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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 ernment 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 alterthemselves. Some communities are sup-ation and transformation of law and cusposed to be naturally law-abiding, and tom 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 resentment 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 incontinue to render, to mankind. If any creasing in thoroughness as the despotgovernment 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 hardly any other virtue could re- mentary 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 wholesale legal reformer of the Middle Ages was Charles the Great. It was the French empire of the Bonapartes that gave real practical currency to the new French jurisprudence which has overrun the civilized: world, for the governments immediately arising out of the Revolution left little behind them beyond schemes and projects of law.
On the whole, the dispassionate student of politics, who has once got into his head that democracy is only a form of government, who has some idea of what the primary duties of government are, and who sees the main question, in choosing between them, to be which of them in the long run best discharges these duties, has a right to be somewhat surprised at the feelings which the advent of democracy excites. The problem which this event, if it be near at hand, suggests, is not sentimental but practical; and one might have expected less malediction on one side, and less shouting and throwing up of caps on the other. The fact, however, is that, when the current of human political tastes, which in the long course of ages has been running in all sorts of directions, sets strongly towards one particular point, there is always an outburst of terror or enthusiasm; and the explanation of the feelings roused on such occasions, which is true for our day and of a tendency towards democracy, is probably true also for all time. The great virtue of deVOL. XLVIII. 2475
The truth seems to be that the extreme. forms of government, monarchy and democracy, have a peculiarity which is ab. sent from the more tempered political systems founded on compromise, constitutional kingship, and aristocracy. When they are first established in absolute completeness, they are highly destructive. There is a general, sometimes chaotic, upheaval, while the nouvelles couches are settling into their place in the transformed commonwealth. The new rulers sternly insist that everything shall be brought into strict conformity with the central principle of the system over which they preside; and they are aided by numbers of persons to whom the old principles
were hateful, from their fancy for ideal | ment, the reign of the people, is exreforms, 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, manent causes. 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, because they are apt to run counter to scientific conclusions. This assertion is curiously confirmed by the political phe.
nomena of the moment. The most recent
of democratic inventions is the "referendum" of the Swiss Federal Constitution, and of certain cantonal constitutions. On the demand of a certain number of citizens, a law voted by the legislature is put to the vote of the entire population, lest by any chance its "mandate" should have been exceeded. But to the confusion and dismay of the Radical leaders in the legislature, nearly every law so put has been negatived.
Democracy being what it is, the language used of it in our days, under its various disguises of freedom, the "Revolution," the "republic," popular govern
And lo! the banners lifted from point to point, and the spirits of the ancient races looking_abroad- the divinely beautiful daughters of God calling to their children.
Do I not know that thou, Democracy, dost O glancing eyes! O leaping shining waters! control and inspire; that thou too hast relations to them,
Mr. Bancroft was almost verbally anticipated in this Bancroft, History of the United States, vol. i. sentence by a person whom he resembles in nothing except his love of phrases. "Français républicains," said Maximilian Robespierre, in his speech at the festival of the Supreme Being, "n'est-ce pas l' Etre Suprême qui, dès le commencement des temps, décréta la République?"
↑ Ibid. vol. xxii.
Towards the close of the poem we find this line: "I heard a voice say, What is Freedom?" It is impossible that the voice could ask a more pertinent question. If the author of "Towards Democracy" had ever heard the answer of Hobbes, that freedom is "political power divided into small fragments," or the dictum of M. Scherer, that "democracy is a form of government," his poetical vein might have been drowned, but his mind would have been invigorated by the healthful douche of cold water.
As surely as Niagara has relations to Erie | France at the Revolution of 1830, and and Ontario? among them was Alexis de Tocqueville, born a noble and educated in Legitimism. The whole fabric of French Revolutionary belief had apparently been ruined beyond hope of recovery, ruined by the crimes and usurpations of the Convention, by military habits and ideas, by the tyranny of Napoleon Bonaparte, by the return of the Bourbons with a large part of the system of the older monarchy, by the hard repression of the Holy Alliance. Yet so slight a provocation as the attempt of Charles X. to do what his brother had 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 has 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 repubwhich it was possible for them to establic. Democracy, however, gradually took lish was one which promised so little a new sense, chiefly under the influence stability. It became very shortly the opinion of the French Revolutionists, for no sooner has the constitutional monarchy fallen than the belief that a new era has begun for the human race gives signs of rapidly fading; and the language of the Revolutionary writers becomes stained with a dark and ever-growing suspiciousness, manifestly inspired by genuine fear that democracy must perish, unless saved by unflagging energy and unsparing sever. ity. Nevertheless, the view that democracy is irresistible is of French origin, like almost all other sweeping political generalizations. It may be first detected rather more than fifty years ago, and it was mainly spread over the world by the book of De Tocqueville on democracy in America. Some of the younger specula tive minds in France were deeply struck by the revival of democratic ideas in
of wonder at the success of the American Federation, in which most of the States had now adopted universal suffrage; and by 1848 the word had come to be used very much with its ancient meaning, the government of the commonwealth by the many. It is perhaps the scientific tinge which thought is assuming among us, that
The newly published correspondence of Mallet du Pan with the Court of Vienna, between 1794 and 1798, is of the highest interest and value. M. Taine, who contributes the preface, has several times affirmed that Mailet was one of the very few persons who understood the French Revolution. It seems clear that, while these letters were being written, the republic was falling into the deepest unpopularity, mitigated only by the fears of which we have spoken above. It was undoubtedly saved by the military genius of Napoleon Bonaparte. The one serious mistake of Mallet was his blindness to that genius. He thought General Bonaparte a charlatan; and the opinion was probably shared, at the bottom of their hearts, by those who sent the young general to command the army of Italy, to their own ultimate ruin.
