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CHAPTER XII: absolutism in politics - Wordsworth Donisthorpe, Individualism: A System of Politics 
Individualism: A System of Politics (London: Macmillan and Co., 1889).
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absolutism in politics
Since sociology is an inductive science; since Society is an organism which has by no means reached its highest and final development; it is clear that a system of politics based on â priori reasoning is necessarily inapplicable to the concrete at any given stage of social evolution. When a friend asks, “What ought I to do under these difficult circumstances? ” one does not answer, “Do right,” or “Choose the path of virtue.” Similarly when a practical statesman seeks for guiding principles of action, it seems a mockery to say, “Study the greatest happiness of the greatest number,” or “So act as to ensure the greatest liberty of each compatible with the equal liberty of all.” And yet these and the like are the only rules of action furnished by the absolutist schools, be they socialist or individualist. Anarchy may and probably does supply a sound leading idea of perfection towards which we may strive, but it cannot furnish the working drawings from which we must construct our governmental machine under existing circumstances. In order to emphasise this distinction, I have thought it well in conclusion to subjoin the following letter addressed to Mr. Auberon Herbert on the principles underlying his treatise on Compulsion by the State'.1
To the Hon. Auberon Herbert.
MY DEAR SIR-I have been reading over, very carefully for the third or fourth time, your booklet on Compulsion by the state, with a view to finding out the fundamental cause of our extreme divergence of opinion on certain political questions. I think you will admit that we are both what some people would call extreme individualists; and yet, “having offered my allegiance to liberty, prepared to follow her frankly and faithfully wherever she leads,” I do not find that I am “irresistibly drawn step by step to the same conclusions” as those set forth in your program (Compulsion, p. 59). To me it seems that some of them are not only arbitrary but false. And I am therefore driven to conclude either that your logic is faulty, or that the principle upon which you build your superstructure is in some way defective.
“We agree, as you know, on so many points regarding internal legislation and administration, that I need but glance at them in the order in which you mention them.
Class A.—The abolition and reduction of State departments and officials seems to be rather the necessary result of narrowing the State functions than a deduction from the principle of liberty. So, again, the abolition of perpetual pensions is merely a question of political expediency. It cannot much matter to any one whether the State pays a deserving servant £20,000 in cash down, or a perpetual pension of £600 a year, except that by adopting the latter alternative it constitutes itself the trustee for his successors, instead of leaving them free to squander the capital at their pleasure. But my reason for taking exception to your proposition as it stands is that it is open to the construction—a construction sure to be put upon it by the “people ”-that you are prepared to rob the present holders of perpetual pensions, whereas what you really mean is to buy them out for a lump sum at the usual actuarial computation.
The next point is Free Trade, the full scope of which you hardly, perhaps, in this place explain with sufficient clearness as meaning free trade in all things, as well internal as external, in which, of course, I cordially concur.
With you I should like to see the National Debt paid off as quickly as is compatible with the convenience of the tax-payers; also, as far as possible, to make a beginning out of the proceeds of the sale of such national property as is not required for the efficient working of Government. I suppose you would sell the British Museum and National Gallery, but not the House of Parliament nor Knightsbridge Barracks? But beyond making a start and getting rid of a few encumbrances, I am afraid you would make but a small hole in the debt when all was sold, after which what would remain to be mortgaged, as you suggest ? When you speak of selling such ecclesiastical property as may be adjudged to belong equitably to the nation, I should first want to know who is to sit as judge. If the House of Commons, then I protest against having questions of fact as to title decided by a legislative body.
Class B.—By all means abolish legislation creating a monopoly in the drink traffic. Throw open the professions of law and medicine, but straiten the law as to practising either under false pretences. Remove legal impediments restraining the free sale of land by its owner, but specify what those impediments now are. Get out of the postal and telegraph business with as little loss as possible. And by all means let us devote a little careful study to the law of libel, mindful of the fact that it should not always be permissible to injure another even by telling the truth.
Class C.-Agreed, without qualification. Do away with State education, State religion, and poor laws; also with State inspection and regulation of factories, mines, railways, ships, etc. etc. Nothing could be better.
