Already it has been pointed out, with certain concrete instances, how the thing that is, asserts itself over the thing that is to be; already a general indication has been made of the trend of the argument we are now about to develop and define. That argument, briefly, is this, that to attain the ends of the New Republic, that is to say the best results from our birth possibilities, we must continually make political forms, social, political and religious formulæ, and all the rules and regulations of life the clearest, simplest, and sincerest expression possible of what we believe about life and hope about life; that whatever momentary advantage a generation may gain by accepting what is known to be a sham and a convention, by keeping in use the detected imposture and the flawed apparatus, is probably much more than made up for by the reaction of this acquiescence upon the future. As the typical instance of a convenient convention that I am inclined to think is now reacting very badly upon our future, the Crown of the British Empire, considered as the symbolical figurehead of a system of hereditary privilege and rule, serves extremely well. One may deal with this typical instance with no special application to the easy, kindly, amiable personality this crown adorns at the present time. It is a question that may be dealt with in general terms. What, we would ask, are the natural, inseparable concomitants of a system of hereditary rulers in a state, looking at the thing entirely with an eye to the making of a greater mankind in the world? How does it compare with the American conception of democratic equality, and how do both stand with regard to the essential truth and purpose in things? . . .
To state these questions is like opening the door of a room that has long been locked and deserted. One has a lonely feeling. There are quite remarkably no other voices here, and the rusty hinges echo down empty passages that were quite threateningly full of men seventy or eighty years ago. But I am only one very insignificant member of a class of inquirers in England who started upon the question “why are we becoming inefficient?” a year or two ago, and from that starting point it is I came to this. . . . I do not believe therefore that upon this dusty threshold I shall stand long alone. We take most calmly the most miraculous of things, and it is only quite recently that I have come to see as amazing this fact, that while the greater mass of our English-speaking people is living under the profession of democratic Republicanism, there is no party, no sect, no periodical, no teacher either in Great Britain or America or the Colonies, to hint at a proposal to abolish the aristocratic and monarchical elements in the British system. There is no revolutionary spirit over here, and very little missionary spirit over there. The great mass of the present generation on both sides of the Atlantic takes hardly any interest in this issue at all. It is as if the question was an impossible one, outside the range of thinkable things. Or, as if the last word in this controversy was said before our grandfathers died.
But is that really so? It is permissible to suggest that for a time the last word had been said, and still to reopen the discussion now. All these papers, the very conception of New Republicanism, rests on the assumption—presumptuous and offensive though it must needs seem to many—that new matter for thought altogether, new apparatus and methods of inquiry, and new ends, have come into view since the early seventies, when the last Republican voices in England died away. We are enormously more aware of the Future. That, we have already defined as the essential difference of our new outlook. Our fathers thought of the Kingdom as it was to them, they contrasted with that the immediate alternative, and within these limits they were, no doubt, right in rejecting the latter. So, to them at any rate, the thing seemed judged. But nowadays when we have said the Kingdom is so and so, and when we have decided that we do not wish to convert it into a Republic upon the American or any other existing pattern before Christmas, 1904, we consider we have only begun to look at the thing. We have then to ask what is the future of the Kingdom; is it to be a permanent thing, or is it to develop into and give place to some other condition? We have to ask precisely the same question about the American democracy and the American constitution. Is that latter arrangement going to last for ever? We cannot help being contributory to these developments, and if we have any pretensions to wisdom at all, we must have some theory of what we intend with regard to these things; political action can surely be nothing but folly, unless it has a clear purpose in the future. If these things are not sempiternal, then are we merely to patch the fabric as it gives way, or are we going to set about rebuilding—piecemeal, of course, and without closing the premises or stopping the business, but, nevertheless, on some clear and comprehensive plan? If so, what is the plan to be? Does it permit us to retain in a more or less modified form, or does it urge us to get rid of, the British Crown? Does it permit us to retain or does it urge us to modify the American constitution? That is the form, it seems to me, in which the question of Republicanism as an alternative to existing institutions, must presently return into the field of public discussion in Great Britain; not as a question of political stability nor of individual rights this time, but as an aspect of our general scheme, our scheme to make the world more free and more stimulating and strengthening for our children and our children’s children; for the children both of our bodies and of our thoughts.
It is interesting to recall the assumptions under which the last vestiges of militant Republicanism died out in Great Britain. As late as the middle years of the reign of Queen Victoria, there were many in England who were, and who openly professed themselves to be, Republicans, and there was a widely felt persuasion that the country was drifting slowly towards the constitution of a democratic republic. In those days it was that there came into being a theory, strengthened by the withdrawal of the Monarch from affairs, which one still hears repeated, that Great Britain was a “crowned republic,” that the crown was no more than a symbol retained by the “innate good sense” of the British people, and that in some automatic way not clearly explained, such old-time vestiges of privilege as the House of Lords would presently disappear. One finds this confident belief in Progress towards political equality—Progress that required no human effort, but was inherent in the scheme of things—very strong in Dickens, for example, who spoke for the average Englishman as no later writer can be said to have done. This belief fell in very happily with that disposition to funk a crisis, that vulgar dread of vulgar action which one must regretfully admit was all too often a characteristic of the nineteenth century English. There was an idea among Englishmen that to do anything whatever of a positive sort to bring about a Republic was not only totally unnecessary but inevitably mischievous, since it evidently meant street fighting and provisional government by bold, bad, blood-stained, vulgar men, in shirt sleeves as the essential features of the process. And under the enervating influence of this great automatic theory—this theory that no one need bother because the thing was bound to come, was indeed already arriving for all who had eyes to see—Republicanism did not so much die as fall asleep. It was all right, Liberalism told us—the Crown was a legal fiction, the House of Lords was an interesting anachronism, and in that faith it was, no doubt, that the last of the Republicans, Mr. Bright and Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, “kissed hands.” Then, presently, the frantic politics of Mr. Gladstone effected what probably no other human agency could have contrived, and restored the prestige of the House of Lords.
Practically the Crown has now gone unchallenged by press, pulpit, or platform speaker for thirty years, and as a natural consequence there is just now a smaller proportion of men under forty who call themselves Republicans even in private than there ever was since Plutarch entered the circle of English reading. To-day the Aristocratic Monarchy is an almost universally accepted fact in the British Empire, and it has so complete an air of unshakable permanence to contrast with its condition in the early nineteenth century that even the fact that it is the only really concrete obstacle to a political reunion of the English-speaking peoples at the present time, seems merely a fact to avoid.
