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The Political Situation. Schreiner, Olive, 1855–1920.
page: 100


I think as a first and practical step towards this larger union it would be desirable that wherever possible, in towns or districts, a few progressive men should join together and form Progressive Associations, however small in size, analogous to those now existing in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. It page: 101 would then be desirable that these bodies should enter into communication with each other, and draw up a body of principles broad enough to make it possible for every really progressive individual to subscribe to them, and distinct enough to make it quite impossible for any thoroughly non-progressive person to enter the organisation. These principles, I think, should be made the basis of all future organisation.

As a second step, I think it would be advisable that, if possible, a delegate should be appointed to visit each town and village in the Colony to attempt to inaugurate a branch of our page: 102 organisation, however small, in that place. The advantage of this course is obvious. It is often difficult for any individual in a small Colonial town to rise up and inaugurate a movement of any kind, unless he chance to be of exceptional importance, monetarily or otherwise, in the place. In many towns there may be even a large number of individuals, progressive at heart, who would join such an organisation, and who would labour for it vigorously and be able to extend its growth, who yet might not feel themselves in a position to rise up and take the initiative in instating it.

It may be objected that, in page: 103 places where the branch would at first consist of only a dozen individuals, it would be useless, and serve only to show the barrenness of the land!

But, firstly, while an organisation consisting of a dozen isolated individuals in some town or village might be of small importance in itself, connected as it would ultimately be with the organisations in larger towns throughout the country, its strength would be largely increased; and it would form the germ of what might in time become an extensive growth. It is exactly that we may not lose these driblets of progressive thought and feeling page: 104 all over the Colony that I would advocate the endeavour to start such small branch organisations.

If further it be asked, What the principles are which are broad enough to unite all the Progressive Elements in the country? I think an answer will not be very difficult.

There are one or two principles subscription to which will make a man a Liberal and Progressive in any country in the world. Their practical application will vary infinitely according to the conditions of the Society in which they are applied; but they are as simple as universal.

page: 105

The fundamental principle¹ upon which Progressive Liberalism all the world over is based, whether consciously or unconsciously, and to which it must finally return if it would justify its varying forms of practical action, is the axiom, however variously worded, which asserts that the mental and physical welfare and happiness of hu- humanity

¹ There is also that ancient categorical imperative which has lain behind the Liberalism of all religious natures from the days of Buddha and Confucius to that of Jesus and the Socialistic movement of to-day—“Do ye unto others as ye would they should do unto you”—and which, perhaps, after all, is the most satisfactory statement of the fundamental principle of Liberalism yet formulated.

page: 106 manity as a whole is the end of all wisely directed human effort, whether of individuals or nations; that one of the main aims of all government must be the defence of its weaker members from the depredations of the stronger, and that no course of action which bases the welfare of sections of the community on the sufferings and loss of other sections is justifiable.

Analysis shows that it is upon this wide principle, however worded, that all forms of Modern Liberalism are ultimately based. It is by their more or less complete harmony with it that the thoroughness page: 107 of their Liberalism may be tested. Nevertheless, it is perhaps too wide a principle on which to base directly a practical organisation intended for the many; more especially in a country where some men's conceptions with regard to Liberal Progressivism are somewhat indefinite—a prominent public man having declared that he considered himself a Progressive because he voted for the construction of railways which would be for his own pecuniary benefit.