ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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{The Coming Terror 1891}

 

1

THE COMING TERROR:

A
DIALOGUE BETWEEN ALIENATUS, A PROVINCIAL,

AND URBANUS, A COCKNEY.

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3

 

THE COMING TERROR:

A D
IALOGUE BETWEEN ALIENATUS, A PROVINCIAL,

AND URBANUS, A COCKNEY.

_____

 

URBANUS.     I have often wondered, my dear Alienatus, at the very scant respect you seem to pay to lawfully constituted authority, and to those who have been termed, and rightly, the leaders of mankind. This attitude of irreverence, combined with a disposition to enter into combat with any individual, however ignoble and unworthy, who throws down to you the gage of battle, has prejudiced many intelligent people against you. For myself, I love a quiet life, and cannot understand the temperament which disturbs itself with social and political shadows; and I think, if you will permit me to say so, that your position in the world would have been very different if you had, like certain other poets, led ‘a philosopher’s life in the quiet woodland ways’—in other words, let the squabbles of the world alone, and confined your attention to literature pure and simple.
4   ALIENATUS.    That is possible; but literature quâ literature has ceased to interest me very much.
     URB.    You surprise me! Literature, to my thinking, is the one star of peacefulness in a very troublesome world. A play of Euripides or Shakespeare, a poem of Theocritus or Tennyson——
     ALI.    Quite so; all these are charming, and I hope I am not insensible to their attractions. At least twenty years of my life have been devoted to the study of what is best and most beautiful in written books. But I have long since come to the conclusion that all Art is a trifle compared with the terrible problems of the world; and so far as Poetry is concerned, it only interests me at the point where it is identical with the higher idealism—Religion. Besides, you are aware that in my opinion Poetry has long been the synonym for mere verbalism, that the area of modern Verse is a dark plain of dulness, vacuity, and verbosity. At the present moment, indeed, I can hardly understand the type of intellect which sits apart in the pursuit of mere self-culture of any kind, and takes no trouble to understand the mystery of actual existence.
     URB.    My dear fellow, that mystery is insoluble. We can know nothing.
     ALI.    Pardon me: we can know everything that is necessary.
     URB.    The wisest men who have lived assert the contrary.
5   ALI.    Pardon me again: the really wise men have offered us not merely supposition, not merely negation, but verification.
     URB.    Verification!—of what?
     ALI.    Of the soul of goodness in things evil, of the reality which abides under all phenomena, of the absolute reality which, for want of a better name, we entitle God.
     URB.    In other words, the Unknowable? the Unrealizable? the Inconceivable? the Unthinkable?
     ALI.    What is unthinkable is non-existent, for Thought is the only absolute Existence. But suffer me! If we go on like this, we shall get into the deep waters of the metaphysicians. Let us confine ourselves, on this occasion at least, to the limitations of experience. What sort of a world do you, from your point of view, find it?
     URB.    An excellent world, if meddlers would let it alone. A delightful world, if quidnuncs would not constantly remind us of its imperfections. He who walks through it with his eyes alert will find it, on the whole, sweet and reasonable enough. He who persists in star-gazing is sure to stumble into some open grave. Just reflect, my dear fellow, how short a time is given us to realize our powers at all. Is it not the height of folly to spend that time in asking questions of the Sphynx?
     ALI.    You think, then, that the pleasures of consciousness are all-sufficing?
     URB.    It is sufficient to know that they are all 6 we can possibly compass in the space of life at our command. To be fairly happy ourselves, to make others fairly happy, is the utmost we ephemera can achieve.
     ALI.    But after?
     URB.    After life? Why, a blank to be filled up by no process of human reasoning.
     ALI.    Then you are a materialist?
     URB.    Say, rather, a Pantheist. I have read Spinoza—a delightful soul sent to teach us dilettanti the poetry of simple mathematics, and to affirm by beautiful syllogism the divine religion of intellectual negation.
     ALI.    Stop there. Come back to the world. Curiously enough, its fascination for me lies in the very imperfections you would wish to conceal. I should not care to live—indeed, it would be impossible for me to live—if I thought the secret of life inaccessible to human reasoning, and it is through a realization of imperfection that I attain moral security.
     URB.    That’s a paradox, but I think I understand you. You mean to say that the very imperfection of our faculties is a proof that there is a perfection outside that imperfection; the Unknowable proved by the very limits of our knowledge?
     ALI.    Something of that sort.
     URB.    Thus, if I shut my eyes and see only blankness, that blankness establishes the fact of something beyond me! Well, go on.
7   ALI. Let me return to my own conception of Life. It consists outwardly of the phenomena of imperfection, urged by some mysterious force upward to a point which at present seems incomprehensible and unattainable. It consists inwardly of a sensation corresponding to those phenomena, equally imperfect, and equally obedient to a mysterious force. I dismiss for the present all metaphysical argument as to the identity of the phenomena without and the sensation within. All I would imply is, that both the physical and the spiritual motion is in an upward direction.
     URB.    All philosophers admit it. Even Schopenhauer does so, under certain qualifications—that is, he sees the world advancing intellectually and morally, but only towards a cul de sac of general despair. To be very good is to be very miserable. Luckily, I am not good!
     ALI.    My own conception of Life consists of three processes—Feeling, Knowing, and Divining; in other words, of sympathy, verification, and exaltation. Most men stop at the first process; a limited number of men reach the second; few attain the inspiration of the third. Sympathy is perceptive and retrospective; verification is sympathy sanctioned by science, by experience; and exaltation, the last process in this moral chemistry, is prospective and prophetic.
     URB.    Granted. At what are you driving?
     ALI.    At my old hobby—the construction of a 8 Science of Sentiment, capable of justifying Life and explaining phenomena. Let us now alight from the airy balloon of a generalization, and come down to the solid ground. I predicted to you some time ago, by the method just described, that the Belshazzar’s Feast of modern civilization could not go on for ever; that some day we should discern the fatal Handwriting on the Wall. Well, there it is, burning before our eyes, as it has burned for the last decade, ever growing brighter and more terrible. It betokens another cataclysm rapidly approaching. Terrified by the first warning, men have endeavoured to prepare against the advent of a new Reign of Terror.
     URB.    Possibly, with your prophetic faculties, you can tell me what shape that Terror will assume?
     ALI.    The shape it has assumed always, that of Anarchy, that of the Demogorgon, who is all-creating yet all- destroying. In simpler words, Humanity will arise and rend itself. The present Order will vanish, like a house built on  sand, but with it will vanish every vestige of a social cosmos. The triumphant majority of human beings will trample down all the rights of minorities, all the privileges of individuals, all the moral differentiation of the human race. No man will breathe freely in his own dwelling. No personal life will grow, upward or downward, its own way. There will be universal legislation, expressed in a creed which shall base 9 the salvation of the State on the destruction of the individual.
     URB.    By what tokens do you assume the existence of this tendency?
     ALI.    Firstly, by the frightful increase of social legislation, expressed in the Acts of tyrannical Parliaments, and in the powers given to civic bodies; secondly, by the apotheoses of political and scientific demagogues; thirdly, by the increased corruption and mouchardism of an irresponsible Press; fourthly, by the completed sinfulness and tardy repentance of those ‘governing’ classes who no longer govern; fifthly, by the gradual deterioration of our jurisprudence, once the symbol of our independence; sixthly and most decidedly, by the universal conversion of religious Catholicism into the Calvinism of Science.
     URB.    I hardly follow you. Let me ask you, to begin with, to explain the paradox which represents Legislation and Anarchy as convertible terms?
     ALI.    I had thought that a student of our one sane living philosopher would have needed no such explanation. Mr. Spencer has illustrated in his own masterly way that legislation is only beneficent when it is reduced to the narrowest possible compass consistent with human safety. The tyranny of a majority, however beneficent in intention, becomes of its own nature anarchic. Anarchy, politically speaking, is a condition of things representing the triumph of communities over the wills 10 and wishes of individual men. There is the anarchy of Despotism, the anarchy of Parliaments, the anarchy of the Bureau. Every one of these means the destruction of natural rights and privileges, the stifling of personal aspiration, the death of individual enterprise and endeavour.
     URB.    Pass by your charge of over-legislation. I had an illustration of it the other day, when I heard it proposed, at the County Council, that two or three zealous elderly gentlemen should be told off to go ‘behind the scenes’ of an evening, and see if the ballet-skirts were ‘moral.’ Come to your Demagogues. Surely the apotheosis of the Demagogue is the aggrandisement of the Individual?
     ALI.    The Demagogue lives by pandering to the follies, jealousies, and prejudices of the democracy which makes him possible. I will not cite Mr. Gladstone; my respect for him is too great to allow me to criticise his occasional moral misadventures. I will go to the very dregs of politics, and cite the senior member for Northampton. Mr. Labouchere has many gifts, but neither sincerity of purpose nor reverence for human aspiration is among them. He has gained his popularity, his vogue, by becoming, firstly, the Paul Pry of journalism, and, secondly, the Scapin of politics. He has violated the privileges of private life, by haunting the back kitchens of the aristocracy and counting the candle-ends of the governing classes. A mouchard by temperament and education, he has 11 become by accident a legislator. The climax of his audacities was reached only the other day, when openly, in the House of Commons, to the manifest satisfaction of a crowd of fellow-demagogues, he proposed to pollute the ears of his fellow-members by opening up the moral cesspool of a foul and disgraceful scandal. Here was anarchy indeed about to transform itself into the very fibre of legislation. Fortunately, even the bear-garden of St. Stephen’s is not yet turned into a commission of moral sewers.
     URB.    Poor Labouchere! He has his good points. Remember the toys for the Children’s Hospital.
     ALI.    I am not condemning the man, but the state of public sentiment which makes him politically possible. He has been praised publicly for his services in exposing the vices and follies of the aristocracy. Just another turn of the wheel, and he would consign all aristocrats quâ aristocrats to the guillotine. If ever the Revolution comes, he will be its Robespierre, while the impassive and impeccable Parnell may become its St. Just. But just alter the circumstances. Suppose a Demagogue were to arise among the Tories, and to devote his energies to proving, which would he easy, the vices and follies of the proletariat, or, again, the vices and follies of the bourgeoisie. Would not such a person be cried down as a nuisance, as an irrelevant person, wasting his time 12 and his opportunities? It is just as base to throw filth at one class as at another. To do them justice, our aristocrats have never posed as morally impeccable, and from time immemorial their cavalier peccadilloes have been far more venial than the cynical Puritanism of the plutocrats who serve Mammon and cheat on ’Change.
     URB.    Of course I do not approve of scandal-mongering, but do not forget that the man you condemn has been called the ‘Friend of Ireland.’
     ALI.    Poor Ireland! Has she a friend indeed under the sun? Mother of demagogues and desperadoes, how is she shamed in the sight of the world! No one living loves Ireland and Irishmen more than I; no one rejoices more that an unhappy nation has burst its bonds. But I have lived in the distressful country, not merely for months, but years, and I have witnessed with my own eyes the terrorism of organized communities over the lives of individual men. I do not  speak, mind, of assassination, of boycotting, of political conspiracy, but of the endless petty tyrannies exercised in ordinary life by the will, the caprice, the malice, or the ignorance of the majority. I am not now alluding to the Land League, or to any political organization. I am speaking of the temperament which converts Irishmen, wherever they gather together, here as in America and the colonies, into tyrannous and anarchic groups. As the nation is, so is every village in the nation—the abode of men 13 whose sole aim in government would be, under Home Rule, to stifle every free thought and free action in independent members of the community. What they have achieved now by conspiracy, they would rapidly achieve by legislation, and in a short time no rational Irishman would dare to call his soul his own.
     URB.    You foresee, then, in Ireland, the imminence of the new Terror?
     ALI.    Here, as well as there, I perceive an indifference to all sanctions, save those of the arbitrary will of the majority. The enormous increase of taxation, the ever-increasing transference of responsibilities to the shoulder of the ratepayer, the burdens put upon every description of private enterprise, the rapid growth of State prerogatives, the embargoes placed on moral and intellectual liberty, the moral censorship of literature, are portentous signs of indifference to the natural rights of Man.
     URB.    Surely we have witnessed of late years an extraordinary movement in the opposite direction. Take one sign from the Continent—the resignation of Prince Bismarck, and the humanitarian attitude of the young German Emperor.
     ALI.    Is it possible that so transparent a piece of legerdemain can deceive the eyes of any rational man? If I desired to select any modern nation as an illustration of my contention that over-legislation is moral anarchy, I would select the 14 German Empire, a régime of blood and iron, cemented by the sacrifice of thousands of human beings. The man Bismarck was a Demagogue who based his calculations on the mad hunger of the masses for Nationality. He succeeded by sheer brute force in consolidating an authority which made the people militant and left no vestige of real freedom in the land. He erected the new German Empire at the expense of the liberty, even the moral intelligence, of every individual Teuton. In the name of Christianity he destroyed the right of each human being to save his soul his own way. His strength was the will of the people; his success was the proof of their collective unintelligence. With the gains wrung from the sweat of the nation’s brow, with the willing tribute given by communities gone mad with nationalism, he bought the press, while violently gagging and suppressing every expression of honest and enlightened opinion. And what has come of it ? What is the harvest of the blood-seed sown on the battle-field in the names of Christ and Death ? Social stagnation, literary dumbness, political anarchy; for now, after all this waste of life, arises the phantom of Demogorgon, prompting the new Emperor on his throne, and suggesting that a tottering Despotism should be fortified by the suffrages of a tyrannical Socialism. ‘The game of Nationality, the farce of war, is played out,’ says the little Caesar; ‘let me now summon the “Socialists,” who will 15 persuade my people to rivet the fetters on their own hands, while curbing free activity and enterprise in all directions. Let me represent now by Divine right the tyrannies of trades-unionism, pseudo- co-operation, and “beneficent “ legislation. Let me assume the sacred prerogatives given to me by a priesthood of atheists using the old shibboleth of Christianity.’ What will be the result? A new kind of tyranny, another Providence made Easy, a fresh departure in the region of governmental despotism. The Teuton, already a slave militant, will become a slave social, and on his gyves will be engraved the words ‘The Necessity of Organization.’
