This letter was shared by Christine WRIGHT
of Gilford Castle. It illustrates the nature of Sir Thomas's political
convictions with respect to social policies and the interpretation
Sharon Oddie Brown, June 18, 2005
Hongkong and Shanghai Bank
31 Lombard Street
6 Dec 1912
My dear Mary
You may remember my telling you my experiences in the
Caledonian Hotel at Inverness when the Editor of a pestilent paper (since
defunct) called the Scottish Highlanders was enlarging on the iniquities
of landlords in general and Highland ones in particular. I had just passed
through the country and was able to give him some severe body blows. I
enclose a cutting from the “Sunday Times” of this week which fully bears
out what I saw and what I so freely ladled out upon the Editor; I was
so struck with the Similarity that I thought of sending the cutting to
you, I enclose a copy of the Journal of the Society of Arts the leading
paper is by Harold Cox, read it and pass the Journal to any one you would
like to enlighten on the economic question.
Beastly weather, however we are all A1. both at home
Love to all,
ENCL Article from The Sunday Times December 1,
1912.The article uses the arguments of Mr. Harold Cox to attack the
politics and ideas of Lloyd George. It supports the position of conservatives
of the day that social policies lead to dependency and do not “reward
economic morality”. It also describes the soil condition of the Scottish
Highlands, the consequent marginal farming options and the increased fortunes
of those “who left the Highlands, voluntarily or compulsorily,, seventy
years ago”. NOTE: I have italicized the section that Sir Thomas Jackson highlighted for his sister Mary’s attention when he attached this article to a letter on December 6th, 1912. One of Harold Cox's books, Economic Liberty, is one that resonated with Jackson's take on politics and economics. Here is the article in its entirety:
Comparisons are odious but one cannot compare the speech delivered by Mr. Lloyd George of Aberdeen with the address of Mr. Harold Cox to the Royal Society of Arts, without recognizing that comparisons can sometimes be instructive. On the one hand we have the language that has characterized politicians in all ages, and on the other an address that does not appeal to sentiment or cupidity but deals with the problems of life as they actually present themselves to unbiased observation and unemotional experience. Mr. Harold Cox reminds us of the very patent fact that human nature being what it is, “the majority of men will act selfishly and many of them dishonestly”. Legislation for social regeneration of the masses can never alter this inevitable trait of human life. It can however, serve to accentuate selfishness and dishonesty. For as Mr. Cox very cogently pointed out, one of the immediate results of the Old Age Pensions Act was that a number of people set themselves to represent that they were seventy years of age when in reality they were sixty, while others who had previously been living in considerable comfort on their own property made over their possessions to their children and pleaded destitution. Indeed so deeply ingrained is this discubitory attribute impelling men to live upon the efforts of others whenever possible, that there is no deception so petty but that human nature will sink down to it. Nothing can be more repellent to cultured senses, for example than to imagine it possible for a son to keep hidden for months in his living room the dead body of his mother for the sake of drawing five shillings a week from the State. And yet such things have happened since the passing of the Old Age Pensions act. The demagogues told us that this measure was to bring comfort and joy to the hearts of the aged and infirm. But they carefully omitted to tell the ill instructed democracy they would also rouse into active manifestation the worst aspects of human cupidity and deceit. All indiscriminate almsgiving tempts men to abandon honest industry and to seek a living by unworthy means. And this cardinal fact of human life is not modified one whit by the nature or the source of the alms. Whether they come voluntarily from the pocket of the philanthropist or are the products of a spoliatory or humanitarian legislation, the moral and economic effects are alike. And if there is one fact more significant than another in our modern civilization is a large amount of legacies left for charitable purposes by the rich and the increasing amount of pauperism doled out by the state. As Mr. Harold Cox very pithily pointed out, “it was far better that owners of a rural estate and wealthy residents in country districts should pay their employees well that that they should make large subscriptions to London charities”. For it is obvious that by well paying men who prefer real work we reward economic morality and therefore give encouragement. On the other hand the deeper the charitable pool into which men may dip their hands and find a living, the more favourable becomes the social soil for the growth of economic parasitism. In the long run all so-called social reform resolves itself into deepening this pool.
