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NATIONAL LIFE AND CHARACTER


INTRODUCTION


The greatest statesmen have constantly failed to predict the immediate future.—Yet there have been many successful prophecies of distant and great events.—In other words, we are fairly successful in ascertaining a general law of progress, but cannot define exactly how or when it will be worked out.—The statesman, moreover, prefers dealing with the immediate future, which he can influence, to taking precautions against great changes, which are most likely inevitable.—For instance, the transportation of an inferior race, like the negroes of the United States, to a country where they would be harmless, is too vast, and of too uncertain benefit, to be readily attempted.—Again, the tendency to increase the powers of the State, and invite its interposition, is so' strong that it would be difficult to check it.—Still, we may reduce the dimensions of a danger, which we clearly see, though we cannot avert it.—This book was first suggested by the observation, that America was filling up.—Later study has added the conviction, that the higher races can only live in the Temperate Zone.—If, however, emigration, which is the rough substitute for the organisation of labour, becomes impossible, the tendency to State Socialism, which is already strongly marked in certain British colonies, will become more and more powerful.—Moreover, the tendency to entrust the State with wider functions has long been adopted in Continental policy, and is being acclimatised in England.—This inquiry does not assume that State Socialism will be pushed to its furthest development, but only that some of its simplest applications will become law.—Kings may easily put themselves at the head of a movement for State Socialism, but personal rank and transmitted wealth are likely to be viewed with jealousy in the new order.—The change from one form of political life to another is not likely to be so momentous as the effects of the general change on character.—The world may gain something to balance what it loses, even in the direction of individualism; but (present conditions of growth continuing) it cannot gain much.—Perhaps, the best it can hope will be a general low level of content, and an exaltation of the patriotic sentiment.


Ever since men have committed their thoughts to record, it has been a common-place, exulted in or deplored, according to the temperament of the moralist, that it is impossible to predict the future. History abounds in memorable instances of the rash forecasts made by men, whose genius and experience entitled their opinions to the highest respect. Lord Shelburne was one of the ablest of English statesmen; and he predicted that, whenever the independence of America should be granted, "the sun of England would set, and her glories be eclipsed for ever."[1] Lord Shelburne was fated to be the instrument of negotiating the peace by which American independence was recognised; and he lived till the year when the battle of Trafalgar established England in the position of the only maritime power. Burke, in the language of his greatest eulogist, "had in the highest degree that noble faculty, whereby man is able to live in the past and in the future, in the distant and in the unreal."[2]: He was ripe in years and experience of men when the French Revolution broke out, and his counsels contributed largely to the part which England took in opposing the French Republic. Yet Burke so entirely misconceived the nature of the changes that were passing under his very eyes, that in 1793 he was most concerned, lest France should be partitioned, like Poland, between a confederacy of hostile powers.[3] Burke's distinguished contemporary, Fox, parted from him on the question, how the conduct of France ought to be judged; and where Burke was absolutely wrong, it might be supposed that Fox would be at least relatively right. He told Parliament in 1803, that he had opposed war with France, because of its tendency "to effect the total destruction of the influence of this country on the Continent."[4] In the day of her greatest humiliation, France was never in danger of being partitioned; and the longer the war lasted, the greater was the increase of English influence on the Continent. The most eminent of the Parliamentary generation that succeeded to Burke and Fox, Mr. Canning, was fascinated by the prospects of the South American colonies, anticipated that they would grow up as the United States had grown, and being challenged for his support of them, declared that he had "called a new world into existence to redress the balance of the old"[5] (1826). We who live two generations later, are painfully aware that the South American "new world" has produced little but civil wars, national bankruptcies, paper constitutions, and examples of declining civilisation. The Duke of Wellington was deservedly trusted by a large portion of his countrymen for his sound common-sense in matters political; and his reputation was not confined to England. He told a friend in 1832 that "few people will be sanguine enough to imagine that we shall ever again be as prosperous as we have been."[6] Whether we measure prosperity by wealth, by empire, or by general content, it can scarcely be doubted that the England of 1892 may challenge comparison with the country, as it was at any time, which the Duke of Wellington is likely to have had in his mind. Thirty years ago, a great quarrel broke out between the Northern and Southern States of the American Union. Sir G. Cornewall Lewis, whose sympathies did not mislead him, for they were with the North, declared in 1861 that "their true policy was to negotiate with the South, and recognise the Secession"; and Mr. Gladstone in 1863 said, that the Southern President had made an army, had made a navy, and, more than that, had made a nation.[7] We now know, that the North was certain from the first to win, if it was only true to itself; and that though Mr. Davis created an army, he was powerless to do more. These mistaken forecasts by eminent statesmen were habitually in accord with public opinion; and the general estimate of what is about to happen is as likely as not to be curiously unwise. The English Press, with very few exceptions, was as wrong in its judgment of the American war as Mr. Gladstone; and English society for ten or twelve years at least believed that Louis Napoleon had founded a dynasty. Even when the war of 1870 broke out, though a few military experts were alive to the efficiency of the Prussian organisation, the general opinion was that France would win in the early part of the campaign; and every map of the seat of war, published in London, was a map of the Rhine Provinces, and of North Germany. Every map was accordingly useless after a few days.

