Typos p. 359: atitude [= attitude]; p. 366: whatsover [= whatsoever]
The Aristocrat in Practice
Those who have read my thesis in Chapter VI with any sympathy, and who have likewise appreciated the principles laid down in the chapter immediately following, will hardly require to be told that the present aristocracy of England do not by any means represent what I understand by the best.
Such readers will also understand, without my requiring to go into any very elaborate analysis of the actual state of the classes in England, that those classes immediately below the aristocracy are now, on the whole, not a very favourable soil for the rearing of candidates for the aristocratic dignity, whenever and however the aristocratic body might require refreshment.
The occupation of buying and selling for profit, though it remain in certain families for many generations, is not in itself of a nature capable of rearing virtues and qualities or of establishing a tradition which can be valuable, when those who pursue that occupation and the kind of life that it now involves are able to raise themselves by wealth into influential circles; neither are the decharacterising and emasculating labours of the lowest classes that form the ultimate soil from which all ranks receive fresh recruits calculated to make even the most successful members of these lowest classes very desirable additions to any superior class, however effete. And it should be remembered that
Nevertheless, this book would have accomplished a very useless and futile purpose if it had been written merely to show that the plight of a true aristocracy in England was utterly hopeless.
In certain quarters of the Empire, in certain dignified occupations, and among certain distinguished, respectable or simply industrious people I believe that there are still to be found men and women of good tradition, possessed of will, virtue, beauty and sound instinct; nor do I think that the system of uncontrolled commerce or mechanical industry has nearly succeeded yet in making the numbers of such people so desperately or ridiculously small that their total may be considered a too insignificant factor with which to reckon.
The influence of uncontrolled commerce and of mechanical industry, coupled with that most baneful outcome of democracy which causes all unostentatious and concealed work to be shirked, because it is beneath the free vote-possessing citizen whose lot in life it is to perform this work, 1 are both decimating these last veterans of a better and more civilised state, and are thus steadily reducing virtue in our midst. But it is because I feel that this devastating work of the modern "system," coupled with democracy, has still not done its worst; it is because I believe that there is still a considerable amount of solid virtue and sound tradition in the country, that I am convinced of the hopefulness of any counter-movement that will enlist these better elements into its ranks.
Only thus, in any case, can that soil be formed upon which a healthy aristocracy can stand and act beneficently; only thus can that atmosphere be created which, as I
1 This is only one of the many influences that are undermining all good service, all conscientious labour and what is a little less obvious all cleanliness and care in small matters.
Turning to the aristocrats themselves, I should be loath, in these days of the hypertrophy of the soul and of the intellect, to be confounded with those who are agitating for an aristocracy of brains or of the sages of science; and I trust that I have made it sufficiently obvious in the statement of my thesis that I stand for neither of these supposed desiderata. While as for the cry of "a government of business men," the reader will realise that I have replied sufficiently fully to that in my two chapters concerning the Stuarts and the Puritans.
Hostile as I am, therefore, to much which characterises the present House of Lords, and conscious as I feel of the incalculable distance which all too frequently separates the members of it from the true aristocrat who is the example of flourishing life, I cannot help recognising that it contains many of the elements of a sound aristocratic power, and would be able to disarm much criticism, if only the sense of duty at its back, if only its consciousness of the sacredness of power, could be regenerated in such a manner as to bring home to its members a deep conception of the terrific responsibility of their position, the magnitude of their powers for good or evil, and the high services compatible with their exceptional privileges.
Some of you in reading this book will contend that I have laid too many of the errors of England's social organisation at the door of a mistaken and undutiful aristocracy. You will say that a good many of the charges I bring against them cannot be upheld in view of the fact that the Lower House, the Commons, where the representatives of the people were assembled, always participated in the work of legislation. This objection would be sound enough, if it were actually a fact that the House of Commons had acted entirely or even preponderatingly as the representatives of the people, and had so influenced legislation as to make it the combined work of the masses and of the aristocracy.
It is indeed strange to see how the prophetic feeling of the noble Earl of Strafford concerning the new spirit of the Commons in the seventeenth century proved ultimately to be correct. Strafford refused to trust the government of England to Parliament, because he knew that the lawyers and country gentlemen who sat in it only partially represented the nation. He also knew that these country gentlemen "too often used the opportunities of their wealth to tyrannise over their poorer neighbours." He foresaw that the victory of the Parliamentary system would give the territorial aristocracy an opportunity of using the forms of the constitution "to fill their own pockets at the expense of the nation and to heap honours and rewards upon their own heads." 1
How sound and true his feelings were! For it is since his death and that of his master that the power of Parliament has been most unquestioned and the liberties of the people most ignored. And, as Lecky has so ably shown in the work to which I have already referred, ever since the extension of the franchise through the three Reform Bills, the desire for equality has done so much more to animate the deliberations of the lower legislative assembly than the desire for liberty that the latter is still the neglected principle of government. For equality is naturally hostile to true liberty, and the much vaunted freedom of our national life has declined rather than
1 Gardiner, The Personal Government of Charles I, Vol. I, pp. 168 and 281. See also Benjamin Disraeli's Sybil (Longmans, Green and Co., 1899), p. 35. "A spirit of rapacious covetousness, desecrating all the humanities of life, has been the besetting sin of England for the last century and a half, since the passing of the Reform Act the altar of Mammon has blazed with triple worship. To acquire, to accumulate, to plunder each other by virtue of philosophic phrases, to propose a Utopia to consist only of Wealth and Toll, this has been the breathless business of enfranchised England for the last twelve years, until we are startled from our voracious strife by the wail of intolerable serfage."
To return, however, to the point under discussion, practically ever since the Revolution of 1688, and up to the time of the first Reform Bill, aristocratic influence in the Constitution had been paramount, though not absolute. In the latter half of the eighteenth century it was possible for Paley to write that only one-half of the House of Commons was elected by the people an understatement rather than an overstatement of fact and that the other half consisted of the nominees of the governing classes. 2 And this controlling power of the aristocracy over the House of Commons lasted well into the nineteenth century.
During the existence of the Irish Parliament matters were not very different, for in 1785, of the 300 members constituting that assembly scarcely a third were elected by the people. 3
Mr. James Macintyre gives the following statement of the general plan of the parliamentary representation of England during the great revolutionary war, and down to the year 1832. 4
1 For Lecky's illuminating arguments on this point see Democracy and Liberty, Vol. I, Chapter III, pp. 212215.
2 Sir Thomas Erskine May, in his Constitutional History of England (Vol. I, pp. 332333), says: "No abuse was more flagrant than the direct control of peers over the constitution of the Lower House. The Duke of Norfolk was represented by eleven members; Lord Lonsdale by nine; Lord Darlington by seven; the Duke of Rutland, the Marquess of Buckingham and Lord Carrington, each by six. Seats were held, in both Houses alike, by hereditary right." This abuse was indeed flagrant; but, if only it had recoiled to the honour and genuine prosperity of the people of England, no one would ever have dreamt of raising a voice against it. For, if the aristocrats had really been worthy of their dignity, the fact that they nominated members to the Lower House would have proved an advantage rather than a disadvantage to the nation.
3 Political History of England, Vol. X, by W. Hunt, p. 288.
4 See The Influence of Aristocracies on the Revolution of Nations, p. 246.
Thus it would hardly be fair to exonerate the aristocracy from the chief blame for any evils which might be traced to bad government, or to institutions and innovations allowed to establish themselves, between the years 1688 and 1832. 1 Indeed, if ever the English aristocracy had a chance of vindicating its right to rule, subsequently to the Grand Rebellion, it was in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. But, as we have seen, is was precisely during that period, and particularly the latter part
1 It is difficult to listen with patience to those who, while talking glibly of the great progress of England since the Revolution of 1688, abuse and revile the House of Lords. If real progress there has been, if we, as a people, have truly improved since the seventeenth century, and if this age, which is the outcome of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, actually is an age to be admired, then, to the Lords, and to the Lords alone, who guided and directed the fate of present England throughout its period of incubation, so to speak, is certainly due all the credit of the supposed wondrous changes.
It is not in the nature of a wise people to abandon or to resist their rulers, if they recognise that it is to their advantage to continue submissive and obedient. On the contrary, the natural inclination of the class which is immersed in the daily task and in the struggle for a competence which will enable it to enjoy its modest share of domestic comfort and pleasure, is to be enduring, long-suffering and patient, even under the harshest oppression, rather than to concern itself with matters which its best instincts tell it are beyond its highest powers.
It was with such a populace that the landed aristocracy of England had to deal for many a score of years, and yet, if we watch the gathering of the storm which, beginning in 1782, ultimately gave rise to the three Reform Bills of 1832, 1867 and 1885; if we contemplate the work of such agitators as Major Cartwright, Horne Tooke, William Cobbett, Henry Hunt, William Lovett, Henry Vincent, Hetherington, John Cleave, William Carpenter, etc., and if we remember the misery of the masses, the tyranny of such Institutions as the press-gang, and the constant introduction of all kinds of interested and untried institutions in their midst, in addition to all the other abuses of which I have given a selection in Chapter II, we cannot help acknowledging that the aristocracy of England failed hopelessly in its task.
Everything was in its favour the price of newspapers was prohibitive, a tax on paper checked the dangers of cheap knowledge, the orthodox Church was on its side, even the natural conservatism of the masses was a bulwark it knew how to use; and yet the whole movement of the people in England, from 1780 to 1911, can be said to have consisted of one long struggle to limit and restrict aristocratic power!
The Lords forgot that they could not have it both ways. They overlooked the fact that if they failed too long in protecting their charges the people these would find no
For, let it be remembered, and well understood, that one of the most vehement, determined and unflinching opponents of the Reform Bill of 1832, and the leader of the opposition in the House of Lords to the Reform Bill of 1867 and the Ballot Act of 1872, was none other than the noble-minded, generous and hard-working protector of the people, their wives and children the celebrated seventh Earl of Shaftesbury!
Why was this? To the average Englishman there will seem to be something incongruous, inconsistent and muddled in the atitude of this great Earl. Why stand in opposition to the so-called "rights of the people," if, at heart, you are in very truth a protector of the people?
As a matter of fact, there is nothing at all inconsistent about this attitude on the part of Shaftesbury. It was precisely because he knew himself able and ready to protect the people, and to guide and direct them, that he naturally resented the introduction of measures which not only would render him powerless to perform his beneficent functions, but would also transfer political power from those who, if they were made of the proper material, and were willing, could have wielded it for the general good, to those who, however much they tried, could not, under any circumstances whatever, wield it even for their own individual good.
For it is an empty and exploded illusion to suppose, as Bentham supposed, that "because each man sought his own happiness, the government of the majority would
Another protector of the people, a commoner, Mr. Michael Thomas Sadler, was also an uncompromising opponent of political freedom, and for exactly the same reasons; and, if we examine the names of those whom we find opposed to the social reforms patriarchally introduced by the Earl of Shaftesbury and Thomas Sadler, we shall not be surprised to find among them the very men who were most energetic in their advocacy of an extended franchise.
People like Gladstone and Cobden, who had not the faintest idea of what was meant by protecting the masses, or by genuine aristocratic rule, naturally opposed anything in the way of patriarchalism in order with clap-trap and tinselled oratory to introduce the absurd and hollow ideal of a self-ruled and self-guided nation!
And thus a whole century was wasted and squandered, and a whole Empire tricked and deluded. For, the real question, the burning question, the question that was shelved for over one hundred years, was, or ought to have been: "How could the rulers of the country be improved?" not "How could the common people be converted into rulers?"
But men like Gladstone, Cobden and even Bright, were too stupid to see this point, and men like Shaftesbury and Sadler were kept too busy by the wail of suffering arising all around them, to think of anything else than the redressing of evils, and the abolition of abuses as quickly as possible.
