Can the Teacher Make Readers?
There can be no intelligent citizenship without good reading and plenty of it; and the lack of intelligent citizenship costs the world vastly more than the cattle, vine, and beer diseases cured by Pasteur, The mistaken South African War cost Britain 250 millions, and the Boers were handed back their virtual independence after all, just as Mr. Churchill’s attempts to suppress Bolshevism have cost the taxpayer 150 millions, besides the loss of Russian trade. Intelligent citizenship would have prevented these flamboyant adventures on the part both of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain and Mr. Winston Churchill.
What can the teacher do to stimulate a love for good reading? He can at least show his own love for it and he can show the fruits of it. I have grateful, affectionate recollection of how my own old schoolmaster communicated his enthusiasm to us. When the summer holidays came he was off to the Trossachs one year, to the northern Highlands another, to the West Highlands, the battlefields, the ruined abbeys, the castles and peel towers of the Borders, the Islands of Orkney and Shetland, the Scottish and Welsh mountains (he had climbed the higher ones), and the famous falls, about which he had botanised and geologised and had scrambles and wettings. He ‘did’ the old historic towns such as Stirling, St. Andrew’s, and Linlithgow, and the palaces of Scone and Falkland. As a good Scot he knew something of the history, antiquities, geography, industries, literature, the varieties of dialect, and the treasures of Scottish song. He could make a history or geography lesson entrancing by extra detail told with enthusiasm and embellished with anecdotes and narratives of personal adventures. All this he would work off, smiling, his heavy eyebrows twitching, and his eyes sometimes flashing, while he kicked one heel upon the other in his pleasure and excitement, which naturally communicated itself to us and made us pleased and excited too. This, of course, is a matter of personality, and a teacher either has it or he hasn’t. In many cases he would disdain thus to wear his heart on his sleeve, from some absurd idea of dignity, about which the really great are never troubled. As Josh Billings says, ‘Owls are grave, not because of their wisdom, but because of their gravity.’ I can say only that Dr. John Roy communicated his own enthusiasm for the things of the mind to several generations of lads who have done well for the world and in the world.
He taught English literature biographically, making us love Goldsmith the man and then making us admire the gentleness and simple beauty of his style. He made fun of the turgidity of Macaulay, but made us realise the patient care and accuracy with which he collected information. From ‘Caedmon’s Paraphrase’ to ‘Locksley Hall’ our teacher ranged over the field of English Literature, and made us admire and reject for reasons given. There was no Stopford Brooke primer then, nor was Logie Robertson’s book in the field. But I keep my Collier’s ‘History of English Literature’ still, and do not find it far out even in the light of later standards.
In history it was again Collier, errors and all, but supplemented by much disquisition from his own reading. In Scottish history he was strong on the splendid ‘Tales of a Grandfather,’ in which there is colour and flow and animation unknown to the bald and sterile summaries of to-day.
Probably most ardent students of history will find that they owe their taste for the subject quite as much to the glamour of the Waverley novels as to anything they learned in school in the way of professed history. The first Duke of Marlborough said he knew the history of England chiefly from reading Shakespeare’s historical plays.
I do not know exactly how history fares in the schools of to-day. I fancy, rather badly. One was glad to learn that, under the influence of the propaganda of the League of Nations, the old-fashioned conception of history as a series of stirring stories of campaigns and the prowess of heroes was likely to be considerably modified. That is very much to the good; but what has taken its place? Boys want heroes and girls heroines. A book such as Charlotte Yonge’s ‘Book of Golden Deeds’ should make an admirable schoolbook, and, as a corrective to our shopkeeping tendencies, too much cannot be made of the devotion and the vast life-interest of the career of a man such as Bernard Palissy, the self-taught potter, who for a critical and successful experiment fired his oven with the chairs and stools of his poor home, in spite of the protests of his weeping wife.
Individual heroes do not represent history of course; but the driest period of history, as recognised, has its heroes, and the struggle over institutions can be as fascinating as hand-to-hand fighting. The story of the Reform Bills of the nineteenth century abounds in incidents as good as the staple of the ‘bloods’ that boys read. There were in Scotland midnight drillings of pikemen, spies, treachery, arrests, transportations, and hangings, the pathos and romance of failure and suffering, followed in no long time by the success of the Bill of ’32 and the Municipal Corporations Act of ’33, which were not carried even in England without the, burning of Northampton Castle and the partial burning of Derby and of Bristol. In Bristol also Sir Charles Weatherall, the City Recorder, a strenuous opponent of the Reform Bill, had again and again to be rescued from the hands of a mob bent on lynching him. In 1867, before the later Reform Bill became an Act, the railings of Hyde Park were thrown down by sheer pressure from a dense mob, and the Home Secretary appealed with tears to the Reform leaders to help him in preserving order. There were rick-burning and the smashing of machinery by the Luddites ere the Factory Acts and the Repeal of the Corn laws were passed; and in the Chartist movement leaders were imprisoned, one of them, the brilliant orator and poet, Ernest Jones, writing a poem in prison with his own blood.
All these incidents give colour to the story of reform even in the nineteenth century. But, truth to tell, modern history has little of a look-in with the compilers of school histories. Even professors like to end their history with Claverhouse, or at the latest the Forty-Five, and one meets graduates and teachers who have never heard of any of all these stirring and momentous modern occurrences and movements.
Historical Test Questions.
I once in the hearing of a teacher noted over the north as a collector of folk-song mentioned casually ‘the English Revolution.’ ‘What English Revolution?’ he asked, blankly. What could I say but that I meant the Revolution - the Revolution of 1689, which established the right of Parliament to rule the country, gave it control of the army and the navy, limited the power of the monarchy to constitutional and more or less decorative functions, and, in short, did for Britain what the Revolution of 1789 did for France. The English Revolution was rightly considered of so much importance by Charles James Fox and Sir James Mackintosh as to justify them in writing histories of it, and it is the great theme of Macaulay’s four volumes as well as one of his essays. But evidently my headmaster friend had not attached any special significance to it.
The ordinary school histories are both snobbish and inaccurate, and so dessicated by condensation that the facts given can be regarded as no more than so many pegs upon which to hang a dissertation. They need to be supplemented by the more copious narratives of Green, Macaulay, Freeman, and Froude, with amplification on the social and economic side from such books as De Gibbins’ ‘Industrial History’ and Professor Thorold Rogers’ ‘Economic Interpretation of History’ and ‘Six Centuries of Work and Wages.’
A bad tone was given to English history for many years by the High Tory prejudices of David Hume, and as to many episodes he is both skimpy and inaccurate. For one thing, Cromwell, the greatest chief magistrate Britain has ever had, got no kind of fairness till Carlyle published the Life and Letters.
For another, the great English uprising known as the Peasants’ Revolt was long founded on the biassed, scornful, and erroneous account of French Froissart. Froissart represented John Ball, the intellectual leader of the revolt, as a mad priest, and confused Wat Tyler, of Maidstone, the military leader, a soldier of fortune who had served abroad, with John, the Tiler of Dartford, who cut down the poll-groat bailiff with his helving hammer. John Ball was really the greatest of Wickliffe’s Lollard preachers, who, with the newly-translated Bible in hand, went out to preach the Kingdom of Heaven upon Earth, and attacked serfdom specifically. I have written a short history of what was really a splendid movement, the first fruits of reading the Bible in the vulgar tongue; and I am glad to say my amended version of the revolt is now used in a good many English and Irish private schools.
One other historical error of great significance is the statement that the Three Estates of the Realm consist of Sovereign, Lords, and Commons. This tends to destroy the whole idea of Representative Government. The three estates really are (1) the Barons Spiritual, (2) the Barons Temporal, forming together the House of Lords, and (3) the Knights of the Shire and the burgesses of the towns, forming, as the Third Estate, the House of Commons as originally convoked by Simon de Montfort. The word Estate means a status or condition in life. The estates were classes who got their living in a particular way. So that those who deprecate the idea of class feeling and class representation in politics are denying the whole principle of representative government, which was expressly designed to secure direct class representation. The idea was that there might well be an antagonism of interests between the classes, and that the members of one estate could no more represent the other than the buyer can represent the seller, or the master the servant, or the offender be his own judge.
The New Fourth Estate.
There has now risen up a Fourth Estate in the Realm, the workers with brain and hand, and this estate also has found 142 direct representatives in Parliament. The English National Union of Teachers is, I believe, affiliated to this estate, recognising that its members live neither by rents nor by profits gained from the labour of other people, but upon wages earned by service to the community. The difference between wages and salaries is that wages are paid weekly or fortnightly, and salaries monthly or quarterly. This is a distinction rather than a difference. The nature of the status is the same. A workman asked that his wage be called salary, irrespective of the amount, on the ground that salaries were always rising, but wages were always coming down!
Is it possible that a slight weakness in history in the north of Scotland goes some way to explain how or why the northern teachers have not found their class consciousness, and have not given it political expression, but still continue to support the old historic parties, without considering their fundamental significance?
State-controlled education, without price, if not without money, represents not Socialism, but Communism, Socialism meaning everyone according to his deeds, while Communism means everyone according to his needs. The father of ten children has them educated partly at the expense of the man who has none, and this is quite as it ought to be. But it embodies the Communistic principle nevertheless. It seems an anomaly that the northern teachers, unlike other men and women engaged in the public services, do not help the only political party which seeks to confer upon all servants of the community, as well as upon the public, the advantages to be obtained from the elimination of private enterprise, with its appalling waste, inefficiency, and economic injustice.
I am content to leave the matter there, as I am not engaged in political propaganda, but in the discussion of education in general and the teaching of history in particular. The story of the past is worthy of study only as it helps to illuminate the problems of the present.
I should have liked to touch on the teaching of morals and manners in school; should have liked a word, a good many words, on the place of athletics; should have liked to answer the question ‘Does Sport Produce Sportsmen?’ and should have liked to discuss the value of certain subjects, such as Mathematics and Technology. I confess I am jealous of every subject that curtails the time given to literae humaniores. For we need the humanities more than ever. Young people are not ‘finished’ at school. They are only begun. The teacher can but introduce them to the great field of knowledge which they must cultivate for themselves, or not, in after life.
With the world in chaos around us, due to jealous, greedy, domineering ignorance, and an incapacity to profit either by the examples or the warnings of the past, there never was a time when knowledge, breadth of mind, and goodwill were more needed to set the feet of the nations in a more excellent way. It the child is father of the man, how tremendously grave is the responsibility of those who have the moulding of young minds and dispositions in their keeping! Parental control and influence never were more lax than now. The young people of previous generations were chivvied and tortured. To-day one feels that the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction, and that they tend rather to be pampered. The one policy is nearly as mistaken as the other. Neither adults nor juveniles can afford to run on a loose rein. Life consists of doing what we would rather not, from getting up early on cold mornings to giving up life itself for an ideal or on a humane impulse.
Living on Our Past.
Nor will it do to live upon our past and the heritage handed down to us. And that is what we are doing to too great extent. The fathers that begat us made roads by forced labour or forced payments. They planted hedges and woods that gave shelter, raised the temperature, improved the amenities, and provided an ultimate supply of timber. ‘Be aye stickin’ in a tree,’ said Dumbiedykes. ‘It’ll be grouin’ while ye’re sleepin’!’ They built stone walls and farmhouses, and they marled and subsoiled and took in the peatbogs and barren places. They won great civic liberties and rights, not without suffering and death itself. We do none of these things. The young men fought to preserve the liberties of Europe, but they make little use of them now that they are won. Surely some part of the responsibility for all this slacking lies at the doors of those who have had the shaping of the present generation.
The Scotland of Burns’s Day.
The day before yesterday was the anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, and one can’t help thinking of the immense difference there is between the Scotland of Burns’s day and the Scotland of to-day. There are the motor cars, the furs and finery of the women, the better housing, all the improved features of the merely material civilization; but what does it profit a nation if it gain the world and lose its soul?
The Scotland of Burns’s day and for two generations to come - say to the time of Dr. John Brown, the brilliant, big-hearted lover of dogs and humans - was a Scotland possessing a veritable galaxy of talent and genius. Contemporary with Burns, or just before him, were Allan Ramsay and Robert Fergusson, Hume and Robertson, the historians, with Sir Archibald Alison and Patrick Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee. There were Thomas Reid, and Dugald Stewart, and Sir Wm. Hamilton, the great exponents of the ‘Scottish school of philosophy.’ There was, in a niche all by himself, Adam Smith, the father of political economy as a branch of moral philosophy in his allowance. There were Galt and Scott and Miss Ferrier, the novelists; Home, the reverend author of ‘Douglas, a Tragedy’; and of critics and essayists what a company! Jeffrey and Christopher North and Macvey Napier, who were to attract north to Edinburgh, Sydney Smith, De Quincey, and the contributions of Macaulay, those classic essays sent home to the Edinburgh Review from India, during the brilliant ten years of Macaulay’s exile, while he revised the Indian Penal Code.
The Edinburgh Review was the most powerful periodical in the world at the time. But it was not the only Edinburgh one. There were Blackwood, Tait’s Magazine, Fraser’s Magazine, Macmillan’s, The North British Review, and Chambers’s Journal.
Then there were the great dames who made songs and sang them, accompanying themselves on harpsichord, spinnet, or harp, They spoke Scots, as their menfolk did, but they spoke it with grace and comeliness, we are told. They had high spirits and wit, both natural and the kind distilled from books and reading.
A Distinctive Spirit.
The Scotland of those days had a distinctive spirit and genius. But what can be said of the Scotland of to-day? It is a colourless province of the all-too-predominant partner, rich in money and comfort indeed, but at what a cost! Its books and plays and music are mostly English. It has adopted the inferior part of English civilization. The fine English courtesy and manners it has not adopted, nor has it acquired the English gift for music. It is not uncommon to hear sneering remarks about the tinkling of pianos in every house in England; but if there is this universality of taste for music in England, there is yet, mixed up with much that is merely popular and not very good, an undoubted body of real musical taste. It is better to have errand-boys and shopgirls going about singing or whistling operatic airs heard at ‘the pictures,’ and showing the possession of an ear for music, than to have a handful of the select knowing music and playing it with a painful dependence upon the printed score, and making music a mere drawing-room and concert accomplishment, without having it really in their hearts and their heads.
It is the graces that make life worth living. Coal and bread are highly necessary, but no one can wax enthusiastic over a ridge of coal or a mountain of bread, and the villa on the cinder heap does not provoke one to lyric raptures. There is more artistic, disinterested happiness in a wayside cot, with a fiddle in it and a few well-thumbed good books, than in mansions that contain pianos that no one in the house can play, and, for books, chiefly motor-car catalogues and company prospectuses and share-lists. The sections of the newspapers devoted to ‘wills proved’ convey the impression that Scotland is per head a richer country than England nowadays; for the Scots legatees often head the lists with fortunes of five, six, and even seven figures, while English testators taper away down with diminishing sums of four and three figures. Quite enough for anybody to leave. Why should anyone add to the pains of death by having so much to leave for other people to fight about and be demoralised by? Is it because the Englishman prefers to live rich rather than die rich that he leaves so comparatively little?
It rests with us to ask ourselves individually what are we to do about this temporary loss by Scotland of her soul.
Were I a teacher I should like to be able to feel that I had done my duty to the full, both in school and in the world; for the teacher also is a citizen, with the obligation resting upon him in a special degree, in proportion to his intelligence, to help to hand on some addition to the heritage of liberty and right left by those who ‘did their deeds and went away.’
The Great Enemy of Mankind.
Mankind has many special enemies; but the greatest, the most comprehensive, enemy of all is the hoofless, hornless, tailless, depersonified devil of ignorance. A poet writing in this locality has epitomised the position in three quatrains.
Ancestral man scarce stood erect,
Low-browed and hairy, Nature’s slave;
His puny powers of no effect,
He gorged on carrion in a cave.
And now man soars aloft on wings,
Holds converse o’er ten thousand miles,
A million ships his sustenance brings,
A hundred arts his ease beguiles.
Ancestral man was fierce and dull,
Stark torture was his daily toy,
But now the wheel has circled full -
Man shares his fellows’ grief and joy.
