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Evolution and Ethics and Other Essays by Thomas H. Huxley

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production really precedes enjoyment . . . wages are the
earnings--that is to say, the makings--of labour--not the advances
of capital."

And the proposition which the author endeavours to disprove is the
hitherto generally accepted doctrine

..."that labour is maintained and paid out of existing capital,
before the product which constitutes the ultimate object is
secured" (p. 16).

The doctrine respecting the relation of capital and wages, which is
thus opposed in "Progress and Poverty," is that illustrated in the
foregoing pages; the truth of which, I conceive, must be plain to any
one who has apprehended the very simple arguments by which I have
endeavoured to [170] demonstrate it. One conclusion or the other must
be hopelessly wrong; and, even at the cost of going once more over
some of the ground traversed in this essay and that on "Natural and
Political Rights,"* I propose to show that the error lies with
"Progress and Poverty"; in which work, so far as political science is
concerned, the poverty is, to my eye, much more apparent than the

* Collected Essays, vol. i. pp. 359-382.

To begin at the beginning. The author propounds a definition of
wealth: "Nothing which nature supplies to man without his labour is
wealth" (p. 28). Wealth consists of "natural substances or products
which have been adapted by human labour to human use or gratification,
their value depending upon the amount of labour which, upon the
average, would be required to produce things of like kind" (p. 27).
The following examples of wealth are given:--

. . . "Buildings, cattle, tools, machinery, agricultural and
mineral products, manufactured goods, ships, waggons,
furniture, and the like" (p. 27).

I take it that native metals, coal and brick clay, are "mineral
products"; and I quite believe that they are properly termed "wealth."
But when a seam of coal crops out at the surface, and lumps of coal
are to be had for the picking up; or when native copper lies about in
nuggets, or [171] when brick clay forms a superficial stratum, it
appears to me that these things are supplied to, nay almost thrust
upon, man without his labour. According to the definition, therefore,
they are not "wealth." According to the enumeration, however, they are
"wealth": a tolerably fair specimen of a contradiction in terms. Or
does "Progress and Poverty" really suggest that a coal seam which
crops out at the surface is not wealth; but that if somebody breaks
off a piece and carries it away, the bestowal of this amount of labour
upon that particular lump makes it wealth; while the rest remains "not
wealth"? The notion that the value of a thing bears any necessary
relation to the amount of labour (average or otherwise) bestowed upon
it, is a fallacy which needs no further refutation than it has already
received. The average amount of labour bestowed upon warming-pans
confers no value upon them in the eyes of a Gold-Coast negro; nor
would an Esquimaux give a slice of blubber for the most elaborate of

So much for the doctrine of "Progress and Poverty" touching the nature
of wealth. Let us now consider its teachings respecting capital as
wealth or a part of wealth. Adam Smith's definition "that part of a
man's stock which he expects to yield him a revenue is called his
capital" is quoted with approval (p. 32); elsewhere capital is said to
be that part of wealth "which [172] is devoted to the aid of
production" (p. 28); and yet again it is said to be

. . . "wealth in course of exchange,* understanding exchange to
include, not merely the passing from hand to hand, but
also such transmutations as occur when the reproductive
or transforming forces of nature are utilised for the
increase of wealth" (p. 32).

* The italics are the author's.

But if too much pondering over the possible senses and scope of these
definitions should weary the reader, he will be relieved by the
following acknowledgment:--

. . . "Nor is the definition of capital I have suggested of
any importance" (p. 33).

The author informs us, in fact, that he is "not writing a text-book,"
thereby intimating his opinion that it is less important to be clear
and accurate when you are trying to bring about a political revolution
than when a merely academic interest attaches to the subject treated.
But he is not busy about anything so serious as a textbook: no, he "is
only attempting to discover the laws which control a great social
problem"--a mode of expression which indicates perhaps the high-water
mark of intellectual muddlement. I have heard, in my time, of "laws"
which control other "laws"; but this is the first occasion on which
"laws" which "control a problem" have come under my notice. Even the
disquisitions "of [173] those flabby writers who have burdened the
press and darkened counsel by numerous volumes which are dubbed
political economy" (p. 28) could hardly furnish their critics with a
finer specimen of that which a hero of the "Dunciad," by the one flash
of genius recorded of him, called "clotted nonsense."

Doubtless it is a sign of grace that the author of these definitions
should attach no importance to any of them; but since, unfortunately,
his whole argument turns upon the tacit assumption that they are
important, I may not pass them over so lightly. The third I give up.
Why anything should be capital when it is "in course of exchange," and
not be capital under other circumstances, passes my understanding. We
are told that "that part of a farmer's crop held for sale or for seed,
or to feed his help, in part payment of wages, would be accounted
capital; that held for the care of his family would not be" (p. 31).
But I fail to discover any ground of reason or authority for the
doctrine that it is only when a crop is about to be sold or sown, or
given as wages, that it may be called capital. On the contrary,
whether we consider custom or reason, so much of it as is stored away
in ricks and barns during harvest, and remains there to be used in any
of these ways months or years afterwards, is customarily and rightly
termed capital. Surely, the meaning of the clumsy phrase that capital
is "wealth in the [174] course of exchange" must be that it is "wealth
capable of being exchanged" against labour or anything else. That, in
fact, is the equivalent of the second definition, that capital is
"that part of wealth which is devoted to the aid of production."
Obviously, if you possess that for which men will give labour, you can
aid production by means of that labour. And, again, it agrees with the
first definition (borrowed from Adam Smith) that capital is "that part
of a man's stock which he expects to yield him a revenue." For a
revenue is both etymologically and in sense a "return." A man gives
his labour in sowing grain, or in tending cattle, because he expects a
"return"--a "revenue"--in the shape of the increase of the grain or of
the herd; and also, in the latter case, in the shape of their labour
and manure which "aid the production" of such increase. The grain and
cattle of which he is possessed immediately after harvest is his
capital; and his revenue for the twelvemonth, until the next harvest,
is the surplus of grain and cattle over and above the amount with
which he started. This is disposable for any purpose for which he may
desire to use it, leaving him just as well off as he was at the
beginning of the year. Whether the man keeps the surplus grain for
sowing more land, and the surplus cattle for occupying more pasture;
whether he exchanges them for other commodities, such as the use of
the land (as rent); or labour (as [175] wages); or whether he feeds
himself and his family, in no way alters their nature as revenue, or
affects the fact that this revenue is merely disposable capital.

That (even apart from etymology) cattle are typical examples of
capital cannot be denied ("Progress and Poverty," p. 25); and if we
seek for that particular quality of cattle which makes them "capital,"
neither has the author of "Progress and Poverty" supplied, nor is any
one else very likely to supply, a better account of the matter than
Adam Smith has done. Cattle are "capital" because they are "stock
which yields revenue." That is to say, they afford to their owner a
supply of that which he desires to possess. And, in this particular
case, the "revenue" is not only desirable, but of supreme importance,
inasmuch as it is capable of maintaining human life. The herd yields a
revenue of food-stuffs as milk and meat; a revenue of skins; a revenue
of manure; a revenue of labour; a revenue of exchangeable commodities
in the shape of these things, as well as in that of live cattle. In
each and all of these capacities cattle are capital; and, conversely,
things which possess any or all of these capacities are capital.

Therefore what we find at page 25 of "Progress and Poverty" must be
regarded as a welcome lapse into clearness of apprehension:--

"A fertile field, a rich vein of ore, a falling stream which supplies
power, may give the possessor advantages [176] equivalent to the
possession of capital; but to class such things as capital would be to
put an end to the distinction between land and capital."

Just so. But the fatal truth is that these things are capital; and
that there really is no fundamental distinction between land and
capital. Is it denied that a fertile field, a rich vein of ore, or a
falling stream, may form part of a man's stock, and that, if they do,
they are capable of yielding revenue? Will not somebody pay a share of
the produce in kind, or in money, for the privilege of cultivating the
first royalties for that of working the second; and a like equivalent
for that of erecting a mill on the third? In what sense, then, are
these things less "capital" than the buildings and tools which on page
27 of "Progress and Poverty" are admitted to be capital? Is it not
plain that if these things confer "advantages equivalent to the
possession of capital," and if the "advantage" of capital is nothing
but the yielding of revenue, then the denial that they are capital is
merely a roundabout way of self-contradiction?

All this confused talk about capital, however, is lucidity itself
compared with the exposition of the remarkable thesis, "Wages not
drawn from capital, but produced by labour," which occupies the third
chapter of "Progress and Poverty."

"If, for instance, I devote my labour to gathering birds' eggs or
picking wild berries, the eggs or berries I thus [177] get are my
wages. Surely no one will contend that, in such a case, wages are
drawn from capital. There is no capital in the case" (p. 34).

Nevertheless, those who have followed what has been said in the first
part of this essay surely neither will, nor can, have any hesitation
about substantially adopting the challenged contention, though they
may possibly have qualms as to the propriety of the use of the term
"wages."* They will have no difficulty in apprehending the fact that
birds' eggs and berries are stores of foodstuffs, or vital capital;
that the man who devotes his labour to getting them does so at the
expense of his personal vital capital; and that, if the eggs and the
berries are "wages" for his work, they are so because they enable him
to restore to his organism the vital capital which he has consumed in
doing the work of collection. So that there is really a great deal of
"capital in the case."

* Not merely on the grounds stated below, but on the strength
of Mr. George's own definition. Does the gatherer of eggs, or
berries, produce them by his labour? If so, what do the hens
and the bushes do?

Our author proceeds:--

"An absolutely naked man, thrown on an island where no human being has
before trod, may gather birds' eggs or pick berries" (p. 34).

No doubt. But those who have followed my argument thus far will be
aware that a man's vital capital does not reside in his clothes; and,
therefore, [178] they will probably fail, as completely as I do, to
discover the relevancy of the statement.


. . . Or, if I take a piece of leather and work it up into a
pair of shoes, the shoes are my wages--the reward of my
exertion. Surely they are not drawn from capital--either
my capital or anybody else's capital--but are brought
into existence by the labour of which they became the
wages; and, in obtaining this pair of shoes as the wages
of my labour, capital is not even momentarily lessened
one iota. For if we call in the idea of capital, my
capital at the beginning consists of the piece of
leather, the thread, &c. (p. 34).

It takes away one's breath to have such a concatenation of fallacies
administered in the space of half a paragraph. It does not seem to
have occurred to our economical reformer to imagine whence his
"capital at the beginning," the "leather, thread, &c." came. I venture
to suppose that leather to have been originally cattle-skin; and since
calves and oxen are not flayed alive, the existence of the leather
implies the lessening of that form of capital by a very considerable
iota. It is, therefore, as sure as anything can be that, in the long
run, the shoes are drawn from that which is capital par excellence; to
wit, cattle. It is further beyond doubt that the operation of tanning
must involve loss of capital in the shape of bark, to say nothing of
other losses; and that the use of the awls and knives of the shoemaker
involves loss of capital in the shape of the store of [179] iron;
further, the shoemaker has been enabled to do his work not only by the
vital capital expended during the time occupied in making the pair of
shoes, but by that expended from the time of his birth, up to the time
that he earned wages that would keep him alive.

"Progress and Poverty" continues:--

. . . As my labour goes on, value is steadily added until,
when my labour results in the finished shoes, I have my
capital plus the difference in value between the
material and the shoes. In obtaining this additional
value--my wages--how is capital, at any time, drawn
upon? (p, 34).

