John Morley, 1st Viscount Morley of Blackburn: Wikis


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For the rugby league footballer of the 1900s for England, and Halifax RLFC, see John "Johnny" Morley
The Viscount Morley of Blackburn 

In office
6 February 1886 – 20 July 1886
Preceded by W. H. Smith
Succeeded by Sir Michael Hicks Beach, Bt
In office
22 August 1892 – 21 June 1895
Preceded by William Jackson
Succeeded by Gerald Balfour

In office
10 December 1905 – 3 November 1910
Preceded by Hon. St John Brodrick
Succeeded by The Earl of Crewe
In office
7 March 1911 – 25 May 1911
Preceded by The Earl of Crewe
Succeeded by The Earl of Crewe

In office
7 November 1910 – 5 August 1914
Preceded by The Earl Beauchamp
Succeeded by The Earl Beauchamp

Born 24 December 1838(1838-12-24)
Blackburn, Lancashire, England
Died 23 September 1923
Political party Liberal Party
Religion Agnostic

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


Early life

He was born in Blackburn. Morley was educated at Cheltenham College, University College School and Lincoln College, Oxford. He quarrelled with his father over religion, and had to leave Oxford early without an honours degree;[1] his father had wanted him to become a clergyman. He wrote, in obvious allusion to this rift, On Compromise (1874).[2]

He was called to the bar before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. He was the editor of the Fortnightly Review from 1867 to 1882 and of the Pall Mall Gazette[3] from 1880–83 before going into politics.

Member of Parliament


Home Rule and Eight Hours

Elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for Newcastle upon Tyne, he was a prominent Gladstonian Liberal. In 1885 he was made Chief Secretary for Ireland, only to be turned out when Gladstone's government fell over Home Rule and Lord Salisbury became Prime Minister.

After the severe defeat of the Gladstonian party at the 1886 general election, Morley divided his life between politics and letters until Gladstone's return to power at the 1892 general election, when he resumed his former office. In 1880, Morley wrote to Auberon Herbert—an extreme opponent of state intervention—that "I am afraid that I do not agree with you as to paternal government. I am no partisan of a policy of incessant meddling with individual freedom, but I do strongly believe that in so populous a society as ours now is, you may well have a certain protection thrown over classes of men and women who are unable to protect themselves".[4] In 1885 Morley spoke out against those Liberals who believed that all state intervention was wrong and proclaimed: "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".[5] Later that year Morley defined his politics: "I am a cautious Whig by temperament, I am a Liberal by training, and I am a thorough Radical by observation and experience".[6]

From 1889 onwards, Morley resisted the pressure from labour leaders in Newcastle to support a maximum working day of eight hours enforced by law. Morley objected to this because it would interfere in natural economic processes. It would be "thrusting an Act of Parliament like a ramrod into all the delicate and complex machinery of British industry".[7] For example an Eight Hours Bill for miners would impose on an industry with great diversity in local and natural conditions a universal regulation.[8] He further argued that it would be wrong to "enable the Legislature, which is ignorant of these things, which is biased in these things—to give the Legislature the power of saying how many hours a day a man shall or shall not work".[9] Morley told trade unionists that the only right way to limit working hours was through voluntary action from them. His outspokenness against any eight hours bill—rare among politicians—brought him the hostility of labour leaders.[10] In September 1891 two mass meetings saw labour leaders such as John Burns, Keir Hardie and Robert Blatchford all called for action against Morley.[11] In the election of 1892, Morley did not face a labour candidate but the Eight Hours League and the Social Democratic Federation supported the Unionist candidate.[12] Morley kept his seat but came second to the Unionist candidate. When Morley was appointed to the government and the necessary by-election ensued, Hardie and other socialists advised working men to vote for the Unionist candidate (who supported an Eight Hours Bill for miners) but the Irish vote in Newcastle rallied to Morley and he comfortably kept his seat.[13] After a vote on an Eight Hours Bill in the Commons in March 1892, Morley wrote: "That has taken place which I apprehended. The Labour party—that is, the most headstrong and unscrupulous and shallow of those who speak for labour—has captured the Liberal party. Even worse—the Liberal party, on our bench at any rate, has surrendered sans phrase, without a word of explanation or vindication".[14]

In the election of 1895 he lost his seat, but soon found another in Scotland, for the Montrose Burghs. He had during the interval taken a leading part in parliament, but his tenure of the chief secretaryship of Ireland was hardly a success. The Irish gentry made things as difficult for him as possible, and the path of an avowed Home Ruler installed in office at Dublin Castle was beset with pitfalls. In the internecine disputes which agitated the Liberal party during Lord Rosebery's administration, and afterwards, Morley sided with Sir William Harcourt, and was the recipient and practically co-signatory of his letter resigning the Liberal leadership in December 1898.

