The Man versus the State
by Herbert Spencer


    The Westminster Review for April 1860, contained an article
entitled "Parliamentary Reform: the Dangers and the Safeguards."
In that article I ventured to predict some results of political
changes then proposed. 
    Reduced to its simplest expression, the thesis maintained was
that, unless due precautions were taken, increase of freedom in
form would be followed by decrease of freedom in fact. Nothing
has occurred to alter the belief I then expressed. The drift of
legislation since that time has been of the kind anticipated.
Dictatorial measures, rapidly multiplied, have tended continually
to narrow the liberties of individuals; and have done this in a
double way. Regulations have been made in yearly-growing numbers,
restraining the citizen in directions where his actions were
previously unchecked, and compelling actions which previously he
might perform or not as he liked; and at the same time heavier
public burdens, chiefly local, have further restricted his
freedom, by lessening that portion of his earnings which he can
spend as he pleases, and augmenting the portion taken from him to
be spent as public agents please. 
    The causes of these foretold effects, then in operation,
continue in operation -- are, indeed, likely to be strengthened;
and finding that the conclusions drawn respecting these causes
and effects have proved true, I have been prompted to set forth
and emphasize kindred conclusions respecting the future, and do
what little may be done towards awakening attention to threatened
    For this purpose were written the four following articles,
originally published in the Contemporary Review for February,
April, May, June and July of this year. To meet certain
criticisms and to remove some of the objections likely to be
raised, I have now added a postscript. 

Bayswater, July, 1884


    Most of those who now pass as Liberals, are Tories of a new
type. This is a paradox which I propose to justify. That I may
justify it, I must first point out what the two political parties
originally were; and I must then ask the reader to bear with me
while I remind him of facts he is familiar with, that I may
impress on him the intrinsic natures of Toryism and Liberalism
properly so called. 
    Dating back to an earlier period than their names, the two
political parties at first stood respectively for two opposed
types of social organization, broadly distinguishable as the
militant and the industrial -- types which are characterized, the
one by the regime of status, almost universal in ancient days,
and the other by the regime of contract, which has become general
in modern days, chiefly among the Western nations, and especially
among ourselves and the Americans. If, instead of using the word
"co-operation" in a limited sense, we use it in its widest sense,
as signifying the combined activities of citizens under whatever
system of regulation; then these two are definable as the system
of compulsory co-operation and the system of voluntary
co-operation. The typical structure of the one we see in an army
formed of conscripts, in which the units in their several grades
have to fulfil commands under pain of death, and receive food and
clothing and pay, arbitrarily apportioned; while the typical
structure of the other we see in a body of producers or
distributors, who severally agree to specified payments in return
for specified services, and may at will, after due notice, leave
the organization if they do not like it. 
    During social evolution in England, the distinction between
these two fundamentally-opposed forms of co-operation, made its
appearance gradually; but long before the names Tory and Whig
came into use, the parties were becoming traceable, and their
connexions with militancy and industrialism respectively, were
vaguely shown. The truth is familiar that, here as elsewhere, it
was habitually by town-populations, formed of workers and traders
accustomed to co-operate under contract, that resistances were
made to that coercive rule which characterizes co-operation under
status. While, conversely, cooperation under status, arising
from, and adjusted to, chronic warfare, was supported in rural
districts, originally peopled by military chiefs and their
dependents, where the primitive ideas and traditions survived.
Moreover, this contrast in political leanings, shown before Whig
and Tory principles became clearly distinguished, continued to be
shown afterwards. At the period of the Revolution, "while the
villages and smaller towns were monopolized by Tories, the larger
cities, the manufacturing districts, and the ports of commerce,
formed the strongholds of the Whigs." And that, spite of
exceptions, the like general relation still exists, needs no
    Such were the natures of the two parties as indicated by
their origins. Observe, now, how their natures were indicated by
their early doctrines and deeds. Whiggism began with resistance
to Charles II and his cabal, in their efforts to re-establish
unchecked monarchical power. The Whigs "regarded the monarchy as
a civil institution, established by the nation for the benefit of
all its members;" while with the Tories "the monarch was the
delegate of heaven." And these doctrines involved the beliefs,
the one that subjection of citizen to ruler was conditional, and
the other that it was unconditional. Describing Whig and Tory as
conceived at the end of the seventeenth century, some fifty years
before he wrote his Dissertation on Parties, Bolingbroke says: --

"The power and majesty of the people, an original contract, the
authority and independency of Parliaments, liberty, resistance,
exclusion, abdication, deposition; these were ideas associated,
at that time, to the idea of a Whig, and supposed by every Whig
to be incommunicable, and inconsistent with the idea of a Tory. 

"Divine, hereditary, indefeasible right, lineal succession,
passive-obedience, prerogative, non-resistance, slavery, nay, and
sometimes popery too, were associated in many minds to the idea
of a Tory, and deemed incommunicable and inconsistent, in the
same manner, with the idea of a Whig." Dissertation on Parties,
p. 5 [1735, p. 4]. 

And if we compare these descriptions, we see that in the one
party there was a desire to resist and decrease the coercive
power of the ruler over the subject, and in the other party to
maintain or increase his coercive power. This distinction in
their aims -- a distinction which transcends in meaning and
importance all other political distinctions -- was displayed in
their early doings. Whig principles were exemplified in the
Habeas Corpus Act, and in the measure by which judges were made
independent of the Crown; in defeat of the Non-Resisting Test
Bill, which proposed for legislators and officials a compulsory
oath that they would in no case resist the king by arms; and,
later, they were exemplified in the Bill of rights, framed to
secure subjects against monarchical aggressions. These Acts had
the same intrinsic nature. The principle of compulsory
co-operation throughout social life was weakened by them, and the
principle of voluntary co-operation strengthened. That at a
subsequent period the policy of the party had the same general
tendency, is well shown by a remark of Mr Green concerning the
period of Whig power after the death of Anne: --

"Before the fifty years of their rule had passed, Englishmen had
forgotten that it was possible to persecute for differences of
religion, or to put down the liberty of the press, or to tamper
with the administration of justice, or to rule without a
        Short History, p. 705. 
[J. R. Green, Short History of the English People, London, 1874.
The (later) editions which I have been able to consult have
'opinion' in place of 'religion'.] 

    And now, passing over the war-period which closed the last
century and began this, during which that extension of individual
freedom previously gained was lost, and the retrograde movement
towards the social type proper to militancy was shown by all
kinds of coercive measures, from those which took by force the
persons and property of citizens for war-purposes to those which
suppressed public meetings and sought to gag the press, let us
recall the general characters of those changes effected by Whigs
or Liberals after the reestablishment of peace permitted revival
of the industrial regime and return to its appropriate type of
structure. Under growing Whig influence there came repeal of the
laws forbidding combinations among artisans, as well as of those
which interfered with their freedom of travelling. There was the
measure by which, under Whig pressure, Dissenters were allowed to
believe as they pleased without suffering certain civil
penalties; and there was the Whig measure, carried by Tories
under compulsion, which enabled Catholics to profess their
religion without losing part of their freedom. The area of
liberty was extended by Acts which forbade the buying of negroes
and the holding of them in bondage. The East India Company's
monopoly was abolished, and trade with the East made open to all.
The political serfdom of the unrepresented was narrowed in area,
both by the Reform Bill and the Municipal Reform Bill; so that
alike generally and locally, the many were less under the
coercion of the few. Dissenters, no longer obliged to submit to
the ecclesiastical form of marriage, were made free to wed by a
purely civil rite. Later came diminution and removal of
restraints on the buying of foreign commodities and the
employment of foreign vessels and foreign sailors; and later
still the removal of those burdens on the press which were
originally imposed to hinder the diffusion of opinion. And of all
these changes it is unquestionable that, whether made or not by
Liberals themselves, they were made in conformity with principles
professed and urged by Liberals. 
    But why do I enumerate facts so well known to all? Simply
because, as intimated at the outset, it seems needful to remind
everybody what Liberalism was in the past, that they may perceive
its unlikeness to the so-called Liberalism of the present. It
would be inexcusable to name these various measures for the
purpose of pointing out the character common to them, were it not
that in our day men have forgotten their common character. They
do not remember that, in one or other way, all these truly
Liberal changes diminished compulsory co-operation throughout
social life and increased voluntary cooperation. They have
forgotten that, in one direction or other, they diminished the
range of governmental authority, and increased the area within
which each citizen may act unchecked. They have lost sight of the
truth that in past times Liberalism habitually stood for
individual freedom versus State-coercion. 
    And now comes the inquiry -- How is it that Liberals have
lost sight of this? How is it that Liberalism, getting more and
more into power, has grown more and more coercive in its
legislation? How is it that, either directly through its own
majorities or indirectly through aid given in such cases to the
majorities of its opponents, Liberalism has to an increasing
extent adopted the policy of dictating the actions of citizens,
and, by consequence, diminishing the range throughout which their
actions remain free? How are we to explain this spreading
confusion of thought which has led it, in pursuit of what appears
to be public good, to invert the method by which in earlier days
it achieved public good? 
    Unaccountable as at first sight this unconscious change of
policy seems, we shall find that it has arisen quite naturally.
Given the unanalytical thought ordinarily brought to bear on
political matters, and, under existing conditions, nothing else
was to be expected. To make this clear some parenthetic
explanations are needful. 

    From the lowest to the highest creatures, intelligence
progresses by acts of discrimination; and it continues so to
progress among men, from the most ignorant to the most cultured.
To class rightly -- to put in the same group things which are of
essentially the same natures, and in other groups things of
natures essentially different is the fundamental condition to
right guidance of actions. Beginning with rudimentary vision,
which gives warning that some large opaque body is passing near
(just as closed eyes turned to the window, perceiving the shade
caused by a hand put before them, tells us of something moving in
front), the advance is to developed vision, which, by
exactly-appreciated combinations of forms, colours, and motions,
identifies objects at great distances as prey or enemies, and so
makes it possible to improve the adjustments of conduct for
securing food or evading death. That progressing perception of
differences and consequent greater correctness of classing,
constitutes, under one of its chief aspects, the growth of
intelligence, is equally seen when we pass from the relatively
simple physical vision to the relatively complex intellectual
vision -- the vision through the agency of which, things
previously grouped by certain eternal resemblances or by certain
extrinsic circumstances, come to be more truly grouped in
conformity with their intrinsic structures or natures.
Undeveloped intellectual vision is just as indiscriminating and
erroneous in its classings as undeveloped physical vision.
Instance the early arrangement of plants into the groups, trees,
shrubs, and herbs: size, the most conspicuous trait, being the
ground of distinction; and the assemblages formed being such as
united many plants extremely unlike in their natures, and
separated others that are near akin. Or still better, take the
popular classification which puts together under the same general
name, fish and shell-fish, and under the sub-name, shell-fish,
puts together crustaceans and molluscs; nay, which goes further,
and regards as fish the cetacean mammals. Partly because of the
likeness in their modes of life as inhabiting the water, and
partly because of some general resemblance in their flavours,
creatures that are in their essential natures far more widely
separated than a fish is from a bird, are associated in the same
class and in the same sub-class. 
    Now the general truth thus exemplified, holds throughout
those higher ranges of intellectual vision concerned with things
not presentable to the senses, and, among others, such things as
political institutions and political measures. For when thinking
of these, too, the results of inadequate intellectual faculty, or
inadequate culture of it, or both, are erroneous classings and
consequent erroneous conclusions. Indeed, the liability to error
is here much greater; since the things with which the intellect
is concerned do not admit of examination in the same easy way.
You cannot touch or see a political institution: it can be known
only by an effort of constructive imagination. Neither can you
apprehend by physical perception a political measure: this no
less requires a process of mental representation by which its
elements are put together in thought, and the essential nature of
the combination conceived. Here, therefore, still more than in
the cases above named, defective intellectual vision is shown in
grouping by eternal characters, or extrinsic circumstances. How
institutions are wrongly classed from this cause, we see in the
common notion that the Roman Republic was a popular form of
government. Look into the early ideas of the French
revolutionists who aimed at an ideal state of freedom, and you
find that the political forms and deeds of the Romans were their
models; and even now a historian might be named who instances the
corruptions of the Roman Republic as showing us what popular
government leads to. Yet the resemblance between the institutions
of the Romans and free institutions properly so-called, was less
than that between a shark and a porpoise -- a resemblance of
general eternal form accompanying widely different internal
structures. For the Roman Government was that of a small
oligarchy within a larger oligarchy: the members of each being
unchecked autocrats. A society in which the relatively few men
who had political power, and were in a qualified sense free, were
so many petty despots, holding not only slaves and dependents but
even children in a bondage no less absolute than that in which
they held their cattle, was, by its intrinsic nature, more nearly
allied to an ordinary despotism than to a society of citizens
politically equal. 
    Passing now to our special question, we may understand the
kind of confusion in which Liberalism has lost itself; and the
origin of those mistaken classings of political measures which
have misled it classings, as we shall see, by conspicuous eternal
traits instead of by internal natures. For what, in the popular
apprehension and in the apprehension of those who effected them,
were the changes made by Liberals in the past? They were
abolitions of grievances suffered by the people, or by portions
of them: this was the common trait they had which most impressed
itself on men's minds. They were mitigations of evils which had
directly or indirectly been felt by large classes of citizens, as
causes of misery or as hindrances to happiness. And since, in the
minds of most, a rectified evil is equivalent to an achieved
good, these measures came to be thought of as so many positive
benefits; and the welfare of the many came to be conceived alike
by Liberal statesmen and Liberal voters as the aim of Liberalism.
Hence the confusion. The gaining of a popular good, being the
eternal conspicuous trait common to Liberal measures in earlier
days (then in each case gained by a relaxation of restraints), it
has happened that popular good has come to be sought by Liberals,
not as an end to be indirectly gained by relaxations of
restraints, but as the end to be directly gained. And seeking to
gain it directly, they have used methods intrinsically opposed to
those originally used. 
    And now, having seen how this reversal of policy has arisen
(or partial reversal, I should say, for the recent Burials Act
and the efforts to remove all remaining religious inequalities,
show continuance of the original policy in certain directions),
let us proceed to contemplate the extent to which it has been
carried during recent times, and the still greater extent to
which the future will see it carried if current ideas and
feelings continue to predominate. 

    Before proceeding, it may be well to say that no reflections
are intended on the motives which prompted one after another of
these various restraints and dictations. These motives were
doubtless in nearly all cases good. It must be admitted that the
restrictions placed by an Act of 1870, on the employment of women
and children in Turkey-red dyeing works, were, in intention, no
less philanthropic than those of Edward VI, which prescribed the
minimum time for which a journeyman should be retained. Without
question, the Seed Supply (Ireland) Act of 1880, which empowered
guardians to buy seed for poor tenants, and then to see it
properly planted, was moved by a desire for public welfare no
less great than that which in 1533 prescribed the number of sheep
a tenant might keep, or that of 1597, which commanded that
decayed houses of husbandry should be rebuilt. Nobody will
dispute that the various measures of late years taken for
restricting the sale of intoxicating liquors, have been taken as
much with a view to public morals as were the measures taken of
old for checking the evils of luxury; as, for instance, in the
fourteenth century, when diet as well as dress was restricted.
Everyone must see that the edicts issued by Henry VIII to prevent
the lower classes from playing dice, cards, bowls, etc., were not
more prompted by desire for popular welfare than were the Acts
passed of late to check gambling. 
    Further, I do not intend here to question the wisdom of these
modern interferences, which Conservatives and Liberals vie with
one another in multiplying, any more than to question the wisdom
of those ancient ones which they in many cases resemble. We will
not now consider whether the plans of late adopted for preserving
the lives of sailors, are or are not more judicious than that
sweeping Scotch measure which, in the middle of the fifteenth
century, prohibited captains from leaving harbour during the
winter. For the present, it shall remain undebated whether there
is a better warrant for giving sanitary officers powers to search
certain premises for unfit food, than there was for the law of
Edward III, under which innkeepers at seaports were sworn to
search their guests to prevent the exportation of money or plate.
We will assume that there is no less sense in that clause of the
Canal-boat Act, which forbids an owner to board gratuitously the
children of the boatmen, than there was in the Spitalfields Acts,
which, up to 1824, for the benefit of the artisans, forbade the
manufacturers to fix their factories more than ten miles from the
Royal Exchange. 
    We exclude, then, these questions of philanthropic motive and
wise judgement, taking both of them for granted; and have here to
concern ourselves solely with the compulsory nature of the
measures which, for good or evil as the case may be, have been
put in force during periods of Liberal ascendancy. 
    To bring the illustrations within compass, let us commence
with 1860, under the second administration of Lord Palmerston. In
that year, the restrictions of the Factories Act were extended to
bleaching and dyeing works; authority was given to provide
analysts of food and drink, to be paid out of local rates; there
was an Act providing for inspection of gas-works, as well as for
fixing quality of gas and limiting price; there was the Act
which, in addition to further mine inspection, made it penal to
employ boys under twelve not attending school and unable to read
and write. In 1861 occurred an extension of the compulsory
provisions of the Factories Act to lace-works; power was given to
poor-law guardians, etc., to enforce vaccination; local boards
were authorized to fix rates of hire for horses, ponies, mules,
asses, and boats; and certain locally-formed bodies had given to
them powers of taxing the locality for rural drainage and
irrigation works, and for supplying water to cattle. In 1862 an
Act was passed for restricting the employment of women and
children in open-air bleaching; and an Act for making illegal a
coal-mine with a single shaft, or with shafts separated by less
than a specified space; as well as an Act giving the Council of
Medical Education the exclusive right to publish a Pharmacopoeia,
the price of which is to be fixed by the Treasury. In 1863 came
the extension of compulsory vaccination to Scotland, and also to
Ireland; there came the empowering of certain boards to borrow
money repayable from the local rates, to employ and pay those out
of work; there came the authorizing of town authorities to take
possession of neglected ornamental spaces, and rate the
inhabitants for their support; there came the Bakehouses
Regulation Act, which, besides specifying minimum age of
employees occupied between certain hours, prescribed periodical
lime-washing, three coats of paint when painted, and cleaning
with hot water and soap at least once in six months; and there
came also an Act giving a magistrate authority to decide on the
wholesomeness or unwholesomeness of food brought before him by an
inspector. Of compulsory legislation dating from 1864, may be
named an extension of the Factories Act to various additional
trades, including regulations for cleansing and ventilation, and
specifying of certain employees in match-works, that they might
not take meals on the premises except in the wood-cutting places.
Also there were passed a Chimney-Sweepers Act, an Act for further
regulating the sale of beer in Ireland, an Act for compulsory
testing of cables and anchors, an Act extending the Public Works
Act of 1863, and the Contagious Diseases Act: which last gave the
police, in specified places, powers which, in respect of certain
classes of women, abolished sundry of those safeguards to
individual freedom established in past times. The year 1865
witnessed further provision for the reception and temporary
relief of wanderers at the cost of ratepayers; another
public-house closing Act; and an Act making compulsory
regulations for extinguishing fires in London. Then, under the
Ministry of Lord John Russell, in 1866, have to be named an Act
to regulate cattle-sheds, etc., in Scotland, giving local
authorities powers to inspect sanitary conditions and fix the
numbers of cattle; an Act forcing hop-growers to label their bags
with the year and place of growth and the true weight, and giving
police powers of search; an Act to facilitate the building of
lodging-houses in Ireland, and providing for regulation of the
inmates; a Public Health Act, under which there is registration
of lodging-houses and Station of occupants, with inspection and
directions for lime-washing, etc.; and a Public Libraries Act,
giving local powers by which a majority can tax a minority for
their books. 
    Passing now to the legislation under the first Ministry of Mr
Gladstone, we have, in 1869, the establishment of
State-telegraphy, with the accompanying interdict on telegraphing
through any other agency; we have the empowering a Secretary of
State to regulate hired conveyances in London; we have further
and more stringent regulations to prevent cattle-diseases from
spreading, another Beerhouse Regulation Act, and a Sea-birds
Preservation Act (ensuring greater mortality of fish). In 1870 we
have a law authorizing the Board of Public Works to make advances
for landlords' improvements and for purchase by tenants; we have
the Act which enables the Education Department to form
school-boards which shall purchase sites for schools, and may
provide free schools supported by local rates, and enabling
school-boards to pay a child's fees, to compel parents to send
their children, etc., etc.; we have a further Factories and
Workshops Act, making, among other restrictions, some on the
employment of women and children in fruit-preserving and
fishcuring works. In 1871 we meet with an amended Merchant
Shipping Act, directing officers of the Board of Trade to record
the draught of sea-going vessels leaving port; there is another
Factory and Workshops Act, making further restrictions; there is
a Pedlar's Act, inflicting penalties for hawking without a
certificate, and limiting the district within which the
certificate holds, as well as giving the police power to search
pedlars' packs; and there are further measures for enforcing
vaccination. The year 1872 had, among other Acts, one which makes
it illegal to take for hire more than one child to nurse, unless
in a house registered by the authorities, who prescribe the
number of infants to be received; it had a Licensing Act,
interdicting sale of spirits to those apparently under sixteen;
and it had another Merchant Shipping Act, establishing an annual
survey of passenger steamers. Then in 1873 was passed the
Agricultural Children's Act, which makes it penal for a farmer to
employ a child who has neither certificate of elementary
education nor of certain prescribed school attendances; and there
was passed a Merchant Shipping Act, requiring on each vessel a
scale showing draught and giving the Board of Trade power to fix
the numbers of boats and life-saving appliances to be carried. 
    Turn now to Liberal law-making under the present Ministry. We
have, in 1880, a law which forbids conditional advance-notes in
payment of sailors' wages; also a law which dictates certain
arrangements for the safe carriage of grain-cargoes; also a law
increasing local coercion over parents to send their children to
school. In 1881 comes legislation to prevent trawling over
clam-beds and bait-beds, and an interdict making it impossible to
buy a glass of beer on Sunday in Wales. In 1882 the Board of
Trade was authorized to grant licences to generate and sell
electricity, and municipal bodies were enabled to levy rates for
electric-lighting; further exactions from ratepayers were
authorized for facilitating more accessible baths and washhouses;
and local authorities were empowered to make bye-laws for
securing the decent lodging of persons engaged in picking fruit
and vegetables. Of such legislation during 1883 may be named the
Cheap Trains Act, which, partly by taxing the nation to the
extent of 400,000 a year (in the shape of relinquished passenger
duty), and partly at the cost of railway-proprietors, still
further cheapens travelling for workmen: the Board of Trade,
through the Railway Commissioners, being empowered to ensure
sufficiently good and frequent accommodation. Again, there is the
Act which, under penalty of 10 for disobedience, forbids the
payment of wages to workmen at or within public-houses; there is
another Factory and Workshops Act, commanding inspection of white
lead works (to see that there are provided overalls, respirators,
baths, acidulated drinks, etc.) and of bake-houses, regulating
times of employment in both, and prescribing in detail some
constructions for the last, which are to be kept in a condition
satisfactory to the inspectors. 
    But we are far from forming an adequate conception if we look
only at the compulsory legislation which has actually been
established of late years. We must look also at that which is
advocated, and which threatens to be far more sweeping in range
and stringent in character. We have lately had a Cabinet
Minister, one of the most advanced Liberals, so-called, who
pooh-poohs the plans of the late Government for improving
industrial dwellings as so much "tinkering;" and contends for
effectual coercion to be exercised over owners of small houses,
over land-owners, and over rate-payers. Here is another Cabinet
Minister who, addressing his constituents, speaks slightingly of
the doings of philanthropic societies and religious bodies to
help the poor, and says that "the whole of the people of this
country ought to look upon this work as being their own work:"
that is to say, some extensive Government measure is called for.
Again, we have a Radical member of Parliament who leads a large
and powerful body, aiming with annually-increasing promise of
success, to enforce sobriety by giving to local majorities powers
to prevent freedom of exchange in respect of certain commodities.
Regulation of the hours of labour for certain classes, which has
been made more and more general by successive extensions of the
Factories Acts, is likely now to be made still more general: a
measure is to be proposed bringing the employees in all shops
under such regulation. There is a rising demand, too, that
education shall be made gratis for all. The payment of
school-fees is beginning to be denounced as a wrong: the State
must take the whole burden. Moreover, it is proposed by many that
the State, regarded as an undoubtedly competent judge of what
constitutes good education for the poor, shall undertake also to
prescribe good education for the middle classes -- shall stamp
the children of these, too, after a State pattern, concerning the
goodness of which they have no more doubt than the Chinese had
when they fixed theirs. Then there is the "endowment of
research," of late energetically urged. Already the Government
gives every year the sum of 4,000 for this purpose, to be
distributed through the Royal Society; and in the absence of
those who have strong motives for resisting the pressure of the
interested backed by those they easily persuade, it may by-and-by
establish that paid "priesthood of science" long ago advocated by
Sir David Brewster. Once more, plausible proposals are made that
there should be organized a system of compulsory insurance, by
which men during their early lives shall be forced to provide for
the time when they will be incapacitated. 
    Nor does enumeration of these further measures of coercive
rule, looming on us near at hand or in the distance, complete the
account. Nothing more than cursory allusion has yet been made to
that accompanying compulsion which takes the form of increased
taxation, general and local. Partly for defraying the costs of
caring out these ever-multiplying coercive measures, each of
which requires an additional staff of officers, and partly to
meet the outlay for new public institutions, such as
board-schools, free libraries, public museums, baths and
wash-houses, recreation grounds, etc., etc., local rates are year
after year increased; as the general taxation is increased by
grants for education and to the departments of science and art,
etc. Every one of these involves further coercion -- restricts
still more the freedom of the citizen. For the implied address
accompanying every additional exaction is -- "Hitherto you have
been free to spend this portion of your earnings in any way which
pleased you; hereafter you shall not be free so to spend it, but
we will spend it for the general benefit." Thus, either directly
or indirectly, and in most cases both at once, the citizen is at
each further stage in the growth of this compulsory legislation,
deprived of some liberty which he previously had. 
    Such, then, are the doings of the party which claims the name
of Liberal; and which calls itself Liberal as being the advocate
of extended freedom. 

