Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States
By John J. Lalor
NEITHER American nor English literature has hitherto possessed a Cyclopædia of Political Science and Political Economy. The want of a work of reference on these important branches of knowledge has long been felt, especially by lawyers, journalists, members of our state and national legislatures, and the large and intelligent class of capitalists and business men who give serious thought to the political and social questions of the day. The present work, which will be completed in three volumes, is the first to supply that want. It is also the first Political History of the United States in encyclopædic form—the first to which the reader can refer for an account of the important events or facts in our political history, as he would to a dictionary for the precise meaning of a word. The French, the Germans and even the Italians are richer in works of reference on political science and political economy than the Americans or the English. The Germans have Rotteck and Welcker’s
Staatslexikon, and Bluntschli and Brater’s
Staatswörterbuch; the French, Block’s
Dictionnaire Général de la Politique, and the celebrated
Dictionnaire de l’Economie Politique, edited by Guillaumin and Coquelin.The “Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States” is intended to be to the American and English reader what the above-named works are to French and German students of political science and political economy. The articles by foreigners in our work are largely translations from the
Dictionnaire de l’Economie Politique, the
Dictionnaire Général de la Politique, the
Staatswörterbuch, and original articles by Mr. T. E. Cliffe Leslie, the eminent English economist; while the American articles are by the best American and Canadian writers on political economy and political science. The task of writing the articles on the political history of the United States was confided to one person, Mr. Alexander Johnston, of Norwalk, Connecticut, thoroughness, conciseness and the absence of repetition and of redundancy being thus secured…. [From the Preface]
First Pub. Date
New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
Originally printed in 3 volumes. Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
The text of this edition is in the public domain.
- V.1, Entry 1, ABDICATION
- V.1, Entry 2, ABOLITION AND ABOLITIONISTS
- V.1, Entry 3, ABSENTEEISM
- V.1, Entry 4, ABSOLUTE POWER
- V.1, Entry 5, ABSOLUTISM
- V.1, Entry 6, ABSTENTION
- V.1, Entry 7, ABUSES IN POLITICS
- V.1, Entry 8, ABYSSINIA
- V.1, Entry 9, ACADEMIES
- V.1, Entry 10, ACADEMIES
- V.1, Entry 11, ACCLAMATION
- V.1, Entry 12, ACCUMULATION OF WEALTH
- V.1, Entry 13, ACT
- V.1, Entry 14, ADAMS
- V.1, Entry 15, ADAMS
- V.1, Entry 16, ADAMS
- V.1, Entry 17, ADAMS
- V.1, Entry 18, ADJOURNMENT
- V.1, Entry 19, ADMINISTRATION
- V.1, Entry 20, ADMINISTRATIONS
- V.1, Entry 21, AFRICA
- V.1, Entry 22, AGE
- V.1, Entry 23, AGENT
- V.1, Entry 24, AGENTS
- V.1, Entry 25, AGIO
- V.1, Entry 26, AGIOTAGE
- V.1, Entry 27, AGRICULTURE
- V.1, Entry 28, ALABAMA
- V.1, Entry 29, ALABAMA CLAIMS
- V.1, Entry 30, ALASKA
- V.1, Entry 31, ALBANY PLAN OF UNION
- V.1, Entry 32, ALBANY REGENCY
- V.1, Entry 33, ALCALDE
- V.1, Entry 34, ALCOHOL
- V.1, Entry 35, ALGERIA
- V.1, Entry 36, ALGERINE WAR
- V.1, Entry 37, ALIEN AND SEDITION LAWS
- V.1, Entry 38, ALIENS
- V.1, Entry 39, ALLEGIANCE
- V.1, Entry 40, ALLEGIANCE
- V.1, Entry 41, ALLIANCE
- V.1, Entry 42, ALLIANCE
- V.1, Entry 43, ALLOYAGE
- V.1, Entry 44, ALMANACH DE GOTHA
- V.1, Entry 45, ALSACE-LORRAINE
- V.1, Entry 46, AMBASSADOR
- V.1, Entry 47, AMBITION
- V.1, Entry 48, AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION
- V.1, Entry 49, AMERICA
- V.1, Entry 50, AMERICAN MERCHANT MARINE
- V.1, Entry 51, AMERICAN PARTY
- V.1, Entry 52, AMERICAN WHIGS
- V.1, Entry 53, AMES
- V.1, Entry 54, AMISTAD CASE
- V.1, Entry 55, AMNESTY
- V.1, Entry 56, AMNESTY
- V.1, Entry 57, ANAM
- V.1, Entry 58, ANARCHY
- V.1, Entry 59, ANCIEN RÉGIME
- V.1, Entry 60, ANDORRA
- V.1, Entry 61, ANHALT
- V.1, Entry 62, ANNEXATION
- V.1, Entry 63, ANNEXATIONS
- V.1, Entry 64, ANTI-FEDERAL PARTY
- V.1, Entry 65, ANTI-MASONRY
- V.1, Entry 66, ANTI-NEBRASKA MEN
- V.1, Entry 67, ANTI-RENTERS
- V.1, Entry 68, ANTI-SLAVERY.
- V.1, Entry 69, APPORTIONMENT
- V.1, Entry 70, APPROPRIATION.
