The World After the War

The Rt. Hon. Viscount Samuel

Your founders were men of vision. They built for the future. Dr. Birkbeck, Lord Brougham, Francis Place, and the rest—they must sometimes have wondered what this London would be—and England, Europe, the world—a hundred years or so after their time. When, on December 2, 1823, they opened the doors of the London Mechanics Institution, destined to grow, through many vicissitudes, to become the renowned College in which we meet to-day, they may well have let their imagination guess what might be the changes and developments in which this enterprise of theirs, according to its measure and scope, might play a part. That was a time when modern science was in its brilliant youth; when the movement for popular education was beginning to take hold, opening great prospects for the future; when, after twenty years of war, the British nation was gathering its forces for a sustained effort to remedy the great social evils that afflicted it, while in the political field, the powerful campaign was beginning that was destined to win victory in the Great Reform Bill of 1832. We may be sure that those men, of the sort—as a present-day poet writes:

“Who watch the world with pity and pride

And warm to all mankind,”

that those men would have had visions, hopes, expectations, an assurance even, that in later days a wiser and better instructed people, having established full political liberty, would have used their power to cure those social evils; with the help of a developed science, would have got rid of poverty; clasping hands with other free peoples, would have established securely the reign of peace, and so made possible an age of high material prosperity and brilliant intellectual splendour.