John Morley, 1st Viscount Morley of Blackburn
British Liberal statesman, writer and newspaper editor
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- Yet the Opposition refused to extend the franchise unless they were assured that there would be some manipulation or re-arrangement of seats, which, would, in fact, be taking away with one hand what was given with the other. He regretted that proportional representation should have been introduced into the debate from that side of the House, for all these schemes were but new disguises for the old Tory distrust of the people.
- Speech in the House of Commons (3 April 1884).
- Some think that we are approaching a critical moment in the history of Liberalism...We hear of a divergence of old Liberalism and new...The terrible new school, we hear, are for beginning operations by dethroning Gladstonian finance. They are for laying hands on the sacred ark. But did any one suppose that the fiscal structure which was reared in 1853 was to last for ever, incapable of improvement, and guaranteed to need no repair? We can all of us recall, at any rate, one very memorable admission that the great system of Gladstonian finance had not reached perfection. That admission was made by no other person than Mr. Gladstone himself in his famous manifesto of 1874, when he promised the most extraordinary reduction of which our taxation is capable. Surely there is as much room for improvement in taxation as in every other work of fallible man, provided that we always cherish the just and sacred principle of taxation that it is equality of private sacrifice for public good. Another heresy is imputed to this new school which fixes a deep gulf between the wicked new Liberals and the virtuous old. We are adjured to try freedom first before we try interference of the State. That is a captivating formula, but it puzzles me to find that the eminent statesman who urges us to lay this lesson to heart is strongly in favour of maintaining the control of the State over the Church? But is State interference an innovation? I thought that for 30 years past Liberals had been as much in favour as other people of this protective legislation. Are to we assume that it has all been wrong? Is my right hon. friend going to propose its repeal or the repeal of any of it; or has all past interference been wise, and we have now come to the exact point where not another step can be taken without mischief? ...other countries have tried freedom and it is just because we have decided that freedom in such a case is only a fine name for neglect, and have tried State supervision, that we have saved our industrial population from the waste, destruction, destitution, and degradation that would otherwise have overtaken them...In short, gentlemen, I am not prepared to allow that the Liberty and the Property Defence League are the only people with a real grasp of Liberal principles, that Lord Bramwell and the Earl of Wemyss are the only Abdiels of the Liberal Party.
- Annual presidential address to the Junior Liberal Association of Glasgow (10 February 1885), quoted in 'Mr. John Morley At Glasgow', The Times (11 February 1885), p. 10.
- There is a loud cry in these days for clues that shall guide the plain man through the vast bewildering labyrinth of printed volumes.
- Mr. Morley at Edinburgh: Aphorisms: an address delivered before the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution, November 11 1887, p. 3 (Macmillan, 1887)
- We are told by a Lord of the Admiralty who represents a Sheffield division that it is all over with the old Manchester school, and that we have got into new days. I do not belong to the Manchester school. I have nothing to say about the Manchester school except this—that I chanced to write the life of a very important leader of that school. and what did Mr. Cobden say upon this very point? He said:—"I am willing to spend a hundred millions on the fleet if necessary". The Radical party have never been the party who denied the great proposition that lies at the bottom of British politics—namely, that we must have absolute supremacy at sea.
- Speech a Liberal demonstration in Sheffield (22 January 1889), quoted in 'Mr. Morley At Sheffield', The Times (23 January 1889), p. 10.
- We are told that we are a pack of Socialists and faddists, and that common sense is on the side of the Unionist party. Well, for my part, I am for going in for all progressive legislation step by step. I do not believe in the short cuts. If Socialism means the abolition of private property, if it means the assumption of land and capital by the State, if it means an equal distribution of products of labour by the State, then I say that Socialism of that stamp, communism of that stamp, is against human nature, and no sensible man will have anything to say to it. But if it means a wise use of the forces of all for the good of each, if it means a legal protection of the weak against the strong, if it means the performance by public bodies of things which individuals cannot perform so well, or cannot perform at all, then the principles of Socialism have been admitted in almost the whole field of social activity already, and all we have to ask when any proposition is made for the further extension of those principles is whether the proposal is in itself a prudent, just, and proper means to the desired end, and whether it is calculated to do good, and more good than harm.
