Human Nature In Politics - Third Edition
by Graham Wallas
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I offer my thanks to several friends who have been kind enough to read the proofs of this book, and to send me corrections and suggestions; among whom I will mention Professors John Adams and J.H. Muirhead, Dr. A. Wolf, and Messrs. W.H. Winch, Sidney Webb, L. Pearsall Smith, and A.E. Zimmern. It is, for their sake, rather more necessary than usual for me to add that some statements still remain in the text which one or more of them would have desired to see omitted or differently expressed.

I have attempted in the footnotes to indicate those writers whose books I have used. But I should like to record here my special obligation to Professor William James's Principles of Psychology, which gave me, a good many years ago, the conscious desire to think psychologically about my work as politician and teacher.

I have been sometimes asked to recommend a list of books on the psychology of politics. I believe that at the present stage of the science, a politician will gain more from reading, in the light of his own experience, those treatises on psychology which have been written without special reference to politics, than by beginning with the literature of applied political psychology. But readers who are not politicians will find particular points dealt with in the works of the late Monsieur G. Tarde, especially L'Opinion et la Foule and Les Lois de l'Imitation and in the books quoted in the course of an interesting article on 'Herd Instinct,' by Mr. W. Trotter in the Sociological Review for July 1908. The political psychology of the poorer inhabitants of a great city is considered from an individual and fascinating point of view by Miss Jane Addams (of Chicago) in her Democracy and Social Ethics.



I have made hardly any changes in the book as it first appeared, beyond the correction of a few verbal slips. The important political developments which have occurred during the last eighteen months in the English Parliament, in Turkey, Persia, and India, and in Germany, have not altered my conclusions as to the psychological problems raised by modern forms of government; and it would involve an impossible and undesirable amount of rewriting to substitute 'up-to-date' illustrations for those which I drew from the current events of 1907 and 1908. I should desire to add to the books recommended above Mr. W. M'Dougall's Social Psychology, with special reference to his analysis of Instinct.



30th December 1909.


This edition is, like the second edition (1910), a reprint, with a few verbal corrections, of the first edition (1908). I tried in 1908 to make two main points clear. My first point was the danger, for all human activities, but especially for the working of democracy, of the 'intellectualist' assumption, 'that every human action is the result of an intellectual process, by which a man first thinks of some end which he desires, and then calculates the means by which that end can be attained' (p. 21). My second point was the need of substituting for that assumption a conscious and systematic effort of thought. 'The whole progress,' I argued, 'of human civilisation beyond its earliest stages, has been made possible by the invention of methods of thought which enable us to interpret and forecast the working of nature more successfully than we could, if we merely followed the line of least resistance in the use of our minds' (p. 114).

In 1920 insistence on my first point is not so necessary as it was in 1908. The assumption that men are automatically guided by 'enlightened self-interest' has been discredited by the facts of the war and the peace, the success of an anti-parliamentary and anti-intellectualist revolution in Russia, the British election of 1918, the French election of 1919, the confusion of politics in America, the breakdown of political machinery in Central Europe, and the general unhappiness which has resulted from four years of the most intense and heroic effort that the human race has ever made. One only needs to compare the disillusioned realism of our present war and post-war pictures and poems with the nineteenth-century war pictures at Versailles and Berlin, and the war poems of Campbell, and Berenger, and Tennyson, to realise how far we now are from exaggerating human rationality.

It is my second point, which, in the world as the war has left it, is most important. There is no longer much danger that we shall assume that man always and automatically thinks of ends and calculates means. The danger is that we may be too tired or too hopeless to undertake the conscious effort by which alone we can think of ends and calculate means.

The great mechanical inventions of the nineteenth century have given us an opportunity of choosing for ourselves our way of living such as men have never had before. Up to our own time the vast majority of mankind have had enough to do to keep themselves alive, and to satisfy the blind instinct which impels them to hand on life to another generation. An effective choice has only been given to a tiny class of hereditary property owners, or a few organisers of other men's labour. Even when, as in ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia, nature offered whole populations three hundred free days in the year if they would devote two months to ploughing and harvest, all but a fraction still spent themselves in unwilling toil, building tombs or palaces, or equipping armies, for a native monarch or a foreign conqueror. The monarch could choose his life, but his choice was poor enough. 'There is,' says Aristotle, 'a way of living so brutish that it is only worth notice because many of those who can live any life they like make no better choice than did Sardanapalus.'

The Greek thinkers started modern civilisation, because they insisted that the trading populations of their walled cities should force themselves to think out an answer to the question, what kind of life is good. 'The origin of the city-state,' says Aristotle, 'is that it enables us to live; its justification is that it enables us to live well.'

Before the war, there were in London and New York, and Berlin, thousands of rich men and women as free to choose their way of life as was Sardanapalus, and as dissatisfied with their own choice. Many of the sons and daughters of the owners of railways and coal mines and rubber plantations were 'fed up' with motoring or bridge, or even with the hunting and fishing which meant a frank resumption of palaeolithic life without the spur of palaeolithic hunger. But my own work brought me into contact with an unprivileged class, whose degree of freedom was the special product of modern industrial civilisation, and on whose use of their freedom the future of civilisation may depend. A clever young mechanic, at the age when the Wanderjahre of the medieval craftsman used to begin, would come home after tending a 'speeded up' machine from 8 A.M., with an hour's interval, till 5 P.M. At 6 P.M. he had finished his tea in the crowded living-room of his mother's house, and was 'free' to do what he liked. That evening, perhaps, his whole being tingled with half-conscious desires for love, and adventure, and knowledge, and achievement. On another day he might have gone to a billiard match at his club, or have hung round the corner for a girl who smiled at him as he left the factory, or might have sat on his bed and ground at a chapter of Marx or Hobson. But this evening he saw his life as a whole. The way of living that had been implied in the religious lessons at school seemed strangely irrelevant; but still he felt humble, and kind, and anxious for guidance. Should he aim at marriage, and if so should he have children at once or at all? If he did not marry, could he avoid self-contempt and disease? Should he face the life of a socialist organiser, with its strain and uncertainty, and the continual possibility of disillusionment? Should he fill up every evening with technical classes, and postpone his ideals until he had become rich? And if he became rich what should he do with his money? Meanwhile, there was the urgent impulse to walk and think; but where should he walk to, and with whom?

The young schoolmistress, in her bed-sitting-room a few streets off, was in no better case. She and a friend sat late last night, agreeing that the life they were living was no real life at all; but what was the alternative? Had the 'home duties' to which her High Church sister devoted herself with devastating self-sacrifice any more meaning? Ought she, with her eyes open, and without much hope of spontaneous love, to enter into the childless 'modern' marriage which alone seemed possible for her? Ought she to spend herself in a reckless campaign for the suffrage? Meanwhile, she had had her tea, her eyes were too tired to read, and what on earth should she do till bedtime?

Such moments of clear self-questioning were of course rare, but the nerve-fretting problems always existed. Industrial civilisation had given the growing and working generation a certain amount of leisure, and education enough to conceive of a choice in the use of that leisure; but had offered them no guidance in making their choice.

We are faced, as I write, with the hideous danger that fighting may blaze up again throughout the whole Eurasian continent, and that the young men and girls of Europe may have no more choice in the way they spend their time than they had from 1914 to 1918 or the serfs of Pharaoh had in ancient Egypt. But if that immediate danger is avoided, I dream that in Europe and in America a conscious and systematic discussion by the young thinkers of our time of the conditions of a good life for an unprivileged population may be one of the results of the new vision of human nature and human possibilities which modern science and modern industry have forced upon us.

Within each nation, industrial organisation may cease to be a confused and wasteful struggle of interests, if it is consciously related to a chosen way of life for which it offers to every worker the material means. International relations may cease to consist of a constant plotting of evil by each nation for its neighbours, if ever the youth of all nations know that French, and British, and Germans, and Russians, and Chinese, and Americans, are taking a conscious part in the great adventure of discovering ways of living open to all, and which all can believe to be good.


August 1920.















(Introduction, page 1)

The study of politics is now in an unsatisfactory position. Throughout Europe and America, representative democracy is generally accepted as the best form of government; but those who have had most experience of its actual working are often disappointed and apprehensive. Democracy has not been extended to non-European races, and during the last few years many democratic movements have failed.

This dissatisfaction has led to much study of political institutions; but little attention has been recently given in works on politics to the facts of human nature. Political science in the past was mainly based, on conceptions of human nature, but the discredit of the dogmatic political writers of the early nineteenth century has made modern students of politics over-anxious to avoid anything which recalls their methods. That advance therefore of psychology which has transformed pedagogy and criminology has left politics largely unchanged.

The neglect of the study of human nature is likely, however, to prove only a temporary phase of political thought, and there are already signs that it, is coming to an end.

(PART I.—Chapter I.—Impulse and Instinct in Politics, page 21)

Any examination of human nature in politics must begin with an attempt to overcome that 'intellectualism' which results both from the traditions of political science and from the mental habits of ordinary men.

Political impulses are not mere intellectual inferences from calculations of means and ends; but tendencies prior to, though modified by, the thought and experience of individual human beings. This may be seen if we watch the action in politics of such impulses as personal affection, fear, ridicule, the desire of property, etc.

All our impulses and instincts are greatly increased in their immediate effectiveness if they are 'pure,' and in their more permanent results if they are 'first hand' and are connected with the earlier stages of our evolution. In modern politics the emotional stimulus which reaches us through the newspapers is generally 'pure,' but 'second hand,' and therefore is both facile and transient.

The frequent repetition of an emotion or impulse is often distressing. Politicians, like advertisers, must allow for this fact, which again is connected with that combination of the need of privacy with intolerance of solitude to which we have to adjust our social arrangements.

Political emotions are sometimes pathologically intensified when experienced simultaneously by large numbers of human beings in physical association, but the conditions of political life in England do not often produce this phenomenon.

The future of international politics largely depends on the question whether we have a specific instinct of hatred for human beings of a different racial type from ourselves. The point is not yet settled, but many facts which are often explained as the result of such an instinct seem to be due to other and more general instincts modified by association.

(Chapter II.—Political Entities, page: 59)

Political acts and impulses are the result of the contact between human nature and its environment. During the period studied by the politician, human nature has changed very little, but political environment has changed with ever-increasing rapidity.

Those facts of our environment which stimulate impulse and action reach us through our senses, and are selected from the mass of our sensations and memories by our instinctive or acquired knowledge of their significance. In politics the things recognised are, for the most part, made by man himself, and our knowledge of their significance is not instinctive but acquired.

Recognition tends to attach itself to symbols, which take the place of more complex sensations and memories. Some of the most difficult problems in politics result from the relation between the conscious use in reasoning of the symbols called words, and their more or less automatic and unconscious effect in stimulating emotion and action. A political symbol whose significance has once been established by association, may go through a psychological development of its own, apart from the history of the facts which were originally symbolised by it. This may be seen in the case of the names and emblems of nations and parties; and still more clearly in the history of those commercial entities—'teas' or 'soaps'—which are already made current by advertisement before any objects to be symbolised by them have been made or chosen. Ethical difficulties are often created by the relation between the quickly changing opinions of any individual politician and such slowly changing entities as his reputation, his party name, or the traditional personality of a newspaper which he may control.

(Chapter III.—Non-Rational Inference in Politics, page 98)

Intellectualist political thinkers often assume, not only that political action is necessarily the result of inferences as to means and ends, but that all inferences are of the same 'rational' type.

It is difficult to distinguish sharply between rational and non-rational inferences in the stream of mental experience, but it is clear that many of the half-conscious processes by which men form their political opinions are non-rational. We can generally trust non-rational inferences in ordinary life because they do not give rise to conscious opinions until they have been strengthened by a large number of undesigned coincidences. But conjurers and others who study our non-rational mental processes can so play upon them as to make us form absurd beliefs. The empirical art of politics consists largely in the creation of opinion by the deliberate exploitation of subconscious non-rational inference. The process of inference may go on beyond the point desired by the politician who started it, and is as likely to take place in the mind of a passive newspaper-reader as among the members of the most excited crowd.

(Chapter IV.—The Material of Political Reasoning, page 114)

But men can and do reason, though reasoning is only one of their mental processes. The rules for valid reasoning laid down by the Greeks were intended primarily for use in politics, but in politics reasoning has in fact proved to be more difficult and less successful than in the physical sciences. The chief cause of this is to be found in the character of its material. We have to select or create entities to reason about, just as we select or create entities to stimulate our impulses and non-rational inferences. In the physical sciences these selected entities are of two types, either concrete things made exactly alike, or abstracted qualities in respect of which things otherwise unlike can be exactly compared. In politics, entities of the first type cannot be created, and political philosophers have constantly sought for some simple entity of the second type, some fact or quality, which may serve as an exact 'standard' for political calculation. This search has hitherto been unsuccessful, and the analogy of the biological sciences suggests that politicians are most likely to acquire the power of valid reasoning when they, like doctors, avoid the over-simplification of their material, and aim at using in their reasoning as many facts as possible about the human type, its individual variations, and its environment. Biologists have shown that large numbers of facts as to individual variations within any type can be remembered if they are arranged as continuous curves rather than as uniform rules or arbitrary exceptions. On the other hand, any attempt to arrange the facts of environment with the same approach to continuity as is possible with the facts of human nature is likely to result in error. The study of history cannot be assimilated to that of biology.

(Chapter V.—The Method of Political Reasoning, page 138)

The method of political reasoning has shared the traditional over-simplification of its subject-matter.

In Economics, where both method and subject-matter were originally still more completely simplified, 'quantitative' methods have since Jevons's time tended to take the place of 'qualitative'. How far is a similar change possible in politics?

Some political questions can obviously be argued quantitatively. Others are less obviously quantitative. But even on the most complex political issues experienced and responsible statesmen do in fact think quantitatively, although the methods by which they reach their results are often unconscious.

When, however, all politicians start with intellectualist assumptions, though some half-consciously acquire quantitative habits of thought, many desert politics altogether from disillusionment and disgust. What is wanted in the training of a statesman is the fully conscious formulation and acceptance of those methods which will not have to be unlearned.

Such a conscious change is already taking place in the work of Royal Commissions, International Congresses, and other bodies and persons who have to arrange and draw conclusions from large masses of specially collected evidence. Their methods and vocabulary, even when not numerical, are nowadays in large part quantitative.

In parliamentary oratory, however, the old tradition of over-simplification is apt to persist.

(PART II.—Chapter I.—Political Morality, page 167)

But in what ways can such changes in political science affect the actual trend of political forces?

In the first place, the abandonment by political thinkers and writers of the intellectualist conception of politics will sooner or later influence the moral judgments of the working politician. A young candidate will begin with a new conception of his moral relation to those whose will and opinions he is attempting to influence. He will start, in that respect, from a position hitherto confined to statesmen who have been made cynical by experience.

If that were the only result of our new knowledge, political morality might be changed for the worse. But the change will go deeper. When men become conscious of psychological processes of which they have been unconscious or half-conscious, not only are they put on their guard against the exploitation of those processes in themselves by others, but they become better able to control them from within.

If, however, a conscious moral purpose is to be strong enough to overcome, as a political force, the advancing art of political exploitation, the conception of control from within must be formed into an ideal entity which, like 'Science,' can appeal to popular imagination, and be spread by an organised system of education. The difficulties in this are great (owing in part to our ignorance of the varied reactions of self-consciousness on instinct), but a wide extension of the idea of causation is not inconsistent with an increased intensity of moral passion.

(Chapter II.—Representative Government, page 199)

The changes now going on in our conception of the psychological basis of politics will also re-open the discussion of representative democracy.

Some of the old arguments in that discussion will no longer be accepted as valid, and it is probable that many political thinkers (especially among those who have been educated in the natural sciences) will return to Plato's proposal of a despotic government carried on by a selected and trained class, who live apart from the 'ostensible world'; though English experience in India indicates that even the most carefully selected official must still live in the 'ostensible world,' and that the argument that good government requires the consent of the governed does not depend for its validity upon its original intellectualist associations.

Our new way of thinking about politics will, however, certainly change the form, not only of the argument for consent, but also of the institutions by which consent is expressed. An election (like a jury-trial) will be, and is already beginning to be, looked upon rather as a process by which right decisions are formed under right conditions, than as a mechanical expedient by which decisions already formed are ascertained.

