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Ed.―see also Democracy Vindicated, a lecture in response to Blackie given by Ernest Jones on the following evening.


The Scotsman
4th January 1867.




Last night, in the Music Hall, Professor Blackie delivered his promised lecture on Democracy to the Working Men's Institute. Owing to the circumstances attending the delivery at the lecture, and to the arrangement that Mr Ernest Jones, of Manchester, is to deliver a rely to it this evening in the same place, there has been a brisk demand for tickets to the lectures, and the large hall was filled in every part.  Professor Blaickie was accompanied to the platform by Mr B. F.Dun, president of the Institute; Mr Ernest Jones, who will reply to-his lecture to-night; Mr Duncan McCaren, M.P.; Professors Fraser, Masson, Lorimer, Balfour, Allman, and Syme; Rev. Mr Graham, Newhaven; Councillors Fyfe, D. Lewis, Mossman, Cousin, and Boak; Dr Alexander Wood, Dr Andrew Wood, Mr James Richardson, Dr John Moir, Mr Walter Wilson, Hawick; Mr Edward Alexander, Glasgow; Mr George Murray, Mr James Dymock, Mr George Jackson, secretary of the Reform League, Glasgow; Mr R. M. Smith, Mr Alexander Nicolson, Mr Alexander Fraser, blacksmith; Mr James Wilkie, printer, &c.

    Professor Blackie, on taking his place on the platform, was greeted with loud applause.  On the proposal of someone in the body of the hall, three cheers were also given for Mr Ernest Jones, in which the Professor heartily joined, waving his hat with characteristic enthusiam.

    The Chairman said—then subject of this evening's lecture—Democracy—is a fair and legitimate one for discussion on the platform of a working man's club.  The members of the Club are not to be held as committed, as responsible, or as endorsing the opinions of the learned professor on the one hand, or those of the learned banister on the other. [(Hear, hear.)]  As these lectures will be necessarily of a closely reasoned and argumentative character, it will be our duty to give patient, attentive, and respectful consideration to them. (Hear, hear.).  Knowing as we do the kindly disposition of the Professor—(cheers, and, some hisses)—his large heartedness, his genial sympathies—admiring, as some of us do, even his national proclivities—(hear, hear, and cheers)—strong as they are— admiring the boldness of his views, and the bold manner in which he pronounces them—-admiring as I do his very antagonism to some of the most cherished opinions of my existence, I do not hesitate to apply to the learned professor that which was said by the statesman Peel of the Minister Palmerston, "We are all proud of him." (Cheers.)

    Professor BLACKIE, who was received with cheers, after expressing his satisfaction at seeing a number of ladies present, said—On the present occasion I have just one or two preliminary explanations to make.  The first is I am very desirous on this occasion—since you honoured me in such a very noble way by giving me such a large audience—to do the thing in the most masterly style for you. (Laughter and cheers.)  That means I would not come forward and give you a lecture at ten minutes' warning as I can do to my young men in the college any day you please—(laughter)—but I was determined to bring before you such an array of arguments, authorities, and facts, that, independent of Blackie altogether, they would convince you, if you were to be convinced at all. (Laughter and cheers) Determined, therefore, to put myself in the background, I resolved to publish, not a lecture, but a pamphlet containing the opinions of the great thinkers and statesmen who have thought upon this subject for the last two thousand years at full length.  I will not be able to quote at full length to you these authorities, but I will allude to them, and you may put your hand upon the page to-morrow, if you please.  I mention that, because there may be some want of consistent harmony between the I lecture delivered tonight and the lecture to be published to-morrow, to be got by you if you please.  But that is a common thing with me.  I generally give two lectures instead of one—one spoken to the public, and the other to be read by quiet people by fireside—but in what will be published you will have the bones, the skeleton, the framework, the substance of what I mean to say. (Cheers.)  The next observation I was going to make was—but you are all in such good humour, and you know me so well, that I do not think it is required—that I am accustomed to call what is black, or what I think is black, black with a very decided and marked emphasis.  (A laugh).  I have been told by wise and pious friends that I am always getting myself into scrapes using strong language. (Laughter.)  I am convinced of that. I have got into many scrapes that way, but I have always got out of them again. (Laughter and cheers.)  But whether I was to get into scrapes or not, I considered the matter carefully, and I found I could not *****myself from what God made me.  I have a certain way of talking, just as a monkey has of jumping; and you must just take my strong phrases and digest them at home.  I will hit strong, and I will rejoice if any person hit me strong to-morrow—blow for blow, and no thin skinnedness if you please.  (Cheers.) I came here to speak the strong and the deliberate sentiments I have formed after the consideration of many years—after many years travel and observation, because I am not a bookworm.  Do not imagine that.  I have studied constitutions for the last twenty years, (A Voice—"Oh, go on.")  It is quite true, whatever you say.  You had better hold your tongue; it is a fact.  (Laughter and cheers.)  Therefore, what I say I will say without affected modesty, as the strong convictions of a man of grey hairs—of one who has some experience beyond the Greek dictionary. (Some hisses, and cries of " Go on.")  Well, that is all,—I will go on.

    Professor Blackie than delivered his lecture—adhering in substance to the phraseology of the report we subjoin which is abridged from the printed pamphlet to be published this morning, of fifty-four octavo pages—commencing with the following . . . .





Working Men's Institute





'Pure democracy is the absurdest of all forms of Government, because in it the directing and the restraining powers are one, which is impossible.'






Dear Friends,
                         I dedicate this Lecture to you, as those principally concerned in its appearance.  The notoriety given to its delivery, a matter quite contrary to my original intention, has rendered it necessary that I should state my views on the important subject of Democracy with a greater breadth of detail and a fuller array of authority than I should otherwise have thought necessary.  On the imperfections of the work, I pray you to look with a kindly eye, and to bear in mind that it was composed by hasty snatches, under the pressure of a more than usual amount of Academic business.  With the earnest prayer that you may be enabled to give to the difficult problems of Practical politics the large study and the wise caution which they deserve, I bid you farewell for the present, to occupy myself with studies, if not more useful to the Commonwealth, at least more congenial to my disposition.  I shall esteem myself happy if from the perusal of these pages you rise with the strengthened conviction that in politics all one-sided movements are wrong, and that a party is never in greater danger than when it rides upon the top wave of triumph.

Believe me always,

Your sincere Well-wisher,


3 Jany. 1867.



    'THE best of all animals, when governed by law and justice, is man; when without them, the most terrible.[1] This is the sentence of Aristotle, the most sagacious and the most far-sighted of political writers, and, of all speculative men, certainly the most practical.  And to this undeniable dictum we may, without fear of question, add, that of all animals man is the most difficult to govern, and of all arts, the art of government is that one which at once demands the greatest talents for success, and entails the most terrible penalties by failure.[2]  Nevertheless, and in spite of the terrible lessons of history written everywhere in characters of blood, there has always been a class of persons of hasty wit and superficial conclusions, who have been of opinion that the government of human beings is one of the simplest of all arts—as simple, in fact, as any sum in addition,—and that the one infallible way to find the wisdom by which a community of reasonable beings shall be governed, is to gather them into indiscriminate masses, portion them off like sheep into separate pens, take the votes of the several pens by the poll, add the votes together, and the sum will give a verdict which, by a cunning machinery of social wire-pulling (well understood in America), will give good government.  The maintainers of this opinion are known in history as democrats, and universal suffrage is the watchword of their doctrine. The social system of which they are the advocates is so flattering to human pride, and opens up so patent a road to the ignorant and the conceited, the presumptuous and the unscrupulous, that, notwithstanding its essential unreasonableness, it has always commanded a large amount of popular sympathy.  Even in Great Britain, a country the most naturally averse to the practical assertion of one-sided political ideas, it has occasionally showed face; and at the present moment the country is being perambulated and agitated by popular orators, who, though in words they sometimes express a certain vague admiration for the mixed constitution under which this country has grown and prospered, do in fact maintain the most unqualified principles of democracy, and appeal to the verdict of the masses as the only standard of political rectitude.  That any large influential class of this practical-minded community should have faith in a delusive conceit which every memorable fact of history contradicts, I cannot believe; but that there are thousands and tens of thousands in this island, especially among those who are called 'the working classes,' ignorant enough to allow themselves to be juggled out of reason and common sense by general assertions about the transcendental virtues of democracy, that is, about the transcendental wisdom of themselves, made by men of talent and eloquence, only an amiable and voluntary blindness could deny.  Besides, in politics there are always half a dozen reasonably sensible men—men who, from their education, ought to know better,—who will allow themselves to be borne along by a popular current of unreason, and even indulge in a little flirtation with principles, from the serious assertion of which they would be the first to recoil.

    It has occurred to me, therefore, that I may be doing a little public service at the present juncture, by stating, not in the style of a political declamation from the hustings, but of a large philosophical survey, the fundamental fallacies which lie at the bottom of this idol-worship of the multitude which is now attempted to be imposed upon us; and, in doing so, I shall certainly not follow the example of great popular orators, by indulging in extravagant laudations of one party and equally extravagant denunciations of the other; but I will endeavour to state the case as fairly as possible for both parties, and to paint out the fair democratic delusion in the first place with colours as roseate as the most fervid apostle might desire.  And I will do this with the greater confidence of being able to sketch a faithful portraiture, because I am by birth and habit a man of the people, in nowise connected with what is popularly called the Aristocracy, and earnestly desirous that all classes of the people should possess that weight in the government of this country which a fair consideration of their relative positions, and a just estimate of the quality and the quantity of their social contributions, might recommend.  I start, therefore, with stating the case for democracy thus:—

    I.  All men are naturally free.  God has given to His creatures certain functions and capacities, which require room and scope for their exercise; and the more room the better.  No limits or bounds to free activity ought to be allowed in society beyond what God has constituted.  Especially, no laws ought to be made by one class of men to give enlargement to their own sphere of action by the process of compulsory circumscription of the natural sphere of their neighbours.  As the greatest happiness of the greatest number is the measure of legislative wisdom, so the greatest liberty of the greatest number is the measure of national greatness.  To be free is to be strong; not to be free is to be weak.  To be free is to exercise lordship; not to be free is to endure slavery.  To be free is to be a man; to be a slave is to be a chattel.  The watchword of humanity, the war-cry of heroism, the stamp of moral dignity, is FREEDOM.

    II.  All men are naturally equal.  By this is not meant, of course, that all men are equal in talents, in character, in excellence of any kind, any more than they are in physical conformation or in stature.  Inequality is one of the most prominent facts of nature and of life, though we must never forget how large a share convention, and institution, and usurped force may have had in producing inequality where God meant equality.  But what the enlightened advocates of democracy mean, when they assert the natural equality of all men, is that in reference to matters of social organism one man is as good as another.  Every man has life and rights, and in fact stakes his all in the society to which he belongs; the poorest man as much, and generally perhaps much more, than the richest.  Therefore socially each man is on a level.  Absolute equality is the law of all free institutions.  If it were not so, a few might combine by force and fraud to deprive the many of the common birthright of humanity, as, indeed, the few powerful have in all ages combined to override, oppress, and keep in thralled servitude the feeble many.  The only remedy for this is political equality.

    III.  As in the individual, so in the body social, self-government is the word which expresses the healthy state of perfect manhood.  Nations, like individuals, go through their successive stages of infancy, boyhood, and pupilage; but a full-grown man requires no tutors or curators, and a full-grown nation no governors.  The people by natural right is its own sovereign; and any persons holding situations of command in a well-constituted republic are merely put forth for the sake of convenience as the obedient organs of the public will.  The real king is always the people, asserting itself fully and without restraint in free congregations of equal units.

