied in seeking to show what are not the duties of the State
is so much greater than the space occupied in defining its duties, that
these last make but little impression. In any case, that Prof. Huxley
should have construed my view in the way he has done, shows me that it
needs fuller exposition; since, had he put upon it the construction I
intended, he would not, I think, have included it under the title he
has used, nor would he have seen it needful to raise the question I
have endeavoured to answer.

 [42] See Essay on “Over-Legislation.”

 [43] See Essay on “Representative Government—What is it good for?”

       *       *       *       *       *


POSTSCRIPT.—Since the above article was written, a fact of some
significance in relation to the question of State-management has
come under my notice. There is one department, at any rate, in which
the State succeeds well—the Post-Office. And this department is
sometimes instanced as showing the superiority of public over private
administration.

I am not about to call in question the general satisfactoriness of
our postal arrangements; nor shall I contend that this branch of
State-organization, now well-established, could be replaced with
advantage. Possibly the type of our social structure has become, in
this respect, so far fixed that a radical change would be injurious.
In dealing {441} with those who make much of this success, I have
contented myself with showing that the developments which have made
the Post-Office efficient, have not originated with the Government,
but have been thrust upon it from without. I have in evidence cited
the facts that the mail-coach system was established by a private
individual, Mr. Palmer, and lived down official opposition; that the
reform originated by Mr. Rowland Hill had to be made against the
wills of _employés_; and, further, I have pointed out that, even as
it is, a large part of the work is done by private enterprise—that
the Government gets railway-companies to do for it most of the inland
carriage, and steam-boat companies the outland carriage: contenting
itself with doing the local collection and distribution.

Respecting the general question whether, in the absence of our existing
postal system, private enterprise would have developed one as good or
better, I have been able to say only that analogies like that furnished
by our newspaper-system, with its efficient news-vending organization,
warrant us in believing that it would. Recently, however, I have been
shown both that private enterprise is capable of this, and that, but
for a legal interdict, it would have done long ago what the State has
but lately done. Here is the proof:―

 “To facilitate correspondence between one part of London and another
 was not originally one of the objects of the Post-Office. But,
 in the reign of Charles II., an enterprising citizen of London,
 William Dockwray, set up, at great expense, a penny post, which
 delivered letters and parcels six or eight times a-day in the busy
 and crowded streets near the Exchange, and four times a-day in the
 outskirts of the capital. . . . As soon as it became clear that the
 speculation would be lucrative, the Duke of York complained of it as
 an infraction of his monopoly, and the courts of law decided in his
 favour.”—_Macaulay_, _History of England_, 1866, i., 302–3.

Thus it appears that two centuries since, private enterprise initiated
a local postal system, similar, in respect both of cheapness and
frequency of distribution, to that lately-established one boasted of
as a State-success. Judging by what has happened in other cases with
private {442} enterprises which had small beginnings, we may infer
that the system thus commenced, would have developed throughout the
kingdom as fast as the needs pressed and the possibilities allowed. So
far from being indebted to the State, we have reason to believe that,
but for State-repression, we should have obtained a postal organization
like our present one generations ago!

       *       *       *       *       *

SECOND POSTSCRIPT.—When the foregoing essay was republished in the
third series of my _Essays, Scientific, Political, and Speculative_,
I included, in the preface to the volume, some comments upon Prof.
Huxley’s reply. In the absence of this preface, now no longer
appropriate, there seems no other fit place for these comments than
this. I therefore here append them.

“On the brief rejoinder to my arguments which Prof. Huxley makes in the
preface to his _Critiques and Addresses_, I may here say a few words.
The reasons he gives for still thinking that the name ‘Administrative
Nihilism’ fitly indicates the system which I have described as
‘negatively regulative,’ are, I think, adequately met by asking whether
‘Ethical Nihilism’ would fitly describe the remnant of the decalogue,
were all its positive injunctions omitted. If the eight commandments
which, substantially or literally, come under the form ‘thou shalt
not,’ constitute by themselves a set of rules which can scarcely
be called nihilistic; I do not see how an administrative system
limited to the enforcement of such rules can be called nihilistic:
especially if to the punishment of murder, adultery, stealing, and
false-witness, it adds the punishment of assault, breach of contract,
and all minor aggressions, down to the annoyance of neighbours by
nuisances. Respecting the second and essential question, whether
limitation of the internal functions of government to those which are
negatively regulative, is consistent with that theory of the social
organism and its controlling {443} agencies held by me, I may say that
the insufficiency of my reply has not, I think, been shown. I was
tacitly asked how the analogy I have drawn between those governmental
structures by which the parts of the body politic have their actions
regulated and those nervous structures which regulate the organic
actions of the individual living body, is to be reconciled with my
belief that social activities will in the main adjust themselves. My
answer was this. I recognized as essential the positively-regulative
functions of the State in respect to the offensive and defensive
appliances needful for national self-preservation, during the predatory
phase of social evolution; and I not only admitted the importance of
its negatively-regulative functions in respect to the internal social
activities, but insisted that these should be carried out much more
efficiently than now. Assuming always, however, that the internal
social activities continue subject to that restraining action of the
State which consists in preventing aggressions, direct and indirect,
I contended that the coördination of these internal social activities
is effected by other structures of a different kind. I aimed to show
that my two beliefs are not inconsistent, by pointing out that in
the individual organism, also, those vital activities which parallel
the activities constituting national life, are regulated by a
substantially-independent nervous system. Prof. Huxley does, indeed,
remind me that recent researches show increasingly the influence of
the cerebro-spinal nervous system over the processes of organic life;
against which, however, has to be set the growing evidence of the power
exercised by the visceral nervous system over the cerebro-spinal. But,
recognizing the influence he names (which, indeed, corresponds to that
governmental influence I regard as necessary); I think the consistency
of my positions is maintainable so long as it is manifest that the
viscera, under the control of their {444} own nervous system, can carry
on the vital actions when the control of the cerebro-spinal system is
substantially arrested by sleep, or by anæsthetics, or by other causes
of insensibility; and while it is shown that a considerable degree of
coördination may exist among the organs of a creature which has no
nervous system at all.”

{445}



FROM FREEDOM TO BONDAGE.

[_First published as the Introduction to a volume entitled_ A Plea
for Liberty, &c.: _a series of anti-socialistic essays, issued at the
beginning of 1891_.]


Of the many ways in which common-sense inferences about social affairs
are flatly contradicted by events (as when measures taken to suppress a
book cause increased circulation of it, or as when attempts to prevent
usurious rates of interest make the terms harder for the borrower, or
as when there is greater difficulty in getting things at the places of
production than elsewhere) one of the most curious is the way in which
the more things improve the louder become the exclamations about their
badness.

In days when the people were without any political power, their
subjection was rarely complained of; but after free institutions had
so far advanced in England that our political arrangements were envied
by continental peoples, the denunciations of aristocratic rule grew
gradually stronger, until there came a great widening of the franchise,
soon followed by complaints that things were going wrong for want of
still further widening. If we trace up the treatment of women from the
days of savagedom, when they bore all the burdens and after the men
had eaten received such food as remained, up through the middle ages
when they served the men at their meals, to {446} our own day when
throughout our social arrangements the claims of women are always put
first, we see that along with the worst treatment there went the least
apparent consciousness that the treatment was bad; while now that
they are better treated than ever before, the proclaiming of their
grievances daily strengthens: the loudest outcries coming from “the
paradise of women,” America. A century ago, when scarcely a man could
be found who was not occasionally intoxicated, and when inability to
take one or two bottles of wine brought contempt, no agitation arose
against the vice of drunkenness; but now that, in the course of fifty
years, the voluntary efforts of temperance societies, joined with
more general causes, have produced comparative sobriety, there are
vociferous demands for laws to prevent the ruinous effects of the
liquor traffic. Similarly again with education. A few generations
back, ability to read and write was practically limited to the upper
and middle classes, and the suggestion that the rudiments of culture
should be given to labourers was never made, or, if made, ridiculed;
but when, in the days of our grandfathers, the Sunday-school system,
initiated by a few philanthropists, began to spread and was followed by
the establishment of day-schools, with the result that among the masses
those who could read and write were no longer the exceptions, and the
demand for cheap literature rapidly increased, there began the cry that
the people were perishing for lack of knowledge, and that the State
must not simply educate them but must force education upon them.

And so is it, too, with the general state of the population in respect
of food, clothing, shelter, and the appliances of life. Leaving out
of the comparison early barbaric states, there has been a conspicuous
progress from the time when most rustics lived on barley bread, rye
bread, and oatmeal, down to our own time when the consumption of white
wheaten bread is universal—from the days when coarse jackets reaching
to the knees left the legs bare, down to the present {447} day when
labouring people, like their employers, have the whole body covered,
by two or more layers of clothing—from the old era of single-roomed
huts without chimneys, or from the 15th century when even an ordinary
gentleman’s house was commonly without wainscot or plaster on its
walls, down to the present century when every cottage has more rooms
than one and the houses of artizans usually have several, while all
have fire-places, chimneys, and glazed windows, accompanied mostly by
paper-hangings and painted doors; there has been, I say, a conspicuous
progress in the condition of the people. And this progress has been
still more marked within our own time. Any one who can look back 60
years, when the amount of pauperism was far greater than now and
beggars abundant, is struck by the comparative size and finish of the
new houses occupied by operatives—by the better dress of workmen, who
wear broad-cloth on Sundays, and that of servant girls, who vie with
their mistresses—by the higher standard of living which leads to a
great demand for the best qualities of food by working people: all
results of the double change to higher wages and cheaper commodities,
and a distribution of taxes which has relieved the lower classes at
the expense of the upper classes. He is struck, too, by the contrast
between the small space which popular welfare then occupied in public
attention, and the large space it now occupies, with the result that
outside and inside Parliament, plans to benefit the millions form the
leading topics, and everyone having means is expected to join in some
philanthropic effort. Yet while elevation, mental and physical, of
the masses is going on far more rapidly than ever before—while the
lowering of the death-rate proves that the average life is less trying,
there swells louder and louder the cry that the evils are so great
that nothing short of a social revolution can cure them. In presence
of obvious improvements, joined with that increase of longevity which
even alone yields conclusive proof of general amelioration, it is {448}
proclaimed, with increasing vehemence, that things are so bad that
society must be pulled to pieces and re-organized on another plan. In
this case, then, as in the previous cases instanced, in proportion as
the evil decreases the denunciation of it increases; and as fast as
natural causes are shown to be powerful there grows up the belief that
they are powerless.

Not that the evils to be remedied are small. Let no one suppose
that, by emphasizing the above paradox, I wish to make light of
the sufferings which most men have to bear. The fates of the great
majority have ever been, and doubtless still are, so sad that it is
painful to think of them. Unquestionably the existing type of social
organization is one which none who care for their kind can contemplate
with satisfaction; and unquestionably men’s activities accompanying
this type are far from being admirable. The strong divisions of rank
and the immense inequalities of means, are at variance with that ideal
of human relations on which the sympathetic imagination likes to dwell;
and the average conduct, under the pressure and excitement of social
life as at present carried on, is in sundry respects repulsive. Though
the many who revile competition strangely ignore the enormous benefits
resulting from it—though they forget that most of the appliances
and products distinguishing civilization from savagery, and making
possible the maintenance of a large population on a small area, have
been developed by the struggle for existence—though they disregard the
fact that while every man, as producer, suffers from the under-bidding
of competitors, yet, as consumer, he is immensely advantaged by the
cheapening of all he has to buy—though they persist in dwelling on the
evils of competition and saying nothing of its benefits; yet it is
not to be denied that the evils are great, and form a large set-off
from the benefits. The system under which we at present live fosters
dishonesty and lying. It prompts adulterations of countless kinds;
it is answerable for the {449} cheap imitations which eventually
in many cases thrust the genuine articles out of the market; it
leads to the use of short weights and false measures; it introduces
bribery, which vitiates most trading relations, from those of the
manufacturer and buyer down to those of the shopkeeper and servant; it
encourages deception to such an extent that an assistant who cannot
tell a falsehood with a good face is blamed; and often it gives the
conscientious trader the choice between adopting the malpractices of
his competitors, or greatly injuring his creditors by bankruptcy.
Moreover, the extensive frauds, common throughout the commercial world
and daily exposed in law-courts and newspapers, are largely due to the
pressure under which competition places the higher industrial classes;
and are otherwise due to that lavish expenditure which, as implying
success in the commercial struggle, brings honour. With these minor
evils must be joined the major one, that the distribution achieved by
the system, gives to those who regulate and superintend, a share of the
total produce which bears too large a ratio to the share it gives to
the actual workers. Let it not be thought, then, that in saying what I
have said above, I under-estimate those vices of our competitive system
which, 30 years ago, I described and denounced.[44] But it is not a
question of absolute evils; it is a question of relative evils—whether
the evils at present suffered are or are not less than the evils which
would be suffered under another system—whether efforts for mitigation
along the lines thus far followed are not more likely to succeed than
efforts along utterly different lines.

This is the question here to be considered. I must be excused for first
of all setting forth sundry truths which are, to some at any rate,
tolerably familiar, before proceeding to draw inferences which are not
so familiar.

