Front Page Titles (by Subject) APPENDIX B.: ON THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE IRISH POPULATION AND THE RATE OF MORTALITY IN TOWNS. - Methods of Social Reform and Other Papers
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APPENDIX B.: ON THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE IRISH POPULATION AND THE RATE OF MORTALITY IN TOWNS. - William Stanley Jevons, Methods of Social Reform and Other Papers 
Methods of Social Reform and Other Papers (London: Macmillan, 1883).
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ON THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE IRISH POPULATION AND THE RATE OF MORTALITY IN TOWNS.
I have tested the suggestions made in the text in a variety of ways, and have, in almost every case, met with confirmatory evidence.
In calculating the percentage of Irish population in any town, I have taken the numbers only of the population of twenty years of age and upwards, for the obvious reason that if an Irish family live for a few years in England, they may have children registered as English born, although they live under the same sanitary conditions as their Irish parents.
The following statement compares the proportion of Irish population with the mortality in some of the principal towns:
The high mortality of Liverpool and Manchester is here in striking conformity with the large Irish population, and more recent returns of the Salford mortality would also exhibit conformity. Sheffield is the only serious exception.
In another calculation, I took a list of the mortality of eighteen English towns in the year of the census of 1861. I separated the towns into three groups, according as the mortality was:
1. At the rate of 28 or more per 1,000.
2. Between the rates of 24 and 26.
3. At the rate of 24 or less.
The percentage of Irish population in the aggregate of each group, and the average mortality, were then found to be as follows:
With the above we may compare London, which has an Irish population of 5·7 per cent., and a mortality of 23·6, on the average of the years 1851–60.
Observing in another list that Altrincham, Bakewell, and Warwick were districts of low mortality, the rate scarcely exceeding 20 in 1,000, I calculated the Irish percentage as follows:
Or, aggregating the three towns together, we find the Irish population to be on the whole 2·2 per cent., or less than half the average proportion of Irish throughout England and Wales, which is 4·52 per cent.
These facts appeared to me to be almost of a conclusive character by themselves, but in extending the comparison to the Scotch towns, we meet with the strongest possible corroboration. The eight principal Scotch towns happen to fall apart into two very distinct groups, the particulars of which are shown in the following table:
Forming averages of the above numbers, we have:
It may not be unworthy of remark that in the most unhealthy towns—Liverpool, Manchester, Salford, etc.—the Irish women are in excess of the men; whereas in the most healthy towns—such as Hull, Leith, and Aberdeen—the women are even fewer than the men. The following is the proportion of Irish women to the whole number of women in the healthy places:
We should naturally turn to ascertain whether the mortality in Ireland at all bears out the apparent effect of Irish immigration in England. Taking the average of a few years of the returns of births and deaths in Dublin, I find that the rates are in both cases almost exactly the same, namely, 26·1 per 1,000. In one return the deaths were 33·6, while the births were only 24·7. As the birth-rate much exceeds the death-rate in England and other progressive countries, we must either regard the population of Ireland as being in a very abnormal state, or we must reject the returns as wholly unworthy of confidence.
The Editor of The Statistical Journal has often appended a note to the Irish returns, calling attention to their apparent untrustworthiness. Until we know to what extent the returns are defective, they are simply misleading and mischievous; but if they are at all approximate to the truth, they lend strong support to the supposition that English mortality is greatly influenced by Irish immigrants.
CRUELTY TO ANIMALS—A STUDY IN SOCIOLOGY.∗
Some philosophers hold that whatever we feel in our conscience to be right, is right. Others assert that the course of action to be approved is evidently that which leads to the greatest balance of pleasure over pain. In casting up this credit and debit account, we may properly include not only the pleasures and pains of all mankind, but those of the lower animals, so far as they can be estimated and compared with human feelings. However these fundamental questions of moral science may be settled, it is curious to reflect how little the two standards of right do, as a matter of fact, correspond. In a great many instances which might be pointed out, public sentiment condemns and rigorously represses one particular form of hurtful action, while it condones or approves deeds of a parallel nature equally against the greatest-happiness principle. Prevailing moral sentiments seem to be founded on no nice appreciation of comparative evil and comparative good.
It has often struck me that the English people are under some misapprehensions about their national virtues. Long ago they abolished public lotteries, and a lottery wheel is now considered a wicked and demoralising thing, except in its rather ominous connection with the sale of works of art. But though lottery wheels are abolished, they tolerate the existence of a betting system as demoralising as any lotteries which ever were held. It is true that there are laws against betting in public, which save the national conscience in some degree; but everyone is aware that the nation deliberately ignores the existence of betting rings among its own aristocratic governors, and does not make earnest efforts to suppress the practice.
The English feel their superior virtue, again, in the matter of slavery. They set the world the example of abolishing this odious thing; the very name of slavery cannot be endured in England. When it became known that certain South Sea Islanders were being kidnapped occasionally, and carried into some sort of slavery in Queensland, the Government took prompt and effectual measures against this abominable practice; but when it was stated that the Australian aborigines in the north of Queensland were being shot like kangaroos, or poisoned wholesale by strychnine, one solitary member of parliament went so far as to ask the Government whether this was true. The Government replied that they did not know, but would make inquiries, and nothing more has been heard of the matter to the present day. Accounts which I have heard of the proceedings in the border districts of Queensland are simply dreadful. These accounts may or may not be true,∗ and I should not like to vouch for them; but the point is that English society, though it runs wild about surrendering a fugitive slave, has never cared even to ascertain whether or not scores of the Australian natives are shot like kangaroos, or poisoned by strychnine, like the native dogs.
The most remarkable, however, of all such cases of disproportionate moral sentiment is found in the case of cruelty to animals. In this respect, again, the English are preeminently a virtuous people. Less advanced or, it may be, degenerate nations still indulge in savage sports like bull-fighting. I remember that a kind of thrill of horror went through the newspapers when it was once reported that the Empress Eugénie had attended a bull-fight. Long ago the English abolished such a brutal practice as bull-baiting, which is now only a matter of history. It is pleasing to hear of the intelligence and success with which the police everywhere follow the tracks of cock-fighters. A party of men cannot meet on the most secluded moor in the country, but the force are down upon them before many “mains” have been fought. The praiseworthy efforts of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals are unceasing. A man ties crackers to the tail of a pigeon to make it fly better. He is marched before a magistrate and fined. An ingenious menagerie-keeper makes hyænas jump through a blazing ring. The bench denounce the gross cruelty, it having been given in evidence that hyænas are much afraid of fire; but they ultimately discharge the accused, on the ground that hyænas are not domesticated animals. Within the last few days a man has been fined for taming a horse by electricity. Again, it is thought a very cruel thing to bait rabbits or other animals in an enclosed space, and every now and then a beerhouse-keeper suffers under the Act against this cruel practice; but, curiously enough, if you only let the animals have a run in an open space before they are killed by the dogs, this is not cruel, being called coursing as contrasted to baiting. That is to say, if you let an animal endure the fear of death for a short time, and exhaust itself in vain efforts to escape, and then give it the actual pains of death, there is no cruelty.
But I need hardly go on at any great length to show that the sentiments of the public in respect of cruelty to animals are simply in a chaotic state. There is no approximation whatever to the utilitarian standard. An almost infinite amount of needless pain is inflicted upon the lower animals every day, and yet, because it is done in a familiar form, the inspectors of the Society pass it over, and indeed the laws take no cognisance of it. Sportsmen and ratcatchers ruthlessly leave wounded animals to die slowly and in torture. But if men tie crackers to the tails of pigeons, the fact of their conviction is telegraphed to every daily newspaper in the country, and appears under the sensational heading, “A New Phase of Cruelty.”
By far the most irrational of moral sensations, however, is that excited by the revelations of vivisection. It is not too much to say that the public have almost unanimously been shocked by the details of experiments which the Society for the Abolition of Vivisection have taken care to make widely known. That a number of medical men should have met at Norwich, and coolly stood by to witness M. Magnan cut open the thighs of two dogs, and inject alcohol and absinthe therein, drove many people almost wild with indignation. When, in 1873, the authors of the “Handbook of the Physiological Laboratory” published their unlucky volume, and disclosed the secrets of the vivisection table, a part of the public seemed to become almost inarticulate with rage, that such things should be allowed in a Christian and an English country.
Words of sufficient strength seem to be wanting to express the feelings of anti-vivisectionists. Hellish, monstrous, abominable, horrid, horrible, devilish, diabolical, demoniacal, ghastly, sinful, wicked, detestable, villanous, atrocious, nameless, infamous—such are a few of the adjectives most commonly applied to the practice; and it seems difficult to suggest stronger ones. Yet, from the way in which the writers pile up the agony, they evidently think their language inadequate to the occasion. I noticed one letter, occupying half a column of small print, in a London evening paper, which might be described as one continuous yell of indignation from beginning to end. Mr. George Duckett, of the Society for the Abolition of Vivisection, probably gave a form to the suppressed feelings of many, when he described vivisection as hellish, horrid, and monstrous, as “an abomination imported from the Continent,” and as “going hand in hand with Atheism.”∗
It is noticeable that not a few of the eminent men who have practised vivisection, or are immediately interested in its results, express almost equally strong feelings. Mr. Darwin, when asked what he would think of trying a painful experiment without anæsthetics, when it could be done as well with them, replied emphatically, “It deserves detestation and abhorrence.” (Question 4,672.) Dr. Sharpey, referring to one of Majendie's experiments which he had witnessed in his youth, described it as “his famous, it might rather have been called infamous,” experiment (Question 474). Other less eminent witnesses spoke almost in a similar tone of practices in which they were themselves deeply interested.
I hope that I should be one of the last to deny that it is hellish and infamous and detestable, and so forth, to inflict needless pain on the lower animals. But I wish to ask, If so, why does society, and English society especially, go on permitting the perpetration of hellish atrocities, on a most gigantic scale, in their very midst? Why does it allow practices of this hellish description to be fashionable amusements of the upper classes, patronised by royalty, purchased at vast cost, commented on by all the daily press, and by a number of special journals, as if these amusements were more important to humanity than all science and art put together? Can anybody deny that what is known as “sport,” or as the “noble science,” including hunting, coursing, deer-stalking, shooting, battue-shooting, pigeon-shooting, and angling, is from beginning to end, mere diversion founded on the needless sufferings of the lower animals? On what sociological or psychological grounds can we explain the fact that a comparatively small amount of pain inflicted for the lofty purpose of furthering science and relieving the ills of mortality should excite such intense feelings of disgust, while the infliction of almost infinitely greater amounts of pain in mere trivial amusement seems to excite no corresponding feeling at all? Why is the country agitated with disgust at the report of a cock-fight, or a combat between a man and a dog, or the electrifying of a horse, while the newspapers send their special correspondents to India to describe the achievements of our future emperor in sticking pigs?
It might seem indispensable, in treating a question of this sort, to lay down some clear definition, showing what is cruelty and what is not; but any attempt to reconcile popular sentiments with a single definition of the term will utterly fail. To inflict pain for the pleasure of inflicting it, is unquestionable and malignant cruelty. To inflict pain negligently, and without any adequate motive, as when a butcher, habituated to the slaughtering of animals, pays little regard to the shortening of their last agonies, is also cruel. But it would not seem that the infliction of pain is always regarded as a necessary ingredient of cruelty. A large part of the public strongly condemns the practice of pigeon-shooting as a cruel and brutal amusement. But a bird when fairly shot dies instantaneously, without time to feel pain, and when the business is properly conducted no bird need be left in pain for more than a very brief time. But there can be no doubt whatever that, in shooting wild birds and rabbits, a large proportion of the animals are painfully wounded, and yet escape beyond the reach of the sportsman. Wyndham, in a remarkable speech which he made in favour of bull-baiting, asserted that in shooting there were ten birds wounded for one bird killed. I should think, or at least hope, that this is an immense exaggeration; in the absence of any data I will assume that, for ten birds or rabbits killed outright, there is only one painfully wounded. Now we can hardly suppose that the number of birds and rabbits shot annually in this kingdom is less than thirty millions, and we arrive at the fearful result that, to say the least, three million animals are painfully mangled yearly, partly to supply food, but mainly to afford amusement to the wealthy. Let us grant, for the sake of argument, that only half of these animals could be taken painlessly by nets. Then we must allow that a million and a half wounded animals suffer agonies for the mere diversion of our sporting classes. Strange to say, this enormous infliction of needless pain is seldom thought cruel. True sport is held to be a wholesome manly exercise. Pigeon-shooting is cruel, although the animals die speedily and certainly. Rabbit-shooting is not cruel, apparently because the poor wounded animals which escape die a lingering death out of sight.
It may be said that the sportsman does nothing more than the laws of nature authorise. He procures food by the most direct process, and kills animals in a rapid painless way. But this does not at all hold good of all sporting. From my own observation I can affirm that many sportsmen acquire a taste for the simple wanton destruction of life apart from all ulterior purposes. Provided an animal will only make a good moving target they want to shoot it. They will do this at sea, in woods, and inaccessible places where there is no possibility of recovering the animals, or of putting them out of pain if badly wounded. In Norway and Australia I have frequently seen the sporting instinct of the English develop itself in freedom, and I can only conclude that “sport” is synonymous with the love of the clever destruction of living things.
We should not speak of sportsmen as if they were all exactly alike, and I have no doubt that many of them would hate to leave an animal in pain when they could help it; but not so in every case. I have had narrated to me the proceedings of a highly aristocratic party, engaged in the fashionable amusement of battue-shooting. A wounded bird fell near to a group of country people, who were looking on at their superiors. The poor bird lay writhing in agony on the ground, and a bystander almost instinctively stepped forward to put it out of pain. He received such a rating from some of the aristocratic party for his impertinence as he has not forgotten to the present day, nor is likely to forget.
It does not seem possible to acquit women, especially women of distinction and fashion, of indirect participation in most extensive acts of cruelty. I do not lay so much weight as some do upon their attendance at pigeon-shooting matches. Many a fine lady would turn sick at the notion of seeing a chicken slaughtered for her own table, who would sit by and compliment men on their skill in riddling pigeons and doves. There are fine distinctions in matters of this sort. But what I chiefly refer to is the irresistible tendency of women to ornament their hats and bonnets with the wings of birds. We speak of being “as happy as a bird;” yet all over the world a shocking destruction of the most happy and beautiful little creatures which exist is occasioned by the vanity of women, and especially by those who may pretend to be the most educated and sensitive. There are women who seem to become hysterical at the very name of vivisection. Has it occurred to them that by doing away with the use of birds' wings and feathers they would prevent the lingering, painful deaths, not simply of scores, or hundreds, or thousands, but of millions of sensitive animals? We should always remember that for each hundred birds shot, killed, and secured, there are ten, twenty, or perhaps more, which lie fatally wounded for hours or even days.
