Typos p. 12 (Part II): have never been known [= has never been known]; p. 10 (Part IV): profferred [= proffered]; p. 13 (Part VIII): antimonies [= antinomies]; p. 13 (Part VIII): intellegentsia [= intelligentsia]; p. 13 (Part VIII): Jules [= Julien]; p. 11 (Part IX): necesasrily [= necessarily]; p. 11 (Part X): patsion [= passion]; p. 11 (Part X): Extravagaint [= Extravagant]; p. 11 (Part X): accesible [= accessible]; p. 12 (Part X): trumpetry [= trumpery]; p. 10 (Part XI): EDUCATIONAL [= EDUCATIVE]; p. 12 (Part XII): reasonablenes [= reasonableness]; p. 13 (Part XIII): Boulanger [= Boulenger]; p. 14 (Part XIII): combinations [= combination]; p. 14 (Part XIII): soft-peddle [= soft-pedal]; p. 14 (Part XIII): slighest [= slightest]; p. 11 (Part XVI): acomplishment [= accomplishment]; p. 11 (Part XVI): cenutries [= centuries]; p. 11 (Part XVII): apalling [= appalling]; p. 12 (Part XVII): consitutes [= constitutes]; p. 13 (Part XVIII): responsibilties [= responsibilities]; p. 13 (Part XVIII): orginally [= originally]; p. 12 (Part XIX): prevents its [= prevents it]; p. 12 (Part XX): BUGLERS [= BUGLES]; p. 13 (Part XX): Marchmont [= Marchamont]
The specious origins of Liberalism
Anthony M. Ludovici
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Like the medicines and surgical operations resorted to in illness and disease, political expedients designed to meet situations of distress are not necessarily good in themselves. We do not continue administering streptomycin or penicillin when a patient has recovered from the disability for which they were prescribed.
Unfortunately, however, in the realm of politics, remedies adopted in periods of stress, tend to be looked upon as beneficial for all time. No matter how deleterious their long-term effect may be, their temporary application in a crisis, is thought to justify their administration in perpetuity as if Mother Siegel's Soothing Syrup, given to a baby to allay its colic, should continue to be taken throughout childhood, adolescence, manhood and old age.
Liberalism, as the ideology now playing the leading rôle in world politics outside Russia's spheres of influence, is an outstanding example of this odd fidelity on the part of successive generations of Europeans towards what was in the first place only a disagreeable drug resorted to in a fit of desperation.
I say, "on the part of successive generations of Europeans"; but it is only fair to add that I refer to the vast majority of these people and their imitators. I have no wish to imply that nowhere have individual thinkers appeared who from time to time protested against this chronic addiction to a nostrum intended to meet an abnormal state of stress.
What then was the state of stress Liberalism was intended to relieve? He who can answer this question will put his finger on the solution of one of the most difficult problems of government. An answer to it will be attempted in these articles; but, before this is done, it will be necessary to say something about the popular attitude to government in general.
One of the most revealing facts social life teaches us is that no healthy ordinary child, adolescent, man or woman really believes in the equality of human beings. However ignorant and besotted they may be, and however docilely they may repeat the egalitarian faith as a lesson well learnt, watch them in any group of their fellows, whether in the bosom of their family, as part of a village community, or in any company away from home, and they will be seen to betray so penetrating a sense of rank as always and ungrudgingly to offer their allegiance and trust to the one person they instinctively feel capable of directing, advising or even leading them.
In my eightieth year, I have yet to see the child, adult, or old fossil, who in the presence of one whom he senses as his master, will yet prefer to govern himself and determine his own courses. The act of submission may be covert, disguised, or even openly denied, but it will certainly be performed. There is no such thing as hiding one's light under a bushel. Give your associates time and, if you deserve deference and obedience, you will be offered both in embarrassing abundance.
If the besetting sin of indolence were alone operative here, it would still account for this secret devotion to the efficient, the resourceful, and the "débrouillards" among men. For the truth is, men cannot afford to ignore rank. But other passions co-operate the joy of feeling confidence, of experiencing faith; the luxurious sense of freedom and serenity reached when we cast aside the exacting task of solving our peculiar problems; the ecstasy of relieving our frail shoulders of intolerable burdens. Who would prefer to govern himself when such relief lies at hand? This is a factor in all political speculation which our Lockes, Benthams and Mills are too much inclined to overlook. Liberalism, in fact, is partly founded on this strange oversight. John Stuart Mill, for instance, the greatest philosopher of the Liberal school, declared that "command and obedience are but unfortunate necessities of human life; society in equality is its normal state". (THE SUBJECTION OF WOMEN, 1869, Chap. II, Sect. 12). This is absolutely false and betrays Mill as an utterly incom-
Aristotle himself, however, sometimes nodded; for in a rare access of superficiality he expressed the view "that man is naturally a political animal" (POLITICS, II, Bk. 1, 1253a). If he meant that men are by nature prone to demand a share in the control of their national affairs, it is quite untrue; for the majority only wish to be left alone to pursue their own private designs and escape from the obligation of public responsibilities however light. At all events, Aristotle's remark can hardly apply to Englishmen, and for the simple reason that nowhere perhaps have the virtues and vices of individualism i.e., aloofness, self-centredness and love of minding one's own business been more sedulously cultivated than in England.
"The proportion of citizens who take a lively and constant interest in politics," said Lord Bryce, "is so small and likely to remain small, that the direction of affairs inevitably passes to the few" (MODERN DEMOCRACIES, Vol. II, Chap. LXXV); and thirty years later Dr. F. Zweig went some way towards supporting this point of view when he declared that "apart from a small minority, British workers are rarely politically minded". (LABOUR, LIFE AND POVERTY, 1948, Chap. XIII). J. A. Hobson is another who, as far as England is concerned, disagrees with Aristotle. "Save in a very small minority," he said in 1934, "there is no continuous interest in politics and therefore a lack of that 'eternal vigilance' rightly said to be the price of liberty". (DEMOCRACY AND A CHANGING CIVILIZATION, Chap. VI). Later in the same book he speaks of "the stupid indifference which normally prevails in the attitude of the majority of all classes towards the conduct of public affairs".
Dr. Harold Laski actually denied the alleged "interest in politics", not merely of the English, but of all men. (COMMUNISM, 1927, Chap. IV, Part IV). And, as for women, their rooted apathy, if not phobia, towards politics is vouched for by many English publicists. R. C. Ensor, for instance, declares that "Women (in the mass that is) have no day-to-day interest in politics. They will not patronize a paper that obtrudes too much serious politics upon them". (THE CHARACTER OF ENGLAND, 1947). Only a John Stuart Mill, dominated by his android womenfolk could ever have maintained anything else. Some eighty years before him, Walter Bagehot had said of his countrywomen, they "care fifty times more for a marriage than a ministry". (THE ENGLISH CONSTITUTION, No. 11). In their absurdly frenzied struggle for the futile Vote, the Suffragettes had of course no conception of the deep and unprintable motives that actuated them; but we may be sure that no objective interest in politics per se inspired their efforts.
If, however, English men and women were as politically-minded as many imagine, is it likely that Churchill, that "lover of freedom", would have made the monstrous suggestion he did in the Commons in June 1948, to the effect that people who refused to vote should be prosecuted and fined? No more tyrannical measure for penalizing exceptional intelligence has ever been proposed.
I am not denying that at every General Election large numbers of people will be moved to vote in favour of the candidate who promises to promote their personal welfare, and that therefore a certain proportion of the electorate may always be relied upon to show a transient passion for politics; for, as Spencer wrote in 1891, "unless we suppose that men's natures will be suddenly exalted, we must conclude that the pursuit of private interests will sway the doings of all component classes in a socialistic society" (Essay entitled FROM FREEDOM TO BONDAGE, forming the Introduction to A PLEA FOR LIBERTY). But, generally speaking, if we understand by "an interest in politics" that preoccupation with national government, which is confined, as Mill says that it should be (REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT, 1861, Chap. X) to a sincere concern about the public good, it is hardly an exaggeration to say that, if not wholly wanting, it is at least sufficiently scarce to make universal suffrage the canker rather than the safeguard of national life.
At all events, the indifference to politics which we have all too briefly examined, is but the reverse of the medal we have already described as humanity's secret longing and flair for leadership. The majority of mankind are not naturally disposed to being bothered by the task of governing their native country and, as it is instinctive in them to gravitate to those on whom they feel they can unload their civic burdens, it is more consonant with average human happiness and serenity to be free from corvée of controlling public affairs.
If, therefore, modern Western mankind have surrendered this most precious form of freedom and are now confirmed addicts of the disagreeable drug of Liberalism, with all its essential constituents of Democracy, Representative Government and Parliamentarism, it is reasonable to conclude that the evils which the drug was supposed to alleviate are now believed to be inevitable and everlasting.
In my next articles I shall try to define the nature of these evils, discover why they are popularly held to be permanent and unavoidable, and show how they may be overcome without resorting to the witch-broth of Liberalism with all its accompanying poisons.
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Two important truths have been suggested: (1) That Liberalism, like any other nostrum, is merely a means of alleviating a condition of the State which may he regarded as morbid; and (2) That, far from mankind's having any natural propensity to tamper with self-government, men much prefer to be free from such preoccupations and instinctively favour the alternative of a worthy leader who can be trusted to relieve them of all participation in the conduct of public affairs.
As a preamble to conclusion (1), the analysis of the genesis and nature of Liberalism as a political expedient will now be attempted.
As its name suggests, it stands for a doctrine and régime of Liberty. Scrutinized more narrowly, however, and viewed in the light of history, it is a systematic protest against a pre-existing period of oppression, constraint and bad government. It is, therefore, a more or less late reaction to a state felt to be onerous and, unlike chieftainship, monarchy, aristocracy, or even primitive communism, it is not a spontaneous product of healthy social life. It implies a negation and is not a purely positive phenomenon. That is why it may be fairly classed as a medicine. As a response to provocation more or less prolonged, it bears on its face all the ugly birth-marks of its delivery from thraldom. Indeed, although its principles had long been hatching, the very name "Liberal" as applied to a political party came into English politics only after 1815, owing to Whig sympathy with the Liberales of Spain who were fighting for their freedom.
The first astonishing feature the historian notices about Liberalism, is its very late arrival on the scene. Without examining too minutely its remote beginnings, even if we place its first conception as a deliberate policy no earlier than the Reformation, it still remains true that, as a protest against bad government, it was extraordinarily long delayed; and we are left marvelling at the long-suffering patience of the European masses for waiting so long before their endurance was exhausted. The fact that this long-suffering docility of the European masses provoked wonder, is shown by the remark of a Radical agitator Dr. Richard Price who, in 1789 asked, "Why are the nations of the world so patient under despotism? Why do they crouch to tyrants and submit to be treated as if they were a herd of cattle?" (A DISCOURSE ON THE LOVE OF OUR COUNTRY). Incidentally, does not this support my claim that the average man prefers almost anything rather than to meddle with government, and that he will suffer untold hardships before lifting his nose from his own private grindstone in order to poke it into his nation's affairs?
Only when goaded beyond endurance does another mood supervene; and the trouble is that this mood, when once experienced, is difficult to dispel. For the truth is that a tradition of sound rulership, maintained by a succession of good rulers, have never been known in Europe. Our continent has witnessed the government of monarchs, dictators, aristocrats and even priests; but with lamentably few exceptions, it has enjoyed little good rulership. Indeed, to speak of England alone, it is no exaggeration to say that, for a period of 1100 years from St. Boniface to Asquith and the Parliament Act of 1911, which was a rude congé hurled at the heads of England's worthless aristocracy we know of no Age in which the English ruling class, as a body subordinate to the sovereign, displayed even that minimum amount of wisdom and prudence which would have ensured their retention of the national leadership.
St. Boniface himself, William of Malmesbury, and the later historians of the Middle Ages, all concur in condemning the nobility of the Anglo-Saxon period. The rulers who followed, though less reprehensible, because they were not natives but Feudal barons of foreign extraction, were no less "Manslayers of the poor"; and the record of their successors, right up to the very end of Victoria's reign, shows us no period of aristocratic influence or rule during which the class enjoying privilege and power may truthfully be said to have fulfilled the obligations their rights involved and to have justified the advantages of their position in the country. The dignitaries of the Church and even the kings and queens themselves were often, throughout English history, co-partners with the aristocracy in the crimes which ultimately shattered the common people's faith in all power not subject to popular control; and the fact that only a week after the execution of Charles I the House of Commons proposed the abolition of the Lords as "useless and dangerous", indicates the extent to which, as early as the 17th century, the idea of aristocracy was already becoming synonymous with the abuse of power.
The Highland clearances of the years 1807 to 1850 are alone sufficient evidence of the kind of high-handed brutality practised more or less as a matter of course by men of power in Great Britain. The barbarity shown to the unfortunate victims of these forcible clearances beggars description. "It is altogether", says Alexander Mackenzie (THE HISTORY OF THE HIGHLAND CLEARANCES, XVI), "a tale of barbarous action unequalled in the annals of agrarian crime." And he adds, "Atrocities were perpetrated which I cannot trust myself to describe in my own words." One nobleman, "The Earl of Selkirk . . . allured many of the evicted to emigrate to his estate on the Red River in British North America . . . After a long and otherwise disastrous passage they found themselves deceived and deserted by the Earl; left to their unhappy fate in an inclement wilderness, without any protection from the hordes of Red Indian savages . . . who plundered them of all on their arrival and finally massacred them, save a small remnant." And so on for page after page of harrowing details which make the reader's blood run cold. Nor does Mackenzie conceal from us that the clergy, to their shame, constantly sided with the "oppressing lairds." His book is by no means
But the record elsewhere in Europe is no less shocking. In France the degeneration of the nobility under Louis XIV and XV is now common knowledge, whilst in Russia and Germany it suffices to point out that it was by no means rare for some "aristocrats" to find entertainment by taking pot-shots at their serfs or otherwise ill-treating them. Many of them did not even shrink from selling their dependents to foreign powers as army recruits, and this was a source of considerable wealth to some of their leading men. Schiller's CABALE UND LIEBE (1782) describes some of the more heart-breaking incidents that this traffic in "cannon fodder" occasioned, and the fact that the German prince (now believed to have been Karl Eugen of Württemburg) referred to in this play, actually sold his subjects to England, makes the action of the play of particular interest to English readers.
Thus, in George II's reign, English gold brought misery to thousands of German homes; for in the war with America alone, the King managed to buy 17,742 recruits from the Duke of Brunswick, the Landgrave and Hereditary Prince of Hesse Cassel and the Prince of Waldeck. Needless to say, very few of these unfortunate youngsters ever saw their native land again. When Voltaire reproached Frederick the Great for tolerating the scandalous trade in human beings, the King replied to him on June 18, 1776 denying that he countenanced it and added: "If the Landgrave had come from my school, he would never have sold his subjects to the English like cattle in order to drive them to the slaughter house" (Schlachtbank).
According to a contract made in those days, infantrymen cost 90 and cavalrymen 288 florins, and this price included the cost of recruiting them. A few protests were certainly raised in England against this white-slave trade and, on March 5, 1776, Lord Camden, in the House of Lords, said, "The whole business is a mercenary bargain for the price of troops on one side and the sale of human blood on the other; and the devoted wretches thus purchased for slaughter are mere mercenaries in the worst sense of the word." (DER SOLDATENHANDEL DEUTSCHER FUERSTEN NACH AMERIKA, by F. Kapp, 1874). Truth to tell, however, the protests raised in England were chiefly against the ruinous cost of the traffic.
These are but isolated facts culled from the past history of our European aristocracy and no one familiar with the social and political records of the last millennium could maintain that they are either exceptionally black or present an unfair picture of the class enjoying privilege and power.
When, therefore, in 1887, Lord Acton pronounced his famous dictum that "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely" (Letter to Bishop Creighton), we can understand, even if we disagree with his conclusion. For, in the very act of making this pessimistic and well-known statement, he stood at a turning point in the history of politics when with but a little more wisdom he might well have blazed the trail of a completely new, hitherto unsuspected, and constructive approach to both the problem of power and the secret of sound government. What is more, he might also have administered the coup de grâce to the gathering forces of militant Liberalism.
His shallow judgment was however not seen as such by any one. Most of the people of Western civilization had long had it in mind, even if they had not found the words with which to express it. And the fact that these words were the tocsin calling on all men of sound understanding at long last to have done with Power and Privilege and for ever to eschew aristocracy, brands Acton as perhaps the greatest figure in the Sieges Allee (or triumphal avenue) of Liberal sophistry.
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My last article may be thought to have ended on a note of too fulsome praise of Lord Acton. It described him as the greatest figure in the Sieges Allee of Liberalism. Nor was this mere irony; for if Liberalism represents the highest political wisdom, Acton certainly deserves every syllable of my encomium.
In one sentence he summed up Europe's experience during the whole of the last thousand years and, as Dr. David Thomson says, "struck the authentic note of the democratic approach to politics." (THE DEMOCRATIC IDEAL IN FRANCE AND ENGLAND, 1940, Chap. 1). The opportunity to state a principle which would have shed urgently needed light on the millennium in question, was both timely and propitious; and the fact that be missed it and lent his authority to a misunderstanding of the issue, is seriously to be deplored. Not that any wiser pronouncement could have halted the Movement. But at least its philosophy would have been shaken; for Mill, one of its leading lights, was already wavering.
The most crying need at the time when he had finished his treatises on LIBERTY and REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT (circa 1860), was a denial of the growing popular belief that power inevitably spelt corruption. Acton's sweeping generalization thus had a taint of vulgarity, of which even Rousseau, despite his exaltation of the common man, was free; for did he not advocate aristocracy?
Is it possible that the generalization indicated a strain of vulgarity in Acton himself? He was certainly a mongrel, and the D.N.B., usually very courteous, speaks of him as "of mingled race."
In any case a vulgar spirit certainly hovered over the whole of English thought and sentiment throughout the 19th Century (vide Thackeray alone!); and it has endured up to our own time. How else explain that Macaulay could, without tarnishing his good name, speak of Charles I as most undoubtedly "a scholar and a gentleman" although "he was false"? (EDINBURGH REV. Dec. 1831); and that under a century later Maurice Woods could also without risk to his reputation, speak of the Royal Martyr's son as being "at once a great rogue and a great gentleman"? (A HISTORY OF THE TORY PARTY, 1924, p. 34). What are we to think of a public whose notion of a gentleman and of a great gentleman was compatible with roguery and falsity? These may be paltry examples, but they are significant.
Be this as it may, can we believe that Acton with all his historical erudition and wide knowledge of his fellows, knew of no ruler, no individual man, ancient or modern, who could resist the corrupting influence of Power? Or was his remark subjective i.e., introspective? For if I, of a generation later than his, can recall at least one public figure and one unknown gentleman the Rev. Dr. John Scott Lidgett and my first chief in the Army, a Scot named Major Ayrton whom I would cheerfully have entrusted with absolute power, can we believe that Acton was less fortunate?
But it is the Liberal's fatal heritage, derived from Western Man's lamentably general experience, to have abandoned all faith in a ruler class. He is convinced that if bliss is to be secured on earth, two formidable evils need to be for ever eschewed, namely, what Bentham in his time was to describe as the two "Sinister Interests: the Monarchial and the Aristocratic." Overlooking (among many other things) the fact that men of virtue, wisdom and honour do not pullulate in any society; that it is easier to find a minority than a majority of good men and true, and therefore that, on the score of probability alone, it is more feasible to aim at a government by the few than by the multitude, the Liberal sought his alternative to aristocratic rule in a system which presupposed, not merely the possibility, but the actual existence of whole populations Providentially endowed with qualities which the realist knew to be at least exceptional.