It is only now, after all the tumult and clamour of the
1 See The Rise of Democracy, by J. Holland Rose, p. 34.
2 See The Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, K.G., by Edwin Hodder, p. 14.
I shall now discuss as briefly as possible those essential factors in the maintenance of an aristocracy which either are or are not to be found observed in the organisation of the aristocracy constituting our House of Lords, and I shall make various suggestions as to the lines along which reforms, if they are to be undertaken, should be made.
I have said that the present aristocracy of England do not by any means represent what I understand by the best: let us now attempt to discover why this is so, and by what means matters could be altered.
In the first place, let me state it as one of the most incontrovertible facts of science and human experience, that there is extraordinarily little chance and accident in the production of great and exceptional men. Reibmayr, in a work that has been very helpful to me, 1 maintains, and I think proves, the proposition that "the appearance of a talented man, or a man of genius, is not to be ascribed to any phenomenon akin to blind chance." The two volumes of his study constitute a most able and learned discussion of this question, and show the extent to which a sound tradition is necessary, if not to ensure, at least to render likely, the production of exceptional men a conclusion to which the science of heredity is slowly but surely tending.
1 Die Entwicklungsgeschichte des Talentes und Genies, Vol. I, p. 3: "Zweifellos ist das Erscheinen eines Talentes und Genies keinen blinden Zufall unterworfen."
And if we turn to the English aristocracy, in particular, we find this principle carried to an absurdly dangerous extreme.
The production of a creature who is to be an example of flourishing life, involves four essential conditions: (1) Race; (2) Long, healthy and cultured tradition; (3) Rigorous discipline in early life, and (4) An optimum of conditions away from the vortex of a sordid struggle for existence.
Number four is the only one of these conditions which can with any justice be said to have been fulfilled in the life of the average English aristocrat; but, although it is important and indispensable, it is not in itself sufficient.
It is foolhardy and ridiculous to suppose that greatness will continue to show itself, generation after generation, if the very first conditions for its production are persistently scouted and ignored. As Reibmayr says, 1 even a shepherd would hesitate to take as a sheepdog an animal that had not all the innate qualities and training of that particular class of canine creatures, and yet for the most difficult of all arts, the art of ruling men, 2 people are selected and reared, almost at random and with the most frivolous carelessness imaginable.
You will tell me that the English aristocracy does not represent a class that is selected at random, and reared with a careless indifference to its ultimate purpose. I shall show you that it does to a very large extent.
To begin with, take the question of the internal discipline of the body itself. What sort of an organisation have the aristocracy of England evolved, among themselves, whereby they can exercise some powers of censure,
1 Die Entwicklungsgeschichte des Talentes und Genies, Vol. I, p. 143.
2 "Die schwierigste aller Künste, die Menschenbeherrschung."
Take the principle of primogeniture, for instance! If such an inner council of discipline, selection and criticism as I suggest, had ever existed within the body of the peerage, this very principle could have been made more elastic, less rigid and less inviolable. When it is a question of saving the prestige of a whole body of rulers, the elders of that body constituting its inner circle, might with the enormous majesty of their high functions, easily prevail upon one family, or even upon several families, to institute exceptions, to waive even a regular custom. For, although a sound tradition makes the likelihood of the appearance of hereditary characteristics very great, it does not ensure their appearance in the firstborn, 1 A selecting,
1 As an instance of this, think of the case of Pitt. Whatever one may say about the elder Pitt's qualities whether they were admirable or not they certainly did not descend to his first, but to his second son; and scores of similar instances could be given. Moses, Charles I and Richelieu, were all second sons, Napoleon and Nelson were both third sons, and Wellington was a fourth son.
And this is only one of the many possible ways in which such an inner council of discipline, selection and criticism might have acted for the general good, the general vitality, vigour and quality of the whole body of the peerage. Decline must be warded off; bad, inferior blood, must at all costs be kept out; a high standard must be maintained surely the need of being vigilant here, of being drastic and hypercritical here, ought not to be overlooked! But it has been overlooked nay, it has never even entered into the organisation of the British aristocracy!
And the fact that it was overlooked by previous aristocracies, constitutes one of the causes of their failure also. If with Professor Bury you trace the gradual transformation of the aristocracy of Athens into a timocracy, you will find that it was precisely because there was no attempt made to maintain such a standard as I mention apart from property and birth and no one to see that it was maintained, that the conversion of the aristocrat into a mere plutocrat was made so simple and so inevitable a process. 1 Because where birth and property alone constitute the qualifications for political power, and where no higher standard of fitness for rule is exacted, or striven after, mere wealth and property, by virtue of their being a much more tangible and more self-evident claim to power than mere birth, are bound in the end to establish their supremacy over the other qualifications. But mere wealth,
1 History of Greece (edit. 1900), pp. 173177.
Again, if we watch the rise and fall of the aristocratic Fujiwara family in Japan during the Heian Epoch (from the end of the eighth to the middle of the twelfth centuries), we find that their decline, at the close of this epoch, was due to the fact that, in the zenith of their greatness, they had foolishly made their hereditary tenure of power independent of all qualifications to exercise it, with the consequence that, after a number of generations, during which they admittedly produced many geniuses, "they had ultimately ceased to possess any qualifications whatever." In this way, when their privileges were challenged and usurped by the rising military clans of the provinces, they were as powerless to defend them as the ancient patriarchal families had been to defend theirs, at the time when the Fujiwara themselves had been the usurpers. 2
These military clans, however, whose highest types were the bushi or samurai, certainly did not follow the example of their predecessors in power, in so far as individual and co-operative discipline was concerned. On the contrary, as an aristocracy of warriors, their mutual supervision and chastening influence was of the severest order. We are told that a Japanese classic of the seventeenth century was able to lay down as a maxim that "it is impossible for an evil-hearted man to retain possession of a famous sword," 3 and in every respect the Bushi-Do, or the way of the warrior, seems to have been a way which was the very reverse of smooth and easy-going.
Truthfulness and the most unfailing and unremitting
1 History of Greece (edit. 1900), pp. 118 and 175.
2 See Japan, its History, Arts and Literature, by Captain F. Brinkley, Vols. I and II, Chaps. VI and VII and I respectively.
3 Ibid.,Vol. II, p. 150.
Captain Brinkley, speaking of the bushi's or samurai's morality, says: "This doctrine [of truthfulness 'for the sake of the spirit of uncompromising manliness'] gradually permeated society at large. In the seventeenth century, written security for a debt took the form not of the hypothecation of property, but of an avowal that failure to pay would be to forfeit the debtor's title of manhood." 2 To this extent are an aristocracy able, if they choose, to establish an ideal, and a lofty, practical course of conduct for a whole people! 3
The severity with which the virtues, the deeds and the beliefs of the ancient Brahmans were controlled and kept up to standard, by the religion with which their functions and privileges as aristocrats were connected, may be learned in the pages of Manu, and there can be no doubt that this severity afforded this Indian aristocracy a check against degeneration, without which it is difficult to conceive of any institution or body whatsover lasting very long after the death of its original founder.
In the same way the Holy Catholic Church has achieved relative permanence. For it is impossible to imagine that it could have lasted all this while, in spite of its many bad leaders, without a system which involved a rigorous discipline and control of the large body of its priesthood.
1 Brinkley, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 183: "The Bushi was essentially a stoic. He made self-control the ideal of his existence, and practised the courageous endurance of suffering so thoroughly that he could without hesitation inflict on his own body pain of the severest description.
2 Op. cit., Vol. II, p. 200.
3 See Aristotle, Politics, Book II, Chap. XI, 1,273a, b: "For what those who have the chief power regard as honourable will necessarily be the object which the citizens in general will aim at." A reflection for the leaders of modern society!
Finally, to turn once more to a people often mentioned with reverence in these pages that is to say, the ancient Egyptians; there can be no doubt that their sacerdotal
1 Democracy and Liberty, Vol. I, p. 354.
2 The terrible discipline exercised by the Inquisitori del Doge defunto in Venice, should also be remembered in this connection. "They were three in number," says Alethea Wiel, "and were to examine into the rule and administration of the late Doge, to see whether he had lived up to the promises made by him in his Promissione, and if in any case they found him wanting they would call upon his heirs to atone as far as possible for the shortcomings laid against him." See Venice, by Alethea Wiel, p. 155. For a similar custom in Egypt, see Wilkinson, op. cit., Vol. III, pp. 453454.
Such results are not attained over a long period of time without the strictest and most untiring control being exercised over the elements constituting the aristocratic body; and, indeed, if we inquire into the matter, we find that the severest rules governed their mode of life, both as private and public men. They were austere in their outlook on life, abstemious in their habits, guarded and dignified in their behaviour; carefully avoiding all excesses, and paying the most scrupulous "attention to the most trifling particulars of diet." 2 They were, moreover, extraordinarily careful of their bodies and of their raiment; observed the strictest rules of cleanliness, and their fasts, some of which lasted from seven to forty-two days, were a constant exercise in self-control and self denial. For during these fasts, not only were certain foods forbidden, but all indulgence of the passions was absolutely prohibited. Nothing, in fact, was neglected, nothing forgotten, which tended not only to rear rulers, but to maintain them up to a given standard of excellence.
And now, if we look back upon the hundred and fifty years, or thereabouts, during which the aristocracy of England had the greatest opportunity for good and for power, of any aristocracy that has ever attempted to assert its sway over a people, do we see any approach to this element in the organisation of this body? We see nothing of the sort! We see rivalry, indeed, and bitter animosity and hatred, between different political groups; we see an assumption of virtuous indignation on the part of one
1 Op. cit., Vol. I, p. 178.
2 Ibid., p. 179. [The italics are mine. A. M. L.]
It would seem to be a first principle, therefore, of all aristocratic government, that the aristocrats themselves should exercise some powers of selection, censure, criticism, emulation, discipline and chastisement over each other; and any aristocracy that aspired to be relatively permanent, would sooner or later find it absolutely necessary to evolve some such controlling power within its own body.
Only a deep, solemn and almost religious sense of the great and sacred things that were at stake for the nation at large and for the aristocracy itself, could, however, render such an inner council at all practicable, or compel those who came before it to accept its judgment with reverence and submission. The fact, however, that such powers have been exercised in the world before, and that kindred powers are still exercised within the central controlling bodies of all great armies and navies, shows conclusively that they are not only necessary but eminently practical.
The absence of any such feature from the aristocratic organisation of England, shows the happy-go-lucky, careless and foolhardy fashion, in which great possibilities, great expectations and almost fabulous potentialities for good, have been deliberately allowed to slip the grasp of the most favoured body of men in this kingdom for the last two centuries.
This question brings me to the much disputed problem of heredity, which we shall now face; but before plunging into this labyrinth of controversy, let me first call attention to one of the hitherto neglected aspects of the question.
A very valuable and interesting fact to grasp in this matter is, that the enormous stress which is at present laid upon the one problematic and debatable question of heredity in rulers, as affecting the destiny of nations or institutions, owes more than half its force and relevancy only to the chaotic and disintegrated nature of our social system.
When you find so much importance attached to the inheritance of particular human qualities by individuals in the position of power, you will probably be very wide indeed of the mark, if you do not also suspect an unstable and fluid condition of the laws and customs prevailing in that part of the world where this particular attitude towards hereditary political rule obtains.
For wherever laws and customs are not fluid, and are not in a state of very unstable equilibrium; where, moreover, a whole people are led, and have been led for generations, by one general aspiration and idea, and where customs and laws have endured so long and satisfactorily as to have reared almost instinctive co-operative and harmonious action in a nation, the mere accident of personality in thereat of power, though important, is by no means so vital a consideration in actual practice as it would seem to be at first sight.
