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An Englishman Looks at the World by H. G. Wells

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Being a Series of Unrestrained Remarks upon Contemporary Matters




Bleriot arrives and sets him thinking. (1)

He flies, (2)

And deduces certain consequences of cheap travel. (3)

He considers the King, and speculates on the New Epoch; (4)

He thinks Imperially, (5)

And then, coming to details, about Labour, (6)

Socialism, (7)

And Modern Warfare, (8)

He discourses on the Modern Novel, (9)

And the Public Library; (10)

Criticises Chesterton, Belloc, (11)

And Sir Thomas More, (12)

And deals with the London Traffic Problem as a Socialist should. (13)

He doubts the existence of Sociology, (14)

Discusses Divorce, (15)

Schoolmasters, (16)

Motherhood, (17)

Doctors, (18)

And Specialisation; (19)

Questions if there is a People, (20)

And diagnoses the Political Disease of our Times. (21)

He then speculates upon the future of the American Population, (22)

Considers a possible set-back to civilisation, (23)

The Ideal Citizen, (24)

The still undeveloped possibilities of Science, (25),
and--in the broadest spirit--

The Human Adventure. (26)


1. The Coming of Bleriot

2. My First Flight

3. Off the Chain

4. Of the New Reign

5. Will the Empire Live?

6. The Labour Unrest

7. The Great State

8. The Common Sense of Warfare

9. The Contemporary Novel

10. The Philosopher's Public Library

11. About Chesterton and Belloc

12. About Sir Thomas More

13. Traffic and Rebuilding

14. The So-called Science of Sociology

15. Divorce

16. The Schoolmaster and the Empire

17. The Endowment of Motherhood

18. Doctors

19. An Age of Specialisation

20. Is there a People?

21. The Disease of Parliaments

22. The American Population

23. The Possible Collapse of Civilisation

24. The Ideal Citizen

25. Some Possible Discoveries

26. The Human Adventure



(_July, 1909_.)

The telephone bell rings with the petulant persistence that marks a
trunk call, and I go in from some ineffectual gymnastics on the lawn to
deal with the irruption. There is the usual trouble in connecting up,
minute voices in Folkestone and Dover and London call to one another and
are submerged by buzzings and throbbings. Then in elfin tones the real
message comes through: "Bleriot has crossed the Channel.... An article
... about what it means."

I make a hasty promise and go out and tell my friends.

From my garden I look straight upon the Channel, and there are white
caps upon the water, and the iris and tamarisk are all asway with the
south-west wind that was also blowing yesterday. M. Bleriot has done
very well, and Mr. Latham, his rival, had jolly bad luck. That is what
it means to us first of all. It also, I reflect privately, means that I
have under-estimated the possible stability of aeroplanes. I did not
expect anything of the sort so soon. This is a good five years before my
reckoning of the year before last.

We all, I think, regret that being so near we were not among the
fortunate ones who saw that little flat shape skim landward out of the
blue; surely they have an enviable memory; and then we fell talking and
disputing about what that swift arrival may signify. It starts a swarm
of questions.

First one remarks that here is a thing done, and done with an
astonishing effect of ease, that was incredible not simply to ignorant
people but to men well informed in these matters. It cannot be fifteen
years ago since Sir Hiram Maxim made the first machine that could lift
its weight from the ground, and I well remember how the clumsy quality
of that success confirmed the universal doubt that men could ever in any
effectual manner fly.

Since then a conspiracy of accidents has changed the whole problem; the
bicycle and its vibrations developed the pneumatic tyre, the pneumatic
tyre rendered a comfortable mechanically driven road vehicle possible,
the motor-car set an enormous premium on the development of very light,
very efficient engines, and at last the engineer was able to offer the
experimentalists in gliding one strong enough and light enough for the
new purpose. And here we are! Or, rather, M. Bleriot is!

What does it mean for us?

One meaning, I think, stands out plainly enough, unpalatable enough to
our national pride. This thing from first to last was made abroad. Of
all that made it possible we can only claim so much as is due to the
improvement of the bicycle. Gliding began abroad while our young men of
muscle and courage were braving the dangers of the cricket field. The
motor-car and its engine was being worked out "over there," while in
this country the mechanically propelled road vehicle, lest it should
frighten the carriage horses of the gentry, was going meticulously at
four miles an hour behind a man with a red flag. Over there, where the
prosperous classes have some regard for education and some freedom of
imaginative play, where people discuss all sorts of things fearlessly,
and have a respect for science, this has been achieved.

And now our insularity is breached by the foreigner who has got ahead
with flying.

It means, I take it, first and foremost for us, that the world cannot
wait for the English.

It is not the first warning we have had. It has been raining warnings
upon us; never was a slacking, dull people so liberally served with
warnings of what was in store for them. But this event--this
foreigner-invented, foreigner-built, foreigner-steered thing, taking our
silver streak as a bird soars across a rivulet--puts the case
dramatically. We have fallen behind in the quality of our manhood. In
the men of means and leisure in this island there was neither enterprise
enough, imagination enough, knowledge nor skill enough to lead in this
matter. I do not see how one can go into the history of this development
and arrive at any other conclusion. The French and Americans can laugh
at our aeroplanes, the Germans are ten years ahead of our poor
navigables. We are displayed a soft, rather backward people. Either we
are a people essentially and incurably inferior, or there is something
wrong in our training, something benumbing in our atmosphere and
circumstances. That is the first and gravest intimation in M. Bleriot's

The second is that, in spite of our fleet, this is no longer, from the
military point of view, an inaccessible island.

So long as one had to consider the navigable balloon the aerial side of
warfare remained unimportant. A Zeppelin is little good for any purpose
but scouting and espionage. It can carry very little weight in
proportion to its vast size, and, what is more important, it cannot drop
things without sending itself up like a bubble in soda water. An armada
of navigables sent against this island would end in a dispersed,
deflated state, chiefly in the seas between Orkney and Norway--though I
say it who should not. But these aeroplanes can fly all round the
fastest navigable that ever drove before the wind; they can drop
weights, take up weights, and do all sorts of able, inconvenient things.
They are birds. As for the birds, so for aeroplanes; there is an upward
limit of size. They are not going to be very big, but they are going to
be very able and active. Within a year we shall have--or rather _they_
will have--aeroplanes capable of starting from Calais, let us say,
circling over London, dropping a hundredweight or so of explosive upon
the printing machines of _The Times_, and returning securely to Calais
for another similar parcel. They are things neither difficult nor costly
to make. For the price of a Dreadnought one might have hundreds. They
will be extremely hard to hit with any sort of missile. I do not think a
large army of under-educated, under-trained, extremely unwilling
conscripts is going to be any good against this sort of thing.

I do not think that the arrival of M. Bleriot means a panic resort to
conscription. It is extremely desirable that people should realise that
these foreign machines are not a temporary and incidental advantage that
we can make good by fussing and demanding eight, and saying we won't
wait, and so on, and then subsiding into indolence again. They are just
the first-fruits of a steady, enduring lead that the foreigner has won.
The foreigner is ahead of us in education, and this is especially true
of the middle and upper classes, from which invention and enterprise
come--or, in our own case, do not come. He makes a better class of man
than we do. His science is better than ours. His training is better than
ours. His imagination is livelier. His mind is more active. His
requirements in a novel, for example, are not kindly, sedative pap; his
uncensored plays deal with reality. His schools are places for vigorous
education instead of genteel athleticism, and his home has books in it,
and thought and conversation. Our homes and schools are relatively dull
and uninspiring; there is no intellectual guide or stir in them; and to
that we owe this new generation of nicely behaved, unenterprising sons,
who play golf and dominate the tailoring of the world, while Brazilians,
Frenchmen, Americans and Germans fly.

That we are hopelessly behindhand in aeronautics is not a fact by
itself. It is merely an indication that we are behindhand in our
mechanical knowledge and invention M. Bleriot's aeroplane points also to
the fleet.

The struggle for naval supremacy is not merely a struggle in
shipbuilding and expenditure. Much more is it a struggle in knowledge
and invention. It is not the Power that has the most ships or the
biggest ships that is going to win in a naval conflict. It is the Power
that thinks quickest of what to do, is most resourceful and inventive.
Eighty Dreadnoughts manned by dull men are only eighty targets for a
quicker adversary. Well, is there any reason to suppose that our Navy
is going to keep above the general national level in these things? Is
the Navy _bright_?

The arrival of M. Bleriot suggests most horribly to me how far behind we
must be in all matters of ingenuity, device, and mechanical contrivance.
I am reminded again of the days during the Boer war, when one realised
that it had never occurred to our happy-go-lucky Army that it was
possible to make a military use of barbed wire or construct a trench to
defy shrapnel. Suppose in the North Sea we got a surprise like that, and
fished out a parboiled, half-drowned admiral explaining what a
confoundedly slim, unexpected, almost ungentlemanly thing the enemy had
done to him.

Very probably the Navy is the exception to the British system; its
officers are rescued from the dull homes and dull schools of their class
while still of tender years, and shaped after a fashion of their own.
But M. Bleriot reminds us that we may no longer shelter and degenerate
behind these blue backs. And the keenest men at sea are none the worse
for having keen men on land behind them.

Are we an awakening people?

It is the vital riddle of our time. I look out upon the windy Channel
and think of all those millions just over there, who seem to get busier
and keener every hour. I could imagine the day of reckoning coming like
a swarm of birds.

Here the air is full of the clamour of rich and prosperous people
invited to pay taxes, and beyond measure bitter. They are going to live
abroad, cut their charities, dismiss old servants, and do all sorts of
silly, vindictive things. We seem to be doing feeble next-to-nothings
in the endowment of research. Not one in twenty of the boys of the
middle and upper classes learns German or gets more than a misleading
smattering of physical science. Most of them never learn to speak
French. Heaven alone knows what they do with their brains! The British
reading and thinking public probably does not number fifty thousand
people all told. It is difficult to see whence the necessary impetus for
a national renascence is to come.... The universities are poor and
spiritless, with no ambition to lead the country. I met a Boy Scout
recently. He was hopeful in his way, but a little inadequate, I thought,
as a basis for confidence in the future of the Empire.

We have still our Derby Day, of course....

Apart from these patriotic solicitudes, M. Bleriot has set quite another
train of thought going in my mind. The age of natural democracy is
surely at an end through these machines. There comes a time when men
will be sorted out into those who will have the knowledge, nerve, and
courage to do these splendid, dangerous things, and those who will
prefer the humbler level. I do not think numbers are going to matter so
much in the warfare of the future, and that when organised intelligence
differs from the majority, the majority will have no adequate power of
retort. The common man with a pike, being only sufficiently indignant
and abundant, could chase the eighteenth century gentleman as he chose,
but I fail to see what he can do in the way of mischief to an elusive
chevalier with wings. But that opens too wide a discussion for me to
enter upon now.


(EASTBOURNE, _August 5, 1912--three years later_.)

