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mestic duties of a nation, we shall find | mocracies in some men's eyes, their great the greatest of them to be, that its gov- vice in the eyes of others, is that they are eroment should compel obedience to the thought to be more active than other law, criminal and civil. The vulgar im- forms of government in the discharge of pression no doubt is, that laws enforce one particular function. This is the alter. themselves. Some communities are sup-ation and transformation of law and cusposed to be naturally law-abiding, and tom the process known to us as reformsome are not. But the truth is (and this ing legislation. As a matter of fact, this is a commonplace of the modern jurist) process
which is an indispensable, that it is always the State which causes though in the long run a very subordinate, laws to be obeyed. It is quite true that province of a good modern government this obedience is rendered by the great - is not at all peculiar to democracies. bulk of all civilized societies without an If the whole of the known history of the effort and quite unconsciously. But that human race be examined, we shall see is only because, in the course of countless that the great authors of legislative change ages, the stern discharge of their chief have been powerful monarchies. The duty by States has created habits and long wail at the iniquities of Nineveh and sentiments, which save the necessity for Babylon, which runs through the latter penal interference, because nearly every part of the Old Testament, is the expres. body shares them. The venerable legal sion of Jewish resentinent at the “big formulas, which make laws to be admin. legislation” with which the nations that istered in the name of the king, formulas most study the Old Testament are supwhich modern republics have borrowed, posed to have fallen in love. The tritura. are a monument of the grandest service tion of old usage was carried infinitely which governments have rendered, and further by the Roman emperors, ever in.. continue to render, to mankind. If any creasing in thoroughness as the despot. government should be tempted to neglect, ism grew more stringent. The emperor even for a moment, its function of com- was in fact the symbolic beast which the pelling obedience to law — if a democra- prophet saw devouring, breaking to pieces cy, for example, were to allow a portion and stamping the residue with its feet. of the multitude of which it consists to We ourselves live in the dust of Roman set some law at defiance which it happens imperialism, and by far the largest part of to dislike – it would be guilty of a crime modern law is nothing more than a sediwhich bardly any other virtúe could rementary formation left by the Roman legal deem, and which century upon century reforms. The rule holds good through might fail to repair.
all subsequent history. The one wholeOn the whole, the dispassionate student sale legal reformer of the Middle Ages of politics, who has once got into his head was Charles the Great. It was the French that democracy is only a form of govern.empire of the Bonapartes that gave real ment, who has some idea of what the practical currency to the new French juris. primary duties of government are, and prudence which has overrun the civilized: who sees the main question, in choosing world, for the governments immediately between them, to be which of them in the arising out of the Revolution left little long run best discharges these duties, has behind thein beyond schemes and projects a right to be somewbat surprised at the of law. feelings which the advent of democracy The truth seems to be that the extreme excites. The problem which this event, forms of government, monarchy and deif it be near at hand, suggests, is not sen. mocracy, have a peculiarity which is ab. timental but practical; and one might sent from the more tempered political have expected less malediction on one systems founded on compromise, constiside, and less shouting and throwing up tutional kingsbip, and aristocracy: When of caps on the other. The fact, however, they are first established in absolute comis that, when the current of human politi- pleteness, they are highly destructive. cal tastes, which in the long course of "There is a general, sometimes chaotic, ages has been running in all sorts of dic upheaval, while the nouvelles couches are rections, sets strongly towards one partic. settling into their place in the transformed ular point, there is always an outburst of commonwealth. The new rulers sternly terror or enthusiasm; and the explanation insist that everything shall be brought of the feelings roused on such occasions, into strict conformity with the central which is true for our day and of a ten- principle of the system over which they dency towards democracy, is probably true preside; and they are aided by numbers also for all time. The great virtue of del of persons to whom the old principles
