The Origins of Contemporary France, Volume 4 (of 6) - The French Revolution, Volume 3 (of 3)
by Hippolyte A. Taine
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Just the opposite in modern society; what was once the rule has now become the exception; the antique system survives only in temporary associations, like that of an army, or in special associations, as in a convent. Gradually, the individual has liberated himself, and century after century, he has extended his domain and the two chains which once bound him fast to the community, have snapped or been lightened.

In the first place, public power has ceased to consist of a militia protecting a cult. In the beginning, through the institution of Christianity, civil society and religious society have become two distinct empires, Christ himself having separated the two jurisdictions;

"Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's."

Additionally, through the rise of Protestantism, the great Church is split into numerous sects which, unable to destroy each other, have been so compelled to live together and the State, even when preferring one of them, has found it necessary to tolerate the others. Finally, through the development of Protestantism, philosophy and the sciences, speculative beliefs have multiplied. There are almost as many faiths now-a-days as there are thinking men, and, as thinking men are becoming daily more numerous, opinions are daily becoming more numerous. So should the State try to impose any one of these on society, this would excite opposition from an infinity of others; hence the wisdom in governing is found, first, in remaining neutral, and, next, in acknowledging that it is not qualified to interfere.

In the second place, war has become less frequent and less destructive because men have not so many motives for waging it, nor the same motives to push it to the same extremes. Formerly, war was the main source of wealth; through victories Man acquired slaves, subjects and tributaries; he turned these to the best account; he leisurely enjoyed their forced labor. Nothing of this kind is seen now-a-days; people no longer think of providing themselves human cattle; they have discovered that, of all animals, these are the most troublesome, the least productive, and the most dangerous. Comforts and security are obtained much more readily through free labor and machinery; the great object no is not to conquer, but to produce and interchange. Every day, man, pressing forward more eagerly in civil careers, is less disposed to put up with any obstacle that interferes with his aims; if he still consents to be a soldier it is not to become an invader, but to provide against invasion. Meanwhile, war has become more scientific and, through the complications of its machinery, more costly; the State can no longer call out and enlist for life every able-bodied man without ruining itself, nor put too many obstacles in the way of the free industry which, through taxation, provides for its expenses; however short-sighted the State may be, it consults civil interests, even in its military interest.—Thus, of the two nets in which it has enveloped all human activity, one is rent asunder and the other has slackened its meshes. There is no longer any reason for making the community omnipotent; the individual need not alienate himself entirely; he may, without inconvenience, reserve to himself a part of himself, and, if now called upon to sign a social contract, you may be sure that he would make this reservation.

II. Changed minds.

Changed minds.—Conscience and its Christian origin.—Honor and its feudal origin.—The individual of to-day refuses to surrender himself entirely.—His motives.—Additional motives in modern democracy.—Character of the elective process and the quality of the representative.

And so have not only outward circumstances changed, but the very human attitudes are now different. In the mind of modern man a feeling, distasteful to the antique pact, has evolved.—Undoubtedly, in extreme cases and under the pressure of brutal necessity I may, momentarily, sign a blank check. But, never, if I understand what I am doing, will I sign away in good faith the complete and permanent abandonment of myself: it would be against conscience and against honor, which two possessions are not to be alienated. My honor and my conscience are not to go out of my keeping; I am their sole guardian and depositary; I would not even entrust them to my father.—Both these terms are recent and express two conceptions unknown to the ancients,[2206] both being of profound import and of infinite reach. Through them, like a bud separated from its stem and taking root apart, the individual has separated himself from the primitive body, clan, family, caste or city in which he has lived indistinguishable and lost in the crowd; he has ceased to be an organ and appendage; he has become a personality.—The first of these concepts is of Christian origin the second of feudal origin; both, following each other and conjoined, measure the enormous distance which separates an antique soul from a modern soul.[2207]

Alone, in the presence of God, the Christian has felt melting, like wax, all the ties binding him to his group; this because he is in front of the Great Judge, and because this infallible judge sees all souls as they are, not confusedly and in masses, but clearly, each by itself. At the bar of His tribunal no one is answerable for another; each answers for himself alone; one is responsible only for one's own acts. But those acts are of infinite consequence, for the soul, redeemed by the blood of a God, is of immeasurable value; hence, according as it has or has not profited by the divine sacrifice, so will the reward or punishment be infinite; at the final judgment, an eternity of torment or bliss opens before it. All other interests vanish alongside of a vision of such vastness. Thenceforth, righteousness is the most serious of all aims, not in the eyes of man, but of God and again, day after day, the soul renews within itself that tragic questioning in which the Judge interrogates and the sinner responds.—Through this dialogue, which has been going on for eighteen centuries, and which is yet to continue, conscience has grown more and more sensitive, and man has conceived the idea of absolute justice. Whether this is vested in an all-powerful master, or whether it is a self-existent truth, like mathematical truths, in no way diminishes its sacredness nor, consequently, from its authority. It commands with a superior voice and its commands must be obeyed, irrespective of cost: there are strict duties to which every man is rigorously bound. No pledge may relieve him of these duties; if not fulfilled because he has given contrary pledges he is no less culpable on this account, and besides, he is culpable for having pledged himself; the pledging of himself to crimes was in itself a crime. His fault thus appears to himself twofold, and the inward prick galls him twice instead of once. Hence, the more sensitive the conscience, the more loath it is to give up; it rejects any promise which may lead to wrong-doing, and refuses to give to give others any right of imposing remorse.

At the same time another sentiment has arisen, not less valuable, but hardier, more energetic, more human and more effective. On his own in his stronghold, the feudal chieftain, at the head of his band, could depend on nobody but himself, for a public force did not then exist. It was necessary that he should protect himself, and, indeed, over-protect himself. Whoever, in the anarchical and military society in which he lived, allowed the slightest encroachment, or left unpunished the slightest approach to insult, was regarded as weak or craven and at once became a prey; one had to be proud-spirited, if not, one risked death. This was not difficult either. Sole proprietor and nearly absolute sovereign, with neither equals or peers on his domain, here he was unique being, superior and incomparable to every one else.[2208] On that subject revolved his long monologue during his hours of gloomy solitude, which soliloquy has lasted for nine centuries.[2209] Thus in his own eyes, his person and all that depends on him are inviolable; rather than tolerate the slightest infringement on his prerogatives he will dare all and sacrifice all.[2210] A sensitive pride (orgueil exalte) is the best of sentinels to protect a right; for, not only does it mount guard over the right to preserve it, but, again, and especially, for its own satisfaction; the imagination has conceived a personality appropriate for his rank, and this character the man imposes on himself as his role. Henceforth, he not only forces the respect of others, but he respects himself; he possesses the sentiment of honor, a generous self-esteem which makes him regard himself as noble and incapable of doing anything mean. In discriminating between his actions, he may err; fashion or vanity may sometimes lead him too far, or lead him astray, either on the path of recklessness or on that of puerility; his point of honor may be fixed in the wrong direction. But, in sum, and thanks to this being a fixed point, he will maintain himself erect even under an absolute monarchy, under a Philip II. in Spain, under a Louis XIV. in France, under a Frederick II. in Prussia. From the feudal baron or gentleman of the court to the modern gentleman, this tradition persists and descends from story to story down to lowest social substratum: to-day, every man of spirit, the bourgeois, the peasant, the workman, has his point of honor like the noble. He likewise, in spite of the social encroachments that gain on him, reserves to himself his private nook, a sort of moral stronghold wherein he preserves his faiths, his opinions, his affections, his obligations as son, husband and father; it is the sacred treasury of his innermost being. This stronghold belongs to him alone; no one, even in the name of the public, has a right to enter it; to surrender it would be cowardice, rather than give up its keys he would die in the breach;[2211] when this militant sentiment of honor is enlisted on the side of conscience it becomes virtue itself.[2212]—Such are, in these days, (1870) the two central themes of our European morality.[2213] Through the former the individual recognizes duties from which nothing can exempt him; through the latter, he claims rights of which nothing can deprive him: our civilization has vegetated from these two roots, and still vegetates. Consider the depth and the extent of the historical soil in which they penetrate, and you may judge of their vigor. Consider the height and unlimited growth of the trees which they nourish, and you may judge of their healthiness. Everywhere else, one or other having failed, in China, in the Roman Empire, in Islam, the sap has dried downward and the tree has become stunted, or has fallen.... It is the modern man, who is neither Chinese, nor antique, nor Moslem, nor Negro, nor savage, the man formed by Christian education and taking refuge in his conscience as in a sanctuary, the man formed by feudal education and entrenched behind his honor as in a fortress, whose sanctuary and stronghold the new social contract bids him surrender.

