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LECTURE VII: The Growth of Collectivism - Albert Venn Dicey, Lectures on the Relation between Law and Public Opinion in England during the Nineteenth Century (LF ed.) 
Lectures on the Relation between Law and Public Opinion in England during the Nineteenth Century, edited and with an Introduction by Richard VandeWetering (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008).
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The Growth of Collectivism
with the passing of the Reform Act began the reign of liberalism, and the utilitarianism of common sense acquired, in appearance at least, despotic power, but this appearance was to a certain extent delusive. At the moment of the Benthamite triumph there were to be found thinkers who, while insisting on the need for thorough-going reforms, denied the moral authority of individualism and denounced the dogma of laissez faire.
This vital difference between two opposed schools of thought had more than a merely speculative interest. It determined men’s way of looking at by far the most pressing social problem of the day. The fifteen years from 1830 to 1845, which may well be termed the era of the Reform Act, were among the most critical in the history of England. The time was out of joint. The misery and discontent of city artisans and village labourers were past dispute. No Act of Parliament could remove at a stroke the wretchedness and pauperism created by the old poor law. The true cure contained in the new poor law of 1834, with its drastic severity, its curtailment of outdoor relief, and its detested Bastilles, increased for the moment the sufferings of the poorest amongst the poor, and excited intense popular resentment. The wages earned by labourers in the country were miserably low. The horrors connected with factory life were patent. Widespread was the discontent of the whole body of wage-earners. It is recorded in a series of state trials for sedition, for conspiracy, or for treason, extending from 1832 to 1843.1 There was rick-burning2 by labourers in the country, there were acts of violence by trade unionists in the towns. The demand for the People’s Charter was the sign of a social condition which portended revolution. To us who know that several points of the People’s Charter have passed into law without causing social or political disturbance, the thought may occur that Chartism loomed too large in the eyes of contemporaries. But the men of 1832 understood the time in which they lived. The cry for the Charter told of bitter class hatreds and of widespread dissatisfaction with the whole constitution of society. Men who have known England only during the years of prosperity and of general good-will which have followed the repeal of the corn laws, can hardly realise the urgency with which the “state of England question” thrust itself upon the attention of the public between 1832 and 1840. It was a terrible question enough; it was nothing else than the inquiry, how, if at all, was it possible to alleviate the miseries and remove the discontent of the working classes?
The reply of utilitarian Liberals was in substance clear. The policy of wisdom was, they insisted, to make the nation, as the Reform Act was intended to do, master of its own destiny. Hence, it was argued, would follow the removal of every definite abuse and the repeal of every unjust law, and especially of any law which pressed unfairly and hardly upon the poor. This being done, law, it was assumed rather than stated, could do no more; for the ultimate cure of social diseases we must trust to general good-will, and above all to individual energy and self-help.
Nowhere is this doctrine better expressed than in the refutation by Sydney Smith of the argument familiar to the toryism of 1830, that the Reform Bill would bring no benefit to the hewer of wood and drawer of water.
“What good,” says Sydney Smith in 1830,
to the hewer of wood and the drawer of water? How is he benefited, if Old Sarum is abolished, and Birmingham members created? But if you ask this question of Reform, you must ask it of a great number of other great measures. How is he benefited by Catholic Emancipation, by the repeal of the Corporation and Test Act, by the Revolution of 1688, by any great political change, by a good government? In the first place, if many are benefited, and the lower orders are not injured, this alone is reason enough for the change. But the hewer of wood and the drawer of water are benefited by Reform. Reform will produce economy and investigation; there will be fewer jobs, and a less lavish expenditure; wars will not be persevered in for years after the people are tired of them; taxes will be taken off the poor and laid upon the rich; demotic habits will be more common in a country where the rich are forced to court the poor for political power; cruel and oppressive punishments (such as those for night-poaching) will be abolished. If you steal a pheasant you will be punished as you ought to be, but not sent away from your wife and children for seven years. Tobacco will be 2d. per lb. cheaper. Candles will fall in price. These last results of an improved government will be felt. We do not pretend to abolish poverty, or to prevent wretchedness; but if peace, economy, and justice are the results of Reform, a number of small benefits, or rather of benefits which appear small to us, but not to them, will accrue to millions of the people; and the connection between the existence of John Russell, and the reduced price of bread and cheese, will be as clear as it has been the object of his honest, wise, and useful life to make it.
Don’t be led away by such nonsense; all things are dearer under a bad government, and cheaper under a good one. The real question they ask you is, What difference can any change of government make to you? They want to keep the bees from buzzing and stinging, in order that they may rob the hive in peace.3
Every one of these predictions has been fulfilled almost to the letter.
Turn now for illustrations of the protest against the dominant individualism of the day to the language of three men of genius who agreed in nothing but in their common distrust of laissez faire, and in their conviction that some great exertion of the authority of the State was needed for the cure of the diseases which afflicted the commonwealth.
“Moral evils,” writes Southey (1829), “are of [man’s] own making; and undoubtedly the greater part of them may be prevented, though it is only in Paraguay (the most imperfect of Utopias) that any attempt at prevention has been carried into effect.”4
And this prevention was, in Southey’s judgment, to be effected by the moral authority of the Church and the action of the State.
“This neglect,” writes Dr. Arnold (1838), namely, to provide a proper position in the State for the manufacturing population,
is encouraged by one of the falsest maxims which ever pandered to human selfishness under the name of political wisdom—I mean the maxim that civil society ought to leave its members alone, each to look after their several interests, provided they do not employ direct fraud or force against their neighbour. That is, knowing full well that these are not equal in natural powers,—and that still less have they ever within historical memory started with equal artificial advantages; knowing, also, that power of every sort has a tendency to increase itself, we stand by and let this most unequal race take its own course, forgetting that the very name of society implies that it shall not be a mere race, but that its object is to provide for the common good of all, by restraining the power of the strong and protecting the helplessness of the weak.5
“That the arrangements,” writes Carlyle in 1839,
of good and ill success in this perplexed scramble of a world, which a blind goddess was always thought to preside over, are in fact the work of a seeing goddess or god, and require only not to be meddled with: what stretch of heroic faculty or inspiration of genius was needed to teach one that? To button your pockets and stand still is no complex recipe. Laissez faire, laissez passer! [Laissez faire, leave it be!]6 Whatever goes on, ought it not to go on. . . . Such at bottom seems to be the chief social principle, if principle it have, which the Poor Law Amendment Act has the merit of courageously asserting, in opposition to many things. A chief social principle which this present writer, for one, will by no manner of means believe in, but pronounce at all fit times to be false, heretical, and damnable, if ever aught was.7
Between 1830 and 1840 the issue between individualists and collectivists was fairly joined. Can the systematic extension of individual freedom and the removal of every kind of oppression so stimulate individual energy and self-help as to cure (in so far as they are curable by legislation) the evils which bring ruin on a commonwealth?
To this inquiry the enlightened opinion of 1832, which for some thirty or forty years, if not for more, governed the action of Parliament, gave, in spite of protests from a small body of thinkers backed more or less by the sympathy of the working classes, an unhesitating and affirmative answer. To the same inquiry English legislative opinion has from about 1870 onwards given a doubtful, if not a negative, reply.
My purpose in this lecture is to explain a revolution of social or political belief which forms a remarkable phenomenon in the annals of opinion. This explanation in reality is nothing else than an attempted analysis of the conditions or causes which have favoured the growth of collectivism, or, if the matter be looked at from the other side, have undermined the authority of Benthamite liberalism.8
A current explanation lies ready to hand. Under the Parliamentary Reform Acts 1867–1884 the constitution of England has been transformed into a democracy, and this revolution, it is argued, completely explains the increasing influence of socialism. The many must always be the poor, and the poor are by nature socialists. Where you have democracy there you will find socialism.