Hitherto my only flights have been flights of imagination but this
morning I flew. I spent about ten or fifteen minutes in the air; we went
out to sea, soared up, came back over the land, circled higher, planed
steeply down to the water, and I landed with the conviction that I had
had only the foretaste of a great store of hitherto unsuspected
pleasures. At the first chance I will go up again, and I will go higher
and further.

This experience has restored all the keenness of my ancient interest in
flying, which had become a little fagged and flat by too much hearing
and reading about the thing and not enough participation. Sixteen years
ago, in the days of Langley and Lilienthal, I was one of the few
journalists who believed and wrote that flying was possible; it affected
my reputation unfavourably, and produced in the few discouraged pioneers
of those days a quite touching gratitude. Over my mantel as I write
hangs a very blurred and bad but interesting photograph that Professor
Langley sent me sixteen years ago. It shows the flight of the first
piece of human machinery heavier than air that ever kept itself up for
any length of time. It was a model, a little affair that would not have
lifted a cat; it went up in a spiral and came down unsmashed, bringing
back, like Noah's dove, the promise of tremendous things.

That was only sixteen years ago, and it is amusing to recall how
cautiously even we out-and-out believers did our prophesying. I was
quite a desperate fellow; I said outright that in my lifetime we should
see men flying. But I qualified that by repeating that for many years to
come it would be an enterprise only for quite fantastic daring and
skill. We conjured up stupendous difficulties and risks. I was deeply
impressed and greatly discouraged by a paper a distinguished Cambridge
mathematician produced to show that a flying machine was bound to pitch
fearfully, that as it flew on its pitching _must_ increase until up went
its nose, down went its tail, and it fell like a knife. We exaggerated
every possibility of instability. We imagined that when the aeroplane
wasn't "kicking up ahind and afore" it would be heeling over to the
lightest side wind. A sneeze might upset it. We contrasted our poor
human equipment with the instinctive balance of a bird, which has had
ten million years of evolution by way of a start....

The waterplane in which I soared over Eastbourne this morning with Mr.
Grahame-White was as steady as a motor-car running on asphalt.

Then we went on from those anticipations of swaying insecurity to
speculations about the psychological and physiological effects of
flying. Most people who look down from the top of a cliff or high tower
feel some slight qualms of dread, many feel a quite sickening dread.
Even if men struggled high into the air, we asked, wouldn't they be
smitten up there by such a lonely and reeling dismay as to lose all
self-control? And, above all, wouldn't the pitching and tossing make
them quite horribly sea-sick?

I have always been a little haunted by that last dread. It gave a little
undertow of funk to the mood of lively curiosity with which I got
aboard the waterplane this morning--that sort of faint, thin funk that
so readily invades one on the verge of any new experience; when one
tries one's first dive, for example, or pushes off for the first time
down an ice run. I thought I should very probably be sea-sick--or, to be
more precise, air-sick; I thought also that I might be very giddy, and
that I might get thoroughly cold and uncomfortable None of those things

I am still in a state of amazement at the smooth steadfastness of the
motion. There is nothing on earth to compare with that, unless--and that
I can't judge--it is an ice yacht travelling on perfect ice. The finest
motor-car in the world on the best road would be a joggling, quivering
thing beside it.

To begin with, we went out to sea before the wind, and the plane would
not readily rise. We went with an undulating movement, leaping with a
light splashing pat upon the water, from wave to wave. Then we came
about into the wind and rose, and looking over I saw that there were no
longer those periodic flashes of white foam. I was flying. And it was as
still and steady as dreaming. I watched the widening distance between
our floats and the waves. It wasn't by any means a windless day; there
was a brisk, fluctuating breeze blowing out of the north over the downs.
It seemed hardly to affect our flight at all.

And as for the giddiness of looking down, one does not feel it at all.
It is difficult to explain why this should be so, but it is so. I
suppose in such matters I am neither exceptionally steady-headed nor is
my head exceptionally given to swimming. I can stand on the edge of
cliffs of a thousand feet or so and look down, but I can never bring
myself right up to the edge nor crane over to look to the very bottom. I
should want to lie down to do that. And the other day I was on that
Belvedere place at the top of the Rotterdam sky-scraper, a rather high
wind was blowing, and one looks down through the chinks between the
boards one stands on upon the heads of the people in the streets below;
I didn't like it. But this morning I looked directly down on a little
fleet of fishing boats over which we passed, and on the crowds
assembling on the beach, and on the bathers who stared up at us from the
breaking surf, with an entirely agreeable exaltation. And Eastbourne, in
the early morning sunshine, had all the brightly detailed littleness of
a town viewed from high up on the side of a great mountain.

When Mr. Grahame-White told me we were going to plane down I will
confess I tightened my hold on the sides of the car and prepared for
something like the down-going sensation of a switchback railway on a
larger scale. Just for a moment there was that familiar feeling of
something pressing one's heart up towards one's shoulders, and one's
lower jaw up into its socket and of grinding one's lower teeth against
the upper, and then it passed. The nose of the car and all the machine
was slanting downwards, we were gliding quickly down, and yet there was
no feeling that one rushed, not even as one rushes in coasting a hill on
a bicycle. It wasn't a tithe of the thrill of those three descents one
gets on the great mountain railway in the White City. There one gets a
disagreeable quiver up one's backbone from the wheels, and a real sense
of falling.

It is quite peculiar to flying that one is incredulous of any
collision. Some time ago I was in a motor-car that ran over and killed a
small dog, and this wretched little incident has left an open wound upon
my nerves. I am never quite happy in a car now; I can't help keeping an
apprehensive eye ahead. But you fly with an exhilarating assurance that
you cannot possibly run over anything or run into anything--except the
land or the sea, and even those large essentials seem a beautifully safe
distance away.

I had heard a great deal of talk about the deafening uproar of the
engine. I counted a headache among my chances. There again reason
reinforced conjecture. When in the early morning Mr. Travers came from
Brighton in this Farman in which I flew I could hear the hum of the
great insect when it still seemed abreast of Beachy Head, and a good two
miles away. If one can hear a thing at two miles, how much the more will
one not hear it at a distance of two yards? But at the risk of seeming
too contented for anything I will assert I heard that noise no more than
one hears the drone of an electric ventilator upon one's table. It was
only when I came to speak to Mr. Grahame-White, or he to me, that I
discovered that our voices had become almost infinitesimally small.

And so it was I went up into the air at Eastbourne with the impression
that flying was still an uncomfortable experimental, and slightly heroic
thing to do, and came down to the cheerful gathering crowd upon the
sands again with the knowledge that it is a thing achieved for everyone.
It will get much cheaper, no doubt, and much swifter, and be improved in
a dozen ways--we _must_ get self-starting engines, for example, for both
our aeroplanes and motor-cars--but it is available to-day for anyone
who can reach it. An invalid lady of seventy could have enjoyed all that
I did if only one could have got her into the passenger's seat. Getting
there was a little difficult, it is true; the waterplane was out in the
surf, and I was carried to it on a boatman's back, and then had to
clamber carefully through the wires, but that is a matter of detail.
This flying is indeed so certain to become a general experience that I
am sure that this description will in a few years seem almost as quaint
as if I had set myself to record the fears and sensations of my First
Ride in a Wheeled Vehicle. And I suspect that learning to control a
Farman waterplane now is probably not much more difficult than, let us
say, twice the difficulty in learning the control and management of a
motor-bicycle. I cannot understand the sort of young man who won't learn
how to do it if he gets half a chance.

The development of these waterplanes is an important step towards the
huge and swarming popularisation of flying which is now certainly
imminent. We ancient survivors of those who believed in and wrote about
flying before there was any flying used to make a great fuss about the
dangers and difficulties of landing and getting up. We wrote with vast
gravity about "starting rails" and "landing stages," and it is still
true that landing an aeroplane, except upon a well-known and quite level
expanse, is a risky and uncomfortable business. But getting up and
landing upon fairly smooth water is easier than getting into bed. This
alone is likely to determine the aeroplane routes along the line of the
world's coastlines and lake groups and waterways. The airmen will go to
and fro over water as the midges do. Wherever there is a square mile of
water the waterplanes will come and go like hornets at the mouth of
their nest. But there are much stronger reasons than this convenience
for keeping over water. Over water the air, it seems, lies in great
level expanses; even when there are gales it moves in uniform masses
like the swift, still rush of a deep river. The airman, in Mr.
Grahame-White's phrase, can go to sleep on it. But over the land, and
for thousands of feet up into the sky, the air is more irregular than a
torrent among rocks; it is--if only we could see it--a waving, whirling,
eddying, flamboyant confusion. A slight hill, a ploughed field, the
streets of a town, create riotous, rolling, invisible streams and
cataracts of air that catch the airman unawares, make him drop
disconcertingly, try his nerves. With a powerful enough engine he climbs
at once again, but these sudden downfalls are the least pleasant and
most dangerous experience in aviation. They exact a tiring vigilance.

Over lake or sea, in sunshine, within sight of land, this is the perfect
way of the flying tourist. Gladly would I have set out for France this
morning instead of returning to Eastbourne. And then coasted round to
Spain and into the Mediterranean. And so by leisurely stages to India.
And the East Indies....

I find my study unattractive to-day.


(_December, 1910_)

I was ill in bed, reading Samuel Warren's "Ten Thousand a Year," and
noting how much the world can change in seventy years.

I had just got to the journey of Titmouse from London to Yorkshire in
that ex-sheriff's coach he bought in Long Acre--where now the motor-cars
are sold--when there came a telegram to bid me note how a certain Mr.
Holt was upon the ocean, coming back to England from a little excursion.
He had left London last Saturday week at midday; he hoped to be back by
Thursday; and he had talked to the President in Washington, visited
Philadelphia, and had a comparatively loitering afternoon in New York.
What had I to say about it?

Firstly, that I wish this article could be written by Samuel Warren. And
failing that, I wish that Charles Dickens, who wrote in his "American
Notes" with such passionate disgust and hostility about the first
Cunarder, retailing all the discomfort and misery of crossing the
Atlantic by steamship, could have shared Mr. Holt's experience.

Because I am chiefly impressed by the fact not that Mr. Holt has taken
days where weeks were needed fifty years ago, but that he has done it
very comfortably, without undue physical exertion, and at no greater
expense, I suppose, than it cost Dickens, whom the journey nearly

If Mr. Holt's expenses were higher, it was for the special trains and
the sake of the record. Anyone taking ordinary trains and ordinary
passages may do what he has done in eighteen or twenty days.

When I was a boy, "Around the World in Eighty Days" was still a
brilliant piece of imaginative fiction. Now that is almost an invalid's
pace. It will not be very long before a man will be able to go round the
world if he wishes to do so ten times in a year. And it is perhaps
forgivable if those who, like Jules Verne, saw all these increments in
speed, motor-cars, and airships aeroplanes, and submarines, wireless
telegraphy and what not, as plain and necessary deductions from the
promises of physical science, should turn upon a world that read and
doubted and jeered with "I told you so. _Now_ will you respect a

It was not that the prophets professed any mystical and inexplicable
illumination at which a sceptic might reasonably mock; they were
prepared with ample reasons for the things they foretold. Now, quite as
confidently, they point on to a new series of consequences, high
probabilities that follow on all this tremendous development of swift,
secure, and cheapened locomotion, just as they followed almost
necessarily upon the mechanical developments of the last century.