    IV.  The preceding proposition expresses the true principle on which representative government proceeds.  A House of Representatives represents the interests, the wishes, and the wisdom of the free, equal, and independent people; and such a body becomes necessary in large communities only from the practical difficulty of the whole people occupying themselves at one time and place, for considerable spaces of time, with the discussion and conduct of public business. Representative bodies, therefore, are not, properly speaking, deliberative bodies; for, if they were entitled to deliberate and decide on independent grounds, they would be assuming to a few the prerogative which, according to the principle of a consistent democracy, can belong only to the whole.  A people who should elect representatives with the right of free deliberation, might readily find their own dearest interests disowned by the very men whom they had elected to be their champions.  A House of Representatives, therefore, is only a committee of the people, and exists only for the sake of carrying their decisions into execution.

    V.  The legitimate method by which the people declare their will, and pronounce their decisions, is by the vote of the majority.  Any other method denies the natural equality of mankind, and establishes an oligarchy more or less insidious and oppressive.  That the majority is always right in all cases no man will assert.  In scientific questions, and in matters remote from public view, the decision of a skilled minority will of course justly prevail.  But in the affairs of daily life, in matters of common interest and concern, a common man will generally have a shrewd guess what ought to be done, though he cannot always marshal his reasons scientifically.  It is the greatest of all delusions to suppose that profound study is necessary for the understanding of political science.  Every man knows his own interest, and the people know what is practically for their benefit in matters before their nose better than the most subtle speculator.  A sensible tradesman who reads the newspapers, will, in nine cases out of ten, give a more just decision in political matters than a learned professor who quotes Thucydides, Machiavelli, and Aristotle.  The general agreement of the mass of the people in practical matters, is, in fact, the only safeguard to society against the cunning devices of oligarchs, the crotchets of ideal speculators, and the bookish pedantry of the learned.

    These, so far as I have been able to make the analysis, are the leading propositions which express the principles and the purposes of the democratic party.  I have stated them as fairly, and with as much decision, as I could; and, did space allow, I should be quite willing further to exhibit a large array of facts from history, which would seem to lend them the most ample justification.  The glories of Salamis and Marathon; the intellectual triumphs of ancient Athens, and the political ascendency of ancient Rome; the patriotic achievements of the Swiss and the Belgians; the triumph of Luther over Pope Leo, and of the Covenanters over Charles II.; the downfall of feudalism in France by the Revolution of 1789; the creation of a Prussian people by the Baron Stein in 1808; the overthrow of Napoleon by the great national uprising in 1813;—these are but a few of the greatest and most glorious events of history, from which a popular orator could lightly garnish forth the great epos of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.  But I will leave panoramic pictures of this kind to those to whom it more properly belongs.  For my argument they are not necessary, as I fully admit everything they contain, and yield to no man in the fervour with which I read the records of those struggles by which the liberty and independence of the great nations of the world have been established.  But in moral questions neither panoramic pictures nor closely-marshalled propositions are of any practical value, so long as they are one-sided.  Every moral proposition has its counter proposition, without which the truth can no more be eliminated than an equation can be worked without the values on both sides.  I shall therefore proceed to analyse the above five propositions, and by meeting each assertion with its contrary, prepare the way for that full statement of political truth, with which no extreme doctrine, whether of democracy or of aristocracy, can ever be made to harmonize.

    First, as to FREEDOM.  It is certainly true that birds were not made for cages, and that to be a natural, normal, proper bird, a winged creature ought to be allowed to fly.  So man, in order to be man, and no chattel, must be free.  A civil society of slaves is nonsense in the statement.  Only free men, as Aristotle teaches, can constitute a State.  But freedom does not mean absolute freedom; on the contrary, it rather means only the equal acknowledgment of just and fair restraints.  Mere liberty, though a very great thing to a bird, is the first and lowest and smallest condition of human society.  Freedom, however much belauded, is, in fact, that quality or function which man shares in common with children, savages, madmen, and wild beasts.  All these naturally rejoice only in freedom, and disown all restraint.  The imposition of restraints upon liberty is the first great act of civilisation; and to increase restrictions is, in the general case, to make progress in legislation.  No doubt, unwise restrictions have sometimes been made by intermeddling rulers, which required to be removed; but law, nevertheless, means restraint; and to be lawless is to be free.  It is with the power of human liberty as with the force of steam in a steam-engine: it is only by being confined and regulated and controlled that it becomes anything more than an idle puff or an inorganic blast.  We must say, therefore, that, always supposing the existence of native social forces, not freedom but order is the grand distinctive principle of civil society.  God made the world, by freedom certainly, in one sense, that is, by His own free will, but not less by restraint, by subjecting His own free thought to that law of self-consistent energy, by which a chaos becomes a cosmos.  Order is the grand regulating principle of all things.  The stars are not free to move otherwise than in their appointed courses; the flowers divide themselves into finely calculated sections, by laws than which no mathematics are more ingenious; even the storms and the winds have their laws, to which only the imperfection of our calculating machines, and the narrowness of our survey, give an appearance of instability.  Let us say, therefore, as the counterpart of the first proposition, that the whole universe is subjected to law, and perishes and falls into chaos the moment it attempts to live by mere freedom.  In this respect, the moral world, as we should anticipate, is the exact image of the physical.  A congregation of the masses of people, blown up with the idea of liberty, could only produce confusion and anarchy, unless these masses are willing to submit themselves to the constraints of reason and law.  History has shown this both on the large and the small scale, a thousand times.  Unreined liberty leads to violence and passion; violence leads to strife and civil war; civil war ends in confusion and exhaustion; and the necessary conclusion is dissolution, destruction, and mutual extermination; unless the cure be sought, where, after such a process, it has alone been found, in military despotism.  The class of men, therefore, who inflame the passions of the masses, by vague harangues about liberty, are to be accounted among the greatest enemies of the people, specially of the working man.  Personally, there are no doubt great differences among such men.  I am willing to think that many of them are honourable and high-principled; self-contained crotchet-mongers, sentimental idealists, fantastic philanthropists, meagre theorizers whom all facts have not taught, may form a large proportion; but the selfish, the ambitious, the conceited, the envious, and the proud, no doubt contribute their quota; while to some the terrible description of the apostle Jude may be literally applicable: 'Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.'  And again: 'These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage.'  On the contrary, the happy results of order, under the constraining power of reason, in society, are love, harmony, moderation, and toleration; right and justice in the administration of the laws; stability in social institutions; peace, prosperity, and permanence.  Liberty is a wild horse, which can only be made serviceable to the commonwealth by being saddled and bridled by the great master, Order; it is a wine which, unless carefully used under the prescription of a wise physician, lifts a man for a moment into an imaginary heaven, only that it may plunge him into a real hell.

    The next favourite watchword of the democrat is EQUALITY.  It expresses a fundamental point essentially necessary in his system, but which is, unfortunately, also his weakest point.  It is no doubt perfectly true that all men have two eyes and two legs.  All men can look and walk, and eat and drink and sleep, and do everything which a pig can do as well as a man.  In these low matters we find a general sort of equality amongst all men; but precisely as we mount in the scale of excellence, the equality vanishes, and the most glaring inequality everywhere meets our eye.  All men see, but few men observe accurately; and fewer still have moral and intellectual insight.  We are all naturally ignorant, stupid, obstinate, conceited, passionate, and require to be trained by a long process to any high degree of intelligence and virtue.  The difference between one man and another in respect of natural capacity is immeasurable; in respect of acquired worth even greater; and it is this acquired worth, much more than native talent, which renders a man fit to take any share beneficially in the conduct of public business.  In every view, however, the striking fact is that eminent talent, and accurate knowledge, and high principle, are rare; and the points in which all men are equal are precisely those from which the highest human excellence is excluded.  It is a sound observation of Williams, the Polynesian missionary, that 'in the lowest stages of civilisation democracy prevails, all heads being of an equal height.'  If, therefore, we are to rise in the scale of being, we must accustom ourselves habitually to recognise the great counter truth of the democratic equality, viz., the aristocratic principle of subordination and superiority.

'We live by admiration, hope, and love,'

as Wordsworth sings, and Plato teaches [3]; and we advance in moral and spiritual dignity just in proportion as we acquire the habit of acknowledging superiority, instead of assuming equality, with our fellow-men.  In this view, the democratic temper, which teaches every man to say to his neighbour, 'I am as good as you, and perhaps a little better,' must be regarded as one of the greatest antagonist powers to all popular improvement.  Self-respect is no doubt a virtue; but it is very closely allied to self-importance and self-conceit, and is in any view a very cheap virtue compared with the aristocratic and Christian one of 'honouring all men.'  Instead of being blown up with a false idea of equality, men ought to be taught to know their true position, and willingly to subject themselves to their natural superiors.  The feeble ought readily to submit themselves to the firm, the ignorant to the well-informed, the bad to the good.  But of this healthy feeling of respect and reverence for what is superior, democracy knows nothing.  The result is that wherever that system of government flourishes, there we find the rank hot-bed of conceit, insolence, vain confidence, irreverence, and hollow pretension of all kinds.  The thorough democrat is the sworn enemy of all eminence; he hates to hear any man praised as in any way superior to the crowd; he banishes Aristides, because he is sick of hearing him called the Just; his whole instincts and striving lead him to reduce everything to the dead level of his pet equality.  He is thus in a state of open rebellion against the laws of Nature and the institution of God.  For everywhere in Nature, in every organic body, as well as in all societies, there is a high and a low, a controlling and a ministrant power, a dominant and a subordinate, a part formed to govern, and a part formed to obey.[4]  Whoso does not know this has not learned the first lesson of social science; and if he has not learned it from the prophets, philosophers, and apostles of antiquity, he will certainly not learn it from the demagogues and popular orators of these days, who preach political equality, despise dominion, speak evil of dignities, and earn cheap applause from an immaculate populace by haranguing against the vices of a bloated aristocracy.

    The third point of democracy is SELF-GOVERNMENT.  The proposition expressive of this contains the greatest of all the fallacies in the democratic logic.  The real fact is the exact contrary.  A multitude of human beings indiscriminately congregated, that is, acting only as a quantitative force without any regard to quality, never did, and in its very nature never can, perform the functions of governing.  Where thousands and tens of thousands of persons, the most variously constituted, individually perhaps sensible and reasonable enough, are brought together, on a sudden notice, to deliberate on the most perplexed and difficult subjects, and this not under the guidance of cool reason, but, as generally happens in political assemblies, lashed into a temporary madness by the spur of ambition, and confounded by the jugglery of faction; under such circumstances, nothing short of a miracle could lead to cool deliberation; and cool deliberation is the necessary condition of all that rational leading of reasonable beings which is called government.  Left to its natural tendencies, every multitude resolves into confusion, or rushes on to perdition.  Of this the great poet who sang his grand minstrel notes, not for ancient Greece only, but for all times and all places, has left us a striking picture in the well-known popular assembly in the Second Book of the Iliad, to which Agamemnon, deluded by a lying dream, had appealed for final decision at a critical moment of the war.  With characteristic fickleness and faint-heartedness, the common people of the camp, after nine years' expenditure of life and resources, were willing to give up their greatest national expedition, and lay Europe a slave at the foot of Asia, merely that they might go home a year sooner and see their wives.  But this inglorious resolution, hastily taken and hastily attempted to be put into execution, was at once checked by the interference of that national aristocracy, which, in ancient Greece, as in modern Britain, has so often proved itself the stoutest champion of popular rights, and the most clear-sighted discerner of popular interests.  The wise Ulysses makes the round of the camp, and happily finds the ear of the people not yet altogether deaf to the appeal of reason, and their heart yet pervious to the sting of virtuous reproach.  He tells them plainly, what infatuated democrats yet require to be told—

'Ill fares the State where the many rule!'

recalls them to their natural subjection to their superiors, and at the same time takes occasion, in a few masterly lines, to give a portrait of the demagogic man, ill-formed, ill-favoured, envious, spiteful, and slanderous, whose vocation it is to flatter the lowest class of society, and to malign the highest.  Hear how he has it:—

'The ugliest man was he who came to Troy,
 With squinting eyes, and one distorted foot,
 His shoulders broad, and buried in his breast
 His narrow head, with scanty growth of hair."[5]