By the mid-1890s, Morley adopted a doctrinaire opposition to state intervention in social and economic matters.[15] He repeatedly expressed his hope that social reform would not become a party issue and warned voters to "Beware of any State action which artificially disturbs the basis of work and wages".[16] Politicians could not "insure steady work and good wages" because of "great economic tides and currents flowing which were beyond the control of any statesman, Government, or community".[17] Morley also opposed the state providing benefits for sections or classes of the community as the government should not be used as a tool for sectional or class interests. The Unionist government had proposed to help farmers by assuming some of their rates and wanted to subsidise West Indian sugar producers. Morley viewed these as dangerous precedents of "distributing public money for the purposes of a single class" and he asked voters: "How far are you going to allow this to take you? ... If you are going to give grants to help profits, how are you off from giving grants in favour of aiding wages?" The end of this process, Morley warned, would see "national workshops to which anybody has a right to go and receive money out of your pockets".[18]

Morley viewed imperialism and an interventionist foreign policy as increasing the power of the state. The increase in state expenditure due to the Boer War (1899-1902) disturbed him because it might lead to the state's revenue raising power being used to implement great changes in the social and economic structure of the country.[19] Francis Hirst recorded in October 1899 about Morley: "He is depressed about national expenditure. He fears, when bad times come, that we shall have not retrenchment, but "nefarious attacks on property and reversions to Fair Trade"."[20] Imperialism and the increasing expenditure needed to fund it would lead to a reconstruction of the income tax and in turn would lead to taxing some people more heavily than others, some thing which was against the "maxims of public equity".[21] Morley now regretted Gladstone's budget of 1853 (where the income tax was set "on its legs") because it gave the Chancellor of the Exchequer "a reservoir out of which he could draw with ease and certainty whatever was asked for". Gladstone had "furnished not only the means, but a direct incentive to that policy of expenditure which it was the great object of his life to check".[22] After Joseph Chamberlain came out in favour of Tariff Reform in 1903, Morley defended Free Trade. Morley claimed that it was no coincidence that since the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, Britain was the only great country in Western Europe not to experience "even a shadow of a civil convulsion". Protectionism was conducive to social distress, political corruption and political unrest.[23]

Morley's great speech at Manchester, in 1899 raises him to a special level amongst masters of English rhetoric: "You may make thousands of women widows and thousands of children fatherless. It will be wrong. You may add a new province to your empire. It will still be wrong. You may increase the shares of Mr Rhodes and his Chartereds beyond the dreams of avarice. Yea, and it will still be wrong!"

Among the coronation honours of 1902, Morley was nominated an original member of the new Order of Merit; and in July 1902 he was presented by Carnegie with the late Lord Acton's valuable library, which, on 20 October, he in turn gave to the University of Cambridge.

Secretary of State for India

Viscount Morley.

When Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman formed his cabinet at the end of 1905 Morley was made Secretary of State for India. Morley would have preferred to have been Chancellor of the Exchequer.[24] In this position he was conspicuous in May 1907 and afterwards for his firmness in sanctioning extreme measures for dealing with the outbreak in India of alarming symptoms of sedition. Though he was strongly opposed by some of the more extreme members of the Radical party, on the ground of belying his democratic principles in dealing with India, his action was generally recognized as combining statesmanship with patience; and, though uncompromising in his attitude towards revolutionary propaganda, he showed his popular sympathies by appointing two distinguished native Indians to the council, and taking steps for a decentralization of the administrative government. When Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman resigned in 1908 and Asquith became Prime Minister, Morley retained his post in the new cabinet; but it was thought advisable to relieve him of the burden imposed by a seat in the House of Commons, and he was transferred to the Upper House, being created a peer with the title of Viscount Morley of Blackburn.