The countless steps in that great ascent have been achieved by gradually acquired knowledge, with its mental and moral by-products, understanding and sympathy. Knowledge is of course the antidote to the bane of ignorance. Ancestral man was naked and often cold till he learned that warmth could be secured by wearing the skins of beasts, to be followed later by the plaiting of mats, and still later by the weaving of cloth. He devoured his food raw till he learned, by rubbing one stick upon another, to produce fire. He lived in caves and borrows till he learned to make tents of hides, or huts of mud and osiers or of blocks of ice. But the arts and relaxations of life in northern lands did not arise till, to clothing, cooking, and housing, he added the great boon of artificial light. As Charles Lamb whimsically suggests, our forefathers, lying around churlishly in the dark, had no temptation to cultivate wit or humour when it would have been necessary to feel the face of your neighbour in order to find out if he was smiling; and he concludes that jokes came in with candles. It ought to be added that the fashioning and decorating of weapons of war and the chase and utensils of domestic use also benefited by the introduction of the fir candle and the oil lamp.
The Noble Calling of Teacher.
It is the business of the teacher to abate or entirely to remove the multifarious disabilities imposed upon man by his ignorance of the laws, facts, and forces by which he is surrounded, and there can be no nobler or more useful calling.
But thus to enlarge our survey of the scope of teaching, to take all knowledge for our province, as Bacon said he had done, would be to extend our thesis beyond what would, for this occasion, be practical limits. Every mother who initiates her daughter into a little turn of housewifery, every workman who gives a lesson, be it only by performing a cast of his calling before the eyes of a tyro at the trade, would in that sense be a teacher. Let me say at once, also, that I have no desire to make school education technical, industrial, or even commercial, except in so far as the general education which all men and women equally require may be and ought to be of service in the specialised callings of life.
The other day, in connection with the centenary celebrations of the birth of Louis Pasteur, we were reminded afresh of Huxley’s saying that Pasteur by his discoveries had in a few years’ time saved as much money as would have covered the whole indemnity paid by France to Germany for the war of 1870-71. I refer to that, not with the object of emphasising the value of chemistry as a special study, but only by way of showing that if one branch of one science can be of so much value to the world, it follows that ignorance of that as of other sciences must have its counterpart of disastrous loss. It is not from ignorance of such matters as Pasteur studied that the world is most likely to suffer. Pasteur’s researches affected diseases in cattle, sheep, fowls, vines, and silkworms, and the souring of wine and beer. We may he sure that any discoveries affecting trade, and in no way connected with politics, will be promptly accepted and applied. We need have no fear that discoveries having an immediate and obvious commercial value will, on any large scale, be wasted upon an unreceptive world. [On a revision, I am not so sure of this. There was the idea of the synthetic dyes, rejected in Britain, the country of its origin, and taken up with success in Germany. And there is the French intensive cultivation, still neglected in Britain. The claim is at least relatively true. - J. L.] But there are, nevertheless, realms of knowledge, the discoveries in which would be of at least equal value, which are not at all generally explored or their safe and certain principles turned to account in practice.
Reading the Basis.
I am to confine my attention to the humanities.
The basis of all education is reading. The laboratory demonstration is founded, oftener that, not, upon a lesson which the demonstrator has previously read. The oral lesson in class is usually an exposition either of the actual printed lesson before the class, or it will embody the results of the teacher’s own reading. In efficient teaching the teacher will use the fruits of much reading cognate to the subject in hand. The teacher who is, as the saying has it, only one lesson ahead of the pupil will not, in my view, be much of a teacher.
My first complaint against the education of to-day is that it does not teach young people to read with understanding and delight, or even with ordinary fluency; in short, to love reading. For thirty-five years I have had to read proofs as a corrector to the press, both north and south of the Tweed, my copyholders being boys and girls supposed to be of rather special intelligence. The reading was best in Aberdeen, tending in some instances to be too rapid and declamatory. This was during the eighties. Going to Manchester in the early nineties, I found it not quite so distinct or so ready. The pronunciation was more accurate, when you heard it, though, with changing copyholders, there were some who muttered and mumbled and stuttered and stumbled, evidently not enjoying the job at all. Returning north, I found reading uncouth in Peterhead, though not without animation. Going to Yorkshire in 1908, I found it not so good as it had been in Lancashire a dozen years earlier, but better than in Peterhead. In Turriff it is worst of all - least intelligently understanding and most barbarous in accent, though one minds the accent less than the lack of understanding.
As regards the understanding, so necessary to clean type-setting, the truth is I spend my days in a struggle with dirty proofs, the result of inability on the part of the compositor to recognise the identity of common words in fairly plain handwriting, mostly my own. It is so bad that if one’s vigilance be relaxed, some wholly unexpected and incomprehensible error is sure to pass. If half a sentence is left out, its omission is not detected till the proof is read, which means that no attempt is made to follow and apprehend the chain of reasoning.
Spelling and Pronunciation.
Certain simple words are habitually mis-spelt, time after time. Among these are such words as ‘briny,’ which, by one young person after another and by the same person again and again, is rendered ‘brimy’; ‘identify,’ which regularly appears as ‘indentify’; ‘would have been’ for ‘would have been,’ ‘hundreth’ and ‘lenth’ for ‘hundredth’ and ‘length,’ ‘smock’ for ‘smoke,’ ‘accidently,’ ‘franticly,’ ‘strageticly’ (for ‘strategically’!), ‘pattren,’ and ‘alright,’ which are all wrong in accordance with the wrong pronunciation. A word as spelt is an ideograph, a picture of the idea, with its etymology, affinities, and evolution preserved; and if you have not the right spelling you have not got the picture. The vicious circle is that words are wrongly spelt because they are wrongly pronounced, and they are wrongly pronounced because they are wrongly spelt. It is the wrong spelling that comes first with what may be called book words, as apart from the simple words a child uses before it learns to read. The person who writes ‘sep e rate,’ as so many do, can have no idea of the root word ‘p a rity,’ as in comparative and disparate.
In my experience as a printer, prepositions, copulatives, and the passive particles ‘has’ and ‘have’ are altered in defiance both of the written copy and the requirements of sense in the sentence. A dictionary kept at hand is worn foul with frequent consultation, English being apparently found to be, many times in a day, an unknown tongue.
This tells its own tale as to the lack of reading; but the neglect of reading is made obvious in other ways. The assumption that children will not read for pleasure is reflected in the schoolbooks. The everyday labour of the savage, hunting, becomes the sport of the civilised man; and, reversing this, in school nowadays you use as lesson-books the novels of Sir Walter Scott and the plays of Shakespeare, which we sat up to read for pleasure at nights after our lessons were done. We used to buy single plays of Shakespeare, Massinger, Ben Jonson, ‘The Gamester,’ ‘The Rivals,’ ‘The School for Scandal,’ and the plays of more modern dramatists - all in the penny reprints of William Dicks. The print was small; but the appetite was avid. I still retain, after some wandering, ‘The Shaughraun,’ ‘The Octoroon,’ ‘A New Way to Pay Old Debts,’ and ‘Rob Roy,’ as relics of those days of our later school time or early years of apprenticeship.
Youthful Omnivorous Reading.
A local teacher complained one day that not one boy in his class knew anything about Hannibal on being questioned. In my schooldays most of the boys of my class at the age of ten to twelve were accustomed to read and discuss with enthusiasm a book entitled ‘The Wars of the Carthaginians,’ in which, of course, Hannibal was the central figure. It was one of the volumes in the old Cottage Library, published by Milner & Sowerby, of Halifax, many of which formed the subjects of our schoolboy and school-girl talk. Books we all read then were ‘The Wolf of Badenoch,’ ‘The Scottish Chiefs,’ ‘St. Clair of the Isles,’ ‘Gulliver,’ ‘Tales of a Grand-father,’ ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ and the ‘Arabian Nights.’ These in addition to a heavy weekly crop of ‘penny dreadfuls’ such as The Boys of England, The Young Men of Great Britain, The Sons of Britannia, The Boys’ Standard, and serials in numbers, such as ‘Jack Harkaway,’ ‘Tom Floremall,’ and ‘Tom Wildrake.’ These we bought and lent to each other, not without abundant comparing of notes, and vocal efforts in the art of dramatic and graphic narration ourselves. My recollection of these serials is that they were well written, that the proprieties were observed, that villainy was always punished and virtue duly rewarded. They could have done us nothing but good, and the reading itself was a mental exercise.
We were all boys fond of a lark, and did not mew overmuch in the house. In fact, our reading inclined us to adventures by flood and field, without any Boy Scout paraphernalia or tutelage. We were free agents, and if the freedom was sometimes abused, there was the less of the Jessie Ann about us.
Of myself as of my own children I can say we had read all the novels of Scott before we had gone very far into our teens. (Disparaging remarks are sometimes made about the tales written in the period of Scott’s decline, such as ‘Count Robert of Paris.’ I can only say that I enjoyed this story of the Varangian Guard and the Court of Constantinople so much that it made me turn as a youth to Gibbon’s ‘Decline and Fall’ for the history of the place and period.) To have such books given us as studies, as lessons, would have seemed to us as laughable as it would have been to bribe us to eat sweets. As a boy I had a stouter appetite for print and more aptitude for assimilation than I have now. There were in our house two big volumes of small print in double columns called ‘Chambers’s Information for the People,’ and I read these pretty well from cover to cover, including articles on Metallurgy, Mining, Arboriculture and Horticulture, Farming and Live Stock, Printing, even on the Clan Tartans; and I learned the first nine or ten rules of Algebra, only to forget them again because they were useless to me and in themselves quite uninteresting. On the other hand, I have not forgotten about the agricultural improvers, Mechi, Jethro Tull, and ‘Turnip’ Townshend, because their work is useful to us all and in itself interesting.
At the age of fourteen I found myself one of some half-a-dozen apprentices in an Aberdeen printing office, most of us from humble homes, but all of us reading such books as Plutarch’s Lives, Macaulay’s Essays and Lays, with, as the years went on, Mill’s ‘Political Economy,’ Henry George’s ‘Progress and Poverty,’ Spencer’s ‘Study of Sociology,’ and presently a volume of essays by Prof. Bain, including an essay on ‘The Art of Study.’
It was a time of much discussion of anti-theological science, and the reviews were full of articles by such men as Huxley, Tyndall, Grant Allen, St. George Mivart, Herbert Spencer, and Frederic Harrison. We boys in our teens read such books as Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’ and ‘Descent of Man,’ Oscar Schmidt’s ‘Doctrine of Descent and Darwinism,’ and the Nature books of John Burroughs. Of these youths one is now a retired colonel, having risen rapidly from the ranks; another is a minister of the gospel in Canada; three are master printers; and one is or was the Liberal member of Parliament for Bedford-Leigh in Lancashire.
What of To-Day?
Is such reading being done by the young men of to-day? I see no signs of it. It was an excellent training for citizenship, as apart from obsequious climbing and gradgrind getting on. The climber works for self. The good citizen seeks his advantage in the general wellbeing. But now at the end of the school year one hears parental complaints about the poor pass in English. The blame is put upon the teachers. It is the business of the teacher to make silk purses out of sows’ ears - if he (or she) can. But obviously this possibility is greatly limited by the quality of the lugs available. Given a good standard of intelligence, the pupil needs only direction and the run of the text-books in order to absorb all sorts of learning. On the other hand, there is a certain brute-beast recalcitrance, cool unconcern, or sheer stupidity – sometimes the attitude is a blend of all three - upon which exposition and reiteration are expended in vain, producing little effect beyond a feeling of annoyance in the teacher. Parents who give their children no help or encouragement, who have forgotten the rules or lessons themselves, or perhaps never knew them, who maintain a home atmosphere that is inimical to books and reading, who regard all reading as a waste of time, expect the teacher to undo the effects of their own heathenish materialism, and this during a few hours of the day on five days of the week.
English as a language cannot be taught. You may teach the grammar; but the learning of a language in its length and breadth is a matter of years of delighted reading.
It is not reasonable to expect that teachers can make much of the English of pupils who come from households where there is no feeling for books and language, or indeed for education as a whole. A teacher can tell what sort of home a pupil comes from. The child from a commercial domestic atmosphere, where all the little talk there is relates to business and bargains and chattels and prudence, and not taking risks, and having an eye to the main chance, is as a rule a slow, recalcitrant scholar, except perhaps in arithmetic, the tendency of which is, naturally, in accord with his peculiar genius.
The child from a home in which the humanities have something of a look in - books, music, cheerful human chat and plenty of it - is apt to be friendly with his teacher, interested in his lessons, and, even with quite moderate parts, will get on with the work of the class with cheerful readiness and some show of progress.
When one hears complaints of alleged bad teaching one is very sorry, first of all, for the teachers who have to struggle with invincible stupidity, almost without hope; for even if the average youngster is taught certain things, and learns them, they are forgotten in a year or two after leaving school. People who do not read and discuss soon lapse into barbarism. As the Roman saying has it, ‘Life without literature is death’ (Vita sine literis mors est). One need not claim that teachers have done their best, or even that their best would be good enough if they had done it. But preachers and teachers and writers need encouragement to do their best, and there is no encouragement from a blank wall of stupidity. The ineffable Spooner once intended to address a rural meeting as ‘sons of toil,’ but, with his trick of reversing, he called them ‘tons of soil.’ Anyone who has addressed a rustic audience indoors on a week-night, must have felt that Mr. Spooner’s inverted description was not entirely inappropriate. The ‘soil’ may be all right for some kinds of seed; but when we find a typical rural centre showing a bad educational record year after year, it is impossible to resist the feeling that the fault lies, not with the teachers, but with pupils, parents, and the general atmosphere as regards the things of the mind.
Inimical Atmosphere Generally.
One town I know was known of old as Grabtillum and as Porkopolis. We do not associate brilliant intellectuality with grabbing and with swine. A community does not as a rule have it both ways, though we may cultivate material prosperity and still give our leisure to the finer things of life. Manchester – ‘the modern Athens,’ as Gladstone called it - is one of the most intellectual cities in Europe, and this expresses itself in its abounding and brilliant and independent Press, in much political discussion, in a school of drama, in lectures, a literary quarterly, and the best music out of London. By music, Sir Charles and Lady Hallé lived in honour and dignity there for many years. A Londoner writing in a Sunday paper described how, as he stood one day in a Manchester bookseller’s shop, he witnessed a railway cart draw up to the door with a load of copies of Lord Morley’s ‘Recollections,’ when that book was still comparatively new. On his surprised inquiry, he was told that this was only one of several consignments they had had of that hook, which sells at 24s. for the two tall volumes. The business men of Manchester have the reputation of being the keenest and brainiest of all men of business, yet this critic could ask with some show of reason, ‘Is there any other town in the world where the doors would, so to say, have to be taken off the hinges to receive repeated consignments of a book dealing with high politics and literature?’
The other day a local Tory was complaining about the extreme addiction to sport on the part of the young people. I mentioned that I had hoped something from the re-starting of the Mutual Improvement Association after the awakening caused by the war; that a Literary Society started in a neighbouring small town 25 years ago was still going strong; that the ‘best people’ - clergy, lawyers, business men, doctors, and bankers - took the most active part in its work; that largely-attended meetings were held, speakers being often brought from a distance; and that it was considered ‘the thing’ to belong to ‘the Literary.’ But here, I said, ‘the heads of the town’ play bowls in the summer time and billiards and cards in the winter, and pass the door of the ‘Mutual’ on their way up to the Club. The young men follow suit. It is the frivolous seniors who make the frivolous juniors. We cannot give all our time to business and unlettered pleasure, and expect to be cultivated folk and to have brilliant boys and girls.
The atmosphere of country life is inimical to learning. It ought not to be, but it is. A local farmer who reads Pater and Buckle, and has a room expressly built for the housing of books, once said, ‘What is there for a body to do in the country in the winter nichts but read?’ But he is a rara avis. In the country the emphasis is put, not upon what a man is or knows, but upon what he has. As I want nothing for nothing, and am not likely to get anything for nothing if I wanted it, I have no motive to adopt this sycophantic attitude, even if I were willing to do so. What need anyone care how much a man has if he is dull and unpleasant to meet? And what need anyone care how little a man has if he be keenly intelligent, companionable, easily lighted up, and possessed of great universality of interest.
PART TWO NEXT MONTH
What it means to be non-political I have heard absurdly indicated in the remark of an illiterate printer’s labourer in Manchester long ago. Talk was going on about the visit of Queen Victoria to open the Ship Canal, and this poor man brought upon himself the withering scorn of the intelligent bystanders by declaring ‘She’s allus been a good queen. She’s allus seen that we’ve been at peace wi’ t’ world.’ A shout went up in protest, not only against the idea that we had always been at peace, but still more at the idea that she had anything to do with the matter either way.
And yet what real difference is there between this poor ignorant man’s view and the view of millions of male and female snobs, who, although they have had some education, still buzz around Royalty and meanly worship a mean thing with some sort of idea that it has a really worthy significance in the domain of government?
