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´╗┐Title: The Ancien Regime
Author: Kingsley, Charles, 1819-1875
Language: English
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Transcribed from the 1902 "Historical Lectures and Essays" Macmillan and

by Charles Kingsley


The rules of the Royal Institution forbid (and wisely) religious or
political controversy.  It was therefore impossible for me in these
Lectures, to say much which had to be said, in drawing a just and
complete picture of the Ancien Regime in France.  The passages inserted
between brackets, which bear on religious matters, were accordingly not
spoken at the Royal Institution.

But more.  It was impossible for me in these Lectures, to bring forward
as fully as I could have wished, the contrast between the continental
nations and England, whether now, or during the eighteenth century.  But
that contrast cannot be too carefully studied at the present moment.  In
proportion as it is seen and understood, will the fear of revolution (if
such exists) die out among the wealthier classes; and the wish for it (if
such exists) among the poorer; and a large extension of the suffrage will
be looked on as--what it actually is--a safe and harmless concession to
the wishes--and, as I hold, to the just rights--of large portion of the
British nation.

There exists in Britain now, as far as I can see, no one of those evils
which brought about the French Revolution.  There is no widespread
misery, and therefore no widespread discontent, among the classes who
live by hand-labour.  The legislation of the last generation has been
steadily in favour of the poor, as against the rich; and it is even more
true now than it was in 1789, that--as Arthur Young told the French mob
which stopped his carriage--the rich pay many taxes (over and above the
poor-rates, a direct tax on the capitalist in favour of the labourer)
more than are paid by the poor.  "In England" (says M. de Tocqueville of
even the eighteenth century) "the poor man enjoyed the privilege of
exemption from taxation; in France, the rich."  Equality before the law
is as well-nigh complete as it can be, where some are rich and others
poor; and the only privileged class, it sometimes seems to me, is the
pauper, who has neither the responsibility of self-government, nor the
toil of self-support.

A minority of malcontents, some justly, some unjustly, angry with the
present state of things, will always exist in this world.  But a majority
of malcontents we shall never have, as long as the workmen are allowed to
keep untouched and unthreatened their rights of free speech, free public
meeting, free combination for all purposes which do not provoke a breach
of the peace.  There may be (and probably are) to be found in London and
the large towns, some of those revolutionary propagandists who have
terrified and tormented continental statesmen since the year 1815.  But
they are far fewer in number than in 1848; far fewer still (I believe)
than in 1831; and their habits, notions, temper, whole mental
organisation, is so utterly alien to that of the average Englishman, that
it is only the sense of wrong which can make him take counsel with them,
or make common cause with them.  Meanwhile, every man who is admitted to
a vote, is one more person withdrawn from the temptation to disloyalty,
and enlisted in maintaining the powers that be--when they are in the
wrong, as well as when they are in the right.  For every Englishman is by
his nature conservative; slow to form an opinion; cautious in putting it
into effect; patient under evils which seem irremediable; persevering in
abolishing such as seem remediable; and then only too ready to acquiesce
in the earliest practical result; to "rest and be thankful."  His faults,
as well as his virtues, make him anti-revolutionary.  He is generally too
dull to take in a great idea; and if he does take it in, often too
selfish to apply it to any interest save his own.  But now and then, when
the sense of actual injury forces upon him a great idea, like that of
Free-trade or of Parliamentary Reform, he is indomitable, however slow
and patient, in translating his thought into fact: and they will not be
wise statesmen who resist his dogged determination.  If at this moment he
demands an extension of the suffrage eagerly and even violently, the wise
statesman will give at once, gracefully and generously, what the
Englishman will certainly obtain one day, if he has set his mind upon it.
If, on the other hand, he asks for it calmly, then the wise statesman
(instead of mistaking English reticence for apathy) will listen to his
wishes all the more readily; seeing in the moderation of the demand, the
best possible guarantee for moderation in the use of the thing demanded.

And, be it always remembered, that in introducing these men into the
"balance of the Constitution," we introduce no unknown quantity.
Statesmen ought to know them, if they know themselves; to judge what the
working man would do by what they do themselves.  He who imputes virtues
to his own class imputes them also to the labouring class.  He who
imputes vices to the labouring class, imputes them to his own class.  For
both are not only of the same flesh and blood, but, what is infinitely
more important, of the same spirit; of the same race; in innumerable
cases, of the same ancestors.  For centuries past the most able of these
men have been working upwards into the middle class, and through it,
often, to the highest dignities, and the highest family connections; and
the whole nation knows how they have comported themselves therein.  And,
by a reverse process (of which the physiognomist and genealogist can give
abundant proof), the weaker members of that class which was dominant
during the Middle Age have been sinking downward, often to the rank of
mere day-labourers, and carrying downward with them--sometimes in a very
tragical and pathetic fashion--somewhat of the dignity and the refinement
which they had learnt from their ancestors.

Thus has the English nation (and as far as I can see, the Scotch
likewise) become more homogeneous than any nation of the Continent, if we
except France since the extermination of the Frankish nobility.  And for
that very reason, as it seems to me, it is more fitted than any other
European nation for the exercise of equal political rights; and not to be
debarred of them by arguments drawn from countries which have been
governed--as England has not been--by a caste.

The civilisation, not of mere book-learning, but of the heart; all that
was once meant by "manners"--good breeding, high feeling, respect for
self and respect for others--are just as common (as far as I have seen)
among the hand-workers of England and Scotland, as among any other class;
the only difference is, that these qualities develop more early in the
richer classes, owing to that severe discipline of our public schools,
which makes mere lads often fit to govern, because they have learnt to
obey: while they develop later--generally not till middle age--in the
classes who have not gone through in their youth that Spartan training,
and who indeed (from a mistaken conception of liberty) would not endure
it for a day.  This and other social drawbacks which are but too patent,
retard the manhood of the working classes.  That it should be so, is a
wrong.  For if a citizen have one right above all others to demand
anything of his country, it is that he should be educated; that whatever
capabilities he may have in him, however small, should have their fair
and full chance of development.  But the cause of the wrong is not the
existence of a caste, or a privileged class, or of anything save the
plain fact, that some men will be always able to pay more for their
children's education than others; and that those children will,
inevitably, win in the struggle of life.

Meanwhile, in this fact is to be found the most weighty, if not the only
argument against manhood suffrage, which would admit many--but too many,
alas!--who are still mere boys in mind.  To a reasonable household
suffrage it cannot apply.  The man who (being almost certainly married,
and having children) can afford to rent a 5 pound tenement in a town, or
in the country either, has seen quite enough of life, and learnt quite
enough of it, to form a very fair judgment of the man who offers to
represent him in Parliament; because he has learnt, not merely something
of his own interest, or that of his class, but--what is infinitely more
important--the difference between the pretender and the honest man.

The causes of this state of society, which is peculiar to Britain, must
be sought far back in the ages.  It would seem that the distinction
between "earl and churl" (the noble and the non-noble freeman) was
crushed out in this island by the two Norman conquests--that of the Anglo-
Saxon nobility by Sweyn and Canute; and that of the Anglo-Danish nobility
by William and his Frenchmen.  Those two terrible calamities, following
each other in the short space of fifty years, seem to have welded
together, by a community of suffering, all ranks and races, at least
south of the Tweed; and when the English rose after the storm, they rose
as one homogeneous people, never to be governed again by an originally
alien race.  The English nobility were, from the time of Magna Charta,
rather an official nobility, than, as in most continental countries, a
separate caste; and whatever caste tendencies had developed themselves
before the Wars of the Roses (as such are certain to do during centuries
of continued wealth and power), were crushed out by the great
revolutionary events of the next hundred years.  Especially did the
discovery of the New World, the maritime struggle with Spain, the
outburst of commerce and colonisation during the reigns of Elizabeth and
James, help toward this good result.  It was in vain for the Lord Oxford
of the day, sneering at Raleigh's sudden elevation, to complain that as
on the virginals, so in the State, "Jacks went up, and heads went down."
The proudest noblemen were not ashamed to have their ventures on the high
seas, and to send their younger sons trading, or buccaneering, under the
conduct of low-born men like Drake, who "would like to see the gentleman
that would not set his hand to a rope, and hale and draw with the
mariners."  Thus sprang up that respect for, even fondness for, severe
bodily labour, which the educated class of no nation save our own has
ever felt; and which has stood them in such good stead, whether at home
or abroad.  Thus, too, sprang up the system of society by which (as the
ballad sets forth) the squire's son might be a "'prentice good," and

   "The bailiff's daughter dear
   That dwelt at Islington,"

without tarnishing, as he would have done on the Continent, the scutcheon
of his ancestors.  That which has saved England from a central despotism,
such as crushed, during the eighteenth century, every nation on the
Continent, is the very same peculiarity which makes the advent of the
masses to a share in political power safe and harmless; namely, the
absence of caste, or rather (for there is sure to be a moral fact
underlying and causing every political fact) the absence of that wicked
pride which perpetuates caste; forbidding those to intermarry whom nature
and fact pronounce to be fit mates before God and man.

