§ *THE EARL OF WEMYSS
My Lords, I have on two previous occasions ventured to bring before your Lordships the subject which stands in my name on the Paper. I did so in 1885, and again in 1887, and I had hoped to do so again at the close of last Session, but illness prevented my being able to be present in your Lordships' House. On the last occasion my audience consisted of seven Peers, and I am not quite certain that they all sat out my speech. This time there is a goodly array of your Lordships present, which I attribute to the fact that Socialism is yearly acquiring greater importance. It is a subject which cannot be 1216 blinked, but which must be boldly looked in the face. But I am not sure, as regards the speaker, who has to bring this question forward, that it would not have been bettor for him that he should have the chance of boring seven rather than seventy of your Lordships. But I ask your Lordships' patience, as, without entering into some details, it is impossible to give your Lordships a fair summary of the Socialistic situation. On the last occasion I divided my subject into the Socialism of the streets, the Socialism of the schools or of the philosophers who wrote on the question, and the Socialism of the Senate, or legislative action. I propose to adhere to the same division, only inverting the order, the Socialism of the streets having of late acquired much more importance than it had when I first brought the subject forward. My Lords, I propose, then, first to call your attention to the most prominent of what I venture to call the Socialistic measures which have been either passed or brought into one or other of the Houses of Parliament. The first question, I have no doubt, which your Lordships will ask is, What is a Socialistic measure? ["Hear, hear!"] The noble Marquess cheers, but I will state that at once. The last time I spoke on this subject I defined Socialistic legislation to be "legislative curtailment of liberty and legislative confiscation of property for the benefit of the politician." But on this occasion I will apply a test to Bills which I think nay noble Friends on my right cannot possibly object to. I hold all measures to be Socialistic which, up to a certain date, about 20 or 25 years ago, were held by the old Liberal Party, and by the political economists of those days, to be outside the province of Parliament. At that time the object of Parliament was to free men from restrictions and to take away whatever inequalities they considered to exist in legislation, so that men might be free and unfettered to run the race of life. At that time, down to 1860, so successful had Parliament been in freeing men by legislation that a well-known Liberal writer, Mr. Bagehot, said that there would soon be nothing left for Parliament to do. But, my Lords, this was in pre-Gladstonian days; since then a new spirit has arisen, for since 1870 all the endeavours of Parliament 1217 have been directed to undo the work of previous Legislatures, and again impose restrictions. Land was, no doubt, the first subject of retrograde legislation, under the Irish Act of 1870. But since then every great interest in turn—houses, ships, railways—in short, all the great interests in the State, have been, more or less, the objects of attack and of grandmotherly legislation. I rejoice at that, and on this ground, that when the property of the Irish landlords was shamefully confiscated the other great interests stood calmly by and allowed this legislation to take place. It was as if they said to themselves, "Let the galled jade (land) wince, our withers are unwrung." But they are no longer unwrung, and other interests now see the danger that hangs over them, for they are all, more or less, the subject of attack, and they find that they must combine, irrespective of Party, to resist the State' Regulator and robber. My Lords, I have used a strong term, but I think the legislation that has been passed justifies it, and, indeed, to call a spade a spade is about the only satisfaction that is left to us. But while saying this, I wish to guard myself upon one point. I should like to express the sympathy I honestly feel for the poor. I do not believe there are any of your Lordships who have keener sympathy than myself with the trials of the poor, and the load that lies on the shoulders of labour, or who would more gladly lighten the toils of the worker and relieve him, if possible, of the burden he has to bear. But I do not think the best way to do that is by false economies; and the worst method of all is to shake confidence in the security of property—the soul of success and prosperity in a mercantile community—by confiscating the property of one set of people for the supposed benefit of another. There is, moreover, a vital point which should not be forgotten in considering these questions, and in taking what is called the harsh political-economy view of these measures. It should be remembered that we have had in this country—I do not know whether it exists in America, I know it does not exist in France, Belgium, or Germany—a Poor Law since the time of Elizabeth, under which property to the uttermost farthing can be rated, if need be, for the benefit of the poor. Now, my Lords, having prefaced this much, I turn to the Acts 1218 and Bills which, within the last few years, have come before Parliament. I hold in my hand a list of those measures; and I am sorry to say that when you look over them you will find they are not all Liberal and Radical measures, but that the Conservatives have their fair share of them. Your Lordships will recollect the definition I have given of what I consider to be Socialistic measures, namely, measures which in the days of genuine true Liberalism would have been considered outside the province of Parliament. During the five years from 1885 to 1889 inclusive, 318 Bills of the character to which I refer were brought in, and 40 became Acts of Parliament. In 1888 there were 89 Bills of that character brought in, and eight became Acts. Of those 89 Bills, 51 were brought in by Liberals and Nationalists, and three of them were carried; 38 were brought in by Conservative Unionists, and five became Acts. In 1889 there were 67 Bills brought in, of which 10 became Acts; of those the Liberals and Nationalists brought in 35 Bills, and carried three as Acts, and 32 were brought in by Conservative Unionists, of which seven were carried. Now, my Lords, what is the character of all this legislation? It is to substitute State-help for self-help, to regulate and control men in their dealings one with another with regard to land or anything else. The State now forbids contracts, breaks contracts, makes contracts. The whole tendency is to substitute the State or the Municipality for the free action of the individual. I have said that land was the first subject of attack. I need not trouble your Lordships with many instances of that; I will simply state generally that measures affecting land are, in the main, for the purpose of putting the State or the tenants practically, more or less, in the position of the landlords, and to give them, more or less, control of the landlords' estates. Of the Acts passed in 1888 there were a Law of Distress Amendment Act as regards lands and houses, a measure for the preferential payment of wages, a Public Health Amendment Act, by which, without compensation, when landlords exercised their right of reserving land for building upon at any future time, they were deprived of it as regarded any gardens which they had temporarily set aside for that purpose. The tendency to State inter- 1219 ference is seen in every direction; land, capital and labour, railways and canals, trade and commerce, education, shipping, have been dealt with very freely in the same way. There has been a Government Bill dealing with technical education and providing for the addition of a technical workshop to every elementary school. But just listen for a moment, my Lords, to the sort of grandmotherly legislation we have had with regard to merchant ships. The Merchant Shipping Act of 1888 empowers the President of the Board of Trade to enforce various regu lations upon the owners of sea-going ships by the imposition of £100 fine. Those are regulations affecting the quality and description of boats, liferafts, life-jackets, and life-buoys to be carried, as to the method of using life boats, and providing oil in stormy weather. Inspectors are appointed to see to those