     URB.    Curious language, coming from you, a professed Socialist!
     ALI.    The higher Socialism is not trades-unionism. The object of the higher Socialism is less to organize under political agencies than to widen the area of personal freedom as far as possible, so that in proportion to the liberty of action granted to individuals would be the comfort and security of the community. As I have often contended, true Socialism is only another name for Individualism. When it combines, it is against the tyranny of kings, of parliaments, of bureaus, of majorities; but the law of its combination is that free action, free thought, free speech, is the prerogative of every one of its members, even of its kings and parliaments.
     URB.    You will come to chaos there, my friend! 16 Motto, ‘The common good, and every man for himself.’
     ALI.    The motto, after all, is not such a bad one. The common good is achieved only when every individual is allowed to work out his well-being and salvation through his own activities. Human nature can never be saved by any kind of special Providence, mundane or supra - mundane; its strength or its weakness must be based upon the natural laws of evolution. Futile is the legislation which seeks to reconstruct society by equalizing the good and the bad, the worthy and the unworthy, the strong and the weak.
     URB.    Then your so-called higher Socialism is not destructive?
     ALI.    Oh, but it is!
     URB.    I thought so. You yourself, for example, have argued strongly against monoplies in property and land, and you have said, if I remember rightly, that the will of the people has the right, at the expense of individuals, to redress centuries of wrong-doing.
     ALI.    Certainly. The voice of conscience has a right to be heard, whenever class caprice or local legislation acts in defiance of absolute ethical and political principles.
     URB.    Name a few of these principles, if you can.
     ALI.    You will find them very excellently set forth in that old-fashioned Book containing the Ten Commandments. Not one of those Ten Commandments17 limits irrationally the moral freedom of the individual.
     URB.    I’m not so sure about that. The seventh, for example? I have never yet been quite able to realize the caprice of a Providence which fills us with certain passions, and yet damns us for their gratification.
     ALI.    Still more difficult, I say, is it to realize the legislation which, while recognising the commandment, adopts measures for its safe infraction. Next to War, perhaps even more than War, Prostitution is the bane of modern communities. Like War again, it is recognised as a necessary evil. Now, there is no such thing as a necessary evil.
     URB.    How would you propose to get over the difficulty as regards the daily and hourly breach of the seventh commandment?
     ALI.    By clearly explaining what that commandment means; by showing that the thing forbidden is only adulterous where it infringes on the absolute rights of other individuals. Meantime, the new Reign of Terror will reach its full fruition, when the legislator decrees that human passions, and their indulgence, are of necessity immoral, when the adamantine laws of Marriage contract are made still more onerous, when the inherent Puritanism of Science, supported by the suffrages of a cynical majority, doubles and trebles the penalties to be paid by poor human nature for natural mistakes. Scientific Puritanism, you will discover, is only the 18 old Inquisition under another name. At certain periods of human progress (see Mr. Lecky passim) not only natural appetites, but natural affections, were looked upon as suggestions of the Devil. Love was identical with lust, and so degraded became the moral consciousness, that the male avoided and feared the female, even in the person of a mother or a little female child. We have got a little beyond that now, but we have yet to recognise the fact that the passion of Love is not a phrase to include the criminal aspects of adultery. The anarchy into which moralists as well as politicians are now drifting may be illustrated by a reference to the last work of Count Tolstoi, at once the most influential and the least consistent of modern novelists—a writer who, more than any other living, touches the quick of human evil and defines the limits of human freedom. Yet never was the inhumanity of the Puritanical bias more painfully illustrated than in this book of the most beneficent of recent legislative teachers. In the ‘Kreutzer Sonata,’ a study of the morbid anatomy of marriage, Count Tolstoi contends, against experience, against instinct, against all verification, that those marriages are happiest which resemble most a placid and non-passionate friendship between the sexes; that, in other words, the passion of Love is a fatal preliminary to any abiding relationship between man and woman. With cold and pitiless hands, the writer breaks the golden bowl of 19 Romance, and tells us that Passion is of necessity evil, illustrating his thesis by a picture of such foulness as might have emanated from the diseased imagination of a mediæval monk. In some of his contentions I, of course, agree—in his crusade against mere animalism, against the legalization of Prostitution, against the carefully protected impurity of men. But to hear from such a teacher that the most divine thing in Life, young Love and young Romance, the Soul’s Ecstasy, the Body’s Sacrament, the World’s Desire, is only foulness and foul vanity, makes one despair of human wisdom. Teaching like this is only another form of the legislation which is substituting everywhere for natural law an unnatural system of repression. When the new Reign of Terror is completed, we shall breed our human beings as we breed our cattle, by the sanitary rules of a scientific legislation, and under the beneficent inspection of some suffragan St. Simeon Stylites.
     URB.    Such a system of selection has indeed been suggested, that we may avoid the evils of hereditary disease and over-population. I confess that I agree with you in regarding its possibility with a certain feeling of horror. It is not to be disputed, however, that these evils, particularly that of the propagation of diseased and inferior types, will have to be reckoned with somehow.
     ALI.    Undoubtedly, and the way our legislation reckons with them is by protecting diseased and 20 inferior types at the cost of the hale and superior. Do not misunderstand me, however. I have always contended that physical defect, so far from being necessarily evil, is often a defect in the line of growth. The idea of scientists, that a perfectly strong and healthy breed of men and women would of necessity be a higher development, is as absurd as that other idea which attaches a fictitious importance to the laws of heredity. Weak and diseased men are often the salt of humanity. Strong and healthy men and women not unfrequently, by some mysterious law, produce degraded offspring. Meantime, the phrase ‘Heredity’ has become part of the scientific shibboleth which converts feeble thinkers into social tyrants.
     URB.    You seem very severe on Science generally.
     ALI.    Heaven forbid! True Science, like true Religion, is not to be confounded with empirical tyranny. So long as our men of science concerned themselves with discovery and verification of the facts of Nature, so long as they loosened the bonds of Humanity by proving that these bonds were for the most part self-imposed, so long as they waged destructive war against Superstition and touched no one of these Verities which are the birthright of thinking men, they were saviours and benefactors. Their organization into a Priesthood of personal inquiry, into a social Inquisition, was a proof that they had yielded up prerogatives in 21 favour of an intellectual despotism. The true scientist is reverent like Faraday, and cautious like Darwin. The false scientist is the incipient moral demagogue; one of the Beadles of the Nation; the thinker who sacrifices the love of pure and gentle individual progress to an insane love of forcing, by systems of repression, the tardy work of Evolution. I have criticised, in another connection, the attempt of Professor Huxley, a very familiar type of the scientist militant and political, to limit and even to deny altogether the natural Rights of Man, and I have been rebuked a little flippantly by this gentleman for presuming to assert that true Socialism is not the Socialism of the Day. This good man, while indirectly defending the status quo, denies absolute political principles altogether, and would substitute for human freedom the half-verified discoveries of a small scientific Providence—a Providence whose cardinal principle appears to be: let political reformations alone, and impose on the individual who is struggling for freedom as many restrictions as possible. To talk of the rights of men is, according to this Daniel come to judgment, about as wise as to talk of the rights of wild beasts, e.g., the man-eating tiger. More than most publicists, such men as he are hastening on the advent of the New Terror.
     URB.    Well, come to your third token of the tendency to save the State at the expense of the Individual. I think you cited the New Journalism. 22 Surely if freedom of speech is found anywhere, it is in the columns of that Journalism.
     ALI.    I have failed to discover it.
     URB.    Indeed.
     ALI.    The New Journalism, above most things, is tyrannous and anarchic. So far from being the free speech of individual men, it is the voice of the Demogorgon proclaiming the era of completed literary ignorance. Next to the tyranny of Parliaments is the despotism of the newspaper. Practically irresponsible, feeding the weak appetites of the community with the garbage of the latest news, sending its mouchards into every house, imposing its espionage on every public individual, weaving its tissue of scandals and of falsehoods, judging everything and every man by the hastily erected standard of the humour of the hour, the New Journalism, an importation from America, has paralyzed literature and destroyed free thought and free feeling all over the world. The man who used to think now takes his thought from the current printed cackle of the moment. The man who used to read now skims the surface of current news and deems it information. In proportion to the anarchic tongue-confusion of this last Tower of Babel is the deadening of all sense of decency, the loss of all sense of individual liberty.
     URB.    Heyday! would you have no gossip in newspapers at all? You forget that we moderns are in far too great a hurry to read 23 treatises and voluminous tomes, or even sober newspapers.
     ALI.    The hurry of which you speak is that of the social River shooting to its fall. All light, all peace, all peacefulness, all the stillness of the home, all the beauty of life, is covered by this common cloud of ignorance, and destroyed by the Americanised Newspaper. By the New Journalism the individual thinker is tortured and cried down. It is Babbage’s Organ in the Street.
     URB.    People must read something!
     ALI.    Better to read nothing than to read what deadens their very sense of freedom, and pulls them out into the clamour of the common hue and cry. Take up one of these journals at random, and what do you find? Firstly, the publication of a Scandal so infamous, and described so infamously, that the very air of Nature is polluted as by a cesspool, the stench of which penetrates as poison into every household of the land; and secondly, close to this inhuman parade of filth, made in the name of a repressive moral legislation, a plébiscite of readers on the moral and intellectual qualities of the ‘Best Books,’ or the ‘Best Men.’ Could the completed sinfulness of ignorance go further?
     URB.    The idea of the plébiscite was, I suppose, merely that of gathering information as to what books were most read, and what teachers were most in vogue.
24 ALI.     Just so; literary truth and honour were to be gauged by the mind of the general reader, merits were to be assessed by the suffrage of creatures base enough to subscribe to this very journal of abominations. Observe, moreover, that I include in the phrase ‘the New Journalism’ even certain publications which appear at longer intervals than does the daily paper: the monthly reviews of human inanity, the quarterly reviews of dead or dying prejudices. Here is a case in point. A review once fairly sane, but now puzzleheaded, publishes an article entitled ‘Tennyson—and After,’ in which, after a cold and cruel calculation that one of the noblest poets of the hour must in the course of Nature shortly disappear, the writer firstly suggests a possible successor to what, if so great a soul had not adorned it, would be a barren honour, and, secondly, points the finger of scorn at men who, so far as I know, would reject that barren honour if it were given. Thus, to paraphrase the present Laureate’s words, it is not sufficient for the singer ‘to leave his music as of old,’ but over him, even while he breathes, even while he still brightens the sunshine, ‘begins the scandal and the cry.’ That, perhaps, is a mere trifle—the mere cackling of a goose in the Pantheon. But what shall we say of the Journalistic Demagogue who, confident of the prevailing anarchy, sure of the reigning madness and folly, offers to turn his review, his journal, his 25 magazine of stolen goods, into a Confessional—into a place of vantage where he may sit listening to all the obscene details of human sin and misery, and so sitting, dispense an uncleanly absolution?
     URB.    The New Journalism has never loved you, my dear Alienatus. Henceforward, I fear, it will love you even less.
     ALI.    I never craved its love or feared its hate. Yet understand me. When I speak thus of one form of Journalism, and cite these instances of its folly and criminality, I am not blind to the fact that elsewhere, despite this last manifestation of mob-rule, Humanity is kept alive. There have been, and there are, great journalists—men full of even prophetic vision; many of these men have sunk into the vortex, never to emerge again; a few survive, crying ‘peace’ to the anarchy around them. It would be strange, indeed, if in the crowd of souls not one upturned his forehead to the Light.
     URB.    Then you do not denounce Journalism altogether?
     ALI.    I might as well, like Canute, denounce the rising tide. After the Coming Terror has reached its height, these waves which now threaten to submerge us will settle down. What is best, what is truest and gentlest, in Journalism as in Life, will certainly survive. Not, however, before Thermidor, the hot month, which shall consume the mouchard and the scandal-monger, and scorch up the sham-priest 26 and sham-philanthropist. Even now we may see how these organs of public opinion turn like wild beasts and rend each other.Even now we may see how the venomous press turns en masse on those journals which still remember the laws of literature and preserve their self-respect. Fortunately, such journals still exist, to point the way to literary reformation.
     URB.    I fancy they are many—the others few. But (may I confess it?) I find the many very dull. I like hot spice in my daily literature.
     ALI.    You are a Philistine—no, I beg your pardon, a Cockney. Ah, well, after all, the Cockney triumphs!
     URB.    If Boston is the ‘hub’ of the universe, Cockayne is the ‘hub‘ of civilization. Come to your governing classes, and to your jurisprudence.
     ALI.    Our governing classes no longer really govern; if they still occupy the high seats of Olympus, it is in impotence of Godhead, trembling at Demogorgon—Socialism, the Mob, the Plébiscite. Some of them, in sheer despair, spring down to join the anarchists. Our jurisprudence, once founded on faith in the Divine Order, once rational and honest, is now rapidly disintegrating under the influence of atheists who hourly take the oath to God, and the cruel catholicism of superstition is rapidly being supplanted by the cruel Puritanic bias of modern materialism. Personally, I have been much censured for having proclaimed my 27 astonishment that an agnostic Judge should sentence a criminal to death in the name of a Deity in whom he, the Judge, does not believe. Such an act, in my opinion, is of the very nature of Jesuitical insincerity. I would go further, and assert that no official of avowed infidelity should hold office in a Christian land. Observe, however, that I am not vindicating Christianity, but merely pleading for moral consistency. The day indeed is not far distant when, under the New Terror, the term Christianity will be abolished.
     URB.    How so? And what term. would you suggest in its place?