To the majority, at all events, the evanescence of the traditional and aristocratic form of rulership, whether in Church or State, bad as it had been, seemed unthinkable. They could not imagine any practicable alternative. Prompted by that inveterate aversion from meddling with public affairs, to which allusion has already been made; filled with a decent humility which made them doubt their capacity to mind anything but their own business; actuated by the instinctive conservatism of all living creatures which leads them always to prefer the "devil they know", and more realistic than the Liberal theorists in estimating their natural gifts, they would have been inclined to
Now, therefore, was the moment when a searching scrutiny of the causes of vicious aristocratic government was most urgently called for. Unless men could believe in human equality (and we have seen that no one really believed in any such nonsense), in which case it mattered little who ruled whom, the problem of government could hardly be solved by merely promoting innumerable plebeians to the posts of the élite (however inferior) which had previously been in Power. It could best be solved by ascertaining and eliminating what had been amiss with the former ruling class and their method of discharging the obligations their privileges implied. For the operative factor in every Right is its corresponding Duty, and if the performance of a duty by a group ruling by virtue of a Right involved appropriate checks and counterchecks, these had to be determined and rigidly applied.
In the sequel we shall see such a system proved practicable and salutary in other spheres of social life, so that there is nothing romantic or far-fetched in suggesting that it could be made effective in government. Indeed, has not the most famous of Liberal philosophers himself, John Stuart Mill, declared that "The governments which have been remarkable in history for sustained mental ability and vigour in the conduct of affairs, have generally been aristocracies"? And does he not mention Venice as the home of such an aristocracy i.e., the very one in which the system I allude to was adopted with success? (Cf. REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT, 1861, Chap. VI).
Two indispensable conditions to a constructive and fruitful reform of governmental procedure, however, were that the initiative for the urgently needed regeneration and future discipline of the aristocracy should come from above, and that the body undertaking the task of reformation should be sound psychologists, unhampered by the fantasies and romantic fictions of vulgar upstart amateurs. It was utterly bootless to expect the desired model to emanate from the class of the ruled. What could they know about the formidable undertaking of regenerating and chastening an élite.
Unfortunately, it was Europe's tragic ill-luck never to have received from its whilom rulers any such scheme of reform as I am here suggesting; and, as I shall show in the sequel, it was actually left to Liberal thinkers themselves to propose at a much later period, not only the recovery of an élite for the government of these islands, but also the necessary steps for the production of such a body of rulers. Meanwhile, however, the failure of the established rulers to regenerate their ranks and chasten their code of conduct meant that the old vices remained uncorrected and the record of ignominy was prolonged.
This, however, by no means baffled or non-plussed the hot-heads and shallow-pates among the populace. Puffed up and ever ready with their snap judgments and plausible shifts, they very soon plunged into the gap created by the spiritual bankruptcy of the ruler class, and never for a moment doubted their competence to do so. Thus, in due course, arose a steadily increasing agitation in favour of popular government an alternative which, as I shall presently show, was at last to be recognized as unworkable even by the most fanatical champions of Democracy.
For, at bottom, what did this alternative mean? We must remember that until these quack reformers opened their campaign, civilized humanity had come to look on the traditional form of government by a ruler class as a natural phenomenon, not unlike the motions of the planets and the vagaries of the weather. When therefore, by degrees, the startling discovery that aristocratic rule was after all no Natural Law, broke upon their ears, a commotion ensued not unlike that which would result if to-day we were given the means of controlling the weather.
Instantly, every Tom, Dick and Harry would insist on serving his own private interests by inducing Rain, Sunshine, or Wind, as the case might be. Factions would form to establish one sort of climate or the other; and envy, playing its customary part, would produce a conflict of meteorological influences culminating, if not in a cataclysm, at least in chaos. Finally the Common Man, gazing distractedly at the national landscape, would see it no longer bathed in Sunshine or Rain, but mercilessly torn by contrary Winds.
Does anyone suppose that this imagined outcome of Weather Control differs very much from the state Western Man has reached by Popular Government? He who is inclined to do so has evidently failed to notice that in both cases the result is much the same and consists chiefly of WIND.
Thus, at every step in our inquiry into the foundations of Liberalism, we have so far lighted principally on errors in Psychology; and as our thesis develops it will be seen that this flaw in the Liberal philosophy, besides constituting a persistent factor, is the major cause of all its most conspicuous failures.
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The bewilderment that followed the gradual discovery in Europe that the ruler caste could not be trusted and need no longer be obeyed, inevitably turned men's thoughts to alternative methods of government. Nor did it strike any one as fantastic when, in the confusion of counsels that arose, certain bright sparks among the intelligentsia propounded the doctrine that, in matters of politics and social order, Jack was as good as, if not better than, his Master. For, as we have seen, the only fruitful solution of the difficulty the regeneration of the élite and their rehabilitation along strictly disciplined lines occurred to nobody, least of all to the élite themselves.
The gullible masses could not be expected to detect any flaw in the reasoning that raised them to the position of their discredited rulers. Suffering as they were under intolerable injustices, the populace were not too critical of all the astounding novelties which this reversal of political rôles implied. The invitation to believe henceforth that no difference existed between men; that all were equal; that freedom meant that no subject was too abstruse or complex for common men to be able to pass judgment upon it; that there was nothing sacred about private property because everywhere its gross abuses were manifest; that heredity and the phenomenon of innate aptitudes were fictions, seeing that in countless families they had proved a delusion; finally, that the notion of family tradition as a means of building up rich human characters, was a pure myth all these beliefs, extravagant though they were, the majority accepted without demur.
And this was the more surprising because especially the last were propounded in an Age when the populace was everywhere chiefly agricultural and therefore aware, through their experience with livestock, that heredity and the possibility of preserving family strains were certainly no fairy tale. It is but fair to the European masses, however, to bear in mind that the absurdities enumerated owed their general acceptance less to their inherent cogency than to the widespread dementia which generations of suffering had brought about in the population.
Private Property, for instance, had evidently needed defending even in Aristotle's day (See his POLITICS II, Bk. II, 1263a to 1264b); whilst the Romans had abused the institution so shockingly that the communism discernible in the teaching of some of the early Church Fathers, was probably only a reaction to the plutocratic abuses of the period. Throughout the Middle Ages the institution continued to be degraded by the affluent and, from St. Gregory who, in the 6th Century argued that when we give to the poor "we do but restore to them that which is their own," and St. Thomas Aquinas who, some six centuries later, advocated robbery as a means of relieving destitution, down to Lenin who, in April 1917, incited the people of St. Petersburg to plunder by telling them to "Rob back that which has been robbed", there is an unbroken tradition of revolt against plutocratic vices.
In England, the peasant uprisings of 1381, 1450 and 1549 all the outcome of intolerable oppression owed their doctrinal backing to the shallow ideas of the intellectuals of the Age. For, as in the modern world, so in the past, no matter how inarticulate and long-suffering the masses might be, glib and superficial "intellectuals" were always at hand who, never deficient in self-confidence, readily voiced what the multitude could only feel. And, as these intellectuals of old, like their modern counterparts, were fond of masquerading as sages, their snap judgments and hasty sophistries gradually built up a body of opinion which, to the ill-informed, seemed self-evident and incontrovertible. John Ball who led the first large peasant revolt acknowledged that he derived his doctrinal authority from John Wycliffe, a typical 14th Century intellectual. It has been contended that because the works containing Wycliffe's Communistic views were in Latin, they were inaccessible to the common herd. But his many disciples and sympathisers could easily have conveyed his ideas to John Ball and, at all events, we have the latter's admission that he learned his subversive views from the famous reformer.
Nor is it without interest to pause for a moment to consider how Wycliffe indirectly attacked the institution of Private Property. He did so by claiming that righteousness was the sole indefeasible title to it; consequently that no Sanctity could appertain to the private possessions of the unrighteous, which was tantamount to maintaining that such possessions might legitimately be confiscated.
But, in my opinion, Wycliffe's claim can hardly be sustained. It is wiser and more realistic than many of the pleas in favour of Private Property advanced in recent times; but it has only to be put to the test to be found wanting. For it overlooks that one feature of Private Property which establishes its Sanctity; i.e., its appropriateness to its owner. Asked what constitutes the sanctity or inviolability of a private possession, we
This may have little to do with righteousness; because a villain may own an object which has usefulness only in his hands. One example will illustrate what is meant.
Imagine a child owning a box of lead soldiers and a virtuoso owning a violin. The moment the two exchange their possessions the latter's sanctity is violated because at one stroke they have become worthless. True, the owners also have been despoiled; but what society has to recognize is less the sanctity appertaining to proprietory rights (although these also have social importance) than that which belongs to the possessions when in proper hands. The fact that the exchange in our illustration reduces both possessions to the rank of mere junk amounts to the desecration of Private Property's Sanctity chiefly because society as a whole suffers a dead loss in riches.
Wycliffe's statement of the case and he was one of the first Englishmen to state it thus overlooks the essential factor in the Sanctity in question, and was therefore among the earliest European attempts to undermine the aristocratic view of wealth. It helped to vulgarize the idea of Property and to suggest the wrong reasons for its confiscation reasons which were abundantly profferred for the spoliation of its victims by the Spanish Inquisition.
As far as I am aware, there survives but one example of the aristocratic view of the Sanctity of Private Property in the modern world, and it relates to the comparatively recent practice in Agricultural areas of depriving a bad farmer of his land. For, although not explicitly stated, this deprivation means that the land in question is recognized as having lost its Sanctity as Private Property by being inappropriately owned.
Admittedly, it is more difficult to determine the sanctity of possessions as characterless as funded capital and bank balances; for the way the money is outlaid is the only feature of this kind of property which might at a pinch involve the Sanctity in question. The fact that much property of this kind is to-day inappropriately owned stands out a mile. But it is another matter to discover how this can be satisfactorily determined.
At all events, what is wholly beyond doubt is the fact that the failure to grasp what constituted the Sanctity of Private Property inevitably vulgarized the notion of possession. It degraded ownership and the riches owned, and very naturally led to the state of the present world, in which it is considered quite unexceptionable, not only to tax everybody indiscriminately, irrespective of their relationship to their possessions, but also blindly to impose graduated taxes and graduated Death Duties also independently of the possibility of Sanctity appertaining to any of the Property thus violated. The difference between this kind of procedure and the act of granting as the Communists do, that the State is a wiser and better spender than the individual owner, is merely a matter of degree, and people who acquiesce in this shameless spoliation and nevertheless denounce Communism have exaggerated confidence in their thinking powers.
Owing to their egalitarianism and congenital pessimism, which causes them to demolish any institution that has foundered owing to the men who have failed to run it rather than to its inherent imperfections, the Liberals have always sailed suspiciously close to both Anarchy and Communism, and have therefore always been prepared to be "free" with other people's money in order to further their doubtful policies. They have never either propounded or understood the Sanctity of Private Property and have thus been foremost in the nation to advocate the doctrine that the State was the best spender of public wealth. But, pardonable as this lack of insight may have been in respect of mere financial possessions, it is wholly condemnable in regard to more characterful property.
Yet, as history shows, it was the Liberals, in England at least, who, both in 1894 and 1907, drove the last nails into the coffin of that kind of Property which still had some legitimate claim to Sanctity. When Sir William Harcourt introduced his Bill to legalize Graduated Death Duties and to increase income tax, he at one stroke abolished the often beneficent nexus prevailing between landlord and farmer, which had done so much to maintain both English agriculture and above all English livestock at a high level of quality. Lord Roseberry who was Prime Minister at the time tried to open his eyes to the disastrous consequences his Bill would have. But the Chancellor was unconvinced and his Bill became law. It was followed in 1907 by a Liberal measure which not only introduced a graduated income tax but also increased the Death Duties a fact which finally wrecked what the 1894 Bill had still left standing.
Commenting on the former Bill, Mr. Stanley Leathes says: "Owing to agricultural depression, many old families had been forced to sell or let their residences and domains. And, if an estate changed hands several times at short intervals, the charge was more than many estates would bear. The decay of old families was hastened, old ties of landlord and tenant, of squire and peasantry, were dissolved, and in many cases the place of the old landlords was taken by those who inherited no traditional obligations to the land or its occupants." (CAMB. MOD. HIST. Vol XII, Chap. III).
An understanding of the Sanctity of Private Property would have prevented these deplorable developments. But let us not forget that most unfortunately it is extremely doubtful whether even among the liberalized Conservatives of the day who as a Party in Opposition were bound to oppose Harcourt's measure, there was any better understanding of the Sanctity of Private Property than that professed by Harcourt and later by Lloyd George.
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J. Holland Rose maintained that the "chief propelling power of democracy in England was misery". (THE RISE OF DEMOCRACY, 1912, p. 19.) In so far as the drive towards Universal Suffrage is concerned, this is true. But historically, even as regards England, the statement is inaccurate. For it implies that the poverty, privation and oppression caused in the masses by their secular rulers, provoked the revolt that started the democratic movement. It was, however, not by this form of misgovernment that the seeds of Democracy were sown; but, strange to say, by the gross abuses of the ecclesiastical authorities, whose excesses and reckless tyrannies at last outraged both the populace and their civil rulers alike.
It was thus only after a prolonged and successful struggle, by both rulers and ruled, against the ecclesiastic hierarchy that ideas of freedom and equality descended to the people and were applied by them in a political context. Even when this stage was reached, however, the noble impetus of modest feelings and humble reticence among the masses prevented them for some time from believing that they could be fit to step into their late masters' shoes. It was not enough that, for generations, these same masters, like the Church, had been guilty of misgovernment. What the people required in order to be convinced that they could become self-governing, was a body of doctrine justifying belief in their right to freedom and equality. And, surprising as it may seem, it was through apostasy and religious revolt that this body of doctrine was ultimately formulated. Nor is it without interest to note that in both the religious revolutionaries themselves and in their doctrines, the common factor was a pronounced hostility to Aristotle.
It will be remembered that Aristotle argued that some are born to govern and others to be governed, and that Nature herself destines some to command and others to obey. As a rough definition of the former, he said that they were "endowed with minds capable of reflection and foresight," and therefore were superior to common men,
These principles, firmly inculcated upon the populace by tradition (sometimes also, though more rarely, by practical experience) required to be exposed as nonsense; and this could only be done by first establishing that no such natural distinctions existed between men in fact, that all were equal.
Initially, this proposition seemed so absurd that it nonplussed its most intrepid advocates, especially as no human being, as we have seen, instinctively inclined to it. Its appeal was at first merely to the vain and pretentious, and exceptional men everywhere disputed it. Rabelais, for instance, early in the 16th Century boldly proclaimed that "en toutes compagnies il y a plus de fols que de sages, et la plus grande partie surmonte toujours la meilleure." (GARGANTUA, Livre II, Chap. X.: "In every human group there are more fools than sages, and the majority always prevail over the superior elements.")
In the world that gave birth to the first principles of Liberalism i.e. in late 14th-century Europe there was in both Church and State every sign of privileges abused, rights enjoyed without the performance of corresponding duties. Against the merely civil manifestation of these evils, revolt certainly smouldered. But nowhere was the indignation more persistent and violent (because it was felt also by the secular rulers) than against the Church itself, whose members, aware of the opportunities for exploitation afforded by their religious monopoly, pressed their advantage to reckless limits.
What with the complete freedom of the priesthood from responsibility to the civil authorities a privilege which attracted to the lower clerical orders numberless criminals and vagabonds who could thereby defy the officers of justice, and also tempted to crime even those bred to the Church and performing its functions; what with the constant crippling exactions, consisting of annates, tithes, and the sale of dispensations, absolutions and indulgences, all of which not only incensed the secular rulers, but also outraged the peasantry by whose hard toil the necessary wealth was supplied; discontent and hostility to the Church was an increasing source of revolt throughout the later Middle Ages. For, whilst the fabulous cost of the central administration in Rome and the lavish expenditure of the leading prelates everywhere, with their constant demands on every national purse, dismayed the civil rulers, what most embittered the peasantry was the Spartan meanness of their own compared with the luxuries and fat-living displayed under their very eyes by the local functionaries of the Church, and the relatively affluent leisure enjoyed by a frequently concubinary priesthood, whilst they themselves, their wives and children, were forced to set the example in self-denial and austerity.
Take for instance the drain on the national wealth resulting from the sale of absolutions and indulgences alone (i.e. apart from Peters Pence, abolished by Henry VIII in 1534). We are told that "Europe was overrun with pardon-sellers" authorized to sell indulgences, "and for centuries their lies, frauds, exactions and evil living were the cause of the bitterest and most indignant complaints." (CAMB. MOD. HIST. Vol. I, Chap XIX.) Who can wonder that "the pretensions of the Church were becoming unendurable to the advancing intelligence of the Age"? (Ibid.).
If Chilpéric I, grandson of Clovis, and ruler of the Western Kingdom of France was prompted as early as the 6th century to declare that "Our treasury has been impoverished and our wealth transferred to the churches; bishops alone are our rulers; they alone are great, we are nobodies" (Notre fisc est devenu pauvre, nos richesses ont été transportés aux églises; il n'y a plus que les évèques qui regnent; ils sont dans le grandeur, et nous n'y sommes plus); if, moreover, he cancelled wills made in favour of the Church and annulled endowments made by his father Clotaire, can we be surprised that seven centuries later both the people and rulers of Europe had grown sufficiently restive to lend a willing ear to the Reformers?
When Henry Charles Lea maintains that "in its essence the Reformation was due more to financial than to religious considerations" (Ibid), he is probably right. But this did not prevent the intellectuals of the Age from dressing their arguments for revolt in a doctrinal garb, and many of them, aware of the support they could count on from the civil rulers and the masses, concerned themselves chiefly with the doctrinal issues and used the abuses of the Church merely as backing to their theological reasons for dissent.
In the heat of their disputations, however, little did they suspect that their attacks on the most powerful institution of the day and their appeals for a revision of religious doctrine and observance, would ultimately redound as much to political as to religious reform. Nevertheless, the trail they blazed and the innovations they introduced did actually prove the foundation of a new political Faith; and, in this sense, the Liberal and Democratic Movement in Europe, may be said to owe its philosophy rather to the religious Reformers than to the political theorists of the 15th and early 16th centuries.
This need not surprise us; for the Reformers' aim was primarily to wean the people from the influence of the Church. To this end, however, it was necessary to disenchant them concerning its sanctity and authority and to lay bare its vices. Nor did the Reformers shrink from this dangerous undertaking. Indeed, had they not had the support, overt or clandestine, of some of the more powerful secular rulers and of the majority of the people, they could hardly have succeeded.
At all events, in order to justify themselves in overthrowing clerical authority and demanding religious freedom, they knew that they must first convince their generation, (1) That everybody was henceforward free to prosecute his own inquiries into the proper tenets of religion, and, with the Bible and his conscience as his sole guide, to criticize theological claims and settle the terms of his own Belief; and (2) That no specific or essential virtue appertained to priests: therefore that every man could be his own spiritual guide and deal directly with the Deity.
The first principle assumed the right of freedom of judgment; whilst the second rested on the claim that all men were equal.
The Reformers had no notion that these daring innovations would eventually be seized upon by posterity and given a political application. In the effort to release the religious life from the thraldom of an unworthy Power, they may be acquitted of any intention to found a novel political creed. That this proved in fact the outcome of their labours is, however, unquestionable, and the historian, Dr. G. P. Gooch states the case quite accurately when he says, "Modern Democracy is the child of the Reformation, not of the Reformers." (ENGLISH DEMOCRATIC IDEAS IN THE 17TH CENTURY, 1954, Chap. I). Phyllis Doyle suggests much the same idea: "The right to religious freedom," she says, "led to an assertion of political freedom," and "liberty of conscience" meant "a power of judgment which expressed itself in political form as democratic control over the important organs of state, whether civil or ecclesiastical." (A HISTORY OF POLI-
Another outcome of the Movement, which the Reformers could hardly have foreseen and would have deprecated if they had, was that the act of opening wide the doors of the Council Chamber and inviting all comers to join in the momentous deliberations of Church and State, inevitably suggested to the masses that they were competent judges of all matters, especially the minor ones of Civil Government; for the religious Whole must include the political Part.
Thus there occurred not only a lowering of the standards and requirements of wise judgment, but also and above all a degradation of Thought itself. For, if thought and judgment were free, how could they or the problems submitted to them be profound or difficult, let alone sacred? The era of "snap judgments" and "short-term policies" was thus inaugurated, and insensibly there arose in modern Europe and its offshoots, a cheapening of the quality of wisdom. To inspire awe, it was better to be a mechanic than a thinker, with the result that again and again, all over Western Civilization, the dynamism of certain ideas only came to be recognized after they had proved catastrophic.
