§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
My Lords: In calling attention to the Socialistic character of the legislation of the last 15 years I must throw myself on your 633 Lordships' indulgence; and if, in order to enforce the subject and give weight to my words which they would not otherwise have, I quote at some length from authorities upon this question to which even your Lordships must bow, I trust your Lordships will bear with me. My Lords, I gave this Notice, or an equivalent Notice, in the autumn of last year; but I did not bring the matter forward, because it appeared to me as time went on that the Socialistic character of our legislation was so apparent, and that from writings in the Press and from public speeches the spread and advance of Socialism were so manifest, that I ought not needlessly to occupy your Lordships' time by bringing the subject under your consideration. I felt, indeed, that I should be like unto a man holding up a lantern to the sun. But, a short time back, my noble Friend (the Duke of Argyll), in calling attention to the circumstances under which the change of Government had taken place, made use of those words, or words to the effect—"That upon social questions there was little or no difference between the two Parties in the State." My Lords, I hold that to be the truth, and that this is the one great danger of the present time—the danger of a Socialistic rivalry between the two great Parties in the State. Now a word of warning with reference to this matter was given by a distinguished statesman, a very prominent Member of the other House of Parliament. I mean Mr. Fawcett, who unhappily is now no more. Mr. Fawcett, long ago, in one of his essays on social subjects, said—I had better read his words, for they are very forcible, and words which I think statesmen on both sides of the House would do well to take to heart—Unlike the Socialism of former days, those who at the present time are under the influence of the Socialistic sentiment are beginning to place their chief reliance upon State-intervention. This growing tendency to rely upon the State is fraught with greater danger to England than to any foreign Empire. The two great political sections that contend for place and power have a constant temptation held out to them to bid against each other for popular support. Under the pressure of this temptation it may consequently happen that they will accept doctrines, against which, if their judgment were unbiassed, they would be the first to protest themselves. This peril will hang over the country.I believe, then, that this is not only a peril which hangs over the country, but 634 an evil from which we are now suffering. In calling attention to this question, I am well aware of the vastness of the subject. I well recollect being present at a public dinner, where a distinguished literary man was called upon to return thanks for literature. He began his speech by asking—"What is literature?" I own that I had a sinking at heart when I heard a convivial speech, at a convivial meeting, begin with such a question; and I am afraid if I ask your Lordships "What is Socialism?" you will have the same sinking at heart that I then had. But I trust so to treat this subject as to prove that your Lordships' very natural alarm caused by my question is without foundation. My Lords, there are various kinds of Socialism. There is the Socialism of the Communist, or what I might call the Socialism of the street; for that kind of Socialism has been fought out more than once in the streets of Paris, and may some day have to be fought out even in the streets of London. Then there is the Socialism of the Professor, or, as the Germans call it, the Socialism of the Chair; and there is also the Socialism of the statesman. The Socialism of the Communist may be treated very shortly. There are four very happy lines which I think accurately describe the Communist—What is Communist? One who has yearningsFor equal division of unequal earnings;An idler, or bungler, or both; he is willingTo fork out his penny and pocket your shilling.That, I believe, to be a very fair description of a Communist, with the exception that I greatly doubt his readiness to fork out his penny. But, nevertheless, I have a great respect for him. The Communist knows what he means. He means business. His business is "the equal division of unequal earnings." There is no theory about him. He is a thoroughly practical man, and one respects thoroughly practical men; but remember, it is towards Communism that all our sentimental Socialism is surely and steadily tending. I come next to the Socialism of the Professor—the Socialism of the Chair. Now, we live in a time when, perhaps, more than any other, men feel for the sufferings of their fellow-creatures. It is essentially an era of humanitarianism. Philosophers and Professors in their writings are casting aside the old school of political economy and laissez-faire, and advocate 635 State-intervention as a cure for all evils. They look to the State to protect the weak against the strong, and to equalize the conditions of life. I believe, my Lords, that all these attempts will end in signal failure, and that, in the long run, it will be proved that the older school of political economy is, on the whole, sounder—aye, and more humane than that of the modern humanitarian school of philosophy. For all philosophy of the kind, whether right or wrong, which is evolved out of the heart and the inner consciousness of the writer, I have, for one, the utmost respect. But, my Lords, there is another kind of Professor, the Professor of Political Economy, who squares his principles with politics and Party needs; who, when his Party Leader sends common sense and experience in the government of men to Jupiter or Saturn, finds admirable reasons in his writings why the old school must be thoroughly wrong, and why political economy should be banished, to distant planets. I will say, with regard to Professors of this type, what the late Lord Beaconsfield stated in "another place" that Prince Bismarck had said to him—"Beware of Professors." And it is to your Lordships that one should especially say—"Beware of these Professors;" for, if I mistake not, in the course of last autumn, one of them said that every one of your Lordships should be hanged. Nay, more, I think he said that none of your Lordships ought to have any existence at all; because your ancestors ought to have been hanged, and that, if they were not, they had not met with their deserts. So much for the Professors. I pass on to the Socialism of the statesman. Now, there are also two distinct types of Socialistic statesmen. There is the truly genuine philanthropic statesman, who, seeing the evils with which the world is encumbered, the suffering and distress, the oppression and cruelty by which we are surrounded, and acting on the impulses of