Proposals for electoral reform which seem to continue the old intellectualist tradition are still brought forward, and new difficulties in the working of representative government will arise from the wider extension of political power. But that conception of representation may spread which desires both to increase the knowledge and public spirit of the voter and to provide that no strain is put upon him greater than he can bear.

(Chapter III.—Official Thought, page 241)

A quantitative examination of the political force created by popular election shows the importance of the work of non-elected officials in any effective scheme of democracy.

What should be the relation between these officials and the elected representatives? On this point English opinion already shows a marked reaction from the intellectualist conception of representative government. We accept the fact that most state officials are appointed by a system uncontrolled either by individual members of parliament or by parliament as a whole, that they hold office during good behaviour, and that they are our main source of information as to some of the most difficult points on which we form political judgments. It is largely an accident that the same system has not been introduced into our local government.

But such a half-conscious acceptance of a partially independent Civil Service as an existing fact is not enough. We must set ourselves to realise clearly what we intend our officials to do, and to consider how far our present modes of appointment, and especially our present methods of organising official work, provide the most effective means for carrying out that intention.

(Chapter IV.—Nationality and Humanity, page 269)

What influence will the new tendencies in political thought have on the emotional and intellectual conditions of political solidarity?

In the old city-states, where the area of government corresponded to the actual range of human vision and memory, a kind of local emotion could be developed which is now impossible in a 'delocalised' population. The solidarity of a modern state must therefore depend on facts not of observation but of imagination.

The makers of the existing European national states, Mazzini and Bismarck, held that the possible extent of a state depended on national homogeneity, i.e. on the possibility that every individual member of a state should believe that all the others were like himself. Bismarck thought that the degree of actual homogeneity which was a necessary basis for this belief could be made by 'blood and iron'; Mazzini thought that mankind was already divided into homogeneous groups whose limits should be followed in the reconstruction of Europe. Both were convinced that the emotion of political solidarity was impossible between individuals of consciously different national types.

During the last quarter of a century this conception of the world as composed of a mosaic of homogeneous nations has been made more difficult (a) by the continued existence and even growth of separate national feelings within modern states, and (b) by the fact that the European and non-European races have entered into closer political relationships. The attempt, therefore, to transfer the traditions of national homogeneity and solidarity either to the inhabitants of a modern world-empire as a whole, or to the members of the dominant race in it, disguises the real facts and adds to the danger of war.

Can we, however, acquire a political emotion based, not upon a belief in the likeness of individual human beings, but upon the recognition of their unlikeness? Darwin's proof of the relation between individual and racial variation might have produced such an emotion if it had not been accompanied by the conception of the 'struggle for life' as a moral duty. As it is, inter-racial and even inter-imperial wars can be represented as necessary stages in the progress of the species. But present-day biologists tell us that the improvement of any one race will come most effectively from the conscious co-operation, and not from the blind conflict of individuals; and it may be found that the improvement of the whole species will also come rather from a conscious world-purpose based upon a recognition of the value of racial as well as individual variety, than from mere fighting.



The study of politics is just now (1908) in a curiously unsatisfactory position.

At first sight the main controversy as to the best form of government appears to have been finally settled in favour of representative democracy. Forty years ago it could still be argued that to base the sovereignty of a great modern nation upon a widely extended popular vote was, in Europe at least, an experiment which had never been successfully tried. England, indeed, by the 'leap in the dark' of 1867, became for the moment the only large European State whose government was democratic and representative. But to-day a parliamentary republic based upon universal suffrage exists in France without serious opposition or protest. Italy enjoys an apparently stable constitutional monarchy. Universal suffrage has just been enacted in Austria. Even the German Emperor after the election of 1907 spoke of himself rather as the successful leader of a popular electoral campaign than as the inheritor of a divine right. The vast majority of the Russian nation passionately desires a sovereign parliament, and a reactionary Duma finds itself steadily pushed by circumstances towards that position. The most ultramontane Roman Catholics demand temporal power for the Pope, no longer as an ideal system of world government, but as an expedient for securing in a few square miles of Italian territory liberty of action for the directors of a church almost all of whose members will remain voting citizens of constitutional States. None of the proposals for a non-representative democracy which were associated with the communist and anarchist movements of the nineteenth century have been at all widely accepted, or have presented themselves as a definite constructive scheme; and almost all those who now hope for a social change by which the results of modern scientific industry shall be more evenly distributed put their trust in the electoral activity of the working classes.

And yet, in the very nations which have most whole-heartedly accepted representative democracy, politicians and political students seem puzzled and disappointed by their experience of it. The United States of America have made in this respect by far the longest and most continuous experiment. Their constitution has lasted for a century and a quarter, and, in spite of controversy and even war arising from opposing interpretations of its details, its principles have been, and still are, practically unchallenged. But, as far as an English visitor can judge, no American thinks with satisfaction of the electoral 'machine' whose power alike in Federal, State, and Municipal politics is still increasing.

In England not only has our experience of representative democracy been much shorter than that of America, but our political traditions have tended to delay the full acceptance of the democratic idea even in the working of democratic institutions. Yet, allowing for differences of degree and circumstance, one finds in England among the most loyal democrats, if they have been brought into close contact with the details of electoral organisation, something of the same disappointment which has become more articulate in America. I have helped to fight a good many parliamentary contests, and have myself been a candidate in a series of five London municipal elections. In my last election I noticed that two of my canvassers, when talking over the day's work, used independently the phrase, 'It is a queer business.' I have heard much the same words used in England by those professional political agents whose efficiency depends on their seeing electoral facts without illusion. I have no first-hand knowledge of German or Italian electioneering, but when a year ago I talked with my hosts of the Paris Municipal Council, I seemed to detect in some of them indications of good-humoured disillusionment with regard to the working of a democratic electoral system.

In England and America one has, further, the feeling that it is the growing, and not the decaying, forces of society which create the most disquieting problems. In America the 'machine' takes its worst form in those great new cities whose population and wealth and energy represent the goal towards which the rest of American civilisation is apparently tending. In England, to any one who looks forward, the rampant bribery of the old fishing-ports, or the traditional and respectable corruption of the cathedral cities, seem comparatively small and manageable evils. The more serious grounds for apprehension come from the newest inventions of wealth and enterprise, the up-to-date newspapers, the power and skill of the men who direct huge aggregations of industrial capital, the organised political passions of working men who have passed through the standards of the elementary schools, and who live in hundreds of square miles of new, healthy, indistinguishable suburban streets. Every few years some invention in political method is made, and if it succeeds both parties adopt it. In politics, as in football, the tactics which prevail are not those which the makers of the rules intended, but those by which the players find that they can win, and men feel vaguely that the expedients by which their party is most likely to win may turn out not to be those by which a State is best governed.

More significant still is the fear, often expressed as new questions force themselves into politics, that the existing electoral system will not bear the strain of an intensified social conflict. Many of the arguments used in the discussion of the tariff question in England, or of the concentration of capital in America, or of social—democracy in Germany, imply this. Popular election, it is said, may work fairly well as long as those questions are not raised which cause the holders of wealth and industrial power to make full use of their opportunities. But if the rich people in any modern state thought it worth their while, in order to secure a tariff, or legalise a trust, or oppose a confiscatory tax, to subscribe a third of their income to a political fund, no Corrupt Practices Act yet invented would prevent them from spending it. If they did so, there is so much skill to be bought, and the art of using skill for the production of emotion and opinion has so advanced, that the whole condition of political contests would be changed for the future. No existing party, unless it enormously increased its own fund or discovered some other new source of political strength, would have any chance of permanent success.

The appeal, however, in the name of electoral purity, to protectionists, trust-promoters, and socialists that they should drop their various movements and so confine politics to less exciting questions, falls, naturally enough, on deaf ears.

The proposal, again, to extend the franchise to women is met by that sort of hesitation and evasion which is characteristic of politicians who are not sure of their intellectual ground. A candidate who has just been speaking on the principles of democracy finds it, when he is heckled, very difficult to frame an answer which would justify the continued exclusion of women from the franchise. Accordingly a large majority of the successful candidates from both the main parties at the general election of 1906 pledged themselves to support female suffrage. But, as I write, many, perhaps the majority, of those who gave that pledge seem to be trying to avoid the necessity of carrying it out. There is no reason to suppose that they are men of exceptionally dishonest character, and their fear of the possible effect of a final decision is apparently genuine. They are aware that certain differences exist between men and women, though they do not know what those differences are, nor in what way they are relevant to the question of the franchise. But they are even less steadfast in their doubts than in their pledges, and the question will, in the comparatively near future, probably be settled by importunity on the one side and mere drifting on the other.

