Typos p. 20: terrestial [= terrestrial]; p. 33: sequatiousness [= sequaciousness]
A Further Text-Book for Tories
Anthony M. Ludovici
Faber & Gwyer
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The rôle of the Conservative politician, as defined in these chapters, thus reveals itself as a very difficult and complicated one, in which much native wisdom and taste has to combine with a generous endowment of realism and humanity, in order successfully to oppose the romantic forces of disintegration and disorder. With the delusive banner of "Progress" at their head, these latter forces aim constantly at inaugurating mere change, without ever giving a thought to the direction in which change is moving whether towards decomposition or higher organisa-
This does not pretend to be a historical treatise. History enters only as a means of supplying illustrations to the general argument. And if it may appear that I have treated with excessive elaboration the history of certain phases of the national life, and of the legislation relating to them, I can only plead that my object was less to impart historical information than to bring unmistakably and graphically before the reader what is meant in these pages by a true Conservative policy. The whole of Chapters III and IV, therefore, in which I confine my attention to such matters as the legislation regarding the National Health, National Food, National Education, the Jews, Aliens, Immigration, and Factories, must be regarded more as a convenient method of describing an ideal of Conservatism in practice, than as a historical narrative; and the subjects chosen recommended themselves to me very much more on account of their natural claim on the attention of Conservatives, than on account of the importance usually ascribed to them by historians and political writers.
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The Meaning of Conservatism
In most political and religious discussions the terminology employed has a popular as well as a scientific meaning. In religion this distinction is usually indicated by the two words, exoteric and esoteric. And while the former relates to what may be and is known by the people, the latter relates to what is secret and belongs to the "inside" knowledge of a priesthood.
The political term, "Conservatism", belongs to this group of expressions that have different meanings according to the qualifications of him who uses them. It has a popular or exoteric, and an exclusive or esoteric meaning. And it will be possible to show in these pages that it is because the popular connotation of Conservatism has become the universal connotation, that modern Conservatism, as a political position, has been unsatisfactory.
Man is instinctively conservative in the sense that probably millions of years of experience have taught him that a stable environment is the best for peace of mind, present and future security, automatism of action (that action which requires least thought), and a ready command of material and artificial circumstances. It is the genial innovator, or the lunatic, who disturbs peace of mind by introducing an unaccustomed and unaccountable element into life. It is the dislocation of economic conditions that makes the present and future doubtful. It is the repeated introduction of new instruments, new weapons, new methods, and needs for fresh adaptations, that makes
The influences which make mankind instinctively conservative are, therefore, the love of safety, the tendency to indolence, and the preference for the known before the unknown.
In this sense conservatism is of enormous value; because it is only in a stable environment that the slow work of heredity can build up family qualities, group virtues, national character, and racial characteristics. And if these things are desirable, a stable environment and consequently conservatism are desirable.
But the popular mind knows nothing of the need of a stable environment lasting for many generations, for the building up of character, capacity, virtue and prejudice. It knows only that it loves stability, because reckoning is impossible without it. And there is perhaps no country more fond of stability than England. Indeed, so intense in England is the attachment to what is known and established, that it is perhaps the only country in Europe where it is still possible to cause people to titter and laugh in the open street by talking a strange language fluently in their presence, or by wearing peculiar clothes. And this has long been so. Pepys noticed it. French and German visitors have noticed it in the past and recently, and anybody can observe it for himself in any thoroughfare in any town in the land.
Perhaps England's greatness is due in a large measure to this trait among her people. Because, since it points to a long habituation through many generations to the same conditions it also points to character, capacity and virtue.
But these conditions themselves necessarily create in the people that suffer their influence a more than usually strong tendency to conservatism, and that is why we find in the early history of Egypt, Greece and Rome, and in the recent history of China, Japan and England, a marked dislike of the foreigner and of anything foreign or new.
Facilities of travel and the conditions enforced by commerce and industry, ultimately break down this national quality of island and peninsular folk. People so the saying is become "broad-minded". But
1 Even in the life of the individual it must be plain that proficiency great ability, and great achievement also depend upon stability of environment lasting over a long period. What, indeed, do we do when we want our sons to be great at art, medicine, or law? We place them in an environment where the stability of artistic, medical or legal interests is secured, and we keep them there as long as we can, until out of their own acquired capacity and concentration they remain permanently adapted.
All nations that have ever achieved anything great, have displayed that excess of conservatism over the instinctive conservatism of the rest of mankind, which is to be seen in the history of the peoples that have been mentioned above, and they have displayed this excessive conservatism before and at the time of their greatest strength. Broad-mindedness, love of change, liberal ideas, and the decay of the distinction between we and they (we being the nation, and they being all other nations), while they have heralded democracy, have also invariably heralded incipient weakness and decline. Such, however, is the strength imparted by an old conservative tradition, that long after conservatism has begun to decline, the people it has reared often continue for some time in strength and mastery. It is, however, only a matter of years. For when once the source of national strength national character, capacity and virtue becomes dried up, the end cannot be far distant.