There are certain consequences that must follow from the unchallenged acceptation of an aristocratic monarchy, consequences that do not seem to be sufficiently recognized in this connection, and it is to these that the reader’s attention is now particularly drawn. There are a great number of British people who are more or less sincerely seeking the secret of national efficiency at present, and I cannot help thinking that sooner or later, in spite of their evident aversion, they will be forced to look into this dusty chamber of thought for the clue to the thing they need. The corner they will have to turn is the admission that no state and no people can be at its maximum efficiency until every public function is discharged by the man best able to perform it, and that no Commonweal can be near efficiency until it is endeavouring very earnestly to bring that ideal condition of affairs about. And when they have got round that corner they will have to face the fact that an Hereditary Monarchy is a state in which this principle is repudiated at a cardinal point, a state in which one position, which no amount of sophistication will prevent common men and women regarding as the most honourable, powerful, and responsible one of all, which is indeed by that very fact alone a great and responsible one, is filled on purely genealogical grounds. In a state that has also an aristocratic constitution this repudiation of special personal qualities is carried very much further. Reluctantly but certainly the seeker after national efficiency will come to the point that the aristocracy and their friends and connections must necessarily form a caste about the King, that their gradations must set the tone of the whole social body, and that their political position must enable them to demand and obtain a predominating share in any administration that may be formed. So long, therefore, as your constitution remains aristocratic you must expect to see men of quite ordinary ability, quite ordinary energy, and no exceptional force of character, men frequently less clever and influential than their wives and lady friends, controlling the public services, a Duke of Norfolk managing so vital a business as the Post Office and succeeded by a Marquis of Londonderry, and a Marquis of Lansdowne organizing military affairs, and nothing short of a change in your political constitution can prevent this sort of thing. No one believes these excellent gentlemen hold these positions by merit or capacity, and no one believes that from them we are getting anything like the best imaginable services in these positions. These positions are held by the mere accident of birth, and it is by the mere accident of birth the great mass of Englishmen are shut out from the remotest hope of serving their country in such positions.
And this evil of reserved places is not restricted by any means to public control. You cannot both have a system and not have a system, and the British have a system of hereditary aristocracy that infects the whole atmosphere of English thought with the persuasion that what a man may attempt is determined by his caste. It is here, and nowhere else, that the clue to so much inefficiency as one finds it in contemporary British activity lies. The officers of the British Army instead of being sedulously picked from the whole population are drawn from a really quite small group of families, and, except for those who are called “gentleman rankers,” to enlist is the very last way in the world to become a British officer. As a very natural corollary only broken men and unambitious men of the lowest class will consent to become ordinary private soldiers, except during periods of extreme patriotic excitement. The men who enter the Civil Service also, know perfectly well that though they may possess the most brilliant administrative powers and develop and use themselves with relentless energy, they will never win for themselves or their wives one tithe of the public honour that comes by right to the heir to a dukedom. A dockyard hand who uses his brains and makes a suggestion that may save the country thousands of pounds will get—a gratuity.
Throughout all English affairs the suggestion of this political system has spread. The employer is of a different caste from his workmen, the captain is of a different caste from his crew, even the Teachers’ Register is specially classified to prevent “young gentlemen” being taught by the only men who, as a class, know how to teach in England, namely, the elementary teachers; everywhere the same thing is to be found. And while it is, it is absurd to expect a few platitudes about Freedom, and snobbishness, and a few pious hopes about efficiency, to counteract the system’s universal, incessant teaching, its lesson of limited effort within defined possibilities. Only under one condition may such a system rise towards anything that may be called national vigour, and that is when there exists a vigorous Court which sets the fashion of hard work. A keen King, indifferent to feminine influence, may, for a time, make a keen nation, but that is an exceptional state of affairs, and the whole shape of the fabric gravitates towards relapse. Even under such an influence the social stratification will still, in the majority of cases, prevent powers and posts falling to the best possible man. In the majority of cases the best that can be hoped for, even then, will be to see the best man in the class privileged in relation to any particular service, discharging that service. The most efficient nation in the world to-day is believed to be Germany, which is—roughly speaking—an aristocratic monarchy, it is dominated by a man of most unkingly force of character, and by a noble tradition of educational thoroughness that arose out of the shames of utter defeat, and, as a consequence, a great number of people contrive to forget that the most dazzling display of national efficiency the world has ever seen followed the sloughing of hereditary institutions by France. One credits Napoleon too often with the vigour of his opportunity, with the force and strength it was his privilege to misdirect and destroy. And one forgets that this present German efficiency was paralleled in the eighteenth century by Prussia, whose aristocratic system first winded Republicans at Valmy, and showed at Jena fourteen years after how much it had learnt from that encounter.
Now our main argument lies in this: that the great mass of a generation of children born into a country, all those children who have no more than average intelligence and average moral qualities, will accept the ostensible institutions of that country at their face value, and will be almost entirely shaped and determined by that acceptance. Only a sustained undertone of revolutionary protest can prevent that happening. They will believe that precedences represent real superiority, and they will honour what they see honoured, and ignore what they see treated as of no account. Pious sentiment about Equality and Freedom will enter into the reality of their minds as little as a drop of water into a greasy plate. They will act as little in general intercourse upon the proposition that “the man’s the gowd for a’ that,” as they will upon the proposition that “man is a spirit” when it comes to the alternative of jumping over a cliff or going down by a ladder.
If, however, your children are not average children, if you are so happy as to have begotten children of exceptional intelligence, it does not follow that this fact will save them from conclusions quite parallel to those of the common child. Suppose they do penetrate the pretence that there is no intrinsic difference between the Royal Family and the members of the peerage on the one hand, and the average person in any other class on the other; suppose they discover that the whole scale of precedence and honour in their land is a stupendous sham;—what then? Suppose they see quite clearly that all these pretensions of an inviolate superiority of birth and breeding vanish at the touch of a Whitaker Wright, soften to a glowing cordiality before the sunny promises of a Hooley. Suppose they perceive that neither King nor lords really believe in their own lordliness, and that at any point in the system one may find men with hands for any man’s tip, provided it is only sufficiently large! Even then!—How is that going to react upon our children’s social conduct?