I doubt not that many a member of the party has read the
preceding section with impatience; wanting, as he does, to point
out an immense oversight which he thinks destroys the validity of
the argument. "You forget," he wishes to say, "the fundamental
difference between the power which, in the past, established
those restraints that Liberalism abolished, and the power which,
in the present, establishes the restraints you call anti-Liberal.
You forget that the one was an irresponsible power, while the
other is a responsible power. You forget that if by the recent
legislation of Liberals, people are variously regulated, the body
which regulates them is of their own creating, and has their
warrant for its acts."
    My answer is, that I have not forgotten this difference, but
am prepared to contend that the difference is in large measure
irrelevant to the issue. 
    In the first place, the real issue is whether the lives of
citizens are more interfered with than they were; not the nature
of the agency which interferes with them. Take a simpler case. A
member of a trades' union has joined others in establishing an
organization of a purely representative character. By it he is
compelled to strike if a majority so decide; he is forbidden to
accept work save under the conditions they dictate; he is
prevented from profiting by his superior ability or energy to the
extent he might do were it not for their interdict. He cannot
disobey without abandoning those pecuniary benefits of the
organization for which he has subscribed, and bringing on himself
the persecution, and perhaps violence, of his fellows. Is he any
the less coerced because the body coercing him is one which he
had an equal voice with the rest in forming? 
    In the second place, if it be objected that the analogy is
faulty, since the governing body of a nation, to which, as
protector of the national life and interests, all must submit
under penalty of social disorganization, has a far higher
authority over citizens than the government of any private
organization can have over its members; then the reply is that,
granting the difference, the answer made continues valid. If men
use their liberty in such a way as to surrender their liberty,
are they thereafter any the less slaves? If people by a
plebiscite elect a man despot over them, do they remain free
because the despotism was of their own making? Are the coercive
edicts issued by him to be regarded as legitimate because they
are the ultimate outcome of their own votes? As well might it be
argued that the East African, who breaks a spear in another's
presence that he may so become bondsman to him, still retains his
liberty because he freely chose his master. 
    Finally if any, not without marks of irritation as I can
imagine, repudiate this reasoning, and say that there is no true
parallelism between the relation of people to government where an
Responsible single ruler has been permanently elected, and the
relation where a responsible representative body is maintained,
and from time to time re-elected; then there comes the ultimate
reply -- an altogether heterodox reply -- by which most will be
greatly astonished. This reply is, that these multitudinous
restraining acts are not defensible on the ground that they
proceed from a popularly-chosen body; for that the authority of a
popularly-chosen body is no more to be regarded as an unlimited
authority than the authority of a monarch; and that as true
Liberalism in the past disputed the assumption of a monarch's
unlimited authority, so true Liberalism in the present will
dispute the assumption of unlimited parliamentary authority. Of
this, however, more anon. Here I merely indicate it as an
ultimate answer. 
    Meanwhile it suffices to point out that until recently, just
as of old, true Liberalism was shown by its acts to be moving
towards the theory of a limited parliamentary authority. All
these abolitions of restraints over religious beliefs and
observances, over exchange and transit, over trade-combinations
and the traveling of artisans, over the publication of opinions,
theological or political, etc., etc., were tacit assertions of
the desirableness of limitation. In the same way that the
abandonment of sumptuary laws, of laws forbidding this or that
kind of amusement, of laws dictating modes of farming, and many
others of like meddling nature, which took place in early days,
was an implied admission that the State ought not to interfere in
such matters; so those removals of hindrances to individual
activities of one or other kind, which the Liberalism of the last
generation effected, were practical confessions that in these
directions, too, the sphere of governmental action should be
narrowed. And this recognition of the propriety of restricting
governmental action was a preparation for restricting it in
theory. One of the most familiar political truths is that, in the
course of social evolution, usage precedes law; and that when
usage has been well established it becomes law by receiving
authoritative endorsement and defined form. Manifestly then,
Liberalism in the past, by its practice of limitation, was
preparing the way for the principle of limitation. 
    But returning from these more general considerations to the
special question, I emphasize the reply that the liberty which a
citizen enjoys is to be measured, not by the nature of the
governmental machinery he lives under, whether representative or
other, but by the relative paucity of the restraints it imposes
on him; and that, whether this machinery is or is not one that he
has shared in making, its actions are not of the kind proper to
Liberalism if they increase such restraints beyond those which
are needful for preventing him from directly or indirectly
aggressing on his fellows -- needful, that is, for maintaining
the liberties of his fellows against his invasions of them:
restraints which are, therefore, to be distinguished as
negatively coercive, not positively coercive. 

Probably, however, the Liberal, and still more the sub-species
Radical, who more than any other in these latter days seems under
the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is
warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able,
will continue to protest; knowing that his aim is popular benefit
of some kind, to be achieved in some way, and believing that the
Tory is, contrariwise, prompted by class-interest and the desire
to maintain class-power, he will regard it as palpably absurd to
group him as one of the same genus, and will scorn the reasoning
used to prove that he belongs to it. 
    Perhaps an analogy will help him to see its validity. If,
away in the far East, where personal government is the only form
of government known, he heard from the inhabitants an account of
a struggle by which they had deposed a cruel and vicious despot,
and put in his place one whose acts proved his desire for their
welfare -- if, after listening to their self-gratulations, he
told them that they had not essentially changed the nature of
their government, he would greatly astonish them; and probably he
would have difficulty in making them understand that the
substitution of a benevolent despot for a malevolent despot,
still left the government a despotism. Similarly with Toryism as
rightly conceived. Standing as it does for coercion by the State
versus the freedom of the individual, Toryism remains Toryism,
whether it extends this coercion for selfish or unselfish
reasons. As certainly as the despot is still a despot, whether
his motives for arbitrary rule are good or bad; so certainly is
the Tory still a Tory, whether he has egoistic or altruistic
motives for using State-power to restrict the liberty of the
citizen, beyond the degree required for maintaining the liberties
of other citizens. The altruistic Tory as well as the egoistic
Tory belongs to the genus Tory; though he forms a new species of
the genus. And both stand in distinct contrast with the Liberal
as defined in the days when Liberals were rightly so called, and
when the definition was -- "one who advocates greater freedom
from restraint, especially in political institutions." Thus,
then, is justified the paradox I set out with. As we have seen,
Toryism and Liberalism originally emerged, the one from militancy
and the other from industrialism. The one stood for the regime of
status and the other for the regime of contract -- the one for
that system of compulsory co-operation which accompanies the
legal inequality of classes, and the other for that voluntary
co-operation which accompanies their legal equality; and beyond
all question the early acts of the two parties were respectively
for the maintenance of agencies which effect this compulsory
co-operation, and for the weakening or curbing of them.
Manifestly the implication is that, in so far as it has been
extending the system of compulsion, what is now called Liberalism
is a new form of Toryism. 
    How truly this is so, we shall see still more clearly on
looking at the facts the other side upwards, which we will
presently do. 

NOTE -- By sundry newspapers which noticed this article when it
was originally published, the meaning of the above paragraphs was
supposed to be that Liberals and Tories have changed places.
This, however, is by no means the implication. A new species of
Tory may arise without disappearance of the original species.
When saying, as on page 70, that in our days "Conservatives and
Liberals vie with one another in multiplying" interferences, I
clearly implied the belief that while Liberals have taken to
coercive legislation, Conservatives have not abandoned it.
Nevertheless, it is true that the laws made by Liberals are so
greatly increasing the compulsions and restraints exercised over
citizens, that among Conservatives who suffer from this
aggressiveness there is growing up a tendency to resist it. Proof
is furnished by the fact that the "Liberty and Property Defence
League," largely consisting of Conservatives, has taken for its
motto "Individualism versus Socialism." So that if the present
drift of things continues, it may by and by really happen that
the Tories will be defenders of liberties which the Liberals, in
pursuit of what they think popular welfare, trample under foot. 


    The kinship of pity to love is shown among other ways in
this, that it idealizes its object. Sympathy with one in
suffering suppresses, for the time being, remembrance of his
transgressions. The feeling which vents itself in "poor fellow!"
on seeing one in agony, excludes the thought of "bad fellow,"
which might at another time arise. Naturally, then, if the
wretched are unknown or but vaguely known, all the demerits they
may have are ignored; and thus it happens that when, as just now,
the miseries of the poor are depicted, they are thought of as the
miseries of the deserving poor, instead of being thought of, as
in large measure they should be, as the miseries of the
undeserving poor. Those whose hardships are set forth in
pamphlets and proclaimed in sermons and speeches which echo
throughout society, are assumed to be all worthy souls,
grievously wronged; and none of them are thought of as bearing
the penalties of their own misdeeds. 
    On hailing a cab in a London street, it is surprising how
frequently the door is officiously opened by one who expects to
get something for his trouble. The surprise lessens after
counting the many loungers about tavern-doors, or after observing
the quickness with which a street-performance, or procession,
draws from neighbouring slums and stable-yards a group of idlers.
Seeing how numerous they are in every small area, it becomes
manifest that tens of thousands of such swarm through London.
"They have no work," you say. Say rather that they either refuse
work or quickly turn themselves out of it. They are simply
good-for-nothings, who in one way or other live on the
good-for-somethings -- vagrants and sots, criminals and those on
the way to crime, youths who are burdens on hard-worked parents,
men who appropriate the wages of their wives, fellows who share
the gains of prostitutes; and then, less visible and less
numerous, there is a corresponding class of women. 
    Is it natural that happiness should be the lot of such? or is
it natural that they should bring unhappiness on themselves and
those connected with them? Is it not manifest that there must
exist in our midst an immense amount of misery which is a normal
result of misconduct, and ought not to be dissociated from it?
There is a notion, always more or less prevalent and just now
vociferously expressed, that all social suffering is removable,
and that it is the duty of somebody or other to remove it. Both
these beliefs are false. To separate pain from ill-doing is to
fight against the constitution of things, and will be followed by
far more pain. Saving men from the natural penalties of dissolute
living, eventually necessitates the infliction of artificial
penalties in solitary cells, on tread-wheels, and by the lash. I
suppose a dictum, on which the current creed and the creed of
science are at one, may be considered to have as high an
authority as can be found. Well, the command "if any would not
work neither should he eat," is simply a Christian enunciation of
that universal law of Nature under which life has reached its
present height -- the law that a creature not energetic enough to
maintain itself must die: the sole difference being that the law
which in the one case is to be artificially enforced, is, in the
other case, a natural necessity. And yet this particular tenet of
their religion which science so manifestly justifies, is the one
which Christians seem least inclined to accept. The current
assumption is that there should be no suffering, and that society
is to blame for that which exists. 
    "But surely we are not without responsibilities, even when
the suffering is that of the unworthy?"
    If the meaning of the word "we" be so expanded as to include
with ourselves our ancestors, and especially our ancestral
legislators, I agree. I admit that those who made, and modified,
and administered, the old Poor Law, were responsible for
producing an appalling amount of demoralization, which it will
take more than one generation to remove. I admit, too, the
partial responsibility of recent and present law-makers for
relations which have brought into being a permanent body of
tramps, who ramble from union to union; and also their
responsibility for maintaining a constant supply of felons by
sending back convicts into society under such conditions that
they are almost compelled again to commit crimes. Moreover, I
admit that the philanthropic are not without their share of
responsibility; since, that they may aid the offspring of the
unworthy, they disadvantage the offspring of the worthy through
burdening their parents by increased local rates. Nay, I even
admit that these swarms of good-for-nothings, fostered and
multiplied by public and private agencies, have, by sundry
mischievous meddlings, been made to suffer more than they would
otherwise have suffered. Are these the responsibilities meant? I
suspect not.
    But now, leaving the question of responsibilities, however
conceived, and considering only the evil itself, what shall we
say of its treatment? Let me begin with a fact. 

A late uncle of nine, the Rev Thomas Spencer, for some twenty
years incumbent of Hinton Charterhouse, near Bath, no sooner
entered on his parish duties than he proved himself anxious for
the welfare of the poor, by establishing a school, a library, a
clothing club and land-allotments, besides building some model
cottages. Moreover, up to 1833 he was a pauper's friend -- always
for the pauper against the overseer. There presently came,
however, the debates on the Poor Law, which impressed him with
the evils of the system then in force. Though an ardent
philanthropist he was not a timid sentimentalist. The result was
that, immediately the new Poor Law was passed, he proceeded to
carry out its provisions in his parish. Almost universal
opposition was encountered by him: not the poor only being his
opponents, but even the farmers on whom came the burden of heavy
poor-rates. For, strange to say, their interests had become
apparently identified with the maintenance of this system which
taxed them so largely. The explanation is that there had grown up
the practice of paying out of the rates a part of the wages of
each farm-servant -- "make-wages," as the sum was called. And
though the farmers contributed most of the fund from which
"make-wages" were paid, yet, since all other ratepayers
contributed, the farmers seemed to gain by the arrangement. My
uncle, however, not easily deterred, faced all this opposition
and enforced the law. The result was that in two years the rates
were reduced from 700 a year to 200 a year; while the condition
of the parish was greatly improved. "Those who had hitherto
loitered at the corners of the streets, or at the doors of the
beer-shops, had something else to do, and one after another they
obtained employment;" so that out of a population of 800, only 15
had to be sent as incapable paupers to the Bath Union (when that
was formed), in place of the 100 who received out-door relief a
short time before. If it be said that the 20 telescope which, a
few years after, his parishioners presented to my uncle, marked
only the gratitude of the ratepayers; then my reply is the fact
that when, some years later still, having killed himself by
overwork in pursuit of popular welfare, he was taken to Hinton to
be buried, the procession which followed him to the grave
included not the well-to-do only but the poor. 
    Several motives have prompted this brief narrative. One is
the wish to prove that sympathy with the people and
self-sacrificing efforts on their behalf, do not necessarily
imply approval of gratuitous aids. Another is the desire to show
that benefit may result, not from multiplication of artificial
appliances to mitigate distress, but, contrariwise, from
diminution of them. And a further purpose I have in view is that
of preparing the way for an analogy. 
    Under another form and in a different sphere, we are now
yearly extending a system which is identical in nature with the
system of "make-wages" under the old Poor Law. Little as
politicians recognize the fact, it is nevertheless demonstrable
that these various public appliances for working-class comfort,
which they are supplying at the cost of ratepayers, are
intrinsically of the same nature as those which, in past times,
treated the farmer's man as half-labourer and half-pauper. In
either case the worker receives in return for what he does, money
wherewith to buy certain of the things he wants; while, to
procure the rest of them for him, money is furnished out of a
common fund raised by taxes. What matters it whether the things
supplied by ratepayers for nothing, instead of by the employer in
payment, are of this kind or that kind? The principle is the
same. For sums received let us substitute the commodities and
benefits purchased; and then see how the matter stands. In old
Poor-Law times, the farmer gave for work done the equivalent, say
of house-rent, bread, clothes, and fire; while the ratepayers
practically supplied the man and his family with their shoes,
tea, sugar, candles, a little bacon, etc. The division is, of
course, arbitrary; but unquestionably the farmer and the
ratepayers furnished these things between them. At the present
time the artisan receives from his employer in wages, the
equivalent of the consumable commodities he wants; while from the
public comes satisfaction for others of his needs and desires. At
the cost of ratepayers he has in some cases, and will presently
have in more, a house at less than its commercial value; for of
course when, as in Liverpool, a municipality spends nearly
200,000 in pulling down and reconstructing low-class dwellings,
and is about to spend as much again, the implication is that in
some way the ratepayers supply the poor with more accommodation
than the rents they pay would otherwise have brought. The artisan
further receives from them, in schooling for his children, much
more than he pays for; and there is every probability that he
will presently receive it from them gratis. The ratepayers also
satisfy what desire he may have for books and newspapers, and
comfortable places to read them in. In some cases too, as in
Manchester, gymnasia for his children of both sexes, as well as
recreation grounds, are provided. That is to say, he obtains from
a fund raised by local taxes, certain benefits beyond those which
the sum received for his labour enables him to purchase. The sole
difference, then, between this system and the old system of
"make-wages," is between the kinds of satisfactions obtained; and
this difference does not in the least affect the nature of the
    Moreover, the two are pervaded by substantially the same
illusion. In the one case, as in the other, what looks like a
gratis benefit is not a gratis benefit. The amount which, under
the old Poor Law, the half-pauperized labourer received from the
parish to eke out his weekly income, was not really, as it
appeared, a bonus; for it was accompanied by a
substantially-equivalent decrease in his wages, as was quickly
proved when the system was abolished and the wages rose. Just so
is it with these seeming boons received by working people in
towns. I do not refer only to the fact that they unawares pay in
part through the raised rents of their dwellings (when they are
not actual ratepayers); but I refer to the fact that the wages
received by them are, like the wages of the farm-labourer,
diminished by these public burdens falling on employers. Read the
accounts coming of late from Lancashire concerning the cotton
strike, containing proofs, given by artisans themselves, that the
margin of profit is so narrow that the less skilful
manufacturers, as well as those with deficient capital, fail, and
that the companies of co-operators who compete with them can
rarely hold their own; and then consider what is the implication
respecting wages. Among the costs of production have to be
reckoned taxes, general and local. If, as in our large towns, the
local rates now amount to one-third of the rental or more -- if
the employer has to pay this, not on his private dwelling only,
but on his business-premises, factories, warehouses, or the like;
it results that the interest on his capital must be diminished by
that amount, or the amount must be taken from the wages-fund, or
partly one and partly the other. And if competition among
capitalists in the same business and in other businesses, has the
effect of so keeping down interest that while some gain others
lose, and not a few are ruined -- if capital, not getting
adequate interest, flows elsewhere and leaves labour unemployed;
then it is manifest that the choice for the artisan under such
conditions, lies between diminished amount of work or diminished
rate of payment for it. Moreover, for kindred reasons these local
burdens raise the costs of the things he consumes. The charges
made by distributors are, on the average, determined by the
current rates of interest on capital used in distributing
businesses; and the extra costs of caring on such businesses have
to be paid for by extra prices. So that as in the past the rural
worker lost in one way what he gained in another, so in the
present does the urban worker: there being too, in both cases,
the loss entailed on him by the cost of administration and the
waste accompanying it. 
    "But what has all this to do with 'the coming slavery'?" will
perhaps be asked. Nothing directly, but a good deal indirectly,
as we shall see after yet another preliminary section. 

It is said that when railways were first opened in Spain,
peasants standing on the tracks were not unfrequently run over;
and that the blame fell on the engine-drivers for not stopping:
rural experiences having yielded no conception of the momentum of
a large mass moving at a high velocity. 
    The incident is recalled to me on contemplating the ideas of
the so-called "practical" politician, into whose mind there
enters no thought of such a thing as political momentum, still
less of a political momentum which, instead of diminishing or
remaining constant, increases. The theory on which he daily
proceeds is that the change caused by his measure will stop where
he intends it to stop. He contemplates intently the things his
act will achieve, but thinks little of the remoter issues of the
movement his act sets up, and still less of its collateral
issues. When, in war-time, "food for powder" was to be provided
by encouraging population -- when Mr Pitt said, "Let us make
relief in cases where there are a number of children a matter of
right and honour, instead of a ground for opprobrium and
contempt;"(1*) it was not expected that the poor-rates would be
quadrupled in fifty years, that women with many bastards would be
preferred as wives to modest women, because of their incomes from
the parish, and that hosts of ratepayers would be pulled down
into the ranks of pauperism. Legislators who in 1833 voted
20,000 a year to aid in building school-houses, never supposed
that the step they then took would lead to forced contributions,
local and general, now amounting to 6,000,000; they did not
intend to establish the principle that A should be made
responsible for educating B's offspring; they did not dream of a
compulsion which would deprive poor widows of the help of their
elder children; and still less did they dream that their
successors, by requiring impoverished parents to apply to Boards
of Guardians to pay the fees which School Boards would not remit,
would initiate a habit of applying to Boards of Guardians and so
cause pauperization.(2*) Neither did those who in 1834 passed an
Act regulating the labour of women and children in certain
factories, imagine that the system they were beginning would end
in the restriction and inspection of labour in all kinds of
producing establishments where more than fifty people are
employed; nor did they conceive that the inspection provided
would grow to the extent of requiring that before a "young
person" is employed in a factory, authority must be given by a
certifying surgeon, who, by personal examination (to which no
limit is placed) has satisfied himself that there is no
incapacitating disease or bodily infirmity: his verdict
determining whether the "young person" shall earn wages or
not.(3*) Even less, as I say, does the politician who plumes
himself on the practicalness of his aims, conceive the indirect
results which will follow the direct results of his measures.
Thus, to take a case connected with one named above, it was not
intended through the system of "payment by results," to do
anything more than give teachers an efficient stimulus: it was
not supposed that in numerous cases their health would give way
under the stimulus; it was not expected that they would be led to
adopt a cramming system and to put undue pressure on dull and
weak children, often to their great injury; it was not foreseen
that in many cases a bodily enfeeblement would be caused which no
amount of grammar and geography can compensate for. The licensing
of public houses was simply for maintaining public order: those
who devised it never imagined that there would result an
organized interest powerfully influencing elections in an
unwholesome way. Nor did it occur to the "practical" politicians
who provided a compulsory load-line for merchant vessels, that
the pressure of shipowners' interests would habitually cause the
putting of the load-line at the very highest limit, and that from
precedent to precedent, tending ever in the same direction, the
load-line would gradually rise in the better class of ships; as
from good authority I learn that it has already done. Legislators
who, some forty years ago, by Act of Parliament compelled railway
companies to supply cheap locomotion, would have ridiculed the
belief, had it been expressed, that eventually their Act would
punish the companies which improved the supply; and yet this was
the result to compares which began to carry third-class
passengers by fast trains; since a penalty to the amount of the
passenger-duty was inflicted on them for every third-class
passenger so carried. To which instance concerning railways, add
a far more striking one disclosed by comparing the railway
policies of England and France. The lawmakers who provided for
the ultimate lapsing of French railways to the State, never
conceived the possibility that inferior travelling facilities
would result -- did not foresee that reluctance to depreciate the
value of property eventually coming to the State, would negative
the authorization of competing lines and that in the absence of
competing lines locomotion would be relatively costly, slow, and
infrequent; for, as Sir Thomas Farrer has lately shown, the
traveller in England has great advantages over the French
traveller in the economy, swiftness, and frequency with which his
journeys can be made. 
    But the "practical" politician who, in spite of such
experiences repeated generation after generation, goes on
thinking only of proximate results, naturally never thinks of
results still more remote, still more general, and still more
important than those just exemplified. To repeat the metaphor
used above -- he never asks whether the political momentum set up
by his measure, in some cases decreasing but in other cases
greatly increasing, will or will not have the same general
direction with other like momenta; and whether it may not join
them in presently producing an aggregate energy working changes
never thought of. Dwelling only on the effects of his particular
stream of legislation, and not observing how other such streams
already existing, and still other streams which will follow his
initiative, pursue the same average course, it never occurs to
him that they may presently unite into a voluminous flood utterly
changing the face of things. Or to leave figures for a more
literal statement, he is unconscious of the truth that he is
helping to form a certain type of social organization, and that
kindred measures, effecting kindred changes of organization, tend
with ever-increasing force to make that type general; until,
passing a certain point, the proclivity towards it becomes
irresistible. Just as each society, aims when possible to produce
in other societies a structure akin to its own -- just as among
the Greeks, the Spartans and the Athenians struggled to spread
their respective political institutions, or as, at the time of
the French Revolution, the European absolute monarchies aimed to
re-establish absolute monarchy in France while the Republic
encouraged the formation of other republics; so within every
society, each species of structure tends to propagate itself.
Just as the system of voluntary co-operation by companies,
associations, unions, to achieve business ends and other ends,
spreads throughout a community; so does the antagonistic system
of compulsory co-operation under State-agencies spread; and the
larger becomes its extension the more power of spreading it gets.
The question of questions for the politician should ever be --
"What type of social structure am I tending to produce?" But this
is a question he never entertains. 
    Here we will entertain it for him. Let us now observe the
general course of recent changes, with the accompanying current
of ideas, and see whither they are carrying us. 