It is perhaps doubtful whether the English people have yet been sufficiently debauched, either by travel, miscegenation, or constant change and familiarity with foreigners, to lose all that valuable excess of conservatism which perforce characterised them as
The present generation of men, having no knowledge of the necessity of psychological compensations, imagine that the loss of so-called "insular" prejudices and opinions, and the decline of hidebound conservatism in recent years, are all for the good. They overlook the fact that the insular prejudice itself, like the hidebound conservatism of Englishmen, was merely one face of the medal, on the obverse of which there probably stood every quality that has made England successful and formidable in the past. Among these qualities we must certainly reckon character and will power, and we are therefore justified in suspecting that with the decline of insularity other valuable attributes have suffered depreciation. This, however, is by the way.
Now, in the popular mind, the instinctive conservatism we have been discussing, together with its excess where this is present, becomes transferred to the world of politics very much in the same form as it assumes in everyday life i.e., merely as a policy of no change. Long before Conservatism, as a term, stood for the name of a political party, conservatism had operated as an influence in English politics, just as it does in the politics of every other nation. And it would have remained the principal influence in English politics if the people of England themselves had remained happy and beautiful because happiness
We may take it then that the exoteric meaning of political conservatism is only this. We do not thereby wish to imply that it is either wise or rational for statesmen to accept it or to practise it in this exoteric form. All we suggest for the present is that, popularly, political conservatism has this connotation. And that is why, where the opposing forces are not strong, conservatism in politics always commands a large amount of favour, because it appeals to that tendency which is common to all men, irrespective of nationality, and which is particularly strong in those whose geographical position has promoted national integration to a marked degree.
"Where the opposing forces are not strong." What is the meaning of this phrase?
In all national life, as in the life of Nature, there are two forces which constantly conflict with the inclination of all creatures to prefer stability before instability in their environment. These two forces are, first, the renewal of the whole of the nation's personnel, or the redistribution of all national rôles with each fresh generation, and all that this means in novelty of outlook and situation; and secondly, the chafing of certain sections of the nation under circumstances which make adaptation (contentment) impossible. 1 The first of these forces tends to introduce
1 There is besides a third force outside the nation which also conflicts with stability, a sort of vis major from beyond a nation's frontiers, which impels, or threatens to impel, change against the
To both of the classes representing these two forces, change, instead of being hated and dreaded, comes to be regarded for a while as the most coveted of blessings, for which men are prepared to strive as earnestly as they once strove for stability. But since this is only a temporary striving, pending more successful adaptation, it should not be forgotten that even their anti-conservatism must swing back to conservatism when once the object of their clamour is achieved. In this sense, even Communists who have successfully established the conditions they desire, necessarily return to conservatism and begin again to resist change, provided always that they are actuated in their agitation by loyalty to their nation and are not merely compassing their nation's doom of malice prepense. Thus, in the violent measures adopted by the Communists of Russia against counterrevolutionary propaganda and movements, we see the natural conservatism of man reappearing after the forces which have made for change have achieved their new adaptations.
In humanity, therefore, as in the rest of the animal kingdom, there is no such phenomenon as permanent anti-conservatism. There are only sporadic and
nation's will. This is the kind of change most bitterly resented because it does not necessarily meet any internal need. But it will not be necessary to discuss it at present. Examples of its action are to be seen in the sudden invasion of Peru and Mexico by the Spaniards, and in the appearance of the Boers and ourselves among the Bushmen and Zulus of Africa, etc.
Unfortunately, however, since the war waged by the temporary advocates of "change" usually receives such euphemistic and gratuitously false titles as "the fight for progress" or "the struggle for human advancement" or "the battle for light", a moral quality
On close analysis it is easily seen that only a very small section of any nation has at any time the right to clamour for change as "progress", and that consists of those who, having come into the world with qualities which make them superior to the standards expected by the stable environment, may have an interest in raising those standards. All the rest of the clamour for change, far from meaning progress, may mean nothing more than a reduction or corruption of established institutions. Truth to tell, this is precisely what a large amount of recent change has amounted to, because modern mankind never stops to ask whether the desire for change comes from people who are beneath or above existing institutions and standards.
As I do not find this point discussed in political works, it may be as well to go over it again with the view of making it quite clear.
It has been said that there are two forces in national life, which constantly conflict with humanity's natural and deeply rooted predilection in favour of a stable environment. They are: (a) the renewal of the nation's personnel with each fresh generation, with all the incalculable novelties that human nature is capable of; and (b) the chafing of certain sections of the nation under uncongenial circumstances. Each of these forces, however, is represented by two very distinct classes of men.