Briefly, the ties that bind men to place are being severed; we are in
the beginning of a new phase in human experience.

For endless ages man led the hunting life, migrating after his food,
camping, homeless, as to this day are many of the Indians and Esquimaux
in the Hudson Bay Territory. Then began agriculture, and for the sake of
securer food man tethered himself to a place. The history of man's
progress from savagery to civilisation is essentially a story of
settling down. It begins in caves and shelters; it culminates in a wide
spectacle of farms and peasant villages, and little towns among the
farms. There were wars, crusades, barbarous invasions, set-backs, but to
that state all Asia, Europe, North Africa worked its way with an
indomitable pertinacity. The enormous majority of human beings stayed at
home at last; from the cradle to the grave they lived, married, died in
the same district, usually in the same village; and to that condition,
law, custom, habits, morals, have adapted themselves. The whole plan and
conception of human society is based on the rustic home and the needs
and characteristics of the agricultural family. There have been gipsies,
wanderers, knaves, knights-errant and adventurers, no doubt, but the
settled permanent rustic home and the tenure of land about it, and the
hens and the cow, have constituted the fundamental reality of the whole
scene. Now, the really wonderful thing in this astonishing development
of cheap, abundant, swift locomotion we have seen in the last seventy
years--in the development of which Mauretanias, aeroplanes,
mile-a-minute expresses, tubes, motor-buses and motor cars are just the
bright, remarkable points--is this: that it dissolves almost all the
reason and necessity why men should go on living permanently in any one
place or rigidly disciplined to one set of conditions. The former
attachment to the soil ceases to be an advantage. The human spirit has
never quite subdued itself to the laborious and established life; it
achieves its best with variety and occasional vigorous exertion under
the stimulus of novelty rather than by constant toil, and this
revolution in human locomotion that brings nearly all the globe within
a few days of any man is the most striking aspect of the unfettering
again of the old restless, wandering, adventurous tendencies in man's

Already one can note remarkable developments of migration. There is, for
example, that flow to and fro across the Atlantic of labourers from the
Mediterranean. Italian workmen by the hundred thousand go to the United
States in the spring and return in the autumn. Again, there is a stream
of thousands of prosperous Americans to summer in Europe. Compared with
any European country, the whole population of the United States is
fluid. Equally notable is the enormous proportion of the British
prosperous which winters either in the high Alps or along the Riviera.
England is rapidly developing the former Irish grievance of an absentee
propertied class. It is only now by the most strenuous artificial
banking back that migrations on a far huger scale from India into
Africa, and from China and Japan into Australia and America are

All the indications point to a time when it will be an altogether
exceptional thing for a man to follow one occupation in one place all
his life, and still rarer for a son to follow in his father's footsteps
or die in his father's house.

The thing is as simple as the rule of three. We are off the chain of
locality for good and all. It was necessary heretofore for a man to live
in immediate contact with his occupation, because the only way for him
to reach it was to have it at his door, and the cost and delay of
transport were relatively too enormous for him to shift once he was
settled. _Now_ he may live twenty or thirty miles away from his
occupation; and it often pays him to spend the small amount of time and
money needed to move--it may be half-way round the world--to healthier
conditions or more profitable employment.

And with every diminution in the cost and duration of transport it
becomes more and more possible, and more and more likely, to be
profitable to move great multitudes of workers seasonally between
regions where work is needed in this season and regions where work is
needed in that. They can go out to the agricultural lands at one time
and come back into towns for artistic work and organised work in
factories at another. They can move from rain and darkness into
sunshine, and from heat into the coolness of mountain forests. Children
can be sent for education to sea beaches and healthy mountains.

Men will harvest in Saskatchewan and come down in great liners to spend
the winter working in the forests of Yucatan.

People have hardly begun to speculate about the consequences of the
return of humanity from a closely tethered to a migratory existence. It
is here that the prophet finds his chief opportunity. Obviously, these
great forces of transport are already straining against the limits of
existing political areas. Every country contains now an increasing
ingredient of unenfranchised Uitlanders. Every country finds a growing
section of its home-born people either living largely abroad, drawing
the bulk of their income from the exterior, and having their essential
interests wholly or partially across the frontier.

In every locality of a Western European country countless people are
found delocalised, uninterested in the affairs of that particular
locality, and capable of moving themselves with a minimum of loss and a
maximum of facility into any other region that proves more attractive.
In America political life, especially State life as distinguished from
national political life, is degraded because of the natural and
inevitable apathy of a large portion of the population whose interests
go beyond the State.

Politicians and statesmen, being the last people in the world to notice
what is going on in it, are making no attempt whatever to re-adapt this
hugely growing floating population of delocalised people to the public
service. As Mr. Marriott puts it in his novel, "_Now,"_ they "drop out"
from politics as we understand politics at present. Local administration
falls almost entirely--and the decision of Imperial affairs tends more
and more to fall--into the hands of that dwindling and adventurous
moiety which sits tight in one place from the cradle to the grave. No
one has yet invented any method for the political expression and
collective direction of a migratory population, and nobody is attempting
to do so. It is a new problem....

Here, then, is a curious prospect, the prospect of a new kind of people,
a floating population going about the world, uprooted, delocalised, and
even, it may be, denationalised, with wide interests and wide views,
developing no doubt, customs and habits of its own, a morality of its
own, a philosophy of its own, and yet from the point of view of current
politics and legislation unorganised and ineffective.

Most of the forces of international finance and international business
enterprise will be with it. It will develop its own characteristic
standards of art and literature and conduct in accordance with its new
necessities. It is, I believe, the mankind of the future. And the last
thing it will be able to do will be to legislate. The history of the
immediate future will, I am convinced, be very largely the history of
the conflict of the needs of this new population with the institutions,
the boundaries the laws, prejudices, and deep-rooted traditions
established during the home-keeping, localised era of mankind's career.

This conflict follows as inevitably upon these new gigantic facilities
of locomotion as the _Mauretania_ followed from the discoveries of steam
and steel.


(_June, 1911_.)

The bunting and the crimson vanish from the streets. Already the vast
army of improvised carpenters that the Coronation has created set
themselves to the work of demolition, and soon every road that converges
upon Central London will be choked again with great loads of timber--but
this time going outward--as our capital emerges from this unprecedented
inundation of loyalty. The most elaborately conceived, the most stately
of all recorded British Coronations is past.

What new phase in the life of our nation and our Empire does this
tremendous ceremony inaugurate? The question is inevitable. There is
nothing in all the social existence of men so full of challenge as the
crowning of a king. It is the end of the overture; the curtain rises.
This is a new beginning-place for histories.

To us, the great mass of common Englishmen, who have no place in the
hierarchy of our land, who do not attend Courts nor encounter uniforms,
whose function is at most spectacular, who stand in the street and watch
the dignitaries and the liveries pass by, this sense of critical
expectation is perhaps greater than it is for those more immediately
concerned in the spectacle. They have had their parts to play, their
symbolic acts to perform, they have sat in their privileged places, and
we have waited at the barriers until their comfort and dignity was
assured. I can conceive many of them, a little fatigued, preparing now
for social dispersal, relaxing comfortably into gossip, discussing the
detail of these events with an air of things accomplished. They will
decide whether the Coronation has been a success and whether everything
has or has not passed off very well. For us in the great crowd nothing
has as yet succeeded or passed off well or ill. We are intent upon a
King newly anointed and crowned, a King of whom we know as yet very
little, but who has, nevertheless, roused such expectation as no King
before him has done since Tudor times, in the presence of gigantic

There is a conviction widespread among us--his own words, perhaps, have
done most to create it--that King George is inspired, as no recent
predecessor has been inspired, by the conception of kingship, that his
is to be no role of almost indifferent abstinence from the broad
processes of our national and imperial development. That greater public
life which is above party and above creed and sect has, we are told,
taken hold of his imagination; he is to be no crowned image of unity and
correlation, a layer of foundation-stones and a signature to documents,
but an actor in our drama, a living Prince.

Time will test these hopes, but certainly we, the innumerable democracy
of individually unimportant men, have felt the need for such a Prince.
Our consciousness of defects, of fields of effort untilled, of vast
possibilities neglected and slipping away from us for ever, has never
really slumbered again since the chastening experiences of the Boer War.
Since then the national spirit, hampered though it is by the traditions
of party government and a legacy of intellectual and social heaviness,
has been in uneasy and ineffectual revolt against deadness, against
stupidity and slackness, against waste and hypocrisy in every department
of life. We have come to see more and more clearly how little we can
hope for from politicians, societies and organised movements in these
essential things. It is this that has invested the energy and manhood,
the untried possibilities of the new King with so radiant a light of
hope for us.

Think what it may mean for us all--I write as one of that great
ill-informed multitude, sincerely and gravely patriotic, outside the
echoes of Court gossip and the easy knowledge of exalted society--if our
King does indeed care for these wider and profounder things! Suppose we
have a King at last who cares for the advancement of science, who is
willing to do the hundred things that are so easy in his position to
increase research, to honour and to share in scientific thought. Suppose
we have a King whose head rises above the level of the Court artist, and
who not only can but will appeal to the latent and discouraged power of
artistic creation in our race. Suppose we have a King who understands
the need for incessant, acute criticism to keep our collective
activities intelligent and efficient, and for a flow of bold, unhampered
thought through every department of the national life, a King liberal
without laxity and patriotic without pettiness or vulgarity. Such, it
seems to us who wait at present almost inexpressively outside the
immediate clamours of a mere artificial loyalty, are the splendid
possibilities of the time.

For England is no exhausted or decaying country. It is rich with an
unmeasured capacity for generous responses. It is a country burthened
indeed, but not overwhelmed, by the gigantic responsibilities of
Empire, a little relaxed by wealth, and hampered rather than enslaved by
a certain shyness of temperament, a certain habitual timidity,
slovenliness and insincerity of mind. It is a little distrustful of
intellectual power and enterprise, a little awkward and ungracious to
brave and beautiful things, a little too tolerant of dull, well-meaning
and industrious men and arrogant old women. It suffers hypocrites
gladly, because its criticism is poor, and it is wastefully harsh to
frank unorthodoxy. But its heart is sound if its judgments fall short of
acuteness and if its standards of achievement are low. It needs but a
quickening spirit upon the throne, always the traditional centre of its
respect, to rise from even the appearance of decadence. There is a new
quality seeking expression in England like the rising of sap in the
spring, a new generation asking only for such leadership and such
emancipation from restricted scope and ungenerous hostility as a King
alone can give it....

