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citizen as impartially as it would if he had be more deeply involved than a rich man the power to interfere ; and the wisdom to with a rouch larger one ; but this is not interfere with effect.
likely to be a common case. There is cer. No man of sense will consider political tainly every reasonable probability that power as an end; but it is surely a means. the small creditor cares comparatively little It is not happiness; but Mr. Alison will for the loss of his twenty shillings, and that scarcely dispute that, properly used, it is a the large creditor will be ruined by the loss powerful instrument for securing happiness of his £10,000. And therefore, if we disWe admit that, like other useful things, it tribute authority among the shareholders in may be desired with reckless eagerness or proportion to each man's pecuniary risk, with pernicious designs; but we say that we shall probably distribute it, in most it is in itself a legitimate object of desire. cases, in proportion to each man's actual We admit that the exclusion of the great chance of enjoyment or suffering. Here body of the community from all share in again the analogy fails. The whole properthe government, is at present, in almost all ty of the lower classes in a commonwealth, European states, a necessary evil. But we is almost invariably staked upon that comsay that it is an evil; and that, if it ever monwealth's existence. An English pea. shall become unnecessary, its continued sant, who possesses nothing but a cottage existence will be a practical as well as a and a garden, would dread the loss of his theoretical injustice.
property by foreign conquest or domestic Mr. Alison's next objection is the abstract anarchy, as much as if he were Duke of injustice of a democracy. Admitting po- Sutherland or Marquis of Westminster. litical power to be a great benefit, he still Lastly, in the disposal of a joint fund, each argues that its extension to the poorer shareholder incurs a pecuniary bazard, and classes is necessarily an unfair and unequal notbing more. In the management of a measure; even though every man, in commonwealth, the personal safety of its whatever rank, were equally capable of citizens is risked. A mechanic, living solely judging on political subjects. His reason by his daily labor, cannot strictly be said to ing on this point is more plausible than on have any property to lose by the ruin of the preceding, but, we think, equally falla- the state ; but he may lose his life, his cious. ' In private life,' he says, 'men are liberty, his means of future subsistence. A never deceived on this subject. In the ad- Reign of Terror, or a French invasion, ministration of any common fund, or the could not deprive him of fortune, but they disposal of common property, it never was might cause him to be murdered, or en. for a moment proposed to give the smallest slaved, or starved in the streets. These shareholder an equal right with the great. are our reasons for thinking that, if no est; to give a creditor holding a claim for other obstacles existed, it would be unjust 20s., for example, on a bankrupt estate, the to deprive the poorer classes of all political same vote as one possessed of a bond for influence; merely on the ground that their £10,000. The injustice of such a proceed interest in the welfare of the state is insuffi. ing is quite apparent.'—(i. 351.) This anal- cient to withhold them from wanton misogy is far from satisfactory. There are government. several circumstances which make the ex- Mr. Alison repeatedly enlarges, with clusion of a citizen from the management great justice, upon the practical evils which of the state a greater hardship, than the ex- have hitherto been found to accompany declusion of a shareholder from the manage-mocratic institutions. But we think that ment of the common fund. In the first he does not sufficiently distinguish between place, the shareholder may withdraw his necessary and accidental disadvantagesstake if he considers it insecurely deposited. between the dangers inseparable from popMr. Alison's twenty-shilling creditor may ular power, and the dangers arising from its sell his dividend at a fair discount, if he abuse. He does not sufficiently consider thinks that the assignees are mismanaging that in no state which has yet existed have the estate. In a commonwealth it is differ the poorer classes been equal, or nearly ent. Every English citizen must share the equal, to the richer in civilization and infate of his country, or become a homeless telligence; and that consequently in no emigrant. Secondly, the amount of a state which has yet existed, could any form shareholder's pecuniary interest in the joint of government, at all approaching to what stock, is generally a tolerably fair represen- can be properly called a democracy, have tation of his moral interest in the prosperity any chance of a fair trial. In ancient of the speculation. It is certainly possible Athens and modern France, that constituthat a poor man, with a small venture, may I tion was adopted by men utterly unfit for
