Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)
THE DEMON OF GREED.
What of men in bondage, toiling, blunted,
Are there no wrongs of nations to redress;
One of the most prominent features of our century has been the enormous and continuous growth of wealth, without any corresponding increase in the well-being of the whole people; while there is ample evidence to show that the number of the very poor--of those existing with a minimum of the bare necessaries of life--has enormously increased, and many indications that they constitute a larger proportion of the whole population than in the first half of the century, or in any earlier period of our history.
[[p. 344]] This increase of individual wealth is most clearly shown by the rise and continuous increase of millionaires, who, by various modes, have succeeded in possessing themselves of vast amounts of riches created by others, thus necessarily impoverishing those who did create it. Sixty or seventy years ago a millionaire was a rarity. I well remember, in my boyhood, my father reading in the Times an account of the death of a man (a merchant, I think) who had left a fortune of a million, as something altogether marvellous which he had never heard of before. Now, they are to be reckoned by scores, if not by hundreds, in this country, and excite no special remark; while in America, a country having a much larger amount of natural wealth and of human labor to draw upon, they are far more numerous, reaching, it is estimated, about two thousand.
In our own country the annual produce of labor, from which the whole expenditure of the people necessarily comes, is estimated at 1350 millions sterling; and this amount is so unequally divided that one million persons among the wealthy receive more than twice as much of this income as the twenty-six million constituting the manual labor class. In America the inequality is still greater, there being 4047 families of the rich who own about five times as much property as 6,599,796 families of the poor.
The causes of this enormous inequality of distribution, and of all the evils that flow from it, are alike in both countries--the practical monopoly of the land and all the mineral wealth it contains, by one section of the wealthy, and of what is usually termed capital by another; resulting in the monopoly by these two classes, [[p. 345]] who may both be termed capitalists, of all the products of industry and all the industrial applications of science. This arises from the fact that those who have neither land nor capital are obliged to work, at competition wages, for the capitalists; who, for the same reason, have the command of all scientific discovery and all the inventive ability of the nation, and even of the whole civilized world. Hence it has happened that the development of steam navigation, of railroads and telegraphs, of mechanical and chemical science, and the growth of the population, while enormously increasing productive power and the amount of material products--that is, of real wealth--at least ten times faster than the growth of the population, has given that enormous increase almost wholly to one class, comprising the landlords and capitalists, leaving the actual producers of it--the industrial workers and inventors--little, if any, better off than before. If this tenfold increase of real wealth had been so distributed that all were equally benefited, then every worker would have had ten times as much of the necessaries and comforts of life, including a greater amount of leisure and enjoyment; while none would have starved, none would have slaved fourteen or sixteen hours a day for a bare existence, none need have had their lives shortened by unwholesome or dangerous occupations; and yet the capitalists and landlords might also have had their proportionate share of the increase. As it is, they have had many times more than their proportionate share; the result being that, if we take the whole of the class of manual laborers, little, if any, of the increase has gone to them.
A number of well-established facts prove this. In [[p. 346]] the first place, the most recent estimates of Giffen, Mulhall, and Leoni Levi, gave an average annual income of £77, or almost exactly 30s. a week, for each adult male of the working classes. But great numbers of these, including all the skilled mechanics, miners, etc., get considerably more than this, so that the remainder must get less. Now, Mr. Charles Booth puts the "margin of poverty" in London at a guinea a week per family, the test being that less than this sum does not afford sufficient of the absolute necessaries of life--food, clothing, a sanitary dwelling, and ample firing--to keep up health and strength; and he estimates that there are in London about 1,300,000 persons who live below this margin; and if we add to these the inmates of workhouses, prisons, hospitals, and asylums, we arrive at the fact that about one-third of the total population of London are living miserable, poverty-stricken lives, the bulk of them with grinding, hopeless toil, only modified by the still worse condition of want of employment, with its accompaniments of harassing anxiety and partial starvation. And this is a true picture of what exists in all our great cities, and to a somewhat less degree of intensity over the whole country. There is surely very little indication here of any improvement in the condition of the people. Can it be maintained--has it ever been suggested--that in the early part of the century more than one-third of the inhabitants of London did not have sufficient of the bare necessaries of life? In order that there may have been any considerable improvement, an improvement in any degree commensurate with the vast increase of wealth, a full half of the entire population of London must then have lived in this condition of want [[p. 347]] and misery; and I am not aware that any writer has even suggested, much less proved, that such was the case. I believe myself that in no earlier period has there been such a large proportion of our population living in absolute want--below "the margin of poverty"--as at the present time; hence there has been no improvement in the condition of the mass of miscellaneous unskilled workers, who are now far more numerous than they ever were before. A few reasons for this belief may be given.
Since 1856 the Registrar-General has given the number of deaths in workhouses, hospitals, and other public institutions, for London, and also for England and Wales,1 and in both areas the proportion of such deaths has been increasing for the last thirty-five years. In 1888 the Registrar-General called attention to this portentous increase, which has not yet reached its maximum. The following are the figures, in quinquennial averages, since 1870:
Deaths in Public Institutions in London.
In 1861-65, the earliest five years, the proportion was 16.2 per cent. In 1892-96, the latest published, it was 26.9. And what makes this more terrible is, first, that during this period private charity has been increasing enormously; and, secondly, that almost weekly we [[p. 348]] see proofs of a growing dislike to the workhouse, so that numbers actually die of want rather than apply to the relieving officer. From 1860 to 1885 no less than 130 new charitable organizations had been established in London, and in the next ten years there were nearly 50 more. Many of these were small and local, but others embraced all London, and have continuously increased in power. Dr. Barnardo's Homes, for example, beginning on a very small scale in 1866, have so increased that 5000 children who would otherwise be paupers or criminals are supported, educated, and started in life either at home or abroad. And the Church of England Society for Providing Homes for Waifs and Strays, established only in 1882, now supports about 2000 children. There are in London about forty other institutions of similar character, each supporting from 250 to 1000 children, and fifty others with a smaller number; besides a large number of almshouses, hospitals, reformatories, homes, and charity schools. And all these institutions are constantly appealing for more funds, because they cannot keep up with the ever-increasing flood of want and misery. Then there is the large amount of relief distributed through the Charity Organization Society, with the shelters, the farm-colony, and the extensive rescue work of the Salvation Army. And all this work of relief has been going on and ever increasing, while the numbers of those who spend their last years and die in public institutions has also been increasing, not in numbers merely, but in proportion to the total deaths. And in the face of this overwhelming evidence of the increase of poverty and misery and starvation, the official apologists for things as they are, most writers [[p. 349]] for the press, and most politicians, go on declaring that pauperism is decreasing, because, by more strict rules, out-relief is reduced or refused altogether; while the better class of the suffering poor prefer starvation or suicide to breaking up their home, however miserable, and enduring the servitude and prison-like monotony of the workhouse.
Suicides have indeed increased most alarmingly, from 1347 in 1861 to 2796 in 1895. This is for England and Wales; and the increase in proportion to the population has been from 67 per million to 92 per million. An examination of the records of inquests show that either absolute want or the dread of want is a very frequent cause; and as the other evidence just adduced indicates the continuous increase of want, while the ever-increasing struggle in all forms of trade leads to the continual discharge of men and women who from illness or old age are unable to do the same amount of work as the younger and more healthy, the two sets of facts are seen to be connected as cause and effect. If, however, poverty and unmerited want were decreasing, and the poor were, decade by decade, becoming better off, then the large and continuous increase, for more than thirty years, of deaths by suicide and in public charitable institutions, during the very same time that private charity in varied forms had increased at an altogether unprecedented rate, becomes altogether inexplicable. If poverty had been decreasing, then we should expect the enormously increased and widespread sphere of public charity to have easily overtaken the severer forms of distress; to have reduced the deaths in the workhouse and asylum; to have diminished suicide from the dread of [[p. 350]] destitution; and to have abolished actual death from starvation in the richest and most charitable city in the world. But the facts are exactly the opposite of all this; and I submit that there is no rational explanation of them other than a continuous increase of the extremest forms of misery and want.
Illustrations of the Poverty of To-day.
But these figures, proving the unequal distribution of wealth and the widespread destitution in our midst, however important and expressive to the thinker and the student, do not enable the general reader to realize their full meaning without a few concrete examples of what the poverty of to-day actually is. A few illustrative cases will therefore be given as typical of thousands and hundreds of thousands in every part of our country.
And first, let us hear what the author of the "Bitter Cry of Outcast London" had to say in 1883, the statements in which work, though at first denied or declared to be exaggerated, were proved to be exact by the Commission of Enquiry which followed shortly after. And first as to the places in which the very poor live.
"Few who will read these pages have any conception of what these pestilential human rookeries are, where tens of thousands are crowded together amidst horrors which call to mind what we have heard of the middle passage of the slaveship. To get into them you have to penetrate courts reeking with poisonous gases arising from accumulations of sewage and refuse scattered in all directions and often flowing beneath your feet; courts, many of them which the sun never penetrates, which are never visited by a breath of fresh air; and which rarely [[p. 351]] know the virtues of a drop of cleansing water. You have to ascend rotten staircases which threaten to give way beneath every step, and which in some places have already broken down. You have to grope your way along dark and filthy passages swarming with vermin. Then, if you are not driven back by the intolerable stench, you may gain admittance to the dens in which these thousands of beings, who belong as much as you to the race for whom Christ died, herd together." . . .
"Every room in these reeking tenements houses a family or two. In one room a missionary found a man ill with small-pox, his wife just recovering from her confinement, and the children running about half naked and covered with dirt. Here are seven people living in one underground kitchen, and a little dead child lying in the same room. Here live a widow and her six children, two of whom are ill with scarlet fever. In another, nine brothers and sisters from twenty-nine years of age downward, live, eat, and sleep together."
And so the wretched and shameful story goes on, and the author assures us that these are not "selected cases," but that they simply show what is to be found "in house after house, court after court, street after street"; and that the accounts are in no way exaggerated, but are often toned down, because the actual facts are too horrible to be printed.
And next, as to the work by which they live. A woman, trouser-making, can earn one shilling a day if she works seventeen hours at it. A woman with a sick husband and a little child to look after, works at shirt-finishing, at 3d. a dozen, and can earn barely 6d. a day. Another maintains herself and a blind husband by [[p. 352]] making match boxes at 2 1/4d. a gross, and has to pay a girl 1d. a gross to help her. Here is a mother who has pawned her four children's clothes, not for drink, but for coals and food. She obtained only a shilling, and bought seven pounds of coals and a loaf of bread! Think of the agony of distress a mother must have endured before she could do this! And the fifteen years that have passed, notwithstanding the "Royal Commission," leaves it all just as bad as before. This is what Mr. Arthur Sherwell says, in his recently published "Life in West London," as to the district north of Soho, where there are more than 100,000 persons living below "the margin of poverty":
"Even under normal conditions the pressure of poverty represented by these figures is extreme; but when, as in 1895, the winter is of exceptional severity, the pressure becomes intolerable. Many of the families lived for weeks on soup and bread from the various charitable soup-kitchens in the neighborhood. Every available article of furniture or clothing was sold or pawned; in some cases the boots were taken off the children's feet and pawned for bread or fuel. A number of families, even in the bitterest times of the long frost, lived for days without fire or light, and often with no food but a chance morsel of bread or tea. One family had lived for weeks on bread and tea and dripping. In another room a family was found consisting of the mother and six children (the father had been in the infirmary for seven weeks), who had lived on a pennyworth of bread, a pennyworth of tea, a halfpennyworth of sugar, and a halfpennyworth of milk--every other day, and this was got on credit. . . . In a filthy room in [[p. 353]] another street were found several children entirely naked (this in the severest days of the long frost)! Their mother had been out since morning, looking for work. Several cases were found where the family had been without food (sometimes without fire also) for three days." And while all this was going on, and in one street there were 115 adults out of work, 80 of whom had been so from one to nine months, there were, in the same district, between seven and eight thousand paupers in the various workhouse institutions.
As one more example from a different area we have Mrs. Hogg's account of the fur-pullers of South London, in the Nineteenth Century of November, 1897:
"The room is barely eight feet square, and it has to serve for day and night alike. Pushed into one corner is the bed, a dirty pallet tied together with string, upon which is piled a black heap of bedclothes. On one half of the table are the remains of breakfast--a crust of bread, a piece of butter, and a cracked cup, all thickly coated with the all-pervading hairs. The other half is covered with pulled skins waiting to be taken to the shop. The window is tightly closed, because such air as can find its way in from the stifling court below would force the hairs into the noses and eyes and lungs of the workers, and make life more intolerable for them than it is already. To the visitor, indeed, the choking sensation caused by the passage of the hairs into the throat, and the nausea from the smell of the skins, is, at first, almost too overpowering for speech."
Two women work in this terrible place for twelve hours a day, and can then earn only 1s. 4d., out of which comes cost of knives and knife-grinding, and fines and [[p. 354]] deductions of various kinds. In another room one woman kept herself and a daughter of nine by working all day and earning only about 7s. 6d. a week. When the work was over she was often so exhausted that she threw herself on the bed too tired even to get food. And for these poor people, of whom there are thousands, there is no nope, no future, but a life of such continuous labor, discomfort, and penury, as to be almost unimaginable to ordinary people.
The descriptions now given illustrate the horrible gulf of extreme poverty in which more than a quarter of a million of the people of London constantly live, and into which, sooner or later, are precipitated almost the whole of the million and a quarter who are permanently living below the poverty line, and to whom illness or want of work brings on absolute destitution. And we must note that none of these writers, who really know the people they write about, impute any considerable proportion of this misery to vice or drink, but to conditions over which the sufferers have no control; while it is certain that both vice and drink are very frequently the consequences of the very conditions of life they are supposed to bring about.
And for this condition of things there is absolutely no suggestion of a remedy by our legislators. Better housing has been talked about this twenty years, but if done, how would it supply work, or food, or coals, or clothing? The very suggestion that better houses is the one thing needed is a cruel mockery and a confession of impotence and failure.
[[p. 355]] Dangerous and Unhealthy Trades.
Equally terrible with the amount of want and misery, due mainly to insufficient earnings, want of work, or illness, are the enormous injury to health and shortening of life due to unhealthy and dangerous trades, almost all of which could be made healthy and safe if human life were estimated as of equal value with the acquisition of wealth by individuals.
In Mrs. C. Mallet's tract on "Dangerous Trades for Women," we find it stated that girls who do the carding in the linen trade lost their health in about twelve years; the very strongest picked men in the alkali works as a rule do not live to be fifty; glass-blowers become prematurely old at forty, and sometimes become blind; in the Potteries deaths from phthisis are three times as numerous as among other workers. But all these trades are inferior in deadliness to the white-lead manufactures, in which numbers of girls and women are employed. Some work on for several years without appreciable injury, but the majority suffer greatly in a year or two, many die in a few months, and some in a few weeks or even days. In this trade the percentage of deaths is higher than in any other, and the real amount is never known, because, when the workers become ill, they are usually discharged. They then perhaps work for a time at some other employment, perhaps in another place, and if they ultimately die of lead-poisoning or its consequences, their connection with the dangerous trade is lost. The children born of lead-workers usually die of convulsions, and one woman lost eight children in this way. Mr. Robert Sherrard, in his "White Slaves of [[p. 356]] England," has given a later and fuller account, perfectly agreeing with Mrs. Mallet's statements published three years earlier; and notwithstanding the abuse and denials by interested parties, all his essential facts are fully borne out by the quotations he now gives in an Appendix, from the reports of several committees, select or departmental, which have enquired into the various trades he has described, together with the evidence from coroners' inquests and other sources. Anyone who reads this Appendix alone will be thoroughly convinced of the terrible amount of human suffering and of death resulting from the "dangerous trades" of England, though their total amount can never be fully realized.
And the whole of this destruction of human life and happiness is absolutely needless, since many of the products are not necessaries of life, and all without exception could be made entirely harmless if adequate pressure were brought to bear upon the manufacturers. Let every death that is clearly traceable to a dangerous trade be made manslaughter, for which the owners, or, in the case of a company, the directors, are to be punished by imprisonment, not as first-class misdemeanants, and ways will soon be found to carry away or utilize the noxious gases, and provide automatic machinery to carry and pack the deadly white lead and bleaching powder; as would certainly be done if the owners' families, or persons in their own rank of life, were the only available workers.
Even more horrible than the white-lead poisoning is that by phosphorus, in the match-factories. Phosphorus is not necessary to make matches, but it is a trifle cheaper and a little easier to light (and so more dangerous), and is [[p. 357]] therefore still largely used; and its effect on the workers is terrible, rotting away the jaws with the agonizing pain of cancer often followed by death. Will it be believed in future ages that this horrible and unnecessary manufacture, the evils of which were thoroughly known, was yet allowed to be carried on to the very end of this century, which claims so many great and beneficent discoveries, and prides itself on the height of civilization it has attained? To what a depth of helplessness must the poor be brought, when young girls eagerly throng to these deadly trades, rather than face the struggle for food and life by other means!
And in the midst of this very pandemonium of want and suffering, the rich are ever becoming more rich, and boast of it. The City Press tells us that the increased profits in the City of London during the ten years from 1880 to 1890 were no less than £30,755,283, and it adds: "This is the best evidence that can be furnished of our commercial prosperity." A million people in London without sufficient food and clothing and fire for a healthy life--but great commercial prosperity! Thousands maimed or racked and tortured to death by dangerous trades--but great commercial prosperity! Those who die paupers' deaths increasing in the ten years from 21 to 26 per cent. of the total deaths--but what of that, when we have great commercial prosperity! The average lives of the lower class of artisans and workers in the unwholesome trades being only 29 years, while that of the upper classes is 55 years--millions thus killed 25 years before their time; but then we have "Great Commercial Prosperity"!
With remarkable foresight Professor Cairnes, in [[p. 358]] 1874, wrote that so long as the workers were dependent on the capitalists for employment "the margin for the possible improvement of their lot is confined within narrow barriers which cannot be passed, and the problem of their elevation is hopeless. As a body they will not rise at all. A few, more energetic or more fortunate than the rest, will from time to time escape, as they do now, from the ranks of their fellows to the higher walks of industrial life, but the great majority will remain substantially where they are. The remuneration of labor, as such, skilled or unskilled, can never rise much above its present level."2
The result of a quarter of a century more of this dependence, though the capitalists as a class have become enormously richer, is the state of things here imperfectly depicted. And so it must remain till the workers learn what alone will save them, and take the matter into their own hands. The capitalists will consent to nothing but a few small ameliorations, which may improve the condition of select classes of workers, but will leave the great mass just where they are. For without these thousands of struggling, starving humanity, which furnish an inexhaustible reserve of cheap labor, they believe that they cannot go on increasing their wealth; and they systematically oppose all measures which would utilize that labor for the well-being of the laborers themselves, and thus raise wages from the very bottom. This explains why they ignored Mr. Mather's very moderate scheme submitted to the Select Committee on the Unemployed, as well as the far more effectual and practical scheme of [[p. 359]] Mr. Herbert V. Mills, fully explained in his "Poverty and the State" nine years ago.
A few years before his much-lamented death, that acute yet cautious thinker, the late Professor Huxley, was forced to adopt the conclusions of Professor Cairnes, and those here set forth, that our modern system of landlordism and capitalistic competition tends to increase rather than to diminish poverty; and he expressed them in one of those forcible passages which cannot be too often quoted. After declaring that in all great industrial centres there is a large and increasing mass of what the French call la misère, he goes on:
"It is a condition in which food, warmth, and clothing, which are necessary for the mere maintenance of the functions of the body in their normal state, cannot be obtained; in which men, women, and children are forced to crowd into dens where decency is abolished, and the most ordinary conditions of healthful existence are impossible of attainment; in which the pleasures within reach are reduced to brutality and drunkenness; in which the pains accumulate at compound interest in the shape of starvation, disease, stunted development, and moral degradation; in which the prospect of even steady and honest industry is a life of unsuccessful battling with hunger, rounded by a pauper's grave. . . . When the organization of society, instead of mitigating this tendency, tends to continue and intensify it, when a given social order plainly makes for evil and not for good, men naturally enough begin to think it high time to try a fresh experiment. I take it to be a mere plain truth that throughout industrial Europe there is not a single large manufacturing city which is free from a large mass of [[p. 360]] people whose condition is exactly that described, and from a still greater mass who, living just on the edge of the social swamp, are liable to be precipitated into it."3
But there are yet other indications of our terribly unhealthy social condition besides poverty, misery, and preventable deaths. The first is the increase of insanity, which is certainly great, though not perhaps so large as the mere increase of the insane population. This increase from 1859 to 1889 was from 1867 per million in the former year to 2907 per million in the latter, or more than 50 per cent. faster than the population. But it is alleged that this is mainly due to the accumulation of patients, owing to their being better taken care of than formerly. This, however, is only a supposition, and an improbable one, since it is admitted that in our crowded asylums proper curative treatment is impossible; and the returns of the Registrar-General show that deaths in lunatic asylums are increasing faster than the number of lunatics. (In the seven years 1888 to 1895 the deaths increased 25 per cent.) And in "Chambers' Encyclopædia," the writer who gives the above explanation also shows immediately afterward that it only accounts for the smaller portion of the increase. He says that, if we take the newly registered cases each year, "we find they have only risen from 4.5 to 6 per 10,000 (or from 450 to 600 per million) in the thirty years." But this is 30 per cent. faster than the population increases; and it may therefore be taken as the admitted amount of the continuous increase of insanity among us.
Closely connected with insanity is suicide, and that this has very largely increased there is no doubt [[p. 361]] whatever, as the following table, compiled from the Reports of the Registrar-General, will show:
Dr. S. A. K. Strahan, in his work on "Suicide and Insanity," states that: "Within certain limits the rate of suicide ebbs and flows with the prosperity of a nation," and he says that it has been proved by several Continental writers that the death-rate from suicide "rises and falls with the price of bread." The first statement is undoubtedly true, the latter quite untrue. During the whole period included in the above table the price of wheat was falling from 50s. 9d. in 1859-61 to 32s. 10d. in 1889-91. The price of bread is of no importance when the conditions of life are such that thousands of people have not the means of buying any food at all. Insanity and suicide are both largely due to want, or the dread of want, as the weekly records of coroners' inquests and the police courts plainly show.
Yet another indication of the deterioration of the people, owing to the unhealthy and unnatural conditions under which millions of them are compelled to live, is afforded by the continuous increase for the last thirty-five years of premature births, and of congenital defects in those who survive. The following table showing the proportion to 1000 births, is from the Fifty-eighth Annual Report of the Registrar-General, p. xviii.:
The worst features of this table are the continuous increase it shows, indicating the action of some constant and increasing cause, and the more rapid increase in the latter half of the period, indicating that the conditions are becoming increasingly worse and worse.
It is the common belief that intemperance has greatly decreased among us, and no doubt that is the case as compared with the early part of the century. But as regards chronic intemperance resulting in death, the Registrar-General's figures show us that for the last thirty years it has been increasing:
Here the increase began a little later, but it shows the same alarming fact of being much more rapid in the last fifteen years. For the last twenty years the deaths are given for males and females separately, and we find that the death-rates of the latter from this cause have [[p. 363]] increased with enormous rapidity. While men's deaths from intemperance have increased about 58 per cent. in the twenty years, those of women have increased more than 100 per cent. The causes that lead to this fatal amount of intoxication are various; but no one will deny that the facts here set forth show the existence of something seriously wrong in our social conditions, and that the evil is rapidly increasing.
There is yet one more indication of our deterioration. One of the arguments in favor of national education was that it would certainly decrease crime. Herbert Spencer told us that it would not have that effect; that there was nothing in educating the intellect to have any effect on the amount of crime, though it might have an effect upon its character. And he seems to have been right. Owing to changes in the classification of offenders, in the nature of their punishment, in the criminal law, and in the practice of the Courts, it is not difficult to obtain figures showing a decrease, as is often done by officials who will not readily admit that our systems of punishment have no reformatory action. But a gentleman who has had a lifelong experience of prisons and prisoners, and has made a serious study of the whole subject, arrives at a different conclusion. He tells us that, after a careful examination of all available statistics for the last thirty years, and making all needful corrections for the changes above referred to, he considers it proved that crime has increased, and at a greater rate than the increase of the population for the same period. The result, which he thinks to be as near the truth as can be obtained from prison and criminal statistics, is as follows:
Here we have an increase in the average of the first and last ten-year periods amounting to 46 per cent., while the increase of population in the twenty years from 1865 to 1885 is a little less than 30 per cent.4
The writer imputes this result to the continued growth of our great cities, which bring together both criminals and those who are preyed upon, and by association and opportunity foster the growth of a criminal population. To this cause, however, must be added the increasing severity of the struggle for existence and our cruel and degrading prison system, which together render it almost impossible for first offenders to gain a livelihood by honest labor.