When in its turn this latest reign comes at last to its reckoning, what
will the sum of its achievement be? What will it leave of things
visible? Will it leave a London preserved and beautified, or will it but
add abundantly to the lumps of dishonest statuary, the scars and masses
of ill-conceived rebuilding which testify to the aesthetic degradation
of the Victorian period? Will a great constellation of artists redeem
the ambitious sentimentalities and genteel skilfulness that find their
fitting mausoleum in the Tate Gallery? Will our literature escape at
last from pretentiousness and timidity, our philosophy from the foolish
cerebrations of university "characters" and eminent politicians at
leisure, and our starved science find scope and resources adequate to
its gigantic needs? Will our universities, our teaching, our national
training, our public services, gain a new health from the reviving
vigour of the national brain? Or is all this a mere wild hope, and shall
we, after perhaps some small flutterings of effort, the foundation of
some ridiculous little academy of literary busybodies and hangers-on,
the public recognition of this or that sociological pretender or
financial "scientist," and a little polite jobbery with picture-buying,
relapse into lassitude and a contented acquiescence in the rivalry of
Germany and the United States for the moral, intellectual and material
leadership of the world?

The deaths and accessions of Kings, the changing of names and coins and
symbols and persons, a little force our minds in the marking off of
epochs. We are brought to weigh one generation against another, to
reckon up our position and note the characteristics of a new phase. What
lies before us in the next decades? Is England going on to fresh
achievements, to a renewed and increased predominance, or is she falling
into a secondary position among the peoples of the world?

The answer to that depends upon ourselves. Have we pride enough to
attempt still to lead mankind, and if we have, have we the wisdom and
the quality? Or are we just the children of Good Luck, who are being
found out?

Some years ago our present King exhorted this island to "wake up" in one
of the most remarkable of British royal utterances, and Mr. Owen Seaman
assures him in verse of an altogether laureate quality that we are now

"Free of the snare of slumber's silken bands,"

though I have not myself observed it. It is interesting to ask, Is
England really waking up? and if she is, what sort of awakening is she
likely to have?

It is possible, of course, to wake up in various different ways. There
is the clear and beautiful dawn of new and balanced effort, easy,
unresting, planned, assured, and there is also the blundering-up of a
still half-somnolent man, irascible, clumsy, quarrelsome, who stubs his
toe in his first walk across the room, smashes his too persistent alarum
clock in a fit of nerves, and cuts his throat while shaving. All
patriotic vehemence does not serve one's country. Exertion is a more
critical and dangerous thing than inaction, and the essence of success
is in the ability to develop those qualities which make action
effective, and without which strenuousness is merely a clumsy and noisy
protest against inevitable defeat. These necessary qualities, without
which no community may hope for pre-eminence to-day, are a passion for
fine and brilliant achievement, relentless veracity of thought and
method, and richly imaginative fearlessness of enterprise. Have we
English those qualities, and are we doing our utmost to select and
develop them?

I doubt very much if we are. Let me give some of the impressions that
qualify my assurance in the future of our race.

I have watched a great deal of patriotic effort during the last decade,
I have seen enormous expenditures of will, emotion and material for the
sake of our future, and I am deeply impressed, not indeed by any effect
of lethargy, but by the second-rate quality and the shortness and
weakness of aim in very much that has been done. I miss continually that
sharply critical imaginativeness which distinguishes all excellent
work, which shines out supremely in Cromwell's creation of the New
Model, or Nelson's plan of action at Trafalgar, as brightly as it does
in Newton's investigation of gravitation, Turner's rendering of
landscape, or Shakespeare's choice of words, but which cannot be absent
altogether if any achievement is to endure. We seem to have busy,
energetic people, no doubt, in abundance, patient and industrious
administrators and legislators; but have we any adequate supply of
really creative ability?

Let me apply this question to one matter upon which England has
certainly been profoundly in earnest during the last decade. We have
been almost frantically resolved to keep the empire of the sea. But have
we really done all that could have been done? I ask it with all
diffidence, but has our naval preparation been free from a sort of noisy
violence, a certain massive dullness of conception? Have we really made
anything like a sane use of our resources? I do not mean of our
resources in money or stuff. It is manifest that the next naval war will
be beyond all precedent a war of mechanisms, giving such scope for
invention and scientifically equipped wit and courage as the world has
never had before. Now, have we really developed any considerable
proportion of the potential human quality available to meet the demand
for wits? What are we doing to discover, encourage and develop those
supreme qualities of personal genius that become more and more decisive
with every new weapon and every new complication and unsuspected
possibility it introduces? Suppose, for example, there was among us
to-day a one-eyed, one-armed adulterer, rather fragile, prone to
sea-sickness, and with just that one supreme quality of imaginative
courage which made Nelson our starry admiral. Would he be given the
ghost of a chance now of putting that gift at his country's disposal? I
do not think he would, and I do not think he would because we underrate
gifts and exceptional qualities, because there is no quickening
appreciation for the exceptional best in a man, and because we overvalue
the good behaviour, the sound physique, the commonplace virtues of

I have but the knowledge of the man in the street in these things,
though once or twice I have chanced on prophecy, and I am uneasily
apprehensive of the quality of all our naval preparations. We go on
launching these lumping great Dreadnoughts, and I cannot bring myself to
believe in them. They seem vulnerable from the air above and the deep
below, vulnerable in a shallow channel and in a fog (and the North Sea
is both foggy and shallow), and immensely costly. If I were Lord High
Admiral of England at war I would not fight the things. I would as soon
put to sea in St. Paul's Cathedral. If I were fighting Germany, I would
stow half of them away in the Clyde and half in the Bristol Channel, and
take the good men out of them and fight with mines and torpedoes and
destroyers and airships and submarines.

And when I come to military matters my persuasion that things are not
all right, that our current hostility to imaginative activity and our
dull acceptance of established methods and traditions is leading us
towards grave dangers, intensifies. In South Africa the Boers taught us
in blood and bitterness the obvious fact that barbed wire had its
military uses, and over the high passes on the way to Lhassa (though,
luckily, it led to no disaster) there was not a rifle in condition to
use because we had not thought to take glycerine. The perpetual novelty
of modern conditions demands an imaginative alertness we eliminate. I do
not believe that the Army Council or anyone in authority has worked out
a tithe of the essential problems of contemporary war. If they have,
then it does not show. Our military imagination is half-way back to bows
and arrows. The other day I saw a detachment of the Legion of
Frontiersmen disporting itself at Totteridge. I presume these young
heroes consider they are preparing for a possible conflict in England or
Western Europe, and I presume the authorities are satisfied with them.
It is at any rate the only serious war of which there is any manifest
probability. Western Europe is now a network of railways, tramways, high
roads, wires of all sorts; its chief beasts of burthen are the railway
train and the motor car and the bicycle; towns and hypertrophied
villages are often practically continuous over large areas; there is
abundant water and food, and the commonest form of cover is the house.
But the Legion of Frontiersmen is equipped for war, oh!--in Arizona in
1890, and so far as I am able to judge the most modern sections of the
army extant are organised for a colonial war in (say) 1899 or 1900.
There is, of course, a considerable amount of vague energy demanding
conscription and urging our youth towards a familiarity with arms and
the backwoodsman's life, but of any thought-out purpose in our arming
widely understood, of any realisation of what would have to be done and
where it would have to be done, and of any attempts to create an
instrument for that novel unprecedented undertaking, I discover no

In my capacity of devil's advocate pleading against national
over-confidence, I might go on to the quality of our social and
political movements. One hears nowadays a vast amount of chatter about
efficiency--that magic word--and social organisation, and there is no
doubt a huge expenditure of energy upon these things and a widespread
desire to rush about and make showy and startling changes. But it does
not follow that this involves progress if the enterprise itself is dully
conceived and most of it does seem to me to be dully conceived. In the
absence of penetrating criticism, any impudent industrious person may
set up as an "expert," organise and direct the confused good intentions
at large, and muddle disastrously with the problem in hand. The "expert"
quack and the bureaucratic intriguer increase and multiply in a
dull-minded, uncritical, strenuous period as disease germs multiply in
darkness and heat.

I find the same doubts of our quality assail me when I turn to the
supreme business of education. It is true we all seem alive nowadays to
the need of education, are all prepared for more expenditure upon it and
more, but it does not follow necessarily in a period of stagnating
imagination that we shall get what we pay for. The other day I
discovered my little boy doing a subtraction sum, and I found he was
doing it in a slower, clumsier, less businesslike way than the one I was
taught in an old-fashioned "Commercial Academy" thirty odd years ago.
The educational "expert," it seems, has been at work substituting a bad
method for a good one in our schools because it is easier of exposition.
The educational "expert," in the lack of a lively public intelligence,
develops all the vices of the second-rate energetic, and he is, I am
only too disposed to believe, making a terrible mess of a great deal of
our science teaching and of the teaching of mathematics and English....

I have written enough to make clear the quality of my doubts. I think
the English mind cuts at life with a dulled edge, and that its energy
may be worse than its somnolence. I think it undervalues gifts and fine
achievement, and overvalues the commonplace virtues of mediocre men. One
of the greatest Liberal statesmen in the time of Queen Victoria never
held office because he was associated with a divorce case a quarter of a
century ago. For him to have taken office would have been regarded as a
scandal. But it is not regarded as a scandal that our Government
includes men of no more ability than any average assistant behind a
grocer's counter. These are your gods, O England!--and with every desire
to be optimistic I find it hard under the circumstances to anticipate
that the New Epoch is likely to be a blindingly brilliant time for our
Empire and our race.


What will hold such an Empire as the British together, this great, laxly
scattered, sea-linked association of ancient states and new-formed
countries, Oriental nations, and continental colonies? What will enable
it to resist the endless internal strains, the inevitable external
pressures and attacks to which it must be subjected This is the primary
question for British Imperialism; everything else is secondary or
subordinated to that.

There is a multitude of answers. But I suppose most of them will prove
under examination either to be, or to lead to, or to imply very
distinctly this generalisation that if most of the intelligent and
active people in the Empire want it to continue it will, and that if a
large proportion of such active and intelligent people are discontented
and estranged, nothing can save it from disintegration. I do not suppose
that a navy ten times larger than ours, or conscription of the most
irksome thoroughness, could oblige Canada to remain in the Empire if the
general will and feeling of Canada were against it, or coerce India into
a sustained submission if India presented a united and resistant front.
Our Empire, for all its roll of battles, was not created by force;
colonisation and diplomacy have played a far larger share in its growth
than conquest; and there is no such strength in its sovereignty as the
rule of pride and pressure demand. It is to the free consent and
participation of its constituent peoples that we must look for its

A large and influential body of politicians considers that in
preferential trading between the parts of the Empire, and in the
erection of a tariff wall against exterior peoples, lies the secret of
that deepened emotional understanding we all desire. I have never
belonged to that school. I am no impassioned Free Trader--the sacred
principle of Free Trade has always impressed me as a piece of party
claptrap; but I have never been able to understand how an attempt to
draw together dominions so scattered and various as ours by a network of
fiscal manipulation could end in anything but mutual inconvenience
mutual irritation, and disruption.