things. Under the head of trades and manufactures I find that the Employers' Liability Act has been extended, so that men shall not contract themselves out of the Act. There you have interference with contracts. In 1889 we had a very remarkable Bill brought in by the Conservatives, refer ring to cotton-cloth factories. It is to enable State Inspectors to regulate, under heavy fines, the amount of artificial moisture to be permitted in the atmosphere of the factories; to prevent the temperature being raised above 70 degrees; to ensure the placing in such factories, and keeping in working order, two standard wet and dry thermometers; that the readings shall be recorded daily between certain hours, and that they shall be kept in a properly glazed frame; and there are other provisions with regard to the inhalation of dust and the humidity of the air. That, my Lords, seems to me to be a stretch of even grandmotherly legislation. Then with regard to the Government Bill dealing with technical education—by which, as I understand, it is to be in the power of Local Bodies to establish technical schools, and to attach workshops to almost every school—I should like to ask what was the Kensington Museum established for? What are the schools of art throughout the country in connection with it for but for this purpose? And I believe they have worked very successfully. But, after all, 1220 it has not been by technical workshops, provided out of public funds, that England has obtained her supremacy in the manufacturing world. Lord Armstrong has condemned this system of public technical education, and he has written most ably against it. Further, there has sprung up of late a system of what are called "Home-Art Industries," originated, I believe, by my noble Friend, Earl Brownlow. It is spreading in all parts of the country, and I know it has succeeded admirably well in my own district. Most excellent work is being; done in that way entirely voluntarily, without any demands being made upon the rates for establishing technical workshops, and simply, as many excellent things have grown up in this country, by the voluntary action of people who are free, enterprising, and independent. I venture, therefore, to say, my Lords, that these technical schools are neither necessary nor desirable. Let me now turn for a moment to the Bills which have been brought in within the last two years. I will only-take a few of them. One measure which was to have come before the other House of Parliament, and which may, perhaps, some day reach your Lordships' House, is called the Access to Mountains Bill, which will empower people to go for scientific or artistic purposes everywhere except where there may be enclosures or plantations. That is really a measure to permit the public, generally to roam at large. I am speaking in the presence of Scotchmen and Torkshiremen who know what moors are, and I venture to say that, in regard to property, the value of the grouse on Scotch moors is probably equal to that of the sheep on them. Thus, this proposal might destroy much valuable property. If the Bill ever comes before your Lordships, I hope you will take-care not to permit people to travel freely over moors, and destroy the grouse in the nesting season. I do not think that men would be allowed for a moment, for any scientific or artistic-purposes, to walk freely through cabbage gardens, or over strawberry beds. The grouse and deer are about the most valuable properties our mountains produce. Then there is the question of fishing, in which many of your Lordships are interested. Another Bill has 1221 been brought in to make all fishing common, except salmon. I am not sure whether it is that Bill which contains a very remarkabls provision, but I know a Bill was brought in which insisted that the riparian owners, whose property was thus to be taken from them and given to the public, were to make paths along the rivers and streams, and if they did not do so, and their fences were broken down, the responsibility for any damage was thrown upon them, and not upon the trespassers. Next there was the Leasehold Enfranchisement Bill. That is a nice measure! It provides that anybody who has an unexpired lease of 20 years, shall be able to go to some Public Authority and claim to be allowed to transform his leasehold into a freehold. And not only does that refer to houses, but if there are three acres of ground he can enforce a sale. Can anything be more immoral than such a proposal? A man takes a lease, I do not care whether it be of a town house, a country house, or a cottage, with his eyes open, and having entered into a contract to give up peaceable possession at the end of his term, he comes to Parliament and asks Parliament to break his contract, and to enable him to force his landlord to sell. I venture to say that is absolutely and entirely immoral and demoralising. I am myself a tenant of the Crown in this City, and if I were to endeavour, by passing such a Bill as this, to force my landlord to sell I should consider myself neither more nor less than a thief! That may not be the view of the State; but I think it is the simple, plain, honest, and straightforward view of this question. Then there are three Bills which have reference to mines. One of them is called the Eight Hours' Bill, and another refers to quarries. This is a very remarkable Bill. It is brought in by a Liberal, and it prescribes the angle at which ladders are to be placed, the distances at which platforms are to be fixed; and, further, that an Inspector is to go round, and the owner or person working the quarry is to state to him the amount of produce from his mine and the quantity of metal in the mineral got. This is the way trade is expected to be carried on. If this proposal were to become law quarries would simply become unworkable to their owners, or those who at present work 1222 them. I will pass over the Canals and Rail-ways, though there is a Bill which proposes to empower Municipalities to force the sale of them. But there is one Conservative Bill which I will mention, which prescribes the size of the lettering at Railway Stations. There are 19 Bills affecting trade and manufactures. One of them is very remarkable, about hand-loom weaving. A Temporary Dwellings' Bill provides that an Inspector shall have power, at any time between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., that is many hours after dark during a great part of the year, to enter temporary dwellings, including all houses on wheels excepting, I believe, shepherds' huts. Then there is another Bill to compel the payment of wages weekly. If you begin by compelling the payment of wages weekly, how long will it be, having once established such a principle as that, before you fix the rates of wages to be paid? Another compulsory measure is the Shops' Half-holiday Bill. Then there have been introduced no less than 10 Bills in reference to alcohol, with which I shall not trouble your Lordships farther than to say that it is a pity that those in power listen as they do to those who, in regard to this matter of temperance, are so active and who make so much noise. They would do far bettor if they relied on the fact that 999 out of every 1,000 Englishmen prefer, on the whole, beer to water. I think we may say in England that every man has been more or less "sworn on the Horns at High-gate;" by which I believe it is understood that a man swears "he will never drink small-beer as long as he can get ale, and that he will never drink water as long as he can get small-beer." Yet we have Parliament giving heed to the noisy faddists who go about the country advocating all sorts of what they call reforms, and crying out for prohibitory legislation in the face of the fact that such legislation has signally failed wherever it has been tried, as in America and Canada. Your Lordships may remember a famous passage in one of Burke's speeches, in which he says that—To listen to the grasshoppers you would imagine they were the only occupants of a held in which a herd of oxen were quietly lyingI believe that no Government is justified 1223 in giving in to a baseless cry for legislation, which has been shown again and again to be a failure wherever it has been tried. Then, in regard to education, there have been some extraordinary proposals. A Bill entitled "Elementary Schools Continuance" proposes that there shall be taught drawing, bookkeeping, shorthand, German, or some other foreign language, the