This last point, the aversion of France for the revolutionary regime, so long misunderstood, has been well displayed by recent historians. The author of the last book published on the Revolution, M. Madelin, has well summarised their opinion in the following words:—
"As early as 1793 a party by no means numerous had seized upon France, the Revolution, and the Republic. Now, three-quarters of France longed for the Revolution to be checked, or rather delivered from its odious exploiters; but these held the unhappy country by a thousand means. . . . As the Terror was essential to them if they were to rule, they struck at whomsoever seemed at any given moment to be opposed to the Terror, were they the best servants of the Revolution.''
Up to the end of the Directory the government was exercised by Jacobins, who merely desired to retain, along with the supreme power, the riches they had accumulated by murder and pillage, and were ready to surrender France to any one who would guarantee them free possession of these. That they negotiated the coup d'etat of Brumaire with Napoleon was simply to the fact that they had not been able to realise their wishes with regard to Louis XVIII.
But how explain the fact that a Government so tyrannical and so dishonoured was able to survive for so many years?
It was not merely because the revolutionary religion still survived in men's minds, nor because it was forced on them by means of persecution and bloodshed, but especially, as I have already stated, on account of the great interest which a large portion of the population had in maintaining it.
This point is fundamental. If the Revolution had remained a theoretical religion, it would probably have been of short duration. But the belief which had just been founded very quickly emerged from the domain of pure theory.
The Revolution did not confine itself to despoiling the monarchy, the nobility, and the clergy of their powers of government. In throwing into the hands of the bourgeoisie and the large numbers of peasantry the wealth and the employments of the old privileged classes it had at the same stroke turned them into obstinate supporters of the revolutionary system. All those who had acquired the property of which the nobles and clergy had been despoiled had obtained lands and chateaux at low prices, and were terrified lest the restoration of the monarchy should force them to make general restitution.
It was largely for these reasons that a Government which, at any normal period, would never have been endured, was able to survive until a master should re-establish order, while promising to maintain not only the moral but also the material conquests of the Revolution. Bonaparte realised these anxieties, and was promptly and enthusiastically welcomed. Material conquests which were still contestable and theoretical principles which were still fragile were by him incorporated in institutions and the laws. It is an error to say that the Revolution terminated with his advent. Far from destroying it, he ratified and consolidated it.
THE RESTORATION OF ORDER. THE CONSULAR REPUBLIC
1. How the Work of the Revolution was Confirmed by the Consulate.
The history of the Consulate is as rich as the preceding period in psychological material. In the first place it shows us that the work of a powerful individual is superior to that of a collectivity. Bonaparte immediately replaced the bloody anarchy in which the Republic had for ten years been writhing by a period of order. That which none of the four Assemblies of the Revolution had been able to realise, despite the most violent oppression, a single man accomplished in a very short space of time.
His authority immediately put an end to all the Parisian insurrections and the attempts at monarchical resistance, and re- established the moral unity of France, so profoundly divided by intense hatreds. Bonaparte replaced an unorganised collective despotism by a perfectly organised individual despotism. Everyone gained thereby, for his tyranny was infinitely less heavy than that which had been endured for ten long years. We must suppose, moreover, that it was unwelcome to very few, as it was very soon accepted with immense enthusiasm.
We know better to-day than to repeat with the old historians that Bonaparte overthrew the Republic. On the contrary, he retained of it all that could be retained, and never would have been retained without him, by establishing all the practicable work of the Revolution—the abolition of privileges, equality before the law, &c.—in institutions and codes of law. The Consular Government continued, moreover, to call itself the Republic.
It is infinitely probable that without the Consulate a monarchical restoration would have terminated the Directory, and would have wiped out the greater part of the work of the Revolution. Let us suppose Bonaparte erased from history. No one, I think, will imagine that the Directory could have survived the universal weariness of its rule. It would certainly have been overturned by the royalist conspiracies which were breaking out daily, and Louis XVIII. would probably have ascended the throne. Certainly he was to mount it sixteen years later, but during this interval Bonaparte gave such force to the principles of the Revolution, by establishing them in laws and customs, that the restored sovereign dared not touch them, nor restore the property of the returned emigres.
Matters would have been very different had Louis XVIII. immediately followed the Directory. He would have brought with him all the absolutism of the ancien regime, and fresh revolutions would have been necessary to abolish it. We know that a mere attempt to return to the past overthrew Charles X.
It would be a little ingenuous to complain of the tyranny of Bonaparte. Under the ancien regime Frenchmen had supported every species of tyranny, and the Republic had created a despotism even heavier than that of the monarchy. Despotism was then a normal condition, which aroused no protest save when it was accompanied by disorder.
A constant law of the psychology of crowds shows them as creating anarchy, and then seeking the master who will enable them to emerge therefrom. Bonaparte was this master.
2. The Reorganisation of France by the Consulate.
Upon assuming power Bonaparte undertook a colossal task. All was in ruins; all was to be rebuilt. On the morrow of the coup of Brumaire he drafted, almost single-handed, the Constitution destined to give him the absolute power which was to enable him to reorganise the country and to prevail over the factions. In a month it was completed.
This Constitution, known as that of the year VIII., survived, with slight modifications, until the end of his reign. The executive power was the attribute of three Consuls, two of whom possessed a consultative voice only. The first Consul, Bonaparte, was therefore sole master of France. He appointed ministers, councillors of state, ambassadors, magistrates, and other officials, and decided upon peace or war. The legislative power was his also, since only he could initiate the laws, which were subsequently submitted to three Assemblies—the Council of State, the Tribunate, and the Legislative Corps. A fourth Assembly, the Senate, acted effectually as the guardian of the Constitution.
Despotic as he was and became, Bonaparte always called the other Consuls about him before proceeding with the most trivial measure. The Legislative Corps did not exercise much influence during his reign, but he signed no decrees of any kind without first discussing them with the Council of State. This Council, composed of the most enlightened and learned men of France, prepared laws, which were then presented to the Legislative Corps, which could criticise them very freely, since voting was secret. Presided over by Bonaparte, the Council of State was a kind of sovereign tribunal, judging even the actions of ministers.
 Napoleon naturally often overruled the Council of State, but by no means always did so. In one instance, reported in the Memorial de Sainte-Helene, he was the only one of his own opinion, and accepted that of the majority in the following terms: "Gentlemen, matters are decided here by majority, and being alone, I must give way; but I declare that in my conscience I yield only to form. You have reduced me to silence, but in no way convinced me.''
Another day the Emperor, interrupted three times in the expression of his opinion, addressed himself to the speaker who had just interrupted him: "Sir, I have not yet finished; I beg you to allow me to continue. After all, it seems to me that every one has a perfect right to express his opinion here.''
"The Emperor, contrary to the accepted opinion, was so far from absolute, and so easy with his Council of State, that he often resumed a discussion, or even annulled a decision, because one of the members of the Council had since, in private, given him fresh reasons, or had urged that the Emperor's personal opinion had influenced the majority.''
The new master had great confidence in this Council, as it was composed more particularly of eminent jurists, each of whom dealt with his own speciality. He was too good a psychologist not to entertain the greatest suspicion of large and incompetent assemblies of popular origin, whose disastrous results had been obvious to him during the whole of the Revolution.
Wishing to govern for the people, but never with its assistance, Bonaparte accorded it no part in the government, reserving to it only the right of voting, once for all, for or against the adoption of the new Constitution. He only in rare instances had recourse to universal suffrage. The members of the Legislative Corps recruited themselves, and were not elected by the people.
In creating a Constitution intended solely to fortify his own power, the First Consul had no illusion that it would serve to restore the country. Consequently, while he was drafting it he also undertook the enormous task of the administrative, judicial, and financial reorganisation of France. The various powers were centralised in Paris. Each department was directed by a prefect, assisted by a consul-general; the arrondissement by a sub- prefect, assisted by a council; the commune by a mayor, assisted by a municipal council. All were appointed by the ministers, and not by election, as under the Republic.
This system, which created the omnipotent State and a powerful centralisation, was retained by all subsequent Governments and is preserved to-day. Centralisation being, in spite of its drawbacks, the only means of avoiding local tyrannies in a country profoundly divided within itself, has always been maintained.
This organisation, based on a profound knowledge of the soul of the French people, immediately restored that tranquillity and order which had for so long been unknown.