This half conscious feeling of unsettlement on matters which in our explicit political arguments we treat as settled, is increased by the growing urgency of the problem of race. The fight for democracy in Europe and America during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was carried on by men who were thinking only of the European races. But, during the extension of democracy after 1870, almost all the Great Powers were engaged in acquiring tropical dependencies, and improvements in the means of communication were bringing all the races of the world into close contact. The ordinary man now finds that the sovereign vote has (with exceptions numerically insignificant) been in fact confined to nations of European origin. But there is nothing in the form or history of the representative principle which seems to justify this, or to suggest any alternative for the vote as a basis of government. Nor can he draw any intelligible and consistent conclusion from the practice of democratic States in giving or refusing the vote to their non-European subjects. The United States, for instance, have silently and almost unanimously dropped the experiment of negro suffrage. In that case, owing to the wide intellectual gulf between the West African negro and the white man from North-West Europe, the problem was comparatively simple; but no serious attempt has yet been made at a new solution of it, and the Americans have been obviously puzzled in dealing with the more subtle racial questions created by the immigration of Chinese and Japanese and Slavs, or by the government of the mixed populations in the Philippines.

England and her colonies show a like uncertainty in the presence of the political questions raised both by the migration of non-white races and by the acquisition of tropical dependencies. Even when we discuss the political future of independent Asiatic States we are not clear whether the principle, for instance, of 'no taxation without representation' should be treated as applicable to them. Our own position as an Asiatic power depends very largely on the development of China and Persia, which are inhabited by races who may claim, in some respects, to be our intellectual superiors. When they adopt our systems of engineering, mechanics, or armament we have no doubt that they are doing a good thing for themselves, even though we may fear their commercial or military rivalry. But no follower of Bentham is now eager to export for general Asiatic use our latest inventions in political machinery. We hear that the Persians have established a parliament, and watch the development of their experiment with a complete suspension of judgment as to its probable result. We have helped the Japanese to preserve their independence as a constitutional nation, and most Englishmen vaguely sympathise with the desire of the Chinese progressives both for national independence and internal reform. Few of us, however, would be willing to give any definite advice to an individual Chinaman who asked whether he ought to throw himself into a movement for a representative parliament on European lines.

Within our own Empire this uncertainty as to the limitations of our political principles may at any moment produce actual disaster. In Africa, for instance, the political relationship between the European inhabitants of our territories and the non-European majority of Kaffirs, Negroes, Hindoos, Copts, or Arabs is regulated on entirely different lines in Natal, Basutoland, Egypt, or East Africa. In each case the constitutional difference is due not so much to the character of the local problem as to historical accident, and trouble may break out anywhere and at any time, either from the aggression of the Europeans upon the rights reserved by the Home Government to the non-Europeans, or from a revolt of the non-Europeans themselves. Blacks and whites are equally irritated by the knowledge that there is one law in Nairobi and another in Durban.

This position is, of course, most dangerous in the case of India. For two or three generations the ordinary English Liberal postponed any decision on Indian politics, because he believed that we were educating the inhabitants for self-government, and that in due time they would all have a vote for an Indian parliament. Now he is becoming aware that there are many races in India, and that some of the most important differences between those races among themselves, and between any of them and ourselves, are not such as can be obliterated by education. He is told by men whom he respects that this fact makes it certain that the representative system which is suitable for England will never be suitable for India, and therefore he remains uneasily responsible for the permanent autocratic government of three hundred million people, remembering from time to time that some of those people or their neighbours may have much more definite political ideas than his own, and that he ultimately may have to fight for a power which he hardly desires to retain.

Meanwhile, the existence of the Indian problem loosens half-consciously his grip upon democratic principle in matters nearer home. Newspapers and magazines and steamships are constantly making India more real to him, and the conviction of a Liberal that Polish immigrants or London 'latch-key' lodgers ought to have a vote is less decided than it would have been if he had not acquiesced in the decision that Rajputs, and Bengalis, and Parsees should be refused it.

Practical politicians cannot, it is true, be expected to stop in the middle of a campaign merely because they have an uncomfortable feeling that the rules of the game require re-stating and possibly re-casting. But the winning or losing of elections does not exhaust the whole political duty of a nation, and perhaps there never has been a time in which the disinterested examination of political principles has been more urgently required. Hitherto the main stimulus to political speculation has been provided by wars and revolutions, by the fight of the Greek States against the Persians, and their disastrous struggle for supremacy among themselves, or by the wars of religion in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the American and French Revolutions in the eighteenth century. The outstanding social events in Europe in our own time have, however, been so far the failures rather than the successes of great movements; the apparent wasting of devotion and courage in Russia, owing to the deep-seated intellectual divisions among the reformers, and the military advantage which modern weapons and means of communication give to any government however tyrannous and corrupt; the baffling of the German social-democrats by the forces of religion and patriotism and by the infertility of their own creed; the weakness of the successive waves of American Democracy when faced by the political power of capital.

But failure and bewilderment may present as stern a demand for thought as the most successful revolution, and, in many respects, that demand is now being well answered. Political experience is recorded and examined with a thoroughness hitherto unknown. The history of political action in the past, instead of being left to isolated scholars, has become the subject of organised and minutely subdivided labour. The new political developments of the present, Australian Federation, the Referendum in Switzerland, German Public Finance, the Party system in England and America, and innumerable others, are constantly recorded, discussed and compared in the monographs and technical magazines which circulate through all the universities of the globe.

The only form of study which a political thinker of one or two hundred years ago would now note as missing is any attempt to deal with politics in its relation to the nature of man. The thinkers of the past, from Plato to Bentham and Mill, had each his own view of human nature, and they made those views the basis of their speculations on government. But no modern treatise on political science, whether dealing with institutions or finance, now begins with anything corresponding to the opening words of Bentham's Principles of Morals and Legislation—'Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure'; or to the 'first general proposition' of Nassau Senior's Political Economy, 'Every man desires to obtain additional wealth with as little sacrifice as possible.'[1] In most cases one cannot even discover whether the writer is conscious of possessing any conception of human nature at all.

[1] Political, Economy (in the Encyclopedia Metropolitana), 2nd edition (1850), p. 26.

It is easy to understand how this has come about. Political science is just beginning to regain some measure of authority after the acknowledged failure of its confident professions during the first half of the nineteenth century. Bentham's Utilitarianism, after superseding both Natural Right and the blind tradition of the lawyers, and serving as the basis of innumerable legal and constitutional reforms throughout Europe, was killed by the unanswerable refusal of the plain man to believe that ideas of pleasure and pain are the only sources of human motive. The 'classical' political economy of the universities and the newspapers, the political economy of MacCulloch and Senior and Archbishop Whately, was even more unfortunate in its attempt to deduce a whole industrial polity from a 'few simple principles' of human nature. It became identified with the shallow dogmatism by which well-to-do people in the first half of Queen Victoria's reign tried to convince working men that any change in the distribution of the good things of life was 'scientifically impossible.' Marx and Buskin and Carlyle were masters of sarcasm, and the process is not yet forgotten by which they slowly compelled even the newspapers to abandon the 'laws of political economy' which from 1815 to 1870 stood, like gigantic stuffed policemen, on guard over rent and profits.

When the struggle against 'Political Economy' was at its height, Darwin's Origin of Species revealed a universe in which the 'few simple principles' seemed a little absurd, and nothing has hitherto taken their place. Mr. Herbert Spencer, indeed, attempted to turn a single hasty generalisation from the history of biological evolution into a complete social philosophy of his own, and preached a 'beneficent private war'[2] which he conceived as exactly equivalent to that degree of trade competition which prevailed among English provincial shopkeepers about the year 1884. Mr. Spencer failed to secure even the whole-hearted support of the newspapers; but in so far as his system gained currency it helped further to discredit any attempt to connect political science with the study of human nature.

[2] Man versus the State, p. 69. 'The beneficent private war which makes one man strive to climb over the shoulders of another man.'