properties of soils and manures, irrigation, draining, the principles of farming, the rotation of crops, the structural life of plants, the growing of fruit, vegetables, and flowers, botany, the rearing and keeping of cattle, pigs, and poultry, singing, calisthenics, musical drill, the use of tools, laundry work, art-handiwork, modelling, wood-carving, &c. One very comprehensive saving clause provides for instruction in any other "analogous subjects." Then Mr. Broadhurst says that he holds it to be the duty of the State to see that every child shall have daily "one good, sound, wholesome meal." This, of course, is to be provided for out of the rates. And if they are to be fed, my Lords, why not clothed? Why not let the State or the unhappy ratepayer, who is to stand in loco parentis to these children, take upon himself all the duties of their parents? When a rate is spoken of it is said, "Oh, it is only a 1d. or 1d. or 2d. in the £1;" but the ocean is made up of drops. I know one estate on which the rents are down 25 per cent. and the rates up 50 percent., and I believe that is by no means an exceptional case. On the contrary, I think it is very generally the case throughout the country. But who are the people who suffer most? My Lords, the people who suffer most from high rates are those poor people who are just able to keep their heads above water, and whom this additional halfpenny, penny, or twopence, may sink altogether. My Lords, I cannot pass from this question of the Senate and its legislation without touching upon the action of Trades Unions, because I think I am saying what is exactly to the point when I say that I believe our legislators are greatly influenced by the opinions of workmen, as expressed through their Trades Unions, and rightly so if those views are reasonable. What is the view of these Unions? There was a Congress, in 1888, at Bradford, and another in Dundee, in 1889. Let us see 1224 what is the view upon this kind of legislation of those who have the right to speak in the name of the working men, through their Trades Unions. Here are a few words from the President's Address at Bradford. He said that—The Eight Hours Bill is only a temporary measure. Land Reforrn will give permanent relief. It must be searching, durable; and give the land to the people … In spectors should be allowed to enter at all hours, without warrant, to see whether the work is properly carried on, whether it be in a bedroom, or anywhere else.At the Congress at Dundee the President said that—The Eight Hours Bill is only a stop-gap.A stop-gap till when, my Lords?Till light has spread, then, indeed, it will go hard with stock gamblers, land monopolists, rents and Royalties. With Trades Union Magistrates, Trades Union Parochial Managers, and with Trades Union M.P.'s, what could not be accomplished?The opinion of the Congress was in favour of Land Nationalisation. Then, my Lords, there is another new element in Socialism in a Public Body which has risen up among us. It is not a Senate, but it has its President, its Committees, and its Finance Minister. I believe it has powers of taxation, though, happily, it has not, as yet, the power of sanctioning public meetings in Trafalgar Square, nor has it got the police under its control. Your Lordships will readily see that I refer to the London County Council, and I regret that the head of the London County Council is not in his place tonight. Nowhere in this island are predatory principles more in vogue than in the London County Council, and nowhere is grandmotherly legislation so palatially housed as is the London County Council in the splendid hall that has just been constructed for them. It seems to me, from a picture I have seen in the Illustrated London News, that the Throne of Her Majesty in this Chamber-is as a common chair compared with the seat which the President has had constructed for himself out of our rates. Let us see what is the sort of legislation that finds favour in the London County Council. They propose, amongst other things, to prescribe the kind of grate that everyone is to use in his rooms; they wish to have the control of meetings in 1225 Trafalgar Square: and it is proposed by an important member that no contracts should be taken up save those in which the labour is to be well paid. There is a proposal that all loans for permanent works or improvements shall be placed hereafter upon such persons as the law may direct, ail contracts to the contrary notwithstanding. That is, they are to be dealt with entirely without reference to any contracts which may have been made with regard to those loans. Of the betterment question I will not speak beyond this, as it is under the consideration of a Committee in "another place;" but it seems to me that the members of the Surveyors' Institute have given the best answer when they point out that there is, per contra, a "detriment" question, where the traffic has been diverted by the alteration or betterment; and I think, where you have to consider detriment against betterment, the one would be simply a set-off against the other. Then, on the great question of the day- the housing of the working classes—they propose to take by compulsion without compensation, for prospective advantages, property for the people engaged in industry, both inside and outside the Metropolitan area. They are to build for them baths, wash-houses, and "other suitable structures;" provide open spaces for their convenience within the Metropolitan area and five miles beyond. Kitchens, nurseries, dining-halls, and other rooms for joint use, and buildings for shops and "other purposes" are to be provided. Every weekly tenant, if his house is demolished after 12 months' occupation, is to receive £1 compensation, and for every year up to 15 years' occupation; the best accommodation is to be found at the lowest rent; suitable places are to be provided for donkeys, costermongers' barrows, and other things, and facilities for home industries. That is the little bill-of-fare of the Loudon County Council for the housing of the working classes. With regard to this question, I hold that the only duty of the State is negative. The only duty of the State or Municipality is to say that buildings unlit for habitation shall not be permitted. I think that is proper and legitimate; but if this sort of thing is to be done by Municipalities out of the rates, if the Government is to encourage 1226 this sort of thing, it will be interfering with private enterprise and the independent action that is going on at present. Nothing' could be better than Sir Sydney Waterlow's scheme, which was working very well long before this proposition was put forward: and I say that nothing can be better than to leave such free action to supply what is wanted. Then, again, the London County Council has passed a resolution urging the Government to seize the property of the City Companies, and, I suppose, hand it over to them. That resolution was carried by 57 to 40. Looking, then, at the economic doctrines which prevail in the London County Council, considering how they refer back to a long past time in our history, I cannot help thinking that any Plantagenet Exhibition which might be held at the New Gallery, or any where else, would be incomplete without a bust of the Chairman of the London County Council; and, looking at the predatory character of the proposals which they would like to see inaugurated, I cannot but feel that the doors of their palatial chamber require no lock and key, but that they will fly wide open when the members approach them, and say: "Open Sesame!" I can only hope that the Oriental parallel will be completed, and that the spirit of Morgiana will be infused into the Metropolitan Electorate before the next London County Council election. My Lords, I have done now with the Senate and the different bearings of its Socialistic legislation, and I come now to what I have termed the Socialism of the Schools. In illustration of this, I will only trouble your Lordships with one quotation, and that is from a Paper read before the British Association, in 1888, by Mr. Bernard Shaw. He is a member of the Fabian Society, and I am told that he is reckoned the ablest writer and the best reasoner upon the Socialistic question. What is his view? It is a very simple one. But first, I had better say what "Fabian" means. As explained to me, it means that this Society does not look to revolution to make its ways prevail, but trusts