PROFESSOR BEESLY ON REPUBLICANISM.
[To THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR."]
Sm,—Your comments on my speech at St. Martin's Hall seriously misrepresent my opinions. I expressed my belief that the question of recasting our institutions would before long supersede that of reforming them, a belief which I observe is shared by all con- sistent opponents of the Franchise Bill, especially Mr. Lowe and the Quarterly reviewer. I also pointed to the excellent working of Republican institutions in America, upon which the Spectator, if I mistake not, has often dwelt approvingly. But I said nothing to indicate that my preference was for Republicanism of the American type, or, as I should call it, Democracy. Very few sensible observers doubt that the present tendency of England is in that direction. I view that tendency with anxiety, because my preference is distinctly for the French type, or Republicanism proper, with its higher organization, its truer conception of the functions of government, and its better adaptation to the require- ments of a dense industrial population. I do not, however, regard the tendency to Democracy as irremediable. It is fostered chiefly by the " Educated Liberals," who, sincerely or not, have clad them- selves in worn-out sophisms of the revolutionary school, with the view of maintaining the status quo in the general arrangements of society against revolutionary attacks.
"Deals, an virtus, quis in hosts requirat ? Arms dabunt ipsi."
Equally with Mr. Bright and the men of 1789, they treat parti- cipation in government as a question of right. This is a principle which is powerful for destruction, and has consequently done good service in the last eighty years. In England it has not finished its task. But for all purposes of reconstruction it is barren, and the tide of thought is setting strongly against it. On this prin- ciple, however, the " Educated Liberal " takes his stand, and flat- ters himself that he can use it to perpetuate the present vicious constitution of society. A clear-headed politician may propose to himself one of three ends—to maintain the status quo of society, to modify it, or to satisfy some supposed theory of rights. Any one of these three he may pursue, but no two of them. Now when you admit that to be represented in Parliament is a right, but explain it as the right of a class, instead of an individual, you are nominally aiming at the last end, but really at the first. You have conceded to the Democrat his principle—his :roe ow, from which he will logically batter down every form of polity not only that has been, but that can be invented. Your arbitrary restriction on the principle may be accepted by those who cannot distinguish between forms and things, or by those who deliberately desire to cheat the masses of the practical fruits of Reform, but it must be rejected alike by the Democrat, who is discontented, reasonably enough, with all he sees around him, and the more enlightened Republican, who aims at reorganizing society on an industrial basis. You are thus doing the maximum of mischief. On the one hand you are stimulating those anarchical ideas, which are the root of Radicalism or Democracy ; on the other you are placing a weapon in the hands of the classes who from selfish motives resist those ideas most stiffly. That is what I should call " a bad mistake."
I am not holding a different language here from that which I held in St. Martin's Hall. During the greater part of my speech I was occupied in the somewhat delicate task of urging an ardently democratic audience to substitute the idea of duty for that of right, for which conservative sentiment I was duly rebuked by Mr. Hughes and the succeeding speakers. How is a humble friend of order to gain any attention from working men, when their heads are filled with anarchical ideas by the Spectator and Mr. Hughes? Those of them who take any, even the slightest, interest in politics are in theory Democratic Republicans. I speak only of London. I know little about the North. I have formed my opinion during the last six years from observation of many public meetings (in which, I may observe, it is the rarest thing possible for me to take any part), from regularly reading working men's papers, and from personal acquaintance with many of their leaders. They are not disposed to disorder or even to agi- tation. But those who think they have a spark of reverence or regard for the British Constitution are sadly mistaken. They look on it as they do on the established Church, that is to say, they tolerate it.
The attempt to create a political equilibrium between classes by constitutional artifices is thoroughly anti-social. It is a pro- found remark of Comte that " the proletariate class is, properly speaking, not a class at all, but constitutes the body of society, and from it proceed the various special classes which we may regard as organs necessary to society." The capitalist, for instance, is a public functionary, entrusted with the accumulated wealth of society, to be employed as he judges best for the common good. He is no more to think of balancing the interests of his class against those of the people, than a general is to regard his interests as opposed to those of his army, much less is he to treat the maintenance of such an equilibrium as the highest aim of political science.
The "Educated Liberals," as they are fond of styling them- selves, by their treatment of the question of Reform, have fully justified another remark of Comte's. " Clearsightedness;" he says, " wisdom, and even consistency of thought, are qualities which are very independent of learning ; and as matters now stand, they are far better cultivated in practical life than in scholastic study.% In breadth of view, which lies at the root of all political capacity, our literary classes have certainly shown them- selves far below the average." A clever writer in the Fortnightly Review has lately been picking out for special eulogy all the most contemptible tricks and hypocrisies of the British Constitution. To cheat the masses (capcczpoLEcOai ray 8ij imow), against which Aristotle pronounced such a solemn warning, is in this gentleman's eyes the crowning proof of political sagacity. Some kinds of education seem to be worse than none at all.
E. S. BEEFILY.