In return we may inquire, how can any one propound such a question?
Capital is drawn upon all the time. Not only when the shoes are
commenced, but while they are being made, and until they are either
used by the shoemaker himself or are purchased by somebody else; that
is, exchanged for a portion of another man's capital. In fact
(supposing that the shoemaker does not want shoes himself), it is the
existence of vital capital in the possession of another person and the
willingness of that person to part with more or less of it in exchange
for the shoes--it is these two conditions, alone, which prevent the
shoemaker from having consumed his capital unproductively, just as
much as if he had spent his time in chopping up the leather into
minute fragments.

Thus, the examination of the very case selected [180] by the advocate
of the doctrine that labour bestowed upon manufacture, without any
intervention of capital, can produce wages, proves to be a delusion of
the first magnitude; even though it be supported by the dictum of Adam
Smith which is quoted in its favour (p. 34)--

. . . "The produce of labour constitutes the natural recompense
or wages of labour. In that original state of things which
precedes both the appropriation of land and the
accumulation of stock, the whole produce of labour belongs
to the labourer. He has neither landlord nor master to
share with him" ("Wealth of Nations," ch. viii).

But the whole of this passage exhibits the influence of the French
Physiocrats by whom Adam Smith was inspired, at their worst; that is to
say, when they most completely forsook the ground of experience for a
priori speculation. The confident reference to "that original state of
things" is quite in the manner of the Essai sur l'Inegalie. Now, the
state of men before the "appropriation of land" and the "accumulation
of stock" must surely have been that of purely savage hunters. As, by
the supposition, nobody would have possessed land, certainly no man
could have had a landlord; and, if there was no accumulation of stock
in a transferable form, as surely there could be no master, in the
sense of hirer. But hirer and hire (that is, wages) are correlative
terms, like mother and child. As "child" implies "mother," so does
"hire" or "wages" imply a [181] "hirer" or "wage-giver." Therefore,
when a man in "the original state of things" gathered fruit or killed
game for his own sustenance, the fruit or the game could be called his
"wages" only in a figurative sense; as one sees if the term "hire,"
which has a more limited connotation, is substituted for "wage." If
not, it must be assumed that the savage hired himself to get his own
dinner; whereby we are led to the tolerably absurd conclusion that, as
in the "state of nature" he was his own employer, the "master" and the
labourer, in that model age, appropriated the produce in equal shares!
And if this should be not enough, it has already been seen that, in
the hunting state, man is not even an accessory of production of vital
capital; he merely consumes what nature produces.

According to the author of "Progress and Poverty" political economists
have been deluded by a "fallacy which has entangled some of the most
acute minds in a web of their own spinning."

"It is in the use of the term capital in two senses. In the primary
proposition that capital is necessary to the exertion of productive
labour, the term "capital" is understood as including all food,
clothing, shelter, &c.; whereas in the deductions finally drawn from
it, the term is used in its common and legitimate meaning of wealth
devoted, not to the immediate gratification of desire, but to the
procurement of more wealth--of wealth in the hands of employers as
distinguished from labourers" (p. 40).

[182] I am by no means concerned to defend the political economists who
are thus charged with blundering; but I shall be surprised to learn
that any have carried the art of self-entanglement to the degree of
perfection exhibited by this passage. Who has ever imagined that
wealth which, in the hands of an employer, is capital, ceases to be
capital if it is in the hands of a labourer? Suppose a workman to be
paid thirty shillings on Saturday evening for six days' labour, that
thirty shillings comes out of the employer's capital, and receives the
name of "wages" simply because it is exchanged for labour. In the
workman's pocket, as he goes home, it is a part of his capital, in
exactly the same sense as, half an hour before, it was part of the
employer's capital; he is a capitalist just as much as if he were a
Rothschild. Suppose him to be a single man, whose cooking and
household matters are attended to by the people of the house in which
he has a room; then the rent which he pays them out of this capital
is, in part, wages for their labour, and he is, so far, an employer.
If he saves one shilling out of his thirty, he has, to that extent,
added to his capital when the next Saturday comes round. And if he
puts his saved shillings week by week into the Savings Bank, the
difference between him and the most bloated of bankers is simply one
of degree.

At page 42, we are confidently told that [183] "labourers by receiving
wages" cannot lessen "even temporarily" the "capital of the employer,"
while at page 44 it is admitted that in certain cases the capitalist
"pays out capital in wages." One would think that the "paying out" of
capital is hardly possible without at least a "temporary" diminution
of the capital from which payment is made. But "Progress and Poverty"
changes all that by a little verbal legerdemain:--

. . . "For where wages are paid before the object of the labour
is obtained, or is finished--as in agriculture, where
ploughing and sowing must precede by several months the
harvesting of the crop; as in the erection of buildings,
the construction of ships, railroads, canals, &c.--it is
clear that the owners of the capital paid in wages cannot
expect an immediate return, but, as the phrase is, must
"outlay it" or "lie out of it" for a time which sometimes
amounts to many years. And hence, if first principles are
not kept in mind, it is easy to jump to the conclusion
that wages are advanced by capital" (p. 44).

Those who have paid attention to the argument of former parts of this
paper may not be able to understand how, if sound "first principles
are kept in mind," any other conclusion can be reached, whether by
jumping, or by any other mode of logical progression. But the first
principle which our author "keeps in mind" possesses just that amount
of ambiguity which enables him to play hocus-pocus with it. It is
this; that "the creation of value does not depend upon the finishing
of the product" (p. 44).

[184] There is no doubt that, under certain limitations, this
proposition is correct. It is not true that "labour always adds to
capital by its exertion before it takes from capital its wages" (p.
44), but it is true that it may, and often does, produce that effect.

To take one of the examples given, the construction of a ship. The
shaping of the timbers undoubtedly gives them a value (for a
shipbuilder) which they did not possess before. When they are put
together to constitute the framework of the ship, there is a still
further addition of value (for a shipbuilder); and when the outside
planking is added, there is another addition (for a shipbuilder).
Suppose everything else about the hull is finished, except the one
little item of caulking the seams, there is no doubt that it has still
more value for a shipbuilder. But for whom else has it any value,
except perhaps for a fire-wood merchant? What price will any one who
wants a ship--that is to say, something that will carry a cargo from
one port to another--give for the unfinished vessel which would take
water in at every seam and go down in half an hour, if she were
launched? Suppose the shipbuilder's capital to fail before the vessel
is caulked, and that he cannot find another shipbuilder who cares to
buy and finish it, what sort of proportion does the value created by
the labour, for which he has paid out of his capital, stand to that of
his advances?

[185] Surely no one will give him one-tenth of the capital disbursed
in wages, perhaps not so much even as the prime cost of the raw
materials. Therefore, though the assertion that "the creation of
value does not depend on the finishing of the product" may be strictly
true under certain circumstances, it need not be and is not always
true. And, if it is meant to imply or suggest that the creation of
value in a manufactured article does not depend upon the finishing of
that article, a more serious error could hardly be propounded.

Is there not a prodigious difference in the value of an uncaulked and
in that of a finished ship; between the value of a house in which only
the tiles of the roof are wanting and a finished house; between that
of a clock which only lacks the escapement and a finished clock?

As ships, house, and clock, the unfinished articles have no value
whatever--that is to say, no person who wanted to purchase one of
these things, for immediate use, would give a farthing for either. The
only value they can have, apart from that of the materials they
contain, is that which they possess for some one who can finish them,
or for some one who can make use of parts of them for the construction
of other things. A man might buy an unfinished house for the sake of
the bricks; or he might buy an incomplete clock to use the works for
some other piece of machinery.

Thus, though every stage of the labour [186] bestowed on raw material,
for the purpose of giving rise to a certain product, confers some
additional value on that material in the estimation of those who are
engaged in manufacturing that product, the ratio of that accumulated
value, at any stage of the process, to the value of the finished
product is extremely inconstant, and often small; while, to other
persons, the value of the unfinished product may be nothing, or even a
minus quantity. A house-timber merchant, for example, might consider
that wood which had been worked into the ribs of a ship was
spoiled--that is, had less value than it had as a log.

According to "Progress and Poverty," there was, really, no advance of
capital while the great St. Gothard tunnel was cut. Suppose that, as
the Swiss and the Italian halves of the tunnel approached to within
half a kilometre, that half-kilometre had turned out to be composed of
practically impenetrable rock--would anybody have given a centime for
the unfinished tunnel? And if not, how comes it that "the creation of
value does not depend on the finishing of the product"?

I think it may be not too much to say that, of all the political
delusions which are current in this queer world, the very stupidest
are those which assume that labour and capital are necessarily
antagonistic; that all capital is produced by labour and therefore, by
natural right, is the property of [187] the labourer; that the
possessor of capital is a robber who preys on the workman and
appropriates to himself that which he has had no share in producing.

On the contrary, capital and labour are, necessarily, close allies;
capital is never a product of human labour alone; it exists apart from
human labour; it is the necessary antecedent of labour; and it
furnishes the materials on which labour is employed. The only
indispensable form of capital--vital capital--cannot be produced by
human labour. All that man can do is to favour its formation by the
real producers. There is no intrinsic relation between the amount of
labour bestowed on an article and its value in exchange. The claim of
labour to the total result of operations which are rendered possible
only by capital is simply an a priori iniquity.







The letters which are here collected together were published in the
"Times" in the course of the months of December, 1890, and January,

The circumstances which led me to write the first letter are
sufficiently set forth in its opening sentences; and the materials on
which I based my criticisms of Mr. Booth's scheme, in this and in the
second letter, were wholly derived from Mr. Booth's book. I had some
reason to know, however, that when anybody allows his sense of duty so
far to prevail over his sense of the blessedness of peace as to write
a letter to the "Times," on any subject of public interest, his
reflections, before he has done with the business, will be very like
[189] those of Johnny Gilpin, "who little thought, when he set out, of
running such a rig." Such undoubtedly are mine when I contemplate
these twelve documents, and call to mind the distinct addition to the
revenue of the Post Office which must have accrued from the mass of
letters and pamphlets which have been delivered at my door; to say
nothing of the unexpected light upon my character, motives, and
doctrines, which has been thrown by some of the "Times'"
correspondents, and by no end of comments elsewhere.

If self-knowledge is the highest aim of man, I ought by this time to
have little to learn. And yet, if I am awake, some of my
teachers--unable, perhaps, to control the divine fire of the poetic
imagination which is so closely akin to, if not a part of, the
mythopoeic faculty--have surely dreamed dreams. So far as my humbler
and essentially prosaic faculties of observation and comparison go,
plain facts are against them. But, as I may be mistaken, I have
thought it well to prefix to the letters (by way of "Prolegomena") an
essay which appeared in the "Nineteenth Century" for January, 1888, in
which the principles that, to my mind, lie at the bottom of the
"social question" are stated. So far as Individualism and Regimental
Socialism are concerned, this paper simply emphasizes and expands the
opinions expressed in an address to the members of the Midland
Institute, delivered seventeen years earlier, [190] and still more
fully developed in several essays published in the "Nineteenth
Century" in 1889, which I hope, before long, to republish.*

* See Collected Essays, vol. i. p. 290 to end; and this volume,
p. 147.