Class D.—There is little disagreement between us as to the matters comprised under this heading. Repeal laws enforcing vaccination and compulsory notification of disease; repeal laws imposing oaths; laws imposing special observance of Sunday or any other day; laws suppressing brothels, not otherwise nuisances (if any); laws empowering the police to arrest prostitutes, not otherwise nuisances; all laws worrying persons of an inquiring turn of mind as to the future or the unknowable, such as fortune-tellers, spiritualists, and expounders of “revelations ”; laws forbidding vivisection; laws interfering with the stage and the amusements of the people: laws restricting the liquor traffic, and all other laws having similar objects.
But I do not quite see how you can well deprive Government of the power to take property compulsorily, provided full compensation is paid.
And I do not see what the State has got to do with either sanctioning or preventing marriage or divorce, except in so far as it is the duty of the State to enforce the fulfilment of a contract, or the payment of reasonable damages for the breach thereof. When a prepossessing woman marries young on the terms of a life-partnership, and is put away at the age of fifty, and the partnership dissolved against her will, her capital (so to speak) having in the meantime been exhausted for the good of the firm, it seems but just that, as her youth and beauty cannot be returned to her, some compensation should be made for breach of contract.
As to vivisection, I suppose you would hardly repeal the Cruelty to Animals Acts, and the common law relating to such cruelty. It seems to me that here we have a case in which it is hard to draw a hard-and-fast line. Cruelty to animals is a crime in the most accurate sense of the term, and it is impossible for the law of civil injury to take cognisance of it. In this respect it is on all-fours with murder; for neither a living dog nor a dead man can sue for redress of any kind.
Class E.—Let us certainly do away, as you propose, with the thrusting of so-called “special” contracts upon contracting parties; such as those required by the Employers' Liability Act, the Agricultural Holdings Act, and many others.
So far, we are very much in accord; and I should not have thought of troubling you with my points of disagreement, but that as soon as we come to classes F, G, and H, I find myself almost in complete antagonism.
Class F.—I fail to see how the abolition of a House of Lords is a necessary deduction from the principle of liberty. If you had said "abolish the hereditary principle," that would be quite another matter; but surely a second chamber of notables, whom, for past services, the people delight to honour, is an excellent part of our constitution, and has even in its present state, of late years, amply justified its existence.
Neither do I see how the ballot can be defended on the plea of liberty. The exercise of my vote is either a right or a duty. If it is a right, you cannot justly prevent me from selling it for what it will fetch. If it is a duty, then the ballot is simply a cloak to enable me to shirk my duty by voting secretly against my conscience or against my professions.
Again, the “referendum” appears to me to be opposed to all the principles of differentiation. It operates so as to make all citizens legislators instead of judges of legislation and choosers of legislators. It is like making all of us bootmakers, instead of allowing us to judge of the boots made by rival makers and to choose our bootmakers accordingly. It is, moreover, an admission of that pestilent heresy that members of Parliament should be not representatives but delegates—mere mouthpieces. I do not see where liberty comes in there.
Separation of the Indian and Home armies-apart from my humble opinion that it would be a move in the wrong direction and a gross blunder-seems to me to be a very arbitrary kind of deduction from the principle; and the steps of the logical process are not indicated. The same remark applies to the abolition of military life in barracks; a proposal, I suppose, intended to be directed against militarrism as a system. But surely, so long as soldiers are necessary, so long as antagonistic races and nations quarrel and fight, it is better to differentiate the special arm, and avoid as much as possible the leavening of society with the tastes and habits of military life. The great development of the volunteer system strikes me as an almost unqualified evil. It has had much to do with the decay of our regular army, and with the development of the “Jingo ” spirit, and the spread of quasi-military weaknesses in all ranks of society. Vivisectors are necessary; so in a lower walk of life are butchers; but do not let us encourage every man to do a little amateur butchering and vivisecting. Let us rather withdraw State recognition altogether from the volunteers—leave them alone, in fact; and abolish short service in the regular army, with its rusty reserve and its first line of incapables; and bring back the good and natural old system under which a man enters the profession as a life-work on which he can rely, and to which he can devote himself. This, however, is merely opinion, but I wish to point out my inability to deduce your program hereon from the great principle of liberty.
