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.
“Not only in politics, but in literature, in art, in science, in surgery and mechanics, in navigation and agriculture, nay, even in mathematics, we find this distinction. Everywhere there is a class of men who cling with fondness to whatever is ancient, and who, even when convinced by overpowering reasons that innovation would be beneficial, consent to it with many misgivings and forebodings. We find, also, everywhere, another class of men, sanguine in hope, bold in speculation, always pressing forward, quick to discern the imperfections of whatever exists, disposed to think lightly of the risks and inconveniences which attend improvements, and disposed to give every change credit for being an improvement. In the sentiments of both classes there is something to approve. But of both, the best will be found not far from the common frontier. The extreme section of one class consists of bigoted dotards—the extreme section of the other consists of shallow and reckless empirics.”—MACAULAY.
“A body of members anxious to preserve, and a body eager to reform.”—MACAULAY.
IT has been well said that “At no time in the history of any nation have men not been banded together to attain certain ends. The patriarchal chief may be tyrannous or madly cruel—a party of his clan join together to check or depose him. Here, in its simplest form, is foreshadowed the resistance to royal prerogative, of Magna Charta, the Bill of Rights, the battles of parliament with the Crown, resulting in the death of Charles, the exclusion of James, and the inauguration of the present era.”
The history of Great Britain, during the last eight centuries is, in fact, the history of the political parties which have from time to time struggled for supremacy in her government; and it may be safely said, that during no period, since the Norman Conquest, has there been wanting a wholesome difference of opinion as to the fundamental principles, according to which such government should be conducted. The growth, or, as it has been called, the “expansion” of Great Britain, in the development of her many prosperous colonies, has, in many, if not most cases
been accompanied by the local adoption in those colonies of the same political party-titles which have served in the older community, and that adoption has frequently produced extraordinary results in shaping the forms of government and the legislation itself of the younger communities. The history and meaning of such terms should therefore be a subject of considerable interest to all English-speaking people.
Of all the political party-titles which have, at different epochs, been used to designate and classify groups of men, bound together over some important common cause, or widely-recognised principle, there are not many which historians have considered of sufficient importance to entitle them to either permanent record, or lengthy consideration.
I propose to deal in this chapter with the titles “Roundhead” and “Cavalier,” which originated in the seventeenth century, with those of “Tory” and “Whig,” which were afterwards substituted for them, and, finally, with the more modern terms, “Conservative,” “Liberal,” and “Radical,” as also with some of the expressions which are used now-a-days to designate various shades of the political creeds which the former are intended, or supposed, to indicate.
From the date of the Conquest (which seems a sufficiently remote epoch from which to commence any investigations for practical purposes) up to the year 1641—when Charles I. found it necessary to visit Scotland, with a view to pacify that kingdom, by consenting to relinquish certain plans of ecclesiastical reform—up to that time, history affords us no instances of the use of any political party-titles of consequence, that is to say, such as involved any great and important principle, affecting the well being of society.
I by no means intend to imply that during the period previous to that date (1641), embracing as it does, five centuries of England’s history, society was not agitated, and, from time to time, distinctly divided on questions of importance and even of magnitude to the whole English race. As a fact, that period witnessed some of the most severe and most memorable struggles for civil and religious liberty which have been recorded in our country’s history—including, indeed, those never-to-be-forgotten instances which culminated in the Charter of Henry I.; the Great Charter of King John; the establishment of parliament as a medium for the expression of the people’s wants—even the Reformation itself. One might even characterise that period (from the 11th to the 17th century) as the most important—so far as our liberties are concerned—in the whole of English history. Indeed Macaulay says, speaking of the 13th century, “sterile and obscure as is that portion of our annals, it is there that we must look for the
origin of our freedom, our prosperity and our glory. Then it was that the great English people was formed, that the national character began to exhibit those peculiarities which it has since retained; and that our forefathers became emphatically islanders—islanders not merely in geographical position, but in their politics, their feelings, and their manners. Then first appeared with distinctness that constitution which has ever since, through all changes, preserved its identity; that constitution of which all the other free constitutions in the world are copies, and which, in spite of some defects, deserves to be regarded as the best under which any society has ever yet existed, during many ages.”
Even at the time of which I am speaking, considerable progress had been made in the levelling up of classes, which was effected by reducing the power of the Sovereign and his nobility, and increasing the freedom of the masses.
Three centuries before, “there had been barons able to bid defiance to the sovereign, and peasants degraded to the level of the swine and oxen which they tended;” but now (in the 14th century) “the exorbitant power of the baron had been gradually reduced. The condition of the peasant had been gradually elevated. Between the aristocracy and the working people, had sprung up a middle class, agricultural and commercial. There was still, it may be, more inequality than is favourable to the happiness and virtue of our species, but no man was altogether above the restraints of law, and no man was altogether below its protection.
Thus it will be seen that much had been done during and even prior to the 14th century, towards the attainment of our civil liberties. Yet, as I have already said, over none of the gradual or spasmodic social movements, by which these altered conditions were secured, do there seem to have arisen any political party-titles which were widely adopted and rendered current as a means of implying the championship of some great principle of government. It was not, I repeat, until the year 1641 that any such party-titles came to be widely used.
From that year we must date “the corporate existence of the two great parties which have ever since alternately governed the country.” “In one sense” says Macaulay, “the distinction which then became obvious had already existed and always must exist; for it has its origin in diversity of temper, of understanding and of interest, which are found in all societies, and which will be found till the human mind ceases to be drawn in opposite directions by the charm of habit and the charm of novelty.”
“There can be no doubt,” says the same eloquent writer, “that in our very first parliaments might have been discerned a body of members anxious to preserve, and a body eager
to reform. But while the sessions of the legislature were short, these bodies did not take definite and permanent forms, array themselves under recognised leaders, or assume distinguishing names, badges, and war cries.
How these parties came into existence has thus been described: “In October 1641, when the parliament reassembled, after a short recess, two hostile parties, essentially the same with those which, under different names, have ever since contended, and are still contending for the direction of public affairs, appeared confronting each other. During some years they were designated “Cavaliers” and “Roundheads”: They were subsequently called “Whigs” and “Tories.”
*12 These particular party-titles served as terms of classification during many political struggles, but there is, as I shall show, traceable, throughout the whole period during which they were in constant use, one main principle, which was never lost sight of until our own day.
“No doubt” says a specialist, “in dealing with the question of parties, the various phases of these struggles were infinitely intricate, and complicated throughout, by personal interest and questions of the day, which interfere with our vision of their general drift; but, taking a view over these centuries, from the vantage ground we have reached, we see that, in the main, the battle was being fought of
freedom of thought, civil and religious, against the dynastic and
despotic in politics, and the saterdotal and mysterious in religion.”