These views are not mine only.  They have been already set forth so much
more forcibly by M. de Tocqueville, that I should have thought it
unnecessary to talk about them, were not the rhetorical phrases, "Caste,"
"Privileged Classes," "Aristocratic Exclusiveness," and such-like,
bandied about again just now, as if they represented facts.  If there
remain in this kingdom any facts which correspond to those words, let
them be abolished as speedily as possible: but that such do remain was
not the opinion of the master of modern political philosophy, M. de

He expresses his surprise "that the fact which distinguishes England from
all other modern nations, and which alone can throw light on her
peculiarities, . . . has not attracted more attention, . . . and that
habit has rendered it, as it were, imperceptible to the English
themselves--that England was the only country in which the system of
caste had been not only modified, but effectually destroyed.  The
nobility and the middle classes followed the same business, embraced the
same professions, and, what is far more significant, intermarried with
each other.  The daughter of the greatest nobleman" (and this, if true of
the eighteenth century, has become far more true of the nineteenth)
"could already, without disgrace, marry a man of yesterday." . . .

"It has often been remarked that the English nobility has been more
prudent, more able, and less exclusive than any other.  It would have
been much nearer the truth to say, that in England, for a very long time
past, no nobility, properly so called, have existed, if we take the word
in the ancient and limited sense it has everywhere else retained." . . .

"For several centuries the word 'gentleman'" (he might have added,
"burgess") "has altogether changed its meaning in England; and the word
'roturier' has ceased to exist.  In each succeeding century it is applied
to persons placed somewhat lower in the social scale" (as the "bagman" of
Pickwick has become, and has deserved to become, the "commercial
gentleman" of our day).  "At length it travelled with the English to
America, where it is used to designate every citizen indiscriminately.
Its history is that of democracy itself." . . .

"If the middle classes of England, instead of making war upon the
aristocracy, have remained so intimately connected with it, it is not
especially because the aristocracy is open to all, but rather, because
its outline was indistinct, and its limit unknown: not so much because
any man might be admitted into it, as because it was impossible to say
with certainty when he took rank there: so that all who approached it
might look on themselves as belonging to it; might take part in its rule,
and derive either lustre or profit from its influence."

Just so; and therefore the middle classes of Britain, of whatever their
special political party, are conservative in the best sense of that word.

For there are not three, but only two, classes in England; namely, rich
and poor: those who live by capital (from the wealthiest landlord to the
smallest village shopkeeper); and those who live by hand-labour.  Whether
the division between those two classes is increasing or not, is a very
serious question.  Continued legislation in favour of the hand-labourer,
and a beneficence towards him, when in need, such as no other nation on
earth has ever shown, have done much to abolish the moral division.  But
the social division has surely been increased during the last half
century, by the inevitable tendency, both in commerce and agriculture, to
employ one large capital, where several small ones would have been
employed a century ago.  The large manufactory, the large shop, the large
estate, the large farm, swallows up the small ones.  The yeoman, the
thrifty squatter who could work at two or three trades as well as till
his patch of moor, the hand-loom weaver, the skilled village craftsman,
have all but disappeared.  The handworker, finding it more and more
difficult to invest his savings, has been more and more tempted to
squander them.  To rise to the dignity of a capitalist, however small,
was growing impossible to him, till the rise of that co-operative
movement, which will do more than any social or political impulse in our
day for the safety of English society, and the loyalty of the English
working classes.  And meanwhile--ere that movement shall have spread
throughout the length and breadth of the land, and have been applied, as
it surely will be some day, not only to distribution, not only to
manufacture, but to agriculture likewise--till then, the best judges of
the working men's worth must be their employers; and especially the
employers of the northern manufacturing population.  What their judgment
is, is sufficiently notorious.  Those who depend most on the working men,
who have the best opportunities of knowing them, trust them most
thoroughly.  As long as great manufacturers stand forward as the
political sponsors of their own workmen, it behoves those who cannot have
had their experience, to consider their opinion as conclusive.  As for
that "influence of the higher classes" which is said to be endangered
just now; it will exist, just as much as it deserves to exist.  Any man
who is superior to the many, whether in talents, education, refinement,
wealth, or anything else, will always be able to influence a number of
men--and if he thinks it worth his while, of votes--by just and lawful
means.  And as for unjust and unlawful means, let those who prefer them
keep up heart.  The world will go on much as it did before; and be always
quite bad enough to allow bribery and corruption, jobbery and nepotism,
quackery and arrogance, their full influence over our home and foreign
policy.  An extension of the suffrage, however wide, will not bring about
the millennium.  It will merely make a large number of Englishmen
contented and loyal, instead of discontented and disloyal.  It may make,
too, the educated and wealthy classes wiser by awakening a wholesome
fear--perhaps, it may be, by awakening a chivalrous emulation.  It may
put the younger men of the present aristocracy upon their mettle, and
stir them up to prove that they are not in the same effete condition as
was the French noblesse in 1789.  It may lead them to take the warnings
which have been addressed to them, for the last thirty years, by their
truest friends--often by kinsmen of their own.  It may lead them to ask
themselves why, in a world which is governed by a just God, such great
power as is palpably theirs at present is entrusted to them, save that
they may do more work, and not less, than other men, under the penalties
pronounced against those to whom much is given, and of whom much is
required.  It may lead them to discover that they are in a world where it
is not safe to sit under the tree, and let the ripe fruit drop into your
mouth; where the "competition of species" works with ruthless energy
among all ranks of being, from kings upon their thrones to the weeds upon
the waste; where "he that is not hammer, is sure to be anvil;" and he who
will not work, neither shall he eat.  It may lead them to devote that
energy (in which they surpass so far the continental aristocracies) to
something better than outdoor amusements or indoor dilettantisms.  There
are those among them who, like one section of the old French noblesse,
content themselves with mere complaints of "the revolutionary tendencies
of the age."  Let them beware in time; for when the many are on the
march, the few who stand still are certain to be walked over.  There are
those among them who, like another section of the French noblesse, are
ready, more generously than wisely, to throw away their own social and
political advantages, and play (for it will never be really more than
playing) at democracy.  Let them, too, beware.  The penknife and the axe
should respect each other; for they were wrought from the same steel: but
the penknife will not be wise in trying to fell trees.  Let them accept
their own position, not in conceit and arrogance, but in fear and
trembling; and see if they cannot play the man therein, and save their
own class; and with it, much which it has needed many centuries to
accumulate and to organise, and without which no nation has yet existed
for a single century.  They are no more like the old French noblesse,
than are the commercial class like the old French bourgeoisie, or the
labouring like the old French peasantry.  Let them prove that fact by
their deeds during the next generation; or sink into the condition of
mere rich men, exciting, by their luxury and laziness, nothing but envy
and contempt.

Meanwhile, behind all classes and social forces--I had almost said, above
them all--stands a fourth estate, which will, ultimately, decide the form
which English society is to take: a Press as different from the literary
class of the Ancien Regime as is everything else English; and different
in this--that it is free.

The French Revolution, like every revolution (it seems to me) which has
convulsed the nations of Europe for the last eighty years, was caused
immediately--whatever may have been its more remote causes--by the
suppression of thought; or, at least, by a sense of wrong among those who
thought.  A country where every man, be he fool or wise, is free to speak
that which is in him, can never suffer a revolution.  The folly blows
itself off like steam, in harmless noise; the wisdom becomes part of the
general intellectual stock of the nation, and prepares men for gradual,
and therefore for harmless, change.

As long as the press is free, a nation is guaranteed against sudden and
capricious folly, either from above or from below.  As long as the press
is free, a nation is guaranteed against the worse evil of persistent and
obstinate folly, cloaking itself under the venerable shapes of tradition
and authority.  For under a free press, a nation must ultimately be
guided not by a caste, not by a class, not by mere wealth, not by the
passions of a mob: but by mind; by the net result of all the common-sense
of its members; and in the present default of genius, which is un-common
sense, common-sense seems to be the only, if not the best, safeguard for
poor humanity.



[Delivered at the Royal Institution, London, 1867.]

These Lectures are meant to be comments on the state of France before the
French Revolution.  To English society, past or present, I do not refer.
For reasons which I have set forth at length in an introductory
discourse, there never was any Ancien Regime in England.

Therefore, when the Stuarts tried to establish in England a system which
might have led to a political condition like that of the Continent, all
classes combined and exterminated them; while the course of English
society went on as before.

On the contrary, England was the mother of every movement which
undermined, and at last destroyed, the Ancien Regime.

From England went forth those political theories which, transmitted from
America to France, became the principles of the French Revolution.  From
England went forth the philosophy of Locke, with all its immense results.
It is noteworthy, that when Voltaire tries to persuade people, in a
certain famous passage, that philosophers do not care to trouble the
world--of the ten names to whom he does honour, seven names are English.
"It is," he says, "neither Montaigne, nor Locke, nor Boyle, nor Spinoza,
nor Hobbes, nor Lord Shaftesbury, nor Mr. Collins, nor Mr. Toland, nor
Fludd, nor Baker, who have carried the torch of discord into their
countries."  It is worth notice, that not only are the majority of these
names English, but that they belong not to the latter but to the former
half of the eighteenth century; and indeed, to the latter half of the

So it was with that Inductive Physical Science, which helped more than
all to break up the superstitions of the Ancien Regime, and to set man
face to face with the facts of the universe.  From England, towards the
end of the seventeenth century, it was promulgated by such men as Newton,
Boyle, Sydenham, Ray, and the first founders of our Royal Society.