     ALI.    Any term which fitly expressed the truth. We are no longer Christians. Why continue to use the name? I know what you would say, that the word ‘Christianity’ expresses all that is noblest and best in our civilization.That is so; but it expresses far more—the supernatural superhuman element in which we have ceased to believe. If Christianity had been only a creed of rigid morality, of brotherly kindliness and goodness, of altruism, it would have perished centuries ago. Its survival is due to the assertion made, or reputed to have been made, by its Founder, that this world, so far from being perfectible, is only a preliminary to another world, or worlds, of infinitely higher perfection; that Man is not perishable, but individually immortal; that, in simplewords, Man has an eternal Soul. How many of 28 our lawyers, our legislators, our publicists, even our clergymen, believe that? Yet everywhere the Name of God is used to endorse profane documents, the shibboleth of supernaturalism is employed to sanctify legal fiction. If Jesus Christ walked in the streets to-day, and worked, or pretended to work, miracles of healing, he would be arrested as an impostor and a charlatan, testified against by witnesses who kissed the New Testament, and sent to prison, possibly by a clerical magistrate who had taken the oath that the accused was Divine. You smile. You think I exaggerate the importance of consistency and honesty in such matters ? But no law, no jurisprudence, no legislation, can be safely built upon a Lie. If we are Christians, we belie our creed, we forswear ourselves, every hour of our lives. If we are not Christians, we rogues and liars.
     URB.    You would, then, abolish Christianity?
     ALI.    I would abolish all tampering with terms; I would use words to symbolize the truth. I would have the word ‘Christianity’ confined to the area of its actual believers. I would not allow it to cover, with a mantle of compromise, a Nation which still believes in such paganisms as, for example, the paganism of War. But let us turn for a moment to another point illustrative of the disintegration of jurisprudence under the action of anarchic Parliaments. You observed, no doubt, the recent extraordinary action of the Home Secretary in the 29 case of that cause célèbre, the murder at Crewe. Now, the point to which I would solicit your attention is, not the mental aberration of the gentleman at the Home Office, but the enormity of the legislation which transfers a public duty to the shoulders of a political official; not to the process of reason by which the Home Secretary arrived at his lame and impotent conclusion to execute one of the brothers and to spare the other and the more guilty, but to the monstrous and almost incredible fact that a salaried State Secretary, holding office in the name of a political majority, has the power to decide absolutely, in the face of an English Jury, on a question of life or death.
     URB.    Such, you are aware, is the law.
     ALI.    It is the law I am indicting. I have followed its records, and watched the process by which human conscience has tried to leaven the brutality of those legal principles among which Mr. Justice Stephen has included the ‘lawful’ thirst for ‘revenge.’ It is not so far a cry, as many think, from the cruelty of the old Roman law against Parricide, to the new English law against similar offences. Then, as now, it was thought expedient to teach tenderness and affection by a process of judicial torture. Then, as now, the ethics of punishment were primitive, violent, and irrational. Then, as now, it was part of the judicial method to illustrate the sinfulness of 30 slaughter by an official exhibition of the same bloodshed which, in non-official exhibitions, awakens so much natural horror.
     URB.    I am aware that you have protested against the Death Penalty.
     ALI.    It is not my purpose at present to enter on the broad question of the expediency of capital punishment under any circumstances whatever. The point to which I desire to draw your attention is the present condition of our legislation, as illustrated by the condemnation of the boy-murderers at Crewe. These wretched youths, under circumstances of frightful provocation, took their father’s life.They were tried before a jury of twelve intelligent Englishmen, representing, according to English law, the rest of their countrymen, and they were found guilty, but with ‘a recommendation to mercy.’ Mercy? To whose mercy? Their God’s? Their human Judge’s? Surely, in this connection, the very word ‘mercy’ was fatuous and absurd. What the jury meant by that miserable formula, which Officialism compelled them to adopt, was simply this: ‘These boys certainly committed parricide, but the facts we have investigated establish that their guilt was qualified, and that they do not deserve to pay, and shall not pay, the full penalty of their  crime.’ What follows? The chosen representatives of the people having decided that the prisoners are not to die, the salaried official straightway puts on the black cap 31 and condemns them to die, adding another miserable formula, that he will convey to ‘the proper quarter’ the jury’s recommendation to mercy. Surely common-sense must decide that it was the Judge’s business, either to quash the verdict altogether as against the weight of evidence, or to adopt the finding of the jury and at once to pass some such lesser sentence as would meet the requirements of the case? But the Law said ‘No!‘ The Law said that the formulas of official imbecility should be pursued throughout. The Law said that the verdict of English citizens, the true and only representatives of public opinion and public justice, shall be referred to a petit maître at the Home Office, to be decided ex cathedrâ then and there. The Caiaphas of the bench transfers his responsibility to a small political Pontius Pilate.‘Shall these men die? The voice of the people cries “Spare them,” but it is for thee, O Pilate, to decide.’ Well would it be for all of us if the new Pilate Punchinello, like his nobler prototype, had washed his hands of the whole business.He could not do that. He might, nevertheless, have remembered that his position as arbitrator was only another miserable formula. He might have recognised the fact that the sentence of mercy had already been pronounced, by the only men authorized by the nation to pronounce it, and that he, as a political official, was only the mouthpiece and the servant of the English nation.
32 URB.     I suppose he acted according to his lights?
     ALI.    Possibly. We have had ‘hanging’ judges and ‘hanging’ Home Secretaries, all existing in the miasmic fog of our jurisprudence. Fortunately for humanity, we have no longer our ‘hanging’ Juries, for at the present stage of our enlightenment it is difficult to get together twelve human beings equally devoid of the reasoning faculty and the sentiment of humanity. On the breath of no one individual, however just, however powerful, should hang an issue of life or death. Review again this tale of Parricide, in the light which shines everywhere save in the sunless cave of Officialism. The murdered man was, we know, a husband and a father; he had a wife whom he tortured and tried to kill, and he had children who were maddened by the sufferings he inflicted on their mother. ‘True,’ the old Roman law would say, and is still saying; ‘but he was, above all, a father.’ I endeavoured a little while ago, you remember, to suggest the outlines of a Science of Sentiment; such a Science may serve us now. Sentiment as Science affirms that the man who brings children into the world voluntarily assumes the highest of all human responsibilities. These children were created by his will, not their own, and the first duty which emerges from their creation rests on him, not them. He has to establish his  fatherhood, ethically, by acts of help and love. If he fails in these, if by deeds of cruelty and repression 33 he condemns his own unhappy issue to misery and despair, he has forfeited the privileges of human paternity. Now, the father of these poor boys was, ethically, no father at all. He was only a strange man in the house, wilfully responsible for all its daily sorrows. Peruse the record of his infamous misdeeds; turn to the record of all that his children suffered at his hands; then ask yourself if the crime for which his sons were condemned was truly Parricide? It was Homicide, truly; but it was only the homicide of a strange man.
     URB.    Rather a sentimental view of the case.
     ALI.    The Cant of Sentiment upliolds that fatherhood in blood is all-sufficient. The Science of Sentiment discovers that fatherhood in blood may be merely the result of human selfishness, cruelty, and lust. Those who bring children into the world are conjuring up the very Spirit of Life, and woe to them if that Spirit should be offended! The day, indeed, is not far distant when human Conscience will decide that to increase the number of created beings, heedless of the responsibility which comes with their birth, or without the power and means to condition them into well-being, is a crime even worse than any passionate deed of extermination.
     URB.    Are you not a little inconsistent? Almost in the same breath that you advocate the liberty of the subject, you admit the necessity 34 of such legislative restrictions as would lessen the liberties resulting in over-population.
     ALI.    By no means. I advocate no legislative restrictions.
     URB.    Yet you fully realize the baseness of bringing human beings recklessly into the world, in defiance of the responsibility incurred by so doing.
     ALI.    Fully; but no legislation can touch that baseness. The law of Nature itself must rid us of it. The modern tendency of Legislation is, on the one hand, to superintend natural processes, and, as I have expressed it, to force the work of evolution; and on the other hand, by lessening personal responsibility, to preserve, artificially, inferior types. Our preposterous Poor Laws are not only fostering what is worthless, but destroying that individual charity which, like mercy, is twice blest—blessing him that gives and him that takes. Officialism is the robe of Lazarus, covering a thousand open sores. Our poor have recognised this, in their loathing of such protection as that of the workhouse.
     URB.    Then you would have unlimited private charity, and unlimited population?
     ALI.    Both should be regulated by the moral growth of individuals. Wise charity and sympathy will not multiply the worthless, by freeing them of all the rewards and punishments of personal activity. Unlimited population will be checked 35 by one thing only—the realization on the part of individuals of moral responsibilities. In other words, Progress must move upwards from the subject, not downwards from the legislator. That the unnatural motion is now superseding the natural proves the certainty of my coming Reign of Terror. That New Terror will, at least temporarily, be the submergence of individual freedom and activity under the waves of political and social anarchy—legislation, if you like the name better. Let me enumerate once more a few of its characteristics, already touched upon and illustrated:
     1. Political Tyranny of Majorities, culminating in Providence made Easy, or so-called Beneficent Legislation.
     2. The Destruction of Personal Rewards and Punishments, the general paralysis of Individual Effort.
     3. Espionage in all the affairs of Life, public and private.
     4. Trades Unionism, and Supreme Despotism of the Public Will; Protection of the Unfittest.
     5. The New Socialism, organizing to suppress free action in all matters of contract and personal activity.
     6. The New Journalism, flaunting over the grave of Free Literature, and clothed in completed Ignorance.
     7. The New Jurisprudence, practically confounding 36 the empirical laws of expedience with the absolute laws of ethics.
     8. Moral Sanitation, extending from things civic to things ethic and personal, while placing written books and painted pictures in the same category as works of drainage and lighting.
     9. The New Ethics, scientific, saturnine, yet Puritanical, and:
     10. The New Priesthood of Science, regulating the growth and development of the species, the freedom and activity of mankind, by the arbitrary laws of empirical and materialistic discovery.
     URB.    And the result?
     ALI.    That of the Plébiscite in France, of Deutschthumm in Germany, of legislative Tyranny all over the world. No man will be a free agent; every man will find his life’s work done for him by beneficent legislation; he will breed according to legislative enactments; he will be fed, clothed, and protected, not by his own hands, but out of the common purse. Property of all descriptions will be abolished. While the iron bands of Morality will be drawn tighter, so that neither man nor woman can breathe freely, Morality and Immorality will be licensed equally. There will be no books, for there will be no book-readers. Life will be superintended in all departments according to Acts of Parliament. The legislative politician, already the bane of public life, will become the authorized representative of organized Anarchy. 37 There will be no class distinctions, not even the distinction between wise and foolish, good and bad, for all men will be equally wise, good, and apathetic. Religion, born of human emotion, fostered by human necessity, will become extinct as the dodo; or if it survives, will be dealt with by the authorized Inspectors of Lunacy. England will be well lighted, well drained, moral, conventional, an excellently-regulated Machine. Prostitution, of course, will remain, and War, since the new Legislation recognises them as disagreeable necessities; but they also will be providentially superintended.
     URB.    Well, after all, you have described a Cosmos, not a Chaos. Anything is surely better than the poverty and misery which now surround us, than the system which gives superfluity to the rich and starves the innumerable poor. My dear Alienatus, I thought you a Socialist and a Radical; I find you actually arguing for the status quo.
     ALI.    That shows how little you understand me—how little you understand human nature. I have defined true Socialism, not as the arbitrary will of those who would altogether destroy institutions and crush freedom of individual action, not as the rule of the Mob and its mouthpiece the Demagogue, but as the combination of free individuals to limit general legislation wherever it paralyzes personal endeavour and destroys 38 personal rewards. I am therefore a true Socialist; that is, a man eager for the common good, but one who believes that good can only be attained by such complete freedom in life, morality and religion as is compatible with the general growth and welfare. In the same sense, I am a Radical; but to be a Radical, one who reforms at the root, and not the branches, is not to be a reckless destroyer of good and beautiful institutions. When I contend contra Professor Huxley for the natural freedom and equality of men, I do not mean that all men are equal in power or in intelligence—to say as much would be the height of folly; what I do mean is that every man has per se a right to his own unfettered activities, and their results, and that, as a corollary, no system of society is to be upheld which paralyzes these activities by vested interests arbitrarily created. I am for Freedom in full measure, but not for the Freedom which is anarchic. As a member of the social organization, I cheerfully submit to the necessary conditions which make Society possible. As a free individual, I refuse to submit to Society in matters of private conduct and private opinion. Legislation may drain the street in which I dwell; it shall not touch the faith in which I live, or brand me as reactionary and immoral because I demand free liberty of action in all matters which do not infringe on the liberties of other free individuals. 39 No man, no body of men, shall legislate for my Soul. All spiritual qualities cease to exist, when they cease to be spontaneous. All conduct ceases to be moral, when it becomes conventional—i.e., when it fails to represent the activity and the ambition of the individual. I cannot be made good or bad by Act of Parliament. Legislation may convert me into an animal mechanism; but I prefer annihilation itself to that contingency.
     URB.    And this new Reign of Terror? Do you think that it will last?
     ALI.    God knows; but while it does last, everywhere there will be stagnation, which is Death. Man, having deposed the gods, will have to reckon with the last god, Humanity, that final apparition of the Demogorgon. Woe to him, if in dread of the Shape he sees as in a mirror, he becomes his own slave!Woe to him if, to appease his thirst and hunger for the loaves and fishes of the earth, he sacrifices to Social Despotism the freedom of his living Soul!