To complete the mental pacification of the country, the political exiles were recalled and the churches restored to the faithful.
Continuing to rebuild the social edifice, Bonaparte busied himself also with the drafting of a code, the greater part of which consisted of customs borrowed from the ancien regime. It was, as has been said, a sort of transition or compromise between the old law and the new.
Considering the enormous task accomplished by the First Consul in so short a time, we realise that he had need, before all, of a Constitution according him absolute power. If all the measures by which he restored France had been submitted to assemblies of attorneys, he could never have extricated the country from the disorder into which it had fallen.
The Constitution of the year VIII. obviously transformed the Republic into a monarchy at least as absolute as the "Divine right'' monarchy of Louis XIV. Being the only Constitution adapted to the needs of the moment, it represented a psychological necessity.
3. Psychological Elements which determined the Success of the Work of the Consulate.
All the external forces which act upon men—economic, historical, geographical, &c.—may be finally translated into psychological forces. These psychological forces a ruler must understand in order to govern. The Revolutionary Assemblies were completely ignorant of them; Bonaparte knew how to employ them.
The various Assemblies, the Convention notably, were composed of conflicting parties. Napoleon understood that to dominate them he must not belong to any one of these parties. Very well aware that the value of a country is disseminated among the superior intelligences of the various parties, he tried to utilise them all. His agents of government—ministers, priests, magistrates, &c.—were taken indifferently from among the Liberals, Royalists, Jacobites, &c., having regard only to their capacities.
While accepting the assistance of men of the ancien regime, Bonaparte took care to make it understood that he intended to maintain the fundamental principles of the Revolution. Nevertheless many Royalists rallied round the new Government.
One of the most remarkable feats of the Consulate, from the psychological point of view, was the restoration of religious peace. France was far more divided by religious disagreement than by political differences. The systematic destruction of a portion of the Vendee had almost completely terminated the struggle by force of arms, but without pacifying men's minds. As only one man, and he the head of Christianity, could assist in this pacification, Bonaparte did not hesitate to treat with him. His concordat was the work of a real psychologist, who knew that moral forces do not use violence, and the great danger of persecuting such. While conciliating the clergy he contrived to place them under his own domination. The bishops were to be appointed and remunerated by the State, so that he would still be master.
The religious policy of Napoleon had a bearing which escapes our modern Jacobins. Blinded by their narrow fanaticism, they do not understand that to detach the Church from the Government is to create a state within the State, so that they are liable to find themselves opposed by a formidable caste, directed by a master outside France, and necessarily hostile to France. To give one's enemies a liberty they did not possess is extremely dangerous. Never would Napoleon, nor any of the sovereigns who preceded him, have consented to make the clergy independent of the State, as they have become to-day.
The difficulties of Bonaparte the First Consul were far greater than those he had to surmount after his coronation. Only a profound knowledge of men enabled him to triumph over them. The future master was far from being the master as yet. Many departments were still in insurrection. Brigandage persisted, and the Midi was ravaged by the struggles of partisans. Bonaparte, as Consul, had to conciliate and handle Talleyrand, Fouche, and a number of generals who thought themselves his equal. Even his brothers conspired against his power. Napoleon, as Emperor, had no hostile party to face, but as Consul he had to combat all the parties and to hold the balance equal among them. This must indeed have been a difficult task, since during the last century very few Governments have succeeded in accomplishing it.
The success of such an undertaking demanded an extremely subtle mixture of finesse, firmness, and diplomacy. Not feeling himself powerful enough as yet, Bonaparte the Consul made a rule, according to his own expression, "of governing men as the greater number wish to be governed.'' As Emperor he often managed to govern them according to his own ideal.
We have travelled a long way since the time when historians, in their singular blindness, and great poets, who possessed more talent than psychology, would hold forth in indignant accents against the coup d'etat of Brumaire. What profound illusions underlay the assertion that "France lay fair in Messidor's great sun''! And other illusions no less profound underlay such verdicts as that of Victor Hugo concerning this period. We have seen that the "Crime of Brumaire'' had as an enthusiastic accomplice, not only the Government itself but the whole of France, which it delivered from anarchy.
One may wonder how intelligent men could so misjudge a period of history which is nevertheless so clear. It was doubtless because they saw events through their own convictions, and we know what transformations the truth may suffer for the man who is imprisoned in the valleys of belief. The most luminous facts are obscured, and the history of events is the history of his dreams.
The psychologist who desires to understand the period which we have so briefly sketched can only do so if, being attached to no party, he stands clear of the passions which are the soul of parties. He will never dream of recriminating a past which was dictated by such imperious necessities. Certainly Napoleon has cost France dear: his epic was terminated by two invasions, and there was yet to be a third, whose consequences are felt even to-day, when the prestige which he exerted even from the tomb set upon the throne the inheritor of his name.
All these events are narrowly connected in their origin. They represent the price of that capital phenomenon in the evolution of a people, a change of ideal. Man can never make the attempt to break suddenly with his ancestors without profoundly affecting the course of his own history.
POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES OF THE CONFLICT BETWEEN TRADITIONS AND REVOLUTIONARY PRINCIPLES DURING THE LAST CENTURY
1. The Psychological Causes of the continued Revolutionary Movements to which France has been subject.
In examining, in a subsequent chapter, the evolution of revolutionary ideas during the last century, we shall see that during more than fifty years they very slowly spread through the various strata of society.
During the whole of this period the great majority of the people and the bourgeoisie rejected them, and their diffusion was effected only by a very limited number of apostles. But their influence, thanks principally to the faults of Governments, was sufficient to provoke several revolutions. We shall examine these briefly when we have examined the psychological influences which gave them birth.
The history of our political upheavals during the last century is enough to prove, even if we did not yet realise the fact, that men are governed by their mentalities far more than by the institutions which their rulers endeavour to force upon them.
The successive revolutions which France has suffered have been the consequences of struggles between two portions of the nation whose mentalities are different. One is religious and monarchical and is dominated by long ancestral influences; the other is subjected to the same influences, but gives them a revolutionary form.
From the commencement of the Revolution the struggle between contrary mentalities was plainly manifested. We have seen that in spite of the most frightful repression insurrections and conspiracies lasted until the end of the Directory. They proved that the traditions of the past had left profound roots in the popular soul. At a certain moment sixty departments were in revolt against the new Government, and were only repressed by repeated massacres on a vast scale.
To establish some sort of compromise between the ancien regime and the new ideals was the most difficult of the problems which Bonaparte had to resolve. He had to discover institutions which would suit the two mentalities into which France was divided. He succeeded, as we have seen, by conciliatory measures, and also by dressing very ancient things in new names.
His reign was one of those rare periods of French history during which the mental unity of France was complete.
This unity could not outlive him. On the morrow of his fall all the old parties reappeared, and have survived until the present day. Some attach themselves to traditional influences; others violently reject them.
If this long conflict had been between believers and the indifferent, it could not have lasted, for indifference is always tolerant; but the struggle was really between two different beliefs. The lay Church very soon assumed a religious aspect, and its pretended rationalism has become, especially in recent years, a barely attenuated form of the narrowest clerical spirit. Now, we have shown that no conciliation is possible between dissimilar religious beliefs. The clericals when in power could not therefore show themselves more tolerant towards freethinkers than these latter are to-day toward the clericals.
These divisions, determined by differences of belief, were complicated by the addition of the political conceptions derived from those beliefs.
Many simple souls have for long believed that the real history of France began with the year I. of the Republic. This rudimentary conception is at last dying out. Even the most rigid revolutionaries renounce it, and are quite willing to recognise that the past was something better than an epoch of black barbarism dominated by low superstitions.
 We may judge of the recent evolution of ideas upon this point by the following passage from a speech by M. Jaures, delivered in the Chamber of Deputies: "The greatness of to-day is built of the efforts of past centuries. France is not contained in a day nor in an epoch, but in the succession of all days, all periods, all her twilights and all her dawns.''
The religious origin of most of the political beliefs held in France inspires their adepts with an inextinguishable hatred which always strikes foreigners with amazement.
"Nothing is more obvious, nothing is more certain,'' writes Mr. Barret-Wendell, in his book on France, "than this fact: that not only have the royalists, revolutionaries, and Bonapartists always been mortally opposed to one another, but that, owing to the passionate ardour of the French character, they have always entertained a profound intellectual horror for one another. Men who believe themselves in possession of the truth cannot refrain from affirming that those who do not think with them are instruments of error.
