Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

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

Part 4 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download An Englishman Looks at the World pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

matters, then our divorce law does in this direction already go too far.
A husband or wife may do far more injury to the home by constantly
neglecting it for the companionship of some outside person with whom no
"matrimonial offence" is ever committed. Of course, if our divorce law
exists mainly for the gratification of the fiercer sexual resentments,
well and good, but if that is so, let us abandon our pretence that
marriage is an institution for the establishment and protection of
homes. And while on the one hand existing divorce laws appear to be
obsessed by sexual offences, other things of far more evil effect upon
the home go without a remedy. There are, for example, desertion,
domestic neglect, cruelty to the children drunkenness or harmful
drug-taking, indecency of living and uncontrollable extravagance. I
cannot conceive how any logical mind, having once admitted the principle
of divorce, can hesitate at making these entirely home-wrecking things
the basis of effective pleas. But in another direction, some strain of
sentimentality in my nature makes me hesitate to go with the great
majority of divorce law reformers. I cannot bring myself to agree that
either a long term of imprisonment or the misfortune of insanity should
in itself justify a divorce. I admit the social convenience, but I wince
at the thought of those tragic returns of the dispossessed. So far as
insanity goes, I perceive that the cruelty of the law would but endorse
the cruelty of nature. But I do not like men to endorse the cruelty of

And, of course, there is no decent-minded person nowadays but wants to
put an end to that ugly blot upon our civilisation, the publication of
whatever is most spicy and painful in divorce court proceedings. It is
an outrage which falls even more heavily on the innocent than on the
guilty, and which has deterred hundreds of shy and delicate-minded
people from seeking legal remedies for nearly intolerable wrongs. The
sort of person who goes willingly to the divorce court to-day is the
sort of person who would love a screaming quarrel in a crowded street.
The emotional breach of the marriage bond is as private an affair as its
consummation, and it would be nearly as righteous to subject young
couples about to marry to a blustering cross-examination by some
underbred bully of a barrister upon their motives, and then to publish
whatever chance phrases in their answers appeared to be amusing in the
press, as it is to publish contemporary divorce proceedings. The thing
is a nastiness, a stream of social contagion and an extreme cruelty, and
there can be no doubt that whatever other result this British Royal
Commission may have, there at least will be many sweeping alterations.


Sec. 1

"If Youth but Knew" is the title of a book published some years ago, but
still with a quite living interest, by "Kappa"; it is the bitter
complaint of a distressed senior against our educational system. He is
hugely disappointed in the public-school boy, and more particularly in
one typical specimen. He is--if one might hazard a guess--an uncle
bereft of great expectations. He finds an echo in thousands of other
distressed uncles and parents. They use the most divergent and
inadequate forms of expression for this vague sense that the result has
not come out good enough; they put it contradictorily and often wrongly,
but the sense is widespread and real and justifiable and we owe a great
debt to "Kappa" for an accurate diagnosis of what in the aggregate
amounts to a grave national and social evil.

The trouble with "Kappa's" particular public-school boy is his unlit
imagination, the apathetic commonness of his attitude to life at large.
He is almost stupidly not interested in the mysteries of material fact,
nor in the riddles and great dramatic movements of history, indifferent
to any form of beauty, and pedantically devoted to the pettiness of
games and clothing and social conduct. It is, in fact, chiefly by his
style in these latter things, his extensive unilluminated knowledge of
Greek and Latin, and his greater costliness, that he differs from a
young carpenter or clerk. A young carpenter or clerk of the same
temperament would have no narrower prejudices nor outlook, no less
capacity for the discussion of broad questions and for imaginative
thinking. And it has come to the mind of "Kappa" as a discovery, as an
exceedingly remarkable and moving thing, a thing to cry aloud about,
that this should be so, that this is all that the best possible modern
education has achieved. He makes it more than a personal issue. He has
come to the conclusion that this is not an exceptional case at all, but
a fair sample of what our upper-class education does for the imagination
of those who must presently take the lead among us. He declares plainly
that we are raising a generation of rulers and of those with whom the
duty of initiative should chiefly reside, who have minds atrophied by
dull studies and deadening suggestions, and he thinks that this is a
matter of the gravest concern for the future of this land and Empire. It
is difficult to avoid agreeing with him either in his observation or in
his conclusion. Anyone who has seen much of undergraduates, or medical
students, or Army candidates, and also of their social subordinates,
must be disposed to agree that the difference between the two classes is
mainly in unimportant things--in polish, in manner, in superficialities
of accent and vocabulary and social habit--and that their minds, in
range and power, are very much on a level. With an invincibly
aristocratic tradition we are failing altogether to produce a leader
class adequate to modern needs. The State is light-headed.

But while one agrees with "Kappa" and shares his alarm, one must confess
the remedies he considers indicated do not seem quite so satisfactory as
his diagnosis of the disease. He attacks the curriculum and tells us we
must reduce or revolutionise instruction and exercise in the dead
languages, introduce a broader handling of history, a more inspiring
arrangement of scientific courses, and so forth. I wish, indeed, it were
possible to believe that substituting biology for Greek prose
composition or history with models and photographs and diagrams for
Latin versification, would make any considerable difference in this
matter. For so one might discuss this question and still give no offence
to a most amiable and influential class of men. But the roots of the
evil, the ultimate cause of that typical young man's deadness, lie not
at all in that direction. To indicate the direction in which it does lie
is quite unavoidably to give offence to an indiscriminatingly sensitive
class. Yet there is need to speak plainly. This deadening of soul comes
not from the omission or inclusion of this specific subject or that; it
is the effect of the general scholastic atmosphere. It is an atmosphere
that admits of no inspiration at all. It is an atmosphere from which
living stimulating influences have been excluded from which stimulating
and vigorous personalities are now being carefully eliminated, and in
which dull, prosaic men prevail invincibly. The explanation of the inert
commonness of "Kappa's" schoolboy lies not in his having learnt this or
not learnt that, but in the fact that from seven to twenty he has been
in the intellectual shadow of a number of good-hearted, sedulously
respectable conscientiously manly, conforming, well-behaved men, who
never, to the knowledge of their pupils and the public, at any rate,
think strange thoughts do imaginative or romantic things, pay tribute to
beauty, laugh carelessly, or countenance any irregularity in the world.
All erratic and enterprising tendencies in him have been checked by
them and brought at last to nothing; and so he emerges a mere residuum
of decent minor dispositions. The dullness of the scholastic atmosphere
the grey, intolerant mediocrity that is the natural or assumed quality
of every upper-class schoolmaster, is the true cause of the spiritual
etiolation of "Kappa's" young friend.

Now, it is a very grave thing, I know, to bring this charge against a
great profession--to say, as I do say, that it is collectively and
individually dull. But someone has to do this sooner or later; we have
restrained ourselves and argued away from the question too long. There
is, I allege, a great lack of vigorous and inspiring minds in our
schools. Our upper-class schools are out of touch with the thought of
the time, in a backwater of intellectual apathy. We have no original or
heroic school-teachers. Let me ask the reader frankly what part our
leading headmasters play in his intellectual world; if when some
prominent one among them speaks or writes or talks, he expects anything
more than platitudes and little things? Has he ever turned aside to
learn what this headmaster or that thought of any question that
interested him? Has he ever found freshness or power in a schoolmaster's
discourse; or found a schoolmaster caring keenly for fine and beautiful
things? Who does not know the schoolmaster's trite, safe admirations,
his thin, evasive discussion, his sham enthusiasms for cricket, for
fly-fishing, for perpendicular architecture, for boyish traits; his
timid refuge in "good form," his deadly silences?

And if we do not find him a refreshing and inspiring person, and his
mind a fountain of thought in which we bathe and are restored, is it
likely our sons will? If the schoolmaster at large is grey and dull,
shirking interesting topics and emphatic speech, what must he be like in
the monotonous class-room? These may seem wanton charges to some, but I
am not speaking without my book. Monthly I am brought into close contact
with the pedagogic intelligence through the medium of three educational
magazines. A certain morbid habit against which I struggle in vain makes
me read everything I catch a schoolmaster writing. I am, indeed, one of
the faithful band who read the Educational Supplement of the _Times_. In
these papers schoolmasters write about their business, lectures upon the
questions of their calling are reported at length, and a sort of invalid
discussion moves with painful decorum through the correspondence column.
The scholastic mind so displayed in action fascinates me. It is like
watching a game of billiards with wooden cushes and beechwood balls.

Sec. 2

But let me take one special instance. In a periodical, now no longer
living, called the _Independent Review_, there appeared some years ago a
very curious and typical contribution by the Headmaster of Dulwich,
which I may perhaps use as an illustration of the mental habits which
seem inseparably associated with modern scholastic work. It is called
"English Ideas on Education," and it begins--trite, imitative,

"The most important question in a country is that of education, and the
most important people in a country are those who educate its
inhabitants. Others have most of the present in their hands: those who
educate have all the future. With the present is bound up all the
happiness only of the utterly selfish and the thoughtless among mankind;
on the future rest all the thoughts of every parent and every wise man
and patriot."

It is the opening of a boy's essay. And from first to last this
remarkable composition is at or below that level. It is an entirely
inconclusive paper, it is impossible to understand why it was written;
it quotes nothing it says nothing about and was probably written in
ignorance of "Kappa" or any other modern contributor to English ideas,
and it occupied about six and a quarter of the large-type pages of this
now vanished _Independent Review_. "English Ideas on Education"!--this
very brevity is eloquent, the more so since the style is by no means
succinct. It must be read to be believed. It is quite extraordinarily
non-prehensile in quality and substance nothing is gripped and
maintained and developed; it is like the passing of a lax hand over the
surfaces of disarranged things. It is difficult to read, because one's
mind slips over it and emerges too soon at the end, mildly puzzled
though incurious still as to what it is all about. One perceives Mr.
Gilkes through a fog dimly thinking that Greek has something vital to do
with "a knowledge of language and man," that the classical master is in
some mysterious way superior to the science man and more imaginative,
and that science men ought not to be worried with the Greek that is too
high for them; and he seems, too, to be under the odd illusion that "on
all this" Englishmen "seem now to be nearly in agreement," and also on
the opinion that games are a little overdone and that civic duties and
the use of the rifle ought to be taught. Statements are made--the sort
of statements that are suffered in an atmosphere where there is no
swift, fierce opposition to be feared; they frill out into vague
qualifications and butt gently against other partially contradictory
statements. There is a classification of minds--the sort of
classification dear to the Y.M.C.A. essayists, made for the purposes of
the essay and unknown to psychology. There are, we are told, accurate
unimaginative, ingenious minds capable of science and kindred vulgar
things (such was Archimedes), and vague, imaginative minds, with the
gift for language and for the treatment of passion and the higher
indefinable things (such as Homer and Mr. Gilkes), and, somehow, this
justifies those who are destined for "science" in dropping Greek.
Certain "considerations," however, loom inconclusively upon this
issue--rather like interested spectators of a street fight in a fog. For
example, to learn a language is valuable "in proportion as the nation
speaking it is great"--a most empty assertion; and "no languages are so
good," for the purpose of improving style, "as the exact and beautiful
languages of Rome and Greece."

Is it not time at least that this last, this favourite but threadbare
article of the schoolmaster's creed was put away for good? Everyone who
has given any attention to this question must be aware that the
intellectual gesture is entirely different in highly inflected languages
such as Greek and Latin and in so uninflected a language as English,
that learning Greek to improve one's English style is like learning to
swim in order to fence better, and that familiarity with Greek seems
only too often to render a man incapable of clear, strong expression in
English at all. Yet Mr. Gilkes can permit this old assertion, so dear
to country rectors and the classical scholar, to appear within a
column's distance of such style as this:

"It is now understood that every subject is valuable, if it is properly
taught; it will perform that which, as follows from the accounts given
above of the aim of education, is the work most important in the case of
boys--that is, it will draw out their faculties and make them useful in
the world, alert, trained in industry, and able to understand, so far as
their school lessons educated them, and make themselves master of any
subject set before them."

