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Hobhouse, L. T. (Leonard Trelawny) / Liberalism



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_First published in 1911, and reprinted in 1919, 1923, 1927, 1929,
1934, 1942 and 1944_





1. Civil Liberty. 2. Fiscal
Liberty. 3. Personal Liberty.
4. Social Liberty. 5. Economic
Liberty. 6. Domestic Liberty.
7. Local, Racial, and National
Liberty. 8. International
Liberty. 9. Political Liberty
and Popular Sovereignty 21













The modern State is the distinctive product of a unique civilization.
But it is a product which is still in the making, and a part of the
process is a struggle between new and old principles of social order. To
understand the new, which is our main purpose, we must first cast a
glance at the old. We must understand what the social structure was,
which--mainly, as I shall show, under the inspiration of Liberal
ideas--is slowly but surely giving place to the new fabric of the civic
State. The older structure itself was by no means primitive. What is
truly primitive is very hard to say. But one thing is pretty clear. At
all times men have lived in societies, and ties of kinship and of simple
neighbourhood underlie every form of social organization. In the
simplest societies it seems probable that these ties--reinforced and
extended, perhaps, by religious or other beliefs--are the only ones that
seriously count. It is certain that of the warp of descent and the woof
of intermarriage there is woven a tissue out of which small and rude but
close and compact communities are formed. But the ties of kinship and
neighbourhood are effective only within narrow limits. While the local
group, the clan, or the village community are often the centres of
vigorous life, the larger aggregate of the Tribe seldom attains true
social and political unity unless it rests upon a military organization.
But military organization may serve not only to hold one tribe together
but also to hold other tribes in subjection, and thereby, at the cost of
much that is most valuable in primitive life, to establish a larger and
at the same time a more orderly society. Such an order once established
does not, indeed, rest on naked force. The rulers become invested with a
sacrosanct authority. It may be that they are gods or descendants of
gods. It may be that they are blessed and upheld by an independent
priesthood. In either case the powers that be extend their sway not
merely over the bodies but over the minds of men. They are ordained of
God because they arrange the ordination. Such a government is not
necessarily abhorrent to the people nor indifferent to them. But it is
essentially government from above. So far as it affects the life of the
people at all, it does so by imposing on them duties, as of military
service, tribute, ordinances, and even new laws, in such wise and on
such principles as seem good to itself. It is not true, as a certain
school of jurisprudence held, that law is, as such, a command imposed by
a superior upon an inferior, and backed by the sanctions of punishment.
But though this is not true of law in general it is a roughly true
description of law in that particular stage of society which we may
conveniently describe as the Authoritarian.

Now, in the greater part of the world and throughout the greater part of
history the two forms of social organization that have been
distinguished are the only forms to be found. Of course, they themselves
admit of every possible variation of detail, but looking below these
variations we find the two recurrent types. On the one hand, there are
the small kinship groups, often vigorous enough in themselves, but
feeble for purposes of united action. On the other hand, there are
larger societies varying in extent and in degree of civilization from a
petty negro kingdom to the Chinese Empire, resting on a certain union of
military force and religious or quasi-religious belief which, to select
a neutral name, we have called the principle of Authority. In the lower
stages of civilization there appears, as a rule, to be only one method
of suppressing the strife of hostile clans, maintaining the frontier
against a common enemy, or establishing the elements of outward order.
The alternative to authoritarian rule is relapse into the comparative
anarchy of savage life.

But another method made its appearance in classical antiquity. The city
state of ancient Greece and Italy was a new type of social organization.
It differed from the clan and the commune in several ways. In the first
place it contained many clans and villages, and perhaps owed its origin
to the coming together of separate clans on the basis not of conquest
but of comparatively equal alliance. Though very small as compared with
an ancient empire or a modern state it was much larger than a primitive
kindred. Its life was more varied and complex. It allowed more free play
to the individual, and, indeed, as it developed, it suppressed the old
clan organization and substituted new divisions, geographical or other.
It was based, in fact, not on kinship as such, but on civic right, and
this it was which distinguished it not only from the commune, but from
the Oriental monarchy. The law which it recognized and by which it lived
was not a command imposed by a superior government on a subject mass. On
the contrary, government was itself subject to law, and law was the life
of the state, willingly supported by the entire body of free citizens.
In this sense the city state was a community of free men. Considered
collectively its citizens owned no master. They governed themselves,
subject only to principles and rules of life descending from antiquity
and owing their force to the spontaneous allegiance of successive
generations. In such a community some of the problems that vex us most
presented themselves in a very simple form. In particular the relation
of the individual to the community was close, direct, and natural.
Their interests were obviously bound up together. Unless each man did
his duty the State might easily be destroyed and the population
enslaved. Unless the State took thought for its citizens it might easily
decay. What was still more important, there was no opposition of church
and state, no fissure between political and religious life, between the
claims of the secular and the spiritual, to distract the allegiance of
the citizens, and to set the authority of conscience against the duties
of patriotism. It was no feat of the philosophical imagination, but a
quite simple and natural expression of the facts to describe such a
community as an association of men for the purpose of living well.
Ideals to which we win our way back with difficulty and doubt arose
naturally out of the conditions of life in ancient Greece.