In the world of practical politics, these changes inevitably ushered in the reign of Liberal Philosophy. And, as the recovery of sanity can come only with the total renunciation of the principles on which the Liberal credo rests, Western Civilization may well succumb in anarchy and chaos before the salutary volte face occurs.
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In article V of this series we saw that, as the Rev. J. Nevill Figgis maintains, "religious liberty is rightly described as the parent of political." (CAMB. MOD. HIST. Vol III, Chap. XXII). Nor was it long before the Reformers' claims were translated into the field of politics. In his LAWS OF ECCLESIASTICAL POLITY (late 16th century, Book 1), Richard Hooker was already demanding that rulership should be subject to popular consent and he regarded "the equality of men by nature" as so obvious that he thought it the reason binding mankind to mutual love, justice and charity. This he said expressed a state of "Liberty."
Locke built on Hooker's conclusions a political philosophy embodying all his predecessor claimed, and argued that Man's natural primordial condition (i.e., anterior to the dawn of Civilization) was one of "perfect freedom" and equality. His lack of anthropological information enabled him to draw inferences from his imagined picture of primitive humanity, which, although no more than pure assumptions, seemed self-evident to his sympathisers. At all events they summarized many of the sentiments popular at the time.
Thus, describing "what state all men are naturally in," he said it was one "of perfect freedom to order their actions and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the Law of Nature, without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man . . . A state of equality" in which "no one having more (power or jurisdiction) than another, there being nothing more evident than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of Nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another." (TWO TREATISES ON GOVERNMENT, II, Chap. II).
I cannot dwell on the many sweeping false assumptions packed into this passage; but I must pause to comment on its reference to Property. For the fact that one of the more serious thinkers of the 17th century could plead for the freedom to dispose of possessions unconditionally, indicates that already at that time the liberal-minded had no conception of the aristocratic attitude to property. Because, if the Sanctity of Private Property resides in its relation to its owner, the unconditional freedom to dispose of it might mean (and often of course did mean) its transference to one whose character, aptitudes and habits, made him wholly unfit to possess it; and this, by destroying its value, involved society in a partial or total loss.
Even old Isaac, about 1700 B.C., knew better than this; for, although his transfer of Esau's birthright to Jacob occurred through a ruse, it is clear that both he and his wife disapproved of Esau (GEN. XXVI, 35) and that he was never really deceived (GEN. XXVII, 3540). Moreover, he abided by his supposed error even after the fraud had been exposed. He thus set an example which unfortunately was ignored by the property owners of England; for the rule of primogeniture (established in Henry III's reign) inevitably led to frequent desecrations of Private Property's Sanctity.
Despite the raptures of the early champions of Liberalism, they were not blind to the graver implications of their doctrines. It soon struck them that if they were to justify their plea for popular self-government on the basis of Liberty and Equality, they must appease the alarm their proposals naturally provoked among the realists of the Age.
These opponents quite properly founded their objections to the mass dictatorship democracy promised to establish, on the contention that, as most men were by nature unwise and self-seeking, popular self-government, far from guaranteeing the public weal, would only lead to confusion and anarchy through everyone wishing to further his own private interest even at the cost of the public good. (This, strange to say, was actually Cromwell's opinion.)
In meeting this objection the Liberals really had
As Lord Bryce was later to point out, their argument was that "With Liberty and Equality the naturally good instincts would spring up with the flower of rectitude and bear the fruit of brotherly affection. Men would work for the community . . . Equality will produce a sense of human solidarity, will refine manners and increase brotherly kindness." Referring to the modern effects of this romantic idealism, based on an entirely false psychology, Lord Bryce adds, "Thus democratic institutions are now deemed to carry with them, as a sort of gift of nature, the capacity to use them well." (MODERN DEMOCRACIES, 1921, Vol. I, Part I, Chap. V).
Truth to tell, no more important issue could possibly have been debated by the advocates and opponents of Liberalism, than this question of Man's fundamental nature; for, as Father Frederick Muckerman, J.S., has declared, "In discussing how men should be governed, it cannot be a matter of indifference whether we consider human nature as being radically bad, as Luther did, or as radically good as Rousseau maintained." (DICTATORSHIP AND CHRISTIANITY, 1930).
In this crucial debate, the Liberals argued that men were born good and consequently that popular self-government could have only desirable results. And this claim which ultimately triumphed and was echoed through the centuries by all poor psychologists, even when they were not actually liberal-minded (Wordsworth, for instance, and all modern sentimentalists, especially women), had the most far-reaching effects. Its ultimate consequences have not yet been fully experienced even to this day; and they have extended beyond politics into the heart of the social life and even the nurseries of Europe.
In fairness to the Liberals, especially of England (their major place of origin) it must be again pointed out that their attitude, heterodox though it was even from the standpoint of Christianity, was forced upon them. They had no alternative; nor could they be expected at that time to guess that the psychology implicit in the Church's attitude, was sounder than their own. Confronted by the formidable criticism of the realists who saw in Liberalism, besides a pessimistic renunciation of all hopes of an aristocratic revival, a prescription for anarchy, and a dangerous assumption concerning human virtue and disinterestedness, the Liberals snatched at the only retort that promised to be effective and, flatly contradicting Machiavelli, Hobbes, Luther, Baxter, Ireton and Milton aye, and even the Church itself, they declared mankind naturally good. This retort, as it seems hardly necessary to point out, was less the outcome of experience and reasoned judgment, than a gesture of defence, like the reflex action of raising an arm to ward off a blow.
None among them could have been more painfully aware of the compulsory nature of the retort than Rousseau himself later proved to be; for whilst with one corner of his mouth he subscribed to the belief that all men were born good; with the other he warned us that "quand un homme feint de préférer mon intérêt au sien propre, que quelque demonstration qu'il colore ce mensonge, je suis sûr qu'il en fait un." (CONFESSIONS, Livre V. "When a man pretends to prefer my interest before his own, no matter how he may deck out this lie, I remain convinced that he has lied.") He was no fool. He must have known how damaging this warning was to the belief that human goodness would make popular government a guarantee of the public weal. But his candour prevailed over his consistency, as it did when he felt compelled to acknowledge Aristocracy as the best form of government; and these self-contradictions constitute him an exception among Liberals. (See THE SOCIAL CONTRACT, 1762, Chap. V.)
Locke was more consistent. But was he as honest? He championed the school to which Rousseau was later to belong and with complete conformity was thus able to advocate popular government. As Phyllis Doyle says, "Locke's belief in human nature . . . led him to advocate a democratic form of government." (A HISTORY OF POLITICAL THOUGHT, 1933, Chap. X). But it led him even further; for he was one of the early defenders of the view that the influence which corrupts the native goodness of Man is chiefly environmental. "The difference to be found," he said, "in the manners and ability of men, is owing more to their education than to anything else." (SOME THOUGHTS ON EDUCATION).
By the second half of the 17th century, it seemed obvious to the more profound among English thinkers that in practice Liberalism assumed, if not a nation of saints, at least unending generations of men virtuous and wise. L'Estrange (16161704), for instance, quite properly maintained that "Our fierce champions of a free state presuppose great unity, great probity, great purity." And Harrington himself (16111677) championed the idea of democracy only because he believed in an "inexhaustible supply of worthy and capable men ready to participate in government and that men were good and wise enough always to choose the good."
As F. M. Cornford was later to maintain, "To believe in democracy you must believe in the essential goodness of common humanity" (THE UNWRITTEN PHILOSOPHY, 1950, Chap. IV), and the first Liberals, like their modern successors, never found this difficult. Indeed, they would easily have granted even Santayana's claim that "If a noble, civilized democracy is to subsist, the common citizen must be something of a saint and something of a hero." (THE LIFE OF REASON, 1950.)
Rousseau himself, however, whilst recognizing that a democracy presupposed a highly virtuous community, denied on that account that it was a feasible form of government. "Were there a people of gods," he said, "their government would be democratic. So perfect a government is not for men." (THE SOCIAL CONTRACT, 1762, Chap. IV.)
The full ultimate consequences of this Liberal assumption about human nature must be left to my next article. Suffice it for the moment to state that the Liberal victory in the momentous debate briefly outlined, although apparently complete and lasting, effected a turn in human evolution which the historian of the future can hardly fail to describe as retrograde.
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I have hinted at the fact that England has been the hotbed of Liberalism in Europe, and her historical record confirms this charge. Three times in 1327, 1400 and 1649 she set Europe the example of regicide and, as I hope to show, from the early sixteenth century, she has had no need of a German Marx or a Russian Lenin to prompt her in propounding the most extreme principles of Radicalism and finally Communism.
Never understanding what Aristocracy meant; unable until yesterday to appreciate the indispensability of an élite, and failing to recognize the essential function of a second chamber even within the framework of a limited monarchy for as early as 1648, in a pamphlet sometimes attributed to Winstanley, it is argued that the restitution of the People's rights will be achieved only by putting down the "Tyrants" who "are called Dukes, Earls, Barons, Marquesses, Lords etc." (LIGHT SHINING IN BUCKINGHAMSHIRE) English Liberals have always lacked psychological insight, and have built their castles on the sands of a mistaken view of humanity in the mass.
To this day, despite all that the New Psychology, general experience and the bitter fruits of Liberal errors, have taught us, people of influence may be found who abide by the superstition essential to a democratic polity, that Man is born good. Thus, Edward Carpenter believed in the essential and natural goodness of men. (CONTEMPORARY REVIEW, June 1958: article by Frederic Vanson). John Cowper Powys, who ought to know better, tells us, "I hold that men and women are naturally good, naturally kind" (OBSTINATE CYMRIC, 1947, Essay 10); whilst one dear creature, actually engaged in teaching and not at all intending to be humorous, maintains that "a school is only free when teachers believe that children are essentially good." (MODERN EDUCATION OF YOUNG CHILDREN, by Mary Catty, 1938). It is as if we had learnt nothing since Marchamont Needham (16201678), in the middle of the 17th century, exclaimed ecstatically that "The people are never at fault."
Wholly ignored is Freud's wise caution that young humanity, always under the empire of the Pleasure Principle, is unfit for society until it has undergone the discipline of the Reality Principle. Wholly ignored, too, is the testimony of rare Englishmen like Samuel Johnson, Browning and Herbert Spencer, and of the more profound French psychologists. Even more surprising is the complete disregard of the Church's mystical anticipation of Freud's caution its claim that we are born in Sin and can be made righteous only by an act of Grace.
In this respect Modern Thought which, owing to its democratic bias, has to side with the believers in Man's native goodness, shows, in spite of all its truculent self-confidence, its inferiority to mediaeval ideas; and, according to Phyllis Doyle, the deterioration occurred in Hobbes's lifetime; for, whereas in his youth belief in Man's native sinfulness was the mark of orthodoxy, this belief was "the stigma of atheism in his old age." (A HISTORY OF POLITICAL THOUGHT, 1933, Chap. IX).
How right, therefore, F. L. Lucas is when, in the ART OF LIVING (1959, Chap. I), he says that "The Age of Reason owed some of its most fatal mistakes to bad psychology." It is, however, fascinating to see how the
How does this square with the advocacy of a form of government which has to assume that men are good enough always to set the Public before their own advantage?
No very shrewd prophet was needed to foretell that the assumptions of Liberalism must ultimately lead, by way of Radicalism, to Socialistic and Communistic dreams; for a political philosophy postulating the desiderata, Freedom, Equality, Liberty of Conscience and the Right of Private Judgment, and coupled with a misunderstanding of Private Property, a loss of Faith in Higher Men, and the assumption of Humanity's fundamental goodness, inevitably drove large numbers of shallow pates, male and female, into the Communistic fold.
We have seen that as early as Wycliffe and his convert, John Ball, an ominous question mark was already being set to Property Rights. But within 200 years of their active propaganda, England was ringing with the clamour of reformers who, in every respect, would now be greeted as comrades in Moscow's Red Square. It is true that no great distance separates Liberalism (Locke's attitude) with its view of the unconditional disponibility of property, and the belief that the best administrator of wealth is the impersonal State; for both views imply a vulgar disregard of the Sanctity of Private Property, which amounts to tacit contempt and, apparently as early as the 16th century, came to be expressed by the opprobrious term, "filthy lucre." It is therefore not surprising that the early Liberals, besides believing as Locke ultimately did in "the inherent value of the majority's judgment," should also have manifested their misunderstanding of Private Property by demanding its abolition.
Men like Hartlib, Chamberlen, W. Walwyn, and especially Winstanley, were all frankly communistic. Chamberlen recommended the "nationalization of all Crown and Church possessions." Walwyn maintained that things would "never be well till all things were common," and rather in the sophisticated style that was later to characterize G. B. Shaw, he argued that when once communism had abolished property, "there would be no need of government, for there would be no thieves or criminals." Winstanley (his LAW OF FREEDOM IN A PLATFORM was published in 1652), the acknowledged leader of the English Communists, even anticipated the seductively plausible Marxian slogan: "From each according to his powers and to each according to his needs." He also forestalled the Russian revolutionaries not only in decrying the knowledge of the scholar "for culture breeds contempt" and in claiming that workers should be supervised and punished if their output was inadequate, but also in arguing that, as the populace had supported the Parliamentary side in getting rid of the Oppressor, "the spoils should be equally divided between those who went to war and those who stayed at home and paid for them." (For most of the facts in this paragraph I am indebted to Dr. G. P. Gooch's ENGLISH DEMOCRATIC IDEAS IN THE 17TH CENTURY, 1954, Chap. VII, 2).
Dr. Gooch points out that Locke himself "provided the theoretic basis of Socialism;" but the groundplan of a frankly socialistic polity was, as we have seen, conceived, if not actually elaborated, long before Locke was born.
Our brief glance at these facts of history enables us to recognize that neither Russia nor any other country of Europe has anything to teach England in the matter of shallow political utopianism and Leftish fantasies. In modern England, moreover, we see whither the ultimate triumph of these wild illusions has led. Anarchy is rampant. Complete chaos is only round the corner. Despite all the affluence spread through society, crime is increasing, and criminal propensities are manifested at an early age. Diabolical cruelty to animals, wanton destruction and damage to public property, and dangerous interference with railway signals and lines, have become the habitual pastimes of the children; but without arousing in the minds of the adult masses any doubts about the state of discipline in the nation, or about the alleged native goodness of humanity.
With Representative Democracy established on a Party basis, so that it is the business of an officially remunerated Opposition leader to thwart and oppose every measure of the Party in Power, no matter how urgently such a measure may be needed, or how wise its provisions may be, we have a state of affairs in which no long-term policy of any far-reaching value has the remotest chance of coming into effect. For, as all political Parties eagerly compete for Power and have unremittingly to woo the ignorant, self-seeking and sentimental populace, no Party dares to propose any measure which might give its opponents the chance of provoking popular indignation against it, with the dangerous result that at the next General Election, it might be unsaddled. This means that measures too wise and, in their provisions, too profound to be understood by the masses, stand no chance whatsoever of being proposed or adopted.
Thus, although we often hear people deny that a true Democracy exists in England, what cannot possibly be questioned is that to-day we are enjoying the fullest realization of an ochlocratic tyranny from which no hope of a popular insurrection can save us. For the ultimate arbiter of every general policy, the final judge of every particular measure, is the common populace, in whom the Power of making and unmaking Governments ultimately resides, and whose intellectual limitations set the bounds to every legislative measure any government may propose.
This explains why discipline, which is so badly needed, gets no attention; for as it makes no appeal to women and they are the majority of the voters, it is never mentioned in any programme of reform. Besides, what possible use could there be for discipline if we were all born good? Hard work, frugality and probity, although not completely moribund, are distinctly old-fashioned. Self-indulgence, vain ostentation and hedonism are the order of the day, and their gratification starts in infancy. Emotion is the presiding influence in every gathering and in the choice of every course of action. Hence, sentimentality and its twin, brutality, determine every decision. On the one hand there is nothing but insensate and criminal violence and vandalism in the youth of the nation, whilst on the other, you see a High Court judge acquitting a girl who was obviously an accomplice in a gross act of robbery; addressing her twice as "my dear", and appealing to her in the dulcet tones of a parson preparing a flapper for her first communion.
And, as the educated minority among the feminine majority of the voting masses are still too acutely con-
In my next articles, I shall summarize some of the conclusions readied so far; consider the problem of recovering an élite, and try to explain why the necessity of a tone-giving and leading class came to be abandoned as a delusion and a myth.
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According to David Owen Evan, Marx maintained "quite correctly that Communism is not of German, but of British and French origin". (SOCIAL ROMANTICISM IN FRANCE, 1951, p. 58). But even if this final fruit of Liberalism was also to be found on French soil, the tree that bore it was deliberately planted there by French idealists who imported it from England. Voltaire was the principal sinner in this respect, though Montesquieu did not lag far behind him. Both men contracted the infection in England between the years 1726 and 1730 and spread it among their countrymen.
Thus, Joubert was probably right when, in speaking of much that is to be deplored in the political philosophy of Europe, he said: "C'est de l'Angleterre que sont parties comme des brouillards les idées métaphysiques et politiques qui ont tout obscurci". (PENSEES: Du Caractère des Nations. LXXVIII, Ed. 1842: "From England there have come like fogs the metaphysical and political ideas that have spread darkness over everything.") Stendhal, even more incensed, declared England to be "La source unique de la plus intolérable partie des malheurs de l'Europe." (PAGES D'lTALIE, Oct.Nov. 1818: "The one and only source of the most insufferable misfortunes of Europe.").
What Voltaire and Montesquieu failed to appreciate about the Liberal principles they picked up in England, was the fact that, like many more newfangled and loudly advertized ideals, they enjoyed at that time the immense advantage of being still untried. They formed part of a mirage, the rough outline of a Utopia, and had not had the time to reveal to dazzled tourists from abroad the effects of their practical application.
Nevertheless, even allowing for this fact, their enthusiasm argues a certain amount of culpable superficiality; because long before they took upon themselves to "sell" England's political shoddy to their compatriots, some Europeans who might be thought less intellectual than these two French sages, and who had had even less chance than they had of seeing the earliest stages in the practical application of Liberal romanticism, had with singular and prophetic shrewdness pronounced decidedly against it.
We have already seen that there was widespread opposition, including that of the Church itself, to that corner-stone of Liberal Thought and Democracy the belief in the fundamental goodness and reasonableness of Man. But against the assumption that the conscience and private judgment of every Tom, Dick and Harry are competent tribunals to which every question, however abstruse and vital, could be submitted, was also flatly denied by many. Hobbes, for instance, some eighty years before Voltaire set foot in England, had held that this particular doctrine was both "poisonous and seditious", and constituted "a disease of the commonwealth". For, he said, "a man's conscience and his judgment is the same thing, and as the judgment so also the conscience may be erroneous". And he added, "in such diversity, as there is of private consciences . . . the commonwealth must needs be distracted". (LEVIATHAN, Chap. XXIX).
Cromwell himself, four years earlier, had exclaimed on seeing Lilburne's demand for Universal Suffrage (in ARGUMENT OF THE PEOPLE, 1647): "The consequences of this rule tend to anarchy, must end in anarchy. For where is there any bound or limit set if men that have but the interest of breathing shall have a voice in elections?" (ENGLISH DEMOCRATIC IDEAS IN THE LAST CENTURY, by Dr. G. P. Gooch, 1954, Chap. VIII).