 [44] See essay on “The Morals of Trade.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Speaking broadly, every man works that he may avoid {450} suffering.
Here, remembrance of the pangs of hunger prompts him; and there, he is
prompted by the sight of the slave-driver’s lash. His immediate dread
may be the punishment which physical circumstances will inflict, or
may be punishment inflicted by human agency. He must have a master;
but the master may be Nature or may be a fellow man. When he is under
the impersonal coercion of Nature, we say that he is free; and when
he is under the personal coercion of some one above him, we call
him, according to the degree of his dependence, a slave, a serf, or
a vassal. Of course I omit the small minority who inherit means: an
incidental, and not a necessary, social element. I speak only of the
vast majority, both cultured and uncultured, who maintain themselves by
labour, bodily or mental, and must either exert themselves of their own
unconstrained wills, prompted only by thoughts of naturally-resulting
evils or benefits, or must exert themselves with constrained wills,
prompted by thoughts of evils and benefits artificially resulting.

Men may work together in a society under either of these two forms of
control: forms which, though in many cases mingled, are essentially
contrasted. Using the word coöperation in its wide sense, and not in
that restricted sense now commonly given to it, we may say that social
life must be carried on by either voluntary coöperation or compulsory
coöperation; or, to use Sir Henry Maine’s words, the system must be
that of _contract_ or that of _status_—that in which the individual is
left to do the best he can by his spontaneous efforts and get success
or failure according to his efficiency, and that in which he has his
appointed place, works under coercive rule, and has his apportioned
share of food, clothing, and shelter.

The system of voluntary coöperation is that by which, in civilized
societies, industry is now everywhere carried on. Under a simple form
we have it on every farm, where the labourers, paid by the farmer
himself and taking orders {451} directly from him, are free to stay
or go as they please. And of its more complex form an example is
yielded by every manufacturing concern, in which, under partners, come
managers and clerks, and under these, time-keepers and over-lookers,
and under these operatives of different grades. In each of these cases
there is an obvious working together, or coöperation, of employer and
employed, to obtain in the one case a crop and in the other case a
manufactured stock. And then, at the same time, there is a far more
extensive, though unconscious, coöperation with other workers of all
grades throughout the society. For while these particular employers
and employed are severally occupied with their special kinds of work,
other employers and employed are making other things needed for the
carrying on of their lives as well as the lives of all others. This
voluntary coöperation, from its simplest to its most complex forms, has
the common trait that those concerned work together by consent. There
is no one to force terms or to force acceptance. It is perfectly true
that in many cases an employer may give, or an _employé_ may accept,
with reluctance: circumstances he says compel him. But what are the
circumstances? In the one case there are goods ordered, or a contract
entered into, which he cannot supply or execute without yielding; and
in the other case he submits to a wage less than he likes because
otherwise he will have no money wherewith to procure food and warmth.
The general formula is not—“Do this, or I will make you;” but it is—“Do
this, or leave your place and take the consequences.”

On the other hand compulsory coöperation is exemplified by an army—not
so much by our own army, the service in which is under agreement for a
specified period, but in a continental army, raised by conscription.
Here, in time of peace, the daily duties—cleaning, parade, drill,
sentry work, and the rest—and in time of war the various actions of
the camp and the battle-field, are done under command, {452} without
room for any exercise of choice. Up from the private soldier through
the non-commissioned officers and the half-dozen or more grades of
commissioned officers, the universal law is absolute obedience from
the grade below to the grade above. The sphere of individual will
is such only as is allowed by the will of the superior. Breaches
of subordination are, according to their gravity, dealt with by
deprivation of leave, extra drill, imprisonment, flogging, and, in the
last resort, shooting. Instead of the understanding that there must
be obedience in respect of specified duties under pain of dismissal;
the understanding now is—“Obey in everything ordered under penalty of
inflicted suffering and perhaps death.”

This form of coöperation, still exemplified in an army, has in days
gone by been the form of coöperation throughout the civil population.
Everywhere, and at all times, chronic war generates a militant type
of structure, not in the body of soldiers only but throughout the
community at large. Practically, while the conflict between societies
is actively going on, and fighting is regarded as the only manly
occupation, the society is the quiescent army and the army the
mobilized society: that part which does not take part in battle,
composed of slaves, serfs, women, &c., constituting the commissariat.
Naturally, therefore, throughout the mass of inferior individuals
constituting the commissariat, there is maintained a system of
discipline identical in nature if less elaborate. The fighting body
being, under such conditions, the ruling body, and the rest of the
community being incapable of resistance, those who control the fighting
body will, of course, impose their control upon the non-fighting
body; and the _régime_ of coercion will be applied to it with such
modifications only as the different circumstances involve. Prisoners
of war become slaves. Those who were free cultivators before the
conquest of their country, become serfs attached to the soil. Petty
chiefs become subject to superior chiefs; these smaller lords {453}
become vassals to over-lords; and so on up to the highest: the social
ranks and powers being of like essential nature with the ranks and
powers throughout the military organization. And while for the slaves
compulsory coöperation is the unqualified system, a coöperation which
is in part compulsory is the system that pervades all grades above.
Each man’s oath of fealty to his suzerain takes the form—“I am your
man.”

Throughout Europe, and especially in our own country, this system of
compulsory coöperation gradually relaxed in rigour, while the system
of voluntary coöperation step by step replaced it. As fast as war
ceased to be the business of life, the social structure produced by
war and appropriate to it, slowly became qualified by the social
structure produced by industrial life and appropriate to it. In
proportion as a decreasing part of the community was devoted to
offensive and defensive activities, an increasing part became devoted
to production and distribution. Growing more numerous, more powerful,
and taking refuge in towns where it was less under the power of the
militant class, this industrial population carried on its life under
the system of voluntary coöperation. Though municipal governments and
guild-regulations, partially pervaded by ideas and usages derived
from the militant type of society, were in some degree coercive;
yet production and distribution were in the main carried on under
agreement—alike between buyers and sellers, and between masters and
workmen. As fast as these social relations and forms of activity became
dominant in urban populations, they influenced the whole community:
compulsory coöperation lapsed more and more, through money commutation
for services, military and civil; while divisions of rank became less
rigid and class-power diminished. Until at length, restraints exercised
by incorporated trades having fallen into desuetude, as well as the
rule of rank over rank, voluntary coöperation became the universal
principle. {454} Purchase and sale became the law for all kinds of
services as well as for all kinds of commodities.

       *       *       *       *       *

The restlessness generated by pressure against the conditions of
existence, perpetually prompts the desire to try a new position.
Everyone knows how long-continued rest in one attitude becomes
wearisome—everyone has found how even the best easy chair, at first
rejoiced in, becomes after many hours intolerable; and change to a
hard seat, previously occupied and rejected, seems for a time to be a
great relief. It is the same with incorporated humanity. Having by long
struggles emancipated itself from the hard discipline of the ancient
_régime_, and having discovered that the new _régime_ into which it has
grown, though relatively easy, is not without stresses and pains, its
impatience with these prompts the wish to try another system: which
other system is, in principle if not in appearance, the same as that
which during past generations was escaped from with much rejoicing.

For as fast as the _régime_ of contract is discarded the _régime_ of
status is of necessity adopted. As fast as voluntary coöperation is
abandoned compulsory coöperation must be substituted. Some kind of
organization labour must have; and if it is not that which arises by
agreement under free competition, it must be that which is imposed by
authority. Unlike in appearance and names as it may be to the old order
of slaves and serfs, working under masters, who were coerced by barons,
who were themselves vassals of dukes or kings, the new order wished
for, constituted by workers under foremen of small groups, overlooked
by superintendents, who are subject to higher local managers, who
are controlled by superiors of districts, themselves under a central
government, must be essentially the same in principle. In the one
case, as in the other, there must be established grades, and enforced
subordination of each grade to the grades above. This is a truth which
the communist or the socialist does not dwell upon. Angry {455} with
the existing system under which each of us takes care of himself, while
all of us see that each has fair play, he thinks how much better it
would be for all of us to take care of each of us; and he refrains from
thinking of the machinery by which this is to be done. Inevitably, if
each is to be cared for by all, then the embodied all must get the
means—the necessaries of life. What it gives to each must be taken from
the accumulated contributions; and it must therefore require from each
his proportion—must tell him how much he has to give to the general
stock in the shape of production, that he may have so much in the shape
of sustentation. Hence, before he can be provided for, he must put
himself under orders, and obey those who say what he shall do, and at
what hours, and where; and who give him his share of food, clothing,
and shelter. If competition is excluded, and with it buying and
selling, there can be no voluntary exchange of so much labour for so
much produce; but there must be apportionment of the one to the other
by appointed officers. This apportionment must be enforced. Without
alternative the work must be done, and without alternative the benefit,
whatever it may be, must be accepted. For the worker may not leave
his place at will and offer himself elsewhere. Under such a system he
cannot be accepted elsewhere, save by order of the authorities. And
it is manifest that a standing order would forbid employment in one
place of an insubordinate member from another place: the system could
not be worked if the workers were severally allowed to go or come as
they pleased. With corporals and sergeants under them, the captains
of industry must carry out the orders of their colonels, and these
of their generals, up to the council of the commander-in-chief; and
obedience must be required throughout the industrial army as throughout
a fighting army. “Do your prescribed duties, and take your apportioned
rations,” must be the rule of the one as of the other.

“Well, be it so;” replies the socialist. “The workers {456} will
appoint their own officers, and these will always be subject to
criticisms of the mass they regulate. Being thus in fear of public
opinion, they will be sure to act judiciously and fairly; or when they
do not, will be deposed by the popular vote, local or general. Where
will be the grievance of being under superiors, when the superiors
themselves are under democratic control?” And in this attractive vision
the socialist has full belief.

       *       *       *       *       *

Iron and brass are simpler things than flesh and blood, and dead wood
than living nerve; and a machine constructed of the one works in more
definite ways than an organism constructed of the other,—especially
when the machine is worked by the inorganic forces of steam or water,
while the organism is worked by the forces of living nerve-centres.
Manifestly, then, the ways in which the machine will work are much
more readily calculable than the ways in which the organism will work.
Yet in how few cases does the inventor foresee rightly the actions of
his new apparatus! Read the patent-list, and it will be found that not
more than one device in fifty turns out to be of any service. Plausible
as his scheme seemed to the inventor, one or other hitch prevents the
intended operation, and brings out a widely different result from that
which he wished.

What, then, shall we say of these schemes which have to do not with
dead matters and forces, but with complex living organisms working
in ways less readily foreseen, and which involve the coöperation
of multitudes of such organisms? Even the units out of which this
re-arranged body politic is to be formed are often incomprehensible.
Everyone is from time to time surprised by others’ behaviour, and even
by the deeds of relatives who are best known to him. Seeing, then, how
uncertainly anyone can foresee the actions of an individual, how can
he with any certainty foresee the operation of a social structure?
He proceeds on the assumption that all concerned will judge rightly
and act {457} fairly—will think as they ought to think, and act
as they ought to act; and he assumes this regardless of the daily
experiences which show him that men do neither the one nor the other,
and forgetting that the complaints he makes against the existing
system show his belief to be that men have neither the wisdom nor the
rectitude which his plan requires them to have.

Paper constitutions raise smiles on the faces of those who have
observed their results; and paper social systems similarly affect those
who have contemplated the available evidence. How little the men who
wrought the French revolution and were chiefly concerned in setting up
the new governmental apparatus, dreamt that one of the early actions of
this apparatus would be to behead them all! How little the men who drew
up the American Declaration of Independence and framed the republic,
anticipated that after some generations the legislature would lapse
into the hands of wire-pullers; that its doings would turn upon the
contests of office-seekers; that political action would be everywhere
vitiated by the intrusion of a foreign element holding the balance
between parties; that electors, instead of judging for themselves,
would habitually be led to the polls in thousands by their “bosses;”
and that respectable men would be driven out of public life by the
insults and slanders of professional politicians. Nor were there better
previsions in those who gave constitutions to the various other states
of the New World, in which unnumbered revolutions have shown with
wonderful persistence the contrasts between the expected results of
political systems and the achieved results. It has been no less thus
with proposed systems of social re-organization, so far as they have
been tried. Save where celibacy has been insisted on, their history has
been everywhere one of disaster; ending with the history of Cabet’s
Icarian colony lately given by one of its members, Madame Fleury
Robinson, in _The Open Court_—a history of splittings, re-splittings
and re-re-splittings, accompanied by {458} numerous individual
secessions and final dissolution. And for the failure of such social
schemes, as for the failure of the political schemes, there has been
one general cause.

