To All English-Speaking Folk

W. T. Stead (The Review of Reviews, Vol. I, January, 1890) pp. 15-20

There exists at this moment no institution which even aspires to be to the English-speaking world what the Catholic Church in its prime was to the intelligence of Christendom. To call attention to the need for such an institution, adjusted, of course, to the altered circumstances of the New Era, to enlist the co-operation of all those who will work towards the creation of some such common centre for the inter-communication of ideas, and the universal diffusion of the ascertained results of human experience in a form accessible to all men, are the ultimate objects for which this Review has been established.

A daily newspaper is practically unreadable beyond twenty-four hours' distance by rail of its printing office. Even a weekly, although capable of wider distribution, is of little use as a circulating medium of thought in all the continents. If anything published in London is to be read throughout the English-speaking world, it must be a monthly. It must also be published at a price within the means of all, and it must condense into a manageable Compass the best and ripest thoughts of the foremost thinkers of our time. Hence the present venture. It will be a combination of two elements,—the eclectic and the personal. In one part there will be the expression of individual conviction upon men and things; the other part, that which gives the distinctive character and designation to the Review of Reviews, will endeavour, as faithfully as if we had no creed or political opinion, to mirror the best thought of our time. This is done distinctly on a religious principle. The revelation of the Divine Will did not cease when St John wrote the last page of the Apocalypse, or when Malachi finished his prophecy. "God is not dumb, that He should speak no more," and we have to seek for the gradual unfolding of His message to His creatures in the highest and ripest thought of our time. Reason may be a faulty instrument, but it is the medium through which the Divine thought enters the mind of man. Hence the man who can interpret the best thought of his day in such a manner as to render it accessible to the general intelligence of his age is the true prophet of his time.

While this Review will not be a colourless reflection of the public opinion for the time being, it will certainly not be a party organ. Neither party has at this moment any distinctive body of doctrine, any well-conceived system of faith which would justify me in labelling this new monthly with a party badge. Creeds are at this moment in a state of flux. Party allegiance is governed more by personal enthusiasm or personal repulsion than by any serious difference of political principle. Neither party has any creed beyond the fundamental dogma, which both hold implicitly, that it is wrong to do anything which would risk the loss of the next general election. Beyond that no party lifts its eyes. Party, although useful as an instrument, must be a servant, not a master. We shall be independent of party, because, having a very clear and intelligible faith, we survey the struggles of contending parties from the standpoint of a consistent body of doctrine, and steadily seek to use all parties for the realisation of our ideals.

These ideals are unmistakably indicated by the upward trend of human progress, and our position in the existing economy of the world. Among all the agencies for the shaping of the future of the human race, none seem so potent now and still more hereafter as the English-speaking man. Already he begins to dominate the world. The Empire and the Republic comprise within their limits almost all the territory that remains empty for the overflow of the world. Their citizens, with all their faults, are leading the van of civilisation, and if any great improvements are to be made in the condition of mankind, they will necessarily be leading instruments in work. Hence our first starting-point will be a deep and almost awe-struck regard for the destinies of the English-speaking man. To use Milton's famous phrase, faith in "God's Englishmen" will be our inspiring principle. To make the Englishman worthy of his immense vocation, and at the same time to help to hold together and strengthen the political ties which at present link all English-speaking communities save one in a union which banishes all dread of internecine war, to promote by every means a fraternal union with the American Republic, to work for the Empire, to seek to strengthen it, to develop it, and when necessary to extend it, these will be our plainest duties.

But how? Not, it may be said at once, by any attempts to interfere with the liberties already conceded to our colonies, or by indulging any wild aspiration after an impossible centralisation. We have to move in the opposite direction. To save the English Empire we must largely Americanize its constitution, and the first step in the direction of this necessary development is to compel the Irish to undertake the responsibility of managing their own affairs under the supreme authority of the Imperial Parliament. Home rule will open the door by which all the colonies may yet enter into the pale of our Imperial Constitution. At present they are outside. If the fatal clause excluding the Irish members from Westminster had been carried, Ireland would have been thrust outside as well. The defeat of that pernicious proposal will probably mark the watershed in the history of our Empire. The next Home Rule Bill will not exclude the Irish. It ought to open the door for the admission of colonial representatives to the House of Commons, pending the inevitable evolution of a true Imperial Senate.

The existence of such an avowed ideal will contribute powerfully to the realisation of that ideal. At present the columns of the press supply that Imperial forum in which, pending constitutional transformations, the representatives of Greater Britain can discuss and assist in deciding the policy of the Empire. The habit of interrogating the colonies for their opinion on questions which are now decided over their heads should be developed, and it will give a great stimulus to the movement in favour of the enfranchisement of the nascent commonwealths under the British flag. At present they are disenfranchised by the Empire, and yet they are bound by its policy. If not enfranchised and brought within the pale by being allowed a voice in deciding the policy of the Government of the Empire, they will inevitably seek enfranchisement in another direction, by severing themselves from the political over which they have no control.