- V.1, Entry 71, APPROPRIATIONS
- V.1, Entry 72, ARBITRAGE
- V.1, Entry 73, ARBITRARY ARRESTS
- V.1, Entry 74, ARBITRARY POWER
- V.1, Entry 75, ARBITRATION
- V.1, Entry 76, ARCHONS
- V.1, Entry 77, AREOPAGUS.
- V.1, Entry 78, ARGENTINE CONFEDERATION
- V.1, Entry 79, ARISTOCRACY.
- V.1, Entry 80, ARISTOCRATIC AND DEMOCRATIC IDEAS.
- V.1, Entry 81, ARITHMETIC
- V.1, Entry 82, ARIZONA
- V.1, Entry 83, ARKANSAS
- V.1, Entry 84, ARMISTICE
- V.1, Entry 85, ARMIES
- V.1, Entry 86, ARMY
- V.1, Entry 87, ARTHUR
- V.1, Entry 88, ARTISANS
- V.1, Entry 89, ARYAN RACES.
- V.1, Entry 90, ASIA
- V.1, Entry 91, ASSEMBLY (IN U. S. HISTORY)
- V.1, Entry 92, ASSESSMENTS
- V.1, Entry 93, ASSIGNATS
- V.1, Entry 94, ASSOCIATION AND ASSOCIATIONS
- V.1, Entry 95, ASYLUM
- V.1, Entry 96, ATELIERS NATIONAUX
- V.1, Entry 97, ATTAINDER
- V.1, Entry 98, ATTORNEYS GENERAL
- V.1, Entry 99, AUSTRALIA
- V.1, Entry 100, AUSTRIA-HUNGARY
- V.1, Entry 101, AUTHORITY
- V.1, Entry 102, AUTHORS
- V.1, Entry 103, AUTOCRAT
- V.1, Entry 104, AUTONOMY.
- V.1, Entry 105, AYES AND NOES
- V.1, Entry 106, BADEN
- V.1, Entry 107, BALANCE OF POWER
- V.1, Entry 108, BALANCE OF TRADE
- V.1, Entry 109, BALLOT
- V.1, Entry 110, BANK CONTROVERSIES
- V.1, Entry 111, BANKING
- V.1, Entry 112, BANK NOTES.
- V.1, Entry 113, BANKRUPTCY.
- V.1, Entry 114, BANKRUPTCY, National.
- V.1, Entry 115, BANKS.
- V.1, Entry 116, BANKS, Functions of.
- V.1, Entry 117, BANKS OF ISSUE
- V.1, Entry 118, BANKS, Advantages of Savings.
- V.1, Entry 119, BANKS, History and Management of Savings,
- V.1, Entry 120, BAR
- V.1, Entry 121, BARNBURNERS
- V.1, Entry 122, BARRICADE
- V.1, Entry 123, BARTER.
- V.1, Entry 124, BASTILLE
- V.1, Entry 125, BAVARIA
- V.1, Entry 126, BELGIUM
- V.1, Entry 127, BELL
- V.1, Entry 128, BELLIGERENTS
- V.1, Entry 129, BENTON
- V.1, Entry 130, BERLIN DECREE
- V.1, Entry 131, BILL
- V.1, Entry 132, BILL OF EXCHANGE
- V.1, Entry 133, BILL OF RIGHTS
- V.1, Entry 134, BILLION
- V.1, Entry 135, BILLS
- V.1, Entry 136, BI-METALLISM.
- V.1, Entry 137, BIRNEY
- V.1, Entry 138, BLACK COCKADE
- V.1, Entry 139, BLACK CODE.
- V.1, Entry 140, BLACK REPUBLICAN.
- V.1, Entry 141, BLAINE
- V.1, Entry 142, BLAIR
- V.1, Entry 143, BLOCKADE
- V.1, Entry 144, BLOODY BILL
- V.1, Entry 145, BLUE LAWS
- V.1, Entry 146, BLUE LIGHT
- V.1, Entry 147, BOARD OF TRADE.
- V.1, Entry 148, BOLIVIA
- V.1, Entry 149, BOOTY
- V.1, Entry 150, BORDER RUFFIANS
- V.1, Entry 151, BORDER STATES
- V.1, Entry 152, BOURGEOISIE
- V.1, Entry 153, BOUTWELL
- V.1, Entry 154, BRAHMANISM.
- V.1, Entry 155, BRAZIL
- V.1, Entry 156, BRECKENRIDGE
- V.1, Entry 157, BROAD SEAL WAR
- V.1, Entry 158, BROKERS
- V.1, Entry 159, BROOKS
- V.1, Entry 160, BROWN
- V.1, Entry 161, BUCHANAN
- V.1, Entry 162, BUCKSHOT WAR
- V.1, Entry 163, BUCKTAILS
- V.1, Entry 164, BUDDHISM
- V.1, Entry 165, BUDGET
- V.1, Entry 166, BULL
- V.1, Entry 167, BUNDESRATH
- V.1, Entry 168, BUREAUCRACY
- V.1, Entry 169, BURGESSES
- V.1, Entry 170, BURLINGAME
- V.1, Entry 171, BURR
- V.1, Entry 172, BUTLER, Benj. F.