"Each party will gravely inform you that the advocates of the adverse cause are afflicted by a dense stupidity or are consciously dishonest. Yet when you meet these latter, who will say exactly the same things as their detractors, you cannot but recognise, in all good faith, that they are neither stupid nor dishonest.''
This reciprocal execration of the believers of each party has always facilitated the overthrow of Governments and ministers in France. The parties in the minority will never refuse to ally themselves against the triumphant party. We know that a great number of revolutionary Socialists have been elected to the present Chamber only by the aid of the monarchists, who are still as unintelligent as they were at the time of the Revolution.
Our religious and political differences do not constitute the only cause of dissension in France. They are held by men possessing that particular mentality which I have already described under the name of the revolutionary mentality. We have seen that each period always presents a certain number of individuals ready to revolt against the established order of things, whatever that may be, even though it may realise all their desires.
The intolerance of the parties in France, and their desire to seize upon power, are further favoured by the conviction, so prevalent under the Revolution, that societies can be remade by means of laws. The modern State, whatever its leader, has inherited in the eyes of the multitudes and their leaders the mystic power attributed to the ancient kings, when these latter were regarded as an incarnation of the Divine will. Not only the people is inspired by this confidence in the power of Government; all our legislators entertain it also.
 After the publication of an article of mine concerning legislative illusions, I received from one of our most eminent politicians, M. Boudenot the senator, a letter from which I extract the following passage: "Twenty years passed in the Chamber and the Senate have shown me how right you are. How many times I have heard my colleagues say: 'The Government ought to prevent this, order that,' &c. What would you have? there are fourteen centuries of monarchical atavism in our blood.''
Legislating always, politicians never realise that as institutions are effects, and not causes, they have no virtue in themselves. Heirs to the great revolutionary illusion, they do not see that man is created by a past whose foundations we are powerless to reshape.
The conflict between the principles dividing France, which has lasted more than a century, will doubtless continue for a long time yet, and no one can foresee what fresh upheavals it may engender. No doubt if before our era the Athenians could have divined that their social dissensions would have led to the enslavement of Greece, they would have renounced them; but how could they have foreseen as much? M. Guiraud justly writes: "A generation of men very rarely realises the task which it is accomplishing. It is preparing for the future; but this future is often the contrary of what it wishes.''
2. Summary of a Century's Revolutionary Movement in France.
The psychological causes of the revolutionary movements which France has seen during the past century having been explained, it will now suffice to present a summary picture of these successive revolutions.
The sovereigns in coalition having defeated Napoleon, they reduced France to her former limits, and placed Louis XVIII., the only possible sovereign, on the throne.
By a special charter the new king accepted the position of a constitutional monarch under a representative system of government. He recognised all the conquests of the Revolution: the civil Code, equality before the law, liberty of worship, irrevocability of the sale of national property, &c. The right of suffrage, however, was limited to those paying a certain amount in taxes.
This liberal Constitution was opposed by the ultra-royalists. Returned emigres, they wanted the restitution of the national property, and the re-establishment of their ancient privileges.
Fearing that such a reaction might cause a new revolution, Louis XVIII. was reduced to dissolving the Chamber. The election having returned moderate deputies, he was able to continue to govern with the same principles, understanding very well that any attempt to govern the French by the ancien regime would be enough to provoke a general rebellion.
Unfortunately, his death, in 1824, placed Charles X., formerly Comte d'Artois, on the throne. Extremely narrow, incapable of understanding the new world which surrounded him, and boasting that he had not modified his ideas since 1789, he prepared a series of reactionary laws—a law by which an indemnity of forty millions sterling was to be paid to emigres; a law of sacrilege; and laws establishing the rights of primogeniture, the preponderance of the clergy, &c.
The majority of the deputies showing themselves daily more opposed to his projects, in 1830 he enacted Ordinances dissolving the Chamber, suppressing the liberty of the Press, and preparing for the restoration of the ancien regime.
The effect was immediate. This autocratic action provoked a coalition of the leaders of all parties. Republicans, Bonapartists, Liberals, Royalists—all united in order to raise the Parisian populace. Four days after the publication of the Ordinances the insurgents were masters of the capital, and Charles X. fled to England.
The leaders of the movement—Thiers, Casimir-Perier, La Fayette, &c.—summoned to Paris Louis-Philippe, of whose existence the people were scarcely aware, and declared him king of the French.
Between the indifference of the people and the hostility of the nobles, who had remained faithful to the legitimate dynasty, the new king relied chiefly upon the bourgeoisie. An electoral law having reduced the electors to less than 200,000, this class played an exclusive part in the government.
The situation of the sovereign was not easy. He had to struggle simultaneously against the legitimist supporters of Henry V. the grandson of Charles X., and the Bonapartists, who recognised as their head Louis-Napoleon, the Emperor's nephew, and finally against the republicans.
By means of their secret societies, analogous to the clubs of the Revolution, the latter provoked numerous riots at various intervals between 1830 and 1840, but these were easily repressed.
The clericals and legitimists, on their side, did not cease their intrigues. The Duchess de Berry, the mother of Henry V., tried in vain to raise the Vendee. As to the clergy, their demands finally made them so intolerable that an insurrection broke out, in the course of which the palace of the archbishop of Paris was sacked.
The republicans as a party were not very dangerous, as the Chamber sided with the king in the struggle against them. The minister Guizot, who advocated a strong central power, declared that two things were indispensable to government—"reason and cannon.'' The famous statesman was surely somewhat deluded as to the necessity or efficacy of reason.
Despite this strong central power, which in reality was not strong, the republicans, and above all the Socialists, continued to agitate. One of the most influential, Louis Blanc, claimed that it was the duty of the Government to procure work for every citizen. The Catholic party, led by Lacordaire and Montalembert, united with the Socialists—as to-day in Belgium—to oppose the Government.
A campaign in favour of electoral reform ended in 1848 in a fresh riot, which unexpectedly overthrew Louis-Philippe.
His fall was far less justifiable than that of Charles X. There was little with which he could be reproached. Doubtless he was suspicious of universal suffrage, but the French Revolution had more than once been quite suspicious of it. Louis-Philippe not being, like the Directory, an absolute ruler, could not, as the latter had done, annul unfavourable elections.
A provisional Government was installed in the Hotel de Ville, to replace the fallen monarchy. It proclaimed the Republic, established universal suffrage, and decreed that the people should proceed to the election of a National Assembly of nine hundred members.
From the first days of its existence the new Government found itself the victim of socialistic manoeuvres and riots.
The psychological phenomena observed during the first Revolution were now to be witnessed again. Clubs were formed, whose leaders sent the people from time to time against the Assembly, for reasons which were generally quite devoid of common sense—for example, to force the Government to support an insurrection in Poland, &c.
In the hope of satisfying the Socialists, every day more noisy and exigent, the Assembly organised national workshops, in which the workers were occupied in various forms of labour. In these 100,000 men cost the State more than L40,000 weekly. Their claim to receive pay without working for it forced the Assembly to close the workshops.
This measure was the origin of a formidable insurrection, 50,000 workers revolting. The Assembly, terrified, confided all the executive powers to General Cavaignac. There was a four-days battle with the insurgents, during which three generals and the Archbishop of Paris were killed; 3,000 prisoners were deported by the Assembly to Algeria, and revolutionary Socialism was annihilated for a space of fifty years.
These events brought Government stock down from 116 to 50 francs. Business was at a standstill. The peasants, who thought themselves threatened by the Socialists, and the bourgeois, whose taxes the Assembly had increased by half, turned against the Republic, and when Louis-Napoleon promised to re-establish order he found himself welcomed with enthusiasm. A candidate for the position of President of the Republic, who according to the new Constitution must be elected by the whole body of citizens, he was chosen by 5,500,000 votes.
Very soon at odds with the Chamber, the prince decided on a coup d'etat. The Assembly was dissolved; 30,000 persons were arrested, 10,000 deported, and a hundred deputies were exiled.
This coup d'etat, although summary, was very favourably received, for when submitted to a plebiscite it received 7,500,000 votes out of 8,000,000.
On the 2nd of November, 1852, Napoleon had himself named Emperor by an even greater majority: The horror which the generality of Frenchmen felt for demagogues and Socialists had restored the Empire.
