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Of course answers were made to the philosophers who had attacked the moral foundations of power. It was asked in reply, which was most fitting, that three persons should govern two, or two should govern three? To which pungent question the philosophers again replied, that in all ordinary matters there is no right on the part of the three to govern the two, or of the two to govern the three. Both must be content to govern themselves. Self-ruling, not each-other-ruling, was the goal in front of the world. It is merely, as they contended, one of the assumptions of governing pedantry to suppose that the whole five ought to be made to walk in the same path and wear the same intellectual uniform. In this world our function is not to make people do, but to let them do—especially, be it said, by removing impediments of our own clumsy invention. Next it was urged in defense of power that the part which falls to discontented minorities is to turn themselves into majorities. The remedy has the slight defect of drawing upon an imagined future and ignoring a real present. I am walking along a road, and some one stronger than I knocks me down and begins to cudgel me about the head. I call to a passer-by to help me and to drag the villain off. He stands, however, with his hands in his pockets, and cheerfully tells me that it is all right; that I ought not to object. If I only practice the use of a cudgel myself with sufficient zeal for a month, or perhaps a year, I shall then be in a position to cudgel my assailant quite as effectively about the head as he is now cudgeling me. I reply that I don't believe in cudgeling heads, whether it is my head or the head of somebody else. The passer-by, however, merely shrugs his shoulders, by way of telling me that it is idle to object to what is so excellent a custom, and one which is universally practiced in the district. Thereupon I find nothing more to say, and have to endure my cudgeling as best I can. Of course, the retort, however good as a bit of rhetoric, is of small value as regards its logic, for, in addition to the pleasant irony of telling an insignificant section, who are aggrieved, that they are presently to govern the country, there are many injuries which the majority of the future, however much it may approach to omnipotence, can with difficulty redress. It can hardly unhang a man, or wipe out of existence the weeks he has spent in prison, or give back property that has been taken from him and spent, or build up some great voluntary institution which has been destroyed, or invent redress for restrictions placed upon the facilities of an individual during the best years of his life, or remove the twist it has given to national character by unwise and harsh measures.
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“Ah! that greatest of all inductions! Some younger man with fuller stores of knowledge must give that induction to the world. It will be for him to follow the history of liberty as he would follow a great river in the East, whose banks are covered with rejoicing crops, while away from it all remains desert. You can see for yourself how vast is the material that it waiting to be used. Has any race of men ever fairly tried even the humblest experiment of freedom and found it fail? Have not the human faculties grown in every field just as freedom has been given to them? Have men ever clung to protection and restraint and officialism without entangling themselves deeper and deeper into evils from which there was no outlet? But tonight we cannot enter upon these wide fields. There is only one group of facts, those that belong to the history of plant and animal, at which we can glance. See how clearly under Darwin's revelations comes out the saving meaning that there is in competition, the destructive meaning that there is in protection. Protect the plant and animal by some mere external protection, as that of an island or an impassable barrier, and you reserve it for certain destruction when the day comes in which at last the life that has ranged over wider spaces and become adapted to the conditions of existence enters into competition with it. The very conditions that seemed to protect it have ensured its destruction. Had it not been protected it had passed through the same gradual adaptations that other life elsewhere has passed through. It was separation from the mainland that preserved the Australian marsupials, that has made islands such as Madagascar the interesting relic houses of a life that had not been competent to survive unless protected. So also has it been that the European plants, which by ranging over wider tracts have more thoroughly undergone selection, have beaten the native plants of La Plata, New Zealand, and, in a lesser degree, of Australia, while speaking generally the plants of these countries cannot obtain a footing in Europe; that the intertropical mountains lost their true vegetation, and accepted those hardier forms which in the glacial period were able to reach them; that the wingless and defenseless birds, such as those of Mauritius, and Bourbon, and Rodriguez, have only been found where beasts of prey were absent. But why multiply examples? The history of the world turns upon the fact of the hardier forms, perfected by a wider and sharper competition, inevitably replacing the weaker forms. And do you not also see how the lower kinds of self-protection die out before the higher kinds? The huge armor plates and spikes that once protected animal life are replaced by higher organizations, better adaptations of bone and muscle, and therefore quicker movements, by improved special organs, by increasing brain size. It is the same with men. The clumsy restrictions and defenses which parliaments provide must give place to those higher forms of self-protection which depend upon mental qualities. Is it not plainly one and the same sentence which nature speaks to plants, to animals, and to men, 'Improve in the true way or be destroyed?' She affixes everywhere her two great conditions of improvement, variety (or difference)–that both in the physical and in the intellectual world brings into existence the beginnings of higher life–and competition, that selects for survival these all-precious beginnings out of the midst of the lower forms; while outside these conditions she reserves no way of salvation. It is wrong and unfaithful to disguise or evade these truths. Whatever it costs, you must say plainly to all men that variety and competition are the only conditions of their advance, and that these conditions can only exist under a system of perfect liberty. All infringements of liberty sin in a twofold way. They tend to uniformity by excluding natural variety, and they give external protection at the cost of preventing the development of self-protection, saving the pain of the present by doubling it in the future. Does such a law seem hard to you? If so, remember that it is not a competition like that of animals and savages, to be decided merely by physical force or cunning, but one in which the more powerful brain, the truer perception, the more temperate habit, the more upright conduct, shall prevail in the end, and that thus the better type shall be always evolving, while the pain of the passage from the unfit to the fit grows less and less.”
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