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Human Nature In Politics by Graham Wallas

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But how far are such quantitative methods possible when a statesman is
dealing, neither with an obviously quantitative problem, like the
building of halls or schools, nor with an attempt to give quantitative
meaning to abstract terms like Socialism or Individualism, but with the
enormous complexity of responsible legislation?

In approaching this question we shall be helped if we keep before us a
description of the way in which some one statesman has, in fact, thought
of a great constitutional problem.

Take, for instance, the indications which Mr. Morley gives of the
thinking done by Gladstone on Home Rule during the autumn and winter of
1885-86. Gladstone, we are told, had already, for many years past,
pondered anxiously at intervals about Ireland, and now he describes
himself as 'thinking incessantly about the matter' (vol. iii. p. 268),
and 'preparing myself by study and reflection' (p. 273).

He has first to consider the state of feeling in England and Ireland,
and to calculate to what extent and under what influences it may be
expected to change. As to English feeling, 'what I expect,' he says, 'is
a healthy slow fermentation in many minds working towards the final
product' (p. 261). The Irish desire for self-government, on the other
hand, will not change, and must be taken, within the time-limit of his
problem, as 'fixed' (p. 240). In both England and Ireland, however, he
believes that 'mutual attachment' may grow (p. 292).

Before making up his mind in favour of some kind of Home Rule, he
examines every thinkable alternative, especially the development of
Irish County Government, or a Federal arrangement in which all three of
the united kingdoms would be concerned. Here and there he finds
suggestions in the history of Austria-Hungary, of Norway and Sweden, or
of the 'colonial type' of government. Nearly every day he reads Burke,
and exclaims 'what a magazine of wisdom on Ireland and America' (p.
280). He gets much help from 'a chapter on semi-sovereign assemblies in
Dicey's _Law of the Constitution_ (p. 280). He tries to see the question
from fresh points of view in intimate personal discussions, and by
imagining what 'the civilised world' (p. 225) will think. As he gets
nearer to his subject, he has definite statistical reports made for him
by 'Welby and Hamilton on the figures' (p. 306), has 'stiff conclaves
about finance and land' (p. 298), and nearly comes to a final split with
Parnell on the question whether the Irish contribution to Imperial
taxation shall be a fifteenth or a twentieth.

Time and persons are important factors in his calculation. If Lord
Salisbury will consent to introduce some measure of Irish
self-government, the problem will be fundamentally altered, and the same
will happen if the general election produces a Liberal majority
independent of both Irish and Conservatives; and Mr. Morley describes as
underlying all his calculations 'the irresistible attraction for him of
all the grand and eternal commonplaces of liberty and self-government'
(p. 260).

It is not likely that Mr. Morley's narrative touches on more than a
fraction of the questions which must have been in Gladstone's mind
during these months of incessant thought. No mention is made, for
instance, of religion, or of the military position, or of the permanent
possibility of enforcing the proposed restrictions on self-government.
But enough is given to show the complexity of political thought at that
stage when a statesman, still uncommitted, is considering what will be
the effect of a new political departure.

What then was the logical process by which Gladstone's final decision
was arrived at?

Did he for instance deal with a succession of simple problems or with
one complex problem? It is, I think, clear that from time to time
isolated and comparatively simple trains of reasoning were followed up;
but it is also clear that Gladstone's main effort of thought was
involved in the process of co-ordinating all the laboriously collected
contents of his mind onto the whole problem. This is emphasised by a
quotation in which Mr. Morley, who was closely associated with
Gladstone's intellectual toil during this period, indicates his own

'Historians,' he quotes from Professor Gardiner, 'coolly dissect a man's
thoughts as they please; and label them like specimens in a naturalist's
cabinet. Such a thing, they argue, was done for mere personal
aggrandisement; such a thing for national objects, such a thing from
high religious motives. In real life we may be sure it was not so' (p.

And it is clear that in spite of the ease and delight with which
Gladstone's mind moved among 'the eternal commonplaces of liberty and
self-government,' he is seeking throughout for a quantitative solution.
'Home Rule' is no simple entity for him. He realises that the number of
possible schemes for Irish government is infinite, and he attempts to
make at every point in his own scheme a delicate adjustment between
many varying forces.

A large part of this work of complex co-ordination was apparently in Mr.
Gladstone's case unconscious. Throughout the chapters one has the
feeling--which any one who has had to make less important political
decisions can parallel from his own experience--that Gladstone was
waiting for indications of a solution to appear in his mind. He was
conscious of his effort, conscious also that his effort was being
directed simultaneously towards many different considerations, but
largely unconscious of the actual process of inference, which went on
perhaps more rapidly when he was asleep, or thinking of something else,
than when he was awake and attentive. A phrase of Mr. Morley's indicates
a feeling with which every politician is familiar. 'The reader,' he
says,'knows in what direction the main current of Mr. Gladstone's
thought must have been setting' (p. 236).

That is to say, we are watching an operation rather of art than of
science, of long experience and trained faculty rather than of conscious

But the history of human progress consists in the gradual and partial
substitution of science for art, of the power over nature acquired in
youth by study, for that which comes in late middle age as the
half-conscious result of experience. Our problem therefore involves the
further question, whether those forms of political thought which
correspond to the complexity of nature are teachable or not? At present
they are not often taught. In every generation thousands of young men
and women are attracted to politics because their intellects are keener,
and their sympathies wider than those of their fellows. They become
followers of Liberalism or Imperialism, of Scientific Socialism or the
Rights of Men or Women. To them, at first, Liberalism and the Empire,
Rights and Principles, are real and simple things. Or, like Shelley,
they see in the whole human race an infinite repetition of uniform
individuals, the 'millions on millions' who 'wait, firm, rapid, and

[44] Shelley, _Poetical Works_ (H.B. Forman), vol. iv. p. 8.

About all these things they argue by the old _a priori_ methods which we
have inherited with our political language. But after a time a sense of
unreality grows upon them. Knowledge of the complex and difficult world
forces itself into their minds. Like the old Chartists with whom I once
spent an evening, they tell you that their politics have been 'all
talk'--all words--and there are few among them, except those to whom
politics has become a profession or a career, who hold on until through
weariness and disappointment they learn new confidence from new
knowledge. Most men, after the first disappointment, fall back on habit
or party spirit for their political opinions and actions. Having ceased
to think of their unknown fellow citizens as uniform repetitions of a
simple type, they cease to think of them at all; and content themselves
with using party phrases about the mass of mankind, and realising the
individual existence of their casual neighbours.

Wordsworth's _Prelude_ describes with pathetic clearness a mental
history, which must have been that of many thousands of men who could
not write great poetry, and whose moral and intellectual forces have
been blunted and wasted by political disillusionment. He tells us that
the 'man' whom he loved in 1792, when the French Revolution was still at
its dawn, was seen in 1798 to be merely 'the composition of the brain.'
After agonies of despair and baffled affection, he saw 'the individual
man ... the man whom we behold with our own eyes.'[45] But in that change
from a false simplification of the whole to the mere contemplation of
the individual, Wordsworth's power of estimating political forces or
helping in political progress was gone for ever.

[45] _The Prelude_, Bk. XIII., ll. 81-84.

If this constantly repeated disappointment is to cease, quantitative
method must spread in politics and must transform the vocabulary and the
associations of that mental world into which the young politician
enters. Fortunately such a change seems at least to be beginning. Every
year larger and more exact collections of detailed political facts are
being accumulated; and collections of detailed facts, if they are to be
used at all in political reasoning, must be used quantitatively. The
intellectual work of preparing legislation, whether carried on by
permanent officials or Royal Commissions or Cabinet Ministers takes
every year a more quantitative and a less qualitative form.

Compare for instance the methods of the present Commission on the Poor
Law with those of the celebrated and extraordinarily able Commission
which drew up the new Poor Law in 1833-34. The argument of the earlier
Commissioners' Report runs on lines which it would be easy to put in _a
priori_ syllogistic form. All men seek pleasure and avoid pain. Society
ought to secure that pain attaches to anti-social, and pleasure to
social conduct. This may be done by making every man's livelihood and
that of his children normally dependent upon his own exertions, by
separating those destitute persons who cannot do work useful to the
community from those who can, and by presenting these last with the
alternative of voluntary effort or painful restriction. This leads to 'a
principle which we find universally admitted, even by those whose
practice is at variance with it, that the situation [of the pauper] on
the whole shall not be made really or apparently so eligible as the
situation of the independent labourer of the lowest class.'[46] The _a
priori_ argument is admirably illustrated by instances, reported by the
sub-commissioners or given in evidence before the Commission, indicating
that labouring men will not exert themselves unless they are offered the
alternative of starvation or rigorous confinement, though no attempt is
made to estimate the proportion of the working population of England
whose character and conduct is represented by each instance.

[46] _First Report of the Poor Law Commission_, 1834 (reprinted 1894),
p. 187.

This _a priori_ deduction, illustrated, but not proved by particular
instances, is throughout so clear and so easily apprehended by the
ordinary man that the revolutionary Bill of 1834, which affected all
sorts of vested interests, passed the House of Commons by a majority of
four to one and the House of Lords by a majority of six to one.

The Poor Law Commission of 1905, on the other hand, though it contains
many members trained in the traditions of 1834, is being driven, by the
mere necessity of dealing with the mass of varied evidence before it,
onto new lines. Instead of assuming half consciously that human energy
is dependent solely on the working of the human will in the presence of
the ideas of pleasure and pain, the Commissioners are forced to tabulate
and consider innumerable quantitative observations relating to the very
many factors affecting the will of paupers and possible paupers. They
cannot, for instance, avoid the task of estimating the relative
industrial effectiveness of health, which depends upon decent
surroundings; of hope, which may be made possible by State provision for
old age; and of the imaginative range which is the result of education;
and of comparing all these with the 'purely economic' motive created by
ideas of future pleasure and pain.

The evidence before the Commission is, that is to say, collected not to
illustrate general propositions otherwise established, but to provide
quantitative answers to quantitative questions; and instances are in
each case accumulated according to a well-known statistical rule until
the repetition of results shows that further accumulation would be

In 1834 it was enough, in dealing with the political machinery of the
Poor Law, to argue that, since all men desire their own interest, the
ratepayers would elect guardians who would, up to the limit of their
knowledge, advance the interests of the whole community; provided that
electoral areas were created in which all sectional interests were
represented, and that voting power were given to each ratepayer in
proportion to his interest. It did not then seem to matter much whether
the areas chosen were new or old, or whether the body elected had other
duties or not.

In 1908, on the other hand, it is felt to be necessary to seek for all
the causes which are likely to influence the mind of the ratepayer or
candidate during an election, and to estimate by such evidence as is
available their relative importance. It has to be considered, for
instance, whether men vote best in areas where they keep up habits of
political action in connection with parliamentary as well as municipal
contests; and whether an election involving other points besides
poor-law administration is more likely to create interest among the
electorate. If more than one election, again, is held in a district in
any year it may be found by the record of the percentage of votes that
electoral enthusiasm diminishes for each additional contest along a very
rapidly descending curve.

The final decisions that will be taken either by the Commission or by
Parliament on questions of administrative policy and electoral machinery
must therefore involve the balancing of all these and many other
considerations by an essentially quantitative process. The line, that is
to say, which ultimately cuts the curves indicated by the evidence will
allow less weight either to anxiety for the future as a motive for
exertion, or to personal health as increasing personal efficiency, than
would be given to either if it were the sole factor to be considered.
There will be more 'bureaucracy' than would be desirable if it were not
for the need of economising the energies of the elected representatives,
and less bureaucracy than there would be if it were not desirable to
retain popular sympathy and consent. Throughout the argument the
population of England will be looked upon not (as John Stuart Mill would
have said) 'on the average or _en masse_,'[47] but as consisting of
individuals who can be arranged in 'polygons of variation' according to
their nervous and physical strength, their 'character' and the degree to
which ideas of the future are likely to affect their present conduct.

