Sunday, February 7, 2016

A World Government in French and Esperanto

This monarch, are we going to have an election, or will it
be done by strange women lying in ponds?
Herbert Stanley Jevons (1875–1955)[1] was a British professor of economics, the author of several books, such as The British Coal Trade, The Theory of Political Economy, and The Economics of Tenancy Law and Estate Management.,[2] but he seems to have been overshadowed by his father, William Stanley Jevons, as the elder Jevons is the one with the Wikipedia entry.

In 1909, the elder Jevons had been dead since 1882 and it was H. Stanley Jevons’s moment of prominence, for he was the prophet of a whole world monarchy, as reported in the Chicago Tribune (where I cannot find it), and then reprinted in the Washington Post on February 7, 1909. The reference to Esperanto in the piece is somewhat slight,[3] amounting to a single reference in the entire piece, but it’s interesting how far off Jevons was in his predictions.

Jevons wasn’t alone. The article also cites Professor C. C. Eckhart[4] and Raymond L. Bridgeman, who the article refers to as being “conspicuous in the world peace movement.” A quick search indicates that Mr. Bridgeman was an advocate of a single world government as early as 1906. All three of these were clearly reasonably prominent in 1909, but in the near-century since, all has faded into obscurity. Sic transit gloria mundi![5]

The Chicago Tribune article is too long to type out in full, but it does make clear when and how this single government for the world would come about. The underpinnings of the march to a king for all start with the Hague Peace Conference and “the establishment of a permanent international court of arbitration or the international department of justice”[6] and the Universal Postal Union. This last item is given as the seed of world government:
But the pertinent point is the fact that the Universal Postal Union, which is a world body, has a permanent Secretary whose office is in Berne, Switzerland. There is an executive officer of all the nations of the world, established by the will of the world.

Hence, in this office there is the germ of a true world executive. It seems to be a small office, but its nature, not the number of importance of its functions, it the test by which it is to be classified.
So, from the Universal Postal Union, a real international body,[7] there is to grow a world government. The three worthies, Jevons, Eckhart, and Bridgeman, do not seem to agree on all aspects of this government, as late in the article it’s noted that:
The world President, or King, as Mr. Bridgeman foresees him
What? Bridgeman, the American peace activist, not the British economist? That’s what it says. Did Jevons prefer a President? The government would have a Senate (no reference to another legislative body, so we can assume a unicameral legislature) which would be modeled upon the House of Commons, with some big exceptions:
The procedure of the Senate will be practically that of the English House of Commons with a few modifications. Speeches will be delivered in French or Esperanto, or summarized in one of these languages by the Clerk of the Senate. A verbatim report of each debate, officially translated into French, English, German and Spanish, will be printed and distributed to members during the day following each sitting.
It seems odd that speeches can be given in Esperanto, but verbatim reports of a speech in Esperanto would instead be a translation into French, English, German, or Spanish (thus not actually verbatim), but that for speeches given in other languages, summaries would be prepared in French and Esperanto. Does this imply that speeches given in French are summarized in Esperanto (and those in Esperanto summarized in French), or is that that speeches given in neither of these languages would be summarized in one of those two languages at the discretion of the Clerk of the Senate? How are we to have a world government if we can’t even work that out? (This is the article’s sole reference to Esperanto.)

While leaving the language of the Senate a bit confused, Professor Jevons made clear what the composition of the Senate would be:
The World Legislature, or Senate, Dr. Jevons foresee as composed of about 65 members, two each from France, Germany, Great Britain, the United States, Austria, Russia, Italy, Japan, and perhaps China and Spain, with an additional member if they have colonial possessions of more than 8,000,000 inhabitants of any race. All other completely independent countries of over 1,000,000 inhabitants send a member each.
There’s already a problem here. In 1907 the country with the largest populations was China (listed as a “maybe”) with approximately 415.9 million inhabitants. (India had 289.6 million inhabitants, but in 1907 it was part of the British Empire, as was Canada.) These 415.9 million people would get two world senators, or maybe just one, while the Russian Empire (151 million inhabitants) and the United States (87 million) would get two each, despite that collectively Russia and the United States had a little more than half the population of China. Once discounting colonial possessions of fewer than 8 million inhabitants, it does seem possible that countries of greater than 1 million inhabitants could get at least a senator and still leave plenty of seats for those entitled to a second. But sixty-five senators is a tiny number for a population of 1,750 million (1910), given that the United States has 92 senators for 92 million people that same year.[8]

But when would all this happen? Professor Jevons was clear about this.
There will be a world ruler—a monarch of the earth—within the next 70 or 80 years if prophecies do not fail.

Eighty year is the furthermost date that Prof. Jevons fixes as the period when a world sovereign will be chosen and a world state with three branches of judiciary, legislative, and executive departments will be in operation as the supreme government to whom even emperors and their armies will yield their sway.
Local governments clearly could be everything from representative democracies to imperial rule, but all would be under the sway of the world monarch, a not terribly representative democracy. And it would all be done by 1980 or 1990. Eighty years after this article was published was February 7, 1989. Nothing much about a world government (well, nothing at all). But the writer did note that is was “if prophecies do not fail.” That’s what they do, you know. In Greek myth, Cassandra was given the gift of prophecy and the curse that no one would believe her. Even the ancient Greeks understood the nature of punditry.

  1. So says the National Portrait Gallery.
  2. This last, published in 1921, sounds like it was required reading at Downton Abbey, as they try to figure out how to keep the estate solvent.
  3. Which should keep this blog post short, I type as I write the thing up.
  4. Eckhart was a professor of history at the University of Missouri. More I have not been able to find.
  5. Thus passes the glory of the world.”
  6. Although Wikipedia notes the the Permanent Court of Arbitration came about in 1913 and the Permanent Court of International Justice in 1922, both well after the date of this article.
  7. For which, unlike Herbert Stanley Jevons, there is a Wikipedia page.
  8. I’ll admit that a legislative body of 1,750 members would be a trifle unwieldy. ↩

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