In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred they will accept the system still, they will accept it with mental reservations. They will see that to repudiate the system by more than a chance word or deed is to become isolated, to become a discontented alien, to lose even the qualified permission to do something in the world. In most cases they will take the oaths that come in their way and kiss the hands—just as the British elementary teachers bow unbelieving heads to receive the episcopal pat, and just as the British sceptic in orders will achieve triumphs of ambiguity to secure the episcopal see. And their reason for submission will not be absolutely despicable; they will know there is no employment worth speaking of without it. After all, one has only one life, and it is not pleasant to pass through it in a state of futile abstinence from the general scheme. Life, unfortunately, does not end with heroic moments of repudiation; there comes a morrow to the Everlasting Nay. One may begin with heroic renunciations and end in undignified envy and dyspeptic comments outside the door one has slammed on one’s self. In such reflections your children of the exceptional sort, it may be after a youthful fling or two, a “ransom” speech or so, will find excellent reasons for making their peace with things as they are, just as if they were utterly commonplace. They know that if they can boast a knighthood or a baronetcy or a Privy Councillorship, they will taste day by day and every day that respect, that confidence from all about them that no one but a trained recluse despises. And life will abound in opportunities. “Oh, well!” they will say. Such things give them influence, consideration, power to do things.
The beginning of concessions is so entirely reasonable and easy! But the concessions go on. Each step upward in the British system finds that system more persistently about them. When one has started out under a King one may find amiable but whom one may not respect, admitted a system one does not believe in, when one has rubbed the first bloom off one’s honour, it is infinitely easier to begin peeling the skin. Many a man whose youth was a dream of noble things, who was all for splendid achievements and the service of mankind, peers to-day, by virtue of such acquiescences, from between preposterous lawn sleeves or under a tilted coronet, sucked as dry of his essential honour as a spider sucks a fly. . . .
But this is going too far, the reader will object! There must be concessions, there must be conformities, just as there must be some impurity in the water we drink and flaws in the beauty we give our hearts to, and that, no doubt, is true. It is no reason why we should drink sewage and kneel to grossness and base stupidity. To endure the worst because we cannot have the best is surely the last word of folly. Our business as New Republicans is not to waste our lives in the pursuit of an unattainable chemical purity, but to clear the air as much as possible. Practical ethics is, after all, a quantitative science. In the reality of life there are few absolute cases, and it is foolish to forego a great end for a small concession. But to suffer so much Royalty and Privilege as an Englishman has to do before he may make any effectual figure in public life is not a small concession. By the time you have purchased power you may find you have given up everything that made power worth having. It would be a small concession, I admit, a mere personal self-sacrifice, to pretend loyalty, kneel and kiss hands, assist at Coronation mummeries, and all the rest of it, in order, let us say, to accomplish some great improvement in the schools of the country, were it not for the fact that all these things must be done in the sight of the young, that you cannot kneel to the King without presenting a kneeling example to the people, without becoming as good a teacher of servility as though you were servile to the marrow. There lies the trouble. By virtue of this reaction it is that the shams and ceremonies we may fancy mere curious survivals, mere kinks and tortuosities, cloaks and accessories to-day, will, if we are silent and acquiescent, be halfway to reality again in the course of a generation. To our children they are not evidently shams; they are powerful working suggestions. Human institutions are things of life, and whatever weed of falsity lies still rooted in the ground has the promise and potency of growth. It will tend perpetually, according to its nature, to recover its old influence over the imagination, the thoughts, and acts of our children.
Even when the whole trend of economic and social development sets against the real survival of such a social and political system as the British, its pretensions, its shape and implications may survive, survive all the more disastrously because they are increasingly insincere. Indeed, in a sense, the British system, the pyramid of King, land-owning and land-ruling aristocracy, yeomen and trading middle-class and labourers, is dead—it died in the nineteenth century under the wheels of mechanism1—and the crude beginnings of a new system are clothed in its raiment, and greatly encumbered by that clothing. Our greatest peers are shareholders, are equipped by marriage with the wealth of Jews and Americans, are exploiters of colonial resources and urban building enterprises; their territorial titles are a mask and a lie. They hamper the development of the new order, but they cannot altogether prevent the emergence of new men. The new men come up to power one by one, from different enterprises, with various traditions, and one by one, before they can develop a sense of class distinction and collective responsibility, the old system with its organized “Society” captures them. If it finds the man obdurate, it takes his wife and daughters, and it waylays his sons.2 Because the hereditary kingdom and aristocracy of Great Britain is less and less representative of economic reality, more and more false to the real needs of the world, it does not follow that it will disappear, any more than malarial fever will disappear from a man’s blood because it is irrelevant to the general purpose of his being. These things will only go when a sufficient number of sufficiently capable and powerful people are determined they shall go. Until that time they will remain with us, influencing things about them for evil, as it lies in their nature to do.
Before, however, any sufficiently great and capable body of men can be found to abolish these shams, these shams that must necessarily hamper and limit the development of our children, it is necessary that they should have some clear idea of the thing that is to follow, and the real security of these obsolete institutions lies very largely in the fact that at present the thing that is to follow does not define itself. It is too commonly assumed that the alternative to a more or less hereditary government is democratic republicanism of the American type, and the defence of the former consists usually in an indictment of the latter, complicated in very illogical cases by the assertion (drawn from the French instance) that Republics are unstable. But it does not follow that because one condemns the obvious shams of the British system that one must accept the shams of the United States. While in Great Britain we have a system that masks and hampers the best of our race under a series of artificial inequalities, the United States theory of the essential equality of all men is equally not in accordance with the reality of life. In America, just as in England, the intelligent child grows up to discover that the pretensions of public life are not justified, and quite equally to be flawed in thought and action by that discovery.