And now at last the prevailing humanitarian sentiment which is the main spring of all our attempts at social on the ration has grown into a policy of the state. Both parties are more or less subservient to this new policy of robbing Peter to pay Paul where will it all end? It will end as these demands have always ended, increase suffering and in resort to the primeval means by which the civically stronger originally manifested their strength. No dilution can endure for long. A lie has no viability. There is a classical and concrete example of the right to work as guaranteed by the French government in 1848. Everyone in Paris was promised work. But work failed. Still the growing and clambant hordes of the lazy and shiftless were paid their statutory minimum wage. Soon there arose an Army of one hundred thousand men who demanded to be fed and clothed by the State without effort upon their part. The inevitable resulted. The state failed to meet the demand. There was an insurrection and three thousand men were shot and as many more deported. Yet Mr. Lloyd George of Aberdeen virtually promises exactly the same thing as led to the disaster of sixty years ago. He talks about healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and providing homes for the homeless. In a packed meeting he declaims upon a subject with which it is obvious he has no real acquaintance. He refers to the story of the Highlands, to the devastation in this population of districts that he says were thronged with people and whole tracts of which are now lying waste burned over to deer and grouse. If Mr. Lloyd George would spend more of his holidays in the Highlands among the romantic Celtic race and less in the Riviera among the idle rich who he denounces, he might learn some truths of the Highland question. Corn and pasture cannot grow on barren rock nor on mural surfaces. So barren indeed are vast tracts of Scotland that in the winter deer in their thousands come down to the valleys and perish, and even in the summer their living is precarious. It is not so long ago that even cattle had to be lifted to the fields at the end of winter. The “deer forests” are not areas of luxurient vegetation but rough and precipitous domains of rock upon which neither plough can rest nor man work. And the great tracks in which the grouse occur are not much better. They are heather clad it is true, but the soil is only a few inches deep. Land cannot be cultivated under such conditions. And the so-called evictions of seventy years ago were not all evictions, and those which were proved blessings in disguise. Corn does not properly ripen in the Highlands. Often right on into September and October and in some places even in November it is still green. So miserable are the conditions which nature has imposed that places exist where patches of soil have been laid down by the crofters who have scratched it up in handfuls over large areas and carried it for miles in pails to their crofts. Under conditions like these, over which man -- neither landlord nor tenant -- has any control, existence of best must be meager and uncertain. When a potato famine visits such a land, as it did seventy years ago, the only staple which the soil can produce in any quantity is destroyed and starvation faces the population. To take the people from such inhospitable [my scanning missed a line] to the more fruitful soil of Canada is a godsend to them, whether we call it eviction or emigration. In large measure that is a central truth of the so-called devastation and depopulation of the Highlands, so much exploited by unscrupulous politicians. How beneficial it has been is apparent when we remember that the men who left the Highlands, voluntarily or compulsory, seventy years ago, not possessing a halfpenny, have descendants today of considerable wealth. Many Highlanders who thirty years ago left their homes in debt are now in comfortable circumstances.
But there is another aspect to this question. Those who are familiar with the Highlands and have gained the confidence of the people, know that much of the satisfaction of the crofters largely arises not from animosity against the large landowners, but from envy and covetousness of the farmers. In other words, the men who have succeeded by hard work and harder heads are regarded with petty jealousy and some degree of vindictiveness by the men who have been less successful. It always has been so. It always will be so. We cannot give luxuriance to barren rocks, nor ripen southern corn in northern snows, by exciting malice and bad class feeling. We merely increase the barrenness of life itself, for unto the stillness of Nature's uplands we simply add unnecessary coldness and strife to the hearts of men. Whether we are dealing with the rich on the land or the rich in commerce the one central fact that must be driven home to the democracy is that in the long run and amid all the complexities of social life, success is the reward that attends the efforts of the men who are the best and most capable citizens under the conditions which civilization imposes.