In September 1906 Morley wrote favourably for staunch resistance to the railway workers agitation for higher wages. Failure to do so would damage the Liberal Party with the middle class because "railways are the middle class investment...if anybody thinks we can govern this country against the middle class, he is wrong".[25] In 1909 the Liberal Chancellor David Lloyd George increased taxes in his budget (the "People's Budget") to pay for increased armaments and social reform. Morley claimed that behind the budget "hangs the spectre of Tariff Reform" because the public "may say that, if this is the best that can be done under Free Trade, they'll try something else". Morley viewed "the Expenditure of the country" as "the most formidable of our standing problems".[26]

Lord President of the Council

As a member of the House of Lords, Lord Morley helped assure the passage of the Parliament Act 1911, which eliminated the Lord's power to veto bills. From 1910 until the outbreak of the Great War Morley was Lord President of the Council. Upon Britain's declaration of war on Germany, Morley resigned along with Charles Trevelyan and John Burns.


During his retirement Morley kept an interest in politics. He said to his friend John Morgan on 15 February 1918:

"I'm sick of Wilson...He hailed the Russian Revolution six months ago as the new Golden Age, and I said to Page, 'What does he know of Russia?' to which Page replied, 'Nothing'. As for his talk about a union of hearts after the war, the world is not made like that".[27]

This led Morgan to ask Morley about the League of Nations: "A mirage, and an old one". Morgan asked: "How are you going to enforce it?", whereupon Morley replied: "How indeed? One may as well talk of London morality being due to the Archbishop of Canterbury. But take away Scotland Yard!"[28] When asked in 1919 about the Covenant of the League of Nations Morley said: "I have not read it, and I don't intend to read it. It's not worth the paper it's written on. To the end of time it'll always be a case of 'Thy head or my head'. I've no faith in these schemes".[29] When a prominent Liberal praised someone as "a good European" Morley remarked: "When I lay me down at night or rise in the morning I do not ask myself if I am a good European".[30] Towards the close of 1919 he was worried about Britain's guarantee to France:

"Surely a permanent commitment like that is contrary to all our foreign policy. What do the words 'unprovoked attack' by Germany mean? They are dangerously vague. I've been discussing them with Rosebery and he is as uneasy as I am. He wrote a letter to the Press about it, and the Times refused to publish it".[30]

He often criticised Labour Party policies, and said to Morgan: "Have you read Henderson's speech about a capital levy? It's rank piracy".[31] During a discussion on 6 May 1919 Morley remarked: "I see Lloyd George has invited the Irish republicans to a conference. It's an act of inconceivable folly—he, the King's Prime Minister!"[32] When the House of Lords were debating the Fourth Home Rule Bill Morley said to Morgan on 6 January 1921:

"I should have like to have been there if only to have got up and said, 'If Mr. G's Home Rule Bill had been passed 30 years ago could Ireland have been worse than now? Would it have not been better?' And then fallen dead like Lord Chatham".[33]

On 1 May 1921 Morley said: "If I were an Irishman I should be a Sinn Feiner". When asked by Morgan: "And a Republican?" Morley said "No".[34]

He liked Winston Churchill and said to Morgan on 22 December, 1921:

"I foresee the day when Birkenhead will be Prime Minister in the Lords with Winston leading the Commons. They will make a formidable pair. Winston tells me Birkenhead has the best brain in England. ... But I don't like Winston's habit of writing articles, as a Minister, on debatable questions of foreign policy in the newspapers. These allocutions of his are contrary to all Cabinet principles. Mr. G. would never have allowed it".[35]

In a letter to Sir Francis Webster in 1923, Morley wrote:

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 then 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.[36]