The blank form of a question daily asked is -- "We have already
done this; why should we not do that?" And the regard for
precedent suggested by it, is ever pushing on regulative
legislation. Having had brought within their sphere of operation
more and more numerous businesses, the Acts restricting hours of
employment and dictating the treatment of workers are now to be
made applicable to shops. From inspecting lodging-houses to limit
the number of occupants and enforce sanitary conditions, we have
passed to inspecting all houses below a certain rent in which
there are members of more than one family, and are now passing to
a kindred inspection of all small houses.(4*) The buying and
working of telegraphs by the State is made a reason for urging
that the State should buy and work the railways. Supplying
children with food for their minds by public agency is being
followed in some cases by supplying food for their bodies; and
after the practice has been made gradually more general, we may
anticipate that the supply, now proposed to be made gratis in the
one case, will eventually be proposed to be made gratis in the
other: the argument that good bodies as well as good minds are
needful to make good citizens, being logically urged as a reason
for the extension.(5*) And then, avowedly proceeding on the
precedents furnished by the church, the school, and the
reading-room, all publicly provided, it is contended that
"pleasure, in the sense it is now generally admitted, needs
legislating for and organizing at least as much as work."(6*)
    Not precedent only prompts this spread, but also the
necessity which arises for supplementing ineffective measures,
and for dealing with the artificial evils continually caused.
Failure does not destroy faith in the agencies employed, but
merely suggests more stringent use of such agencies or wider
ramifications of them. Laws to check intemperance, beginning in
early times and coming down to our own times, when further
restraints on the sale of intoxicating liquors occupy nights
every session, not having done what was expected, there come
demands for more thorough-going laws, locally preventing the sale
altogether; and here, as in America, these will doubtless be
followed by demands that prevention shall be made universal. All
the many appliances for "stamping out" epidemic diseases not
having succeeded in preventing outbreaks of small-pox, fevers,
and the like, a further remedy is applied for in the shape of
police-power, to search houses for diseased persons, and
authority for medical officers to examine any one they think fit,
to see whether he or she is suffering from an infectious or
contagious malady. Habits of improvidence having for generations
been cultivated by the Poor Law, and the improvident enabled to
multiply, the evils produced by compulsory charity are now
proposed to be met by compulsory insurance. 
    The extension of this policy, causing extension of
corresponding ideas, fosters everywhere the tacit assumption that
Government should step in whenever anything is not going right.
"Surely you would not have this misery continue!" exclaims
someone, if you hint a demurrer to much that is now being said
and done. Observe what is implied by this exclamation. It takes
for granted, first, that all suffering ought to be prevented,
which is not true: much suffering is curative, and prevention of
it is prevention of a remedy. In the second place, it takes for
granted that every evil can be removed: the truth being that with
the existing defects of human nature, many evils can only be
thrust out of one place or form into another place or form often
being increased by the change. The exclamation also implies the
unhesitating belief, here especially concerning us, that evils of
all kinds should be dealt with by the State. There does not occur
the inquiry whether there are at work other agencies capable of
dealing with evils, and whether the evils in question may not be
among those which are best dealt with by these other agencies.
And obviously, the more numerous governmental interventions
become, the more confirmed does this habit of thought grow, and
the more loud and perpetual the demands for intervention. 
    Every extension of the relative policy involves an addition
to the regulative agents -- a further growth of officialism and
an increasing power of the organization formed of officials. Take
a pair of scales with many shot in the one and a few in the
other. Lift shot after shot out of the loaded scale and put it
into the unloaded scale. Presently you will produce a balance;
and if you go on, the position of the scales will be reversed.
Suppose the beam to be unequally divided, and let the lightly
loaded scale be at the end of a very long arm; then the transfer
of each shot, producing a much greater effect, will far sooner
bring about a change of position. I use the figure to illustrate
what results from transferring one individual after another from
the regulated mass of the community to the regulating structures.
The transfer weakens the one and strengthens the other in a far
greater degree than is implied by the relative change of numbers.
A comparatively small body of officials, coherent, having common
interests, and acting under central authority, has an immense
advantage over an incoherent public which has no settled policy,
and can be brought to act unitedly only under strong provocation.
Hence an organization of officials, once passing a certain stage
of growth, becomes less and less resistible; as we see in the
bureaucracies of the Continent. 
    Not only does the power of resistance of the regulated part
decrease in a geometrical ratio as the regulating part increases,
but the private interests of many in the regulated part itself,
make the change of ratio still more rapid. In every circle
conversations show that now, when the passing of competitive
examinations renders them eligible for the public service, youths
are being educated in such ways that they may pass them and get
employment under Government. One consequence is that men who
might otherwise reprobate some further growth of officialism, are
led to look on it with tolerance, if not favourably, as offering
possible careers for those dependent on them and those related to
them. Any one who remembers the numbers of upper-class and
midd1e-class families anxious to place their children, will see
that no small encouragement to the spread of legislative control
is now coming from those who, but for the personal interests thus
arising, would be hostile to it. 
    This pressing desire for careers is enforced by the
preference for careers which are thought respectable. "Even if
his salary is small, his occupation will be that of a gentleman,"
thinks the father, who wants to get a Government-clerkship for
his son. And this relative dignity of State-servants as compared
with those occupied in business, increases as the administrative
organization becomes a larger and more powerful element in
society, and tends more and more to fix the standard of honour.
The prevalent ambition with a young Frenchman is to get some
small official post in his locality, to rise thence to a place in
the local centre of government, and finally to reach some head
office in Paris. And in Russia, where that universality of
State-regulation which characterizes the militant type of society
has been carried furthest, we see this ambition pushed to its
extreme. Says Mr Wallace, quoting a passage from a play: -- "All
men, even shopkeepers and cobblers, aim at becoming officers, and
the man who has passed his whole life without official rank seems
to be not a human being."(7*) 
    These various influences working from above downwards meet
with an increasing response of expectations and solicitations
proceeding from below upwards. The hard-worked and over-burdened
who form the great majority, and still more the incapables
perpetually helped who are ever led to look for more help, are
ready supporters of schemes which promise them this or the other
benefit by State agency, and ready believers of those who tell
them that such benefits can be given, and ought to be given. They
listen with eager faith to all builders of political air-castles,
from Oxford graduates down to Irish irreconcilables; and every
additional tax-supported appliance for their welfare raises hopes
of further ones. Indeed the more numerous public
instrumentalities become, the more is there generated in citizens
the notion that everything is to be done for them, and nothing by
them. Each generation is made less familiar with the attainment
of desired ends by individual actions or private combinations,
and more familiar with the attainment of them by governmental
agencies; until, eventually, governmental agencies come to be
thought of as the only available agencies. This result was well
shown in the recent Trades-Unions Congress at Paris. The English
delegates, reporting to their constituents, said that between
themselves and their foreign colleagues "the point of difference
was the extent to which the State should be asked to protect
labour:" reference being thus made to the fact, conspicuous in
the reports of the proceedings, that the French delegates always
invoked governmental power as the only means of satisfying their
    The diffusion of education has worked, and will work still
more, in the same direction. "We must educate our masters," is
the well-known saying of a Liberal who opposed the last extension
of the franchise. Yes, if the education were worthy to be so
called, and were relevant to the political enlightenment needed,
much might be hoped from it. But knowing rules of syntax, being
able to add up correctly, having geographical information, and a
memory stocked with the dates of kings' accessions and generals'
victories, no more implies fitness to form political conclusions
than acquirement of skill in drawing implies expertness in
telegraphing, or than ability to play cricket implies proficiency
on the violin. "Surely," rejoins some one, "facility in reading
opens the way to political knowledge." Doubtless; but will the
way be followed? Table-talk proves that nine out of ten people
read what amuses them or interests them rather than what
instructs them; and that the last thing they read is something
which tells them disagreeable truths or dispels groundless hopes.
That popular education results in an extensive reading of
publications which foster pleasant illusions rather than of those
which insist on hard realities, is beyond question. Says "A
Mechanic," writing in the Pall Mall Gazette of December 3, 1883:

"Improved education instills the desire for culture -- culture
instills the desire for many things as yet quite beyond working
men's reach... in the furious competition to which the present
age is given up they are utterly impossible to the poorer
classes; hence they are discontented with things as they are, and
the more educated the more discontented. Hence, too, Mr Ruskin
and Mr Morris are regarded as true prophets by many of us." 

And that the connexion of cause and effect here alleged is a real
one, we may see clearly enough in the present state of Germany. 
    Being possessed of electoral power, as are now the mass of
those who are thus led to nurture sanguine anticipations of
benefits to be obtained by social reorganization, it results that
whoever seeks their votes must at least refrain from exposing
their mistaken beliefs; even if he does not yield to the
temptation to express agreement with them. Every candidate for
Parliament is prompted to propose or support some new piece of ad
captandum legislation. Nay, even the chiefs of parties -- these
anxious to retain office and those to wrest it from them --
severally aim to get adherents by outbidding one another. Each
seeks popularity by promising more than his opponent has
promised, as we have lately seen. And then, as divisions in
Parliament show us, the traditional loyalty to leaders overrides
questions concerning the intrinsic propriety of proposed
measures. Representatives are unconscientious enough to vote for
Bills which they believe to be wrong in principle, because
party-needs and regard for the net election demand it. And thus a
vicious policy is strengthened even by those who see its
    Meanwhile there goes on out-of-doors an active propaganda to
which all these influences are ancillary. Communistic theories,
partially indorsed by one Act of Parliament after another, and
tacitly if not avowedly favoured by numerous public men seeking
supporters, are being advocated more and more vociferously under
one or other form by popular leaders, and urged on by organized
societies. There is the movement for land-nationalization which,
aiming at a system of land-tenure equitable in the abstract, is,
as all the world knows, pressed by Mr George and his friends with
avowed disregard for the just claims of existing owners, and as
the basis of a scheme going more than half-way to
State-socialism. And then there is the thorough-going Democratic
Federation of Mr Hyndman and his adherents. We are told by them
that "the handful of marauders who now hold possession [of the
land] have and can have no right save brute force against the
tens of millions whom they wrong." They exclaim against "the
shareholders who have been allowed to lay hands upon (!) our
great railway communications." They condemn "above all, the
active capitalist class, the loan-mongers, the farmers, the mine
exploiters, the contractors, the middle-men, the factory lords --
these, the modern slave drivers" who exact "more and yet more
surplus value out of the wage-slaves whom they employ." And they
think it "high time" that trade should be "removed from the
control of individual greed."(8*)
    It remains to point out that the tendencies thus variously
displayed, are being strengthened by press-advocacy, daily more
pronounced. Journalists, always chary of saying that which is
distasteful to their readers, are some of them going with the
stream and adding to its force. Legislative meddlings which they
would once have condemned they now pass in silence, if they do
not advocate them; and they speak of laissez-faire as an exploded
doctrine. "People are no longer frightened at the thought of
socialism," is the statement which meets us one day. On another
day, a town which does not adopt the Free Libraries Act is
sneered at as being alarmed by a measure so moderately
communistic. And then, along with editorial assertions that this
economic evolution is coming and must be accepted, there is
prominence given to the contributions of its advocates. Meanwhile
those who regard the recent course of legislation as disastrous,
and see that its future course is likely to be still more
disastrous, are being reduced to silence by the belief that it is
useless to reason with people in a state of political
    See, then, the many concurrent causes which threaten
continually to accelerate the transformation now going on. There
is that spread of regulation caused by following precedents,
which become the more authoritative the further the policy is
carried. There is that increasing need for administrative
compulsions and restraints, which results from the unforeseen
evils and shortcomings of preceding compulsions and restraints.
Moreover, every additional State-interference strengthens the
tacit assumption that it is the duty of the State to deal with
all evils and secure all benefits. Increasing power of a growing
administrative organization is accompanied by decreasing power of
the rest of the society to resist its further growth and control.
The multiplication of careers opened by a developing bureaucracy,
tempts members of the classes regulated by it to favour its
extension, as adding to the chances of safe and respectable
places for their relatives. The people at large, led to look on
benefits received through public agencies as gratis benefits,
have their hopes continually excited by the prospects of more. A
spreading education, furthering the diffusion of pleasing errors
rather than of stern truths, renders such hopes both stronger and
more general. Worse still, such hopes are ministered to by
candidates for public choice, to augment their chances of
success; and leading statesmen, in pursuit of party ends, bid for
popular favour by countenancing them. Getting repeated
justifications from new laws harmonizing with their doctrines,
political enthusiasts and unwise philanthropists push their
agitations with growing confidence and success. Journalism, ever
responsive to popular opinion, daily strengthens it by giving it
voice; while counter-opinion, more and more discouraged, finds
little utterance. 
    Thus influences of various kinds conspire to increase
corporate action and decrease individual action. And the change
is being on all sides aided by schemers, each of whom thinks only
of his pet project and not at all of the general re-organization
which his, joined with others such, are working out. It is said
that the French Revolution devoured its own children. Here an
analogous catastrophe seems not unlikely. The numerous
socialistic changes made by Act of Parliament, joined with the
numerous others presently to be made, will by-and-by be all
merged in State-Socialism -- swallowed in the vast wave which
they have little by little raised. 

"But why is this change described as 'the coming slavery'?" is a
question which many will still ask. The reply is simple. All
socialism involves slavery. 
    What is essential to the idea of a slave? We primarily think
of him as one who is owned by another. To be more than nominal,
however, the ownership must be shown by control of the slave's
actions -- a control which is habitually for the benefit of the
controller. That which fundamentally distinguishes the slave is
that he labours under coercion to satisfy another's desires. The
relation admits of sundry gradations. Remembering that originally
the slave is a prisoner whose life is at the mercy of his captor,
it suffices here to note that there is a harsh form of slavery in
which, treated as an animal, he has to expend his entire effort
for his owner's advantage. Under a system less harsh, though
occupied chiefly in working for his owner, he is allowed a short
time in which to work for himself, and some ground on which to
grow extra food. A further amelioration gives him power to sell
the produce of his plot and keep the proceeds. Then we come to
the still more moderated form which commonly arises where, having
been a free man working on his own land, conquest turns him into
what we distinguish as a serf; and he has to give to his owner
each year a fixed amount of labour or produce, or both: retaining
the rest himself. Finally, in some cases, as in Russia until
recently, he is allowed to leave his owner's estate and work or
trade for himself elsewhere, under the condition that he shall
pay an annual sum. What is it which, in these cases, leads us to
qualify our conception of the slavery as more or less severe?
Evidently the greater or smaller extent to which effort is
compulsorily expended for the benefit of another instead of for
self-benefit. If all the slave's labour is for his owner the
slavery is heavy, and if but little it is light. Take now a
further step. Suppose an owner dies, and his estate with its
slaves comes into the hands of trustees; or suppose the estate
and everything on it to be bought by a company; is the condition
of the slave any the better if the amount of his compulsory
labour remains the same? Suppose that for a company we substitute
the community; does it make any difference to the slave if the
time he has to work for others is as great, and the time left for
himself is as small, as before? The essential question is -- How
much is he compelled to labour for other benefit than his own,
and how much can he labour for his own benefit? The degree of his
slavery varies according to the ratio between that which he is
forced to yield up and that which he is allowed to retain; and it
matters not whether his master is a single person or a society.
If, without option, he has to labour for the society, and
receives from the general stock such portion as the society
awards him, he becomes a slave to the society. Socialistic
arrangements necessitate an enslavement of this kind; and towards
such an enslavement many recent measures, and still more the
measures advocated, are carrying us. Let us observe, first, their
proximate effects, and then their ultimate effects. 
    The policy initiated by the Industrial Dwellings Acts admits
of development, and will develop. Where municipal bodies turn
housebuilders, they inevitably lower the values of houses
otherwise built, and check the supply of more. Every dictation
respecting modes of building and conveniences to be provided,
diminishes the builder's profit, and prompts him to use his
capital where the profit is not thus diminished. So, too, the
owner, already finding that small houses entail much labour and
many losses -- already subject to troubles of inspection and
interference, and to consequent costs, and having his property
daily rendered a more undesirable investment, is prompted to
sell; and as buyers are for like reasons deterred, he has to sell
at a loss. And now these still-multiplying regulations, ending,
it may be, as Lord Grey proposes, in one requiring the owner to
maintain the salubrity of his houses by evicting dirty tenants,
and thus adding to his other responsibilities that of inspector
of nuisances, must further prompt sales and further deter
purchasers: so necessitating greater depreciation. What must
happen? The multiplication of houses, and especially small
houses, being increasingly checked, there must come an increasing
demand upon the local authority to make up for the deficient
supply. More and more the municipal or kindred body will have to
build houses, or to purchase houses rendered unsaleable to
private persons in the way shown -- houses which, greatly lowered
in value as they must become, it will, in many cases, pay to buy
rather than to build new ones. Nay, this process must work in a
double way; since every entailed increase of local taxation still
further depreciates property.(9*) And then, when in towns this
process has gone so far as to make the local authority the chief
owner of houses, there will be a good precedent for publicly
providing houses for the rural population, as proposed in the
Radical programme,(10*) and as urged by the Democratic
Federation; which insists on "the compulsory construction of
healthy artisans' and agricultural labourers' dwellings in
proportion to the population." Manifestly, the tendency of that
which has been done, is being done, and is presently to be done,
is to approach the socialistic ideal in which the community is
sole house-proprietor. 
    Such, too, must be the effect of the daily-growing policy on
the tenure and utilization of the land. More numerous public
benefits, to be achieved by more numerous public agencies, at the
cost of augmented public burdens, must increasingly deduct from
the returns on land; until, as the depreciation in value becomes
greater and greater, the resistance to change of tenure becomes
less and less. Already, as every one knows, there is in many
places difficulty in obtaining tenants, even at greatly reduced
rents; and land of inferior fertility in some cases lies idle, or
when farmed by the owner is often farmed at a loss. Clearly the
profit on capital invested in land is not such that taxes, local
and general, can be greatly raised to support extended public
administrations, without an absorption of it which will prompt
owners to sell, and make the best of what reduced price they can
get by emigrating and buying land not subject to heavy burdens;
as, indeed, some are now doing. This process, carried far, must
have the result of throwing inferior land out of cultivation;
after which there will be raised more generally the demand made
by Mr Arch, who, addressing the Radical Association of Brighton
lately, and contending that existing landlords do not make their
land adequately productive for the public benefit, said "he
should like the present Government to pass a Compulsory
Cultivation Bill:" an applauded proposal which he justified by
instancing compulsory vaccination (thus frustrating the influence
of precedent). And this demand will be pressed, not only by the
need for making the land productive, but also by the need for
employing the rural population. After the Government has extended
the practice of hiring the unemployed to work on deserted lands,
or lands acquired at nominal prices, there will be reached a
stage whence there is but a small further step to that
arrangement which, in the programme of the Democratic Federation,
is to follow nationalization of the land -- the "organization of
agricultural and industrial armies under State control on
cooperative principles."
    To one who doubts whether such a revolution may be so
reached, facts may be cited showing its likelihood. In Gaul,
during the decline of the Roman Empire, "so numerous were the
receivers in comparison with the payers, and so enormous the
weight of taxation, that the labourer broke down, the plains
became deserts, and woods grew where the plough had been."(11*)
In like manner, when the French Revolution was approaching, the
public burdens had become such, that many farms remained
uncultivated and many were deserted: one-quarter of the soil was
absolutely lying waste; and in some provinces one-half was in
health.(12*) Nor have we been without incidents of a kindred
nature at home. Besides the facts that under the old Poor Law the
rates had in some parishes risen to half the rental, and that in
various places farms were lying idle, there is the fact that in
one case the rates had absorbed the whole proceeds of the soil. 

At Cholesbury, in Buckinghamshire, in 1832, the poor-rate
"suddenly ceased in consequence of the impossibility to continue
its collection, the landlords having given up their rents, the
farmers their tenancies, and the clergyman his glebe and his
tithes. The clergyman, Mr Jeston, states that in October, 1832,
the parish officers threw up their books, and the poor assembled
in a body before his door while he was in bed, asking for advice
and food. Partly from his own small means, partly from the
charity of neighbours, and partly by rates in aid, imposed on the
neighbouring parishes, they were for some time supported."(13*) 

And the Commissioners add that "the benevolent rector recommends
that the whole of the land should be divided among the
able-bodied paupers:" hoping that after help afforded for two
years, they might be able to maintain themselves. These facts,
giving colour to the prophecy made in Parliament that continuance
of the old Poor Law for another thirty years would throw the land
out of cultivation, clearly show that increase of public burdens
may end in forced cultivation under public control. 
    Then, again, comes State-ownership of railways. Already this
exists to a large extent on the Continent. Already we have had
here a few years ago loud advocacy of it. And now the cry, which
was raised by sundry politicians and publicists, is taken up
afresh by the Democratic Federation; which proposes
"State-appropriation of railways, with or without compensation."
Evidently, pressure from above joined by pressure from below, is
likely to effect this change dictated by the policy everywhere
spreading; and with it must come many attendant changes. For
railway-proprietors, at first owners and workers of railways
only, have become masters of numerous businesses directly or
indirectly connected with railways; and these will have to be
purchased by Government when the railways are purchased. Already
exclusive letter-carrier, exclusive transmitter of telegrams, and
on the way to become exclusive carrier of parcels, the State will
not only be exclusive carrier of passengers, goods, and minerals,
but will add to its present various trades many other trades.
Even now, besides erecting its naval and military establishments
and building harbours, docks, breakwaters, etc., it does the work
of shipbuilder, cannonfounder, small-arms maker, manufacturer of
ammunition, army-clothier and bootmaker; and when the railways
have been appropriated "with or without compensation," as the
Democratic Federationists say, it will have to become
locomotive-engine-builder, carriage-maker, tarpaulin and grease
manufacturer, passenger-vessel owner, coal-miner, stone-quarrier,
omnibus proprietor, etc. Meanwhile its local lieutenants, the
municipal governments, already in many places suppliers of water,
gas-makers, owners and workers of tramways, proprietors of baths,
will doubtless have undertaken various other businesses. And when
the State, directly or by proxy, has thus come into possession
of, or has established, numerous concerns for wholesale
production and for wholesale distribution, there will be good
precedents for extending its function to retail distribution:
following such an example, say, as is offered by the French
Government, which has long been a retail tobacconist. 
    Evidently then, the changes made, the changes in progress,
and the changes urged, will carry us not only towards
State-ownership of land and dwellings and means of communication,
all to be administered and worked by State-agents, but towards
State-usurpation of all industries: the private forms of which,
disadvantaged more and more in competition with the State, which
can arrange everything for its own convenience, will more and
more die away; just as many voluntary schools have, in presence
of Board-schools. And so will be brought about the desired ideal
of the Socialists. 

And now when there has been compassed this desired ideal, which
"practical" politicians are helping Socialists to reach, and
which is so tempting on that bright side which Socialists
contemplate, what must be the accompanying shady side which they
do not contemplate? It is a matter of common remark, often made
when a marriage is impending, that those possessed by strong
hopes habitually dwell on the promised pleasures and think
nothing of the accompanying pains. A further exemplification of
this truth is supplied by these political enthusiasts and
fanatical revolutionists. Impressed with the miseries existing
under our present social arrangements, and not regarding these
miseries as caused by the ill-working of a human nature but
partially adapted to the social state, they imagine them to be
forthwith curable by this or that re-arrangement. Yet, even did
their plans succeed it could only be by substituting one kind of
evil for another. A little deliberate thought would show that
under their proposed arrangements, their liberties must be
surrendered in proportion as their material welfares were cared
    For no form of co-operation, small or great, can be carried
on without regulation, and an implied submission to the
regulating agencies. Even one of their own organizations for
effecting social changes yields them proof. It is compelled to
have its councils, its local and general officers, its
authoritative leaders, who must be obeyed under penalty of
confusion and failure. And the experience of those who are
loudest in their advocacy of a new social order under the
paternal control of a Government, shows that even in private
voluntarily-formed societies, the power of the regulative
organization becomes great, if not irresistible; often, indeed,
causing grumbling and restiveness among those controlled. Trades
Unions which carry on a kind of industrial war in defence of
workers' interests versus employers' interests, find that
subordination almost military in its strictness is needful to
secure efficient action; for divided councils prove fatal to
success. And even in bodies of co-operators, formed for caring on
manufacturing or distributing businesses, and not needing that
obedience to leaders which is required where the aims are
offensive or defensive, it is still found that the administrative
agency gains such supremacy that there arise complaints about
"the tyranny of organization." Judge then what must happen when,
instead of relatively small combinations, to which men may belong
or not as they please, we have a national combination in which
each citizen finds himself incorporated, and from which he cannot
separate himself without leaving the country. Judge what must
under such conditions become the despotism of a graduated and
centralized officialism, holding in its hands the resources of
the community, and having behind it whatever amount of force it
finds requisite to carry out its decrees and maintain what it
calls order. Well may Prince Bismarck display leanings towards
    And then after recognizing, as they must if they think out
their scheme, the power possessed by the regulative agency in the
new social system so temptingly pictured, let its advocates ask
themselves to what end this power must be used. Not dwelling
exclusively, as they habitually do, on the material well-being
and the mental gratifications to be provided for them by a
beneficent administration, let them dwell a little on the price
to be paid. The officials cannot create the needful supplies:
they can but distribute among individuals that which the
individuals have joined to produce. If the public agency is
required to provide for them, it must reciprocally require them
to furnish the means. There cannot be, as under our existing
system, agreement between employer and employed -- this the
scheme excludes. There must in place of it be command by local
authorities over workers, and acceptance by the workers of that
which the authorities assign to them. And this, indeed, is the
arrangement distinctly, but as it would seem inadvertently,
pointed to by the members of the Democratic Federation. For they
propose that production should be carried on by "agricultural and
industrial armies under State-control:" apparently not
remembering that armies pre-suppose grades of officers, by whom
obedience would have to be insisted upon; since otherwise neither
order nor efficient work could be ensured. So that each would
stand toward the governing agency in the relation of slave to
    "But the governing agency would be a master which he and
others made and kept constantly in check; and one which therefore
would not control him or others more than was needful for the
benefit of each and all."
    To which reply the first rejoinder is that, even if so, each
member of the community as an individual would be a slave to the
community as a whole. Such a relation has habitually existed in
militant communities, even under quasi-popular forms of
government. In ancient Greece the accepted principle was that the
citizen belonged neither to himself nor to his family, but
belonged to his city -- the city being with the Greek equivalent
to the community. And this doctrine, proper to a state of
constant warfare, is a doctrine which socialism unawares
re-introduces into a state intended to be purely industrial. The
services of each will belong to the aggregate of all; and for
these services, such returns will be given as the authorities
think proper. So that even if the administration is of the
beneficent kind intended to be secured, slavery, however mild,
must be the outcome of the arrangement. 
    A second rejoinder is that the administration will presently
become not of the intended kind, and that the slavery will not be
mild. The socialist speculation is vitiated by an assumption like
that which vitiates the speculations of the "practical"
politician. It is assumed that officialism will work as it is
intended to work, which it never does. The machinery of
Communism, like existing social machinery, has to be framed out
of existing human nature; and the defects of existing human
nature will generate in the one the same evils as in the other.
The love of power, the selfishness, the injustice, the
untruthfulness, which often in comparatively short times bring
private organizations to disaster, will inevitably, where their
effects accumulate from generation to generation, work evils far
greater and less remediable; since, vast and complex and
possessed of all the resources, the administrative organization
once developed and consolidated, must become irresistible. And if
there needs proof that the periodic exercise of electoral power
would fail to prevent this, it suffices to instance the French
Government, which, purely popular in origin, and subject at short
intervals to popular judgment, nevertheless tramples on the
freedom of citizens to an extent which the English delegates to
the late Trades Unions Congress say "is a disgrace to, and an
anomaly in, a Republican nation."
    The final result would be a revival of despotism. A
disciplined army of civil officials, like an army of military
officials, gives supreme power to its head -- a power which has
often led to usurpation, as in medieval Europe and still more in
Japan -- nay, has thus so led among our neighbours, within our
own times. The recent confessions of M. de Maupas have shown how
readily a constitutional head, elected and trusted by the whole
people, may, with the aid of a few unscrupulous confederates,
paralyse the representative body and make himself autocrat. That
those who rose to power in a socialistic organization would not
scruple to carry out their aims at all costs, we have good reason
for concluding. When we find that shareholders who, sometimes
gaining but often losing, have made that railway system by which
national prosperity has been so greatly increased, are spoken of
by the council of the Democratic Federation as having "laid
hands" on the means of communication, we may infer that those who
directed a socialistic administration might interpret with
extreme perversity the claims of individuals and classes under
their control. And when, further, we find members of this same
council urging that the State should take possession of the
railways, "with or without compensation," we may suspect that the
heads of the ideal society desired, would be but little deterred
by considerations of equity from pursuing whatever policy they
thought needful: a policy which would always be one identified
with their own supremacy. It would need but a war with an
adjacent society, or some internal discontent demanding forcible
suppression, to at once transform a socialistic administration
into a grinding tyranny like that of ancient Peru; under which
the mass of the people, controlled by grades of officials, and
leading lives that were inspected out-of-doors and indoors,
laboured for the support of the organization which regulated
them, and were left with but a bare subsistence for themselves.
And then would be completely revived, under a different form,
that regime of status -- that system of compulsory co-operation,
the decaying tradition of which is represented by the old
Toryism, and towards which the new Toryism is caring us back. 
    "But we shall be on our guard against all that -- we shall
take precautions to ward off such disasters," will doubtless say
the enthusiasts. Be they "practical" politicians with their new
regulative measures, or communists with their schemes for
re-organizing labour, their reply is ever the same: -- "It is
true that plans of kindred nature have, from unforeseen causes or
adverse accidents, or the misdeeds of those concerned, been
brought to failure; but this time we shall profit by past
experiences and succeed." There seems no getting people to accept
the truth, which nevertheless is conspicuous enough, that the
welfare of a society and the justice of its arrangements are at
bottom dependent on the characters of its members; and that
improvement in neither can take place without that improvement in
character which results from caring on peaceful industry under
the restraints imposed by an orderly social life. The belief, not
only of the socialists but also of those so-called Liberals who
are diligently preparing the way for them, is that by due skill
an ill-working humanity may be framed into well-working
institutions. It is a delusion. The defective natures of citizens
will show themselves in the bad acting of whatever social
structure they are arranged into. There is no political alchemy
by which you can get golden conduct out of leaden instincts. 