But even more remarkable were the vision and caution of the leading Reformers themselves. For both Calvin and Luther recoiled in horror when they saw their Liberal innovations in the religious sphere translated into political doctrine. Confronted by the aggressive, unruly and overweening behaviour of the German masses, who had understood his inflammatory, though merely anti-clerical, principles as entitling them to join in open rebellion against the secular authorities, he not only recanted, but with apparent inconsistency and considerable severity, also denied the People's right to offer armed resistance to the State under his banner. In his angry pamphlet, WIDER DIE ZÄUBERISCHEN UND MÖRDERISCH
Calvin was driven by events to the same doctrinal inconsistency, although in his case the consequences were not immediately so tragic. Nevertheless, for a Reformer such as he was to maintain, as Rousseau was to do much later on, that Aristocracy is the best form of government, and that "in popular government is the strongest tendency to sedition and anarchy" was surely self-contradictory, and his attitude indicates the extent to which, even in those early days of Liberal speculation, the more far-sighted of the innovators had begun to shrink from the consequences of their own claims. For although these emanated from an assault on the religious tyrannies of their day, it soon became apparent that it would be difficult to deny their relevancy to political practice.
All honour to these two religious Reformers for having recognized the fatal flaws in their conclusions when once these were applied outside the narrow limits within which they had first been preached. But when we find Calvin on the one hand predicting anarchy for the nation that adopts Democracy, and on the other Luther declaring that "To the business of government appertain not common illiterate people, or servants, but champions, understanding, wise and courageous men, who are to be trusted" (TABLE TALK, DCCLXIII); we may well wonder how these doughty pioneers of free thought and judgement, with their emphasis on the individual man's right to form his own opinion on matters of theology, could have persuaded themselves that, whilst Liberalism in religion was wholly commendable, it was to be resisted in the sphere of politics. Did they really imagine that religion was less important, less sacred, and less likely to be corrupted by the manipulations of the mob than secular government ?
No matter how we may solve this strange enigma, the fact remains that it was from such innovators, who in the end were driven to abjure their tenets in the sphere of politics that, as we have seen, English political Liberalism originally derived; and in its ultimate development modern Democracy based on Universal Suffrage we find surviving to this day the very confusions and antimonies which were latent and potential in the philosophic speculations that first launched the Movement of Religious Reform.
This is not to suggest that the Church against which it was directed was either faultless or deserving of unmodified permanence. Nor is it an argument in defence of Catholicism per se. But the facts as I have tried to describe them, certainly entitle us to conclude that, like the hostile reaction to a depraved Aristocracy, so the revolt against the mediaeval Church, was led by a theological intellegentsia which, in its haste and ardour to abolish abuses, mistook the proper and most rewarding road to Reform and created fresh evils which it became the task of posterity to overcome.
One last word before dismissing this aspect of the matter, and it relates to the attitude of the lay intelligentsia and the masses they influenced. If, as we have seen, some of the most earnest and sincere ministers of religion themselves were capable of supposing that Liberalism in religion was commendable, how can the common people and their lay intellectuals be blamed for having inferred from the intrepid doctrines of emancipation in the most sacred matters of all, that in less sacred matters the same Liberalism was equally, if not a thousand times more, justified and permitted?
This popular inference, like the original act of emancipation, may have been the outcome of superficial and hasty thinking, of those "snap" judgments for which the crowd has always been notorious. But, given the circumstances, it was no more than might have been expected. The majority in any community has never been composed of men of the calibre of a Hobbes or a Cromwell. Neither unfortunately have those elements in the population who, in every generation, pass as "intellectuals". And to this day, the kind of people who assume the right to march in the van of the populace are too often, as Jules Benda has so ably shown, betrayers rather than saviours of mankind.
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"Liberty consists," said John Stuart Mill over 100 years ago, "in doing: whatever one wishes." 'But with some trepidation he at once added that freedom was justified "only so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it." (LIBERTY, 1859, Intro.).
This is all very well; but the proviso is inadequate; for it overlooks the damage or loss that society may, and too often does, suffer, and not necessarily at once, by everybody doing as he or she desires even without any intention of deliberately interfering with a neighbour's liberty. Can the individual citizen, for instance, now be free to injure himself without inflicting an injury, or at least a tax, upon the community? Can his freedom to vote at a General Election be wholly without effect, direct or indirect, upon his neighbours? To state an extreme case, can he choose to go to Hell without carrying them part of the way with him?
Even if, as Bentham frivolously supposed "there is no one knows what is for your interest as well as yourself" (Manual of Political Economy, 1798), Mill's proviso would still not suffice. But we know that Bentham was talking nonsense. Thirty minutes spent in any street or park in England is enough to convince us of that. "To suppose that a man is necesasrily the best judge in what concerns him most," said de Quincey, "is a sad non sequitur; for if self-interest ensured wisdom, no one could ever go wrong in anything." (Posthumous Works, 1891, XXIV, Brevia). Similarly, J. M. Keynes, speaking on the end of Laissez Faire, (1926) remarked, "Nor is it true that self interest generally is enlightened."
John Jelley let the cat out of the bag when he quite truly remarked that "if democracy has any meaning, it should mean a society where we can all choose our own way to hell or heaven." (Daily Mail, 14.2.61). Quite so! But can we choose to go to Hell without the eternal furnaces singeing some of our fellows?
Far more fantastic than Bentham's shallow principle, is its extension to the extreme of assuming that every man is also capable of judging what is best for his fellow citizens. For the fact that Liberalism entrusts our destiny to our neighbours, however ill-informed, self-seeking or mentally defective they may be, constitutes a tyranny far greater and more sinister than any aristocratic despotism has ever been. Have
"Everyone voted at an election for one reason only," said Monckton Milnes in 1842, "because they realized that some benefit would accrue to themselves or their own interests from the policy of the favoured candidate." (Thoughts on Purity of Elections). We have already seen what Rousseau thought on this subject (See article VI in this series); whilst Montesquieu despite his ill-considered raptures over English Parliamentarianism, declared: "People imagine, but it is never the case, that the electors seek the public welfare, whereas it is only their private interest." (Quarterly Rev. No. 379: Voyages de Montesquieu).
No intelligent estimate of the qualities of humanity in the mass could possibly conflict with these views. Indeed, it is extremely doubtful whether the vast majority of the population would ever be induced to leave their T.V. sets to go to the polls unless they had some private interest to serve. Yet Liberals as a body have always kept their heads sufficiently high up in the clouds to be able to think otherwise. As recently as 1868, twenty-six years after Monckton Milnes' above-mentioned remark, Samuel Morley, a cultivated, capable and deeply religious man, the friend of Gladstone and one of his staunchest supporters, felt able, whilst apparently in full possession of his mental powers, to say in an election address at Bristol: "I do not so distrust the character of Englishmen as to fear that they will employ their newly acquired privilege (referring to the Reform Bill of 1867) for selfish and unworthy purposes." In other words, he was satisfied that public spirit was the prevailing sentiment of the populace.
To-day, almost a century after Samuel Morley expressed this astonishing point of view, we have still but to witness the universal signs of the popular disregard of public welfare, in the People's inveterate habit of spreading litter wherever they go, of damaging every pitch they temporarily appropriate, whether on beaches, in public gardens, or in rural beauty spots, and of making themselves a general nuisance by their noise, their ruffianism and their total failure to inculcate any public spirit on their children of all ages, in order to become convinced that the Liberal assumption of Man's innate public spiritedness, is but a fond myth. For though the example I have given of its general absence may seem trivial, no modern inhabitant of a Western civilized country doubts that they could be multiplied indefinitely, or that more serious charges of a similar kind could be made. As to the belief that men and women are the best judges of what is their own interest, and its corollary, that in pursuing what they imagine is their own interest they do not injure their neighbours, once more, a short stroll along the main street of any modern town should suffice to prove its utter falsity.
If the reader will patiently suffer me to refute this belief by a few rather tedious details, I will venture, by one example alone, taken at haphazard, to do this.
The other day, in one of the main thoroughfares of Ipswich, I noticed ahead of me a tall heavily-built woman in her early thirties, pushing a perambulator. She was wearing the stiletto shoes with three-inch heels which are now quite customary, and I observed that, besides causing her ankle-points to rock unsteadily over the sharply-pointed heels in question, her footwear was evidently causing her considerable discomfort, because she seemed to halt with marked frequency and, whilst apparently examining the shop-fronts, always lifted one of her feet in order to rest it against its fellow.
It was easy to conclude that the obtuse angle made by the soles of her shoes and the level of the pavement, caused the whole weight of her big body to be directed towards the narrow points of her shoes and thus to add substantially to the enormous pressure already exerted by crowding her toes into the inadequate accommodation provided. She must, I inferred, be suffering, not only great discomfort, but probably also a good deal of pain; and this impression was confirmed when, on reaching a bus stop, I noticed that, after lifting her child out of the perambulator, and folding the conveyance up, she proceeded to steady herself against the wall of the bus-shelter and then, one after the other, removed her shoes to rest her feet.
I could not help picturing her future. If irreparable damage had not already been done to her feet when she was an adolescent, it was most certainly being done now, and I could see her afflicted, not only with bunions, hammer toes, ingrowing toe-nails and possibly hallux rigidus (stiff big toe), but also with "hallux valgus" (a deformity in which the big toe is forced permanently over the adjoining two toes). It was thus not difficult to foresee that quite soon walking exercise would either have to be eschewed altogether, or else reduced to a minimum, which, in view of her habit of over-eating (as indicated by her abnormal bulk) meant that, as an editorial in the Brit. Med. Journ. pointed out eight years ago, her foot deformities would be responsible "for the more serious disabilities of later life" deformities which the same editorial states "are now often established by late adolescence." (Issue of 3.10.53, and The Med. Press & Circular, 12.7.33).
She was therefore doomed to swell the column of thousands of women now thronging the chiropody departments of our hospitals; and, in addition, would most probably become an out- or in-patient for many of the ailments arising indirectly from her deplorable condition. In this way she would also add her share to the £600,000,000 that our National Health Service now costs us, and thus, by her Freedom, play her part in pillaging the taxpayer. Only eight years ago, at a time when, although the stiletto shoe had not yet been introduced, high heels of a slightly less harmful pattern were being worn, it was found that in a factory employing 358 workers, 30 per cent of the women (presumably still quite young) had some kind of foot trouble, and the principal causes were bunions and hallux valgus. (Brit. Med. Journ. 3.10.53).
Reflecting on the countless imbecilities contributing to this deplorable situation, and remembering that through her preposterous Parliamentary vote the woman I had been observing would again, owing her obviously faulty judgment, probably add to the injuries she was already preparing to inflict on the nation; bearing in mind also that she was only one among millions of similar imbeciles, whose sex forms the majority in every constituency, it struck me that she and her like afforded the most arresting refutation that could be found of two of the most cherished principles of Liberalism:
(1) That people are the best judges of what serves their own interest, and,
(2) That they are sufficiently public-spirited never
I apologise for the tiresome facts I have had to adduce in order by one vivid example to expose these two fundamental fallacies; but let no reader assume that I have exhausted the data that I could if necessary supply in order further to dispose of them. Since, however, it requires the utmost goodwill on the part of even the more stupid areas of one's brain to acquiesce in the principles in question, it is perhaps discourteous to the intelligent reader to suppose that he needs to see them refuted.
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We have seen how the Reformers, in order to free their generation from the oppression of a powerful priesthood, boldly asserted that no quality peculiar to the ministers of religion gave them any exclusive right to intervene between God and Man. Therefore, as Luther put it, "Every man could be his own priest." (A TREATISE TOUCHING THE LIBERTIES OF A CHRISTIAN, Trans. by J. Bull 1579, p. 31). And it was from this claim that the belief in human equality is supposed to have spread throughout Europe.
It is, however, only necessary to recall John Ball and his teacher Wycliffe, to satisfy ourselves that as early as the 14th century the claim was already in the air. For the revolt against aristocratic incompetence and misgovernment, which had been gathering strength for some time, had even then begun to kindle doubts among the "intellectuals" in the populace concerning differences generally assumed to exist between men born in castles and those born in the hovels of the poor. The escutcheons of the nobility had so often been stained that even people engaged in agriculture and confronted daily with the evidence of heredity and of the superiority of certain family strains in their farm animals, were beginning to question whether these biological phenomena had any parallel in the human race. Never asking themselves whether perhaps their nobles had violated the rules of good breeding which they themselves rigidly observed in the management of their livestock, they simply dismissed the possibility of any inborn superiorities in Man and, in obedience to the superficial intelligentsia of their day, accepted equality as the natural condition of humanity.
The fact that this conclusion was tantamount to denying the possibility of inherited qualities, and amounted in fact to a denial of Heredity itself, did not trouble them in the least. Besides, the universal patsion of envy in human beings could always be relied upon to incline the vast majority composed of nobodies to accept any doctrine that offered them relief from the perpetual ache of covetousness.
Locke, as we have seen, in order to impart a certain veneer of validity to the extravagant claim of Equality, had argued that the differences between men were due "more to education than to anything else" (SOME THOUGHTS OF EDUCATION), and Voltaire, echoing Locke, as he often did, stated with some exaggeration of the Liberal Englishman's ideas: "Il est bien certain que la naissance ne met pas plus de différence entre les hommes qu'entre un ânon dont le père portait du fumier et un ânon dont le pere portait des reliques: l'education fait la grande différence." (ANECDOTES SUR PIERRE LE GRAND, 1759: "We may be quite sure that birth causes no more differences between men than it does between a young donkey whose sire carted manure and a young donkey whose sire bore sacred relics on its back.").
Well may F. L. Lucas deplore that "fantastic optimism with which many educators tend to get intoxicated that curious faith that education can turn sows' ears into silk purses and young carthorses into Derby winners." (THE SEARCH FOR GOOD SENSE, 1958, Chap. III). But, in fairness to Locke and Voltaire, we must remember that in their day the oppressed people of Europe were more anxious to discredit aristocratic pretensions than to champion truth. Even on the eve of Louis XVI's execution by the Parisian mob, Thomas Paine was arguing that "an hereditary governor is as inconsistent as an hereditary author. I know not whether Homer or Euclid had sons; but I will venture an opinion that if they had, and left their works unfinished, those sons could not have completed them." (THE RIGHTS OF MAN, 1792, Chap. III).
This sounded so seductively self-evident to the ears of his generation that a man had almost to apologise for questioning it. For what could Paine and his contemporaries have known or remembered about some of the families later to be mentioned by such investigators as Galton and Dr. G. Révész, to whom we shall refer in due course families that belied his glib generalization? Yet even to this day, about two centuries after Paine displayed his ignorance, and the popularization of science has made the findings of such distinguished investigators accesible to the reading public, we still see Paine rather than Galton or Révész acknowledged as authoritative. In every class of English society the very same average gullible men and women who to-day will go to any expense to secure a dog of a particular race and of faultless pedigree, will nevertheless with the utmost docility, bow to the mendacious ruling of UNESCO and stoutly, if not indignantly, deny the importance of race and sound lineage in human beings.
There may have been some excuse for Locke, Voltaire and Paine. For, to suppose that, in their Liberal dreams, they might have been able to picture how
The inevitable sequel to Locke's doctrine of Equality, was his belief that the will of the majority should prevail (TWO TREATISES ON GOVERNMENT. II. Chap. X); and Bentham who accepted this as axiomatic, thus naively committed us to our present barbarous and wholly materialistic conception of TRUTH, WISDOM and RIGHT as determined by the sheer body-weight of the crowd behind them.
In an Age when spates of fulsome verbiage are lavished by politicians, journalists and the higher clergy, on our boasted devotion to what are called "Spiritual Values", we yet have no compunction in advertising to the world at large our faith in the Liberal principle that sound judgment and insight, and above all political sagacity, are solely and purely a matter of avoirdupois. Indeed, by our mania for spreading our political institutions wherever our influence is acknowledged, we foist this materialistic doctrine even on people who, despite their primitive culture, have so far instinctively resisted it.
We hypocritically condemn what our National Press has taught us to regard as the "Fascist" or "Nazi" slogan that MIGHT IS RIGHT, whilst at every committee meeting, every conference, every General Election, and during every Parliamentary Session, held in the land, we openly proclaim our acceptance of the coarse and materialistic principle that RIGHT resides where the mightiest mass of human flesh and bones is collected.
Irving Babbitt remarks that "the notion that wisdom resides in a popular majority at any particular moment should be the most completely exploded of all fallacies" (DEMOCRACY AND LEADERSHIP, 1924, p. 263). But what most requires emphasizing to-day is not so much that the notion is a fallacy, but that it is a flat and cynical contradiction of our proudest boasts, of our pretension to be among the leaders of the world in spiritual elevation and decency, and wholly denies us the right of pointing the finger of scorn at the Communists for their Dialectical Materialism, which they at least have the candour to acknowledge. And it is this fact, transposed into all the different keys of the human voice, that should now be broadcast in the teeth, in the false teeth, of all Liberals, wherever they may lurk and wherever they foregather to frame their tawdry policies.
Professor Raymond Cattell remarks that "The supporters of the French Revolution, being opposed to an hereditary aristocracy, perhaps did well to belittle the importance of human heredity." (AN INTRODUCTION TO PERSONALITY STUDY, 1950. Chap. II). But as it was only by the operation of the laws of heredity that the French aristocracy, like that of the rest of Europe, had become contemptible, its degraded condition should have confirmed rather than cast doubt upon these laws.
Only if the French aristocracy had remained wise and efficient, only if they had continued to deserve the admiration and loyalty of the masses by their compelling superiority and capacity for sagacious leadership only then ought the importance and truth of heredity have been questioned. For, seeing that they and their peers almost everywhere in Europe, had consistently violated every rule by which special gifts and thoroughbred qualities may be preserved and enhanced, and by which an élite can survive in honour and dignity, it would have been their continued display of exalted qualities, and not their depravity and inferiority, that would have constituted an anomaly justifying the most profound doubts about the operation of Heredity.
Thus, the fact that the Liberal thinkers of the late 18th century inferred from the decline of aristocracy that heredity had no importance in human beings, is but a further proof, if such were needed, of their inveterate inability to ponder any question, whether of biology, psychology or politics to any purpose. Not that the Liberals of the present day are any better; for, as we have seen, on the basis of the same evidence that their predecessors had almost two centuries ago, they are also quite prepared to deny the operation of Heredity in human breeding.
And, in view of all that the world has meanwhile learnt on the subject of genetics, we can only ascribe this extraordinary persistence of an error to the increase in stupidity which has marked the "Progress" of humanity in recent times.
When, therefore, we survey the whole chain of Liberal reasoning, from the first postulation of human equality, the claim to the right of private Judgment, the ascription of public spirit to every man, woman and child, and the materialistic advocacy of majority rule, down to the belief in mob omniscience and the denial of heredity in human descent this hair-raising assortment of snap judgments, muddled thoughts and hasty guesses, reveals Liberalism as the most trumpetry and shoddy product of European cogitation that has so far been recorded.
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As late as 1775, when Beaumarchais produced his BARBIER DE SEVILLE, there was still no sign in Europe of any enlightened understanding of Aristocracy's lamentable failure. Even the members of the aristocratic order themselves had no idea of what had led to their degeneration.
Beaumarchais makes Figaro exclaim, "Un grand nous fait assez de bien quand il nous fait pas de mal." (Act. 1, Sc. II. "The great show us kindness enough when they merely refrain from injuring us.").
This was fifteen years after Voltaire had made the shallow comment on heredity which I quoted in my last article, and it reveals the exasperation still felt by the French intelligentsia over the unworthiness of their national élite. But even eighteen years after the first performance of Beaumarchais' play the English intelligentsia showed the same blind exasperation and, in the political expedients they suggested, displayed no deeper insight than their colleagues across the Channel.
This will be clearly seen by any one who to-day has the patience and courage to plod through the 895 pages of what is perhaps the stupidest book ever written by a European of the historical period. I refer to William Godwin's INQUIRY CONCERNING POLITICAL JUSTICE (1793), which stands as a monument commemorating what, at the end of the 18th century, English Liberalism could solemnly publish and expect the public to accept as "THOUGHT". In all its 895 quarto pages, I was able to discover only one passage which could fairly be called sensible, and that was where Godwin attacks the Ballot. (Bk. IV, Chap. X).