The cataleptic fatalism of the German mind so far as government is concerned is revealed in many ways, of which we shall cite only two. The one is the extraordinary form of reference to the Kaiser as the All-Highest. The other is the fact that while the Allies have had repeated changes of government and many minor changes of office during the three years of war, Bethmann-Hollweg, in spite of all hostile cabals and much disillusion, loss, suffering and the blackest outlook, is at the moment still in office and in almost solitary power.
If the Germans were an ignorant nation who knew nothing of the political forms of their neighbours and enemies, that would account for their tame subserviency. But they know about our popular elective government only to sneer at it as Parliamentarians, and to declare that it is in no way adapted to them nor do they wish to adopt it. They are, as a matter of fact, fighting and dying, pouring out their blood and treasure, in order to avert the democratisation of their State which other peoples have fought and died to secure, as they are now fighting and dying to defend and preserve it. Surely there was never a clearer illustration of how one nation’s meat is regarded by another nation as poison.
The Benign Necessity.
The value of politics and the necessity of being politicians is of all values and necessities the clearest. A community has to have its streets paved and lit, its traffic regulated, has to be lighted, watered, fed, warmed, policed, educated, and defended, has to be supplied with power and the means of transit and transport. All this means politics, much politics, more and more politics. The alternative to having communal services performed well and cheaply by the efficient, responsible public authority is to have them done badly and expensively by the irresponsible private profiteer.
The necessity of public spirit and enterprise was recognised by the Greeks of the Golden Age of Pericles when they called those men idiotees who took no interest in public affairs. That is to say, the oldest meaning of the word ‘idiot’ is, a non-political person. But many good men hold aloof from politics as necessarily an affair of trickery. Municipal representation tends to go a-begging or to get into the hands of anti-social interests. Corruption and jobbery are by no means confined to the land of tammanyism and it is not enough that tammanyism is lampooned all the time and that the more flagrant jobs are now and again publicly exposed in the reports of commissions or the lawcourts. The sentiment with respect to politics is so perverted that often we hear people boast that they take no stock in politics, and it is not accounted disgraceful that an obituary notice should frequently declare that the subject of it ‘took no part in public affairs.’
One has seen men with a passion for music, or for books, or for the theatre, or for wine, or money, or flowers, or horseflesh. We may make shift to do, at a very great pinch, without any or all of these, but we cannot do without politics. Wherever men are gathered together there must be rules of the social road, and these rules are politics. As all are equally oppressed by bad and blessed by good laws, clearly all have an equal right to participate, less or more, as arranged in the making, altering, and administration of the laws. And the inescapable penalty of taking no part in the business of government is that we shall be obnoxiously or even disastrously governed by others. That is precisely what has happened. Had the young men of Britain (and still more of Germany) known ten years ago that the long arm of the State would seek them out and clutchedthem for drill and dirt and wounds and death, dare we believe that they would still have pretended that politics did not matter to them? When the Government may take your very life, without crime committed on your part, surely nothing can be of greater importance than that you should take a hand in deciding whether or not the Government is to embark upon a policy which means that and nothing less to you. With the great nations social-democratised, war would have been unthinkable.
So much for the literally vital importance of politics. But what of the glamour and absorbing interest of the play of social forces in the world? The dullest newspaper is the most fascinating document of all in proportion to the extent to which, in peace as in war, it reflects the endlessly varied and fiercely pulsing life of the nations. One has known men whose grand obsession was draughts or chess. Just imagine anybody being more interested in the movements, according to rule, of inanimate pieces of black and white wood on black and white squares than in the free and fierce or glad and reluctant moves of the human pawns on the endlessly chequered board of life itself!
What the Politicians can do.
Writing in an age in which the best knew less about politics than comparatively humble men do today, Emerson said:
Republics abound in young civilians who believe that the laws make the city, that grave combination of the policy and modes of living, and employment of the population, that commerce, education, and religion may be voted in or out; and that any measure, though it were absurd, may be imposed upon a people if only you can get sufficient votes to make it a law.
Well, it can be, and historically it has been so. It is not necessary in a despotism to have even a majority of votes in order to carry laws which will make the people poor, or which will change all the social forms. In Germany one man can do it now, as Napoleon did it in France over a century ago. The Protestant Reformation was carried in England by Henry VIII because he wanted unlimited wives and the Pope raised difficulties. The monks were smoked out in Scotland because the rapacious nobles wanted the Church lands. Cromwell altered the entire aspect of life and the status of the nation for the duration of his life. Mr Lloyd George imposed an Insurance Act upon a recalcitrant nation in spite of all opposition. By a stroke of the pen the Kaiser plunged the world in war, as by a word he could depose his Chancellor, depose his chief-of-staff, and reign absolute and alone, with such State servants as he chose to carry out his Imperial will.
So that the young men of Emerson’s day and nation were not far wrong, though he throws cold water on their ideas at one point, and then immediately proceeds to confirm it later on. He says:
‘What the tender, poetic youth dreams, and prays, and palate today, but shame the ridicule of saying outloud, shall presently be the resolutions of public bodies, then shall be carried as grievance and bill of rights through conflict and war, and then shall be triumphant law and establishment for a hundred years, until it gives place, in turn, to new prayers and pictures.
Exactly; but always provided that your community is constitutionally governed – and has the young men who dream and aspire and make mental pictures of the State they desire.
Are there any such in Germany? Are there many such in Britain? There was a time when they were numerous in Britain, and the breed was not unknown in Germany. Karl Blind, Marx, Auguste, Babel, Freiligrach, Leibknecht, Lessner, were in their youth familiar with exile and the inside of prison. But the German youth of immediate pre-war times was only a bigger bounder than ‘Arry or Albert. The whole concern was ‘getting on.’ The German youth took his own case with portentous seriousness. He learned languages, he studied physical science, and he was not insensible to music and literature. But always his concern was for Number One. Even when he joined the Socialist movement there was, apparently, little idealism in his Socialism. He simply wanted a better time for himself, and had at least the sense to see that Socialism stood to give him that.
As it Was.
What influence moved the British young man of the pre-war period I do not pretend to know. In my own young manhood there were literary and debating societies on every hand. At one time I belonged to four. We read and discussed Herbert Spencer’s ‘Study of Sociology’ and ‘Social Statics,’ Henry George’s ‘Progress and Poverty’ and Laurence Grunlunds ‘Co-operative Commonwealth.’ We discussed the views of Bain, Buchner, Darwin, the politics of the hour, and we ranged over the whole field of belle lettres from Shakespeare to John Burroughs. We heckled members of Parliament, wrote to newspapers, served on committees, read ‘papers’ here and there, and proselytised among our associates. Workmen, bank clerks, young solicitors, medicatl students, were all in these four societies. I know nothing of the kind that existed in the immediate pre-war years. There were adult schools where old men lectured to the young men, the young men sitting dumb. There were Socialist branches where discussion did go on, a few young men taking part, more or less. But to most of us the young men of pre-war days, a well groomed lad, fond of tea, learned as to football teams, Cup statistics, cricket and racing form, with a straw hat, turned-up trousers, the deleterious cigarette constantly in his mouth, and he himself on the constant lookout for ‘a lark.’ He ran after girls a little, but fought more and more shy of marriage, that not being a lark. He was fond of music and sometimes played and sang. He preferred ‘the pictures’ or a music hall to the theatre. He was a ‘nice lad’ at home and ‘a good lad’ in the office or shop.
And that was about all there was to him. Do we blame him for being a pleasant, harmless, good-looking, colourless lad? We don’t. But if he does not blame himself by now – if he has learned nothing from the form of hell – we shall, to put it mildly, be very much surprised. Anyhow, there will still be some kick and a world of constructive purpose left in the men who were born in the sixties and earlier – before the world became tame and colourless.
PART ONE OF TWO.
The Penalty now being paid
The Amazing Attitude of Youth.
The whole framework of Society, compared to what it might be, is as the hut of a savage to a Grecian temple. Sir J.R.Seeley.
Why should we make play any longer with empty fictions of Divine Right vested in families, class, and orders which are not morally respectable or intellectually adequate? It is not merely Republicanism but hatred of the unreal in general which is running over the world in the wake of the war. The Dean of Durham (Henry Hudson)
On the plane which has now been reached, official European diplomacy and statesmanship seem bankrupt, and it is to the Socialists that the people of Europe are increasingly looking as the only intermediaries who can prepare the way to a settlement. Aberdeen Free Press (Liberal)
Travelling the other day with a teacher who is something of an author, and a man of character besides, we naturally got on to the subject of the world-war. At one point he said:
‘I see a whole generation being wiped out. You older men don’t feel it so much. To you most of the men who are being killed off are only names. But they are contemporaries and in many cases my friends and acquaintances.’
I was in no haste to answer; though I knew, because I knew, what my answer must be. I have thought much about the matter since, as I had the previous conversation; and my opinion is as it was. I told him that the young men of Europe, and particularly of Germany, were suffering the penalty of having neglected politics. They had been absorbed in work and trivialities, with the result that the business of government had been left in the hands of men who were not fit to be trusted, not because of their lack of ability but because of their impossible ideas and ideals. On the one side was the Kaiser with his deadly theory of the Divine Right of Kings and his advisers with their theory of Divine Might. Austria also accepted the Divine Right superstition, and, for the rest, pursued the imperial policy of grab, representing Bosnia and Herzegovina while Serbia was busy with the Turk. On the other side (our own) was the theory of the Balance of Power, with the French hankering after revance and the reconquest of Alsace and Lorraine. On the part of Italy there was the desire for expansion by way of the reclamation, after fifteen centuries, of Italia irredenta – extensive rather than intensive progress. On the part of autocratic Russia there was as the only decent plea the protection of the Slavs (but what a protector!), and for the rest, mere greed of French money, secured, and to be secured, in loan after loan.
All this represents Individualism in international relations – the policy of grab and aggrandisement at the expense of one’s neighbours – just as truly as competitive pushfulness and profiteering represent Individualism in the domestic life of nations. All the while the social condition of the masses in all the belligerent countries – the most important asset they had – was deplorably neglected in varying degrees of callous disregard for the essential conditions of human wellbeing. For lack of perfectly simple safeguards, our railways were like a battlefield. From the same cause the lives of miners, chemical workers, potters, textile operatives, japanners, and makers of Lucifer matches were sacrificed in battues; and when the citizen had run the gamut of industrial perils, he fell a victim to cag-mag food and the general conditions of life in the mean street. Returning to Manchester after an absence of eleven years, I inquired after many acquaintances of former days in the printing trade – careful-living men in the thirties and forties of life – and I was startled and depressed to have the answer, in case after case, ‘He’s dead.’ ‘He’s dead – long ago.’ This in a thoroughly well organised trade, where intelligence has done what it can to extract the maximum of social amenity from Individualism at its best. The results thus vividly brought home to one in the concreted had previously been but figures in the life-table – the figures, namely, which show that the average duration of life of the working class is only half that of members of the leisured and comfortable classes.
Why the Young Men?
Well, my friend was shocked and offended at my answer; but I think it will hold. This mean and sordid life, against which all men must rebel who have any instinct for decent living – what is the attitude towards it on the part of our young men? I select the young men, not only because youth is the season of hope, courage, enthusiasm and generous feelings, but because young men are the majority. The students of the Latin Quarter of Paris and of the universities of Russia, and of Poland, have always been revolutionary. When Mazzini made his impassioned appeals to the manhood of his depressed and dismembered country it was to Young Italy he appealed, and he did not appeal in vain. There were even many young men in this country who generously responded to the appeal. When the Reaction followed the Terror in France it was the Jeunesse durle who led it. When Tory Democracy tried to flower at home in response to the glittering pinchbeck rhetoric of Disraeli, it was a Young England society that was formed to foster the efflorescence. Walt Whitman, with his sure instinct for the truth as seen by a poet, describes how, in the temporary eclipse of revolutionary movements, ‘the young men droop their eyelashes towards the ground when they meet.’ The Sinn Feiners are mostly young men, and the best of them gave their lives for Ireland – madly, but not in vain, for the Right does not conquer by direct, simple, and rational methods.
But our young men did not ‘droop their eyelashes to the ground’ for shame of the lives they led as the poor thralls of commerce, the bondmen of Piagnon with the Belly and the Cheque-Book. Albert and ‘Arry were to the fore wherever there was ‘sport’ to be had by baiting a suffragette or emptily laughing at a Labour candidate. For some years I acted as a ‘perpittal parson’ to a branch of the Independent Labour Party in a northern town. We had a large and cheerful room, well lit, seated, and warmed, with good music, hearty singing, lively readings, and lectures which were at least always carefully prepared, and were enlivened by the spirit of hope diffused by the Labour victories of 1906. Our members were largely a good class of men, with a sprinkling of attractive girls and women. We made strangers welcome. We took up local subjects, such as housing (and there was a house-famine in the town all the time), agitating the subject in the press and out of doors, while a deputation waited upon the Town Council, and presented a printed and unanswerable memorial on the question.
The young men came to the meetings, laughed at the jokes, listened to the lectures, and were quite respectful and well behaved in the merely passive scene; they must have largely understood and accepted the facts and arguments; but – they attended only on stormy days, when the weather prevented walking or hanging about out of doors. We brought lecturers including one brisk and capable M.P. to the town; and were in all respects a live political organisation. We even made an attempt at developing some sort of club life by the introduction of games and music on week-nights. But the young men held aloof – except when we had a social reunion and dance – and long before the war the branch had practically ceased to exist, owing to the departure from the town of some of us older men.
That is an experience which must have been repeated in hundreds of cases; and when the organisation has not actually petered out it has existed only in a languishing condition, the door being kept open, not by reason of the essential objects of the association, but because of a bar or billiard tables which the premises might contain. If you have given years of your life (and soul) to the fostering of political organization and education, and have given those years largely in vain, have you not rather a grievance against the young men?
Anyhow, the young men are now paying the penalty. We have no pleasure in their punishment. We would have saved them; would not only have averted war, but would also have made the world a gracious and beautiful place to live in. It is not we who have made the situation. It is inexorable fate. As I said here some time ago, ‘Duties neglected are as crimes committed, and may be even more deadly in their consequences.’ The Socialist movement has everywhere been initiated and kept alive by the older men. Henry Mayers Hyndman, the father of Militant Socialism in Britain, is over seventy. William Morris’s most active years as a propagandist were when he was in his fifties. For years Socialism was represented in Manchester by old Bill Horrocks, a labourer; old William Farres, a compositor; old George Evans, a tailor; and when the Clarion men took up the cause, and Nunquam first presided at a great public meeting in Hulme Town Hall, poor Evans wept tears of joy at what he regarded as the great awakening, at last, after years of neglect and occasional actions of ill-usage, as when old Massie, the banner-bearer from Salford, had been kicked across the market square of Blackburn.
The only steady and reliable men are still the old men, such as Dan Irving in Barnsley, Ben Turner in Batley, Riley and France Littlewood in Huddersfield, and Glasier, Tom Mann, and Benson in Manchester. Young men come in and flash, meteor-like, across the horizon of the movement for a brief spell. Then we no longer know them. One result of the long struggle which the older men have maintained is that many of them have become embittered, even when a measure of personal success has at last somehow overtaken them
The propaganda of collectivism is one of the most thankless branches of missionary effort upon which a hopeful man can enter, and the returns, when they do come tardily, and in smalls, are the least direct.
What about Germany?
But, it may be said, surely all this does not apply to the German Empire. Are not the Social Democrats, with their four and a half million voters, the largest single party in German politics? Have we not been told that, after the great German army, the Social-Democratic Party is the best organised aggregate in the Kaiser’s dominion? Are not Berlin and Potsdam represented in the Reichstag by Socialists? Is not the Social Democratic press – daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly – a powerful weapon? All that is true; but the fact remains that the Social-Democrats had no actual power. They were a very large minority, but still they were a minority even in the Reichstag; and even had they possessed an overwhelming majority there, they might still have been without effective control of the makers of war. We are fighting Germany because she is not a democracy, not a country in which the people control their rulers through their elected representatives. Four and a half millions represent, after all, hardly a third of the German electorate, and in Germany population and representation have less to do with each other than in most countries. It is the crime of the German nation that they are a notoriously non-political people. It is their crime that they were content, during centuries, to leave their destinies in the hands of rulers over whom they had no control. Alone now among the nations of Europe, the Austrians and Germans are not masters in their own house but are still ruled by two families, who derive this enormous and fatal privilege from ‘times of fetish fiction.’ Alone among the nations of the world, Germany has had no political revolution, and has not practised blood-letting at the expense of its kings, though the Austro-German States have had more than the usual proportion of madmen and bad men among their monarchs. Is it any wonder that German psychology is a puzzle to us? I have recently browsed the voluminous history of the Hohenzollerns in order to find out by what personal alchemy this extraordinary ordinary family had succeeded in hypnotising the Prussian people during so many generations; but not one of the line except Frederick the Great and his mad father seem to have deviated in any way from the well-known boorish Prussian type; and indeed Frederick William’s deviation only took the form of an exaggeration of the boorishness into positive savagery.
