We have seen that the Eastern Question, in its phase of
1876-1878, was the active cause of his conversion t6 the
faith in which he died. When he entered upon his
novitiate, by his own confession, he had not so much as
opened Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations," which for
Englishmen is the Genesis of economics. Nor had he
even heard of Ricardo or Karl Marx. His Socialism
from the beginning was of the heart, not of the head.
                         Through the same rapid power
of absorption and assimilation which caused him to
master successively a half dozen arts and crafts, he gained
a theoretic knowledge of the political and social principles
which he adopted midway in life. As understood by
him, Socialism represented those hopes of the laboring
classes which had been extinguished more than a quarter-
century previously by the collapse of the movement known
as Chartism: which demanded recognition by the govern-
ment of the citizenship and the human rights of the work-
ing man.
                         A public profession of faith was
made by Morris in joining the so-called Social Democratic
Federation, which rose in 1883 out of the union of the
Radical, or Liberal clubs of London: these being organi-
zations whose object was to advocate the reform and
control of Parliament by making its members habitually
subservient to their constituents. The rise of the Feder-
ation marked the first appearance in England of modern,
or scientific Socialism, and the first step of the new body
was to institute a series of meetings for the discussion of
"Practical Remedies for Pressing Needs;" the subjects
including the now familiar "Eigh1it Hours Law," "Free
Meals for School Children," and the "Nationalization of
Railways." In the first discussion Morris participated,
and his adhesion to the body, because of his high character
and great reputation, was counted as a notable victory for
the cause. Indeed, so important was it regarded, that a
prominent Socialist cried out:


20


WILLIAM MORRIS