Liberty and Liberalism
By Bruce Smith
Biographical Remarks on Arthur Bruce Smith (1851-1937)
by David M. HartBruce Smith was an Australian Barrister (a lawyer who is qualified to argue before a judge) and a Member of the Parliament of New South Wales when it was still a self-governing colony before it became one of the states in the federal Commonwealth of Australia (1901). He also went on to have a parliamentary career after Federation. I first came across Smith’s name while doing research on 19th century French free trade thought in the Mitchell Library (the State Library of NSW). One of the issues that had made the debates over Federalism so bitter in Australia was the fact that the state of New South Wales (capital of Sydney) was very pro-free trade, while the state of Victoria (capital city Melbourne) was very protectionist. Unfortunately for Australian economic history, the new Federal government adopted Victorian-style protectionism and free-trading NSW had to abandon its position if it wished to join the Federation. Thus for nearly 75 years, until deregulation became government policy again in the 1970s, Australia was a strongly protectionist nation. However, as a result of NSW’s strong 19th century free trade tradition the State Library had a very impressive collection of free trade writings in both the English and French languages, hence my interest in their holdings. It was while doing research on
Gustave de Molinari and other French classical liberals that I came across Smith’s book “Liberty and Liberalism”. Upon closer examination I realised that Smith was one of the very few (perhaps the only one) Spencerite liberals in the Australian colonies. As he says in his introduction, while doing research for this book he came across the writings of the English “Liberty and Property Defence League” which was a group of radical individualists and free traders who had among their members
Thomas Mackay and Auberon Herbert (whose books we have online at Econlib). Although he was not a member of the League, their guiding spirit was
Herbert Spencer. Smith came to share many of their ideas as the book will show. We present it online as part of our ongoing series of critiques of socialist thought.
David M. Hart
May 3, 2004
First Pub. Date
London: Longmans, Green, and Co.
The text of this edition is in the public domain.
UNDUE INTERFERENCE BY THE STATE, WITH
INDIVIDUAL LIBERTY, PRIVATE ENTERPRISE
AND THE RIGHTS OF PROPERTY
OF THE INNER TEMPLE, BARRISTER-AT-LAW
FORMERLY MEMBER OF THE PARLIAMENT OF NEW SOUTH WALES
“The English themselves, having their eyes open, as I may say, upon their liberty, from their first entrance into life, are perhaps too much familiarised with its enjoyment to enquire
with real concern into its causes”
The Constitution of England)
who have and
who hold to that foundation of
common liberty, we consider as
the true, and the only true, Englishmen. Those who depart from it…are attainted, corrupted in blood, and wholly fallen from their original rank and value. They are the
real rebels to the fair constitution and just supremacy of England“
Address to the British Colonists of North America)
LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
AND NEW YORK: 15 EAST 16th STREET
“It is of the utmost importance that all reflecting persons should take into early consideration what these popular political creeds are likely to be, and that every single article of them should be brought under the fullest light of investigation and discussion; so that, if possible, when the time shall be ripe, whatever is right in them may be adopted, and what is wrong rejected, by general consent; and that, instead of a hostile conflict, physical or only moral, between the old and the new, the best parts of both may be combined in a renovated social fabric.”
(“Chapters on Socialism”).