its exercise. The consequences were per- this were the case, no reasonable being fectly natural-in the one case, perpetual I would be found to advocate an agrarian turbulence and speedy decay--in the other, law. It is precisely when the multitude rapine, bloodshed, and anarchy. In the cease to be unthinking-when they become United States of America, the experiment competent to judge of their own real and is now in progress on a far wiser plan, and ultimate interests-that we assert, and Mr. under far more favorable circumstances. Alison denies, the necessity of allowing But even here we admit that Mr. Alison is them a share of political power. justified in regarding the result as more Mr. Alison's first argument for the supe. than doubtful. Popular power, perhaps rior political skill of aristocratic governfrom unavoidable causes, has even here ments appears to us singular, if not incomoutron popular sense and knowledge; and prehensible. Those classes,' he says, 'who the consequences have been seen in fre- from their affluence possess leisure, and quent outbreaks of democratic tyranny, from their station have received the educawhich have created serious alarm for the tion requisite for acquiring extensive insecurity of the state. Upon the whole, the formation, are more likely, in the long run, British constitution, as established in 1688, to acquire and exhibit the powers necessary may perhaps be considered the most demo for beneficial legislation, than those who, cratic form of government ever yet exer- from the necessities of their situation, are cised with continued and undisputed suc. chained to daily toil, and from the limited cess. And therefore the world has yet to extent of their funds have been disabled behold the full effect which would be pro. froin acquiring a thorough education..... duced by the insensible progress of popular No person of a different profession would influence in a nation enlightened, religious, think of competing with a physician in the and confirmed in sober wisdom by centu-treatment of a person afflicted with a danries of advancing freedom and civilization. gerous disease, or with a lawyer in the
Mr. Alison, in his concluding chapter, management of an intricate or difficult law. points out several important advantages suit. . . . . . And it would be surprising inpossessed by the aristocratic over the de- deed if the science of government could be mocratic form of government. They may as successfully pursued by those classes generally be included under two heads : su- whose time is almost wholly absorbed in perior security to private property, and su- other pursuits, as by those who have made perior prudence in public measures. It has it the undivided object and study of their uniformly been found,' says Mr. Alison, life.'-(i. 966.) All this is perfectly true; 'that the holders of property advocate mea- but what conclusion does Mr. Alison draw sures to protect that property, while the from it? What is to prevent a democratic destitute masses are perpetually impelled state from making proper use of the supe. to those likely to induce revolutionary rior intelligence of any class of its citizens ? spoliation.'-(x. 965.) 'Agrarian laws,' he Does Mr. Alison suppose that, if a demo. elsewhere asserts, and the equal division cracy were established in England, the of property, or measures tending indirectly whole nation would assemble on Salisbury to that effect, will in every age be the wish Plain to pass laws and transact business? of the unthinking multitude, who have no- Or does he think that the representative thing apparently to lose, and every thing to assembly and the public offices would be gain, by such convulsions. Their real ulti. filled with laborers and mechanics? Every mate interests, indeed, will in the end inev- state where the supreme power is placed in itably suffer from such changes; but this is the hands of the numerical majority is a dea remote consequence, which never will mocracy; just as every state where it is become obvious to the great body of man- held by an individual is a despotism. The kind.'—(i. 352.) That is assuming the people, like the king, may exercise their question. If the great body of mankind are power by any machinery that may appear really so obtuse as to be incapable, with convenient; they may delegate it to presievery advantage of instruction, of compre- dents, senators, ambassadors, and secreta. hending that a state where the poor uniteries of state ; and they may intrust these to rob the rich will inevitably be ruined, offices to the most deserving persons to be then we acknowledge their natural unfitness found in the community. Why, then, is for political power. But Mr. Alison forgets the science of government likely to be less that in the passage we have quoted he is successfully cultivated in a democratic arguing on the supposition of every man, state? Or why have the statesmen and lein whatever rank, being equally capable of gislators of such a state less encourage. judging on political subjects. Surely, if ment to make that science the object and
study of their lives? History does not of Rousseau and Condorcet, and proceeds of convince us that the fact is so. Faulty as course, with perfect success, to show that popular governments generally are, their such theories have always been disappointfault bas seldom been a want of able and ed; and that they are wholly inconsistent experienced servants. Neither America, with the revealed doctrine of human cornor Athens, nor even revolutionary France, ruption. We perfectly agree in all this. No found reason to complain of the mediocrity Christian, no philosopher, no experienced of their statesmen. Such ministers as Pe- man of the world, can reasonably believe in ricles, Washington, and Carnot, were surely human perfectibility, in the sense in which worthy of the confidence of any aristocratic that term is commonly understood. But government on earth.
