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MY FRIENDS AND ACQUAINTANCES : SIR JAMES BROOKE,
PROFESSOR ROLLESTON, MR. AUG. MONGREDIEN, SIR
ABOUT a year or two after I had returned home, Sir James Brooke had also returned to England, and had retired to a small estate at the foot of Dartmoor, where he lived in a comfortable cottage-farmhouse amid the wild scenery in which he delighted. I had met him once or twice in London, and, I think in the summer of 1863 or 1864, he invited me to spend a week with him in Devonshire, to meet his former private secretary and my old friend in Sarawak, Mr. (now Sir Spencer) St. John. We had a very pleasant time, strolling about the district or taking rides over Dartmoor ; while at meals we had old-time events to talk over, with discussions of all kinds of political and social problems in the evening. At the same time Lady Burdett-Coutts, with her friend Mrs. Brown, were staying near, and often drove over and took us all for some more distant excursions.
This meeting and my friendship with Sir James Brooke led to my receiving several invitations to dine in Stratton Street, where my friend George Silk was also a frequent guest; but my unfortunate habit of speaking my thoughts too plainly broke off the acquaintance. The rajah's nephew, Captain Brooke, who had been formerly designated as Sir James's successor under the Malay title of Tuan Muda (young lord), had done or written something (I forget what) to which Sir James objected, and a disagreement ensued, which resulted in the captain being deposed from the heirship, and
his younger brother Charles, the present rajah, being nominated instead. As I was equally friendly and intimate with both parties and heard both sides, I thought the captain had been rather hardly treated, and one day, when the subject was mentioned at Stratton Street, I ventured to say so. This evidently displeased Lady Burdett-Coutts, and I was never invited again—a matter which did not at all disturb me, as the people I met there were not very interesting to me. When Sir James Brooke heard of my indiscretion, he wrote to me very kindly, saying that he knew that I was the captain's friend and had a perfect right to take his part, and that my doing so did not in the least offend him and would make no difference in our relations, and I continued to receive friendly letters from him till he went to Borneo for the last time, in 1866. Soon after his return he died at his Devonshire home, in June, 1868. I have given my estimate of his character and of his beneficent work at Sarawak in my "Malay Archipelago.”
One of my early friends, though I did not see a great deal of him, was Professor George Rolleston, whose death in the prime of life (in 1885) was a great loss to the biological sciences. I possess, however, only one letter from him, accompanying some remarks by a friend of his, Dr. Kay, principal of a theological college in Calcutta, on my article in The Reader on "How to Civilize Savages," in which I had criticized missionary work, and, by implication, popular ideas of the value of Christianity. The MSS. sent has been lost, but I happen to have a rough copy of my reply, and as it argues the missionary question more fully than was thought necessary in the article (included with additions in my "Studies "), I think it may be well to print it here.
"9, St. Mark's Crescent, Regent's Park,
“September 23, 1865. " DEAR ROLLESTON,
“Your friend has very fairly stated my argument, yet does not seem to me to touch the point of it in his
answer. For instance, he says, 'the principal doctrines of Christianity were held at the beginning as now. True, but what was that beginning ? and where did the doctrines and dogmas of Christianity spring up? It was in the very focus of all the highest and most ancient civilizations of the world -the Jewish, the Egyptian, the Assyrian, the Greek, and the Roman. These peoples had already gone through the long process of mental development which the savage has not even begun. The doctrines (of Christianity) grew among them, as they do not grow among savages, because they were adapted to the mental state in the one case, but are not in the other.
“What savage nations have (as he asserts) been raised out of their degradation by Christianity? The Abyssinians are a good case to show that Christianity alone does nothing. The circumstances have not been favourable to the growth of civilization in Abyssinia, and therefore, though they have had Christianity as long as we have (or longer), they are scarcely equal morally to many pagan and certainly inferior to some Mohammedan nations. This is a crucial instance.