Now, in this democracy founded on the preponderance of numbers, into whose hands am I required to make this surrender?—Theoretically, to the community, that is to say, to a crowd in which an anonymous impulse is the substitute for individual judgment; in which action becomes impersonal because it is collective; in which nobody acknowledges responsibility; in which I am borne along like a grain of sand in a whirlwind; in which all sorts of outrages are condoned beforehand for reasons of state: practically, to the plurality of voices counted by heads, to a majority which, over-excited by the struggle for mastery, will abuse its victory and wrong the minority to which I may belong; to a provisional majority which, sooner or later, will be replaced by another, so that if I am to-day oppressor I am sure of being oppressed to-morrow; still more particularly, to six or seven hundred representatives, among who I am called upon to choose but one. To elect this unique mandatory I have but one vote among ten thousand; and in helping to elect him I am only the ten-thousandth; I do not even count for a ten-thousandth in electing the others. And it is these six or seven hundred strangers to me to who I give full power to decide for me—note the expression full power—which means unlimited power, not alone over my possessions and life, but, again, over my conscience, with all its powers combined; that is to say, with powers much more extensive than those I confer separately on ten persons in whom I place the most confidence—to my legal adviser who looks after my fortune, to the teacher of my children, to the physician who cares for my health, to the confessor who directs my conscience, to friends who are to serve as executors of my last will and testament, to seconds in a duel who decide on my life, on the was of my blood and who guard my honor. Without reference to the deplorable farce, so often played around the ballot-box, or to the forced and distorted elections which put a contrary interpretation on public sentiment, or to the official lies by which, at this very moment, a few fanatics and madmen, who represent nobody but themselves, assume to represent the nation,[2214] measure what degree of confidence I may have, even after honest elections, in mandatories who are thus chosen! Frequently, I have voted for the defeated candidate; in which case I am represented by the other who I did not want for a representative. In voting for the elected candidate, I did it because I knew of no better one, and because his opponent seemed to me worse. I have only seen him one time out of four and then fleetingly, at odd moment; I scarcely knew more of him than the color of his coat, the tone of his voice, and the way he has of thumping his breast. All I know of him is through his "platform," vague and declamatory, through editorials, and through drawing-room, coffee-house, or street gossip. His title to my confidence is of the flimsiest and shallowest kind; there is nothing to substantiate to me his integrity or competency; he has no diploma, and no one to endorse him as has a private tutor; he has no guarantee from the society to which he belongs, like the physician, the priest or the lawyer. With references as poor as these I should hesitate to recruit him even as a domestic. And all the more because the class from which I am obliged to take him is almost always that of politicians, a suspicious class, especially in countries in which universal suffrage prevails. This class is not recruited among the most independent, the ablest, and the most honest, but among voluble, scheming men, zealous charlatans, who for want of perseverance, having failed in private careers, in situations where one is watched too closely and too nicely weighed in the balance, have selected roles in which the want of scrupulousness and discretion is a force instead of a weakness; to their indelicacy and impudence the doors of a public career stand wide open.—Such is the august personage into whose hands, according to the theory, I am called upon to surrender my will, my will in full; certainly, if self-renunciation were necessary, I should risk less in giving myself up to a king or to an aristocracy, even hereditary; for then would my representatives be at least recommended by their evident rank and their probable competency.—Democracy, in its nature and composition, is a system in which the individual awards to his representatives the least trust and deference; hence, it is the system in which he should entrust them with the least power. Conscience and honor everywhere enjoin a man to retain for himself some portion of his independence; but nowhere is there so little be ceded. If a modern constitution ought to clearly define and limit the domain of the State, it is in respect of contemporary democracy that it ought to be the most restrictive.

III. Origin and nature of the modern State.

Origin and nature of the modern State.—Its functions, rights and limits.

Let us try to define these limits.—After the turmoil of invasions and conquest, at the height of social disintegration, amidst the combats daily occurring between private parties, there arose in every European community a public force, which force, lasting for centuries, still persists to our day. How it was organized, through what early stages of violence it passed, through what accidents and struggles, and into whose hands it is now entrusted, whether temporarily or forever, whatever the laws of its transmission, whether by inheritance or election, is of secondary importance; the main thing is its functions and their mode of operation. It is essentially a mighty sword, drawn from its scabbard and uplifted over the smaller blades around it, with which private individuals once cut each others' throats. Menaced by it, the smaller blades repose in their scabbards; they have become inert, useless, and, finally rusty; with few exceptions, everybody save malefactors, has now lost both the habit and the desire to use them, so that, henceforth, in this pacified society, the public sword is so formidable that all private resistance vanishes the moment it flashes.—This sword is forged out of two interests: it was necessary to have one of its magnitude, first, against similar blades brandished by other communities on the frontier, and next, against the smaller blades which bad passions are always sharpening in the interior. People demanded protection against outside enemies and inside ruffians and murderers, and, slowly and painfully, after much groping and much re-tempering, the agreement between hereditary forces has fashioned the sole arm which is capable of protecting lives and property with any degree of success.—So long as it does no more I am indebted to the State which holds the hilt: it gives me a security which, without it, I could not have enjoyed. In return for this security I owe it, for my quota, the means for keeping this weapon in good condition: he who enjoys a service is under an obligation to pay for it. Accordingly, there is between the State and myself, if not an express contract, at least a tacit understanding equivalent to that which binds a child to its parent, a believer to his church, and, on both sides, this mutual understanding is clear and precise. The state engages to look after my security within and without; I engage to furnish the means for so doing, which means consist of my respect and gratitude, my zeal as a citizen, my services as a conscript, my contributions as a tax-payer, in short, whatever is necessary for the maintenance of an army, a navy, a diplomatic organization, civil and criminal courts, a militia and police, central and local administrations, in short, a harmonious set of organs of which my obedience and loyalty constitute the food, the substance and the blood. This loyalty and obedience, whatever I am, whether rich or poor, Catholic, Protestant, Jew or free-thinker, royalist or republican, individualist or socialist, upon my honor and in my conscience I owe. This because I have received the equivalent; I am delighted that I am not vanquished, assassinated, or robbed. I reimburse the State, exactly but not more that which it has spent on equipment and personnel for keeping down brutal cupidity, greedy appetites, deadly fanaticism, the entire howling pack of passions and desires of which, sooner or later, I might become the prey, were it not constantly to extend over me its vigilant protection. When it demands its outlay of me it is not my property which it takes away, but its own property, which it collects and, in this light, it may legitimately force me to pay.—On condition, however, that it does not exact more than my liabilities, and this it does when it oversteps its original engagements;

1. when it undertakes some extra material or moral work that I do not ask for;

2. when it constitutes itself sectarian, moralist, philanthropist, or pedagogue;

3. when it strives to propagate within its borders, or outside of them, any religious or philosophic dogma, or any special political or social system.

For then, it adds a new article to the primitive pact, for which article there is not the same unanimous and assured assent that existed for the pact. We are all willing to be secured against violence and fraud; outside of this, and on almost any other point, there are divergent wills. I have my own religion, my own opinions, my habits, my customs, my peculiar views of life and way of regarding the universe; now, this is just what constitutes my personality, what honor and conscience forbid me to alienate, and which the State has promised me to protect. Consequently, when, through its additional article, it attempts to regulate these in a certain way, if that way is not my way, it fails to fulfill its primordial engagement and, instead of protecting me, it oppresses me. Even if it should have the support of a majority, even if all voters, less one, should agree to entrusting it with this supererogatory function, were there only one dissenter, he would be wronged, and in two ways.—

First of all, and in any event, the State, to fulfill its new tasks, exacts from him an extra amount of subsidy and service; for, every supplementary work brings along with it supplementary expenses; the budget is overburdened when the State takes upon itself the procuring of work for laborers or employment for artists, the maintenance of any particular industrial or commercial enterprise, the giving of alms, and the furnishing of education. To an expenditure of money add an expenditure of lives, should it enter upon a war of generosity or of propaganda. Now, to all these expenditures that it does not approve of, the minority contributes as well as the majority which does approve of them; so much the worse for the conscript and the tax-payer if they belong to the dissatisfied group. Like it or not, the collector puts his hand in the tax-payer's pocket, and the sergeant lays his hand on the conscript's collar.—

In the second place, and in many circumstances, not only does the State unjustly take more than its due, but it uses the money it has extorted from me to apply unjustly new constraints against me. Such is the case,

* when it imposes on me its theology or philosophy;

* when it prescribes for me, or interdicts, a cult;

* when it assumes to regulate my ways and habits,

* when it assumes to limit my labor or expenditure,

* when it assumes to direct the education of my children,

* when it assumes to fix the prices of my wares or the rate of my wages.