to Fabian tactics, to silent influences, and the potent action of legislation. Mr. Bernard Shaw's Paper was entitled "The Transition to Social Democracy," and in one passage he said— 1227Socialism involves the transfer of rent to the whole people. Here is the rent from industry, here are the pockets of the proprietors; drop the rents into the people's pocket. Organisation of industry required capital and land, to be obtained by the expropriation of landlords, and the taxation of rent.The problem, then, is a very simple one. The land is to be appropriated to the people by the expropriation of the landlords and the taxation of rents. That, I think, will be especially interesting to noble Lords who receive rents. Then there is another branch of Socialism which. I will just touch, upon, and that is what may be called Sacerdotal Socialism. Cardinal Manning has recently taken an active part in the dock labourer's strike, and his view of these questions can be obtained from his utterances on the subject of early shop-closing, with reference to which he has said that no remedy except by legislation would ever be adequate. My Lords, I come now to the question of the public meetings in the streets, to show the tone that prevails there. At public Socialistic meetings, the general character of the speeches is violent abuse of holders of property, and the speeches tend greatly to disorder. I need not mention the names of the leading Socialists who use that language; their names are familiar to your Lordships. In two years there have been 37 important public meetings in London alone. In 1888, at a Social Democratic meeting, all the leaders were present, and the sacerdotal element, as I have called it, was represented by the Rev. Stewart Head-lam, who called upon the white slaves to possess themselves of the County Councils, the Municipalities, and the State; using the power gained to possess the land, factories, mines, and all the means and instruments of production. That is what real Socialism means. It does not mean attacks upon land alone, but upon unearned increment of all kinds, the idea being that the State or the Municipality should possess all the means and instruments of production. On January 1, 1889, at a public meeting, Mr. Williams threatened—That they would go in a body to Grosvenor House and Buckingham Palace, and parade all the thieves and criminals for the benefit of the pot-bellied aldermen and the idlers of the West End.Mr. Morris, poet, Socialist, and high art 1228 manufacturer, was present on that occasion. On January 8, at a meeting of the unemployed near the Marble Arch, Mr. Burns said—By Heaven, their rights were worth fighting for,and Mr. Williams said—and I would specially call the Prime Minister's attention to this—There were thousands ready to cut off Lord Salisbury's head, like the French in 1789. They would terrorise Parliament, and knock down Members of Parliament like bullocks.On July 1st a mob, headed by the editor of Justice, broke in upon and dissolved for a time the Bermondsey Vestry. On the 25th August, at a meeting of dock labourers in Hyde Park, Mr. Burns said that the letters of the Dock Companies' Directors "expressed the sentiments of ghouls and financial Jack-Rippers." On August 30th an appeal was signed by the leading Socialists asking all the trades to strike on the same day and paralyse trade of every kind. On November 17th a very nice meeting took place at the Guildhall Tavern. It was not an ordinary meeting of people in the streets, but a meeting of shopkeepers; and what did they ask? They asked for a Court to fix rent, that rates should be divided between the tenant and the landlord, all contracts to the contrary notwithstanding, that tenants should have a vested right in goodwill, a right to compensation for unexhausted improvements, and leasehold enfranchisement. When I read that, it struck me that there was a strange omission in this programme. Surely they must have intended that the Court that is to fix rent should fix the prices of commodities also, for if rents are to be fixed for the benefit of the shopkeeper prices ought to be fixed for the benefit of his customer. I think that does not admit of dispute for one moment. And now, my Lords, I will give the last quotation with which I shall trouble you on this head. First let me state, however, that on the 15th November, at a meeting of the Liberal Union, Mr. Causton, M.P., in the chair, it was decided that, if their demands were not granted, a Liberal Party should be formed on the lines of the Irish Party. On December 22nd, at a meeting held in connection with the gas strike, a speaker said—That a man like Livesey1229 —that is the gentleman who showed so much firmness in dealing with the strikers—had no right to live, and that the man was a hero who went that night and murdered him;and that atrocious expression of opinion at a public meeting was loudly applauded. Now, I would say a few words respecting this question of strikes. In 1866 I sat on the Trade Unions Commission for two years, but I had previously had occasion to consider the subject, as I had addressed the miners at Dalkeith upon Trades Unions and strikes; and had formed the opinion that all a successful strike could do was to anticipate a rise in wages and to check a fall. After sitting on the Commission for two years I remained of the same opinion. The Commission recommended that Trades Unions, which had been up to that time illegal, as being in restraint of trade, should be legalised. But certainly it never entered the heads of those who formed the Commission to legalise tyranny over men who did not wish and who declined to belong to Unions. Surely, my Lords, it is the duty of the Government, of every Municipality, and of the police, and of everybody to take care that the man who has for his only property free right to labour shall be at liberty to sell that labour in whatever market he chooses. Daring the gas strike a most painful and shameful thing occurred. The Trades Unions in London having declined, on behalf of the men, to accept the wages that were offered, a body of Scotch labourers came up to the Metropolis from Dundee, but they were not allowed to enter upon their proposed service. They were hustled off, and had to beg their way back to Dundee. I say it is a disgrace that such a thing could be possible in a country which professes to protect liberty and to give the right to free labour. Now, my Lords, I have so far dealt with this subject; but I think I should be treating it incompletely if I failed to bring before your Lordships the views taken upon this question, and their utterances upon it, of some prominent public men. Politicians are all, more or less, worshippers of the "jumping cat," and by the actions and speeches of public men you can often gauge the pressure that there is outside which is forcing them 1230 in a particular direction. Now, my Lords, I propose to call your Lordships' attention to the sayings of some of our public men of note. The first I will take is Sir William Harcourt. Sir William Harcourt was called, in another place, two years ago, "The high priest of the jumping cat," and he has recently said, "We are all Socialists now." That was a very remarkable statement coming from Sir William Harcourt; for it will be in the recollection of my noble Friend the Prime Minister and of others in Parliament at the time that it was Sir William Harcourt who, some 20 years ago, ran off to Oxford with Mr. Schofield's "Grandmother,"—Mr. Schofield being the inventor of the phrase, "Grandmotherly legislation." Sir William Harcourt was so enamoured of it that he took this respectable old lady down to Oxford and made immense political capital out of her; turning her on all occasions into ridicule. But when he had to go to Derby to conciliate another constituency, finding they had there a great respect for the old lady, he completely changed his views, and has since taken every opportunity of praising her—in public. That shows, I think, if anything can, the contrast between the utterances of 20 years ago and now on these questions. Then my noble Friend Lord Rosebery said, I think it was at Glasgow, that—Democracy would deal very summarily with all questions of land, and especially summarily with the question of land in towns;and Mr. Morley, who stood stoutly out against the eight hours movement, said that—Democracy would not be tender to vested interests.That, I take it, means that Democracy will