- V.1, Entry 173, BUTLER, William Orlando
- V.1, Entry 174, CACHET
- V.1, Entry 175, CÆSARISM
- V.1, Entry 176, CALENDAR
- V.1, Entry 177, CALHOUN
- V.1, Entry 178, CALIFORNIA
- V.1, Entry 179, CANADA
- V.1, Entry 180, CANALS
- V.1, Entry 181, CANON LAW
- V.1, Entry 182, CAPITAL
- V.1, Entry 183, CAPITAL
- V.1, Entry 184, CAPITULATION
- V.1, Entry 185, CARICATURE
- V.1, Entry 186, CARPET BAGGERS
- V.1, Entry 187, CARTEL
- V.1, Entry 188, CASS
- V.1, Entry 189, CASUS BELLI
- V.1, Entry 190, CAUCUS
- V.1, Entry 191, CAUCUS SYSTEM
- V.1, Entry 192, CAUSE AND EFFECT IN POLITICS.
- V.1, Entry 193, CELIBACY, Clerical
- V.1, Entry 194, CELIBACY, Political Aspects of.
- V.1, Entry 195, CELTS.
- V.1, Entry 196, CENSURE.
- V.1, Entry 197, CENSURE OF MORALS.
- V.1, Entry 198, CENSURES
- V.1, Entry 199, CENSUS.
- V.1, Entry 200, CENTRALIZATION and DECENTRALIZATION.
- V.1, Entry 201, CEREMONIAL
- V.1, Entry 202, CHAMBER OF COMMERCE.
- V.1, Entry 203, CHARGÉ D'AFFAIRES.
- V.1, Entry 204, CHARITY, Private.
- V.1, Entry 205, CHARITY, Public.
- V.1, Entry 206, CHARITY, State.
- V.1, Entry 207, CHASE
- V.1, Entry 208, CHECKS AND BALANCES.
- V.1, Entry 209, CHEROKEE CASE
- V.1, Entry 210, CHESAPEAKE CASE.
- V.1, Entry 211, CHILI.
- V.1, Entry 212, CHINA
- V.1, Entry 213, CHINESE IMMIGRATION.
- V.1, Entry 214, CHIVALRY.
- V.1, Entry 215, CHRISTIANITY.
- V.1, Entry 216, CHURCH AND STATE
- V.1, Entry 217, CHURCH
- V.1, Entry 218, CHURCH
- V.1, Entry 219, CHURCH
- V.1, Entry 220, CHURCHES AND RELIGIONS
- V.1, Entry 221, CHURCHES
- V.1, Entry 222, CINCINNATI
- V.1, Entry 223, CIPHER DISPATCHES AND DECIPHERMENT
- V.1, Entry 224, CIRCULATION OF WEALTH.
- V.1, Entry 225, CITIES
- V.1, Entry 226, CITIES AND TOWNS.
- V.1, Entry 227, CIVIL ADMINISTRATION
- V.1, Entry 228, CIVIL LIST.
- V.1, Entry 229, CIVIL RIGHTS BILL
- V.1, Entry 230, CIVIL SERVICE REFORM
- V.1, Entry 231, CIVILIZATION
- V.1, Entry 232, CLAY
- V.1, Entry 233, CLEARING, AND CLEARING HOUSES
- V.1, Entry 234, CLERICALISM
- V.1, Entry 235, CLIENTÈLE AND CUSTOM
- V.1, Entry 236, CLIMATE
- V.1, Entry 237, CLIMATE
- V.1, Entry 238, CLINTON
- V.1, Entry 239, CLINTON, George
- V.1, Entry 240, CL�TURE
- V.1, Entry 241, COASTING TRADE
- V.1, Entry 242, COCHIN CHINA
- V.1, Entry 243, COINAGE
- V.1, Entry 244, COLFAX
- V.1, Entry 245, COLONIZATION SOCIETY
- V.1, Entry 246, COLORADO
- V.1, Entry 247, COLOMBIA
- V.1, Entry 248, COMMERCE.
- V.1, Entry 249, COMMERCIAL CRISES
- V.1, Entry 250, COMMISSION
- V.1, Entry 251, COMMITTEES
- V.1, Entry 252, COMMON LAW
- V.1, Entry 253, COMMONS
- V.1, Entry 254, COMMUNE
- V.1, Entry 255, COMMUNISM
- V.1, Entry 256, COMPETITION.
- V.1, Entry 257, COMPROMISES
- V.1, Entry 258, COMPULSORY CIRCULATION
- V.1, Entry 259, COMPULSORY EDUCATION
- V.1, Entry 260, CONCESSION
- V.1, Entry 261, CONCLAVE.
- V.1, Entry 262, CONCLUSUM
- V.1, Entry 284, CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES
- V.1, Entry 301, CONVENTION
- V.1, Entry 375, DISTILLED SPIRITS
- V.1, Entry 384, DOMINION OF CANADA
- V.2, Entry 7, EDUCATION
- V.2, Entry 18, EMBARGO
- V.2, Entry 33, EXCHANGE
- V.2, Entry 35, EXCHANGE OF PRISONERS
- V.2, Entry 37, EXCHANGE OF WEALTH
- V.2, Entry 121, GREAT BRITAIN
- V.2, Entry 130, HABEAS CORPUS
- V.2, Entry 180, INDUSTRIAL ARBITRATION AND CONCILIATION
- V.2, Entry 225, JUSTICE, Department of
- V.2, Entry 246, LAW
- V.2, Entry 364, NEW GRANADA
- V.2, Entry 379, NULLIFICATION
- V.3, Entry 4, OCEANICA
- V.3, Entry 29, PARIS MONETARY CONFERENCE
- V.3, Entry 32, PARLIAMENTARY LAW.
