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CHAPTER I: the state: its growth and evolution - Wordsworth Donisthorpe, Individualism: A System of Politics 
Individualism: A System of Politics (London: Macmillan and Co., 1889).
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the state: its growth and evolution
“The State is an organism.” The words flow glibly from the tongue, but do we clearly know what we mean by the State? Among the lower forms of animal life we are at a loss to know whether to regard certain organisms, such, for example, as sponges, as individuals or as aggregations of individuals. But among the higher forms of life we have no difficulty. The animals best known to us are practically bounded by their skins, and it is very seldom that a question of individuation arises of any importance, though doubts have been expressed both in modern and ancient Courts of Justice as to whether the purchaser of a mare in foal is ipso facto the owner of the foal.
In the vegetable kingdom the difficulties of individuation are considerably greater; if the rose-tree is an individual, what shall we say to the rose? Consider the growth of the strawberry, and of the banyan, which sends down roots from its branches to strike into the ground and themselves become trunks. One such tree, if it can be called one tree, has been known to measure more than five hundred yards in circumference round the trunks. Some would call the growth a single tree, and others would describe it as a grove of trees.
Social organisms in this respect more nearly resemble vegetable than animal forms. It is difficult to define and demarcate the individual. Those who have not reflected upon this difficulty may readily realise it by trying to group the following under the heads of individual states and parts of states—Canada, Egypt, Servia, Hungary, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Ohio, Poland, Wales. But if, on the one hand, there is difficulty in deciding in certain cases, in other cases, on the other hand, there is no difficulty whatever. No one will pretend that Yorkshire and Lancashire are two different and separate states. We all know the meaning of France, though we might find some difficulty in denning even that very precisely about the eastern boundary. Now, without attempting to define exactly the term State, or to follow Austin in his exhaustive inquiry into the question, let us take it for granted that in the main we understand pretty clearly what we mean by the term. Just as we know, in spite of the puzzles of individuation, that there are such individual things as oak-trees, so we know that there are such individual things as states. And let us trace the natural history of states from their first appearance on the planet.
And first, as to their origin. The germ of the State must of course be looked for and found in that phase of social development known as complete savagery; and I would venture to say that the very first state which ever existed was a human family consisting of a mother and her offspring. With all deference to sociologists, the family is a state and the earliest form of state. By “state ” I mean not a mere aggregation of men, but a growth, a social organism. The laws which govern the structure of the earliest form of state must be pre-social and therefore biological. These are the laws which underlie all political laws, and from which all political laws take their origin. It may safely be said that all the laws, the complicated laws of civilised nations, conflicting as they seem to us at the present day, are the lineal descendants of filial obedience and parental affection.
And next, as to the growth of states. The family, as such, doubtless existed for a very long period without any tendency towards coalescence, but in course of time we find these families drawn together in little groups and loosely compounded under a single head. Whether this aggregation was originally due to conscious combination for purposes of mutual defence and other advantages, or whether it was simply a clannish extension of the family following upon paternal recognition of offspring, and the consequent continuation of the family life during the lifetime of the head of the family, is a question for which there is neither the time nor the need in this place. All that it behoves us to note here is that in process of time we find the family consisting, not as among the lower animals of the mother and her offspring alone, but of the father together with his wives and all their children, many of whom are themselves fathers of families. In addition to these members of the family there were others who for various reasons were admitted into it. Here again, interesting as the subject is, I must come to a halt and content myself with referring those who wish to look deeper into this question of the structure of the early patriarchal system to the learned and fascinating works of the late Sir Henry Maine. Later still, we find larger families whose original head is no longer living, though there is no doubt that the sub-families composing it are apparently and professedly connected by blood. Whether the paterfamilias was as a rule the head of the senior family, or, as appears to have certainly been the case in some places, the youngest son of the deceased patriarch, or whether it was some other person elected or nominated or otherwise fixed upon, does not concern us here. The compound family existed, and we may call it a Gens or a Curia, or by any other name for which there is any warrant. Whoever the paterfamilias might be, there is something artificial in obedience to a brother as compared with filial obedience, which goes far to show that the compounding and continued adhesion of these houses was a conscious and deliberate act of which the motive was the advantage (of one sort or another) derived from co-operation.
Finally, these families and houses are found aggregated into what is called a tribe. And still later, as we sail down the stream of history we see these tribes themselves beginning to confederate. The interests which the tribes had in common, though not so deep-rooted or important as those which were peculiar to the members of the several tribes, were nevertheless an ever-increasing quantity. Probably the earliest trustworthy records of intertribal action are the historical references to the Greek Amphictyonic Councils. These Amphictyones were councils of the tribes and not of the states. The tribes, no matter how great or how small their individual importance, had all an equal vote. Not even Athens or Sparta counted for more than one. And we see the same process going on in early Roman history. Whether the Comitia Curiata was originally anything more than a periodic gathering of the elders under the old paternal roof (curia), or whether it was an expressly invented institution for the management of tribal affairs, cannot be positively stated (I incline to the former view), but there can be no doubt from the name and from the ceremonies associated with the institution that it dates back from a period when the “Kurios” himself ruled the Gens, and likely enough under that designation. Curiously enough, the Amphictyones were concerned not only with the foreign affairs of tribes federated for offensive or defensive alliance, but also with the worship of the deceased common ancestor. As time wore on, these somewhat loose federations became more and more welded into a compact whole or nation. And this is the highest social aggregate with which we are as yet fully acquainted. Into the actual causes of these successive compoundings and recompoundings we have no time to inquire here. They are to be found set forth in Mr. H. Spencer's Principles of Sociology.
Pari pesse with this compounding and recompounding of social groups a transformation necessarily takes place in judicial procedure. The despotism of the paterfamilias continues to obtain recognition inside the family, whereas transactions between members of different families or between families inter sc are regulated in accordance with the laws of the Gens. Similarly, when the Houses become federated, a higher system of law governs the dealings between them. Some of the differences in procedure survive to a very late period in history, and prove a mystery and a stumbling-block to jurists and historians. For example, the Romans recognised a distinction between res mancipi and res nee mancipi, a distinction based solely on the mode of transfer required by law. The line of cleavage was in no wise coincident with the line of cleavage between our real and personal property. Slaves, oxen, horses, and certain other chattels, fall into the category of res mancipi, together with laud and houses. May not ploughs be added to the list? Jurists have sought in vain to discover something common and peculiar to the members of this class, the true explanation being that whereas res nee mancipi were transferred according to the rules of the smaller group, res mancipi, on the other hand, were transferred by means of the process required by the law of the compound group. And for this reason: individual members of a family were in the habit of exchanging, bartering, and selling such things as spears, bows, shields, and the like, but not land and herds, which were held in common by the family, or by the head of the family, for the common good. Hence, when houses, acres, and flocks came to be the subject of dealings between family and family, it was necessary that the dealings should satisfy the requirements of the wider jurisprudence. Nor is it difficult to see that a more solemn and involved ceremonial would tend to develop itself in transfers from one family to another. Simple delivery in the presence of the patriarch or other responsible witnesses would be sufficient evidence as to the ownership of a shield or spear amongst members of the same family. The transaction would be sufficiently notorious. The thing would change hands, and words would be used indicative of the animus of the parties. But in the case of interfamily transactions much more would be needed. Not only are the things in which families would deal unfit for delivery from hand to hand (as, for example, a flock of sheep or a range of pasture), but, furthermore, the representative of the State (of the group-force) is not present embodied in a single person ready to take note of the transaction. It is necessary either to convene those who in assembly represent the will of the federated families, or to perform such ceremonies as can leave no room for doubt as to the fact and the nature of the transaction. In Rome these ceremonies took the form of mancipation. We ourselves can recall the beatings of boundaries'and the thrashing of younger children, and sometimes of the parson, which took place at the chief landmarks.