For then, to enforce its commands and prohibitions, it enacts light or serious penalties against the recalcitrant, all the way from political or civil incapacity to fines, imprisonment, exile and the guillotine. In other words, the money I do not owe it, and of which it robs me, pays for the persecution which it inflicts upon me; I am reduced to paying out of my own purse the wages of my inquisitors, my jailer and my executioner. A more glaring oppression could not be imagined!—Let us watch out for the encroachments of the State and not allow it to become anything more than a watch-dog. Whilst the teeth and nails of other guests in the household have been losing their sharpness, its fangs have become formidable; it is now colossal and it alone still keeps up the practice of fighting. Let us supply it with nourishment against wolves; but never let it touch peaceable folks around the table. Appetite grows by eating; it would soon become a wolf itself, and the most ravenous wolf inside the fold. The important thing is to keep a chain around its neck and confine it within its own enclosure.

IV. The state is tempted to encroach.

The state is tempted to encroach.—Precedents and reasons for its pretensions.

Let us go around the fold, which is an extensive one, and, through its extensions, reach into almost every nook of private life.—Each private domain, indeed, physical or moral, offers temptations for its neighbors to trespass on it, and, to keep this intact, demands the superior intervention of a third party. To acquire, to possess, to sell, to give, to bequeath, to contract between husband and wife, father, mother or child, between master or domestic, employer or employee, each act and each situation, involves rights limited by contiguous and adverse rights, and it is the State which sets up the boundary between them. Not that it creates this boundary; but, that this may be recognized, it draws the line and therefore enacts civil laws which it applies through its courts and gendarmes in such a way as to secure to each individual what belongs to him. The State stands, accordingly, as regulator and controller, not alone of private possessions, but also of the family and of domestic life; its authority is thus legitimately introduced into that reserved circle in which the individual will has entrenched itself, and, as is the habit of all great powers, once the circle is invaded, its tendency is to occupy it fully and entirely.—To this end, it invokes a new principle. Constituted as a moral personality, the same as a church, university, or charitable or scientific body, is not the State bound, like every corporate body that is to last for ages, to extend its vision far and near and prefer to private interests, which are only life-interests, the common interest (l'interet commun) which is eternal? Is not this the superior end to which all others should be subordinated, and must this interest, which is supreme over all, be sacrificed to two troublesome instincts which are often unreasonable and sometimes dangerous; to conscience, which overflows in mystic madness, and to honor, which may lead to strife even to murderous duels?—Certainly not, and first of all when, in its grandest works, the State, as legislator, regulates marriages, inheritances, and testaments, then it is not respect for the will of individuals which solely guides it; it does not content itself with obliging everybody to pay his debts, including even those which are tacit, involuntary and innate; it takes into account the public interest; it calculates remote probabilities, future contingencies, all results singly and collectively. Manifestly, in allowing or forbidding divorce, in extending or restricting what a man may dispose of by testament, in favoring or interdicting substitutions, it is chiefly in view of some political, economical or social advantage, either to refine or consolidate the union of the sexes, to implant in the family habits of discipline or sentiments of affection, to excite in children an initiatory spirit, or one of concord, to prepare for the nation a staff of natural chieftains, or an army of small proprietors, and always authorized by the universal assent. Moreover, and always with this universal assent, it does other things outside the task originally assigned to it, and nobody finds that it usurps when,

* it coins money,

* it regulates weights and measures,

* it establishes quarantines,

* on condition of an indemnity, it expropriates private property for public utility,

* it builds lighthouses, harbors, dikes, canals, roads,

* it defrays the cost of scientific expeditions,

* it founds museums and public libraries;

* at times, toleration is shown for its support of universities, schools, churches, and theaters, and, to justify fresh drafts on private purses for such objects, no reason is assigned for it but the common interest. (l'interet commun)—Why should it not, in like manner, take upon itself every enterprise for the benefit of all? Why should it hesitate in commanding the execution of every work advantageous to the community, and why abstain from forbidding every harmful work? Now please note that in human society every act or omission, even the most concealed or private, is either a loss or a gain to society. So if I neglect to take care of my property or of my health, of my intellect or of my soul, I undermine or weaken in my person a member of the community which can only be rich, healthy and strong through the wealth, health and strength of his fellow members, so that, from this point of view, my private actions are all public benefits or public injuries. Why then, from this point of view, should the State scruple about prescribing some of these to me and forbidding others? Why, in order to better exercise this right, and better fulfill this obligation, should it not constitute itself the universal contractor for labor, and the universal distributor of productions? Why should it not become the sole agriculturist, manufacturer and merchant, the unique proprietor and administrator of all France?—Precisely because this would be opposed to the common weal (l'interet de tous, the interest of everyone)[2215]. Here the second principle, that advanced against individual independence, operates inversely, and, instead of being an adversary, it becomes a champion. Far from setting the State free, it puts another chain around its neck, and thus strengthens the fence within which modern conscience and modern honor have confined the public guardian.

V. Direct common interest.

Direct common interest.—This consists in the absence of constraint.—Two reasons in favor of freedom of action.— Character, in general, of the individual man.—Modern complication.

In what, indeed, does the common weal (l'interet de tous, the interest of everyone) consist?—In the interest of each person, while that which interests each person is the things of which the possession is agreeable and deprivation painful. The whole world would in vain gainsay this point; every sensation is personal. My suffering and my enjoyments are not to be contested any more than my inclination for objects which procure me the one, and my dislike of objects which procure me the other. There is, therefore, no arbitrary definition of each one's particular interest; this exists as a fact independently of the legislator; all that remains is to show what this interest is, and what each individual prefers. Preferences vary according to race, time, place and circumstance. Among the possessions which are ever desirable and the privation of which is ever dreaded, there is one, however, which, directly desired, and for itself, becomes, through the progress of civilization, more and more cherished, and of which the privation becomes, through the progress of civilization, more and more grievous. That is the disposition of one's self, the full ownership of one's body and property, the faculty of thinking, believing and worshipping as one pleases, of associating with others, of acting separately or along with others, in all senses and without hindrance; in short, one's liberty. That this liberty may as extensive as possible is, in all times, one of man's great needs, and, in our days, it is his greatest need. There are two reasons for this, one natural and the other historical.—

By nature Man is an individual, that is to say a small distinct world in himself, a center apart in an enclosed circle, a detached organism complete in itself and which suffers when his spontaneous inclinations are frustrated by the intervention of an outside force.

The passage of time has made him a complicated organism, upon which three or four religions, five or six civilizations, thirty centuries of rich culture have left their imprint; in which its acquisitions are combined together, wherein inherited qualities are crossbred, wherein special traits have accumulated in such a way as to produce the most original and the most sensitive of beings. As civilization increases, so does his complexity: with the result that man's originality strengthens and his sensitivity become keener; from which it follows that the more civilized he becomes, the greater his repugnance to constraint and uniformity.

At the present day, (1880), each of us is the terminal and peculiar product of a vast elaboration of which the diverse stages occur in this order but once, a plant unique of its species, a solitary individual of superior and finer essence which, with its own inward structure and its own inalienable type, can bear no other than its own characteristic fruit. Nothing could be more adverse to the interest of the oak than to be tortured into bearing the apples of the apple tree; nothing could be more adverse to the interests of the apple tree than to be tortured into bearing acorns; nothing could be more opposed to the interests of both oak and apple tree, also of other trees, than to be pruned, shaped and twisted so as all to grow after a forced model, delineated on paper according to the rigid and limited imagination of a surveyor. The least possible constraint is, therefore, everybody's chief interest; if one particular restrictive agency is established, it is that every one may be preserved by if from other more powerful constraints, especially those which the foreigner and evil-doer would impose. Up to that point, and not further, its intervention is beneficial; beyond that point, it becomes one of the evils it is intended to forestall. Such then, if the common weal is to be looked after, the sole office of the State is,

1. to prevent constraint and, therefore, never to use it except to prevent worse constraints;

2. to secure respect for each individual in his own physical and moral domain; never to encroach on this except for that purpose and then to withdraw immediately;

3. to abstain from all indiscreet meddling, and yet more, as far as is practicable, without any sacrifice of public security;

4. to reduce old assessments, to exact only a minimum of subsidies and services;

5. to gradually limit even useful action;

6. to set itself as few tasks as possible;

7. to let each one have all the room possible and the maximum of initiative;

8. to slowly abandon monopolies;

9. to refrain from competition with private parties;

10. to rid itself of functions which these private parties can fulfill equally well—and we see that the limits assigned to the State by the public interest (l'interet commun) correspond to those stipulated by duty and justice.

