No Protestant historian is tempted to glorify the record of the Papacy in the last two centuries before the Reformation; but it is generally agreed that in the earlier half of the Middle Ages the example and influence of the Church were a bright light shining in a dark world. This notion has been recently challenged by Mr. Coulton, who, angered by the special pleading of Cardinal Gasquet and other professional apologists, hotly denounces the exaltation of the Ages of Faith. The Middle Ages, he complains, are the one domain of history into which, in England at any rate, the scientific spirit has not yet penetrated. Taking as his text the autobiography of the Franciscan Fra Salimbene, the most precious authority for the ordinary life of Catholic folk at the high-water mark of the Middle Ages, he draws a sombre picture of manners and morals and maintains that hideous vices existed in all the Orders long before the thirteenth century. 'Imagination', he cries, 'staggers at the moral gulf that yawns between that age and ours.' His condemnation of the life and influence of the Church re-echoes in somewhat shrill tones the verdict of Henry Charles Lea, whose massive treatise on the Inquisition was rightly described by Lord Acton as the most important contribution of the New World to the religious history of the old, and whose volumes on Sacerdotal Celibacy constitute a formidable indictment of mediaeval Catholicism.
Next to the origins of Christianity the most controversial of the larger problems of history is the Reformation; and here Protestants of all schools are ranged in a solid phalanx against Catholics. That the Church was in need of reform is agreed by both sides; but the Catholic contends that the evils to be remedied have been fantastically exaggerated, that there was no need for a revolt, and that the revolution inaugurated by Luther left Germany far worse than it found her. Realizing that the Protestant view most authoritatively presented in Ranke's classical work on the Reformation held the field, Janssen compiled a cultural history of the German people from the end of the Middle Ages to the outbreak of the Thirty Years War. Based throughout on original sources, and illustrating his thesis from every angle, his eight massive volumes were hailed with gratitude and enthusiasm by Catholics all over the world. No Catholic historical work of the nineteenth century, and certainly no attack on the Reformation since Bossuet's Variations of Protestantism, obtained such resounding success or led to so much controversy.
Janssen's object was to show that the fifteenth century was not a period of moral or intellectual decrepitude, with a few 'Reformers before the Reformation' crying like voices in the wilderness, but an era of healthy activity and abounding promise. He describes the flourishing state of religious and secular education, the vitality of art, the comfort of the peasantry, and the prosperity of the towns. On reaching the sixteenth century, he denounces the paganism of the Humanists and paints a terrible picture of the material and moral chaos into which Germany was plunged by the Lutheran revolt. The later volumes are devoted to the era of the Counter-Revolution and present a canvas of unrelieved gloom, immorality and drunkenness, ignorance, superstition and violence. Thus the story which opened with the bright colours of the fifteenth century closes in deep shadows, and the moral is drawn that Germany was ruined not by the Thirty Years War but by the Reformation.
Protestant historians fell upon the audacious iconoclast with fierce cries of anger, and had no difficulty in exposing his uncritical use of authorities, his habit of generalizing from isolated particulars, and his suppression of facts damaging to his own side. But though it was a dexterous polemic, not a work of disinterested science, Janssen's book has made it impossible for any self-respecting Protestant to write on the Reformation without knowing and weighing the Catholic side. Of similar tendency though of far higher value is the monumental work in which Pastor is narrating the story of the Renaissance and sixteenth-century Popes from the Vatican archives, which neither Ranke nor Creighton had been able to employ. No really objective picture of the Reformation can be painted by Catholic or Protestant; but a good deal of firm ground has been won, and the writings of Kawerau, the greatest of Lutheran scholars, inspire us with a confidence that no writings of the last generation deserved.
Though Ranke's chief works had been published before the period to which this lecture is confined, his influence can be traced in almost every writer on modern history during the last half-century. His greatest service to scholarship was to divorce the study of the past from the passions of the present, and, to quote the watchword of his first book, to relate what actually occurred. A second was to establish the necessity of founding historical construction on strictly contemporary authorities. When he began to write in 1824 historians of high repute believed memoirs and chronicles to be trustworthy guides. When he laid down his pen in 1886 every scholar with a reputation to make had learned to content himself with nothing less than the papers and correspondence of the actors themselves and those in immediate contact with the events they describe. A third service was to found the science of evidence by the analysis of authorities, contemporary or otherwise, in the light of the author's temperament, affiliations, and opportunity of knowledge, and by comparison with the testimony of other writers. There can be no better preparation for the perils and responsibilities of authorship than to study the critical analyses of Guicciardini and Sarpi, Clarendon, Saint-Simon, and many another, scattered through the sixty volumes of the master. And finally he taught by precept and practice the necessity of exploring the relations of States to one another and of measuring the interaction of foreign and domestic policy.
These sound principles have been applied by the scholars of all countries who have jointly built up the history of the last four centuries. We may study the Tudors under the guidance of Pollard, the Stuarts under Gardiner and Firth, the Hanoverians under Lecky, without fear that we are being misled or that essential facts are being withheld from our notice. We continue to admire the literary brilliance of Macaulay and Carlyle, Motley and Froude; but we are instinctively aware that their partisanship is out of date. The same cooling process has taken place in France, where the passions and tempers of Thiers and Michelet have tended to yield place to the calm lucidity of which Mignet and Guizot were the earliest masters. There is, it must be confessed, a good deal of the old Adam in Taine's elaborate study of Jacobinism, in Masson's innumerable volumes on Napoleon, and even in Aulard's priceless contributions to our knowledge of the French Revolution; but such works as Lavisse's full-length portrait of Louis XIV, Segur's volumes on Turgot and Necker, Sorel's massive treatise on Europe and the Revolution, and Vandal's incomparable presentation of the Consulate rank as high in scholarship as in literature.
The unification of Germany after fierce struggles within and without naturally deflected historical scholarship from the path marked out by Ranke, who had grown to manhood in the era of political stagnation following the downfall of Napoleon. The master's Olympian serenity was deplored by the group of hot-blooded scholars who are collectively known as the Prussian School, and who were firmly convinced that the principal duty of historians was to supply guidance and encouragement to their fellow-countrymen in the national and international problems of the time. In his gigantic work on the History of Prussian Foreign Policy, Droysen, the eldest of the Triumvirate, calls four centuries to witness that the Hohenzollerns alone, from their unswerving fidelity to German interests as a whole, were fitted to restore the Empire. He worked exclusively from Prussian archives, and history seen exclusively through Prussian spectacles was bound to be one-sided. No student of European history would contest the value of his researches; but his interpretation of Prussian policy in terms of German nationalism was at once recognized as a fundamental error, and has long been abandoned. The second member of the group, Sybel, himself one of the three favourite pupils of Ranke, revolted in middle life, and in his two great treatises on the era of the French Revolution and the foundation of the German Empire championed the policy of the Hohenzollerns and delivered slashing attacks on France and Austria, their rivals and antagonists.
The last and greatest of the triumvirate, Treitschke, the Bismarck of the Chair, devoted his life to a history of Germany in the nineteenth century which occupies the same unique place in the affections of German readers as Macaulay's unfinished masterpiece enjoys throughout the English-speaking world. Unlike the works of Droysen and Sybel, the German History was far more than a political narrative, and presented an encyclopaedic picture of national development. His theme was the conflict of the forces which were promoting and opposing the transformation of his country into a powerful Empire, and he judges men and states by the measure in which they promoted or obstructed that purpose. On the one side stands Prussia, feeling her way to the realization of her historic task, on the other the middle and smaller states, aided and abetted by the arch-enemy Austria and deeply infected with the doctrinaire liberalism of France. Treitschke's stage is a battlefield, with the historian looking down and encouraging his friends with loud cries of applause. Such methods could not survive the realization of the aim which they had done so much to assist, and with Treitschke's death in 1896 the Prussian School disappeared. Its members were the political schoolmasters of Germany at a time of uncertainty and discouragement, and they braced their countrymen to the efforts which culminated in the creation of a mighty Empire. If the purpose of history is to stir a nation to action, Droysen, Sybel, and Treitschke are among the greatest masters of the craft. If its supreme aim is to discover truth and to interpret the movement of humanity, they have no claim to a place in the first class. The stream, temporarily deflected by their powerful influence, began to return to the channel which Ranke had marked out for it. Such works as Moriz Ritter's narrative of the Counter-Reformation and the Thirty Years War, Koser's biography of Frederick the Great, Max Lehmann's biographies of Scharnhorst and Stein, and Erich Marcks' studies of Bismarck and his master are as notable for their judgement as for their erudition.