    But it is not in profane poetry alone that we find the portraiture of the true nature of all popular assemblies.  The sacred history of the New Testament, rich in many texts which the most orthodox preachers never think of applying, supplies an illustration of the true character of a Greek, not inferior to that given by Homer.  In the nineteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, we are informed that when St. Paul was at Ephesus, then a sort of Liverpool or Glasgow to the western coast of Asia, there arose no small stir about the new doctrine which the apostle preached.  The people, who in all countries are generally opposed to reforms in religion, and ready to cry heresy against reasonable preachers and apostles of all kinds, found on this occasion, as is found also in the most recent times, their piety powerfully aided by their pocket, and brought the prejudices of superstition and the interests of the craft to bear in a combined battery against the strange gospeller.  A meeting of the working men of Ephesus, especially of the silversmiths, who made shrines to Diana, was accordingly held; and this meeting, after the usual number of eloquent addresses by the chief men of the craft, seconded no doubt by some of the most popular clergy of the city, framed resolutions to the effect that the preaching of the apostles ought to be put down, as derogatory to the dignity of the goddess, and hostile to the interests of the craft.  Immediately thereupon, while yet their livers were hot with sacred wrath, they had a great public meeting in the theatre, attended not merely by the silversmiths, but by the whole body of the working classes and other citizens, of whom, on account of the haste of the proceedings, the greater part knew not wherefore they were come together.  However, on being informed that Jews were at the bottom of the commotion—a race whom they heartily hated, just as orthodox Scotchmen hate Papists and Unitarians—they set up a bawling and a braying, and a hissing and a bellowing, like a congregation of asses, serpents, and geese; and for the space of two hours caused the air to resound—for the theatre in Ephesus was open—with the cry of 'GREAT IS DIANA OF THE EPHESIANS!'  By this prodigious amount of breath, the pulmonary force of the working classes had exhausted itself; and the town-clerk, standing up quietly, informed the assembly that there was really no cause for disturbance, that at all events nothing could be done in this way of universal roaring, and that their only plan was to get a lawyer to draw out an indictment against the strange preachers, and bring the matter before the lawcourts; and with these words he dismissed the assembly.  Such was a democratic meeting eighteen hundred years ago in one of the richest and most influential cities of ancient Greece; and no person who has had any experience of political life in this country, can doubt that the same chaotic element exists still among indiscriminate tumultuous assemblies, of men called reasonable—an element which bursts out occasionally with volcanic violence, even when the most approved engines are applied to keep it under restraint.  How, indeed, can it be otherwise?  'Pure democracy,' as a great Scotch thinker and statesman said, 'is the absurdest of all forms of government, because in it the directing and the restraining powers are one, which is impossible.'[6] Exactly so; but democratic speakers always declare that the masses of the people need no restraint; they restrain themselves; they are at once horse and rider; they have only to open their mouth, and then—VOX POPULI VOX DEI!  This is the theory; but universal experience has taught that popular assemblies which pretend to govern, must in fact be governed,—governed either by their natural heads, as in the example of the Iliad, or by those occasional captains of popular movements whom their admirers call friends of the people, but whom I, marking an old Greek thing by an old Greek name, prefer to call demagogues.  This observation leads us to the next two propositions of the democratic creed, containing the machinery by means of which organized popular assemblies hope to escape the danger of hasty counsels and tumultuous proceedings.

    The grand modern device for making democracy innocuous is supposed to be REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT.  The great majority of democrats in these times, I presume, have acquired so much wisdom from the experience of centuries, as to be willing to allow that the convocation of large masses of men for purposes of government leads only to confusion.  They feel that the swelling sea of human passions which rages contagiously in popular assemblies requires a breakwater,—and this breakwater they find in representation.  That representative assemblies, in which the people act indirectly through their deputies, are a capital improvement on the old Greek ekklhsia and the Roman comitia, where the most important functions of government were performed directly by an indiscriminate mass voting on the principle of universal suffrage, no one, however superficially acquainted with the history of the ancient republics, will deny; but to imagine that this device alone is sufficient to preserve the mixed constitution of Great Britain from being swamped by a rush of democratic forces, is a great delusion.  Let us consider what a House of Representatives really means, or rather, if reason is to have anything to say in the matter, ought to mean.  In our House of Commons we wish to represent the intelligence, virtue, and substance of the people.  We wish to bring together a certain number of wise and good men, selected on account of their wisdom and goodness, of all varieties and grades of opinion, to deliberate with a calm, cool, and reasonable survey on the difficult problems of public policy.  How are we to get hold of such men?  In many ways, but certainly not exclusively in the way imagined by democrats.  For, according to their system, the House of Commons cannot have the four qualities which it is absolutely necessary that a deliberative assembly should possess—variety, coolness, wisdom, and independence.  In fact, your democrat still practically believes in the old fallacy, that an indiscriminate multitude can deliberate; and accordingly he sends up, instead of counsellors, mere delegates, to spout forth on a larger stage the concluded deliberations of the sovereign people.  Accordingly, if at any time his favourite schemes are thwarted by the caution and moderation of the aristocratic party in the House of Commons, he goes forth into the green fields, and the crowded squares, and appeals to that great court of supreme wisdom in political matters, which with him is final—the acclamation of the millions.  The man who does this, however unselfish he may be in his purpose, and pure in his intent, is the declared enemy to the constitution of this country.  He excites the people to turn the national senate of free and independent counsellors into a congregation of mere mechanical organs, and slavish echoes of the popular voice.  This, no doubt, is the most consistent of all courses on his part; but to thinking men it merely exhibits the great roaring sea of popular unreason, acting as in classical times, and not a whit the better for the patent breakwater.  The fact is, that if by the representative system we are to represent only the hasty conclusions, and the one-sided violent views of great masses of men indiscriminately called together at the call of ambitious demagogues and the spur of venomous faction, our imagined advantage above the ancients falls to the ground.  The House of Commons becomes only a standing deputation of the mere numerical majorities of the people.  Two essential qualities of such an assembly are one-sidedness and dependence.  Now, two sides of a case stated with coolness and comprehensiveness are, as every court of justice knows, the indispensable condition of a sound deliberation.  But in a democratic House of Commons, constituted by universal suffrage, two sides of a great public question could seldom be heard.  The kind of men who can look quietly round and round a subject would never be returned.  Such a man, for instance, as the late George Cornewall Lewis, according to a recent wise remark of the Times,[7] could not possibly be chosen by purely democratic electors.  They elect the man who represents most decidedly their prejudices and their passions—for no man, as Sismondi well expresses it, can delegate the wisdom which he does not possess,—and if he, on any occasion, should take a fancy to have an independent opinion, they will soon let him know that he does not understand his duty, and must be dismissed.  Thus deliberation in the great council of the nation becomes a farce, democracy rides rampant in a senate of servile sworn delegates, and modest reason, baffled by the intemperance of faction, and gagged by the intolerance of the popular will, shrinks into her private shell and retires.

    A few words remain to be said on the democratic method of dealing with public questions by the vote of the MAJORITY.  When reasonable beings meet together for the sake of deciding any matter, they mean to decide it not by the greatest show of hands, but by the greatest show of reason.  What people ought to desire is, to be governed by the wisest and best of the community, however few, not by the mere arithmetical majority of men having, or imagined to have, an opinion.  And yet, if some thousands of men parade the streets in monster processions five miles long, declaring that they wish some change in the constitution of this country, some people are apt to think that a potent reason in favour of such change has been produced.  It may be so; but in this view politics is a matter with which reason has little to do, and a company of men becomes influential by mere physical demonstration of swarming units, like an invasion of Norway rats.  But the fact is that, as Goethe has it, men are governed at bottom by three things,—by wisdom, by authority, and by appearance; and that no government which appeals finally to mere numbers can stand.  This were possible only if popular assemblies generally consisted of wise men, and if, being wise, they were able to continue wise, under the exacerbations, irritations, and excesses of a popular election.  But neither of these conditions squares with the fact. We must say, therefore, that an appeal to the decision of the majority is always the resource of despair; and, if there be any other method of attaining a more reasonable result in matters of social action, these methods ought first to be exhausted.  Now, here the obvious method occurs of sifting the masses, so as to eliminate the worst elements and retain the best, before the arithmetical process of counting polls commences.  A majority of a select or sifted mass will produce a very different result from a majority of an indiscriminate and tumultuous mass, as the conduct of all kinds of business sufficiently shows.  No doubt the select body may sometimes indulge in jobbery or downright swindle; and this malversation of a clique may often be rectified by the calling in of a large and loose multitude with effect; but these are exceptional cases, and the rule is, that no business can be conducted rationally by any other than a select minority of the select.  A set of cool officials, sitting round a green table and taking the vote by a majority in a matter of professional business, which all of them understand, is a very different thing from a promiscuous assembly, voting on a matter which they either have not studied at all, or contemplate only through the false medium of party glamour and the fumes of a feverish self-importance.  Even in select bodies, men have often the sense to allow the business to fall into the hands of the one man who knows what he is about; and under this intelligent despotism the society prospers.  But in politics, so soon as you rouse the passions of an indiscriminate multitude, such a voluntary submission to a reasonable lordship is not to be looked for.  No wild beast elects the man who is to tame it.  The majority, in the most perilous and critical matters, as I read history, is pretty sure to be either wrong altogether, or wrong in the excess of what it passionately feels to be right.  If no method can be devised by which the fatal decisions of excited multitudes may be reversed, the doom of the commonwealth is sealed.  Precisely when the storm rages loudest the pilot will be most wanted; but he will not be found.  The mutinous crew in the hour of peace had cast the wise captain overboard, and in the hour of imminent shipwreck nothing remains for them but to choose for their master the most energetic of the mutineers.  This has been the experience of all democracies.  The natural lord was banished, who used whips occasionally; and an artificial lord is created who lashes with scorpions for a perpetuity.[8]

    So much for the folly of committing the control of public affairs to the decision of a mere majority.  But the injustice of it is no less flagrant.  One of the great objects of all government, perhaps the principal object, is to protect the weak against the strong, that is, in many cases, to protect minorities against majorities.  Now if, according to the theory of democratic politicians, we override the whole country with a uniform system of governing by majorities, the necessary effect of this, as society is at present constituted, is to put the middle and higher classes everywhere at the disposal of the lower and lowest classes, wherever those classes are inspired by a common passion, and choose to combine for political purposes.  And what is this but virtually to disfranchise the upper classes, to disfranchise, in fact, everything but workmen, and to create a despotism of one class of society, that is, of those who work mainly by their hands, over every other class,—to prostrate quality before quantity, to annihilate all virtue, excellence, and dignity in the commonwealth before what I do not hesitate to call the brute demonstration of superior numbers?  But the working classes, perhaps, are so wise, so virtuous, and so moderate, that they will never abuse the enormous power with which democracy is prepared to intrust them.  The man who utters one word to encourage this very natural conceit on the part of the multitude is either a flatterer or a fool.[9]  It is the most undisputed of all maxims in political science, that, whosoever is intrusted with political power is disposed to abuse it, and will certainly abuse it, unless a sharp-eyed precaution be kept constantly awake.  The working classes in congregation assembled, merely because they can outvote the rest of the community by seven to three, have no immunity from the common frailties of human nature.  If the oligarchy of mediæval Venice perpetrated dark deeds at which humanity even now shudders, the democracy of Edinburgh or London will be prepared to do the same, when the real or imagined necessity arises.  Nay more, there is a contagious power in a multitude which naturally leads to excesses, from which the wise caution of an oligarchy would shrink.  I believe all men have naturally a tyrannical seed in them, which passion, and ambition, and the exercise of power can at any time call forth into ripeness ; but political and ecclesiastical majorities have been in the constant habit of cheering themselves on to deeds of injustice, thinking that they were doing God service.[10]