Similarly, when tribes had already become welded into fairly homogeneous states, and were on the point of still further federating into larger nations, we find a new conflict of jurisdictions and of legal systems. Probably a like explanation may be given of the Eoman division of law into “Jus personarum ” and “Jus rerum,” the former being the law of the smaller and earlier group, and the latter the law of the compound aggregate. It is unnecessary here to go into the history of the prætorian edict. It is sufficient to note that at the time of the remarkable integration known as the growth of the Eoman Empire, the civil law was found unsuitable and inapplicable to the dealings between Roman citizens and members of surrounding states. Hence the “Jus Gentium ” or law of the new federation, as opposed to the lav of the chief component state. Whether this new jurisprudence came into existence through a process of extracting that which was common to the races and peoples making up the new aggregate; or whether it was based (as some alleged) on the law of nature, i.e. abstract justice as it presented itself to the conscience of successive prætors; or whether it grew up in some other way, matters not here; what is needful to be noted is this, that on the recompounding of the states, each with its own body of law, a new and more widely based legal system arose, which conflicted with and eventually tended to absorb the legal systems of the component states. The same process is at work amongst us at the present day. Nations and wide empires are themselves beginning loosely to aggregate and to become more or less federated. The legal systems of the several states are inapplicable to the dealings between members of such several states; and the outcome of the striving after order and amicable arrangement is what is known as international private law. If any body of rules on the face of the earth presents the appearance of being based on equity pure and simple, surely it is this body of rules recognised by civilised nations as governing the dealings of members of different countries one with another. The principles underlying these laws will doubtless tend in time to swallow up the principles upon which are based the laws peculiar to the separate nations. Thus international law may be regarded as a foreshadowing of—
Thus the international private law of to-day bears the same relation to English or French law as the “Jus Gentium ” of old bore to the Roman civil law or the Corpora Juris of Greek and African states; the same relation again which the “Jus Gentilitium” bore to the patriarchal law which preceded it.
History presents a picture of ever-increasing political integration. First, the only political unit is the group consisting of a mother and her offspring; then on the recognition of paternity we enter upon the patriarchal stage, in which the unit consists of the descendants of a living male together with his wives and slaves; the whole despotically governed by himself. Next we have clans or houses consisting of federated families descended from a common deceased ancestor, having a common name and worship and held together by common interests which tend to wax stronger and stronger. These gentes again tend to be recompounded in one or more degrees till we have the tribe and eventually the nation. Finally, nations are themselves showing signs of coalescence. At first the bonds which hold together the new federation are extremely slight and frail; but they tend to strengthen until the individuality of the component groups is almost, if not altogether, merged and lost. And concurrently with the political integration there necessarily goes a juridical integration.
Frequently the new federation has proved itself unstable and premature, and has rapidly or gradually disintegrated. Nature places a limit on the process. We have seen the Macedonian Empire no sooner built up than falling to pieces again. So too the Eoman Empire, after some centuries of a cumbrous and elephantine existence, broke up into fragments which proved to have more vitality than the great whole from which they were detached. Clearly there is a limit to the size of a state ruled by a single government. Now what is the law of the limit of political integration? In biology the limit of mass of any living organism depends on the power of co-ordination; that is to say, any part of the body being affected the whole must respond; otherwise it is not an organic whole, but a mere aggregate. The same holds good of social organisms, The size of such organism depends on its power of internal co- ordination. But as time wears on. the possibilities of integration are increased. We have better means of communication both in the way of locomotion and signalling. We have increased general knowledge, and more widely distributed information. And finally, we have the coming together of large masses of the population in towns. Hence, there has resulted a constant tendency towards increasing integration. Men can work together in larger numbers century by century. At the same time it behoves us to inquire whether the aggregations we see around us are themselves stable, or whether they are too large for equilibrium.
Since the break-up of the Roman Empire there has been a constantly increasing tendency towards the welding together of tribes and small states into larger wholes. Take the history of these Islands. About a thousand years ago this England of ours was divided into no less than seven (probably we may say eight) separate kingdoms. Ireland was divided into at least five kingdoms, and Scotland consisted of a larger number of independent states. Well, about the year 829, the states of the Heptarchy were rolled into one, to which was given by King Egbert the name of England. Two or three centuries later Wales was merged in the whole. Shortly after that Ireland was conquered, hardly merged perhaps, but conquered and annexed. Then in 1603 England and Scotland were united under one political head, and a century later, in 1707, their Parliaments became one. In the year 1801 the Act of Union brought the Irish representatives to Westminster, and so apparently consolidated and completed the political integration of the British Isles. So that here there has been a continuous tendency on the part of the smaller states to federate and finally to become welded into an organic whole. A similar process has been going on all over Europe.
In no preceding ages have the possibilities of integration been more enormously increased than in the present century. The wonderful applications of steam and of electricity to the satisfaction of man's wants, the immense strides made in the speculative sciences, and last, but not least, the bringing within reach of all classes of the people of the rich treasures of useful knowledge which were formerly the monopoly of the few; these and other causes have operated to stimulate political integration to an extent hitherto unattainable, not in this country only, but all over the civilised world. In our own day we have seen the unification of Italy; the unification of Germany; the gradual absorption of small states by larger states. Denmark is disappearing; Holland and Belgium have not many years of independent existence left to them. “We have witnessed the most stupendous war this planet has yet seen, waged in America for the same great principle. In fine, the history of this century is the history of political integration. It is true that alongside of flourishing and growing social organisms we have others in a state of decay and dissolution; but even here, as in Turkey, signs are not wanting that the process of re-integration on a new basis is following close on the snapping of the old bonds. When, therefore, there is any question as to the wieldiness of an empire, the presumption at the present day is clearly in favour of a policy of integration rather than disruption, of increased rather than diminished mass. Above all, the British Empire, which before the development of the means of co-ordination above referred to supported an unprecedented mass, cannot now be suspected of inability to maintain its equilibrium without strong evidence to the contrary. A series of maps of Europe for the first year of each half century since the time of Justinian would well illustrate this tendency, and would at the same time demonstrate the folly and ignorance of those statesmen of all ages whose object was the maintenance of what they called’ the balance of power.'' This view of foreign affairs is conservative in the worst sense of the word, and it is not yet quite extinct.