a noble nature, makes war on these evils, and that, too, with all his energy and soul. Occasionally he succeeds, and in some cases he perhaps does good to his fellow-men; and if, in the course of his warfare against evil, he indulges, doubtless, in exaggerated language, or has recourse to ill-considered action, yet we cannot but honour and respect a man of this kind. We have, indeed, Statutes 636 on the Statute Book which do honour to the good intentions of such men, as, for instance, the Factory Act. But the evil of that Act and all similar Acts is this—that what is good in itself—in this instance, the desire to protect young persons and children—is followed up by someone who tries to carry the principles of the Act a great deal further; and we have now Societies formed, whose object is to apply the principles of the Factory Act to adult labour in every shop in London. And, if there, why not carry them into your Lordships' households and kitchens? I say we, nevertheless, cannot but respect the philanthropic statesman who works on these lines. But there is another kind of philanthropic Socialistic statesman—the political partizan. My Lords, I can conceive such a man as this, at one time, a denouncer of State interference, and of what is called "grandmotherly government"—an admirable expression, which he, perhaps, plagiarized—and'at another time, I can understand this philanthropic Party statesman bringing in a Bill by which he is to prescribe the drinks, clothing, brushes, and number of ablutions that are to be applied, under heavy penalties, to full-grown male and female labourers engaged in certain occupations. I can understand this partizan statesman, when addressing one constituency, denouncing every man who would deprive the poor man of his beer; possibly, at some convivial meeting of his constituents, singing a well-known popular song, which imposes a heavy penalty on the eyes of those who would "rob a poor man of his beer;" and I can understand this same partizan, when representing a different constituency, going in for local option, and the tyranny of majorities over minorities. Lastly, I can understand this same partizan statesman, when invited to apply the principle of that meanest of Ministerial measures, the Hares and Rabbits Bill—I call it advisedly that meanest of Ministerial measures—to existing leases, repudiating the proposal as an insult; and I can imagine him two years later bringing in an Agricultural Holdings Bill, which broke every lease in England and in Scotland. For a philanthropic Socialistic Party statesman of this type I own I entertain feelings of very limited respect. My Lords, I do not wish to trouble your Lordships more than I have done with definitions 637 and the theory of Socialism. I thought the best way to bring it home to your Lordships was to illustrate it in the way I have done. I have, however, now done-with theory, and would come to the concrete, and invite your consideration of Bills that have been passed during the last 15 years, all of which show, more or less, a Socialistic tendency on the part of both Parties, and especially on the part of the Radical Party, in the State. Now, I have put in my Notice that I would call attention to the tendency of legislation during the last 15 years. I say the last 15 years, because, in the year 1870, we had the first Irish Land Bill, and in that Irish Land Bill you find the germ of Socialism in the way of dealing with property, which has since been followed up by so many similar measures; a germ which I venture to think has spread as rapidly, and is as fatal in legislation as the phylloxera in the vine, or the "père microbe," as the French call the germ of the cholera poison. And when my noble Friend (the Duke of Argyll)—I regret that he is not here—makes eloquent speeches, and writes able letters, denouncing the evil effects of the Irish Land Act of 1881, I wish to point out to him that, in the Irish Land Bill of 1870, you find the germ of all subsequent Land Bills, and that by assenting to that Bill—for he was then a Member of the Cabinet—he has hatched the chickens which since then have come to roost in the crofts of Mull and Tiree. My Lords, I will now point out what our recent legislation has been. It would be absurd to go into too many details; but I can classify some of the chief measures under different heads. First we have, as regards land and houses, seven Acts—namely, Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Act, 1870; Agricultural Holdings Act, 1875; Ground Game Act, 1880; Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881; Arrears of Pent (Ireland) Act, 1882; Agricultural Holdings (England) Act, 1883; and Agricultural Holdings' (Scotland) Act, 1883; Eight Bills, Session 1885—namely, Compensation for Improvements (Ireland) Bill; Crofters' Holdings (Scotland) Bill; Leasehold Building Land Enfranchisement Bill; Leaseholders (Facilities of Purchase of Fee Simple) Bill; Peasant Proprietary and Acquisition of Land by Occupiers Bill; Suspension of Evictions (Scotland) Bill; Land Purchase (Ireland) Bill; and Land Tenure (Scotland) 638 Bill. Well, my Lords, all of these measures assume the right of the State to regulate the management of, or to confiscate, real property—steps in he direction of substituting "land nationalization" for individual ownership. We then come to the question of corporate property, and we find that corporate property, like individual property, is now equally handed over to the spoiler by the State. Thus we have affecting corporate property—(Livery Companies)—two Bills, Session 1885—namely, Corporate Property Security Bill; London Livery Companies Bill: Water Companies—two Bills, Session 1885—namehy, Water Companies (Regulation of Powers) Bill; Waterworks Clauses Act (1847) Amendment Bill. This year there was a Bill introduced, called the Corporate Property Security Bill, which was a most comical Bill. The object of the Bill was nominally to secure corporate property. But for whom? Not for the owners, but for those who wished to get hold of it in another Session. It provided the security which the butcher extends to his sheep when he pens them preparatory to slaughter. Those Bills with regard to corporate property assume, contrary to all historical evidence, that what is absolutely "private" property is "public" property, and then proceed to subject it to State management. As to the Water Companies, my noble and learned Friend (Lord Bramwell) showed the other day how your Lordships were about to confiscate to a great extent the property of Water Companies. These measures both run in the same direction. They are attempts to subject the chartered rights of private enterprise in water supply to municipal monopolies, by first reducing the value of the Companies' property by harassing legislation. Then we come to Ships, nine Acts—namely, Passengers Act Amendment Act, 1870; Chain Cables