- V.3, Entry 116, RACES OF MANKIND
- V.3, Entry 137, REPUBLICAN PARTY
- V.3, Entry 155, ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH.
- V.3, Entry 195, SLAVERY
- V.3, Entry 278, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
- V. 2, List of Writers
- V. 3, List of Writers
- V. 3, List of American Writers
ARISTOCRACY. I. THE ORIGIN AND GROWTH OF ARISTOCRACY. The word aristocracy, taken in its etymological sense, means
government by the best. Taken in this sense, all would agree that aristocracy ought to govern. If ignorance and passion did not cloud the judgment of men, they would call the most capable and most virtuous to rule in nations. This is no doubt the reason why writers of antiquity saw in aristocracy the most perfect of governments.
—At present, the word aristocracy has a far more varied meaning. It is now applied to every kind of superiority, and particularly to that of birth. It is necessary, therefore, to extricate from it the different ideas which are bound up in this one word and to see how aristocracy originates and grows. It is the duty of modern publicists to distinguish natural aristocracy from that born of convention and of law.
—To say that there is a natural aristocracy, is merely to affirm that there are inequalities resulting from nature itself. Not all the members of a savage tribe have the same degree of physical strength, adroitness, courage or intelligence. There are some who show a marked superiority in warlike leadership and government. Besides these innate gifts, age and experience count for much. The old men form what may be called the council of the tribe. Time consecrates these distinctions as is shown by the word senate (
seniores), which attests the respect and importance accorded by civilized nations to men who have had a long and distinguished career. In personal merit and experience we have an aristocracy ready formed against which no theoretical objection of any value can be raised. Men have always and will always agree to grant an exceptional share of influence to the talent which serves and the wisdom which instructs and guides them, by visible marks of consideration, such as rewards and honors.
—Parallel with the source of original inequalities which is connected with the organization of each one of us, and with the use which we make of our will, there is another inequality which civilization should not abolish; we mean property, and particularly inherited property. Property even if not transmissible, would still create great differences in the relations of man to man. Just as there are educated and ignorant men, there are rich and poor men, in every nation acquainted with the division of labor and the exchange of wealth. Accordingly, those who can tolerate no species of aristocracy are forced to dream of an equal partition of property among all. But how much the hereditary transmission of landed and personal property adds to this inequality! The wealth accumulated by the father during an entire life of labor and success goes to his children to whom it is frequently but a beginning, and the means of new acquisitions. On this account, we find a purely personal aristocracy by the side of an aristocracy of family.
—Is this all? Is property the only institution developed by society? It is not. There is another, growing from day to day—the state. Political society passed through two inevitable phases, before the state was definitely constituted, although government was never entirely absent, even in nascent societies. The first phase continued while the shock and conflict of opposing and more or less anarchic wills was going on. The second witnessed the distribution of power among a certain number of chiefs. This condition approximated to feudalism. It was only later that power was concentrated, and that the state rose in its majesty and force above the divergent wills of individuals who had to be subjected to the empire of law. The aristocratic principle did not perish through this new development of the state. It now became finally fully established, and borrowed from the law the authority which it before asked only from the power of custom. The state finding an aristocracy already in existence approved an organized it, and undertook to add new elements to it. It united great families together, it called them to its councils from all parts of the territory over which its empire extended, it secured to them by wise provisions the possession of their property and titles. It can not be said that aristocracy is in this case artificial.
—When an individual has rendered eminent service to his country, the state is merely the organ of public gratitude
in the granting to him of certain advantages. In the same way, it is but the interpreter and instrument of a natural and general sentiment in the extending of a part or all of these advantages to his family. Although we may discuss the justice, we can not the value of recognizing in the son the merits of the father. Let us remember, moreover, that this sentiment has its origin in the family itself. Is not a family proud of the merits and fame of its head, or of one of its own members who sheds lustre on its name? Are not children proud of their father as the father is of his children? This sentiment is so natural that it extends to shame as well as to glory. A single guilty person possesses the lamentable possibility of dishonoring a whole family. Thus honor becomes a treasure; whosoever increases it is exalted to the skies; whosoever brings a taint upon it robs the family of its respectability and is execrated accordingly. This pride of family which exists in all ranks of society, where it becomes the mainspring of a host of virtues and the most powerful preventive of shameful acts, is greatest in prominent families. It is the support of honor and may extend to the most absolute abnegation or the sublime; but it may also assume the character of barbarism. In these spontaneous feelings, we must recognize that selfish personality is not everything; we must see in them a solidarity which, commencing with the family, extends to the whole nation, when it assumes the character of patriotism. It is in the name of this feeling of solidarity that men have come to believe in privileged races in which are transmitted the most brilliant mental and spiritual gifts, and even a physical organization, which is considered finer and stronger than others. We can foresee the abuses and the exaggerations to which this prejudice may lead. Is the solidarity on which it rests less natural, less fundamental for that? Is it not a fact physiological, moral and social, that human qualities are hereditary? Every religion has sought and given an explanation of this fact. Solidarity in the fall and redemption of man, the community of merit, and prayer, taught by Christianity, would not receive so ready an adhesion if they did not have a basis somewhere in nature.
