WCP2014

Letter (WCP2014.1904)

[1]

38 Queen’s Gardens

Bayswater W.

July 6/81

Dear Mr. Wallace,

I have already seen the work you name— Progress and Poverty; having had a copy, or rather two copies, sent me. I gathered from what little I gleaned at, disagree with the writer, and have not read more.

I demur entirely to the supposition, which is implied in the book, that by every possible social arrangements whatever, the distress which humanity has had to suffer in the course of civilization[sic] [2] could have been prevented. The whole process, with all its horrors and tyrannies, and slaveries and wars, and abominations of all kinds, has been an inevitable one accompanying the renewal and spread of the strongest, and the consolidation of small tribes into large societies, and among other things the lapse of land into private ownership has been, like the lapse of individuals into slavery, at one period of the process altogether indispensable. I do not in the least believe that from the primitive system of communication[?] ownership to a high and finished system of state ownership such as we may look for in [3] the future, there could be [one word illegible] transition without [one word illegible] through such stages as we have seen and which exist now. Argument aside, however, I should be disinclined to commit myself to any scheme of immediate action, which as I have indicated to you, I believe at present premature. For myself I feel that I have to consider not only what I may do on special questions, but also which how the action I take on special questions may affect my general influence; and I am disinclined to give more handles against me than are needful. Already, as you will see by the inclosed[sic] circular, I am doing in the [4] way of positive action more than may be altogether prudent.

Sincerely yours | Herbert Spencer [signature]

Published letter (WCP2014.6568)

[1] [p. 154]

38 Queen's Gardens, Bayswater, W.1 July 6, 1881.

Dear Mr. Wallace, — I have already seen the work you name, "Progress and Poverty,"2 having had a copy, or rather two copies, sent me. I gathered from what little I glanced at that I should fundamentally disagree with the writer,3 and have not read more.

I demur entirely to the supposition, which is implied in the book, that by any possible social arrangements whatever the distress which humanity has to suffer in the course of civilisation could have been prevented. The whole process, with all its horrors and tyrannies, and slaveries, and wars, and abominations of all kinds, has been an inevitable one accompanying the survival and spread of the strongest, [2] [p. 155] and the consolidation of small tribes into large societies; and among other things the lapse of land into private ownership has been, like the lapse of individuals into slavery, at one period of the process altogether indispensable. I do not in the least believe that from the primitive system of communistic ownership to a high and finished system of State ownership, such as we may look for in the future, there could be any transition without passing through such stages as we have seen and which exist now. Argument aside, however, I should be disinclined to commit myself to any scheme of immediate action, which, as I have indicated to you, I believe at present premature. For myself I feel that I have to consider not only what I may do on special questions, but also how the action I take on special questions may affect my general influence; and I am disinclined to give more handles against me than are needful. Already, as you will see by the enclosed circular, I am doing in the way of positive action more than may be altogether prudent. Sincerely yours, | HERBERT SPENCER.

A district in west London.
George, H. (1879) 'Progress and Poverty: An Inquiry into the Cause of Industrial Depressions and of Increase of Want with Increase of Wealth: The Remedy' San Francisco, USA: W. H. Minton & Co.
George, Henry (1839-1897). American writer, politician and political economist

Please cite as “WCP2014,” in Beccaloni, G. W. (ed.), Ɛpsilon: The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection accessed on 3 March 2024, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/wallace/letters/WCP2014