The only explanation of Germans tolerance of German princes is a singular incapacity for politics. The very word politics, from polis, a city, implies the participation of the citizens in government. Politics means ‘the science of government’ but what use would there be for a science of government if none of the divinely elected were to govern?
I begin by stating what is to me a proposition so self-evident that it would not be worth setting down if it were not habitually ignored or even denied in practice. My proposition is that, there is no single function discharged by the private landlord and capitalist that cannot be performed much more efficiently and satisfactorily by the organised community working through its servants.
In any newspaper we pick up, indeed in whichever direction we turn our gaze, we see proofs of the elementary and clamorous truth that all the biggest jobs and all the best work are done by combinations; by the team rather than the individual, the choir and the band rather than the soloist, by the co-operative principle in stores, associations, trusts, and mergers as against the individual capitalist, and finally by the State and the Municipality as against all smaller and necessarily less powerful organizations.
The Only Thing That Would Do.
As I write, the chairman of the Midland and Scottish Railway Group has just been proclaiming, once again, the great savings that have been effected by the amalgamation of 120 competing companies into six trusts; and a few weeks ago the newspapers featured sensationally the great chemical combine of which Sir Alfred Mond is the head. From a Tory paper, whose opinions always run counter to the facts it has to record, I read that the City of Manchester employs over 25,000 persons and spends every year £4,000,o00, meaning, of course, that the corporation is by much the largest employer in a city of large concerns. What the Tory paper does not say, but what we all know, is that the Corporation of Manchester is not only the largest employer, but the best employer; that its work is done honestly - with neither scamping of the work nor profiteering as regards the price - and that this great system of public service has arisen strictly on its merits and in spite of the opposition of vested interests to every single advance. The State and the municipality as Public Servants have grown inevitably and notwithstanding all opposition because the principle under-lying Collectivism is as sound as the prejudices underlying Individualism are unsound and have been found to be unworkable in practice. The Collectivism of the State and the Municipality has grown because it was the Only Thing That Would Do. We need only look around us to see that private enterprise is responsible for such concrete evils as the slums, mean streets, poverty, ignorance, and squalor, while public enterprise is the cleansing authority, the order-keeper, the educator, the provider of parks, art galleries, libraries, the only builder now of working-class houses, the provider of pensions, poor law relief, unemployment pay, first aid, maternity benefit, and child-welfare services.
In view of all this evil from unregulated effort and all this good received at the hands of the organised community, the Twentieth Century Puzzle is that everyone should turn to the State for his own good while deprecating the office of the State in the general life of the community. Every class looks to the State for help and furtherance, nor does it look in vain. The capitalist, boasting of the superiority of capitalism, nevertheless turns to the State for subsidies – to bread, coal, dyes, housing, farming, shipping, cotton-growing, and the treatment of sugar beet.
If it be answered that in all these cases the State gives only what it has first taken, at least it is obvious that the State has the power and the goodwill to help when of other aid there is none. But that would be the least part of the rejoinder. The fact is that the State can beat private enterprise on its own ground. Dr. Addison has made the latest public addition to our knowledge on this head. In his little book ‘Practical Socialism’ he has told us, on the basis of the public accounts of the Administration of which he was member, how the National Shell Factory at Dundee produced 18-pounder shells at 9/1, while the average contract price charged by the private firms was 20s. to 23s.; how the national factories produced tin cups at ¾d. as against the private-enterprise price of 2½d.; and how, on transactions totalling £12,000,000, the Ministry of Food, after meeting all expenses, including rationing, made a net profit of £6,391,365 (This seems excessive – fully cent. per cent.; but the figures are so given.); and how the national factories paid the cost of their erection in from two to three years.
These items are only a few additional proofs of superior efficiency and economy of public enterprise. We had already heard and read of how much cheaper corporation electricity could be produced and sold than by private companies. The very best talent is at the service of State and the Municipalities; the larger scale of production tends to greater economy; and of course the element profit for the investor is eliminated.
All that seems so obvious; and yet we proceed in ordinary industrial and commercial practice as if we had heard of none of these results. Even those who have accepted the Collectivist principle as a matter of party affiliation often argue as if they were not quite sure of the superiority of Collective practice.
Thus Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, in censuring the Government for its failure to carry out the socialising recommendations of its own Coal Commission, is acclaimed in Liberal quarters because he favoured, not outright nationalization but what he called ‘a public utility organisation imposed upon a trust organization.’ Mr. Lloyd George seized this abandonment of principle as ‘very significant,’ and Captain Wedgwood Benn was so enamoured of it that he wrote an article for the Daily News about it.
Now, there is no ‘public utility organization’ outside of public ownership and control. If Mr. MacDonald was thinking of concerns such as gas companies and railway companies, which are in different ways subject to a measure of public control, their ‘utility’ is limited to just exactly the extent that they fall short of being really controlled and operated by public servants. As I pointed out at the time Mr. MacDonald made his speech, gas companies are restricted to a five per cent. dividend, but there is no restriction upon the amount they can and do carry to reserve. I know of companies which regularly carry five times as much to reserve as they disburse in dividend. The object of the restriction - which is to keep down the price of gas - is not attained. The reserves belong to the companies. Railway rates are controlled by Act of Parliament and by the Railway Tribunal; but this does not serve the public interest in the way that national ownership has done and is doing. No private railway company in the world can show an increase in its earning capacity to compare with that which has taken place on the Canadian State Railways within the past four years, which Sir Henry Thornton, the manager, put at fifteen-fold – from 60 million dollars a-year under private enterprise to 900 million dollars a-year now.
From a recent issue of the Railway Gazette I quote the following:-
The 1925 report of the State-owned and operated Alsace-Lorraine lines shows a surplus of income over all expenditure of nearly 30,000,000 francs, which automatically goes into the Common Railway Fund. . . . The lines have the advantage of scarcely any debt, and have been realising profits ever since they were taken over from Germany. At one time there was talk of ceding them to the Est Company, but this idea has now been abandoned.
While the British railways are steadily drawing upon the reserves they accumulated during the war years, and have just raised their rates 10 per cent., the Canadian State Railway has rates to which the United States traders in vain demand approximation from the private owners of their capitalistic railways, though these serve much more densely peopled areas than do the Canadian lines. The yearly surpluses from the German and Belgian State railways, in spite of very low rates, were the subject of frequent comment till, in the immediate post-war years, the ‘interests’ were allowed to wreck these lines as a preliminary to denationalising them. To leave fare and freight charges stationary while everything else was inflated sky-high was a short and easy method of reducing them to insolvency. But the old balance sheets stand, and they show benefits to the public such as no ‘public utility organization’ could be expected to equal, or has ever equalled.
Mr. MacDonald might be expected to be more ardent than ever in the advocacy of a principle which is so satisfactory in practice and which is finding such increasing support in the constituencies. He has no mandate from the Party to suggest any form of public utility except in the form of public ownership.
Mr. Maxton Also.
But the leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party does not stand alone. Mr. James Maxton, the chairman of the Independent Labour Party, has stated the aim of his part to be the (a) ‘securing of political power by the ordinary political machine, (b) developing industrial power by the strengthening of the trade unions, and (c) increasing economic power by strengthening the co-operative movement.’
Is there not a disproportionate stressing of movements and machinery here as distinguished from what the movements and the machinery are to accomplish in the way of constructive change?
Socialism at its best surely approaches the citizen with proposals of nationalization and municipalization. To his duty as a voter it is not really necessary that the citizen should be either a co-operator, a trade unionist, or a member of the Independent Labour Party. He may, indeed, be all three and not much of a citizen. National and municipal property already much exceeds in value all that the trade unions and the co-operators can muster in the way of accumulated assets; and to many of us the business and the charm and interest of active citizenship are not enhance by their associations with the soap and clothes-pegs of co-operation or the destructive tactics of trade unionism. When Mr. Maxton writes of the ‘industrial power’ of trade unionism we recall that trade unionism as such has no industrial power. It can stop industry, but as to the starting thereof it still waits for the investor to say the word and find the money. We are too near the disastrous General Strike, foredoomed to failure as it was from the first, to be impressed with the politics of trade unionism. That the Parliamentary representatives of Labour should be free to condemn an ill-judged strike, either after it has taken place or, better still, before it takes place, has become a necessity, not only of self-respecting leadership, but of ordinary citizenship. The spirit behind all strikes - even the me forlorn hope - is right; it is the hankering after better times, a fuller life; but the time, the occasion, and the mode of a strike may be, any or all of them, foolish to the verge of crime. So long as trade unionism functions through capitalism, as it does, it depends upon the success of the capitalist in finding markets for its products. Any market-spoiling strike, therefore, is suicidal. Again, the trades unionists of Woolwich, Chatham, Clydeside, Tyneside, etc., depend upon wars and armaments. A good Socialist wants wars and armaments abolished, and the thousands who live by these anti-social industries set to plough and sow and plant and build houses and make roads and develop electricity. But the good Socialist may well have grave doubts as to how far the confirmed city workman is prepared to travel along the road of de-urbanised progress. A man of so such social goodwill as John Galsworthy pictures two down-and-out city men as supremely miserable when taken out of their slums and set to work at poultry farming. One of them hangs himself because he feels he is degraded by the work and life to which he has been set. This is so much in accordance with what one hears of working-class opinion – even Socialist opinion - that one is not greatly heartened trade union alliance by which Mr. Maxton sets so much store.
Nationalization and Municipalization.
The good Socialist is so fully persuaded of the cogency and ultimate necessity of nationalization and municipalization that he is inclined to urge its acceptance upon all classes. He may do this hopefully and without misgiving, recollecting that the national and municipal services and property we have been secured with the assent and furtherance of citizens of all classes, sometimes in spite of the opposition of Labour men. Thus when the very successful Hull telephones were municipalised the Labour councillors voted against, while a Labour Government dismantled the nationally owned town of Gretna, which the Coalition had built.
It very evidently needs to be repeated that nationalization and, municipalization are the essence of Socialism beyond and above co-operation, trade unionism, or even the Parliamentary Labour Party.
This is the more necessary in view of the wobbling one sees in all quarters. The man who is very sure of the justice and ultimate necessity of his principles must always be sorry that matters of good citizenship should become party cries and arouse a merely partisan opposition; but if this is inevitable - human nature being what it is - at least let us be sure that the end is not lost sight of in the means. There seems to be some danger of that in the meantime.
Even ‘The Social Democrat.’
If we might be prepared for a certain amount of trimming from the politicians of the I.L.P. (who always were politicians first and Socialists some way after), we might expect the Old Guard of the Social-Democratic Federation to be firm in the Socialist faith. I find, however, in two recent numbers of The Social-Democrat, the monthly organ of the S.D.F., a series of articles by the editor, Mr. Fred Montague, that give rise to some slight misgiving. In the December issue Mr. Montague, answering the question, ‘Can Capitalism Resolve its Contradictions?’ says:-
There is no more essential difference between nationalization in and by a capitalist State and trustification than there is between the high wages of Fordism and the wage demands of the Minority Movement or the I.L.P.
Let me say at once that I do not believe in ‘the wage-demands of the Minority Movement or the I.L.P.’ I do not say we could not have a State based upon the idea of capital and labour with their shares of the product regulated on a system of fixed percentages allocated by public officials on the ledger-evidence of the business done. But anything of the kind would be, not Socialism, but an artificial, complicated, empirical Individualism. Under such a system we should still have wasteful competition, the often incompetent management of private enterprise, the appalling workplaces which private enterprise thinks good enough for its workmen, and, among much else, probably a good deal of fraudulent book-keeping. Individualism, as a business bungle, is not worth preserving, and a system such as is indicated by Messrs, Hobson and Brailsford in ‘The Living Wage’ would be immensely more difficult to secure and cumbrous to run than Socialism pure and simple. The idea of it could have suggested itself only to men who either do not believe in socialization or who despair of ever securing it. It is worth noting that those who propound wire-drawn schemes of this kind are men of the study who do not take active part in public work and have no adequate sense of political possibilities. The working class is not incapable of taking a political lead if we do not darken counsel by the constant launching of novelties.
Between Henry Fordism and ‘The Living Wage’ policy there are the immense differences that Henry Ford pays high wages voluntarily, whereas the I.L.P. demands high wages compulsorily; that Henry Ford is a genius working a specialty, while the average employer is neither the one nor the other; and that Ford is working in and for a land of high wages, while the British capitalist is working for a poor Britain and a still poorer Europe. The Living-Wage policy assumes the continuance of Britain as a manufacturing and exporting country, whereas nothing can be clearer than that the outside world is more and more doing without our products and that every year we shall export less and less. I waive the mean-spiritedness that would seek to shirk the responsibility of communally organising production and distribution, but would leave it to the capitalist.
When we come to Mr. Montague's statement that there is no ‘essential difference between nationalization in and by a capitalist State and Trustification,’ we can offer only a complete negative.
If we take the Post Office as an example of nationalization, and the Thread Combine as a type of the Trust, we see the ‘essential difference’ at once. The Thread Combine keeps prices up; the Post Office keeps prices down. The Thread Combine pays low wages; the Post Office pays wonderfully good wages, having regard to the nature of the work; it pays for holidays, gives medical attendance, uniforms, superannuation allowance, and the marriage ‘dot’ to clerkesses who wed. No one of these privileges is a feature of work for the Trust. The Trust dispenses millions in profits, and its directors are millionaires; whereas the Postal Service is the least remunerative of all public undertakings, doing an immense amount of work for the poor in old age and other pensions for nothing. The index figure still stands at 70 odd; but postal rates have never been more than 50 per cent. above the 1913 figures. The Post Office loses money on press telegrams professedly in the public interest; but what Trust runs any part of its business deliberately at a loss? The Post Office is amenable to public and Parliamentary criticism. The Postmaster-General is an elected public servant; but none of these considerations applies to the Trusts. The Post Office is public property; the Trust is not. The Post Office has no motive to profiteer. The Trust has profiteering as its sole real existing.
The comparison is so hopelessly wrong that it may be taken as a type of a certain unfair and unwise attitude towards nationalization. In his editorial notes in the January number Mr. Montague, in the course of a long and very debatable passage, says:
We are not bound by any ‘doctrine’ to support any and every form of capitalist State management, irrespective of considerations of efficiency, against forms of capitalist ownership which may in actual fact contain more socialization in embryo, neither are we called upon to prove that State ownership ‘pays.’
This, surely, is coming to bury Caesar rather than to praise him. I do not know what the writer means. State and municipal ownership do pay. State management is efficient. There may be more ‘socialization in embryo’ in the Brunner-Mond Merger than there is in the Post Office; but it will take a lot of looking for.
Mr. Montague for the S.D.F., Mr. Maxton for the I.L.P., Mr. MacDonald for the Parliamentary Labour Party, either believe in nationalization or they do not. If they do they are dissembling their love with some considerable success.
There have, of course, been failures in both State and Municipal enterprise: Stubbs’ Gazette is full of the failures of private enterprise every week. Any business may fail if improperly handled or if industrial conditions change. But nothing can seriously invalidate the main advantages of public enterprise, namely, that a public concern can borrow money cheaply; can free the field from competition, as where corporation cars ran private buses off the streets; can secure the best managing talent; has claims on public support; and has no dividends to find for shareholders. Direct labour on the roads, in housebuilding, in the works departments of local imperial authorities has been a success all along the line as against capitalism. Every week brings its tale of Collectivist success. This week it is the report of £300,000 saved in five years by the Government Printing Works.