NOTE -- Two replies by socialists to the foregoing article have
appeared since its publication -- Socialism and Slavery by H.M.
Hyndman and Herbert Spencer on Socialism by Frank Fairman. Notice
of them here must be limited to saying that, as usual with
antagonists, they ascribe to me opinions which I do not hold.
Disapproval of Socialism does not, as Mr Hyndman assumes,
necessitate approval of existing arrangements. Many things he
reprobates I reprobate quite as much; but I dissent from his
remedy. The gentleman who writes under the pseudonym of "Frank
Fairman," reproaches me with having receded from that sympathetic
defence of the labouring classes which he finds in Social
Statics; but I am quite unconscious of any such change as he
alleges. Looking with a lenient eye upon the irregularities of
those whose lives are hard, by no means involves tolerance of


1. Hansard's Parliamentary History, 32. p. 710.

2. Fortnightly Review, January, 1884, p. 17.

3. Factories and Workshops Act, 41 and 42 Vic., cap. 16.

4. See letter of Local Government, Times, January 2, 1884.

5. Verification comes more promptly than I expected. This article
has been standing intype since January 30, and in the interval,
namely on March 13, the London School Board resolved to apply for
authority to use local charitable funds for supplying gratis
meals and clothing to indigent children. Presently the definition
of "indigent" will be widened, more children will be included and
more funds aked for.

6. Fortnightly Review, January, 1884.

7. Russia, I. 422.

8. Socialism made Plain, Review, 185, Fleet Street.

9. If any one thinks such fears are groundless, let him
contemplate the fact that from 1867-8 to 1880-1, our annual local
expenditure for the United Kingdom has grown from 36,132,834 to
63,276,283; and that during the same 13 years, the municipal
expenditure in England and Wales alone, has grown from 13
millions to 30 millions a year! How the increase of public
burdens will join with othe causes in bringing about public
ownership, is shown by a statement made by Mr W. Rathbone, M.P.,
to which any attention has been drawn since the above paragraph
was in type. He says, "within my own experience, local taxation
in New York has risen from 12s 6d per cent to 2 12s 6d per cent
on the capital of its citizens -- a charge which would more than
absorb the whole income of an average English landlord."
Nineteenth Century, February, 1883.

10. Fortnightly Review, November, 1883, pp. 619-20.

11. Lactant. De M. Persecut, cc. 7, 23.

12. Taine, L'Ancien Regime, pp. 337-8 (in the English

13. Report of Commissioners for Inquiry into the Admistration and
Practical Operation of the Poor Laws, p. 37. February 20, 1834.


    Be it or be it not true that Man is shapen in iniquity and
conceived in sin, it is unquestionably true that Government is
begotten of aggression and by aggression. In small undeveloped
societies where for ages complete peace has continued, there
exists nothing like what we call Government: no coercive agency,
but mere honorary headship, if any headship at all. In these
exceptional communities, unaggressive and from special causes
unaggressed upon, there is so little deviation from the virtues
of truthfulness, honesty, justice, and generosity, that nothing
beyond an occasional expression of public opinion by
informally-assembled elders is needful.(1*) Conversely, we find
proofs that, at first recognized but temporarily during
leadership in war, the authority of a chief is permanently
established by continuity of war; and grows strong where
successful aggression ends in subjection of neighbouring tribes.
And thence onwards, examples furnished by all races put beyond
doubt the truth, that the coercive power of the chief, developing
into king, and king of kings (a frequent title in the ancient
East), becomes great in proportion as conquest becomes habitual
and the union of subdued nations extensive.(2*) Comparisons
disclose a further truth which should be ever present to us --
the truth that the aggressiveness of the ruling power inside a
society increases with its aggressiveness outside the society.
As, to make an efficient army, the soldiers in their several
grades must be subordinate to the commander; so, to make an
efficient fighting community, must the citizens be subordinate to
the ruling power. They must furnish recruits to the extent
demanded, and yield up whatever property is required. 
    An obvious implication is that the ethics of Government,
originally identical with the ethics of war, must long remain
akin to them; and can diverge from them only as warlike
activities and preparations become less. Current evidence shows
this. At present on the Continent, the citizen is free only when
his services as a soldier are not demanded; and during the rest
of his life he is largely enslaved in supporting the military
organization. Even among ourselves, a serious war would, by the
necessitated conscription, suspend the liberties of large numbers
and trench on the liberties of the rest, by taking from them
through taxes whatever supplies were needed -- that is, forcing
them to labour so many days more for the State. Inevitably the
established code of conduct in the dealings of Governments with
citizens, must be allied to their code of conduct in their
dealings with one another. 
    I am not, under the title of this article, about to treat of
the trespasses and the revenges for trespasses, accounts of which
constitute the great mass of history; nor to trace the internal
inequities which have ever accompanied the eternal inequities. I
do not propose here to catalogue the crimes of irresponsible
legislators; beginning with that of King Khufu, the stones of
whose vast tomb were laid in the bloody sweat of tens of
thousands of slaves toiling through long years under the lash;
going on to those committed by conquerors, Egyptian, Assyrian,
Persian, Macedonian, Roman, and the rest; and ending with those
of Napoleon, whose ambition to set his foot on the neck of the
civilized world, cost not less than two million lives.(3*) Nor do
I propose here to enumerate those sins of responsible legislators
seen in the long list of laws made in the interests of dominant
classes -- a list coming down in our own country to those under
which there were long maintained slavery and the slave-trade,
torturing nearly 40,000 negroes annually by close packing during
a tropical voyage, and killing a large percentage of them, and
ending with that of the corn-laws, by which, says Sir Erskine
May, "to ensure high rents, it had been decreed that multitudes
should hunger."(4*) 
    Not, indeed, that a presentation of the conspicuous misdeeds
of legislators, responsible and irresponsible, would be useless.
It would have several uses -- one of them relevant to the truth
above pointed out. Such a presentation would make clear how that
identity of governmental ethics with military ethics which
necessarily exists during primitive times, when the army is
simply the mobilized society and the society is the quiescent
army, continues through long stages, and even now affects in
great degrees our law-proceedings and our daily lives. Having,
for instance, shown that in numerous savage tribes the judicial
function of the chief does not exist, or is nominal, and that
very generally during early stages of European civilization, each
man had to defend himself and rectify his private wrongs as best
he might -- having shown that in medieval times the right of
private war among members of the military order was brought to an
end, not because the head ruler thought it his duty to arbitrate,
but because private wars interfered with the efficiency of his
army in public wars having shown that the administration of
justice displayed through subsequent ages a large amount of its
primitive nature, in trial by battle carried on before the king
or his deputy as umpire, and which, among ourselves, continued
nominally to be an alternative form of trial down to 1819; it
might then be pointed out that even now there survives trial by
battle under another form: counsel being the champions and purses
the weapons. In civil cases, the ruling agency cares scarcely
more than of old about rectifying the wrongs of the injured; but,
practically, its deputy does little else than to enforce the
rules of the fight: the result being less a question of equity
than a question of pecuniary ability and forensic skill. Nay, so
little concern for the administration of justice is shown by the
ruling agency, that when, by legal conflict carried on in the
presence of its deputy, the combatants have been pecuniarily bled
even to the extent of producing prostration, and when an appeal
being made by one of them the decision is reversed, the beaten
combatant is made to pay for the blunders of the deputy, or of a
preceding deputy; and not unfrequently the wronged man, who
sought protection or restitution, is taken out of court
pecuniarily dead. 
    Adequately done, such a portrayal of governmental misdeeds of
commission and omission, proving that the partially-surviving
code of ethics arising in, and proper to, a state of war, still
vitiates governmental action, might greatly moderate the hopes of
those who are anxious to extend governmental control. After
observing that along with the still-manifest traits of that
primitive political structure which chronic militancy produces,
there goes a still-manifest survival of its primitive principles;
the reformer and the philanthropist might be less sanguine in
their anticipations of good from its all-pervading agency, and
might be more inclined to trust agencies of a non-governmental
    But leaving out the greater part of the large topic
comprehended under the title of this article, I propose here to
deal only with a comparatively small remaining part -- those sins
of legislators which are not generated by their personal
ambitions or class interests, but result from a lack of the study
by which they are morally bound to prepare themselves. 

    A druggist's assistant who, after listening to the
description of pains which he mistakes for those of colic, but
which are really caused by inflammation of the cecum, prescribes
a sharp purgative and kills the patient, is found guilty of
manslaughter. He is not allowed to excuse himself on the ground
that he did not intend harm but hoped for good. The plea that he
simply made a mistake in his diagnosis is not entertained. He is
told that he had no right to risk disastrous consequences by
meddling in a matter concerning which his knowledge was so
inadequate. The fact that he was ignorant how great was his
ignorance is not accepted in bar of judgment. It is tacitly
assumed that the experience common to all should have taught him
that even the skilled, and much more the unskilled, make mistakes
in the identification of disorders and in the appropriate
treatment; and that having disregarded the warning derivable from
common experience, he was answerable for the consequences. 
    We measure the responsibilities of legislators for mischiefs
they may do, in a much more lenient fashion. In most cases, so
far from thinking of them as deserving punishment for causing
disasters by laws ignorantly enacted, we scarcely think of them
as deserving reprobation. It is held that common experience
should have taught the druggist's assistant, untrained as he is,
not to interfere; but it is not held that common experience
should have taught the legislator not to interfere til1 he has
trained himself Though multitudinous facts are before him in the
recorded legislation of our own country and of other countries,
which should impress on him the immense evils caused by wrong
treatment, he is not condemned for disregarding these warnings
against rash meddling. Contrariwise, it is thought meritorious in
him when -- perhaps lately from college, perhaps fresh from
keeping a pack of hounds which made him popular in his county,
perhaps emerging from a provincial town where he acquired a
fortune, perhaps rising from the bar at which he has gained a
name as an advocate -- he enters Parliament; and forthwith, in
quite a light-hearted way, begins to aid or hinder this or that
means of operating on the body politic. In this case there is no
occasion even to make for him the excuse that he does not know
how little he knows; for the public at large agrees with him in
thinking it needless that he should know anything more than what
the debates on the proposed measures tell him. 
    And yet the mischiefs wrought by uninstructed law-making,
enormous in their amount as compared with those caused by
uninstructed medical treatment, are conspicuous to all who do but
glance over its history. The reader must pardon me while I recall
a few familiar instances. Century after century, statesmen went
on enacting usury laws which made worse the condition of the
debtor -- raising the rate of interest "from five to six when
intending to reduce it to four,"(5*) as under Louis XV and
indirectly producing undreamt of evils of many kinds, such as
preventing the reproductive use of spare capital, and "burdening
the small proprietors with a multitude of perpetual
services."(6*) So, too, the endeavours which in England continued
through five hundred years to stop forestalling, and which in
France, as Arthur Young witnessed, prevented any one from buying
"more than two bushels of wheat at market,"(7*) went on
generation after generation increasing the miseries and mortality
due to dearth; for, as everybody now knows, the wholesale dealer,
who was in the statute "De Pistoribus" vituperated as "an open
oppressor of poor people,"(8*) is simply one whose function it is
to equalize the supply of a commodity by checking unduly rapid
consumption. Of kindred nature was the measure which, in 1315, to
diminish the pressure of famine, prescribed the prices of foods,
but which was hastily repealed after it had caused entire
disappearance of various foods from the markets; and also such
measures, more continuously operating, as those which settled by
magisterial order "the reasonable gains" of victuallers.(9*) Of
like spirit and followed by allied mischiefs have been the many
endeavours to fix wages, which began with the Statute of
Labourers under Edward III, and ceased only sixty years ago;
when, having long galvanized in Spitalfields a decaying industry,
and fostered there a miserable population, Lords and Commons
finally gave up fixing silk-weavers' earnings by the decisions of
magistrates. Here I imagine an impatient interruption. "We know
all that; the story is stale. The mischiefs of interfering with
trade have been dinned in our ears till we are weary; and no one
needs to be taught the lesson afresh." My first reply is that by
the great majority the lesson was never properly learnt at all,
and that many of those who did learn it have forgotten it. For
just the same pleas which of old were put in for these
dictations, are again put in. In the statute 35 of Edward III,
which aimed to keep down the price of herrings (but was soon
repealed because it raised the price), it was complained that
people "coming to the fair... do bargain for herring, and every
of them, by malice and envy, increase upon other, and, if one
proffer forty shillings, another will proffer ten shillings more,
and the third sixty shillings, and so every one surmounteth other
in the bargain."(10*) And now the "higgling of the market," here
condemned and ascribed to "malice and envy," is being again
condemned. The evils of competition have all along been the stock
cry of the Socialists; and the council of the Democratic
Federation denounces the carrying on of exchange under "the
control of individual greed and profit." My second reply is that
interferences with the law of supply and demand, which a
generation ago were admitted to be habitually mischievous, are
now being daily made by Acts of Parliament in new fields; and
that, as I shall presently show, they are in these fields
increasing the evils to be cured and producing fresh ones, as of
old they did in fields no longer intruded upon. 
    Returning from this parenthesis, I go on to explain that the
above Acts are named to remind the reader that uninstructed
legislators have in past times continually increased human
suffering in their endeavours to mitigate it; and I have now to
add that if these evils, shown to be legislatively intensified or
produced, be multiplied by ten or more, a conception will be
formed of the aggregate evils caused by law-making unguided by
social science. In a paper read to the Statistical Society in
May, 1873, Mr Janson, vice-president of the Law Society, stated
that from the Statute of Merton (20 Henry III) to the end of
1872, there had been passed 18,110 public Acts; of which he
estimated that four-fifths had been wholly or partially repealed.
He also stated that the number of public Acts repealed wholly or
in part, or amended, during the three years 1870-71-72 had been
3,532, of which 2,759 had been totally repealed. To see whether
this rate of repeal has continued, I have referred to the
annually-issued volumes of "The Public General Statutes" for the
last three sessions. Saying nothing of the numerous amended Acts,
the result is that in the last three sessions there have been
totally repealed, separately or in groups, 650 Acts, belonging to
the present reign, besides many of preceding reigns. This, of
course, is greatly above the average rate; for there has of late
been an active purgation of the statute-book. But making every
allowance, we must infer that within our own times, repeals have
mounted some distance into the thousands. Doubtless a number of
them have been of laws that were obsolete; others have been
demanded by changes of circumstances (though seeing how many of
them are of quite recent Acts, this has not been a large cause);
others simply because they were inoperative; and others have been
consequent on the consolidations of numerous Acts into single
Acts. But unquestionably in multitudinous cases, repeals came
because the Acts had proved injurious. We talk glibly of such
changes -- we think of cancelled legislation with indifference.
We forget that before laws are abolished they have generally been
inflicting evils more or less serious; some for a few years, some
for tens of years, some for centuries. Change your vague idea of
a bad law into a definite idea of it as an agency operating on
people's lives, and you see that it means so much of pain, so
much of illness, so much of mortality. A vicious form of legal
procedure, for example, either enacted or tolerated, entails on
suitors, costs, or delays, or defeats. What do these imply? Loss
of money, often ill-spared; great and prolonged anxiety;
frequently consequent illness; unhappiness of family and
dependents; children stinted in food and clothing -- all of them
miseries which bring after them multiplied remoter miseries. Add
to which there are the far more numerous cases of those who,
lacking the means or the courage to enter on law-suits, and
therefore submitting to frauds, are impoverished; and have
similarly to bear the pains of body and mind which ensue. Even to
say that a law has been simply a hindrance, is to say that it has
caused needless loss of time, extra trouble, and additional
worry; and among over-burdened people extra trouble and worry
imply, here and there, break-downs in health with their entailed
direct and indirect sufferings. Seeing, then, that bad
legislation means injury to men's lives, judge what must be the
total amount of mental distress, physical pain, and raised
mortality, which these thousands of repealed Acts of Parliament
represent! Fully to bring home the truth that law-making unguided
by adequate knowledge brings immense evils, let me take a special
case which a question of the day recalls. 

    Already I have hinted that interferences with the connexion
between supply and demand, given up in certain fields after
immense mischiefs had been done during many centuries, are now
taking place in other fields. This connexion is supposed to hold
only where it has been proved to hold by the evils of
disregarding it: so feeble is men's belief in it. There seems no
suspicion that in cases where it seems to fail, natural causation
has been traversed by artificial hindrances. And yet in the case
to which I now refer -- that of the supply of houses for the poor
-- it needs but to ask what laws have been doing for a long time
past, to see that the terrible evils complained of are mostly
    A generation ago discussion was taking place concerning the
inadequacy and badness of industrial dwellings, and I had
occasion to deal with the question. Here is a passage then
written: -- 

    "An architect and surveyor describes it [the Building Act] as
having worked after the following manner. In those districts of
London consisting of inferior houses built in that unsubstantial
fashion which the New Building Act was to mend, there obtains an
average rent, sufficiently remunerative to landlords whose houses
were run up economically before the New Building Act was passed.
This existing average rent fixes the rent that must be charged in
these districts for new houses of the same accommodation -- that
is the same number of rooms, for the people they are built for do
not appreciate the extra safety of living within walls
strengthened with hoop-iron bond. Now it turns out upon trial,
that houses built in accordance with the present regulations, and
let at this established rate, bring in nothing like a reasonable
return. Builders have consequently confined themselves to
erecting houses in better districts (where the possibility of a
profitable competition with pre-existing houses shows that those
pre-existing houses were tolerably substantial), and have ceased
to erect dwellings for the masses, except in the suburbs where no
pressing sanitary evils exist. Meanwhile, in the inferior
districts above described, has resulted an increase of
overcrowding -- half-a-dozen families in a house, a score of
lodgers to a room. Nay, more than this has resulted. That state
of miserable dilapidation into which these abodes of the poor are
allowed to fall, is due to the absence of competition from new
houses. Landlords do not find their tenants tempted away by the
offer of better accommodation. Repairs, being unnecessary for
securing the largest amount of profit, are not made... In fact
for a large percentage of the very horrors which our sanitary
agitators are trying to cure by law, we have to thank previous
agitators of the same school!"
        Social Statics, p. 384 (edition of 1851) 

    These were not the only law-made causes of such evils. As
shown in the following further passage, sundry others were
recognized: -- 

    "Writing before the repeal of the brick-duty, the Builder
says: -- 'It is supposed that one-fourth of the cost of a
dwelling which lets for 2s. 6d. or 3s. a week is caused by the
expense of the title-deeds and the tax on wood and bricks used in
its construction. Of course, the owner of such property must be
remunerated, and he therefore charges 7 1/2d. or 9d. a week to
cover these burdens.' Mr C. Gatliff, secretary to the Society for
Improving the Dwellings of the Working Classes, describing the
effect of the window-tax, says: -- 'They are now paying upon
their institution in St. Pancras the sum of 162 16s. in
window-duties, or 1 per cent. per annum upon the original outlay.
The average rental paid by the Society's tenants is 5s. 6d. per
week, and the window-duty deducts from this 71/4d. per week.'"
Times, January 31, 1850.
            Social Statics, p. 385 (edition of 1851).

    Neither is this all the evidence which the press of those
days afforded. There was published in the Times of December 7,
1850 (too late to be used in the above-named work, which I issued
in the last week of 1850), a letter dated from the Reform Club,
and signed "Architect," which contained the following passages:

    "Lord Kinnaird recommends in your paper of yesterday the
construction of model lodging-houses by throwing two or three
houses into one. 
    "Allow me to suggest to his Lordship, and to his friend Lord
Ashley to whom he refers, that if, -- 

    1. The window-tax were repealed,
    2. The building Act repealed (excepting the clauses enacting
that party and eternal walls shall be fireproof),
    3. The timber duties either equalized or repealed, and,
    4. An Act passed to facilitate the transfer of property, 

     "There would be no more necessity for model lodging-houses
than there is for model ships, model cotton-mills, or model
    "The first limits the poor man's house to seven windows,
    "The second limits the size of the poor man's house to 25
feet by 18 (about the size of a gentleman's dining-room), into
which space the builder has to cram a staircase, an
entrance-passage, a parlour, and a kitchen (walls and partitions
    "The third induces the builder to erect the poor man's house
of timber unfit for building purposes, the duty on the good
material (Baltic) being fifteen times more than the duty on the
bad or injurious article (Canadian). The Government, even,
exclude the latter from all their contractors. 
    "The fourth would have considerable influence upon the
present miserable state of the dwellings of the poor. Small
freeholds might then be transferred as easily as leaseholds. The
effect of building leases has been a direct inducement to bad

    To guard against mis-statement or over-statement, I have
taken the precaution to consult a large East-end builder and
contractor of forty years' experience, Mr C. Forrest, Museum
Works, 17, Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green, who, being
churchwarden, member of the vestry, and of the board of
guardians, adds extensive knowledge of local public affairs to
his extensive knowledge of the building business. Mr Forrest, who
authorizes me to give his name, verifies the foregoing statements
with the exception of one which he strengthens. He says that
"Architect" understates the evil entailed by the definition of a
"fourth-rate house;" since the dimensions are much less than
those he gives perhaps in conformity with the provisions of a
more recent Building Act). Mr Forrest has done more than this.
Besides illustrating the bad effects of great increase in
ground-rents (in sixty years from 1 to 8 10s. for a fourth-rate
house) which, joined with other causes, had obliged him to
abandon plans for industrial dwellings he had intended to build
-- besides agreeing with "Architect" that this evil has been
greatly increased by the difficulties of land-transfer due to the
law-established system of trusts and entails; he pointed out that
a further penalty on the building of small houses is inflicted by
additions to local burdens ("prohibitory imposts" he called
them): one of the instances he named being that to the cost of
each new house has to be added the cost of pavement, roadway and
sewerage, which is charged according to length of frontage, and
which, consequently, bears a far larger ratio to the value of a
small house than to the value of a large one. 
    From these law-produced mischiefs, which were great a
generation ago and have since been increasing, let us pass to
more recent law-produced mischiefs. The misery, the disease, the
mortality in "rookeries," made continually worse by artificial
impediments to the increase of fourth-rate houses, and by the
necessitated greater crowding of those which existed, having
become a scandal, Government was invoked to remove the evil. It
responded by Artisans' Dwellings Acts; giving to local
authorities powers to pull down bad houses and provide for the
building of good ones. What have been the results? A summary of
the operations of the Metropolitan Board of Works, dated December
21, 1883, shows that up to last September it had, at a cost of a
million and a quarter to ratepayers, unhoused 21,000 persons and
provided houses for 12,000 -- the remaining 9,000 to be hereafter
provided for, being, meanwhile, left houseless. This is not all.
Another local lieutenant of the Government, the Commission of
Sewers for the City, working on the same lines, has, under
legislative compulsion, pulled down in Golden Lane and Petticoat
Square, masses of condemned small houses, which, together,
accommodated 1,734 poor people; and of the spaces thus cleared
five years ago, one has, by State-authority, been sold for a
railway station, and the other is only now being covered with
industrial dwellings which will eventually accommodate one-half
of the expelled population: the result up to the present time
being that, added to those displaced by the Metropolitan Board of
Works, these 1,734 displaced five years ago, form a total of
nearly 11,000 artificially made homeless, who have had to find
corners for themselves in miserable places that were already
    See then what legislation has done. By ill-imposed taxes,
raising the prices of bricks and timber, it added to the costs of
houses; and prompted, for economy's sake, the use of bad
materials in scanty quantities. To check the consequent
production of wretched dwellings, it established regulations
which, in medieval fashion, dictated the quality of the commodity
produced: there being no perception that by insisting on a higher
quality and therefore higher price, it would limit the demand and
eventually diminish the supply. By additional local burdens,
legislation has of late still further hindered the building of
small houses. Finally, having, by successive measures, produced
first bad houses and then a deficiency of better ones, it has at
length provided for the artificially-increased overflow of poor
people by diminishing the house-capacity which already could not
contain them! 
    Where then lies the blame for the miseries of the East-end?
Against whom should be raised "the bitter cry of outcast London?"