On the other hand, this simple harmony had very serious limitations,
which in the end involved the downfall of the city system. The
responsibilities and privileges of the associated life were based not on
the rights of human personality but on the rights of citizenship, and
citizenship was never co-extensive with the community. The population
included slaves or serfs, and in many cities there were large classes
descended from the original conquered population, personally free but
excluded from the governing circle. Notwithstanding the relative
simplicity of social conditions the city was constantly torn by the
disputes of faction--in part probably a legacy from the old clan
organization, in part a consequence of the growth of wealth and the
newer distinction of classes. The evil of faction was aggravated by the
ill-success of the city organization in dealing with the problem of
inter-state relations. The Greek city clung to its autonomy, and though
the principle of federalism which might have solved the problem was
ultimately brought into play, it came too late in Greek history to save
the nation.

The constructive genius of Rome devised a different method of dealing
with the political problems involved in expanding relations. Roman
citizenship was extended till it included all Italy and, later on, till
it comprised the whole free population of the Mediterranean basin. But
this extension was even more fatal to the free self-government of a city
state. The population of Italy could not meet in the Forum of Rome or
the Plain of Mars to elect consuls and pass laws, and the more wisely
it was extended the less valuable for any political purpose did
citizenship become. The history of Rome, in fact, might be taken as a
vast illustration of the difficulty of building up an extended empire on
any basis but that of personal despotism resting on military force and
maintaining peace and order through the efficiency of the bureaucratic
machine. In this vast mechanism it was the army that was the seat of
power, or rather it was each army at its post on some distant frontier
that was a potential seat of power. The "secret of the empire" that was
early divulged was that an emperor could be made elsewhere than at Rome,
and though a certain sanctity remained to the person of the emperor, and
legists cherished a dim remembrance of the theory that he embodied the
popular will, the fact was that he was the choice of a powerful army,
ratified by the God of Battles, and maintaining his power as long as he
could suppress any rival pretender. The break-up of the Empire through
the continual repetition of military strife was accelerated, not caused,
by the presence of barbarism both within and without the frontiers. To
restore the elements of order a compromise between central and local
jurisdictions was necessary, and the vassal became a local prince owning
an allegiance, more or less real as the case might be, to a distant
sovereign. Meanwhile, with the prevailing disorder the mass of the
population in Western Europe lost its freedom, partly through conquest,
partly through the necessity of finding a protector in troublous times.
The social structure of the Middle Ages accordingly assumed the
hierarchical form which we speak of as the Feudal system. In this
thorough-going application of the principle of authority every man, in
theory, had his master. The serf held of his lord, who held of a great
seigneur, who held of the king. The king in the completer theory held of
the emperor who was crowned by the Pope, who held of St. Peter. The
chain of descent was complete from the Ruler of the universe to the
humblest of the serfs.[1] But within this order the growth of industry
and commerce raised up new centres of freedom. The towns in which men
were learning anew the lessons of association for united defence and the
regulation of common interests, obtained charters of rights from
seigneur or king, and on the Continent even succeeded in establishing
complete independence. Even in England, where from the Conquest the
central power was at its strongest, the corporate towns became for many
purposes self-governing communities. The city state was born again, and
with it came an outburst of activity, the revival of literature and the
arts, the rediscovery of ancient learning, the rebirth of philosophy and

