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These articles first appeared in the Dictionnaire d’Économie Politique, ed. Guillaumin and Charles Coquelin (Paris: Guillaumin, 1852) and the Dictionnaire général de la Politique, ed. Maurice Block (Paris: O. Lorenz, 1873) and were translated into English and included in Lalor’s Cyclopedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States by the best American and European Authors, ed. John J. Lalor (Chicago: M.B. Carey, 1899) in 3 vols.
The French political economists of the the 19th century, or “the economists” as they liked to call themselves, are less well known than the classical school which appeared in England at the same time. The French political economists differed from their English counterparts on a number of grounds: the radicalism of their support for free markets, the founding of their beliefs on doctrines of natural rights and natural law, and the intellectual debt they owed to Jean-Baptiste Say (1767-1832). Some of their leading figures were Say, Charles Comte, Charles Dunoyer, Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850), Charles Coquelin, Joseph Garnier, Hippolyte Passy, Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912), and Léon Faucher.
Henri Baudrillart (1821-1892) was a professor of poltical economy at the Collège de France (where he worked with Michel Chevalier), the editor of the Journal des Économiste between 1855 and 1864, was elected to the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences in 1863, and then appointed professor of political economy at the École nationale des ponts et chaussées in 1881. In addition to writing articles for the Journal des Économistes, he wrote for the *Constitutionnel, the Journal des Débats, and the Revue des Deux Mondes. He also contributed artciles to the Dictionnaire de l’Économie Politique (1852), the Nouveau Dictionnaire d’Économie Politique (1891), and the Dictionnaire général de la Politique (1873). His scholarly interests ranged broadly over the history of economic thought, the relationship between economics and moral philosophy, educational issues, and the history and economics of French agriculture.
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John Joseph Lalor, Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States by the best American and European Authors, ed. John J. Lalor (New York: Maynard, Merrill, & Co., 1899). Vol 1 Abdication-Duty. Chapter: ARISTOCRACY.
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The text is in the public domain.
ARISTOCRACY. I. THE ORIGIN AND GROWTH OF ARISTOCRACY. The word aristocracy, taken in its etymological sense, means government by the best. Taken in this sense, all would agree that aristocracy ought to govern. If ignorance and passion did not cloud the judgment of men, they would call the most capable and most virtuous to rule in nations. This is no doubt the reason why writers of antiquity saw in aristocracy the most perfect of governments.
—At present, the word aristocracy has a far more varied meaning. It is now applied to every kind of superiority, and particularly to that of birth. It is necessary, therefore, to extricate from it the different ideas which are bound up in this one word and to see how aristocracy originates and grows. It is the duty of modern publicists to distinguish natural aristocracy from that born of convention and of law.
—To say that there is a natural aristocracy, is merely to affirm that there are inequalities resulting from nature itself. Not all the members of a savage tribe have the same degree of physical strength, adroitness, courage or intelligence. There are some who show a marked superiority in warlike leadership and government. Besides these innate gifts, age and experience count for much. The old men form what may be called the council of the tribe. Time consecrates these distinctions as is shown by the word senate (seniores), which attests the respect and importance accorded by civilized nations to men who have had a long and distinguished career. In personal merit and experience we have an aristocracy ready formed against which no theoretical objection of any value can be raised. Men have always and will always agree to grant an exceptional share of influence to the talent which serves and the wisdom which instructs and guides them, by visible marks of consideration, such as rewards and honors.
—Parallel with the source of original inequalities which is connected with the organization of each one of us, and with the use which we make of our will, there is another inequality which civilization should not abolish; we mean property, and particularly inherited property. Property even if not transmissible, would still create great differences in the relations of man to man. Just as there are educated and ignorant men, there are rich and poor men, in every nation acquainted with the division of labor and the exchange of wealth. Accordingly, those who can tolerate no species of aristocracy are forced to dream of an equal partition of property among all. But how much the hereditary transmission of landed and personal property adds to this inequality! The wealth accumulated by the father during an entire life of labor and success goes to his children to whom it is frequently but a beginning, and the means of new acquisitions. On this account, we find a purely personal aristocracy by the side of an aristocracy of family.
—Is this all? Is property the only institution developed by society? It is not. There is another, growing from day to day—the state. Political society passed through two inevitable phases, before the state was definitely constituted, although government was never entirely absent, even in nascent societies. The first phase continued while the shock and conflict of opposing and more or less anarchic wills was going on. The second witnessed the distribution of power among a certain number of chiefs. This condition approximated to feudalism. It was only later that power was concentrated, and that the state rose in its majesty and force above the divergent wills of individuals who had to be subjected to the empire of law. The aristocratic principle did not perish through this new development of the state. It now became finally fully established, and borrowed from the law the authority which it before asked only from the power of custom. The state finding an aristocracy already in existence approved an organized it, and undertook to add new elements to it. It united great families together, it called them to its councils from all parts of the territory over which its empire extended, it secured to them by wise provisions the possession of their property and titles. It can not be said that aristocracy is in this case artificial.
—When an individual has rendered eminent service to his country, the state is merely the organ of public gratitude in the granting to him of certain advantages. In the same way, it is but the interpreter and instrument of a natural and general sentiment in the extending of a part or all of these advantages to his family. Although we may discuss the justice, we can not the value of recognizing in the son the merits of the father. Let us remember, moreover, that this sentiment has its origin in the family itself. Is not a family proud of the merits and fame of its head, or of one of its own members who sheds lustre on its name? Are not children proud of their father as the father is of his children? This sentiment is so natural that it extends to shame as well as to glory. A single guilty person possesses the lamentable possibility of dishonoring a whole family. Thus honor becomes a treasure; whosoever increases it is exalted to the skies; whosoever brings a taint upon it robs the family of its respectability and is execrated accordingly. This pride of family which exists in all ranks of society, where it becomes the mainspring of a host of virtues and the most powerful preventive of shameful acts, is greatest in prominent families. It is the support of honor and may extend to the most absolute abnegation or the sublime; but it may also assume the character of barbarism. In these spontaneous feelings, we must recognize that selfish personality is not everything; we must see in them a solidarity which, commencing with the family, extends to the whole nation, when it assumes the character of patriotism. It is in the name of this feeling of solidarity that men have come to believe in privileged races in which are transmitted the most brilliant mental and spiritual gifts, and even a physical organization, which is considered finer and stronger than others. We can foresee the abuses and the exaggerations to which this prejudice may lead. Is the solidarity on which it rests less natural, less fundamental for that? Is it not a fact physiological, moral and social, that human qualities are hereditary? Every religion has sought and given an explanation of this fact. Solidarity in the fall and redemption of man, the community of merit, and prayer, taught by Christianity, would not receive so ready an adhesion if they did not have a basis somewhere in nature.
—Among the historical sources of aristocracy there is one which occupies an important place in the destinies of the race—conquest. There are few countries which have not presented the spectacle of at least two races, one superimposed on the other, such in antiquity as the Spartans of the Lacedemonians, not to mention the Indians and Egyptians, or the races of the other portions of the ancient east which was traversed by so many invading armies, and overthrown by so many successive revolutions. Such also were the Franks, the successors of the Romans in a portion of Gaul. Such were the Normans who imposed their yoke on the Anglo-Saxons. Conquest extends and strengthens the aristocracy already existing among the victors: the seizure and partition of conquered lands which become hereditary in the principal families give it permanency. Its numbers are increased by the accession of those who have played a brilliant part in the war of conquest and by whose services the country was won. It is very easy to see that an aristocracy thus founded on violence, will not hesitate to perpetuate itself by claiming unjust privileges. It is natural that force should be guilty of abuse, and these abuses are far reaching when there is no counterpoise to them. This conquering and warlike aristocracy is able to render service to a country, but it is evident that this service is dearly paid for. What would such an aristocracy not do to secure a monopoly of wealth and honor? It will to reach this end employ the laws the making of which it reserves exclusively to itself, not less than arbitrary power and force. It will establish a jealous line of demarcation between itself and the rest of the population. Hence the struggles between the aristocracy and the people. In Rome while the patricians were in possession of the priesthood, the religious rites, the auguries, the offices and most of the public property, they impoverished the people by violence, fraud and usury. To issue from this condition and free themselves from servitude, the plebeians demanded admission into the religious community and participation in its sacred rites. It is well known how lively and stubborn the resistance of the particians was, but they were forced to yield. There remained for the plebeians the acquisition of citizenship liberty, and the guarantee of liberty, that is, the right of property. The Romans were above all an agricultural people; their law did two things; it ordained the partition of the conquered lands and fixed limits to the extent of possession; but it was violated or eluded. History may be consulted for the recital of the long and energetic struggle which the plebeians maintained in order to shake off this crushing yoke. The office of tribune afforded them the means of regular political action. Little by little, they won admission to the highest grades of military command, to all the magistracies and finally to that of pontiff. This struggle may serve in a certain degree as a type. But there have been analogous cases. The aristocracy of France, even when scarcely more than a nobility, renewed a part of this exclusiveness toward the masses. It would agree to pay no other tax to the country than that of blood, which the people also paid while they had at the same time to defray all the expenses of the state. These are a specimen of the abuses brought about by an aristocracy, and especially by one having its origin in conquest—Let us sum up what we have to say on the origin of aristocracy. Considered in its principle, it is natural. It arises from individual differences and social circumstances. When it thus arises, it can not be considered altogether artificial, for the social state is the natural condition of man. Property and inequality of condition are necessities of the social state recognized by the law. Aristocracy is a result of these necessities, since it manifests itself as soon as superiority makes itself felt. Not only does it exist in countries governed aristocratically, but no people can get on without it. It has as a guarantee of its continuance, the respect which will always attend every kind of superiority, and the power of family spirit. We shall not attempt to justify in detail this aristocratic element which is recognized by nations most imbued with the principles of equality. To dispute its legitimacy, we should have to descend to an absolute equality of condition which yet would not prevent nature from distributing its gifts very unequally. The doctrine of an absolute equality of condition needs no refutation. This leveling equality such as the communists conceive it, is unjust in itself. It puts industry and idleness, foresight and thoughtlessness, virtue and vice, on the same footing; and leads to the most complete stagnation, by taking from individual effort all prospect of advancement, from capital the concentration which makes it fruitful of benefits, from men all possible leisure and all refined culture. But man is so constructed that there is but a step from use to abuse, and from evil to good. There is no institution which does not take advantage of its necessity to society to become exclusive and tyrannical.
—Such vice and suffering result from aristocracy that many persons not knowing the providential and salutary principle of its corruption and excess, have condemned the principle of aristocracy itself. The iniquities of an artificial and violent aristocracy have made men hostile to a just and natural aristocracy. To acquaint these levelers of the necessity of the aristocratic element, we have offered the preceding reflections on its source. It is to them, and to the too exclusive partisans of the political preponderance of aristocracies that we offer the following considerations, deeply convinced as we are of the principle, that no political society and no government can thrive except through a mingling of the various elements, any one of which would become fatally oppressive through exclusive domination.
—II. THE OBJECT OF ARISTOCRACY, ITS MERITS AND ITS FAULTS. Every political society has a two-fold object, its own preservation and development. Its institutions answer to this end and accomplish it each in its own way. Aristocracy, therefore, represents in society more especially solidarity and tradition, while democracy represents essentially personal merit and the spirit of innovation. Even when aristocracy plays a conservative part, it is impossible to refuse it due homage. Nations do not live from hand to mouth, and the present has need of enlightenment from all the glorious reflexes of the past. Pascal compared humanity to a single man learning continually. Aristocracy is the ballast of a ship, the play of the winds and waves. It represents perpetuity in government. Without it, the hereditary rights of families possessed neither of great fame nor wealth would soon be unprotected, for that which in the possession of the rich and powerful would be destroyed would not be suffered in the feebler and poorer. Ancient families, both in home and foreign affairs, are like the imposing figure of national power and glory. A writer of the sixteenth century, Jean Bodin, in his République, paints them in this energetic manner: "The condition of the republic is more firm and stable being fixed upon good houses, upon great immovable pillars as it were, which could not support the weight of a great structure if small and slender unless they were greater in number." But, we may ask, is this conservative part the only one which the aristocracy has to play? It is not. And here we have one of the most essential elements of the question, one which it is as dangerous as it is frequent to ignore Under pain of abdication, it is necessary that the aristocracy become an instrument of progress, and above all that it oppose no insuperable obstacles to progress. At Rome, where the aristocracy yielded only foot by foot before more than legitimate plebeian demands, it was able to live only by concessions which did not save it from finally falling under the crushing weight of the Cæsars. In England where it is so favorable to social progress, it appears with considerable éclat; it remains popular and full of life. It is in this sense and on these conditions that an aristocracy which understands its duties may be considered as an indispensable agent in civilization. It aids in every improvement. It is not merely the personification of the feeling of patriotism, but it represents it with a delicate and courageous pride. It encourages arts and letters. Without haughtiness toward inferiors, it bestows a patronage on all who labor and wish to elevate themselves, which does not humiliate. To this it adds care for the suffering. Haughty only toward the power which is ready to trample morality, justice and law under foot, it shows itself, with respect to the masses of men, more penetrated with the feeling of duty than with pride of privilege.
—This is the ideal. We need not add that no aristocracy has ever come up to it and many are scandalously remote from it. Those whose memory has been preserved to us by history present generally a mixture of the virtues and vices which the aristocratic spirit engenders successively or at once in varied proportions, according as the aristocracies in question performed their task well or ill.
—This is approximately a fair picture of their qualities and defects, when aristocracies play a preponderant or at least a prominent part in the state. We can not deny to aristocracies not altogether degenerated, a masculine energy, at times sombre and harsh, as at Rome and in the republic of Venice. They afford the best examples of the dignity and independence to be expected from individuals who, subjected to the rude trials of public life, have nothing to ask of any one.
—They commend themselves no less in times of advanced civilization, by their habits of elegance and taste than by military courage. The most striking traits of an aristocracy, in a political sense, are sequence and depth of design. The Roman senate, the governments of Venice and England furnish evident proofs of this. Aristocracy creates a political class devoted by occupation from youth to the study and the art of government. It is this which made it possible for a man like Pitt to be prime minister at the age of twenty-three. Many faults of an aristocracy border closely upon its good qualities; others are the opposite and mark the decay of the body itself, such as the spirit of servility under absolute monarchs. The principal faults which history finds in it are the pride of a narrow caste, the disdain of all labor except that of war, contempt for humanity which it treats as the plaything of its pleasures or as the tool of its ambition. What history is there which does not tell of, what theatre which does not show us the insolence and debauchery of the heir of a great house, and the impertinent frivolity of courtiers? Even in the bosom of aristocratic families, harshness toward woman, despotism toward children, the systematic sacrifice of the younger members of the family to the idea of primogenitureship, are traits frequently noted and to which attention has been often called. The action of customs and laws, the influence of a religion which favors sentiments of humility and charity, must tend without doubt to diminish among individuals those faults of the aristocratic spirit. But they reappear very soon again when aristocracy is left without a counterpoise. It is, therefore, indispensable to confine it within proper limits, and this applies with equal justice to all other political elements. Left to its inclinations, it is more exempt from excess than an absolute monarchy or a pure democracy. As has been shown by Aristotle and after him by Montesquieu, it tends to become an oligarchy. Under this form, it hesitates at no abuse of power and gives government a basis more and more narrow and egotistical.
—One of the most important problems of modern times will be to reconcile that part of aristocracy which is found in all society with the inevitable and just progress of democracy, which will not, even in the interest of its own continuance, descend to absolute leveling. We must see how aristocracy can adapt itself to this situation. Let us follow it then under the different forms of government and see its action under a monarchy, an exclusive aristocracy and a democracy.
—III. ARISTOCRACY UNDER A MONARCH, IN A PURELY ARISTOCRATIC GOVERNMENT, AND IN A DEMOCRACY—PROBABLE FUTURE OF ARISTOCRACY IN PURELY DEMOCRATIC STATES. There is no form of royalty, unless it be a despotism pure and simple subjecting everything to the crushing level of a uniform tyranny, which does not like to surround itself with great families. There are two reasons for this. The first is that it is natural for royalty to seek counsel and support from those whose rank brings them nearest the throne. The second consists in a certain sameness of origin and nature of royalty and aristocracy. What is a dynasty ordinarily but an aristocratic family which has reached supreme power, either by the success of arms or by rich and powerful marriage alliances, which have extended its domains and established its authority over that of its former peers? Who can fail to see also that the idea of royalty and aristocracy are the same? Both rest on the idea of inheritance. It matters little that among publicists there are some who recognize in this principle of inheritance a veritable divine right, while others see in it a purely social institution, formed less in the interest of those who enjoy it than in the interest of all. The hereditary principle which retains the same families around the same throne, becomes no less the permanent trait of royalty than of nobility. Aristocracy appears therefore in so-called limited monarchies as an intermediate and moderating body between the king and the people. When monarchy is absolute or tends to become so, it has nothing more at heart than the abasement of the aristocracy. This the monarchy did in France. It was not satisfied there with lowering the aristocracy (and let us note this well) as a feudal power; it ruined it politically by the systematic nurture of excessive centralization which crushed out all opposition and left nothing but functionaries in existence. Thus the political power of the aristocracy grew weaker and weaker until nothing remained but a haughty and brilliant nobility, vain of their titles, frivolous and brave, still occupying a number of high offices, devoted to the prince but devoid of all influence on the course of public affairs and powerless among the people. This is a picture of the French nobility under Louis XIV. and Louis XV. We know what a bitter complaint was wrung from Saint Simon by this debasement and what helpless plans were made to regenerate this fallen aristocracy which had ceased to have any point of contact with the nation. Not content with waiting in the antechambers of a minister or a courtesan, it put itself, in the person of its most illustrious representatives, at the feet of the banker Law. It is, therefore, for the general interest that aristocracy should maintain an important political position in monarchies. Otherwise royalty would fail of support, and the people be without a guide. The tendency of monarchy would be to arbitrary power, and of the people to agitation. There would be a wide field for revolution and a narrow one for liberty.
