Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER LV.: POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS. 1880—82. Æt. 60—62. - An Autobiography, vol. 2
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
CHAPTER LV.: POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS. 1880—82. Æt. 60—62. - 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
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Already in October 1879, while the volume on Ceremonial Institutions was passing through the press, and there remained nothing for me to do to it beyond correcting the proofs, the next division, Political Institutions, had been commenced: the first half of the month having been devoted to the preparation of materials, and much of the latter part to the writing of the “Preliminary” chapter. On Oct. 8 I wrote:—
“It is a big business even to prepare the materials, and it will be a very big business to properly deal with them. In fact I feel I am about to commence the most arduous part of my undertaking—being, as it is, so immensely extensive and so immensely complex. However, the organizing ideas are making themselves fairly clear, and I have hopes that it will work out satisfactorily, and that, having worked out satisfactorily, it will be of very great importance in rationalizing people’s ideas; or at least the ideas of those who are sufficiently advanced to be capable of assimilating it.”
The decision, made on the 31st of the month, to go to Egypt, was joined with the intention of writing further chapters during the voyage up and down the Nile; and to this end I took with me a considerable quantity of classified extracts and memoranda: deciding that “I must revert to primitive practices and be my own amanuensis.” But, as is implied by the last chapter but one, these preparations and resolves proved futile. Though one of the young ladies of our party kindly offered to write to my dictation, yet my mood was such that nothing came of the offer; and the packet of materials I had taken with me was brought back unopened: the only furtherance of my work being, perhaps, that which resulted from contact with people in a lower stage of civilization.
Concerning the course of my writing during the period covered by this chapter, not very much needs here be said. I will note only that I decided to treat the successive chapters of Political Institutions as I had treated those of Ceremonial Institutions. I decided to publish them, or at any rate a number of them, serially; and I made arrangements, like those before made, with the Fortnightly Review in England, with the Popular Science Monthly in America, and with periodicals in France, Germany, and Italy. In this case I did not extend the simultaneous publication of translations to Hungary and Russia: why I do not now remember; but I think because it did not seem worth while to take the extra trouble involved. Adding only that the first of the chapters thus published made its appearance in Nov. 1880, and the last (in England at least) in July 1881, I pass on to narrate the incidents which accompanied this portion of my work.
And here I am reminded that I have not said anything about the daily routine I went through during the years now passing. Some three chapters back, a transcribed portion of my diary presented in detail my occupations and amusements during an autumn vacation; and it seems fit that I should somewhere give a like transcript from the register of my occupations and amusements during a portion of the London season. To avoid the need for selection, I will take the interval between my return from Egypt and the end of March; omitting the first week, during which, after three months’ absence, I had of course scarcely settled down into the usual order, either of work or of social life.
“February 22nd [Sunday]:—Reading and sorting mems; Club; dined at Busk’s—Allman and wife. 23rd:—New secretary—Mr. Sutton; letters and sorting mems; Club; dined there, Hirst and Debus. 24th:—Letters and sorting mems; Athenæum committee; dined at Club—Tyndall, Hirst, and Debus. 25th:—Letters; reading French tables for extracts; business; Club; dined there—Hirst, Debus. 26th:—reading French tables for extracts; Club; dined there—Hirst. 27th:—Commenced “Political Organization”; dined at Club—Hirst, Debus. 28th:—“Political Organization”; Club; dined at Tyndall’s—Huxley, Dean Stanley, Hirst, Lady Claud Hamilton, Miss Hamilton, &c. 29th [Sunday]:—Revising draft of Autobio.; dined at Club—Hirst and Debus. March 1st:—“Political Organization”; Club as usual. 2nd:—“Political Organization”; Club; dined with Miss North—Holman Hunt, Fergusson, Galton, Richmond, Maskelyne, &c. 3rd:—“Political Organization”; Club; dined with Frankland—meeting Spottiswoode, Hooker, Huxley, Debus, Tyndall, &c. 4th:—“Political Organization”; Club; X dinner. 5th:—“Political Organization”; Club; dined there—Hirst. 6th:—“Political Organization”; Club; to Kew and dined with Hooker—met Siemens, Masters, and Henslow. 7th [Sunday]:—Revising Autobio.; walk with Cobb and [Arthur] Cohen; called on Campbells; Club; dined there—Hirst and Debus. 8th:—Finished “Political Organization”; dined at Club; went to Criterion Theatre. 