Tuesday, 11 June 2013


The following lecture was delivered by Professor Jenks before the Australian Church Literary Society on August 5 :—

It is a saying attributed to Plato that "human affairs are hardly serious, and yet to be serious about them is a disagreeable necessity." That is a deep thought,and it helps us a good deal in the study of politics. For who that considers politics merely on the outside, is not at first disgusted and repelled by the noisome mass of pettiness, self-seeking, and ignorance which clusters about them? These loud-voiced and empty-headed agitators, these cynical hunters after place and power, these mean parasites of lobbies and galleries, are they really an essential part of politics? Must we always have that state of things which Dickens so happily satirised—in which the choice is between Doodle and Buffy, and in which it is quite clear that the nation is shipwrecked, lost, gone to pieces, because you can't provide for Noodle, or because you can't put Miss Volumnia Dedlock down on the pension list of an ungrateful country ?

It is unhappily too true that many of the highest and best minds of every community are lost to its politics, because they cannot face the surrounding mud. The triviality of modern politics is so obvious that men often ask themselves whether there is anything more than triviality in them.

But politics suffer also, if it be allowable to say so, from their popularity. In ancient days Aristotle could make it an essential condition of the best kind of democracy that the occupations of the main body of the people should prevent them taking an active interest in politics. With the exception, perhaps, of a few eccentric persons, we, as a community, should consider that strange doctrine for a democracy. Its statement, perhaps, hints as clearly as anything else the real difference between ancient and modern politics. But before we come to that we may point the application of the old adage—that familiarity breeds contempt—to the serious study of politics. For what everyone is supposed to understand and be familiar with cannot (it is thought) require any special training to appreciate. And yet the greatest thinkers of all ages—Moses, Plato, Cicero, Dante, Bacon—have deemed the subject of politics no unworthy theme for their efforts.

If we ask ourselves what we mean by politics, it is not very hard to get at least a superficial answer. The study of politics comprises the art and the science of government, in their broadest sense. Even the simple despotism of Sultan or Shah is, to a certain extent, politics. But the world has agreed, for most purposes, to limit the application of the term to those organisations more or less complex, in which the powers of government are distributed among various hands. 

There can be little doubt that the art of government—what we call statesmanship— is the more popular of the two branches of the study of politics ; whilst there are some persons who deny the very possibility of a science of polities, the only thing which can make people doubt the existence of the art of statesmanship is the simple fact that it is somewhat rarely exercised. But, indeed, the controversies of which our newspapers and magazines are full, the debates which go on in Parliament and without, the political biographies which are written, mainly concern themselves with the art, the practical side of politics. And however grievously we may think the practitioners of this art to fail in achieving success, we must admit at least that the subject excites widespread interest. On the other hand, there are some persons who will not, as I said, admit the possibility of a science of politics. The phenomena of politics, they say, are too irregular, individual, personal to be classified. They are so coloured and shaped by circumstances, and these circumstances are so infinitely varying, that no two cases are exactly alike. The idiosyncrasies of each race and country, these objectors argue, refuse to lend themselves to classifications and types.

And we may admit all this, and yet assert the existence of a science of politics. For science is not only concerned with classification ; it deals also with processes, and it we find, after a sufficiently wide study of the facts, that in the political world, as in the physical world, processes do recur again and  again, in such a way that we can clearly trace the working of great universal laws in their developments, then, I say, we are entitled to assert that there is a science of politics.