—A purely aristocratic government puts an aristocracy to the difficult test of all political powers which have no checks or balances outside themselves. Moreover aristocratic government does not necessarily always appear under the same form. It exists in England side by side on the one hand with monarchy whose object seems to be to preside over its destiny while occupying the lofty place which individual ambition would struggle to attain if it could, and on the other with the popular element which it governs, but which in our day hotly contests the mastery with it. If we suppose the aristocracy standing alone, a republic is the natural form of the aristocracy. Rome exiled its kings and became an aristocratic republic. Many of the Italian republics of the middle ages assumed the same form. Is it not too evident that if the republic had been maintained in England, it would not have been to the advantage of democracy? How can we help saying as much of the league in France, notwithstanding the support it met with among the people? Could the triumph of the Guises as well as that of the Protestant leaders, have had any other result than the success of a pure aristocracy? Would that pure aristocracy have proclaimed a republic? Would it have come to terms with royalty reduced to a subordinate position? That is the secret of history, one of the enigmas the solution of which we know not. The author of the "Spirit of Laws" has laid down the rules of aristocratic government. He has given to monarchy honor as its principle, to democracy virtue, and to aristocracy moderation. The somewhat subtle reasons which he assigns for this may be reduced to the following: that the nobles must be self-repressive and not turn against the people the laws of which they are the depositories and the organ. Montesquieu draws the pictures of a kind of ideal aristocratic government, which has been realized only in very few cases and at rare periods. He insists greatly on absence of pride and splendor, and on the modesty and simplicity which nobles ought to exhibit. The two principal sources of disorder should be banished from government. "extreme inequality between the governing and the governed, and the same inequality among those who govern" Montesquieu therefore blames the nobles for exempting themselves from taxes and imposing burdens upon the people. He approves taxing the principal personages of the state as well as others and even more. He fears extreme wealth among the aristocracy not less than extreme poverty. Everything which tends to equality in the aristocratic class seems good to him. "The law," he says, "ought to deprive the nobles of the right of primogeniture so that by the continual partition of property fortunes may ever tend to equality. None of the means employed to perpetuate the greatness of families should be permitted." In giving utterance to these ideas he seems to have had in mind the government of Venice which carried out these principles. He accorded extensive and even exorbitant privileges to the aristocracy in a monarchy, privileges which he refused it in a purely aristocratic state. This is not inconsistency but precaution. In a monarchic government the aristocracy is limited, in an aristocratic one it is not, and should submit itself to rules calculated to maintain its power without rendering it odious. This is why Montesquieu approves, in principle, institutions like those of the ephors at Lacedemonia and state inquisitors in Venice. "The best aristocracy," he says, "is that in which the part of the people who have no share in power is so small and poor that the party in power has no interest in oppressing it. Thus when Antipater established a rule in Athens that those who had not property to the amount of 2,000 drachmas should be excluded from the right of suffrage, he formed the best possible aristocracy, because this property qualification was so small that it excluded but very few people and none who had any consideration in the city. Aristocratic families ought therefore to be as far as possible of the people. The nearer an aristocracy approaches democracy, the more perfect it is, and it is less perfect as it approximates to monarchy. The most imperfect of all is where the part of the people which obeys is in civil slavery to those who command, as the aristocracy of Poland where the peasants are slaves of the nobles."
—It seems indeed, although he does not mention it, that Montesquieu had the English aristocracy in view when he spoke of those who do not lose connection with the great body of the people. It is not that it realizes the ideal of the simplicity and equality dreamt of by the author of the "Spirit of Laws," who recalls the lessons of philosophers and the political writers of antiquity. In England, fortunes are immense and the right of primogeniture is established. The privileges accorded the aristocracy have caused it to strike root in the clergy, the army, the navy and the colonies. But it has never separated its interests from those of the nation. By its attachment to country life it fulfills its duty as the patron of the agricultural population. It has thus avoided the sad example of the French nobility who desert their landed estates to lead an idle life in the cities. It has not thought commerce beneath it. It has taken the lead in the economic progress of the country. When we seek for the causes of the success of this great aristocracy which has thriven in presence of the ruins heaped up by revolutions in other countries, we can, I think, reduce them to the following: In the first place, local habits (that of the mingling in every-day life of great and small, rich and poor for instance) have established among the people bonds of respect and gratitude which unite them to the aristocracy. The result is to make the interests of all one. In the second place, the fortunate circumstance which has divided the British aristocracy into two camps saves them from stagnation and corruption, by introducing among them the necessary principle of competition. If there had been only whigs, the aristocracy would have been inclined to excess, to innovation which runs the risk of degenerating into revolution. If there had been only tories, their conservative tendencies would have subjected them to the no smaller inconvenience of maintaining an aristocracy in a state of stagnation and resistance. England has had the singular fortune of possessing parties more impassioned than any other but with a profound respect for the fundamental principles of the constitution. Consequently no political body since the great revolution which has settled its destinies once and forever, has been less exposed to the alternations of languor and violent crises which elsewhere have injured the political constitution of the country. In the third place, and the circumstance is decisive, this aristocracy has continued ready to earn the fortunes to be won in manufacturing industry and commerce, as well as the rewards of scientific and literary labor. The father of Sir Robert Peel was a cotton spinner. Macaulay, the great historian, who received the title of lord, is an instance of this intelligent liberality which brings into the ranks of the aristocracy all the social forces capable of adding to its strength and brilliancy. It has been remarked that the English aristocracy which does not hide the plebeian origin of some of its members and knows how to recruit its thinned ranks from labor as well as from the army, places birth so little in the front rank of the advantages it seeks, that the English language has no equivalent for the French words mésalliance and parvenu. This explains how a man like Fox, of a more aristocratic origin than Pitt, should have been able to remain all his life the chief representative of popular interests. This explains, too, how the tories have finished by showing themselves almost as progressive as the whigs by the sacrifice of the rotten boroughs and of the protectionist corn laws. It is certainly proper to condemn the too frequent Machiavellian policy of the aristocratic government of England with regard to foreign nations. And it must be acknowledged also that this aristocratic government has more than once shown itself harsh and corrupt at home, intolerant and oppressive to minorities. But how can we refuse our admiration to an aristocracy which has known how to correct abuses and which corrects them every day; which has conferred political equality on Ireland, emancipated the Catholics; which has given civil and political rights to the Jews, sacrificed the prohibitive system, broadened the electoral basis, proclaimed parliamentary reform, and which we doubt not will raise up against its younger sons the formidable competition of the commoners? To give the example of every kind of agricultural progress and to favor it among others by all the means of publicity and association, to watch over the material and moral wants of the laboring classes, to be occupied in remedying the unhealthiness of workmen's dwellings, to establish schools for the indigent, to tax itself heavily for the poor; to have a part in everything done for the advancement of science and the development of credit, is a noble rôle, a grand spectacle—a spectacle the more imposing and a rôle the more splendid in that the aristocracy is not seconded by the state and that it accomplishes by unceasing individual efforts more and better things than are accomplished by governmental mechanism elsewhere. We can not be astonished after this that since the fifteenth century we do not find in the history of England anything like a serious revolt of the lower against the upper classes. The aristocracy accomplished in silence the revolution which in France was so noisily accomplished on the night of the 21st of August, 1789. It gave up the tributes, the humiliating services and the privileged jurisdiction of the feudal system. To-day it has no surer ally than the agricultural classes.
—Is the democracy, which in many countries is becoming more and more important, to exclude the aristocratic element, such as we have defined it, from society and a share in public affairs? To put such a question is to answer it. If democracy condemns privileges securing the monopoly of government to a certain class unjustly favored by the laws, it can not, without injury to itself, reject the natural aristocracy born of enlightenment, services performed, and all kinds of superiority recognized and sanctioned by society. How can the political utility of the aristocratic element in a democracy be denied? Has democracy no need of tradition or restraint? The division of legislative power into two chambers even in the most democratic nations is destined in a great measure to contribute to this element. Men specially distinguished by experience and age are sent to one of these—men who have rendered brilliant services to the state, men of large possessions and known family. For if it is neither indispensable nor desirable that birth should be an absolute title to respect, it necessarily attracts the attention of men. This has been witnessed even under the recent democratic republic in France. To be the son or brother of a celebrated member of the convention became a species of republican nobility. The title of count was not bestowed on him, but the man was made a deputy or a councilor of state simply because of his name.
—Let us not rebel against these facts; they are rooted in human nature. It is no more indifferent to the public that a person is of such or such a family, than it is to foreigners that a man is born in such or such a country.
—That which is condemned and without appeal by modern thought is the proud pretension that there are certain races created to govern, while the rest must forever obey. The prejudice of race exists neither in presence of the Christian religion, which sees in all men brothers, nor in that of philosophy and the progress of thought. The pretense of the aristocratic element to become exclusive would meet with an invincible obstacle in this sentiment of equality which has descended down among the masses, and a formidable rival in the accumulations of industry and wealth. Aristocracy may go into mourning for its ancient privileges. It is scarcely to be believed that duchies will be created again for the purpose of making dukes or marquisates for marquises. The éclat of these titles which formerly rested on solid realities will disappear with the illustrious families of another age which still serve as decorations to the present; but if the top of the tree is to be severed from it, let us hope that it will not be entirely beaten down. The weighty causes which form in every society, in proportion as it is more developed, an aristocratic element, exist in democracy with this additional circumstance, that where all unjust inequality and illegal oppression have disappeared, it is necessary that superiority of every kind should assert itself. A democracy which does not take account of any kind of superiority, or even which does not take into account all kinds, can not escape continual and wretched agitation It will consume itself and surely fall a victim to chance and transient despotisms, with intervals of anarchy.
John Joseph Lalor, Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States by the best American and European Authors, ed. John J. Lalor (New York: Maynard, Merrill, & Co., 1899). Vol 1 Abdication-Duty. Chapter: COMMUNISM
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COMMUNISM. We here propose to discuss communism both in itself and from an historical point of view. Such a plan is broad enough without introducing into it the various social utopias. We are here concerned exclusively with avowed and consistent communism, and not with what in our day goes under the vague name of socialism.
—Communism is the system of doctrine which, in the name of the general interest and of absolute justice, most frequently sees the type of social perfection in a putting in common of persons and things. We purposely say persons and things. The distinction which certain communists pretend to establish between the two is in reality an empty one. The thing possessed is here the person, or at least a part and an extension of the person, who has put his labor into it and placed upon it the seal of his liberty. It is impossible to respect the producer and deprive him of his product. This first usurpation involves all the others, and ends in the complete monopoly of the human person.
—Thus communism, whatever amount of logic it may have (and we shall see that it has not been lacking in this regard), is forced, inevitably, to speak to humanity in nearly the following words: "I shall first take possession of all material products in order to distribute them in accordance with the general interest; but that there should not be an over-abundance of some things, dearth of others, and consequently the impossibility of a just distribution, I shall direct production, which can not be done unless I dispose of the producers themselves as I think best. I shall, therefore, assign to each man his task; and to satisfy myself as to how he accomplishes that task, and that he does nothing else. I shall oblige him to work in common. And then, that he may not be suspected of depriving his brethren of any portion of the social part which comes to him, he shall also consume in common." Here we have the family transferred to the public square. But why let the family itself exist? Are we not acquainted with the jealous activity and watchful foresight of the father and mother for their children? To uphold the family is to create a permanent conspiracy against communism in the bosom of communism itself; it is to condemn communism to witness soon, under the deceitful names of liberty, emulation, economy, of conjugal, paternal, maternal and filial attachment, all the competition, saving, jealousy, favoritism, preference of self or of one's own to others, in one word, the wretched retinue of individualism and familyism. This is not all. There are evil inclinations in the bosom of every individual which resist communism by tending to persuade him that communism, or a community of goods, is not for the best. Hence, a love for communism must be instilled into him, of course in his own interest, at an early day, by education, which consequently must be in common.—"Moreover we know how much religious systems, which pretend to concern themselves only with heaven, influence earthly affairs. What sources of division and struggles, beliefs and ideas are! Hence, no sects, no heresies, no individual opinion! Religion must, therefore, be a common religion for all, at least if we [communism] judge proper that there should be such a theory as religion, which is not very certain. Now, as all this can not be accomplished, and a certain number of individuals not think they have a right to complain, the state must be charged, on the one hand, with the task of carrying out this plan, and, on the other, with putting down the malcontents, unless speedily and completely converted. Hence, the state must be the sole producer, the sole distributer, the sole consumer; it must teach, preach, pray and carry on the work of repression; it must be the great agriculturist, the great manufacturer, the great merchant, the great professor and high priest; it must be spirit and matter, dogma and force, religion and the police—everything." This all shows how chimerical is the disposition which it sometimes pleases certain adherents of communism to make of things and persons, of property and family, of the action of the state, and of individual initiative. Properly speaking, communism knows nothing of persons. It knows only things. The forfeiture of property which it declares strikes at the last principle of liberty in its vital part. Communism drags into its sphere the moral and intellectual as well as the physical life; and man from whom it pretended to take but a single faculty and one order of products only, passes soul and body under its complete control. It is evident, then, that when communism says it wishes to destroy individualism, it means that it wishes to destroy the individual himself. To destroy liberty is, in fact, to destroy the individual in his very essence. A writer has defined man as an intelligence served by organs. From the economic point of view, it would perhaps be more correct to say: "man is a liberty served by organs;" and these organs include intelligence itself, physical power, land and capital. To liberate the organs, is to liberate the man; to reduce them to slavery, is to enslave the man himself.
—Liberty is the moral basis of political economy. Now, what we find at the bottom of all communistic parties and systems is an attack on liberty. Communism is, therefore, directly opposed to political economy. Let us first say a word on the fundamental error of communism. It may, we think, be summed up in the preference which it gives to equality over liberty.
—Now communism fails to insure equality for the very reason that it has a preference for equality.
—Equality supposes something anterior to itself, something which may admit of equality. But in what are men equal? In intelligence? Take two men at random: they are different both in the degree and in the nature of their aptitudes. And so it is in the mental and physical, in the moral and material order. Do you wish to find the type, the basis, the rule of equality? Turn to liberty. The liberty of every man recognized and guaranteed, is true equality. We are equal in and through liberty. This truth is the absolute rule, the only source, in fact and in law, of equality between the members of the great human family. Outside of equality through liberty everything is chimerical and deceptive. To profess to put equality above liberty is therefore nonsense. To pretend to secure one by the suppression of the other is a monstrous contradiction. This contradiction is the starting point of communism.
—Let us glance at the declivity which leads communism to the abyss.
—Communism not knowing how to find equality where it exists, is led to place it where it is not. For the idea of equality is inherent in the mind of man, an imperative want of his heart, a necessary law of his development. Not having found equality in liberty where alone it exists, communism tries to enforce an equality of passions, ideas, wants, things; in one word, of everything which does not admit of equality. Moreover, having misunderstood the true nature of liberty, it plays the tyrant with it, when it meets it, as an obstacle in its way. It is the general tendency of false systems to suppress violently whatever stands in their way, and to replace it by arbitrary equivalents.
—False ideas of equality and liberty are the starting point of communism; all the test results from those false ideas.
—Communism ignores and destroys both liberty and equality, and by this very fact sacrifices real rights to chimerical ones.
—As a free being I have the right to dispose of my faculties, the right to work, with all that that right involves; such a right is nothing but the recognition of general liberty, and therefore it is evident that it oppresses no man. According to communism I have the right to labor, and all the other rights which are necessarily involved in this one right: that is to say, I may demand work, and force others to give me work. Here, then, we have a portion of humanity, not only obliged morally, but constrained physically, obliged by the authority of the law to furnish work to others. When I assist a poor man I merely pay him a debt which I owe him; to give him nothing when I can afford to give him something, is to be not only hard-hearted but wicked; it is to be a thief. I deserve then to be treated as such, that is, to be imprisoned or hanged.
—Communism endows the individual with lying rights; and to satisfy these rights it burdens the state with impossible duties. A double germ of anarchy and despotism, this, which leaves no alternative to society than a desperate war of all against one, and of each against all, or the most grinding slavery.
—The economic and moral consequences which are so closely connected with one another in the communistic system, flow no less logically from its erroneous premises. How can there be merit where individual liberty is sacrificed, where successful effort is counted for nothing? Communism itself feels what a stranger to it merit is, and how fatal it would be to it. For the hallowed formula: Each one according to his merit, it substitutes the following, borrowed from the pretended holiness of instinct: To each one according to his wants. So that, whether a man works little or much, produces with more or less zeal, care, or in greater or less abundance, it does not matter. Does communism destroy the abuses which it pretends to radically abolish? It is easy to prove that it only aggravates them and renders them more general. We know how furiously it attacks competition, that is to say, liberty. But in the place of the legitimate, industrious, enlightened competition of interests which is profitable to all, it puts the blind, barren and disorderly competition of appetites. It complains of robbery in human society, and decrees universal spoliation in order to suppress it. It groans over prostitution, and makes a law of the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes. It is angered at seeing a number of men who, to enjoy themselves, had only to take, as it says, the trouble of being born; and the taking of this trouble, it claims, entitles them to a share in every social advantage! It impeaches slavery and exploitation of the proletariat, and it makes of every man a slave to be exploited by the state. Let us add that the slavery which it establishes is not merely a political and economic one, but a moral slavery which must perpetuate, indefinitely, both political and economic slavery. When free will and personal dignity, care for the future, the calculations and affections which make existence worth having, flights of imagination and innocent fancies, are abolished in men; what is there to replace these broken springs, or to compensate for the loss?
—Communism, by enervating all the motives which constitute the essence, the health, the energy of the moral being, at one blow exhausts all the sources of wealth.
—Communism has sought the principle of liberty, by appealing to love. With instinct as its basis, it seeks in instinct the means of correcting the evil effects of instinct. This twofold pretension is evidently chimerical. Instinct can not be tempered by its own excess. As to making love and fraternity the only springs of production, it is the most impossible of utopias. It is madness to suppose that a man will work, manufacture, sell, etc., with the perpetual enthusiasm which religion itself does not always produce.
—Never has the saying of Pascal: "The man who wishes to imitate the angels becomes a beast," been better justified than by communism, which commences by supposing angelic virtues in man, and ends by always showing him gross and brutal in practice. What an illusion it is, then, to suppose that the individual will love everybody, will devote himself to everybody, when he is prohibited from loving his own family and devoting himself to it! Sympathy, like all other faculties, has need of practice and food. Men do not begin by loving the human race, but end there. And how much enlightenment, how much philosophical or religious elevation of mind, is supposed by so complicated a sentiment! It is a fact which has not escaped the most superficial observer, that affection becomes more intense by being restricted to a narrower circle; more sublime perhaps, but less energetic, in proportion as it extends to a greater number of objects. Communism, by opposing this elementary law, drowns, so to speak, sympathy and devotion in the depths of the limitless ocean called the human race, and buries the individual in the immense and vague abstraction which it calls society.
—We have seen communism, considered as a system, plunging into every error and contradiction; aggravating the evils of which it complains by letting new ones loose on humanity; rousing the appetites and finding nothing to create the immense amount of capital it would need to carry out its plans, except the unproductive principle of fraternity; and rendering this very fraternity impossible by inviting each member of the community to seize a quantity of products which must necessarily grow less and less; or to bow under the hard law of a state which can live only by the skillful distribution of wretchedness. We may well be astonished that such a doctrine should find adherents. Still communism can appeal to a long tradition continued through all the centuries, through revolutions of every kind. The explanation of this strange phenomenon is instructive in more ways than one; and we are astonished to find that communism has often been but the logical development of the principles adopted almost universally by the nations which stigmatized it. Nothing is truer of ancient nations; and as to those which followed them, especially up to 1789, was not the principle of the right to landed property changed by conquest and civil legislation to such a degree, disregarded in law to such an extent by the doctrine that all property in land was held from the state, that communism became, if not justifiable, at least perfectly explainable? As a symptom, if not as a theory, communism still has an importance not to be underrated. Like all social utopias, it has its source in the imperfections of the social state; some of which are susceptible of amendment, others unavoidable; and is explained by a feeling of pity for human misery and by base passion.