The cooling process noted in the Old World has also occurred in the New, and America of the twentieth century smiles at Bancroft's complacent idealization of the Puritan colonies. Even the slavery struggle, the ashes of which are scarcely yet cold, has found in James Ford Rhodes a historian who can do justice to Jefferson Davis and Lee no less than to Lincoln and Grant. But no American scholar compares in world-wide influence with Mahan, whose study of Sea-Power in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, published in 1889, not only founded a school of naval history but was inwardly digested by distinguished pupils in both hemispheres, among them the Emperor William II and Theodore Roosevelt. The Admiral's writings owe their importance not to research, for few new facts are brought to light, but to the new angle from which familiar events are envisaged. Occasionally, perhaps, the element of sea-power in the determination of a particular result is over-emphasized at the expense of other factors; but he was the first to seize the wider bearings of naval history and to make the general reader aware of its momentous significance.
The scope of history has gradually widened till it has come to include every aspect of the life of humanity. No one would now dare to maintain with my old master Seeley that history was the biography of States or with Freeman that it was merely past politics. The growth of nations, the achievements of men of action, the rise and fall of parties remain among the most engrossing themes of the historian; but he now casts his net wider and embraces the whole opulent record of civilization. The influence of nature, the pressure of economic factors, the origin and transformation of ideas, the contribution of science and art, religion and philosophy, literature and law, the material conditions of life, the fortunes of the masses—such problems now claim his attention in no less degree. He must see life steadily and see it whole. We must master such revealing works as Lecky's histories of Rationalism and Morals, Burckhardt's and Symonds' interpretations of the Italian Renaissance, Sainte-Beuve's full-length portrait of the Jansenists, Morley's studies of Voltaire, Rousseau and the Encyclopaedists, Dean Church's sketch of the Oxford Movement, and Merz's survey of European Thought in the nineteenth century, if we are to understand the throbbing life of the human spirit. We must measure the operation of economic factors and forces and profit by the faithful labours of Schmoller and Thorold Rogers, Cunningham and Kovalevsky, the Webbs and the Hammonds, if we are to visualize the life of the unnumbered and the unknown who have done the routine work of the world.
The fifty years roughly sketched in this lecture witnessed an immense and almost immeasurable advance in historical studies. The technique needed to turn raw materials into the finished article kept pace with the supply, and men learned to write the history of their own country, their own party, and their own beliefs, as impartially as that of other lands and other creeds. But the Great War has ravaged the placid pastures of scholarship no less than the fields of France and Belgium. Too many historians in every belligerent country have lost their heads and degenerated into shrieking partisans. International co-operation in the pursuit of truth, which is the condition of progress in history no less than in science, has been rudely shattered by the clash of arms. With all but the calmest minds, national self-consciousness and national self-righteousness have rendered frankness in dealing with the record of our late allies and fairness in dealing with our late enemies difficult if not impossible. Many years will elapse before the European atmosphere regains the tranquillity in which alone the disinterested pursuit of truth can nourish. Meanwhile it is a source of legitimate satisfaction that while the world was rocking to its foundations two English historians, Sir Adolphus Ward and Mr. William Harbutt Dawson, were narrating the development of Germany in the nineteenth century with a steadiness of pulse unsurpassed in the piping times of peace. The historian is a man of flesh and blood and may love his country as ardently as other men; but, if he is to be worthy of his high calling, he must trample passion and prejudice under his feet and walk humbly and reverently in the temple of the Goddess of Truth.
Gooch, History and Historians in the Nineteenth Century (Longmans).
Political Philosophy or the philosophical theory of the State has closer relations with history than any other branch of philosophical inquiry. It is indeed distinguished from history in that it can disregard the success or failure, the historical development of this or that state. For it is concerned not with historical happenings but with ideals, not with the varying extent to which different states have approximated or fallen short of their purpose, but with that purpose itself, not, in short, with states but with the State. Yet this need not involve that the ideal, the State, is always and everywhere the same. Ideals are born of historical circumstances and fashioned to meet historical problems, and the would-be timeless ideals which political philosophers have put before us have always borne clear marks of the country and time of their origin. The ideal which men have set themselves in political organization has varied from time to time. That such variation is inevitable will be clear if we ask ourselves what we can possibly mean by an ideal state. That states fall short of their ideal because of the imperfections of their citizens is clear enough. All political life demands a certain standard of moral behaviour, of capacity to work for a common good, and an understanding of the results of our own and other people's actions. Were human selfishness completely overcome, the state would still be necessary to correct individual shortsightedness. The policeman, exempt from the cares of apprehending criminals, would still be needed to control traffic. But imagine, not that all citizens attained a certain standard of moral and intellectual behaviour, as the ideal demands, but that they were all perfectly good and perfectly wise, should we need any kind of government at all? Is not the supposition of perfection so far removed from any state of affairs we can really think of or plan for, that it cannot enter into our reckoning, ideal or practical? Every ideal takes certain facts of human life for granted whilst it tries to improve others. All ideal states, Plato's as well as others, assume certain facts about human nature and human society. These facts may and do vary. The Greek city state assumed that a state must be small, if it was to have the intensive life they demanded. The Roman Empire was a denial of the anarchy to which the Greek ideal had led, but it lost in intensity what it gained in extent. All political ideals assume a certain sociological background on which the state is based and from which spring the problems which the state is intended to solve. As this sociological background varies from time to time, the State, the purpose which men set before themselves in political organization, will vary also. The Greek city state and the mediaeval state were not different approximations to the same ideal. They were the expressions of different ideals. They rested on different assumptions, e.g. as to the place of authority in society. With the disappearance at the Reformation of one of the great assumptions on which the mediaeval state had been based, a new theory of the state was inevitable. The national state of the seventeenth century was something new in history, and Hobbes differs from Aristotle, not because Hobbes is perverse and Aristotle right, though Hobbes often is perverse, but because the political problems which Hobbes and Aristotle had to face were not the same.
Two great historical facts at the end of the eighteenth century, the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution, profoundly modified the basis of political organization. The modern state in consequence differs in many important respects from any that have preceded it. It does not rest on the common acceptance of authority, either religious, as did the mediaeval state, or personal, as did the seventeenth-century state. Unlike the Greek city state, it is large. Its administration is concerned with millions who cannot be in personal relations to one another, or share the same intensive life.
With the nineteenth century, then, a new chapter in the development of political theory begins as the peculiar problems of the modern state develop. Professor Dicey, in his Law and Opinion in England, has divided the century into two periods of political thought—Individualism and Collectivism—one marking the decrease, the other the increase of the power and authority of the state. When our period begins, the day of individualism was passing. Ever since the Reformation it had, in spite of Burke, dominated political theory. Two forces had given it strength—one idealistic, one scientific. It represented the revolt of the individual conscience against the claims of authority, and as such was a theory which attempted to limit the power of government over the individual, whether by an appeal to natural rights in Locke and Tom Paine, or to the greatest happiness of the greatest number in the Utilitarians, or to the super-eminent value of individual liberty as set forth in John Stuart Mill's noble panegyric. The French Revolution gave a notable impetus to this side of individualism, with its passionate assertion of the principle that political institutions exist for man, not man for political institutions, and that all government must be tested by the life which it enables each and every one of its citizens to live. Individualism in this sense is concerned with the discovery of principles by which the power of government over the lives of its members may be limited. It is not necessarily a theory of the nature of society. Hobbes, however, was an individualist as well as Locke, and for Hobbes the individual was the scientific unit from which societies and states were built up—the starting-point for a scientific treatment of society. As the French Revolution gave a fresh impulse to idealistic individualism, the Industrial Revolution reanimated the scientific, for it displayed the economic man, Hobbes's hero, come to life and a respectable member of society. With him came the growth of political economy, apparently the first really scientific study of man. From Political Economy Darwin borrowed the conception of the struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest, and from the new biology the doctrine of Evolution through individual competition returned to reinforce with the prestige of the new science the economists' conception of society.
For the first half of the nineteenth century all the forces inspiring individualism seemed to work together, for economics and biology breathed a benevolent optimism which promised that if the scientific forces of individualism were left to work unchecked by state restriction, they would of themselves produce that individual liberty and free development which idealistic individualism desired.