Among other means of co-ordination must be counted improved systems of political organisation. With the sifting and reduction of governmental duties, a corresponding adaptation of governmental organs has been effected. Much has been done in the way of division of labour, and every year the State learns a new lesson from the processes of individual enterprise. From a single despot or a chamber of notables, the ruling body has developed into a gigantic framework of departments, interdependent and actuated from a common centre.
In spite of the immense aids to empire-making, the enormous growth of “Greater Britain” within the last two centuries has put a considerable strain on the cohesive forces of Anglo-Saxondom. The most disastrous effect of this strain was the detachment of the American branch a hundred years ago. Nor until within the last few years (one might almost say months) has there been any very visible retendency towards imperial integration. The statesmen of England seem for two generations to have been smitten with the insular craze; though we should be careful not to express in psychological terms what is really a natural sociological accompaniment of rapidly-augmenting political mass. The agitation here and in the Colonies in favour of some kind of closer union between the mother country and her offspring is one of the healthiest signs of the times, and upon its eventual success or failure depends the future of the English social system.
The problem before us (though it is a problem which will eventually appear to solve itself without the assistance of individual cobblers) is the discovery and adoption of some increasing bond of union between England and her off-shoots and dependencies, such as shall admit of central action without weakening local liberty. And the solution is Integration with Decentralisation,—though this is, of course, merely a re-stating of the problem in fewer words. For what is the precise nature of the integration and decentralisation to be brought about? Is not the freedom of the parts incompatible with the working of the aggregate as an organic whole? Let us see. No sooner had Alfred the Great finally consolidated the union of the kingdoms of the Heptarchy, than he at once set to work, and re-subdivided the whole into counties. This interesting illustration throws light on the essential nature of true political integration. Local government of some kind is a necessary concomitant of political extension over a wide area, rather than antagonistic thereto. Integration must not be confounded with centralisation, nor must decentralisation be confounded with disruption. On the contrary, wide empire (or commonwealth, if Mr. Froude prefers the term) can be built and maintain its stability only on local liberty, on the freedom of the parts in all matters not affecting the whole.
The problem resolves itself into an inquiry as to the true limits of the imperial functions and the residual local functions, be they of large limbs or small. “Certain interests,” writes De Tocqueville, “are common to all parts of a nation, such as the enactment of its general laws, and the maintenance of its foreign relations. Other interests are peculiar to certain parts of the nation, such as, for instance, the business of the several townships. . . . A centralised administration of local affairs is fit only to enervate the nations in which it exists, by incessantly diminishing their local spirit. It may ensure a victory in the hour of strife, but it gradually relaxes the sinews of strength.” Thus by decentralisation is meant not local legislation, but local administration. So that no local enactment must contravene the law of the empire; and although local authorities may lay down any rules they choose for the interpretation and administration of the general law, they must not be permitted to enact a conflicting law. And this is true of all local self-governing areas, from the largest colony to the smallest municipality. The principle upon which the functions of the one rest must equally apply to the functions of the other.
Hitherto this has been the guiding principle of local government in England, though there are signs of a tendency to run off the lines. In America, on the other hand, the reverse process is at work. The several states have exercised legislative privileges at variance with the proper functions of the central government; but the tendency at the present time is strongly in the direction of the absorption by the United States Government of the legislative powers of the several states. This is a healthy symptom and likely to become more pronounced.
What is the explanation of the lack of ardour shown by many of our colonists for some kind of Imperial Federation? They are loyal enough; and indeed the more loyal among them seem to regard the movement with the greater distrust. The answer is simple. They have unpleasant recollections of Downing Street. If England has neglected her maternal duties in many respects, she has made up for it by increased fussiness and arbitrariness in others. As might have been predicted, those colonies which she has treated with the most grandmotherly solicitude, like infants not fit to be trusted with the most ordinary duties of self-protection, have turned out the least self-reliant, the least prosperous, and the most clamorous for more help from home. It is with nations as with individuals. The more you let them alone, the better they thrive. In illustration of this contention I cannot do better than quote a paragraph from Mr. Froude's charming book Occana. “From the Cape to Australia—from intrigue and faction and the perpetual interference of the Imperial Government, to a country where politics are but differences of opinion, where the hand of the Imperial Government is never felt, where the people are busy with their own affairs, and the harbours are crowded with ships, and the quays with loading-carts, and the streets with men, where every one seems occupied, and every one at least moderately contented—the change is great indeed. The climate is the same. The soil on the average is equal: what Australia produces South Africa produces with equal freedom. In Australia, too, there is a mixture of races-— English, Germans, and Chinese. Yet in one all is life, vigour, and harmony; the other lies blighted, and every effort for it? welfare fails. What is the explanation of so vast a difference ?. One is a natural and healthy branch from the parent oak, left to grow as nature prompts it, and bearing its leaves and acorns at its own impulse. No bands or ligaments impede the action of the vital force. The parent tree does not say to it, You shall grow in this shape, and not in that; but leaves it to choose its own. Thus it spreads and enlarges its girth, and roots itself each year more firmly in the stem from which it has sprung. The Cape is a branch doing its best to thrive, but withering from the point where it joins the trunk, as if at that point some poison was infecting it.” This is a case of “doing those things which we ought not to have done.” But England is quite as guilty of “leaving undone those things which we ought to have done.” While she has busied herself with preaching and dictating to her own colonies, she has allowed other nations to establish themselves in dangerous proximity to them. Colonial remonstrance has usually been in vain. While our pioneering brethren across the Atlantic have acted upon the Monroe doctrine in North America, we have allowed French and Germans quietly to appropriate “unconsidered trifles ” in the way of harbours and islands from which at no distant date they must be ejected, possibly not without trouble and expense. It is said that we may smile at these amateur invasions of New Guinea and the New Hebrides and Angra Pequena, etc. etc. Curiously enough, however, all the smiling is done at home. The Colonies do not join in the fun. They have suffered too much already in the process of “surviving ” by way of proving that they are the fittest, and they prefer in future to take it for granted. If instead of bullying the Dutch in the Cape we had long ago proclaimed a sort of Monroe doctrine for South Africa and also for the islands of the Australasian Archipelago, we should have saved ourselves much complication. Again, regardless of the history of our Indian Empire, we have suppressed all private initiative like to that of the famous Company. Only recently a similar enterprise, on a scale the future limits of which could not be foreseen, was launched in Borneo, when the home government lost no time in throwing cold water upon it.
