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An excerpt from the beginning of the:
THE following pages have been written for the purpose of tracing the gradual but sure growth of our civil liberty, from historic times, downward to our own day, and of investigating the great principles which inspired our ancestors, in their efforts to secure that great inheritance to us, their posterity. A further object that I have had in view—and perhaps this latter may be regarded as the more important—is to show the symptoms, which are gathering fast and thick around us, of a new order of things—of, in fact, a distinct surrender of the traditional safeguards of that civil liberty—the "cornerstone" of our great and deservedly enviable constitution.
I have endeavoured to prove that the invaluable principle of individual freedom—which, from the Norman Conquest downward, fired the most noble-minded of our ancestors to rebel against the tyranny of those who won, or inherited, the rights of that conquest—is in imminent danger of being lost to us, at the very hour of its consummation. And I have, I think, further demonstrated that so sure as we depart from those traditional lines, in the endeavour to realise a condition of society, which can only exist in the imagination—viz., a community of people, enjoying equal social conditions,—we shall, when it is too late, find that we have lost the substance, in grasping at the shadow.
In order to realise the above perhaps somewhat ambitious purposes, I have enumerated instances to show that the term "Liberalism," which in its original and true interpretation was synonymous with "freedom," has, in our own day, lost that genuine meaning, and is, instead, carrying with it, to the minds of most men, other and quite erroneous significations; and further, that political party-titles, generally, have now ceased to carry with them any clear conception of political principles: having become so inextricably mixed and confused in the meanings which they convey, that it is impossible to deduce, from the fact of their being professed by any individual, any distinct conclusion as to that individual's political creed.
I have then shown that, from the earliest times in the regular history of England, the principle of individual freedom was the one which, paramount to all others, characterised the greatest of England's reforms; but that, in the present day, that time-honoured principle appears to have lost its charm, and the political title "Liberalism," which previously served as its synonym, is being gradually perverted to the service of a cause, which must, sooner or later, be wholly destructive of that very liberty, from which it derived its existence as a political term.
I have also, I believe, been able to demonstrate that this tendency (though the fact is not generally recognised) is clearly in the direction of those conditions or forms of society, known as "Socialism" and "Communism;" and, finally, I have, I think, given sufficient proof, from unexceptionable authorities, of the fact that all practical attempts at such conditions of society, have, whenever and wherever tried, hopelessly failed in their results; and, instead of lifting the lowest stratum of society to the level of the highest, (as was anticipated), or even approximating to it, dragged the whole fabric down to the dead level of a primitive and uncultured existence, sapped the enterprise and independence, as well as stifled the higher faculties of all who have helped to constitute such communities, and ended in placing such as conformed to their principles at the mercy of nature, with all its uncertainties of season, and disappointments of production.
I venture to think that there is no part of the civilised world, in which the term "Liberalism" has been more constantly, or with more confidence, misused than in the English colonies, and more especially in the colony of Victoria. Political thought has there been developed and sharpened to an extent, which has scarcely been equalled, certainly not surpassed, in any part of the world—even in the United States; so that, in fact, it affords to the political students of other and older countries, who may consider it worthy of their attention, an invaluable political laboratory for the purpose of judging the merits of many "advanced" legislative experiments. This identical view I expressed at some length in The Times, as far back as 1877.
Bearing the foregoing facts in view, I have drawn a great number and variety of my illustrations from the legislative and other public proceedings of the particular colony mentioned.
Side by side with this unusual development of political activity and intelligence, which is specially noticeable in that colony...