VI. Indirect common interest.

Indirect common interest.—This consists in the most economical and most productive employment of spontaneous forces.—Difference between voluntary labor and forced labor.—Sources of man's spontaneous action. Conditions of their energy, work and products.—Motives for leaving them under personal control.—Extent of the private domain. —Individuals might voluntarily extend it.—What is left becomes the domain of the State.—Obligatory functions of the State.—Optional functions of the State.

Let us now take into consideration, no longer the direct, but the indirect interest of all. Instead of considering individuals let us concern ourselves with their works. Let us regard human society as a material and spiritual workshop, whose perfection consists in making it as productive, economical, and as well furnished and managed as possible. Even with this secondary and subordinate aim, the domain of the State is scarcely to be less restricted: very few new functions are to be attributed to it; nearly all the rest will be better fulfilled by independent persons, or by natural or voluntary associations.—

Let us consider the man who works for his own benefit, the farmer, the manufacturer, the merchant, and observe how attentive he is to his business. This is because his interest and pride are involved. One side his welfare and that of those around him is at stake, his capital, his reputation, his social position and advancement; on the other side, are poverty, ruin, social degradation, dependence, bankruptcy and the alms-house. In the presence of this alternative he keeps close watch and becomes industrious; he thinks of his business even when abed or at his meals; he studies it, not from a distance, speculatively, in a general way, but on the spot, practically, in detail, in all its bearings and relationships, constantly calculating difficulties and resources, with such sharp insight and special information that for any other person to try to solve the daily problem which he solves, would be impossible, because nobody could possess or estimate as he can the precise elements which constitute it.—Compare with this unique devotion and these peculiar qualifications the ordinary capacity and listless regularity of a senior public official, even when expert and honest. He is sure of his salary, provided he does his duty tolerably well, and this he does when he is occupied during official hours. Let his papers be correct, in conformity with regulations and custom, and nothing more is asked of him; he need not tax his brain beyond that. If he conceives any economical measure, or any improvement of his branch of the service, not he, but the public, an anonymous and vague impersonality, reaps all the benefit of it. Moreover, why should he care about it, since his project or reform might end up in the archives. The machine is too vast and complicated, too unwieldy, too clumsy, with its rusty wheels, its "old customs and acquired rights," to be renewed and rebuilt as one might a farm, a warehouse or a foundry. Accordingly, he has no idea of troubling himself further in the matter; on leaving his office he dismisses it from his mind; he lets things go on automatically, just as it happens, in a costly way and with indifferent results. Even in a country of as much probity as France, it is calculated that every enterprise managed by the State costs one quarter more, and brings in one quarter less, than when entrusted to private hands. Consequently if work were withheld from individuals in order that the State might undertake it the community, when the accounts came to be balanced, would suffer a loss of one-half.[2216]

Now, this is true of all work, whether spiritual or material not only of agricultural, industrial and commercial products, but, again, of works of science and of art, of literature and philosophy, of charity, of education and propaganda. Not only when driven by egoism, such as personal interest and vulgar vanity, but also when a disinterested sentiment is involved, such the discovery of truth, the creation of beauty, the propagation of a faith, the diffusion of convictions, religious enthusiasm or natural generosity, love in a broad or a narrow sense, spanning from one who embraces all humanity to one who devotes himself wholly to his friends and kindred. The effect is the same in both cases, because the cause is the same. Always, in the shop directed by the free workman, the motivating force is enormous, almost infinite, because it is a living spring which flows at all hours and is inexhaustible. The mother thinks constantly of her child, the savant of his science, the artist of his art, the inventor of his inventions, the philanthropist of his endowments, Faraday of electricity, Stephenson of his locomotive, Pasteur of his microbes, De Lesseps of his isthmus, sisters of charity of their poor. Through this peculiar concentration of thought, man derives every possible advantage from human faculties and surroundings; he himself gets to be a more and more perfect instrument, and, moreover, he fashions others: with this he daily reduces the friction of the powerful machine which he controls and of which he is the main wheel; he increases its yield ; he economizes, maintains, repairs and improves it with a capability and success that nobody questions; in short, he fabricates in a superior way.—But this living source, to which the superiority of the works is due, cannot be separated from the owner and chief, for it issues from his own affections and deepest sentiments. It is useless without him; out of his hands, in the hands of strangers, the fountain ceases to flow and production stops.—If, consequently, a good and large yield is required, he alone must have charge of the mill; he is the resident owner of it, the one who sets it in motion, the born engineer, installed and specially designed for that position. In vain may attempts be made to turn the stream elsewhere; there simply ensues a stoppage of the natural issue, a dam barring useful canals, a haphazard change of current not only without gain, but loss, the stream subsiding in swamps or undermining the steep banks of a ravine. At the utmost, the millions of buckets of water, forcibly taken from private reservoirs, half fill with a good deal of trouble the great central artificial basin in which the water, low and stagnant, is never sufficient in quantity or force to move the huge public wheel that replaces the small private wheels, doing the nation's work.

Thus, even when we only consider men as manufactures, even if we treat them simply as producers of what is valuable and serviceable, with no other object in view than to furnish society with supplies and to benefit the consumers, even though the private domain includes all enterprises undertaken by private individuals, either singly or associated together, through personal interests or personal taste, then this is enough to ensure that all is managed better than the State could have done; it is by virtue of this that they have devolved into their hands. Consequently, in the vast field of labor, they themselves decide on what they will undertake; they themselves, of their own authority, set their own limits. They may therefore enlarge their own domain to any extent they please, and reduce indefinitely the domain of the State. On the contrary, the State cannot pretend to more than what they leave; as they advance on their common territory separated by vague frontiers, it is bound to recede and leave the ground to them; whatever the task is, it should not perform it except in case of their default, or their prolonged absence, or on proof of their having abandoned it.

All the rest, therefore falls to the State; first, the offices which they would never claim, and which they will deliberately leave in its hands, because they do not have that indispensable instrument, called armed force. This force forces assures the protection of the community against foreign communities, the protection of individuals against one another, the levying of soldiers, the imposition of taxes, the execution of the laws, the administration of justice and of the police.—Next to this, come matters of which the accomplishment concerns everybody without directly interesting any one in particular—the government of unoccupied territory, the administration of rivers, coasts, forests and public highways, the task of governing subject countries, the framing of laws, the coinage of money, the conferring of a civil status, the negotiating in the name of the community with local and special corporations, departments, communes, banks, institutions, churches, and universities.—Add to these, according to circumstances, sundry optional co-operative services,[2217] such as subsidies granted to institutions of great public utility, for which private contributions could not suffice, now in the shape of concessions to corporations for which equivalent obligations are exacted, and, again, in those hygienic precautions which individuals fail to take through indifference; so occasionally, such provisional aid as supports a man, or so stimulates him as to enable him some day or other to support himself; and, in general, those discreet and scarcely perceptible interpositions for the time being which prove so advantageous in the future, like a far-reaching code and other consistent regulations which, mindful of the liberty of the existing individual, provide for the welfare of coming generations. Nothing beyond that.

Again, in this preparation for future welfare the same principle still holds.

VII. Fabrication of social instruments.

Fabrication of social instruments.—Application of this principle.—How all kinds of useful laborers are formed.— Respect for spontaneous sources, the essential and adequate condition.—Obligation of the State to respect these.—They dry up when it monopolizes them.—The aim of patriotism.— The aim of other liberal dispositions.—Impoverishment of all the productive faculties.—Destructive effect of the Jacobin system.