In connection with this subject of cruelty, I confess that a disagreeable truth is perpetually forced upon my mind, namely, that the amusements of the lower classes are readily denounced as cruel, while the sports of the squire and the aristocrat are held up as noble, though involving far more pain to animals. At one time there were local by-laws of manors, providing that no bull should be killed before it had been baited for the amusement of the people. But about the beginning of this century, when the manorial system had quite broken down, it was discovered that bull-baiting was a brutal and demoralising exhibition, and it was forthwith suppressed. Yet to the present day it is thought a fine thing to turn out a stage and chase it for hours in mortal agony, afterwards caging it up for another run. Some years ago I saw a revolting account in the papers of the way in which some Yorkshire squires had similarly conducted a beaver hunt, if I recollect aright. Yet when we come to think about it, I do not know that, except in being unusual, there is anything worse in such hunts than in ordinary fox-hunting—“the noble science,” as it is called What, I should like to know, is there noble in it, except that many “noblemen” pursue it? A score or two of strong men, mounted on the fleetest horses, with a pack of highly-trained hounds, pursue one wretched little palpitating animal. It is true that Professor Newman, in his recent interesting article on Cruelty, endeavours to show very ingeniously that hunted animals do not suffer much, the physical exertion banishing the anguish of fear. Swift animals, he considers, are made to run. The real dread of death, he thinks, is felt when we sit in ambush and hear our enemies, as Idomeneus in Homer said, compassing our death. But surely the hunted fox must suffer this too when he gets into cover, and hears the dogs snuffing around him, or when he runs to earth and has to be dug out. I am told, too, that a hunted animal, supposing him to escape death, suffers very severely from cramp in the overstrained muscles. I see nothing in fox-hunting to render it otherwise than highly cruel, except that it is “noble.” I fear, too, that the principal difference to be drawn between coursing and baiting, is that the latter is the form of sport most likely to fall within the means of the lower classes.
From these and many other instances, which will readily suggest themselves, we may learn that the popular notions of cruelty depend in a comparatively slight degree upon the real amount of pain inflicted. The attitude of mind of the inflicter, the circumstances of the infliction, the degree or way in which the pain is made manifest, and especially the frequency with which the act has been done in past times, or the social grade of those by whom it is usually done, are all taken into account.
Cruelty is, in fact, a highly complex notion, involving several distinct elements involved together in a most subtle manner. It is only by the aid of the new sciences of Sociology and Anthropology—with the guidance, in short, of Mr. Spencer or Mr. Tylor—that we can attempt to explain the apparent inconsistencies which meet us on every side in moral and social questions of this kind. But we may perhaps classify the elements of cruelty under four principal heads, as follows:
Firstly, the actual physical pain inflicted.
Secondly, the motive or purpose of inflicting the pain, or rather of performing the action which produces pain.
Thirdly, the degree in which the action in question is habitual and familiar.
Fourthly, the manner in which the pain is expressed and the circumstances of its infliction impressed upon the imagination.
We might call these elements of cruelty respectively, the physical, the moral, the sociological, and the psychological elements. Different acts of cruelty involve these elements in the most various proportions. When hyænas were made to jump through blazing hoops, this was at once pronounced to be gross cruelty, because it conflicted with our notions of what is habitual and recognised. When a man was prosecuted in Scotland for barbarously beating some sporting dogs in the process of training them, the sheriff held that this was not cruelty, because you could not have sporting dogs without training them. Here the element of habit comes in palpably. Sporting dogs are required for man's amusement, and the leaping hyænas were also employed to amuse visitors to the menagerie. What then is the difference, except in the familiarity of the amusement, unless indeed we remember that sporting dogs are chiefly wanted by the aristocratic classes?
The country is shocked now to hear that horses have been occasionally tamed by electricity in Yorkshire. Here the sociological element is again predominant. Horses may be tamed by any of the methods approved by our forefathers, though there is no proof that they are less painful; but the notion of using an electric shock for the purpose has given a moral shock to the country. In the same way we may explain the grotesqueness of the proposal made in that remarkable work, “The Unseen Universe,” to punish criminals by the electric battery. You may starve a criminal, shut him up in a dark cell, or tear his back with the cat, but you must not do anything which conflicts so much with our notions of the proper and habitual as to call in the aid of science. It may be that electricity would give the most deterrent effect with the least permanent injury; but it would still be cruel on the sociological ground.
The psychological element in cruelty has regard to the degree in which the pain of the animal is made apparent to the spectator, and forced upon his imagination. There is a curious instance to this effect in the life of William Roscoe,∗ who tells us that in early life he spent many hours in strolling along the shore of the Mersey, or in fishing. But on one occasion, as he says in his own words, “I determined to become a sportsman; and having procured a gun, and found an unfortunate thrush perched on a branch of a tree, I brought him to the ground with fatal aim; but I was so horrified and disgusted with the agonies which I saw him endure in death, that I have never since repeated the experiment.” William Roscoe, then, drew the line of cruelty between fish and fowl. The helpless flopping and struggling of the hooked fish did not impress upon him the sense of pain with sufficient acuteness to overpower the satisfaction of success. But the writhing of a tortured bird was an expression of suffering too strong to bear. I believe that much of the obloquy so wrongly cast upon Dr. Ferrier arose from his operating upon monkeys, whose grimaces, as described by him, approached too nearly to a human form. That this is so we may perhaps infer from the indignation expended upon the case of the unfortunate patient experimented on by an American medical man, as described in The Spectator of March 20th, 1875, and discussed in subsequent numbers. The woman was dying of a mortal disease, her brain was already exposed, she consented to the experiments, which were also painless. Yet the idea of sticking needles into her brain and exciting spasmodic movements and grimaces by electricity was held to be so cruel, although painless, that the operator left the country. Cruelty, then, does not necessarily involve the infliction of any appreciable pain; it may consist in the production of expressions which merely suggest ideas of pain. The psychological element of cruelty may, then, become so important as itself to constitute cruelty almost entirely. It is not the knowledge, in a logical sort of way, that pain is needlessly and wantonly inflicted upon the lower animals which excites popular indignation, otherwise why does the sporting spirit meet with approval rather than disgust? Cruel actions, according to popular esteem, are simply those which bring the fact and intensity of pain too much before the imagination. It is something in the same way that we are more affected by hearing of one man killed half a mile off, than of ten thousand people perishing in an unknown part of China or South America.
The same perplexing difference of sentiments will be found to occur again as regards the rat-catching business. It is well known that there is a regular trade in live rats, which are caught in cage-traps, and then supplied at regular market prices to dog-fanciers, who want either to train young ratting dogs or to exhibit the powers of their pets. A great many people would call this traffic in rats a base, cruel thing; but this can hardly be on account of physical pain caused to the rats. They can suffer but little in the cage-traps, and a skilful ratting-dog disposes of a rat at a single toss. The same people who would denounce the cruelty of ratting never bestow a thought upon those dreadful serrated steel traps, actuated by a powerful spring, which catch the unhappy animal by any part of his body—head, trunk, legs, or tail—which happens to be within reach. Often must an animal caught in such a trap suffer for hours, and even for days, torments quite equal to those of the vivisection table without chloroform, the pangs of hunger being superadded. In these days of inventive progress it would be very easy to devise traps which would kill rats and mice instantaneously and with certainty. If the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has offered prizes for the invention of such traps, or has taken any steps to reduce the immense amount of pain caused by the present traps, such efforts have not come to my knowledge.
Turning now to the Report of the Royal Commission on Vivisection, my own impression is very strong to the effect that no abuses of the practice of any importance have been proved. The rumours and hearsay evidence about the frequent private vivisections by students did not usually bear cross-examination, though in one town it is clear that a kind of small club of students had been experimenting. The story of the old horse kept for the purpose of practising operations in a veterinary school is also an unpleasant one (Questions 5,037–5,043). But if we allow that there was some cruelty in this single case, I do not think there is any need to expend much sentimental indignation upon it. The witness who made this case known was obliged to allow in his answers to other questions (5,052–5,054) that he had himself performed a far more painful operation on horses, namely, that of firing them without always taking the trouble to give them chloroform. The same witness denounced “the fearful cruelty” with which a particular dog had been treated by some students. Examination, however, showed (Questions 5,009–5,030) that the intention had been to kill the dog in the manner usually considered the least objectionable, namely, by the administration of prussic acid. The dose having perhaps been insufficient, the dog soon afterwards showed signs of life, and some students tried the effect of a little ammonia as an antidote. Having become partially sensible, it was promptly killed by a blow on the head. The dog probably suffered no pain, or as little as might be; and I see nothing so cruel in it as for a sportsman to shoot a bird, and then depart without taking the trouble to ascertain whether it is killed or only wounded.
A great deal of attention was given to the case of certain dogs which had been killed by strychnine in the presence of medical students, for the purpose of demonstrating the action of that fearful poison. As regards the physical pain caused, I see no grounds for complaint, while it is permitted for the squatters of Queensland to kill the native dogs in large numbers by strychnine. If the use of this poison is in itself cruel, then the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty should take means to prohibit its general use. It is on moral and psychological grounds, then, that the exhibition of the effects of the poison are to be objected to, if at all. But nobody denied that a medical man ought to learn the symptoms of strychnine poisoning, which might not only be met with in practice, but are very instructive in other respects. It was given in evidence by several high authorities that no one could adequately conceive the action of strychnine without witnessing it. So that the question really is whether medical students are to be prevented from gaining necessary knowledge in the most effective way, because it will harden and sear their moral natures to see an animal killed for the purpose.
It seems to me, speaking as one having no practical acquaintance with such matters, that if the exhibition of poisoned dogs is objectionable, then a great part of the clinical instruction of medical students is objectionable. Are students, for instance, to be allowed to study patients dying of hydrophobia or other dreadful diseases? To allow the general public heedlessly to see such painful sights would be disgusting, simply because it would be encouraging a morbid pleasure in the witnessing of pain. But it is a necessary part of the education of a medical man, not only to learn the nature of the diseases, but to harden his nerves, and to acquire the power of encountering the most dreadful cases of human suffering without losing his presence of mind. It is in clinical practice he acquires this power, and it seems to me out of the question, that after coolly scrutinising human suffering in all its worst phases, his moral nature will be destroyed by seeing the poisoning of a dog. No doubt it is a question admitting of discussion how far the constant witnessing of pain blunts the moral nature. But so far as I can judge of the medical men with whom I am acquainted, their moral natures have sustained no injuries. On the contrary, they are in general among the most humane of men, and all their affections and sympathies have been in no degree weakened by the painful scenes they constantly witness. Now, if this be so, I am quite unable to see how the exhibition, in a reasonable and necessary degree, of experiments upon the lower animals, conducted in as painless a way as the nature of the experiment allows, can have the dreadful moral consequences attributed to it by the anti-vivisectionists. As regards the physical element of cruelty, the student may well reflect that infinitely greater amounts of pain are daily inflicted, with the approval of the community, by the sportsman and the ratcatcher. As regards the moral element, he may feel assured that an able and experienced teacher would not exhibit useless experiments.
There is one thing which I much regret in this bitter discussion, namely, that questionable motives are imputed to those who practise vivisection for the purpose of research. Like most warm and intemperate partisans, anti-vivisectionists can see no good in those they pursue, and failing to convince people that experiments on animals are useless, they wish to make them out to be cruel on the second or moral ground, namely, that the experiments are performed merely for the purpose of gaining reputation or “notoriety,” as they call it dyslogistically. They would have us believe that men like Dr. Ferrier or Dr. Michael Foster, although they may be discovering truths of some importance to suffering humanity, are not really doing it from humane motives. But can anything be more gratuitous and unfair? In the absence of any special reason, I altogether question our right to pry into private motives. If the experiments are well performed, and the results are, or are likely to be, in a fair proportion of cases, useful to mankind, I think that the private motives of the observer are not a matter for public animadversion. The law distinctly takes this view, allowing the fullest freedom of criticism upon an author's works, but treating remarks upon his moral character and private affairs in a very different way.
But assuming that we must discuss the question of motives, what can be more gratuitous than to question the pure intentions of vivisectors, while we leave physicists, chemists, geologists, and all other classes of discoverers, unchallenged? Can it be that a selfish love of notoriety is the spring of those exertions which have benefited mankind with all the progress of the sciences and arts? I have been astonished to see that one witness before the Commission, himself a scientific man of the highest standing, holds all original research to be selfish and demoralising. He said (Question 1,287), speaking of vivisection: “It is amenable to abuse when employed for the purpose of research; and I must say that, with regard to all absorbing studies, that is the besetting sin of them, and of original research, that they lift a man so entirely above the ordinary sphere of daily duty that they betray him into selfishness and unscrupulous neglect of duty.” And again he says: “I mean to say that vivisection, in its application to research, may be somewhat more demoralising than other kinds of devotion to research; every kind of original research being a gratification of self, and liable to develop selfishness, which of course is the root of all unscrupulousness.” Did ever a scientific man take so extraordinary a view of the moral aspects of the work in which he was engaged? I had previously been under the impression that, of all kinds of occupations, the labours of the scientific discoverer are least open to the charge of selfishness. The labours of the engineer, lawyer, banker, merchant, are not specially selfish, but they often result in the acquisition of so much riches that the individual may fairly aspire to the pleasure of shooting his own partridges, or even renting a grouse moor. But I should like to know how far the salary received by a professor of practical physiology, in respect of his skilful cutting up of dogs and cats, would go, after the payment of household expenses, towards the purchase of the privilege of slaughtering birds in the fashionable way. The vivisector, like most discoverers in pure science, must look for his reward in the pleasure of pursuing knowledge for its own sake, or for the sake of the millions of men who will in the future be benefited by his discoveries. Of course, I do not mean to say that the vivisector has clearly before his mind in each experiment the good of mankind generally. Men are usually driven to work for a great end by some instinctive tendency, some pleasure in the action itself, or some minor motive, just as the bee gathers a store of honey, not because he is conscious of its future utility, but because it is agreeable to gather it. We approve the industrious actions of the bee because they lead to a useful end; and it is quite sufficient defence of the vivisector's character that his labours are likely to result in the diminution of disease and suffering.