Morley devoted a considerable amount of time to literature, his anti-Imperial views being practically swamped by the overwhelming predominance of Unionism and Imperialism. His position as a leading English writer had early been determined by his monographs on Voltaire (1872), Rousseau (1873), Diderot and the Encyclopaedists (1878), Burke (1879), and Walpole (1889). Burke as the champion of sound policy in America and of justice in India, Walpole as the pacific minister understanding the true interests of his country, fired his imagination. Burke was Morley's contribution to Macmillan's "English Men of Letters" series of literary biographies, of which Morley himself was general editor between 1878 and 1892; he edited a second series of these volumes from 1902 to 1919. The Life of Cobden (1881) is an able defence of that statesman's views rather than a critical biography or a real picture of the period. The Life of Oliver Cromwell (1900) revised Gardiner as Gardiner had revised Carlyle. Morley's contributions to political journalism and to literary, ethical and philosophical criticism were numerous and valuable. They show great individuality of character, and recall the personality of John Stuart Mill, with whose mode of thought he had many affinities. After the death of Gladstone, Morley was principally engaged upon his biography, until it was published in 1903. Representing as it does so competent a writer's sifting of a mass of material, the Life of Gladstone was a masterly account of the career of the great Liberal statesman; traces of Liberal bias were inevitable but are rarely manifest; and in spite of the a priori unlikelihood of a full appreciation of Gladstone's powerful religious interests from such a quarter (Morley was an agnostic), the whole treatment is characterized by sympathy and judgement.


A philosophical Radical of a somewhat mid-19th century type, and highly suspicious of the later opportunistic reaction (in all its forms) against Cobdenite principles, he yet retained the respect of the majority whom it was his usual fate to find against him in English politics by the indomitable consistency of his principles and by sheer force of character and honesty of conviction and utterance. His legacy was a purely moral one; although in May 1870 he married Mrs. Rose Ayling, but the union produced no heirs, nor did Morley have any living brothers. Mrs. Ayling was already married when she met John Morley and the couple waited to marry until her first husband died several years later. According to historian Stanley Wolpert in his 1967 book: "It is hardly exaggeration to speculate that, but for the socially unpardonable circumstances surrounding his marriage, Morley might well have become Britain's foreign secretary, possibly even prime minister".[37] After more than 50 years of a quietly secluded personal life, John Morley died on 23 September, 1923 and the viscountcy became extinct. He was followed in death several months later by Rose. Morley's estate was probated at 59,765 pounds sterling, a surprising sum for a self made man who devoted his life to writing and politics.

Morley inspired many leading figures of the 20th century, including Mahomed Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan. [38] The Austrian classical liberal theorist Friedrich Hayek, writing in 1944, wrote this about Morley's reputation:

"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 he is to-day forgotten in his own country. Men like Lord Morley...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".[39]


  • Edmund Burke (1867).
  • Critical Miscellanies (1871. Second volume; 1877).
  • Voltaire (1871).
  • Rousseau (1873).
  • The Struggle for National Education (1873).
  • On Compromise (1874).
  • Diderot and the Encycloaedists (1878).
  • Burke (English Men of Letters series; 1879).
  • The Life of Richard Cobden (1881).
  • Aphorisms (1887)
  • Walpole (English Statesmen series; 1889).
  • Studies in Literature (1891).
  • Oliver Cromwell (1900).
  • The Life of William Ewart Gladstone (Three volumes; 1903).
  • Recollections (Two volumes; 1917).


  1. ^ D. A. Hamer, John Morley: Liberal Intellectual in Politics (Oxford University Press, 1968), p. 1
  2. ^ Hamer, p. 2.
  3. ^ John Morley
  4. ^ Hamer, p. 158.
  5. ^ 'Mr. John Morley At Glasgow', The Times (11 February 1885), p. 10.
  6. ^ Hamer, p. 160.
  7. ^ Hamer, p. 257.
  8. ^ Hamer, p. 257.
  9. ^ Hamer, pp. 257-8.
  10. ^ Hamer, p. 259.
  11. ^ Hamer, p. 276.
  12. ^ Hamer, pp. 276-7.
  13. ^ Hamer, p. 279.
  14. ^ Hamer, p. 259.
  15. ^ Hamer, p. 307.
  16. ^ Hamer, pp. 306-7.
  17. ^ Hamer, p. 307.
  18. ^ Hamer, p. 308.
  19. ^ Hamer, p. 311.
  20. ^ F. W. Hirst, In the Golden Days (Frederick Muller Ltd, 1947), p. 192.
  21. ^ Hamer, p. 312.
  22. ^ Hamer, p. 312.
  23. ^ Hamer, p. 312.
  24. ^ Hamer, p. 313.
  25. ^ Hamer, p. 353.
  26. ^ Hamer, p. 313.
  27. ^ J. H. Morgan, John, Viscount Morley. An Appreciation and Some Reminiscences (London: John Murray, 1925), p. 92.
  28. ^ Morgan, p. 92.
  29. ^ Morgan, p. 91.
  30. ^ a b Morgan, p. 93.
  31. ^ Morgan, p. 81.
  32. ^ Morgan, p. 99.
  33. ^ Morgan, p. 51.
  34. ^ Morgan, p. 52.
  35. ^ Morgan, p. 78.
  36. ^ 'Lord Morley On Modern Politics', The Times (11 May 1923), p. 12.
  37. ^ Stanley Wolpert, Morley and India, 1906-1910 (Cambridge University Press, 1967), pp. 14-15.
  38. ^ Stanley Wolpert, Jinnah of Pakistan.
  39. ^ F. A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (London: Routledge Classics, 2001), p. 188.