If Mr. Lloyd George comes forward as the advocate of State enterprise, and cites facts and figures making good his claims, why should professed Socialists cast doubt upon their own principles? Speaking in the House of Commons while Premier (18th August, 1919), he said, after dealing with economies effected in the making of shells, guns, machine-guns and rifles:-
When we took them [Lewis guns] in hand they cost £165, and we reduced them to £35 each . . . Through the costing system and the checking of the National Factories we set up, before the end of the war there was a saving of £440,000,000. . . . The Controller of Shipping saved hundreds of millions to this country. When you have to spend between £8,000,000,000 and £1o,000,000,000 of this country’s money, when you improvise great organisations, find your men where you can, find thousands of absolutely new men to work out these schemes, of course there may be extravagance, of course there may be errors of judgment. . . . But whatever is said about these little mistakes? I have seen the report of Parliamentary Committees. They are about comparatively small sums – I mean comparative to the gigantic expenditure. Those are advertised; those are flaunted. Leading articles are written about them. Never a word about these hundreds of millions that have been saved by these men! . . . Is it wise, when attacks are made upon systems of government . . . when all government is being challenged, if you get the democracy to believe that you get nothing but mistakes, nothing but what they call scandal, and there is no efficiency anywhere, how long do you think any system or institution can possibly continue in this country?
If Mr. Lloyd George has forgotten these triumphs of nationalization, why should we? Their value as object lessons is as great as ever. And in such advocacy Mr. Lloyd George is talking more like a Socialist than is the Editor of The Social-Democrat, though I believe Mr. Montague is normally a capable and spirited man. When Sir Eric Geddes pointed out (Times, 11/12/19) that the Woolwich Arsenal produced 12-ton wagons £100 cheaper than the profit-making builders, he also was talking more like a Socialist than do professed Socialists when depreciate State enterprise.
Even with a Tory Government in power we have had two instalments of nationalization carried within one year, the chief objection to the Broadcasting and Electricity schemes being that they are not Socialistic enough. If we had a Socialist Government in power, how much faster might not the process of socialization go forward? And not merely a Socialist Government at Westminster, but local bodies more and more composed of Socialists.
Mr. Montague writes of ‘vast hordes of officials,’ as if under Socialism we should not have many fewer officials than now. An official is a man in office, and there are more offices and consequently more officials now than there would be under a more consolidated system of production and distribution. The officials, moreover, would not only know their job, but would be amenable to the public. They are not always capable now, and owe no responsibility to anyone save their employers, who are usually just amateur directors.
As it is, men of goodwill welcome the experienced men of the Ministry of Health, who correct the ignorance and conservatism of local authorities. Personally I am always glad to see the Factory Inspector, from whom I have repeatedly got good suggestions and much useful information such as a travelled man seeing many workplaces might be expected to possess.
Great Immediate Schemes.
We are on the threshold of great public undertakings. With the mines nationalised, there will be subsidiary industries for the production of coke, tar, heavy oil, petrol, and gas for long-distance distribution under national auspices. National electricity from falling water can be made successful only under real national control from start to finish. House-building by national companies of masons - a building army! - could provide houses by the thousand in the new districts to be opened up in connection with the electricity works, schemes of afforestation, the making of new arterial roads, and the provision of cottages and farm buildings in connection with the overdue agricultural and horticultural developments required to keep in the country the hundreds of millions that go abroad for foodstuffs we might economically produce ourselves.
Nothing save State ownership, expert management, abundant capital, and the grand, hopeful scale of State enterprise can arrest the deterioration of the Homeland. There is in Britain capital to burn. It is being wasted on risky foreign investments and on a hundred and one bubbles such as the buses that crowd our streets and roads, endanger the lives of the people, poison the atmosphere with petrol fumes, and eat up the savings of many simple souls who embark in a grossly overdone industry. In spite of the coal lockout and the General Strike, the new capital issues in Britain during 1926, exclusive of Government loans, were of the value of £253,266,000.
France, with a much lower population, has 8,000,000 employed in agriculture and forestry, as compared with a million and a quarter in Britain. Naturally France has no unemployed and no emigration to speak of, while we, in the week in which I write, have 140,000 more unemployed than a week ago, and a quarter of a million more than in the corresponding week of last year.
The electorate is more and more with the Labour Party, which stands for national ownership and control whatever some of its spokesmen may say. On the test of work done and results achieved, even by middle-class local and national government, we can go forward confidently with a programme which aims at making democracy master in its own house, owning the house and using all that belongs to it, instead of sponging upon capitalist organization and being mastered and driven by the blind and chaotic forces of greed and mismanagement. It will be no leap in the dark to extend the social services and develop our neglected country on lines that have proved so successful, to the limited extent they have been followed.
The Co-operative Commonwealth.
The Living Wage, like the Right-to-Work slogan of some years ago, is a novelty hatched by impatient people not weaned from Individualism. Co-operation is a side-show sometimes flattered by being called ‘a State within the State.’ Guild Socialism is the smallest of small stunts. The State can gulp all these without a cough, and serve the nation better for their absence. What’s the matter with Britain Unlimited, with international affiliations? - the Co-operative Commonwealth? Nothing else and nothing less will serve; and if make up our minds we may have it. The greater includes the less, my brethren; the whole is greater than the part.
We shall need new forms of Government, local and nation to run the Co-operative Commonwealth. These will come as the State and the Municipality add to their functions. Manchester City Council, with its 140 members functioning through 20 committees, has grown up entirely since the day of Richard Cobden, and it is a type of what will extend more and more in Manchester as elsewhere. We want as many citizens may be desirable actively and intelligently participating in the work of government - political, industrial, commercial - taking the most capable men out of their little shops and offices to lend a hand in bigger business.
Not a Negation.
Socialism is not merely or primarily a criticism of capitalism, but an affirmation of the power and beneficence of Society organised. It is not a thing of negations, denials, a defeatism, but a constructive policy, already very successful, that would bring all social functions within the Reign of Law and Order, enormously increasing the wealth, health, resources and powers of man united at last for peace and its victories. Its coming will be gradual: all growth is gradual. But it may be as steady and as rapid as intelligence, determination, and goodwill can make it.
First published in the Westminster Review 1892.
SOME NEW THOUGHTS ON A WELL-WORN THEME.
That the Press should now be so frequently placed in opposition and contrast to the Pulpit, and that it should be supposed the two institutions have enough in common to justify comparisons being made between them, indicates a new view of the functions of the pulpit at least. Until comparatively recent years it was generally considered that people went to church, not so much to be regaled with highly intellectual fare, as to join in praise and prayer and to hear passages of Scripture more or less passably expounded, and an application of the text given to one or other of a limited number of religious and moral questions-the homily being, as a rule, very general in its terms alike of reprobation and commendation. In short, people were supposed to go to church "to worship God."
That this idea, with all it implies; is not yet wholly extinct is shown by the fact that laymen, and even clerics, possessed of learning, dialectical skill, and oratorical power, will attend a church in which the regular minister is much inferior to them in all of these qualifications. Those who regard the church in this now old-fashioned light may be said to consider it as a place where certain ceremonies have to be 'performed ; that it is necessary to have a master of those ceremonies- a fugleman to say the word at the proper time; that it is well to have a class of men specially trained for this work ; but that no very high standard of intellectual power is required of the fugleman, since all the worshippers know pretty well what they are likely to hear, how they are expected to feel, and what they are expected to do on a given occasion.
The function of the press, on the other hand, surely is to chronicle events, to discuss politics, economics, art, science, literature, philosophy, commerce, and industry, and, in the doing of all this, to be informing, amusing, instructive, and improving. That the pulpit should be brought into comparison with an agency whose work is of this nature means that the critics of the pulpit as it is desire that it should perform more of the species of work done by the press, while 'doing it, of course, in the different manner necessitated by different circumstances. A newspaper or magazine is read in private: a sermon or lecture is heard in public-the hearer being one of a congregation through which the preacher, if master of his art, causes something like an electric current to run, uniting the listeners into an organic whole by the subtle sympathy born of unity of thought and feeling. The thought that you form one of 500 who are simultaneously listening to the same ideas and arguments as yourself lends a heightened dignity and adventitious importance to those ideas and arguments; so that a discourse which, if printed, would be read with but languid interest, may, when spoken with fitting accompaniment of look, gesture, and intonation, be followed with pleasure by a large assemblage. The church thus brings into play a social feeling which the press cannot possibly command, and, properly conceived and ordered, occupies an important place in the economy of society; but the question at present to be considered is whether the church makes as good use as it might do of this advantage which it possesses over the press. That it does not is shown by the circumstance that while everybody patronises and supports the press, comparatively few people patronise and support the church.
A church connection brings a business connection: church membership gives a certain status of respectability. A church brings men and women together for social work, setting up many interests in common between the parties, apart from their interest in certain specific theological doctrines. There are mission agencies, meetings of matrons, meetings of young men and maidens, choir practisings, Bible classes, and literary societies-all having a tendency to bring people together and increase their attachment to the central institution around which these various activities are carried on: notwithstanding all this, however, church attendances, church membership, and church funds are relatively on "the down grade." While the religious sentiment is as strong as ever-probably stronger than ever-the clergy as a class are more and more subjected to unfavourable criticism; gatherings of a secular order-such as concerts and political and trade union meetings-are becoming more and more common on Sunday; and last, but not least, comparisons are more frequently drawn between the pulpit and the press.
All this has doubtless to be attributed largely to the decay of religious belief; but the decay of religions belief has, in turn, to be attributed very largely to the failings and shortcomings of the pulpit. So long as literature was an expensive luxury, and the great body of the people were either absolutely unable to read, or had no taste and no time for reading, it was not remarkable that they should put up with a low standard of pulpit eloquence. That they were satisfied to dispense with literary grace and reasoning power on the part of the preacher is attested by the objection to "read " sermons which for a long time existed, and by the value placed upon mere fluency and fervour. But in these days of half penny papers and sixpenny magazines the humblest church-goer may, and often does, have a higher ideal of what a sermon should be than even well-to-do people had fifty years ago. For the masses not only have their judgment and taste cultivated by reading, but they attend the lecture-room and the theatre as well as the church; and, accustomed as they are to hear accomplished actors and brilliant platform lecturers, they are coming to expect from the pulpit entertainment and instruction as well as exhortations to "trust in God and do the right," which must always carry with them a certain platitudinarian sameness.
Now, it is because the pulpit does not come up t0 the standard of excellence already attained by the press, the platform, and the stage, each after its own manner, that men stay at home and read on Sundays, go out and stroll while the morning service is being held, and go to some secular or semi-secular lecture hall at night.
But, it will be asked', how should the pulpit be so behind other civilising agencies? Are not the clergy specially trained for the work of the church before entering upon their ministerial duties? and have they not the means of culture and refinement at command after they enter upon those duties ? Have they not a sound basis of scholarship to start with, and plenty of time to prepare for their Sunday ministration? Nay, the champions of the pulpit, warming to their theme, may say, are not clergymen better equipped intellectually than either press-men or platform speakers, to say nothing of actors, who may well be left out of account as persons who only patter other people's ideas?
To this we reply that many of our clergymen of the Nonconformist churches have had no University training; that, besides a common school education, the only training they have had has been obtained at one or other of the Divinity Halls; and that even in the case of those who have attended college it has to be pointed out that men are not necessarily sound scholars, sagacious thinkers, or brilliant writers or speakers because they have had a University education. The only thing you can be moderately sure 0f with respect to a University degree is that it represents fees paid, and even that does not, of course, hold good of honorary degrees.
It may readily be admitted that the clergy have abundant opportunities of storing their minds with ideas and cultivating literary graces, of doing their work of sermon-writing with care and finish, and embodying sound materials in that work. But do they avail themselves of these their opportunities? Before answering this question there are a few considerations I want to note.
It must be borne in mind that while the professional journalist has to devote his undivided attention to journalism, the professional preacher has to baptise, marry, and bury; has to visit and gossip with the members of his flock; has to take part in mission work and the business procedure of his church; has to serve in church court, attend sick-beds, and take a share in the work of running charities.. He may have a Bible class, a weekly prayer meeting, a Sunday school, a seat on the School Board or the Board of Guardians. Yet despite the formidable appearance of this list or possible and probable pastoral duties, I do not believe that ministers as a class are hard worked. They are oftener to be seen taking a side at tennis or a hand at whist than are most professional men. They take more and longer holidays than professional men do. They are not under the same obligation as professional men are to devote steady and unremitting attention to their work. Country parsons may, and sometimes do, farm and raise stock without apparent interruption to their clerical duties. Parsons, whether in town or country, can, and do frequently, exchange pulpits-making an old sermon suffice, and so saving themselves of what ought to be a considerable amount of work if well-written sermons were the rule. After having held a charge for a number of years they may get a transfer, and they will then use up in the new pulpit the sermons written for the spiritual well-being of their former flock. If they are incapacitated for duty by sickness, there are always plenty of students, lay preachers, and unplaced clerical brethren to take their place. But while it cannot, I think, be contended that clergymen as a class are hard worked, yet, that they have so many matters to look after besides their chief work-the work of the pulpit-is often made an excuse for doing that work in a makeshift manner.
If a newspaper editor goes on scamping his work-inserting weak, ill -digested, or plagiarised leading articles and stale news day after day, week after week-his circulation will fall, the directors to whom he is responsible will shortly bring him to book, and, if he cannot or will not render his employers more efficient service, he must make room for one who can and will do so. The same commercial principle will be applied to reporters and sub-editors, as well as to contributors on the staff of a magazine. But while the commercial principle is thus in active operation among the representatives of the press, it scarcely operates at all among the occupants of pulpits. A minister may for years go on gradually emptying a church by the feebleness of his hebdomadal performances; but unless matters get quite desperate, or our feeble brother gets implicated in some scandal, his employers do not suggest that he should make room for another. There are, as has been indicated, so many interests, associations, attachments connected with a church-there is, to put it bluntly, so much to be got out of a church besides religion-that a congregation will undergo a long-continued course of indifferent pulpit ministrations without breaking into open rebellion, and without its members individually leaving "the venerable house their fathers built to God." As a result of this indulgence the clergy have got spoiled. They do not feel called upon to keep up the high standard of excellence in their pulpit work which the press-man knows he must maintain in the columns of his paper, if it is to succeed, and he himself to keep his situation. And so, while I am not an admirer of all the results attending the operations of commercial principles, still I think it tolerably certain that if the ministerial calling were to a greater extent brought under the influence of those considerations which regulate the ordinary relations of employer and employee, it would tend to improve the quality of pulpit work.
I do not say, however, that the introduction of this principle would accomplish all that is required for the reformation of the pulpit. To make the pulpit anything like the social force it once was- a result which I do not say I am desirous to see attained-a different class of men would be required, as well as different conditions of pulpit tenure. The clergy are largely drawn from the class of '' good young men," and the members of that class are not remarkable for either physical or mental vigour. There are, of course, many robust men amongst those who beat the "pulpit drum" ; but it is undeniable that a large proportion of the clergy come from the quarter indicated. Moreover, clergymen as a class are so removed from that ''storm and stress " of work-a-day life which give tone and fibre to other men, and they come so much in contact with women, both within their own domestic circle and in their pastoral work, that they show a tendency to develop very many of the traits of character usually supposed to be the distinctive attributes of the female mind.
This want of robustness does much to lower the quality of pulpit work, and to lessen the influence of the Church. Knox and Latimer,Channing and Chalmer, were strong men, in touch with the life of their time, and capable of moving the multitude at will. In the struggle against abuses, shams, and tyranny, they took sides, as their Master did, and spoke out with fire and fervour, with manly strength and reason. You knew their position and intent: that they were with you or against you. But in these days when disputes between capital and labour are rife, and when great political movements are abroad in the land, the clergy take no side, show no colours. Although there is always one of the parties pretty surely in the right and the other just as surely in the wrong, the clergy sit on the fence. Assuming the role of Mr. Facing-both-ways, they pray that peace may be restored between the opposing factions ; but not one word is said as to the issues over which the conflict is being waged.
It is true, there are journals that profess no political creed and advocate no fixed socioeconomic principles. But even if these were not, as they are, the exceptions to a 'Very general rule, they are not to be tried by the standard we apply to the pulpit. It is not necessary that a newspaper should have a "policy," or advocate a particular set of opinions. Its first and chief function is to record news; and if it does that fairly and faithfully we shall not grudge being left to form our opinions for ourselves on the evidence it supplies. On the other hand, it seems impossible that a religious teacher should have no "policy " on all questions involving the great moral issues at stake in important political and social controversies. Though it is extremely unlikely that we shall ever get rid of party journalism, it is, all the , same, a very qualified blessing. But if the pulpit has no pronouncement to make on the question of the hour, it is not easy to see what function of public benefit the pulpit has to discharge. With respect to the press again, whether partisan or non-partisan, one further advantage which it possesses over the pulpit deserves to be remembered. The correspondence columns of newspapers and the pages of the Reviews are open to all who have anything interesting to say and who can preserve the amenities of discussion.