This quotation is conclusive.

Sec. 3

I am haunted by a fear that the careless reader will think I am writing
against upper-class schoolmasters. I am, it is undeniable, writing
against their dullness, but it is, I hold, a dullness that is imposed
upon them by the conditions under which they live. Indeed, I believe,
could I put the thing directly to the profession--"Do you not yourselves
feel needlessly limited and dull?"--should receive a majority of
affirmative responses. We have, as a nation, a certain ideal of what a
schoolmaster must be; to that he must by art or nature approximate, and
there is no help for it but to alter our ideal. Nothing else of any wide
value can be done until that is done.

In the first place, the received ideal omits a most necessary condition.
We do not insist upon a headmaster or indeed any of our academic leaders
and dignitaries, being a man of marked intellectual character, a man of
intellectual distinction. It is assumed, rather lightly in many cases,
that he has done "good work," as they say--the sort of good work that is
usually no good at all, that increases nothing, changes nothing,
stimulates no one, leads no whither. That, surely, must be altered. We
must see to it that our leading schoolmasters at any rate must be men of
insight and creative intelligence, men who could at a pinch write a good
novel or produce illuminating criticism or take an original part in
theological or philosophical discussion, or do any of these minor
things. They must be authentic men, taking a line of their own and
capable of intellectual passion. They should be able to make their mark
outside the school, if only to show they carry a living soul into it. As
things are, nothing is so fatal to a schoolmaster's career as to do

And closely related to this omission is our extreme insistence upon what
we call high moral character, meaning, really, something very like an
entire absence of moral character. We insist upon tact, conformity, and
an unblemished record. Now, in these days, of warring opinion, these
days of gigantic, strange issues that cannot possibly be expressed in
the formulae of the smaller times that have gone before, tact is
evasion, conformity formality, and silence an unblemished record, mere
evidence of the damning burial of a talent of life. The sort of man into
whose hands we give our sons' minds must never have experimented morally
or thought at all freely or vigorously about, for example, God,
Socialism, the Mosaic account of the Creation, social procedure,
Republicanism, beauty, love, or, indeed, about anything likely to
interest an intelligent adolescent. At the approach of all such things
he must have acquired the habit of the modest cough, the infectious
trick of the nice evasion. How can "Kappa" expect inspiration from the
decorous resultants who satisfy these conditions? What brand can ever be
lit at altars that have borne no fire? And you find the secondary
schoolmaster who complies with these restrictions becoming the zealous
and grateful agent of the tendencies that have made him what he is,
converting into a practice those vague dreads of idiosyncrasy, of
positive acts and new ideas, that dictated the choice of him and his
rule of life. His moral teaching amounts to this: to inculcate
truth-telling about small matters and evasion about large, and to
cultivate a morbid obsession in the necessary dawn of sexual
consciousness. So far from wanting to stimulate the imagination, he
hates and dreads it. I find him perpetually haunted by a ridiculous fear
that boys will "do something," and in his terror seeking whatever is
dull and unstimulating and tiring in intellectual work, clipping their
reading, censoring their periodicals, expurgating their classics,
substituting the stupid grind of organised "games" for natural,
imaginative play, persecuting loafers--and so achieving his end and
turning out at last, clean-looking, passively well-behaved, apathetic,
obliterated young men, with the nicest manners and no spark of
initiative at all, quite safe not to "do anything" for ever.

I submit this may be a very good training for polite servants, but it is
not the way to make masters in the world. If we English believe we are
indeed a masterful people, we must be prepared to expose our children to
more and more various stimulations than we do; they must grow up free,
bold, adventurous, initiated, even if they have to take more risks in
the doing of that. An able and stimulating teacher is as rare as a fine
artist, and is a thing worth having for your son, even at the price of
shocking your wife by his lack of respect for that magnificent
compromise, the Establishment, or you by his Socialism or by his
Catholicism or Darwinism, or even by his erroneous choice of ties and
collars. Boys who are to be free, masterly men must hear free men
talking freely of religion, of philosophy, of conduct. They must have
heard men of this opinion and that, putting what they believe before
them with all the courage of conviction. They must have an idea of will
prevailing over form. It is far more important that boys should learn
from original, intellectually keen men than they should learn from
perfectly respectable men, or perfectly orthodox men, or perfectly nice
men. The vital thing to consider about your son's schoolmaster is
whether he talked lifeless twaddle yesterday by way of a lesson, and not
whether he loved unwisely or was born of poor parents, or was seen
wearing a frock-coat in combination with a bowler, or confessed he
doubted the Apostles' Creed, or called himself a Socialist, or any
disgraceful thing like that, so many years ago. It is that sort of thing
"Kappa" must invert if he wants a change in our public schools. You may
arrange and rearrange curricula, abolish Greek, substitute "science"--it
will not matter a rap. Even those model canoes of yours, "Kappa," will
be wasted if you still insist upon model schoolmasters. So long as we
require our schoolmasters to be politic, conforming, undisturbing men,
setting up Polonius as an ideal for them, so long will their influence
deaden the souls of our sons.


Some few years ago the Fabian Society, which has been so efficient in
keeping English Socialism to the lines of "artfulness and the
'eighties," refused to have anything to do with the Endowment of
Motherhood. Subsequently it repented and produced a characteristic
pamphlet in which the idea was presented with a sort of minimising
furtiveness as a mean little extension of outdoor relief. These Fabian
Socialists, instead of being the daring advanced people they are
supposed to be, are really in many things twenty years behind the times.
There need be nothing shamefaced about the presentation of the Endowment
of Motherhood. There is nothing shameful about it. It is a plain and
simple idea for which the mind of the man in the street has now been
very completely prepared. It has already crept into social legislation
to the extent of thirty shillings.

I suppose if one fact has been hammered into us in the past two decades
more than any other it is this: that the supply of children is falling
off in the modern State; that births, and particularly good-quality
births, are not abundant enough; that the birth-rate, and particularly
the good-class birth-rate, falls steadily below the needs of our future.

If no one else has said a word about this important matter, ex-President
Roosevelt would have sufficed to shout it to the ends of the earth.
Every civilised community is drifting towards "race-suicide" as Rome
drifted into "race-suicide" at the climax of her empire.

Well, it is absurd to go on building up a civilisation with a dwindling
supply of babies in the cradles--and these not of the best possible
sort--and so I suppose there is hardly an intelligent person in the
English-speaking communities who has not thought of some possible
remedy--from the naive scoldings of Mr. Roosevelt and the more stolid of
the periodicals to sane and intelligible legislative projects.

The reasons for the fall in the birth-rate are obvious enough. It is a
necessary consequence of the individualistic competition of modern life.
People talk of modern women "shirking" motherhood, but it would be a
silly sort of universe in which a large proportion of women had any
natural and instinctive desire to shirk motherhood, and, I believe, a
huge proportion of modern women are as passionately predisposed towards
motherhood as ever women were. But modern conditions conspire to put a
heavy handicap upon parentage and an enormous premium upon the partial
or complete evasion of offspring, and that is where the clue to the
trouble lies. Our social arrangements discourage parentage very heavily,
and the rational thing for a statesman to do in the matter is not to
grow eloquent, but to do intelligent things to minimise that

Consider the case of an energetic young man and an energetic young woman
in our modern world. So long as they remain "unencumbered" they can
subsist on a comparatively small income and find freedom and leisure to
watch for and follow opportunities of self-advancement; they can travel,
get knowledge and experience, make experiments, succeed. One might
almost say the conditions of success and self-development in the modern
world are to defer marriage as long as possible, and after that to defer
parentage as long as possible. And even when there is a family there is
the strongest temptation to limit it to three or four children at the
outside. Parents who can give three children any opportunity in life
prefer to do that than turn out, let us say, eight ill-trained children
at a disadvantage, to become the servants and unsuccessful competitors
of the offspring of the restrained. That fact bites us all; it does not
require a search. It is all very well to rant about "race-suicide," but
there are the clear, hard conditions of contemporary circumstances for
all but the really rich, and so patent are they that I doubt if all the
eloquence of Mr. Roosevelt and its myriad echoes has added a thousand
babies to the eugenic wealth of the English-speaking world.

Modern married people, and particularly those in just that capable
middle class from which children are most urgently desirable from the
statesman's point of view, are going to have one or two children to
please themselves but they are not going to have larger families under
existing conditions, though all the ex-Presidents and all the pulpits in
the world clamour together for them to do so.

If having and rearing children is a private affair, then no one has any
right to revile small families; if it is a public service, then the
parent is justified in looking to the State to recognise that service
and offer some compensation for the worldly disadvantages it entails. He
is justified in saying that while his unencumbered rival wins past him
he is doing the State the most precious service in the world by rearing
and educating a family, and that the State has become his debtor.

In other words, the modern State has got to pay for its children if it
really wants them--and more particularly it has to pay for the children
of good homes.

The alternative to that is racial replacement and social decay. That is
the essential idea conveyed by this phrase, the Endowment of Motherhood.

Now, how is the paying to be done? That needs a more elaborate answer,
of which I will give here only the roughest, crudest suggestion.

Probably it would be found best that the payment should be made to the
mother, as the administrator of the family budget, that its amount
should be made dependent upon the quality of the home in which the
children are being reared, upon their health and physical development,
and upon their educational success. Be it remembered, we do not want any
children; we want good-quality children. The amount to be paid, I would
particularly point out, should vary with the standing of the home.
People of that excellent class which spends over a hundred a year on
each child ought to get about that much from the State, and people of
the class which spends five shillings a week per head on them would get
about that, and so on. And if these payments were met by a special
income tax there would be no social injustice whatever in such an
unequality of payment. Each social stratum would pay according to its
prosperity, and the only redistribution that would in effect occur would
be that the childless people of each class would pay for the children of
that class. The childless family and the small family would pay equally
with the large family, incomes being equal, but they would receive in
proportions varying with the health and general quality of their
children. That, I think, gives the broad principles upon which the
payments would be made.

Of course, if these subsidies resulted in too rapid a rise in the
birth-rate, it would be practicable to diminish the inducement; and if,
on the other hand, the birth-rate still fell, it would be easy to
increase the inducement until it sufficed.

That concisely is the idea of the Endowment of Motherhood. I believe
firmly that some such arrangement is absolutely necessary to the
continuous development of the modern State. These proposals arise so
obviously out of the needs of our time that I cannot understand any
really intelligent opposition to them. I can, however, understand a
partial and silly application of them. It is most important that our
good-class families should be endowed, but the whole tendency of the
timid and disingenuous progressivism of our time, which is all mixed up
with ideas of charity and aggressive benevolence to the poor, would be
to apply this--as that Fabian tract I mention does--only to the poor
mother. To endow poor and bad-class motherhood and leave other people
severely alone would be a proceeding so supremely idiotic, so harmful to
our national quality, as to be highly probable in the present state of
our public intelligence. It comes quite on a level with the policy of
starving middle-class education that has left us with nearly the worst
educated middle class in Western Europe.