    The German anthropologist Bastian, tells us that a sick
native of Guinea who causes the fetish to lie by not recovering,
is strangled;(11*) and we may reasonably suppose that among the
Guinea people, any one audacious enough to call in question the
power of the fetish would be promptly sacrificed. In days when
governmental authority was enforced by strong measures, there was
a kindred danger in saying anything disrespectful of the
political fetish. Nowadays, however, the worst punishment to be
looked for by one who questions its omnipotence, is that he will
be reviled as a reactionary who talks laissez-faire. That any
facts he may bring forward will appreciably decrease the
established faith is not to be expected; for we are daily shown
that this faith is proof against all adverse evidence. Let us
contemplate a small part of that vast mass of it which passes
    "A Government-office is like an inverted filter: you send in
accounts clear and they come out muddy." Such was the comparison
I heard made many years ago by the late Sir Charles Fox, who, in
the conduct of his business, had considerable experience of
public departments. That his opinion was not a singular one,
though his comparison was, all men know. Exposures by the press
and criticisms in Parliament, leave no one in ignorance of the
vices of red-tape routine. Its delays, perpetually complained of,
and which in the time of Mr Fox Maule went to the extent that
"the commissions of officers in the army" were generally "about
two years in arrear," is afresh illustrated by the issue of the
first volume of the detailed census of 1881, more than two years
after the information was collected. If we seek explanations of
such delays, we find one origin to be a scarcely credible
confusion. In the case of the census returns, the
Registrar-General tells us that "the difficulty consists not
merely in the vast multitude of different areas that have to be
taken into account, but still more in the bewildering complexity
of their boundaries:" there being 39,000 administrative areas of
twenty-two different kinds which overlap one another -- hundreds,
parishes, boroughs, wards, petty sessional divisions, lieutenancy
divisions, urban and rural sanitary districts, dioceses,
registration districts, etc. And then, as Mr Rathbone, M.P.,
points out,(12*) these many superposed sets of areas with
intersecting boundaries, have their respective governing bodies
with authorities running into one another's districts. Does any
one ask why for each additional administration Parliament has
established a fresh set of divisions? The reply which suggests
itself is -- To preserve consistency of method. For this
organized confusion corresponds completely with that organized
confusion which Parliament each year increases by throwing on to
the heap of its old Acts a hundred new Acts, the provisions of
which traverse and qualify in all kinds of ways the provisions of
multitudinous Acts on to which they are thrown: the onus of
settling what is the law being left to private persons, who lose
their property in getting judges' interpretations. And again,
this system of putting networks of districts over other networks,
with their conflicting authorities, is quite consistent with the
method under which the reader of the Public Health Act of 1872,
who wishes to know what are the powers exercised over him, is
referred to 26 preceding Acts of several classes and numerous
dates.(13*) So, too, with administrative inertia. Continually
there occur cases showing the resistance of officialism to
improvements; as by the Admiralty when use of the electric
telegraph was proposed, and the reply was -- "We have a very good
semaphore system;" or as by the Post Office, which the late Sir
Charles Siemens years ago said had obstructed the employment of
improved methods of telegraphing, and which since then has
impeded the use of the telephone. Other cases akin to the case of
industrial dwellings, now and then show how the State with one
hand increases evils which with the other hand it tries to
diminish; as when it puts a duty on fire-insurances and then
makes regulations for the better putting out of fires: dictating,
too, certain modes of construction, which, as Captain Shaw shows,
entail additional dangers.(14*) Again, the absurdities of
official routine, rigid where it need not be and lax where it
should be rigid, occasionally become glaring enough to cause
scandals; as when a secret State-document of importance, put into
the hands of an ill-paid copying clerk who was not even in
permanent Government employ, was made public by him; or as when
the mode of making the Moorsom fuse, which was kept secret even
from our highest artillery officers, was taught to them by the
Russians, who had been allowed to learn it; or as when a diagram
showing the "distances at which British and foreign iron-clads
could be perforated by our large guns," communicated by an
enterprising attache to his own Government, then became known "to
all the Governments of Europe," while English officers remained
ignorant of the facts.(15*) So, too, with State-supervision.
Guaranteeing of quality by inspection has been shown, in the
hall-marking of silver, to be superfluous, while the silver trade
has been decreased by it;(16*) and in other cases it has lowered
the quality by establishing a standard which it is useless to
exceed: instance the case of the Cork butter-market, where the
higher kinds are disadvantaged in not adequately profiting by
their better repute;(17*) or, instance the case of
herring-branding (now optional) the effect of which is to put the
many inferior curers who just reach the level of official
approval, on a par with the few better ones who rise above it,
and so to discourage these. But such lessons pass unlearned. Even
where the failure of inspection is most glaring, no notice is
taken of it; as instance the terrible catastrophe by which a
train full of people was destroyed along with the Tay bridge.
Countless denunciations, loud and unsparing, were vented against
engineer and contractor; but little, if anything, was said about
the Government officer from whom the bridge received
State-approval. So, too, with prevention of disease. It matters
not that under the management or dictation of State-agents some
of the worst evils occur; as when the lives of 87 wives and
children of soldiers are sacrificed in the ship Accrington,(18*)
or as when typhoid fever and diphtheria are diffused by a
State-ordered drainage system, as in Edinburgh;(19*) or as when
officially-enforced sanitary appliances, ever getting out of
order, increase the evils they were to decrease.(20*) Masses of
such evidence leave unabated the confidence with which sanitary
inspection is invoked -- invoked, indeed, more than ever; as is
shown in the recent suggestion that all public schools should be
under the supervision of health-officers. Nay, even when the
State has manifestly caused the mischief complained of, faith in
its beneficent agency is not at all diminished; as we see in the
fact that, having a generation ago authorized, or rather
required, towns to establish drainage systems which delivered
sewage into the rivers, and having thus polluted the sources of
water-supply, an outcry was raised against the water-companies
for the impurities of their water -- an outcry which continued
after these towns had been compelled, at vast extra cost, to
revolutionize their drainage systems. And now, as the only
remedy, there follows the demand that the State, by its local
proxies, shall undertake the whole business. The State's
misdoings become, as in the case of industrial dwellings, reasons
for praying it to do more. 
    This worship of the legislature is, in one respect, indeed,
less excusable than the fetish-worship to which I have tacitly
compared it. The savage has the defence that his fetish is silent
-- does not confess its inability. But the civilized man persists
in ascribing to this idol made with his own hands, powers which
in one way or other it confesses it has not got. I do not mean
merely that the debates daily tell us of legislative measures
which have done evil instead of good; nor do I mean merely that
the thousands of Acts of Parliament which repeal preceding Acts,
are so many tacit admissions of failure. Neither do I refer only
to such quasi-governmental confessions as that contained in the
report of the Poor Law Commissioners, who said that -- "We find,
on the one hand, that there is scarcely one statute connected
with the administration of public relief which has produced the
effect designed by the legislature, and that the majority of them
have created new evils, and aggravated those which they were
intended to prevent."(21*) I refer rather to confessions made by
statesmen, and by State-departments. Here, for example, in a
memorial addressed to Mr Gladstone, and adopted by a highly
influential meeting held under the chairmanship of the late Lord
Lyttelton, I read: -- 

"We, the undersigned, Peers, Members of the House of Commons,
Ratepayers, and Inhabitants of the Metropolis, feeling strongly
the truth and force of your statement made in the House of
Commons, in 1866, that, 'there is still a lamentable and
deplorable state of our whole arrangements, with regard to public
works -- vacillation, uncertainty, costliness, extravagance,
meanness, and all the conflicting vices that could be enumerated,
are united in our present system,'" etc., etc.(22*) 

Here, again, is an example furnished by a recent minute of the
Board of Trade (November, 1883), in which it is said that since
"the Shipwreck Committee of 1836 scarcely a session has passed
without some Act being passed or some step being taken by the
legislature or the Government with this object" [prevention of
ship-wrecks]; and that "the multiplicity of statutes, which were
all consolidated into one Act in 1854, has again become a scandal
and a reproach:" each measure being passed because previous ones
had failed. And then comes presently the confession that "the
loss of life and of ships has been greater since 1876 than it
ever was before." Meanwhile, the cost of administration has been
raised from 17,000 a year to 73,000 a year.(23*) 
    It is surprising how, spite of better knowledge, the
imagination is excited by artificial appliances used in
particular ways. We see it all through human history, from the
war-paint with which the savage frightens his adversary, down
through religious ceremonies and regal processions, to the robes
of a Speaker and the wand of an officially dressed usher. I
remember a child who, able to look with tolerable composure on a
horrible cadaverous mask while it was held in the hand, ran away
shrieking when his father put it on. A kindred change of feeling
comes over constituencies when, from boroughs and counties, their
members pass to the Legislative Chamber. While before them as
candidates, they are, by one or other party, jeered at,
lampooned, "heckled," and in all ways treated with utter
disrespect. But as soon as they assemble at Westminster, those
against whom taunts and invectives, charges of incompetence and
folly, had been showered from press and platform, excite
unlimited faith. Judging from the prayers made to them, there is
nothing which their wisdom and their power cannot compass. 

The reply to all this will doubtless be that nothing better than
guidance by "collective wisdom" can be had -- that the select men
of the nation, led by a re-selected few, bring their best powers,
enlightened by all the knowledge of the time, to bear on the
matters before them. "What more would you have?" will be the
question asked by most.
    My answer is that this best knowledge of the time with which
legislators are said to come prepared for their duties, is a
knowledge of which the greater part is obviously irrelevant, and
that they are blameworthy for not seeing what is the relevant
knowledge. No amount of the linguistic acquirements by which many
of them are distinguished will help their judgments in the least;
nor will they be appreciably helped by the literatures these
acquirements open to them. Political experiences and speculations
coming from small ancient societies, through philosophers who
assume that war is the normal state, that slavery is alike
needful and just, and that women must remain in perpetual
tutelage, can yield them but small aid in judging how Acts of
Parliament will work in great nations of modern types. They may
ponder on the doings of all the great men by whom, according to
the Carlylean theory, society is framed, and they may spend years
over those accounts of international conflicts, and treacheries,
and intrigues, and treaties, which fill historical works, without
being much nearer understanding the how and the why of social
structures and actions, and the ways in which laws affect them.
Nor does such information as is picked up at the factory, on
'Change, or in the justice room, go far towards the required
    That which is really needed is a systematic study of natural
causation as displayed among human beings socially aggregated.
Though a distinct consciousness of causation is the last trait
which intellectual progress brings -- though with the savage a
simple mechanical cause is not conceived as such -- though even
among the Greeks the flight of a spear was thought of as guided
by a god -- though from their times down almost to our own,
epidemics have been habitually regarded as of supernatural origin
-- and though among social phenomena, the most complex of all,
causal relations may be expected to continue longest
unrecognized; yet in our days, the existence of such causal
relations has become clear enough to force on all who think, the
inference that before meddling with them they should be
diligently studied. The mere facts, now familiar, that there is a
connexion between the numbers of births, deaths, and marriages,
and the price of corn, and that in the same society during the
same generation, the ratio of crime to population varies within
narrow limits, should be sufficient to make all see that human
desires, using as guide such intellect as is joined with them,
act with approximate uniformity. It should be inferred that among
social causes, those initiated by legislation, similarly
operating with an average regularity, must not only change men's
actions, but, by consequence, change their natures probably in
ways not intended. There should be recognition of the fact that
social causation, more than all other causation, is a fructifying
causation; and it should be seen that indirect and remote effects
are no less inevitable than proximate effects. I do not mean that
there is denial of these statements and inferences. But there are
beliefs and beliefs -- some which are held nominally, some which
influence conduct in small degrees, some which sway it
irresistibly under all circumstances; and unhappily the beliefs
of lawmakers respecting causation in social affairs, are of the
superficial sort. Let us look at some of the truths which all
tacitly admit, but which scarcely any take deliberate account of
in legislation. 
    There is the indisputable fact that each human being is in a
certain degree modifiable both physically and mentally. Every
theory of education, every discipline, from that of the
arithmetician to that of the prize-fighter, every proposed reward
for virtue or punishment for vice, implies the belief, embodied
in sundry proverbs, that the use or disuse of each faculty,
bodily or mental, is followed by an adaptive change in it -- loss
of power or gain of power, according to demand. 
    There is the fact, also in its broader manifestations
universally recognized, that modifications of Nature in one way
or other produced, are inheritable. No one denies that by the
accumulation of small changes, generation after generation,
constitution fits itself to conditions; so that a climate which
is fatal to other races is innocuous to the adapted race. No one
denies that peoples who belong to the same original stock but
have spread into different habitats where they have led different
lives, have acquired in course of time different aptitudes and
different tendencies. No one denies that under new conditions new
national characters are even now being moulded; as witness the
Americans. And if no one denies a process of adaptation
everywhere and always going on, it is a manifest implication that
adaptive modifications must be set up by every change of social
    To which there comes the undeniable corollary that every law
which serves to alter men's modes of action -- compelling, or
restraining, or aiding, in new ways -- so affects them as to
cause in course of time adjustments of their natures. Beyond any
mediate effect wrought, there is the remote effect, wholly
ignored by most a re-moulding of the average character: a
re-moulding which may be of a desirable kind or of an undesirable
kind, but which in any case is the most important of the results
to be considered. 
    Other general truths which the citizen, and still more the
legislator, ought to contemplate until they become wrought into
his intellectual fabric, are disclosed when we ask how social
activities are produced; and when we recognize the obvious answer
that they are the aggregate results of the desires of individuals
who are severally seeking satisfactions, and ordinarily pursuing
the ways which, with their pre-existing habits and thoughts, seem
the easiest -- following the lines of least resistance: the
truths of political economy being so many sequences. It needs no
proving that social structures and social actions must in some
way or other be the outcome of human emotions guided by ideas --
either those of ancestors or those of living men. And that the
right interpretation of social phenomena is to be found in the
co-operation of these factors from generation to generation,
follows inevitably. 
    Such an interpretation soon brings us to the inference that
of the aggregate results of men's desires seeking their
gratifications, those which have prompted their private
activities and their spontaneous co-operations, have done much
more towards social development than those which have worked
through governmental agencies. That abundant crops now grow where
once only wild berries could be gathered, is due to the pursuit
of individual satisfactions through many centuries. The progress
from wigwams to good houses has resulted from wishes to increase
personal welfare; and towns have arisen under the like
promptings. Beginning with traffic at gatherings on occasions of
religious festivals, the trading organization, now so extensive
and complex, has been produced entirely by men's efforts to
achieve their private ends. Perpetually Governments have thwarted
and deranged the growth, but have in no way furthered it; save by
partially discharging their proper function and maintaining
social order. So, too, with those advances of knowledge and those
improvements of appliances, by which these structural changes and
these increasing activities have been made possible. It is not to
the State that we owe the multitudinous useful inventions from
the spade to the telephone; it was not the State which made
possible extended navigation by a developed astronomy; it was not
the State which made the discoveries in physics, chemistry, and
the rest, which guide modern manufacturers; it was not the State
which devised the machinery for producing fabrics of every kind,
for transferring men and things from place to place, and for
ministering in a thousand ways to our comforts. The world-wide
transactions conducted in merchants' offices, the rush of traffic
filling our streets, the retail distributing system which brings
everything within easy reach and delivers the necessaries of life
daily at our doors, are not of governmental origin. All these are
results of the spontaneous activities of citizens, separate or
grouped. Nay, to these spontaneous activities Governments owe the
very means of performing their duties. Divest the political
machinery of all those aids which Science and Art have yielded it
-- leave it with those only which State-officials have invented;
and its functions would cease. The very language in which its
laws are registered and the orders of its agents daily given, is
an instrument not in the remotest degree due to the legislator;
but is one which has unawares grown up during men's intercourse
while pursuing their personal satisfactions. 
    And then a truth to which the foregoing one introduces us, is
that this spontaneously-formed social organization is so bound
together that you cannot act on one part without acting more or
less on all parts. We see this unmistakably when a cotton-famine,
first paralysing certain manufacturing districts and then
affecting the doings of wholesale and retail distributors
throughout the kingdom, as well as the people they supply, goes
on to affect the makers and distributors, as well as the wearers,
of other fabrics -- woollen, linen, etc. Or we see it when a rise
in the price of coal, besides influencing domestic life
everywhere, hinders the greater part of our industries, raises
the prices of the commodities produced, alters the consumption of
them, and changes the habits of consumers. What we see clearly in
these marked cases happens in every case, in sensible or in
insensible ways. And manifestly, Acts of Parliament are among
those factors which, beyond the effects directly produced, have
countless other effects of multitudinous kinds. As I heard
remarked by a distinguished professor, whose studies give ample
means of judging -- "When once you begin to interfere with the
order of Nature there is no knowing where the results will end."
And if this is true of that sub-human order of Nature to which he
referred, still more is it true of that order of Nature existing
in the social arrangements produced by aggregated human beings. 
    And now to carry home the conclusion that the legislator
should bring to his business a vivid consciousness of these and
other such broad truths concerning the human society with which
he proposes to deal, let me present somewhat more fully one of
them not yet mentioned. 

The continuance of every higher species of creature depends on
conformity, now to one, now to the other, of two
radically-opposed principles. The early lives of its members, and
the adult lives of its members, have to be dealt with in contrary
ways. We will contemplate them in their natural order. 
    One of the most familiar facts is that animals of superior
types, comparatively slow in reaching maturity, are enabled when
they have reached it, to give more aid to their offspring than
animals of inferior types. The adults foster their young during
periods more or less prolonged, while yet the young are unable to
provide for themselves; and it is obvious that maintenance of the
species can be secured only by a parental care adjusted to the
need consequent on imperfection. It requires no proving that the
blind unfledged hedge-bird, or the young puppy even after it has
acquired sight, would forthwith die if it had to keep itself warm
and obtain its own food. The gratuitous parental aid must be
great in proportion as the young one is of little worth, either
to itself or to others; and it may diminish as fast as, by
increasing development, the young one acquires worth, at first
for self-sustentation, and by-and-by for sustentation of others.
That is to say, during immaturity, benefits received must be
inversely as the power or ability of the receiver. Clearly if
during this first part of life benefits were proportioned to
merits, or rewards to deserts, the species would disappear in a
    From this regime of the family-group, let us turn to the
regime of that larger group formed by the adult members of the
species. Ask what happens when the new individual, acquiring
complete use of its powers and ceasing to have parental aid, is
left to itself. Now there comes into play a principle just the
reverse of that above described. Throughout the rest of its life,
each adult gets benefit in proportion to merit -- reward in
proportion to desert: merit and desert in each case being
understood as ability to fulfil all the requirements of life to
get food, to secure shelter, to escape enemies. Placed in
competition with members of its own species and in antagonism
with members of other species, it dwindles and gets killed off,
or thrives and propagates, according as it is ill-endowed or
well-endowed. Manifestly an opposite regime, could it be
maintained, would, in course of time, be fatal to the species. If
the benefits received by each individual were proportionate to
its inferiority -- if, as a consequence, multiplication of the
inferior was furthered and multiplication of the superior
hindered, progressive degradation would result; and eventually
the degenerate species would fail to hold its ground in presence
of antagonistic species and competing species. 
    The broad fact then, here to be noted, is that Nature's modes
of treatment inside the family-group and outside the
family-group, are diametrically opposed to one another; and that
the intrusion of either mode into the sphere of the other, would
be fatal to the species either mediately or remotely. 
    Does any one think that the like does not hold of the human
species? He cannot deny that within the human family, as within
any inferior family, it would be fatal to proportion benefits to
merits. Can he assert that outside the family, among adults,
there should not be a proportioning of benefits to merits? Will
he contend that no mischief will result if the lowly endowed are
enabled to thrive and multiply as much as, or more than, the
highly endowed? A society of men, standing towards other
societies in relations of either antagonism or competition, may
be considered as a species, or, more literally, as a variety of a
species; and it must be true of it as of other species or
varieties, that it will be unable to hold its own in the struggle
with other societies, if it disadvantages its superior units that
it may advantage its inferior units. Surely none can fail to see
that were the principle of family life to be adopted and fully
carried out in social life were reward always great in proportion
as desert was small, fatal results to the society would quickly
follow; and if so, then even a partial intrusion of the family
regime into the regime of the State, will be slowly followed by
fatal results. Society in its corporate capacity, cannot without
mediate or remoter disaster interfere with the play of these
opposed principles under which every species has reached such
fitness for its mode of life as it possesses, and under which it
maintains that fitness. 
    I say advisedly -- society in its corporate capacity: not
intending to exclude or condemn aid given to the inferior by the
superior in their individual capacities. Though when given so
indiscriminately as to enable the inferior to multiply, such aid
entails mischief; yet in the absence of aid given by society,
individual aid, more generally demanded than now, and associated
with a greater sense of responsibility, would, on the average, be
given with the effect of fostering the unfortunate worthy rather
than the innately unworthy: there being always, too, the
concomitant social benefit arising from culture of the
sympathies. But all this may be admitted while asserting that the
radical distinction between family-ethics and State-ethics must
be maintained; and that while generosity must be the essential
principle of the one, justice must be the essential principle of
the other -- a rigorous maintenance of those normal relations
among citizens under which each gets in return for his labour,
skilled or unskilled, bodily or mental, as much as is proved to
be its value by the demand for it: such return, therefore, as
will enable him to thrive and rear offspring in proportion to the
superiorities which make him valuable to himself and others. 
    And yet, notwithstanding the conspicuousness of these truths,
which should strike every one who leaves his lexicons, and his
law deeds, and his ledgers, and looks abroad into that natural
order of things under which we exist, and to which we must
conform, there is continual advocacy of paternal government. The
intrusion of family-ethics into the ethics of the State, instead
of being regarded as socially injurious, is more and more
demanded as the only efficient means to social benefit. So far
has this delusion now gone, that it vitiates the beliefs of those
who might, more than all others, be thought safe from it. In the
essay to which the Cobden Club awarded its prize in 1880, there
occurs the assertion that "the truth of Free Trade is clouded
over by the laissez-faire fallacy;" and we are told that "we need
a great deal more of paternal government -- that bugbear of the
old economists."(24*)

Vitally important as is the truth above insisted upon, since
acceptance or rejection of it affects the entire fabric of
political conclusions formed, I may be excused if I emphasize it
by here quoting certain passages contained in a work I published
in 1851: premising, only, that the reader must not hold me
committed to such teleological implications as they contain.
After describing "that state of universal warfare maintained
throughout the lower creation," and showing that an average of
benefit results from it, I have continued thus: -- 

"Note further, that their carnivorous enemies not only remove
from herbivorous herds individuals past their prime, but also
weed out the sickly, the malformed, and the least fleet or
powerful. By the aid of which purifying process, as well as by
the fighting so universal in the pairing season, all vitiation of
the race through the multiplication of its inferior samples is
prevented; and the maintenance of a constitution completely
adapted to surrounding conditions, and therefore most productive
of happiness, is ensured. 
    "The development of the higher creation is a progress towards
a form of being capable of a happiness undiminished by these
drawbacks. It is in the human race that the consummation is to be
accomplished. Civilization is the last stage of its
accomplishment. And the ideal man is the man in whom all the
conditions of that accomplishment are fulfilled. Meanwhile, the
well-being of existing humanity, and the unfolding of it into
this ultimate perfection, are both secured by that same
beneficent, though severe discipline, to which the animate
creation at large is subject: a discipline which is pitiless in
the working out of good: a felicity pursuing law which never
swerves for the avoidance of partial and temporary suffering. The
poverty of the incapable, the distresses that came upon the
imprudent, the starvation of the idle, and those shoulderings
aside of the weak by the strong, which leave so many 'in shallows
and in miseries,' are the decrees of a large, far-seeing


"To become fit for the social state, man has not only to lose his
savageness, but he has to acquire the capacities needful for
civilized life. Power of application must be developed; such
modification of the intellect as shall qualify it for its new
tasks must take place; and, above all, there must be gained the
ability to sacrifice a small mediate gratification for a future
great one. The state of transition will of course be an unhappy
state. Misery inevitably results from incongruity between
constitutions and conditions. All these evils which afflict us,
and seem to the uninitiated the obvious consequences of this or
that removable cause, are unavoidable attendants on the
adaptation now in progress. Humanity is being pressed against the
inexorable necessities of its new position -- is being moulded
into harmony with them, and has to bear the resulting unhappiness
as best it can. The process must be undergone, and the sufferings
must be endured. No power on earth, no cunningly-devised laws of
statesmen, no world-rectifying schemes of the humane, no
communist panaceas, no reforms that men ever did broach or ever
will broach, can diminish them one jot. Intensified they may be,
and are; and in preventing their intensification, the
philanthropic will find ample scope for exertion. But there is
bound up with the changes a normal amount of suffering, which
cannot be lessened without altering the very laws of life." 


    "Of course, in so far as the severity of this process is
mitigated by the spontaneous sympathy of men for each other, it
is proper that it should be mitigated: albeit there is
unquestionably harm done when sympathy is shown, without any
regard to ultimate results. But the drawbacks hence arising are
nothing like commensurate with the benefits otherwise conferred.
Only when this sympathy prompts to a breach of equity -- only
when it originates an interference forbidden by the law of equal
freedom -- only when, by so doing, it suspends in some particular
department of life the relationship between constitution and
conditions, does it work pure evil. Then, however, it defeats its
own end. Instead of diminishing suffering, it eventually
increases it. It favours the multiplication of those worst fitted
for existence, and, by consequence, hinders the multiplication of
those best fitted for existence -- leaving, as it does, less room
for them. It tends to fill the world with those to whom life will
bring most pain, and tends to keep out of it those to whom life
will bring most pleasure. It inflicts positive misery, and
prevents positive happiness."
        Social Statics, pp. 322-5 and pp. 380-1 (edition of

    The lapse of a third of a century since these passages were
published, has brought me no reasons for retreating from the
position taken up in them. Contrariwise, it has brought a vast
amount of evidence strengthening that position. The beneficial
results of the survival of the fittest, prove to be immeasurably
greater than those above indicated. The process of "natural
selection," as Mr Darwin called it, co-operating with a tendency
to variation and to inheritance of variations, he has shown to be
a chief cause (though not, I believe, the sole cause) of that
evolution through which all living things, beginning with the
lowest and diverging and re-diverging as they evolved, have
reached their present degrees of organization and adaptation to
their modes of life. So familiar has this truth become that some
apology seems needed for naming it. And yet, strange to say, now
that this truth is recognized by most cultivated people now that
the beneficent working of the survival of the fittest has been so
impressed on them that, much more than people in past times, they
might be expected to hesitate before neutralizing its action now
more than ever before in the history of the world, are they doing
all they can to further survival of the unfittest! 
    But the postulate that men are rational beings, continually
leads one to draw inferences which prove to be extremely wide of
the mark.(25*) 
    "Yes truly; your principle is derived from the lives of
brutes, and is a brutal principle. You will not persuade me that
men are to be under the discipline which animals are under. I
care nothing for your natural-history arguments. My conscience
shows me that the feeble and the suffering must be helped; and if
selfish people won't help them, they must be forced by law to
help them. Don't tell me that the milk of human kindness is to be
reserved for the relations between individuals, and that
Governments must be the administrators of nothing but hard
justice. Every man with sympathy in him must feel that hunger and
pain and squalor must be prevented; and that if private agencies
do not suffice, then public agencies must be established."
    Such is the kind of response which I expect to be made by
nine out of ten. In some of them it will doubtless result from a
fellow-feeling so acute that they cannot contemplate human misery
without an impatience which excludes all thoughts of remote
results. Concerning the susceptibilities of the rest, we may,
however, be somewhat sceptical. Persons who, now in this case and
now in that, are angry if, to maintain our supposed national
"interests" or national "prestige," those in authority do not
promptly send out some thousands of men to be partially destroyed
while destroying other thousands of men whose intentions we
suspect, or whose institutions we think dangerous to us, or whose
territory our colonists want, cannot after all be so tender in
feeling that contemplating the hardships of the poor is
intolerable to them. Little admiration need be felt for the
professed sympathies of people who urge on a policy which breaks
up progressing societies; and who then look on with Cynical
indifference at the weltering confusion left behind, with all its
entailed suffering and death. Those who, when Boers asserting
their independence successfully resisted us, were angry because
British "honour" was not maintained by fighting to avenge a
defeat, at the cost of more mortality and misery to our own
soldiers and their antagonists, cannot have so much "enthusiasm
of humanity" as protests like that indicated above would lead one
to expect. Indeed, along with this sensitiveness which they
profess will not let them look with patience on the pains of "the
battle of life" as it quietly goes on around, they appear to have
a callousness which not only tolerates but enjoys contemplating
the pains of battles of the literal kind; as one sees in the
demand for frustrated papers containing scenes of carnage, and in
the greediness with which detailed accounts of bloody engagements
are read. We may reasonably have our doubts about men whose
feelings are such that they cannot bear the thought of hardships
borne, mostly by the idle and the improvident, and who,
nevertheless, have demanded thirty-one editions of The Fifteen
Decisive Battles of the World, in which they may revel in
accounts of slaughter. Nay, even still more remarkable is the
contrast between the professed tender-heartedness and the actual
hard-heartedness of those who would reverse the normal course of
things that mediate miseries may be prevented, even at the cost
of greater miseries hereafter produced. For on other occasions
you may hear them, with utter disregard of bloodshed and death,
contend that in the interests of humanity at large it is well
that the inferior races should be exterminated and their places
occupied by the superior races. So that, marvellous to relate,
though they cannot think with calmness of the evils accompanying
the struggle for existence as it is carried on without violence
among individuals in their own society, they contemplate with
contented equanimity such evils in their intense and wholesale
forms, when inflicted by fire and sword on entire communities.
Not worthy of much respect then, as it seems to me, is this
generous consideration of the inferior at home which is
accompanied by unscrupulous sacrifice of the inferior abroad. 
    Still less respectable appears this extreme concern for those
of our own blood which goes along with utter unconcern for those
of other blood, when we observe its methods. Did it prompt
personal effort to relieve the suffering, it would rightly
receive approving recognition. Were the many who express this
cheap pity like the few who patiently, week after week and year
after year, devote large parts of their time to helping and
encouraging, and occasionally amusing, those who, in some cases
by ill-fortune and in other cases by incapacity or misconduct,
are brought to lives of hardship, they would be worthy of
unqualified admiration. The more there are of men and women who
help the poor to help themselves -- the more there are of those
whose sympathy is exhibited directly and not by proxy, the more
we may rejoice. But the mense majority of the persons who wish to
mitigate by law the miseries of the unsuccessful and the
reckless, propose to do this in small measure at their own cost
and mainly at the cost of others -- sometimes with their assent
but mostly without. More than this is true; for those who are to
be forced to do so much for the distressed, often equally or more
require something doing for them. The deserving poor are among
those who are burdened to pay the costs of caring for the
undeserving poor. As, under the old Poor Law, the diligent and
provident labourer had to pay that the good-for-nothings might
not suffer, until frequently under this extra burden he broke
down and himself took refuge in the workhouse -- as, at present,
it is admitted that the total rates levied in large towns for all
public purposes, have now reached such a height that they "cannot
be exceeded without inflicting great hardship on the small
shopkeepers and artisans, who already find it difficult enough to
keep themselves free from the pauper taint;"(26*) so in all
cases, the policy is one which intensifies the pains of those
most deserving of pity, that the pains of those least deserving
of pity may be mitigated. In short, men who are so sympathetic
that they cannot allow the struggle for existence to bring on the
unworthy the sufferings consequent on their incapacity or
misconduct, are so unsympathetic that they can, without
hesitation, make the struggle for existence harder for the
worthy, and inflict on them and their children artificial evils
in addition to the natural evils they have to bear! 