(a) The newcomers, with their possible new outlook and new gifts, may be either beneath or above the standard expected by the stable environment, and may therefore be subnormal or supernormal. Not every man is superior to his parents. The greatest number are either faithful repetitions or variations
(b) Likewise among those who are so very unhappy that they prefer change of any kind before a continuance of their suffering, there are these two important divisions: those who suffer because of unwise conditions imposed upon them by inconsiderate rulers, and those who suffer from themselves, because or their physical and psychical inferiority. It is obvious that only the claim of the former for change can possibly be desirable, because it must always be right and progressive to remove or to redress just grievances. But the claims of the latter for change, may and frequently do mean merely spite, misanthropy, the wish to punish their generation for congenital ills which only a miracle could assuage; and they should therefore be resisted.
So we have four sections of the nation constantly labouring temporarily against the rest of humanity's and their own instinctive love of stability, though only two of them have any right to be heard.
Unfortunately, particularly in a degenerate age, the others who have no right to be heard, far outnumber those who have, and it is precisely these others who are most eager to claim the title "progress" for the modifications they propose. Moreover, in these
When, therefore. Lord Hugh Cecil writes: "The restraints of conservatism are the indispensable condition of the security and efficiency of progress . . . a brake necessary to safety. . . . Progress depends on conservatism to make it intelligent, efficient and appropriate to circumstances"; when, moreover, he writes: "The prudence of conservatism must control the zeal for advance or evil will come of it," 1 he yields too much and claims too little. To place "progress" in opposition to conservatism in this way is to lead to misunderstanding. Lord Hugh Cecil may be as clear as I am about the misconceptions associated with the idea of progress, but I question whether in his book he has adopted any safeguards against spreading the errors with which the idea of progress is encrusted. Conservatism is not a brake on progress. To speak like this is to surrender yourself to the enemy. Conservatism is a brake on indiscriminate change. Progress does not depend on conservatism to make it intelligent, efficient, etc. Change depends in this way on conservatism. The prudence of conservatism must not control the zeal for advance. The zeal for advance is heroic and, like all heroic manifestations, extremely rare. Conservatism must control the zeal for change. To imply as this writer does that the mere desire for change is synonymous with the "zeal for advance" is to exalt very far above
1 See Conservatism. (Williams & Norgate, 1912.) Chapter I.
He is constantly reminding us of the need to look back to our ancestors if we wish to look forward to posterity; he acknowledges that without the means for some change, a state is "without the means of its conservation", and he speaks of the desirability of always acting as if in the presence of our "canonised forefathers". 1 But all this sounds too much like our old and popular friend, Conservatism, qua "caution" and "no change", to help us in our conflict with alleged "progressive" opponents. He never distinguishes sharply between a desire for mere change, which may come from the most undesirable elements in the nation, and the creative innovations of the supernormal, which alone constitute a nation's progress. And as he does not make this distinction he naturally fails in defining the duties of those who, in their political activities, strive for conservatism.
It is, however, the function of Conservatives as a political body constantly to discover and to be guided by this distinction. And here we come to the esoteric connotation of Conservatism, which, far from being merely an attitude of caution or obstruction in the way of all change which, as we have seen, is its popular and exoteric connotation is an attitude of
1 See Reflections on the Revolution in France.
All change, as we have seen, antagonises a very deep instinct of mankind. But all change, is not therefore bad. The mistake is to allow that all change is necessarily progress. And it is the lofty mission of Conservatism no other political party has ever recognised the need of such a function to prevent national changes from degenerating into a process of general decomposition.
Owing to the popular conception of Conservatism having become the general one, Conservatives are now associated in the minds of the majority with a policy of pure obstruction. And Conservative politicians themselves, by constantly reiterating the need of looking back and of cautiously weighing the old with the new, lend a colourable warrant to this misconception. They are frequently content to claim (and this is their most enlightened claim) that Conservative policy consists in preserving the lessons of the past. But it is, as we shall see, very much more than that.
Conservative writers and politicians have. on the whole, been much more prone to advertise Conservatism in its exoteric connotation, and have thereby greatly facilitated the task of their opponents. Nothing is easier than to condemn a group who stand for "caution" or "no change", when the wail of countless sufferers demands change at all costs. Thus the British method of carrying on government by means of opposing parties Liberal and Conservative, or Labour and Conservative has been called an idea! method, because it has been gratuitously assumed that the Liberals and Labourites are wholly progressive, and that the Conservatives, who are wholly for "caution" or for "no change", act as a salutary counter-weight or check to their opponents' frequently
That is why, if Conservatism is to be saved, it must be elevated beyond its present popular and exoteric connotation, and must cease to be regarded, at least by its supporters, as merely a position of political caution and obstruction.