*13 The origin of the former of these terms “Cavalier” and “Roundhead” is sufficiently explained by Hume. Writing of the disordered and disturbed state of affairs which existed in 1641 between the Commons, the Lords, and the King, over questions of parliamentary privilege, he says, with reference to one particular collision between the royalists
and the popular party; “Several reduced officers and young gentlemen of the Inns of court, during the time of disorder and danger, offered their services
to the King. Between them and
the populace there passed frequent skirmishes which ended not without bloodshed. By way of reproach, these gentlemen gave the rabble the appellation of “Roundheads,” on account of the short cropped hair which they wore; these called the others “Cavaliers”: and thus the nation, which was before sufficiently provided with religions as well as civil causes of quarrels, was also supplied with party names, under which the factions might rendezvous and signalise their mutual hatred.”
At this time, a bill was introduced into the Commons, the object of which was to enable soldiers to be pressed into the service of Ireland. The bill quickly passed the Lower House. “In the preamble, the King’s power of pressing—a power exercised during all former times—was declared illegal, and
contrary to the liberty of the subject.”
*15 Here was a most distinct resuscitation of the same sacred principle, which had underlain such great movements as Magna Charta, centuries before—a principle unmistakable in its aim, and susceptible of only one interpretation. It was, in fact, a distinct challenge on the part of the people, by which the principle of “equal rights” was again demanded recognition: a protest, in short, against the assumed power of the monarch to interfere with the individual liberty of his subjects.
The fate of the measure in question is interesting and worth mentioning. “In order to elude this law the King offered to raise 10,000 volunteers for the Irish service, but the Commons were afraid lest such an army should be too much at his devotion. Charles, still unwilling to submit to so considerable a diminution of power, came to the House of Peers and offered to pass the law
without the preambleby which means, he said, that ill-timed question, with regard to the prerogative, would, for the present, be avoided, and the pretensions of each party left entire. Both Houses were plunged into conflict over this measure…. The Lords, as well as the Commons, passed a vote, declaring it to be a high breach of privilege, for the King to take notice of any bill, which was in agitation in either of the Houses, or to express his sentiments, regarding it, before it be presented to him for his assent in a Parliamentary manner.”
*16 The confidence of the Commons now rose to a great height. They ventured to tell the Lords, in the most open manner, “that they themselves were the representative body of
the whole kingdom, and that the peers were nothing but individuals who held their seats in a particular capacity; and, therefore, if their lordships will not consent to the passing of acts
necessary for the preservation of the people, the Commons, together with such of the Lords as are more sensible of the danger, must join together and represent the matter to his Majesty.”
*17 Notwithstanding the threatening action of the Commons in this matter, “the majority of the Lords adhered to the King, and plainly forsaw the depression of nobility as a necessary consequence of popular usurpations on the Crown.”
*18 “The King,” adds Hume, “was obliged to compose all matters by an apology.”
It is probable, therefore, that the real reason for these two party-names having outlived the particular quarrel over which they originated, is to be found in the fact that they at once crystalised certain popular sentiments of freedom and liberalism, which were rife in those troubled times, during which they served so conspicuously. Such sentiments were then probably ever present among the people, who frequently found it necessary to revive the memory of earlier
struggles for the same principles. That these were the sentiments of the contending parties, who were afterwards known by the above-mentioned names, there can be little doubt. Macaulay, speaking of them, and their respective principles, says, “If in her (England’s) institutions,
freedom and order, the advantages arising from innovation, and the advantages arising from prescription, have been combined to an extent elsewhere unknown, we may attribute this happy peculiarity to the strenuous conflicts and alternate victories of two rival confederacies of statesmen: a confederacy zealous for
authority and antiquity, and a confederacy zealous for
liberty and progress…. Twice in the course of the seventeenth century,” he adds, “the two parties suspended their dissensions, and united their strength in the common cause. Their first coalition restored hereditary monarchy. Their second coalition rescued
*19 And again, the same writer, summing up the arguments of these two contending parties, credits the “Cavaliers” with the following sentiments:—”Hence-forth, it will be our wisdom to look with jealousy on schemes of innovation, and to guard, from encroachment, all the prerogatives with which the law has, for the public good, armed the Sovereign.” Regarding the “Roundheads,” on the other hand, they contended thus, “If once the check of fear were withdrawn, if once the spur of opposition were suffered to slumber, all the securities for English
freedom resolved themselves into a single one—the Royal word; and it had been proved by a long and severe experience that the Royal word could not be trusted.”
Elsewhere, speaking of the character of a famous states-man of the times, Macaulay says, “He was, by hereditary connection a Cavalier; but with the Cavaliers he had nothing in common.
They were zealous for
condemned in theory all resistance.”
From the foregoing quotations and authorities, it must, I think, be sufficiently evident that the respective parties, concerning which I have been speaking, derived their political inspiration and enthusiasm from the same principles which have since given life and vigour to the Whig and the Liberal, respectively, of subsequent times.
The author of “Phases of Party,” from which I have already quoted, says:—”The Cavaliers proved the starting-point or nucleus of what, in our own times, is still, by some, called the Tory party.
*21 And Macaulay himself, speaking of the Cavaliers and Roundheads, says, “They were subsequently called Whigs and Tories.”
Let us turn then to the latter terms, as coming next in order after those with which we have dealt; and further confirmation will be found of that, for which I am contending—viz., that the same spirit, the same sentiments, the same fundamental principles, in fact, which actuated the Roundheads, in the time of Charles, influenced the Whig party in later times.
The actual origin of the word “Whig” is not as clear as archæologists might wish, but it is sufficiently clear for my purpose. “The name of Whig,” says Hallam, “meaning sour milk, as is well known, is said to have originated in Scotland in 1648, and was given to those violent Covenanters who opposed the Duke of Hamilton’s invasion of England, in order to restore Charles I.”
*23 “The Whigs,” says another authority, “during the first half of the seventeenth century, had one object of paramount national importance, to which all their energies had to be devoted—the maintenance of the Protestant settlement and dynasty. On this hung our religious and political
*24 Macaulay, speaking of certain other political party-titles, with which we are not now concerned, says:—”These appellations soon became
obsolete, but at this time were first heard two nicknames, which, though originally given in insult, were soon assumed with pride; which are still in daily use, which have spread as widely as the English race, and which will last as long as the English literature. It is a curious circumstance that one of these nicknames was of Scotch, and the other of Irish origin. Both in Scotland, and in Ireland, misgovernment had called into existence bands of desperate men, whose ferocity was heightened by religious enthusiasm…. These zealots were most numerous among the rustics of the Western lowlands, who were vulgarly called “Whigs.” Thus the appellation of “Whig” was fastened on the Presbyterian zealots of Scotland, and was transferred to those English politicians, who showed a disposition to
oppose the Court, and to treat Protestant Nonconformists
with indulgence. The bogs of Ireland, at the same time, afforded a refuge to Popish outlaws, much resembling those, who were afterwards known as “Whiteboys.” These men were then called “Tories.”