And here we are brought round to our original topic -- the sins
of legislators. Here there comes clearly before us the commonest
of the transgressions which rulers commit -- a transgression so
common, and so sanctified by custom, that no one imagines it to
be a transgression. Here we see that, as indicated at the outset,
Government, begotten of aggression and by aggression, ever
continues to betray its original nature by its aggressiveness;
and that even what on its nearer face seems beneficence only,
shows, on its remoter face, not a little maleficence -- kindness
at the cost of cruelty. For is it not cruel to increase the
sufferings of the better that the sufferings of the worse may be
    It is, indeed, marvellous how readily we let ourselves be
deceived by words and phrases which suggest one aspect of the
facts while leaving the opposite aspect unsuggested. A good
frustration of this, and one germane to the mediate question, is
seen in the use of the words "protection" and "protectionist" by
the antagonists of free trade, and in the tacit admission of its
propriety by free-traders. While the one party has habitually
ignored, the other party has habitually failed to emphasize, the
truth that this so-called protection always involves aggression;
and that the name aggressionist ought to be substituted for the
name protectionist. For nothing can be more certain than that if,
to maintain A's profit, B is forbidden to buy of C, or is fined
to the extent of the duty if he buys of C, B is aggressed upon
that A may be "protected." Nay, "aggressionists" is a title
doubly more applicable to the anti-free-traders than is the
euphemistic title "protectionists;" since, that one producer may
gain, ten consumers are fleeced. 
    Now just the like confusion of ideas, caused by looking at
one face only of the transaction, may be traced throughout all
the legislation which forcibly takes the property of this man for
the purpose of giving gratis benefits to that man. Habitually
when one of the numerous measures thus characterized is
discussed, the dominant thought is concerning the pitiable Jones
who is to be protected against some evil; while no thought is
given to the hard-working Brown who is aggressed upon, often much
more to be pitied. Money is exacted (either directly or through
raised rent) from the huckster who only by extreme pinching can
pay her way, from the mason thrown out of work by a strike, from
the mechanic whose savings are melting away during an illness,
from the widow who washes or sews from dawn to dark to feed her
fatherless little ones; and all that the dissolute may be saved
from hunger, that the children of less impoverished neighbours
may have cheap lessons, and that various people, mostly better
off, may read newspapers and novels for nothing! The error of
nomenclature is, in one respect, more misleading than that which
allows aggressionists to be called protectionists; for, as just
shown, protection of the vicious poor involves aggression on the
virtuous poor. Doubtless it is true that the greater part of the
money exacted comes from those who are relatively well-off. But
this is no consolation to the ill-off from whom the rest is
exacted. Nay, if the comparison be made between the pressures
borne by the two classes respectively, it becomes manifest that
the case is even worse than at first appears; for while to the
well-off the exaction means loss of luxuries, to the ill-off it
means loss of necessaries. 
    And now see the Nemesis which is threatening to follow this
chronic sin of legislators. They and their class, in common with
all owners of property, are in danger of suffering from a
sweeping application of that general principle practically
asserted by each of these confiscating Acts of Parliament. For
what is the tacit assumption on which such Acts proceed? It is
the assumption that no man has any claim to his property, not
even to that which he has earned by the sweat of his brow, save
by permission of the community; and that the community may cancel
the claim to any extent it thinks fit. No defence can be made for
this appropriation of A's possessions for the benefit of B, save
one which sets out with the postulate that society as a whole has
an absolute right over the possessions of each member. And now
this doctrine, which has been tacitly assumed, is being openly
proclaimed. Mr George and his friends, Mr Hyndman and his
supporters, are pushing the theory to its logical issue. They
have been instructed by examples, yearly increasing in number,
that the individual has no rights but what the community may
equitably override; and they are now saying -- "It shall go hard
but we will better the instruction," and over-ride individual
rights altogether. 

Legislative misdeeds of the classes above indicated are in large
measure explained, and reprobation of them mitigated, when we
look at the matter from afar off. They have their root in the
error that society is a manufacture; whereas it is a growth.
Neither the culture of past times nor the culture of the present
time, has given to any considerable number of people a scientific
conception of a society -- a conception of it as having a natural
structure in which all its institutions, governmental, religious,
industrial, commercial, etc., etc., are interdependently bound --
a structure which is in a sense organic. Or if such a conception
is nominally entertained, it is not entertained in such way as to
be operative on conduct. Contrariwise, incorporated humanity is
very commonly thought of as though it were like so much dough
which the cook can mould as she pleases into pie-crust, or puff,
or tartlet. The communist shows us unmistakably that he thinks of
the body politic as admitting of being shaped thus or thus at
will; and the tacit implication of many Acts of Parliament is
that aggregated men, twisted into this or that arrangement, will
remain as intended. 
    It may indeed be said that even irrespective of this
erroneous conception of a society as a plastic mass instead of as
an organized body, facts forced on his attention hour by hour
should make every one sceptical as to the success of this or that
proposed way of changing a people's actions. Alike to the citizen
and to the legislator, home experiences daily supply proofs that
the conduct of human beings baulks calculation. He has given up
the thought of managing his wife and lets her manage him.
Children on whom he has tried now reprimand, now punishment, now
suasion, now reward, do not respond satisfactorily to any method;
and no expostulation prevents their mother from treating them in
ways he thinks mischievous. So, too, his dealings with his
servants, whether by reasoning or by scolding, rarely succeed for
long: the falling short of attention, or punctuality, or
cleanliness, or sobriety, leads to constant changes. Yet,
difficult as he finds it to deal with humanity in detail, he is
confident of his ability to deal with embodied humanity.
Citizens, not one-thousandth of whom he knows, not one-hundredth
of whom he ever saw, and the great mass of whom belong to classes
having habits and modes of thought of which he has but dim
notions, he feels sure will act in certain ways he foresees, and
fulfil ends he wishes. Is there not a marvellous incongruity
between premises and conclusion? 
    One might have expected that whether they observed the
implications of these domestic failures, or whether they
contemplated in every newspaper the indications of a social life
too vast, too varied, too involved, to be even vaguely pictured
in thought, men would have entered on the business of law-making
with the greatest hesitation. Yet in this more than in anything
else do they show a confident readiness. Nowhere is there so
astounding a contrast between the difficulty of the task and the
unpreparedness of those who undertake it. Unquestionably among
monstrous beliefs one of the most monstrous is that while for a
simple handicraft, such as shoe-making, a long apprenticeship is
needful, the sole thing which needs no apprenticeship is making a
nation's laws! 

Summing up the results of the discussion, may we not reasonably
say that there lie before the legislator several open secrets,
which yet are so open that they ought not to remain secrets to
one who undertakes the vast and terrible responsibility of
dealing with millions upon millions of human beings by measures
which, if they do not conduce to their happiness, will increase
their miseries and accelerate their deaths? 
    There is first of all the undeniable truth, conspicuous and
yet absolutely ignored, that there are no phenomena which a
society presents but what have their origins in the phenomena of
individual human life, which again have their roots in vital
phenomena at large. And there is the inevitable implication that
unless these vital phenomena, bodily and mental, are chaotic in
their relations (a supposition excluded by the very maintenance
of life) the resulting phenomena cannot be wholly chaotic: there
must be some kind of order in the phenomena which grow out of
them when associated human beings have to co-operate. Evidently,
then, when one who has not studied such resulting phenomena of
social order, undertakes to regulate society, he is pretty
certain to work mischiefs. 
    In the second place, apart from a priori reasoning, this
conclusion should be forced on the legislator by comparisons of
societies. It ought to be sufficiently manifest that before
meddling with the details of social organization, inquiry should
be made whether social organization has a natural history; and
that to answer this inquiry, it would be well, setting out with
the simplest societies, to see in what respects social structures
agree. Such comparative sociology, pursued to a very small
extent, shows a substantial uniformity of genesis. The habitual
existence of chieftainship, and the establishment of chiefly
authority by war; the rise everywhere of the medicine man and
priest; the presence of a cult having in all places the same
fundamental traits; the traces of division of labour, early
displayed, which gradually become more marked; and the various
complications, political, ecclesiastical, industrial, which arise
as groups are compounded and recompounded by war; quickly prove
to any who compares them that, apart from all their special
differences, societies have general resemblances in their modes
of origin and development. They present traits of structure
showing that social organization has laws which over-ride
individual wills; and laws the disregard of which must be fraught
with disaster. 
    And then, in the third place, there is that mass of guiding
information yielded by the records of legislation in our own
country and in other countries, which still more obviously
demands attention. Here and elsewhere, attempts of multitudinous
kinds, made by kings and statesmen, have failed to do the good
intended and have worked unexpected evils. Century after century
new measures like the old ones, and other measures akin in
principle, have again disappointed hopes and again brought
disaster. And yet it is thought neither by electors nor by those
they elect, that there is any need for systematic study of that
law-making which in bygone ages went on working the ill-being of
the people when it tried to achieve their well-being. Surely
there can be no fitness for legislative functions without the
wide knowledge of those legislative experiences which the past
has bequeathed. 
    Reverting, then, to the analogy drawn at the outset, we must
say that the legislator is morally blameless or morally
blameworthy, according as he has or has not acquainted himself
with these several classes of facts. A physician who, after years
of study, has gained a competent knowledge of physiology,
pathology and therapeutics, is not held criminally responsible if
a man dies under his treatment: he has prepared himself as well
as he can, and has acted to the best of his judgment. Similarly
the legislator whose measures produce evil instead of good,
notwithstanding the extensive and methodic inquiries which helped
him to decide, cannot be held to have committed more than an
error of reasoning. Contrariwise, the legislator who is wholly or
in great part uninformed concerning these masses of facts which
he must examine before his opinion on a proposed law can be of
any value, and who nevertheless helps to pass that law, can no
more be absolved if misery and mortality result, than the
journeyman druggist can be absolved when death is caused by the
medicine he ignorantly prescribes. 


1. Political Institution, sections 437, 573.

2. Ibid., sections 471-3.

3. Lanfrey. See also Study of Sociology, p. 42, and Appendix.

4. Constitutional History of England, ii. p. 617.

5. Lecky, Rationalism, ii. 293-4.

6. De Tocqueville, The State of Society in France before the
Revolution, p. 421.

7. Young's Travels, i. 128-9.

8. Craik's History of British Commerce, i. 134.

9. Ibid., 136-7.

10. Ibid., 137.

11. Mensch, iii, p. 225.

12. The Nineteenth Century, February, 1883.

13. "The Statistics of Legislation" By F.H. Jansen, Esq., F.L.S.,
Vice-President ofthe Incorporated Law Society.

14. Fire Surveys; or, a Summary of the Principles to be observed
in Estimating the Risk of Buildings.

15. See Times, October 6, 1874, where other instances are given.

16. The State in its Relation to Trade, by Sir Thomas Farrer, p.

17. Ibid., p. 149.

18. Hansard, vol. clvi., p. 718, and vol. clvii., p. 4464.

19. Letter of an Ediburgh M.D. in Times of 17th January, 1876,
verifying other testimonies; one of which I had previously cited
concerning Windsor, where, as in Edinburgh, there was absolutely
no typhoid in the undrained parts, while it was very fatal in the
drained parts. Study in Sociology, chap. i., notes.

20. I say this partly from personal knowledge; having now before
me memoranada made 25 years ago, concerning such results produced
under my own observation. Verifying facts have recently been
given by Sir Richard Cross in the Nineteenth Century for January,
1884, p. 155.

21. Nicholl's History of English Poor Law, ii. p. 252.

22. See Times, March 31, 1863.

23. In these paragraphs are contained just a few additional
examples. Numbers which I have before given in books and essays,
will be found in Social Statics (1851): "Over-Legislation"
(1853); "Representative Government" (1857); "Specialized
Administration" (1871); Study of Sociology (1873), and Postscript
to ditto (1880); besides cases in smaller essays.

24. On the Value of Political Economy to Mankind. by A.N.
Cummings; pp. 47, 48.

25. The saying of Emerson that most people can understand a
principle only when its light falls on a fact, induces me here to
cite a fact which may carry home the above principle to those on
whom, in its abstract form, it will produce no effect. It rarely
happens that the amount of evil caused by fostering the vicious
and good-for-nothing can be estimated. But in America, at a
meeting of the States Charities Aid Association, held on December
18, 1874, a startling instance was given in detail by Dr Harris.
It was furnished by a county on the Upper Hudson, remarkable for
the ratio of crime and poverty to population. Generations ago
there had existed a certain "gutter-child," as she would be here
called, known as "Margaret," who proved to be the prolific mother
of a prolific race. Besides great numbers of idiots, imbeciles,
drunkards, lunatics, paupers, and prostitutes, "the county
records show two hundred of her descendants who have been
criminals." Was it kindness or cruelty which, generation after
generation, enabled these to multiply and become an increasing
curse to the society around them? (For particulars see the Jukes:
a Study in Crime, Pauperism, Disease and Heredity, by R.L.
Dugdale, New York; Putnams.)

26. Mr Chamberlain in Fortnightly Review, December, 1883, p. 772.


    The great political superstition of the past was the divine
right of kings. The great political superstition of the present
is the divine right of parliaments. The oil of anointing seems
unawares to have dripped from the head of the one on to the heads
of the many, and given sacredness to them also and to their
    However irrational we may think the earlier of these beliefs,
we must admit that it was more consistent than is the latter.
Whether we go back to times when the king was a god, or to times
when he was a descendant of a god, or to times when he was
god-appointed, we see good reason for passive obedience to his
will. When, as under Louis XIV, theologians like Bossuet taught
that kings "are gods, and share in a manner the Divine
independence," or when it was thought, as by our own Tory party
in old days, that "the monarch was the delegate of heaven;" it is
clear that, given the premise, the inevitable conclusion was that
no bounds could be set to governmental commands. But for the
modern belief such a warrant does not exist. Making no pretension
to divine descent or divine appointment, a legislative body can
show no supernatural justification for its claim to unlimited
authority; and no natural justification has ever been attempted.
Hence, belief in its unlimited authority is without that
consistency which of old characterized belief in a king's
unlimited authority. 
    It is curious how commonly men continue to hold in fact,
doctrines which they have rejected in name -- retaining the
substance after they have abandoned the form. In Theology an
illustration is supplied by Carlyle, who, in his student days,
giving up, as he thought, the creed of his fathers, rejected its
shell only, keeping the contents; and was proved by his
conceptions of the world, and man, and conduct, to be still among
the sternest of Scotch Calvinists. Similarly, Science furnishes
an instance in one who united naturalism in Geology with
supernaturalism in Biology -- Sir Charles Lyell. While, as the
leading expositor of the uniformitarian theory in Geology, he
ignored wholly the Mosaic cosmogony, he long defended that belief
in special creations of organic types, for which no other source
than the Mosaic cosmogony could be assigned; and only in the
latter part of his life surrendered to the arguments of Mr
Darwin. In Politics, as above implied, we have an analogous case.
The tacitly-asserted doctrine, common to Tories, Whigs, and
Radicals, that governmental authority is unlimited, dates back to
times when the law-giver was supposed to have a warrant from God;
and it survives still, though the belief that the law-giver has
God's warrant has died out. "Oh, an Act of Parliament can do
anything," is the reply made to a citizen who questions the
legitimacy of some arbitrary State-interference; and the citizen
stands paralysed. It does not occur to him to ask the how, and
the when, and the whence, of this asserted omnipotence bounded
only by physical impossibilities. 
    Here we will take leave to question it. In default of the
justification, once logically valid, that the ruler on Earth
being a deputy of the ruler in Heaven, submission to him in all
things is a duty, let us ask what reason there is for asserting
the duty of submission in all things to a ruling power,
constitutional or republican, which has no Heaven-derived
supremacy. Evidently this inquiry commits us to a criticism of
past and present theories concerning political authority. To
revive questions supposed to be long since settled, may be
thought to need some apology. but there is a sufficient apology
in the implication above made clear, that the theory commonly
accepted is ill-based or unbased. 

The notion of sovereignty is that which first presents itself;
and a critical examination of this notion, as entertained by
those who do not postulate the supernatural origin of
sovereignty, carries us back to the arguments of Hobbes. 
    Let us grant Hobbes's postulate that, "during the time men
live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in
that condition which is called war... of every man against every
man;"(1*) though this is not true, since there are some small
uncivilized societies in which, without any "common power to keep
them all in awe," men maintain peace and harmony better than it
is maintained in societies where such a power exists. Let us
suppose him to be right, too, in assuming that the rise of a
ruling power over associated men, results from their desires to
preserve order among themselves; though, in fact, it habitually
arises from the need for subordination to a leader in war,
defensive or offensive, and has originally no necessary, and
often no actual, relation to the preservation of order among the
combined individuals. Once more, let us admit the indefensible
assumption that to escape the evils of chronic conflicts, which
must otherwise continue among them, the members of a community
enter into a "pact or covenant," by which they all bind
themselves to surrender their primitive freedom of action, and
subordinate themselves to the will of a ruling power agreed
upon:(2*) accepting, also, the implication that their descendants
for ever are bound by the covenant which remote ancestors made
for them. Let us, I say, not object to these data, but pass to
the conclusions Hobbes draws. He says: -- 

"For where no covenant hath preceded, there hath no right been
transferred, and every man has right to every thing; and
consequently, no action can be unjust. But when a covenant is
made, then to break it is unjust: and the definition of
INJUSTICE, is no other than the not performance of covenant...
Therefore before the names of just and unjust can have place,
there must be some coercive power, to compel men equally to the
performance of their covenants, by the terror of some punishment,
greater than the benefit they expect by the breach of their

    Were people's characters in Hobbes's day really so bad as to
war rant his assumption that none would perform their covenants
in the absence of a coercive power and threatened penalties? In
our day "the names of just and unjust can have place" quite apart
from recognition of any coercive power. Among my friends I could
name half a dozen whom I would implicitly trust to perform their
covenants without any "terror of some punishment" and over whom
the requirements of justice would be as imperative in the absence
of a coercive power as in its presence. Merely noting, however,
that this unwarranted assumption vitiates Hobbes's argument for
State-authority, and accepting both his premises and conclusion,
we have to observe two significant implications. One is that
State-authority as thus derived, is a means to an end, and has no
validity save as subserving that end: if the end is not
subserved, the authority, by the hypothesis, does not exist. The
other is that the end for which the authority exists, as thus
specified, is the enforcement of justice -- the maintenance of
equitable relations. The reasoning yields no warrant for other
coercion over citizens than that which is required for preventing
direct aggressions, and those indirect aggressions constituted by
breaches of contract; to which, if we add protection against
eternal enemies, the entire function implied by Hobbes's
derivation of sovereign authority is comprehended. 
    Hobbes argued in the interests of absolute monarchy. His
modern admirer, Austin, had for his aim to derive the authority
of law from the unlimited sovereignty of one man, or of a number
of men, small or large compared with the whole community. Austin
was originally in the army; and it has been truly remarked that
"the permanent traces left" may be seen in his Province of
Jurisprudence. When, undeterred by the exasperating pedantries --
the endless distinctions and definitions and repetitions -- which
serve but to hide his essential doctrines, we ascertain what
these are, it becomes manifest that he assimilates civil
authority to military authority: taking for granted that the one,
as the other, is above question in respect of both origin and
range. To get justification for positive law, he takes us back to
the absolute sovereignty of the power imposing it -- a monarch,
an aristocracy, or that larger body of men who have votes in a
democracy; for such a body also, he styles the sovereign, in
contrast with the remaining portion of the community which, from
incapacity or other cause, remains subject. And having affirmed,
or, rather, taken for granted, the unlimited authority of the
body, simple or compound, small or large, which he styles
sovereign, he, of course, has no difficulty in deducing the legal
validity of its edicts, which he calls positive law. But the
problem is simply moved a step further back and there left
unsolved. The true question is -- Whence the sovereignty? What is
the assignable warrant for this unqualified supremacy assumed by
one, or by a small number, or by a large number, over the rest? A
critic might fitly say -- "We will dispense with your process of
deriving positive law from unlimited sovereignty: the sequence is
obvious enough. But first prove your unlimited sovereignty."
    To this demand there is no response. Analyse his assumption,
and the doctrine of Austin proves to have no better basis than
that of Hobbes. In the absence of admitted divine descent or
appointment, neither single-headed ruler nor many-headed ruler
can produce such credentials as the claim to unlimited
sovereignty implies. 

"But surely," will come in deafening chorus the reply, "there is
the unquestionable right of the majority, which gives
unquestionable rights to the parliament it elects."
    Yes, now we are coming down to the root of the matter. The
divine right of parliaments means the divine right of majorities.
The fundamental assumption made by legislators and people alike,
is that a majority has powers to which no limits can be put. This
is the current theory which all accept without proof as a
self-evident truth. Nevertheless, criticism will, I think, show
that this current theory requires a radical modification. 
    In an essay on "Railway Morals and Railway Policy," published
in the Edinburgh Review for October, 1854, I had occasion to deal
with the question of a majority's powers as exemplified in the
conduct of public companies; and I cannot better prepare the way
for conclusions presently to be drawn, than by quoting a passage
from it: -- 

 "Under whatever circumstances, or for whatever ends, a number of
men co-operate, it is held that if difference of opinion arises
among them, justice requires that the will of the seater number
shall be executed rather than that of the smaller number; and
this rule is supposed to be uniformly applicable, be the question
at issue what it may. So confirmed is this conviction and so
little have the ethics of the matter been considered, that to
most this mere suggestion of a doubt will cause some
astonishment. Yet it needs but a brief analysis to show that the
opinion is little better than a political superstition. Instances
may readily be selected which prove, by reductio ad absurdum,
that the right of a majority is a purely conditional right, valid
only within specific limits. Let us take a few. Suppose that at
the general meeting of some philanthropic association, it was
resolved that in addition to relieving distress the association
should employ home-missionaries to preach down popery. Might the
subscriptions of Catholics, who had joined the body with
charitable views, be rightfully used for this end? Suppose that
of the members of a bookclub, the seater number, thinking that
under existing circumstances rifle-practice was more important
than reading, should decide to change the purpose of their union,
and to apply the funds in hand for the purchase of powder, ball,
and targets. Would the rest be bound by this decision? Suppose
that under the excitement of news from Australia, the majority of
a Freehold Land Society should determine, not simply to start in
a body for the gold-diggings, but to use their accumulated
capital to provide outfits. Would this appropriation of property
be just to the minority? and must these join the expedition?
Scarcely anyone would venture an affirmative answer even to the
first of these questions; much less to the others. And why?
Because everyone must perceive that by uniting himself with
others, no man can equitably be betrayed into acts utterly
foreign to the purpose for which he joined them. Each of these
supposed minorities would properly reply to those seeking to
coerce them: -- 'We combined with you for a defined object; we
gave money and time for the furtherance of that object; on all
questions thence arising we tacitly agreed to conform to the will
of the greater number; but we did not agree to conform on any
other questions. If you induce us to join you by professing a
certain end, and then undertake some other end of which we were
not apprised, you obtain our support under false pretences; you
exceed the expressed or understood compact to which we committed
ourselves; and we are no longer bound by your decisions.' Clearly
this is the only rational interpretation of the matter. The
general principle underlying the right government of every
incorporated body, is, that its members contact with each other
severally to submit to the will of the majority in all matters
concerning the fulfilment of the objects for which they are
incorporated; but in no others. To this extent only can the
contact hold. For as it is implied in the very nature of a
contact, that those entering into it must know what they contact
to do; and as those who unite with others for a specified object,
cannot contemplate all the unspecified objects which it is
hypothetically possible for the union to undertake; it follows
that the contact entered into cannot extend to such unspecified
objects. And if there exists no expressed or understood contact
between the union and its members respecting unspecified objects,
then for the majority to coerce the minority into undertaking
them, is nothing less than gross tyranny." 