And who can doubt that such processes do recur? We have a theory of revolutions which is at least two thousand years old, and yet it answers most strikingly to the actual events of modern times. Plato tells us that a timarchy or timocracy (what we may, perhaps, tall a "jingo" period) is succeeded by an oligarchy, that by a democracy, and that again by a tyranny. Does not Plato's theory, no doubt termed from his own observation of the little Greek states, answer in an astonishing way to the history of modern France ? First we have the jingo period of Le Grand Monarque, when glory is all the word, and France spreads her conquests across the Rhine and the Meuse, earning "glory " at Aix la Chapelle and Nimwegen, and losing it at Ryswick, whilst her peasants at home are starving for lack of bread. Then comes the long and ignoble reign of Louis XV, when the war-reared oligarchy rules the land, the worthless king looking on while the broad back of Jacques Bonhomme is made to bear the burden. Then Jacques's back will bear no longer, and democracy comes with a wild rush in the closing years of the century, only to be succeeded by the tyranny of Napoleon.
But, in fact, when we recognise the existence of such terms as "oligarchy," "monarchy," and the like, do we not confess the existence of such common phenomena as they represent? A little more definiteness of agreement upon the meaning of such terms we might indeed desire. But that the terms have a scientific meaning to us, no one can deny. And so, when we say, with Professor Freeman, that " history is past politics, and politics are present history," we really confess that history furnishes the data upon which our science of politics is based, that history is the confused mass of facts which the magnet of political theory draws out into order and meaning.
It is a much more difficult question when we come to discuss the scope of government, the area which is included in the domain of politics. For this has varied from age to age, and must ever vary.
At the dawn of history, the giant empires of the East—Assyria, Babylon Egypt—are mere tax-gathering and troop-levying powers (much as the Mussulman empires of our own day, and with them government means simply the exaction of tribute and recruits. Beyond this they scarcely influence the daily lives of their subjects ; those are regulated by immemorial custom, to which even the haughtiest Sardanapalus or Pharaoh must bow.
But we come to the West, and all this is changed. We find the city states of Greece, the parents of modern thought, broadening and deepening the functions of government, till they include almost every department of life. The religion is the religion of the state, the state makes the division of land, the state provides censors of morals and fashions, decides law-suits, and even regulates the marriages of its subjects.
But it is to the practice of all conquering Rome that we owe the great influence of state socialism at the birth of the new world. Beginning with her little townships or burgess farmers, she carried the policy of the Seven Hills to the far corners of the earth. Possessed of but few ideas, but holding those ideas with the tenacity of bulldogs, her sons impressed the stamp of the all powerful state upon the nations of the world. And, however little we own it, we shall, I think, find, that it we carry back our ideas of the state, its duties and rights, to their true source, we shall find that source in the legend or history of Rome.

Yet once again the tide rolled back, and in the turmoil which succeeded the fall of Rome, during what have been graphically termed the "riding monarchies," the influence and sphere of government shrank to its narrowest. If a mediæval king or emperor could exact a lip-homage and spasmodic military service from his great vassals, he thought himself successful. Doubtless there were many causes for this, yet I question if one great cause is not often overlooked. The dazzling traditions of Rome were too powerful to be resisted, and the barbaric chieftain, instead of contenting himself with the rule of his own tribe or clan, aimed at reproducing the world dominion of Rome. Needless to say, with utterly inadequate machinery, and a crudeness of effort barely compensated by enormous energy, the aspirants failed to realise the governing power which centuries of political experience had generated in the officials of the Imperial City ; and the Holy Roman Empire, as their strange medieval production was called, became the mere ghost of a dead name, without blood or bones of government.

But when the shadowy empire tottered to its fall, and the smaller states of Europe began to assume something of their present limits, the tide set back once more, and all through the later middle ages we see a growing extension of the powers of Government, which then again began to regulate the worship, the trade, and industry, and even the dress of its subjects. We have the Assizes of Bread and Ale, and of Weights and Measures, the statutes of forestalling and labourers, the monopolies of soap and gold lace, the great statutes of Navigation and Corn Laws, the Acts of Uniformity, and the Conventicle Acts.

Yet again a change, and what we know as laissez faire comes to the front. With the great outburst of industrial activity at the beginning of the century, we have the great individualist prophets—Bright, Cobden, Senior, Mill—proclaiming that the old shackles (as they are now called) must be struck off, and each man left free to work out his own salvation. And the new gospel succeeds, the "gospel according to M'Crowdy" (as Carlyle irreverently termed it), and we are left to the "beneficent working of the laws of Nature" and the scope of individual enterprise.

