Democracy Vindicated
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Ed.―see also Democracy, a lecture given by Professor John Stuart Blackie on the previous evening.

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A LECTURE

DELIVERED TO THE

EDINBURGH WORKING MEN'S INSTITUTE,

ON THE 4TH JANUARY 1867,

IN REPLY TO PROFESSOR BLACKIE'S LECTURE ON DEMOCRACY, DELIVERED
ON THE PREVIOUS EVENING. 

BY
ERNEST JONES, ESQ.,
OF THE MIDDLE TEMPLE, BARRISTER-AT-LAW.

EDINBURGH:
ANDREW ELLIOT, 17 PRINCES STREET.
LONDON: W. RIDGWAY. GLASGOW: JAMES NIMMO.
MANCHESTER: JOHN HEYWOOD.
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NOTE.


THE following Lecture was delivered at the request of the Directors of the Edinburgh Working Men's Club and Institute, in the Music Hall of that city, in reply to a Lecture on Democracy by John Stuart Blackie, Professor of Greek in the Edinburgh University, delivered on the previous evening under the auspices of the same Institution.  The circumstance which led to the delivery of both Lectures is well known, is partly touched on in the opening remarks, and need not be further alluded to here.

    The Publisher has simply to add, that the Lecture was prepared on the day of its delivery, and that, though revised by the Author, it has been sent to press almost exactly as it was spoken.

    EDINBURGH, January 5, 1867.

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DEMOCRACY VINDICATED.

――――♦――――


[Ed. I use bold type to indicate words and passages where Jones resorts to  Greek in his original text.  I have used Jones's translations.]


WE are met in consequence of a challenge given by Professor Blackie at the Annual Soiree of the Edinburgh Working Men's Club and Institute.  It is not I who sought this controversy; it is not I who ventured to intrude upon your time; but when a challenge was given to principles in which I believe, and which, with the best of my humble powers, I am determined to defend, and when my name was coupled with that challenge, I felt it to be my duty as a citizen, and my duty to myself, not to shrink from the encounter, but to trust in the candour of a Scottish audience, however varying in opinion, as no doubt we are to-night, and not basely to desert my colours when battle had been offered.

    Before, however, proceeding to address you in answer to the observations made with so much ability last night, I must take exception at one line of argument pursued by the learned Professor.  He assumed throughout that democracy meant the rule of the working classes, to the exclusion of all others; and then he reasoned as though the working classes were a mob, the ochlos, and not the demos.  He denounces licence, and calls it "liberty;" he advocates tyranny, and names it "order." Democracy means not the rule of a class, but of a nation—it comprehends all, it tempers one class with another—it does not exclude the peer or the prince; on the contrary, it embraces them, it harmonises them—a peerage may flourish in its midst, and a throne is but the representative of one of its highest and noblest forms.  There may be democracy under a king as well as under a president; and that system of checks and counter-checks, that tempering influence to which allusion has been made, is perhaps more perfectly realised under a democracy than under any other form.

    We have been invited to condemn democratic institutions upon several grounds.  First, because they are asserted to have failed in various countries and ages.  I join issue with the conclusions drawn from those precedents.  Before it is permissible to argue from a former failure, that democracy would be injurious in the present day, it is requisite to show that the conditions in both cases are the same.  I believe in the progressive development of the human mind.  I believe that the human race possesses one great collective life, having its infancy, and ripening to its manhood; and I protest against demanding from the infancy of nations that which their maturity can alone achieve.  I protest against measuring the child by the standard of the man.

    Before my learned opponent is entitled to say, that because, as he alleges, democracy failed in ancient Greece and Italy, it must fail with us as well, he is bound to show that there is no difference between heathen Athens or pagan Rome, and Christian Britain in the nineteenth century.

    Before he is entitled to say that, as he alleges, democracy failed in modern France, therefore it must fail in modern England too, he is bound to show that there is no difference between a country bowed for seven centuries beneath oppression terrible to contemplate, and our own, where

"Freedom broadens slowly down
 From precedent to precedent;"

between France, where bigotry and atheism divided the public mind, and Britain, where, with all her faults, religion still sits throned upon the people's hearts; between France, where licentious tyranny mocked at every virtue and trampled on every right, and Britain, where the virtues of the throne are but an emblem of the virtues of the nation; between the land of Charles the Ninth and Louis Quinze, and the empire of Elizabeth and Queen Victoria.

    Before he has a right to say that democracy fails in Australia, and therefore must fail in Scotland too, he must show us that there is no difference between this glorious country and this noble people, and the colonies to which gold diggings lured the adventurous avarice of the world, and the undisciplined swarms of coolie immigrants, to mingle with the convict population of the Motherland.

    Before he can be permitted to say, that because, under a supposed democracy, licentiousness and corruption reign in New York, they would reign in Edinburgh also, he must prove that the seaside midden, which receives and retains the refuse of the world, is on an equality with the Athens of the North.

    But I will meet him on the ground himself has chosen.  I will go with him to ancient Greece; I will follow him to classic Rome; I will accompany him to revolutionary France; I will walk by his side through our Australian colonies, and attend his footsteps to republican America; and I undertake to show that, in them all, democracy has been the founder and saviour of the people's greatness.

    I ask him to come with me to the ancient world.  No doubt he has lingered long within its confines.

He saw the cities of many nations [men], and became acquainted with their constitutions [or their habits and customs]

though, perhaps, the whole line scarcely applies to him.