In England, too, arose the great religious movements of the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries--and especially that of a body which I can never
mention without most deep respect--the Society of Friends.  At a time
when the greater part of the Continent was sunk in spiritual sleep, these
men were reasserting doctrines concerning man, and his relation to his
Creator, which, whether or not all believe them (as I believe them) to be
founded on eternal fact, all must confess to have been of incalculable
benefit to the cause of humanity and civilisation.

From England, finally, about the middle of the eighteenth century, went
forth--promulgated by English noblemen--that freemasonry which seems to
have been the true parent of all the secret societies of Europe.  Of this
curious question, more hereafter.  But enough has been said to show that
England, instead of falling, at any period, into the stagnation of the
Ancien Regime, was, from the middle of the seventeenth century, in a
state of intellectual growth and ferment which communicated itself
finally to the continental nations.  This is the special honour of
England; universally confessed at the time.  It was to England that the
slowly-awakening nations looked, as the source of all which was noble,
true, and free, in the dawning future.

It will be seen, from what I have said, that I consider the Ancien Regime
to begin in the seventeenth century.  I should date its commencement--as
far as that of anything so vague, unsystematic, indeed anarchic, can be
defined--from the end of the Thirty Years' War, and the peace of
Westphalia in 1648.

For by that time the mighty spiritual struggles and fierce religious
animosities of the preceding century had worn themselves out.  And, as
always happens, to a period of earnest excitement had succeeded one of
weariness, disgust, half-unbelief in the many questions for which so much
blood had been shed.  No man had come out of the battle with altogether
clean hands; some not without changing sides more than once.  The war had
ended as one, not of nations, not even of zealots, but of mercenaries.
The body of Europe had been pulled in pieces between them all; and the
poor soul thereof--as was to be expected--had fled out through the gaping
wounds.  Life, mere existence, was the most pressing need.  If men
could--in the old prophet's words--find the life of their hand, they were
content.  High and low only asked to be let live.  The poor asked
it--slaughtered on a hundred battle-fields, burnt out of house and home:
vast tracts of the centre of Europe were lying desert; the population was
diminished for several generations.  The trading classes, ruined by the
long war, only asked to be let live, and make a little money.  The
nobility, too, only asked to be let live.  They had lost, in the long
struggle, not only often lands and power, but their ablest and bravest
men; and a weaker and meaner generation was left behind, to do the
governing of the world.  Let them live, and keep what they had.  If signs
of vigour still appeared in France, in the wars of Louis XIV. they were
feverish, factitious, temporary--soon, as the event proved, to droop into
the general exhaustion.  If wars were still to be waged they were to be
wars of succession, wars of diplomacy; not wars of principle, waged for
the mightiest invisible interests of man.  The exhaustion was general;
and to it we must attribute alike the changes and the conservatism of the
Ancien Regime.  To it is owing that growth of a centralising despotism,
and of arbitrary regal power, which M. de Tocqueville has set forth in a
book which I shall have occasion often to quote.  To it is owing, too,
that longing, which seems to us childish, after ancient forms,
etiquettes, dignities, court costumes, formalities diplomatic, legal,
ecclesiastical.  Men clung to them as to keepsakes of the past--revered
relics of more intelligible and better-ordered times.  If the spirit had
been beaten out of them in a century of battle, that was all the more
reason for keeping up the letter.  They had had a meaning once, a life
once; perhaps there was a little life left in them still; perhaps the dry
bones would clothe themselves with flesh once more, and stand upon their
feet.  At least it was useful that the common people should so believe.
There was good hope that the simple masses, seeing the old dignities and
formalities still parading the streets, should suppose that they still
contained men, and were not mere wooden figures, dressed artistically in
official costume.  And, on the whole, that hope was not deceived.  More
than a century of bitter experience was needed ere the masses discovered
that their ancient rulers were like the suits of armour in the Tower of
London--empty iron astride of wooden steeds, and armed with lances which
every ploughboy could wrest out of their hands, and use in his own

The mistake of the masses was pardonable.  For those suits of armour had
once held living men; strong, brave, wise; men of an admirable temper;
doing their work according to their light, not altogether well--what man
does that on earth?--but well enough to make themselves necessary to, and
loyally followed by, the masses whom they ruled.  No one can read fairly
the "Gesta Dei per Francos in Oriente," or the deeds of the French
Nobility in their wars with England, or those tales--however legendary--of
the mediaeval knights, which form so noble an element in German
literature, without seeing, that however black were these men's
occasional crimes, they were a truly noble race, the old Nobility of the
Continent; a race which ruled simply because, without them, there would
have been naught but anarchy and barbarism.  To their chivalrous ideal
they were too often, perhaps for the most part, untrue: but, partial and
defective as it is, it is an ideal such as never entered into the mind of
Celt or Gaul, Hun or Sclav; one which seems continuous with the spread of
the Teutonic conquerors.  They ruled because they did practically raise
the ideal of humanity in the countries which they conquered, a whole
stage higher.  They ceased to rule when they were, through their own
sins, caught up and surpassed in the race of progress by the classes
below them.

But, even when at its best, their system of government had in it--like
all human invention--original sin; an unnatural and unrighteous element,
which was certain, sooner or later, to produce decay and ruin.  The old
Nobility of Europe was not a mere aristocracy.  It was a caste: a race
not intermarrying with the races below it.  It was not a mere
aristocracy.  For that, for the supremacy of the best men, all societies
strive, or profess to strive.  And such a true aristocracy may exist
independent of caste, or the hereditary principle at all.  We may
conceive an Utopia, governed by an aristocracy which should be really
democratic; which should use, under developed forms, that method which
made the mediaeval priesthood the one great democratic institution of old
Christendom; bringing to the surface and utilising the talents and
virtues of all classes, even to the lowest.  We may conceive an
aristocracy choosing out, and gladly receiving into its own ranks as
equals, every youth, every maiden, who was distinguished by intellect,
virtue, valour, beauty, without respect to rank or birth; and rejecting
in turn, from its own ranks, each of its own children who fell below some
lofty standard, and showed by weakliness, dulness, or baseness,
incapacity for the post of guiding and elevating their fellow-citizens.
Thus would arise a true aristocracy; a governing body of the really most
worthy--the most highly organised in body and in mind--perpetually
recruited from below: from which, or from any other ideal, we are yet a
few thousand years distant.

But the old Ancien Regime would have shuddered, did shudder, at such a
notion.  The supreme class was to keep itself pure, and avoid all taint
of darker blood, shutting its eyes to the fact that some of its most
famous heroes had been born of such left-handed marriages as that of
Robert of Normandy with the tanner's daughter of Falaise.  "Some are so
curious in this behalf," says quaint old Burton, writing about 1650, "as
these old Romans, our modern Venetians, Dutch, and French, that if two
parties dearly love, the one noble, the other ignoble, they may not, by
their laws, match, though equal otherwise in years, fortunes, education,
and all good affection.  In Germany, except they can prove their
gentility by three descents, they scorn to match with them.  A nobleman
must marry a noblewoman; a baron, a baron's daughter; a knight, a
knight's.  As slaters sort their slates, do they degrees and families."

And doubtless this theory--like all which have held their ground for many
centuries--at first represented a fact.  These castes were, at first,
actually superior to the peoples over whom they ruled.  I cannot, as long
as my eyes are open, yield to the modern theory of the equality--indeed
of the non-existence--of races.  Holding, as I do, the primaeval unity of
the human race, I see in that race the same inclination to sport into
fresh varieties, the same competition of species between those varieties,
which Mr. Darwin has pointed out among plants and mere animals.  A
distinguished man arises; from him a distinguished family; from it a
distinguished tribe, stronger, cunninger than those around.  It asserts
its supremacy over its neighbours at first exactly as a plant or animal
would do, by destroying, and, where possible, eating them; next, having
grown more prudent, by enslaving them; next, having gained a little
morality in addition to its prudence, by civilising them, raising them
more or less toward its own standard.  And thus, in every land,
civilisation and national life has arisen out of the patriarchal state;
and the Eastern scheik, with his wives, free and slave, and his hundreds
of fighting men born in his house, is the type of all primaeval rulers.
He is the best man of his horde--in every sense of the word best; and
whether he have a right to rule them or not, they consider that he has,
and are the better men for his guidance.

Whether this ought to have been the history of primaeval civilisation, is
a question not to be determined here.  That it is the history thereof, is
surely patent to anyone who will imagine to himself what must have been.
In the first place, the strongest and cunningest savage must have had the
chance of producing children more strong and cunning than the average; he
would have--the strongest savage has still--the power of obtaining a
wife, or wives, superior in beauty and in household skill, which involves
superiority of intellect; and therefore his children would--some of them
at least--be superior to the average, both from the father's and the
mother's capacities.  They again would marry select wives; and their
children again would do the same; till, in a very few generations, a
family would have established itself, considerably superior to the rest
of the tribe in body and mind, and become assuredly its ruling race.