But yet once again there is a change, and now it is a commonplace that all British legislation, at least of the last 20 years, has been socialistic in tone, and Mr. Herbert Spencer is left, like a pelican in the wilderness, to bemoan the "great political superstition," and is a knight errant to carry on, almost single handed, the war against state socialism. On the one hand, Plato and the voice from the crowd crying, " The Government can do anything," on the other, Mr. Herbert Spencer and the agitator who would "down with the Government." 

Surely these things happen according to law. Many causes, I know, have been assigned for the activity or inactivity of Governments—the existence of war, concentrating effective power in the hands of a few men, the peculiarities of temperament and climate, and so forth. But two seem to me enough—the influence of numbers and means of communication. At first both are against the Government—huge numbers and difficult transit. And so a Government with scanty powers. Then small numbers and limited areas, and so much government. Then a widening area and vast numbers, but a Government nursed in the traditions of the infant settlement on the Tiber, and building mighty roads, and so still holding firm the reins. Then the condensing elements dissolved, when Rome fell—

" Staggering on to her goal,
Hearing on shoulders immense
 Atlantean, the load
Well nigh not to be borne 
Of the too vast orb of her fate "—

and the reins of power, falling into rude barbarian hands, quickly dropped. And then, again, the smaller communities, and a revival of power, and once more a great onleap of population and laissez faire. Finally, increasing numbers truly, but enormously increased means of communication, and state socialism.

Perhaps one of the most fertile sources of confusion in the study of politics is the laxness which assumes that changes and inventions in political machinery must necessarily imply political progress. And yet we have recently had a most startling proof of the fallacy of this view. Who that has read Mr Bryce's great work on The American Commonwealth has closed it without a regret that a people so highly gifted with political intelligence and aptitude, so quick to invent political machinery, should produce such lamentable results. We have the most elaborate and skilfully manipulated system of "primaries," "conventions," "tickets," "parties," "machines," and so forth, all working up to the grand climax of a number of legislative bodies whose members are at most tolerated with cynical contempt by the best minds of the nation, and a hierarchy of professional officials who openly practise the most shameless corruption, and a body of judges most of whom are infinitely inferior to the leading practitioners who plead before them. With every desire to speak well of his subject, Mr, Bryce cannot be said to have presented us with a pleasing picture of American politics.

With this warning before us, we may do well to avoid the error of assuming that political inventiveness means political progress by considering apart the two subjects of machinery and science, the means used in politics, and the ends at which politics aim. For the test of good means is their utility, but the test of good aims is their nobility, and these are not of equal degree.

To take the machinery first. I question whether we do not often exaggerate the importance of modern invention in political machinery. It is wonderful to notice how much Aristotle, writing over 2,000 years ago, knew of the political machinery of modern Europe. Plato discussed the advisability of allowing an army to elect its own officers ages before the New Model became an accomplished fact, and was idealised by Harrington in his Oceana, and Plato's views on the Homestead Laws are at this day being practically enforced in America. The ancient Romans had their Crown Land Acts, with their accompanying breezes between big squatters and small farmers, just as we have. But, as I have said elsewhere, I can reckon two great periods of political inventiveness since the days of Cæsar, each of which gave the Western World one great result. The thirteenth century brought to birth the great principle of representation, after which the ancient world had been dimly groping, and which that peculiar union of religion and politics, of which the Holy Roman Empire, with its double head of Pope and Kaiser was the outward and visible symbol, had slowly evolved. And so we gained Cortes in Spain, Diet in Germany, Etats Généraux in France, Storthing in Norway, and Parliament in England, Scotland, and Ireland.

