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True work, he said, meant the production (taking the word "production" in a broad sense) of the means of life; not the using of them as mere counters for gambling. So that a great part of commerce, as it is generally practiced, is not work, and deserves no consideration, still less justification, by political science. On the other hand, if true work were properly understood and its laws made plain, it would appear that every one ought to take some share in it, according to his powers: some working with the head, some with the hands; but all acknowledging idleness and slavery to be alike immoral. And as to the remuneration, he said, as he had said before in "Unto this Last," justice demands that equal energy expended should bring equal reward. He did not consider it justice to cry out for the equalization of incomes,1 for some are sure to be more diligent and saving than others; some work involves a great preliminary expenditure of energy in qualifying the worker, as contrasted with unskilled labor. But he did not allow that the possession of capital entitled a man to unearned increment; and he thought that, in a community where a truly civilized morality was highly developed, the general sense of society would recognize an average standard of work and an average standard of pay for each class. Where all took their share, many hands would make light work. Where all re
1 Though in Time and Tide, Letter II., he approved the idea of a maximum limit to incomes.
ceived their fair reward, although absolute equality would be impossible, great inequality could not prevail, and the struggle for life would be minimized.
Such was his first suggestion for an organization of labor, extremely ridiculous twenty-five years ago; not quite so ridiculous now.1 Though it demands a higher state of public morality than we can attain in a moment, it does not demand, like many other schemes and Utopias, a totally different human nature; nor on the other hand does it propose to bring the kingdom of heaven to our doors by act of Parliament. It leaves untouched most rights of property, and all those sentiments which the tradition of ages has taught us to be inseparable from humanity; while it recognizes and only calls for the higher development of the better feelings of mankind, in opposition to a system which seemed to deny them, and cynically to proclaim, " Evil, be thou my good."
In the next two lectures he spoke of the two great forms of play, the great games of moneymaking and war. He had been invited to lecture at Bradford, in the hope that he would give some useful advice towards the design of a new
1 It will be worth the reader's while to compare these views of Mr. Ruskin's with those of the clearer-headed of the modern socialists, such as Dr. Albert Schäffle, former Minister of Finance in Austria, of whose Quintessence of Socialism (Eng. tr., Sonnenschein, 1891) M. de Laveleye said it was the only publication he knew that explained the scheme of collectivism and treated it in a scientific way.
exchange which was to be built; in curious forgetfulness, it would appear, of his work during the past ten years and more. It might have been expected, after all he had written, that he would have remarks to make on the architecture of an "exchange," of all places, which an unprepared audience would hardly welcome; and indeed the picture he drew them of an ideal "Temple to the Goddess of Getting-on" was as daring a sermon as ever prophet preached. But when he came to tell them that the employers of labor might be true captains and kings, the leaders and the helpers of their fellow-men, and that the function of commerce was not to prey upon society but to provide for it, there were many of his hearers whose hearts told them that he was right, and whose lives have shown, in some measure, that he did not speak in vain.
Still stranger, to hearers who had not noted the conclusion of his third volume of "Modern Painters," was his view of war, in the address to the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, in December, 1865. The common view of war as destroyer of arts and enemy of morality, the easy acceptance of the doctrine that peace is an unqualified blessing, the obvious evils of battle and rapine and the waste of resources and life throughout so many ages, have blinded less clear-sighted and less widely-experienced thinkers to another side of the teaching of history, which Mr. Ruskin dwelt upon with unexpected emphasis. He showed
that in Greece and Rome and in the Middle Ages, war had brought out the highest human faculties, and in doing so had stimulated the arts. This was not the case, he said, in civil wars, such as that waging in America; though perhaps we may now see that even there the great war did eventually develop national virtues and powers hardly known before. But he showed that, as Bacon said, "No Body can be healthful without Exercise, neither Naturall Body, nor Politique: and certainly, to a Kingdom or Estate, a Iust and Honourable Warre, is the true Exercise." As little John Ruskin had written in 1828, "'T is vice, not war, that is the curse of man;" but the aim of public morality was to limit war to "just and honorable" occasions, and to confine it to those on either side who had a direct interest in it, and could wage it in a just and honorable manner.
It is curious that Ruskin the Goth, who had begun by attacking the "Greek" tradition in art, should now be of all men the most complete exponent of the Greek spirit in policy. They had permitted only their freemen, their gentlemen, to fight; their public morality called a slave a slave, but did not expect him, or allow him, to share in the terrible, fascinating game. And Mr. Ruskin showed how that policy was rewarded. But modern war, horrible, not from its scale, but from the spirit in which the upper classes set the lower to fight like gladiators in the arena, he denounced; and called upon the women of England, with
whom, he said, the real power of life and death lay, to mend it into some semblance of antique chivalry, or to end it in the name of religion and humanity.
These lectures, though in the main drift of them consistent with the logical development of Mr. Ruskin's "message," were written with too evident warmth of feeling. A slip or two in names and statements, a passage or two in which the cohesion of thought is not easily apparent, ought not, however, to deter a thoughtful reader from examining for himself the grounds, and weighing the conclusions, of Ruskin's political ethics.
In the "New Review" for March, 1892, there appeared a series of "Letters of John Ruskin to his Secretary," which, as the anonymous contributor remarked, illustrate "Ruskin the worker, as he acts away from the eyes of the world; Ruskin the epistolographer, when the eventuality of the printing-press is not for the moment before him; Ruskin the good Samaritan, ever gentle and open-handed when true need and a good cause make appeal to his tender heart; Ruskin the employer, considerate, generous, an ideal master." As a vignette portrait of Mr. Ruskin in one phase of his private life, the letters are very interesting; though it would have been wiser to have suppressed names and even initials which unpleasantly refer to innocent persons still living, or else to have given a fuller explanation of the circumstances of the correspondence.