It would not, however, be difficult to produce instances where remote and generally unexpected changes have been prophesied with considerable accuracy. As early as 1748, "reasoning men in New York foresaw and announced that the conquest of Canada, by relieving the Northern colonies from danger, would hasten their emancipation." "We have caught them at last," said Choiseul, when it was definitely agreed that Canada should be surrendered (1763); and in fact little more than twenty years elapsed before the English flag ceased to wave over the States England had colonised.[8] Lord Chesterfield, as early as 1753, declared that "all the symptoms which I have ever met with in history, previous to great changes and revolutions in governments, now exist and daily increase in France."[9] "We are approaching the state of crisis, and the age of revolution," wrote Rousseau in 1762. "I think it impossible that the great monarchies of Europe have still long to last; all have had their moment of splendour, and every state which achieves this is ready to wane."[10] Goldsmith in the same year declared that " the French are imperceptibly vindicating themselves into freedom "; and prophesied that the country would gain its liberties, "if they have but three weak monarchs more successively on the throne." It needed, as we now know, a good deal less than the " three weak monarchs." Goldsmith, who seems instinctively to have apprehended the conditions of change in Europe, predicted also with perfect accuracy that Sweden was hastening on to despotism; that the German Empire was on the eve of dissolution; and that Holland was only awaiting the advent of a foreign conqueror.[11] The first of these prophecies was fulfilled in ten years; the second in 1806; and the third in 1794. The American statesman, Hamilton, of whom Talleyrand said that he had "divined Europe," seems to have prophesied the concentration of commerce in London and New York as the great emporia of the world with remarkable sagacity.[12] Arthur Young's predictions of the results that France would derive from the Revolution—temporary distress from its violence, and permanent well-being from its reforms—were as wise as Burke's were unfortunate.[13] De Tocqueville foretold, thirty years before the event, that the Southern States were the one part of the American Union in which disruption was likely to be attempted;[14] Sir G. Cornewall Lewis recognised in 1856 that the outrage on Mr. Sumner was the first blow in a civil war;[15] and Victor Hugo appreciated the importance of John Brown's execution by comparing it to the Crucifixion.[16] Heine, the most French in feeling of Germans, predicted that if France came to war with an united German people, she would be overborne.[17]

It will be observed that the most conspicuous instances of strikingly false prophecies are taken from the utterances of statesmen of the highest rank; while those predictions that have been verified belong as often as not to publicists, or to statesmen, like De Tocqueville, whose philosophy to some extent disqualified them for active politics. The reason, however, is probably not to be sought in any special fitness of abstract politicians for making forecasts of the future; but in the fact that statesmen are constantly tempted to make predictions of immediate interest, whereas the power of divination among men seems rather to concern itself with general laws. Accordingly, the same man has often been markedly right in his speculations about the distant future, and curiously wrong in predicting the possibilities of the next few years. Napoleon's alleged prophecy, that all Europe would end by being Republican or Cossack, seems more probable now than when it was first given to the world;[18] but his expectation that Wellington would make himself despotic in England, because he was too great to remain a private person, failed because it was founded on French analogies, and on supposed conditions that were not true of either Wellington or his nation. De Tocqueville's general law, that " among European governments of our time the power of governments is increasing, although the persons who govern are less stable," is receiving additional illustration every year; but De Tocqueville's "unquestionable statement," that, if any portion of the American Union seriously desired to separate itself from the other States, these would not be able, nor indeed would they attempt to prevent it, was absolutely disproved on countless battlefields within a generation. [19] Beyond this it may be observed, that any attempt to fix the date at which a prophecy will be fulfilled is especially hazardous. The break-up of the Turkish Empire has been foretold for centuries. From Peter the Great downwards, every sovereign of Russia has speculated upon it; and several of these have arranged treaties of partition with other sovereigns equally convinced. Time after time these combinations have been foiled, or only partially successful; and though no one seriously doubts that the term of Turkish rule in Europe is rapidly approaching its completion, few would venture to declare when the result will be brought about. The high courage of the race, the interests of the Western Powers, and a general aversion to great change are retarding causes, which constantly prove to be stronger than was anticipated.