Too little consideration is paid to the necessities of the pioneers of Anglo-Saxondom on the borders of our straggling empire, and too much, far too much, to the sentiments of ignorant if well-meaning faddists at the centre. It is easy to sit at home and cant about the rights of the poor Indian to his hunting-grounds, but the struggling settler knows that a thousand human beings can be supported on those lands under cultivation for one who can find subsistence on it as a hunter: and he knows also what a wild beast is the native with whom he has to deal. “Aborigines protection” is a hobby which requires a consummate ignorance of aborigines generally and a plentiful infusion of fiction to render it a really fascinating pursuit. Yet England panders to the crotcheteer.
Thus, when the feasibility of the common government of two or more nations or areas is raised, there are two distinct questions to face. First, is the political integration of the two countries desirable and practicable? Second, if so, for what degree of decentralisation are the two or more component parts ripe? The questions are quite distinct and should be kept so Unfortunately there has been a marked tendency to confuse them.
In the light of the above reflections let us consider the question of the government of Ireland. We have seen that as regards the total separation of Great Britain and Ireland, the presumption is against it. But presumption is not proof. Those who regard political integration most favourably, as calculated to remove the friction due to international barriers and jealousies, will hardly approve the action of the Fifth Monarchy Men, who, a couple of centuries ago, so far believed in the federation of mankind as to convene a meeting in London to weld all the nations of the world into one empire, and to proclaim Jesus Christ king. Surely this was carrying an abstract principle to an absurd length. But without going so far as that, history shows that it is quite possible to exceed the normal limits of a wise federation. It may be doubted whether Austria-Hungary is a stable combination. The kingdom of the Netherlands clearly was not; though many would have regarded it as quite as natural and politic as the union of Norway and Sweden or of Great Britain and Ireland. Hence the policy of the latter union is not altogether out of court, and must be considered on its merits as a practical question of political expediency. Disintegration, dismemberment, and disruption of the Empire are fine phrases, well calculated to split the ears of the groundlings; but the present application of a principle how good soever in theory is a question for the practical statesman.
Now, what are the grounds upon which the practical statesman must base his decision as to the expediency and opportuneness of a proposed union of two or more peoples or of a proposed discontinuance of any such existing union? Certainly not in accordance with phrases of general import. To demonstrate the folly of such a course it is only necessary to cite a few instances in which a decision was or might have been required. Will any one contend that, whether wise or unwise, the cession of the Ionian Islands to Greece was tantamount to the disruption of the British Empire? Then again the Transvaal was part of this Empire. When after an unsuccessful war, independence was conceded to the victors, did that amount to dismemberment? But to take an even less doubtful case. Not many years ago France nominally formed part of the dominions of the Kings of England; was the withdrawal of such claim a tribute to the principle of disintegration? Hundreds of other instances of varying degrees might be cited, but these suffice to show that before any case of separation, or admission of separation, can fairly be denounced as violating the principle of political integration, it must be clearly established that a true and natural union, as distinguished from an artificial or nominal union, antecedently existed. The actual point to be decided is whether the present time is opportune for tightening and strengthening the bonds which tend to weld the English and Irish into a homogeneous people, as the English and Welsh have long since been welded; or whether the circumstances are such that the bonds should be slackened, and an impetus given in the opposite direction; that is to say, towards the divergence of the two peoples.
I will venture to submit three reasons which at any time may be urged against the artificial union of peoples.
1st. Two nations cannot well be welded together when active co-ordination is difficult; as, for instance, when they are situated at a great distance apart and without rapid means of communication. Hence the natural disruption of the Spanish Empire in South America. Hence the probable transfer of the Dutch possessions in the East Indies either to England or to Germany at no very distant date. These are cases in which co-ordination with respect to a given centre is or was difficult, if not impossible. Of course no one will contend that this can be put forward as a valid reason against governing Ireland from Westminster. If the British Government is capable of ruling what are called the Crown Colonies at distances very much greater than from London to Dublin, it is obvious that this particular objection cannot hold.
2nd. The second argument which may validly be urged against union or in favour of disunion, is that the two peoples in question are in different stages of social evolution. In such cases it is welling impossible to weld the two into a single homogeneous state. Now this objection might fairly be urged against the political union of the Anglo-Saxon people and the people of India. It is impossible to weld these two races into a homogeneous state, because they are in totally different stages of social evolution. Institutions suitable to the one people would ruin the other. The Hindus are somewhat backward in civilisation, but will any one pretend that apart from slight differences the English and the Irish are in different phases of social development? Are the Irish as individuals vastly inferior to the English in any particular? If so, what? Without enumerating their soldiers, poets, philosophers, artists, and men of science, it is not necessary to go farther afield than to Spain of a hundred years ago to meet the vulgar contention that they are inferior as statesmen. In the middle of last century, the Spanish Ambassador to the Court of St. James was an Irishman, so was the Spanish Ambassador to the Court of Stockholm; so was the Spanish Ambassador to the Court of Vienna: the Prime Minister of Spain was himself an Irishman; so too was the organiser of the Spanish Army. In fine the wisest and best government which Spain has ever known was conducted by Irishmen. Surely without going into details or namin" names, this alone goes to show that the Irish are not wanting in administrative ability. Thus the English and Irish peoples can hardly be said to be in different stages of social evolution. And the second argument against their permanent union breaks down.
3rd. The third reason which can be urged against the union of races is that their claims upon the Government are conflicting. Let me explain. So long as it is admitted by both parties that it is the duty of the State to uphold the true religion, clearly nations of different religions cannot well be ruled by the same governing body. If the State is to take sides in any degree in the matter of religion, it would be difficult indeed for the same government to rule England and Ireland. The Irish are of opinion that the Roman Catholic is the best form of religion; the English, for reasons known to some of them, maintain that the Protestant form (or one of them) is better. Now, if the Government is to decide between these two, it must appear to side with one of the disputants; and the other will feel aggrieved and possibly rebellious. Again, to take a kindred matter, the Irish have strong views on the matter of the marriage-tie. The English are in favour of permitting divorce under certain conditions. If the State is expected to interfere in such matters, clearly the Union Government must offend one nation or the other. The English lean towards liberty; the Irish towards coercion. The State must choose between them. Conversely, the English favour coercion and the Irish liberty in the matter of tobacco culture. The reason is not far to seek. The climate and soil of Ireland are favourable to the growth of tobacco. In England it is otherwise. Thus by the prohibition of the growth of tobacco the revenue is increased without inflicting any injury on English farmers. The Union Government had to choose between them, and it elected to suppress tobacco culture in the British Isles. Again, England is a manufacturing people; Ireland is almost wholly an agricultural people. Hence freedom to buy in the cheapest markets (or the dearest if preferred) enables England to profit by purchasing her raw materials at the lowest figure, whilst the like liberty, besides being useless to Ireland, enables foreign competitors to undersell her sole produce in the home markets. Here again England favours liberty arid Ireland coercion. If and so long as the State is expected by both parties alike to interfere in such matters at all, it is clear that the Union Government must favour one nation and aggrieve the other. Under such circumstances it is obvious that the union can be maintained only with difficulty and friction. It is also highly probable that where there is considerable disparity in the strength of the two nations, the Union Government will tend to lean toward the wishes of the stronger and the more numerously represented in the ruling body.