All great social systems, all great hierarchies and cultures, based upon the solid bedrock of the inveterate habits and impulses of a people, have been able to survive temporary unfortunate lapses on the part of the law of heredity. If they could not have done so, they would have been unworthy of the name of a social system, a hierarchy or a culture, as we understand it. I do not mean to suggest
I would like to repeat that I do not underrate the importance, nay, the essential need of a high traditional standard in the seat of power truth to tell, the whole of my book reveals the importance I attach to this need but I merely point out that all the frantic stress now laid upon
Thus all aristocracy may regard itself as hopelessly insecure and ephemeral, where the people over which it rules are not led, guided and inspired by one general idea which animates all their hopes and plans, colours all their deeds and endeavours and kindles all their passions and desires; where they are not governed by the same inviolable values that permeate all their loves and hates, all their virtues and vices, and all their domestic and public manners, 1 and where there are no superior minds to give them what even John Stuart Mill of all people! acknowledged they could not discover or create for themselves, namely, "the initiation of all wise or noble things."
For, as he says, they could never "rise above mediocrity" 2 except in so far as they" let themselves be guided (which in their best times they have always done) by the
1 See Aristotle, Politics, Book II, Chap. VII, 1,266b: "For it is. more important that the citizens should entertain a similarity of sentiments than an equality of circumstances." See also Lecky: "All real progress, all sound national development, must grow out of a stable, persistent national character, deeply influenced by custom and precedent and old traditional reverence." Democracy and Liberty, Vol. I, p. 127.
2 This, of course, is Mill's own expression, and I need hardly say that I heartily disapprove of it. For there is absolutely no need for them "to rise above mediocrity." There is nothing disreputable in mediocrity as such. Mediocrity simply wants to be preserved against its own mistakes; it does not want to rise above itself the idea is absurd and romantic! All it requires is to have its lack of taste and judgment supplemented from on high. In this sense what Mill says has some meaning for me.
I shall now attempt to deal with the question of heredity and in all my observations upon it I will take for granted the conclusions drawn in Chapter VII; while here and there many statements left inadequately supported in that chapter will find scientific confirmation.
There is no doubt that the general consensus of opinion among all wise men and races, has always been that although the offspring of the same parents can show huge divergences, and can differ as individuals sometimes to an enormous extent, from their progenitors as individuals, the total sum of qualities distributed among a single family of children will always be found to be stock qualities or family qualities, appearing in a lesser or greater degree of intensity in each individual child. By stock I mean the whole family with its main and collateral branches.
In the history of a family, the changing opportunities offered by its fluctuating fortunes, may occasionally blind us to this general resemblance, and seem to pick one out of the rest of a single generation or line, so as to make him appear utterly different from and unrelated to the rest; but if we look into the matter more closely, we shall find that it is more frequently a difference of degree rather than of kind which has caused the salient distinction, and often a difference of degree which is smaller than we might at first expect.
If we can recognise a general resemblance of features between the members of a whole stock as we usually can it is ridiculous to suppose that a correlated similarity of
1 The paragraph continues: "The initiation of all wise or noble things comes and must come from individuals; generally at first from some one individual. The honour and glory of the average man is that he incapable of following that initiative; that he can respond internally to wise and noble things, and be led to them with his eyes open." This from the democrat Mill! (On Liberty, Chapter: "The Elements of Well-being").
What has made the law of heredity so difficult to uphold and so apparently easy to refute, especially in respect to the families of geniuses, artists, high-born aristocrats and other great men, is that, as a rule, their families are so absurdly small that the necessary quantum of chances allowed for a fair series of possible combinations of parental and stock features to be born is never reached, with the all too frequent result that various combinations of the stock features alone appear, twice, thrice, or sometimes four times, and then no more children are born. With the law of primogeniture, especially among the aristocracy, this evil is intensified; for, apart from the fact that there is nothing in the law of heredity to guarantee that the firstborn will necessarily be the child who will have most of the parental qualities, there is not necessarily any inducement to continue adding to the family for long after the first or perhaps the second son's birth.
Thus the Royal Psalmist, who said, "Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them" [children], uttered a very much more profound truth than most people imagine. For, in the light of the desire to transmit a great tradition, a quiverful of children certainly provides a much better chance of achieving this end than one, two or three. 1
This is a fact upon which sufficient stress is never laid in discussions upon heredity. Here in England we have got firmly fixed in our minds the two notions primogeniture and heredity. Again and again, though not always of course, we have seen that heredity seems to fail, and we
1 The very lavishness of Nature's provision in the matter of germ cells lends colour to this contention.
The sort of arguments usually advanced by those who question the general fact of heredity are of the following kind: They say that Marcus Aurelius, who was one of the greatest of the Roman Emperors, had a worthless and dissolute son, the notorious Commodus; that Napoleon the great general, thinker, statesman and man of power had an insignificant nincompoop like the Duke of Reichstadt for heir; that Goethe, one of the greatest geniuses the world has ever seen, had in August Goethe a son utterly unworthy of his father; or that Louis XIII, the weak tool of Richelieu, was the son of Henry IV, surnamed the Great. 1
All these statements are very true; but, as arguments against the general fact of heredity, they are utterly ridiculous.
Apart from the fact that such cases as Hannibal, the worthy son of Hamilcar; Alexander, the worthy son of Philip of Macedon; Titus, the worthy son of Vespasian; and a host of others, including such modern men as Dumas Fils, the brilliant son of Alexandre Dumas; and John Stuart, the worthy son of James Mill; may be quoted against a list like the preceding one, the circumstance that should always be borne in mind when dealing with a law so complicated as that of heredity, is that these sons, Commodus, the Duke of Reichstadt and August Goethe, were the only legitimate sons of their respective fathers. Now it is known everybody knows that the happiest combination of two parents' qualities, or even the happiest replica of a single parent, does not necessarily appear first among the children of every family. As I said above, "it is necessary that a certain quantum of chances should be
1 Sometimes they add to this list the son of Luther, who is said to have been violent and insubordinate. But surely this is the best proof of heredity one could have. Was not Luther himself a revolutionary, and violent and insubordinate towards the Church of Rome?
Do the people who advance such arguments as these bear in mind that if the families of Charles Darwin, the Earl of Chatham, Handel, Machiavelli, Cavour, Sebastian Bach, Disraeli, Rembrandt, Rubens, Wagner, Emily Brontë, Bacon, Boileau, William Pitt the younger, Moses, Cæsar Borgia, Charles I, Richelieu, Napoleon, Nelson, Wellington, Beethoven, Shakespeare and a host of others, had consisted only of one child, those eminent people whom I have just mentioned would never have been seen. Are these people aware, moreover, that if Darwin's father had been contented with three children, the great naturalist would never have been born; that if Wellington's and Rembrandt's fathers had been content with three sons, the victor of Waterloo and the painter of the Night Watch would never have been born; that if Edmund Nelson and Bonaparte's father had been content with two sons, neither Napoleon nor Nelson would ever have been born? not to speak of Joseph, Boileau and Bacon who, if their fathers had been satisfied with five or more sons would also never have been heard of!
It is idle to question the general fact of heredity from the evidence of small families. For, the above instances ought to suffice to show us that the happiest combination of parental, or stock qualities, are by no means certain to appear in the first, or in the second, or even in the third born.
That is why, I repeat, the Royal Psalmist's maxim was deeper and truer than most people think; and, in order to carry on a great tradition, in order even to have an ordi-
I am fully aware of the vast number of eminent people who have been first or only sons: Velasquez, Hobbes, Bolingbroke, Hawke, Meredith, Matthew Arnold, Isaac Newton, Julius Cæsar, Alexander, Gibbon, Milton, Dr. Johnson, Shelley, Bismarck, Columbus, Heine, Goethe, Colbert, Corneille, Molière, Nietzsche, etc., etc. But, as I have already said (on p. 341), all the circumstances being favourable, a first son is likely, as the Jehovah of the Old Testament put it, to be the "beginning" of his parent's "strength." Nevertheless I have also shown how elastic this rule was made, both by Isaac and Jacob, who thus established a precedent for allowing the full force of the law of heredity to operate in the families of their people. Jacob's favourite, for instance, is not Reuben, his firstborn, but Joseph, who ultimately proved himself to be the most distinguished of the sons of Jacob. 1
As I say, I am fully aware of the vast number of eminent men who have been first or only sons; and in view of the relatively small families reared by the majority of men, it is fortunate for mankind that the percentage of great men who are of the firstborn should be so large. This, however, is only one proof the more of the general reliability of the law of heredity; for it shows that there is at least a slight natural bias in favour of early happy combinations.
To allow the law the greatest possible number of chances of operating, however, remains the soundest principle in practice, and any custom 2 or social condition which
1 This fact rather shows how competent Jacob must have been as a judge of men, and explains the wonderful submission which was shown when he deliberately placed Ephraim above Manasseh, although Manasseh was the elder (see Gen. xlviii).
2 This reminds me of a passage in one of Darwin's letters to J. D. Hooker. Writing on January 25, 1862, Darwin said: "I have sometimes speculated on this subject; primogeniture is dreadfully opposed to selection; suppose the firstborn bull was necessarily made by each farmer
Save when it is thwarted, therefore, the law of heredity may be regarded as the most reliable for all practical purposes that could be found; and this view has generally been in agreement with the consensus of wise opinion on the subject in healthy times.
I have shown in sufficient detail what the ancients thought upon the question of heredity. It is evident from the elaborate precautions they took, both as races arid castes, to preserve a type pure, once it had been attained, that experience must have told them that which science now generally takes for granted, viz.: "That the present is the child of the past, that our start in life is no haphazard affair, but is rigorously determined by our parentage and ancestry; that all kinds of inborn characteristics may be transmitted from generation to generation." 1
"In short," as Professor Thomson concludes, "the fundamental importance of inheritance was long ago demonstrated up to the hilt." 2
But behind the usual modern arguments against heredity there is an element far more profound and far more irresistible than mere foolishness. There is the fundamental dislike and distrust which all democrats feel towards all distinctions and differentiations between one man and another. Under the growing influence of democratic ideas; with the spread of the doctrine of universal human equality, a certain prejudice has grown up against the old and well-established habit of attaching importance to birth, to blood, and to pedigree in men. As Reibmayr says: "People nowadays attach more importance to the pedigrees of domestic animals than to the pedigrees of
the begetter of his stock!" Life and Letters of C. Darwin, Vol. II, p. 385.
1 Professor Thomson, Heredity, p. 9.
There is something less humiliating to the low-minded man in thinking that inequality of environmental conditions rather than the fundamental inequality of man is a paramount factor here. And when he is faced by such cases as Commodus, August Goethe, the Duke of Reichstadt and Louis XIII, he much prefers to think that there can be nothing really true about this boasted claim of superior stock, rather than to suppose that although the probabilities undoubtedly were all in favour of Henry IV of France, of Goethe, of Marcus Aurelius and of Napoleon having one, two, or even more superior men as sons, they either did not give the law of heredity a sufficient number of chances to hit the happy combination which they would have been quite justified in expecting, or else their mates were too great a disturbing influence.
And this brings me to another aspect of the modern prejudices against the heredity principle an aspect upon which Th. Ribot rightly lays some stress, without, however, drawing my ultimate conclusions from it.
The appearance of the above-mentioned men Louis XIII, August Goethe, Commodus and the Duke of Reichstadt, is susceptible to two explanations, or to a blend of the two. Up to the present I have only suggested one the likelihood of their having been unhappy combinations
1 Inzucht und Vermischung, p. 82 (note).
2 Lombroso's book, The Man of Genius, in which the author attempts to show that all genius is insanity or degeneration, was a masterpiece of democratic insolence. But its tremendous success shows the eagerness and enthusiasm with which people were ready to receive a scientific consolation for being mediocre. "We are mediocre, it is true," the middling people of a democratic age were able to say; "but at least we are not mad."