And then, again, we have the seventeenth century, with its fierce wars of religion still mingled with politics, though now the two elements begin to separate ; with its expulsion of the Mussulman Moors from Christian Spain ; and its wars between Catholic and Protestant in Germany and the Netherlands, between High Churchman and Dissenter in England, and between Episcopalian and Covenanter in Scotland. And this century gave us, though ever so secretly, from its ferment of thought, that "Cabinet system" which Montesquieu and Delolme and Blackstone could not see, though it was evolving before their eyes, and which had to wait for its true exposition till the days of Bagehot. These two, it seems to me, are the great productions of the modern world in political machinery ; all others are but reproductions of ancient devices, or mere variations and developments of these two.

And yet, notwithstanding the somewhat limited character of these our inventions, it is possible that we might with advantage adopt certain changes in our political terminology, in which we are wonderfully conservative. Is it not for example, time to have done with the rather worn-out classifications of governments into monarchic, aristocracies, and democracies, seeing that the two first forms of government, in the sense in which they were understood by the author of their names, hardly now exist, and seeing that the distinction between an aristocracy and a democracy is hardly logical, and cannot be exactly stated? And would it not be as well to give up talking about "universal suffrage," "government through the people, by the people, and for the people," and the like phrases, which mean, if you carefully analyse them, precisely nothing at all? If we would give up these old terms, we could then adopt new and really significant names. We might, for example, as Mr. Bryce has suggested, classify Governments into Rigid (where the powers of the Government are strictly fixed by written law) and flexible (where they depend upon custom and public opinion, which vary from year to year). And this is a very suggestive and valuable classification. Then, too, we might class them into Cabinet (or Parliamentary) and Republican Governments, the former being examples in which all the functions of the state are ultimately centred in a great Parliamentary committee, the latter the cases in which the great powers of State, legislative, executive, and judicial (or at least two of them), are in different and independent hands. We should at once describe the constitution of the British Empire as flexible and parliamentary, and that of the United States as rigid and republican, which would lead us to a most instructive comparison of the two governments. And so our classifications would be scientific as well us merely logical. Then we might go on to classify governments into supreme and subordinate, central and local, simple (or unified) and complex (or distributed), and so on. And I venture to think that a classification and examination of the governments of the world on those lines would be at least a valuable and interesting mental exercise.

But we must pass now to the moral or essential side of politics. And here, too, let us be careful not to plume ourselves too much upon our advance until we have glanced over our ground. No doubt we have, in words at least, improved upon the cool cynicism of Machiavelli, and Walpole, and that mediæval Pope who, when asked to explain how the vast crowd of his subjects before his palace windows obtained their living, said, " Ils trompent l'un l'autre," adding, with engaging candour, "et moi—je les trompe tous." But when we think of the pure and lofty ideals of men like Plato and Plutarch, Cato, Dante, More, Harrington, and Rousseau, have we so much reason for self-congratulation ? 

"And yet we all feel, and I think with justice, that this present century has introduced a better tone into politics, something nobler than the cynicism of the later Middle Ages, something more real and lifelike than the dreams of Plato and More. May we not describe this subtle element, for want of a better term, as the element of humanity? The lofty ideals of the older speculators, so cold, so abstract, so far off, do sometimes seem to me, I confess, to savour somewhat of an impertinence to humanity, as though humanity as it actually was around them, with its miserable backslidings but fervent hopes, was not good enough for them. The   writers of the ancient world coolly exclude from participation in their perfect states large masses of their fellow men, under the generic title of "slaves." Even More's Utopia is a country apart, and its privileges are only for its sacred members, while Bacon, in his New Atlantes will not allow its inhabitants to travel abroad and mingle with the rest of the world. Even Rousseau with his reliance upon a non-existent and imaginary state of nature hardly strikes the true note, though he is drawing nearer to the harmonious concord. True it is that we must always strive— never be content with what we have achieved.

But our hopes for what man may be must be founded upon our knowledge of what man is, and until we make the study of actual man his past and his present the foundations of our palace of perfection, we shall be building castles in the air.

It is to Bentham after all, the cool English thinker with his contempt for a priori methods and ideal pictures, with his homely love of facts, and his unweariable industry in amassing and arranging them, that we owe, I think, the real beginning of the change.