Burke approaches the truth in this matter when he says: "A disposition to preserve and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman." 2 But even this is too vague. It is too prone to appeal to the sentimental and least reliable side of people's natures. It makes them think of the Lord Mayor's Show, and of the Beefeaters at the Tower, the sight of which gives them pleasant sensations, and they forget the vital and unsentimental side of preservation, which consists of a ruthless and uncompromising attitude of war towards all decaying, moribund and morbid elements.
1 See for instance J. A. Froude's Reciprocal Duties of State and Subject, where the author gives the popular general view on this matter as follows: "It is admitted on all sides that the two parties which divide the country represent each a form of thought which is the complement of the other. Her Majesty's Government is incomplete without Her Majesty's Opposition." Froude subsequently scoffs at this idea, and very rightly. But there can be no doubt that it represents the general and often the learned view.
2 Reflections. Towards the end of the essay he says: "I would not exclude alteration either, but even when I changed, it should be to preserve." This is good. But it is not yet sufficiently clear. What is it that requires preserving? One is left to suspect that it is merely old institutions for the sake of their venerable antiquity.
We are now in a position to give the esoteric connotation of Conservatism as a political credo and position, and our first step will be to dismiss from our minds all ideas connected with the exoteric connotation.
Before esoteric and statesman's Conservatism is defined, however, it is necessary first to make clear what is meant by politics.
Politics is the science of conducting national affairs by directing and framing national policies. National policies are schemes and methods for the regulation and guidance of national energy with the view of attaining national ends. 1
If it is at all desirable that a nation's life should be continued and few nations would be disposed to question the desirability at least of their own continuance the whole of national politics resolves itself into a science of preservation. Since, however, it is a matter of preserving a living, growing and therefore changing phenomenon, politics cannot be merely a scientific abstention from interference, as if an immovable and incorrodible rock had to be preserved, but a science of enlightened interference after the style of forestry.
But all flourishing life means not only growth but, through growth, expansion. And national life is no exception to this rule. The politics of a flourishing
1 See William Sanderson, Statecraft.
If, however, expansion is to be the extending or a nation, and not merely the centrifugal dispersion of unidentified superfluous units of the nation's life, preservation will become part of the process of expansion. The whole of the politics of a flourishing nation, therefore, resolves itself into a science of expansion with preservation, on the enlightened interfering lines of successful forestry. And he who practises this science is called a politician.
All political parties which claim to be national and not international, which claim to be patriotic and not cosmopolitan, must consequently be conservative. They may differ regarding the means by which they propose to gain this end, but they must be either conservative or the enemies of their nation's future. For the word conservative, from the Latin con, together, and servare to keep, means to keep together. Even a patriotic revolutionary, as we have seen, must be a conservative, otherwise he is to be suspected of desiring his revolution merely as a pyrotechnic display, the results of which are to die down with the extinguishing of the last sparks. If he desires his revolution, for the good of his nation, as he would if he were patriotic, he must desire the results of his revolution to endure. And at that point he becomes a Conservative. This explains the curious phenomenon, recurring through history, of the revolutionary who ultimately becomes a "reactionary" and who is frivolously accused of inconsistency by the thoughtless, because of his apparent change of attitude as if a revolutionary were a man whose "profession",
In the light of this explanation the term Liberal or Labour, as a title of party, ought to be opposed to Conservative in current politics only as a sign of disagreement regarding means. There is no sense in a Liberal or Labour politician who does not wish to preserve in expansion. If he be anti-Conservative apart from the question of means, he can only be logical if he deny either the desire to expand, or the desire to preserve, or both. But then he is not a true politician according to the definition given above, because he is not a framer of a national policy. He is merely realising some ambition of his own, which is hostile to the nation's future.
Esoteric or statesman's Conservatism, then, is the position of those who, far from being merely opposed to change, wish only to preserve the national identity throughout the changes introduced by growth and expansion. The difference is very simple, but it involves many enormous difficulties. It is very much more strenuous to preserve a definite quality through change, than to be opposed to change per se. That is why the indolence and increasing stupidity of the Conservative Party has gradually led to their gravitating to the exoteric and popular understanding of their position.
The claim of the alert and live Conservative politician should, however, be that he wishes to preserve the identity of his nation throughout change, and that in this effort to preserve his nation's identity throughout change, he takes as his model the best and most characteristic types which his nation has produced. But if this be his claim, he is committed to the further claim
(b) That he wishes to preserve the national health, not only because ill health means maladaptation and therefore a non-creative desire for change, but also because it leads to the decay of national strength, capacity and character. To be a good forester a man must know how to give trees their proper health conditions, and he must also know how and when to chop and prune them. In the words of Tennyson:
That man's a true Conservative
Who lops the mouldered branch away. 1
(c) That in criticising agitations for change, he knows how, 2 or takes care to learn how, to distinguish between the demands coming from a redundance of spirit and capacity, which if gratified may lead to national progress, and the demands coming from impoverished spirit and capacity, which, if gratified, must inevitably lead to national decline. But, even in examining the first named demands for change, he must bear in mind that not all change, even of an apparently progressive kind, is necessarily compatible with the national character and physique.