and Anchors Act, 1871; Merchant Shipping Act, 1871; Emigrant Ships Act, 1872; Merchant Shipping Act, 1873; Chain Cables and Anchors Act, 1874; Merchant Shipping Act, 1876; Merchant Shipping (Carriage of Grain) Act, 1880; and Merchant Shipping (Fishing Boats) Act, 1883. All these are successive assertions, by the Board of Trade, of its right to regulate private enterprise and individual management in the Mercantile Marine; with the result of complete failure, as confessed by 639 the Board of Trade in its Memorandum of November, 1883. We have now a Royal Commission inquiring into this matter; and our shipowners have been so harassed that, at one time, they seriously contemplated putting their shipping under the flag of Spain, or some other foreign country. Then we find Acts dealing with Mines, six Acts—namely, Mines (Coal) Regulation Act, 1872; Metalliferous Mines Regulation Act, 1872; Explosives Act, 1875; Metalliferous Mines Act, 1875; Stratified Ironstone Mines Act, 1881; and Slate Mines (Gunpowder) Act, 1882. These Acts constitute a State Code for the regulation of the mining industry, with the effect of lessening the sense of personal responsibility among mineowners, and of promoting a fallacious confidence in Government inspection; and as these Acts, in the main, fail to effect their purpose, further legislation is asked for, more Inspectors are demanded, and the Home Office, fearing unpopularity, listens to the demand. There is accordingly a perfect army of Inspectors growing up in consequence of this kind of legislation. Then there are Acts regulating Railways, six Acts—namely, Railways Regulation Act, 1871; Railways Regulation Act, 1873; Railways (Returns as to Continuous Brakes) Act, 1878; Railways (Food and Water for Animals) Act, 1878; Railways Regulation Acts Continuance Act, 1879; and Cheap Trains Act, 1883. All these are encroachments by the Board of Trade upon the self-government of private enterprize in railways; successive steps in the direction of State railways. In reference to Trade and Commerce, there are the following Acts and Bills now before Parliament this Session, regulating manufactures, trades, &c.:—Nine Acts—namely, Pawnbrokers' Act, 1872; Factory and Workshop Act, 1878; Employers' Liability Act, 1880; Alkali, &c, Works Regulation Act, 1881; Boiler Explosions Act, 1882; Electric Lighting Act, 1882; Parcel Post Act, 1882; Factories and Workshops (White Lead Works) Act, 1883; and Canal Boats Act (1877) Amendment Act, 1884: three Bills, Session 1885—namely, Factory Acts (Extension to Shops) Bill; Employers' Liability Act (1847) Amendment Bill; and Moveable Dwellings Bill. These measures may be summed up as being invasions by the State of the self-government of the various interests 640 of the country, and curtailments of freedom of contract between employers and employed. I must, just in passing, allude to the Pawnbrokers' Act of 1872. That, my Lords, was the thin edge of the wedge for reducing the business of the "poor man's banker" to a State monopoly like the Monts de Piété in France. Then you have the Parcel Post Act of 1882, whereby the State comes in and undertakes the function of trader, and enters into an unequal competition with private enterprize for carrying parcels. There are also regulations for bakers; in fact, there is hardly any industry that is not regulated in some way or other. When we come to liquor, the following is the state of things. We find for the regulation of the trade in liquor:—Twenty Acts—namely, Wine and Beer Houses Act, 1870; Beer Houses (Ireland) Act, 1871; Licensing Act, 1872; Licensing Act, 1874; Licensing (Ireland) Act, 1874; Wine Licences Act, 1874; Beer (Justices Certificates to Retail Table Beer) (Scotland) Act, 1876; Wine (Licences to Retail) Act, 1876; Beer Houses (Ireland) Act, 1877; Beer Licences (Ireland) Act, 1877; Intoxicating Liquors (Sale on Sunday) (Ireland) Act, 1878; Habitual Drunkards' Act, 1879; Beer Dealers' Retail Licences Act, 1880; Beer (Brewing and Retailing) Act, 1880; Distillers, &c, Licensing Act, 1880; Spirit Hawking (Ireland) Act, 1880; Sunday Closing (Wales) Act, 1881; Beer (Brewing) Act, 1881; Passenger Vessel Licences (Scotland) Act, 1882; and Payment of Wages in Public Houses Prohibition Act, 1883. Six Bills, Session 1885—namely, Liquor Traffic (Local Veto) Scotland Bill; Sale of Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday Bill; Sale of Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday (No. 2) Bill; Sale of Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday (Cornwall) Bill; Sale of Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday (Durham) Bill; and Sale of Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday (Northumberland) Bill. Now, what are all these liquor measures? I was speaking just now as to the action of philanthropic and partizan statesmen with reference to liquor, and the tyranny of majorities over minorities; but these and all similar measures are nothing less than backward legislation. In physiology there is what is called "retrograde metamorphosis;" while in sporting phraseology there is a term 641 "running heel." This legislation, my Lords, is "retrograde metamorphosis," "running heel," back to the time of the Plantagenets, when the State vainly attempted to regulate prices, wages, and all things else. It is a return to the Tippling Acts of James I., which had to be abandoned because they so signally failed. These measures are all attempts on the part of the State to regulate the dealings and habits of buyers and sellers of alcoholic drinks—attempts to coerce the sober many on account of the drunken few. But, my Lords, although we have recently read a letter calling upon the new constituencies to make Local Option the test question at the coming General Election, yet I hope that the common sense of Englishmen and their love of liberty will assert themselves, and that if put to the test at a General Election, Local Option will go to the wall. Next, we have Acts and Bills dealing with the dwellings of the working classes, &c.