"The greatest good of the greatest number" was Bentham's potent motto. But what is the greatest good? That which men actually wish and hope for. Not any longer are we to construct ideal commonwealths for impossible men, but to strive to make better the actual commonwealth for the very men and women who are in it, no longer to seek a boundless wilderness for the realisation of our dreams, remembering the words of the great teacher who said—"Here or nowhere is thine America;" no longer to find our golden city in the sun or the spice isles of a nameless sea, but in the hearts of those of whom by a still greater teacher it was said "The kingdom of heaven is within you." 

This, it seems to me, is the century's great lesson in politics. In machinery we have done somewhat ; great are the names of Comte, Guizot, Mill Spencer, and Bagehot. But greater than these are the men of the spirit—Carlyle, Emerson, Mazzini, Garibaldi, Ibsen—some of whom we do not call politicians at all, so little do they care for political machinery but whose whole teaching and example are strenuously bent upon the ennoblement of the man, and, therefore, of the state of which he is a member.

In conclusion, I propose to point out a few of the dangers to which this new type of state— the people state if I may so call it—is particularly liable. And, lest I should be accused of being a secret enemy to popular government, thinly veiling my hostility under a specious cloke of friendly advice, I should like to say plainly that, in spite of all the drawbacks which such a form of government involves, I do hold that form in which the influence of the great mass of the people is most powerful and most complete to be in the end the best and wholesomest. For I firmly believe that the dangers to which I am about to allude can be obviated if only their existence is recognised.

The first danger to which I shall point is the danger of shallowness. Few people are really aware of the labour involved in genuine thinking. It is a labour from which we all naturally shrink, and for which we are only too ready to accept agreeable substitutes. Now, we may rest fairly well assured of two things—first, that there can be no really effective substitute for thinking; and, second that the study of politics is not peculiar in needing no thought for its successful cultivation. When government is in the hands of a few persons, these persons must think, at peril of their own destruction. But to a whole people such a catastrophe seems remote, and so they are, unhappily, only too ready to accept catch words of pleasing sound, as the embodied results of accurate thought. Take that most popular of modern political maxims, which says that all men are equal.

This is held a cardinal axiom of their science by many so called practical politicians. And yet if you get one of them quietly into a corner, and ask him in what are all men equal ; whether it is in age, height, colour, strength, wisdom, cunning, or eloquence, he will be somewhat at a loss to answer you. And if you go a step further and ask if all men are equal to all women or all children to all women, and, if not, what about these, the absurdity of his axiom becomes apparent. And yet I have heard a comparatively well educated man passionately maintain in a public debate that a boy and a girl were born exactly alike, both in body and mind. And I am perfectly prepared to admit that it would save a good deal of trouble in politics if everyone were exactly equal, it we could count upon them, as we do upon the men in a game of draughts, for exactly similar moves and powers. But, unfortunately, the order of nature is not this way, and if we adopt this maxim we run the risk of falling back upon the old errors of idealism, which we think we have escaped. For, in spite of Mr Lewes's transcendental interpretation of the maxim (the only interpretation which, so far as my knowledge goes will hold water for an instant) we are told by our daily experience backed by the unassailable testimony of physical science, that variation, not identity, is the rule of life, that no two blades of grass are exactly equal, much less any two men.