It follows from this fundamental conception the magnitude and importance of the work of the English-speaking race in the world, that a resolute endeavour should be made to equip the individual citizen more adequately for his share in that work. For the ordinary common English man, country yokel, or child of the slums, is the seed of Empire. That red-haired hobbledehoy, smoking his short pipe at the corner of Seven Dials, may two years hence be the red-coated representative of the might and majesty of Britain in the midst of a myriad of Africans or Asiatics. That village girl, larking with the lads on her way to the well, will in a few years be the mother of citizens of new commonwealths; the founders of cities in the Far West whose future destiny may be as famous as that of ancient Rome. No one is too insignificant to be overlooked. We send abroad our best and our worst: all alike are seed-corn of the race. Hence the importance of resolute endeavour to improve the condition, moral and material, in which the ordinary English-speaking man is bred and reared. To do this is a work as worthy of national expenditure as the defence of our shores from hostile fleets. The amelioration of the conditions of life, the levelling up of social inequalities, the securing for each individual the possibility of a human life, and the development to the uttermost by religious, moral, and intellectual agencies of the better side of our countrymen,—these objects follow as necessary corollaries from the recognition of the providential sphere occupied by English-speaking men in the history of the world.

Another corollary is that we can no longer afford to exclude one section of the English-speaking race from all share in the education and moralising influences which result from the direct exercise of responsible functions in the State. The enfranchisement of women will not revolutionise the world, but it will at least give those who rock our cradles a deeper sense of the reality of the spectre which their babies' hands may grasp than would otherwise be possible. Our children in future will be born of two parents, each politically intelligent, instead of being the product of a union between a political being and a creature whose mind is politically blank. If at present we have to deplore so widespread a lack of civic virtue among our men, the cause may be found in the fact that the mothers from whom men acquire whatever virtue they possess have hitherto been studiously excluded from the only school where civic virtue can be learnt—that of the actual exercise of civic functions, the practical discharge of civic responsibilities.

However much we may place the English-speaking world before us as the chief object of our attention, no self-denying ordinance on the part of our statesmen can prevent us having an influence on European affairs. The shrinkage of the world and the development of the colonial policy of Germany, France, and Italy render a policy of non-intervention impossible, even if it were desirable. But it is not desirable. The pressure, pacific but constant, of a great federation of English-speaking commonwealths would be very strong in favour of the development of a similar federal system in Europe. The Concert of Europe, steadily developed, will result in the United States of Europe; and to that goal the policy of England should be constantly directed. All the old nonsense about the maintaining the balance of power in Europe, of sending armies to defend Constantinople, is now pretty nearly exploded, even in Printing-house Square. We have too much to do within our own Empire to bolster up the Empire of the Turks; and it will be time enough to talk of sending an army on to the Continent when our fleet is strong enough to protect our commerce on the sea.

With regard to the dark-skinned races and the yet unoccupied regions of the world, our duty depends upon our opportunities and our responsibilities. We have no business to breed rowdies and filibusters, and let them loose with firearms and firewater upon the half-civilised or wholly savage races on our borders. We must follow the rowdy by the policeman, and endeavour to secure that the dispassionate voice of impartial justice should be heard and obeyed on the frontiers of the Empire. Nor must we ignore the still weightier duty of the just government of our great Indian dependency, with its three hundred millions of human beings of every shade of colour, creed, rank, and culture.

Imperialism within limits defined by common sense and the Ten Commandments is a very different thing from the blatant Jingoism which some years ago made the very name of Empire stink in the nostrils of all decent people. The sobering sense of the immense responsibilities of an Imperial position is the best prophylaclic for the frenzies of Jingoism. And in like manner the sense of the lamentable deficiencies and imperfections of "God's Englishmen," which results from a strenuous attempt to make them worthy of their destinies, is the best preservative against that odious combination of cant and arrogance which made Heine declare that the Englishman was the most odious handiwork of the Creator. To interpret to the English-speaking race the best thought of the other peoples is one among the many services which we would seek to render to the Empire.

We believe in God, in England, and in Humanity! The English-speaking race is one of the chief of God's chosen agents for executing coming improvements in the lot of mankind. If all those who see that could be brought into hearty union to help all that tends to make that race more fit to fulfil its providential mission, and to combat all that hinders or impairs that work, such an association or secular order would constitute a nucleus or rallying point for all that is most vital in the English-speaking world, the ultimate influence of which it would be difficult to overrate.

