WITH this Mr. Spencer
endeavoured to withdraw, and no wonder. But letters from Mr. Greenwood,
Professor Huxley, and a number of new participants, including Auberon
Herbert for the defence, continued to appear in The Times
time longer, and Messrs. Greenwood and Huxley succeeded in dragging from
him another brief confession.
Professor Huxley made him give up his
illustration from physiological principles, and Mr. Greenwood, pressing
him as to whether, as averred by Mr. Laidler, he had ever said that to
right one wrong it takes another, first made him declare that he did not
remember to have said it, and then, pressing him still further, made him
declare he had not said it and to repudiate it if he had.
Although this is a mere side-issue, perhaps
it may be worthwhile, even at this late date, to vindicate Mr. Laidler
and refresh Mr. Spencer's memory. In Social Statics
, Chapter XXI,
'The Duty of the State,' Section 8, may be found the doctrine which Mr.
Laidler referred to, when, in citing Mr. Spencer against Mr. Morley's objection
to land nationalisation, he said, as reported by The Times
Mr. Spencer has said that the land had
been taken by force and fraud. That gentleman had also said that to
right one wrong it takes another.
This in effect, if not in exact words,
Mr. Spencer certainly does say in Chapter XXI, Section 8, in combating
the doctrine of non-resistance. He declares all coercion immoral in itself,
but (using the same terms in the same sense as Mr. Laidler) justifies government
when "it uses wrong to put down wrong." He adds:
The principle of non-resistance is not ethically
true, but only that of non-aggression…. We may not carelessly abandon
our rights. We may not give away our birthright for the sake of peace.
… We may not be passive under aggression. In due maintenance of our claim
is involved the practicability of all our duties. … If we allow ourselves
to be deprived of that without which we cannot fulfil the Divine will,
we virtually negative that will.
I thus take the trouble to refresh Mr.
Spencer's memory and vindicate Mr. Laidler, for, although the latter
gentleman was allowed one letter in The Times
, it was afterwards
that the question was raised by Mr. Greenwood, and I do not suppose that
Mr. Laidler got another chance, The Times
speaking of him contemptuously,
as a Mr. Laidler, and printing his letter in smaller type, although it
was he who first brought out Mr. Spencer, and provoked the whole discussion.
Mr. Laidler's letter, of which neither
party to the controversy seemed to care to take notice, was published
by The Times
on the same day as Mr. Spencer's second letter.
To the Editor of The Times.
SIR: As one of the deputation of members
of the Newcastle Labour Electoral Organisation who recently waited upon
Mr. John Morley, M.P., to ascertain his opinion on certain political
and social topics, I was entrusted by my fellow-members of the deputation
with the question of the nationalisation of the land, and this subject
I discussed with Mr. Morley. In doing so, I sought to back up my position
by quoting the ninth chapter of Social Statics, by Mr. Herbert
Spencer, and I certainly thought I had a good case when I found on my side
the most distinguished authority of our time. To my great surprise, I now
find that in the letters which he has addressed to you, Mr. Herbert Spencer
appears to be very anxious to repudiate the doctrines which he preached
so eloquently in 1850. Now, although it is a common thing for the politician
of to-day to repudiate principles and deductions which he formerly warmly
espoused and to adopt others which he once energetically condemned, one
does not expect the same vacillation on the part of a distinguished philosopher
like Mr. Herbert Spencer. I find it difficult to understand his position,
which seems to be this—that while adhering to his general principles he
abandons certain deductions therefrom. Now, to my mind, the ninth chapter
of Social Statics, which deals with 'The Right to the Use of the Earth,'
seems as true, as logical, and as unanswerable an argument in favour of the
nationalisation of the land as it doubtless appeared to Mr. Herbert Spencer
on the day it was written. Let us trace the course of his argument through
the ten sections of which the chapter is composed.
Giving a short abstract of these ten
sections of Chapter IX Mr. Laidler continued—
In the foregoing digest, beyond one or two connecting words, the language
is that of Mr. Herbert Spencer himself. Does it not constitute an unanswerable
argument in favour of the nationalisation of the land? If the author
would permit it to be reprinted, what an admirable tract the ninth chapter
of Social Statics would be for the propagation of
socialistic* principles! But he now seems to repudiate the offspring
of his own genius! We have, however, a right to ask that, instead of
a vague repudiation in general terms, Mr. Herbert Spencer should tell us
specifically what deductions he has abandoned and why he has abandoned
them. We might then endeavour to answer his answers to his own propositions.
How far Mr. Spencer has tried to answer
his own propositions, we shall see in Justice.
* Mr. Laidler uses
the term "socialistic" in the vague way in which it is so commonly used
in England, and doubtless means land nationalisation principles.