The American atmosphere has one great and indisputable superiority over the British: it insists upon the right of every citizen, it almost presents it as a duty, to do all that he possibly can do; it holds out to him even the highest position in the state as a possible reward for endeavour. Up to the point of its equality of opportunity surely no sane Englishman can do anything but envy the American state. In America “presumption” is not a sin. All the vigorous enterprise that differentiates the American from the Englishman in business flows quite naturally from that; all the patriotic force and loyalty of the common American, which glows beside the English equivalent as the sun beside the moon, glows even oppressively. But apart from these inestimable advantages I do not see that the American has much that an Englishman need envy. There are certainly points of inferiority in the American atmosphere, influences in development that are bad, not only in comparison with what is ideally possible, but even in comparison with English parallels.
For example, the theory that every man is as good as his neighbour, and possibly a little better, has no check for fools, and instead of the respectful silences of England there seems—to the ordinary English mind—an extraordinary quantity of crude and unsound judgments in America. One gets an impression that the sort of mind that is passively stupid in England is often actively silly in America, and, as a consequence, American newspapers, American discussions, American social affairs are pervaded by a din that in England we do not hear and do not want to hear. The real and steady development of American scientific men is masked to the European observer, and it must be greatly hampered by the copious silliness of the amateur discoverer, and the American crop of new religions and new enthusiasms is a horror and a warning to the common British intelligence. Many people whose judgments are not absolutely despicable hold a theory that unhampered personal freedom for a hundred years has made out of the British type, a type less deliberate and thorough in execution and more noisy and pushful in conduct, restless rather than indefatigable, and smart rather than wise. If ninety-nine people out of the hundred in our race are vulgar and unwise, it does seem to be a fact that while the English fool is generally a shy and negative fool anxious to hide the fact, the American fool is a loud and positive fool, who swamps much of the greatness of his country to many a casual observer from Europe altogether. American books, American papers, American manners and customs seem all for the ninety and nine. . . .
Deeper and graver than the superficial defects of manner and execution and outlook to which these charges point, there are, one gathers, other things that are traceable to the same source. There is a report of profounder troubles in the American social body, of a disease of corruption that renders American legislatures feeble or powerless against the great business corporations, and of an extreme demoralization of the police force. The relation of the local political organization to the police is fatally direct, and that sense of ordered subordination to defined duties which distinguishes the best police forces of Europe fails. Men go into the police force, we are told, with the full intention of making it pay, of acquiring a saleable power.
There is probably enough soundness in these impressions, and enough truth in these reports and criticisms, to justify our saying that all is not ideally right with the American atmosphere, and that it is not to present American conditions we must turn in repudiating our British hereditary monarchy. We have to seek some better thing upon which British and American institutions may converge. The American personal and social character, just like the English personal and social character, displays very grave defects, defects that must now be reflected upon, and must be in course of acquisition by the children who are growing up in the American state. And since the American is still predominantly of British descent, and since he has not been separated long enough from the British to develop distinct inherited racial characteristics, and, moreover, since his salient characteristics are in sharp contrast with those of the British, it follows that the difference in his character and atmosphere must be due mainly to his different social and political circumstances. Just as the relative defects of the common British, their apathy, their unreasoning conservatism, and their sordid scorn of intellectual things is bound up with their politico-social scheme, so, I believe, the noisiness, the mean practicalness, and the dyspeptic-driving restlessness that are the shadows of American life, are bound up with the politico-social condition of America. The Englishman sticks in the mud, and the American, with a sort of violent meanness, cuts corners, and in both cases it is quite conceivable that the failure to follow the perfect way is really no symptom of a divergence of blood and race, but the natural and necessary outcome of the mass of suggestion about them that constitutes their respective worlds.
The young American grows up into a world pervaded by the theory of democracy, by the theory that all men must have an equal chance of happiness, possessions, and power, and in which that theory is expressed by a uniform equal suffrage. No man shall have any power or authority save by the free consent and delegation of his fellows—that is the idea—and to the originators of this theory it seemed as obvious as anything could be that these suffrages would only be given to those who did really serve the happiness and welfare of the greatest number. The idea was reflected in the world of business by a conception of free competition; no man should grow rich except by the free preference of a great following of customers. Such is still the American theory, and directly the intelligent young American grows up to hard facts he finds almost as much disillusionment as the intelligent young Englishman. He finds that in practice the free choice of a constituency reduces to two candidates, and no more, selected by party organizations, and the free choice of the customer to the goods proffered by a diminishing number of elaborately advertised businesses; he finds political instruments and business corporations interlocking altogether beyond his power of control, and that the two ways to opportunity, honour, and reward are either to appeal coarsely to the commonest thoughts and feelings of the vulgar as a political agitator or advertising trader, or else to make his peace with those who do. And so he, too, makes his concessions. They are different concessions from those of the young Englishman, but they have this common element of gravity, that he has to submit to conditions in which he does not believe, he has to trim his course to a conception of living that is perpetually bending him from the splendid and righteous way. The Englishman grows up into a world of barriers and locked doors, the American into an unorganized, struggling crowd. There is an enormous premium in the American’s world upon force and dexterity, and force in the case of common men too often degenerates into brutality, and dexterity into downright trickery and cheating. He has got to be forcible and dexterous within his self-respect if he can. There is an enormous discount on any work that does not make money or give a tangible result, and except in the case of those whose lot has fallen within certain prescribed circles, certain oases of organized culture and work, he must advertise himself even in science or literature or art as if he were a pill. There is no recognition for him at all in the world, except the recognition of—everybody. There will be neither comfort nor the barest respect for him, however fine his achievement, unless he makes his achievement known, unless he can make enough din about it, to pay. He has got to shout down ninety-nine shouting fellow-citizens. That is the cardinal fact in life for the great majority of Americans who respond to the stirrings of ambition. If in Britain capacity is discouraged because honours and power go by prescription, in America it is misdirected because honours do not exist and power goes by popular election and advertisement. In certain directions—not by any means in all—unobtrusive merit, soundness of quality that has neither gift nor disposition for “push,” has a better chance in Great Britain than in America. A sort of duty to help and advance exceptional men is recognized at any rate, even if it is not always efficiently discharged, by the privileged class in England, while in America it is far more acutely felt, far more distinctly impressed upon the young that they must “hustle” or perish.
