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THE 

VOLUNTARYIST CREED 



BEING THE HERBERT SPENCER LECTURE 
DELIVERED AT OXFORD, JUNE 7, 1906 

AND 

A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

BY 

AUBERON HERBERT 



PRINTED FOR W. J. SIMPSON 

AT THE OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS 

LONDON : HENRY FROWDE 

AMEN CORNER E.G. 

1908 




HENRY FROWDE, M.A. 

PUBLISHER TO THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD 

LONDON, EDINBURGH 
NEW YORK AND TORONTO 



THE first of the two papers which this book contains is 
the Herbert Spencer Lecture delivered by Mr. Auberon 
Herbert in the Sheldonian Theatre at Oxford on June 7, 
1906. Permission has very kindly been given by the 
University Authorities to publish it here for the first 
time. 

The second paper was only completed by Mr. Herbert 
a few days before his death in November, 1906. He had 
intended to circulate this summary of the Voluntaryist 
Creed for signature by those who agreed with it. 



MR. SPENCER AND THE 
GREAT MACHINE 

I 

I BEGAN my lecture at Oxford by expressing my sense 
of the debt that we owed to Mr. Spencer for his splen 
did attempt to show us the great meanings that underlie 
all things the order, the intelligibility, the coherence, 
that exist in this world of ours. I confessed that, on 
some great points of his philosophy, I differed from his 
teaching, parting, so to speak, at right angles from him ; 
but that difference did not alter my view of how much 
he had helped us in the clear bold way in which he had 
traced the great principles running through the like and 
unlike things of our world ; and in which with so skilful 
a hand he had grouped the facts round those principles, 
that he always followed might I say with the keen 
instinct of a hound that follows the scent of the prey in 
front of him. Time, I thought, might take away much, 
and might add much ; but the effort to unite all parts of 
the great whole, to bind and connect them all together, 
would remain as a splendid monument of what one man, 
treading a path of his own, could achieve. 

But to-day we are only concerned with his social and 
political teaching, where we may, I think, follow his 
leading with more reliance, and with but little reserve. 
I have often laughed and said that, as far as I myself 
was concerned, he spoilt my political life. I went into 
the House of Commons, as a young man, believing that 



6 MR. SPENCER AND 

we might do much for the people by a bolder and more 
unsparing use of the powers that belonged to the great 
law-making machine ; and great, as it then seemed to 
me, were those still unexhausted resources of united 
national action on behalf of the common welfare. It 
was at that moment that I had the privilege of meeting 
Mr. Spencer, and the talk which we had a talk that 
will always remain very memorable to me set me 
busily to work to study his writings. As I read and 
thought over what he taught, a new window was opened 
in my mind. I lost my faith in the great machine ; I 
saw that thinking and acting for others had always 
hindered not helped the real progress ; that all forms of 
compulsion deadened the living forces in a nation ; that 
every evil violently stamped out still persisted, almost 
always in a worse form, when driven out of sight, and 
festered under the surface. I no longer believed that 
the handful of us however well-intentioned we might 
be spending our nights in the House, could manufac 
ture the life of a nation, could endow it out of hand with 
happiness, wisdom and prosperity, and clothe it in all 
the virtues. I began to see that we were only playing 
with an imaginary magician s wand ; that the ambitious 
work we were trying to do lay far out of the reach of 
our hands, far, far, above the small measure of our 
strength. It was a work that could only be done in one 
way not by gifts and doles of public money, not by 
making that most corrupting and demoralizing of all 
things, a common purse ; not by restraints and compul 
sions of each other ; not by seeking to move in a mass, 
obedient to the strongest forces of the moment, but by 
acting through the living energies of the free individuals 
left free to combine in their own way, in their own 
groups, finding their own experience, setting before 



THE GREAT MACHINE 7 

themselves their own hopes and desires, aiming only at 
such ends as they truly shared in common, and ever as 
the foundation of it all, respecting deeply and religious 
ly alike their own freedom, and the freedom of all others. 
And if it was not in our power, we excellent and 
worthy people, fighting our nightly battle of words, 
with our half-light, our patchwork of knowledge, and 
our party passions, often swayed, in a great measure 
unconsciously, by our own interests, half autocrats, half 
puppets, if it was not given to us to create progress, in 
any true sense of the word, and to present it to the 
nation, ready-made, fresh from our ever busy anvil, 
much in the fashion that kind-hearted nurses hand out 
cake and jam to expectant children ; if all this taking of 
a nation s life out of its own hands into our hands was 
but a bewildered dream, a careless conceit on our part, 
might it not, on the other hand, be only too easily in our 
power to mislead and to injure, to hinder and destroy the 
voluntary self-helping efforts and experiments that were 
beyond all price, to depress the great qualities, to soften 
and break down the national fibre, and in the end, as we 
flung our gifts broadcast, to turn the whole people into 
two or three reckless quarrelling crowds, that had lost 
all confidence in their own qualities and resources, that 
were content to remain dependent on what others did 
for them ever disappointed, ever discontented, because 
the natural and healthy field of their own energies had 
been closed to them, and all that they now had to do 
was to clamour as loudly as possible for each new thing 
that their favourite speakers hung in glittering phrases 
before their eyes ? I saw that no guiding, no limiting or 
moderating principle existed in the competition of poli 
tician against politician ; but that almost all hearts were 
filled with the old corrupting desire, that had so long 



8 MR. SPENCER AND 

haunted the world for its ceaseless sorrow, to possess 
that evil mocking gift of power, and to use it in their own 
imagined interest without question, without scruple 
over their fellow men. From that day I gave myself to 
preaching, in my own small way, the saving doctrine of 
liberty, of self-ownership and self-guidance, and of resist 
ing that lust for power, which had brought such count 
less sufferings and misfortunes on all races in the past, 
and which still, to-day, turns the men and women of the 
same country, who should be as friends and close allies, 
if the word country has any meaning, into two hostile 
armies, ever wastefully, uselessly, and to the destruction 
of their own happiness and prosperity, striving against 
each other, always dreading, often hating, those whom 
the fortunes of war may at any moment make their 
masters. Was it for this this bitter, reckless and 
rather sordid warfare I tried to ask that we were 
leading this wonderful earth-life ; was this the true end, 
the true fulfilment of all the great qualities and nobler 
ambitions that belonged to our nature ? 

Now, whether you judge that I acted rightly or 
wrongly in thus yielding myself to Mr. Spencer s 
influence, you will not, I think, quarrel very seriously 
with me, if I say that between Mr. Spencer s mind and 
the mind of the politician there lies the deepest of all 
gulfs ; and that there is no region of human thought 
which is so disorderly, so confused, so lawless, so little 
under the rule of the great principles, as the region of 
political thought. It must be so, because that disorder 
and confusion are the inevitable consequence and 
penalty of the strife for power. You cannot serve two 
masters. You cannot devote yourself to the winning of 
power, and remain faithful to the great principles. 
The great principles, and the tactics of the political 



THE GREAT MACHINE 9 

campaign, can never be made one, never be reconciled. 
In that region of mental and moral disorder, which we 
call political life, men must shape their thoughts and 
actions according to the circumstances of the hour, and 
in obedience to the tyrant necessity of defeating their 
rivals. When you strive for power, you may form 
a temporary, fleeting alliance with the great principles, 
if they happen to serve your purpose of the moment, 
but the hour soon comes, as the great conflict enters 
a new phase, when they will not only cease to be 
serviceable to you, but are likely to prove highly 
inconvenient and embarrassing. If you really mean to 
have and to hold power, you must sit lightly in your 
saddle, and make and remake your principles with the 
needs of each new day ; for you are as much under the 
necessity of pleasing and attracting, as those who gain 
their livelihood in the street. We all know that the 
course which our politicians of both parties will take, 
even in the near future, the wisest man cannot foresee. 
We all know that it will probably be a zig-zag course ; 
that it will have sharp curves , that it may be in self- 
evident contradiction to its own past; that although 
there are many honourable and high-minded men in both 
parties, the interest of the party, as a party, ever tends 
to be the supreme influence, overriding the scruples 
of the truer-judging, the wiser and more careful. Why 
must it be so, as things are to-day? Because this 
conflict for power over each other is altogether different 
in its nature to all other more or less useful and 
stimulating conflicts in which we engage in daily life. 
As soon as we place unlimited power in the hands of 
those who govern, the conflict which decides who is to 
possess the absolute sovereignty over us involves our 
deepest interests, involves all our rights over ourselves, 



io MR. SPENCER AND 

all our relations to each other, all that we most deeply 
cherish, all that we have, all that we are in ourselves. 
It is a conflict of such supreme fateful importance, as 
we shall presently see in more detail, that once engaged 
in it we must win, whatever the cost ; and we can 
hardly suffer anything, however great or good in itself, 
to stand between us and victory. In that conflict 
affecting all the supreme issues of life, neither you nor 
I, if we are on different sides, can afford to be beaten. 
Think carefully what this conflict and what the posses 
sion of unlimited power in plainest matter of fact 
means. If I win, I can deal with you and yours as 
I please ; you are my creature, my subject for experi 
ment, my plastic material, to which I shall give any 
shape that I please ; if you win, you in the same way 
can deal with me and mine, just as you please ; I am 
your political plaything, your chattel, your anything/ 
Ought we to wonder that, with so vast a stake flung 
down on the table, even good men forget and disregard 
all the restraints of their higher nature, and in the 
excitement of the great game become utterly un 
scrupulous ? There are grim stories of men who have 
staked body and soul in the madness of their play ; are 
we after all so much unlike them we gamesters of 
the political table staking all rights, all liberties, and 
the very ownership of ourselves? And what results, 
what must result from our consenting to enter into this 
reckless soul-destroying conflict for power over each 
other? Will there not necessarily be the ever-present, 
the haunting, the maddening dread of how I shall deal 
with you if I win ; and how you will deal with me if 
you win? That dread of each other, vague and un 
defined, yet very real, is perhaps the worst of all the 
counsellors that men can admit to their hearts. A man 



THE GREAT MACHINE n 

who fears, no longer guides and controls himself; right 
and wrong become shadowy and indifferent to him ; 
the grim phantom drives, and he betakes himself to the 
path whatever it is that seems to offer the best 
chance of safety. We see the same vague dread 
acting upon the nations. At times you may have an 
aggressive and ambitious Government, planning a world- 
policy for its own aggrandizement, that endangers the 
peace of all other nations ; but in most cases it is the 
vague dread of what some other rival nation will do 
with its power that slowly leads up to those disastrous 
and desolating international conflicts. So it is with our 
political parties. We live dreading each other, and 
become the reckless slaves of that dread, losing 
conscience, losing guidance and definite purpose, in 
our desperate effort to escape from falling under the 
subjection of those whose thoughts and beliefs and 
aims are all opposed to our own. True it is that the 
leaders of a party may have their own higher desires, 
their own personal sense of right, but it is a higher 
desire and sense of right which they must often with 
a sigh or without a sigh put away into their pockets, 
bowing themselves before the ever present necessity 
of winning the conflict and saving their own party from 
defeat. The stake is too great to allow room for 
scruples, or the more delicate balancings of what is right 
and wrong in itself. We all know Need must, when 
the devil drives/ Skin for a skin, what will a man not 
do for his skin/ 

Now let us look how that winning of the political 
battle has to be done? Winning means securing for 
our side the larger crowd ; and that can only be done, 
as we know in our hearts, though we don t always put 
it into words, by clever baiting of the hook which is to 



12 MR. SPENCER AND 

catch the fish. It is of little use throwing the bare hook 
into the salmon pool; you must have the colours 
brightly and artistically blended the colours that suit 
the particular pool, the state of the water, the state of 
the weather. Unless you are learned in the fisherman s 
art, it is but few fish you will carry home in your 
basket. So in the political pool you must skilfully 
combine all the glittering attractions that you have to 
offer; you must appeal to all the different special 
interests, using the well chosen lure for each. It is 
true that there may be exceptional moments with all 
nations when the political arts lose much of their 
importance, when some great matter rises above special 
interests, and the people also rise above themselves. 
But that is human nature at its best ; and not the 
human nature as we have to deal with it on most days 
of the week. It is also true that the best men in every 
party stoop unwillingly; but, as I have said, they are 
not their own masters; they are acting under forces 
which decide for them the course they must follow, and 
reduce to silence the voice within them. They have 
gone in for the winning of power, and those who play 
for that stake must accept the conditions of the game. 
You can t make resolutions it is said with rose-water ; 
and you can t play at politics, and at the same time 
listen to what your soul has to say in the matter. The 
soul of a high-minded man is one thing ; and the great 
game of politics is another thing. You are now part of 
a machine with a purpose of its own not the purpose 
of serving the fixed and supreme principles the great 
game laughs at all things that stand before and above 
itself, and brushes them scornfully aside, but the purpose 
of securing victory; and to that purpose all the more 
scrupulous men must conform, like the weaker brethren, 



THE GREAT MACHINE 13 

or as the noblest men do occasionally stand aside. 
As our system works, it is the party interests that rule 
and compel us to do their bidding. It must be so ; for 
without unity in the party there is no victory, and 
without victory no power to be enjoyed. When once 
we have taken our place in the great game, all choice 
as regards ourselves is at an end. We must win ; 
and we must do the things which mean winning, even 
if those things are not very beautiful in themselves. 
And what is it that we have to do ? In plain words 
and plainness of thought, directness of speech, is the 
only wholesome course we must buy the larger half of 
the nation; and buying the nation means setting up 
before all the various groups, of which it is composed, 
the supreme object, the idol of their own special interests. 
We must offer something that makes it worth while for 
each group to give us their support, and that something 
must be more than our rivals offer. Put your own self- 
interests in the first place, and see that you get them 
is the watchword of all politics though we don t often 
express it in those crude and unashamed terms. Politi 
cal art has, like many another accomplishment, its own 
refinements for half veiling the real meanings. If we 
wish to do our work in the finer fashion, in the artist s 
way, we must use the light and skilful hand ; we must 
mix in the attractive phrases, appeal to patriotic motives, 
borrow a little cautiously such assistance as we can 
from the great principles a slight passing bow that 
does not too deeply commit us to their acquaintance as 
regards the future and throw dexterously over it all 
as a clever cook introduces into her dishes her choicest 
seasoning a flavour of noble and disinterested purpose. 
It is a fine art of its own, to buy, and at the same time 
to gild and beautify the buying ; to get the voter into 



i 4 MR. SPENCER AND 

the net, and at the same time to inspire him with the 
happy consciousness that, whilst he is getting what he 
wants, he is through it all the devoted patriot, serving 
the great interests of his country. And then also you 
must study and understand human nature; you must 
play as the skilled musician plays on his instrument 
on all the strings both the higher and lower of that 
nature ; you must utilize all ambitions, desires, pre 
judices, passions and hatreds lightly touching, as occa 
sion offers, on the higher notes. But in this matter, as 
in all other matters, underneath the fine words, business 
remains business ; and the business of politics is to get 
the votes, without which the great prize of power could 
not by any possibility be won. Votes must be had 
the votes of the crowd, both the rich and the poor 
crowd, whatever may be the price which the market of 
the day exacts from those who are determined to win. 

II 

So rolls the ball. We follow the inevitable course 
that seeking for power forces upon us. Politics, in spite 
of all better desires and motives, become a matter of 
traffic and bargaining; and in the rude process of 
buying, we find ourselves treading not only on the in 
terests, but on the rights of others, and we soon learn 
to look on it as a quite natural and unavoidable part of 
the great game. Keener and keener grows the com 
petition, more heart and brain -absorbing grows the 
great conflict, and the people and the politicians cannot 
help mutually corrupting each other. This buying up 
of the groups is so distinctly recognized nowadays, 
that lately a Times correspondent whose letters we 
read with much interest speaking of a newly formed 



THE GREAT MACHINE 15 

ministry abroad, wrote, with unconscious cynicism, that 
it would have to choose between leaning on the extreme 
right or the extreme left. 

What then you may say are we to believe; that 
the whole body of those concerned with politics in 
which class we almost all in our degree are included 
are selfish and corrupt, utterly disregarding and 
despising the just claims of each other? I hope things 
are not quite so bad as that. Human nature is a mixed 
thing, and many of us contrive to think in the nobler 
way and the smaller way at the same time. There is 
at least one excuse that may be pleaded for us all. 
What happens here as happens in so many other 
cases is that carelessly and without reflection we place 
ourselves under an untrue, a demoralizing and wrong 
system, that fatally blinds and misleads us, lowers and 
blunts the better part of our nature, and almost com 
pels us, by the force that it exerts, to follow crooked 
paths and do wrong things. I have not time to illus 
trate this simple truth of the sacrifice of character to 
system ; but let me take one instance of the injury that 
results, whenever we lose our own self-guidance under 
a system, that is wrong in itself, and, as a wrong system 
so often is apt to be, despotic in its nature. I think 
many of us see the existence of this injury as regards 
character, when we watch that part of fashionable 
society which makes of organized pleasure-hunting the 
first occupation I might almost say the duty of life. 
Here also people construct a system which overpowers 
their individual sense of what is right and useful and 
fitting; they submit themselves to the tyrannous rule 
of follies of different kinds, as if they had no judgement, 
no discriminating sense of their own, and as a con 
sequence become as a mere race of butterflies, losing 



i6 MR. SPENCER AND 

the higher sense of things, and wasting their lives. In 
all such instances, where lies the remedy? I think 
both Mr. Spencer and Mr. Mill would have made the 
same answer you can only mend matters by individual 
izing the individual. It is of little use preaching against 
any hurtful system, until you go to the heart of the 
matter, until you restore the individual to himself, until 
you awaken in him his own perceptions, his own judge 
ment of things, his own sense of right, until you allow 
what Mr. Spencer called his own apparatus of motive 
and not an apparatus constructed for him by others to 
act freely upon him an apparatus that tends sooner or 
later to work to the better things ; and so detach him 
from his crowd, which whirls him along helplessly, 
wherever it goes, as the stream carries its unresisting 
bubbles along with it. There lies the great secret of 
the whole matter. We have as individuals to be above 
every system in which we take our place, not beneath 
it, not under its feet, and at its mercy; to use it, and 
not to be used by it; and that can only be when we 
cease to be bubbles, cease to leave the direction of 
ourselves to the crowd whatever crowd it is social, 
religious, or political in which we so often allow our 
better selves to be submerged. 

It was for this individualizing of the individual that 
both Mr. Spencer and Mr. Mill pleaded so powerfully; 
only in the free individual, self-restraining, self-guiding, 
that they saw, I think, the hope of true permanent good. 
They saw that nobody yet has ever been saved in the 
best sense or ever will be saved by vast systems of 
machinery; Mr. Mill, perhaps, specially looking from 
the moral point of view, and Mr. Spencer contrasting the 
intellectual and material consequences of the two op 
posed systems self-guidance, and guidance by others. 



