Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 25.djvu/138

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ents, most of whom, Liberal as well as Conservative, hold opinions from which I dissent, and who would wish me to support measures which I entirely disapproved. Hence, even if elected, I should be quickly called upon to resign.

You will thus see that the choice of me as a candidate would be extremely impolitic, even had I no reason of a personal kind for declining to stand. Thanking you for your kind expressions, and regretting that I am unable to accede to your request, believe me, sincerely yours,

(Signed) Herbert Spencer.


To this letter the reverend gentleman to whom it was addressed replied, regretting that the state of Mr. Spencer's health and work would not permit him to engage in parliamentary duties, but declaring that the other reasons which Mr. Spencer assigned for not taking the nomination were most excellent reasons why he should consent to it. "Leicester," said Mr. Page Hops, "in the person of Mr. Taylor has had an admirable training in the art of letting its members alone, and I trust it will be still further developed in this direction. You certainly will never be called upon * to resign by such a constituency as ours; and I am truly sorry that your health and your work will not allow you to make proof of this."

In itself, this transaction is perhaps of small moment, but it has significance as showing that in England at least there is a decline in the consideration formerly attached to political office-holding, which is accompanied by an equally significant increase on the part of constituencies of resistance to partisan domination. When Mr. Spencer says that "far too high an estimate is made of the influence possessed in our day by a member of Parliament," this is not so much a mere personal opinion as the expression of a palpable and widely admitted truth. The letter has elicited extensive discussion, and the most influential organs of public sentiment in that country unhesitatingly acknowledge it. The "Pall Mall Gazette" remarks: "No one who has had any experience of the inner working of our constitution can gainsay this dictum. The real governing force in the country at present is not Parliament but public opinion, and the shaping of public opinion is a work which, in all but a few exceptional cases, can be much more effectively carried on outside Parliament than from within its walls."

But the offer of the Leicester constituency to be represented in Parliament by the most radical thinker in England, a man of no party, and holding views widely divergent from those entertained by both parties, is especially instructive as showing the value assigned to independence of thought, and the recognized supremacy of principles in English politics. Without assuming that this action of the Leicester politicians is at all representative of the intelligence and independence of other English constituencies, the general and quite emphatic approval of their course shows that it is in wide agreement with English thought. While it is generally admitted that Mr. Spencer did wisely in declining to enter Parliament, even if his bad health were not a barrier, and on the ground that he can do his work better outside of the parliamentary walls than within them, not a word of objection that we can discover has been raised on personal grounds, or because of the extreme and obnoxious opinions which it has become customary to impute to Mr. Spencer. The implication is that his non-partisan independence and his radical views would be excellent things in Parliament, but that his influence would be greater outside of it.




LITERARY NOTICES.

Bacteria. By Dr. Antoine Magnin and George M. Sternberg, M.D., F.R.M.S. New York: William Wood & Co. Pp. 494. Price, $4.

Dr. Sternberg's translation of Dr. Magnin's work on "Bacteria," noticed in these pages at its first appearance three years ago, forms about one third of the present