THE GROWTH OF COLLECTIVISM
WITH the passing of the Reform Act began the reign of liberalism; and the utilitarianism of common sense acquired, in appearance at least, despotic power, but this appearance was to a certain extent delusive. At the moment of the Benthamite triumph there were to be found thinkers who, while insisting on the need for thoroughgoing reforms, denied the moral authority of individualism and denounced the dogma of laissez faire.
This vital difference between two opposed schools of thought had more than a merely speculative interest. It determined men's way of looking at by far the most pressing social problem of the day. The fifteen years from 1830 to 1845, which may well be termed the era of the Reform Act, were among the most critical in the history of England. The time was out of joint. The misery and discontent of city artisans and village labourers were past dispute. No Act of Parliament could remove at a stroke the wretchedness and pauperism created by the old poor law. The true cure contained in the new poor law of 1834, with its drastic severity, its curtailment of outdoor relief, and its detested Bastilles, increased for the moment the sufferings of the poorest amongst