Again, if one of that race invented a new weapon, a new mode of tillage,
or aught else which gave him power, that would add to the superiority of
his whole family.  For the invention would be jealously kept among them
as a mystery, a hereditary secret.  To this simple cause, surely, is to
be referred the system of hereditary caste occupations, whether in Egypt
or Hindoostan.  To this, too, the fact that alike in Greek and in
Teutonic legend the chief so often appears, not merely as the best
warrior and best minstrel, but as the best smith, armourer, and
handicraftsman of his tribe.  If, however, the inventor happened to be a
low-born genius, its advantages would still accrue to the ruling race.
For nothing could be more natural or more easy--as more than one legend
intimates--than that the king should extort the new secret from his
subject, and then put him to death to prevent any further publicity.

Two great inventive geniuses we may see dimly through the abysses of the
past, both of whom must have become in their time great chiefs, founders
of mighty aristocracies--it may be, worshipped after their death as gods.

The first, who seems to have existed after the age in which the black
race colonised Australia, must have been surely a man worthy to hold rank
with our Brindleys, Watts, and Stephensons.  For he invented (and mind,
one man must have invented the thing first, and by the very nature of it,
invented it all at once) an instrument so singular, unexpected, unlike
anything to be seen in nature, that I wonder it has not been called, like
the plough, the olive, or the vine, a gift of the immortal gods: and yet
an instrument so simple, so easy, and so perfect, that it spread over all
races in Europe and America, and no substitute could be found for it till
the latter part of the fifteenth century.  Yes, a great genius was he,
and the consequent founder of a great aristocracy and conquering race,
who first invented for himself and his children after him a--bow and

The next--whether before or after the first in time, it suits me to speak
of him in second place--was the man who was the potential ancestor of the
whole Ritterschaft, Chivalry, and knightly caste of Europe; the man who
first, finding a foal upon the steppe, deserted by its dam, brought it
home, and reared it; and then bethought him of the happy notion of making
it draw--presumably by its tail--a fashion which endured long in Ireland,
and had to be forbidden by law, I think as late as the sixteenth century.
A great aristocrat must that man have become.  A greater still he who
first substituted the bit for the halter.  A greater still he who first
thought of wheels.  A greater still he who conceived the yoke and pole
for bearing up his chariot; for that same yoke, and pole, and chariot,
became the peculiar instrument of conquerors like him who mightily
oppressed the children of Israel, for he had nine hundred chariots of
iron.  Egyptians, Syrians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans--none of them
improved on the form of the conquering biga, till it was given up by a
race who preferred a pair of shafts to their carts, and who had learnt to
ride instead of drive.  A great aristocrat, again, must he have been
among those latter races who first conceived the notion of getting on his
horse's back, accommodating his motions to the beast's, and becoming a
centaur, half-man, half-horse.  That invention must have tended, in the
first instance, as surely toward democracy as did the invention of
firearms.  A tribe of riders must have been always, more or less, equal
and free.  Equal because a man on a horse would feel himself a man
indeed; because the art of riding called out an independence, a
self-help, a skill, a consciousness of power, a personal pride and
vanity, which would defy slavery.  Free, because a tribe of riders might
be defeated, exterminated, but never enchained.  They could never become
_gleboe adscripti_, bound to the soil, as long as they could take horse
and saddle, and away.  History gives us more than one glimpse of such
tribes--the scourge and terror of the non-riding races with whom they
came in contact.  Some, doubtless, remember how in the wars between
Alfred and the Danes, "the army" (the Scandinavian invaders) again and
again horse themselves, steal away by night from the Saxon infantry, and
ride over the land (whether in England or in France), "doing unspeakable
evil."  To that special instinct of horsemanship, which still
distinguishes their descendants, we may attribute mainly the Scandinavian
settlement of the north and east of England.  Some, too, may recollect
the sketch of the primeval Hun, as he first appeared to the astonished
and disgusted old Roman soldier Ammianus Marcellinus; the visages "more
like cakes than faces;" the "figures like those which are hewn out with
an axe on the poles at bridge-ends;" the rat-skin coats, which they wore
till they rotted off their limbs; their steaks of meat cooked between the
saddle and the thigh; the little horses on which "they eat and drink, buy
and sell, and sleep lying forward along his narrow neck, and indulging in
every variety of dream."  And over and above, and more important
politically, the common councils "held on horseback, under the authority
of no king, but content with the irregular government of nobles, under
whose leading they force their way through all obstacles."  A race--like
those Cossacks who are probably their lineal descendants--to be feared,
to be hired, to be petted, but not to be conquered.

Instances nearer home of free equestrian races we have in our own English
borderers, among whom (as Mr. Froude says) the farmers and their farm-
servants had but to snatch their arms and spring into their saddles and
they became at once the Northern Horse, famed as the finest light cavalry
in the world.  And equal to them--superior even, if we recollect that
they preserved their country's freedom for centuries against the superior
force of England--were those troops of Scots who, century after century,
swept across the border on their little garrons, their bag of oatmeal
hanging by the saddle, with the iron griddle whereon to bake it; careless
of weather and of danger; men too swift to be exterminated, too
independent to be enslaved.

But if horsemanship had, in these cases, a levelling tendency it would
have the very opposite when a riding tribe conquered a non-riding one.
The conquerors would, as much as possible, keep the art and mystery of
horsemanship hereditary among themselves, and become a Ritterschaft or
chivalrous caste.  And they would be able to do so: because the conquered
race would not care or dare to learn the new and dangerous art.  There
are persons, even in England, who can never learn to ride.  There are
whole populations in Europe, even now, when races have become almost
indistinguishably mixed, who seem unable to learn.  And this must have
been still more the case when the races were more strongly separated in
blood and habits.  So the Teutonic chief, with his gesitha, comites, or
select band of knights, who had received from him, as Tacitus has it, the
war-horse and the lance, established himself as the natural ruler--and
oppressor--of the non-riding populations; first over the aborigines of
Germany proper, tribes who seem to have been enslaved, and their names
lost, before the time of Tacitus; and then over the non-riding Romans and
Gauls to the South and West, and the Wendish and Sclavonic tribes to the
East.  Very few in numbers, but mighty in their unequalled capacity of
body and mind, and in their terrible horsemanship, the Teutonic
Ritterschaft literally rode roughshod over the old world; never checked,
but when they came in contact with the free-riding hordes of the Eastern
steppes; and so established an equestrian caste, of which the [Greek
text] of Athens and the Equites of Rome had been only hints ending in
failure and absorption.

Of that equestrian caste the symbol was the horse.  The favourite, and
therefore the chosen sacrifice of Odin, their ancestor and God, the
horse's flesh was eaten at the sacrificial meal; the horse's head, hung
on the ash in Odin's wood, gave forth oracular responses.  As
Christianity came in, and the eating of horse-flesh was forbidden as
impiety by the Church, while his oracles dwindled down to such as that
which Falada's dead head gives to the goose-girl in the German tale, the
magic power of the horse figured only in ballads and legends: but his
real power remained.

The art of riding became an hereditary and exclusive science--at last a
pedantry, hampered by absurd etiquettes, and worse than useless
traditions; but the power and right to ride remained on the whole the
mark of the dominant caste.  Terribly did they often abuse that special
power.  The faculty of making a horse carry him no more makes a man a
good man, than the faculties of making money, making speeches, making
books, or making a noise about public abuses.  And of all ruffians, the
worst, if history is to be trusted, is the ruffian on a horse; to whose
brutality of mind is superadded the brute power of his beast.  A ruffian
on a horse--what is there that he will not ride over, and ride on,
careless and proud of his own shame?  When the ancient chivalry of France
descended to that level, or rather delegated their functions to
mercenaries of that level--when the knightly hosts who fought before
Jerusalem allowed themselves to be superseded by the dragoons and
dragonnades of Louis XIV.--then the end of the French chivalry was at
hand, and came.  But centuries before that shameful fall there had come
in with Christianity the new thought, that domination meant
responsibility; that responsibility demanded virtue.  The words which
denoted rank, came to denote likewise high moral excellencies.  The
nobilis, or man who was known, and therefore subject to public opinion,
was bound to behave nobly.  The gentleman--gentile-man--who respected his
own gens, or family and pedigree, was bound to be gentle.  The courtier,
who had picked up at court some touch of Roman civilisation from Roman
ecclesiastics, was bound to be courteous.  He who held an "honour" or
"edel" of land was bound to be honourable; and he who held a "weorthig,"
or worthy, thereof, was bound himself to be worthy.  In like wise, he who
had the right to ride a horse, was expected to be chivalrous in all
matters befitting the hereditary ruler, who owed a sacred debt to a long
line of forefathers, as well as to the state in which he dwelt; all
dignity, courtesy, purity, self-restraint, devotion--such as they were
understood in those rough days--centred themselves round the idea of the
rider as the attributes of the man whose supposed duty, as well as his
supposed right, was to govern his fellow-men, by example, as well as by
law and force;--attributes which gathered themselves up into that one
word--Chivalry: an idea, which, perfect or imperfect, God forbid that
mankind should ever forget, till it has become the possession--as it is
the God-given right--of the poorest slave that ever trudged on foot; and
every collier-lad shall have become--as some of those Barnsley men proved
but the other day they had become already:

   A very gentle perfect knight.