We see that while England favours coercion in some matters, Ireland favours coercion in other matters; and not until the policy of non-interference by the State in all matters is recognised as a general rule, can the two peoples hope to flourish together under a common Government. At present this is not the case. Both parties clamour for State aid here and State control there, while they differ as to where the State should interfere and where it should not. Hence the third argument against the union seems to be at the present time a most valid one.
When Irish and English alike shall have learnt the great lesson of history aright—the lesson of liberty—then, and not till then, will the time be thoroughly ripe for a happy union.
Unfortunately, both parties in both countries - Liberals and Conservatives-are doing their utmost to inspire the people with blind faith in the omnipotence of the State. If (the State is justified in transferring' one-third of the property of one class of the citizens to another class, without compensation, it is difficult for the most highly instructed—it is impossible for the uninstructed—to understand why it cannot with consistency transfer two-thirds or even three-thirds, and an agitation is naturally set on foot with the very logical object of “freeing” the land. Why not? Englishmen of both parties have admitted the duty of the State to intervene between landlord and tenant, and the simple, unsophisticated folk of both countries push the principle to its logical extreme. Conservatives have vied with Liberals in voting the money of the British taxpayer for the purpose of pauperising the Irish in a hundred ways, and the logical reply of the British taxpayer is: If you want £150,000,000 for the Irish, let those contribute it who live in Ireland and may benefit by the expenditure, but do not take it out of the pockets of the English shopkeeper and farmer. The Government, with the approval of both parties, has constructed or subsidised railways, has built harbours and docks, has embanked rivers and made canals; it has provided the people with instruction at less than cost price; it has built houses and let them at less than the normal rent; it has fixed prices between buyer and seller, and frequently paid the difference out of public moneys. It has done all these things, and a thousand more, out of its own apparently bottomless purse, and the simple citizen cannot see why, with such a powerful machine, much more cannot be effected. Even now eminent financiers are gravely talking of regulating the value of silver. It has fallen, they say, too low. Let us enact that 16½ ounces of silver shall for ever be worth one ounce of gold. Hey Presto! The thing is done. “And pray,” asks Hodge,‘ why not while you are about it enact that the value of wheat shall again be sixty shillings a quarter? It will suit us agriculturists, and perhaps we are as deserving on the whole as retired Anglo-Indian pensioners.“ “Let us build houses for the poor,’ says Lord Salisbury; ‘ at the expense of the landowner,” adds Mr. Chamberlain; “and why not supply them with beef and bread? ” replies Mr. Hyudoian. And so the ball is kept rolling.
So long as the Irish pray for rain and the English pray for fine weather they had better supplicate different gods. When they are prepared to accept the weather as it comes, and to make the best of it, they can then worship in the same temple.
It is needless to observe that this alone does not solve the question of separation. There are other factors. Foremost among them is the reasonable doubt whether the effect ice majority in the area called Ireland is actually Irish. Apart from the mere question of numbers there is room for doubt whether the British element in that country is not as powerful as, if not more powerful than, the Irish. But whether this is so or not, in these days of rapid communication and stimulated intercourse, silent and unseen links are daily being forged which tend firmly to bind the two peoples together. No legislation will prevent the Saxon from bringing home an Irish bride, and if English beauty has not quite the same fascination for Irishmen there is a metallic attraction which seems to exercise a corresponding influence. Again, consider the large and increasing number of professional Irishmen who have made England their home, and the even larger number English and Scotch traders and manufacturers who have settled in the rising towns in the North of Ireland and else- where. To make aliens of all these by a stroke of the pen would be a national calamity for both peoples, and moore especially for the Irish.
Again, there is another consideration, which must nowadays be put forward with bated breath, and that is the predominant need of the superior race. For strategic reasons it might not be prudent for England to allow the western island to be under foreign government. If so, the argument of nations enters—the argument of force. In such cases it behoves the leaders in both countries to see that the paramount needs of race do not conflict with the just rights and liberties of individuals, no matter to what race they may belong. It must not be forgotten that it is the superior social organisation which tends to survive, and not necessarily that of the superior individual type of man. The latter may be absorbed and even eventually predominate, but it will be under the system of the better organised society.
Disruption and dismemberment are phrases, but if it can be shown that the repeal of the Union would be a step in the direction of breaking up what tends to become a natural integration, whether it is so now or not, then the cry stands condemned liy history and by science. But why beat the air? English and Irish statesmen of all parties are now professedly unanimous in declaring that no such thing as separation is contemplated or even desired. The only question between them is as to the best form of local government, and here again we find complete unanimity in the view that increased decentralisation must be effected. In order to form a correct estimate of the direction which decentralisation should take in this particular instance it is necessary to consider the general question.
When wide areas come under a single government, certain powers must be delegated to local subordinate bodies, or the work cannot possibly be performed at all. The question for us to determine is, what functions should be delegated? and to whom should they be delegated? In scientific phraseology, what are the proper structures and functions of local governing bodies? How are the areas to be defined? How are the individuals within those areas to be represented? To what extent, if any, should they be permitted to act independently and arbitrarily.
It is customary for local government reformers to begin with the areas, and having determined these, and arranged a representative system, to fit out the authorities so constituted with suitable duties. This is not the method which science would prescribe. Rather let us first discover the matters which, while they must be accomplished somehow, cannot well fall within the province of the Imperial Government on the one hand, nor command the resources of private enterprise on the other. This can best be done, not by mapping out in theory all the whole duty of society, and then distributing it on some a priori plan, but by ascertaining what duties are actually at the present day undertaken by the central authority in this and other countries, and what by the local authorities. By comparing these with the functions of local governments in the past we obtain a fair view of the field which history and experience have marked out as the proper sphere of local governmental action. We find that many of such duties and whole classes of them have long since passed out of the domain of local government. Some of them have been taken over by the State, others have become obsolete, while others again have been appropriated by private adventure. On the other hand, to compensate local authorities for the loss of these functions, new ones have been freely conferred upon them in this country. If the counties are no longer the custodians of the prisons, they are compensated for the lost privilege by being entrusted with the guardianship of the health of the cattle of the district. The county is likewise empowered to keep an eye on billiard players, ballet dancers, alcohol drinkers, and lunatics. It is entrusted with the carrying out of the Weights and Measures Act and of the Adulteration Acts. It supervises knackers' yards, and grants conditional licenses to game dealers, to pawnbrokers, to dynamite sellers, and some other traders. The county also provides a section of the police, for which it is in part responsible. It is liable for the maintenance of certain roads and of certain bridges, and of shire halls and other semi-public buildings.