Starting off with the usual rubbishy assumptions about Man's native goodness (Bk. I, Chap. III), it proceeds to deny the possibility of any hereditary gift or attribute, and attacks Property on purely communistic lines. "To whom does any article of property, suppose a loaf of bread, belong? To him who most wants it," says Godwin. (Vol. II, Bk. VII, Chap. I). "My neighbour," he says, "has as much right to put an end to my existence with a dagger or poison, as to deny me the pecuniary assistance without which I must starve, or as to deny me that assistance without which my intellectual attainments or my moral exertions will be materially injured." (Bk. II, Chap. V).
Incredible as it may appear, although this sort of shallow slap-dash theorizing pervades the whole book, and might have seemed a sufficient safeguard against its being widely read, such was the intellectual depravity of the Age, that the Government under Pitt seriously considered prosecuting the Author, and refrained from doing so only because the price of the book (three guineas) made it inaccessible to the multitude.
Indeed, the book actually enjoyed something of a vogue. Men like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey, Tom Wedgwood and Crabb Robinson fell temporarily under
Was it this slip on the learned Doctor's part which, together with other similar gaffes, led Ste Beuve to describe him as "the king of clownish pedants"? ("Le roi des cuistres").
At all events, it was a remarkable anticipation of Lenin who, 154 years later, was to incite the Russian mob to pillage the possessing classes by crying to the people of St. Petersburg in April 1917: "Rob back that which has been robbed!"
Thus, the English intelligentsia of the late 18th century seem to have been incapable of lighting on a solution of the problem of national government that constituted any advance on that of the earliest Liberal theorists. And this was the more unpardonable in the scholars among them, who had long had before their eyes Aristotle's wise dictum that "Aristocracies are mostly destroyed from virtue not being properly joined to power." (POLITICS, II, Bk. V, 1307a). Here was the whole clue to the mystery and it is surely not unduly censorious to charge them with superficiality, if not with denseness, for having overlooked it.
The fact that the same oversight was displayed in the camp of the aristocrats right up to the end of the 18th century hardly excuses their less noble opponents; for nowhere among the ruling classes of France and England were there any thinkers who could compare with men of the stamp of Voltaire, Beaumarchais, Samuel Johnson, etc. Yet, not once throughout the whole period, do we encounter any political philosopher of the Right or Left, who proved capable of recognizing that in any society whatsoever, the degree of power wielded by the dominant class should always be commensurate with their quality and that every increase in that power must, if it is to continue acceptable, be contingent on an increase in the quality of the class exercizing it.
Unfortunately, the besetting sin of even the more enlightened political thinkers I do not refer to Godwin in this respect; for he was in any case Hors Concours in benightedness has always consisted in confounding the virtues of an institution with the virtues of the personnel who try to run it; as if a sudden and total decline in the ability of farmers inevitably justified an attack on the raison d'être and necessity of the Agricultural calling per se. "No institution," said Emerson, "will be better than the institutor." (ESSAY ON CHARACTER.).
Even if the English and French intelligentsia at the close of the 18th century and thereafter, may have been too completely blinded by indignation to understand that the aristocratic débâcle did not necessarily invalidate the institution of Aristocracy itself, how can they be forgiven for an oversight actually more astonishing than any of which they had already been guilty? I refer to their complete disregard of the fact that in every civilized, as in every barbarian or savage community, government never consists merely in framing and directing the domestic and foreign policies of a people, but also and above all, in establishing among them those conceptions of honour, decency, civility and "good tone", on which the smoothness, harmony and taste of their social life chiefly depend.
And the only source of what might be termed this essential "Spiritual Lubrication" of a community, has always been and always will be, a tone-setting, exemplary minority, who constitute a people's élite, and who give the inferior masses, besides their standards of becoming behaviour a sort of blue-print of desirability which it becomes every one's ambition to illustrate in their own sphere.
In every human community, boasting of any culture whatsoever, however primitive, the task of establishing this ideal of "good tone" and respectability, has always fallen to a small and necessarily limited minority and constitutes one of the most important functions of leadership. For, as Aristotle so aptly observed, "What those who have the chief power regard as honourable will necessarily be the object which the citizens in general will aim at." (POLITICS, II, Chap. XI, 1273a1273b). And the fact that, until the day before yesterday, no Liberal ever grasped the essential nature of this function and that it was confined to an aristocratic regimen, constitutes the gravamen of the charge against the whole of this school of political thought. For it should be obvious to every modern man and woman that it is the complete absence from our present-day Western societies of any élite that sets a high standard of social decency and good tone, that is causing our civilization slowly but steadily to disintegrate.
This means that the rulers themselves and those elements in the population who are mistakenly regarded, especially by the popular Press, as composing our élite, have insensibly degenerated into a class incapable of leadership and, like the Liberals, are quite unaware of the indispensability of a Tone-setting minority if a society is to remain sound and flourishing.
Having forgotten, or never having heard of Paul Adam's noble sentiment, that "L'honneur n'est pas d'être envié mais d'être respecté" (LA MORALE DE L'AMOUR, 1907, Chap. XVIII: "Honour consists not in being envied but in being respected"), all our so-called "Upper Classes" have taught the masses for generations now is the art of provoking envy rather than respect; and, as we can now all see for ourselves, the success of this doctrine has been spectacular.
Most shameful of all, however, is the fact that these disreputable leaders of our modern world should have left it to a notorious Liberal to restate in emphatic terms the urgent need of a leading tone-setting élite if our civilization is to survive. Driven by the spectacle of vulgarity and anarchy everywhere triumphant, an arch-Liberal Sir Fred Clarke has recently felt bound to remind his countrymen that "The bulk of the major cultural achievements of mankind have come from the presence in society of a minority so placed that either through its free energies, or through its patronage of genius it could concern itself with the higher refinements of living." (FREEDOM IN THE EDUCATIONAL SOCIETY, 1948, Chap. II).
Sir Fred Clarke goes on to argue that this minority and its special function constituted and will always constitute an indispensable part of every civilized community worthy of the name, and that we can try to dispense with it only at our peril.
Yet, the fact that we have long been assuming that we could get along without it and that in the bright ideas of our Liberals we had an adequate alternative to aristocratic rule, may explain how a writer like T. S.
In my next article I shall open my examination of the many crimes the aristocrats of Europe have committed against themselves and their régime crimes which, by causing them to forfeit the faith of the Common People and to play into the hands of all the intellectuals of our Continent who stood ready with their half-baked schemes for alternative forms of government, have ultimately reduced us to our present derelict plight of rudderless, tasteless, and consequently precarious chaos.
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In July 1842, that immensely interesting poet, Heinrich Heine, was already aware of Europe's dangerous plight. He saw it destitute of leadership; its millions wandering astray like lost sheep, and he shrank in alarm from the doom which he feared must overtake it. "I advise all our grandchildren," he said, "to come into the world with thick hides; for the future reeks of Russian knouts, devilry and cruel castigations." (FRANZÖSISCHE ZUSTÄNDE, II, Chap. XLII). Looking across the Channel, he saw England inevitably succumbing to Communism.
Heine was not better informed than his contemporaries concerning the cause of Aristocracy's decline; but, as an impressionable artist, he sensed the deluge of popular stupidity and incompetence that was threatening and, faced with conditions that did not favour the solution chosen by the shipwright, Noah, he thought his generation could best be saved by being forearmed.
Seven years later, an even greater prophet sounded fore specific alarm; for, in his SALUT DU PEUPLE, Constantin Pecqueur stated precisely whither the flood of Liberal thought (or lack of thought) must lead: "Take heed," he cried "lest civilization plant her banners on the summit of the Kremlin!"
From that day to this, however, not only has nothing been done to prevent this consummation; but, on the contrary, with our male and particularly our female politicians, always mistaking a tightness in their throats for a thought, we have reached the stage when a modern writer can, without jeopardising his reputation for sanity, openly confess that "Modern thought does not look kindly on strong men" (John Masters, in BUGLES AND A TIGER, 1956, Chap. V).
And why is this so? Because strength has no place in our political machinery of committees, conferences, commissions and parliaments. Above all, a strong man would not be tolerated by English women in this Age, and women form an increasing proportion of the members of all assemblies. Who can imagine a Joan of Arc under Caesar or Napoleon; or a Lady Violet Bonham Carter under the Earl of Stratford or Cromwell? One has but to hear how female members of the "Establishment" speak of Franco and Dr. Salazar in B.B.C. political broadcasts to understand the pertinency of John Masters' remark in this Feminist Age.
One might even paraphrase Mr. Masters' dictum and say, "Modern thought does not look kindly on any distinctions whatsoever." Hence probably that self-revelatory observation of the Duke of Windsor in A KING'S STORY (1951, Chap. VIII). "The idea," he said, "that my birth and title should somehow or other set me apart from and above other people struck me as wrong."
Yet it was precisely his birth and title that should have set him apart from and above other people. And if he really felt that they did not, then, whether he married Mrs. Simpson or not, he was perfectly right to abdicate. What should we think of a born musician like Bizet, for instance, or a congenitally superior leader like Wellington or Frederick the Great, if any one of them had felt it was wrong for his singularity, his exceptional gifts, to set him apart from and above other people? Should we applaud Bizet for renouncing his unquestioned right to teach and train in other words to lead others in music an occupation in which he excelled? And should we feel that Wellington and Frederick the Great had shown really charming modesty and humility, if they had abjured their right to authority and command, and thought it wrong that they should be set above others?
Nevertheless, I have not the slightest doubt that the words I have quoted from the Duke of Windsor's autobiography struck 999,999 per million of English readers as wholly admirable, both in sentiment and good sense.
But, in mitigation of his Grace's extraordinary confession, let us not forget that he was born and bred in an Age when the whole weight of democratic and Liberal prejudice, the whole lamentable record of European history and the general verdict of the mob, was against any belief in the power of heredity and of good lineage to confer any singular privileges or prerogatives whatsoever. Even the idea that a faultless pedigree, showing unbroken descent from distinguished forebears, qualified a living creature to perform particular functions and set an unbridgeable gulf between him and his contemporaries, had long been abandoned except at Crufts, the Kennel Club, Racing Stables or Agricultural Shows.
And this brings us to a consideration of the sins the aristocrats have committed against themselves sins which culminated in their total eclipse as rulers
As I have already entered into the question of how and why the Royal Houses of Europe degenerated (See articles XI to XVII of the series THE IMPORTANCE OF RACIAL INTEGRITY: S.A.O., 1959), I need not return to it. The facts relating to the failure of our European Aristocracy are, however, sufficiently peculiar to justify a special inquiry, particularly as the nature of their sins against themselves were from the first overlooked by the Liberal intelligentsia who thought the case against the nobility was equivalent to the case against the institution of Aristocracy itself.
I suggest, therefore, that the sins the aristocrats committed against themselves are as follows:
(1) Their failure to understand that the laws of heredity cannot be infringed with impunity, and consequently that their choice of partners in marriage should always have been dominated by the thought of preserving and if possible enhancing their peculiar virtues and gifts, and by the idea of maintaining their fitness to rule.
(2) Their failure to understand that, as the laws of heredity by no means guarantee the transmission of their best stock qualities to their first male offspring, the principle of primogeniture must in countless cases mean a fall in their family's abilities, credit and prestige. There obviously may be some difficulty occasionally in precisely determining the relative merits of two or three sons, and where this is so the rule of primogeniture could hardly result in much injury to the credit of the family concerned. But there can be no excuse whatsoever for observing the rule when the senior male child is palpably inferior; and to insist on applying it in such a case can only mean the decline of the family in which this is done.
(3) Their failure to recognize that the sanctity of Private Property resides in its relation to its owner; and therefore that this sanctity is desecrated whenever property is allowed to come into the possession of one who, by his inability to administer it to its advantage, or without reducing its value, causes a loss to the community.
This principle was recognized in mediaeval and Feudal times in regard at least to heiresses; because, owing to the terms under which land was held and the military implications of its tenure, daughters and widows were compelled by their Feudal Lord to marry only a man of his choice. This was a logical and necessary condition; because only an informed authority, and certainly not the girl or the widow herself, was in a position to judge what sort of man would henceforth be least likely to desecrate the sanctity of the Property.
Hallam tells us, "Neither the maiden's coyness nor the widow's affliction, neither aversion to the preferred candidate nor love to one more favoured seem to have passed as legitimate excuses. Only one plea could come from the lady's mouth who was resolved to hold her land in single blessedness. It was that she was past sixty years of age; and after this unwelcome confession the lord could not decently press her into matrimony." (VIEW OF THE STATE OF EUROPE DURING THE MIDDLE AGES, 1818, Vol. I, Part I, Chap. II).
In spite of the palpable reasonablenes of this measure, it was regarded as oppressive by the women themselves, especially if they could not appreciate its raison d'être; and some modern historians are sufficiently Liberal-minded to agree with this point of view. Even Hallam himself speaks of the usage as appearing "outrageous to our ideas." Why? Simply because we have lost all conception of the proper attitude to the sanctity of private property, and, like the vulgar crowd, approve when a wealthy heiress, on the strength of her infatuation for an irresponsible playboy, makes him wholly or partly master of her fortune. The fact that their great "love" for one another often does not prevent them from changing partners within a few months of their marriage, is never connected by the onlooking mob with the fate of the property involved.
(4) Their failure to understand that the essential correlative of every right or privilege, is the duty it imposes, with the result that they seldom if ever recognized the obligations of their rank. "There are no rights whatever," said Coleridge, "without corresponding duties." (TABLE TALK, 20/9/1831). This principle they consistently overlooked, especially in respect of the administration of their property; and how this major oversight on their part ultimately contributed to the contempt in which property came to be held, and finally lent colour to the communistic claim that the best administrator of property is not the private individual but the State, is a matter of history.
Thus, to look on possessions above the average as merely the means of having what is known as "a good time" an attitude which became prevalent during the 18th and particularly the 19th centuries, and which the unworthy aristocracies of the past have bequeathed almost in mint state to the mob high and low of our present Age, might reasonably be regarded as the real root of Socialism and its offspring, Communism.
(5) Their failure at least in England, France and Germany to establish within their own order a permanent supreme council, composed of their most respected members, which would have functioned, both as a promulgator of behaviour-standards for all aristocrats, and as a disciplinary authority before which nobles who had disgraced their rank could be arraigned and punished, if necessary by total demotion.
Had such a supreme council been established in England, for instance, we should have been spared, not only the ignominy of having led the world in Liberalism, but also have escaped the deplorable political and social consequences that Liberalism was bound to bring in its train.
In my next article I shall elaborate these five points.
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Nothing is so characteristic of the 20th Century," says Mr. K. G. Collier, "as the critical and questioning attitude with which men in general regard those possessed of higher status than themselves, particularly if it is inherited from the past." (THE SOCIAL PURPOSES OF EDUCATION, 1959, Part 1, Chap. III).
"Particularly if it is inherited from the past"! And Why is this so common to-day? Because everywhere in Europe the mob high and low has been indoctrinated with the Liberal heresy that Heredity plays no part in human breeding. So often and for so many centuries have people seen the sons and daughters of formerly respected rulers grow up destitute of even the meanest of their forebears' virtues, that without inquiry they have accepted the assurance of their intellectuals that heredity may be ignored in human pedigrees.
Thus we find that a man like Professor Ashley Montagu can, without compromising his scientific reputation, publicly state to-day that "the one thing we cannot do is to prove or demonstrate that differences of behaviour and culture have anything to do with inherited or innate qualities." (MAN'S MOST DANGEROUS MYTH, 1944, Chap. 15). This remark made to an experienced animal breeder would provoke no more than a laugh. But pronounced before an audience of gullible modern Liberals (and who is not a Liberal to-day?), the remark is greeted with enthusiastic applause.
Now, I suggest that the suspicion now felt by countless nobodies, that talent and exceptional gifts are all pure accidents, is due chiefly to the family records of both our European aristocrats themselves and of an impressive number of men of outstanding merit. And as science is discovering ever more and more reasons for looking on this suspicion as wholly unfounded, we have before us to-day the extraordinary spectacle of geneticists, sociologists and educators, all coming forward with the most elaborate reasons for reinstating the obvious i.e., the belief our forefathers took so much for granted that they scarcely troubled to mention it, that all lofty endowment, all outstanding gifts, far from owing anything to accident, may invariably be traced to antecedents which prove, rather than cast doubt upon, hereditary law.
To quote Henry IV's son, Louis XIII, Goethe's son August, Napoleon's son the Duke of Reichstadt, or Commodus, the son of Marcus Aurelius, as invalidating this conclusion, merely pleases the ill-informed by holding up the argument to no purpose. Because the laws of heredity would have been most singularly violated had any one of these four sons been a patch on his father. Of those who are wont to raise an objection of this kind, how many ever ask themselves, what sort of persons were Marie de Médicis, Christiane Vulpius, Marie Louise and the younger Faustina?
Boulanger describes Marie de Médicis as "a grossly stupid lady" (Le Grand Siècle, Chap. 1), and St. Simon speaks of her as "imperious, jealous and stupid to a degree" (Mémoires). "Henry IV tried to get her to attend the meeting of his council, to train her in state business; but she was surprisingly incompetent and he had to give up the idea."
Christiane Vulpius may have been a very admirable ménagère for Goethe. She was devoted to him, patiently suffered many humiliations at the hands of his friends and acquaintances because of her lowly origin, and once even risked her life to save his. But no one would dream of regarding her as Goethe's ideal mate if the object was to obtain the best results from breeding from such a man. She was a vulgar little thing, with no interests or gifts that would have unsuited her to be the wife of a sweep or a coalminer, and she was more prone to follow in her drunken father's footsteps than to drink copiously at the fountain of her exalted husband's immortal works.
Were Marie Louise and the younger Faustina worthy mates of their highly endowed husbands? We know they were not. Marie Louise was an empty-
How, therefore, can we now tell to what extent the mother, and not merely an unfortunate shuffling of the stock's and father's qualities, was responsible for Pericles' foolish sons, Paxalos, Xantippos and Clinias, or for Aristoppos's infamous son Lysimachus, or for Thucydides' poorly gifted offspring, Milesias and Stephanos?
Besides, of the four disappointing sons of great fathers discussed above, the first was the eldest of Henry IV's five children, the second was Goethe's only surviving child, so that even if Christiane had been entirely worthy of her husband, August's defective personality would in no way supply any argument against the operation of heredity in human stocks, since we know from a vast amount of data on the subject that the best combinations of the parental genes does not necessarily appear in the first child and will often manifest itself as late as the fifth, sixth or even ninth child. And the same may be said of both the Duke of Reichstadt and Commodus the first having been Napoleon's only legitimate offspring, and the second Marcus Aurelius's first-born.
So that the kind of Liberal argument against heredity which is based on such examples can find acceptance only among the ignorant. And as Human heredity is by no means the only subject concerning which Liberal sophistry has corrupted popular opinion, we have everywhere to restate as pure novelties truths which wiser generations regarded as axiomatic. No wonder R. Ruggles Gates felt entitled to declare that "the mental capacity of modern man has not increased during the historical period." (Heredity in Man, 1929, p. 330).
I do not suggest that this restatement of the obvious is not most necessary to-day, nor that it does not constitute one of the most urgent duties of every conscientious publicist. For, such is the false indoctrination to which the crowd has been subjected, especially in Feminist England, that one can but welcome, and do one's best to promote, this re-enthronement of wisdom. Unfortunately, the organs of publicity from which the masses derive their so-called "independent judgments" on all matters, always soft-peddle, if not suppress, any scrap of knowledge which happens to conflict with the prevalent liberalism of the "Establishment."
Our popular Press does not report Professor Raymond B. Cattell as saying that "81 per cent of the variance in general intelligence is due to heredity," and only "19 per cent to environmental differences" (An Introduction to Personality Study, 1950, Chap. II); nor Dr. F. A. E. Crew when he assures us that "there is a growing body of critical evidence which tends to show that . . . inherited differences in mental qualities and capacities do indeed exist and are responsible for much of the observed diversity in human mentality . . . It is recognized that an eminent man is more likely to have eminent relatives than is the average man; that superior ability would seem to be in some measure a family affair, that a superior father is more likely to have a superior son than is a father of ordinary intellectual attainments." (Organic Inheritance in Man, 1927, pp. 23).