—Among the historical sources of aristocracy there is one which occupies an important place in the destinies of the race—conquest. There are few countries which have not presented the spectacle of at least two races, one superimposed on the other, such in antiquity as the Spartans of the Lacedemonians, not to mention the Indians and Egyptians, or the races of the other portions of the ancient east which was traversed by so many invading armies, and overthrown by so many successive revolutions. Such also were the Franks, the successors of the Romans in a portion of Gaul. Such were the Normans who imposed their yoke on the Anglo-Saxons. Conquest extends and strengthens the aristocracy already existing among the victors: the seizure and partition of conquered lands which become hereditary in the principal families give it permanency. Its numbers are increased by the accession of those who have played a brilliant part in the war of conquest and by whose services the country was won. It is very easy to see that an aristocracy thus founded on violence, will not hesitate to perpetuate itself by claiming unjust privileges. It is natural that force should be guilty of abuse, and these abuses are far reaching when there is no counterpoise to them. This conquering and warlike aristocracy is able to render service to a country, but it is evident that this service is dearly paid for. What would such an aristocracy not do to secure a monopoly of wealth and honor? It will to reach this end employ the laws the making of which it reserves exclusively to itself, not less than arbitrary power and force. It will establish a jealous line of demarcation between itself and the rest of the population. Hence the struggles between the aristocracy and the people. In Rome while the patricians were in possession of the priesthood, the religious rites, the auguries, the offices and most of the public property, they impoverished the people by violence, fraud and usury. To issue from this condition and free themselves from servitude, the plebeians demanded admission into the religious community and participation in its sacred rites. It is well known how lively and stubborn the resistance of the particians was, but they were forced to yield. There remained for the plebeians the acquisition of citizenship liberty, and the guarantee of liberty, that is, the right of property. The Romans were above all an agricultural people; their law did two things; it ordained the partition of the conquered lands and fixed limits to the extent of possession; but it was violated or eluded. History may be consulted for the recital of the long and energetic struggle which the plebeians maintained in order to shake off this crushing yoke. The office of tribune afforded them the means of regular political action. Little by little, they won admission to the highest grades of military command, to all the magistracies and finally to that of pontiff. This struggle may serve in a certain degree as a type. But there have been analogous cases. The aristocracy of France, even when scarcely more than a nobility, renewed a part of this exclusiveness toward the masses. It would agree to pay no other tax to the country than that of blood, which the people also paid while they had at the same time to defray all the expenses of the state. These are a specimen of the abuses brought about by an aristocracy, and especially by one having its origin in conquest—Let us sum up what we have to say on the origin of aristocracy. Considered in its principle, it is natural. It arises from individual differences and social circumstances. When it thus arises, it can not be considered altogether artificial, for the social state is the natural condition of man. Property and inequality of condition are necessities of the social state recognized by the law. Aristocracy is a result of these necessities, since it manifests itself as soon as
superiority makes itself felt. Not only does it exist in countries governed aristocratically, but no people can get on without it. It has as a guarantee of its continuance, the respect which will always attend every kind of superiority, and the power of family spirit. We shall not attempt to justify in detail this aristocratic element which is recognized by nations most imbued with the principles of equality. To dispute its legitimacy, we should have to descend to an absolute equality of condition which yet would not prevent nature from distributing its gifts very unequally. The doctrine of an absolute equality of condition needs no refutation. This leveling equality such as the communists conceive it, is unjust in itself. It puts industry and idleness, foresight and thoughtlessness, virtue and vice, on the same footing; and leads to the most complete stagnation, by taking from individual effort all prospect of advancement, from capital the concentration which makes it fruitful of benefits, from men all possible leisure and all refined culture. But man is so constructed that there is but a step from use to abuse, and from evil to good. There is no institution which does not take advantage of its necessity to society to become exclusive and tyrannical.
—Such vice and suffering result from aristocracy that many persons not knowing the providential and salutary principle of its corruption and excess, have condemned the principle of aristocracy itself. The iniquities of an artificial and violent aristocracy have made men hostile to a just and natural aristocracy. To acquaint these levelers of the necessity of the aristocratic element, we have offered the preceding reflections on its source. It is to them, and to the too exclusive partisans of the political preponderance of aristocracies that we offer the following considerations, deeply convinced as we are of the principle, that no political society and no government can thrive except through a mingling of the various elements, any one of which would become fatally oppressive through exclusive domination.