Very unfaithful was chivalry to its ideal--as all men are to all ideals.
But bear in mind, that if the horse was the symbol of the ruling caste,
it was not at first its only strength.  Unless that caste had had at
first spiritual, as well as physical force on its side, it would have
been soon destroyed--nay, it would have destroyed itself--by internecine
civil war.  And we must believe that those Franks, Goths, Lombards, and
Burgunds, who in the early Middle Age leaped on the backs (to use Mr.
Carlyle's expression) of the Roman nations, were actually, in all senses
of the word, better men than those whom they conquered.  We must believe
it from reason; for if not, how could they, numerically few, have held
for a year, much more for centuries, against millions, their dangerous
elevation?  We must believe it, unless we take Tacitus's "Germania,"
which I absolutely refuse to do, for a romance.  We must believe that
they were better than the Romanised nations whom they conquered, because
the writers of those nations, Augustine, Salvian, and Sidonius
Apollinaris, for example, say that they were such, and give proof
thereof.  Not good men according to our higher standard--far from it;
though Sidonius's picture of Theodoric, the East Goth, in his palace of
Narbonne, is the picture of an eminently good and wise ruler.  But not
good, I say, as a rule--the Franks, alas! often very bad men: but still
better, wiser, abler, than those whom they ruled.  We must believe too,
that they were better, in every sense of the word, than those tribes on
their eastern frontier, whom they conquered in after centuries, unless we
discredit (which we have no reason to do) the accounts which the Roman
and Greek writers give of the horrible savagery of those tribes.

So it was in later centuries.  One cannot read fairly the history of the
Middle Ages without seeing that the robber knight of Germany or of
France, who figures so much in modern novels, must have been the
exception, and not the rule: that an aristocracy which lived by the
saddle would have as little chance of perpetuating itself, as a
priesthood composed of hypocrites and profligates; that the mediaeval
Nobility has been as much slandered as the mediaeval Church; and the
exceptions taken--as more salient and exciting--for the average: that
side by side with ruffians like Gaston de Foix hundreds of honest
gentlemen were trying to do their duty to the best of their light, and
were raising, and not depressing, the masses below them--one very
important item in that duty being, the doing the whole fighting of the
country at their own expense, instead of leaving it to a standing army of
mercenaries, at the beck and call of a despot; and that, as M. de
Tocqueville says: "In feudal times, the Nobility were regarded pretty
much as the government is regarded in our own; the burdens they imposed
were endured in consequence of the security they afforded.  The nobles
had many irksome privileges; they possessed many onerous rights: but they
maintained public order, they administered justice, they caused the law
to be executed, they came to the relief of the weak, they conducted the
business of the community.  In proportion as they ceased to do these
things, the burden of their privileges appeared more oppressive, and
their existence became an anomaly in proportion as they ceased to do
these things."  And the Ancien Regime may be defined as the period in
which they ceased to do these things--in which they began to play the
idlers, and expected to take their old wages without doing their old

But in any case, government by a ruling caste, whether of the patriarchal
or of the feudal kind, is no ideal or permanent state of society.  So far
from it, it is but the first or second step out of primeval savagery.  For
the more a ruling race becomes conscious of its own duty, and not merely
of its own power--the more it learns to regard its peculiar gifts as
entrusted to it for the good of men--so much the more earnestly will it
labour to raise the masses below to its own level, by imparting to them
its own light; and so will it continually tend to abolish itself, by
producing a general equality, moral and intellectual; and fulfil that law
of self-sacrifice which is the beginning and the end of all virtue.

A race of noblest men and women, trying to make all below them as noble
as themselves--that is at least a fair ideal, tending toward, though it
has not reached, the highest ideal of all.

But suppose that the very opposite tendency--inherent in the heart of
every child of man--should conquer.  Suppose the ruling caste no longer
the physical, intellectual, and moral superiors of the mass, but their
equals.  Suppose them--shameful, but not without example--actually sunk
to be their inferiors.  And that such a fall did come--nay, that it must
have come--is matter of history.  And its cause, like all social causes,
was not a political nor a physical, but a moral cause.  The profligacy of
the French and Italian aristocracies, in the sixteenth century, avenged
itself on them by a curse (derived from the newly-discovered America)
from which they never recovered.  The Spanish aristocracy suffered, I
doubt not very severely.  The English and German, owing to the superior
homeliness and purity of ruling their lives, hardly at all.  But the
continental caste, instead of recruiting their tainted blood by healthy
blood from below, did all, under pretence of keeping it pure, to keep it
tainted by continual intermarriage; and paid, in increasing weakness of
body and mind, the penalty of their exclusive pride.  It is impossible
for anyone who reads the French memoirs of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, not to perceive, if he be wise, that the aristocracy therein
depicted was ripe for ruin--yea, already ruined--under any form of
government whatsoever, independent of all political changes.  Indeed,
many of the political changes were not the causes but the effects of the
demoralisation of the noblesse.  Historians will tell you how, as early
as the beginning of the seventeenth century, Henry IV. complained that
the nobles were quitting their country districts; how succeeding kings
and statesmen, notably Richelieu and Louis XIV., tempted the noblesse up
to Paris, that they might become mere courtiers, instead of powerful
country gentlemen; how those who remained behind were only the poor
_hobereaux_, little hobby-hawks among the gentry, who considered it
degradation to help in governing the parish, as their forefathers had
governed it, and lived shabbily in their chateaux, grinding the last
farthing out of their tenants, that they might spend it in town during
the winter.  No wonder that with such an aristocracy, who had renounced
that very duty of governing the country, for which alone they and their
forefathers had existed, there arose government by intendants and sub-
delegates, and all the other evils of administrative centralisation,
which M. de Tocqueville anatomises and deplores.  But what was the cause
of the curse?  Their moral degradation.  What drew them up to Paris save
vanity and profligacy?  What kept them from intermarrying with the middle
class save pride?  What made them give up the office of governors save
idleness?  And if vanity, profligacy, pride, and idleness be not
injustices and moral vices, what are?

The race of heroic knights and nobles who fought under the walls of
Jerusalem--who wrestled, and not in vain, for centuries with the equally
heroic English, in defence of their native soil--who had set to all
Europe the example of all knightly virtues, had rotted down to this;
their only virtue left, as Mr. Carlyle says, being--a perfect readiness
to fight duels.

Every Intendant, chosen by the Comptroller-General out of the lower-born
members of the Council of State; a needy young plebeian with his fortune
to make, and a stranger to the province, was, in spite of his greed,
ambition, chicane, arbitrary tyranny, a better man--abler, more
energetic, and often, to judge from the pages of De Tocqueville, with far
more sympathy and mercy for the wretched peasantry--than was the count or
marquis in the chateau above, who looked down on him as a roturier; and
let him nevertheless become first his deputy, and then his master.

Understand me--I am not speaking against the hereditary principle of the
Ancien Regime, but against its caste principle--two widely different
elements, continually confounded nowadays.

The hereditary principle is good, because it is founded on fact and
nature.  If men's minds come into the world blank sheets of paper--which
I much doubt--every other part and faculty of them comes in stamped with
hereditary tendencies and peculiarities.  There are such things as
transmitted capabilities for good and for evil; and as surely as the
offspring of a good horse or dog is likely to be good, so is the
offspring of a good man, and still more of a good woman.  If the parents
have any special ability, their children will probably inherit it, at
least in part; and over and above, will have it developed in them by an
education worthy of their parents and themselves.  If man were--what he
is not--a healthy and normal species, a permanent hereditary caste might
go on intermarrying, and so perpetuate itself.  But the same moral reason
which would make such a caste dangerous--indeed, fatal to the liberty and
development of mankind, makes it happily impossible.  Crimes and follies
are certain, after a few generations, to weaken the powers of any human
caste; and unless it supplements its own weakness by mingling again with
the common stock of humanity, it must sink under that weakness, as the
ancient noblesse sank by its own vice.  Of course there were exceptions.
The French Revolution brought those exceptions out into strong light; and
like every day of judgment, divided between the good and the evil.  But
it lies not in exceptions to save a caste, or an institution; and a few
Richelieus, Liancourts, Rochefoucaulds, Noailles, Lafayettes were but the
storks among the cranes involved in the wholesale doom due not to each
individual, but to a system and a class.

Profligacy, pride, idleness--these are the vices which we have to lay to
the charge of the Teutonic Nobility of the Ancien Regime in France
especially; and (though in a less degree perhaps) over the whole
continent of Europe.  But below them, and perhaps the cause of them all,
lay another and deeper vice--godlessness--atheism.

I do not mean merely want of religion, doctrinal unbelief.  I mean want
of belief in duty, in responsibility.  Want of belief that there was a
living God governing the universe, who had set them their work, and would
judge them according to their work.  And therefore, want of belief, yea,
utter unconsciousness, that they were set in their places to make the
masses below them better men; to impart to them their own civilisation,
to raise them to their own level.  They would have shrunk from that which
I just now defined as the true duty of an aristocracy, just because it
would have seemed to them madness to abolish themselves.  But the process
of abolition went on, nevertheless, only now from without instead of from
within.  So it must always be, in such a case.  If a ruling class will
not try to raise the masses to their own level, the masses will try to
drag them down to theirs.  That sense of justice which allowed
privileges, when they were as strictly official privileges as the salary
of a judge, or the immunity of a member of the House of Commons; when
they were earned, as in the Middle Age, by severe education, earnest
labour, and life and death responsibility in peace and war, will demand
the abolition of those privileges, when no work is done in return for
them, with a voice which must be heard, for it is the voice of truth and

But with that righteous voice will mingle another, most wicked, and yet,
alas! most flattering to poor humanity--the voice of envy, simple and
undisguised; of envy, which moralists hold to be one of the basest of
human passions; which can never be justified, however hateful or unworthy
be the envied man.  And when a whole people, or even a majority thereof,
shall be possessed by that, what is there that they will not do?