In the first part of its existence it constituted an absolute Government, and during the latter half a liberal Government. After eighteen years of rule the Emperor was overthrown by the revolution of the 4th of September, 1870, after the capitulation of Sedan.
Since that time revolutionary movements have been rare; the only one of importance was the revolution of March, 1871, which resulted in the burning of many of the monuments of Paris and the execution of about 20,000 insurgents.
After the war of 1870 the electors, who, amid so many disasters, did not know which way to turn, sent a great number of Orleanist and legitimist deputies to the Constituent Assembly. Unable to agree upon the establishment of a monarchy, they appointed M. Thiers President of the Republic, later replacing him by Marshal MacMahon. In 1876 the new elections, like all those that have followed, sent a majority of republicans to the Chamber.
The various assemblies which have succeeded to this have always been divided into numerous parties, which have provoked innumerable changes of ministry.
However, thanks to the equilibrium resulting from this division of parties, we have for forty years enjoyed comparative quiet. Four Presidents of the Republic have been overthrown without revolution, and the riots that have occurred, such as those of Champagne and the Midi, have not had serious consequences.
A great popular movement, in 1888, did nearly overthrow the Republic for the benefit of General Boulanger, but it has survived and triumphed over the attacks of all parties.
Various reasons contribute to the maintenance of the present Republic. In the first place, of the conflicting factions none is strong enough to crush the rest. In the second place, the head of the State being purely decorative, and possessing no power, it is impossible to attribute to him the evils from which the country may suffer, and to feel sure that matters would be different were he overthrown. Finally, as the supreme power is distributed among thousands of hands, responsibilities are so disseminated that it would be difficult to know where to begin. A tyrant can be overthrown, but what can be done against a host of little anonymous tyrannies?
If we wished to sum up in a word the great transformations which have been effected in France by a century of riots and revolutions, we might say that individual tyranny, which was weak and therefore easily overthrown, has been replaced by collective tyrannies, which are very strong and difficult to destroy. To a people avid of equality and habituated to hold its Governments responsible for every event individual tyranny seemed insupportable, while a collective tyranny is readily endured, although generally much more severe.
The extension of the tyranny of the State has therefore been the final result of all our revolutions, and the common characteristic of all systems of government which we have known in France. This form of tyranny may be regarded as a racial ideal, since successive upheavals of France have only fortified it. Statism is the real political system of the Latin peoples, and the only system that receives all suffrages. The other forms of government—republic, monarchy, empire—represent empty labels, powerless shadows.
THE RECENT EVOLUTION OF THE REVOLUTIONARY PRINCIPLES
THE PROGRESS OF DEMOCRATIC BELIEFS SINCE THE REVOLUTION
1. Gradual Propagation of Democratic Ideas after the Revolution.
Ideas which are firmly established, incrusted, as it were, in men's minds, continue to act for several generations. Those which resulted from the French Revolution were, like others, subject to this law.
Although the life of the Revolution as a Government was short, the influence of its principles was, on the contrary, very long- lived. Becoming a form of religious belief, they profoundly modified the orientation of the sentiments and ideas of several generations.
Despite a few intervals, the French Revolution has continued up to the present, and still survives. The role of Napoleon was not confined to overturning the world, changing the map of Europe, and remaking the exploits of Alexander. The new rights of the people, created by the Revolution and established by its institutions, have exercised a profound influence. The military work of the conqueror was soon dissolved, but the revolutionary principles which he contributed to propagate have survived him.
The various restorations which followed the Empire caused men at first to become somewhat forgetful of the principles of the Revolution. For fifty years this propagation was far from rapid. One might almost have supposed that the people had forgotten them. Only a small number of theorists maintained their influence. Heirs to the "simplicist'' spirit of the Jacobins, believing, like them, that societies can be remade from top to bottom by the laws, and persuaded that the Empire had only interrupted the task of revolution, they wished to resume it.
While waiting until they could recommence, they attempted to spread the principles of the Revolution by means of their writings. Faithful imitators of the men of the Revolution, they never stopped to ask if their schemes for reform were in conformity with human nature. They too were erecting a chimerical society for an ideal man, and were persuaded that the application of their dreams would regenerate the human species.
Deprived of all constructive power, the theorists of all the ages have always been very ready to destroy. Napoleon at St. Helena stated that "if there existed a monarchy of granite the idealists and theorists would manage to reduce it to powder.''
Among the galaxy of dreamers such as Saint-Simon, Fourier, Pierre Leroux, Louis Blanc, Quinet, &c., we find that only Auguste Comte understood that a transformation of manners and ideas must precede political reorganisation.
Far from favouring the diffusion of democratic ideas, the projects of reform of the theorists of this period merely impeded their progress. Communistic Socialism, which several of them professed would restore the Revolution, finally alarmed the bourgeoisie and even the working-classes. We have already seen that the fear of their ideas was one of the principal causes of the restoration of the Empire.
If none of the chimerical lucubrations of the writers of the first half of the nineteenth century deserve to be discussed, it is none the less interesting to examine them in order to observe the part played by religious and moral ideas which to-day are regarded with contempt. Persuaded that a new society could not, any more than the societies of old, be built up without religious and moral beliefs, the reformers were always endeavouring to found such beliefs.
But on what could they be based? Evidently on reason. By means of reason men create complicated machines: why not therefore a religion and a morality, things which are apparently so simple? Not one of them suspected the fact that no religious or moral belief ever had rational logic as its basis. Auguste Comte saw no more clearly. We know that he founded a so-called positivist religion, which still has a few followers. Scientists were to form a clergy directed by a new Pope, who was to replace the Catholic Pope.
All these conceptions—political, religious, or moral—had, I repeat, no other results for a long time than to turn the multitude away from democratic principles.
If these principles did finally become widespread, it was not on account of the theorists, but because new conditions of life had arisen. Thanks to the discoveries of science, industry developed and led to the erection of immense factories. Economic necessities increasingly dominated the wills of Governments and the people and finally created a favourable soil for the extension of Socialism, and above all of Syndicalism, the modern forms of democratic ideas.
2. The Unequal Influence of the Three Fundamental Principles of the Revolution.
The heritage of the Revolution is summed up in its entirety in the one phrase—Liberty, equality, and Fraternity. The principle of equality, as we have seen, has exerted a powerful influence, but the two others did not share its lot.
Although the sense of these terms seems clear enough, they were comprehended in very different fashions according to men and times. We know that the various interpretation of the same words by persons of different mentality has been one of the most frequent causes of the conflicts of history.
To the member of the Convention liberty signified merely the exercise of its unlimited despotism. To a young modern "intellectual'' the same word means a general release from everything irksome: tradition, law, superiority, &c. To the modern Jacobin liberty consists especially in the right to persecute his adversaries.
Although political orators still occasionally mention liberty in their speeches, they have generally ceased to evoke fraternity. It is the conflict of the different classes and not their alliance that they teach to-day. Never did a more profound hatred divide the various strata of society and the political parties which lead them.
But while liberty has become very doubtful and fraternity has completely vanished, the principle of equality has grown unchecked. It has been supreme in all the political upheavals of which France has been the stage during the last century, and has reached such a development that our political and social life, our laws, manners, and customs are at least in theory based on this principle. It constitutes the real legacy of the Revolution. The craving for equality, not only before the law, but in position and fortune, is the very pivot of the last product of democracy: Socialism. This craving is so powerful that it is spreading in all directions, although in contradiction with all biological and economic laws. It is a new phase of the interrupted struggle of the sentiments against reason, in which reason so rarely triumphs.
2. The Democracy of the "Intellectuals'' and Popular Democracy.
All ideas that have hitherto caused an upheaval of the world of men have been subject to two laws: they evolve slowly, and they completely change their sense according to the mentalities in which they find reception.
A doctrine may be compared to a living being. It subsists only by process of transformation. The books are necessarily silent upon these variations, so that the phase of things which they establish belongs only to the past. They do not reflect the image of the living, but of the dead. The written statement of a doctrine often represents the most negligible side of that doctrine.
I have shown in another work how institutions, arts, and languages are modified in passing from one people to another, and how the laws of these transformations differ from the truth as stated in books. I allude to this matter now merely to show why, in examining the subject of democratic ideas, we occupy ourselves so little with the text of doctrines, and seek only for the psychological elements of which they constitute the vestment, and the reactions which they provoke in the various categories of men who have accepted them.
