William Morris

Seven Years Ago and Now, as reported in Justice


Our comrade William Morris gave a very interesting lecture last Sunday evening at Hammersmith in which he reviewed the progress of the Socialist movement during the last seven years and contrasted its position then and now. The majority of the workers, he said, "recognised today that there is no difference between the two political parties. It was always a toss-up upon any given occasion as to which would go the furthest in the direction of social reform. The only thing that could be said was that the Tories required a little more pushing, but did the work more thoroughly when they were pushed." It strikes us that that party will go farthest which is pushed the hardest. Unfortunately, the Liberals have been let off cheaply in the past because they always promised any amount, and they contrived to keep alive the faith that they intended to redeem the promises they made so freely on the hustings. Fortunately that faith is extinct, and whenever the Liberals re-enter office they will discover fair promise is a cat that won't jump them into the confidence of the workers. If they want to live they will have to live by works. At any rate, those who were their dupes are resolved not to live by faith in them.


We are asked, said the lecturer, where the present movement is to stop. His answer was at the absolute equality of all classes which meant that there should be no classes at all. Some people talk about "greater equality." This, he said, is a loose grammatical term, something like Cobbett's idea of a man who had been moderately cheated, or whose wife was moderately chaste. Our comrade recognised that the change may be brought about by less catastrophic means than at one time seemed the only possible way of effecting it. It is because we of the S.D.F. cordially concur in that opinion that we are determined to use all and every means by which the change may be effected peaceably, and we shall continue our efforts to capture the political machinery of the country to use it for the benefit of those against whom it has been used in the past. All the same we agree with our sturdy comrade that the loss of three or four hundred thousand lives in bringing about the defeat of the oppressors of the human race would be but a drop in the bucket compared with the millions of lives now thrown away for nothing. If the opportunity of proving our manhood, to which Morris referred, should present itself it will be seen that we are men of peace, like the Quaker in Uncle Tom's Cabin, who know when persuasion must be of the kind that sent the slave-hunter to his doom.


Seven Years Ago and Now (as reported by Justice


  1. Sunday 30th August, 1891, to the Hammersmith Socialist Society


Justice, Saturday 5th September, 1891, p.1

Morris's own notes for this lecture have not been preserved, and no more detailed reports have yet come to light.

Transcription and HTML

Graham Seaman, June 2020.