—Communism has been at work in the world, and it may be judged by its fruits. To begin with, it is an ugly thing that a doctrine held up as a charter of emancipation of the human race, should always appear in history based on and supported by slavery. How can we speak of communism without mentioning Sparta; and how can we mention Sparta without recalling what was most odious in ancient slavery? The régime of communism and labor are two things so incompatible that wherever the former has been established it has been necessary to condemn whole classes to forced labor. Thus the communism of the citizens of Lacedemonia could be maintained only by making helots of those engaged in agriculture and the useful arts. Sparta reached the ideal of communism better than any other city, unless it be perhaps Crete. Sparta was not guilty of the error of making movable property and material products common property. It also made education and women common property. But, by one of those concessions which the reality always makes to logic, and which we meet everywhere in the history of practical communism; by one of those inconsistencies which make the existence of communism possible and its destruction inevitable, it retained something of individual property by providing that lands should be divided into equal portions. But how great the practical superiority of Spartan communism over the communism of the nineteenth century! It did not promise the members of the association wealth and enjoyment in common, but poverty and abstinence. It spurred the children onward, not by making labor attractive, but by the whip. By these means it was able to exist for a time. Their principles of morality, moreover, debarred the Spartans from the softening influence of the arts—a privation which their economic principles would have been sufficient to effect. The fine arts are impossible where there is not an excess of the wealth produced over the wealth consumed; and such an excess is impossible where communism prevails. The master work of Spartan legislation was to inspire the fanaticism of self-denial and a devotion to this state of things. Spartan morals were not the best. The Spartan, living on coarse food, trained for war, without luxury, without commerce, without a corrupting literature, was no less debauched than savage. Their rude power yielded at almost the first contact with civilized Greece, and could not withstand the wealth acquired after the war of the Peloponnesus. The people, who had rejected the institution of property, were famed for their rapacity, their avarice, and the venality of their magistrates. The people, who had sacrificed all to military prowess, fell to such a degree of weakness that they were forced to recruit their armies from among the helots, among whom they found their last great men. Occupied, like all ancient legislators, with the sole idea of doing away with revolution by destroying inequality, Lycurgus forgot that for states there is a worse danger than revolution—dissolution; and this is how Sparta ended.
—The genius of Rome ignored communism. Everything vague, undetermined, is in keeping with the doctrine of communism, which in religion adores the all, in morality denies the person and sees only humanity, and in political economy absorbs individual property in the collective possession of the community. At Rome everything was well defined, the gods, virtue, the laws. Rome witnessed flourishing side by side stoicism which exalts the liberty and the dignity of the person, and property which assures that liberty and dignity. The institution of property might be abused without the right of property being denied, in Rome. That right was extended, under the rude authority of the father, not only to the slaves, but to the family. Usury appeared there without compassion. As to agrarian law, so frequently confounded with communism, we know that it was merely a claim (revendication) by the poor plebeians who had taken part in the conquest, for lands retained exclusively by nobles and knights. The Gracchi did nothing, said absolutely nothing, incompatible with the right of property. As to the revolts of slaves, what connection had they with communism? These unfortunates revolted not to have everything in common; they fought to own themselves.
—We know how powerful an organization the family spirit and property received from the Mosaic law in Judea. Nevertheless, it must be remarked that if the law of the jubilee, which brought back to the same family alienated lands, was a sanctioning of the right of property, it was also an attack on that right: it sanctioned it by keeping it intact in the hands of the same families; it attacked it because it trammeled individual liberty and hindered the natural course of transactions between man and man. Each one lived "under the shadow of his vine and fig tree;" but for that very reason each one was, so to speak, made a parcel of the soil of his own patrimonial estate. Industry, commerce, the sciences, the arts, which have need of a certain surplus, and the activity which results from the frequent relations between men, remained foreign to this intelligent and energetic people. As where there is no right to property whatever there is no civilization, so an incomplete civilization is the result of every curtailment of the right of property, which can only show its full effects on condition of remaining an individual right.
—Essenianism was the communism of Judea. In this country of religion communism was associated with the religious principle, as in Greece, the country of philosophy, it was associated with the philosophic idea, with Pythagoreanism, which was its partial realization. The school of Pythagoras was a community of sages living in accordance with the severest prescriptions of spiritual life, in self-denial, friendship, and the cultivation of the sciences, especially mathematics and astronomy. Their austerity and their labors suggest to us that it was a sort of pagan Port Royal, while their eagerness for rule and their political activity, which drove them out of most of the cities in which they had founded their establishments, remind us of the celebrated society of the Jesuits. In contrast with the Pythagoreans, who constituted, as it were, monasteries of philosophers, and whose political ideal was an aristocracy of enlightenment guiding and governing the obedient masses, the Essenes exhibit to us a little people, forming a kind of fraternal democracy; not that hierarchy was not respected among them, nor that ranks were not known and even sharply defined; but all were admitted among them on the single condition of a pure or repentant life; and everything was held in common by the chiefs and the subordinates. It must be said to the honor of the Essenes that they looked on slavery as an impious thing, an exception, however, which means nothing in favor of communism. The Essenes were in reality a very limited and entirely voluntary association; they were like a small tribe of monks; and Pliny said of them, "They perpetuate themselves without women, and live without money. * * * Repentance and distaste for the world are the fruitful sources which keep up their number." Communism, thus understood, was only a form of free association; the community received only those who agreed to form a part of it. Labor was carried on among them, moreover, by men reared in the habits and teachings of the upper society; and like all religious communities, it was founded not on the principle of unlimited satisfaction of human wants, but on that of rigorous abstinence. We can say as much of the Therapeutics, a Jewish sect of Egypt, whose members lived in isolation, and had little in common but their practices of religion.
—Christianity put an end to the old world. Was it favorable to communism in the time of its Founder and the first apostles? This is a question which has been much discussed in our time, and which the communists, anxious to have the greatest authority of the civilized world on their side, unanimously answer in the affirmative. This claim has been refuted to our thinking, with an array of reasoning which amounts to demonstration. To begin with, if Christ had intended to extol communism, he would not have maintained the most profound silence on the subject. Then the texts of the gospels, appealed to in favor of communism, have a meaning altogether different from that attributed to them. Jesus Christ recommended almsgiving, the giving away of one's goods, which is a use and not the negation of property. In a word, he makes charity a religious duty, not an act of constraint, which abolishes all virtue and all charity. He repeats the precept of the divine law: "Thou shalt not steal," which is a sanction of the right of property. He preaches the inviolability of the family so far as to condemn divorce, one of the few laws relating to civil life which he laid down. The language and conduct of the apostles are none the more on the side of communism. The spontaneous putting of all their goods in common by the first believers, was as much a means of resistance in their hands, and an instrument of propagandism, as a picture of Christian brotherhood. Liberty and the laws of morality and political economy find nothing contrary to their principles, in this free community of a religious sect pretending in no way to set itself up as a model of social organization nor to change the general conditions of the production of wealth. The example of the small Christian family, at Jerusalem, after the death of Christ, an example not followed to any extent by the other churches, has no weight as an argument.
—We have to reach the second century and turn to a heresy severely condemned by Christianity, to see an instance of practical communism authorized by religion. The Carpocratians, who were confounded with the Gnostics, revived, a little earlier than two centuries after Christ, the infamy of the bacchanals that Rome had seen a little less than two centuries before his coming. The Christian communities, which were established with an ascetic object, had nothing to do with the history of communism. It is even certain that they could not have supported themselves in a communistic society, because they obtained their resources not from among themselves, but from outside. Moreover, these communities and the communists differ in every respect. Men came to join them, but were not born in them. Their object was almost always purely religious. The sexes, far from being together, lived separately; where marriage was permitted, its laws were strictly observed. The association of Herrnhuters, or Moravian brethren, is the sole exception to the above remarks. It was upheld by its evangelical spirit of humility, self-denial, hope in a future life, which rendered it less exacting in this one; in a word, by the very spirit most opposed to that of communism. While recognizing their virtues and their negative happiness, it must be recognized also that their narrow feeling of sect, their stationary condition, their want of arts, their proscription of everything lofty in science and all philosophical speculation, do not agree with the general character and the most necessary conditions of modern civilization.
—When we follow the history of heresies in the Christian church, we find that communism was a stranger to most of them. Ecclesiastical authors, in order to brand them more surely, have been somewhat lavish of this reproach against them; and communistic writers have eagerly granted the truth of the reproach in order to gain for themselves a more imposing family tree. Bossuet, in his "History of the Variations," has not been sparing in this accusation against the heretics of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, especially against the Waldenses and Albigenses, whose innocence, in this respect, has been established, it appears to us, by the historian of communism, Sudre. The same is the case with the Lollards and some other sects more theological than political. It needed all the partiality of contemporary history, written from the communistic point of view, to make a Wickliffe and a John Huss apostles of social fraternity. The germs of communism were developed, nevertheless, in certain sects, such as the Brothers of the Free Spirit in the thirteenth century, and perhaps among some others. But communism broke out with the Anabaptists in a bold and most terrible form. It does not enter into our plan to relate this tragic episode in the history of communism in which it appeared with all the retinue of false theories which it advocated and evil passions which it roused. "We are all brothers," said Muncer, the chief of the Anabaptists, to the listening crowd, "and we have a common father in Adam; whence comes this difference in rank and possessions which tyranny has set up between us and the great ones of the earth? Why should we groan in poverty and be overwhelmed with misery while they are swimming in delight? Have we not a right to equality of goods, which, by their nature, are made to be divided among all men? Give up to us, rich men of the world, covetous usurpers, give up to us the goods which you keep unjustly; it is not as men alone that we have a right to an equal distribution of the advantages of fortune, but also as Christians." Spoliation, polygamy, the destruction of statues, of paintings, of books, with the exception of the Bible, followed these preachings, especially at Mulhausen and Münster.
—After having shown how sensual and fierce it can make men, of itself, it remained for communism to show by the example of Paraguay how moral, mild and happy it may make them when joined to the religious principle. This last experience of which it boasts, does not appear, any more than the others, very brilliant or very enviable. The crowning work of the Jesuits in their colonies was to change a colony of men into a flock of obedient and timid children, without any ideas of their own, without vices, but at the same time without virtues. The Jesuit fathers had established a system of absolute rule; they directed the production and distribution of wealth with that despotism without which communism is not possible. The happiness which they procured their flock was not, however, protected from the storm; and it is stated that the news of their departure was received with shouts of joy. The state of primitive innocence and even happiness under a superior authority can not be, at all events, the ideal of a civilization which prefers struggle, with its inevitable failure and the progress consequent on it, to this inert and stupid state of impeccability.
—We must come down to our own time and to the New Harmony of Owen to find a fresh example of practical communism. The illusions of the modern reformer, who made irresponsibility his principal dogma, need not be recalled. It may be said that, on the whole, communism has done nothing considerable since the time of Paraguay, where it was able to survive for a time, owing solely to the change and modifications made in it by the religious spirit. Since then, it has appeared in the form of aspiration or conspiracy. Babœuf and his accomplices met the same fate as Muncer and John of Leyden, without having had the same success; and the records of the doctrine since June, 1848, and recently, have been only those of its defeats and disappointments.
—To complete the review of communism it only remains to cast a glance over the utopias which it has produced, limiting ourselves to pointing out the chief trait of each, and the conclusions to be drawn from them all.
—The type of all the communistic utopias has justly been found in the Republic of Plato. It is important, however, to distinguish carefully the communism of the Greek philosopher from the doctrines with which it is confounded. Plato has been too frequently thought of as a modern utopist who aims at reforming the world. The republic of Plato is a purely ideal application of his philosophy to society. As a philosopher he paid too little attention in his analysis of man to the moral fact of liberty. This defect appears with all its deplorable consequences in his imaginary society. As a philosopher he understood the idea of justice admirably as far as it can be understood when detached from liberty; and with a geometrical precision concealed under the freest and most brilliant forms he arrives at absolute equality, interrupted no longer by individual differences of effort and merit, but by the personal differences of intelligence and moral energy. In this way he reaches an aristocracy of philosophers and warriors. Let us not forget, either, that Plato, far from looking toward the future had his eyes constantly turned toward the east, a country of (more or less) collective property and theocracy. Except in a few views purely moral, as sublime as they were new, which contained in them the future of the human race, we may say that Plato in his Republic wrote simply the Utopia of the past. Let us observe also that, in this work itself, property and the family seem forbidden only to one class, that of the warriors. Do not European armies recall some of the traits of this organization, supported by the other classes of citizens? Have the soldiers a family? have they land to cultivate or a table apart? The republic attests with none the less force the irresistible inclination of communism, which, whether it takes its starting point in the brutal appeal to the instincts, or has its source, as here, in the principles of abstract justice shorn of the idea and the feeling of the freedom of the will, reaches the same result, and derives the negation of the family from that of property. But the smile of Socrates while exposing this impracticable system, is perhaps the refutation best suited to this brilliant play of dialectics and imagination combined, a logical and poetical deduction of an idea, and not a serious plan of social reform.
—What could a regular explanation of the systems of Thomas More and Campanella add to what we have already said? It matters little that the Utopia and the City of the Sun differ in certain regards; but it is important to remark that they agree in some of the great negations brought about by that of liberty and property. More wishes the institution of the family might remain, but he wants slaves for great public works and to fill the voids left in production by the utopists. Campanella abolishes the family. Both make the state sovereign master of labor and sole distributer of products.
—Communism assumed in the eighteenth century an exclusively philosophical form; it very nearly renounced allegory and symbolism to make use of analysis and reasoning. We do not doubt that the constitution of the institution of property which communism had before its eyes was vicious, and that philosophy and political economy were to labor for its reformation; but if the excessive and unjust equalities of eighteenth century society explain communism, how can they justify a system which moved in opposition to the general aspirations for liberty and civilization? Rousseau was not a partisan of this doctrine though he gave it weapons. In his "Discourse on Inequality," as well as in his "Social Contract," he recognizes the close solidarity of property and society, and while deploring the existence of the latter he declares it indestructible. In basing property on the law he fell into an error, general in his time, and from which Montesquieu himself was not free. Mably, who carried the principles of Rousseau to absurdity, and who changed his tendencies into systems, asks humanity to return to its natural state. In his Legislation, or Principes des lois, in his Doutes sur l'ordre naturel et essential des Sociétés opposed to the Physiocrates, in his Entretiens de Phocion, he is scarcely more than the servile commentator of Rousseau and Lycurgus. Labor in common, distribution by the state, abolition of arts, intolerance in matters of religion: these ancient consequences of the doctrine are deduced by Mably with a rigor which leaves little to be desired. The obscure Morelly goes farther yet, if possible, in his tedious Basiliade and in his hateful Code de la nature, which became the code of revolutionary communism. The boldness of Brissot de Warville, who, anticipating a celebrated saying, assimilated property to theft, and the inconsistent eccentricities of Necker and Linguet, could only repeat or extenuate these anathemas and theories. They were continued through the French revolution which deprived them of their raison d'être. A disciple of Rousseau, Robespierre was not a communist, though his principles put society on the incline which leads to communism. Babœuf, on the contrary, was. Morelly became a man of action. Philosophic and dreamy communism appeared only with Cabet, author of the Voyage en Icarie, and with the more advanced editors of the Humanitaire. These latter are much more consistent. In his communism founded on fraternity, and repeating all the arguments restoring the use of all the habitual methods of communism varied but little in its nature, Cabet, nevertheless, wished to retain the family. L'Humanitaire opposed this. We have shown on which side the logic was. Let us add also, in order to be just, that Cabet deceived himself with the fond delusion that each one would retain his cottage and his garden. He allowed his Icarians, after having well served the state which oversaw them strictly all the week, to be absolutely free every Sunday. This is far too much. A single Sunday in freedom would be death to Icaria. With these exceptions we recognize under the honey of the form the inevitable spirit of communism, that is to say, the purest despotism regulating industry, science, religion, etc.
—Of what use is it to know that there are several varieties of communists in France in the nineteenth century? Some of them in a minority wish to act with mildness, just as if when property is once recognized as an obstacle to all progress, it is not necessary to destroy it at once. Some deny a God, the soul, responsibility; others mean to admit them, which is perfectly useless, since they conduct to the same practical materialism. There are others who wish to retain the fine arts, as if their economic system permitted the retention. Some are in favor of having towns, while others find it better to destroy them and force all to live in the country. These differences are of little interest. In reality there is only one and the same communism: consistent communism.
—And now, if communism as an aspiration is a real disease of the social state, and if communism as an economic doctrine is merely a disease of the human mind, what are the remedies? After good moral training and instruction, to which we assign the first place, we know of but two: as to society, to apply in it more and more the great principles of economic science which indeed can not destroy its evils, but may gradually diminish them; as to minds, to imbue them continually more and more with the truths of political economy. Such is the best or rather the only real antidote against the threatening progress of communism.
John Joseph Lalor, Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States by the best American and European Authors, ed. John J. Lalor (New York: Maynard, Merrill, & Co., 1899). Vol 1 Abdication-Duty. Chapter: DEMOCRACY.
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DEMOCRACY. I. Meaning of the word Democracy in Ancient and in Modern Times. By democracy the ancients understood, following the etymology of the word, government by the people. Such a meaning necessarily implied the division of society into several classes, each with a sort of stability. The sovereignty resided sometimes in one of these classes, sometimes in another. When the great body of citizens who did not belong to the nobility were invested with the power of making laws, and choosing the chief magistrates, the government was called democratic. Neither this name nor the preponderance of the element it designated, abolished the fundamental distinction between nobles and plebeians, any more than it abolished that between freemen and slaves, who were deprived of all rights. Hence we may perceive that civil and political equality was restricted within rather narrow limits in ancient times. The result of long contests, this equality could not maintain itself, even within these limits, without a struggle. At Rome the popular element, whose advent is marked by the tribunate, which became its most powerful arm, contended for a long time against the aristocracy which gave form to the Roman republic. It never completely triumphed until the downfall of that republic. Under the empire there was less liberty and more equality, but it was the equality of despotism. The court of the Cæsars took its counselors and its favorites from all classes, it even chose them from among the freedmen and the sons of freedmen. Merit sometimes succeeded under it, the favored still more frequently. Emulation in baseness became the rule under the bad emperors. Under the good emperors there were honest men, devoted to their prince and the public service; great men disappeared. Even admitting that the empire was an improvement as compared with the republic, in the social order, it is incontestably true that it meant decline morally and ruin politically. The amount of prosperity and private virtue which flourished during its long continuance does not blot out this stain. The public virtue which continued to exist assumed, in the stoics, the character of a powerless protest.
—In the states of antiquity, when the patricians were, as frequently happened, the conquerors and rulers of a country subject to their yoke, it was natural that the vanquished should seek to regain the rank from which they had fallen, and to recover their share of right, influence, prosperity and dignity. Besides, ability is never absolutely concentrated in a minority. It must inevitably happen that the ability that exists among the masses shall win for itself recognition and place. There are few political societies that do not make place to some extent for individual merit, independently of birth. But, under the name of the people, it was frequently the crowd that carried the day. The multitude introduced into the government—such was ancient democracy. Hence the bad reputation it has left behind it, and the preference which the political writers of antiquity, without exception, manifested for the aristocratic form of government, which they considered more favorable to moderation, to the maturity and proper sequence of the measures useful to the state, as less capricious, not so easily influenced or corrupted, and more enlightened. Plato and Aristotle had a decided leaning toward aristocracy, and showed themselves most severe judges of democracy, whose fickleness and vices so forcibly impressed them; of that democracy which had just sent Socrates to death. These philosophers considered that democracy almost inevitably ended in the tyranny of one man; a form of government which excited the repugnance of these liberal minds. They had no greater liking, however, for that other species of tyranny which the majority exercises over the minority. The sanguinary colors in which Plato painted the demagogues, proves what were the sentiments of those whom we may call the honest men, respecting the men who made themselves masters of the multitude by basely flattering their worst instincts. Their very imperfect notions of liberty and right, together with the fickleness and other inherent weaknesses of the popular element, serve to explain this opinion of democracy among the ancients. They too often confounded, as is well known, liberty with sovereignty. To be free was to have a share in the framing of the laws, whether or not these laws were intended to limit or hamper the liberty of individuals, the liberty of private life, which the moderns put before every other. As to the idea of right, how completely was it mingled with and subordinated to that of force! The will of the people passed for right, and what was judged useful, even though contrary to justice, became the sovereign rule of public action. It was in vain that Aristides, at Athens, protested against this doctrine, in the name of a select minority. It had the approval of the people, who applauded Themistocles as the defender of these convenient maxims of government, the only ones that were popular, the only ones that were practiced.