The mediŠval city state was superior to the ancient in that slavery was
no essential element in its existence. On the contrary, by welcoming the
fugitive serf and vindicating his freedom it contributed powerfully to
the decline of the milder form of servitude. But like the ancient state
it was seriously and permanently weakened by internal faction, and like
the ancient state it rested the privileges of its members not on the
rights of human personality, but on the responsibilities of citizenship.
It knew not so much liberty as "liberties," rights of corporations
secured by charter, its own rights as a whole secured against king or
feudatory and the rest of the world, rights of gilds and crafts within
it, and to men or women only as they were members of such bodies. But
the real weakness of the city state was once more its isolation. It was
but an islet of relative freedom on, or actually within, the borders of
a feudal society which grew more powerful with the generations. With the
improvement of communications and of the arts of life, the central
power, particularly in France and England, began to gain upon its
vassals. Feudal disobedience and disorder were suppressed, and by the
end of the fifteenth century great unified states, the foundation of
modern nations, were already in being. Their emergence involved the
widening and in some respects the improvement of the social order; and
in its earlier stages it favoured civic autonomy by suppressing local
anarchy and feudal privilege. But the growth of centralization was in
the end incompatible with the genius of civic independence, and perilous
to such elements of political right as had been gained for the
population in general as the result of earlier conflicts between the
crown and its vassals.

We enter on the modern period, accordingly, with society constituted on
a thoroughly authoritarian basis, the kingly power supreme and tending
towards arbitrary despotism, and below the king the social hierarchy
extending from the great territorial lord to the day-labourer. There is
one point gained as compared to earlier forms of society. The base of
the pyramid is a class which at least enjoys personal freedom. Serfdom
has virtually disappeared in England, and in the greater part of France
has either vanished or become attenuated to certain obnoxious incidents
of the tenure of land. On the other hand, the divorce of the English
peasant from the soil has begun, and has laid the foundation of the
future social problem as it is to appear in this country.

The modern State accordingly starts from the basis of an authoritarian
order, and the protest against that order, a protest religious,
political, economic, social, and ethical, is the historic beginning of
Liberalism. Thus Liberalism appears at first as a criticism, sometimes
even as a destructive and revolutionary criticism. Its negative aspect
is for centuries foremost. Its business seems to be not so much to build
up as to pull down, to remove obstacles which block human progress,
rather than to point the positive goal of endeavour or fashion the
fabric of civilization. It finds humanity oppressed, and would set it
free. It finds a people groaning under arbitrary rule, a nation in
bondage to a conquering race, industrial enterprise obstructed by social
privileges or crippled by taxation, and it offers relief. Everywhere it
is removing superincumbent weights, knocking off fetters, clearing away
obstructions. Is it doing as much for the reconstruction that will be
necessary when the demolition is complete? Is Liberalism at bottom a
constructive or only a destructive principle? Is it of permanent
significance? Does it express some vital truth of social life as such,
or is it a temporary phenomenon called forth by the special
circumstances of Western Europe, and is its work already so far
complete that it can be content to hand on the torch to a newer and more
constructive principle, retiring for its own part from the race, or
perchance seeking more backward lands for missionary work? These are
among the questions that we shall have to answer. We note, for the
moment, that the circumstances of its origin suffice to explain the
predominance of critical and destructive work without therefrom
inferring the lack of ultimate reconstructive power. In point of fact,
whether by the aid of Liberalism or through the conservative instincts
of the race, the work of reconstruction has gone on side by side with
that of demolition, and becomes more important generation by generation.
The modern State, as I shall show, goes far towards incorporating the
elements of Liberal principle, and when we have seen what these are, and
to what extent they are actually realized, we shall be in a better
position to understand the essentials of Liberalism, and to determine
the question of its permanent value.


[1] This is, of course, only one side of mediŠval theory, but it is the
side which lay nearest to the facts. The reverse view, which derives the
authority of government from the governed, made its appearance in the
Middle Ages partly under the influence of classical tradition. But its
main interest and importance is that it served as a starting-point for
the thought of a later time. On the whole subject the reader may consult
Gierke, _Political Theories of the Middle Age_, translated by Maitland
(Cambridge University Press).



I cannot here attempt so much as a sketch of the historical progress of
the Liberalizing movement. I would call attention only to the main
points at which it assailed the old order, and to the fundamental ideas
directing its advance.