VOL. XLVIII. 2475
were hateful, from their fancy for ideal | ment, the reign of the people, is ex. reforms, from impatience of a monotonous ceedingly remarkable. Every sort of stability, or from a natural destructiveness metaphor, signifying irresistible force, and of temperament. What the old mon. conveying admiration or dread, has been archies, established in the valleys of the applied to it by its friends or its enemies. great Eastern rivers, had to contend A great English orator once compared it against, was religious tenacity and tribal to the grave which takes everything and obstinacy; and they transported whole gives nothing back. The most widely populations in order that these might be read American historian altogether loses destroyed. What a modern democracy himself in figures of speech. " The fights with is privilege; and it knows no change which divine wisdom ordained, rest till this is trampled out. But the and which no human policy or force could legislation of absolutism, democratic or hold back, proceeded as uniformly and otherwise, is transitory. Before the Jews majestically as the laws of being, and was had taken home their harps from Babylon, as certain as the decrees of eternity." * they had found themselves the subjects of And again : “ The idea of freedom had another mighty conquering monarchy, of never been wholly unknown; the rising which they observed with wonder that the light flashed joy across the darkest cenlaw of the Medes and Persians altereth turies, and its growing energy can be not. There is no belief less warranted by traced in the tendency of the ages." + actual experience, than that a democratic These hopes have even found room for republic is, after the first and in the long themselves among the commonplaces of run, given to reforming legislation. As after-dinner oratory. “ The great tide of is well known to scholars, the ancient democracy is rolling on, and no hand can republics hardly legislated at all; their stay its majestic course,” said Sir Wilfrid democratic energy was expended upon Lawson of the Franchise Bill. † But the war, diplomacy, and justice; but they put strongest evidence of the state of excitenearly insuperable obstacles in the way of ment into which some minds are thrown a change of law. The Americans of the by an experiment in government, which United States have hedged themselves is very old and has never been particularly round in exactly the same way. They successful, is afforded by the little volume only make laws within the limits of their “ Towards Democracy,” which we have Constitutions, and especially of the Fed named at the head of this paper. The eral Constitution; and, judged by what writer is not destitute of poetical force, has unhappily become the English stand. but he has followed a wretched American ard, their legislation within these limits is model, and the smallest conception of almost trivial. As we attempted to show what democracy really is makes his rhapin a former article, the legislative infer. sodies about it ridiculous. “ Freedom!" tility of democracies springs from per. sings this disciple of Walt Whitman,
The prejudices of the And among the far nations there is a stir people are far stronger than those of the like the stir of the leaves of the forest. privileged classes; they are far more vul. Joy, joy, arising on earth. gar; and they are far more dangerous, And lo! the banners lifted from point to because they are apt to run counter to point, and the spirits of the ancient races lookscientific conclusions. This assertion is ing abroad the divinely beautiful daughters curiously confirmed by the political phe.
of God calling to their children. pomena of the moment. The most recent of democratic inventions is the “referen- intact her priceless jewel of thought — the
Lo! the divine East from ages and ages back dum” of the Swiss Federal Constitution, and of certain cantonal constitutions: germ of Democracy — bringing down? On the demand of a certain number of citizens, a law voted by the legislature is Do I not know that thou, Democracy, dost
Oglancing eyes! O leaping shining waters ! put to the vote of the entire population, control and inspire ; that thou too hast rela. Jest by any chance its "mandate" should tions to them, have been exceeded. But to the confu. sion and dismay of the Radical leaders in Mr. Bancroit was almost verbally anticipated in this
Bancroft, History of the United States, vol. i. the legislature, nearly every law so put sentence by a person whom he resembles in nothing has been negatived.
except his love of phrases. “ Français républicains,
said Maximilian Robespierre, in his speech at the festiDemocracy being what it is, the lan- val of the Supreme Being, "n'est-ce pas l'Etre Supreme guage used of it in our days, under its qui, dès le commencement des temps, décréta la Ré
publique?” various disguises of freedom, the “Revo.
† lbid. vol. xxii. lution,” the "republic,” popular govern- 1 April 15th, 1884.