This factor, the choice of a mate, in the case of a man who has a valuable tradition to transmit, or in the case of every man for that matter, is a most important and most vital concern. How can we tell now to what extent the mother, and not merely an unfortunate shuffling of the stock's and the father's qualities, was responsible for Pericles' foolish sons Paxalos, Xantippos and Clinias; or for Aristippos's infamous son Lysimachus, or for Thucydides' poorly gifted offspring, Milesias and Stephanos? How can we tell that the mother was not behind the unworthy sons of Sophocles, Aristarchos and Themistocles? 2
Nothing could be more far-reaching, more serious in its consequences than this matter of choosing a mate more particularly when great issues depend upon it, as they generally do in royal lines, in aristocracies, and in all families in which there is something worth preserving, worth enhancing or intensifying.
Take the case of Dante, for instance. From his first wife, Dante's father, Alighiero, had a son Francesco, over whom the breath of centuries has passed in silence; but with his second wife, Donna Bella, he had Dante. I do not mean to suggest that in his second marriage Alighiero exercised more conscious discrimination than in his first; but certainly he must have exercised better taste unconsciously. Again, in the case of the Czar Alexei, his second wife must certainly have been selected with finer discrimination than his first, for, by the latter he had two sons, one delicate and the other weak-minded; while by the second he had Peter the Great. And the same observations apply both to Bacon's father and to Boileau's. We hear no mention of the three sons who were born to Bacon's father
1 l'Héredité Psychologique (Paris, 1882), p. 230.
2 See Ribot, op. cit., 229230.
These four cases are interesting as showing how the same father can have a son of great or of mediocre gifts, according to his choice of a wife; and when, as in the case of Boileau, we find all three children by the second wife showing some distinction, we realise that Boileau himself cannot be explained as a mere "sport" or "mutation."
When we think of the great issues depending upon a man's choice of a mate, it seems ridiculous that this matter should so frequently have been taken so lightly, and continues to be taken so lightly by some.
Take the case of Henry IV of France! What curse, what damnable evil genius, cast its fatal spell over this man in order that, after ridding himself of Marguerite de Valois, he should turn his eyes towards Marie de Medici? Who knows, who can reckon, the incalculable loss that was suffered not only by France but also by England, as the result of that accursed second match! Think of the situation!
France was being ruled wisely, ably, justly and beneficently; her most trusted servant under the King was the great Sully himself. Even if Henry IV had died as prematurely as he actually did, after having married a better wife than Marie de Medici, at least the chances were that his great example would have been ably followed during the regency, his sons would have been greater men, and the Revolution, comparatively so near, might never have occurred, might never have been provoked!
1 The two elder brothers of Boileau were also very gifted. Gilles, who was for some time a court official, became a member of the French Academy, and Jacques was a learned priest.
2 Händel was also a second son of a second marriage, his father, George Frederick Händel, having already had by his first wife, Anna Oettinger, six children of whom the world has never heard.
But as the accursed luck of England and France would have it, Henry IV was deeply indebted to the Medici family. He did not particularly care for Marie de Medici, or want her, although her portrait did not displease him.
But, in view of his huge indebtedness to the Florentine magnates, it was thought that it would be a reasonable, judicious, expedient marriage. In this way the commercial and banking profits of these Italian plutocrats became the price of the order and good government of both France and England, and Henry IV married a woman whom he never liked, with whom he was constantly quarrelling, and who was a thousand times uglier and less attractive than her portrait. And thus this weak, violent, intriguing, obstinate woman, arrogant and servile by turns, according to her fortunes, and possessing but one quality which
And this is but one example in a thousand. If it were possible to know the secret history of all European aristocracies, it would be simply one example in a million.
Listen to these words of Karl Pearson! "Looked at from the social standpoint we can see how exceptional families, by careful marriages, can within even a few generations obtain an exceptional stock, and how directly this suggests assortive mating as a moral duty for the highly endowed. 1 On the other hand, the exceptionally degenerate, isolated in the slums of our modern cities, can easily produce permanent stock also: a stock which no change of environment will permanently elevate, and -which nothing but mixture with better blood will improve. 1 But this is an improvement of the bad by a social waste of the better." 2
This is all obvious, self-evident, trite! Moses knew it, the ancient Egyptians knew it, the ancient Hindus knew it, the Greeks at their zenith knew it, and so did the Romans. But in our times we. have to be told these things afresh, at the cost of tremendous pains and infinite patience, by a power called Science, which every day gets to look more and more like a gigantic unwieldy and inadequate substitute for the things that men, unguided by superior taste, are liable to forget.
Now, what is meant precisely by "assortive mating" from my point of view? It is obvious that if, as ought always to be the case, the object to be attained is the consolidation of character the fixing or enhancing of a certain will, of distinct virtues and of a particular kind of beauty assortive mating means simply the deliberate selection of mates who in their tradition, their aspirations and their class are as much like yourself as possible. Then
1 [The italics are mine. A. M. L.]
2 The Grammar of Science, 2nd edition, 1900, p. 486.
The proud, tasteful man who is conscious of his possessions in instinct, will, virtue and beauty, who is aware how much of them he owes to his ancestors and how much to his own individual efforts and self-discipline, and who, therefore, wishes to preserve them and if possible to fix them, is intuitively disinclined, unless he be prevented by democratic or romantic notions, to marry some one who is not his like; because he feels that there his instincts, his virtues, his will and his beauty, instead of being preserved, will be diluted, thwarted, decimated, crossed!
If he can, he will, as far as possible, marry within his family; for it is there, as a rule, that he is most certain of finding his like. If he fails to find his mate in his own family, he will turn his attention to the select circle of his nearest friends; and if he fail again, he will at least try to keep within his class. For if a whole class has for many generations pursued the same aims and shared the same traditions, a man may often run just as good, and sometimes a better, chance of finding his like in his class than in his family.
In this way character is built up and fixed, and beauty is attained, and generations are produced even in the lower classes which, if not necessarily capable of ordering things themselves, are at least amenable to and fond of order.
I shall now suggest two reasons why the democrat and a democratic age are opposed to the kind of assertive mating described above.
(1) Concurrently with the decline of really superior men of the specimens of flourishing life, as I call them through the neglect of the principles which rear such men, there has also taken place a decline in that element of taste whereby ill-health and degeneracy are warded off and eliminated. And the inevitable consequence has been that both ill-health and degeneracy have seized a fast hold
Together with this general sickness which, as I have already shown, is largely the outcome of democracy and democratic conditions, there has developed a concomitant and very natural dread of marrying one's like, and more particularly a relative. "The idea that the marriage of near kin," says Professor Thomson, "is a cause of degeneracy seems to be relatively modern." 1 Certainly it is modern! But it is obvious why it should be modern. Democracy finds itself in a vicious circle. It is sick for the want of proper guidance. 2 The only thing that rears character and produces specimens of flourishing life, however, is inbreeding; while that which causes the disintegration of will and character is persistent cross-breeding. But, inbreeding multiplies disease wherever it is present, and intensifies a taint. Ergo: the only kind of mating that sick democratic conditions allow the choice of a mate as remotely different from yourself as possible simply increases the democratic diseases, lack of character and weakness of will.
Mr. George Darwin has argued very powerfully in favour of the view that consanguineous marriages are not in themselves causes of degeneracy, 3 and Professor Thomson,
1 Op. cit., p. 391.
2 To those who may rightly point out that long before a democracy was established in England, this country had already been made sick for want of proper guidance, I reply, not only that their contention is perfectly correct, but also that they should remember how, in times when the rulers of a country however aristocratic their claims may be are not true aristocrats as defined in this book, the same conditions prevail as in a democracy, i.e. good taste is not the guiding power.
3 See a paper read before the Statistical Society, March 16, 1875, on
I have referred to the Incas and to the Egyptians; but Professor Thomson provides us with two modern instances the Norfolk Islanders and the people of Batz on the lower Loire among whom, he says, close inbreeding has not been followed by ill-effects. 2
But he argues, just as the ancients would have argued: "It seems equally certain that, if there be any morbid idiosyncrasy, close inbreeding tends to perpetuate and augment this." 3
All of which simply confirms some of my conclusions in Chapter VII.
Thus the natural prejudice of the democrat against the idea that there can be anything worth preserving pure by a marriage with his like, or with the closest approximation to his like, is seen to be simply the self preservative bias of a sick man. It is, in fact, a symptom of sickness. And it is curious to note how this sick prejudice against a first or second cousin has grown into a general prejudice against one's like.
You hear people talking foolishly and romantically nowadays about the desirability of marrying one's complement, one's opposite, one's other extreme! A pseudo-scientific maxim is hawked about in the guise of wisdom, and people repeat mechanically that nature is always seeking to establish a steady level, hence the marriage of tall
"Marriages between First Cousins in England and their Effects," in which, on p. 172, the author concludes, "there is no evidence whatever of any ill results accruing to the offspring in consequence of the cousinship of their parents."
1 Op. cit., p. 391.
2 Op. cit., p. 391.
3 Ibid. See also p. 392: "It goes without saying that if there is a diseased stock, or rather a stock with an hereditary predisposition to disease to start with, then the evil results of inbreeding will soon be evident." Of course bad, like good, qualities are intensified by endogamy!
And this brings me to the second reason why the democrat and a democratic age are necessarily opposed to the kind of assertive mating described above, in which it is sought to preserve, intensify or fix instincts, will, virtues and beauty.
(2) I have shown in Chapter VII what I mean by instinct, will, virtue and beauty. Now it must be obvious that if strong, desirable character, which is the sum of all these, is to be preserved, indiscriminate cross-breeding between nations and classes must not be allowed to go on persistently. But this is precisely what is allowed nay, abetted in democratic times, under the belief in the equality of all men.
What happens then? Instinct, will, virtue and beauty gradually decline, and ultimately disappear. Nobody is deeply, proudly, almost religiously conscious of possessing something or having acquired something during his lifetime which is worthy of preservation and perpetuation in his family line. Things are even worse than this. There is scarcely a man to-day who does not believe that it is his duty in mating to choose a creature utterly different from himself, so great is his inner and often unconscious self-contempt. Having no real pride either in his will, his instincts, his virtues or his beauty, he feels intuitively
Confusion thus rapidly multiplies; everybody becomes a coil of petty conflicting motives, desires, likes and dislikes, prejudices and prepossessions, diluted vices and diluted virtues; and weakness, doubt, discontent and sorrow begin to take up their permanent headquarters in the hearts of men and women. Nobody knows what he wants, nobody has any fixed belief, nobody is capable of any permanent sentiment or passion, and nobody is capable of steadfastness or staunchness and constancy in. matters of principle. For in order to have an aim, a conviction, a cheerful trustfulness in life, and permanent passion or sentiment and steadfastness or staunchness in matters of principle virtues, instincts above all, and will are necessary and indispensable.
We must, therefore, take no notice of a violent prejudice against the idea of "blood" and of its preservation in modern times, even when the prejudice dons a scientific garb; because it is only a symptom of a state of degeneracy already becoming an intuitive guide to conduct.
It is known that persistent cross-breeding among the lower animals will make cultivated types ultimately return in looks and habits to the type of their original ancestors Darwin's experiments with pigeons proved this. Now is it not perhaps possible that the present lack of culture, the present worship of Nature and of the immature, may have a similar cause? The prevalent bias in favour of pure unhandseled Nature, free from the hand of man, the prevalent bias in favour of all that is primitive, free and uncultured, might be the inevitable outcome of such a long mixture of men that in the very heart of big cities, nowadays, true barbarians are being produced whose only modern characteristic is the cowardice and weakness necessarily associated with the poor physique they derive from
To sum up, then, there are three reasons why the claim of distinction, and of the duty to maintain it, are hateful to the modern man
(1) Because, with his belief in the equality of all men, he is suspicious and intolerant of all distinctions.
(2) Because he is sick, and can save himself only by seeking a mate different from himself.