The Endowment of Motherhood does not attract the bureaucratic type of
reformer because it offers a minimum chance of meddlesome interference
with people's lives. There would be no chance of "seeking out" anybody
and applying benevolent but grim compulsions on the strength of it. In
spite of its wide scope it would be much less of a public nuisance than
that Wet Children's Charter, which exasperates me every time I pass a
public-house on a rainy night. But, on the other hand, there would be an
enormous stimulus to people to raise the quality of their homes, study
infantile hygiene, seek out good schools for them--and do their duty as
all good parents naturally want to do now--if only economic forces were
not so pitilessly against them--thoroughly and well.


In that extravagant world of which I dream, in which people will live in
delightful cottages and ground rents will serve instead of rates, and
everyone will have a chance of being happy--in that impossible world all
doctors will be members of one great organisation for the public health,
with all or most of their income guaranteed to them: I doubt if there
will be any private doctors at all.

Heaven forbid I should seem to write a word against doctors as they are.
Daily I marvel at the wonders the general practitioner achieves, having
regard to the difficulties of his position.

But I cannot hide from myself, and I do not intend to hide from anyone
else, my firm persuasion that the services the general practitioner is
able to render us are not one-tenth so effectual as they might be if,
instead of his being a private adventurer, he were a member of a sanely
organised public machine. Consider what his training and equipment are,
consider the peculiar difficulties of his work, and then consider for a
moment what better conditions might be invented, and perhaps you will
not think my estimate of one-tenth an excessive understatement in this

Nearly the whole of our medical profession and most of our apparatus for
teaching and training doctors subsist on strictly commercial lines by
earning fees. This chief source of revenue is eked out by the wanton
charity of old women, and conspicuous subscriptions by popularity
hunters, and a small but growing contribution (in the salaries of
medical officers of health and so forth) from the public funds. But the
fact remains that for the great mass of the medical profession there is
no living to be got except at a salary for hospital practice or by
earning fees in receiving or attending upon private cases.

So long as a doctor is learning or adding to knowledge, he earns
nothing, and the common, unintelligent man does not see why he should
earn anything. So that a doctor who has no religious passion for poverty
and self-devotion gets through the minimum of training and learning as
quickly and as cheaply as possible, and does all he can to fill up the
rest of his time in passing rapidly from case to case. The busier he
keeps, the less his leisure for thought and learning, the richer he
grows, and the more he is esteemed. His four or five years of hasty,
crowded study are supposed to give him a complete and final knowledge of
the treatment of every sort of disease, and he goes on year after year,
often without co-operation, working mechanically in the common incidents
of practice, births, cases of measles and whooping cough, and so forth,
and blundering more or less in whatever else turns up.

There are no public specialists to whom he can conveniently refer the
difficulties he constantly encounters; only in the case of rich patients
is the specialist available; there are no properly organised information
bureaus for him, and no means whatever of keeping him informed upon
progress and discovery in medical science. He is not even required to
set apart a month or so in every two or three years in order to return
to lectures and hospitals and refresh his knowledge. Indeed, the income
of the average general practitioner would not permit of such a thing,
and almost the only means of contact between him and current thought
lies in the one or other of our two great medical weeklies to which he
happens to subscribe.

Now just as I have nothing but praise for the average general
practitioner, so I have nothing but praise and admiration for those
stalwart-looking publications. Without them I can imagine nothing but
the most terrible intellectual atrophy among our medical men. But since
they are private properties run for profit they have to pay, and half
their bulk consists of the brilliantly written advertisements of new
drugs and apparatus. They give much knowledge, they do much to ventilate
perplexing questions, but a broadly conceived and properly endowed
weekly circular could, I believe, do much more. At any rate, in my
Utopia this duty of feeding up the general practitioners will not be
left to private enterprise.

Behind the first line of my medical army will be a second line of able
men constantly digesting new research for its practical
needs--correcting, explaining, announcing; and, in addition, a force of
public specialists to whom every difficulty in diagnosis will be at once
referred. And there will be a properly organised system of reliefs that
will allow the general practitioner and his right hand, the nurse, to
come back to the refreshment of study before his knowledge and mind have
got rusty. But then my Utopia is a Socialistic system. Under our present
system of competitive scramble, under any system that reduces medical
practice to mere fee-hunting nothing of this sort is possible.

Then in my Utopia, for every medical man who was mainly occupied in
practice, I would have another who was mainly occupied in or about
research. People hear so much about modern research that they do not
realise how entirely inadequate it is in amount and equipment. Our
general public is still too stupid to understand the need and value of
sustained investigations in any branch of knowledge at all. In spite of
all the lessons of the last century, it still fails to realise how
discovery and invention enrich the community and how paying an
investment is the public employment of clever people to think and
experiment for the benefit of all. It still expects to get a Newton or a
Joule for L800 a year, and requires him to conduct his researches in the
margin of time left over when he has got through his annual eighty or
ninety lectures. It imagines discoveries are a sort of inspiration that
comes when professors are running to catch trains. It seems incapable of
imagining how enormous are the untried possibilities of research. Of
course, if you will only pay a handful of men salaries at which the cook
of any large London hotel would turn up his nose, you cannot expect to
have the master minds of the world at your service; and save for a few
independent or devoted men, therefore, it is not reasonable to suppose
that such a poor little dribble of medical research as is now going on
is in the hands of persons of much more than average mental equipment.
How can it be?

One hears a lot of the rigorous research into the problem of cancer that
is now going on. Does the reader realise that all the men in the whole
world who are giving any considerable proportion of their time to this
cancer research would pack into a very small room, that they are
working in little groups without any properly organised system of
intercommunication, and that half of them are earning less than a
quarter of the salary of a Bond Street shopwalker by those vastly
important inquiries? Not one cancer case in twenty thousand is being
properly described and reported. And yet, in comparison with other
diseases, cancer is being particularly well attended to.

The general complacency with the progress in knowledge we have made and
are making is ridiculously unjustifiable. Enormous things were no doubt
done in the nineteenth century in many fields of knowledge, but all that
was done was out of all proportion petty in comparison with what might
have been done. I suppose the whole of the unprecedented progress in
material knowledge of the nineteenth century was the work of two or
three thousand men, who toiled against opposition, spite and endless
disadvantages, without proper means of intercommunication and with
wretched facilities for experiment. Such discoveries as were
distinctively medical were the work of only a few hundred men. Now,
suppose instead of that scattered band of un-co-ordinated workers a
great army of hundreds of thousands of well-paid men; suppose, for
instance, the community had kept as many scientific and medical
investigators as it has bookmakers and racing touts and men about
town--should we not know a thousand times as much as we do about disease
and health and strength and power?

But these are Utopian questionings. The sane, practical man shakes his
head, smiles pityingly at my dreamy impracticability, and passes them


There is something of the phonograph in all of us, but in the sort of
eminent person who makes public speeches about education and reading,
and who gives away prizes and opens educational institutions, there
seems to be little else but gramophone.

These people always say the same things, and say them in the same note.
And why should they do that if they are really individuals?

There is, I cannot but suspect, in the mysterious activities that
underlie life, some trade in records for these distinguished
gramophones, and it is a trade conducted upon cheap and wholesale lines.
There must be in these demiurgic profundities a rapid manufacture of
innumerable thousands of that particular speech about "scrappy reading,"
and that contrast of "modern" with "serious" literature, that babbles
about in the provinces so incessantly. Gramophones thinly disguised as
bishops, gramophones still more thinly disguised as eminent statesmen,
gramophones K.C.B. and gramophones F.R.S. have brazened it at us time
after time, and will continue to brazen it to our grandchildren when we
are dead and all our poor protests forgotten. And almost equally popular
in their shameless mouths is the speech that declares this present age
to be an age of specialisation. We all know the profound droop of the
eminent person's eyelids as he produces that discovery, the edifying
deductions or the solemn warnings he unfolds from this proposition, and
all the dignified, inconclusive rigmarole of that cylinder. And it is
nonsense from beginning to end.

This is most distinctly _not_ an age of specialisation. There has hardly
been an age in the whole course of history less so than the present. A
few moments of reflection will suffice to demonstrate that. This is
beyond any precedent an age of change, change in the appliances of life,
in the average length of life, in the general temper of life; and the
two things are incompatible. It is only under fixed conditions that you
can have men specialising.

They specialise extremely, for example, under such conditions as one had
in Hindustan up to the coming of the present generation. There the metal
worker or the cloth worker, the wheelwright or the druggist of yesterday
did his work under almost exactly the same conditions as his predecessor
did it five hundred years before. He had the same resources, the same
tools, the same materials; he made the same objects for the same ends.
Within the narrow limits thus set him he carried work to a fine
perfection; his hand, his mental character were subdued to his medium.
His dress and bearing even were distinctive; he was, in fact, a highly
specialised man. He transmitted his difference to his sons. Caste was
the logical expression in the social organisation of this state of high
specialisation, and, indeed, what else is caste or any definite class
distinctions but that? But the most obvious fact of the present time is
the disappearance of caste and the fluctuating uncertainty of all class

If one looks into the conditions of industrial employment specialisation
will be found to linger just in proportion as a trade has remained
unaffected by inventions and innovation. The building trade, for
example, is a fairly conservative one. A brick wall is made to-day much
as it was made two hundred years ago, and the bricklayer is in
consequence a highly skilled and inadaptable specialist. No one who has
not passed through a long and tedious training can lay bricks properly.
And it needs a specialist to plough a field with horses or to drive a
cab through the streets of London. Thatchers, old-fashioned cobblers,
and hand workers are all specialised to a degree no new modern calling
requires. With machinery skill disappears and unspecialised intelligence
comes in. Any generally intelligent man can learn in a day or two to
drive an electric tram, fix up an electric lighting installation, or
guide a building machine or a steam plough. He must be, of course, much
more generally intelligent than the average bricklayer, but he needs far
less specialised skill. To repair machinery requires, of course, a
special sort of knowledge, but not a special sort of training.

In no way is this disappearance of specialisation more marked than in
military and naval affairs. In the great days of Greece and Rome war was
a special calling, requiring a special type of man. In the Middle Ages
war had an elaborate technique, in which the footman played the part of
an unskilled labourer, and even within a period of a hundred years it
took a long period of training and discipline before the common
discursive man could be converted into the steady soldier. Even to-day
traditions work powerfully, through extravagance of uniform, and through
survivals of that mechanical discipline that was so important in the
days of hand-to-hand fighting, to keep the soldier something other than
a man. For all the lessons of the Boer war we are still inclined to
believe that the soldier has to be something severely parallel, carrying
a rifle he fires under orders, obedient to the pitch of absolute
abnegation of his private intelligence. We still think that our officers
have, like some very elaborate and noble sort of performing animal, to
be "trained." They learn to fight with certain specified "arms" and
weapons, instead of developing intelligence enough to use anything that
comes to hand.

But, indeed, when a really great European war does come and lets loose
motor-cars, bicycles, wireless telegraphy, aeroplanes, new projectiles
of every size and shape, and a multitude of ingenious persons upon the
preposterously vast hosts of conscription, the military caste will be
missing within three months of the beginning, and the inventive,
versatile, intelligent man will have come to his own.

And what is true of a military caste is equally true of a special
governing class such as our public schools maintain.

The misunderstanding that has given rise to this proposition that this
is an age of specialisation, and through that no end of mischief in
misdirected technical education and the like, is essentially a confusion
between specialisation and the division of labour. No doubt this is an
age when everything makes for wider and wider co-operations. Work that
was once done by one highly specialised man--the making of a watch, for
example--is now turned out wholesale by elaborate machinery, or effected
in great quantities by the contributed efforts of a number of people.
Each of these people may bring a highly developed intelligence to bear
for a time upon the special problem in hand, but that is quite a
different thing from specialising to do that thing.