Moreover, suppose that the vivisector is consciously urged on by the love of reputation or fame, I have yet to learn that there is anything immoral or selfish in such love. Milton has described the love of fame as “that last infirmity of noble minds.” To call it the love of notoriety is to use a question-begging epithet, assuming that vivisection is a cruel and morally bad practice. Notoriety is reputation gained by bad means, or those injurious to the community; fame is reputation gained by good means, or those beneficial to the community. There are not the slightest grounds upon which to attribute notoriety to the vivisector, while we attribute fame to the great statesman, orator, artist, engineer. And the desire of reputation, too, may be merely the desire of means towards an unselfish end. One who aspires to repeat the labours of a Harvey, a Jenner, or a Simpson, might well adopt the words which Tennyson has put into the mouth of Merlin:
Looking to all the circumstances, we must conclude that this agitation against vivisection consists in a kind of sentimental frenzy, excited in persons of peculiar susceptibility by the minute descriptions of novel and sometimes painful operations described in books on practical physiology. The actual amount of pain inflicted cannot really be the ground of agitation, because, on any supposition, the physical pain needlessly inflicted by sportsmen, ratcatchers, and others, is infinitely greater. As I have already maintained, the moral element of cruelty is altogether wanting in vivisection—in all but a very few cases. It is merely the novelty of the thing to people's minds, the apparent villany and cool-bloodedness of cutting live animals, which excites the imagination. Sociology and psychology enable us perfectly to comprehend the frenzy of the Anti-Vivisection Society, but science and common sense will teach us to bear a slight wound to our sympathetic feelings that we may secure immeasurable blessings for future generations. Vaccination has already saved more lives than all the wars of Napoleon destroyed. Chloroform has prevented inconceivable amounts of pain. From the continued application of experiment to physiology we may look for other gifts such as these. “Where the pursuit of scientific truth and common compassion come into collision, it seems to me that the ends of civilisation, no less than of morality, require us to be guided by the latter or higher principle.” So says Mr. Hutton, in his separate Report as member of the Commission; but the pursuit of scientific truth is the highest and most civilising and most compassionate work in which a man can engage. If he holds that we may not cause pain to a dog that we may save greater pain to a thousand human beings, then further argument would be useless. Mr. Hutton also seems to think that it is more justifiable to make experiments upon sheep, in a way likely to benefit other sheep, than if we experiment purely in the interest of man. We may injure one sensitive creature for the good of other creatures of the same rank, but not for the good of creatures of higher or, I suppose, lower rank. If this be his meaning, I can only allow that he possesses moral sentiments of a kind to which I am wholly a stranger.
I do not believe that there is any need for legislation in this matter at all. It is undesirable that students should privately practise vivisection, and it is most desirable that anesthetics should be employed to the utmost possible extent; but after the attention of the public has been so strongly drawn to the subject, it is very unlikely that the slight abuses shown to have occurred will be repeated. The professors of practical physiology will have every reason to keep a watch, and they are more likely to be able to restrain their students than the police or the societies; but if prosecutions like that of M. Magnan are to be repeated, it will be necessary to protect vivisection by legislation, giving the duly qualified dissector a license to make experiments, somewhat as provided in Dr. Playfair's bill.
In view of the infinite benefits to mankind and the lower animals which we may confidently anticipate from this tardy application of true scientific method to the phenomena of life, it is altogether out of the question that we should attempt to repress or hinder vivisection. Legislation should be directed to legalising the practice on the part of those who are most likely to conduct it usefully, skilfully, and, as far as circumstances will allow, painlessly.
ON THE UNITED KINGDOM ALLIANCE AND ITS PROSPECTS OF SUCCESS.∗
In October last, the Bishop of Manchester delivered a speech at the Annual Meeting of the Church of England Temperance Society, in which he expressed his intention of voting in favour of the Permissive Prohibitory Liquor Bill, if it should ever reach the House of Lords. His Lordship, if he was correctly reported, told us that “no doubt the most effective remedy that was suggested at the present time, was the Permissive Bill;” but he went on to explain that we must not expect the Bill to become law “within any calculable time,” and he added his opinion that, if it did become law, it would certainly produce a chronic condition of tumult and anarchy.∗ It may well be questioned how a Bill, which is not to become law within any calculable time, and is then to occasion a chronic condition of tumult and anarchy, can be considered the most effective remedy for intemperance at the present time. An effective remedy surely means one that can be carried into effect, and will then effect its intended purpose.
The Bishop's speech brought strongly to my mind an argument against the policy and conduct of the United Kingdom Alliance, which for some years previously I had frequently considered. Before the Alliance can carry into effect their benevolent intentions, they must bring about three events, which seem to me substantially separate and independent. First, they must pass their Act; secondly, they must get localities to adopt it; thirdly, they must carry out the provisions of the law in those localities. Success in any one or two of these steps is useless and worse than useless without success in all three. But then the probabilities accumulate in a very serious manner against any course of action which thus involves several independent contingencies. This may be illustrated by an imaginary calculation. Taking a view of the case which many persons will think far too favourable to the Alliance, let us suppose that there is one chance in ten in favour of carrying the Permissive Bill during the next twenty years; supposing it carried, let us take one chance in five as the probability that it would be widely adopted by localities, after the interval of tumult and anarchy predicted by the Bishop. The Act being at last in force, let us take one chance in two as representing the probability that it will work satisfactorily, and suppress excessive drinking. If these events are independent and separate, we get the probability that they will all happen in succession in a manner favourable to the purposes of the Alliance, by multiplying together the separate probabilities. This gives us one chance in a hundred as expressing the probability that the well-meaning supporters of the Permissive Bill will ever achieve in this way the desire of their hearts.
This view of the matter, having been stated in a letter published by The Manchester Examiner and Times of October 28th, 1875, drew forth several able replies from members of the Alliance, among which the letters of the Rev. Mr. Steinthal and Mr. William Hoyle were the most formidable. Both of these gentlemen strike at the very root of my argument by asserting that the probabilities are not really independent of each other. “In England,” as Mr. Steinthal says, “No measure can pass the Legislature which is not backed by public opinion, and the agitation which is being carried on throughout the United Kingdom in favour of the Permissive Bill is at one and the same time preparing the localities to try its beneficent provisions. . . . The Executive of the Alliance know that there are many places where the Bill would be immediately applied if it were to be passed next year.” Mr. Hoyle says, nearly to the same effect, “It will be impossible for the Permissive Bill to pass the House of Commons, unless the country generally be educated upon the question, and the education which secures the passing of the Bill in the House will to a very general extent ensure its passing in the country.”
While admitting that these members of the Alliance have selected the right mode of meeting my argument, I am still disposed to regard my view as substantially correct. It was not adopted by me on the spur of the moment, but had been maturely considered during several years.∗ I have, therefore, sought this opportunity of giving a fuller answer to my critics than would be possible in a letter to a newspaper.
I do not pretend to say that the three events in question, the passing of the Permissive Bill, its adoption by localities, and its successful operation, are wholly and absolutely independent events; no doubt, in a majority of cases, those who vote for the Bill do so on the belief that it will be carried out, and then be successful; but so wide are the discrepancies, especially in legislation, between what man proposes and what he can effect, that I believe there is substantial independence.
The terms of the Permissive Bill appear to me to confess this independence, and even to take advantage of it. If the Bill cannot be passed before the people are educated to accept it, what is the use of making it permissive, and interposing the vote of local ratepayers? There are obvious objections to the partial application of such an Act, and one parish which maintains its public-houses will, to a great extent, defeat the benefits of prohibition in the neighbouring parishes. Why not then make the Bill a Compulsory Prohibitory Bill as it was in the early days of the Alliance? Because, as the Alliance very well knows, there would not be the slightest chance of passing such a Bill. There is a delightful uncertainty as to what would or would not happen after the passing of the Permissive Bill, and many contribute to the funds of the Alliance with the vague idea that they are promoting temperance, who do not really bring home to their minds what would be involved in the immediate suppression of the public-houses in their own borough or district.
I will speak presently of the probability that the Permissive Bill, as at present drafted, ever will pass the House of Commons; but I deny that, if passed, we could in the least predict the action of the ratepayers. Nothing is more uncertain and inexplicable than popular votes, especially those in which the mass of the population have the predominating voice. Even after the poll is published, no one can surely tell why the electors so voted. No one will ever be able to show by what precise influences Mr. Gladstone's Government was driven from power in 1874. It may have been a genuine Conservative reaction, or disgust at the sudden dissolution, or the combination of the publicans, or more probably a union of these and other causes; but my point is that no one could have calculated upon the event. All that we can be sure of in popular votes is that we cannot estimate the motives in action, or the results to be expected. The Alliance say they have ascertained, by house to house inquiry, that in some places two-thirds or more of the ratepayers are willing to vote for prohibition. But I attach little importance to such inquiries. It is really less trouble to sign a voting paper or a petition than to refuse, when the person, if he knows what he is signing, must be aware that no practical result will follow the Act. In the case of Bristol, the publicans showed how readily they also could get signatures. It is one thing to sign papers which can have no effect—good or bad—during the present generation; it would be quite a different thing to sign such papers if the immediate result was to be the dreadful state of tumult and anarchy in the neighbourhood, so confidently expected by the Bishop of Manchester.
I am inclined to fear that on this point the Bishop is right. There is undoubtedly a substratum of English population always ready for riot, if any pretext can be found. And what better pretext could be given to them than the closing of their public-houses? The very number of the drunken is a main obstacle to sudden prohibition; it would be the easiest thing in the world for publicans to stir up such a tumult in boroughs or parishes adopting prohibition as would effectually deter the ratepayers of other parishes from voting for prohibition. Does the Bishop seriously believe that, if the application of the Act gave rise to tumult and anarchy, two-thirds of the ratepayers would be found willing to render the anarchy chronic by continuing to veto the sale of liquors in small quantities, while the more wealthy voters were for the most part consuming liquors with their accustomed freedom? The application of such a law would give too good a pretext for disorder, and I altogether deny that the inquiries of the Alliance give any ground for predicting the action of electors, in face of the various events which might happen. Moreover, the events which would follow the passing of the Bill would probably induce Parliament to repeal the Act with great expedition, as in the case of Colonel Wilson Patten's Sunday Closing Act. Various instances might be quoted in which too stringent measures for the repression of drinking have been followed by a disastrous reaction, and if we could, for the sake of argument, imagine the Permissive Bill carried, a reaction in public opinion and legislation would be almost certain to occur.
In another respect there is a great difference between passing the Bill and putting it in action. The Alliance say that they must educate the country before they can pass the Act; but the Act is passed by a bare majority, elected by only a fraction of the whole ratepayers of the country. The application of the Act would require the vote of two-thirds of the ratepayers. The Alliance have in late years adopted what seems to me the fatal and most blamable policy of recommending their followers to vote only for Members of Parliament who will pledge themselves to support the Bill, irrespective of other social or political questions. It is evident, then, that if the Alliance had in rather more than half the constituencies of the United Kingdom a majority of loyal supporters, they could carry their Bill. It follows that one quarter of the whole number of electors, if disposed in a certain way among the constituencies, could certainly pass the Bill. We should have to allow, on the one hand, for the fact that the supporters of the Alliance are scattered in various proportions through all the constituencies of the kingdom, and, on the other, for the vast number of voters who do not go to the poll, and for those who, without approving of the Permissive Bill, vote on other grounds for supporters of it. No calculations on this subject could have the least pretensions to exactness; but, making the best judgment I can, I should say that, with one-quarter of the electors at their back, the Alliance could carry their Bill, and probably a less number would suffice. To carry the law into general operation, however, would require a majority of two-thirds in every parish or voting district. Now, two-thirds is two and two-thirds times as great as a quarter, and it comes to this, that the Alliance must educate the people between two and three times as much to put their law into action as to get it passed. This is one of the many grounds on which I would assert, in opposition to Mr. Steinthal and Mr. Hoyle, that the accumulation of probabilities is against the Alliance.
I decline to enter upon the question whether a prohibitory law, if really put in operation, would work successfully and diminish intemperance in a great degree. To adduce evidence for or against the probability of such a result would be quite impossible within the necessary limits imposed upon this paper. I take it for granted that anyone is justified in entertaining doubts upon the subject, and I think it is very favourable to the Alliance to assign one-half as the probability of prohibition suppressing drunkenness. The evidence derived from America or the colonies upon this subject is of the most conflicting character, and even if we allow that the closing of public-houses has been a blessing in one or two States of the Union, and in many rural parishes of England, it does not in the least follow that the same measure will be practicable and beneficial in great cities and among a population of very different nature. In countries where the people are educated up to the point of accepting prohibition by a very large majority, prohibition would probably work well; but I deny that the main body of the English people are anywhere near this point. There could be no objection to the Alliance educating people as much as they like or can; what I object to is the obstacles which they place in the way of more practicable measures, while they are striving after an object which cannot be carried out “in any calculable time.”
To judge of the probability that the House of Commons will pass the Permissive Bill, we must look at the results of the divisions which have taken place. They are as follows:
Probably the fairest mode of measuring the preponderance of votes against the Bill is to calculate the ratio of all who voted against it to those who voted for it, which gives the following results:
The votes in the three last divisions, especially in the last of all, seem to me to show a strong desire on the part of a vast majority of the House of Commons to convince the Alliance of the hopelessness of its agitation. Up to, and perhaps including the year 1871, the prospects of ultimate success were flattering but deceptive; the supporters were continually rising in numbers, and their opponents were stationary or fluctuating. But in 1873, 74, and 75, we find the supporters reduced to their earlier amount, being almost exactly the same in 1875 as in 1869, and in 1874 actually twelve less, while the opponents of the Bill have presented themselves in little less than double their former numbers.
If an unprejudiced statistician or meteorologist, accustomed to the examination of varying phenomena, were to examine these numbers, he would unquestionably conclude that the Alliance was a phenomenon which had passed its maximum, and was on the wane. For nearly twenty-three years the Alliance has always been making progress according to the statements of its own organs, and yet, between 1871 and 1873, we find its supporters in Parliament reduced by 30 per cent., and its opponents increased by 90 per cent. The last three divisions, and especially the last of all, evince a fixed determination on the part of the vast majority of the House not to pass the Bill, and not to allow any encouragement for the hope that it ever will be passed. Having regard to the hopeless and obstructive position of the Alliance, I may venture to express a hope that the next division will even more unequivocally show the opinion of the House upon the subject.
It may be said in favour of the Alliance that, even if its Bill never be passed, the efforts made to pass it enlist the interests of many persons in the temperance cause, and lead to the passing of minor restrictions on the liquor trade. The Alliance has, no doubt, made itself the head and front of the temperance bodies generally; it is a rallying point for all who are earnestly desirous of remedying the main cause of evil in the country. Members of Parliament and even Governments which will not actually vote for the Permissive Bill will yet, it may be urged, be induced to concede important measures against the publicans, and the publicans on their part will the more readily accept legislation in fear of the power of so formidable a body as the Alliance. But it is quite a question to my mind whether the agitation kept up by the Alliance does not act in just the opposite manner.