(3) Because, having nothing to preserve, 1 and feeling that his characteristics require correcting rather than intensifying, he seeks his opposite rather than his like.
There remains one aspect of the question of heredity which now requires to be elucidated. I refer to what is called the transmission of characteristics acquired in a single generation, or in the lifetime of a single individual.
It would be more than presumptuous on my part to pretend in this book that I am able to make any dogmatic or categorical statement concerning a matter which, if modern scientists are to be believed, is so exceedingly problematic. But perhaps the little I have to say on the subject will not be without interest.
Proved, or not proved, the transmission of acquired characteristics is not nearly so important to the advocate of the hereditary principle in great families or great classes as is that pre-disposition to acquire good characteristics which finds its root in the inborn virtues and instincts of a good family or caste.
Nevertheless, since the cumulative result of the transmission of acquired characteristics would prove, in the
1 It should be remembered that even if a man to-day have anything to preserve either in virtue, will, or beauty, the very values prevalent about him are so opposed to the idea of his preserving them in the proper way that when he comes to think about marrying the consciousness of their possession alone will frequently be an insufficient ground for his acting contrary to the strong prejudice of his age.
Defining an acquired characteristic as a quality which has become the possession of one individual or one generation, alone, and the very latest and most recent feature of that individual or generation, it will readily be understood how easily such a possession will yield before the prepotency of earlier and more long-established qualities in the type, and what a small chance it has of contending with success against these for a place in the offspring of the individual.
Just as a highly cultured and inbred type with a long pedigree is prepotent when crossed with a less cultivated type, owing, apparently, to the strength garnered through long tradition, 1 so, too, it seems obvious that the older and more long-established qualities of a stock must be prepotent as against the more recently acquired qualities.
Example: A young man whose family has been in commerce for five generations may, owing to sudden extraordinary prosperity, find himself able to study art, or literature, or music, as an amateur, and even to attain to some proficiency in one of these pursuits. As an individual who has acquired this new feature during his lifetime, however, it is obviously very doubtful whether he will be able to transmit this newly acquired attribute to his offspring. The older tendencies, rooted more deeply in his ancestral line, will certainly stand a better chance of being transmitted.
This is simply common sense, and by experiments on yourself you can even gauge the different strengths of your acquired characteristics themselves.
Take, for instance, the gift of speech everybody is born with that, for it is simply the potentiality of being able to express one's needs, one's emotions, one's feelings by articulations. A baby and a deaf child articulate. But
1 For confirmation of this see Professor J. A. Thomson, op. cit., pp. 113116 and 138.
One of the baby's first acquired characteristics, therefore, will be the particular form given to his power of articulating, or to his powers of speech. And if he is English, that form will be the English form. If, later in life, however, that baby, now a youth of fourteen, learn French very well indeed, his power of speech will then have been given two forms.
Now, suppose he is exiled to Germany or to Sweden for the rest of his life, after his acquisition of French which acquired form of speech will he be likely to lose first? Obviously the French form, because the other will have taken firmer root, and will have been in his possession for a much longer period of time.
What is true of the individual here, I imagine, is also true of the race. The more recent acquisitions, owing to their being less deeply and less firmly rooted in the ganglia of the body, are not nearly so readily or so easily retained as the older and more traditional qualities.
This fact, I believe, is the cause of a good deal of the doubt which has been cast upon the possibility of acquired characteristics being transmitted.
To argue from this fact, however, that acquired characteristics are not transmitted seems to me to be the height of unscientific and excessive caution. Naturally, the very circumstances of the case would render the slight modification caused by an acquired characteristic a very difficult feature to trace among all the stronger and older characteristics in the offspring. But to say that no transmission ever occurs, simply because frequently it is for all practical purposes invisible, or because, often, it actually does not occur, is surely ridiculous.
Moreover, when one sins here, by affirming the fact of the transmission of acquired characteristics, it should be remembered that one is doing so in excellent company.
What are the strongest arguments brought against the position of those who claim that acquired characteristics are transmitted?
They are most of them based on the most absurd and most hopelessly senseless experiments which could possibly be imagined experiments which are a disgrace both to science and to the modern scientist alike.
Remember that you have in the average highly organised animal whether a frog or a French poodle a creature of a very superior grade of sensitiveness, of nervous energy, power and control. Any experiments made upon such a creature with the view of discovering the extent to which acquired characteristics are transmitted ought surely to have reckoned with this nervous system, which is a system of control and of memory as well as of communication.
When one remembers that the mere expectation of his meal by a dog will cause his gastric juices to flow as if food were in his mouth; and when, moreover, the intimate relationship of function to instinct, or organ to mental attitude, and of member to mental idiosyncrasy, is thoroughly grasped, it is obviously preposterous to question the nervous control of our highly organised animals in short, it is unscientific to forget the spirit.
And yet the average naturalist, setting about the task of discovering whether acquired characteristics are transmitted, began by cutting off rats' tails, docking ears and generally mutilating unfortunate animals' bodies in every conceivable way, and then setting them to breed to see whether they would produce maimed offspring!
The veriest dolt could have told beforehand that such experiments were absolutely futile and inconclusive. Because that which results from a vis major, descending unexpectedly in the form of an outside, unknown cause upon an animal's body, can have no possible relation to the inner workings of that body, or to the causes which
This is not the way animals lose their parts. An animal's body knows nothing about knives or about amputations. How could the repetition of its controlling nervous system in its offspring repeat an experiment it knows nothing at all about save that a vis major appeared one day, and that thenceforward it had no tail?
Watch the way animals tadpoles, for instance gradually lose their parts, either tails or gills, or fins or what-not, and you will find that the process has nothing whatever to do with knives. But the way in which a tadpole loses its tail is understood by Nature, and on those lines Nature can work.
The correlation of will and instinct to part should not be overlooked, especially by naturalists. The correlation of will to part is intimate, it is certainly incomprehensible; some have declared that it is creative. But at all events any forcible extirpation of a part will not create another will in the individual which is capable of turning a tailed race into a tailless race.
The argument that acquired characteristics are not transmitted because mutilations are not transmitted is, therefore, as utterly insane as any argument possibly could be, and none but supinely mechanical minds could ever have dreamt of such experiments as a test of transmission.
The next argument is that no mechanism, is known by which acquired characteristics can be transmitted. According to Weismann the germ plasm is quite independent of the soma or body, and is unaffected by the latter's vicissitudes; or if it be claimed that it is affected by the
The fact, however, that the only experiments which have shown the smallest measure of success have been carried out on the nerves and not on the muscles of animals proves that the nearer you get to that seat of control which consists of the instinct-saturated ganglia, 3 the more likely you are to make a deep-rooted and permanent impression upon the parent animal, and therefore upon the offspring. Because the ganglia know how to lose things or grow things. They are the storehouse of the race-memory. It is they who generalise from experience, and who organise and control accordingly. Touch them, through their members, the nerves, and you are very near the directing force of the whole animal.
In this way, in modifications of the ganglia, in modifica-
1 See Professor J. A. Thomson, op. cit., p. 200.
2 Ibid., p. 201.
3 Ibid., p. 168: "It is hard to find evidence of the power of the personal structure to react upon sexual elements that is not open to serious objections. That which appears most trustworthy lies almost wholly in the direction of nerve-changes, as shown by the inherited habits of lameness, pointing in dogs, and the results of Dr. Brown-Séquard's experiments on guinea-pigs."
See the shifts to which scientists are driven who, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, still maintain that acquired characteristics are not transmissible, even in their cumulative results. Professors Mark Baldwin, Lloyd Morgan and H. F. Osborn suggest that "adaptive modifications may act as the fostering nurses of germinal variations in the same direction." 1
What need is there of these roundabout explanations, depending upon chance for their existence, when we know that, though the process is often an invisible one in its initial stages, persistently acquired characteristics all of a like nature do in the end produce tangible results? Surely all culture, all rapid advance or decline in any direction, involves a process more reliable and more certain in its action than the mere chance production of germinal variations of a similar nature to the -acquired characters. But, in any case, where is the advantage of substituting an accidental and unaccountable process here for an orderly and accountable one? As Reibmayr points out, "the speed with which the culture of a nation develops depends to a very great extent upon the transmissibility of acquired characters." 2 However much the course of evolution, which has no set plan, may have been determined by spontaneous mutations, surely it seems a little far-fetched to explain the course traversed by a developing culture
1 Professor J. A. Thomson, op. cit., p. 243.
2 Inzucht und Vermischung, p. 6.
Taking it all in all, the statements of the two Professors, V. A. S. Walton and L. Doncaster, sum up the question exceedingly well for the scientific school, and show how great is the uncertainty still reigning in this department of biology. The former says: "To sum up the main argument, it must be said that there is some presumptive evidence in favour of the inheritance of acquired characteristics, but that direct experiments have given positive results of only. the most meagre and inconclusive kinds." 1
We know what these experiments have been, for the most part; and is it not possible that even the best experiments have been carried out with too sanguine expectations? Seeing, as I said at the opening of the inquiry on the subject, that all acquired characteristics are recent and short-rooted, and therefore, that they must yield to the older and more traditionally established characteristics in the order of precedence, is it not obvious that any trace of them in the first generation must be very faint, however considerable and unmistakable their cumulative effect may be?
Doncaster writes as follows: "The tendency of biological thought is towards a recognition of the unity of the organism as a whole, including its germ-cells, and especially where the organism adapts itself to change, it seems possible that this adaptation is transmissible. The belief that somatic changes could not be transmitted rests largely on the idea that every character is determined by a factor or determinant in the germ-cell, but it is clear that any character is not developed directly from the
1 Heredity (T. C. and E. C. Jack), p. 42.
This shows which way the wind is blowing in the world of science, and I have no doubt that, one day, biologists will return as resolutely to Darwin's and Spencer's belief in the transmission of acquired characteristics, as they turned against it under the influence of Weismann. But with good reason they will probably maintain, as I maintain, that it is absurd to expect the same conspicuous and unmistakable evidence of the transmission of acquired characteristics, as of the transmission of racial and long-established ones, because the former, being so recent and so lightly and shallowly rooted in the parent nature, can make but the faintest modification in the offspring, and can be detected probably only after a long series of generations, when their cumulative results begin to be substantial.
All people, then, who believe in the power of high culture over a race that is susceptible to high culture, must take for granted the cumulative effects of imperceptible transmissions of acquired characteristics, and must believe in the miracles that can be, and are, worked by long tradition.
For even if those biologists are right, who maintain that while there is no such thing as the transmission of persistent modifications, there is a tendency for germinal variations of a like nature to be preserved by them, tradition still remains the important factor; and, to keep that as unbroken as possible must be the chief aim of all educators and cultivators.
This reconciliation of the two hostile scientific camps in the one word tradition, 2 ought to be sufficient for the ordinary man. Both the believers and the disbelievers in the transmission of acquired characteristics, believe in
1 Heredity in the Light of Recent Research, p. 97, note.
2 See L. Doncaster, op. cit., p. 50.
The Incas, the Brahmans, and the Egyptian aristocracy understood perfectly well how important tradition was, if virtue, will and beauty are to be reared in the body of a nation and kept there. Indiscriminate crossing between the castes, each of which had its particular occupation, was loathsome to the ancient Hindu. It was also loathsome to the Inca and to the Egyptian. Indeed, so far did the two latter nations go in trying to prevent a break in tradition, and in thus preserving virtues from degeneration, or dilution, that, in addition to casting a stigma upon half-caste people and doing all they could to avoid their multiplication, they even encouraged the retention of the same occupation in a family from generation to generation. 1
Speaking of the Egyptians, Diodorus says: "For among these people only is the whole artisan class accustomed to take no part in any occupation . . . other than that which is prescribed to them by their laws and handed down to them by their ancestors." 2
Wilkinson denies that this principle was insisted upon by law, and he says that it was merely customary, as it is in India and China, where the same trade or employment is followed in succession by father and son. 3
It is sufficient for my purpose, however, to know that it was so general a practice as to be regarded almost as an unwritten law, and the fact that Diodorus took it to be compulsory, only supports this view. In any case, Dr. Henry Brugsch Bey supplies an interesting piece of evidence, showing the extremes to which the Egyptians sometimes went in observing the custom of hereditary
1 A certain Inca, Terpac Jupangi, expressed himself as follows on this point: "II faut que, parmi le peuple, chacun apprenne le métier de son père; car ce n'est point au vulgaire à commander aux autres; et c'est faire tort aux charges publiques que de l'employer." Ch. Letourneau, l'Évolution de l'Éducation, p. 199. See also p. 304 of the same book for evidence of similar customs in Egypt.