       *       *       *       *       *

Metamorphosis is the universal law, exemplified throughout the Heavens
and on the Earth: especially throughout the organic world; and above
all in the animal division of it. No creature, save the simplest and
most minute, commences its existence in a form like that which it
eventually assumes; and in most cases the unlikeness is great—so great
that kinship between the first and the last forms would be incredible
were it not daily demonstrated in every poultry-yard and every garden.
More than this is true. The changes of form are often several: each
of them being an apparently complete transformation—egg, larva, pupa,
imago, for example. And this universal metamorphosis, displayed alike
in the development of a planet and of every seed which germinates on
its surface, holds also of societies, whether taken as wholes or in
their separate institutions. No one of them ends as it begins; and the
difference between its original structure and its ultimate structure
is such that, at the outset, change of the one into the other would
have seemed incredible. In the rudest tribe the chief, obeyed as leader
in war, loses his distinctive position when the fighting is over; and
even where continued warfare has produced permanent chieftainship,
the chief, building his own hut, getting his own food, making his own
implements, differs from others only by his predominant influence.
There is no sign that in course of time, by conquests and unions of
tribes, and consolidations of clusters so formed with other such
clusters, until a nation has been produced, there will originate from
the primitive chief, one who, as czar or emperor, surrounded with pomp
and ceremony, has despotic power over scores of millions, exercised
through hundreds of thousands of soldiers and hundreds of thousands
of officials. When the early Christian missionaries, having humble
{459} externals and passing self-denying lives, spread over pagan
Europe, preaching forgiveness of injuries and the returning of good
for evil, no one dreamt that in course of time their representatives
would form a vast hierarchy, possessing everywhere a large part of
the land, distinguished by the haughtiness of its members grade above
grade, ruled by military bishops who led their retainers to battle,
and headed by a pope exercising supreme power over kings. So, too,
has it been with that very industrial system which many are now so
eager to replace. In its original form there was no prophecy of the
factory-system or kindred organizations of workers. Differing from
them only as being the head of his house, the master worked along with
his apprentices and a journeyman or two, sharing with them his table
and accommodation, and himself selling their joint produce. Only with
industrial growth did there come employment of a larger number of
assistants, and a relinquishment, on the part of the master, of all
other business than that of superintendence. And only in the course
of recent times did there evolve the organizations under which the
labours of hundreds and thousands of men receiving wages, are regulated
by various orders of paid officials under a single or multiple head.
These originally small, semi-socialistic, groups of producers, like the
compound families or house-communities of early ages, slowly dissolved
because they could not hold their ground: the larger establishments,
with better sub-division of labour, succeeded because they ministered
to the wants of society more effectually. But we need not go back
through the centuries to trace transformations sufficiently great and
unexpected. On the day when £30,000 a year in aid of education was
voted as an experiment, the name of idiot would have been given to an
opponent who prophesied that in 50 years the sum spent through imperial
taxes and local rates would amount to £10,000,000 or who said that
the aid to education would be followed by aids to feeding and {460}
clothing, or who said that parents and children, alike deprived of all
option, would, even if starving, be compelled by fine or imprisonment
to conform, and receive that which, with papal assumption, the State
calls education. No one, I say, would have dreamt that out of so
innocent-looking a germ would have so quickly evolved this tyrannical
system, tamely submitted to by people who fancy themselves free.

Thus in social arrangements, as in all other things, change is
inevitable. It is foolish to suppose that new institutions set up, will
long retain the character given them by those who set them up. Rapidly
or slowly they will be transformed into institutions unlike those
intended—so unlike as even to be unrecognizable by their devisers.
And what, in the case before us, will be the metamorphosis? The
answer pointed to by instances above given, and warranted by various
analogies, is manifest.

A cardinal trait in all advancing organization is the development of
the regulative apparatus. If the parts of a whole are to act together,
there must be appliances by which their actions are directed; and in
proportion as the whole is large and complex, and has many requirements
to be met by many agencies, the directive apparatus must be extensive,
elaborate, and powerful. That it is thus with individual organisms
needs no saying; and that it must be thus with social organisms is
obvious. Beyond the regulative apparatus such as in our own society is
required for carrying on national defence and maintaining public order
and personal safety, there must, under the _régime_ of socialism, be
a regulative apparatus everywhere controlling all kinds of production
and distribution, and everywhere apportioning the shares of products
of each kind required for each locality, each working establishment,
each individual. Under our existing voluntary coöperation, with its
free contracts and its competition, production and distribution need
no official oversight. Demand and {461} supply, and the desire of
each man to gain a living by supplying the needs of his fellows,
spontaneously evolve that wonderful system whereby a great city has
its food daily brought round to all doors or stored at adjacent shops;
has clothing for its citizens everywhere at hand in multitudinous
varieties; has its houses and furniture and fuel ready made or stocked
in each locality; and has mental pabulum from halfpenny papers
hourly hawked round, to weekly shoals of novels, and less abundant
books of instruction, furnished without stint for small payments.
And throughout the kingdom, production as well as distribution is
similarly carried on with the smallest amount of superintendence which
proves efficient; while the quantities of the numerous commodities
required daily in each locality are adjusted without any other agency
than the pursuit of profit. Suppose now that this industrial _régime_
of willinghood, acting spontaneously, is replaced by a _régime_ of
industrial obedience, enforced by public officials. Imagine the vast
administration required for that distribution of all commodities to
all people in every city, town and village, which is now effected by
traders! Imagine, again, the still more vast administration required
for doing all that farmers, manufacturers, and merchants do; having not
only its various orders of local superintendents, but its sub-centres
and chief centres needed for apportioning the quantities of each
thing everywhere needed, and the adjustment of them to the requisite
times. Then add the staffs wanted for working mines, railways, roads,
canals; the staffs required for conducting the importing and exporting
businesses and the administration of mercantile shipping; the staffs
required for supplying towns not only with water and gas but with
locomotion by tramways, omnibuses, and other vehicles, and for the
distribution of power, electric and other. Join with these the existing
postal, telegraphic, and telephonic administrations; and finally those
of the police and army, by which the dictates {462} of this immense
consolidated regulative system are to be everywhere enforced. Imagine
all this and then ask what will be the position of the actual workers!
Already on the continent, where governmental organizations are more
elaborate and coercive than here, there are chronic complaints of
the tyranny of bureaucracies—the _hauteur_ and brutality of their
members. What will these become when not only the more public actions
of citizens are controlled, but there is added this far more extensive
control of all their respective daily duties? What will happen when the
various divisions of this vast army of officials, united by interests
common to officialism—the interests of the regulators _versus_ those
of the regulated—have at their command whatever force is needful to
suppress insubordination and act as “saviours of society”? Where will
be the actual diggers and miners and smelters and weavers, when those
who order and superintend, everywhere arranged class above class, have
come, after some generations, to inter-marry with those of kindred
grades, under feelings such as are operative in existing classes;
and when there have been so produced a series of castes rising in
superiority; and when all these, having everything in their own power,
have arranged modes of living for their own advantage: eventually
forming a new aristocracy far more elaborate and better organized than
the old? How will the individual worker fare if he is dissatisfied with
his treatment—thinks that he has not an adequate share of the products,
or has more to do than can rightly be demanded, or wishes to undertake
a function for which he feels himself fitted but which is not thought
proper for him by his superiors, or desires to make an independent
career for himself? This dissatisfied unit in the immense machine will
be told he must submit or go. The mildest penalty for disobedience will
be industrial excommunication. And if an international organization of
labour is formed as proposed, exclusion in one country {463} will mean
exclusion in all others—industrial excommunication will mean starvation.

That things must take this course is a conclusion reached not by
deduction only, nor only by induction from those experiences of the
past instanced above, nor only from consideration of the analogies
furnished by organisms of all orders; but it is reached also by
observation of cases daily under our eyes. The truth that the
regulative structure always tends to increase in power, is illustrated
by every established body of men. The history of each learned society,
or society for other purpose, shows how the staff, permanent or
partially permanent, sways the proceedings and determines the actions
of the society with but little resistance, even when most members of
the society disapprove: the repugnance to anything like a revolutionary
step being ordinarily an efficient deterrent. So is it with joint-stock
companies—those owning railways for example. The plans of a board of
directors are usually authorized with little or no discussion; and if
there is any considerable opposition, this is forthwith crushed by an
overwhelming number of proxies sent by those who always support the
existing administration. Only when the misconduct is extreme does the
resistance of shareholders suffice to displace the ruling body. Nor
is it otherwise with societies formed of working men and having the
interests of labour especially at heart—the trades-unions. In these,
too, the regulative agency becomes all powerful. Their members, even
when they dissent from the policy pursued, habitually yield to the
authorities they have set up. As they cannot secede without making
enemies of their fellow workmen, and often losing all chance of
employment, they succumb. We are shown, too, by the late congress,
that already, in the general organization of trades-unions so recently
formed, there are complaints of “wire-pullers” and “bosses” and
“permanent officials.” If, then, this supremacy of the regulators is
seen in bodies of quite modern origin, formed of men who {464} have,
in many of the cases instanced, unhindered powers of asserting their
independence, what will the supremacy of the regulators become in
long-established bodies, in bodies which have become vast and highly
organized, and in bodies which, instead of controlling only a small
part of the unit’s life, control the whole of his life?

       *       *       *       *       *

Again there will come the rejoinder—“We shall guard against all that.
Everybody will be educated; and all, with their eyes constantly open to
the abuse of power, will be quick to prevent it.” The worth of these
expectations would be small even could we not identify the causes which
will bring disappointment; for in human affairs the most promising
schemes go wrong in ways which no one anticipated. But in this case
the going wrong will be necessitated by causes which are conspicuous.
The working of institutions is determined by men’s characters; and
the existing defects in their characters will inevitably bring about
the results above indicated. There is no adequate endowment of those
sentiments required to prevent the growth of a despotic bureaucracy.

Were it needful to dwell on indirect evidence, much might be made
of that furnished by the behaviour of the so-called Liberal party—a
party which, relinquishing the original conception of a leader as a
mouthpiece for a known and accepted policy, thinks itself bound to
accept a policy which its leader springs upon it without consent or
warning—a party so utterly without the feeling and idea implied by
liberalism, as not to resent this trampling on the right of private
judgment, which constitutes the root of liberalism—nay, a party
which vilifies as renegade liberals, those of its members who refuse
to surrender their independence! But without occupying space with
indirect proofs that the mass of men have not the natures required to
check the development of tyrannical officialism, it will suffice to
contemplate the direct proofs furnished by those classes among whom
{465} the socialistic idea most predominates, and who think themselves
most interested in propagating it—the operative classes. These would
constitute the great body of the socialistic organization, and their
characters would determine its nature. What, then, are their characters
as displayed in such organizations as they have already formed?

Instead of the selfishness of the employing classes and the selfishness
of competition, we are to have the unselfishness of a mutually-aiding
system. How far is this unselfishness now shown in the behaviour of
working men to one another? What shall we say to the rules limiting
the numbers of new hands admitted into each trade, or to the rules
which hinder ascent from inferior classes of workers to superior
classes? One does not see in such regulations any of that altruism by
which socialism is to be pervaded. Contrariwise, one sees a pursuit of
private interests no less keen than among traders. Hence, unless we
suppose that men’s natures will be suddenly exalted, we must conclude
that the pursuit of private interests will sway the doings of all the
component classes in a socialistic society.

With passive disregard of others’ claims goes active encroachment on
them. “Be one of us or we will cut off your means of living,” is the
usual threat of each trades-union to outsiders of the same trade. While
their members insist on their own freedom to combine and fix the rates
at which they will work (as they are perfectly justified in doing),
the freedom of those who disagree with them is not only denied but the
assertion of it is treated as a crime. Individuals who maintain their
rights to make their own contracts are vilified as “blacklegs” and
“traitors,” and meet with violence which would be merciless were there
no legal penalties and no police. Along with this trampling on the
liberties of men of their own class, there goes peremptory dictation to
the employing class: not prescribed terms and working arrangements only
shall be conformed {466} to, but none save those belonging to their
body shall be employed—nay, in some cases, there shall be a strike if
the employer carries on transactions with trading bodies that give work
to non-union men. Here, then, we are variously shown by trades-unions,
or at any rate by the newer trades-unions, a determination to impose
their regulations without regard to the rights of those who are to be
coerced. So complete is the inversion of ideas and sentiments that
maintenance of these rights is regarded as vicious and trespass upon
them as virtuous.[45]

Along with this aggressiveness in one direction there goes
submissiveness in another direction. The coercion of outsiders by
unionists is paralleled only by their subjection to their leaders.
That they may conquer in the struggle they surrender their individual
liberties and individual judgments, and show no resentment however
dictatorial may be the rule exercised over them. Everywhere we see such
subordination that bodies of workmen unanimously leave their work or
return to it as their authorities order them. Nor do they resist when
taxed all round to support strikers whose acts they may or may not
approve, but instead, ill-treat recalcitrant members of their body who
do not subscribe. {467}

 [45] Marvellous are the conclusions men reach when once they desert
 the simple principle, that each man should be allowed to pursue the
 objects of life, restrained only by the limits which the similar
 pursuits of their objects by other men impose. A generation ago we
 heard loud assertions of ‘the right to labour,’ that is, the right
 to have labour provided; and there are still not a few who think the
 community bound to find work for each person. Compare this with the
 doctrine current in France at the time when the monarchical power
 culminated; namely, that ‘the right of working is a royal right
 which the prince can sell and the subjects must buy.’ This contrast
 is startling enough; but a contrast still more startling is being
 provided for us. We now see a resuscitation of the despotic doctrine,
 differing only by the substitution of Trades-Unions for kings. For now
 that Trades-Unions are becoming universal, and each artisan has to
 pay prescribed monies to one or another of them, with the alternative
 of being a non-unionist to whom work is denied by force, it has come
 to this, that the right to labour is a Trade-Union right, which the
 Trade-Union can sell and the individual worker must buy!