Surely, as regards the publicans, the action of the Alliance is most unfortunate. It teaches them to look upon all temperance reformers as utter enemies, and the struggle as one without quarter. The Alliance wish to suppress the trade of the publicans in a sudden and arbitrary manner, and they offer no compensation to those who have in many cases spent large sums in buildings and trade fixtures, in a business licensed by the Government. It is true that licenses are withdrawable on proof of delinquencies, and are only granted for a year; but there is the greatest possible difference between the mode in which licenses have hitherto been terminated and that in which the Alliance proposes to revoke them. Vested interests are, no doubt, a very great obstacle to all reforms, and any precedent which recognises their existence, and affords compensation, throws so much more weight upon future reformers. But I fear that sufficient precedents have already been created. The great sum paid to slave-owners in the British Colonies was quite a case in point. Military officers have been compensated to a very large amount for money invested in the purchase of commissions even beyond the terms of the regulations. Before the telegraph companies were suppressed they received two or three times the value of their property, the greater part being avowedly claimed for the goodwill of their business. Now, publicans may be good men or bad men, but at any rate they are men, and subjects of the Queen, and they have families to support, and can we suppose or expect that they will acquiesce in their own suppression and ruin? I must express very much doubt whether it would be right and just to suppress a trade in the way proposed by the Alliance without some provision for compensation. But if the ratepayers before voting for prohibition are aware that it will add sixpence or ninepence to the rates, I should like to know where they will get their majority of two-thirds. A rate of not more than a penny has proved in most places a sufficient bar to the adoption of that most inoffensive law—the Public Libraries Act. In the parish of Withington, where I reside, a bare majority of the ratepayers could never be got to vote for so necessary an expense as the lighting of the streets. This has lately been done under the authority of the Local Government Board; but I regret to say that the ratepayers still decline to incur the expense of mending the roads.
But whatever ratepayers may think about the Permissive Prohibitory Law, there is no doubt as to what publicans think. To them, if put into operation, it would be Domesday, and the result of the persistent agitation of the Alliance is to make the publicans band themselves together in opposition to all reforms. The publicans, like every other large body of men, include all kinds of characters, but I refuse to believe that they are wholly unreasonable and unwilling to acknowledge the evils which flow from their trade when badly regulated. If assured that license reform was not intended as a step towards their suppression and ruin, but that it would tend to the elimination of the less respectable members of the trade, I cannot believe that the publicans generally would oppose reform as bitterly as they do at present. The true mode of reforming the sale of liquor is to diminish competition, and to weed out the ill-conducted houses, until the value of the remaining licenses has been so far raised that their holders will not dare and will not have sufficient inducement to tolerate abuses.
The following are the terms in which the Alliance describes its attitude both towards the publicans and towards other schemes of licensing reform: “As the United Kingdom Alliance is constituted for the annihilation of the liquor traffic, and not for its sanction and regulation, your committee cannot, in loyalty to the trust imposed upon them, enter into any licensing scheme whatever; and they are bound, in self-defence and consistency, to look with coldness and even suspicion upon any proposals that favour the obnoxious policy of forcing licenses into communities in defiance of the people's wishes and petitions.”∗ Thus the Alliance distinctly and expressly places itself in opposition not only to the publicans as a body, but to all who propose in any way to sanction the sale of liquors.
The matter has been made all the worse by the recommendation to vote for no Member of Parliament who refuses to support the Bill. The adoption of such a policy must surely be considered as an act of desperation, but in any case, it cannot be sufficiently reprobated and repudiated by all who wish well to the progress of civilisation. Compromise is of the very essence of legislative change, and as society becomes more diverse and complicated, compromise becomes more and more indispensable. It is the only modus vivendi, as tastes and opinions gradually diverge. It need hardly be said that reforms of all kinds must be immensely retarded if the supporters of each measure insist upon getting their own scheme first through the House of Commons. Mr. Bright happily protested against trying to drive half-a-dozen omnibuses abreast through Temple Bar, but this is what it will come to if we have many bodies like the Alliance, each trying to have the road to itself. It is especially unfortunate when the first one is a heavy, impracticable machine, which can neither go forward nor be got out of the way. Yet such I believe the Permissive Prohibitory Bill to be, and the proceedings of the Alliance altogether strike me as the best possible example of how not to do things in legislation.
On these grounds I hold that the United Kingdom Alliance is the worst existing obstacle to temperance reform in the kingdom. It absorbs and expends the resources of the temperance army on a hopeless siege, and by proclaiming no quarter, it drives the enemy into fierce opposition to a man. The Alliance has already been in existence and active operation for twenty-two or nearly twenty-three years; it has had the most zealous leaders, and the most faithful followers; it has spent great sums of money, probably greater sums than any Association of the kind ever spent before, amounting to something like a quarter of a million sterling; its publications have been sown broadcast over the whole country; its petitions to Parliament have been numberless; and every Member of Parliament and every body of electors have been vexed by its persistent agitations. Yet I venture to say that it is as far from its goal as ever.
Before concluding I will go a step farther and assert that the whole policy and principles of action of such a body as the United Kingdom Alliance are mistaken and inexpedient. They set forth a definite scheme in a Bill, and demand this or nothing. The remarkable success of the Anti-Corn Law League has had, I believe, one evil effect. It has led many zealous people to believe that if they only band themselves together with sufficient determination, if they deliver enough speeches, scatter enough tracts, in short agitate with sufficient energy, they will ultimately carry public opinion with them. But we must not argue too readily from analogy in such cases. The Anti-Corn Law League aimed at an object which could unquestionably be effected by the mere passing of an Act. There was no permissive legislation in it. The actual results of the abolition of duty on corn were as well understood by economists and by all unprejudiced persons of moderate intelligence as any question in social science can be. The mass of the people were readily induced to join in a cry for cheap bread, even if they did not clearly understand how it was to be secured. The struggle was thus one of the mass of the people against a body of landlords taking a selfish and mistaken view of their own interests. The success of the League was substantially accomplished in five or seven years.
In the case of the United Kingdom Alliance everything is different. The real struggle would not begin until the Bill was passed; the mass of the people would in most cases be against the law, and the operation of the law, as I maintain, must be altogether a matter of uncertainty. When we know so many useful legislative changes which might be passed, and which would be sure to have a more or less favourable effect, it seems to me a most deplorable fact that twenty-two years should have been spent upon one impracticable Bill. So considerable are the chances against the success of any legislation, as could easily be proved by an examination of the statute book, that we should not spend a quarter of a century on any one law, unless, perhaps, we are perfectly assured of the success of that law when passed. It would not be difficult to point out certain definite principles which should guide a wise reforming legislator in the selection of the laws he should advocate. Solon, when asked whether he had given the Athenians the best laws he could devise, replied: “Ay, the best laws that they could receive.” He has often been blamed, but the progress of Sociology is establishing his wisdom. We now know that laws are not good or bad with respect to any invariable standard, but in reference to the changing character of society and man. The successful reformer is one who sees for what legislative change the people are ripe, and concentrates the popular energy upon it. But the members of the Alliance are wrong at every point. They try to force upon the country a law for which it is certainly not ripe; they absorb forces which might be most usefully employed in immediate action upon a scheme which, if carried at all, must be a thing for the future. They allow that they must educate the people for the measure (this is admitted by Mr. Steinthal and Mr. Hoyle), but they confuse together the agitation and the education. It is one thing to educate people for a future change of legislation; it is another thing to ask them to pass the law next year, and in the meantime to look coldly upon all other projects of reform.
There is no use attempting, at the end of this paper, to discuss in detail the measures which will probably be passed by the general consent of the community as soon as the Permissive Bill is out of the way. Were that Bill a forlorn hope—the only measure by which we could hope to repress drunkenness—I should be among its warmest advocates; but, as a matter of fact, it stands in the way of some dozen reasonable and practicable proposals. The Sunday Closing Bill, if passed, would probably decrease drunkenness by a fourth or fifth part, without interfering in any appreciable degree with the due freedom or convenience of any person. The refusal of all new licenses to publicans or beer-shop keepers, so long as the number of the houses exceeds one to five hundred inhabitants, seems to me a very proper and workable measure. It was among the proposals of the National Union for the Suppression of Intemperance. The rule might have to be relaxed in the case of thinly populated districts, along the course of important highways, and in great centres of trade and traffic, and various details would have to be considered relating to the boundaries of districts, and the mode of estimating the population—whether, for instance, by the last census, or, as I should propose, by the number of houses on the rate books, counting five inhabitants for each house. But I see no considerable difficulty in applying such a maximum to strengthen the hands of the magistrates in their use of the licensing power.
Another measure which appears to me absolutely indispensable, and to admit of no delay, is the entire revocation of grocers' licenses. The granting of such licenses was no doubt a well-meant step; it was supposed that people would be drawn away from the public-house by the facility with which they could obtain liquors of better quality to consume at home. But I fear that for one who is drawn away from the public-house, twenty or fifty will ultimately be drawn to it. The mistake thus committed was only exceeded by that of the Beershops Act, another well-intended measure, which was to wean people from the use of strong liquors by the facility of getting weak ones. There is the most overwhelming evidence to show that free trade and competition in the liquor trade lead to disastrous results. It is difficult to imagine how anyone could ever have looked upon facilities for the distribution of liquors as a mode of diminishing intemperance. Competition in all other trades tends to the healthy development of the trade, and the consequent increase of the quantity sold. But in the case of liquors our object is to decrease, not to increase the sale, and we must therefore take the opposite course, and place obstacles in the way of the trade which will make liquors dearer and more troublesome to get. At present the only difficulty is to avoid buying them, so numerous are the shops at which they are pressed upon the customer. It is worthy of consideration whether there ought not to be an inflexible rule established that, where any kind of intoxicating liquor is sold, no other commodity shall be sold for consumption off the premises. I am inclined to think that the trade should be restricted to two classes of dealers—first, licensed victuallers and innkeepers selling mainly, if not exclusively, for consumption on the premises, and selling nothing else except the ordinary victuals for guests; and secondly, beer, wine, and spirit merchants, allowed to sell liquors in any quantity for consumption off the premises.
I may also suggest that the time has probably arrived when a further addition may safely be made to the duty on spirits. The last change was made in 1860, when the duty on British spirits and on rum was raised from 8s. to 10s. per gallon, and that on brandy was reduced from 15s. to 10s. 5d. per gallon. We should remember that since 1860 prices in general have been rising much, the wealth of the purchasers has been considerably increased, as indeed is sufficiently shown by the augmented consumption. With the increased efficiency and number of the police force there can be no fear of any serious increase of smuggling or illicit distilling. An addition of 2s. per gallon to the duty on spirits would produce a handsome sum for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and would at the same time aid in repressing the worst form of drinking.
The proposals of the License Amendment League of Manchester for the regulation of the traffic also deserve the most careful consideration.
I mention these measures merely to show how many comparatively easy steps could be taken if the weight of temperance reformers were united to support them, instead of being wasted on the Permissive Bill. No doubt it will be plausibly answered that if free trade in liquors leads to drunkenness the proper step is to prohibit the sale of liquor, and it is inconsistent to advocate a regulated traffic instead. But the retort is easy, that the United Kingdom Alliance do not venture to be consistent and thorough-going. On their own principles they ought to adhere to the Maine Liquor Law with which they began, and agitate for real prohibition of the sale of liquor. As it is, they only venture to ask for the capricious action of separate parishes and boroughs in suppressing the public sale, while leaving all individuals free to get their own supplies of liquor by purchase elsewhere. I cannot avoid the conclusion, then, that nearly a quarter of a century of time and a quarter of a million of money have been wasted in advocating one of the worst devised measures which was ever brought before a legislature. The Permissive Bill, we are told, will not be passed in any calculable time; I venture to assert that it will never be passed at all.
EXPERIMENTAL LEGISLATION AND THE DRINK TRAFFIC.∗
“Afool, Mr. Edgeworth, is one who has never made an experiment.” Such are, I believe, the exact words of a remark which Erasmus Darwin addressed to Richard Lovell Edgeworth. They deserve to become proverbial. They have the broad foundation of truth, and the trenchant disregard of accuracy in detail which mark an adage. Of course, the saying at once suggests the question: What is an experiment? In a certain way, all people, whether fools or wise men, are constantly making experiments. The education of the infant is thoroughly experimental from the very first, but in a haphazard and unconscious way. The child which over-balances itself in learning to walk is experimenting on the law of gravity. All successful action is successful experiment in the broadest sense of the term, and every mistake or failure is a negative experiment, which deters us from repetition. Our mental framework, too, is marvellously contrived, so as to go on ceaselessly registering on the tablets of the memory the favourable or unfavourable results of every kind of action. Charles Babbage proposed to make an automaton chess-player which should register mechanically the numbers of games lost and gained in consequence of every possible kind of move. Thus, the longer the automaton went on playing games, the more experienced it would become by the accumulation of experimental results. Such a machine precisely represents the acquirement of experience by our nervous organisation.
But Erasmus Darwin doubtless meant by experiment something more than this unintentional heaping-up of experience. The part of wisdom is to learn to foresee the results of our actions, by making slight and harmless trials before we commit ourselves to an irrevocable line of conduct. We ought to feel our way, and try the ice before we venture on it to a dangerous extent. To make an experiment, in this more special sense, is to arrange certain known conditions, or, in other words, to put together certain causal agents, in order to ascertain their outcome or aggregate of effects. The experiment has knowledge alone for its immediate purpose; but he is truly happy, as the Latin poet said, who can discern the causes of things, for, these being known, we can proceed at once to safe and profitable applications.
It need hardly be said that it is to frequent and carefully-planned appeals to experiment in the physical sciences, that we owe almost the whole progress of the human race in the last three centuries. Even moral and intellectual triumphs may often be traced back to dependence on physical inventions, and to the incentive which they give towards general activity. Certainly, political and military success is almost entirely dependent on the experimental sciences. It is difficult to discover that, as regards courage, our soldiers in Afghanistan and Zululand and the Transvaal are any better than the men whose countries they invade. But it is the science of the rifle, the shell, and the mountain gun—science perfected by constant experimentation—which gives the poor savage and even the brave Boer no chance of ultimate success in resistance. To whom do we owe all this in its first beginning, but to the great experimentalist, the friar, Roger Bacon, of Oxford, our truest and greatest national glory, the smallest of whose merits is that he first mentions gunpowder; yet so little does the English nation yet appreciate the sources of its power and greatness that the writings of Roger Bacon lie, to a great extent, unprinted and unexplored. It is only among continental scholars that Roger Bacon is regarded as the miracle of his age and country.
No doubt it is to Francis Bacon, the Lord High Chancellor of England, that the world generally attributes the inauguration of the new inductive era of science. This is hardly the place to endeavour to decide whether the world has not made a great mistake. Professor Fowler, in his admirable critical edition of the “Novum Organum,” has said about all that can be said in favour of Lord Bacon's scientific claims; yet I hold to the opinion, long since stoutly maintained by the late Professor De Morgan,∗ not to speak of Baron Liebig† and others, that Lord Bacon, though a truly clever man, was a mere dabbler in inductive science, the true methods of which he quite misapprehended. At best, he put into elegant and striking language an estimate of the tendency of science towards experimentalism, and a forecast of the results to be obtained. The regeneration of these last centuries is due to a long series of philosophers, from Copernicus, Galileo, Descartes, Newton, Leibnitz, down to Watt, Faraday, and Joule. Such men followed a procedure very different from that of Francis Bacon.