In an open drawer in my bureau there lies before me now a crumpled card
on which are the notes I made of a former discussion of this very issue,
a discussion between a number of prominent politicians in the days
before Mr. Chamberlain's return from South Africa and the adoption of
Tariff Reform by the Unionist Party; and I decipher again the same
considerations, unanswered and unanswerable, that leave me sceptical

Take a map of the world and consider the extreme differences in position
and condition between our scattered states. Here is Canada, lying along
the United States, looking eastward to Japan and China, westward to all
Europe. See the great slashes of lake, bay, and mountain chain that cut
it meridianally. Obviously its main routes and trades and relations lie
naturally north and south; obviously its full development can only be
attained with those ways free, open, and active. Conceivably, you may
build a fiscal wall across the continent; conceivably, you may shut off
the east and half the west by impossible tariffs, and narrow its trade
to one artificial duct to England, but only at the price of a hampered
development It will be like nourishing the growing body of a man with
the heart and arteries of a mouse.

Then here, again, are New Zealand and Australia, facing South America
and the teeming countries of Eastern Asia; surely it is in relation to
these vast proximities that their economic future lies. Is it possible
to believe that shipping mutton to London is anything but the mere
beginning of their commercial development Look at India, again, and
South Africa. Is it not manifest that from the economic and business
points of view each of these is an entirely separate entity, a system
apart, under distinct necessities, needing entire freedom to make its
own bargains and control its trade in its own way in order to achieve
its fullest material possibilities?

Nor can I believe that financial entanglements greatly strengthen the
bonds of an empire in any case. We lost the American colonies because we
interfered with their fiscal arrangements, and it was Napoleon's attempt
to strangle the Continental trade with Great Britain that began his

I do not find in the ordinary relations of life that business relations
necessarily sustain intercourse. The relations of buyer and seller are
ticklish relations, very liable to strains and conflicts. I do not find
people grow fond of their butchers and plumbers, and I doubt whether if
one were obliged by some special taxation to deal only with one butcher
or one plumber, it would greatly endear the relationship. Forced buying
is irritated buying, and it is the forbidden shop that contains the
coveted goods. Nor do I find, to take another instance, among the hotel
staffs of Switzerland and the Riviera--who live almost entirely upon
British gold--those impassioned British imperialist views the economic
link theory would lead me to expect.

And another link, too, upon which much stress is laid but about which I
have very grave doubts, is the possibility of a unified organisation of
the Empire for military defence. We are to have, it is suggested, an
imperial Army and an imperial Navy, and so far, no doubt, as the
guaranteeing of a general peace goes, we may develop a sense of
participation in that way. But it is well in these islands to remember
that our extraordinary Empire has no common enemy to weld it together
from without.

It is too usual to regard Germany as the common enemy. We in Great
Britain are now intensely jealous of Germany. We are intensely jealous
of Germany not only because the Germans outnumber us, and have a much
larger and more diversified country than ours, and lie in the very heart
and body of Europe, but because in the last hundred years, while we have
fed on platitudes and vanity, they have had the energy and humility to
develop a splendid system of national education, to toil at science and
art and literature, to develop social organisation, to master and better
our methods of business and industry, and to clamber above us in the
scale of civilisation. This has humiliated and irritated rather than
chastened us, and our irritation has been greatly exacerbated by the
swaggering bad manners, the talk of "Blood and Iron" and Mailed Fists,
the Welt-Politik rubbish that inaugurated the new German phase.

The British middle-class, therefore, is full of an angry, vague
disposition to thwart that expansion which Germans regard very
reasonably as their natural destiny; there are all the possibilities of
a huge conflict in that disposition, and it is perhaps well to remember
how insular--or, at least, how European--the essentials of this quarrel
are. We have lost our tempers, but Canada has not. There is nothing in
Germany to make Canada envious and ashamed of wasted years. Canada has
no natural quarrel with Germany, nor has India, nor South Africa, nor
Australasia. They have no reason to share our insular exasperation. On
the other hand, all these states have other special preoccupations. New
Zealand, for example, having spent half a century and more in
sheep-farming, land legislation, suppressing its drink traffic, lowering
its birth-rate, and, in short, the achievement of an ideal preventive
materialism, is chiefly consumed by hate and fear of Japan, which in the
same interval has made a stride from the thirteenth to the twentieth
century, and which teems with art and life and enterprise and offspring.
Now Japan in Welt-Politik is our ally.

You see, the British Empire has no common economic interests and no
natural common enemy. It is not adapted to any form of Zollverein or any
form of united aggression. Visibly, on the map of the world it has a
likeness to open hands, while the German Empire--except for a few
ill-advised and imitative colonies--is clenched into a central European

Physically, our Empire is incurably scattered, various, and divided, and
it is to quite other links and forces, it seems to me, than fiscal or
military unification that we who desire its continuance must look to
hold it together. There never was anything like it before. Essentially
it is an adventure of the British spirit, sanguine, discursive, and
beyond comparison insubordinate, adaptable, and originating. It has been
made by odd and irregular means by trading companies, pioneers,
explorers, unauthorised seamen, adventurers like Clive, eccentrics like
Gordon, invalids like Rhodes. It has been made, in spite of authority
and officialdom, as no other empire was ever made. The nominal rulers of
Britain never planned it. It happened almost in spite of them. Their
chief contribution to its history has been the loss of the United
States. It is a living thing that has arisen, not a dead thing put
together. Beneath the thin legal and administrative ties that hold it
together lies the far more vital bond of a traditional free spontaneous
activity. It has a common medium of expression in the English tongue, a
unity of liberal and tolerant purpose amidst its enormous variety of
localised life and colour. And it is in the development and
strengthening, the enrichment the rendering more conscious and more
purposeful, of that broad creative spirit of the British that the true
cement and continuance of our Empire is to be found.

The Empire must live by the forces that begot it. It cannot hope to give
any such exclusive prosperity as a Zollverein might afford; it can hold
out no hopes of collective conquests and triumphs--its utmost military
role must be the guaranteeing of a common inaggressive security; but it
can, if it is to survive, it must, give all its constituent parts such a
civilisation as none of them could achieve alone, a civilisation, a
wealth and fullness of life increasing and developing with the years.
Through that, and that alone, can it be made worth having and worth

And in the first place the whole Empire must use the English language.
I do not mean that any language must be stamped out, that a thousand
languages may not flourish by board and cradle and in folk-songs and
village gossip--Erse, the Taal, a hundred Indian and other Eastern
tongues, Canadian French--but I mean that also English must be
available, that everywhere there must be English teaching. And everyone
who wants to read science or history or philosophy, to come out of the
village life into wider thoughts and broader horizons, to gain
appreciation in art, must find ready to hand, easily attainable in
English, all there is to know and all that has been said thereon. It is
worth a hundred Dreadnoughts and a million soldiers to the Empire, that
wherever the imperial posts reach, wherever there is a curious or
receptive mind, there in English and by the imperial connection the full
thought of the race should come. To the lonely youth upon the New
Zealand sheep farm, to the young Hindu, to the trapper under a Labrador
tilt, to the half-breed assistant at a Burmese oil-well, to the
self-educating Scottish miner or the Egyptian clerk, the Empire and the
English language should exist, visibly and certainly, as the media by
which his spirit escapes from his immediate surroundings and all the
urgencies of every day, into a limitless fellowship of thought and

Now I am not writing this in any vague rhetorical way; I mean
specifically that our Empire has to become the medium of knowledge and
thought to every intelligent person in it, or that it is bound to go to
pieces. It has no economic, no military, no racial, no religious unity.
Its only conceivable unity is a unity of language and purpose and
outlook. If it is not held together by thought and spirit, it cannot be
held together. No other cement exists that can hold it together

Not only English literature, but all other literatures well translated
into English, and all science and all philosophy, have to be brought
within the reach of everyone capable of availing himself of such
reading. And this must be done, not by private enterprise or for gain,
but as an Imperial function. Wherever the Empire extends there its
presence must signify all that breadth of thought and outlook no
localised life can supply.

Only so is it possible to establish and maintain the wide
understandings, the common sympathy necessary to our continued
association. The Empire, mediately or immediately, must become the
universal educator, news-agent, book-distributor, civiliser-general, and
vehicle of imaginative inspiration for its peoples, or else it must
submit to the gravitation of its various parts to new and more
invigorating associations.

No empire, it may be urged, has ever attempted anything of this sort,
but no empire like the British has ever yet existed. Its conditions and
needs are unprecedented, its consolidation is a new problem, to be
solved, if it is solved at all, by untried means. And in the English
language as a vehicle of thought and civilisation alone is that means to
be found.

Now it is idle to pretend that at the present time the British Empire is
giving its constituent peoples any such high and rewarding civilisation
as I am here suggesting. It gives them a certain immunity from warfare,
a penny post, an occasional spectacular coronation, a few knighthoods
and peerages, and the services of an honest, unsympathetic,
narrow-minded, and unattractive officialism. No adequate effort is
being made to render the English language universal throughout its
limits, none at all to use it as a medium of thought and enlightenment.
Half the good things of the human mind are outside English altogether,
and there is not sufficient intelligence among us to desire to bring
them in. If one would read honest and able criticism, one must learn
French; if one would be abreast of scientific knowledge and
philosophical thought, or see many good plays or understand the
contemporary European mind, German.

And yet it would cost amazingly little to get every good foreign thing
done into English as it appeared. It needs only a little understanding
and a little organisation to ensure the immediate translation of every
significant article, every scientific paper of the slightest value. The
effort and arrangement needed to make books, facilities for research,
and all forms of art accessible throughout the Empire, would be
altogether trivial in proportion to the consolidation it would effect.

But English people do not understand these things. Their Empire is an
accident. It was made for them by their exceptional and outcast men, and
in the end it will be lost, I fear, by the intellectual inertness of
their commonplace and dull-minded leaders. Empire has happened to them
and civilisation has happened to them as fresh lettuces come to tame
rabbits. They do not understand how they got, and they will not
understand how to keep. Art, thought, literature, all indeed that raises
men above locality and habit, all that can justify and consolidate the
Empire, is nothing to them. They are provincials mocked by a world-wide
opportunity, the stupid legatees of a great generation of exiles. They
go out of town for the "shootin'," and come back for the fooleries of
Parliament, and to see what the Censor has left of our playwrights and
Sir Jesse Boot of our writers, and to dine in restaurants and wear

Mostly they call themselves Imperialists, which is just their harmless
way of expressing their satisfaction with things as they are. In
practice their Imperialism resolves itself into a vigorous resistance to
taxation and an ill-concealed hostility to education. It matters nothing
to them that the whole next generation of Canadians has drawn its ideas
mainly from American publications, that India and Egypt, in despite of
sounder mental nourishment, have developed their own vernacular Press,
that Australia and New Zealand even now gravitate to America for books
and thought. It matters nothing to them that the poverty and insularity
of our intellectual life has turned American art to France and Italy,
and the American universities towards Germany. The slow starvation and
decline of our philosophy and science, the decadence of British
invention and enterprise, troubles them not at all, because they fail to
connect these things with the tangible facts of empire. "The world
cannot wait for the English." ... And the sands of our Imperial
opportunity twirl through the neck of the hour-glass.


(_May, 1912_.)