This is the highest of all the functions to which we aspire. Our supreme duty is the winnowing out by a process of natural selection, and enlisting for hearty service for the commonweal all those who possess within their hearts the sacred fire of patriotic devotion to their country. Carlyle did not believe much in what he called "penny editors." Of the inspiration of the morning papers, he declared long ago we have had enough, and by these means he thought we had arrived at the gates of death. But it will probably be through the agency of the newspaper, that Carlyle's great idea will yet get itself realised in England. Whatever we may make of democratic institutions, government of majorities, and the like, the fact remains that the leadership of democracies and the guidance of democracies belong always to the few. The governing minds are never numerous.

Carlyle put this truth in the most offensive aspect, but truth it is, and it will be well or ill for us in proportion as we act upon it or the reverse. The wise are few. The whole problem is to discover the wise few, and to place the sceptre in their hands, and loyally to follow their leading. But how to find them out? That is the greatest of questions. Mr. Carlyle, in almost his last political will and testament to the English people, wrote: "There is still, we hope, the unclassed aristocracy by nature, not inconsiderable in numbers, and supreme in faculty, in wisdom, in human talent, nobleness, and courage, who derive their patent of nobility direct from Almighty God. If, indeed, these fail us, and are trodden out under the unanimous torrent of hobnails, of brutish hoofs and hobnails, then, indeed, it is all ended. National death lies ahead of our once heroic England..... Will there, in short, prove to be a recognisable small nucleus of Invincible Aristoi fighting for the Good Cause in their various wisest ways, and never ceasing or slackening till they die? This is the question of questions on which all turns. In the answer to this, could we give it clearly, as no man can, lies the oracle response, 'Life for you: death for you.' But considering what of piety, the devoutest and bravest yet known, there once was in England, one is inclined to hope for the best."

Our supreme task is to help to discover these wise ones, to afford them opportunity of articulate utterance, to do what we can to make their authority potent among their contemporaries. Who is there among the people who has truth in him, who is no self-seeker, who is no coward, and who is capable of honest, painstaking effort to help his country? For such men we would search as for hid treasures. They are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and it is the duty and the privilege of the wise man to see that they are like cities set on the hill, which cannot be hid.

The great word which has now to be spoken in the ears of the world is that the time has come when men and women must work for the salvation of the State with as much zeal and self-sacrifice as they now work for the salvation of the individual. For the saving of the soul of Hodge Joskins, what energy, what devotion, is not possible to all of us! There is not a street in London, nor a village in the country, which is not capable of producing, often at short notice and under slight pressure, a man or woman who will spend a couple of hours a week every week in the year, in more or less irksome voluntary exertions, in order to snatch the soul of Hodge Joskins from everlasting burning. But to save the country from the grasp of demons innumerable to prevent this Empire or this Republic becoming an incarnate demon of lawless ambition and cruel love of gold, how many men and women are willing to spend even one hour a month or a year? For Hodge Joskins innumerable are the multitude of workers; for the English-speaking race, for the embodiment of many millions of Hodges, how few are those who will exert themselves at all? At elections there is a little canvassing and excitement; but excepting at those times the idea that the State needs saving, that the democracy need educating, and that the problems of Government and of reform need careful and laborious study, is foreign to the ideas of our people. The religious side of politics has not yet entered the minds of men.

What is wanted is a revival of civic faith, a quickening of spiritual life in the political sphere, the inspiring of men and women with the conception of what may be done towards the salvation of the world, if they will but bring to bear upon public affairs the same spirit of self-sacrificing labour that so many thousands manifest in the ordinary drudgery of parochial and evangelistic work. It may no doubt seem an impossible dream.

Can those dry bones live? Those who ask that question little know the infinite possibilities latent in the heart of man. The faith of Loyola, what an unsuspected mine of enthusiasm did it not spring upon mankind? "The Old World," as Macaulay remarks, "was not wide enough for that strange activity. In the depths of the Peruvian mines, in the hearts of the African slave caravans, on the shores of the Spice Islands, in the observatories of China, the Jesuits were to be found. They made converts in regions which neither avarice nor curiosity had tempted any of their countrymen to enter: and preached and disputed in tongues of which no other native of the West understood a word."

How was this miracle effected? By the preaching of a man who energised the activity of the Church by the ideals of chivalry and the strength of military discipline. What we have now to do is to energise and elevate the politics of our time by the enthusiasm and the system of the religious bodies. Those who say that it is impossible to raise up men and women ready to sacrifice all they possess, and, if need be, to lay down their lives in any great cause that appeals to their higher nature, should spare a little time to watch the recruiting of the Salvation Army for the Indian mission-field. The delicate dressmaker and the sturdy puddler, the young people raised in the densest layer of English commonplace, under the stimulus of an appeal to the instincts of self-sacrifice, and of their duty to their brethren, abandon home, friends, kindred, and go forth to walk barefoot through India at a beggar's pittance until they can pick up sufficient words of the unfamiliar tongue to deliver to these dusky strangers the message of their Gospel. Certain disease awaits them, cruel privations, and probably an early death. But they shrink not. A race whose members are capable of such devotion cannot be regarded as hopeless, from the point of those who seek to rouse among the most enlightened a consuming passion for their country's good.