Among the precious products, the most precious and important are, evidently, the animated instruments, namely the men, since they produce the rest. The object then, is to fashion men capable of physical, mental or moral labor, the most energetic, the most persistent, the most skillful and most productive; now, we already know the conditions of their formation. It is essential and sufficient, that the vivacious sources, described above, should flow there, on the spot, each through its natural outlet, and under the control of the owner. On this condition the jet becomes more vigorous, for the acquired impetus increases the original outflow; the producer becomes more and more skillful, since 'practice makes perfect.' Those around him likewise become better workmen, inasmuch as they find encouragement in his success and avail themselves of his discoveries.—Thus, simply because the State respects, and enforces respect, for these individual sources in private hands, it develops in individuals, as well as in those around them, the will and the talent for producing much and well, the faculty for, and desire to, keep on producing more and better; in other words, all sorts of energies and capacities, each of its own kind and in its own place, with all compatible fullness and efficiency. Such is the office, and the sole office, of the State, first in relation to the turbid and frigid springs issuing from selfishness and self-conceit, whose operations demand its oversight, and next for still stronger reasons, in relation to the warm and pure springs whose beneficence is unalloyed, as in the family affections and private friendships; again, in relation to those rarer and higher springs, such as the love of beauty, the yearning for truth, the spirit of association, patriotism and love of mankind; and, finally, for still stronger reasons, in relation to the two most sacred and salutary of all springs, conscience which renders will subject to duty, and honor which makes will the support of justice. Let the State prevent, as well as abstain from, any interference with either; let this be its object and nothing more; its abstention is as necessary as its vigilance. Let it guard both, and it will see everywhere growing spontaneously, hourly, each in degree according to conditions of time and place, the most diligent and most competent workmen, the agriculturist, the manufacturer, the merchant, the savant, the artist, the inventor, the propagandist, the husband and wife, the father and mother, the patriot, the philanthropist and the sister of charity.

On the contrary, if, like our Jacobins, the State seeks to confiscate every natural force to its own profit, it seeks to make affection for itself paramount, if it strives to suppress all other passions and interests, if it tolerates no other preoccupation than that which concerns the common weal, if it tries to forcibly convert every member of society into a Spartan or Jesuit, then, at enormous cost, will it not only destroy private fountains, and spread devastation over the entire territory, but it will destroy its own fountain-head. We honor the State only for the services it renders to us, and proportionately to these services and the security it affords us, and to the liberty which it ensures us under the title of universal benefactor; when it deliberately wounds us through our dearest interests and most tender affections, when it goes so far as to attack our honor and conscience, when it becomes the universal wrong-doer, our affection for it, in the course of time, turns into hatred. Let this system be maintained, and patriotism, exhausted, dries up, and, one by one, all other beneficent springs, until, finally, nothing is visible over the whole country, but stagnant pools or overwhelming torrents, inhabited by passive subjects or depredators. As in the Roman empire in the fourth century, in Italy in the seventeenth century, in the Turkish provinces in our own day, naught remains but an ill-conducted herd of stunted, torpid creatures, limited to their daily wants and animal instincts, indifferent to the public welfare and to their own prospective interests, so degenerate as to have lost sight of their own discoveries, unlearned their own sciences, arts and industries, and, in short, and worse than all, base, false, corrupted souls entirely wanting in honor and conscience. Nothing is more destructive than the unrestricted meddling of the State, even when wise and paternal; in Paraguay, under the discipline of Jesuits, so minute in its details, "Indian physiognomy appeared like that of animals taken in a trap." They worked, ate, drank and gave birth by sound of bells, under watch and ward, correctly and mechanically, but showing no liking for anything, not even for their own existence, being transformed into so may automatons; at least it may be said is that the means employed to produce this result were gentle and that they, before their transformation were mere brutes. But those who the revolutionary-Jesuit now undertakes to transform into robots, and by harsh means, are human beings.

VIII. Comparison between despotisms.

Comparison between despotisms.—Philip II and Louis XIV.— Cromwell and Frederick the Great.—Peter the Great and the Sultans.—Relationship between the tasks the Jacobins are to carry out and the assets at their disposal.—Disproportion between the burdens they are to carry and the forces at their disposal.—Folly of their undertaking.—Physical force the only governmental force they possess.—They are compelled to exercise it.—They are compelled to abuse it.— Character of their government.—Character requisite of their leaders.

Several times, in European history, despotism almost equally harsh have born down heavily on human effort; but never have any of them been so thoroughly inept; for none have ever attempted to raise so heavy a mass with so short a lever. And to start with, no matter how authoritative the despot might have been, his intervention was limited.—Philip II. burned heretics, persecuted Moors and drove out Jews; Louis XIV. forcibly converted the Protestants; but both used violence only against dissenters, about a fifteenth or a twentieth of their subjects. If Cromwell, on becoming Protector, remained sectarian, and the compulsory servant of an army of sectarians, he took good care not to impose on other churches the theology, rites and discipline of his own church;[2218] on the contrary, he repressed fanatical outrages; protected the Anabaptists as well as his Independents. He granted paid curates to the Presbyterians as well as the public exercise of their worship, he showed the Episcopalians a large tolerance and gave them the right to worship in private; he maintained the two great Anglican universities and allowed the Jews to erect a synagogue.—Frederick II. drafted into his army every able-bodied peasant that he could feed; he kept every man twenty years in the service, under a discipline worse than slavery, with almost certain prospect of death; and in his last war, he sacrificed about one sixth of his male subjects;[2219] but they were serfs, and his conscription did not touch the bourgeois class. He put his hands in the pockets of the bourgeois and of every other man, and took every crown they had; when driven to it, he adulterated coin and stopped paying his functionaries; but, under the scrutiny of his eyes, always open, the administration was honest, the police effective, justice exact, toleration unlimited, and the freedom of the press complete; the king allowed the publication of the most cutting pamphlets against himself, and their public sale, even at Berlin.—A little earlier, in the great empire of the east, Peter the Great,[2220] with whip in hand, lashed his Muscovite bears and made them drill and dance in European fashion; but were bears accustomed from father to son to the whip and chain; moreover, he stood as the orthodox head of their faith, and left their mir (the village commune) untouched.—Finally, at the other extremity of Europe, and even outside of Europe, in the seventh century the caliph, in the fifteenth century a sultan, a Mahomet or an Omar, a fanatical Arab or brutal Turk, who had just overcome Christians with the sword, himself assigned the limits of his own absolutism: if the vanquished were reduced to the condition of heavily ransomed tributaries and of inferiors daily humiliated, he allowed them their worship, civil laws and domestic usages; he left them their institutions, their convents and their schools; he allowed them to administer the affairs of their own community as they pleased under the jurisdiction of their patriarch, or other natural chieftains.—Thus whatever the tyrant may have been, he did not attempt to entirely recast Man, nor to subject all his subjects to the recasting. However penetrating the tyranny, it stopped in the soul at a certain point; that point reached, the sentiments were left free. No matter how comprehensive this tyranny may have been, it affected only one class of men; the others, outside the net, remained free. When it wounded all at once all sensitive chords, it did so only to a limited minority, unable to defend themselves. As far as the majority, able to protect itself, their main sensibilities were respected, especially the most sensitive, this one or that one, as the case might be, now the conscience which binds man to his religion, now that amour-propre on which honor depends, and now the habits which make man cling to customs, hereditary usages and outward observances. As far as the others were concerned, those which relate to property, personal welfare, and social position, it proceeded cautiously and with moderation. In this way the discretion of the ruler lessened the resistance of the subject, and a daring enterprise, even mischievous, was not outrageous; it might be carried out; nothing was required but a force in hand equal to the resistance it provoked.

Again, and on the other hand, the tyrant possessed this force. Very many and very strong arms stood behind the prince ready to cooperate with him and countervail any resistance.—Behind Philip II. or Louis XIV. ready to drive the dissidents out or at least to consent to their oppression, stood the Catholic majority, as fanatical or as illiberal as their king. Behind Philip II., Louis XIV., Frederick II., and Peter the Great, stood the entire nation, equally violent, rallied around the sovereign through his consecrated title and uncontested right, through tradition and custom, through a rigid sentiment of duty and the vague idea of public security.—Peter the Great counted among his auxiliaries every eminent and cultivated man in the country; Cromwell had his disciplined and twenty-times victorious army; the caliph or sultan brought along with him his military and privileged population.—Aided by cohorts of this stamp, it was easy to raise a heavy mass, and even maintain it in a fixed position. Once the operation was concluded there followed a sort of equilibrium; the mass, kept in the air by a permanent counterbalance, only required a little daily effort to prevent it from falling.