Sec. 1

Our country is, I think, in a dangerous state of social disturbance. The
discontent of the labouring mass of the community is deep and
increasing. It may be that we are in the opening phase of a real and
irreparable class war.

Since the Coronation we have moved very rapidly indeed from an assurance
of extreme social stability towards the recognition of a spreading
disorganisation. It is idle to pretend any longer that these Labour
troubles are the mere give and take of economic adjustment. No
adjustment is in progress. New and strange urgencies are at work in our
midst, forces for which the word "revolutionary" is only too faithfully
appropriate. Nothing is being done to allay these forces; everything
conspires to exasperate them.

Whither are these forces taking us? What can still be done and what has
to be done to avoid the phase of social destruction to which we seem to
be drifting?

Hitherto, in Great Britain at any rate, the working man has shown
himself a being of the most limited and practical outlook. His
narrowness of imagination, his lack of general ideas, has been the
despair of the Socialist and of every sort of revolutionary theorist. He
may have struck before, but only for definite increments of wages or
definite limitations of toil; his acceptance of the industrial system
and its methods has been as complete and unquestioning as his acceptance
of earth and sky. Now, with an effect of suddenness, this ceases to be
the case. A new generation of workers is seen replacing the old, workers
of a quality unfamiliar to the middle-aged and elderly men who still
manage our great businesses and political affairs. The worker is
beginning now to strike for unprecedented ends--against the system,
against the fundamental conditions of labour, to strike for no defined
ends at all, perplexingly and disconcertingly. The old-fashioned strike
was a method of bargaining, clumsy and violent perhaps, but bargaining
still; the new-fashioned strike is far less of a haggle, far more of a
display of temper. The first thing that has to be realised if the Labour
question is to be understood at all is this, that the temper of Labour
has changed altogether in the last twenty or thirty years. Essentially
that is a change due to intelligence not merely increased but greatly
stimulated, to the work, that is, of the board schools and of the cheap
Press. The outlook of the workman has passed beyond the works and his
beer and his dog. He has become--or, rather, he has been replaced by--a
being of eyes, however imperfect, and of criticism, however hasty and
unjust. The working man of to-day reads, talks, has general ideas and a
sense of the round world; he is far nearer to the ruler of to-day in
knowledge and intellectual range than he is to the working man of fifty
years ago. The politician or business magnate of to-day is no better
educated and very little better informed than his equals were fifty
years ago. The chief difference is golf. The working man questions a
thousand things his father accepted as in the very nature of the world,
and among others he begins to ask with the utmost alertness and
persistence why it is that he in particular is expected to toil. The
answer, the only justifiable answer, should be that that is the work for
which he is fitted by his inferior capacity and culture, that these
others are a special and select sort, very specially trained and
prepared for their responsibilities, and that at once brings this new
fact of a working-class criticism of social values into play. The old
workman might and did quarrel very vigorously with his specific
employer, but he never set out to arraign all employers; he took the law
and the Church and Statecraft and politics for the higher and noble
things they claimed to be. He wanted an extra shilling or he wanted an
hour of leisure, and that was as much as he wanted. The young workman,
on the other hand, has put the whole social system upon its trial, and
seems quite disposed to give an adverse verdict. He looks far beyond the
older conflict of interests between employer and employed. He criticises
the good intentions of the whole system of governing and influential
people, and not only their good intentions, but their ability. These are
the new conditions, and the middle-aged and elderly gentlemen who are
dealing with the crisis on the supposition that their vast experience of
Labour questions in the 'seventies and 'eighties furnishes valuable
guidance in this present issue are merely bringing the gunpowder of
misapprehension to the revolutionary fort.

The workman of the new generation is full of distrust the most
demoralising of social influences. He is like a sailor who believes no
longer either in the good faith or seamanship of his captain, and,
between desperation and contempt, contemplates vaguely but persistently
the assumption of control by a collective forecastle. He is like a
private soldier obsessed with the idea that nothing can save the
situation but the death of an incompetent officer. His distrust is so
profound that he ceases not only to believe in the employer, but he
ceases to believe in the law, ceases to believe in Parliament, as a
means to that tolerable life he desires; and he falls back steadily upon
his last resource of a strike, and--if by repressive tactics we make it
so--a criminal strike. The central fact of all this present trouble is
that distrust. There is only one way in which our present drift towards
revolution or revolutionary disorder can be arrested, and that is by
restoring the confidence of these alienated millions, who visibly now
are changing from loyalty to the Crown, from a simple patriotism, from
habitual industry, to the more and more effective expression of a
deepening resentment.

This is a psychological question, a matter of mental states. Feats of
legal subtlety are inopportune, arithmetical exploits still more so. To
emerge with the sum of 4s. 6-1/2d. as a minimum, by calculating on the
basis of the mine's present earnings, from a conference which the miners
and everybody else imagined was to give a minimum of 5s., may be clever,
but it is certainly not politic in the present stage of Labour feeling.
To stamp violently upon obscure newspapers nobody had heard of before
and send a printer to prison, and to give thereby a flaming
advertisement to the possible use of soldiers in civil conflicts and set
every barrack-room talking, may be permissible, but it is certainly very
ill-advised. The distrust deepens.

The real task before a governing class that means to go on governing is
not just at present to get the better of an argument or the best of a
bargain, but to lay hold of the imaginations of this drifting, sullen
and suspicious multitude, which is the working body of the country. What
we prosperous people, who have nearly all the good things of life and
most of the opportunity, have to do now is to justify ourselves. We have
to show that we are indeed responsible and serviceable, willing to give
ourselves, and to give ourselves generously for what we have and what we
have had. We have to meet the challenge of this distrust.

The slack days for rulers and owners are over. If there are still to be
rulers and owners and managing and governing people, then in the face of
the new masses, sensitive, intelligent, critical, irritable, as no
common people have ever been before, these rulers and owners must be
prepared to make themselves and display themselves wise, capable and
heroic--beyond any aristocratic precedent. The alternative, if it is an
alternative, is resignation--to the Social Democracy.

And it is just because we are all beginning to realise the immense need
for this heroic quality in those who rule and are rich and powerful, as
the response and corrective to these distrusts and jealousies that are
threatening to disintegrate our social order, that we have all followed
the details of this great catastrophe in the Atlantic with such intense
solicitude. It was one of those accidents that happen with a precision
of time and circumstance that outdoes art; not an incident in it all
that was not supremely typical. It was the penetrating comment of chance
upon our entire social situation. Beneath a surface of magnificent
efficiency was--slap-dash. The third-class passengers had placed
themselves on board with an infinite confidence in the care that was to
be taken of them, and they went down, and most of their women and
children went down with the cry of those who find themselves cheated out
of life.

In the unfolding record of behaviour it is the stewardesses and bandsmen
and engineers--persons of the trade-union class--who shine as brightly
as any. And by the supreme artistry of Chance it fell to the lot of that
tragic and unhappy gentleman, Mr. Bruce Ismay, to be aboard and to be
caught by the urgent vacancy in the boat and the snare of the moment. No
untried man dare say that he would have behaved better in his place. He
escaped. He thought it natural to escape. His class thinks it was right
and proper that he did escape. It is not the man I would criticise, but
the manifest absence of any such sense of the supreme dignity of his
position as would have sustained him in that crisis. He was a rich man
and a ruling man, but in the test he was not a proud man. In the common
man's realisation that such is indeed the case with most of those who
dominate our world, lies the true cause and danger of our social
indiscipline. And the remedy in the first place lies not in social
legislation and so forth, but in the consciences of the wealthy. Heroism
and a generous devotion to the common good are the only effective answer
to distrust. If such dominating people cannot produce these qualities
there will have to be an end to them, and the world must turn to some
entirely different method of direction.

Sec. 2

The essential trouble in our growing Labour disorder is the profound
distrust which has grown up in the minds of the new generation of
workers of either the ability or the good faith of the property owning,
ruling and directing class. I do not attempt to judge the justice or not
of this distrust; I merely point to its existence as one of the striking
and essential factors in the contemporary Labour situation.

This distrust is not, perhaps, the proximate cause of the strikes that
now follow each other so disconcertingly, but it embitters their spirit,
it prevents their settlement, and leads to their renewal. I have tried
to suggest that, whatever immediate devices for pacification might be
employed, the only way to a better understanding and co-operation, the
only escape from a social slide towards the unknown possibilities of
Social Democracy, lies in an exaltation of the standard of achievement
and of the sense of responsibility in the possessing and governing
classes. It is not so much "Wake up, England!" that I would say as "Wake
up, gentlemen!"--for the new generation of the workers is beyond all
question quite alarmingly awake and critical and angry. And they have
not merely to wake up, they have to wake up visibly and ostentatiously
if those old class reliances on which our system is based are to be
preserved and restored.

We need before anything else a restoration of class confidence. It is a
time when class should speak with class very frankly.

There is too much facile misrepresentation, too ready a disposition on
either side to accept caricatures as portraits and charges as facts.
However tacit our understandings were in the past, with this new kind of
Labour, this young, restive Labour of the twentieth century, which can
read, discuss and combine, we need something in the nature of a social
contract. And it is when one comes to consider by what possible means
these suspicious third-class passengers in our leaking and imperilled
social liner can be brought into generous co-operation with the second
and the first that one discovers just how lamentably out of date and out
of order our political institutions, which should supply the means for
just this inter-class discussion, have become. Between the busy and
preoccupied owning and employing class on the one hand, and the
distressed, uneasy masses on the other, intervenes the professional
politician, not as a mediator, but as an obstacle, who must be
propitiated before any dealings are possible. Our national politics no
longer express the realities of the national life; they are a mere
impediment in the speech of the community. With our whole social order
in danger, our Legislature is busy over the trivial little affairs of
the Welsh Established Church, whose endowment probably is not equal to
the fortune of any one of half a dozen _Titanic_ passengers or a tithe
of the probable loss of another strike among the miners. We have a
Legislature almost antiquarian, compiling a museum of Gladstonian
legacies rather than governing our world to-day.

Law is the basis of civilisation, but the lawyer is the law's
consequence, and, with us at least, the legal profession is the
political profession. It delights in false issues and merely technical
politics. Steadily with the ascendancy of the House of Commons the
barristers have ousted other types of men from political power. The
decline of the House of Lords has been the last triumph of the House of
Lawyers, and we are governed now to a large extent not so much by the
people for the people as by the barristers for the barristers. They set
the tone of political life. And since they are the most specialised, the
most specifically trained of all the professions, since their training
is absolutely antagonistic to the creative impulses of the constructive
artist and the controlled experiments of the scientific man, since the
business is with evidence and advantages and the skilful use of evidence
and advantages, and not with understanding, they are the least
statesmanlike of all educated men, and they give our public life a tone
as hopelessly discordant with our very great and urgent social needs as
one could well imagine. They do not want to deal at all with great and
urgent social needs. They play a game, a long and interesting game, with
parties as sides, a game that rewards the industrious player with
prominence, place, power and great rewards, and the less that game
involves the passionate interests of other men, the less it draws them
into participation and angry interference, the better for the steady
development of the politician's career. A distinguished and active
fruitlessness, leaving the world at last as he found it, is the
political barrister's ideal career. To achieve that, he must maintain
legal and political monopolies, and prevent the invasion of political
life by living interests. And so far as he has any views about Labour
beyond the margin of his brief, the barrister politician seems to regard
getting men back to work on any terms and as soon as possible as the
highest good.