—II. THE OBJECT OF ARISTOCRACY, ITS MERITS AND ITS FAULTS. Every political society has a two-fold object, its own preservation and development. Its institutions answer to this end and accomplish it each in its own way. Aristocracy, therefore, represents in society more especially solidarity and tradition, while democracy represents essentially personal merit and the spirit of innovation. Even when aristocracy plays a conservative part, it is impossible to refuse it due homage. Nations do not live from hand to mouth, and the present has need of enlightenment from all the glorious reflexes of the past. Pascal compared humanity to a single man learning continually. Aristocracy is the ballast of a ship, the play of the winds and waves. It represents perpetuity in government. Without it, the hereditary rights of families possessed neither of great fame nor wealth would soon be unprotected, for that which in the possession of the rich and powerful would be destroyed would not be suffered in the feebler and poorer. Ancient families, both in home and foreign affairs, are like the imposing figure of national power and glory. A writer of the sixteenth century, Jean Bodin, in his
République, paints them in this energetic manner: “The condition of the republic is more firm and stable being fixed upon good houses, upon great immovable pillars as it were, which could not support the weight of a great structure if small and slender unless they were greater in number.” But, we may ask, is this conservative part the only one which the aristocracy has to play? It is not. And here we have one of the most essential elements of the question, one which it is as dangerous as it is frequent to ignore Under pain of abdication, it is necessary that the aristocracy become an instrument of progress, and above all that it oppose no insuperable obstacles to progress. At Rome, where the aristocracy yielded only foot by foot before more than legitimate plebeian demands, it was able to live only by concessions which did not save it from finally falling under the crushing weight of the Cæsars. In England where it is so favorable to social progress, it appears with considerable éclat; it remains popular and full of life. It is in this sense and on these conditions that an aristocracy which understands its duties may be considered as an indispensable agent in civilization. It aids in every improvement. It is not merely the personification of the feeling of patriotism, but it represents it with a delicate and courageous pride. It encourages arts and letters. Without haughtiness toward inferiors, it bestows a patronage on all who labor and wish to elevate themselves, which does not humiliate. To this it adds care for the suffering. Haughty only toward the power which is ready to trample morality, justice and law under foot, it shows itself, with respect to the masses of men, more penetrated with the feeling of duty than with pride of privilege.
—This is the ideal. We need not add that no aristocracy has ever come up to it and many are scandalously remote from it. Those whose memory has been preserved to us by history present generally a mixture of the virtues and vices which the aristocratic spirit engenders successively or at once in varied proportions, according as the aristocracies in question performed their task well or ill.
—This is approximately a fair picture of their qualities and defects, when aristocracies play a preponderant or at least a prominent part in the state. We can not deny to aristocracies not altogether degenerated, a masculine energy, at times sombre and harsh, as at Rome and in the republic of Venice. They afford the best examples of the dignity and independence to be expected from individuals who, subjected to the rude trials of public life, have nothing to ask of any one.
—They commend themselves no less in times of advanced civilization, by their habits of elegance and taste than by military courage. The most striking traits of an aristocracy, in a political sense, are sequence and depth of design. The Roman senate, the
governments of Venice and England furnish evident proofs of this. Aristocracy creates a political class devoted by occupation from youth to the study and the art of government. It is this which made it possible for a man like Pitt to be prime minister at the age of twenty-three. Many faults of an aristocracy border closely upon its good qualities; others are the opposite and mark the decay of the body itself, such as the spirit of servility under absolute monarchs. The principal faults which history finds in it are the pride of a narrow caste, the disdain of all labor except that of war, contempt for humanity which it treats as the plaything of its pleasures or as the tool of its ambition. What history is there which does not tell of, what theatre which does not show us the insolence and debauchery of the heir of a great house, and the impertinent frivolity of courtiers? Even in the bosom of aristocratic families, harshness toward woman, despotism toward children, the systematic sacrifice of the younger members of the family to the idea of primogenitureship, are traits frequently noted and to which attention has been often called. The action of customs and laws, the influence of a religion which favors sentiments of humility and charity, must tend without doubt to diminish among individuals those faults of the aristocratic spirit. But they reappear very soon again when aristocracy is left without a counterpoise. It is, therefore, indispensable to confine it within proper limits, and this applies with equal justice to all other political elements. Left to its inclinations, it is more exempt from excess than an absolute monarchy or a pure democracy. As has been shown by Aristotle and after him by Montesquieu, it tends to become an oligarchy. Under this form, it hesitates at no abuse of power and gives government a basis more and more narrow and egotistical.
—One of the most important problems of modern times will be to reconcile that part of aristocracy which is found in all society with the inevitable and just progress of democracy, which will not, even in the interest of its own continuance, descend to absolute leveling. We must see how aristocracy can adapt itself to this situation. Let us follow it then under the different forms of government and see its action under a monarchy, an exclusive aristocracy and a democracy.
—III. ARISTOCRACY UNDER A MONARCH, IN A PURELY ARISTOCRATIC GOVERNMENT, AND IN A DEMOCRACY—PROBABLE FUTURE OF ARISTOCRACY IN PURELY DEMOCRATIC STATES. There is no form of royalty, unless it be a despotism pure and simple subjecting everything to the crushing level of a uniform tyranny, which does not like to surround itself with great families. There are two reasons for this. The first is that it is natural for royalty to seek counsel and support from those whose rank brings them nearest the throne. The second consists in a certain sameness of origin and nature of royalty and aristocracy. What is a dynasty ordinarily but an aristocratic family which has reached supreme power, either by the success of arms or by rich and powerful marriage alliances, which have extended its domains and established its authority over that of its former peers? Who can fail to see also that the idea of royalty and aristocracy are the same? Both rest on the idea of inheritance. It matters little that among publicists there are some who recognize in this principle of inheritance a veritable divine right, while others see in it a purely social institution, formed less in the interest of those who enjoy it than in the interest of all. The hereditary principle which retains the same families around the same throne, becomes no less the permanent trait of royalty than of nobility. Aristocracy appears therefore in so-called limited monarchies as an intermediate and moderating body between the king and the people. When monarchy is absolute or tends to become so, it has nothing more at heart than the abasement of the aristocracy. This the monarchy did in France. It was not satisfied there with lowering the aristocracy (and let us note this well) as a feudal power; it ruined it politically by the systematic nurture of excessive centralization which crushed out all opposition and left nothing but functionaries in existence. Thus the political power of the aristocracy grew weaker and weaker until nothing remained but a haughty and brilliant nobility, vain of their titles, frivolous and brave, still occupying a number of high offices, devoted to the prince but devoid of all influence on the course of public affairs and powerless among the people. This is a picture of the French nobility under Louis XIV. and Louis XV. We know what a bitter complaint was wrung from Saint Simon by this debasement and what helpless plans were made to regenerate this fallen aristocracy which had ceased to have any point of contact with the nation. Not content with waiting in the antechambers of a minister or a courtesan, it put itself, in the person of its most illustrious representatives, at the feet of the banker Law. It is, therefore, for the general interest that aristocracy should maintain an important political position in monarchies. Otherwise royalty would fail of support, and the people be without a guide. The tendency of monarchy would be to arbitrary power, and of the people to agitation. There would be a wide field for revolution and a narrow one for liberty.
—A purely aristocratic government puts an aristocracy to the difficult test of all political powers which have no checks or balances outside themselves. Moreover aristocratic government does not necessarily always appear under the same form. It exists in England side by side on the one hand with monarchy whose object seems to be to preside over its destiny while occupying the lofty place which individual ambition would struggle to attain if it could, and on the other with the popular element which it governs, but which in our day hotly contests the mastery with it. If we suppose the aristocracy standing alone, a republic is the natural form of the aristocracy. Rome exiled its kings and became an aristocratic
republic. Many of the Italian republics of the middle ages assumed the same form. Is it not too evident that if the republic had been maintained in England, it would not have been to the advantage of democracy? How can we help saying as much of the league in France, notwithstanding the support it met with among the people? Could the triumph of the Guises as well as that of the Protestant leaders, have had any other result than the success of a pure aristocracy? Would that pure aristocracy have proclaimed a republic? Would it have come to terms with royalty reduced to a subordinate position? That is the secret of history, one of the enigmas the solution of which we know not. The author of the “Spirit of Laws” has laid down the rules of aristocratic government. He has given to monarchy honor as its principle, to democracy virtue, and to aristocracy moderation. The somewhat subtle reasons which he assigns for this may be reduced to the following: that the nobles must be self-repressive and not turn against the people the laws of which they are the depositories and the organ. Montesquieu draws the pictures of a kind of ideal aristocratic government, which has been realized only in very few cases and at rare periods. He insists greatly on absence of pride and splendor, and on the modesty and simplicity which nobles ought to exhibit. The two principal sources of disorder should be banished from government. “extreme inequality between the governing and the governed, and the same inequality among those who govern” Montesquieu therefore blames the nobles for exempting themselves from taxes and imposing burdens upon the people. He approves taxing the principal personages of the state as well as others and even more. He fears extreme wealth among the aristocracy not less than extreme poverty. Everything which tends to equality in the aristocratic class seems good to him. “The law,” he says, “ought to deprive the nobles of the right of primogeniture so that by the continual partition of property fortunes may ever tend to equality. None of the means employed to perpetuate the greatness of families should be permitted.” In giving utterance to these ideas he seems to have had in mind the government of Venice which carried out these principles. He accorded extensive and even exorbitant privileges to the aristocracy in a monarchy, privileges which he refused it in a purely aristocratic state. This is not inconsistency but precaution. In a monarchic government the aristocracy is limited, in an aristocratic one it is not, and should submit itself to rules calculated to maintain its power without rendering it odious. This is why Montesquieu approves, in principle, institutions like those of the ephors at Lacedemonia and state inquisitors in Venice. “The best aristocracy,” he says, “is that in which the part of the people who have no share in power is so small and poor that the party in power has no interest in oppressing it. Thus when Antipater established a rule in Athens that those who had not property to the amount of 2,000 drachmas should be excluded from the right of suffrage, he formed the best possible aristocracy, because this property qualification was so small that it excluded but very few people and none who had any consideration in the city. Aristocratic families ought therefore to be as far as possible of the people. The nearer an aristocracy approaches democracy, the more perfect it is, and it is less perfect as it approximates to monarchy. The most imperfect of all is where the part of the people which obeys is in civil slavery to those who command, as the aristocracy of Poland where the peasants are slaves of the nobles.”
—It seems indeed, although he does not mention it, that Montesquieu had the English aristocracy in view when he spoke of those who do not lose connection with the great body of the people. It is not that it realizes the ideal of the simplicity and equality dreamt of by the author of the “Spirit of Laws,” who recalls the lessons of philosophers and the political writers of antiquity. In England, fortunes are immense and the right of primogeniture is established. The privileges accorded the aristocracy have caused it to strike root in the clergy, the army, the navy and the colonies. But it has never separated its interests from those of the nation. By its attachment to country life it fulfills its duty as the patron of the agricultural population. It has thus avoided the sad example of the French nobility who desert their landed estates to lead an idle life in the cities. It has not thought commerce beneath it. It has taken the lead in the economic progress of the country. When we seek for the causes of the success of this great aristocracy which has thriven in presence of the ruins heaped up by revolutions in other countries, we can, I think, reduce them to the following: In the first place, local habits (that of the mingling in every-day life of great and small, rich and poor for instance) have established among the people bonds of respect and gratitude which unite them to the aristocracy. The result is to make the interests of all one. In the second place, the fortunate circumstance which has divided the British aristocracy into two camps saves them from stagnation and corruption, by introducing among them the necessary principle of competition. If there had been only whigs, the aristocracy would have been inclined to excess, to innovation which runs the risk of degenerating into revolution. If there had been only tories, their conservative tendencies would have subjected them to the no smaller inconvenience of maintaining an aristocracy in a state of stagnation and resistance. England has had the singular fortune of possessing parties more impassioned than any other but with a profound respect for the fundamental principles of the constitution. Consequently no political body since the great revolution which has settled its destinies once and forever, has been less exposed to the alternations of languor and violent crises which elsewhere have injured the political constitution of the country.