(d) That in criticising agitations for change coming from the unhappy, he knows how, or takes care to learn how, to distinguish between maladaptation
1 Hands all Round.
2 Regarding that taste, which should be the possession of every great statesman, and which enables him properly to perform the duties of selection and rejection, it is impossible to say much here. The whole question is discussed with sufficient detail in Chapter I of my Defence of Aristocracy.
(e) That he wishes to maintain the national prestige, because prestige is power, and power is safety, and safety is security for the present and future.
(f) That he knows enough about the character and potentialities of his people, and about the eternal characteristics of healthy mankind in general, to be able to judge whether new tendencies are possible or fantastic (i.e., whether they are in keeping with the eternal nature of men, or the particular character of his nation, or whether they apply only to angels, goblins, fairies, or other romantic fictions, who alone seem to suit the exigencies of hundreds of modern hare-brained schemes). 1
Hence he believes in the advisability of having as politicians, not only men who can lay some valid claim to a knowledge of humanity, but also men who belong to the stock of those whose policy they are called upon to direct. He also disbelieves, therefore, in having Jews, or men of foreign extraction, or odd people that is to say, eccentrics, cranks, and fanatics, as politicians in an English Parliament.
(g) That he is deeply concerned about the happi-
1 Burke felt this deeply. He says: "I have endeavoured through my whole life to make myself acquainted with human nature; otherwise I should be unfit to take even my humble part in the service of mankind." Later he says: "I allow all this because I am a man who have dealt with men." Speaking of ancient legislators, he says: "They had to do with men, and they were obliged to study human nature . . . they followed with a solicitous accuracy the moral conditions and propensities of men" (Reflections).
(h)That in dealing with the vis major which threatens to enforce changes on the nation from outside, he knows how to be prepared, to act firmly and swiftly, and with the whole front of his nation's strength against the enemy. Because the vis major comes as a result of an extension of power on the part of another nation. The Conservative politician is, however, only concerned with securing the extension of his own nation's power, and cannot therefore tolerate anything that jeopardises or limits this extension. It is often argued that unpreparedness for the vis major is in itself a sign of inadequate or feeble government or culture. This, however, is not always true. A nation cannot equip itself like the White Knight in Alice Through the Looking Glass for every possible emergency. The effort to do so would in all probability bring down its whole culture with a crash. For instance, how could the Peruvians or Mexicans have prepared for the Spaniards, seeing that they did not know of their existence? If the government of a nation are to be expected to prepare for every emergency, known and unknown, then no limit can be described to the precautions they ought to take. Who can tell what the other planets hold in store for us? Are we to cover ourselves entirely with a steel roof in anticipation of the approaching incursion into terrestial atmosphere of the inhabitants of some distant heavenly body? It is obvious that the White Knight
1 "With fear and trembling," said Confucius, "take care of the heart of the people: that is the root of the matter in education that is the highest education." Cf. Disraeli: "Power has only one duty: to secure the social welfare of the People." (Sybil.)
Summing up, therefore, we may say that esoteric Conservatism is the preservation of the national identity throughout the processes of change, by a steady concern about quality in the whole of the nation's life.
And thus Conservatism naturally unites with the aristocratic tradition which also is concerned chiefly with qualitative as opposed to quantitative values.
Truth to tell, the radical antagonism between democratic and aristocratic tendencies consists precisely in the impossibility of effecting a compromise between quantitative and qualitative valuations.
Under democratic influence, bulk and numbers begin to take the place of quality in every department of the national life. This is so not only in the mass production of articles of use and food, it is not so
1 For an excellent account of this civilisation and its great value see Dr. Sollas's Ancient Hunters.
But this purely materialistic principle leads to the neglect of what is most important in the measurement of value to wit, authority and quality. It amounts, therefore, in practice, to a failure to distinguish between changes which are demanded by undesirable, and those which are demanded by desirable elements in a nation. It leads inevitably to an unconcern about quality in every phase of the nation's life, whether it be a matter of valuing the human unit himself, or his mind, or his food, or his work, or his mating, or his culture.
This, however, is in direct antagonism to the principle of preservation. No living, growing, and surviving whole can be preserved if due regard is not paid to its quality. It is therefore also directly opposed to the principle of Conservatism; for we have claimed that Conservatism must preserve the identity of the nation throughout change, and that it is part of the function of Conservatism constantly to discover, and to be guided by, the distinctions which quantitative valuations take no account of.