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41

ARE MEN BORN FREE AND EQUAL?

A CONTROVERSY.

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43

 

ARE MEN BORN FREE AND EQUAL? *

 

NO more crowning illustration of the incapacity of the scientific mind to grasp philosophical propositions could possibly be found than the criticism of the Socialistic theories of Rousseau, just published by Professor Huxley in the Nineteenth Century. Admirably as he is equipped for the light skirmishing of popular knowledge, Professor Huxley fails altogether to understand the great French idealist, just as surely as he fails, in his perversion of Herbert Spencer, to grasp the meaning of our greatest English philosopher; and both in the matter of his argument and in the manner of its expression, he exhibits the logical insecurity of the specialist transformed into the dilettante. Great wisdom and insight, attaining to almost prophetic vision, cannot be combated by the random shots of mere intelligence, and all the Professor’s  cleverness, all his liberal culture,

* The following letters appeared in the Daily Telegraph in January and February, 1890. They originated in the attempt of Professor Huxley to discredit Mr. Spencer’s theory of absolute political ethics. —

44 does not save him from the fate of those who criticise great propaganda unsympathetically, and from the outside. So serious a social issue, however, hangs on the advocacy by a distinguished man of retrograde and anti-human political theories, that it may be worth while to point out the fallacy, nay, the absurdity, of Professor Huxley’s main contention.
     Nothing is easier, as we all know, than to ridicule the extravagances into which Rousseau was carried by his discovery, viâ Hobbes and Locke, of the natural equality of men, by showing how his splendid imagination ran riot among extraordinarily fanciful pictures of primitive perfection. He was careful, nevertheless, to warn us that these pictures were possibly imaginary and illusory—as Science has, indeed, proved them to be—and were rather premonitions of what would be than visions of what had been. When, however, he asserted that men were born free and equal, and that Civilization had destroyed to a perilous extent their natural freedom and equality, he never meant to say—as Professor Huxley makes him say—that the physical and intellectual faculties of individuals were uniform in quality. His thesis was a sane and a sublime one, already recognised in our jurisprudence, that so far as moral rights were concerned, all human beings, by the law of nature, stand in the same practical category. Gifts of genius and of insight, although the birthright 45   of individuals, confer no prescriptive rights of moral exemption; they distinguish certain men, as colour and odour distinguish certain flowers, as fleetness and beauty distinguish certain animals, but they do not free the possessors from the ordinary conditions of physical and moral being, to which conditions all men alike are born. Shakespeare the Seer resembles Hodge the boor in all the characteristics of an eating, drinking and sleeping animal, and, further, as a unit in the body political and social. The two are equal by nature in all the fundamental conditions of life, in all the limitations of human vitality. But Rousseau went a great deal further than this. He contended that intellectual culture, or civilization, so far from necessarily improving the individual man, not unfrequently led to moral deterioration—a monstrous assumption from the point of view of specialists like Professor Huxley, but a perfectly tenable one from the standpoint of those who set instinct and insight above special acquirement.The history of mankind, more particularly the biographies of great men, is full of incidents which establish the paradox that a wise man is frequently a fool, and that a man of strong reasoning power is often a moral weakling. It is questionable, in fact, whether the advance of the race in Sociology, in Art, in Literature, in Science, has been accompanied with any real advance of the individual—whether, to put the issue into other words, any amount of personal  46 culture renders a man superior to his fellows in those primary sympathies and affections which condition the lives of the lordliest and the least intelligent. Humanity has doubtless developed in power and knowledge, but individual men remain very much what they have been from the beginning of society. To grasp this point thoroughly, and to understand whither the mighty insight of Rousseau was directed, we must understand that in the eyes of the philosopher of Geneva, as in those of the founder of Christian ethics, moral qualities were absolute, while intellectual gifts were merely relative and subsidiary. Let us take, by way of analogy, one day of a great and wise man’s life, and contrast it for a moment with another of a life which is neither great nor wise.
     William Wordsworth, Poet and Recluse, gets up in the morning, washes and dresses, and after a walk in his garden goes in to breakfast. Reads the news from London, and à propos of some new production of Keats or Shelley, avers that it ‘contains no more poetry than a pint-pot.’ Goes for a long walk over the mountains with his sister Dorothy, and being full of matter for a new poem, scarcely perceives that his companion is wearied out and waning in health. Towards afternoon, feels again the pangs of a hungry animal, and returns to feed. Possibly, like his pet terrier, has a little nap after dinner. Wakens, and listens to 47 a little music. In the evening, does his correspondence, and adds a few touches to a manuscript poem. A starry night: he stands at his door and surveys the constellations.Certain fine thoughts flow through his mechanism, as the wind agitating an Æolian harp. Feels convinced that there is a benevolent Personal God, and that, on the whole, it is a very beautiful and excellently regulated world. Prays to the Giver of all Good, and, being tired and sleepy, goes to bed early and sleeps the sleep of the Just.
     Now, in all this, as possibly in most of the days of other Poets and Philosophers, there is nothing, except the power of writing fine poetry, to distinguish Wordsworth from the uneducated mountain Shepherd who lives in the neighbourhood, and who knows only one book—the Bible of his fathers. The Shepherd gets up, washes, dresses, and after driving his flock from the fold to their pasture, either returns to eat or feeds on bread and cheese on the mountain side. He reads no news, but meeting some neighbour, hears the latest gossip from the market town. Spends the day loafing on the  mountain, and when he is hungry and thirsty eats and drinks again.If the weather is fine, has a nap among the heather. Drives home his flock in the evening, and sits down for a smoke among his family. Glances out at the shining night and feels—or, possibly, does not feel—a certain sense of awe and loneliness. Remembers what his 48 father has taught him, that there is a God up yonder. Prays to that God, and throwing himself down on his humble bed, sleeps the same sleep as his neighbour the poet at Rydal Mount.
     These two men have all day fulfilled the same primary functions, and in every process of their day there is more resemblance than divergence; in other words, the preponderance both of action and feeling is in favour of natural  equality. ‘Ah, but,’ cries the hero-worshipper, ‘you have left out the one sign distinguishing one from the other—that of superior intelligence, that of the poetic gift.’ I think Wordsworth himself would have been the first to admit that, apart from the accomplishment of written speech, the Shepherd’s insight, sympathy, and affections might have been fully equal to his own; for if the poet of Rydal has taught us anything, it is that the poor and uninstructed, the ignorant of men and books, are among the most beautiful souls of Humanity. The gift of song is glorious in a man, as it is in a nightingale, but it does not necessarily make him better as a human being, and certainly does not free him from the weaknesses and necessities of his human inheritance. Being a gift, it belongs rather to God than to himself. It certainly gives him no privilege of moral superiority.
     Be that as it may, my illustration may help the reader to understand what Rousseau really meant when he proclaimed the natural equality of 49 human beings. He meant that men are born equal, inasmuch as they are subject to the same laws and entitled to the same advantages. He meant that no man, however powerful, had a right to accept any pleasure which any other man might not receive on the same terms.He meant that worldly knowledge, including book knowledge, is at the best a limited thing, seeing that all man knows is ‘that nothing can be known.’ He meant that class distinctions, class prejudices, class pride, class privileges, are the merest appropriation of unlimited selfishness, infringing the rights of Humanity at large. He meant that men would be happier without physical luxury, and purer without intellectual pride. True, in picturing his ideal state he went too far, but, going as far as he did, he reached and he defined the limits of the area of social and political freedom. He attained the apogee of his prophetic life when he wrote the ‘Savoyard Vicar’s Prayer,’ which embodies the noblest of his teaching, and answers still the innermost yearning of the heart of Man.
     How far Professor Huxley is from understanding the Religion of Equality may be gathered from several of his own expressions. We already know that, speaking as a scientific specialist, he rejects Mr. Spencer’s masterly definition of absolute political ethics; but he goes farther, and finds nothing absolute in any ethics whatever. No man of philosophic perception could have affirmed that 50 ‘the equality of men before God is an equality either of insignificance or of imperfection;’ no man of political insight could have suggested that universal suffrage is synonymous with Laissez faire. Professor Huxley describes himself as among those ‘who do not care for Sentiment and do care for Truth,’ forgetting that there is no real Sentiment which is not a truth’s adumbration, and assuming, in the true spirit of the age, that what is sentimental must necessarily be false. The series of questions with which he cross-examines modern revolters on the thesis that ‘all men are born free and equal,’ is surely a reductio ad absurdum of the quasi-scientific manner. No one ever talked, as he makes his witnesses talk, of ‘the political status of a new-born child,’ no one ever contended that, because freedom is born within the human flesh, it becomes an actual factor before that flesh is conditioned into moral intelligence. But it is when we reach the Professor’s own conclusions that we discover what his derision of Equality and Freedom really means. His defence of the status quo, of the topsy-turvydom of modern society, of the condition of affairs which gives Jacob all the fruits of the earth and leaves Esau to starve in the wilderness, is founded on the plea of ‘practical expediency’—a plea on which even Nero might have justified himself to what he termed his conscience in planning the conflagration of Rome. ‘There is much to be said,’ Professor Huxley thinks, echoing poor 51 Carlyle, ‘for the opinion that Force, effectually and thoroughly used so as to render further opposition hopeless, establishes an ownership which should be recognised as soon as possible!’ ‘For the welfare of society, as for that of individual men,’ he continues, ‘it is surely essential that there should be a statute of limitations in respect of the consequences of wrong- doing!’ Surely here we have teaching worthier of Mr. Jonathan Wild than of a popular professor in a State whose very religion is founded on the à priori assumptions he despises. Science itself should have instructed Professor Huxley, just as surely as Religion does its votaries, that the penalties of wrong-doing are exacted even to the uttermost generation. Is there a statute of limitations to the law of heredity, to the law by which the sins and follies of the fathers are visited upon their children? If no such statute prevails in the physical, why should it do so in the social and political worlds? Only one thing can cure evil, and that is the destruction of it at any cost, at any sacrifice. So long as it exists it is a canker and a curse. Assume that our social system is founded on wrong-doing—and Professor Huxley has admitted it—by what possible standard of ethics would he keep it permanent? Because it ‘exists,’ and because, since it exists, it is ‘expedient.’ Talk of the ‘sham sentiment’ of Rousseau; it becomes sublime doctrine by the side of the sham reason of his critic, who, while 52 scorning and despising the gospel of Laissez faire, in the same breath preaches the essence of that gospel!
     In a second letter I will, with your permission, endeavour to explain more fully than is at present possible the ethical standpoint of those propagandists who, in suggesting crucial reforms of our present social and political systems, base their arguments on the absolute principle of the natural freedom and equality of men.