9th:—Arranging mems; Athenæum committee—Rule II election; called on Theresa Potter to inquire about the travellers; dined at Club—Morley. 10th:—Arranging mems; began “Political Integration”; dined at Club—Hirst; Soirée at Spottiswoode’s. 11th:—“Political Integration”; dined at Club. 12th:—“Political Integration”; Club. 13th:—“Political Integration”; Club; dined with Lord Arthur Russell—met Lord and Lady Sligo, Lord and Lady Reay, General McCrealock, &c. 14th [Sunday]:—Miscellaneous; called on Mrs. Lewes; dined at Club—Tyndall, Hirst, and Debus. 15th:—Revising; dined at Club—Roupell, Hirst, and Debus. 16th:—Revising; Club; dined at Galton’s—Romanes, Maskelyne, Strachey, Miss Lawrences, &c., &c. 17th:—Revising; dined at Club. 18th:—Correspondence with Collier all morning—no amanuensis; dined at Club. 19th:—Ditto, Ditto; Athenæum House-Committee—selecting cooks; dined at Club. 20th:—Revising; Club; dined at Smalley’s—Lord Reay, A. Forbes, Lord Houghton, Elton, Cartwright, &c. 21st [Sunday]:—Unwell; dined at Club. 22nd:—Revising; dined at Club—Hirst, Debus. 23rd:—Revising; Club; dined at Harrison’s—Pigott, Paul, &c. 24th:—Revising; looking after refitting of my study, and arranging books &c.; dined at Club. 25th:—Revising; dined at Club and came home to meet Lott. 26th:—With Lott to Richmond; dined there; down the Thames to Kew; home at 6½. 27th:—Revising; afternoon with Lott to Lyceum, to see Merchant of Venice; evening, called on Baileys [old friends we made in Switzerland in ’53]. 28th [Sunday]:—Loch came to spend the day; afternoon, called on Bishop [an old engineering friend]; dined at St. James restaurant; evening at Busk’s. 29th:—Over with Lott to Enmore Park and spent the day with Loch; walked to Crohamhurst. 30th:—Lott went home; new secretary, Mr. Edmunds; dictating “Political Integration”; dined at Club. 31st:—“Political Integration”; Club; dined there.”
These entries may be taken as fair representatives, save in two respects. It seems that from the want of a secretary during part of the time, my morning’s work did not proceed in the ordinary uniform way—was not indicated, as it mostly was, by the title of a chapter repeated day after day, followed after a while by the title of a subsequent chapter. And then I see no mention of music. Usually, in the space of a month, a concert, public or private, would appear in the record of my relaxations.
If I did not go to him at Easter, Lott usually came to me; and this year a special motive for coming had been to hear all about my doings in Egypt. Doubtless among the things I told him, was something equivalent to the following passage written to Youmans on April 13:—
“I am glad to report myself as well—better indeed than I have been for a long time. Notwithstanding drawbacks, the break in my ordinary life which the excursion to Egypt involved, seems to have been decidedly beneficial, and has apparently worked some kind of constitutional change; for, marvellous to relate, I am now able to drink beer with impunity and I think with benefit—a thing I have not been able to do for these 15 years or more.” [Long desistance from work was probably a chief cause.]
On May 3, referring to the same subject, I wrote:—
“I was 60 on Tuesday last. My vigour is pretty well shown by the fact that I found myself running up stairs two steps at a time, as I commonly do.”
It seems strange that, considering my frequent bouts of dyspepsia and perpetual bad nights, I should have retained so much vitality. The next extract, dated 21 June, concerns another matter:—
“Enclosed I send you a note which will please you, and which will furnish you with an admirable handle against the Classicists. It is from the Greek minister here; and accompanies, as you see by its contents, a Greek translation made by a late Minister of Education. The surprising and extremely telling fact is that this thing which the Greeks have first undertaken to translate, is the first chapter of the Education—‘What knowledge is of most worth.’ ”
Anomalous enough! While in England the educational authorities cry “Greek Literature rather than Science,” in Greece they cry “Science rather than Greek literature.”
Whitsuntide found me at Clifton: duty more than pleasure being the occasion of my journey there. Since the death of my uncle Thomas, named in an early part of this volume, I have made no mention of my aunt Anna. But on looking back I count up four visits to see her, which were among those unrecorded excursions referred to in a recent chapter: two being to Hinton, where, after the death of her brother, Mr. Brooke, she lived for some years with her sister-in-law and niece; and two being to Churchill near Bristol, where she has, since the death of her sister-in-law, lived with the clergyman to whom her niece was married. Churchill is within easy reach of Clifton. On going thither I learned that she was at Weston-super-Mare. There I went next day, and found her bearing cheerfully her invalid-life in bed, borne for years before and years since—evidently consoled by those thoughts of compensation hereafter which doubtless, in the present state of the world, make the ills of life more tolerable to many than they would else be.
