Sir,—I have some experience of controversy. It is endless and always futile—gets lost in ever-multiplying side issues. I am old and an invalid, and decline to enter the lists with your various correspondents.
I did not propose to publish in your columns the extracts from Justice. They would simply be texts for more controversy. If along with Chapter IX. of Social Statics, the League will publish them in such wise that they are equally conspicuous and cannot be separate, I waive copyright.
Though the change in my view practically concerns only the impolicy of nationalisation after compensation, I may add here that it has changed in a further respect. As I have pointed out in The Principles of Ethics, there is at present for us no such thing as absolute right, but only least wrong. In our transitional state all things are wrong, and only in the slow progress of things approach nearer to right. My argument in Social Statics was based upon the untenable assumption that the existing English community had a moral right to the land. They never had anything of the kind. They were robbers all round: Normans robbed Danes and Saxons, Saxons robbed Celts, Celts robbed the aborigines, traces of whose earth-houses we find here and there. Let the English Land Restoration League find the descendants of these last, and restore the land to them. There never was any equity in the matter, and re-establishment of a supposed original equity is a dream. The stronger peoples have been land-thieves from the beginning, and have remained land-thieves down to the present hour.
All changes of social arrangements have to be made with a view to the least injustice. Every change involves inflicting evils somewhere, and while our changes must always be in the direction of an ideal equity, they have to be made with a view to the minimum of proximate evil.
I daresay this letter will be a text for no end of arguments; but I cannot spend my small remaining energies in taking notice of them.
I am, Sir, yours &c.