rob right and left. But if anyone wants to know what is the real Liberal programme of the future, he should turn to an address delivered by Sir C. Dilke at Glasgow, who is endeavouring to work and bribe his way back to public life. In this address ho said he looked forward to the time when brains and heredity would be at a discount as compared with strong arms, when every one would work, when there would be no lazybones, shorter hours, more diffused work, when there would be free education up to the University, a working day of eight hours, compulsory 1231 acquisition of land, fair judicial rents, security of tenure, a division of rates between landlord and tenant, graduation of municipal rates, equalisation and graduation of Death Duties, manhood and womanhood suffrage, four Home Rule Parliaments, payment of Members of Parliament and of Local Bodies, and many other extreme changes. But, my Lords, if I wanted to point to one thing which more than another shows the Socialistic tendencies of the time, I should find it, I think, in the Report recently drawn up by the Committee of your Lordships' House appointed upon the subject of Sweating. The Report of the Sweating Committee contains recommendations that the weight and size of hammers with which women worked and that chains made by them should be regulated by Statute. Why should they not carry that a little further, and prescribe the weight of every scuttle of coals that is to be carried upstairs by the housemaids in your Lordships' houses? But the most serious of the recommendations of that Committee is one which suggests that Public Bodies should take every precaution in their power to insure fair and reasonable terms to their workers. I see before me a noble Lord who was a member of that Committee, and I should like to ask him if he can make out that that does not mean really fixing wages?
Then I should like to be informed, if they do not propose to do that, what they mean by "insuring fair and reasonable terms to the workers?" Practically, that would make them judges of what is, and what is not, sufficient pay. Two years ago, when speaking on this subject, I referred to the noble stand made by Mr. Bradlaugh against the feeling prevailing amongst working men in favour of State interference and Socialistic grandmotherly legislation. Lately, I find, he has made a similar stand upon the eight hours question. All honour to Mr. Bradlaugh for speaking as he did! He said the proposal, if carried out, would, in his opinion,Have a most demoralising effect upon the labouring classes. Let the working men encourage a spirit of self-reliance and settle their hours of labour for themselves. Parliament cannot make backbones for men who 1232 have not got them; and to legislate for the weakest and most helpless would discourage the strongest and most vigorous in the continuance of the efforts they have hitherto made, and which have advanced this country before the other nations of the world.That was a portion of his speech delivered in the House of Commons on the 24th February. But, my Lords, what is all important at the present time, surrounded as we are by all these Socialistic tendencies, is to know what are the views of the Prime Minister on the subject. I was delighted to read that at a great meeting held at Nottingham in the winter my noble Friend at the head of the Government, while expressing full sympathy with labour, and with the poor, showed the folly and certain failure in the long run of wild attempts to benefit them by proposals to rob other people. He spoke thus—On confidence is built the proud structure of our commercial supremacy; on confidence is based the vast fabric of civilisation which we see around us; and if you encourage these peddling philosophers with their petty, spiteful acts of confiscation, animated by no philanthropic spirit, but by a mere impulse of class antipathy, if you allow them to have their way, the substratum of all your civilisation and prosperity and happiness will melt away.Those, my Lords, are words of wisdom,, and I hope they will be taken to heart by those Conservatives who are inclined to coquette with Socialistic legislation, and have brought in such Bills as I have referred to. Not long ago it was my good fortune to hear my noble Friend at the Royal Academy ridicule grandmotherly legislation. Your Lordships have no doubt read the speech that he then made. It was as wise as it was witty. He assured the Royal Academy that the one thing they needed, as in regard to other institutions, was to be left alone, and he turned the whole idea of State interference into consummate ridicule. He also made some comparison between my noble Friends on the right, and their position with one of the pictures, to which, however, I need not further allude, and I will only say that it is a comfort that we have a Prime Minister who can give utterance to doctrine so wise. I have only one other point to call your Lordships' attention to, and it is that this Socialistic legislation is hurtful to trade, and to industry alike. I believe that those who encourage it are really the worst friends of the working man—I 1233 mean this kind of Socialistic legislation, which destroys confidence. Nay, more, I believe that by substituting State aid for self-help you tend to destroy the very fibre and moral character of the nation. There conies to us upon this point a, voice from Central Africa, for I find that Mr. Stanley, speaking the other day at St. James's Hall, when giving credit to those who had served with him and endured terrible sufferings with so much courage, said—Darkest Africa had been to them a fiery furnace, a crucible, and a question chamber which have tried each of them to the very depths of their natures, and they have borne every trial to which they have been subjected with more than Spartan—with old English-fortitude, before maw kishness and mock sentimentality had rendered men maudlin.Those words from the great explorer of the great Dark Continent it would be well for all to take to heart. My Lords, it now only remains for me to thank you for listening to me for so long a time; but before I sit down I would point out that the time of my bringing forward these Socialistic questions is singularly appropriate. We are still in the month of May. It was inaugurated, not as the merrie month of May was of old in the days of Merrie England, but by an organised demonstration of labour throughout the civilised world. On the Continent those demonstrations were viewed with alarm: but by the action taken by the Governments all danger was removed, and they have all passed over without the occurrence of any event which there might have been cause to deplore. In our own country also there was a similar and vast trades demonstration sanctioned and escorted by the police. Thanks to the good conduct and order maintained by the people themselves it all passed off in the quietest and most satisfactory manner. But even here, my Lords, words were spoken by one of the Socialistic leaders which showed the spirit in which the demonstrations were got up. Mr. John Burns, when a band passed the platform from which he was addressing the meeting, playing the "Marseillaise," said, "We can stand the 'Marseillaise, out we could not have stood' God save the Queen.'" That shows, my Lords, the spirit which animates some, at all events, of the leaders of the Socialistic movement in this country. But all these matters, to 1234 which I have referred for the purpose of showing the spirit which animates Socialism, and what an element Socialism is now in the politics of our country, sink into insignificance compared with the great Labour Conference held at Berlin. Our country was represented there—whether rightly or wrongly I do not pretend to say but we ought to be thankful that we have come out of it untramelled and uncommitted, above all, upon the vital question of State regulation of adult male labour. Once pass that line within which adult men are left free to contract for their labour as they like, and we shall take a leap, my Lords, not, indeed, in the dark, but from light into darkness—from the light of sound economic science back into the dark ages of our past legislative economic errors. I trust, my Lords, that that leap will never be taken by the Legislature of this country; and that if any such Bill comes to your Lordships' House I hope you will resist its passing to the utmost, whatever the consequences to your Lordships-may be.
*THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
My Lords, the noble Earl has made a very interesting and somewhat discursive speech. He has called your Lordships' attention to the Poor Law, dating back to the time of Queen Elizabeth, and he has also placed before you a programme of what is to come in the future, as announced the other day by Sir Charles Dilke. But, my Lords, the noble Earl made very few allusions to the subject of the notice which ho has placed upon the Paper, namely, to call attention to the Socialistic Legislation of the last two Sessions. The Acts of Parliament to which the noble Lord has alluded are exceedingly few, although he has given a long list of Bills, which are very different things. He has called our attention to the saying of agitators and others, the utterances of men excited at public meetings. He has referred to the writings of lights of the Fabian Society, and of many other authorities on that and other subjects, but he scarcely alluded to the Acts of Parliament at all. Acts which were designed, like the Merchant Shipping Act, and two or three Acts of a similar kind, to protect the lives of men from unnecessary peril, ought not to be called Socialistic measures. Those Acts were 1235 so designed, and have, I fancy, proved tolerably successful for the purpose for which they were intended. The noble Earl gave no definition of what he means by Socialistic legislation or of sound political economy. If the noble Lord had only explained what we are to understand by sound political economy, he would have made a valuable contribution to the Debates of Parliament, and to our stock of knowledge, because the writers on political economy at the present day appear to contradict in almost every particular the writers on political economy a quarter of a century ago. The speech of the noble Earl was full of interest; it was also a very feeling speech. I know it affected me, and I think it must have affected your Lordships, to contemplate the mental condition to which the mere spectres which the noble Earl has conjured up have reduced him when he said that, owing to the Socialistic tendencies of the past 25 years, the only pleasure left to him in life was to "call a spade a spade." It is a perfectly innocent amusement, and it has the merit of being absolutely true; but it is a rather dismal kind of pastime for him to indulge in, as the only means of relief from the cares and duties of life. But I think the difference between legislation which might rightly be called Socialistic, and legislation designed to protect people from dangers, physical or other, from which they cannot protect themselves, was sufficiently instanced by what the noble Earl said in reference to the Report of the Committee on the Sweating System. He mentioned the fact that the Committee recommend that women should not be allowed to cut cold iron with an "oliver" beyond a certain weight, and that they should not be allowed to make chains beyond a certain size; and he asked you whether, if you entertain such proposals, you ought not logically to pass an Act of Parliament to prevent housemaids being overburdened by the weight of coalscuttles. As to the suggestion that the size and weight of coalscuttles of the housemaids in your Lordships' houses might have to be regulated, I admit that if there was an overwhelming weight of evidence given before a Committee that the coalscuttles in the noble Earl's house were of such a gigantic size, and that the lifting of them caused physical 1236 detriment to the noble Earl's housemaids, I should be of opinion that the noble Earl ought to be restrained in the use of such coalscuttles. I think, my Lords, that is a fair example of the fact that the noble Earl does not seem to draw a proper distinction between Socialistic Acts of Parliament and Acts of Parliament which are really intended to prevent injury being inflicted where injury might and ought to be avoided. I do not venture to anticipate any discussion which may take place at a later date on the Report of the Sweating Committee, and I do not wish to be led into an academic argument upon what is and what is not Socialism or Socialistic legislation; I merely rise to say that it is perfectly true, as the noble Earl has said, that the legislation of the last 25 years has been very different from, say, the legislation of the 25 years preceding it, in the fact that the former legislation was directed to the removal of restrictions, and that of late years it has been found advisable—necessary, as I think—that some restriction should be placed on the liberty of people to injure others. But, after all, that only means that Parliament has recognised that different circumstances require different laws; that the circumstances under which industry was carried on at the present day are not precisely the same as those which existed a quarter of a century ago. I hope that in dealing in that practical way with the problems which present themselves for consideration Parliament will not allow itself to be influenced by the spectres and the bogeys which appear to have so much troubled the mind of the noble Earl.
