J. Morrison (John Morrison) Davidson.

New politics for the people. Let there be light! 1.-Religion. 2.-Politics. 3.-The family. 4.-Economics. 5.-Miscellanea .. online

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the pensioning of the sick and the aged, making the
workers themselves find the bulk of the funds, if
possible. That is the Brummagem idea, and, in the
first Chamberlain Budget, provision will doubtless
be made for its realisation. It will be really a great
boon to the community, for it will go a long way to
wipe out the curse and disgrace of our Poor Law
system, even if its initial form should be imperfect
and devoid of true humanitarian largeness of view.

Again, we shall most probably have an imperative
Eight Hours Day. That will not greatly affect the
pocket of any important factor of the New Toryism,
especially as the product of eight hours' toil has
been fairly shown by experience to equal that of
nine or even ten hours, while the limitation of the
working day will be generally popular with the
" Masses,"

Then there can be little doubt that we shall have
legislation to facilitate the acquisition in fee simple


of small parcels of land by agricultural labourers and
other dwellers in the country. Lord Salisbury and
Mr. Balfour have both repeatedly evinced alarm at
the exceeding contraction of the base of the pyramid
of English landlordism, and their desire to expand
it by creating a host of petty owners or peasant pro-
prietors is unquestionably genuine.

And it need not be doubted they will succeed in
any attempt the}' may make in that direction ; for the
House of Landlords will readily fall in with any pro-
posal that can so easily be demonstrated lo be a
new and powerful guarantee for the permanence of
their own rents and hereditary privileges.

But as for the " dished " Collectivists, alas, it will
do more to defeat their communalising policy than
any other conceivable device of the Individualist
enemy whose forces it will multiply ten, or it may
be, a hundredfold. To my mind, the Leaders of
Independent Labourism have about as much fore-
sight as little children playing with lucifer matches
or edged tools.

In the towns, likewise, a similar course will be
pursued. Advances will be made to enable work-
men to invest in house property, so as to wed the
more selfish element among them to the existing
system of exploitation by landlord and capitalist.
Indeed, whatever " social reforms " are undertaken
by the New Toryism will have for their ulterior object
the broadening of the base of Individualism. That
much may be taken for granted, and just in propor-
tion as that aim is attained will our work as Col-
lectivists be rendered more and more arduous.

With the forces of reaction manifolded under our
very eyes, and with the workers but half-enfranchised,
what can we hope for in the future? Is social
salvation brought nearer to us ? I trow not. Are
we not rather standing at the parting of the ways,
and does it not behove us all to tread such


treacherous ground with unexampled caution ? To
"wipe out the Liberal Party" before its time —
before it has fairlv and squarely completed the
goodly edifice of Self-Government, National and
Local — were indeed " a blunder worse than a crime."
On me the hare possibility of a quarter of a century
of Tory rule acts like a nightmare. Timeo Danaos et
dona fevcntes.


(Published originally before the General Election of 1895.)

God said : I am tired of Kings,

I suffer them no more ;
Up to mine ear the morning brings

The outrage of the poor.

I will have never a noble,

Nor lineage counted great ;
Fishers, and choppers, and plowmen

Shall constitute a State.

And, lo and behold, how these poor mea

Shall govern land and sea.
And make just laws beneath the sun,

As planets faithful be.

And ye shall succour men,

'Tis nobleness to serve :
Help those that cannot help again.

Beware from right to swerve. — Emerson.

N the columns of some not uninfluentia!
journals, correspondents have, of late, been
urging the workers to adopt the heroic
policy of convoking a " Labour Parlia-
ment," to formulate an authoritative program for
the " Masses " — a program that may be duly
served, as an ultimatum, on the Parliament of the
" Classes," at St. Stephens. The order is a large one ;
but it is not without historic precedent, and I had,
at one time, hoped that the Trades Congress might
develop into a true Labour Legislative Assemblage



that should do, for our modern British toilers, what
the Concilium Plebis (Council of the Commons)
achieved for the unprivileged citizens of Ancient
Rome, centuries before the Christian Era. Bu*"
/estina lentc — O, how hnte ! — has ever been the motto
of the Trades Congress.

The way in which the Plebeians of Rome, after
centuries of struggle, eventually succeeded in im-
posing their will on the Patricians is not without
instruction for us, at the present moment. For
purposes of analogy, the Plebeians may be taken to
represent our " masses " ; the Patricians the " classes."
Let us see, then, how, " in the brave days of old,"
the men of Rome worked out the problem.

A Itx (law) (says the incomparable Institutes of Justinian) is
what the Populus Romanus (Roman People) established on the
proposition of a Senatorial Magistrate, such as a Consul. A
plebiscitutn (enactment of the Commons) is what the Phbs (Common
People, estabiishas on the proposition of a Plebeian Magistrate,
such as a Tribune. The Pltbs differ from the Populus as a species
from a yenus, for by the appellation of Populus the whole body
of the citizens is denoted, including the patricians and senators,
whilst by the appellation of PUbs is denoted the rest of the
citizens, excluding the patricians and senators. But, after the
Lex Hortensia, pUbisctta began to have equal force with leges.

How came t>lebiscita thus to obtain the full force oi
leges ? In 496 B.C. the plebs (•' masses ") seceded to
Mons Sacer, or in the language of to-day, proclaimed
a "general strike."

Oh for that ancient spirit which curbed the Senate's will !
Oh for the tents which in old time whitened the Sacred Hill !
In those brave days our fathers stood firmly side by side ;
They faced the Marcian fury ; they tamed the Fabian pride :
They drove the fiercest Quintius an outcast forth from Rome,
They sent the haughtiest Claudius with shivered fascis home.

The upshot of the " strike " was the appointment
of plebeian "tribunes" with very extensive powers
to promote the interest of the *' Masses " and veto
adverse legislation by the " Classes."

The next step was of even greater importance.



It was taken thirty-three years later, 460 B.C., when
the Concilium Plebis (Labour Parliament) received
Constitutional recognition. Its decrees or plehiscita
were made binding on the plebeians themselves, but
without the express sanction of the Senate, they did
not bind the popul us.

In 448 B.C. took place a second " secession " or
general "strike" of the "Masses" against the
" Classes." It materially extended the scope of
plebiscitary legislation and, ten years later, by the
Lex Ptihlica the Senate was required to give its
sanction to plehiscita in advance.

Then came the final blow to patrician authority.
In B.C. 286, a third " secession" took place, and the
famous Lex Hortensia was passed, which, in the
words of the jurist Gains, declared that ^^ plehiscita
should be of force universally, and thus put them on
an equality with comitial (parliamentary) enact-

It will thus be seen that there is nothing essentially
impracticable in the notion of a Labour Parliament.
What the Plebeians of Rome achieved more than
twenty centuries ago ought not to be too arduous an
undertaking for the British " Masses " to-day. It is
after all only a question of intelligent common under-
standing and efficient execution.

To carry out such a notable project money, of
course, would be wanted ; but that need not surely
be regarded as an insuperable obstacle. In a year,
the contribution of one million pennies a-week, from
one million contributors, amountstO;f2i6, 656 13s. 4d.,
a sum equal to a salary of ^200 per annum to each of
the suggested 650 members of a Labour Parliament,
leaving a balance to the good of ^86,656 13s. 4d. But
that balance might readily be raised to ;^i5i,666 13s. 4d.
by reducing the delegates to 325 or one half, without
in the least impairing the efficiency of this new pro-
spective People's House. In numbersas in procedure,


the actual House of Commons is little better than a
well-dressed mob (670 in number), which ought, in
no respect, to be taken as a model for Collectivist

Still though a million halfpennies a-week (^^108,333
6s. 8d. per annum) would be ample wherewith to
establish a genuine Labour Parliament or Council
of the " Masses," it would be well to stand out for
the whole penny as an irreducible minimum, because,
after the formulation of a complete Code of Collec-
tivist Plehiscita — for which a Session, of say six
months, might reasonably be expected to suffice —
it would then be time to proceed, with horse, foot,
and artillery to St. Stephen's, to summon that
ancient stronghold of the " Classes " to surrender,
and surrender, too, at discretion. The undertaking,
though otherwise formidable enough in all conscience,
would, thus essayed, be relatively easy. One-tenth
the money and exertion, spent in any given year on
abortive " strikes," would more than suffice to turn
St. Stephen's inside out. For never was there a
time, since Party Government began, so marked, on
all sides, by a policy of imbecile "drift," as at the
present hour.

Neither the Wrangling House nor the Mangling
House any longer believes in itself, A mysterious
paralysis has seized on the Liberal Party. In
despair it avowedly takes its marching orders from a
conference of provincial party Caucusmongers !

As for the Conservative Party, it has absolutely no
policy. It has merely a task — to defend the inde-
fensible on every hand. If it succeed in supplanting
the Liberal Administration at the next General
Election — a contingency which Liberal atrophy, if
not speedily arrested, will reduce to certainty — what
we have got to look forward to is six or seven years
of utter stagnation, a mere repetition of the intoler-
able 1874-1880 period, varied only by sundry make-


believe "Social reforms " and a " Bloody Sunday"
or two at home, with perhaps a big, CoUectivist-
effacing Jingo war abroad.

It is not a brilliant prospect, certainly, but it is one
that the New Democracy must resolutely set itself
to face by the convocation of a Labour Parliament
or any other expedient, however novel or untried.

One thing, at least, is greatly in our favour.
Be we Christian Communists, Social Democrats,
Fabians, I.L.P's., or even Anarchists, we are all
substantially agreed that the existing Individualist
regime has ceased to be longer tolerable, and that it
is high time to make the most strenuous efforts to
usher in the inevitable era of Collectivism. We have
a common aim, and what is now really wanted is a
common or united mode of giving it the most
effective expression possible.

To do that successfully you must have the hearty
co-operation oi every element of intellect and character,
as well as of numbers, that can possibly be enlisted
in the cause. The brainworkers — Middle-Class men
if you will — are still by far the most important ele-
ment in the CoUectivist movement, and nothing is
more certain than that the nation is not to be saved
by mere workingmanism.

There are already some fifteen alleged specimens
of the genus working man — the professional genus
— at St. Stephen's, and Heaven help Collectivism
if it is to depend for its furtherance on them, or such
as them ! Ignorance, servility and despicable low
cunning are the distinguishing characteristics of
most of them, and even when you do get men, like
John Burns and Keir Hardie, of unquestionable
ability, integrity, and courage, they seem seldom or
never to be able, in the vitiated atmosphere of St.
Stephen's, to rise above the cloudland of petty Trade
Union, Individualistic palliative, into the pure ethlA
of root-and-branch Collectivism.


Our great misfortune is that the Hour of Collectivism
has come, but not the Man. At a juncture hke the
present, an orator and organizer of the mark of
Ferdinand Lassalle, who could say of himself without
empty boast," For every line I write I am armed with
all the science of our times," could renew the age of
miracles. An honest, unsophisticated, Collectivist
G.O.M. might bring back the Saturniaugna — the Age
of Gold.

God give us men ! A time like this demands

Great hearts, strong minds, true faith, and wiUing hands;

Men whom the lust of office does not kill,
Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy,

Men who possess opinions and a will,
Men who have honour, men who will not lie :
For while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds,
Their large professions and their little deeds,
Wrangle in selfish strife, lo, Freedom weeps,
Wrong rules the land, and waiting Justice sleeps.


Someone has described the public as "voting cattle." This
!s a picturesque and unusually appropriate expression. Repre-
sentative legislation produces conditions resembling those of
|)atriarchal times. The representatives take the place of the
patriarchs, and their wealth consists similarly of herds and
flocks. But nowadays these herds are not composed of actual
cattle with horns and hoofs, but of cattle, figuratively speaking,
who, on election days, are driven up to the ballot-box to deposit
their votes. — Max Nordao.

HE late Prince Consort, "Albert the Gilt,"
I can remember, once incurred severe
condemnation in many, indeed in most,
quarters, by expressing the opinion that
*' representative institutions in this country
are on their trial." A member of Parliament
was then almost universally regarded with reverence,
amounting in the vulgar mmd to something very like
worship. He might be worthless enough personally,
but his office at least was sacred, and clothed him
with imputed respectability.

How different is it to-day ! I used to be much
amused at the reception frequently accorded to
M.P.'s, by the old Democratic Club in Chancery
Lane, while it yet flourished. They were apt to be
treated as blind Samsons, good only to be made
" sport " of by the scornful Philistines of unadulterated



Democracy. "What's his Httle game?" was the
inquiry, expressed or implied, in nearly every case.
It seemed to be taken for granted that a Member of
Parliament must be a fraud, a humbug, or an impostor
of some sort, and, indeed, the more open-minded
legislators that came among us seemed largely to
share in that opinion themselves.

The truth is, the Repyesaitaiivc- System is based on a
fiction of the grossest character. The representative
is fabled to be a selfless, collective being, through
whom his constituents speak and act. Before election
he is consumed with zeal for the public interest.
He forgets himself in his anxiety for the welfare of
the community. But, the moment he is elected, he
is a different being. The electors have lost their
authority and he has gained it. He wishes to rise
in the world, and his constituents are the rungs o'
his ladder. He work for the community ? Not
much ! He expects the community to work for him,
if not in one way then in another. Without any
great lack of charity, I think it may be doubted if
there is in the House of Commons to-day, out of the
whole noble six hundred and seventy, one single soul
who can be pronounced altogether disinterested.
Here and there you find a good, well-intentioned
individual, but the sternest virtue cannot wholly
resist the warping influences of such an atmosphere
as is habitually breathed at St. Stephen's. In truth,
the key-note of the entire Representative System is
Ego, and it can never be otherwise.

It is so at home and abroad. Where the system is
most completely developed, there egoism is most
rampant — in Britain, in France, in America, in th(i
Colonies. In every case the Representative System has
conspicuously failed adequately to voice the wants
and aspirations of the democracy. Indeed the two ar'^
in a great measure incompatible. In practice, even
Universal Suffrage does not spell Democracy, but


plutocracy. There is not a single workman in the
American Congress. The Repyescntatht System^ in a
word, is the apotheosis of selfishness, and leads
almost inevitably to the conclusion of the consistent
Anarchist that " the best Governments are the

But, as the world is clearly not yet ripe for
Anarchy by a long way, it remains to be seen if
democracy cannot, with efficacy, assert itself outside
the trammels of the Representative System. When Lord
Salisbury induces the Peers to veto such important
measures as the Home Rule Bill, it is on the express
ground that the democracy has never really sanctioned
them. In a word, he condemns the House of Com-
mons, with its scant and chance majorities, as the
mere voice of obligarchy, and appeals away from it
to the great democracy out of doors. In a word, he
is the champion of the Refevendum and more demo-
cratic than the democracy itself. It is a strange
position, certainly, for the leader of the Conservative
Party to occupy, but his lordship is not the first
builder that has " builded more wisely than he

But why, oh, why, when the Parish Councils Bill
was before him, did he let slip so splendid an oppor-
tunity of ridding us, once and for all, in our basal
institution of the Commune, of "the never-failing
audacity of Elected Persons?" In a rural parish,
there can be no pretence that it is really necessary
to have elected " bosses " to look after the interests
of the parishioners. These, in their proper persons,
are far more likely to decide wisely than the interested
politicians into whose hands they are foredoomed to
fall. The Act indeed makes qualified provision for
Parish Meetings and, in so far, the thin end of the wedge
oi Direct L^f^'ij/fl^WM has consequently been inserted into
the Representative System. But there was nothing except
inveterate custom, to prevent every meeting of the


Parish Council being made a Parish Meeting, where
every adult should be his or her own delegate. Had
that been done — and it can of course yet be done —
the same principle would infallibly in time have
invaded every administrative area, from the Parish
to the Nation.

This wonderful process of transformation has been
going on of late years, under our very eyes, in
Switzerland (as will be seen in next chapter)
and before long it will be completed. As usual,
of course, our wise rulers and instructors have given
no heed to so valuable a lesson in what so intimately
affects the destinies of all " nations rightly struggling
to be free." They do not comprehend the possibility
of dispensing with "Elected Persons" and their
insolent pretentions. But the thing can be done,
and when it is done, we shall then, for the first time
in the history of mankind, realise what democracy
truly signifies.

It signifies that, in the new society thus evolved,
every man will politically be his own legislator;
each will act on his own initiative and control
economically the full product of his own toil. For in
the fall of the Repveseniative System is necessarily
involved the fall of Plutocracy and the extinction of
pauperism, nay poverty. Already in Switzerland,
small in area, naturally poor, and with a dense
population, this has been, in a great measure, the
result, and it will eventually be so wherever Direct
Legislation is had recourse to. Before Direct Legisla-
tion in Open Assembly or by Ballot monopoly-rent will
speedily disappear, because it is not in the nature of
things that one man's will being rendered as legisla-
tively potent as any other's, there should be any toll
paid by one man to another " for leave to toil " at the
resources so abundantly supplied by our common
mother Earth. Whatever rent may arise from differ-
ences in the quality of natural resources will be made a


community fund, to be substituted for taxes, or to
be divided equally among all the producers, as
circumstances may determine.

Communities once free from the trammels and
superstitions of the Representative System State bound-
aries will speedily be wiped out, because very few
questions will affect wide areas. With the decom-
position of the State, society will resolve itself into
its natural units — its abiding constituent elements —
and, in place of tlie State, we shall have a Uni-
versal Republic or World of Communes, and a milen-
nium of peace and goodwill to all mankind.

In the United States the advocates of the
Referendum — an active, growing and eminently en-
lightened body — have thus succintly catalogued its
virtues. They confidently expect it to deliver the
sorely tried Republic from the clutches alike of the
professional politician and the plundering plutocrat.

What the Referendum Will Do.

It will simplify laws.
It will purify the ballot.
It will control monopoly.
It will supplant violence.
It will prevent revolution.
It will make people think.
It will accelerate progress.
It will banish sectionalism.
It will sever party bondage.
It Avill simplify government.
It will reduce taxation to necessity.
It will wipe out plutocratic dictation.
It will prevent the bribery of our law makers.
It will establish Home Rule in every sphere.
It will restore to the people their natuml

It will give us a Government of the people, by



the people, for the people, whose corner-stone is
equal and exact justice, political and economic,
to all.

N-B. — A sign of the growing distrust of Legislatures is, that
in fifteen different States of tfie American Union, Bills will be
introduced this year for the adoption of direct legislation by the
people, on the plan of the Swiss Ininative and Referendum. The
"practical politicians" are to a man the determined enemies of
all such movements to strip them of power.




It is a delusion to suppose that because a Government is
representative it must therefore he free. — John Randolph.

The practice of modern Parliaments, with reporters sitting
among them, and twenty-seven (forty) millions, mostly fools
listening to them, fills me with amazement. — Carlvle.

I do not believe, with the Rochefoucaulds and Montaignes, that
fourteen out of fifteen men are rogues. I believe a great
abatement from that proportion may be made in favour of
general honesty. But I have always found that rogues would be
uppermost, and I do not know that the proportion is too strong
for the higher order and for those who, rising above the multi-
tude, always contrive to nestle themselves into the places of
power and profit. — Thomas Jefferson.

N a speech, a little while ago, Lord Salis-
bury reminded those who threatened the
House of Lords with extinction, of the
manner in which the astute astrologer, in
Sir Walter Scott's " Quentin Durward," averted his
doom at the hands of the crafty Louis XL The
astrologer could not be precise as to the date of his
own death, but he did know that the King's would
follow in three days.



The simile was excellent. Abolish the House
of Lords, and what instructed citizen would ever
dream of protracting the existence of the House of
Commons beyond, say, a three years' period of grace ?
In truth, the Representative System of Government has
been found to be nothing better than a mask con-
cealing from the befooled multitude all the ugliest
features of human nature — personal ambition, party
spirit, vanity, hypocrisy, avarice, lust of power and
general godlessness.

For years I beheld, from the Press Gallery of the
House of Commons, our sorry " Elected Persons " in
full palaver, and every year deepened my abhorrence
of the whole abominable system of which they were
at once the victimisers and the victims. It is hardly
possible to conceive a worse moral school than the
House of Commons. Like the Lords, it can only be
cured by being wiped clean off the slate on which the

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Online LibraryJ. Morrison (John Morrison) DavidsonNew politics for the people. Let there be light! 1.-Religion. 2.-Politics. 3.-The family. 4.-Economics. 5.-Miscellanea .. → online text (page 4 of 13)