This reasoning, as already pointed out,9 is essentially fallacious. Democracy cannot be identified with any one kind of legislative opinion. The government of England is far less democratic than is the government of the United States, but the legislation of Congress is less socialistic than the legislation of the Imperial Parliament. Nor in England are laws tending towards socialism due to the political downfall of the wealthy classes. Under a democratic constitution they retain much substantial power—they determine in many ways the policy of the country. The rich have but feebly resisted, even if they have not furthered, collectivist legislation. The advance of democracy cannot afford the main explanation of the predominance of legislative collectivism.
The true explanation is to be found, not in the changed form of the constitution, but in conditions of which the advance of democracy is indeed one, but whereof the most important had been in operation before the Reform Act of 1867 came into force.
These conditions, which constantly co-operated, may be conveniently brought under the following heads: Tory Philanthropy and the Factory Movement10 —the Changed Attitude after 1848 of the Working Classes—the Modification of Economic Beliefs—the Characteristics of Modern Commerce—the Introduction of Household Suffrage.
Tory Philanthropy and the Factory Movement
The age of individualism was emphatically the era of humanitarianism—it was the philanthropy of the day which, in the midst of the agitation for parliamentary reform, would not suffer the wrongs of the negroes to be forgotten. Now at the very time when the country was moved to passionate indignation at the horrors of West Indian slavery, public attention was suddenly directed, by the publication of Richard Oastler’s Slavery in Yorkshire, to oppression, not in the West Indies, but in Yorkshire—to the bondage, not of negroes, but of English children. The horrors denounced by Oastler were of precisely the kind which most outraged the humanitarianism of the day. His appeal to the English public went home; it was the true beginning of the factory movement.11
That movement was in truth the fruit of humanitarianism.
The earliest Factory Act belongs to an age (1802) when English statesmen had hardly heard of socialism. The strength of Oastler’s appeal was public indignation at the physical sufferings brought, as it was believed, by the greed of manufacturers upon helpless infants. That English children were held in bondage, that to perform their task-work they were compelled under cruel punishment to walk as much as twenty miles a day, that their day’s work lasted for from twelve to sixteen hours, were the facts or allegations which aroused the pity and the wrath of the nation. The vehemence of popular indignation had in its origin nothing to do with socialistic theories. The factory movement was in full accordance with the traditional principle of the common law that all persons below twenty-one had a claim to special protection. Nor was there anything in the early factory movement which was opposed either to Benthamism or to the doctrines of the most rigid political economy. Individualists of every school were only too keenly alive to the danger that the sinister interest of a class should work evil to the weak and helpless. They almost identified power with despotism. In 1836 Cobden was not only willing, but ready to exclude absolutely from labour in a cotton mill any child below the age of thirteen.
As respects the right and justice by which young persons ought to be protected from excessive labour, my mind has ever been decided, and I will not argue the matter for a moment with political economy; it is a question for the medical and not the economical profession; I will appeal to —— or Astley Cooper, and not to McCulloch or Martineau. Nor does it require the aid of science to inform us that the tender germ of childhood is unfitted for that period of labour which even persons of mature age shrink from as excessive. In my opinion, and I hope to see the day when such a feeling is universal, no child ought to be put to work in a cotton-mill at all so early as the age of thirteen years; and after that the hours should be moderate, and the labour light, until such time as the human frame is rendered by nature capable of enduring the fatigues of adult labour. With such feelings as these strongly pervading my mind, I need not perhaps add that, had I been in the House of Commons during the last session of Parliament, I should have opposed with all my might Mr. Poulett Thomson’s measure for postponing the operation of the clause for restricting the hours of infant labour.12
Nor need Cobden have hesitated to appeal to McCulloch. This economist had already in 1833 thus expressed his sympathy with Lord Ashley’s13 philanthropic efforts:
I hope your Factory Bill will prosper, and I am glad it is in such good hands. Had I a seat in the House it should assuredly have my vote. A notion is entertained that political economists are, in all cases, enemies to all sorts of interference, but I assure you I am not one of those who entertain such an opinion. I would not interfere between adults and masters; but it is absurd to contend that children have the power to judge for themselves as to such a matter. I look upon the facts disclosed in the late Report as most disgraceful to the nation; and I confess that, until I read it, I could not have conceived it possible that such enormities were committed. Perhaps you have seen the late work of M. Cousin, who was sent by the French Government to report on the state of education in Germany. It is well worth your Lordship’s attention. In Prussia, and most other German States, all persons are obliged to send their children to school from the age of seven to thirteen or fourteen years, and the education given to them is excellent; as much superior to anything to be had in this country as it is possible to conceive. This is the sort of interference that we ought gradually to adopt. If your Bill has any defect, it is not by the too great limitation, but by the too great extension of the hours of labour.14
Macaulay was at no time of his life fascinated by the ideals or tolerant of the weaknesses of socialism, yet under the influence of humanitarianism, as of common sense, he made by far the best defence delivered in Parliament15 of the Ten Hours Bill. Southey, anticipator though he was of socialistic ideas, denounced the employment of children in factories on the simple ground of humanity.
“There is one thing,” he writes to Lord Ashley,
connected with these accursed factories which I have long intended to expose, and that is, the way in which Sunday Schools have been subservient to the merciless love of gain. The manufacturers know that a cry would be raised against them if their little white slaves received no instruction; and so they have converted Sunday into a school-day, with what effect may be seen in the evidences!
Thousands of thousands will bless you for taking up the cause of these poor children. I do not believe that anything more inhuman than the system has ever disgraced human nature in any age or country. Was I not right in saying that Moloch is a more merciful friend16 than Mammon? Death in the brazen arms of the Carthaginian idol was mercy to the slow waste of life in the factories.17
Humanitarianism, then, was the parent, if socialism was the offspring, of the factory movement, and that movement from the first came under the guidance of Tories.
With this movement will be for ever identified the names of Southey, Oastler, Sadler, and above all of Lord Shaftesbury.
The character and the career of these leaders is the best illustration of the intimate connection between the attack on the iniquities of the factory system and toryism.
Southey (1774–1843) was in 1830 a Tory of the Tories. His whole career is paradoxical. He had once been a Jacobin, he had never been a Whig. He understood revolutionary enthusiasm; he had no desire for moderate reform or appreciation of its benefits. The foundation of his political creed was belief in the advantages to be derived from the free employment of the influence of the Church and the resources of the State for the benefit of the poor. This creed made it easy for the philanthropic Jacobin of 1794 to develop into the humanitarian Tory of 1830. It was natural for Whigs to see in Southey a weather-cock which, having turned rusty, had set up for a sign-post; it was equally natural that in Southey’s own mind the essential identity of his sentiment in youth and in old age should conceal from him the apparent transformation of his political principles. His fame in his own day rested on his position as a man of letters. Even his friends could not have thought him a powerful reasoner; they must have expected that though his writings might be long remembered for their literary merits, he would never exert any memorable influence as a social reformer. But it is now manifest that while Southey’s literary reputation has declined, his ideas on social questions exerted a permanent influence. He was a Carlyle without Carlyle’s rhetorical genius and rough humour, but also without Carlyle’s cynical contempt for humanitarianism. He was essentially a philanthropist. He is to us the prophetic precursor of modern collectivism. To his own generation he was the preacher of Tory philanthropy. The text on which he preached with the utmost vehemence was the duty of abolishing the cruelties of factory life.
Oastler (1789–1861) was a demagogue, but he was also a Churchman, a Tory, and a Protectionist. He hated the new poor law partly for the hardship it inflicted upon the poor, partly because he foresaw it would lead to the repeal of the corn laws, and believed that it would be fatal to the influence of the Church and of the landowners. A certain unity is given to the demagogic career of this “Factory king” by his denunciation of the whole system of factory labour. To him is due both the enthusiasm which ultimately carried the Ten Hours Bill and the gross exaggeration which identified the sufferings of children in English factories with the abominations of West Indian slavery, and thus excited the legitimate indignation even of manufacturers who were also philanthropists.