—In modern times democracy has not, nor could it have, the same meaning as in antiquity. If the ultra-democratic governments are not exempt from the vices and dangers which characterized those of antiquity, it is none the less true that the very notion of democracy differs profoundly from that which the ancients formed of it, and that it no longer responds to the same ideas, or expresses exactly the same facts. The meaning attached to the ideas of liberty and equality is different in many respects. These differences are explained by the influence of Christianity upon ideas and manners, by the rise of a new moral and political philosophy, and by the development of industry and wealth—Modern nations were formed under the influence of Christianity, which has completely changed the general point of view from which man and society are regarded. Man, according to the conception which has prevailed for nearly eighteen centuries, even among those who do not adopt to the letter the dogmas and mysteries of the Christian religion, but who nevertheless feel the influence of its moral teachings, is sacred inasmuch as he is man, sacred in his own eyes, and sacred in the eyes of his fellow-men. According to Christian teaching man has an immense value, since God himself, to purchase and redeem him, did not disdain to assume his humanity. God has revealed to us the mystery of our immortal destiny, and all the means which can regenerate us and work out our salvation. This is the foundation of Christianity: a free, responsible soul, fallen, it is true, but in a condition to raise itself. What duty after this is there greater than to respect this responsibility in one's self and in others, than to develop the moral man in others and in ourselves? All the children of God are brothers; all the sons of Adam are equal in their fall; all the members of Christ are equal in their redemption. Let it not be said that these beliefs have been without effect, and remained dead doctrine. What could be more completely contrary to the laws of human nature, to the irresistible logic which draws facts from principles, moral and religious order from social order? and finally, what more contrary to historic truth? The belief in responsible liberty, in a common redemption, in equality before God, came into existence with Christianity itself. If a state of conquest and violence, if barbarity for a long time retarded its civil effects, it is none the less true that since the middle ages the slavery of antiquity has disappeared, protective institutions for the weak have multiplied, under the empire of a sentiment of charity until then unknown. The poorest, the humblest, the most oppressed, regarded themselves as the equals of kings and lords, inasmuch as they were subject to the same religious obligations, and believed themselves called to the same chances of happiness in another life. The self, overburdened with misery, cast a glance toward the heavens as toward the future home of equality. The victim of injustice, in the depths of his own soul, he cited his master before the tribunal of the supreme Judge. These ideas of equality, born of a community of faith and hope, and which resulted from Christian dogma itself, found a visible expression in the organization of the church. There the fact of birth was long accounted nothing. Merit was everything. The bishops and popes frequently came, like the apostles, from the mass of the people. The simple sons of peasants exercised over princes an almost absolute empire. Election was the mark of equality. With time this democratic character of the church was modified, but did not disappear; and in 1789 it was advocated by a majority of the members of the clergy who were seated in the constituent assembly. Did not the ideas of equality and Christian brotherhood, as applied to society, manifest themselves at the time of the foundation of the English colonies of America? Who, then, will deny that American democracy was born of Christianity?
—From this we may estimate the distance which separates the ancient from the modern idea of democracy. The thoroughly democratic idea that men are responsible solely as men, have rights because they are men, are valued solely as men, and as men should mutually love and help one another, is pre-eminently a Christian idea. Neither the maxim, "render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's," nor the precepts of resignation and obedience, can do away with this truth. It was not sufficient for Christianity to espouse the cause of the oppressed and the feeble; it was not sufficient for it to curse the bad rich man, and make of the poor its chosen children; it was not sufficient for it that the apostles and their successors were themselves of the number of the poor; the sentiment of their rights came to men only with that of their moral value.
—If democracy finds its title to recognition in the ideas of liberty, equality and Christian fraternity, why can we not see that it finds it also in philosophy? The principle of liberty has been incessantly vindicated by philosophers, under one form or another, since the seventeenth century. Descartes claimed it for pure thought; Montesquieu introduced it into political philosophy; Voltaire became its defender in the interest of universal inquiry. Philosophy proclaims the inviolability of the human person, without regard to race, color or opinion. In spite of differences and inequalities, it finds the same human nature in all, and founds upon this identity an equality of rights. Its desire is to develop man; to see every individual raise himself to the height of excellence and happiness of which he is capable. It exalts sociability, the fraternity of sympathies and interests; it maintains in the hearts of men the idea of right; it attacks unjust distinctions and odious privileges: in a word, it presses onward, with the aid of the weapons which are its own, that is to say, by enlightenment and reason, toward liberty and civil equality.
—Must we not say as much of the modern development of industry and wealth? Do not these modern powers manifest the same tendency toward freedom and a greater effective equality? Nor is there any more necessity to-day than at any other epoch, of supposing that equality of conditions could or should always be absolute; for this would be the very destruction of civilization. But if wealth continues to develop with its inevitable and desirable inequalities, is it not now more equitably divided than ever before? does it not more than ever depend upon labor? Landed property is considerably divided up: this was remarked to be the case even before the French revolution. Movable property has increased prodigiously. Restrictions on labor have in great part disappeared. Exchange of wealth is carried on in most countries without meeting with any artificial obstacles at home; and as to international commerce the idea of the solidarity of nations mutually interested in each other's enrichment has taken the place of their commercial antagonism. Industry, in fine, with its improved processes, places its products within the reach of almost all. The circle of those who are able to enjoy bodily comfort and intellectual advantages increases daily. This is the social condition called democracy.
—In the last analysis modern democracy, which we first consider in its most general character and in its most favorable traits, tends toward a state in which, conformably to the data of Christianity, of moral and political philosophy, and of the development of wealth, a greater number of men continually enter into the possession of intellectual, moral and material benefits. The diffusion of knowledge, a more equal division of the gratifications which constitute comfort, a more general participation in civil and political rights, essentially characterize it. It proposes to substitute merit for chance, and right for injustice. It shelters itself under the shield of the doctrine of perfectibility, which is applicable not only to the works of the human mind, to the discoveries of science, and to the inventions of industry, but also to the social condition and to the political and economic combinations which may serve to improve it. Modern democracy thus seems to be the result of a great progress in ideas and beliefs, of a slow transformation already effected in part, and which still continues, in manners, customs and laws. That each man may be more and more a man, that is to say, better realize the type of humanity, by the development of all that constitutes it, is the end to which it aspires. The development of power for the individual and for the species, the increase of dignity and comfort, such is its ideal.
—This ideal will never be attained, even in part, without great difficulties. The first of these difficulties is human imperfection. Would a pure and absolute democracy suit men? Rousseau himself doubted it. But in order to approach even to the ideal which we have just outlined, man has need of constant efforts over himself, of learning, of wisdom, of virtue. It is not in consequence of a vain and declamatory reminiscence of ancient republics that Montesquieu made virtue the soul of democracy. A state which calls man to an energetic and complete control of his being, and which bids him govern himself, by emancipating him from the guardians to whose hands he intrusted the care of his destiny, evidently can not sustain itself but by the continual sentiment of responsibility and duty. How, for example, would democracy, taken in the favorable sense which we have just given it, maintain itself, if the taste for immoderate enjoyment should prevent work, destroy economy and attack probity; if the desire of living upon the fruits of other people's labor, if the contempt for justice, trodden under foot by an unrestrained egotism, should be substituted for moderation, for the spirit of equity and right? Moral disorder such as this could not but prepare the way for slavery: anarchy would not be slow to open the way for despotism, following an accustomed formula, of which history furnishes the elements and the proofs.
—We shall now consider democracy, first under its civil, then under its political form, in society, and in the government. The real and grave reasons for this distinction will soon be seen.
—II. Of Democracy in the Civil Law and in Society. We have distinguished the democracy which determines the civil relations of citizens from that which gives to power its political form. A sensible proof of the reality of this distinction may be found in France, where society has long been democratic to a remarkable degree, and where power is not purely democratic in its composition, and has retained in the main the monarchical form down to a very recent date. The democratic nature of society is recognized especially by the equality of rights which is manifested in industry by free competition, and in the professions by the admissibility of all citizens to practice them. Who does not know that property and labor are no longer monopolies? The extreme mobility of property, on the one hand, and on the other the facility which each one has of choosing his own state in life, of freely carrying on his trade or business; are not these living and familiar proofs of this equality of rights which refuses no one access to the goods and labors which lead to it? A certain equality of condition results, and must result, from this equality of rights. In fact, as soon as liberty presides over the distribution of wealth, the chances are equal for all. Vast accumulations of wealth are now only exceptional, and are subject to the laws of change common to all, to exempt themselves from which was the aim of the privileged aristocrats and nobles. If a clever man, who has become rich by fortunate speculation, leaves a great amount of wealth to his children, this wealth will be reduced by division among several heirs, and will perhaps be lost by incapacity or dissipation. Thus will the democratic tendency of the different classes of society to intermingle find an increased facility for further growth. Thus will the advantages of merit and of good fortune, which are purely personal, be substituted for hereditary family renown. This tendency, which is the result of the doctrine of laisser-faire, receives in France a new force from the law, which makes the equal division of property among the children of the same father obligatory. The inability, under which the father of a family in France is placed, of favoring one of his children to the prejudice of the others beyond a certain limit, is, as all admit, one of the instruments of democratic equality. But must we believe, with some publicists, that equality is inseparably attached to such a law? The proof of the contrary is found in the fact that the same equality exists in the United States, although it is not there prescribed by law, but remains optional. To make the eldest son sole heir would seem as iniquitous to an American as it seems natural and just to an Englishman. Custom seems to have the same tendency, and almost the same intensity, on this point, in France. How could it be otherwise, when we remember that equal partition had become firmly fixed in the customs of the third estate, long before the French revolution, as M. Augustin Thierry has proven in his introduction to the "History of the Third Estate"? It is not probable, therefore, that, if full liberty were left to fathers of families to dispose of their property, it would not have worked any such great change as is generally believed in a society so saturated as ours is with the idea of the equality of all the children of the same father? Without here entering into details which would lead us beyond the limits of our subject, we still believe that there are serious objections to absolute liberty in the making of wills. Let us admit, with its advocates, that by its means many a bad son would be punished by the deprivation of his inheritance, and that some children who had been unfortunate in their business, or who had contracted disadvantageous marriages, would receive a larger share. Some cases of extreme partition of landed property might be more easily prevented by its means, although means of preventing excesses of this sort are not wanting even now. On the other hand, the well-known evils which result from absolute liberty in making wills would have full away, to the prejudice of families and society. To resume: there is nothing to make us foresee the abrogation of the law of descent in France, and it is not to be believed that democracy, assured as it feels of the power of established customs, would long consent to completely lose such a weapon. Moreover, whether deservedly or not, unpopularity would, in France, attend any too absolute measure of this nature, though it were authorized by the purest theories of liberty, by the intention of regenerating the family by respect and fear, and even by the intention of manifesting greater regard for property. People would see in the omnipotence of paternal power, in this sense, but an inhuman desertion of the children, and an unpleasant possibility of the re-establishment of the right of primogeniture and of substitution.
—Another feature of equality in democracy is the necessity under which each citizen is placed of contributing to the national expenses in proportion to his power. This is the only truly liberal interpretation of democracy. It makes of the payment of taxes a true title to citizenship, even for the poor, instead of numbering them among the crowd as individuals without duties and without ties to society; while at the same time it subjects the well-to-do and the rich, who receive from the state a greater protection for their property and their persons, to the necessity of bearing a greater portion of the expenses. But this manner of looking at taxation does not satisfy all democratic schools. Many believe that democracy ought to exempt citizens, not in very easy circumstances, and not having a certain minimum income, from all taxation. Some desire the establishment of a progressive tax, that is to say, of a tax increasing progressively with the fortune of the individual, and which, therefore, would take, not ten times more from him who had ten times more, but fifteen or twenty times more, according to the arbitrary will of the legislator. This is not the place to consider all the economic and political consequences of graduated taxation, which most fortunately has had but a very limited application in practice. But we should observe that it gives rise, in the democratic schools which sustain it, to a false idea of democracy, that of the state constituting itself the judge and equalizer of fortunes. Nothing is more incompatible than such a pretension with respect for liberty and property, which is the first duty of modern democracy. Liberal democracy ought, above all things, to avoid yielding to theories that recognize in the state the right to do everything. If it establish the arbitrary division of fortunes, if it introduce progressive taxation, is it not evident that it places itself, whether it will or not, upon the very verge of communism? It can check itself by moderation, but this would be the abandonment of its principle. We to the democracy which would make of leveling by the state a dogma and a point of departure! It would betray itself, and sacrifice liberty. How entirely right was the chief whom the French republican-democratic party mourned 50 years ago, when he thus replied to the manifesto of the democratic levelers and more or less openly avowed communists, who had their centre of action in the society of the rights of man, in 1832: "Graduated taxation, the taxation of jealousy and not of justice, would not distinguish between idle and laborious wealth. Graduated taxation would punish all wealth without distinction, under the false notion that every rich man devours the substance of a certain number of poor men. * * Between this system (the liberal system which confines itself to abolishing unjust privileges in the matter of taxes) and that which would consist in declaring the state alone rich, the sole proprietor, the sole producer, the sole consumer, the sole regulator of national activity, the sole inventor, the sole creator in the arts, in industry, in the general movement of civilization; between these two systems, we say, graduated taxation would hold but a hypocritical middle course; it would have for its object, while concealing this end, the destruction of all wealth."
—This system of the monopoly of industry and wealth by the state, described with so much force by Armand Carrel, is to too great an extent the temptation and danger of democracy for us not to insist upon it here. For the very reason that the natural course of events, the free play of interests, bring more equality into democratic nations, the need of equality becomes a veritable passion, and shows itself more shocked at the inequalities which exist. It pretends to do away with these inequalities, and to bring the different classes, which are so variable in their composition, to one common and tyrannical level; it wishes to have no longer either rich or poor, either masters or workmen; it insists that all shall be equal in fact as in right; and the most consistent of its advocates do not recoil before the thought of absolute equality of wages for all producers, regardless of condition, as well for the minister of state who governs, the incumbent of a high office, for the head of a manufacturing establishment, if there remain any such, as for the meanest laborer.
—An unenlightened but generous desire for the amelioration of the lot of the poorer classes, together with the far less noble sentiments of cupidity and envy, concur in inspiring democracy with such thoughts. How many accomplices and dupes it easily finds! It therefore becomes the duty of publicists and economists, of the men of good sense in democratic nations, constantly to combat them and to propagate sound ideas upon this subject. Is it not clearly evident that inequality of conditions enters into the divine plan; that it results, in society, from the inequality of the talents which we receive from nature, from opportunities more or less favorable, and finally and above all, from the more or less judicious use of our moral and bodily faculties, which is the result of our free will? All can not be generals in industrial pursuits and in the professions, any more than in the army; and it is difficult to see what society would gain if all should remain in the rank of common soldiers under pretext of democratic equality. On the contrary, is it not clear that society would lose much by such an arrangement? Science and its applications; arts and letters, with their grandeur; wealth, with its almost indefinite faculty of development; civilization, in fine, do not prosper but on condition of vast accumulations of capital, and a hierarchy established in the division of labor. Liberty, therefore, with the inequalities which it engenders, is as necessary to them as air and exercise are to human life and development.
—Nor can we readily understand, once we cease dreaming of an absolute equality as chimerical as it is unjust, how democracy can, under the influence of liberty in all human transactions, fear the encroachments of an inequality which nothing in the law favors. Liberty constantly aims at removing all inequality except such as is absolutely necessary to the progress and advancement of human society. Human action, under a thousand forms, always on the alert; always busy divining and satisfying the wants of others, in order to obtain the satisfaction of its own wants; sharing, as the price of its exertion, the mass of social wealth; agreeing upon the share of remuneration which shall belong to each: such is the spectacle presented by democratic society. Industry, which desires an extensive market, endeavors to produce what will be of universal use in consumption. Useful discoveries are of profit to all. The possession of property, by becoming more general, seems itself an instrument conducive to a community among men, so much does it lose of its exclusive character, so much does it diffuse its blessings among the masses in the shape of labor, profit, wages, and in enjoyments which become accessible to all classes of society. From this point of view it seems surprising that M. de Tocqueville, the eminent writer who has expressed such profound views on democracy, should have seen any reason to fear that liberty was destined to lead to such accumulations of capital in the hands of a few as would give rise to an oppressive aristocracy. He repeated an accusation believed by many, an opinion not wanting in adherents, but which has, it seems to us, but little foundation, when he professed to believe that the great manufacturing interests would engender a sort of industrial feudalism more oppressive than the old. "The territorial aristocracy of past ages," he writes (De la Démocratie en Amerique, vol. iii., part ii., chap. 20), "was bound by the law, or believed itself bound by custom, to aid its servants, and to relieve their misery. But the manufacturing aristocracy of our day, after impoverishing and brutalizing the men whom it uses, leaves them to be supported by public charity in times of crises. This is the natural consequence of the preceding. Between the workman and his master there are many relations, but there is no real association. I think that, all things considered, the manufacturing aristocracy which we see growing up before us is one of the hardest which has appeared in the world; but it is at the same time one of the most limited and least dangerous. Nevertheless, it is thither that the friends of democracy should incessantly and anxiously turn their gaze: for, if aristocracy and a permanent inequality of conditions ever again make their way into, the world, it may be safely predicted that they will enter by this door." Whatever favor this opinion of M. de Tocqueville may enjoy to-day, a lasting and excessive inequality of conditions can never enter by this door; and the economic reasons which forbid it are too numerous for us to mention them all here. De Tocqueville clearly exaggerates the importance of the great manufacturing interests in a country as thickly settled and as extensively engaged in every sort of industry as France, for instance, when he attributes to them such influence. Everything opposes it; the partition of estates, the association of small sums of capital, the diffusion of wealth, the progress of the working classes, which prevents their return to a state of slavery. We can not justly style aristocrats the great manufacturers who enjoy no privileges, and to whom competition makes life one incessant struggle. Besides, is the opinion of M. de Tocqueville consistent with itself? Does he not admit that this aristocracy, if it be an aristocracy, is one of the most limited and least dangerous? Except in case of certain articles of general use, such as cotton, wool and iron, for example, it will very likely be with parceling out of industrial labor, at least in part, as with land. The small manufactures will maintain their rights. The law of the division of labor favors, it is true, in industry, vast agglomerations; but they have their limits, and they can not do everything with a sufficient degree of perfection. Perhaps democratic equality will have more to fear from the monopolies of large companies than from manufactures. The problem is a difficult one, we admit. Democracy, or, to speak more correctly, the common weal, finds itself between two dangers; either to allow great companies to abuse their monopoly, or to place some important industries under the exclusive control of the state, which has already too great a tendency to encroach upon private enterprise. The reasonable remedy is to have the fewest monopolies possible, instead of increasing their number, and to hold them to a strict account.
