Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XLVI.: SOME MINOR INCIDENTS. 1873. Æt. 53. - An Autobiography, vol. 2
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CHAPTER XLVI.: SOME MINOR INCIDENTS. 1873. Æt. 53. - Herbert Spencer, An Autobiography, vol. 2 
An Autobiography by Herbert Spencer. Illustrated in Two Volumes. Vol. 2 (New York: D. Appleton and Company 1904).
Part of: An Autobiography
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SOME MINOR INCIDENTS.
Essays from time to time published after the issue of the second series of Essays in 1864, had now become sufficiently numerous to fill another volume. Written, like preceding ones, not about matters of temporary interest, and originally designed to have eventually a permanent form, these essays I now decided to re-publish. Not unfrequently one who thus reproduces articles contributed to periodicals is reprobated; but I suppose that in my case sufficient justification has been yielded by the demand for successive editions of this volume, as of the preceding volumes.
Partly because I wished to include it in this third series of essays, and partly because the interval between the ending of the Study of Sociology and the commencement of the Principles of Sociology afforded a convenient opportunity, I devoted myself, after my return to town, to an episodic work which I had long contemplated. This was a piece of polemical writing, which, after so many years occupied almost exclusively in producing books of a purely expository kind, I entered upon with some zest. As the reader has probably already inferred, argumentative contests are not wholly disagreeable to me.
Since the publication of First Principles in 1862, numerous criticisms of that work and of subsequent works had from time to time appeared: most of them not worthy of notice; either because of their triviality or because they were anonymous or by writers of no mark. But there had been some which asked attention; either because of their seeming validity or because they came from men of acknowledged weight—the Rev. H. L. Mansel (afterwards Dean of St. Paul’s), Principal Caird, the Rev. James Martineau, Mr. H. Sidgwick, Mr. Shadworth Hodgson. The objections raised by these I undertook to answer; and I published the answers in the November and December numbers of the Fortnightly Review under the title of “Replies to Criticisms”.
This article, or rather these two articles, had an unexpected sequence, which entailed on me much trouble and some annoyance. Before they were out of hand there appeared two lengthy criticisms upon First Principles and other books of mine—one in the Quarterly Review and the other in the British Quarterly Review. The first of these, though partly dissentient, was civil in manner and not unappreciative; but the second, making much of some small flaws which did not in the least affect the general conclusions, was written with evident animosity and in an intemperate manner. Under ordinary circumstances I should have let both pass without remark; but, as I was then publishing replies to criticisms, I could not well keep silence respecting these without making the tacit admission that the objections they urged were valid. I therefore added some pages dealing with them—with the first briefly and with the second at greater length.
In the next number of the British Quarterly Review there appeared a rejoinder from my critic (a senior wrangler, as it turned out) in which he sought to justify his assertions. As some of these, touching the natures of our mathematico-physical cognitions, tacitly called in question the philosophical method pursued by me, I thought it needful to go further into the matter: defending my own positions and making assaults on those of the reviewer. The result was the publication of a pamphlet which I distributed widely among leading men in the scientific world.
This pamphlet, which was issued early in 1874, would, I supposed, end the matter; but it did not. It initiated a controversy in the pages of Nature (chiefly concerning the bases of the mechanical axioms), into which other combatants rushed; and, broadening out as all controversies do, this continued during the spring. As left standing in Nature, the results were unsatisfactory. Determined as I was that the main question, obscured in the dust raised, should not be lost sight of, I drew up a second pamphlet, consisting chiefly of the letters published in Nature with explanatory notes, and ending with a summary of the results: pointing out that my several theses, which I prefixed to the summary, remained outstanding. Of this pamphlet, too, I sent copies to numerous competent men who might feel interested. The final result was not unsatisfactory; as witness the second paragraph of the following extract from a letter to Youmans.
“On Tuesday I had a little dinner to bring together the publishers and the Committee of the International Series. The Kings and the Appletons seemed on very friendly terms—there was no sign of any misunderstanding, as you seemed to imply.
Last night Hirst gave me the satisfactory information that Cayley, who is A1 among mathematicians, entirely agrees with me in the controversy with M———, and thought M———deserved all he got.”
As I had also the suffrages of Prof. Sylvester (who, if Prof. Cayley is A1 among mathematicians, may be distinguished as A2) as well as of Prof. Tyndall and Dr. Hirst (the last of whom was at that time president of the Mathematical Society), I was content with the result.
Another incident, dating back to this time, I should probably have omitted had I not been reminded of it by the following note from Mr. Edward Miall; whom I have, in some of the earlier chapters, referred to as proprietor and editor of the Nonconformist, and originator of the Anti-State-Church movement. Dated Oct. 29, 1873, the note runs:—
“On Friday next, at three o’clock p.m. I will hope to meet you and Mr. Morley, to whom I have written, for some preliminary conversation on the question of Disendowment.”
At that time it seemed not impossible that the question of disestablishment might suddenly come to the front, in the form of a proposal for separating the Church from the State, and assigning to it all the property it now holds in trust; and that those who were opposed to any scheme of the kind might find themselves taken unawares unless they were ready with specific plans for disendowment. Already Mr. Miall and I had talked over the matter; and I had spoken to Mr. John Morley and Mr. Frederic Harrison. The meeting took place as arranged, and a general understanding was come to. It was thought that it would be a fit division of labour if the agitation for disestablishment on religious grounds were left to dissenters, while those who regarded the matter mainly as a secular one should deal with the disendowment problem. Respecting the measures to be proposed, too, common views were arrived at. It was agreed that disendowment should be effected by the dying out of life-interests in the mass of cases; by the compensation of lay patrons; by the making over of parish churches to parishioners, to be used at their discretion for religious purposes; and, after the satisfaction of all equitable claims, by the appropriation of the remaining funds towards the liquidation of the National Debt. And it was also agreed that the property which has accrued to the Church from voluntary sources since the Reformation, should be dealt with by the State exclusively in its judicial capacity; that is to say, the State should, in each case, decide in what way the property should be settled so as best to fulfil the intentions of the donors.
Some little time afterwards we had a dinner at the Westminster Palace Hotel, to which, besides those already named, there came sundry others interested in the matter; among whom, I remember, was Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, at that time known only as a Birmingham notable. It was decided that a draft Bill should be prepared, embodying in specific shapes something like the general proposals above indicated. This was done; and I suppose this draft Bill somewhere exists in a state—I was going to say, of suspended animation; but, as it was never born, the phrase would be inapplicable.
What happened subsequently I do not remember.