This is typically shown in scientific research. The problem or the parts
of problems upon which the inquiry of an individual man is concentrated
are often much narrower than the problems that occupied Faraday or
Dalton, and yet the hard and fast lines that once divided physicist from
chemist, or botanist from pathologist have long since gone. Professor
Farmer, the botanist, investigates cancer, and the ordinary educated
man, familiar though he is with their general results, would find it
hard to say which were the chemists and which the physicists among
Professors Dewar and Ramsey Lord Rayleigh and Curie. The classification
of sciences that was such a solemn business to our grandfathers is now
merely a mental obstruction.

It is interesting to glance for a moment at the possible source of this
mischievous confusion between specialisation and the division of labour.
I have already glanced at the possibility of a diabolical world
manufacturing gramophone records for our bishops and statesmen and
suchlike leaders of thought, but if we dismiss that as a merely elegant
trope, I must confess I think it is the influence of Herbert Spencer.
His philosophy is pervaded by an insistence which is, I think, entirely
without justification, that the universe, and every sort of thing in it,
moves from the simple and homogeneous to the complex and heterogeneous.
An unwary man obsessed with that idea would be very likely to assume
without consideration that men were less specialised in a barbaric state
of society than they are to-day. I think I have given reasons for
believing that the reverse of this is nearer the truth.


Of all the great personifications that have dominated the mind of man,
the greatest, the most marvellous, the most impossible and the most
incredible, is surely the People, that impalpable monster to which the
world has consecrated its political institutions for the last hundred

It is doubtful now whether this stupendous superstition has reached its
grand climacteric, and there can be little or no dispute that it is
destined to play a prominent part in the history of mankind for many
years to come. There is a practical as well as a philosophical interest,
therefore, in a note or so upon the attributes of this legendary being.
I write "legendary," but thereby I display myself a sceptic. To a very
large number of people the People is one of the profoundest realities in
life. They believe--what exactly do they believe about the people?

When they speak of the People they certainly mean something more than
the whole mass of individuals in a country lumped together. That is the
people, a mere varied aggregation of persons, moved by no common motive,
a complex interplay. The People, as the believer understands the word,
is something more mysterious than that. The People is something that
overrides and is added to the individualities that make up the people.
It is, as it were, itself an individuality of a higher order--as indeed,
its capital "P" displays. It has a will of its own which is not the
will of any particular person in it, it has a power of purpose and
judgment of a superior sort. It is supposed to be the underlying reality
of all national life and the real seat of all public religious emotion.
Unfortunately, it lacks powers of expression, and so there is need of
rulers and interpreters. If they express it well in law and fact, in
book and song, they prosper under its mysterious approval; if they do
not, it revolts or forgets or does something else of an equally
annihilatory sort. That, briefly, is the idea of the People. My modest
thesis is that there exists nothing of the sort, that the world of men
is entirely made up of the individuals that compose it, and that the
collective action is just the algebraic sum of all individual actions.

How far the opposite opinion may go, one must talk to intelligent
Americans or read the contemporary literature of the first French
Revolution to understand. I find, for example, so typical a young
American as the late Frank Norris roundly asserting that it is the
People to whom we are to ascribe the triumphant emergence of the name of
Shakespeare from the ruck of his contemporaries and the passage in which
this assertion is made is fairly representative of the general
expression of this sort of mysticism. "One must keep one's faith in the
People--the Plain People, the Burgesses, the Grocers--else of all men
the artists are most miserable and their teachings vain. Let us admit
and concede that this belief is ever so sorely tried at times.... But in
the end, and at last, they will listen to the true note and discriminate
between it and the false." And then he resorts to italics to emphasise:
"_In the last analysis the People are always right_."

And it was that still more typical American, Abraham Lincoln, who
declared his equal confidence in the political wisdom of this collective
being. "You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the
people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."
The thing is in the very opening words of the American Constitution, and
Theodore Parker calls it "the American idea" and pitches a still higher
note: "A government of all the people, by all the people, for all the
people; a government of all the principles of eternal justice, _the
unchanging law of God."_

It is unavoidable that a collective wisdom distinct from any individual
and personal one is intended in these passages. Mr. Norris, for example,
never figured to himself a great wave of critical discrimination
sweeping through the ranks of the various provision trades and a
multitude of simple, plain burgesses preferring Shakespeare and setting
Marlowe aside. Such a particularisation of his statement would have at
once reduced it to absurdity. Nor does any American see the people
particularised in that way. They believe in the People one and
indivisible, a simple, mystical being, which pervades and dominates the
community and determines its final collective consequences.

Now upon the belief that there is a People rests a large part of the
political organisation of the modern world. The idea was one of the
chief fruits of the speculations of the eighteenth century, and the
American Constitution is its most perfect expression. One turns,
therefore, inevitably to the American instance, not because it is the
only one, but because there is the thing in its least complicated form.
We have there an almost exactly logical realisation of this belief. The
whole political machine is designed and expressed to register the
People's will, literature is entirely rewarded and controlled by the
effectual suffrages of the bookseller's counter, science (until private
endowment intervened) was in the hands of the State Legislatures, and
religion the concern of the voluntary congregations.

On the assumption that there is a People there could be no better state
of affairs. You and I and everyone, except for a vote or a book, or a
service now and then, can go about our business, you to your grocery and
I to mine, and the direction of the general interests rests safe in the
People's hands. Now that is by no means a caricature of the attitude of
mind of many educated Americans. You find they have little or nothing to
do with actual politics, and are inclined to regard the professional
politician with a certain contempt; they trouble their heads hardly at
all about literature, and they contemplate the general religious
condition of the population with absolute unconcern. It is not that they
are unpatriotic or morally trivial that they stand thus disengaged; it
is that they have a fatalistic belief in this higher power. Whatever
troubles and abuses may arise they have an absolute faith that "in the
last analysis" the People will get it right.

And now suppose that I am right and that there is no People! Suppose
that the crowd is really no more than a crowd, a vast miscellaneous
confusion of persons which grows more miscellaneous every year. Suppose
this conception of the People arose out of a sentimental idealisation,
Rousseau fashion, of the ancient homogeneous peasant class--a class that
is rapidly being swept out of existence by modern industrial
developments--and that whatever slender basis of fact it had in the
past is now altogether gone. What consequences may be expected?

It does not follow that because the object of your reverence is a dead
word you will get no oracles from the shrine. If the sacred People
remains impassive, inarticulate, non-existent, there are always the
keepers of the shrine who will oblige. Professional politicians, venal
and violent men, will take over the derelict political control, people
who live by the book trade will alone have a care for letters, research
and learning will be subordinated to political expediency, and a great
development of noisily competitive religious enterprises will take the
place of any common religious formula. There will commence a secular
decline in the quality of public thought, emotion and activity. There
will be no arrest or remedy for this state of affairs so long as that
superstitious faith in the People as inevitably right "in the last
analysis" remains. And if my supposition is correct, it should be
possible to find in the United States, where faith in the people is
indisputably dominant, some such evidence of the error of this faith. Is

I write as one that listens from afar. But there come reports of
legislative and administrative corruption, of organised public
blackmail, that do seem to carry out my thesis. One thinks of Edgar
Allan Poe, who dreamt of founding a distinctive American literature,
drugged and killed almost as it were symbolically, amid electioneering
and nearly lied out of all posthumous respect by that scoundrel
Griswold; one thinks of State Universities that are no more than mints
for bogus degrees; one thinks of "Science" Christianity and Zion City.
These things are quite insufficient for a Q.E.D., but I submit they
favour my proposition.

Suppose there is no People at all, but only enormous, differentiating
millions of men. All sorts of widely accepted generalisations will
collapse if that foundation is withdrawn. I submit it as worth


Sec. 1

There is a growing discord between governments and governed in the

There has always been discord between governments and governed since
States began; government has always been to some extent imposed, and
obedience to some extent reluctant. We have come to regard it as a
matter of course that under all absolutions and narrow oligarchies the
community, so soon as it became educated and as its social elaboration
developed a free class with private initiatives, so soon, indeed, as it
attained to any power of thought and expression at all, would express
discontent. But we English and Americans and Western Europeans generally
had supposed that, so far as our own communities were concerned, this
discontent was already anticipated and met by representative
institutions. We had supposed that, with various safeguards and
elaborations, our communities did, as a matter of fact, govern
themselves. Our panacea for all discontents was the franchise. Social
and national dissatisfaction could be given at the same time a voice and
a remedy in the ballot box. Our liberal intelligences could and do still
understand Russians wanting votes, Indians wanting votes, women wanting
votes. The history of nineteenth-century Liberalism in the world might
almost be summed up in the phrase "progressive enfranchisement." But
these are the desires of a closing phase in political history. The new
discords go deeper than that. The new situation which confronts our
Liberal intelligence is the discontent of the enfranchised, the contempt
and hostility of the voters for their elected delegates and governments.

This discontent, this resentment, this contempt even, and hostility to
duly elected representatives is no mere accident of this democratic
country or that; it is an almost world-wide movement. It is an almost
universal disappointment with so-called popular government, and in many
communities--in Great Britain particularly--it is manifesting itself by
an unprecedented lawlessness in political matters, and in a strange and
ominous contempt for the law. One sees it, for example, in the refusal
of large sections of the medical profession to carry out insurance
legislation, in the repudiation of Irish Home Rule by Ulster, and in the
steady drift of great masses of industrial workers towards the
conception of a universal strike. The case of the discontented workers
in Great Britain and France is particularly remarkable. These people
form effective voting majorities in many constituencies; they send
alleged Socialist and Labour representatives into the legislative
assembly; and, in addition, they have their trade unions with staffs of
elected officials, elected ostensibly to state their case and promote
their interests. Yet nothing is now more evident than that these
officials, working-men representatives and the like, do not speak for
their supporters, and are less and less able to control them. The
Syndicalist movement, sabotage in France, and Larkinism in Great
Britain, are, from the point of view of social stability, the most
sinister demonstrations of the gathering anger of the labouring classes
with representative institutions. These movements are not revolutionary
movements, not movements for reconstruction such as were the democratic
Socialist movements that closed the nineteenth century. They are angry
and vindictive movements. They have behind them the most dangerous and
terrible of purely human forces, the wrath, the blind destructive wrath,
of a cheated crowd.

Now, so far as the insurrection of labour goes, American conditions
differ from European, and the process of disillusionment will probably
follow a different course. American labour is very largely immigrant
labour still separated by barriers of language and tradition from the
established thought of the nation. It will be long before labour in
America speaks with the massed effectiveness of labour in France and
England, where master and man are racially identical, and where there is
no variety of "Dagoes" to break up the revolt. But in other directions
the American disbelief in and impatience with "elected persons" is and
has been far profounder than it is in Europe. The abstinence of men of
property and position from overt politics, and the contempt that
banishes political discussion from polite society, are among the first
surprises of the visiting European to America, and now that, under an
organised pressure of conscience, college-trained men and men of wealth
are abandoning this strike of the educated and returning to political
life, it is, one notes, with a prevailing disposition to correct
democracy by personality, and to place affairs in the hands of
autocratic mayors and presidents rather than to carry out democratic
methods to the logical end. At times America seems hot for a Caesar. If
no Caesar is established, then it will be the good fortune of the
Republic rather than its democratic virtue which will have saved it.

And directly one comes to look into the quality and composition of the
elected governing body of any modern democratic State, one begins to see
the reason and nature of its widening estrangement from the community it
represents. In no sense are these bodies really representative of the
thought and purpose of the nation; the conception of its science, the
fresh initiatives of its philosophy and literature, the forces that make
the future through invention and experiment, exploration and trial and
industrial development have no voice, or only an accidental and feeble
voice, there. The typical elected person is a smart rather than
substantial lawyer, full of cheap catchwords and elaborate tricks of
procedure and electioneering, professing to serve the interests of the
locality which is his constituency, but actually bound hand and foot to
the specialised political association, his party, which imposed him upon
that constituency. Arrived at the legislature, his next ambition is
office, and to secure and retain office he engages in elaborate
manoeuvres against the opposite party, upon issues which his limited and
specialised intelligence indicates as electorally effective. But being
limited and specialised, he is apt to drift completely out of touch with
the interests and feelings of large masses of people in the community.
In Great Britain, the United States and France alike there is a constant
tendency on the part of the legislative body to drift into unreality,
and to bore the country with the disputes that are designed to thrill
it. In Great Britain, for example, at the present time the two political
parties are both profoundly unpopular with the general intelligence,
which is sincerely anxious, if only it could find a way, to get rid of
both of them. Irish Home Rule--an issue as dead as mutton, is opposed to
Tariff Reform, which has never been alive. Much as the majority of
people detest the preposterously clumsy attempts to amputate Ireland
from the rule of the British Parliament which have been going on since
the breakdown of Mr. Gladstone's political intelligence, their dread of
foolish and scoundrelly fiscal adventurers is sufficiently strong to
retain the Liberals in office. The recent exposures of the profound
financial rottenness of the Liberal party have deepened the public
resolve to permit no such enlarged possibilities of corruption as Tariff
Reform would afford their at least equally dubitable opponents. And
meanwhile, beneath those ridiculous alternatives, those sham issues, the
real and very urgent affairs of the nation, the vast gathering
discontent of the workers throughout the Empire, the racial conflicts in
India and South Africa which will, if they are not arrested, end in our
severance from India, the insane waste of national resources, the
control of disease, the frightful need of some cessation of armament,
drift neglected....

Now do these things indicate the ultimate failure and downfall of
representative government? Was this idea which inspired so much of the
finest and most generous thought of the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries a wrong idea, and must we go back to Caesarism or oligarchy or
plutocracy or a theocracy, to Rome or Venice or Carthage, to the strong
man or the ruler by divine right, for the political organisation of the

My answer to that question would be an emphatic No. My answer would be
that the idea of representative government is the only possible idea for
the government of a civilised community. But I would add that so far
representative government has not had even the beginnings of a fair
trial. So far we have not had representative government, but only a
devastating caricature.

It is quite plain now that those who first organised the parliamentary
institutions which now are the ruling institutions of the greater part
of mankind fell a prey to certain now very obvious errors. They did not
realise that there are hundreds of different ways in which voting may be
done, and that every way will give a different result. They thought, and
it is still thought by a great number of mentally indolent people, that
if a country is divided up into approximately equivalent areas, each
returning one or two representatives, if every citizen is given one
vote, and if there is no legal limit to the presentation of candidates,
that presently a cluster of the wisest, most trusted and best citizens
will come together in the legislative assembly.

In reality the business is far more complicated than this. In reality a
country will elect all sorts of different people according to the
electoral method employed. It is a fact that anyone who chooses to
experiment with a willing school or club may verify. Suppose, for
example, that you take your country, give every voter one single vote,
put up six and twenty candidates for a dozen vacancies, and give them no
adequate time for organisation. The voters, you will find, will return
certain favourites, A and B and C and D let us call them, by enormous
majorities, and behind these at a considerable distance will come E, F,
G, H, I, J, K, and L. Now give your candidates time to develop
organisation. A lot of people who swelled A's huge vote will dislike J
and K and L so much, and prefer M and N so much, that if they are
assured that by proper organisation A's return can be made certain
without their voting for him, they will vote for M and N. But they will
do so only on that understanding. Similarly certain B-ites will want O
and P if they can be got without sacrificing B. So that adequate party
organisation in the community may return not the dozen a naive vote
would give, but A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, M, N, O, P. Now suppose that,
instead of this arrangement, your community is divided into twelve
constituencies and no candidate may contest more than one of them. And
suppose each constituency has strong local preferences. A, B and C are
widely popular; in every constituency they have supporters but in no
constituency does any one of the three command a majority. They are
great men, not local men. Q, who is an unknown man in most of the
country, has, on the contrary, a strong sect of followers in the
constituency for which A stands, and beats him by one vote; another
local celebrity, E, disposes of B in the same way; C is attacked not
only by S but T, whose peculiar views upon vaccination, let us say,
appeal to just enough of C's supporters to let in S. Similar accidents
happen in the other constituencies, and the country that would have
unreservedly returned A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K and L on the first
system, return instead O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z. Numerous
voters who would have voted for A if they had a chance vote instead for
R, S, T, etc., numbers who would have voted for B, vote for Q, V, W, X,
etc. But now suppose that A and B are opposed to one another, and that
there is a strong A party and a strong B party highly organised in the
country. B is really the second favourite over the country as a whole,
but A is the first favourite. D, F, H, J, L, N, P, R, U, W, Y constitute
the A candidates and in his name they conquer. B, C, E, G, I, K, M, O,
Q, S, V are all thrown out in spite of the wide popularity of B and C. B
and C, we have supposed, are the second and third favourites, and yet
they go out in favour of Y, of whom nobody has heard before, some mere
hangers-on of A's. Such a situation actually occurs in both Ulster and
Home-Rule Ireland.

But now let us suppose another arrangement, and that is that the whole
country is one constituency, and every voter has, if he chooses to
exercise them, twelve votes, which, however, he must give, if he gives
them all, to twelve separate people. Then quite certainly A, B, C, D
will come in, but the tail will be different. M, N, O, P may come up
next to them, and even Z, that eminent non-party man, may get in. But
now organisation may produce new effects. The ordinary man, when he has
twelve votes to give, likes to give them all, so that there will be a
good deal of wild voting at the tails of the voting papers. Now if a
small resolute band decide to plump for T or to vote only for A and T or
B and T, T will probably jump up out of the rejected. This is the system
which gives the specialist, the anti-vaccinator or what not, the maximum
advantage. V, W, X and Y, being rather hopeless anyhow, will probably
detach themselves from party and make some special appeal, say to the
teetotal vote or the Mormon vote or the single tax vote, and so squeeze
past O, P, Q, R, who have taken a more generalised line.

I trust the reader will bear with me through these alphabetical
fluctuations. Many people, I know from colloquial experiences, do at
about this stage fly into a passion. But if you will exercise
self-control, then I think you will see my point that, according to the
method of voting, almost any sort of result may be got out of an
election except the production of a genuinely representative assembly.

And that is the a priori case for supposing, what our experience of
contemporary life abundantly verifies, that the so-called representative
assemblies of the world are not really representative at all. I will go
farther and say that were it not for the entire inefficiency of our
method of voting, not one-tenth of the present American and French
Senators, the French Deputies, the American Congressmen, and the English
Members of Parliament would hold their positions to-day. They would
never have been heard of. They are not really the elected
representatives of the people; they are the products of a ridiculous
method of election; they are the illegitimate children of the party
system and the ballot-box, who have ousted the legitimate heirs from
their sovereignty. They are no more the expression of the general will
than the Tsar or some President by _pronunciamento_. They are an
accidental oligarchy of adventurers. Representative government has never
yet existed in the world; there was an attempt to bring it into
existence in the eighteenth century, and it succumbed to an infantile
disorder at the very moment of its birth. What we have in the place of
the leaders and representatives are politicians and "elected persons."

The world is passing rapidly from localised to generalised interests,
but the method of election into which our fathers fell is the method of
electing one or two representatives from strictly localised
constituencies. Its immediate corruption was inevitable. If discussing
and calculating the future had been, as it ought to be, a common,
systematic occupation, the muddles of to-day might have been foretold a
hundred years ago. From such a rough method of election the party system
followed as a matter of course. In theory, of course, there may be any
number of candidates for a constituency and a voter votes for the one he
likes best; in practice there are only two or three candidates, and the
voter votes for the one most likely to beat the candidate he likes
least. It cannot be too strongly insisted that in contemporary elections
we vote against; we do not vote for. If A, B and C are candidates, and
you hate C and all his works and prefer A, but doubt if he will get as
many votes as B, who is indifferent to you, the chances are you will
vote for B. If C and B have the support of organised parties, you are
still less likely to risk "wasting" your vote upon A. If your real
confidence is in G, who is not a candidate for your constituency, and if
B pledges himself to support G, while A retains the right of separate
action, you may vote for B even if you distrust him personally.
Additional candidates would turn any election of this type into a wild
scramble. The system lies, in fact, wholly open to the control of
political organisations, calls out, indeed, for the control of political
organisations, and has in every country produced what is so evidently
demanded. The political organisations to-day rule us unchallenged. Save
as they speak for us, the people are dumb.

Elections of the prevalent pattern, which were intended and are still
supposed by simple-minded people to give every voter participation in
government, do as a matter of fact effect nothing of the sort. They give
him an exasperating fragment of choice between the agents of two party
organisations, over neither of which he has any intelligible control.
For twenty-five years I have been a voter, and in all that time I have
only twice had an opportunity of voting for a man of distinction in whom
I had the slightest confidence. Commonly my choice of a "representative"
has been between a couple of barristers entirely unknown to me or the
world at large. Rather more than half the men presented for my selection
have not been English at all, but of alien descent. This, then, is the
sum of the political liberty of the ordinary American or Englishman,
that is the political emancipation which Englishwomen have shown
themselves so pathetically eager to share. He may reject one of two
undesirables, and the other becomes his "representative." Now this is
not popular government at all; it is government by the profession of
politicians, whose control becomes more and more irresponsible in just
the measure that they are able to avoid real factions within their own
body. Whatever the two party organisations have a mind to do together,
whatever issue they chance to reserve from "party politics," is as much
beyond the control of the free and independent voter as if he were a
slave subject in ancient Peru.

Our governments in the more civilised parts of the world to-day are only
in theory and sentiment democratic. In reality they are democracies so
eviscerated by the disease of bad electoral methods that they are mere
cloaks for the parasitic oligarchies that have grown up within their
form and substance. The old spirit of freedom and the collective purpose
which overthrew and subdued priestcrafts and kingcrafts, has done so, it
seems, only to make way for these obscure political conspiracies.
Instead of liberal institutions, mankind has invented a new sort of
usurpation. And it is not unnatural that many of us should be in a phase
of political despair.

These oligarchies of the party organisations have now been evolving for
two centuries, and their inherent evils and dangers become more and more
manifest. The first of these is the exclusion from government of the
more active and intelligent sections of the community. It is not treated
as remarkable, it is treated as a matter of course, that neither in
Congress nor in the House of Commons is there any adequate
representation of the real thought of the time, of its science,
invention and enterprise, of its art and feeling, of its religion and
purpose. When one speaks of Congressmen or Members of Parliament one
thinks, to be plain about it, of intellectual riff-raff. When one hears
of a pre-eminent man in the English-speaking community, even though that
pre-eminence may be in political or social science, one is struck by a
sense of incongruity if he happens to be also in the Legislature. When
Lord Haldane disengages the Gifford lectures or Lord Morley writes a
"Life of Gladstone" or ex-President Roosevelt is delivered of a magazine
article, there is the same sort of excessive admiration as when a Royal
Princess does a water-colour sketch or a dog walks on its hind legs.

Now this intellectual inferiority of the legislator is not only directly
bad for the community by producing dull and stupid legislation, but it
has a discouraging and dwarfing effect upon our intellectual life.
Nothing so stimulates art, thought and science as realisation; nothing
so cripples it as unreality. But to set oneself to know thoroughly and
to think clearly about any human question is to unfit oneself for the
forensic claptrap which is contemporary politics, is to put oneself out
of the effective current of the nation's life. The intelligence of any
community which does not make a collective use of that intelligence,
starves and becomes hectic, tends inevitably to preciousness and
futility on the one hand, and to insurgency, mischief and anarchism on
the other.

From the point of view of social stability this estrangement of the
national government and the national intelligence is far less serious
than the estrangement between the governing body and the real feeling of
the mass of the people. To many observers this latter estrangement seems
to be drifting very rapidly towards a social explosion in the British
Isles. The organised masses of labour find themselves baffled both by
their parliamentary representatives and by their trade union officials.
They are losing faith in their votes and falling back in anger upon
insurrectionary ideals, upon the idea of a general strike, and upon the
expedients of sabotage. They are doing this without any constructive
proposals at all, for it is ridiculous to consider Syndicalism as a
constructive proposal. They mean mischief because they are hopeless and
bitterly disappointed. It is the same thing in France, and before many
years are over it will be the same thing in America. That way lies
chaos. In the next few years there may be social revolt and bloodshed in
most of the great cities of Western Europe. That is the trend of current
probability. Yet the politicians go on in an almost complete disregard
of this gathering storm. Their jerrymandered electoral methods are like
wool in their ears, and the rejection of Tweedledum for Tweedledee is
taken as a "mandate" for Tweedledee's distinctive brand of political

Is this an incurable state of things? Is this method of managing our
affairs the only possible electoral method, and is there no remedy for
its monstrous clumsiness and inefficiency but to "show a sense of
humour," or, in other words, to grin and bear it? Or is it conceivable
that there may be a better way to government than any we have yet tried,
a method of government that would draw every class into conscious and
willing co-operation with the State, and enable every activity of the
community to play its proper part in the national life? That was the
dream of those who gave the world representative government in the past.
Was it an impossible dream?

Sec. 2

Is this disease of Parliaments an incurable disease, and have we,
therefore, to get along as well as we can with it, just as a tainted and
incurable invalid diets and is careful and gets along through life? Or
is it possible that some entirely more representative and effective
collective control of our common affairs can be devised?

The answer to that must determine our attitude to a great number of
fundamental questions. If no better governing body is possible than the
stupid, dilatory and forensic assemblies that rule in France, Britain
and America to-day, then the civilised human community has reached its
climax. That more comprehensive collective handling of the common
interests to which science and intelligent Socialism point, that
collective handling which is already urgently needed if the present
uncontrolled waste of natural resources and the ultimate bankruptcy of
mankind is to be avoided, is quite beyond the capacity of such
assemblies; already there is too much in their clumsy and untrustworthy
hands, and the only course open to us is an attempt at enlightened
Individualism, an attempt to limit and restrict State activities in
every possible way, and to make little private temporary islands of
light and refinement amidst the general disorder and decay. All
collectivist schemes, all rational Socialism, if only Socialists would
realise it, all hope for humanity, indeed, are dependent ultimately upon
the hypothetical possibility of a better system of government than any
at present in existence.

Let us see first, then, if we can lay down any conditions which such a
better governing body would satisfy. Afterwards it will be open to us to
believe or disbelieve in its attainment. Imagination is the essence of
creation. If we can imagine a better government we are half-way to
making it.

Now, whatever other conditions such a body will satisfy, we may be sure
that it will not be made up of members elected by single-member
constituencies. A single-member constituency must necessarily contain a
minority, and may even contain a majority of dissatisfied persons whose
representation is, as it were, blotted out by the successful candidate.
Three single-member constituencies which might all return members of the
same colour, if they were lumped together to return three members would
probably return two of one colour and one of another. There would still,
however, be a suppressed minority averse to both these colours, or
desiring different shades of those colours from those afforded them in
the constituency. Other things being equal, it may be laid down that the
larger the constituency and the more numerous its representatives, the
greater the chance of all varieties of thought and opinion being

But that is only a preliminary statement; it still leaves untouched all
the considerations advanced in the former part of this discussion to
show how easily the complications and difficulties of voting lead to a
falsification of the popular will and understanding. But here we enter a
region where a really scientific investigation has been made, and where
established results are available. A method of election was worked out
by Hare in the middle of the last century that really does seem to avoid
or mitigate nearly every falsifying or debilitating possibility in
elections; it was enthusiastically supported by J.S. Mill; it is now
advocated by a special society--the Proportional Representation
Society--to which belong men of the most diverse type of distinction,
united only by the common desire to see representative government a
reality and not a disastrous sham. It is a method which does render
impossible nearly every way of forcing candidates upon constituencies,
and nearly every trick for rigging results that now distorts and
cripples the political life of the modern world. It exacts only one
condition, a difficult but not an impossible condition, and that is the
honest scrutiny and counting of the votes.

The peculiar invention of the system is what is called the single
transferable vote--that is to say, a vote which may be given in the
first instance to one candidate, but which, in the event of his already
having a sufficient quota of votes to return him, may be transferred to
another. The voter marks clearly in the list of the candidates the order
of his preference by placing 1, 2, 3, and so forth against the names. In
the subsequent counting the voting papers are first classified according
to the first votes. Let us suppose that popular person A is found to
have received first votes enormously in excess of what is needed to
return him. The second votes are then counted on his papers, and after
the number of votes necessary to return him has been deducted, the
surplus votes are divided in due proportion among the second choice
names, and count for them. That is the essential idea of the whole
thing. At a stroke all that anxiety about wasting votes and splitting
votes, _which is the secret of all party political manipulation_
vanishes. You may vote for A well knowing that if he is safe your vote
will be good for C. You can make sure of A, and at the same time vote
for C. You are in no need of a "ticket" to guide you, and you need have
no fear that in supporting an independent candidate you will destroy the
prospects of some tolerably sympathetic party man without any
compensating advantage. The independent candidate does, in fact, become
possible for the first time. The Hobson's choice of the party machine is

Let me be a little more precise about the particulars of this method,
the only sound method, of voting in order to ensure an adequate
representation of the community. Let us resort again to the constituency
I imagined in my last paper, a constituency in which candidates
represented by all the letters of the alphabet struggle for twelve
places. And let us suppose that A, B, C and D are the leading
favourites. Suppose that there are twelve thousand voters in the
constituency, and that three thousand votes are cast for A--I am keeping
the figures as simple as possible--then A has two thousand more than is
needed to return him. _All_ the second votes on his papers are counted,
and it is found that 600, or a fifth of them, go to C; 500, or a sixth,
go to E; 300, or a tenth, to G; 300 to J; 200, or a fifteenth, each to K
and L, and a hundred each, or a thirtieth, to M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, W
and Z. Then the surplus of 2,000 is divided in these proportions--that
is a fifth of 2,000 goes to C, a sixth to E, and the rest to G, J, etc.,
in proportion. C, who already has 900 votes, gets another 400, and is
now returned and has, moreover, 300 to spare; and the same division of
the next votes upon C's paper occurs as has already been made with A's.
But previously to this there has been a distribution of B's surplus
votes, B having got 1,200 of first votes. And so on. After the
distribution of the surplus votes of the elect at the top of the list,
there is a distribution of the second votes upon the papers of those who
have voted for the hopeless candidates at the bottom of the list. At
last a point is reached when twelve candidates have a quota.

In this way the "wasting" of a vote, or the rejection of a candidate for
any reason except that hardly anybody wants him, become practically
impossible. This method of the single transferable vote with very large
constituencies and many members does, in fact, give an entirely valid
electoral result; each vote tells for all it is worth, and the freedom
of the voter is only limited by the number of candidates who put up or
are put up for election. This method, and this method alone, gives
representative government; all others of the hundred and one possible
methods admit of trickery, confusion and falsification. Proportional
Representation is not a faddist proposal, not a perplexing ingenious
complication of a simple business; it is the carefully worked out right
way to do something that hitherto we have been doing in the wrong way.
It is no more an eccentricity than is proper baking in the place of
baking amidst dirt and with unlimited adulteration, or the running of
trains to their destinations instead of running them without notice into
casually selected sidings and branch lines. It is not the substitution
of something for something else of the same nature; it is the
substitution of right for wrong. It is the plain common sense of the
greatest difficulty in contemporary affairs.

I know that a number of people do not, will not, admit this of
Proportional Representation. Perhaps it is because of that hideous
mouthful of words for a thing that would be far more properly named Sane
Voting. This, which is the only correct way, these antagonists regard as
a peculiar way. It has unfamiliar features, and that condemns it in
their eyes. It takes at least ten minutes to understand, and that is too
much for their plain, straightforward souls. "Complicated"--that word of
fear! They are like the man who approved of an electric tram, but said
that he thought it would go better without all that jiggery-pokery of
wires up above. They are like the Western judge in the murder trial who
said that if only they got a man hanged for this abominable crime, he
wouldn't make a pedantic fuss about the question of _which_ man. They
are like the plain, straightforward promoter who became impatient with
maps and planned a railway across Switzerland by drawing a straight line
with a ruler across Jungfrau and Matterhorn and glacier and gorge. Or
else they are like Mr. J. Ramsay Macdonald, M.P., who knows too well
what would happen to him.

Now let us consider what would be the necessary consequences of the
establishment of Proportional Representation in such a community as
Great Britain--that is to say, the redistribution of the country into
great constituencies such as London or Ulster or Wessex or South Wales,
each returning a score or more of members, and the establishment of
voting by the single transferable vote. The first, immediate, most
desirable result would be the disappearance of the undistinguished party
candidate; he would vanish altogether. He would be no more seen.
Proportional Representation would not give him the ghost of a chance.
The very young man of good family, the subsidised barrister, the
respectable nobody, the rich supporter of the party would be ousted by
known men. No candidate who had not already distinguished himself, and
who did not stand for something in the public eye, would have a chance
of election. There alone we have a sufficient reason for anticipating a
very thorough change in the quality and character of the average

And next, no party organisation, no intimation from headquarters, no
dirty tricks behind the scenes, no conspiracy of spite and scandal would
have much chance of keeping out any man of real force and distinction
who had impressed the public imagination. To be famous in science, to
have led thought, to have explored or administered or dissented
courageously from the schemes of official wire-pullers would no longer
be a bar to a man's attainment of Parliament. It would be a help. Not
only the level of parliamentary intelligence, but the level of personal
independence would be raised far above its present position. And
Parliament would become a gathering of prominent men instead of a means
to prominence.

The two-party system which holds all the English-speaking countries
to-day in its grip would certainly be broken up by Proportional
Representation. Sane Voting in the end would kill the Liberal and Tory
and Democratic and Republican party-machines. That secret rottenness of
our public life, that hidden conclave which sells honours, fouls
finance, muddles public affairs, fools the passionate desires of the
people, and ruins honest men by obscure campaigns would become
impossible. The advantage of party support would be a doubtful
advantage, and in Parliament itself the party men would find themselves
outclassed and possibly even outnumbered by the independent. It would be
only a matter of a few years between the adoption of Sane Voting and the
disappearance of the Cabinet from British public life. It would become
possible for Parliament to get rid of a minister without getting rid of
a ministry, and to express its disapproval of--let us say--some foolish
project for rearranging the local government of Ireland without opening
the door upon a vista of fantastical fiscal adventures. The
party-supported Cabinet, which is now the real government of the
so-called democratic countries, would cease to be so, and government
would revert more and more to the legislative assembly. And not only
would the latter body resume government, but it would also necessarily
take into itself all those large and growing exponents of
extra-parliamentary discontent that now darken the social future. The
case of the armed "Unionist" rebel in Ulster, the case of the workman
who engages in sabotage, the case for sympathetic strikes and the
general strike, all these cases are identical in this, that they declare
Parliament a fraud, that justice lies outside it and hopelessly outside
it, and that to seek redress through Parliament is a waste of time and
energy. Sane Voting would deprive all these destructive movements of the
excuse and necessity for violence.

There is, I know, a disposition in some quarters to minimise the
importance of Proportional Representation, as though it were a mere
readjustment of voting methods. It is nothing of the sort; it is a
prospective revolution. It will revolutionise government far more than a
mere change from kingdom to republic or vice versa could possibly do; it
will give a new and unprecedented sort of government to the world. The
real leaders of the country will govern the country. For Great Britain,
for example, instead of the secret, dubious and dubitable Cabinet, which
is the real British government of to-day, poised on an unwieldy and
crowded House of Commons, we should have open government by the
representatives of, let us say, twenty great provinces, Ulster, Wales,
London, for example, each returning from twelve to thirty members. It
would be a steadier, stabler, more confident, and more trusted
government than the world has ever seen before. Ministers, indeed, and
even ministries might come and go, but that would not matter, as it does
now, because there would be endless alternatives through which the
assembly could express itself instead of the choice between two parties.

The arguments against Proportional Representation that have been
advanced hitherto are trivial in comparison with its enormous
advantages. Implicit in them all is the supposition that public opinion
is at bottom a foolish thing, and that electoral methods are to pacify
rather than express a people. It is possibly true that notorious
windbags, conspicuously advertised adventurers, and the heroes of
temporary sensations may run a considerable chance upon the lists. My
own estimate of the popular wisdom is against the idea that any vividly
prominent figure must needs get in; I think the public is capable of
appreciating, let us say, the charm and interest of Mr. Sandow or Mr.
Jack Johnson or Mr. Harry Lauder or Mr. Evan Roberts without wanting to
send these gentlemen into Parliament. And I think that the increased
power that the Press would have through its facilities in making
reputations may also be exaggerated. Reputations are mysterious things
and not so easily forced, and even if it were possible for a section of
the Press to limelight a dozen or so figures up to the legislature, they
would still have, I think, to be interesting, sympathetic and
individualised figures; and at the end they would be only half a dozen
among four hundred men of a repute more naturally achieved. A third
objection is that this reform would give us group politics and unstable
government. It might very possibly give us unstable ministries, but
unstable ministries may mean stable government, and such stable
ministries as that which governs England at the present time may, by
clinging obstinately to office, mean the wildest fluctuations of policy.
Mr. Ramsay Macdonald has drawn a picture of the too-representative
Parliament of Proportional Representation, split up into groups each
pledged to specific measures and making the most extraordinary treaties
and sacrifices of the public interest in order to secure the passing of
these definite bills. But Mr. Ramsay Macdonald is exclusively a
parliamentary man; he knows contemporary parliamentary "shop" as a clerk
knows his "guv'nor," and he thinks in the terms of his habitual life; he
sees representatives only as politicians financed from party
headquarters; it is natural that he should fail to see that the quality
and condition of the sanely elected Member of Parliament will be quite
different from these scheming climbers into positions of trust with whom
he deals to-day. It is the party system based on insane voting that
makes governments indivisible wholes and gives the group and the cave
their terrors and their effectiveness. Mr. Ramsay Macdonald is as
typical a product of existing electoral methods as one could well have,
and his peculiarly keen sense of the power of intrigue in legislation is
as good evidence as one could wish for of the need for drastic change.

Of course, Sane Voting is not a short cut to the millennium, it is no
way of changing human nature, and in the new type of assembly, as in the
old, spite, vanity, indolence, self-interest, and downright dishonesty
will play their part. But to object to a reform on that account is not a
particularly effective objection. These things will play their part, but
it will be a much smaller part in the new than in the old. It is like
objecting to some projected and long-needed railway because it does not
propose to carry its passengers by immediate express to heaven.


Sec. 1

The social conditions and social future of America constitute a system
of problems quite distinct and separate from the social problems of any
other part of the world. The nearest approach to parallel conditions,
and that on a far smaller and narrower scale, is found in the British
colonies and in the newly settled parts of Siberia. For while in nearly
every other part of the world the population of to-day is more or less
completely descended from the prehistoric population of the same region,
and has developed its social order in a slow growth extending over many
centuries, the American population is essentially a transplanted
population, a still fluid and imperfect fusion of great fragments torn
at this point or that from the gradually evolved societies of Europe.
The European social systems grow and flower upon their roots, in soil
which has made them and to which they are adapted. The American social
accumulation is a various collection of cuttings thrust into a new soil
and respiring a new air, so different that the question is still open to
doubt, and indeed there are those who do doubt, how far these cuttings
are actually striking root and living and growing, whether indeed they
are destined to more than a temporary life in the new hemisphere. I
propose to discuss and weigh certain arguments for and against the
belief that these ninety million people who constitute the United
States of America are destined to develop into a great distinctive
nation with a character and culture of its own.

Humanly speaking, the United States of America (and the same is true of
Canada and all the more prosperous, populous and progressive regions of
South America) is a vast sea of newly arrived and unstably rooted
people. Of the seventy-six million inhabitants recorded by the 1900
census, ten and a half million were born and brought up in one or other
of the European social systems, and the parents of another twenty-six
millions were foreigners. Another nine million are of African negro
descent. Fourteen million of the sixty-five million native-born are
living not in the state of their birth, but in other states to which
they have migrated. Of the thirty and a half million whites whose
parents on both sides were native Americans, a high proportion probably
had one if not more grand-parents foreign-born. Nearly five and a half
million out of thirty-three and a half million whites in 1870 were
foreign-born, and another five and a quarter million the children of
foreign-born parents. The children of the latter five and a quarter
million count, of course, in the 1900 census as native-born of native
parents. Immigration varies enormously with the activity of business,
but in 1906 it rose for the first time above a million.

These figures may be difficult to grasp. The facts may be seen in a more
concrete form by the visitor to Ellis Island, the receiving station for
the immigrants into New York Harbour. One goes to this place by tugs
from the United States barge office in Battery Park, and in order to see
the thing properly one needs a letter of introduction to the
commissioner in charge. Then one is taken through vast barracks littered
with people of every European race, every type of low-class European
costume, and every degree of dirtiness, to a central hall in which the
gist of the examining goes on. The floor of this hall is divided up into
a sort of maze of winding passages between lattice work, and along these
passages, day after day, incessantly, the immigrants go, wild-eyed
Gipsies, Armenians, Greeks, Italians, Ruthenians, Cossacks, German
peasants, Scandinavians, a few Irish still, impoverished English,
occasional Dutch; they halt for a moment at little desks to exhibit
papers, at other little desks to show their money and prove they are not
paupers, to have their eyes scanned by this doctor and their general
bearing by that. Their thumb-marks are taken, their names and heights
and weights and so forth are recorded for the card index; and so,
slowly, they pass along towards America, and at last reach a little
wicket, the gate of the New World. Through this metal wicket drips the
immigration stream--all day long, every two or three seconds, an
immigrant with a valise or a bundle, passes the little desk and goes on
past the well-managed money-changing place, past the carefully organised
separating ways that go to this railway or that, past the guiding,
protecting officials--into a new world. The great majority are young men
and young women between seventeen and thirty, good, youthful, hopeful
peasant stock. They stand in a long string, waiting to go through that
wicket, with bundles, with little tin boxes, with cheap portmanteaus
with odd packages, in pairs, in families, alone, women with children,
men with strings of dependents, young couples. All day that string of
human beads waits there, jerks forward, waits again; all day and every
day, constantly replenished, constantly dropping the end beads through
the wicket, till the units mount to hundreds and the hundreds to
thousands.... In such a prosperous year as 1906 more immigrants passed
through that wicket into America than children were born in the whole of

This figure of a perpetual stream of new stranger citizens will serve to
mark the primary distinction between the American social problem and
that of any European or Asiatic community.

The vast bulk of the population of the United States has, in fact, only
got there from Europe in the course of the last hundred years, and
mainly since the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne of Great
Britain. That is the first fact that the student of the American social
future must realise. Only an extremely small proportion of its blood
goes back now to those who fought for freedom in the days of George
Washington. The American community is not an expanded colonial society
that has become autonomous. It is a great and deepening pool of
population accumulating upon the area these predecessors freed, and
since fed copiously by affluents from every European community. Fresh
ingredients are still being added in enormous quantity, in quantity so
great as to materially change the racial quality in a score of years. It
is particularly noteworthy that each accession of new blood seems to
sterilise its predecessors. Had there been no immigration at all into
the United States, but had the rate of increase that prevailed in
1810-20 prevailed to 1900, the population, which would then have been a
purely native American one, would have amounted to a hundred
million--that is to say, to approximately nine million in excess of the
present total population. The new waves are for a time amazingly fecund,
and then comes a rapid fall in the birth-rate. The proportion of
colonial and early republican blood in the population is, therefore,
probably far smaller even than the figures I have quoted would suggest.

These accesses of new population have come in a series of waves, very
much as if successive reservoirs of surplus population in the Old World
had been tapped, drained and exhausted. First came the Irish and
Germans, then Central Europeans of various types, then Poland and
Western Russia began to pour out their teeming peoples, and more
particularly their Jews, Bohemia, the Slavonic states, Italy and Hungary
followed and the latest arrivals include great numbers of Levantines,
Armenians and other peoples from Asia Minor and the Balkan Peninsula.
The Hungarian immigrants have still a birth-rate of forty-six per
thousand, the highest birth-rate in the world.

A considerable proportion of the Mediterranean arrivals, it has to be
noted, and more especially the Italians, do not come to settle. They
work for a season or a few years, and then return to Italy. The rest
come to stay.

A vast proportion of these accessions to the American population since
1840 has, with the exception of the East European Jews, consisted of
peasantry, mainly or totally illiterate, accustomed to a low standard of
life and heavy bodily toil. For most of them the transfer to a new
country meant severance from the religious communion in which they had
been bred and from the servilities or subordinations to which they were
accustomed They brought little or no positive social tradition to the
synthesis to which they brought their blood and muscle.

The earlier German, English and Scandinavian incomers were drawn from a
somewhat higher social level, and were much more closely akin in habits
and faith to the earlier founders of the Republic.

Our inquiry is this: What social structure is this pool of mixed
humanity developing or likely to develop?

Sec. 2

If we compare any European nation with the American, we perceive at once
certain broad differences. The former, in comparison with the latter, is
evolved and organised; the latter, in comparison with the former, is
aggregated and chaotic. In nearly every European country there is a
social system often quite elaborately classed and defined; each class
with a sense of function, with an idea of what is due to it and what is
expected of it. Nearly everywhere you find a governing class,
aristocratic in spirit, sometimes no doubt highly modified by recent
economic and industrial changes, with more or less of the tradition of a
feudal nobility, then a definite great mercantile class, then a large
self-respecting middle class of professional men, minor merchants, and
so forth, then a new industrial class of employees in the manufacturing
and urban districts, and a peasant population rooted to the land. There
are, of course, many local modifications of this form: in France the
nobility is mostly expropriated; in England, since the days of John
Bull, the peasant has lost his common rights and his holding, and become
an "agricultural labourer" to a newer class of more extensive farmer.
But these are differences in detail; the fact of the organisation, and
the still more important fact of the traditional feeling of
organisation, remain true of all these older communities.