Besides the county we have in England several other areas of local government of one sort and another. There is the Parish; there is the Union; there is the Municipal Borough; and there is the Local Government district, besides a number of areas mapped out in accordance with special objects, such as Highway Districts, Improvement Act Districts, etc. The functions of these authorities are very various. They supplement the work of the counties in providing police, in maintaining roads and bridges and lunatic asylums; they are concerned with the drainage of land and the prevention of floods. They comprise sanitation, education, registration, vaccination; the provision of cemeteries, libraries, museums, washhouses, baths, playgrounds, etc.; the supply of gas, water, electricity, and certain conveyances; all these duties in addition to the great work of poor relief. Over and above these matters of more or less universal interest, there are special concerns proper to certain localities, such as the duties of fishery boards and the maintenance of docks, piers, harbours, and embankments.
This survey is, of course, very superficial and incomplete, but it is sufficient for the purpose of showing that the duties, of local authorities do not seem of themselves to carve out areas in common; that is to say, there is no particular reason why the area requiring a separate authority to see to cattle disease should be the same area for which a highway board is required or separate provision for lunatics. The parish might be a suitable area for the registration of births and deaths, and at the same time most unsuitable for the construction of tramways. For the maintenance of main roads one would almost suppose the best area would be coextensive with the island. So the Romans thought. While for the purposes of gas or water supply the municipal borough would seem the most suitable. Police, prisons, paupers, and lunatics, again, appear to have no particular relation to any definite locality. The dispensation of justice is an imperial concern. The pauper has no claim on any locality; poor relief is not a forced tribute of pity from neighbours, but a sop to revolution, a bribe to those who would otherwise have the choice only between starvation and crime. Hence it is not a provincial concern. So the lunatic, like the criminal, is dangerous to the whole community, and like the criminal must be looked after for the general good.
Other areas, like the old acre, seem to be determined by the amount of work of a given kind that a busy man can get through in a given time. Such are the areas most suitable for registration, vaccination, and inspection. Others again are determined by nature, such as fishery boards and harbour authorities. The river basin would likewise seem to demarcate the area of drainage boards. For the purpose of churches, schools, libraries, museums, baths, wash-houses, parks, cemeteries, etc. etc., the area would naturally adjust itself to the amount of time required to get to them with convenience. People cannot be expected to walk four miles to a public wash-house, or ten miles to a park. Half a mile seems to be about the limit of the radius from the polling-booth beyond which the patriotism of the parliamentary voter is put to a considerable strain. Country churches and schools seem to draw for a radius of about two miles. But all such points can be ascertained only by that experience in each particular case which private enterprise alone seems able to supply.
One thing seems certain. The arbitrary creation of an area for no better reason than because it has a name, and the endowing of the authorities of such an area with duties, is opposed to all the teachings of nature and of science, and can lead to no better result than mischief and confusion. Rather than adopt such a system, let there be as many areas as there are functions; let them overlap over and over again. Why not? A gas company feels no inconvenience from the fact that its area of supply overlaps that of the neighbouring water company. Neither has a railway company ever been known to complain that the area to which its powers apply is not so coextensive with the county or counties in which it lies. What grounds are there for any such complaint? And yet when these and the like functions are undertaken, not by private individuals and companies, but by local authorities, there arises an outcry that the areas of exploitation should be identical. Why those persons whose common educational needs are peculiar to their district should also necessarily require peculiar railway accommodation, is a puzzle to all who are unacquainted with local authorities in general, and the raw material from which they are manufactured. If highway boards were composed of men peculiarly conversant with roads and road management, it is not likely they would claim to supply the inhabitants of the highway district with milk or with gas; but being, as they are, merely unqualified persons recruited from the ranks of the busybodies. and possessed of unbounded confidence in their own administrative abilities, they are accustomed to find themselves sitting together, not only on the highway board, but likewise on the school board, the board of guardians, and, perchance, round some other table of fussy officialism. Now why, they ask one another, cannot we transact all the public business in one place and at one time as they do in Parliament? Why, asks Smith, am I entrusted with the management of the affairs of the vestry, if I am not fit for a seat on the school board? It never occurs to him that he may have considerable acquaintance with the people of the parish and their requirements as to wash-houses and gas-lamps without possessing even the rudiments of a sound education, or any knowledge of educational needs. In fine, so far from being an evil, the overlapping of areas is natural, and, as will be seen, an unmixed good.
The localisation of government must always be in response to a distinctly seen demand. The reason for it must be apparent and easily explained. The area must be, as it were, self-determined, and not artificially carved out. Thus the Isle of Man should not form part of the same highway district as Cumberland or Wigtownshire. Why not? Because there is a sea voyage of some hours between them, and because the two regions have no roads in common. For like reasons a municipal borough is a natural self-defined area of self-government (so far as local administration can be called self-government); and the difficulty consists not so much in discovering that such a town, for instance, as Leeds, has peculiar interests which are not shared by Wakefield or Bradford, as in determining where the actual limits of Leeds should be drawn; where, that is to say, the suburban population seem to have more in common with the surrounding country than, by reason of their distance from the centre, they have with the town. That because a region is called Nottinghamshire it should have a little Parliament of its own to which should be entrusted all conceivable local duties is the height of absurdity. If a county happened to be completely surrounded by a chain of mountains, or other barrier which cut it off from the adjacent country, there might be some reason in regarding it as for some purposes a suitable area for local government; but surely the accidental fact of its having been separated from the adjoining districts by an artificial line for some forgotten reason by a Saxon King is no ground at all. Voluntary combination should in all cases be the precursor of political segregation. Co-operation is coextensive with common needs. People do not combine aimlessly, or because they live in the same wapentake. Indeed, there would be no reason for granting local government at all, but for the trouble and difficulty of interpreting and administering the general law on every occasion from a distant centre. Private enterprise can, and will, affect all that is good and lawful for any local area which is ripe for it.