Before returning to town I made a détour to Stourbridge, with a view to finding an answer to the genealogical question named in a preceding chapter; but I failed, as before.
In the course of his career an author finds that each new book is a new hostage to fortune. Like a child of the body, to which Bacon’s metaphor tacitly refers, a child of the mind becomes a source of troubles and anxieties; so that, as he advances in life, more and more of the author’s time is taken up with the increasing distractions which accompany the increasing number of volumes published. I do not refer only to the fact that each additional work furnishes a further vulnerable place to antagonists; though this is of course a large part of the result. But I refer also to the fact that each additional work brings after it an extra series of transactions which augment the complications of life in subsequent years—the trouble of revision, the attention required to bring things up to date, the business of new editions.
This spring two interruptions hence arising occurred; of which the first was entailed by an apparent need for self-defence. By Mr. Malcolm Guthrie there had been published a volume, On Mr. Spencer’s Formula of Evolution, aiming to refute the doctrine set forth in First Principles; and the Rev. Prof. Birks had issued a book entitled Modern Physical Fatalism and the Doctrine of Evolution, including an examination of Mr. H. Spencer’s First Principles. Besides these major attacks, formidable if measured by bulk, there were some minor ones, less bulky, but more worthy of notice, coming from Prof. Tait, the Rev. Mr. Kirkman, Mr. Matthew Arnold, the North American Review, and Prof. Cliffe Leslie. A new edition of First Principles was called for; and, thinking it worth while to deal with these antagonists in an Appendix, I devoted to the task parts of June and July.
The other interruption had a different origin. When I agreed to publish The Study of Sociology in the “International Scientific Series,” I stipulated that after a specified period I should be at liberty to issue an edition of the work along with my other works. The year in which I became free to do this was 1880; and for several preceding years I had, during intervals of leisure, been slowly removing such defects of expression as I found in the book, and preparing a postscript. I think I have before named the fact that so far from disliking the process of polishing, as most writers do, I had a partiality for it; and cannot let any piece of work pass so long as it seems to me possible to improve it. The library edition of The Study of Sociology, published in July of this year, furnished a marked illustration of this trait. I had of course revised the original MS.; I had revised the proofs before publication in the Contemporary; I had revised the proofs of the re-published articles forming the volume as it appeared in the “International Scientific Series”; I had revised this volume in preparation for a final edition; and, lastly, I had revised the successive sheets of this final edition as they passed through the press. Thus every sentence in the work had passed under my eye for correction five times; and each time there was rarely a page which did not bear some erasures and marginal marks. There are those who hold that changes of expression, carried even to a much smaller extent, are commonly injurious; and it may be that the first mode of expression is occasionally the best. But I am of opinion that where an alteration is also a condensation it is nearly always an improvement.
Occasionally very ludicrous effects are caused by the printing of sentences which were probably not read over after they were written. I have noted in the course of years two examples worth recording. One was in an advertisement which I cut out of The Times, and have now before me. It begins as follows:—
“Mr. Henry Leslie’s Choir, June 11.—Programme:—Part 1. Sacred Music.—Motett, for double choir, ‘The Spirit also helpeth us’ (in compliance with very numerous requests), Bach.”
The other was still more remarkable. Some dozen years since there arose a mania for ornamenting houses at Christmas with illuminated texts; and in response to the demand for these, there appeared an advertisement of “Marcus Ward’s Christmas Wall Decorations”. To guide purchasers in ordering those which would fit spaces on their walls, Messrs. Ward & Co. had specified after each text the length of the scroll occupied by it. This memorandum of length gave to more than one of them some oddity of appearance; but finally there came this:—
“ ‘Unto you is born a Saviour.’ About 6 feet long.”
This advertisement, which also I have preserved, will be found in the Athenæum for Dec. 15, 1877, page 788.
Already I have narrated two strange coincidences that have occurred to me; and because it furnished the occasion for a third, I must say something about my visit to Scotland this autumn.
After a fortnight at Inveroran, I moved on to Loch Hourn-head. A deer-forest, spreading over some of the mountains adjacent, had been for several years tenanted by Mr. Robert Birkbeck; and by him I had been invited there. A small yacht which fetched me from Glenelg, and in which various excursions were made, added to the pleasures of the place; and partly in rambling, partly in sea-fishing, partly in yachting, a pleasant ten days was passed. During my stay, reference was made to Black’s novels, the scenes of many of which lie on the west coast of Scotland. This recalled to me a curious coincidence which had occurred some years before while I was staying at Ardtornish. I was reading A Daughter of Heth. At intervals I had got through the first volume and commenced the second, when, one afternoon, it was announced that the Dobhran was about to start for Oban to meet friends who were arriving from Glasgow. Knowing that there would be a good deal of unoccupied time, I took with me this second volume. We arrived in Oban Bay half an hour before the steamer was due, and cast anchor. During the interval of waiting I resumed my novel. Presently I came to a part which told how the heroine was taken on a yachting excursion by her friends, and went to Oban Bay. This odd coincidence between the fictitious yachting and the actual yachting I narrated. Now comes the strange fact. If not the next day, then certainly within a few days, I took up a number of the Cornhill Magazine in which Mr. Black’s novel, White Wings, was being serially published, and read a chapter containing an account of a visit paid by the heroine and her friends to Loch Hourn! The coincidence was not, on this second occasion, complete; for I was not on board Mr. Birkbeck’s yacht while reading. But the yacht was lying out in the loch, within two hundred yards of the window at which I sat.
