Typos p. 258: magnititude [= magnitude]
Why One Should be a Conservative
It cannot be denied, however, even by the most ardent English patriot that the great achievements of England, at least in the dramatic and spectacular stage of their existence, are now, and have been for some time, largely a matter of history. The late war is the last great act within living memory, and its value as a stimulus for patriotic feeling is largely marred by the fact that in it England performed a contributary rather than a solitary feat.
If, however, we turn our attention from what is dramatic and spectacular, to that which is still immense, although perhaps less noisy and less capable of immediately stirring the imagination, that which remains with Englishmen of all that they have achieved, ought, while it is still held, to prove a very substantial source of pride and a powerful stimulus to continued
Stated in a single comprehensive term, this is the great Empire of which she is the vital centre. And this Empire, the most essential and most inspiring feature of modern England, supplies more than three quarters of the solemnity and splendour which are associated with her destiny.
Truth to tell, there have been of late years many influences at work, both in minimising its grandeur and in casting doubt upon its justice so much so indeed that, at the present day, it is seldom that anything is heard which gives any idea of the enormous responsibilities and potentialities of England's present position. On the one hand the Empire has been the subject of vague and sentimental verbiage, often degenerating into claptrap, and on the other, of abuse based on the history of its acquisition, which has seriously discredited it among large sections of the public. Indeed, as a concept, it tends now to arouse so many conflicting emotions of pride, doubt, indignation and even shame, that it might perhaps be well, before considering the Conservative attitude towards it, to examine the precise weight of the arguments that are commonly advanced by those who wish to depreciate its greatness.
There are two principal schools of critics. There are the Socialists and extreme Liberals on the one side, who indignantly resent the idea that any group of people should ever become subject to another more powerful group, because they cannot suffer the thought of human inequality. And, on the other side, there are the latter-day moralists, who find it difficult to
The first group never miss an opportunity of exposing the enormities perpetrated by England in the acquirement of her colonies and dependencies, and the latter do their utmost to cover up the truth and their own sense of shame, either by arguing that the Empire was won when Englishmen were not fully awake to moral obligations, or by claiming that England's rule was always an advantage to the people who came under her power. Both groups speak with a sense of guilt, both would not mind very much if the Empire were to become disintegrated, and both are resolutely opposed to any further acquisition of territory.
Added to these two groups is a third and less influential group, consisting of people very much more reasonable than the first two, but also disposed to deprecate the existence of the Empire; who believe that conquest should always be justified by a superior culture; and that since a culture of manufacturies, smoke stacks, shoddy, and slums, cannot possibly be superior even to the lowest savage culture, any sort of violence which leads to the imposition of our smoke-stack civilisation on a people not previously familiar with its blessings, is an act of brutal vandalism and cosmic uglification.
It cannot be denied that the people advancing these various views have exercised an enormous amount of influence over recent public opinion; and the spirit which created them was carried, over thirty years ago, by the Nonconformist and Liberal elements in the nation, who formed the Little Englander Party, into the sphere of practical politics.
And yet the principles on which their standpoint
In a limited area like that of the terrestrial globe, in which many different peoples wage a struggle for existence, and the nature of whose lives imposes expansion as a necessary consequence of health and vigour, it was inevitable that there should come a time when invasion and expropriation of territory should arise. In fact, if we are to believe the many accounts of man's prehistoric past, invasion and expropriation of territory seem never to have ceased ever since man first emerged from his wandering animal forebears.
If then it is impossible to subscribe to the principle of human equality, and of the equality of human races in particular, it seems clear that a superior race has a sort of natural mandate to spread at the cost of an inferior one.
To appreciate this contention, it may be as well to state two extreme cases first of all to show the inequality of men on the one hand, and secondly the natural tendency in all healthy conditions to sacrifice the inferior, if sacrifice is demanded.
Let us suppose the existence of an isolated agricultural community, unable, except at intervals of six months, to communicate with the outside world. Furthermore, let us suppose that this community possesses one thatcher and twenty ploughmen, and that an act requires to be done which, while it involves the risk of life, is essential to the preservation of the community. It may be that a wild beast has to be killed in its lair, or that a treasure has to be rescued from a house which, owing to a recent landslide, now hangs in a. perilous position over a cliff or what not.
It is obvious that in selecting a man for the performance of the dangerous feat, the community will not light upon the thatcher. Why? Because he
Thus the fundamental principle of inequality must make it right, where sacrifice is necessary, to sacrifice the inferior and not the superior.
Now, to take the second extreme case, let us look upon the whole world as a vast camp, in which, sooner or later, a shortage of food may occur. Let us suppose that this shortage is actually present, and that there is a fierce struggle for supremacy among the peoples of the world to obtain control of the food supplies. 1 If we are believers in the radical inequality of mankind, we see nothing strange or revolting in the spectacle of a superior people winning in such a
1 It appears, according to some authorities, that this point may be reached in under 200 years from now, so that the hypothetical case is not so fantastic as it might seem. It has been estimated that the earth can maintain 6,000,000,000 inhabitants, a total which, at the present rate of increase, will be reached about 2,100 A.D).