2 Book I, 74
3 Op. cit., Vol. I, p. 157.
This, together with a healthy distinction between high and low, man and man, which is always felt in inbreeding classes, is the only way in which virtue, strength and will can be garnered and stored over generations, in order at any time to produce a crop of fine, conscientious and skilful artisans, or artists, or leaders of men. In itself the custom seems natural, obvious, I would almost say, inevitable enough; and provided it have just that amount of elasticity that can allow of exceptional men breaking themselves free from their family tradition, in order to attempt higher things a possibility provided for in Egypt, China and India and to allow of cross-breeding in cases of real effeteness, which are, at all events, rare when an inbred class is large, only good can be expected to come of it.
Thus alone can that culture be reared which is based upon solid virtue; for the bodily reward of any occupation, if it be noble and healthy, is the acquisition of certain virtues: dexterity, strength, self-control, self-reliance, patience, endurance, perseverance, regularity, reliability, not to mention again, will-power and beauty. And wherever an occupation is constantly changed, either in a single lifetime or in the life of a family, or wherever its nobility declines as, for instance, when a man is asked, as he is nowadays, to turn a lever from left to right all his life the stored up virtue of generations must gradually be dissipated until none remains. When such things
1 History of Egypt, Vol. II, p. 309. The retention of certain professions and trades within a family in antiquity was not, however, restricted to ancient Peru and ancient Egypt. Hippocrates, for instance, was the seventeenth medical practitioner in his family.
For virtue, like will and beauty, is no accident. It is invariably the outcome of long traditional effort, it is always the achievement of a long line of people who have stored it, built it up, garnered it and laboured for it. Just as a falling object gathers momentum as it descends, and may attain an almost irresistible power if the descent be long enough, so if in a family line the will has been concerned long enough with the same occupations, problems and obstacles, the momentum it acquires in its descent may also prove well-nigh irresistible. It is, in fact, in matters of will and virtue, the only possible source of power; and though a man can add his own strength to it in his lifetime, if it is truly great in him, at least the major part of it is the work of his predecessors, i.e. the distance it has already covered. It is for this reason that traditional occupations are important, not only among an aristocracy, but among a people; because the people, who are the ultimate source of refreshment for an aristocracy, cannot supply that refreshment unless they too have acquired through traditional occupations the first pre-requisites of aristocratic equipment will and virtue. To point out that this is precisely the reverse of the principles we see practised to day is a sufficient comment on our age.
Summing up now, on the question of the transmission of acquired characteristics, we see that, although the acquired characteristics of an individual, owing to the very recent nature of their citizenship in his body, make a much fainter impress upon, and are much more imperceptible in, his offspring than the older and more traditional characters of his race, they must be there in humanly imperceptible form, otherwise it is impossible to explain results which can only be ascribed to their cumulative ,
1 See Aristotle, Politics, Book VIII, Chapter II, 1,337b: "Every work is to be esteemed mean, and every art and every discipline which renders the body, the mind, or the understanding of freemen unfit for the habit and practice of virtue."
Thus unbroken tradition comes out of the discussion without a stain upon its character; and to-day, just as it was four thousand years ago in Egypt, we must conclude that it is the greatest force in the rearing of all virtue, will, beauty, or quality of any sort in the body of a nation, and especially among the members of an aristocracy.
Turning now to the English aristocracy represented in the House of Lords, how does the above examination of the question of heredity help us?
In speaking about the principles upon which a sound aristocracy should be based, the criticism recently levelled by the more rabid Radicals against the present House of Lords will not be found to be of much service, and might just as well be left out of our reckoning altogether. The war cries of political parties, in the thick of a party struggle, are not as a rule reliable, even as sign-posts, for the purpose of the investigator. Nevertheless, there was one criticism which figured very prominently and very frequently above the rest, and that was the criticism of the hereditary principle. It is not implied here that any Radical who voiced this criticism understood its full political import or depth otherwise he would probably have been less lavish in his repetition of it; nor is it suggested that the criticism itself was based upon a sound analysis of the question of heredity in general. As a war-
The bitter hatred of the hereditary principle, however, has not found expression only in the mouths of Radical orators, or in the columns of Radical newspapers; it is to be found even in the pamphlets and books which purport to deal seriously with the question of aristocratic rule.
Such writers as John Hampden, 1 J. Morrison Davidson, 2 and Howard Evans, 3 lay it down as a fact that the hereditary principle must be bad; while in a compilation published in 1898, almost every writer shows himself hostile to the idea that the right of ruling, should descend from generation to generation in the same family. 4
After what we have said and seen on the matter of heredity, and even on the matter of the influence (I will not say the inheritance, as the point is still unsettled in many distinguished minds) of acquired qualities, it seems strange that there should be this bitter hostility on the part of many thinking men towards hereditary rulership. 5
Is it not possible, however, that after inquiry we may find that this hereditary principle of the House of Lords, is merely in superficial appearance the cause of the trouble? No one, I believe, could speak more severely on the misrule of the English aristocracy than I have spoken in this book; and yet I absolutely decline to ascribe this misrule either to the evil effects of inbreeding or to
1 The Aristocracy of England.
2 Book of Lords.
3 Our Old Nobility.
4 The House of Lords Question. Edited by A. Reid.
5 Even aristocrats themselves, or at least the more stupid ones, are beginning to feel that there may "be something in it." They are beginning to be converted unthinkingly to the Radical position, simply because its features have been voiced and urged so repeatedly of late.
I say that, whatever the misrule of the English aristocracy may have been, it is not the outcome of the evils resulting from inbreeding or from the alleged freaks of the hereditary principle: in the first place, because the first named evils have literally not had the time to be brought about; and secondly, because it is ridiculous to call the House of Lords essentially a hereditary Chamber at all, even if the law of heredity, starting with good material, had been allowed its full modicum of chances by the peers. I would go even further, and declare most emphatically that if the hereditary principle had only had a chance of working on the foundations of good stock, there would to-day be absolutely no outcry against the House of Lords and its methods of rulership.
Let me enter briefly into the recent history of the House of Lords.
Not more than 29 temporal peers received Writs of Summons to the first Parliament of Henry VII; Henry VIII never summoned more than 51; and at the death of Queen Elizabeth this number had increased only to 59. James I created 62; Charles I 59; 1 Charles II 64; and James II 8. 2 Thus, at the end of the Stuart line, the peerage should have numbered 252, but during the Stuart reigns 99 peerages became extinct, so that at the Revolution of 1688 the peerage stood at
1 J. Bernard Burke, in his Anecdotes of the Aristocracy (Vol. I, p. 105), speaking of Charles I's creations, says: "They were all selected from old and well-allied families."
2 Lord Erskine, in The Constitutional History of England (Vol. I, p. 274), makes an interesting comment on the Stuart creations. He says: "As many of the peerages were sold by James I and Charles II it is surprising that the creations were not even more numerous." When we compare the twenty-two years of James's reign with the fifty-nine years of George III's reign, during which the number of creations amounted to 388, we realise the full significance of Lord Erskine's remark.
Then followed one of the worst reigns for political corruption and general jobbing in titles and peerages that England has ever seen. Places in Parliament were bought outright, men who held seats were bribed with money, knighthoods, baronetcies or peerages to give them to a certain party, and altogether from 1760 to 1820 no less than 388 creations were made.
One of the worst offenders in this indiscriminate augmentation of the hereditary lords was William Pitt the younger, 1 and there is no doubt that if the prestige of our aristocracy has considerably diminished in the last hundred years, and if, as men of wisdom, ruler power and ruler gifts, their credit is low, it is largely to Pitt that the country owes this unfortunate change. Referring to Pitt's creations. Green writes as follows
"The whole character of the House of Lords was changed. Up to this time it had been a small assembly of great nobles, bound together by family or party ties into a distinct power in the state. From this time it became the stronghold of property, the representative of the great estates and great fortunes which the vast increase of English wealth was building up." 2
Thus, upstart capitalists began to form a large percentage of the Upper Chamber, and there was often absolutely nothing in their past lives or in their achievements to show that this highly influential position in the legislature would be filled by them with ability or success.
1 See Lecky's History of England in the Eighteenth Century, Vol. V, p. 275. Referring to Pitt's creations, he says: "He distributed peerages with a lavish and culpable profusion." And on p. 292: "No previous minister created peers so lavishly for the purpose of supporting his political influence, or affected so permanently and so injuriously the character of the House of Lords."
2 A Short History of the English People (1891), p. 816.
Now even if inbreeding had had time to work its worst evils among the descendants of these peers, which it certainly had not, what in any case could have been expected from the progeny of such men? The law of heredity does not work miracles, it cannot turn sows' ears into silk purses; and if by 1820 there was already some outcry against the hereditary chamber, let us be quite satisfied that this outcry was not provoked by the degeneration through close intermarriage of these eighteenth-century creations numbers of which were not yet fifty years old.
It is only stupidity and ignorance that can make a man ascribe all the misrule of the House of Lords in the latter half of the eighteenth and the first quarter of the nineteenth centuries, to the evils of close inbreeding and to the sad uncertainty of the hereditary principle. For, in the first place, close inbreeding would have to go on for a very long time indeed, far longer than the existence of the majority of the present peerage, before its evils could begin to show themselves; and, secondly, if you have bad material to start with, it is ridiculous to ascribe to the hereditary principle an evil which it has never been claimed that it can remove.
Considering that in 1860, a century after the accession of George III, no more than 98 of the odd 450 peers could claim an earlier creation than the reign of that monarch, it would be far more just, far more historically correct, and far more penetrating, to say that the incompetence and general lack of ruler ability (in my sense, not in the Radical sense) which characterise the House of Lords, were due to the method of selection rather than to the hereditary
1 History of England in the Eighteenth Century, Vol. V, p. 293.
When you bear in mind that since the year 1760 over 600 new peers, i. e. more than nine-tenths of the whole House and that since 1820, at least three-quarters of the total number of members of the House of Lords have been created; when, moreover, you recollect that there are twenty-six bishops and forty-four Irish and Scottish Peers all selected, the hereditary character of the peerage begins to acquire a very insignificant character indeed; and if incompetence and misrule are noticeable in it, they must surely be traced to another source than to close inbreeding and the hereditary principle.
Let me quote the following figures from the Constitutional Year Book of 1913, to show the number of additions to the House of Lords made since 1830 alone
1 Of course, as Lord Erskine points out (op. cit., p. 282), "this fact [the number 98 who can claim an earlier creation than the reign of George III] is an imperfect criterion of the antiquity of the peerage. When the possessor of an ancient dignity is promoted to a higher grade in the peerage, his lesser dignity becomes merged in the greater, but more recent, title."
This gives us a grand total of 476 creations in eighty-one years! In the face of these figures it is not only absurd, but literally dishonest to inveigh against the hereditary Chamber as if it consisted of a body of effete aristocrats, so closely inbred for centuries that all the evils of sterility, degeneracy and feebleness had now seized upon them. Neither is it sensible to say that in view of their misrule the law of heredity must have failed.