[47] See p. 132.

Meanwhile the public which will discuss the Report has changed since
1834. Newspaper writers, in discussing the problem of destitution, tend
now to use, not general terms applied to whole social classes like the
'poor,' 'the working class,' or 'the lower orders,' but terms expressing
quantitative estimates of individual variations, like 'the submerged
tenth,' or the 'unemployable'; while every newspaper reader is fairly
familiar with the figures in the Board of Trade monthly returns which
record seasonal and periodical variations of actual unemployment among
Trade Unionists.

One could give many other instances of this beginning of a tendency in
political thinking, to change from qualitative to quantitative forms of
argument. But perhaps it will be sufficient to give one relating to
international politics. 'Sixty years ago sovereignty was a simple
question of quality. Austin had demonstrated that there must be a
sovereign everywhere, and that sovereignty, whether in the hands of an
autocracy or a republic, must be absolute. But the Congress which in
1885 sat at Berlin to prevent the partition of Africa from causing a
series of European wars as long as those caused by the partition of
America, was compelled by the complexity of the problems before it to
approach the question of sovereignty on quantitative lines. Since 1885
therefore every one has become familiar with the terms then invented to
express gradations of sovereignty: 'Effective occupation,' 'Hinterland,'
'Sphere of Influence'--to which the Algeciras Conference has perhaps
added a lowest grade, 'Sphere of Legitimate Aspiration.' It is already
as unimportant to decide whether a given region is British territory or
not, as it is to decide whether a bar containing a certain percentage of
carbon should be called iron or steel.

Even in thinking of the smallest subdivisions of observed political fact
some men escape the temptation to ignore individual differences. I
remember that the man who has perhaps done more than any one else in
England to make a statistical basis for industrial legislation possible,
once told me that he had been spending the whole day in classifying
under a few heads thousands of 'railway accidents,' every one of which
differed in its circumstances from any other; and that he felt like the
bewildered porter in _Punch_, who had to arrange the subleties of nature
according to the unsubtle tariff-schedule of his company. 'Cats,' he
quoted the porter as saying, 'is dogs, and guinea-pigs is dogs, but this
'ere tortoise is a hinsect.'

But it must constantly be remembered that quantitative thinking does
not necessarily or even generally mean thinking in terms of numerical
statistics. Number, which obliterates all distinction between the units
numbered, is not the only, nor always even the most exact means of
representing quantitative facts. A picture, for instance, may be
sometimes nearer to quantitative truth, more easily remembered and more
useful for purposes of argument and verification than a row of figures.
The most exact quantitative political document that I ever saw was a set
of photographs of all the women admitted into an inebriate home. The
photographs demonstrated, more precisely than any record of approximate
measurements could have done, the varying facts of physical and nervous
structure. It would have been easily possible for a committee of medical
men to have arranged the photographs in a series of increasing
abnormality, and to have indicated the photograph of the 'marginal'
woman in whose case, after allowing for considerations of expense, and
for the desirability of encouraging individual responsibility, the State
should undertake temporary or permanent control. And the record was one
which no one who had ever seen it could forget.

The political thinker has indeed sometimes to imitate the cabinet-maker,
who discards his most finely divided numerical rule for some kinds of
specially delicate work, and trusts to his sense of touch for a
quantitative estimation. The most exact estimation possible of a
political problem may have been contrived when a group of men, differing
in origin, education, and mental type, first establish an approximate
agreement as to the probable results of a series of possible political
alternatives involving, say, increasing or decreasing state
interference, and then discover the point where their 'liking' turns
into 'disliking.' Man is the measure of man, and he may still be using a
quantitative process even though he chooses in each case that method of
measurement which is least affected by the imperfection of his powers.
But it is just in the cases where numerical calculation is impossible or
unsuitable that the politician is likely to get most help by using
consciously quantitative conceptions.

An objection has been urged against the adoption of political reasoning
either implicitly or explicitly quantitative, that it involves the
balancing against each other of things essentially disparate. How is
one, it is asked, to balance the marginal unit of national honour
involved in the continuance of a war with that marginal unit of extra
taxation which is supposed to be its exact equivalent? How is one to
balance the final sovereign spent on the endowment of science with the
final sovereign spent on a monument to a deceased scientist, or on the
final detail in a scheme of old age pensions? The obvious answer is that
statesmen have to act, and that whoever acts does somehow balance all
the alternatives which are before him. The Chancellor of the Exchequer
in his annual allocation of grants and remissions of taxation balances
no stranger things than does the private citizen, who, having a pound or
two to spend at Christmas, decides between subscribing to a Chinese
Mission and providing a revolving hatch between his kitchen and his

A more serious objection is that we ought not to allow ourselves to
think quantitatively in politics, that to do so fritters away the plain
consideration of principle. 'Logical principles' may be only an
inadequate representation of the subtlety of nature, but to abandon them
is, it is contended, to become a mere opportunist.

In the minds of these objectors the only alternative to deductive
thought from simple principles seems to be the attitude of Prince
Buelow, in his speech in the Reichstag on universal suffrage. He is
reported to have said:--'Only the most doctrinaire Socialists still
regarded universal and direct suffrage as a fetish and as an infallible
dogma. For his own part he was no worshipper of idols, and he did not
believe in political dogmas. The welfare and the liberty of a country
did not depend either in whole or in part upon the form of its
Constitution or of its franchise. Herr Bebel had once said that on the
whole he preferred English conditions even to conditions in France. But
in England the franchise was not universal, equal, and direct. Could it
be said that Mecklenburg, which had no popular suffrage at all, was
governed worse than Haiti, of which the world had lately heard such
strange news, although Haiti could boast of possessing universal

[48] _Times_, March 27, 1908.

But what Prince Buelow's speech showed, was that he was either
deliberately parodying a style of scholastic reasoning with which he did
not agree, or he was incapable of grasping the first conception of
quantitative political thought. If the 'dogma' of universal suffrage
means the assertion that all men who have votes are thereby made
identical with each other in all respects, and that universal suffrage
is the one condition of good government, then, and then only, is his
attack on it valid. If, however, the desire for universal suffrage is
based on the belief that a wide extension of political power is one of
the most important elements in the conditions of good government--racial
aptitude, ministerial responsibility, and the like, being other
elements--then the speech is absolutely meaningless.

But Prince Buelow was making a parliamentary speech, and in
parliamentary oratory that change from qualitative to quantitative
method which has so deeply affected the procedure of Conferences and
Commissions has not yet made much progress. In a 'full-dress' debate
even those speeches which move us most often recall Mr. Gladstone, in
whose mind, as soon as he stood up to speak, his Eton and Oxford
training in words always contended with his experience of things, and
who never made it quite clear whether the 'grand and eternal
commonplaces of liberty and self-government' meant that certain elements
must be of great and permanent importance in every problem of Church and
State, or that an _a priori_ solution of all political problems could be
deduced by all good men from absolute and authoritative laws.


_Possibilities of Progress_



In the preceding chapters I have argued that the efficiency of political
science, its power, that is to say, of forecasting the results of
political causes, is likely to increase. I based my argument on two
facts, firstly, that modern psychology offers us a conception of human
nature much truer, though more complex, than that which is associated
with the traditional English political philosophy; and secondly, that,
under the influence and example of the natural sciences, political
thinkers are already beginning to use in their discussions and inquiries
quantitative rather than merely qualitative words and methods, and are
able therefore both to state their problems more fully and to answer
them with a greater approximation to accuracy.

In this argument it was not necessary to ask how far such an
improvement in the science of politics is likely to influence the actual
course of political history. Whatever may be the best way of discovering
truth will remain the best, whether the mass of mankind choose to follow
it or not.

But politics are studied, as Aristotle said, 'for the sake of action
rather than of knowledge,'[49] and the student is bound, sooner or later,
to ask himself what will be the effect of a change in his science upon
that political world in which he lives and works.

[49] _Ethics_, Bk. I. ch. iii. (6). [Greek: epeide to telos [tes
politikes] estin ou gnesis alla praxis.]

One can imagine, for instance, that a professor of politics in Columbia
University, who had just taken part as a 'Mugwump' in a well-fought but
entirely unsuccessful campaign against Tammany Hall, might say: 'The
finer and more accurate the processes of political science become, the
less do they count in politics. Astronomers invent every year more
delicate methods of forecasting the movements of the stars, but cannot
with all their skill divert one star an inch from its course. So we
students of politics will find that our growing knowledge brings us only
a growing sense of helplessness. We may learn from our science to
estimate exactly the forces exerted by the syndicated newspaper press,
by the liquor saloons, or by the blind instincts of class and
nationality and race; but how can we learn to control them? The fact
that we think about these things in a new way will not win elections or
prevent wars.'

I propose, therefore, in this second part of my book to discuss how far
the new tendencies which are beginning to transform the science of
politics are likely also to make themselves felt as a new political
force. I shall try to estimate the probable influence of these
tendencies, not only on the student or the trained politician, but on
the ordinary citizen whom political science reaches only at second or
third hand; and, with that intention, shall treat in successive chapters
their relation to our ideals of political morality, to the form and
working of the representative and official machinery of the State, and
to the possibilities of international and inter-racial understanding.

This chapter deals from that point of view with their probable influence
on political morality. In using that term I do not mean to imply that
certain acts are moral when done from political motives which would not
be moral if done from other motives, or _vice versa_, but to emphasise
the fact that there are certain ethical questions which can only be
studied in close connection with political science. There are, of
course, points of conduct which are common to all occupations. We must
all try to be kind, and honest, and industrious, and we expect the
general teachers of morals to help us to do so. But every occupation has
also its special problems, which must be stated by its own students
before they can be dealt with by the moralist at all.

In politics the most important of these special questions of conduct is
concerned with the relation between the process by which the politician
forms his own opinions and purposes, and that by which he influences the
opinions and purposes of others.

A hundred or even fifty years ago, those who worked for a democracy of
which they had had as yet no experience felt no misgivings on this point
They looked on reasoning, not as a difficult and uncertain process, but
as the necessary and automatic working of man's mind when faced by
problems affecting his interest. They assumed, therefore, that the
citizens under a democracy would necessarily be guided by reason in the
use of their votes, that those politicians would be most successful who
made their own conclusions and the grounds for them most clear to
others, and that good government would be secured if the voters had
sufficient opportunities of listening to free and sincere discussion.

A candidate to-day who comes fresh from his books to the platform almost
inevitably begins by making the same assumption.

He prepares his speeches and writes his address with the conviction that
on his demonstration of the relation between political causes and
effects will depend the result of the election. Perhaps his first shock
will come from that maxim which every professional agent repeats over
and over again to every candidate, 'Meetings are no good.' Those who
attend meetings are, he is told, in nine cases out of ten, already loyal
and habitual supporters of his party. If his speeches are logically
unanswerable the chief political importance of that fact is to be found,
not in his power of convincing those who are already convinced, but in
the greater enthusiasm and willingness to canvass which may be produced
among his supporters by their admiration of him as a speaker.