Now we come to the point of our inquiry. Is the experimental method necessarily restricted to the world of physical science? Do we sufficiently apply to moral, social, and political matters those methods which have been proved so valuable in the hands of physical philosophers? Do our legislators, in short, appeal to experiment in a way which excepts them from the definition of Erasmus Darwin? English legislation, no doubt, is usually preceded by a great amount of public discussion and parliamentary wrangling. Sometimes there is plenty of statistical inquiry—plenty, that is, if it were of the right sort, and conducted according to true scientific method. Neverthless, I venture to maintain that, as a general rule, Parliament ignores the one true method of appealing directly to experiment. Our Parliamentary Committees and Royal Commissions of Inquiry pile up blue-books full of information which is generally not to the point. The one bit of information, the actual trial of a new measure on a small scale, is not forthcoming, because Parliament, if it enacts a law at all, enacts it for the whole kingdom. It habitually makes a leap in the dark, because, I suppose, it is not consistent with the wisdom and dignity of Parliament to grope its way, and confess to the world at large that it is afraid of making mistakes. Now, I maintain that, in large classes of legislative affairs, there is really nothing to prevent our making direct experiments upon the living social organism. Not only is social experimentation a possible thing, but it is in every part of the kingdom, excepting the palace of St. Stephen's, the commonest thing possible, the universal mode of social progress. It would hardly be too much to say that social progress is social experimentation, and social experimentation is social progress. Changes effected by any important Act of Parliament are like earthquakes and cataclysms, which disturb the continuous course of social growth. They effect revolutionary rather than habitual changes. Sometimes they do much good; sometimes much harm; but in any case it is hardly possible to forecast the result of a considerable catastrophic change in the social organism. Therefore I hold unhesitatingly that, whenever it is possible, legislation should observe the order of nature, and proceed tentatively.
Social progress, I have said, is social experimentation. Every new heading that is inserted in the London Trades' Directory is claimed by those private individuals who have tried a new trade and found it to answer. The struggle for existence makes us all look out for chances of profit. We are all, perhaps, in some degree inventors, but some are more bold and successful than others. Now, every man who establishes a shop or factory or social institution of a novel kind is trying an experiment. If he hits an unsupplied need of his fellow-men the experiment succeeds; that is to say, it has something succeeding or following it—namely, repetition by himself and others. The word “success” is a most happy one, etymologically. To have success is to have a future—a future of imitators.
It is quite apparent that all the great novelties of recent times have been worked out in this tentative way. How, for instance, has our vast and marvellous railway system been developed? Did it spring forth perfect from the wise forethought of Parliament, as Minerva, fully armed and equipped, leaped from the head of Jupiter? On the contrary, did not our wise landowners and practical men oppose railways to the very utmost—until they discovered what a mistake they were making? There is no great blame to them. Who, indeed, could see in the rude tram-line of Benjamin Outram the germ which was to grow into the maze of lines and points and signals which we now pass through without surprise at Clapham Junction or at London Bridge? That most complex organisation, a great railway station, is entirely a product of frequent experiment. Gradatim—Step by Step—would be no unapt motto for any great industrial success. In such matters experiments are both intentional and unintentional. Of the former the public hears little, except when they result in some profitable patent. The preliminary trials are usually performed in secret, for obvious reasons, and the unsuccessful ones are left undescribed, and are quickly forgotten. As to unintentional experiments, they are too numerous. Every railway accident which happens is an experiment revealing some fault of design, some insufficiency in the materials, some contingency unprovided for. The accident is inquired into, and then the engineers set to work to plan improvements which shall prevent the like accident from happening in the future. If we had time to trace the history of the steam engine, of gas lighting, of electric telegraphs, of submarine cables, of electric lighting, or of any other great improvement, we should see, in like manner, that the wisdom of Parliament has had nothing to do with planning it. From the first to the last the rule of progress has been that of the ancient nursery rhyme—Try, try, try: And if at first you don't succeed, Try, try, try again.
To put the matter in the strongest light, let the reader consider what he would say about a proposal that Parliament should decide arbitrarily, by its own wisdom, concerning any great impending improvement: take, for instance, that of tramways and steam tramcars. It is quite conceivable that steam tramcars will eventually succeed so well as to replace horse conveyance to a great extent. All main highways will then, of course, be laid with tram-rails. But what should we think of the wisdom of Parliament if it undertook to settle the question once for all, and, after taking a score of Blue Books full of evidence, to decide either that there should be no steam tramcars, or that steam tramways should be immediately laid down between all the villages in the kingdom? The House of Lords did take the former course two sessions ago, and prohibited the use of steam on tramways, because it might frighten horses. In the next session they felt the folly of opposing the irresistible, and expressly allowed the experimental use of steam on tramways.
One of the points about the railway system which the Government of the last generation undertook to settle once for all, was the proper place for great railway stations in London. A committee, chiefly consisting of military men, decided that the railway stations should not be brought into the centre of London. Hence the position of the stations at Euston, King's Cross, Paddington, Waterloo, and Shoreditch. At great cost their decision has been entirely reversed.
It may perhaps be objected that these are matters of physical science and practical engineering, in which the supremacy of experiment has long been recognised. That is not wholly so; for the success of a system, like that of the railways or tramways, depends much upon social considerations. However that may be, there is no difficulty in showing that the same principles apply to purely social institutions. If anything, it is the social side of an enterprise which is usually most doubtful and most in need of experiment when it can be applied. To construct the Thames Tunnel was a novel and difficult work at the time, but not so difficult as to get the populace to use it. The Great Eastern steamship was another instance of a great mechanical success, which was, to some extent, a social and economical failure. Many like cases might be mentioned, such as the real ice-rinks lately invented.
How is it that any kind of purely social institution is usually established? Take the case of the Volunteer Force. This was commenced, not to speak of earlier movements, or the ancient Honourable Artillery Company, by a few isolated experiments, such as that of the Exeter Rifle Corps in 1852, and the Victoria Rifle Corps in 1853. These succeeded so well that when, in 1859, fears of invasion were afloat, the imitative process set in rapidly. Of course, wise practical people laughed at the mania for playing at soldiers, and most people clearly foresaw that, when once the volunteers had got tired of their new uniforms, the whole thing would collapse. But experience has decided very differently. The force, instead of declining, has gone on steadily growing and substantially improving, until a good military authority lately spoke of it as the only sound part of our military system. How much has the wisdom of Parliament had to do with the creation of this force? I believe that even now the Government and the military classes do not appreciate what the volunteer force has done for us, by removing all fear of safety at home and enabling the standing army to be freely sent abroad.
Take again the case of popular amusements. Would Parliament ever think of defining by Statute when and how people shall meet to amuse themselves, and what they shall do, and when they shall have had enough of it? Must not people find out by trial what pleases and what does not please? The late Mr. Serjeant Cox is said to have invented Penny Readings for the people, and they answered so well under his management that they were imitated in all parts of the kingdom, and eventually in many other parts of the world. Spelling-bees were, I believe, an American invention, and had a very lively but brief career. Many recent courses of popular scientific lectures arose out of the very successful experiment instituted by Professor Roscoe at Manchester.∗ Many attempts are just now being made to provide attractive and harmless amusements for the people, and this must, of course, be done in a tentative manner.
It is curious, indeed, to observe how evanescent many social inventions prove themselves to be; growth and change have been so rapid of late that there is constant need of new inventions. The Royal Institution in Albemarle Street was a notable invention of its time, chiefly due to Count Rumford, and its brilliant success led to early imitation in Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh, and perhaps elsewhere. But the provincial institutions have with difficulty maintained their raison d'être. After the Royal Institutions came a series of Mechanics' Institutions, which, as regards the mechanic element, were thoroughly unsuccessful, but proved themselves useful in the form of popular colleges or middle-class schools. Now, the great and genuine success of Owens College as a teaching body is leading to the creation of numerous local colleges of similar type. This is the age, again, of Free Public Libraries, the practicability and extreme usefulness of which were first established in Salford and Manchester. When once possessed of local habitations, such institutions will, it may be hoped, have long careers; but bricks and mortar are usually requisite to give perpetuity to a social experiment. When thus perpetuated, each kind of institution marks its own age with almost geologic certainty. From the times of the Saxons and the Normans we can trace a series of strata of institutions superposed in order of time. The ancient Colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, the mediæval Guilds surviving in the City Companies, the Grammar Schools of the Elizabethan age, the Almshouses of the Stuart period, the Commercial Institutions of Queen Anne's reign, and so on down to the Free Libraries and Recreation Palaces of the present day. Even styles of architecture are evolved by successful innovation—that is, experiment followed by imitation, and this was never more apparent than in the imitation which has followed upon Sir Joseph Paxton's grand experiment at the Exhibition of 1851.∗
Now, my contention is, that legislators ought, in many branches of legislation, to adopt confessedly this tentative procedure, which is the very method of social growth. Parliament must give up the pretension that it can enact the creation of certain social institutions to be carried on as specified in the “hereinafter contained” clauses. No doubt, by aid of an elaborate machinery of administration and a powerful body of police, Government can, to a certain extent, guide, or at any rate restrain, the conduct of its subjects. Even in this respect its powers are very limited, and a law which does not command the consent of the body of the people must soon be repealed or become inoperative. But as regards the creation of institutions, Parliament is almost powerless, except by consulting the needs of the time, and offering facilities for such institutions to grow up as experience shows to be successful. But an unfortunate confusion of ideas exists; and it seems to be supposed that because, for reasons of obvious convenience, the civil and criminal laws are, as a general rule, made uniform for the whole kingdom, therefore the legislative action of Parliament must always be uniform and definitive. When an important change is advocated, for instance, in the Licensing Laws, Parliament collects abundant information, which is usually inconclusive, and then proceeds to effect all over the kingdom some very costly and irrevocable change; a change which generally disappoints its own advocates. Take the case of the Sale of Beer Act of 1830, generally known as the Beer-shop Act. This is a salient example of bad legislation. Yet it was passed by the almost unanimous wisdom of Parliament, the division in the House of Commons on the second reading showing 245 ayes and only 29 noes. The Act originated with Brougham, in the sense that he had in 1822 and 1823 brought in somewhat similar bills, which were partially adopted by the Government of 1830. The idea of the Act was to break down the monopoly of the brewers and publicans; to throw open the trade in beer on free-trade principles; and by offering abundance of wholesome, pure, weak beer, to draw away the working-classes from the ginshops. All seemed as plausible as it was undoubtedly well intended. Objections were of course made to the Bill, and many people predicted evil consequences; but all such sinister predictions were supposed to be spread about by the interested publicans and brewers. Nevertheless, the new Act was soon believed to be a mistake. Sydney Smith, though he had not many years before pleaded for liberty for the people to drink rum-and-water, or whatever else they liked (Edinburgh Review, 1819), quickly veered round, and gave a graphic account of the beastly state of drunkenness of the Sovereign People.∗
It may be safely said that the Beershop Act realised all the evils expected from it, and few or none of the advantages.† It is difficult to say anything in favour of the bar at the corner public-house, except that it is better than the dirty low little beershop, hiding itself away in some obscure recess of the streets. The first is at any rate under the gaze of the public and the control of the magistrates; the beershop, until within the last few years, was too likely to become the uncontrolled resort of the worst classes. Even now that the beershops are brought under the Licensing Magistrates many years must elapse before the evil wrought by the Act of 1830 can be thoroughly removed. This then is a striking instance of a leap in the dark, which ought never to have been committed by a prudent legislature. When the Sale of Beer Bill was under discussion the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to feel that it was a Bill which needed experimental trial; for when objection was made that the Act would not extend to Scotland, he urged that it might be better to try the Act in one part of the kingdom in the first instance, and then, if it were found to be beneficial, and to answer its intended objects, it might be extended to other parts.∗
In more recent years the granting of grocers' licenses for the free sale of all kinds of spirituous liquors is likely to prove itself to be an equally disastrous leap in the dark. With the very best intentions, and on the most plausible theoretical grounds, Mr. Gladstone's Government greatly extended the free sale of wine and beer, so that now, in some popular watering-places, I have noticed that almost every third shop window is ornamented with a pyramid of beer bottles. Yet the late Government have only succeeded in making the grocer's shop the avenue to the publican's bar. No one can for a moment believe that the free sale of liquors for home use has in the least degree weakened the publican's hold on his customers. If I had on à priori grounds to plan out a scheme of liquor traffic, I should just reverse the existing law relating to Beer-shops and Grocers' Licenses. I would prohibit the “off” sale of liquor on any premises where other articles were sold; the purchaser desiring to buy wine, beer, or spirits for home use should be obliged to go to some one of a comparatively few well-marked shops dealing in those things alone. On the other hand, where liquor is sold for consumption on the premises, I should oblige the seller to furnish food and reasonable sitting accommodation. This would be nothing more than a return to the old law about Licensed Victuallers, which yet exists in the letter, though it has been allowed to fall into practical abeyance. The very reasonable law obliging publicans to afford general entertainment was sadly broken down by the Beershops Act, which provided unlimited means for the drinking of beer, pure and simple, without food of any kind. But my contention is that we must not proceed in such matters on à priori grounds at all. We must try.
Perhaps it may be said that every new law is necessarily an experiment, and affords experience for its own improvement, and, if necessary, its abrogation. But there are two strong reasons why an Act which has been made general, and has come into general operation, can seldom serve as an experiment. Of course, a great many Acts of Parliament are experimentally found to be mistaken, for they never come into considerable operation at all, like the Acts to promote registration of titles, not to mention the Agricultural Holdings Act. Such cases prove little or nothing, except the weakness, and possibly the insincerity, of the Legislature. But if an Act comes largely into operation it is practically irrevocable. Parliament cannot say simply “as you were,” and proceed to a new and more hopeful experiment. A social humpty-dumpty cannot be set up again just as it was before, even by the Queen's men. The vested interests created are usually too formidable to be put aside, and too expensive to be bought up. A good many years, say seven, or ten at the least, are needed to develop properly any important legislative experiment, so that the same generation of statesmen would not have more than three or four opportunities of experiment in the same subject during the longest political career. If we divide up the country, and try one experiment on one town or county, and another on another, there is a possibility of making an almost unlimited number of valid trials within ten or twenty years. But, apart from this consideration, a general legislative change is not a true experiment at all, because it affords no clear means of distinguishing its effects from the general resultant of social and industrial progress. Statistical facts are usually numerical or quantitative in character, so that, if many causal agencies are in operation at the same time, their effects are simply added together algebraically, and are inextricably merged into a general total. Thus, the total numbers receiving poor-law relief, or the numbers apprehended in the kingdom for drunkenness, are numerical results affected by the oscillations of trade, by the character of the seasons, the value of gold, etc., etc., as well as by the Acts of the Legislature. To make a valid experiment we must have a certain thing subject to certain constant conditions, and we must introduce a single definite change of condition, which will then be probably the cause of whatever phenomenon follows. It is possible, indeed, to experiment upon an object of varying conditions, provided we can find two objects which vary similarly; we then operate upon the one, and observe how it subsequently differs from the other. We need, in fact, what the chemists call a “blind experiment.” Suppose, for instance, that an agricultural chemist or a scientific farmer wished to ascertain the effect of a new kind of manure; would it be rational for him to spread the manure over all his available land? Would it not then be doubtful whether the increase or decrease of yield were due to the manure or the character of the seasons? In this case his neighbours' crops might, to some extent, furnish the blind experiment, showing what had been the ordinary yield. But, of course, the obvious mode of procedure is to spread the new manure over a part only of each experimental field, so that the difference of the crops on the different patches brings out, in a most unquestionable way, the effect of the manure. Not only is the smaller experiment, in a logical point of view, far better than the larger one, but it is possible to try many concurrent small experiments upon a farm of moderate extent.