Leaving out of sight the fact, that certain statesmen of great sagacity are able to calculate on what will happen within a few hours or days,[20] and are trusted and valued accordingly, it seems justifiable to say that in a certain broad and vague way the tendency of the times may be and constantly is appreciated, so that we are landed in the apparent paradox of knowing better what is remote than what is so near that it may seem to be within every one's ken. Accordingly political prophecies are for the most part little regarded. The statesman of a modern parliament is not working for results fifty years hence, but for the day's need; and would be apt to distrust himself if he attempted anything more. Perhaps there are cases when we see that a more calculating policy would have been the wiser. If England had granted Catholic Emancipation fifty years before she did; if the American Congress had bought up and expatriated the slaves while they were still a mere handful; if France had followed Talleyrand's policy, and confined herself to such acquisitions as awakened no violent resentments;[21] if Russian administrations under Nicholas I. had been determinately liberal, instead of absolutist, each particular country would have gained, and the civilised world would have been the better for rancours and miseries averted. It is idle, however, to discuss 'what might have been; and almost equally so to discuss what might be under conditions never likely to be realised. The distant future of a country is so unimportant by the side of its immediate needs to the men in possession, that even if they were reasonably certain that a particular evil ought to be guarded against at an immediate sacrifice, they would rarely be possessed of the moral force required for the effort. As a matter of fact, however, only a few persons can feel reasonably certain as to the future, because only a few busy themselves with distant speculations. Among these many will perhaps believe that the manifest destiny of the human race cannot be mitigated—much less averted—by any sacrifice or statesmanship.

One or two simple instances will explain why men should be indisposed to work for a distant object. The increase of the coloured population in the Southern States of the American Union has for some time past been the cause of very great alarm. It seems as if a portion of that magnificent country was destined to be handed over to a race who are incapable of being citizens in the highest sense of the word. The most reasonable proposal yet made for meeting this particular danger has been to remove the blacks in a body, and plant them again in Central Africa. To carry out this proposal, however, in an equitable and humane way, would mean an expenditure of many hundred millions; a sum so vast that only the United States could compass it; and that even the United States might well demur to the cost. It is easy to suppose, however, that a body of Southern statesmen, keenly interested in this particular subject, might sketch the outlines of a feasible plan, and force it upon the attention of the community. Is it not also reasonable to assume that they would be met with very strong opposition? The Northern and Western States have only a remote interest in clearing the country of the negro. Some persons believe that the negro is a valuable element in the community, and others that he is at least indispensable for certain kinds of labour. The results of the last census would be appealed to, to show that the coloured race is not increasing at any disproportionate rate; and it would be argued, that in proportion as he was civilised, would his increase be slower still. The impossibility of transporting 8,000,000 of human beings across the Atlantic, and establishing them in new homes, would be pleaded. The probabilities are that a scheme for doing effectually, what it is now almost too late to do at all, would be debated, and voted down into the establishment of a new Liberia; and would have no more noticeable effect than to make the fortunes of a few contractors.

Again, let us assume a statesman to be convinced that the present tendency to an increase of State action is perilous to individual liberty, and to the development of character. What power would such a man have of giving effect to his views in Europe or in Australia? The State has come in almost everywhere to protect the masses against employers and landlords, or to organise the forces of the community for general purposes. State Education was first systematised on something like its present lines in Prussia, because Prussia, being relatively a weak power, saw the importance of making every citizen as efficient as possible. England and France, Austria and Italy have followed in the steps of Prussia, because they dared not do otherwise. Meanwhile, costless education has recommended itself as a boon to parents; and workmen look favourably upon the school attendance that diminishes the competition of child -labour. A statesman who should try to revert to the old order, because he considered the uniform routine of our State Schools destructive of originality, would soon find that he had to contend with very powerful interests. So, again, with State limitations to labour. Whether the theory of unlimited competition be true of ancient times or not, it is certain that the influence of Adam Smith and the circumstances of their time determined the wealthy classes of England for three generations to hold as an undoubted article of faith, that the law ought not to interpose between employer and man. From the day the first Reform Bill was passed, this theory was doomed in England. Philanthropists first interfered to protect women and children; after a time the Trades Unions secured the legal recognition of their activity; and at present it is only a question, how far labour can be regulated by law, and how far it is best to leave the task of restraining it to powerful associations. It is easy to see that we are tending to a state of things we did not altogether anticipate, and to some results that are not absolutely desirable. It is difficult to see that we could retrace a single step if we went back sixty years. Most of the liberal changes of the century have been nothing more than acts of justice; but almost all have been unavoidable. Religious tolerance; the mitigation of the penal laws; the recognition of the labourer's right to associate; the diffusion of education; the extension of the suffrage, were measures eminently defensible in themselves. To have withheld education would have been to weaken the country in the scale of nations; to have denied the other reforms would have been to provoke revolution.