causes so many Englishmen to take for granted that democracy is inevitable, because many considerable approaches to it have been made in our country. No doubt, if adequate causes are at work, the effect will always follow; but in politics the most powerful of all causes are the timidity, the listlessness, and the superficiality, of the generality of minds. If a large number of Englishmen, belonging to classes which are powerful if they exert themselves, continue saying to themselves and others that democracy is irresistible and must come, beyond all doubt it will
The enthusiasm for democracy, which is conveyed by the figures of speech applied to it, is equally modern with the impression of its inevitableness. In reality, considering the brilliant stages in the history of a certain number of commonwealths with which democracy has been associated, nothing is more remarkable than the small amount of respect for it professed by actual observers, who had the opportunity and the capacity for forming a judgment on it. Mr. Grote did his best to explain away the poor opinion of the Athenian democracy entertained by the philosophers who filled the schools of Athens; but the fact remains, that the founders of political philosophy found themselves in presence of democracy, in its pristine vigor, and thought it a bad form of government. The panegyrics of which it is now the object are, again, of French origin. They come to us from the oratory and literature of the first French Revolution, which, however, soon exchanged glorification of the new birth of the human race for a strain of gloomy suspicion and homicidal denunciation. The language of admiration which prevailed for a while had still remoter sources; and it may be observed, as an odd circumstance, that, while the Jacobins generally borrowed their phraseology from the legendary history of the early Roman republic, the Girondins preferred resorting for metaphors to the literature which sprang from Rousseau. On the whole we think that the historical ignorance which made heroes of Brutus and Scævola was less abjectly nonsensical, than the philo sophical silliness which dwelt on the virtues of mankind in a state of natural democracy. If anybody wishes to know what was the influence of Rousseau in diffusing the belief in a golden age, when men lived, like brothers, in freedom and equality, he should read, not so much the writings of the sage, as the countless es
says printed in France by his disciples just before 1789. They furnish very disagreeable proof that the intellectual flower of a cultivated nation may be brought, by fanatical admiration of a social and politi cal theory, into a condition of downright mental imbecility. The language of the Jacobins and the language of the Girondins might be thought to have perished amid ridicule and disgust; but, in fact, it underwent a rehabiliation, like that which has fallen to to the lot of Catiline, of Nero, and of Richard III. Tocqueville thought democracy was inevitable, but he looked on its approach with distrust and dread. In the course, however, of the succeeding eighteen years two books were published, which, whatever their popularity, might fairly be compared with the writings of which we have spoken above, for a total abnegation of common sense. Louis Blanc took the homicidal pedant, Robespierre, for his hero; Lamartine the feeble and ephemeral sect of Girondins: and from the works of these two writers has proceeded much the largest part of the language eulogistic of democracy, which pervades the humbler political literature of the Continent, and now of Great Britain also.
There is indeed one kind of praise which democracy has received, and continues to receive, in the greatest abundance. This is praise addressed to the governing demos by those who fear it, or desire to conciliate it, or hope to use it. When it has once become clear that democracy is a form of government, it will be easily understood what panegyrics of the multitude amount to. Democracy is monarchy inverted, and the modes of addressing the multitude are the same as the modes of addressing kings. The more powerful and jealous the sovereign, the more unbounded is the eulogy, the more extravagant is the tribute. "O king, live forever," was the ordinary formula of beginning an address to the Babylonian or Median king, drunk or sober. ascent to power proceeded as uniformly and majestically as the laws of being, and was as certain as the decrees of eter
Brissot, the Girondin leader, while still an enthusiastic Royalist, had argued, long before Proudhon, that property is theft. There is, he said, a natural right to correct the injustice of the institution, by stealing. But he held the still more remarkable opinion, that cannibalism is natural and justifiable. Since, he argued, under the reign of Nature the sheep does not spare the insects on the grass, and the wolf and the man eat the sheep, why have not all these creatures a natural right to eat creatures of their own kind? (" Recherches philosophiques sur le droit de propriété et sur le vol considéré dans sa nature." Par Brissot de Warville.)
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 I. 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 genany particular shame at flattery, though eralization than that which Mr. Bancroft the flattery will be addressed to the peo- addresses to his American readers. Durple 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 movement 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 disbehaved himself to powerful men as he be- tinctly 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 more 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 history, 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 Athenian republic, the cracomes 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 territory, brought with them very generally some amount of the ancient tribal liberty which, reintroduced into Europe, seemed again for a while likely to prove the seed of political freedom. The Roman municipal system, left to work unchecked within the walled cities of northern Italy, reproduced a form of democracy. But Italian commonwealths, and feudal es
The best safeguard against the various delusions and extravagances which we have been examining is a little better knowledge of the true lines of movement which the political affairs of mankind have followed. In the opinion of a num ber of respectable gentlemen, whose authority is now somewhat on the decline, political history began in 1688. Mr.