    Come with me to Athens.—The reforms of Kleisthenes gave birth to Athenian democracy.  Before them, it cannot be said to have existed.  Before them, the four Ionic tribes, to which admission could be gained only by the phratriæ and gentes, ruled Athens as an aristocratic and moneyed oligarchy.    Kleisthenes sought to destroy their power, and give the vote even to resident aliens and emancipated slaves.  How did your aristocracy and moneyed class now act?  They, Athenian citizens,—they, the guardians of the State,—called in the hereditary enemies of the country, the royalist armies of Sparta, betrayed Athens and all its strongholds to the foe, and instituted a reign of terror, in which Kleisthenes and seven hundred patriot families were banished out of that little community.  But the people rose in their might, after all seemed lost for ever; they rose, and fought, and conquered; the foul tyrants were displaced; the cruel invader was expelled; the exiles returned in triumph; the reforms of Kleisthenes were enacted, and democracy reigned in Athens.   Now, mark what was its effect.  Herodotus, the Greek historian, tells us:­-

"The Athenians accordingly increased in power; and equality of rights shows, not in one instance only, but in every way, what an excellent thing it is.  For the Athenians, when governed by tyrants, were superior in war to none of their neighbours; but, when freed from tyrants, became by far the first." [1]

    Grote, our own great historian of Greece, says, alluding to that very passage of Herodotus:­-

"Stronger expressions cannot be found to depict the rapid improvement wrought in the Athenian people by their new democracy.  Of course, this did not arise merely from suspension of previous cruelties, or better laws, or better administration.  These, indeed, were essential conditions; but the active transforming cause here was, the principle and system of which such amendments formed the detail, the grand new idea of a sovereign people composed of free and equal citizens, or liberty and equality—to use words which so profoundly moved the French nation half a century ago.  It was this comprehensive political idea which acted with electric effect upon the Athenians, creating within them a host of sentiments, motives, sympathies, and capacities, to which they had before been strangers.

Among the Athenian citizens, certainly, it (democracy) produced a strength and unanimity of positive political sentiment, such as has rarely been seen in the history of mankind, which excites our surprise and admiration all the more when we compare it with the apathy which had preceded."

The democracy was the first creative cause of that astonishing, personal, and many-sided energy which marked the Athenian character for a century downwards from Kleisthenes; that the same ultra-Hellenic activity did not longer continue is referable to other causes, which will be hereafter explained."

    Yes! note the contrast.  Democracy repelled the mighty armaments of Persia; aristocracy surrendered the country to the tyranny of Sparta!

    But mark, once more.  From some of those "other causes" to which Grote alludes, aristocracy and plutocracy resumed sway in Athens when Pericles, a descendant from Kleisthenes on the female side, destroyed the tyrannical power of the Areopagus, and established the dicasteries or jury courts, which restored democracy.

    Now mark: here you have, in one dramatic picture, the relative merits of democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy placed side by side.  How did the aristocracy, which comprised the moneyed class of Athens, behave?  They opposed the building of the long walls connecting Athens with its ports, and essential for the very independence of the State, because, if those walls were built, they could no longer maintain their own supremacy by rendering their country a slave of Sparta.  Again, they called those very Spartans in; a bloody and undecided battle was fought within sight of the capital; and even, when this infamy did not avail them, they resorted to assassination, and a Bœotian, hired by them, murdered Ephialtes, the great friend and ally of Pericles in his reforms.  When my learned opponent alluded to the bowl of Socrates, why did he forget the dagger of Ephialtes?

    Now look at monarchy.  The joint kings of Sparta, who came at the beck of the rich and high-born in Athens to drown her liberties in blood, were Pausanias and Leotychides.  Pausanias was carried dying from the sanctuary, whither he had flown to escape the consequences of his crimes—for he had agreed to betray, for gold, his country and Greece to the Persians; and Leotychides was tried and convicted of having received bribes from the satraps of the great king, and sold for money the cause of Sparta, Hellas, and civilisation, to the barbarians of Asia.

    So much for monarchy and aristocracy in ancient Greece.   Now for democracy.

    Under democracy, Athens rapidly rose to her greatest prosperity and power; and, to quote the words of history, "no state has ever exhibited so much intellectual activity, and so great a progress in art, as was displayed by Athens in the period which elapsed between the twenty years' truce and the breaking out of the Peloponnesian war."

    But judge of it in the words of Pericles—that Pericles who, with the generosity democracy so nobly displays, himself proposed the recall of Cimon, the leader of the aristocratic party:—

"We enjoy a form of government which does not copy the laws of our neighbours; but we are ourselves rather a pattern to others than imitators of them.  In name, from its not being administered for the benefit of the few, but of the many, it is called a democracy; but, with regard to its laws, all enjoy equality as regards their private differences; while, with regard to public rank, according as each man has reputation for anything, he is preferred for public honours, not so much from consideration of party, as of merit; nor again, on the ground of poverty, while he is able to do the State any good service, is he prevented by the obscurity of his position." [2]

    Such was democracy in ancient Greece.  Under it, the human race achieved the most exalted greatness it ever attained, until Christianity brought elements more lofty still to sanctify the mind and purify the heart of man.

Come now to Rome.—There royalty, and there a patrician moneyed caste, had divided the people into two nations—the one a sort of pariah-­race, the other a haughty oligarchy, which passed a law declaring it pollution for the high-born to intermarry with the honest plebeian classes.