“He says the Britons did not arrive at any 'great moral elevation' under the Romans. But will he point out any savages who have arrived at a 'great moral elevation' in the same time under Christianity? I know of none. No doubt there has been often a superficial improvement, as in some of the South Sea islands; but it is an open question how much of that is due to the purely moral influence of a higher and more civilized race.
“Of course, if you claim all virtue as Christian virtue, and impute all want of goodness to want of true Christianity, you may prove the value of any religion. The Mohammedan argues exactly the same (see Lady Duff Gordon's 'Letters from Egypt'). Your friend would no doubt impute whatever scraps of goodness there may exist in myself to the Christianity in which I was educated; but I know and feel (though it would no doubt shock him to hear) that I acted from lower motives than I do now, and that I was really inferior morally as a Christian than I am now as, what he would call, an infidel.
"I look upon the doctrine of future rewards and punishments as a motive to action to be radically bad, and as bad for savages as for civilized men. I look upon it, above all, as a bad preparation for a future state. I believe that the only way to teach and to civilize, whether children or savages, is through the influence of love and sympathy; and the great thing to teach them is to have the most absolute respect for the rights of others, and to accustom them to receive pleasure from the happiness of others. After this education of habit, they should be taught the great laws of the universe and of the human mind, and the precepts of morality must be placed on their only sure foundation—the conviction that they alone can guide mankind to the truest and most widespread happiness.
“I cannot see that the teaching of all this can be furthered by the dogmas of any religion, and I do not believe that those dogmas really have any effect in advancing morality in one case out of a thousand.
“My article, by-the-bye, was considerably pruned, and I, of course, think spoilt by the editor.
“Yours very sincerely,
"ALFRED R. WALLACE."
In the year 1869 it was proposed to establish a scientific weekly paper to serve as a record of progress for workers, to furnish reviews of scientific books by specialists dealing with them on their merits alone, to give reports of the meetings of societies, and popular yet accurate accounts of all remarkable new facts or theories of general interest. I took part in the meetings at which the subject was discussed, and undertook to contribute occasionally to its pages, and for the next quarter of a century almost every volume of Nature, as the new periodical was called, contains either reviews, letters, or articles from my pen. In the fifth issue (December 2, 1869) there was an article on science reform, giving an account of the report of a committee of the British Association on a question suggested by a paper read by Lieut.-Colonel Strange, entitled, “On the Necessity for State
Intervention to secure the Progress of Physical Science.” The committee, almost all professors or officially employed men of science, reported that State aid was required, and the article in Nature supported the view. Believing that this was not only injudicious, but wrong, I thought it advisable to state my reasons for opposing it, and sent a rather long letter to the editor. It was published on January 13, 1870, but in order to counteract its supposed dangerous tendency a leading article accompanied it, headed, “Government Aid to Science,” strongly controverting my views, somewhat misrepresenting them, and omitting to deal with the main ethical question which I raised. As my letter is buried in the first volume of a periodical which few of my readers will possess, and as I hold the same views still, and consider their advocacy to be now more important than ever, I here reproduce my letter.
“GOVERNMENT AID TO SCIENCE.
“The public mind seems now to be going wild on the subject of education; the Government is obliged to give way to the clamour, and men of science seem inclined to seize the opportunity to get, if possible, some share of the public money. Art education is already to a considerable extent supplied by the State, technical education (which I presume means education in the arts ') is vigorously pressed upon the Government, and science also is now urging her claims to a modicum of State patronage and support.
“Now, I protest most earnestly against the application of public money to any of the above-specified purposes, as being radically vicious in principle, and as being, in the present state of society, a positive wrong. In order to clear the ground, let me state that, for the purpose of the present argument, I admit the right and duty of the State to educate its citizens. I uphold national, but I object absolutely to all sectional or class education; and all the above-named schemes are simply forms of class education. The broad principle I go upon is this—that the State has no moral right to apply funds raised by the taxation of all its members to any purpose which is