If we assume, then, that there is a limited power of forecasting the general trend of human progress, it does not follow that this power can be of any real use in influencing events. The English coal-measures will be exhausted, whether we foresee it or not, and no generation will stay its hand from using them in order to cheapen fires for the next. Great cities will continue to grow, if population goes on increasing, though all the statesmanship in the world should be in favour of spreading population. Whether a skiff borne along the rapids of the St. Lawrence is wisely or badly steered makes the difference of life or death to its occupants, but does not affect its destination. It must descend the stream. The object of this book is to indicate in a very general way the direction towards which we are drifting in political and social life. It is not assumed, that any human sagacity can avert the fatality of our acts for centuries past, or of our characters, as we inherit or have fashioned them. If it be true, for instance, as these pages attempt to show, that the lower races are increasing upon the higher, and will some day confine them to a portion of the Temperate Zone, the result will have been the work of our own hands; and yet we cannot change our principles of action. We are bound, wherever we go, to establish peace and order; to make roads, and open up rivers to commerce; to familiarise other nations with a self-government which will one day make them independent of ourselves. We cannot even allow them to remain weak by destroying one another; and interest and humanity constrain us to interpose when there is a Tae-Ping rebellion in China, and when Africa is desolated by Arab slave-dealers. Nevertheless, if we cannot change manifest destiny, we may at least adapt ourselves to it, and make it endurable. We may circumscribe the growth of China, though we cannot altogether arrest it; and if we cannot hope that Europeans will ever people Africa, we may at least so work that European ideas shall one day be paramount from the Red Sea to the Atlantic. Again, it might conceivably be of use if European statesmen could understand that the wars which carry desolation into civilised countries, are allowing the lower races time to recruit their numbers and strength. Two centuries hence it may be matter of serious concern to the world if Russia has been displaced by China on the Amoor, if France has not been able to colonise North Africa, or if England is not holding India. For civilised men there can be only one fatherland, and whatever extends the influence of those races that have taken their faith from Palestine, their laws of beauty from Greece, and their civil law from Rome, ought to be matter of rejoicing to Russian, German, Anglo-Saxon, and Frenchman alike.

The first chapter of this book is practically an expansion, on a very large scale, of an article which I published in the Contemporary Review of 1868.[22] Travel in the United States had convinced me that that great country was filling up more rapidly than was supposed in England, and would cease within measurable time to offer any great inducements to a large immigration. I predicted that "the Americans will begin to be cramped for land by the time their population numbers 20,000,000 more"; that is, by the time it reached 60,000,000. I admitted that the arrest of immigration would be "very gradual," and I pointed out that some temporary relief might be given by the opening up of Manitoba, and by the development of Southern States like Texas, or by the purchase of new territory from Mexico. Substantially these calculations have been verified, though I was wrong in several minor points. The States have not increased in population as rapidly as was expected: the Chinese, on whom I had calculated as possible settlers, have been deterred by public feeling from coming over in any number; and though the British immigrants are now relatively fewer than they were,[23] this falling off has been compensated by a great increase in the number of immigrants from countries with a lower standard of comfort; from Italy, Norway, Bohemia, and Russia. Beyond this there was a period of great prosperity in England between 1870 and 1879, when tens of thousands found employment who in any ordinary year would have gone across the Atlantic. On the whole, these influences appear to have balanced one another; and the result is, that while immigrants are still anxious to pour in, there is a disinclination to receive them; and the American Congress has passed two rather stringent Acts (1885 and 1891) to limit immigration to fit persons, and to forbid the wholesale bringing over of workmen by employers.[24] Moreover, the emigrants who now go over are attracted by high rates of labour rather than by cheap rates of land. The best part of the country has been taken up.

Twenty years' residence under the Southern Cross has forced me to consider a new side of this particular question: whether the capacity of European races to form new homes for themselves is not narrowly limited by climate, and by the circumstances of prior population. Australia is an unexampled instance of a great continent that has been left for the first civilised people that found it to take and occupy. The natives have died out as we approached; there have been no complications with foreign powers; and the climate of the South is magnificent. Nevertheless, it is still a question whether the white race can ever be so acclimatised as to live and labour in the Northern parts; and it seems certain that neither Englishman nor German can ever colonise New Guinea. The fear of Chinese immigration which the Australian democracy cherishes, and which Englishmen at home find it hard to understand, is, in fact, the instinct of self-preservation, quickened by experience. We know that coloured and white labour cannot exist side by side; we are well aware that China can swamp us with a single year's surplus of population; and we know that if national existence is sacrificed to the working of a few mines and sugar plantations, it is not the Englishman in Australia alone, but the whole civilised world, that will be the losers. Transform the Northern half of our continent into a Natal with thirteen out of fourteen belonging to an inferior race, and the Southern half will speedily approximate to the condition of a Cape Colony, where the whites are indeed a masterful minority, but still only as one in four. We are guarding the last part of the world, in which the higher races can live and increase freely, for the higher civilisation. We are denying the yellow race nothing but what it can find in the home of its birth, or in countries like the Indian Archipelago, where the white man can never live except as an exotic.