The development of the industrial revolution, however, soon made economic optimism impossible, and with its decay idealistic and scientific individualism parted company. The former retained its concern for individual liberty but came to see that its ideal was as much threatened by economic dependence as by state control, that the choice for most members of society was not one between state interference and no interference at all, but between the state controlling or not controlling the power of interference possessed by the economically superior members of society. On such principles Henry Sidgwick justified an extensive system of state control of industry, and for such reason the strongest supporters of the rights of the individual have been found among Socialists.
Scientific individualism, which found its unit in the economic man and sought to absorb in economics both ethics and politics, was not in essence affected by the discrediting of economic optimism. It painted the struggle between individuals in gloomy instead of in attractive colours, its 'scientific' prepossessions inclined it to a determinism which led easily to the economic theory of history and even, by a curious conversion of opposites, to the 'scientific socialism' of Karl Marx. In its essence it is a denial of the real existence of politics. For it is a theory of society which denies the possibility of a will for the common good and therefore the possibility of political ideals.
It was this powerful and malignant theory which was attacked and answered by the modern idealist school represented by Green, Wallace, and Ritchie, and, in the present day, by Dr. Bosanquet. These writers gave us a theory of the state based on the importance and reality of social purpose. They went back to the theory of the Greek city state expounded by Plato and Aristotle, finding modern reinforcement in the teaching of Rousseau and more especially of Hegel. Their destructive criticism of 'scientific' individualism was reinforced by the teaching of anthropology and of historical jurisprudence, which emphasized the part played in early forms of society by social solidarity and showed the inability of individualism to account for the development of society. Their destructive criticism was, however, the least part of their achievement. They exhibited convincingly the state as the product of will and purpose, based on man's moral nature and being in turn the form in which that moral nature expresses itself. In a notable phrase of Dr. Bosanquet's, a phrase to which he has given constant detailed amplification, 'institutions are ethical ideas'; moral purpose may seem to shine dimly enough in many actual institutions, but it is the only light which shines in them at all, and only in that light can their meaning and reality be understood.
The main principles of this idealistic school may be safely said to have by this time established themselves against criticism. Of recent years Social Psychology has done much to explain the gap between the contemplated purpose and the actual working of institutions, and has given precision and definiteness to those elements in human nature which strengthen or weaken social solidarity. Economists have come to see that economic relations are possible only within the framework of a society which has its root in moral and political purpose, although within that framework they may be theoretically isolated and studied by themselves. Sociology, after many false starts, inspired by the mistaken belief that a scientific treatment of society should interpret higher forms in the light of lower, has now found it possible to study the manifold variety of institutional and social life on the basis provided by idealistic philosophy.
As a theory of society, in short, this philosophy holds the field. It has been criticized of late years as a theory of the state, and as these criticisms show both where the idealistic theory was in some respects defective and also where the chief problems for political philosophy in the future are to be found, I shall devote the greater part of my lecture to these considerations.
The idealistic school drew their inspiration from the theory of the Greek city state, and in their conception of the function of the state they assumed an essential identity between the Greek city state and the modern nation state. In so far as these two types of state have been the most self-conscious types of society that have existed, and have therefore displayed explicitly the purpose that is implicit in all society, the identification has been sound and fruitful; in so far, however, as the identity is pressed to imply that in the modern state the definite political or governmental organization should play the same function as it did in the Greek city state, the identification has been mistaken.
The Greek city state failed conspicuously to solve the problem of inter-state relations, and its philosophers, instead of recognizing the failure and trying to remedy it, made their ideal state even more self-centred and autonomous than the existing states around them. Modern Idealism, just because it glorifies the state as the necessary upholder of moral relations, has often found it hard to regard the state as in its turn a member of a moral world.
Again, the Greek city state, just because it was small, could take up into itself all the various social activities of its members. The state, in the sense of the Community in its political organization, directed and inspired Society, and the distinction between society and the state was not of great importance. In the modern world the boundaries of political organization are not nearly as definite boundaries in society as are the boundaries of the Greek city state. There are all manner of associations whose members are of different states and whose purposes are but to a small degree inspired or controlled by political organizations. Modern states are not all or completely nation states, and the nation is not as pervading and dominating an entity as was the Greek polis. This is not to say that the non-political associations could do without the state, as some recent writers have contended. Churches, e.g., could not exist were there not law and government. Yet it is impossible to maintain that in any real sense they are upheld by the state. They clearly get their inspiration from other sources. The difficulty is not evaded if we go behind both political and non-political organization to the community in which both exist and which upholds them both. For what in this reference is 'the community'? In regard to the political association it is the special solidarity of people living in a certain area; in regard to the non-political organization it is the solidarity of a section of the world-wide society, marked off from the rest on a non-territorial basis. The community in the two cases is not the same. Hence there arises in the modern state, as there arose in the mediaeval, a conflict of loyalties between the state and non-political associations. If we divide the world into states whose lines of division follow the divisions of the organization of force, we are faced with a host of problems concerning the proper place in society of these force-bearing organizations, and their relation to other associations.
In considering both sets of problems, international and internal, we may either begin with the division of the world into states, each of which will be an approximation of the State which we are studying, or we may regard the whole world as in some sort one society, covered with a network of overlapping associations of all kinds. On the former view the world is thought of as consisting of a number of independent communities, each shaping and controlling the various forms of social life within its own borders, upholding their moral world, and each being as a whole single entity a member of the community of states. On the latter we start with the solidarity and will to co-operate which pervades in all manner of degrees the whole world society, and regard the organization of force which marks the state as being the mark of a settled and determined form of that will to co-operate which is characteristic of all forms of human association. How dominant and determinant over other forms of association is that special form which controls organized force—that is the problem before us. We are concerned in technical language with the problem of sovereignty.
Let us consider first the problem of international relations. The doctrine of sovereignty, formulated in the seventeenth century and crystallized by Austin at the beginning of the nineteenth, made sovereignty the hallmark of the state. The person or persons, to whom the bulk of a given society render habitual obedience, either do or do not render habitual obedience in turn to some other person or persons. If they do not, the society constitutes a sovereign state; if they do, it is only part of a sovereign state. The world therefore was regarded as containing a number of sovereign independent states. As sovereignty and law necessarily went hand in hand, there could be no law between sovereign states. There could only be world-wide law if there were one world-wide state. So long as there are more states than one, there are communities between whom there is no law. The doctrine of sovereignty was in its inception individualist, but in so far as concerns the implications, though not the basis of sovereignty, it was taken over by Hegel and by the English idealist school with the exception of T.H. Green. Idealism, indeed, always insisted that will, not force, was the basis of the state, but whereas in Green the state is constituted by the moral willing of individuals for a general good, in Hegel and in Bosanquet the conflicting willings of individuals are reconciled by their being taken up into the supra-personal will of the state. With the former therefore the morality of individuals is the primary fact, the existence of the state the secondary; with the latter on the whole the existence of the state is the primary moral fact, the moral willing of individuals secondary. Just because the wills of individuals are reconciled, not by each recognizing certain abstract principles of duty, but by being taken up into the supra-personal will of the state, where there is no such supra-personal will there is no reconciliation of conflicting wills and no morality beyond and outside the boundaries of communities. Hence arises a conception of the state which fits into the absolutist doctrine of sovereignty which we have described.
The first thing to be said about this doctrine of the independent sovereign state is that political facts have obviously outrun it. It was derived from a study of the unitary state and will hardly fit any federal state. It is manifestly absurd when applied to the British Empire. If we disregard, as we must, the superficial legal facts and look at the real nature of the British Empire, we must admit that the Dominions are neither separate sovereign states nor parts of one sovereign state, and that the unity of the Empire is a unity of will—a willingness to co-operate which has not yet clothed itself in legal forms, and which is not, for geographical and other reasons, as intense as that will to co-operate which must be at the basis of a unitary sovereign state. This must suggest to us that the willingness to co-operate admits of degrees, and the relations of communities to one another to have stability must reflect these degrees. The importance of these considerations is obvious if we think of the problems with which we are confronted at the present moment, when we are attempting to form an international organization. The problems which have confronted the Peace Conference have brought two things clearly to light. The first, that the nation state is far too simple a solution of modern difficulties. Self-determination will not carry us very far. There are many cases where the boundaries dictated by nationality on the one hand and by the need for common organization on the other do not coincide, and where the only solution is one which impairs sovereignty in the old sense. The second is that the League of Nations, if it is to mean anything at all, will have to impair the sovereignty of the states which join it without thereby constituting in itself a world state. Much of the opposition to the League of Nations is concerned with this implied impairment of sovereignty. Whether this opposition will weigh with us will depend on whether we regard the independent sovereign state as the be-all and end-all of political theory, or see that the fundamental fact to be taken into account is man's readiness to co-operate for common purposes. If we take the latter view, we shall still be holding to what was the fundamental contribution of the idealist school, the teaching that the basis of all political questions is moral. The essence of the matter is how we are prepared to treat other people, for what purposes we are prepared to act with them, how far we are prepared to recognize and give settled organized recognition to our mutual obligations. The political organization is the vehicle and not the creator of these moral facts. As the facts vary, so will its forces. We may learn from the Hegelian school to recognize the enormous importance of the state, the great achievement of the human spirit which its organization represents, and the folly of light-heartedly endangering its existence, without making one form which it has taken in the nation state sacrosanct and absolute.