Yet, necessary and timely as these scientific restatements of old-established truths may be, we cannot help being struck with the timid moderation with which they are pronounced. It is as if the experts concerned were only too well aware of how heretical these statements will sound to modern corrupted readers.
Dr. G. Révész, in a detailed survey of the problem gives us impressive examples of gifts inherited by generation after generation of men in various callings; and shows how, in music for instance, such prodigies as Lully, Haendel, Schubert, Rossini, Saint-Saens, Berlioz, Liszt and Stravinsky, all came from families musically gifted. He points out that when both parents are musically gifted, 85 per cent of their children tend to be also; when only one parent is gifted, 58 per cent of their children inherit musical gifts; and when neither parent is musical only 25 per cent display any musical talent. Of 74 composers, 22 per cent inherited musical talent from both parents, 25 per cent from father only, and 12 per cent from mother only. In Bach's family eleven important composers appeared in 8 generations. (Talent und Genie, 1952, Part III i, and Part IV, ii).
Further important statistics relating to the inheritance of gifts of various kinds are given by Professor E. Kretschmer in Chap. IV of his book, The Psychology of Genius, 1931; whilst Francis Galton, in his Hereditary Genius, published 93 years ago, adduced much evidence to prove the operation of heredity in the families and descendants of great men. But he made not the slighest impression on either our aristocracy or the Liberal intelligentsia.
"In short," as Professor J. A. Thomson concluded many years ago, "the fundamental importance of inheritance was long ago demonstrated up to the hilt." (HEREDITY, 1920, p. 9).
Over half a century ago, W. C. D. Whetham and C. D. Whetham, in their book, THE FAMILY AND THE NATION (Chap. V), warned us that "A study of pedigrees and biographies in such books of reference as the DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY, leads irresistibly to the conclusion that continued ability and eminence in a family depends solely on sound marriages . . . As long as ability marries ability a large proportion of able offspring is a certainty."
But, by 1909, the warning had already come too late to save our aristocracy even if they had been prepared to heed it; whilst, as to the masses, gorged with the garbage of a century and a half of Liberal romanticism, they attended in their matrimonial arrangements as little to the nature and destiny of their offspring as they did to the permanence of their own shallow passions. If a prospective mate adequately fired their lust, that sufficed. Their requirements were met. What their children would look like or be fit for, was beside the point; for was not heredity a myth in any case?
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Even if no other influences had been at work, the matrimonial policies of our aristocracy, alone, would probably have sufficed to undermine the nation's faith in human heredity. For, by openly and repeatedly flouting its laws in their choice of their mates, they were the most influential body tacitly to proclaim by their example that they did not believe in the operation of such laws.
However rare their occurrence may have been, we know that for centuries, especially in France and England, the nobility of Europe produced personalities who, had they garnered and preserved their family gifts, might have bred a race of rulers that would have kindled an unquenchable popular faith in the reality, the advantage and, indeed, the indispensability, of a class of thoroughbreds born for leadership and government. For, as J. B. Rice truly observed over thirty years ago, "an aristocracy of blood is eternally right because it is natural." (SOCIAL HYGIENE, 1929, p. 328).
But alas! from the earliest times, and with increasing frequency in recent centuries, by their neglect of the elementary conditions which can ensure a continuance of ability and noble instincts, they forfeited their most precious heirlooms. For reasons no more lofty than the gratification of momentary lust or else the replenishment of depleted coffers, the scions of the best houses constantly married outside their class, and even their most conservative members could raise no graver objection to the practice, than that it offended their snobbish sensibilities.
In vain, as early as the sixteenth century, did certain sages inveigh against the notion that infatuation alone could suffice for the basis of a sound marriage, and that self-indulgence might override more essential considerations in marriage. No one listened. "Une bon mariage, s'il en est un," said Montaigne, "refuse la compagnie et conditions de l'amour." ("A good marriage, if such there be, will have nothing to do with love and its conditions.") In an earlier essay he wrote, "Je ne vois point de mariages qui failles plutot et se troublent que ceux qui s'acheminent par la beauté et le désir amoureux." (I know of no marriages that come to grief and fail more rapidly than those which are the outcome of beauty and erotic desire." ESSAIS, Livre IV, Chap. IV, and Livre III, Chap. V.) Whilst two centuries later, even the man who did most to stage the Romantic Movement in Europe, declared, "Ce qui nous abuse. . . c'est la pensée que l'amour est nécessaire pour former un heureux mariage." (J. J. Rousseau, LA NOUVELLE HÉLOISE, IIIe Partie, Lettre XXe. "What leads us astray is the idea that love is necessary for a happy marriage.") Almost two centuries later still Paul Adam warned his contemporaries that "Il ne faut pas épouser uniquement par plaisir". (LA MORALE DE L'AMOUR, 1907, Chap XI: "We should not marry merely for pleasure.")
But these warnings, directed chiefly at the aristocracy, among whom a sound marriage was always socially much more important than among the masses, remained unheeded. For there was not in any case an authoritative central body within the aristocratic order to enforce their observance. Not that the populace in general might not also have benefited from taking them to heart; for the absurdly high incidence of divorce and legal separations in Western society to-day among people all of whom know of no other motive for marriage than their "undying love", is surely no argument against either Montaigne or Rousseau.
Nor should the austere character of these Frenchmen's views on marriage, blind us to their fundamental wisdom; for although to interpret them as a total proscription of love from the motives of a sound marriage, would doubtless be wrong, what Montaigne in particular felt and quite properly was that, at all events in ruler families, it was suicidal to allow this factor to be paramount especially when erotic desire was its principal component.
From the earliest times, however, in England certainly, the nobility were always ready to allow other considerations than the preservation of their family gifts and virtues to determine their choice of a mate. Many examples of this recklessness could be quoted, even from an Age as remote as that of the Pastons in the Middle Ages (See my QUEST OF HUMAN QUALITY, 1952, Chap. VIII). But from early in the 18th century and onwards, the record has been shocking.
From 1735 (if not 1732) to 1945, the nobility of England chose 42 actresses as wives, and among the
This is not to suggest that actresses are necessarily depraved, or that they and actors follow, as Schopenhauer maintained, a profession which stands low in the hierarchy of the arts; for, in the creation of new rôles, alone, they are often called upon to exercise considerable psychological insight and artistic improvisation. But it is surely not unreasonable to question whether actresses may be expected to possess those qualities required by a class depending for its survival upon an unbroken tradition of rulership.
Nor would it be right to assume that occasional matrimonial alliances between the scions of the Aristocracy and daughters of Commoners are always to be condemned out of hand. On the contrary, we may feel sure that, when such matings are arranged with becoming discretion and care, and the maidens are chosen from roturier families known to derive from stocks showing unblemished records and a steady discharge of their obligations in the administration of their properties; when, above all, such spouses meet all the requirements of biological desirability, the refreshment the ruler stock thus receives is wholly to be commended. It must seriously be questioned, however, whether such requirements often formed the essential conditions under which unions of this kind were contracted, especially when the primary object was to replenish the coffers of an impoverished noble line, or else to gratify a momentary lust.
At all events, in the interminable list of rich roturier heiresses who became the wives of many of our English nobles, there is often little evidence of any exacting discrimination beyond that which concerned the bride's financial prospects.
In 1798, for instance, Alexander Baring (later Lord Ashburton) married Anne Louisa Bingham, daughter of a rich Philadelphia merchant; but there is no evidence that she possessed any quality other than her great wealth. And the same may be said of the marriages that followed: that of her future Lord Erskine to Frances Cadwalader, also of Philadelphia; those of the three Caton girls, belonging to the wealthy family of Carrols of Carrolstown, one of whom became the Marchioness of Caermarthen (later Duchess of Leeds), another who married Baron Stafford, and the third who became the second wife of the Marquess of Wellesley (1825).
Later on, probably in similar circumstances, Jennie Jerome, daughter of the rich Wall-St. broker, Leonard Jerome, and great-granddaughter of an Iroquois Indian, married Randolph Churchill; and in 1876 Viscount Mandeville, heir to the 7th Duke of Manchester, married Consuela Iznaga. She did not bring her disreputable husband great wealth, but enough to make him forget that she too was the mongrel offspring of a New England woman and a Cuban. In 1895, Mary Letter daughter of the rich Jew, Levi Leiter, who had acquired his fortune in trade, married Lord Curzon, and in 1904 Levi's younger daughter married the 19th Earl of Suffolk. Meanwhile, in 1903, a Miss Goelet, of rich American parents, was chosen as wife by the Duke of Roxburgh.
And so it went on. The 4th Marquess of Anglesey had married Mary Livingstone King of Sanhills (1880); The Duke of Marlborough married Consuelo Vanderbilt (1895: fortune, 15,000,000 dollars); the Earl of Yarmouth married Alice Thaw (1903: fortune, 10.000,000 dollars.) But it would be tedious to continue the list.
Does anyone suppose, however, that these American heiresses brought any valuable ruler gifts into the families they entered? It may be, and has been argued that many of the Southern families of America were of good English stock with truly aristocratic feelings and traditions, and that therefore their daughters enriched rather than diluted the ruler qualities (if any) of their spouses. But, whether this was so or not, and whether their noble husbands were still sufficiently regenerate for their stock to be able to benefit from any contributions of value which these ladles made to their character and endowments as rulers, only the outcome of these marriages might have been able to show; and in view of the fact that no actual revival of aristocratic virtue and ability occurred during the period when these mariages de convenance were in vogue, seems to indicate either that the refreshment they brought was of little avail, or that it was not sufficiently frequent, or that it came too late.
Thus it is not without significance, as reflecting on Francis Galton's understanding of what was at stake, that all he found to say about these marriages was that they helped to promote the extinction of our noble families. For "an heiress, being usually someone with no brothers and sisters," and therefore deriving from infertile stock, her family's infertility became a means of limiting the issue of our noble houses. This was, however, a less important consequence of these misalliances than the fact that apart from the fortunes they brought their husbands, they did little, if any thing, to check the downward trend of the nobility. (See HEREDITARY GENIUS, 1869, Chap. VIII).
It may be objected that surely Randolph Churchill's marriage to Jennie Jerome, who became Winston Churchill's mother, proves that these matrimonial alliances could, and in this case actually did, result in offspring of priceless value to England and her history. Whether this really is so or not, however, only the future can decide. Even at the present moment, 17 years after the end of World War II, the question still remains a difficult one to answer. Many well-informed judges, aware of the grave character and personality transfigurations with which a state of war tends to shed a legendary glow on the leading politicians of the victorious side; many unbiassed observers who know the ease with which a people at war may be led and misled, and who in this respect recall Lloyd George; and many a sober historian who feels more inclined to judge the success or failure of a war and of a war-leader by the state of affairs prevailing after the conflict is over, rather than from the bald fact that the enemy was finally routed, all such people, with the facts of the Last War and its aftermath before them may perhaps be allowed to entertain serious doubts whether even the case of Jennie Jerome overwhelmingly vindicates the practice adopted by our aristocracy throughout the 19th century of marrying wealthy American heiresses.
Be this as it may the data I have given about the misalliances of our aristocracy do, I submit, bear out my claim that among the more potent influences that have destroyed the popular faith in heredity, has been the behaviour of our nobility who, by example rather than precept, have allowed it to be inferred that they set no store by heredity, and believed in blood-stock only in dealing with their cattle and their horses.
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We now come to the second of the major sins the Aristocracy committed against themselves: Their failure to understand that, as the laws of heredity by no means guarantee the inheritance of the best qualities of their stock by their first-born male offspring, the rule of primogeniture must in countless cases cause a decline in the ability, credit and prestige of their family.
Speaking of the English nobility of the 17th century, Buckle says, "The influence of the higher ranks was, in England, constantly diminishing" (CIVILIZATION IN ENGLAND, Vol. II, Chap. III), whilst Matthew Arnold, referring to a generation two centuries later, observes, "I cannot doubt that in the aristocratic virtue, in the intrinsic commanding force of the English upper classes there is a diminution . . . At the very moment when democracy becomes less and less disposed to follow and admire, aristocracy becomes less and less qualified to command and to captivate." (ESSAY ON DEMOCRACY, 1884).
Even as early as the 16th century the nobility must already have been scandalously incompetent; for, as R. W. Percival points out, Elizabeth, who had an eye for efficiency, if for little else, "gave them (the peers) little or nothing to do." (THE FUTURE OF THE HOUSE OF LORDS, 1954, Chap. II).
Even if marriages in the higher ranks had always been the wisest possible for the preservation and enhancement of the best qualities of their stock, how could they hope to maintain a high standard of both honour and ability if by a process of arbitrary and blind selection, they always assumed that their eldest male offspring must represent the best permutation and combination of their family genes?
No animal breeder, observing a rigid rule such as this, would ever hope to produce a champion specimen, let alone a succession of such champions.
Jacob Burckhardt tells us that, just as among the early Israelites other sons than the first-born were sometimes chosen to succeed, so many of the Italian dictatorships of the 15th century thought that "The fitness of the individual, his worth and his capacity, were of more weight than both the laws and usages which prevailed in the West in establishing his claim to succession;" and this was the principle applied even in the case of bastards. (CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE, 1909).
It would obviously prove an impossible undertaking, especially for a series of articles like these, to determine even approximately how often and with what untoward consequences the rule of primogeniture proved injurious to a noble family's character and ability and therefore jeopardized its title to continue in authority and power. But, if we examine the records of more or less plebeian families among whom people of proved ability appeared, we shall I suggest be able to convince ourselves that, relatively few of them lend the slightest support to the belief that the best permutation and combination of a family's stock qualities necessarily appear in its first-born offspring.
I am well aware of the fact that this does of course happen. We have but to think of Velasquez, Hobbes, Milton, Heine, Corneille, Molière, Racine, Keats, Swinburne, Browning, Carlyle, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Columbus, Dryden, Gibbon, Goethe, Thackeray, Macaulay, Ruskin, Gissing, Meredith, Herbert Spencer, Hegel, Leonardo da Vinci, Chopin, Locke, Newton, Watts (painter) and Rossini all of whom were either eldest or only sons in order to appreciate that the vagaries of the hereditary laws sometimes appear to justify mankind's faith in the rule of primogeniture. The error lies in supposing that we may stake on its always doing so. For, unless it can be shown that noble families differ in this respect from roturiers, we must conclude that precisely the same uncertainty concerning inheritance prevails among the offspring of aristocrats as among those of ordinary middle-class folk.
Against the list of first-born given above, therefore, it is well to remember that among plebeians of note who came at least 14th in their families, were: Edward Lear (21st child), Charles Wesley (18th child), Sir Thomas Lawrence (16th child), John Wesley (15th child) and Albert Moore (14th child). Among famous roturiers who came thirteenth in their families,
Thomas Campbell, Charles Reade, Ignatius Loyola and Lamarck all came eleventh in their families. J. E Thorold Rogers was an eleventh son. Benjamin Franklin, John Hunter (Physiologist), Coleridge, Benjamin West were tenth children. Lord Cromer was a ninth son, whilst Butler (of THE ANALOGY), Lord Lawrence (Gov. Gen. of India), and Sebastian Bach were all three 8th children.
Among famous plebeians who came seventh in their families, are Herrick, William Hunter (physiologist), Kierkegard, Van Dyck, T. H. Huxley, James Martineau, Jane Austen, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and Sir Francis Galton; whilst Rubens and Botticelli were both 6th sons. Rob. Schumann, Emily Brontë (greatest European woman of genius), Charles Darwin, De Quincey, Voltaire, Samuel Butler (HUDIBRAS), Oliver Goldsmith, Oliver Cromwell, Sir Walter Besant and Rembrandt all came fifth in their families; and Alfred the Great, Bossuet, Cecil Rhodes and Horace Walpole were all 5th sons.
Schubert, Emerson, Rossetti (Christina), Tennyson, Tolstoy, Cobden, James Watt, Feuerbach, Wellington, Gladstone, Bentham and Darwin (Erasmus), were all 4th children; whilst Andrea del Sarto, Fanny Burney, David Hume, Dürer, David Garrick, Smollett, Condillac, Descartes, Charles Lamb, Rubinstein, Shakespeare, Hazlitt and William Morris all came third in their families.
Finally, all the following were third sons: Lord Clarendon, Bulwer Lytton, Landseer, Cardinal de Retz, Turgot, Jos. Chamberlain, Jenner, Richelieu, Montaigne, Ricardo, Trollope, Samuel Wilberforce, Nelson, Romanes, Mivart and Napoleon.
Now I submit that we are entitled to infer from the foregoing data that, whilst it is certainly idle to expect the laws governing inheritance to give us the most favourable permutation and combination of a family's stock of genes in every one of a couple's offspring, it is equally idle to stake on such a most favourable assemblage of their best genes in the person of their firstborn; and that, therefore, unless we have compelling reasons for assuming that in the hereditary process of nobles different laws operate from those which govern inheritance in roturier families, the rule of primogeniture must in countless cases in the past, have caused in all aristocratic families the loss of their best chances of retaining their right to honour and privilege.
It may be objected that, without such a rigid law as that of primogeniture, the question of succession in the ruling classes, must have proved the occasion for endless disputes, feuds and even wars; and that therefore the law of primogeniture became an indispensable, though necessarily faulty, solution of the problem of succession in every fresh generation.
It is readily admitted that to have abandoned so drastic a simplification of what otherwise would have become a perpetual dilemma, would inevitably have given rise to many serious complications of the whole question of inheritance. But when once we try to imagine conditions under which the practice of primogeniture was not traditional; above all when once we appreciate what was at stake for the ruling nobility concerned and recognize the injuries they necessarily suffered from any rule of inheritance that too often overlooked merit and worthiness in those that were expected to carry on their duties, can we any longer doubt that it would have been to the best interests of their order and of the nation they helped to govern if they could have devised some system whereby a mode of selection less arbitrary than the law of primogeniture could have settled their problems of succession? Can we imagine any head of a large business concern behaving with the same levity in deciding which of his sons should succeed him?
As we shall see in a subsequent article, however, this disregard of any method of ensuring the continuation of our noble families in honour, ability and influence, was among the principal crimes committed by the aristocracy against themselves; for, at the root of the whole trouble whether of unworthy succession, or of the failure to maintain rigorous standards of noble behaviour among the members of its order and to punish delinquents was that not once in their history have the aristocracies of north-western Europe displayed a sufficiently robust instinct of self-preservation, to see the urgent necessity of organizing their order along disciplinary lines.
Lawyers, Doctors, Architects, Chemists, comparatively early in their history perceived the necessity of establishing within their professions inner councils with authority to exact certain minima of competence and decent behaviour from all their members. And no one who examines the working of such inner councils and the results they have achieved, can doubt for one moment that the viability and continuance in good service and decency of the corporations they governed have been due chiefly to the disciplinary measures they adopted in order to preserve the respect of the Public for the members of their profession.
The fact that not once, whether in England, France, Spain or Germany, has any council of aristocrats functioned in a similar manner, has constituted one of the most serious crimes the nobility of north-western Europe have committed against themselves. To this principal failure their downfall has been largely and deservedly due; and the failure was all the more to be deplored, because it implied that among our ruling houses, the Liberal principle of Freedom in the sense of licence i.e., destitute of all discipline was already accepted as a rule of life precisely in those spheres where discipline and good order should have been most strenuously observed.
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Aristocracy's failure to demonstrate by their own behaviour that Private Property had a Sanctity that could be desecrated, might be abundantly illustrated from their history. Implicit in the very rule of primogeniture alone, was the neglect of one of the most important requirements, if property was always to retain any sanctity.
Apart from preaching the duty of practising charity, the Church did little to awaken among the possessing classes any sense of an owner's relation to his property which could lend it to sanctity.
Thus, very early in the history of our aristocratic orders, there gradually arose the false belief that the principal privileges and rights secured by great possessions were the emancipation from onerous duties and obligations which they conferred. Freedom in the sense of licence and claimed as the right to unlimited leisure, appeared as the principal advantages wealth procured. These were the chief privileges which distinguished owners of great wealth from their inferiors. And, at the dawn of the 19th century, the impression was rapidly gaining ground that, if one were looking for any gross instances of indiscipline, disorder or anarchy, one necessarily looked upwards and not downwards in the social hierarchy. When Oscar Wilde declared the function of the lower classes to teach the aristocracy morality, he may have been merely joking; but had the remark not contained at least a half-truth it would have had little point.