Some are surprised and puzzled when they find, in the French Revolution
of 1793, the noblest and the foulest characters labouring in concert, and
side by side--often, too, paradoxical as it may seem, united in the same
personage.  The explanation is simple.  Justice inspired the one; the
other was the child of simple envy.  But this passion of envy, if it
becomes permanent and popular, may avenge itself, like all other sins.  A
nation may say to itself, "Provided we have no superiors to fall our
pride, we are content.  Liberty is a slight matter, provided we have
equality.  Let us be slaves, provided we are all slaves alike."  It may
destroy every standard of humanity above its own mean average; it may
forget that the old ruling class, in spite of all its defects and crimes,
did at least pretend to represent something higher than man's necessary
wants, plus the greed of amassing money; never meeting (at least in the
country districts) any one wiser or more refined than an official or a
priest drawn from the peasant class, it may lose the belief that any
standard higher than that is needed; and, all but forgetting the very
existence of civilisation, sink contented into a dead level of
intellectual mediocrity and moral barbarism, crying, "Let us eat and
drink, for to-morrow we die."

A nation in such a temper will surely be taken at its word.  Where the
carcase is, there the eagles will be gathered together; and there will
not be wanting to such nations--as there were not wanting in old Greece
and Rome--despots who will give them all they want, and more, and say to
them: "Yes, you shall eat and drink; and yet you shall not die.  For I,
while I take care of your mortal bodies, will see that care is taken of
your immortal souls."

For there are those who have discovered, with the kings of the Holy
Alliance, that infidelity and scepticism are political mistakes, not so
much because they promote vice, as because they promote (or are supposed
to promote) free thought; who see that religion (no matter of what
quality) is a most valuable assistant to the duties of a minister of
police.  They will quote in their own behalf Montesquieu's opinion that
religion is a column necessary to sustain the social edifice; they will
quote, too, that sound and true saying of De Tocqueville's: {1} "If the
first American who might be met, either in his own country, or abroad,
were to be stopped and asked whether he considered religion useful to the
stability of the laws and the good order of society, he would answer,
without hesitation, that no civilised society, but more especially none
in a state of freedom, can exist without religion.  Respect for religion
is, in his eyes, the greatest guarantee of the stability of the State,
and of the safety of the community.  Those who are ignorant of the
science of government, know that fact at least."

M. de Tocqueville, when he wrote these words, was lamenting that in
France, "freedom was forsaken;" "a thing for which it is said that no one
any longer cares in France."  He did not, it seems to me, perceive that,
as in America the best guarantee of freedom is the reverence for a
religion or religions, which are free themselves, and which teach men to
be free; so in other countries the best guarantee of slavery is,
reverence for religions which are not free, and which teach men to be

But what M. de Tocqueville did not see, there are others who will see;
who will say: "If religion be the pillar of political and social order,
there is an order which is best supported by a religion which is adverse
to free thought, free speech, free conscience, free communion between man
and God.  The more enervating the superstition, the more exacting and
tyrannous its priesthood, the more it will do our work, if we help it to
do its own.  If it permit us to enslave the body, we will permit it to
enslave the soul."

And so may be inaugurated a period of that organised anarchy of which the
poet says:

   It is not life, but death, when nothing stirs.


The degradation of the European nobility caused, of course, the increase
of the kingly power, and opened the way to central despotisms.  The
bourgeoisie, the commercial middle class, whatever were its virtues, its
value, its real courage, were never able to stand alone against the
kings.  Their capital, being invested in trade, was necessarily subject
to such sudden dangers from war, political change, bad seasons, and so
forth, that its holders, however individually brave, were timid as a
class.  They could never hold out on strike against the governments, and
had to submit to the powers that were, whatever they were, under penalty
of ruin.

But on the Continent, and especially in France and Germany, unable to
strengthen itself by intermarriage with the noblesse, they retained that
timidity which is the fruit of the insecurity of trade; and had to submit
to a more and more centralised despotism, and grow up as they could, in
the face of exasperating hindrances to wealth, to education, to the
possession, in many parts of France, of large landed estates; leaving the
noblesse to decay in isolated uselessness and weakness, and in many cases
debt and poverty.

The system--or rather anarchy--according to which France was governed
during this transitional period, may be read in that work of M. de
Tocqueville's which I have already quoted, and which is accessible to all
classes, through Mr. H. Reeve's excellent translation.  Every student of
history is, of course, well acquainted with that book.  But as there is
reason to fear, from language which is becoming once more too common,
both in speech and writing, that the general public either do not know
it, or have not understood it, I shall take the liberty of quoting from
it somewhat largely.  I am justified in so doing by the fact that M. de
Tocqueville's book is founded on researches into the French Archives,
which have been made (as far as I am aware) only by him; and contains
innumerable significant facts, which are to be found (as far as I am
aware) in no other accessible work.

The French people--says M. de Tocqueville--made, in 1789, the greatest
effort which was ever made by any nation to cut, so to speak, their
destiny in halves, and to separate by an abyss that which they had
heretofore been, from that which they sought to become hereafter.  But he
had long thought that they had succeeded in this singular attempt much
less than was supposed abroad; and less than they had at first supposed
themselves.  He was convinced that they had unconsciously retained, from
the former state of society, most of the sentiments, the habits, and even
the opinions, by means of which they had effected the destruction of that
state of things; and that, without intending it, they had used its
remains to rebuild the edifice of modern society.  This is his thesis,
and this he proves, it seems to me, incontestably by documentary
evidence.  Not only does he find habits which we suppose--or supposed
till lately--to have died with the eighteenth century, still living and
working, at least in France, in the nineteenth, but the new opinions
which we look on usually as the special children of the nineteenth
century, he shows to have been born in the eighteenth.  France, he
considers, is still at heart what the Ancien Regime made her.

He shows that the hatred of the ruling caste, the intense determination
to gain and keep equality, even at the expense of liberty, had been long
growing up, under those influences of which I spoke in my first lecture.

He shows, moreover, that the acquiescence in a centralised
administration; the expectation that the government should do everything
for the people, and nothing for themselves; the consequent loss of local
liberties, local peculiarities; the helplessness of the towns and the
parishes: and all which issued in making Paris France, and subjecting the
whole of a vast country to the arbitrary dictates of a knot of despots in
the capital, was not the fruit of the Revolution, but of the Ancien
Regime which preceded it; and that Robespierre and his "Comite de Salut
Public," and commissioners sent forth to the four winds of heaven in
bonnet rouge and carmagnole complete, to build up and pull down,
according to their wicked will, were only handling, somewhat more
roughly, the same wires which had been handled for several generations by
the Comptroller-General and Council of State, with their provincial

"Do you know," said Law to the Marquis d'Argenson, "that this kingdom of
France is governed by thirty intendants?  You have neither parliament,
nor estates, nor governors.  It is upon thirty masters of request,
despatched into the provinces, that their evil or their good, their
fertility or their sterility, entirely depend."

To do everything for the people, and let them do nothing for
themselves--this was the Ancien Regime.  To be more wise and more loving
than Almighty God, who certainly does not do everything for the sons of
men, but forces them to labour for themselves by bitter need, and after a
most Spartan mode of education; who allows them to burn their hands as
often as they are foolish enough to put them into the fire; and to be
filled with the fruits of their own folly, even though the folly be one
of necessary ignorance; treating them with that seeming neglect which is
after all the most provident care, because by it alone can men be trained
to experience, self-help, science, true humanity; and so become not
tolerably harmless dolls, but men and women worthy of the name; with

   The reason firm, the temperate will,
   Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill;
   The perfect spirit, nobly planned
   To cheer, to counsel, and command.

