IN reply to Herbert Spencer's last paper on the "Study of Sociology" (in Popular Science Monthly for December, 1873, p. 134), Mr. Gladstone sent the following letter to the editor of the Contemporary Review:
|10 Downing Street, Whitehall,
November 3, 1873.
My dear Sir: I observe in the Contemporary Review for October, p. 670, that the following words are quoted from an address of mine at Liverpool:
"Upon the ground of what is termed evolution, God is relieved of the labor of creation: in the name of unchangeable laws, He is discharged from governing the world."
The distinguished writer in the Review says that by these words I have made myself so conspicuously the champion (or exponent) of the anti-scientific view, that the words may be regarded as typical.
To go as directly as may be to my point, I consider this judgment upon my declaration to be founded on an assumption or belief that it contains a condemnation of evolution, and of the doctrine of unchangeable laws. I submit that it contains no such thing. Let me illustrate by saying, What if I wrote as follows:
"Upon the ground of what is termed liberty, flagrant crimes have been committed: and (likewise) in the name of law and order, human rights have been trodden under foot."
I should not by thus writing condemn liberty, or condemn law and order; but condemn only the inferences that men draw, or say they draw, from them. Up to that point the parallel is exact: and I hope it will be seen that Mr. Spencer has inadvertently put upon my words a meaning they do not bear.
Using the parallel thus far for the sake of clearness, I carry it no farther. For while I am ready to give in my adhesion to liberty, and likewise to law and order, on evolution and on unchangeable laws I had rather be excused.
The words with which I think Madame de Staël ends "Corinne," are the best for me: "Je ne veux ni la blâmer, ni l'absoudre." Before I could presume to give an opinion on evolution, or on unchangeable laws, I should wish to know, more clearly and more fully than I yet know, the meaning attached to those phrases by the chief apostles of the doctrines: and very likely, even after accomplishing this preliminary stage, I might find myself insufficiently supplied with the knowledge required to draw the line between true and false.
I have, then, no repugnance to any conclusions whatever, legitimately arising upon well-ascertained facts or well-tested reasonings: and my complaint is that the functions of the Almighty as Creator and Governor of the world are denied upon grounds, which, whatever be the extension given to the phrases I have quoted, appear to me to be utterly and manifestly insufficient to warrant such denial.
I am desirous to liberate myself from a supposition alien, I think, to my whole habit of mind and life. But I do not desire to effect this by the method of controversy; and if Mr. Spencer does not see, or does not think, that he has mistaken the meaning of my words, I have no more darts to throw; and will do myself, indeed, the pleasure of concluding with a frank avowal that his manner of handling what he must naturally consider to be a gross piece of folly is as far as possible from being offensive.
|Believe me, most faithfully yours,|
|W. E. Gladstone.|
To the second edition of Mr. Spencer's "Study of Sociology," he appends the fore, going letter, and remarks as follows (page 425):
Mr. Gladstone's explanation of his own meaning must, of course, be accepted; and,