If, however, the white race is precluded by natural laws from colonising on a large scale anywhere except in the Temperate Zone, it seems certain that the condition of old countries will be powerfully modified. The eager and impetuous element that has hitherto found an outlet in new communities, will be pent up in the overpeopled countries of Europe. Either the growth of population will be arrested, as in France, or the State will have to concern itself, much more actively than English economists will like, with the organisation of labour. Now the history of the English colonies in Australia and New Zealand is particularly instructive, because it shows what the English race naturally attempts when it is freed from the limitations of English tradition. The settlers of Victoria, and to a great extent of the other colonies, have been men who carried with them the English theory of government: to circumscribe the action of the State as much as possible; to free commerce and production from all legal restrictions; and to leave every man to shift for himself, with the faintest possible regard for those who fell by the way. Often against their own will the colonists have ended by a system of State centralisation that rivals whatever is attempted in the most bureaucratic countries of the Continent. The State employees are an important element of the population; the State builds railways, founds and maintains schools, tries to regulate the wages and hours of labour, protects native industry, settles the population on the land, and is beginning to organise systems of State insurance.[25] Planted in Africa, the Englishman so adapts himself to the circumstances of the real population, the indigenous negro, that the black man finds his sufficient paradise under the British flag, in Natal or at the Cape, rather than in Liberia. Planted in Australia, the Englishman, to whom St. Simon and Fourier are names of derision, if they are even names, is rapidly creating a State Socialism, which succeeds because it is all-embracing and able to compel obedience, and which surpasses its continental State models because it has been developed by the community for their own needs, and not by State departments for administrative purposes. Of course, it does not follow that even a race so highly gifted with political intelligence as the British is necessarily right in what it builds up. It may be that the brain and hand are more feeble than they were in the old time. Nevertheless, it is surely safe to say, that political experiments which half a dozen self-governing British communities are instinctively adopting, deserve attention as an indication of what we may expect in the future.

It may seem rash to anticipate that the State everywhere will be entrusted with larger and more intricate functions because there is a tendency in this direction in some of the more important British dependencies. Let it be remembered, however, that every continental State—even those of Germanic origin—has worked for centuries upon these lines, and that in England itself the first entrenchments of the laissez-faire system have been forced. The State in England has bought telegraphs, and reserved the right to monopolise telephones; lends money for draining purposes, and has lent it for the construction of roads; regulates the hours of labour in factories; forbids women and children to work under certain conditions; and assists skilled workmen to obtain a mastery of their trade.[26] There is every indication that the so-called "labour party" will be stronger in future parliaments than it is (1891), and will force the State more and more into what is known as the organisation of industry. Nothing has been assumed as possible or probable in this book except what is already done in some civilised and prosperous part of the world, or what is being worked up to by some powerful party. The so-called nationalisation of land, though not an actual fact, is being approached in a great many countries. Victoria has reserved a great part of its land from sale, in order to try the experiment of State landlordism. New Zealand is considering the policy of buying back the land it has alienated; and meanwhile is proposing to tax large properties on a graduated scale that may incline owners to break them up. South Australia is discussing the same problem. The proposals in England to buy out the Irish landlords, and sell again to a small yeomanry, are steps in the direction of land nationalisation, though the object is to create new freeholds. For a time, at least, the State will be a landlord on a large scale, and in many cases may end by having the land left on its hands. It is not perhaps probable that any uniform system of landownership will prevail over all the world, however much institutions may tend to become identical. France, for instance, may consider that she gets all the good she desires from her system of compulsory subdivision, and may shrink from the costly and complicated operation of buying back small parcels of land, which it would be very difficult to administer. Even in English-speaking countries, the preference for indefeasible property, which seems innate in human nature, has acquired such strength by use that many communities may desire not to go counter to it. In that case they may attain very nearly the same results as are aimed at in State landlordism by a progressive land-tax, which will make it impossible to build up big estates, and by taxing unimproved land as heavily as improved. The essential of State Socialism in these matters is not so much that the State should keep the title-deeds of the land, as that no land should be monopolised by private persons for speculative purposes, or to give political power, or as a mere instrument of luxury.

As it has been an object in this inquiry to consider only what it is possible to achieve by a slight extension of existing machinery, the question whether the State can ever control distribution by becoming the owner of large stores, or production by taking agriculture or mining or manufactures into its own hands, has not been discussed. The assumption has been that certain departments of labour will for a long time at least be left open to private enterprise. It is proper to notice, however, that there are numerous instances of mines being worked by the State, and that where a mine can be worked without loss, or at the smallest possible, but would not return a profit sufficient to reward a speculator, it would seem eminently in accordance with the principles of State Socialism that Government should develop it. So, again, where the mineral produced is one necessary, so to speak, to national existence, like the coal of England or the salt of Wieliczka. Tobacco is a State monopoly in some parts of Europe, and alcoholic drinks in others. In Java and Egypt the State has at times been a considerable employer of agricultural labour, and still farms land of its own on a reduced scale. It is therefore possible to conceive a community which, following only actual precedents, should be the sole employer and the sole proprietor within its own boundaries. It has seemed, however, unwise and unnecessary to suppose that this extreme result will be attained generally, or even often: unwise, because it is very rare to see a theory of any kind logically carried out; and unnecessary, because if twenty per cent of any given population were in the State service, their hours of work and their wages would practically be the standard of the whole community. In Victoria at this time something like eight per cent of the adult male population is in Government employ.[27] Assume the Government to run steamers, as it has often been urged to do, to buy up the various gas-works, to start works, such as it must some day have for the manufacture of ordnance, to take irrigation into its own hands, and to supply medical aid through salaried employees, and it is easy to see how the eight per cent might swell to twenty per cent. Neither does it much matter for practical purposes whether the State in all cases undertakes work of this kind itself, or leaves it to be performed by some other public body, amenable to the popular vote. The State in Victoria, for instance, has handed over some important functions, occupying hundreds of employees, to the Melbourne Harbour Trust; but that body is almost as directly under the control of Parliament as any Government department. Again, it is quite conceivable that the conduct of gas-works, trams, and water-works may often be left to municipalities; but these in a democracy are controlled by the industrial vote. The working men of Victoria attach great importance—and I believe rightly so—to the comparatively high standard of comfort which the State maintains for all its servants. It is felt that, sooner or later, the ideal recognised by the State will be the measure for all; partly because otherwise the best men will all seek employment under the State, and partly because there will be an invincible reluctance to accept less than the largest employer gives. If this is to some extent the case already, the result is bound to be far greater when the State's sphere of action is doubled or trebled.