It may be said that the discussion of political differences and labour disputes lies outside the province of the clergy ; but if, as is usually the case, fundamental principles in the religion for which they stand are being violated on the one hand and upheld on the other, their duty and their province would seem to be alike tolerably clear.
The fact is, the Church is behind the times. She has always something to say about the duties of her children as men and women, as son and daughters, as husbands and wives, as masters and servants, and especially as church members; but nothing to say about their duties as citizens, although the duties and powers of citizenship form one of the most important trusts given into human hands. The discussion of political, social, and economic questions is in most churches reckoned contraband.
Jesus scourged the money-changers out of the Temple; but they are welcomed in today. Their contributions are wanted for the Sustentation Fund, their gold and notes for the church-door collections. The clergy invest their savings in a brewery or a death dealing match-factory as eagerly as if Jesus had not advised the rich young ruler to sell his superfluities and give to the poor. Or is it that there are no poor nowadays? And was Cardinal Manning proved to have been merely careless and improvident by the fact that he left but a beggarly £100? Jesus denounced the Scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites who devoured widows' houses, but made long prayer for a pretence. There are surely no lineal descendants of the scribes and Pharisees in the world today; for I have attended church twice a day for years, yet I never heard any attempt made to apply the passage to any class of men alive at the present time. Or is it that the Scribes and Pharisees of today are not within hearing of the pulpit? It was Jesus who told the parable of the vineyard; but how often do we hear any effort put forth to apply that parable to the labour problem?-an application which it will undoubtedly bear.
The average church-goer inclines more and more to note these thing , and observation tends to increase his weariness with the pulpit. So far do the clergy carry their injunction of ''peace, peace," where peace is a wickedness, that they often fear to denounce publicly, or even admonish privately, the wealthy sinner who gives generously to church funds, and keeps an excellent table; although he grinds the faces of his workers, or rack-rents the tenants in his slum property, bullies his family and domestic servants, and inflames his body and besots his mind with drink. Of this, also, the average man takes note; and it disgusts him to find that the shepherd of souls lives at peace with this incarnation of iniquity. He compares the clergyman's practice with his precepts, and throwing many another grudge into the balance on the same side, he finishes not infrequently by absenting himself from churches and ministers, good or bad, altogether.
The influence of the pulpit wanes because the preacher does his work in a slipshod manner ; because, while the pews are agitated by the questions of the hour, the preacher talks yet says nothing for fear he should offend the partisans of the side he happens to oppose. The influence of the pulpit wanes because its occupants are tied up to speak on old and outworn themes ; because the interest in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob pales before the interest in Tom, Dick, and Harry ; and Palestine is less to us than the most prosaic town in Britain where the tragi-comedy of life is now day by day enacted.
The press is not perfect; but, with all its faults, it represents the people. Forced by the conditions of its existence to please those for whom it caters, it reflects every mood of the public. It is all things to all men. It finds out everything ; it tells everything it finds out. You go to the preacher, who is usually the same man, and you have to endure him for an hour at a time. The newspaper comes to you; it contains the thoughts of many men, and discusses many themes; you can change the man and the theme at will, or dismiss the press altogether if you tire of it, or other matters demand your attention. Yon hear the preacher, if you go to church, one day in seven. The press comes to you morning and evening, wet day and dry, in health and sickness, six days out of the seven. The press has accomplished much in a short space of time. The pulpit has accomplished less in a long career. 'What the press has done it has done despite the hostility of princes and the repression of Parliaments. What the pulpit has failed to do it has failed to do notwithstanding the favour of princes and the subsidies of Parliaments. In influence for civilisation and enlightenment, the press, with all its faults, leaves the pulpit helplessly, hopelessly, ignominiously in the shade.
THE FINAL PART (IF NOT SOLUTION!)
We sometimes hear contemptuous references to Gas and Water Socialism, as if there could be no benefit and no progress in the part because it was not the whole. As if shorter hours, better pay, better and cheaper service, and vastly improved and beautified towns and cities were not worth having and not worth slaving for because the pay and the hours, the service and the amenities were not all they ought to be and will be under a further development of these institutions upon present lines.
Let those who were disposed to belittle the Socialism of the municipality bethink them of the attack which is being made on it at present by the Times, by Property Owners Associations, by economists of the British Association, by men like Mr Austin Chamberlain and Sir Alexander Henderson. These men know the significance of the principle underlying collectivist enterprises; they know that the success of public enterprise on a small scale is simply paving the way for the great all-embracing Co-operative Commonwealth, in which not only the local bodies will administer their own local services, but in which we shall have State railways, State canals, State mines, the telephone amalgamated with the post office; in a word, State control of all undertakings which can be better administered by the State than by either the local authorities or private enterprise.
This quiet municipal progress has been going on in spite of all the reaction manifested in Imperial politics. Indeed in some cases it has proceeded farthest and most rapidly where the people are most reactionary in Imperial politics. London and Glasgow have both voted Tory in Imperial politics, but both have returned progressive majorities to their local governing bodies, and the extension of communal collectivism goes on apace there .as elsewhere.
While this far-reaching progress has been going on, the forces of discontent have been latterly massing, and at last the Government seems to have dug its own grave. Emboldened by strength and long immunity from electoral punishment, the Government introduced an Education Bill whose impudent retrogressiveness fairly takes one's breath away. The Bill not only wiped out the School Boards, but public control of education altogether, the management being now vested in close corporations over looked by a powerless minority of ratepayers' representatives. The Bill ignored the success of secular education in Scotland. It ignored the steady growth of the Board School system in the English cities. It was drafted by people who do not seem to know that undenominational schools have flourished in Scotland for thirty years, producing results which England can nowhere touch. It was a priests' Bill- a Bill inspired by the conviction on the part of the English Church clergy that unless they catch the English man and woman as children, they will lose hold on them altogether, a psition which, so far as the cities are concerned, is already practically realised.
The Education Bill was surely one of the last spurts of the present reaction-and it will prove, I trust, as abortive, as shortlived, as it is audacious. How the Bill ran its course in Parliament with so little opposition from the Tories themselves and with so little effective opposition in the lobbies from the Liberals is not easy to say. It seems as if both Ministerialists and Opposition had been hypnotised by the success of Reaction out of all prudence and reason on the one hand and out of all courage and energy on the other. It seems perfectly clear that the Act is repugnant to the great body of English opinion. Recent elections have shown that. The decisions of Church councils, educational authorities, and the protests of some of the State clergy themselves have shown it. The great demonstration at Leeds showed it. And it is to the eternal disgrace of the Fabian Society that their leading spirits, Professor Sidney Webb and Mr George Bernard Shaw, should have defended and countenanced this Bill, which in motive and in form represents pure reaction, as we Scotsmen, accustomed to non-sectarian education, know perfectly well.
But here again, in connection with this reactionary measure there are several consolatory circumstances. One of these is the way in which the nonconformist clergy have risen to the attack. Reading the fulminations of Principal Fairbairn, Dr Clifford, and Dr Robertson Nicoll against the Bill, and the priestcraft which has inspired it, one realises with pleasure that, after all, there is a wide gulf between the proud priests who support the measure and the sturdy presbyters who oppose it, the latter spitting upon clericalism in education with a rancour which Mr Charles Bradlaugh himself could not well have outdone. Is it possible that Mr Balfour, bored to death with the cares and responsibilities of office held for seven years, devised this bill in the hope of securing a rest by bringing about the ultimate defeat of his Government!
It looked all the more like it when we consider that, as a Scotsman, Mr Balfour was bound to see that the system of education which is good enough for Scotland, Europe, and America ought to be good enough for England. For my part I should like to see the Scottish monopoly of education broken through. We are at present producing far too many clergymen, doctors, lawyers, and newspaper men, in Scotland, and far too few skilled workers and captains of industry. I am not unduly enamoured of captains of industry; but I do hold that for the sake of the Co-operative Commonwealth the economic development of Scotland must proceed much further and faster than it has done up to now.
In my adopted town I look round, and upon my word I see no industry that is worth the socialising unless it were to stop competition in it, and to develop and consolidate it as private capital will never do. We have municipal gas, baths, water, and a lodging-house, and now that these things have been conquered there is hardly any concern in the town which, as at present conducted, gives the proprietors more than a living wage, while at the same time their personal address and interest are largely accountable for the fact that they get anybody to send them orders to such an out-of-the-world place at all.
But if Mr Balfour would have welcomed defeat over the Education Bill, he has been disappointed. How could he or anyone else have known that the country would stand so much reaction. His Government has done its best to drive people and Parliament into revolt--by doles to priests and landlords; by taxes on sugar, coal, and corn; by subsidies to West Indian planters; by the Sugar Convention, which will mulch the public in ten millions a-year that the planters may have a quarter of a million, to the hurt of the great industry that has grown up in Britain as a result of cheap sugar. These are small things, it may be said. Yes; but they are reactionary small things. It is surely the most irritating waste of time, and worse, that the legislators of a nation, instead of going forward to the establishment of institutions that will endure, should hark back at every turn to destroy the good work of those who went before and establish tho.t which must in the near future be overturned. To persistently and mischievously do that which it ought not to do, and to resolutely leave undone that which ought to be done and which it promised to do-what in a Government can be more wickedly wasteful and irritating.
The economic development is hindered, and the conditions that produce Trusts and pave the way for the Co-operative Commonwealth are being avoided, by the constant drain of emigration to which our small towns are subject. The small business run by a hard-working tradesman hardly represents Capitalism as we understand it; and without large aggregations of population businesses must remain small, The small employer in most cases works as hard, displays more ability, and has much more anxiety about his work than has the workman-small blame to the latter. At the same time his income is not very much higher, and he has to keep up more "style." The paramount duty of the workman at present is to stay at home and help the development industrially, politically, and socially. But will he do it? Not he. He will leave his children, the lass whom he has made his wife, and the scenes which form his home, for 10s more a-week, making his home in city, foreign, and colonial hell-holes, leaving sentimental fellows to make a book, speak a word, or deal a blow for poor old Scotland's sake. The hog that he is, he is not worth working for if one could get better conditions for oneself.
But by the nature of the case the Co-operative Commonwealth is a one-and-all business. The true Socialist can have no pleasure save in the legitimate pleasure of all his fellows. A chivvied woman or a starved child gets on his spirits, and he cannot be happy unless he feels that all the others are happy too, and not only happy, but happy in the right way. And therein lies the punishment of being a Socialist. It is not enough to see people happy. A pig is happy in its stye, and the British workman is happy as a full-fed pig when he hears that a brave foe has been beaten in a righteous cause or that his favourite footbatll club has won a match. The Socialist looks to the kind of the happiness as well as to the degree of it. If the happiness is unworthy; if it is the happiness of a coward or a bully; if it is malicious glee at the defeat of the dreaded and hated just and brave man, then the happiness is of the devil devilish; it is the jubilation of hell hellish, and while the Socialist wishes no harm to the thoughtless man, the good but uninformed woman, or the innocent child, he could almost wish that a sign-were it even a devastating sign-might be vouchsafed to show that the rejoicing was unholy; for haply thereby might the progress of unreason be arrested.
If the lot of the emigrant were appreciably improved one might look on the exodus with pleasure. But we know that wherever monopoly and competition have set their twin foul feet the conditions of the proletarian must be the same. In leaving his own country he avails himself of the open safety-valve. While he does not always or necessarily improve his own position, he delays the work of redress and adjustment in his own country.
What we require in Scotland is that our people should remain behind and make the country worth living in economically, as it is already worth living in socially, scenically, as a matter of health, and as a matter of sentiment.
Socialists at least are under no obligation to be downcast. The present reaction is in the highest degree natural and explicable. More clearly than ever before has the class war shown itself. Trade unionism only sought to regulate the conditions of piracy and took no account of mismanagement. Socialism sought to put an end to piracy and mismanagement altogether. And the highly capable pirate mismanagers, recognising the nature of the issue, have rallied "all hands on deck to repel boarders." As the pirates belong to both parties, it is not wonderful that Liberals as well as Tories have ratted it within recent years. The wonder is, not that reaction has been in fashion of late years, but rather that a single member of the privileged and propertied classes has still found it possible to stand up against desertion by his friends and the steady attack of the Socialist enemies of monopoly and privilege.
I have no counsel and no encouragement to offer except the assurance that in my mind we who believe in the Co-operative Commonwealth are more absolutely right, have a more august, more rational, and more unassailable claim than any party which the whole history of the world can show. There is no royal road to the realization of the ends we have in view. But all roads did not so certainly lead to Rome as all roads lead to the Co-operative Commonwealth. Those who are working with that great goal in view have simply to continue the work they have been doing-m greater numbers, with greater intelligence, with more of the spirit of self-consecration and self-sacrifice. They must grudge no propagandist service, no committee work, no drudgery amidst obloquy and opposition upon those public boards where the important business of communities is more and more transacted. Those of you who would serve in this cause-you must make yourselves walking depositaries of the historians' and economists' facts and the statisticians' figures. You must equip yourselves to make speeches before threatening mobs and frowning assemblages of well-to-do people. You must be content to be the one man defending a certain view in an entire meeting. You must take all humane knowledge for your province. You must, as was said of Edmund Burke, adopt your views with the enthusiasm of a fanatic and defend them with the wisdom of a philosopher. You must make Socialism your politics, your philosophy, your religion, your heart's desire.
If you go in for this work, I can say, speaking from the experience of sixteen years of it, that the days will pass swiftly with you. Your lives will be full of interest. You will not be at a loss to know how to spend your leisure time. Your party will be defeated and your hopes dashed again and again. The finger of scorn will be pointed at you, and your names shall be pro-Boer, Socialist, and the man who quarrels with his bread and butter.
Newspaper editors will crow over your failures, and lay down the law in the oracular style we know so well. The boys will cry at you in the streets. The ignorant will laugh, the brutal will sometimes beat down your arguments by sheer vociferation; and often you will be plunged in despair and doubt. But if you are of the right stuff, you cannot let your hopes and your desires go. To forsake your great hope and calling would be to part with a portion of your being. Reverses, failures, desertions from the ranks, the indifference of your fellows-all this, if you are of the right sort, will only strengthen your determination to persist in the good fight whose triumph for your class has been the hope of the ages, the most important thing in the world.
Let fate or insufficiency provide
Mean ends for men who are what they would be:
Penned in their narrow day no change they see
Save one which strikes the blow to brutes and pride,
Our faith is ours and comes not on a tide :
And whether earth's great offspring by degree,
Must rot if they abjure rapacity,
Not argument but effort shall decide.
They number many beads in that hard flock ;
Trim swordsmen they push forth :yet try thy steel,
Thou fighting for poor humankind wilt feel
The strbngth of Roland in thy wrist to hew
A chasm sheer into the barrier rock,
And bring the army of the faithful through.
I do not know how you have felt during these years, but I have repeatedly turned over in my mind the question "Is there any place I can emigrate to where the population is not composed of fools and bullies?" Disgusted with his country, Fletcher of Saltoun emigrated to Holland when the Scottish Parliament sold Scotland to England. Disgusted with England, Professor Goldwin Smith some years ago emigrated to Canada.
I have thought of Holland sometimes of late years; but even there, in the home of William the Silent, the people have been showing the presence of Dutch cheese in the head by the fuss they have made about a chit of a girl bearing the absurd name of Wilhelmina. Canada again is the most hypocritically "loyal " of all our colonies, and was not ashamed to send a contingent to take part in this blackguardly war; Germany puts up with Kaiser Wilhelm and his prosecutions for lese majeste; France has had its Dreyfus case; Russia has excommunicated Tolstoy, and still consents to do without a Constitution; Italy, Austria, Spain, the Balkan States are all equally hopeless. Switzerland keeps itself fairly unspotted among the family of nations; and if one could make watches or knew about Alpine climbing and the keeping of goats, Switzerland might be worth taking into consideration. How to get away from the fools, that is the question one asks oneself; and the best answer seems to be to wait at home and try to ameliorate them, refusing to desert the field and leave the blockheads in possession of it.