Such seems to be the education and government appointed for man by the
voluntatem Dei in rebus revelatum, and the education, therefore, which
the man of science will accept and carry out.  But the men of the Ancien
Regime--in as far as it was a Regime at all--tried to be wiser than the
Almighty.  Why not?  They were not the first, nor will be the last, by
many who have made the same attempt.  So this Council of State settled
arbitrarily, not only taxes, and militia, and roads, but anything and
everything.  Its members meddled, with their whole hearts and minds.  They
tried to teach agriculture by schools and pamphlets and prizes; they sent
out plans for every public work.  A town could not establish an octroi,
levy a rate, mortgage, sell, sue, farm, or administer their property,
without an order in council.  The Government ordered public rejoicings,
saw to the firing of salutes, and illuminating of houses--in one case
mentioned by M. de Tocqueville, they fined a member of the burgher guard
for absenting himself from a Te Deum.  All self-government was gone.  A
country parish was, says Turgot, nothing but "an assemblage of cabins,
and of inhabitants as passive as the cabins they dwelt in."  Without an
order of council, the parish could not mend the steeple after a storm, or
repair the parsonage gable.  If they grumbled at the intendant, he threw
some of the chief persons into prison, and made the parish pay the
expenses of the horse patrol, which formed the arbitrary police of
France.  Everywhere was meddling.  There were reports on
statistics--circumstantial, inaccurate, and useless--as statistics are
too often wont to be.  Sometimes, when the people were starving, the
Government sent down charitable donations to certain parishes, on
condition that the inhabitants should raise a sum on their part.  When
the sum offered was sufficient, the Comptroller-General wrote on the
margin, when he returned the report to the intendant, "Good--express
satisfaction."  If it was more than sufficient, he wrote, "Good--express
satisfaction and sensibility."  There is nothing new under the sun.  In
1761, the Government, jealous enough of newspapers, determined to start
one for itself, and for that purpose took under its tutelage the _Gazette
de France_.  So the public newsmongers were of course to be the
provincial intendants, and their sub-newsmongers, of course, the

But alas! the poor sub-delegates seem to have found either very little
news, or very little which it was politic to publish.  One reports that a
smuggler of salt has been hung, and has displayed great courage; another
that a woman in his district has had three girls at a birth; another that
a dreadful storm has happened, but--has done no mischief; a fourth--living
in some specially favoured Utopia--declares that in spite of all his
efforts he has found nothing worth recording, but that he himself will
subscribe to so useful a journal, and will exhort all respectable persons
to follow his example: in spite of which loyal endeavours, the journal
seems to have proved a failure, to the great disgust of the king and his
minister, who had of course expected to secure fine weather by nailing,
like the schoolboy before a holiday, the hand of the weather-glass.

Well had it been, if the intermeddling of this bureaucracy had stopped
there.  But, by a process of evocation (as it was called), more and more
causes, criminal as well as civil, were withdrawn from the regular
tribunals, to those of the intendants and the Council.  Before the
intendant all the lower order of people were generally sent for trial.
Bread-riots were a common cause of such trials, and M. de Tocqueville
asserts that he has found sentences, delivered by the intendant, and a
local council chosen by himself, by which men were condemned to the
galleys, and even to death.  Under such a system, under which an
intendant must have felt it his interest to pretend at all risks, that
all was going right, and to regard any disturbance as a dangerous
exposure of himself and his chiefs--one can understand easily enough that
scene which Mr. Carlyle has dramatised from Lacretelle, concerning the
canaille, the masses, as we used to call them a generation since:

"A dumb generation--their voice only an inarticulate cry.  Spokesman, in
the king's council, in the world's forum, they have none that finds
credence.  At rare intervals (as now, in 1775) they will fling down their
hoes, and hammers; and, to the astonishment of mankind, flock hither and
thither, dangerous, aimless, get the length even of Versailles.  Turgot
is altering the corn trade, abrogating the absurdest corn laws; there is
dearth, real, or were it even factitious, an indubitable scarcity of
broad.  And so, on the 2nd day of May, 1775, these waste multitudes do
here, at Versailles chateau, in widespread wretchedness, in sallow faces,
squalor, winged raggedness, present as in legible hieroglyphic writing
their petition of grievances.  The chateau-gates must be shut; but the
king will appear on the balcony and speak to them.  They have seen the
king's face; their petition of grievances has been, if not read, looked
at.  In answer, two of them are hanged, on a new gallows forty feet high,
and the rest driven back to their dens for a time."

Of course.  What more exasperating and inexpiable insult to the ruling
powers was possible than this?  To persist in being needy and wretched,
when a whole bureaucracy is toiling day and night to make them prosperous
and happy?  An insult only to be avenged in blood.  Remark meanwhile,
that this centralised bureaucracy was a failure; that after all the
trouble taken to govern these masses, they were not governed, in the
sense of being made better, and not worse.  The truth is, that no
centralised bureaucracy, or so-called "paternal government," yet invented
on earth, has been anything but a failure, or is it like to be anything
else: because it is founded on an error; because it regards and treats
men as that which they are not, as things; and not as that which they
are, as persons.  If the bureaucracy were a mere Briareus giant, with a
hundred hands, helping the weak throughout the length and breadth of the
empire, the system might be at least tolerable.  But what if the
Government were not a Briareus with a hundred hands, but a Hydra with a
hundred heads and mouths, each far more intent on helping itself than on
helping the people?  What if sub-delegates and other officials, holding
office at the will of the intendant, had to live, and even provide
against a rainy day?  What if intendants, holding office at the will of
the Comptroller-General, had to do more than live, and found it prudent
to realise as large a fortune as possible, not only against disgrace, but
against success, and the dignity fit for a new member of the Noblesse de
la Robe?  Would not the system, then, soon become intolerable?  Would
there not be evil times for the masses, till they became something more
than masses?

It is an ugly name, that of "The Masses," for the great majority of human
beings in a nation.  He who uses it speaks of them not as human beings,
but as things; and as things not bound together in one living body, but
lying in a fortuitous heap.  A swarm of ants is not a mass.  It has a
polity and a unity.  Not the ants but the fir-needles and sticks, of
which the ants have piled their nest, are a mass.

The term, I believe, was invented during the Ancien Regime.  Whether it
was or not, it expresses very accurately the life of the many in those
days.  No one would speak, if he wished to speak exactly, of the masses
of the United States; for there every man is, or is presumed to be, a
personage; with his own independence, his own activities, his own rights
and duties.  No one, I believe, would have talked of the masses in the
old feudal times; for then each individual was someone's man, bound to
his master by ties of mutual service, just or unjust, honourable or base,
but still giving him a personality of duties and rights, and dividing him
from his class.

Dividing, I say.  The poor of the Middle Age had little sense of a common
humanity.  Those who owned allegiance to the lord in the next valley were
not their brothers; and at their own lord's bidding, they buckled on
sword and slew the next lord's men, with joyful heart and good
conscience.  Only now and then misery compressed them into masses; and
they ran together, as sheep run together to face a dog.  Some wholesale
wrong made them aware that they were brothers, at least in the power of
starving; and they joined in the cry which was heard, I believe, in
Mecklenburg as late as 1790: "Den Edelman wille wi dodschlagen."  Then,
in Wat Tyler's insurrections, in Munster Anabaptisms, in Jacqueries, they
proved themselves to be masses, if nothing better, striking for awhile,
by the mere weight of numbers, blows terrible, though aimless--soon to be
dispersed and slain in their turn by a disciplined and compact
aristocracy.  Yet not always dispersed, if they could find a leader; as
the Polish nobles discovered to their cost in the middle of the
seventeenth century.  Then Bogdan the Cossack, a wild warrior, not
without his sins, but having deserved well of James Sobieski and the
Poles, found that the neighbouring noble's steward had taken a fancy to
his windmill and his farm upon the Dnieper.  He was thrown into prison on
a frivolous charge, and escaped to the Tatars, leaving his wife
dishonoured, his house burnt, his infant lost in the flames, his eldest
son scourged for protesting against the wrong.  And he returned, at the
head of an army of Tatars, Socinians, Greeks, or what not, to set free
the serfs, and exterminate Jesuits, Jews, and nobles, throughout Podolia,
Volhynia, Red Russia; to desecrate the altars of God, and slay his
servants; to destroy the nobles by lingering tortures; to strip noble
ladies and maidens, and hunt them to death with the whips of his
Cossacks; and after defeating the nobles in battle after battle, to
inaugurate an era of misery and anarchy from which Poland never

Thus did the masses of Southern Poland discover, for one generation at
least, that they were not many things, but one thing; a class, capable of
brotherhood and unity, though, alas! only of such as belongs to a pack of
wolves.  But such outbursts as this were rare exceptions.  In general,
feudalism kept the people divided, and therefore helpless.  And as
feudalism died out, and with it the personal self-respect and loyalty
which were engendered by the old relations of master and servant, the
division still remained; and the people, in France especially, became
merely masses, a swarm of incoherent and disorganised things intent on
the necessaries of daily bread, like mites crawling over each other in a

Out of this mass were struggling upwards perpetually, all who had a
little ambition, a little scholarship, or a little money, endeavouring to
become members of the middle class by obtaining a Government appointment.
"A man," says M. de Tocqueville, "endowed with some education and small
means, thought it not decorous to die without having been a Government
officer."  "Every man, according to his condition," says a contemporary
writer, "wants to be something by command of the king."

It was not merely the "natural vanity" of which M. de Tocqueville accuses
his countrymen, which stirred up in them this eagerness after place; for
we see the same eagerness in other nations of the Continent, who cannot
be accused (as wholes) of that weakness.  The fact is, a Government
place, or a Government decoration, cross, ribbon, or what not, is, in a
country where self-government is unknown or dead, the only method, save
literary fame, which is left to men in order to assert themselves either
to themselves or their fellow-men.