What, however, is the consequence of this necessary union of Conservatism with aristocratic ideals? Obviously, in the popular mind of to-day, particularly when it is misguided by radical and revolutionary agitators, it is that Conservatism acquires the complexion of an anti-popular party. Indeed, if so thoughtful a writer as De Quincey came to this erroneous conclusion as early as 1835, 1 it can hardly be expected that less thoughtful men would escape it. It certainly served Mr. Lloyd George and the Liberal Party a very good turn for the purpose of party propaganda in the General Elections of 1906 and 1910; and yet it is entirely unfounded. Quite apart from the fact that the Tory, and later the Conservative Party, has always been a defender of the people, a party is not necessarily anti-popular because it feels itself constrained to consider and to exalt qualitative valuations. No sound policy of national preservation with expansion is possible without them. To omit to be guided by them is, indeed, tantamount to abandoning the position of a politician as defined above.
1 See A Tory's Account of Toryism, Whiggism and Radicalism, written in 1835 (Vol. XV of the Author's Edition of his Works. A. and C. Black, 1863, p. 226): "A Whig is he who, in the practical administration of affairs, takes charge of the popular influence, guides and supports it; a Tory, on the contrary, is he who takes charge of the antagonist or non-popular influence, guides and supports it. . . . And in this view, neither is wrong, nor can be wrong, both are right. And, so far from being hostile to each other, each is right only by means of and through his antagonist. . . . Taken jointly, they make up the total truth."
Nevertheless, in spite of all the historical and other evidence to the contrary, it is extraordinary how simple it has been for Liberal, Radical and Labour opponents of Conservatism, to contend that Conservatives are really the anti-popular party. And since, as we have shown, the union of Aristocracy and Conservatism is an inevitable one, a colourable warrant seems to be given to this contention in the eyes of the multitude.
But this unhappy consequence of the meeting of Aristocracy and Conservatism in matters of principle, is as easily corrected as it is exploited by the political opponents of both. Because, fortunately, it is quite untrue on the philosophic plane (in as much as the preservation of the identity of the nation must involve a tender consideration for the health, welfare and happiness of the masses) while, historically, it is only partially true, and where it is true, denotes on the part of Tories and Conservatives, not an observance of their guiding political principles, but, as I have shown in my Defence of Aristocracy, 1 a departure from these principles. Thus, to the extent to which they become anti-popular they cease to be truly aristocratic or Conservative.
It is obvious that, in practice, the heavy responsibility of distinguishing between progressive and regressive demands for change, may frequently give the sound Conservative the appearance of an anti-
1 See Chapters II and III of The English Aristocrat as a Failure.
Hume is more sound than De Quincey, therefore, when he argues that "the Tories, as men, were enemies to oppression, and also as Englishmen they were enemies to arbitrary power" 1; but even De Quincey somewhat retrieves his former position when he denies utterly "the pretence that the Tory acts, taken comprehensively, have been less friendly to civil liberty than those of their antagonists." 2
If Aristocracy and Conservatism have, in a large measure, failed in England; if the politicians believing in these positions have frequently afforded some warrant for the belief that they are not the friends of the people, it is because thoughtful politicians have been rare, and because the principles of Conservatism have only seldom been properly understood by those who have all their lives professed to be either Conservatives or Aristocrats.
Grave as these defects have been, however, they are more excusable in the Conservative commoner as such than in the born aristocrat and gentleman landowner; because, whereas the former has very frequently, although quite foolishly, been pressed, either by the weight of his political duties, or else by the exigencies of his party, to forget or to neglect his fundamental principles, the two latter have as frequently had all the leisure and independence, which alone enable a man, who is not a hero, to abide unflinchingly by his beliefs and his duty.
1 See Essay: "Of the Parties of Great Britain".
2 On the Political Parties of Modern England, written in 1837 (Edition and Vol. already given) p. 219.
When Lord Derby came into office in 1858 with the idea of cutting the ground from under Mr. Gladstone's feet by introducing a Reform Bill, Froude asked a friend why the Tories did not keep to their own province. "Authority was everywhere falling to pieces, why did they not say frankly they would try to check, for instance, the dishonesty of trade, and that if the people wanted reform bills they must go to those who believed that reform would do them good?"
Froude's friend replied that if the Tories attempted
Froude agreed, but protested that they would return in a year or two with every right-minded Englishman at their backs.
His friend replied it would never do. The Tories had long been out of power, and they wanted patronage. 1
A good part of the problem of Conservative statesmanship is involved in this discussion. Is it ever possible for a political party in the interests of a lofty national object, to play the heroic part of abiding by its principles, or must opportunism always be the practice of the active politician?
If opportunism is the only resort of politicians playing for office, then obviously it is a waste of time to discuss principles and to allot them to any particular party. Then the practice, so much favoured by Conservative politicians in the past, of stealing the clothes of the Liberals or the Radicals or even the Socialists, while these gentlemen are away bathing, becomes the highest wisdom, and party differences become mere make-believe. 2 But is it in the long run profitable to exalt opportunism above principle?