    But we shall be told now, I presume, that all the above objections to democratic rule apply only to rude and uncultivated nations, and have no force in reference to the educated and Christianized masses of this Protestant country.  To a man with his eyes open, who sees how elections are conducted, and on what grounds candidates are rejected or returned, this assertion must stand out as only one among the many commonplaces of flattery with which popular orators feed the ears of hearers whose willingness to be deluded is always much greater than their readiness to learn.  As for Christianity, I have yet to learn that it has ever leavened the public morality to such an extent as to have had any appreciable effect on political affairs.  We have only the other day witnessed a small act of a modern politico-military drama, in which kings, and cabinet-ministers, and people cheered themselves on to the commission of one of the most flagrant breaches of international law that history has to record.  And as to internal politics, if there is a scene in the public life of this country in which the old Adam, as our theologians phrase it, revels as in a Saturnalia, it is a hotly contested election.  In many cases it is hopeless to be returned without a preparation of intrigue, a machinery of corruption, and a battery of lies, with which a gentleman of high character and lofty Christian principle could have nothing to do.  But let that pass.  Are we not an educated people, being under a process of education at least, talking even of compulsory education: is there not great hope here?  On this point, again, I have the misfortune to think that a great amount of popular delusion is abroad.  People talk as if the human brain were a collection of empty boxes, which merely required to be filled with the due amount of cognitional wares in order to be well furnished.  But this is not the case.  The acquisition of knowledge is a slow growth, not a hasty manufacture, to be turned out in measurable quantities by schoolmasters, professors, and education boards.  The element of education no doubt has its value, and, in an indirect way, as I will afterwards attempt to show, may easily be made to exercise a certain political weight; but a direct knowledge-qualification for the masses would result in a portentous system of artificial cramming which would be no genuine test of real knowledge.  But mere knowledge is a very small element in the qualifications of a good elector.  What we want is wisdom, clear-headedness, discretion, moderation, coolness, independence, moral courage, experience of life, and position in society.  Of these qualities a property qualification may afford a certain rough guarantee; a knowledge qualification will afford none.  Such knowledge as might be brought up by any young man of one-and-twenty before an education board, would be a test of conceit rather than of wisdom.  Young men are naturally conceited, and no amount of scholastic or academical outfit can shake the conceit out of them.  A little knowledge is sometimes a useful thing, but only in the hands of a wise man; in the hands of a fool it is dangerous; and in the difficult and perplexed problems of politics, most of us are foolish enough till we are taught to reef the sails of our conceit by the severe lessons of experience.  No young man, however well educated, should have anything to do with politics (for genius like that of Pitt is always exceptional), and he seldom intermeddles with it, indeed, as daily experience shows, without hurting both himself and the community to which he belongs.

    In these remarks I speak from observation, but principally, also, from what I know best,—my own experience.  I have devoted a great deal of time to the study of history and politics, and I have found it one of the most difficult of all practical sciences.  I cannot, therefore, but feel surprised exceedingly at the readiness with which some people are prepared to blurt out the dogma that a little superficial schoolmaster's work is to be a sufficient safeguard against the obvious danger of intrusting the control of public affairs to majorities of the least thoughtful, the least instructed, and the least experienced part of the community.  But in case my views on this point may be thought singular, I shall set down here the opinion of one of the best and wisest men who in modern times have given their ripe conclusions on political matters to the public, I mean M. de Sismondi:—

    'Others refer us to the progress of knowledge and to the care that will be taken of the education of the people. We eagerly accept the augury; we hope that really free governments will feel that their first duty is to give to all citizens, not the power of leading and governing others, but the power of conducting and governing themselves; that they will not relax their efforts to put knowledge within the reach of all, virtue within the reach of all; that they will fix their attention on increasing the comforts of the poor, on one side to keep them from temptation, on the other to give them more leisure, and more means of exercising their intellectual faculties as well as their hands. But whatever may be their efforts, as long as there are rich and poor there will be men who cannot devote all their time to meditation and study; there will be others who can only give up to them some moments every day, and that with a body fatigued by manual labour, and a mind distracted by the cares of life.

    'Would it be expedient to level all conditions, to divide equally all possessions, and afterwards to maintain the equality of these divisions ? But supposing that this order of things were possible, it would not do away with the necessity of manual labour, which even then must fill the greatest part of the existence of all : it would only be to forbid a life of study and meditation to every one ; the nation would only be so much the less elevated, when every one was forbidden to raise himself; and yet it would not be possible to level native talent. Even in a nation equal in wealth, universal suffrage would always leave virtue, talent, and genius in the minority. Shall a more reasonable plan be followed? Shall the development and the progress of all be favoured without disturbing the differences of rank? Then every rank of intelligence will be more advanced than it is now, but the distance between them will be always the same. It cannot be, it never will be, that a majority can be composed of superior men.'—Essays, pp. 229, 300.

    Our array of democratic propositions and aristocratic counter propositions is now complete.  What is the inference?  Not, I beg you to observe, that the democratic propositions are altogether false, or the aristocratic ones altogether true; but that whatever truth, or fragment of truth, each one of the former class may contain, is liable to be met by a counter truth of the other class, which both from abstract reasoning and concrete experience possesses at least an equal guarantee.  If any man supposes from any of the above statements that I appear here as an advocate either of unlimited monarchies, as in that of Prussia before 1815, or of unlimited oligarchies, as in mediaeval Venice, he never was more mistaken.  I have stated the case on both sides, because I believe both sides taken together contain the whole truth, either side taken by itself only half the truth, and consequently, when set up for the whole, a lie.  And this is only a particular instance of one of the most deeply seated and widely acting laws of this universe of God, that the healthy condition of any organic thing only then exists when there is a well calculated balance of the opposite forces of which it is composed.  All excellence is a combination of apparent incompatibles.  One-sidedness, though manifesting itself generally with outward signs of force, is always fundamentally weakness, and a mistake.  And this, again, is only another form of Aristotle's grand practical maxim, that virtue consists in the mean between two extremes.  All extremes are wrong, and can only become right by being harmonized, as in the common case of chemical action, with their contraries.  Oligarchy is wrong; democracy is wrong.  They are both extremes, and both despotisms.  Oligarchy is the cold, cunning, secret despotism of the few over the many; democracy is the hot, violent, overbearing despotism of the many over the few.  Now with neither of these can a sound political philosophy have anything to do.  The last thing, however, that parties are inclined to listen to is moderation.  Whether in Church or State party-men are possessed by the notion that if their ideas had full swing evils would speedily cease, and the millennium forthwith commence.  But from these popular delusions it is the very business of science to keep the mind free; it is the function of the great statesman to step in between the contending parties and teach them to accept a healthy compromise.  But how difficult this just balance of power is to achieve in the political world, the history of great nations and the fate of famous constitutions sufficiently shows.  It has been achieved, to my knowledge, only once on a great and successful scale, and that is in the glorious British Constitution.  In this Constitution the adverse elements of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy have, by the special favour of Divine Providence, been combined in such cunning proportions as to make it stand for a political model by the general consent of thinkers.  And yet this is the Constitution which popular orators are doing all they can to persuade the working classes of this country to vilipend and to misprise!  Our checks and our balances have been all a mistake.  We are to look to America for a model.  Political perfection consists only in the unqualified sovereignty of the numerical masses.  Democracy, or the sovereignty of that largest and lowest class of people who work by their hands, over those who work with their heads, is the panacea for all political evils!

    With men who at this time of day have been led so far astray, as, in the full exercise of adult intelligence, to proclaim such principles, it is not to be imagined that authorities or facts will have any greater weight than reasons.  Nevertheless, for the complete statement of the question, and for the consideration of those who have not yet sold their souls to a one-eyed, unhistorical view of political science, we shall now proceed to state the opinions which the greatest political thinkers have expressed on democracy; and thereafter take a bird's-eye view of the experience of democratic government in ancient and modern times, as it has been exhibited in the public life of some of the most famous States.  Of political philosophers Plato is one of the first, as well as one of the most notable; and though he was naturally of Absolutist, or, as we would phrase it, ultra-Tory principles, and with all his wisdom not free from crotchets, yet he had the sense to see that the mixed constitution of Sparta, in which, to an Athenian eye at least, the opposite elements of aristocracy, monarchy, and democracy seemed to balance each other, contained an element of safety which to the one-sided democratic organism of his own country was denied.[11]  And, in fact, the political wisdom of Solon, which was afterwards overborne by democracy, consisted in establishing, or endeavouring to establish, in Athens, that just mixture of aristocratic and democratic forces, of which our present democratic agitators are so eager to rob the favoured inhabitants of this island.[12]  Of a more utilitarian character than Plato, and dealing rather in hard facts than in high speculations, Aristotle, in his great political work, maintains strongly that the best constitution, at least the best which there is hope of realizing, is a mixture of oligarchy and democracy; and he insists strongly, throughout the whole fourth book, on the safety of keeping political power in the hands of the middle classes, and not allowing it to get into the hands of the lowest.[13]  But the most important witness from among the Greeks, in my opinion, is Polybius, who, having lived both among Greeks and Romans, had a larger field of political induction before him than even Aristotle, and whose authority in such matters is esteemed by the best political writers as second only to that of Thucydides.  Like all Greeks he carried in his heart a harshly-graven outline of the hideousness of democracy, and had arrived at the conclusion, which all sensible men now believe, that the best form of government is neither monarchy, nor aristocracy, nor democracy, but a composite form, embracing the virtues and neutralizing the evils of all the three.[14]  And with profound insight he remarks that every social organism contains in its own essence the connate seeds of its own destruction, just as iron begets rust, and wood is subject to the dry-rot, which there is no possibility of preventing, except by the inoculation of a counteracting principle from within.  Among the Romans, Cicero, who had ample experience of aristocracy and democracy, and of that death-struggle between them both which ended in the establishment of a military despotism, though he saw deeper into the flaws of the Roman political organism than the Greek historian, agrees with him in the general principle that a mixed government is the only safe one.  He repeats the great and the terrible truth, to which a certain infatuation makes impassioned democrats and despots equally deaf, that there is no simple and unmixed form of government: 'quod non habeat iter ad finitimum quoddam malum præceps ac lubricum,' that is to say, the more unmixed any form of government is, the more patent and slippery does the road lie, down to the evil which ever loves to lodge next door to what is best.  And to avoid this hasty descent from the pinnacle of triumph to the pit of perdition, the only safeguard is, instead of democracy, or any other simple form of government,  'illud quod conflatum fuerit ex omnibus.'[15]  So much for the ancients.  Among modern writers the agreement on this point has been no less striking.  The late Cornewall Lewis, whose learning was equal to his judgment, refers to Machiavel, Paruta, Blackstone, Burlamaqui, Paley, Zaccaria, Bellarmine, Filangieri, and Bentivoglio;[16] and he might have referred to a witness even stronger,—the homage of admiration and envy which the British Constitution has commanded from all the peoples of modern Europe.