—16 Acts—namely, Local Government Board (Baths, Wash-houses, Labourers' Dwellings, Recreation Grounds, &c.) Act, 1871; Sanitary Law Amendment (Lodging Houses, Meat, Water, &c.) Act, 1874; Artizans' and Labourers' Dwellings Improvement Act, 1875; Public Health (Baths, Wash-houses, Labourers' Dwellings, Fire, Gas, Water, &c.) Act, 1875; Public Health (Baths, Wash-houses, Labourers' Dwellings, Eire, Funeral, Gas, Meat, Water, &c.) (Ireland) Act, 1878; Artizans' and Labourers' Dwellings Improvement Act, 1879; Seed Supply (Ireland) Act, 1879; Labourers' Dwellings (Government Loans) Act, 1879; Artizans' and Labourers' Dwellings Acts, 1879; Labours' Dwellings (Government Loans) Act, 1881; Labourers' Dwellings (Ireland) Act, 1881; Baths and Wash-houses Acts Amendment Act, 1882; Artizans' Dwellings Act, 1882; Labourers' Cottages and Allotments (Ireland) Act, 1882; Public Health (Fruit Pickers' Lodgings) Act, 1882; and Labourers' (Ireland) Act. 1883: Three Bills, Session 1885—namely, Housing of the Working Classes (England) Bill; Labourers' (Ireland) Bill; and Labourers' (Ireland) No. 2 Bill. All of these embody the principle that it is the duty of the State to provide dwellings, private gardens, and other conveniences for the working classes, and assume its 642 right to appropriate land for these purposes. We have the following Acts and Bills pushing to an unlimited extent the principle of State interference in the matter of education:—nine Acts—namely, Elementary Education Act, 1870; Education (Industrial Schools) Acts, 1872; Education (Scotland) Act, 1872; Education Act, 1873; Education Act, 1876; Education (Scotland) Aet7 1878; Education (Industrial Schools) Act, 1879; Intermediate Education (Ireland) Act, 1882; and Education (Scotland) Act, 1883: Four Bills, Session 1885—namely, Industrial Schools (Ireland) Bill; National Education (Ireland) Bill; Intermediate Education (Wales) Bill; and National School Teachers' (Ireland) Bill. All these measures are based on the assumption that it is the duty of the State to act in loco parentis; and they constitute a progressive Code of State education, which, by being supplied at less than the market value, is bringing about the extinction of voluntary systems and "Free Trade" in education, and their replacement by a universal State monopoly, after the manner of the French Lycées. Many of them provide those things that ought to be loft to the instincts and affections of parents. Then there are Acts regarding recreation—four Acts—namely, Free Libraries Act, 1871; Free Libraries (Scotland) Act, 1871; Bank Holidays Act, 1871; and Free Libraries (Ireland) Act, 1877; whereby the State, having educated the people in common school rooms, proceeds to provide thorn with common reading rooms, and afterwards turns them out at stated times into the street for common holidays. Besides these, there are Local Government Provisional Orders, and Local "Improvement" Acts and Bills. These measures constitute a vast mass of local legislation, which is every Session smuggled through Parliament, containing interferences in every conceivable particular with liberty and property. They afford an indication of the evil effects of the example set by State Socialists to municipal Socialists. Now, my Lords, I have said enough, I think, with reference to the tendency of the legislation of the last 15 years. I have explained what the character of the legislation is. Now, what is its economic effect? I believe I may justly summarize it as follows:—Liberty cur- 643 tailed, property plundered, robbery rampant, land unsaleable, enterprize chocked, capital flying away, and industry crippled. I believe all this legislation has checked enterprize and banished capital; and, in proof of the fact that capital is flying from the country, and that people are investing money rather in foreign than English Funds, I will mention a conversation I had with a wealthy Liberal Peer 18 months ago. He said—"What do you think of the state of things?" I answered—"I think they are as bad as can be?" He replied—"So do I," and then went on to say—I thought land was safe; I find it is not. I comforted, myself with the reflection that house property was, at any rate, secure. It turns out to be no more safe than land. There remains, I said to myself, at least the Funds—Childers has abolished them! I will tell you what I have done—I have put all my money into the Dutch 2½ per Cents.We have thus realized Lord Sherbrooke's saying, in 1866, that—Capital was a coy nymph, and had wings with which she could take flight abroad, if no longer safe in this country.Now, what has been the result of the legislation during the last 15 years, from 1870? You have taken from the landlord in Ireland, and given to the tenant, a capital sum of £300,000,000. I have, indeed, heard the noble Lord the late Lord Privy Seal (Lord Carlingford), the executioner of the landed interest, pitifully prating on this subject, and saying—"True, we have taken from the Irish landlord one-fourth of his income; but we have thus made the remainder secure." Why, my Lords, it is just as if I were to find a policeman in my plate-closet, handing out some of the spoons to a man with very short hair, a low forehead, and pronounced underjaw, and the policeman, on my asking what he was doing there, were to say to me—"This young man has a great fancy for all your spoons, and I am only giving him one-fourth of them to make the rest safe." Such is the kind of reasoning on which the landlords of Ireland have been despoiled of a quarter of their property; and the effect of all this kind of legislation is that, in the long run, those sought to be benefited, are not benefited at all, for you are practically killing the goose that lays the golden eggs, by destroying confidence, and driving capital away from English enterprize. The general 644 social results of such Socialistic legislation may be summed up in "dynamite," "detectives," and "general demoralization." Of the dynamite scare, we have recently had a curious instance at a very short distance from this. I recently asked the Lord Great Chamberlain (the Earl of Lathom) to allow models for the new War Office and Admiralty, now in the Victoria Gallery, to be open to the inspection of architects and other persons interested. But the Lord Great Chamberlain dared not exhibit them, lest someone should thus obtain admission to the Houses of Parliament, and blow them up. So much, then, for dynamite. How as to detectives? Why, every Member of the late Cabinet went about with the shadow of a detective at his heels; and the late Home Secretary, besides his familiar, the detective, had daily 15 policemen told off for the protection of his house—five at a time, in three relays. And, as to "general demoralization," it is not confined to Irish tenants, or Scotch crofters; it is visible everywhere. Even some of the Scotch Lowland farmers are asking to have their leases broken, rents fixed by the State, fixity of tenure, and to be repaid all the money which they have expended on their holdings during the currency of their lease. Do not think, moreover, that demoralization is confined to Scotland or to Ireland. It has even penetrated to Grosvenor Square, and to Belgravia. The other day a West End friend entertained me with a denunciation of the monstrous injustice to which he was subject through his landlord, at the end of his lease, having the power to confiscate—as he expressed it—his town tenant's improvements. In other words, my Lords, he might have said it was monstrous that he should have made a bad bargain for himself. Yes, my Lords, I was not ill-advised, when two years ago I counselled two Whig Dukes, who between them own a large portion of London, to keep their political weather eyes open, and