Class G.—Why should Ireland choose its own form of Government any more than Wales, or even Anglesey ? And if there is any good ethnographical reason, then why in the name of reason should the northeast part be allowed, as you propose, to federate with a foreign country against the wish of the whole of Ireland ? For precisely the same reason Cumberland might elect to join Ireland and break with England. Cumberland men are mostly of Celtic descent, and they would be sorely tempted to embrace the Irish land. system in preference to their own. Certainly the people of the West of Scotland would welcome the change. And why not ? I am bound to say that all this seems to be based on no principle at all; and if anybody else had proposed it, I should say it was a bid for the Irish vote. As for your loan to buy out the landowners, it would half-ruin every tradesman in Ireland, and be an act of gross injustice and tyranny. Besides, who, on your own principle, would contribute to the taxes for interest?
Class H.—Ruling India with a view to its own "approaching self-government," and allowing Egypt to choose her own form of government, seem to me to be based on a mistaken view of foreign and colonial policy, and of the evolution of liberty. The problem surely is, how to extend the Anglo-Saxon social system with the least possible cruelty to the existing members of the races whose political systems, sooner or later, must melt away before it—whether Red Indians, Chinese, or Celts.
I cannot see what local or municipal governments have got to do with the defence of person and property any more than the Stock Exchange or the Jockey Club; but, on the other hand, I fail to see how municipalities could get on at all without general or occasional powers of compulsorily taking land at the full market value, with compensation for disturbance. How else could they cut new streets through congested districts, etc.? I quite agree with what you say against compelling any person to take water or gas provided by a particular body, though I am not clear how we are to dispense altogether with the levying of a uniform rate for defraying such general expenses as road-making, repairing, and cleansing. At the same time, I fully recognise the truth and importance of what you say (p. 45) as to the mischief and iniquity of compulsory taxation. I am, as I think you know, in favour of voluntary taxation, though not precisely of the kind or extent you advocate, which would, I think, be to maintain the stingy at the cost of the generous.
I have now run through the main points of your program, with much of which I am by no means in complete accord. Of course I am ready to admit that where all is matter of opinion (as in some of the questions raised) my own opinion may be a mistaken one. What, therefore, I wish to emphasise is the fact that extreme individualists may, and do, differ upon many of these important questions, and that, consequently, they are not " irresistibly drawn tu the same or (even) very similar conclusions'' from apparently identical premisses. This being so it seems to me somewhat dangerous to run the risk of weakening the position and thinning the numbers of the party of individual liberty by, as it were, pledging them to views which are outside the true province of individualism. Granting that your foreign policy and theory of State structure may be sound, still many good individualists may consistently decline to accept them.
I think the weakness of your theoretical position is most apparent when you set forth the normal functions of the State (pp. 35-38). I do not wish to lay stress on the almost sophistical reasoning by which you endeavour to deduce your conclusion from a hard-and-fast moral principle of respect for die free choice and free action of others, because you yourself admit your distrust of, and dissatisfaction with, the argument. If we can defend a law of libel, or even a law prohibiting certain very indirect forms of nuisance, on the ground that such acts or omissions are a constraining of the will and faculties of others, it is impossible to see where we shall stop. The man who (on p. 36) destroys your lettuces might have effected his purpose by diverting the stream in his own field, which formerly watered your garden. Now this question might fall under the Roman law of real servitude, and in England a question of prescription would arise; and in either case very complicated issues might be involved, according as the stream took its rise in his land or elsewhere, according as the bed of the stream was natural or artificial, according to the time during which you had benefited by it, and a great variety of other considerations.
In fine, the question could not be justly solved by any appeal to so simple a principle as your theory seems to imply. Let us take a much simpler question, that of acquiring something which is the portable property of another—say, a valuable ruby. You may acquire this ruby legally or illegally, morally or immorally. And, if possible, you may draw the line between the two (or either of the two) at the employment of direct or indirect coercion.
A.—I meet Smith in the desert; be is in possession of a splendid ruby worth £10,000. I knock him down, tie his hands, rifle his pockets, and carry off the ruby.