If the Lords have on the whole shown themselves unworthy of their high position in the State, and if from 1688 to 1832 they showed themselves unworthy of having all the power in their own hands, it is because the majority of them were not the right sort from the start. Commercial magnates, without any claim to distinction, apart from their wealth; borough-mongers, devoid of all public spirit and patriotism; and bribees of all descriptions these are not the people who by their deeds can shake our faith in the value of aristocratic government. To set a jester on the throne is not to refute monarchy.
It is perfectly true, of course, that the hereditary principle, alone, cannot improve such stock; but that is not the fault of the principle. If it could, it would be less reliable than it is.
"A body so constantly changed and recruited from all
Not only, then, has the selective principle been far more active than the hereditary one in increasing the peerage, but also the very method of selection itself, has been so faulty, so foreign to any proper consideration of what true rulership means, that it was bound to fail, bound to be found out, and bound to drag the name of true aristocracy through the dust. 2
But if there is little, for instance, in the successful banker, factory owner, ship-builder or general trade magnate to make one take for granted that he is fit to be one of the first rulers of a great nation, what on earth is there in the lawyer to make one think that he, too, after attaining to a certain high position in his profession, should necessarily be fit to govern?
The Earl of Strafford was suspicious enough of lawyers as legislators, and rightly too, I think. But what would he have said if he could have seen the following list of lawyers who between 1691 and 1912 have been elevated to the peerage? 3
1 The Constitutional History of England, Vol. I, p. 285.
2 Mr. Luke Owen Pike, who, in his Constitutional History of the House of Lords, does not set up nearly so high a standard of aristocratic power as I do, is yet able to write as follows: "In one respect the House of Lords fails, and has always failed, to reflect the powers of the nation. The new men who have made their way into it have always been men of action rather than men of thought. . . . The robes of the judge, the wealth of the financier, the pomp and circumstance which attend the victorious general strike more deeply into the popular imagination than the untiring industry, the silent meditation, and the unseen flash of intellect, which brings into being things that the world has never seen before."
3 This list, with three or four omissions and several additions, is taken from John Hampden's The Aristocracy of England, p. 302.
It is preposterous to inveigh against the principle of aristocracy itself) or against the principle of hereditary rulership, when the body of aristocrats in the country has been constantly swelled by selections of this sort; and the length of the lists could be doubled in the case of purely business men who have become peers.
With wealth or political influence as the chief qualifications, what could be expected of the men who forced
Nor need it be supposed that the creations from the ranks of capitalism after 1830 were, on the whole, any more judicious or far-sighted, or that they were made with a deeper understanding of true rulership than those made before that time.
Speaking of the bulk of them, Lecky says: "Great wealth, even though it be accompanied by no kind of real distinction, especially if it be united with a steady vote in the House of Commons, has been the strongest claim; and, next to wealth, great connections. Probably a large majority of those who have of late years risen to the peerage are men whose names conveyed no idea of any kind to the great body of the English people." 1
In other words, the test of great material success has been the most general test employed in the selection of the peerage. But such a test would, in itself, have excluded some of the greatest men the world has ever seen!
How could any great institution survive such a process of recruitment for any length of time?
"The worst aspect of plutocracy," says Lecky, "is the social and political influence of dishonestly acquired wealth. While the worst fields of patronage and professional life have been greatly purified during the present century [nineteenth], the conditions of modern enterprise in the chief European countries, and still more in the United States, give much scope for kinds of speculation and financing which no honest man would pursue, and by which, in many conspicuous instances, colossal fortunes have been acquired. It is an evil omen for the future of a nation when men who have acquired such fortunes force their way into great social positions, and become the
1 Democracy and Liberty, Vol. I, p. 354.
I would not suggest for one instant that the bulk of the peerages connected with trade are of the nature alluded to above; but that a few of them must be is unquestioned. My particular point, however, is that success in trade, like success at law, is absolutely no criterion of ruler quality or of taste; on the contrary, it is more often the proof of the reverse of these two possessions. An aristocracy recruited from successful men of this sort alone would require ages and ages of training and culture and careful discipline to approach even approximately close to "the best."
Take the following list of peers either connected with trade or created either directly or indirectly through success in trade
The Duke of Leeds, the Earl of Craven, the Earl of Radnor, the Earl of Feversham, Lord Ashburton, Lord Carrington, Lord Overstone, Lord Wolverton, Lord Belper, Lord Rendel, Lord Sanderson, Lord Tweedmouth, Lord Winterstoke, Lord Pirrie, Lord Strathcona, Lord Blyth, Lord Mountstephen, Lord Masham, Lord Armstrong, Lord Brassey, Lord Wimborne, Lord Dewar, Lord Rothschild, Lord Avebury, Lord Revelstoke, Lord Holden, Lord Wandsworth, Lord Burton, Lord Hindlip, Lord Iveagh, Lord Ardilaun, Lord Pauncefote, Lord Glantawe, Lord Cowdray, Lord Furness, Lord Michelham, Lord Addington, Lord Aberconway, Lord Airedale, Lord Aldenham, Lord Allerton, Lord Ashton, Lord Devonport, Lord Hollenden, Lord Inchcape, Lord Merthyr, Lord Swaythling, Lord Whitburgh, Lord Biddulph, Lord Faber, Lord Emmott, Lord Hillingdon, Lord Inverclyde. Lord Joicey, Lord Peckover, Lord Pontypridd,
1 Democracy and Liberty, Vol. I, p. 329.
Sixty in all, most of them quite recent creations, and the list by no means complete! Of these sixty peers, twenty-one are connected with the banking business, five are connected with the wine and beer trades, four are connected with railways, three are connected with shipping, six are merchants, six are connected with iron, steel and engineering works, one was a tobacco magnate, and the remainder are either manufacturers, founders of big industries, or company directors.
Writing in 1881, Mr. T. Fielding, as a friend of the Upper Legislative Chamber, said: "I should say that fully one-half of the peerage is directly interested in trade." 1 Now only about half-a-dozen of the peerages enumerated above were in existence in 1881; so that we can fairly assume that the proportion suggested by Mr. T. Fielding still holds good.
To the reader who has followed the arguments in this book at all closely no comment on the above facts will be necessary.
Just as a participator in a law-suit cannot at the same time be the judge or a member of the jury, so is it unreasonable to expect these men of action, these people immersed in the activities of a particular department of life, to take such an intelligent, broad and general view of life as to enable them to rule a living concern like a great nation with wisdom and with understanding. And this objection to them is quite distinct from the fundamental objection arising out of my thesis, which consists of a flat denial of the assumption that because they have been successful in the struggle for existence in present conditions, that they must necessarily be spokesmen of the taste and judgment of flourishing life.
Thus even if, at the start say in 1688 the odd 150 peers had all been true aristocrats, which they were not, 2
1 See The House of Lords, p. 34.
2 In The Rise of Great Families Burke makes an interesting comment
Nobody realises better than I do how great is the need of refreshing aristocratic stock from time to time; but while it is not necessary to do it nearly so often as it has been done in England, it is also most essential that only those members of the nation should be selected who show at least some ruler quality who show some affinity, that is to say, to the aristocrat himself.
The ruling order in Rome, Venice, Bern and Nürnberg, as Freeman points out, 1 received new families within their pale; but they did so by their own act. Not the struggle for existence, but the patriarch Jacob, is the best judge of what constitutes a man who knows. The struggle for existence may force to the top a man who knows only how to fill his own pocket; but not one who necessarily knows things, knows how to discriminate good from bad, healthy from unhealthy, good taste from bad taste.
It is suicidal for any true aristocracy to allow its ranks to be filled by these forced plants, sprung from the artificial manure of modern conditions; it is even suicidal for them to allow their ranks to be filled at all at any time, save by their own choice and the exercise of their own discrimination. 2
on the constitution of at least a portion of the peerage after the Grand Rebellion. He says (p. 42): "The Civil War ruined many a Cavalier and transferred his lands to a rich merchant or a successful lawyer, and then the new proprietor was enabled to take a. foremost place in his county, possibly to obtain its representation and in due course to reach the Upper House."
1 Comparative Politics, p. 270.
2 In fairness to the nobles in the House of Lords at the beginning of the eighteenth century, it should be noted here that they did show a strong dislike of the principle which made it possible for their ranks to be swelled inordinately by means of the Crown's unrestricted right to create peers, and in 1719 Stanhope and Sunderland accordingly recom-
"When a patriciate has risen," says Freeman, "it seems essential to its being that no new members can be admitted to the body except by its own act." 1
Certainly it is essential. But this is one of the essential rules that has been broken again and again by our system in England.
Aristocracy means essentially power of the best power of the best for good; because the true aristocrat can achieve permanence for his order and his inferiors only by being a power for good.
But power is not a possession which, once it is established, can last for ever, without nurture or repair. On the contrary, to endure it must be constantly vigilant, constantly on the alert, continually seeking out its like in the nation and drawing it into its own body. To give aristocratic power even relative permanence, therefore, it must be so organised as to be able to draw all the national manifestations of its like into its own body. Wherever men of profound ideas, men of thought, men of taste, men of good quality in the matter of living and appearance are to be found, there the vigilant eye of a powerful aristocracy should seek them out, and recognise in them the spawn, the reserve, the only refreshment of its strength. From their whole number, but the very smallest proportion
mended to the King the surrender of that right. The King eagerly accepted the proposal, but the Bills formed for the purpose of making it law all had to be dropped, and the last one was rejected by the Commons, under the leadership of Walpole, by a majority of 92.
1 Op. cit., p. 270.
For in the end it is taste, it is proper ideas, it is healthy standpoints that conquer and prevail. And if men of taste, of proper ideas and of healthy standpoints are constantly overlooked, the power that overlooks them must decline, and must ultimately fall a victim to all powerful hostile elements, however bad and tasteless these may be.
As I said at the beginning of Chapter II of this book, walk through Arundel Castle or Goodwood on any afternoon in the summer; notice the pictures on the walls, especially when they are modern pictures for these alone reveal the actual taste of their owner notice the ornaments and the decorations, the books and the magazines, and then ask yourself whether the Duke of Norfolk or the Duke of Richmond and Gordon has that vigilant and discerning eye which can discover and appropriate aristocratic quality wherever it is to be found down below in the unennobled strata of the nation. 1
Of course, neither of them has it. Neither of them has
1 See The Decline of Aristocracy, by Arthur Ponsonby, p. 139: "The old aristocracy were sometimes regarded as patrons of literature, but this is a function their successors have entirely abandoned. Theirs would be the last opinion to be consulted on literary matters. Any one must be struck in visiting an old country house to see on the library shelves a full collection of eighteenth and early nineteenth century literature Clarendon, Robertson, Gibbon, Scott, Byron, Bewick, Thackeray; but on the table for the daily consumption of the present owners, magazines, vulgar weekly periodicals, and a few lending library novels."
And, being devoid of taste themselves, they are naturally unable even to supply the lack of this quality in their household by a careful selection made outside it. And they are, therefore, powerless.
Apart from their property, they are powerless. Devoid of taste, judgment and ideas, they have no other weapon than their wealth. But this weapon alone is naturally utterly inadequate to-day; for all capitalists can wield it with equal force, and perhaps with less scrupulosity than these noble gentlemen.
It is for this reason that the Lords were so helpless in 1911, 1 and for this reason, too, will they continue to be helpless.
For even if they were unable actually to enlist into their own ranks whatever elements of aristocratic spirit they might find in the nation, at least they ought to have got such elements into their service, exploited them or used them in some way at all events in order to strengthen their position and to maintain it.
Wherever culture shows its head, wherever particular ability manifests itself, wherever there is seen a marked power to order, to select the right and reject the wrong, there the agents of the aristocracy or they themselves ought to be present to promote it, to help it, and thus to make it theirs.