to rest assured that the doctrines they applied to Ireland would very soon apply to houses in Grosvenor Square, Belgravia, and Covent Garden. And why have we now a block of Business in Parliament? Because the Table has been for years encumbered with unnecessary Bills, which no sooner become Acts than they lead to and necessitate further legislation on the same 645 lines. While on the Continent people are thinking and vapouring about Socialism, we, in this country, are adopting it in our legislation. Louise Michel, the French Communist, epitomized the matter very effectively when she said—"That whereas in France Socialists stand in the dock, in England they sit in the House of Commons." She might have added—"and Communism in the Cabinet." My Lords, I have now shown, I think, with sufficient clearness, the direction in which we have been, and are travelling; but to fully appreciate the situation, we require a gauge of pace. Here it is. It is only 20 years since Lord Palmerston died, and he, be it remembered, said that "tenant right was landlord wrong." Again, Lord Sherbrooke, speaking in 1866, at the time of the "Cave," said, with reference to the politics of the time, that—Happily there was an oasis upon which all men, without distinction of Party, could take their common stand, and that was the sound ground of political economy.Well, my Lords, that oasis has turned out to be an Irish bog, possessed of its walking qualities, for it has already crossed the Irish Sea, and invaded the lands of England and Scotland. Lastly, we have had Communism, in the form of Mr. Chamberlain in the late Cabinet. Mr. Chamberlain is reported recently to have said—If you will go back to the origin of things, you will find that when our social arrangements first began to shape themselves, every man was born into the world with natural rights, with a right to a share in the great inheritance of the community, with a right to a part of the land of his birth. But all these rights have passed away. The common rights of ownership have disappeared. Some of them have been sold; some of them have been given away by people who had no right to dispose of them; some of them have been lost through apathy and ignorance; some have been stolen by fraud; and some have been acquired by violence. Private ownership has taken the place of these communal rights, and this system has become so interwoven with our habits and usages, it has been so sanctioned by law and protected by custom, that it might be very difficult, and, perhaps, impossible to reverse it. 'But then, I ask, what ransom will property pay for the security which it enjoys?' What substitute will it find for the natural rights which have ceased to be recognized?Now, my Lords, we have here what purports to be a discovery of natural rights, and I would, in opposition to this view, draw your Lordships' attention to 646 what Bentham said upon this subject in 1791—Nature, say some of the interpreters of the pretended law of nature—nature gave to each man a right to everything; which is, in effect, but another way of saying—nature has given no such right to anybody; for in regard to most rights, it is as true that what is every man's right is no man's right, as that what is every man's business is no man's business. Nature gave—gave to every man a right to everything—be it so—true; and hence the necessity of human government and human laws, to give to every man his own right, without which no right whatsoever would amount to anything. Nature gave every man a right to everything before the existence of laws, and in default of laws.—How stands the truth of things? That there are no such things as natural rights—no such things as rights anterior to the establishment of government—no such things as natural rights opposed to, in contradistinction to, legal; that the expression is merely figurative; that when used, in the moment you attempt to give it a literal meaning, it leads to error, and to that sort of error that leads to mischief—to the extremity of mischief.…Natural rights' is simple nonsense; natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense—nonsense upon stilts. But this rhetorical nonsense ends in the old strain of mischievous nonsense.…Right,' the substantive 'right,' is the child of law; from 'real' laws come 'real' rights; but from 'imaginary' laws, from laws of nature, fancied and invented by poets, rhetoricians, and dealers in moral and intellectual poisons, comes 'imaginary' rights, a bastard brood of monsters, 'Gorgons and Chimæras dire.' And thus it is, that from 'legal rights,' the offspring of law and friends of peace, come 'anti-legal' rights, the mortal enemies of law, the subverters of government, and the assassins of security.Which, then, do your Lordships prefer—the old philosophy of Bentham, or the new philosophy of Birmingham? But I do wrong to call it new; in reality, it is a very old philosophy. You will see it any day in the Zoological Gardens, where the monkeys having nuts, are made war upon by those who have none; it is, at any rate, as old as Barabbas, and may be termed the "Barabbasian philosophy." It has, indeed, in all times and in all lands had many professors; but they have not all been successful in their vocation, for, happily for the human race, the majority of them find their way, here at least, to Broadmoor, Pentonville, and other similar establishments, where they are maintained at the public expense. My Lords, I have now traced this question down to the time when the late Government left Office. How they found themselves in a minority I care not. I shall not speculate as 647 to how it came about that the House of Commons, that had stuck to them through all their hopeless vacillations in foreign policy, that waded along with them through oceans of purposeless bloodshed, that had connived at and condoned the death of Gordon, finally deserted them when it came to a tax on beer. Harassed interests have still, perhaps, power in the State, and we know that beer was once potent in turning out a Liberal Government. One largo brewer, I have heard, would have lost £60,000, and another£40,000 a-year, if the financial proposals of the late Government had been carried. How long the present Government will remain in Office, what the result of the General Election will be, I do not pretend to say; but my own impression is, that the new agricultural voters will follow the blaten brazen agitator who makes the largest promises, pointing to what has been done in Ireland in the matter of land as earnest of their fulfilment. I know one county where the agricultural labourer is saying—"No more parsons—no more landlords—no more farmers—the land is ours." And elsewhere candidates are saying to the labourer—"Do you want a new cottage and three or four acres of land? You shall have them." While the farmer is addressed thus—"I should like you to have security of