For the moment, therefore, nearly all students of politics analyse institutions and avoid the analysis of man. The study of human nature by the psychologists has, it is true, advanced enormously since the discovery of human evolution, but it has advanced without affecting or being affected by the study of politics. Modern text-books of psychology are illustrated with innumerable facts from the home, the school, the hospital, and the psychological laboratory; but in them politics are hardly ever mentioned. The professors of the new science of sociology are beginning, it is true, to deal with human nature in its relation not only to the family and to religion and industry, but also to certain political institutions. Sociology, however, has had, as yet, little influence on political science.

I believe myself that this tendency to separate the study of politics from that of human nature will prove to be only a momentary phase of thought, that while it lasts its effects, both on the science and the conduct of politics, are likely to be harmful, and that there are already signs that it is coming to an end.

It is sometimes pleaded that, if thorough work is to be done, there must, in the moral as in the physical sciences, be division of labour. But this particular division cannot, in fact, be kept up. The student of politics must, consciously or unconsciously, form a conception of human nature, and the less conscious he is of his conception the more likely he is to be dominated by it. If he has had wide personal experience of political life his unconscious assumptions may be helpful; if he has not they are certain to be misleading. Mr. Roosevelt's little book of essays on American Ideals is, for instance, useful, because when he thinks about mankind in politics, he thinks about the politicians whom he has known. After reading it one feels that many of the more systematic books on politics by American university professors are useless, just because the writers dealt with abstract men, formed on assumptions of which they were unaware and which they had never tested either by experience or by study.

In the other sciences which deal with human actions, this division between the study of the thing done and the study of the being who does it is not found. In criminology Beccaria and Bentham long ago showed how dangerous that jurisprudence was which separated the classification of crimes from the study of the criminal. The conceptions of human nature which they held have been superseded by evolutionary psychology, but modern thinkers like Lombroso have brought the new psychology into the service of a new and fruitful criminology.

In pedagogy also, Locke, and Rousseau, and Herbart, and the many-sided Bentham, based their theories of education upon their conceptions of human nature. Those conceptions were the same as those which underlay their political theories, and have been affected in the same way by modern knowledge. For a short time it even looked, as if the lecturers in the English training colleges would make the same separation between the study of human institutions and human nature as has been made in politics. Lectures on School Method were distinguished during this period from those on the Theory of Education. The first became mere descriptions and comparisons of the organisation and teaching in the best schools. The second consisted of expositions, with occasional comment and criticism of such classical writers as Comenius, or Locke, or Rousseau; and were curiously like those informal talks on Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, which, under the name of the Theory of Politics, formed in my time such a pleasant interlude in the Oxford course of Humaner Letters. But while the Oxford lecture-courses still, I believe, survive almost unchanged, the Training College lectures on the Theory of Education are beginning to show signs of a change as great as that which took place in the training of medical students, when the lecturers on anatomy, instead of expounding the classical authorities, began to give, on their own responsibility, the best account of the facts of human structure of which they were capable.

The reason for this difference is, apparently, the fact that while Oxford lecturers on the Theory of Politics are not often politicians, the Training College lecturers on the Theory of Teaching have always been teachers, to whom the question whether any new knowledge could be made useful in their art was one of living and urgent importance. One finds accordingly that under the leadership of men like Professors William James, Lloyd Morgan, and Stanley Hall, a progressive science of teaching is being developed, which combines the study of types of school organisation and method with a determined attempt to learn from special experiments, from introspection, and from other sciences, what manner of thing a child is.

Modern pedagogy, based on modern psychology, is already influencing the schools whose teachers are trained for their profession. Its body of facts is being yearly added to; it has already caused the abandonment of much dreary waste of time; has given many thousands of teachers a new outlook on their work, and has increased the learning and happiness of many tens of thousands of children.

This essay of mine is offered as a plea that a corresponding change in the conditions of political science is possible. In the great University whose constituent colleges are the universities of the world, there is a steadily growing body of professors and students of politics who give the whole day to their work. I cannot but think that as years go on, more of them will call to their aid that study of mankind which is the ancient ally of the moral sciences. Within every great city there are groups of men and women who are brought together in the evenings by the desire to find something more satisfying than current political controversy. They have their own unofficial leaders and teachers, and among these one can already detect an impatience with the alternative offered, either of working by the bare comparison of existing institutions, or of discussing the fitness of socialism or individualism, of democracy or aristocracy for human beings whose nature is taken for granted.

If my book is read by any of those official or unofficial thinkers, I would urge that the study of human nature in politics, if ever it comes to be undertaken by the united and organised efforts of hundreds of learned men, may not only deepen and widen our knowledge of political institutions, but open an unworked mine of political invention.


The Conditions of the Problem



Whoever sets himself to base his political thinking on a re-examination of the working of human nature, must begin by trying to overcome his own tendency to exaggerate the intellectuality of mankind.

We are apt to assume that every human action is the result of an intellectual process, by which a man first thinks of some end which he desires, and then calculates the means by which that end can be attained. An investor, for instance, desires good security combined with five per cent interest. He spends an hour in studying with an open mind the price-list of stocks, and finally infers that the purchase of Brewery Debentures will enable him most completely to realise his desire. Given the original desire for good security, his act in purchasing the Debentures appears to be the inevitable result of his inference. The desire for good security itself may further appear to be merely an intellectual inference as to the means of satisfying some more general desire, shared by all mankind, for 'happiness,' our own 'interest,' or the like. The satisfaction of this general desire can then be treated as the supreme 'end' of life, from which all our acts and impulses, great and small, are derived by the same intellectual process as that by which the conclusion is derived from the premises of an argument.

This way of thinking is sometimes called 'common sense.' A good example of its application to politics may be found in a sentence from Macaulay's celebrated attack on the Utilitarian followers of Bentham in the Edinburgh Review of March 1829. This extreme instance of the foundation of politics upon dogmatic psychology is, curiously enough, part of an argument intended to show that 'it is utterly impossible to deduce the science of government from the principles of human nature.' 'What proposition,' Macaulay asks, 'is there respecting human nature which is absolutely and universally true? We know of only one: and that is not only true, but identical; that men always act from self-interest.... When we see the actions of a man, we know with certainty what he thinks his interest to be.'[3] Macaulay believes himself to be opposing Benthamism root and branch, but is unconsciously adopting and exaggerating the assumption which Bentham shared with most of the other eighteenth and early nineteenth century philosophers—that all motives result from the idea of some preconceived end.

[3] Edinburgh Review, March 1829, p. 185. (The italics are mine.)

If he had been pressed, Macaulay would probably have admitted that there are cases in which human acts and impulses to act occur independently of any idea of an end to be gained by them. If I have a piece of grit in my eye and ask some one to take it out with the corner of his handkerchief, I generally close the eye as soon as the handkerchief comes near, and always feel a strong impulse to do so. Nobody supposes that I close my eye because, after due consideration, I think it my interest to do so. Nor do most men choose to run away in battle, to fall in love, or to talk about the weather in order to satisfy their desire for a preconceived end. If, indeed, a man were followed through one ordinary day, without his knowing it, by a cinematographic camera and a phonograph, and if all his acts and sayings were reproduced before him next day, he would be astonished to find how few of them were the result of a deliberate search for the means of attaining ends. He would, of course, see that much of his activity consisted in the half-conscious repetition, under the influence of habit, of movements which were originally more fully conscious. But even if all cases of habit were excluded he would find that only a small proportion of the residue could be explained as being directly produced by an intellectual calculation. If a record were also kept of those of his impulses and emotions which did not result in action, it would be seen that they were of the same kind as those which did, and that very few of them were preceded by that process which Macaulay takes for granted.

If Macaulay had been pressed still further, he would probably have admitted that even when an act is preceded by a calculation of ends and means, it is not the inevitable result of that calculation. Even when we know what a man thinks it his interest to do, we do not know for certain what he will do. The man who studies the Stock Exchange list does not buy his Debentures, unless, apart from his intellectual inference on the subject, he has an impulse to write to his stockbroker sufficiently strong to overcome another impulse to put the whole thing off till the next day.

Macaulay might even further have admitted that the mental act of calculation itself results from, or is accompanied by, an impulse to calculate, which impulse may have nothing to do with any anterior consideration of means and ends, and may vary from the half-conscious yielding to a train of reverie up to the obstinate driving of a tired brain onto the difficult task of exact thought.