    Such is the weight of authority in this matter.  Let us now look at facts.  First, and most famous of course, we have Athens.  Here, if anywhere, democracy, it should seem, may congratulate itself on having achieved a splendid triumph.  But the case is just the reverse.  As compared with Oriental slavery, indeed, such liberty was a great thing—the greatest thing, perhaps, next to Hebrew prophecy, in the ancient world; but as an experiment in constitution-making, compared with the present constitution of Great Britain, or even with the old classical constitutions of Rome and Sparta, the democracy of Athens was a splendid failure.  Liberty and unfettered individualism are necessary to literature; creative genius acknowledges no fetters but those which it shapes for itself.  In the enjoyment of this liberty, and with a fine physical and intellectual endowment from God, poetry, philosophy, and science, in ancient Athens, shot forth an efflorescence and fruitage of power, such as has been seldom equalled, and perhaps never surpassed.  But this rich exhibition of intellectual force might have taken place under a limited monarchy as well as in the midst of a licentious democracy, as the names of Shakspeare and Bacon, Jeremy Taylor and Isaac Newton, loudly proclaim.  The fall of Attic political liberty, in truth, dates, we may almost say, from the epoch of its greatest literary triumphs.  The popular power evoked by the great struggle at Marathon and Salamis, as is wont to be the case with weak mortality in the hour of success, forthwith became rampant, and refused to acknowledge the last of those salutary checks which the aristocratic wisdom of the past had retained.  The jurisdiction of the Court of the Areopagus was curtailed; and the prophetic spirit of the wise tragedian saw already in vision the brilliant dissolution of a State where cleverness without reverence, and impetuosity without restraint, could at any moment plunge the people into an ill-considered and perilous war:

                                                          'From anarchy
And slavish masterdom alike my ordinances
Preserve my people.
Cast not from your walls
All high authority; for where no fear
Awful remains, what mortal will be just!' [17]

But the warning was vain.  The cautious counsel of Pericles was forgotten; the dazzling blackguardism of Alcibiades prevailed; the expedition to Syracuse was undertaken; and in a few years Sparta trod on the neck of Athens, and the way was prepared for the golden keys and the iron hand of Philip of Macedon.  The splendour of unfettered Athenian democracy conveys thus a less valuable lesson to political science than its brevity.  Aristocratic Sparta prevailed, not in intellectual vivacity indeed, but in permanency of political influence.  For her one hundred years of unfettered democracy Athens paid dearly with more than two thousand years of political servitude.  And now that by the glorious popular uprising of 1821 the Greek people have again won for themselves an acknowledged standing-room among the nations, they have risen only to make a series of governmental blunders, of which the inherent vice of democracy is perhaps the most powerful cause.  They have, indeed, had sense enough to follow the example of Sparta rather than of Athens, in preferring to be governed by one hereditary king rather than by five hundred elected counsellors; but they have failed to perceive the great truth that a hereditary monarchy can never actually prove an effective engine of good government, unless when supported by a strong aristocracy, as in England, or by a well-marshalled bureaucracy, as in Prussia.  The long political history of Athens, therefore, from the unfortunate abolition of the kingship to the present hour, is only a protracted lecture on the vanity of all attempts at self-government on the part of unchecked multitudes.  In the good old plan of balancing one force by another, lies the great secret of political as of dynamical equilibrium.  The history of ancient Rome teaches exactly the same lesson.  All the soundest social life of the Eternal City, as well as its proudest political triumphs, belong to the period when the aristocratic element was so strong as to justify Polybius in saying, that in power, though not in form, the constitution of Rome contained within itself that mixed balance of monarchic, aristocratic, and democratic forces which he admired.[18]  I do not stand here as the apologist of the Roman aristocracy; a close examination might show, perhaps, that they contributed as much to the ultimate ruin of their country as the democracy; but one thing is quite certain,—democracy increased as Rome rushed to its degradation; and Julius Cæsar, according to a well-known law noticed by Plato,[19] mounted to absolute power, having commenced life in the capacity of what, in the Italian Republics of the middle ages, was called a Capitano del Popolo.[20]  And what political lessons do these Italian Republics themselves teach, of which, after an existence equally brief as brilliant, every trace has long since disappeared from the map of Europe?  The great virtue of a popular government is energy; and when this form of government conspires with happy circumstances and a finely constituted people, an epoch of highly potentiated democracy will generally be marked by the most splendid outbursts of intellectual and artistic talent.  Such was the case with mediæval Italy, and specially with the great republic of Florence; but whosoever looks beyond the surface into that region, where the names of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio usher in the brightness of modern literature, will find little in annals scarred with faction and soaked in blood, to warrant any high-flown eulogium on the virtues of democratic institutions.[21]  Of more recent European republics, Holland in the same manner has ceased to exist.  With the heroic struggle for the rights of conscience maintained by the Dutch States against Spanish bigotry and tyranny, every man with a heart in his bosom will warmly sympathize; but in arguing from wars of national independence, we ought never to forget that they really prove nothing in favour of the form of government out of which they may have arisen or in which they may terminate.  The Prussian people, under the unlimited despotism of the great Frederick, fought as heroically and as successfully against the triple coalition of Russia, Austria, and France, as ever democratic Attica did against Darius and Xerxes.  When people are fighting for their existence, it is a great man that is necessary more than a good constitution ; and in such cases, as an ancient soldier well remarked, an army of stags with a lion at their head, is better than an army of lions with a stag for their general.  On the internal management of the Dutch States during the period when the name of a republic lasted, I have not made any special studies; but if we are to trust to Sir William Temple, who had ample means of being well informed, the government of Amsterdam, the capital of the ruling province, in the hands of a body of a hundred senators, elected first by the people for life, and then, to avoid popular brawls, by themselves, was a civic oligarchy rather than a democracy.[22]  But a better claim than that of Holland to be considered as the representative of republican institutions in modern Europe may be advanced by Switzerland.  In regard to this country, the remark of Montesquieu holds good, that it is the nature of a republic to possess only a small territory, without which condition, indeed, it cannot exist.[23]  But besides this, any person who has political insight must see that the continuance of this republican federation in the midst of a surrounding system of monarchies, is owing more to its strong mountain barriers, and the constant jealousy of France and Austria, than to any special virtue for self-defence which its free constitutions present.  Had Switzerland stood in the same geographical relation to one great power as it now does to two, it would long ago have been absorbed by that power, just as Circassia has been by Russia, and Denmark will be by Prussia.  In respect of internal government, the great Swiss writer whom we have several times quoted, while he rejoices with a just pride in the fact that his mother country has 'sought her liberty with more or less success in balanced constitutions,' does not fail to point out the warning fact that 'in Switzerland there are many republics, where the democratic principle has prevailed in all its rigour, where each intellect as well as each will is reckoned equal, and where universal suffrage has stifled public opinion.'[24]  And whereas some might imagine that it is only among the lumpish and dull peasantry that such exhibitions take place, he tells us that 'it is precisely in those republics where the constitution appears most liberal that the sovereign citizenship has most oppressed the peasants, and excited the most bitter resentment, as at Zurich, Schaffhausen, and Basle.'  'And everywhere in Switzerland,' he adds, 'the friends of progress are opposed and resisted by the democratic spirit, or the supremacy which universal suffrage gives to those who know nothing, over those who wish for the advance of true liberty.'  So much for Switzerland.  Of the ghastly phantoms, and blood-gouted spectres of the various forms of French democracy, as they have been exhibited across the Channel, for the disturbance, and it might be hoped the instruction, of the rest of the world, during the last seventy years, one who reprobates democracy, as I do, might easily work up a panorama that might be more effective than many arguments.  But I shall suppose all this done, and even leave the democratic champion, part of whose creed it is to suppose that the people never can do wrong, in the possession of the field, when he maintains that had it not been for the abuses of monarchical and aristocratical government for centuries, and the suppression of parliamentary government in France, these revolutionary excesses never could have been committed.  This is all very true; though it is certainly by no means the complimentary apology for popular atrocities to say that because the king behaved like a fool, and the noblemen like brutes, the people were pardonable in behaving like fiends.  But France is no longer the favourite arsenal whence our British democrats filch their weapons.  They have sense enough to see that the despotism by universal suffrage, which is the existing form of government in that country, has been as much the effect of popular excess as of aristocratic misgovernment.  They therefore, ever eager to juggle themselves with some new delusion, point to America as to the promised Utopia of political perfection.  Here there is no king to waste the public money in a superfluous civil list, no aristocracy to goad the people by pride and oppression into periodical fits of mutiny and madness.  Beyond the Atlantic, therefore, in a land remote from the hereditary encumbrances and the servile decrepitude of European States—there we must accept the pure issue.  Let it be so.  Nothing could give a benevolent mind greater pleasure than to learn that in any quarter of the globe, under new and favourable circumstances, swarming millions of energetic human beings had at last succeeded in governing themselves by their collective wisdom alone, without the necessity of any of those checks and bulwarks which in other civil societies had hitherto been found necessary.  No man should despair of his kind; and if it should have pleased God to create a superior race of reasonable beings beyond the Atlantic, capable of solving easily social problems which have puzzled all the rest of the world, it will be our business to look on with admiration and gratitude, not with envy and detraction.  But if there be any truth at all in the principles above advanced, if men, acting in political masses, are not less, but certainly more, exposed to the common weaknesses of humanity, than when acting as individuals, one thing is certain, that in order that an unchecked democracy may succeed in America, or elsewhere, it will require much more than the average amount of virtue in the mass of the people; or, in the words of Chancellor Kent, 'to counteract the dangerous tendency of such combined forces as universal suffrage, frequent elections, all offices for short periods, all officers elective, and an unchecked press, and to prevent them from racking and destroying our political machines, the people must have a larger share than usual of that wisdom which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated.[25]  And if they do not possess this evangelic wisdom, then it requires no peculiar political sagacity to be able to predict that even those most cunning political machines, put together with consummate science by such men as Washington, Madison, and Hamilton, will, like so many other made constitutions, prove, in some violent crisis, only a very curious tissue of packthread and silk-twist to bind an infuriated tiger.  Let us inquire, therefore, where the evidences of this peculiarly evangelic wisdom are found, and how they display themselves in counteracting the evils which all agree are part of the dowry of a purely democratic constitution.

    On entering on this part of the argument I will make two confessions: first, that I have never been in America; second, that I am most anxious to believe the best of my fellow beings, and that one of the greatest practical errors of my life has been in thinking too well of persons who have turned out to be either knaves or fools.  I have, accordingly, sought in all quarters for witnesses on which I might found the belief that the Americans are a superior type of human beings; but I have failed to find them.  I was directed by Mr. Bright to study De Tocqueville, which I did with the utmost care, but found there chiefly the most damning evidence against the system which the eloquent Manchester Gracchus so potently admires.  By the much-vaunted American prosperity I am nothing moved.  It is only material prosperity at the best; and this sort of advancement, in all stages of society, is as often connected with debasing as with elevating influences.  That a young and vigorous offshoot of Great Britain, in a new country, with plenty of room, no dangerous neighbours[26] a great demand for labour, and a constant importation of fresh labourers, should increase marvellously in those good things which political economists tabulate with pride, but which Plato, Aristotle, and the apostle Paul estimate at their true value, is only natural, and need cause no particular outcry.  'Let none admire,' says Milton, 'that riches grow in hell.'  Instead of boasting about this amazing material prosperity, it would be well if both they and we bore habitually in mind the great truth which Charming told them, that noble growths are slow, and that the timbers of a stout man of-war are made of oak, not of poplar.[27]  But they have more than material advantages, we are told; they are a better educated people; the intelligence of the masses in that part of the world is something wonderful.  I am glad to believe that the machinery of popular education in many of the States is far superior to what yet exists in our island, and might furnish a model after which even the best-educated parts of Scotland might be improved.  But I have already stated the grave consideration that schools can furnish only the smallest part of the education necessary to make an intelligent citizen; and we must loudly proclaim, moreover, that a clever fellow is by no means synonymous with a good character.[28]  An American writer observes: 'Never had country better laws than ours; but the true trouble is that THE PEOPLE ARE CORRUPT.  The maxim of "ALL'S FAIR IN POLITICS," operating on a population relaxed by an over-whelming prosperity, and cursed with a preternatural sharpness, has debauched the morality of the whole population.  So long as the rulers only of a people are dishonest, liberty is safe; but what is to become of a nation, the people of which are corrupt?[29]  It would appear, therefore, that, in spite of their smartness and cleverness, the people are not morally superior to the democracy which has ruled in other countries.  It does not appear that the American people, in their political capacity, are free from a single vice which stained the most corrupt democracy of ancient Rome, or of mediaeval Florence.  The great original sin of all democracy, the assumed right of the majority to dictate to the minority, has developed itself there in the most gigantic form; and not always, we must add, a despotism of the real majority, but, as frequently happens, a despotism and terrorism of the violent, the passionate, and the unscrupulous, though a minority, over the majority of the moderate, cool, and reasonable part of the community.  This is so notorious that it is hardly necessary to adduce proofs.  De Tocqueville mentions particularly the case of the drinking habits of Philadelphia:—

'Some one observed to me one day, in Philadelphia, that almost all crimes in America are caused by the abuse of intoxicating liquors, which the lower classes can procure in great abundance, from their excessive cheapness. "How comes it," said I, "that you do not put a duty upon brandy?"  "Our legislators," rejoined my informant, "have frequently thought of this expedient; but the task of putting it in operation is a difficult one: a revolt might be apprehended; and the members who should vote for a law of this kind would be sure of losing their seats." "Whence I am to infer," replied I, "that the drinking population constitutes the majority in your country, and that temperance is somewhat unpopular."' [30]

    Even more instructive is the following demonstration on the part of the tyrannical majority at Baltimore in 1812, occasioned by the circumstance that a newspaper editor had had the misfortune to entertain opinions contrary to those of the masses, and had also had the moral courage to express them:—

    'A striking instance of the excesses which may be occasioned by the despotism of the majority occurred at Baltimore in the year 1812. At that time the war was very popular in Baltimore.  A journal which had taken the other side of the question excited the indignation of the inhabitants by its opposition.  The populace assembled, broke the printing-presses, and attacked the houses of the newspaper editors.  The militia was called out, but no one obeyed the call; and the only means of saving the poor wretches who were threatened by the frenzy of the mob, was to throw them into prison as common malefactors.  But even this precaution was ineffectual; the mob collected again during the night; the magistrates again made a vain attempt to call out the militia; the prison was forced, one of the newspaper editors was killed upon the spot, and the others were left for dead: the guilty parties were acquitted by the jury when they were brought to trial.

