Delivered in the Protestant Hall, Napier, on Wednesday, December 5th, 1883,
Mr J. Sheehan, occupied the chair, and said they were all aware of the object of the meeting, to hear Mr Stout on True Democracy. On such occasions the chairman's function was to say as little as possible, but he must say this for Mr Stout, no man was more competent to speak on such a subject, as for many years the lecturer has made the subject a special study. He springs from the working classes, and he has now worked himself up to the top of the profession, to which he (Mr Sheehan) also belonged. During the last two or three years they had had triennial Parliaments and manhood suffrage, and it was for them to listen to Mr Stout and seo how far they could work these concessions for their own benefit. He might say that they owed to Sir George Grey these two concessions, but for him they would not have had them. He had observed that every man that comes forward for Parliament professes to be a Liberal—until it comes to voting, but then the Conservativism comes in. Mr Stout was an old colleague of his and a personal friend, and he was now going to address them on the question that concerned them most of all—how to secure honest government and small taxation. He thought he would do that satisfactorily, even if he might not convince them, and at the close anyone that differed could give expression to his views. He begged leave to introduce Mr Stout.
Mr Stout, who on rising was loudly cheered, said—Ladies and gentlemen, wo live in this century in times of change, and we live also in times of progress. Perhaps there has been no century in this world in which the progress of the race has been so great as in this nineteenth century. They saw this in the scientific knowledge they had gained. They could refer to no science in which there has not been a giant stride made. Let them take one science—for example, take the science of astronomy, and how many new planets have been discovered during the last hundred years. They know now not only about the courses of the planets, not only about the principle of stars, but within the last twenty-five years by spectral analysis they were able to tell the composition of the heavenly bodies. And take up any science they found its history to contain a record of progress; and, if they only considered the inventions that have been made in everything that surrounds them, what enormous strides the race has made. Take the inventions that have risen out of a better knowledge of electricity, why The steamers on our coast can be lighted with electricity. Who would have believed that one hundred years ago. Not only had they acquired page 2 enormous knowledge of things, not only had they been able to apply their resources to their use, but they had been able to understand the history of their planet. Geology had grown within the last hundred years with rapid and enormous strides. They could now read the history of their planet; they could tell of its prior life, and they could tell of the great development that had been achieved not only in mere animal life but vegetable life also. This great advance that true education had made led them up to the history of their race. They could trace in the language of a people, they could trace in its past records, the advance that man had made; and would it not be strange, with all this growth of education, if they were to make no advance in government, they were not to be better able to decide what was good for the race and for humanity than their fathers were able to determine. Surely, amid those changes that have come over the race, they should be able to see some progress in society, some progress in the forms of government under which they lived, and some progress of what might bo termed the new science—the science of sociology. Just as might be expected they saw a great change if they thought what a king meant in older days. Contrast one of the Greek plays of Sophocles with these days. A king could sentence a woman to living death without any questioning of his power, without any Grecian citizen daring to say he was violating any law, without judge, without ministers, without the sanction or aid of anyone. He had the power of life and death. And if they traced the history of their own country, they would see how they had made advances in government. Consider what power a king had at the time of the Tudors, and, remember, there was no such thing as ministerial responsibility, and practically the people had no voice in the government. Take the history of the Georges, they would see the same thing—it has not been till the reign of the present Queen that Parliament has asserted the power it now possesses. There was practically no ministerial responsibility, and gradually year by year they saw, just as education had advanced, Governments had become more liberal, the people had acquired more power. And they saw this not only in England, but they saw something the world has never yet seen—a vast Republic in America, having fifty millions of people, having the people able to assert their power and authority, and being able without any hereditary rulers to found a government that might bo said to bo the glory of their race. They saw the same thing in the Continent of Europe. They go to France, and they saw there the growth of a power among the people such as the past has not yet witnessed. What were they to say to all this? They saw' in every country where-ever they were, throughout the world, what was termed democracy among them; whether it be good or bad it was hero, and it was their duty carefully to look at its aims, to try and discover the moans it uses to obtain these ends, and to ask themselves what is their duty? They were placed on a vantage ground. Many of them had come from older countries, and with them had brought not only the laws of older countries, but they had also brought their customs and their habits and their modes of thought with them, and it was impossible that they who had been born in older lands could come to this country and forget their past. They brought the ideas and principles of older lands, and in that respect they might be said to be burdened—carrying the burdens of the past, for they could not get rid of their past history, and with it they were burdened, when they attempted to solve any new problem in government or sociology, and they must never forget that they had been trained in a social state to which they were unaccustomed here Happily they came from a country that was in many respects not a democratic country. They saw in England the history of the past. They saw there the power of hereditary rulers. They saw among those who were educated a reverence for hereditary rulers. They saw a flunkeyism of the past, and it could not bo expected that all their flunkeyism had yet vanished. It took a good deal to forget the country from whence they came. He remembered a story—he would not state where the locale was—two or three Germans newly arrived wished to see their Consul, as it was necessary to procure his signature so as to be able to draw some money from a bank. When they were ushered into his presence they bowed themselves in from the door to his august present, much to the disgust of the Consul, who was an old colonist. They had not forgotten their old world training. Two or three years later they had again business with their Consul, but their bearing on that occasion was very different; page 3 there was not bowing and scraping, they smiply shook his hand and enquired after his health—they had become colonized. They who had come from older lands could not get rid of the past, and not getting rid of their past history there was the more need for their seeing that if there were any wrongs in New Zealand the Government of the people must see to them, and if the Government do not see to them it would be the people's own blame. They should look democracy in the face and ask what were its aims, and how were they to carry them, and glance at some of the dangers to which it was liable. He wished to way one word about what might be termed the two political parties—or the standpoint from which all political questions must be discussed. They did not have that tolerant feeling to their fellow colonists which they should have. Though a thing might be plain and demonstrable to them, it might have two sides, and to-night he purposed to say a word about that. They had the Conservative party and they had a Liberal party. He admitted that there was great good in a Conservative party. The Conservative party looked to the past, and asks that the institutions that has brought the race to its present state of development shall not bo altered. The whole of its point of view is continually to the past. It thinks the institutions under which we have lived are suitable for and and our development, and that all change is bad. That is the Conservative attitude. It desires not to change for mere change, and it desires as far as possible to preserve every forward step, and will not ask for change That is the attitude of the Conservative party, and it is a great promise for the future in this respect—when the race learns anything—it may be a mere habit—it is difficult to change that character. There is hope for all reformers, for if a bad thing is bad to change so a good thing is difficult to change, and you have some hope that it will continue in that habit, even if it be good. That is the attitude of the party, and he did not deny that the Conservative party was necessary for the race. But what was the attitude of the Liberal party in viewing this question of democracy. Its attitude is this—it points to the past, and says there has been immense progress, and the government that suited our fathers will not suit us. Were they never to advance in the science of government—they had advanced in all the sciences and in all the arts. The Liberal says no, as everything has grown, as all sciences, all arts have grown, with the sciences and arts government must grow, to keep pace with the sciences and arts. If that be the attitude of the Liberal, let us see something of the true aims of democracy. They might be all summed up in one, though he should look at them in three aspects. The whole science of government, the whole of education, the whole of arts, what is it all for? Why do we have scientific men spending their nights and days to worm some secret from Nature. He replied it was to raise the race, and that should be the only true aim of all true governments, and when they heard people sneering at politicians talking about the human race ho said, whatever that man's head might bo his heart was not right. He submitted that the true man was able at times to sacrifice himself and fight for the good of humanity, and when they got a politician studying himself or his district or his constituency, and not going higher than that, he was not fighting the fight for a good democracy. The three points were, raising the race, raising the individual, and perfecting the State. Here came in what has been practically the difficulty of all Governments, the right of the State and the right of the individual. The whole object of a State was to produce the perfect man, and that Government, that state of society that could produce the most perfect type of manhood, was the State that was fulfilling its proper function, hence it was that there was always the see-sawing between the rights of the race and the individual on the other hand. What was all Nature doing? All Nature was struggling to produce something good. If they went to a hospital, if they went to an asylum, if they went to a gaol—he did not allude to what was the result of accident, but ho alluded more especially to what was the result of chronic weakness—what did they see there. What was meant by prisoners in a gaol, or patients in a lunatic asylum? They might be likened to the chips falling from a turning-lathe—all working to produce the perfect man. Whenever a law of nature was broken, when they did not pay attention to their health, they were physically injured, and if they were physically injured the injury was not only to the individual but to the State; and these were the chips, not perhaps that they suffered for their own misdeeds, but they learned now that they must suffer for the page 4 deeds of their fathers and grandfathers. Nature says she will not allow her laws to be disobeyed, hence it is that they saw in our gaols, hospitals, and asylums such an amount of social wreckage, and here came in the question that struck at the root of the matter, and said that the individual who neglected the laws of health should not inflict an injury on the race. They must see that their moral feelings were not outraged. Man was not only a being with an intellect, but a being with a moral nature, and if they neglected the cry of the sick, if they neglected the cry of those who were mentally deranged, they were not doing such an injury to the mentally deranged but to the community, for they were shocking their moral sense. Whenever they found the cry of the sick and the deranged were not crying in vain, they could always guage the moral superiority of that community. He would point out that they had in all countries that vast problem of social wreckage. Did they think, with all the progress of science and education, that there were no problems to solve by their reformers of government. Though there was a vast amount of wealth in England, something like eight billions of wealth—nearly nine billions in 1882—the wealth of England could be reckoned at £250 per head, while two hundred years ago it was only £109 or less than half. Yet, let them consider the state of England with all its wealth. Out of every 100 persons there were only 31 above actual want, below the 31 there were some who were struggling for a living. What did that mean? They would find nearly a million of paupers were receiving actual workhouse relief, and on the verge of starvation there were many. So that in England at all events the great problem of how to raise the race had not yet been solved, and if they thought what above want meant in England, what they would call above want in the colonies was different to what they meant in England. If they told people in this colony that a certain thing was sufficient food for them, they would be loud in their complaints. This question of the aim of democracy—the raising of the race—this problem is very far from solution, and at the same time the raising the individual, for if the individual was not raised the race could not be raised, had still to be solved. Democracy has certain limits—it has, for example, been said by an eminent American that wheat will not grow without some form of government. In every society, in every state, there must be some safety for a man's earnings, for if a man does not know ho will reap a field, what would be the use of sowing it. There must be some form of police, and there must be something else also, there must be the basis of all government and all true democracy, there must bo equality of conditions. That is a question that raises several others. What is meant by equality of conditions. You will see that there can be no government of the people if some favored persons are allowed different conditions to others. What is meant by equality of conditions? It means this—it does not moan that all men arc equal. If you go into any field Nature is diverse. If you go into any crowd of people, no two men are alike; they have not like natural or moral instincts, and no government can make them equal. Equality in that sense is an impossibility. One shall count as one, and no one count two in the State. This means that so far as government is concerned the Government must look upon one man as one man. And this brings in the consideration of what may bo termed—what is it the Government has to look after, to look after the mere preservation of peace, the mere preservation of order in the State. The Government has to look after other things. There are other things they would not allow any set of men to control, the air they breathed for example. That was necessary for the health of the State, and no State could exist if it allowed any one set of men to control anything that was the life of the State—he meant its land, and he would show them why. For example, if you say that the land is to be left to individual competition, and the State is to exorcise no control over it, you would give control of the State to individuals. Within this fifty miles or that hundred miles he who has the control of the land has the control of the State, and hence it is you will find, if you read past history, that they always put the possession of landed property in a different position to other property. And what ought the State to do in dealing with land? If the State by any law it passes tends in the slightest degree to weaken individuals, if it tends to destroy in the slightest degree the desire of saving which should be implanted in every one of us, if it tends to destroy in the slightest degree the desire of improving land, that would bo an injury to the State. page 5 and interfering in the possession of land, without interfering with this property of the individual. For example, in this colony, if the State had kept a great deal of its land in its own hands and leased it, would it not be far richer than it has been in the past. He knew that this was of slow growth, though twelve years ago he held the same opinion. He stated then that at all events our pastoral lands should not be sold but leased, at the same time giving every encouragement to the lessee to improve the land, He got few to support him, but they found a Government that did not purport to be a Liberal Government, that five years ago, perhaps less, would have refused to receive this, would have condemned it as socialism, gladly accepting such a compromise, and allowing State lands to be leased. The people were beginning to be aware of this fact, that land was unlike all other property; no man created the land, it was the mother of all property, for with the control of the land you have the control of the State and the control of the people of the State, and that was one thing that democracy had set its face against. If they go to England, if they go to Ireland, if they go to Scotland, when the whole of the State lands had been parted with, it was then that the true land question begins, it was then that the consequences were seen of allowing individuals to have control of the land, which was giving them all power, which was utterly destructive of true democratic influence, which was destructive of the equalities of life. He might say that Laveleye, in his book on Primitive Property, puts forth a warning voice to those colonies urging them s0 to frame their laws, and especially form their system of government that the evils of the land system of Europe may not become our evils hero. He thought the land question ought to be different from other property, because of the danger of what might be called socialism. What was the root of socialism? He apprehended that socialism was fighting against the individual. Socialism said this, that man ought to be equal in conditions, not merely relatively to the State, but to each other—the ultra school says everything is to be put into one purse. He said that whatever it might be in the future the race was not ripe for such a condition, and ho went further and submitted to them that, if by any means they could accomplish socialism for one day, they would injure the race in a way they could not conceive of. Individual liberty and freedom make a race great, and socialism is the opposite of individual liberty and freedom, and such was found in those countries where the State had done the most for the people, and where the State was continually interfering in every walk of life. Where do you find the highest humanity? It is the place, the country where the people are urged to self-reliance, where they depend on their own exertions, and where they are not taught to rely on the arm of the State. If time would permit he could point out to them countries all over the world where such existed. Contrast for a moment a modern Yankee with an Austrian, see the difference between the men. Leave the former on a desert island—he would do something. If you
Take thou no thought for aught save right and truth,
Life holds for finer souls no equal prize;
Honours and wealth arc baubles to the wise,
And pleasure flies on swifter wing than youth.
* * * * * * *
Take thou no care for aught save truth and right,
Content, if such thy fate, to die obscure;
Wealth palls, and honours, Fame may not endure.
And loftier souls soon weary of delight.
Keep innocence; be all a true man ought;
Let neither pleasures tempt, nor pains appal;
Who hath this, hath all things, having naught,
Who hath it not, hath nothing, having all.
—Mr Stout sat down amid loud, and continued applause.
Mr T. Tanner then rose and said he had much pleasure in moving a hearty vote of thanks to Mr Stout for his able, instructive, and eloquent lecture. He (Mr Tanner) had felt it a great privilege to listen to such an intellectual treat, and he had no doubt the audience felt the same. There was one point he wished to refer to, and that was that democracy must not arrogate to itself the sole right or power of raising the minds of the people. Great as was democracy, and as much as it might aim to elevate the people, it must not be understood that these were the attributes of democracy alone. He (Mr Tanner) held that Conservatism also sought to elevate the people. The aim of Conservatism was also the progress and well-being of all classes of the community. He did not himself pose as a Conservative, but as a Liberal. Still he thought Conservatism deserved a good word. He hoped they would give a good British "Hurrah" in answer to the proposition. Mr Tanner here led off the applause, which was enthusiastically taken up by the entire audience, the cheering continuing for some time.
Mr John Begg rose to second the motion amid applause, and in so doing hoped that something would be made of Toryism yet. He hoped Mr Stout would re-enter the House, and extirpate Vogelism root and branch.
The Chairman then put the motion. He said that some of the Conservatives were very good fellows, and ho would oppose their being annihilated all at once. The difference between a Liberal and a Conservative was that the one moved of his own volition, and the other was moved by the strong pressure of public opinion.
The motion was then earned unanimonsly.
Mr Stout moved a vote of thanks to the chairman, which was carried by acclamation, and the proceedings terminated.
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