—The consideration of what is, and what may be in the future, the influence of democracy upon morals and upon the human mind, is of an entirely different nature from the foregoing. The author of "Democracy in America" devoted the last two volumes of his work to this important inquiry. He does not concede, as is so often done nowadays, the necessary abasement of the human intelligence by democracy; he thinks that there will always be found there, by the side of vulgar taste and the vast amount of work destined to satisfy it by its cheapness, higher tastes for art and science, represented by a gifted class, and rewarded by the wealthy class. He explains with great nicety the reasons why the example of the Americans does not prove that a democratic people can not be possessed of an aptitude for the higher sciences, literature and the arts. What is styled its vulgarity, is not, however, the only moral danger to which democracy is exposed. Another is the excessive individualism which is developed by the idea and habitual practice of the sovereignty of the individual, who is constituted judge of what is right and true, and sole judge of his own affairs. The pride of individualism easily engenders envy and contempt for superiority. It has, nevertheless, no matter how serious the danger, its natural correctives. No one feels more than the individual member of such a society the importance of isolation. He has no support, unless he create it for himself. He therefore seeks associates. The idea of the great association, his country, will address itself to his imagination all the more forcibly, perhaps, as the individual sees nothing between it and himself. The collective sentiment of patriotism has undoubtedly worked wonders in the democratic states. The great danger of our day is to be apprehended from the purely humanitarian doctrines which destroy patriotism, and from the predominance which is given to questions of wages, by which the workman is tempted to see a brother in a workman of a foreign country, in league with him, and an enemy in the capitalist who is his fellow-countryman. This danger is great. It must be watched and combated, in order to be warded off. It is asked [in Catholic countries, like France.
—ED.], in the matter of faith and opinions, if democratic individualism does not lead necessarily either to philosophy, which appeals to reason alone, or to Protestantism, which accords a greater part than Catholicism to freedom of choice and investigation. Whatever may be said on the point, there is nothing to prove that Catholicism is not perfectly compatible with democracy. There are even serious reasons for believing that democracy and a religion founded on authority have some affinity. Is there not reason to believe that a superior authority, speaking in the name of God, will have more chance of being heard and obeyed where every individual considers his reason equal to his neighbor's, and is unwilling to defer to others, while at the same time he has not the leisure to form religious opinions for himself? Equality could not but rejoice in such an authority; and that exaggerated taste for authority and for unity, which in democracies serves as a counterpoise to individualism, would find herein wherewith to satisfy its longings. We see, therefore, that if, in a democratic society, certain motives urge toward philosophy and Protestantism, the opposite current, which carries men off toward Catholicism, has also its force.
—Another essential characteristic of democracy, when we examine its influence upon public thought, is, that it is, perhaps, less favorable to full and entire individual liberty of opinion than is generally believed. The tyranny of custom, the despotism of the majority, reigns sometimes in democratic countries in a more absolute manner than under any other form of the state. It seems that the deposit of beliefs, ideas and opinions upon which society lives, not being the property of any particular body, but frequently a sort of common property, each one constitutes himself its guardian, and a guardian all the more watchful and suspicious for that reason. No writer of our day has marked more forcibly than J. Stuart Mill, in his remarkable work on "Liberty," this violent pressure of all upon the individual, and this tendency to impose the same type of mind upon all. It is for brave and energetic spirits to clear a way for themselves between false originality, which aims at effect, and excessive docility, which swims along with the stream.
—One of the happiest effects of democracy among the nations of modern times is the softening of their manners. How can we help remarking that a good share of this improvement must be credited to the spirit of equality, although recent and terrible events have but too clearly shown how much still remains to be done in this direction, and how much activity is still retained by the fierce passions which produced the cruel excesses of 1792 and 1793, in France. The dire recollections of the Paris commune of 1871, and of such atrocities as the massacre of its hostages, should keep us from a too confident optimism. Nevertheless, this refinement of manners may be regarded as an advance made by the mass of the people and preserved by them under ordinary circumstances. A more real and more lively sympathy exists among like classes. The ages of aristocracy afforded a favorable opportunity for the display of generosity and devotion, but not of that pity and mutual commiseration which exist among equals.
—The tempering of punishment for crime and the improvements in the international code, in like manner, have a similar origin to a great extent, whatever may be said of the ideas of parity and inequality. Such results may be expected to disappear with the democratic manners which have produced and preserved them.
—In the family, also, democracy has very appreciable effects. It tends to substitute pleasant, unrestrained and affectionate family relations for relations purely hierarchical, founded on respect and fear. But, by the side of its advantages, it has its inconveniences. Women dream that they may easily find in it for themselves the rôle of active citizens, sharing political sovereignty, and a still more direful emancipation. Insubordination and precocious independence become the frequent defects of children in their intercourse with their parents. Where shall we find the remedies for this evil? In the strength of natural sentiments which we need not mistrust too much under the influence of a good education, which must ever remain our sole anchor of safety. Is it not a general truth that the more a law has lost of the sway which it owes to fear, the more deeply should it be engraved on the heart? This truth may be applied to the whole moral system of democracy. No form of government supposes men are better instructed in their duty than democracy, nor expects from them more seriousness in thought and feeling. To instruct democracy is well, but it is not everything. It can not do without those two elements of the moral order which too often appear to be wanting to it—respect and devotedness. Without these, there is for democracy but the hazard of intestine broils, anarchy, and a sceptre of iron, to supply the place of respect and duty, which were wanting—III. Of Political Democracy or of the Organization of Power in Democratic States. Democracy in the social order involves, to a certain extent, democracy in the political order, because a certain participation of the masses in enlightenment, in prosperity, and in the enjoyment of civil liberty, has for its natural consequence a certain participation in power, that is to say, in the exercise of sovereignty. But let us understand to what degree the government ought to be democratic. There are three conflicting opinions on this point. One, the most extreme of the three, holds that democracy, to be real democracy, requires the direct government of the people, without the intervention of a national representative body, which, according to them, soon distinguishes itself from the mass of the people, and which is even distinct from them by the position of its members when elected. They deny that a representative body can truly express the changeable desires and wills of the mass of the people; the national will, they say, can not be delegated. Rousseau is the leader of this school, and the "Social Contract" is its gospel. Who can not perceive how false and impracticable such a system is in populous countries? We can indeed, with an effort, picture to ourselves the citizens of Athens constantly occupied in voting, although the poor had to be induced to take part in the elections by pecuniary considerations. But is such a state of things conceivable in France, England or the United States? Have the citizens of these countries the time, the inclination or the means to spend their lives in the public square? Who does not understand that, even if they were willing to do it, there could result from this daily contest of opinions and of votes but a frightful anarchy? Are all citizens, without exception and without difficulty, fit to choose their deputies? Have all citizens the degree of fitness which would enable them to pronounce, from their knowledge of the case, upon all matters in home and foreign affairs? Representation is, therefore, an absolute necessity in large political communities. The representative system, without aiming at perfection, has no insurmountable inconvenience. The temporary character of the representative's commission affords an opportunity to restore the concord which may have ceased to exist between representatives and their constituents. The restriction of deliberation on public affairs to a limited number of competent men is an advantage. The final vote on matters of general interest is protected from the unreflecting fancies of the multitude. The important point is, that the election, deliberation and vote of representatives should possess the qualities of freedom and honesty. How can it be believed that, under such conditions, national sovereignty must cease to reside in the people? Is it not the people who choose? Can they not recall those whom they have appointed, at the expiration of their term of office? Finally, has not every constitution, which is in the least degree imbued with a liberal spirit, recognized the necessity and furnished the manner of appealing from the deputies to the people themselves in the case of certain solemn and decisive questions which concern the destiny of the country, or its general policy?
—Of the two other opinions upon the constitution of power in democratic states, one, which is also radical, though less so than the one which we have examined, favors the greatest simplicity of power; no mingling, no balancing; but the democratic element in all its purity. One single omnipotent house and an executive power entirely dependent upon it: this is rigorous democratic orthodoxy. The other opinion far different from this, alleges, on the contrary, that democracy has no more dangerous enemy than this radical simplicity, which leads directly to tyranny. If the popular element alone is represented; if no account is taken of social distinctions; if that portion of natural aristocracy which exists in the most democratic state, not subject to the leveling despotism of communism, has not its representation in the state; if there are not two distinct houses to give greater weight to deliberation, and to represent, one the life, the other the tradition of the country; if there is not an executive power with a sphere of action independent to a certain extent, except of the responsibility which rests upon it or upon its agents—democracy will produce all the abuses it is capable of: it will be by turns, or all at once, violent and oppressive, lawless and anarchical. What can an unlimited and unrestricted power do but take the way to which it naturally inclines? Henceforth, no wisdom, no maturity, no moderation; a headlong course, rash or systematic, which nothing can check and which blots out all differences, is the lot inevitably reserved for extreme democracies.
—We shall now touch on the principal law which the constitution of power in a democratic state should obey. That law is to respect liberty.
—So true is it that here lies at once the peril and the duty of democracy, that an eminent publicist, John Stuart Mill, finds no other point upon which he agrees, in this matter, with de Tocqueville. He was preoccupied with this matter, even to disquietude and alarm; and it was to find a means of solving the problem that he wrote his two political works, "Liberty" and "Representative Government." There is a triple problem on whose solution hangs the destiny of democracy: not to crush the minority under the weight of the majority, the individual under that of centralization, nor liberty under that of equality.
—Those who have dared to maintain that the majority can do everything, start with a very false idea, that of the unlimited sovereignty of numbers. Is it not justifying every crime to believe that the majority can do everything? Does not such an idea destroy altogether the idea of justice? Radically to change the institution of property, to destroy the family, is henceforth only a question of majority. Henceforth no law but that of force! We are told that all the consequences of this monstrous doctrine will not be thus logically drawn. Admitted. But it is sufficient that it should prevail to lead gradually but inevitably to tyranny. What, this being supposed, would prevent the majority's depriving the minority of freedom of speech and the various means of persuasion which might enable it to become the majority? Oppression of minorities, even to extermination, is written on every page of the history of the French convention. The constitution of power in a well-regulated democracy should prevent this misfortune, which would be but substituting the tyranny of the greater number for the tyranny of one man or of an oligarchy. In a word, there should be recognized certain rights superior to mere human convention—rights, without which government is nothing more than arbitrariness.
—Finally, there is in democracies a strong tendency toward concentration, toward that exaggerated centralization the inconveniences of which have been so often demonstrated. We need not explain in all their details the reasons which render this tendency toward concentration so powerful. In France, it has been customary to attribute it to the national character, as is now said, to the race. But, independently of this explanation, the value of which we shall not stop to examine, democracy itself suffices to develop it. It is in the nature of democracy to be unfavorable to intermediate bodies which interpose between the people and the state. Love of equality gives rise to a great repugnance for everything that might give these bodies an importance of a nature to destroy this equality. The sovereign alone does not excite envy. Democracies want the same rule for all, a rule which intermediary bodies and powers other than the central power are not very solicitous to maintain or enforce. Not specially attached to any particular organization from which he receives his strength, and which sustains him in his weakness, the individual turns to the state. He is tempted to demand everything from it—education, employment, assistance. This general disposition will, almost inevitably, be encouraged by the government; for, in the first place, it is natural for it to favor an equality which causes it no trouble, and which makes it universally popular; and, in the second place, the government, which is represented by men, partakes of their passions. How can it be thus tempted every day with impunity? and how can we expect that it will have virtue enough not to take what is offered it, even if it do not desire to take more? How especially true is this of nations among whom equality has been introduced by absolute power, and has triumphed by revolution! As the classes accustomed to direct local affairs have now disappeared, there is left to the masses only their own inexperience, with no recourse but to invoke the aid of the government in all the details of administration. Nations which, like the American, have begun with liberty, and have had long experience of it under all its forms, are much better prepared to meet this danger. With the Americans, liberty dates from the mother country; it is a custom with them of several centuries; the spirit of liberty is with them traditional. The new fact in their case is democratic equality, a fact which requires a much shorter period of apprenticeship; for equality is a passion, and liberty often a responsibility and a duty. The advantages of centralization, even administrative centralization, should not, however, be denied. If it has its drawbacks, and its complicated bureaucracy, how many things does it not do with more order and rapidity, and with less expense! It is, moreover, capable of being improved. The French financial system is a striking proof of this. But excessive administrative centralization, to which democracy inclines, has a radical defect: it stifles local life and individual initiative. Such centralization is destructive of individual merit. How remedy it? and is there any hope of doing so? Whether nations, like individuals, can be taught wisdom, is an ever-recurring question. A sensible democratic people will strengthen their institutions in such a manner as to strengthen themselves. They will oppose reason to instinct, foresight to passion; they will profit by experience; they will take to heart the lessons of history; they will endeavor to improve the art of politics as they endeavor to improve the machinery by which they exercise their power over nature and the elements of well-being. We must, therefore, disseminate intelligence and the knowledge of political science. This science can not do everything without the aid of morality; nevertheless it can do something, and we believe it can do much.
—The question of the connection of liberty and equality may be reduced, in part, to the same terms. The danger of sacrificing the latter to the former is great in democratic states; is it therefore irremediable? Has not equality itself, although it does not always perceive this truth, and has been more than once inclined to sacrifice it, a profound interest in respecting liberty? Is not liberty the guarantee of equality? Vainly would a people hope to preserve equality if they renounced liberty. When despotism governs a nation, does it not invariably introduce a system of privilege and monopoly, and do away with equality, in the interest of baseness and unworthiness? We must not forget, however, that equality, at least a relative equality of conditions, favored by democracy, is founded mainly on civil equality, that is, on an equality of rights. What is civil equality? It is equality in liberty itself, equality before the law. The future will show whether or not democracy, confronted with so many problems, to reconcile the terms of which requires a powerful mind and an upright, courageous heart, can steer its course between the reefs and reach port in safety.
—To increase the power of the individual, instead of sacrificing him to the state, without sacrificing the requirements of public order, is the most difficult task imposed upon modern democracy. It is not only a political but a moral problem. Politically speaking, can we insist too strongly upon some degree of decentralization; on the carrying of life from the centre whence it flows, toward the extremities and to all parts of the political organism? These measures, however, would be insufficient, if, independently of the education necessary to form the citizen, the individual were not penetrated with a feeling of the responsibility which renders him at once the vigilant guardian of his rights, and the scrupulous doer of his duties. The improvement of society is intimately connected with the improvement of the individual. Sound judgment, upright sentiments, the habit of activity, dignity of character, which relies upon itself and not upon others, respect for superiority, a love of justice and moderation, sympathy with those in distress; such are the qualities requisite to assure success to democracy. Human imperfection will undoubtedly remain; but it is only on condition of the predominance of these qualities among the masses, that democracy can secure the realization, so much to be desired, of the grand principles of justice and charity, of which, after all, it is only the expression. Otherwise, it is nothing but a displacement, a passing of force into the hands of the masses.
—We cherish the hope that this is not the meaning that modern nations would give to democracy, whose power still continues to increase; although we can not deny the threatening gravity of certain symptoms which seem to sanction such a meaning. The profound resemblance which is found between the social and political development of the different European nations for several centuries, the more and more uniform character which civilization is assuming daily among them, the removal of the inequalities which created real abysses between the different classes of society, the progress of ideas which make the whole world gravitate around certain grand principles which are everywhere the same—everything, in fact, announces the advent of democracy in the whole Christian world. To speak of its destinies is to go beyond the sphere of a nation; it is to take in the future of humanity.
John Joseph Lalor, Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States by the best American and European Authors, ed. John J. Lalor (New York: Maynard, Merrill, & Co., 1899). Vol 2 East India Co. - Nullification Chapter: FAMILY
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FAMILY. The state, at its inception, had to do not with individuals only, as the baseless hypothesis of certain philosophers would have us believe, but it found itself in presence of the family, a primitive agglomeration of individuals with its own moral and material unity. Such are the entirely natural limits which are presented to the all powerful action of politics. If the individual exists of himself, if he has a destiny and duties to fulfill, what social authority can without crime do away with that free and responsible personality, hinder the pursuit of this end, or place obstacles in the way of the accomplishment of these duties? How can it claim to be master of the thoughts, the religion, the labor, the savings of the individual? Are not these things which belong to his own individual domain, which are connected with the human person, and which can not be withdrawn from his control by the state without the most odious of all confiscations? And now if the family is necessary to the preservation and development of the individual, if it takes care of his earliest infancy, protects him and gives him moral nutriment, no less necessary than the support of the body; if it constitutes a sacred whole formed by the wants, the sympathies, even the liberty of those whom it develops, how can policy dream of abolishing the family or offering violence to it?
—It is astonishing that a man of genius like Plato, exclusively preoccupied with the unity of the state, could have believed that the abolition of the family would increase the love of country. But he confined to the class of warriors the unnatural régime which abolished the family in his famous ideal republic and replaced it by a gross promiscuousness. By confining the country itself within very narrow limits both as to population and territory, he may, misled by the example of Lacedemonia—an exceptional case and one which was moreover of short duration—have thought, that all the affection of the citizens would be concentrated upon the city. But is this illusion possible for publicists who draw their plans of society in the midst of our vast and powerful agglomerations of individuals in the midst of modern nations, and for Christian peoples? The more the country extends, the more the love of humanity takes the place of a sensitive and cruel spirit of nationality, the more must this broad sentiment, threatened with extinction or coolness on account of its very extent, be rekindled at the hearth of family affection. Under the kindly action of maternal instruction, under the influence of common joys and sorrows, of participation in happiness and misfortune, is formed the faculty of loving with the greatest tenderness, delicacy and strength; the habit of devotion, inspired by mutual affection and by the power of example; and that idea of solidarity, which, commencing with an attachment to the honor of the family name, rises to an heroic pride in the honor of the common country, and is willing to sacrifice all for it. The sentiment of fraternity, which some men have wished to turn against the family in order to extend it to all the members of the human race, acquires a precise meaning and has its origin only in the bosom of the family itself. Is not the quality of father, husband, orphan, mother or widow that which interests and touches us in others, so that we fee, disposed to give them real affection and efficient aid? Are not the most accessible avenues to our heart on that side?
—Almost all communistic sects have sketched for us a picture charged with the evils which spring from the family. The family, they say, renders one egotistical, selfish, and enervates him who yields to its influence. The family renders one egotistical! It would be more just to recognize that it frees man from his isolated self, and his solitary brutality. Is it not true, that, even in countries of the highest civilization, which offer the loftiest objects for affection and the noblest employments for the activity of man, bachelors are considered, and too often justly, as forming the most egotistical part of the nation? The family renders one selfish! There is some truth in this allegation, but let us take the trouble to see if it does not rather redound to the credit than to the blame of the family. Is it not better to work for one's own than for one's self or not to work at all? All society derives profit from these increased efforts and this foresight. Is not the capital necessary for its support and development formed and accumulated in this way? Who, with the exception of a few dreamers, can believe that there could be manifested by the individual, for the sake of his country and humanity alone, the virtue which consists in depriving one's self of all enjoyments, in order to save, and the courage to devote one's self with zeal to thankless and obscure labor? The family enervates, it is said; say, rather, that it softens hearts and that it polishes manners. We are thankful that with the sentiments it nourishes there is no danger of seeing again either the first or the last of the Brutuses, or Peter the Great, sacrificing his son to political necessity. Is it very certain that this is so great a misfortune? Doubtless there exist weak men who are enervated by the pleasures of the family more than they are strengthened by its trials; but should the legitimate repose and happiness be condemned, which we, worn out in the struggles of life, seek under the beloved shelter of the domestic roof?
—The family is the first germ of society, the first school of the sentiments and of duty. The rare attempts at abolishing the family, which the world has witnessed, have strikingly proved that these attempts, always ephemeral, destined in the mind of their originators to strengthen the social bond, turned against society itself. The absence of the family, pitilessly sacrificed, at Lacedemonia, plunged the citizens into the most shameful vices, destroyed arts and literature, and changed a free city into a sort of military convent. A right no less sacred than individual liberty is the property derived from it through the application of its labor, and as an extension of the faculties which constitute the person. No civilization without guaranteed property. Granted; but no property worthy of that name without the family. What would the family be, if it possessed nothing of its own? Hence it is seldom that these two bases of society are not attacked at the same time. It is because the family, with the institution of property which it necessitates, involves a certain inequality of conditions, that it is blamed and its destruction wished for. It is for this very reason that we praise it in the name of political science, and that we wish to maintain it. Inequalities which are founded upon monopoly and privilege are most frequently harmful. Those which arise from the respect given to the variety of aptitudes, of merits and the free development of the best sentiments of the human heart, are the very life of society.