Speaking of this Victorian aristocracy, Ésme Wingfield Stratford says, "It had abdicated its functions and degenerated into a mob of barbarians, who had reverted to the primitive routine of the chase." (THE VICTORIAN TRAGEDY, 1930). Thus, as in vulgar Rome of 2000 years ago, the class that should have demonstrated how their lives vindicated and sanctified great private possessions, merely taught their financial inferiors that the one most convincing claim to aristocratic honour and respect, was an impressive display of affluence.
Of the aristocracy of his day, Matthew Arnold says, "Its splendour of station, its wealth, show and luxury, is then what the other classes really admire in it, and this is not an elevating admiration." (ESSAY ON EQUALITY, 1884).
But the nation as a whole would hardly have concentrated on the wealth of the nobility as its most awful attribute if the aristocratic order in general had consistently displayed as rulers, qualities and uses which wholly eclipsed their prosperity. Indeed, by insensibly equating their superior rank with the mere ability ostentatiously and even wastefully to dispose of their riches to inspire wonder and admiration in the multitude, they became a potent factor in establishing the belief that among the principal titles to worthiness was the unfailing capacity at all times to pay one's way handsomely.
"Riches and the signs of riches," said John Stuart Mill, referring to conditions prevalent in late Victorian days, "were almost the only things really respected, and the life of the people was mainly devoted to the pursuit of these." (AUTOBIOGRAPHY, 1873, p. 171).
Everything was forgiven a man who could dazzle his generation by the wastefulness he could afford without apparent hardship and, in the glitter of the golden rain pouring from his coffers, onlookers and above all he himself, forgot the perils of overlooking and desecrating the Sanctity of Private Property.
What harm could come from confiscating such wealth, whether by taxing the income derived from it, or else by a Capital Levy? When once the conditions in the nation gave everybody the assurance that he or she was just as able as Lord Rothschild or the Duke of Bedford to administer substantial wealth to live luxuriously, to keep a racing stud, to own a private yacht, and to winter at expensive hotels on the French Riviera; when such proofs of nobility became the only proofs, aristocracy as a power for good had ceased to be.
By a thousand incidents repeated year after year, the common man was thus persuaded that no special attributes were needed to be always immaculately clothed and to dine at the most expensive restaurants. Anybody could do it. So that the moment great wealth became either the essential hall-mark of aristocratic dignity and honour, or else the indispensable stepping stone to it, and ceased to be only one of the attendant factors equipping the noble for the adequate discharge of his obligations, aristocracy may be said to have committed suicide.
Carlyle was one of the first to recognize this and is reported to have said to Monckton Milnes in 1848: "The English just now are to me a most tragic spectacle. Wonderful how they undertake that suicidal enterprise of theirs, how they endure their vacant existence." (MONCKTON-MILNES, by James Pope-Hennessey, 1949, Chap. 13).
But the rot had set in long before Carlyle's time. Already in the reign of George III, "the Selwyn correspondence disclosed a rottenness in the Aristocracy which threatened to decompose the nation." (Emerson: ENGLISH TRAITS, Chap. XI).
"If the aristocracy would remain the most powerful class," said Lord Lytton in 1883, "they must continue to be the most intelligent." (ENGLAND AND THE ENGLISH, Bk. III, Chap. I).
Too true! But, with their steady abdication of all the duties and responsibilities which alone justified their exalted station, they ceased, whether through sheer incompetence, or deliberate neglect, to cultivate and maintain the high standard of intellectual power which would have qualified them to continue in their leadership of the nation, and Lord Brougham was probably only too well justified when, in the early days of the 19th century, he said of the aristocracy, "The want of sense and reason which prevails in these circles is wholly inconceivable." (THOUGHTS UPON THE ARISTOCRACY, Ed. 1935).
Two highly trustworthy foreign observers, Professor William Dibelius and Count Hermann Keyserling, though obviously desirous of doing justice to the class now under discussion, both reached much the same conclusion concerning the intellect of its members. "Dem Gentlemanideal dagegen", Professor Dibelius declared in 1923, "fehlt jede Beziehung auf Kräfte des Verstandes" (ENGLAND, Bk. I, Chap. IV: "The gentleman ideal lacks any sort of connection with mental power"); whilst Count Keyserling, in his REISEBUCH EINES PHILOSOPHEN (1919, Part
We cannot I fear regard these judgments as either prejudiced or unsubstantiated. At all events there is massive native evidence to support them. Nor, in view of the notorious tendency on the part of the populace in all societies to mould their way of life and form their habits of thought and action according to the model set by the most powerful in the land, need we seek much further afield than the daily life of the vast majority in order to obtain an arresting picture of what life among their financial superiors actually was. Vulgar ostentation became the national ideal. No matter how learned or creditable a man might be in other respects, if he failed to convince his neighbours of his capacity to pay his way handsomely, he had little chance of enjoying their respect.
Quality, apart from the ability to command expensive services, ceased to compel regard. The most skilled acomplishment ceased to be measured by any other yardstick than that of cash. To the astonishment of men like Ruskin and Morris, the worker himself never dreamt of ascribing even a small part of his social discontent to the steady and insidious inroads the change from manufactured to machine-produced goods had made upon Man's instinctive pleasure and pride in creation and individual achievement. All feelings of discontent and unrest were always summarily attributed merely to dissatisfaction with the amount of reward received. Every enhancement of Labour's bliss was unhesitatingly sought in the worker's augmented means of bearing comparison favourably with his neighbours the Joneses.
To my knowledge," said the Rev. V. A. Demant in 1952, "there has not since the birth of the Capitalist epoch, ever been a 'quality strike', or a withdrawal of labour in protest at having to do bad or shoddy work." (RELIGION AND THE DECLINE OF CAPITALISM, Chap. IV). No! And why? Because the notion of quality, as distinct from the ability to pay your way handsomely, had long ceased to have any meaning. "Efficiency in any direction," Veblen observed in 1892, "which does not redound to a person's economic benefit, is not of great value as a means of respectability . . . One does not make much of a showing in the eyes of the world, except by unremitting demonstration of the ability to pay." And, referring to the social discontent of the period, he said, its source was "the craving of everybody to compare favourably with his neighbour." (SOME NEGLECTED POINTS IN THE THEORY OF SOCIALISM). He was arguing against Herbert Spencer who in this matter, it must be admitted, displayed singularly little perspicacity.
We know whom to blame if this attitude ultimately prevailed in Western civilization; for I shall never believe that it had its origin in the working masses.
As I have already hinted in a previous article, it could not however long endure without gradually divorcing mere monetary power from any connection with the Sanctity of Private Property; and it is probable that even if no other factors had been at hand to favour a general revival of Wycliffe's Communism of the 14th century, and whether men like Godwin or Karl Marx had arisen or not, the gradual vulgarization of Private Property by the leading classes of the West would have sufficed to rekindle the smouldering ashes of anarchy and economic levelling which Wycliffe first set glowing five cenutries ago.
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Before leaving this most vital question of the Sanctity of Private Property and its various forms of desecration, first of all by the aristocrats themselves, and then of course by Liberal doctrinaires, I must hold up this catalogue of the Aristocracy's crimes against their own order, to dwell for a brief space on one aspect of Private Property which appears to have escaped the notice, not only of all Liberals, but also of almost everyone who has written or thought on the subject. And it is all the more essential to understand this one aspect, as it concerns a use of Private Property which, even in these vulgar, tasteless days, may yet impart a sanctity to it, provided the owner, whether noble or not, still retains a trace of civilized and decent feeling in his nature.
I need not, I hope, remind the reader that one of the most serious charges that may be brought against Liberalism in general concerns the Liberals' unremitting tendency, from the very beginning, always to place to the credit of Liberal doctrine any failure on the part of the aristocratic order. Just as the less enlightened among theologians have always assumed that any inability on the part of Science to explain a certain phenomenon, necessarily proved the accuracy of their own explanation until, of course, Science ultimately came along with an objective account compelling universal acceptance so Liberalism with its hare-brained trust in its capacity for forming reliable snap judgments has always seized upon any aristocratic error (whether in defying heredity, in contracting unwise marriages, or in committing other unworthy acts), as a sufficient reason for totally scrapping some well-tried and time-honoured principle, in order to foist a romantic, half-baked and untried principle on society in its stead.
Nowhere, however, has this corrupt practice operated with more deplorable effects than in the sphere of Private Property; because besides leading to an attitude towards Private Possessions which in the eyes of the multitude has reduced the idea of wealth to that of merely "filthy lucre", the confiscation of which, from no matter what kind of owner, could imply no desecration, it has robbed Private Property of one of its last possible sanctities, and has revealed itself as only one more conspicuous example of the Liberal's fatal and besetting sin his utter misunderstanding of human psychology and of the motives and springs of human action.
As one example only, taken at random, for it behoves me to be brief let us consider that least sane of all the offsprings of Liberal cogitation, nationalized industry and public services. Now we know that in such vast organizations the State becomes the universal paymaster and authority, and all the workers, from highest to the lowest, become no more than officers of varying rank in a hierarchy every step forward in which, depends upon the good graces and approval of the man immediately above an aspiring and ambitious artisan or administrative employee. So that ultimately in such a service a man's own and his family's security are in the hands of his immediate superior or superiors. Let him become a nuisance either by his conscientious criticism of any abuse he observes, or any wasteful or faulty practice within his department; let him be so public-spirited as to propose reforms which, though perhaps salutary, would conflict with the set-purpose or programme in which his superior may take his pride, or which his superior regards as knitted up with his prestige and his authority, and at one stroke he imperils his chances of rising in the hierarchy or even of being tolerated any longer as a member of the team.
Independent judgment, even when expressed by a trained and perspicacious expert operator in some technical department of a public service, thus becomes at least a perilous adventure and always a tremendous risk; and in circumstances in which the outspoken criticism or protest of an expert might have prevented a capital disaster causing a ruinous loss of public money, discreet silence, or sullen and uneasy acquiescence, is often preferred before the hazards of candid knowledgeable fault-finding, especially on the part of a subordinate, no matter how talented or original.
Now I cannot, of course, in one article hope to illustrate by many spectacular examples the fatal error Liberalism has committed in assuming that industry and public services run on the lines of State-owned concerns, can produce the profitable results normally expected of a capably managed private enterprise; but I propose to take one notorious and supreme example of a costly State-produced blunder (if not crime) of the past, which will adequately set before the reader the operation of the principle I have in mind concerning the still possible function of the factor Sanctity, in the use and administration of Private Property.
I refer to the apalling and unpardonable disaster which overtook the famous Airship, R.101, on the morning of Sunday Oct. 5th, 1930 at Beauvais in France. The ship was on its way to India and was only about 20 miles from its base at Cardington. It had the Secretary of State for Air, Lord Thomson of Cardington, on board; and of the total of 54 passengers, including Lord Thomson, only 6 persons survived, 4 of whom were engineers in the power cars.
It would obviously be impossible in the present article to enter into the details of the preparations which forestalled this Airship's planned trip to India, or to describe all the measures taken by those principally concerned in getting the vessel fit for its tremendous undertaking. I cannot even enumerate all the errors of omission and commission which were made in the attempt to make it capable of successfully surviving the crucial test of its efficiency which this trip to India presupposed (for incredible as it may sound, no adequate preliminary test was ever made before it set off on its final flight!); but suffice it to say that at almost every stage in the history of its construction and, above all, in the subsequent last-
The fact that no one in any way connected with the production of this fatal Airship felt independent enough to come forward and utter such words as these if necessary to Lord Thomson himself, was according to Mr. Nevil Shute the fundamental cause of the disaster a disaster which not only caused the Public the loss of millions of money, but which for ever blotted the copy-book of all Liberal idealists who imagine that the independence that an important official in the Public Service may enjoy through the possession of private means, is a negligible factor in a nation's technical equipment.
Now listen to Mr. Nevil Shute himself:
"I do not know," he says, "the financial condition of the officials in the Air Ministry at the time of the R.101 disaster. I suspect, however, that an investigation would reveal that it was England's bad luck that at that time none of them had any substantial private means. At rock bottom, that to me is probably the fundamental cause of the tragedy." (SLIDE RULE, 1956, Chap. 7).
Finally, I must, with his permission, quote the following invaluable comment he makes on the whole principle involved:
"The officers who were brave in the Admiralty were the officers who had an independent income, who could afford to resign from the Navy if necessary without bringing financial disaster to their wives and children . . . These were the men who could afford to shoulder personal responsibility in the Admiralty, who could afford to do their duty to the Navy in the highest sense. Such men invariably gravitate towards the top of any government service that they happen to be in, because, of their care-free acceptance of responsibility. They serve as a leaven and as an example to their less fortunate fellows; they set the tone of the whole office by their high standard of duty. I think this is an aspect of inherited incomes which deserves greater attention than it has had up till now. If the effect of excessive taxation and death duties in a country is to make all high officials dependent on their pay and pensions, then the standard of administration will decline and the country will get into greater difficulties than ever (which, of course it is doing!). Conversely, in a wealthy country with relatively low taxation and much inherited income a proportion of the high officials will be independent in their job, and the standard of administration will probably be high." (Ibid.)
I suggest that a copy of such a passage as the above should hang in every school-room, in every University Hall, and in every council chamber in the nation. Together with such a history as I have related of the R.101 tragedy, it consitutes the completest and flattest refutation of all the shallow Liberal and Socialist clap-trap to which we have been subjected on the advantages of State-Ownership of the means of production, the levelling of incomes, and what is quite deceptively described as the "equitable distribution of wealth". As a basic prescription for decent citizenship it has much greater value than Kipling's famous "IF", which after all is little more than an invocation to keep sane in a madhouse world.
In the exercise of the sort of public spirit Mr. Shute describes, we have the surest safeguard against the multiplication of such disasters as that of which I have supplied a supreme example. We know that such disasters and similar scandals are bound to be a recurrent feature of our present system in fact of our present way of life; and since in the exercise of the public spirit in question, for which financial independence alone can make adequate provision, we possess the last vestige of the Sanctity that can now attach to Private Property, everything should be done, no stone should be left unturned, to inculcate upon the growing youth of the nation, how precious this last vestige is, and how mortally it is being assailed by the Liberal Idealism which is ushering in universal Socialism and must culminate in world-wide Communism.
The nation must salvage a minority which can in the hour of dire need at least stand up and defy the "Establishment" and its abuses; for society can no longer boast of a St. Ambrose who could force even a delinquent Emperor into a Cathedral to do penance for his misdeeds.
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We now come to the fourth of the major crimes which the Aristocracy have committed against their own order and by which they have, in the eyes of the gullible multitude, added plausibility to the otherwise palpably false doctrines of Liberalism. I refer to their steady but gradual relinquishment of the principle that rights and privileges have no other justification than the corresponding duties that are as much their essential counterpart as is the reverse of a medal to its obverse.
It is now, alas!, a far cry indeed from the days when in 1066 William Fitzosbern (afterwards Earl of Hereford), at his own sole risk and expense undertook the formidable task of equipping and manning several vessels in order to enable his master, William the Conqueror, to invade and take possession of England. But, at bottom, his was the spirit, the public spirit, which inspired and animated the nobility in early Feudal times. For it was the Feudal System that gathered up all that was best in the ancient world relating to the ownership of Private Property, and evolved an intricate and decentralized form of administration consisting of graduated privileges and obligations extending without a break from the meanest serf to the presiding monarch.
Although it would be interesting to do so, there is no space to describe in detail what exactly were the various features and traditions regarding the ownership of Private Property in the ancient world; but it is only fair to say that, laudable as many of them were, especially in Greece, they never achieved that perfect link between property and duty to which Feudalism at least aspired and in the early days realized. Nor did Disraeli exaggerate when in SYBIL, having asked: "What is the fundamental principle of the Feudal System?", he replied, "that tenure of all property shall be the performance of duties."
How this ideal, imparting permanent Sanctity to Private Property, ultimately degenerated into the ugly caricature of its original features, is a history covering the whole of the later Middle Ages; but it is significant that even in its most decadent form it still seemed to a man like Carlyle superior to the system and way of life which have ultimately superseded it.
"The express nonsense of old Feudalism, even now in its dotage," he is reported to have declared, "is nothing to the involuntary nonsense of modern anarchy, called 'Freedom'." (CARLYLE AT HIS ZENITH, by David Alec Wilson, 1927, Bk. XVI, Chap. XXII).
At all events, in its early stages, before the privileges of leadership and ownership were well defined, the duties of the chief or lord under the Feudal System were so heavy with responsibility that, not only were men reluctant to undertake them (just as in all modern hierarchies, including the ecclesiastical, military and naval, men often decline promotion out of fear of increased responsibility), but the communities that urgently required chiefs, were also not only prepared, but also often constrained, to make substantial sacrifices in order to lure and obtain suitable candidates. Such sacrifices may have consisted of corvées willingly offered and punctually performed so as to secure the chosen chief the necessary leisure to discharge his administrative and other duties. They may also have consisted of good and suitable quarters which were pressed upon him not only to ensure his residence in the locality, but also to afford him suit-
In any case, the final outcome was an organization of Property in which the form of tenure by which possessions were held, was one of service, not conceived as exclusively economic, but preponderatingly protective, administrative, managerial and tone-giving.
Thus the principle of mutual obligation and loyalty, bound together all ranks of society from the lowest to the highest and, whilst nothing in the nature of irresponsible, absolute and independent, or emancipated, individual ownership existed, the right of Private Property was nevertheless sufficiently conceded to lend adequate freedom and choice to individual owners in order to provide for the proper tests and development of their character.
It is easy to see that such a close nexus constantly maintained between the property-owner's character and his property, supplied all that was needed to guarantee the Sanctity of his holding. It is also easy to appreciate now, how little remains today of this Sanctity in the average ownership of private property although, as we have seen in the previous article, there are still a few small and very vital spheres even in our corrupt Liberal civilization in which an owner of property who is also a man of virtue and character may, if he be allowed to retain some of the independence his property allows him, act in a manner which vindicates his ownership by imparting a modicum of essential sanctity to it.
Unfortunately, however, easy as it may be to recognize many of the excellent features of the Feudal System as originally conceived, it is also no less easy to see how simple if not natural were the many directions in which it could be abused, defiled and disfigured. And the fact that ultimately it did of course degenerate into a state of affairs in which the privileged and powerful held and used their economic superiority and power without any thought of the corresponding duties and responsibilties which originally justified their ownership, is abundantly illustrated by the whole of European history (or at least the major part of it) up to the present day.
Indeed, there was no factor except native decency in the social organization of Europe that could arrest this trend. If the whole conception of the dependence of the tenure of substantial property on the performance of its duties ultimately perished, the fault did not therefore lie in the System itself, but in the rules of its regimentation. And it is here that the ridiculous practice of the Liberals always to score for their side a plus for every minus that could be registered against the aristocratic order, emerges in all its crudest and most glaring light.
For an ideal of conduct, a pattern of decent and prudent behaviour, does not wilt and wither of its own accord. If it is basically sound, no inherent canker necessarily destroys it. We may, therefore, safely assume that if it failed, this failure was due to human agencies alone, that is to say, to the deliberate action of the aristocrats themselves; and frivolously and hastily to condemn, as the Liberals did, the old idea of aristocracy, with its essential principle of the Sanctity of Private Property as bound up with the character and virtue of its owner, so that it can find expression only through that character, constitutes one of the most egregious examples of superficiality and folly in the history of European political reasoning.