B.—Condition the same. I hold a pistol to his head, and demand the ruby; he hands it to me of his own freewill and accord, and I carry off.
C.—Conditions the same. Smith is dying of thirst; I have a skin of water; I threaten to leave him to perish unless he gives me the ruby: he hands it to me, and I ride off with the ruby and the water also, and leave him to fate.
D.—Conditions the same. The same bargain as in C. I carry off the ruby, but give him the water as agreed on.
E.—Conditions the same. I give myself out as an expert lapidary; I satisfy Smith that his ruby is only a fine but common form of amethyst, worth about £10; I buy it for that price, and sell it for £10,000.
F.—I meet Smith in London; he cannot find a purchaser for his ruby at a high price: meanwhile, I have learnt that Jones is willing to give £10,000 for such a ruby; I keep the secret, and offer Smith £1000, which he accepts, whereupon I sell the ruby to Jones for the full price.
G.—I meet Smith in London; I do not know of any likely purchaser, but I believe the ruby to be worth £10,000; I offer him £5000, which he accept, and I carry off the ruby, and eventually sell it for £10,000.
Query.—At what point does direct coercion end and indirect begin? At what point does my conduct cease to be immoral? At what point is it and ought it to be regarded as illegal?
I know that A is a case of direct coercion; I know that it is immoral, and I know that it is and ought to be illegal. I know that G is not a case of direct coercion; I think it is not immoral, and I know that under the English law it is not illegal, though the Roman law provided a remedy, and I think the Roman law was wrong, and the transaction ought legally to stand. With respect to B, I know it is immoral and illegal, but I am not quite sure about direct coercion. With respect to C, D, E, and F, I cannot regard them as cases of direct coercion. I consider C immoral and illegal; I consider D immoral, but doubt whether it should be illegal; I consider E immoral, and I think it should probably be illegal; I think F should not be illegal, and I am doubtful of its immoratity-. And between any two of these roughly-graduated instances scores of delicate shades of unfairness could be drawn, concerning which it would be impossible for the subtlest casuist to generalise. If this is the case in so simple a matter as acquiring a ruby from its possessor, how can we expect to be able to deduce any general rules as to private morals or State functions from a single principle à priori ? I regard the attempt as futile; and I hold that only by the experience of generations can any rough, practical working rules be arrived at—that is to say, by a process of careful induction and verification.
And now to go a little deeper. Let us examine the first principle which you borrow from Mr. Spencer without, as it seems to me, sufficient analysis. According to him, it is the duty and eventual tendency of society to allow the widest liberty to each of its component individual members compatible with the equal liberty of all. Now there is here no form of liberty excluded, not even the exercise of brute force; unless the exclusion of the exercise of brute force is involved in the term liberty. But is it? And if so, are any other forms of force excluded—i.e. cunning, fraud, undue influence, etc.? Again, if so, can all these excluded forms be generalised under some such class name as direct coercion?
If not, the liberty of each, limited alone by the like liberty of all, is a precise description of absolute anarchy. Says the anarchist, You are free to do whatever you can do; you are free to kill me; I am free to kill you. Your liberty to take my goods is limited only by my liberty to keep them. All is freedom—equal freedom.
But perhaps the formula is intended to mean that you are at liberty to do whatever you please, so long as you do not thereby prevent me from doing just what it would have pleased me to do had you not been there. This is all very well so long as we keep out of each other's way. You do as you please within your ring-fence; I do as I please within mine; but we must not trespass on each other's preserves. Good! But when numbers increase till the ring-fences touch and press one against the other, and tend to overlap, what then? What shape are the fences going to assume ? “Give and take ?” Good again! But what are we respectively to give and take? “You may hunt in my domain and I in yours; but you must not gather the fruits on my trees, and I may not gather the fruits on yours.” It is observed, however, that there is plenty of game in my forest, and very little in yours; whereas the proportion is reversed in the case of the fruits. I protest against the arrangement; it looks well on paper, but it works out badly in practice. Where is the necessary and immutable fitness of it ' Or in terms of modern life, you may starve me out of existence, but I may not shoot you out of existence. Why not? Because one is direct coercion and the other indirect. And what then? I prefer to make use of the direct; it is at least more “natural.” It is a custom common to all “God's creatures,” and I decline to conform to your new-fangled arrangement, of which the final aim seems singularly fitted to your requirements, if not to mine. You are a crack shot, and I a good swordsman; swords, therefore, are not fair.