The fundamental proposition which runs through the writings, which
thus extend over a. of twenty years, is, that the common a priori
doctrines and methods of reasoning about political and social
questions are essentially vicious; and that argumentation on this
basis leads, with equal logical force, to two contradictory and
extremely mischievous systems, the one that of Anarchaic
Individualism, the other that of despotic or Regimental Socialism.
Whether I am right or wrong, I am at least consistent in opposing both
to the best of my ability. Mr. Booth's system appears to me, and, as I
have shown, is regarded by Socialists themselves, to be mere
autocratic Socialism, masked by its theological exterior. That the
"fantastic" religious skin will wear away, and the Socialistic reality
it covers will show its real nature, is the expressed hope of one
candid Socialist, and may be fairly conceived to be the unexpressed
belief of the despotic leader of the new Trades Union, who has shown
his zeal, if not his discretion, in championing Mr. Booth's projects.
[See Letter VIII.]

Yet another word to commentators upon my letters. There are some who
rather chuckle, and [191] some who sneer, at what they seem to
consider the dexterity of an "old controversial hand," exhibited by
the contrast which I have drawn between the methods of conversion
depicted in the New Testament and those pursued by fanatics of the
Salvationist type, whether they be such as are now exploited by Mr.
Booth, or such as those who, from the time of the Anabaptists, to go
no further back, have worked upon similar lines.

Whether such observations were intended to be flattering or sarcastic,
I must respectfully decline to accept the compliment, or to apply the
sarcasm to myself. I object to obliquity of procedure and ambiguity of
speech in all shapes. And I confess that I find it difficult to
understand the state of mind which leads any one to suppose, that deep
respect for single-minded devotion to high aims is incompatible with
the unhesitating conviction that those aims include the propagation of
doctrines which are devoid of foundation--perhaps even mischievous.

The most degrading feature of the narrower forms of Christianity (of
which that professed by Mr. Booth is a notable example) is their
insistence that the noblest virtues, if displayed by those who reject
their pitiable formulae, are, as their pet phrase goes, "splendid
sins." But there is, perhaps, one step lower; and that is that men,
who profess freedom of thought, should fail to see and [192]
appreciate that large soul of goodness which often animates even the
fanatical adherents of such tenets. I am sorry for any man who can
read the epistles to the Galatians and the Corinthians without
yielding a large meed of admiration to the fervent humanity of Paul of
Tarsus; who can study the lives of Francis of Assisi, or of Catherine
of Siena, without wishing that, for the furtherance of his own ideals,
he might be even as they; or who can contemplate unmoved the steadfast
veracity and true heroism which loom through the fogs of mystical
utterance in George Fox. In all these great men and women there lay
the root of the matter; a burning desire to amend the condition of
their fellow-men, and to put aside all other things for that end. If,
in spite of all the dogmatic helps or hindrances in which they were
entangled, these people are not to be held in high honour, who are?

I have never expressed a doubt--for I have none--that, when Mr. Booth
left the Methodist connection, and started that organisation of the
Salvation Army upon which, comparatively recently, such ambitious
schemes of social reform have been grafted, he may have deserved some
share of such honour. I do not say that, so far as his personal
desires and intentions go, he may not still deserve it. But the
correlate of despotic authority is unlimited responsibility. If Mr.
Booth is to take [193] credit for any good that the Army system has
effected, he must be prepared to bear blame for its inherent evils. As
it seems to me, that has happened to him which sooner or later happens
to all despots: he has become the slave of his own creation--the
prosperity and glory of the soul-saving machine have become the end,
instead of a means, of soul-saving; and to maintain these at the
proper pitch, the "General" is led to do things which the Mr. Booth of
twenty years ago would probably have scorned.

And those who desire, as I most emphatically desire, to be just to Mr.
Booth, however badly they may think of the working of the organization
he has founded, will bear in mind that some astute backers of his
probably care little enough for Salvationist religion; and, perhaps,
are not very keen about many of Mr. Booth's projects. I have referred
to the rubbing of the hands of the Socialists over Mr. Booth's
success;* but, unless I err greatly, there are politicians of a
certain school to whom it affords still greater satisfaction. Consider
what electioneering agents the captains of the Salvation Army,
scattered through all our towns, and directed from a political
"bureau" in London, would make! Think how political adversaries could
be harassed by our local attorney--"tribune of the people," I mean;
and how a troublesome man, on the other side, could be "hunted [194]
down" upon any convenient charge, whether true or false, brought by
our Vigilance-familiar!**

* See Letter VIII.
** See Letter II.

I entirely acquit Mr. Booth of any complicity in far-reaching schemes
of this kind; but I did not write idly when, in my first letter, I
gave no vague warning of what might grow out of the organised force,
drilled in the habit of unhesitating obedience, which he has created.





The vast and varied procession of events, which we call Nature, affords
a sublime spectacle and an inexhaustible wealth of attractive problems
to the speculative observer. If we confine our attention to that
aspect which engages the attention of the intellect, nature appears a
beautiful and harmonious whole, the incarnation of a faultless logical
process, from certain premises in the past to an inevitable conclusion
in the future. But if it be regarded from a less elevated, though more
human, point of view; if our moral sympathies are allowed to influence
our judgment, and we permit ourselves to criticise our great mother as
we criticise one another; then our verdict, at least so far as
sentient nature is concerned, can hardly be so favourable.

In sober truth, to those who have made a study of the phenomena of life
as they exhibited by the higher forms of the animal world, [196] the
optimistic dogma, that this is the best of all possible worlds, will
seem little better than a libel upon possibility. It is really only
another instance to be added to the many extant, of the audacity of a
priori speculators who, having created God in their own image, find no
difficulty in assuming that the Almighty must have been actuated by
the same motives as themselves. They are quite sure that, had any
other course been practicable, He would no more have made infinite
suffering a necessary ingredient of His handiwork than a respectable
philosopher would have done the like.

But even the modified optimism of the time-honoured thesis of
physico-theology, that the sentient world is, on the whole, regulated
by principles of benevolence, does but ill stand the test of impartial
confrontation with the facts of the case. No doubt it is quite true
that sentient nature affords hosts of examples of subtle contrivances
directed towards the production of pleasure or the avoidance of pain;
and it may be proper to say that these are evidences of benevolence.
But if so, why is it not equally proper to say of the equally numerous
arrangements, the no less necessary result of which is the production
of pain, that they are evidences of malevolence?

If a vast amount of that which, in a piece of human workmanship, we
should call skill, is [197] visible in those parts of the organization
of a deer to which it owes its ability to escape from beasts of prey,
there is at least equal skill displayed in that bodily mechanism of
the wolf which enables him to track, and sooner or later to bring
down, the deer. Viewed under the dry light of science, deer and wolf
are alike admirable; and, if both were non-sentient automata, there
would be nothing to qualify our admiration of the action of the one on
the other. But the fact that the deer suffers, while the wolf inflicts
suffering, engages our moral sympathies. We should call men like the
deer innocent and good, men such as the wolf malignant and bad; we
should call those who defended the deer and aided him to escape brave
and compassionate, and those who helped the wolf in his bloody work
base and cruel. Surely, if we transfer these judgments to nature
outside the world of man at all, we must do so impartially. In that
case, the goodness of the right hand which helps the deer, and the
wickedness of the left hand which eggs on the wolf, will neutralize
one another: and the course of nature will appear to be neither moral
nor immoral, but non-moral.

This conclusion is thrust upon us by analogous facts in every part of
the sentient world; yet, inasmuch as it not only jars upon prevalent
prejudices, but arouses the natural dislike to that which is painful,
much ingenuity has been exercised in devising an escape from it.

From the theological side, we are told that [198] this is a state of
probation, and that the seeming injustices and immoralities of nature
will be compensated by and by. But how this compensation is to be
effected, in the case of the great majority of sentient things, is not
clear. I apprehend that no one is seriously prepared to maintain that
the ghosts of all the myriads of generations of herbivorous animals
which lived during the millions of years of the earth's duration,
before the appearance of man, and which have all that time been
tormented and devoured by carnivores, are to be compensated by a
perennial existence in clover; while the ghosts of carnivores are to
go to some kennel where there is neither a pan of water nor a bone
with any meat on it. Besides, from the point of view of morality, the
last stage of things would be worse than the first. For the
carnivores, however brutal and sanguinary, have only done that which,
if there is any evidence of contrivance in the world, they were
expressly constructed to do. Moreover, carnivores and herbivores
alike have been subject to all the miseries incidental to old age,
disease, and over-multiplication, and both might well put in a claim
for "compensation" on this score.

On the evolutionist side, on the other hand, we are told to take
comfort from the reflection that the terrible struggle for existence
tends to final good, and that the suffering of the ancestor is paid
for by the increased perfection of the progeny. There would be
something in this argument if, in [199] Chinese fashion, the present
generation could pay its debts to its ancestors; otherwise it is not
clear what compensation the Eohippus gets for his sorrows in the fact
that, some millions of years afterwards, one of his descendants wins
the Derby. And, again, it is an error to imagine that evolution
signifies a constant tendency to increased perfection. That process
undoubtedly involves a constant remodelling of the organism in
adaptation to new conditions; but it depends on the nature of those
conditions whether the direction of the modifications effected shall
be upward or downward. Retrogressive is as practicable as progressive
metamorphosis. If what the physical philosophers tell us, that our
globe has been in a state of fusion, and, like the sun, is gradually
cooling down, is true; then the time must come when evolution will
mean adaptation to an universal winter, and all forms of life will die
out, except such low and simple organisms as the Diatom of the arctic
and antarctic ice and the Protococcus of the red snow. If our globe is
proceeding from a condition in which it was too hot to support any but
the lowest living thing to a condition in which it will be too cold to
permit of the existence of any others, the course of life upon its
surface must describe a trajectory like that of a ball fired from a
mortar; and the sinking half of that course is as much a part of the
general process of evolution as the rising.

From the point of view of the moralist the [200] animal world is on
about the same level as a gladiator's show. The creatures are fairly
well treated, and set to fight--whereby the strongest, the swiftest,
and the cunningest live to fight another day. The spectator has no
need to turn his thumbs down, as no quarter is given. He must admit
that the skill and training displayed are wonderful. But he must shut
his eyes if he would not see that more or less enduring suffering is
the meed of both vanquished and victor. And since the great game is
going on in every corner of the world, thousands of times a minute;
since, were our ears sharp enough, we need not descend to the gates of
hell to hear--

. . . sospiri, pianti, ed alti guai.
Voci alte e floche, e suon di man con elle

--it seems to follow that, if the world is governed by benevolence, it
must be a different sort of benevolence from that of John Howard.

But the old Babylonians wisely symbolized Nature by their great
goddess Istar, who combined the attributes of Aphrodite with those of
Ares. Her terrible aspect is not to be ignored or covered up with
shams; but it is not the only one. If the optimism of Leibnitz is a
foolish though pleasant dream, the pessimism of Schopenhauer is a
nightmare, the more foolish because of its hideousness. Error which is
not pleasant is surely the worst form of wrong.

[201] This may not be the best of all possible worlds, but to say that
it is the worst is mere petulant nonsense. A worn-out voluptuary may
find nothing good under the sun, or a vain and inexperienced youth,
who cannot get the moon he cries for, may vent his irritation in
pessimistic moanings; but there can be no doubt in the mind of any
reasonable person that mankind could, would, and in fact do, get on
fairly well with vastly less happiness and far more misery than find
their way into the lives of nine people out of ten. If each and all of
us had been visited by an attack of neuralgia, or of extreme mental
depression, for one hour in every twenty-four--a supposition which
many tolerably vigorous people know, to their cost, is not
extravagant--the burden of life would have been immensely increased
without much practical hindrance to its general course. Men with any
manhood in them find life quite worth living under worse conditions
than these.