For this last of the three coincidences I have named, there is no other evidence than my own word; but of the others there exist, among my papers, documentary proofs. The one described in the first volume, showing that, at an interval of four years, I made two engagements of exactly the same kind, in which my two superiors were both of the same nationality, had the same surnames, and the same christian names, is one which might as readily have occurred to any one else as to me; and one which I suppose must from time to time be paralleled in the degree of correspondence, if not in the kind of correspondence. Now comes the lesson. There is no more reason for expecting correspondence between two such sets of facts in actual life, than between such a set in actual life and such a set in a dream. Considered as a question of probabilities, the last correspondence is just as likely as the first. See then the implication. Millions of people in Great Britain dream every night; and in the space of a year there are probably at least a hundred millions of dreams vivid enough to be recalled on awaking. Clearly, then, in view of this occasional correspondence between two sets of events in actual life, we must infer that out of this enormous number of cases there will occasionally be a correspondence between a set of events in actual life and a set of events in a dream; and when one such occurs it will appear like a fulfilment. May we not say that the alleged fulfilments are not more common than, in conformity with the law of probability, we may expect them to be?
My farewell to my friends, and to the grand scenery of Loch Hourn, was made on the 25th August, and on the next day I arrived in London.
As narrated above, there had arisen in the spring two of those eddies or backwaters by which the stream of an author’s life is more and more impeded as it lengthens and broadens; and now in the autumn there arose another. Its nature is indicated in the following extract from correspondence:—
“As you have, I daresay, observed, I have been a good deal attacked by various critics as to the “incoherence”, as they call it, of my psychological system, and the “confused” character of my metaphysics: the confusion which they ascribe to me, being, as I conceive, due to their own inability to co-ordinate the several aspects of the system as they are now separately stated. As I hinted in the course of my reply to criticisms, written some years ago, I had originally intended to write a division under the head “Congruities”, in which the harmony existing between the several parts should be pointed out, and had refrained from doing this because I thought the harmony was sufficiently conspicuous; but that, as the criticisms passed proved that this was not the case, I might hereafter add this division. The third edition of the Psychology, I find, is now gone, with the exception of fifty copies; and finding this, I am inclined to prepare this additional division for the fourth edition. As this opinion concerning the Psychology,—that the views are not consistent with one another,—has been made widely prevalent, and is repeated by critics who know nothing about it as an established truth, it seems to me needful that I should do this; especially as I fancy the reputation of the book is somewhat damaged by this kind of opinion in the Universities.”
The execution of this piece of work, commenced before I left town, occupied me for a month after my return; and then followed a short supplementary holiday. I had for several years made it a practice to take runs down to the sea-side (usually Brighton) when the state of my work enabled me to partly occupy the time in revision. So, taking with me a set of proofs of this new division of the Psychology, and visiting the Spottiswoodes at Coombe Bank on my way, I passed on to Minster, Margate, Westgate, Ramsgate, Sandwich, Deal, and Dover: staying a few hours at some of these places and a few days at others; and returning to town as soon as I had finished my proof-correcting.
Still another backwater now hindered me. Various criticisms, some from undistinguished persons and others from men of mark, had been made upon The Data of Ethics: Prof. Sidgwick being, I remember, one among these last. A new edition was called for; and, to remove certain of the misapprehensions and invalid objections, it seemed worth while to say something. The result was that I devoted nearly three weeks to writing an appendix to the book. Only in the last week of October had I freed myself from these various entanglements, and was able to resume the writing of Political Institutions, which thereafter made some progress.
Two months later came one of those events which, as the years roll on, happen with increasing frequency, and render life less worth living. The following extract from a letter to Lott tells what this event was:—
“You were doubtless saddened by the sudden death of George Eliot. I had seen her on the very afternoon of the day on which she was taken ill—being impelled to go in response to a note I had received the preceding day, and by the consciousness that I was leaving town and could not otherwise expect to see her for three weeks. The next I knew was the announcement of her death in Thursday’s evening paper, which reached me at Hastings.”