But how can it be done? As everything else of a like nature has been done since the world began—by the foolishness of preaching. And here again let Mr. Carlyle speak:—

"There is no church, sayest thou? The voice of Prophecy has gone dumb ? This is even what I dispute : but in any case hast thou not still preaching enough? A preaching friar settles himself in every village and builds a pulpit which he calls newspaper. Therefrom he preaches what most momentous doctrine is in him for man's salvation; and dost not thou listen and believe? Look well; thou seest everywhere a new clergy of the mendicant order, some barefooted, some almost barebacked, fashion itself into shape, and teach and preach zealously enough for copper alms and the love of God."

It is to these friars that we must look for the revival of civic faith which will save the English-speaking race. For other hope of salvation from untutored democracy, weighted with the burdens of Empire and distracted by its own clamant wants and needs, it is difficult to see.

That which we really wish to found among our readers, is in very truth a civic church, every member of which should zealously, as much as it lay within him, preach the true faith, and endeavour to make it operative in the hearts and heads of its neighbours. Were such a church founded it would be as a great voice sounding out over sea and land the summons to all men to think seriously and soberly of the public life in which they are called to fill a part. Visible in many ways is the decadence of the press. The Mentor of the young Democracy has abandoned philosophy, and stuffs the ears of its Telemachus with descriptions of Calypso's petticoats and the latest scandals from the Court. All the more need, then, that there should be a voice which, like that of the muezzin from the Eastern minaret, would summon the faithful to the duties imposed by their belief.

A recent writer, who vainly struggled towards this ideal, has said:—

"We are told that the temporal welfare of man, and the salvation of the State, are ideals too meagre to arouse the enthusiasm which exults in self-sacrifice. It needs Eternity, say some, to stimulate men to action in time. But as there is no Eternity for the State, how then is patriotism possible? Have not hundreds and thousands of men and women gladly marched to death for ideas to be realised solely on this side of the grave? The decay of an active faith in the reality of the other world has no doubt paralysed the spring of much human endeavour, and often left a great expanse of humanity practically waste so far as relates to the practical cultivation of the self-sacrificing virtues. We go into this waste land to possess it. It is capable of being made to flourish, as of old, under the stimulating radiance of a great ideal and the diligent and intelligent culture of those who have the capacity for direction. If we could enlist in the active service of man as many men and women, in proportion to the number of those who are outside the churches, as any church or chapel will enlist in self-sacrificing labour for the young, the poor, and the afflicted, then, indeed, results would be achieved of which, at present, we hardly venture even to dream. But it is in this that lies our hope of doing effective work for the regeneration and salvation of mankind."

This, it may be said, involves a religious idea, and when religion is introduced harmonious co-operation is impossible. That was so once; it will not always be the case, for, as was said recently in the Universal Review:—

A new Catholicity has dawned upon the world. All religions are now recognised as essentially Divine. They represent the different angles at which Man looks at God. All have something to teach us—how to make the common man more like God. The true religion is that which makes most men most like Christ. And what is the ideal which Christ translated into a realised life? For practical purposes this: To take trouble to do good to others. A simple formula, but the rudimentary and essential truth of the whole Christian religion. To take trouble is to sacrifice time. All time is a portion of life. To lay down one's life for the brethren—which is sometimes literally the duty of the citizen who is called to die for his fellows—is the constant and daily duty demanded by all the thousand-and-one practical sacrifices which duty and affection call upon us to make

To establish a periodical circulating throughout the English-speaking world, with its affiliates or associates in every town, and its correspondents in every village, read as men used to read their Bibles, not to waste an idle hour, but to discover the will of God and their duty to man,—whose staff and readers alike are bound together by a common faith, and a readiness to do common service for a common end, that, indeed, is an object for which it is worth while to make some sacrifice. Such a publication so supported would be at once an education and an inspiration; and who can say, looking at the present condition of England and of America, that it is not needed?


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I founded this website in 2001 to assist me in my own research on W.T. Stead, little knowing then that it would become the largest online resource on Stead's life and career. Today this site is used by students, scholars and institutions around the world and has significantly contributed to the Study of W.T. Stead and the evils which he campaigned against.

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Owen Mulpetre, BA (Hons) MPhil