There is another sufficiently obvious fact, which renders the
hypothesis that the course of sentient nature is dictated by
malevolence quite untenable. A vast multitude of pleasures, and these
among the purest and the best, are superfluities, bits of good which
are to all appearances unnecessary as inducements to live, and are, so
to speak, thrown into the bargain of life. To those who experience
them, few delights can be more entrancing than such as are afforded by
natural [202] beauty, or by the arts, and especially by music; but
they are products of, rather than factors in, evolution, and it is
probable that they are known, in any considerable degree, to but a
very small proportion of mankind.

The conclusion of the whole matter seems to be that, if Ormuzd has not
had his way in this world, neither has Ahriman. Pessimism is as little
consonant with the facts of sentient existence as optimism. If we
desire to represent the course of nature in terms of human thought,
and assume that it was intended to be that which it is, we must say
that its governing principle is intellectual and not moral; that it is
a materialized logical process, accompanied by pleasures and pains,
the incidence of which, in the majority of cases, has not the
slightest reference to moral desert. That the rain falls alike upon
the just and the unjust, and that those upon whom the Tower of Siloam
fell were no worse than their neighbours, seem to be Oriental modes of
expressing the same conclusion.

In the strict sense of the word "nature," it denotes the sum of the
phenomenal world, of that which has been, and is, and will be; and
society, like art, is therefore a part of nature. But it is
convenient to distinguish those parts of nature in which man plays the
part of immediate cause, as some thing apart; and, therefore, society,
like art, [203] is usefully to be considered as distinct from nature.
It is the more desirable, and even necessary, to make this
distinction, since society differs from nature in having a definite
moral object; whence it comes about that the course shaped by the
ethical man--the member of society or citizen--necessarily runs
counter to that which the non-ethical man--the primitive savage, or
man as a mere member of the animal kingdom--tends to adopt. The latter
fights out the struggle for existence to the bitter end, like any
other animal; the former devotes his best energies to the object of
setting limits to the struggle.*

In the cycle of phenomena presented by the life of man, the animal, no
more moral end is discernible than in that presented by the lives of
the wolf and of the deer. However imperfect the relics of prehistoric
men may be, the evidence which they afford clearly tends to the
conclusion that, for thousands and thousands of years, before the
origin of the oldest known civilizations, men were savages of a very
low type. They strove with their enemies and their competitors; they
preyed upon things weaker or less cunning than themselves; they were
born, multiplied without stint, and died, for thousands of generations
alongside the mammoth, the urus, the lion, and the hyaena, whose lives
were spent in the same way; [204] and they were no more to be praised
or blamed on moral grounds, than their less erect and more hairy

* [The reader will observe that this is the argument of the
Romanes Lecture, in brief.--1894.]

As among these, so among primitive men, the weakest and stupidest went
to the wall, while the toughest and shrewdest, those who were best
fitted to cope with their circumstances, but not the best in any other
sense, survived. Life was a continual free fight, and beyond the
limited and temporary relations of the family, the Hobbesian war of
each against all was the normal state of existence. The human species,
like others, plashed and floundered amid the general stream of
evolution, keeping its head above water as it best might, and thinking
neither of whence nor whither.

The history of civilization--that is, of society--on the other hand, is
the record of the attempts which the human race has made to escape
from this position. The first men who substituted the state of mutual
peace for that of mutual war, whatever the motive which impelled them
to take that step, created society. But, in establishing peace, they
obviously put a limit upon the struggle for existence. Between the
members of that society, at any rate, it was not to be pursued a
outrance. And of all the successive shapes which society has taken,
that most nearly approaches perfection in which the war of individual
against individual is most strictly limited.

[205] The primitive savage, tutored by Istar, appropriated whatever
took his fancy, and killed whomsoever opposed him, if he could. On the
contrary, the ideal of the ethical man is to limit his freedom of
action to a sphere in which he does not interfere with the freedom of
others; he seeks the common weal as much as his own; and, indeed, as
an essential part of his own welfare. Peace is both end and means with
him; and he founds his life on a more or less complete self-restraint,
which is the negation of the unlimited struggle for existence. He
tries to escape from his place in the animal kingdom, founded on the
free development of the principle of non-moral evolution, and to
establish a kingdom of Man, governed upon tile principle of moral
evolution. For society not only has a moral end, but in its
perfection, social life, is embodied morality.

But the effort of ethical man to work towards a moral end by no means
abolished, perhaps has hardly modified, the deep-seated organic
impulses which impel the natural man to follow his non-moral course.
One of the most essential conditions, if not the chief cause, of the
struggle for existence, is the tendency to multiply without limit,
which man shares with all living things. It is notable that "increase
and multiply" is a commandment traditionally much older than the ten;
and that it is, perhaps, the only one which has been spontaneously and
ex animo obeyed by [206] the great majority of the human race. But, in
civilized society, the inevitable result of such obedience is the
re-establishment, in all its intensity, of that struggle for
existence--the war of each against all--the mitigation or abolition of
which was the chief end of social organization.

It is conceivable that, at some. in the history of the fabled Atlantis,
the production of food should have been exactly sufficient to meet the
wants of the population, that the makers of the commodities of the
artificer should have amounted to just the number supportable by the
surplus food of the agriculturists. And, as there is no harm in adding
another monstrous supposition to the foregoing, let it be imagined
that every man, woman, and child was perfectly virtuous, and aimed at
the good of all as the highest personal good. In that happy land, the
natural man would have been finally put down by the ethical man. There
would have been no competition, but the industry of each would have
been serviceable to all; nobody being vain and nobody avaricious,
there would have been no rivalries; the struggle for existence would
have been abolished, and the millennium would have finally set in. But
it is obvious that this state of things could have been permanent only
with a stationary population. Add ten fresh mouths; and as, by the
supposition, there was only exactly enough before, somebody must go on
short rations. The [207] Atlantis society might have been a heaven
upon earth, the whole nation might have consisted of just men, needing
no repentance, and yet somebody must starve. Reckless Istar, non-moral
Nature, would have riven the ethical fabric. I was once talking with a
very eminent physician* about the vis medicatrix naturae. "Stuff!"
said he; "nine times out of ten nature does not want to cure the man:
she wants to put him in his coffin." And Istar-Nature appears to have
equally little sympathy with the ends of society. "Stuff! she wants
nothing but a fair field and free play for her darling the strongest."

* The late Sir W. Gull

Our Atlantis may be an impossible figment, but the antagonistic
tendencies which the fable adumbrates have existed in every society
which was ever established, and, to all appearance, must strive for
the victory in all that will be. Historians point to the greed and
ambition of rulers, to the reckless turbulence of the ruled, to the
debasing effects of wealth and luxury, and to the devastating wars
which have formed a great part of the occupation of mankind, as the
causes of the decay of states and the foundering of old civilizations,
and thereby point their story with a moral. No doubt immoral motives
of all sorts have figured largely among the minor causes of these
events. But beneath all this [208] superficial turmoil lay the
deep-seated impulse given by unlimited multiplication. In the swarms
of colonies thrown out by Phoenicia and by old Greece; in the ver
sacrum of the Latin races; in the floods of Gauls and of Teutons which
burst over the frontiers of the old civilization of Europe; in the
swaying to and fro of the vast Mongolian hordes in late times, the
population problem comes to the front in a very visible shape. Nor is
it less plainly manifest in the everlasting agrarian questions of
ancient Rome than in the Arreoi societies of the Polynesian Islands.

In the ancient world, and in a large part of that in which we live,
the practice of infanticide was, or is, a regular and legal custom;
famine, pestilence, and war were and are normal factors in the
struggle for existence, and they have served, in a gross and brutal
fashion, to mitigate the intensity of the effects of its chief cause.

But, in the more advanced civilizations, the progress of private and
public morality has steadily tended to remove all these checks. We
declare infanticide murder, and punish it as such; we decree, not
quite so successfully, that no one shall die of hunger; we regard
death from preventible causes of other kinds as a sort of constructive
murder, and eliminate pestilence to the best of our ability; we
declaim against the curse [209] of war, and the wickedness of the
military spirit, and we are never weary of dilating on the blessedness
of peace and the innocent beneficence of Industry. In their moments of
expansion, even statesmen and men of business go thus far. The finer
spirits look to an ideal civitas Dei; a state when, every man having
reached the point of absolute self-negation, and having nothing but
moral perfection to strive after, peace will truly reign, not merely
among nations, but among men, and the struggle for existence will be
at an end.

Whether human nature is competent, under any circumstances, to reach,
or even seriously advance towards, this ideal condition, is a question
which need not be discussed. It will be admitted that mankind has not
yet reached this stage by a very long way, and my business is with the
present. And that which I wish to point out is that, so long as the
natural man increases and multiplies without restraint, so long will
peace and industry not only permit, but they will necessitate, a
struggle for existence as sharp as any that ever went on under the
regime of war. If Istar is to reign on the one hand, she will demand
her human sacrifices on the other.

Let us look at home. For seventy years peace and industry have had
their way among us with less interruption and under more favourable
conditions than in any other country on the face of the earth. The
wealth of Croesus was nothing to [210] that which we have accumulated,
and our prosperity has filled the world with envy. But Nemesis did not
forget Croesus: has she forgotten us?

I think not. There are now 36,000,000 of people in our islands, and
every year considerably more than 300,000 are added to our numbers.*
That is to say, about every hundred seconds, or so, a new claimant to
a share in the common stock or maintenance presents him or herself
among us. At the present time, the produce of the soil does not
suffice to feed half its population. The other moiety has to be
supplied with food which must be bought from the people of
food-producing countries. That is to say, we have to offer them the
things which they want in exchange for the things we want. And the
things they want and which we can produce better than they can are
mainly manufactures--industrial products.

* These numbers are only approximately accurate. In 1881, our
population amounted to 35,241,482, exceeding the number in 1871
by 3,396,103. The average annual increase in the decennial.
1871--1881 is therefore 339,610. The number of minutes in a
calendar year is 525,600.

The insolent reproach of the first Napoleon had a very solid
foundation. We not only are, but, under penalty of starvation, we are
bound to be, a nation of shopkeepers. But other nations also lie under
the same necessity of keeping shop, and some of them deal in the same
goods as ourselves. Our customers naturally seek to get the most and
[211] the best in exchange for their produce. If our goods are
inferior to those of our competitors, there is no ground, compatible
with the sanity of the buyers, which can be alleged, why they should
not prefer the latter. And, if that result should ever take place on a
large and general scale, five or six millions of us would soon have
nothing to eat. We know what the cotton famine was; and we can
therefore form some notion of what a dearth of customers would be.