I will Mr. Alison allow no schemes of social But, however able might be the rulers of amelioration short of angelic purity ?-no a democratic state, Mr. Alison thinks that popular government except by impeccable their policy would be constantly baffled by beings? Does he confound all hopes of the thoughtless impatience of the supreme human improvement with the dreams of the multitude. “Whoever,” he says, " has enthusiasts who predicted that crime, war, closely observed the dispositions of large disease, and death itself, would shortly yield bodies of men, whether in social or politi, to the advance of science and virtue? We cal life, must have become sensible that the entertain no such visionary ideas; the only most uniform and lasting feature by which means by which we look for improvement, they are distinguished, is that of insensi-are the natural progress of reason and relibility to the future.”-(x. 969.) Undoubt-gion ; and the only result which we expect, edly this is the great defect of all popular is the communication of those qualities to governments. They are machines of pro- the many, which our own observation has digious power; but it is difficult to set them shown us in the few. Mr. Alison tells us in motion with quickness, or to direct them that a good democracy is a dream, because with precision. In persevering policy, in men can never become angels. We reply cautious secrecy, in unwearying vigilance, that we shall be perfectly contented to try a democracy is far inferior to an aristocracy, the experiment, when they all become as an aristocracy is far inferior to a despot- Washingtons and Wilberforces. ism. Nor do we deny that this is in some Surely we shall not be told that this too measure an intrinsic disadvantage, which is an idle vision. If experience, reason, and no degree of national intelligence could revelation deny that man is perfectible, do entirely eradicate. Still Mr. Alison will they not combine to assert that he is imscarcely contend that it is a disadvantage provable-improvable to a degree which which all democracies possess in an equal those who have only known him in his lowdegree. He will allow that the Athenian est state can scarcely imagine ? All we democracy was less infatuated than the venture to hope is, that a certain degree of French; and that the American democracy is this improvement will, in course of time, less thoughtless than the Athenian. He will become general. We do not believe in huallow, in short, that the insensibility to the man perfectibility, because we never saw future of which he speaks, varies inversely or heard of a perfect man. But we are so as the average intellect of the people. If fortunate as to have known many wise and this is the case, the question is, whether good men; many men to whose integrity the great body of mankind are capable of we would cheerfully intrust our dearest insuch a degree of improvement as to dimi- terests. What presumption is there in benish the want of foresight peculiar to popu- lieving that the advance of knowledge and lar governments, until it is more than ba- of Christianity may hereafter multiply their lanced by their peculiar advantages. number? We can conceive that a savage,
Mr. Alison replies decidedly in the nega- whose highest ideas of human excellence tive; but we do not think that he has fairly are drawn from the barbarians of his tribe, stated the point in dispute. He says that might ridicule such a hope. But why an
the doctrine of human perfectibility is so Englishman, who perhaps is aware of the agreeable to the human heart, so flattering actual existence of many excellent men, to buman vanity, and withal so nearly allied should deny the possible existence of thou. to the generous affections, that it will in all sands, is to us incomprehensible. probability, to the end of the world, consti- There is one great difference between tute the basis on wbich all the efforts of aristocratic and democratic constitutions, the popular party will be rested, and all the which Mr. Alison does not appear to notice. visions of social amelioration justified.'