As surely as Niagara has relations to Erie | France at the Revolution of 1830, and and Ontario?
among them was Alexis de Tocqueville, Towards the close of the poem we find born a noble and educated in Legitimism. this line: “I heard a voice say, What is The whole fabric of French Revolutionary Freedom?" It is impossible that the belief had apparently been ruined beyond voice could ask a more pertinent question. hope of recovery, ruined by the crimes If the author of "Towards Democracy” and usurpations of the Convention, by had ever heard the answer of Hobbes, military habits and ideas, by the tyranny that freedom is “political power divided of Napoleon Bonaparte, by the return of into small fragments,” or the dictum of the Bourbons with a large part of the M. Scherer, that “democracy is a form system of the older monarchy, by the of government,” his poetical vein might bard repression of the Holy Alliance. Yet have been drowned, but his mind would so slight a provocation as the attempt of have been invigorated by the healthful Charles X. to do what his brother had douche of cold water.
done without serious resistance, brought The opinion that democracy was irre. back the whole torrent of Revolutionary sistible and inevitable, and probably per. sentiment and dogma, which at once over. petual, would, only a century ago, have ran the entire European continent. No appeared a wild paradox. There had doubt it seemed as if there were somebeen more than two thousand years of thing in democracy which made it resist. tolerably well-ascertained political history, less; and yet, as M. Scherer bas shown and at its outset monarchy, aristocracy, in one of the most valuable parts of his and democracy, were all plainly discerni- pamphlet, the Frenchmen of that idea did ble. The result of a long experience was, not mean the same thing as the modern that some monarchies and some aristoc. French extremist or the English Radical, racies had shown themselves extremely when they spoke of democracy. If their tenacious of life. The French monarchy view be put affirmatively, they meant the and the Venetian oligarchy were in par- ascendency of the middle classes; if neg. ticular of great antiquity, and the Roman atively, they meant the non-revival of the empire was not even then quite dead. old feudal society. The French people But the democracies which had risen and were very long in shaking off their fear perished, or had fallen into extreme insig. that the material advantages, secured to nificance, seemed to show that this form them by the first French Revolution, of government was of rare occurrence in were not safe; and this fear it was which, political history and was characterized by as we perceive from the letters of Mallet an extreme fragility. This was the opin. du Pan,* reconciled them to the tyranny ion of the fathers of the American Federal of the Jacobins and caused them to look Republic, who over and over again betray, with the deepest suspicion on the plans of their regret that the only government the sovereigns allied against the repub. which it was possible for them to estab. lic. Democracy, however, gradually took Jish was one which promised so little a new sense, chiefly under the influence stability. It became very shortly the of wonder at the success of the American opinion of the French Revolutionisis, for Federation, in which most of the States no sooner has the constitutional mon. had now adopted universal suffrage; and archy fallen than the belief that a new era by 1848 the word had come to be used has begun for the human race gives signs very much with its ancient meaning, the of rapidly fading; and the language of government of the commonwealth by the the Revolutionary writers becomes stained many. It is perhaps the scientific tinge with a dark and ever-growing suspicious. which thought is assuming among us, that dess, manifestly inspired by genuine fear that democracy must perishi, unless saved
* The newly published correspondence of Mallet du by unflagging energy and unsparing sever. Pan with the Court of Vienna, between 1794 and 1799, ity. Nevertheless, the view that democ. is of the highest interest and value. M. Taine, who
contributes the preface, has several times affirmed that racy is irresistible is of French origin, Mailet was one of the very few persons who understood like almost all other sweeping political the French Revolution. It seems clear that, while generalizations. It may be first detected ing into the deepest unpopularity, mitigated only by
these letters were being written, the republic was fallrather more than fifty years ago, and it the fears of which we have spoken above. It was unwas mainly spread over the world by the doubtedly saved by the military genius of Napoleon book of De Tocqueville on democracy in blindness to that genius. He thought General BonaAmerica. Some of the younger specula parte a charlatan; and the opinion was probably shared,
at the bottom of their hearts, by those who sent the tive minds in France were deeply struck
young general to command the army of Italy, to their by the revival of democratic ideas in
own ultimate ruin.