Some of the obituary notices contained an error which had been long current without making its appearance in such form as to admit of rectification. It was now needful to rectify it, and I published the following letter in several of the daily papers.
“Sir,—Though, as one among those intimate friends most shocked by her sudden death, I would willingly keep silence, I feel that I cannot allow to pass a serious error contained in your biographical notice of George Eliot. A positive form is there given to the belief which has been long current, that I had much to do with her education. There is not the slightest foundation for this belief. Our friendship did not commence until 1851—a date several years later than the publication of her translation of Strauss, and when she was already distinguished by that breadth of culture and universality of power which have since made her known to all the world.—Herbert Spencer.”
Information which I had, I suppose, given to my American friend during one of his visits here, led him to publish in a New York journal a letter rectifying kindred misconceptions current in the United States. This is what I subsequently wrote to him on the matter:—
“Your second letter, which concerned the notice of ‘George Eliot,’ reached me while away in Gloucestershire, but only this morning did I receive a copy of the Sun, containing your explanations.
What you have said is nearer to the truth than the current statements are, though it is still, I think, divergent, as representing my influence as greater than I think it was. In respect to the fact that I, in early days, urged her to write fiction, you are doubtless right; though it was not so much on the ground of any unfitness for philosophical writing, which I should be far from alleging, but on the ground that I thought she had in a high degree all the faculties needed for fiction. That she resisted this suggestion for some years is also true. It may be, and probably is, as you say, that she was considerably influenced all along by my books. In fact, accepting their general views as she did, it could hardly be otherwise; and it may be that the Principles of Psychology was a help to her in the respect of her analyses. But it never occurred to me to consider the effect so great as you suppose. Her powers in respect of introspection and sympathetic insight into others, were naturally extremely great; and I think her achievements in the way of delineation of character are almost wholly due to spontaneous intuition.
In respect of her avowed condition, she has been more a disciple of Comte than of mine; although her acceptance of Comte’s views was very much qualified, and, indeed, hardly constituted her a Comtist in the full sense of the word. Still she had strong leanings to the “Religion of Humanity”, and that always remained a point of difference between us. However, during our last interview, which was on the very day she was taken ill, conversation brought out evidence that she was veering a good deal away from Comte, and recognized the fundamental divergence from the Comtist conception of society, of views of mine which she accepted. She had been re-reading, with Mr. Cross, the Data of Ethics and the Study of Sociology (the last, indeed, for the third time), and was in general sympathy with their views. So that the influence might have been more manifest in further works if she had lived to write them (she had sketched out another novel and written the first chapter).
However, you have done very well by correcting the false impressions that have been so widely diffused. Probably you have already seen that I immediately myself wrote a letter to the papers stating that there was no truth in the notion that her education had been under my direction.”
To exclude a mis-apprehension likely to be strengthened by a reference made above, let me say that the mention of Comte and his doctrines had resulted during a conversation concerning The Study of Sociology, and was quite incidental. Positivism had always been a tacitly tabooed topic between the Leweses and myself—the only topic on which we differed, and which we refrained from discussing.
A movement was commenced to obtain for George Eliot a place in Westminster Abbey; but, before any overt steps were taken, it was concluded that undesirable comments would probably be made, and the movement was abandoned. She was buried in the Highgate Cemetery; and, though the day was continuously rainy, the funeral was attended by a very large concourse, including many distinguished men.
The mention above of The Study of Sociology, and the consciousness that the writing of Political Institutions occupied me during the period covered by this chapter, suggest the propriety of here saying something about my political opinions at the age of 60, considered in contrast with those I held in early days. Have my ideas been modified by the conservatism of advancing years, or by the wider knowledge acquired? or have both operated in causing the change from a sanguine view to a desponding view? I have sometimes startled friends by saying that I am more tory than any tory, and more radical than any radical; and the still-continued truth of this paradox shows that, while I have not relinquished my ideal of the future, I have come to see that its realization is far more remote than I had supposed. The indignation against wrong, the hopefulness of youth, and the lack of experience, had joined in me, as they do in many, to produce eagerness for political re-organization, and the belief that it needed only to establish a form of government theoretically more equitable, to remedy the evils under which society suffered. Hence my juvenile radicalism.
It is true, as shown in Social Statics, that by the time I was thirty the crude notions of five-and-twenty had been considerably qualified. I had come to see that institutions are dependent on character; and, however changed in their superficial aspects, cannot be changed in their essential natures faster than character changes. It had become manifest to me that men are rational beings in but a very limited sense; that conduct results from desire, to the gratification of which reason serves but as a guide; and that hence political action will on the average be determined by the balance of desires, wherever this can show itself. It is also true, as shown in the essay on “Reform: the Dangers and the Safeguards”, that ten years later I saw that mischiefs would result from the giving of votes, unless the cost of political action, general and local, were made to fall directly and unmistakeably on all individuals who had them; and that political power can be safely extended only as fast as governmental functions are restricted.