— He constantly speaks as if wisdom and fore(x. 938.) He cites as examples the visions sight were as inseparable from aristocracy, as he pronounces rashness and indolence his whole theory upon popular government to be from democracy. Whether he is to the reforms of the last reign in this counright or wrong in the latter opinion, in the try; and most dismal are the forebodings former he is assuredly mistaken. The truth with which it inspires him. We have said appears to be, that a bad democracy dis. that we cannot condemn his devotion to plays great faults and great powers, while his political creed; but we think we have a a bad aristocracy, with faults nearly as right to complain of it as sometimes betraygreat, displays no power at all. The deing him into a tone of arrogant assumption. fects of an aristocracy are intrinsic, but we have been frequently amused, and occaits merits are variable; there are cer- sionally, for a moment, provoked, by the tain faults which it must possess, and cer-cool dogmatical decision with which he tain advantages which it may possess. The finally settles, by a passing remark, the best aristocracy cannot call forth demo- great public controversies of the age, and cratic enthusiasm ; but a bad aristocracy then proceeds to reason upon his own opi. may rival democratic recklessness. The nion as upon an indisputable foundation. aristocracy of Austria was no match for the Thus, he alludes to Catholic Emancipation French republic in its moments of awakened as that loosening of the constitution in energy ; the aristocracy of Venice was as Church and State under which the nation supine as the same republic in its feeblest has so grievously labored,' (viji. 20,)intervals of exhaustion. The reverse of 'that momentous change in our religious this will apply to a democracy. Its merits institutions which first loosened the solid are intrinsic; for the worst democracies, fabric of the British empire,' (viii. 43 ;) such as Athens or revolutionary France, and he pronounces upon the Reform Bill, have surpassed, when aroused by imminent and the abolition of Slavery, in the same danger, the vigor of the best aristocratic peremptory language. If he wonld congovernments. Its defects, on the contrary, descend to overthrow our political tenets are variable. They depend upon the ave- by deliberate argument, we might endeavor rage sense and principle of its citizens. to own his superiority with a good grace ; When that average is low, the anarchy but it is too much for human patience to which cnsues is worse than the severest find them dismissed in a parenthesis, as undespotism ; but when it is raised as high as worthy serious discussion. Mr. Alison must the imperfection of human nature will per- surely be aware, that many of the best and mit, it might enable a popular government wisest of his countrymen approved of the to exert the self-denying vigilance of the changes which we have mentioned, and still wisest aristocracy.
expect them to prove fully successful. Are We have been induced by Mr. Alison's they at once to be condemned, because an undistinguishing abhorrence to say so much overweening and pompous bistorian chooses more than we had intended in favor of de to shake his head, with a compassionate mocratic institutions, that we feel ourselves sneer, at their well-meaning but injudi. compelled to add a few words inexplanation. cious' philanthropy ? Or is Mr. Alison so We are as averse, then, as the most rigid much their superior, that he has a right to Conservative to sudden or violent political assume, on his own authority, that they are changes. It is to avoid the necessity of mistaken, and to draw matter of argument any such change, whether it assume its and rebuke from that assumption ? If the sternest or its mildest form-whether it ap-measures in question were the subject of pear as a Revolution or a Reform Bill- his narrative-if any part of his work were that we think the institutions of every state devoted to their details, and to proof of their should be gradually modified in proportion pernicious tendency-we should not object to the intellectual progress of its subjects. to his delivering his opinion, however we Whether that progress will ever attain such might disapprove the self-sufficiency of his a height, as to make unrestrained self-go-language. But we must protest against bis vernment practicable in any community of practice of interweaving with a history of buman beings, we greatly doubt. Such a past events, what lawyers call obiter dicta change may be an idle, though surely not upon the politics of the day. The writer of an ignoble or unimproving hope. But the such a work as the present ought to imitate principle for which we contend is simply the dignity and self-restraint of a judge on this, that the fitness of the people for the the bench, and carefully to abstain from exercise of political power, is the sole cri. throwing out imputations and assertions terion by which political power can be not strictly warranted by the evidence besafely or justly granted or denied them fore the court.