causes so many Englishmen to take for says printed in France by his disciples granted that democracy is inevitable, just before 1789. They furnish very disbecause many considerable approaches to agreeable proof that the intellectual flower it have been made in our country. No of a cultivated nation may be brought, by doubt, if adequate causes are at work, the fanatical admiration of a social and politi. effect will always follow; but in politics cal theory, into a condition of downright the most powerful of all causes are the mental imbecility.* The language of the timidity, the listlessness, and the super. Jacobins and the language of the Giron. ficiality, of the generality of minds. if a dins might be thought to have perished large number of Englishinen, belonging to amid ridicule and disgust; but, in fact, it classes which are powerful if they exert underwent a rehabiliation, like that which themselves, continue saying to themselves has fallen to to the lot of Catiline, of and others that democracy is irresistible Nero, and of Richard III. Tocqueville and must come, beyond all doubt it will thought democracy was inevitable, but he
looked on its approach with distrust and The enthusiasm for democracy, which dread. In the course, however, of the is conveyed by the figures of speech ap. succeeding eighteen years two books were plied to it, is equally modern with the published, which, whatever their popularimpression of its inevitableness. In ity, might fairly be compared with the reality, considering the brilliant stages in writings of which we have spoken above, the history of a certain number of com- for a total abnegation of common sense. monwealths with which democracy has Louis Blanc took the homicidal pedant, been associated, nothing is more remark- Robespierre, for his hero; Lamartine the able than the small amount of respect for feeble and ephemeral sect of Girondins: it professed by actual observers, who had and from the works of these two writers the opportunity and the capacity for form- has proceeded much the largest part of ing a judgment on it. Mr. Grote did his the language eulogistic of democracy, best to explain away the poor opinion of which pervades the humbler political lit. the Athenian democracy entertained by erature of the Continent, and now of Great the philosophers who filled the schools of Britain also. Athens; but the fact remains, that the There is indeed one kind of praise founders of political philosophy found which democracy has received, and conthemselves in presence of democracy, in tinues to receive, in the greatest abunits pristine vigor, and thought it a bad dance. This is praise addressed to the form of government. The panegyrics of governing demos by those who fear it, or which it is now the object are, again, of desire to conciliate it, or hope to use it. French origin. They come to us from When it has once become clear that de. the oratory and literature of the first mocracy is a form of government, it will French Revolution, which, however, soon be easily understood what panegyrics of exchanged glorification of the new birth the multitude amount to. Democracy is of the human race for a strain of gloomy monarchy inverted, and the modes of adsuspicion and homicidal denunciation. dressing the multitude are the same as The language of admiration which pre the modes of addressing kings. The more vailed for a while had still remoter powerful and jealous the sovereign, the sources; and it may be observed, as an more unbounded is the eulogy, the more odd circumstance, that, while the Jacobins extravagant is the tribute. “O king, live generally borrowed their phraseology from forever," was the ordinary formula of bethe legendary history of the early, Roman ginning an address to the Babylonian or republic, the Girondins preferred resort. Median king, drunk or sober. " Your ing for metaphors to the literature which ascent to power proceeded as unisormly sprang from Rousseau. On the whole we and majestically as the laws of being, and think that the historical ignorance which was as certain as the decrees of eter. made heroes of Brutus and Scævola was less abjectly nonsensical, than the philo. Brissot, the Girondin leader, while still an enthusia sophical silliness which dwelt on the vir: astic R alist, had argued, long before Proudhon, that tues of mankind in a state of natural property is theft. There is, he said, a natural right to
correct the injustice of the institution, by stealing. But democracy. If anybody wishes to know he held the still more remarkable opinion, that canniwhat was the influence of Rousseau in balism is natural and justifiable. Since, he argued,
under the reign of Nature the sheep does not spare the diffusing the belief in a golden age, when insects on the grass, and the wolf and the man eat the men lived, like brothers, in freedoin and sheep, why have not all these creatures a natural right equality, he should read, not so much the philosophiques sur le droit de propriété et sur le vol
to eat creatures of their own kind? (“ Recherches writings of the sage, as the countless es.
