The Gospel of Wealth
And Other Timely Essays
by Andrew Carnegie

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--- Page 166. The Gospel of Wealth - IX Democracy in England


Democracy in England

1. THE most interesting political problem which the world presents to-day is undoubtedly that now pressing for solution in England. For the first time in their history, the majority of her people have power. Henceforth England is democratic. Cajoled, overruled, thwarted for generations by the aristocratic classes, who have doled out to them from time to time only such small measures of reform as were necessary to prevent revolution, the people have never been fully heard. A climax was reached, however, last session, when an act was forced upon the House of Lords which at once transferred power from the privileged few to the masses. It is this fact which renders the situation there so interesting to the political student.

Baha'i Comment

2. To understand the position, it is needful to look for a few moments at the scope of the great act just referred to. The electoral system of England was quite fair when established centuries ago. The centers of population then lay in the south of England, and this district very properly sent to Parliament a majority of representatives. Those were the days when pretty little Bideford in Devonshire was required

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to send sixteen sail against the Armada, while Liverpool's quota was but two. But as population shifted to the middle and north of the island, the great cities like Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, and Glasgow, each sending but two representatives, were offset by the two members from some decaying village in the south. Seventy thousand electors, say in Birmingham or Glasgow, had no more weight than a few hundred in Woodstock or Eye. To aggravate this injustice, the aristocratic landholders kept firm hold of the counties by restricting the right of voting to such as paid a rental sufficiently high to exclude all but the farmers, and traders who were wholly dependent upon them.

Baha'i Comment

3. All this has been changed. The bill of last year gave the suffrage to residents throughout the country districts. Even the hitherto despised farm-laborers are now voters. The total electorate is increased about forty per cent. The squires and parsons who have for generations designated the county representatives, now find themselves powerless against the populace. The influence of this revolution is already seen in the character of the representatives whom they have just returned. The old-fashioned country squire has been discarded, and a rising barrister, rich merchant, or large employer of labor, has taken his place. Most significant was the remark of one of the Liberal managers to me, that he had on his list thirteen titled gentlemen ready to serve the state in Parliament, for whom no satisfactory constituencies could be found, their titles being regarded as elements of weakness before the new voters.

Baha'i Comment

4. Even more important than the vast addition of voters to the electorate is the redistribution of seats which the measure enacts. One hundred and sixty-seven have been taken from the smaller constituencies and given to the great cities. All constituencies less than ten thousand in number have been abolished. What England is and has been, under the rule of a privileged class chiefly intent upon preserving their privileges, and restricted at every turn by feudal traditions,

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is well known. What she is to become under the rule of a democracy, in which no barriers exist between the popular will and its prompt execution, is now the question.

Baha'i Comment

5. To this but one reply can be given. The people of England will proceed to assimilate their political institutions to those of all other English-speaking communities. The institutions will be rapidly colonialized and Americanized. This process began some years ago, and has continued without cessation. And just in proportion as the people have been able to influence their rulers has the movement been accelerated. The record of recent legislation shows only a copying of our institutions.

Baha'i Comment

6. The first and by far the most important step ever taken in this direction was the adoption some years ago of a system of public education. Every child in the land now receives an education equal to that which we bestow. Small fees are still collected from parents, but the local school boards have authority to pay these fees should parents be unable to do so. Attendance is compulsory. The first generation of those who have benefited by this system are now appearing upon the stage of action with the inevitable result: they are radical. Education is everywhere a sure destroyer of privilege. The boy who can read the Declaration of Independence may be trusted to feel its force sooner or later. The doctrine of political equality, once known, enters the heart of man a welcome guest. Following us again, as we have seen, the Electoral Act is a great step toward our plan of equal districts and universal suffrage. Legislation upon law, a department in which Britain has long been considered supreme, has recently been in the direction of combining law and equity, after our practice. The patent laws of England have just been modeled after our own, although there is yet much to be done to bring them to our standard. In regard to married women's property, the year before last witnessed the discarding of feudal ideas and the adoption of our American law upon the subject. In a short time we are to see marriage

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with a deceased wife's sister allowed in England, as it is in other English-speaking lands. If we except legislation upon Irish land, which Mr. Gladstone and every member of the government pronounced exceptional and only justifiable upon the plea of necessity, it would be difficult to point out any change made in the laws of Britain during the past twenty years which is not in the direction of the colonial and republican practice. If we regard prospective legislation, we again find the parent land is politically under the influence of her children; her part for some years is to follow them.

Baha'i Comment

7. England's position is indeed unique among nations. Time was when not only all English-speaking communities, but the thinkers of all nations, looked to her for lessons in political development. The mother of nations was the mother of parliaments. Trial by jury, habeas corpus, freedom of the press, constitutional government itself-all these are her work; but they are of the past, and are accepted as the law of gravitation is, there being no further dispute about them. The world requires the solution of new problems, fitting a more advanced condition; and toward this the fondest admirers of the dear old land must blush to own her contribution has been but scanty. A new English-speaking community, about to found a state, might indeed still look to England, but it would be to learn, not what to adapt, but what to avoid. Instead of standing forth a model, she has become a warning. No state would think of adopting throne, hereditary chamber, primogeniture and entail, union of church and state, or any other of the remains of feudal institutions with which England is afflicted. Her more enterprising children seem to stand reminding her that

    To have done is nothing
    But to stand, like rusty mail,
    In monumental mockery.

      (2) Quoted inaccurately from Troilus and Cressida, Act III, scene 3, lines 151 ff.

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It is not to be supposed, unless Britain's star has set, and Britons are Britons no more, that the people - now educated, and becoming more and more apprised of the truth that they have been indulging in a Rip Van Winkle sleep - win rest content, deprived of the position they once held as the foremost nation of the world, the pioneer in political progress. I am quite sure that Britons are still Britons, a mighty race, whose part in the world, great as it has been, is not yet played to a finish. England has risen from her slumber.

Baha'i Comment

8. The appeal to the people which has just taken place has unfortunately resulted in an equivocal response. For several reasons the towns which voted first have deserted the Liberals for the Tories. First, the Irish vote, from dictates of policy, was thrown against their natural allies, the Liberals. Second, the premature explosion of the issue of church disestablishment on the eve of the election frightened many Liberal churchmen into opposition. The Englishman regards every new question as a bogy, and has to be led up quietly to the object, and accustomed to it before he can be driven on. A third reason, no doubt more potent than a surface view would indicate, was a deep aversion to the Liberal policy in Egypt and in the Sudan,

    (3) The defeat of the Liberals and the decline of Gladstone's influence resulted in part from the disaster to General Charles Gordon at Khartoum, where, failing to evacuate the Sudan as expected by the home government, and unrelieved until too late, he was besieged by the Mahdists and killed.

which resulted in a loss of thousands of lives, and added twenty millions sterling to the budget. A fourth cause is found in the theory of "Fair Trade" as opposed to "Free Trade." Great distress prevails in the manufacturing districts, and many operatives were carried away in the hope that there might be some virtue in the fair trade idea. Thus the Liberals fought at enormous disadvantage in the towns, and lost a great many seats which are safe for them under normal conditions.

Baha'i Comment

9. Turning to the country districts, the reverse is found. All that the most advanced Radical hoped for has been accomplished, and more. The enfranchised voters have turned upon

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their former oppressors, the parson and the squire, and their class, and have driven them from the field. The new Parliament will differ from other Parliaments in nothing so much as this: that the members from the country are Radical instead of being Tory magnates as hitherto. The gains in the counties have equalized the losses in the towns, and all to the advantage of the Radical wing of the Liberal party. Left to struggle with the Tories alone, Mr. Gladstone and his followers would have had a triumphant majority, and been able to carry the Liberal program complete. But here comes in the most important factor of all. As Richelieu says to the king, of Cromwell, "A great man has arisen in England" -Parnell. His triumph is complete. He holds both parties at his mercy. The scales of power are in his hand. In presence of this great fact speculation concerning the Radical program is vain. The question of Ireland overshadows all. Nothing else will be heard of. Not even the reform of the rules of procedure of the House, which is a crying necessity, can be accomplished except by arrangement with the "uncrowned King of Ireland." The natural course would be an alliance between Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Parnell, when probably a few of the Whigs -- Goschen and Hartington - would go sulking to their tents. Rosebery and Harcourt, and even Granville, if he does not finally retire, which is probable, may be depended upon, however, to remain with the advanced wing, which is headed by Chamberlain, Morley, Dilke, and Trevelyan. Even with this alliance it is probable that an appeal would have to be made to the country next year upon the one vital question of Home Rule for Ireland; and as the Liberals would then have the Irish vote, the result cannot be doubtful.

    (4) Since Carnegie is here dealing with events both complicated and critical, it is not surprising that his analysis and forecasts went awry. The parliamentary election of December 1885 had an outcome exceptional in English history. The Liberal Party under Gladstone won a plurality of seats but the combined total of Conservatives and of the followers of Charles Stewart Parnell (1848-1891) equaled it. Parnell was at the crest of his influence. A Protestant, Irish landowner, Parnell hated England. He had consolidated, as far as any man could, the various sects and programs of Irish discontent; his Land League drew sympathy and financial support from America. Though he did not publicly condemn the violent acts of Irish terrorists, Parnell primarily sought to wring concessions from the English Parliament by making himself a nuisance through procedural delays and by dramatizing his cause. Even before the election of 1885 Gladstone has decided upon a measure for Irish home rule; afterwards it seemed a practical necessity. By sponsoring it he split from his party the old Whigs and many of the Radicals. Chamberlain and Sir George Otto Trevelyan (1838 - 1928) resigned from the Cabinet; Rosebery and Morley stayed in; Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke (1843-1911) voted for the bill. The Commons defeated home rule by thirty votes; ninety-three Liberals voted against it. Gladstone resigned and Salisbury returned to office. The other statesmen mentioned are Viscount George Joachim Goschen (1831-1907), member of the Gladstone Cabinet (1888) and, with Spencer Compton Cavendish, Marquis of Hartington (1838-1908), an active Liberal Unionist on the Irish question; George Leveson-Gower Granville (1815-1891), colonial secretary in the Gladstone ministry of 1868, and foreign secretary (1870-1874, and 1880-1885), a firm supporter of Gladstone on home rule; Sir William Granville Harcourt (1827-1904), Liberal.

Baha'i Comment

--- Page 172. The Gospel of Wealth - IX Democracy in England

10. But neither Mr. Gladstone nor the Marquis of Salisbury, not even Parnell, nor any other man, can tell what combination the kaleidoscope of British politics is to form during the next sixty days. It is useless, therefore, for me to speculate further upon it. This much, however, is certain: The democracy are in power, and their measures will be carried, if not this session, then in some early Parliament. And included in these will be Home Rule for Ireland, with rights similar to those enjoyed by the States of the American Union -a further imitation of her giant child by the motherland. When this great question is settled, but not till then, the Radical program of further democratic reforms will be in order.

Baha'i Comment

11. The most important consideration of all is the future attitude of Great Britain toward other nations. Is the British democracy to be pacific or belligerent? Is Britain to continue to embroil herself in wars in all parts of the world? Is she to maintain her costly and useless interferences in the quarrels of Europe? I think not. I believe that the British democracy is to be pacific, and that the American doctrine of non-intervention will commend itself to it. Britain will be more and

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more inclined to follow the example of America in regard to foreign affairs, as she has done in home affairs. "Friendship with all, entangling alliances with none," is to become the common platform of the democracy on both sides of the Atlantic. I believe, further, that it will not be long ere both parties in Britain will pledge themselves, as both parties here have done, to offer arbitration for the settlement of international disputes before drawing the sword. In short, Herbert Spencer's great law will be further vindicated: "As power is held arbitrarily by king or chief the military type is developed, and wars of dynasties and aggression ensue. As power passes to the people the industrial type is developed, and peace ensues."

Baha'i Comment

12. In all this we see the unceasing movement of the various divisions of the English-speaking race throughout the world to assimilate their political institutions, each division taking that which the others have proved to be best. English law is already universal; the decisions of the Supreme Court of Washington are quoted wherever our language is spoken. Religion, too, may be said, in a broad sense, to be universal. Our speech is also the tongue of a hundred million Anglo-Saxons; our literature is also the same, and political institutions are rapidly becoming assimilated. The world is soon to see this community of language, religion, and political forms merge into the great Anglo-Saxon democracy. The child now lives who will see every English-speaking community living under institutions founded upon the extremest view of the rights of man, as formulated in our Declaration of Independence, without a vestige of privilege from birth, without king or aristocracy, without united church and state, without great standing armies, unhampered by primogeniture and entail, with equal electoral privileges and equal districts. In short, with only such slight variations of laws as are necessary to adjust them to differing conditions and climates, the various divisions of the English race will live in peaceful brotherhood, each governing itself as a free and

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independent nation, but held to the others with bonds stronger than those of conquest, feudal dependency, or colonial relationship, and ready to help one another in need. This is the ideal federation of the English-speaking people of the world. It is also the only one possible or desirable.

Baha'i Comment

13. The great parent land, it is true, lags behind at present. It is characteristic of her to be slow; but it is no less characteristic of her that what she once sets her hand to do, that she accomplishes. Twenty years' reign of the people will place her abreast of the most advanced of her children, and twenty years more may restore to her the political leadership of the world.

Baha'i Comment