Michael Sadler (1780–1835) was born a member of the Church of England. Brought up in Tory principles, he remained throughout life a fervent Tory. He opposed Catholic Emancipation and Parliamentary reform. In 1823 the wrong done to children in factories enlisted his keenest sympathy. He was already interested in economical and social questions, and became not only the leader, but the theorist of the factory movement. As a sort of Christian and Tory socialist he attacked, though without any true grasp of political economy, the individualism which underlay the teaching of economists such as Ricardo. He thus introduced into the factory movement ideas which pointed towards socialism.
Sadler’s public career represents dramatically the collision between Whig liberalism and Tory philanthropy. Twice he came into conflict with Macaulay, and twice he suffered defeat. In 1830 Sadler’s ignorant and illogical attacks on Malthusianism involved him in a literary duel with the eloquent Whig reviewer. Party spirit ran high. Sadler’s reasoning was full of flaws, and he suffered a disastrous argumentative overthrow; his critic did not care to consider whether inaccurately stated dogmas might not contain some element of neglected truth. In 1832 Sadler, who had sat in Parliament for a rotten borough abolished by the Reform Act, was a candidate for the representation of the newly created constituency of Leeds. His opponent was again Macaulay, and their second encounter ended in Sadler’s defeat. This conclusion of the conflict was appropriate; it was fitting that the brilliant representative of liberalism should share the general triumph of individualism. It was also fitting that the representative of expiring toryism and as yet unrecognised collectivism, should suffer a repulse. That the humanitarian Whig and the Tory philanthropist, who were really at one on the necessity of protecting overworked children from ill usage, should in 1832 have understood one another was an impossibility. At the bottom of the literary and of the political battle lay the difference which divides liberalism from socialism.
Sadler’s electoral defeat had one result of immense importance. It passed the leadership of the factory movement, then summed up in the demand for the Ten Hours Bill, into the hands of its most famous leader.
Lord Shaftesbury was the ideal Tory humanitarian.
To him we may apply Cowper’s well-known line which eulogises or satirises a peer who lent dignity to the early evangelical revival as—
One who wears a coronet, and prays.
In spirit Lord Shaftesbury always “wore a coronet”; he was, in the words of an American observer, the “complete beau-ideal of aristocracy.” He inherited, together with the virtues, at least one of the faults often belonging to high lineage, he lacked all play of intellect or of fancy; he possessed neither subtlety nor versatility. At the foundation of his character lay moral and intellectual rigidity. Though an Oxford First Class man, he was in no way affected by the training which left indelible traces upon the minds, one might say upon the very natures of Cardinal Newman, Dr. Arnold, and Gladstone. If Lord Shaftesbury’s collegiate career were at some future time to be inferred from his tastes and from his opinions, the obvious surmise of an historical inquirer would be that his Lordship graduated at Cambridge and never missed a sermon of Simeon’s. In his purely political opinions he was all of a piece; he exhibits the stiffness of a Tory as rigid and thorough-going as could be a man of much sound sense and of a very sensitive conscience. He opposed Catholic Emancipation, and voted at last for the Catholic Relief Bill only when Peel’s surrender made the concession of political rights to Roman Catholics a necessity. He came into Parliament as a protectionist, and when he saw that protection must be given up, resigned a seat which he had gained as an opponent of free trade. During his later life he placed much confidence in Palmerston, but when that most aristocratic of Liberal Premiers perceived what Bagehot has termed “the inestimable and unprecedented opportunity” of reforming the House of Lords without agitation, Lord Shaftesbury pronounced the proposal to create life peers to be as pernicious as it was specious, and foreboded that it would end in making the House of Lords like the American Senate. Ignorance, very characteristic of an English nobleman, was in this instance—not at all a solitary one—as remarkable as prejudice; for in 1857 to have given the House of Lords the position then held by the American Senate would have made the peers the most powerful body in the State. Lord Shaftesbury opposed throughout his career everything which he deemed a concession to Papal claims or to the High Church movement. But if he was an ardent Protestant, he was in theological matters intolerant of free thought18 and of free discussion. Opposition to the results of Biblical criticism led him indeed into a curious alliance with Pusey.
Lord Shaftesbury, however, was primarily neither a politician nor a theologian, but a religious humanitarian. As he believed, and, as his critics, to whatever school they belong, may well believe also, it was implicit faith in a definite religious creed which compelled him to devote his life to philanthropic labours. One singularity at any rate of his career, and a singularity which for the purpose of these lectures proves to be of great importance, is that his defects no less than his virtues contributed to the success, and still more to the wide-reaching results of his work. Lord Shaftesbury formed no social theories. He never consciously advocated any measures which in his eyes savoured of socialism, a creed which he seemingly connected with infidelity.19 At the same time he did not understand, as did Macaulay, the grounds on which factory legislation might be defended by men who distrusted all socialistic experiments. From Southey he had imbibed that opposition to laissez faire which is characteristic of every collectivist, and which falls in with the natural desire of an ardent philanthropist to save from immediate suffering any class of persons who are unable completely to protect themselves against oppression, and to do this by the means which lie nearest to hand, without deeply considering whether action which gives immediate relief to sufferers, e.g. women overworked in factories, may not possibly in the end produce evils of untold magnitude. Lord Shaftesbury, in short, was in practice, though not in theory, the apostle of governmental interference, and this, in part at least, because his intellectual limitations prevented him from realising the difficulty of reconciling paternal government with respect for individual freedom. Here we see how his very deficiencies increased his influence. They gained for him the support of two classes who do not in England often act together. The artisans were glad to follow a leader who shared their faith in the benefits to be derived from extending the authority of the State, and who with them felt no love whatever, to use the mildest terms, for manufacturers or mill-owners. If his latent and unconscious socialism conciliated working men, his position and his defects enlisted for him the support of members of the middle-class who would never have followed a demagogue or a democrat. He was born heir to an English peerage—he became an English peer; he was a rigid Tory—he was not a theorist; he was a Low Churchman, he was the friend of Dissenters; he detested Roman Catholicism, Republicanism, socialism, and infidelity. How could any good and benevolent man belonging to the middle class fail in the middle of the nineteenth century to feel that his lordship was the safest of guides? Here and there a cold-blooded critic might note that the principles on which Lord Shaftesbury unconsciously acted were of wider application than the philanthropist perceived. A story is told, which may possibly be true, that Lord Melbourne introduced Lord Ashley—as he then was—to the young Queen as “the greatest Jacobin in your Majesty’s dominions.” The tale, if true, illustrates the keen insight of the easygoing Whig premier. But not one among Lord Shaftesbury’s middle-class followers would have seen the true point of the joke. “No one goes so far as the man who doesn’t know where he is going.” This dictum, attributed to Cromwell, holds good both of men and of parties. The chief of the Tory philanthropists and his followers were not revolutionists, but they entered on a path which might well lead towards social revolution, and of which, apparently, they perceived neither the direction nor the goal. However this may be, the factory movement came from the first under the patronage and the guidance of Tories.
The factory movement gave rise to a parliamentary conflict between individualism and collectivism.