But I myself illustrated the truth that feeling rather than intellect guides; for, apparently forgetting these conclusions, I approved that wide extension of the franchise effected by the Reform Bill of 1867. The sentiment of early years, so strongly enlisted on behalf of the seemingly-just principle of giving equal political powers to all men, proved too strong for the restraints of my calmer judgments. And then, beyond those recognized truths which feeling led me to ignore, there were other truths unrecognized which I ought not to have overlooked, and from the recognition of which further deterrents should have arisen.
I might have inferred a priori, that which has now become clear a posteriori, that the change would result in replacing the old class-legislation by a new class-legislation. It is certain that, given the average human nature now existing, those who have power will pursue, indirectly if not directly, obscurely if not clearly, their own interests, or rather their apparent interests. We have no reason for supposing that the lower classes are intrinsically better than the higher classes. Hence if, while the last were predominant, they made laws which in one way or other favoured themselves, it follows that now, when the first are predominant, they also will give legislation a bias to their own advantage. Manifest as it always was, it has now become more manifest still, that, so long as governmental action is unrestricted, the thing required is a representation of interests; and that a system under which one interest is overwhelmingly represented (whether it be that of a smaller or of a larger section of the community) will issue in one-sided laws. We shall presently see the injustices once inflicted by the employing classes paralleled by the injustices inflicted by the employed classes. During a long past the superior have inequitably profited at the cost of the inferior; and now one of those rhythms displayed in movements of every order, is bringing about a state in which the inferior will inequitably profit at the cost of the superior.
There was another overlooked truth which has lately become conspicuous enough. Often I have reproached politicians with contemplating only the proximate results of legislation and not seeing the remote results; and I find I have to reproach myself with a kindred blindness. I did not in early days perceive that one organic change tends ever to initiate another, and this another, occasionally bringing about a perpetual moulding and re-moulding of institutions, and a too-plastic state of society; until there eventually arrives something approaching to political disorganization.
But, as above said, while character remains unchanged, change of institutions, however great superficially, cannot be fundamentally great; and while there is going on disorganization of one kind, there goes on re-organization of another kind—while the old coercive arrangements are being relaxed, new coercive arrangements are being unobtrusively established. For the concomitant of that legislation which more and more advantages the employed classes at the expense of the employing classes, is the growth of an administrative system becoming ever more powerful and peremptory—a new governing agency which the emancipated people are unawares elaborating for themselves, while thinking only of gaining the promised benefits. Unceasing development of this, daily more rapid, has now become inevitable, for the reason that both electors and their representatives invoke with increasing urgency public help, public expenditure, and public regulation, which all imply a continually augmenting army of officials—an army which, by the restrictions and dictations its members enforce, gradually decreases the freedom of citizens, at the same time that it further decreases this freedom by demanding that more and more of their labour shall be devoted to maintaining it and paying for the work it superintends. The insidious growth of this organized and consolidated bureaucracy will go on, because the electorate cannot conceive the general but distant evils it must entail, in contrast with the special and immediate advantages to be gained by its action. For the masses can appreciate nothing but material boons—better homes, shorter hours, higher wages, more regular work. Hence they are in favour of those who vote for restricting time in mines, for forcing employers to contribute to men’s insurance funds, for dictating railway-fares and freights, for abolishing the so-called sweating system. It seems to them quite right that education, wholly paid for by rates, should be State-regulated; that the State should give technical instruction; that quarries should be inspected and regulated; that there should be sanitary registration of hotels. The powers which local governments now have to supply gas, water, and electric light, they think may fitly be extended to making tramways, buying and working adjacent canals, building houses for artizans and labourers, lending money for the purchase of freeholds, and otherwise adding to conveniences and giving employment. While all this implies a wide-spread officialism, ever growing in power, it implies augmented burdens upon all who have means: constituting an indirect re-distribution of property. There is, in fact, already in force the policy which Mr. Henry George advocates, when he says we must not turn out the landlords but “tax them out”.
On recognizing the universality of rhythm, it becomes clear that it was absurd to suppose that the great relaxation of restraints—political, social, commercial—which culminated in free-trade, would continue. A re-imposition of restraints, if not of the same kind then of other kinds, was inevitable; and it is now manifest that whereas during a long period there had been an advance from involuntary co-operation in social affairs to voluntary co-operation (or, to use Sir Henry Maine’s language, from status to contract), there has now commenced a reversal of the process. Contract is in all directions being weakened and broken; and we are on the way back to that involuntary co-operation, or system of status, consequent on the immense development of public administrations and the corresponding subordination of citizens—a system of industries carried on under universal State-regulation—a new tyranny eventually leading to new resistances and emancipations.