It used to be made a reproach to the English Liberals that they were always agitating for reforms connected with the machinery of government—manhood suffrage, the ballot, or the abolition of the House of Peers—and never appeared to have any use for the power they had already wrested from the aristocracy. A review of what has been done during the last sixty years will perhaps show that this accusation is not borne out by facts. The reforms made have been so great as practically to remodel English society. The penal code has been changed from one of great barbarity into one that is reasonable and humane;[28] the game laws have been made fairly tolerable; the poor-law system has been remodelled with great intelligence, though not very sympathetically; popular education has been introduced; the landlord's protective duty on food has been abolished; trades unionism has been legalised; nonconformity has been freed from its shackles; and Parliament has familiarised itself more and more with the idea of interposing between employer and employed, between landlord and tenant. If it should appear that the complement of these changes—the complete organisation of labour, and State insurance against want—can only be attained under a democratic form of government, then we may, I think, expect a republic to be established everywhere. On the other hand, it seems more than conceivable that wise sovereigns, or wise aristocracies, if they believe these changes to be inevitable, and on the whole good, will determine to guide the popular movement instead of opposing it. Wherever this is done, experience indicates that the working classes will look first to their real - wants, and will acquiesce in any form of government that satisfies these. Therefore it has not appeared necessary for the purposes of this argument to consider whether thrones will be overturned or aristocracies abolished. The chances perhaps are that the world will adopt the republican form of polity more and more, because there are many instructive examples that it is not easy to replace a dynasty that has once been dispossessed. On the other hand, if there should be a succession of such exceptionally able and patriotic sovereigns as several European countries have enjoyed during the last fifty years, and if these should identify themselves with popular movements, it is open to believe that kings may hold their own for centuries to come. None the less, there does seem to be a natural antagonism between aristocracies of privilege or wealth and an industrial society. It is difficult to conceive that a hereditary House of Lords will long be maintained in England; and though the millionaire may be a feature of all time, the example of the United States shows that he may be deprived of political power. Personal rank and transmitted wealth accordingly seem a little less likely to maintain themselves than the centralisation of State absolutism in one hereditary monarch. Even titles, however, will perhaps be modified and transformed rather than absolutely effaced. Nothing is more remarkable in human nature than its determination to retain old forms while it invests them with a new life. Christianity took its temples, its statues, its sacred days from Paganism; Protestantism mostly copied the old Church; and the most noticeable form of anti- Christian worship has been a servile parody of Catholicism. Humanity, as it were, outgrows its vestments; but it does not cast them off and go naked; it patches them and drapes them about itself in new folds.

What therefore we are most concerned with is not the limitation of the higher races of man to a small part of earth; not the evolution of a new form of society—an autocratic and all-pervading State, instead of a State that gave free scope to individual ascendency—but the question, what man himself will become under these changed conditions of political life, and under the influence of other changes that seem inevitable. If towns are to predominate over the country; if the State is largely to supplant the churches in the direction of life, and parents in the bringing up of the family; if the new conditions of intellectual work are unfavourable to originality; if, in a word, the man seems to dwindle as the union of men grows in strength and importance, the result cannot be without interest for those who are on the brink of this future. To some it will perhaps seem that the expectation of great changes for the better in the constitution of political society is unreasonably sanguine; and that the industrial classes, when they come to the full consciousness of their power in any part of the world, are certain to attempt impracticable experiments or violent changes which will throw the world back. It has been no part of this argument to consider such possible contingencies. Here and there no doubt blunders will be made, and ignorant tribunes of the people will try their hands again at some of the old failures: unlimited issues of State paper; violent confiscations; or the appointment of State officials generally by the ballot. We are bound, however, to assume that what is unreasonable will perish of itself, and that what is reasonable will by degrees prevail. Moreover, the experience of the last century ought to guard us against a repetition of the worst blunders of the past. On the whole, it is surely correct to say that the relations of rich and poor are incomparably more healthy now than they were a hundred years ago in all matters that are regulated by law. It would be grossly unfair to charge the excesses of the Reign of Terror in France upon the French people; they were the work of a few fanatics, and of a great many recruits from the criminal classes. So far, however, as they were tacitly justified by the public at the time of their perpetration, it was because absolute power in the State and privilege in districts had been so intolerably abused that the people scarcely considered themselves secure unless the representatives of the old order were exterminated. At present the State is everywhere regarded as the protector from whom the people have most to hope. The popular impulse is not to set the action of government aside, but to awaken it to what is conceived of as a healthier activity; and this belief in the omnipotence of law is a great guarantee for order and peaceable change; though it may of course be that the man who cries to the State to help him, when he ought to help himself, will gradually suffer paralysis of strength and will.