*25 Hallam says much the same thing regarding the origin of the word. He speaks of it as “a nickname for some of the Wild Irish of Ulster.” The author of “Phases of Party” says it was “equivalent to the word
rapparee, used of the Wild Irish beyond the English pale.” Regarding the political application of the term, Macaulay says, further: “The title of Tory was given to Englishmen, who refused to concur, in excluding a Roman Catholic prince from the throne.”
Carlyle, in his “Cromwell’s Letters” mentions 1648 as the “first appearance of the Whig party on the page of history, called” he says, “the Whiggimore Raid,” while Hume, writing of 1680 says, “This year is remarkable for being the epoch of the well-known epithets Whig, and Tory, by which, and sometimes without any material difference, this island
has been so long divided. The Court party, he adds, “reproached their antagonists with their affinity to the fanatical Covenanters in Scotland, who were known by the name of Whigs; the Country party found a resemblance between the Courtiers and the Popish Banditti in Ireland, to whom the appellation of “Tory” was affixed, and, after this manner, these foolish terms of reproach came into public and general use.”
*27 “It was” says Hallam again, “in the year 1679 that the words Whig and Tory were first heard, in their application to English factions, and though as senseless as any cant terms that could be devised, they became instantly as familiar in use, as they have since continued. There were then questions in agitation, which rendered the distinction more broad and intelligible, than it has generally been in later times. One of these, and the most important was the Bill of Exclusion in which, as it was usually debated, the republican principle that all positive institutions of society are in order to the
general good, came into collision with that of
*28 “Then,” says the same writer, “were first ranged, against each other, the hosts of Whig and Tory, under their banners of
liberty, and loyalty.“
The same principles of individual liberty, on the one hand, and monarchical authority on the other, are observable throughout the history of these terms. A study of that history will prove that, with one or two temporary exceptions, which, indeed, prove the rule, the terms served to suggest the same principles, the same longings and aspirations for a state of society under which the “equal rights” and “equal opportunities” of all men should be fully recognised. Nor, is it difficult to understand, that such a contention should be urged with some warmth of feeling, by the least influential classes, who would, naturally, be disregarded by the more wealthy and better educated section of society, then possessing the balance of political
power. Such was, in fact, the case. Macaulay says, in dealing with the history of the seventeenth century:—”The gentry and clergy…were, indeed, with few exceptions, Tories. But the yeomen, the traders of the town, the peasants, and the citizens, were generally animated by the old Roundhead spirit.”
It has been often contended that these terms were frequently reversed, and, to such an extent, as to render it impossible to associate them with any well-defined principles; but this view is, as we shall, upon good authority, show hereafter, erroneous. Meanwhile, however, let us look further to history, or similar writings, for information concerning the meanings attached to these terms, as they were generally understood. The apparent exceptions can be dealt with afterwards. Macaulay says, in his essay on the “Earl of Chatham:”—”If,
rejecting all that is merely accidental, we look at the essential characteristics of the Whig and the Tory, we may consider each of them as the representative of a great principle, essential to the welfare of nations. One is, in an especial manner, the guardian of
liberty, and the other of
order. One is the moving power, and the other the steadying power of the State—one is the sail without which society would make no progress, the other the ballast, without which there would be small safety in a tempest.”
Elsewhere Macaulay says, “The Whig theory of government is that
kings exist for the people and not the
people for kings“.
*30 Hallam says that no clear understanding can be acquired of the political history of England, without distinguishing with some accuracy of definition, these two great parties.
*31 They differed, he says, mainly in this, “that to a Tory the constitution, inasmuch as it was the constitution, was an ultimate point, beyond which he never looked, and from which he thought it altogether impossible to
swerve; whereas a Whig deemed all forms of government subordinate to the
public good, and therefore liable to change, when they should choose to promote that object. The one (he continues) loved to descant on
liberty, and the
rights of mankind, the other on the mischiefs of sedition, and the
rights of kings.”
*32 The Tory was “hostile to the
liberty of the Press and to
freedom of enquiry, especially in religion; the latter their friend. The principle of the one was
amelioration; of the other
conservation.” The respective banners of the two parties, he says further, were those of ”
Hume says “A Tory may be defined, in a few words, to be a lover of
monarchy, though without abandoning liberty.” A Whig may be defined, he adds, as a “lover of
liberty, though without renouncing monarchy.”
Macaulay again says, in his “Essay on the History of the Revolution,” “It had always been the fundamental doctrine of that (the Whig) party, that power is a trust
for the people; that it is given to magistrates, not for their own, but for the public advantage.” And once more in the same essay he speaks of the same party as looking “with complacency on all speculations favourable to public
liberty, and with extreme aversion on all speculations favorable to
Hallam, too, in a note to his history (Chap xvi), speaks of a distinction having been drawn, in the reign of Queen Anne, between what were known as the “Old Whigs” and the “Modern Whigs;” but, he adds, that the distinction lay in the fact that the former professed “a
more steady attachment (than the latter) to the principles of
It will be observed that throughout these implied definitions, there is one word prominent above all others, and that which must be regarded as the watchword of the party,
I refer to the word “liberty.” Whether we take the definitions of the term “Roundhead” or the term “Whig,” we find the same word, and the same principle, underlying every action, and even every attempt at action, entered upon by the party, working as an organisation. There can therefore be no doubt, that as far as history is able to enlighten us on the subject, these parties were ever struggling to reach the goal of freedom of citizenship: liberty for the individual.
Let us revert now to the exceptions which have been mentioned as disturbing the continuous and uniform interpretation of the words “Whig” and “Tory.” That there have been some apparent exceptions to that uniformity of signification, there is no doubt; but they are only what we would call surface objections, that is to say exceptions which disappear upon a closer examination of the facts surrounding and underlying them. The true explanation concerning most of these exceptions is to be found in the fact that the Whig party were always
in advance of the Tories, in the demand for
By continuous efforts and successes, on the part of the Whigs, the Tory party, at different stages of history, became gradually less exclusive, and more liberal in their view of social questions. Having started from an attitude of absolute exclusiveness, at which time the demands of the Whig party were comparatively modest, it would naturally, and actually did happen, that the Tories came to view favourably a class of legislation which they had at one time resisted. Meanwhile the Whigs had become more pressing in their demands, and, step by step, the Tory party, as a whole, was forced to recognise principles and claims, which it had, at one time, strenuously opposed. By this means the policy of the Tory party, when viewed from a distance (as is the case in the reading of history), appears at one time to approve principles which the Whigs had, at a former period, been advocating.