—By protecting the family as well as the individual in its essential rights against the attacks of legislative omnipotence, we do not intend to claim that politics and legislation have no legitimate power over the family. Families have relations with the state, which it belongs to the state to regulate. Thus neither marriage, nor the right of bequeathing property, nor paternal authority itself, is a thing entirely given up to the arbitrary will of individuals. The family has been successively modified and improved. Although this is chiefly due to morals, the action of the law has not been without its effect. Law, governed by a purer morality and the precepts of Christianity, has abolished legal concubinage and punished adultery Law has limited the arbitrary and absolute power of the father of the family, and taken under its protection the life of the child, as it defends its mind against the perverse instruction which, under cloak of the family, might seek to lead it astray and corrupt it. The action of law, purified by religion and by philosophy, has sanctified the rights of woman, her dignity, her equality as a moral person, and protects her against the caprices, the bad treatment or the desertion of her husband. It is the law, finally, which, together with the influence of morals, manners and customs, relegated into the depths of the past the oriental family, with its debasing polygamy; and the Greek family, in which, it is true, the head of the family no longer bought women, and had but one legitimate wife by her own consent and that of her parents, but which permitted a plurality of concubines, and in certain cases authorized the marriage of brother and sister. The law substituted a superior form in place of the Roman family, which made the husband absolute master of the person and property of his wife, gave him the right to condemn her to death, and did not raise the legitimate wife, after she had become a mother, above her own children. The law also greatly modified the feudal family, with its harsh traits and shocking inequalities.
—Politics have also had an effect upon the constitution of the family, and it would not be difficult to render this truth even more obvious by the aid of history. Monarchical power was pleased to borrow its most natural and touching symbol from paternal power, and paternal power itself has played the rôle of absolute monarch. Feudal society and the feudal family were made in the image of each other. The more society is subjected to the artificial arrangements of violence and conquest, the more the animating spirit of the family and the laws which govern it assume a hard and pitiless character. The prohibition of marriages between plebeians and the patrician race at Rome, the absolute subordination of woman and the rights of males in the family of the middle ages, and the almost forced inheritance of professions, afford additional proofs to those already given. The efforts of Christianity and of modern times seem to have been directed toward replacing the family upon its most natural bases. The less politics interferes with the family and the less it believes itself permitted to interfere, the more in general both the nation and the family gain. The principal task of politics is to respect this material and moral condition of the existence and improvement of individuals—the family—and to cause it to be respected. A free nation is composed of free families, and the tyranny of laws introduced into the family only bears witness to the tyranny which reigns in society and the state.
John Joseph Lalor, Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States by the best American and European Authors, ed. John J. Lalor (New York: Maynard, Merrill, & Co., 1899). Vol 2 East India Co. - Nullification Chapter: MONARCHY
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The text is in the public domain.
MONARCHY. The time is past when the word republic appeared necessarily to mean liberty. and monarchy, slavery. We have no longer to learn that there are tyrannical republics and free monarchies. Consequently, the preference to be given to a republic to a monarchy, or to a monarchy to a republic, no longer appears to us with the same absolute character as to some publicists who have gone before us, and to several generations which preceded us. As soon as it is a question of men placed in very different conditions of enlightenment and virtue, of political skill, of physical circumstances and social condition, the problem becomes altogether relative. It is reduced to the single point, of knowing which of the two forms of government, in the given situation, gives better protection to the liberty of citizens and the safety of property; which is best fitted to make the country great. It is a question which the instinct of nations seems to solve more surely than political science. Not that the reasons indicated by the latter to determine one choice or another are devoid of force. But if they are separated from each other, it will be found perhaps that there is not a single one, taken alone, which is absolutely decisive. Thus, Montesquieu, when he affirms that vast territories require a monarchy, maintains what is generally true, but very far from being an absolute truth, since two examples, gigantic, so to speak, the Roman republic and the United States of America, contradict him. Neither does the species of relationship which is established between centralization and monarchy, appear to rise to the height of necessary and universal law. In addition to the contrary example of the Roman republic, it would be necessary to admit that the converse is not absolutely true, since England is at once a country of decentralization and constitutional monarchy. If with the author of l' Esprit des lois we lay down the principle that virtue is necessary to a republic, it may be answered with many commentators that it is necessary to all governments. And still we think that Montesquieu's view was correct, and that his thought, true when applied to aristocratic republics, becomes still truer when applied to democratic republics, which require for self maintenance a particularly large amount of energy, moderation, political capacity on the part of the people; all or very nearly all of whom are called to take part in the government. Without drawing a regular comparison between a republic and a monarchy, we may say that the republic presupposes more confidence in human nature, and the monarchy less. Monarchy itself is a precaution taken against the sum of error and evil contained in societies which it proposes to protect against the outburst of ambitious and disorderly passions. Moreover, we do not intend to make this study a plea, but an examination. We shall interrogate both publicists and facts. We shall seek for the foundation of monarchy, and under what exceedingly varied aspects it was presented to nations who adopted it, and to writers who discussed it. It is only after this attempt, purely experimental and historical, that we shall try to say what this form of government may and should be among modern nations.
—Origin of Monarchy. It is not to be doubted that historically, royalty has its roots deeper in the past of the human race than any other form of government. Several of its partisans have gone so far as to see in it the only natural government, because one God governs the universe, and one sun illuminates our world. They have also produced examples from the animal kingdom, such as that of the bees. We attach little importance to these analogies which are sometimes puerile, and often deceptive, for it can not be clearly seen why, if bee-hives are on the side of monarchy, ant-hills, elephant troops and beavers should not be summoned in support of a republic. There is much more force in the opinion which considers that royal power finds its primitive type both in the family which admits only one chief, and in the unity of military command; that it has its origin in a superior capacity which may impose itself by force, or be accepted without effort, in case of necessity, or even obtain the sanction of a positive election. Whichever one of these origins presided at its cradle, it is by inheritance that the image of royalty is in a certain sense rounded and finished. When royalty had taken possession of nations, it was forced to abandon the temporary form which made of it, to use Aristotle's word, merely an "irremovable leadership." Thus it was able to produce those powerful dynasties of the Egyptians, Medes and Assyrians. Hereditary royalty supposes generally a state of society already formed, for example, ownership in land transmitted in families, that is to say, conditions of stability. The ideal and tradition of inheritance appears to us attached to power in virtue of the following reasons: 1, natural assimilation of authority with property in material things, which pass from the father to the children, an assimilation which in the feudal period went so far as to confound proprietorship with sovereignty, 2, the innate desire of heads of families to transmit their dignities and the enjoyment of their powers to their children or their relatives; 3, the prestige which in the eyes of certain nations surrounds certain names consecrated by habitual respect; 4, the political fortune of other chiefs who in a certain way are grouped around and connected with the royal establishment; 5, finally, the military force aiding all these causes. It would be difficult to say what part in the establishment of hereditary royalty was taken, in those remote ages, by social foresight, which finds in the permanence of supreme authority, in the bosom of a single family, a guarantee of good order, to such a degree that this consideration at last appears as the most decisive argument in favor of the monarchic form. It must not be supposed, moreover, that the idea of divine right, which has played so great a part in the history of royalty and which is held in such high esteem by certain modern apologists of this form of government, was foreign to the formation of hereditary royalty in those remote ages. The theory may be new enough; the idea is very old. Not only did it not await Bossuet, and de Bonald, but it was far earlier than the anointing of Pepin and of Charlemagne, as well as the benefit which their successors were to draw from it. As far back as we go, we find that religion surrounds the cradle of royalty with a mystic halo. The kings of Homer descended from gods or demigods, and are the objects of a sort of religious veneration. The same was the case with the kings of Rome. Many barbarous peoples appeared convinced that the families of their kings were descended from the families of their gods. Odin passed as the father of an entire royal race. Without doubt other governments besides those of royalty have placed themselves under the cover of religion. If Numa pretended to be inspired by the nymph Egeria, Lycurgus laid claim to be inspired by the oracles. and Solon had his laws consecrated by the Delphian Sibyl. But if this applies to all legislators, it is true, in a still higher degree, of royalty, whose age, which seems lost in the dimness of the past, and whose perpetuity, which seems to repeat eternity itself upon earth, render it peculiarly venerable. In every land, therefore, the belief appears that kings are the images of gods or of God upon the earth. This is not a purely Christian but a universal idea, and old as the world.
—Among the origins as well as among the conceptions of royalty, we shall not omit that in virtue of which the king appears as the living law, as the very personification of the state, which is an advance of the same idea, as the image itself of the sovereign people. All nations have beheld in the sovereign the living law, but the idea of seeing in him a delegate and a representative of the sovereignty of the people is a Roman idea. It is the theory of the imperial monarchy which jurists applied to the monarchy of France, and which several publicists have repeated. "The Abbe Dubos," writes Montesquieu, who opposed his system, (Exprit de lois, book xxx., chap. xxiv.), "wishes to remove every kind of idea that the Franks entered Gaul as conquerors. According to him, French kings merely put themselves in the place and succeeded to the rights of the Roman emperors."
—It is evident that the temptation to base the legitimacy of the monarchy on one or another of these origins has exercised a mighty influence on writers occupied theoretically with royalty, and especially with modern royalty. Some have insisted on its characteristics of antiquity and hereditariness. They held that what was oldest in power was necessarily the most legitimate. Others dwelt upon what they called its divine character. Still others, remembering the royalty of barbarous times. were especially struck by the fact of election. Beginning with the sixteenth century, a period in which the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people appeared most prominently in speculative and even in active politics with the Protestants and members of the league, there is an entire class of minds for which popular election becomes the title itself of legitimacy and the only foundation of royal power. An entire collection of books might be cited which testify to the predominance of this theory. The "Treatise on Political Power," by John Poynet, bishop of Winchester; De Jure regni apud Scotas, by George Buchanan; the Franco-Gallia of the jurisconsults, Hotman; the Vindiciœ contra tyrannos of Hubert Languet, and so many other Protestant works which found an echo among the Catholic publicists and preachers in their struggle against Henry III., exhibit this thought most clearly: that election is the original and real title to royalty, and that the sovereignty of the people, from which it emanates, may withdraw the powers granted and crush wicked princes. Whatever may have been the interest of these controversies about the origin of royalty and the historical basis which gives it legitimacy, we think there is no value in their common claim of establishing the legitimacy of the monarchic order which has its real title in its necessity. National sovereignty, beyond a doubt, has the right to rise up and depose kings and reigning families. But national sovereignty itself has no power over what is good, just, proper and expedient according to places and times. It has no power over the nature of things. It must come to an agreement with good sense, reason, justice, experience, the laws of necessity. Otherwise it will build upon sand. It can no more give life to an impossible republic than it can give morality and usefulness to a tyrannical monarchy. Above election, as well as above the right of succession, there is a certain thing, the necessity of a power strong enough to protect society against the conflict of discordant forces, and to which unity is indispensable in order to make itself promptly and surely obeyed. When monarchy renders this service, and renders it better than any other form could, its legitimacy is beyond a doubt. What is more legitimate than a power, the necessary protector and depository of public order, of general justice, of public interest? What is more legitimate than a great magistracy, the centre and connecting bond of society? Now, these are the features under which "modern royalty has appeared to the eyes of nations," and through which it "has acquired their power by obtaining their adhesion."
—Criticism has rendered such complete justice to the legitimacy of a monarchy founded on divine right, a theory by which the pretension is raised of making power the inalienable property of a royal race, said to have received it from the hands of God himself, that there is no need of dwelling on it here. Besides, history shows that the claim of divine right has never saved a dynasty. Let royal families proclaim that they reign by the grace of God, as well as by the will of the people, there is no exception to be taken to this, as soon as it is understood that there is not a single form of government which can not place itself under the words: Omnis potestas a Deo. All power not issued from brute force contains a divine element; this element is justice. In this sense and from this point of view it is sacred. It ceases to be sacred only in becoming unjust and oppressive. "God," writes Pufendorf, "who certainly wishes that men should practice the moral law, has commanded the human race, through the lights of reason, to establish civil society, and, consequently, a sovereign power which is the soul of that society. In other words, he wishes an end without indicating at the same time the necessary means to arrive at it." In this sense, just power representing justice is divine, as the objects of men and of society are themselves divine. But if the end is immutable, the means are changing and various. It is of small import that a family was necessary at a certain time in history, or even during a succession of centuries, if it is no longer needed, if it is merely the worn-out instrument of accomplished designs. De Maistre himself, such a resolute partisan of legitimacy, seems to recognize this in the following significant passage in one of his letters: "If the house of Bourbon is finally proscribed, (de Maistre means by God and not by the people), it is well that the government should be consolidated in France; it is well that a new race should commence a legitimate succession; whether it is this or that race is of no importance to the universe."
—In conclusion: reigning families, like royalty itself, draw their origin from that force of things which is made up of circumstances above the will and purely free choice of nations. Kings are not chosen by chance. The reasons which elevated in turn the Merovingians and the Capetians in France were not arbitrary. Later, when age has consecrated a family, it is not easy to supplant it. A people does not invent its dynasties, it finds them.
—Forms and Various Kinds of Monarchies. The classification of the various forms in which a monarchy may appear has sensibly varied with publicists who wrote on this subject. Each one of them has had its partisans and its detractors. Aristotle, who first applied an analytical genius to the accurate observation and strict classification of governments, placed royalty among the good governments, though he preferred, as did almost all the political writers of antiquity, and Plato, his master, aristocracy, on which he founds the perfect city. He recognizes five kinds of royalty. ("Politics," book iii., chap. ix.) The first kind. whose type is presented to him by the Spartan royalty, appears to be, he says, the most legal; it is not absolute mistress. It may be sometimes hereditary and sometimes elective. The second species is the royalty established among certain barbarous nations, especially Asiatics, with the characteristics of absolute power, though legitimate and hereditary. The third kind of royalty is an elective tyranny, for a term of years or for life, of which the ancient Greeks offer us more than one example. "A fourth kind of royalty," continues Aristotle, "is that of heroic times, accepted by the citizens and hereditary by law. The founders of these monarchies, benefactors of nations, either by enlightening them through the arts, or in guiding them to victory, by uniting them or winning for them permanent states, were called kings out of gratitude, and transmitted their power to their sons. These kings had supreme command in war, and offered all the sacrifices in which the ministry of the pontiffs was not indispensable; besides these two prerogatives, they were sovereign judges of all disputes, sometimes without oath, and sometimes with. The formula of the oath consisted in lifting the sceptre." There is finally a fifth kind of royalty, where a single chief is master of all. "This royalty has intimate relations with family power; as the authority of the father is a sort of royalty over the family, so the royalty of which we speak here is an administration of the family type applied to a city, or to one or more nations." Aristotle declared that he would stop to examine this last form; in it he recognized the pure image of monarchy, finding, like Hobbes (Imperium, chap. vii.), of a later time, no real royalty except absolute royalty. The Greek philosopher found no difficulty in condemning this form of government after such an examination, although he supposes the monarch to whom this power is given to be as virtuous as enlightened. He proves the superiority of fixed equal, impartial laws, over the arbitrary will of a single man; he claims for the majority, even when composed of individuals inferior to that eminent individual, the honor of a greater safety in judgments and superior incorruptibility. The great political philosopher might, and even should, it would seem, not have neglected to discover whether royalty was by nature incompatible with that fixity of laws and those guarantees of liberty which he desires above all. The example of the constitution of Sparta put him upon the way to do this. Why did he, in mentioning it with praise, not stop to analyze it? Besides, did Aristotle understand clearly the conditions of monarchy—he who, in order to put forward the elective system, absolutely condemned hereditary power, which he thought offered but few chances of bringing to the succession men worthy of the virtuous monarch, and capable of reigning after him? Experience, which the profound author of "Politics" habitually takes as guide, does not confirm this preference given to the elective monarchy. Is it not enough to recall that the elective system, applied to royalty in the Roman empire, and later in the kingdom of Poland, produced internal dissensions and degradation of the state? Is it not enough to recall the fatal events in unfortunate Poland, fatal to its nationality, in order to pronounce aloud its condemnation? Rousseau, who violently opposed hereditary royalty in the Contrat social, believed that he corrected the ordinary drawbacks of monarchic election in Poland, by proposing a drawing by lot among the life senators, of three names, from which the same assembly should choose the one they preferred, without adjourning the session. (Gouvernement de Pologne, chap. xiv.) It is more than doubtful whether such a means. which would have put all the chances on the side of mediocrity, would have succeeded in suppressing the defects of a system which it professed to correct. This strange mixture of chance and election would have succeeded only in creating a royalty of chance, without prestige and without permanence.
—Machiavelli has not tried to classify different kinds of royalty, but the different species of principalities, a more extensive subject, since he includes even ecclesiastical principalities. He seems, besides, to pay more attention to distinguishing them by the means which were used to found them, than by their intrinsic characters. The author of "The Prince" treats in a special manner civil principalities, that is. those which are based upon the free suffrage of their citizens. This is the kind of monarchy which he prefers. The advice he gives such principalities bears the stamp of a remarkable elevation of character, and proves that the evil maxims, which he nowhere presents as the beau ideal of politics, but which he has the fault to give out with the culpable coldness of a man who subjects morality to politics, are addressed only to those who have become masters of sovereignty by treason and crime. Chapter ix. of "The Prince" is devoted to describing the duties of the monarch who has arrived at power through the free choice of his subjects. For Machiavelli, consequently, there are two kinds of royalty, independent of usurpation. In one case the nobility call a man to supreme power in order to resist the people; in the other, the people wish to have a protector against the insolence and the tyranny of the nobles. He prefers the last; but in the first as in the second case, he wishes the monarch to take up the cause of national interests, and set up, for this purpose, his sole and sovereign will. In reality, the power of the state is the constant thought of Machiavelli, his only idol is the unity of the nation using above the ruins of anarchic forces.
—A disciple of Aristotle, in many points, Bodin did not follow his master in his method of classifying the different forms of royalty, and however inferior he may be to him in genius, it may be said that on this point, as on several others, he is superior to him. Bodin distinguishes three forms of monarchy. ("Republic," book xi.): first, the monarchy of lordship, in which, he says, "the prince has become master of property and person, by the right of arms, and governs his subjects as the father of a family governs his slaves": secondly, the tyrannical monarchy, "in which the monarch, disregarding the laws of nature, treats free persons as slaves, and the property of his subjects as his own"; thirdly, the royal or legitimate monarchy, "in which the subjects obey the laws of the monarch, and the monarch the laws of nature, natural liberty and rights of property remaining with the subjects." This last trait, brought forward and discussed by John Bodin in twenty passages of the "Republic," shows in the happiest manner the characteristics or at least the conditions of modern monarchy. He recognizes it as legitimate, only on condition of becoming reconciled with the rights of liberty and property, and guaranteeing them. What a distance between this liberal theory and that which was current under Louis XIV. and Louis XV., which claims that kings are the owners of all property, the mere use of which is enjoyed by the subjects, through a sort of toleration or concession altogether voluntary! Bodin opposes the conception of a mixed monarchy brought forward by several publicists and particularly by Hotman, who stated that the best government is that which "associates and tempers the three elements, royalty, aristocracy and democracy." Sovereignty, according to the author of the "Republic," endures neither division nor limit. He attacks, therefore, in very precise terms, "this sovereignty played for by two parties, of which sometimes the people and sometimes the prince would be master, which is a striking absurdity, incompatible with absolute sovereignty, and contrary to the laws and to natural reason." Bodin, nevertheless, is really a partisan of limited monarchy; he trusts in the barrier of parliaments, as well as the virtue of the prince in the exercise of his power; but he is ignorant of that which has been sought for so much since his time under the name of constitutional guarantees. In the last analysis Bodin depends on morality to moderate royalty; as Bossuet, at a later time, depended on religion.