It will be argued that this enumeration of American and British defects is a mere expansion of that familiar proposition of the logic text-books, “all men are mortal.” You have here, says the objector, one of two alternatives, either you must draw your administrators, your legislators, your sources of honour and reward from a limited, hereditary, and specially-trained class, who will hold power as a right, or you must rely upon the popular choice exercised in the shop and at the polling booth. What else can you have but inheritance or election, or some blend of the two, blending their faults? Each system has its disadvantages, and the disadvantages of each system may be minimized by education; in particular by keeping the culture and code of honour of your ruling class high in the former case and by keeping your common schools efficient in the latter. But the essential evils of each system are—essential evils, and one has to suffer them and struggle against them, as one has to struggle perpetually with the pathogenic bacteria that infest the world. The theory of monarchy is, no doubt, inferior to the democratic theory in stimulus, but the latter fails in qualitative effect, much more than the former. There, the objector submits, lies the quintessence of the matter. Both systems need watching, need criticism, the pruning knife and the stimulant, and neither is bad enough to justify a revolutionary change to the other. In some such conclusion as this most of the English people with whom one can discuss this question have come to rest, and it is to this way of looking at the matter that one must ascribe the apathetic acquiescence in the British hereditary system, upon which I have already remarked. There is a frank and excessive admission of every real and imaginary fault of the American system, and with the proposition that we are on the horns of a dilemma, the discussion is dismissed.
But are we indeed on the horns of a dilemma, and is there no alternative to hereditary government tempered by elections, or government by the ward politician and the polling booth? Cannot we have that sense and tradition of equal opportunity for all who are born into this world, that generous and complete acknowledgment of the principle of promotion from the ranks that is the precious birthright of the American, without the political gerrymandering, the practical falsification, that restricts that general freedom at last only to the energetic, and that subordinates quality to quantity in every affair of life? It is evident that for the New Republican to admit that the thing is indeed a dilemma, that there is nothing for it but to make the best of whichever bad thing we have at hand, that we cannot have all we desire but only a greater or a lesser moiety, is a most melancholy and hampering admission. And, certainly, no New Republican will agree without a certain mental struggle, without a thorough and earnest inquiry into the possibility of a third direction.
This matter has two aspects, it presents itself as two questions; the question first of all of administration, and the question of honour and privilege. What is it that the New Republican idea really requires in these two matters? In the matter of administration it requires that every child growing up in a state should feel that he is part owner of his state, completely free in his membership, and equal in opportunity to all other children—and it also wants to secure the management of affairs in the hands of the very best men, not the noisiest, not the richest or most skilfully advertised, but the best. Can these two things be reconciled? In the matter of honour and privilege, the New Republican idea requires a separation of honour from notoriety; it requires some visible and forcible expression of the essential conception that there are things more honourable than getting either votes or money; it requires a class and distinctions and privileges embodying that idea—and also it wants to ensure that through the whole range of life there shall not be one door locked against the effort of the citizen to accomplish the best that is in him. Can these two things be reconciled also?
I have the temerity to think that in both cases the conflicting requirements can be reconciled far more completely than is commonly supposed.
Let us take, first of all, the question of the reconciliation as it is presented in the administration of public affairs. The days have come when the most democratic-minded of men must begin to admit that the appointment of all rulers and officials by polling the manhood, or most of the manhood, of a country does not work—let us say perfectly—and at no level of educational efficiency does it ever seem likely to work in the way those who established it hoped. By thousands of the most varied experiments the nineteenth century has proved this up to the hilt. The fact that elections can only be worked as a choice between two selected candidates, or groups of candidates, is the unforeseen and unavoidable mechanical defect of all electoral methods with large electorates. Education has nothing to do with that. The elections for the English University members are manipulated just as much as the elections in the least literate of the Irish constituencies.3 It is not a question of accidentals, but a question of the essential mechanism. Men have sought out and considered all sorts of devices for qualifying the present method by polling; Mills’s plural voting for educated men will occur to the reader; Hare’s system of vote collection, and the negative voting of Doctor Grece; and the defects of these inventions have been sufficiently obvious to prevent even a trial. The changes have been rung upon methods of counting; cumulative votes and the prohibition of plumping, and so on, have been tried without any essential modification of the results. There are various devices for introducing “stages” in the electoral process; the constituency elects electors, who elect the rulers and officers, for example, and there is also that futile attempt to bring in the non-political specialist, the method of electing governing bodies with power to “co-opt.” Of course they “co-opt” their fellow politicians, rejected candidates, and so on. Among other expedients that people have discussed, are such as would make it necessary for a man to take some trouble and display some foresight to get registered as a voter or to pass an examination to that end, and such as would confront him with a voting paper so complex, that only a very intelligent and painstaking man would be able to fill it up without disqualification. It certainly seems a reasonable thing to require that the voter should be able at least to write out fully and spell correctly the name of the man of his choice. Except for the last, there is scarcely any of these things but its adoption would strengthen the power of the political organizer, which they aim to defeat. Any complication increases the need and the power of organization. It is possible to believe—the writer believes—that with all this burthen of shortcomings, the democratic election system is still, on the whole, better than a system of hereditary privilege, but that is no reason for concealing how defective and disappointing its practical outcome has been, nor for resting contented with it in its present form.4
Is polling really essential to the democratic idea? That is the question now very earnestly put to the reader. We are so terribly under the spell of established conditions, we are all so obsessed by the persuasion that the only conceivable way in which a man can be expressed politically is by himself voting in person, that we do all of us habitually overlook a possibility, a third choice, that lies ready to our hands. There is a way by means of which the indisputable evils of democratic government may be very greatly diminished, without destroying or even diminishing—indeed, rather enhancing—that invigorating sense of unhampered possibilities, that the democratic idea involves. There is a way of choosing your public servants of all sorts and effectually controlling public affairs on perfectly sound democratic principles, without ever having such a thing as an election, as it is now understood, at all, a way which will permit of a deliberate choice between numerous candidates—a thing utterly impossible under the current system—which will certainly raise the average quality of our legislators, and be infinitely saner, juster, and more deliberate than our present method. And, moreover, it is a way that is typically the invention of the English people, and which they use to-day in another precisely parallel application, an application which they have elaborately tested and developed through a period of at least seven or eight hundred years, and which I must confess myself amazed to think has not already been applied to our public needs. This way is the Jury system. The Jury system was devised to meet almost exactly the same problem that faces us to-day, the problem of how on the one hand to avoid putting a man’s life or property into the hands of a Ruler, a privileged person, whose interest might be unsympathetic or hostile, while on the other protecting him from the tumultuous judgments of a crowd—to save the accused from the arbitrary will of King and Noble without flinging him to the mob. To-day it is exactly that problem over again that our peoples have to solve, except that instead of one individual affair we have now our general affairs to place under a parallel system. As the community that had originally been small enough and intimate enough to decide on the guilt or innocence of its members grew to difficult proportions, there developed this system of selecting by lot a number of its common citizens who were sworn, who were then specially instructed and prepared, and who, in an atmosphere of solemnity and responsibility in absolute contrast with the uproar of a public polling, considered the case and condemned or discharged the accused. Let me point out that this method is so universally recognized as superior to the common electoral method that any one who should propose to-day to take the fate of a man accused of murder out of the hands of a jury and place it in the hands of any British or American constituency whatever, even in the hands of such a highly intelligent constituency as one of the British universities, would be thought to be carrying crankiness beyond the border line of sanity.