There is only one thing which private enterprise cannot do, or rather which it is prohibited from doing, and that is the coercion of the minority—of the unwilling—of those who, while they will not contribute towards the common end, yet reap part of the advantage of it at the expense of the majority. Clearly, if nearly all the inhabitants of a street determined to light that street with gas, those who refused to contribute would, nevertheless, have the benefit of a well-lit street. Similarly with paving, draining, and many other things. Left to themselves, the majority in the locality would say to these non-unionists, “You are unwilling to live among us on terms of mutual assistance, and the common sharing of burdens and advantages; you had better go.” And go they would.' But this is not tolerated by the larger majority outside. The minority in the locality is in the majority in the country in this matter of freedom of combination. Local anarchy would solve the problem. Instead of which a certain amount of State socialism takes its place. Compulsory co-operation is sanctioned by the State under certain conditions which are expressed in general terms. The application of these laws to the numerous special eases which arise in all parts of the country requires either a very large and unwieldy central machinery or some kind of local administration. And herein lies the folly of advocating local legislation. If local authorities are to be permitted to legislate independently, it is clear we are brought back to the original position of local anarchy. If a majority can pass a law of a general nature, it can equally well pass a law of a special nature, and order at once the unwilling minority to quit. Indeed, it needs but a little thought to perceive clearly that local legislation is absurd. The interpretation of State law may be left in the first instance to local authorities; in fact, private enterprise already claims that right; as, for instance, when a man removes a hurdle from across a public footpath with his own hands. But if the other party has no right of appeal, then we have again the original situation, for the power of irresponsible interpretation is virtually the power of independent legislation. Hence, it appears, all so-called local legislation should be, in reality, central legislation, administered either by State constituted local authorities or by an association of private individuals. If the law is exceeded, the local authorities have acted ultra vires, and their action is invalidated. If the law is conformed with, the private association has vindicated the law, and its action will stand.
Thus the highest form of local government is one of complete and unqualified private enterprise. If, for example, the State considers that the laying down of private rails on the public highway in the shape of tramways is really a public good, it is justified in passing a general enactment to that effect, subject to certain specified conditions, among which may be the tacit consent of a given proportion of the inhabitants (or certain of them) of the districts through which the line passes. The tramway company under such a State law would then proceed to lay down its lines without necessarily asking the leave of any one, and if no one could raise a valid objection, or, being able, had not the energy or public spirit to do it, the company would proceed with its business, to the great advantage of some and the annoyance of others. If the people of a district have not the combining instinct and the public spirit to associate themselves together for common ends, the more they are left to suffer for the defect and to develop the instinct the better for themselves and the whole race. The thrusting of so-called self-government upon people who do not claim it and exercise it without external pressure is like sending Joachim to play to the proverbial gentleman who cannot distinguish between “God save the Queen” and “The Old Hundredth.” It is not a higher quality of article that he requires, but the faculty to appreciate what he has at his door. The local authority, whether State recognised or self-appointed, and the individual with whom it is at issue, must be regarded as, in all respects, upon an equal footing. Suppose Smith declines to pay the demand made upon him by the municipality in respect of some new water-works within whose circumscribed district he resides, but from which he derives no benefit. The Court of Justice (whether of first instance or of appeal) must decide whether the conditions and circumstances are such as are declared by implication in the Act of Parliament relating to the subject to require the contribution of Smith. Unless such general enactment is beyond question, no arguments from local convenience can override Smith's right to choose his own investments. If local laws can of themselves operate to the detriment of any. individual in the district, then clearly they conflict with the law of the land which guarantees that individual the full enjoyment of all liberties which are not therein expressly restricted. It is hardly necessary to add that I do not put forward this doctrine of the Individualisation of Local Government as a system to be adopted all at once; but merely as an ideal to be kept in view and gradually approached. In its entirety it is rather the system of the remote than of the near future. It is probable that even England is hardly ripe for it yet. As M. Leon Say has recently pointed out, "the proper limit of State action cannot be laid down in the same way as a boundary line on a map; it is a boundary which alters in accordance with the times, and the political, economic, and moral condition of the people.”
To apply some of these conclusions to practical questions of the day: Local areas should be left to the natural delimitation of voluntary combinations. And areas should overlap as naturally as the areas of ordinary trade distribution. Above all, the areas should not be carved out first and the functions allotted after. Such a course is the very reverse of scientific. The powers of local authorities should, in no respect, exceed those of ordinary voluntary associations. Consequently, local bye-laws cannot conflict with the law of the land. For the right of the majority in a locality is not based on the superior force of the majority in that locality, but on the superior force of the effective majority in the country of which it is a part, which force is delegated (for reasons which seem good to such effective majority) to the numerical majority or other portion of the inhabitants of the said district. This is an important fact not to be forgotten. Thus the local majority has no more right to act on its own initiative than the local minority; or than the policeman who carries out the will of the State; or than the private individual who interferes in the interest of law and justice in a row at a fair. They must all take the responsibility of their actions. It may be said, and truly, that if the State in its wisdom thinks fit to enact that the will of the majority in a given locality shall in all matters prevail, then the will of the majority in that locality is as supreme and as well based on ultimate force as the will of the effective majority in the country itself; being, in fact, based on the will of that majority. This is so. And the same is also true of any less general, though equally indefinite, delegation of State power to a local majority. Thus the indefinite power to do what it chooses in respect of such or such matters; as, for instance, all matters relating to the trade in alcoholic liquors; or to the hours of closing in retail shops; or to the regulation of places of public amusement; puts the local majority in respect of these matters in the same position that it would occupy if the locality were an independent one. The minority forfeit the liberty which belongs to them by virtue of being members of the larger community. The whole process is, to whatever extent it is carried, one of political disintegration.
And what is the remedy for all this? Must we revert to a system of centralisation? Not at all. Quite the reverse. Decentralise down to the unit itself, the individual. Does Smith find the house adjoining his own a source of annoyance to him? Is there noise and singing there all night? Is it the centre of attraction for disreputable persons whose presence is dangerous to him? Let him prove the nuisance and suppress it, if he can. If not, let him betake himself elsewhere. If several persons in one street find a public-house in that street or near to it a continual source of drunkenness and of temptation to their servants, or otherwise obnoxious to them, let them prove the nuisance and suppress the house. If I keep a pig in my back garden and nobody feels injured by it, why should I alter my arrangements? But if my neighbours or any of them find the smell objectionable, or fear the sanitary consequences, let them or any of them prove the nuisance and suppress my pig-stye. But it is asked, how is the nuisance to be proved? It is not enough in a Court of Justice to show that the neighbours or some of them, or even all of them, object to the thing complained of. That does not constitute it a nuisance. Your house may be painted in the worst possible taste, utterly hateful to the eyes of your neighbours, but they are powerless to compel you to alter it. The church bell next door may go near to distracting me, but I have no remedy by merely showing that I am subjected to great annoyance. But if the annoyance is caused not by a church bell but by my next door neighbour's organ, I may get the nuisance abated. Now unless the opinion of the majority of the locality is to be taken, how is the question of nuisance to be settled by the courts?