Let us turn now to the second of our problems, the relation of the state to associations, such as churches and trade unions, within its borders. Here again we find a principle, originating in earlier individualist theory, taken up into idealism. In the beginnings of modern political theory in the seventeenth century, the absolutist doctrine of the state was the outcome of the need of the times for strong government. A state that was not master in its own house was felt to be incapable of the hard task these troublous times set before it. The French Revolution made no change in the attitude of the state to associations. New-born democracy was not inclined to look favourably on the independence of religious non-democratic associations, and the fact that Leviathan had become democratic was thought to have transformed him into a monster within whose capacious maw any number of Jonahs might live at ease or liberty. Association against a tyrant might be a sacred duty; against the people it could only be a suspicious superfluity. In a very different way the Prussian state, centralized, efficient, and Erastian, organizing the whole resources of the community under the guidance of the state, enforced the same principle. The state is a moral institution, it cannot surrender the inculcation and upholding of morality to an alien or independent body. From all the sources of modern idealistic political theory, Plato, Rousseau, Hegel, comes the same principle of state absolutism over associations within the state. The principle was put in idealistic form in the doctrine that the state is a supra-personal will, absorbing in itself the activities of its members.
Of late years dissatisfaction with this doctrine has been making itself more and more loudly expressed. Along with an increasing belief in the extension of the state's administrative capacities has gone an increasing disinclination to leave men's moral and cultural activities to the political organization. The ideal of the Kulturstaat is now sufficiently discredited. Men are coming more and more to recognize the part played in life by non-political organizations and to insist on the importance of preserving the independence and freedom from state control of such associations as churches. The loyalty of individuals to their associations, churches or trade unions, has been conflicting with their loyalty to the state, and men are not prepared to admit that in all such cases of conflict loyalty to the state ought to be paramount.
Curiously enough, the central doctrine of the later idealistic school, the personality of the state, lent a force to the criticism of the doctrine of state absolutism. If the state can be described as a person, may not also a church and a trade union? We have begun to learn from Gierke, interpreted and reinforced to us by Maitland, that what is sauce for the state goose is also sauce for the corporation gander, and that associations within the state may claim from the state a greater independence and a recognition of their intrinsic worth because they, as it, embody in some sense a real will over and above the wills of their members. This doctrine of corporate personality is of great interest and complexity, and has not yet been satisfactorily worked out. But I shall not discuss it now because it will not help us far towards a solution of the problem of what are the proper relations between associations and the state, be they personalities or not.
Recent writers have mainly attempted to solve the problem by the principle of differentiation of function. This will certainly help us in considering the relation of church and state. For we can say that the task of the political organization is to maintain the conditions of the good life, leaving the work of developing the meaning of the good life, the fostering and inculcation of ideals, to voluntary associations. The state will then maintain a certain minimum of moral behaviour, while the more delicate and freer work of inspiration is left to individuals and voluntary associations. This will not always provide a clean-cut and sufficient differentiation. The state must make up its own mind what is essential to the maintenance of the good life, the voluntary associations may hold that what the state ordains is flatly evil, as the state may hold that what a voluntary association teaches is subversive of all that makes a common ordered life possible, and both must be true to the facts as they see them. When such conflict arises, as it has arisen lately, if the only answer we can give at present is the old answer given by Dr. Johnson, 'The state had a right to martyr the Early Christians, and they had a right to be martyred,' yet at least we are farther on if each side honestly recognizes the importance of the work that the other has to do.
When we come to the problem raised by the present position and claims of Trade Unions, differentiation of functions is less satisfactory. Let us first look at the problem as it confronts us to-day. There was a time when the state was doubtful whether it should allow trade unions to exist. The Political Economy prevalent in the earlier part of the nineteenth century taught that trade unions were either unnecessary or useless—unnecessary in so far as economic relations, if unhindered by regulations from the state or from combinations, were regarded by economic optimism as themselves producing satisfactory social conditions; useless where Political Economy had substituted for optimism a belief in 'iron laws' whose results no combination or government regulation could affect. We now see that economic relations, just because they are possible between men who have no common purpose, need regulation inspired by a common purpose, and can be affected by such regulation. The growth of governmental interference with industry and of trade unionism are part of the same movement to control the working of economic relations with a view to maintaining the conditions of the good life. Trade unions have grown and are still steadily growing in size and importance. For a large portion of the nation loyalty to a trade union has become the most obvious form of collective loyalty or general will. This has been accompanied by an inevitable decrease in what we may call territorial loyalty. The result of the increase in means of communication and the growth of large towns has been that men's common interests as members of the same trade or as employees in the same workshop are coming to mean more and to constitute a greater common bond between men than their common interests as dwellers in the same locality. The trade union has often a more live and real general will than the Parliamentary constituency. Men's aspirations and ideals for their common life are being expressed more truly through trade union organizations than through Parliament. The growth in the prestige of organized labour is therefore coincident with a decay in the prestige of Parliament. Parliament, however, based on a local sub-division of the nation, is at present the only political organization of the nation. Trade union organization, as a political organization, has no constitutional authority, and all the general will which it represents can find no regular national expression. The result is that it either uses the territorial organization by getting men who really represent their Trade Union elected as members for Parliamentary local constituencies, to the detriment of both the territorial and the trade union organization, or acts as an imperium in imperio by making demands on and issuing ultimata to Parliament. We seem to be approaching a crisis where the trade unions are asking whether they will allow the state to exist.
This is obviously an unsatisfactory state of affairs. What is the cure for it? Differentiation of functions, as I have said, will not help us here. Some writers have maintained that vocational organization should concern itself with industrial or economic matters, the state, as we know it, with political matters. But can we possibly distinguish between industrial and political matters? If the aim of politics is to regulate men's actions in the light of men's common interests, the action of a trade union is in its essence political. Its differentiation from government is that it is concerned with the common interests of a few rather than the common interests of all. The difference between a trade union and a parliamentary constituency is that the sub-division of the general common interest which each represents rests on a different basis of division. The whole community might as well be organized by vocations as it now is by localities. There would seem to be certain advantages in both principles of differentiation, and one obvious practical solution of our present difficulties is that the supreme organ of government should in its two chambers represent the nation as organized on both principles, vocational and territorial.
We seem to have come now to the discussion of political machinery, but, as in our discussion of the League of Nations, we can see that our attitude to such questions of machinery will vary as we regard the force-bearing organization with its national and territorial basis as the primary fact in the community, to be distinguished sharply from all other organizations, or regard the possession of organized force as the expression of men's settled and permanent will to maintain their common interests and safeguard the conditions of the good life. If we consistently follow out Green's dictum that will, not force, is the basis of the state, we shall be anxious that the political organization to which we render obedience shall follow the actual ramifications of common interests and of men's willingness to co-operate, and shall recognize that the national state with its territorial basis represents only one form of such ramification.
The view that political action is not confined to constitutional and governmental channels will not imply that we must give up the distinction between society and the state. For, on the one hand, trade unions have only arisen because of the special need for a common safeguarding of common interests produced by economic relations. Economic relations need to be controlled by, but cannot be superseded by, politics. On the other hand, as we have seen, the work of such associations as churches is different in kind from the work done by political organizations. The inculcation and development of moral ideals and the safeguarding of the conditions of the good life are complementary functions. Each is impossible without the other. But that does not make them identical, however closely interfused they may be.
If, then, we accept the political theory of idealism as a theory of society, we must recognize in social life the distinction between ethical, economic, and political relations, and the task before Political Theory is to define the relations between politics and economic activities on the one side and ethical activities on the other, and that in a society which is not confined within the bounds of a single nation state. The intricate ramifications of vast economic undertakings and the common aspirations and ideals of humanity are but signs of a solidarity of mankind that political philosophy must recognize in all the problems it has to face.
