John Morley, 1st Viscount Morley of Blackburn

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It is not enough to do good; one must do it the right way.

The Right Honorable John Morley, 1st Viscount Morley of Blackburn, OM PC (24 December 1838 – 23 September 1923) was a British Liberal statesman, writer and newspaper editor.

Quotes[edit]

1870s[edit]

  • The evils of a military system, which, after all, every day must attenuate, are light compared with the evils of an anarchic conservatism reinstated in central Europe. Divided Germany means preponderating Russia. What can be more desirable in the interests of the highest civilisation than the interposition in the heart of the European state-system, of a powerful, industrious, intelligent, and progressive people, between the western nations and the half-barbarous Russian swarms? To the careful observer of the history of modern Europe it is plain that increasing vigour and self-conscious strength in Germany are other words for the spread eastwards of the best of those ideas, the most durable of those civilising elements, in which the difference of historic development has enabled England and France to anticipate her.
    • Fortnightly Review (September 1870), p. 371
  • Where it is a duty to worship the sun it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat.
  • Evolution is not a force but a process; not a cause but a law.
  • You have not converted a man, because you have silenced him.
  • Germany is the power in whose strength, prosperity, and vigorous government, Europe has the most vital interest, because she is the Power best able from her position to deal with Russia.
    • Fortnightly Review (January 1877), p. 139

1880s[edit]

  • 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? ... 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. ... [O]ther 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 The Times (11 February 1885), p. 10
  • But are you so sure...that when Ulster, or the corner of Ulster knows that Great Britain has made up its mind that there is to be an effective, a real self-government in Ireland—are you so sure Ulster will turn its back upon Ireland and claim to be excluded from such Government? (“No.”) I do not believe it. ... I say that a good deal of this zeal for Ulster is artificial.
    • Speech to the National Reform Union in Manchester (6 July 1887), quoted in The Times (7 July 1887), p. 7
  • 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 to a Liberal demonstration in Sheffield (22 January 1889), quoted in 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 The Times (14 February 1889), p. 6

1890s[edit]

  • 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
  • You may carry fire and sword into the midst of peace and industry—such a war of the strongest Government in the world against this weak little Republic, and the strongest Government in the world, with untold wealth and inexhaustible resources, will bring you no glory. (Renewed and prolonged cheering.) It will bring you no profit but mischief, and it will be wrong. (Hear, hear.) You may make thousands of women widows and thousands of children fatherless. It will be wrong. (Cheers.) You may add a new province to your Empire. It will still be wrong. (Renewed cheers.) You may give greater buoyancy to the South African stock and share market. (Hear, hear.) You may create South African booms. You may send the price of Mr. Rhodes's Chartereds up to the point beyond the dream of avarice. Yes, even then it will be wrong. (Loud and continued cheering.)
    • Speech to a meeting called by the Transvaal Committee of Manchester and Liverpool in St. James's-hall, Manchester, against the Boer War (15 September 1899), quoted in 'Mr. Morley and Mr. Courtney on the Transvaal', The Times (16 September 1899), p. 8

1900s[edit]

  • Had they thought of the relations between Imperialism and social reform? Could we continue this process of territorial expansion with our increasing Budgets? What we wanted was resolute and sustained attention to strengthening our industrial position. What was the use of conquering new markets when it was as much as we could do to hold the markets which we had already? (Cheers.) As to the Liberal policy...the day when the Liberal party forsook its old principles of peace, economy, and reform the Liberal party would have to disband and to disappear. (Cheers.) The Socialists would take its place. ... [I]f he were to choose between the Socialist and the Militarist, with all his random aims, his profusion of national resources, his disregard for the rights and feelings of other people, he himself declared he considered the Socialist's standards were higher and their means were no less wise. (Cheers.)
    • Speech to the Palmerston Club, Oxford (9 June 1900), quoted in The Times (11 June 1900), p. 3
  • I am as cautious a Whig as any Elliot, Russell, or Grey, that was ever born.
    • Letter to Lord Minto (30 November 1906), quoted in D. A. Hamer, Lord Morley: Liberal Intellectual in Politics (1968), p. 293
  • I have often thought that Strafford was an ideal type, both for governor of Ireland in the 17th century, and governor of India in the 20th century.
    • Letter to Lord Minto (19 September 1907), quoted in D. A. Hamer, Lord Morley: Liberal Intellectual in Politics (1968), p. 56
  • [I] always had a soft place in my heart for the patrician Whigs.
    • Letter to Lord Minto (1 October 1908), quoted in D. A. Hamer, Lord Morley: Liberal Intellectual in Politics (1968), p. 293
  • I am, and always have been, a pretty strong individualist.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (29 November 1909), quoted in The Times (30 November 1909), p. 6