Judged by an ethical standard, nothing can be less satisfactory than
the position in which we find ourselves. In a real, though incomplete,
degree we have attained the condition of peace which is the main
object of social organization; and, for argument's sake, it may be
assumed that we desire nothing but that which is in itself innocent
and praiseworthy--namely, the enjoyment of the fruits of honest
industry. And lo! in spite of ourselves, we are in reality engaged in
an internecine struggle for existence with our presumably no less
peaceful and well-meaning neighbours. We seek peace and we do not
ensue it. The moral nature in us asks for no more than is compatible
with the general good; the non-moral nature proclaims and acts upon
that fine old Scottish family motto, "Thou shalt starve ere I want."
Let us be under no illusions, then. So long as unlimited multiplication
goes on, no social organization which has ever been devised, or is
likely to [212] be devised, no fiddle-faddling with the distribution
of wealth, will deliver society from the tendency to be destroyed by
the reproduction within itself, in its intensest form, of that
struggle for existence the limitation of which is the object of
society. And however shocking to the moral sense this eternal
competition of man against man and of nation against nation may be;
however revolting may be the accumulation of misery at the negative
pole of society, in contrast with that of monstrous wealth at the
positive pole;* this state of things must abide, and grow continually
worse, so long as Istar holds her way unchecked. It is the true riddle
of the Sphinx; and every nation which does not solve it will sooner or
later be devoured by the monster itself has generated.

The practical and pressing question for us, just now, seems to me to be
how to gain time. "Time brings counsel," as the Teutonic proverb has
it; and wiser folk among our posterity may see their way out of that
which at present looks like an impasse.

It would be folly to entertain any ill-feeling towards those neighbours
and rivals who, like ourselves, are slaves of Istar; but, if somebody
is to be starved, the modern world has no Oracle of Delphi to which
the nations can appeal for an [213] indication of the victim. It is
open to us to try our fortune; and, if we avoid impending fate, there
will be a certain ground for believing that we are the right people to
escape. Securus judicat orbis.

* [It is hard to say whether the increase of the unemployed
poor, or that of the unemployed rich, is the greater social
evil. -- 1894]

To this end, it is well to look into the necessary condition of our
salvation by works. They are two, one plain to all the world and
hardly needing insistence; the other seemingly not so plain, since too
often it has been theoretically and practically left out of sight. The
obvious condition is that our produce shall be better than that of
others. There is only one reason why our goods should be preferred to
those of our rivals--our customers must find them better at the price.
That means that we must use more knowledge, skill, and industry in
producing them, without a proportionate increase in the cost of
production; and, as the price of labour constitutes a large element in
that cost, the rate of wages must be restricted within certain limits.
It is perfectly true that cheap production and cheap labour are by no
means synonymous; but it is also true that wages cannot increase
beyond a certain proportion without destroying cheapness. Cheapness,
then, with, as part and parcel of cheapness, a moderate price of
labour, is essential to our success as competitors in the markets of
the world.

The second condition is really quite as plainly indispensable as the
first, if one thinks seriously [214] about the matter. It is social
stability. Society is stable, when the wants of its members obtain as
much satisfaction as, life being what it is, common sense and
experience show may be reasonably expected. Mankind, in general, care
very little for forms of government or ideal considerations of any
sort; and nothing really stirs the great multitude to break with
custom and incur the manifest perils of revolt except the belief that
misery in this world, or damnation in the next, or both, are
threatened by the continuance of the state of things in which they
have been brought up. But when they do attain that conviction, society
becomes as unstable as a package of dynamite, and a very small matter
will produce the explosion which sends it back to the chaos of

It needs no argument to prove that when the price of labour sinks below
a certain point, the worker infallibly falls into that condition which
the French emphatically call la misere--a word for which I do not
think there is any exact English equivalent. It is a condition in
which the food, warmth, and clothing which are necessary for the mere
maintenance of the functions of the body in their normal state cannot
be obtained; in which men, women, and children are forced to crowd
into dens wherein decency is abolished and the most ordinary
conditions of healthful existence are impossible of attainment; in
which the [215] pleasures within reach are reduced to bestiality and
drunkenness; in which the pains accumulate at compound interest, in
the shape of starvation, disease, stunted development, and moral
degradation; in which the prospect of even steady and honest industry
is a life of unsuccessful battling with hunger, rounded by a pauper's

That a certain proportion of the members of every great aggregation of
mankind should constantly tend to establish and populate such a Slough
of Despond as this is inevitable, so long as some people are by nature
idle and vicious, while others are disabled by sickness or accident,
or thrown upon the world by the death of their bread-winners. So long
as that proportion is restricted within tolerable limits, it can be
dealt with; and, so far as it arises only from such causes, its
existence may and must be patiently borne. But, when the organization
of society, instead of mitigating this tendency, tends to continue and
intensify it; when a given social order plainly makes for evil and not
for good, men naturally enough begin to think it high time to try a
fresh experiment. The animal man, finding that the ethical man has
landed him in such a slough, resumes his ancient sovereignty, and
preaches anarchy; which is, substantially, a proposal to reduce the
social cosmos to chaos, and begin the brute struggle for existence
once again.

Any one who is acquainted with the state of [216] the population of
all great industrial centres, whether in this or other countries, is
aware that, amidst a large and increasing body of that population, la
misere reigns supreme. I have no pretensions to the character of a
philanthropist, and I have a special horror of all sorts of
sentimental rhetoric; I am merely trying to deal with facts, to some
extent within my own knowledge, and further evidenced by abundant
testimony, as a naturalist; and I take it to be a mere plain truth
that, throughout industrial Europe, there is not a single large
manufacturing city which is free from a vast mass of people whose
condition is exactly that described; and from a still greater mass
who, living just on the edge of the social swamp, are liable to be
precipitated into it by any lack of demand for their produce. And,
with every addition to the population, the multitude already sunk in
the pit and the number of the host sliding towards it continually

Argumentation can hardly be needful to make it clear that no society
in which the elements of decomposition are thus swiftly and surely
accumulating can hope to win in the race of industries.

Intelligence, knowledge, and skill are undoubtedly conditions of
success; but of what avail are they likely to be unless they are
backed up by honesty, energy, goodwill, and all the physical and moral
faculties that go to the making of manhood, and unless they are
stimulated by hope of such [217] reward as men may fairly look to? And
what dweller in the slough of want, dwarfed in body and soul,
demoralized, hopeless, can reasonably be expected to possess these

Any full and permanent development of the productive powers of an
industrial population, then, must be compatible with and, indeed,
based upon a social organization which will secure a fair amount of
physical and moral welfare to that population; which will make for
good and not for evil. Natural science and religious enthusiasm rarely
go hand in hand, but on this matter their concord is complete; and the
least sympathetic of naturalists can but admire the insight and the
devotion of such social reformers as the late Lord Shaftesbury, whose
recently published "Life and Letters" gives a vivid picture of the
condition of the working classes fifty years ago, and of the pit which
our industry, ignoring these plain truths, was then digging under its
own feet.

There is, perhaps, no more hopeful sign of progress among us, in the
last half-century, than the steadily increasing devotion which has
been and is directed to measures for promoting physical and moral
welfare among the poorer classes. Sanitary reformers, like most other
reformers whom I have had the advantage of knowing, seem to need a
good dose of fanaticism, as a sort of moral coca, to keep them up to
the mark, and, doubtless, they have made many mistakes; but that the
[218] endeavour to improve the condition under our industrial
population live, to amend the drainage of densely peopled streets, to
provide baths, washhouses, and gymnasia, to facilitate habits of
thrift, to furnish some provision for instruction and amusement in
public libraries and the like, is not only desirable from a
philanthropic point of view, but an essential condition of safe
industrial development, appears to me to be indisputable. It is by
such means alone, so far as I can see, that we can hope to check the
constant gravitation of industrial society towards la misere, until
the general progress of intelligence and morality leads men to grapple
with the sources of that tendency. If it is said that the carrying out
of such arrangements as those indicated must enhance the cost of
production, and thus handicap the producer in the race of competition,
I venture, in the first place, to doubt the fact; but if it be so, it
results that industrial society has to face a dilemma, either
alternative of which threatens destruction.

On the one hand, a population the labour of which is sufficiently
remunerated may be physically and morally healthy and socially stable,
but may fail in industrial competition by reason of the dearness of
its produce. On the other hand, a population the labour of which is
insufficiently remunerated must become physically and morally
unhealthy, and socially unstable; and though it [219] may succeed for
a while in industrial competition, by reason of the cheapness of its
produce, it must in the end fall, through hideous misery and
degradation, to utter ruin.

Well, if these are the only possible alternatives, let us for ourselves
and our children choose the former, and, if need be, starve like men.
But I do not believe that the stable society made up of healthy,
vigorous, instructed, and self-ruling people would ever incur serious
risk of that fate. They are not likely to be troubled with many
competitors of the same character, just yet; and they may be safely
trusted to find ways of holding their own.

Assuming that the physical and moral well-being and the stable social
order, which are the indispensable conditions of permanent industrial
development, are secured, there remains for consideration the means of
attaining that knowledge and skill without which, even then, the
battle of competition cannot be successfully fought. Let us consider
how we stand. A vast system of elementary education has now been in
operation among us for sixteen years, and has reached all but a very
small fraction of the population. I do not think that there is any
room for doubt that, on the whole, it has worked well, and that its
indirect no less than its direct benefits have been immense. But, as
might be expected, it exhibits the defects of all our educational
systems--fashioned [220] as they were to meet the wants of a bygone
condition of society. There is a widespread and, I think,
well-justified complaint that it has too much to do with books and too
little to do with things. I am as little disposed as any one can well
be to narrow early education and to make the primary school a mere
annexe of the shop. And it is not so much in the interests of
industry, as in that of breadth of culture, that I echo the common
complaint against the bookish and theoretical character of our primary

If there were no such things as industrial pursuits, a system of
education which does nothing for the faculties of observation, which
trains neither the eye nor the hand, and is compatible with utter
ignorance of the commonest natural truths, might still be reasonably
regarded as strangely imperfect. And when we consider that the
instruction and training which are lacking are exactly; those which
are of most importance for the great mass of our population, the fault
becomes almost a crime, the more that there is no practical difficulty
in making good these defects. There really is no reason why drawing
should not be universally taught, and it is an admirable training for
both eye and hand. Artists are born, not made; but everybody may be
taught to draw elevations, plans, and sections; and pots and pans are
as good, indeed better, models for [221] this purpose than the Apollo
Belvedere. The plant is not expensive; and there is this excellent
quality about drawing of the kind indicated, that it can be tested
almost as easily and severely as arithmetic. Such drawings are either
right or wrong, and if they are wrong the pupil can be made to see
that they are wrong. From the industrial point of view, drawing has
the further merit that there is hardly any trade in which the power of
drawing is not of daily and hourly utility. In the next place, no
good reason, except the want of capable teachers, can be assigned why
elementary notions of science should not be an element in general
instruction. In this case, again, no expensive or elaborate apparatus
is necessary. The commonest thing--a candle, a boy's squirt, a piece
of chalk--in the hands of a teacher who knows his business, may be
made the starting-point whence children may be led into the regions of
science as far as their capacity permits, with efficient exercise of
their observational and reasoning faculties on the road. If object
lessons often prove trivial failures, it is not the fault of object
lessons, but that of the teacher, who has not found out how much the
power of teaching a little depends on knowing a great deal, and that
thoroughly; and that he has not made that discovery is not the fault
of the teachers, but of the detestable system of training them which
is widely prevalent.*

* Training in the use of simple tools is no doubt desirable,
on all grounds. From the point of view of "culture," the
man whose "fingers are all thumbs" is but a stunted
creature. But the practical difficulties in the way of
introducing handiwork of this kind into elementary schools
appear to me to be considerable.