Green, Principles of Political Obligation.
Bosanquet, Philosophical Theory of the State.
Barker, Political Thought in England from Spencer to to-day.
Hobhouse, The Metaphysical Theory of the State.
Figgis, Churches in the Modern State.
Cole, Labour in the Commonwealth.
Cole, Self Government in Industry.
Delisle Burns, The Morality of Nations.
I. THE INDUSTRIAL SCENE, 1842
1. Let us hover in fancy over the industrial scene in 1842, and photograph a stage of the economic conflict which the people of England were waging then with the forces which held them in thrall.
Our photograph shows us great white lines, continuous or destined to become continuous; they are numerous in Durham and Lancashire, and the newest lead up to and away from London. These white lines are the new railroads of England, and the myriad ant-heaps along them are the navvies. In the year 1848 their numbers had risen to 188,000.
What is a navvy and how does he live? The navvy is an inland navigator who used to dig dykes and canals and now constructs railroads. In the forties the navvies are getting 5s. a day, and for tunnelling and blasting even more, but they are a rowdy crowd, and many of them are Irish. Said the Sheriff substitute of Renfrewshire in 1827: 'If an extensive drain, or canal, or road were to make that could be done by piecework, I should not feel in the least surprised to find that of 100 men employed at it, 90 were Irish.' In 1842 they are building railroads, and when they and the Highlanders are on the same job, it is necessary to segregate them in order to avoid a breach of the peace. The Irish sleep in huts and get higher pay than the natives who are lodged in the neighbouring cottages. The English navvy too keeps out the Irishman if he can. On a track in Northamptonshire, 'There is only one Irishman on the work, for they would not allow any other Irishman.'
In the South of England wages are lower and the navvies are less expert. In South Devon 'very few North countrymen; they are men who have worked down the line of the Great Western; that have followed it from one portion to another'. The riff-raff from the villages cannot work stroke for stroke with the navvy. 'In tilting the waggons they could, but in the barrow runs it requires practice and experience.'
The high wages of the navvy are offset by the disadvantages of his employment. He is lucky if he gets the whole of his earnings in cash. In the Trent Valley they are paid once a month, 'but every fortnight they receive what is called "sub" that is subsistence money, and between the times of subsistence money and times of the monthly payment, they may have tickets by applying to the time-keeper, or whoever is the person to give them out, for goods; and those tickets are directed to a certain person; they cannot go to any other shop.'
The huts in which they live are little better than pigsties, and especially bad for regular navvies, who take their families about with them. In South Devon, 'man, woman, and child all sleep exposed to one another.' On a section of the London and Birmingham Railway fever and small-pox broke out. 'I have seen', says an eye-witness, 'the men walking about with the small-pox upon them as thick as possible and no hospitals to go to.' The country people, the witness continues, make money by letting rooms double. When one lot came out, another lot went in.
Such is the navvy's life at work and at rest.
2. If we can suppose that our camera is capable of distinguishing centres of industrial activity, then our picture will give us 'vital' patches, which stand out against a background of deadness. This deadness is rural England.
What is the condition of the rural counties of Wessex? 'Everywhere the cottages are old, and frequently in a state of decay.' 'Ignorance of the commonest things, needle-work, cooking, and other matters of domestic economy, is ... nearly universally prevalent.' To make both ends meet the wife has abandoned her now useless spinning-wheel and hired herself out to hoe turnips or pick stones.
On the little farms inside the factory districts of Lancashire and Yorkshire, on which the country hand-loom weavers eke out a miserable livelihood by cultivating patches of grass land, there is distress more acute than ever was known in a Dorset village. But in Northumberland, by exception, there is a decent country life. 'What I saw of the northern peasantry impressed me very strongly in their favour; they are very intelligent, sober, and courteous in their manners.... The education in Northumberland is very good; the people are intelligent and cute, alive to the advantages of knowledge, and eager to acquire it; it is a rare thing to find a grown-up labourer who cannot read and write and who is not capable of keeping his own accounts.' The same sort of thing was said of Northumberland in 1869: 'If all England had been like Northumberland, this commission ought never to have been issued.' The Commissioner found that though the labourers worked harder and longer than in the South they were not working against starvation. They were enjoying a rough plenty, which included fresh milk. The rest of the family earned sufficient to leave the married woman in her home and no children under twelve were employed in field labour.
Here then in Northumberland there is a decent country life, but elsewhere there is an atmosphere of deadness; and it is this deadness of the countryside which explains the horror that new comers to industrial regions frequently expressed at the prospect of a forcible return to the parish of their origin.
'I was told,' says a visitor to Lancashire in 1842, 'that there had been several instances of death by sheer starvation. On asking why application had not been made to the commissioner of the parish for relief, I was informed that they were persons from agricultural districts who, having committed an act of vagrancy, would be sent to their parishes, and that they had rather endure anything in the hope of some manufacturing revival, than return to the condition of farm labourers from which they had emerged. This was a fact perfectly new to me, and at the first blush, truly incredible, but I asked the neighbours in two of the instances quoted ... and they not only confirmed the story, but seemed to consider any appearance of scepticism a mark of prejudice or ignorance.'
3. Though there is little peasant life in England, there is life of a feverish desperate order for many who live in country places. These people are not farm workers nor yet are they craftsmen who supply the industrial needs of the village. They are feeders to the towns, engaged in what is misnamed 'domestic industry'. The life they lead is a sordid replica of an all too sordid original.
Cobbett in a tirade against the Lords of the Loom idealized the old-time union of agriculture and manufacture. The men should work in the fields, while the women and children stayed at home at their spinning wheels, making homespun for the family garments. But the picture was a vanishing one even in his day. Domestic industry does not mean this. The rural distress revealed in the Hand-loom Weavers Commission is the distress of specialized hand-workers, male and female, who are clinging desperately to the worst-paid branch of a dying trade. The worsted industry of East Anglia is perishing, defeated by the resources of Yorkshire, of which the power-loom is only one. The cloth trade in the Valley of Stroud (Gloucester) is a shadow of its former self. It has lost the power of recovering from a depression. The next period of slackness that comes along may bankrupt the business and rob a village of specialized hand-workers of their main employment.
In Devonshire, the serge trade, which used to give employment to looms in almost every town and village, has become so unremunerative that it has passed into the hands of the wives and daughters of mechanics and agricultural labourers. In Oxfordshire in 1834, we are told by the Poor Law Commissions of that year, glove and lace making were vanishing occupations. In the neighbourhood of Banbury 'some make lace and gloves in the villages. Formerly spinning was the work for women in the villages, now there is scarcely any done.'
Since 1834 the process of disintegration had proceeded apace.
We must not, however, convey the impression that domestic industry in 1842 had all but vanished from the countryside. In its ancient strongholds it still endures, but it is in an unhealthy condition, and the towns are sucking its life-blood away.
To illustrate this, let us describe the course of a boom in domestic industry and study how the trade boom of 1833-7 reached through to the country silk weavers in Essex and other places all around London. The terms which we usually apply to the cultivation of land are apposite. The town workers represent the intensive margin of cultivation, the country workers the extensive margin. First of all the Spitalfield weavers, who have been short of work, have more work given to them. The weavers' wives also get work, and their boys and girls who never were on a loom before are now put to the trade. Fresh hands are introduced. From the Metropolis the demand for labour pushes outwards over the country. Recourse is had to 'inferior soils'. Old weavers in the villages get work, together with their wives and families. Even farm labourers are impressed. Blemishes for which at other times deductions would be claimed are now over-looked. Carts are sent round to the villages and hamlets with work for the weavers, so that time may not be lost in going to the warehouses to take back or carry home work. Then comes the ebb: 'the immediate effect is that all the less skilful workmen, the dissolute and disorderly, are denied work; the third and fourth looms, those worked by the sons and daughters of the weavers, are all thrown out of use'. The intensiveness of cultivation has been reduced in the towns, the least remunerative no longer pays.
The ebb of the tide, which reduces the quantity of employment in the towns, leaves the country districts high and dry. 'At such times the country towns and villages to which work is liberally sent, when there is a demand for goods, suffer still more. A staff or skeleton only is kept in pay, and that chiefly with a view to operations when a demand returns.' A skeleton—well said.