§ EARL COWPER
My Lords, I am sure we have all listened with the greatest interest to the speech of my noble Friend in bringing this subject forward. I believe that a great many Members of your Lordships' House who came down last week in the hope of then having that gratification were very much disappointed when the noble Earl thought proper to postpone it. He has made an interesting and able speech, and I hope we may have something of the same entertaining nature from him every year for some time to come. I sincerely hope my noble Friend may live many years in order to give us that gratification. The subject is a most 1237 important one. All the great questions of the day which are occupying the minds of thinking men, and which are being taken up by statesmen, involve more or less the question of Socialism. The overcrowding in our great towns, the terrible revelations so simply, yet so clearly and so forcibly, put in the Report of the Sweating Committee, the unnecessary dangers to which our merchant sailors are exposed, and many similar subjects which I need not enumerate, all involve the question as to how far the State is justified in interfering. No doubt it is a sound principle that people ought not to be taught to look to the State for everything; but I think, while repudiating the idea that the State is to do everything, it would be a great mistake to fall into the opposite error that the State is to do nothing. We must, in fact, as we have had to do in so many other cases, steer between two extremes. I will not go into all the points of the interesting speech my noble Friend has made. We have heard his enumeration of the measures which he condemns, and he appears to admit in some degree the principle that everything ought to be considered on its own merits and not according 10 any hard-and-fast rule, or disposed of by the formula that the State has nothing to do with anything of that kind. He showed fallacies and absurdities in some of those proposed measures, and was quite justified in doing so. Bat some which he enumerated, like the Bill for the Mitigation of the Law of Distress, for instance, could hardly be called Socialistic measures. On the contrary, the tendency of that Bill was to place the landlord on the same footing as other creditors, and it was a measure rather for repealing former logislation than for enacting new legislation. Neither could the question of the action of the police with regard to meetings in Trafalgar Square, or who is to have the control of the police, whether the Home Office or the County Council, be properly described as a branch of Socialism. But my noble Friend admits the proposition which I am so anxious to lay down, that every question is to be settled upon its own merits, and simply with regard to the point whether that particular legislation on that particular subject will do good or harm. I will take the instance of the Might Hours' 1238 Question. Everybody who has any knowledge of the terrible state of things which exists, everyone who remembers that in certain cases and under certain conditions persons have to work from 6 o'clock in the morning until midnight for a mere pittance, being thus worn out prematurely in body and mind, must certainly feel that the limitation of labour has, at first sight, something to say for itself. This Eight Hours' Question has, no doubt, obtained a strong hold on the country; and if your Lordships-wish to combat such views, it must not be by applying the epithet of "grandmotherly legislation" or by asking what the State has to do with private contracts. Some one must, if it is desired to combat such views, take the trouble to show that that legislation would be positively harmful to the very class which it is intended to benefit. That must be plainly proved. It must be shown clearly that such legislation would probably lead to work being carried on in holes and corners without check, and would have the effect of driving away capital; but it will not do to dispose of the question merely on hard-and-fast lines and by saying that the State must never interfere in the relations between man and man. My Lords, I have only risen to say this: it is utterly impossible for us now to lay down the rule that the State cannot interfere with these things. We have gone a great deal too far in the opposite direction to be able to say that. We are in the midst of things in which the State has interfered in every way, Look, for instance, at the questions which were brought before the Berlin Conference. It had a great effect there when it was shown that in this country the hours of labour are limited, because there is a day of rest on Sunday. What argument is there that can be used in favour of that which cannot be used in other matters which are called Socialistic? Then, again, there is the limitation in the work of women and children by the Factory Act. That is clearly Socialistic, and it would be impossible to go back now. If we compare the far better state of things now with that which existed before Lord Shaftesbury took up the question, we cannot assume that the State is never to interfere. Many things ore now made subject to regulation. Even the plying 1239 of the back cabs, by which any of your Lordships may drive from this House, is regulated by the Legislature. The legislation dealing with the truck system, by which people are not allowed to pay those who work for them in kind, and the licensing question of which we are now talking, as if we were going to interfere in it for the first time, though it has always been a matter of regulation, are in the same category. We cannot, therefore, go back to the system which Mr. Herbert Spencer and his followers advocate, of leaving everything to settle itself. We have abandoned that principle long ago. What I maintain is that we must proceed, on the lines we hitherto have 'followed. And what have been the lines on which we have hitherto proceeded, almost ever since the existence of Parliament? Not to lay down any general principle, but to debate every question on its own merits; to see whether, in the opinion of thinking and experienced men, who know what they are legislating about, the particular measure brought forward will do harm or good. This is the plan we must continue to pursue; and it is only by feeling our way, by doing what is apparently good, what we have every reason to believe is good, and by not going too fast, but steadily and gradually, and if we find we have made a mistake, drawing back and not going upon that line for the future, that we may hope to grapple in some degree with the great problems before us.
*THE PRIME MINISTER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of SALISBURY)
My Lords, the other day, when I was detained elsewhere, my noble Friend did me the honour of putting off the date for delivering his speech on the subject of Socialistic legislation, because I did not happen to be present in your Lordships' House. I took that as a hint that I am expected to make some observations in this Debate. That is my only reason for trespassing on your Lordships' attention for a few minutes in case my noble Friend, were I to do otherwise, should consider that I was guilty of disrespect towards him. But I fear that, after the two speeches to which we have just listened, I have little to add that would be of use in considering this subject. The noble Earl has brought before us an 1240 extraordinary mixture and medley of things; every kind of subject, drawn from every kind of source; some projects which are utterly ridiculous and absurd; others which are open to condemnation; others which are decidedly beneficial; some drawn from Acts of Parliament, some drawn from Bills which very irregularly he discussed, though they are now pending in the other House; some drawn from observations made by gentlemen at meetings in Hyde Park or Trafalgar Square. Well, I can only give very much the same answer to these things that has been given by my noble Friend who has just sat down. I do not think it is our habit in this country to ask how proposals are to be classified before we determine what we are to do with them. We no more ask what is the derivation or philosophical extraction of a proposal before we adopt it than a wise man would ask the character of a footman's grandfather before engaging the footman. What we want to know is the character of the proposal itself, not how it is to be classified; not where it comes from, or what motive has prompted it, but whether it is good or bad, wholesome or unwholesome. As my noble Friend who has just sat down has said, we ought first to discuss every subject on its own merits. It is astonishing how many different ideas are mixed up under this name of Socialism. And I cannot help thinking that, although my noble Friend adds to the gorgeous variety of his speech by the number of subjects which he introduces into it, he only detracts from the force of his arguments by bringing so many different ideas under