With the details of the agitation for the Ten Hours Bill which was not brought to a final close till 1850, with the various Acts passed in the course thereof, and with the ups and downs of the conflict between the opponents and the advocates of the Bill, we are not here concerned. The point here to be insisted upon is that the demand for the Ten Hours Act gave rise to a bitter conflict of which, owing to the circumstances of the day, the true character was concealed from the combatants. Everything was complicated by the accident that the agitation for the repeal of the corn laws covered nearly the same years as the early factory movement; repeal was obtained but one year before the Ten Hours Bill passed into law. In both contests Tories and protectionists were ranged against Radicals and free traders. As regards free trade the Tories played the unpopular part; they opposed the will of the people, and were liable to the charge (often grossly unjust) of starving the poor in order to raise the rents of landowners. The free traders meanwhile stood forward as friends of the people. Nor were the free trade orators in their attacks on protectionists careful to distinguish between economical heterodoxy and moral selfishness. In the battle over the Factory Bill the parts were reversed. Reasoners who insisted upon the indirect evils of State intervention were deemed heartless logicians smitten with a fatuous faith in the dismal science, and mill-owners, believed to wring huge profits out of the toil of overworked children, were placed on a level with slave-owners who refused to put an end to the tyranny from which they drew no small gain. Nor in popular estimation did the radicalism of the cotton lords do them any good. They looked like politicians who, after posing as the assertors of the rights of the people, had first by the new poor law deprived labourers of much-needed relief, and then in the name of laissez faire were claiming the right to overwork the children of artisans; the liberalism of such men might seem to add to cruelty a touch of hypocrisy. The Tory philanthropists, on the other hand, gained popularity, and even ordinary Tories stood forth in a more or less favourable light. They were honest gentlemen who had no liking for the new poor law, and who felt for the pangs of children and women held in bondage by greedy mill-owners. Who can wonder that Tories enjoyed the new sense of popularity, or that their leaders were not blind to the advantages of the situation? Disraeli, no doubt, honestly detested cruelties perpetrated in factories; but the author of Sybil knew well that his novel was a splendid party pamphlet fitted to show that the Tories were the true friends of the working-classes. On both sides there was nothing but misunderstanding and recrimination. If in the eyes of the Tory philanthropists their opponents seemed to be oppressors deficient in the ordinary feelings of humanity, to mill-owners and economists the promoters of the Ten Hours Bill were protectionists, who, under the cloak of philanthropy, tried to revive for their own advantage delusions exposed by the Anti-corn Law League, and who patronised socialism in order to revenge the overthrow of protection; their benevolence was at best stupidity, and at the worst hypocrisy supported by calumny.20
If any one deems this description of animosities which have passed away an exaggeration, let him compare the sort of anathema pronounced by Lord Shaftesbury on the men who came not to his aid in the war against oppression with Bright’s denunciation of the cant which, as he believed, had carried, and of the injustice which had been wrought by, the Ten Hours Act.
“I had,” wrote Lord Shaftesbury in his private diary,
to break every political connection, to encounter a most formidable array of capitalists, mill-owners, doctrinaires, and men who, by natural impulse, hate all “humanity-mongers.” They easily influence the ignorant, the timid, and the indifferent; and my strength lay at first . . . among the Radicals, the Irishmen, and a few sincere Whigs and Conservatives. Peel was hostile, though, in his cunning, he concealed the full extent of his hostility until he took the reins of office, and then he opposed me, not with decision only, but malevolence, threatening, he and Graham, to break up his administration, and “retire into private life” unless the House of Commons rescinded the vote it had given in favour of my Ten Hours Bill. The Tory country gentlemen reversed their votes; but, in 1847, indignant with Peel on the ground of corn law repeal, they returned to the cause of the factory children. . . .
In very few instances did any mill-owner appear on the platform with me; in still fewer the ministers of any religious denomination. . . .
O’Connell was a sneering and bitter opponent. Gladstone ever voted in resistance to my efforts; and Brougham played the doctrinaire in the House of Lords.
Bright was ever my most malignant opponent. Cobden, though bitterly hostile, was better than Bright. He abstained from opposition on the Collieries Bill, and gave positive support on the Calico Print-works Bill.
Gladstone21 is on a level with the rest; he gave no support to the Ten Hours Bill; he voted with Sir R. Peel to rescind the famous division in favour of it. He was the only member who endeavoured to delay the Bill which delivered women and children from mines and pits; and never did he say a word on behalf of the factory children, until, when defending slavery in the West Indies, he taunted Buxton with indifference to the slavery in England!
Lord Brougham was among my most heated opponents. He spoke strongly against the Bill in 1847.
Miss Martineau also gave her voice and strength in resistance to the measure.22
“Why are we mill-owners,” was Bright’s retort,
to be selected as subjects of interference? Why is a Scotchman to be sent to see how I work my people, while the farmer, and the carpenter, and the builder, and the tailor is left to the ordinary responsibilities of law and public opinion? Are we worse educated than they are? Are our people less intelligent, more ready to submit to oppression, or more easy to manage? It was proposed the other day to force us to spend millions in boxing off our machinery. We have in our mills about a thousand work-people. In fifteen years we have had five accidents. We have three carters. In the same space of time two of them have been killed. I have no doubt that in agricultural employments accidents are a hundred times more frequent in proportion to the numbers employed, than those which occur in factories. But we are unpopular, we are envied, we are supposed to be rich, we are Radicals, and Whigs and Tories combine to gain popularity by calumniating us and robbing us. I have advised my partners, if this machinery Bill passes, to set the example of turning the key on the doors of our mills, and to throw on the legislators the responsibility of feeding the millions whom they will not allow us to employ with a profit.23
Such was the language used by men, each of whom was a Christian and a gentleman, each of whom was a staunch friend of the people, and each of whom was incapable of conscious slander or malignity; it was used, be it noted, not in the heat of conflict, but after the fight for the Ten Hours Bill had been won and lost.
All this invective was unjust. Bright was not a Legree; Peel was not a Bounderby, nor Gladstone a Gradgrind; Lord Shaftesbury was no political Pecksniff. The leading opponents, no less than the leading supporters of the factory movement, were men of high public spirit and undoubted humanity. What is the explanation of their antagonism? Lord Shaftesbury’s list of opponents supplies the answer. They were all of them individualists, whilst the Tory philanthropists were, though they knew it not, the leaders of a reaction; the factory movement was the battle-field of collectivism against individualism, and on that field Benthamite liberalism suffered its earliest and severest defeat. The bitterness of the conflict was probably increased by the consciousness of both of the parties to it that their own case had in it an element of weakness. Experience has proved that neither party was entirely in the right. The Ten Hours Act has not ruined British industry, and has put an end to much suffering. So far the policy of Lord Shaftesbury has been justified, and the resistance of the manufacturers has been condemned by experience. But the Ten Hours Act has tended towards socialism, and contains within it the germs of an unlimited revolution, of which no man can as yet weigh with confidence the benefits against the evils; and this revolution was one which Lord Shaftesbury did not intend to favour, and to the possibility whereof he was absolutely blind. Bright and his associates were far more keen sighted than the Tory philanthropists.
The factory movement introduced socialistic enactments into the law of England and gave prestige and authority to the ideas of collectivism.
The existing labour code,24 which consolidates a whole line of Factory Acts, is the most notable achievement of English socialism.25 The assertion, therefore, that the factory movement of which these Acts were the outcome, fostered the growth of socialism and gave authority to the ideas of collectivism, appears at first sight to involve the absurdity of putting the cart before the horse, and of treating legislation, which resulted from a particular state of opinion, as the cause of the state of opinion whence it sprung. But to a student who has grasped the true relation between law and opinion,26 this apparent absurdity becomes an obvious truism. To him the history of the factory movement is of itself sufficient proof that laws may be the creators of legislative opinion.
The effect, indeed, of the factory legislation embodied in the Ten Hours Act27 and the enactments which led up to it, may appear at first sight to be nothing more than the protection from overwork of children, young persons, and women28 employed in a limited number of manufactories. But this legislation had in reality far wider results. It recognised the principle that the regulation of public labour is the concern of the State and laid the basis for a whole system of governmental inspection and control. It fixed the hours of labour in the factories to which it applied for every woman,29 whatever her age, and conferred upon her a protection, as well as imposed upon her a disability which is absolutely unknown to the common law of England, and is directly opposed to the fundamental assumptions of individualism. This factory legislation fixed, though not in so many words nor in all cases immediately, the normal day of work for all persons of whatever age or sex employed in the factories to which it extended. It applied, indeed, in the first instance only to a limited number of factories; but it contained principles of the widest scope, which were applicable and which were certain to be ultimately applied in the most general way to every kind of labour of which the public can take cognizance. It assuredly, therefore, has introduced socialistic enactments into the English labour law. But the factory legislation of 1848–50 did at once, or very nearly at once, far more than this. At the time when the repeal of the corn laws gave in the sphere of commerce what seemed to be a crowning victory to individualism, and when the prosperity following on free trade stimulated to the utmost in almost every department of life the faith in and the practice of laissez faire, the success of the Factory Acts gave authority, not only in the world of labour, but in many other spheres of life, to beliefs which, if not exactly socialistic, yet certainly tended towards socialism or collectivism.