And this false maxim seems to me to be largely responsible for that which I may note as the second of the dangers of popular government—jealousy. And I may allude to this the more freely that we, as a nation, both in England and the colonies, have very largely escaped the danger hitherto. I am fully aware that our words would hardly justify such self-congratulation. But in this, as in so many other things, our bark has been worse than our bite. Feeling that we have it in our power to dismiss our rulers when we please, we have on the whole been content to trust them whilst we retain them. Believe me, it has been wise policy. The community which on principle distrusts its governors will never be able to find trustworthy governors. And that evil will act and react, from governors to governed, and from governed to governors, to the infinite harm of all. This is the direct outcome of the false maxim upon which I have dwelt. If all men are equal, one man will do for a ruler as well as another, and common work needs only common wages and common confidence. You see the results of the system in the great American Republic of to-day, which is great not because, but in spite, of its system of government, where it is barely possible for a respectable man to be in politics, where nearly all thinking persons admit the reform of the Government service to be the pressing social need, and where you are brought face to face with the paradox that with perhaps the most costly political machinery in the world, there is hardly an official who draws a decently competent salary. I am far from urging that our rulers should be furnished with blank cheques upon the community's credit, with no settling days. Vengeance for blunders and misdemeanours should be prompt and stern. But it will be a bad day for us if ever it comes to pass that a ring of speculators can hold a bench of judges in its pay, or a single corrupt interest sway the Legislature of a colony. And yet such would be the most probable results of the play of narrow jealousy upon political affairs. A community generally gets the rulers it deserves.

I will touch very lightly upon the next danger to which a popular form of government seems to me especially liable, partly because it is a hard saying, and partly because I do not at present see any remedy for it. I allude to the intense conservatism to which all democracies are more or less liable, and to which Anglo-Saxon democracies are peculiarly prone. Every intelligent student of politics must realise and value that sterling core of conviction, that "cake of custom," as it has been called, which has given to Anglo-Saxon politics all the world over a consistency and tenacity which have been of immense service to the race. And certainly I do not envy for us that extreme facility of change which their scientific appreciation of neat syllogisms occasionally develops in our Gallic brethren. But just as Bagehot, with out wishing in any way to see the English House of Commons composed of philosophers or pedants, thought that, after every abatement and deduction, the country would " bear a little more mind," and that there was "a profusion of opulent dulness in Parliament which might a little—though only a little—be pruned away," so I venture to think that nowadays our people, the constituencies who decide upon our politics, might occasionally admit a really new idea—not, of course, to give effect to it at once, but to substitute it as mental food for the worn out platitudes which have done duty so long. Those who wish to pursue the subject further will find it treated by the hand of a master, and with immediate relation to modern conditions, in Ibsen's Enemy of the People—a drama which, it seems to me, well repays the careful study of every earnest political student.

Again, I see a danger that a state of the modern type may drift into sordidness. The active phase of the old state was war—the active phase of the new state is commerce. That is a change for the better, doubtless, though it sometimes seems to me, when I read the language of our commercial men, that we have changed our methods without changing our principles. Commerce in its true aspect is the system by which we supply one another's material wants. But to judge by the language of some of its exponents, it might be the strategy by which we enrich ourselves at the expense of our neighbours.

And, after all, we may ask ourselves, is commerce, even its true sense, a worthy scope for the whole or even the chief activity of a state? Is the satisfaction of material wants the main object of existence? Do we really live to eat, instead of eating to live?

If we regard the evidence of Anglo-Saxon communities all the world over as furnishing an answer to these questions, I am afraid we must reply in the affirmative. For in all of them it is clearly admitted that the prime duty of the good citizen is to fulfil what has been called his natural and obvious function of money making. Certainly we expend some of our activity on armies and fleets, but do we not create and maintain them "to protect our commerce?" Certainly we pretend to educate our children, but is it not that they may "make their way (i.e., their money) in the world"? Certainly we erect public buildings and buy works of art, but is it not very often that they may afford tangible proof of our wealth?

Especially is this the case in new countries like America and Australia, where the influence of the average man upon the government is very great, and if one remarks upon it one is told that it is a matter of course, that in all new countries the capitalist must be the great man, that economic interests must rule the state, that art and literature will come later. I will readily admit that if the community has made up its mind that wealth is the one thing needful, it does well to bend all its powers to attain it.

But is it quite so clear that this is the case? Is it not barely possible that courage and uprightness and wisdom may be as valuable in the founding of a nation as the possession of capital? Where these are, we need not fear the struggle with Nature. The matter is worth thinking about.