I maintain that, if our legislators are to act rationally, they will, as far as possible, imitate the agricultural chemist. The idea, for instance, of obliging, or even allowing, all the boroughs in the kingdom simultaneously to adopt the Gothenburg plan would be ridiculous and irrational. The cost and confusion which would arise from a sudden general trial must be very great; many years would elapse before the result was apparent. And that result would not be so clear as if the trial were restricted to some half-a-dozen towns. In the meantime it would be far better that other boroughs should be trying other experiments, giving us many strings to our bow, while some towns would actually do best for the country by going on as nearly as possible in their present course. Specific and differentiated experience is what we need, before making any further important change in the drink trade.
Not only is this the rational method of procedure, but it is practically the method to which we owe all the more successful legislative and administrative reforms of later years. Consider the Poor Law question. During the eighteenth century, Parliament made two or three leaps in the dark, by enacting laws such as Gilbert's Act, and very nearly ruined the kingdom by them. The great Poor Law Commission commenced its operations in the soundest way by collecting all available information about the treatment of the poor, whether at home or abroad. But, what is more to the point, since the new Poor Law was passed in 1834, the partially free action of Boards of Guardians, under the supervision of the Poor Law Commission and the Poor Law Board, has afforded a long series of experimental results. The reports of Mr. Edwin Chadwick and the late Sir George Shaw Lefevre are probably the best models of the true process of administrative reform to be anywhere found. In more recent years several very important experiments have been tried by different Boards of Guardians, such as the boarding out of pauper children, the suppression of vagrancy by the provision of separate vagrant cells and the hard-labour test, and the cutting down of outdoor relief. If the total abolition of outdoor relief is ever to be tried, it must be tried on the small scale first; it would be a far too severe and dangerous measure to force upon the whole country at a single blow. Much attention has lately been drawn to the so-called “Poor Law Experiment at Elberfeld,” which was carefully described by the Rev. W. Walter Edwards, in an article in The Contemporary Review for July, 1878, vol. xxxii. pp. 675–693, bearing that precise title.
Even when an Act of Parliament is passed in general terms applying to the whole kingdom at once, it by no means follows that it will be equally put into operation everywhere. The discretion necessarily allowed to magistrates and other authorities often gives ample scope for instructive experiments. Some years since the Howard Association called attention to what they expressly called “The Luton experiment,” consisting in the extraordinary success with which the magistrates of Luton in Bedfordshire enforced the provisions of the “Prevention of Crime Act.” The number of committals to gaol from Luton and its vicinity was reduced from 257 in 1869 to 66 in 1874. The only fault of the experiment consists in the possibility that the thieves and roughs migrated; but this difficulty would be less serious had the experiment been tried in larger towns.
What little insight we can gain into the operation of the Licensing Laws is mainly due to the considerable differences with which they have been administered in different places. Such is the latitude of discretion given by the law, that magistrates can often make very distinct experiments. A short time ago the magistrates of Glasgow intentionally and avowedly made the experiment of locking up in gaol all the drunkards brought before them. When I last heard about this experiment it was on the point of failing, because the gaols of Glasgow were all quite full, and still the drunkards were coming to the bar. In 1863 the Licensing Magistrates of Liverpool commenced a most interesting experiment, by declaring their intention to adopt “Free licensing”—that is, to grant licenses to any suitable persons who applied for them. The publicans' licenses were increased from 1,674 in 1862 to 1,940 in 1866. The system was abandoned in this last year, owing to a change in the constitution of the Bench. None of the magistrates who advocated the change, we are told, ever recanted, but some who supported the change to a restrictive policy have been disappointed with the results. The teaching of this real experiment has been carefully discussed by Mr. S. G. Rathbone, in a very able letter, published in The Times of the 12th of February, 1877, as also in his evidence before the Lords' Committee of Inquiry on Intemperance (Questions 259–384, etc). But, apart from his objections to the interpretation put upon the facts, the experiment was not continued sufficiently long, and the town in which it was tried is so unique in the annals of intemperance as to be ill-fitted for the purpose.
Much attention has been drawn recently to the merits of the so-called Gothenburg Scheme, the adoption of which has been so ably advocated by Mr. J. Chamberlain, M.P. Now, what is this advocacy but argument from a successful experiment? The municipal authorities of Gothenburg allowed a certain method of conducting the sale of liquor to be tried there, and the success was apparently so great that other Swedish towns are rapidly adopting the same plan. This is just the right procedure of trial and imitation. But if Mr. Chamberlain means that, because the plan succeeds in Gothenburg, therefore the municipal authorities of English towns ought at once to be obliged to purchase and administer the public-houses, he goes much too far. All we ought to do is to try the system in a limited number of towns. Anyone acquainted with the bright little Swedish seaport, and the orderly polished lower-class population of Sweden, will be in no hurry to draw analogies between their condition and that of our great, busy, turbulent Anglo-Irish towns. At any rate it is obvious that experiments ought to be made upon the most closely proximate cases which can be found, and if three or four such towns as Birmingham, Bristol, Bolton, and New-castle-upon-Tyne could be induced to try the Gothenburg scheme, it would be an ample first experiment. Even between English towns the differences of magnitude, race, occupation, and local government are often so great that it is by no means certain that the same scheme will succeed equally in all. The differences in the intemperance rates in the several boroughs of England, to which I shall, perhaps, draw attention on a future occasion, are so extraordinary and profound that the Committee of the House of Lords were thoroughly bewildered on the subject. Under such circumstances it should not be assumed that uniform legislation must be the ultimate object of our efforts.
It is a most important question how far the proposals of the United Kingdom Alliance for the Suppression of the Liquor Traffic can be approved from the point of view here taken up. I venture to maintain that those proposals, so far as embodied in the Permissive Prohibitory Bill, now dropped, had all the possible evils of a great legislative leap in the dark, with few of the corresponding possible advantages. Four years ago, in a paper read to the Manchester Statistical Society, I gave reasons for believing that the long-continued and costly proceedings of the Alliance were simply thrown away, except so far as they might be a warning against similar unwise attempts at legislation. I showed that the Alliance were striving against triple improbabilities: firstly, the improbability (as manifested by the decreasing ratio of the ayes to the noes in the House of Commons' divisions) that Parliament would ever pass the Bill; secondly, the improbability that, if passed, the Permissive Act would be largely adopted by local authorities; thirdly, the improbability that, if adopted, it would succeed in lessening intemperance. According to the mathematical principle of the composition of probabilities by multiplication, the probability that any good would ever result from an agitation costing more than a quarter of a million pounds, and extending already beyond a quarter of a century in duration, was practically nil. The only effective answers given to my arguments were that of the Rev. Mr. Steinthal and one or two others, who held that the probabilities in question are not altogether independent, because Parliament could hardly be forced to pass the Bill unless there were extensive localities wishing to adopt it. There is a certain amount of truth in this objection, but it does not to any great degree strengthen the position of the Alliance. Their proposals in their original form seem to me to have the character of a vast experiment, so vast that it was intended to involve the extinction of the trade of publicans and liquor dealers generally in all parts of the country. Now, that is an experiment, because it is exceedingly doubtful whether the population would tolerate such an interference with their habits, when the meaning of the Act came home to them. The information which we can draw from Maine, or other places where prohibition of the traffic has existed, is most conflicting in itself, and remote in analogy. Accordingly, I should much like to see the prohibition of the public sale of liquor tried in several large English boroughs and districts, provided that the necessary Act for the purpose could be carried without stopping all other legislation on the subject.
Within the last twelve months Sir Wilfrid Lawson and his followers have had the excellent good sense to drop the Permissive Bill, and proceed, by way of Parliamentary resolution, in favour of “local option.” I really do not know exactly what is meant by “local option.” Perhaps the Alliance itself does not know; the wisest course would be not to know, that is, to leave a latitude of meaning. In any case they have changed their policy. For year after year, for nearly the average length of a generation, it was the eleven clauses and one schedule of the Permissive Prohibitory Liquor Bill, pure and simple. Now it is “local option.” Even if “local option” mean option of prohibition, a resolution is a more tentative method of procedure than the precise clauses of the celebrated Bill. But if, as I fondly hope, “local option” will be interpreted to mean option for local authorities to regulate the liquor traffic in the way thought to be most suitable to the locality, including prohibition when clearly desired by the inhabitants, then the matter assumes a much more hopeful aspect. Not only will the resistance to such a proposal be far less than to the Permissive Bill, but there will be considerable probability that when passed some successful experiments will be carried out. In fact, this “local option” would just be the mode of giving a wide field for diverse experiments which I am advocating. The teetotalers would be at liberty to try their experiments, but they would not in the meantime stop the progress of many other experiments, some of which might, in the course of ten or fifteen years, offer a sound solution of this most difficult problem. Of course I am aware that this question of the drink traffic is to a considerable extent a political one. There is a good deal which I might say upon this topic, but it would not be suitable to the tenor of my theme. If the political condition of England be such that the social reform of the people is not the main purpose of our Government, then we must hope that there are brighter lands where the political position is very different.
The best way of dealing with the liquor trade would be to hand over the matter to the hands of a strong executive commission framed somewhat on the lines of the Poor Law Commission. This body should have the power of authorising schemes proposed by local authorities, and should supervise the working of such schemes, and collect minute information as to the results. They would work entirely through local authorities, whether the corporations of cities and boroughs, or the benches of Licensing Magistrates. Before allowing any very serious experiments, such as the abolition of the public sale, the local authority would have to present evidence that the mass of the inhabitants was in favour of such a measure, and the Commissioners would then probably assign a suitable district, and authorise police regulations suitable for the most advantageous trial of the experiment. This method would carry out to the fullest point the idea of a “local option.” Free licensing might be tried in Liverpool, and such other boroughs as liked to venture on such a hazardous experiment. The Gothenburg scheme would be adopted by Birmingham and a few other towns. Manchester might prefer the slighter measure of a rigid restriction and supervision of the public-houses. It is to be hoped that Sunday closing and a lessening of the week-day hours would be voted by many local authorities, and the experiment of remodelling the trade, as suggested above, ought certainly to be tried. I should also much like to see some trial made of the important suggestion put forward by Dr. John Watts, at the last meeting of the Social Science Association. He suggests that in each town or district a limited number of licenses should be sold by public auction or tender. His purpose apparently is to limit the number of licenses, and yet to secure the profits of the monopoly to the community.
After the expiration of ten or fifteen years, Parliament would be in possession of a great amount of really practical information, but the probability is that it would not be found necessary to pass any great Act for the subsequent regulation of the traffic. The scheme which was found to work best would by degrees be imitated in the districts of corresponding circumstances, just as the Gothenburg scheme is being imitated in other Swedish towns. I do not think that in a matter of this sort the final law need be exactly uniform. In the Licensing Act of 1872, it was found undesirable to fix a uniform hour of closing public-houses all over the country. Owing to the difference of habits, the metropolitan area was allowed one hour later at night, and considerable latitude was left to the Licensing Magistrates to vary the hours of closing. Surely such matters approximate more in character to hackney cab regulations or matters of police, which have long been left to the borough authorities. It is only the political question looming behind the social or legislative question, which could warrant Parliament in deciding that people shall go to bed one hour earlier in the country than in London. But parliamentary experience concerning the Licensing Act of the late Cabinet, and the now defunct Permissive Bill, cannot encourage any party to press for a further great general measure of licensing reform. As to the present state of things, it could not be much worse nor more absurd. What with the great variety of kinds of licenses, the doubts and fears of the magistrates as to their power of withdrawing licenses or restraining extension of premises, the remissness—to use a mild expression—of the police in prosecuting the offences of publicans, and the universal facility of obtaining any amount of drink at the nearest grocer's shop—I say things really cannot be much worse than they are. Under the vigorous exertion of local option the state of affairs would undoubtedly improve in some parts of the country; the pressure of public opinion, of the proposed Commissioners, or, in the last resort, of Parliament, would eventually force the negligent localities to follow the example of the most successful “local option schemes.”
Let it be understood that I do not for a moment suppose that there is much, if any, novelty in the proposals made above. In one place or another almost every suggestion, except, perhaps, that of a superintending Commission, has been made and discussed. The Lords' Committee have themselves recommended “that legislative facilities should be afforded for the local adoption of the Gothenburg and of Mr. Chamberlain's schemes, or of some modification of them.” And the Lords have themselves recognised the value of social “experiments” in providing counter-attractions to the public-house. In their final Report, dated the 17th of March last, they remark (p. xliv.):
“These experiments are too recent, and, in spite of their rapid increase, too partial and limited to enable the Committee to pronounce with confidence on their ultimate success, or on the extent of the influence they may exercise in diminishing intemperance; but they desire to express their strong opinion that, if generally prosecuted and conducted with due regard for the wants and comforts of a population among whom education is gradually diffusing a taste for enjoyment far less coarse and gross than in the past, they are destined to have an important influence for good. It is obvious that the desire for recreation is felt by all classes alike.”
What is this, however, but an express recognition by the House of Lords of the need of experimentation as regards the entertainment and recreation of the people? I fail to see how such experimentation either can or ought to be confined to philanthropists. If we look around and notice the vast new restaurants of London, the innumerable glittering railway bars in all parts of the country, the music halls of all ranks and kinds, the dancing and drinking saloons of some provincial towns—such as Nottingham—and the great enterprise with which such places of recreation as the Pomona and Bellevue Gardens at Manchester are conducted, we shall see that social experiments are not confined to the teetotalers. Indeed, it would not be difficult to prove that the nugatory Licensing Laws, as now administered, present the least possible obstacle to the publicans in pushing their experiments, while they do prevent social reformers from interfering, or from establishing counter-experiments on an equal footing. It is hardly too much to say that the Licensing Laws are laws to give a license to the publicans and grocers to do what they like to extend the sale of spirituous liquors.
