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part resident on their estates, fond of country, athletic sports, and abounding in hospitality and bonhomie, and the peasantry is a fine simple and contented race, making good agriculturists and good soldiers. So, Tuscany on account of its Grand Duke, his priests, and his Austrian' dictators, used to be spoken of in words not chosen from the vocabulary of eulogy ; but recent events have shown that whatever the population of Florence may be, the peasants in the country districts of Tuscany are a healthy, happy, and honest race, who have some liking for at least the name of liberty.
We see, therefore, that despotism may often be the appropriate government for the population of the capital and the large towns, while it is inappropriate to the peasantry of the remote districts. This is different from the condition of China, France, or Prussia, where despotism is appropriate to the rural as well as the civic populations. But even in these countries, at least in the two latter, there are oases little affected by the general social atmosphere of the country, so, that the rash theorist who should delineate a character, and say that it belonged universally to all Frenchmen and to all Prussians, might easily be furnished with a refuting specimen.
“Before we wish eagerly for anything, we should inquire into the happiness of him who possesses it."---ROCHEFOUCAULD.
“ It is with nations as with nature, which, according to a happy expression of Goethe, knows no pause in unceasing movement, development, and production, and has attached a curse to standing still.”—HUMBOLDT.
· And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nations which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them."LEVITICUS, XX. 23.
ONE of those great principles that admits us to the knowledge of the great scheme according to which nations live, is that no measure of time regulates the duration of the stages of their progress. The infancy of one nation may last longer than the whole life of another. Norway has remained substantially unchanged, while first Italy, then Holland, then France, passed through their varied developments. Sparta endured throughout the whole of the Athenian career in effect the same Sparta as in the days when Athens was a rural village without its Piræus. England has remained in its constitutional stage with but slight and unsubstantial changes, while France, starting abreast with England under an aristocratic monarchy, has passed on with unhappy rapidity to despotism.
Long duration is not an attribute of any particular stage, but (speaking in vulgar language) is an accident depending solely on the absence of those causes which naturally bring about a change from any one stage to that which is ordained to succeed it. Therefore, whether a nation which has not arrived at a despotism is stationary or not, is in each case a matter of private history. Stagnation cannot be predicated as the unvarying attribute of any stage of national existence previous to despotism. If it could, national progress would of course cease from that point. But when a nation has in the fulness of time arrived at a despotic functionarism, imposed upon it appropriately because all the required characteristics are present, then what progress is before it ?—None.
The awful drama of providence, as it is read in the history of nations, what is it but a tragedy? To
To the nations in the last act of this tragedy, the term stationary is more complimentary than accurate. They move, but it is the movement of degeneracy and decay, and if they are to outward appearance the same, it is only because despotism is their irrevocable lot.
The “ Decline and Fall” records this phase of history of a nation whose last centuries were invested with a more signal lustre than other nations attain in their acme. The Roman state in the Augustan era had just passed, with a rapidity disproportioned to the duration of its earlier stages, through the stage of mingled democracy and plutocracy. Whatever was left of the patricians had made common cause with the enriched plebeian families, and both were hated with a common hatred by the simpler and poorer citizens, and called by the common name of nobles. * The court in which the splendid Augustus presided was a court of plutocrats. Scarcely a single attribute of the old patrician spirit remained. Simple manners, love of country life, high personal dignity, all the fine attributes of a warrior aristocracy, had passed away, and those who fluttered about in the marble palaces of the Capitol had exchanged the old Roman indepen
* Montesquieu, Grandeur, &c. viii. Niebuhr, Hist. of Rom. iv. 319.
dence of character for a love of pomp, of luxury, of office.
Take away Augustus from the picture, and the Rome of his age might be put forward as the most marked example of a luxurious plutocracy. They abandoned every duty that belongs to landed proprietors; they preferred to have their estates cultivated by slaves rather than freemen, for it was cheaper; they left the wretched beings nothing but a scanty sustenance, and spent the proceeds of this servile labour, and of the tribute they purloined from subject countries, in the vulgar splendour and the magnificent profligacy of the Capitol.
The great men for whom we honour that and the succeeding age are the severest witnesses against them. The troubled minds of Juvenal, Tacitus, Horace, never tired of drawing scornful contrasts between the old Roman aristocracy that lived upon its farms and directed the plough, and the more educated, more refined, but more debauched plutocracy with whom these illustrious men unwillingly consorted. The opinion of Virgil was still more marked, and his end more practical. The Georgies, it is said, were undertaken at the instance of Augustus, to exhort the Roman plutocracy to return to agriculture and a country life.
“Ilanc olim veteres vitam coluere Sabini,
Hanc Remus et frater: sic fortis Etruria crevit,
Scilicet, et rerum facta est pulcherrima Roma.” That wise and patriotic thought of the emperor, elaborated with all the beauty of Virgil's verse, failed miserably in its effect. It is easy to convert a country. loving aristocracy into a town plutocracy, as Richelieu proved ; but I know no instance of the converse process. They who in such an age leave the town for the country are like that Umbritius whom Juvenal, in the most charming of his compositions, accompanies on his road to Cumæ; not members of the gay plutocracy, but the despised citizens, shouldered out of every honour because they are not rich enough to be luxurious, and going to
seek in a country cottage that quiet, that honour in a moderate competence which is denied them in the city.
One of the most interesting episodes in the heavy treatise of Filangieri*, is his project for re-rusticating the plutocracies of Italy. But the political writer was as powerless as the poet. The now impoverished plutocracies of Genoa, of Venice, of Florence, love and practise the duties of a country life as little as they did when Filangieri wrote.
There is a city less wealthy, less powerful, than Augustan Rome, but like it in being the seat of a great empire, and the centre of a system more centralised than any since the Roman empire. There is an imperial Court surrounded by a gay plutocracy that scorns the quiet duties of a country life, and gives itself wholly up to the luxury of the Capitol. That Court itself invites comparison with the empire of Rome. Happy would it be for France, if Napoleon could infuse into his Parisian plutocrats some love of rural scenes, some ambition of country life.
Ever since 1780, agriculture has been at intervals the subject of governmental solicitude in France. At that early date, societies for its encouragement were formed, and prizes distributed ; and so in 1856 Paris was the seat of a great agricultural show, promoted by the Emperor with the most patriotic of intentions. But all the encouragement of the government, strong as the influence of government is in France, has never overcome that distaste for agriculture and country life which came over the French long before the revolution. The noble emigrated to the capital and became a gorgeous plutocrat; the object of the small cultivator's ambition was to get just enough money to abandon the country for the town, and buy a small public office. It is the same now; no one lays out his capital on agriculture who can help doing so, but rather lives in the town, and
* Scienza della Legisl. lib. ii. ch. 15.