Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

 
 
A Democratic Union (S581a: 1900)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter to the Editor printed on page 5 of the 28 October 1900 issue of Reynolds's Newspaper. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S581A.htm


DR. ALFRED RUSSELL WALLACE, the great scientific naturalist and co-discoverer with Darwin of the evolutionary origin of the human species, which has formed the basis of the great series of works by Mr. Herbert Spencer, covering the whole sphere of human knowledge, unfortunately too feeble to attend the Convention, writes to us as follows:--

"A DEMOCRATIC UNION.

     "Now that the forces of militarism and privilege have obtained a new lease of absolute power, with every prospect of its being used to still further extend and consolidate that power to the permanent injury and degradation of the misguided people, some organization for combined action of all the true friends of national and individual liberty is more than ever needed.

     "But in order that such an union shall be really effective it must rest upon principles far deeper and broader than those which either of the great political parties have yet acknowledged. We must not waste our energy on the advocacy of further improvements of the political machine, however much it may need improvement--that is the work which the existing Liberal party is pledged to undertake; neither must we occupy ourselves with further patching up of ameliorative laws which deal only with the symptoms of our various social evils, while their causes are altogether untouched. That, too, is the congenial work of the Liberal politician--work that would be quite unnecessary if our social system were founded either upon justice or common sense.

     "If we really mean to work for freedom, for justice, for the economic and moral well-being of every man, woman, and child in our country, we must decide upon some fundamental principles of action, which, in proportion as they are carried out, will tend to secure that well-being. And in deciding upon these principles let us not be afraid of the parrot cries of 'Impracticable!' 'Robbery!' 'Outside of practical politics!' 'Un-English!' and such like. Many of you remember, as I do, when the ballot was declared to be 'un-English,' that it would degrade the Legislation and deteriorate character. At that time hardly any Liberal or Tory papers advocated it and the Radical papers that did so were utterly despised by privileged classes. This state of things lasted till the death of Lord Palmerston, one of the fiercest opponents of the ballot, but less than ten years afterwards it became the law of the land. It was a common-sense reform. It did some little good, but not much, because it left untouched the powers of wealth and landlordism to bribe and intimidate--because it dealt with a symptom, not with the fundamental causes of the evil.

     "What principles, then, must we adopt as our guides in politics and legislation? In my opinion there are only two which are sufficiently broad in their foundations upon social justice, and sufficiently far reaching in their effects, as to ensure to every Englishman economic and moral freedom.

     "The first of these is equality of opportunity, as established by Herbert Spencer in his 'Justice' and advocated by Mr. Benjamin Kidd in his 'Social Evolution.' This great principle I have explained and illustrated in Chapter xxviii. of the second volume of 'Studies Scientific and Social' under the title 'True Individualism, the Essential Preliminary of a real Social Advance.' (The book will be published by Macmillan on the 30th of this month.) When this principle is thoroughly grasped, it will be found to embody the minimum of absolute Social Justice; and, when carried out to its logical results, it will secure to all alike the same means and opportunities of attaining to economic and social well-being. It will moreover serve as a test, by which to judge of proposed new legislation; and just in proportion as it is carried into effect, will it diminish and ultimately destroy the worst economic and social evils that now abound.

     "But this great principle, though now becoming generally known to advanced thinkers, and admitted to be--as a principle--absolutely sound, is yet too new to the ordinary politician to produce much immediate result. For many years to come its advocacy must necessarily be of a purely educational nature. We require, therefore, something more concrete, less remote from ordinary political ideas and more adapted to immediate beneficial application. We must have something that is, demonstrably, a fundamental remedy and yet, is now, or very quickly may be brought, within the sphere of 'practical politics.'

     "Such a principle I find in the statement, that it is the most important duty and a true function of government to give every needful assistance for the voluntary organization of labour for the good of all. The mode in which this can be best and most effectively carried out is explained in some detail in the twenty-sixth chapter of the volume already referred to.

     "These two principles might, in fact, be worked together. The first would bring about a true individualism which can only exist under 'equality of opportunity.' The second would bring about a simple and purely voluntary Socialism, but in a form and by methods which could hardly be objected to by any true Democrat.

     "By adopting these two principles as the platform of a new Democratic Union, we should, I believe, secure a very wide support and in a comparatively short time be able to create a united party powerful enough to bring about a peaceful, but effective, social and political revolution.

     "At first, of course, the work of the Union would be purely educational, but the education would be most effectively carried on by applying the test of these principles to every proposed social legislation, showing how far these proposals were in agreement with or antagonistic to them and thus deciding whether they should be supported or opposed by members of the Democratic Union."


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