                             I am, etc.,
                                       ROBERT BUCHANAN.

 

     [To the above letter Professor Huxley first replied as follows, but in the meantime an editorial article had appeared commenting somewhat adversely on my suggestions.]

 

To the Editor of the ‘Daily Telegraph.’

     SIR,
         I have read Mr. Robert Buchanan’s letter, which has been kindly sent to me. I would not on any account interfere with so characteristic a development of latter-day Rousseauism—so many people fancy that it is dead and buried, and that I have wasted my time in slaying the slain.

                             I am, faithfully yours,
                                                           T. H. HUXLEY.
     3, JEVINGTON GARDENS, EASTBOURNE,
           January 24.

53

To the Editor of the ‘Daily Telegraph.’

     SIR,
         I had hoped, in the present discussion, to avoid current politics altogether; for it is impossible to touch on political issues—especially in the columns of a daily newspaper—without awakening a storm of prejudice and misunderstanding. I shall still endeavour to steer clear of contemporary broils, although your own comments on my, first letter do certainly invite polemical treatment. Will you permit me to say, however, that I am more astonished at your indirect championship of the doctrines of expediency than at your quite irrelevant diatribe on the personal character and conduct of Rousseau? Perhaps, however, you do not quite realize that your attack is less upon the religion of modern Socialism than upon the Creed of Christianity itself? The strongest, or, at any rate, the most accepted, argument against that creed has been that it is, although theoretically excellent, practically impossible. Society has refused from time immemorial to be ruled in the conduct of life by either its principles or its precepts. Men hoard up riches in this world, and when one cheek is smitten they do not offer the other. They pray in the Temple, but they curse and cheat in the market-place. Interrogated on this inconsistency, they explain that adherence to the absolute 54 tenets of their religion would be suicidal. Even some of our most Christian teachers have protested that the Christ was too superhuman, too transcendently impolitic, to be followed quite all the way along the thorny path of self-abnegation. So that when you say that Rousseau’s doctrine is refuted at every point by the facts of life, you should add that Christianity also is so refuted; and you would be, from the political and historical point of view, perfectly right.The Founder of Christianity, however, carefully distinguished between the adherence we may find it expedient to give to Cæsar and that higher adherence we must give to God. He paused at first principles and went no further, hoping against hope that those first principles were seeds which would grow surely in the conscience of humanity. ‘Love one another’ was his highest and holiest admonition—one which we, in this Christian country, carry out by allowing wealth to accumulate and men to decay; by permitting, as in the case of the deer forests of Scotland, the accidental wealth of one or two men to mean the destruction and expatriation of thousands; by suffering, as in Ireland, a landlordism without even the excuse of capital, to drive a whole Nation into despair and into crime.
     You ask me, naturally enough, if somewhat flippantly, to name those absolute ethical principles on which I and far more able propagandists 55 would base the reconstruction of Society, while at the same time you seek to stultify my advocacy by suggesting that it is doubtless purely sentimental, and must conflict on every side with the results of daily experience. Now, it would be idle as well as impertinent for me, at the very time when the sanest and clearest intellect known to us at present on this planet has occupied itself with the exposition of absolute principles in ethics (to the great mental confusion of scientific Philistia and Professor Huxley), to attempt in my perfunctory way to define those principles. For their definition I must refer you to Mr. Herbert Spencer’s more recent writings—luminous as all that comes from that crystal pen, unanswerable as most of the arguments that come from that master mind. Mr. Spencer himself has told us, in words of dignified remonstrance, that his exposition has been misunderstood and perverted at every point by Professor Huxley; and so, if we examine the matter closely, we shall find the case to be. Mine is a far humbler task, to explain as far as possible to the hasty readers of a great daily newspaper, in as clear and popular language as is at my command, a few simple points of that propagandism which proposes to redress centuries of wrongdoing, and possibly to reconstruct society.
     One word, before I proceed, concerning your own estimate of the teachings of Rousseau, which 56 estimate varies little, if at all, from that of Professor Huxley. Forgetful altogether that I began by agreeing with Rousseau on the subject of first principles, and not by approving the hastily-designed political and social structure he based upon them, you resort to the stereotyped mode of polemics, that of attacking the great doctrinaire’s personal character. Here, however, you unconsciously support my main thesis—that great intellect has little or nothing to do with moral goodness, and that Rousseau, in much of his conduct, was a sort of philosophical Jack Shepherd. It should be remembered, however, that Rousseau made no concealment whatever of his moral distemperature and social larcenies; that standing, as he expressed it, before the Judgment Seat, he made a clean breast of his sins and weaknesses, whereas most other men have chosen to hide, rather than to discover, their moral littleness. While I doubt the expediency of such revelations, I believe them to have been made in all sincerity, and I am also quite sure that the record of most men, if so made public, would shock propriety as much as the record of Rousseau.The one charge which you revive against the husband of poor Thérèse—that of abandoning his children to the foundling basket—is, though horrible enough, capable of some defence, in so much as the suppression of personal instincts it involves is quite consistent with the theory that the care of offspring 57 should devolve upon the community at large. It is superfluous, however, to extenuate the conduct of a man who was in the private concerns of life scarcely a sane agent, who was swept into endless folly and inconsistency by sheer force of temperament. For the rest, the good old fallacy resuscitated by you, that Rousseau was personally responsible for the excesses of the Revolution, was killed and buried long ago. The Revolution was the direct consequence of the wrong- doing of Society, causing the collapse of an ancient and effete political system, and had little or nothing to do, either directly or indirectly, with literature. It came from the masses who had never learned to read, and who sought not books, but bread. Rousseauism, and all the other ‘isms’ of the pre-Revolutionary period, were the amusement of the aristocracy of culture, and were to the masses of the French nation, previous to the promulgation of certain catchwords by the leaders of the national movement, about as intelligible as double Dutch. You suggest, moreover, that the points which I mention as illustrative of Rousseau’s insight are mere ‘truisms’ which no one denies or ever did deny, and that the really important matter in Rousseau’s teaching is the constructive portion of the ‘Social Contract.’ Had this been so Rousseau would have been forgotten long ago. It was his perception of those very ‘truisms’ which made him a Prophet and a Seer. 58 It is his insight into first principles which makes him living to this hour. How many of us admit even now, or prove by their conduct to their fellows, that moral goodness is better than intellectual power? How many of us feel in our hearts and illustrate in our lives that luxury and pride, arrogance of knowledge or of birth, are evil things? How many of us proclaim that the war between nations, like the war between individuals, daily mocks the commandment which said, ‘Thou shalt not kill’? Truisms, say you? Truisms to which almost every institution of our society, every glory of our civilization, gives the lie; truisms in the teeth of which a successful soldier may rise up and recommend to us, as General Wolseley did the other day, the example of a nation of atheists and martinets as one worthy of English imitation; truisms which no one practically admits to be true; truisms which, when advanced to justify the enthusiasm of Humanity, you and other publicists smile at, and relegate to the regions of sentimental superstition. Why, Christianity itself has become a truism—a fetish to swear by when. we rob our neighbour and corrupt our neighbour’s wife. Its excellent moral principles are admitted, even by those who dismiss its dogmas, as so firmly established as scarcely to be worth discussion. What I and other propagandists want, however, is for that religion, which is essentially the religion of equality, to be tried in practice. It has never been tried 59 yet, save by a few isolated individuals from Father Damien backwards. Who knows but that, after all, it might serve; that it might be better at any rate than the Gospel according to the Printer’s Devil and St. Mammon’s current Epistle to the Philistines? Who knows but that, with a little scientific adjustment, it might prove almost as practicable as the political creed which tells us that the status quo of the Impenitent Thief, who still holds the plunder his ancestor stole, is to be respected and consolidated, according to a certain ‘statute of limitations’?
     The true political problem, placed before themselves by those propagandists who, like myself, are Socialists only in the good and philosophical sense, and who are not, like mere Communists, enemies of all vested interests whatsoever, is to regenerate Society without destroying that part of its structure which experience proves to be sound. The principle that men are born free and equal does not imply, as its opponents frequently suggest, that absolute intellectual equality is possible, or that men, being free, are free to do exactly as they please; it merely means, as I have said, that each unit of society has equal rights of membership, and complete liberty of action within the scope of the common organization. Absolute individual freedom is of course impossible, as citizenship, i.e., equality and fraternity, implies due recognition of the rights of others. The difficulty, then, is how 60 to adjust the relations of human beings in such a manner as to secure the utmost amount of liberty and equality possible. While the degrees of power and wealth can never be exactly the same, and while due allowance should be made for the rewards of individual energy and industry, care should be taken that the accumulation of power and wealth from generation to generation should not lead to the aggrandizement of one class at the expense of another, or to the security of any one individual through the social destruction of any of his fellows. This means, translated into other words, that the rights of acquired property are subservient to those of the general prosperity; that such luxury as an individual possesses in excess of his rational needs is conditioned by the destruction of certain other individuals to whom that luxury might have provided the necessaries of life. Here we reach, without turning aside into a very difficult region of political economy, a first great principle—that every working member of society has a right to a share of those necessaries which alone make existence possible. Can it be argued, in the face of the statistics of existing poverty, with the knowledge of the daily and hourly shipwreck of human lives, that the necessaries of life are so distributed?
     Here, again, we touch one of those ‘truisms’ which everyone admits, but few or no men act 61 upon; and we shall  find, indeed, that each principle of just Socialism is in the nature of a truism. We have already learned, however, contra Rousseau, that social freedom is limited, unlike natural or moral freedom, which is absolute. Certain rights of property would still remain intact, under any disintegration caused by the first principle, or truism, already named. ‘I do not want to touch your treasures,’ said even Robespierre, ‘however impure their source. I am far more anxious to make poverty  honourable than to proscribe wealth; the thatched roof of Fabricius need never envy the palace of Crœsus.’
     The second principle which I would name, as founded on the natural freedom and equality of men, is equal freedom of opportunity. This freedom is being to a large extent secured by the spread of national education, since no man can fulfil the rights of citizenship to whom social neglect and selfishness have denied the very vocabulary of civilization. It is possibly impracticable at present that every man should have exactly the same start in life, the same chance of securing social prosperity; but what the Socialist propagandum demands is some sort of approximation of starts and chances.The present arbitrary division of classes is founded on an arrangement which overworks and denies rational leisure to large classes of the community in order that other classes may ‘eat, drink, and be merry.’ Equal 62 freedom of opportunity, then, means just distribution of labour—means that Society should not be divided into idlers and drones, that all men should share to a certain extent in the practical work of the world. Is this the case? In the face of the ignorance and misery of our labouring classes, of the lives blackened out of human likeness by cruel and endless toil, of our sempstresses spinning out the thin thread of life for a few pence, can any sane man suggest that freedom of opportunity  is, under our present social system, possible?
     True, there will always be idlers, and possibly, until the Millennium, there will always be drones. The problem of the higher Socialism is to limit the number of both, by rendering the prizes and the honours of civilization open to all. How to solve that problern? Surely we should go a long way to its solution if we averaged the hours of leisure to all men, and so recognised that want of rest is as certain a sign of pauperization as want of bread.
     Here, perhaps you say, is a manifest contradiction, since I postulated in my first letter that natural freedom and equality were, being absolute, altogether independent of relative culture or intellectual acquirement. What I did say was in no sense contradictory, being merely that intellectual culture did not necessarily imply moral advance. For a state of natural freedom and equality, however, the primary vocabulary of civilization is 63 essential. A blind man cannot see the sun, and a man-beast of burthen cannot perform the rational duties of society. I contended, however, that the accumulation of mere knowledge meant nothing, morally speaking—indeed, knowledge is specialism, and is only valuable is so far as it discovers those laws which become the common property of all. Thomas Carlyle would certainly be called a man of culture, of wide and phenomenal information, quite apart from his quasi-prophetic faculty; yet what was the culture worth which led him to rail against all mankind, and to revenge the natural freedom and equality of a troublesome liver by abusing the world at large? To St. Thomas of Chelsea, the nigger was ‘a servant’ by grace of God; Macaulay, a ‘squat, low-browed, commonplace object’; Coleridge, a ‘weltering, ineffectual being’; Wordsworth, a ‘small diluted contemptibility’; Keble, of the ‘Christian Year,’ a ‘little ape,’ and Keats’s poems ‘dead dog’; Charles Lamb, a ‘detestable abortion’; Grote, a person with a ‘spout mouth’; Cardinal Newman, one without ‘the intellect of a moderate-sized rabbit’; Mr. Gladstone, ‘one of the contemptiblest men, a spectral kind of phantasm’; and Mill, his dear friend Mill, a ‘frozen-out logic-chopping machine.’ True, great genius is great wisdom, and from this point of view great genius is very rare. Yet who can help thinking, in glancing over the lives of our cleverest and greatest men, that increase in special 64 knowledge too often means increase in obtusity, in folly? Even the gentle Darwin, a soul at peace with all men, and wise, surely, in his generation, has told us that the only imaginative delight of his age (when all his splendid faculties still remained intact) was to read trashy novels, that he ‘hated’ Shakespeare, and that to turn to a play of Shakespeare ‘made him sick!’ Reading these records of men, justly esteemed for their power and knowledge, one is almost disposed to exclaim, with Voltaire, that ‘the good folk who have no fixed principles on the nature of things, who do not know what is, but know very well what is not, these are our true philosophers.’
     To illustrate all the principles which the higher Socialism accepts as absolute would be utterly impossible in the space of a newspaper letter. I will mention only one other, of the most paramount importance at the present juncture. A corollary of the thesis that men are born free and equal, morally speaking, is the certainty that no unnecessary or arbitrary limits should be made to freedom of private action and private conduct. Mr. Spencer has pointed out, with his own unequalled lucidity, the dangers which Society is at present running from over-legislation in matters social. The tendency of even modern philanthropy is to class groups of men and women in comfortable pigeonholes, and to arrange for them down to the smallest details the functions and
65
duties of life; and Science itself, like a gigantic Mrs. Pardiggle, is assuming the airs of a social censor and peripatetic district-visitor. Heaven forbid that the services which true Science has done to spread the common particles of Light, and to remedy human ignorance and human wretchedness, should be overlooked or forgotten! But moral legislation based on empirical knowledge, like religious legislation based on barren dogma, may go too far. Talking the other day with a London physician of great experience, and in full sympathy with the scientific reorganization of society, I was surprised to hear him express the opinion that the ‘model’ dwellings prepared for the working classes had been far from an unmixed blessing; that they were comfortless and cheerless for beings who were often unable to provide necessary food and fuel, and that they destroyed in a great measure the sense of personal independence. Elsewhere, indeed, we are threatened no longer, as of old, with the religious tyranny of the Priest, but with the presumption of the moral and social Legislator. County Councils, Vigilance Committees, Societies for moral sanitation, have encroached upon the liberty of the subject, even to the extent of determining what he may read and know. Not content with regulating his physical well-being, they have endeavoured to regulate the amount of Light and Knowledge he may enjoy; and hence the deathless bigotry of English Puritanism, collaborating in 66 despair with the  new-born bigotry of scientific discovery, is limiting human freedom in almost every walk of life.
     I have named three principles, on the triumph or failure of which depends the future of Society: equal freedom to share the necessaries of life, equal freedom of opportunity to advance, equal freedom to shape individual thought and action within the necessary limitations of political organization. If the status quo admits these principles, and if they are allowed free scope of activity, then nothing more is to be said. The higher Socialism contends that they may be recognised generally, even as ‘truisms,’ but that, in most of the affairs of life, in nearly all its practical conduct, they are entirely disregarded. Large bodies of the community have practically no food to eat, no freedom to earn even common sustenance; still larger classes, though they may gain the common necessaries of life, are, by the cruelty of their labour for bare bread and from the pressure of the organization around them, forbidden the opportunity to advance a single step; and classes even yet larger are, by the spirit of temporizing and compromising (approved as we have seen by even scientists like Professor Huxley), denied the natural freedom of human beings, on the plea that, under a political ‘statute of limitations,’ the force originally founded on wrong-doing ought to be respected!
     Well, Rousseau’s sublime paradox still holds: 67 ‘Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.’ It is useless, or it seems useless, to argue against those who, like Professor Huxley and your wandering-witted ‘Hereditary Bondsman,’ contend that the freedom and equality of Nature means (what it was never supposed even by Rousseau to mean) that all men are alike, that there is no such thing as differentiation of power or character, and that one man, however degraded and uninstructed, is as good as any other. This is merely the reductio ad absurdum (very useful to the holders of vested interests) of the argument which proves that every member of the community has a born right to share the common benefits and privileges of Humanity; that, in other words, neither the aristocracy of power nor the aristocracy of culture is entitled, beyond the necessities of the common preservation, to limit the action of human freedom, human enjoyment, and human opportunity. Men advance more surely by freedom than by restraint, necessary as certain restraints may be. Before the outbreak of the English Revolution, personal prerogative, the arbitrary will of one sincere political bigot, had strangulated English Liberty. Englishmen arose en masse, and Liberty, in the political sense, was saved. Before the outbreak of the great French Revolution, Catholicism had almost destroyed the conscience of a great Nation. The inevitable cataclysm came, with what terrible accompaniments we all know. 68 At the present hour, at the very time when the free thought of England is at its brightest and best; when the scientific and historic methods have disintegrated the whole mass of religious superstition, another great upheaval is imminent, to the peril, perhaps the destruction, of our whole social system.