The text-books of psychology now warn every student against the 'intellectualist' fallacy which is illustrated by my quotation from Macaulay. Impulse, it is now agreed, has an evolutionary history of its own earlier than the history of those intellectual processes by which it is often directed and modified. Our inherited organisation inclines us to re-act in certain ways to certain stimuli because such reactions have been useful in the past in preserving our species. Some of the reactions are what we call specifically 'instincts,' that is to say, impulses towards definite acts or series of acts, independent of any conscious anticipation of their probable effects.[4] Those instincts are sometimes unconscious and involuntary; and sometimes, in the case of ourselves and apparently of other higher animals, they are conscious and voluntary. But the connection between means and ends which they exhibit is the result not of any contrivance by the actor, but of the survival, in the past, of the 'fittest' of many varying tendencies to act. Indeed the instinct persists when it is obviously useless, as in the case of a dog who turns round to flatten the grass before lying down on a carpet; and even when it is known to be dangerous, as when a man recovering from typhoid hungers for solid food.

[4] 'Instinct is usually defined as the faculty of acting in such a way as to produce certain ends without foresight of the ends and without previous education in the performance.'—W. James, Principles of Psychology, vol. ii. p. 383.

The fact that impulse is not always the result of conscious foresight is most clearly seen in the case of children. The first impulses of a baby to suck, or to grasp, are obviously 'instinctive.' But even when the unconscious or unremembered condition of infancy has been succeeded by the connected consciousness of childhood, the child will fly to his mother and hide his face in her skirts when he sees a harmless stranger. Later on he will torture small beasts and run away from big beasts, or steal fruit, or climb trees, though no one has suggested such actions to him, and though he may expect disagreeable results from them.

We generally think of 'instinct' as consisting of a number of such separate tendencies, each towards some distinct act or series of acts. But there is no reason to suppose that the whole body of inherited impulse even among non-human animals has ever been divisible in that way. The evolutionary history of impulse must have been very complicated. An impulse which survived because it produced one result may have persisted with modifications because it produced another result; and side by side with impulses towards specific acts we can detect in all animals vague and generalised tendencies, often overlapping and contradictory, like curiosity and shyness, sympathy and cruelty, imitation and restless activity. It is possible, therefore, to avoid the ingenious dilemma by which Mr. Balfour argues that we must either demonstrate that the desire, e.g. for scientific truth, is lineally descended from some one of the specific instincts which teach us 'to fight, to eat, and to bring up children,' or must admit the supernatural authority of the Shorter Catechism.[5]

[5] Reflections suggested by the New Theory of Matter, 1904, p. 21. 'So far as natural science can tell us, every quality of sense or intellect which does not help us to fight, to eat, and to bring up children, is but a by-product of the qualities which do.'

The pre-rational character of many of our impulses is, however, disguised by the fact that during the lifetime of each individual they are increasingly modified by memory and habit and thought. Even the non-human animals are able to adapt and modify their inherited impulses either by imitation or by habits founded on individual experience. When telegraph wires, for instance, were first put up many birds flew against them and were killed. But although the number of those that were killed was obviously insufficient to produce a change in the biological inheritance of the species, very few birds fly against the wires now. The young birds must have imitated their elders, who had learnt to avoid the wires; just as the young of many hunting animals are said to learn devices and precautions which are the result of their parents' experience, and later to make and hand down by imitation inventions of their own.

Many of the directly inherited impulses, again, appear both in man and other animals at a certain point in the growth of the individual, and then, if they are checked, die away, or, if they are unchecked, form habits; and impulses, which were originally strong and useful, may no longer help in preserving life, and may, like the whale's legs or our teeth and hair, be weakened by biological degeneration. Such temporary or weakened impulses are especially liable to be transferred to new objects, or to be modified by experience and thought.

With all these complicated facts the schoolmaster has to deal. In Macaulay's time he used to be guided by his 'common-sense,' and to intellectualise the whole process. The unfortunate boys who acted upon an ancient impulse to fidget, to play truant, to chase cats, or to mimic their teacher, were asked, with repeated threats of punishment,'why' they had done so. They, being ignorant of their own evolutionary history, were forced to invent some far-fetched lie, and were punished for that as well. The trained schoolmaster of to-day takes the existence of such impulses as a normal fact; and decides how far, in each case, he shall check them by relying on that half-conscious imitation which makes the greater part of class-room discipline, and how far by stimulating a conscious recognition of the connection, ethical or penal, between acts and their consequences. In any case his power of controlling instinctive impulse is due to his recognition of its non-intellectual origin. He may even be able to extend this recognition to his own impulses, and to overcome the conviction that his irritability during afternoon school in July is the result of an intellectual conclusion as to the need of special severity in dealing with a set of unprecedentedly wicked boys.

The politician, however, is still apt to intellectualise impulse as completely as the schoolmaster did fifty years ago. He has two excuses, that he deals entirely with adults, whose impulses are more deeply modified by experience and thought than those of children, and that it is very difficult for any one who thinks about politics not to confine his consideration to those political actions and impulses which are accompanied by the greatest amount of conscious thought, and which therefore come first into his mind. But the politician thinks about men in large communities, and it is in the forecasting of the action of large communities that the intellectualist fallacy is most misleading. The results of experience and thought are often confined to individuals or small groups, and when they differ may cancel each other as political forces. The original human impulses are, with personal variations, common to the whole race, and increase in their importance with an increase in the number of those influenced by them.

It may be worth while, therefore, to attempt a description of some of the more obvious or more important political impulses, remembering always that in politics we are dealing not with such clear-cut separate instincts as we may find in children and animals, but with tendencies often weakened by the course of human evolution, still more often transferred to new uses, and acting not simply but in combination or counteraction.

Aristotle, for instance, says that it is 'affection' (or 'friendship,' for the meaning of [Greek: philia] stands half way between the two words) which 'makes political union possible,' and 'which law-givers consider more important than justice.' It is, he says, a hereditary instinct among animals of the same race, and particularly among men.[6] If we look for this political affection in its simplest form, we see it in our impulse to feel 'kindly' towards any other human being of whose existence and personality we become vividly aware. This impulse can be checked and overlaid by others, but any one can test its existence and its prerationality in his own case by going, for instance, to the British Museum and watching the effect on his feelings of the discovery that a little Egyptian girl baby who died four thousand years ago rubbed the toes of her shoes by crawling upon the floor.

[6] Ethics, Bk. viii. chap. I. [Greek: physei t' enyparchein eoike ... ou ponon en anthropois alla kai en ornisi kai tois pleistois ton zoon, kai tois homoethnesi pros allela, kai malista tois anthropois ... eoike de kai tas poleis synechein he philia, kai hoi nomothetai mallon peri auten spoudazein e ten dikaiosynen].

The tactics of an election consist largely of contrivances by which this immediate emotion of personal affection may be set up. The candidate is advised to 'show himself continually, to give away prizes, to 'say a few words' at the end of other people's speeches—all under circumstances which offer little or no opportunity for the formation of a reasoned opinion of his merits, but many opportunities for the rise of a purely instinctive affection among those present. His portrait is periodically distributed, and is more effective if it is a good, that is to say, a distinctive, than if it is a flattering likeness. Best of all is a photograph which brings his ordinary existence sharply forward by representing him in his garden smoking a pipe or reading a newspaper.

A simple-minded supporter whose affection has been so worked up will probably try to give an intellectual explanation of it. He will say that the man, of whom he may know really nothing except that he was photographed in a Panama hat with a fox-terrier, is 'the kind of man we want,' and that therefore he has decided to support him; just as a child will say that he loves his mother because she is the best mother in the world,[7] or a man in love will give an elaborate explanation of his perfectly normal feelings, which he describes as an intellectual inference from alleged abnormal excellences in his beloved. The candidate naturally intellectualises in the same way. One of the most perfectly modest men I know once told me that he was 'going round' a good deal among his future constituents 'to let them see what a good fellow I am.' Unless, indeed, the process can be intellectualised, it is for many men unintelligible.

[7] A rather unusually reflective little girl of my acquaintance, felt, one day, while looking at her mother, a strong impulse of affection. She first gave the usual intellectual explanation of her feeling, 'Mummy, I do think you are the most beautiful Mummy in the whole world,' and then, after a moment's thought, corrected herself by saying, 'But there, they do say love is blind.'

