Liverpool Address

Nature (September 1870)

[414] Professor Huxley's presidential address is not his only outcome at Liverpool which it is our duty to chronicle–a duty which we perform with gratitude to him for his plain speaking. At the unveiling of Mr. Gladstone's statue on the 14th inst., Mr. Huxley, after referring to the Compulsory Education measure, which promises in time to rid us of our worse than Eastern degradation, as one of Mr. Gladstone's greatest achievements, added that if he might presume to give advice to a man so eminent as Mr. Gladstone–if he might ask him to raise to a still higher point the lustre which would hereafter surround his name in the annals of the country, it was that he should recollect there was more than one sort of learning, and that the one sort which was more particularly competent to cause the development of the great interests of the country, was that learning which we were in the habit of calling Science. That Mr. Gladstone was profoundly acquainted with literature, that he was an acute and elegant scholar, they all knew, but he suspected that the full importance for the practical interests of the country of developing what was known as Science was not quite clear to the Prime Minister as it might be. But, seeing the great faculty of development which his past career has shown, he had no doubt that such a man would by-and-by see that if this great country was to become what it should be, he must not only put the [415] means o [415] every person in the land, but must take care that the education was of such a nature as to provide those persons with the knowledge which they could apply to their pursuits, and which would tend to make them understand best those laws under which the human family existed.

There was still another outcome equally noticeable for its plain speaking, for, addressing the working men of Liverpool, the President of the British Association remarked, and his remarks were responded to by three cheers, that it had been a shock to him, walking through the streets of Liverpool, to see unwashed, unkempt, brutal people side by side with indications of the greatest refinement and the greatest luxury. He remarked upon this to working men because he believed it was the secret of the uneasiness and unrest which betrayed themselves in their political movements. The people who formed what are called the upper strata of society talked of political questions as if they were questions of Whig and Tory, of Conservative and Heaven knows what; but beneath there was the greater question whether that prodigious misery which dogs the footsteps of modern civilisation should be allowed to exist, and whether there should be in those nations which prided themselves most upon being Christian that predominant and increasing savagery of which such abundant specimens were seen in Liverpool. If in the course of history the savagery of nations has been gradually put down by one process only–by learning the laws of nature and the laws of social life, and obeying those laws–he urged upon them that history in this matter did not lie; and if they were to succeed in their great aspiration, they had only one course, and that was to learn the laws of nature and do their best to obey them. To that end all their efforts should be directed; to that end the great educational movement must be directed; and, if their efforts were directed wisely and well, he could not doubt they would meet eventually with the most perfect measure of success.


C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University