1910s[edit]

  • There has been a great deal of talk about raising class prejudice. I dislike class prejudice. ... There has been no feeling of class prejudice in my mind; but, my Lords, there is a worse thing than class prejudice, and that is race or national prejudice. We have not had much of it, in fact I may say almost none of it, here. Still is it not true that the cry which is going to be loudly invoked in this election, the Irish cry, depends upon race and national prejudice? Talk of class prejudice. The classes will take care of themselves, I trust. The English working man in my view—and I represented a great and important group of them for many years—is not in the least a Phrygian with a red cap, though some of his fellows may talk in that vein.
  • Whether France or Italy or Germany or England has made the greatest contribution in the history of modern civilisation—however that speculative controversy may be settled, this at least is certain, that those are not wrong who hold that Germany's high and strict standard of competency, the purity and vigour of her administration of affairs, her splendid efforts and great success in all branches of science, her glories—for glories they are—in art and literature, and the fixed strength of character and duty in the German people entitle her national ideals to a supreme place among the greatest-ideals that now animate and guide the world. Do not let us forget all that. German ambition is a perfectly intelligible and even lofty ambition.
  • History, as Treitschke contends, is first of all the presentation of res gestae, and of active statesmen. The essential things in the statesman are strength of will, courage, massive ambition, passionate joy in the result. It needs no wizard to see how such doctrine as this lends a hand to the sinister school of political historians, who insist that the event is its own justification; that Force and Right are one.
    • ‘Politics and History’, Address as Chancellor of the University of Manchester (summer 1912), quoted in The Works of Lord Morley: Volume IV (1921), p. 33
  • The noble Earl, Lord Curzon, stated that he could not understand how it is that we, the Party who have always taken the side of people rightly struggling to be free, do not sympathise with Ulster. In all the cases that he named—Italy, Greece, and so forth—there was actual oppression and hateful misgovernment. No one says there is actual oppression or hateful misgovernment in Ulster. It is all hypothesis.
  • Censorship...ought to be confined to the temporary suppression of military and naval news which might assist the enemy. ... Public opinion might be fallible, but it was not half as fallible as individual opinion, and, good or bad, the Government had to lean upon it; how could they do that unless public opinion had full, free, and correct information as to facts?
    • Speech in the House of Lords (3 November 1915), quoted in The Times (4 November 1915), p. 9

1920s[edit]

  • 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.

Rousseau (1876)[edit]

  • 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.

Recollections (1917)[edit]

  • 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 Morley[edit]