1. _Civil Liberty._

Both logically and historically the first point of attack is arbitrary
government, and the first liberty to be secured is the right to be dealt
with in accordance with law. A man who has no legal rights against
another, but stands entirely at his disposal, to be treated according to
his caprice, is a slave to that other. He is "rightless," devoid of
rights. Now, in some barbaric monarchies the system of rightlessness has
at times been consistently carried through in the relations of subjects
to the king. Here men and women, though enjoying customary rights of
person and property as against one another, have no rights at all as
against the king's pleasure. No European monarch or seignior has ever
admittedly enjoyed power of this kind, but European governments have at
various times and in various directions exercised or claimed powers no
less arbitrary in principle. Thus, by the side of the regular courts of
law which prescribe specific penalties for defined offences proved
against a man by a regular form of trial, arbitrary governments resort
to various extrajudicial forms of arrest, detention, and punishment,
depending on their own will and pleasure. Of such a character is
punishment by "administrative" process in Russia at the present day;
imprisonment by _lettre de cachet_ in France under the _ancien rÚgime_;
all executions by so-called martial law in times of rebellion, and the
suspension of various ordinary guarantees of immediate and fair trial in
Ireland. Arbitrary government in this form was one of the first objects
of attack by the English Parliament in the seventeenth century, and this
first liberty of the subject was vindicated by the Petition of Right,
and again by the Habeas Corpus Act. It is significant of much that this
first step in liberty should be in reality nothing more nor less than a
demand for law. "Freedom of men under government," says Locke, summing
up one whole chapter of seventeenth-century controversy, "is to have a
standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society and made
by the legislative power erected in it."

The first condition of universal freedom, that is to say, is a measure
of universal restraint. Without such restraint some men may be free but
others will be unfree. One man may be able to do all his will, but the
rest will have no will except that which he sees fit to allow them. To
put the same point from another side, the first condition of free
government is government not by the arbitrary determination of the
ruler, but by fixed rules of law, to which the ruler himself is subject.
We draw the important inference that there is no essential antithesis
between liberty and law. On the contrary, law is essential to liberty.
Law, of course, restrains the individual; it is therefore opposed to his
liberty at a given moment and in a given direction. But, equally, law
restrains others from doing with him as they will. It liberates him
from the fear of arbitrary aggression or coercion, and this is the only
way, indeed, the only sense, in which liberty _for an entire community_
is attainable.

There is one point tacitly postulated in this argument which should not
be overlooked. In assuming that the reign of law guarantees liberty to
the whole community, we are assuming that it is impartial. If there is
one law for the Government and another for its subjects, one for noble
and another for commoner, one for rich and another for poor, the law
does not guarantee liberty for all. Liberty in this respect implies
equality. Hence the demand of Liberalism for such a procedure as will
ensure the impartial application of law. Hence the demand for the
independence of the judiciary to secure equality as between the
Government and its subjects. Hence the demand for cheap procedure and
accessible courts. Hence the abolition of privileges of class.[2] Hence
will come in time the demand for the abolition of the power of money to
purchase skilled advocacy.

2. _Fiscal Liberty._

Closely connected with juristic liberty, and more widely felt in
everyday life, is the question of fiscal liberty. The Stuarts brought
things to a head in this country by arbitrary taxation. George III
brought things to a head in America by the same infallible method. The
immediate cause of the French Revolution was the refusal of the nobles
and the clergy to bear their share of the financial burden. But fiscal
liberty raises more searching questions than juristic liberty. It is not
enough that taxes should be fixed by a law applying universally and
impartially, for taxes vary from year to year in accordance with public
needs, and while other laws may remain stable and unchanged for an
indefinite period, taxation must, in the nature of the case, be
adjustable. It is a matter, properly considered, for the Executive
rather than the Legislature. Hence the liberty of the subject in fiscal
matters means the restraint of the Executive, not merely by established
and written laws, but by a more direct and constant supervision. It
means, in a word, responsible government, and that is why we have more
often heard the cry, "No taxation without representation," than the cry,
"No legislation without representation." Hence, from the seventeenth
century onwards, fiscal liberty was seen to involve what is called
political liberty.