    'I said one day to an inhabitant of Pennsylvania, "Be so good as to explain to me how it happens, that in a State founded by Quakers, and celebrated for its toleration, freed blacks are not allowed to exercise civil rights. They pay the taxes; is it not fair that they should have a vote?"

    ' "You insult us," replied my informant, "if you imagine that our legislators could have committed so gross an act of injustice and intolerance."

    ' "What, then, the blacks possess the right of voting in this country?"

    ' " Without the smallest doubt."

    ' "How comes it, then, that at the polling-booth this morning I did not perceive a single negro in the whole meeting?"

    ' "This is not the fault of the law: the negroes have an undisputed right of voting; but they voluntarily abstain from making their appearance."

    ' "A very pretty piece of modesty on their parts!" rejoined I.

    ' "Why, the truth is that they are not disinclined to vote, but they are afraid of being maltreated; in this country the law is sometimes unable to maintain its authority, without the support of the majority. But in this case the majority entertains very strong prejudices against the blacks, and the magistrates are unable to protect them in the exercise of their legal privileges."

' "What, then, the majority claims the right not only of making the laws, but of breaking the laws it has made ?" '[31]

Then he sums up these and other instances with the emphatic sentence, 'Despotism enslaves the body; democracy enslaves the soul.'[32]  It is plain, therefore, that the brute principle of governing by a majority, in America as elsewhere, by the simple law of dynamical forces, has produced its necessary result—the prostration of all real liberty, and the establishment of a moral, sometimes a purely physical, despotism.

    Closely connected with the despotic character of the popular will in America, is the crude delight with which the people swallow the grossest flattery, and their puerile sensibility to blame; and in this respect the many-headed blatant beast in the extreme West, whom we are now called on to fall down and worship, is not a whit inferior to the one-headed monsters of whom we read in the annals of Oriental despotism.  In ancient Greece, also, so glaring was the servility to which democracy had reduced the individual mind, that Socrates, in one of the most effective Dialogues of Plato, does not hesitate to define public speaking as a principal branch of the great art of flattery, of which gastronomy and confectionary are well-known subsidiary branches.[33]  On this subject the impartial De Tocqueville is no less distinct :—

    'Works have been published in the proudest nations of the Old World, expressly intended to censure the vices and deride the follies of the times: Labruyère inhabited the palace of Louis XIV. when he composed his chapter upon the Great, and Molière criticised the courtiers in the very pieces which were acted before the Court.  But the ruling power in the United States is not to be made game of; the smallest reproach irritates its sensibility, and the slightest joke which has any foundation in truth renders it indignant; from the style of its language to the more solid virtues of its character, everything must be made the subject of encomium.  No writer, whatever be his eminence, can escape from this tribute of adulation to his fellow-citizens. The majority lives in the perpetual practice of self-applause.'[34]

   And what kind of government, let me ask, is actually produced by this many-headed despot, living in the constant exercise of insolent coercion, and fed on the dainty diet of self-applause?  Is it free from intrigue and cabal, from bribery and corruption, from parliamentary juggle and swindle of all sorts?  Quite the contrary.  One cannot look even superficially into the foul atmosphere of political life in that country, without becoming painfully aware of a degree of gross corruption and shameless unscrupulousness, to which the worst revelations of our bribery-committees cannot afford a parallel.  That faction, intrigue, and corruption are the natural defects of elective government is one of the most elementary truths in political science ; but 'when the head of the State can be re-elected, these evils rise to a great height, and compromise the very existence of a country.'[35]  Whoever denies that such intrigue and corruption are rife in America, must be struck with a blindness which scarcely a miracle could cure.  The Americans are fond of slang; and so they have added not a few phrases to the English language, as used in that part of the world, by which various species of political iniquity are expressed.  One of these slang words is 'log-rolling,' the meaning of which is thus explained by Mr. Spence:—

'The title of the MorriIl tariff commences, "An Act, to provide for the payment of outstanding treasury notes, to authorize a loan," etc., etc.  How come matters, so entirely distinct, to be mixed with the details of a tariff, of necessity complex enough when alone?  Because the bill is a specimen of that original species of American legislation known as "log-rolling."  The meaning of the phrase is this,—"You, help to roll my log, and I'll help to roll yours."  When two logs are put into one bill, there are, at once, two classes interested in its success.  Each may, and frequently does, exceedingly dislike his friend's log; but this is a tame feeling, as compared with interest in his own.  The one, is a question of his own private advantage, whilst the other, concerns nothing beyond the mere public.  There is, however, a difficulty in the way of this contrivance, if too much time be afforded.  Some one who is not of the compact, may be officious enough to separate the logs; or their united strength may be doubtful against a strong opposition, if there be time for thorough investigation.  It follows that a "log-rolling" bill, has many more chances of getting through, by "rushing" it.  This means, to keep it back till the last few days of the session, and then, amidst a crowd of other measures, by dint of vehemence, under cover of confusion, and with the powerful aid of the "lobby," to rush it through.  This bill was rushed.  Its fate was very doubtful; there was a very strong opposition.  But there was the other log in it.  If rejected, it was now too late to bring in a fresh measure, to provide for the treasury notes, and the loan, and thus many were driven to support it, in order to avert the injury of stopping the wheels of government.'[36]

Then as to bribery. The worst kind of pecuniary corrup­tion prevails in America. In this country, election agents bribe the lowest classes of the populace; in America honour­able members are paid openly for their votes, and their price is known.

    'A very able lobby agent, who has been in the business many years, has given us an inkling of the mode of procedure.  "When we get to Albany," said he, "we make out our lists, and, after studying them and comparing notes, we classify members, and make an estimate of what it is going to cost to get our bills through.  We find out about how much each man expects, and who is running him.  Then we arrange the thing in New York with certain people, whose consent is necessary.  The price for a vote ranges from fifty dollars to five hundred, unless it is that of a chairman of a committee.  He wants more, because he has to appear on the record as originating the measure."

    'It was probably one of these originating gentlemen who could explain the testimony given recently in an Albany corruption case by a lady who proved herself a true helpmeet to her husband.  She testified that a lobby agent called at her house one Sunday afternoon, when there was "some conversation" respecting the accused Senator, which the court "ruled out."  She continued thus: "The next morning I put $2500 in greenbacks into a yellow envelope, and gave it to my only son, eleven years old. The boy got into the wagon with his father. I never saw the money again."

    'If there is in this world a man who can be truly said to know anything, Mr. Thurlow Weed knows the Legislature of the State of New York. His testimony respecting the corruption in that Legislature, as given in the Daily Times, a few months ago, is as follows:

' "Formerly the suspicion of corruption in a member would have put him 'into Coventry,' while knowledge of such an offence would have insured the expulsion of the offender.  Now 'bribery and corruption' prevail to an extent greater than existed in the worst days of the Parliament of England, where, happily for England, the practice has been reformed, as it must be here, or corruption will undermine the government. No measure, however meritorious, escapes the attention of 'strikers.'  Venal members openly solicit appointment on paying committees.  In the better days of legislation, when no unlawful motive existed, it was considered indelicate in a member to indicate to the Speaker any preference about committees.  The evil has been growing, each year being worse than the preceding, until reform is sternly demanded.  Could the secret history of the present Legislature be exposed to the public gaze, popular indignation would be awakened to a degree heretofore unknown.  In the Assembly everything was struck at.  Not even a religious charity found exemption.  The sources of rapacious corruption were the Assembly Railroad Committee, and the Committee on Cities and Villages.  I say this upon reliable authority, to correct the Tribune and Times, in both of which journals this Legislature is commended for its integrity.  That there were honest and honourable members in both houses, by whose integrity and firmness much bad legislation was arrested, is true.  The Senate, fortunately, presents an inflexible majority of upright members; while in the House, the Ring was formidable enough to put through whatever paid or promised to pay liberally, in defiance and derision of the efforts of an honest minority."'[37]

    If, after revelations of this kind, men who certainly possess eloquence, and who ought to possess intelligence, shall still continue to perambulate the country, exciting discontent against our noble Constitution, and holding up this base and blushless transatlantic democracy as a model for our imitation, I can only believe that both they and their listeners are already become the living proofs of the grim old adage—Quos Deus vult perdere, etc.: WHOM GOD MEANS TO DESTROY HE FIRST MAKES MAD.

    A volume would not exhaust the foul catalogue of social vices and corruptions which have sprung from the American democracy as from their natural hotbed.  To me the degradation of the moral character of the individuals who are the instruments of a democratic system is a much more sad consideration than the system itself.  But where every man is a politician, and politics is made up of violence, intrigue, and venality, the only way to escape the taint is to retire from the contagious atmosphere altogether.  And this is exactly what the best men, by a natural instinct of self-conservation, do in modern America, as they did also in ancient Attica.[38]  Politics, we are told, beyond the Atlantic, are neglected by men of high talent and character.  They cease to be matter of independent and manly opinion; they degenerate into a trade.  Men of wealth, and literary taste, and commercial standing, are outrun by the large class of officeholders who make a trade of politics.  The whole power of election practically passes into the hands of a knot of professional politicians, composed of briefless barristers, physicians without patients, of schemers and place-hunters, who devote themselves to the service of the party in order to be elected to some little salaried place.[39]  Even when left free from the spur of the ambitious demagogue, the magic oil of the flatterer, and the glamour of the political dreamer, the people have, for the most part, neither the will nor the power to find out the best men to lead them.  I do not say that, individually, they might not be able to put their finger on the men of whose character and talents they are most proud; but when acting in masses under the boiling fever of political or ecclesiastical excitement, there is a great chance that they will elect the most violent or the most cunning, rather than the most wise and virtuous man.[40]  Besides, we must bear in mind that there is a seed of evil in the human heart, apt to shoot up into diabolical vices at all times, but specially worked and manured into rankness by the machinery of democracy.  One of the ugliest and most truly diabolical feelings in the breast of man—ENVY—grows up in America, as in all democracies, as naturally and necessarily as goosefoot on a dunghill. Hear on this point the great French thinker:—

'Moreover, the democracy is not only deficient in that soundness of judgment which is necessary to select men really deserving of its confidence, but it has neither the desire nor the inclination to find them out.  It cannot be denied that democratic institutions have a very strong tendency to promote the feeling of envy in the human heart; not so much because they afford to every one the means of rising to the level of any of his fellow-citizens, as because those means perpetually disappoint the persons who employ them. Democratic institutions awaken and foster a passion for equality which they can never entirely satisfy.  This complete equality eludes the grasp of the people at the very moment at which it thinks to hold it fast, and "flies," as Pascal says, "with eternal flight;" the people is excited in the pursuit of an advantage, which is the more precious because it is not sufficiently remote to be unknown, or sufficiently near to be enjoyed.  The lower orders are agitated by the chance of success, they are irritated by its uncertainty; and they pass from the enthusiasm of pursuit to the exhaustion of ill-success, and lastly to the acrimony of disappointment.  Whatever transcends their own limits appears to be an obstacle to their desires, and there is no kind of superiority, however legitimate it may be, which is not irksome in their sight.'[41]