To argue, therefore, that Empire is wrong because it conflicts with the principle of human equality is about as sensible as to say that War is wrong because it conflicts with the principle of human sphericity. In a limited area like the terrestrial globe, a superior race has the incontestable right to spread itself at the cost of inferior races. And until the moment when it becomes feeble and constipated, no community ever dreams of questioning that right. Nature and Life themselves give the mandate for such a procedure. Because, if in the line of human evolution, we are compelled to admit the supersession of a superior stock at each stage of advance, we are com-
The argument against Empire from the standpoint of human equality is, therefore, claptrap. And to point to the many atrocities that have been committed in its acquisition, does not improve the logic of the egalitarian position. For war is never anything but a series of atrocities; invasion can never be pleasant for those who are invaded, and extermination can hardly be kind and humane.
Coming to the next group of objectors to Empire, who find it hard to reconcile Christian professions with the Imperialistic exertion of might to obtain right; or, to put it differently, who object to might being identified with right these people are apparently so lacking in clarity that it is difficult to deal with them. And their position shows only too plainly how wholly we are led by the mere sound of words and not by the thought behind them.
If such objectors to Empire are democrats as well as professing Christians, which they almost always are, we may ask them on what grounds they regard a majority as right? Why does a majority have its way? How does it cause its right to prevail over other people's right? Have they any explanation to offer? Can they answer? They certainly acknowledge the right of majorities at all their private family gatherings, all their club, union, church or chapel meetings. They see the principle working at the polls, in the County Council, in Parliament, and in every assembly of men all over the world. Why? If might is not right, why should majorities be right? In the old days, we presume, controversies were always settled as they sometimes are now, by a fight. Experience of grazed heads and broken bones ultimately led mankind, therefore, to concede to the greatest number (those who had the might), the right,
Even in popular agitations, through which the law is altered, we see the operation of the same principle. An act which a hundred years ago was wrong according to the law, becomes right in time owing to the fact that large numbers insist on its being right. This is true of combinations between workmen, public meetings and other practices now considered right.
To say that the principle that might is right is incompatible with Christianity may be quite sound. As I am not a Christian I will not venture to pronounce an opinion on this point. But, if it is sound, then it follows that democracy itself. Parliament, voting, whether at a Church Congress or at Wesleyan gatherings everything, in fact, that is conducted on the majority principle, is thoroughly un-Christian. 2
Such arguments do not bear examination, and those who advance them are so frequently inconsistent that they neither inspire respect nor repay attention.
1 That this is not an individual point of view is shown by what Mr. Edward Jenks says on the subject. In discussing majorities and their power, he writes: "And so it would appear that a fiction was gradually adopted, by which it was assumed that there had been a fight, and that one party had gained the victory. . . . And so it seems to have gradually become the custom, when party feeling was not very strong, to settle the matter by counting heads instead of breaking them." (A History of Politics, p. 131.)
2 The reader may object that there is one assembly of men which still resists the majority principle, and that it is one in which the supreme object is justice. The jury, of course, is what is meant. This is perfectly true. But it is well known that to dispense with the majority principle frequently leads to deadlocks, and to the necessity of a new trial. Hence the repeated enquiry of the judge addressed to both counsel, whether they will take a majority verdict. But in
This is merely to add hypocrisy to the original crime of loose thinking. Far from her invasions having been for the good of the people whose territory was taken, whole masses of these people no longer remain. No descendant records their existence. The inhabitants of Canada, Australia and Tasmania have been almost wiped out. Moreover, even if they had not been wiped out, how could our interference with their normal lives and culture have been for their good? Our intention in first going among them was not to secure their welfare or to increase their happiness. The pioneers of Empire were much too honest to entertain any such hypocritical views. Our intention was to make some provision for the healthy expansion of our people, and secure their prosperity in trade and commerce. Why not admit it frankly, and justify it on the principle of human inequality? Sanctimoniously to ascribe pious motives to our robust and amoral pioneers of Empire, is to belittle them without doing the case for Empire any substantial good.
When we turn to the third objectors, we confess that we see more reason in their contention. From the standpoint of the world's future, it may be ques-
great issues, where the opposing sides consist of crowds, the object of whose clamour is not justice but victory, no deadlock can be tolerated. No judge is present who can order a new trial. And the consequence is that the jury system, which is perhaps the only just system, cannot be applied.
To the first question we should certainly answer, "No". If we take for our ethical basis that the improvement or progress of the world as a whole should be our aim, then it is obvious there can be no ethical justification for imposing an inferior culture by force of arms upon a superior culture. We should, however, deny that, when the foundation of England's colonial greatness was built, from the reign of Elizabeth to the death of Charles II, her culture was inferior to any culture on earth. To the second question, we would reply that, whereas it cannot be maintained that the worst aspects of industrial England are in any case superior to the lowest savage culture, or that the unskilled loafer of our modern large towns, who can do nothing, is superior to the worst savage who can flake flints for weapons, and shoot straight at his prey, it should also not be forgotten that England's culture is a very much more mixed and highly complex one, and that comparisons between its lowest manifestations and the best manifestations of a low savage culture are hardly fair. Taken as a whole, it may rightly be said, that England's culture is superior to that of any people which she has practically exterminated; and that, with regard to the remainder, she can best justify her presence among them in the future by protecting them against worse influences than her own, and by helping them to develop the best that is in them under her tolerant dominion.