THE GREAT MACHINE 17 

And here, perhaps, I ought to add a few words. 
Whilst we lay the heaviest share of blame upon the 
political system that takes possession of us, and leaves 
little room for self-guidance, are we to lay no direct 
blame upon ourselves, for being content to take our 
place in the system, that few, I think, in calm moments 
of reflection, can fully justify to their own hearts ? Let 
us be completely frank in this great matter. Is the 
system of giving away power over ourselves, or seeking 
to possess it over others, in itself right or wrong ? If it 
is wrong, don t let us make excuses for acquiescing 
in it; don t let us sigh and feebly wring our hands, 
confessing the faults and dangers, but pleading that we 
see no other way before us. Where there is a bad way, 
there is also a good way, if men once resolutely set 
themselves to find it. But you may, perhaps, doubt if 
the system is wrong in itself; if it is not merely perverted 
and turned from its true purpose by our human weak 
nesses. You may be inclined to plead It is true that 
politicians must suppress a part of their own opinions ; 
it is true that there is a sort of bargaining that goes 
on among the groups, that in order to gain their own 
special end, they have to act with other groups groups 
which may differ strongly from themselves on some 
important points ; it is true also that the leaders of 
a party must take all these groups into their calculations; 
and as our American friends say placate the interests ; 
but there is not necessarily anything corrupt in such 
action on the part of either the groups or the politicians, 
or their leaders, at least so long as we can fairly credit 
them all with desiring the common good, at the same 
time as they pursue their own special interests, and 
doing the best that the situation allows alike for these 
two ends ; even if these ends may occasionally diverge 

B 



i8 MR. SPENCER AND 

somewhat from each other. Of course we admit that 
men may be easily tempted to overstep the just and 
true line, may be tempted in the rivalry of parties, 
in the strife for power, in the desire to seize the glitter 
ing prize, to forget for a while the common good, to 
push it back into the second place, to be over-keen 
about their own interests ; no doubt the possession 
of power has its dangers, and tempts many men to 
say and do what we cannot defend ; but we must trust 
to the general better and wiser feeling of the whole 
people, or of the whole party, to hold in check these 
aberrations of some of the fighters, and to strike the 
balance fairly between the two influences. We must 
remember that all action in common demands some 
sacrifices; has its disabilities, as well as its great 
advantages. We cannot act together, unless there is 
a considerable sometimes a large suppression of our 
own selves. We must accept that bit of necessary 
discipline ; we must be prepared to keep step with the 
marching (or ought you to say the manoeuvring) 
regiment, if we are to achieve anything by united action, 
and not to remain as separate sticks, that no bond holds 
together. All through life the same principle runs. In 
every club, society, joint-stock undertaking, we submit 
to guidance ; we give up a part of our views and desires 
to gain the more important object yet when we do 
so, nobody accuses us of sacrificing our own guiding 
sense, or of being corrupt, or of entering into a hurtful 
and dangerous traffic. 

Yes I should reply but in all these voluntary 
associations you retain your own free choice ; you 
can enter into them or leave them, as you think right ; 
and that free choice in all these cases is the saving 
element. But I ought to ask pardon of our friend, the 



THE GREAT MACHINE 19 

apologist, for interrupting him. Even if our political 
system it is our friend who is again speaking has 
its defects grave defects if you like still after all, it is 
the instrument of progress, and we know of no other to 
take its place. Surely it is more profitable to try to 
mend its faults, than to quarrel with the whole thing, for 
which we can see no substitute/ That I think is a fair 
representation of the way in which many of us look 
at political life, a way that perhaps supplies us with 
some momentary consolation, when our minds are 
troubled with what we see passing before us ; but how 
far, if we try to see quite clearly, can we accept such 
reasoning, as giving any real answer to the graver doubts 
and hesitations ? Is it not only a bit of agreeable 
sticking-plaster, laid over the sore place, an opiate-like 
soothing of troubled consciences, hardly intended 
seriously to touch the deeper part of the matter ? Let 
us now try to look frankly beneath the surface, and 
do our best to see what is the true nature of the system 
in which we so easily acquiesce. 

What does representative government mean? It 
means the rule of the majority and the subjection of the 
minority ; the rule of every three men out of five, and 
the subjection of every two men. It means that all 
rights go to the three men, no rights to the two men. 
The lives and fortunes, the actions, the faculties and 
property of the two men, in some cases their beliefs and 
thoughts, so far as these last can be brought within the 
control of machinery, are all vested in the three men, as 
long as they can maintain themselves in power. The 
three men represent the conquering race, and the two 
menvae metis as of old the conquered race. As 
citizens, the two men are de-citizenized ; they have lost 
all share for the time in the possession of their country, 

B 2 



20 MR. SPENCER AND 

they have no recognized part in the guidance of its 
fortunes ; as individuals they are de-individualized, and 
hold all their rights if rights they have on sufferance. 
The ownership of their bodies, and the ownership of 
their minds and souls so far as you can transfer by 
machinery the ownership of mind and soul from the 
rightful owners to the wrongful owners no more 
belongs to them, but belongs to those who hold the 
position of the conquering race. Now that is I believe 
a true and uncoloured description of the system, as it is 
in its nakedness, as it is in its real self, under which 
we are content to live. It is not an exaggerated 
description there is not a touch in the picture with 
which you can fairly quarrel. It is true that the real 
logic of the system does not yet prevail. It is true that 
a certain number of things may for a time modify and 
restrain the final triumphs of the majority. In some 
parliamentary countries, the majority tends to be more 
composite in its character than with us, and therefore 
tumbles more easily to pieces. On the other hand, with 
us at least whatever it may be in some other countries 
that have Parliaments minorities may rend the air and 
reach the skies, if they can, with their cries and 
complaints, and so to a certain extent may raise 
difficulties a method of warfare in which all minorities 
grow more or less skilful by practice in the path of the 
majority; with us also there still exists happily a 
friendlier, more genial spirit between all parts of the 
people than prevails in other countries. Thanks to the 
fact that the great serpent of bureaucracy holds us as 
yet less closely in its folds thanks to the still lingering 
traditions of self-help and voluntary work ; thanks to the 
good humour and love of fair play, which is to some 
extent nursed by our fellowship in the same games that 



THE GREAT MACHINE 21 

all classes love games that I think have redeemed 
some part of the politician s mistakes, the rule of the 
majority is with us as yet more tempered, less violent 
and unscrupulous, than it is in some other countries; 
but give their full weight to all these modifying 
influences, which as yet restrain our system of the 
conquering and the conquered races from finding its 
full development still they do not alter the main, the 
essential fact, that we are content to live under a system 
that vests the rights of citizenship, the share in the 
common country, the ownership of body, faculties, and 
property, and to some extent, the ownership of mind 
and soul, of, say, two-fifths of the nation in the hands of 
the three-fifths. Such is the system in which we think 
it right and self-respecting to acquiesce a system which, 
in the case of every two men out of five, wipes out at 
a stroke, so far as the duties of citizenship are con 
cerned, and even to a large extent as regards their 
personal relations, all the higher part of their nature, their 
judgement, conscience, will treating them as degraded 
criminals, who, for some unrecorded offence have 
deserved to forfeit all the great natural rights, and to 
lose their true rank as men. They tell us that now 
adays men are not punished for their opinions. They 
succeed in forgetting, I suppose, the case of every two 
men out five. 

Plead then, if you like, on behalf of such a system all 
the expediencies of the moment, all the conveniences 
that belong to power, all the pressing things you desire 
to do through its machinery, plead objects of patriotism 
plead objects of philanthropy ; yet are you right for the 
sake of these things excellent as they may be in them 
selvesto acquiesce in that which when stripped bare 
to its real, its lowest terms, is the words are not too 



22 MR. SPENCER AND 

harsh the turning of one part of the nation into those 
who own their slaves, and the other part into the slaves 
who are owned? You may say, as a friend of mine 
says ( I feel neither like a slave-owner, nor like a 
slave but his feelings, however admirable in them 
selves, do not alter the system, in which he consents to 
take part, of trying to obtain control over his fellow men ; 
and, if he fails, in acquiescing in their control over him 
self. He may never wish or mean to exercise unfairly 
the power in which he believes, should it fall into his 
hands; but can he answer for himself in the great 
conflict ; can he answer for his allies, for the great 
crowd, in which he will count for such a minute 
fractional part, for what they will do, or where they will 
go? 



Ill 

MY friend is quite aware, I think, that power is a 
rather dangerous thing to handle ; but he will handle it 
with good sense, in the spirit of moderation and fairness, 
he will not suffer himself to let go of the great principles ; 
he will not cross the boundary line that divides the 
rightful from the wrongful use. Well, moderation, and 
fairness, and good sense are excellent [things, not in 
this matter alone, but in all matters. And so are the 
great principles ; that is to say, if you see them in all 
clearness and are determined to follow them. But the 
saving power of the great principles depends upon how 
far we loyally and consistently accept them. They can 
be of little real help and guidance to us if we play and 
trifle with them, accepting them to-day, and leaving 
them on one side to-morrow, making them conform, as 



THE GREAT MACHINE 23 

occasion arises, to our desires and ambitions, and then 
lightly finding excuses for deserting them whenever 
we find them inconvenient. Let us once more be quite 
frank. When we talk of fairness and moderation and 
good sense, as constituting our defence against the 
abuse of unlimited power, are we not living in the 
region of words using convenient phrases, as we so 
often do, to smooth over and justify some course which 
we desire to take, but about which in our hearts we feel 
uncomfortable misgivings ? Let us by all means culti 
vate as much fairness and moderation as possible they 
will always be useful but don t let our trust in these good 
things lead us away from the question that like the 
Sphinx s riddle must be answered under penalties from 
which there is no escape: Is unlimited power whether 
with or without good sense and fairness a right or wrong 
thing in itself ? Can we in any way make it square with 
the great principles ? Can we morally justify the putting 
of the larger part of our mind and body in some cases 
almost the whole under the rule of others; or the 
subjecting of others in the same way to ourselves? 
If you answer that it is a right thing then see plainly 
what follows. You are putting the force of the most 
numerous, or perhaps of the most cunning, who often 
lead the most numerous which, disguise and polish the 
external form of it as much as you like, will always 
remain true to its own essentially brutal and selfish 
nature in the first place, making of it our supreme 
principle; and if unlimited power remember it is 
unlimited power power to do whatever the governing 
majority thinks right is a right thing, must you not 
leave it whatever may be your own personal views 
to those who possess it to decide how they will employ 
it? You can t dictate to others, in the hour of their 



24 MR. SPENCER AND 

victory, as to what they will do or not do; and they 
can t dictate to you, in the hour of your victory. Un 
limited power as the term expresses can only be 
defined and limited by itself; if it were subject to any 
limiting principle, it would cease to be unlimited, and 
become something of a different nature. And remember 
always when once you entered into the struggle for 
the possession of this unlimited power, that you 
sanctioned its existence, as a lawful prize, for which we 
may all rightly contend ; and if the prize does not fall 
to you, it will only remain for you to accept the con 
sequences of your consent to take part in the reckless 
and dangerous competition. By entering into that 
conflict, by competing for that prize, you sanctioned the 
ownership of some men by other men ; you sanctioned 
the taking away from some men say two-fifths of the 
nation all the great rights, and the reducing of them 
to mere cyphers, who have lost power over themselves. 
Once you have sanctioned the act of stripping the 
individual of his own intelligence and will and conscience, 
and of the self-guidance which depends upon these 
things, you cannot then turn your back upon yourself, 
and indignantly point to the mass of unhappy individuals 
who are now writhing under the stripping process. 
You should have thought of all this before you con 
sented to put up the ownership of the individual to 
public auction, before you consented to throw all these 
rights into the great melting-pot. In your desire to 
have power in your own hands, you threw away all 
restraints, all safeguards, all limits as regards the using 
of it ; you wanted to be able to do just as you yourself 
pleased with it, when once you possessed it ; and what 
good reason have you now to complain, when your rivals 
or shall I say your conquerors in their turn do just 



THE GREAT MACHINE 25 

what they please with it ? You entered into the game 
with all its possible penalties; you made your bed, it 
only remains for you to lie on it. 

Let us follow a little further this rightfulness of 
unlimited power in which you believe. If it is a right 
thing in itself, who shall give any clear and certain rule 
to tell us when and where it ceases to be a right thing ? 
Is any right thing by being pushed a little further, and 
then a little further, and yet a little further, transformed 
at some definite point into a wrong thing, unless some 
new element, that changes its nature, comes into the 
matter? The question of degree can hardly change 
right into wrong in any authoritative way, that men 
with their many varying opinions will agree to accept. 
We may, and should for ever dispute over such mov 
able boundary lines lines that each man according to 
his own views and feeling would draw for himself. If 
it is right to use unlimited power to take the one-tenth 
of a man s property, is it also right to take one-half or 
the whole ? If it is not right to take the half, where 
is the magical undiscoverable point at which right is 
suddenly converted into wrong? If it is right to restrict 
a man s faculties not employed for an act of aggression 
against his neighbour in one direction, is it right to 
restrict them in half a dozen or a dozen different 
directions? Who shall say? It is a matter of opinion, 
taste, feeling. Perhaps you answer we will judge 
each case on its merits; but then once more you are 
in the illusory region of words, for, apart from any fixed 
principle, the merits will be always determined by our 
varying personal inclinations. It is all slope, ever 
falling away into slope, with no firm level standing 
place to be found anywhere. Nor do I feel quite sure, 
if we speak the truth, that any of us are much inclined 



26 MR. SPENCER AND 

to accept the rule of moderation and good sense in this 
matter. You and I, who have entered into this great 
struggle for unlimited power, have made great efforts 
and sacrifices to obtain it ; now that we have won our 
prize, why should we not reap the full fruits of victory ; 
why should we be sparing and moderate in our use of 
it ? Is not the labourer worthy of his wage ; is not the 
soldier to receive his prize money? If power was worth 
winning, it must be worth using. If power is a good 
thing, why should we hold back our hand ; why not do 
all we can with it, and extract from it its full service and 
usefulness ? Our efforts, our sacrifices of time, money 
and labour, and perhaps of principle if that is worth 
counting were not made for the possession of mere 
fragmentary pieces of power, but for power to do 
exactly as we please with our fellow men. It is rather 
late in the day, now that we have won the stake, to tell 
us that we must leave the larger part of it lying on the 
table; that, having defeated the enemy, we must 
evacuate his territory, and not even ask for an in 
demnity to compensate us for our sacrifices. If power, 
as an instrument, is good in itself, now that we hold it 
in our hand, why break its point and blunt its edge? 
And then what about the great principles, which my 
friend does not propose exactly to follow, but on which 
at all events he will be good enough to keep a watchful 
eye ? Where are they ? What are they ? What great 
principle remains, when you have sanctioned unlimited 
power ? You can t appeal to any of the great rights as 
rights; the rights of self-ownership and self-guidance, 
the rights of the free exercise of faculties, the rights of 
thought and conscience, the rights of property, they are 
no longer the recognized and accepted rules of human 
actions ; they are now reduced to mere expediencies, to 



THE GREAT MACHINE 27 

which each man will assign such moderate value as he 
chooses. You are now out in the great wilderness, far 
away from all landmarks. Around the throne of 
unlimited power stretches the vast solitude of an empty 
desert. Nothing can be fixed or authoritative in its 
presence; by the fact of its existence, by the con 
ditions of its nature, it becomes the one supreme thing, 
acknowledging except perhaps occasionally in courtly 
phrases for soothing purposes nothing above itself, 
writing its own ethics, interpreting its own necessities, 
making of its own safety and continuance the highest 
law, and contemptuously dismissing all other dis 
crowned rivals from its presence. 

Now turn from the discussion of the moral basis of 
unlimited power to the practical working of our power- 
systems. There is I think one blessed fact that runs 
through all life that if a thing is wrong in itself, it 
won t work. No skill, no ingenuity, no elaborate com 
binations of machinery, will make it work. No amount 
of human artifice and contrivance, no alliance with force, 
no reserves of guns and bayonets, no nation in arms 
even if almost countless in number, can make it work. 
So is it with our systems of power. They don t work 
and they can t work. In no real sense, can you, as the 
autocrat, govern men ; in no real sense, can the people 
imitate the autocrat and govern each other. The govern 
ment of men by men is an illusion, an unreality, a mere 
semblance, that mocks alike the autocrat and the crowd 
that attempt to imitate him. We think in our amazing 
insolence that we can deprive our fellow men of their 
intelligence, their will, their conscience ; we think we 
can take their soul into our own keeping ; but there is 
no machinery yet discovered by which we can do what 
seems to us so small and easy a matter. We think that 



28 MR. SPENCER AND 

the autocrat governs his slaves, but the autocrat himself 
is only one slave the more amongst the crowd of other 
slaves. In the first place he himself is governed by his 
own vast machinery ; helpless he stands one of the 
pitiable objects in this world of ours in the midst of the 
countless wheels which he can set in motion, but which 
other forces direct; and then even the wheels have 
souls of their own, though not perhaps very beautiful 
ones, and ever likely to go a persistent and obstinate 
way of their own ; but what is of deeper consequence is 
that his government is silently conditioned by the slaves 
themselves. Sunk in their darkness, helpless, inarticu 
late, they may be ; yet for all that they in their turn are 
slave-owners as well as slaves, as always happens wher 
ever you build up these great fabrics of power. Whilst 
the slaves obey, they also, though they utter no word, 
in their turn command. If the autocrat disregards that 
silent voice, disregards the unspoken conditions that 
they impose upon him, then in its own due time comes 
the great crash, and his power passes from him, a 
broken and miserable wreck. You may crush and hold 
in subjection for a time the external part of men, but 
you cannot govern and possess their soul. Their soul 
lies out of your reach, and is in its nature as ungovern 
able as the wind or the wave. You may trick and deceive 
it for a time ; you may make it the instrument of its own 
slavery by cleverly arranged systems of conscription, 
and other governing devices ; you may cast it into a 
deep sleep, but sooner or later it wakes, and rebels, and 
claims its own inheritance in itself. In the same way 
there is no such thing as what is called the self-govern 
ment of a nation. How can you get self-government 
by turning one half of a nation into a second-hand copy 
of a Tsar? That, as Mill showed long ago, is not self- 



THE GREAT MACHINE 29 

government ; but government by others. It is true 
that here, as with the autocrat, a majority can for 
a season use for its own ends and oppress a minority, 
can do with it what in its heart it lusts to do, can make 
it the corpus vile of its experiments, can make of it 
a drawer of water and hewer of wood ; but it is only for 
a short day. Here again that uncompromising thing, 
the soul, stands in the way, and refuses to be transferred 
from the rightful to the wrongful owner. The power of 
the majority wanes, and the power of the minority grows, 
and the oppressor and the oppressed change places. 
But apart from all the deeper reasons that make the 
subjection of men by men impossible, was there ever 
such a hopeless, I might say absurd, bit of machinery- 
only to be compared to a child s attempt to put together 
a wooden clock out of the chippings left in the wood 
basket as the thing which we call a representative 
system? Invent all the ingenious plans that you like, 
but by no possibility can you represent a nation for 
governing purposes. The whole thing is a mere phrase. 
Let us see what actually happens. Suppose a nation 
with 5,000,000 voters 2,000,000 voting on one side, and 
3,000,000 on the other. In such a case we start with 
the astounding, the absurd, the grotesque fact that there 
is no attempt made to represent the 2,000,000. Even if 
you had a system of minority representation, it might 
possibly serve in some small measure to soothe the 
feelings of the subject race ; it would not alter the hard 
fact of their subjection. But at present the 2,000,000 
voters find no place of any kind in our calculations ; 
they are simply swept off the board, not counted. That 
is the first remarkable feature of the representative 
system ; and that, as you will admit, is not the happiest 
beginning with which to start. If representation con- 



3 o MR. SPENCER AND 

stitutes the moral basis of power then the fact, that 
out of every five men two should be left unrepresented, 
requires a good deal of explanation ; two-fifths of the 
moral basis at all events are wholly wanting. We are 
fond of talking of our representative system as if it 
rested on a democratic foundation ; but under which of 
the three great democratic principles equality, fra 
ternity, liberty does the sweeping off the board of two- 
fifths of the nation, the two men out of every five, find 
its sanction ? 