The traits thus shown must be operative in any new social organization,
and the question to be asked is—What will result from their operation
when they are relieved from all restraints? At present the separate
bodies of men displaying them are in the midst of a society partially
passive, partially antagonistic; are subject to the criticisms and
reprobations of an independent press; and are under the control of law,
enforced by police. If in these circumstances these bodies habitually
take courses which override individual freedom, what will happen when,
instead of being only scattered parts of the community, governed
by their separate sets of regulators, they constitute the whole
community, governed by a consolidated system of such regulators; when
functionaries of all orders, including those who officer the press,
form parts of the regulative organization; and when the law is both
enacted and administered by this regulative organization? The fanatical
adherents of a social theory are capable of taking any measures, no
matter how extreme, for carrying out their views: holding, like the
merciless priesthoods of past times, that the end justifies the means.
And when a general socialistic organization has been established,
the vast, ramified, and consolidated body of those who direct its
activities, using without check whatever coercion seems to them needful
in the interests of the system (which will practically become their
own interests) will have no hesitation in imposing their rigorous rule
over the entire lives of the actual workers; until, eventually, there
is developed an official oligarchy, with its various grades, exercising
a tyranny more gigantic and more terrible than any which the world has
seen.

       *       *       *       *       *

Let me again repudiate an erroneous inference. Any one who supposes
that the foregoing argument implies contentment with things as
they are, makes a profound mistake. The present social state is
transitional, as past social states have been transitional. There will,
I hope {468} and believe, come a future social state differing as much
from the present as the present differs from the past with its mailed
barons and defenceless serfs. In _Social Statics_, as well as in _The
Study of Sociology_ and in _Political Institutions_, is clearly shown
the desire for an organization more conducive to the happiness of men
at large than that which exists. My opposition to socialism results
from the belief that it would stop the progress to such a higher state
and bring back a lower state. Nothing but the slow modification of
human nature by the discipline of social life, can produce permanently
advantageous changes.

A fundamental error pervading the thinking of nearly all parties,
political and social, is that evils admit of immediate and radical
remedies. “If you will but do this, the mischief will be prevented.”
“Adopt my plan and the suffering will disappear.” “The corruption
will unquestionably be cured by enforcing this measure.” Everywhere
one meets with beliefs, expressed or implied, of these kinds. They
are all ill-founded. It is possible to remove causes which intensify
the evils; it is possible to change the evils from one form into
another; and it is possible, and very common, to exacerbate the evils
by the efforts made to prevent them; but anything like immediate cure
is impossible. In the course of thousands of years mankind have, by
multiplication, been forced out of that original savage state in which
small numbers supported themselves on wild food, into the civilized
state in which the food required for supporting great numbers can be
got only by continuous labour. The nature required for this last mode
of life is widely different from the nature required for the first; and
long-continued pains have to be passed through in re-moulding the one
into the other. Misery has necessarily to be borne by a constitution
out of harmony with its conditions; and a constitution inherited
from primitive men is out of harmony with the conditions imposed on
existing men. Hence it is impossible to establish forthwith a {469}
satisfactory social state. No such nature as that which has filled
Europe with millions of armed men, here eager for conquest and there
for revenge—no such nature as that which prompts the nations called
Christian to vie with one another in filibustering expeditions all over
the world, regardless of the claims of aborigines, while their tens of
thousands of priests of the religion of love look on approvingly—no
such nature as that which, in dealing with weaker races, goes beyond
the primitive rule of life for life, and for one life takes many
lives—no such nature, I say, can, by any device, be framed into a
harmonious community. The root of all well-ordered social action is a
sentiment of justice, which at once insists on personal freedom and is
solicitous for the like freedom of others; and there at present exists
but a very inadequate amount of this sentiment.

Hence the need for further long continuance of a social discipline
which requires each man to carry on his activities with due regard to
the like claims of others to carry on their activities; and which,
while it insists that he shall have all the benefits his conduct
naturally brings, insists also that he shall not saddle on others
the evils his conduct naturally brings: unless they freely undertake
to bear them. And hence the belief that endeavours to elude this
discipline, will not only fail, but will bring worse evils than those
to be escaped.

It is not, then, chiefly in the interests of the employing classes that
socialism is to be resisted, but much more in the interests of the
employed classes. In one way or other production must be regulated; and
the regulators, in the nature of things, must always be a small class
as compared with the actual producers. Under voluntary coöperation
as at present carried on, the regulators, pursuing their personal
interests, take as large a share of the produce as they can get;
but, as we are daily shown by trades-union successes, are restrained
in the selfish pursuit {470} of their ends. Under that compulsory
coöperation which socialism would necessitate, the regulators, pursuing
their personal interests with no less selfishness, could not be met by
the combined resistance of free workers; and their power, unchecked
as now by refusals to work save on prescribed terms, would grow and
ramify and consolidate till it became irresistible. The ultimate
result, as I have before pointed out, must be a society like that of
ancient Peru, dreadful to contemplate, in which the mass of the people,
elaborately regimented in groups of 10, 50, 100, 500, and 1000, ruled
by officers of corresponding grades, and tied to their districts, were
superintended in their private lives as well as in their industries,
and toiled hopelessly for the support of the governmental organization.

{471}



THE AMERICANS:

A CONVERSATION AND A SPEECH, WITH AN ADDITION.


[_Originally published in America and afterwards published in
England in_ The Contemporary Review _for January 1883, preceded by
the following editorial note:—“The state of Mr. Spencer’s health
unfortunately not permitting him, to give in the form of articles
the results of his observations on American society, it is thought
useful to reproduce, under his own revision and with some additional
remarks, what he has said on the subject; especially as the accounts of
it which have appeared in this country are imperfect: reports of the
conversation having been abridged, and the speech being known only by
telegraphic summary._

_“The earlier paragraphs of the conversation, which refer to Mr.
Spencer’s persistent exclusion of reporters and his objections to the
interviewing system, are omitted, as not here concerning the reader.
There was no eventual yielding, as has been supposed. It was not to
a newspaper-reporter that the opinions which follow were expressed,
but to an intimate American friend: the primary purpose being to
correct the many misstatements to which the excluded interviewers had
given currency; and the occasion being taken for giving utterance to
impressions of American affairs._”—ED.]


I.—A CONVERSATION: _October 20, 1882_.

Has what you have seen answered your expectations?

It has far exceeded them. Such books about America as I had looked into
had given me no adequate idea of the immense developments of material
civilization which {472} I have everywhere found. The extent, wealth,
and magnificence of your cities, and especially the splendour of New
York, have altogether astonished me. Though I have not visited the
wonder of the West, Chicago, yet some of your minor modern places,
such as Cleveland, have sufficiently amazed me by the results of one
generation’s activity. Occasionally, when I have been in places of some
ten thousand inhabitants where the telephone is in general use, I have
felt somewhat ashamed of our own unenterprising towns, many of which,
of fifty thousand inhabitants and more, make no use of it.

I suppose you recognize in these results the great benefits of free
institutions?

Ah! Now comes one of the inconveniences of interviewing. I have been
in the country less than two months, have seen but a relatively small
part of it, and but comparatively few people, and yet you wish from me
a definite opinion on a difficult question.

Perhaps you will answer, subject to the qualification that you are but
giving your first impressions?

Well, with that understanding, I may reply that though the free
institutions have been partly the cause, I think they have not been the
chief cause. In the first place, the American people have come into
possession of an unparalleled fortune—the mineral wealth and the vast
tracts of virgin soil producing abundantly with small cost of culture.
Manifestly, that alone goes a long way towards producing this enormous
prosperity. Then they have profited by inheriting all the arts,
appliances, and methods, developed by older societies, while leaving
behind the obstructions existing in them. They have been able to pick
and choose from the products of all past experience, appropriating the
good and rejecting the bad. Then, besides these favours of fortune,
there are factors proper to themselves. I perceive in American faces
generally a great amount of determination—a kind of “do or die” {473}
expression; and this trait of character, joined with a power of work
exceeding that of any other people, of course produces an unparalleled
rapidity of progress. Once more, there is the inventiveness which,
stimulated by the need for economizing labour, has been so wisely
fostered. Among us in England, there are many foolish people who, while
thinking that a man who toils with his hands has an equitable claim to
the product, and if he has special skill may rightly have the advantage
of it, also hold that if a man toils with his brain, perhaps for years,
and, uniting genius with perseverance, evolves some valuable invention,
the public may rightly claim the benefit. The Americans have been more
far-seeing. The enormous museum of patents which I saw at Washington
is significant of the attention paid to inventors’ claims; and the
nation profits immensely from having in this direction (though not in
all others) recognized property in mental products. Beyond question,
in respect of mechanical appliances the Americans are ahead of all
nations. If along with your material progress there went equal progress
of a higher kind, there would remain nothing to be wished.

That is an ambiguous qualification. What do you mean by it?

You will understand me when I tell you what I was thinking the other
day. After pondering over what I have seen of your vast manufacturing
and trading establishments, the rush of traffic in your street-cars
and elevated railways, your gigantic hotels and Fifth Avenue palaces,
I was suddenly reminded of the Italian Republics of the Middle Ages;
and recalled the fact that while there was growing up in them great
commercial activity, a development of the arts, which made them the
envy of Europe, and a building of princely mansions which continue to
be the admiration of travellers, their people were gradually losing
their freedom.

Do you mean this as a suggestion that we are doing the like?

It seems to me that you are. You retain the forms of {474} freedom;
but, so far as I can gather, there has been a considerable loss of the
substance. It is true that those who rule you do not do it by means of
retainers armed with swords; but they do it through regiments of men
armed with voting papers, who obey the word of command as loyally as
did the dependants of the old feudal nobles, and who thus enable their
leaders to override the general will, and make the community submit
to their exactions as effectually as their prototypes of old. It is
doubtless true that each of your citizens votes for the candidate he
chooses for this or that office, from President downwards; but his hand
is guided by an agency behind which leaves him scarcely any choice.
“Use your political power as we tell you, or else throw it away,”
is the alternative offered to the citizen. The political machinery
as it is now worked, has little resemblance to that contemplated at
the outset of your political life. Manifestly, those who framed your
Constitution never dreamed that twenty thousand citizens would go to
the poll led by a “boss.” America exemplifies at the other end of
the social scale, a change analogous to that which has taken place
under sundry despotisms. You know that in Japan, before the recent
Revolution, the divine ruler, the Mikado, nominally supreme, was
practically a puppet in the hands of his chief minister, the Shogun.
Here it seems to me that “the sovereign people” is fast becoming a
puppet which moves and speaks as wire-pullers determine.

Then you think that Republican institutions are a failure?

By no means: I imply no such conclusion. Thirty years ago, when often
discussing politics with an English friend, and defending Republican
institutions, as I always have done and do still, and when he urged
against me the ill-working of such institutions over here, I habitually
replied that the Americans got their form of government by a happy
accident, not by normal progress, and that they would have to go back
before they could go forward. What has since happened seems to me
to have justified that {475} view; and what I see now, confirms me
in it. America is showing, on a larger scale than ever before, that
“paper Constitutions” will not work as they are intended to work.
The truth, first recognized by Mackintosh, that Constitutions are
not made but grow, which is part of the larger truth that societies,
throughout their whole organizations, are not made but grow, at once,
when accepted, disposes of the notion that you can work as you hope
any artificially-devised system of government. It becomes an inference
that if your political structure has been manufactured and not grown,
it will forthwith begin to grow into something different from that
intended—something in harmony with the natures of the citizens, and the
conditions under which the society exists. And it evidently has been so
with you. Within the forms of your Constitution there has grown up this
organization of professional politicians altogether uncontemplated at
the outset, which has become in large measure the ruling power.

But will not education and the diffusion of political knowledge fit men
for free institutions?

No. It is essentially a question of character, and only in a secondary
degree a question of knowledge. But for the universal delusion about
education as a panacea for political evils, this would have been made
sufficiently clear by the evidence daily disclosed in your papers.
Are not the men who officer and control your Federal, your State,
and your Municipal organizations—who manipulate your caucuses and
conventions, and run your partisan campaigns—all educated men? And has
their education prevented them from engaging in, or permitting, or
condoning, the briberies, lobbyings, and other corrupt methods which
vitiate the actions of your administrations? Perhaps party newspapers
exaggerate these things; but what am I to make of the testimony of your
civil service reformers—men of all parties? If I understand the matter
aright, they are attacking, as vicious and dangerous, a system {476}
which has grown up under the natural spontaneous working of your free
institutions—are exposing vices which education has proved powerless to
prevent?

Of course, ambitious and unscrupulous men will secure the offices, and
education will aid them in their selfish purposes. But would not those
purposes be thwarted, and better Government secured, by raising the
standard of knowledge among the people at large?