[222] As I have said, I do not regard the proposal to add these to the
present subjects of universal instruction as made merely in the
interests of industry. Elementary science and drawing are just as
needful at Eton (where I am happy to say both are now parts of the
regular course) as in the lowest primary school. But their importance
in the education of the artisan is enhanced, not merely by the fact
that the knowledge and skill thus gained--little as they may amount
to--will still be of practical utility to him; but, further, because
they constitute an introduction to that special training which is
commonly called "technical education."

I conceive that our wants in this last direction may be grouped under
three heads: (1) Instruction in the principles of those branches of
science and of art which are peculiarly applicable to industrial
pursuits, which may be called preliminary scientific education. (2)
Instruction in the special branches of such applied science and art,
as technical education proper. (3) Instruction of teachers in both
these branches. (4) Capacity-catching machinery.

A great deal has already been done in each of these directions, but
much remains to be done. If elementary education is amended in the way
[223] that has been suggested, I think that the school boards will
have quite as much on their hands as they are capable of doing well.
The influences under which the members of these bodies are elected do
not tend to secure fitness for dealing with scientific or technical
education; and it is the less necessary to burden them with an
uncongenial task as there are other organizations, not only much
better fitted to do the work, but already actually doing it.

In the matter of preliminary scientific education, the chief of these
is the Science and Art Department, which has done more during the last
quarter of a century for the teaching of elementary science among the
masses of the people than any organization which exists either in this
or in any other country. It has become veritably a people's
university, so far as physical science is concerned. At the foundation
of our old universities they were freely open to the poorest, but the
poorest must come to them. In the last quarter of a century, the
Science and Art Department, by means of its classes spread all over
the country and open to all, has conveyed instruction to the poorest.
The University Extension movement shows that our older learned
corporations have discovered the propriety of following suit.

Technical education, in the strict sense, has become a necessity for
two reasons. The old apprenticeship system has broken down, partly by
[224] reason of the changed conditions of industrial life, and partly
because trades have ceased to be "crafts," the traditional secrets
whereof the master handed down to his apprentices. Invention is
constantly changing the face of our industries, so that "use and
wont," "rule of thumb," and the like, are gradually losing their
importance, while that knowledge of principles which alone can deal
successfully with changed conditions is becoming more and more
valuable. Socially, the "master" of four or five apprentices is
disappearing in favour of the "employer" of forty, or four hundred, or
four thousand, "hands," and the odds and ends of technical knowledge,
formerly picked up in a shop, are not, and cannot be, supplied in the
factory. The instruction formerly given by the master must therefore
be more than replaced by the systematic teaching of the technical

Institutions of this kind on varying scales of magnitude and
completeness, from the splendid edifice set up by the City and Guilds
Institute to the smallest local technical school, to say nothing of
classes, such as those in technology instituted by the Society of Arts
(subsequently taken over by the City Guilds), have been established in
various parts of the country, and the movement in favour of their
increase and multiplication is rapidly growing in breadth and
intensity. But there is much difference of opinion as to the best
[225] way in which the technical instruction, so generally desired,
should be given. Two courses appear to be practicable: the one is the
establishment of special technical schools with a systematic and
lengthened course of instruction demanding the employment of the whole
time of the pupils. The other is the setting afoot of technical
classes, especially evening classes, comprising a short series of
lessons on some special topic, which may be attended by persons
already earning wages in some branch of trade or commerce.

There is no doubt that technical schools, on the plan indicated under
the first head, are extremely costly; and, so far as the teaching of
artisans is concerned, it is very commonly objected to them that, as
the learners do not work under trade conditions, they are apt to fall
into amateurish habits, which prove of more hindrance than service in
the actual business of life. When such schools are attached to
factories under the direction of an employer who desires to train up a
supply of intelligent workmen, of course this objection does not
apply; nor can the usefulness of such schools for the training of
future employers and for the higher grade of the employed be doubtful;
but they are clearly out of the reach of the great mass of the people,
who have to earn their bread as soon as possible. We must therefore
look to the classes, and especially to evening classes, as the great
instrument for the technical [226] education of the artisan. The
utility of such classes has now been placed beyond all doubt; the only
question which remains is to find the ways and means of extending

We are here, as in all other questions of social organization, met by
two diametrically opposed views. On the one hand, the methods pursued
in foreign countries are held up as our example. The State is exhorted
to take the matter in hand and establish a great system of technical
education. On the other hand, many economists of the individualist
school exhaust the resources of language in condemning and
repudiating, not merely the interference of the general government in
such matters, but the application of a farthing of the funds raised by
local taxation to these purposes. I entertain a strong conviction
that, in this country, at any rate, the State had much better leave
purely technical and trade instruction alone. But, although my
personal leanings are decidedly towards the individualists, I have
arrived at that conclusion on merely practical grounds. In fact, my
individualism is rather of a sentimental sort, and I sometimes think I
should be stronger in the faith if it were less vehemently advocated.*
I am unable to see that civil society is anything but a corporation
established [227] for a moral object only--namely, the good of its
members--and therefore that it may take such measures as seem fitting
for the attainment of that which the general voice decides to be the
general good. That the suffrage of the majority is by no means a
scientific test of social good and evil is unfortunately too true;
but, in practice, it is the only test we can apply, and the refusal to
abide by it means anarchy. The purest despotism that ever existed is
as much based upon that will of the majority (which is usually
submission to the will of a small minority) as the freest republic.
Law is the expression of the opinion of the majority; and it is law,
and not mere opinion, because the many are strong enough to enforce

* In what follows I am only repeating and emphasizing
opinions which I expressed seventeen years ago, in an
Address to the members of the Midland Institute
(republished in Critiques and Addresses in 1873, and in Vol.
I. of these Essays ). I have seen no reason to modify them,
notwithstanding high authority on the other side.

I am as strongly convinced as the most pronounced individualist can be,
that it is desirable that every man should be free to act in every way
which does not limit the corresponding freedom of his fellow-man. But
I fail to connect that great induction of political science with the
practical corollary which is frequently drawn from it: that the
State--that is, the people in their corporate capacity--has no
business to meddle with anything but the administration of justice and
external defence. It appears to me that the [228] amount of freedom
which incorporate society may fitly leave to its members is not a
fixed quantity, to be determined a priori by deduction from the
fiction called "natural rights"; but that it must be determined by,
and vary with, circumstances. I conceive it to be demonstrable that
the higher and the more complex the organization of the social body,
the more closely is the life of each member bound up with that of the
whole; and the larger becomes the category of acts which cease to be
merely self-regarding, and which interfere with the freedom of others
more or less seriously.

If a squatter, living ten miles away from any neighbour, chooses to
burn his house down to get rid of vermin, there may be no necessity
(in the absence of insurance offices) that the law should interfere
with his freedom of action; his act can hurt nobody but himself. But,
if the dweller in a street chooses to do the same thing, the State
very properly makes such a proceeding a crime, and punishes it as
such. He does meddle with his neighbour's freedom, and that seriously.
So it might, perhaps, be a tenable doctrine, that it would be
needless, and even tyrannous, to make education compulsory in a sparse
agricultural population, living in abundance on the produce of its own
soil; but, in a densely populated manufacturing country, struggling
for existence with competitors, every ignorant person tends to [229]
become a burden upon, and, so far, an infringer of the liberty of, his
fellows, and an obstacle to their success. Under such circumstances an
education rate is, in fact, a war tax, levied for purposes of defence.

That State action always has been more or less misdirected, and always
will be so, is, I believe, perfectly true. But I am not aware that it
is more true of the action of men in their corporate capacity than it
is of the doings of individuals. The wisest and most dispassionate man
in existence, merely wishing to go from one stile in a field to the
opposite, will not walk quite straight--he is always going a little
wrong, and always correcting himself; and I can only congratulate the
individualist who is able to say that his general course of life has
been of a less undulatory character. To abolish State action, because
its direction is never more than approximately correct, appears to me
to be much the same thing as abolishing the man at the wheel
altogether, because, do what he will, the ship yaws more or less. "Why
should I be robbed of my property to pay for teaching another man's
children?" is an individualist question, which is not unfrequently put
as if it settled the whole business. Perhaps it does, but I find
difficulties in seeing why it should. The parish in which I live makes
me pay my share for the paving and lighting of a great many streets
that I never pass through; [230] and I might plead that I am robbed to
smooth the way and lighten the darkness of other people. But I am
afraid the parochial authorities would not let me off on this plea;
and I must confess I do not see why they should.

I cannot speak of my own knowledge, but I have every reason to believe
that I came into this world a small reddish person, certainly without
a gold spoon in my mouth, and in fact with no discernible abstract or
concrete "rights" or property of any description. If a foot was not
set upon me, at once, as a squalling nuisance, it was either the
natural affection of those about me, which I certainly had done
nothing to deserve, or the fear of the law which, ages before my
birth, was painfully built up by the society into which I intruded,
that prevented that catastrophe. If I was nourished, cared for,
taught, saved from the vagabondage of a wastrel, I certainly am not
aware that I did anything to deserve those advantages. And, if I
possess anything now, it strikes me that, though I may have fairly
earned my day's wages for my day's work, and may justly call them my
property--yet, without that organization of society, created out of
the toil and blood of long generations before my time, I should
probably have had nothing but a flint axe and an indifferent hut to
call my own; and even those would be mine only so long as no stronger
savage came my way.

So that if society, having, quite gratuitously, [231] done all these
things for me, asks me in turn to do something towards its
preservation--even if that something is to contribute to the teaching
of other men's children--I really in spite of all my individualist
leanings, feel rather ashamed to say no. And if I were not ashamed, I
cannot say that I think that society would be dealing unjustly with me
in converting the moral obligation into a legal one. There is a
manifest unfairness in letting all the burden be borne by the willing

It does not appear to me, then, that there is any valid objection to
taxation for purposes of education; but, in the case of technical
schools and classes, I think it is practically expedient that such a
taxation should be local. Our industrial population accumulates in
particular towns and districts; these districts are those which
immediately profit by technical education; and it is only in them that
we can find the men practically engaged in industries, among whom some
may reasonably be expected to be competent judges of that which is
wanted, and of the best means of meeting the want.

In my belief, all methods of technical training are at present
tentative, and, to be successful, each must be adapted to the special
peculiarities of its locality. This is a case in which we want twenty
years, not of "strong government," but of cheerful and hopeful
blundering; and we may be [232] thankful if we get things straight in
that time.

The principle of the Bill introduced, but dropped, by the Government
last session, appears to me to be wise, and some of the objections to
it I think are due to a misunderstanding. The bill proposed in
substance to allow localities to tax themselves for purposes of
technical education--on the condition that any scheme for such purpose
should be submitted to the Science and Art Department, and declared by
that department to be in accordance with the intention of the

A cry was raised that the Bill proposed to throw technical education
into the hands of the Science and Art Department. But, in reality, no
power of initiation, nor even of meddling with details, was given to
that Department--the sole function of which was to decide whether any
plan proposed did or did not come within the limits of "technical
education." The necessity for such control, somewhere, is obvious. No
legislature, certainly not ours, is likely to grant the power of
self-taxation without setting limits to that power in some way; and it
would neither have been practicable to devise a legal definition of
technical education, nor commendable to leave the question to the
Auditor-General, to be fought out in the law-courts. The only
alternative was to leave the decision to an appropriate State
authority. If it is [233] asked what is the need of such control if
the people of the localities are the best judges, the obvious reply is
that there are localities and localities, and that while Manchester,
or Liverpool, or Birmingham, or Glasgow might, perhaps, be safely left
to do as they thought fit, smaller towns, in which there is less
certainty of full discussion by competent people of different ways of
thinking, might easily fall a prey to crocheteers.