Let us, however, for the present leave the 2,000,000 
voters to their fate. They are, as we have seen, only 
a subject race; and subject races must be duly reason 
able, and not expect too great a share in the privileges of 
conquering races. Now let us turn to the case of the 
happy triumphant 3,000,000 voters, who hold in sub 
jection the 2,000,000 voters. Are they themselves 
represented in any true sense ? Let us see what 
happens to them the majority, who are good enough 
for a time to take charge of all of us. Unlimited power 
means that our lords and masters of the moment may 
deal, that they will probably try to deal, with every, 
or almost every field of human activity. If there are 
say ten great State departments, such as trade, foreign 
affairs, local government, home government, and .the 
rest ; and if we suppose with due moderation that there 
are ten great questions connected with each of these 
departments, that may at any moment occupy the 
attention of our presiding majority, then we have a grand 
total of a hundred questions, upon which the opinions 
of the 3,000,000 electors will have to be represented. 
But alas ! for our unfortunate and inconvenient human 
differences ; how can the victorious 3,000,000 be repre 
sented on these hundred questions, when, if they think 



THE GREAT MACHINE 31 

at all, they will all think more or less differently from 
each other? To express fully their many differences, 
they ought to have nearly 3,000,000 representatives ; 
but we will not ask for perfection ; so let us divide 
the number by a hundred and say 30,000 representatives 
an arrangement which, if the representatives met and 
talked for twenty hours every day in the year, would 
give, let us say, something over eight seconds of talking 
time for each representative during the course of the 
year as regards each of the hundred questions. When 
they had each talked their eight or nine seconds, how 
much real agreement should you expect to find among 
our 30,000 representatives on their hundred questions ? 
Place twenty men in a room to discuss one subject ; 
and how many different opinions will you collect at the 
end, if the twenty men are intelligent, and interested in 
the subject ? Will you not probably find three or four 
groups of opinions, each group representing a more 
or less different view? Now bring the 30,000 repre 
sentatives together, and require them to agree, not on 
one subject, but on a hundred important and often 
complicated subjects. Remember they must agree 
they have no choice that necessity of agreement 
overrides everything else, for otherwise they cannot act 
together; but then comes the question what is their 
agreement forced upon them by the practical necessity 
of acting together as one man morally worth? Is 
is not a mere form, a mere mockery, a mere illusion ? 
They must agree ; and they do agree ; for the 
continuance of the party system, the winning of power, 
the subjecting of their rivals all this depends on their 
agreeing; but in what sort of fashion, by what kind 
of mental legerdemain, is their agreement reached ? It 
can only be reached in one simple way by a wholesale 



32 MR. SPENCER AND 

system of self-effacement. The 30,000 individuals must 
be content on, say, ninety-five per cent, of the hundred 
questions, to have no opinions ; or if they have opinions, 
to swallow ninety-five per cent, of their opinions at a 
gulp, and to play the convenient, if somewhat inglorious 
part of cyphers. Yet under our system it is this larger 
half of the nation, these 3,000,000 voters, who have 
undertaken the responsibility of thinking and acting for 
the nation, of deciding these hundred questions both for 
themselves and for the rest of us; and the only way 
of deciding left to them is to efface themselves, and 
have no opinions a rather sad anti-climax, I am afraid, 
to some of our everyday rhetoric on the subject of 
representative systems. If we look closely we find that 
these systems only mean that if we have no personal 
opinions, we can be represented, so far as it is possible 
or worth while to represent blank sheets of paper ; if we 
have personal opinions, we can t be represented. The 
question then forces itself upon us, is it a bit of honest 
work, is it profitable, is it worth the trouble, to construct 
a huge machinery for the purpose of representing 
cyphers, who have no opinions ; and when we have 
constructed our illusory, our make-believe machine, 
to go into the market-place, and therefrom deliver 
ourselves of speeches about the excellence of our 
self-governing system ? Is it right and true to set 
up a moral responsibility on the part of those who 
profess to govern, that cannot by any possibility be 
turned into a reality ; to ask half the nation to sit in the 
seat of universal judgement there to take their part in 
what is and must be an only half disguised farce? 
Does it not tell us something of the true nature of 
power, when we find ourselves obliged to descend 
to tricks of this kind in order to possess and to use it ? 



THE GREAT MACHINE 33 

Does it mend matters to say that under our system 
we choose the best man available, and leave the hundred 
questions for him to deal with? That is only our 
old friend, the autocrat, come back once more, with 
a democratic polish rubbed over his face to disguise and, 
as far as may be, to beautify his appearance. Our 
sin consists in the suppression of our own selves and 
our own opinions ; and in one sense we fall lower than 
the slaves of the autocrat, for they are simply sinned 
against, but we take an active part in the sin against 
ourselves. 

And now how does this suppression of ourselves 
come about? There must be some powerful motive 
acting upon us, to induce us to take our place cheerfully 
in such a poor sort of comedy. Men don t suppress 
themselves, except to gain something that they much 
desire. Let us be frank once more, and confess we are 
bribed into this self-suppression by our reckless desire 
for power, and our desire to use the power, when gained, 
for special interests of our own. The power that we seek 
to win is a hard taskmaster as regards its conditions, and 
exacts that humiliating price from us. We take our own 
bribe for giving up our opinions, and play the part of 
cyphers, and at the same time bribe those others who are 
to play their part with us ; we ask no questions of our 
conscience, but go on to the political Exchange, and there 
with a light heart do the necessary selling and buying. 

Now follow a little further this process of self-sup 
pression, this process of making the cyphers. When 
you have once required of men to efface themselves and 
all the higher part of themselves, in order that they may 
act together, then follows that bargaining and juggling 
with the groups, of which I have already spoken. The 
disinterested opinions 95 per cent, of them, as we 

c 



34 MR. SPENCER AND 

calculated have vanished, much in the same fashion as 
the 2,000,000 voters vanished ; they are swept off the 
board, as things for which no place can be found, but 
which are only very much in the way of the real 
business in hand ; and only a few leading self-interests 
three or four perhaps still remain. Now you may 
bind unbought men together, in the one and true way, 
by their opinions ; but when they have no opinions 
you must find a cement of a coarser and more material 
kind. Having once turned men into cyphers, nothing 
remains but to treat them as cyphers. The great trick 
the winning of power requires cyphers, and can t be 
played in any other fashion. Having once turned men 
into cyphers, you must appeal to them as good loyal 
party followers ; or you must appeal to them as likely 
to get more from you than from any other buyer in 
the market : you can t appeal to them except in the 
imaginative moments when you are treading the flowery 
paths of rhetoric as men, possessed of conscience, and 
will, and responsibility, for in that case they might once 
more regain possession of their suppressed consciences 
and their higher faculties, and begin to think and judge 
for themselves a result that would have very incon 
venient consequences; for then they would no longer 
agree to have one opinion on the hundred subjects ; 
they would divide and scatter themselves in all sorts of 
directions; they would be a source of infinite trouble 
and vexation to the distracted party- managers ; they 
would no longer be of use as fighting material ; and the 
well-disciplined army would dissolve into an infinite 
number of separate and divergent fragments. No ! as 
long as party faces party, and the great struggle for 
power goes on, the rank and file, however intelligent, 
however well-educated, must be content to think with 



THE GREAT MACHINE 35 

the party. They can t think for themselves, for if they 
did they would think differently ; and if they thought 
differently, they could not act together ; so they must be 
content to be just war-material, very like the masses of 
conscripts which foreign governments occasionally 
employ to hurl against each other. If they were any 
thing else, it would be a very poor fighting show that 
our political parties would make on their battle-field. 
The great struggle for power would die out, would 
come naturally to its end, when the suppression of self 
and the making of the cyphers had ceased to be. 

It is well to notice here that in some other countries 
you have not two political parties of the same definite 
character as with us, but a large number of groups. 
The fact of the groups very slightly affects the situation. 
Under every system the vices that go with the seeking 
for power return in pretty nearly the same form. The 
groups can t form a majority, and obtain power, unless 
they amalgamate ; which means that each group has its 
market price, makes the best bargain that it can for 
itself, and for the sake of that bargain consents to act 
with, and so to increase the strength and influence of 
those with whom it may be in strong disagreement. Of 
course hopeless moral confusion arises from this 
temporary amalgamation of the odds and evens, and 
separate, unlike pieces, from this making of a common 
cause by those who mean different things, and are 
almost as much opposed to each other as they are to 
the common enemy, to whom for the moment they are 
opposed. Under no circumstances can we afford to 
depart from the great principle that we must never 
abandon our own personality, that we must only strive 
for the ends in which we ourselves believe, and never 
consent to enter into combinations, in which we either 

c 2 



3 6 MR. SPENCER AND 

are used against our convictions, or use others against 
their convictions. Whenever we descend to log 
rolling your services to pay for my services we are 
lost in a sea of intrigue and corruption, and all true 
guidance disappears. There is no true guidance for any 
of us, except in our own best and highest selves, in our 
own personal sense of what is true and right. When 
that goes, there is little, if anything, worth the saving. 

And now, passing by many incidents in the working 
of the great machine, that is so largely indulgent to our 
fighting and bargaining propensities, I come to what 
seems to me the very heart of Mr. Spencer s social and 
political teaching. It is not often given to a man to sum 
up in three words a great truth, that is fated sooner or 
later to revolutionize the thought and action of all 
nations; and yet that is, I think, what Mr. Spencer 
happily achieved. The three words were progress is 
difference that is, if you or I are to think more 
clearly, or to act more efficiently and more rightly than 
those who have preceded us, it can only be because at 
some point we leave the path which they followed, and 
enter a new path of our own in other words, we must 
have the temper and courage to differ from accepted 
standards of thought and perception and action. If we 
are to improve in any direction, we must not be bound 
up with each other in inseparable bundles, we must 
have the power in ourselves to find and to take the new 
path of our own. Is not every improvement of 
machinery and method, every gain made in science and 
art, every choosing of the truer road and turning away 
from the false road that we have hitherto trodden does 
it not all arise from those differences of thought and 
perception which, so long as freedom exists, even in its 
present imperfect forms, are from time to time born 



THE GREAT MACHINE 37 

amongst us? Whenever men become merely copies 
and echoes of each other, when they act and think 
according to fixed and sealed pattern, is not all growth 
arrested, all bettering of the world made difficult, if not 
impossible ? What hope of real progress, when differ 
ence has almost ceased to exist ; when men think in the 
same fashion as a regiment marches ; and no mind feels 
the life-giving stimulating impulse which the varying 
competing thoughts of others brings with it? Do we 
not see in some parts of the East, when men are bound 
rigidly together under one system of thought, how 
difficult, how painful, the next upward step becomes ; 
and when the change comes, how dissolvent and 
destructive it tends to be? Do we not see the same 
thing in Churches and States nearer home the more 
that minds are uniformly subjected to one system, the 
more difficult becomes the adaptation of the old to the 
new, the more violent revolutionary and catastrophic 
the change when it takes place ? Safety only lies in the 
constant differences which many living minds, looking 
from their own standpoint, in turn contribute. All 
unity, that exists by means of social or artificial restraint 
of differences, is slowly but inevitably moving towards 
its own destruction a destruction that must finally 
involve much pain and confusion and disorder, because 
change and adaptation have been so long resisted. 

Now if we accept this simple but most far-reaching 
truth progress is difference* as I think we must 
do let us frankly and loyally accept it with all the 
great consequences which follow from it. If progress 
is the child of difference, then it is for us to let our 
social and political systems favour difference to the 
fullest extent possible. At no point must we imprison 
minds under those fighting systems, which always 



38 MR. SPENCER AND 

restrain thought and lavour mechanical discipline- 
fighting is one thing and thinking is another; at no 
point must we stereotype action, preventing its natural 
and healthy divergence ; at no point throw difficulties 
in the way of effort and experiment; at no point 
de-individualize men by making them dull repetitions 
of each other, soulless, automatic cyphers, lost, helpless 
in their crowd; but everywhere we must allow the 
natural rewards and inducements and motives to act 
upon free self-guiding men and women, encouraging 
them to feel that the work of improvement, the work 
of world-bettering, the achieving of progress, lies in 
their own hands, as individuals, and that, if they wish 
to share in this great common work, they must strive 
individually to live at their best. Throughout the 
whole nation, we must let every man and woman, 
instead of looking to their parties and parliaments and 
governments, feel the full strength of the inspiring 
inducement to do something in their own individual 
capacities and to join with others in doing something 
the smallest or the greatest thing better than it has 
yet been done, and so make their own contribution to 
the great fund of general good. Only so can the 
far-reaching powers which lie in human nature, but 
which, like the talent, are so often wrapped in the 
napkin, hidden and unused, find their full scope and 
development; only so can our aims and ambitions be 
ennobled and purified ; only so can the true respect for 
the individuality of others soften the strife of opinions, 
and the intolerant spirit in which we so often look 
upon all that is opposed to and different from ourselves. 
As we recognize and respect the individuality both of 
ourselves and others ; as we realize that the bettering 
of the world depends upon our individual actions and 



THE GREAT MACHINE 39 

perceptions; that this bettering can only be done by 
ourselves, acting together in free combination ; that it 
depends upon the efforts of countless individuals, as 
the rain-drops make the streams, and the streams make 
the rivers, that it cannot be done for us by proxy, 
cannot be relegated, in our present indolent fashion, to 
systems of machinery, or handed over to an army of 
autocratic officials to do for us ; and as we realize that 
we shall have failed in our part, have lived almost in 
vain, if in some direction, in some department of 
thought or action whatever it may be we have not 
individually striven to make the better take the place of 
the good; life will become for all of us a better and 
nobler thing, with more definite aims, and greater 
incentives to useful action. The work that we do will 
react on ourselves; and we shall react on the work. 
Each victory gained, each new thing well done will 
make the men, the fighters for progress ; and as 
the fighters are raised to a higher capacity, the progress 
made will advance with bolder, swifter strides, invading 
in turn every highway and by-way of life. But this 
healthy reaction cannot be as long as we live under 
the depressing and dispiriting influence of the great 
machines, that take the work out of our hands, and 
encourage in us all a sense of personal uselessness. 
The appeal must be straight and direct to the in 
dividuals, to their own self-direction, their own self- 
sacrifice, to their own efforts in free unregulated 
combinations, their own willing gifts and services. 

It is in vain that you will ask for the progress, that 
is born in the conflict of competing thoughts and 
perceptions, from the great official departments, into 
whose hands you now so complacently resign yourself. 
They are incapacitated as instruments of progress by 



4 o MR. SPENCER AND 

the law of their own being. Whenever you act and 
think wholesale, and in authoritative fashion for others, 
you become to a certain extent limited and incapacitated 
in your own nature. That mental penalty for ever 
dogs the possession of power. You lose sight of the 
great and vital ends, and allow the small things to 
change places with the all-important things. You are 
no more in touch with the living forces that make for 
progress. Why? Are the reasons far to seek? The 
body of officials however good and honourable in them 
selves form a caste, that administers the administered, 
and does not really share in the actual life of the 
nation ; the chiefs, intent upon the huge machine, which 
they direct from behind their office windows ; the large 
body, dutifully following their traditions, and clinging 
to their precedents. They are cut off from all the great 
inspirations, for the great inspirations are only likely 
to come to those who share in the active throbbing life 
that is not found in any one part, but in the whole, of 
a free nation, and that exists, as we have seen, as the 
sum of countless differing contributions. The best 
inspirations only readily come to those who live open 
to all influences, who are not narrowed and limited by 
that sense of slightly contemptuous superiority, which 
we all however excellent we may be are apt to feel 
when we are treating others as passive material under 
our hands. I doubt if you can ever impose your own 
will by means of force on others, without acquiring in 
yourself something of this superior scorn. But this 
scorn is fatal to the great inspirations, for they are only 
born in us when we are in truest personal sympathy 
with the upward movement, whatever it may be, when 
we ourselves are part of it, when we are thinking and 
feeling freely, and are surrounded by those thinking 



THE GREAT MACHINE 41 

and feeling like ourselves, for in real free life we are for 
ever giving and receiving, absorbing and radiating. 
There and there only do you get the true soil-bed of 
progress. Nor, if our official classes were willing to 
be helped by the thought of others, is it possible. 
Under their authoritative systems they have made the 
people helpless, apathetic, indifferent; and so have to 
carry the great burden of thinking for a nation on their 
own shoulders alone. Few people really think or 
perceive, who can give no practical effect to their 
thoughts and perceptions; and so it is that we see 
administered nations grow first indifferent, and then 
revolutionary. It is thus, in this vicious circle, that 
bureaucracy ever works. Our bureaucrats, with their 
universal systems, paralyse and benumb the best 
thought and energies of the nation ; and then them 
selves are mentally starved in the dead-alive condition 
of things that they have created. Then again our official 
classes are not only, like the autocrat, controlled and 
disabled by their own machinery, but they fall who 
could help it ? under the drowsy influence of the ever 
revolving wheels. The habit of doing the one thing 
in the same fixed way depresses the brighter faculties, 
and the vis inertiae becomes the paramount force. The 
machinery, on which everything depends, takes the 
first place; its moral and spiritual effect upon the 
people take the second or third place, or no place at 
all. Thus it is that every huge administrative system 
tends to that barren uniformity which is a kind of 
intellectual death, and from which that essential element 
of progress experiment, is necessarily absent. When 
you have constructed a universal system, embracing 
the whole nation, you can t experiment. The thousands 
of wheels must all follow each other in the same track 



42 MR. SPENCER AND 

with undeviating uniformity. Even if your official 
feelings would allow of such an unorthodox proceeding, 
it is mechanically very difficult to interfere with the 
regularity and precision that make the working of 
universal systems possible. And so it happens that not 
only is a man with new ideas a real terror inside the 
walls of a great department, but that there are two 
phases that succeed each other in turn in the life of 
these departments. There is the period of somnolence, 
the mechanical repetition of what had been said and 
done in past years, the same sending out of the old 
time-honoured forms, the same pigeon-holing of the 
answers, the same holding of inspections, the same 
administering of the nation by the junior clerks ; and 
with it all, complete insensibility as to what influence 
the system as a whole is exercising on the soul of the 
people. The daily thought and care of a good official 
begins and ends with taking precautions that the 
system, as a system, is working smoothly and without 
friction. As to what the system is in itself, it is not his 
province to think, and he very rarely does think. He 
did not create it; he is not directly responsible for it as 
a rule nobody knows who is responsible for it his 
work is simply to make the countless wheels duly 
follow each other with regularity and precision. That 
somnolent period, however, only lasts for a time; 
presently comes the revolutionary period of remorse 
lessly pulling down and then building up in haste 
a period in which the department suddenly awakes 
from its sleep aroused perhaps by some external 
impulse, perhaps by the truer perceptions, or perhaps 
by the wayward fancies of some Minister, fresh to 
office, who longs to inaugurate his own little revolution. 
Then the sleepers become changed into reformers ; 



THE GREAT MACHINE 43 

and suddenly we are authoritatively assured that we 
have been following altogether wrong methods, that 
the old system, under which serious evils have been 
growing up, must be at once transformed into some 
thing of a new and very different order. The nation, 
dully and dimly aware that things are not as they 
should be, smiles approvingly, and through its press, 
faintly applauds ; and the plant, perhaps of some twenty 
years growth, is straightway torn up by the roots a 
fate which after a few years will be again shared by 
the new thing that now takes its place. It is not the 
fault of the officials. If you or I were in their place 
we should be just as somnolent, and just as revolu 
tionary. The fault lies in the great system itself; and 
few of us could resist the spell that it exercises. The 
truth is that you can no more administer a whole nation 
than you can represent it. You cannot deal with 
human nature wholesale ; you cannot throw it higgledy 
piggledy into one common lot, and let half a dozen 
men, no better or worse than ourselves, take charge 
of it. No universal system is a living thing: they all 
tend to become mere machines machines of a rather 
perverse kind, that have incurable tricks of going their 
own way. We are apt to think that our machines 
dutifully serve and obey us ; but in large measure we 
serve and obey them. They too have souls of their 
own, and command as well as obey. Unfortunately for 
us, progress and improvement are not amongst the 
things that great machines are able to supply at 
demand. Their soul lies in mechanical repetition, 
not in difference ; whilst progress requires not only 
faculties in the highest state of vital activity, but I might 
almost say continual, mental dissatisfaction with what 
has been already achieved, and continual preparedness 



44 MR. SPENCER AND 

to invade new territory and attempt new victories. 
Progress depends upon a great number of small 
changes and adaptations and experiments, constantly 
taking place each carried out by those who have 
strong beliefs and clear perceptions of their own in the 
matter ; for the only true experimenter is he who finds 
and follows his own way, and is free to try his 
experiment from day to day.. But this true experi 
mentation is impossible under universal systems. An 
experiment can only be tried on a small scale by those 
who are the clearer-sighted amongst us, and are aiming 
at some particular end, and when those who are 
affected by it are willing to take the risk. You can t 
rightly experiment with a whole nation ; and the 
consequence is that the sin and mistakes of every 
universal system go on silently accumulating, until the 
time comes for the next periodical tearing up by the 
roots of what exists comes due, and once more we 
start afresh. 