the denomination of one word. I take Socialism in its strict meaning to be for the State to do that which is usually done by private people for the sake of gain. I believe that that is sometimes a very unwise thing; on the other hand, it is sometimes a very wise thing. There is nothing so Socialistic as the Mint or the Post Office. No doubt my noble Friend is right in saying that at the present day there is a strong leaning towards bringing in the interference of the State on every possible occasion, and I think that is a tendency against which it is right that we should be upon our guard. It is not that we sin against any principle, but that we expect from the State what it cannot possibly 1241 do if we impose upon it tasks which it cannot fitly perform or burdens beyond its power; all we shall do will be to create an indefinite source of expense, and ultimately an unlimited cause of corruption and inefficiency. My noble Friend includes in the word a number of things which have nothing whatever to do with Socialism. For instance, many things are now done by the State which were not done before, because we have become much more careful of human life during the last 25 or 30 years, and especially of the lives and interests of those who are defenceless—that is to say, of women and children; but these things have nothing to do with Socialism. New dangers have arisen in consequence of the development and the concentration of our industries, which the State has always acknowledged its bounden duty to meet, and consequently we have had new measures to take to prevent them. But that has nothing on earth to do with Socialism. Then there is another class of measures which my noble Friend alluded to—measures proposed for interfering with grouse and fish—very foolish measures—but there is not the slightest probability, I should say, that they will ever find their way into the Statute Book. They may represent a transitory phase of class antipathy, but they are not Socialism; they have nothing to do with the principle of the State doing what would be much better done by private individuals. Then, again, my noble Friend referred to what he called the robbery and confiscation which has characterised recent legislation, and he referred especially to the legislation with respect to Ireland. I have expressed my opinion too often in this House with regard to that legislation for it to be in the least degree necessary for me now to repeat it. But my noble Friend makes a mistake in mixing that question of legislative honesty in any degree with the question of legislative Socialism. We are accustomed to think that this interference with landlords' rights in Ireland is a specially democratic proceeding, and very indicative of the spirit of the times. I came across the other day—I think it was in some letters which have been published of the Earl of Strafford—an account of the proceedings which took place in that day. There was a nobleman of very large property in 1242 Kent, the Earl of Thanet, who was guilty of what was then called depopulation, but in these days would be called eviction. He did nothing in the least illegal; all he did was to diminish the holdings of his tenants, and to resume his land, but because that had the effect of diminishing the rural population in Kent the Earl of Thanet was had I up before the Star Chamber before Archbishop Laud, and was fined £10,000, and that proceeding was very much lauded by the Earl of Strafford. Therefore, my noble Friend will find that the Land League of Ireland, Archbishop Laud, and the Earl of Strafford were all equally guilty of Socialism. I am quite willing to acknowledge the plain and frank-spoken language of my noble Friend when he enumerates the kind of words he would like to attach to spoliation of this character; but I feel that he loses one of the strongest arguments against that kind of legislation when he includes it in a class to which it does not belong, gives to it a philosophical and legislative extraction which cannot be recognised as having really I any reference to it, and when he mixes up an attempt—if you will, a blundering attempt—at the solution of some of the most difficult problems of the day with legislation which has nothing in it new or unusual, but which he condemns as an innovation of private rights. My Lords, it seems to me that Socialism is a great mistake, but I do not think it is an irremediable evil. What it really means is spending public money on a useless object. The taxpayers will soon find out that the public money is being wasted on useless objects, and will insist on more economy. No irremediable evil will be the result, only a certain amount of legislative goose-step will have been performed. But I agree with him in thinking that the measures which are adopted in defiance of private right are of much graver significance, and that a much more serious evil follows them. They are destructive of confidence, and consequently the capital which is created each moment as we go on for the purpose of being applied to the industry of the immediate future is prevented from flowing in its true and intended channel; and the industry of the future is starved. My Lords, that is a very great evil which has induced from time to time 1243 much of the legislation to which my noble Friend has attached the term Socialistic, but to which it does not really belong. There are several other matters to which the noble Lord has referred. As my noble Friend behind me (the Earl of Dunraven) observed there are many spectres and bogeys put forward in my noble Friend's speech. I think he attaches too much importance to words. These are days of words. At the present day everybody reads, writes, and talks more or less and people listen to words and read them without their leaving the slightest trace upon their minds, or feelings, or actions. You will see the most extraordinary doctrines preached, the most extraordinary deductions evolved, the most strange projects unfolded, and yet the public look on and walk by peaceably with the most pleased content as if there was not the slightest danger to the order of things to be anticipated from the intentions expressed. But if you go one inch beyond words it is a different thing. The moment these words take the form of action the public is aroused very quickly, and my belief is that if some of those Socialist schemes, to which my noble Friend referred, could for a short time, be brought into action, they would promote such a vehement reaction that we should hear very little more of them for a long time to come. These fallacies may be trusted to find themselves out. You may trust the nature of things to show that the State must not undertake the work of everybody; you may trust the nature of things to show that legislation must not invade private right or undermine confidence or destroy that reliance on the law by which alone the machinery of capital and industry can be hoped to move. But then there is another suggestion which I would suggest for the consideration of my noble Friend. All this noise and all these proposals have not sprung from nothing. It is not out of mere gaiety of heart that all these absurdities are being introduced in every newspaper and on every platform. There is some cause for it all. It may be that they are quacks who make these Socialistic proposals. I do not in the least interpose to shield the quacks from all the contempt which my noble Friend may pour upon them; but when you see quacks gathering round a bed, 1244 however deeply you may despise the quacks, it is probable that the patient lying on the bed is suffering from some serious suffering or some deep disease. The truth is, that these Socialistic proposals indicate great evils, which they are brought forward to remedy, and no one who is not absolutely blind will deny the existence of those evils in the world. There are evils to which the German Emperor testifies in summoning the Conference to which my noble Friend referred. How far we can grapple with them we do not know as yet; but we are bound to give our best energies to the the task, and I think we are bound not to be frightened from the clear and upright performance of that duty by the fear that we may be imagined to be yielding to, and misrepresented as, acting upon the sophistries and fallacies which my noble Friend has exposed. Undoubtedly, we have come upon an age of the world when the action of industrial causes, the great accumulation of population, and many other social and economic influences have produced great centres of misery, and have added terribly to the catalogue of the evils to which flesh is heir. It is our duty to do all we can to find the remedies for those evils, and even if we are called Socialists in attempting to do it, we shall be reconciled if we can find those remedies, knowing that we are undertaking no new principle, that we are striking out no new path, but are pursuing the long and healthy tradition of English legislation.