And it is with such men that our insurgent modern Labour, with its
vaguely apprehended wants, its large occasions and its rapid emotional
reactions, comes into contact directly it attempts to adjust itself in
the social body. It is one of the main factors in the progressive
embitterment of the Labour situation that whatever business is
afoot--arbitration, conciliation, inquiry--our contemporary system
presents itself to Labour almost invariably in a legal guise. The
natural infirmities of humanity rebel against an unimaginative legality
of attitude, and the common workaday man has no more love for this great
and necessary profession to-day than he had in the time of Jack Cade.
Little reasonable things from the lawyers' point of view--the rejection,
for example, of certain evidence in the _Titanic_ inquiry because it
might amount to a charge of manslaughter, the constant interruption and
checking of a Labour representative at the same tribunal upon trivial
points--irritate quite disproportionately.

Lawyer and working man are antipathetic types, and it is a very grave
national misfortune that at this time, when our situation calls aloud
for statecraft and a certain greatness of treatment, our public life
should be dominated as it has never been dominated before by this most
able and illiberal profession.

Now for that great multitude of prosperous people who find themselves at
once deeply concerned in our present social and economic crisis, and
either helplessly entangled in party organisation or helplessly outside
politics, the elimination and cure of this disease of statecraft, the
professional politician, has become a very urgent matter. To destroy
him, to get him back to his law courts and keep him there, it is
necessary to destroy the machinery of the party system that sustains
him, and to adopt some electoral method that will no longer put the
independent representative man at a hopeless disadvantage against the
party nominee. Such a method is to be found in proportional
representation with large constituencies, and to that we must look for
our ultimate liberation from our present masters, these politician
barristers. But the Labour situation cannot wait for this millennial
release, and for the current issue it seems to me patent that every
reasonable prosperous man will, even at the cost to himself of some
trouble and hard thinking, do his best to keep as much of this great and
acute controversy as he possibly can out of the lawyer's and mere
politician's hands and in his own. Leave Labour to the lawyers, and we
shall go very deeply into trouble indeed before this business is over.
They will score their points, they will achieve remarkable agreements
full of the possibility of subsequent surprises, they will make
reputations, and do everything Heaven and their professional training
have made them to do, and they will exasperate and exasperate!

Lawyers made the first French Revolution, and now, on a different side,
they may yet bring about an English one. These men below there are
still, as a class, wonderfully patient and reasonable, quite prepared to
take orders and recognise superior knowledge, wisdom and nobility. They
make the most reasonable claims for a tolerable life, for certain
assurances and certain latitudes. Implicit rather than expressed is
their demand for wisdom and right direction from those to whom the great
surplus and freedom of civilisation are given. It is an entirely
reasonable demand if man is indeed a social animal. But we have got to
treat them fairly and openly. This patience and reasonableness and
willingness for leadership is not limitless. It is no good scoring our
mean little points, for example, and accusing them of breach of contract
and all sorts of theoretical wrongs because they won't abide by
agreements to accept a certain scale of wages when the purchasing power
of money has declined. When they made that agreement they did not think
of that possibility. When they said a pound they thought of what was
then a poundsworth of living. The Mint has since been increasing its
annual output of gold coins to two or three times the former amount, and
we have, as it were, debased the coinage with extraordinary quantities
of gold. But we who know and own did nothing to adjust that; we did not
tell the working man of that; we have let him find it out slowly and
indirectly at the grocer's shop. That may be permissible from the
lawyer's point of view, but it certainly isn't from the gentleman's, and
it is only by the plea that its inequalities give society a gentleman
that our present social system can claim to endure.

I would like to accentuate that, because if we are to emerge again from
these acute social dissensions a reunited and powerful people, there has
to be a change of tone, a new generosity on the part of those who deal
with Labour speeches, Labour literature, Labour representatives, and
Labour claims. Labour is necessarily at an enormous disadvantage in
discussion; in spite of a tremendous inferiority in training and
education it is trying to tell the community its conception of its needs
and purposes. It is not only young as a participator in the discussion
of affairs; it is actually young. The average working man is not half
the age of the ripe politicians and judges and lawyers and wealthy
organisers who trip him up legally, accuse him of bad faith, mark his
every inconsistency. It isn't becoming so to use our forensic
advantages. It isn't--if that has no appeal to you--wise.

The thing our society has most to fear from Labour is not organised
resistance, not victorious strikes and raised conditions, but the black
resentment that follows defeat. Meet Labour half-way, and you will find
a new co-operation in government; stick to your legal rights, draw the
net of repressive legislation tighter, then you will presently have to
deal with Labour enraged. If the anger burns free, that means
revolution; if you crush out the hope of that, then sabotage and a
sullen general sympathy for anarchistic crime.

Sec. 3

In the preceding pages I have discussed certain aspects of the present
Labour situation. I have tried to show the profound significance in this
discussion of the distrust which has grown up in the minds of the
workers, and how this distrust is being exacerbated by our entirely too
forensic method of treating their claims. I want now to point out a
still more powerful set of influences which is steadily turning our
Labour struggles from mere attempts to adjust hours and wages into
movements that are gravely and deliberately revolutionary.

This is the obvious devotion of a large and growing proportion of the
time and energy of the owning and ruling classes to pleasure and
excitement, and the way in which this spectacle of amusement and
adventure is now being brought before the eyes and into the imagination
of the working man.

The intimate psychology of work is a thing altogether too little
considered and discussed. One asks: "What keeps a workman working
properly at his work?" and it seems a sufficient answer to say that it
is the need of getting a living. But that is not the complete answer.
Work must to some extent interest; if it bores, no power on earth will
keep a man doing it properly. And the tendency of modern industrialism
has been to subdivide processes and make work more boring and irksome.
Also the workman must be satisfied with the living he is getting, and
the tendency of newspaper, theatre, cinematograph show and so forth is
to fill his mind with ideas of ways of living infinitely more agreeable
and interesting than his own. Habit also counts very largely in the
regular return of the man to his job, and the fluctuations of
employment, the failure of the employing class to provide any
alternative to idleness during slack time, break that habit of industry.
And then, last but not least, there is self-respect. Men and women are
capable of wonders of self-discipline and effort if they feel that
theirs is a meritorious service, if they imagine the thing they are
doing is the thing they ought to do. A miner will cut coal in a
different spirit and with a fading zest if he knows his day's output is
to be burnt to waste secretly by a lunatic. Man is a social animal; few
men are naturally social rebels, and most will toil very cheerfully in
subordination if they feel that the collective end is a fine thing and a
great thing.

Now, this force of self-respect is much more acutely present in the mind
of the modern worker than it was in the thought of his fathers. He is
intellectually more active than his predecessors, his imagination is
relatively stimulated, he asks wide questions. The worker of a former
generation took himself for granted; it is a new phase when the toilers
begin to ask, not one man here or there, but in masses, in battalions,
in trades: "Why, then, are _we_ toilers, and for what is it that we

What answer do we give them?

I ask the reader to put himself in the place of a good workman, a young,
capable miner, let us say, in search of an answer to that question. He
is, we will suppose, temporarily unemployed through the production of a
glut of coal, and he goes about the world trying to see the fine and
noble collective achievements that justify the devotion of his whole
life to humble toil. I ask the reader: What have we got to show that
man? What are we doing up in the light and air that justifies our demand
that he should go on hewing in narrow seams and cramped corners until he
can hew no more? Where is he to be taken to see these crowning fruits of
our release from toil? Shall we take him to the House of Commons to note
which of the barristers is making most headway over Welsh
Disestablishment, or shall we take him to the _Titanic_ inquiry to hear
the latest about those fifty-five third-class children (out of
eighty-three) who were drowned? Shall we give him an hour or so among
the portraits at the Royal Academy, or shall we make an enthusiastic
tour of London sculpture and architecture and saturate his soul with the
beauty he makes possible? The new Automobile Club, for example. "Without
you and your subordination we could not have had that." Or suppose we
took him the round of the West-End clubs and restaurants and made him
estimate how many dinners London can produce at a pinch at the price of
his local daily minimum, say, and upward; or borrow an aeroplane at
Hendon and soar about counting all the golfers in the Home Counties on
any week-day afternoon. "You suffer at the roots of things, far below
there, but see all this nobility and splendour, these sweet, bright
flowers to which your rootlet life contributes." Or we might spend a
pleasant morning trying to get a passable woman's hat for the price of
his average weekly wages in some West-End shop....

But indeed this thing is actually happening. The older type of miner was
illiterate, incurious; he read nothing, lived his own life, and if he
had any intellectual and spiritual urgencies in him beyond eating and
drinking and dog-fighting, the local little Bethel shunted them away
from any effective social criticism. The new generation of miners is on
an altogether different basis. It is at once less brutal and less
spiritual; it is alert, informed, sceptical, and the Press, with
photographic illustrations, the cinema, and a score of collateral
forces, are giving it precisely that spectacular view of luxury,
amusement, aimlessness and excitement, taunting it with just that
suggestion that it is for that, and that alone, that the worker's back
aches and his muscles strain. Whatever gravity and spaciousness of aim
there may be in our prosperous social life does not appear to him. He
sees, and he sees all the more brightly because he is looking at it out
of toil and darkness, the glitter, the delight for delight's sake, the
show and the pride and the folly. Cannot you understand how it is that
these young men down there in the hot and dangerous and toilsome and
inglorious places of life are beginning to cry out, "We are being made
fools of," and to fling down their tools, and cannot you see how futile
it is to dream that Mr. Asquith or some other politician by some trick
of a Conciliation Act or some claptrap of Compulsory Arbitration, or
that any belated suppression of discussion and strike organisations by
the law, will avert this gathering storm? The Spectacle of Pleasure, the
parade of clothes, estates, motor-cars, luxury and vanity in the sight
of the workers is the culminating irritant of Labour. So long as that
goes on, this sombre resolve to which we are all awakening, this sombre
resolve rather to wreck the whole fabric than to continue patiently at
work, will gather strength. It does not matter that such a resolve is
hopeless and unseasonable; we are dealing here with the profounder
impulses that underlie reason. Crush this resentment; it will recur with
accumulated strength.

It does not matter that there is no plan in existence for any kind of
social order that could be set up in the place of our present system; no
plan, that is, that will endure half an hour's practical criticism. The
cardinal fact before us is that the workers do not intend to stand
things as they are, and that no clever arguments, no expert handling of
legal points, no ingenious appearances of concession, will stay that
progressive embitterment.