The tendency of the age is to be hopeful, and it may be admitted that a great deal in the past history of the world encourages us not to despair of the future of humanity. The best types of any given high race are demonstrably stronger, taller, healthier than their ancestors two hundred or a thousand years ago; enjoy better laws and many more comforts; are more humane, better educated, and have a larger inheritance of transmitted thought. That the pariah class in our great cities is in the lowest abyss of misery may be conceded; and it is probable that the working class generally has now and again had glimpses of a better life than it enjoys; but the whole tendency of modern reforms is to improve the condition of the masses. The argument developed in these pages supposes that there will actually be change for the better. What is assumed also is that the gradual decay of faith, the diminished importance of family life, and the loss of original power, as genius is deprived of its noblest fields, will be serious offsets to the material development of life; and that even physical conditions will be worse, as cities grow upon the world, and as the field of adventure in unsettled regions is closed. There is room for cheerful prognostication in this direction also. Mr. Morris has conceived a charming vision of an England in which great cities shall have been exchanged for country homesteads with an occasional street, and in which brain work shall be gradually discarded for manual labour. To attain all these results, however, Mr. Morris is compelled to imagine a great upheaval of society; and his conclusions appear to indicate that two-thirds of the population must have perished or left the country, the other third remaining stationary. Such a dream of the future differs essentially from that of the following pages, which only professes to consider what is likely to happen if we go on for two hundred years more as we have gone on for the last three-quarters of a century.

To the writer of these pages, what really seems most hopeful in the outlook for the future is the prospect that violent upheavals of society will be less and less attempted as the State appears to be the best expression of the wishes of the majority; and that some falling off in the energy and acquisitiveness, which are fostered by individualism, will be compensated by the growth of what we may call patriotism, as each man identifies himself more and more with the needs and aspirations of his fellow-countrymen. That men generally should look up to the State to take the lead in industrial undertakings is probably undesirable, and is perhaps never likely to occur. Whatever administrations may do, they can hardly monopolise more than a small portion of the field of human enterprise. Meanwhile, it is surely in the interests of all that the poorest man in the country should feel that he owes inestimable blessings to the political order under which he lives: not only protection from foreign enemies, but equality before the law, the certainty of employment in bad times, education for his children, security for the purity of his household life, and a fair chance of rising out of the ranks if he possesses the requisite ability. If this ideal has not been absolutely attained in the civilised countries of the world, it is not because the best statesmen of all times have not been habitually working towards it, but because individualism has meant privilege—privilege for rank, for wealth, and for influence—and because the outworks of individualism have been guarded accordingly. More and more as we approach the stationary state—as there are no countries to receive immigrants; as war is more and more dreaded for its chances, or recoiled from for its barbarity; as commerce and invention are restricted because there are no new regions to open up—will the old outlets for discontent or unsatisfied ambition be closed. What are now the governing classes will have to arrange reasonable compromises, by which the condition of the poor is made endurable. It may be that there will be less enthusiasm in those days, because there will be less hope; but it may be assumed that there will be less misery, more resignation, and it may even be more content. Life in itself is an inexhaustible delight to all but a few; and the conditions of life will be more tolerable, though the sky above may be more gray.