—It is surprising that Montesquieu, coming after Aristotle and the learned author of the "Republic," did not seek to establish any strict classification of the different forms of monarchy. Perhaps he was turned away from this by the error which he committed in making despotism a government apart. He would have been obliged to classify despotism with monarchy, as a form of its abuse, and he would have then been obliged to renounce his classification of three governments which he gives as original the republican, the monarchic and the despotic. But Montesquieu recognized a monarchy which he said had liberty as its direct object: that is, the English monarchy, and monarchies which "tend only to the glory of the citizens, the state, and the prince," (Esprit des lois, book xi., chap. vii.)—a somewhat vague statement. He explains exhaustively why the ancients had no very clear idea of monarchy, it is even the title of one of his chapters. "The ancients," he says (Esprit des lois, book xi.), "were not acquainted with the form of government founded on a legislative body made up of the representatives of a nation." And further on: "The ancients, who were unacquainted with the distribution of the three powers in the government of a single one, could not form a correct idea of monarchy." Thus, with Montesquieu, monarchy is moderate government par excellence.
—If we combine the ideas put forth by the political writers just examined, and if we understand the spirit of what we see or of what exists to-day in monarchy, its different forms may be classed, we think, much more simply according to their fundamental characters. Doubtless there is, to begin with, a great and essential difference between elective monarchy and hereditary royalty. But this distinction would be too insufficient. The most essential would be that which recognizes two kinds of monarchies, absolute and limited monarchy. Absolute monarchy is not necessarily despotism (see ABSOLUTISM), but leads to it. We shall not, of course, for instance, commit the injustice of comparing the ancient French monarchy with an oriental despotism. Still, it is impossible for us to grant that before 1789 French monarchy was anything but absolute. Tempered in fact, that we admit, by parliaments, by the barrier of opinion, by tradition, by various powers which grew up at its side, French royalty was nevertheless absolute legally, because it was able to silence with a word all resistance, which it did more than once. The essence of absolute monarchy lies entirely in the more or less complete concentration of the three powers, executive, legislative and judicial, in the hands of the prince. The moderate monarchy is that which finds its limits in the distinction of these three powers, sanctioned by a positive constitution, and in the establishment of one or more bodies with rights apart from the monarch. Hence, moderate monarchy really appears only among representative governments. Whether it finds its limit in the aristocracy, in a democracy, or in a combination of both, it deserves to be called moderate, and may for this reason subserve liberty.
—The Marks and Part of Monarchy among Modern Nations. Several important consequences follow, it appears to us, from the considerations which we have presented: it follows that monarchy can no longer, under the protection of a pretended divine right, be the object of a kind of superstitious worship, whatever may be the prestige inseparable from the exercise of sovereign power and royal personages; it follows also that force is not the only origin of royal power, and that it would be unwelcome in presenting itself at present as the title of monarchy in view of the universally admitted right of nations to dispose of themselves; finally, it follows that election, which does not create eternal legitimacy, is not a sufficient title to invest sovereigns with an absolute power, since there are, above the right of the people as well as above the right of the king, original rights, which we have reduced to two, the liberty of the citizen and the security of property. Order in a civilized society is synonymous with the maintenance of justice, which enforces the liberty of all, and makes one man respect the liberty of the other. Nations seek in monarchy a defense against the anarchy or the oppression which surrenders the weak to the strong. Monarchies, therefore, follow in their way, which, in a certain number of cases, is the best, the same end as republics and other governments of every class, which is to permit and assure the free development of all useful action, and to confine evil within the narrowest limits without curtailing legitimate and fruitful liberty. This, to our thinking, is the sense of the maxim, already old, that "Kings are made for the people"; a maxim which requires other guarantees than the purely moral obligation, imposed by duty on Christian princes, as Bossuet thought; a maxim which seeks its sanction in an organization of power, intended to make royalty a simple means of the public good. Between monarchy and peoples no other tie is conceivable than that which may be called an alliance of reason. Not that this tie should be devoid of affection, not that it should be necessarily reduced to the cold and formal relations between the sovereign and the nation dictated by simple expediency, but it can no longer have its origin in a species of chivalric devotion. The only legitimacy of government is the general interest. The only organ which gives expression to this interest is the national sovereignty. When the latter accepts the monarchic form, it does not intend to abdicate; it only wishes to regulate itself. It arms itself, so to speak, with precaution against its own errors, it condemns itself to prudence by foresight; is places a barrier before the disorder which it fears. No more, no less.
—Notwithstanding this character of modern royalty, quite rational and subordinate to public utility, there are publicists who declare monarchy to be illegitimate in itself, we do not say merely, be it noted, who declare it fatal in its consequences, open to attack as a wrong combination, from which evil alone can come, but who declare that it is contrary of itself to justice, to law, and to reason. It is not long since we heard it maintained in the press and from the tribune that a republic is the only legitimate form of government, while monarchy, even when accepted, can never be legitimate, because a people can not establish it, without alienating its will and disposing of future generations without having the right to do so. Such, in substance, is the creed of that school of which Rousseau is the mouthpiece and which goes further than its master, for Rousseau recognized, although with regret, that monarchy is fitted for certain nations. It appears to us that the most scrupulous devotion to the dogma of popular sovereignty and even the preference given republicanism do not imply such consequences. A nation does not surrender its will by establishing a monarchy for the sake of order, liberty, and national unity. It is a singular paradox to maintain that the national will is not expressed quite as clearly in allowing a form of government to continue, as by overthrowing it, quite as well by persistence as by caprices. Why should not a people wish, if it judges proper, to retain the monarchic form, one century, ten centuries, for all time? In what are the present generations of men slaves to those who established it? Is it sought to be denied that there are legitimate revolutions? Let us acknowledge the fact: the right of resistance is eternally implied in all the constitutions of this world. There have been glorious insurrections, there have been revolutions with which are connected the most beautiful memories of the human race. All peoples have placed some of these fearful and salutary crises among the greatest events of their history, and those who introduced and directed them in the number of their greatest men. All have dated from them their political regeneration, and a new era of prosperity and greatness. But wisdom forbids the declaration of a permanent revolution under pretext of national sovereignty. It forbids us to consider this necessary evil as a harmless expedient. It forbids fickle desires and an adventurous imagination, which end by creating a sickly want that is never weary of appealing to the emotions and to chance. The risk in revolutions is really terrible. If men do not issue from them more worthy and more noble, they become more degraded. If moral and political beliefs do not receive new life from them, they give way. If interests are not strengthened by them, they lose by them. Revolutions destroy the countries which they do not save. This is why it is wisdom in nations to detest and avoid revolutions, consenting to them only in cases of the most absolute necessity. The argument that monarchy is equivalent to an abdication of national sovereignty, can not bear serious criticism.
—Publicists of the too exclusively republican school find hereditary monarchy to be an odious fiction, incompatible with the reason of modern nations, because it gives rights to mediocrity, stupidity, vice, and even crime. They maintain that heredity not only permits such an evil, but that it produces it by the corruption which is fatally connected with young princes. One would think they were commenting, on the saying of the young Denys, to whom his father, while reproaching him for some shameful act, said: "Have I given you the example of such deeds?" "Ah!" answered the son, "your father was not a king."
—Monarchic publicists, obliged now to address not feeling, but reason, do not deny these drawbacks of heredity. They do not injure their cause by attributing to the institution which they defend more perfection than it possesses, or than is compatible with human weakness. They answer: Yes, heredity is a fiction, a convention; it has immense drawbacks, but what if it has greater advantages? Is not the existence of a family having the tradition of power a good thing? Charlemagne, Saint Louis, Henry IV. and many others were legitimate heirs. May not the existence of mediocre princes even have its advantages, either because they leave the government to able ministers, or liberty takes advantage of them to extend its conquests and strengthen its rights?
—Hereditary royalty is the image and the consecration of perennial power. This is its object. Now, duration is one of the first elements of force. Only that is loved and feared which has a lengthened existence. The right of monarchical succession does away with the dangerous intervals left by election, and it has the inestimable advantage of withdrawing from elections this element of permanence which should be presented by the institutions of a great country. It gives, to home and foreign politics, that coherence and continuity, that mixture of strength and prudence, the condition of all greatness and repose, which republics produce only with much greater effort, whenever they do succeed in producing them. Finally, continue the defenders of monarchy, is it just, is it honest, to speak of the right of succession under constitutional governments in the same way as under absolute governments? Is it not the very object of constitutional governments to prevent bad princes from doing evil, to support the mediocre, to obtain as much as possible from the good, to prevent the greatest from becoming so powerful as to put themselves above the law? Doubtless there remain the drawbacks connected with minorities and regencies, but these are passing evils, and not of frequent occurrence. Constitutional governments, which create great powers by the side of royalty, thereby diminish the dangers to minorities so much to be feared under absolute monarchies. It is the merit of this form of government to endure, that royal authority should not have at all times the the same degree of intensity and energy. And, most important, it presents no breaks, and its ever present image is a barrier against anarchy and the claims of usurpers. To close the argument of the right of succession, sometimes add the partisans of the monarchic form, would not another consideration have weight which has never had more effect than in our day? Is not hereditary royalty, up to a certain point, the consecration and the safeguard of other hereditary rights still more sacred, that of the transmission of property for example? You speak in a tone of irony while pointing out a child subject to the most humiliating infirmities of nature: "There is a king!" Are you not afraid that others will appear, saying with the same contempt: "See that wailing child; that is a landlord!"
—We have endeavored to sum up the arguments of monarchic publicists in their most striking and correct passages, dwelling only upon those which agree with the nature and conditions of modern society. We shall now indicate how the rôle of monarchy may and should be conceived in this society.
—The royal power appears with two necessary characteristics in the new conditions created for European societies by the liberal spirit and the ascending movement of democracy: it should be limited and restraining. Neither powerful enough to pass its bounds, nor so disarmed as not to be able to accomplish its mission efficiently: such should it be and remain under pain of inevitable forfeiture.
—There is no need of stopping for any length of time to show that monarchic power should be limited, and that it can not be otherwise than limited. The paternal monarchy of de Bonald is only a dream. Benjamin Constant, an almost contemporaneous publicist, stated very justly, "The direct action of the monarch decreases inevitably in proportion to the progress of civilization. Many things which we admire and which seem very beautiful in other epochs, are inadmissible now. If you imagine the kings of France dispensing justice to their subjects, at the foot of an oak tree, you will be moved by the spectacle, and you will revere this lofty and simple exercise of a paternal authority; but what would be seen to-day in a judgment given by a king without the assistance of tribunals? The violation of every principle, the confusion of all powers, the destruction of judicial independence." (Du Pouvoir royal, vol. i., p. 295, edition Laboulaye.) Another reason will prevent modern nations from yielding to absolute monarchy, and this reason is supported by experience. Centuries ago experience condemned simple governments through the mouth of Polybius, though he was far from possessing the numerous and terrible proofs of the dangers inherent in them which are at our disposal. It is a maxim of Polybius, that "every simple form based on a single principle, can not last, because it will soon fall into the defect which is peculiar to it." (Polybius, book vi., § 10, phrase cited by Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire in the preface of the "Politics" of Aristotle, p. 115.) The theory of checks and balances sanctioned by the great names of Plato, Aristotle, Polybius and Cicero, and supported by the practice of some of the greatest constitutions of antiquity, gains force from the nature of modern societies which are so complicated in their elements. Of course there is no perfect equilibrium in a state; a system of checks and balances always meets serious difficulties in application; but it is necessary to tend toward this system, or be condemned to the excesses of a single power, whether of a king, aristocratic clique, assembly, or popular dictatorship; this is an insupportable tyranny, after eighteen centuries of Christianity have shown us the limits of the state, and several centuries of philosophy have made us proud and exacting in regard to our rights, when also the habit of individual and political liberty has made the latter dear to us in proportion to the benefits which it is intended to secure.
—Limited or constitutional monarchy was the desire of France as soon as she reflected on her destiny. This must be recognized as an historical fact, even when one's preferences seem to settle on the republican form. As soon as the notion of right is disseminated in a nation, as soon as its interests are multiplied and increased, the need of escaping from the absolute power of a single man and a single family, this need which has always exercised the upper class, descends from the aristocracy to the masses; and as the former demand privileges, the latter want liberties, with this difference, that a nobility may sell itself to royal power, while a nation does not yield itself up, at least for a long time. It is said, of course, that the assistance formerly given by royalty to the middle and lower classes against feudal oppression, that the admission of men of common birth to the highest civil and military dignities, reached such a point under the ancient monarchy that the duke de Saint-Simon characterized the reign of Louis XIV. as a reign of vile bourgeoisie, have themselves contributed to favor the establishment of absolute power. This can not be disputed; but how can it be disputed either that everything which increased the classes devoted to the professions called liberal or to industrial labor tended to liberate them? The more the feeling of their value was developed, the more considerable and prevalent became their attention to their affairs, the less were they tempted to yield their persons, their labor and their property to the oppressive action or to the capricious direction of arbitrary power.56 If, from the fifteenth century, a Philip de Comynes was able to proclaim the principle, that "neither the king nor any one else has the power to levy taxes without the consent of his subjects"; if these positive maxims, which even then were not new, could be transmitted in the writings of publicists and in the documents of states; what must it have been in the eighteenth century, after an immense development of industry and enlightenment, and in view of a neighboring nation whose tempting example gave brilliant proof that the monarchic power might be limited without prejudice to order and to the great advantage of public liberty and general prosperity? In allowing the monarchy to remain, the revolution of 1789 could only allow it tempered or limited in its powers, since it did not admit it for its own sake, but for its supposed service to national unity, liberty and order. And this was not the effect of a passing excitement. It was the fruit of long mental labor, and was the object of persevering and inflexible will. Even in 1804, when France, weary of the anarchy which had harassed her, took refuge in the arms of military power, surrounded with the most brilliant prestige of genius and glory, she stated, while doing so, what sort of a monarchy she wished to establish by raising a new family to the throne. "France," said the tribunate, from which originated the proposition to raise the first consul to the throne, "France is justified in expecting from the family of Bonaparte, more than from any other, the maintenance of the rights and the liberty of the people and ail the institutions fitted to guarantee them." "The French have conquered liberty." said the senate in its message of May 4, 1804, in adopting this proposition; "they wish to preserve their conquest, they wish repose after victory. This glorious repose they would owe to the hereditary government of one who, raised above all, defends public liberty, maintains equality, and lowers his fasces before the sovereign will of the people which proclaimed him." This is the government which the French nation wished to give itself in the days of '89, the souvenir of which will be ever dear to patriots, and in which the experience of centuries and the experience of statesmen inspired the representatives which the nation had chosen. It is necessary that liberty and equality should be sacred, that the social pact should be safe from violation, that the sovereignty of the people should never be misunderstood, and that a nation should never be forced to resume its power and avenge its outraged majesty. The senate, in a memoir which it appended to this message, dwelt upon the dispositions which according to it seemed proper to give French institutions "the necessary force to guarantee the nation its dearest rights, while securing the independence of the great authorities, a free and intelligent grant of taxation, safety of property, individual liberty, liberty of the press and of elections, responsibility of ministers, and inviolability of constitutional laws." Ten years had not passed before these demands reappeared; they became the rallying cry of all France, which imposed them as a condition sine quá non on all its governments. The first restoration, the hundred days, the second restoration, the eighteen years of the government of July, 1830, were attempts to satisfy these persistent demands; and if they have appeared to suffer some interruption on the morrow of revolutions, which profoundly disturbed minds as well as events, it was only to resume at once their career with a daily increasing force. We do not speak here of the second empire, whose constitutional changes are so near us, and therefore can not be discussed with the impartiality of history.
—The necessity of a moderating power is a second truth, which seems little open to question. Let us not forget that the object to be attained is always this: not to allow the establishment of tyranny, neither the tyranny of an oppressive majority nor that of a minority, neither one in the name of a democracy nor one in the name of an aristocracy. Place all power in a single assembly, and experience shows the perils of this combination, which delivers, without guarantee, the rights of citizens to a power without check. If the assembly is dissolved, to what dangers are not liberty and order subject during the interval which separates this assembly from that which is to follow! If the assembly is excessively long-lived, what a number of other perils in case public opinion does not go with it! Place power in two assemblies, how are you to prevent a conflict between them from becoming envenomed and bringing on revolutions? How are you to hope that an executive power, itself very liable to change, and dependent as the ministerial power, would have sufficient authority? The necessity of a moderating power is such that republican states themselves do not always neglect to form it. Doubtless it is very weak in the United States. It is nevertheless true that the president is armed with a veto power. This veto, at least, forces the legislature to reconsider the question, and this time it can prevail only by a majority of two thirds. The veto, besides, is a sort of appeal to the people. The executive power then pleads its case and presents the reasons for its action. Besides this precaution, to which he refers. de Tocqueville points out, in the federal organization of the United States and in a peculiar combination of moral and political circumstances, the causes which serve, though imperfectly, as a counterpoise to the tyranny of the majority. The necessity of a moderating power appears still more urgent in a greatly centralized government. It is not enough to answer all difficulties by the sovereignty of the people. The people are not always assembled; do not govern directly. Even when it is admitted that the sovereignty resides in the nation. all difficulties are not settled by that answer. Powers are various, and from their diversity arises struggle. The great task of royalty in the eyes of modern nations is to prevent these struggles of powers and parties from degenerating into disorder and revolution. This is why representative governments leave an important share of power to loyalty, while reserving the last word to the nation, which in grave questions pronounces by means of elections, and which divides political power. It is not true, then, that in making royalty chiefly a moderating power, its fall is proclaimed. On the contrary, much force is necessary to fill such a rôle. This neutral power, elevated above accidents and struggles, interfering only in great crises, at least in a visible and striking manner, should have lofty prerogatives. The first of these is to execute the law. But that is not enough unless there be added the power of co-operation in framing it. The monarch does this by appointing one of the two legislative chambers; such at least is the order established by the different French constitutions; he co-operates by the appointment of ministers, who represent him in the chambers; he co-operates by the right of proposing the law, dissolving the elective chamber, or refusing his sanction. This right of absolute and not simply a retarding veto, has inspired one of the most remarkable discourses of a genius so profoundly political as Mirabeau. He was not afraid to surrender liberty in maintaining it. He thought that in spite of appearances liberty would gain by it, as well as the force necessary to the royal power. The same opinion was upheld by a no less jealous adherent of public liberties, Benjamin Constant. The participation of the monarchic power in the framing of laws is, in the eyes of this celebrated publicist, an essential part of this rôle of moderator which occupies us at present. "If," says he, "in dividing power you place no limits to legislative authority, it happens that one class of men make the laws without troubling themselves about the evil which they cause, and another class execute these laws while believing themselves innocent of the evil which they cause, since they did not contribute to make them. * * When the prince assists in framing the laws and his consent is necessary, their vices never increase to the same degree as when the representative bodies decide without appeal. The prince and the minister are enlightened by experience. When they are not guided by the feeling of right, they will be by the knowledge of what may come to pass. The legislative power, on the contrary, never comes in contact with experience. The impossible never exists for it. It only needs to will; another authority executes. Now, to will is always possible: to execute is not." (Esquisse de Constitution, chap. ii.: Des Prérogatives royales, p 183, Laboulaye.) The same writer afterward establishes that a power obliged to give its support to a law which it disapproves, soon finds itself without force or consideration; and that besides no power executes a law zealously which it disapproves; that the royal sanction aids free governments in preserving themselves from the danger of multiplying laws, which is the disease of representative states, because in these states everything is done by law, while the absence of laws is the disease of unlimited monarchies, because in them everything is done by men.