But I think I have said enough to express and perhaps convey my
conviction that our present Labour troubles are unprecedented, and that
they mean the end of an epoch. The supply of good-tempered, cheap
labour--upon which the fabric of our contemporary ease and comfort is
erected--is giving out. The spread of information and the means of
presentation in every class and the increase of luxury and
self-indulgence in the prosperous classes are the chief cause of that.
In the place of that old convenient labour comes a new sort of labour,
reluctant, resentful, critical, and suspicious. The replacement has
already gone so far that I am certain that attempts to baffle and coerce
the workers back to their old conditions must inevitably lead to a
series of increasingly destructive outbreaks, to stresses and disorder
culminating in revolution. It is useless to dream of going on now for
much longer upon the old lines; our civilisation, if it is not to enter
upon a phase of conflict and decay, must begin to adapt itself to the
new conditions of which the first and foremost is that the wages-earning
labouring class as a distinctive class, consenting to a distinctive
treatment and accepting life at a disadvantage is going to disappear.
Whether we do it soon as the result of our reflections upon the present
situation, or whether we do it presently through the impoverishment that
must necessarily result from a lengthening period of industrial unrest,
there can be little doubt that we are going to curtail very considerably
the current extravagance of the spending and directing classes upon
food, clothing, display, and all the luxuries of life. The phase of
affluence is over. And unless we are to be the mere passive spectators
of an unprecedented reduction of our lives, all of us who have leisure
and opportunity have to set ourselves very strenuously to the problem
not of reconciling ourselves to the wage-earners, for that possibility
is over, but of establishing a new method of co-operation with those who
seem to be definitely decided not to remain wage-earners for very much
longer. We have, as sensible people, to realise that the old arrangement
which has given us of the fortunate minority so much leisure, luxury,
and abundance, advantages we have as a class put to so vulgar and
unprofitable a use, is breaking down, and that we have to discover a
new, more equable way of getting the world's work done.

Certain things stand out pretty obviously. It is clear that in the times
ahead of us there must be more economy in giving trouble and causing
work, a greater willingness to do work for ourselves, a great economy of
labour through machinery and skilful management. So much is unavoidable
if we are to meet these enlarged requirements upon which the insurgent
worker insists. If we, who have at least some experience of affairs, who
own property, manage businesses, and discuss and influence public
organisation, if we are not prepared to undertake this work of
discipline and adaptation for ourselves, then a time is not far distant
when insurrectionary leaders, calling themselves Socialists or
Syndicalists, or what not, men with none of our experience, little of
our knowledge, and far less hope of success, will take that task out of
our hands.[1]

[Footnote 1: Larkinism comes to endorse me since this was written.]

We have, in fact, to "pull ourselves together," as the phrase goes, and
make an end to all this slack, extravagant living, this spectacle of
pleasure, that has been spreading and intensifying in every civilised
community for the last three or four decades. What is happening to
Labour is indeed, from one point of view, little else than the
correlative of what has been happening to the more prosperous classes in
the community. They have lost their self-discipline, their gravity,
their sense of high aims, they have become the victims of their
advantages and Labour, grown observant and intelligent, has discovered
itself and declares itself no longer subordinate. Just what powers of
recovery and reconstruction our system may have under these
circumstances the decades immediately before us will show.

Sec. 4

Let us try to anticipate some of the social developments that are likely
to spring out of the present Labour situation.

It is quite conceivable, of course, that what lies before us is not
development but disorder. Given sufficient suspicion on one side and
sufficient obstinacy and trickery on the other, it may be impossible to
restore social peace in any form, and industrialism may degenerate into
a wasteful and incurable conflict. But that distressful possibility is
the worst and perhaps the least probable of many. It is much more
acceptable to suppose that our social order will be able to adjust
itself to the new outlook and temper and quality of the labour stratum
that elementary education, a Press very cheap and free, and a period of
great general affluence have brought about.

One almost inevitable feature of any such adaptation will be a changed
spirit in the general body of society. We have come to a serious
condition of our affairs, and we shall not get them into order again
without a thorough bracing-up of ourselves in the process. There can be
no doubt that for a large portion of our comfortable classes existence
has been altogether too easy for the last lifetime or so. The great bulk
of the world's work has been done out of their sight and knowledge; it
has seemed unnecessary to trouble much about the general conduct of
things, unnecessary, as they say, to "take life too seriously." This has
not made them so much vicious as slack, lazy, and over-confident; there
has been an elaboration of trivial things and a neglect of troublesome
and important things. The one grave shock of the Boer War has long been
explained and sentimentalised away. But it will not be so easy to
explain away a dislocated train service and an empty coal cellar as it
was to get a favourable interpretation upon some demonstration of
national incompetence half the world away.

It is indeed no disaster, but a matter for sincere congratulation that
the British prosperous and the British successful, to whom warning after
warning has rained in vain from the days of Ruskin, Carlyle, Matthew
Arnold, should be called to account at last in their own household. They
will grumble, they will be very angry, but in the end, I believe, they
will rise to the opportunities of their inconvenience. They will shake
off their intellectual lassitude, take over again the public and private
affairs they have come to leave so largely in the hands of the political
barrister and the family solicitor, become keen and critical and
constructive, bring themselves up to date again.

That is not, of course, inevitable, but I am taking now the more hopeful

And then? What sort of working arrangements are our renascent owning and
directing classes likely to make with the new labouring class? How is
the work going to be done in the harder, cleaner, more equalised, and
better managed State that, in one's hopeful mood, one sees ahead of us?

Now after the experiences of the past twelve months it is obvious that
the days when most of the directed and inferior work of the community
will be done by intermittently employed and impecunious wage-earners is
drawing to an end. A large part of the task of reconstruction ahead of
us will consist in the working out of schemes for a more permanent type
of employment and for a direct participation of the worker in the pride,
profits, and direction of the work. Such schemes admit of wide
variations between a mere bonus system, a periodic tipping of the
employees to prevent their striking and a real and honest co-partnery.

In the latter case a great enterprise, forced to consider its "hands" as
being also in their degree "heads," would include a department of
technical and business instruction for its own people. From such ideas
one passes very readily to the conception of guild-managed businesses in
which the factor of capital would no longer stand out as an element
distinct from and contrasted with the proprietorship of the workers. One
sees the worker as an active and intelligent helper during the great
portion of his participation, and as an annuitant and perhaps, if he has
devised economies and improvements, a receiver of royalties during his
declining years.

And concurrently with the systematic reconstruction of a large portion
of our industries upon these lines there will have to be a vigorous
development of the attempts that are already being made, in garden
cities, garden suburbs, and the like, to re-house the mass of our
population in a more civilised and more agreeable manner. Probably that
is not going to pay from the point of view of the money-making business
man, but we prosperous people have to understand that there are things
more important and more profitable than money-making, and we have to tax
ourselves not merely in money, but in time, care, and effort in the
matter. Half the money that goes out of England to Switzerland and the
Riviera ought to go to the extremely amusing business of clearing up
ugly corners and building jolly and convenient workmen's cottages--even
if we do it at a loss. It is part of our discharge for the leisure and
advantages the system has given us, part of that just give and take,
over and above the solicitor's and bargain-hunter's and money-lender's
conception of justice, upon which social order ultimately rests. We have
to do it not in a mood of patronage, but in a mood of attentive
solicitude. If not on high grounds, then on low grounds our class has to
set to work and make those other classes more interested and comfortable
and contented. It is what we are for. It is quite impossible for workmen
and poor people generally to plan estates and arrange their own homes;
they are entirely at the mercy of the wealthy in this matter. There is
not a slum, not a hovel, not an eyesore upon the English landscape for
which some well-off owner is not ultimately to be blamed or excused, and
the less we leave of such things about the better for us in that day of
reckoning between class and class which now draws so near.

It is as plain now as the way from Calais to Paris that if the owning
class does not attend to these amenities the mass of the people, doing
its best to manage the thing through the politicians, presently will.
They may make a frightful mess of it, but that will never bring back
things again into the hands that hold them and neglect them. Their time
will have passed for ever.

But these are the mere opening requirements of this hope of mine of a
quickened social consciousness among the more fortunate and leisurely
section of the community I believe that much profounder changes in the
conditions of labour are possible than those I have suggested I am
beginning to suspect that scarcely any of our preconceptions about the
way work must be done, about the hours of work and the habits of work,
will stand an exhaustive scientific analysis. It is at least conceivable
that we could get much of the work that has to be done to keep our
community going in far more toil-saving and life-saving ways than we
follow at the present time. So far scientific men have done scarcely
anything to estimate under what conditions a man works best, does most
work, works more happily. Suppose it turns out to be the case that a man
always following one occupation throughout his lifetime, working
regularly day after day for so many hours, as most wage-earners do at
the present time, does not do nearly so much or nearly so well as he
would do if he followed first one occupation and then another, or if he
worked as hard as he possibly could for a definite period and then took
holiday? I suspect very strongly, indeed I am convinced, that in certain
occupations, teaching, for example, or surgery, a man begins by working
clumsily and awkwardly, that his interest and skill rise rapidly, that
if he is really well suited in his profession he may presently become
intensely interested and capable of enormous quantities of his very best
work, and that then his interest and vigour rapidly decline I am
disposed to believe that this is true of most occupations, of
coal-mining or engineering, or brick-laying or cotton-spinning. The
thing has never been properly thought about. Our civilisation has grown
up in a haphazard kind of way, and it has been convenient to specialise
workers and employ them piecemeal. But if it is true that in respect of
any occupation a man has his period of maximum efficiency, then we open
up a whole world of new social possibilities. What we really want from a
man for our social welfare in that case is not regular continuing work,
but a few strenuous years of high-pressure service. We can as a
community afford to keep him longer at education and training before he
begins, and we can release him with a pension while he is still full of
life and the capacity for enjoying freedom. But obviously this is
impossible upon any basis of weekly wages and intermittent employment;
we must be handling affairs in some much more comprehensive way than
that before we can take and deal with the working life of a man as one
complete whole.

That is one possibility that is frequently in my thoughts about the
present labour crisis. There is another, and that is the great
desirability of every class in the community having a practical
knowledge of what labour means. There is a vast amount of work which
either is now or is likely to be in the future within the domain of the
public administration--road-making, mining, railway work, post-office
and telephone work, medical work, nursing, a considerable amount of
building for example. Why should we employ people to do the bulk of
these things at all? Why should we not as a community do them ourselves?
Why, in other words, should we not have a labour conscription and take a
year or so of service from everyone in the community, high or low? I
believe this would be of enormous moral benefit to our strained and
relaxed community. I believe that in making labour a part of everyone's
life and the whole of nobody's life lies the ultimate solution of these
industrial difficulties.

Sec. 5

It is almost a national boast that we "muddle through" our troubles, and
I suppose it is true and to our credit that by virtue of a certain
kindliness of temper, a humorous willingness to make the best of things,
and an entirely amiable forgetfulness, we do come out of pressures and
extremities that would smash a harder, more brittle people only a little
chipped and damaged. And it is quite conceivable that our country will,
in a measure, survive the enormous stresses of labour adjustment that
are now upon us, even if it never rises to any heroic struggle against
these difficulties. But it may survive as a lesser country, as an

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