And now there are still many other points on which 
I must not touch to-day. There is that great subject 
of excessive public expenditure in all countries, which 
is like a tide which flows and flows and hardly ever 
ebbs. A few years ago when some of us began to 
preach voluntary taxation, as the only effectual means 
of recovering the gradually disappearing independence 
of the individual, and of placing governments in their 
true position of agents, and not, as they are to-day, of 
autocrats and masters of the nation, and as the plainest 
and most direct means of making the recognition of the 
principle of individual liberty supreme in our national 
life, I found most of my friends quite content to be used 
as tax-material, even though the sums of money taken 
from them were employed against their own beliefs and 



THE GREAT MACHINE 45 

interests. They had lived so long under the system 
of using others, and then in their turn being used 
by them, that they were like hypnotized subjects, and 
looked on this subjecting and using of each other as 
a part of the necessary and even Providential order 
of things. The great machine had taken possession 
of their souls ; and they only yawned and looked bored, 
or slightly scornful at any idea of rebelling against 
it. In vain we drew the picture of the nobler, happier, 
safer life of the nation, when men of all conditions 
voluntarily combined to undertake the great services, 
class co-operating with class, each bound to the other 
by new ties of friendship and kindliness, with all its 
different groups learning to discover their own special 
wants, to follow their own methods, and make their own 
experiments. In that way only, as we urged, could we 
replace the present dangerous and mischief-making 
strife with blessed fruitful peace, create a happier, 
better, nobler spirit amongst us all, destroy the old 
traffic and bargaining of the political market, destroy 
the fatal belief that one class might rightly prey upon 
another class, and that all property finally belonged 
to those who could collect the greater number of votes 
at the polls. That belief in the omnipotent vote, as 
we urged, was striking its roots deeper every year it 
was the certain, the inevitable result of our party 
fighting for the possession of power. So long as the 
vote carried with it the unlimited undefined power 
of the majority, the giving away of property must 
always remain as the easiest means of purchasing the 
owners of the vote ; and that belief in the final owner 
ship of property being vested in the voter we could only 
fight, not by resisting here or there, not by denouncing 
this or that bit of excessive and wasteful expenditure, 



46 MR. SPENCER AND 

but by challenging the rightfulness and good sense 
of the whole system, by pointing to a truer, nobler, 
social life, and by resolutely standing on the plain broad 
principle of individual* "control over ourselves and our 
own property. It was in friendly voluntary co-operation, 
as free men and women, for all public wants and 
services ; in taking each other s hands, in sharing our 
efforts ; it was by destroying the belief in power, the 
belief in pooling property and faculties, the belief 
in the false right of some men to hold other men in 
subjection, and to use them as their material ; in building 
up the belief in the true rights, the rights of self-owner 
ship and self-guidance, apart from which everything 
tends to the confusion and corruption of public life 
it was only so that we could ward off the coming danger 
and the inevitable strife. These great national services, 
that we had so lightly flung into the hands of our 
officials, were the true means of creating that higher 
and better national life, with its friendly inter-depen 
dence, its need of each other, its respect for each other, 
which was worth over and over again all the political 
gifts and compulsions though you piled them up in 
a heap as high as Pelion thrown on the top of Ossa. It 
was only so that the nation would find its true peace 
and happiness, and that the smouldering dread and 
hatred of each other could die out. The years have 
passed ; and I think a change of mood has silently come 
over many persons. I find that some of those who 
once clung to compulsion as the saving social bond, 
as the natural expression of national life, are willing 
to-day to consider whether some better and truer and 
safer principle may not be found; are willing to 
consider, as a practical question, if some limit should 
not be placed on the power to take and to spend in 



THE GREAT MACHINE 47 

unmeasured quantity the money of others. Our friend 
the Socialist has done, and is doing for us his excellent 
and instructive work. He stands as a very striking 
I might say eloquent landmark, showing us plainly 
enough where our present path leads, and what is 
the logical completion of our compulsory interferences, 
our restrictions of faculties, and our transfer of property 
by the easy shall I say by the laughable and grotesque 
process of the vote ? Into our present system, which 
so many men accept without thinking of its real 
meaning, and its further consequences, he introduces 
an order, a consistency, a completeness of his own. 
His logic is irresistible. If you can vote away half the 
yearly value of property under the form of a rate, as 
we do in some towns at present, then under the same 
convenient and elastic right you can vote away the nine- 
tenths or the whole. * Only logic perhaps you lightly 
answer but remember, unless you change the direction 
of the forces, logic always tends to come out victorious in 
the end. Let us then take the bolder, the truer, the 
more manful course. If we believe in property, as 
a right and just thing, if, as the product of faculties, we 
believe it to be inseparably connected with the free 
use of faculties, and therefore inseparably connected 
with freedom itself; if we believe that it is a mere bit of 
word-mockery to tell us as our Socialist friends do 
that they are presenting the world with the newest, the 
most perfect, the most up-to-date form of liberty, whilst 
from their heights of scorn for liberty they calmly deny 
to every man and woman the right to employ their 
faculties in their own way and for their own advantages, 
offering us in return a system beyond all words petty 
and irritating, a system that would provoke rebellion 
even in the nursery, and which, as a clever French 



48 MR. SPENCER AND 

writer wittily remarked, would periodically convulse 
the State with the ever-recurring insoluble question- 
might or might not a wife mend the trousers of her 
husband; if we believe that the Socialist, treading 
in the footsteps of his predecessor, the autocrat, has only 
discovered one more impossible system of slavery, then 
let us individually do our best to end the great delusion 
that has given birth to the Socialist, and made him 
the power that he is to-day in Europe that property 
belongs, not to the property-owner, but to those who are 
good enough to take the trouble to vote. Don t let 
us play any longer with these dangerous forces, which, 
if they win, will for a time wholly change the course 
of human civilisation ; and above all don t let us put it 
in the power of the voter to turn round some future day 
and say to us As long as it served your interests and 
ambitions, you acknowledged the supremacy of the 
vote ; you acknowledged this right of taking property 
from each other. You taught us, you sanctioned, 
through many years, the principle of unlimited power, 
vested in some men over other men. Is it not now 
a little late in the day for you suddenly to cry halt 
in the path along which you have so long led us, because 
you see new interests and ambitions taking their place 
by the side of your own discredited interests and 
ambitions, which are no longer able to satisfy the heart 
of the nation ? If the old game was good enough and 
right enough in your hands, when you were our leaders, 
so is the new game right and good enough in our 
hands, now that it is our turn to lead/ What true, what 
sufficient answer would there remain for us to make ? 
Were it not better to repent of our past sins to-day, 
whilst there is yet time and opportunity to do something 
to repair them ? If we are only to begin to quarrel 



THE GREAT MACHINE 49 

with power and its consequences when we find that it 
has already slipped away from our hands, shall we not be 
too much like the grey-haired sinner who turns saint 
in that sad period when the pleasures of life have already 
ceased to exist for him ? Better to repent whilst there 
is still something to sacrifice and renounce ; and we can 
still give some proof that our repentance is the child of 
real conviction. 

Let us try to clear our thoughts, and know our own 
minds in this great matter. Do we or do we not mean 
to consent to that final act in the long drama which is 
euphemistically called the nationalizing of property ? 
If we do not mean to consent to that last crowning act 
of the process of voting away the property of each 
other, then it is not only an unworthy weakness on our 
part, but a cruel wrong to encourage by our words and 
actions in the mass of the people a belief, which some 
day, when it grows to its full strength and height, we 
shall scornfully whatever our scorn may then avail 
disown and reject, forgetting with our changed attitude 
how we once planted that belief in their hearts, used it, 
and played with it for the sake of our ambition and our 
desire to possess power. When the great bitter strife 
comes as it must come shall we not be constrained 
with shame to accuse ourselves, and to acknowledge 
our misleading of the people, our responsibility in the 
past for the infinite calamities we have brought both 
upon them and upon ourselves. Do not let us wait for 
that future so fraught with evil, which our own careless 
ness of thought, our disregard of the great principles, 
our love of the wildly exciting political game, and our 
subservience to party interests are preparing for us. 
The hours of the day are not yet spent. The temper of 
our people is a noble generous temper, if you appeal to 

D 



5 o MR. SPENCER AND 

it in the true way, appealing for right s sake, for 
principle s sake, not merely for the sake of class or party 
or personal interests, not merely for the sake of the 
many pleasant things that belong to the possession of 
property. Let us make some sacrifice of our political 
ambitions, and take our stand on the truest, highest 
ground. Our task is to make it clear to the whole 
nation that a great principle, that which involves the free 
use of faculties, the independence of every life, the self- 
guidance and self-ownership, the very manhood of all of 
us, that commands and constrains us to preserve the 
inviolability of property for all its owners whoever 
they may be. The inviolability of property is not 
simply the material interest of one class who happen 
to-day to possess it, it is the supreme interest of all 
classes. True material prosperity can only be won by 
the great body of the nation through the widest 
measure of liberty not the half-and-half, not the mock 
system, that exists at present. Create the largest and 
most generous system of liberty, create as you will do 
with it the vital energizing spirit of liberty, and in 
a few short years the working classes would cease to be 
the propertyless class ; would become with their great 
natural qualities the largest property-owner in the 
country. But this can only be, as they set themselves 
in earnest to make property instead of taking it, and to 
put the irresistible pence and shillings together for the 
carrying out of all the great services. This in truth 
was the splendid campaign on which he had entered, 
when the politician, sometimes hungering to play the 
important part, and to exalt his small restless self, some 
times misled by nobler dreams, drew his deluding 
herring across the path, and pointed to the easier down 
hill way of the common fund and the all-powerful vote. 



THE GREAT MACHINE 51 

It is the politician with his cheap liberality and his 
giving away of what does not belong to him, who per 
petuates the depressed and unprogressive condition of 
a large part of the people ; he is only too much like 
those who nurse poverty by their careless and mis 
placed charity. He stands in the way of the true efforts 
of the people, of their friendly co-operation, their 
discovery of all that they could achieve for their own 
happiness and prosperity, if they acted together in their 
free self-helping groups. Let us never forget the 
power of the accumulated pence. If we could per 
suade a million men and women to lay aside one half 
penny a week, at the end of a year they would have 
over 100,000 to invest in farms, houses, recreation 
grounds, in all that they felt they most needed. With 
the acquisition of property would come many of the 
helpful and useful qualities the self-confidence, the 
faculty of working together, and of managing property, 
and the proud inspiring ambition to remake in peaceful 
ways, unstained by any kind of violence, and therefore 
challenging and encountering no opposing forces, the 
whole condition of society, as it exists to-day. Such is 
the goal to which we, who disbelieve in force, must ever 
point the way. It is for us to show that everything can 
be gained by voluntary effort and combination, and 
nothing can be permanently and securely gained by 
force. In every form, where men hold men in sub 
jection to themselves, force is always organized against 
itself, is always tending sooner or later to destroy itself. 
Autocrat, restless politician, or Socialist, they are all 
only labourers in vain. There is a moral gravitation 
that in its own time drags all their work remorsely to 
the ground. Everywhere, across that work, failure is 
written large. There are many reasons. In the first 



52 MR. SPENCER AND 

place, force begets force, and dies by the hand of its 
own offspring; then those who use force never act long 
together, for the force-temper leads them to turn their 
hand against each other; then the continued use of 
force, as is natural, develops a superhuman stupidity, 
a failure to see the real meaning and drift of things, in 
thos who use it ; but greatest of all reasons, the soul of 
man is made for freedom, and only in freedom finds its 
true life and development. So long as we suppress 
that true life of the soul, so long as we deny to it the 
full measure of its freedom, we shall continue to strive 
and to quarrel and to hate, and to waste our efforts, as 
we have done through so many countless years, and 
shall never enter the fruitful path of peace and friend 
ship that waits for us. Once show the people, make it 
clear to their heart and understanding, that it is liberty 
alone that can lead us into this blessed path of peace 
and friendship ; that it alone can still the strife and the 
hatreds; that it alone is the instrument of progress of 
every kind ; that it alone in any true sense can make 
and hold together and preserve a nation which, if it 
rejects liberty, must in the end tear itself to pieces in 
the great hopeless aimless strife once show them this 
supreme truth, feeling it yourself in the very depths of 
your heart, and so speak to them and then you will 
find, as you touch the nobler, more generous part of 
their nature, that gradually, under the influence of the 
truer teaching, they will learn to throw aside the false 
bribes and mischievous attractions of power, and to turn 
away in disgust from that mad destructive game in 
which they and we alike have allowed ourselves for 
a time to be entangled. It is not the Socialist party, it 
is not any of the Labour parties who have done the 
most to lead astray the people, and to teach them to 



THE GREAT MACHINE 53 

believe that political power is the rightful instrument for 
securing all that their heart desires. These extreme 
parties have simply trodden more boldly the path in 
which we went before them. They have only been the 
pupils the too apt pupils in our school, who have 
bettered our own teaching. It is we, the richer classes, 
who in our love of power, our desire to win the great 
game, have done the great wrong, have misled and 
corrupted the people ; and the fault and the blame and 
the shame will rest in the largest measure with us, 
when the evil fruit grows from the seed that we so 
recklessly planted. When the chickens come home to 
roost, we shall only have to say, as so many have said 
before us tu Fas voulu, Georges Dandin. Let us then, 
who have made the great mistake, let us try to redeem 
it ; let us show the people that there is a nobler, happier 
form of life than to live as two scrambling, quarrelling 
crowds, mad for their own immediate interests, void of 
all scruple or restraint. Let us shake ourselves free 
from this miserable party fighting ; let us speak only in 
the name of the great rights, the great all-guiding, ever- 
enduring principles ; let us oppose the power of some 
men over other men, as a thing that is in itself morally 
untrue, untrue from every higher point of view, that is 
lese-majeste as regards all the best and noblest con 
ceptions of what we are beings gifted with free 
responsible souls as the source of hopeless confusion 
and scramble and injustice; and let us steadfastly set 
our faces towards the one great ideal of making a nation, 
in which all men and women will love their own liberty 
without which life is as salt that has lost its savour, 
and is only fit to be cast away as deeply as the} 
respect and seek to preserve the liberty of others. 
A few words to prevent a possible misunderstanding. 



54 MR. SPENCER AND 

I have not been preaching any form of Anarchy, which 
seems to me even in its most peaceful and reasonable 
forms quite apart from the detestable bomb merely 
one more creed of force (I am not referring here to 
such a form of Anarchy passive resistance under all 
circumstances as Tolstoy preaches, into the consider 
ation of which I cannot enter to-day). Anarchy is a 
creed, which, as I believe, we can never rightly class 
among the creeds of liberty. Only in condemning 
Anarchy we shall do well to remember that, like Social 
ism, it is the direct product, the true child of those 
systems of government that have taught men to believe 
that they may rightly found their relations to each other 
on the employment of force. Both the Anarchist and 
the Socialist find some measure of justification in the 
practice and teaching of all our modern governments, 
for if force is a right thing in itself, then it becomes 
merely a secondary question on which we may all 
differ as to the quantity and quality of it to be em 
ployed, the purposes for which we may use it, or in 
what hands the employment of it should be placed. 
There is, there can be, nothing sacred in the division of 
ourselves into majorities and minorities. You may think 
right to take only half a man s property from him by 
force ; I may prefer to take the whole. You may think 
right to entrust the use of force to every three men out 
of five; I may prefer to entrust it as the Anarchist 
does to each one of the five separately ; or as some 
Russians and some Germans do, to the autocrat or half- 
autocrat, and his all-embracing bureaucracy. Who 
shall decide between us? There is no moral tribunal 
before which you can summon unlimited power, for it 
acknowledges, as we have seen, nothing higher than 
itself; if it did acknowledge any moral law above itself, 



THE GREAT MACHINE 55 

its wings would be clipped, and its nature changed, and 
it would no longer be unlimited. 