3. _Personal Liberty._

Of political liberty it will be more convenient to speak later. But let
us here observe that there is another avenue by which it can be, and, in
fact, was, approached. We have seen that the reign of law is the first
step to liberty. A man is not free when he is controlled by other men,
but only when he is controlled by principles and rules which all society
must obey, for the community is the true master of the free man. But
here we are only at the beginning of the matter. There may be law, and
there may be no attempt, such as the Stuarts made, to set law aside, yet
(1) the making and maintenance of law may depend on the will of the
sovereign or of an oligarchy, and (2) the content of the law may be
unjust and oppressive to some, to many, or to all except those who make
it. The first point brings us back to the problem of political liberty,
which we defer. The second opens questions which have occupied a great
part of the history of Liberalism, and to deal with them we have to ask
what types of law have been felt as peculiarly oppressive, and in what
respects it has been necessary to claim liberty not merely through law,
but by the abolition of bad law and tyrannical administration.

In the first place, there is the sphere of what is called personal
liberty--a sphere most difficult to define, but the arena of the
fiercest strife of passion and the deepest feelings of mankind. At the
basis lies liberty of thought--freedom from inquisition into opinions
that a man forms in his own mind[3]--the inner citadel where, if
anywhere, the individual must rule. But liberty of thought is of very
little avail without liberty to exchange thoughts--since thought is
mainly a social product; and so with liberty of thought goes liberty of
speech and liberty of writing, printing, and peaceable discussion. These
rights are not free from difficulty and dubiety. There is a point at
which speech becomes indistinguishable from action, and free speech may
mean the right to create disorder. The limits of just liberty here are
easy to draw neither in theory nor in practice. They lead us immediately
to one of the points at which liberty and order may be in conflict, and
it is with conflicts of this kind that we shall have to deal. The
possibilities of conflict are not less in relation to the connected
right of liberty in religion. That this liberty is absolute cannot be
contended. No modern state would tolerate a form of religious worship
which should include cannibalism, human sacrifice, or the burning of
witches. In point of fact, practices of this kind--which follow quite
naturally from various forms of primitive belief that are most sincerely
held--are habitually put down by civilized peoples that are responsible
for the government of less developed races. The British law recognizes
polygamy in India, but I imagine it would not be open either to a
Mahommedan or a Hindu to contract two marriages in England. Nor is it
for liberty of this kind that the battle has been fought.

What, then, is the primary meaning of religious liberty? Externally, I
take it to include the liberties of thought and expression, and to add
to these the right of worship in any form which does not inflict injury
on others or involve a breach of public order. This limitation appears
to carry with it a certain decency and restraint in expression which
avoids unnecessary insult to the feelings of others; and I think this
implication must be allowed, though it makes some room for strained and
unfair applications. Externally, again, we must note that the demand for
religious liberty soon goes beyond mere toleration. Religious liberty is
incomplete as long as any belief is penalized, as, for example, by
carrying with it exclusion from office or from educational advantages.
On this side, again, full liberty implies full equality. Turning to the
internal side, the spirit of religious liberty rests on the conception
that a man's religion ranks with his own innermost thought and feelings.
It is the most concrete expression of his personal attitude to life, to
his kind, to the world, to his own origin and destiny. There is no real
religion that is not thus drenched in personality; and the more religion
is recognized for spiritual the starker the contradiction is felt to be
that any one should seek to impose a religion on another. Properly
regarded, the attempt is not wicked, but impossible. Yet those sin most
against true religion who try to convert men from the outside by
mechanical means. They have the lie in the soul, being most ignorant of
the nature of that for which they feel most deeply.

Yet here again we stumble on difficulties. Religion is personal. Yet is
not religion also eminently social? What is more vital to the social
order than its beliefs? If we send a man to gaol for stealing trash,
what shall we do to him whom, in our conscience and on our honour, we
believe to be corrupting the hearts of mankind, and perhaps leading them
to eternal perdition? Again, what in the name of liberty are we to do to
men whose preaching, if followed out in act, would bring back the rack
and the stake? Once more there is a difficulty of delimitation which
will have to be fully sifted. I will only remark here that our practice
has arrived at a solution which, upon the whole, appears to have worked
well hitherto, and which has its roots in principle. It is open to a man
to preach the principles of Torquemada or the religion of Mahomet. It is
not open to men to practise such of their precepts as would violate the
rights of others or cause a breach of the peace. Expression is free, and
worship is free as far as it is the expression of personal devotion. So
far as they infringe the freedom, or, more generally, the rights of
others, the practices inculcated by a religion cannot enjoy unqualified