Very little. The current theory is that if the young are taught what is
right, and the reasons why it is right, they will do what is right when
they grow up. But considering what religious teachers have been doing
these two thousand years, it seems to me that all history is against
the conclusion, as much as is the conduct of these well-educated
citizens I have referred to; and I do not see why you expect better
results among the masses. Personal interests will sway the men in
the ranks, as they sway the men above them; and the education which
fails to make the last consult public good rather than private good,
will fail to make the first do it. The benefits of political purity
are so general and remote, and the profit to each individual is so
inconspicuous, that the common citizen, educate him as you like, will
habitually occupy himself with his personal affairs, and hold it not
worth his while to fight against each abuse as soon as it appears. Not
lack of information, but lack of certain moral sentiment, is the root
of the evil.

You mean that people have not a sufficient sense of public duty?

Well, that is one way of putting it; but there is a more specific way.
Probably it will surprise you if I say the American has not, I think, a
sufficiently quick sense of his own claims, and, at the same time, as a
necessary consequence, not a sufficiently quick sense of the claims of
others—for the two traits are organically related. I observe that they
tolerate various small interferences and dictations which Englishmen
are prone to resist. I am told that the {477} English are remarked on
for their tendency to grumble in such cases; and I have no doubt it is
true.

Do you think it worth while for people to make themselves disagreeable
by resenting every trifling aggression? We Americans think it involves
too much loss of time and temper, and doesn’t pay.

Exactly; that is what I mean by character. It is this easy-going
readiness to permit small trespasses, because it would be troublesome
or profitless or unpopular to oppose them, which leads to the habit
of acquiescence in wrong, and the decay of free institutions. Free
institutions can be maintained only by citizens, each of whom is
instant to oppose every illegitimate act, every assumption of
supremacy, every official excess of power, however trivial it may seem.
As Hamlet says, there is such a thing as “greatly to find quarrel in
a straw,” when the straw implies a principle. If, as you say of the
American, he pauses to consider whether he can afford the time and
trouble—whether it will pay, corruption is sure to creep in. All these
lapses from higher to lower forms begin in trifling ways, and it is
only by incessant watchfulness that they can be prevented. As one of
your early statesmen said—“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”
But it is far less against foreign aggressions upon national liberty
that this vigilance is required, than against the insidious growth
of domestic interferences with personal liberty. In some private
administrations which I have been concerned with, I have often insisted
that instead of assuming, as people usually do, that things are going
right until it is proved that they are going wrong, the proper course
is to assume that they are going wrong until it is proved that they
are going right. You will find continually that private corporations,
such as joint-stock banking companies, come to grief from not acting
on this principle; and what holds of these small and simple private
administrations holds still more of the great and complex public
administrations. {478} People are taught, and I suppose believe,
that the heart of man “is deceitful above all things, and desperately
wicked;” and yet, strangely enough, believing this, they place implicit
trust in those they appoint to this or that function. I do not think so
ill of human nature; but, on the other hand, I do not think so well of
human nature as to believe it will go straight without being watched.

You hinted that while Americans do not assert their own individualities
sufficiently in small matters, they, reciprocally, do not sufficiently
respect the individualities of others.

Did I? Here, then, comes another of the inconveniences of interviewing.
I should have kept this opinion to myself if you had asked me no
questions; and now I must either say what I do not think, which I
cannot, or I must refuse to answer, which, perhaps, will be taken to
mean more than I intend, or I must specify, at the risk of giving
offence. As the least evil, I suppose I must do the last. The trait I
refer to comes out in various ways, small and great. It is shown by
the disrespectful manner in which individuals are dealt with in your
journals—the placarding of public men in sensational headings, the
dragging of private people and their affairs into print. There seems to
be a notion that the public have a right to intrude on private life as
far as they like; and this I take to be a kind of moral trespassing.
Then, in a larger way, the trait is seen in this damaging of private
property by your elevated railways without making compensation; and
it is again seen in the doings of railway autocrats, not only when
overriding the rights of shareholders, but in dominating over courts
of justice and State governments. The fact is that free institutions
can be properly worked only by men, each of whom is jealous of his own
rights, and also sympathetically jealous of the rights of others—who
will neither himself aggress on his neighbours in small things or
great, nor tolerate aggression on them by others. The Republican form
of government is the highest form of government; but because of this
it {479} requires the highest type of human nature—a type nowhere at
present existing. We have not grown up to it; nor have you.

But we thought, Mr. Spencer, you were in favour of free government in
the sense of relaxed restraints, and letting men and things very much
alone, or what is called _laissez faire_?

That is a persistent misunderstanding of my opponents. Everywhere,
along with the reprobation of Government intrusion into various spheres
where private activities should be left to themselves, I have contended
that in its special sphere, the maintenance of equitable relations
among citizens, governmental action should be extended and elaborated.

To return to your various criticisms, must I then understand that you
think unfavourably of our future?

No one can form anything more than vague and general conclusions
respecting your future. The factors are too numerous, too vast, too far
beyond measure in their quantities and intensities. The world has never
before seen social phenomena at all comparable with those presented
in the United States. A society spreading over enormous tracts, while
still preserving its political continuity, is a new thing. This
progressive incorporation of vast bodies of immigrants of various
bloods, has never occurred on such a scale before. Large empires,
composed of different peoples, have, in previous cases, been formed
by conquest and annexation. Then your immense _plexus_ of railways
and telegraphs tends to consolidate this vast aggregate of States in
a way that no such aggregate has ever before been consolidated. And
there are many minor co-operating causes, unlike those hitherto known.
No one can say how it is all going to work out. That there will come
hereafter troubles of various kinds, and very grave ones, seems highly
probable; but all nations have had, and will have, their troubles.
Already you have triumphed over one great trouble, and {480} may
reasonably hope to triumph over others. It may, I think, be concluded
that, both because of its size and the heterogeneity of its components,
the American nation will be a long time in evolving its ultimate
form, but that its ultimate form will be high. One great result is, I
think, tolerably clear. From biological truths it is to be inferred
that the eventual mixture of the allied varieties of the Aryan race
forming the population, will produce a finer type of man than has
hitherto existed; and a type of man more plastic, more adaptable, more
capable of undergoing the modifications needful for complete social
life. I think that whatever difficulties they may have to surmount,
and whatever tribulations they may have to pass through, the Americans
may reasonably look forward to a time when they will have produced a
civilization grander than any the world has known.


II.—A SPEECH:

_Delivered on the occasion of a Complimentary Dinner in New York, on
November 9, 1882._

Mr. President and Gentlemen:—Along with your kindness there comes
to me a great unkindness from Fate; for, now that, above all times
in my life, I need full command of what powers of speech I possess,
disturbed health so threatens to interfere with them that I fear I
shall very inadequately express myself. Any failure in my response
you must please ascribe, in part at least, to a greatly disordered
nervous system. Regarding you as representing Americans at large, I
feel that the occasion is one on which arrears of thanks are due. I
ought to begin with the time, some two-and-twenty years ago, when my
highly valued friend Professor Youmans, making efforts to diffuse my
books here, interested on their behalf the Messrs. Appleton, who have
ever treated me so honourably and so handsomely; and I ought to detail
from that time onward the various {481} marks and acts of sympathy by
which I have been encouraged in a struggle which was for many years
disheartening. But, intimating thus briefly my general indebtedness
to my numerous friends, most of them unknown, on this side of the
Atlantic, I must name more especially the many attentions and proffered
hospitalities met with during my late tour, as well as, lastly and
chiefly, this marked expression of the sympathies and good wishes
which many of you have travelled so far to give, at great cost of that
time which is so precious to the American. I believe I may truly say,
that the better health which you have so cordially wished me, will be
in a measure furthered by the wish; since all pleasurable emotion is
conducive to health, and, as you will fully believe, the remembrance of
this event will ever continue to be a source of pleasurable emotion,
exceeded by few, if any, of my remembrances.

And now that I have thanked you, sincerely though too briefly, I am
going to find fault with you. Already, in some remarks drawn from me
respecting American affairs and American character, I have passed
criticisms, which have been accepted far more good-humouredly than I
could have reasonably expected; and it seems strange that I should now
propose again to transgress. However, the fault I have to comment upon
is one which most will scarcely regard as a fault. It seems to me that
in one respect Americans have diverged too widely from savages, I do
not mean to say that they are in general unduly civilized. Throughout
large parts of the population, even in long-settled regions, there
is no excess of those virtues needed for the maintenance of social
harmony. Especially out in the West, men’s dealings do not yet betray
too much of the “sweetness and light” which we are told distinguish
the cultured man from the barbarian. Nevertheless, there is a sense
in which my assertion is true. You know that the primitive man lacks
power of application. Spurred by hunger, by danger, by revenge, he
can exert himself {482} energetically for a time; but his energy is
spasmodic. Monotonous daily toil is impossible to him. It is otherwise
with the more developed man. The stern discipline of social life has
gradually increased the aptitude for persistent industry; until, among
us, and still more among you, work has become with many a passion.
This contrast of nature has another aspect. The savage thinks only of
present satisfactions, and leaves future satisfactions uncared for.
Contrariwise, the American, eagerly pursuing a future good, almost
ignores what good the passing day offers him; and when the future good
is gained, he neglects that while striving for some still remoter good.

What I have seen and heard during my stay among you has forced on
me the belief that this slow change from habitual inertness to
persistent activity has reached an extreme from which there must begin
a counterchange—a reaction. Everywhere I have been struck with the
number of faces which told in strong lines of the burdens that had
to be borne. I have been struck, too, with the large proportion of
gray-haired men; and inquiries have brought out the fact, that with you
the hair commonly begins to turn some ten years earlier than with us.
Moreover, in every circle I have met men who had themselves suffered
from nervous collapse due to stress of business, or named friends who
had either killed themselves by overwork, or had been permanently
incapacitated, or had wasted long periods in endeavours to recover
health. I do but echo the opinion of all the observant persons I have
spoken to, that immense injury is being done by this high-pressure
life—the physique is being undermined. That subtle thinker and poet
whom you have lately had to mourn, Emerson, says, in his essay on the
Gentleman, that the first requisite is that he shall be a good animal.
The requisite is a general one—it extends to the man, to the father,
to the citizen. We hear a great deal about “the vile body;” and many
are encouraged by the phrase to transgress the laws of {483} health.
But Nature quietly suppresses those who treat thus disrespectfully one
of her highest products, and leaves the world to be peopled by the
descendants of those who are not so foolish.

Beyond these immediate mischiefs there are remoter mischiefs. Exclusive
devotion to work has the result that amusements cease to please; and,
when relaxation becomes imperative, life becomes dreary from lack of
its sole interest—the interest in business. The remark current in
England that, when the American travels, his aim is to do the greatest
amount of sight-seeing in the shortest time, I find current here also:
it is recognized that the satisfaction of getting on devours nearly all
other satisfactions. When recently at Niagara, which gave us a whole
week’s pleasure, I learned from the landlord of the hotel that most
Americans come one day and go away the next. Old Froissart, who said
of the English of his day that “they take their pleasures sadly after
their fashion,” would doubtless, if he lived now, say of the Americans
that they take their pleasures hurriedly after their fashion. In large
measure with us, and still more with you, there is not that abandonment
to the moment which is requisite for full enjoyment; and this
abandonment is prevented by the ever-present sense of multitudinous
responsibilities. So that, beyond the serious physical mischief caused
by overwork, there is the further mischief that it destroys what value
there would otherwise be in the leisure part of life.

Nor do the evils end here. There is the injury to posterity. Damaged
constitutions reappear in children, and entail on them far more of
ill than great fortunes yield them of good. When life has been duly
rationalized by science, it will be seen that among a man’s duties,
care of the body is imperative; not only out of regard for personal
welfare, but also out of regard for descendants. His constitution
will be considered as an entailed estate, which he ought to pass
on uninjured, if not improved, to those who follow; and it will be
held that millions bequeathed by him {484} will not compensate for
feeble health and decreased ability to enjoy life. Once more, there
is the injury to fellow-citizens, taking the shape of undue disregard
of competitors. I hear that a great trader among you deliberately
endeavoured to crush out every one whose business competed with
his own; and manifestly the man who, making himself a slave to
accumulation, absorbs an inordinate share of the trade or profession
he is engaged in, makes life harder for all others engaged in it, and
excludes from it many who might otherwise gain competencies. Thus,
besides the egoistic motive, there are two altruistic motives which
should deter from this excess in work.

The truth is, there needs a revised ideal of life. Look back through
the past, or look abroad through the present, and we find that the
ideal of life is variable, and depends on social conditions. Every
one knows that to be a successful warrior was the highest aim among
all ancient peoples of note, as it is still among many barbarous
peoples. When we remember that in the Norseman’s heaven the time was
to be passed in daily battles, with magical healing of wounds, we see
how deeply rooted may become the conception that fighting is man’s
proper business, and that industry is fit only for slaves and people
of low degree. That is to say, when the chronic struggles of races
necessitate perpetual wars, there is evolved an ideal of life adapted
to the requirements. We have changed all that in modern civilized
societies; especially in England, and still more in America. With the
decline of militant activity, and the growth of industrial activity,
the occupations once disgraceful have become honourable. The duty to
work has taken the place of the duty to fight; and in the one case, as
in the other, the ideal of life has become so well established that
scarcely any dream of questioning it. Practically, business has been
substituted for war as the purpose of existence.