This is in fact the case, as I shall show. Mr. Gladstone has lately defined the Tory policy to be “mistrust of the people, qualified by fear” a definition which, though extremely vague and unsatisfactory, nevertheless throws some light on this feature of my subject. The Tory party never had any
fixed standard. Their’s has always been the policy of the “brake,” retarding the progress of the Whigs. The mistrust of the people (to follow out Mr. Gladstone’s definition) would (if
unqualified) have prompted the Tory party to offer physical resistance to the Whig principles; but doubtless the “fear,” of which Mr. Gladstone speaks, has, throughout the struggles of these two parties, served always as a subject for reflection in cooler moments, and ultimately led to a gradual giving way to the Whig demands.
What then are these exceptions? I venture the opinion that they merely indicate the advancing steps which Whiggism has made in its struggles for liberty. What the Tories at one time resisted, at another time they approved—that would follow as a result of their gradually giving way to Whig demands. But no case can be quoted in which the Whigs, as a body, approved, at one time, that which they had, at another period, disapproved. Macaulay in his essay on “The Succession in Spain,” which constitutes a review of a history of that epoch, finds reason for again touching upon this subject of political party-titles. Lord Mahon, the author of that history, had said:—”I cannot but pause for a moment, to observe how much the course of a century has
inverted the meaning of our party nicknames—how much a modern Tory resembles a Whig of Queen Anne’s reign, and a Tory of Queen Anne’s reign a modern Whig.” Commenting upon these words, Macaulay says, “We grant one half of Lord Mahon’s proposition; from the other half we altogether dissent.We allow that a modern Tory resembles, in many things, a Whig of Queen Anne’s reign. It is natural
(he adds), that such should be the case. The worst things of one age often resemble the best things of another,” “The science of government” he continues, “is an experimental science, and, therefore, it is, like all other experimental sciences, a progressive science…. If Lord Mahon lives fifty years longer, we have no doubt that, as he now boasts of the resemblance which the Tories of our time bear to the Whigs of the Revolution, he will then boast of the resemblance borne by the Tories of 1882 to those immortal patriots, the Whigs of the Reform Bill.”
*35 “Society” he adds, “is constantly advancing in knowledge. The tail is now where the head was some generations ago. But the head and the tail still keep their distance…. In the same way, though a Tory may now be very much like a Whig of a hundred and twenty years ago, the Whig is as much in advance of the Tory as ever.” “Though, therefore,” he concludes, on that feature of his subject “we admit that a modern Tory bears some resemblance to a Whig of Queen Anne’s reign, we can by no means admit that a Tory of Queen Anne’s reign resembled a modern Whig.”
One very distinct instance there is, in which the Tory party were to be found strongly resisting the one institution of all others, which it has been the aim of the party, on all occasions, and under all other circumstances, to support, viz., the Crown; and, on the other hand, the Whigs were to be found as strenuously supporting that same institution. Here is a seeming inconsistency; but the inconsistency is only superficial. The period to which I refer is the half century or so, which followed the accession of the House of Hanover. “There can be no doubt,” says Macaulay, “that, as respected the practical questions, then pending, the Tory
was a reformer, and, indeed, an intemperate and indiscreet reformer; while the Whig was a Conservative, even to bigotry. Thus the successors of the old Cavaliers had turned demagogues: the successors of the old Roundheads had turned courtiers.
But it is now necessary to observe what were “the practical questions of the day,” as Macaulay calls them? The most prominent question, then at issue, was that of the Protestant dynasty. The Whig party was strenuously supporting it, while the Tory viewed it with the most intense animosity. At first there seems to be here an unmistakable contradiction in principle, but, as we have already said, the contradiction was only upon the surface. Both parties were, to use Macaulay’s words, “thrown into unnatural situations; and both, like animals transported to an incongenial climate, languished and degenerated.”
Macaulay, however, supplies elsewhere the following explanation of the situation. “The Whig conceived that he could not better serve the cause of
civil and religious freedom than by strenuously
supporting the Protestant dynasty.”
*37 Thus the support of an institution, ever previously distasteful, was made a means to the great end of Whiggism—viz.,
It may be added that the fact of any other “practical questions then pending,” receiving any other than genuine Whig treatment, is due to the circumstance, that, to use Macaulay’s words, “both parties were thrown into unnatural situations, and came, by degrees, to attach more importance to the means than to the end.” This, however, in a short time, rectified itself, so that the period of departure, even if it may be so regarded, was a mere “fly in the amber,” as affecting the fundamental principle of Whiggism. Indeed, Hallam, treating of that particular period, says, in confirmation of this conclusion, that, “In the conduct of this (Whig)
party, generally speaking,
we do not, I think, find any abandonment of the cause of liberty.”
Turning, now, to the more modern terms of political classification, it will, in the first place, be seen that their adoption, as party-titles, has been anything but spontaneous. It will be equally evident, on a closer study of their original application to men and measures, that they were used for the purpose of connoting the same principles, which had been implied in the respective terms which preceded them. The term “Liberal” will perhaps be found to be better adapted to the spirit of the times, in which it was first used, yet, nevertheless, to represent the same principle of individual freedom which was involved in its two predecessors “Roundhead” and “Whig.”
The term “Conservative” likewise, will be found to represent the same principle of resistance to the wave of popular government, the gradual but certain approach of which is observable throughout history. There is this difference, however, between the respective sets of terms, that whereas those, which have always represented the popular side (Roundhead, Whig, Liberal), have, from first to last, been associated with one particular principle of individual liberty, those which represented the more exclusive side (Cavalier, Tory, Conservative), have been alike in their meaning, only in their general tendency to
resist the growth of popular government. Towards what measures that resistance should be offered, has depended upon the epoch, at which it has been demanded by the people; for, as I have shown, the Conservative party has, at times, acquiesced in legislation to which the Tory party had offered resistance, and in like manner, the Tory party acquiesced in legislation which the old Cavalier party had opposed.
The one party has been ever reaching forwards, in the direction of the same goal—the other has always
consistently acted the part of the brake, giving way only when the force of public opinion was plainly incapable of resistance.