Changed Attitude of the Working Classes
On the 10th April 1848 the Chartists fought their last fight, and suffered a crushing and final defeat.30 The advocates of the Charter (who might, at this period, be identified with the artisans of the towns) abandoned chartism, and either gave up all interest in public affairs, or devoted their efforts to movements of which the object was not political, but social. Of these the chief was trade unionism.
This change of attitude told in more ways than one on the course of opinion.
The abandonment of the Charter was a distinct step away from democratic Benthamism; an increased interest in trade unionism was a step in the direction of collectivism. Trade unionism, which means collective bargaining, and involves practical restrictions on individual freedom of contract, could find no favour in the eyes of Liberals who belonged to the school of Bentham.31 The most liberal judges had, as we have seen, under the influence of Benthamite ideas, interpreted the Combination Act of 182532 —in accordance, no doubt, with the real intention of Parliament—so as to put a check, not only upon all physical violence, but upon any so-called moral pressure which curtailed the right of an individual master to purchase, or of an individual workman to sell, labour upon such terms as might suit the contracting parties. To this view of the law trade unionists offered strenuous resistance. If some of them had at one time accepted the doctrine of laissez faire, they interpreted this dogma as allowing the right of combination for any purpose, which would not be in the strictest sense unlawful, if pursued by an individual acting without concert with others. They maintained that trade unions, even though they aimed at the restraint of trade, should be treated as lawful societies, and that unionists were morally, and ought to be legally, entitled, as long as they made no use of physical violence or the threat thereof, to bring the severest moral pressure to bear upon the action, and thus restrain the freedom of any workman, who might be inclined to follow his own interest in defiance of union rules intended to promote the interest of all the workmen engaged in a particular trade. Here we have the essential conflict between individualism and collectivism.
The changed attitude of the working men facilitated the alliance between the artisans and men of the middle class who, on whatever ground, dissented from Benthamite liberalism.
Chartism had been discredited by the fact that some Chartists sought to attain their ends by the employment or menace of physical force.33 Trade unionism had during its “revolutionary period” been linked with chartism, and had by acts of violence, and by the use of threatening language, secret oaths, and all the paraphernalia of revolution and conspiracy, excited the opposition of all persons who valued the maintenance of law and order.34 But between 1848 and 1868 unionism came under the guidance of capable, and, from their own point of view, moderate leaders. The abandonment, therefore, of the Charter, combined with the changed character of unionism, made it possible for men who were opposed to all violence or revolution to enter into an alliance with the artisans, or at any rate to sympathise with their policy. When Young England came under the guidance of Mr. Disraeli, Tories could afford at times to exhibit sentimental friendliness towards workmen engaged in conflict with manufacturers, whose mills offended the aesthetic taste, and whose radicalism shook the political authority of benevolent aristocrats.35 Among young men, again, who though not Tories, dissented from the social and economic dogmas of utilitarianism, working men found lawyers willing and able to suggest changes in the law of the land fitted for the attainment of the ends aimed at by unionists.36
Modification in Economic and Social Beliefs
From somewhere about the middle of the nineteenth century (1840–1854) the unsystematic socialism of the artisans began, though it must be admitted in the most indirect way, to mingle with, and to influence and be influenced by, the opinions of thinkers or writers who adhered to very different schools, and though they were mostly opposed to utilitarianism, belonged in some instances to the Benthamite school. It is no accident that Carlyle’s Latter Day Pamphlets (1849–1850), filled with denunciations of laissez faire, the Tracts on Christian Socialism (1850), which turned men’s hearts towards the duties of Christians as the members of society, Kingsley’s Alton Locke (1850), which to many contemporaries seemed to preach rank socialism, Mrs. Gaskell’s Mary Barton (1848), which painted sympathetically the position of workmen conducting a strike, and thereby earned the bitter censure of W. R. Greg, the representative of economists and mill-owners—all belonged to the years 1848–1850. It is no accident that at about the same time,37 Comtism, with its distrust of political economy,38 began to exert authority in England, and obtained disciples among men who interested themselves deeply in the welfare of the working classes. If Alton Locke, with its feeble and uninteresting tailor poet, and the Latter Day Pamphlets, with their bluster and bombast, redeemed here and there by flashes of insight, are in 1905 less readable than a volume of old sermons, the welcome which these books received is of deep import, for it displays a widespread distrust in the dominant liberalism of the day, and was a sure sign of a then approaching revolution in public opinion. Most significant of all was the publication in 1848 of Mill’s Political Economy; the very title of this celebrated book—Principles of Political Economy, with some of their Applications to Social Philosophy—has a special meaning. The treatise is an attempt by the intellectual leader of the Benthamite school to bring accepted economic doctrines into harmony with the aspirations of the best men among the working classes.39 It is to-day, at any rate, perfectly clear that from 1848 onwards an alteration becomes perceptible in the intellectual and moral atmosphere of England. A change we can now see was taking place in the current of opinion, and a change which was the more important, because it influenced mainly the then rising generation, and therefore was certain to tell upon the opinion of twenty or thirty years later—that is, of 1870 or 1880. Nor can we now doubt that this revolution of thought tended in the direction of socialism.
Characteristics of Modern Commerce
The extension of trade and commerce is bound up with faith in unlimited competition, but it has, nevertheless, since the middle of the nineteenth century, shaken that confidence in the omnipotence of individual effort and self-help which was the very essence of the liberalism that ruled England during the existence of the middle class Parliament created by the first Reform Act. For combination has gradually become the soul of modern commercial systems. One trade after another has passed from the management of private persons into the hands of corporate bodies created by the State. This revolution may be traced in every volume of the statute-book which has appeared during the last seventy years or more, and especially in the long line of Railway Companies Acts passed since 1823,40 and in the Joint Stock Companies Acts passed from 1856 to 1862. This legislation was favoured and promoted by Liberals,41 but the revolution of which it is the sign has nevertheless tended to diminish, in appearance at least, the importance of individual action, and has given room, and supplied arguments for State intervention in matters of business with which in England the State used to have little or no concern. What, too, is of primary importance, this revolution has accustomed the public to constant interference, for the real or supposed benefit of the country, with the property rights of private persons. The truth of these statements may be shown by a comparison between the position of a coach-owner in 1830 as a carrier of passengers and goods, with the position in 1905 of our great modern carrier, a railway company. The coach-owner set up his business at his own will and carried it on, broadly speaking,42 on his own terms; he possessed no legal monopoly, he asked for no legal privileges; he needed no Act of Parliament which should authorise him to take the property of others on terms of compulsory purchase, or generally to interfere with the property rights of his neighbours. If his concern prospered his success was attributable to his own resources and sagacity, and enforced the homely lesson that wealth is the reward of a man’s own talent and energy. There was nothing in the business of a coach-owner which even suggested the expediency of the Government undertaking the duties of carriers. A railway company, on the other hand, is the creature of the State. It owes its existence to an Act of Parliament. It carries on business on terms more or less prescribed by Parliament. It could not in practice lay down a mile of its railway, unless it were empowered to interfere with the property right of others, and above all, to take from landowners, under a system of compulsory purchase, land which the owners may deem worth much more than the price which they are compelled to take, or which they may be unwilling to sell at any price whatever. The success of a railway company is the triumph, not of individual, but of corporate energy, and directs popular attention to the advantages of collective rather than of individual action. The fact, moreover, that a business such as that of a railway company, the due transaction whereof is of the highest importance to the nation, must under the conditions of modern life be managed by a large corporation, affords an argument43 —as to the force whereof there may be a wide difference of opinion—in favour of the control or even the management of railways by the State.