Supposing our intermediate science teaching and our technical schools
and classes are established, there is yet a third need to be supplied,
and that is the want of good teachers. And it is necessary not only to
get them, but to keep them when you have got them.

It is impossible to insist too strongly upon the fact that the
efficient teachers of science and of technology are not to be made by
the processes in vogue at ordinary training colleges. The memory
loaded with mere bookwork is not the thing wanted--is, in fact, rather
worse than useless--in the teacher of scientific subjects. It is
absolutely essential that his mind should be full of knowledge and not
of mere learning, and that what he knows should have been learned in
the laboratory rather than in the library. There are happily already,
both in London and in the provinces, various places in which such
training is to be had, and the main thing at present is to make it in
the first place accessible, and in the next [234] indispensable, to
those who undertake the business of teaching. But when the well-trained
men are supplied, it must be recollected that the profession of
teacher is not a very lucrative or otherwise tempting one, and that it
may be advisable to offer special inducements to good men to remain in
it. These, however, are questions of detail into which it is
unnecessary to enter further.

Last, but not least, comes the question of providing the machinery for
enabling those who are by nature specially qualified to undertake the
higher branches of industrial work, to reach the position in which
they may render that service to the community. If all our educational
expenditure did nothing but pick one man of scientific or inventive
genius, each year, from amidst the hewers of wood and drawers of
water, and give him the chance of making the best of his inborn
faculties, it would be a very good investment. If there is one such
child among the hundreds of thousands of our annual increase, it would
be worth any money to drag him either from the slough of misery, or
from the hotbed of wealth, and teach him to devote himself to the
service of his people. Here, again, we have made a beginning with our
scholarships and the like, and need only follow in the tracks already

The programme of industrial development briefly set forth in the
preceding pages is not what Kant calls a "Hirngespinnst," a cobweb
[235] spun in the brain of a Utopian philosopher. More or less of it
has taken bodily shape in many parts of the country, and there are
towns of no great size or wealth in the manufacturing districts
(Keighley, for example) in which almost the whole of it has, for some
time, been carried out, so far as the means at the disposal of the
energetic and public-spirited men who have taken the matter in hand
permitted. The thing can be done; I have endeavoured to show good
grounds for the belief that it must be done, and that speedily, if we
wish to hold our own in the war of industry. I doubt not that it will
be done, whenever its absolute necessity becomes as apparent to all
those who are absorbed in the actual business of industrial life as it
is to some of the lookers on.

Perhaps it is necessary for me to add that technical education is not
here proposed as a panacea for social diseases, but simply as a
medicament which will help the patient to pass through an imminent

An ophthalmic surgeon may recommend an operation for cataract in a man
who is going blind, without being supposed to undertake that it will
cure him of gout. And I may pursue the metaphor so far as to remark,
that the surgeon is justified in pointing out that a diet of
pork-chops and burgundy will probably kill his patient, though he may
be quite able to suggest a mode of living [236] which will free him
from his constitutional disorder.

Mr. Booth asks me, Why do you not propose some plan of your own?
Really, that is no answer to my argument that his treatment will make
the patient very much worse. [Note added in Social Diseases and Worse
Remedies, January, 1891.]






The "Times," December 1st, 1890

SIR: A short time ago a generous and philanthropic friend wrote to me,
placing at my disposal a large sum of money for the furtherance of the
vast scheme which the "General" of the Salvation Army has propounded,
if I thought it worthy of support. The responsibility of advising my
benevolent correspondent has weighed heavily upon me, but I felt that
it would be cowardly, as well as ungracious, to refuse to accept it. I
have therefore studied Mr. Booth's book with some care, for the
purpose of separating the essential from the accessory features of his
project, and I have based my judgment--I am sorry to say an
unfavourable one--upon the data thus obtained. Before communicating my
conclusions to my friend, however, I am desirous to know what there
may be to be said in arrest of that judgment; [238] and the matter is
of such vast public importance that I trust you will aid me by
publishing this letter, notwithstanding its length.

There are one or two points upon which I imagine all thinking men have
arrived at the same convictions as those from which Mr. Booth starts.
It is certain that there is an immense amount of remediable misery
among us, that, in addition to the poverty, disease, and degradation
which are the consequences of causes beyond human control, there is a
vast, probably a very much larger, quantity of misery which is the
result of individual ignorance, or misconduct, and of faulty social
arrangements. Further, I think it is not to be doubted that, unless
this remediable misery is effectually dealt with, the hordes of vice
and pauperism will destroy modern civilization as effectually as
uncivilized tribes of another kind destroyed the great social
organization which preceded ours. Moreover, I think all will agree
that no reforms and improvements will go to the root of the evil
unless they attack it in its ultimate source--namely, the motives of
the individual man. Honest, industrious, and self-restraining men will
make a very bad social organization prosper; while vicious, idle, and
reckless citizens will bring to ruin the best that ever was, or ever
will be, invented.

The leading propositions which are peculiar to Mr. Booth I take to be

[239] (1) That the only adequate means to such reformation of the
individual man is the adoption of that form of somewhat corybantic
Christianity of which the soldiers of the Salvation Army are the
militant missionaries. This implies the belief that the excitement of
the religious emotions (largely by processes described by their
employers as "rousing" and "convivial") is a desirable and trustworthy
method of permanently amending the conduct of mankind.

I demur to these propositions. I am of opinion that the testimony of
history, no less than the cool observation of that which lies within
the personal experience of many of us, is wholly adverse to it.

(2) That the appropriate instrument for the propagation and
maintenance of this peculiar sacramental enthusiasm is the Salvation
Army--a body of devotees, drilled and disciplined as a military
organization, and provided with a numerous hierarchy of officers,
every one of whom is pledged to blind and unhesitating obedience to
the "General," who frankly tells us that the first condition of the
service is "implicit, unquestioning obedience." "A telegram from me
will send any of them to the uttermost parts of the earth"; every one
"has taken service on the express condition that he or she will obey,
without questioning, or gainsaying, the orders from headquarters"
("Darkest England," p. 243).

[240] This proposition seems to me to be indisputable. History confirms
it. Francis of Assisi and Ignatius Loyola made their great
experiments on the same principle. Nothing is more certain than that a
body of religious enthusiasts (perhaps we may even say fanatics)
pledged to blind obedience to their chief, is one of the most
efficient instruments for effecting any purpose that the wit of man
has yet succeeded in devising. And I can but admire the insight into
human nature which has led Mr. Booth to leave his unquestioning and
unhesitating instruments unbound by vows. A volunteer slave is worth
ten sworn bondsmen.

(3) That the success of the Salvation Army, with its present force
of 9416 officers "wholly engaged in the work," its capital of three
quarters of a million, its income of the same amount, its 1375 corps
at home, and 1499 in the colonies and foreign countries (Appendix, pp.
3 and 4), is a proof that Divine assistance has been vouchsafed to its

Here I am not able to agree with the sanguine Commander-in-chief of
the new model, whose labours in creating it have probably interfered
with his acquisition of information respecting the fate of previous
enterprises of like kind.

It does not appear to me that his success is in any degree more
remarkable than that of Francis of Assisi or that of Ignatius Loyola,
than that [241] of George Fox, or even than that of the Mormons, in
our own time. When I observe the discrepancies of the doctrinal
foundations from which each of these great movements set out, I find
it difficult to suppose that supernatural aid has been given to all of
them; still more, that Mr. Booth's smaller measure of success is
evidence that it has been granted to him.

But what became of the Franciscan experiment?* If there was one rule
rather than another on which the founder laid stress, it was that his
army of friars should be absolute mendicants, keeping themselves
sternly apart from all worldly entanglements. Yet, even before the
death of Francis, in 1226, a strong party, headed by Elias of Cortona,
the deputy of his own appointment, began to hanker after these very
things; and, within thirty years of that time, the Franciscans had
become one of the most powerful, wealthy, and worldly corporations in
Christendom, with their fingers in every sink of political and social
corruption, if so be profit for the order could be fished out of it;
their principal interest being to fight their rivals, the Dominicans,
and to persecute such of their own brethren as were honest enough to
try to carry out their founder's plainest injunctions. We also know
what has become of Loyola's experiment. For two centuries the Jesuits
have been the hope of the enemies of the Papacy; whenever it becomes
too prosperous, they are sure to bring about a catastrophe by their
corrupt use of the political and social influence which their
organization and their wealth secure.

* See note pp. 245-247]

[242] With these examples of that which may happen to institutions
founded by noble men, with high aims, in the hands of successors of a
different stamp, armed with despotic authority, before me, common
prudence surely requires that, before advising the handing over of a
large sum of money to the general of a new order of mendicants, I
should ask what guarantee there is that, thirty years hence, the
"General" who then autocratically controls the action, say, of 100,000
officers pledged to blind obedience, distributed through the whole
length and breadth of the poorer classes, and each with his finger on
the trigger of a mine charged with discontent and religious
fanaticism; with the absolute control, say, of eight or ten millions
sterling of capital and as many of income; with barracks in every town,
with estates scattered over the country, and with settlements in the
colonies--will exercise his enormous powers, not merely honestly, but
wisely? What shadow of security is there that the person who wields
this uncontrolled authority over many thousands of men shall use it
solely for those philanthropic and religious objects which, I do not
doubt, are alone in the mind of Mr. Booth? Who is to say that the
Salvation Army, in the year [243] 1920, shall not be a replica of what
the Franciscan order had become in the year 1260?

The personal character and the intentions of the founders of such
organizations as we are considering count for very little in the
formation of a forecast of their future; and if they did, it is no
disrespect to Mr. Booth to say that he is not the peer of Francis of
Assisi. But if Francis's judgment of men was so imperfect as to permit
him to appoint an ambitious intriguer of the stamp of Brother Elias
his deputy, we have no right to be sanguine about the perspicacity of
Mr. Booth in a like matter.

Adding to all these considerations the fact that Mr. Llewelyn Davies,
the warmth of whose philanthropy is beyond question, and in whose
competency and fairness I, for one, place implicit reliance, flatly
denies the boasted success of the Salvation Army in its professed
mission, I have arrived at the conclusion that, as at present advised,
I cannot be the instrument of carrying out my friend's proposal.

Mr. Booth has pithily characterized certain benevolent schemes as
doing sixpennyworth of good and a shilling's worth of harm. I grieve
to say that, in my opinion, the definition exactly fits his own
project. Few social evils are of greater magnitude than uninstructed
and unchastened religious fanaticism; no personal habit more surely
degrades the conscience and the intellect than [244] blind and
unhesitating obedience to unlimited authority. Undoubtedly, harlotry
and intemperance are sore evils, and starvation is hard to bear, or
even to know of; but the prostitution of the mind, the soddening of
the conscience, the dwarfing of manhood are worse calamities. It is a
greater evil to have the intellect of a nation put down by organized
fanaticism; to see its political and industrial affairs at the mercy
of a despot whose chief thought is to make that fanaticism prevail; to
watch the degradation of men, who should feel themselves individually
responsible for their own and their country's fates, to mere brute
instruments, ready to the hand of a master for any use to which he may
put them.