Although the liquor traffic presents the widest and most important sphere for social experiment, there are many other matters to which it must be applied. Consideration in detail must show whether, in each case, the tentative method is or is not the proper method. But it is easy to name several other reforms which ought, in all probability, to be approached in the experimental manner. Thus peasant proprietorship ought certainly to be tried in Ireland, as it was intended to be tried under the Bright clauses of the Irish Land Act. I am familiar with most of the economic objections to peasant proprietorship in this kingdom, and I have read sufficient of the large literature of the subject to know that evidence in favour of and against such a tenure of land is exceedingly divergent and perplexing. The proper resource then is to try the thing—not by some vast revolution in the land-owning of Ireland, as proposed by the late Mr. Mill, a measure which, in the first place, would never pass Parliament, and, if it did, would cost an enormous sum of money, and probably result in failure—but by a small and progressive experiment. “Earth hunger” is a very potent passion, and I believe it is that from which the Irish people are really suffering. Bread and bacon are not the only good things an Irish peasant might aspire to; a place to call his own, a share of the air and sunlight of his native isle, and a land-bank in which to save up the strokes of his pick and spade, might work moral wonders. It is not safe to predict the action of human motive; but, at any rate, try it, although the trial cost as much as one or two first-rate ironclads, or a new triumph over a negro monarch. Surely the state of our Irish Poland is the worst possible injury to our prestige.
Much doubt exists, again, as to whether imprisonment is necessary to enforce the payment of small debts. If needless, it is certainly oppressive. But if the abolition of the power of imprisonment, on the part of County Court judges, would really destroy the credit of the poorer classes with their tradesmen, a general measure to that effect would be dangerous and difficult to retract. I do not see how the question can be decided, except by trying the effect in a certain number of County Court districts, and watching the results.
It would be well worth the trouble to try the effect upon a certain body of inhabitants of the most perfect sanitary regulation, somewhat in the manner foreshadowed by Dr. B. W. Richardson in his City of Hygeia. This I should like to see tried, as regards the middle classes, in some newly-built watering-place, with full and special powers of sanitary regulation to be granted it by Parliament, avowedly as an experiment. At the same time, a few large blocks of workmen's dwellings ought to be built and placed under experimental sanitary laws. I am convinced that legislation must by degrees be carried much further in this direction than is at present the case, but it ought to proceed tentatively.
One of the difficult questions of the present day is—How can London be supplied with water? There would be few engineering difficulties if it were allowable to separate the supply of pure water for drinking and cooking purposes from the much larger quantities required for other purposes. Will people drink the impure water? Who can decide such a question satisfactorily, except by experiment on a moderate scale? What could be more absurd than to spend millions upon procuring a separate supply of pure drinking water for the population of London, and then finding that the population would drink the impure water? Many other like matters must be referred to trial, but it is not the purpose of this article to present a catalogue of experimental reforms, or to follow the argument out into all the possible details.
I am well aware that social experiments must often be subjected to various difficulties, such as the migration of inhabitants, or even the intentional frustration of the experiment by interested parties. I have heard it said that the prohibition of liquor traffic could not be tried on a small scale, because the publicans would be sure to combine to send liquor into the area. If they did so, the fact could readily be put in evidence, and if they can defeat the teetotalers in detail, I am quite sure that they will defeat them upon any very great and general measure like the Permissive Bill. As to migration of inhabitants, it must be provided against either by suitably increasing the areas of experimental legislation, or else by collecting information as to the amount and probable effects of the migration. But the main point of my theme is to prove that we cannot really plan out social reforms upon theoretical grounds. General argument and information of all kinds may properly be employed in designing and choosing the best experiments, but specific experience on a limited scale and in closely proximate circumstances is the only sure guide in the complex questions of social science. Our method must be that of the supremely wise text: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”
ON THE ANALOGY BETWEEN THE POST OFFICE, TELEGRAPHS, AND OTHER SYSTEMS OF CONVEYANCE OF THE UNITED KINGDOM, AS REGARDS GOVERNMENT CONTROL.∗
It has been freely suggested of late years, that great public advantage would arise from the purchase and re-organisation of the electric telegraphs and railways of the United Kingdom by the Government. So inestimable indeed, are the benefits which the Post Office, as reformed by Sir Rowland Hill, confers upon all classes of society, that there is a great tendency to desire the application of a similar reform and state organisation to other systems of conveyance. It is assumed, by most of those who discuss this subject, that there is a close similarity between the Post Office, telegraphs, and railways, and that what has answered so admirably in one case will be productive of similar results in other parallel cases. Without adopting any foregone conclusion, it is my desire in this short paper to inquire into the existence and grounds of this assumed analogy, and to make such a general comparison of the conditions and requirements of each branch of conveyance, as will enable us to judge securely of the expediency of state control in each case.
It is obvious that I cannot, in the time at my disposal, take more than a simple and restricted view of the subject. I cannot, on the one hand, consider all the difficulties that arise from the partial monopolies possessed by private companies at present, nor can I, on the other hand, take into account all the social or political results connected with an extension of Government management.
Much difference of opinion arises, even in a purely economical point of view, upon the question of the limits of State interference. My own strong opinion is that no abstract principle, and no absolute rule, can guide us in determining what kinds of industrial enterprise the State should undertake, and what it should not. State management and monopoly have most indisputable advantages; private commercial enterprise and responsibility have still more unquestionable advantages. The two are directly antagonistic. Nothing but experience and argument from experience can in most cases determine whether the community will be best served by its collective state action, or by trusting to private self-interest.
On the one hand, it is but too sure that some of the state manufacturing establishments, especially the dockyards, form the very types of incompetent and wasteful expenditure. They are the running sores of the country, draining away our financial power. It is evident too that the House of Commons is at present quite incapable of controlling the expenditure of the dockyards. And as these establishments are never subjected to the test of commercial solvency, as they do not furnish intelligible accounts of current expenditure and work done, much less favour us with any account or allowance for capital expenditure, we have no security whatever that the work is done cheaply. And the worst point is, that even if Government establishments of this kind are efficiently conducted when new and while the public attention is on them, we have no security that this state of things will continue.
To other Government establishments, however, the Post Office presents a singular and at first sight an unaccountable contrast. Instead of Mr. Dickens's picture of the Circumlocution Office, we are here presented with a body of secretaries and postmasters alive to every breath of public opinion or private complaint; officials laboriously correcting the blunders and returning the property of careless letter-writers; and clerks, sorters, and postmen working to their utmost that the public may be served expeditiously. No one ever charges the Post Office with lavish expenditure and inefficient performance of duties.
It seems then that the extremes of efficiency and inefficiency meet in the public service, and before we undertake any new branch of State industry, it becomes very important to ascertain whether it is of a kind likely to fall into the efficient or inefficient class of undertakings. Before we give our adhesion to systems of State telegraphs and State railways in this kingdom, we should closely inquire whether telegraphs and railways have more analogy to the Post Office or to the dockyards. This argument from analogy is freely used by everyone. It is the argument of the so-called Reformers, who urge that if we treat the telegraphs and the railways as Sir Rowland Hill treated the Post Office, reducing fares to a low and uniform rate, we shall reap the same gratifying results. But this will depend upon whether the analogy is correct—whether the telegraphs and railways resemble the Post Office in those conditions which render the latter highly successful in the hands of Government, and enable a low uniform rate to be adopted. To this point the following remarks are directed.
It seems to me that State management possesses advantages under the following conditions:
1. Where numberless wide-spread operations can only be efficiently connected, united, and co-ordinated, in a single, all extensive Government system.
2. Where the operations possess an invariable routine-like character.
3. Where they are performed under the public eye or for the service of individuals, who will immediately detect and expose any failure or laxity.
4. Where there is but little capital expenditure, so that each year's revenue and expense account shall represent, with sufficient accuracy, the real commercial conditions of the department.
It is apparent that all these conditions are combined in the highest perfection in the Post Office. It is a vast co-ordinated system, such as no private capitalists could maintain, unless, indeed, they were in undisputed possession of the field by virtue of a Government monopoly. The forwarding of letters is a purely routine and equable operation. Not a letter can be mislaid but someone will become aware of it, and by the published tables of mail departures and arrivals the public is enabled accurately to check the performance of the system.
Its capital expenditure, too, is insignificant compared with its current expenditure. Like other Government departments, indeed, the Post Office does not favour us with any statement of the capital value of its buildings, fittings, etc. But in the Post Office accounts, we have a statement of the annual cost of buildings and repairs, together with rents, rates, taxes, fuel, and lights. In the last ten years (1856–65) the expense has varied from £39,730 in 1864 to £106,478 in 1859, and the average yearly expense has been £72,486, which bears a very inconsiderable ratio to £1,303,064, the average cost of the Post Office staff during the same years. Compared with £2,871,729, the average complete expenditure of the Post Office during the last ten years, the cost of the fixed property of the department is quite inconsiderable. This very favourable state of things is due to the fact that all the conveyances of the Post Office system are furnished by contract, while it is only the large central offices that are owned by Government.
Before proceeding to consider the other systems of conveyance, I must notice that the Post Office in reality is neither a commercial nor a philanthropic establishment, but simply one of the revenue departments of the Government. It very rightly insists, that no country post office shall be established unless the correspondence passing through it shall warrant the increased expense and it maintains a tariff which has no accordance whatever with the cost of conveyance. Books, newspapers, and even unsealed manuscripts, can be sent up to the weight of 4 oz. for a penny; whereas, if a sealed letter in the least exceeds ½ oz. it is charged 2d. It is obvious that the charges of the Post Office are for the most part a purely arbitrary system of taxes, designed to maintain the large net revenue of the Post Office, now amounting to a million and a half sterling.
It will thus be apparent that Sir Rowland Hill's scheme of postal tariff consisted in substituting one arbitrary system of charges for a system more arbitrary and onerous. This was effected by a sacrifice, at the time, of about one million sterling of revenue; but it must be distinctly remembered that it was net revenue only which was sacrificed, and not commercial loss which was incurred.
A telegraph system appears to me to possess the characteristics which favour unity and State management almost in as high a degree as the Post Office. If this be so, great advantages will undoubtedly be attained by the purchase of the telegraphs and their union, under the direction of the Post Office department.
It is obvious in the first place that the public will be able, and in fact obliged, constantly to test the efficiency of the proposed Government telegraphs, as they now test the efficiency of the Post Office. The least delay or inaccuracy in the transmission of messages will become known, and will be made the ground of complaint. The work, too, of receiving, transmitting, and delivering messages, is for the most part of an entirely routine nature, as in the case of the Post Office. The only exception to this consists perhaps in the special arrangements which will be needed for the transmission of intelligence and reports to the newspapers.
It is hardly necessary to point out, in the second place, that a single Government telegraph system will possess great advantages from its unity, economy, and comprehensive character. Instead of two or three companies with parallel conterminous wires, and different sets of costly city stations, we shall have a single set of stations; and the very same wires, when aggregated into one body, will admit of more convenient arrangements, and more economical employment. The greater the number of messages sent through a given office, the more regularly and economically may the work of transmission and delivery be performed in general.
Furthermore, great advantages will arise from an intimate connection between the telegraphs and the Post Office. In the country districts the telegraph office can readily be placed in the Post Office, and the postmaster can, for a moderate remuneration, be induced to act as telegraph clerk, just as small railway stations serve as telegraphic offices at present, the station-master or clerk being the operator. A great number of new offices could thus be opened, without any considerable expenses for rent or attendance. The Government, in short, could profitably extend its wires where any one of several competing companies would not be induced to go.
In all the larger towns the cost of special delivery may perhaps be removed by throwing the telegrams into the ordinary postal delivery. It is understood that a scheme for the junction of the telegraphic and postal system has been elaborated by the authorities of the Post Office, partly on the model of the Belgian service; and it has been asserted that the scheme would comprehend some sort of periodical deliveries. In the great business centres, at least, very frequent periodical deliveries could be made. For the services of a special messenger an extra charge might be imposed. Prepayment of all ordinary charges by stamps would greatly facilitate the whole of the arrangements; and it has been suggested that where there is no telegraph office, a prepaid telegram might be deposited in the nearest post office or letter box, and forwarded by the mail service to the nearest telegraph office, as is the practice in Belgium. It is evident that the number of telegrams will be increased, as the facility for their dispatch, by the united system of posts and telegraphs, is greater.
A low and perhaps uniform tariff would complete the advantages of such a system. It is supposed, indeed, that it would not be prudent at first to attempt a lower uniform rate than one shilling for 20 words; but it is difficult to see how a uniform rate of this amount can be enforced, when the London District Telegraph Company for many years transmitted messages for sixpence, or even fourpence.
The question here arises, how far the telegraphs resemble the Post Office in the financial principles which should govern the tariff. The trouble of writing a telegraphic message of 20 words is so slight, that the trouble of conveying it to a telegraph office and the cost of transmission form the only impediments to a greatly increased use of this means of communication. The trouble of despatching a message will undoubtedly be much decreased in most localities by the Government scheme, and if the charge were also decreased, we might expect an increase of communications almost comparable with that of the Post Office under similar circumstances. Even a shilling rate is prohibitory to all but commercial and necessary communications, the post office being a sufficient resource, where the urgency is not immediate. Accordingly it is found that a reduction of charges increases the use of the telegraphs very much. In the Paris telegraphs a reduction of the charge from one franc to half a franc has multiplied the business tenfold.
The experience gained too, in the reduction of the telegraphic rates in Belgium, on the 1st of December, 1865, is very important as to this point. When in 1865 the uniform rate was I franc for 20 words, the number of internal messages was 332,721, producing (with the double charge on the telegrams exceeding 20 words) 345,289 francs. In 1866, the number of internal messages was 692,536, or more than twice as many, producing 407,532 francs, the increase of receipts being 18 per cent. It is true that the working expenses were considerably increased at the same time, so that the net profits of the whole establishment fell from 204,940 francs to 122,112 francs. This loss of net revenue is partly attributed to the extension of the telegraphs to the remote villages. And it is probable that in future years the net profits will be to some extent recovered.
But it must be allowed that the working expense of the electric telegraph is its weak point. The London District Telegraph Company have not succeeded in paying dividends, although their low charges brought plenty of business. The French lines are worked at a considerable loss to the Government. Belgium is a country of very small area, which decreases the expense of the telegraphs, and yet the reduction of rate has caused a sacrifice of net revenue only partially made up by the higher profits upon international messages in transit.