Later on he learns to estimate the way in which his address and that of
his opponent appeal to the constituents. He may, for instance, become
suddenly aware of the attitude of mind with which he himself opens the
envelopes containing other candidates addresses in some election (of
Poor Law Guardians, for instance), in which he is not specially
interested, and of the fact that his attention is either not aroused at
all, or is only aroused by words and phrases which recall some habitual
train of thought. By the time that he has become sufficiently confident
or important to draw up a political programme for himself, he
understands the limits within which any utterance must be confined that
is addressed to large numbers of voters--the fact that proposals are
only to be brought 'within the sphere of practical politics' which are
simple, striking, and carefully adapted to the half-conscious memories
and likes and dislikes of busy men.

All this means that his own power of political reasoning is being
trained. He is learning that every man differs from every other man in
his interests, his intellectual habits and powers, and his experience,
and that success in the control of political forces depends on a
recognition of this and a careful appreciation of the common factors of
human nature. But meanwhile it is increasingly difficult for him to
believe that he is appealing to the same process of reasoning in his
hearers as that by which he reaches his own conclusions. He tends, that
is to say, to think of the voters as the subject-matter rather than the
sharers of his thoughts. He, like Plato's sophist, is learning what the
public is, and is beginning to understand 'the passions and desires' of
that 'huge and powerful brute, how to approach and handle it, at what
times it becomes fiercest and most gentle, on what occasions it utters
its several cries, and what sounds made by others soothe or irritate
it.'[50] If he resolutely guards himself against the danger of passing
from one illusion to another, he may still remember that he is not the
only man in the constituency who has reasoned and is reasoning about
politics. If he does personal canvassing he may meet sometimes a
middle-aged working man, living nearer than himself to the facts of
life, and may find that this constituent of his has reasoned patiently
and deeply on politics for thirty years, and that he himself is a rather
absurd item in the material of that reasoning. Or he may talk with a
business man, and be forced to understand some one who sees perhaps more
clearly than himself the results of his proposals, but who is separated
from him by the gulf of a difference of desire: that which one hopes the
other fears.

[50] Plato, _Republic_, p. 493.

Yet however sincerely such a candidate may respect the process by which
the more thoughtful both of those who vote for him and of those who vote
against him reach their conclusions, he is still apt to feel that his
own part in the election has little to do with any reasoning process at
all. I remember that before my first election my most experienced
political friend said to me, 'Remember that you are undertaking a six
weeks' advertising campaign.' Time is short, there are innumerable
details to arrange, and the candidate soon returns from the rare
intervals of mental contact with individual electors to that advertising
campaign which deals with the electors as a whole. As long as he is so
engaged, the maxim that it is wrong to appeal to anything but the
severest process of logical thought in his constituents will seem to
him, if he has time to think of it, not so much untrue as irrelevant.

After a time the politician may cease even to desire to reason with his
constituents, and may come to regard them as purely irrational
creatures of feeling and opinion, and himself as the purely rational
'over-man' who controls them. It is at this point that a resolute and
able statesman may become most efficient and most dangerous.
Bolingbroke, while he was trying to teach his 'Patriot King' how to
govern men by understanding them, spoke in a haunting phrase of 'that
staring timid creature man.'[51] A century before Darwin he, like Swift
and Plato, was able by sheer intellectual detachment to see his
fellow-men as animals. He himself, he thought, was one of those few
'among the societies of men ... who engross almost the whole reason of
the species, who are born to instruct, to guide, and to preserve, who
are designed to be the tutors and the guardians of human kind.'[52] For
the rest, 'Reason has small effect upon numbers: a turn of imagination,
often as violent and as sudden as a gust of wind, determines their

[51] _Letters on the Spirit of Patriotism_, etc. (ed. of 1785), p. 70.

[52] _Ibid._, p. 2.

[53] _Ibid._, p. 165.

The greatest of Bolingbroke's disciples was Disraeli, who wrote, 'We are
not indebted to the Reason of man for any of the great achievements
which are the landmarks of human action and human progress.... Man is
only truly great when he acts from the passions; never irresistible but
when he appeals to the imagination. Even Mormon accounts more votaries
than Bentham.'[54] It was Disraeli who treated Queen Victoria 'like a
woman,' and Gladstone, with the Oxford training from which he never
fully recovered, who treated her 'like a public meeting.'

[54] _Coningsby_, ch. xiii.

In spite of Disraeli's essentially kindly spirit, his calculated play
upon the instincts of the nation which he governed seemed to many in his
time to introduce a cold and ruthless element into politics, which
seemed colder and more ruthless when it appeared in the less kindly
character of his disciple Lord Randolph Churchill. But the same
ruthlessness is often found now, and may perhaps be more often found in
the future, whenever any one is sufficiently concentrated on some
political end to break through all intellectual or ethical conventions
that stand in his way. I remember a long talk, a good many years ago,
with one of the leaders of the Russian terrorist movement. He said, 'It
is no use arguing with the peasants even if we were permitted to do so.
They are influenced by events not words. If we kill a Tzar, or a Grand
Duke, or a minister, our movement becomes something which exists and
counts with them, otherwise, as far as they are concerned, it does not
exist at all.'

In war, the vague political tradition that there is something unfair in
influencing the will of one's fellow-men otherwise than by argument
does not exist. This was what Napoleon meant when he said, 'A la
guerre, tout est moral, et le moral et l'opinion font plus de la
moitie de la realite.'[55] And it is curious to observe that when men
are consciously or half-consciously determining to ignore that tradition
they drop into the language of warfare. Twenty years ago, the expression
'Class-war' was constantly used among English Socialists to justify the
proposal that a Socialist party should adopt those methods of
parliamentary terrorism (as opposed to parliamentary argument) which had
been invented by Parnell. When Lord Lansdowne in 1906 proposed to the
House of Lords that they should abandon any calculation of the good or
bad administrative effect of measures sent to them from the Liberal
House of Commons, and consider only the psychological effect of their
acceptance or rejection on the voters at the next general election, he
dropped at once into military metaphor. 'Let us' he said, 'be sure that
if we join issue we do so upon ground which is as favourable as possible
to ourselves. In this case I believe the ground would be unfavourable to
this House, and I believe the juncture is one when, even if we were to
win for the moment, our victory would be fruitless in the end.'[56]

[55] _Maximes de Guerre et Pensees de Napoleon Ier_ (Chapelot), p. 230.

[56] Hansard (Trades Disputes Bill, House of Lords, Dec. 4, 1906), p.

At first sight, therefore, it might appear that the change in political
science which is now going on will simply result in the abandonment by
the younger politicians of all ethical traditions, and the adoption by
them, as the result of their new book-learning, of those methods of
exploiting the irrational elements of human nature which have hitherto
been the trade secret of the elderly and the disillusioned.

I have been told, for instance, that among the little group of women who
in 1906 and 1907 brought the question of Women's Suffrage within the
sphere of practical politics, was one who had received a serious
academic training in psychology, and that the tactics actually employed
were in large part due to her plea that in order to make men think one
must begin by making them feel.[57]

[57] Mrs. Pankhurst is reported, in the _Observer_ of July 26, 1908, to
have said, 'Whatever the women who were called Suffragists might be,
they at least understood how to bring themselves in touch with the
public. They had caught the spirit of the age, learnt the art of

A Hindoo agitator, again, Mr. Chandra Pal, who also had read psychology,
imitated Lord Lansdowne a few months ago by saying, 'Applying the
principles of psychology to the consideration of political problems we
find it is necessary that we ... should do nothing that will make the
Government a power for us. Because if the Government becomes easy, if it
becomes pleasant, if it becomes good government, then our signs of
separation from it will be gradually lost.'[58] Mr. Chandra Pal, unlike
Lord Lansdowne, was shortly afterwards imprisoned, but his words have
had an important political effect in India.

[58] Quoted in _Times_, June 3, 1907.

If this mental attitude and the tactics based on it succeed, they must,
it may be argued, spread with constantly increasing rapidity; and just
as, by Gresham's Law in commerce, base coin, if there is enough of it,
must drive out sterling coin, so in politics, must the easier and more
immediately effective drive out the more difficult and less effective
method of appeal.

One cannot now answer such an argument by a mere statement that
knowledge will make men wise. It was easy in the old days to rely on the
belief that human life and conduct would become perfect if men only
learnt to know themselves. Before Darwin, most political speculators
used to sketch a perfect polity which would result from the complete
adoption of their principles, the republics of Plato and of More,
Bacon's Atlantis, Locke's plea for a government which should consciously
realise the purposes of God, or Bentham's Utilitarian State securely
founded upon the Table of the Springs of Action. We, however, who live
after Darwin, have learnt the hard lesson that we must not expect
knowledge, however full, to lead us to perfection. The modern student of
physiology believes that if his work is successful, men may have better
health than they would have if they were more ignorant, but he does not
dream of producing a perfectly healthy nation; and he is always prepared
to face the discovery that biological causes which he cannot control
may be tending to make health worse. Nor does the writer on education
now argue that he can make perfect characters in his schools. If our
imaginations ever start on the old road to Utopia, we are checked by
remembering that we are blood-relations of the other animals, and that
we have no more right than our kinsfolk to suppose that the mind of the
universe has contrived that we can find a perfect life by looking for
it. The bees might to-morrow become conscious of their own nature, and
of the waste of life and toil which goes on in the best ordered hive.
And yet they might learn that no greatly improved organisation was
possible for creatures hampered by such limited powers of observation
and inference, and enslaved by such furious passions. They might be
forced to recognise that as long as they were bees their life must
remain bewildered and violent and short. Political inquiry deals with
man as he now is, and with the changes in the organisation of his life
that can be made during the next few centuries. It may be that some
scores of generations hence, we shall have discovered that the
improvements in government which can be brought about by such inquiry,
are insignificant when compared with the changes which will be made
possible when, through the hazardous experiment of selective breeding,
we have altered the human type itself.

But however anxious we are to see the facts of our existence without
illusion, and to hope nothing without cause, we can still draw some
measure of comfort from the recollection that during the few thousand
years through which we can trace political history in the past, man,
without changing his nature, has made enormous improvements in his
polity, and that those improvements have often been the result of new
moral ideals formed under the influence of new knowledge.

The ultimate and wider effect on our conduct of any increase in our
knowledge may indeed be very different from, and more important than,
its immediate and narrower effect. We each of us live our lives in a
pictured universe, of which only a small part is contributed by our own
observation and memory, and by far the greater part by what we have
learnt from others. The changes in that mental picture of our
environment made for instance by the discovery of America, or the
ascertainment of the true movements of the nearer heavenly bodies,
exercised an influence on men's general conception of their place in the
universe, which proved ultimately to be more important than their
immediate effect in stimulating explorers and improving the art of
navigation. But none of the changes of outlook in the past have
approached in their extent and significance those which have been in
progress during the last fifty years, the new history of man and his
surroundings, stretching back through hitherto unthought-of ages, the
substitution of an illimitable vista of ever changing worlds for the
imagined perfection of the ordered heavens, and above all the intrusion
of science into the most intimate regions of ourselves. The effects of
such changes often come, it is true, more slowly than we hope. I was
talking not long ago to one of the ablest of those who were beginning
their intellectual life when Darwin published the _Origin of Species_.
He told me how he and his philosopher brother expected that at once all
things should become new, and how unwillingly as the years went on they
had accepted their disappointment. But though slow, they are

To myself it seems that the most important political result of the vast
range of new knowledge started by Darwin's work may prove to be the
extension of the idea of conduct so as to include the control of mental
processes of which at present most men are either unconscious or
unobservant. The limits of our conscious conduct are fixed by the limits
of our self-knowledge. Before men knew anger as something separable from
the self that knew it, and before they had made that knowledge current
by the invention of a name, the control of anger was not a question of
conduct. Anger was a part of the angry man himself, and could only be
checked by the invasion of some other passion, love, for instance, or
fear, which was equally, while it lasted, a part of self. The man
survived to continue his race if anger or fear or love came upon him at
the right time, and with the right intensity. But when man had named his
anger, and could stand outside it in thought, anger came within the
region of conduct, Henceforth, in that respect, man could choose either
the old way of half-conscious obedience to an impulse which on the whole
had proved useful in his past evolution, or the new way of fully
conscious control directed by a calculation of results.