—All publicists, as well as all constitutions, add to the prerogatives inseparable from monarchy the most touching and the most popular of all rights, the right of pardon. The right to make war, to conclude treaties of peace and alliance, are naturally connected with the executive power. This right, besides, is generally limited by discussions of the chambers, by the power which they have of voting taxes, and in a parliamentary government by ministerial responsibility. Up to recent times, this responsibility of ministers to the assemblies appeared to the legislator as one of the most essential conditions of a free government. He had thought that in representative monarchies the irresponsibility of a monarch is a consequence of his inviolability, and important both to liberty and public order. If the monarch is responsible, it was said, what is the use of the right of succession? Is not his moderating power destroyed? Royalty becomes a party. It descends into the arena. It is no longer a judge and arbitrator in the combat. It is exposed to all the chances of the struggle, the end of which may be an overthrow. Besides, it is added, to whom is the monarch responsible? To public opinion? But what absolute prince is not? To revolutions? But what sovereign of the east is not? Is there the slightest difference between such a responsibility and the irresponsibility of former sovereigns?
—We do not intend to trace in full the programme of a monarchy which might suit modern nations, for this does not enter into our subject. It was enough to indicate its essential traits in a work intended to place before the eyes of the public the elements of politics. We have merely undertaken to show once more that if there is a monarchy founded on prejudice, there is one which rests on reason and which is capable of bearing examination. For a still stronger reason we shall not discuss the assertion, so often put forth, that representative monarchies are merely compromises between principles long at variance—compromises destined to disappear one after another, and give way, with the exclusive triumph of democracy, to the universal establishment of the republican form. Now we have either shown nothing, or we have shown that republics themselves, if they are to exist, can not dispense with certain limitations, and that a people has not fewer precautions to take against the excesses of democracy than against those of any other principle. Otherwise there would be no stop on the incline till the direct government of the people by itself was reached; the tyranny of numbers would be introduced in the name of popular sovereignty. Who knows the secret of the future? If European nations should arrive at such a degree of political maturity as to solve, under the republican form, better than has hitherto been done, the difficult problem of reconciling order with liberty, who could regret it? The great question before us is, not whether the future will be called republican or monarchic, but whether it will be free. (See ABDICATION, ABSOLUTISM.)
[56.]"Arbitrary power," writes Benjamin Constant, "exercised either in the name of one or of all, pursues man through all his forms of repose and happiness." (De l'Esprit de conquéte et de l'Usurpation, chap. xi.) See the following chapter of the same work on the effects of arbitrary power on morals, intelligence and industry.
Footnotes for MONEY AND ITS SUBSTITUTES
John Joseph Lalor, Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States by the best American and European Authors, ed. John J. Lalor (New York: Maynard, Merrill, & Co., 1899). Vol 3 Oath - Zollverein Chapter: REPUBLIC.
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REPUBLIC. This form of government is no more independent than the monarchical of the historical, geographical, ethnographical, and, above all, moral conditions, which seem to predestine a people to one or the other, by not leaving it the liberty of choice between them except within rather restricted limits. From this point of view, all abstract comparison of the intrinsic merits of monarchies and republics might seem superfluous, and there would be occasion to ask one's self whether the platonic love of a monarchy in countries with republican manners and customs, or of the republican enthusiasm which possesses some young minds or some generous imaginations in countries called by their inmost nature and their past to hereditary monarchy, are not chimeras which should be dispelled, and dangers which we should endeavor to avert.
—Without contesting whatever truth there may be in such a conclusion, we think that the forms of government may and should be compared with each other and considered in themselves, and that it is the task of the publicist, all due reservation being made in consideration of what is possible in time and place, to investigate their value, and to point out that which constitutes their merits and their defects. Thus the publicist, the least likely to be misled by deceptive appearances, and the most determined to settle, in the choice of his political opinions, upon what he judges to be actually practicable, will not scorn the enthusiasm which a republic awakens in noble minds, and he will examine whether it does not partake of an ideal beauty for which he should have some regard both as one of the elements of the judgment which he passes on the republic, and of the influence which it exercises. He will thus discover that elevated thought, lofty and powerful sentiments, are connected with the idea of a republic. In monarchies the devotion of man to man occupies a large place, and far be it from us to deny what it presents of the touching, and sometimes of the heroic, or to question what it has in it compatible with a love of the public welfare; but it is less pure and less sublime than that devotion which is directed to something superior to man himself, that is, to the fatherland, to the law, to the state. All selfish prejudice, all personal calculation, every fancy foreign to the general interest, seems to disappear in this generous sacrifice of each to all, and of the littleness of the individual to the greatness of justice. To the idea of devotedness, to that of an entirely stoical disinterestedness, is added another idea not less severe, and more attractive because it is more natural, that of equality united to liberty. Equality is to such an extent the passion of republican minds that the most aristocratic republics are no exception to it; only the practice and the worship of equality are concentrated within a limited circle, instead of extending to all the citizens. It is to equality that all, in a republican aristocracy, sacrifice themselves; it is to it that they do not hesitate to sacrifice the most illustrious heads; it is equality which impels, in spite of himself, in a manner, a Brutus to arm himself against a Cæsar. This shows us the nature and the end of the republic; it is a government founded upon general interest and equality, the motive power of which are disinterestedness, devotedness, and, let us add, popularity, with the honors which it confers. If all think they find their advantage in this form of government, it is on the supreme condition of defending, at the cost of the greatest struggles, a good, precious from the double point of view of individual dignity and of utility. This is why the most generous dreamers as well as the most rigorous logicians come, by some sort of instinct, to the idea of a republic. This is why it has produced so many virtues, of the sublimest kind, offered by history to the admiration of future generations.
—But what constitutes the greatness of this form of government is also the source of its difficulties and dangers, which no clearsighted republican can deny. Equality, which is the soul of republics, encounters two formidable enemies: ambition, which conspires against it, and envy, which exaggerates it. The former can not be resigned to accept the yoke of a law, the same for all; the latter rebels against the superiority of fortune and of merit; it tries to level the one, and devotes itself to railing at the other. Taxation directed against the rich, schemes of agrarian law, privileges in favor of the poor, suspicions of the well-to-do and enlightened part of the population—all these spring up in republics. "For," says the old publicist, Jean Bodin, with a severity which is not exaggerated if applied to the past, "the real natural disposition of a people is to have full liberty without any restraint or curb whatever, to have all equal in goods, in honors, in punishments, in rewards, without any regard to rank, or knowledge, or virtue." Who does not know that, up to the present time, great citizens in republics have always had to defend themselves (and sometimes without success) against calumny? If favor has its vicissitudes in a monarchy, how few reputations in republics withstand the exercise of power for however short a time. To what contumely in the most irreproachable of republics. the United States, so often cited as a model, were their Washingtons, Hamiltons and Madisons not exposed? What accusations against their generals in the ancient republics of Greece! What terrible changes of popularity and what bloody sacrifices to that capricious power, in the short and stormy attempt at a republic made by France in 1793; The moderate republic of 1848 did not sully herself with blood; she spilt it only in the arena of civil war, when that of the best citizens flowed voluntarily in the service of public order. But did any one's popularity last longer than three months? Was this the fault solely of the men who governed? Be that as it may, there is not a historian, not an enlightened publicist, who has not declared that jealousy, suspicion, and the spirit of change, are the especial dangers of republics, as favoritism and intrigue are those of monarchies. But the first-named vices are those of the majority; the second belong to only a small number. Thence comes the expression which is never applied to a monarchy, that a people is not ripe for a republic. In fact, equality requires customs and manners, a character and an education suited to it. The same may be said of liberty which every republic proclaims as being of its very essence, and without which there would be no equality but the sad and shameful equality of servitude. No doubt a form of government which constantly involves individual responsibility, and often subjects it to severe tests, presents especial difficulties. To govern one's self and to take part in public affairs, an amount of intelligence and a mixture of firmness and moderation are needed which are not everywhere distributed in sufficient quantity to establish a regular and stable state of affairs. Number being, in the name of equality, one of the essential elements of republican institutions, if the corrupt, the incapable, those who are easily reduced and led away, get the ascendency, all is lost. There must then be either anarchy or a master; there is no middle path. These are so fully understood to be the dangers of a republic that there is no republican constitution which does not undertake, to a greater or less degree, to foresee and in some measure guard against them. But republican constitutions do not always do this sufficiently, or else they are themselves but powerless dikes, swept away by the impetuous current of human passions.
—It is of the essence of a democratic republic to fill by election a portion of the offices which monarchy fills by hereditary transmission. It is reason alone which is regarded as governing in a republic. Now, reason excludes chance and those artificial privileges instituted in the interest of conservation. Monarchies, even constitutional monarchies, are full of fictions and conventions. A republic judges them unworthy of men arrived at political maturity, and useless to preserve society from revolution. Consequently it eliminates them, being replete with confidence in the upright will and enlightened capacity of the people. If this confidence is justified, the republican form is maintained and prospers. If not, the republican form is impaired and destroyed, either by slow dissolution or by a violent downfall.
—Says Montesquieu, "Government is like all other things in the world: to preserve it, it must be loved. No one has ever heard it said that kings do not love monarchy, or that despots hate despotism." A republic can be no exception; to establish it in a country, it does not suffice that a minority desire it, or even wish to impose it; there must be a nation of republicans as willing to receive it as capable of upholding it.
—It has been sometimes said that the difficulty consists in reconciling a monarchy with liberty and a republic with order. There would be at least as much truth in the reverse proposition. A non-absolute monarchy, giving satisfaction by lifelong and hereditary power to the want of conservation, is less fearful of liberty, if liberty enters into and keeps its pledge to respect the royal establishment. That establishment has no interest to threaten liberty; it has, on the contrary, every interest to take care of it. This care is the price of the force of public opinion which sustains it. In republics, liberty, recognized as sovereign in principle, runs serious risks. The power, under the form which best represents order in the eyes of the nation, is temporary. Hence the necessity of arming it in an exceptional way, or of arming one's self against its possible encroachments, or by precautions which are embarrassing to all. The majority oppresses the minority, or else the minority governs through terror. If we can not see in this a fatal and inevitable law, it has at least been, up to the present time, the history of the greater number of republics. Another cause threatens liberty: its own excesses. Too frequently have we seen republics knowing no alternative but excessive or suspended liberty. Happy were they when this suspension of liberty did not end in its suppression, and when temporary dictatorships were not changed into a lasting tyranny!
—The error of the greater part of the republican schools has until now consisted in believing that a republic had not to solve the problem of equilibrium; that it is a government of absolute simplicity, and has no need of being tempered. This thought has led some to the idea of a direct government of the people, excluding even a representative government; an idea which caused the author of L' Esprit des lois to say: "There was one great defect in most of the ancient republics; that in them the people believed they had the right to make active resolutions requiring some sort of execution, a thing of which the people is utterly incapable. The people should not enter into the government except to choose their representatives, which is quite within their power. For, if there are but few people who know the precise degree of men's capacity each one is nevertheless capable of knowing in general if the one whom he choose is more enlightened than most others." The same opinion as to absolute simplicity has led other politicians to the idea of a civic assembly. Experience, as well as reason, teaches that republics can not, save at the risk of death, abandon themselves to the descending plane or declivity of a civic principle or element. There is no society which does not contain natural aristocracies of experience, learning, age, etc., within it. And, on the other hand, there is no society, however strongly organized its privileges may be, in which the masses are not important, and do not count for something in the state. Notwithstanding their inclination to exaggerate simplicity and to crush out whatever obstructed the full expansion of their principle, the constitutions of antiquity felt this. Aristocratic as was the Roman republic, it modified the power of the senate by means of the tribunes and popular suffrage. Democratic as was Athens, it had the Areopagus. It is true that the wise precautions taken by Solon did not prevent the country of Aristides and Socrates from succumbing to the propensities which hurried it on. The more and more exclusive predominance of the popular element produced disorders there, the undying remembrance of which is preserved by history, as a lesson to democracies, present or future, which choose not to recognize any restraint.
—The United States itself has endeavored to combine the different powers in such a manner as to secure respect for the law against the changeable will of the multitude. The president possesses extensive powers, and, in spite of pure ultra-republican theory, there is a moderating senate side by side with the popular assembly, or house of representatives. Any constitution, monarchical, republican, aristocratic or democratic, which does not distrust its own principle, at the same time that it does all it can to establish it on a solid basis, is a bad constitution.
—The excessively unitarian and centralizing propensities which govern in some countries, make this observation especially opportune. A republic which should have only a very centralized power, with no independent powers to act as a counterpoise, would run the risk of becoming more oppressive than a monarchy. If to this cause of oppression should be added the necessity of being on the defensive in order to resist either hostile parties within, or menaces from without, it is clear that liberty would be exposed to painful disappointment. Every liberal republic involves a certain amount of administration. What were the republics of Greece and the Italian republics of the middle ages? Brilliant municipalities. American federalism is not necessarily the form of a free republic, but a certain amount of decentralization seems to us to be an indispensable condition for such a republic. A free republic can be understood only where much is left to individuals and to associations. Otherwise, what result would have been obtained by so many revolutions? A change of name! But of what consequence is it to the world whether an omnipotent government call itself a monarchy or a republic?
John Joseph Lalor, Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States by the best American and European Authors, ed. John J. Lalor (New York: Maynard, Merrill, & Co., 1899). Vol 3 Oath - Zollverein Chapter: SOCIETY
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SOCIETY. "Man," says Aristotle in the beginning of his "politics," "is a social being." This definition is in some sort the point of departure of political science. It destroys at once all the false hypotheses which make society a mere convention. It has been truly said that such a convention presupposes the existence of a state of society in some form, in order that men might be able to come to an understanding with one another. Besides, the state of isolation is impossible. Man would not be able to exist in such a state. The child could not live without the food and care furnished by its mother, the woman could not dispense with the protection and labor of the man. Language, the bond of all society, is born with society and of society, and helps to maintain and extend it. The definition of man as a social being rests, therefore, on his most imperious wants, on his most instinctive sympathies and on his most invincible inclinations. Adam Smith rightly remarks that man is the only being who makes exchanges. Society, from a certain point of view, is merely a series of exchanges, a perpetual communication of material and moral benefits which men hold with each other. To complete the definition, or, rather, to give it all the clearness and truth which should receive, we must add, that if man is born a social being, he unceasingly becomes more social. The family, the tribe, the nation, with its vast development, mark the different periods of society. A moment comes when the division of mankind into nations gives place to a sentiment which expresses sociability in its highest degree; this sentiment is the sentiment of humanity. Man, far from being a wolf to man, homo homini lupus, according to the gloomy definition of Hobbes—adopted by all who see in society an artificial and conventional fact—sees in man a being worthy of his respect and his love, an equal, a brother. Religion and philosophy, by paths which are sometimes different and sometimes identical, lead to this sublime result, while interest, property understood, enjoins it on us to be useful to others in view of reciprocity.
—Society implies associates. We can not, therefore, flatter ourselves that we know the object of society without knowing first the nature of the beings which are its elements. Society itself is but the medium and the means which these beings make use of to develop themselves. What are these individuals? Are they simple units endowed with a vegetative or an animal life, and obeying the laws of fatality? No, they are moral persons, that is to say, free, responsible, whose destiny it is to develop and perfect themselves and rise to the conception and practice of the true and the good; having, in one word, besides material life, a moral and intellectual life. The special character of man, in this world, is to be at once the most social and the most personal of all things. Is it the person which shall be sacrificed to society, or society which shall aid in the development of the individual? It would be absurd to suppose that the diminution of that which constitutes our dignity, our value, our very being, should be the object or the result of the association of our efforts, labors and mutual assistance. In truth, the only object of society is to give value to the individual. By society the individual must become more enlightened, more powerful and more moral; society in turn will be worth only what those who compose it are worth.
—Respect for every right, the practice of every duty, the cultivation of every faculty, the development of human nature: such is the object of society. Society is essentially favorable to the growth, as it is absolutely necessary to the exercise and the guarantee, of all our legitimate inclinations. Thus, by it the family is ordered, property protected and increased, the capital necessary to civilization and material life increased, perpetuated and transmitted. The object of institutions of the civil and political order is to assure this regular development of each and all. But it is important to remember that the state alone is not charged with the attainment of this object. The better part of human nature escapes the state. Religion is no more an affair of state than philosophy. And so with industry and commerce, as well as all the institutions intended to favor saving and to distribute wealth properly. In like manner the various means of instruction and education at the command of the individual and the family, do not depend upon the state. The state protects them, the law guarantees or regulates their exercise, but all these things have a proper and independent life of their own. Otherwise society would go contrary to its object. It would be no longer established to favor but to suppress individual development. Instead of being the putting in common of liberties respecting and aiding one another, it would be slavery organized, either by a powerful majority or a dominating minority.
—Political societies, in so far as they are collective beings, reflect and reproduce everything to be found in the nature of the individuals who compose them; only they reflect and reproduce it on a large scale, which has given rise to the saying that society is merely a big individual. It is true that this has been said of the state also, with truth in some respects, but still with much less truth, for all that enters into society is far from entering the state, as we have already seen. Nothing prevents and everything commands us to consider society as a living whole. There are in society collective rights and collective duties. It has the right to be guaranteed, and the duty of repressing evil and assisting the individual. This it does sometimes through the state, and sometimes by means of free associations. In like manner there is in society, as in the individual, an instinct of preservation and an instinct of progress. The one is attached to tradition, which is of a nature to serve society eternally, or simply to everything which has served it long. The instinct of progress walks in advance of all innovations, welcomes everything favorable to the ulterior development of the human mind and of society; it embraces the future in its views and its hopes, as the instinct of preservation adheres to the past and loves to keep itself within the limits of the present. These two instincts, almost always at war, are both necessary. They are completed, tempered and maintained by each other. From their collisions terrible crises result, the more to be feared, since, if one is devoted to routine, the other easily gives itself to adventure. But in spite of, and sometimes by means of, these crises themselves, humanity advances, launching itself toward the future, resting on the past, and making a starting point for useful progress and dangerous innovations at the cost of more than one laborious work of groping and painful experience. This progress of societies, demonstrated by the philosophy of history, a theory which was framed by a number of writers, notably by Turgot and Condorcet, in the last century, is scarcely denied in our day, although the scope and extent of that progress are continually in dispute. Who doubts in our day that modern society excels the societies of antiquity in justice and humanity, as well as in material development? Property more secure, better distributed, resting on labor as a foundation; the family purified, slavery and serfdom abolished; penalties more humane and more just; well-being increased; the sciences developed; the power of right above brute force: are not these certain results given by historical observation? The amount of evil, whether it be free or fatal, diminishes, no matter how enduring and wide-spread it may be; the amount of good increases: such is the visible revelation of Providence in history. Have we not here the most striking justification of society, the most incontestable proof of its necessity and its benefits? (See CIVILIZATION, SOCIAL SCIENCE, SOCIALISM.)