tenure, the payment by the landlord of all your improvements, whether made with or without his consent; and something besides—this, no doubt, will be difficult to estimate, but it can be done. I further wish to see copartnery established between landlord and tenant. I wish him to be a shareholder in the land." This, my Lords, is no exaggeration of the speeches now being addressed to agricultural constituencies, and they may be summed up thus—"You gives your votes, and you takes your choice." But be that as it may, looking at the state of things which has grown up under the late Government, both at home and abroad, I confess that I heard of their defeat with satisfaction; so much so, indeed, that I gave expression to my feelings in the words with which the late Canon Kingsley, in the title of a very pleasant little book, described the realization of his life-long longing to visit the West Indian Islands. I, from the bottom of my soul, exclaimed "At last!" And now we have a new 648 Government, what are we to expect from them? I feel that, in the matter of foreign policy, my noble Friend at the head of Her Majesty's Government (the Marquess of Salisbury) will do much, be his time of Office long or short, to tie up the broken threads of our traditional foreign policy, to the undoing of which it was the boast of the late Prime Minister that he had given his thoughts by day, and his dreams by night; and I hope that my noble Friend will so tie these broken threads, that, be his Successor who he may, he will not be able, even if he wished, again to break them; and we shall have the further security that the undoing of the policy of a Predecessor has not been so successful as to encourage its repetition. But what will the present Government do with reference to economic and social questions? A fortnight ago, I should have expressed hopes on this point, not fears; but we have had a taste of the quality of the Prime Minister lately; and, giving as I do, full credit to my noble Friend's desire to benefit the poor, still, in his proposals and in the arguments by which he supported them, I see a danger of that Socialistic race between the two Parties in the State, foretold by Mr. Fawcett. The noble Marquess supported a bogus railway in Regent's Park.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
Then I will drop the bogus and stick to my noble Friend's argument. He suspended a Standing Order of your Lordships' House, on the ground that employment was scarce in London; and if that argument means anything, it means travaux publiques. Again, my noble Friend has defended his Housing of the Working Classes Bill, on the ground that it is the duty of the State to provide, or by selling property below its value, to help to provide houses for those in its employ. Where, let me ask, will he draw the line—will he house the Foreign Office clerks, and all others in Government employment, including the tidewaiters and police? And, if not, why not? What otherwise does he propose, but the most glaring class legislation. Now, my Lords, I believe all this to be a mistake—a mistake, as regards those for whose supposed benefit sound principles are set aside, which, in the long run, 649 never answers. A mistake as regards the Conservative Party; for there are many in this country who hoped that the Conservative Party on their return to power, would recall common sense and experience in the government of men from Jupiter and Saturn. We trusted, that as regards the intervention of the State, they would have taken their stand upon the firm ground so clearly laid down by Lord Macaulay 40 years ago in a passage I will now read—It is not by the intermeddling of the omnipotent and omniscient' State, but by the prudence, energy, and foresight of its inhabitants, that England has been hitherto carried forward in civilization; and it is to the same energy, prudence, and foresight that we shall look forward with comfort and good hope. Our Rulers will best promote the improvement of the nation by strictly confining themselves to their own legitimate duties, by leaving capital to and its most lucrative course, commodities their fair price, industry and intelligence their natural reward, idleness and folly their natural punishment; by maintaining peace, by defending property, by diminishing the price of law, and by observing strict economy in every Department of the State. Let the Government do this and the people will assuredly do the rest.I believe, my Lords, that that is far safer ground for the Conservative Party to stand upon than that of Socialistic administration. If the Conservative Government stand upon that ground, there is hope, good hope alike for true Conservatism and our nation. But if they enter upon a race of legislative tobogganing down the slippery Socialistic slide, they must infallibly, be distanced and beaten by their political opponents. And let it not be supposed that there is not a strong feeling already aroused upon this subject. Why, the Liberty and Property Defence League has, already, in three years, federated 61 Defence Associations for the protection of individual liberty and property. And, be it remembered, this desire is not confined to the well-to-do classes. Hear what Mr. Bradlaugh said upon this subject a year ago, when, in speaking in the name of the working men in St. James's Hall, on the occasion of a great Socialistic tournament he had with Mr. Hyndman, he, to use a well-known phrase, "knocked him into a cocked hat"—The Socialists thought that the Stale could cure these evils; he thought that the State could 650 not remedy them, but that they could only be cured slowly and gradually by the action of in dividuals…And who were those against whom they talked of using force? Why the great majority of our countrymen. It was not true that the majority of the working class is on the verge of starvation. The number of depositors in savings' banks, members of benefit clubs and building societies, and holders of small plots of land, represent at least 10,000,000 of the population, and these would fight for the principle of private property.I have now only to thank your Lordships, which I do from my heart, for the patience with which you have listened to my story; and, in conclusion, I would quote the words of one of the ablest and most independent writers on social questions, I mean Mr. Herbert Spencer, to show the tendency of all this legislation—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.….. 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 such 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 Hood utterly changing the face of things.