A man who has become conscious of the nature of fear, and has acquired
the power of controlling it, if he sees a boulder bounding towards him
down a torrent bed, may either obey the immediate impulse to leap to one
side, or may substitute conduct for instinct, and stand where he is
because he has calculated that at the next bound the course of the
boulder will be deflected. If he decides to stand he may be wrong. It
may prove by the event that the immediate impulse of fear was, owing to
the imperfection of his powers of conscious inference, a safer guide
than the process of calculation. But because he has the choice, even the
decision to follow impulse is a question of conduct. Burke was sincerely
convinced that men's power of political reasoning was so utterly
inadequate to their task, that all his life long he urged the English
nation to follow prescription, to obey, that is to say, on principle
their habitual political impulses. But the deliberate following of
prescription which Burke advocated was something different, because it
was the result of choice, from the uncalculated loyalty of the past.
Those who have eaten of the tree of knowledge cannot forget.

In other matters than politics the influence of the fruit of that tree
is now spreading further over our lives. Whether we will or not, the old
unthinking obedience to appetite in eating is more and more affected by
our knowledge, imperfect though that be, of the physiological results of
the quantity and kind of our food. Mr. Chesterton cries out, like the
Cyclops in the play, against those who complicate the life of man, and
tells us to eat 'caviare on impulse,' instead of 'grape nuts on
principle.'[59] But since we cannot unlearn our knowledge, Mr. Chesterton
is only telling us to eat caviare on principle. The physician, when he
knows the part which mental suggestion plays in the cure of disease, may
hate and fear his knowledge, but he cannot divest himself of it. He
finds himself watching the unintended effects of his words and tones and
gestures, until he realises that in spite of himself he is calculating
the means by which such effects can be produced. After a time, even his
patients may learn to watch the effect of 'a good bedside manner' on

[59] _Heretics_, 1905, p. 136.

So in politics, now that knowledge of the obscurer impulses of mankind
is being spread (if only by the currency of new words), the relation
both of the politician and the voter to those impulses is changing. As
soon as American politicians called a certain kind of specially paid
orator a 'spell-binder,' the word penetrated through the newspapers from
politicians to audiences. The man who knows that he has paid two dollars
to sit in a hall and be 'spell-bound,' feels, it is true, the old
sensations, but feels them with a subtle and irrevocable difference. The
English newspaper reader who has once heard the word 'sensational,' may
try to submit every morning the innermost sanctuary of his consciousness
to the trained psychologists of the halfpenny journals. He may,
according to the suggestion of the day, loathe the sixty million crafty
scoundrels who inhabit the German Empire, shudder at a coming comet,
pity the cowards on the Government Front Bench, or tremble lest a
pantomime lady should throw up her part. But he cannot help the
existence in the background of his consciousness of a self which
watches, and, perhaps, is a little ashamed of his 'sensations.' Even the
rapidly growing psychological complexity of modern novels and plays
helps to complicate the relation of the men of our time to their
emotional impulses. The young tradesman who has been reading either
_Evan Harrington_, or a novel by some writer who has read _Evan
Harrington_, goes to shake hands with a countess at an entertainment
given by the Primrose League, or the Liberal Social Council, conscious
of pleasure, but to some degree critical of his pleasure. His father,
who read _John Halifax, Gentleman_, would have been carried away by a
tenth part of the condescension which is necessary in the case of the
son. A voter who has seen _John Bull's Other Island_ at the theatre, is
more likely than his father, who only saw _The Shaughraun_, to realise
that one's feelings on the Irish question can be thought about as well
as felt.

In so far as this change extends, the politician may find in the future
that an increasing proportion of his constituents half-consciously 'see
through' the cruder arts of emotional exploitation.

But such an unconscious or half-conscious extension of self-knowledge is
not likely of itself to keep pace with the parallel development of the
political art of controlling impulse. The tendency, if it is to be
effective, must be strengthened by the deliberate adoption and
inculcation of new moral and intellectual conceptions--new ideal
entities to which our affections and desires may attach themselves.

'Science' has been such an entity ever since Francis Bacon found again,
without knowing it, the path of Aristotle's best thought. The conception
of 'Science,' of scientific method and the scientific spirit, was built
up in successive generations by a few students. At first their
conception was confined to themselves. Its effects were seen in the
discoveries which they actually made; but to the mass of mankind they
seemed little better than magicians. Now it has spread to the whole
world. In every class-room and laboratory in Europe and America the
conscious idea of Science forms the minds and wills of thousands of men
and women who could never have helped to create it. It has penetrated,
as the political conceptions of Liberty or of Natural Right never
penetrated, to non-European races. Arab engineers in Khartoum, doctors
and nurses and generals in the Japanese army, Hindoo and Chinese
students make of their whole lives an intense activity inspired by
absolute submission to Science, and not only English or American or
German town working men, but villagers in Italy or Argentina are
learning to respect the authority and sympathise with the methods of
that organised study which may double at any moment the produce of their
crops or check a plague among their cattle.

'Science,' however, is associated by most men, even in Europe, only with
things exterior to themselves, things that can be examined by test-tubes
and microscopes. They are dimly aware that there exists a science of the
mind, but that knowledge suggests to them, as yet, no ideal of conduct.

It is true that in America, where politicians have learnt more
successfully than elsewhere the art of controlling other men's
unconscious impulses from without, there have been of late some
noteworthy declarations as to the need of conscious control from
within. Some of those especially who have been trained in scientific
method at the American Universities are now attempting to extend to
politics the scientific conception of intellectual conduct. But it seems
to me that much of their preaching misses its mark, because it takes the
old form of an opposition between 'reason' and 'passion.' The President
of the University of Yale said, for instance, the other day in a
powerful address, 'Every man who publishes a newspaper which appeals to
the emotions rather than to the intelligence of its readers ... attacks
our political life at a most vulnerable point.'[60] If forty years ago
Huxley had in this way merely preached 'intelligence' as against
'emotion' in the exploration of nature, few would have listened to him.
Men will not take up the 'intolerable disease of thought' unless their
feelings are first stirred, and the strength of the idea of Science has
been that it does touch men's feelings, and draws motive power for
thought from the passions of reverence, of curiosity, and of limitless

[60] A. T. Hadley in _Munsey's Magazine_, 1907.

The President of Yale seems to imply that in order to reason men must
become passionless. He would have done better to have gone back to that
section of the Republic where Plato teaches that the supreme purpose of
the State realises itself in men's hearts by a 'harmony' which
strengthens the motive force of passion, because the separate passions
no longer war among themselves, but are concentrated on an end
discovered by the intellect.[61]

[61] Cf. Plato's _Republic_, Book IV.

In politics, indeed, the preaching of reason as opposed to feeling is
peculiarly ineffective, because the feelings of mankind not only provide
a motive for political thought but also fix the scale of values which
must be used in political judgment. One finds oneself when trying to
realise this, falling back (perhaps because one gets so little help from
current language) upon Plato's favourite metaphor of the arts. In music
the noble and the base composer are not divided by the fact that the one
appeals to the intellect and the other to the feelings of his hearers.
Both must make their appeal to feeling, and both must therefore realise
intensely the feelings of their audience, and stimulate intensely their
own feelings. The conditions under which they succeed or fail are fixed,
for both, by facts in our emotional nature which they cannot change.
One, however, appeals by easy tricks to part only of the nature of his
hearers, while the other appeals to their whole nature, requiring of
those who would follow him that for the time their intellect should sit
enthroned among the strengthened and purified passions.

But what, besides mere preaching, can be done to spread the conception
of such a harmony of reason and passion, of thought and impulse, in
political motive? One thinks of education, and particularly of
scientific education. But the imaginative range which is necessary if
students are to transfer the conception of intellectual conduct from the
laboratory to the public meeting is not common. It would perhaps more
often exist if part of all scientific education were given to such a
study of the lives of scientific men as would reveal their mental
history as well as their discoveries, if, for instance, the young
biologist were set to read the correspondence between Darwin and Lyell,
when Lyell was preparing to abandon the conclusions on which his great
reputation was based, and suspending his deepest religious convictions,
in the cause of a truth not yet made clear.

But most school children, if they are to learn the facts on which the
conception of intellectual conduct depends, must learn them even more
directly. I myself believe that a very simple course on the
well-ascertained facts of psychology would, if patiently taught, be
quite intelligible to any children of thirteen or fourteen who had
received some small preliminary training in scientific method. Mr.
William James's chapter on Habit in his _Principles of Psychology_
would, for instance, if the language were somewhat simplified, come well
within their range. A town child, again, lives nowadays in the constant
presence of the psychological art of advertisement, and could easily be
made to understand the reason why, when he is sent to get a bar of
soap, he feels inclined to get that which is most widely advertised, and
what relation his inclination has to that mental process which is most
likely to result in the buying of good soap. The basis of knowledge
necessary for the conception of intellectual duty could further be
enlarged at school by the study in pure literature of the deeper
experiences of the mind. A child of twelve might understand Carlyle's
_Essay on Burns_ if it were carefully read in class, and a good sixth
form might learn much from Wordsworth's _Prelude_.

The whole question, however, of such deliberate instruction in the
emotional and intellectual facts of man's nature as may lead men to
conceive of the co-ordination of reason and passion as a moral ideal is
one on which much steady thinking and observation is still required. The
instincts of sex, for instance, are becoming in all civilised countries
more and more the subject of serious thought. Conduct based upon a
calculation of results is in that sphere claiming to an ever increasing
degree control over mere impulse. Yet no one is sure that he has found
the way to teach the barest facts as to sexual instinct either before or
during the period of puberty, without prematurely exciting the instincts

Doctors, again, are more and more recognising that nutrition depends not
only upon the chemical composition of food but upon our appetite, and
that we can become aware of our appetite and to some extent control and
direct it by our will. Sir William Macewen said not long ago, 'We cannot
properly digest our food unless we give it a warm welcome from a free
mind with the prospect of enjoyment.'[62] But it would not be easy to
create by teaching that co-ordination of the intellect and impulse at
which Sir William Macewen hints. If you tell a boy that one reason why
food is wholesome is because we like it, and that it is therefore our
duty to like that food which other facts of our nature have made both
wholesome and likeable, you may find yourself stimulating nothing except
his sense of humour.

[62] _British Medical Journal_, Oct. 8, 1904.

So, in the case of the political emotions, it is very easy to say that
the teacher should aim first at making his pupils conscious of the
existence of those emotions, then at increasing their force, and finally
at subordinating them to the control of deliberate reasoning on the
consequences of political action. But it is extraordinarily difficult to
discover how this can be done under the actual conditions of school
teaching. Mr. Acland, when he was Education Minister in 1893, introduced
into the Evening School Code a syllabus of instruction on the Life and
Duties of the Citizen. It consisted of statements of the part played in
social life by the rate-collector, the policeman, and so on,
accompanied by a moral for each section, such as 'serving personal
interest is not enough,' 'need of public spirit and intelligence for
good Government,' 'need of honesty in giving a vote,' 'the vote a trust
as well as a right.' Almost every school publisher rushed out a
text-book on the subject, and many School Boards encouraged its
introduction; and yet the experiment, after a careful trial, was an
acknowledged failure. The new text-books (all of which I had at the time
to review), constituted perhaps the most worthless collection of printed
pages that have ever occupied the same space on a bookshelf, and the
lessons, with their alternations of instruction and edification, failed
to stimulate any kind of interest in the students. If our youths and
maidens are to be stirred as deeply by the conception of the State as
were the pupils of Socrates, teachers and the writers of text-books must
apparently approach their task with something of Socrates' passionate
love of truth and of the searching courage of his dialectic.