But the line of reasoning which may be urged in favour of the State management of railways applies to many other concerns,44 for a railway company is after all only one among many corporations which carry on business, and business in which the nation has a vital interest, in virtue of powers and privileges conferred upon them by Act of Parliament.
The modern development then of corporate trade has in more ways than one fostered the growth of collectivist ideas. It has lessened the importance of the individual trader. It has transformed the abstract principle that all property, and especially property in land, belongs in a sense to the nation, into a practical maxim on which Parliament acts every year with the approval of the country. It constantly suggests the conclusion that every large business may become a monopoly, and that trades which are monopolies may wisely be brought under the management of the State. The characteristics of modern commerce, looked at from this point of view, make for socialism.
Introduction of Household Suffrage, 1868–1884
From about the middle of the nineteenth century conditions unfavourable to the despotic authority of individualism operated by degrees on the opinion of wide classes, and especially of the artisans. But these conditions did not greatly modify legislative opinion, and therefore produced little effect on actual legislation till 1868.45 Though the Metropolitan Commons Act, 1866,46 which marks a reaction against the policy, ardently favoured by Bentham, of converting common land into private property, and one or two other isolated enactments, may be taken as a sign of approaching change even in law-making opinion, still by far the greater part of the reforms—such, for example, as the Common Law Procedure Acts, 1851–1862, or the Companies Acts, 1856–1862—passed between 1850 and 1868 are in harmony with Benthamite doctrine. The reason why the spirit of legislation remained on the whole unaltered was that till the Reform Act of 186747 Parliament still represented the middle classes who were in the main guided by the Benthamism of common sense.
“In this country, . . .” writes Mill in 1861,
what are called the working classes may be considered as excluded from all direct participation in the government. I do not believe that the classes who do participate in it, have in general any intention of sacrificing the working classes to themselves. They once had that intention; witness the persevering attempts so long made to keep down wages by law. But in the present day their ordinary disposition is the very opposite: they willingly make considerable sacrifices, especially of their pecuniary interest, for the benefit of the working classes, and err rather by too lavish and indiscriminating beneficence; nor do I believe that any rulers in history have been actuated by a more sincere desire to do their duty towards the poorer portion of their countrymen. Yet does Parliament, or almost any of the members composing it, ever for an instant look at any question with the eyes of a working man? When a subject arises in which the labourers, as such, have an interest, is it regarded from any point of view but that of the employers of labour? I do not say that the working man’s view of these questions is in general nearer to truth than the other; but it is sometimes quite as near, and in any case it ought to be respectfully listened to, instead of being, as it is, not merely turned away from, but ignored. On the question of strikes, for instance, it is doubtful if there is so much as one among the leading members of either House who is not firmly convinced that the reason of the matter is unqualifiedly on the side of the masters, and that the men’s view of it is simply absurd. Those who have studied the question know well how far this is from being the case; and in how different, and how infinitely less superficial a manner the point would have to be argued if the parties who strike were able to make themselves heard in Parliament.48
These words, though they refer to trade unionism, admit of a much wider application; they describe the attitude of a Legislature which, sharing the convictions of the middle classes, looked with little favour upon ideas entertained by wage-earners whose voice was scarcely heard in parliamentary debates.
Even when Mill wrote, however, a change in the constitution of Parliament was near at hand. The year 1865 brought to an end the War of Secession. This event opens a new era. During the nineteen years which followed, democracy, under the modified form of household suffrage, was established throughout the United Kingdom. First the artisans of the towns, and later the country labourers, were admitted to the parliamentary franchise. The details of these transactions belong to constitutional history. Here we note only their connection with, and their effect upon, legislative opinion. Two points are specially noticeable.
The first is that the laws establishing democratic government were themselves the fruit of opinion produced by and in turn influencing public events.
Progress towards democracy was in England immensely stimulated by the victory of the Northern States of America. The conflict between North and South was recognised as a contest between democracy and oligarchy; each had submitted to the ordeal of battle, and democracy came out the victor. This triumph increased the strength of democratic faith; it also, owing to the special circumstances of the day, added weight to the claim of English working men for admission to the full rights of citizens. The artisans had stood by the North, the landowners and the wealthy classes had as a body given moral support to the South. Popular sympathy or sagacity had, it might be argued, proved more far-sighted than educated conservatism, whilst the patience with which the Lancashire “hands” endured the sufferings arising from the cotton famine gained for them general respect. The current argument, too, that the workmen of England could not be denied votes which would soon be conceded to the negroes of the United States, though weak as logic, was irresistible as rhetoric. At the very moment when the moral authority of the artisans was thus increased they had, under the guidance of able counsellors, resumed their interest in politics, and especially in the reform of Parliament.49 Their return to the political arena was no revival of Chartism. The old Chartists were dead or forgotten. In 1866–1867 the People’s Charter and its six points were never mentioned. Little was heard of universal suffrage, nothing of republicanism. Toryism also came once more into strange, but not accidental, alliance with democracy; the Reform Act of 1867 was carried, not by a Liberal, but by a so-called Conservative ministry. Of the manoeuvres, or diplomacy, or of the real or alleged sacrifices of principle, by which this result was attained, nothing need here be said. Even if the very harshest view possible were to be taken of the process by which Disraeli “educated” the Conservatives, the one matter which for the present purpose deserves consideration is the nature of that education, and its connection with the current of public opinion. The lesson which Disraeli taught his party was the possibility, which he had long perceived, of an alliance between the Tories and English wage-earners; and the true basis of this alliance was their common dissent from individualistic liberalism. It was no accident that Disraeli and his pupils were far less alarmed at the power which might, under a democratic Reform Bill, fall into the hands of the residuum than was John Bright; or that the last and by far the most effective opponent of any attempt to alter the settlement of 1832 was Robert Lowe, who, from the general tenor of his opinions and the character of his intellect, might be termed the last of the genuine Benthamites.50 What in any case is certain is that the changes in the constitution of the House of Commons, begun by the Act of 1867 and completed by the Act of 1884, were strictly the result of a peculiar condition of opinion, and especially of the belief on the part of Tories, whether well or ill founded, that constitutional changes would in practice produce no revolutionary effect, but would diminish the influence of liberalism.
The second point is that the democratic movement of 1866–1884 was, if from one point of view more moderate, from another more far reaching than the Chartist movement 1838–1848.