It is just the opposite with the Jacobin enterprise. When it is put into operation, the theory, more exacting, adds an extra weight to the uplifted mass, and, finally, a burden of almost infinite weight.—At first, the Jacobin confined his attacks to royalty, to nobility, to the Church, to parliaments, to privileges, to ecclesiastical and feudal possessions, in short, to medieval foundations. Then he attacks yet more ancient and more solid foundations, positive religion, property and the family.—For four years he has been satisfied with demolition and now he wants to construct. His object is not merely to do away with a positive faith and suppress social inequality, to proscribe revealed dogmas, hereditary beliefs, an established cult, the supremacy of rank and superiority of fortunes, wealth, leisure, refinement and elegance, but he wants, in addition to all this, to re-fashion the citizen. He wants to create new sentiments, impose natural religion on the individual, civic education, uniform ways and habits, Jacobin conduct, Spartan virtue; in short, nothing is to be left in a human being that is not prescribed, enforced and constrained.—Henceforth, there is opposed to the Revolution, not alone the partisans of the ancient regime—priests, nobles, parliamentarians, royalists, and Catholics—but, again, every person imbued with European civilization, every member of a regular family, any possessor of a capital, large or small; every kind or degree of proprietor, farmer, manufacturer, merchant, artisan or farmer, even most of the revolutionaries. Nearly all the revolutionaries count on escaping the constraints they impose, and who only like the strait jacket when it is on another's back.—The influence of resistant wills at this moment becomes incalculable: it would be easier to raise a mountain, and, just at this moment, the Jacobins have deprived themselves of every moral force through which a political engineer acts on human wills.

Unlike Philip II. and Louis XIV. they are not supported by the intolerance of a vast majority, for, instead of fifteen or twenty orthodox against one heretic, they count in their church scarcely more than one orthodox against fifteen or twenty heretics.[2221]—They are not, like legitimate sovereigns, supported by the stubborn loyalty of an entire population, following in the steps of its chieftain out of the prestige of hereditary right and through habits of ancient fealty. On the contrary, their reign is only a day old and they themselves are interlopers. At first installed by a coup d'etat and afterwards by the semblance of an election, they have extorted or obtained by trick the suffrages through which they act. They are so familiar with fraud and violence that, in their own Assembly, the ruling minority has seized and held on to power by violence and fraud, putting down the majority by riots, and the departments by force of arms. To give their brutalities the semblance of right, they improvise two pompous demonstrations, first, the sudden manufacture of a paper constitution, which molders away in their archives, and next, the scandalous farce of a hollow and compulsory plebiscite.—A dozen leaders of the party concentrate unlimited authority in their own hands; but, as admitted by them, their authority is derivative; it is the Convention which makes them its delegates; their precarious title has to be renewed monthly; a turn of the majority may sweep them and their work away to-morrow; an insurrection of the people, whom they have familiarized with insurrection, may to-morrow sweep them away, their work and their majority.—They maintain only a disputed, limited and transient ascendancy over their adherents. They are not military chieftains like Cromwell and Napoleon, generals of an army obeyed without a murmur, but common stump-speakers at the mercy of an audience that sits in judgment on them. There is no discipline in this public; every Jacobin remains independent by virtue of his principles; if he accepts leaders, it is with a reservation of their worth to him; selecting them as he pleases, he is free to change them when he pleases; his trust in them is intermittent, his loyalty provisional, and, as his adhesion depends on a mere preference, he always reserves the right to discard the favorite of to-day as he has discarded the favorite of yesterday. In this audience, there is no such thing as subordination; the lowest demagogue, any noisy subaltern, a Hebert or Jacques Roux, aspiring to step out of the ranks, overbidding the charlatans in office in order to obtain their places. Even with a complete and lasting ascendancy over an organized band of docile supporters, the Jacobin leaders would be feeble for lack of reliable and competent instruments; for they have but very few partisans other than those of doubtful probity and of notorious incapacity.—Cromwell had around him, to carry out the puritan program, the moral elite of the nation, an army of rigorists, with narrow consciences, but much more strict towards themselves than towards others, men who never drank and who never swore, who never indulged for a moment in sensuality or idleness, who forbade themselves every act of omission or commission about which they held any scruples, the most honest, the most temperate, the most laborious and the most persevering of mankind,[2222] the only ones capable of laying the foundations of that practical morality on which England and the United States still subsist at the present day.—Around Peter the Great, in carrying out his European program, stood the intellectual elite of the country, an imported staff of men of ability associated with natives of moderate ability, every well-taught resident foreigner and indigenous Russian, the only ones able to organize schools and public institutions, to set up a vast central and regular system of administration, to assign rank according to service and merit, in short, to erect on the snow and mud of a shapeless barbarism a conservatory of civilization which, transplanted like an exotic tree, grows and gradually becomes acclimated.—Around Couthon, Saint-Just, Billaud, Collot, and Robespierre, with the exception of certain men devoted, not to Utopianism but the country, and who, like Carnot, conform to the system in order to save France, there are but a few sectarians to carry out the Jacobin program. These are men so short-sighted as not to clearly comprehend its fallacies, or sufficiently fanatical to accept its horrors, a lot of social outcasts and self-constituted statesmen, infatuated through incommensurate faculties with the parts they play, unsound in mind and superficially educated, wholly incompetent, boundless in ambition, their consciences perverted, callous or deadened by sophistry, hardened through arrogance or killed by crime, by impunity and by success.

Thus, whilst other despots raise a moderate weight, calling around them either the majority or the flower of the nation, employing the best strength of the country and lengthening their lever (of despotism) as much as possible, the Jacobins attempt to raise an incalculable weight, repel the majority as well as the flower of the nation, discard the best strength of the country, and shorten their lever to the utmost. They hold on only to the shorter end, the rough, clumsy, iron-bound, creaking and grinding extremity, that is to say, to physical force,—the means for physical constraint, the heavy hand of the gendarme on the shoulder of the suspect, the jailer's bolts and keys turned on the prisoner, the club used by the sans-culottes on the back of the bourgeois to quicken his pace, and, better still, the Septembriseur's pike thrust into the aristocrat's belly, and the blade falling on the neck held fast in the clutches of the guillotine.—Such, henceforth, is the only machinery they posses for governing the country, for they have deprived themselves of all other. Their engine has to be exhibited, for it works only on condition that its bloody image be stamped indelibly on every body's imagination; if the Negro monarch or the pasha desires to see heads bowing as he passes along, he must be escorted by executioners. They must abuse their engine because fear losing its effect through habit, needs example to keep it alive; the Negro monarch or the pasha who would keep the fear alive by which he rules, must be stimulated every day; he must slaughter too many to be sure of slaughtering enough; he must slaughter constantly, in heaps, indiscriminately, haphazard, no matter for what offense, on the slightest suspicion, the innocent along with the guilty. He and his are lost the moment they cease to obey this rule. Every Jacobin, like every African monarch or pasha, must it that he may be and remain at the head of his band.—That is the reason why the chiefs of the party, its natural and pre-determined leaders, are theoreticians able to grasp its principle and logicians capable of drawing its consequences. They are, however, so inept as to be unable to understand that their enterprise exceeds both their own and all other human resources, but shrewd enough to see that brutal force is their only tool, inhuman enough to apply it unscrupulously and without reserve, and perverted enough to murder at random in order to disseminate terror.


[Footnote 2201: Buchez et Roux, XXXII, 354. (Speech by Robespierre in the Convention, Floreal 18, year II.) "Sparta gleams like a flash of lightening amidst profoundest darkness".]

[Footnote 2202: Milos taken by the Athenians; Thebes, after Alexander's victory; Corinth, after its capture by the Romans.—In the Peloponnesian war, the Plateans, who surrender at discretion, are put to death. Nicias is murdered in cold blood after his defeat in Sicily. The prisoners at oegos-Potamos have their thumbs cut off.]

[Footnote 2203: Fustel de Coulanges, "La Cite Antique", ch. XVII.]

[Footnote 2204: Plato, "The Apology of Socrates."—See also in the "Crito" Socrates' reasons for not eluding the penalty imposed on him. The antique conception of the State is here clearly set forth.]

[Footnote 2205: Cf. the code of Manu, the Zendavesta, the Pentateuch and the Tcheou-Li. In this last code (Biot's translation), will be found the perfection of the system, particularly in vol. I., 241, 247, II., 393, III., 9, 11, 21, 52. "Every district chief, on the twelfth day of the first moon, assembles together the men of his district and reads to them the table of rules; he examines their virtue, their conduct, their progress in the right path, and in their knowledge, and encourages them; he investigates their errors, their failings and prevents them from doing evil.... Superintendents of marriages see that young people marry at the prescribed age." The reduction of man to a State automaton is plain enough in the institution of "Overseer of Gags..." At all grand hunts, at all gatherings of troops, he orders the application of gags. In these cases gags are put in the soldiers' mouths; they then fulfill their duties without tumult or shouting."]

[Footnote 2206: These two words have no exact equivalents in Greek or Latin, Conscientia, dignitas, honos denote different shade of meaning. This difference is most appreciable in the combination of the two modern terms delicate conscience, scrupulous conscience, and the phrase of stake one's honour on this or that, make it a point of honor, the laws of honor, etc. The technical terms of antique morality: the beautiful, truthfulness, the sovereign good, indicate ideas of another stamp and origin.]