Knowing the power of proper ideas; knowing that all that characterises our present condition is the creation of a certain set of ideas which might have been stifled, uprooted, cast aside and extirpated at the moment of their inception; and knowing that if another order is to be created, that order will likewise be the outcome of a new set of ideas, the vigilant eye of the aristocrat ought to be
1 See The Decline of Aristocracy, p. 135: "Even in fighting the battle to retain their ascendancy the nobility and aristocracy showed themselves as a body with very few individual exceptions poorly equipped intellectually, blind, and ill-informed."
At least they ought to try to understand such men, to comprehend them; for that is equivalent to comprising or possessing them. In this, however, their very self-preservative instinct has failed them. Not only have the aristocrats omitted to select the best from the nation for themselves, but they have also omitted to watch for it or to understand it.
No power, however well established, could have lasted under such circumstances. As Machiavelli says: "A Prince ought to show himself a patron of ability, and to honour the proficient in every art." 1 Why? Not because it is nice to do so; not because it is benevolent, or philanthropic, or generous to do so! Machiavelli was not a sentimentalist! But because it is good policy to do so; because it is expedient, sound, essential, indispensable to do so. Because men of ability and men proficient in art possess some of the most essential qualities of the aristocrat, and are the only kindred spirits to the aristocrats in the whole of a nation.
All this in later times they have omitted to do; for, ever since Samuel Johnson's terrible rebuke to one of their order, things have grown, if anything, worse than they were before.
It will be remembered that the Earl of Chesterfield had undertaken to assist Samuel Johnson in the production of his famous dictionary, and had appointed himself Johnson's literary patron. For many years, however that is, while there still existed some element of doubt concerning the success of the enterprise Johnson appealed to the nobleman in vain for assistance, and could not even obtain an audience from him when he called. Finally, however, when the dictionary appeared, the Earl of Chesterfield had the impudence to pose not only as its author's impresario, but also as his protector.
1 The Prince, Chapter VII.
"Seven years, my Lord, have now passed, since I waited in your outward rooms, and was repulsed from your door; during which time I have been pushing on my work through difficulties of which it is useless to complain, and have brought it, at last, to the verge of publication, without one act of assistance, one word of encouragement, or one smile of favour. Such treatment I did not expect, for I never had a Patron before. . . .
"Is not a Patron, my Lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and when he has reached the ground, encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary, and cannot impart it; till I am known and do not want it. I hope it is no very cynical asperity, not to confess obligations where no benefit has been received, or to be unwilling that the Publick should consider me as owing that to a Patron, which Providence has enabled me to do for myself.
"Having carried on my work thus far with so little obligation to any favour of learning, I shall not be disappointed though I should conclude it, if less be possible, with less; for I have long awakened from that dream of hope, in which I once boasted myself with so much exaltation, my Lord,
"Your Lordship's most humble,
"most obedient servant,
"Samuel Johnson." 1
This wonderful letter, written by a man of culture to a man of the Earl of Chesterfield's stamp for the Earl
1 Boswell's Life of Johnson (February 7, 1775).
Now, to sum up this section of the chapter, I think I have shown with sufficient detail that: (1) An Aristocracy ought itself to select the new families it allows to become part of its exalted body, and it ought to do so with a very definite standard of what constitutes aristocratic ability. To omit to do this is to court disaster. The very failure of the aristocracy of England ought to be sufficient to prove that the kind of people that have as a rule been elevated to the peerage have not possessed the proper qualifications for the position. (2) An Aristocracy ought to be vigilant and alert, and ought to be able and eager to understand, to use and to possess all those elements of ability and of exceptional proficiency among the population in which taste, good judgment and a certain instinctive knowledge of good and evil are inherent. (3) An Aristocracy ought to be a patron of culture and of ideas not only because there is charm in these things, but also because upon a right notion of culture alone, and upon right and proper ideas concerning humanity and the world, can a good natural administration be founded.
There remain now only two more points to be elucidated: the question of education and that of marriage.
Dealing with the question of education first, it must be obvious that if an aristocracy is aiming at permanence and at the best for the nation, the national system of education ought to be its most important weapon of
1 Sybil (Longmans, Green & Co., 1899), p. 12.
Under the plea of educating the people, you get the raw material of the whole nation under your eye, and you get them at a time when they are in the most malleable condition, when they have not yet become perfectly moulded to their inferior surroundings, and when, if you see promise in them, exceptional members of the community can be withdrawn from their environment and helped to better things.
This process of selection would naturally have to be conducted by men, not necessarily of scholastic learning, but by men fitted to judge men and of these there should always be a plentiful supply not only among the aristocrats themselves, but among their immediate entourage and agents and they should select only according to a certain standard.
The fact that the huge machinery of our Educational Department of Government has not yet been used as a selective system for the best purposes of State, shows how utterly careless and ignorant the rulers of this country have been of the true and most exalted uses of such a system.
For in so far as a great nation is concerned, it is not nearly so essential that everybody should reach the fifth or sixth standard in school as that those who are really able should be chosen out from among the rest.
The rest might be eliminated from the schools after passing the second standard, and good rather than harm would be the result. This was the system, of course, in Egypt, and it still remains the system in China, where not examinations alone, but the personal judgment of the teacher is the first and chief instrument of selection, and very often the first starting-point on a distinguished official career.
For such a judgment to be sound, however, and reliable,
Thus utterly hopeless cases are turned away at an early age, freed, before they have wasted years of their life in an occupation which could profit them nothing; while more promising cases are encouraged to ascend step by step to the highest position in the state an accomplishment often witnessed in China, just as it was witnessed in ancient Egypt." 1
By this means a huge educational organisation may serve as a most perfect means of selection in a nation; and when this selection is carried on under the guidance of a wise aristocracy, and for its high purposes, it naturally contributes very materially indeed, as it did in Egypt, and as it does in China, to the permanence of the ruling body. Incidentally it also serves as an economiser of national energy. For there are thousands of boys who are happier and more useful, learning their business, agricultural or industrial, at an early age, than sitting, long after they are able to profit from it, at a school table or desk, learning things in which they are not interested and which they forget as soon as they have left school. And a discerning eye could detect such boys and release them from their insufferable and unprofitable drudgery.
So much for the view which the aristocrat should take of national education. As to what he should do in the matter of educating his own offspring, this should be a matter chiefly of the training of the will, of disciplining the body and the mind, in the first place to exercise self-
1 See Dr. Schmid, Geschichte der Erziehung, p. 173.
The training of the young aristocrat, therefore, provided he be of the right sort, and a chip of the old block, should be extremely severe; much more severe than it is at present, and much more in the hands of his father than it is at present; for, how can a learned plebeian teach anything worth knowing beyond mere facts to a young aristocrat?
The whole of the present system of trusting almost entirely to strangers to guide and to rear the youth of the ruling classes under the plea of "educating" them is utterly misguided. A wise father is his son's best educator, and the finest men I have ever met have been their father's creations. Anything a wise father cannot teach a boy is simply not worth knowing; but when his father has taught him all he knows, and the boy has watched him and found him worth watching, he will have acquired a valuable basis upon which he himself can build. Happy the boys whose fathers understood the child as the chela!
Strangers can and do give you the raw material of knowledge, but your interpretation, co-ordination, arrangement and use of it depend upon what you are, what your father is, how much of his wisdom you have incorporated, and how he has trained your will. In the superior classes of society to-day, however, the relationship between child and parent is becoming ever more and more superficial and less and less intimate. 2
1 See Ueber Pädagogik (edit. Professor Willmann), p. 69.
2 See Arthur Ponsonby, op. cit., p. 172: "Rich parents are tempted more and more to use their money to withdraw their children more and more from their own supervision."
As Kant says: "A common error committed in the education of men of exalted station consists in the fact that, because they are destined to rule, their will is scarcely ever thwarted even in their youth." 1 And Kant was writing in the eighteenth century when some of the best traditions of aristocratic rule and custom were still accepted as law. What would he say to-day? What would he think of the laxity and freedom now allowed in children? His Pädagogik, which in many ways is quite the most interesting and most sound little book ever written on the subject of education, shows clearly enough how radically he would have condemned the educational system of the present day, even in its application to the lower and middle classes; how much more radical, then, would his objections have been against the system of education prevailing in the governing caste!
With regard to the matter of marriage; the solemnity of the matrimonial state has been so much degraded and perverted by the notion of the pursuit of happiness, that its duties and the seriousness with which one should enter it have been forced to take an entirely subordinate position. The question asked concerning a newly married couple, nowadays, is not "Are they doing their duty properly to each other, to themselves, to their class and to the institution of matrimony?" but "Are they happy?"
The Hedonistic view of life, backed by the Puritan deprecation of any enjoyment of the bodily lusts outside the married state, throws all the burden of "happiness" upon the matrimonial tie, with the result that men feel justified not only in seeking happiness alone in marriage which is of course a stupid illusion in ninety-nine cases
1 "Dieses ist ein gewöhnlicher Fehler bei der Erziehung der Grossen, dass man ihnen, weil sie zum Herrschen bestimmt sind, auch in der Jugend nie eigentlich widersteht." Op. cit., p. 62.
To the man who knows that the matrimonial state is simply the most satisfactory solution of the problem of human propagation within an orderly community, and that it will not necessarily bring him any more joys than his single life has done, but only add to his responsibilities, there is something solemn and serious about this choosing of a mate, and all the consequences it involves, which is incompatible with the frivolous notion of "seeking happiness." Such a man, therefore, sacrifices no duty, either to his class, to himself or to his children, for what he knows to be a mere romantic and stupid will-o'-the-wisp. And although he does not actually court unhappiness when he marries, but regards matrimony as the normal state for an adult of a certain age, and monogamy as the most satisfactory kind of sex arrangement, because it is the only kind in which character can be built up and preserved with any certainty; he approaches the state with a feeling of grave and solemn serenity which is quite foreign to the modern feverish and purely romantic pursuit of "happiness," which so often deservedly ends in total disaster.
There can be no doubt, however, that it is not the middle and lower classes alone who have become infected with this Puritanical and Romantic view of marriage, as indissolubly associated with the pursuit of happiness; and one of the saddest things to be observed among our governing classes is the frivolity with which again and again they sacrifice their duty to their class and their duty to their children by choosing a wife from a lower sphere whom they imagine will bring them "happiness."
Instead of choosing their like which as I have already shown is essential to the building up or the preservation of character in a family they very often choose not only their opposites, but actually their inferiors; and they have been
No aristocracy that is able to behave in this way and that does behave in this way, can hope for anything better than dissolution, decadence and extinction. For, as I have pointed out before, and here repeat with the utmost emphasis: will-power, virtue and superior character in general, are not sent down from the clouds; they are not accidental or miraculous phenomena; they are creations of our own deeds, of our own strivings, and of our own matings; and it is not only romantic, it is not only stupid, it is positively dangerous, foolhardy and madly intrepid, deliberately to scout the means by which they are produced and preserved.
And now, glancing back upon what has been said, especially as regards its application to the discredited position in which our aristocracy now finds itself, what is the conclusion we are compelled to draw from the various facts adduced? What is the conclusion at which in simple fairness we must arrive, assuming that the principle of Aristocracy itself has been all this while in the dock before us?
Is it not obvious, is it not perfectly plain, that if we condemn and sentence in this case, we shall be subjecting the prisoner in the dock to a most appalling miscarriage of justice? For, what have the facts I have adduced, as advocate for the defence, clearly shown? That the downfall of aristocracies has not occurred in a struggle between the pure principle of aristocracy and another principle, superior and more perfect than the former; that it is not the outcome of a single combat between, say, the aristocratic principle and the democratic, or plutocratic, or socialistic; but that it is the result of a bitter and cruel war between the institution of Aristocracy itself, as conceived and founded by the best of all nations, and the members of that institution who have been totally unworthy of their