- Speech to the Home Counties Division of the National Liberal Federation (13 February 1889), quoted in 'Mr. J. Morley At Portsmouth.', The Times (14 February 1889), p. 6.
- I am not going to enter into this chapter, but you all know that this which is called—I do not much like the name, but I confess I have not a better name—"State Socialism" is what has protected us from revolutionary socialism, which is much a worse thing. Probably a considerable portion of this audience consists of men who live on weekly wages; but I ask you not to rush at the first thing that is offered you, not to believe that because a thing sounds very pleasant—like compulsory reduction, for example, of the hours of labour—do not be quite sure until you have looked round it that it may not end in leaving your condition worse than it found it. I should deplore the advance of State Socialism, though I believe much may be hoped from it. I should regard it as a great disaster, the greatest disaster that could befall this great population, if it did anything to take away your self-reliance, the control of the individual over his own appetites and passions, his own idleness and self-indulgence, and make you look to anything but self-reliance. This, in the long run, would do more harm than good.
- Speech at Rochdale town hall (23 April 1890), quoted in 'Mr. Morley At Rochdale', The Times (24 April 1890), p. 6.
- I myself am no opponent of State intervention. I have never been, and never shall be, as soon as it is shown to me that State intervention can achieve some good end which cannot be reached without it. And I hope that opinion will soon turn in the direction of municipal intervention in these affairs, wherever municipal intervention is adequate, and I will tell you why...I believe that in municipalities the area of supervision is sufficiently small, that people concerned come up in sufficiently close quarters with the matters of administration to enable them to avoid all the dangers, risks, and wastes to which the general state of capitals is open.
- Speech to the annual meeting of the National Liberal Federation (20 November 1890), quoted in 'Mr. Morley At Sheffield', The Times (21 November 1890), p. 10.
- ...there is nothing that the most prominent men in the Liberal party more earnestly desire than that labour representation, direct labour representation, shall be as large as possible...It is sometimes said to me, "Oh! but you are against State intervention in matters of great social reform". At this time of the day it would be absurd for any man who has mastered all the Mining Regulations Acts, the Factories Acts, the great mass of regulation which affects trade; it would be absurd for any man to stand on a platform and say he was entirely against State intervention. I, for my part, have never taken that position...My own belief is that in the matters of hours and of wages for adult male labour the interference would be a bad and mischievous thing...that in such matters, for example, as housing of the poor and so forth, the proper machinery through which to carry out these operations is municipal and not Parliamentary.
- Speech at Huddersfield (21 May 1892), quoted in 'Mr. Morley At Huddersfield', The Times (23 May 1892), p. 7.
- I have always been strong for a large increase of labour representation in the House of Commons...Now, I dare say the day may come—it may come sooner than some think—when the Liberal party will be transformed or superseded by some new party; but before the working population of this country have their destinies in their own hands, as they will assuredly do within a measurable distance of time, there is enough ground to be cleared which only the Liberal party is capable of clearing. The ideal of the Liberal party is that view of things which believes that the welfare of all is bound up with injustice being done to none. Above all, according to the ideal of the Liberal party—that party from which I beseech you, not for my sake, but for your own, not to sever yourselves—the ideal of the Liberal party is this—that in the mass of the toilers on land all the fountains of national life abide and the strongest and most irresistible currents flow.
- Speech in Newcastle (21 May 1894), quoted in 'Mr. Morley At Newcastle', The Times (22 May 1894), p. 11.
- I said years ago that I would rather be the man who helped on a rational scheme which should secure the comfort of old age than I would be a general who had won ever so many victories in the field. These are, to me, the two most tragic sights in the world—a man who is able to work, and anxious to work, and who cannot get work; and the other tragic sight is that of a man who has worked until his eyes have become dim, and his natural force has become abated, and he is left to spend the declining years of a life that has been so nobly used, so honourably used, in straits, difficulties, and hardships.