Nevertheless, we must try to understand what actually went awry i.e., the principal cause of the aristocratic débâcle; for only by such understanding can we learn what safeguards were overlooked and what precautions were neglected in the regimentation of the order. In this connection I have already referred to a few of the cankers. I have mentioned,
(1) The failure of the Aristocracy to observe and respect the laws of heredity, and their tendency to flout these laws above all in their marriages;
(2) Their failure to understand the grave error implicit in a rigorous application of the rule of primogeniture, so that repeatedly in the history of their leading families, the less able and worthy of their progeny was allotted the task of upholding the best traditions of their line and of maintaining the highest standards reached by his forebears a task for which he was too often inadequately equipped. That such a policy must in the end necessarily lead to a decline in competence and merit hardly required stressing;
(3) Their failure to recognize the principle on which the Sanctity of Private Property had orginally rested and, consequently, their repeated and blatant desecration of this sanctity before the eyes of all their contemporaries, so that ultimately Private Property incurred the contempt upon which Liberal legislation was ultimately to build its most vulgar and reckless policies policies so reckless that, as I have shown in Article XVII of this series, the very last vestige of Sanctity that could still adhere to Private Property, was threatened with abolition, to the peril of the national economy;
(4) Their failure to safeguard the Institution of Private Property, its rights and privileges, by overlooking the essential link between it and the obligations it implies. This is not the same kind of failure as that described under (3), although it indicates very much the same attitude of levity and irresponsibility towards the whole problem. We cannot, however, remain lucid and clear about the matter unless we bear in mind the difference between failure (3) and failure (4) described in this article.
Thus we come to failure (5), to which I propose to devote the whole of Article XIX. It is in any case too important to be disposed of in a paragraph and since, as will be seen, it relates to the omission on the part of the aristocratic order to apply what would have proved the fundamental and effective check to all their other failures, it deserves to be dealt with separately.
For if only the corrective in question had been thought of and rigidly applied in time, how different would be the face of our modern world, and how contemptible and grotesque would appear our Liberals, peddling their intellectual junk to the passing throngs from the gutters of European political philosophy!
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Of the major crimes committed by the aristocracy against their own order, I shall now describe the most important of all. Had it not been committed, the other four crimes already examined would never have been heard of.
Reviewing the various ruler minorities which ever since Feudal times have seconded, or deputized for, their monarchs in the governments of Europe, it seems so astonishing as to be hardly credible that with only one exception (there may perhaps be two), none of them had a sufficiently strong instinct of self-preservation to institute timely measures to establish and enforce such standards of virtue, worthiness and efficiency as alone could maintain the authority, dignity, eminence and indispensability of their order.
Had any one of these minorities deigned to look beneath their class in order to discover what quite ordinary folk were doing to effect precisely what they themselves should have effected so as to preserve their quality; if they had but glanced at the organization of such bodies as the various Craft Gilds, for instance, which soon after the eleventh century were sprouting up all over the Western World, they might have seen in operation an instinct of self-preservation so far superior to their own as to shame, if not to inspire them.
For, when we read about these Craft Gilds, with all the measures their founders employed to maintain high standards in their service to the public; to exact the utmost efficiency and decent behaviour from their members; to prevent fraud and shoddy workmanship; to demand in the so-called "Masterpiece" (i.e., the piece of workmanship, or Chef-d'Oeuvre, the craftsman had to produce after years of apprenticeship in order to obtain his title of master of his craft); and in other respects to retain the confidence and enduring respect of the public when, I say, we read about these early corporations and their regulations, even in so brief a manual as Alfred Milnes' FROM GILD TO FACTORY (1904), we cannot help wondering how it was possible, with such examples under their eyes, for the aristocracies of Europe to have been sufficiently frivolous and foolhardy to overlook the lesson they should have taught them.
Nor in view of the present thesis is it without interest to note how Alfred Milnes, in discussing the aims and policies of these early Craft gilds, light upon the very terms with which I have described the native forces that inspired them. Thus, in Chap. IV, he says of "the formation of a gild?" that it "became a kind of instinct of self-preservation" precisely! He also speaks of the gild as consisting of the "aristocracy of labour." We should, however, be on our guard
But not even the obvious palpable lesson of the ancient gilds came to the rescue of the aristocratic orders, who, abandoning themselves ever more unscrupulously to the wholly emancipated enjoyment of their wealth and power, omitted to adopt even the simplest precautionary measures for the control and discipline of their members with the view of preserving their dignity, quality and competence. They even failed to devise an elementary system of criticism and censure, with suitable corresponding sanctions, for dealing with those among the ruling minorities who fell sufficiently below required standards as to jeopardize the prestige and authority of their class.
Yet, in view of what was at stake and seeing that not only their own, but also their nation's salvation depended upon some disciplinary organization as I have suggested, is it not astonishing that nothing of the sort was attempted? And can we therefore be surprised that the Liberals, never too shrewd or intellectually upright, hastened to account for Aristocracy's decline, not by recognizing this fatal and fundamental omission and its inevitable consequences, but by claiming as Paine and others did that the aristocratic system was inherently and incurably bad, and incapable of surviving by recourse to any means whatsoever?
One political philosopher and ardent Liberal, for instance, Dr. David Spitz, evidently believing that he was advancing an unanswerable objection to aristocratic rule, has asked vacantly, but with just that ingredient of humour which he knows will captivate his Anglo-Saxon readers: "What if the aristocrat does wrong . . . but refuses to arrest, imprison or execute himself? We cannot look to another aristocrat for the remedy, not merely because the other aristocrat may also have done wrong, but because by the logic of this construction, only the aristocrat himself can judge himself." (PATTERNS OF ANTI-DEMOCRATIC THOUGHT, 1949, Chap. 5, II).
Numskull! Yet this kind of nonsense did not prevent a conservative publishing firm like Macmillan & Co. from publishing Spitz's book.
If only the man had looked about him and seen how to-day such vast orders of highly skilled experts, such as the members of the Medical Profession, the Bar and the Law Society, contrive decade after decade to maintain their standards of efficiency, reliability and faithful service, and thus to retain the unhesitating confidence of the public; if only he had for one moment considered the severe and even gruelling tests which, for instance, the Medical Boards of Examiners apply before allowing an aspirant to General Medical Practice to offer his skill to his fellowmen, and had remembered how doctors arraigned before the Disciplinary Committee of the General Medical Council for "infamous conduct in a professional respect", are frequently struck off the Register of their order so that they are unable any longer to exercise their profession; and how solicitors guilty of conduct unbefitting one of their profession, may be struck off the roll of solicitors by the Disciplinary Committee of the Law Society if, I say, Dr. Spitz had for one moment paused to dwell on such phenomena in the modern world about him, would he have felt so ready glibly to pronounce that shallow and ignorant gibe against aristocratic rule? Can he have failed to recognize that throughout their history the vast majority of European aristocracies omitted to observe the very precautions against the decline, discredit and ultimate evanescence of their order, which such roturier-organizations as the old Craft Gilds and the modern professions I have mentioned, were zealous enough to adopt and rigorously to apply?
Had he but for one moment grasped the consequences of this fatal omission, he could surely have seen the absurdity of the facetious question I quote as a conclusive or even cogent argument against aristocratic rule.
If only, moreover, he had learned from European history about an aristocracy which, better than any other, succeeded in maintaining itself with prestige, honour and power unimpaired for almost a thousand years, "without", as Professor Diehl says, "a revolution and almost without a change" I refer to the aristocracy of Venice he would have found a body of rulers at work whose system with its internal discipline enabled them to excel all others, not only in achieving permanence, but also in practising far-sighted benevolence, and displaying exemplary sagacity and wisdom in government.
That sober and judicial historian, Professor Diehl, speaks of it as "probablement un des meilleurs qu'il y eut au monde" (VENISE: RÉPUBLIQUE PATRICIENNE, 1915, Chap. III, Part II, Sect. VII: "probably one of the best that has ever existed on earth"): and he is abundantly confirmed by two such authorities as Bluntschli (THEORY OF THE STATE, 1895, Bk. VI, Chap. XIX) and Burckhardt (THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY, 1909, p. 63). Bluntschli speaks of the Venetian aristocracy's regimen as exceptional for "its strict and impartial justice," whilst Voltaire declares that "De tous les gouvernements de l'Europe celui de Venise était le seul réglé et uniforme." (ESSAI SUR LES MOEURS, Edit. 1897, Chap. VI; "Of all European governments that of Venice was the only one properly conducted, stable and unchangeable."). The historian Lecky wholly concurs. "The most enduring aristocratic government," he says, "that the modern world has known, was that of Venice." (DEMOCRACY AND LIBERTY, 1896, Vol. I, p. 354).
And what was the secret of this exceptionally admirable aristocratic achievement? Simply that the Venetian aristocrats appear to have possessed from the beginning a deeper and livelier instinct of self-preservation than any of their compeers in Europe. For it was this instinct that prompted them to establish a system of internal control and discipline, calculated to maintain a high standard of efficiency and decency in the members of their order.
Their Council of Ten, founded in 1310, was a Watch Committee composed of ten patricians elected annually by the Grand Council from the more illustrious of their order, and it was presided over by chiefs (Capi dei Dieci) whose term of office was a month only. Their function was to superintend the whole of the administration of the country, including especially the behaviour and performance of their fellow rulers and even of the Doge himself; and their powers were as absolute as their decisions were final. Three times, in 1582, 1628 and 1792, attempts were made by dissident groups to abolish this Council, and every time, after exhaustive enquiries by the Grand Council, it triumphed over its critics and its authority was confirmed.
Despite the strict discipline it exercised over them, or perhaps on that very account, it enjoyed the com-
Moreover, to make assurance doubly sure, in addition to the functions of the Ten, a rigorous form of discipline was exercized by the Inquisitori del Doge defuncto, whose duty it was to investigate the record of the Doge after his death and, in the case of any serious shortcomings on his part, to punish his family accordingly. Strange to say, there was a very similar institution in ancient Egypt (MANNERS AND CUSTOMS OF THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS, by Wilkinson, 1878, Vol. III, pp. 45354). May this perhaps explain the relative permanence of this remote civilization?
Thus, as we have now seen, there is nothing in aristocratic rulership, no inherent vice or defect, that prevents its as the Liberals have repeatedly alleged from being the ideal form of government. All its major shortcomings have been the wanton and far from inevitable creation of the majority of irresponsible aristocratic rulers themselves; and Dr. Spitz's puckish query has proved to be not even a good debating point.
The ground is therefore now cleared for my general summing-up, which will be the burden of my few final articles.
- p. 12 -
Those readers of the "South African Observer" who have done me the honour of closely following my argument throughout the first nineteen articles of this series, must in the end have recognized that the European hotbed in which Liberal ideas have sprouted and flourished most luxuriantly has, from earliest times, been England.
As we have seen, ever since the days of Wycliffe, these ideas, like indigenous flora, have germinated in the land and their seed has been carried into all neighbouring States. With strange reiteration the intellectuals of England in all ages seem to have shown a bias in favour of "mob" wisdom and "mass" sagacity and have rejected the role which the exceptional man of lofty gifts and character can play in their national affairs.
So deep is this English bias that to this day we find typical Englishmen and above all their womenfolk automatically repeating the parrot-cry of centuries and advocating democratic principles (which sooner or later mean Anarchy) instead of feeling and acknowledging the need of the born and highly endowed statesman, capable of establishing order, harmony, social discipline and sound government.
Ever since the days of Wycliffe, this tendency has gained in strength and universality, until to-day, as Mr. John Masters has recently told us, "Modern thought does not look kindly on strong men." (BUGLERS AND A TIGER, 1956, Chap. V). With greater accuracy, he might have said, "English thought does not look kindly on strong men."
A striking example of this inveterate English tendency occurred only the other day in a very silly review of Mr. Dean Acheson's SKETCHES FROM LIFE by that popular journalist, Harold Nicolson. Those who have read Mr. Acheson's book will know that in it the author makes no attempt to conceal his whole-hearted admiration of Portugal's strong man, Dr. Salazar.
Now, Harold Nicolson, commenting on the American's eulogy of the eminent Portuguese statesman "who seemed to him", says the English journalist, "I regret to say, the possessor of a sane mind and even greater charm," then adds: "It is embarrassing for the representative of the Free World to say such things about a dictator." (OBSERVER, London, 23.7.61).
Why does Nicolson "regret" to have to say this? Why is it embarrassing for the representative of the Free World to express admiration for a dictator?
Surely Nicolson knew that admiration for Dr.
If it were true that Freedom is possible only where mob-rule prevails and where flappers hardly out of their teens have a vote at every General Election, these questions would be impertinent. But to us who know from the experience of centuries that this bias against strong men has been and still is one of the greatest banes of English life; to us who have seen Anarchy spread throughout the greater part of our earth precisely owing to this bias, these comments in a leading Sunday journal seem to us, despite their essentially English stamp, wholly deplorable. No wonder disorder and indiscipline spread wherever this typically English standpoint is approved.
Yet, very few Englishmen and even fewer English women see anything odd or exceptionable about it.
In his LORDS OF THE EQUATOR, Lord Kinross, as one of the few in question (1938, Part IV, Chap. VI), utterly condemns the Liberal sentimentality he saw pervading England in his day, and throughout his book he constantly blames British influence for spreading indiscipline in Africa. (See particularly Part II, Chap. III on the decline of discipline due to the administrative system in vogue in British Africa at the time the book was written.) Finally, Lord Kinross makes this instructive remark, which we may be sure remained unheeded by everybody belonging to the "Establishment": "The European need not be a fascist to bring up the African in the way he should go. But equally he need not be a sentimental Liberal."
The Earl of Winterton, in ORDERS OF THE DAY (1953, Chap. XXIV), has also and more recently expressed his doubts about the kind of life that the British mania for democratic institutions has at last established in England itself; for, in language both sober and judicial he speaks of the increasing "difficulties of every British Government answerable to a nation enjoying universal suffrage, especially since a large portion of the electorate is imperfectly fitted to understand either the doctrine or the heresy of the moment."
As to the policy of spreading this system far and wide, despite the fact that it has proved obviously damaging even in its native home, the Earl of Winterton says: "If there is a lesson to be learnt from world events of the last 25 years, it is that democratic government simply does not function in a country where there is an illiterate electorate, which has no understanding of democracy and where power falls into the hands of a tiny class of semi-educated agitators . . . Ignoring these considerations and without sufficiently preparatory steps, the Labour Government conferred self-government on the Gold Coast, and thus alarmed European opinion throughout Africa." (Op. cit. Chap. XXIII).
David Thomson is another political thinker who bravely utters his heterodox views in the teeth of the members of the English "Establishment." "Many of the political difficulties of our time," he says in PERSONALITY AND POLITICS (1939, Chap. I), "have been added to, rather than solved, by the increased numbers of people who have been allowed to take an active interest in politics." Whilst in Chap. VII, he says, the democrat "must in honesty admit that only a small portion of the electorate is sufficiently well-informed to judge politics on grounds of pure reason." Later in the book he implies that even if the electorate consisted only of wizards, this would not necessarily mean that wholly desirable men and women entered Parliament. "Even democratic election," he says, means that politics tends to fall into the hands of the ambitious, and the ambitious tend to be either vain or unscrupulous." Why not both? (Op. cit. Chap. III, i).
We may be sure that to a representative of the Free World, like Harold Nicolson, such sentiments, coming as they do from Englishmen themselves, must be painful and embarrassing reading; but does this make them any the less true? If, however, we turn to a foreign observer of the very same state of affairs Lord Kinross, the Earl of Winterton and David Thomson criticize so adversely, we find the following summing-up: "What we recognize as 'order' today and express in 'Liberal' institutions, is nothing but anarchy become a habit. We call it democracy, parliamentarianism, national government, but in fact it is the non-existence of conscious responsible authority a government."
And who was this caustic and clear-sighted foreign observer? None other than Oswald Spengler, the author of the DECLINE OF THE WEST; and the passage occurs in his THE HOUR OF DECISION (1934).
I have examined one by one the many sophistries on which the political philosophy of Liberalism is based. Including its complete rejection of the aristocratic solution of government, I have shown how shallow and unrealistic it is. What is the explanation of this constant and stubborn insistence on error, this addiction to wholly unfounded assumptions concerning the passions, sentiments and motivations of ordinary or average human beings; its reliance on these daring assumptions for the very functioning of its institutions? How is it that from its earliest beginnings in the Middle Ages down to its present flourishing state in the modern world, Liberal ideology has been stamped with this perverted intellectualism? What can account for the fact that even in its foreign and least Anglo-Saxon champions in men like Rousseau, Pecqueur, Beaumarchais, Condorcet, etc. these same irrational features remain conspicuous?
There are three possible and major explanations:
(1) First and foremost, there is the hopelessly defective psychological flair which is one of the least engaging of Anglo-Saxon characteristics and has led to all kinds of untoward consequences in both the domestic and political life of England. The tendency to assume in ordinary mortals attributes, impulses, virtues and motivations which only a writer of fairy tales could possibly imagine them as possessing, seems to be endemic in England, and its prevalence could be illustrated by innumerable examples drawn, not only from English political treatises, but also, and with far more damaging popular consequences, from English poetry and fiction. We have but to think of such modern instances as John Stuart Mill's ridiculous panegyric of women, Wordsworth's absurd exaltation of children, and Locke's, Bentham's, Godwin's and Marchmont Needham's preposterous glorification, to the point of caricature, of the common man, his virtues, his motivations, and above all his intelligence.
"To believe in democracy you must believe in the
The reader may feel that the acceptance of these fancies by such Frenchmen as I have enumerated above rather conflicts with this conclusion; for the French are notoriously good natural psychologists.
Truth to tell, however, this anomaly is not fatal to my claim; for, apart from the many inconsistencies to be found in the French Liberal philosophers Rousseau's advocacy of Aristocracy for instance we must remember that what so deeply impressed the French and even a man as shrewd as Voltaire, as to blur their otherwise clear vision, was England's immense success in the commercial and trading world; her fabulous wealth and the bottomless till from which she seemed always able to produce the vast subsidies she needed for the various allies her political commitments involved. Blinded by these brilliant material achievements, which the European world with its vulgar Roman traditions found it difficult to resist, it is not surprising that many French thinkers, forgetting their psychological principles, imagined that where such phenomenal material success is to be found political wisdom and the soundness of political institutions may also be taken for granted.
(2) Secondly, when over long periods, the abuses of existing rulers tend to alienate even alert thinkers from the régime prevailing in their own day, there is always a dangerous tendency to swing over to hitherto untried, half-baked and superficially attractive innovations, if only as a release from past oppression. As Dr. David Thomson so aptly remarks: "Popular vision of the desirably 'democratic' society is usually based upon experience of alternative and less desirable forms of government." (THE DEMOCRATIC IDEAL IN FRANCE AND ENGLAND, Chap. I ii). When moreover we remember that the more oppressive the existing régime may be, the less narrowly and critically novel political alternatives are likely to be scrutinized, it cannot surprise us that, throughout Europe, Democracy found its strongest support in aristocratic misrule. Liberalism thus understood, not as a spontaneous product of serious political reflection, but always as a more or less automatic reaction, loses much of its glamour and all its respectability as an ideology.
(3) Thirdly, we have to reckon with mankind's regrettable habit of always confusing the faults of those running an institution with the faults of the institution itself as if an incompetent and blundering pianist justified the destruction of the instrument he played. Instead of tracing the vices and shortcomings of the aristocratic system of government to the crimes and omissions of the aristocrats themselves, even the most alert and upright of political reformers have generally tended to claim that they were specific to aristocratic institutions per se; whilst the Liberals, without pausing to think, only too eagerly, as I have shown, assumed, not only that the vices of aristocratic government were inherent in the system itself, but also that every aristocratic defect added to the score of Liberal virtues.
It is true that this gross error of judgment and insight can hardly be suspected of men as shrewd and intellectually bright as your Laskis, Lenins, Trotskys and Stalins. But these men had other axes to grind, which made it both prudent and tactically sound to pretend what less enlightened adversaries of Aristocracy genuinely believed. We may, however, quite safely attribute the obtuseness necessary for this misunderstanding to men like Paine, Godwin in fact to the majority of English Liberals and Socialists, including all Labour politicians and most of the French revolutionaries of the late 18th century.
It is this error in political reasoning that I hoped to expose in all its crudeness in the articles immediately preceding this one, dealing with the crimes committed by the Aristocracies of Europe against their own order.