If again, at an earlier age, children still in school are to be taught
what Mr. Wells calls 'the sense of the State,'[63] we may, by remembering
Athens, get some indication of the conditions on which success depends.
Children will not learn to love London while getting figures by heart as
to the millions of her inhabitants and the miles of her sewers. If their
love is to be roused by words, the words must be as beautiful and as
simple as the chorus in praise of Athens in the _Oedipus Coloneus_. But
such words are not written except by great poets who actually feel what
they write, and perhaps before we have a poet who loves London as
Sophocles loved Athens it may be necessary to make London itself
somewhat more lovely.

[63] _The future in America_, chapter ix.

The emotions of children are, however, most easily reached not by words
but by sights and sounds. If therefore, they are to love the State, they
should either be taken to see the noblest aspects of the State or those
aspects should be brought to them. And a public building or ceremony, if
it is to impress the unflinching eyes of childhood, must, like the
buildings of Ypres or Bruges or the ceremonies of Japan, be in truth
impressive. The beautiful aspect of social life is fortunately not to be
found in buildings and ceremonies only, and no Winchester boy used to
come back uninfluenced from a visit to Father Dolling in the slums of
Landport; though boys' eyes are even quicker to see what is genuine in
personal motive than in external pomp.

More subtle are the difficulties in the way of the deliberate
intensification by adult politicians of their own political emotions. A
life-long worker for education on the London School Board once told me
that when he wearied of his work--when the words of reports become mere
words, and the figures in the returns mere figures--he used to go down
to a school and look closely at the faces of the children in class after
class, till the freshness of his impulse came back. But for a man who is
about to try such an experiment on himself even the word 'emotion' is
dangerous. The worker in full work should desire cold and steady not hot
and disturbed impulse, and should perhaps keep the emotional stimulus of
his energy, when it is once formed, for the most part below the level of
full consciousness. The surgeon in a hospital is stimulated by every
sight and sound in the long rows of beds, and would be less devoted to
his work if he only saw a few patients brought to his house. But all
that he is conscious of during the working hours is the one purpose of
healing, on which the half-conscious impulses of brain and eye and hand
are harmoniously concentrated.

Perhaps indeed most adult politicians would gain rather by becoming
conscious of new vices than of new virtues. Some day, for instance, the
word 'opinion' itself may become the recognised name of the most
dangerous political vice. Men may teach themselves by habit and
association to suspect those inclinations and beliefs which, if they
neglect the duty of thought, appear in their minds they know not how,
and which, as long as their origin is not examined, can be created by
any clever organiser who is paid to do so. The most easily manipulated
State in the world would be one inhabited by a race of Nonconformist
business men who never followed up a train of political reasoning in
their lives, and who, as soon as they were aware of the existence of a
strong political conviction in their minds, should announce that it was
a matter of 'conscience' and therefore beyond the province of doubt or

But, it may be still asked, is it not Utopian to suppose that Plato's
conception of the Harmony of the Soul--the intensification both of
passion and of thought by their conscious co-ordination--can ever become
a part of the general political ideals of a modern nation? Perhaps most
men before the war between Russia and Japan would have answered, Yes.
Many men would now answer, No. The Japanese are apparently in some
respects less advanced in their conceptions of intellectual morality
than, say, the French. One hears, for instance, of incidents which seem
to show that liberty of thought is not always valued in Japanese
universities. But both during the years of preparation for the war, and
during the war itself, there was something in what one was told of the
combined emotional and intellectual attitude of the Japanese, which to a
European seemed wholly new. Napoleon contended against the 'ideologues'
who saw things as they wished them to be, and until he himself submitted
to his own illusions he ground them to powder. But we associate
Napoleon's clearness of vision with personal selfishness. Here was a
nation in which every private soldier outdid Napoleon in his
determination to see in warfare not great principles nor picturesque
traditions, but hard facts; and yet the fire of their patriotism was
hotter than Gambetta's. Something of this may have been due to the
inherited organisation of the Japanese race, but more seemed to be the
effect of their mental environment. They had whole-heartedly welcomed
that conception of Science which in Europe, where it was first
elaborated, still struggles with older ideals. Science with them had
allied, and indeed identified, itself with that idea of natural law
which, since they learnt it through China from Hindustan, had always
underlain their various religions.[64] They had acquired, therefore, a
mental outlook which was determinist without being fatalist, and which
combined the most absolute submission to Nature with untiring energy in
thought and action.

[64] See Okakura, _The Japanese Spirit_ (1905).

One would like to hope that in the West a similar fusion might take
place between the emotional and philosophical traditions of religion,
and the new conception of intellectual duty introduced by Science. The
political effect of such a fusion would be enormous. But for the moment
that hope is not easy. The inevitable conflict between old faith and new
knowledge has produced, one fears, throughout Christendom, a division
not only between the conclusions of religion and science, but also
between the religious and the scientific habit of mind. The scientific
men of to-day no longer dream of learning from an English Bishop, as
their predecessors learnt from Bishop Butler, the doctrine of
probability in conduct, the rule that while belief must never be fixed,
must indeed always be kept open for the least indication of new
evidence, action, where action is necessary, must be taken as resolutely
on imperfect knowledge, if that is the best available, as on the most
perfect demonstration. The policy of the last Vatican Encyclical will
leave few Abbots who are likely to work out, as Abbot Mendel worked out
in long years of patient observation, a new biological basis for organic
evolution. Mental habits count for more in politics than do the
acceptance or rejection of creeds or evidences. When an English
clergyman sits at his breakfast-table reading his _Times_ or _Mail_, his
attitude towards the news of the day is conditioned not by his belief or
doubt that he who uttered certain commandments about non-resistance and
poverty was God Himself, but by the degree to which he has been trained
to watch the causation of his opinions. As it is, Dr. Jameson's prepared
manifesto on the Johannesburg Raid stirred most clergymen like a
trumpet, and the suggestion that the latest socialist member of
Parliament is not a gentleman, produces in them a feeling of genuine
disgust and despair.

It may be therefore that the effective influence in politics of new
ideals of intellectual conduct will have to wait for a still wider
change of mental attitude, touching our life on many sides. Some day the
conception of a harmony of thought and passion may take the place, in
the deepest regions of our moral consciousness, of our present dreary
confusion and barren conflicts. If that day comes much in politics which
is now impossible will become possible. The politician will be able not
only to control and direct in himself the impulses of whose nature he is
more fully aware, but to assume in his hearers an understanding of his
aim. Ministers and Members of Parliament may then find their most
effective form of expression in that grave simplicity of speech which in
the best Japanese State papers rings so strangely to our ears, and
citizens may learn to look to their representatives, as the Japanese
army looked to their generals, for that unbought effort of the mind by
which alone man becomes at once the servant and the master of nature.



But our growing knowledge of the causation of political impulse, and of
the conditions of valid political reasoning, may be expected to change
not only our ideals of political conduct but also the structure of our
political institutions.

I have already pointed out that the democratic movement which produced
the constitutions under which most civilised nations now live, was
inspired by a purely intellectual conception of human nature which is
becoming every year more unreal to us. If, it may then be asked,
representative democracy was introduced under a mistaken view of the
conditions of its working, will not its introduction prove to have been
itself a mistake?

Any defender of representative democracy who rejects the traditional
democratic philosophy can only answer this question by starting again
from the beginning, and considering what are the ends representation is
intended to secure, and how far those ends are necessary to good

The first end may be roughly indicated by the word consent. The essence
of a representative government is that it depends on the periodically
renewed consent of a considerable proportion of the inhabitants; and the
degree of consent required may shade from the mere acceptance of
accomplished facts, to the announcement of positive decisions taken by a
majority of the citizens, which the government must interpret and obey.

The question, therefore, whether our adoption of representative
democracy was a mistake, raises the preliminary question whether the
consent of the members of a community is a necessary condition of good
government. To this question Plato, who among the political philosophers
of the ancient world stood at a point of view nearest to that of a
modern psychologist, unhesitatingly answered, No. To him it was
incredible that any stable polity could be based upon the mere fleeting
shadows of popular opinion. He proposed, therefore, in all seriousness,
that the citizens of his Republic should live under the despotic
government of those who by 'slaving for it'[65] had acquired a knowledge
of the reality which lay behind appearance. Comte, writing when modern
science was beginning to feel its strength, made, in effect, the same
proposal. Mr. H.G. Wells, in one of his sincere and courageous
speculations, follows Plato. He describes a Utopia which is the result
of the forcible overthrow of representative government by a voluntary
aristocracy of trained men of science. He appeals, in a phrase
consciously influenced by Plato's metaphysics, to 'the idea of a
comprehensive movement of disillusioned and illuminated men behind the
shams and patriotisms, the spites and personalities of the ostensible
world....'[66] There are some signs, in America as well as in England,
that an increasing number of those thinkers who are both passionately in
earnest in their desire for social change and disappointed in their
experience of democracy, may, as an alternative to the cold-blooded
manipulation of popular impulse and thought by professional politicians,
turn 'back to Plato'; and when once this question is started, neither
our existing mental habits nor our loyalty to democratic tradition will
prevent it from being fully discussed.

[65] [Greek: douleusanti te ktesei autou] (_Republic,_ p. 494).

[66] Wells, _A Modern Utopia_, p. 263. 'I know of no case for the
elective Democratic government of modern States that cannot be knocked
to pieces in five minutes. It is manifest that upon countless important
public issues there is no collective will, and nothing in the mind of
the average man except blank indifference; that an electional system
simply places power in the hands of the most skilful electioneers....'
Wells, _Anticipations_, p. 147.

To such a discussion we English, as the rulers of India, can bring an
experience of government without consent larger than any other that has
ever been tried under the conditions of modern civilisation. The
Covenanted Civil Service of British India consists of a body of about a
thousand trained men. They are selected under a system which ensures
that practically all of them will not only possess exceptional mental
force, but will also belong to a race, which, in spite of certain
intellectual limitations, is strong in the special faculty of
government; and they are set to rule, under a system approaching
despotism, a continent in which the most numerous races, in spite of
their intellectual subtlety, have given little evidence of ability to

Our Indian experiment shows, however, that all men, however carefully
selected and trained, must still inhabit 'the ostensible world.' The
Anglo-Indian civilian during some of his working hours--when he is
toiling at a scheme of irrigation, or forestry, or
famine-prevention--may live in an atmosphere of impersonal science which
is far removed from the jealousies and superstitions of the villagers in
his district. But an absolute ruler is judged not merely by his
efficiency in choosing political means, but also by that outlook on life
which decides his choice of ends; and the Anglo-Indian outlook on life
is conditioned, not by the problem of British India as history will see
it a thousand years hence, but by the facts of daily existence in the
little government stations, with their trying climates, their narrow
society, and the continual presence of an alien and possibly hostile
race. We have not, it is true, yet followed the full rigour of Plato's
system, and chosen the wives of Anglo-Indian officials by the same
process as that through which their husbands pass. But it may be feared
that even if we did so, the lady would still remain typical who said to
Mr. Nevinson, 'To us in India a pro-native is simply a rank

[67] _The Nation_, December 21, 1907.