- Speech in Manchester (4 July 1895), quoted in 'Mr. Morley In Manchester', The Times (5 July 1895), p. 10.
- I want to take in all these labour questions from the largest possible nationalist point of view, and it is this—that while the State should do all that it prudently can to protect the health and life, not only of women and children, but of the whole assembly of workers, it is absurd, it is perilous to thrust Acts of Parliament, as I have said before, like the steam ram-rod into the delicate machinery of commercial undertakings.
- Speech at Newcastle (2 December 1895), quoted in 'Mr. Morley At Newcastle', The Times (3 December 1895), p. 6.
- We all know that the besetting danger of Churches is formalism; the besetting danger of State action, of corporate action, is officialism and mechanism; and we all know that it is a drawback to many modern ideals that they rest upon materialism and a soulless secularism.
- Speech opening the Passmore Edwards Settlement (12 February 1898), quoted in 'Mr. Morley On Social Settlements', The Times (14 February 1898), p. 12.
- Let us look at the history of Ireland, the history of this chronic government by coercion. What does it mean? It was the naked government of another Kingdom by irresponsible force—irresponsible, that is to say, as regards those whom this system was to affect. Coercion Laws were passed, and were smoothly, described as being for the protection of life and property, of respect for ordinary law, and so on. All those methods proved an ugly failure.
- Speech in the House of Lords (14 December 1921).
- Present party designations have become empty of all contents...Vastly extended State expenditure, vastly increased demands from the taxpayer who has to provide the money, social reform regardless of expense, cash exacted from the taxpayer already at his wits' end—when were the problems of plus and minus more desperate? How are we to measure the use and abuse of industrial organization? Powerful orators find "Liberty" the true keyword, but the I remember hearing from a learned student that of "liberty" he knew well over two hundred definitions. Can we be sure that the "haves" and the "have-nots" will agree in their selection of the right one? We can only trust to the growth of responsibility; we may look to circumstances and events to teach their lesson.
- Letter to Sir Francis Webster, president of the Montrose Burghs Liberal Association, quoted in 'Lord Morley On Modern Politics', The Times (11 May 1923), p. 12.
- Evolution is not a force but a process; not a cause but a law.
- On Compromise (1874).
- You have not converted a man, because you have silenced him.
- On Compromise (1874).
- Where it is a duty to worship the sun it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat.
- Voltaire (1871).
- Those who would treat politics and morality apart will never understand the one or the other.
- You cannot demonstrate an emotion or prove an aspiration.
- It is not enough to do good; one must do it the right way.
- There are some books which cannot be adequately reviewed for twenty or thirty years after they come out.
- Vol. I, bk. 2, ch. 8.
- The proper memory for a politician is one that knows what to remember and what to forget.
- Vol. II, bk. 4, ch. 2.
- In my creed, waste of public money is like the sin against the Holy Ghost.
- Vol. II, bk. 5, ch. 3.
- Success depends on three things: who says it, what he says, how he says it; and of these three things, what he says is the least important.
- Vol. II, bk. 5, ch. 4.
- Excess of severity is not the path to order. On the contrary, it is the path to the bomb.
- Vol. II, bk. 5, ch. 4.
Quotes about John MorleyEdit
- ... Christianity represents man as being by nature sinful, and the evils of the world as being due to the inherent imperfections in his nature. This doctrine Mr. Morley regards as entirely fatal to an efficacious doctrine of progress.
- "Review of Mr. John Morley's Collected Writings". The Quarterly Review 168: 249–280. January 1888; quotation from p. 259
- ... Mr Morley has never entirely deserted literature for politics; he has brought his political training to bear on literature; witness his admirable studies of Sir Robert Walpole and of Oliver Cromwell, books which abound in wise saws and pregnant reflections that could never have been inspired in the study. They are the fine flower of political experience, ripened in the senate and the market-place, quickened by the habit of dealing directly with men, and perfected by rare literary skill.
- "Mr Morley's Life of Gladstone". The Quarterly Review 198: 545–579. October 1903, quote on p. 545