Mr. Alison, as might be expected, applies We have no intention, as may be suppos.
nobility, in deserting their country in a came the resolation of the French noblesse. body, almost on the first appearance of dan. Everywhere the peasants rose in arms, atger. In a note to this passage, he quotes tacked and burnt the chateaux of the land. the pointedly expressed, but very feeble apo. lords, and massacred or expelled the pos. logy of M. de Chateaubriand, which in effect sessors. The horrors of ihe insurrection amounts to this—that the French aristocracy of the Jacquerie, in the time of Edward III., ought not to be blamed, because the danger were rerived on a greater scale, and with was fearful and imminent, and because no deeper circumstances of atrocity. In their one, living in a peaceful country, can tell blind fury they did not cren spare those whether he himself would have behaved bet. seigneurs who were known to be inclined ter in such an emergency. The answer to to the popular side, or had done the most all this is perfectly obvious. M. de Chateau- to mitigate their sufferings, or support their briand's arguments may induce us to look rights. The most cruel tortures were inupon cowardice and folly as venial faults; Alicted on the victims who fell into their but cannot possibly prove that the French hands.'-(i. 228.) We gladly spare our: nobility were brave or wise men. We per- selves and our readers the revolting details fectly agree with him, that it is the height which follow. Now, what parallel has Mr. of presumption to speak with violent indig. Alison to produce from English history ten pation of persons who, in trying circum- years ago? The fiames of Bristol and Notstances, have failed in wisdom and courage; tingham!' Two isolated riots, occurring at and that no man can decide, without trial, an interval of several years--each confined whether he possesses such qualities him to a single town, and each effectually put sell. This is an excellent reason for par. down and signally punished by the power doning and pitying those who are guilty of of the law. The disturbances of Bristol imprudence or pusillanimity; but none at undoubtedly originated in a political cause ; all for permitting them to deny their guilt; but it is clear that those who were guilty of M. de Chateaubriand's defence is at best the chief excesses committed there, acted merely a plea for mercy, and can never be merely from thirst of plunder. No vindictaken as a ground for acquittal. Our au. tive feeling was displayed by the mob; no thor's reply is very different. He takes M. certain plan, no submission to command, de Chateaubriand at his word, and says- was observable in their excesses,-all was We have been tried, and we have stood the indiscriminate thirst for spoil. The fact is, trial; for the English aristocracy did not that the civil authorities failed to do their fly their country when the Reform Bill duty in repressing the first symptoms of tupassed. For the benefit of the incredulous mult, and a rabble of thieves and desperareader, we hold ourselves bound to quote does seized the opportunity of license and this most astonishing passage entire. “Ad-robbery. But in every large community mitting,' says Mr. Alison, the caustic elo- there are numbers of indigent and depraved quence of these remarks, the British histo- men, who gladly plunder their neighbors rian cannot allow their justice. The exam- whenever they can do so with impunity. ple of the nobility of his own country, in What happened in Bristol would most cer. the disastrous days which succeeded the tainly happen to-morrow in every large city passing of the Reform Bill, has furnished in Europe, if there were reason to suppose him with a decisive refutation of them. that the attempt would not be properly re. The flames of Bristol and Nottingham pressed. But how were the British aristoproved that danger had reached their dwell. cracy peculiarly menaced by a destructive ings as well as those of the French noble- riot in a great commercial town? Had men ; and if they had, in consequence, de- Clumber or Strathfieldsay been burnt to the serted their country and leagued with the ground, instead of half-a-dozen streets in stranger, it is hardly doubtful that similar Bristol, the case would have been somewhat excesses would have laid waste the whole different. It was not by disturbances at fair realm of England. They did not do so; Lyons or Bordeaux that the French noblesse they remained at home, braving every dan. were driven to Coblenz. ger, enduring every insult; and who can We do not know how we can better exover-estimate the influence of such moral pose the injustice of Mr. Alison's comparicourage in mitigating the evils which then son, than by requesting our readers to ima. so evidently threatened their country ?'- gine what their feelings of astonishment (i. 312.) We will fairly compare the cir- would have been, on finding by the papers, cumstances of each case, and for that pur. the day after the Reform Bill passed the pose we will quote from Mr. Alison a few House of Lords, that the Conservative genof the threatening symptoms which over-try of England had emigrated in a body!