Why then should we not apply the Jury system to the electoral riddle?
Suppose, for example, at the end of the Parliamentary term, instead of the present method of electing a member of Parliament, we were, with every precaution of publicity and with the most ingeniously impartial machine that could be invented, to select a Jury by lot, a Jury sufficiently numerous to be reasonably representative of the general feeling of the community and sufficiently small to be able to talk easily together and to do the business without debating society methods—between twenty and thirty, I think, might be a good working number—and suppose we were, after a ceremony of swearing them and perhaps after prayer or after a grave and dignified address to them upon the duty that lay before them, to place each of these juries in comfortable quarters for a few days and isolated from the world, to choose its legislator. They could hear, in public, under a time limit, the addresses of such candidates as had presented themselves, and they could receive, under a limit of length and with proper precautions for publicity, such documents as the candidates chose to submit. They could also, in public, put any questions they chose to the candidates to elucidate their intentions or their antecedents, and they might at any stage decide unanimously to hear no more of and to dismiss this or that candidate who encumbered their deliberations. (This latter would be an effectual way of suppressing the candidature of cranks, and of half-witted and merely symbolical persons.) The Jury between and after their interrogations and audiences would withdraw from the public room to deliberate in privacy. Their deliberations which, of course, would be frank and conversational to a degree impossible under any other conditions, and free from the dodges of the expert vote manipulator altogether, would, for example, in the case of several candidates of the same or similar political colours, do away with the absurdity of the split vote. The jurymen of the same political hue could settle that affair among themselves before contributing to a final decision. . . .
This Jury might have certain powers of inquest. Provision might be made for pleas against particular candidates; private individuals or the advocates of vigilance societies might appear against any particular candidate and submit the facts about any doubtful affair, financial or otherwise, in which that candidate had been involved. Witnesses might be called and heard on any question of fact, and the implicated candidate would explain his conduct. And at any stage the Jury might stop proceedings and report its selection for the vacant post. Then, at the expiration of a reasonable period, a year perhaps, or three years or seven years, another Jury might be summoned to decide whether the sitting member should continue in office unchallenged or be subjected to a fresh contest.
This suggestion is advanced here in this concrete form merely to show the sort of thing that might be done; it is one sample suggestion, one of a great number of possible schemes of Election by Jury. But even in this state of crude suggestion, it is submitted that it does serve to show the practicability of a method of election more deliberate and thorough, more dignified, more calculated to impress the new generation with a sense of the gravity of the public choice, and infinitely more likely to give us good rulers than the present method, and that it would do so without sacrificing any essential good quality whatever inherent in the Democratic Idea.5 The case for the use of the Jury system becomes far stronger when we apply it to such problems as we now attempt to solve by co-opting experts upon various administrative bodies.
The necessity either of raising the quality of representative bodies or of replacing them not only in administration but in legislation by bureaucracies of officials appointed by elected or hereditary rulers, is one that presses on all thoughtful men, and is by no means an academic question needed to round off this New Republican theory. The necessity becomes more urgent every day, as scientific and economic developments raise first one affair and then another to the level of public or quasi-public functions. In the last century, locomotion, lighting, heating, education, forced themselves upon public control or public management, and now with the development of Trusts a whole host of businesses, that were once the affair of competing private concerns, claim the same attention. Government by hustings’ bawling, newspaper clamour, and ward organization, is more perilous every day and more impotent, and unless we are prepared to see a government de facto of rich business organizers override the government de jure, or to relapse upon a practical oligarchy of officials, an oligarchy that will certainly decline in efficiency in a generation or so, we must set ourselves most earnestly to this problem of improving representative methods. It is in the direction of the substitution of the Jury method for a general poll that the only practicable line of improvement known to the present writer seems to lie, and until it has been tried it cannot be conceded that democratic government has been tried and exhaustively proved inadequate to the complex needs of the modern state.
So much for the question of administration. We come now to a second need in the modern state if it is to get the best result from the citizens born into it, and that is the need of honours and privileges to reward and enhance services and exceptional personal qualities and so to stir and ennoble that emulation which is, under proper direction, the most useful to the constructive statesman of all human motives. In the United States titles are prohibited by the constitution, in Great Britain they go by prescription. But it is possible to imagine titles and privileges that are not hereditary, and that would be real symbols of human worth entirely in accordance with the Republican Idea. It is one of the stock charges against Republicanism that success in America is either political or financial. In England, in addition, success is also social, and there is, one must admit, a sort of recognition accorded to intellectual achievement, which some American scientific men have found reason to envy. In America, of course, just as in Great Britain, there exists that very enviable distinction, the honorary degree of a university; but in America it is tainted by the freedom with which bogus universities can be organized, and by the unchallenged assumptions of quacks. In Great Britain the honorary degree of a university, in spite of the fact that it goes almost as a matter of course to every casual Prince, is a highly desirable recognition of public services. Beyond this there are certain British distinctions that might very advantageously be paralleled in America, the Fellowship of the Royal Society, for example, and that really very fine honour, as yet untainted by the class of men who tout for baronetcies and peerages, the Privy Council.
There are certain points in this question that are too often overlooked. In the first place, honours and titles need not be hereditary; in the second, they need not be conferred by the political administration; and, in the third, they are not only—as the French Legion of Honour shows—entirely compatible with, but they are a necessary complement to the Republican Idea.