But if your underlying principle is nothing more than a definition of anarchy, your defence of Government serves equally well as a defence of socialism. There is nothing whatever, either in the rule or the exception, to furnish us with the slightest clue where to draw the line. And the same remark applies to Mr. Spencer's Man i: the State. There is nothing in it from one end to the other which gives the smallest help to a practical lawmaker, municipal or imperial. My neighbour may not keep pigs in his own back-garden; but he may keep an ashpit full of malodorous refuse. Why? Ought we to allow both, or to forbid both; or one and not the other? and if so, which, and why? These are trivial matters; but trivial matters make up the whole body of law, and neither your teaching nor Mr. Spencer's seems to throw the faintest light on the problems. And until something is done to rectify this omission, I am afraid our enemies are within their logical rights in stigmatising us a doctrinaires and hobbyriders. Let our theory be such as to answer simple question like these: Why should the State enforce contract ? Why should it enforce the fulfilment of one class of promises and not of another? Should I be forced to compensate my neighbour for injury caused by me accidentally? Should a bankrupt who has paid over every shilling's worth of property he possesses outside his own skin be still treated as a debtor. ? Should a man be entitled to receive money damages for an insult ? If so, on what basis should they be calculated? Should a millionaire receive heavier damages from a railway company for a broken leg than a farm-labourer? If so, why? And again, should a railway company be liable at all for pure accidents? And what is an accident? who is really the owner of a mortgaged estate? And who is the owner of a pawned watch? And upon what theory of liberty should the mortgagee and the pawnbroker have priority over other creditors ? What is the basis of a prescriptive right? To what extent should a principal be responsible for the act of his agent I Thousands of difficult questions could be asked one after another, to the solution of which I find no guidance, either in your book or in Mr. Spencer's. And the reason is, as I have said before, that you have built on foundations of sand. The problem cannot be worked out a priori, but only by rigid induction. Why should the limit of individual liberty be a simple figure when even a bee's cell has eighteen sides? In applying the deductive method to the concrete, disturbing causes very soon take us out of our reckonings. In calculating the velocity of sound, one is apt to overlook the generation of heat. In working out the direction of rays of light, a child would certainly overlook the phenomena of refraction. How much more likely are we to overlook some of the countless factors m a complex problem like that of the libertv limit?
Let us take an extremely simple illustration. Suppose a number of men were set down on a prairie, each with a given length of wire-fencing, each with instructions to enclose as much land as possible within his wire. What shape of field would be adopted ? Would they vary? And what shape ought to be adopted ? Some would mark out squares, others triangles, and only those who had some little knowledge of mathematics would properly mark out circles. Now let us suppose that they all come at last to adopt the circular field; and suppose that their numbers increase till the circles press one upon another and it becomes necessary to close the interstices. What will the shape be now? Here again a little knowledge of geometry will teach us that not squares, nor triangles, but hexagons will give the largest area of land at the least expenditure of wire-fencing. But now, suppose the injustice of allowing a new-born babe an equal share with full-grown men is recognised; it is also perceived that a large man requires more than a small spare man, and it is consequently agreed that the length of each man's wire shall vary directly as his weight; what will the shape tend to become on that understanding? Here we are already out of depth. The result must be ascertained by experiment. But let us take an actual illustration. Here is a number of equal soft spheres. If they are all squeezed together till there are no spaces left between them, what will be their shape? Will they be dodecahedrons, or hexagonal prisms, or what? Well, this was the problem the bees had to solve, and any one can find out the solution by examining a honeycomb. Having done so, he can go off to a mathematician and quarrel over the answer. Their solution will differ for this reason, that the bees had to take into consideration a factor which the mathematician had not, namely, the gravity of the bee. Now if a mathematician, working out so simple a matter as the shape of a bee's cell, is liable to overlook one of the few factors in the calculation, how much the more are we certain to overlook some of the countless factors in calculating the shape of that cell which may be called “the Empire of the Individual” ? We must discard all attempts to derive just laws from a single high moral principle. The attempt is as vain as that of Descartes to recreate the universe out of a single physical principle.
Moreover, whence sprang this grand moral principle that “a man has inalienable rights over himself, over his own faculties and possessions'' '? This, even if true now, was not always true. It is meaningless when applied to “bears and lions," and also when applied to man's remote ancestors. It is an ethical statement, and is therefore highly complex. The very term “rights ” shows this. But ex nihilo nihil fit! From what then sprang these rights inalienable? There must have been something capable of giving them birth in the days before morality. What was that something? Surely it is obvious that right sprang out of might. A right is nothing more even now than transfigured might. The force is no longer contained in a single right arm, but it is force; and it is spread over a considerable surface, and is highly complex. It appears as the force of law or of public opinion. It is none the less physical force when analysed.
We must get at the bottom of this liberty. We are not to be put off' with a poetical phrase. If a man is rightly, or, as a fact, the owner of his own faculties, it is for some better reason than “by virtue of that wonderful self which is in him.” It is hardly courageous, at this point of the inquiry, to call in a deus ex machina,. It is easy to say that “the freedom of a man to use either his faculties or his possessions as he himself wills, is the great moral fact that exists in independence of every form of government.” Such freedom may be a right; but surely it is not a fact. If it is a right—if it ought to be a fact—let us prove it by reasoning, and not by asserting that some great mind, which we “neither know nor understand,'” has placed it as the foundation of human society. I prefer to regard my rights, not as a legacy from a great mind, but as liberties which I exercise through the restraints which society in its wisdom places on the liberties of others; out of consideration not for my welfare, but for its own. If it should hereafter appear that my exercise of proprietary right, for example, is incompatible with the lasting wellbeing of society, then my right ceases, and I have not even "a right to complain"; for I have hitherto exercised that proprietary right not by my own strength but through that of the group which was at the back of me.
When you ask, “By what title do men exercise power over each other? ” I answer simply enough, By the title of superior strength— force majeure—not necessarily muscular force, but force for all that; and what is more, physical force, by which expression ? wish to exclude that which is metaphysical or supernatural. And every title, every right, can be resolved by analysis into physical force. There is no other. I regret that you have complicated matters by dragging in altogether superfluous causation. If evolution will not explain morals and rights, then I think we had better take a deep draught of Fichte's Destiny of Man, and tie ourselves to the apron-strings of Blind Faith. I have no doubt Leo XIII is quite ready with a cut-and-dried explanation of the origin of all rights. I ask again, Is it prudent, is it fair, at this time, when men of science have tacitly agreed to drop the antiquated appeal to an indescribable account-for-anything sort of First Cause, to rake up the mud and raise the interminable controversy anew, as the prelude to the science of law? Is it not clear that whether we manufacture our own premisses in the form of an intelligent artificer, or of a code of "natural rights," we close the door to reason and leave it open to the dogmas of the Rousseaus, the Paines, and their modern successors? The following paragraph from your book (p. 22) is surely a mere paraphrase of some of Mr. Henry George's writings: “I see that each man is by virtue of that wonderful self which is in him, the owner of certain faculties and energies. I see that he and none other has the rightful direction and control of these faculties and energies. They are vested in him as an inseparable inalienable part of himself; and I can see no true way in which they can be taken forcibly from him and owned by another. But I see that the exercise of these energies and faculties depends upon the observance of the universal law that no man shall by force restrain another man in the use of his faculties.”
“And I see," says Mr. George, “that every man has an equal and an inalienable right to a share of that land which is God's gift to His creatures. I see that it is impossible for one man to be born into the world with a rightful share in that land, while another is born without it. God is just to His children. I see that none can rightfully dispossess his brother of his natural heritage.” And so forth. And who shall say unto which of us "it is given" to see most clearly? Above all, let us refuse to rest until we have laid the foundations of a science of law on something more solid than natural rights of which each man must be his own judge.