Modified rapidly by men of different mentalities, the original theory is soon no more than a label which denotes something quite unlike itself.
Applicable to religious beliefs, these principles are equally so to political beliefs. When a man speaks of democracy, for example, must we inquire what this word means to various peoples, and also whether in the same people there is not a great difference between the democracy of the "intellectuals'' and popular democracy.
In confining ourselves now to the consideration of this latter point we shall readily perceive that the democratic ideas to be found in books and journals are purely the theories of literary people, of which the people know nothing, and by the application of which they would have nothing to gain. Although the working- man possesses the theoretical right of passing the barriers which separate him from the upper classes by a whole series of competitions and examinations, his chance of reaching them is in reality extremely slight.
The democracy of the lettered classes has no other object than to set up a selection which shall recruit the directing classes exclusively from themselves. I should have nothing to say against this if the selection were real. It would then constitute the application of the maxim of Napoleon: "The true method of government is to employ the aristocracy, but under the forms of democracy.''
Unhappily the democracy of the "intellectuals'' would simply lead to the substitution of the Divine right of kings by the Divine right of a petty oligarchy, which is too often narrow and tyrannical. Liberty cannot be created by replacing a tyranny.
Popular democracy by no means aims at manufacturing rulers. Dominated entirely by the spirit of equality and the desire to ameliorate the lot of the workers, it rejects the idea of fraternity, and exhibits no anxiety in respect of liberty. No government is conceivable to popular democracy except in the form of an autocracy. We see this, not only in history, which shows us that since the Revolution all despotic Governments have been vigorously acclaimed, but also in the autocratic fashion in which the workers' trades unions are conducted.
This profound distinction between the democracy of the lettered classes and popular democracy is far more obvious to the workers than to the intellectuals. In their mentalities there is nothing in common; the two classes do not speak the same language. The syndicalists emphatically assert to-day that no alliance could possibly exist between them and the politicians of the bourgeoisie. This assertion is strictly true.
It was always so, and this, no doubt, is why popular democracy, from Plato's to our own times, has never been defended by the great thinkers.
This fact has greatly struck Emile Faguet. "Almost all the thinkers of the nineteenth century,'' he says, "were not democrats. When I was writing my Politiques et moralistes du XIXe siecle this was my despair. I could not find one who had been a democrat; yet I was extremely anxious to find one so that I could give the democratic doctrine as formulated by him.''
The eminent writer might certainly have found plenty of professional politicians, but these latter rarely belong to the category of thinkers.
2. Natural Inequalities and Democratic Equalisation.
The difficulty of reconciling democratic equalisation with natural inequalities constitutes one of the most difficult problems of the present hour. We know what are the desires of democracy. Let us see what Nature replies to these demands.
The democratic ideas which have so often shaken the world from the heroic ages of Greece to modern times are always clashing with natural inequalities. Some observers have held, with Helvetius, that the inequality between men is created by education.
As a matter of fact, Nature does not know such a thing as equality. She distributes unevenly genius, beauty, health, vigour, intelligence, and all the qualities which confer on their possessors a superiority over their fellows.
No theory can alter these discrepancies, so that democratic doctrines will remain confined to words until the laws of heredity consent to unify the capacities of men.
Can we suppose that societies will ever succeed in establishing artificially the equality refused by Nature?
A few theorists have believed for a long time that education might effect a general levelling. Many years of experience have shown the depth of this illusion.
It would not, however, be impossible for a triumphant Socialism to establish equality for a time by rigorously eliminating all superior individuals. One can easily foresee what would become of a people that had suppressed its best individuals while surrounded by other nations progressing by means of their best individuals.
Not only does Nature not know equality, but since the beginning of the ages she has always realised progress by means of successive differentiations—that is to say, by increasing inequalities. These alone could raise the obscure cell of the early geological periods to the superior beings whose inventions were to change the face of the earth.
The same phenomenon is to be observed in societies. The forms of democracy which select the better elements of the popular classes finally result in the creation of an intellectual aristocracy, a result the contrary of the dream of the pure theorists, to beat down the superior elements of society to the level of the inferior elements.
On the side of natural law, which is hostile to theories of equality, are the conditions of modern progress. Science and industry demand more and more considerable intellectual efforts, so that mental inequalities and the differences of social condition which spring from them cannot but become accentuated.
We therefore observe this striking phenomenon: as laws and institutions seek to level individuals the progress of civilisation tends still further to differentiate them. From the peasant to the feudal baron the intellectual difference was not great, but from the working-man to the engineer it is immense and is increasing daily.
Capacity being the principal factor of progress, the capable of each class rise while the mediocre remain stationary or sink. What could laws do in the face of such inevitable necessities?
In vain do the incapable pretend that, representing number, they also represent force. Deprived of the superior brains by whose researches all workers profit, they would speedily sink into poverty and anarchy.
The capital role of the elect in modern civilisation seems too obvious to need pointing out. In the case of civilised nations and barbarian peoples, which contain similar averages of mediocrities, the superiority of the former arises solely from the superior minds which they contain. The United States have understood this so thoroughly that they forbid the immigration of Chinese workers, whose capacity is identical with that of American workers, and who, working for lower wages, tend to create a formidable competition with the latter. Despite these evidences we see the antagonism between the multitude and the elect increasing day by day. At no period were the elect more necessary, yet never were they supported with such difficulty.
One of the most solid foundations of Socialism is an intense hatred of the elect. Its adepts always forget that scientific, artistic, and industrial progress, which creates the strength of a country and the prosperity of millions of workers, is due solely to a small number of superior brains.
If the worker makes three times as much to-day as he did a hundred years ago, and enjoys commodities then unknown to great nobles, he owes it entirely to the elect.
Suppose that by some miracle Socialism had been universally accepted a century ago. Risk, speculation, initiative—in a word, all the stimulants of human activity—being suppressed, no progress would have been possible, and the worker would have remained as poor as he was. Men would merely have established that equality in poverty desired by the jealousy and envy of a host of mediocre minds. Humanity will never renounce the progress of civilisation to satisfy so low an ideal.
THE RESULTS OF DEMOCRATIC EVOLUTION
1. The Influence upon Social Evolution of Theories of no Rational Value.
We have seen that natural laws do not agree with the aspirations of democracy. We know, also, that such a statement has never affected doctrines already in men's minds. The man led by a belief never troubles about its real value.
The philosopher who studies a belief must obviously discuss its rational content, but he is more concerned with its influences upon the general mind.
Applied to the interpretation of all the great beliefs of history, the importance of this distinction is at once evident. Jupiter, Moloch, Vishnu, Allah, and so many other divinities, were, no doubt, from the rational point of view, mere illusions, yet their effect upon the life of the peoples has been considerable.
The same distinction is applicable to the beliefs which prevailed during the Middle Ages. Equally illusory, they nevertheless exercised as profound an influence as if they had corresponded with realities.
If any one doubts this, let him compare the domination of the Roman Empire and that of the Church of Rome. The first was perfectly real and tangible, and implied no illusion. The second, while its foundations were entirely chimerical, was fully as powerful. Thanks to it, during the long night of the Middle Ages, semi-barbarous peoples acquired those social bonds and restraints and that national soul without which there is no civilisation.
The power possessed by the Church proves, again, that the power of certain illusions is sufficiently great to create, at least momentarily, sentiments as contrary to the interests of the individual as they are to that of society—such as the love of the monastic life, the desire for martyrdom, the crusades, the religious wars, &c.
The application to democratic and socialistic ideas of the preceding considerations shows that it matters little that these ideas have no defensible basis. They impress and influence men's minds, and that is sufficient. Their results may be disastrous in the extreme, but we cannot prevent them.
The apostles of the new doctrines are quite wrong in taking so much trouble to find a rational basis for their aspirations. They would be far more convincing were they to confine themselves to making affirmations and awakening hopes. Their real strength resides in the religious mentality which is inherent in the heart of man, and which during the ages has only changed its object.
Later on we shall consider from a philosophical point of view various consequences of the democratic evolution whose course we see accelerating. We may say in respect of the Church in the Middle Ages that it had the power of profoundly influencing the mentality of men. Examining certain results of the democratic doctrines, we shall see that the power of these is no less than that of the Church.
