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In Liverpool: The Financial Reform Meeting
at the Liverpool Rotunda

published in The Standard of August 10, 1889

from Kenneth C. Wenzer, An Anthology of Henry George's Thought, Volume I of the Henry George Centennial Trilogy, University of Rochester Press, 1997, page 26, available from http://www.schalkenbach.org/

Henry George shared a platform in Liverpool with William Lloyd Garrison, Jr., son of the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison (1805 - 1879).

. . . Mr. Henry George, on rising, was greeted with prolonged cheering, again and again renewed. When silence was at last obtained he said:

It is a deep pleasure for me to be here tonight, the guest of the Liverpool Financial Reform Association, and to speak at my last meeting in England with my honored countrymen, [including] William Lloyd Garrison of Massachusetts. (Cheers)

You are right, Mr. Garrison. The true republic, the American Republic that we hope for and pray is not yet here. (Hear, hear) A poor thing is a republic where the tramp jostles the millionaire, where liberty is mocked by a paternal system of interference with human rights, where, under the pretext of protecting labor, labor is robbed! (Cheers) And here, in the motherland, in the United States, in Australia and New Zealand, we of the English tongue find the same difficulties confronting us. Liberty is not yet here; but, thank God, she is coming. (Cheers) Not merely the American Republic, not merely the Republic of the Southern Cross, not merely the Republic of Great Britain and Ireland is it that we see in the future, but that great republic that some day is to confederate the English speaking people everywhere (loud cheers) that is to bring a grander "Roman peace" to the world. (A voice: More than that.) Aye, more than that — that is to bring civilization as much higher, as much better than what we call a Christian civilization, as this is higher and better than barbarism. And already, in meetings such as this, it seems to me that I feel an earnest [presentiment] of the coming time when we of one blood and one speech are also to be one. (Cheers) For the same principles, for the same great cause that we stand in the United States we stand here. And in a little over a week from now I will be standing on an American platform speaking to men whose hearts are beating in the same cause in which we are engaged here. (Cheers)

Our little local politics may differ; our greater politics are one and the same. We have the same evils to redress, the same truth to propagate, the same end to seek.

And that end, what is it but liberty? (Hear, hear) He who listens to the voice of Freedom, she will lead and lead him on. Before I was born, before our friend there was born, there was in a southern city of the United States a young printer bearing the name William Lloyd Garrison. (Cheers) He saw around him the iniquity of negro slavery. (Hear, hear) The voice of the oppressed cried to him and would not let him rest, and he took up the cross. He became the great apostle of human liberty, and today in American cities that once hooted and stoned him there are now statues raised to William Lloyd Garrison.

He began as a protectionist. As he moved on he saw that liberty meant something more than simply the abolition of chattel slavery. He saw that liberty also meant, not merely the right to freely labor for oneself, but the right to freely exchange one's production, and, from a protectionist, William Lloyd Garrison became a free trader. (Cheers)

And now, when the first is gone, the second comes forward, to take one further step to realize that for perfect freedom there must also be freedom in the use of natural opportunities. (Hear, hear, and cheers)

We have come . . . to the same point by converging lines. Why is freedom of trade good? Simply that trade — exchange — is but a mode of production. Therefore, to secure full free trade we must also secure freedom to the natural opportunities of production. (Hear, hear) Our production—what is it? We produce from what? From land. All human production consists but in working up the raw materials that we find in nature — consists simply in changing in place, or in form, that matter which we call land. To free production there must be no monopoly of the natural element. Even in our methods we agree primarily on this essential point — that everyone ought to be free to exert his labor, to retain or to exchange its fruits, unhampered by restrictions, unvexed by the tax gatherer. (Hear, hear) . . .

