22 Berkeley Street,
February 1, 1898.
William Lloyd Garrison, Esq.
My attention has been called to a letter addressed by you to me as President of the Immigration Restriction League, in which you enter a protest against the position which the League has taken. In the course of this letter, you express the opinion that I ought not to be connected with such a movement. I therefore feel called upon to say a few words in explanation of my own attitude in the matter. The perusal of your letter leads me to think that you and I start from widely different premises in forming our opinions on the subject. It appears to me that it is a question with which inalienable rights have very little to do. You refer to the ninth chapter of Herbert Spencer's "Social Statics" as the greatest of all the chapters in all his books. I remember that when I first read "Social Statics" in 1861, that was the one chapter with which I found it impossible to agree. I learned from Mr. Spencer himself two or three years later that he had outgrown the opinions there expressed and should take the first opportunity of revising "Social Statics," a purpose which he did not carry out for many years.
It appears to me that the theory of the equal right of all human beings to the use of the earth is one which can only be accepted with such qualifications as largely to destroy it. If I can, by dint of my labour, or my contributions to social welfare, for which I receive an equivalent in money, buy an estate and build a fence about it and keep off intruders, I have a perfect right to do so. It is a right without the exercise of which I believe civilized society would cease to exist and the world would relapse into barbarism. So, too, with regard to an island or a continent. If a community of people can take possession of such a territory and make such use of its resources as favours the general welfare of mankind, it appears to me that
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Publication information: Book title: The Letters of John Fiske. Contributors: Ethel F. Fisk - Editor, John Fiske - Author. Publisher: Macmillan Co.. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1940. Page number: 666.
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