Now glance for a moment at the true character of 
Anarchy, and see why we must refuse to class it among 
the creeds of liberty, though many of the reasonable 
Anarchists are inspired, as I believe, by a real love of 
liberty. Under Anarchy, if there were 5,000,000 men 
and women in a country, there would be 5,000,000 little 
governments, each acting in its own case as council, 
witness, judge, and executioner. That would be simply 
a carnival, a pandemonium of force; and hardly an 
improvement even upon our power-loving, force-using 
governments. Force, as I believe, with Mr. Spencer, 
must rest, not in the hands of the individual, but in the 
hands of a government not to be, as at present, an 
instrument of subjecting the two men to the three men, 
not to be exalted into the supreme thing, lifted up above 
the will and conscience of the individual, judging all 
things in the light of its own interests, but strictly as the 
agent, the humble servant of universal liberty, with its 
simple duties plainly, definitely, distinctly marked out 
for it. Our great purpose is to get rid of force, to 
banish it wholly from our dealings with each other, to 
give it notice to quit from this changed world of ours ; 
but as long as some men like Bill Sykes and all his 
tribe are willing to make use of it for their own ends, 
or to make use of fraud, which is only force in disguise, 
wearing a mask, and evading our consent, just as force 
with violence openly disregards it so long we must use 
force to restrain force. That is the one and only one 
rightful employment of force force in the defence of 
the plain simple rights of liberty, of the exercise of 
faculties, and therefore of the rights of property, public 
or private, in a word of all the rights of self-ownership 



56 THE GREAT MACHINE 

force used defensively against force used aggressively. 
The only true use of force is for the destruction, the 
annihilation of itself, to rid the world of its own mischief- 
making existence. Even when used defensively, it still 
remains an evil, only to be tolerated in order to get rid 
of the greater evil. It is the one thing in the world to be 
bound down with chains, to be treated as a slave, and 
only as a slave, that must always act under command of 
something better and higher than itself. Wherever and 
whenever we use it, we must surround it with the most 
stringent limits, looking on it, as we should look on a 
wild and dangerous beast, to which we deny all will and 
free movement of its own. It is one of the few things 
in our world to which liberty must be for ever denied. 
Within those limits the force, that keeps a clear and 
open field for every effort and enterprise of human 
activity that are in themselves untainted by force and 
fraud such force is in our present world a necessary 
and useful servant, like the fire which burns in the 
fireplaces of our rooms and the ranges of our kitchen ; 
force, which once it passes beyond that purely defensive 
office, becomes our worst, our most dangerous enemy, 
like the fire which escapes from our fireplaces and takes 
its own wild course. If then we are wise and clear- 
seeing, we shall keep the fire in the fireplace, and never 
allow it to pass away from our control. 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

WE, who call ourselves Voluntaryists, appeal to you 
to free yourselves from these many systems of State 
force, which are rendering impossible the true and the 
happy life of the nations of to-day. This ceaseless 
effort to compel each other, in turn for each new object 
that is clamoured for by this or that set of politicians, 
this ceaseless effort to bind chains round the hands of 
each other, is preventing progress of the real kind, is 
preventing peace and friendship and brotherhood, and 
is turning the men of the same nation, who ought to 
labour happily together for common ends, in their own 
groups, in their own free unfettered fashion, into 
enemies, who live conspiring against and dreading, 
often hating each other. 

Look at the picture that you may see to-day in every 
country of Europe. Nations divided into two or three 
parties, which are again divided into several groups, 
facing each other like hostile armies, each party intent 
on humbling and conquering its rivals, on treading 
them under their feet, as a conquering nation crushes 
and tramples on the nation it has conquered. What 
good, what happiness, what permanent progress of the 
true kind can come out of that unnatural, denational 
izing, miserable warfare? Why should you desire to 
compel others ; why should you seek to have power 
that evil, bitter, mocking thing, which has been from of 
old, as it is to-day, the sorrow and curse of the world 

E 



58 A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

over your fellow men and fellow women ? Why should 
you desire to take from any man or woman their 
own will and intelligence, their free choice, their own 
self-guidance, their inalienable rights over themselves ; 
why should you desire to make of them mere tools and 
instruments for your own advantage and interest ; why 
should you desire to compel them to serve and follow 
your opinions instead of their own ; why should you 
deny in them the soul that suffers so deeply from all 
constraint and treat them as a sheet of blank paper 
upon which you may write your own will and desires, 
of whatever kind they may happen to be ? Who gave 
you the right, from where do you pretend to have 
received it, to degrade other men and women from 
their own true rank as human beings, taking from them 
their will, their conscience, and intelligence in a word, 
all the best and highest part of their nature turning 
them into mere empty worthless shells, mere shadows 
of the true man and woman, mere counters in the game 
you are mad enough to play ; and just because you are 
more numerous or stronger than they, to treat them as 
if they belonged not to themselves, but to you ? Can 
you believe that good will ever come by morally and 
spiritually degrading your fellow men? What happy 
and safe and permanent form of society can you hope 
to build on this pitiful plan of subjecting others, or 
being yourselves subjected by them ? 

We show you the better way. We ask you to 
renounce this old, weary, hopeless way of force, ever 
tear-stained and blood-stained, which has gone on so 
long under Emperors and autocrats and governing 
classes, and still goes on to-day amongst those who, whilst 
they condemn Emperors and autocrats, continue to 
walk in their footsteps, and understand and love liberty 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 59 

very little more than those old rulers of an old world. 
We bid you ask yourselves What is all our boasted 
civilization and gain in knowledge worth to us, if we 
are still, like those who had not attained to our civili 
zation and knowledge, to hunger for power, still to 
cling to the ways of strife and bitterness and hatred, 
still to oppress each other as in the days of the old 
rulers? Don t be deceived by mere words and phrases. 
Don t think that everything was gained when you got 
rid of autocrat and emperor. Don t think that a change 
in the mere form without change in the spirit of men 
can really alter anything, or make a new world. 
A voting majority, that still believes in force, that still 
believes in crushing and ruling a minority, can be just 
as tyrannous, as selfish and blind, as any of the old 
rulers. Happy the nation that escapes from autocrat, 
from emperor, and from its bureaucratic tyrants; but 
that is only the beginning of the new good life ; that 
counts only for the first steps in the true path. When 
that is done, the true goal has still to be won, the great 
lesson still remains to be learnt. The old curse, the 
old sorrow, did not simply lie in the heart of autocrat 
and emperor; it lay in the common desire of men to 
rule and possess for their own advantage the minds 
and bodies of each other. It is that fatal, deluding 
desire which even yet to-day prevents our realizing the 
true and happy life. As a writer has well said many 
nations have been powerful, but has any one of them 
found the true life as yet ? It is this vainest of all vain 
desires that we have to renounce, trample upon, cast 
clean out of our hearts, if we are to win the better 
things. We have to learn that our systems of force 
destroy all the great human hopes and possibilities; 
that as long as we believe in force there can be no 



60 A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

abiding peace or friendship between us all ; that a half 
disguised civil war will for ever smoulder in our midst ; 
that each half of the nation must live, as it were, sword 
in hand, ever watching the other half, and given up, as 
we said, to suspicion and dread and hatred, knowing 
that, if once defeated in the great contest, its own 
deepest beliefs and interests will be roughly set aside 
and trampled on ; that it must accept the hard lot of 
the conquered, kneeling down in the dust and sub 
mitting to whatever its opponents choose to decree for 
it ; that it will have no rights of its own ; no rights over 
its own life, over its own actions and property; no 
share in the common country, no share in the guidance 
of its fortunes ; no voice in the laws passed ; it will be 
a mere helpless crowd, defranchized, and decitizenized, 
a degraded and subject race, bound to do the hard 
bidding of its conquerors. Can you for a single 
moment believe that the subjecting of others in this 
conqueror s and conquered fashion is the true end of 
our existence here, the true fulfilling of man s nature, 
with all its great gifts and hopes and aspirations ? 

And are the conquerors in the great conflict better 
off if we try to see clearly than the conquered? We 
can only answer No ; for power is one of the worst, 
the most fatal and demoralizing of all gifts you can 
place in the hands of men. He who has power power 
only limited by his own desires misunderstands both 
himself and the world in which he lives; he sees 
through a glass darkly, which dims and perverts his 
whole vision; he magnifies and exalts his own little 
self; he fondly imagines he may follow the lusts of his 
heart wherever they lead him ; and disowns the control 
of the great principles, that stand for ever above us 
all, and refuses, alike to the autocrat and the voting 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 61 

majority, the rule and the subjecting of the lives of 
others. If we feel shame and sorrow for those who are 
subjected, we may feel yet more shame and sorrow for 
the blind, self-deceiving instruments oi their subjection. 
They in their pride sink to a lower depth than those 
whom they subject. Better it were to be amongst 
those who wear the chain than amongst those who 
bind it on the hands of other men. For those who 
suffer in subjection there is some hope, some glimmer 
ing of light, some teachings that come from the 
passionate desire for the liberty denied to them ; but 
for those who cling to and believe in possessing power 
there is only darkness of soul, where no light enters, 
until at last, through a long bitter experience, they learn 
how that for which they sacrificed so much has only 
turned to their own deepest injury. See how power 
hardens and brutalizes all of us. It not only makes 
us selfish, unscrupulous, and intriguing, scornful and 
intolerant, corrupt in our motives, but it veils our eyes 
and takes from us the gift of seeing and understanding. 
Power and stupidity are for ever wedded together. 
Cunning there may be ; but it is a cunning that in the 
end tricks and deceives itself. Power for ever tends 
not only to develop in us the knave, but also to develop 
the fool. If you wish to know how power spoils 
character and narrows intelligence, look at the great 
military empires; their steady perseverance in the 
roads that lead to ruin ; their dread of free thought and 
of liberty in all its forms ; look at the sharp repressions, 
the excessive punishments, the love of secrecy, the 
attempt to drill a whole nation into obedience, and to 
use the drilled and subject thing for every passing 
vanity and aggrandizement of those who govern. Look 
also at the great administrative systems. See how men 



62 A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

become under them helpless and dispirited, incapable 
of free effort and self-protection, at one moment sunk 
in apathy, at another moment ready for revolution. Do 
you wonder that it is so? Is it wonderful that when 
you replace the will and intelligence and self-guidance 
of the individual by systems of vast machinery, that 
men should gradually lose all the better and higher 
parts of their nature for of what use to them is that 
better and higher part, when they may not exercise it ? 
Ought we to feel surprise, when we see them become 
like over-restrained children, peevish, discontented and 
quarrelsome, unable to control and direct themselves, 
and ever loud in their complaints that enough cake and 
jam do not fall to their share ? 

Endless are the evils that power brings with it, both 
to those who rule and are ruled. If you hold power, 
your first aim and end are necessarily to preserve that 
power. With power, as you fondly imagine, you possess 
all that the world has to offer ; without power you seem 
to yourself only portionless, abject, humiliated the gate 
flung in your face, that leads to the palace of all the 
desirable things. When you once play for so vast 
a stake, what influence can mere right or wrong have in 
your counsels ? The course that lies before you may 
be right or wrong, tolerant or intolerant, wise or foolish, 
but the fatal gift of power, that you have been mad 
enough to desire and to grasp at, gives you no choice. 
If you mean to have and to hold power, you must do 
whatever is necessary for the having and holding of it. 
You may have doubts and hesitations and scruples, but 
power is the hardest of all taskmasters, and you must 
either lay these aside, when you once stand on that 
dangerous, dizzy height, or yield your place to others, 
and renounce your part in the great conflict. And when 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 63 

power is won, don t suppose that you are a free man, 
able to choose your path and do as you like. From the 
moment you possess power, you are but its slave, fast 
bound by its many tyrant necessities. The slave-owner 
has no freedom ; he can never be anything but a slave 
himself, and share in the slavery that he makes for 
others. It is, I think, plain it must be so. Power once 
gained, you must anxiously day by day watch over 
its security, whatever its security costs, to prevent the 
slippery thing escaping from your hands. You tremble 
at every shadow that threatens its existence. You are 
haunted by a thousand dreads and suspicions. It 
becomes, whether you wish it or not, your first, your 
highest law, and all other things fall into the second and 
third place. Once you plunge into this all-absorbing- 
game of striving for power, you must go where the 
strong tide carries you ; you must put away conscience 
and sense of right, and play the whole game relentlessly 
out, with the unflinching determination to win what you 
are striving for. In that great game there is no room 
left for inconvenient and embarrassing scruples. You 
can t afford to let your opponents defeat you and wrest 
the power that you hold from your hands. You can t 
afford to let them become your masters and trample, as 
conquerors, upon all the rights and beliefs that are 
sacred to you. Whatever the price to pay, whatever 
sacrifice it demands of what is just and upright and 
honourable, you must harden your heart, and go on to 
the bitter end. And thus it is that seeking for power 
not only means strife and hatred, the splitting of a nation 
into hostile factions, but for ever breeds trick and 
intrigue and falsehood, results in the wholesale buying 
of men, the offering of this or that unworthy bribe, 
the playing with passions, the poor unworthy trade 



64 A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

of the bitter unscrupulous tongue, that heaps every 
kind of abuse, deserved or not deserved, upon those 
who are opposed to you, that exaggerates their every 
fault, mistake, and weakness, that caricatures, perverts 
their words and actions, and claims in childish and 
absurd fashion that what is good is only to be found in 
your half of the nation, and what is evil is only to 
be found in the other half. 

Such are the fruits of the strife for power. Evil they 
must be, because power is evil in itself. How can 
the taking away from a man his intelligence, his will, 
his self-guidance be anything but evil? If it were 
not evil in itself, there would be no meaning in the 
higher part of nature, there would be no guidance 
in the great principles for power, if we once acknow 
ledge it, must stand above everything else, and cannot 
admit of any rivals. If the power of some and the 
subjection of others are right, then men would exist 
merely as the dust to be trodden under the feet of 
each other ; the autocrats, the emperors, the military 
empires, the Socialist, perhaps even the Anarchist with 
his detestable bomb, would each and all be in their own 
right, and find their own justification ; and we should 
live in a world of perpetual warfare, that some devil, as 
we might reasonably believe, must have planned for us. 
To those of us who believe in the soul and on that 
great matter we who sign hold different opinions the 
freedom of the individual is not simply a question of 
politics, but it is a religious question of the deepest 
meaning. The soul to us is by its own nature a free 
thing, living its life here in order that it may learn 
to distinguish and choose between the good and the 
evil, to find its own way whatever stages of existence 
may have to be passed through towards the perfecting 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 65 

of itself. You may not then, either for the sake of 
advancing your own interests, or for the sake of helping 
any cause, however great and desirable in itself, in 
which you believe, place bonds on the souls of other 
men and women, and take from them any part of 
their freedom. You may not take away the free life, 
putting in its place the bound life. Religion that is not 
based on freedom, that allows any form of servitude 
of men to men, is to us only an empty and mocking 
word, for religion means following our own personal 
sense of right and fulfilling the commands of duty, 
as we each can most truly read it, not with the hands 
tied and the eyes blinded, but with the free, un 
constrained heart that chooses for itself. And see 
clearly that you cannot divide men up into separate 
parts into social, political and religious beings. It is all 
one. All parts of our nature are joined in one great 
unity; and you cannot therefore make men politically 
subject without injuring their souls. Those who strive to 
increase the power of men over men, and who thus create 
the habit of mechanical obedience, turning men into 
mere State creatures, over whose heads laws of all kinds 
are passed, are striking at the very roots of religion, 
which becomes but a lifeless, meaningless thing, sinking 
gradually into a matter of forms and ceremonies, when 
ever the soul loses its freedom. Many men recognize 
this truth, if not in words, yet in their hearts, for all 
religions of the higher kind tend to become intensely 
personal, resting upon that free spiritual relation with 
the great Over-soul a relation that each must interpret 
for himself. And remember you can t have two opposed 
powers of equal authority ; you can t serve two masters. 
Either the religious conscience and sense of right must 
stand in the first place, and the commands of all govern- 



66 A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

ing authorities in the second place; or the State 
machine must stand first, and the religious and moral 
conscience of men must follow after in humble sub 
jection, and do what the State orders. If you make the 
State supreme, why should it pay heed to the rule of 
conscience, or the individual sense of right ; why should 
the master listen to the servant? If it is supreme, 
let it plainly say so, take its own way, and pay no heed, 
as so many rulers before them have refused to do, to the 
conscience of those they rule. 

And here we ought to say that amongst those who 
sign this appeal are some who, like the late Mr. Bradlaugh 
a devoted fighter for liberty reject the doctrine of 
soul and would not, therefore, base their resistance to 
State power on any religious ground. But apart from 
this great difference that may exist between us, we, who 
sign, are united by the same detestation of State 
power, and by the same perception of the evils that flow 
from it. We both see alike that placing unlimited 
power as we do now in the hands of the State means 
degrading men from their true rank, the narrowing 
of their intelligence, the encouragement of intolerance 
and contempt for each other, and therefore the en 
couragement of sullen, bitter strife, the tricks of the 
clever tongue, practised on both the poor and rich 
crowd, and the evil arts of flattery and self-abasement in 
order to conciliate votes and possess power, the excessive 
and dangerous power of a very able press, which keeps 
parties together, and too often thinks for most of us, the 
repression of all those healthy individual differences 
that make the life and vigour of a nation, the blind 
following of blind leaders, the reckless rushing into 
national follies, like the unnecessary Boer War that 
might have been avoided, as many of us believe, with 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 67 

a moderate amount of prudence, patience and good 
temper just because the individuals of the nation have 
lost the habit of thinking and acting for themselves, 
have lost control over their own actions, and are bound 
together by party-ties into two great child-like crowds ; 
means also the piling up of intolerable burdens of debt 
and taxation, the constant and rather mean endeavour to 
place the heaviest of these burdens on others whoever 
the others may be, the carelessness, the high-handedness, 
the insolence of those who spend money compulsorily 
taken, the flocking together of the evil vultures of many 
kinds where the feast is spread, the deep poisonous cor 
ruption, such as is written in broad characters over the 
government of some of the large towns in the United 
States a country bound to us by so many ties of friend 
ship and affection, and in which there is so much to admire 
a corruption, that in a lesser degree has soiled the 
reputation of some of the large cities of the Continent, 
and is already to be found here and there sporadically 
existing amongst us in our own country; and which 
only too surely means at the end of it all the setting up 
of some absolute form of government, to which men fly 
in their despair, as a refuge from the intolerable evils 
they have brought upon themselves a refuge that after 
a short while is found to be wholly useless and impotent, 
and is then violently broken up, perhaps amidst storm 
and bloodshed, to be once more succeeded by the long 
train of returning evils, from which men had sought to 
escape in the vain hope that more power would heal the 
evils that power had brought upon them. 