    These facts might be sufficient to brush the paint from the fair transatlantic harlot who has been set up for us to worship—after an old French model—as the goddess of political reason.  But the damning exposure of the system of government in the city of New York, which appeared in a number of the influential American Quarterly above quoted, can scarcely be passed over in silence.  It appears, from that article—an article based on the most indisputable public documents, and which no American durst have published had it not been desperately true—that the management of the affairs of that great and prosperous city has fallen into the hands literally of a gang of thieves, and that the State Government in Albany is not much better.  The twenty-four councillors, who are handsomely paid for the privilege of stealing from the public purse, are composed principally of young men under thirty, belonging to what in New York is called the 'ruling class,' consisting of 'butchers' boys who have got into politics, bar-keepers who have taken a leading part in primary ward-meetings, and young fellows who hang about engine-houses and billiard-rooms.'  By these four-and-twenty choice senators of a democratic constituency, elected by universal suffrage, the municipal business of New York is conducted on the principle of, in the first place, devising measures the passing of which will gratify large bodies of voters, and create the greatest expenditure of public money, and then 'rushing it' through by the votes of the gang, who not only form a constant majority of three-fourths, but are dexterous masters of various ingenious and effective methods of preventing the attendance of the half-dozen honest men who may happen to be in the council, and who might sometimes be able to stop the progress of some unblushing job.  Even the vile obscenities recorded in the pages of Suetonius and Petronius, are to an uncorrupted mind less revolting than the brazen rascality and staring selfishness which is the soul of the municipal administration of New York.  The article must be read and studied by all who would have any adequate conception of the gross profligacy and stony heartlessness which universal suffrage has elevated into the seat of magisterial authority in that city.  But for the sake of those who do not possess the book, one or two extracts will vividly explain the manner of conducting civic business in this municipal pandemonium:—

    'The most usual manner of stealing is to receive money for awarding or procuring contracts, appointments, donations, or increase of salaries, which money, of course, the favoured person gets back, if he can, from the public treasury; and he usually can. The President of the Board of Health, last spring, when New York was threatened with the cholera, had occasion to remonstrate with a person who held the contract for removing dead animals from the streets, and threatened him with the breaking of the contract if its conditions were not better complied with. "That would be rather hard, Mr. Schultz," replied the man, "for that contract cost me $60,000." And well it might; for the city pays $25,000 a year for getting rid of a commodity every pound of which ought to yield the city a revenue. A dead horse, worth twenty dollars, the city pays for having carted off to where it can be conveniently converted into twenty dollars. Another contractor receives $21,000 a year for removing night soil, which could be sold for enough to pay the cost of its removal. By various extra charges, the holders of this contract have continued to swell their gains incredibly. Mr. Jackson Schultz, the energetic and capable President of the Board of Health, has recently published his conviction, that the "total swindle under this contract is $111,000," and we have had the advantage of hearing him demonstrate the fact. The story, however, is too long for our very limited space.

    'Does any one need evidence that the men who award such contracts, in the teeth of opposition and elucidation, receive a large share of the plunder?  The fact is as certain as though ten witnesses swore to having seen the money to them in hand paid.  Three years ago a contract was awarded for sweeping the streets for ten years, at $495,000 a year.  Since the accession to power of the new Board of Health, responsible men have handed in a written offer to buy the remainder of the contract for a quarter of a million dollars, i.e., to clean the city for seven years at $495,000 a year, and give the city a quarter of a million dollars for the privilege.  There are those about the city offices who know, or think they know, how the plunder of this contract is divided.  We believe we are not violating any confidence, expressed or implied, when we say, that it is the conviction of the Board of Health that $100,000 per annum of the proceeds of this contract are divided among certain politicians; that a certain lawyer, who engineered the project, and stands ready to defend it, receives a salary of $25,000 per annum as "counsel to the contract;" and that the men in whose name the contract is held are "dummies," who get $6,000 a year for the use of their names and for their labour in superintending the work.  The contract is further burdened with the support of several hundred cripples, old men, and idle men, all of whom are voters, who are put in the street cleaning force by Aldermen and Councilmen who want their votes and the votes of their relatives, thus kindly relieved of maintaining aged grandfathers, lame uncles, and lazy good-for-nothings.  These statements, we are aware, cannot be proved. Such compacts are not trusted to paper; and a witness driven to bay can always balk his assailant by refusing to criminate himself.  The reader therefore may decline to believe these details.  One thing remains, and is certain, that the working men of New York are annually plundered of two hundred thousand dollars per annum by this single contract."[42]

    Of the iniquitous system of selling public offices, reminding us of well-known facts of the worst days of the Roman Empire, the following contains a specimen:—

    'It was recently proved, in the presence of the Governor of the State, that the appointment to the office of Corporation Attorney was sold to one incumbent for the round sum of $10,000.  This is bad enough, but worse remains to be told.  Sworn testimony (from thirty-six witnesses) taken by a committee of investigation, establishes the appalling fact, that appointments to places in the public schools are systematically sold in some of the wards,—the wards where the public schools are almost the sole civilizing power, and where it is of unspeakable importance that the schools should be in the hands of the best men and women.  One young lady, who had just buried her father and had a helpless mother to support, applied for a situation as teacher, and was told, as usual, that she must pay for it. She replied that she could not raise the sum demanded, the funeral expenses having exhausted the family store.  She was then informed that she could pay "the tax" in instalments.  Another poor girl came on the witness-stand on crutches, and testified that she had paid $75 for a situation of $300 a year.  Another lady went to a member of the Ring, and told him, with tears, that she saw no way of procuring the sum required, nor even of saving it from the slender salary of the place.  The man was moved by her anguish, took compassion upon her, and said he would remit his share of "the tax."  It was shown, too, that the agent of all this foul iniquity was no other than the principal of one of the schools.  It was he who received and paid over the money wrung from the terror and necessities of underpaid and overworked teachers.  We learn from the report of the committee that the Ring in this ward was originally formed for the express purpose of giving the situations in a new and handsome school "to the highest bidder;" and, as the opening of the new school involved the discharge of a small number of teachers employed in the old schools, the Ring had both the fear and the ambition of the teachers to work upon.  "There was a perfect reign of terror in the ward," says the report of the investigating committee."  The agent performed his duty with alacrity, and with a heartlessness worthy of the employers.  It appears that he not only summoned the teachers to come to him, but that he called on their parents and friends as to the amount they should pay for their appointments,—the sums varying from $50 to $600, according to the position sought."

    'And who were the Ring that perpetrated this infamy?  They were a majority of the trustees elected by the people, and the School Commissioner elected by the people,—six poor creatures, selected from the grog-shop and the wharf, and intrusted with the most sacred interest of a republic, the education of its children.  It was known before that in some of the wards the school trustees were drunkards; it was known before that little children were piled up, like flower-pots in a greenhouse, in small, ill-ventilated rooms; but no one supposed, before this investigation in 1864, that men could be elected to office who were capable of such revolting meanness as this."[43]

    Then to show how little the ballot-box and other cunning inventions of democratic machinery are able to keep out the devil, in the shape of the omnipotent dollar, take the following statement:—

    'At the present time, as we are informed, by one whose opportunities of knowledge are unequalled, all the political concerns of the city are controlled by about seven men,—heads of city departments and others.  In most of the wards, a nomination to office by the party which is ludicrously styled Democratic insures an election by the people: and it is these seven men who work the machinery by which Democratic nominations are ground out.  They are the power behind the ballot-box, greater than the ballot-box itself. Candidates for Congress, for the State Legislature, for the numerous boards of city legislators, must pass the ordeal of their inspection, and pay their price, before their names can go upon the "slate;" and such is the absoluteness of their power over ignorant voters, that they have caused to be elected to Congress by Irish votes a man who, as editor of a "Know-Nothing " newspaper, had been employed for seven years in vilifying Irishmen and their religion.  They have taken up a man who commanded one of the companies of artillery that marched from the field of Bull Run because their "time was up," and, while the whole civilized world was pointing at him the finger of scorn, elected him to one of the most lucrative offices in the United States.  Of late years, these lords of the town have had the deep cunning to give a few of their best appointments and several minor offices to Republicans, as part of their system of preventing investigation.  This was a master stroke. Most of the publishers of newspapers were already bribed to silence by the Corporation advertising, and all the reporters were hired not to report anything disagreeable by the annual gift of two hundred dollars.' [44]

    Let us not suppose that I state these facts as all the truth about America.  No man admires more than I do the enterprise, vigour, and active talent which that people have displayed on many fields.  But what I am now talking of is their political system, and the moral debasement which it entails on a naturally noble people.  I have no pleasure in exposing their faults, but rather great pain.  What I say I say in defence of our mixed constitution, and to expose the mischievous error of those who delude the ignorant and ill-informed masses in this country, by exhibiting universal suffrage as the grand panacea for all political evils.  I am willing to allow as much excellence and efficiency in American democracy as can be proved.  But the shield is not all gold. I have turned round the copper side. Let those who are capable of judging judge.