Chattel slavery, thank God, is abolished at last. Nowhere, where the American flag flies, can one man be bought, or sold, or held by another. (Cheers) But a great struggle still lies before us now. Chattel slavery is gone; industrial slavery remains. The effort, the aim of the abolitionists of this time is to abolish industrial slavery. (Cheers)

The free trade movement in England was a necessary step in this direction. The men who took part in it did more than they knew. Striking at restrictions in the form of protection, aiming at emancipating trade by reducing tariffs to a minimum for revenue only, they aroused a spirit that yet goes further. There sits, in the person of my friend, Mr. Briggs [Thomas Briggs], one of the men of that time, one of the men who, not stopping, has always aimed at a larger freedom, one of the men who today hails what we in the United States call the single tax movement, as the natural outcome and successor of the movement which Richard Cobden led.39 (A voice: "Three cheers for Mr. Briggs," and cheers)

And here, in your Financial Reform Association, you have the society that has best preserved the best spirit of that time, that has never cried "Hold!" [and] that has always striven to move forward to a fuller and a brighter day. (Hear, hear)

In the United States, carried away by the heat of the great struggle, we allowed protection to build itself up. We have to now make the fight that you have partially won over here; but, in making that fight, we make the fight for full and absolute free trade. I don't believe that protection can ever be abolished in the United States until a majority of the people have been brought to see the absurdity and the wickedness of all tariffs, whether protective or for revenue only (hear, hear); have been brought to realize the deep truth of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man; have been led to see what Mr. Garrison has so eloquently said, that the interests of mankind are harmonious, not antagonistic, that one nation cannot profit at the expense of another, but that every people is benefited by the advance of other peoples — (cheers) — until we shall aim at a free trade that will enable the citizen of England to enter the ports of the United States as freely as today, the citizen of Massachusetts crosses into New York. (Cheers)

The English Speaking People

Have you ever thought of the position that this English-speaking race of ours is going to hold in the next century? Here, the motherland — this little island. Put it alongside the United States, Canada, Australia, or South Africa; how small it is. Our outposts are now so planted, every sea knows so well our commerce, our millions are so many, that in the next century this English-speaking people will be to the world of that time a mightier power than Rome was to the civilized world of the past. (Cheers)

What is the cause of this, what is the reason of it? Why is it that English is spoken on the North American continent by so many millions of people, and not French or Spanish? Why is it that it is English that is being taught in the public schools of South Africa, of Australia, of New Zealand? (A voice: "They are the public robbers of the world," and laughter) Robbers they have been, but it is not by virtue of their robbery. Spain was even a more unconscionable robber: No! I will tell you why. It is simply because there has been more freedom; it is simply because the English people have had less of a paternal government than the people of the continent. (Cheers) It is not because her colonies were fostered — it is because they were neglected, that they grew up. (Laughter) That is today our strength, and that will give us strength in the future. What we want today to bring us all together is, not union under one government that shall assume to govern, but that absolute freedom of intercourse that shall entwine all interests, that absolute freedom of intercourse that shall establish a daily ferry from this side of the Atlantic to the other side of the Atlantic, that shall make everyone belonging to any of these nations, wherever he may be on the territory of another, feel as though he were at home: (Cheers)

That is what we strive for — for the freedom of all, for self-government to all (hear, hear) — and for as little government as possible: (Laughter and cheers) We don't believe that tyranny is a thing alone of kings and monarchs; we know well that majorities can be as tyrannous as aristocracies (hear, hear); we know that mobs can persecute as well as crowned heads. (Hear, hear) What we ask for is freedom — that in each locality, large or small, the people of that locality shall be free to manage the affairs that pertain only to that locality (hear, hear, and cheers); that each individual shall be free to manage the affairs that relate to him; that government shall not presume to say of whom he shall buy or to whom he shall sell, shall not attempt to dictate to him in any way, but shall confine itself to its proper function of preserving the public peace, of preventing the strong from oppressing the weak, of utilizing for the public good all the revenues that belong of right to the public, and of managing those affairs that are best managed by the whole. (Cheers) Our doctrine is the doctrine of freedom, our gospel is the gospel of liberty, and we have faith in it, why should we not? (Cheers)

The Old Argument

The People who say that such terrible things would follow the institution of the single tax are simply like the people who had predicted terrible things to follow the building of railroads and the abolition of chattel slavery. Why I remember, and Mr. Garrison well remembers, the day when in the United States all the arguments that are used in this country against the single tax were used against the abolition of chattel slavery, even down to the "poor widow argument."