Before proceeding now to a closer consideration of the words “Liberal,” “Conservative” and “Radical,” let us in a few words trace, what I would term, their dove-tailing with those other terms which preceded them, in order to show when, and for what reason, they came into existence. As far as my present knowledge serves me, the word “Liberal” is much older, as a political term, than the word “Conservative.” The latter is said to have first “come into fashion” about the year 1837. The original use of the word, as describing a particular political party, is attributed to Mr. Wilson Croker, who had used it, some years before, in a
Quarterly Review article, in which he avowed his attachment to “what is called the Tory, but which,” he said, “might, with more propriety, be called the Conservative party.” During the general election for the year mentioned, Lord John Russell, in the course of a public utterance, twitted the Tory party with the new name, which was beginning to be used by themselves. “If,” said he, “that is the name that pleases them; if they say that the old distinction of Whig and Tory should no longer be kept up, I am ready, in opposition to their name of ‘Conservative,’ to take the name of ‘Reformer,’ and to stand by that opposition.”
*39 This, however, is not the first time at which the term was used in a political sense, for I find that Macaulay, in a speech upon reform, in 1831, that is six years before Mr. Croker’s article appeared, spoke of “a Liberal Government” making a “Conservative people.” Mr. Croker may, however, have been the first to advocate its definite adoption as a party-title.
The word “Liberal” does not seem to have had so definite and spontaneous an origin. I am not aware even
that the actual origin of the word, as a party-title, is anywhere mentioned, with any degree of definiteness, whether in works of modern history or in that class of literature which deals more particularly with party-names. It has been supposed, by some, to have been first used in the Corn Law times; by others in the year of the Reform Bill. Mr. Chambers in his short treatise on “Phases of Party” says: “The Liberal party may be said to have its rise as a technical section of the country from the time of the Reform Bill of 1832,”
*40 but I have found it used, and with a certain degree of familiarity as far back as the year 1820—in such a way, too, as to confirm and strengthen my contention that, just as the word “Whig” served as a substitute for its predecessor Roundhead, in signifying that class of politicians who were ever striving for more individual freedom in our social arrangements; so the word “Liberal” came gradually to take the place of the word “Whig” in the same behalf. “They mean” says Mr. Chambers, speaking of the Liberal party, “that body of men, who, whether originally Whigs or converts from the Conservative side…had all along advocated Liberal principles.” They, in mental tone, were little removed from the Whig party of the 17th and 18th centuries.
In the published collection of Lord Jeffrey’s contributions to the
Edinburgh Review, the following phrase is used, as a sort of page-heading, over one of the essays, entitled, “United States of America”—”
English Liberals, more abused than American.” The essay itself was published as far back as 1820, but the edition, in which it is collected, is of a much later date. The phrase, therefore, might not have occurred in the original publication.
In a later essay, however, originally published in 1826, and entitled “Middle and Extreme Parties,” the word “Liberal” is used more than once in the text itself, and, in
such a way as, not only to designate a class of political opinions, but also to show what the particular principles were, which such term signified and comprehended. Speaking of the party attitude of the
Review, in which the essay was then published, and, of which he himself was, at the time, editor, Lord Jeffrey says:—”It is but fair, however, before concluding, to state that, though we do occupy a position between the intolerant Tories and the thorough Reformers, we conceive that we are considerably nearer to the latter than to the former. In our principles, indeed, and the ends, at which we aim, we do not materially differ from what is
professed by the more sober among them; though we require more caution, more securities, more exceptions, more temper, and more time. That is the difference in our theories. In practice, we have no doubt, we shall all have time enough; for it is the lot of England, we have little doubt, to be ruled, in the main, by what will be called a Tory party, for as long a period as we can now look forward to, with any great distinctness—by a Tory party, however, restrained more and more in its propensities, by the growing influence of Whig principles, and the enlightened vigilance of that party, both in parliament and out of it; and now and then admonished by a temporary expulsion, of the necessity of a still greater conformity with the progress of
liberal opinions than could be spontaneously obtained.”
It is evident from this essay, as I shall by quotation show, that the two extreme parties then existing were the “Tories” on the one hand, and the “Radical Reformers” on the other. The “Whigs” stood between, and it is equally evident, that the Whigs were being looked to, to display that liberal moderation which constitutes true “Liberalism.” Speaking, for instance, of the prospects of parties, the same writer says:—”The thorough Reformers
never can be in power in this country, but by means of an actual revolution. The Whigs may, and occasionally will, without any disturbance to its peace.” The Whigs, he goes on to say, cannot approach the Radical Reformers, because of the “dangerous” and “unreasonable” nature of the latter’s principles, and their mode of asserting them. The Radical Reformers, on the other hand, can, he contends, come to the Whigs, because of the preference which the former must have for the principles and measures of the latter over those of the Tories.
“This accordingly,” he says, “will ultimately be the result, and is already, we have no doubt, in the course of accomplishment; and, taken along with the gradual abandonment of all that is offensive in Tory pretensions, and the silent adoption of most of the Whig principles, even by those who continue to disclaim the name, will effect almost all that sober lovers of their country can expect, for the
security of her liberties, and the final extinction of all extreme parties, in the
liberal moderation of Whiggism.”
*43 The latter words are significant as showing what I have already said, that the school of politics, which has now distinctly acquired the name “Liberalism” is “Whiggism” itself, or, as Jeffrey says, a “liberal moderation” of it.
Elsewhere, in the same essay from which I have quoted, Lord Jeffrey says:—”We are entitled to reckon that every one who is detached from the Tory or the Radical faction, will make a stage at least, or half-way house of Whiggism.” Again, “If there was no natural war between Democracy and Monarchy, no true ground of discord between Tories and Radical Reformers—we admit there would be no vocation for Whigs; for the true definition of that party, as matters now (1826) stand in England, is that it is a middle party, between the
two extremes of
high monarchial principles, on the one hand, and
extremely popular principles on
the other.” Again, the same authority speaks of “this middle party, which we take to be now represented by the old Constitutional Whigs of 1688.”
The two essays in question are full of interesting allusions to the different and then existing parties, all of which I cannot find room for here; but from a careful perusal of which I deduce the following general conclusions, viz.,—That the Whig party stood mid-way between the Tories and the “Radical Reformers;” that the party who then championed the cause of Liberty, if not identical with the Whig party of the day, at least comprehended all the
moderate section of that party; that the Radical party of that day were extreme in their policy, inasmuch as the middle party—the nucleus of the present Liberal party; advocates, too, for freedom—regarded their policy as “unreasonable and dangerous.”
The term “Liberal” is used in much the same sense, in Hallam’s “Constitutional History,” written in 1827. Speaking there of the Revolution of 1688, he says:—”It was the triumph of those principles which, in the language of the
present day, are denominated
Liberal or Constitutional, over those of absolute monarchy, not effectually controlled by State boundaries.”