It is quite apparent that the telegraphs are less favourably situated than the Post Office as regards the cost of transmission. Two letters are as easily carried and delivered at one house as a single letter, and it is certain that the expenses of the Post Office do not increase in anything like the same ratio as the work it performs. Thus while the total postal revenue has increased from £3,035,954, in 1856, to £4,423,608, in 1865, or by 46 per cent., representing a great increase of work done, the total cost of the service has risen only from £2,438,732, in 1856, to £2,941,086 in 1865, or by 21 per cent. In the case of the telegraphs, however, two messages with delivery by special messenger cause just twice the trouble of one message. The Post Office, by periodical deliveries, may reduce the cost of delivery on its own principles, but it cannot apply these principles to the actual operations of telegraphy; it cannot send a hundred messages at the same cost, and in the same time as one, like it can send one hundred letters in a bag almost as easily as one letter. It is true that the rapidity of transmission of messages through a wire can be greatly increased by the use of Bain's telegraph, or any of the numerous instruments in which the signals are made by a perforated slip of paper, or a set of type prepared beforehand. But these inventions economise the wires only, not the labour of the operators, since it takes as much time and labour to set up the message in type or perforated paper as to transmit it direct by the common instrument. Economy is to be found, rather, in some simple rapid instrument of direct transmission, like the Acoustic telegraph, than in any elaborate mechanical method of signalling. There is no reason, as far as we can see at present, to suppose that a Government department will realise any extraordinary economy in the actual business of transmission. The number of instruments and the number of operators must be increased in something like the same proportion as the messages. And as every mile of wire, too, costs a definite sum to construct and maintain in repair, it follows that, strictly speaking, the cost of transmission of each message consists of a certain uniform terminal cost, with a second small charge for wires and electricity, proportional to the distance.
It will be apparent, from these considerations, that we must not rashly apply to the telegraphs the principles so admirably set forth by Sir Rowland Hill, in his celebrated pamphlet on the Post Office. When the financial conditions of the telegraphs are in many points so different from those of the Post Office, we cannot possibly look for any reduction of charges to such an extent as he proposed in the case of the Post Office. Whatever reduction may be found possible will arise rather from adventitious points in the scheme—the economy in office accommodation, the aid of the Post Office in delivery, and so forth.
Under these circumstances it would doubtless be prudent not to attempt any great reduction of charges at first, and if we might eventually hope for a sixpenny rate for 20 words, it is certainly the lowest that we have any grounds at present for anticipating. And though uniformity of charge is very convenient, it must be understood that it is founded on convenience only, and it seems to me quite open to question whether complete uniformity is expedient in the case of the telegraphs.
So far, we have, on the whole, found the telegraph highly suitable for Government organisation. The only further requisite condition is that, as in the Post Office, no great amount of property should be placed in the care of Government officials. If experience is to be our guide, it must be allowed that any large Government property will be mismanaged, and that no proper commercial accounts will be rendered of the amount due to interest, repairs, and depreciation of such property. It is desirable that a Government department should not require a capital account at all, which may be either from the capital stock being inconsiderable in amount, or from its being out of the hands and care of Government officials. Now, this condition can fortunately be observed in the telegraph system. The total fixed capital of the telegraph companies at present existing is of but small amount. I find the paid up capital of the five companies concerned to be as follows:
The above statement includes, I believe, all the actual working public telegraphs within the United Kingdom, except those which the London, Brighton, and South Coast, and the South Eastern Railway Companies maintain for public use upon their lines. With the value of these I am not acquainted.
Omitting the Private Telegraph Company, as it is not likely to be included in the Government purchase, and having regard to the premium which the shares of the Electric and International Company obtain in the market, and the greater or less depreciation of other companies' shares, I conceive that the complete purchase money of the existing telegraphs would not much exceed two and a half millions sterling.
To allow for the improvement of the present telegraphs, and their extension to many villages, which do not at present possess a telegraph station, an equal sum of two and a half millions will probably be ample allowance for the present. The total capital cost of the telegraphs will, indeed, exceed many times the value of the property actually in the hands of the Post Office, but then we must remember that the latter is but a very small part of the capital by which the business of the Post Office is carried on. The railways, steamboats, mail coaches, and an indefinite number of hired vehicles, form the apparatus of the postal conveyance, which is all furnished by contract, at a total cost, in 1865, of £1,516,142. The property concerned in the service of the Post Office is, in fact, gigantic, but it is happily removed from the care and ownership of Government. Now, this condition, fortunately, can be observed in the Government telegraphs.
The construction and maintenance of telegraph wires and instruments is most peculiarly suitable for performance by contract. The staff who construct and repair the wires and instruments, are quite distinct from those who use them, and there need be no direct communication or unity of organisation between the two. Just as a railway company engages to furnish the Post Office with a mail train at the required hour each day, so it will be easy for a contractor to furnish and maintain a wire between any two given points. And it is obvious that the cost of a wire or instrument, and even the charge for the supply of electricity, can be so easily determined and are so little liable to variation that scarcely any opportunity will arise for fraud or mismanagement.
There is a company already existing, called the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company, which is chiefly engaged in laying submarine telegraphs, a work of far more hazardous character, but which it has carried on successfully and profitably. And it is certain that if it were thought desirable, some body of capitalists would be found ready to construct, hold, and maintain in repair the whole apparatus required in the Government telegraph service, at fixed moderate charges. Thus would be preserved in completeness those conditions under which the Post Office has worked with such pre-eminent success.
It can hardly be doubted then that if the electric telegraphs of this kingdom were purchased by the Government, and placed in the hands of a branch of the Post Office department, to be managed in partial union with the letter post, and under the same conditions of efficiency and economy, very gratifying results would be attained, and no loss incurred. But, inasmuch as the analogy of the telegraphs and Post Office fails in a very important point, that of the expense of transmission, we should guard against exaggerated expectations, and should not press for any such reduction of rates as would land us in a financial loss, not justified by any economical principles.
It might fairly be hoped that the Post Office department would be able to extend its wires to a multitude of post towns and villages which have not offered sufficient inducements to the present telegraph companies. The number of telegraph stations in the United Kingdom in 1865 was 1,882, whereas there were in that year 3,454 money order offices, and as many as 16,246 receptacles for letters, under the care of the Post Office. The number of private telegraphic messages in 1865 was 4,650,231, which bears but a small ratio (1 in 155) to the number of letters in that year, viz., 720,467,007. It is stated that in Belgium the telegrams are 1 in 73 of the letters, and in Switzerland 1 in 69. This disproportion is the less to be wondered at when we consider, that the telegraphs are only available in this country to those who dwell in large towns or near railway stations. No less than 89 towns of more than 2,000 inhabitants are said to be without telegraph offices, and among these Cricklade has 37,000 inhabitants, Gateshead 33,000, Oldbury 16,000, Pembroke 15,000, Dukinfield 15,000. I find that in the whole of the United Kingdom there is on an average one telegraph station to 16,500 persons; whereas there is stated to be one for every 15,000 in Belgium, and one for every 10,000 in Switzerland. It is well known that in the United States especially, the use of the electric telegraph is much more general than in this country. These facts seem to show that the policy of the existing companies has not led to that extensive use of the telegraph in which we ought to have been foremost. These companies are satisfied if they can pay a good dividend on a limited amount of capital, which they avoid increasing to any considerable extent. They have ceased to compete one against another, but are able to prevent any attempts to bring new capital into the field. Under these circumstances it cannot be doubted that the Government should immediately carry out the scheme which we have been considering for the purchase and reorganisation of the telegraphs.
Some persons might possibly be opposed to this extension of Government interference and patronage, as being not so much in itself undesirable, as likely to lead to a greater and more hazardous enterprise—the purchase and reorganisation of the railways.
It is well known that opinions have been freely expressed and discussed in favour of extending Government management to the whole railway property of the United Kingdom. I should not like to say that this should never be done, and there are doubtless anomalies and hardships in the present state of our railway system, which demand legislative remedy. But, after studying Mr. Galt's work on railway reform and attending to much that has been current on the subject, I am yet inclined to think that the actual working of our railways by a Government department is altogether out of the question, while our English Government service remains what it is.
The advantages which might be derived from a single united administration of all the railways are doubtless somewhat analogous to those we derive from the Post Office, but in most other respects the analogy fails completely and fatally. Railway traffic cannot be managed by pure routine like that of the mails. It is fluctuating and uncertain, dependent upon the seasons of the year, the demands of the locality, or events of an accidental character. Incessant watchfulness, alacrity, and freedom from official routine are required on the part of a traffic manager, who shall always be ready to meet the public wants.
The moment we consider the vast capital concerned in railways, and the intricacy of the mechanism and arrangements required to conduct the traffic, we must see the danger of management by a department of the English Government. The paid-up capital of the railways of the United Kingdom, including the outstanding debenture loans, amounted in 1865 to £455,478,143; whereas the current working expenses of the year were only £17,149,073, or 3¾ per cent. of the capital cost. More than half the receipts, or 52 per cent., go to pay a very moderate dividend of about 4½ per cent. (4.46 per cent. in 1865) on the enormous capital involved. The railways are altogether contrary in condition then to the Post Office, where the capital expense was quite inconsiderable compared with the current expense. And I think I am justified in saying, that until the English Government returns reliable accounts of the commercial results of the dockyards, and other manufacturing establishments, and shows that they are economically conducted, it cannot be entrusted with the vast and various property of the railways.
It has been suggested indeed, that a Government department would conduct the traffic of the railways by contract; but I am unable to see how this could be safely done. The care of the permanent way might perhaps be thus provided for, though not so easily as in the case of telegraph wires. But the other branches of railway service are so numerous and so dependent upon each other, that they must be under one administration. As to the proposal to break the railways up into sections, and commit each to the management of a contractor, it seems to me to destroy in great part the advantages of unity of management, and to sacrifice much that is admirable in the present organisation of our great companies. I am far from regarding our present railway system as perfect; but its conditions and requirements seem to me so entirely contrary to those of the Post Office, that I must regard most of the arguments hitherto adduced in favour of State management as misleading.
I may add that should a Government system of telegraphs prove successful, and should the public desire to extend state management still further, there is a most important and profitable field for its employment in the conveyance of parcels and light goods. Prussia possesses a complete system of parcel posts, and the Scandinavian kingdoms, Switzerland, and possibly other continental countries, have something of the sort. In this country the railways collect, convey, and often deliver parcels for high and arbitrary charges; a number of parcels companies compete with the railways and with each other. An almost infinite number of local carriers circulate through the suburban and country roads, in an entirely unorganised manner. The want of organisation is remedied to a slight extent by the practice of passing parcels from one carrier to another, in a haphazard sort of way, but at each step the parcel incurs a new, uncertain, and generally large charge. A vast loss of efficiency is incurred on the one hand by the parallel deliveries of a number of companies in each town, and on the other hand by the disconnected services of the private carriers. A Government system of conveyance, formed on the model of the Post Office, collecting, conveying, and distributing parcels and light goods, by one united and all-extensive system, at fixed and well-known charges, and carrying out this work by contract with the railways and with the owners of the carriers' carts in all parts of town and country, would confer vast benefits on the community, and at the same time contribute a handsome addition to the revenue. It would tend to introduce immense economy and efficiency into the retail trade of the kingdom, bringing the remotest country resident into communication with the best city shops. It would lighten the work of the Post Office, by taking off the less profitable and more weighty book parcels; and it would, in many ways, form the natural complement to our telegraph, postal, and money-order system. But a scheme of this sort is of course entirely prospective; and it seems to me sufficient at present for the Government and Parliament to consider whether the reasons brought forward by various individuals and public bodies throughout the country in favour of a Government system of telegraph communications are not sufficient to warrant an immediate execution of the plan.
[∗]Since writing the above I have found that these statements are to a great extent confirmed in a work just published upon Queensland, called “The Queen of the Colonies.” A squatter destroyed a whole tribe of blacks by giving them a bag of flour poisoned by strychnine. This crime is comparable with that of Thomassen. No attempt was made to punish him. Another case, in which two blacks were intentionally poisoned by strychnine, is also mentioned. The shooting and poisoning of natives are said to have ceased in the last few years; but ought we to be satisfied by vague and unsupported assertions in a matter of this kind?
[∗]Report of the Royal Commission on Vivisection, p. 326.
[∗]“The Life of William Roscoe,” by his son, Henry Roscoe. 1833. Vol. i. p. 11.
[∗]Read at the Manchester Statistical Society, March 8th, 1876.
[∗]The following is a quotation from the Bishop's speech, as reported in The Manchester Guardian: “Supposing the Bill were passed, he looked with extreme apprehension at the chronic condition of tumult and anarchy which would be certain to prevail in attempting to carry it out in the large and populous communities. He could not conceive any state of things more terrible than possibly would ensue from the strife which would be engendered by that measure. He thought public opinion must ripen very much more fully than it had yet done before there was any chance of the Permissive Bill becoming an effective law; and he believed Sir Wilfrid Lawson felt that himself.”
[∗]Since publishing the letter in The Examiner and Times, I have become acquainted with the publications of Mr. Joseph Livesey on the same subject. These are entitled: “Free and Friendly Remarks upon the Permissive Bill, Temperance Legislation, and the Alliance;” Preston, 1862; and “True Temperance Teaching, showing the Errors of the Alliance and the Permissive Bill.” London, Manchester, and Preston, 1873. (Heywood.)
[∗]Nineteenth Report of the Executive Committee of the United Kingdom Alliance, 1870–71, p.34.
[∗]“Contemporary Review,” February, 1880, vol. xxxvii. pp. 177–192.
[∗]“A Budget of Paradoxes,” p. 49. Also his Memoir “On the Syllogism, No. IV., and on the Logic of Relations.” “Cambridge Philosophical Transactions,” 1860, vol. x. p. 2, foot-note. See also Todhunter's “Account of the Writings of Dr. William Whewell, with Selections from his Literary and Scientific Correspondence,” vol. i. p. 227.
[†]Essay on Lord Bacon.
[∗]All the lectures delivered in the eleven annual series instituted by Professor Roscoe at Manchester have been reported and published by John Heywood, of Manchester and Paternoster Row. Most of the lectures may be had separately for one penny each.
[∗]I do not remember to have seen the importance of this imitative tendency in social affairs described by any writer, except the French Engineer and Economist, Dupuit, who fully describes it in one of his remarkable memoirs, printed in the “Annales des Ponts et Chaussées.”
[∗]“The new Beer Bill has begun its operations. Everybody is drunk. Those who are not singing are sprawling. The Sovereign People are in a beastly state.”
[†]“The Beershops are considered as most mischievous. …. Similar representations are made in East Kent. A magistrate expressed his opinion that no single measure ever caused so much mischief, in so short a time, in demoralising the labourers. The evidence of the High Constable of Ashford is very strong.” “Extracts from the Information Received … as to the Administration and Operation of the Poor Laws.” 8vo, 1833, p. 24.
[∗]“Hansard's Debates,” 8th April, 1830, New Series, vol. xxiv. p. 26.
[∗]Read at the Manchester Statistical Society, April 10th, 1867.