And in nearly every European country, though it may be somewhat
despoiled here and shorn of exclusive predominance there, or represented
by a dislocated "reformed" member, is the Church, custodian of a great
moral tradition, closely associated with the national universities and
the organisation of national thought. The typical European town has its
castle or great house, its cathedral or church, its middle-class and
lower-class quarters. Five miles off one can see that the American town
is on an entirely different plan. In his remarkable "American Scene,"
Mr. Henry James calls attention to the fact that the Church as one sees
it and feels it universally in Europe is altogether absent, and he adds
a comment as suggestive as it is vague. Speaking of the appearance of
the Churches, so far as they do appear amidst American urban scenery, he

"Looking for the most part no more established or
seated than a stopped omnibus, they are reduced to the
inveterate bourgeois level (that of private, accommodated
pretensions merely), and fatally despoiled of the fine old
ecclesiastical arrogance, ... The field of American life is
as bare of the Church as a billiard-table of a centre-piece; a
truth that the myriad little structures 'attended' on Sundays
and on the 'off' evenings of their 'sociables' proclaim as
with the audible sound of the roaring of a million mice....

"And however one indicates one's impression of the
clearance, the clearance itself, in its completeness, with the
innumerable odd connected circumstances that bring it
home, represents, in the history of manners and morals, a
deviation in the mere measurement of which hereafter may
well reside a certain critical thrill. I say hereafter because
it is a question of one of those many measurements that
would as yet, in the United States, be premature. Of all
the solemn conclusions one feels as 'barred,' the list is quite
headed in the States, I think, by this particular abeyance
of judgment. When an ancient treasure of precious vessels,
overscored with glowing gems and wrought artistically into
wondrous shapes, has, by a prodigious process, been converted
through a vast community into the small change,
the simple circulating medium of dollars and 'nickels,' we
can only say that the consequent permeation will be of
values of a new order. Of _what_ order we must wait to

America has no Church. Neither has it a peasantry nor an aristocracy,
and until well on in the Victorian epoch it had no disproportionately
rich people.

In America, except in the regions where the negro abounds, there is no
lower stratum. There is no "soil people" to this community at all; your
bottom-most man is a mobile freeman who can read, and who has ideas
above digging and pigs and poultry-keeping, except incidentally for his
own ends. No one owns to subordination As a consequence, any position
which involves the acknowledgment of an innate inferiority is difficult
to fill; there is, from the European point of view, an extraordinary
dearth of servants, and this endures in spite of a great peasant
immigration. The servile tradition will not root here now; it dies
forthwith. An enormous importation of European serfs and peasants goes
on, but as they touch this soil their backs begin to stiffen with a new

And at the other end of the scale, also, one misses an element. There
is no territorial aristocracy, no aristocracy at all, no throne, no
legitimate and acknowledged representative of that upper social
structure of leisure, power and State responsibility which in the old
European theory of Society was supposed to give significance to the
whole. The American community, one cannot too clearly insist, does not
correspond to an entire European community at all, but only to the
middle masses of it, to the trading and manufacturing class between the
dimensions of the magnate and the clerk and skilled artisan. It is the
central part of the European organism without either the dreaming head
or the subjugated feet. Even the highly feudal slave-holding "county
family" traditions of Virginia and the South pass now out of memory. So
that in a very real sense the past of the American nation is in Europe,
and the settled order of the past is left behind there. This community
was, as it were, taken off its roots, clipped of its branches, and
brought hither. It began neither serf nor lord, but burgher and farmer;
it followed the normal development of the middle class under Progress
everywhere and became capitalistic. The huge later immigration has
converged upon the great industrial centres and added merely a vast
non-servile element of employees to the scheme.

America has been and still very largely is a one-class country. It is a
great sea of human beings detached from their traditions of origin. The
social difference from Europe appears everywhere, and nowhere more
strikingly than in the railway carriages. In England the compartments in
these are either "first class," originally designed for the aristocracy,
or "second class," for the middle class, or "third class," for the
populace. In America there is only one class, one universal simple
democratic car. In the Southern States, however, a proportion of these
simple democratic cars are inscribed with the word "White," whereby nine
million people are excluded. But to this original even-handed treatment
there was speedily added a more sumptuous type of car, the parlour car,
accessible to extra dollars; and then came special types of train, all
made up of parlour cars and observation cars and the like. In England
nearly every train remains still first, second and third, or first and
third. And now, quite outdistancing the differentiation of England,
America produces private cars and private trains, such as Europe
reserves only for crowned heads.

The evidence of the American railways, then, suggests very strongly what
a hundred other signs confirm, that the huge classless sea of American
population is not destined to remain classless, is already developing
separations and distinctions and structures of its own. And monstrous
architectural portents in Boston and Salt Lake City encourage one to
suppose that even that churchless aspect, which so stirred the
speculative element in Mr. Henry James, is only the opening formless
phase of a community destined to produce not only classes but
intellectual and moral forms of the most remarkable kind.

Sec. 3

It is well to note how these ninety millions of people whose social
future we are discussing are distributed. This huge development of human
appliances and resources is here going on in a community that is still,
for all the dense crowds of New York, the teeming congestion of East
Side, extraordinarily scattered. America, one recalls, is still an
unoccupied country across which the latest developments of civilisation
are rushing. We are dealing here with a continuous area of land which
is, leaving Alaska out of account altogether, equal to Great Britain,
France, the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Italy, Belgium,
Japan, Holland, Spain and Portugal, Sweden and Norway, Turkey in Europe,
Egypt and the whole Empire of India, and the population spread out over
this vast space is still less than the joint population of the first two
countries named and not a quarter that of India.

Moreover, it is not spread at all evenly. Much of it is in undistributed
clots. It is not upon the soil; barely half of it is in holdings and
homes and authentic communities. It is a population of an extremely
modern type. Urban concentration has already gone far with it; fifteen
millions of it are crowded into and about twenty great cities, another
eighteen millions make up five hundred towns. Between these centres of
population run railways indeed, telegraph wires, telephone connections,
tracks of various sorts, but to the European eye these are mere
scratchings on a virgin surface. An empty wilderness manifests itself
through this thin network of human conveniences, appears in the meshes
even at the railroad side.

Essentially, America is still an unsettled land, with only a few
incidental good roads in favoured places, with no universal police, with
no wayside inns where a civilised man may rest, with still only the
crudest of rural postal deliveries, with long stretches of swamp and
forest and desert by the track side, still unassailed by industry. This
much one sees clearly enough eastward of Chicago. Westward it becomes
more and more the fact. In Idaho, at last, comes the untouched and
perhaps invincible desert, plain and continuous through the long hours
of travel. Huge areas do not contain one human being to the square mile,
still vaster portions fall short of two....

It is upon Pennsylvania and New York State and the belt of great towns
that stretches out past Chicago to Milwaukee and Madison that the nation
centres and seems destined to centre. One needs but examine a tinted
population map to realise that. The other concentrations are provincial
and subordinate; they have the same relation to the main axis that
Glasgow or Cardiff have to London in the British scheme.

Sec. 4

When I speak of this vast multitude, these ninety millions of the United
States of America as being for the most part peasants de-peasant-ised
and common people cut off from their own social traditions, I do not
intend to convey that the American community is as a whole
traditionless. There is in America a very distinctive tradition indeed,
which animates the entire nation, gives a unique idiom to its press and
all its public utterances, and is manifestly the starting point from
which the adjustments of the future must be made.

The mere sight of the stars and stripes serves to recall it; "Yankee" in
the mouth of a European gives something of its quality. One thinks at
once of a careless abandonment of any pretension, of tireless energy
and daring enterprise, of immense self-reliance, of a disrespect for the
past so complete that a mummy is in itself a comical object, and the
blowing out of an ill-guarded sacred flame, a delightful jest. One
thinks of the enterprise of the sky-scraper and the humour of "A Yankee
at the Court of King Arthur," and of "Innocents Abroad." Its dominant
notes are democracy, freedom, and confidence. It is religious-spirited
without superstition consciously Christian in the vein of a nearly
Unitarian Christianity, fervent but broadened, broadened as a halfpenny
is broadened by being run over by an express train, substantially the
same, that is to say, but with a marked loss of outline and detail. It
is a tradition of romantic concession to good and inoffensive women and
a high development of that personal morality which puts sexual
continence and alcoholic temperance before any public virtue. It is
equally a tradition of sporadic emotional public-spiritedness, entirely
of the quality of gallantry, of handsome and surprising gifts to the
people, disinterested occupation of office and the like. It is
emotionally patriotic, hypotheticating fighting and dying for one's
country as a supreme good while inculcating also that working and living
for oneself is quite within the sphere of virtuous action. It adores the
flag but suspects the State. One sees more national flags and fewer
national servants in America than in any country in the world. Its
conception of manners is one of free plain-spoken men revering women and
shielding them from most of the realities of life, scornful of
aristocracies and monarchies, while asserting simply, directly, boldly
and frequently an equal claim to consideration with all other men. If
there is any traditional national costume, it is shirt-sleeves. And it
cherishes the rights of property above any other right whatsoever.

Such are the details that come clustering into one's mind in response to
the phrase, the American tradition.

From the War of Independence onward until our own times that tradition,
that very definite ideal, has kept pretty steadily the same. It is the
image of a man and not the image of a State. Its living spirit has been
the spirit of freedom at any cost, unconditional and irresponsible. It
is the spirit of men who have thrown off a yoke, who are jealously
resolved to be unhampered masters of their "own," to whom nothing else
is of anything but secondary importance. That was the spirit of the
English small gentry and mercantile class, the comfortable property
owners, the Parliamentarians, in Stuart times. Indeed even earlier, it
is very largely the spirit of More's "Utopia." It was that spirit sent
Oliver Cromwell himself packing for America, though a heedless and
ill-advised and unforeseeing King would not let him go. It was the
spirit that made taxation for public purposes the supreme wrong and
provoked each country, first the mother country and then in its turn the
daughter country, to armed rebellion. It has been the spirit of the
British Whig and the British Nonconformist almost up to the present day.
In the Reform Club of London, framed and glazed over against Magna
Charta, is the American Declaration of Independence, kindred trophies
they are of the same essentially English spirit of stubborn
insubordination. But the American side of it has gone on unchecked by
the complementary aspect of the English character which British Toryism

The War of Independence raised that Whig suspicion of and hostility to
government and the freedom of private property and the repudiation of
any but voluntary emotional and supererogatory co-operation in the
national purpose to the level of a religion, and the American
Constitution with but one element of elasticity in the Supreme Court
decisions, established these principles impregnably in the political
structure. It organised disorganisation. Personal freedom, defiance of
authority, and the stars and stripes have always gone together in men's
minds; and subsequent waves of immigration, the Irish fleeing famine,
for which they held the English responsible, and the Eastern European
Jews escaping relentless persecutions, brought a persuasion of immense
public wrongs, as a necessary concomitant of systematic government, to
refresh without changing this defiant thirst for freedom at any cost.

In my book, "The Future in America," I have tried to make an estimate of
the working quality of this American tradition of unconditional freedom
for the adult male citizen. I have shown that from the point of view of
anyone who regards civilisation as an organisation of human
interdependence and believes that the stability of society can be
secured only by a conscious and disciplined co-ordination of effort, it
is a tradition extraordinarily and dangerously deficient in what I have
called a "_sense of the State_." And by a "sense of the State" I mean
not merely a vague and sentimental and showy public-spiritedness--of
that the States have enough and to spare--but a real sustaining
conception of the collective interest embodied in the State as an object
of simple duty and as a determining factor in the life of each
individual. It involves a sense of function and a sense of "place," a
sense of a general responsibility and of a general well-being
overriding the individual's well-being, which are exactly the senses the
American tradition attacks and destroys.

Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest