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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 55

Stout, Robert, Sir Dunedin, N.Z. Sydney 23rd Augt 1883

page 1

Stout, Robert, Sir

Dunedin, N.Z.

To the Editor of the Argus.

I have just seen a copy of your issue of the 16th. inst. containing a repost of one of Bishop Moorhouse's lectures on the apocalypse. The Bishop on this lecture refers to the resolution of sympathy passed the Australasian Secularists Conference with Messrs. [unclear: Foote] + Ramsay in their persecution. The Bishop has as much right to criticise the action of the Conference in this aspect as I have to referpage break to his lecture. He has however in his critisism done an injustice to the members of the conference.

First. Many sympathise with Messrs. Ramsay + Foote and belive they have been unjustly punished who entirely disapprove of their mode of attaching the popular creeds. When Y I mention that the following amongst others have petitioned the home secretary for their release the truth of this statement will more clearly appear. Herbert Spencer, Professors Huxley, Tyndall, E. Baird, Sidgwick, Knight, Fraser (Edinburgh) Masson, Spencer Baynes (St. Andrews) Revd J. Llewelyn Davies, Dr Abbott H. [unclear: Amger], Dr. Wm. Fairbairn (President Congregational Union), R. Glover (President Babtist Union) The editors of of [sic] the Daily News, Spectator, Academy and Leslie Stephen, page 2 Frances Gallon, J. Cotter Morrison: and some 200 others eminent in literature and science have signed the memorial.

Second. The Bishop has mixed up the Messrs Foote, Ramsay and the secularist conference with the Nihilists, Socialists, Anarchists and the Irish assassins and he led his audience to refer to the cause of nihilism, socialism, anarchism and Irish assassinations was atheism now. I first remark that all the Irish assassions were pious Roman Catholics then I state what cannot be controverted that the majority of the Nihilists have been named in the Dogmas of a church with which many of Bishop Moorhouse's [gap — reason: illegible] [unclear: igionists] desire to unite. So far as I know the leading English secularists are extreme individualists holding views akin to those promulgated in Spencer's page break Social Statics. In Melbourne I also find little sympathy with the socialistic craze. If I were to mix up things as the Bishop has done. I might point to his mild kingsley-like socialism and tell him that it and the German socialism were alike a product of Christ's teaching. In fact that the teaching of the gospels are not those of the political economists whom Englishmen revere. Further I might ask how comes it that in those countries where the christian religion has held and has now the greatest power there is the greatest social unrest. I refer to Russia, Spain, Italy. Compare the safety of property and life in countries where the freethinkers are allowed freedom with the assassinations and robberies in lands where the priest is all powerful and will the page 3 [unclear: post hoe ergo propler hoe] be applicable?

Let us just add that it seems strange to me that the Bishop should imagine that the truth or falsehood of Christianity is to be tested by the actions of its non-believers. If the test was to be the life of its professors would it pass scatheless through the fire? And now leaving the Bishop would you on my eve of depature from Australia permit me to say a word or two about Victorian democracy. In New Zealand there is a general impression that there is a [unclear: near] democractic feeling in Victoria than in any other Australian Colony. I am sorry to state that it is my opinion this impression is erroneous. I apprehend that the highest ideal of true liberalism should be a state in which every one could act as he pleases so page break long as his action did not infringe the liberty of another. Is this the ideal of Victorian liberals? I am afraid that protection has debauched politics. That a mojority's vote can sanction everything seems to me now a part of a Victorian liberal's creed. Alas this is the antipodes of true liberalism. The reliance on state action that protextion has engendered and the building up of Melbourne and other towns at the State expense must also have its evil results in Victoria's future. Let me give two or three illustraions of the action of liberals.
1.The secularists cannot charge admission fees to their Sunday lectures. Churches can charge for their pews. Why should there be such a destruction? Becuase the churches are in a majority.page 4 If the secularists held the control of the voting power would the right to charge for admission to their lectures be decided then. In New South Wales in New Zealand and in Queensland and I believe in South Australia they have this liberty why not in Victoria? When a deputation waited on the Colonial Secratary of New Zealand to urge upon him to adopt the Victorian practice he though the president of the Y.M.C.A. told them that if new rents were charged for the use of a church on Sunday he could not see why tickets for a lecture could not be sold. It is also stated in the Sydney papers that Mr Berry is going to prevent the use of the theatre to the secularists at all on the Sunday as their services are not devotional.page break Is the Chief Secretary of any ministry to be a judge of devotion? I from the Government Railways taking people from Melbounre to St Kilda and the suburbs was their mission devotional? [unclear: Nay] does not the Chief Secretary himself never indulge in a Sunday outing on a St. Kilda promenade. Now why if the object of the secularists was entirely recreational should they be denied their recreation when the Government assists so many thousands to take them to this equal liberty.
2.I note a tendency of Victorian democracy to strip the parliament and executive of political power. The control of the railways is to be vested in a board and a minister even in dealing with civil service promotion must act under commissioners. Ispage 5 liberalism played out? Surely if the executive of a state cannot honestly and [unclear: purely] manage its railways it is unfit for other executive actions? Nay in heaven's name what is it for? Nor do I see that the purity of a government is to be obtained by delegating executive functions to what will be irresponsible commissioners. Of course there are blunders and jobs in a democracy so there are under all forms of government but if a democracy is the ideal form of government the true liberal should sacrifice himself and his party to obtain purity and not attempt to get rid of jobs by depriving the executive of power.
3.As Iillustrating how little backbone there is in some Victorian Liberals let me alude to their action in the opening ofpage break the public library the art gallery + museum on Sunday. Because an irresponsible commission the public library trustees did it some grave constitutional question was said to be at stake and those who talked about Parliament losing its power voted for handing railway management to commissioners. Here again was it not the dread of losing the Wesleyan and Presbytarian vote more than any constitutional question that made many liberals so virtuously indignant at the action of the trustees?

And now let me end by saying that I am deeply impressed by the greatness of Victoria by the Splendour of her institutions by the energy of her citizens and by the kindness and hospitality of everywhere met. I thought it my duty however as one who longs to see thepage 6 democratic sentament strong and the democratic party [gap — reason: illegible] liberal to make the comments I have made and I hope they will not be taken in [unclear: bad heart]

I am etc.