The bad results of entrusting honours to the Government are equally obvious in France and Great Britain. They are predominantly given, quite naturally, for political services, because they are given by politicians too absorbed to be aware of men outside the political world. In Great Britain the process is modified rather than improved by what one knows as court influence. And in spite of the real and sustained efficiency of the Royal Society in distinguishing meritorious scientific workers, the French Academy, which has long been captured by aristocratic dilettanti, and the English Royal Academy of Arts, demonstrate the essential defects and dangers of a body which fills its own gaps. But there is no reason why a national system of honours and titles should not be worked upon a quite new basis, suggested by these various considerations. Let us, simply for tangibleness, put the thing as a concrete plan for the reader’s consideration.
There might, for example, be a lowest stage which would include—as the English knighthood once included—almost every citizen capable of initiative, all the university graduates, all the men qualified to practice the responsible professions, all qualified teachers, all the men in the Army and Navy promoted to a certain rank, all seamen qualified to navigate a vessel, all the ministers recognized by properly organized religious bodies, all public officials exercising command; quasi-public organizations might nominate a certain proportion of their staffs, and organized trade-unions with any claim to skill, a certain proportion of their men, their “decent” men, and every artist or writer who could submit a passable diploma work; it would be, in fact, a mark set upon every man or woman who was qualified to do something or who had done something, as distinguished from the man who had done nothing in the world, the mere common unenterprising esurient man. It might carry many little privileges in public matters—for instance, it might qualify for certain electoral juries. And from this class the next rank might easily be drawn in a variety of ways. In a modern democratic state there must be many fountains of honour. That is a necessity upon which one cannot insist too much. There must be no court, no gang, no traditional inalterable tribunal. Local legislative bodies, for example,—in America, state legislatures and in England, county councils,—might confer rank on a limited number of men or women yearly; juries drawn from certain special constituencies, from the roll of the medical profession, or from the Army, might assemble periodically to nominate their professional best, the Foreign or Colonial Office might confer recognition for political services, the university governing bodies might be entrusted with the power—just as in the middle ages many great men could confer knighthood. From among these distinguished gentlemen of the second grade still higher ranks might be drawn. Local juries might select a local chief dignitary as their “earl,” let us say, from among the resident men of rank, and there is no reason why certain great constituencies, the medical calling, the engineers, should not specify one or two of their professional leaders, their “dukes.” There are many occasions of local importance when an honourable figure-head is needed. The British fall back on the local hereditary peer or invite a prince, too often some poor creature great only by convention—and what the Americans do I do not know, unless they use a Boss. There are many occasions of something more than ceremonial importance when a responsible man publicly honoured and publicly known, and not a professional politician, is of the utmost convenience. And there are endless affairs, lists, gatherings, when the only alternative to rank is scramble. For myself I would not draw the line at such minor occasions for precedence. A Second Chamber is an essential part of the political scheme of all the English-speaking communities, and almost always it is intended to present stabler interests and a smaller and more selected constituency than the lower house. From such a life nobility as I have sketched a Second Chamber could be drawn much as the Irish representative peers in the House of Lords are drawn from the general peerage of Ireland. It would be far less party bound and far less mercenary than the American Senate, and far more intelligent and capable than the British House of Lords. And either of these bodies could be brought under a process of deliberate conversion in this direction with scarcely any revolutionary shock at all.6
When these issues of public honour and efficient democratic administration have begun to move towards a definite solution, the community will be in a position to extend the operation of the new methods towards a profounder revolution, the control of private property. “We are all Socialists nowadays,” and it is needless, therefore, to argue here at any length to establish the fact that beyond quite personal belongings all Property is the creation of society, and in reality no more than an administrative device. At present, in spite of some quite hideous and mischievous local aspects, the institution of Property, even in land and the shares of quasi-public businesses, probably gives as efficient a method of control, and even it may be a more efficient method of control than any that could be devised to replace it under existing conditions. We have no public bodies and no methods of check and control sufficiently trustworthy to justify extensive expropriations. Even the municipalization of industries needs to go slowly until municipal areas have been brought more into conformity with the conditions of efficient administration. Areas too cramped and areas that overlap spell waste and conflicting authorities, and premature municipalization in such areas will lead only to the final triumph of the private company. Political efficiency must precede Socialism.7 But there can be no doubt that the spectacle of irresponsible property is a terribly demoralizing force in the development of each generation. It is idle to deny that Property, both in Great Britain and America, works out into a practical repudiation of that equality, political democracy so eloquently asserts. There is a fatalistic submission to inferiority on the part of an overwhelming majority of those born poor, they hold themselves cheap in countless ways, and they accept as natural the use of wealth for wanton pleasure and purposes absolutely mischievous, they despair of effort in the public service, and find their only hope in gambling, sharp greedy trading, or in base acquiescences to the rich. The good New Republican can only regard our present system of Property as a terribly unsatisfactory expedient and seek with all his power to develop a better order to replace it.
There are certain lines of action in this matter that cannot but be beneficial, and it is upon these that the New Republican will, no doubt, go. One excellent thing, for example, would be to insist that beyond the limits of a reasonable amount of personal property, the community is justified in demanding a much higher degree of efficiency in the property-holder than in the case of the common citizen, to require him or her to be not only sane but capable, equal mentally and bodily to a great charge. The heir to a great property should possess a satisfactory knowledge of social and economic science, and should have studied with a view to his great responsibilities. The age of twenty-one is scarcely high enough for the management of a great estate, and to raise the age of free administration for the owners of great properties, and to specify a superannuation age would be a wise and justifiable measure.8 There should also be a possibility of intervention in the case of maladministration, and a code of offences—habitual drunkenness, for example, assaults of various kinds—offences that established the fact of unfitness and resulted in deposition, might be drawn up. It might be found desirable in the case of certain crimes and misdemeanours, to add to existing penalties the transfer of all real or share properties to trustees. Vigorous confiscation is a particularly logical punishment for the proven corruption of public officers by any property owner or group of property owners. Rich men who bribe are a danger to any state. Beyond the limits of lunacy it might be possible to define a condition of malignancy or ruthlessness that would justify confiscation, attempts to form corners in the necessities of life, for example, could be taken as evidence of such a condition. All such measures as this would be far more beneficial than the immediate improvement they would effect in public management. They would infect the whole social body with the sense that property was saturated with responsibility and was in effect a trust, and that would be a good influence upon rich and poor alike.