The circumstances of democratic control may possibly make principles quite impracticable. It may be that the inherent vice of democratic control consists precisely in the insuperable difficulty of eschewing opportunism in favour of principle. But, in that case, we must cease to speak of Conservatives, Liberals and Labourites. The words have no meaning.
1 Reciprocal Duties of State and Subject.
2 Thus Arthur Ponsonby, M.P., one of the bitterest critics of Conservatism, says: "The old-fashioned and honest Conservative, however, is a more attractive figure than the timid opportunist who follows half-heartedly in a more progressive course, but can never be relied upon to pull his weight in the boat." (See his Religion and Politics, p. 10.)
"The peculiar merit?" Is it then a merit to be devoid of principle? We may see the prevalence of this deficiency in so-called practical politicians. But may we call it a merit, and may we call him practical who reveals it? For, after all, what constitutes success in practical politics? Does it not amount to securing the confidence of the country? And with such a popular creed as Conservatism, which finds its support in the deepest instincts of all men, this should not be difficult. But how can confidence be won by inconsistency? Besides, every thoughtful person must strongly deprecate the separation of what is practical from what is theoretically right. This separation, however, is implicit in-Lord Hugh Cecil's sentence. The man who is inconsistent is theoretically wrong. How then can he be practically right? Does Lord Hugh Cecil accept the shallow though popular belief that one may be right in theory but wrong in practice? If so, why does he set himself up as a teacher of Conservative theory?
Opportunism is inconsistency. It implies and is a lack of principle. To a man who enters the political arena with the object of being an opportunist, all theory, all principles, are so much superfluous baggage. But let us not suppose that he is therefore a better equipped practical politician. He will only succeed
1 Conservatism, Chapter III.
All this may be merit; but it cannot be practical, if we mean by practical that which is useful or serves some useful end.
And yet it must be admitted that party politics have become increasingly opportunist. And the discredit which lies to the score of the Conservative and Aristocratic parties, is due largely to the fact that, where they might have been leaders, and sometimes the heroic opponents of the people's will, for the people's ultimate good, they have all too frequently been opportunists and demagogues. And thus they have lost their prestige. In a country so deeply conservative as England, all that the people wanted was protection and a consistent lead from the party which had the right to call themselves gentlemen. Because this is what the masses had been accustomed to. For something like five hundred years of its history, the English people had looked to their gentlemen to lead them and to defend their liberties, even at the risk of sometimes finding themselves checked in their more unreasonable demands. They were prepared to continue along these lines. It was the easiest and the best course. And they would have continued had they not lost faith. How did they lose faith? By recognising time after time that the gentleman party were no better than their own demagogues for opportunism and lack of principle.
"Why are the people of England forced to find leaders among these persons [meaning Liberal and
Too little has been made of imagination and too much has been made of compromise. What caused the revulsion of feeling in favour of royalty after the Grand Rebellion, which makes the people of this country probably the most Royalist of any nation on earth? What made England endure with cheerfulness the rule of a cynical and debauched Don Juan like Charles II for twenty-five years, and a succession of monarchs like the Georges for a century? Was it not the prestige that monarchy had gained by the death, through adherence to principle, of that great monarch, Charles I? Everybody is agreed that if at the last moment Charles I had chosen to be opportunist, and to deliver up both his people and his Church to the mercy of the Parliamentary Party, he would have saved his life. On the scaffold he called himself the martyr of the people. He was just as much the martyr of the Church of England.
But though his consistency cost him his life, it stirred the imagination of his country as it had never been stirred before, and so bound the populace to the cause of monarchy that his successors on the throne were able to indulge in the worst abuses without bringing monarchy into discredit.
1 Life of Disraeli (Money and Buckle, Vol. III, p. 101). See also Lord George Bentinck, A Political Biography, by B. Disraeli (Ed. 1852), p. 325: "The first duty of an aristocracy is to lead, to guide and to enlighten, to soften vulgar prejudices and to dare to encounter popular passion."
That is why I believe, with Froude, that when political leaders are wise, they gain prestige and confidence by refusing to be opportunists, even at the cost of office. But they must lead. They must have principles, and they must have thought over them. And it is precisely in these prerequisites of sound political action that the Tories and later the Conservatives have been so singularly lacking.