    Naturally, if such a confusion of ideas exists in respect of
the powers of a majority where the deed of incorporation tacitly
limits these powers, still more must there exist such a confusion
where there has been no deed of incorporation. Nevertheless the
same principle holds. I again emphasize the proposition that the
members of an incorporated body are bound "severally to submit to
the will of the majority in all matters concerning the fulfilment
of the objects for which they are incorporated; but in no
others." And I contend that this holds of an incorporated nation
as much as of an incorporated company. 
    "Yes, but," comes the obvious rejoinder, "as there is no deed
by which the members of a nation are incorporated -- as there
neither is, nor ever was, a specification of purposes for which
the union was formed, there exist no limits; and, consequently,
the power of the majority is unlimited."
    Evidently it must be admitted that the hypothesis of a social
contract, either under the shape assumed by Hobbes or under the
shape assumed by Rousseau, is baseless. Nay more, it must be
admitted that even had such a contract once been formed, it could
not be binding on the posterity of those who formed it. Moreover,
if any say that in the absence of those Stations to its powers
which a deed of incorporation might imply, there is nothing to
prevent a majority from imposing its will on a minority by force,
assent must be given an assent, however, joined with the comment
that if the superior force of the majority is its justification,
then the superior force of a despot backed by an adequate army,
is also justified: the problem lapses. What we here seek is some
higher warrant for the subordination of minority to majority than
that arising from inability to resist physical coercion. Even
Austin, anxious as he is to establish the unquestionable
authority of positive law, and assuming, as he does, an absolute
sovereignty of some kind, monarchic, aristocratic,
constitutional, or popular, as the source of its unquestionable
authority, is obliged, in the last resort, to admit a moral limit
to its action over the community. While insisting, in pursuance
of his rigid theory of sovereignty, that a sovereign body
originating from the people "is legally free to abridge their
political liberty, at its own pleasure or discretion," he allows
that "a government may be hindered by positive morality from
abridging the political liberty which it leaves or grants to its
subjects."(4*) Hence, we have to find, not a physical
justification, but a moral justification, for the supposed
absolute power of the majority. 
    This will at once draw forth the rejoinder -- "Of course, in
the absence of any agreement, with its implied limitations, the
rule of the majority is unlimited; because it is more just that
the majority should have its way than that the minority should
have its way." A very reasonable rejoinder this seems until there
comes the re-rejoinder. We may oppose to it the equally tenable
proposition that, in the absence of an agreement, the supremacy
of a majority over a minority does not exist at all. It is
co-operation of some kind, from which there arise these powers
and obligations of majority and minority; and in the absence of
any agreement to co-operate, such powers and obligations are also
    Here the argument apparently ends in a dead lock. Under the
existing condition of things, no moral origin seems assignable
either for the sovereignty of the majority or for the limitation
of its sovereignty. But further consideration reveals a solution
of the difficulty. For if, dismissing all thought of any
hypothetical agreement to cooperate heretofore made, we ask what
would be the agreement into which citizens would now enter with
practical unanimity, we get a sufficiently clear answer; and with
it a sufficiently clear justification for the rule of the
majority inside a certain sphere, but not outside that sphere.
Let us first observe a few of the limitations which at once
become apparent. 
    Were all Englishmen now asked if they would agree to
co-operate for the teaching of religion, and would give the
majority power to fix the creed and the forms of worship, there
would come a very emphatic "No" from a large part of them. If, in
pursuance of a proposal to revive sumptuary laws, the inquiry
were made whether they would bind themselves to abide by the will
of the majority in respect of the fashions and qualities of their
clothes, nearly all of them would refuse. In like manner if (to
take an actual question of the day) people were polled to
ascertain whether, in respect of the beverages they drank, they
would accept the decision of the greater number, certainly half,
and probably more than half, would be unwilling. Similarly with
respect to many other actions which most men now-a-days regard as
of purely private concern. Whatever desire there might be to
co-operate for carrying on, or regulating, such actions, would be
far from a unanimous desire. Manifestly, then, had social
co-operation to be commenced by ourselves, and had its purposes
to be specified before consent to co-operate could be obtained,
there would be large parts of human conduct in respect of which
co-operation would be declined; and in respect of which,
consequently, no authority by the majority over the minority
could be rightfully exercised. 
    Turn now to the converse question -- For what ends would all
men agree to co-operate? None will deny that for resisting
invasion the agreement would be practically unanimous. Excepting
only the Quakers, who, having done highly useful work in their
time, are now dying out, all would unite for defensive war (not,
however, for offensive war); and they would, by so doing, tacitly
bind themselves to conform to the will of the majority in respect
of measures directed to that end. There would be practical
unanimity, also, in the agreement to co-operate for defence
against internal enemies as against eternal enemies. Omitting
criminals, all must wish to have person and property adequately
protected. In short, each citizen desires to preserve his life,
to preserve those things which conduce to maintenance of his life
and enjoyment of it, and to preserve intact his liberties both of
using these things and getting further such. It is obvious to him
that he cannot do all this if he acts alone. Against foreign
invaders he is powerless unless he combines with his fellows; and
the business of protecting himself against domestic invaders, if
he did not similarly combine, would be alike onerous, dangerous,
and inefficient. In one other co-operation all are interested --
use of the territory they inhabit. Did the primitive communal
ownership survive, there would survive the primitive communal
control of the uses to be made of land by individuals or by
groups of them; and decisions of the majority would rightly
prevail respecting the terms on which portions of it might be
employed for raising food, for making means of communication, and
for other purposes. Even at present, though the matter has been
complicated by the growth of private landownership, yet, since
the State is still supreme owner (every landowner being in law a
tenant of the Crown) able to resume possession, or authorize
compulsory purchase, at a fair price; the implication is that the
will of the majority is valid respecting the modes in which, and
conditions under which, parts of the surface or sub-surface, may
be utilized: involving certain agreements made on behalf of the
public with private persons and companies. 
    Details are not needful here; nor is it needful to discuss
that border region lying between these classes of cases, and to
say how much is included in the last and how much is excluded
with the first. For present purposes, it is sufficient to
recognize the undeniable truth that there are numerous kinds of
actions in respect of which men would not, if they were asked,
agree with anything like unanimity to be bound by the will of the
majority; while there are some kinds of actions in respect of
which they would almost unanimously agree to be thus bound. Here,
then, we find a definite warrant for enforcing the will of the
majority within certain limits, and a definite warrant for
denying the authority of its will beyond those limits. 
    But evidently, when analysed, the question resolves itself
into the further question -- What are the relative claims of the
aggregate and of its units? Are the rights of the community
universally valid against the individual? or has the individual
some rights which are valid against the community? The judgment
given on this point underlies the entire fabric of political
convictions formed, and more especially those convictions which
concern the proper sphere of government. Here, then, I propose to
revive a dormant controversy, with the expectation of reaching a
different conclusion from that which is fashionable. 

Says Professor Jevons, in his work, The State in Relation to
Labour "The first step must be to rid our minds of the idea that
there are any such things in social matters as abstract rights."
Of like character is the belief expressed by Mr Matthew Arnold,
in his article on copyright: -- "An author has no natural right
to a property in his production. But then neither has he a
natural right to anything whatever which he may produce or
acquire."(5*) So, too, I recently read in a weekly journal of
high repute, that "to explain once more that there is no such
thing as 'natural right' would be a waste of philosophy." And the
view expressed in these extracts is commonly uttered by statesmen
and lawyers in a way implying that only the unthinking masses
hold any other. 
    One might have expected that utterances to this effect would
have been rendered less dogmatic by the knowledge that a whole
school of legalists on the Continent, maintains a belief
diametrically opposed to that maintained by the English school.
The idea of Natur-recht is the root-idea of German jurisprudence.
Now whatever may be the opinion held respecting German philosophy
at large, it cannot be characterized as shallow. A doctrine
current among a people distinguished above all others as
laborious inquirers, and certainly not to be classed with
superficial thinkers, should not be dismissed as though it were
nothing more than a popular delusion. This, however, by the way.
Along with the proposition denied in the above quotations, there
goes a counter-proposition affirmed. Let us see what it is; and
what results when we go behind it and seek its warrant. 
    On reverting to Bentham, we find this counter-proposition
overtly expressed. He tells us that government fulfils its office
"by creating rights which it confers upon individuals: rights of
personal security; rights of protection for honour; rights of
property;" etc.(6*) Were this doctrine asserted as following from
the divine right of kings, there would be nothing in it
manifestly incongruous. Did it come to us from ancient Peru,
where the Ynca "was the source from which evening flowed";(7*) or
from Shoa (Abyssinia), where "of their persons and worldly
substance he [the king] is absolute master";(8*) or from Dahome,
where "all men are slaves to the king";(9*) it would be
consistent enough. But Bentham, far from being an absolutist like
Hobbes, wrote in the interests of popular rule. In his
Constitutional Code(10*) he fixes the sovereignty in the whole
people; arguing that it is best "to give the sovereign power to
the largest possible portion of those whose greatest happiness is
the proper and chosen object," because "this proportion is more
apt than any other that can be proposed" for achievement of that
    Mark, now, what happens when we put these two doctrines
together. The sovereign people jointly appoint representatives,
and so create a government; the government thus created, creates
rights; and then, having created rights, it confers them on the
separate members of the sovereign people by which it was itself
created. Here is a marvellous piece of political legerdemain! Mr
Matthew Arnold, contending, in the article above quoted, that
"property is the creation of law," tells us to beware of the
"metaphysical phantom of property in itself." Surely, among
metaphysical phantoms the most shadowy is this which supposes a
thing to be obtained by creating an agent, which creates the
thing, and then confers the thing on its own creator.! 
    From whatever point of view we consider it, Bentham's
proposition proves to be unthinkable. Government, he says,
fulfils its office "by creating rights." Two meanings may be
given to the word "creating." It may be supposed to mean the
production of something out of nothing; or it may be supposed to
mean the giving form and structure to something which already
exists. There are many who think that the production of something
out of nothing cannot be conceived as effected even by
omnipotence; and probably none will assert that the production of
something out of nothing is within the competence of a human
government. The alternative conception is that a human government
creates only in the sense that it shapes something pre-existing.
In that case, the question arises -- "What is the something
pre-existing which it shapes?" Clearly the word "creating" begs
the whole question -- passes off an illusion on the unwary
reader. Bentham was a stickler for definiteness of expression,
and in his Book of Fallacies has a chapter on "Impostor-terms."
It is curious that he should have furnished so striking an
illustration of the perverted belief which an impostor-term may
    But now let us overlook these various impossibilities of
thought, and seek the most defensible interpretation of Bentham's
    It may be said that the totality of all powers and rights,
originally existed as an undivided whole in the sovereign people;
and that this undivided whole is given in trust (as Austin would
say) to a ruling power, appointed by the sovereign people, for
the purpose of distribution. If, as we have seen, the proposition
that rights are created is simply a figure of speech; then the
only intelligible construction of Bentham's view is that a
multitude of individuals, who severally wish to satisfy their
desires, and have, as an aggregate, possession of all the sources
of satisfaction, as well as power over all individual actions,
appoint a government, which declares the ways in which, and the
conditions under which, individual actions may be carried on and
the satisfactions obtained. Let us observe the implications. Each
man exists in two capacities. In his private capacity he is
subject to the government. In his public capacity he is one of
the sovereign people who appoint the government. That is to say,
in his private capacity he is one of those to whom rights are
given; and in his public capacity he is one of those who, through
the government they appoint, give the rights. Turn this abstract
statement into a concrete statement, and see what it means. Let
the community consist of a million men, who, by the hypothesis,
are not only joint possessors of the inhabited region, but joint
possessors of all liberties of action and appropriation: the only
right recognized being that of the aggregate to everything. What
follows? Each person, while not owning any product of his own
labour, has, as a unit in the sovereign body, a millionth part of
the ownership of the products of all others' labour. This is an
unavoidable implication. As the government, in Bentham's view, is
but an agent; the rights it confers are rights given to it in
trust by the sovereign people. If so, such rights must be
possessed en bloc by the sovereign people before the government,
in fulfilment of its trust, confers them on individuals; and, if
so, each individual has a millionth portion of these rights in
his public capacity, while he has no rights in his private
capacity. These he gets only when all the rest of the million
join to endow him with them; while he joins to endow with them
every other member of the million! 
    Thus, in whatever way we interpret it, Bentham's proposition
leaves us in a plexus of absurdities. 

Even though ignoring the opposite opinion of German writers on
jurisprudence, and even without an analysis which proves their
own opinion to be untenable, Bentham's disciples might have been
led to treat less cavalierly the doctrine of natural rights. For
sundry groups of social phenomena unite to prove that this
doctrine is well warranted, and the doctrine they set against it
    Tribes in various parts of the world show us that before
definite government arises, conduct is regulated by customs. The
Bechuanas are controlled by "long-acknowledged customs."(11*)
Among the Koranna Hottentots, who only "tolerate their chiefs
rather than obey them,"(12*) "when ancient usages are not in the
way, every man seems to act as is right in his own eyes."(13*)
The Araucanians are guided by "nothing more than primordial
usages or tacit conventions."(14*) Among the Kirghizes the
judgments of the elders are based on "universally recognized
customs."(15*) So, too, of the Dyaks, Rajah Brooke tells us that
"custom seems simply to have become the law; and breaking custom
leads to a fine."(16*) So sacred are memorial customs with the
primitive man, that he never dreams of questioning their
authority; and when government arises, its power is limited by
them. In Madagascar the king's word suffices only "where there is
no law, custom, or precedent."(17*) Raffles tells us that in Java
"the customs of the country"(18*) restrain the will of the ruler.
In Sumatra, too, the people do not allow their chiefs to "alter
their ancient usages."(19*) Nay, occasionally, as in Ashantee,
"the attempt to change some customs" has caused a king's
dethronement."(20*) Now, among the customs which we thus find to
be pre-governmental, and which subordinate governmental power
when it is established, are those which recognize certain
individual rights -- rights to act in certain ways and possess
certain things. Even where the recognition of property is least
developed, there is proprietorship of weapons, tools, and
personal ornaments; and, generally, the recognition goes far
beyond this. Among such North-American Indians as the Snakes, who
are without government, there is private ownership of horses. By
the Chippewayans, "who have no regular government," game taken in
private traps "is considered as private property."(21*) Kindred
facts concerning huts, utensils, and other personal belongings,
might be brought in evidence from accounts of the Ahts, the
Comanches, the Esquimaux, and the Brazilian Indians. Among
various uncivilized peoples, custom has established the claim to
the crop grown on a cleared plot of ground, though not to the
ground itself; and the Todas, who are wholly without political
organization, make a like distinction between ownership of cattle
and of land. Kolff's statement respecting "the peaceful Arafuras"
well sums up the evidence. They "recognize the right of property,
in the fullest sense of the word, without there being any [other]
authority among them than the decisions of their elders,
according to the customs of their forefathers."(22*) But even
without seeking proofs among the uncivilized, sufficient proofs
are furnished by early stages of the civilized. Bentham and his
followers seem to have forgotten that our own common law is
mainly an embodiment of "the customs of the realm." It did but
give definite shape to that which it found existing. Thus, the
fact and the fiction are exactly opposite to what they allege.
The fact is that property was well recognized before law existed;
the fiction is that "property is the creation of law."
    Considerations of another class might alone have led them to
pause had they duly considered their meanings. Were it true, as
alleged by Bentham, that Government fulfils its office "by
creating rights which it confers on individuals;" then, the
implication would be, that there should be nothing approaching to
uniformity in the rights conferred by different governments. In
the absence of a determining cause over-ruling their decisions,
the probabilities would be many to one against considerable
correspondence among their decisions. But there is very great
correspondence. Look where we may, we find that governments
interdict the same kinds of aggressions; and, by implication,
recognize the same kinds of claims. They habitually forbid
homicide, theft, adultery: thus asserting that citizens may not
be trespassed against in certain ways. And as society advances,
minor individual claims are protected by giving remedies for
breach of contract, libel, false witness, etc. In a word,
comparisons show that though codes of law differ in their details
as they become elaborated, they agree in their fundamentals. What
does this prove? It cannot be by chance that they thus agree.
They agree because the alleged creating of rights was nothing
else than giving formal sanction and better definition to those
assertions of claims and recognitions of claims which naturally
originate from the individual desires of men who have to live in
presence of one another. 
    Comparative Sociology discloses another group of facts having
the same implication. Along with social progress it becomes in an
increasing degree the business of the State, not only to give
formal sanction to men's rights, but also to defend them against
aggressors. Before permanent government exists, and in many cases
after it is considerably developed, the rights of each individual
are asserted and maintained by himself, or by his family. Alike
among savage tribes at present, among civilized peoples in the
past, and even now in unsettled parts of Europe, the punishment
for murder is a matter of private concern: "the sacred duty of
blood revenge" devolves on some one of a cluster of relatives.
Similarly, compensations for aggressions on property and for
injuries of other kinds, are in early states of society
independently sought by each man or family. But as social
organization advances, the central ruling power undertakes more
and more to secure to individuals their personal safety, the
safety of their possessions, and, to some extent, the enforcement
of their claims established by contract. Originally concerned
almost exclusively with defence of the society as a whole against
other societies, or with conducting its attack on other
societies, Government has come more and more to discharge the
function of defending individuals against one another. It needs
but to recall the days when men habitually carried weapons, or to
bear in mind the greater safety to person and property achieved
by improved police-administration during our own time, or to note
the increased facilities now given for recovering small debts, to
see that the insuring to each individual the unhindered pursuit
of the objects of life, within limits set by others' like
pursuits, is more and more recognized as a duty of the State. In
other words, along with social progress, there goes not only a
fuller recognition of these which we call natural rights, but
also a better enforcement of them by Government: Government
becomes more and more the servant to these essential
pre-requisites for individual welfare. 
    An allied and still more significant change has accompanied
this. In early stages, at the same time that the State failed to
protect the individual against aggression, it was itself an
aggressor in multitudinous ways. Those ancient societies which
progressed enough to leave records, having all been conquering
societies, show us everywhere the traits of the militant regime.
As, for the effectual organization of fighting bodies, the
soldiers, absolutely obedient, must act independently only when
commanded to do it; so, for the effectual organization of
fighting societies, citizens must have their individualities
subordinated. Private claims are over-ridden by public claims;
and the subject loses much of his freedom of action. One result
is that the system of regimentation, pervading the society as
well as the army, causes detailed regulation of conduct. The
dictates of the ruler, sanctified by ascription of them to his
divine ancestor, are unrestrained by any conception of individual
liberty; and they specify men's actions to an unlimited extent --
down to kinds of food eaten, modes of preparing them, shaping of
beards, fringing of dresses, sowing of grain, etc. This
omnipresent control, which the ancient Eastern nations in general
exhibited, was exhibited also in large measure by the Greeks; and
was carried to its greatest pitch in the most militant city,
Sparta. Similarly during medieval days throughout Europe,
characterized by chronic warfare with its appropriate political
forms and ideas, there were scarcely any bounds to Governmental
interference: agriculture, manufactures, trade, were regulated in
detail; religious beliefs and observances were imposed; and
rulers said by whom alone furs might be worn, silver used, books
issued, pigeons kept, etc. etc. But along with increase of
industrial activities, and implied substitution of the regime of
contract for the regime of status, and growth of associated
sentiments, there went (until the recent reaction accompanying
reversion to militant activity) a decrease of meddling with
people's doings. Legislation gradually ceased to regulate the
cropping of fields, or dictate the ratio of cattle to acreage, or
specify modes of manufacture and materials to be used, or fix
wages and prices, or interfere with dresses and games (except
where there was gambling), or put bounties and penalties on
imports or exports, or prescribe men's beliefs, religious or
political, or prevent them from combining as they pleased, or
travelling where they liked. That is to say, throughout a large
range of conduct, the right of the citizen to uncontrolled action
has been made good against the pretensions of the State to
control him. While the ruling agency has increasingly helped him
to exclude intruders from that private sphere in which he pursues
the objects of life, it has itself retreated from that sphere;
or, in other words -- decreased its intrusions. 
    Not even yet have we noted all the classes of facts which
tell the same story. It is told afresh in the improvements and
reforms of law itself; as well as in the admissions and
assertions of those who have effected them. "So early as the
fifteenth century," says Professor Pollock, "we find a common-law
judge declaring that, as in a case unprovided for by known rules
the civilians and canonists devise a new rule according to 'the
law of nature which is the ground of all laws,' the Courts of
Westminster can and will do the like."(23*) Again, our system of
Equity, introduced and developed as it was to make up for the
shortcomings of Common-law, or rectify its inequities, proceeded
throughout on a recognition of men's claims considered as
existing apart from legal warrant. And the changes of law now
from time to time made after resistance, are similarly made in
pursuance of current ideas concerning the requirements of
justice: ideas which, instead of being derived from the law, are
opposed to the law. For example, that recent Act which gives to a
married woman a right of property in her own earnings, evidently
originated in the consciousness that the natural connexion
between labour expended and benefit enjoyed, is one which should
be maintained in all cases. The reformed law did not create the
right, but recognition of the right created the reformed law. 
    Thus, historical evidences of five different kinds unite in
teaching that, confused as are the popular notions concerning
rights, and including, as they do, a great deal which should be
excluded, yet they shadow forth a truth. 
    It remains now to consider the original source of this truth.
In a previous paper I have spoken of the open secret, that there
can be no social phenomena but what, if we analyse them to the
bottom, bring us down to the laws of life; and that there can be
no true understanding of them without reference to the laws of
life. Let us, then, transfer this question of natural rights from
the court of politics to the court of science -- the science of
life. The reader need feel no alarm: its simplest and most
obvious facts will suffice. We will contemplate first the general
conditions to individual life; and then the general conditions to
social life. We shall find that both yield the same verdict. 

Animal life involves waste; waste must be met by repair; repair
implies nutrition. Again, nutrition presupposes obtainment of
food; food cannot be got without powers of prehension, and,
usually, of locomotion; and that these powers may achieve their
ends, there must be freedom to move about. If you shut up a
mammal in a small space, or tie its limbs together, or take from
it the food it has procured, you eventually, by persistence in
one or other of these courses, cause its death. Passing a certain
point, hindrance to the fulfilment of these requirements is
fatal. And all this, which holds of the higher animals at large,
of course holds of man. 
    If we adopt pessimism as a creed, and with it accept the
implication that life in general being an evil should be put an
end to, then there is no ethical warrant for these actions by
which life is maintained: the whole question drops. But if we
adopt either the optimist view or the meliorist view -- if we say
that life on the whole brings more pleasure than pain; or that it
is on the way to become such that it will yield more pleasure
than pain; then these actions by which life is maintained are
justified, and there results a warrant for the freedom to perform
them. Those who hold that life is valuable, hold, by implication,
that men ought not to be prevented from caring on life-sustaining
activities. In other words, if it is said to be "right" that they
should carry them on, then, by permutation, we get the assertion
that they "have a right" to carry them on. Clearly the conception
of "natural rights" originates in recognition of the truth that
if life is justifiable, there must be a justification for the
performance of acts essential to its preservation; and,
therefore, a justification for those liberties and claims which
make such acts possible. 
    But being true of other creatures as of man, this is a
proposition lacking ethical character. Ethical character arises
only with the distinction between what the individual may do in
caring on his life-sustaining activities, and what he may not do.
This distinction obviously results from the presence of his
fellows. Among those who are in close proximity, or even at some
distance apart, the doings of each are apt to interfere with the
doings of others; and in the absence of proof that some may do
what they will without limit, while others may not, mutual
limitation is necessitated. The non-ethical form of the right to
pursue ends, passes into the ethical form, when there is
recognized the difference between acts which can be performed
without transgressing the limits, and others which cannot be so
    This, which is the a priori conclusion, is the conclusion
yielded a posteriori, when we study the doings of the
uncivilized. In its vaguest form, mutual limitation of spheres of
action, and the ideas and sentiments associated with it, are seen
in the relations of groups to one another. Habitually there come
to be established, certain bounds to the territories within which
each tribe obtains its livelihood; and these bounds, when not
respected, are defended. Among the Wood-Veddahs, who have no
political organization, the small clans have their respective
portions of forest; and "these conventional allotments are always
honourably recognized."(24*) Of the ungoverned tribes of
Tasmania, we are told that "their hunting grounds were all
determined, and trespassers were liable to attack."(25*) And,
manifestly, the quarrels caused among tribes by intrusions on one
another's territories, tend, in the long run, to fix bounds and
to give a certain sanction to them. As with each inhabited area,
so with each inhabiting group. A death in one, rightly or wrongly
ascribed to somebody in another, prompts "the sacred duty of
blood-revenge;" and though retaliations are thus made chronic,
some restraint is put on new aggressions. Like causes worked like
effects in those early stages of civilized societies, during
which families or clans, rather than individuals, were the
political units; and during which each family or clan had to
maintain itself and its possessions against others such. This
mutual restraint, which in the nature of things arises between
small communities, similarly arises between individuals in each
community; and the ideas and usages appropriate to the one are
more or less appropriate to the other. Though within each group
there is ever a tendency for the stronger to aggress on the
weaker; yet, in most cases, consciousness of the evils resulting
from aggressive conduct serves to restrain. Everywhere among
primitive peoples, trespasses are followed by counter-trespasses.
Says Turner of the Tannese, "adultery and some other crimes are
kept in check by the fear of club-law."(26*) Fitzroy tells us
that the Patagonian, "if he does not injure or offend his
neighbour, is not interfered with by others:"(27*) personal
vengeance being the penalty for injury. We read of the Uaupes
that "they have very little law of any kind; but what they have
is of strict retaliation, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a
tooth."(28*) And that the lex talionis tends to establish a
distinction between what each member of the community may safely
do and what he may not safely do, and consequently to give
sanctions to actions within a certain range but not beyond that
range, is obvious. Though, says Schoolcraft of the Chippewayans,
they "have no regular government, as every man is lord in his own
family, they are influenced more or less by certain principles
which conduce to their general benefit:"(29*) one of the
principles named being recognition of private property. 
    How mutual limitation of activities originates the ideas and
sentiments implied by the phrase "natural rights," we are shown
most distinctly by the few peaceful tribes which have either
nominal governments or none at all. Beyond those facts which
illustrate scrupulous regard for one another's claims among the
Todas, Santals, Lepchas, Bodo, Chakmas, Jakuns, Arafuras, etc.,
we have the fact that the utterly uncivilized Wood-Veddahs,
without any social organization at all, "think it perfectly
inconceivable that any person should ever take that which does
not belong to him, or strike his fellow, or say anything that is
untrue."(30*) Thus it becomes clear, alike from analysis of
causes and observation of facts, that while the positive element
in the right to carry on life-sustaining activities, originates
from the laws of life, that negative element which gives ethical
character to it, originates from the conditions produced by
social aggregation. 
    So alien to the truth, indeed, is the alleged creation of
rights by government, that, contrariwise, rights having been
established more or less clearly before government arises, become
obscured as government develops along with that militant activity
which, both by the taking of slaves and the establishment of
ranks, produces status; and the recognition of rights begins
again to get definiteness only as fast as militancy ceases to be
chronic and governmental power declines. 

