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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Personal Volume

True Democracy. — A Lecture — Delivered in the Protestant Hall, Napier, on Wednesday, December 5th, 1883

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True Democracy.

A Lecture

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 a person who has been taught to rely on the State for everything through life, you will find that that individual loses his self-reliance, and that is one of the dangers of democracy. The training of the people to rely on the Government for everything was wrong. They must not increase the functions of the Government, but limit them. Tell the people the Government can do very little for them. Their only hope of progress, their only hope of true freedom, was to rely on themselves, and everything the State did to weaken that self-reliance was an evil to the race and the individuals of the State. Let him say another danger of true democracy was the having a "down" on wealth. Ho submitted to them, if all the colony were to be thrifty, what a different colony it would be. Suppose that there was no waste, if they had not their drinking customs, that there was no waste in their way of living, they would not require any National Insurance schemes, for they would have no poor in their midst, and he went even further, they could only have the highest degree of civilisation where they had wealth. What did they mean by capital? Every person had capital, and such was wealth. And without capital, without wealth, they could accomplish little in this world. They could have no art, no painting, no high culture, without wealth, and the Democrat must see that all these things must be attended to. The race would be a poor race if there was no music, no painting, no high art in the world. Every true democracy would do nothing that would discourage saving; it ought to do everything possible to encourage savings. What did poverty come page 6 from? Accident? Not only from accident, but from hereditary causes. If they saw a weaklings born into the world, they knew it would not be able to strive with the stronger. So in our gaols you will find among the prisoners some are there from hereditary cause, perhaps their father was a criminal, and so with the lunatics in our asylums, physically and morally they are deranged. In our hospitals you will find the same thing. They could not get rid of poverty, but the only hope lies in this, that you raise the individual and you teach each individual that it is not on the State he must rely, but on his own exertion, and if they did that they would have thrift in the colony, and some hope of lessening the large amount of poverty they had here. He must allude to another point. There was no short road to progress—there was no short road to any thing in this world. If they wished to get a good breed of .sheep or a new flower developed, it must come from patient working. They must not imagine they could get rid of the evils of democracy by a mere change of the franchise or alterations of districts. No reform ever came by such means. They found, for example that their habits and modes of thought were the result of many preceding conditions, and they could not get rid of the past all at once. Take one of the customs against which he was waning. They were aware that he was a temperance man, but he would say this—he recognised to the full, that there could bo no change to teetotalism at once. And any person who thinks that they can get the people to be temperate at once should remember that the customs we have are the customs of centuries; he would find that those drinking customs have come down to them from thousands of years, and how can anyone change a habit that had taken thousands of years to grow. The very fact that once a habit was formed gave them hope for the future; it gave them this hope, that if they could only got the race trained to a good habit, it would keep to it. He would point out another thing that was a danger to democracy—and that was, in imagining the State could do everything, and that was specially applicable to our colony. If they could only go into the money market at Homo and borrow a million they thought they had performed some great feat; they forgot that every additional million borrowed meant increased taxation for the colony to bear—so much money taken out of the savings of the people for the Government. True democracy was that form of government which would take the least possible from the people. If the people were thrifty and self-reliant they could make better use of the money than any Colonial Treasurer they wort over likely to have could. Ho would very briefiy point out to them some other things. He had pointed out to them very briefly some of the aims of democracy, some of the dangers to which every democracy was exposed, and what means they must employ to have a true democracy in their midst. There were to bo no privileges; they were to lay down this rule—every man must count as one, and he submitted there must be no privileges to any class. They must take great care that their legislation was so shaped as to preserve this for the future. There was a cloud; it might be no bigger than a man's hand—they had introduced into the colony of Now South Wales and into Victoria hereditary titles. It might be a small thing to give to wealth hereditary baronetcies, but it was a blow struck at true democracy, it was training colonists to think that one man was not to count as one. He would recognize a colonist's services to his fellows, but every public man should think how his fellow colonists tried him and how his fellow colonists revered him; but if they introduced this system of hereditary privileges they were striking a blow at true democracy, and he hoped that they would see such was stopped. There were things the people must keep before them—they must have true loyalty. When ho mentioned the word loyalty he did not mean loyalty to a person, ho meant loyalty to the state and the laws. Many of them would remember the loyalty of individuals to the Stuarts, who looked on the Hanoverians as interlopers. That was a kind of loyalty that was now passing away. If they only had enthusiastic loyalty to the State they would have a very different form of Government—every individual would look upon the affairs of Government as dearer to him than if they were his own. How often did they hear—Oh, it was Government money. What an advance it would be if every individual did his duty, thought of what he was doing, struggled to perform one of the highest functions of the State, so that there should be truth and justice in society. Every individual giving his vote, unbiassed by personal feeling, or by district feeling, but thought his highest aim was to perform page 7 that sacred trust, that he was to cast that vote as if the whole success of the colony depended upon him. If they had voters going into the polling booth with such a feeling they would have in the colony a better government than the had ever yet seen and in following out the idea of true loyalty to the State, determine, as ho had again and again repeated, that one man must count as one, and how could that be done? He believed they had in their midst an engine that was accomplishing that in a way that none of them could see—he alluded to the Education system. He called them common schools—because they were open to all creeds, they were open to all races, they were opon to all classes in the community. The children of different nationalities, the children of parents of different creeds could all meet at that common platform and be trained as true citizens of the State. And if they so use their educational system they would never impose restrictions on any man because of his race. He was afraid that they had done that in the past. He was afraid, if they looked at the Statute Book, they would find there what their children and children's children would ever turn to with regret and say, our fathers erred in so treating the native race. They had not treated all creeds or all men alike. They might depend upon it, whenever they disturbed the equalities of condition, whether it be of race or social position, they were sowing the seeds of evil; they would bear fruit, and such fruit would tend to destroy their democracy. As colonists they had brought with them many of their older laws. They had entrusted to the people the fullest freedom in all political matters. Every man ought to take some interest, and had a right to take some share in the Government of the country. What was the standpoint of our fathers compared with ours. If they referred to past European history, if they read of the glories of Greece and Rome, of Germany and England, even in the free-est of the Greek republics there was a slave class. Two classes did not count as one. Here they were on a vantage ground. There was a time in our past when the mighty man was the fighting man; there was a time when the mighty man was the intellectual man. He believed the time would come when the highest man will not be the fighting man, will not be the intellectual man, but the highest man will be the man who has the highest amount of moral heroism. And what did moral heroism mean? It meant this, that each will be prepared to do some self-sacrifice for his race, or the society, or the community in which he dwells, and ho told them there was no hope for the trne democracy unless they had the electors fired with some of that enthusiasm. It was to the electors they must look, and not to the party leaders It was to each individual voter they must look. Each time that ho is called upon to perform his function, not only in voting for the Assembly, not only in the municipal election, but in every path of life, he must set before himself that he has more to accomplish than mere self-aggrandisement; he will accomplish but little, but if the electors be fired with moral enthusiasism, anxious to do what is right, they would have a true democracy that would accomplish more than had ever been accomplished by any State or Government in the past. They who termed themselves Liberals did not look to the past; they admitted its glories, and its services, but they had hope in the future; they looked for a finer race of men, a higher form of government, a better elector than the world has yet seen, and if some of them talked about the human race they were recognising that each one had his part to play in this world, and except he did something to elevate humanity, unless ho did something to elevate the race, ho was not playing his part right. Do not sneer at the man who is striving to raise the human race; he is doing far more than the man who is trying to increase his bank balance. If there was any constituency in the colony that sneered at such a man it was doing something to stop progress, that constituency was doing something that was telling against truth and freedom in the world. One word more, and it was this—look at political questions, without bias, never be swayed by personal considerations. There were questions of eminent consideration to every district, and he would think little of him who neglected his own district, for after all family life was the true basis of their civilization. Just as a man looks after his own family it was his duty to look after the things of his own community, and if he did not he was not looking after the race. But the lesser must give way to the greater, and they should not forget that true democracy urged them to look to the future. He hoped those who came to this colony would not be content with the evils of the civilization of Europe, page 8 but would determine as far as in them lay to mould the constitution of this colony that the colony should be far ahead of the land they had left behind, and that they could only do by keeping before each one of them the duty of following truth and justice. The man in your community who ignores politics as beneath him, that man is no true citizen; that man is not performing his function; that man has some selfish object in view. But if you get a man who is doing his best to help his brother man, he will be worshipped in a true democratic community, and be revered more than the fighting man of the past. He would conclude by quoting a few words from an old poet, that put the matter more pithily than he could do:—

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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