Speaking of the Tories of his day, Disraeli said: "They had not a single definite or intelligent idea as to their position or their duties, or the character of their party. They were haunted with a nervous apprehension of that great bugbear, 'The People', that bewildering title under which a miserable minority contrives to coerce and plunder a nation. They were ignorant that the millions of that nation required to be guided and encouraged, and that they were that nation's natural leaders, bound to marshal and enlighten them." 1
These questions occur to the reader: Is it not now too late to speak of leading the masses? Are not the
1 Benjamin Disraeli, by Wilfred Meynell (1903), p. 262.
To the first of these questions I would reply by another question: Has the reader any doubt about the fact that journalists are now to a large extent the leaders of public opinion? Has he any doubt whatever that newspaper influence is powerful and effective? If he has not, and I don't think he is entitled to entertain much doubt on these points, why does he suppose that leadership is at an end? It may be deplorable that men like journalists, many of whom are untrained thinkers, many more of whom are untrained in the particular science of politics in which they profess to play the part of leaders, and almost all of whom have to be opportunists, should disport themselves as the official guides of national political opinion. It may be very sad that the journalists of the country, who cannot, like politicians, be held responsible for the policies they advocate, should be in a position to advocate policies. And it may be very tragic that newspaper owners, on whom no one can retaliate, and who cannot be brought to book if their influence is pernicious, can exercise the political influence they do. All this shows, however, not that leadership of the People is no longer necessary, but that the office of leader has been filled by usurpers.
The very fact that the vacuum has been filled at all, is subject for congratulation rather than for regret, because at least it has kept the tradition of political leadership unbroken, and has preserved for true leaders a public which, despite its 18,000,000 votes and its alleged education, is still trained to habits of sequatiousness and docility.
What then is the moral? Supply the need of political leadership in the proper and effective way. Restore to the people their hereditary birthright, which is a body of men, not only trained to lead in the particular science which is now being invaded by clever and glib laymen, but who will also be responsible in a way that journalists cannot be made responsible, for the lead they give; and the result will be that politics will begin to acquire a more dignified and more serious mien.
It will be objected that such leadership is now impracticable because it is too costly, and above all depends upon a personnel of able and impressive scientists, who are difficult to find and who are, moreover, expensive to keep. But I know, with personal and intimate knowledge, of at least one private concern that employs thirty men of university education, each of whom is supplied with a touring car, to travel the country all the year round in order
Obviously not! Let us therefore no longer imagine that political leadership is impossible, or that journalists adequately supply the need of it, or that the political power of journalists cannot now be superseded. I have spoken on politics sufficiently often in English villages to be aware of the sore need that exists for leadership, and of how imperfectly it is met by the newspaper article.
There is not even any necessity for the kind of propagandist machinery which I have described as having been adopted by a certain private firm for the spread of their particular system of cultivation. Have we not our country gentlemen distributed all over England? Do they not enjoy an intimate and thorough knowledge of the people about them? What could they have been doing all this time to allow journalists to mould the opinions of their less educated neighbours? When, however, these country gentlemen are seen at close quarters, they are all too frequently found to be so ill-prepared for the mission that awaits them, that it is hardly surprising that they can only be stirred into momentary activity, at each general election, by the fear of Bolshevism.
The fact that, whereas in 1860, 108 of the total Members of Parliaments, were the sons of peers, or heirs to peerages, only 33 belonged to the class in 1906, is typical of the times. It is thus that politics, the most honourable and most difficult of sciences, has been relegated to quill-drivers, adventurers, and
In reply to the second part of the question the practicability of the principle I have laid down, which consists in the Conservative duty to distinguish between regressive and progressive clamours for change this has indeed been complicated by the development of democratic control, but it has not been made impossible. Does such clamour ever manifest itself in the form of sending a representative to Westminster? It does so manifest itself, the reader may think, when a Communist is returned to Parliament. But in that case it is easily dealt with in Parliament itself. Suppose, however, it never gets as far as that. My suggestion is that in that case it can be dealt with on the spot i.e. at the place where it is manifested. But it can only be dealt with satisfactorily by a competent politician capable of making his objections to it clear and forcible.
Let us look at this for the moment from the standpoint of a commercial enterprise offering some improved implement for agriculture. A certain district in South Somerset refuses to deal with the firm's representative, because, unlike advanced Lincoln, it fails to see the advantage of the new device, and continues to clamour for an antiquated and obsolete implement which unnecessarily limits production. Here, evidently, we have a problem in education. How is it solved by business men? It is solved by adopting the course of re educating the district.
But is not this also the duty of the politician in a similar dilemma? If the clamour never reaches Westminster, he must debate the merits of its object with the people who raise it. But for that task he
1 In 1832, for instance, only 117 of 658 members were returned by constituencies not altogether dependent upon patrons.
2 Op. Cit. Chapter VIII. When it is remembered that all that is asked and expected of these men is that they should vote as their party managers wish them to vote, their value as representatives of a district is no greater than it was in 1832.
It is this kind of abuse that is leading more and more to the total discredit of Parliamentary institutions. Indeed the latter can hardly hope to survive for long if the abuse be allowed to continue. And, seeing that no other alternative exists in our Constitution, we are faced with the possibility of a dictatorship, or else complete anarchy. In other countries, where Parliamentary institutions have been discredited in this way, in Italy, France, Greece and Spain, the new trend towards the overthrow of democratic control is already apparent, and England is hardly likely to withhold herself long from a movement that appears to be the inevitable development of an unreal and factitious Republicanism.