2. The Jacobin Spirit and the Mentality created by Democratic Beliefs.
Existing generations have inherited, not only the revolutionary principles but also the special mentality which achieves their success.
Describing this mentality when we were examining the Jacobin spirit, we saw that it always endeavours to impose by force illusions which it regards as the truth. The Jacobin spirit has finally become so general in France and in other Latin countries that it has affected all political parties, even the most conservative. The bourgeoisie is strongly affected by it, and the people still more so.
This increase of the Jacobin spirit has resulted in the fact that political conceptions, institutions, and laws tend to impose themselves by force. Syndicalism, peaceful enough in other countries, immediately assumed in France an uncompromising and anarchical aspect, which betrayed itself in the shape of riots, sabotage, and incendiarism.
Not to be repressed by timid Governments, the Jacobin spirit produces melancholy ravages in minds of mediocre capacity. At a recent congress of railway men a third of the delegates voted approval of sabotage, and one of the secretaries of the Congress began his speech by saying: "I send all saboteurs my fraternal greeting and all my admiration.''
This general mentality engenders an increasing anarchy. That France is not in a permanent state of anarchy is, as I have already remarked, due to the fact that the parties by which she is divided produce something like equilibrium. They are animated by a mortal hatred for one another, but none of them is strong enough to enslave its rivals.
This Jacobin intolerance is spreading to such an extent that the rulers themselves employ without scruple the most revolutionary tactics with regard to their enemies, violently persecuting any party that offers the least resistance, and even despoiling it of its property. Our rulers to-day behave as the ancient conquerors used; the vanquished have nothing to hope from the victors.
Far from being peculiar to the lower orders, intolerance is equally prominent among the ruling classes. Michelet remarked long ago that the violence of the cultivated classes is often greater than that of the people. It is true that they do not break the street lamps, but they are ready enough to cause heads to be broken. The worst violence of the revolution was the work of cultivated bourgeoisie—professors, lawyers, &c., possessors of that classical education which is supposed to soften the manners. It has not done so in these days, any more than it did of old. One can make sure of this by reading the advanced journals, whose contributors and editors are recruited chiefly from among the professors of the University.
Their books are as violent as their articles, and one wonders how such favourites of fortune can have secreted such stores of hatred.
One would find it hard to credit them did they assure us that they were consumed by an intense passion for altruism. One might more readily admit that apart from a narrow religious mentality the hope of being remarked by the mighty ones of the day, or of creating a profitable popularity, is the only possible explanation of the violence recommended in their written propaganda.
I have already, in one of my preceding works, cited some passages from a book written by a professor at the College of France, in which the author incites the people to seize upon the riches of the bourgeoisie, whom he furiously abuses, and have arrived at the conclusion that a new revolution would readily find among the authors of such books the Marats, Robespierres, and Carriers whom it might require.
The Jacobin religion—above all in its Socialist form—has all the power of the ancient faiths over feeble minds Blinded by their faith, they believe that reason is their guide, but are really actuated solely by their passions and their dreams.
The evolution of democratic ideas has thus produced not only the political results already mentioned, but also a considerable effect upon the mentality of modern men.
If the ancient dogmas have long ago exhausted their power, the theories of democracy are far from having lost theirs, and we see their consequences increasing daily. One of the chief results has been the general hatred of superiority.
This hatred of whatever passes the average in social fortune or intelligence is to-day general in all classes, from the working- classes to the upper strata of the bourgeoisie. The results are envy, detraction, and a love of attack, of raillery, of persecution, and a habit of attributing all actions to low motives, of refusing to believe in probity, disinterestedness, and intelligence.
Conversation, among the people as among the most cultivated Frenchmen, is stamped with the craze for abasing and abusing everything and everyone. Even the greatest of the dead do not escape this tendency. Never were so many books written to depreciate the merit of famous men, men who were formerly regarded as the most precious patrimony of their country.
Envy and hatred seem from all time to have been inseparable from democratic theories, but the spread of these sentiments has never been so great as to-day. It strikes all observers.
"There is a low demagogic instinct,'' writes M. Bourdeau, "without any moral inspiration, which dreams of pulling humanity down to the lowest level, and for which any superiority, even of culture, is an offence to society. . . it is the sentiment of ignoble equality which animated the Jacobin butchers when they struck off the head of a Lavoisier or a Chenier.
This hatred of superiority, the most prominent element in the modern progress of Socialism, is not the only characteristic of the new spirit created by democratic ideas.
Other consequences, although indirect, are not less profound. Such, for example, are the progress of "statism,'' the diminution of the power of the bourgeoisie, the increasing activity of financiers, the conflict of the classes, the vanishing of the old social constraints, and the degradation of morality.
All these effects are displayed in a general insubordination and anarchy. The son revolts against the father, the employee against his patron, the soldier against his officers. Discontent, hatred, and envy reign throughout.
A social movement which continues is necessarily like a machine in movement which accelerates its motion. We shall therefore find that the results of this mentality will become yet more important. It is betrayed from time to time by incidents whose gravity is daily increasing—railway strikes, postmen's strikes, explosions on board ironclads, &c. A propos of the destruction of the Liberte, which cost more than two million pounds and slew two hundred men in the space of a minute, an ex-Minister of Marine, M. de Lanessan, expresses himself as follows:—
''The evil that is gnawing at our fleet is the same as that which is devouring our army, our public administrations, our parliamentary system, our governmental system, and the whole fabric of our society. This evil is anarchy—that is to say, such a disorder of minds and things that nothing is done as reason would dictate, and no one behaves as his professional or moral duty should require him to behave.''
On the subject of the catastrophe of the Liberte, which followed that of the Iena, M. Felix Roussel said, in a speech delivered as president of the municipal council of Paris:—
"The causes of the evil are not peculiar to our day. The evil is more general, and bears a triple name: irresponsibility, indiscipline, and anarchy.''
These quotations, which state facts with which everyone is familiar, show that the staunchest upholders of the republican system themselves recognise the progress of social disorganisation. Everyone sees it, while he is conscious of his own impotence to change anything. It results, in fact, from mental influences whose power is greater than that of our wills.
 This disorder is the same in all the Government departments Interesting examples will be found in a report of M. Dausset to the Municipal Council:—
"The service of the public highways, which ought above all to be noted for its rapid execution, is, on the contrary, the very type of red-tape, bureaucratic, and ink-slinging administration, possessing men and money and wasting both in tasks which are often useless, for lack of order, initiative, and method—in a word, of organisation.
Speaking then of the directors of departments, each of whom works as he pleases, and after his own fashion, he adds:—
"These important persons completely ignore one another; they prepare and execute their plans without knowing anything of what their neighbours are doing; there is no one above them to group and co-ordinate their work.'' This is why a road is often torn up, repaired, and then torn up again a few days later, because the departments dealing with the supply of water, gas, electricity, and the sewers are mutually jealous, and never attempt to work together. This anarchy and indiscipline naturally cost enormous sums of money, and a private firm which operated in this manner would soon find itself bankrupt.
3. Universal Suffrage and its Representatives.
Among the dogmas of democracy perhaps the most fundamental of all and the most attractive is that of universal suffrage. It gives the masses the idea of equality, since for a moment at least rich and poor, learned and ignorant, are equal before the electoral urn. The minister elbows the least of his servants, and during this brief moment the power of one is as great as the others.
All Governments, including that of the Revolution, have feared universal suffrage. At a first glance, indeed, the objections which suggests themselves are numerous. The idea that the multitude could usefully choose the men capable of governing, that individuals of indifferent morality, feeble knowledge, and narrow minds should possess, by the sole fact of number, a certain talent for judging the candidate proposed for its selection is surely a shocking one.
From a rational point of view the suffrage of numbers is to a certain extent justified if we think with Pascal.
"Plurality is the best way, because it is visible and has strength to make itself obeyed; it is, however, the advice of the less able.''
As universal suffrage cannot in our times be replaced by any other institution, we must accept it and try to adapt it. It is accordingly useless to protest against it or to repeat with the queen Marie Caroline, at the time of her struggle with Napoleon: "Nothing is more dreadful than to govern men in this enlightened century, when every cobbler reasons and criticises the Government.''
To tell the truth, the objections are not always as great as they appear. The laws of the psychology of crowds being admitted, it is very doubtful whether a limited suffrage would give a much better choice of men than that obtained by universal suffrage.