Occasional cultivation is bad for land, and worse for human beings. The ribbon-weaving villages north of Coventry are a disorderly eruption from the town. Coventry itself has the better-paid 'engine weaving'; the rural districts have the 'single hand trade'. The country workers, say the Commissioners, 'retain most of their original barbarism with an accession of vice'. The yokels who went out to the French wars innocent boys returned confirmed rogues. Bastardy is greater than ever, despite the new Poor Law. 'It may surprise the denouncers of the factory system to find all the vices and miseries which they attribute to it, flourishing so rankly in the midst of a population not only without the walls of a factory, but also beyond the contamination of a large town.' It may have surprised such people, but it does not surprise us who are surveying the industrial scene and beginning to apprehend the rottenness of that worm-eaten structure which under the misnomer of domestic industry marks the half-way house to full capitalism.
4. Let us now journey to the factory districts of Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire where town lies close upon town, and the tall chimneys envelop in smoke the cottages in which hand-loom weavers work and the children of hand-loom weavers sleep. Let us suppose that we have found our position by Leeds. We should like to follow the track of the new railroads, for we have in our pocket a small green book:
'Bradshaw's Railway Time Tables and Assistant to Railway Travelling'.
'10th Mo. 19th, 1839. Price Sixpence.'
Bradshaw tells us that we can get from Littleborough to Manchester in 11 hours—via Rochdale, Heywood, and Millshill—but it is not clear how we are to get to Littleborough. So we follow an alternative route, the canal. It is a fashionable method of transit for mineral traffic and paupers. Mr. Muggeridge, the emigration agent, tells us how he transported the southern paupers in 1836. 'The journey from London to Manchester was made by boat or waggon, the agents assisting the emigrants on their journey.' When we got up our geography for the tour out of Thomas Dugdale's 'England and Wales' this is what we read at every turn: 'Keighley: in the deep valley of the Aire, its prosperity had been much increased by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal which passes within two miles.' 'Skipton: in a rough mountainous district. The trade has been greatly facilitated by the proximity of the town to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.' So the Leeds and Liverpool canal shall be our guide.
We leave Bradford, Halifax, and the worsted districts to the left of us, and passing by Shipley, approach the cotton district near the Lancashire border. 'The township of Shipley is the western-most locality of the Leeds clothing districts; it runs like a tongue into the worsted district. In like manner the worsted district blends with the cotton district at Steeton, Silsden, and Addingham.' We are passing, the Commissioner tells us, from high wages to low. 'The cloth weavers of Shipley work for wages little, if any, higher than those of the worsted weavers; while the worsted weavers north-west of Keighley are reduced down to the cotton standard.'
At Keighley we bend sharply south and soon reach Colne in Lancashire. Dr. Cook Taylor describes the conditions there in the early part of 1842:
'I visited eighty-eight dwellings, selected at hazard. They were destitute of furniture save old boxes for tables or stalls, or even large stones for chairs; the beds are composed of straw and shavings. The food was oatmeal and water for breakfast, flour and water, with a little skimmed milk for dinner, oatmeal and water again for a second supply.' He actually saw children in the markets grubbing for the rubbish of roots. And yet, 'all the places and persons I visited were scrupulously clean. Children were in rags, but they were not in filth. In no single instance was I asked for relief.... I never before saw poverty which inspired respect, and misery which demanded involuntary homage.'
From Colne we journey to Accrington. Of its 9,000 inhabitants not more than 100 were fully employed. Numbers kept themselves alive by collecting nettles and boiling them. Some were entirely without food every alternate day, and many had but one meal in the day and that a poor one.
Our last stage is Burnley, where the weavers—to quote again from Dr. Cook Taylor—'were haggard with famine, their eyes rolling with that fierce and uneasy expression common to maniacs. "We do not want charity," they said, "but employment." I found them all Chartists, but with this difference, that the block-printers and hand-loom weavers united to their Chartism a hatred of machinery which was far from being shared by the factory operatives.'
What a comment on England's industrial supremacy—England with her virtual monopoly of large-scale manufacture in Europe! It must have been a puzzle, too, for the Poor Law Commissioners, who were then building workhouses in these parts for the purpose of depauperizing hand-loom weavers on the less eligibility principle.
But how was it, with such a Poor Law, that the hand-loom weavers did not die of starvation by the thousand? If we enter a cotton mill we shall see why. Within these gaunt walls, which are illumined at night by sputtering gas-light, the factory children work, earning twice as much as their parents, who were too old and too respectable to become factory hands.
By this time, perhaps, it is evening, but this matters nothing to the 'melancholy mad engines', which feed on water or burning coals. The young people will still be there, with eight hours work to their credit and more to do—'kept to work by being spoken to or by a little chastisement'.
'I have seen them fall asleep,' said an over-looker in 1833, 'and they have been performing their work with their hands while they were asleep, after the Billy had stopped. Put to bed with supper in their hands, they were clasping it next morning, when their parents dragged them out of bed. Half asleep they stumbled or were carried to the mill, to begin again the ceaseless round.'
'It keeps them out of mischief', said the opponents of shorter hours. Besides, the conditions were no worse than any other industries! Factory work, however, as the doctors show, was different from work in the mines. The heat and confinement of the mill caused precocious sexual development, whilst in the mines the result of exaggerated muscular development was to delay maturity.
In 1842 conditions are better than they were in 1833—thanks to the factory inspectors. There is little positive cruelty, and the sight of deformity—enlarged ankle bones, bow legs, and knock knees, caused by excessive standing as a child—is rare. The problem now is one of industrial fatigue. The children are 'sick-tired'.
5. The Midlands of Leicestershire, Notts, and Derbyshire are a region of red bricks and pantiles, dotted over valleys of exquisite green. So let us leave the smoke of Lancashire and hover here for a while. Here dwell the stocking workers or frame-work knitters—the people who knit on frames stockings, gloves, and other articles of hosiery. It does not look like a region of industry. There are only a few towns, such as Nottingham, Leicester, and Loughborough; and except for a few lace factories in Nottingham, large buildings are rare. The town knitters either work in their own homes or in shops with standings for perhaps as many as fifty frames. In the villages the knitting is nearly all done in the cottages, opposite long low windows, or in a small out-house which might well be a fowl-house.
But in the streets of Leicester we can see 'life' of a sort. We can watch the procession to the pawnbrokers. Some of the knitters pawn their blankets for the day, and most lodge their Sunday clothing during the week. Says a Leicester pawnbroker:
'We regularly pay away from L40 to L50 (to some 300 persons) every Monday morning or on the Tuesday. They will, perhaps, wash on the Monday and get their linen clean preparatory to the next Sunday, and in the course of the week they bring all the linen things they can spare. Friday is the worst; they will then bring their small trifling articles, such as are scarcely worth a penny, and we lend on them, to enable them to buy a bit of meat or a few trifles for dinner.'
They are too poor to indulge in church-going or alcohol. They have no clothes to go to church in. Their publican is the druggist, where they buy opium for themselves and Godfrey's cordial, a preparation from laudanum, for their children. In the whole of Leicester, with its population of 50,000, there are but nine gin-houses. And only on Sundays do they get a bit of schooling. 'We have only one bit of a cover lid to cover the five of us in winter ... we are all obliged to sleep in one bed.'
A frame smith, making his usual inspection of hosiers' frames at workmen's dwellings in Nottingham, after thus spending a fortnight, found his health had begun to suffer from the squalid wretchedness of their abodes. Thinking to improve it, he went on the same errand into the country, but found the frame-work knitters there in a still more deplorable state. From the bad air and other distressing influences in their condition and that of their dwellings, in another fortnight he returned, too ill to attend to his business for some weeks afterwards. This occurred in 1843.
Nottingham, however, with its up-to-date lace trade was usually better off than this. The lace factories, like the cotton mills in Lancashire, eased the position of the hand-workers. In Leicestershire the knitters had no such alternative. The more their earnings were reduced, the more helplessly they were bound to their only trade.
6. 1842 is a long while ago! Let us go to sleep for thirty years and wake up in 1871, when the Truck Commissioners are publishing their report.
West of Birmingham lies the black country, an area of some twenty square miles. Here, if we have read the evidence of the Truck Commissioners, we can interpret a dumb-show in Dudley, where the nail-makers dwell.
On Monday mornings the nail-maker emerges from a small hovel containing a smithy and walks into Dudley to call on a gentleman known as a fogger, a petty-fogger if he is a middleman, a market-fogger if he is a master. The nailer comes out with a bundle of metal which he takes to a second house and changes for a second bundle of metal, and with this he walks away. (The next nailer, not so lucky, hangs about till Wednesday morning, waiting for his metal.) On Saturday the nailer comes back with his nails, enters the fogger's shop, and emerges with 12s. in his hand. But he does not go home. He slips into a shop close by and parts company with the shillings. In return he gets a parcel, the contents of which are obviously displeasing to him. What has happened?