    I will describe to you, in the words of our great historian, Macaulay, what this governing class had brought Rome to:—

The plebeians "were excluded from the higher magistracies; they were excluded from all share in the public lands; and they were ground down to the dust by partial and barbarous legislation touching pecuniary contracts.  The ruling class in Rome was a moneyed class, and it made and administered the laws with a view solely to its own interest.  The great men held a large portion of the community in dependence by means of advances at enormous usury.  The law of debt, framed by creditors, and for the protection of creditors, was the most horrible that has ever been known among men.  The liberty, and even the life, of the insolvent were at the mercy of the patrician money-lenders.  Children often became slaves in consequence of the misfortunes of their parents.  The debtor was imprisoned, not in a public goal, under the care of impartial public functionaries, but in a private workhouse belonging to the creditor.  Frightful stories were told respecting these dungeons.  It is said that torture and brutal violation were common; that tight stocks, heavy chains, scanty measures of food, were used to punish wretches guilty of nothing but poverty; and that brave soldiers, whose breasts were covered with honourable scars, were often marked still more deeply on the back by the scourges of high-born usurers." [3]

    Add to this a monopoly of the land, that has its parallel in England and Scotland only.  The free yeomanry were destroyed, and hired labour and slave labour alone cultivated the soil.

    What, think you, would have been the end of this, had it been permitted to continue?  Rome would never have left her mark upon the page of history: her arts and arms, her patriotism and her literature, would never have been the teachers and ensamples of the world, but some of History's noblest and fullest pages would have been a dreary blank.

    Against this the Roman people struggled, and the Licinian Rogations were proposed.  Now mark; for ten years the mighty contest lasted, and yet, during all that time, so noble was the conduct of democracy in Rome, no act of bloodshed, not even a riot, appears to have occurred, though the people, the plebeians, had the physical force upon their side.

    Macaulay says:

"The struggle appears to have been the fiercest that ever in any community terminated without an appeal to arms.  If such a contest had raged in any Greek city, the streets would have run with blood.  But, even in the paroxysms of faction, the Roman retained his gravity, his respect for law, and his tenderness for the lives of his fellow-citizens." [4]

    At length the good cause triumphed.  And what was the result?  Listen to the words of Macaulay:—

"The Licinian laws were carried.  The results of this great change were singularly happy and glorious.  Two centuries of prosperity, harmony, and victory followed the reconciliation of the orders.   Men who remembered Rome engaged in waging petty wars almost within sight of the capitol, lived to see her the mistress of Italy.   While the disabilities of the plebeians continued, she was scarcely able to maintain her ground against the Volscians and Hernicans; when those disabilities were removed, she rapidly became more than a match for Carthage and Macedon." [5]

    Such was democracy in ancient Rome.  Nay! follow the dark current of the years down to later Rome.  Even with Rienzi, the last flame of its long sunset, democracy was the agent that made the parting glory linger for a few brief hours.  And now, what ushers in returning greatness to that classic land?   Democratic Italy, the Italy of Garibaldi, the foremost democrat of Europe; and its foremost democrat is also its greatest man!   The Italy of manhood suffrage is purging bigotry and brigandage from its South; and under circumstances of colossal difficulty, under trials that have few parallels, showing an example of self-denial and moderation, of peace, order, and forbearance, such as democracy alone has ever given to the world, and such as must extort even from my opponent the meed of admiration.

    Do you challenge me with France?  I accept the challenge, and I ask—Is democracy alone to be measured by the standard of the gods?  Do you demand of us perfection, while you concede to yourselves the right to every frailty?  Must we be more than men, while you are permitted to be less?  If you would test French democracy, do not look alone at its excesses.  Ask: What did it find [in] France?  Answer: What has it made of it?  It found France trodden down beneath a feudal aristocracy, which not only robbed the working man of every right, but even by law violated the inmost sanctities of home.   It found the revenues in the hands of financial farmers, who ruined every trade, destroyed every industry, and made the country helplessly, hopelessly, irretrievably bankrupt.  Rapine and usury reigned from end to end, and famine stalked over all the confines of the land.  Bigotry and ignorance upheld immorality and vice, and terror alone kept in subjection the festering mass of misery to which the people had been reduced.  Then the Genius of democracy took this poor benighted people by the hand, and led it from the valley of the shadow of death to the upper lights of liberty and life.  True, by the paths of terror.  True, the guillotine smote as sharply as the sword of battle.  True, fantastic and horrible excesses were committed, like the enthronement of the Goddess of Reason.   No doubt the recoil was terrible, but so had been the repression.  The one was the offspring of the other.  Put your seven centuries of atheism in practice against their few weeks of atheism in theory.  Put the dungeons of your Bastile against their scaffolds of the Place de Grève, and record this difference between them: that in those dungeons seven centuries heard your victims groan, while seven months cleared off the anger of the people.  And add to it this: that our victims were plotting with the foreigner against the State; yours were murdered for private cruelty, and greed, and lust.  Instead of tracing thence a reason for not granting their rights to the people, see what comes of keeping them back, and be wise in time.  But if you would test democracy, look to the results.   What did it make of France?  It found the land held by a few nobles and the people starving; it turned it into six million freehold farms, and gave plenty to the people.  In the land of aristocracy, one lost battle decided the fate of the country.   Under democracy the deluge of banded Europe swept over it in vain, and the occupying armies passed away as trackless as shadows from its sunny plains.  The results:—In the land of St Bartholomew it made religion free.  In the land of the Bastile it made a jury the arbiter of the individual's liberty.  In the land of Louis Quatorze it established Parliamentary representation.  True, a Napoleon now reigns; true, the press is trammelled; true, Parliament has been coerced, though it is slowly but surely recovering its lost ascendancy; but I tell you a people cannot leap at one bound from seven centuries of serfdom to the calm heights of perfected liberty.  You are the very man who tell us progression must go slowly; and yet, when the French people leaped to liberty by the only pathway tyranny had left for them, you reproach them because they have not done that which you yourself declare to be impossible!  Yes, Liberty marches by progressive steps; calm and gentle as a child if you treat her fairly, terrible as an angry giant if you try to chain her down.  The first step was in '79, the second in '30, the third in '48—each time more merciful and more mild; and Napoleon is but one of the outward forms of this transition period—the cloud between one sunrise and another; and even he is obliged to disguise his imperial mantle with the colours of the morning, to reign in the name of liberty and truth, and bow before the virtues of the people.

    Do you taunt me with Australia?  Do you quote against me some unknown clergyman, whose book is not yet published?  Against him I call in aid the authority of Mr Hutton, Minister of Public Works in South Australia, and for fourteen years a member of the Legislature, who tells us that he had, in Australia, the fullest experience of both systems—that of a restricted franchise, and that of democracy.  Under the old system, he says, expense, riot, tumult, disorder, and violence were the rule; under the latter, peace and order are ennobling the country.  But here, too, I say, test democracy by the results.  Is it true or not that our Australian colonies are becoming more prosperous every day?  Is it true or not that they are becoming more peaceable and more orderly every day?  Is it true or not, that they are becoming more intellectual every day?  Are they going downward or growing up?  Let the answer to that question decide the issue there.

    But I am invited to America—the country that spent £600,000,000, and a quarter of a million of its best blood, to preserve the Union and liberate the slave! the country that, having succeeded in both, pays off its debts at the rate of £30,000,000 per annum! the country where the Sanitary and Christian Commission raised for its soldiers £2,000,000! the country whose grand system of free schools is the admiration of the world! the country where, within five years, seven million dollars were given by private individuals to literary institutions! the country of which "wise " men have said it was rushing to bankruptcy and ruin, yet in which, during the war, £5,000,000 were contributed to the establishment of universities! the country where education stands higher than in any other country in the world, and of which the Professor coolly tells us that it cares only for its material prosperity!   What has the learned Professor to say of this great country?   That "there is rowdyism and immorality in New York, and bribery in Albany!" and, very appropriately, he quotes Mr Spence, the apologist of the South, the champion of rebellion, the defender of one of the blackest crimes that man ever committed on men—the slavery of four million human beings.   "In New York!"  But why not tell us of Philadelphia and Cincinnatti; of Baltimore and Pittsburg; of Boston, with its public library, planned only in 1852, yet containing 120,000 volumes, lent entirely free to every inhabitant over sixteen years of age, who merely gives his name and address, with a population so noble that not a book is lost or stolen in a twelvemonth; of Chicago, numbering 200,000 inhabitants, founded only thirty-two years ago, yet already possessing two theological colleges, some of the finest upper schools in the world, and a flourishing university; of that great constellation of order-loving, moral, and prosperous municipalities, that shines along the surface of the land?  Why talk of New York alone, and pick out the one black spot upon the face of the sun?  Why select as your authority a partisan article from a partisan Review, for whose truth there is no single voucher?   Why not ascertain whether you are correct before you make a statement such as that about the Government not daring to levy a tax on spirits because the drunken nation would not permit it, when the fact is that at this very moment brandy is one of the most heavily taxed things in all America?  Why, quoting De Tocqueville, assert that, at Philadelphia, the populace would not allow the negro electors to go to the polling-booths, when the fact is, that when De Tocqueville wrote, there was not a negro who had a vote at all!  It was reserved for democracy to give it to them.  But New York does not represent democracy—it represents that which you created with your system: the Romish-Irish, the refuse of your monarchies and aristocracies—the men whom you have degraded by your class rule in Britain, Germany, and France—swarm there and make it what it is, that it may stand as a foil to the great democracy, and enable us to say—"Look on this picture, and on this."  Such men the rule of the few creates,—they are your handiwork, they come fresh from your hands.  And now behold the children of democracy.  And they stand side by side.  There, in the State of New York, they are.   "God made the country, and man made the town."  Old England peopled the City of New York, but New England fashioned the population of the State!

    Listen to what Dr M'Cosh says of the two:—

"English travellers have given us a picture of the state of things in that city (New York); of its disgraceful saloons with their female waiters, and its drunkenness on the Lord's Day.   No steps were taken to suppress this by the municipal authorities, who owe their election to the Romish-Irish, and a degraded population—the refuse of all countries.  But the State of New York, with its high-toned country population, interfered, and passed a law to stamp out these places of wickedness and temptation.  During the two months—May and June—of the execution of the law, the arrests diminished from 1078 to 502—that is, one-half."

Yes! and since then the State has taken from the City the management of its police, its fire-brigade, and its central park; and is substituting morality and order for licentiousness and licence.  And mark! in the State, manhood suffrage is the law as well as in the City.  Democracy is correcting the offspring of class rule.

    You say—look at New York.  I say—look at America.  Turn from a New York row to that noble spectacle, the re-election of President Lincoln; when, after years of civil war, the bitterest ever waged,—when every passion would be stirred to its profoundest depths, and faction did its uttermost to inflame the partisan,—two hostile parties went to the ballot-urn of democracy, and not a riot disgraced the wide circle of the Northern States, but in majestic peace and order that unequalled people registered the fiat of its will.  You have seen in New York the creation of European class rule; again, I say, behold the creation of democracy!

    Listen to the same authority I have already quoted:—

"The laws favour education, in some States make it compulsory; but in fact it is mainly promoted by the spirit of the people.  The young people remain longer at school than they do in this country, and, as a rule, the common people are all well educated.  The artisan class there, male and female, like the middle class here, can talk with you on the topics of the day, and they know the history of their own country and of ours, and the elements of science, mental and physical."

    Behold the country democracy, according to the same witness:­-

"I wish I could convey you all to a New England village of the better sort, such as I lived in once and again.  I reckon it the finest sight in America, one of the finest sights in the world, to a philanthropist.  The houses are not in close streets like ours, but are separate from one another, and embosomed with trees in a garden, and each with four, five, or, six apartments.  There is sure to be a school, or church, or churches, in the village, but possibly no public-house within five or six miles.  Nearly every man there reads his daily newspaper, and many of them see a monthly religious or literary magazine.  I was in villages with several hundreds of a population, in which there was not a family to whom you could offer a piece of cast-off clothing, or of bread, without giving offence.  To my unspeakable gratification, I found like communities springing up all over the West—in Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, and away beyond the Mississippi, in Minnesota and Iowa."  "A New England village of the better class is a perfect picture of peace on the Lord's-day."

Now behold the town democracy; and I quote from the same source:­-

"I found much the same state of things in the large cities, so far as they are not flooded with strangers."

Hear what Dr M'Cosh says of the factory population:­-

"At the Pacific Mills, Lawrence, Massachussets, there are 4000 workpeople, and it is a beautiful sight to see them so neatly dressed as they go into and issue from the mills.  The females in one department receive a dollar and fifteen cents a day, and in another a dollar and forty-five cents.  The unmarried girls live in boarding houses, which I visited.  They have a common sitting-room, comfortably furnished; and they have a separate dining-hall, where I saw them seated at as comfortable a meal as the middle-classes have in this country; while every two persons have a neatly-furnished bedroom.  The skilled workers get towards 1000 dollars a-year, and the foremen (section men) towards 1500 dollars.  These foremen have houses provided for them, for which they pay 175 dollars a-year, and their houses are each three storeys high, with a front door and eleven apartments.  Connected with the mills are a reading-room and a large library, for which each worker has to pay a small sum.  It is proper to add, that I found the workpeople in a like condition of comfort in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and in other places South and West."

    Such are the effects of democratic government on the mental culture and the material well-being of the people.  It takes those whom your system has corrupted, and degraded, and debased, and turns them into the worthy citizens of the happiest country in the world.  Do you doubt that the same causes would produce the same effects here?  Are we not the same race?  Are they not of our flesh and blood—our brothers and our sisters—immortal souls—those coins of Heaven's treasury, from whom, by your base handling, you have effaced the effigy of the King of kings, but whom the mint of freedom has re-stamped with the image of their God?

    We have made the circuit of the nations and the ages: although the learned Professor has not thought right to allude more than in a passing word to those other instances of successful and beneficent democracy—Switzerland, or the Dutch Republic, which owed its rise to democracy, even though oligarchy ruled in after-days; and although he forgot the great Flemish cities, whose democracies resisted the Burgundians and the French; or some of the commonwealths of mediæval Italy, forgetting that the noblest hours of Florence were those when democracy ruled, and Savonarola led the people; and although, in mentioning South America, he has overlooked Chili, that prosperous and noble democracy, whose public debt stands at a higher quotation than that of Great Britain; [6] and although he has omitted altogether Denmark, and the Spanish States till Ferdinand and Charles the Fifth; and Italy, which at this very moment is standing so gloriously the great transition test.

    Strange that, wherever democracy has reigned, there has society reached its highest development, moral, social, and intellectual.  Nay, the nearer we approach to democratic institutions, the greater the happiness and goodness of the people.  Britain herself bears witness.  She has been called the Ark of Freedom—(is America its Ararat?)—and has she not been the foremost of the nations of the modern world, until now ceding the palm to a nation more democratic than her own?

    And has not this great people, this British people, given the pledges of its fitness to enjoy its right of freedom?  True, you pick out all the dark spots you can.  True, amid the broad sunshine of the summer day, you hunt out the little caves where shadows lie.  Let's have them all!  Where are they?  Oh, you think you have found one: Trades Unions.  But they originated when little children were working sixty hours at a stretch in the factories of England.  They originated when the discharge-note system doomed the independent operative to utter starvation or the workhouse.  They originated when the unions sold pauper children to distant factory masters.  They are strict, no doubt; but do you not flog and brand, and even shoot, the deserter from your army?  They merely ostracise the renegades from theirs.  And have the masters not their combinations, almost irresistible, because they monopolise nearly all the adits to employment?  Do they not now meet and regulate the prices of coal and iron?  Do they not now combine and lock out a little nation at a time?  Why blame the men for measures, even tyrannical, in self-defence?  What were the Corn Laws but a gigantic kind of trades union of the aristocracy, to keep bread dear and starve the working classes?  But have not those trades unions carried the Ten Hours Bill?  Have they not succeeded in wresting from your friends the concession of the factory schools?  Read the history of those unions in the returning bloom on labour's cheek, and the light of intelligence rekindling in its eyes.

    You tell us that our demonstrations are brute force.  But, where have we been for the last twelve or fourteen years? Have we not been utterly quiet, passive, merely sending up our memorials and petitions, laying our arguments before the supreme wisdom of the governing classes?  And they treated those arguments with contempt.  We are ready now to give up our demonstrations to-morrow if you will admit a deputation representing the people to the bar of the House of Commons, respectfully to urge their rights.  We are ready to give up our demonstrations if you will treat the people with respect.  We are not "cattle."  We have a better argument than brute force; but when you spurn our deputations, when you ridicule our arguments, and when you refuse to listen to our prayers—nay, when you invite us to "come out "—when you refuse to give us Reform because you state, "You are apathetic, you do not ask for it: show yourselves; where are you? "—then we come and say, "Behold us, here we are!"

    But now look at the sunshine.  It covers the whole picture. What has been the voice of the masses—that nation within a nation, our working men—whom you would place outside the brotherhood of man?  Show me any great measure, religious, social, political, which they did not either originate or support.  Look at Catholic emancipation; look at the admission of Jews to Parliament; look at the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts; look at the abolition of Taxes on Knowledge; look at the extinction of West Indian slavery; look at Free-trade; look at Reform!  Who were for these?  The men you would exclude.  Who were against these?  The classes who exclude them.  Who sided with the North and liberty?  Who demanded justice for Jamaica?  Who carried out Co-operation against adverse laws?  Who met the charge of drunkenness with a temperance movement, that for its magnitude and excellence has no parallel in any other country?  Go back and tell me who swelled the ranks of the Lollards?  Who followed in the path of Wycliffe?  Who rallied at the voice of Knox? Who resisted the aggression of Laud?  In his own words, "A lot of mean and inconsiderable people."  Yes!  The people,—the very class of whom you say they are not fit to take their rightful share in the government of themselves, yet they were obliged to put right the men by whom you say it is fit they should be governed.

    And how do you treat this noble people?  Is there one spark of generous confidence, one ember of brotherly love, in your breast?  The working men who are electors are scarcely one in eight of the constituencies; indeed, one in nine would be nearer the truth.  The working men who are electors are but one in forty-eight of the male adults of the United Kingdom.

    And on what ground do you exclude them?  Is it education?  I have answered that already, for education is not the lore of schools alone—it is to think rightly and to act honestly in the position God has allotted to you in life.  Education!  Instead of wanting education to fit them for the franchise, they need the franchise to enable them to obtain education.  Look at America, where manhood suffrage has created the best-educated people in the world.  Look at the co-operative societies, where, from their profits, the working men unanimously vote large sums to establish schools and libraries for working men.  Education! give them manhood suffrage, and, in six months, education would be made compulsory throughout the country.

    Again, I ask, on what ground do you exclude them?  Is it property?  The annual income of the working classes is £418,000,000.  The acknowledged income of all the other classes combined is but £326,000,000, though some think about £100,000,000 more is dishonestly evaded.  And yet you assume to base your franchise on property.  You concede a special virtue to a £10 franchise; a franchise that says—John Milton, in a lodging, is not fit to vote, and Jack Sheppard, in a £10 house, is a respectable elector.  But see where your £10 theory will land you.  You say a £10 rental argues superior mental and moral qualifications, and therefore you give it a vote, and exclude £5 because they who pay it cannot be so good and virtuous as the others, and, being more numerous, would swamp all those above them.  But if £10 is so much better than £5, then £20 must be proportionally better than the £10.  Surely we ought to have the wisest and the best to govern us, and preserve them from being swamped by inferior beings!  Then give us twenty-pounders, and away with all below!  But in London and elsewhere there are a few thousand-pounders.  Fancy the virtue of a thousand-pounder!  But these are the least numerous of all.  Why let their superior wisdom and virtue be swamped by the ignorance and vice below?  Why adulterate the superior article?  Winnow the chaff from this imperial corn, and let us be governed by a score or so of most immaculate Dean Pauls!

    And what is this great enigma of choosing a representative? You admit that working men can learn to make a watch or a steam-engine, to fulfil every other function of life—can manage a benefit society, govern a building club, or create and control the colossal commercial undertakings which the Co-operative movement has called into existence.  They can do all this—they can do, and do well, every other thing in life—they can comprehend the doctrines of salvation, and fit themselves for heaven when they die—but they cannot choose between my Lord Tomnoddy and a sensible fellow-citizen as their representative in the House of Commons.

    But when all this is answered—when fitness is achieved—when education is won—all is not enough—nothing has been gained; we are still great criminals, for the Professor has invented a new crime -­the crime of numbers.  We are too many; therefore some of its are to go without our rights.  But who are to be the victims?  Who is to be depontanus?  Who is to decide?  What sin have I committed?  Why am just I to suffer, because I happen to have too many brothers?  That is my father's fault, not mine; punish him, not me.  In some countries, we read, population is kept down by the destruction of a certain number of new-born children.  The Professor wants to introduce a sort of political infanticide.  But I rebel against it.  I have a right to my life, and if so, I have a right to all the rights of life; and the power of looking after my own interests is one of the most important of those rights.  We know that, by a compensating law in nature, where the population exceeds the means of support, the deficiency corrects the surplus.  But, so long as the Almighty gives human life to an immortal soul, and the means of bodily sustenance on earth, are you to step before the prerogative of God, and say to the Deity: "You have created too many; it is not good that these are here; and to punish them for having been created, we will deprive them of their rights, and rectify the error of Providence by the injustice of man?"

    But your whole argument of numbers proceeds on a succession of fallacies.  The interests of the working classes must be either identical with those of other classes, or hostile to them.  If identical, where is the danger?  For, rest assured, men will look after their own interests in the long run.  If hostile, you will agree with me that good government is the greatest possible good to the greatest possible number; and that is a reason why "the greatest possible number" should have it in their power to look after their own interests.  Again, you presuppose that all the working classes, on all questions, at all times, like one vast machine, would all vote one way at all elections; and, that being done, that their representatives would all, with the same regularity, vote one way in Parliament.  There never was a greater delusion.  Sir, there are as many diversities of opinion, as many conflicting interests, among the working classes, as exist in any other class of the community.  And beneath such chimerical fears as these the rights and happiness of twenty million men, women, and children are trampled in the dust!

    But I maintain that manhood suffrage meets your very objection.  It is the only means for obtaining the rule of a safe majority—the government of the better class; the only means for putting an end to corruption and intimidation.  Show me any mode for winnowing the chaff from the corn.  How will you secure the good and exclude the bad from your constituencies?  Your property qualification does not.  Witness Yarmouth and Totness, St Albans and Nottingham, Lancaster and Reigate—the discovered criminals: we say nothing of the undiscovered.  Your education test cannot.  I presume all your present electors can read, and write, and cipher—or where's the use of your £10 test?—and you see what they are worth. Indeed, Sir, our criminal calendars show that nearly all the more serious crimes, excepting those of highway robbery, are committed by persons who can read and write, and that well.   Show me, then, how you will divide the good from the bad.   Show me your Ebal and your Gerizim.  Ascend your electoral Nebo, and, with your limited vision, look into the hearts of men, and tell me who are fit, and who are unfit, to cross your political Jordan into the promised land of liberty.  Now, manhood suffrage, though it may admit the bad (we exclude, of course, every convicted criminal—all Reformers do), is certain to catch the good within its net.  It is the only plan that makes sure of them.  And I believe that the good are the majority of the human race in every Christian land.  Were it otherwise, society could not go on.  I see the proof of it in America, where all are tried.  My opponent says that Christianity has had little influence on politics.  It is high time, then, that it had more.  I believe that Christianity has not been sent on earth in vain.  Wherever evil predominates, States decay.  Turkey dies, though you have tried to save it.  Persia perishes, though it is almost unassailed.

    But democracy is not only the securer of the good, it is the purifier of the bad as well.  Show me how you will stop corruption and intimidation without manhood suffrage and the ballot.  Not by adding a few scores of voters to a depraved constituency.  Instead of cleansing the latter you corrupt the former.  You clear not the fetid pool by pouring in a few drops of crystal water; instead of thus purifying the polluted, you pollute the pure.  You must send the full tide of the stainless river in, before you can wash the corruption away.  Test it by the present.  Where are electors intimidated?  Wherever they are few.  Where are they corrupted?  Where they are not too numerous to be bribed.  Do you hear of venality or coercion in Birmingham or the Tower Hamlets, in Edinburgh or in Glasgow?  Even an approach to manhood suffrage, you see, reduces the evil.  Add to it the ballot, and bribery and corruption are at an end.  Where are the purses that could bribe the majority of seven million electors? and where is the fool to attempt it, when he could never tell how the man he bribed had voted after all?

    But because I assert and believe in the truth and desirability of complete democracy, do not suppose I stand here to resist any sensible, or large, or even moderate measure of Reform that is sound in principle.  I defend that which you attack; but because I do so, and avow my belief in the excellence of manhood suffrage, and because I am determined, in my humble way, to struggle for that manhood suffrage to the last hour of my life, do not suppose I would throw an impediment in the way of any measure that was sound or wise, or that conceded a fair proportion, or rather a fair instalment, of justice to the working classes.

    And is it needed, this great Reform—is it needed?  Are we not walking in the downward path of Rome and mediæval France?  Is not aristocracy doing here exactly what it did there?  In Rome and in France wealth accumulated and the land was monopolised.

    Reform saved Rome from revolution. Revolution saved France from ruin.  Which are we to have here—

REVOLUTION OR REFORM?

Here, too, wealth accumulates in few hands.  Here, too, the earth is monopolised by a few families.  Here, too, as in Rome, our public lands, our commons, have been annexed to the possessions of those who had too much before.  Already the English labourer has to walk eight miles to and from his daily toil.  Here, too, the evil grows.  At the close of the last century we had still 250,000 landed proprietors; now we have less than 30,000.  Here, too, the people shrink and dwindle beneath this system: four times since the great French war has the standard for the army been lowered.  Where is this to end?

"Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
 Where wealth accumulates and men decay.
 Princes and lords may flourish and may fade;
 A breath can make them, as a breath has made;
 But a bold peasantry, their country's pride,
 When once destroyed, can never be supplied."

    There is a party in the country that has called or calls itself Liberal—I call it Whig.  It professes to be in favour of Reform, but it does nothing for it.  It keeps the question open, because keeping it open keeps political capital in its pocket.  I am an utter opponent of the Tories; but I must say this, "Give me a Tory sooner than a Whig."  The Whigs are the political adventurers; they are the place-­hunters; they are the men who dip their hands into the pocket of the people.  They are the men who are the tricky politicians; and on each side of them stand two classes—the thief is in the middle this time—the one is the Tory and the other is the Radical.  Let us have a fight, the Tory and the Radical; but the way to enable us to get at each other is to knock down the Whig from between us.

    I admire the ability of my learned opponent; I respect his straight­forwardness.  I am sorry to lose him from the ranks of real Liberals; I am anxious to regain him.  But I confess I am surprised at such politics in him.  Strange that a man who has revelled in the regions of classic democracy should be the upholder of restricted representation!  Strange that he should fight for a brick-and-mortar franchise, in whose ears the words of Nicias have rung:—

Men form the State—and not walls or ships without them.

Strange that he should be the champion of a lath-and-plaster suffrage, before whose eyes the lines of Sophocles have flashed:­-

Since naught are tower or ship
Bereft of men who dwell therein together.

But he is a philosopher, and has quoted Aristotle and Plato.  I adopt Aristotle's words:­-

The best of all animals, when governed by law and justice, is man; when without them, the most terrible.

    Just so.  Then carry out the maxim you yourself have quoted, and be true to Aristotle by withholding justice from us no longer.  You bid us "learn to know the wisest and the best."  Just so; but pray do give us the chance of electing them when we have found them out.  You mention Plato, who lived and wrote when democracy had sunk beneath foreign swords, and corruption was brought into a virtually enslaved and degraded country; that was democracy no more of which Plato spoke, as witness his own words:­-

This, in my opinion, is a democracy: when the poor, getting the upper hand in the State, kill some and banish others, sharing equally and with the remaining citizens the magistracies and high offices. [7]

    You know, and history proves, that was no picture of democracy in Athens.

    But I, too, will quote from a philosopher, and the authority I quote from is greater far than Plato's.  He spoke in Athens too; he taught in the same city where Plato lived; he exhorted the same people at whom Plato sneered.  That man was Paul, the ambassador of God, before whom the wisdom of the wise is but as the babbling of children, and the teaching of your schools but as the lisping of babes.  You are at issue with his law.

    He told the countrymen of Plato, "God hath made of one blood all nations of men;" but your doctrine would divide one people into many nations.

    He was the minister of One who taught the great law of human liberty—"Brethren, ye have been called unto liberty!"  But you would revoke the edict of our freedom.  "We are the children, not of the bondman, but of the free."  You would despoil its of that heritage of our birthright.

    He taught the doctrine of equality—"I mean not that other men be eased and ye burdened, but by an equality . . . that there be equality."  "Be ye not the servants of men."  "If ye have respect for persons ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors;" but you tell us we must reverence an aristocracy of men!

    "Neither be ye called master.  But he that is greatest among ye shall be your servant;" but you tell us we must pay homage to a House of Lords!

    "Be thou not called Rabbi;" but you wish to have a Right Reverend Father in God, my Lord the Bishop, introduced among the republican Churches of your own country!

    You tell us that the curse of God rests on the rule of the majority; but the very first meeting of the Christian Church, called to elect a successor to Judas, elected that successor in the presence of the Apostles, by an appeal to the majority.  God said, the voice of a majority was to elect an apostle: you say it must not even elect the pettiest borough member!

    Again: at the second meeting of the Church, the Apostles called the multitude together to elect deacons, and they were elected by the majority.  The Apostles did that: the men who would carry out the plan they gave, you call adventurers, demagogues, and enemies!

    Do not say, these teachings apply to spiritual things alone; they were the gospel of liberty on earth as well as in heaven. There is but one truth, and it is universal; for the Almighty is its source.  There is no contradiction, as you assert, in the world-plan of the Creator; what is a truth for the highest archangel is the same truth for the lowest worm that crawls upon the earth.

    Do you deny the application to our earthly affairs?  Then listen:—"What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor?"  "Do not rich men oppress ye, and drag ye before the judgment seats?"  In one year alone, 1864, the last return given,—under the Master and Servants Act, 10,246 working men were imprisoned at the suit of their masters—not one master at the suit of the men! [8]

    "Woe be to them that join house to house, that lay field to field."  Twelve men own about the half of Scotland, one hundred and fifty divide the half of England between them.

    "Woe unto ye, for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burden with one of your fingers."  The cattle-plague legislation will supply you with the most modern illustration.

    "Behold, the hire of your labourers who have reaped your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth, and the cries have entered the ears of the Lord."  The wages of labourers in your aristocratic English counties are 12s. and 10s. and 9s. and 8s.—even 7s. per week.

    You tell us that God made the aristocracy. Listen whether He did:—"Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them: Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great men exercise authority upon them.  But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you shall be your minister; and whosoever will be chiefest shall be the least.  For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister."

    That, Sir, is democracy—its fountainhead and source, its seal and sanction from the King of kings.  Tell me of your Platos and Aristotles after this!

    And the poor were our Lord's special care.  Has He not said, when asked for a sign of His divinity—"The blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them." Yes! last but greatest evidence of all—greater even than the raising of the dead was the raising of the poor!—"The poor have the gospel preached to them."

    The poor can come to the communion of the Lord.  Do you exclude them there because of their numbers or their poverty?  Do you believe that God, who gave them the franchises of heaven, would withhold from them the franchises of earth?

    Oh! let us have more of the Divine Spirit of the gospel in our dealings one with another.  It is the great want of the age. Instead of severing class from class, we need drawing man to man.  Abjure your class distinctions, and mend your Christianity!  "Thou shalt love the Lord with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and thy neighbour as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."  Sir! we are your neighbours.  We say to you, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so unto them."  When you realise this you have democracy, for democracy is but Christianity applied to the politics of our worldly life.

    And now, if one brain has been touched with a nobler thought, if one heart has been warmed by a kindlier feeling, our two nights' labour has not been in vain.  But, whatever the result, we poor soldiers of democracy will struggle on with will unfaltering, and with undiminished faith:

For the price is glorious, and the hope is great.

――――♦――――
 

Footnotes

1.

Herodotus, Terpdschore, 5, 78.

2.

Thucydidea, b. 37.

3.

Macaulay, Historical Note to Lays, pp. 110, 111.

4.

Macaulay, ibid., pp. 112, 113.

5.

Macaulay, ibid., pp. 113, 114.

6.

Since the above was spoken, the Chilian loan of two millions has met with such success, that about eight times the amount required was subscribed.

7.

Rep. viii. 10.

8.

Ed.  Throughout the 18th and into the 19th century legislation designed to discipline labour and repress 'combination' came into force in Britain (and also in British colonies).  The Master and Servants Act (1823) was the culmination of a series of laws designed to regulate relations between employers and their workforce, although pretty much on the employers' terms.  Between 1858 and 1875 on average 10,000 prosecutions a year took place under the Act.  This example is taken from the Bolton Evening News of November 25, 1872 . . . .

FORTY-one men in the employment of Messrs Shaw, Johnson and Reay, of the Moor Inn Works, Stockton, were on Saturday charged before the Stockton Magistrates, under the Master and Servants' Act, with illegally absenting themselves from service on the 9th instant, and the prosecutors claimed 17s 6d as compensation in each case.  A complaint had been laid by the men as to the quality of the coal supplied for puddling purposes, and it is affirmed that a better article was being provided, but the men, instead of submitting their grievance to the Board of Arbitration and Conciliation, of which both they and their masters were members, struck work, and hence these proceedings.  The magistrates ordered the 'night shift' men to pay the 17s 6d each, or go to prison for a month.  The cases against the 'day shift' and 'off shift' men were adjourned.

 



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