These same psychological laws also show us that so-called universal suffrage is in reality a pure fiction. The crowd, save in very rare cases, has no opinion but that of its leaders. Universal suffrage really represents the most limited of suffrages.
There justly resides its real danger. Universal suffrage is made dangerous by the fact that the leaders who are its masters are the creatures of little local committees analogous to the clubs of the Revolution. The leader who canvasses for a mandate is chosen by them.
Once nominated, he exercises an absolute local power, on condition of satisfying the interests of his committees. Before this necessity the general interest of the country disappears almost totally from the mind of the elected representative.
Naturally the committees, having need of docile servants, do not choose for this task individuals gifted with a lofty intelligence nor, above all, with a very high morality. They must have men without character, without social position, and always docile.
By reason of these necessities the servility of the deputy in respect of these little groups which patronise him, and without which he would be no one, is absolute. He will speak and vote just as his committee tells him. His political ideal may be expressed in a few words: it is to obey, that he may retain his post.
Sometimes, rarely indeed, and only when by name or position or wealth he has a great prestige, a superior character may impose himself upon the popular vote by overcoming the tyranny of the impudent minorities which constitute the local committees.
Democratic countries like France are only apparently governed by universal suffrage. For this reason is it that so many measures are passed which do not interest the people and which the people never demanded. Such were the purchase of the Western railways, the laws respecting congregations, &c. These absurd manifestations merely translated the demands of fanatical local committees, and were imposed upon deputies whom they had chosen.
We may judge of the influence of these committees when we see moderate deputies forced to patronise the anarchical destroyers of arsenals, to ally themselves with anti-militarists, and, in a word, to obey the most atrocious demands in order to ensure re-election. The will of the lowest elements of democracy has thus created among the elected representatives manners and a morality which we can but recognise are of the lowest. The politician is the man in public employment, and as Nietzsche says:—
"Where public employment begins there begins also the clamour of the great comedians and the buzzing of venomous flies. . . . The comedian always believes in that which makes him obtain his best effects, in that which impels the people to believe in him. To- morrow he will have a new faith, and the day after to-morrow yet another. . . . All that is great has its being far from public employment and glory.''
4. The Craving for Reforms.
The craze for reforms imposed suddenly by means of decrees is one of the most disastrous conceptions of the Jacobin spirit, one of the formidable legacies left by the Revolution. It is among the principal factors of all the incessant political upheavals of the last century in France.
One of the psychological causes of this intense thirst for reforms arises from the difficulty of determining the real causes of the evils complained of. The need of explanation creates fictitious causes of the simplest nature. Therefore the remedies also appear simple.
For forty years we have incessantly been passing reforms, each of which is a little revolution in itself. In spite of all these, or rather because of them, the French have evolved almost as little as any race in Europe.
The slowness of our actual evolution may be seen if we compare the principal elements of our social life—commerce, industry, &c.—with those of other nations. The progress of other nations—of the Germans especially—then appears enormous, while our own has been very slow.
Our administrative, industrial, and commercial organisation is considerably out of date, and is no longer equal to our new needs. Our industry is not prospering; our marine is declining. Even in our own colonies we cannot compete with foreign countries, despite the enormous pecuniary subventions accorded by the State. M. Cruppi, an ex-Minister of Commerce, has insisted on this melancholy decline in a recent book. Falling into the usual errors, he believed it easy to remedy this inferiority by new laws.
All politicians share the same opinion, which is why we progress so slowly. Each party is persuaded that by means of reforms all evils could be remedied. This conviction results in struggles such as have made France the most divided country in the world and the most subject to anarchy.
No one yet seems to understand that individuals and their methods, not regulations, make the value of a people. The efficacious reforms are not the revolutionary reforms but the trifling ameliorations of every day accumulated in course of time. The great social changes, like the great geological changes, are effected by the daily addition of minute causes. The economic history of Germany during the last forty years proves in a striking manner the truth of this law.
Many important events which seem to depend more or less on hazard—as battles, for example—are themselves subject to this law of the accumulation of small causes. No doubt the decisive struggle is sometimes terminated in a day or less, but many minute efforts, slowly accumulated, are essential to victory. We had a painful experience of this in 1870, and the Russians have learned it more recently. Barely half an hour did Admiral Togo need to annihilate the Russian fleet, at the battle of Tsushima, which finally decided the fate of Japan, but thousands of little factors, small and remote, determined that success. Causes not less numerous engendered the defeat of the Russians—a bureaucracy as complicated as ours, and as irresponsible; lamentable material, although paid for by its weight in gold; a system of graft at every degree of the social hierarchy, and general indifference to the interests of the country.
Unhappily the progress in little things which by their total make up the greatness of a nation is rarely apparent, produces no impression on the public, and cannot serve the interests of politicians at elections. These latter care nothing for such matters, and permit the accumulation, in the countries subject to their influence, of the little successive disorganisations which finally result in great downfalls.
5. Social Distinctions in Democracies and Democratic Ideas in Various Countries.
When men were divided into castes and differentiated chiefly by birth, social distinctions were generally accepted as the consequences of an unavoidable natural law.
As soon as the old social divisions were destroyed the distinctions of the classes appeared artificial, and for that reason ceased to be tolerated.
The necessity of equality being theoretical, we have seen among democratic peoples the rapid development of artificial inequalities, permitting their possessors to make for themselves a plainly visible supremacy. Never was the thirst for titles and decorations so general as to-day.
In really democratic countries, such as the United States, titles and decorations do not exert much influence, and fortune alone creates distinctions. It is only by exception that we see wealthy young American girls allying themselves to the old names of the European aristocracy. They are then instinctively employing the only means which will permit a young race to acquire a past that will establish its moral framework.
But in a general fashion the aristocracy that we see springing up in America is by no means founded on titles and decorations. Purely financial, it does not provoke much jealousy, because every one hopes one day to form part of it.
When, in his book on democracy in America, Toqueville spoke of the general aspiration towards equality he did not realise that the prophesied equality would end in the classification of men founded exclusively on the number of dollars possessed by them. No other exists in the United States, and it will doubtless one day be the same in Europe.
At present we cannot possibly regard France as a democratic country save on paper, and here we feel the necessity, already referred to, of examining the various ideas which in different countries are expressed by the word "democracy.''
Of truly democratic nations we can practically mention only England and the United States. There, democracy occurs in different forms, but the same principles are observed—notably, a perfect toleration of all opinions. Religious persecutions are unknown. Real superiority easily reveals itself in the various professions which any one can enter at any age if he possesses the necessary capacity. There is no barrier to individual effort.
In such countries men believe themselves equal because all have the idea that they are free to attain the same position. The workman knows he can become foreman, and then engineer. Forced to begin on the lower rungs of the ladder instead of high up the scale, as in France, the engineer does not regard himself as made of different stuff to the rest of mankind. It is the same in all professions. This is why the class hatred, so intense in Europe, is so little developed in England and America.
In France the democracy is practically non-existent save in speeches. A system of competitions and examinations, which must be worked through in youth, firmly closes the door upon the liberal professions, and creates inimical and separate classes.
The Latin democracies are therefore purely theoretical. The absolutism of the State has replaced monarchical absolutism, but it is no less severe. The aristocracy of fortune has replaced that of birth, and its privileges are no less considerable.
Monarchies and democracies differ far more in form than in substance. It is only the variable mentality of men that varies their effects. All the discussions as to various systems of government are really of no interest, for these have no special virtue of themselves. Their value will always depend on that of the people governed. A people effects great and rapid progress when it discovers that it is the sum of the personal efforts of each individual and not the system of government that determines the rank of a nation in the world.
THE NEW FORMS OF DEMOCRATIC BELIEF
1. The Conflict between Capital and Labour.
While our legislators are reforming and legislating at hazard, the natural evolution of the world is slowly pursuing its course. New interests arise, the economic competition between nation and nation increases in severity, the working-classes are bestirring themselves, and on all sides we see the birth of formidable problems which the harangues of the politicians will never resolve.
Among these new problems one of the most complicated will be the problem of the conflict between labour and capital. It is becoming acute even in such a country of tradition as England. Workingmen are ceasing to respect the collective contracts which formerly constituted their charter, strikes are declared for insignificant motives, and unemployment and pauperism are attaining disquieting proportions.