What is even more important is the fact that, because those whom the
Anglo-Indian civilian governs are also living in the ostensible world,
his choice of means on all questions involving popular opinion depends
even more completely than if he were a party politician at home, not on
things as they are, but on things as they can be made to seem. The
avowed tactics of our empire in the East have therefore always been
based by many of our high officials upon psychological and not upon
logical considerations. We hold Durbars, and issue Proclamations, we
blow men from guns, and insist stiffly on our own interpretation of our
rights in dealing with neighbouring Powers, all with reference to 'the
moral effect upon the native mind.' And, if half what is hinted at by
some ultra-imperialist writers and talkers is true, racial and religious
antipathy between Hindus and Mohammedans is sometimes welcomed, if not
encouraged, by those who feel themselves bound at all costs to maintain
our dominant position.

The problem of the relation between reason and opinion is therefore one
that would exist at least equally in Plato's corporate despotism as in
the most complete democracy. Hume, in a penetrating passage in his essay
on _The First Principles of Government_, says: 'It is ... on opinion
only that government is founded; and this maxim extends to the most
despotic and most military governments as well as to the most free and
the most popular.'[68] It is when a Czar or a bureaucracy find themselves
forced to govern in opposition to a vague national feeling, which may at
any moment create an overwhelming national purpose, that the facts of
man's sublogical nature are most ruthlessly exploited. The autocrat then
becomes the most unscrupulous of demagogues, and stirs up racial, or
religious, or social hatred, or the lust for foreign war, with less
scruple than does the proprietor of the worst newspaper in a democratic

[68] Hume's _Essays_, chap. iv.

Plato, with his usual boldness, faced this difficulty, and proposed that
the loyalty of the subject-classes in his Republic should be secured
once for all by religious faith. His rulers were to establish and teach
a religion in which they need not believe. They were to tell their
people 'one magnificent lie';[69] a remedy which in its ultimate effect
on the character of their rule might have been worse than the disease
which it was intended to cure.

[69] [Greek: gennaion ti en pseudomenous] (_Republic_, p. 414).

But even if it is admitted that government without consent is a
complicated and ugly process, it does not follow either that government
by consent is always possible, or that the machinery of parliamentary
representation is the only possible, or always the best possible, method
of securing consent.

Government by a chief who is obeyed from custom, and who is himself
restrained by custom from mere tyranny, may at certain stages of culture
be better than anything else which can be substituted for it. And
representation, even when it is possible, is not an unchanging entity,
but an expedient capable of an infinite number of variations. In England
at this moment we give the vote for a sovereign parliament to persons of
the male sex above twenty-one years of age, who have occupied the same
place of residence for a year; and enrol them for voting purposes in
constituencies based upon locality. But in all these respects, age, sex,
qualification, and constituency, as well as in the political power given
to the representative, variation is possible.

If, indeed, there should appear a modern Bentham, trained not by
Fenelon and Helvetius, but by the study of racial psychology, he could
not use his genius and patience better than in the invention of
constitutional expedients which should provide for a real degree of
government by consent in those parts of the British Empire where men are
capable of thinking for themselves on political questions, but where
the machinery of British parliamentary government would not work. In
Egypt, for instance, one is told that at elections held in ordinary
local constituencies only two per cent, of those entitled to vote go to
the poll.[70] As long as that is the case representative government is
impossible. A slow process of education might increase the proportion of
voters, but meanwhile it would surely be possible for men, who
understand the way in which Egyptians or Arabs think and feel, to
discover other methods by which the vague desires of the native
population can be ascertained, and the policy of the government made in
some measure to depend on them.

[70] _Times_, January 6, 1908.

The need for invention is even more urgent in India, and that fact is
apparently being realised by the Indian Government itself. The inventive
range of Lord Morley and his advisers does not, however, for the moment
appear to extend much beyond the adaptation of the model of the English
House of Lords to Indian conditions, and the organisation of an
'advisory Council of Notables';[71] with the possible result that we may
be advised by the hereditary rent-collectors of Bengal in our dealings
with the tillers of the soil, and by the factory owners of Bombay in our
regulation of factory labour.

[71] Mr. Morley in the House of Commons. Hansard, June 6, 1907, p. 885.

In England itself, though great political inventions are always a
glorious possibility, the changes in our political structure which will
result from our new knowledge are likely, in our own time, to proceed
along lines laid down by slowly acting, and already recognisable

A series of laws have, for instance, been passed in the United Kingdom
during the last thirty or forty years, each of which had little
conscious connection with the rest, but which, when seen as a whole,
show that government now tends to regulate, not only the process of
ascertaining the decision of the electors, but also the more complex
process by which that decision is formed; and that this is done not in
the interest of any particular body of opinion, but from a belief in the
general utility of right methods of thought, and the possibility of
securing them by regulation.

The nature of this change may perhaps be best understood by comparing it
with the similar but earlier and far more complete change that has taken
place in the conditions under which that decision is formed which is
expressed in the verdict of a jury. Trial by jury was, in its origin,
simply a method of ascertaining, from ordinary men whose veracity was
secured by religious sanctions, their real opinions on each case.[72] The
various ways in which those opinions might have been formed were matters
beyond the cognisance of the royal official who called the jury
together, swore them, and registered their verdict. Trial by jury in
England might therefore have developed on the same lines as it did in
Athens, and have perished from the same causes. The number of the jury
might have been increased, and the parties in the case might have hired
advocates to write or deliver for them addresses containing distortions
of fact and appeals to prejudice as audacious as those in the _Private
Orations_ of Demosthenes. It might have become more important that the
witnesses should burst into passionate weeping than that they should
tell what they knew, and the final verdict might have been taken by a
show of hands, in a crowd that was rapidly degenerating into a mob. If
such an institution had lasted up to our time, the newspapers would have
taken sides in every important case. Each would have had its own version
of the facts, the most telling points of which would have been reserved
for the final edition on the eve of the verdict, and the fate of the
prisoner or defendant would often have depended upon a strictly party

[72] See, _e.g._, Stephen, _History of the Criminal Law_, vol. i. pp.

But in the English jury trial it has come to be assumed, after a long
series of imperceptible and forgotten changes, that the opinion of the
jurors, instead of being formed before the trial begins, should be
formed in court. The process, therefore, by which that opinion is
produced has been more and more completely controlled and developed,
until it, and not the mere registration of the verdict, has become the
essential feature of the trial.

The jury are now separated from their fellow-men during the whole case.
They are introduced into a world of new emotional values. The ritual of
the court, the voices and dress of judge and counsel, all suggest an
environment in which the petty interests and impulses of ordinary life
are unimportant when compared with the supreme worth of truth and
justice. They are warned to empty their minds of all preconceived
inferences and affections. The examination and cross-examination of the
witnesses are carried on under rules of evidence which are the result of
centuries of experience, and which give many a man as he sits on a jury
his first lesson in the fallibility of the unobserved and uncontrolled
inferences of the human brain. The 'said I's,' and 'thought I's,' and
'said he's,' which are the material of his ordinary reasoning, are here
banished on the ground that they are 'not evidence,' and witnesses are
compelled to give a simple account of their remembered sensations of
sight and hearing.

The witnesses for the prosecution and the defence, if they are
well-intentioned men, often find themselves giving, to their own
surprise, perfectly consistent accounts of the events at issue. The
barristers' tricks of advocacy are to some extent restrained by
professional custom and by the authority of the judge, and they are
careful to point out to the jury each other's fallacies. Newspapers do
not reach the jury box, and in any case are prevented by the law as to
contempt of court from commenting on a case which is under trial. The
judge sums up, carefully describing the conditions of valid inference on
questions of disputed fact, and warning the jury against those forms of
irrational and unconscious inference to which experience has shown them
to be most liable. They then retire, all carrying in their minds the
same body of simplified and dissected evidence, and all having been
urged with every circumstance of solemnity to form their conclusions by
the same mental process. It constantly happens therefore that twelve
men, selected by lot, will come to a unanimous verdict as to a question
on which in the outside world they would have been hopelessly divided,
and that that verdict, which may depend upon questions of fact so
difficult as to leave the practised intellect of the judge undecided,
will very generally be right. An English law court is indeed during a
well-governed jury trial a laboratory in which psychological rules of
valid reasoning are illustrated by experiment; and when, as threatens to
occur in some American States and cities, it becomes impossible to
enforce those rules, the jury system itself breaks down.[73]

[73] On the jury system see Mr. Wells's _Mankind in the Making_, chapter
vii. He suggests the use of juries in many administrative cases where it
is desirable that government should be supported by popular consent.

At the same time, trial by jury is now used with a certain degree of
economy, both because it is slow and expensive, and because men do not
make good jurors if they are called upon too often. In order that
popular consent may support criminal justice, and that the law may not
be unfairly used to protect the interests or policy of a governing class
or person, no man, in most civilised countries, may be sentenced to
death or to a long period of imprisonment, except after the verdict of a
jury. But the overwhelming majority of other judicial decisions are now
taken by men selected not by lot, but, in theory at least, by special
fitness for their task.

In the light of this development of the jury trial we may now examine
the tentative changes which, since the Reform Act of 1867, have been
introduced into the law of elections in the United Kingdom. Long before
that date, it had been admitted that the State ought not to stretch the
principle of individual liberty so far as to remain wholly indifferent
as to the kind of motives which candidates might bring to bear upon
electors. It was obvious that if candidates were allowed to practise
open bribery the whole system of representation would break down at
once. Laws, therefore, against bribery had been for several generations
on the statute books, and all that was required in that respect was the
serious attempt, made after the scandals at the general election of
1880, to render them effective. But without entering into definite
bargains with individual voters, a rich candidate can by lavish
expenditure on his electoral campaign, both make himself personally
popular, and create an impression that his connection with the
constituency is good for trade. The Corrupt Practices Act of 1883
therefore fixed a maximum of expenditure for each candidate at a
parliamentary election. By the same Act of 1883, and by earlier and
later Acts, applying both to parliamentary and municipal elections,
intimidation of all kinds, including the threatening of penalties after
death, is forbidden. No badges or flags or bands of music may be paid
for by, or on behalf of, a candidate. In order that political opinion
may not be influenced by thoughts of the simpler bodily pleasures, no
election meeting may be held in a building where any form of food or
drink is habitually sold, although that building may be only a
Co-operative Hall with facilities for making tea in an ante-room.

The existing laws against Corrupt Practices represent, it is true,
rather the growing purpose of the State to control the conditions under
which electoral opinion is formed, than any large measure of success in
carrying out that purpose. A rapidly increasing proportion of the
expenditure at any English election is now incurred by bodies enrolled
outside the constituency, and nominally engaged, not in winning the
election for a particular candidate, but in propagating their own
principles. Sometimes the candidate whom they support, and whom they try
to commit as deeply as possible, would be greatly relieved if they
withdrew. Generally their agents are an integral part of his fighting
organisation, and often the whole of their expenditure at an election is
covered by a special subscription made by him to the central fund. Every
one sees that this system drives a coach and horse through those clauses
in the Corrupt Practices Act which restrict election expenses and forbid
the employment of paid canvassers, though no one as yet has put forward
any plan for preventing it. But it is acknowledged that unless the whole
principle is to be abandoned, new legislation must take place; and Lord
Robert Cecil talks of the probable necessity for a 'stringent and
far-reaching Corrupt Practices Act.'[74] If, however, an act is carried
stringent enough to deal effectually with the existing development of
electoral tactics, it will have to be drafted on lines involving new and
hitherto unthought-of forms of interference with the liberty of
political appeal.

[74] _Times_, June 26, 1907.

A hundred years ago a contested election might last in any constituency
for three or four weeks of excitement and horseplay, during which the
voters were every day further removed from the state of mind in which
serious thought on the probable results of their votes was possible. Now
no election may last more than one day, and we may soon enact that all
the polling for a general election shall take place on the same day. The
sporting fever of the weeks during which a general election even now
lasts, with the ladder-climbing figures outside the newspaper offices,
the flash-lights at night, and the cheering or groaning crowds in the
party clubs, are not only waste of energy but an actual hindrance to
effective political reasoning.

A more difficult psychological problem arose in the discussion of the
Ballot. Would a voter be more likely to form a thoughtful and
public-spirited decision if, after it was formed, he voted publicly or
secretly? Most of the followers of Bentham advocated secrecy. Since men
acted in accordance with their ideas of pleasure and pain, and since
landlords and employers were able, in spite of any laws against
intimidation, to bring 'sinister' motives to bear upon voters whose
votes were known, the advisability of secret voting seemed to follow as
a corollary from utilitarianism. John Stuart Mill, however, whose whole
philosophical life consisted of a slowly developing revolt of feeling
against the utilitarian philosophy to which he gave nominal allegiance
till the end, opposed the Ballot on grounds which really involved the
abandonment of the whole utilitarian position. If ideas of pleasure and
pain be taken as equivalent to those economic motives which can be
summed up as the making or losing money, it is not true, said Mill, that
even under a system of open voting such ideas are the main cause which
induce the ordinary citizen to vote. 'Once in a thousand times, as in
the case of peace or war, or of taking off taxes, the thought may cross
him that he shall save a few pounds or shillings in his year's
expenditure if the side he votes for wins.' He votes as a matter of fact
in accordance with ideas of right or wrong. 'His motive, when it is an
honourable one, is the desire to do right. We will not term it
patriotism or moral principle, in order not to ascribe to the voter's
frame of mind a solemnity that does not belong to it.' But ideas of
right and wrong are strengthened and not weakened by the knowledge that
we act under the eyes of our neighbours. 'Since then the real motive
which induces a man to vote honestly is for the most part not an
interested motive in any form, but a social one, the point to be decided
is whether the social feelings connected with an act and the sense of
social duty in performing it, can be expected to be as powerful when the
act is done in secret, and he can neither be admired for disinterested,
nor blamed for mean and selfish conduct. But this question is answered
as soon as stated. When in every other act of a man's life which
concerns his duty to others, publicity and criticism ordinarily improve
his conduct, it cannot be that voting for a member of parliament is the
single case in which he will act better for being sheltered against all

[75] Letter to the _Reader_, Ap. 29, 1865, signed J.S.M., quoted as
Mill's by Henry Romilly in pamphlet, _Public Responsibility and Vote by
Ballot_, pp. 89, 90.

Almost the whole civilised world has now adopted the secret Ballot; so
that it would seem that Mill was wrong, and that he was wrong in spite
of the fact that, as against the consistent utilitarians, his
description of average human motive was right. But Mill, though he soon
ceased to be in the original sense of the word a utilitarian, always
remained an intellectualist, and he made in the case of the Ballot the
old mistake of giving too intellectual and logical an account of
political impulses. It is true that men do not act politically upon a
mere stock-exchange calculation of material advantages and
disadvantages. They generally form vague ideas of right and wrong in
accordance with vague trains of inference as to the good or evil results
of political action. If an election were like a jury trial, such
inferences might be formed by a process which would leave a sense of
fundamental conviction in the mind of the thinker, and might be
expressed under conditions of religious and civic solemnity to which
publicity would lend an added weight, as it does in those 'acts of a
man's life which concern his duty to others,' to which Mill refers--the
paying of a debt of honour, for instance, or the equitable treatment of
one's relatives. But under existing electoral conditions, trains of
thought, formed as they often are by the half-conscious suggestion of
newspapers or leaflets, are weak as compared with the things of sense.
Apart from direct intimidation the voice of the canvasser, the
excitement of one's friends, the look of triumph on the face of one's
opponents, or the vague indications of disapproval by the rulers of
one's village, are all apt to be stronger than the shadowy and uncertain
conclusions of one's thinking brain. To make the ultimate vote secret,
gives therefore thought its best chance, and at least requires the
canvasser to produce in the voter a belief which, however shadowy, shall
be genuine, rather than to secure by the mere manipulation of momentary
impulse a promise which is shamefacedly carried out in public because it
is a promise.

Lord Courtney is the last survivor in public life of the personal
disciples of Mill, and at present he is devoting himself to a campaign
in favour of 'proportional representation,' in which, as it seems to me,
the old intellectualist misconceptions reappear in another form. He
proposes to deal with two difficulties, first, that under the existing
system of the 'single ballot' a minority in any single-member
constituency may, if there are more candidates than two, return its
representative, and secondly, that certain citizens who think for
themselves instead of allowing party leaders to think for them--the
Free-Trade Unionists, for instance, or the High-Church Liberals--have,
as a rule, no candidate representing their own opinions for whom they
can vote. He proposes, therefore, that each voter shall mark in order of
preference a ballot paper containing lists of candidates for large
constituencies, each of which returns six or seven members, Manchester
with its eight seats being given as an example.

This system, according to Lord Courtney, 'will lead to the dropping of
the fetters which now interfere with free thought, and will set men and
women on their feet, erect, intelligent, independent.'[76] But the
arguments used in urging it all seem to me to suffer from the fatal
defect of dwelling solely on the process by which opinion is
ascertained, and ignoring the process by which opinion is created. If at
the assizes all the jurors summoned were collected into one large jury,
and if they all voted Guilty or Not Guilty on all the cases, after a
trial in which all the counsel were heard and all the witnesses were
examined simultaneously, verdicts would indeed no longer depend on the
accidental composition of the separate juries; but the process of
forming verdicts would be made, to a serious degree, less effective.

[76] Address delivered by Lord Courtney at the Mechanics' Institute,
Stockport, March 22, 1907, p. 6.

The English experiment on which the Proportional Representation Society
mainly relies is an imaginary election, held in November 1906 by means
of ballot papers distributed through members and friends of the society
and through eight newspapers. 'The constituency,' we are told, 'was
supposed to return five members; the candidates, twelve in number, were
politicians whose names might be expected to be known to the ordinary
newspaper reader, and who might be considered as representative of some
of the main divisions of public opinion.'[77] The names were, in fact,
Sir A. Acland Hood, Sir H. Campbell-Banner-man, Sir Thomas P. Whittaker,
and Lord Hugh Cecil, with Messrs. Richard Bell, Austen Chamberlain,
Winston Churchill, Haldane, Keir Hardie, Arthur Henderson, Bonar Law,
and Philip Snowden. In all, 12,418 votes were collected.

[77] Proportional Representation Pamphlet, No. 4, p. 6.

I was one of the 12,418, and in my case the ballot papers were
distributed at the end of a dinner party. No discussion of the various
candidates took place with the single exception that, finding my memory
of Mr. Arthur Henderson rather vague, I whispered a question about him
to my next neighbour. We were all politicians, and nearly all the names
were those of persons belonging to that small group of forty or fifty
whose faces the caricaturists of the Christmas numbers expect their
readers to recognise.

At our dinner party not much unreality was introduced by the
intellectualist assumption that the list of names were, as a Greek might
have said, the same, 'to us,' as they were 'in themselves.' But an
ordinary list of candidates' names presented to an ordinary voter is 'to
him' simply a piece of paper with black marks on it, with which he will
either do nothing or do as he is told.

The Proportional Representation Society seem to assume that a sufficient
preliminary discussion will be carried on in the newspapers, and that
not only the names and party programmes but the reasons for the
selection of a particular person as candidate and for all the items in
his programme will be known to 'the ordinary newspaper reader,' who is
assumed to be identical with the ordinary citizen. But even if one
neglects the political danger arising from the modern concentration of
newspaper property in the hands of financiers who may use their control
for frankly financial purposes, it is not true that each man now reads
or is likely to read a newspaper devoted to a single candidature or to
the propaganda of a small political group. Men read newspapers for news,
and, since the collection of news is enormously costly, nine-tenths of
the electorate read between them a small number of established papers
advocating broad party principles. These newspapers, at any rate during
a general election, only refer to those particular contests in which the
party leaders are not concerned as matters of casual information, until,
on the day of the poll, they issue general directions 'How to vote.' The
choice of candidates is left by the newspapers to the local party
organisations, and if any real knowledge of the personality of a
candidate or of the details of his programme is to be made part of the
consciousness of the ordinary voter, this must still be done by local
electioneering in each constituency, _i.e._ by meetings and canvassing
and the distribution of 'election literature.' Lord Courtney's proposal,
even if it only multiplied the size of the ordinary constituency by six,
would multiply by at least six the difficulty of effective
electioneering, and even if each candidate were prepared to spend six
times as much money at every contest, he could not multiply by six the
range of his voice or the number of meetings which he could address in a

These considerations were brought home to me by my experience of the
nearest approximation to Proportional Representation which has ever been
actually adopted in England. In 1870 Lord Frederick Cavendish induced
the House of Commons to adopt 'plural voting' for School Board
elections. I fought in three London School Board elections as a
candidate and in two others as a political worker. In London the legal
arrangement was that each voter in eleven large districts should be
given about five or six votes, and that the same number of seats should
be assigned to the district. In the provinces a town or parish was given
a number of seats from five to fifteen. The voter might 'plump' all his
votes on one candidate or might distribute them as he liked among any of

This left the local organisers both in London and the country with two
alternatives. They might form the list of party candidates in each
district into a recognisable entity like the American 'ticket' and urge
all voters to vote, on party lines, for the Liberal or Conservative
'eight' or 'five' or 'three.' If they did this they were saved the
trouble involved in any serious attempt to instruct voters as to the
individual personalities of the members of the list. Or they might
practically repeal the plural voting law, split up the constituency by a
voluntary arrangement into single member sections, and spend the weeks
of the election in making one candidate for each party known in each
section. The first method was generally adopted in the provinces, and
had all the good and bad effects from a party point of view of the
French _scrutin de liste_. The second method was adopted in London, and
perhaps tended to make the London elections turn more than they
otherwise would have done upon the qualities of individual candidates.
Whichever system was adopted by the party leaders was acted upon by
practically all the voters, with the exception of the well-organised
Roman Catholics, who voted for a Church and not a person, and of those
who plumped for representatives of the special interests of the teachers
or school-keepers.

If Lord Courtney's proposal is adopted for parliamentary elections, it
is the 'ticket' system which, owing to the intensity of party feeling,
will be generally used. Each voter will bring into the polling booth a
printed copy of the ballot paper marked with the numbers 1, 2, 3, etc.,
according to the decision of his party association, and will copy the
numbers onto the unmarked official paper. The essential fact, that is to
say, on which party tactics would depend under Lord Courtney's scheme is
not that the votes would finally be added up in this way or in that, but
that the voter would be required to arrange in order more names than
there is time during the election to turn for him into real persons.

Lord Courtney, in speaking on the second reading of his Municipal
Representation Bill in the House of Lords,[78] contrasted his proposed
system with that used in the London Borough Council elections, according
to which a number of seats are assigned to each ward and the voter may
give one vote each, without indication of preference, to that number of
candidates. It is true that the electoral machinery for the London
Boroughs is the worst to be found anywhere in the world outside of
America. I have before me my party ballot-card instructing me how to
vote at the last Council election in my present borough. There were six
seats to be filled in my ward and fifteen candidates. I voted as I was
told by my party organisation giving one vote each to six names, not one
of which I remembered to have seen before. If there had been one seat to
be filled, and, say, three candidates, I should have found out enough
about one candidate at least to give a more or less independent vote;
and the local party committees would have known that I and others would
do so. Bach party would then have circulated a portrait and a printed
account of their candidate and of his principles, and would have had a
strong motive for choosing a thoroughly reputable person. But I could
not give the time necessary for forming a real opinion on fifteen
candidates, who volunteered no information about themselves. I
therefore, and probably twenty-nine out of every thirty of those who
voted in the borough, voted a 'straight ticket.' If for any reason the
party committee put, to use an Americanism, a 'yellow dog' among the
list of names, I voted for the yellow dog.