    The subject of this lecture does not absolutely require me to say anything about the schemes of Parliamentary reform at present being agitated in this country.  Nevertheless, it would be affectation to pretend that what I have brought forward in reference to the vices of democratic government has no reference to the present movement.  On the contrary, nothing could have induced me to expose these hideous details of social corruption, had I not seen with open eyes that not a few of my countrymen are on the point of rushing into a course, which, unless wisely checked, must infallibly end in a similar ruin.  I do not say that the majority of the working classes, any more than the learned and eloquent gentleman, the late Lord Advocate of the Whig Government, are democrats in principle, and mean seriously to do anything that will seriously disturb the fine social balance of our mixed constitution; but from my position as a thinking man, uninfluenced by the movements of parties, I can distinctly discern that they are being borne along by a current which they will not long be able to control, that they have been submitting to a dictation which they ought to have scorned, and that they are using levers with which they will shake the foundations of the house in which they dwell.  It is because the proposed Reform Bills of the most recent epoch of our legislation are democratic, and purely democratic, in their tendency, that as a student of history and a friend of reason, I have from the beginning decidedly opposed them.  Let no man imagine, however, that I am opposed to the recent Reform Bills, because they propose to give a large increase of electoral power to the working classes.  I have not the slightest objection to the working classes.  Many of them are doubtless more intelligent, and more trustworthy, in a political capacity, than some classes of those immediately above them in the social scale.  But what I object to is the principle on which it is proposed to give these classes additional votes; the principle of representing numbers alone, and determining all public questions in the last resort by the votes of the majority.  This is the soul of the democratic despotism, and the rule of unreason, the iniquity of which it has been the object of the present lecture to establish.  Rather than make a single movement towards disturbing the balance of our mixed constitution, proceeding on a principle so utterly false, and of which it is impossible to limit the operation within any bounds short of manhood suffrage, I am content that we should have no Reform Bill at all.  To a person, indeed, like myself, looking on the whole matter merely as a man and a citizen, it showed like a madness from the beginning to talk of another Reform Bill at all, so closely on the back of the sweeping measure of 1832.  To some people, indeed, that Reform Bill, of which the consequences have in the main been salutary, forms the principal argument in favour of another dose of the same Whig medicine.  Never was popular logic more at fault. I have heard of a patient who, having benefited by a prescription to take six drops of a strong medicine per day, took a bottle, and killed himself.  We constantly see people in Scotland who, having made themselves comfortable by taking a tumbler of toddy, make fools of themselves by taking three, and beasts of themselves by taking six.  The men who brought in the great Reform Bill of 1832 declared that it was to be a final measure: and they were wise.  A final measure it certainly ought to have been in that direction. Any other reform for the same purpose as that, viz., for the curtailment of aristocratic influence, would certainly not be wanted; and in point of fact, is not wanted.  The whole history of this country shows that the power of the monarchic and aristocratic elements in our constitution has been step by step diminishing.  According to all rational calculation, what we require now is not an increase of democratic force, but rather some regulative and counteracting principle to prevent its abuse.  The whole course of our legislation since the Reform Bill, whether in the hands of Whigs or Tories, has been by the people, and for the people; and among the people, no class at the present moment receives a larger amount of parliamentary and public consideration than the working classes.  No class, by the change in the value of money, and other causes, has been rising more rapidly into social weight and significance.  If I were to judge by what I see and read, they are in much greater danger of being spoiled by those who flatter them, than of being oppressed by those who don't represent them.  In point of number and talent they have as many representatives in the House of Commons as any other class.  Our House of Commons is already as democratic as it can be made, without destroying the just influence of the middle and upper classes.  Our system of election is already too democratic in many respects to afford any rational guarantee for the return of members to the great National Council who possess the essential requisites of large views and independent character.  I see manifest signs in various places, of the democratic habit of degrading a national councillor into a local deputy, of sending up a partisan instead of a thinker, of preferring the spokesman of a faction to the advocate of a people.  I see men of high character and intelligence rudely called to account, reproached, slandered, and dismissed, merely because they did their duty in the House of Parliamentary deliberation with more than common intelligence, independence, and courage.  And, what is worse, I see men afraid to speak the truth, and willing to set their names to measures of which they do not approve, merely to tide over the moment, to 'settle the question,' and to stop the mouth of dangerous declaimers. Is this not democracy?  And we are to have more of it, forsooth! If a Reform Bill, on American principles, be carried in this country, one result of it I can predict with perfect certainty, that it will not improve the character of our national councillors.  We shall have fewer of the rare and useful class of cool thinkers, more of the speaking trumpets of local faction, the standard-bearers of popular passion, and the vendors of speculative crotchets.  I say therefore, again, Much rather no Reform Bill at all than one that shall acknowledge no principle other than that which has produced the greatest of all social tyrannies in America.  But was not the Reform Bill of 1832 founded on that very principle of government by a majority, which is now denounced as democratic?  Unquestionably it was, to a certain extent; but it was not therefore a good principle for all Bills, because it did no harm—(if indeed it did no harm)—in that Bill.  That Bill placed power in the hands of the middle classes,—the body which, as the medium between the upper and lower social extremes, Aristotle declared to be the safest.[45]  The majority constituted by it was a majority of the select, if not of the best, at least of those who, as large experience has proved, can be most safely intrusted with political power.  The majority now proposed to be established may form a majority of the lower and sub-middle classes against the middle and upper classes; and there lies the fault.  The first care of a wise Reform Bill at the present crisis, should be not to disfranchise the natural civic aristocracy of the country in favour of the democracy.  It is a law of God which cannot be contravened, that the high should rule the low; and that civil government should not be thrown into the hands of those who, by nature and the unchangeable constitution of things, are least capable of governing.  Do I then mean to treat the working classes as serfs,—to give them no voice in what concerns their own life and liberty, to declare them for ever incapable of social manhood?  Not at all. I do not grudge them representation; I only refuse them domination.  If a Reform Bill must be brought in to 'settle the question,' to allay some real and much imaginary discontent, and to stifle the demagogues (though this will never be possible), let us have a Reform Bill which, instead of crouching to John Bright, and borrowing stale formulas of French liberty-mongers, shall distinctly and decidedly denounce the insufficiency of the democratic principle, and give us some reasonable guarantee for the preservation both of our civic and of our family aristocracy.  Let us show the world that our British brain is capable of containing more than one idea at a time, and that we are not to be clamoured out of our common sense or cheated of our historic memories by the silly admiration of an ambitious theory. Let us give the working classes votes, that is to say, more votes than they have now,—for their actual influence is already considerable; but let us represent other things besides hands and labour.  Every wise politician will agree with Aristotle's doctrine, that it is politic to give as many persons as possible some share in the government of the country, because there are always some persons who will imagine that, being excluded from political influence, they are oppressed, and there will always be another class of persons eager to rise into importance by fanning this feeling into a flame.  It may be true, moreover, that there is a certain virtue of moral and intellectual training in the exercise of the franchise that ought not to be overlooked. Perhaps also, as Dr. Paley said, the discussion of political questions over a mug of beer in a village pot-house may save from worse recreations.  This is a view of the matter, indeed, to which individually I attach little or no weight, because my observation seems to teach me that politics is a trade which, generally speaking, does more to debase than to elevate those who have much to do with it; and I cannot see how entering with keen interest into all the selfish details of political partisanship should contribute anything towards making a man more intelligent, more virtuous, or more happy.  I could point out to the working classes many more rational ways of spending their idle hours than in blowing storms in some civic or ecclesiastical tea-kettle.  But if they will have it otherwise, let it be; only let me have a vote as well as you; let learning be represented as well as labour; do not, while you claim political influence for yourselves, insist on having in it such a way as will virtually disfranchise all other classes of the community, and give us a House of Commons dictated by mere numbers.  In one word, save us from America!

    In accordance with all that has been above argued, the three points to be kept before the eye of the statesman in the preparation of a British Reform Bill for the year 1867 should be—(1.) The securing of an adequate representation to the working classes; (2.) A special representation for the civic, moral, and intellectual aristocracy of the people; (3.) The provision of such a variety of entrances to the House of Commons as shall rescue the country from the danger of a one-sided and one-idea'd assembly of councillors elected under the swamping influence of an impassioned majority.[46]  But before stating specially by what arrangements these objects could be attained, I will take the liberty of quoting a scheme of Sismondi, prepared with a view to a Reform Bill in France, at once popular and aristocratic. This scheme will at least show that the conclusions to which the present discourse has arrived are not peculiar to the writer, but have been reached independently by one of the greatest political thinkers of the age.

    'Certainly, we have not the penetration to propose an electoral law, and if we allow ourselves here to make some calculations, it is only to make it understood how, by adopting the complicated system of the English, instead of the simple but deceptive system of the French, a much greater part of the nation might be associated in the elections, and still that share preserved to the national intelligence which it ought to have.  We will propose, for example, to give two-fifths of the national representation to the democracy, two-fifths to the most enlightened and intelligent part of the nation, who inhabit towns, and there develop material prosperity; a fifth to that part occupied in intellectual interests.  We will lower the census to 100fr in obedience to the present clamour; and giving to 84 departments (Paris not included) two deputies for each department, to be elected in the chief place, we shall have 168 deputies, representing particularly the democracy of the country, perhaps, more probably, the nobility, who will seize on it.  We will add 42 deputies elected by the 21 greater cities in France, in purely democratic assemblies, such as those of Westminster and Preston in England, giving a vote to whoever can read and write.  We would give an equal number of deputies, 210 to the burgesses of towns, requiring for their admission to the freedom a complete education in the secondary schools, and a degree of fortune which places them above manual labour.  We would reserve at least 105 deputies for learned professions, in which all those who had received a superior education and taken degrees, should have the honour of being inscribed, and we would allow these last elections to be made by letters, that they might point out the most eminent persons, not in the provinces only, but in France.  We should thus have a representation of 525 members, to the election of whom a very considerable part of the nation would have contributed, but in which, however, the share of intelligence and real will, would have been preserved.'[47]

    Let us now see how the conditions of the problem might be dealt with, having a due regard to the present political condition of this country.  In the first place, I would start from the last great Reform Bill as an accomplished fact.  It is; therefore let it be.  In the second place, I would provide for the more extended representation of the working classes, either by lowering the present general franchise, as was proposed by the late Whig Government, to £7 or by creating for them a special franchise, analogous to that possessed by the English and Irish Universities.  This might be done by dividing the country into districts, and enacting that all the working classes within each district, who paid certain taxes and a certain low house-rent, should elect their own member, over and above the present representation of counties and burghs.  In the third place, I would balance this democratic force by the creation of a special representation, for what I have called the natural, moral, and intellectual aristocracy of the community; and I would take these just as I find them in publicly recognised corporations, such as the Universities, the Faculty of Advocates and Writers to the Signet, the Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons, the Royal Academy of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, the Royal Society, and suchlike.  The giving of a special suffrage to these bodies would secure the triple advantage of directly representing intelligent minorities, of favouring education indirectly, and of opening a door of entrance to the House of Commons, to gentlemen of culture and intelligence who might not be disposed, in Alexander Hamilton's phrase, to submit 'with unqualified complaisance to every sudden breeze of popular passion.' By such a scheme as this, and in many other ways, a just and reasonable Reform Bill might be passed, which would maintain the balance of the constitution, and not expose us to the shame of following, as a herd of slavish imitators, in the wake of vulgar French and American precedents.  I do not make these suggestions with any crotchety preference.  I should be content with any Bill that in some shape or other would acknowledge the principle of social aristocracy, and make a manly protest against the degrading doctrines of American democracy.  The public is well acquainted with the sentiments of not a few intelligent persons, who have published their thoughts on this subject, with the view of doing something to prevent us steering right into the Maelstrom of democratic unreason.  But whether it be the blind power of precedent, or whether it be laziness, or whether it be that those who should be our leaders are under some fatal necessity of being led, I do not see that public men in this country have ever bestowed on any of these proposals the attention which they deserve.  To turn a reasonable proposal into a laugh is one of the most common artifices of the public oratory which pleases the multitude. The principle, for instance, advocated by Professor Lorimer of this city, and Mr. Macfie of Liverpool, of giving to certain persons a plurality of votes, is in the highest degree just and reasonable;[48] it is only when curiously carried out in certain details that it becomes exposed to the light missiles of those who delight in any superficial semblance of incongruity.  A similar remark may be made on the various proposals which have been brought forward for enfranchising the at present disfranchised minorities.  To none of these has any reasonable objection been made; only the strength of the popular will, already strongly set in for democracy, must prevail, and the incapacity of the popular brain to entertain more than one idea at a time!  From politicians under the influence of such unreasoning forces, of course no reasonable product can be expected.  If the little child will kick and roar and spit out the medicine, and the doctor is not firm, the disease must run its course. But one thing is certain; a Reform Bill in the direction of American democracy, in this country at the present moment, will lead, by an inevitable tendency, to the overthrow of the British Constitution.  Where the ground is slippery and the atmosphere turbid as in politics, great blunders are the most natural thing in the world; but the consequences which follow on a one-eyed policy will not be retarded because the counsels of public men have been amiably hasty, perhaps, and their motives chivalrously pure.  One false step, made in the direction in which we are now moving, never can be retraced. The same complexity of parties, the same compliance with clamour, the same cowardly compromise with absurdity which may lead to the triumph of the present movement, will, in the course of another thirty years, lead to another instalment of American liberty; and then comes, according to Mr. Bright—Paradise, according to New York precedents—Pandemonium. Before a House of Commons nominated by trades'-unions and overawed by fervid demagogues, the constitution of this country would not last a year.  The House of Lords, that wonderful incarnation of all that is stable, graceful, and chivalrous in society, would be voted an encumbrance; the Crown denounced as an expensive toy ; and the Multitude and Mammon—the mechanical forces and the material interests -would enter into the undisputed heirship of the world renowned British Constitution.  May God long preserve us from such a consummation!




Memorial Plaque to Professor John Stuart Blackie, St. Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh

John Stuart Blackie (1809-95) was a Scottish scholar and man of letters.  He was a Radical and Scottish nationalist in politics, of a fearlessly independent type; possessed of great conversational powers and general versatility, his picturesque eccentricity made him one of the characters of the Edinburgh of the day, and a well-known figure as be went about in his plaid, worn shepherd-wise, wearing a broad-brimmed hat, and carrying a big stick.  Thousands turned up to witness his funeral procession.


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