In America these strikes would finally have affected all industries but that the very excess of the evil created a remedy. During the last ten years the industrial leaders have organised great employers' federations, which have become powerful enough to force the workers to submit to arbitration.
The labour question is complicated in France by the intervention of numerous foreign workers, which the stagnation of our population has rendered necessary. This stagnation will also make it difficult for France to contend with her rivals, whose soil will soon no longer be able to nourish its inhabitants, who, following one of the oldest laws of history, will necessarily invade the less densely peopled countries.
 Population of the Great Powers:— 1789. 1906.
Russia ... ... 28,000,000 129,000,000 Germany ... ... 28,000,000 57,000,000 Austria ... ... 18,000,000 44,000,000 England ... ... 12,000,000 40,000,000 France ... ... 26,000,000 39,000,000
These conflicts between the workers and employers of the same nation will be rendered still more acute by the increasing economic struggle between the Asiatics, whose needs are small, and who can therefore produce manufactured articles at very low prices, and the Europeans, whose needs are many. For twenty-five years I have laid stress upon this point. General Hamilton, ex- military attache to the Japanese army, who foresaw the Japanese victories long before the outbreak of hostilities, writes as follows in an essay translated by General Langlois:—
"The Chinaman, such as I have seen him in Manchuria, is capable of destroying the present type of worker of the white races. He will drive him off the face of the earth. The Socialists, who preach equality to the labourer, are far from thinking what would be the practical result of carrying out their theories. Is it, then, the destiny of the white races to disappear in the long run? In my humble opinion this destiny depends upon one single factor: Shall we or shall we not have the good sense to close our ears to speeches which present war and preparation for war as a useless evil?
"I believe the workers must choose. Given the present constitution of the world, they must cultivate in their children the military ideal, and accept gracefully the cost and trouble which militarism entails, or they will be let in for a cruel struggle for life with a rival worker of whose success there is not the slightest doubt. There is only one means of refusing Asiatics the right to emigrate, to lower wages by competition, and to live in our midst, and that is the sword. If Americans and Europeans forget that their privileged position is held only by force of arms, Asia will soon have taken her revenge.''
We know that in America the invasion of Chinese and Japanese, owing to the competition between them and the workers of white race, has become a national calamity. In Europe the invasion is commencing, but has not as yet gone far. But already Chinese emigrants have formed important colonies in certain centres— London, Cardiff, Liverpool, &c. They have provoked several riots by working for low wages. Their appearance has always lowered salaries.
But these problems belong to the future, and those of the present are so disquieting that it is useless at the moment to occupy ourselves with others.
2. The Evolution of the Working-Classes and the Syndicalist Movement.
The most important democratic problem of the day will perhaps result from the recent development of the working-class engendered by the Syndicalist or Trades Union movement.
The aggregation of similar interests known as Syndicalism has rapidly assumed such enormous developments in all countries that it may be called world-wide. Certain corporations have budgets comparable to those of small States. Some German leagues have been cited as having saved over three millions sterling in subscriptions.
The extension of the labour movement in all countries shows that it is not, like Socialism, a dream of Utopian theorists, but the result of economic necessities. In its aim, its means of action, and its tendencies, Syndicalism presents no kinship with Socialism. Having sufficiently explained it in my Political Psychology, it will suffice here to recall in a few words the difference between the two doctrines.
Socialism would obtain possession of all industries, and have them managed by the State, which would distribute the products equally between the citizens. Syndicalism, on the other hand, would entirely eliminate the action of the State, and divide society into small professional groups which would be self-governing.
Although despised by the Syndicalists and violently attacked by them, the Socialists are trying to ignore the conflict, but it is rapidly becoming too obvious to be concealed. The political influence which the Socialists still possess will soon escape them.
If Syndicalism is everywhere increasing at the expense of Socialism, it is, I repeat, because this corporative movement, although a renewal of the past, synthetises certain needs born of the specialisation of modern industry.
We see its manifestations under a great variety of circumstances. In France its success has not as yet been as great as elsewhere. Having taken the revolutionary form already mentioned, it has fallen, at least for the time being, into the hands of the anarchists, who care as little for Syndicalism as for any sort of organisation, and are simply using the new doctrine in an attempt to destroy modern society. Socialists, Syndicalists, and anarchists, although directed by entirely different conceptions, are thus collaborating in the same eventual aim—the violent suppression of the ruling classes and the pillage of their wealth.
The Syndicalist doctrine does not in any way derive from the principles of Revolution. On many points it is entirely in contradiction with the Revolution. Syndicalism represents rather a return to certain forms of collective organisation similar to the guilds or corporations proscribed by the Revolution. It thus constitutes one of those federations which the Revolution condemned. It entirely rejects the State centralisation which the Revolution established.
Syndicalism cares nothing for the democratic principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity. The Syndicalists demand of their members an absolute discipline which eliminates all liberty.
Not being as yet strong enough to exercise mutual tyranny, the syndicates so far profess sentiments in respect of one another which might by a stretch be called fraternal. But as soon as they are sufficiently powerful, when their contrary interests will necessarily enter into conflict, as during the Syndicalist period of the old Italian republics—Florence and Siena, for example—the present fraternity will speedily be forgotten, and equality will be replaced by the despotism of the most powerful.
Such a future seems near at hand. The new power is increasing very rapidly, and finds the Governments powerless before it, able to defend themselves only by yielding to every demand—an odious policy, which may serve for the moment, but which heavily compromises the future.
It was, however, to this poor recourse that the English Government recently resorted in its struggle against the Miners' Union, which threatened to suspend the industrial life of England. The Union demanded a minimum wage for its members, but they were not bound to furnish a minimum of work.
Although such a demand was inadmissible, the Government agreed to propose to Parliament a law to sanction such a measure. We may profitably read the weighty words pronounced by Mr. Balfour before the House of Commons:—
"The country has never in its so long and varied history had to face a danger of this nature and this importance.
"We are confronted with the strange and sinister spectacle of a mere organisation threatening to paralyse—and paralysing in a large measure—the commerce and manufactures of a community which lives by commerce and manufacture.
"The power possessed by the miners is in the present state of the law almost unlimited. Have we ever seen the like of it? Did ever feudal baron exert a comparable tyranny? Was there ever an American trust which served the rights which it holds from the law with such contempt of the general interest? The very degree of perfection to which we have brought our laws, our social organisation, the mutual relation between the various professions and industries, exposes us more than our predecessors in ruder ages to the grave peril which at present threatens society. . . . We are witnesses at the present moment of the first manifestation of the power of elements which, if we are not heedful, will submerge the whole of society. . . . The attitude of the Government in yielding to the injunction of the miners gives some appearance of reality to the victory of those who are pitting themselves against society.''
3. Why certain modern Democratic Governments are gradually being transformed into Governments by Administrative Castes.
Anarchy and the social conflicts resulting from democratic ideas are to-day impelling some Governments towards an unforeseen course of evolution which will end by leaving them only a nominal power. This development, of which I shall briefly denote the effects, is effected spontaneously under the stress of those imperious necessities which are still the chief controlling power of events.
The Governments of democratic countries to-day consist of the representatives elected by universal suffrage. They vote laws, and appoint and dismiss ministers chosen from themselves, and provisionally entrusted with the executive power. These ministers are naturally often replaced, since a vote will do it. Those who follow them, belonging to a different party, will govern according to different principles.
It might at first seem that a country thus pulled to and fro by various influences could have no continuity or stability. But in spite of all these conditions of instability a democratic Government like that of France works with fair regularity. How explain such a phenomenon?
Its interpretation, which is very simple, results from the fact that the ministers who have the appearance of governing really govern the country only to a very limited extent. Strictly limited and circumscribed, their power is exercised principally in speeches which are hardly noticed and in a few inorganic measures.
But behind the superficial authority of ministers, without force or duration, the playthings of every demand of the politician, an anonymous power is secretly at work whose might is continually increasing the administrations. Possessing traditions, a hierarchy, and continuity, they are a power against which, as the ministers quickly realise, they are incapable of struggling. Responsibility is so divided in the administrative machine that a minister may never find himself opposed by any person of importance. His momentary impulses are checked by a network of regulations, customs, and decrees, which are continually quoted to him, and which he knows so little that he dare not infringe them.