External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Ashton Wentworth Dilke and
Joseph Cowen
Member of Parliament for Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Served alongside: Joseph Cowen to 1886;
James Craig 1886–1892
Sir Charles Frederic Hamond from 1892
Succeeded by
William Donaldson Cruddas and
Sir Charles Frederic Hamond
Preceded by
John Shiress Will
Member of Parliament for Montrose Burghs
Succeeded by
Robert Venables Vernon Harcourt
Media offices
Preceded by
Editor of The Fortnightly Review
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Frederick Greenwood
Editor of The Pall Mall Gazette
Succeeded by
William Thomas Stead
Political offices
Preceded by
W. H. Smith
Chief Secretary for Ireland
Succeeded by
Sir Michael Hicks Beach, Bt
Preceded by
William Jackson
Chief Secretary for Ireland
Succeeded by
Gerald William Balfour
Preceded by
Hon. St John Brodrick
Secretary of State for India
Succeeded by
The Earl of Crewe
Preceded by
The Earl Beauchamp
Lord President of the Council
Succeeded by
The Earl Beauchamp
Preceded by
The Earl of Crewe
Secretary of State for India
Succeeded by
The Earl of Crewe
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Morley of Blackburn


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

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 (18381923) was a British Liberal statesman, writer and newspaper editor.



  • 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? We can all of us recall, at any rate, one very memorable admission that the great system of Gladstonian finance had not reached perfection. That admission was made by no other person than Mr. Gladstone himself in his famous manifesto of 1874, when he promised the most extraordinary reduction of which our taxation is capable. Surely there is as much room for improvement in taxation as in every other work of fallible man, provided that we always cherish the just and sacred principle of taxation that it is equality of private sacrifice for public good. 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. Are to we assume that it has all been wrong? Is my right hon. friend going to propose its repeal or the repeal of any of it; or has all past interference been wise, and we have now come to the exact point where not another step can be taken without mischief? ...other 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).
    • 'Mr. John Morley At Glasgow', The Times (11 February, 1885), p. 10.
  • 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 a Liberal demonstration in Sheffield (22 January, 1889).
    • 'Mr. Morley At Sheffield', 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).
    • 'Mr. J. Morley At Portsmouth.', The Times (14 February, 1889), p. 6.
  • 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).
    • '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).
    • '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).
    • '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).
    • '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).
    • '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).
    • '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).
    • 'Mr. Morley On Social Settlements', The Times (14 February, 1898), p. 12.
  • 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.
    • 'Lord Morley On Modern Politics', The Times (11 May, 1923), p. 12.
  • Evolution is not a force but a process; not a cause but a law.

Rousseau (1876)

  • 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.
  • You have not converted a man because you have silenced him.

Recollections (1917)

  • 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


  • Literature—the most seductive, the most deceiving, the most dangerous of professions.
    • Burke.
  • The most frightful idea that has ever corroded human nature—the idea of eternal punishment.
    • Vauvenargues.
  • Where it is a duty to worship the sun it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat.
    • Voltaire.
  • A great interpreter of life ought not himself to need interpretation.
    • Emerson (1884).
  • The great business of life is to be, to do, to do without, and to depart.
    • Address on Aphorisms (1887).
  • Simplicity of character is no hindrance to subtlety of intellect.
    • Life of Gladstone (1903).
  • Every man of us has all the centuries in him.
    • Life of Gladstone (1903).
  • No man can climb out beyond the limitations of his own character.
    • Critical Miscellanies. Robespierre (1908).

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