There may be factors which I have overlooked. Cooperation, for example, were it successful, might do much towards checking this transformation. But so long as cooperation succeeds only in distribution and fails in production, not much is to be hoped from it. Human nature must be much better than it at present is before a much higher civilization can be established. Though I believe that, in the words of the song, “there’s a good time coming,” it now seems to me that the “good time” is very far distant.
Beyond the usual routine entries, varied by mention of a visit to Standish at Easter, my diary tells me nothing of note concerning the season of 1881. The following extracts from letters, however, seem worth reproducing.
The first is dated Feb. 14:—
“I had from Alglave the other day a pleasant piece of intelligence which you will be glad to learn. The French Government have bought 100 copies of the translation of the Data of Ethics for the public libraries in France.”
The next is dated May 7:—
“I inclose a letter from Morley in which, as you see, he proposes to end the series with the forthcoming chapter on ‘Compound Political Heads.’ ”
The succeeding chapters were, however, published in America. The next passage which may fitly be quoted bears the date June 13:—
“I am glad to see that you take the same view as I do with respect to the supreme importance of the political theory, especially for you in the U.S. I do not believe that a true theory will do much good; but we may at any rate say, contrariwise, that an untrue one does a great deal of harm; and at present much mischief is going on among you as a result of untrue theories.”
Utterly irrelevant though it is in subject, I am prompted to add here a passage written during this spring to my friend Lott:—
“As you say you have thoughts of coming to hear Berlioz’s Faust, I would suggest that a much better thing in that way would be to hear his Romeo and Juliet, which I am glad to say is to be repeated on April 7th. This is, I am now certain, the piece a part of which so delighted me when I heard it thirty years ago, and the non-recognition of which by the critical world so exasperated me. I have been since that time aware that it was a part of Faust or a part of Romeo and Juliet; and now, having recently heard Faust, which did not reach my expectations, I am clear it was a part of Romeo and Juliet.”
I must have been mistaken, however; for I did not find in Romeo and Juliet anything which gave me such extreme pleasure as did some music of Berlioz played during the first season of the New Philharmonic Concerts, which he then conducted. I have not been able to discover what music it was.
An occurrence too amusing to go unrecorded, requires the introduction that this autumn I decided to visit the Eastern side of the Grampians, which I had never seen. One of the results is given in the following passage from a letter to my American friend:—
“I may end with something to make you laugh. A story is in circulation, which originally made its appearance in one of our personal journals, The World, that a place which I had visited during my absence has been exorcised, in consequence of my presence. It was at Braemar, where, as the paragraph states (rightly), I had been staying some days, and where a Free Church clergyman saw my name in the visitors’ book. ‘He was seen to shudder, and, being asked what was the matter, in tremulous accents said that Anti-Christ was living under the same roof, and straightway convened a prayer-meeting in the billiard room as a fumigatory measure.’ ”
Knowing the worth of newspaper statements, I gave but little heed to this story until I obtained a verification. But from a fellow-member of the Athenæum, who was in the hotel after my departure, and also from another acquaintance, I learnt that something of the kind took place.
A letter written soon after from Ardtornish, or rather from its neighbourhood, contains a quotable paragraph. It is dated “SS. Yacht Dobhran, in the Sleat Sound,” 12th August:—
“As you see, I write this while out yachting on the west coast of Scotland, in a steam-yacht belonging to my friends at Ardtornish. I have brought with me, for final revision, the last of the chapters intended for serial publication, [“The Industrial Type”], and shall post it to you from some place we touch at.
It is terribly long, and I fear may entail on you some inconvenience. But it could not with justice to the subject-matter be made shorter; and the matter is of cardinal importance—indeed it is the culminating chapter of the work—and, indeed, of the Synthetic Philosophy, in so far as practical applications are concerned. It has worked out quite to my satisfaction. You will be glad to see how entire is the harmony between the concrete argument, as here set forth, and the abstract argument contained in The Data of Ethics.”
The fiftieth meeting of the British Association was held at York this year. Sir John Lubbock, one of our X club, was President; and this fact furnished one of the motives which prompted my departure for York after three weeks at Ardtornish. A letter to Lott, written after my return to town, gives some particulars concerning my stay there:—
“You complained in your last that I had not given you any account of my own previous doings. Well, to exclude any such complaint in your next letter, I will just indicate my movements since I wrote to you from Ardtornish. Valentine Smith took me in the Dobhran to Stranraer on my way to York [he being on his way to London], and in the course of our day’s voyage we touched at Jura and called on Henry Evans to see his place. It is recently built and a very comfortable one. At York I had pleasant days: my stay at Escrick being especially enjoyable. The circle was a varied one, and everything was made more agreeable by our very charming hostess, Lady Wenlock, who is one of the most attractive women I know. At Fryson, where I afterwards spent some four days, among the guests were Lady Burdett-Coutts and her husband. She is amiable and unassuming.
From Fryson I went to Rusland, and had a quiet ten days before coming South, where I have now been for nearly a month. On the whole I had a very enjoyable holiday, and have come back all the better for it: being, in fact, in very fair condition.”
And so ends the last narrative of my vacation doings with which the reader need be troubled.
The remainder of ’81 and early part of ’82, yielded but one incident of moment; and this proved to be of so much moment—to me, at least—that I have reserved it for separate narration in the next chapter. Too great an amount of walking, entailed by an expedition into South Wales during my stay at Standish at Christmas, considerably weakened me, and, as I see by entries in my diary after my return to town, prepared the way for the mischief which I brought on myself in February.
The only noteworthy occurrence which the beginning of 1882 brought, is described in the following passage from a letter dated Feb. 14:—
“This morning is marked by a somewhat unusual incident. I received from America, from a naturalized German named Hegeler, one of the firm of Matthieson and Hegeler, Zinc Manufacturers of La Salle, Illinois, a long letter inclosing me a bill of exchange for two hundred and odd pounds. He explained that his immediate reason for sending it was that he had read in the Chicago Daily News, that I am “not in easy financial circumstances”; a statement which, I presume, has taken its origin in the announcement of my loss on the Descriptive Sociology. I am, by this same post, returning the bill of exchange to Mr. Hegeler, with due recognition of his generosity, but with the explanation that there exists no such need as that which he supposes. He seems, by his account of himself, to have been active in the endeavour to propagate advanced ideas.”
Mr. Hegeler’s activity in the direction named was shown some four years later by founding and supporting The Open Court—a weekly paper having for its object the reconciliation of Religion and Science on the basis of Monism.
The last chapter of Political Institutions, commenced on Feb. 13, was not completed till the 24th of March—a delay consequent on the disturbance of health caused in a way to be presently described. Early in April the volume was delivered over to the attention or inattention—chiefly inattention—of the reviewers.
I am not sure whether I entertained some hope that the general doctrine set forth would receive consideration: probably not much if any. But if I entertained any I was disappointed. Though this doctrine, being a part of the general Theory of Evolution, might not unnaturally be regarded as having an a priori character, yet, since it is throughout ostensibly based on, and justified by, multitudinous facts, it has an inductive warrant which might have commended it even to those whose reasonings are limited to inferences from blue books and newspaper statistics. But conclusions to which men are averse cannot be made acceptable to them by facts any more than by arguments; and Englishmen are averse to conclusions of wide generality. Not only out of parliament, among the ignorant, but in parliament, among those supposed to be enlightened, such a question as whether there are or are not any limits to the functions of government is pooh-poohed as an abstract question not worth discussing. “Practical” wisdom is supposed to lie in the assumption that an Act of Parliament can do anything, and that it is foolish to waste time in considering whether there are any principles of social life which justify one kind of legislation and negative another. Perhaps it will some day be seen—possibly by some it is seen now—that the question of the proper sphere of government is the most “practical” of all questions; and that the fostering of false ideas concerning the things to be asked for and expected from the State, is fast leading to a social revolution which threatens to end in re-barbarization.
If I did look for some acceptance of the leading ideas set forth in this volume, it was from the men of science that I looked for it. These general facts,—that in the course of animal evolution there arises a strong contrast between the method of co-operation among those organs which carry on the vital actions, and the method of co-operation among those organs which carry on dealings with the environment; and that there arises in the course of social evolution a kindred contrast between the mode of co-operation among the industrial structures which sustain social life, and the structures which perform actions of offence and defence against other societies (which form the social environment),—might, I thought, be recognized by the scientifically cultured, and their significance perceived. That there results the industrial type or the militant type according as one or other set of organs and mode of co-operation predominates; and that the phenomena of activity, structure, government, with the corresponding beliefs and sentiments, are determined by the relative predominance; proved to be conceptions no more appreciated by those who are in the habit of studying natural causation, than by those to whom natural causation is an unfamiliar thought.
Beliefs, like creatures, must have fit environments before they can live and grow; and the environment furnished by the ideas and sentiments now current, is an entirely unfit environment for the beliefs which the volume sets forth.