When we turn from the life of the individual to the life of the
society, the same lesson is taught us. 
    Though mere love of companionship prompts primitive men to
live in groups, yet the chief prompter is experience of the
advantages to be derived from co-operation. On what condition
only can co-operation arise? Evidently on condition that those
who join their efforts severally gain by doing so. If, as in the
simplest cases, they unite to achieve something which each by
himself cannot achieve, or can achieve less readily, it must be
on the tacit understanding, either that they shall share the
benefit (as when game is caught by a party of them) or that if
one reaps all the benefit now (as in building a hut or clearing a
plot) the others shall severally reap equivalent benefits in
their turns. When, instead of efforts joined in doing the same
thing, different things are effected by them -- when division of
labour arises, with accompanying barter of products, the
arrangement implies that each, in return for something which he
has in superfluous quantity, gets an approximate equivalent of
something which he wants. If he hands over the one and does not
get the other, future proposals to exchange will meet with no
response. There will be a reversion to that rudest condition in
which each makes everything for himself. Hence the possibility of
co-operation depends on fulfilment of contract, tacit or overt. 
    Now this which we see must hold of the very first step
towards that industrial organization by which the life of a
society is maintained, must hold more or less fully throughout
its development. Though the militant type of organization, with
its system of status produced by chronic war, greatly obscures
these relations of contract, yet they remain partially in force.
They still hold between freemen, and between the heads of those
small groups which form the units of early societies; and, in a
measure, they still hold within these small groups themselves;
since survival of them as groups, implies such recognition of the
claims of their members, even when slaves, that in return for
their labours they get sufficiencies of food, clothing, and
protection. And when, with diminution of warfare and growth of
trade, voluntary co-operation more and more replaces compulsory
co-operation, and the carrying on of social life by exchange
under agreement, partially suspended for a time, gradually
re-establishes itself; its re-establishment makes possible that
vast elaborate industrial organization by which a great nation is
    For in proportion as contracts are unhindered and the
performance of them certain, the growth is great and the social
life active. It is not now by one or other of two individuals who
contract, that the evil effects of breach of contract are
experienced. In an advanced society, they are experienced by
entire classes of producers and distributors, which have arisen
through division of labour; and, eventually, they are experienced
by everybody. Ask on what condition it is that Birmingham devotes
itself to manufacturing hardware, or part of Staffordshire to
making pottery, or Lancashire to weaving cotton. Ask how the
rural people who here grow wheat and there pasture cattle, find
it possible to occupy themselves in their special businesses.
These groups can severally thus act only if each gets from the
others in exchange for its own surplus product, due shares of
their surplus products. No longer directly effected by barter,
this obtainment of their respective shares of one another's
products is indirectly effected by money; and if we ask how each
division of producers gets its due amount of the required money,
the answer is -- by fulfilment of contract. If Leeds makes
woollens and does not, by fulfilment of contract, receive the
means of obtaining from agricultural districts the needful
quantity of food, it must starve, and stop producing woollens. If
South Wales smelts iron and there comes no equivalent agreed
upon, enabling it to get fabrics for clothing, its industry must
cease. And so throughout, in general and in detail. That mutual
dependence of parts which we see in social organization, as in
individual organization, is possible only on condition that while
each part does the particular kind of work it has become adjusted
to, it receives its proportion of those materials required for
repair and growth, which all the other parts have joined to
produce: such proportion being settled by bargaining. Moreover,
it is by fulfilment of contract that there is effected a
balancing of all the various products to the various needs -- the
large manufacture of knives and the small manufacture of lancets;
the great growth of wheat and the little growth of mustard-seed.
The check on undue production of each commodity, results from
finding that after a certain quantity, no one will agree to take
any further quantity on terms that yield an adequate money
equivalent. And so there is prevented a useless expenditure of
labour in producing that which society does not want. 
    Lastly, we have to note the still more significant fact that
the condition under which only any specialized group of workers
can grow when the community needs more of its particular kind of
work, is that contracts shall be free and fulfilment of them
enforced. If when, from lack of material, Lancashire failed to
supply the usual quantity of cotton-goods, there had been such
interference with contracts as prevented Yorkshire from asking a
greater price for its woollens, which it was enabled to do by the
greater demand for them, there would have been no temptation to
put more capital into the woollen manufacture, no increase in the
amount of machinery and number of artizans employed, and no
increase of woollens: the consequence being that the whole
community would have suffered from not having deficient cottons
replaced by extra woollens. What serious injury may result to a
nation if its members are hindered from contracting with one
another, was well shown in the contrast between England and
France in respect of railways. Here, though obstacles were at
first raised by classes predominant in the legislature, the
obstacles were not such as prevented capitalists from investing,
engineers from furnishing directive skill, or contractors from
undertaking works; and the high interest originally obtained on
investments, the great profits made by contractors, and the large
payments received by engineers, led to that drafting of money,
energy, and ability, into railway-making, which rapidly developed
our railway-system, to the enormous increase of our national
prosperity. But when M. Thiers, then Minister of Public Works,
came over to inspect, and having been taken about by Mr Vignoles,
said to him when leaving: "I do not think railways are suited to
France,"(31*) there resulted, from the consequent policy of
hindering free contract, a delay of "eight or ten years" in that
material progress which France experienced when railways were
    What do all these facts mean? They mean that for the
healthful activity and due proportioning of those industries,
occupations, professions, which maintain and aid the life of a
society, there must, in the first place, be few restrictions on
men's liberties to make agreements with one another, and there
must, in the second place, be an enforcement of the agreements
which they do make. As we have seen, the checks naturally arising
to each man's actions when men become associated, are those only
which result from mutual limitation; and there consequently can
be no resulting check to the contracts they voluntarily make:
interference with these is interference with those rights to free
action which remain to each when the rights of others are fully
recognized. And then, as we have seen, enforcement of their
rights implies enforcement of contracts made; since breach of
contract is indirect aggression. If, when a customer on one side
of the counter asks a shopkeeper on the other for a shilling's
worth of his goods, and, while the shopkeeper's back is turned,
walks off with the goods without leaving the shilling he tacitly
contracted to give, his act differs in no essential way from
robbery. In each such case the individual injured is deprived of
something he possessed, without receiving the equivalent
something bargained for; and is in the state of having expended
his labour without getting benefit -- has had an essential
condition to the maintenance of life infringed. 
    Thus, then, it results that to recognize and enforce the
rights of individuals, is at the same time to recognize and
enforce the conditions to a normal social life. There is one
vital requirement for both. 

Before turning to those corollaries which have practical
applications, let us observe how the special conclusions drawn
converge to the one general conclusion originally foreshadowed --
glancing at them in reversed order. 
    We have just found that the pre-requisite to individual life
is in a double sense the pre-requisite to social life. The life
of a society, in whichever of two senses conceived, depends on
maintenance of individual rights. If it is nothing more than the
sum of the lives of citizens, this implication is obvious. If it
consists of those many unlike activities which citizens carry on
in mutual dependence, still this aggregate impersonal life rises
or falls according as the rights of individuals are enforced or
    Study of men's politico-ethical ideas and sentiments, leads
to allied conclusions. Primitive peoples of various types show us
that before governments exist, memorial customs recognize private
claims and justify maintenance of them. Codes of law
independently evolved by different nations, agree in forbidding
certain trespasses on the persons, properties, and liberties of
citizens; and their correspondences imply, not an artificial
source for individual rights, but a natural source. Along with
social development, the formulating in law of the rights
pre-established by custom, becomes more definite and elaborate.
At the same time, Government undertakes to an increasing extent
the business of enforcing them. While it has been becoming a
better protector, Government has been becoming less aggressive
has more and more diminished its intrusions on men's spheres of
private action. And, lastly, as in past times laws were avowedly
modified to fit better with current ideas of equity; so now,
law-reformers are guided by ideas of equity which are not derived
from law but to which law has to conform. 
    Here, then, we have a politico-ethical theory justified alike
by analysis and by history. What have we against it? A
fashionable counter-theory which proves to be unjustifiable. On
the one hand, while we find that individual life and social life
both imply maintenance of the natural relation between efforts
and benefits; we also find that this natural relation, recognized
before Government existed, has been all along asserting and
re-asserting itself, and obtaining better recognition in codes of
law and systems of ethics. On the other hand, those who, denying
natural rights, commit themselves to the assertion that rights
are artificially created by law, are not only flatly contradicted
by facts, but their assertion is self-destructive: the endeavour
to substantiate it, when challenged, involves them in manifold
    Nor is this all. The re-institution of a vague popular
conception in a definite form on a scientific basis, leads us to
a rational view of the relation between the wills of majorities
and minorities. It turns out that those co-operations in which
all can voluntarily unite, and in the caring on of which the will
of the majority is rightly supreme, are co-operations for
maintaining the conditions requisite to individual and social
life. Defence of the society as a whole against eternal invaders,
has for its remote end to preserve each citizen in possession of
such means as he has for satisfying his desires, and in
possession of such liberty as he has for getting further means.
And defence of each citizen against internal invaders, from
murderers down to those who inflict nuisances on their
neighbours, has obviously the like end -- an end desired by every
one save the canal and disorderly. Hence it follows that for
maintenance of this vital principle, alike of individual life and
social life, subordination of minority to majority is legitimate;
as implying only such a trenching on the freedom and property of
each, as is requisite for the better protecting of his freedom
and property. At the same time it follows that such subordination
is not legitimate beyond this; since, implying as it does a
greater aggression upon the individual than is requisite for
protecting him, it involves a breach of the vital principle which
is to be maintained. 
Thus we come round again to the proposition that the assumed
divine right of parliaments, and the implied divine right of
majorities, are superstitions. While men have abandoned the old
theory respecting the source of State-authority, they have
retained a belief in that unlimited extent of State-authority
which rightly accompanied the old theory, but does not rightly
accompany the new one. Unrestricted power over subjects,
rationally ascribed to the ruling man when he was held to be a
deputy-god, is now ascribed to the ruling body, the
deputy-godhood of which nobody asserts. 
    Opponents will, possibly, contend that discussions about the
origin and limits of governmental authority are mere pedantries.
"Government," they may perhaps say, "is bound to use all the
means it has, or can get, for furthering the general happiness.
Its aim must be utility; and it is warranted in employing
whatever measures are needful for achieving useful ends. The
welfare of the people is the supreme law; and legislators are not
to be deterred from obeying that law by questions concerning the
source and range of their power." Is there really an escape here?
or may this opening be effectually closed? 
    The essential question raised is the truth of the utilitarian
theory as commonly held; and the answer here to be given is that,
as commonly held, it is not true. Alike by the statements of
utilitarian moralists, and by the acts of politicians knowingly
or unknowingly following their lead, it is implied that utility
is to be directly determined by simple inspection of the mediate
facts and estimation of probable results. Whereas, utilitarianism
as rightly understood, implies guidance by the general
conclusions which analysis of experience yields. "Good and bad
results cannot be accidental, but must be necessary consequences
of the constitution of things;" and it is "the business of Moral
Science to deduce, from the laws of life and the conditions of
existence, what kinds of action necessarily tend to produce
happiness, and what kinds to produce unhappiness."(32*) Current
utilitarian speculation, like current practical politics, shows
inadequate consciousness of natural causation. The habitual
thought is that, in the absence of some obvious impediment,
things can be done this way or that way; and no question is put
whether there is either agreement or conflict with the normal
working of things. 
    The foregoing discussions have, I think, shown that the
dictates of utility, and, consequently, the proper actions of
governments, are not to be settled by inspection of facts on the
surface, and acceptance of their prima facie meanings; but are to
be settled by reference to, and deduction from, fundamental
facts. The fundamental facts to which all rational judgments of
utility must go back, are the facts that life consists in, and is
maintained by, certain activities; and that among men in a
society, these activities, necessarily becoming mutually limited,
are to be carried on by each within the limits thence arising,
and not carried on beyond those limits: the maintenance of the
limits becoming, by consequence, the function of the agency which
regulates society. If each, having freedom to use his powers up
to the bounds fixed by the like freedom of others, obtains from
his fellow-men as much for his services as they find them worth
in comparison with the services of others -- if contracts
uniformly fulfilled bring to each the share thus determined, and
he is left secure in person and possessions to satisfy his wants
with the proceeds; then there is maintained the vital principle
alike of individual life and of social life. Further, there is
maintained the vital principle of social progress; inasmuch as,
under such conditions, the individuals of most worth will prosper
and multiply more than those of less worth. So that utility, not
as empirically estimated but as rationally determined, enjoins
this maintenance of individual rights; and, by implication,
negatives any course which traverses them. 
    Here, then, we reach the ultimate interdict against meddling
legislation. Reduced to its lowest terms, every proposal to
interfere with citizens' activities further than by enforcing
their mutual limitations, is a proposal to improve life by
breaking through the fundamental conditions to life. When some
are prevented from buying beer that others may be prevented from
getting drunk, those who make the law assume that more good than
evil will result from interference with the normal relation
between conduct and consequences, alike in the few ill-regulated
and the many well-regulated. A government which takes fractions
of the incomes of multitudinous people, for the purpose of
sending to the colonies some who have not prospered here, or for
building better industrial dwellings, or for making public
libraries and public museums, etc., takes for granted that, not
only proximately but ultimately, increased general happiness will
result from transgressing the essential requirement to general
happiness the requirement that each shall enjoy all those means
to happiness which his actions, carried on without aggression,
have brought him. In other cases we do not thus let the mediate
blind us to the remote. When asserting the sacredness of property
against private transgressors, we do not ask whether the benefit
to a hungry man who takes bread from a baker's shop, is or is not
greater than the injury inflicted on the baker: we consider, not
the special effects, but the general effects which arise if
property is insecure. But when the State exacts further amounts
from citizens, or further restrains their liberties, we consider
only the direct and proximate effects, and ignore the indirect
and distant effects which are caused when these invasions of
individual rights are continually multiplied. We do not see that
by accumulated small infractions of them, the vital conditions of
life, individual and social, come to be so imperfectly fulfilled
that the life decays. 
    Yet the decay thus caused becomes manifest where the policy
is pushed to an extreme. Any one who studies, in the writings of
MM. Taine and de Tocqueville, the state of things which preceded
the French Revolution, will see that the tremendous catastrophe
came about from so excessive a regulation of men's actions in all
their details, and such an enormous drafting away of the products
of their actions to maintain the regulating organization, that
life was fast becoming impracticable. The empirical
utilitarianism of that day, like the empirical utilitarianism of
our day, differed from rational utilitarianism in this, that in
each successive case it contemplated only the effects of
particular interferences on the actions of particular classes of
men, and ignored the effects produced by a multiplicity of such
interferences on the lives of men at large. And if we ask what
then made, and what now makes, this error possible, we find it to
be the political superstition that governmental power is subject
to no restraints. 
    When that "divinity" which "doth hedge a king," and which has
left a glamour around the body inheriting his power, has quite
died away -- when it begins to be seen clearly that, in a
popularly-governed nation, the government is simply a committee
of management; it will also be seen that this committee of
management has no intrinsic authority. The inevitable conclusion
will be that its authority is given by those appointing it; and
has just such bounds as they choose to impose. Along with this
will go the further conclusion that the laws it passes are not in
themselves sacred; but that whatever sacredness they have, it is
entirely due to the ethical sanction -- an ethical sanction
which, as we find, is derivable from the laws of human life as
carried on under social conditions. And there will come the
corollary that when they have not this ethical sanction they have
no sacredness, and may rightly be challenged. 
    The function of Liberalism in the past was that of putting a
limit to the powers of kings. The function of true Liberalism in
the future will be that of putting a limit to the powers of


1. Hobbes, Collected Works, Vol. iii, pp. 112-3.

2. Ibid., p. 159.

3. Ibid., p. 130-1.

4. The Province of Jurisprudence Determined (second edition), p.

5. Fortnightly Review in 1880, vol. xxvii, p. 322.

6. Bentham's Works, vol. 1, p. 301.

7. Prescott, Conquest of Peru, bk. i., ch. i.

8. Harris, Highland of Aethiopia, ii. 94.

9. Burton, Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome, i. p. 226.

10. Bentham's Works, vol. ix, p. 97.

11. Burchell, W.J., Travels in the Interior of Southern Africa,
vol. i, p. 544.

12. Arbousset and Daumas, Voyage of Exploration, p. 27.

13. Thompson, G., Travels and Adventures in Southern Africa, vol.
ii, p. 30.

14. Thompson, G.A., Alcedo's Geographical and Historical
Dictionary of America, vol. i, p. 405.

15. Mitchell, Alex., Siberian Overland Route, p. 248.

16. Brooke, C., Ten Years in Sardwak, vol. i, p. 129.

17. Ellis, History of Madagascar, vol. i, 377.

18. Raffles, Sir T.S., History of Java, vol. i, 274.

19. Marsden, W., History of Sumatra, p. 217.

20. Beecham, J., Ashante and the Gold Coast, p. 90.

21. Schoolcraft, H.R., Expedition to the Sources of the
Mississippi River, v., 177.

22. Earl's Kolff's Voyage of the Domga, p. 161.

23. "The Methods of Jurisprudence: an Introductory Lecture at
University College, London," October 31, 1882.

24. Tennant, Ceylon: an Account of the Island, etc., ii, 440.

25. Bonwick, J., Daily Life and the Origin of the Tasmanians, 83.

26. Polynesia, p. 86.

27. Voyages of the Adventure and Beagle, 3 vols.

28. Wallace, A.R., Travels on Amazon and Rio Negro, p. 499.

29. Schoolcraft, Expedition to the Source of the Mississippi, v.,

30. B.F. Hartshorne, Fortnightly Review, March, 1876. See also
H.C. Sirr, Ceylon and the Ceyonese, ii. 219.

31. Address of C.B. Vignoles, Esq., F.R.S., on his Election as
President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Session,
1869-70, p. 53.

32. Data of Ethics, section 21. See also sections 56-62.


    "Do I expect this doctrine to meet with any considerable
acceptance?" I wish I could say, yes; but unhappily various
reasons oblige me to conclude that only here and there a solitary
citizen may have his political creed modified. Of these reasons
there is one from which all the others originate. 
    This essential reason is that the restriction of governmental
power within the limits assigned, is appropriate to the
industrial type of society only; and, while wholly incongruous
with the militant type of society, is partially incongruous with
that semi-militant semi-industrial type, which now characterizes
advanced nations. At every stage of social evolution there must
exist substantial agreement between practices and beliefs -- real
beliefs I mean, not nominal ones. Life can be carried on only by
the harmonizing of thoughts and acts. Either the conduct required
by circumstances must modify the beliefs to fit it; or else the
changed beliefs must eventually modify the conduct. 
    Hence if the maintenance of social life under one set of
conditions, necessitates extreme subordination to a ruler and
entire faith in him, there will be established a theory that the
subordination and the faith are proper -- nay imperative.
Conversely if, under other conditions, great subjection of
citizens to government is no longer needful for preservation of
the national life -- if, contrariwise, the national life becomes
larger in amount and higher in quality as fast as citizens gain
increased freedom of action; there comes a progressive
modification of their political theory, having the result of
diminishing their faith in governmental action, increasing their
tendency to question governmental authority, and leading them in
more numerous cases to resist governmental power: involving,
eventually, an established doctrine of limitation. 
    Thus it is not to be expected that current opinion respecting
governmental authority, can at present be modified to any great
extent. But let us look at the necessities of the case more

Manifestly the success of an army depends very much on the faith
of the soldiers in their general: disbelief in his ability will
go far towards paralysing them in battle; while absolute
confidence in him will make them fulfil their respective parts
with courage and energy. If, as in the normally-developed
militant type of society, the ruler in peace and the leader in
war are one and the same, this confidence in him extends from
military action to civil action; and the society, in large
measure identical with the army, willingly accepts his judgments
as law-giver. Even where the civil head, ceasing to be the
military head, does his generalship by deputy, there still clings
to him the traditional faith. 
    Similarly with the willingness to obey. Other things equal an
army of insubordinate soldiers fails before an army of
subordinate soldiers. Those whose obedience to their leader is
perfect and prompt, are obviously more likely to succeed in
battle than are those who disregard the commands issued to them.
And as with the army so with the society as a whole; success in
war must largely depend on that conformity to the ruler's will
which brings men and money when wanted, and adjusts all conduct
to his needs. 
    Thus by survival of the fittest, the militant type of society
becomes characterized by profound faith in the governing power,
joined with a loyalty causing submission to it in all matters
whatever. And there must tend to be established among those who
speculate about political affairs in a militant society, a theory
giving form to the needful ideas and feelings; accompanied by
assertions that the law-giver if not divine in nature is divinely
directed, and that unlimited obedience to him is divinely
ordered.     Change in the ideas and feelings which thus become
characteristic of the militant form of organization, can take
place only where circumstances favour development of the
industrial form of organization. Being carried on by voluntary
co-operation instead of by compulsory co-operation, industrial
life as we now know it, habituates men to independent activities,
leads them to enforce their own claims while respecting the
claims of others, strengthens the consciousness of personal
rights, and prompts them to resist excesses of governmental
control. But since the circumstances which render war less
frequent arise but slowly, and since the modifications of nature
caused by the transition from a life predominantly militant to a
life predominantly industrial can therefore go on only little by
little, it happens that the old sentiments and ideas give place
to new ones, by small degrees only. And there are several reasons
why the transition not only is, but ought to be, gradual. Here
are some of them. 

In the primitive man and in man but little civilized, there does
not exist the nature required for extensive voluntary
co-operations. Efforts willingly united with those of others for
a common advantage, imply, if the undertaking is large, a
perseverance he does not possess. Moreover, where the benefits to
be achieved are distant and unfamiliar, as are many for which men
now-a-days combine, there needs a strength of constructive
imagination not to be found in the minds of the uncivilized. And
yet again, great combinations of a private kind for wholesale
production, for large enterprises, and for other purposes,
require a graduated subordination of the united workers -- a
graduated subordination such as that which militancy produces. In
other words, the way to the developed industrial type as we now
know it, is through the militant type; which, by discipline
generates in long ages the power of continuous application, the
willingness to act under direction (now no longer coercive but
agreed to under contract) and the habit of achieving large
results by organizations. 
    Consequently, during long stages of social evolution there
needs, for the management of all matters but the simplest, a
governmental power great in degree and wide in range, with a
correlative faith in it and obedience to it. Hence the fact that,
as the records of early civilizations show us, and as we are
shown in the East at present, large undertakings can be achieved
only by State-action. And hence the fact that only little by
little can voluntary co-operation replace compulsory
co-operation, and rightly bring about a correlative decrease of
faith in governmental ability and authority. 
    Chiefly, however, the maintenance of this faith is
necessitated by the maintenance of fitness for war. This involves
continuance of such confidence in the ruling agency, and such
subordination to it, as may enable it to wield all the forces of
the society on occasions of attack or defence; and there must
survive a political theory justifying the faith and the
obedience. While their sentiments and ideas are of kinds which
perpetually endanger peace, it is requisite that men should have
such belief in the authority of government as shall give it
adequate coercive power over them for war purposes -- a belief in
its authority which inevitably, at the same time, gives it
coercive power over them for other purposes. 

Thus, as said at first, the fundamental reason for not expecting
much acceptance of the doctrine set forth, is that we have at
present but partially emerged from the militant regime and have
but partially entered on that industrial regime to which this
doctrine is proper. 
    So long as the religion of enmity predominates over the
religion of amity, the current political superstition must hold
its ground. While throughout Europe, the early culture of the
ruling classes is one which every day of the week holds up for
admiration those who in ancient times achieved the greatest feats
in battle, and only on Sunday repeats the injunction to put up
the sword -- while these ruling classes are subject to a moral
discipline consisting of six-sevenths pagan example and
one-seventh Christian precept; there is no likelihood that there
will arise such international relations as may make a decline in
governmental power practicable, and a corresponding modification
of political theory acceptable. While among ourselves the
administration of colonial affairs is such that native tribes who
retaliate on Englishmen by whom they have been injured, are
punished, not on their own savage principle of life for life, but
on the improved civilized principle of wholesale massacre in
return for single murder, there is little chance that a political
doctrine consistent only with unaggressive conduct will gain
currency. While the creed men profess is so interpreted that one
of them who at home addresses missionary meetings, seeks, when
abroad, to foment a quarrel with an adjacent people whom he
wishes to subjugate, and then receives public honours after his
death, it is not likely that the relations of our society to
other societies will become such that there can spread to any
extent that doctrine of limited governmental functions
accompanying the diminished governmental authority proper to a
peaceful state. A nation which, interested in ecclesiastical
squabbles about the ceremonies of its humane cult, cares so
little about the essence of that cult that fillibustering in its
colonies receives applause rather than reprobation, and is not
denounced even by the priests of its religion of love, is a
nation which must continue to suffer from internal aggressions,
alike of individuals on one another and of the State on
individuals. It is impossible to unite the blessings of equity at
home with the commission of inequities abroad. 

Of course, there will arise the question -- Why, then, enunciate
and emphasize a theory at variance with the theory adapted to our
present state? 
    Beyond the general reply that it is the duty of every one who
regards a doctrine as true and important, to do what he can
towards diffusing it, leaving the result to be what it may be,
there are several more special replies, each of which is
    In the first place an ideal, far in advance of practicability
though it may be, is always needful for rightful guidance. If,
amid all those compromises which the circumstances of the times
necessitate, or are thought to necessitate, there exist no true
conceptions of better and worse in social organization -- if
nothing beyond the exigencies of the moment are attended to, and
the proximately best is habitually identified with the ultimately
best; there cannot be any true progress. However distant may be
the goal, and however often intervening obstacles may necessitate
deviation in our course towards it, it is obviously requisite to
know whereabouts it lies. 
    Again, while something like the present degree of subjection
of the individual to the State, and something like the current
political theory adapted to it, may remain needful in presence of
existing international relations; it is by no means needful that
this subjection should be made greater and the adapted theory
strengthened. In our days of active philanthropy, hosts of people
eager to achieve benefits for their less fortunate fellows by the
shortest methods, are busily occupied in developing
administrative arrangements of a kind proper to a lower type of
society -- are bringing about retrogression while aiming at
progression. The normal difficulties in the way of advance are
sufficiently great, and it is lamentable that they should be made
greater. Hence, something well worth doing may be done, if
philanthropists can be shown that they are in many cases insuring
the future ill-being of men while eagerly pursuing their present
    Chiefly, however, it is important to impress on all the great
truth, at present but little recognized, that a society's
internal and eternal policies are so bound together, that there
cannot be an essential improvement of the one without an
essential improvement of the other. A higher standard of
international justice must be habitually acted upon, before there
can be conformity to a higher standard of justice in our national
arrangements. The conviction that a dependence of this kind
exists, could it be diffused among civilized peoples, would
greatly check aggressive behaviour towards one another; and, by
doing this, would diminish the coerciveness of their governmental
systems while appropriately changing their political theories.