That is one's duty, and although duty is sometimes a hard taskmaster, there has been much to console and hearten the friends of peace and progress during even the blackest hours of Britain's degradation. The prolonged and gallant stand made by those Dutch farmers in South Africa, and their surrender at last only upon terms, are a reproach to those who would weary in much easier well-doing. The very existence of a large minority of pro Boers openly professing their sympathy with their country's enemies was an absolutely new and unprecedented thing. It is true that during the American War we had politicians like Pitt and Burke and Robert Burns declaring their sympathy with the rebel colonists; that during the Crimean War John Bright opposed it; that, as already stated, we had Gladstone protesting against our warlike policy in '76-'78 ; and that our Egyptian War was received with protests in more than one quarter at home. John Bright resigned from the Gladstone Cabinet in protest, and Mr Seymour Keay's pamphlet, "Spoiling the Egyptains: A Tale of Shame," attracted considerable notice at the time and for some time afterwards. But never before have noblemen, party leaders, and a considerable section of the press, including several of the important daily newspapers, been opposed to a war waged by their own country while that war was in progress. The pro-Boer has run great risks and in many cases has suffered, loss and injury; but he has refused to outrage his own conscience and the Eternal Verities by approving a war, wicked, unnecessary, and inexpedient, as all war is, merely because it was waged by his own countrymen and kinsmen.
Nineveh was destroyed for want of ten good men; but in these late days almost any town in Britain would have escaped Nineveh's fate if courage and integrity under difficult and trying conditions had been sufficient. Isaiah held that Israel would be saved by a faithful remnant, and as Israel was not saved, we are left to infer that the remnant was not to be found. Israel had no "traitors." Her citizens were all loyal. And so Israel went down the wind. But a faithful remnant, and a considerable remnant at that, was all along to be found in our cities during the thirty months of war, and Britain may not only escape the fate of Israel, but by virtue of that remnant-the little leaven that leaveneth the whole lump-may well go on to brighter and juster conditions, when those who refused to bow the knee to the Baal of miscalled patriotism-that "last refuge of a scoundrel," as Johnson called it-will have their reward.
But in spite of Tory Government and Liberal weakness and faintness of heart, in spite of cant and khaki, in spite of loyal rejoicings over the advent of another Charles Second, in spite of the fustian gush about Imperialism, and the rapid emigration to new and poor countries of men and women who are badly wanted at home, one branch of the national life has shown quiet and steady progress through the years. I refer to the silent, irresistible, beneficent spread of Collectivism.
Need I tell a tale that has already been so often told? The tale, I mean, of how conspicuously public enterprise has beaten and continues to beat private enterprise! From the municipal history of every corporation in Britain I could give facts and figures showing how there is no useful function performed by the capitalist which the community in its organised capacity cannot perform infinitely better for itself. I could tell you of how you yourselves paid, under private enterprise, a water rate of 14 pence in the £ for an insufficient supply of "diluted sewage," but of how today, under corporation control, you get an abundant supply of pure and soft water from Loch Katrine for a water rate of 6d in the £, (A voice- Fivepence. The lecturer-Yes, fivepence and a penny.) I could tell you of how the gas consumers in Glasgow paid to the gas company 4s 7d per 1000 cubic feet, the gas stokers slaving 12 hours a-day on the two-shift plan, the consumers paying meter rents, and the shareholders bagging fat dividends ; whereas to-day under corporate management the price is, or was lately, 2s 2d as against 4s 7d, the stokers work eight hours a-day on the three-shift plan, the meter rents have been abolished, and the corporation makes an annual profit ranging between fifty and sixty thousand pounds, which goes into the public exchequer and comes back to the people in the form of relief from taxation.
I could tell you of how Glasgow municipalised its tramcar service, sweeping off its streets the old unsightly trucks, run by the private company, on which men slaved a minimum day of 14 hours; of how the corporation halved the fares all over the system, reduced the men's hours to ten a-day, increased their wages, and supplied them with uniforms ; of how they abolished advertisements from the sides and ends of the cars-those announcements of Pears' Soap, Colman's Starch, Reckitt's Blue, Nixey's Black Lead, and Eno's Fruit Salt which made it so difficult to pick out the nameboard indicating the destination of the car; and finally of how the first eleven months' working showed a profit of £24,000, upon which every year since then has shown a steady and, in the aggregate, enormous improvement. I could tell you of the seven Corporation Lodging-Houses with their £4000 profit, and of the Municipal Tele phones with their £13,000 profit for nine months' working. In all of these concerns which can be compared with private enterprise the results show a striking improvement under collective control as compared with private management. The producer is better as producer-he has higher wages for less work ; the consumer is better as consumer-he has better service at less cost; and the ratepayer is better as ratepayer since the profits made in these public departments came back to him in public improvements or in relief from taxation.
Now, the believers in the Co-operative Commonwealth maintain that if the public can supply itself thus advantageously with gas and water, there is no reason why it should not supply itself with coal and milk. As matter of fact, Bradford has just decided to provide itself with a municipal coal store. The motion adopted on this head was moved by a member of the Independent Labour Party, who pointed out that the coal burned in the Mayor's Parlour of the Townhouse cost 11s to 14s per ton, whereas the current price outside was 2ls. . If a corporation can run trams and tele phones it can manage the baking of bread, the building and letting of houses, cab-hiring, the slaughter of cattle and the sale of butcher meat-so long as we continue to eat dead animals ; in short, the State, the Municipalities, and the Parish Councils could carry on any and every species of business worth while. By putting an end to the warfare of competition, which wastes more wealth in a year than lethal strife wastes in a century, we should become richer to a degree which is at present incalculable.
By becoming gradually and steadily the sole landlords and the only capitalists the Municipalities and the State could make an end of rent, interest, and profit. All the idle hands and heads would in the course of a few generations be forced to turn to work. By the closing of unnecessary shops and offices enormous body of clerks and shop assistants would be set free for useful and really necessary work-the making of things instead of the mere selling of them or the writing about the sales. With distance practically annihilated, the population might be scattered over the countryside, men travelling three or thirty miles to and from work daily. If we continue to have towns and cities as places of residence they will be garden towns and cities, with wide streets, plenty of open spaces, and palatial buildings. They will be as different as possible from the present congeries of stone and brick boxes, with slate lids, which passes for a city. And the insides of the houses will be as much improved as the outsides. Instead of the present collections of gimcrack and veneer furniture, of dusty bulrushes and peacocks' feathers stuck in vases on the mantelpiece, china dogs, wax apples in glass cases, with antimacassars on the seats, and plush-covered brackets and framed calendars on the walls, the interiors of the future will be roomy and comfortable, and genuine art, both in furniture and decorations, will be the rule, since there will no longer be any motive to produce shoddy or jerry work, and the people will have the wherewithal to buy genuine products.
Our capitalistic system has enormously increased the output of mere commodities; but much of our production is rubbish, made to sell at a profit rather than to use and enjoy. For the rest, our capitalistic system has produced that joke the millionaire. That is all. The workman is pretty much where he was. The difference even between 15s and 50s of a weekly wage is a bagatelle in comparison with the increase of our wealth-producing power. The workman got a subsistence wage a century ago, and if his wage is doubled, and its purchasing power has also greatly increased since then, it is but a subsistence wage still. Yet the increase in productive power is any thing from two to twenty fold or more. In Professor Leone Levi's "Work and Pay " we read that "Seventy years ago, with the old-fashioned handloom, one weaver could produce six yards, narrow width, per day. With the steam-power loom to-day at Accrington a weaver attending to four looms can produce 160 yards every day-that is, the amount of labour is 1/27th now of what it was 70 years ago."
This is more or less typical of the improvement in production which has been going on all round ; but what all this has chiefly meant has been the creation of fortunes for the possessors of the machinery. Clearly the moral, then, is let the whole people get possession of the machinery. The conquest of the means of labour, which are the means of life-that is, in brief, the specific method by which the Hope of the Ages, the most important thing in the world, is to be realised.
The community in its organised capacity has simply to carry on the process it has already begun-extending its sphere of control and administration steadily, gradually, without confiscation, without violence done to vested interests, without dislocation of industry, commerce, or social life. The Revolution is even now in progress.
The pharisees were told that the Kingdom of God cometh not .with observation ; but the coming of the Co-operative Commonwealth may be observed by many tokens, and to the latter-day inquirer we may indeed say "Lo here and lo there " for the beginnings of it.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD. FROM 1903.
AND the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together ; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed: their young ones shall lie down together ; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the basilisk's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain ; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.-Isaiah xi., 6-9.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward…For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only so, but ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption , to wit the redemption of our body. For by hope were we saved : but hope that is seen is not hope : for who hopeth for that which he seeth ? But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.-Romans viii., 18-25.
The most important thing in the world-the divine event to which the whole creation moves-is the ordering of the lives of all kindly creatures on lines that make for benignity, friendliness, and mutual service and interdependence. By this I do not mean the forming once for all of a social system regulated upon a hard-and-fast social code covering all the details of life like the Institutes of Lycurgus or the Book of Leviticus ; not an attempt to make a perfect social system, but the establishing of society on principles from which it might have a chance of growing into increasing perfection, without periods of deadlock, of misdirected progress, or of retrogression such as civilised communities have always hitherto displayed. In short, a society, not perfect in details, but, on the other hand, not fundamentally wrong, as a system based on rank, privilege, and monopoly, instead of on industry and ability, must always be. I claim these humane conditions, as I say, for all "kindly " creatures.
I confess I have no hope for the lion, the asp, the bear, and the basilisk, which the eloquent and sonorous Isaiah represents as living in millennial amity with the creatures who at present form their food. The carnivora do not obviously serve any good purpose in the world. They say a tiger is immensely fascinating just when he is about to eat you; but that is a species of attraction which most men are pleased to have no experience of. Indeed, man-devouring animals seem to be neither useful nor ornamental. In any case, there is no reason to doubt but that they will coninue in the future to go the way they are going, at present-that is to say, the way of complete extermination. The prophet says "the lion shall eat straw like the ox "; but apart from the fact that the lion shows no tendency in the direction of becoming a vegetarian, we should want to know what he was prepared to do for his straw. Man, originally omnivorous and cannibal, and still an eater of carrion-fish, flesh, and fowl-becomes more and more vegetarian and fruitarian in his diet, and while I am fond of beafsteak, I think it is perhaps not too much to expect that a time will come when men will turn with loathing from the idea of breeding and feeding an animal in order to kill and eat it. Use and necessity reconcile us to many things; but I do not think I could be a butcher. I have a great deal of sympathy with the Lord High Executioner in "The Mikado " who "Couldn't kill a bluebottle." And I do not consider that have any right to ask others to do what I should not like to do myself.
The millennial picture of Isaiah, the Kingdom of God spoken of by Jesus, and the more specific schemes of the latter-day Socialist are all varying forms of one aspiration and one vision-the vision of a reformed and happy and peaceful world. Nature will always doubtless remain "red in tooth and claw." We can exterminate and are rapidly exterminating beasts and birds of prey. But the lightning will still deal death from the blue. The earthquake will swallow cities and devastate a countryside. The cruel sea will continue to engulf the trusting voyager in one hour, and the next will smile over the living and the dead in its depths. Floods and typhoons will not conceivably cease to remind man how puny and helpless he is against the mighty forces and elements of Nature.
But if Nature must always remain a capricious and often cruel step mother, at least man in the mass need not continue to suffer inhumanity at the hands of a despicable few of his fellow-creatures. A hundred tenants need no longer give their substance to one landlord. A thousand workmen need no longer hand over any part of their gains to one capitalist. That the community as a whole should be deceived by professional mumbo jumbos- priest, lawyer, official, medicine man, newspaper editor-is no necessary or inescapable law of the order of things. Not the education which produces sharps and sharks and intensifies the struggle for existence. Not the science which ministers to the wealthy and mocks the miserable with triumphs in which they do not share. Not the wealth which burdens and vulgarises Midas and enslaves the mass of the people in a still more helpless and hopeless slavery. Not the rude health and brute strength which make men careless and cheerful under evil conditions, scoffing at public spirit and civic self-sacrifice, delighting in wars and boatraces and football matches, and scorning sweeter manners and purer laws.
Not any of these things constitutes the most important thing in the world-not all of them together. The harvest to the husband man, the product to the producer, strength and wisdom in man, beauty and gentleness in woman, health, happiness, and long life to all, and humane treatment to the lower animals-these things and the conditions that will finally render these things possible form together the most important thing in the world. As the theological formula runs, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven and all these things shall be added unto you," so the newer and more practical formula may be said to be "Seek ye first economic justice, and all these things shall be added unto you." We often hear men say that life would not be worth living if there were no Here after-by which they mean no serenely happy existence of the disembodied spirit. I do not say that. I do not say that life would not be worth living even if we had no hope of better conditions up0n earth. An active and healthy person finds life interesting and streaked with strips of happiness holidays, honeymoons, personal successes, the gladdening defeat and discomfiture of wicked enemies-no matter how evil his social surroundings may be. But I do say that, the hope of, and the belief in, a great future for the human race on this earth give a man courage to face difficulties, and a happy unconcern as to consequences, such as the early Christians and the Scottish Covenanters carried with them. This hope and this belief inspire affection between man and man such as I have seen no other faith, creed, sect, or movement inspire. The pictures of an imaginary heaven, with pearly gates and golden streets and jasper walls and all the quiring and wheeling of Milton's heavenly militia, make a tinsel show indeed by comparison with the perfectly natural and realisable conception of a new earth and a new man. This great hope and belief, moreover, play an incalculably beneficent part in supplying driving force and inspiration for the stow business of social reform-probably the slowest of all kinds of progress certainly much slower than the progress made in applied science and the arts of life.
The most important thing in the world is easy to state thus broadly; but what of the days we live in? What indications do they afford of an approach to the millennial state? None of us here can remember a time when the forces of reaction were so strong as they seem in Britain at present. When the Gladstone Administration of 1868 to '74 was turned out of office after a career of comparatively brilliant reforms rapidly consummated, there followed a period of reactionary wallowing, during which Parliament and people did many things calculated to grieve the friends of progress. It was during this time that Queen Victoria was styled Empress of India by the theatrical Disraeli. It was during this time that Mr Plimsoll was moved to indignant protest by the evasive tactics of the Tory Premier over the reform of the conditions of life and labour in our mercantile navy. It was during this time that the Transvaal was temporarily annexed on the crocodile plea that that was necessary in order to save the Boers from the onslaught of the Zulus. Above all, it was during this time that Britain once more interfered to save the Turk, repeating the mistake which had been made in 1854 when we went to war with Russia to perpetuate Mabometan cruelty and misgovernment. We annexed another Imperial burden in Cyprus in those years; we went through the farce known as the Berlin Conference; and we found all too good occasion to invent the name Jingo to denote the class who consider that the business of a Government is to make war and steal territory abroad rather than to develop and perfect our life and institutions at home. That we also got into one little war in Afghanistan and another little war in Zululand is not to be wondered at in a time when Disraeli was the darling of the people and Gladstone and his wife had one day to take refuge in a friendly doorway from a threatening crowd of Cockney Jingoes.
That was an evil time; but after all, it lasted only six years, with lucid intervals, whereas the present spell of theft, murder, and retrogression has lasted without interruption for over seven years. That period was marked by the magnificent campaign against the Turk undertaken in the country by Gladstone; whereas on the present occasion no equally effective protest has been anywhere raised against the criminal relapse into barbarism. The years from 1895 to 1903 have been characterised by such a putting back of the hands on the clock as Britain has not seen since the Restoration of the Stewarts followed the Republic of Milton and Cromwell. We have seen the co-operative societies twice attacked. We have seen the perfectly false charge brought against workmen that they generally practice the malingering policy known as "Ca' canny." We see at this present moment a general attack, now led by the Times, against the one really satisfactory and progressive branch of public life in Britain-namely, Municipal Socialism. Fom taking part in a Peace Congress we have seen Britain turn to enter upon one of the most disgraceful wars in which she has ever engaged-a war in which a monarchy attacked a republic-a war in which we have had a country of plural voting and property qualifications fighting against a state administered on a basis of simple manhood suffrage-a war professedly waged to secure the franchise for aliens by a country which refuses the franchise to aliens-a war waged against alleged iniquitous taxation, mainly raised from millionaire mineowners paying the lowest gold-royalty in the world, by an Empire whose own taxation is iniquitous without an) doubt about it, since it includes taxes upon the food of the poor while allowing the landlords' rents to escape taxation -a war waged by an enormous empire against two puny states whose combined populations did not exceed that of a single third-class British city-the motto of the aggressor apparently being "Hit him on the head: he's only a little 'un " a war from which our countrymen returned to be acclaimed as heroes, though they were ten to one against their indifferently armed and still less disciplined foe.
Part Two to follow next month.