A monarch is a life-long candidate, and there exists a singularly elaborate traditional art of producing personal affection for him. It is more important that he should be seen than that he should speak or act. His portrait appears on every coin and stamp, and apart from any question of personal beauty, produces most effect when it is a good likeness. Any one, for instance, who can clearly recall his own emotions during the later years of Queen Victoria's reign, will remember a measurable increase of his affection for her, when, in 1897, a thoroughly life-like portrait took the place on the coins of the conventional head of 1837-1887, and the awkward compromise of the first Jubilee year. In the case of monarchy one can also watch the intellectualisation of the whole process by the newspapers, the official biographers, the courtiers, and possibly the monarch himself. The daily bulletin of details as to his walks and drives is, in reality, the more likely to create a vivid impression of his personality, and therefore to produce this particular kind of emotion, the more ordinary the events described are in themselves. But since an emotion arising out of ordinary events is difficult to explain on a purely intellectual basis, these events are written about as revealing a life of extraordinary regularity and industry. When the affection is formed it is even sometimes described as an inevitable reasoned conclusion arising from reflection upon a reign during which there have been an unusual number of good harvests or great inventions.

Sometimes the impulse of affection is excited to a point at which its non-rational character becomes obvious. George the Third was beloved by the English people because they realised intensely that, like themselves, he had been born in England, and because the published facts of his daily life came home to them. Fanny Burney describes, therefore, how when, during an attack of madness, he was to be taken in a coach to Kew, the doctors who were to accompany him were seriously afraid that the inhabitants of any village who saw that the King was under restraint would attack them.[8] The kindred emotion of personal and dynastic loyalty (whose origin is possibly to be found in the fact that the loosely organised companies of our prehuman ancestors could not defend themselves from their carnivorous enemies until the general instinct of affection was specialised into a vehement impulse to follow and protect their leader), has again and again produced destructive and utterly useless civil wars.

[8] Diary of Madame D'Arblay, ed. 1905, vol. iv. p. 184, 'If they even attempted force, they had not a doubt but his smallest resistance would call up the whole country to his fancied rescue.'

Fear often accompanies and, in politics, is confused with affection. A man, whose life's dream it has been to get sight and speech of his King, is accidentally brought face to face with him. He is 'rooted to the spot,' becomes pale, and is unable to speak, because a movement might have betrayed his ancestors to a lion or a bear, or earlier still, to a hungry cuttlefish. It would be an interesting experiment if some professor of experimental psychology would arrange his class in the laboratory with sphygmographs on their wrists ready to record those pulse movements which accompany the sensation of 'thrill,' and would then introduce into the room without notice, and in chance order, a bishop, a well-known general, the greatest living man of letters, and a minor member of the royal family. The resulting records of immediate pulse disturbances would be of real scientific importance, and it might even be possible to continue the record in each case say, for a quarter of a minute, and to trace the secondary effects of variations in political opinions, education, or the sense of humour among the students.

At present almost the only really scientific observation on the subject from its political side is contained in Lord Palmerston's protest against a purely intellectual account of aristocracy: 'there is no damned nonsense about merit,' he said, 'in the case of the Garter.' Makers of new aristocracies are still, however, apt to intellectualise. The French government, for instance, have created an order, 'Pour le Merite Agricole,' which ought, on the basis of mere logic, to be very successful; but one is told that the green ribbon of that order produces in France no thrill whatever.

The impulse to laugh is comparatively unimportant in politics, but it affords a good instance of the way in which a practical politician has to allow for pre-rational impulse. It is apparently an immediate effect of the recognition of the incongruous, just as trembling is of the recognition of danger. It may have been evolved because an animal which suffered a slight spasm in the presence of the unexpected was more likely to be on its guard against enemies, or it may have been the merely accidental result of some fact in our nervous organisation which was otherwise useful. Incongruity is, however, so much a matter of habit and association and individual variation, that it is extraordinarily difficult to forecast whether any particular act will seem ridiculous to any particular class, or how long the sense of incongruity will in any case persist. Acts, for instance, which aim at producing exalted emotional effect among ordinary slow-witted people—Burke's dagger, Louis Napoleon's tame eagle, the German Kaiser's telegrams about Huns and mailed fists—may do so, and therefore be in the end politically successful, although they produce spontaneous laughter in men whose conception of good political manners is based upon the idea of self-restraint.

Again, almost the whole of the economic question between socialism and individualism turns on the nature and limitations of the desire for property. There seem to be good grounds for supposing that this is a true specific instinct, and not merely the result of habit or of the intellectual choice of means for satisfying the desire of power. Children, for instance, quarrel furiously at a very early age over apparently worthless things, and collect and hide them long before they can have any clear notion of the advantages to be derived from individual possession. Those children who in certain charity schools are brought up entirely without personal property, even in their clothes or pocket-handkerchiefs, show every sign of the bad effect on health and character which results from complete inability to satisfy a strong inherited instinct. The evolutionary origin of the desire for property is indicated also by many of the habits of dogs or squirrels or magpies. Some economist ought therefore to give us a treatise in which this property instinct is carefully and quantitatively examined. Is it, like the hunting instinct, an impulse which dies away if it is not indulged? How far can it be eliminated or modified by education? Is it satisfied by a leasehold or a life-interest, or by such an arrangement of corporate property as is offered by a collegiate foundation, or by the provision of a public park? Does it require for its satisfaction material and visible things such as land or houses, or is the holding, say, of colonial railway shares sufficient? Is the absence of unlimited proprietary rights felt more strongly in the case of personal chattels (such as furniture and ornaments) than in the case of land or machinery? Does the degree and direction of the instinct markedly differ among different individuals or races, or between the two sexes?

Pending such an inquiry my own provisional opinion is that, like a good many instincts of very early evolutionary origin, it can be satisfied by an avowed pretence; just as a kitten which is fed regularly on milk can be kept in good health if it is allowed to indulge its hunting instinct by playing with a bobbin, and a peaceful civil servant satisfies his instinct of combat and adventure at golf. If this is so, and if it is considered for other reasons undesirable to satisfy the property instinct by the possession, say, of slaves or of freehold land, one supposes that a good deal of the feeling of property may in the future be enjoyed even by persons in whom the instinct is abnormally strong, through the collection of shells or of picture postcards.

The property instinct is, it happens, one of two instances in which the classical economists deserted their usual habit of treating all desires as the result of a calculation of the means of obtaining 'utility' or 'wealth.' The satisfaction of the instinct of absolute property by peasant proprietorship turned, they said, 'sand to gold,' although it required a larger expenditure of labour for every unit of income than was the case in salaried employment. The other instance was the instinct of family affection. This also still needs a special treatise on its stimulus, variation, and limitations. But the classical economists treated it as absolute and unvarying. The 'economic man,' who had no more concern than a lone wolf with the rest of the human species, was treated as possessing a perfect and permanent solidarity of feeling with his 'family.' The family was apparently assumed as consisting of those persons for whose support a man in Western Europe is legally responsible, and no attempt was made to estimate whether the instinct extended in any degree to cousins or great uncles.

A treatise on political impulses which aimed at completeness would further include at least the fighting instinct (with the part which it plays, together with affection and loyalty, in the formation of parties), and the instincts of suspicion, curiosity, and the desire to excel.

All these primary impulses are greatly increased in immediate effectiveness when they are 'pure,' that is to say, unaccompanied by competing or opposing impulses; and this is the main reason why art, which aims at producing one emotion at a time, acts on most men so much more easily than does the more varied appeal of real life. I once sat in a suburban theatre among a number of colonial troopers who had come over from South Africa for the King's Coronation. The play was 'Our Boys,' and between the acts my next neighbour gave me, without any sign of emotion, a hideous account of the scene at Tweefontein after De Wet had rushed the British camp on the Christmas morning of 1901—the militiamen slaughtered while drunk, and the Kaffir drivers tied to the blazing waggons. The curtain rose again, and, five minutes later, I saw that he was weeping in sympathy with the stage misfortunes of two able-bodied young men who had to eat 'inferior Dorset' butter. My sympathy with the militiamen and the Kaffirs was 'pure,' whereas his was overlaid with remembered race-hatred, battle-fury, and contempt for British incompetence. His sympathy, on the other hand, with the stage characters was not accompanied, as mine was, by critical feelings about theatrical conventions, indifferent acting, and middle-Victorian sentiment.