Moreover, as public bodies became more efficient and more trustworthy, the principle already established in British social polity by Sir William Vernon Harcourt’s Death Duties, the principle of whittling great properties at each transfer, might be very materially extended. Every transfer of property might establish a state mortgage for some fraction of the value of that property. The fraction might be small when the recipient was a public institution, considerable in the case of a son or daughter, and almost all for a distant relative or no kindred at all. By such devices the evil influence of property acquired by mere accidents would be reduced without any great discouragement of energetic, enterprising, and inventive men. And a man ambitious to found a family might still found one if he took care to marry wisely and train and educate his children to the level of the position he designed for them.
While the New Republican brings such expedients as this to bear upon property from above, there will also be the expedients of the Minimum Wage and the Minimum Standard of Life, already discussed in the third of these papers, controlling it from below. Limited in this way, property will resemble a river that once swamped a whole country-side, but has now been banked within its channel. Even when these expedients have been exhaustively worked out, they will fall far short of that “abolition of property” which is the crude expression of Socialism. There is a certain measure of property in a state which involves the maximum of individual freedom. Either above or below that Optimum one passes towards slavery. The New Republican is a New Republican, and he tests all things by their effect upon the evolution of man; he is a Socialist or an Individualist, a Free Trader or a Protectionist, a Republican or a Democrat just so far, and only so far, as these various principles of public policy subserve his greater end.
This crude sketch of a possible scheme of honour and privilege, and of an approximation towards the socialization of property will, at any rate, show that in this matter, as in the matter of political control, the alternative of the British system or the American system does not exhaust human possibilities. There is also the Twentieth Century System, which we New Republicans have to discover and discuss and bring to the test of experience. And for the sake of the education of our children, which is the cardinal business of our lives, we must refuse all convenient legal fictions and underhand ways, and see to it that the system is as true to the reality of life and to right and justice as we can, in our light and generation, make it. The child must learn not only from preacher and parent and book, but from the whole frame and order of life about it, that truth and sound living and service are the only trustworthy ways to either honour or power, and that, save for the unavoidable accidents of life, they are very certain ways. And then he will have a fair chance to grow up neither a smart and hustling cheat—for the American at his worst is no more and no less than that—nor a sluggish disingenuous snob—as the Briton too often becomes—but a proud, ambitious, clean-handed, and capable man.
1. I have discussed this fully in Anticipations, Chapter III., Developing Social Elements. [back]
2. It is not only British subjects that are assimilated in this way, the infection of the British system, the annexation of certain social strata in the Republic by the British crown, is a question for every thoughtful American. America is less and less separate from Europe, and the social development of the United States cannot be a distinct process—it is inevitably bound up in the general social development of the English-speaking community. The taint has touched the American Navy, for example, and there are those who discourage promotion from the ranks—the essential virtue of the democratic state—because men so promoted would be at a disadvantage when they met the officers of foreign navies, who were by birth and training “gentlemen.” When they met them socially no doubt was meant; in war the disadvantage might prove the other way about. [back]
3. There is a very suggestive book on this aspect of our general question, The Crowd, by M. Gustave le Bon, which should interest any one who finds this paper interesting. And the English reader who would like a fuller treatment of this question has now available also Ostrogorski’s great work, Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties. [back]
4. The statement of the case is not complete unless we mention that, to the method of rule by hereditary rulers and the appointment of officials by noble patrons on the one hand, and of rule by politicians exercising patronage on the other, there is added in the British system the Chinese method of selecting officials by competitive examination. Within its limits this has worked as a most admirable corrective to patronage; it is one of the chief factors in the cleanhandedness of British politicians, and it is continually importing fresh young men from outside to keep officialdom in touch with the general educated world. But it does not apply, and it does not seem applicable, to the broader issues of politics, to the appointment and endorsement of responsible rulers and legislators, where a score of qualities are of more importance than those an examination can gauge. [back]
5. There are excellent possibilities, both in the United States and in this Empire, of trying over such a method as this, and of introducing it tentatively and piecemeal. In Great Britain already there are quite different methods of election for Parliament existing side by side. In the Hythe division of Kent, for example, I vote by ballot with elaborate secrecy; in the University of London I declare my vote in a room full of people. The British University constituencies, or one of them, might very readily be used as a practical test of this jury suggestion. There is nothing, I believe, in the Constitution of the United States to prevent any one State resorting to this characteristically Anglo-Saxon method of appointing its representatives in Congress. It is not only in political institutions that the method may be tried. Any societies or institutions that have to send delegates to a conference or meeting might very easily bring this conception to a practical test. Even if it does not prove practicable as a substitute for election by polling, it might be found of some value for the appointment of members of the specialist type, for whom at present we generally resort to co-option. In many cases where the selection of specialists was desirable to complete public bodies, juries of educated men of the British Grand Jury type might be highly serviceable. [back]
6. In the case of the House of Lords, for example, the process of conversion might begin by extending the Scotch and Irish system to England, and substituting a lesser number of representative peers for the existing English peerage. Then it would merely revive a question that was already under discussion in middle Victorian times, to create non-hereditary peerages in the three kingdoms. The several Privy Councils might next be added to the three national constituencies by which and from which the representative peers were appointed, and then advisory boards might be called from the various Universities and organized professions, and from authoritative Colonial bodies to recommend men to be added to the voting peerage. Life peers already exist. The law is represented by life peers. The lords spiritual are representative life peers—they are the senior bishops, and they are appointed to represent a corporation—the Established Church. So a generally non-hereditary functional nobility might come into being without any violent break with the present condition of things. The conversion of the American Senate would be a more difficult matter, because the method of appointment of Senators is more stereotyped altogether, and, since 1800, unhappily quite bound up with the political party system. The Senate is not a body of varied and fluctuating origins into which new elements can be quietly inserted. An English writer cannot estimate how dear the sacred brace of Senators for each State may or may not be to the American heart. But the possibility of Congress delegating the power to appoint additional Senators to certain non-political bodies, or to juries of a specific constitution, is at least thinkable as the beginning of a movement that would come at last into parallelism with that in the British Empire. [back]