…… The numerous Socialistic changes made by Act of Parliament, joined with the numerous others presently to be made, will by-and-bye be all merged in State Socialism—swallowed in the vast wave which they have little by little raised.Having thus pointed the moral of my tale, I am satisfied to leave the matter in your Lordships' hands. I will only add, that General Gordon, in that admirable journal of his, which is the real, true, monument to the man, says—It is not, remember, the Government that made the British nation.No, my Lords, it is not the Government that has made the British nation; but it is the Government that, as I have shown, is in a fair way to unmake it, by strangling the spirit of independence, and the self-reliance of the people, and by destroying the moral fibre of our race in the anaconda coils of State Socialism.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I cannot allow to pass without observa- 651 tion the able and eloquent speech which we have heard from my noble Friend. Partly, it was in the nature of a funeral oration, not wholly of an eulogistic character, upon the late Government, or an expression of the hopes and wishes over the cradle of the new one. But with the wishes, hopes, or condemnations of my noble Friend I do not wish to deal. There are one or two flaws in his argument to which I should like to allude. In the first place, I beg to repudiate, and repudiate with energy, the intimation or insinuation my noble Friend is rather fond of making, that in advocating the doctrines I have advocated in respect to the housing of the working classes, I am abandoning any of the distinctive principles of the Party to which I have the honour to belong. I absolutely deny that statement, and I do not need to prove my denial, for, fortunately, my noble Friend proved it for me. What authority did he cite against me to condemn and crush me? It was Lord Macaulay. I am not a follower of Lord Macaulay. And does he remember where that very eloquent passage, which I know well, comes from? It comes from a criticism of a book of the poet and distinguished writer Southey, who, during all those years of his life, was in the literary and journalistic world one of the main supports of the Tory Party. I, at all events, have not incurred the criticism of my noble Friend. I am following Southey, and not Lord Macaulay; and in doing so I maintain that I am not false to the principles of the political Party to which I belong. But that is a very small matter. The question which the noble Earl has raised is one of great importance, because undoubtedly it deals with a class of legislation which we shall have to consider, whether we like it or not, a good deal in the future. It has been considered in various countries in the world, and is looked upon with great hope by some and great terror by others. But my complaint of the doctrine which the noble Earl preaches with so much eloquence in this House is that it is deformed throughout by a serious ambiguity of expression. The word "Socialism" in his hands has a great many different meanings. Usually he employs it simply as a synonym for robbery, as a term which means taking what belongs to one man and giving it to another. I 652 need not say that in so for as my noble Friend uses it in that sense I entirely concur with him in all his denunciations, and I am constrained to admit that in that sense much of our recent legislation has, unhappily, been tainted with Socialism. I need not repeat the indignant denunciations of my noble Friend; but he can hardly put his language so strong that I shall not concur with him. But then that is not Socialism in the sense in which my noble Friend has applied the term to such measures as the unfortunate one of mine, which he is so fond of criticizing, or many other proposals of the present day. Socialism in that sense is the application of the power and resources of society to benefit, not the whole of society, but one particular class, especially the most needy class of that society; and the main commandment of the gospel preached by my noble Friend is—"Thou shall not use the public resources to benefit the poor." I do not know that he stated it in that crude form; but that undoubtedly lies at the bottom of much of the philosophy of Bentham and others, whom he is so fond of quoting, and is looked upon as one of the highest formulas of political economy. Whether that doctrine be right or not, or in whatever sense it be right, we in this country at least have the greatest possible difficulty in using it, because whenever we come to deal with this question of using public funds for the benefit in any way of the most necessitous class of the community, there stares us in the face the fact that the duty of sustaining the most necessitous class of the community by public funds has for three centuries formed a part of the law of England. That is so strong a feet that it vitiates every argument you can use from what is called sheer principle against measures of that kind. My noble Friend, preaching against Socialism in this sense—that is to say, against the use of public money for the benefit of the poor—is like a man who preaches teetotalism over his wine, or like the celebrated Scotch minister who took the train to Glasgow on a Sabbath morning to preach against Sunday travelling. My noble Friend is surrounded by evidences of his own utter inconsistency. He is trying to clothe himself in a garb of principle which experience and practice, and the law of this country, have riddled 653 through and through. It is not only that we do sustain the poor by law, but the fact that we do it must necessarily affect the rest of our legislation, for a good deal of our legislation which my noble Friend calls Socialistic is defended by this—that unless you use the public resources in this or that way to benefit the poor, you will reduce them to so much distress that you will have to spend a great deal more by succouring them by means of the Poor Law. There was a very remarkable case of that some years ago. My noble Friend objected very much to some interference—I think it was with the whitelead manufactories, or some trade whose effect was to injure the health of the workmen, and throw them on the parish. My noble Friend said—"What interest is this to the public?" It was obviously the interest of the public. The State had accepted the burden of supporting those who were necessitous, and therefore everything, no matter what, which increases the number of the necessitous, or diminishes the operation of the natural causes which should restrict that number, becomes by the very existence of the Poor Law one of the highest interests of the State. But I entirely concur with my noble Friend—if he would but abandon what seems to me the very shabby and ragged ends of worn-out principles and go to higher considerations of policy and justice—I entirely concur with him that there are very great dangers in extending too far this policy of expending public money for the benefit of the State. But what I complain of is the manner in which this word Socialism is used. I think it is liable to mislead men to imagine that they have some cold, clean-cut principle on which they can rely, and some formula to which in each case they can appeal. I believe that no such formula exists. I believe that Socialism in this sense affects and spreads through the whole of your institutions, and is being taken up by some of the most powerful and conservative interests abroad; and therefore it is idle to attempt to dispose of a particular proposal by saying that it is Socialistic. Prove that it is against public policy; show that it discourages thrift; above all, show that it interferes with justice, that it benefits one class by injuring another—do these things, and you have proved your case, But do 654 not imagine that by merely affixing to it the reproach of Socialism you can seriously affect the progress of any great legislative movement, or destroy those high arguments which are derived from the noblest principles of philanthropy and religion.