LETTERS TO THE EDITOR.
THE MANUFACTURE OF PUBLIC OPINION. pro THY EDITOR OF TAR "SPECTATOR."]
see by your last paper that your article of February 13th on the "Flabbiness of Public Opinion" has been an occasion of offence to some of your correspondents. Will you allow me to say that I have not read for a long time any article in the Press with which I more heartily agree ? On one point, however, I venture to think you have understated your case. You say that we are coming "to be guided very much by the opinions of one or two great men, blindly followed by all the rest."
If this were all, we might have some comfort. The genuine opinions of a really great man—of a man who has known prin- ciples, and does not merely pick them up upon the street—are not the worst guides which the multitude can follow. But our case is mach worse than this. Our great men are themselves as " flabby " in their principles as those whom you describe as "all the rest." It is the men who are most presumptuous in spirit, and the weakest in knowledge as well as in public virtue, whose opinions come to prevail under the present Reign of Flabbiness. I speak from close observation. What happens is this,—the one only " principle " is to "keep together "—to preserve what is called the" Unity of the Liberal Party." That party, like every other, has its own per-centage of men who are playing a more or less personal game. These, every now and then, are blatant. From mere shyness, from good- nature, from courtesy to colleagues, from " dislike of rows," our " great men" keep silence under the advo- cacy of opinions which they do not hold, and the announce- ment of principles which they do not like. Little " rings " of opinion are thus formed, little currents are induced, till they begin to show a "stream of tendency." Still our great men keep silence, lest Liberal unity should seem to be broken. The next step may be that some few constituencies elect a few Members who go in for this new "stream." Then comes the time for our great men. Official Liberals step in, give to the new fancy or the new folly some vaguely favourable notice, supply to it some element of authority, frame some adroit sentence which combines a demoralising prin- ciple with a moderate application of it in the meantime. Then "all the rest" follow. " Flabbiness " has done its work, and very sad and very serious work it is now doing, if you, and I, and many others are not much mistaken.
The only remedy is to ',all public attention to the processes of manufacture which are now applied to "public opinion," and to remind all men that the subject-matters with which that opinion is now dealing, thus " led " and thus formed, are the fundamental doctrines on which society is founded, and on which not only our empire, but our civilisation rests.—I am, Sir, &c.,