Such are the fruits of power and the strife for power. 
It must be so. Set men up to rule their fellow men, to 
treat them as mere soulless material with which they 
may deal as they please, and the consequence is that 

F 2 



68 A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

you sweep away every moral landmark and turn this 
world into a place of selfish striving, hopeless confusion, 
trickery and violence, a mere scrambling-ground for the 
strongest or the most cunning or the most numerous. 
Once more we repeat don t be deluded by the careless 
everyday talk about majorities. The vote of a majority 
is a far lesser evil than the edict of an autocrat, for you 
can appeal to a majority to repent of its sins and to undo 
its mistakes, but numbers though they were as the 
grains of sand on the seashore cannot take away the 
rights of a single individual, cannot turn man or woman 
into stuff for the politician to play with, or over-rule the 
great principles which mark out our relations to each 
other. These principles are rooted in the very nature 
of our being, and have nothing to do with minorities and 
majorities. Arithmetic is a very excellent thing in its 
place, but it can neither give nor take away rights. Be 
cause you can collect three men on one side, and only 
two on the other side, that can offer no reason no 
shadow of a reason why the three men should dispose 
of the lives and property of the two men, should settle 
for them what they are to do, and what they are to be : 
that mere rule of numbers can never justify the turning 
of the two men into slaves, and the three men into slave 
owners. There is one and only one principle, on which 
you can build a true, rightful, enduring and progressive 
civilization, which can give peace and friendliness and 
contentment to all differing groups and sects into which 
we are divided and that principle is that every man 
and woman should be held by us all sacredly and 
religiously to be the one true owner of his or her 
faculties, of his or her body and mind, and of all proper 
ty, inherited or honestly acquired. There is no other 
possible foundation seek it wherever you will on 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 69 

which you can build, if you honestly mean to make this 
world a place of peace and friendship, where progress of 
every kind, like a full river fed by its many streams, may 
flow on its happy fertilizing course, with ever broadening 
and deepening volume. Deny that principle, and we 
become at once like travellers who leave the one sure 
and beaten path and wander hopelessly in a trackless 
desert. Deny that self-ownership, that self-guidance of 
the individual, and however fine our professed motives 
may be, we must sooner or later, in a world without 
rights, become like the animals, that prey on each other. 
Deny human rights, and however little you may wish 
to do so, you will find yourself abjectly kneeling at the 
feet of that old-world god Force that grimmest and 
ugliest of gods that men have ever carved for themselves 
out of the lusts of their hearts ; you will find yourselves 
hating and dreading all other men who differ from you ; 
you will find yourselves obliged by the law of the con 
flict into which you have plunged, to use every means 
in your power to crush them before they are able to 
crush you ; you will find yourselves day by day growing 
more unscrupulous and intolerant, more and more com 
pelled by the fear of those opposed to you, to commit 
harsh and violent actions, of which you would once 
have said Is thy servant a dog that he should do these 
things ? ; you will find yourselves clinging to and 
welcoming Force, as the one and only form of protection 
left to you, when you have once destroyed the rule of 
the great principles. When once you have plunged 
into the strife for power, it is the fear of those who are 
seeking for power over you that so easily persuades to 
all the great crimes. Who shall count up the evil brood 
that is born from power the pitiful fear, the madness, 
the despair, the overpowering craving for revenge, the 



7 o A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

treachery, the unmeasured cruelty ? It is liberty alone, 
broad as the sky above our heads, and planted deep and 
strong as the great mountains, that "allows the better 
and higher part of our nature to rule in us, and subdues 
those passions that we share with the animals. 

We ask you then to limit and restrain power, as you 
would restrain a wild and dangerous beast. Make 
everything subservient to liberty ; use State force only 
for one purpose to prevent and restrain the use offeree 
amongst ourselves, and that which may be described as 
the twin-brother of force, wearing a mask over its 
features, the fraud, which by cunning sets aside the 
consent of the individual, as force sets it aside openly and 
violently. Restrain by simple and efficient machinery 
the force and fraud that some men are always ready to 
employ against other men, for whether it is the State 
that employs force against a part of the citizens, or one 
citizen who employs force or fraud against another 
citizen, in both cases it is equally an aggression upon the 
rights, upon the self-ownership of the individual ; it is 
equally in both cases the act of the stronger who in 
virtue of his strength preys upon the weaker. Safe 
guard therefore the lives and the property of every 
citizen against the force or the cunning of Bill Sykes 
and all his tribe. Make of our world a fair open field 
where we may all act, according to our own choice, 
individually, or in co-operation, for every unaggressive 
purpose, and where good of every kind will fight its own 
open unrestrained fight with evil of every kind. Don t 
believe in suppressing by force any form of evil always 
excepting the direct attacks upon person and property. 
An evil suppressed by force is only driven out of sight 
under the surface there to fester in safety and to take 
new and more dangerous forms. Remember that 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 71 

striking story of the German liberals, when Bismarck 
had directed his foolish and useless weapon of repressive 
laws against the Socialists. You have driven the 
Socialists into silence they said you have forbidden 
their meetings and confiscated their papers ; yet for all 
that the movement goes on more actively than ever 
underground and hidden from sight. And we who are 
opposed to Socialism are also silenced. We have now 
no enemy to attack. The enemy has vanished out of 
our sight and out of our reach. How can we answer or 
reason with those who speak and write no word in 
public, and only teach and make new recruits in secret 
and in the dark ? 

So it is always. You strike blindly, like a child in its 
passion, with your weapons of force, at some vice, at 
some social habit, at some teaching you consider danger 
ous, and you disarm your own friends who would fight 
your battle for you were they allowed to do so in the 
one true way of discussion and persuasion and example. 
You prevent discussion, and the expression of all 
healthier opinion, you disarm the reformers and paralyse 
their energies the reformers who, if left to themselves, 
would strive to move the minds of men, and to win their 
hearts, but who now resign themselves to sleep and to 
indifference, fondly believing that you with your force 
have fought and won their battle for them, and that 
nothing now remains for them to do. But in truth you 
have done nothing ; you have helped the enemy. You 
may have made the outside of things more respectable 
to the careless eye, you may have taught men to believe 
in the things that seem, and in reality are not ; but you 
have left the poisonous sore underneath to work its own 
evil undisturbed, in its own way and measure. The evil, 
whatever it was, was the result of perverted intelligence 



72 A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

or perverted nature; and your systems of force have 
left that intelligence and that nature unchanged ; and 
you have done that most dangerous of all things you 
have strengthened the general belief in the rightfulness 
and usefulness of employing force. Do you not see 
that of all weapons that men can take into their 
hands force is the vainest, the weakest ? In the long 
dark history of the world, what real, what permanent 
good has ever come from the force which men have 
never hesitated to use against each other? By force 
the great empires have been built up, only in due time 
to be broken into pieces, and to leave mere ruins of 
stones to tell their story. By force the rulers have 
compelled nations to accept a religion only in the end 
to provoke that revolt of men s minds which always in 
in its own time sweeps away the work of the sword, of 
the hangman and the torture-table. What persecution 
has in the end altered the course of human belief? 
What army, used for ambitious and aggressive purposes, 
has not at last become as a broken tool ? What claim of 
a Church to exercise authority and to own the souls of 
men has not destroyed its own influence and brought 
certain decay on itself? Is it not the same to-day, as it 
has been in all the centuries of the past ? Has not the 
real prosperity, the happiness, the peace of a nation 
increased just in proportion as it has broken all the 
bonds and disabilities that impeded its life, just in pro 
portion as it has let liberty replace force; just in 
proportion as it has chosen and established for itself all 
rights of opinion, of meeting, of discussion, rights of 
free trade, rights of the free use of faculties, rights of self- 
ownership as against the wrongs of subjection? And 
do you think that these new bonds and restrictions in 
which the nations of to-day have allowed themselves to 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 73 

be entangled the conscription which sends men out to 
fight, consenting or not consenting, which treats them 
as any other war-material, as the guns and the rifles 
dispatched in batches to do their work ; or the great 
systems of taxation, which make of the individual mere 
tax-material, as conscription makes of him mere war- 
material ; or the great systems of compulsory education, 
under which the State on its own unavowed interest 
tries to exert more and more of its own influence and 
authority over the minds of the children, tries as we 
see specially in other countries to mould and to shape 
those young minds for its own ends Something of 
religion will be useful school-made patriotism will be 
useful drilling will be useful so preparing from the 
start docile and obedient State-material, ready made for 
taxation, ready made for conscription ready made for 
the ambitious aims and ends of the rulers do you think 
that any of these modern systems, though they are more 
veiled, more subtle, less frank and brutal than the 
systems of the older governments, though the poison in 
them is more thickly smeared with the coating of sugar, 
will bear different fruit, will work less evil amongst us 
all, will endure longer than those other broken and 
discredited attempts, which men again and again in 
their madness and presumption have made to possess 
themselves of and to rule the bodies and minds of others ? 
No ! one and all they belong to the same evil family ; 
they are all part of the same conspiracy against the true 
greatness of human nature ; they are all marked broad 
across the forehead with the same old curse ; and they 
will all end in the same shameful and sorrowful ending. 
Over us all is the great unchanging law, ever the same, 
unchanged and unchanging, regardless of all our follies 
and delusions, that come and go, that we are not to 



74 A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

take possession of and rule the body and mind of others ; 
that we are not to take away from our fellow-beings 
their own intelligence, their own choice, their own 
conscience and free will ; that we are not to allow any 
ruler, be it autocrat, emperor, parliament, or voting 
crowd, to take from any human being his own true rank, 
making of him the degraded State-material that others 
use for their own purposes. 

But some of your friends may say ( look well at 
the advantages of this State-force. See how many 
good things come to you by taking money out of the 
pockets of others. Would the rich man continue to 
serve your needs, if you had not got your hands upon 
him, and held him powerless under your taxation 
system? No! He would be only too glad to find an 
escape from it. Keep then your close grips upon him, 
now that you once hold him in it; and by more and 
more skilful and searching measures relieve him ot 
what you want so much, and what is merely super 
fluous to him. Why spare your beast of burden? 
What is the use of your numbers, of your organiza 
tions, of the all-powerful vote, that can alone equalize 
conditions, making the poor man rich, and the rich man 
poor, if you are tempted to lay the useful weapon of 
force aside? Force in the old days was used against 
you; it is your turn now to use force, and spare not. 
Think well of what the vote can do for you. There 
lies the true magician s wand. You want pensions, 
provision for old age and sickness, land, houses, a 
minimum wage, lots and lots of education, breakfast 
and dinner for the children who go to school, scholar 
ships for the clever pupils, libraries, museums, public 
halls, national operas, amusements and recreations of all 
kinds, and many another good thing which you will 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 75 

easily enough discover when you once begin to help 
yourselves for, as the French say, the appetite comes 
with the eating ; and there stand the richer classes with 
their laden pockets, only encumbered with the wealth 
that, if they knew it, they would be better without, 
defenceless, comparatively few and weak, with no 
power to stand against the resistless vote, if you once 
turn your strength to good account and learn how to 
organize your numbers for the great victory. Of course 
they will give you excellent reasons why you should 
keep your hands off them, and let them go free. Don t 
be fooled any longer by mere words. Force rules 
everything in this world ; and to-day it is at last your 
turn to use force, and enter into possession of all that 
the world has to offer. 

We answer that all such language is the language 
of passionate unthinking children, who, regardless of 
right or wrong, with no questions of conscience, no 
perception of consequences, snatch at the first glittering 
thing that they see before them ; that those who once 
listen to these counsels of violence would be changed 
in their nature from the reasonable man to the 
unreasonable beast ; that all such counsels mean revolt 
against the great principles, against the honest and true 
methods that alone can redeem this world of ours, that, 
if faithfully followed, will in the end make a society 
happy, prosperous and progressive in its every part, 
ever levelling up, ever peacefully redistributing wealth, 
ever turning the waste places of life into the fruitful 
garden. But in violence and force there is no 
redemption. Force whether disguised or not under 
the forms of voting has but one meaning. It means 
universal confusion and strife, it means flinging the 
sword that has never yet helped any of us into the 



7 6 A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

scale and preparing the way for the utterly wasted and 
useless shedding of much blood. Even if these good 
things, and many more of the same kind, lay within 
your grasp, waiting for your hand to close upon them, 
you have no right to take them by force, no right to 
make war upon any part of your fellow citizens, and to 
treat them as mere material to serve your interests. 
The rich man may no more be the beast of burden of 
the poor man, than the poor may be the beast of burden 
of the rich. Force rests on no moral foundations ; you 
cannot justify it ; it rests on no moral basis ; you cannot 
reconcile it with reason and conscience and the higher 
nature of men. It lies apart in its own evil sphere, 
separated by the deepest gulf from all that makes for 
the real good of life a mere devil s instrument. Even 
if force to-morrow could lay at your feet all the material 
gifts which you rightly desire, you may not, you dare 
not, for the sake of the greater good, for the sake of the 
higher nature that is in all of us, for the sake of the 
great purposes and the nobler meanings of life, accept 
what it offers. Our work is to make this life of ours 
prosperous, happy and beautiful for all who share in 
it, working with the instruments of liberty, of peace, 
and of friendship these and these only are the 
instruments which we may rightly take in our hands, 
these are the only instruments that can do our work 
for us. 

Those who bid you use force are merely using 
language of the same kind as every blood-stained ruler 
has used in the past, the language of those who paid 
their troops by pillage, the language of the war-loving 
German general, who in old days looked down from 
the heights surrounding Paris, and whispered with 
a gentle sigh ( What a city to sack ! It is the language 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 77 

of those who through all the past history of the world 
have believed in the right of conquering, in the right 
of making slaves, who have set up force as their god, 
who have tried to do by the violent hand whatever 
smiled to their own desires, and who only brought 
curses upon themselves, and a deluge of blood and 
tears upon the world. Force whatever forms it takes 
can do nothing for you. It can redeem nothing; it 
can give you nothing that is worth the having, nothing 
that will endure ; it cannot even give you material 
prosperity. There is no salvation for you or for any 
living man to be won by the force that narrows rights, 
and always leaves men lower and more brutal in 
character than it found them. It is, and ever has been 
the evil genius of our race. It calls out the reckless, 
violent, cruel part of our nature, it wastes precious 
human effort in setting men to strive one against the 
other; it turns us into mere fighting animals; and 
ends, when men at last become sick of the useless 
strife and universal confusion, in the man on the black 
horse who calls himself and is greeted as the saviour 
of society . Make the truer, the nobler choice. Resist 
the blind and sordid appeal to your interests of the 
moment, and take your place once and for good on the 
side of the true liberty, that calls out all the better and 
higher part of our nature, and knows no difference 
between rulers and ruled, majorities and minorities, 
rich and poor. Declare once and for good that all men 
and women are the only true owners of their faculties, of 
their mind and body, of the property that belongs to 
them ; that you will only build the new society on the 
one true foundation of self-ownership, self-rule, and 
self-guidance ; that you turn away from and renounce 
utterly all this mischievous, foolish and corrupt business 



78 A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

of compelling each other, of placing burdens upon each 
other, of making force, and the hateful trickery that 
always goes with it, into our guiding principles, of 
treating first one set of men and then another set of 
men as beasts of burden, whose lot in life it is to serve 
the purposes of others. True it is that there are many 
and many things good in themselves which you do not yet 
possess, and which you rightly desire, things which the 
believers in force are generous enough to offer you in 
any profusion at the expense of others; but they are 
merely cheating you with vain hopes, dangling before 
your eyes the mocking shows of things that can never 
be. Force never yet made a nation prosperous. It 
has destroyed nation after nation, but never yet built 
up an enduring prosperity. It is through your own 
free efforts, not through the gifts of those who have 
no right to give them, that all these good things can 
come to you ; for great is the essential difference 
between the gift whether rightly or wrongly given 
and the thing won by free effort. That which you 
have won has made you stronger in yourselves, has 
taught you to know your own power and resources, has 
prepared you to win more and more victories. The 
gift flung to you has left you dependent upon others, 
distrustful and dispirited in yourselves. Why turn to 
your governments as if you were helpless in your 
selves? What power lies in a government, that does 
not lie also in you ? They are only men like you men, 
in many ways disadvantaged, overweighted by the 
excessive burdens they have taken on themselves, 
seldom able to give concentrated attention to any one 
subject, however important; necessarily much under 
the influence of subordinates, from whom they must 
gather the information on which they have to act; 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 79 

often turned from their own course by the dissensions 
and differences of their followers; always obliged to 
plan and manoeuvre in order to keep their party 
together, and then losing their own guiding purpose, 
and tempted into misleading and unworthy courses; 
often deciding the weightiest matters in a hurry, as in 
the case of the famous Ten Minutes Reform Bill ; 
and physically leading a life which over-taxes health 
and endurance with the call made upon it, by the cares 
of their own office, their attendance far into the night 
at the House, their social occupations, the necessity to 
follow carefully all that is passing in the great theatre 
of European politics, and of studying the questions 
which each week brings with it. Think carefully, and 
you will feel that all these rash attempts of the handful 
of men, that we call a government, to nurse a nation 
are a mere delusion. You can t throw the cares and 
the wants and the hopes of a whole people on some 
sixteen or eighteen over-burdened workers. You might 
as well try to put the sea into a quart pot. A handful 
of men can t either think or act for you. Their task 
is impossible. If they try to do so, they can only be 
as blind guides who lead blind followers into the ditch. 
It all ends in scramble and confusion, in something 
being done in order to have something to show, in 
great expectations and woeful disappointments, in rash 
action and grievous mistakes, resulting from hurry and 
over-pressure and insufficient knowledge, which lead 
the nation in wrong directions, and bring their long 
train of evil consequences. Why place your fortunes, 
all that you have, and all that you are, in other hands ? 
You have in yourselves the great qualities though still 
undeveloped for supplying in your own free groups 
the growing wants of your lives. You are the children 



8o A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

of the men who did so much for themselves, the men 
who broke the absolute power; who planted the 
colonies of our race in distant lands, who created our 
manufactures, and carried our trade to every part of 
the world; who established your co-operative and 
benefit societies, your Trade Unions, who built and 
supported your Nonconformist Churches. In you is 
the same stuff, the same power to do, as there was in 
them ; and if only you let their spirit breathe again in 
you, and tread in their footsteps, you may add to their 
triumphs and successes tenfold and a hundredfold. 
As the French well say: *Ou les peres ont passe, 
passeront bientot les enfants (Where the fathers 
passed, there soon shall the children pass). To this 
point the work to be undertaken in your own free 
groups, without any compulsion and subjection of 
others, we will return later. 