  1. Mahon's History of England, vol. vii. p. 204. Compare "Fox on the King's Speech," December 5, 1782. Lord George Germain used very similar language in the debate of December 12, 1781. Wraxall's Historical Memoirs, vol. iii. p. 289.
  2. Macaulay's "Essay on Warren Hastings," pp. 642, 643.
  3. "Remarks on the Policy of the Allies." Burke's Works, vol. iii. p. 447. Burke had said in the House, as early as February 9, 1790, that he considered France as " not politically existing," and as "expunged out of the system of Europe."
  4. Fox's "Speech on the Mediation of Russia," May 27, 1803.
  5. Canning's "Speech on the Connection of England and Portugal," December 12, 1826.
  6. Raikes's Journal, vol. i. p. 68.
  7. Sir G. Cornewall Lewis's Letters, p. 395. M'Carthy's History of Our Own Times, vol. ii. pp. 138, 139.
  8. Bancroft's History of the United States, vol. iv. pp. 460, 461. "The necessary result of such measures" (the annexation of Canada and Florida), "perfectly foreseen at the time, was pointed out by Dr. Tucker, Dean of Gloucester, as well as by others."—Wraxall's Historical Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 78.
  9. Chesterfield's Letters to his Son.
  10. Emile, livre iii. p. 218. Some years later, Rousseau in his letters expressed the opinion, that the Seven Years' War would have broken up the French Monarchy, if it had not been for Choiseul.—Martin: Histoire de France, tome xvi. p. 98. M. Scherer has noticed several minor predictions of the Revolution.—Littérature Contemporaine, p. 346
  11. Goldsmith's Citizen of the World, Letter 55.
  12. Talleyrand's Memoirs, vol. i. p. 185. Hamilton predicted that London would absorb Amsterdam, that Cadiz would be supplanted by an American port, and that Marseilles would lose the trade of the Levant—Ticknor's Memoirs, vol. i. p. 16.
  13. "The advantages derived to the nation are of the very first importance. On the other hand, the extensive and unnecessary ruin—all these are great deductions from public felicity."—Arthur Young On the Revolution in France, pp. 343, 344.
  14. Democracy in America, chap, xviii. p. 434.
  15. Letters of Sir G. C. Lewis, p. 315.
  16. In a drawing, which was engraved, and sold in London at the time; and which represented John Brown on the Cross.
  17. "You" (the French) have more to fear from liberated" (i.e. united) " Germany, than from the whole Holy Alliance, together with all the Croats and Cossacks.—Heine, Zur Geschichte der Religion und Philosophie in Deutschland, S. 269.
  18. The part of the prophecy that relates to Russia seems the best proved. "You are in the flower of your age, and may expect to live thirty-five years longer. I think you will see, that the Russians will either invade and take India; or enter Europe with 400,000 Cossacks, and 200,000 real Russians."—O'Meara's Napoleon at St. Helena, vol. i. p. 104. "The Continent is now in the most perilous situation, being continually exposed to the risk of being overrun by Cossacks and Tartars."—Life, Exile, and Conversations of the Emperor Napoleon, by Count de Las-Cases, part vi. p. 2.
  19. De Tocqueville's Democracy in America, book iv. chap. vi. and book i. chap, xviii. p. 420.
  20. For an instance of Talleyrand's sagacity in this line see his directions to the Duke of Orleans, which placed that prince on the throne.—Bulwer's Historic Characters, pp. 221, 222.
  21. Memoirs of Talleyrand, vol. ii. part vii. pp. 97-100. Madame de Rémusat in her Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 399, quotes Talleyrand as saying: "To keep the Czar shut up at home by creating the natural barrier which Poland offers, ought to have been the Emperor's design."
  22. "On the Land Question in the United States."—Contemporary Review, November 1868.
  23. In the decade 1851 to 1860 the emigration from Great Britain to the States was 1,257,000 (Mulhall's Statistics). In the last decade it has been 1,462,000 (Statesman's Year-Book). The British population of the first period was twenty per cent smaller than that of the second; while the American population of the second period offered fifty per cent more chance of employment.
  24. "Already signs are not wanting to show, that stringent as are its provisions, and drastic as are its regulations" (the Act of 1891), "a certain section of American opinion is beginning to demand something more stringent and more drastic still."—Wilkins on "Immigration in the United States," Nineteenth Century Review, October 1891, p. 593. Bryce's comment must be remembered: "Such laws are of course difficult of enforcement."—American Commonwealth, vol. iii. p. 674.
  25. It will be understood, that these statements are not equally applicable to every colony. New South Wales is only beginning to protect native industry, and New Zealand is the only colony that has experimented with State insurance.
  26. Mr. Rae's comment on this matter is instructive: "Professor Sidgwick declares the Irish and Scotch Land Acts, which provide for the judicial determination of a fair rent, to be the most distinctively socialistic measures which the English legislature has yet passed; but in reality these Land Acts are not a bit more socialistic than the laws which fix a fair price for railway rates and fares," etc.—Rae's Contemporary Socialism, p. 428. Compare Bryce's statement: "The new democracies of America are just as eager for State interference as the democracy of England," etc. The American Commonwealth, vol. iii. p. 272.
  27. Mr. Hayter in his Victorian Year-Book for 1890 reckons the adult males at about 320,000 between the ages of 18 and 60. The persons regularly employed by the Government were at the same time 24,816, and those temporarily employed during 1889 numbered 5799. If we deduct 2200 for female teachers, 1000 for temporary clerical employees, who are only engaged for short periods, and 450 for female post-office clerks and telegraph operators, the residue will pretty nearly represent eight per cent. This number must, however, be regarded as an extreme estimate, only true of a prosperous year.
  28. The recent publication of Sir Robert Peel's early Letters by Mr. Charles Parker shows that in 1828 he was preparing to resign office if George IV. refused to sign the death-warrant of a young man who had been guilty of forgery under circumstances of peculiar temptation (Peel's Letters, p. 317). Indeed, so strong had the old law been, that Blackstone boasts: " There is hardly a case possible to be conceived, wherein forgery … is not made a capital crime."—Commentaries, book iv. chap. xvii. The penalty of death for forgery was, however, abolished in 1832; that is, as soon as the House of Commons was converted to the necessity of reform; and in 1833 one of the first acts of the reformed Parliament was to appoint a Commission for revising the whole Criminal Code.