The Chartists claimed universal suffrage; they demanded a share of political power as one of the natural rights of man; the artisans who resumed political agitation in 1866–1867, on the other hand, demanded household, not universal suffrage; they demanded electoral rights, not as one of the rights of man, but as a means for obtaining legislation (such, for example, as a modification of the combination laws), in accordance with the desires of trade unionists. Looked at from the political side, therefore, the moderation of the new democracy contrasts conspicuously with the revolutionary spirit of chartism. But if the two movements be looked at from the social side the comparison presents a different aspect. The avowed wish for social change on the part of the new democracy stands in marked contrast with the desire for merely political change represented by chartism. The same contrast becomes even more marked if we compare, not the Chartists and the later democrats, but the Reform movement of 1832 with the Reform movement of 1866–1884. The great Reform Act was carried by and for the benefit of the middle classes.51 It was the work of men who desired to change the constitution of Parliament because they wished for legislation in conformity with the principles of individualism.52 The Reform Acts, 1867–1884, were carried in deference to the wishes and by the support of the working classes, who desired, though in a vague and indefinite manner, laws which might promote the attainment of the ideals of socialism or collectivism. Note, too, that whilst the reformers of 1832 possessed a programme of legislative reform created by the genius and designed to carry out the principles of Bentham, the new democracy came into power under the influence of vague aspirations and unprovided with any definite plan of legislation. If we substitute the word “desires” for “passions,” we may apply to the working classes of England in 1868 the language applied by Tocqueville to the working classes of France in 1848:
“Les classes ouvrières . . . aujourd’hui, je le reconnais, sont tranquilles. Il est vrai qu’elles ne sont pas tourmentées par les passions politiques proprement dites, au même degré où elles en ont été tourmentées jadis; mais, ne voyez-vous pas que leurs passions, de politiques, sont devenues sociales?” [Today the working classes . . . are quiet. I recognise that. It is true to say that they no longer are stirred, as once they were, by true political passion, but do you not see that their passions, in politics, have become “social”?]53
These aspirations may, to use the expression of another French writer, be described as Le Socialisme sans doctrines,54 or a wish for socialistic laws without the conscious adoption of socialistic theory. Here, as elsewhere, law and speculation, action and thought react upon one another.55 One example of such interaction may be seen in the writings and speeches of H. Fawcett. He was himself an economist and individualist after the school, not of Senior or McCulloch, but of John Mill. His essays published in 1872—that is within five years after the Reform Act, 1867—show that a writer, who criticised socialism in a moderate and not unsympathetic manner, felt that he was struggling against the sentiment of the time. When six years later, in 1878, Fawcett protested with vigour against restrictions imposed by the Factory Acts on the liberty of women, he is clearly the brave defender of a lost cause. In 1885 appeared the Radical Programme. It celebrated the complete establishment of the new democracy; it demanded reforms in the direction of socialism. These reforms, it is assumed, will sound the death-knell of the laissez faire system. Democracy is to advance, and “the goal towards which the advance will probably be made at an accelerated pace, is that in the direction of which the legislation of the last quarter of a century has been tending—the intervention, in other words, of the State on behalf of the weak against the strong, in the interests of labour against capital, of want and suffering against luxury and ease.”56 Under this programme free education—that is, education at the expense, not of the parent, but of the nation—“cottage farms and yeomanry holdings,” also in some form or other to be provided at the cost of the nation, the complete reversal of the Benthamite policy embodied in the Inclosure Act 1845, the provision by the use of the resources of the State of good houses in towns for the poor, and a graduated income-tax, as well as a considerable extension of the right of the State to take for the public use the land of individuals at the lowest market price, are advantages offered or promised to the electorate. No one can doubt the direction in which the current of legislative opinion was in 1885 assumed to be flowing by the Radical leaders; they believed it—and no one can say that their belief was erroneous—to be completely turned in the direction of collectivism.
If to any student the conditions referred to in this lecture appear, even when co-operating, insufficient to account for a remarkable revolution in legislative opinion, such doubts may be lessened by one reflection: The beneficial effect of State intervention, especially in the form of legislation, is direct, immediate, and, so to speak, visible, whilst its evil effects are gradual and indirect, and lie out of sight. If a law imposes a penalty on a shipowner who sends a vessel to sea before he has obtained a Board of Trade certificate of its seaworthiness, it is probable that few ships will set out on their voyage without a certificate, and it is possible that, for the moment, the number of ships which go to sea unfit to meet a storm may be diminished. These good results of State intervention are easily noticeable. That the same law may make a shipowner, who has obtained a certificate, negligent in seeing that his ship is really seaworthy, and that the certificate will in practice bar any action for real negligence, are evil results of legislation which are indirect and escape notice. Nor in this instance, or in similar cases, do most people keep in mind that State inspectors may be incompetent, careless, or even occasionally corrupt, and that public confidence in inspection, which must be imperfect, tends to make the very class of persons whom it is meant to protect negligent in taking due measures for their own protection; few are those who realise the undeniable truth that State help kills self-help. Hence the majority of mankind must almost of necessity look with undue favour upon governmental intervention. This natural bias can be counteracted only by the existence, in a given society, as in England between 1830 and 1860, of a presumption or prejudice in favour of individual liberty—that is, of laissez faire. The mere decline, therefore, of faith in self-help—and that such a decline has taken place is certain—is of itself sufficient to account for the growth of legislation tending towards socialism. This consideration goes far to explain the peculiar development of English law during the later part of the nineteenth century.
[1. ]R. v. Pinney (1832), R. v. Fursey (1833), R. v. Vincent (1837), R. v. Collins (1839), R. v. Feargus O’Connor, R. v. Cooper (1843), to which add the notorious case of the Dorchester Labourers (1834); Webb, History of Trade Unionism, p. 129.
[2. ]As to the violent destruction of machinery in 1830, see “Letters to Swing,” by Sydney Smith, Memoir by Lady Holland, i. (4th ed.), p. 287.
[3. ]Sydney Smith’s Works (ed. 1869), pp. 670, 671.
[4. ]Southey’s Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society, i. p. 110.
[5. ]Arnold, Miscellaneous Works, pp. 453, 454.
[6. ][Editor’s note: The translation was added in the Liberty Fund edition.]
[7. ]Carlyle’s Works, x. p. 340, “Chartism.” See also ibid. chap. vi. p. 368.
[8. ]Benthamite reformers have never had a perfectly fair chance of bringing their policy to a successful issue. Some of their proposals have never been carried into effect; outdoor relief, for example, has never been abolished. The realisation of some of them has been so delayed as to lose more than half its beneficial effect. If the first reformed Parliament had been able to establish free trade simultaneously with the enactment of the new poor law, and given to Dissenters in 1832 as complete political equality as they possess at the present day; if it had in reality opened to Roman Catholics in 1832 all careers as completely as they are open to them in 1905; if O’Connell had been first made Irish Attorney-General and then placed on the Bench; if the tithe war which harassed Ireland till 1838 had been terminated in 1834—is it not at least possible that a rapid increase in material prosperity and a sense of relief from oppression might have produced a general sentiment of social unity, which would have shown that the principles of individualism fitly met the wants of the time? Our habit of delaying reforms has its occasional advantages; these advantages are, however, much exaggerated. Sir Thomas Snagge, in his admirable Evolution of the County Court, thus writes of the County Court Act, 1846: “Its provisions were the outcome of nearly twenty years of resolute parliamentary effort, met by opposition no less persistent. Such struggles are wont to end, as this did, in a compromise. It was the old story of all sound English reform: hasty change was successfully withstood, and gradual evolution was happily accomplished.” Can our esteemed author seriously maintain that opposition generated by partisanship brought a single compensation for the practical denial of justice to the poor during a period of twenty years? However this may be, the disadvantages of delay are often tremendous. It keeps alive irritation which constantly robs improvement itself of almost the whole of its legitimate benefit.
[9. ]See Lect. III., ante.
[10. ]The expression is obviously inaccurate, but I use it as a convenient and accepted name for the movement in favour of the regulation by law of labour in factories.
[11. ]Factory legislation dates from 1802, but the factory movement aroused by Oastler’s letters dates from 1830.
[12. ]Morley, Life of Cobden, i. pp. 464, 465, Appendix. It is to be regretted that Cobden’s idea did not bear fruit. There might have been some advantage in trying the experiment whether the complete protection of children might not have been found compatible with the minimum of interference with the management of factories.
[13. ]Afterwards known to the present generation as Lord Shaftesbury, and for the sake of convenience generally so described in these Lectures.
[14. ]Hodder, Life of Shaftesbury, i. pp. 157, 158. McCulloch to Lord Ashley, 28th March 1833.
[15. ]For speech on Ten Hours Bill, 22nd May 1846, see Macaulay, Speeches (ed. 1871), p. 718.
[16. ]Lege “fiend”?
[17. ]Hodder, i. pp. 156, 157. Southey to Lord Ashley, 7th Feb. 1833. Coleridge was one of those who (1802) took an interest in the factory children. He writes to a lawyer to know “‘if there is not some law prohibiting, or limiting, or regulating the employment either of children or adults, or both, in the white lead manufactory? . . . Can your [sic] furnish us with any other instances in which the Legislature has directly, or by immediate consequence, interfered with what is ironically called “Free Labour”? (i.e.dared to prohibit soul murder and infanticide on the part of the rich, and self-slaughter on that of the poor!)’ The letter also alludes to circulars drawn up by S.T.C. in favour of Sir Robert Peel’s Bill. It would be interesting to know if any of these circulars are in existence.”—Hutchins and Harrison, History of Factory Legislation, p. 29 (n.).