But nothing can be well and rightly done, nothing 
can bear the true fruit, until you become deeply and 
devotedly in love with personal liberty, consecrating in 
your hearts the great and sacred principle of self-owner 
ship and self-direction. That great principle must be 
our guiding star through the whole of this life s pilgrim 
age. Away from its guiding we shall only continue to 
wander, as of old, hopelessly in the wilderness. For its 
sake we must be ready to make any and every sacrifice. 
It is worth them all many times worth them all. For 
its sake you must steadily refuse all the glittering gifts 
and bribes which many politicians of both parties 
eagerly press upon you, if you will but accept them as 
your leaders, and lend them the power which your 
numbers can give. Enter into none of these corrupt 
and fatal compacts. All such leaders are but playing 
with you, fooling you for their own ends. In the pride 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 81 

and vanity of their hearts they wish to bind you to 
them, to make you dependent upon them. You are to 
fight their battles, and you will be paid in return much 
in the same manner as the old leaders paid their soldiers 
by giving them a conquered city to sack. Can any real 
good come to you by following that unworthy and 
mercenary path ? When once you have become a mere 
pillaging horde, when once you have lost all guidance 
and control and purpose of your own, bound to your 
leaders, and dependent on them for the sake of the 
spoils that they fling to you, do you think that any of 
the greater and nobler things of life will still be possible 
to you ? The great things are only possible for those 
who keep their hearts pure and exalted, and their hands 
clean, who are true to themselves, who follow and serve 
the fixed principles that are above us all, and are our 
only true guides, who never sell themselves into the 
hands of others. Your very leaders, who have cheated 
you, and used you, will despise you ; and in your own 
hearts, if you dare honestly to search into them, you will 
despise yourselves. But your self-contempt will hardly 
help you. You will have lost the great qualities of your 
nature ; the old corrupt contract, into which you have 
entered, will still bind you; you may in your wild 
discontent revolt against your leaders ; but as in the 
legends of the evil controlling spirit, that both serves 
and enslaves, you will each be a fatal necessity to the 
other. You have linked your fortunes together, and it 
will be hard to dissolve the partnership. Remember 
ever the old words as true to-day as when they were 
first spoken ( What shall it profit a man if he gain the 
whole world, and lose his own soul ? If you lose all 
respect for the rights of others, and with it your own 
self-respect, if you lose your own sense of right and 

G 



82 A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

fairness, if you lose your belief in liberty, and with it the 
sense of your own worth and true rank, if you lose your 
own will and self-guidance and control over your own 
lives and actions, what can all the buying and trafficking, 
what can all the gifts of politicians give you in return ? 
Why let the true diamond be taken from you in 
exchange for the worthless bit of glass? Is not the 
ruling of your own selves worth a hundred times this 
mad attempt to rule over others ? If your house were 
filled with silver and gold, would you be happy if your 
own self no more belonged to you? Have you ever 
carefully thought out what life would be like under the 
schemes of the Socialist party, who offer us the final, 
the logical completion of all systems of force ? Try to 
picture the huge overweighted groaning machine of 
government; the men who direct it vainly, miserably 
struggling with their impossible task of managing 
everything, driven for the sake of their universal system 
to extinguish all differences of thought and action, 
allowing no man to possess his own faculties, or to 
enjoy the fruit that he has won by their exercise, to call 
land or house or home his own, allowing no man to do 
a day s work for another, or to sell and buy on his own 
account, denying to all men the ownership and posses 
sion of either body or mind, necessarily intolerant, as 
the Tsar s government is intolerant, of every form of free 
thought and free enterprise, trembling at the very 
shadow of liberty, haunted by the perpetual terror that 
the old love of self-guidance and free action might some 
day again awake in the breast of men, obliged to 
exercise a discipline, like that which exists in the 
German army, from fear that the first beginning of 
revolt might prove the destruction of the huge trembling 
ill-balanced structure, with no sense of right, right 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 83 

a mere word that would be lost to their language but 
only the ever present, ever urgent necessities of main 
taining their unstable power, which was always out of 
equilibrium, always in danger, because opposed to the 
essential nature of men that unconquerable nature, 
which has always broken and will always break in its 
own time these systems of bondage. Picture also the 
horde of countless officials, who would form a bureau 
cratic, all-powerful army, vast as that which exists in 
Russia, and probably as corrupt for the same reason 
because only able to fulfil their task, if allowed to have 
supreme unquestioned power; always engaged in 
spying, restraining, and repressing, for ever mono 
tonously repeating, as if they governed a nursery 
Don t, you mustn t ; and then picture imprisoned 
under the bureaucratic caste a nation of dispirited 
cyphers cyphers, who would be as peevish, discon 
tented and quarrelsome as shut-up children, because 
shut off by an iron fence from all the stimulating 
influences of free life, and forbidden, as if it were 
a crime, to exercise their faculties according to their 
own interests and inclinations ; picture also the intense, 
the ludicrous pettiness that would run through the 
whole thing. As a French writer (Leroy Beaulieu) 
wittily said it would be a great State question, ever 
recurring to trouble the safety of the trembling quaver 
ing system, whether or no a wife should be allowed to 
mend the trousers of her husband. Who could 
exorcise and lay to rest that insoluble problem, for if 
the wife were once allowed to perform this bit of useful 
household duty, might not the whole wicked unsocial- 
istic trade of working for others, in return for their 
sixpences and shillings, come flowing back with irresist 
ible force? Such is the small game that you are 

G 2 



84 A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

obliged to hunt, such are the minute pitiful necessities 
to which you are obliged to stoop, when once you 
construct these great State machineries, and take upon 
yourself, in your amazing and ignorant presumption, to 
interfere with the natural activities of human existence. 

See also another truth. There are few greater 
injuries that can be inflicted on you than taking out of 
your hands the great services that supply your wants. 
Why? Because the healing virtue that belongs to all 
these great services education, religion, the winning of 
land and houses, the securing greater comfort and 
refinement and amusement in your lives lies in the 
winning of these things for yourselves by your own 
exertions, through your own skill, your own courage, 
your friendly co-operation one with another, your 
integrity in your common dealings, your unconquerable 
self-reliance and confidence in your own powers of 
doing. This winning, these efforts, are the great 
lessons in life-long education ; that lasts from childhood 
to the grave; and when learnt, they are learnt not 
for yourselves alone, but for your children, and your 
children s children. They are the steps and the only 
steps up to the higher levels. You can t be carried to 
those higher levels on the shoulders of others. The 
politician is like those who boasted to have the keys of 
earth and heaven in their pocket. Vainest of vain 
pretences ! The keys both of heaven and earth lie in 
your own pocket; it is only you you, the free in 
dividuals who can unlock the great door. All these 
great wants and services are the means by which we 
acquire the great qualities which spell victory ; they are 
the means by which we become raised and changed in 
ourselves, and by which, as we are changed, we change 
and remake all the circumstances of our lives. Each 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 85 

victory so gained prepares the way for the next victory, 
and makes that next victory the easier, for we not only 
have the sense of success in our hearts, but we have 
begun to acquire the qualities on which it depends. On 
the other hand the more of his ready-made institutions 
the politician thrusts upon you, the weaker, the more 
incapable you become, just because the great qualities 
are not called out and exercised. Why should they be 
called out ? There is no need for them ; their practice- 
ground is taken away ; and they simply lie idle, rusting, 
and at last ceasing to be. Tie up your right hand for 
three months and what happens ? The muscles will 
have wasted, and your hand will have lost its cunning 
and its force. So it is with all mental and moral 
qualities. Given time enough, and a politician with his 
restless scheming brain and his clumsy hands would 
enfeeble and spoil a nation of the best and truest 
workers. He is powerless to help you ; he can only 
stand in your way, and prevent your doing. 

Refuse then to put your faith in mere machinery, in 
party organizations, in Acts of Parliament, in great 
unwieldy systems, which treat good and bad, the 
careful and the careless, the striving and the indifferent, 
on the same plan, and which on account of their vast 
and cumbrous size, their complexity, their official 
central management, pass entirely out of your control. 
Refuse to be spoon-fed, drugged and dosed, by the 
politicians. They are not leading you towards the 
promised land, but further and further away from it. 
If the world could be saved by the men of words and 
the machine-makers, it would have been saved long 
ago. Nothing is easier than to make machinery; you 
may have any quantity of it on order in a few months. 
Nothing is easier than to appoint any number of 



86 A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

officials. Unluckily the true fight is of another and 
much sterner kind ; and the victory comes of our own 
climbing of the hills, not by sitting in the plain, with 
folded hands, watching those others who profess to 
do our business for us. Do you think it likely or 
reasonable, do you think it fits in with and agrees with 
your daily experience of this fighting, working world of 
ours, that you could take your chair in the politician s 
shop, and order across his counter so much prosperity 
and progress and happiness, just as you might order 
cotton goods by the piece or wheat by the quarter? 
Be brave and clear-sighted, and face the stern but 
wholesome truth, that it is only you, you with your 
own hands, you with your unconquerable resolve, 
without any dependence on others, without any of 
these childish and mischievous party struggles, which 
are perhaps a little more exciting than cricket, or 
football, or even bridge to some of us, but a good 
deal more profitless to the nation than digging holes 
in the earth and then filling them up again, without any 
use of force, without any oppression of each other, 
without any of these blind reckless attempts to humiliate 
and defeat those who hold different beliefs from our 
selves, and who desire to follow different methods from 
those which we follow, without any division of the 
nation into two, three or more hostile camps, ever 
inspired with dread and hatred of each other it is only 
you yourselves, fighting with the good, pure, honest 
weapons of persuasion and example, of sympathy and 
friendly co-operation it is only you, calling out in 
yourselves the great qualities, and flinging away all 
the meaner things, the strifes, the hates, the jealousies, 
the mere love of fighting and conquering it is only 
you, treading in the blessed path of peace and freedom, 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 87 

who can bring about the true regeneration of society, 
and with it the true happiness of your own lives. 

And through it all avoid that favourite, that much 
loved snare of the politician, by which he ever seeks 
to rivet his hold upon you, refuse to attack and weaken 
in any manner the full rights of property. You, who 
are workers, could not inflict on your own selves 
a more fatal injury. Property is the great and good 
inducement that will call out your efforts and energies 
for the remaking of the present form of society. Deprive 
property of its full value and attractiveness, and we 
shall all become stuff only fit to make the helpless 
incapable crowd that the Socialist so deeply admires, 
and hopes so easily to control. But it is not only for 
the sake of the magic of property , its power to call 
out the qualities of industry and saving ; it is above all 
because you cannot weaken the rights of property 
without diminishing, without injuring that first and 
greatest of all possessions human liberty; it is for 
that supreme reason that we must resist every attempt 
of the politician to buy votes by generously giving 
away the property that does not belong to him. The 
control of his own property by the individual, and the 
liberty of the individual can never be separated from 
each other. They must stand, or fall, together. 
Property, when earned, is the product of faculties, and 
results from their free exercise; and, when inherited, 
represents the full right of a man, free from all 
imaginary and usurped control of others, to deal as 
he likes with his own. Destroy the rights of property, 
and you will also destroy both the material and the 
moral foundations of liberty. To all men and women, 
rich or poor, belong their own faculties, and as a con 
sequence, equally belongs to them all that they can 



88 A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

honestly gain in free and open competition, through 
the exercise of those faculties. 

It is idle to talk of freedom, and, whilst the word is 
on one s lips, to attack property. He who attacks 
property, joins the camp of those who wish to keep 
some men in subjection to the will of others. You 
cannot break down any of the defences of liberty, you 
cannot weaken liberty at any one point, without 
weakening it at all points. Liberty means refusing to 
allow some men to use the State to compel other men 
to serve their interests or their opinions ; and at what 
ever point we allow this servitude to exist, we weaken 
or destroy in men s minds the sacredness of the 
principle, which must be, as regards all actions, all 
relations, our universal bond. But it is not only for the 
sake of liberty though that is far the greater and 
higher reason it is also for the sake of your own 
material progress that you, the workers, must resolutely 
reject all interference with, all mutilations of the rights 
of property. 

For the moment the larger part of existing property 
belongs to the richer classes ; but it will not be so, as 
soon as ever you, the workers, take out of the hands 
of the politicians, and into your own hands, the task of 
carving out your own fortunes. The working body 
of the people must no longer be content not for 
a single day to be the property-less class. In every 
city and town and village they must form their associa 
tions for the gaining of property ; they must put their 
irresistible pence and shillings together, so that, step by 
step, effort upon effort, they may become the owners 
of land, of farms, of houses, of shops, of mills, and 
trading ships ; they must take shares in the great 
well-managed trading companies and railways, until the 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 89 

time comes, as their capital increases, when they will 
be able to become the owners at first of small trading 
concerns, established by themselves, and then later 
of larger and more important concerns. They must 
for all reasons, the best and the second best become 
the owners of property. Without property no class 
can take its true place in the nation. They must 
devote much of their resolution and self-denial to the 
steady persistent heaping together of the pence and 
shillings for this purpose. As they become possessed 
of property, they will see a definite goal lying before them 
selves one good and useful ambition ever succeeding 
to another. The old dreary hopelessness will disappear, 
they will gain in power and influence ; the difference 
between classes will disappear ; they will break the 
enfeebling and corrupting influence of the politicians 
what influence would remain to the man of words 
if he could no longer offer gratis in return for nothing 
but votes the property of others, without any greater 
exertion on the part of the people than marking their 
voting papers in his favour ? And with the acquiring 
of property, the workers will also acquire the qualities 
that the management of property brings with it ; whilst 
they add a new interest, a new meaning to their lives. 
We appeal to the many thousands of strong, capable, 
self-denying men that are to be found among us. Is 
the gaining of property only a dream; is the thing 
so very difficult, so far out of your reach ? Say that 
a million men and women begin to-morrow to subscribe 
one halfpenny a week who would miss that magical 
halfpenny, which is to transform so many things? at 
the end of the year you will have a fund of over 
100,000 to start with not we think, a bad beginning 
for the great campaign. In many cases the property, 



go A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

such as land and houses, that you would so acquire, 
you would probably rent or redistribute on remunerative 
but easy terms to your own members; in the case of 
workers in towns, you would be able to allow those 
of your members who desired rest and change, to 
work for a time on your farms, and you would also be 
able to make a holiday ground and common meeting- 
place of some farm that belonged to you, and that 
could be easily reached by that true instrument of 
social progress for men and women, the bicycle. Many 
will be the new forms of health and comfort and 
amusement that will become possible to you, when 
once you steadily determine to pile the pence and the 
shillings together for becoming owners of property; 
and when once you have put your hand to this good 
work, you must not relax your efforts until you have 
become, as you will become before many years have 
passed, the greatest of property holders in the nation. 
All is possible to you if you resolutely fling away from 
you the incitements to strife, the tamperings with 
liberty and individual property, and pile up the pence 
and the shillings for the acquiring of your own property. 
Resist, therefore, all reckless, unthinking appeals made 
to you to deprive the great prize of any part of its 
attractions. If you surround property with State 
restrictions, interfere with free trade and any part 
of the open market, interfere with free contract, make 
compulsory arrangements for tenant and landowner, 
allow the present burdens of rate and tax to discourage 
ownership and penalize improvements, you will weaken 
the motives for acquiring property, and blunt the edge 
of the most powerful material instrument that exists 
for your own advancement. Only remember as we 
have said that great as is your material interest in 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 91 

safeguarding the rights of individual property, yet 
higher and greater are and ever will be the moral 
reasons that forbid our sanctioning any attack upon it, 
or our suffering State burdens and restrictions and 
impediments to grow round it. True liberty as we 
said cannot exist apart from the full rights of property; 
for property is so to speak only the crystallized form 
of free faculties. They take the name of liberty in vain, 
they do not understand its nature, who would allow the 
State or what goes by the name of the State the 
worthy eighteen or twenty men who govern us to 
play with property. Everything that is surrounded 
with State restrictions, everything that is State-mutilated, 
everything taxed and burdened, loses its best value, 
and can no longer call out our energies and efforts in 
their full force. Preserve, then, at its best and strongest 
the magic of property ; leave to it all its stimulating 
and transforming virtues, It is one of the great 
master keys that open the door to all that in a material 
sense you rightly and proudly wish to do and to be. 

Many other points remain ; we can only touch here 
on a few of them. Keep clear of both political parties, 
until one of them seriously, earnestly, with deep 
conviction, pledges itself to the cause of personal 
liberty. At present they are both of them opportunist, 
seeking power, rejecting fixed principles. It is true 
that we owe great debts to the Liberal party in the 
past, but at present it is deserting its own best tradi 
tions, ceasing to guide and inspire the people, fighting 
the downhill not the uphill battles, and intent on 
playing the great game. Some day, as we may hope, 
it may refind its better self and breathe again the spirit 
of true exalted leadership, and regardless of its own 
fortunes for the hours place itself openly on the side 



92 A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

of Mr. Spencer s widest possible Liberty . But to-day 
both parties mean anything or nothing ; they represent 
only too often mere scrambling, mere lust for power. 
It is true that one or other of the two parties may mean 
to you some of the things that you yourselves mean, but 
it will also mean a great many things that you do not 
mean. They both believe in subjecting some men to 
the will of other men, in using the State as the instru 
ment of universal force, and you cannot rightly take 
your place in their ranks, or fight with them. Have 
nothing to do with the scramble for power. Hold on 
your own course and stand foursquare to all the 
winds . Pick out your boldest and most resolute men, 
and fight every by-election. Don t fight to win, but 
fight to teach and inspire. The more resolutely you 
stand on your own ground, the more men of both 
parties, who begin to see the worthlessness and the 
mischief of these party conflicts, and the growing 
danger of using force, will come to you and join your 
small army. Few as you are to-day, you are stronger 
than the huge ill-assorted crowds representing many 
conflicting opinions that stand opposed to you, for no 
one can measure the strength that a great and true 
cause, devotedly followed, gives to those who con 
sistently serve it. Fight the battle of liberty at every 
point. Give your best help to those who are resisting 
municipal trading, or resisting interference with home 
work, or resisting the placing of power in the hands of 
the medical or any other profession. You must not 
confer any form of authority or monopoly on any 
profession; you must not give to any of them the 
power to force their services upon us. Let every 
profession that will, organize itself and make rules for 
its own members ; but we, the public, must remain free 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 93 

in every respect to take or to leave what they offer to 
us. The monopolies that they all so dearly love are 
fatal to their own efficiency, and to their own higher 
qualities, as well as full of danger to the public. We 
all lose our best perceptions, we all become intel 
lectually hide-bound, we all begin to believe that the 
public exist for us, exist for our professional purposes, 
whenever we are protected by a monopoly. In the 
same way never hand over any question to be decided 
by those who are called experts. The knowledge of 
the experts is very useful and valuable, but wisdom and 
discernment and well balanced judgement are different 
things from knowledge, and they do not always keep 
company. Knowledge is great, some one has written, 
but prejudice is greater. The experts are excellent as 
advisers, but never as authoritative judges, allowed to 
stand between the public and the questions that affect 
its interest. The real service that the experts can 
perform for us is to place their knowledge in the 
clearest and simplest form before us all, and to explain 
their reasons for advising a certain course. There is 
no limit to the mistakes that the most learned men may 
make when they are allowed to deliver judgement 
behind closed doors, when they are not called upon to 
submit their reasons to open discussion, and to justify 
publicly the counsels that they offer. 

Strive also to make this great Empire of ours an 
instrument of help and usefulness and friendliness for 
the whole world. It is a great world-trust placed in 
our hands, that we must interpret in no selfish and 
narrow, in no boastful and vainglorious spirit. Cast 
away all the tawdry and sordid dreams of an Empire 
stronger than all other nations ; but let it rest on the 
one true foundation of peace and friendship, and as far 



94 A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

as lies with you of free intercourse between all nations 
an Empire of equal generous rights, with no privileges 
reserved for any of us. So, and only so, shall this 
great Empire endure, saved from the fate that has so 
justly swept away all the other great Empires, that were 
founded on meaner and more selfish conceptions. 
Have nothing to do with this pitiful cowardly un- 
English war against the aliens. Even if your interests 
should seem to suffer for awhile which there is strong 
reason for believing would not be the case we ask you 
to make this sacrifice for the sake of the liberty of 
all, even the poorest, and for the sake of the proud 
traditions of our race. Unswerving, disinterested 
devotion to the principle of universal liberty, and to 
those noble traditions that have always opened the 
gates of this country to the suffering and oppressed, 
will far, far outbalance any hurt that may for a time 
result from the presence with us of the suffering and 
oppressed. Plead always that there should be no 
unworthy exceptions; all such exceptions are bad in 
themselves, and have the bad habit of becoming the 
rule. The temper of timorous selfishness that would 
exclude any aliens, that would treat any natives as 
different from our own flesh and blood, is our real 
danger the danger that threatens our true greatness. 
Indulge that temper in any one direction, and you will 
presently encourage it to become the evil genius of the 
nation. 