[78] April 30, 1907.

Under Lord Courtney's system I should have had to vote on the same
ticket, with the same amount of knowledge, but should have copied down
different marks from my party card. On the assumption, that is to say,
that every name on a long ballot paper represents an individual known to
every voter there would be an enormous difference between Lord
Courtney's proposed system and the existing system in the London
Boroughs. But if the fact is that the names in each case are mere names,
there is little effective difference between the working of the two
systems until the votes are counted.

If the sole object of an election were to discover and record the exact
proportion of the electorate who are prepared to vote for candidates
nominated by the several party organisations Lord Courtney's scheme
might be adopted as a whole. But English experience, and a longer
experience in America, has shown that the personality of the candidate
nominated is at least as important as his party allegiance, and that a
parliament of well-selected members who represent somewhat roughly the
opinion of the nation is better than a parliament of ill-selected
members who, as far as their party labels are concerned, are, to quote
Lord Courtney, 'a distillation, a quintessence, a microcosm, a
reflection of the community.'[79]

[79] Address at Stockport, p. 11.

To Lord Courtney the multi-member constituency, which permits of a wide
choice, and the preferential vote, which permits of full use of that
choice, are equally essential parts of his plan; and that plan will
soon be seriously discussed, because parliament, owing to the rise of
the Labour Party and the late prevalence of 'three-cornered' contests,
will soon have to deal with the question. It will then be interesting to
see whether the growing substitution of the new quantitative and
psychological for the old absolute and logical way of thinking about
elections will have advanced sufficiently far to enable the House of
Commons to distinguish between the two points. If so, they will adopt
the transferable vote, and so get over the difficulty of three-cornered
elections, while retaining single-member constituencies, and therewith
the possibility of making the personality of a candidate known to the
whole of his constituents.

A further effect of the way in which we are beginning to think of the
electoral process is that, since 1888, parliament, in reconstructing the
system of English local government, has steadily diminished the number
of elections, with the avowed purpose of increasing their efficiency.
The Local Government Acts of 1888 and 1894 swept away thousands of
elections for Improvement Boards, Burial Boards, Vestries, etc. In 1902
the separately elected School Boards were abolished, and it is certain
that the Guardians of the Poor will soon follow them. The Rural Parish
Councils, which were created in 1894, and which represented a reversion
by the Liberal Party to the older type of democratic thought, have been
a failure, and will either be abolished or will remain ineffective,
because no real administrative powers will be given to them. But if we
omit the rural districts, the inhabitant of a 'county borough' will soon
vote only for parliament and his borough council, while the inhabitant
of London or of an urban district or non-county borough will only vote
for parliament, his county, and his district or borough council. On the
average, neither will be asked to vote more than once a year.

In America one notices a similar tendency towards electoral
concentration as a means of increasing electoral responsibility. In
Philadelphia I found that this concentration had taken a form which
seemed to me to be due to a rather elementary quantitative mistake in
psychology. Owing to the fact that the reformers had thought only of
economising political force, and had ignored the limitations of
political knowledge, so many elections were combined on one day that the
Philadelphia 'blanket-ballot' which I was shown, with its parallel
columns of party 'tickets,' contained some four hundred names. The
resulting effects on the _personnel_ of Philadelphian politics were as
obvious as they were lamentable. In other American cities, however,
concentration often takes the form of the abolition of many of the
elected boards and officials, and the substitution for them of a single
elected Mayor, who administers the city by nominated commissions, and
whose personality it is hoped can be made known during an election to
all the voters, and therefore must he seriously considered by his
nominators. One noticed again the growing tendency to substitute a
quantitative and psychological for an absolute and logical view of the
electoral process in the House of Commons debate on the claim set up by
the House of Lords in 1907 to the right of forcing a general election
(or a referendum) at any moment which they thought advantageous to
themselves. Mr. Herbert Samuel, for instance, argued that this claim, if
allowed, would give a still further advantage in politics to the
electoral forces of wealth acting, at dates carefully chosen by the
House of Lords, both directly and through the control of the Press. Lord
Robert Cecil alone, whose mind is historical in the worst sense of that
term, objected 'What a commentary was that on the "will of the
people,"'[80] and thought it somehow illegitimate that Mr. Samuel should
not defend democracy according to the philosophy of Thomas Paine, so
that he could answer in the style of Canning. The present quarrel
between the two Houses may indeed result in a further step in the public
control of the methods of producing political opinion by the
substitution of General Elections occurring at regular intervals for our
present system of sudden party dissolutions at moments of national

[80] _Times_, June 25, 1907.

But in the electoral process, as in so many other cases, one dares not
hope that these slow and half-conscious changes in the general
intellectual attitude will be sufficient to suggest and carry through
all the improvements of machinery necessary to meet our growing
difficulties, unless they are quickened by a conscious purpose. At my
last contest for the London County Council I had to spend the half hour
before the close of the vote in one of the polling stations of a very
poor district. I was watching the proceedings, which in the crush at the
end are apt to be rather irregular, and at the same time was thinking of
this book. The voters who came in were the results of the 'final rally'
of the canvassers on both sides. They entered the room in rapid but
irregular succession, as if they were jerked forward by a hurried and
inefficient machine. About half of them were women, with broken straw
hats, pallid faces, and untidy hair. All were dazed and bewildered,
having been snatched away in carriages or motors from the making of
match-boxes, or button-holes, or cheap furniture, or from the public
house, or, since it was Saturday evening, from bed. Most of them seemed
to be trying, in the unfamiliar surroundings, to be sure of the name for
which, as they had been reminded at the door, they were to vote. A few
were drunk, and one man, who was apparently a supporter of my own, clung
to my neck while he tried to tell me of some vaguely tremendous fact
which just eluded his power of speech. I was very anxious to win, and
inclined to think that I had won, but my chief feeling was an intense
conviction that this could not be accepted as even a decently
satisfactory method of creating a government for a city of five million
inhabitants, and that nothing short of a conscious and resolute facing
of the whole problem of the formation of political opinion would enable
us to improve it.

Something might be done, and perhaps will be done in the near future, to
abolish the more sordid details of English electioneering. Public houses
could be closed on the election day, both to prevent drunkenness and
casual treating, and to create an atmosphere of comparative seriousness.
It is a pity that we cannot have the elections on a Sunday as they have
in France. The voters would then come to the poll after twenty or
twenty-four hours' rest, and their own thoughts would have some power of
asserting themselves even in the presence of the canvasser, whose
hustling energy now inevitably dominates the tired nerves of men who
have just finished their day's work. The feeling of moral responsibility
half consciously associated with the religious use of Sunday would also
be so valuable an aid to reflection that the most determined
anti-clerical might be willing to risk the chance that it would add to
the political power of the churches. It may cease to be true that in
England the Christian day of rest, in spite of the recorded protest of
the founder of Christianity, is still too much hedged about by the
traditions of prehistoric taboo to be available for the most solemn act
of citizenship. It might again be possible to lend to the polling-place
some of the dignity of a law court, and if no better buildings were
available, at least to clean and decorate the dingy schoolrooms now
used. But such improvements in the external environment of election-day,
however desirable they may be in themselves, can only be of small

Some writers argue or imply that all difficulties in the working of the
electoral process will disappear of themselves as men approach to social
equality. Those who are now rich will, they believe, have neither motive
for corrupt electoral expenditure, nor superfluity of money to spend on
it; while the women and the working men who are now unenfranchised or
politically inactive, will bring into politics a fresh stream of
unspoilt impulse.

If our civilisation is to survive, greater social equality must indeed
come. Men will not continue to live peacefully together in huge cities
under conditions that are intolerable to any sensitive mind, both among
those who profit, and those who suffer by them. But no one who is near
to political facts can believe that the immediate effect either of
greater equality or of the extension of the suffrage will be to clear
away all moral and intellectual difficulties in political organisation.

A mere numerical increase in the number of persons in England who are
interested in politics would indeed itself introduce a new and difficult
political factor. The active politicians in England, those who take any
part in politics beyond voting, are at present a tiny minority. I was to
speak not long ago at an election meeting, and having been misdirected
as to the place where the meeting was to be held, found myself in an
unknown part of North London, compelled to inquire of the inhabitants
until I should find the address either of the meeting-hall or of the
party committee-room. For a long time I drew blank, but at last a cabman
on his way home to tea told me that there was a milkman in his street
who was 'a politician and would know.' There are in London seven hundred
thousand parliamentary voters, and I am informed by the man who is in
the best position to know that it would be safe to say that less than
ten thousand persons actually attend the annual ward meetings of the
various parties, and that not more than thirty thousand are members of
the party associations. That division of labour which assigns politics
to a special class of enthusiasts, looked on by many of their neighbours
as well-meaning busybodies, is not carried so far in most other parts of
England as in London. But in no county in England, as far as I am aware,
does the number of persons really active in politics amount to ten per
cent. of the electorate.

There are, I think, signs that this may soon cease to be true. The
English Elementary Education Act was passed in 1870, and the elementary
schools may be said to have become fairly efficient by 1880. Those who
entered them, being six years old, at that date are now aged
thirty-four. The statistics as to the production and sale of newspapers
and cheap books and the use of free libraries, show that the younger
working men and women in England read many times as much as their
parents did. This, and the general increase of intellectual activity in
our cities of which it is only a part, may very probably lead, as the
social question in politics grows more serious, to a large extension of
electoral interest. If so, the little groups of men and women who now
manage the three English parties in the local constituencies will find
themselves swamped by thousands of adherents who will insist on taking
some part in the choice of candidates and the formation of programmes.
That will lead to a great increase in the complexity of the process by
which the Council, the Executive, and the officers of each local party
association are appointed. Parliament indeed may find itself compelled,
as many of the American States have been compelled, to pass a series of
Acts for the prevention of fraud in the interior government of parties.
The ordinary citizen would find then, much more obviously than he does
at present, that an effective use of his voting power involves not only
the marking of a ballot paper on the day of the election, but an active
share in that work of appointing and controlling party committees from
which many men whose opinions are valuable to the State shrink with an
instinctive dread.

But the most important difficulties raised by the extension of political
interest from a very small to a large fraction of the population would
be concerned with political motive rather than political machinery. It
is astonishing that the early English democrats, who supposed that
individual advantage would be the sole driving force in politics,
assumed, without realising the nature of their own assumption, that the
representative, if he were elected for a short term, would inevitably
feel his own advantage to be identical with that of the community.[81] At
present there is a fairly sufficient supply of men whose imagination and
sympathies are sufficiently quick and wide to make them ready to
undertake the toil of unpaid electioneering and administration for the
general good. But every organiser of elections knows that the supply is
never more than sufficient, and payment of members, while it would
permit men of good-will to come forward who are now shut out, would also
make it possible for less worthy motives to become more effective. The
concentration both of administrative and legislative work in the hands
of the Cabinet, while it tends to economy of time and effort, is making
the House of Commons yearly a less interesting place; and members have
of late often expressed to me a real anxiety lest the _personnel_ of the
House should seriously deteriorate.

[81] E.g. James Mill, _Essay on Government_ (1825), 'We have seen in
what manner it is possible to prevent in the Representatives the rise of

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