[18. ]He was strongly opposed to the revision of the authorised version of the Bible.—Hodder, Shaftesbury, iii. p. 258.
[19. ]He writes to a socialistic ally: “You have been represented to me as a socialist and an advocate of principles that I regard with terror and abhorrence; and you will therefore readily believe the pleasure with which I observed the spirit and language of your letter. I could not but apply to you the words of that Book whose expressions you have borrowed, and say, as was said to Ananias of Saul, ‘Behold, he prayeth.’ I deeply rejoice in this, because I respect your talents, I admire your zeal, and I hope to find in you a true and faithful ally in these great and final efforts for the moral, social, and religious welfare of the working people.”—Hodder, Life of Lord Shaftesbury, vol. i. pp. 407, 408. Conf. pp. 322, 323.
[20. ]Compare, for Peel’s attitude with regard to the factory movement, Martineau, Thirty Years’ Peace, iii. p. 486.
[21. ]Note that in 1864 Gladstone more or less came round to the policy of the Factory Acts. Hodder, Shaftesbury, ii. p. 206.
[22. ]Hodder, Shaftesbury, ii. pp. 209, 210.
[23. ]Simpson, Many Memories of Many People, pp. 263, 264. Bright’s words were apparently spoken Sept. 15, 1855.
[24. ]Embodied in the Factory and Workshop Act, 1901.
[25. ]Written in 1905.
[26. ]See p. 30, ante.
[27. ]The Act must be taken together with the enactments leading up to it. There appears to be some little confusion in the use of the term the Ten Hours Act. The statute most properly known by that name is 10 & 11 Vict. c. 29, passed in 1847 and coming into full force in 1848. But this statute was liable to evasion, and was rendered effective by an Act (13 & 14 Vict. c. 54) which received the Royal assent on July 26, 1850. This later Act seems to be sometimes treated as the Ten Hours Act. The general effect of the law on the passing of this Act has been thus stated in popular language:
[28. ]The definition of the ages of these protected persons has varied under different Acts. Under the present law “child” means any person under the age of thirteen, or in some cases under fourteen; “young person” means any person (not being a child) under eighteen; “woman” means any woman of the age of eighteen and upwards. See Factory and Workshop Act, 1901, s. 156.
[29. ]The Factory Act, 1844 (7 & 8 Vict. c. 15), sec. 32.
[30. ]For the Chartist demonstration meant to overawe Parliament and ensure the enactment of the People’s Charter, see Walpole, History of England, iv. pp. 335–337.
[31. ]See pp. 107, 135–146, ante.
[32. ]See pp. 142, 143, ante.
[33. ]In 1848 popular leaders and their opponents were the victims of a delusion fostered by the traditions of the French Revolution. Insurgents, it was supposed, were able to defeat disciplined troops. This notion rested in the main upon the successes achieved during the great Revolution, and again in 1830 and 1848, by the mob of Paris. No idea which has obtained general currency was ever less justified by fact. The belief in the mysterious force of popular enthusiasm was nothing better than a superstition. On no one occasion during the whole revolutionary history of France from 1789 up to the present day, have disciplined troops, when properly led, been defeated by insurgents. Nor has the army shown any special disposition to join the people. On this matter the events of 1848 and 1871 are decisive. In June 1848 the insurgents had every advantage, they had been arming for weeks, they fought with great enthusiasm, and they fought behind well-constructed barricades. Their opponents were to a great extent National Guards and the Garde Mobile, raised from the poorer classes of Paris, on whose absolute fidelity it was difficult to count. Yet the forces of insurrection were vanquished. In 1871 the troops employed by the Government were many of them men who had been vanquished in war. Among the defenders of the Commune there were many trained soldiers. Victory remained with the army.
[34. ]See Lord Londonderry’s Manifesto, Webb, History of Trade Unionism, p. 150.
[35. ]Trade unionism came far oftener into conflict with manufacturers than with landowners. See, however, as to the case of the Dorchester labourers, Webb, pp. 123, 124; R. v. Lovelace, 6 C. & P. 596; Law Magazine, xi. pp. 460, 473; and Walpole, History, iii. pp. 229, 231.
[36. ]The repeal of the corn laws, though the triumph of liberalism, had one indirect effect not looked for by philosophic Radicals. The repeal so completely removed the root of bitterness which had created animosity and distrust between the different classes of the community, that, like the abandonment of chartism by the artisans, it promoted the growth of goodwill, and therefore the formation of an alliance between all persons who, to whatever class or party they belonged, had common proclivities towards socialism.
[37. ]Publication of Miss Martineau’s translation of Comte’s Philosophie Positive, 1853.
[38. ]Comte, Cours de Philosophie Positive, iv. 264–280.
[39. ]See on Mill’s position, Lecture XII. post.
[40. ]The year in which was passed the Act under which was constructed the Stockton and Darlington Railway. See Annual Register, 1823, p. 241.
[41. ]Here, as in other cases, a law favouring the power of combination has of necessity a twofold, and in a certain sense a contradictory effect. The Companies Acts, introducing the principle of partnerships with limited liability, create an extension of individual freedom. But the same Acts, in so far as they transfer the management of business from the hands of private persons into the hands of corporate bodies, substitute combined for individual action.
[42. ]See for a carrier’s common law liability, Leake, Contracts, 4th ed. p. 132, and for its modification by statute, the Carriers Act, 1830, 11 Geo. IV. & 1 Will. IV. c. 68.
[43. ]“Whatever,” writes Mill, “if left to spontaneous agency, can only be done by joint-stock associations, will often be as well, and sometimes better done, as far as the actual work is concerned, by the State. Government management is, indeed, proverbially jobbing, careless, and ineffective, but so likewise has generally been joint-stock management. . . . The defects . . . of government management do not seem to be necessarily much greater, if greater at all, than those of management by joint stock.”—Mill, Political Economy, ch. xi. s. xi. p. 580.
[44. ]See Leonard Darwin, Municipal Trade, for a careful examination of the cases in which a trade may or may not be carried on with advantage by the State, and remember that the State takes a part in trade as much when it acts through local bodies as when it acts through the central government.
[45. ]The passing of the Ten Hours Act, and subsequent Acts passed prior to 1868 which extend its operation, afford an apparent but not a real exception to this statement. See pp. 156–164, ante.
[46. ]29 & 30 Vict. c. 122. See Pollock, Land Laws, pp. 182–188.
[47. ]The last Parliament elected under the Reform Act of 1832 came to an end on July 31, 1868.
[48. ]Mill, Representative Government, pp. 56, 57 (ed. 1861).
[49. ]See Webb, History of Trade Unionism, p. 231.
[50. ]John Austin was as much opposed to any further advance towards democracy as was Lowe. See Austin’s pamphlet on Reform (1859). Note, too, that, if John Mill assented to a democratic Reform Bill, he desired every advance in the democratic direction to be accompanied by checks which he fancied would protect the rights of minorities.
[51. ]See Brougham’s Speeches, ii. pp. 600 and 617.
[52. ]Compare the language of Sydney Smith, cited, p. 151, ante, and the Benthamite programme of parliamentary reform, and of the ends to be attained thereby set forth in an article published by George Grote in 1831.
[53. ]Souvenirs d’Alexis de Tocqueville, publiés par Le Comte de Tocqueville, 1893, pp. 15, 16. [Editor’s note: The translation was added in the Liberty Fund edition.]
[54. ]Métin, Le Socialisme sans doctrines. The expression is used in reference to socialistic experiments in Australia. See W. P. Reeves, State Experiments in Australia and New Zealand.
[55. ]See pp. 30–35, ante.
[56. ]The Radical Programme, with a Preface by the Right Hon. J. Chamberlain, M.P. Reprinted, with additions, from the Fortnightly Review: Chapman and Hall, 1885. [Editor’s note: This footnote was expanded in the second edition.]