Lastly, let us all work together, to soften and improve 
the relations of capital and labour. War between 
capital and labour is only too like the unreasonable and 
disastrous war between nations, or between parties in 
a nation. All war is a crime, and, as all crimes are, 
a mischievous follyin almost all cases a mere outburst 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 95 

of childishness. Everywhere we have to learn the wise 
art of pulling in friendly forbearing fashion with each 
other, and not against each other ; everywhere we have 
to learn to abandon the useless wasteful brutal methods 
of war, and to enter the blessed and fruitful paths 
of peace. Is there any war of any kind, that might not 
have been avoided by better temper, more patience, and 
a stronger love of peace ? Is there any war, excepting 
on very rare occasions the wars to repel invasion or the 
attacking of great human rights, that in the end has not 
brought disappointment and sorrow, and bitter fruits of 
its own, as much or even more to the nation that was 
successful, as to the nation that was unsuccessful? 
And who profits from these great labour contests, and 
the stirring of hurtful passions, that goes with them ? 
Friendship, friendly co-operation, the making of common 
cause for common ends, are the true ends to be aimed 
at between labour and capital ; and each contest makes 
the good day of reconciliation more difficult, puts it 
further and further from us. We cannot choose in this 
great matter. There is only one way. We must be 
friends. Nothing less than honest heartfelt friendship 
will mend the old evils, and make the happier future. 
As we asked, who profits by these contests ? If you 
the workers win to-day, the capitalists organize them 
selves to-morrow more strongly than before ; if the 
capitalists win, the workers in the same way strengthen 
their fighting forces. And so just as between nations 
runs for ever the vicious circle. And as with the 
nations, so our labour strife is not only lost and wasted, 
but it fatally injures both sides alike both the con 
querors and the conquered. Let us then love and 
honour peace, cling to her, open our hearts to her, make 
sacrifices for her, bear and forbear for her sake, place 



96 A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

her great ends before everything else, and resolve that, 
as far as lies with us, her happy reign shall at last 
be established over the whole land. Peace always 
hand-in-hand with her great twin-sister liberty not only 
represents the higher meaning of our moral life, but 
also like liberty represents the greatest material interest 
that the workers have ; their industry and skill will never 
bear their full fruits as long as we cling to war, and the 
destructive methods of force. Capital and labour, like 
the rest of us, must obey the great moral law and tread 
in the path of peace and friendship. It is their duty, as 
it is the duty of all of us in the other relations of life- 
worthy of every effort, of all patience and sacrifice on 
our part. Only with peace can the true prosperity 
come. With peace and friendship, trade and enterprise 
would develop a much more vigorous life, and find 
for themselves many new directions. Nothing limits 
enterprise so fatally, and with it the employment of the 
workers, as the dissensions and quarrels between capital 
and labour. With peace and friendship not only does 
more and more capital flow into trade and production ; 
but new enterprises are confidently undertaken in every 
direction ; and then, as the consequence, wages rise 
in the one true healthy manner with the security that 
peace brings, capital bidding against capital, and the 
capitalist accepting lower profits. All insecurity, all 
disturbance of trade relations, must be paid for, and 
they are paid for by the worker; for insecurity and 
uncertainty mean that a higher rate of profit is necessary 
to tempt the investment of capital lying idle, and there 
fore necessarily results in lower wages. 

Reorganize then your trade societies on a peace 
basis, or establish new unions on that basis. Preserve 
your independence ; but do all in your power to enter 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 97 

into friendly alliances with capital. Remember that 
friendship is the triumph of good sense and wise 
temper; strife is the indulgence of the undisciplined, 
the childish part of our nature. Form associations in 
which both the workers and the capitalists would be 
represented ; where they would meet and take common 
action, as friends, working together to make the 
conditions of labour better, more comfortable, more 
sanitary, and using every peace expedient to remove 
difficulties as they arise. If times of depression come, 
and wages fall low, use the common fund to draft away 
some of the workers, find temporary employment for 
them on the farms and lands that you will acquire as 
your own, start workshops of your own, which in some 
cases might provide articles of home use and comfort for 
your members; and let your unemployed members in 
turn receive a grant to enable them to spend their 
unoccupied time usefully in study and education. At 
present an unoccupied workman wastes time and temper 
during a slack time. Like his own tools he rusts and 
deteriorates with them. Why should that be so ? 
Have your own classes and day schools, and let the 
unoccupied men turn the time to golden use. But 
through it all, even if you strike, refuse as a matter 
of principle, as faithful followers of liberty in everything, 
to use any of the old bad methods of force. If, after 
every effort, after attempting mediation and arbitration, 
you cannot agree about wages with the employers, and if 
you think it wise and right and necessary to do so, throw 
up your work ; but if there are those who will take the 
wage that you are unwilling to take let them do so, with 
out let or hindrance. It is their right ; and we must never 
deny or fight against a human right for the sake of what 
seems to be our interest of the moment. We say what 

H 



9 8 A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

seems to be ; for in the end you will gain far more by 
clinging faithfully to the methods of peace and respect 
for the rights of others than by allowing yourselves 
to use the force that always calls out force in reply, 
always brings its own far-reaching hurtful consequences, 
for the sake of the advantage or victory of the moment. 
Once be tempted to use force, and force will become your 
master, your tyrant, tempting you again and again to seek 
its aid and to enter its service. No man employs force 
to-day without being easily persuaded to use it once more 
to-morrow, and then again the next day. There are in 
all that we do only two ways the way of peace and 
co-operation, the way of force and strife. Can you 
hesitate between them ? Do not good sense and right 
sense plead for the one and against the other? Set 
yourselves then to discover and practise every concili 
atory method ; wherever practicable, become share- 
owners and partners in the concerns where you labour, 
and make it your pride to join hands frankly with the 
employers, wiping out for ever the old disastrous war 
feeling, that has brought so much useless suffering and 
loss with it. 

Remember, also, as another great and vital interest, to 
keep a free and open market in everything. Only so 
again can you get the fullest return of your labour. 
High wages are of little profit, when prices rule high, 
and production becomes a dull monopoly, benumbing 
the best energies of the producers. Under a monopoly 
we all grow stupid, unperceiving, apathetic, given up to 
routine. Leave all traders free to bring to your door 
the best articles that the world produces at the lowest 
cost. If they are better and cheaper than what you 
produce, they will be the truest incentive for greater 
exertions both on your part and on the capitalist s part. 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 99 

It is only the coward s policy to kneel down in the dust, 
and wail, and confess inferiority, as regards the pro 
ducers of other nations. Take up the challenge bravely, 
from whatever quarter it comes ; improve method and 
process and machinery above all improve the relations 
between capital and labour ; on that, more perhaps than 
on anything else, industrial victory depends. Be 
willing to learn from all, of any country, who have any 
thing useful to teach. Never be tempted to build 
Chinese walls for your protection, and to go indolently 
to sleep behind them. Your system of free trade is 
another great world-trust placed in your hands. You 
stand before all nations holding a bright and shining 
light, that if you are true to the great destiny of our 
country you will never allow to be dimmed or ex 
tinguished. Mr. Cobden spoke the truth when he said 
that you would convert the other nations to your own 
brave way of competition ; only he did not allow enough 
for all the reactionary influences, the narrow unen 
lightened so-called patriotism, the timidities of some 
traders and their desire to take their ease comfortably, 
and not to over-exert themselves, so long as they could 
compel the public to buy at their own price, and to 
accept their own standard of good workmanship, the 
warlike Emperors, the Chauvinists of all countries, the 
extravagant spendings with the resulting difficulties of 
getting blood from a stone, and the temptation of 
scraping revenue together in any mischievous fashion 
that offered itself, the party intrigues, the effort to 
discover something that would serve as an attractive 
policy, the unavowed purpose of some politicians, living 
for party, and keen for power, to bind a large part of the 
people by the worst of bonds to their side by means of 
a huge and corrupt money interest. But the con- 

H 2 



ioo A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

sequences of protection are righting their battle every 
where on the side of free trade as the consequences of 
folly and blindness always fight on the side of the better 
things ; and if we remain faithful to our great trust will 
in their due time fulfil Mr. Cobden s words. The high 
prices and dear living, the harassing interferences with 
trade, the rings and corners, the trickeries and corrup 
tion, that all tread so close on the heels of protection, 
the wild extravagance, the domineering insolent attitude 
of the State-made monopolists, the ever-growing power 
of the governments to go their own way, where they 
can gather vast sums of money so easily through their 
unseen tax collectors, the ever spreading Socialism, 
that is only protection made universal all these things 
are preaching their eloquent lesson, and slowly prepar 
ing the way in other countries for free trade. Sooner 
or later the world after years of bitter experience learns 
to unmask all the impostor systems that have traded on 
its hopes and passions and fears. The thin coating 
wears off, and the baser metal betrays itself underneath. 
So it will fare with the Protection, that asks you to be 
credulous enough to tie up your left hand in order that 
your right hand may work more profitably. It is true 
that in protected countries the wages of the workers 
may be pushed up higher than in the case of free trade 
countries, but life will remain harder and more difficult. 
Why ? Because, as we have said, prices rule so high ; 
corners and combinations flourish ; trickery and corrup 
tion find their opportunity ; more vultures of every kind 
flock to the feast ; and with the feast of the vultures the 
burden of rates and taxes becomes intolerable. The 
whole thing hangs together. Establish freedom and 
open competition in everything, and all forms of trade 
and enterprise, all relations of men to each other, tend 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 101 

to become healthy and vigorous, pure and clean. The 
better and more efficient forms as they do throughout 
nature s world slowly displacing the inefficient forms. 
It must be so ; for in the fair open fight the good always 
tend to win over the bad, if only you restrain all 
interferences of force. It is so with freedom every 
where and in all things. Freedom begets the conflict ; 
the conflict begets the good and helpful qualities ; and 
the good and helpful qualities win their own victory. 
They must do so ; for they are in themselves stronger, 
more energetic, more efficient, than the forces the 
trickeries, the corruptions, the timidities, the selfishness 
to which they are opposed. The same truth rules 
our good and bad habits. Only keep the field open and 
allow the fair fight, and the bad at last must yield to the 
good. Sooner or later the time comes when the clearer 
sighted, the more rightly judging few denounce some 
evil habit that exists ; gradually their influence and 
example act on others in ever-widening circles, until 
many men grow ashamed of what they have so long 
done, and the habit is abandoned. Such is the uni 
versal law of progress, which prevails in everything, so 
long as we allow the free open fight between all good 
and evil. But in order that the good may prevail there 
must be life and vigour in the people, and this can only 
be where freedom exists. If freedom does not exist, if 
life and vigour have died, then protection whatever its 
form cannot prevent, it can only put off for a short 
time the inevitable ruin and disaster. Nations only 
continue to exist as long as they keep in themselves the 
great simple virtues. As we have seen again and again, 
they go to pieces, and yield their places to others when 
once the fatal corruption takes root in their character ; 
corruption can only be fought by liberty with its 



102 A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

strengthening, raising, purifying influences. Protection, 
that is artificial in its nature, protection that rests on 
force, always means, if long enough continued, failure 
and death in the end ; for it prevents our developing the 
qualities which can alone enable us to keep our place in 
a world that never stands still. As Mr. Darwin pointed 
out so clearly those races of plants and animals which 
for a time were protected by mountains or desert or an 
arm of the sea, were doomed to fail when at last they 
came into competition with the unprotected forms. So 
is it with us men. If you wish to understand the deadly 
influences of protection, if you wish for a practical 
example, look carefully at all the distorted and perverted 
growths of trade enterprise that exist in some protected 
countries, the unwholesome combinations, the universal 
selfish scramble, the poisonous mixture of politics and 
trade influences, the use of the State power to watch 
over and favour great moneyed monopolies, the long 
endurance of the public that tolerates the vilest things at 
the hands of its politicians, and you will realize how 
deadly is every form of protection, that resting on force 
sends us to sleep, and how vital is the liberty that for 
ever fights the evil by opposing it to the good, that 
never sleeps, that is always stirring us into new forms 
of doing and resisting, and for ever tends to make the 
better take the place of the good. There is only one 
true form of protection, and that is universal liberty with 
its ceaseless striving and effort. 

Strongly as we are opposed to the Protectionists, who 
whitewash their creed under the name of Tariff Reform, 
it is fair to remember one plea on their behalf. They 
have one true grievance. As long as the present ex 
travagant spending goes on in its compulsory fashion 
they may fairly complain that the income-tax payers are 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 103 

likely to be unjustly treated. The remedy does not lie 
in extending our compulsory system of taking from the 
public but in limiting it, and presently transforming it 
into voluntary giving. Under our compulsory system 
free trade will never be a safe possession. It is with us 
to-day ; it will be lost to-morrow. If we were pushed 
again into a war, as we were pushed headlong into the 
Boer War, just because one statesman got into a temper, 
shut his eyes and put his head down, and another states 
man looked sorrowfully on, like the gods of Olympus, 
smiling at the follies of the human race, we should at 
once hear the double cry ringing in our ears for conscrip 
tion and protection conscription to force us to fight with 
our conscience or against our conscience ; protection to 
force us to pay for what we might look on as a crime 
and a folly. You may be sure that free trade will 
sooner or later be swept away, unless we go boldly 
forward in its own spirit and in its own direction and 
destroy the compulsory character of taxation. There 
lies the stronghold of all war and strife and oppression 
of each other. As long as compulsory taxation lasts 
in other words giving power to some men to use other 
men against their beliefs and their interests liberty 
will be but a mocking phrase. Between liberty and 
compulsory taxation there is no possible reconciliation. 
It is a struggle of life and death between the two. 
That which is free and that which is bound can never 
long keep company. Sooner or later one of the two 
must prevail over the other. If a war came, conserva 
tive ministers would see their great opportunity, and 
with rapture of heart would fasten round us the two 
chains that they dearly love, conscription and protection. 
Liberal ministers would sorrowfully shake their heads, 
wring their hands, utter a last pathetic tribute to liberty 



104 A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

and free trade, and with handkerchiefs to their eyes 
would take the same course. If you mean to secure 
the great victory just gained for free trade you must 
go boldly and resolutely on in the same good path. 
Dangers lie strewn around you on every side. There 
is no security for what you have gained, but in pressing 
forward. There is one and only one way of perma 
nently saving free trade, and that is to sweep away all 
the compulsory system in which we are entangled. 

And now place before yourselves the picture of the 
nation that not simply out of self-interest but for rights 
sake and conscience sake took to its heart the great 
cause of true liberty, and was determined that all men 
and women should be left free to guide themselves and 
take charge of their own lives; that was determined 
to oppress and persecute and restrain the actions of no 
single person in order to serve any interest or any 
opinion or any class advantage; that flung out of its 
hands the bad instrument of force using force only for 
its one clear, simple and rightful purpose of restraining 
all acts of force and fraud, committed by one citizen 
against another, of safeguarding the lives, the actions, 
the property of all, and thus making a fair open field for 
all honest effort ; think, under the influences of liberty 
and her twin-sister peace for they are inseparably 
bound together neither existing without the other- 
how our character as a people would grow nobler and 
at the same time softer and more generous think how 
the old useless enmities and jealousies and strivings 
would die out ; how the unscrupulous politician would 
become a reformed character, hardly recognizing his 
old self in his new and better self; how men of all 
classes would learn to co-operate together for every 
kind of good and useful purpose ; how, as the results of 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 105 

this free co-operation, innumerable ties of friendship and 
kindliness would spring up amongst us all of every 
class and condition, when we no longer sought to 
humble and crush each other, but invited all who were 
willing to work freely with us; how much truer and 
more real would be the campaign against the besetting 
vices and weakness of our nature, when we sought to 
change that nature, not simply to tie men s hands and 
restrain external action, no longer setting up and estab 
lishing in all parts of life that poor weak motive the 
fear of punishment those clumsy useless penalties, 
evaded and laughed at by the cunning, that have 
never yet turned sinner into saint ; how we should re 
discover in ourselves the good vigorous stuff that lies 
hidden there, the power to plan, to dare and to do ; how 
we should see in clearer light our duty towards other 
nations, and fulfil more faithfully our great world-trust ; 
how we should cease to be a people divided into three 
or four quarrelsome unscrupulous factions ready to 
sacrifice all the great things to their intense desire for 
power and grow into a people really one in heart and 
mind, because we frankly recognized the right to differ, 
the right of each one to choose his own path because 
we respected and cherished the will, the intelligence, 
the free choice of others, as much as we respect and 
cherish these things in ourselves, and were resolved 
never to trample, for the sake of any plea, for any 
motive, on the higher parts of human nature, resolved 
that come storm or sunshine we would not falter in 
our allegiance to liberty and her sister peace, that we 
would do all, dare all and suffer all, if need be, for their 
sake, then at last the regeneration of society would 
begin, the real promised land, not the imaginary land 
of vain and mocking desires, would be in sight. 



io6 A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 

And now for the practical measures that we must set 
before ourselves : 

(1) So far as force is concerned, we must use State 
force only to protect ourselves against those who would 
employ force or fraud ; using it to safeguard all public 
and private property, and to repel if a real necessity 
arises the foreign aggressor. We must employ force 
simply as the servant of liberty, and under the strongest 
conditions that liberty would impose upon it ; we must 
refuse utterly and in everything to employ it so as to 
deprive the innocent and unaggressive citizen of his 
own will and self-guidance. 

(2) We must place limits upon every form of com 
pulsory taxation, until we are strong enough to destroy 
it finally and completely; and to transform it into a 
system of voluntary giving. Under that voluntary 
system alone can a nation live in peace and friendship 
and work together happily and profitably for common 
ends. In voluntary taxation we shall find the one true 
form of life-long education which will teach us to act 
together, creating innumerable kindly ties between us 
all which will call out all the truest and most generous 
qualities of our best citizens, doubling and trebling their 
energies, as they find themselves working for their own 
beliefs and ideas, and no longer used as the mere tools 
and creatures of others ; which will slowly bring under 
the influence of the better citizens the selfish and the 
indifferent, teaching them too to share in public move 
ments, and common efforts; which will multiply those 
differences of method, those experiments made from 
new points of view experiments, upon which all pro 
gress depends, and replacing the great clumsy universal 
systems which treat good and bad alike, which are mere 
developments of the official mind, and escape entirely 



A PLEA FOR VOLUNTARYISM 107 

from the control of those in whose interest they are 
supposed to exist; which will call into life again the 
proud feeling of self-help and independence which 
belongs to this nation of ours, and which the politician 
has done so much to weaken and destroy. 

The great choice lies before you. No nation stands 
still. It must move in one direction or the other. 
Either the State must grow in power, imposing new 
burdens and compulsions, and the nation sink lower 
and lower into a helpless quarrelling crowd, or the in 
dividual must gain his own rightful freedom, become 
master of himself, creature of none, confident in himself 
and in his own qualities, confident in his power to plan 
and to do, and determined to end this old-world, profit 
less and worn-out system of restrictions and com 
pulsions, which is not good or healthy even for the 
children. Once we realize the waste and the folly of 
striving against each other, once we feel in our hearts 
that the worst use to which we can turn human energies 
is gaining victories over each other, then we shall at 
last begin in true earnest to turn the wilderness into 
a garden, and to plant all the best and fairest of the 
flowers where now only the nettles and the briars grow. 

We wish it to be understood that we who sign this 
paper are in agreement with its general spirit, reserving 
our own judgement on special points. 



OXFORD: HORACE HART 

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