In conclusion, there is one very grave danger to which popular governments are specially prone, and which must, if not avoided, ultimately prove fatal to their existence. This is the reckless feeling which says, "It is for ourselves we are acting; if we take the risk, who can complain?" Or the still more unworthy feeling which stifles its conscience with the thought, "Who can call us to account?" You will see that this is a danger peculiar to government by majorities, for a minority is always liable to be checked by the fear of vengeance if things go wrong, and the most reckless of autocrats will hesitate before provoking popular resentment. But who is to punish a whole people if it shuts its eyes to the right?

It is much the thought of this danger which contributes to my conviction that that form of policy in which the people exercise indirect rather than direct control over the government is the best. But I admit freely that such a method is an evasion rather than a bold facing of the danger. We shall never be really fit, as a people, to govern, unless we are prepared to meet the difficulty.

Two thoughts seem to help us. Though it is true that a majority cannot be coerced if it chooses to put forth its strength, though it is true that there are some crimes which no human power can punish, yet, for all that, the powers of a majority, and the crimes which it may commit, do not go uncontrolled and unpunished. Call it by what name we like, there is a Power which makes for Righteousness, and any departure from justice and truth must and will in the end bring retribution, all the more terrible that it is long delayed. "No one man can depart from the truth without damage to himself, no one million of men, no twenty seven millions of men. Show me a nation fallen everywhere into this course, so that each expects it, permits it to others and himself, I will show you a nation travelling with one assent on the broad way . . . . ' Rhetoric all this?' No, my brother, very singular to say, it is Fact all this." So said one of the great teachers of modern England, and there are few now who would dispute his doctrine. Put into more everyday language, what are all those giant evils, those terrible "social problems" which we to-day have to fight with for our lives, but the stern vengeance of time for duties neglected and wrongs done, when there was none to punish?

But it is not with this thought that I would like to leave you to-night. The man who shrinks from wrong for fear of punishment is after all but a poor creature. Let us look at the other side of the case.

Is it so true then that we act for ourselves alone, that we can bear the consequences of our own deeds? All science, all experience, answer, No. We are so linked and entwined, man with man, humanity with the brute world, and both with dumb Nature, that the doing of the commonest act is like the casting of a pebble into water—none can say where the ripples end. In the most commonplace way of looking at the matter, I know of no government, ancient or modern, I can conceive of no government, in which there are not directly involved the interests of countless existing human beings who have and can have no voice in it. Are not these all dependent upon the justice and wisdom of those who govern? And it we look forward into the future, to the ages which are now shaping themselves in the eye of prophecy, what a sense of responsibility must rise within us as we think of the part we must play, whether we like it or not, in that great life drama! I have no wish that we should treat our selves as " painful pre-requisites of grandchildren." I would not that the beauty and joy of our lives should be extinguished by our brooding over the fate of our race. But surely sometimes we must think of these things, and when we do, is there not enough in them to fill us with a sense of responsibility to nerve us with the resolve to do our work nobly even in the field of politics? Δεινον εστι τίκτειν, a fearful thing it is to beget children, says the old Greek poet. And so it is, for a nation as for a man. For so surely as the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children, so surely is our action as a community either helping to smooth the ever rugged road, or laying new snares and digging new pitfalls, for the feet of them which follow after.

It is the general observation of travellers that really savage peoples are distinguished above all things by this quality—that their conduct is governed almost exclusively by the impulse of the moment, and the desire to satisfy immediate wants. As we move away from barbarism our conduct comes to be regulated by precision and calculation ; we study the facts of the past, and from them draw inferences as to the future. Moreover, our views of the nature of our wants become, we hope, elevated. Still we need another element in our plans. Not for ourselves alone do we hold our powers in trust. This is the true Political Progress, that we mingle more and more with our plans for ourselves the steadfast resolve to pass on to future generations, enriched by our own contributions, the heritage which our fathers have won.

 The Argus 4 October 1890,

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