An incidental evil of this substitute for reasoning is the necessity it places us in of regarding rights as something absolute, and holding good for all times and for all societies. If every Red Indian has a “right” to fish in the rivers of his country, so has every Welshman in his. If a Hindu has a “right” to maintenance by his family or clan, so has an Englishman. If every Scotchman has a “right” to a parliamentary vote, so has every Turk. This is to exclude law from the domain of evolution. But what ground have we for this? Now that the animal and vegetable kingdom have been brought within that domain, now that human institutions, customs, habits, and even beliefs have been shown to be subject to general laws of development, what conceivable ground can we have for leaving ethics and nomology out in the cold, to be expounded on the ancient methods of dogmatism and supernaturalism? Why should “right” alone, of all things in nature, be absolute, immutable, and eternal? This strange superstition must follow the others. Doubtless it has its origin deep down in the instinct of self-preservation. It is difficult and terrible to realise the fact that oneself is outside the circle of the "fittest," who only shall survive. There must be, some reason why we should not succumb. And so we clutch at the first straw held out to us—the Right to Live. Presently follow the train of other rights with;i like foundation, ending with “the inalienable right of every babe born into the world to a box at the opera.” Whether we create our own Creator, and endow him with our own feelings and beliefs and sentiments, or draft a code of “natural laws ” which are but the embodiment of our own notions of what ought to be, we do but make the ultimate appeal to our own selves. The creator which each moralist worships and calls in as arbiter is his own ideal creator, and by no means in perfect accord with the creator appealed to by his brother moralist. The mere affirmation of the existence of an interfering providence, or its denial, is not the point in question. Nor is it necessary to quarrel with the moralist who maintains that whatever eventually turns out to be the right view concerning conduct is the view taken by the Deity. Such assertions in no way vitiate the process of scientific inquiry. Such an attitude was adopted by Buckle without any prejudicial effect on the value of his conclusions. It is not the First Cause (intelligent or otherwise) towards which science is hostile. It is the wooden idol, the god made by each baffled investigator out of his own head, against which her denunciations are directed.
Some time ago the following appeared in Justice, the organ of the Social Democratic Federation (August 29, 1885): "What is the ideal towards which the spirit of the age is tending—the ideal to which the best and bravest throughout the world aspire? It is the principle of equal justice to each and all, in all the relations of life, and through all the ramifications of society. It is equal liberty, equal opportunities for growth, for progress, for every human being, not excepting even one. The principle of justice is eternal, immutable, unchangeable. It is not one thing to-day and another to-morrow-not one thing in Europe and something else in Asia or Africa. Man existed long before society, a" society existed long before Government. The rights of the individual are sacred. They can neither be alienated nor abdicated nor transferred. Society is but an aggregation of individuals, and it is sacred only in virtue of the saerednes of the rights of the individuals of which it is composed. The only legitimate basis of society is that of free association for equal advantage, for the mutual benefit of all its members. The violation of the rights of a single individual is an act of treason—is an act of war against humanity.”
I suppose there is hardly a word in this which might not have consistently appeared in Compulsion by the State:; but what is the conclusion which the writer draws from these lofty premisses ' ''Let then the good and true of every class and of every nation grasp hands in the name of the Social Revolution, and let their cry be, Down with Landlordism! Down with Usury! and the reconstruction of society on a socialistic basis.”
Does not this bear out my contention, that from vague premisses anything may be apparently deduced which suits the fancy of the manipulator?
Every word in the above applies with equal force to much that is contained in Mr. Spencer's esay on " The Great Political Superstition,' after which admission you will be justified in replying to me in the few but forcible words, Mullein mehercule evrare cum Platone.
However, in spite of all this "captious" criticism, I do not hesitate to say that ? know of no book the extensive circulation of which is, in my opinion, calculated to do more unqualified good than your Compulsion. My quarrel is mainly with the speculative foundations on which you base your principles.-I am, my dear sir, yours truly,
Mr. Herbert has promised to reply to this letter, but pressure of work has, I believe, prevented his doing so up to the present. When circumstances allow of the fulfilment of his promise, my readers will receive a printed copy of Mr. Herbert's reply on application to any publishers.—W. D.”