Par Brissot de Warville.)
considéré dans sa nature."
nity,” says Mr. Bancroft to the American | Bright manifestly thinks that it began people. Such flattery proceeds frequently with the commencement of the Anti-Cornfrom the ignobler parts of human nature, Law agitation, and may be considered as but not always. What seems to us base- having been practically arrested when the ness, passed two hundred years ago at Corn. Law was repealed in 1846. There Versailles for gentleness and courtliness; are younger men who are persuaded that and many people have every day before it commenced with a certain mayoralty at them a monument of what was once Birmingham. The truth however is, that thought suitable language to use of a king we live in a day in which a strand is unof England, in the Dedication of the En- winding itself, which was steadily knitting glish Bible to James 1. There is no reason itself up during long ages. It is difficult to suppose that this generation will feel to imagine a more baseless historical gen. any particular shame at flattery, though eralization than that which Mr. Bancroft the flattery will be addressed to the peo. addresses to his American readers. Dur. ple and not to the king. It may even ing all the period when a change was become commoner, through the growth of proceeding " which no human policy could scientific modes of thought. Dean Church, hold back," the inovement of political in his recent volume on “ Bacon,” has affairs what Mr. Bancroft calls the made the original remark, that Bacon " tendency of the ages.”. was as dis. behaved himself to powerful men as he be. tioctly towards monarchy as it now is haved himself to nature. Parendo vinces. towards democracy. Mankind appear to If you resist nature, she will crush you; have begun that stage in their history, but, if you humor her, she will place her which is inore or less visible to our eyes, tremendous forces at your disposal. It is with the germs in each society of all the madness to offer direct resistance to a three definite forms of governmentroyal virago or a royal pedant, but by sub- monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. servience you may command either of Everywhere the king and popular asthem. There is much of this feeling in sembly are seen side by side, the first a the state of mind of intelligent and highly priestly and judicial, but primarily a fighteducated Radicals, when they are in pres-ing, personage; the last sometimes under ence of a mob. They make their choice, the control of an aristocratic senate, and according to the composition of their au- itself varying from a small oligarchy to dience, between two wonderful alternative something like the entirety of the free theories of our day — one, that the artisan male population. At the dawn of bistory, of the towns knows everything, because aristocracy seems to be gaining on monhis work is so monotonous and because archy, and democracy on aristocracy, he has so much time on his hands; the And this passage of political development other, that the laborer of the country dis-is especially well known to us through the tricts knows everything, because his work | accidents which have preserved to us a is so various, and his faculties so con portion of the records of two famous stantly active through this variety. Thus it societies, the Aihenian republic, the cra. comes to pass that an audience composed dle of philosophy and art, and the Roman of roughs or clowns, an audience quite republic, which began the conquests desready under very slightly altered condi- tined to embrace a great part of the world. tions to "'eave” many an “arf-brick” at This last republic was always more or the platform, is boldly told by an educated less of an aristocracy; but from the time man that it has more political information of its fall, and the establishment of the than an equal number of scholars. This Roman Empire, there was on the whole, is not the opinion of the speaker; but it for seventeen centuries, an all but univermay be made, he thinks, the opinion of sal movement towards kingship. There the mob, and he knows that the mob could were, no doubt, evanescent revivals of not act as if it were true, unless it worked popular government. The barbarian races, through scholarly instruments.
when they broke into the central Roman The best safeguard against the various territory, brought with them very generally delusions and extravagances which we some ainount of the ancient tribal liberty have been examining is a little better which, reintroduced into Europe, seemed knowledge of the true lines of movement again for a while likely to prove the seed which the political affairs of mankind of political freedom. The Roman muni. have followed. In the opinion of a num. cipal system, left to work unchecked ber of respectable gentlemen, whose au. within the walled cities of northern Italy, thority is now somewhat on the decline, reproduced a form of democracy. But political history began in 1688. Mr. | Italian commonwealths, and feudal es.