In concluding this brief sketch of the inevitable results of the struggle for existence and for wealth under present social conditions, I call special attention to the fact that so many converging lines of evidence point in the same direction. The evidence for the enormous increase of the total mass of misery and want is overwhelming, while, that it has increased even faster than the increase of population is, to my own mind, almost equally clear. But when we see that insanity and suicide, deaths from drink, premature births, congenital defects, and the numbers of criminals have all increased [[p. 365]] simultaneously, we can hardly help seeing a relation of cause and effect, since the accidental coincidence of so many distinct phenomena is highly improbable, and the first of them--the increase of poverty, combined with dangerous or unhealthy occupations--is admitted to be a true cause, if only a contributory one, of all the rest.
But there is yet another inference to be drawn from the facts and figures which have been set forth in this chapter. If we turn to the table of death-rates in public institutions, we find that they not only increase steadily each quinquennium, but that they increase at a more rapid rate in the later than the earlier years. Dividing the period equally, we find that during the first half the death-rate increased by .21, or rather more than a fifth, while in the second half it increased by .26, or rather more than a fourth. And when we look at the tables showing the amount of suicides, of premature births, of congenital defects, and of deaths from alcoholism, we find that all these also show a much more rapid increase in the latter half, indicating still more clearly the dependence of the latter upon the former.
Now this portentous phenomenon, of the increasing rate of deterioration of our population, is also seen in the rate of increase of individual wealth. Taking the total annual value assessed to Income Tax as the best available indication of individual wealth at different periods, we find the rate of its increase during three periods of fifteen years each to be as follows:
[[p. 366]] This is for the whole of Great Britain and Ireland, and it corresponds with that recent increase of wealth in the City of London which was taken by the writer in the City Press to be a gratifying proof of "commercial prosperity."
Here, then, we have direct confirmation of that "increase of want with increase of wealth" which, when propounded as a fundamental fact of modern social systems in Henry George's "Progress and Poverty," was fiercely denied as utterly unfounded and the very opposite of the truth. The association of the two phenomena is clearly proved by the facts and figures here given; and that association is shown to be not a mere coincidence by the fact that not only the increase, but changes in the rate of increase, are strictly associated; and, yet further, that four separate indications of deterioration which are partially or wholly, due to poverty, to dread of poverty, or to rapid fluctuations of wealth, also show similar changes in their rate of increase.
We have seen that, in Huxley's opinion, all the terrible social evils which have been briefly summarized in this chapter are due to the existing organization of society, and that our present social order "makes for evil"; the late Professor Cairnes was of the same opinion; Frederick Harrison, in 1886, declared that the condition of the actual producers of wealth was then such as to be the condemnation of modern society,5--yet it has since then been getting worse, and all our great thinkers--prophets or poets--have condemned it. Carlyle thundered against its iniquities, but with no clear indications of a remedy; Ruskin saw more clearly that a [[p. 367]] fundamental change in our methods was necessary, and stated clearly, and I believe truly, what the first essential steps of that change must be.6 Tennyson asks us
"Is it well that while we range with Science, glorying in the Time, City children soak and blacken soul and sense in city Slime?"
John Stuart Mill long since warned us that when great evils are in question small remedies do not produce a small effect, but no effect at all. And Lowell says the same in his exquisite verse:
"New occasions teach new duties: Time makes ancient good uncouth;
Yet this is exactly what we have been doing during the whole century,--applying small plasters to each social ulcer as it became revealed to us--petty palliatives for chronic evils. But ever as one symptom has been got rid of new diseases have appeared, or the old have burst out elsewhere with increased virulence; and it will certainly be considered one of the most terrible and inexplicable failures of the nineteenth century that, up to its very close, neither legislators nor politicians of either of the great parties that alternately ruled the nation would acknowledge that there could be anything really wrong while wealth increased as it was increasing. [[p. 368]] Our ruling classes have suggested nothing, and have done nothing, of any real use. They have made fruitless enquiries into particular phases of the evils that were oppressing the workers, and have continued the application of those small remedies that always have resulted, and always must result, in no permanent benefit to the whole people. They still believe that "the Past's blood-rusted key" will open the portal of future well-being!7
7. It is never my practice to condemn evils without suggesting remedies. But in this work it would be out of place to go into them in detail. I give, however, a few suggestions and references in an Appendix to this volume. [[on p. 368]]