4. _Social Liberty._

From the spiritual we turn to the practical side of life. On this side
we may observe, first, that Liberalism has had to deal with those
restraints on the individual which flow from the hierarchic organization
of society, and reserve certain offices, certain forms of occupation,
and perhaps the right or at least the opportunity of education
generally, to people of a certain rank or class. In its more extreme
form this is a caste system, and its restrictions are religious or legal
as well as social. In Europe it has taken more than one form. There is
the monopoly of certain occupations by corporations, prominent in the
minds of eighteenth-century French reformers. There is the reservation
of public appointments and ecclesiastical patronage for those who are
"born," and there is a more subtly pervading spirit of class which
produces a hostile attitude to those who could and would rise; and this
spirit finds a more material ally in the educational difficulties that
beset brains unendowed with wealth. I need not labour points which will
be apparent to all, but have again to remark two things. (1) Once more
the struggle for liberty is also, when pushed through, a struggle for
equality. Freedom to choose and follow an occupation, if it is to become
fully effective, means equality with others in the opportunities for
following such occupation. This is, in fact, one among the various
considerations which lead Liberalism to support a national system of
free education, and will lead it further yet on the same lines. (2) Once
again, though we may insist on the rights of the individual, the social
value of the corporation or quasi-corporation, like the Trade Union,
cannot be ignored. Experience shows the necessity of some measure of
collective regulation in industrial matters, and in the adjustment of
such regulation to individual liberty serious difficulties of principle
emerge. We shall have to refer to these in the next section. But one
point is relevant at this stage. It is clearly a matter of Liberal
principle that membership of a corporation should not depend on any
hereditary qualification, nor be set about with any artificial
difficulty of entry, where by the term artificial is meant any
difficulty not involved in the nature of the occupation concerned, but
designed for purposes of exclusiveness. As against all such methods of
restriction, the Liberal case is clear.

It has only to be added here that restrictions of sex are in every
respect parallel to restrictions of class. There are, doubtless,
occupations for which women are unfit. But, if so, the test of fitness
is sufficient to exclude them. The "open road for women" is one
application, and a very big one, of the "open road for talent," and to
secure them both is of the essence of Liberalism.

5. _Economic Liberty_

Apart from monopolies, industry was shackled in the earlier part of the
modern period by restrictive legislation in various forms, by navigation
laws, and by tariffs. In particular, the tariff was not merely an
obstruction to free enterprise, but a source of inequality as between
trade and trade. Its fundamental effect is to transfer capital and
labour from the objects on which they can be most profitably employed in
a given locality, to objects on which they are less profitably employed,
by endowing certain industries to the disadvantage of the general
consumer. Here, again, the Liberal movement is at once an attack on an
obstruction and on an inequality. In most countries the attack has
succeeded in breaking down local tariffs and establishing relatively
large Free Trade units. It is only in England, and only owing to our
early manufacturing supremacy, that it has fully succeeded in overcoming
the Protective principle, and even in England the Protectionist reaction
would undoubtedly have gained at least a temporary victory but for our
dependence on foreign countries for food and the materials of industry.
The most striking victory of Liberal ideas is one of the most
precarious. At the same time, the battle is one which Liberalism is
always prepared to fight over again. It has led to no back stroke, no
counter-movement within the Liberal ranks themselves.

It is otherwise with organized restrictions upon industry. The old
regulations, which were quite unsuited to the conditions of the time,
either fell into desuetude during the eighteenth century, or were
formally abolished during the earlier years of the industrial
revolution. For a while it seemed as though wholly unrestricted
industrial enterprise was to be the progressive watchword, and the
echoes of that time still linger. But the old restrictions had not been
formally withdrawn before a new process of regulation began. The
conditions produced by the new factory system shocked the public
conscience; and as early as 1802 we find the first of a long series of
laws, out of which has grown an industrial code that year by year
follows the life of the operative, in his relations with his employer,
into more minute detail. The first stages of this movement were
contemplated with doubt and distrust by many men of Liberal sympathies.
The intention was, doubtless, to protect the weaker party, but the
method was that of interference with freedom of contract. Now the
freedom of the sane adult individual--even such strong individualists as
Cobden recognized that the case of children stood apart--carried with it
the right of concluding such agreements as seemed best to suit his own
interests, and involved both the right and the duty of determining the
lines of his life for himself. Free contract and personal responsibility
lay close to the heart of the whole Liberal movement. Hence the doubts
felt by so many Liberals as to the regulation of industry by law. None
the less, as time has gone on, men of the keenest Liberal sympathies
have come not merely to accept but eagerly to advance the extension of
public control in the industrial sphere, and of collective
responsibility in the matter of the education and even the feeding of
children, the housing of the industrial population, the care of the sick
and aged, the provision of the means of regular employment. On this side
Liberalism seems definitely to have retraced its steps, and we shall
have to inquire closely into the question whether the reversal is a
change of principle or of application.