We used to be told — I was only a boy then — we used to be told, when William Lloyd Garrison, father of this man, was the best denounced man on two continents, that it might be well if we could find the people who originally brought these slaves from Africa, to make them give them up. "But," it was urged, "these negroes are owned by people who paid their money for them. (Laughter) Would you take away from a man without any compensation the property that he bought?" (Laughter) Then we used to be told, as you are told now, about that hard working mechanic. "Here is a hard working laboring man. He has toiled early and late, and he has bought a slave to help him. Are you going to take a man's slave without compensation and rob him of the products of his labor?" (Laughter) So they say today of the English mechanic, or English laborer, who has bought himself a little bit of land. And then we used to be told: "Here is a man who worked hard and saved his money, and he invested in half-a-dozen slaves. He died, and those slaves are the only means of subsistence the widow has to support his orphan children. Would you emancipate those slaves, and let that poor widow and those little orphans starve to death?" (Laughter)

Slavery and Slavery

It is the old, old story! And no wonder, for property in land is just as absurd! just as monstrous as property in human beings. (Hear, hear, and cheers) What difference does it make whether you enslave a man by making his flesh and blood the property of another, or whether you enslave him by making the property of another that element on which and from which he must live if he is to live at all? (A voice: "None whatever!" and cheers)

Why, in those old days slave ships used to set out from this town of Liverpool for the coast of Africa to buy slaves. They did not bring them to Liverpool; they took them over to America. Why? Because you people were so good, and the Englishmen who had got to the other side of the Atlantic, and had settled there, were so bad? Not at all. I will tell you why the Liverpool ships carried slaves to America and did not bring them back to England. Because in America population was sparse and land was plentiful. Therefore to rob a man of his labor — and that is what the slaveowner wanted the slave for — you had got to catch and hold the man. That is the reason the slaves went to America. The reason they did not come here, the reason they were not carried over to Ireland was that here population was relatively dense, land was relatively scarce and could easily be monopolized, and to get out of the laborer all that his labor could furnish, save only wages enough to keep him alive even the slaveowner had to give this — it was only necessary to own land.

What is the difference, economically speaking, between the slaves of South Carolina, Missouri, Mississippi, and Georgia and the free peasantry of Ireland or the agricultural laborer of England? (Cheers) Go to one of those slave states in the slave days, and there you would find a planter, the owner of five hundred slaves, living in elegant luxury, without doing a stroke of work, having a fine mansion, horses, [and a] carriage — all the things that work produces, but doing none of it himself. The people who did the work were living in negro huts, on coarse food; they were clothed in coarse raiment. If they ran away, he had the privilege of chasing them back, tying them up and whipping them and making them work.

Come to this side of the Atlantic, in a place where you saw the same state of development. There you found also five hundred people living in little cabins, eating coarse food, clothed in coarse raiment, working hard, yet getting only enough of the things that work produces to keep them in good times, when bad times came having to appeal to the world for charity. But you found among those little cabins, too, the lordly mansion of the man who did no work. (Hear, hear, and groans)

You found the mansion; you did not often find the man. (Laughter and cheers) As a general rule he was off in London, or in Paris, enjoying himself on the fruits of their labor. (Hear, hear) He had no legal right to make them work for him. Oh! no. If they ran away he could not put bloodhounds on their track and bring them back and whip them; but he had, in hunger, in starvation, a ban dog40 more swift, more keen, more sure than the bloodhound of the south. (Cheers)

The slaveowner of the south — the owner of men — had to make those men work for him. He went to all that trouble. The landlord of Ireland did not have to make men work for him. He owned the land, and without land men cannot work; and so men would come to him — equal children of the Creator, equal citizens of Great Britain — would come to him, with their hats in their hands, and beg to be allowed to live on his land, to be allowed to work and to give to him all the produce of their work, except enough to merely keep them alive, and thank him for the privilege. . . .

37 The Standard, Aug. 10 1889, GR. George's indignation against suffering and his internationalism is displayed here.
38 Thomas Briggs of London was a friend and supporter of George.
39 Richard Cobden (1804-1865) was an English statesman influential in diplomatic affairs and in the repeal of the Corn Laws which permitted greater import of grain to ease food prices.
40 A dog kept tied or chained to serve as a watchdog or retained because of its ferocity.


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Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper