Democracy in England

by Andrew Carnegie
Reviewed date: 2007 Aug 28
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In this 1886 essay, Carnegie congratulates the British on their decision to extend vote to all adult males, and to realign the districts to better represent the public. These changes, Carnegie says, made Britain a democracy for the first time in her history.

Carnegie says that Britain is undergoing a process of Americanization. Meaning, that the principles of liberty and democracy that took root in America are now beginning to flourish in Britain. A major force behind this push for change was public education.

The first and by far the most important step ever taken in this direction was the adoption some years ago of a system of public education. Every child in the land now receives an education equal to that which we bestow. ... Attendance is compulsory. The first generation of those who have benefited by this system are now appearing upon the stage of action with the inevitable result: they are radical. Education is everywhere a sure destroyer of privilege. The boy who can read the Declaration of Independence may be trusted to feel its force sooner or later. The doctrine of political equality, once known, enters the heart of man a welcome guest.

Carnegie further asserts that as Britain assimilates the concept of democracy, she will once again become a major world power. But instead of returning to her imperial ways, she will adopt the national habits of America: Britain will refrain from meddling in foreign affairs, and will become a great, peaceful world power.

Is the British democracy to be pacific or belligerent? Is Britain to continue to embroil herself in wars in all parts of the world? Is she to maintain her costly and useless interferences in the quarrels of Europe? I think not. I believe that the British democracy is to be pacific, and that the American doctrine of non-intervention will commend itself to it. Britain will be more and more inclined to follow the example of America in regard to foreign affairs, as she has done in home affairs.

It is a short essay. The political analysis is simplistic, and Carnegie offers scanty support for his optimistic predictions. This is the future as Carnegie would like it. It is not a realistic analysis.

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