‘Le passé n’est pour nous qu’un triste souvenir;
Le présent est affreux, s’il n’est point d’avenir,
Si la nuit du tombeau détruit l’être qui pense.’

So sang Voltaire. A colossal Hand, which some call the hand of Destiny and others that of Humanity, is putting out the lights of Heaven one by one, like candles after a feast. It behoves us, then, to watch heedfully that the same Hand, having emptied the heavens, does not touch the lowly but life-illumining lights of Earth. The fairest of these lights is Liberty, is the principle of natural freedom and equality, without which individual growth would be impossible, and social organization, as men now understand it, an impossibility.

                             I am, etc.,
                                       ROBERT BUCHANAN.

     P.S.—Some idea of the absurdities of Over-legislation may be gathered from the regulations of Saint Just, quoted in Von Sybel’s ‘History of the French Revolution’: No servants, no gold and silver utensils, no child under sixteen to eat 69 meat, nor any adult to eat meat on three days of the decade; boys at the age of seven to be handed over to the national school, where they will be taught to speak little, to endure hardships, and to train for war; divorce to be free to all; friendship ordained a public institution, every citizen on attaining majority being bound to proclaim his friends, and if he had none, to be banished; if any one committed a crime, his friends were to be banished, etc. This, it must be admitted, is the Code of Nature with a vengeance!

 

     [My second letter caused Professor Huxley to break his vow of silence, and answer as follows:]

 

To the Editor of the ‘Daily Telegraph.’

     SIR,
         I have already offered a cordial welcome to Mr. Robert Buchanan on the occasion of his début in the theatre of political speculation; and the sincerity of my wish that he may continue to exhibit the results of the poetic method, in its application to the dry facts of natural and civil history, is nowise affected by the circumstance that he considers me to be an advocate of ‘retrograde and anti-human political theories,’ a defender ‘of the topsy-turveydom of modern society,’ and, altogether, a scientific Philistine of the worst description.
70   I do not address you for the purpose of combating these opinions, or even to set forth some pleas for mercy which might weigh in my favour with any judge less confident of his competency. I would not even be so indecent as to linger too long on this side of annihilation; but, unless I be worse than other criminals, I trust you will permit me to send a few words to the scattered remnant of the people in whose minds the anathema just fulminated has not extinguished any little credit I may have hitherto possessed. It appears that there are ‘three principles on the triumph or failure of which depends the future of society: equal freedom to share the necessaries of life; equal freedom of opportunity to advance; equal freedom to shape individual thought and action within the necessary limitations of political organization. If the status quo admits these principles, and if they are allowed free scope of activity, then nothing more is to be said.’
     Now, it seems to me that the political principles of which I have been a tolerably active advocate all my life, and of which I hope to remain an advocate so long as I have the power to speak or write, may be expressed, though somewhat clumsily, by just these words. Perhaps I deceive myself, but it really is my impression that I am hardly open to the charge of having failed to assert freedom of thought and action any time these five-and-thirty years.Unless I am dreaming, 71 I have done what lay in my power to promote those measures of public education which afford the best of opportunities for advancement to the poorer members of society; and that in the teeth of bitter opposition on the part of fanatical adherents of the political philosophy which Mr. Buchanan idolizes, the consistent application of which reasoned savagery to practice would have left the working classes to fight out the struggle for existence among themselves, and bid the State to content itself with keeping the ring.
     As to equal freedom to share the necessaries of life, I really was not aware that anybody is, or can be, refused that freedom.* If a man has anything to offer in exchange for a loaf which the baker thinks worth it, that loaf will certainly be given to him; but if he has nothing, then it is not I, but the extreme Individualists, who will say that he may starve. If the State relieves his necessities, it is not I but they who say it is exceeding its powers; if private charity succours the poor fellow, it is not I but they who reprove the giver for interfering with the survival of the fittest. Logically enough, they ask, Why preserve Nature’s failures? That a philosophy of which these are the unvarnished results should rouse a humanitarian enthusiast, whose sincerity is beyond question, to be its champion is singular; though not more singular than the vilipending of Saint Just for

—* What, no one?

72 over-legislation, by a worshipper of Rousseau. An ingrained habit of scientific grovelling among facts has led me to the conclusion that Jacobin Over-legislation was a direct consequence of Rousseauism. These gentlemen guillotined the people who did not care to be free and equal and brotherly in their fashion. If anyone doubt the fact, I would advise him to read M. Taine’s volume on the ‘Jacobin Conquest of France,’ which is all the more interesting just now, as it affords the best of commentaries on the Parnellite conquest of Southern Ireland.
     The source of a great deal of the wrath which seems to have been raised by my essay appears to me to lie in the circumstance that my critics are too angry to see that the point of difference between us consists, not in the appreciation of the merits of freedom in the three directions indicated, but in regard to the extent of those ‘necessary limitations’ of freedom to which all agree. My position is that those limitations are not determinable by à priori speculation, but only by the results of experience; that they cannot be deduced from principles of absolute ethics, once and for all, but that they vary with the state of development of the polity to which they are applied. And I may be permitted to observe that the settlement of this question lies neither with the celestial courts of Poesy nor with the tribunals of speculative cloudland, but with men who are accustomed to live and work amongst 73 facts, instead of dreaming amidst impracticable formulas.

                             I am, sir,
                                   Your obedient servant,
                                             T. H. HUXLEY.
     EASTBOURNE, January 27.

 

To the Editor of the ‘Daily Telegraph.’

     SIR,
         Unwilling to occupy your space, or to try the patience of your readers needlessly, I abstained, in my letter of the 27th, from dealing with a topic of some importance suggested by a sentence in Mr. Robert Buchanan’s second communication. On reflection, however, I am convinced that, in the interest of the public, the omission was an error, and I ask for an opportunity of making reparation. This is the sentence: ‘The true political problem, placed before themselves by those propagandists who, like Mr. Spencer, are Socialists only in the good and philosophical sense, and who are not, like mere Communists, enemies of all vested interests whatsoever, is to regenerate society without destroying that part of its structure which experience proves to be sound.’
     Mr. Spencer, therefore, is declared by Mr. Robert Buchanan to be a ‘Socialist’ ‘in the good and philosophical   sense.’ The other day the 74 Newcastle Socialists declared that their doctrine concerning land-ownership was founded upon Mr. Spencer’s early teachings, and that these had never been really disowned by him. If they are right in this contention, and if, in Mr. Buchanan’s eyes, their Socialism is of the ‘good and philosophical’ sort, then, of course, it may be proper to call Mr. Spencer a Socialist. I offer no opinion on this delicate subject; but I may be permitted to say that, hitherto, I have laboured under the impression that, whether he is always consistent or not, Mr. Spencer belongs to a school of political philosophy which is diametrically opposed to everything which has hitherto been known as Socialism.* The variations of Socialism are as multitudinous as those of Protestantism; but as even a Bossuet must be compelled to admit that the Protestant sects agree in one thing, namely, the refusal to acknowledge the authority of the Pope, so I do not think it will be denied that all the Socialist sects agree in one thing, namely, the right of the State to impose regulations and restrictions upon its members, over and beyond those which may be needful to prevent any one man from encroaching upon the equal rights of another. Every Socialistic theory I know of demands from the Government that it shall do something more than attend to the administration of justice between man and man, and to the protection of the State

—* For ‘Socialism’ read ‘Communism,’ and this is true.—R. B.

75 from external enemies. Contrariwise, every form of what is called ‘Individualism’ restricts the functions of government, in some or in all directions, to the discharge of internal and external police duties, or, in the case of Anarchist Individualism, still further. Scientifically founded by Locke, applied to economics by the laissez-faire philosophers of the eighteenth century, exhaustively stated by Wilhelm von Humboldt, and developed, in this country, with admirable consistency and irrefutable reasoning (the premisses being granted) by Mr. Auberon Herbert, I had always imagined Individualism to have one of its most passionate advocates in Mr. Spencer. I had fondly supposed, until Mr. Robert Buchanan taught me better, that if there was any charge Mr. Spencer would find offensive, it would be that of being declared to be, in any shape or way, a Socialist. Can it be possible that a little work of Mr. Spencer’s, ‘The Man versus the State,’ published only six years ago, is not included by Mr. Buchanan among the ‘more recent writings’ of which he speaks, as, perhaps, too popular for his notice?
     However this may be, I desire to make clear to your readers what the ‘good and philosophical’ sort of ‘Socialism’ which finds expression in the following passages is like:
     ‘There is a notion, always more or less prevalent, and just now vociferously expressed, that all social suffering is removable, and that it is the 76 duty of somebody or other to remove it. Both these beliefs are false’ (p. 19).
     ‘A creature not energetic enough to maintain itself must die’ is said to be ‘a dictum on which the current creed and the creed of Science are at one’ (p. 19).
     ‘Little as politicians recognise the fact, it is nevertheless demonstrable that these various public appliances for working-class comfort, which they are supplying at the cost of the ratepayers, are intrinsically of the same nature as those which, in past times, treated the farmer’s man as half-labourer and half-pauper’ (p. 21).
     On p. 22, legislative measures for the better housing of artisans and for the schooling of their children; on page 24, for the regulation of the labour of women and children; on page 27, for sanitary purposes—meet with the like condemnation. And the whole position is neatly summed up in the answer to the question, ‘What is essential to the idea of a slave?’ put at page 34. It is too long to cite in its entirety, but here is the pith of it:
     ‘The essential question is, How much is he compelled to labour for other benefit than his own, and how much can he labour for his own benefit? The degree of his slavery varies according to the ratio between that which he is forced to yield up and that which he is allowed to retain; and it matters not whether his master is a single person 77 or a society: If, without option, he has to labour for the society and receives from the general stock such portion as the society awards him, he becomes a slave to the society. Socialistic arrangements necessitate an enslavement of this kind: and towards such an enslavement many recent measures, and still more the measures advocated, are carrying us’ (p. 35).
     The words which I have italicised, as it seems to me, condemn Socialism of all kinds pretty forcibly; and I further suggest that they appear to be somewhat inconsistent with the acceptance of even a ‘good and philosophical’ form of that creed. But Mr. Robert Buchanan’s profound study of Mr. Spencer’s works may enable him to produce contradictory passages. I invite him to do so.

                             I am, Sir,
                                   Your obedient servant,
                                             T. H. HUXLEY.
     EASTBOURNE, January 29.

 

To the Editor of the ‘Daily Telegraph.’

     SIR,
         I have certainly expressed myself very ill if I appeared to be accusing Professor Huxley of wholesale Philistinism, using the word ‘Philistinism’ to imply a class of intelligence outside of all sympathy with advanced ideals. No one can recognise more fully than myself the service 78 which Science has of late years done for Free-thought and for Humanity, and it was precisely because Professor Huxley was classed, and classed deservedly, among the most distinguished of those Scientists who have sacrificed leisure and comfort for the sake of their fellows, that I was aghast to find him ranging himself once, but I hope not for ever, with the opponents of human progress.
     On what plea, may I ask, does Professor Huxley, in classing not only the uncrowned and unhonoured poet, but also the crowned and honoured philosopher, as equally impracticable, arrogate to himself the exclusive mastery of current and historical ‘facts’? Seemingly upon the plea that both philosophers and poets dwell in mere cloudland; while he alone, with mailed feet like those of Perseus, walks, dragon-slaying, on the common ground. It is idle to defend the Philosophers, but I think even the Poets have shown their capacity to realize practical problems. One of them, whom all the world honours, sounded the trumpet-note of human freedom when he wrote the ‘Areopagitica.’ Another of them, less appreciated and far less noble, struck off the bonds of Calas and touched the quick of human doubt when he sang of the Earthquake at Lisbon. Both these men were particularly distinguished—the second no doubt a little barbarously—by their consummate mastery of ‘facts.’ As to Mr. 79 Spencer, a philosopher pur et simple, he has marshalled in his ‘Principles of Sociology’ and in the compilations published as practical addenda to that work, an array of social and historical evidence unequalled certainly in this generation. Professor Huxley, on the other hand, burrows so deep among what he considers ‘facts’ that he becomes a sort of moral troglodyte, and loses knowledge of the upper sunshine and fresh air.

‘An tenebras Orci visat vastasque lacunas.’

And when he emerges into common daylight what has he to tell us? Not the grand truths which he and others have won honour by advocating, but trivial ipse dixit statements, not to be verified in any daylight whatever. His one ruling idea concerning men is that they must be ‘governed’—washed, cleaned, assorted, parcelled out and labelled, educated up to the theory that there is a political ‘statute of limitations,’ and that the force of a special governmental Providence is a thing not to be resisted.
     Just look a little closer at his statements, that ‘there is much to be said for the opinion that force effectually and thoroughly used, so as to render further opposition hopeless, establishes an ownership that should be recognised as soon as possible,’ and that ‘for the welfare of society, as well as for that of individual men, there should be a statute of limitations in respect of the consequences of wrong-doing.’Let us ask ourselves, 80 in the first place, by what means men are to determine the hopelessness of opposition? The history of the Christian origins, of Society before the English or the French Revolutions—nay, above all, the story of Science itself, of its martyrs and its conquerors—is the record of struggles which, from the point of view of contemporary experience, were altogether ‘hopeless.’ Even the last French Empire, with its triumph over a generation, with its glorification of the gospel according to Belial and Baron Hausmann, threatened France with utter despair, crammed and fed France with all the physical comforts of sensualism and what Carlyle called ‘Devil’s dung.’ Then look at results; look at the conscience of Humanity hoping against hope, rejecting all the Devil’s moral prescriptions ‘to be quiet and yield to the powers which be and must be,’ but disintegrating the evil of political institutions by sheer persistency of opposition. Whenever Professor Huxley can show that there is no hope on the earth or above it, then assuredly, and not till then, we will sit down with him and ‘grovel among facts.’ Meanwhile, we can only grieve that the religion of Science, hailed by all of us as the birth of a new day, is fossilizing already into a religion of despair; that the New Politics of the Expert is a chaos, not a cosmos, has not even the glimmering of a cosmos. And the ‘statute of limitations’? Reduce it to common-sense, and 81 what does it mean? It admits that modern Society is founded on ancient wrong-doing, that Jacob robbed Esau long ago; but it asserts that—on the corollary, of course, that ‘opposition is hopeless’—Esau, having discovered the theft, and returned to claim his birthright, is to go back to the desert. Biblical History, being much shrewder than modern Science, tells us that he did nothing of the kind. The life corporate of Society, as Science and Philosophy alike agree, is practically an enlarged version of the life of the Individual. Thus, then—to make an illustration—I was knocked down and robbed of all I possessed, twenty, thirty years ago, by a person stronger than myself. For all these years I have been a pauper and an outcast through my enemy’s wrong-doing. To-day, after endless suffering, I discover my enemy, a rich and prosperous man, a member (say) of the City Council and the Vigilance Committee, enjoying the unearned increment as well as the original capital he stole. I go to him quietly and say, ‘You robbed me years ago; I am not malicious, and you may keep what has accrued, but I want you, my dear sir, to restore me my original capital.’ Am I to be answered, to be silenced, by the statement that the robbery took place such a very long time ago; and that, my case being hopeless, ownership established had ‘better be recognised as soon as possible’?
82   ‘As to freedom to share the necessaries of life,’ says our new Daniel come to Judgment, ‘I really was not aware that anybody is, or can be, refused that freedom,’ and he illustrates his contention by saying that ‘if a man has anything to offer which the baker thinks worth a loaf, that loaf will certainly be given to him.’ What a mockery of, not to say ‘grovelling in,’ facts, have we here! What a putting of the cart before the horse! Society begins by paralyzing a man, by denying to him ordinary light, leisure, instruction, the power of ‘having anything to offer’; it converts him into a mere pauper by refusing him the common vocabulary of civilization, and then, when he asks for bread,Society replies, ‘Certainly; what have you to give me in exchange?’ What Freedom and Equality mean is that every man should be invested with the power enabling him, by fair labour, to produce something which is a loaf’s value. Is this the case? If it is so, then I am stultified, and the Professor’s ‘facts’ are victorious.
     So much for the Professor’s general statements. In the postscriptal letter published this morning in your columns, Professor Huxley suggests that I am possibly much mistaken in calling Mr. Herbert Spencer a ‘Socialist,’ and after quoting certain passages from the philosopher’s writings, invites me to quote from the same writings passages which are contradictory. So far as the 83 Land Question itself is concerned, and the attitude of the Newcastle reformers thereupon, I presume I need not go further than cite the following passage from ‘Social Statics’: ‘Equity does not permit property in land. For, if one portion of the earth’s surface may justly become the property of an individual, held for his sole use and benefit, as a thing to which he has an exclusive right, then other portions of the earth’s surface may be so held, and our planet may thus lapse into private hands. It follows that if the landowners have a valid right to its surface, all those who are not landowners have no right at all to its surface.’ Mr. Spencer has not been in the habit of disclaiming his own dicta, and the Socialists of Newcastle need have no fear, I fancy, that he will disclaim this one. But, Professor Huxley insists, Mr. Spencer’s later utterances are those, not of Socialism, but of Individualism, entirely overlooking the fact that the terms Socialism and Individualism are not contrary terms, but two facets of the same proposition.
    
So far as Socialism in our own country is concerned, I ought to know something of its inner nature, for I was born in its odour of popular unsanctity. My father was one of Robert Owen’s missionaries, and the personal influence of Owen—one of the greatest and best of doctrinaires—influenced all my early life. Now, Owen’s first and cardinal dictum, the one on which he insisted 84 with almost wearisome iteration, was that Man, though born free and equal in the sphere of moral rights, ‘was entirely the creature of circumstances,’ and the main mission of his life was the mission of Socialism generally—to modify those circumstances so as to produce, practically, a new Moral World. I have yet to learn that such Socialism conflicts to any unnecessary extent with Individualism; indeed, the history of the movement is full of amusing episodes illustrating the entire freedom of its believers in such matters of personal conduct, and even of opinion, as did not imperil the machinery of the social organism. The well-known and well-meaning Mr. Galpin went about clothed in a simple sack, and the divergences of individual opinion on moral questions led to strange manifestations at New Harmony. Across the Channel, and in France particularly, the story of Socialism is the story of infinite eccentricities. From the personal absurdities of St. Simon down to those of Auguste Comte, from the amazing performances of the speculative Enfantin to those of his pupil and practician Bazard, it is easy to perceive that Socialism postulates the right of a man to do what he pleases so long as he takes his turn at the task-wheel, and does not interfere with the privileges of his fellow- believers.
     It is not for me to explain Mr. Spencer, who can so admirably explain himself.It is quite possible that he may disclaim being called ‘a 85 Socialist,’ since the word (as Professor Huxley well knows) is so connected in the public mind with an idea of state tyranny; but I wrote advisedly of ‘the higher Socialism,’ not of the lower, just as I might write of the higher Christianity, to distinguish it from the lower, the historical, and the dogmatic forms of that creed. Professor Huxley’s particular instances, in which he finds either an anarchic Individualism or an absurd contradiction, may be very summarily dealt with.
     Mr. Spencer has stated, in the first place, that it is quite impossible to remove ‘social suffering’ altogether, a statement grounded on his experience that, so long as men are men, there will be individual victory and failure. I fail to see how that conflicts with the opinion that the chances in the competition should be equalized as far as possible—in one way, as we have seen, by preventing individuals from monopolizing the land. Strangely enough, Professor Huxley stigmatizes with the charge of dangerous Individualism the very man who says that Society should protect itself at all points from the encroachment of individuals!‘A creature not energetic enough to sustain itself must die,’ says Mr. Spencer again, which is surely true, and in no way at variance with the theory that the social organism must be restrained from cruelly crushing any creature out of life. Socialism contends that it is not 86 want of energy, but want of opportunity, that pauperises men and destroys individual vitality.
     Professor Huxley’s next citation from Mr. Spencer—that ‘it is demonstrable that various appliances for working-class comfort, supplied at the cost of the ratepayers, are intrinsically of the same nature as those which in past times treated the farmer’s man as half-labourer and half-pauper’—and that in proportion to a man’s helplessness without social aid and superintendence is the degree of his ‘slavery’—would, I conceive, be subscribed to by most Socialists. For what men want is to start the social reformation at the beginning and forwards, not at the end and backwards.What the ‘good and philosophical’ Socialist says is clear enough: ‘I do not particularly care for Governmental interference with my private life and comfort, though I recognise the necessity of political and civic government, down to such general details as draining and lighting. What I do want is to have the weeds cleared away which prevent my progress as an individual member of society. You cannot help me much by compelling me to labour, without option, for the common benefit, while, at the same time, you confirm the institutions which allow large classes of men not to labour at all. I will not become a “slave to your society,” because I do not recognise that society as founded on absolute political ethics. I was born a free man, not a slave.’ I do not fancy that Mr. Spencer disagrees 87 on any essential point with the ‘good and philosophical’ Socialist.
     Let me put the matter plainly. Professor Huxley misunderstands the higher Socialism as thoroughly as he misunderstands Mr. Spencer. He is ‘trimming,’ while Mr. Spencer is reconstructing. The triumph of Socialism, historically and morally, is the triumph of Individualism. Ecclesiasticism, for example, has gone down like a house of cards, because the free thought of Individualism—id est, Socialism—said, in face of huge majorities, that Ecclesiasticism was an interference with the right of private judgment in matters personal and spiritual. Protestantism decayed, from the moment it became, instead of the protest of a minority, the tyranny of a majority. Socialism itself, the lower Socialism, has collapsed in many of its organizations, because it forgot its first principles of freedom and equality; because (to take Professor Huxley’s illustration) it suggested to the Revolutionists the idea of sustaining common freedom and equality by guillotining each other, and because, as in the case of Enfantin and his group, by upholding a scientific and sensuous priesthood as ‘the Living Law of God,’ it adopted the insane vocabulary of superstition. ‘Father,’ said Bonheur to Enfantin, ‘I believe in you, as I believe in the sun. You are to my eyes the Sun of Humanity.’ Well might Lafitte exclaim to such enthusiasts, ‘You post 88 your advertisements too high—one cannot read them.’
     Unhappily the leaning of most new creeds, as of all the old, is in the direction of social tyranny. And why? Simply because poor human nature finds it hard to understand, and far harder to carry out, absolute ethical principles. Socialism, like all other human efforts to secure the greatest happiness of the greatest number—like Christianity, like the Religion of Humanity—has failed again and again. But if Professor Huxley’s dicta of quasi-providential or Governmental interference with the conduct of life were to be universally accepted, Humanity might well despair for ever; for with the destruction of Individualism would end the last hope of the higher Socialism.Over-legislation would restore slavery to mankind, and preserve the semi-disintegrated feudality which is still so large a portion of our political system. The philosopher, not the quidnunc, holds the secret of wise legislation. The creed of the higher Socialism, not the creed of those who believe that Socialism conflicts with Individualism, is that which follows the Law of Nature, by basing individual chances on the natural freedom and equality of men.
     To find Professor Huxley fighting for the status quo in Politics is to me a far sadder sight than to find him (for such a miracle may some day happen) fighting for the status quo in Religion. Religion, after all, can take care of itself. But the man 89 who argues in favour of Force as a proof of ownership, and of a Statute of Limitations in matters of secular wrong-doing, will one day have to cast in his lot with Ecclesiasticism and the Bishops. There is no way out of the dilemma, for Church and State stand or fall together. I shall watch with curiosity the process which may lead to the conversion of another Saul.

                             I am, etc.,
                                       ROBERT BUCHANAN.
     January 31.

 

To the Editor of the ‘Daily Telegraph.’

     SIR,
         Your readers must take Mr. Robert Buchanan’s censures of me and my opinions for what they are worth; I am not concerned to defend myself against them. Mr. Buchanan thinks that ‘Socialism and individualism are not contrary terms, but two facts (? faces)* of the same proposition.’
     Hence, it would seem to follow that when Mr. Spencer declares that ‘Socialistic arrangements necessitate enslavement,’ he also means that ‘individualistic arrangements necessitate enslavement.’
     And I must leave that instructive development

—* ‘Facts’ in my letter was a misprint for ‘facets.’—

90 of absolute political ethics—together with the question whether Mr. Buchanan is entitled to cite a work which Mr. Spencer has repudiated—to be further discussed by those who may be interested in such topics, of whom I am not   one (!).

                             I am, your obedient servant,
                                                 T. H. HUXLEY.
     EASTBOURNE, February 3.

 

To the Editor of the ‘Daily Telegraph.’

     SIR,
     Suffer me, like Professor Huxley, to say one last word, and that word shall be one of cordial acquiescence in the suggestion that the enslavement of Society is also the enslavement of the Individual. I have yet to learn that an individual, save in the sphere of absolute thought and ethics, is not in a certain sense the ‘slave’ of his own organism. Just as a society is held together by its laws of life, so is a man held together by identical laws. He cannot escape from the general discharge of functions and interchange of currents which condition his vitality. The microcosm is a society just as much as the macrocosm.So far the Scientist and I are agreed. We only part company at the point where the scientist treats both Society and the Individual as mechanical only, independent altogether of those absolute principles which, while they fail to ‘interest’ Professor 91 Huxley, are attacked so vehemently in his system of ‘Providence Made Easy.’

                             I am, etc.,
                                       ROBERT BUCHANAN.

 

     [This discussion ended with the following energetic letter from Mr. Herbert Spencer:]

 

To the Editor of the ‘ Daily Telegraph.’

     SIR,
         Though the recent controversy carried on in your columns under the title ‘Are Men Born Free and Equal?’ has chiefly concerned certain political views of mine, I have thus far remained passive, and even now do not propose to say anything about the main issues. To Mr. Buchanan I owe thanks for the chivalrous feeling which prompted his defence. Professor Huxley, by quoting passages showing my dissent from what is currently understood as Socialism, has rendered me a service. I might fitly let the matter pass without remark, were it not needful to rectify a grave misrepresentation.
     Describing the position of the penniless man, Professor Huxley says: ‘It is not I, but the extreme Individualists, who will say that he may starve. If the State relieves his necessities, it is not I, but they, who say it is exceeding its powers; if private charity succours the poor fellow, it is not I, but they, who reprove the giver 92 for interfering with the survival of the fittest.’ And the view thus condemned by implication he has previously characterized as ‘the political philosophy which Mr. Buchanan idolizes, the consistent application of which reasoned savagery to practice would have left the working classes to fight out the struggle for existence themselves.’
     Professor Huxley is fertile in strong expressions, and ‘reasoned savagery’ is one of them; but in proportion as the expressions used are strong, should be the care taken in applying them, lest undeserved stigmas may result.  Unfortunately, in this case he appears to have been misled by that deductive method which he reprobates, and has not followed that inductive method which he applauds. Had he looked for facts instead of drawing inferences, he would have found that I have nowhere expressed or implied any such ‘reasoned savagery’ as he describes. For nearly fifty years I have contended that the pains attendant on the struggle for existence may fitly be qualified by the aid which private sympathy prompts. In a pamphlet on ‘The Proper Sphere of Government,’ written at the age of twenty-two, it is argued that in the absence of a poor law ‘the blessings of charity would be secured unaccompanied by the evils of pauperism.’ In ‘Social Statics’ this view is fully set forth. While the discipline of the battle of life is recognised and 93 insisted upon as ‘that same beneficent though severe discipline, to which the animate creation at large is subject,’ there is also recognised and insisted upon the desirableness of such mitigations as spontaneously result from individual fellow-feeling. It is argued that privately ‘helping men to help themselves’ leaves a balance of benefit, and that, ‘although by these ameliorations the process of adaptation must be remotely interfered with, yet, in the majority of cases, it will not be so much retarded in one direction as it will be advanced in another.’

     ‘As no cruel thing can be done without character being thrust a degree back towards barbarism, so no kind thing can be done without character being moved a degree forward towards perfection. Doubly efficacious, therefore, are all assuagings of distress, instigated by sympathy; for not only do they remedy the particular evils to be met, but they help to mould humanity into a form by which such evils will one day be precluded’ (pp. 318, 319, 1st edit.).

     Professor Huxley’s ingenuity as a controversialist, great though it is, will, I fancy, fail to disclose the ‘reasoned savagery’ contained in these sentences. Should he say that, during the forty years which have elapsed since they were written, my views have changed from a more humane to a less humane form, and that I would now see the struggle for existence, with resulting survival of 94 the fittest, carried on without check, then I meet the allegation by another extract. In the ‘Principles of Sociology,’ sec. 322, I have explained at some length that every species of creature can continue to exist only by conforming to two opposed principles—one for the life of the immature, and the other for the life of the mature. The law for the immature is, that benefits received shall be great in proportion as worth is small; while for the mature the law is, that benefits received shall be great in proportion as worth is great—worth being measured by efficiency for the purposes of life. The corollary, as appied to social affairs, runs as follows:

     ‘Hence the necessity of maintaining this cardinal distinction between the ethics of the family and the ethics of the State. Hence the fatal result if family disintegration [referring to a view of Sir Henry Maine] goes so far that family policy and State policy become confused. Unqualified generosity must remain the principle of the family while offspring are passing through their early stages; and generosity increasingly qualified by justice must remain its principle as offspring are approaching maturity. Conversely, the principle of the society guiding the acts of citizens to one another must ever be justice, qualified by such generosity as their several natures prompt; joined with unqualified justice in the corporative acts of the society to its members. However fitly in the battle of life among adults the proportioning of 95 rewards to merits may be tempered by private sympathy in favour of the inferior, nothing but evil can result if this proportioning is so interfered with by public arrangements that demerit profits at the expense of merit.’

     Still more recently has there been again set forth this general view. In ‘The Man versus the State,’ pp. 64-67, along with the assertion that ‘society in its corporate capacity cannot, without immediate or remoter disaster, interfere with the play of these opposed principles, under which every species has reached such fitness for its mode of life as it possesses,’ there goes a qualification like that above added.

     ‘I say advisedly—society in its corporate capacity, not intending to exclude or condemn aid given to the inferior by the superior in their individual capacities. Though, when given so indiscriminately as to enable the inferior to multiply, such aid entails mischief; yet in the absence of aid given by society, individual aid, more generally demanded than now, and associated with a greater sense of responsibility, would, on the average, be given with the effect of fostering the unfortunate worthy rather than the innately unworthy; there being always, too, the concomitant social benefit arising from culture of the sympathies.’

     In other places the like is expressed or implied, but it is needless to cite further evidence. The 96 passages I have quoted will make sufficiently clear the opinion I have all along held, and still hold; and everyone will be able to judge whether this opinion is rightly characterized by the phrase ‘reasoned savagery.’

                             HERBERT SPENCER.
     LONDON, February 7.

 

FINAL NOTE ON THE DISCUSSION.

     It will be seen that much of the question, ‘Are men born free and equal?’ became merged in the other question, ‘What is Socialism?’ My answer to that question—i.e., that true Socialism was a combination to protect the rights of individuals—was paradoxical enough to puzzle rny friend Mr. Spencer, and I had neither the time nor the opportunity to explain my meaning fully.I have no more sympathy than Mr. Spencer himself (as I have shown elsewhere) with any kind of tyrannous organization, whether framed in the name of vested interests or in the name of the people. True Socialism—the Science of Sentiment—to which I adhere, fetters no man’s moral activity, limits no man’s character, restricts no man’s evolution:

‘No man can save another’s Soul,
Or pay another’s Debt.’

And what the individual man cannot do, cannot be done by any organization of men. Thus I stand, with Mr. Spencer, for the spread of the sense of 97 moral responsibility, for individual effort and energization; while Professor Huxley stands for the status quo, for Beneficent Legislation, for Providence made Easy. As little as either of these teachers do I see hope or find comfort in the savagery of false Socialism, in the Anarchy of Ignorance, in the terrorism of the emerging Demogorgon. Far as I follow Mr. Spencer, however, in his masterly abstract statements, there is a point where even a disciple and a friend may hesitate. I cannot calmly leave the regeneration of things evil to the slow and certain evolution of the corporate conscience; I feel that there is much to be said for the advocates of a more active social reorganization, and I am not so convinced as Mr. Spencer of the necessary sacredness of contracts, or of the wisdom of holding them inviolable. It would not be difficult, I think, to define the limits within which even State Socialism is expedient and beneficial. Nothing certainly can be more terrible than the existing condition of things, both social and political, and all efforts to mend that condition, be they ever so revolutionary, have my sympathy. It is quite clear, therefore, that I do not follow the Prophet with my eyes shut, and I can quite understand that Mr. Spencer must have considered me, in more than one expression of opinion, a Devil’s Advocate.

                                                                                                                                                           R. B.

_____

 

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