  • ... 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.
  • ... 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.
  • As for Morley, he was never a good speaker, but he is a brilliant conversationalist. His fault in politics is that he's too negative.
    • Arthur Balfour's remarks to John Henry Morgan (31 August 1919), quoted in J. H. Morgan, John, Viscount Morley: An Appreciation and Some Reminiscences (1924), p. 102
  • The King...seems to have unburdened himself to Lord Morley. In the course of their discussions His Majesty pleased him greatly by observing that he looked upon him as the only representative of the old Whigs left in the Cabinet, and certainly, in so far as Whiggism is an attitude of mind, His Majesty's judgment was not wanting in acuteness.
    • Almeric FitzRoy's diary (7 October 1912), quoted in Almeric Fitzroy, Memoirs: Volume II (n.d.), p. 494
  • Lord Morley deplored Winston's Bradford speech. ... He took particular exception to the phrase “there are worse things than bloodshed,” which he described as “a platitude, and worse, a Tory platitude.” The subject cropped up at luncheon in Downing Street, when the Prime Minister instanced the enthusiasm with which the speech was received, and the cheers with which Winston was greeted in the House of Commons, as a proof that it corresponded to the feelings of the party. Lord Morley reminded them that a great Prime Minister, who once lived in that house, on being told of the popular delirium with which the declaration of war had been welcomed, replied, “They are ringing the bells now, but in no long time they will be wringing their hands.” He went on to say, so he told me, “You may talk as you like of bloodshed, but I venture to say this, that the first blood shed in Ireland, not in mere civil commotion, but in conflict between the Ulster Volunteers and the forces of the Crown, will mean the end of Home Rule.” Such a declaration from such a source has tremendous significance, but will it have much effect?
    • Almeric FitzRoy's diary (17 March 1914), quoted in Almeric Fitzroy, Memoirs: Volume II (n.d.), p. 541
  • The menace of European war has come with startling abruptness. I received this afternoon the intimation that the Cabinet had decided to initiate the precautionary stage in the preparations for war. In a few minutes' talk I had with Lord Morley, I discovered that the step met with his keen disapproval, and that, upon its being followed by mobilisation, he would cease to incur further ministerial responsibility. Sympathetic as he is towards France in her secular struggle with Germany in the world of ideas, he cannot brook this country becoming a party to what he regards as a Slavonic movement against Teuton influence. Russia and all she stands for is still for him identified with barbarism, and he looks upon any tendency hostile to Germany that has its roots in Slav aspirations as prejudicial to the interests of civilisation.
    • Almeric FitzRoy's diary (29 July 1914), quoted in Almeric Fitzroy, Memoirs: Volume II (n.d.), p. 557
  • Twelve months ago you were below the gangway, now you are one of the foremost, most popular, most trusted leaders of the Party, after having discharged with signal ability and success the duties of the most difficult post in the Cabinet. I doubt whether our political history has any parallel for so swift, so sure, so well-deserved a rise. The future of the Liberal party will (if your life is spared), be coloured, influenced, controlled by you.
    • Henry Fowler to John Morley (23 December 1886), quoted in R. H. Fowler The life of Henry Hartley Fowler, First Viscount Wolverhampton, G.C.S.I (1912), pp. 212–13
  • The conversation passed into politics and particularly upon Germany, and I was astonished to find how “unrealistic” (as I thought) his views were about Germany's attitude (this was in 1909) and how far more he leaned towards Goethe than towards Comte. A three hours' talk with Morley was a delightful experience.
  • It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that the more typically English a writer on political or social problems then appeared to the world, the more is he to-day forgotten in his own country. Men like Lord Morley or Henry Sidgwick, Lord Acton or A. V. Dicey, who were then admired in the world at large as outstanding examples of the political wisdom of liberal England, are to the present generation largely obsolete Victorians.
  • He liked the men who really count and the lamp of reason burned the more brightly for his presence. Some of his work seems to me very first rate — in literary criticism the essays on Macaulay and Carlyle, in political criticism those on Maine and Condorcet.
    • Harold Laski (1924), quoted in Holmes-Laski Letters: The Correspondence of Mr. Justice Holmes and Harold J. Laski, 1916-1935: Volume I (1953), p. 542
  • I do wish Morley had lived a few months longer to see MacDonald Prime Minister. The old man had talked of it so eagerly and so often.
    • Harold Laski (1924), quoted in Holmes-Laski Letters: The Correspondence of Mr. Justice Holmes and Harold J. Laski, 1916-1935: Volume I (1953), p. 570
  • The effect of Peel's conduct in 1829 and 1846 has always seemed to me deplorable. The only person among our statesmen who has a right to propose a Home Rule Bill is Mr. John Morley.
    • Lord Salisbury to Malcolm MacColl (10 December 1886), quoted in G. W. E. Russell, Malcolm MacColl: Memoirs and Correspondence (1914), pp. 280–81
  • In the afternoon we journeyed down with Haldane to see Lord Morley, who for some unexplained reason desired to see us. We have never been on terms of friendship with John Morley. We have neither liked nor disliked him; and we have always assumed a similar attitude on his part. But it seems that in his political prime he was acutely aware of the socialist criticism of Gladstonian politics and deeply resented it. To-day he is a dignified, benevolent and infirm old man, pathetically anxious to make his peace with the new world of social democracy. In his old age he is more open-minded to the new thought than he was when he had the vigour to grasp its meaning. The catastrophe of the great war has compelled his pacifist soul to seek comradeship in the international socialist movement. ... As Sidney said goodbye he said wistfully “There is no malice between us?”—as if our visit had been one of reconciliation. We have been quite unconscious of any relationship—good or bad—between us and him.
    • Beatrice Webb's diary entry for early 1919, quoted in M. I. Cole (ed.), Beatrice Webb's Diaries 1912–1924 (1952), p. 158

External links[edit]