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For my part, though a poor man, I can say in all sincerity that I have been repaid a thousand-fold. The wealth of kindness, sympathy, gratitude, and loyal aid which has been showered upon me by these good men and women is more than any single human service ever merited.
And now let me say that “Merrie England” is not intended as a text-book. It was written to give the general public an idea of what Socialism is, to remove the prejudices existing against Socialism, and to answer the arguments commonly brought forward by its opponents.
No one can be more conscious of its imperfections than I am. I should like to sit down and write all over again, but Socialist journalism is not a financial success, and my partners and I have to keep our noses pretty close to the grindstone in order to earn a living.
Merrie England” might have been a better book. Things being as they are, I can only say of it what I say in its final chapter:
So here is “Merrie England;" the earnest though weak effort of this poor clod of wayward marl, this little pinch of valiant dust. If it does good-well; if not-well. I will try again.
PREFACE TO THE AMERICAN EDITION.
Though this book has been before the public only a few months, already 600,000 copies have been published in six editions, and its circulation is only beginning. It is confidently expected that before the end of this year two million copies will be in the hands of readers throughout the Anglic or Englishspeaking world.
What is the meaning of this? It means that a very large proportion of the producers of wealth will have presented to them the hard, dry facts regarding the intolerable injustices of the existing order of economic society, in language that the average intelligence can understand, and with a force of homely eloquence that must stir the most sluggish, and set them to thinking and doing. Here the “ doubting Thomas” has his finger put into the very wounds of the body politic and social; and he learns from the testimony of his own eyes and touch that human society has been waylaid by robbers-beaten, bruised, stabbed, chloroformed and left bleeding and dazed on the highway.
It is no inconsiderable gain for the cause of social reform that to hundreds of thousands of the sufferers from the injustices of society-sufferers who are the last to discover the true cause of their own ills—is brought home the fundamental question, What is society, what is government, here for? And to that question what other answer can there be but this most simple one-that the one object of social aggregation and of government is “to make the most of the country and of its people"? Let a man get a firm hold of that self-evident truth, and all the problems of government are solved for him in advance. To say that any policy or polity grounded in that conception of the one object of society is “unjust” or “anarchic” is to pronounce society itself unjust and anarchic. To declare “impossible" the realization of an order of society in which “the most is made of the country (land) and the people" is to declare society itself impossible.
The author, having thus stated the true aim of human society, reviews the existing condition of things, in which the social bond is a nullity, and all the good things of life-goods physical, moral, intellectual and spiritual—are left to be scrambled for by the stronger, the wilier, the privileged, and appropriated by the few; while the many are stinted of all enjoyments, whether in food or housing, or leisure or education, or refinement-in short, are prevented from “making the most of themselves."
After exhibiting the disastrous effects of competitive industrialism and commercialism on the lives of the working classes, the author shows that the remedy is found only in Socialism. In England as here the word Socialism, in the minds of the duped slaves of unsocial capitalism, means anarchy, atheism, arson, rape, and all rąscaldom. In reality it means only that society shall be society-Socialism is only societyism, society realizing itself. Every act of government, executive, judicial, or legislative, is an act of society-Socialism. Every schoolhouse is a Socialist institution. Every postage stamp bears the effigy of Socialism. All that is asked is that Socialism shall have freer and fuller extension. So the author, seeing that “Socialism is the only remedy in sight,” devotes a series of chapters to commending it and answering the arguments of anti-socialists such as Herbert Spencer, Charles Bradlaugh, and John Morley.
“The only remedy in sight." Reader, have you read from day to day for the last fifteen or twenty years the history of Trade, Transportation and Manufacture in the United States? Have you observed the organization of merchandizing into great central establishments, killing the small businesses? Have you any recollection of the continental railway strikes? Do you know anything about the multiplication of trusts for killing the competition of small manufacturers ? When two or three great companies in
every city shall monopolize all the retail trade in dry goods and groceries, how shall their bankrupt competitors earn a living? When two or three corporations shall own all the railroads, with the courts, legislatures, executives, army and militia, will the railroad employees be meek of necessity, or will their discontent break out in fiercer violence than before? When manufacturing is similarly monopolized, and every operation is performed by machinery, what will the discharged workmen do? Is there any other remedy than Socialism? Is any other remedy conceivable? The alternative plainly is Socialism or Pandemonium. New York, May, 1895.