Is this modern ideal to survive throughout the future? I think not.
While all other things undergo continuous {485} change, it is
impossible that ideals should remain fixed. The ancient ideal was
appropriate to the ages of conquest by man over man, and spread of
the strongest races. The modern ideal is appropriate to ages in which
conquest of the earth and subjection of the powers of Nature to human
use, is the predominant need. But hereafter, when both these ends
have in the main been achieved, the ideal formed will probably differ
considerably from the present one. May we not foresee the nature of
the difference? I think we may. Some twenty years ago, a good friend
of mine, and a good friend of yours too, though you never saw him,
John Stuart Mill, delivered at St. Andrews an inaugural address on the
occasion of his appointment to the Lord Rectorship. It contained much
to be admired, as did all he wrote. There ran through it, however,
the tacit assumption that life is for learning and working. I felt at
the time that I should have liked to take up the opposite thesis. I
should have liked to contend that life is not for learning, nor is life
for working, but learning and working are for life. The primary use
of knowledge is for such guidance of conduct under all circumstances
as shall make living complete. All other uses of knowledge are
secondary. It scarcely needs saying that the primary use of work is
that of supplying the materials and aids to living completely; and
that any other uses of work are secondary. But in men’s conceptions
the secondary has in great measure usurped the place of the primary.
The apostle of culture as it is commonly conceived, Mr. Matthew
Arnold, makes little or no reference to the fact that the first use of
knowledge is the right ordering of all actions; and Mr. Carlyle, who is
a good exponent of current ideas about work, insists on its virtues for
quite other reasons than that it achieves sustentation. We may trace
everywhere in human affairs a tendency to transform the means into the
end. All see that the miser does this when, making the accumulation of
money his sole satisfaction, he forgets that money is of value only
to {486} purchase satisfactions. But it is less commonly seen that
the like is true of the work by which the money is accumulated—that
industry too, bodily or mental, is but a means; and that it is as
irrational to pursue it to the exclusion of that complete living it
subserves, as it is for the miser to accumulate money and make no use
of it. Hereafter, when this age of active material progress has yielded
mankind its benefits, there will, I think, come a better adjustment of
labour and enjoyment. Among reasons for thinking this, there is the
reason that the process of evolution throughout the organic world at
large, brings an increasing surplus of energies that are not absorbed
in fulfilling material needs, and points to a still larger surplus for
the humanity of the future. And there are other reasons, which I must
pass over. In brief, I may say that we have had somewhat too much of
“the gospel of work.” It is time to preach the gospel of relaxation.

This is a very unconventional after-dinner speech. Especially it will
be thought strange that in returning thanks I should deliver something
very much like a homily. But I have thought I could not better convey
my thanks than by the expression of a sympathy which issues in a fear.
If, as I gather, this intemperance in work affects more especially the
Anglo-American part of the population—if there results an undermining
of the physique, not only in adults, but also in the young, who, as I
learn from your daily journals, are also being injured by overwork—if
the ultimate consequence should be a dwindling away of those among
you who are the inheritors of free institutions and best adapted to
them; then there will come a further difficulty in the working out of
that great future which lies before the American nation. To my anxiety
on this account you must please ascribe the unusual character of my
remarks.

And now I must bid you farewell. When I sail by the _Germanic_ on
Saturday, I shall bear with me pleasant {487} remembrances of my
intercourse with many Americans, joined with regrets that my state of
health has prevented me from seeing a larger number.

       *       *       *       *       *


POSTSCRIPT.—A few words may fitly be added respecting the causes of
this over-activity in American life—causes which may be identified
as having in recent times partially operated among ourselves, and as
having wrought kindred, though less marked, effects. It is the more
worth while to trace the genesis of this undue absorption of the
energies in work, since it well serves to illustrate the general truth
which should be ever present to all legislators and politicians, that
the indirect and unforeseen results of any cause affecting a society
are frequently, if not habitually, greater and more important than the
direct and foreseen results.

This high pressure under which Americans exist, and which is most
intense in places like Chicago, where the prosperity and rate of growth
are greatest, is seen by many intelligent Americans themselves to be
an indirect result of their free institutions and the absence of those
class-distinctions and restraints existing in older communities. A
society in which the man who dies a millionaire is so often one who
commenced life in poverty, and in which (to paraphrase a French saying
concerning the soldier) every news-boy carries a president’s seal in
his bag, is, by consequence, a society in which all are subject to a
stress of competition for wealth and honour, greater than can exist in
a society whose members are nearly all prevented from rising out of
the ranks in which they were born, and have but remote possibilities
of acquiring fortunes. In those European societies which have in great
measure preserved their old types of structure (as in our own society
up to the time when the great development of industrialism began to
open ever-multiplying careers for the producing and distributing
classes) there is so little chance of overcoming the obstacles to any
great rise in position or possessions, that {488} nearly all have
to be content with their places: entertaining little or no thought
of bettering themselves. A manifest concomitant is that, fulfilling,
with such efficiency as a moderate competition requires, the daily
tasks of their respective situations, the majority become habituated
to making the best of such pleasures as their lot affords, during
whatever leisure they get. But it is otherwise where an immense growth
of trade multiplies greatly the chances of success to the enterprising;
and still more is it otherwise where class-restrictions are partially
removed or wholly absent. Not only are more energy and thought put into
the time daily occupied in work, but the leisure comes to be trenched
upon, either literally by abridgment, or else by anxieties concerning
business. Clearly, the larger the number who, under such conditions,
acquire property, or achieve higher positions, or both, the sharper
is the spur to the rest. A raised standard of activity establishes
itself and goes on rising. Public applause given to the successful,
becoming in communities thus circumstanced the most familiar kind of
public applause, increases continually the stimulus to action. The
struggle grows more and more strenuous, and there comes an increasing
dread of failure—a dread of being “left,” as the Americans say: a
significant word, since it is suggestive of a race in which the harder
any one runs, the harder others have to run to keep up with him—a word
suggestive of that breathless haste with which each passes from a
success gained to the pursuit of a further success. And on contrasting
the English of to-day with the English of a century ago, we may see
how, in a considerable measure, the like causes have entailed here
kindred results.

Even those who are not directly spurred on by this intensified struggle
for wealth and honour, are indirectly spurred on by it. For one of its
effects is to raise the standard of living, and eventually to increase
the average rate of expenditure for all. Partly for personal enjoyment,
{489} but much more for the display which brings admiration, those
who acquire fortunes distinguish themselves by luxurious habits. The
more numerous they become, the keener becomes the competition for that
kind of public attention given to those who make themselves conspicuous
by great expenditure. The competition spreads downwards step by step;
until, to be “respectable,” those having relatively small means feel
obliged to spend more on houses, furniture, dress, and food; and are
obliged to work the harder to get the requisite larger income. This
process of causation is manifest enough among ourselves; and it is
still more manifest in America, where the extravagance in style of
living is greater than here.

Thus, though it seems beyond doubt that the removal of all political
and social barriers, and the giving to each man an unimpeded career,
must be purely beneficial; yet there is (at first) a considerable
set-off from the benefits. Among those who in older communities have
by laborious lives gained distinction, some may be heard privately to
confess that “the game is not worth the candle;” and when they hear
of others who wish to tread in their steps, shake their heads and
say—“If they only knew!” Without accepting in full so pessimistic an
estimate of success, we must still say that very generally the cost of
the candle deducts largely from the gain of the game. That which in
these exceptional cases holds among ourselves, holds more generally in
America. An intensified life, which may be summed up as—great labour,
great profit, great expenditure—has for its concomitant a wear and
tear which considerably diminishes in one direction the good gained in
another. Added together, the daily strain through many hours and the
anxieties occupying many other hours—the occupation of consciousness
by feelings that are either indifferent or painful, leaving relatively
little time for occupation of it by pleasurable feelings—tend to
lower its level more than its level is raised by the gratifications
of achievement {490} and the accompanying benefits. So that it may,
and in many cases does, result that diminished happiness goes along
with increased prosperity. Unquestionably, as long as order is fairly
maintained, that absence of political and social restraints which gives
free scope to the struggles for profit and honour, conduces greatly
to material advance of the society—develops the industrial arts,
extends and improves the business organizations, augments the wealth;
but that it raises the value of individual life, as measured by the
average state of its feeling, by no means follows. That it will do
so eventually, is certain; but that it does so now seems, to say the
least, very doubtful.

The truth is that a society and its members act and react in such wise
that while, on the one hand, the nature of the society is determined
by the natures of its members; on the other hand, the activities of
its members (and presently their natures) are re-determined by the
needs of the society, as these alter: change in either entails change
in the other. It is an obvious implication that, to a great extent the
life of a society so sways the wills of its members as to turn them to
its ends. That which is manifest during the militant stage, when the
social aggregate coerces its units into co-operation for defence, and
sacrifices many of their lives for its corporate preservation holds
under another form during the industrial stage, as we at present know
it. Though the co-operation of citizens is now voluntary instead of
compulsory; yet the social forces impel them to achieve social ends
while apparently achieving only their own ends. The man who, carrying
out an invention, thinks only of private welfare to be thereby secured,
is in far larger measure working for public welfare: instance the
contrast between the fortune made by Watt and the wealth which the
steam-engine has given to mankind. He who utilizes a new material,
improves a method of production, or introduces a better way of carrying
on business, and does this for the purpose of distancing competitors,
gains {491} for himself little compared with that which he gains for
the community by facilitating the lives of all. Either unknowingly or
in spite of themselves, Nature leads men by purely personal motives to
fulfil her ends: Nature being one of our expressions for the Ultimate
Cause of things, and the end, remote when not proximate, being the
highest form of human life.

Hence no argument, however cogent, can be expected to produce much
effect: only here and there one may be influenced. As in an actively
militant stage of society it is impossible to make many believe
that there is any glory preferable to that of killing enemies; so,
where rapid material growth is going on, and affords unlimited scope
for the energies of all, little can be done by insisting that life
has higher uses than work and accumulation. While among the most
powerful of feelings continue to be the desire for public applause
and dread of public censure—while the anxiety to achieve distinction,
now by conquering enemies, now by beating competitors, continues
predominant—while the fear of public reprobation affects men more
than the fear of divine vengeance (as witness the long survival of
duelling in Christian societies); this excess of work which ambition
prompts, seems likely to continue with but small qualification. The
eagerness for the honour accorded to success, first in war and then in
commerce, has been indispensable as a means to peopling the Earth with
the higher types of man, and the subjugation of its surface and its
forces to human use. Ambition may fitly come to bear a smaller ratio
to other motives, when the working out of these needs is approaching
completeness; and when also, by consequence, the scope for satisfying
ambition is diminishing. Those who draw the obvious corollaries from
the doctrine of Evolution—those who believe that the process of
modification upon modification which has brought life to its present
height must raise it still higher, will anticipate that the “last
infirmity of noble mind” will in the distant future slowly {492}
decrease. As the sphere for achievement becomes smaller, the desire
for applause will lose that predominance which it now has. A better
ideal of life may simultaneously come to prevail. When there is fully
recognized the truth that moral beauty is higher than intellectual
power—when the wish to be admired is in large measure replaced by the
wish to be loved; that strife for distinction which the present phase
of civilization shows us will be greatly moderated. Along with other
benefits may then come a rational proportioning of work and relaxation;
and the relative claims of to-day and to-morrow may be properly
balanced.

THE END.

{493}



SUBJECT-INDEX.

(For this Index the Author is indebted to F. HOWARD COLLINS, Esq., of
Edgbaston, Birmingham.)


_A priori_, method, III, 199–203.

Absolute, The:
  Martineau on, II, 250–8;
  and relativity of knowledge, II, 260.

Abstract, definition of, II, 78.

Abstract nouns, succeed concrete, I, 323.

Abstraction, comparative psychology, I, 365–6.

Accommodation bills:
  morals of banking, III, 133–7;
  state tamperings with money, III, 326–35, 335–47.

Acoustics:
  genesis, II, 57, 60–1;
  “beats,” II, 169–70.

Acquisitiveness, comparative psychology, I, 367.

Action and reaction:
  universal, III, 101;
  the axiom, III, 221.

Activity, relation to growth, I, 63–4.

Adaptation:
  individual and social, III, 277–8;
  of alimentary canal, III, 421.

Address, forms of, III, 15–6.

_Adelaide_, Admiralty certificate of, III, 239.

Adjective, collocation of substantive, III, 340–1.

Administrative Nihilism, the title, II, 438, 442.

Admiralty, ship certificates, III, 239.

Adulteration:
  examples, III, 113;
  silk, III, 124–7.

Æsthetics, and natural selection, I, 408.

Agriculture, in France, III, 267–8.

Air, expansion without pressure, I, 118.

Alas! intonation of, II, 409.

Albert, Prince, on representative government, III, 284.

_Algæ_:
  development and homogeneity, I, 90;
  cell membrane, I, 439;
  cells, I, 446.