[Footnote 2207: Alas, modern 20th century democratic Man has given up honor and conscience, all he has got to do is to be correct and follow the thousands of rules governing his life. And, of course, make sure that he is following orders or sure of not being caught when he breaks the natural rules of friendship, honor or conscience. Conscience, on the other had, will always lurk somewhere in the shadows of our mind, because we all know how we would like to be treated by others, and will be forced not to transgress certain boundaries in case an intended victim might be in a position to take his revenge. That I am not alone in seeing things this way I noted in an interview with the 79 year old French author Michel Deon in Le Figaro on the 16th of May 1998 in which Mr. Deon said: "Everywhere we are still in a nursery. A great movement attempting to turn us all into half-wits (une grande campagne de cretinisation est en route). When these are the only ones left, the governments have an easy job. It is very clever." (SR.)]

[Footnote 2208: Montaigne, Essays, book I., ch. 42: "Observe in provinces far from the court, in Brittany for example, the retinue, the subjects, the duties, the ceremony, of a seignior living alone by himself, brought up among his dependents, and likewise observe the flights of his imagination, there is nothing which is more royal; he may allude to his superior once a year, as if he were the King of Persia... The burden of sovereignty scarcely affects the French gentilhomme twice in his life... he who lurks in his own place avoiding dispute and trial is as free as the Duke of Venice."]

[Footnote 2209: "Memoires de Chateaubriand," vol. I. ("Les Soirees au Chateau de Cambourg".)]

[Footnote 2210: In China, the moral principle is just the opposite. The Chinese, amidst obstacles and embarrassments, always enjoin siao-sin, which means, "abate thy affections." (Huc, "L'Empire Chinoise," I., 204.)]

[Footnote 2211: In the United states the moral order of things reposes chiefly on puritan ideas; nevertheless deep traces of feudal conceptions are found there; for instance, the general deference for women which is quite chivalric there, and even excessive.]

[Footnote 2212: Observe, from this point of view, in the woman of modern times the defenses of female virtue. The (male) sentiment of duty is the first safeguard of modesty, but this has a much more powerful auxiliary in the sentiment of honor, or deep innate pride.]

[Footnote 2213: The moral standard varies, but according to a fixed law, the same as a mathematical function. Each community has its own moral elements, organization, history and surroundings, and necessarily its peculiar conditions of vitality. When the queen been in a hive is chosen and impregnated this condition involves the massacre of useless male and female rivals (Darwin). In China, it consists of paternal authority, literary education and ritual observances. In the antique city, it consisted of the omnipotence of the State, gymnastic education, and slavery. In each century, and in each country, these vital conditions are expressed by more or less hereditary passwords which set forth or interdict this or that class of actions. When the individual feels the inward challenge he is conscious of obligation; the moral conflict consists in the struggle within himself between the universal password and personal desire. In our European society the vital condition, and thus the general countersign, is self-respect coupled with respect for others (including women and children). This countersign, new in history, has a singular advantage over all preceding ones: each individual being respected, each can develop himself according to his nature; he can accordingly invent in every sense, bring forth every sort of production and be useful to himself and others in every way, thus enabling society to develop indefinitely.]

[Footnote 2214: Taine is probably speaking of the colonial wars in China and the conquest of Madagascar. (SR).]

[Footnote 2215: Here Taine is seeing mankind as being male, strong and hardy; however I feel that liberty is more desirable for the strong and confident while the child, the lost, the sick, the ignorant or feeble person is looking for protection, reassurance and guidance. When society consisted of strong independent farmers, hunters, warriors, nomads or artisans backed by family and clan, liberty was an important idea. Today few if any can rise above the horde and gain the insights, the wisdom and the competence which once was such a common thing. Today the strong seek promotion inside the hierarchy of the welfare state rest-house. (S.R.)]

[Footnote 2216: This is just what Lenin could not believe when he read this around 1906. Even Taine did not see how much a French government organization depended upon staff recruited from a hardworking, modest and honest French population. We have now lived to see how the nationalization of private property in Egypt, Argentina, Algeria not to speak of Ethiopia and India proved disastrous and how 40 years of government ownership should degrade and corrupt the populations of Russia, China, Yugoslavia, Albania etc. (SR).]

[Footnote 2217: When the function to be performed is of an uncertain or mixed character the following rule may be applied in deciding whether the State or individuals shall be entrusted with it; also in determining, in the case of cooperation, what portion of it shall be assigned to individuals and what portion to the State. As a general rule, when individuals, either singly or associated together, have a direct interest in, or are drawn toward, a special function, and the community has no direct interest therein, the matter belongs to individuals and not to the State. On the other hand, if the interest of the community in any function is direct, and indirect for individuals singly or associated together, it is proper for the State and not for individuals to take hold of it.—According to this rule the limits of the public and private domain can be defined, which limits, as they change backward and forward, may be verified according to the changes which take place in interests and preferences, direct or indirect.]

[Footnote 2218: Carlyle: "Cromwell's Speeches and Letters," III., 418. (Cromwell's address to the Parliament, September 17, 1656.)]

[Footnote 2219: Seeley, "Life and Times of Stein," II., 143.—Macaulay, "Biographical essays," Frederick the Great. 33, 35, 87, 92.]

[Footnote 2220: Eugene Schuyler, "Peter the Great," vol. 2.]

[Footnote 2221: Cf. "The Revolution" vol. II., pp. 46 and 323, vol. III., ch I. Archives des Affaires Etrangeres. Vol. 332. (Letter by Thiberge, Marseilles, Brumaire 14, year II.) "I have been to Marteygne, a small town ten leagues from Marseilles, along with my colleague Fournet; I found (je trouvee) seventeen patriots in a town of give thousand population."—Ibid., (Letter by Regulus Leclerc, Bergues, Brumaire 15, year II.) At Bergues, he says, "the municipality is composed of traders with empty stores and brewers without beer since the law of the maximum." Consequently there is universal lukewarmness, "only forty persons being found to form a popular club, holding sessions as a favor every five days.... Public spirit at Bergues is dead; fanaticism rules."—Archives Nationales, F7, 7164 (Department of Var, reports of year V. "General idea.")—"At Draguignan, out of seven thousand souls, forty patriots, exclusifs, despised or dishonest; at Vidauban, nine or ten exclusifs, favored by the municipality and who live freely without their means being known; at Brignolles, frequent robberies on the road by robbers said to have been very patriotic in the beginning of the Revolution: people are afraid of them and dare not name them; at Frejus, nine leading exclusifs who pass all their time in the cafe."—Berryat-Saint-Prix, "La Justice Revolutionnaire," p. 146.—Brutus Thierry, grocer, member of the Rev. Com. Of Angers, said that "in angers, there were not sixty revolutionaries."]

[Footnote 2222: Macaulay. "History of England," I., 152. "The Royalists themselves confessed that, in every department of honest industry, the discarded warriors prospered beyond other men, that none was charged with any theft or robbery, that none was heard to ask an alms, and that, if a baker, a mason, or a waggoner attracted notice by his diligence and sobriety, he was in all probability one of Oliver's old soldiers."]



I. Marat.

Marat.—Disparity between his faculties and pretensions. —The Maniac.—The Ambitious delirium.—Rage for persecution. —The permanent nightmare.—Homicidal frenzy.

Three men among the Jacobins, Marat, Danton and Robespierre, had deserved preeminence and held authority:—that is because they, due to a deformity or warping of their minds and their hearts, met the required conditions.—

Of the three, Marat is the most monstrous; he is nearly a madman, of which he displays the chief characteristics—furious exaltation, constant over-excitement, feverish restlessness, an inexhaustible propensity for scribbling, that mental automatism and single-mindedness of purpose constrained and ruled by a fixed idea. In addition to this, he displays the usual physical symptoms, such as insomnia, a pallid complexion, hot-headed, foulness of dress and person,[3101] with, during the last five months of his life, rashes and itching all over his body.[3102] Issuing from ill-matched stock, born of a mixed blood and tainted with serious moral agitation,[3103] he carries within him a peculiar germ: physically, he is a freak, morally a pretender, and one who covet all places of distinction. His father, who was a physician, intended, from his early childhood, that he should be a scholar; his mother, an idealist, had prepared him to become a philanthropist, while he himself always steered his course towards both summits.