It is this greater immediate effect of pure and artificial as compared with mixed and concrete emotion which explains the traditional maxim of political agents that it is better that a candidate should not live in his constituency. It is an advantage that he should be able to represent himself as a 'local candidate,' but his local character should be ad hoc, and should consist in the hiring of a large house each year in which he lives a life of carefully dramatised hospitality. Things in no way blameworthy in themselves—his choice of tradesmen, his childrens' hats and measles, his difficulties with his relations—will be, if he is a permanent resident, 'out of the picture,' and may confuse the impression which he produces. If one could, by the help of a time-machine, see for a moment in the flesh the little Egyptian girl who wore out her shoes, one might find her behaving so charmingly that one's pity for her death would be increased. But it is more probable that, even if she was, in fact, a very nice little girl, one would not.

This greater immediate facility of the emotions set up by artistic presentment, as compared with those resulting from concrete observation has, however, to be studied in its relation to another fact—that impulses vary, in their driving force and in the depth of the nervous disturbance which they cause, in proportion, not to their importance in our present life, but to the point at which they appeared in our evolutionary past. We are quite unable to resist the impulse of mere vascular and nervous reaction, the watering of the mouth, the jerk of the limb, the closing of the eye which we share with some of the simplest vertebrates. We can only with difficulty resist the instincts of sex and food, of anger and fear, which we share with the higher animals. It is, on the other hand, difficult for us to obey consistently the impulses which attend on the mental images formed by inference and association. A man may be convinced by a long train of cogent reasoning that he will go to hell if he visits a certain house; and yet he will do so in satisfaction of a half conscious craving, whose existence he is ashamed to recognise. It may be that when a preacher makes hell real to him by physical images of fire and torment his conviction will acquire coercive force. But that force may soon die away as his memory fades, and even the most vivid description has little effect as compared with a touch of actual pain. At the theatre, because pure emotion is facile, three-quarters of the audience may cry, but because second-hand emotion is shallow, very few of them will be unable to sleep when they get home, or will even lose their appetite for a late supper. My South African trooper probably recovered from his tears over 'Our Boys' as soon as they were shed. The transient and pleasurable quality of the tragic emotions produced by novel reading is well known. A man may weep over a novel which he will forget in two or three hours, although the same man may be made insane, or may have his character changed for life, by actual experiences which are far less terrible than those of which he reads, experiences which at the moment may produce neither tears nor any other obvious nervous effect.

Both those facts are of first-rate political importance in those great modern communities in which all the events which stimulate political action reach the voters through newspapers. The emotional appeal of journalism, even more than that of the stage, is facile because it is pure, and transitory because it is second-hand. Battles and famines, murders and the evidence of inquiries into destitution, all are presented by the journalist in literary form, with a careful selection of 'telling' detail. Their effect is therefore produced at once, in the half-hour that follows the middle-class breakfast, or in the longer interval on the Sunday morning when the workman reads his weekly paper. But when the paper has been read the emotional effect fades rapidly away.

Any candidate at an election feels for this reason the strangeness of the conditions under which what Professor James calls the 'pungent sense of effective reality,'[9] reaches or fails to reach, mankind, in a civilisation based upon newspapers. I was walking along the street during my last election, thinking of the actual issues involved, and comparing them with the vague fog of journalistic phrases, the half-conscious impulses of old habit and new suspicion which make up the atmosphere of electioneering. I came round a street corner upon a boy of about fifteen returning from work, whose whole face lit up with genuine and lively interest as soon as he saw me. I stopped, and he said: 'I know you, Mr. Wallas, you put the medals on me.' All that day political principles and arguments had refused to become real to my constituents, but the emotion excited by the bodily fact that I had at a school ceremony pinned a medal for good attendance on a boy's coat, had all the pungency of a first-hand experience.

[9] 'The moral tragedy of human life comes almost wholly from the fact that the link is ruptured which normally should hold between vision of the truth and action, and that this pungent sense of effective reality will not attach to certain ideas.' W. James, Principles of Psychology, vol. ii. p. 547.

Throughout the contest the candidate is made aware, at every point, of the enormously greater solidity for most men of the work-a-day world which they see for themselves, as compared with the world of inference and secondary ideas which they see through the newspapers. A London County Councillor, for instance, as his election comes near, and he begins to withdraw from the daily business of administrative committees into the cloud of the electoral campaign, finds that the officials whom he leaves behind, with their daily stint of work, and their hopes and fears about their salaries, seem to him much more real than himself. The old woman at her door in a mean street who refuses to believe that he is not being paid for canvassing, the prosperous and good-natured tradesman who says quite simply,' I expect you find politics rather an expensive amusement,' all seem to stand with their feet upon the ground. However often he assures himself that the great realities are on his side, and that the busy people round him are concerned only with fleeting appearances, yet the feeling constantly recurs to him that it is he himself who is living in a world of shadows.

This feeling is increased by the fact that a candidate has constantly to repeat the same arguments, and to stimulate in himself the same emotions, and that mere repetition produces a distressing sense of unreality. The preachers who have to repeat every Sunday the same gospel, find also that 'dry times' alternate with times of exaltation. Even among the voters the repetition of the same political thoughts is apt to produce weariness. The main cause of the recurring swing of the electoral pendulum seems to be that opinions which have been held with enthusiasm become after a year or two stale and flat, and that the new opinions seem fresh and vivid.

A treatise is indeed required from some trained psychologist on the conditions under which our nervous system shows itself intolerant of repeated sensations and emotions. The fact is obviously connected with the purely physiological causes which produce giddiness, tickling, sea-sickness, etc. But many things that are 'natural,' that is to say, which we have constantly experienced during any considerable part of the ages during which our nervous organisation was being developed, apparently do not so affect us. Our heartbeats, the taste of water, the rising and setting of the sun, or, in the case of a child, milk, or the presence of its mother, or of its brothers, do not seem to become, in sound health, distressingly monotonous. But 'artificial' things, however pleasant at first—a tune on the piano, the pattern of a garment, the greeting of an acquaintance—are likely to become unbearable if often exactly repeated. A newspaper is an artificial thing in this sense, and one of the arts of the newspaper-writer consists in presenting his views with that kind of repetition which, like the phrases of a fugue, constantly approaches, but never oversteps the limit of monotony. Advertisers again are now discovering that it pays to vary the monotony with which a poster appeals to the eye by printing in different colours those copies which are to hang near each other, or still better, by representing varied incidents in the career of 'Sunny Jim' or 'Sunlight Sue.'

A candidate is also an artificial thing. If he lives and works in his constituency, the daily vision of an otherwise admirable business man seated in a first-class carriage on the 8.47 A.M. train in the same attitude and reading the same newspaper may produce a slight and unrecognised feeling of discomfort among his constituents, although it would cause no such feeling in the wife whose relation to him is 'natural.' For the same reason when his election comes on, although he may declare himself to be the 'old member standing on the old platform,' he should be careful to avoid monotony by slightly varying his portrait, the form of his address, and the details of his declaration of political faith.

Another fact, closely connected with our intolerance of repeated emotional adjustment, is the desire for privacy, sufficiently marked to approach the character of a specific instinct, and balanced by a corresponding and opposing dread of loneliness. Our ancestors in the ages during which our present nervous system became fixed, lived, apparently, in loosely organised family groups, associated for certain occasional purposes, into larger, but still more loosely organised, tribal groups. No one slept alone, for the more or less monogamic family assembled nightly in a cave or 'lean-to' shelter. The hunt for food which filled the day was carried on, one supposes, neither in complete solitude nor in constant intercourse. Even if the female were left at home with the young, the male exchanged some dozen times a day rough greetings with acquaintances, or joined in a common task. Occasionally, even before the full development of language, excited palavers attended by some hundreds would take place, or opposing tribes would gather for a fight.

It is still extremely difficult for the normal man to endure either much less or much more than this amount of intercourse with his fellows. However safe they may know themselves to be, most men find it difficult to sleep in an empty house, and would be distressed by anything beyond three days of absolute solitude. Even habit cannot do much in this respect. A man required to submit to gradually increasing periods of solitary confinement would probably go mad as soon as he had been kept for a year without a break. A settler, though he may be the son of a settler, and may have known no other way of living, can hardly endure existence unless his daily intercourse with his family is supplemented by a weekly chat with a neighbour or a stranger; and he will go long and dangerous journeys in order once a year to enjoy the noise and bustle of a crowd.

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