While, therefore, it may be denied that there is any moral wrong in the expansion of a healthy, flourishing and cultivated people, at the cost of inferior savages;
At all events, this much is certain, if the acquisition of the British Empire has been right, the Empire cannot now be abandoned without converting it into a wrong; and if it has been wrong, the best way to redeem that wrong, since it cannot now be undone, is to continue to administer the Empire in such a manner as to make it a boom and not a bane to the world at large. This, however, obviously cannot be done if it is not retained.
The very magnititude of the task which the preservation of the Empire imposes, therefore, places present England and Englishmen in a position unique in the history of the world. Never before have such powers for good or evil devolved upon a single nation, and, if the Empire is to be conserved, upon a single political party. Never before have so many millions of human beings been organised under one head. 1 And it is even conceivable that, to foreigners of every kind, and of every belief, the chance which the British Empire now offers, of linking up their efforts with the greatest "going concern" ever known, constitutes one of the chief and most inspiring
1 Their number is said to be 436,732,000.
Consequently, to allow the Empire to be disintegrated, would be tantamount to destroying it before its destiny had been achieved; it would be equivalent to leaving it as a mere tour de force, a mere display of skill, enterprise and adventure, which, though possibly the greatest in history, was nevertheless without meaning or purpose, immature and unconsummated.
To give it the highest possible sanction, therefore, it must be preserved. And the task of the future, very far from consisting of its piecemeal dismemberment, must consist of knitting it ever closer together.
As a means of national expansion, allowing for the preservation of national identity, the Empire is essentially the creation of a conscious or unconscious Conservatism in politics. For, although it began to find acceptance in the complex of Tory doctrine only at the time of George III's accession, and did not become a fully deliberate object of Conservative policy until late in the nineteenth century, reaching its zenith of enthusiastic support with the appearance of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain in the Colonial Office in 1895, it is essentially a Tory conception, and belongs by nature to that portion of the Tory creed which compels attention to national expansion with unbroken unity.
The Liberals and Radicals, who have long been too deeply tainted with Little Englandism to be suspected of wishing to achieve the closer federation of the Empire, cannot be considered in regard to the Imperial responsibilities of the future; while the Labour Party, which is now, and is likely to be for some time, too thoroughly engrossed with domestic problems to be able to spare any energy in wider fields, is also not to be thought of in this connection. There is, moreover, among both Radical and Labour politicians, that
If the grave responsibilities of Empire fall to any party in particular, therefore, it is the Conservatives who historically and by virtue of their principles and doctrine, are the rightful heirs of this sacred and yet heavy charge; and, if they only appreciate the immense possibilities of their heritage, there is no more powerful appeal for stirring the imagination of their supporters, and of the country at large. It is difficult to understand why the enthusiastic appeal of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain has failed to be repeated by any of his successors; and what is even more incomprehensible is the fact that nothing seems to have been done, since his time, to attempt to realise his magnificent concept of a closely federated British Commonwealth of Nations.
Nowhere else, no matter where we turn, can we see the chance of linking up our energies with such a vast organisation, the course of which can be so surely deflected towards the salvation of mankind; and for this reason alone we desire the preservation of the Empire, and its survival in the midst of the other political entities of the world.
This is perhaps the chief sense in which one should be a Conservative, because it involves a great and lofty mission, and a task calling for the highest qualities with which the name of the Conservative Party is associated. If, however, we were challenged to specify more narrowly the reasons why every thoughtful man should be a Conservative to-day, we should answer as follows:
Nothing so clear and tangible as a class struggle threatens, because ill-health and its hallucinations exist in every class just as do the rare vestiges of health and sanity. Neither is the struggle one against Socialism and Communism, because these are only small divisions in the vast army of fantastic doctrines, which claim their supporters in every rank of society. A great disaster would certainly bring all these aberrant elements sharply to their senses, and dissipate their morbid dreams. But a great disaster would be destructive of much that is precious as well, and to allow ourselves to drift into it might therefore postpone the sane reconstitution of society sine die.
It behoves all men, therefore, who wish before it is
We want air, pure air, and sanity introduced into our national councils, for much that requires to be done will demand the utmost clarity and the keenest vision in those who undertake to direct the course of the future. It would be impossible to preserve the nation not to mention the world if the present debauchery of modern and romantic ideas were allowed to continue. And if preservation is really our aim, and the identity of the nation still appeals to our imagination; if, moreover, we do not think that the greatest societies of the past were wrong in exalting discipline above dissoluteness, authority and subordination above anarchy, order and quality above chaos and mere quantity, and progress above indiscriminate movement and change, then we are committed to Conservatism and the principles on which it is based. For in this sense only is Conservatism a desirable and fructifying creed.