I find, also, constant reference to the term in Burke’s “Letter on the Penal Laws against Catholics,” and his “Address to the British Colonists in North America,” written in 1777 and 1790 respectively; but, in both cases, the word, though used in a political sense, is evidently intended to characterise a condition of mind towards political questions rather than a distinctly recognised political creed.
So much then for the date of the first use of this term as a party-title; and, if, turning again to the question of its original meaning, we consult well-known dictionaries of half a century ago, we find the term explained thus: “One who
advocates greater freedom from restraint, especially in political matters.” That, however, is by no means the signification attached to it by present-day politicians; and the fact of its having undergone so complete a change in its connotation has been frequently commented on. “The admirable maxims,” says the
Times, “which, a generation ago, were the watchwords of Liberalism, are disappearing with an alarming rapidity from the minds of men. Long after the Prime Minister entered parliament, one of the chief notes of instructed Liberalism was the dogma that the best government is that which
interferes least with social affairs. The grandeur of the principle, that the
free play of individual character is the surest guarantee for the well-being of the nation, was
then unquestioned, save by the retrograde and disaffected. It required as much courage to deny its universal truth and applicability, as to doubt the sphericity of the earth. Now, it is hardly too much to say that every liberal measure, of any consequence, involves, directly or indirectly, a
negation of that principle.”
Let us consider now the later signification which has come to be attached to the term with which I am dealing. The task is not an easy one, inasmuch as the volume, to which I have had occasion to refer in the previous chapter, supplies me with definitions by upwards of fifty “reputed Liberals,” the greater number of whom are so far from being unanimous that one would scarcely think they were endeavouring to explain the same term.
I shall first deal with those definitions which, in my opinion, attach to the word the meaning which it was originally intended to convey; and, afterwards, I shall enumerate several of those which point to a neglect or misreading of history on the part of the “Liberals” who supplied them. These latter have, as I shall show, fallen into the popular error by which the term is interpreted, as meaning a “generous, open-handed” policy on the part
of the State—altogether forgetful of the ulterior results which such a policy must produce on the character of citizens, and equally unmindful of the fact that such generosity towards the people must ultimately be paid for out of their own or their neighbours’ pockets.
First, let us take the definition given by Mr. Henry Broadhurst. That I regard as the most truly scientific among them all, and, coming as it does, from a representative of the working classes, it is all the more valuable. “Liberalism,” he says, “does not seek to make all men equal: nothing can do that. But its object is to
remove all obstacles erected by men, which prevent all having
*44 In the whole course of my reading on this subject, which has been necessarily wide, I have come across no definition so comprehensive, yet so terse and correct as this. Whether we take the struggles of our forefathers in feudal times, the struggles of the Roundheads, in the time of Charles; the struggles of the Whigs through the succeeding three or four centuries, or the struggles over the last Reform Bill in England, by which two millions of agricultural labourers were admitted to the franchise, we find one general principle involved, and one which this definition at once touches and completely defines, viz., the desire to remove some “osbtacle” or obstacles of “human origin,” such as royal prerogatives, aristocratic privileges, or class disabilities, which prevent all men from enjoying equal opportunities.
While any such restrictions or obstacles exist, and, as it were, block the way to wealth or position, or equal political power for any citizen, or class of citizens, it must be at the expense of that citizen’s, or that class of citizens’ liberty. To remove such obstacles, therefore, is one of the provinces of true Liberalism. In July of 1886 Lord Hartington delivered a speech at Derby, in which he asked, “What are the distinctive features of the Liberal policy? I should
say,” he adds, “in the first place, that what all Liberals most strongly, most ardently, desire, is that
as large an amount of personal freedom and liberty should be secured for every individual and every class in the country as is possible.” These definitions, though in different words, are practically one and the same thing. Another member of the House of Commons—Mr. Sydney Buxton—gave, as a reason for belonging to the Liberal party, that it promotes “personal, civil, and religious liberty (liberty of the weak as well as of the strong).”
*45 He might have added, “Liberty of the minority as well as of the majority.”
The editor of Lloyd’s newspaper, in the course of his answer, said “Free-trade, a free press, the free expression of opinion, and all our social and religious liberties have been won by beating down the narrow conservatism, which, so long, barred the way…. I desire (he adds) the triumph of the Liberal cause, which means progress, the growth of freedom, and the advancement of the general good.”
Another prominent Liberal expresses the opinion that “Liberal measures have given freedom of speech and action. The monarch, the peer, the commoner, the manufacturer—all feel its power, but that power is not the power of the autocrat—it is the gentle breath of liberty, given to us Britons, by the Liberal party.”
*47 Mr. George Jacob Holyoake, well known as an ardent political reformer, says, “A political liberal is one who seeks no right, not equally shared by the entire community, nor any social distinction which they do not sanction.”
*48 “The true Liberal,” says another of the “fifty reputed,” “is opposed to monopoly and privilege, to legislation on behalf of vested interests, to the burdening of the many for the advantage of the few. Its watchword is justice, justice to all, high or low, rich or poor. From this,” he adds, “flow
opinion, liberty of person, equal political rights at home, but conciliatory bearing to the nations abroad.”
Lastly, the Marquis of Lorne answers the same pertinent question as follows: ”
Civil and religious freedom are the fruits of its (the Liberal party’s) past victories, and I am a Liberal, in the hope that
freedom from tyranny, of mob, or monarch, will be the safeguard of its future triumphs.”
It must be always remembered that upon the borderland, as it were, of every political party there are many men, who, with variously actuated purposes, hold aloof from consistent party action, and, as a consequence, cannot be always definitely classed with either group. There are others again, who see, or believe they see, so much abuse of party government, that they decline to be influenced by that consideration merely, and give their support, or offer their resistance to particular measures, just as they appear desirable, or undesirable, in the public interest.
Again, there are, and have been, many politicians, willing to advocate and assist in the passing of measures of “reform,” who yet insist on a limited definition of its meaning, claiming, in all things, care and moderation; and, particularly now-a-days, there are many men, who, though unwilling to abandon their party-title, are yet forced, by reason of its altered meaning, to frequently vote against the party which professes it.
On the other hand, there are men who are never content, unless they see everything carried out in a thorough and radical manner. They are, in most cases, men of a more emphatic and impulsive nature, who, too frequently, devote insufficient time to deliberation and judgment, concerning whatever they happen to have in hand. Such men more often than not fail to discern and fully realise all the difficulties and dangers which accompany sudden social and political changes. Beyond all this, many men, who even
agree as to the principles desirable to be observed in legislative movements, frequently differ substantially regarding certain measures, as to whether, or how far, such principles are involved. These, and many other disturbing elements in political matters must always prevent clear and definite crystalisation in party divisions; and, as a consequence, there has always been, and, probably ever will be, much difference of opinion as to the precise meaning of partytitles, after they have served their immediate purpose. Instance, in the present day, the distinction between Liberals and Radicals, according to the popular acceptation of the two terms. Who shall say, with any degree of definiteness, where the province of one ends and that of the other begins? Mr. Chamberlain formulates and supervises the publication of a volume, entitled, “The Radical Programme,” then, almost in the same breath, states his reasons for belonging to the Liberal party!
