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institutions, that all his subjects are equal, and excites admiration and fear by the grandeur, universality, and immobility* of his code.t
Because the nobility having perished, and the state being governed by a civic mercantile plutocracy, the generals as well as the troops are in the main sought from the class of neighbouring petty princes and soldiers of fortune 5, tutelary geniuses, who, entering a state to defend, sometimes remain to govern.
These are some of the reasons that explain the sequence from democracy or plutocracy, or a combination of both, to a centralised despotism. There is probably no one nation in which they all operate together in producing the change ; but the change, I venture to think, has never been produced without the operation of some two or more of them. And as plutocracy and democracy, when in fair conflict together, temper each other and check, in some measure, the faults to which they are separately liable; so when they meet in conflict with aristocracy and a constitutional monarchy, they not only are themselves much purged of their own faults, but they become useful in purging those other elements of theirs; yet the despotism into which they merge combines not the merits but the faults of each. The contest of the social elements is ended. Each is indulged ; but he may not strive, he may not discuss.
And so the sun goes down upon the battle : class against class, element against element, theorist against theorist, all in one undistinguished mass, striving for the prize of valour and of industry—all left in one blank night. The cries and the clangour of the combatants grow fainter, and soon cease to trouble the still darkness; and when the morn breaks, their standards are plucked down, their badges torn from their breasts, and their arms borne by the despot's soldiery. All are like one another, and no one can tell to which faction they had belonged, what hopes they cherished, what principles supported. No more turmoil of tongues, no more clash of steel, no more rough shouldering onward for truth or ambition's sake; all is still, save that I hear a slight clink as each man walks,--the clink of the chain upon his ankle.
* Few things are more destructive of respect for a legislation than constant change of laws, for it betokens feebleness and want of foresight.
† Cf. the advice of Machiavel (The Prince, ch. xxvi.), and the practice of Napoleon.
† Machiavel, Hist. Flor. bk. i. fin. So Xanthippus, the Spartan, was chosen general by the democracy of Carthage, because the Punic generals were totally incapable to conduct an army. Niebuhr, Hist. Rom. iii. 589.
NATIONS GOVERNED BY A DESPOT.
“Quid vanæ sine moribus leges proficient ?”
Does it please you best, reader, to travel through an unequal country, now charming with sudden bursts of beautiful scenery, now wooing to stay by the homely happy air of its green valleys, now harassing you by rugged and dangerous passes, now detaining you almost hopelessly in pestilent morasses, to find yourself on one side of the hill in a garden of Eden, and on the other in a slough of despond; or do you like better to roll along an equal plain where you are neither troubled with difficulties and dangers, nor diverted by the beauty of prospect or romance of adventure ; but where you pass mechanically on with undeviating precision from one equidistant station to another, surrounded with every scientific appliance for travelling, but without change, without incident, without anything to break monotony? If the former, you will have sympathy with the vital principles of aristocracy; if the latter, with those of a centralised despotism.
For the sake of brevity the word despotism is used in these pages as a synonym for a centralised aristocracy governed by the functionary system. If there is an offensive meaning usually attached to the use of the word despot, I beg to disclaim all intention of implying it here. As an Englishman, I would oppose the establishment of a
despotism in my own country ; but it is hardly consistent with the leading positions of this study, for Englishmen to consider themselves at liberty to speak offensively of governments in other countries where the government is suited to the social conditions.
Whoever accustomed to live in a country in an early stage of development places himself in one arrived at that stage when despotism is the natural government, will mark with no measured astonishment the broad distinction between governors and governed. He will see in the former constant activity and interference, he will find a distinct class of men on whom by division of labour the whole function of governing has devolved, and he will observe them devoting to that duty all their life and energy. On the other hand, the governed have resigned every pretence to meddle in the administration of the state, and with their interference in government has departed likewise their social inequality. Comparing them with the populations of self-governed countries, he will be struck with their want of energy and spirit, their self-indulgence, their deadness to higher motives, and their great equality, not merely in rank, but in personal culture, tastes, and sentiments; and he will be astonished to discover amid all this abandonment of liberty and self-action, an intelligence, a refinement, a fertility of mental resource, and a degree of general education far greater than that which is usually found among a population that itself participates in government.
Why this should be so, why attainments and accomplishments greater than those of earlier ages should be the possession of the subjects of despotisms is a question, which leads to, and perhaps may receive some sort of answer from the following reflections.
After the distinction of noble and serf is in the earliest ages established, the tendency of all national
progress to elevate the serf into a citizen, and to lower the noble to the same intermediate rank. Commerce is the means
of forming a citizen-class, which receives continual accessions from the country population, and is ever incroaching upon and lessening the power and prestige of the higher orders ; for the former are classes who practise economy, the latter have more temptations to squander. * In the stage of mingled plutocracy and democracy, the old aristocracy is either entirely abolished or absorbed into the plutocracy, which for our present purpose may be taken to be a class of richer citizens. The citizenclass is then supreme in the state. It uses its supremacy in one of two ways. First, it takes the place of the old noblesse, and exercises over the rude uneducated country people, a sway often more galling than that of the nobles. This is generally the case where the citizen-class has incorporated into itself the old noblesse, who thus, while they give up their ancient prestige and come down to the level of citizens, yet retain their former contempt for the rude cultivators of their farms, and the breach is even widened by the town life adopted by the landlords, who, instead of living among and sympathising with those who cultivate their estates, have no communication with them except that of receiving rents. This was the case in many states of mediæval Italy, and affords, I believe, the true explanation of a phenomenon at first striking, —the great culture and equality of the townspeople in France and Tuscany, and the rude and primitive ignorance of the country peasants.†
The second way in which the citizen-class uses its newly-acquired power in reference to the country people, is to educate and make them in fact citizens. This will be done rather where the country is a manufacturing one, and the powerful citizens have need of a large supply of
* Mills, Political Economy, 3rd ed. i. 22.
† See on the relation between dominant citizens and the surrounding peasants in France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, even in some measure in Spain, Sismondi, Études sur les Constitutions des Peuples libres,