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, he rather sympathized with the objects that he understood the noble Earl had in view; but he thought that he probably sympathized with it more than the noble Marquess who had just sat down. He must also say that he agreed with some of the criticisms made on the noble Earl's speech by the noble Marquess. The noble Earl had spent five to seven months preparing this speech, to which he had constantly added, improving upon it as time passed.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
said, he put the Notice down four or five months ago; but he had not been able to got an earlier opportunity to call attention to the subject.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, then, at all events, the noble Earl must have known, at least, five months ago what he had to say, and he had no doubt but that he had been perfecting the speech ever since. Now, he rather objected that, in a speech of that sort on a subject which he considered to be of The greatest possible interest, the noble Earl should have thought it right to introduce many matters which had absolutely nothing to do with Socialism. The noble Earl had thought it right to bring in a subject of a very important nature, which had been discussed before, and would be discussed again, but which had really nothing to do with the matter. What had it to do with Socialism whether the noble Earl agreed with the foreign policy of the late Government or of the present, or whether he approved or disapproved of new regulations at the Tower or the Houses of Parliament to prevent the indiscriminate admission of the public and to afford some protection against nefarious attempts? All those matters were utterly irrelevant. He thought that the noble Earl having put himself forward as the champion of political and economical questions against both sides in the State, it was a pity that he was not more careful in the selection of his facts. The noble Earl had complained of measures intended to deal with the great question of the public health. 655 [The Earl of WEMYSS dissented.] He understood the noble Earl certainly to take exception to the measures. Then the noble Earl brought in the question of the Budget of the late Government and its defeat. Well, he did not want to argue; but it seemed to him that the principle of the Budget of his right hon. Friend was founded on very just principles—namely, of distributing in certain fair proportions the burden of taxation between the rich and the poor. He thought it was more Socialistic for the Opposition to attack that in a manner which showed a tendency towards indirect taxation. To call the action of the late Government in this matter Socialism was absolutely absurd and irrelevant. The noble Earl brought forward another extraordinary instance of Socialism. He brought forward the instance of a Government as a debtor declining to accept public property to pay off the debt it owed unless the creditor would consent to accept smaller terms. The operation might be successful or unsuccessful as a financial measure, but to call it Socialism was absolutely absurd. He did think there was a tendency towards a mild form of Socialism, in opposing which he hoped his noble Friend would take the lead and be supported; but, at the same time, he would beg to advise his noble Friend really to consider whether it was a wise thing or not to oppose every measure in which he fancied there was some Socialistic tendency, and not to waste any power he might have for stemming that which was really Socialistic in its character.
§ LORD BRAMWELL
said, the only exception to the principle that they should not divert public funds for the benefit of a particular class was that afforded by the Poor Law, the ground of which was that it was impossible for the State to allow people to starve for the want of means to keep them alive. But because they had that one exception were they to have others? He trusted not. With the most profound respect for the noble Marquess, he thought that they had better abide by a principle though there was one inevitable exception to it.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
said, he would not trouble their Lordships about the legislative measures alluded to in the speeches already delivered. But he must observe that, in his opinion, much of the 656 widespread depression undeniably so long prevalent was attributable, not to the measures only of the late Government, but also to the speeches of some of its influential Members, which he had learnt from recent inquiries had caused extensive alarm and distrust among many other capitalists, large and small, besides landowners. He (Earl Fortescue) had himself heard that more than one capitalist of his acquaintance had been led by the language of hon. and right hon. demagogues to remove his capital abroad. Though the Tate Government had relegated political economy to some distant planet, they could hardly deny the truth of one of its definitions, that capital was the wage fund of a country. The many unemployed labourers in England ought to know to whom they owe the transfer of part of that wage fund to the employment of their rivals in foreign countries. Mr. Chamberlain had spoken of the ransom due from property, and one of his Colleagues had tried to identify this statement with the late Mr. Drummond's noble saying—"Property has its duties as well as its rights." He (Earl Fortescue) had been honoured with the friendship of that most valuable and truly noble public servant, prematurely cut off by death in the midst of his labours. But anything more essentially different than the purely moral motive suggested to landlords by the one, and the coveting, not to say confiscation, suggested to the multitude by the other, could hardly be conceived. Happily, the language of the right hon. Sympathizer with Mr. Bradlaugh had much diminished his influence with the reasonable, thoughtful, and moral of all classes of the community.