Algebra:
  genesis, II, 56;
  classification of sciences, II, 85;
  subject matter, II, 113, 115;
  evolution, II, 156;
  (_see also_ Mathematics.)

Alimentary canal:
  evolution, III, 204;
  differentiation, III, 406;
  and nervous system, III, 409;
  adaptation, III, 421.

Allegory, compound metaphor, II, 354.

Allotropism, complexity of elements, I, 155, 373.

Alternative necessity, law of, II, 191–2.

Altruism:
  development, I, 346–50;
  comparative psychology, I, 367–9.

_Amazon_, burning of the ship, III, 239.

America:
  paleontological evidence, I, 17;
  effects of subsidence, I, 42–3;
  age of rocks, I, 200–5, 206, 209, 210;
  admiration for wealth, III, 149–51;
  progress in, III, 278;
  paper currency, III, 328, 345;
  liberty, III, 381–2;
  militancy and industrialism, III, 415–6, 484–92;
  politics, III, 457;
  the Americans, III, 471–92;
  New York, III, 472;
  Cleveland, III, 472;
  free institutions, III, 472;
  patents, 473;
  freedom, III, 473–4, 477;
  republicanism, III, 474–5;
  education, III, 475–6;
  character, III, 476, 482–7;
  railways, III, 478;
  future, III, 479–80;
  hair, III, 482;
  health, III, 482, 483–4;
  pleasures in, III, 482–3;
  causes of over-activity, III, 487–92.

_Amœba_, instability of homogeneous, I, 86.

Amsterdam, English enterprise in, III, 278.

Analysis, psychology and classification, I, 245–57.

Anarchy, and despotism, III, 159.

Anatomy:
  transcendental, I, 63;
  organic correlation, I, 96–101.

Andes, age of rocks, I, 200–1.

Andrews, Prof. T., researches, I, 164–7.

Anger:
  natural language of, I, 340–50;
  indications, II, 402, 404, 405;
  and laughter, II, 462–3.

Anglesea, age of rocks, I, 198.

Animals:
  number of species, I, 1–2;
  increase in heterogeneity, I, 14–7, 35;
  structure, I, 73, 76, 372–3;
  form, I, 73, 76;
  chemical composition, I, 74, 76;
  specific gravity, I, 74, 76;
  temperature, I, 74, 76;
  self-mobility, I, 75, 76;
  evolution and homogeneity, I, 83–4;
  distribution and heat, I, 223–4;
  also terrestrial change, I, 224–6;
  social analogy, I, 272–7;
  origin of worship, I, 308–30;
  indistinguishable from plants, I, 375–6;
  function, I, 392–3;
  gracefulness, II, 381, 385;
  muscular excitement, II, 400, 403.

_Annulosa_:
  integration, I, 67–71;
  division of labour, I, 287–8;
  nervous system, I, 300;
  controlling system, III, 407.

Anthropology, comparative psychology of man, I, 351–70.

Antipodes, belief in, II, 199.

Anti-realism, H. Sidgwick’s criticism, II, 242–50.

Aphis, development, I, 65–6.

Apoplexy:
  belief in spirits, I, 311–2;
  heart disease, I, 411.

Appleton, D. & Co., as publishers, III, 480.

Approbation, love of, I, 36–7, II, 421.

Arago, F. J. D.:
  distribution of nebulæ, I, 112;
  also forms, I, 122, 123, 124.

Architect, the State as, III, 239.

Architecture:
  relation to painting and sculpture, I, 24;
  types, II, 375–80;
  symmetry in buildings, II, 376–7;
  Gothic type, II, 374, 377, 378;
  Grecian, II, 376, 377, 378.

Argyll, Duke of, criticism of, I, 467–78.

Arithmetic, and test of necessity, II, 196–7; (_See also_ Mathematics.)

Army:
  maladministration, III, 233, 247, 257, 308, 310, 399;
  parliamentary representatives, III, 297, 303, 304;
  compulsory co-operation, III, 451–4.

Arrest, H. L. d’, planetoids, I, 174.

Art:
  recognition of likeness, II, 34;
  interdependence of the arts, II, 68–71;
  use and beauty in historical pictures, II, 373;
  contrast in, II, 373–4;
  English and continental, III, 430.

Arthur, Sir G., Van Diemen’s Land convicts, III, 161.

_Articulata_, nervous system, I, 301.

Assyrians:
  language and painting, I, 25–6;
  sculpture, I, 26, 29.

Astronomy:
  evolution and increase in heterogeneity, I, 10–11, 35;
  nebular hypothesis and multiplication of effects, I, 38–9, 59;
  history and generalization in, I, 192;
  geology and earth’s motion, I, 221–4;
  analogy from survival of the fittest, I, 478;
  science and common knowledge, II, 3;
  Hegel’s classification, II, 13;
  Comte’s, II, 21–7;
  genesis, II, 48–9, 52, 55;
  genesis of trigonometry, II, 55–6;
  genesis of physical, II, 59;
  interdependence of sciences, II, 66–7, 70–1;
  and abstract science, II, 80;
  and concrete, II, 88–92;
  terrestrial evolution, II, 94–9;
  deals with aggregates, II, 99;
  Bain on classification of sciences, II, 111;
  also Mill, II, 114;
  discovery of laws, II, 149;
  evolution, II, 152;
  judgments of reason and common sense, II, 243–4;
  laws of motion, II, 271–5, 283–8;
  motion of system, II, 293;
  exact science, III, 199.

Australia:
  size of the human limb, I, 17;
  age of rocks, I, 206;
  fauna, I, 216.

_Australian_, the ship, and admiralty certificate, III, 239.

Austria, paper currency, III, 345.

Authority, and intelligence, III, 311.

Axioms:
  knowledge implied by, II, 270, 277–88;
  origin of physical, II, 298–301, 313–4, 315–20;
  Thomson and Tait on physical, III, 220–1.

Babinet, M., on nebular hypothesis, I, 121.

Bach, J. S., and heredity, I, 407.

Bacon, Francis, Viscount St. Alban’s:
  organization of sciences, II, 121;
  literary style, II, 365;
  “A crowd is not company,” III, 44.

_Bacteria_, action of light, I, 465–6.

Baer, C. von, formula of, and general evolution, I, 35, II, 137–8.

Bail, prison discipline, III, 180–7.

Baillie-Cochrane, Mr., on Munich prison, III, 172.

Bain, A.:
  _Emotions and the Will_, I, 241–64;
  _Mental and Moral Science_, I, 332;
  classification of sciences, II, 105–17;
  on logic, II, 105–6;
  mathematics, II, 106–7;
  incongruities, II, 463.

Balfour, F. M.:
  on invagination, I, 452;
  development of nervous system, I, 454.

Ball, embryological analogy, I, 452.

Balloon, reason for ascent, I, 427.

Ballot, Carlyle on, III, 300.

Balzac, H. de, quoted, II, 364.

Bank notes:
  forgery, III, 134;
  issue, III, 349–50, 352, 355.

Bank of England:
  advances by, III, 330–5, 335–47;
  note issue, III, 349–50.

Bankers, local integration, I, 103.

Banking:
  morals of trade, III, 131–7;
  accommodation bills, III, 133–7;
  evolution, III, 255–6.

Bankruptcy:
  morals of trade, III, 129–31;
  and Bank of England, III, 330–2, 341;
  evils of law, III, 438–9.

Banks:
  State tamperings, III, 326–57;
  joint-stock, III, 347–54;
  and free-trade, III, 355–7;
  and government, III, 425–7.

Barbadoes, sugar, III, 122.

Barnacle goose, myth of, II, 162.

Barometer:
  action, I, 426;
  scientific knowledge, II, 3, 5.

Baron, the title, III, 15, 28.

Barracks, maladministration, III, 233, 257.

Barristers:
  and traders, III, 139;
  number in parliament, III, 298, 303, 304.

Barter, and measures, II, 46; (_see also_ Exchange.)

Bas-relief, increase in heterogeneity, I, 26, 27.

Beats, acoustical, II, 169–70.

Beauty:
  officialism, I, 335–6;
  and use, II, 370–4;
  personal, II, 387–99.

Bees:
  sex of, I, 48;
  analogy for distribution of nebulæ, I, 114.

Beethoven, L. von:
  heredity, I, 406;
  Adelaïde of, II, 447.

Beliefs:
  and pedigree, I, 108;
  different meaning of, II, 188–91, 193, 222.

Berkeley, Bishop, subject and object, II, 329.

Berlin:
  English enterprise, III, 278;
  water supply, III, 429.

Bills of accommodation, morals of banking, III, 133–7.

Biluchis, robbery, III, 218, 221.

Biology:
  increase in heterogeneity, I, 14–7, 35;
  multiplication of effects, I, 46–53;
  concrete science, II, 89–92;
  deals with aggregates, II, 103;
  Bain on classification, II, 109–11;
  origin of species, II, 131;
  evolution of science, II, 153;
  universality of law, II, 159;
  organic matter and incident forces, II, 177;
  organic differentiation, III, 405.

Birds:
  in newly discovered lands, I, 255–6;
  use and disuse, I, 418;
  colour as illustrating propositions, II, 205–8;
  muscular excitement, II, 400, 403;
  origin of music, II, 428;
  evolution, II, 438.

Black horse, the phrase, II, 340.

Blacksmith, arm and heredity, I, 475.

Blackstone, Sir Wm., persons ineligible for parliament, III, 296.

Blister:
  effect on walking, I, 403;
  action of medicine, I, 448.

Blood:
  multiplication of effects, I, 47;
  nutrition and growth, I, 289;
  function and supply, I, 290;
  social analogy, I, 291–8;
  mental mass and bodily state, I, 354.

Board-meetings, railway, III, 77–80.

Bondage, from freedom to, III, 445–70.

Bones:
  evolution and ratio of, I, 17;
  weight in duck, I, 417–8;
  water hen, I, 418.

Bookkeeping:
  railway, III, 59;
  officialism, III, 253.

Books, serial arrangement, II, 28.

Botany:
  classification, II, 64;
  discovery of laws, II, 150.

Bow, the obeisance, III, 18, 19.

Braid, morals of trade, III, 119.

Brain:
  effect on viscera, I, 290;
  analogy to parliament, I, 302–5;
  mental and bodily mass, I, 353–4;
  size of jaw, I, 397;
  embryo development, I, 454.

Bribery:
  of buyers, III, 114–8;
  of juries, III, 396.

Bricks:
  position of falling, I, 99;
  and building, III, 239;
  tax on, III, 243.

British Association, and government, III, 436.

_British Quarterly Review_, criticism, II, 267–301, 315–20.

Bronze, multiplication of effects, I, 55–6.

Brown-Séquard, E., epilepsy in guinea pigs, I, 415–6.

Builders, strike of, III, 363–4, 365, 383.

Buildings Acts:
  failure, III, 239, 240–1, 275;
  displacements caused by, III, 281;
  representative government, III, 301.

Bull-dog, jaws of, I, 401.

Burial, primitive ideas, III, 6–11.

Buyers, in clothing trades, III, 114–8.

Cabet, S., Icarian colony, III, 457.

Cabs:
  officialism, III, 250;
  in New York, III, 291;
  representative government, III, 302.

Cadence, defined, II, 422.

Caird, Rev. Princ., reply to criticism, II, 219–21.

Calculus:
  implies absolute equality, II,38;
  classification of sciences, II, 84;
  evolution, II, 156.

Cambium, in plants, I, 450.

Cambrian system, thickness, I, 231.

Campbell, G., on style, II, 338–9.

Canals:
  first English, III, 257;
  officialism, III, 267.

Candles:
  multiplication of effects, I, 37;
  morals of trade, III, 128;
  Price’s school, III, 256.

Cannibalism, in Fiji, III, 217–8.

Cannon ball, disintegration, I, 436.

Caoutchouc, effects of, I, 58.

Capital:
  direction of flow, III, 101–3, 264;
  amount of railway, III, 108;
  relative and absolute ethics, III, 155–7;
  State tamperings with, III, 326–35, 335–47.

Captains, certificated, of ships, III, 241.

Caradoc sandstone, age, I, 201.

Carat, a small bean, II, 44.

Carboniferous system, origin, I, 237.

Carlyle, Thomas:
  on people, III, 293;
  the ballot, III, 300;
  the real rulers, III, 316–7;
  quotation from _Heroes and Hero-worship_, II, 357.

Carpenter, W. B., evolution and paleontology, I, 16.

Carus, P., on Kantian ethics, III, 206–7.

Castles:
  use and beauty, II, 371;
  situation, II, 376.

Cat, muscular excitement, II, 400–1, 403.

Catalepsy, belief in spirits, I, 311–2.

Caterpillar, mistake by, I, 419.

Causation:
  establishment of belief, I, 109;
  ignorance of, III, 487–92.

Cause:
  multiplication of effects, I, 37;
  consciousness of, II, 127;
  proportionality to effect, II, 300–1, 302–5, 305–7, 310–11, 318–20.

Cell, doctrine of, I, 442–3.

Centralization, French, III, 268.

Cerebrum, consciousness of, representative, I, 303.