In reply to this the question may be asked, and how is it to be settled when the opinion of the majority is taken? The majority of whom? According as you carve out your localities into large or small areas, so you strengthen or render precarious the rights and liberties of individual citizens. Suppose a locality should decide to eject all persons professing religious opinions at variance with those held by the majority, would the State be justified in deserting the minority and leaving them to the tender mercies of a clique who might themselves be in a decided minority in the country, though locally in a majority? Suppose a majority of the inhabitants of Cork decided to prohibit the opening of a retail shop in that town by an Englishman, would the State be justified in permitting such an act of tyranny? Similarly, if the people of some obscure town should pronounce in favour of closing all houses for the sale of tobacco or cheese or alcoholic liquors, with or without compensation to the traders affected, could this be tolerated? With injustice and tyranny on the one side, and the effective force on the other, what conceivable reason can be adduced for putting up with the injustice? Of course if the effective majority in the country themselves choose to act unjustly, tyrannically, and foolishly, there is no power on earth to stop it. We have reached the ultimate source of power and it is poisoned. So much the worse. But when there is an appeal to a higher power, the surrender of such power into the hands of local majorities is nothing less than political suicide; it is voluntary political disintegration.
It is quite true that such is the nebulous state of the law regarding nuisances that almost any action brought by an individual for the suppression of anything objectionable to him is something like dipping his hand in the lucky-bag. But the remedy for this is a better induction from the numerous decisions in nuisance cases with a view to forming the nucleus of a code, a process which is in course of accomplishment, and which would be more rapidly effected but for disturbing causes. The very principles upon which the English law relating to nuisance is based are continually being called in question by the highest authorities; and probably the chief reason for the lack of attention given to the subject is the prevalent belief that the new legislation concerning local government will settle this and many other difficult problems. It will do nothing of the kind. Both parties at the present time seem pretty well agreed to take a step in the direction of the Commune; but it will only throw the difficulty a step farther back.
There can be no doubt that the belief in local legislation as distinguished from local administration is at the bottom of the present wave of feeling in favour of such moves as a separate parliament for Ireland, a secretary for Scotland, the disestablishment of the Church in Wales and the like. If the State Church is an advantage, why should the majority in Wales (a minority in the whole country) seek or be allowed to injure the Welsh minority? If, on the other hand, the State Church in any way injures either by taxation or unfair privileges and monopolies those who are not members of it, then the majority in Wales ought to be ashamed to desert their fellow-sufferers in England by getting rid of the evil where it is most felt and thereby weakening the feeling against it. Again, far too much respect has been paid to sentiment in the matter of certain fiscal and other privileges in the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. Such anomalies should be swept away. Above all, the absurd custom of passing one act of Parliament for England, another for England and Ireland, and a third for Scotland is quite out of date. A vigorous effort should be made not to differentiate the laws of the three kingdoms or provinces, but to assimilate them.
We have but to look abroad to see how different has been the behaviour of foreign states. While we have been sleepily creating new difficulties for future statesmen and lawyers to remove, French and Prussian and Italian statesmen and lawyers have been straining the resources of strong governments to assimilate the laws of the different provinces under their sway, with a view to removing all possible sources of dispute and envy, and to “maintaining and invigorating the principle of national unity.”1 The object of the continental codes has been less the unification of the various legal systems obtaining in different parts of the country than the amalgamation of the political elements. “In the case of the Prussian Code,” writes Professor Amos, “it is less easy than in the case of the French Code to separate the object of promoting political unity from that of promoting legal unity among the heterogeneous elements of a newly-consolidated state, though the twofold object is quite as conspicuous here as it was in the French case.” “The Italian Civil Code.” writes the same author, “is a further specimen of the close connection existing in all the continental codes between consolidation of the laws on the one hand, and the necessity of riveting or promoting political and legal unity on the other. This code is in fact a composite edition of the various codes prevalent in different parts of the whole newly-constituted Italian territories.”2
This laxity on the part of Englishmen to accomplish what other nations in face of immeasurably greater obstacles have either effected or come near to effecting may perhaps be attributed to the comparative stability of England's internal economy, but the true explanation is the absorption of the national energy in the direction of increasing mass, at the expense of coordination, just as in the case of a growing child Nature applies herself with such zeal to growth as to neglect form and proportion. When the full size has been approximately attained, then the awkward, gawky movements are less and less observable, and the limbs respond more smoothly, deftly, and gracefully to the stimulus from headquarters. The time has now arrived for England to pay less attention to the extension of her boundaries and more attention to the unification of her parts. It is for her to discover and perfect a political system workable over a world-wide area, avoiding centralisation on the one hand and disintegration on the other. This can be done only by a careful sifting of central and of local functions, whether the subordinate locality be a wide colony or a compact borough; whether it be situated at the Antipodes or on the banks of the Thames.
This is the great problem for the Anglo-Saxon people. I believe the mathematical genius who once demarcated London for certain fiscal purposes performed the operation with the aid of a map and a pair of compasses. Not far behind him in arbitrariness come those who would erect Wales into a separate province on the strength of a historic name, a half-dead language, and an annual Eisteddfod of sentimentalists. The Welsh are a fine people, but there are probably more of them in England than in Wales, and there are more people of English descent in Wales than there are of pure Welsh. Again, beyond the artificially bolstered-up system of Scotch law there is little or nothing to justify the drawing of a political boundary line between England and Scotland. Whether the Northumbrians are more akin to the Lowland Scotch or to the people of Devonshire or Kent is a question for ethnographers. If the Scotch law is in some respects, whether in substance or procedure, better than our own, why should we rest content with the inferior? And if in other respects English is better than Scotch law, clearly some persons in Scotland, if a minority, have a right to require that which deals justice. The case of Ireland, with the exception of certain recent legislation of a local and temporary character, presents fewer difficulties. Most of the English law, both common and statute, extends to Ireland, and if half the ingenuity which has been spent in differentiating the two legal systems had been expended on their assimilation, their unification would long since have been accomplished. The reckless way in which tiny dependencies like Gibraltar, Heligoland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man have been permitted to make laws, not of a merely local effect, but conflicting with what should be the law of the whole empire, is remarkable. A like carelessness is noticeable in the United States of America (though to a diminishing extent). The New York Civil Code is a particularly feeble attempt at the codification of the English Common Law by utterly incompetent persons. But whether codification is desirable or practicable, or neither, in no way affects the importance of maintaining an identical legal system for the whole of Anglo-Saxoudom. At the same time it is idle to pretend that this can be effected until some philosophical distinction has been drawn between matters which are in themselves local and matters which necessarily concern the whole empire. The application of the principles underlying this distinction is the great problem for the English-speaking peoples of to-day. Until this is done, all attempts at codification of the law are foredoomed to failure, all efforts, however benevolently conceived, towards the “conciliation ” of discontented brandies of the British Empire (whether in regions populated by Hindus, or by Dutch Boers, or by French Canadians, or by Scotch or Irish Celts, or by any of the numerous races of the world who for good or ill are destined to flourish or to perish under the Anglo-Saxon social system) are and will be vain and futile.
The art of government is making a new departure. A new day bus dawned for humanity. The triumph of democracy is complete; and imperial law must henceforth be based on individual and local liberty.
J Preface to the Ittdtan Civil Code, published in 1866.
An English Code, by Sheldon Amos, M.A. . 1873.