"At five years of age," he says, "it would have pleased me to be a school-master, at fifteen a professor, at eighteen an author, and a creative genius at twenty,"[3104]and, afterwards, up to the last, an apostle and martyr to humanity. "From my earliest infancy I had an intense love of fame which changed its object at various stages of my life, but which never left me for a moment." He rambled over Europe or vegetated in Paris for thirty years, living a nomadic life in subordinate positions, hissed as an author, distrusted as a man of science and ignored as a philosopher, a third rate political writer, aspiring to every sort of celebrity and to every honor, constantly presenting himself as a candidate and as constantly rejected,—too great a disproportion between his faculties and ambition! Without talents,[3105] possessing no critical acumen and of mediocre intelligence, he was fitted only to teach some branch of the sciences, or to practice some one of the arts, either as professor or doctor more or less bold and lucky, or to follow, with occasional slips on one side or the other, some path clearly marked out for him. "But," he says, "I constantly refused any subject which did not hold out a promise.... of showing off my originality and providing great results, for I cannot make up my mind to treat a subject already well done by others."—Consequently, when he tries to originate he merely imitates, or commits mistakes. His treatise on "Man" is a jumble of physiological and moral common-places, made up of ill-digested reading and words strung together haphazard,[3106] of gratuitous and incoherent suppositions in which the doctrines of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, coupled together, end in empty phraseology. "Soul and Body are distinct substances with no essential relationship, being connected together solely through the nervous fluid;" this fluid is not gelatinous for the spirits by which it is renewed contains no gelatin; the soul, excited by this, excites that; hence the place assigned to it "in the brain."—His "Optics"[3107] is the reverse of the great truth already discovered by Newton more than a century before, and since confirmed by more than another century of experiment and calculation. On "Heat" and "Electricity" he merely puts forth feeble hypotheses and literary generalizations; one day, driven to the wall, he inserts a needle in a resin to make this a conductor, in which piece of scientific trickery he is caught by the physicist Charles.[3108] He is not even qualified to comprehend the great discoverers of his age, Laplace, Monge, Lavoisier, or Fourcroy; on the contrary, he libels them in the style of a low rebellious subordinate, who, without the shadow of a claim, aims to take the place of legitimate authorities. In Politics, he adopts every absurd idea in vogue growing out of the "Contrat-Social" based on natural right, and which he renders still more absurd by repeating as his own the arguments advanced by those bungling socialists, who, physiologists astray in the moral world, derive all rights from physical necessities.

"All human rights issue from physical wants[3109]... If a man has nothing, he has a right to any surplus with which another gorges himself. What do I say? He has a right to seize the indispensable, and, rather than die of hunger, he may cut another's throat and eat his throbbing flesh.... Man has a right to self-preservation, to the property, the liberty and even the lives of his fellow creatures. To escape oppression he has a right to repress, to bind and to massacre. He is free to do what he pleases to ensure his own happiness."

It is plain enough what this leads to.—But, let the consequences be what they may, whatever he writes or does, it is always in self-admiration and always in a counter sense, being as vain-glorious of his encyclopedic impotence as he is of his social mischievousness. Taking his word for it, his discoveries in Physics will render him immortal[3110]:

"They will at least effect a complete transformation in Optics.... The true primitive colors were unknown before me."

He is a Newton, and still better. Previous to his appearance "the place occupied by the electrical fluid in nature, considered as an universal agent, was completely ignored. .. I have made it known in such a way as to leave no further doubt about it."[3111] As to the heat-engendering fluid, "that substance unknown until my discovery, I have freed the theory from every hypothesis and conjecture, from every alembic argument; I have purged it of error, I have rendered it intuitive; I have written this out in a small volume which consigns to oblivion all that scientific bodies have hitherto published on that subject."[3112] Anterior to his treatise on "Man," the relationships between moral and physics were incomprehensible. "Descartes, Helvetius, Hailer, Lecat, Hume, Voltaire, Bonnet, held this to be an impenetrable secret, 'an enigma.'" He has solved the problem, he has fixed the seat of the soul, he has determined the medium through which the soul communicates with the body.[3113]—In the higher sciences, those treating of nature generally, or of human society, he reaches the climax. "I believe that I have exhausted every combination of the human intellect in relation to morals, philosophy and political science."[3114] Not only has he discovered the true theory of government, but he is a statesman, a practical expert, able to forecast the future and shape events. He makes predictions, on the average, twice a week, which always turn out right; he already claims, during the early sessions of the Convention, to have made "three hundred predictions on the leading points of the Revolution, all justified by the event."[3115]—In the face of the Constituents who demolish and reconstruct so slowly, he is sufficiently strong to take down, put up and complete at a moment's notice.

"If I were one of the people's tribunes[3116] and were supported by a few thousand determined men, I answer for it that, in six weeks, the Constitution would be perfected, the political machine well agoing, and the nation free and happy. In less than a year there would be a flourishing, formidable government which would remain so as long as I lived."—If necessary, he could act as commander-in-chief of the army and always be victorious: having twice seen the Vendeans carry on a fight he would end the war "at the first encounter."[3117]—"If I could stand the march, I would go in person and carry out my views. At the head of a small party of trusty troops the rebels could be easily put down to the last man, and in one day. I know something of military art, and; without boasting, I can answer for success."—On any difficulty occurring, it is owing to his advice not having been taken; he is the great political physician: his diagnosis from the beginning of the Revolution is always correct, his prognosis infallible, his therapeutics efficacious, humane and salutary. He provides the panacea and he should be allowed to prescribe it; only, to ensure a satisfactory operation, he should himself administer the dose. Let the public lancet, therefore, be put in his hands that he may perform the humanitarian operation of bloodletting. "Such are my opinions. I have published them in my works. I have signed them with my name and I am not ashamed of it.... If you are not equal to me and able to comprehend me so much the worse for you."[3118] In other words, in his own eyes, Marat is in advance of everybody else and, through his superior genius and character, he is the veritable savior.

Such are the symptoms by which medical men recognize immediately one of those partial lunatics who may not be put in confinement, but who are all the more dangerous;[3119] the malady, as they would express it in technical terms, may be called the ambitious delirium, well known in lunatic asylums.—Two predispositions, one an habitually perverted judgment, and the other a colossal excess of self-esteem,[3120] constitute its sources, and nowhere are both more prolific than in Marat. Never did a man with such diversified culture, possess such an incurably perverted intellect. Never did a man, after so many abortive speculations and such repeated malpractices, conceive and maintain so high an opinion of himself. Each of these two sources in him augments the other: through his faculty of not seeing things as they are, he attributes to himself virtue and genius; satisfied that he possesses genius and virtue, he regards his misdeeds as merits and his whims as truths.—Thenceforth, and spontaneously, his malady runs its own course and becomes complex; to the ambitious delirium comes the persecution mania. In effect, the evident or demonstrated truths which he advances should strike the public at once; if they burn slowly or miss fire, it is owing to their being stamped out by enemies or the envious; manifestly, they have conspired against him, and against him plots have never ceased. First came the philosophers' plot: when his treatise on "Man" was sent to Paris from Amsterdam, "they felt the blow I struck at their principles and had the book stopped at the custom-house."[3121] Next came the plot of the doctors: "they ruefully estimated my enormous gains. Were it necessary, I could prove that they often met together to consider the best way to destroy my reputation." Finally, came the plot of the Academicians; "the disgraceful persecution I had to undergo from the Academy of Sciences for two years, after being satisfied that my discoveries on Light upset all that it had done for a century, and that I was quite indifferent about becoming a member of its body.... Would it be believed that these scientific charlatans succeeded in underrating my discoveries throughout Europe, in exciting every society of savants against me, and in closing against me all the newspapers?"[3122]—Naturally, the would-be-persecuted man defends himself, that is to say, he attacks. Naturally, as he is the aggressor, he is repulsed and put down, and, after creating imaginary enemies, he creates real ones, especially in politics where, on principle, he daily preaches insurrection and murder. And finally, he is of course prosecuted, convicted at the Chatelet court, tracked by the police, obliged to fly and wander from one hiding-place to another; to live like a bat "in a cellar, underground, in a dark dungeon;"[3123] once, says his friend Panis, he passed "six weeks sitting on his behind" like a madman in his cell, face to face with his reveries.—It is not surprising that, with such a system, the reverie should become more intense, more and more gloomy, and, at last settle down into a confirmed nightmare; that, in his distorted brain, objects should appear distorted; that, even in full daylight men and things should seem awry, as in a magnifying, dislocating mirror; that, frequently, on the numbers (of his journal) appearing too blood-thirsty, and his chronic disease too acute, his physician should bleed him to arrest these attacks and prevent their return.[3124]

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15     Next Part
Home - Random Browse