But that is the end to which, in my opinion, all such organizations as
that to which kindly people, who do not look to the consequences of
their acts, are now giving their thousands, inevitably tend. Unless
clear proof that I am wrong is furnished, another thousand shall not
be added by my instrumentality.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
T. H. Huxley.



An authoritative contemporary historian, Matthew Paris, writes thus of
the Minorite, or Franciscan, Friars in England in 1235, just nine
years after the death of Francis of Assisi:--

"At this time some of the Minorite brethren, as well as some of the
Order of Preachers, unmindful of their profession and the restrictions
of their order, impudently entered the territories of some noble
monasteries, under pretense of fulfilling their duties of preaching,
as if intending to depart after preaching the next day. Under pretence
of sickness, or on some other pretext, however, they remained, and,
constructing an altar of wood, they placed on it a consecrated stone
altar, which they had brought with them, and clandestinely and in a
low voice performed mass, and even received the confessions of many of
the parishioners, to the prejudice of the priests. And if by chance
they were not satisfied with this, they broke forth in insults and
threats, reviling every other order except their own, and asserting
that all the rest were doomed to damnation, and that they would not
spare the soles of their feet till they had exhausted the wealth of
their opposers, however great it might be. The religious men,
therefore, gave way to them in many points, yielding to avoid scandal,
and offending those in power. For they were the councillors and
messengers of the nobles, and even secretaries of the Pope, and
therefore obtained much [246] secular favour. Some, however, finding
themselves opposed by the Court of Rome, were restrained by obvious
reasons, and went away in confusion; for the Supreme Pontiff, with a
scowling look, said to them, 'What means this, my brethren? To what
lengths are you going? Have you not professed voluntary poverty, and
that you would traverse towns and castles and distant places, as the
case required, barefooted and unostentatiously, in order to preach the
word of God in all humility? And do you now presume to usurp these
estates to yourselves against the will of the lords of these fees?
Your religion appears to be in a great measure dying away, and your
doctrines to be confuted."

Under date of 1243, Matthew writes:--

"For three or four hundred years or more the monastic order did not
hasten to destruction so quickly as their order [Minorites and
Preachers] of whom now the brothers, twenty-four years having scarcely
elapsed, had first built in England dwellings which rivalled regal
palaces in height. These are they who daily expose to view their
inestimable treasures, in enlarging their sumptuous edifices, and
erecting lofty walls, thereby impudently transgressing the limits of
their original poverty and violating the basis of their religion,
according to the prophecy of German Hildegarde. When noblemen and rich
men are at the point of death, whom they know to be possessed of great
riches, they, in their love of gain, diligently urge them, to the
injury and loss of the ordinary pastors, and extort confessions and
hidden wills, lauding themselves and their own order only, [247] and
placing themselves before all others. So no faithful man now believes
he can be saved, except he is directed by the counsels of the
Preachers and Minorites."--Matthew Paris's English History. Translated
by the Rev. J. A. Giles, 1889, Vol. I.


The "Times," December 9th, 1890

Sir,--The purpose of my previous letter about Mr. Booth's scheme was
to arouse the contributors to the military chest of the Salvation Army
to a clear sense of what they are doing. I thought it desirable that
they should be distinctly aware that they are setting up and endowing
a sect, in many ways analogous to the "Ranters" and "Revivalists" of
undesirable notoriety in former times; but with this immensely
important difference, that it possesses a strong, far-reaching,
centralized organization, the disposal of the physical, moral, and
financial strength of which rests with an irresponsible chief, who,
according to his own account, is assured of the blind obedience of
nearly 10,000 subordinates. I wish them to ask themselves, Ought
prudent men and good citizens to aid in the establishment of an
organization which, under sundry, by no means improbable,
contingencies, may easily become a worse and more [248] dangerous
nuisance than the mendicant friars of the middle ages? If this is an
academic question, I really do not know what questions deserve to be
called practical. As you divined, I purposely omitted any
consideration of the details of the Salvationist scheme, and of the
principles which animate those who work it, because I desired that the
public appreciation of the evils, necessarily inherent in all such
plans of despotic social and religious regimentation should not be
obscured by the raising of points of less comparative, however great
absolute, importance.

But it is now time to undertake a more particular criticism of
"Darkest England." At the outset of my examination of that work, I was
startled to find that Mr. Booth had put forward his scheme with an
almost incredibly imperfect knowledge of what had been done and is
doing in the same direction. A simple reader might well imagine that
the author of "Darkest England" posed as the Columbus, or at any rate
the Cortez, of that region. "Go to Mudie's," he tells us, and you
will be surprised to see how few books there are upon the social
problem. That may or may not be correct; but if Mr. Booth had gone to
a certain reading-room not far from Mudie's, I undertake to say that
the well-informed and obliging staff of the national library in
Bloomsbury would have provided him with more books on this topic, in
almost all European languages, than he would [249] read in three
months. Has socialism no literature? And what is socialism but an
incarnation of the social question? Moreover, I am persuaded that even
"Mudie's" resources could have furnished Mr. Booth with the "Life of
Lord Shaftesbury" and Carlyle's works. Mr. Booth seems to have
undertaken to instruct the world without having heard of "Past and
Present" or of "Latter-Day Pamphlets"; though, somewhat late in the
day, a judicious friend calls his attention to them. To those of my
contemporaries on whom, as on myself, Carlyle's writings on this topic
made an ineffaceable impression forty years ago, who know that, for
all that time, hundreds of able and devoted men, both clerical and
lay, have worked heart and soul for the permanent amendment of the
condition of the poor, Mr. Booth's "Go to Mudie's" affords an apt
measure of the depth of his preliminary studies. However, I am bound
to admit that these earlier labourers in the field laboured in such a
different fashion, that the originality of the plan started by Mr.
Booth remains largely unaffected. For them no drums have beat, no
trombones brayed; no sanctified buffoonery, after the model of the
oration of the Friar in Wallenstein's camp dear to the readers of
Schiller, has tickled the ears of the groundlings on their behalf.
Sadly behind the great age of rowdy self-advertisement in which their
lot has fallen, they seem not to have advanced one whit [250] beyond
John the Baptist and the Apostles, 1800 years ago, in their notions of
the way in which the metanoia, the change of mind of the ill-doer, is
to be brought about. Yet the new model was there, ready for the
imitation of those ancient savers of souls. The ranting and roaring
mystagogues of some of the most venerable of Greek and Syrian cults
also had their processions and banners, their fifes and cymbals and
holy chants, their hierarchy of officers to whom the art of making
collections was not wholly unknown; and who, as freely as their modern
imitators, promised an Elysian future to contributory converts. The
success of these antique Salvation armies was enormous. Simon Magus
was quite as notorious a personage, and probably had as strong a
following as Mr. Booth. Yet the Apostles, with their old-fashioned
ways, would not accept such a success as a satisfactory sign of the
Divine sanction, nor depart from their own methods of leading the way
to the higher life.

I deem it unessential to verify Mr. Booth's statistics. The exact
strength of the population of the realm of misery, be it one, two, or
three millions, has nothing to do with the efficacy of any means
proposed for the highly desirable end of reducing it to a minimum. The
sole question for consideration at present is whether the scheme,
keeping specially in view the spirit in which it is to be worked, is
likely to do more good than harm.

[251] Mr. Booth tells us, with commendable frankness, that "it is
primarily and mainly for the sake of saving the soul that I seek the
salvation of the body" (p. 45), which language, being interpreted,
means that the propagation of the special Salvationist creed comes
first, and the promotion of the physical, intellectual, and purely
moral welfare of mankind second in his estimation. Men are to be made
sober and industrious, mainly, that, as washed, shorn, and docile
sheep, they may be driven into the narrow theological fold which Mr.
Booth patronizes. If they refuse to enter, for all their moral
cleanliness, they will have to take their place among the goats as
sinners, only less dirty than the rest.

I have been in the habit of thinking (and I believe the opinion is
largely shared by reasonable men) that self-respect and thrift are the
rungs of the ladder by which men may most surely climb out of the
slough of despond of want; and I have regarded them as perhaps the
most eminent of the practical virtues. That is not Mr. Booth's
opinion. For him they are mere varnished sins--nothing better than
"Pride re-baptised" (p. 46). Shutting his eyes to the necessary
consequences of the struggle for life, the existence of which he
accepts as fully as any Darwinian,* Mr. Booth tells men, whose evil
case is one of those consequences, that envy is a corner-stone of our
[252] competitive system. With thrift and self-respect denounced as
sin, with the suffering of starving men referred to the sins of the
capitalist, the gospel according to Mr. Booth may save souls, but it
will hardly save society.

* See p. 100

In estimating the social and political influence which the Salvation
Army is likely to exert, it is important to reflect that the officers
(pledged to blind obedience to their "General") are not to confine
themselves to the functions of mere deacons and catechists (though,
under a "General" like Cyril, Alexandria knew to her cost what even
they could effect); they are to be "tribunes of the people," who are
to act as their gratuitous legal advisers; and, when law is not
sufficiently effective, the whole force of the army is to obtain what
the said tribunes may conceive to be justice, by the practice of
ruthless intimidation. Society, says Mr. Booth, needs "mothering"; and
he sets forth, with much complacency, a variety of "cases," by which
we may estimate the sort of "mothering" to be expected at his parental
hands. Those who study the materials thus set before them will, I
think, be driven to the conclusion that the "mother" has already
proved herself a most unscrupulous meddler, even if she has not fallen
within reach of the arm of the law.

Consider this "case." A, asserting herself to have been seduced twice,
"applied to our people. We hunted up the man, followed him to the
country, [253] threatened him with public exposure, and forced from
him the payment to his victim of [Pounds] 60 down, an allowance of
[Pounds] 1 a week, and an insurance policy on his life for [Pounds]
450 in her favour" (p. 222) .

Jedburgh justice this. We "constitute ourselves prosecutor, judge,
jury, sheriff's officer, all in one;" we "practice intimidation as
deftly as if we were a branch of another League; and, under threat of
exposure," we "extort a tolerably heavy hush-money in payment of our
silence. "

Well, really, my poor moral sense is unable to distinguish these
remarkable proceedings of the new popular tribunate from what, in
French, is called chantage and, in plain English, blackmailing. And
when we consider that anybody, for any reason of jealousy, or personal
spite, or party hatred, might be thus "hunted," "followed,"
"threatened," and financially squeezed or ruined, without a particle
of legal investigation, at the will of a man whom the familiar charged
with the inquisitorial business dare not hesitate to obey, surely it
is not unreasonable to ask how far does the Salvation Army, in its
"tribune of the people" aspect, differ from a Sicilian Mafia? I am no
apologist of men guilty of the acts charged against the person who
yet, I think, might be as fairly called a "victim," in this case, as
his partner in wrong-doing. It is possible that, in so peculiar a
case, Solomon himself might have been puzzled [254] to apportion the
relative moral delinquency of the parties. However that may be, the
man was morally and legally bound to support his child, and any one
would have been justified in helping the woman to her legal rights,
and the man to the legal consequences (in which exposure is included)
of his fault.

The action of the "General" of the Salvation Army in extorting the
heavy fine he chose to impose as the price of his silence, however
excellent his motives, appears to me to be as immoral as, I hope, it
is illegal.

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