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Critiques and Addresses   By: (1825-1895)

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The "Critiques and Addresses" gathered together in this volume, like the "Lay Sermons, Addresses, and Reviews," published three years ago, deal chiefly with educational, scientific, and philosophical subjects; and, in fact, indicate the high water mark of the various tides of occupation by which I have been carried along since the beginning of the year 1870.

In the end of that year, a confidence in my powers of work, which, unfortunately, has not been justified by events, led me to allow myself to be brought forward as a candidate for a seat on the London School Board. Thanks to the energy of my supporters I was elected, and took my share in the work of that body during the critical first year of its existence. Then my health gave way, and I was obliged to resign my place among colleagues whose large practical knowledge of the business of primary education, and whose self sacrificing zeal in the discharge of the onerous and thankless duties thrown upon them by the Legislature, made it a pleasure to work with them, even though my position was usually that of a member of the minority.

I mention these circumstances in order to account for (I had almost said to apologize for) the existence of the two papers which head the present series, and which are more or less political, both in the lower and in the higher senses of that word.

The question of the expediency of any form of State Education is, in fact, a question of those higher politics which lie above the region in which Tories, Whigs, and Radicals "delight to bark and bite." In discussing it in my address on "Administrative Nihilism," I found myself, to my profound regret, led to diverge very widely (though even more perhaps in seeming than in reality) from the opinions of a man of genius to whom I am bound by the twofold tie of the respect due to a profound philosopher and the affection given to a very old friend. But had I no other means of knowing the fact, the kindly geniality of Mr. Herbert Spencer's reply[1] assures me that the tie to which I refer will bear a much heavier strain than I have put, or ever intend to put, upon it, and I rather rejoice that I have been the means of calling forth so vigorous a piece of argumentative writing. Nor is this disinterested joy at an attack upon myself diminished by the circumstance, that, in all humility, but in all sincerity, I think it may be repulsed.

[Footnote 1: "Specialized Administration;" Fortnightly Review , December 1871.]

Mr. Spencer complains that I have first misinterpreted, and then miscalled, the doctrine of which he is so able an expositor. It would grieve me very much if I were really open to this charge. But what are the facts? I define this doctrine as follows:

"Those who hold these views support them by two lines of argument. They enforce them deductively by arguing from an assumed axiom, that the State has no right to do anything but protect its subjects from aggression. The State is simply a policeman, and its duty, neither more nor less than to prevent robbery and murder and enforce contracts. It is not to promote good, nor even to do anything to prevent evil, except by the enforcement of penalties upon those who have been guilty of obvious and tangible assaults upon purse or person. And, according to this view, the proper form of government is neither a monarchy, an aristocracy, nor a democracy, but an astynomocracy , or police government. On the other hand, these views are supported à posteriori by an induction from observation, which professes to show that whatever is done by a Government beyond these negative limits, is not only sure to be done badly, but to be done much worse than private enterprise would have done the same thing."

I was filled with surprised regret when I learned from the conclusion of the article on "Specialized Administration," that this statement is held by Mr... Continue reading book >>

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