If I were asked to lay down some distinction between the professions of men, classing themselves under the two banners, in the present day, I should be inclined to resort to some such division as that which was adopted by Lord Jeffrey in 1826. When distinguishing the Liberals from the Radical Reformers, he preferred to regard the difference as one of degree only, the former being more “moderate” in their views. Meantime, however, both parties have considerably “advanced.” The Radical Reformers have become Socialists, and the Liberals have become as immoderate as the Radical Reformers were in Lord Jeffrey’s time. Anyone who has kept himself fairly informed concerning the course of English domestic politics, during the last few years, must have observed that whereas men like Lord Hartington, Mr. Goschen, and Mr. Chamberlain profess the same general principles, the former two distinctly refused to follow the latter in the extreme doctrines involved in his allotments scheme; yet, within a few months of that
event, we hear of its inclusion in the Conservative programme as announced by Lord Randolph Churchill!
I shall, I think, be able to show as I proceed, that such a divergence could not possibly occur, if the meaning of the term “Liberalism” were scientifically determined. There are authorities to show that the Radical party have, in the past, viewed themselves as merely an “advanced” wing of the Liberal party; and that is made known in more ways than one. For instance, Mr. Wm. Harris, in his “History of the Radical Party in Parliament,” says “The liberal party always has been, and probably always will be, composed of men, differing, to some extent, as to the
rate of progress, which should be made in the direction in which
all desire to go.” “If,” he adds, “it is no longer desirable that all its movements should be directed by the section which is least advanced, it does not follow that the counsels of men, who call themselves moderate, should not be listened to.”
The Radicals of the present day profess many truly Liberal principles; but either from the want of a clear recognition of the limits to which State interference should go, or from having placed a strained and unscientific interpretation upon the word “liberty,” they are actually favouring a reaction, in the direction of Toryism—of a democratic type. In other words, while striving to confer “equal liberty” on all, they are really conferring, or seeking to confer
privileges on a class, to the curtailment of the
liberties of the remainder. This feature of my subject I shall pursue further in a subsequent chapter. But as to the term “Radical” itself, it no doubt has a history, though by no means a clear one. The term is said by Harriet Martineau to have been first assumed by the reformers in the year 1819,
*51 and the name is said to have been given, or taken, in immediate connection with an agitation for parliamentary
reform; though it is, at the same time, claimed to have been “used, and
properly used, to designate those who, not only sought, directly, to increase the power of the democratic element in the Government, but who tried to utilise existing institutions for obtaining some
material, intellectual, or social advantages for the unrepresented masses of the people.”
*52 Whether the “advantages,” which it is said to
properly seek to obtain for the masses, are anything beyond the “equal opportunities” which Mr. Broadhurst speaks of, or something much more tangible, we are not made aware. If they are something more, then we can only say that Radicalism, in the sense in which it is used by Mr. Harris, must be closely related to “Socialism,” and even “Communism” in a modified form. Such an interpretation would then harmonise with the admission in the authorised “Radical programme” as to the parallel between the two policies—Radicalism and Socialism. Though the date mentioned by Miss Martineau (1819) may be the first time that party name came into use, we have the authority of Mr. Lecky, to the effect that the spirit of Radicalism made its appearance much earlier. “The year 1769,” he says “is very memorable in political history, for it witnessed the birth of English Radicalism, and the first serious attempt to reform and control Parliament by a pressure from without, making its members habitually subservient to their constituents.”
Such being the origin of the party, and of the name itself, let us see what meaning was, or is now intended to be attached to the latter. Throughout the “History of the Radical Party in Parliament,” a large, closely written, and, withal, extremely discursive volume, there is not a single clearly expressed definition of the policy or principles of the party. The word “reform” seems always to be the author’s
synonym for Radicalism; but whether such reform is intended to be of a moderate, or extreme—deliberate, or hasty character, is not indicated; nor, indeed, is there anything, in the volume, to show what the author conceives to come within the meaning of that word—in itself so comprehensive, and, at the same time, so equivocal.
The volume, however, supplies us with one or two passages, which will go to prove that the Radical party, like the Liberals and their predecessors, rank the principle of liberty, or freedom, among their most cherished aims.
“Whilst it is impossible,” says its author, “to point, with certainty, to any particular year, as marking the origin of a party, whose existence was the result, not of an act of creation, but of growth and development, it is quite possible to refer to a time, when movements took place amongst the Whigs, which led to the grouping of different sections round particular leaders, and in defence of special ideas, and which gave to politicians, without traditional or family connections with them, the desire to appeal to a wider constituency. This period was the beginning of the reign of George III. It was then that the old fight, between royal prerogative, and
popular liberty, was re-commenced…. It (the Government) was regarded, partly by classes whose special interest it served, and partly by the general reverence of the country, whose
liberties it had protected, as sacred in form as well as beneficial in spirit.”
Elsewhere, the same writer says, in writing of the year 1766: “Three subjects now come up for consideration, of not merely temporary importance, but raising questions affecting the authority of government,
the rights and liberties of individuals, and the true source of political power.”
*55 One of these was the struggle between England and the North American Colonies. There were, he says, three
main lines, upon which opinions ran. The first was the “Doctrine of the absolute authority of the Imperial Government, over the lives
and liberties of its subjects, either in America or elsewhere.” The second was “that parliament had,
of right, the power of taxing the colonies; but that it was inexpedient, and
unjust, to do so.” The first was, he says, the Tory view, and the latter “was eventually the Whig doctrine.” Thus we see that the Radical party followed the true Liberal doctrine over this matter at least.
A perusal of the volume, from which I have been quoting, will show that, though the Radicals and the Liberals have been, and even now, are, or profess to be actuated by the same principles—differing for the most part only in degree—they have frequently had occasion to join issue in a very marked manner. With such differences I cannot here attempt to deal.
This, however, is very certain, that the terms “Radical” and “Radicalism,” are, like the other party-titles, with which I have been dealing, now undergoing a change of meaning, of the most thorough character.