THE PROBLEM OF LIFE. We are lovers of the beautiful, yet simple in our tastes, and we cultivate the mind without loss of manliness. Wealth we employ, not for talk and ostentation, but when there is real use for it. To avow poverty with us is no disgrace; the true disgrace is in doing nothing to avoid it. An Athenian citizen does not neglect the state because he takes care of his own household. We regard a
who takes no interest in public affairs not as harmless, but as a useless character. The great impediment to action is not discussion, but the want of that knowledge which is gained by discussion preparatory to action. We make friends by conferring; 'not by receiving, favors. The love of honor alone is ever young, and not riches, as some say, but honor, is the delight of men when they are old and useless.-Thucydides.
Dear Mr. Smith, I am sorry to hear that you look upon socialism as a vile and senseless thing, and upon socialists as wicked or foolish men. Nevertheless, as you have good metal in you, and are very numerous, I mean to argue the point with you. You are a staunch liberal, and you pride yourself upon being "a shrewd, hard-headed, practical man.” You would not pride yourself upon that, for you are naturally over-modest, had you not been told by political orators that you are that kind of man.
Hence you have come to believe that you “entertain a wholesome contempt for theories,' and have contracted a habit of calling for "facts' in a peremptory manner, like a stage brigand calling for "wine.”
Now, Mr. Smith, if you really are a man of hard, shrewd, sense, we shall get on very well. I am myself a plain, practical
I base my beliefs upon what I know and see, “a fact" more than I do a lord mayor.
In these letters I shall stick to the hardest of hard facts, and the coldest of cold reason; and I shall appeal to that robust common-sense and English love of fairplay for which, I understand, you are more famous than for your ability to see beyond the end of your free and independent nose at election times.
I assume, Mr. Smith, that you, as a hard-headed, practical man, would rather be welloff than badly-off, and that, with regard to your own earnings, you would rather be paid twenty
shillings in the pound than four shillings in the pound. And I assume that, as a humane man, you would rather that others should not suffer, if their suffering can be prevented.
If, then, I assert that you are being defrauded, and that others, especially weak women and young children, are enduring much misery and wrong, and if I assert, further, that I know a means whereby you may obtain justice, and they may secure peace, you will surely, as a kind and sensible man, consent to hear ine.
If your roof were leaky, or your business bad; if there were a plague in your city, and all regular remedies had failed, you would certainly give a hearing to any creditable person who claimed to have found a cure.
I don't mean that you would accept his remedy without thinking about it; that would be foolish, but you would let him explain it, and if it seemed reasonable you would try it.
To reject an idea because it is new is not a proof of shrewd sense; it is a proof of bigoted ignorance. There were many prominent politicians and writers who declared the railway train and the telegraph to be impossible. There were many who condemned the factory acts. There were many who laughed at the idea of an Atlantic cable, and I remember when it was prophesied of the ballot that it would lead to anarchy and revolution.
To say that an idea is new is not to prove that it is untrue. The oldest idea was new once; and some of my ideas-as, for instance, the idea that justice and health are precious things-are considerably older than the house of commons or Adam Smith's “Wealth of Nations."
If you wish for an instance of the value of new ideas, Mr. Smith, get a good life of Charles Darwin, and another of George Stephenson, and read them.
I ask you, then, as a practical man, to forget me, and to consider my arguments on their merits. But I must also ask you to forget yourself. One of the ancients, I think it was Pythagoras, said it was necessary to "get out of the body to think.” That means that when a problem is before you you should not let any personal prejudice, or class feeling, come between that problem and your mind-that you should consider a case upon the evidence alone, as a jury should.
Forget, then, that you are a joiner or a spinner, a catholic or a freethinker, a liberal or a tory, a moderate drinker or a teetotaler, and consider the problem as a man.
If you had to do a problem in arithmetic, or if you were cast adrift in an open boat at sea, you would not set to work as a wesleyan, or a liberal unionist; but you would tackle the sum by the rules of arithmetic, and would row the boat by the strength of your own manhood, and keep a lookout for passing