The Prisoner of Brixton
IN the year 1916, however, international fame and the praise of posterity were of less practical importance for Russell than the problem of finding work after his dismissal from Trinity. He had been invited to lecture at Harvard, but the Foreign Office refused him a passport to go to America. He decided to fall back on public lecturing in Britain as a profession. But after preparing a course on 'The Philosophical Principles of Politics', he came up against a farcically stupid War Office order. He was told that he could lecture in inland towns like Manchester, but not in 'prohibited areas', which included practically all coastal towns. Theoretically the idea was that he or his hearers might be encouraged to send signals to German U-boats.
This was so obviously silly that Lloyd George was questioned on the subject in Parliament by Charles Trevelyan. He replied that Russell's speeches 'undoubtedly interfere with the prosecution of the war. . . . We had information from very reliable sources that Mr Bertrand Russell was about to engage in the delivery of a series of lectures which would interfere very seriously with the manning of the Army.'
To this Russell retorted: 'I can only earnestly hope that the Secret Service is less inaccurate as regards the Germans than it has proved to be where I am concerned.' And he asked why, if his lectures on Political Principles were really so pernicious, they should be permitted in Manchester.
It is really easy enough to understand how the Government should have seemed to lose their heads over Russell. They feared especially that his speeches might bring about strikes among armament workers. He was the one man in the pacifist movement whose name already carried prestige; and the fact