« VorigeDoorgaan »
and play for us the part that should be played by our own virtues. For that, in few words, is the case. We cannot trust ourselves to behave with decency; we cannot trust our consciences; and the remedy proposed is to elect a round number of our neighbors, pretty much at random, and say to these: "Be ye our conscience; make laws so wise, and continue from year to year to administer them so wisely, that they shall save us from ourselves and make us righteous and happy, world without end. Amen." And who can look twice at the British Parliament and then seriously bring it such a task? I am not advancing this as an argument against Socialism; once again, nothing is farther from my mind. There are great truths in Socialism, or no one, not even Mr. Hyndman, would be found to hold it; and if it came, and did one-tenth part of what it offers, I for one should make it welcome. But if it is to come, we may as well have some notion of what it will be like; and the first thing to grasp is that our new polity will be designed and administered (to put it courteously) with something short of inspiration. It will be made, or will grow, in a human parliament; and the one thing that will not very hugely change is human nature. The Anarchists think otherwise, from which it is only plain that they have not carried to the study of history the lamp of human sympathy.
still distasteful to recall. The bourgeois, residing in the upper parts of society, has but few opportunities of tasting this peculiar bowl; but about the income tax, as I have said, or perhaps about a patent, or in the halls of an embassy at the hands of my friend of the eye-glass, he occasionally sets his lips to it; and he may thus imagine (if he has that faculty of imagination, without which most faculties are void) how it tastes to his poorer neighbors, who must drain it to the dregs. In every contact with authority, with their employer, with the police, with the School Board officer, in the hospital, or in the workhouse, they have equally the occasion to appreciate the light-hearted civility. of the man in office; and as an experimentalist in several out-of-the-way provinces of life, I may say it has but to be felt to be appreciated. Well, this golden age of which we are speaking will be the golden age of officials. In all our concerns it will be their beloved duty to meddle, with what tact, with what obliging words, analogy will aid us to imagine. It is likely these gentlemen will be periodically elected; they will therefore have their turn of being underneath, which does not always sweeten men's conditions. The laws they will have to administer will be no clearer than those we know to-day, and the body which is to regulate their administration no wiser than the British Parliament. So that upon all hands we may look for a form of servitude most galling to the blood-servitude to many and changing masters, and for all the slights that accompany the rule of jackin-office. And if the Socialistic programme be carried out with the least fulness, we shall have lost a thing, in most respects not much to be regretted, but as a moderator of oppression, a thing nearly invaluable-the newspaper. For the independent journal is a creature of capital and competition; it stands and falls with millionaires and railwaybonds and all the abuses and glories of to-day; and as soon as the State has fairly taken its bent to authority and philanthropy, and laid the least touch on private property, the days of the independent journal are numbered. State railways may be good things and so may State bakeries; but a State news
Given, then, our new polity, with its new wagon-load of laws, what headmarks must we look for in the life? We chafe a good deal at that excellent thing, the income-tax, because it brings into our affairs the prying fingers, and exposes us to the tart words, of the official. The official, in all degrees, is already something of a terror to many of us. I would not willingly have to do with even a police-constable in any other spirit than that of kindness. I still remember in my dreams the eye-glass of a certain attaché at a certain embassy-an eye-glass that was a standing indignity to all on whom it looked; and my next most disagreeable remembrance is of a bracing, Republican postman in the city of San Francisco. I lived in that city among working folk, and what my neighbors accepted at the postman's handsnay, what I took from him myself-it is
paper will never be a very trenchant critic of the State officials.
But again, these officials would have no sinecure. Crime would perhaps be less, for some of the motives of crime we may suppose would pass away. But if Socialism were carried out with any fulness, there would be more contraventions. We see already new sins springing up like mustard-School Board sins, factory sins, Merchant Shipping Act sins-none of which I would be thought to except against in particular, but all of which, taken together, show us that Socialism can be a hard master even in the beginning. If it go on to such heights as we hear proposed and lauded, if it come actually to its ideal of the ant-heap, ruled with iron justice, the number of new contraventions will be out of all proportion multiplied. Take the case of work alone. Man is an idle animal. He is at least as intelligent as the ant; but generations of advisers have in vain recommended him the ant's example. Of those who are found truly indefatigable in business, some are misers; some are the practisers of delightful industries, like gardening; some are students, artists, inventors, or discoverers, men lured forward by successive hopes; and the rest are those who live by games of skill or hazard-financiers, billiard-players, gamblers, and the like. But in unloved toils, even under the prick of necessity, no man is continually sedulous. Once eliminate the fear of starvation, once eliminate or bound the hope of riches, and we shall see plenty of skulking and malingering. Society will then be something not wholly unlike a cotton plantation in the old days; with cheerful, careless, demoralized slaves, with elected overseers, and, instead of the planter, a chaotic popular assembly. If the blood be purposeful and the soil strong, such a plantation may succeed, and be, indeed, a busy ant-heap, with full granaries and long hours of leisure. But even then I think the whip will be in the overseer's hands, and not in vain. For, when it comes to be a question of each man doing his own share or the rest doing more, prettiness of sentiment will be forgotten. To dock the skulker's food is not enough; many will rather eat haws and starve on petty pilferings
than put their shoulder to the wheel for one hour daily. For such as these, then, the whip will be in the overseer's hand; and his own sense of justice and the superintendence of a chaotic popular assembly will be the only checks on its employment. Now, you may be an industrious man and a good citizen, and yet not love, nor yet be loved by, Dr. Fell the inspector. It is admitted by private soldiers that the disfavor of a sergeant is an evil not to be combated; offend the sergeant, they say, and in a brief while you will either be disgraced or have deserted. And the sergeant can no longer appeal to the lash. But if these things go on, we shall see, or our sons shall see, what it is to have offended an inspector.
This for the unfortunate. But with the fortunate also, even those whom the inspector loves, it may not be altogether well. It is concluded that in such a state of society, supposing it to be financially sound, the level of comfort will be high.
It does not follow: there are strange depths of idleness in man, a tooeasily-got sufficiency, as in the case of the sago-eaters, often quenching the desire for all besides; and it is possible that the men of the richest ant-heaps may sink even into squalor. But suppose they do not; suppose our tricksy instrument of human nature, when we play upon it this new tune, should respond kindly; suppose no one to be damped and none exasperated by the new conditions, the whole enterprise to be financially sound-a vaulting supposition-and all the inhabitants to dwell together in a golden mean of comfort: we have yet to ask ourselves if this be what man desire, or if it be what man will even deign to accept for a continuance. It is certain that man loves to eat, it is not certain that he loves that only or that best. He is supposed to love comfort; it is not a love, at least, that he is faithful to. He is supposed to love happiness; it is my contention that he rather loves excitement. Danger, enterprise, hope, the novel, the aleatory are dearer to man than regular meals. He does not think so when he is hungry, but he thinks so again as soon as he is fed; and on the hypothesis of a successful ant-heap, he would never go hungry. It would be always
after dinner in that society, as, in the land of the Lotos-eaters, it was always afternoon; and food, which, when we have it not, seems all-important, drops in our esteem, as soon as we have it, to a mere pre-requisite of living. That for which man lives is not the same thing for all individuals nor in all ages; yet it has a common base; what he seeks and what he must have is that which will seize and hold his attention. Regular meals and weatherproof lodgings will not do this long. Play in its wide sense, as the artificial induction of sensation, including all games and all arts, will, indeed, go far to keep him conscious of himself; but in the end he wearies for realities. Study or experiment, to some rare natures, are the unbroken pastime of a life. These are enviable natures; people shut in the house by sickness often bitterly envy them; but the commoner man cannot continue to exist upon such altitudes: his feet itch for physical adventure; his blood boils for physical dangers, pleasures, and triumphs; his fancy, the looker after new things, cannot continue to look for them in books and crucibles, but must seek them on the breathing stage of life. Pinches, buffets, the glow of hope, the shock of disappointment, furious contention with obstacles: these are the true elixir for all vital spirits, these are what they seek alike in their romantic enterprises and their unromantic dissipations. When they are taken in some pinch closer than the common, they cry Catch me here again!" and sure enough you catch them there again-perhaps before the week is out. It is as old as Robinson Crusoe"; as old as man. Our race has not been strained for all these ages through that sieve of dangers that we call Natural Selection, to sit down with patience in the tedium of safety; the voices of its fathers call it forth. Already in our society as it exists, the bourgeois is too much cottoned about for any zest in living; he sits in his parlor out of reach of any danger, often out of reach of any vicissitude but one of health; and there he yawns. If the people in the next villa took pot-shots at him, he might be killed indeed, but, so long as he escaped, he would find his blood oxygenated and his views of the
world brighter. If Mr. Mallock, on his way to the publishers, should have his skirts pinned to the wall by a javelin, it would not occur to him-at least for several hours-to ask if life were worth living; and if such peril were a daily matter, he would ask it never more; he would have other things to think about, he would be living indeed-not lying in a box with cotton safe, but immeasurably dull.
The aleatory, whether it touch life, or fortune, or renownwhether we explore Africa or only toss for half-pence-that is what I conceive men to love best, and that is what we are seeking to exclude from men's existences. Of all forms of the aleatory, that which most commonly attends our workingmen the danger of misery from want of work-is the least inspiriting it does not whip the blood, it does not evoke the glory of contest; it is tragic, but it is passive; and yet, in so far as it is aleatory, and a peril sensibly touching them, it does truly season the men's lives. Of those who fail, I do not speak-despair should be sacred; but to those who even modestly succeed, the changes of their life bring interest: a job found, a shilling saved, a dainty earned, all these are wells of pleasure springing afresh for the successful poor; and it is not from these but from the villa-dweller that we hear complaints of the unworthiness of life. as the average of the proletariate would gain in this new state of life, they would also lose a certain something, which would not be missed in the beginning, but would be missed progressively and progressively lamented. Soon there would be a looking back there would be tales of the old world humming in young men's ears, tales of the tramp and the peddler, and the hopeful emi
And in the stall-fed life of the successful ant-heap-with its regular meals, regular duties, regular pleasures, an even course of life, and fear excluded
the vicissitudes, delights, and havens of to-day will seem of epic breadth. This may seem a shallow observation; but the springs by which men are moved lie much on the surface. Bread, I believe, has always been considered first, but the circus comes close upon its heels. Bread we suppose to be given amply; the cry for circuses will be the
louder, and if the life of our descendants be such as we have conceived, there are two beloved pleasures on which they will be likely to fall back: the pleasures of intrigue and of sedition.
In all this I have supposed the antheap to be financially sound. I am no economist, only a writer of fiction; but even as such, I know one thing that bears on the economic question-I know the imperfection of man's faculty for business. The Anarchists, who count some rugged elements of common-sense among what seems to me their tragic errors, have said upon this matter all that I could wish to say, and condemned beforehand great economical polities. So far it is obvious that they are right; they may be right also in predicting a period of communal independence, and they may even be right in thinking that desirable. But the rise of communes is none the less the end of economic equality, just when we were told it was beginning. Communes will not be all equal in extent, nor in quality of soil, nor in growth of population; nor will the surplus produce of all be equally marketable. It will be the old story of competing interests, only with a new unit; and as it appears to me, a new, inevitable danger. For the merchant and the manufacturer, in this new world, will be a sovereign commune; it is a sovereign power that will see its crops undersold, and its manufactures worsted in the market. And all the more dangerous that the sovereign power should be small. Great powers are slow to stir; national affronts, even with the aid of newspapers, filter slowly into popular consciousness; national losses are so unequally shared, that one part
of the population will be counting its gains while another sits by a cold hearth. But in the sovereign commune all will be centralized and sensitive. When jealousy springs up, when (let us say) the commune of Poole has overreached the commune of Dorchester, irritation will run like quicksilver throughout the body politic; each man in Dorchester will have to suffer directly in his diet and his dress; even the secretary, who drafts the official correspondence, will sit down to his task embittered, as a man who has dined ill and may expect to dine worse; and thus a business difference between communes will take on much the same color as a dispute between diggers in the lawless West, and will lead as directly to the arbitrament of blows. So that the establishment of the communal system will not only reintroduce all the injustices and heartburnings of economic inequality, but will, in all human likelihood, inaugurate a world of hedgerow warfare. Dorchester will march on Poole, Sherborne on Dorchester, Wimborne on both; the wagons will be fired on as they follow the highway, the trains wrecked on the lines, the ploughman will go armed into the field of tillage; and if we have not a return of ballad literature, the local press at least will celebrate in a high vein the victory of Cerne Abbas or the reverse of Toller Porcorum. At least this will not be dull; when I was younger, I could have welcomed such a world with relief; but it is the New-Old with a vengeance, and irresistibly suggests the growth of military powers and the foundation of new empires.-Contemporary Review.
THE SENCHUS MOR: ANCIENT IRISH LAWS AND CUSTOMS.
any disbeliever in Mr. Galton's theories chus Mor is full of evidence of the dewould, after making this comparison, velopment of the ancient Irish mind on be inclined to outstep that patient in the nobler side. Christianity was acvestigator in his faith in heredity. The cepted with enthusiasm from the first descendants of those who lived under preaching by St. Patrick. The pagan Brehon Law adopt methods, all uncon- Irish martyred none of the missionaries sciously, in conformity with the practice or neophytes. Profane learning receives of ancestors whose laws and customs to this day due honor from the Irish were codified 1500 years ago. The race, and it has been well said that the author of Heredity says that progenitors emigrant Kelt is even now the New farther off than great-grandparents are World's missionary. Imagination, which hardly ever represented in their descend- enters largely into the records of the ants by transmitted traits of character primitive epoch of every race-its or feature; but the Senchus Mor tells a dusk of the gods"-irradiates all the different story. The earliest records ancient Irish writings. It is, moreover, show that society was based on the tribal imagination of a peculiar sort, and like system, and something that, for want of nothing so much as that displayed in a better word, may be described as the peasant-talk of to-day and in the ballads clan-feeling is strong in Ireland to this much applauded at fairs. Those same day. One of the myths handed down fairs seem to be important on some to do duty for history represents a niece principle of heredity; for it was estabof Noah and a near descendant of lished by custom, if not by law, that Japheth as among the first colonists of each king attending a fair wore his the Emerald Isle; while to this day it royal robe," as may be seen in the is the amiable weakness of every Irish- description of Cormac, one of the kings man (and perhaps still more of every most sung by the ancient Irish chronIrishwoman) of any pretension what- iclers. Cormac, of the "golden, slightly ever, to claim descent from one or other curled hair," is very like some darling of the Milesian kings. Hospitality to of the people whose glories, when restrangers was by law obligatory in cited by some wandering minstrel much ancient Ireland, and, if ever there were out at elbows, stir the hearts of the a law moulding the character of a na- dwellers in one of the miserable slums tion, then was it this one of the old of Dublin, or the less wretched populaBrehons touching hospitality. In this tions of the poor-and increasingly poor year of grace one thousand eight hun-country towns. It reads: "He stood dred and eighty-seven, the peasants in Ireland delight in verses, and buy them largely, whether as "ha'p'ny ballads,' cheap song-books," or in dearer forms. At the beginning of the Christian era, when Conchobhar MacNessa was monarch of all Ireland, the judicature belonged to poets alone; and the chief Brehon in earlier times was also a poet. Epoch-making judgments were handed down in metrical form, perhaps from the time of Amergin Glungel, the first poet-judge, and contemporary of Moses. There is a sentence in the Senchus limiting the king's power in a very characteristic way. It runs : For the king excels all in testimony, for he can, by his sole word, decide against every person except those of the orders of learning and religion, who are of equal rank with himself." In Erse the word ards" stands for nobles, and "ards" also stands for the learned. The Sen
in the full glow of beauty, without defect or blemish. You would think it was a shower of pearls that were set in his teeth. His lips were rubies. His shapely body was as white as snow. His cheek was like the mountain-ash berry. His eyes were like the sloe. His brows and eyelashes were like the sheen of a blue-black lance.'
The italicized words in the following are exactly what an Irish peasant would now say of some hero, or bard :
The poets of Fail here look upon
This is the Dubhthach who, with St.