The nailer is a Government servant. But the Government only employs him indirectly. It puts out contracts for rivets and nails to contractors who sublet their contract, so that the work reaches the nailer at third or fourth hand. The Government, in the interest of public economy (Victorian England is famous for retrenchment), gives its contract to the lowest tenderer; and the policy of the lowest tender is responsible for the dumb-show we have watched.
To begin with, the nailer gets metal which does not suit him, so he has to change it, and this he does at the price of 2d. per 10d. bundle, at a metal changers, a relative of the fogger. (His friend who has to wait till Wednesday for his bundle is kept idling about in order that he may drink what is left of last week's earnings at a 'wobble shop' which is owned by yet another branch of the family of fogger.)
When the nailer and his family have worked fourteen hours a day throughout the week, the nailer returns on Saturday with the nails, and receives 12s. for them. These shillings he takes to the fogger's store and exchanges for tea and other articles. The shillings are 'nimble'; we commend the rapidity of their circulation to Mr. Irving Fisher. A fogger who pays out the shillings from his warehouse receives them back again in a few minutes over the counter of his store. 'He will perhaps reckon with seven or eight at one time, and when he has reckoned with them, and perhaps paid them six, seven, or eight pounds, he will wait until they have gone to the shop and taken the money there as they leave the warehouse. Then he goes into the shop himself for it, as he cannot go on paying without it.'
But surely this is truck! Certainly not. There may be 'fearful cheating' with tea, but the nailer is not bound to go there. He is perfectly free. The only trouble is this: it is a case of tea or no work the week following. This is why, despite the Truck Act of 1831 and despite the known existence of the abuse, these practices are rife among the nailers as late as 1871, the year in which the Truck Commissioners issued the Report from which this scene is compiled. The plight of the nailers is not the plight of factory operatives or miners; it is the plight of the frame-work knitters, of men who are bound by the intangible fetters of economic need to the uncontrollable devil of 'semi-capitalism'.
2. MINING OPERATIONS
1. Coal was king of the nineteenth century. The first steam-engine was built to pump water out of coal mines, the first canal was cut to carry the Duke of Bridgwater's coal from Worsley to Manchester. The first railroads were laid around Newcastle to convey the coals from the pit mouth to the river. George Stephenson, the inventor of the locomotive, began life as a trapper on a Tyneside colliery.
Where would English industry have been without its king? In 1780 (in round figures) 5,000,000 tons of coal were raised in the United Kingdom: in 1800, 10,000,000; in 1865, 100,000,000; and in 1897, 200,000,000. Coal enticed the cotton factories from the dales of the Pennines to the moist lowlands of West Lancashire. At every stage of their work the iron-makers depended on coal; and the great inventions in the iron and steel industry are land-marks in the expansion of the demand for coal—Cort's puddling process 1783, Watt's steam-engine 1785, Neilson's hot blast 1824, Naysmith's steam-hammer 1835, Bessemer's steel-converter 1855, Siemen's open hearth 1870, Thomas' basic process for the treatment of highly phosphoric ores 1878. The steamship, a novelty in 1820, ruled the seas in 1870; and ironclads followed steamships. The smokeless steam-coal of South Wales guarded the heritage of Trafalgar. By the end of the nineteenth century, coaling stations were an important item in international politics.
Meanwhile, the people of England, heedless of Malthusian forebodings, multiplied exceedingly. They lighted their streets and buildings with coal-gas, and burnt coal in their grates. With coal they paid for the food and raw materials from other lands. Imports of food and raw materials were offset by exports of coal and of textiles and hardware produced by coal. The spirit of invention has pushed on to electricity and oil, but coal is still the pivot of English industry and commerce. And therefore, seeing that coal has meant all this to England, let us look at the men who raised the coal. How did they live, what did they think about, what did they count for then, what do they count for now?
2. In 1800 the miners stood for nothing in the nation's life. In Scotland they had just been emancipated from the status of villeinage. In Northumberland and Durham they were tied by yearly bonds. Elsewhere they were weak and isolated. In 1825 a 'Voice from the coal mines of the Tyne and Wear' cried: 'While working men in general are making 20s. to 30s. per week (sic) the pitmen here are only making 13s. 6d. and from this miserable pittance deductions are made.'
In 1839, during the Chartist disturbances, a Welsh M.P. wrote to the Home Secretary begging for barracks and troops: 'A more lawless set of men than the colliers and miners do not exist ... it requires some courage to live among such a set of savages.' When the miners came out in 1844, there were thousands of cottages tenantless in Northumberland and Durham. For the colliery proprietors owned the cottages, and when the miners struck evicted them. So the miners set up house in the streets. 'In one lane ... a complete new village was built, chests-of-drawers, deck beds, etc., formed the walls of the new dwelling; and the top covered with canvas or bedclothes as the case might be.' Yet, for all their griminess, they had human hearts and voices. During the strike they obtained permission to hold a meeting at Newcastle; and the wealthy citizens who made their fortunes out of the coal trade trembled before the invasion of black barbarians. But the meeting passed off in rain and peace. Thirty thousand miners marched in procession, 'for near a mile flags in breeze, men walking in perfect order'; and as they marched, they sang, as only miners sing, songs and hymns and topical ditties:
'Stand fast to your Union Brave sons of the mine, And we'll conquer the tyrants Of Tees, Wear, and Tyne!'
Up and down the Durham coalfields tramped a misguided agitator (in after life the veteran servant of the Durham Miners' Association), by name Tommy Ramsey. With bills under his arm and crake in hand, he went from house-row to house-row calling the miners out. He had only one message:
'Lads, unite and better your condition. When eggs are scarce, eggs are dear; When men are scarce, men are dear.'
Such blasphemy appalled the Government's Commissioners. But the miners had a zest for religion as well as for strikes. During the strike of 1844, 'frequent meetings were held in their chapels (in general those of the Primitive Methodists or Ranters as they are commonly called in that part of the country), where prayers were publicly offered up for the successful result of the strike.' They attended their prayer meeting 'to get their faith strengthened'.
Such ignorance could only be cured by education. Some worthy members of society had already recognized the fact. In 1830 a Cardiff 'Society for the improvement of the working population in the county of Glamorgan' issued improving pamphlets:
No. 9. Population, or Patty's Marriage.
No. 10. The Poor's Rate, or the Treacherous Friend.
No. 11. Foreign Trade, or the Wedding Gown.
But the northern miners were perverse people. In Scotland, according to one Wesleyan minister, the miners read Adam Smith. In Northumberland, with still greater perversity, they preferred Plato. 'A translation of Plato's Ideal Republic is much read among those classes, principally for the socialism and unionism it contains; in pure ignorance, of course, that Plato himself subsequently modified his principles and that Aristotle showed their fallacy.'
3. The Royal Commission of 1842 on the Employment and Condition of Children and Young Persons in Mines disclosed facts which made Cobdenite England gasp. The worst evidence came from Lancashire, Cheshire, the West Riding of Yorkshire, East Scotland, and South Wales. In these districts juvenile labour was cheap and plentiful; and this was an irresistible argument for its employment, though the miners themselves disliked it. The meddlesome restrictions on the factories were a contributory cause. Parents, it was said in Lancashire, were pushing their children into colliery employment at an earlier age because of the legal restrictions upon sending them to the neighbouring factories.
A Lancashire woman said in evidence:
'I have a belt round my waist and a chain passing between my legs, and I go on my hands and feet.... The pit is very wet where I work and the water comes over our clog tops always, and I have seen it up to my thighs.... I have drawn till I have had the skin off me; the belt and chain is worse when we are in the family way.'
The children's office was a lonesome one. Children hate the dark, but being little they fitted into a niche, and so they were used to open and close the trap-doors. A trapper lad from the county of Monmouth, William Richards, aged seven-and-a-half, said in evidence:
'I been down about three years. When I first went down, I could not keep my eyes open; I don't fall asleep now; I smokes my pipe, smokes half a quartern a week.'
Except in the northern mining districts, where there were good day and Sunday schools and Methodism was powerful, a pagan darkness prevailed. As a Derbyshire witness put it:
'When the boys have been beaten, knocked about, and covered with sludge all the week, they want to be in bed all day to rest on Sunday.'