The original watchword of the Radical party, may have been, as Mr. Harris says, “popular liberties.” If that is so, there was probably (as he also implies) little difference—except in degree—between the Liberals and the Radicals. It is, however, very evident that in our own day, Radicalism, as professed by, what is known as the Birmingham school, is not actuated by motives half so sound, or half so beneficial to the community. The New Radicalism is of a totally different order, and practically impossible to gauge. In one breath, it advocates “the reduction of incomes over a certain amount,” and, in another, disclaims any tendency towards “the paralysis of private industry.” At one moment, it advocates “increasing the comforts, securing the health, and multiplying the luxuries of the masses,” by
means of government, and, at another, repudiates, as tending to communism, legislation likely to lead to “the atrophy of private enterprise.” It may well be said “Under the head of Neo-Radicalism must on no account be included the Radicalism of the old Manchester school, which was merely advanced Liberalism. Indeed the old and the new Radical are more widely separated by principle, than the Conservative and Liberal. The old Radical was all
for freedom, and was
state interference; the new Radical is for despotism and government control in everything.”
But this uncertainty of principles, and inconsistency in the various attempts to state them, are not confined to comparisons between the new and the old schools. If we take the professions of the new order alone, we find a contradiction in statement which must be sadly bewildering to the “rank and file” of their own party. Observe for example the following comparisons:—
|“I have never supposed you could
equalise the capacities and conditions of men. The idler, the drunkard, the criminal, and the fool
must bear the brunt of their defects. The strong man, and the able man will always be first in the race.”—JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN, Speech, January 14, 1885.
|“Government is only the organisation of the
whole people, for the benefit of all its members…The community…
ought to provide, for
all its members, benefits which it is impossible for individuals to provide by their solitary and separate efforts.”—JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN, Speech, April 28, 1885.
|“I am not a Communist, although some people will have it that I am. Considering the difference in the character and capacity of men, I do not believe that there can ever be an absolute
equality of conditions, and I think that
nothing would be more undesirable than that we should remove the stimulus to industry, and thrift, and exertion, which is afforded by the
security, given to every man, in the
enjoyment of the fruits of his own individual exertions.“—JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN, Speech, August 5, 1885.
|“Local government will bring you into contact with the
masses. By its means you will be able to
increase their comforts, to
secure their health, to
multiply the luxuries, which they may enjoy in common; to carry out a
vast co-operative system for mutual aid and support; to
lessen the inequalities of our social system, and to raise the standard of all classes in the community. I believe that, in this way, you may help to
equalise to a great extent, the
condition of men.”—JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN, Speech, April 28, 1885.
|“It belongs to the authority and
duty of the State—that is to say, of the whole people, acting through their chosen representatives, to utilise, for this purpose, all local experience, and all local organisation, to
protect the weak, and to
provide for the poor; to
redress the inequalities of our social condition, to
alleviate the harsh conditions of the struggle for existence, and to
raise the average enjoyment of the majority of the population.”—JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN, Speech, April 28, 1885.
|“Communism means the reduction of everything to a dead level, the destruction of private adventure, the paralysis of private industry, the atrophy of private effort.”—”Radical Programme.”||“The goal towards which the advance will probably be made at an accelerated pace is that in the direction of which the legislation of the last quarter of a century has been tending—
the intervention of the State on behalf of
the weak against the strong, in the interests of
labour against capital, of
want and suffering against luxury and ease.“—”Radical Programme.”
reduction of incomes.“
misuse of property.”
|“Authority to purchase (land)
without allowance for prospective value or compulsory sale.”
|“The expense of making towns
habitable for the toilers, who dwell in them, must be
thrown on the land.“—”Radical Programme.”
All this has, I think, a sufficiently strong flavour of communism (let alone Socialism), about it, to call for a distinction to be drawn by those who advocate it. That distinction is not forthcoming; but, instead, we have the following confession:—”If,” says the author of the Radical Programme, in reference to the measures which are therein advocated, “If it be said that it is legislation of a socialist tendency, the impeachment may
readily be admitted.” And he adds: “Socialism is not a stigma, but a modern tendency pressing for recognition.” The Radical Programme being an authorised publication, and founded, for the most part, on Mr. Chamberlain’s speeches, I may, without further enquiry conclude that the Radicalism of the present day is synonymous with socialism. Such a school of politics can have little in common with true Liberalism, for directly the State stretches out its octopus-like arms to attempt an equalisation or approximate equalisation of, not only the “opportunities,” but also the “conditions,” the “enjoyments,” and the “luxuries” of life, such as are therein advocated, there is begun a series of reversals of the most legitimate and most important function of government, viz. (to use Mr. Chamberlain’s own words), the affording “security to every man, in the enjoyment of the fruits of his own individual exertions.”
My present object has, I hope, now been sufficiently attained, viz., to show that, amid the changes and chances of party government in England; amid the oft-occurring, and somewhat confusing kaleidoscopic transformations, to which such party-government, and the concurrent want of definiteness in party-names must inevitably lead, there is observable, to the student of history—looking back from a bird’s-eye view, over centuries of historical record—a comparatively distinct transmission of certain political doctrines, which consist in regarding “the liberty of the individual” as one of, if not
the principal of the corner stones of the
social fabric. It has been a further object on my part to show that those inherited doctrines have been, respectively, held and maintained, in the past, by the several political parties known as Roundheads, Whigs, Liberals, and Radicals; though, as I shall show hereafter, many steps have been already taken, and many more appear likely to be taken, under cover of the latter two terms, which are false to the traditions of the parties who originated those titles, and which, if persisted in, as precedents for future legislation, bid fair to deal a serious blow sooner or later, at our present social organisation, by destroying the chief source of individual effort and excellence among men.
It has been said by a writer of some authority on this subject that “as a political power, Toryism is utterly extinct.” The author of “The Radical Programme” has defined Toryism as aiming at “the
preservation of class privilege.” If “to
create class privileges” can be taken as having practically similar aims, then Toryism (that is to say, Democratic-Toryism) is—far from being extinct—in a condition of the most robust health. The above authority says “the occupation of the old Liberal party is gone.”
*57 No doubt what I have ventured to call its
aggressive function is exhausted; but if to be a Liberal means, as it did of old, to be “one who advocates greater freedom from restraint, especially in political matters,” then, I contend, its occupation is by no means gone. It is, indeed, time that every true Liberal “buckled on his armour,” and prepared himself for the coming political contest. The struggle for freedom in the past was by the many against the few; by the masses against the privileged classes; but, in the future, if I judge the political barometer aright, the contest will be longer and much more severe, since it will have to be fought by the few against the many; by the minority against the majority, who, in their ignorance
of the political science, think that right is to be gauged by might, and wisdom by the number of mouths which proclaim it.
I venture to affirm that Liberalism has by no means lost its occupation. The advocate is wanted as much in defence as in attack, and the function which will have to be exercised in defence of “individual liberty” and “freedom from restraint” will more heavily tax the resources of its adherents than was the case when its history was but a record of uninterrupted victories.