No Revolution ever rises above the intellectual level of those who make it, and little is gained where one false notion supplants another. But we must some day, at last, and forever, cross the line between Nonsense and Common Sense. And on that day we shall pass from Class Paternalism, originally derived from fetish fiction in times of universal ignorance, to human brotherhood in accordance with the nature of things and our growing knowledge of it; from Political Government to Industrial Administration; from Competition in Individualism to Individuality in Co-operation; from War and Despotism, in any form, to Peace and Liberty - THOMAS CARLYLE.
The great series of events which form the First French Revolution are not to be covered by any one formula, although attempts to do so are often made. Politically the Revolution represented the triumph of the Third Estate - the Middle Class.
Economically the Revolution marks the fall of feudalism in France. Morally the Revolution was the tragedy of oligarchic prodigality and inefficiency, of class selfishness, and of mob madness begotten of age-long misgovernment. But it was a great deal more than even all these things. It is easier to say what the Revolution was not. It was neither a folly nor a crime, but, in the existing state of men’s minds, a natural, necessary, and salutary upheaval, of which crimes and follies were the inevitable accompaniment. A people, and especially the most lively people in the world, cannot be baited, robbed, imprisoned without trial or offence committed, cannot be starved, cannot be tortured, outraged, shot at sight, and still preserve through all the virtues of free, enlightened, and self-respecting citizenship.
A Royal Hypnotist.
Under Louis XIV. the tyranny of king and seigneur might be borne. There was that about the Grand Monarque which seemed to hypnotise his people into slavish submission, born of reverential awe. The contemporaries of Louis, for example, thought him tall, while in point of fact he was a little man. Even Voltaire repeatedly refers to Louis’ majestic stature. Cynical, outspoken St. Simon, the least courtly of all Louis’ courtiers, was astounded at the audacity of a statement by the royal Duke of Burgundy that in his opinion ‘kings should exist for the good of the people, and not the people for the good of kings.’ Delighted by the novelty and benevolence of this sentiment, St. Simon was nevertheless terrified by its boldness, and would not, he said, have dared to utter it in the court of the Grand Monarque.
Whilst this submissiveness outwardly continued under Louis XIV., some of the more intolerable privileges of the aristocracy were either legally abated or had fallen into desuetude. For one thing, Charolois, riding by, could no longer sportively snipe at the slater or plumber on the house roof, watching them fall, but must now content him with grouse and partridges. That kind of sport would be forbidden as merely wanton; but the actual Revolutionary period had arrived before Deputy Lapoule proposed the formal abrogation of the incredible law which allowed a seigneur, returning fatigued from the hunt, to kill not more than two serfs and refresh himself by putting his feet in their warm blood and bowels.
These and other preposterous privileges - among them the jus primæ noctis - if they ever really all of them were in operation, had fallen into abeyance by the end of Louis XV.’s reign. But still men and women starved - not here and there, but in millions.
Riding one morning in the Wood of Senart, the old king met a peasant carrying a coffin. Inquiring whose coffin it was, he was told it was for a poor slave his Majesty had noticed toiling in that part. ‘What did he die of ?’ ‘Of hunger!’ was the answer. The King, says Carlyle, ‘gave his horse the spur.’ Arthur Young, too, writing as late as 1788, describes how he overtook a woman who was staggering uphill under a burden too heavy for her famine-pinched, toil-stricken limbs. She looked sixty, but Arthur asking her age, she told him she was twenty-eight. She had seven children, a drudge husband, a cow, and a garron. There were rents and quit-rents ; hens to pay to this seigneur, oat-sacks to that, kings labour, Statute labour, church taxes, taxes enough. She had heard that somewhere, in some manner, something is to be done for the poor. ‘God send it soon,’ she says, ‘for the dues and taxes crush us down’ (nous écrasent). And the vehement, observant, sympathetic Englishman says: ‘The signs of a Grand Seigneur being landlord are wastes, landes, deserts, ling: go to his residence, you will find it in the middle of a forest, peopled with deer, wild boars, and wolves. The fields are scenes of pitiable management, as the houses are of misery. To see so many hands that would be industrious all idle and starving - Oh, if I were legislator of France for one day, I would make these great lords skip again!’
And skip they did, with urgency in the rear. In the Mâconnais and Beaujolais alone seventy-two chateaux were burned when the day of retribution at last arrived.
The Revolution was primarily a rising against hunger. All through the revolutionary period, in the city of Paris especially, the demand was for bread. Women stood for hours in queues at the bakers’ shops, a soldier on duty within to see that bread and flour were sold at no higher than a fixed price. The ragged legionaries of the Republic, officered by men promoted from the ranks, declared that with bread and steel they could go round the world, and on a hundred victorious fields made good the boast. It was hunger that prompted the drum-led march of the women of Paris through the mud and the rain to Versailles - a march in which amazonian market women, smart milliners, and grand dames compelled to dismount from their carriages, all took part. The fourth verse of ‘The Carmagnole’ - more popular than ‘The Marseillaise’ - runs
Que demande un republicain?
Du fer, du plomb, aussi du pain.
Du fer pour travailler,
Du plomb pour se’venger,
Et du pain pour ses frères,
Vive le son, vive le son,
Et du pain pour ses frères,
Vive le son du canon.
Or, as translated with freedom and spirit
O what is it the people need?
They ask for bread and iron and lead,
The iron to win our pay,
The lead our foes to slay,
The bread our friends to feed,
Vive le son, etc.
One of the popular cries was ‘Bread and the Constitution.’ Only people who were starved could have so much to say about the plain staff of life.
The Unteachable Aristocracy.
If we deplore and abhor the September massacres and the guillotinings of three years, do not let us forget the dragonnades, the oubliettes, the breakings on the wheel, the hanging of peaceful petitioners on ‘a new gallows, forty feet high,’ the systematic oppression that for centuries preceded and provoked the revolutionary reprisals. Do not let us forget the constant plotting against the Republic by a convicted and deposed ruling class, the dangers by which it was menaced without and harrassed within. The Bourbons learnt nothing and forgot nothing, and the same might be said of the French aristocracy as a whole. To this day, conspiracies against the Republic still occupy the time of royalists who cannot be reconciled to the idea that rank and privilege should be of no account in France.
Accustomed as the Anglo-Celtic people of Britain and America are to compromise, to give and take, to the acceptance of ‘new things that are good for the world’ even if they may be hurtful to us personally, we are at a loss to understand the inveterate obstinacy of the French aristocracy to receive measures of reform when proposed, or even to be reconciled to long-established salutary changes. The infatuation of the French nobility is without precedent in secular history. We have to go to the Pharaoh whose heart was ten times hardened against recognition of the inevitable.
An Impossible Task.
Turgot, saturated with liberal ideas, but a moderate and practical economist, would have saved the monarchy and averted a catastrophic revolution if anybody could. But his proposal to tax the noblesse and the clergy was received with indignant astonishment by the interested classes, and Turgot had to go. M. de Clugny, who succeeded, could suggest nothing better, and shortly gave way to Necker. That successful banker, who, like Turgot, was one of the Encyclopedists, promptly repeated what Turgot had proposed, and took, also, the practical, immediate step of suppressing over six hundred places about court, to the ‘great tristesse of the Œil-de Boeuf’ (literally, bull’s eye, a window in the palace at Versailles, but used here as a figurative term for the court party). Necker had to go. To him succeeded, for brief periods, Polignac, Coigny, Besenval, in turn. None of these had anything to suggest save that the rich should bear some slight share of the public burdens.
Calonne, polite and resourceful, kept floating for a time by raising loans, spending on the Stock Exchange £50,000 a-day in promoting his schemes of borrowing. But the embarrassment of the finances continuing, what could Calonne do but propose a land tax from which no landlord should be exempt? That was enough.
To Calonne succeeded, in turn, Fourqueux, Villedeuil, and, more notably, Cardinal Loménie de Brienne, Archbishop of Toulouse, sixty years of age and dissolute and worthless, who took the office of Controller-General of Finances, with the title of Prime Minister. Loménie’s first edicts are for creation of Provincial Assemblies to apportion the imposts, for suppression of corvées (or statute labour, as in the maintenance of the highways), and for alleviation of the gabelle (or salt tax).
Beginning of the Revolution.
These were popular concessions, and the placing of the onus of apportioning the imposts upon provincial assemblies was a shrewd method of enabling the Cardinal to escape responsibility for such proposals as had been made by Turgot, Necker, and the other cashiered controllers. Unfortunately for the Cardinal he had occasion presently (16th July, 1787) to ask the Parliament of Paris to register a Stamp Act. The Parliament - a corrupt body chiefly composed of lawyers who bought their places - instead of registering the Stamp Act as a matter of course, want to know what is the state of the expenditure and what reductions are to be made on it. This incident - the first formal refusal by a corporate body to register the behests of the court - may be said to mark the beginning of the Revolution. Its subsequent course is a matter of detail - picturesque, thrilling, sorrowful, but too voluminous for anything but the barest summary here. In the fourteen years 1774 to 1788 there were eleven changes of Premier.
The Treasury Insolvent.
On the 16th of August, 1788, a proclamation announces that Treasury payments shall henceforth be three-fifths in cash, two-fifths in paper, meaning practically that the Treasury is insolvent, Loménie is thereupon dismissed, amid popular rejoicing, and six days later Necker is recalled from Switzerland to resume his impossible task.
Assembly of the States-General.
In the beginning of May the long-wished-for States-General assembles at Versailles, where presently the Third Estate, strong in its own numbers and joined by a section of the nobility and clergy, becomes the National Assembly, entrusted with the duty of making a Constitution.
Fall of the Bastille.
On Sunday, the 12th of July, Necker is once more dismissed, and the Bastille, stormed by an infuriated mob and feebly defended, falls into the hands of the mob, who are assisted by the Gardes Françaises. The Marquis De Launay, governor of the Bastille, was to have blown up the magazine, but the hand which was to fire the magazine is gripped by one of the garrison, and a catastrophe averted. De Launay, borne through a threatening mob, is at last attacked. ‘Oh, friends, kill me fast,’ he says. The last seen of him is ‘his bloody hair-queue borne aloft in a bloody hand.’
With the razing of the Bastille, old secrets came to light, still further to inflame the revolutionists. Among many other papers, a fragment is found, bearing the signature of a prisoner, Quéret-Demery, unknown to history save by his pathetic appeal: ‘If for my consolation,’ wrote the heart-broken man, ‘Monseigneur would grant me for the sake of God and the Most Blessed Trinity, that I could have news of my dear wife, were it only her name on a card to show that she is alive, it were the greatest consolation I could receive; and I should forever bless the greatness of Monseigneur.’ ‘Poor prisoner,’ said Carlyle, ‘she is dead, that dear wife of thine, and thou art dead! ’Tis fifty years since thy breaking heart put this question; to be heard now first, and long heard, in the hearts of men.’
The March of the Menads.
On the 5th of October ‘some 1o,000 women’ march to Versailles, and bring back the Royal Family to Paris. This month the emigration of the nobles and princes of the blood begins.
On the 20th of June, 1791, the King takes flight, with the intention of co-operating with the outside enemies of France, who are preparing an invasion in the interests of reaction. Louis, held up at Varennes, is brought back a captive to Paris, any prestige he had gone from him for ever.
The 24th of July, 1792, witnesses the Prussian Declaration of War; and the Duke of Brunswick’s manifesto threatening France with military execution is dated Coblentz, July 27. On the 29th the Marseillese arrive in Paris, having marched in less than a month from the remote end of France in response to the call of Barbaroux for ‘five hundred men know who how to die.’ (In Felix Gras’ novel ‘The Reds of the Midi’ there is an admirably detailed and graphic description of this unique march, and of some of the notable incidents in Paris in which the Marseillese took part. The tale also gives, in the opening chapters, a striking view of the state of rural France in the immediate pre-Revolution stage.)
By the end of August the Prussians, with the emigrés, have invaded France. Under Dumouriez and Kellerman, the French, so far from flying, as was expected, give a very good account of themselves; and the Prussians, checked at all points, and harassed by rainy weather, dysentery, and famine, are obliged to retreat, the invasion begun with such terrible threats ending in discomfiture for Brunswick and his emigré advisers.
The Reign of Terror Begun.
After a five-days’ trial and two days’ voting on the sentence, Louis is executed on the 21st of January, 1792.
The King is no sooner out of the way than the Revolution begins to devour its own children. The stalwarts of the Mountain have the best of it in the struggle with the gentlemanly Girondins, thirty-two of whom are put under arrest in their own houses, from which they emerge to various adventures, ending at the guillotine, where they sing ‘The Marseillaise’ in chorus on the scaffold.
On the 16th of October, 1793, the hapless Marie Antoinette is executed. The following few months the guillotine is busy, the Reign of Terror having fully set in. The victims include d’Orleans and Madame Roland in November; Anacharsis Clootz in March, ’94; and Danton in April. Danton was probably the most single-minded man in the Revolution, as he was the most merciful in policy.
On the 28th of July, Robespierre, his jaw broken in an unsuccessful attempt at suicide with a pistol, is dragged with his confederates to the place of death. As the tumbril passes, gendarmes point their swords at the wretched figure, with its dirty and blood-stained linen bandages, to show the people the veritable object of their hatred. A woman springs on the low cart, and, waving one hand, exclaims: ‘The death of thee gladdens my indebted heart.’ Robespierre opens his eyes. ‘Scélérat, go down to Hell, with the curses of all wives and mothers!’ says the sibyl. It was the irony of fate. Robespierre was a theocratic (not to say religious) zealot, and but did his duty, as he perversely conceived it, in an impossible tangle of circumstances. His brother Augustin died for him. His poor landlord loved him.
With the death of Robespierre the Reign of Terror ended, and the Revolution rapidly shaded off in the downfall of Sansculottism, the victories of Napoleon, and the recrudescence of luxury, genteel sentiment, the Directory, and finally the First Empire.
But the Revolution was very far from having been abortive. The Frenchman of the towns may live in an insanitary half-flat; but in spite of the double drain of past wars and present militarism, with, of course, the conscription, his standard of comfort is in some respects superior to that of the British workman. He feeds much better. He works in a more leisurely fashion. If he wear a blouse, at least the family linen press would set up a moderate-sized napery establishment.
The Middle-Class View.
Writing in 1853, Richard Cobden said: ‘Tell the eight millions of landed proprietors in France that they shall exchange lots with the English people, where the labourer who cultivates the farm has no more proprietary interest in the soil than the horses he drives, and he will be stricken with horror.’ The French nation, instead of being ashamed of the Revolution, do in fact cling to the work of 1789 with thankfulness and tenacity. Men of the most opposite opinions on every other subject agree that to the Revolution in its normal phases France is indebted for a more rapid advance in civilization, wealth, and happiness than was ever previously made by any community of a similar extent in the same period of time. ‘No people,’ wrote Cobden, ‘have ever clung with more unshaken staunchness to the essential principles and main objects of a revolution than have the French. When you say that their new Emperor [Napoleon III.] is absolute and his will omnipotent, remember there are three things he dare not attempt to do. He dare not attempt to endow with land and tithes one sect as the exclusively paid religion of the State. He could not create a system of primogeniture and entail, and finally he could not impose a tax on succession to personal property and leave real property free. In England we have all three.’
The Actual Position.
Like all countries where capitalism is highly developed, France suffers from great economic inequalities and social contrasts. The Church lands were confiscated in 1789. Lands were surrendered to the State by patriotic seigneurs at the same time, and many patrimonies belonging to nobles guillotined during the Revolution, or of émigrés who died abroad or were killed during the Brunswick invasion, also reverted to the State, but unfortunately were resold. All this tended to break up large properties; and in 1899 no less than 71 per cent of the agricultural holdings in France were the property of the cultivators. But while peasant proprietary thus accounts for about three-fourths of the actual holdings, the nominal owner is often heavily in debt. One half of the three million properties are estimated to be under mortgage, poor men having entered upon them without the requisite capital for their successful working. The rural Frenchman is frugal and industrious, but taxes are still heavy. * The farmer’s wife cannot take a fowl to market without paying octroi duty upon it, and besides the heavy customs duties upon many articles imported, there is a house tax, a rent tax, a window tax, and a licence has to be taken out by all traders and professional men before starting in business. The people who ‘thrive’ in France are not the 8,000,000 engaged in forestry and agriculture, nor the 5,000,000 employed in manufacturing industries, but the comparative handful of coalowners, iron masters, army contractors, and stock-exchange people. There is still plenty of work for the social and economic reformer to do in France.
*British taxation is now much heavier, but more fairly distributed.
PART TWO NEXT MONTH
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