Ceremony:
  increase of heterogeneity, I, 20–1;
  evolution, III, 11–6, 23, 50;
  obeisances, III, 17–22;
  primitive man, III, 24;
  Chinese, III, 25;
  evolution of governments, III, 27–8, 50.

Cerney springs, III, 387–92.

Chaldeans, prediction of eclipses, II, 48–9.

Chalk, complexity of, III, 195–6.

Chancery:
  rules, III, 232;
  maladministration, III, 247, 272;
  dread of, III, 396.

Change:
  pleasure of, III, 454;
  universal, III, 458–60.

Charity, and government, III, 434.

_Charlotte_, The, naval maladministration, III, 234.

Cheek-bones, personal beauty, I, 390–2.

Cheltenham, water supply, III, 387–92.

Chemistry:
  multiplication of effects, I, 43–5, 59;
  unstable equilibrium, I, 83;
  organic evolution, I, 83–4;
  complexity of elements, I, 155–9, 371–4;
  organic synthesis, I, 374;
  genesis, II, 51, 58, 60;
  galvanic electricity, II, 61;
  classification, II, 64;
  abstract concrete science, II, 85–8;
  terrestrial evolution, II, 95–9;
  deals with properties, II, 102, 103;
  Bain on classification, II, 107–11;
  elements, II, 195;
  development, II, 423.

Cheques (_see_ Money).

Chesil Beach, size of stones, I, 432.

Chicken, evolution of mind, I, 377.

Chiefs:
  differentiation, I, 284–5;
  duties and individual nervous system, I, 299–307;
  primitive belief in spirits, I, 344.

Children:
  emotions and expression, I, 339–50;
  lack generalization, I, 354;
  and traits of savage, I, 355;
  mental variability, I, 356–7;
  impulsiveness, I, 358;
  vocabulary, II, 336;
  poor law and illegitimate, III, 244;
  old and new education, III, 277.

China, manners and fashion, III, 25.

Chisholme, Mrs., colonization society, III, 258.

Cholera, private and state enterprise, III, 238–9.

Chopin, F., character, II, 417.

Chrysalis, transformations, II, 163.

Church:
  differentiation from State, I, 21;
  officialism, III, 251, 252;
  corn laws, III, 361;
  franchise and rates, III, 362.

Circle, relation to hyperbola, I, 5.

Circulars, morals of trade, III, 123–4.

_Cirrhipedia_, classification, I, 248.

Civilization, development of sympathy, II, 425.

Classification:
  psychology and analysis, I, 245–57;
  historical, I, 248;
  non-linear of sciences, II, 27–9;
  recognition of likeness and unlikeness, II, 29–31, 34;
  and language, II, 31–3, 40;
  and reasoning, II, 33, 34, 40;
  genesis of science, II, 63–5, 72;
  (_See also_ Sciences, Classification of the.)

Clearing house, banker’s, III, 425.

Climate:
  increase of heterogeneity, I, 13–4, 35;
  and paleontological evidence, I, 221–4.

Coach:
  and railway travelling, III, 110–2;
  Palmer, III, 441.

Coats of arms, derivation, I, 28.

Cognitions, defined, I, 261–2, II, 241.

Coleridge, S. T., sonnet quoted, II, 352.

Colligation, the word, II, 368–9.

Colloids, evolution of life, I, 374.

Comets, origin, direction and constitution, I, 125–8, 153, 177–8.

Common sense:
  judgment of reason, II, 243–4;
  anomalies, III, 401–4, 445.

Companies (_see_ Joint-stock companies.)

Comparative Psychology (see Psychology.)

Compass, faulty Admiralty, III, 234, 252.

Competition:
  effect of railway, III, 97, 106–7;
  effects, III, 448–9;
  American, III, 487–92.

Comte, A.:
  classification of sciences, II, 15–29;
  mathematics, II, 15–19;
  astronomy, II, 21–3;
  progress of mathematics, II, 56;
  on gravitation, II, 65, 66;
  on education, II, 72, 133;
  Littré on classification of, II, 74–6;
  abstract and concrete science, II, 79;
  science and positivism, II, 118–22, 128, 139;
  origin of knowledge, II, 122–5;
  propositions of, II, 125–32;
  and social statics, II, 134–7;
  Mill on philosophy, II, 143;
  Fouillée on, II, 143–4;
  progress from simple to complex, II, 147;
  positivism rejected by Mr. Spencer, II, 221.

Concrete:
  precedes abstract, I, 323;
  definition, II, 78.

Conduct (_see_ Morals.)

Conglomerate, origin, I, 444.

Conic sections, relation of circle to hyperbola, I, 5.

Conscience:
  corporate and individual, III, 61–2;
  Kant on human, III, 192;
  Lubbock, III, 192–3;
  and duty, III, 210–1.

Consciousness, the phrase, state of, II, 326–7.

Conservatism:
  and social state, I, 356;
  of women, I, 363;
  Emerson on, III, 35;
  effects, III, 43–4.

Contract:
  principle of, III, 90, 108;
  and expediency, III, 95–6;
  railway proprietary, III, 108–12;
  enforcement in Spain, III, 218;
  effect of breaches, III, 220;
  State to enforce, III, 334, 336.

Contractors:
  sociological division of labour, I, 106;
  railway, III, 72–4, 83, 88, 108.

Contrast:
  in literature and art, II, 373–4;
  in music, II, 444, 446.

Convicts (_see_ Prison Ethics.)

Coöperation:
  needful to social life, III, 450;
  voluntary, III, 450–1;
  compulsory, III, 451–4;
  and socialism, III, 454–6.

Copernicus, N., solar theory, I, 193.

Copula, arrangement of sentences, II, 342–4.

Corn laws:
  representative government, III, 294;
  and clergy, III, 361.

Corporations, representative government, III, 289.

Correlation, organic, I, 96–101.

Costume:
  and political opinion, III, 1–5, 30;
  reform and custom, III, 30–6, 36–7;
  development, III, 447.

Cotton:
  industry and locality, I, 104;
  manufacture, II, 68.

Counterpoint, origin of music, II, 448.

Counties, social development, I, 288.

Courage, emotional expression, I, 343–50.

Crabs, of Kentucky caves, I, 400–1, 402.

Creation (_see_ Special creation.)

Credit, State tamperings with money, III, 326–35, 335–47.

Creed:
  fatal to science, I, 463;
  use and beauty, II, 371.

Criminals (_see_ Prison Ethics.)

Critical point, of gases, I, 164–7.

Critics, faith in, II, 322.

Crofton, Captain, prison discipline, III, 186.

Cromwell, O., and representative government, III, 315–6.

Croshek, the name, I, 313.

Crosse, A. F., on Hungarian music, II, 449.

Croydon, board of health, III, 241.

_Crustacea_, integration, I, 68–71.

Cubit, length of, II, 43, 44.

Curiosity, comparative psychology, I, 364–5.

Curtsy, obeisance, III, 18–9.

Custom:
  and political opinion, III, 1–5, 30;
  Eastern, III, 25;
  and reform, III, 30–6, 36–7;
  effect on railways, III, 110–2.

Cuvier, Baron de, organic correlation, I, 96–101.

D’Alembert, J. le R., composition of forces, II, 24.

Damaras, ethics of the, III, 193.

Dancing:
  origin and differentiation, I, 30–2;
  grace in, II, 381, 382;
  and pleasure, II, 402;
  evolution, II, 441.

Darwin, Charles:
  natural selection of one variation, I, 407, 421;
  natural selection and heredity, I, 408–12, 421;
  on E. Darwin, I, 417;
  inheritance of functionally produced changes, I, 417–21, 422;
  origin of music, II, 426–37;
  on the phrase natural selection, I, 429;
  effect of changed conditions, I, 433.

Darwin, Dr. E., organic evolution, I, 390–1, 397.

Davy, Sir H., chemical elements, III, 195.

Dawn, as name, I, 318, 319, 324.

Death:
  primitive ideas, III, 6;
  punishment and associations, III, 158, 187;
  duty and inclination, III, 212, 213, 215;
  rate in barracks, III, 257;
  improvement in rate, III, 447.

Deduction:
  and physiology, I, 77–81, 107;
  qualitative and quantitative science, II, 7.

Deer, growth of horns, I, 393.

Defoe, D., _Complete English Tradesman_, III, 141.

Deities, primitive ideas, III, 6–11, 12.

De la Beche, Sir H., paleontological evidence, I, 205.

Democracy, change inaugurated, III, 49.

Desire, associated with talent, I, 54.

Despotism:
  and social state, I, 268, III, 313;
  and anarchy, III, 159;
  and representative government, III, 309–10.

Development:
  hypothesis, I, 1–7;
  relation to function, I, 63–4;
  (_see also_ Evolution.)

Devonian System, age of, I, 203–5, 210.

Dewar, Prof., complexity of elements, I, 162.

Differentiation, sociological, I, 102–7.

Directors:
  and railway companies, III, 52–63, 69;
  and shareholder’s interests, III, 82–8, 108;
  morals of banking, III, 131–7.

Disease:
  multiplication of effects, I, 47;
  dissimilar effects, I, 100;
  beliefs about, II, 153;
  criminality, III, 167;
  representative government, III, 301, 304;
  body and nerve functions, III, 419–22, 443.

Distribution, individual and social, I, 291–8.

Dividends, railway, III, 57, 98.

Division of labour:
  multiplication of effects, I, 53–8;
  sociological, I, 105–6, 292–3, III, 323;
  illustrations and growth, I, 266;
  social and individual nervous system, I, 299–307;
  progress of science, II, 24–7.

Dixon, T. H., on Norfolk Island convicts, III, 176.

Dogs:
  size of jaws, I, 398–400, 401, 422;
  use and disuse, I, 469–71;
  simile of Hodgson, II, 231–3;
  gracefulness, II, 381, 385;
  muscular excitement, II, 400, 403;
  origin of music, II, 428.

Don, the title, III, 14.

Downes, Dr., on light and protoplasm, I, 465–6.

Drama:
  cause of laughter, II, 461;
  representative government, III, 301.

Draper, honesty and bankruptcy, III, 129–31.

Drawing, comparative psychology, I, 366.

Dreams, belief in spirits, I, 310–3.

Dress:
  and political opinion, III, 1–5, 30;
  custom and reform, III, 30–6, 36–7;
  and extravagance, III, 36–7;
  and enjoyment, III, 40–6.

Drunkenness, and temperance, III, 446.

Duck, weight of bones, I, 417–8.

Duty:
  Kant and pursuit of happiness, III, 207–9;
  and inclination, III, 209–13.

Dyeing, morals of trade, III, 125.

Dymond, J., _Principles of Morality_, I, 346.

Dynamics, Comte’s classification, II, 19.

Ear, embryological development, I, 454.

Earth:
  increase in heterogeneity, I, 11–4, 35;
  rotatory movement, I, 135, 136;
  number of satellites, I, 139;
  density and heat, I, 144–8, 148–52;
  size, I, 145;
  paleontology and motion, I, 221–4;
  laws of motion, II, 272, 283–8;
  (_see also_ Geology.)

Ease, and grace, II, 382.

East Indies, effects of upheaval, I, 49–52.

Echoes, belief in spirits, I, 310–3.

Eclipse, prediction of, II, 48.

Ectoderm:
  development, I, 284;
  social and individual analogy, I, 298–9;
  differentiation, III, 405.

Education:
  comparative psychology, I, 370;
  development of science, II, 72;
  Comte’s views, II, 133;
  and conservatism, III, 43;
  old and new, III, 277;
  representative government, III, 301;
  parliamentary reform, III, 375–9;
  and government, III, 435–6;
  development, III, 446, 459–60;
  American, III, 475–6.

Effect:
  proportionality to cause, II, 300–1, 302–5, 305–7, 310–11, 318–20;
  relation to cause, III, 487–92.

Egg, evolution of mind, I, 377.

Egyptians:
  language and painting, I, 25–6;
  sculpture, I, 26–7, 29, 30;
  music, I, 32.

Electricity:
  multiplication of effects, I, 59;
  genesis of galvanic, II, 61;
  Whewell on progress of theory, II, 62;
  abstract-concrete science, II, 88;
  mode of molecular motion, II, 126;
  what is? 168–72, 186–7;
  also thermo-, II, 172–6;
  statical and molecular motion, II, 180–3, 186–7;
  induction, II, 183;
  voltaic and molecular motion, II, 183–4, 186–7.

Elements, complexity of, I, 155–9, 162, 371–4.

Ell, the measure, II, 44.

Ellipse, relation to circle, I, 5.

Embryo:
  relation to adult, I, 6;
  early changes in, I, 445;
  development, I, 451–8.

Embryology:
  increase in heterogeneity, I, 17–9;
  multiplication of effects, I, 48;
  organic correlation, I, 97;
  importance of, II, 8–9;
  von Baer’s formula, II, 137–8.

Emerson, R. W.:
  _Lectures on the Times_, II, 354;
  use and ornament, II, 370;
  on conservatism, III, 35.

Emotion:
  Bain’s definition, I, 258–60;
  defined, I, 262;
  of beauty, I, 335–6;
  relation to idea, I, 336;
  expression in children, I, 339–50