In the hope of startling a religiously-minded England, the Commissioners reproduced examples of working-class ignorance. James Taylor, aged eleven,
'Has heard of hell in the pit, when the men swore; has never heard of Jesus Christ; has never heard of God; he has heard the men in the pit say, "God damn thee ".'
A Yorkshire girl, aged eighteen, said:
'I do not know who Jesus Christ was; I never saw him, but I have seen Foster, who prays about him.'
4. Just as in the East Midlands the frame-work knitters worked for middlemen or master middlemen, and just as the Dudley nailers worked for petty-foggers and market-foggers, so too the Staffordshire miners worked for 'butties'. Here again the workers were exposed to the petty tyrannies of semi-capitalism; and here again the middlemen, in this case the butties, incurred the odium of a system for which their superiors, the coal-owners and coal-masters, were responsible.
Why the butty system prevailed in the Midlands—and in a modified form it prevails to-day—is not clear. In some places it seems to be connected with the smallness of the mining concerns or of the metal trades which they supplied. In South Staffordshire a contributing factor was the ancient and allied industry of nail-making.
The conditions in South Staffordshire in 1843 are fully described in the Midland Mining Commission of that year.
The butty was a contractor who engaged with the proprietor or lessee of the mine to deliver the coal or iron-stone at so much per ton, himself hiring the labourers, using his own horses, and supplying the tools requisite for the working of the mine. The contract price was known as the 'charter price' or 'charter'. Thus by a freak of language the Staffordshire miner knew by the same word the 'butty's charter' which was the symbol of his oppression, and the 'people's charter' which was the goal of his desire.
'The butties', said the miners and their wives, 'are the devil: they are negro drivers: they play the vengeance With the men.' The men kicked when, after working a couple of hours, they were fetched up, without pay, on the excuse that there were no waggons to take away the coal. But the butty comforted them with a bottle of pit drink, and all was smooth again.
A collier related a case where 'a pike man had worked only one half-day in the week and got 2s. for it, and because he did not spend 6d. of this at the butty's shop, the latter told the doggy (the under man) to let the man play for it.'
The miners recognized that often the butty was not to blame. In the district north and east of Dudley, the butties got their 'charter price' from the coal-owners in the form of tickets on the coal-owners' truck-shop. What else could they do but hand them on to the men? 'He used to be a very good butty,' said one miner's wife, 'till they haggled him and dropped his "charter", so that he cannot pay his men.'
West and south of Dudley the butties, though they did not truck their men, kept public-houses; and being employer and publican in one, they had a tight hold on the men.
Was the compulsion to drink an oppression? To our minds, yes; as also to the minds of the teetotal Chartists whom the Government imprisoned, and of the strike leaders whom the Government's Commissioners denounced. But to the majority of the miners the abundance of beer was a delight. They objected to the butty's bullying, but they loved his beer, especially the feckless ones, for when wives were importunate the drunkards pleaded necessity.
However, all the beer-drinking could not be charged to the butties. The miners themselves, in their own fellowships, were devoted to it; and the compulsion of friends was as severe as the compulsion of butties. Every approach to recreation, every act of mutual providence against accident or disease, began and ended in beer. The day a man entered the pit's company, he paid 1s. for footing-ale, and the doggy saw that no churl escaped. When a lad was old enough to have a sweetheart he was toasted with the 'nasty' shilling. The sins of the married men were washed away in half-a-crown's worth of ale. The beer-shop was the head-quarters of the Burial and Savings Clubs. The first charge on a Burial Club was a good oak coffin, the second charge drinks for the pall-bearers, and then a glass or two for the rest of the company.
They had lotteries to which each man contributed 20 fortnightly shillings. Each week a name was drawn, and the lucky man stood a feast; while every member, in addition to a shilling for the box, produced 6d. for drinks.
In all these festivities the butty was in the offing. When they would have him he presided; and so at his worst an obnoxious bully, at his best he was an accommodating landlord.
Direct employment, such as prevailed in the north of England, would have averted much of this evil. There were no structural difficulties in the way of change. Direct employment would not have meant a change to another class of work (this is what direct employment meant for knitters and hand-loom weavers). The butty system existed and persisted through slackness and irresponsibility. The owners paid compensation for accidents, when they might have diminished the number of accidents. They paid commissions to middlemen with whom they might have dispensed. The system made temperance impossible for the individual; and the masters, with the full approval of the Government, did their best to destroy the 'pernicious combinations' by which alone a standard of sober decency could be promoted.
5. The Report of the Truck Commissioners (1871-2) enables us to complete the picture. It also enables us to understand why, at this late day, truck was still rife in certain districts.
Truck and Tommy, truck-shop and Tommy-shop, are convertible terms. Truck is from the French 'troc' = barter. Cobbett tells us how the word 'Tommy' was used. In his soldiering days the rations of brown bread, 'for what reason God knows', went by the name of Tommy. 'When the soldiers came to have bread served out to them in the several towns in England, the name of Tommy went down by tradition, and, doubtless, it was taken up and adapted to the truck-system in Staffordshire and elsewhere.' From the textile districts it had all but disappeared in 1871. When the cotton manufactures went to outlying dales for water power, they were almost compelled to open stores for their workpeople. Owen's store at New Lanark was, in effect, a well-managed truck-shop; and the Truck Commissioners of 1871 reported that the New Lanark Company of that day was breaking the law. But when the cotton industry was gathered in the towns, the need for company stores ceased. Consequently, after the passing of the Act of 1831, which prohibited truck altogether, the masters very generally abolished the stores of their own accord; and survivals were jealously watched.
A collection of Factory Scraps, preserved at the Goldsmiths' Library in London, contains a copy of the Factory Bill of 1833, with some pencil notes in Ostler's handwriting which run:
Cragg Dale Facts
Truck System: Little altered: men knew they were imposed. They pay in money now—but compel them to buy at their own shops.... Wholesale warehouses at Rochdale say, 'Oh! put it sideways: it will do for Cragg Dale masters to sell among their people.'
Song: 'Lousy butter and burnt bread.'
About 1842 a curious perversion of truck was prevalent in parts of Yorkshire. The trade depression in the Bradford district tempted disreputable woollen manufacturers to force on their operatives the products of the factory as part payment of wages. Combers were given pieces of cloth, workers in shoddy mills bundles of rags. But this utterly inexcusable fraud, no less than its more specious complement, the employer's store, was rooted out by inspectors and factory reformers. Therefore in 1854 the Government's Commissioner was able to say that in a factory district like Lancashire truck was not only non-existent but 'impossible'.
He was right as to the factory districts, but not quite right as to Lancashire. In Prescot, a small Lancashire town on the fringe of the factory district, the watchmakers in 1871 were being paid in watches. The masters alleged that they only gave watches to the workers when the latter had orders for them, but the evidence showed that these orders only came to hand when the men were asking for fresh work. The pawnbrokers explained what happened. 'Watches', said a pawnbroker's clerk, 'pass from hand to hand as a circulating medium until they get very low in the market and are pawned.' The pawnshop in question had 700 watches on pledge, most of them belonging to workmen in the town.
In railway contracting truck was prevalent in the forties. In roving employment of this type it is difficult to see how some form of contractor's shop could have been avoided. The navvy needed canteens or Y.M.C.A. huts, but such things had not been thought of then. However, when the big period of railway construction came to an end, the question lost its importance.
South Staffordshire and the Black Country were the ancient strongholds of truck. The campaigns against truck originated here. The nailers, the cash-paying masters, and the respectable ratepayers joined together to promote the Truck Act of 1820. Lord Hatherton, a Staffordshire nobleman, after three years hammering at the House of Commons, obtained the Truck Act of 1831. But in 1843, the year of the Midland Mining Commission, truck was still rife in the coalfields. The well-known Tommy-shop scene in Disraeli's novel Sybil, which was published in 1845, is taken direct from the Commissioners' Report. Diggs, the butty of the novel, is Banks, the coal proprietor of the Report. In the novel the people say of Master Joseph Diggs, the son: 'He do swear at the women, when they rush in for the first turn, most fearful; they do say he's a shocking little dog.' In the Report, page 93, the miner's wife says: 'He swears at the women when the women are trying to crush in. He is a shocking little dog.' One touch is Disraeli's own. He makes the miners keen to purchase 'the young Queen's picture'. 'If the Queen would do something for us poor men, it would be a blessed job.' In the Report there is nothing about this, but there is a section dealing with Chartism.