William Morris quote

August 2022 Forums General discussion William Morris quote

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  • #80996
    ALB
    Keymaster

    The Socialist Standard of November 1909 quotes Morris as saying:

    Quote:
    The business of a statesman is to balance the greed and fears of the proprietary class against the necessities of the working class. This is a very sorry business, and leads to all kinds of trickery and evasion ; so that it is more than doubtful whether a statesman can be a moderately honest man.

    It’s a good quote making a very valid and still relevant point, still usable today, but does anyone know where it comes from?

    It seems to be from a private letter he wrote about 1887 but would have to have been known publicly in 1909.
     

    #87222
    Anonymous
    Inactive

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    ALB wrote:
    The Socialist Standard of November 1909 quotes Morris as saying:

    Quote:
    The business of a statesman is to balance the greed and fears of the proprietary class against the necessities of the working class. This is a very sorry business, and leads to all kinds of trickery and evasion ; so that it is more than doubtful whether a statesman can be a moderately honest man.

    It’s a good quote making a very valid and still relevant point, still usable today, but does anyone know where it comes from? It seems to be from a private letter he wrote about 1887 but would have to have been known publicly in 1909.

      It appears to be a passage from a letter written in 1888 which formed part of a publication entitled Letters on Socialism and privately printed in 1894. The full quote appears below:- 

    Quote:
    Under these conditions the business of a statesman is to balance the greed and fears of the proprietary class against the necessities and demands of the working class. This is a sorry business, and leads to all kinds of trickery and evasion; so it is more than doubtful whether a statesman can be a moderately honest man.

     The entire letter can be found in The Good Society: A Book of Readings:-Steven Lukes, Anthony Arblaster

    #87223
    ALB
    Keymaster

    Thanks. Now we can (and will) use the quote with confidence.  I take it it’s from the letter he wrote to the Rev George Bainton on 10 April 1888?The quote appeared in a copy of a letter sent by a member calling himself “Karl Marx II” and writing from Putney to the Morning Leader. The letter was published in the issue of 26 September (if any historian wants to check) but without the part which quoted from Morris.What is interesting is that early Party members should have been aware of what Morris wrote here, which shows a certain continuity from the anti-reformist views of the Socialist League of which Morris was a member from 1884-1890, no doubt via the Social Democratic Federation to which Morris had become reconciled by the time he died in 1896 and from which the Party sprang.

    #87224
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    ALB wrote:
    Thanks. Now we can (and will) use the quote with confidence.  I take it it’s from the letter he wrote to the Rev George Bainton on 10 April 1888?

     Yes; it seems Morris wrote a series of letters to Bainton which were subsequently published (in 1894) under the title of Letters on Socialism.

    #87225
    ALB
    Keymaster

    Thanks to the services of the Party’s Library Committee I’ve now been able to track down the exact source. It is from the letter Morris wrote to the Rev George Bainton on 10 April 1888 which is reproduced in full in The Letters of William Morris to His Family and Friends edited by Philip Henderson which is in our library.The full quote shows that Morris understood his stuff:

    Quote:
    The fact of the antagonism of classes underlies all our government and causes political parties, who are continually making exhibitions of themselves to the disgust of all sensible men; making party questions out of matters of universal public convenience, and delaying reforms of the most obvious nature long after the whole country has cried out for them. This is I think a necessary result of government—or, if you please, of political government; and what causes that government is, as I have said, the contest of classes which our competitive system forces on us.Under these conditions the business of a statesman is to balance the greed and fears of the proprietary classes against the necessities and demands of the working class. This is a sorry business, and leads to all kinds of trickery and evasion; so that it is more than doubtful whether a statesman can be a moderately honest man.

     

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