Closely connected with freedom of contract is freedom of association. If
men may make any agreement with one another in their mutual interest so
long as they do not injure a third party, they may apparently agree to
act together permanently for any purposes of common interest on the same
conditions. That is, they may form associations. Yet at bottom the
powers of an association are something very different from the powers of
the individuals composing it; and it is only by legal pedantry that the
attempt can be made to regulate the behaviour of an association on
principles derived from and suitable to the relations of individuals. An
association might become so powerful as to form a state within the
state, and to contend with government on no unequal terms. The history
of some revolutionary societies, of some ecclesiastical organizations,
even of some American trusts might be quoted to show that the danger is
not imaginary. Short of this, an association may act oppressively
towards others and even towards its own members, and the function of
Liberalism may be rather to protect the individual against the power of
the association than to protect the right of association against the
restriction of the law. In fact, in this regard, the principle of
liberty cuts both ways, and this double application is reflected in
history. The emancipation of trade unions, however, extending over the
period from 1824 to 1906, and perhaps not yet complete, was in the main
a liberating movement, because combination was necessary to place the
workman on something approaching terms of equality with the employer,
and because tacit combinations of employers could never, in fact, be
prevented by law. It was, again, a movement to liberty through equality.
On the other hand, the oppressive capacities of a trade union could
never be left out of account, while combinations of capital, which might
be infinitely more powerful, have justly been regarded with distrust. In
this there is no inconsistency of principle, but a just appreciation of
a real difference of circumstance. Upon the whole it may be said that
the function of Liberalism is not so much to maintain a general right of
free association as to define the right in each case in such terms as
make for the maximum of real liberty and equality.

6. _Domestic Liberty._

Of all associations within the State, the miniature community of the
Family is the most universal and of the strongest independent vitality.
The authoritarian state was reflected in the authoritarian family, in
which the husband was within wide limits absolute lord of the person and
property of wife and children. The movement of liberation consists (1)
in rendering the wife a fully responsible individual, capable of holding
property, suing and being sued, conducting business on her own account,
and enjoying full personal protection against her husband; (2) in
establishing marriage as far as the law is concerned on a purely
contractual basis, and leaving the sacramental aspect of marriage to the
ordinances of the religion professed by the parties; (3) in securing the
physical, mental, and moral care of the children, partly by imposing
definite responsibilities on the parents and punishing them for neglect,
partly by elaborating a public system of education and of hygiene. The
first two movements are sufficiently typical cases of the
interdependence of liberty and equality. The third is more often
conceived as a Socialistic than a Liberal tendency, and, in point of
fact, the State control of education gives rise to some searching
questions of principle, which have not yet been fully solved. If, in
general, education is a duty which the State has a right to enforce,
there is a countervailing right of choice as to the lines of education
which it would be ill to ignore, and the mode of adjustment has not yet
been adequately determined either in theory or in practice. I would,
however, strongly maintain that the general conception of the State as
Over-parent is quite as truly Liberal as Socialistic. It is the basis of
the rights of the child, of his protection against parental neglect, of
the equality of opportunity which he may claim as a future citizen, of
his training to fill his place as a grown-up person in the social
system. Liberty once more involves control and restraint.

7. _Local, Racial, and National Liberty._

From the smallest social unit we pass to the largest. A great part of
the liberating movement is occupied with the struggle of entire nations
against alien rule, with the revolt of Europe against Napoleon, with the
struggle of Italy for freedom, with the fate of the Christian subjects
of Turkey, with the emancipation of the negro, with the national
movement in Ireland and in India. Many of these struggles present the
problem of liberty in its simplest form. It has been and is too often a
question of securing the most elementary rights for the weaker party;
and those who are not touched by the appeal are deficient rather in
imagination than in logic or ethics.

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