In the third place, and the circumstance is decisive, this aristocracy has continued ready to earn the fortunes to be won in manufacturing industry and commerce, as well as the rewards of scientific and literary labor. The father of Sir Robert Peel was a cotton spinner. Macaulay, the great historian, who received the title of lord, is an instance of this intelligent liberality which brings into the ranks of the aristocracy all the social forces capable of adding to its strength and brilliancy. It has been remarked that the English aristocracy which does not hide the plebeian origin of some of its members and knows how to recruit its thinned ranks from labor as well as from the army, places birth so little in the front rank of the advantages it seeks, that the English language has no equivalent for the French words
parvenu. This explains how a man like Fox, of a more aristocratic origin than Pitt, should have been able to remain all his life the chief representative of popular interests. This explains, too, how the tories have finished by showing themselves almost as progressive as the whigs by the sacrifice of the rotten boroughs and of the protectionist corn laws. It is certainly proper to condemn the too frequent Machiavellian policy of the aristocratic government of England with regard to foreign nations. And it must be acknowledged also that this aristocratic government has more than once shown itself harsh and corrupt at home, intolerant and oppressive to minorities. But how can we refuse our admiration to an aristocracy which has known how to correct abuses and which corrects them every day; which has conferred political equality on Ireland, emancipated the Catholics; which has given civil and political rights to the Jews, sacrificed the prohibitive system, broadened the electoral basis, proclaimed parliamentary reform, and which we doubt not will raise up against its younger sons the formidable competition of the commoners? To give the example of every kind of agricultural progress and to favor it among others by all the means of publicity and association, to watch over the material and moral wants of the laboring classes, to be occupied in remedying the unhealthiness of workmen’s dwellings, to establish schools for the indigent, to tax itself heavily for the poor; to have a part in everything done for the advancement of science and the development of credit, is a noble rôle, a grand spectacle—a spectacle the more imposing and a rôle the more splendid in that the aristocracy is not seconded by the state and that it accomplishes by unceasing individual efforts more and better things than are accomplished by governmental mechanism elsewhere. We can not be astonished after this that since the fifteenth century we do not find in the history of England anything like a serious revolt of the lower against the upper classes. The aristocracy accomplished in silence the revolution which in France was so noisily accomplished on the night of the 21st of August, 1789. It gave up the tributes, the humiliating services and the privileged jurisdiction of the feudal system. To-day it has no surer ally than the agricultural classes.
—Is the democracy, which in many countries is becoming more and more important, to exclude the aristocratic element, such as we have defined it, from society and a share in public affairs? To put such a question is to answer it. If democracy condemns privileges securing the monopoly of government to a certain class unjustly favored by the laws, it can not, without injury to itself, reject the natural aristocracy born of enlightenment, services performed, and all kinds of superiority recognized and sanctioned by society. How can the political utility of the aristocratic element in a democracy be denied? Has democracy no need of tradition or restraint? The division of legislative power into two chambers even in the most democratic nations is destined in a great measure to contribute to this element. Men specially distinguished by experience and age are sent to one of these—men who have rendered brilliant services to the state, men of large possessions and known family. For if it is neither indispensable nor desirable that birth should be an absolute title to respect, it necessarily attracts the attention of men. This has been witnessed even under the recent democratic republic in France. To be the son or brother of a celebrated member of the convention became a species of republican nobility. The title of count was not bestowed on him, but the man was made a deputy or a councilor of state simply because of his name.
—Let us not rebel against these facts; they are rooted in human nature. It is no more indifferent to the public that a person is of such or such a family, than it is to foreigners that a man is born in such or such a country.
—That which is condemned and without appeal by modern thought is the proud pretension that there are certain races created to govern, while the rest must forever obey. The prejudice of race exists neither in presence of the Christian religion, which sees in all men brothers, nor in that of philosophy and the progress of thought. The pretense of the aristocratic element to become exclusive would meet with an invincible obstacle in this sentiment of equality which has descended down among the masses, and a formidable rival in the accumulations of industry and wealth. Aristocracy may go into mourning for its ancient privileges. It is scarcely to be believed that duchies will be created again for the purpose of making dukes or marquisates for marquises. The éclat of these titles which formerly rested on solid realities will disappear with the illustrious families of another age which still serve as decorations to the present; but if the top of the tree is to be severed from it, let us hope that it will not be entirely beaten down. The weighty causes which form in every society, in proportion as it is more developed, an aristocratic element, exist in democracy with this additional circumstance, that where all unjust inequality and illegal oppression have disappeared, it is necessary that superiority of every kind
should assert itself. A democracy which does not take account of any kind of superiority, or even which does not take into account all kinds, can not escape continual and wretched agitation It will consume itself and surely fall a victim to chance and transient despotisms, with intervals of anarchy.