A British or American shopkeeper or farmer asks nothing of his
Government.  He can, if he chooses, be elected to some local office
(generally unsalaried) by the votes of his fellow-citizens.  But that is
his right, and adds nothing to his respectability.  The test of that
latter, in a country where all honest callings are equally honourable, is
the amount of money he can make; and a very sound practical test that is,
in a country where intellect and capital are free.  Beyond that, he is
what he is, and wishes to be no more, save what he can make himself.  He
has his rights, guaranteed by law and public opinion; and as long as he
stands within them, and (as he well phrases it) behaves like a gentleman,
he considers himself as good as any man; and so he is.  But under the
bureaucratic Regime of the Continent, if a man had not "something by
command of the king," he was nothing; and something he naturally wished
to be, even by means of a Government which he disliked and despised.  So
in France, where innumerable petty posts were regular articles of sale,
anyone, it seems, who had saved a little money, found it most profitable
to invest it in a beadledom of some kind--to the great detriment of the
country, for he thus withdrew his capital from trade; but to his own
clear gain, for he thereby purchased some immunity from public burdens,
and, as it were, compounded once and for all for his taxes.  The petty
German princes, it seems, followed the example of France, and sold their
little beadledoms likewise; but even where offices were not sold, they
must be obtained by any and every means, by everyone who desired not to
be as other men were, and to become Notables, as they were called in
France; so he migrated from the country into the nearest town, and became
a member of some small body-guild, town council, or what not, bodies
which were infinite in number.  In one small town M. de Tocqueville
discovers thirty-six such bodies, "separated from each other by
diminutive privileges, the least honourable of which was still a mark of
honour."  Quarrelling perpetually with each other for precedence,
despising and oppressing the very _menu peuple_ from whom they had for
the most part sprung, these innumerable small bodies, instead of uniting
their class, only served to split it up more and more; and when the
Revolution broke them up, once and for all, with all other privileges
whatsoever, no bond of union was left; and each man stood alone, proud of
his "individuality"--his complete social isolation; till he discovered
that, in ridding himself of superiors, he had rid himself also of
fellows; fulfilling, every man in his own person, the old fable of the
bundle of sticks; and had to submit, under the Consulate and the Empire,
to a tyranny to which the Ancien Regime was freedom itself.

For, in France at least, the Ancien Regime was no tyranny.  The middle
and upper classes had individual liberty--it may be, only too much; the
liberty of disobeying a Government which they did not respect.  "However
submissive the French may have been before the Revolution to the will of
the king, one sort of obedience was altogether unknown to them.  They
knew not what it was to bow before an illegitimate and contested power--a
power but little honoured, frequently despised, but willingly endured
because it may be serviceable, or because it may hurt.  To that degrading
form of servitude they were ever strangers.  The king inspired them with
feelings . . . which have become incomprehensible to this generation . . .They loved him with the affection due to a father; they revered him
with the respect due to God.  In submitting to the most arbitrary of his
commands, they yielded less to compulsion than to loyalty; and thus they
frequently preserved great freedom of mind, even in the most complete
dependence.  This liberty, irregular, intermittent," says M. de
Tocqueville, "helped to form those vigorous characters, those proud and
daring spirits, which were to make the French Revolution at once the
object of the admiration and the terror of succeeding generations."

This liberty--too much akin to anarchy, in which indeed it issued for
awhile--seems to have asserted itself in continual petty resistance to
officials whom they did not respect, and who, in their turn, were more
than a little afraid of the very men out of whose ranks they had sprung.

The French Government--one may say, every Government on the Continent in
those days--had the special weakness of all bureaucracies; namely, that
want of moral force which compels them to fall back at last on physical
force, and transforms the ruler into a bully, and the soldier into a
policeman and a gaoler.  A Government of parvenus, uncertain of its own
position, will be continually trying to assert itself to itself, by
vexatious intermeddling and intruding pretensions; and then, when it
meets with the resistance of free and rational spirits, will either
recoil in awkward cowardice, or fly into a passion, and appeal to the
halter and the sword.  Such a Government can never take itself for
granted, because it knows that it is not taken for granted by the people.
It never can possess the quiet assurance, the courteous dignity, without
swagger, yet without hesitation, which belongs to hereditary legislators;
by which term is to be understood, not merely kings, not merely noblemen,
but every citizen of a free nation, however democratic, who has received
from his forefathers the right, the duty, and the example of

Such was the political and social state of the Ancien Regime, not only in
France, but if we are to trust (as we must trust) M. de Tocqueville, in
almost every nation in Europe, except Britain.

And as for its moral state.  We must look for that--if we have need,
which happily all have not--in its lighter literature.

I shall not trouble you with criticisms on French memoirs--of which those
of Madame de Sevigne are on the whole, the most painful (as witness her
comments on the Marquise de Brinvilliers's execution), because written by
a woman better and more human than ordinary.  Nor with "Menagiana," or
other 'ana's--as vain and artificial as they are often foul; nor with
novels and poems, long since deservedly forgotten.  On the first perusal
of this lighter literature, you will be charmed with the ease, grace,
lightness with which everything is said.  On the second, you will be
somewhat cured of your admiration, as you perceive how little there is to
say.  The head proves to be nothing but a cunning mask, with no brains
inside.  Especially is this true of a book, which I must beg those who
have read it already, to recollect.  To read it I recommend no human
being.  We may consider it, as it was considered in its time, the typical
novel of the Ancien Regime.  A picture of Spanish society, written by a
Frenchman, it was held to be--and doubtless with reason--a picture of the
whole European world.  Its French editor (of 1836) calls it a _grande
epopee_; "one of the most prodigious efforts of intelligence, exhausting
all forms of humanity"--in fact, a second Shakespeare, according to the
lights of the year 1715.  I mean, of course, "Gil Blas."  So picturesque
is the book, that it has furnished inexhaustible motifs to the
draughtsman.  So excellent is its workmanship, that the enthusiastic
editor of 1836 tells us--and doubtless he knows best--that it is the
classic model of the French tongue; and that, as Le Sage "had embraced
all that belonged to man in his composition, he dared to prescribe to
himself to embrace the whole French language in his work."  It has been
the parent of a whole school of literature--the Bible of tens of
thousands, with admiring commentators in plenty; on whose souls may God
have mercy!

And no wonder.  The book has a solid value, and will always have, not
merely from its perfect art (according to its own measure and intention),
but from its perfect truthfulness.  It is the Ancien Regime itself.  It
set forth to the men thereof, themselves, without veil or cowardly
reticence of any kind; and inasmuch as every man loves himself, the
Ancien Regime loved "Gil Blas," and said, "The problem of humanity is
solved at last."  But, ye long-suffering powers of heaven, what a
solution!  It is beside the matter to call the book ungodly, immoral,
base.  Le Sage would have answered: "Of course it is; for so is the world
of which it is a picture."  No; the most notable thing about the book is
its intense stupidity; its dreariness, barrenness, shallowness, ignorance
of the human heart, want of any human interest.  If it be an epos, the
actors in it are not men and women, but ferrets--with here and there, of
course, a stray rabbit, on whose brains they may feed.  It is the inhuman
mirror of an inhuman age, in which the healthy human heart can find no
more interest than in a pathological museum.

That last, indeed, "Gil Blas" is; a collection of diseased specimens.  No
man or woman in the book, lay or clerical, gentle or simple, as far as I
can remember, do their duty in any wise, even if they recollect that they
have any duty to do.  Greed, chicane, hypocrisy, uselessness are the
ruling laws of human society.  A new book of Ecclesiastes, crying,
"Vanity of vanity, all is vanity;" the "conclusion of the whole matter"
being left out, and the new Ecclesiastes rendered thereby diabolic,
instead of like that old one, divine.  For, instead of "Fear God and keep
his commandments, for that is the whole duty of main," Le Sage sends
forth the new conclusion, "Take care of thyself, and feed on thy
neighbours, for that is the whole duty of man."  And very faithfully was
his advice (easy enough to obey at all times) obeyed for nearly a century
after "Gil Blas" appeared.

About the same time there appeared, by a remarkable coincidence, another
work, like it the child of the Ancien Regime, and yet as opposite to it
as light to darkness.  If Le Sage drew men as they were, Fenelon tried at
least to draw them as they might have been and still might be, were they
governed by sages and by saints, according to the laws of God.
"Telemaque" is an ideal--imperfect, doubtless, as all ideals must be in a
world in which God's ways and thoughts are for ever higher than man's;
but an ideal nevertheless.  If its construction is less complete than
that of "Gil Blas," it is because its aim is infinitely higher; because
the form has to be subordinated, here and there, to the matter.  If its
political economy be imperfect, often chimerical, it is because the mind
of one man must needs have been too weak to bring into shape and order
the chaos, social and economic, which he saw around him.  M. de
Lamartine, in his brilliant little life of Fenelon, does not hesitate to
trace to the influence of "Telemaque," the Utopias which produced the
revolutions of 1793 and 1848.  "The saintly poet was," he says, "without
knowing it, the first Radical and the first communist of his century."
But it is something to have preached to princes doctrines till then
unknown, or at least forgotten for many a generation--free trade, peace,
international arbitration, and the "carriere ouverte aux talents" for all
ranks.  It is something to have warned his generation of the dangerous
overgrowth of the metropolis; to have prophesied, as an old Hebrew might
have done, that the despotism which he saw around him would end in a
violent revolution.  It is something to have combined the highest
Christian morality with a hearty appreciation of old Greek life; of its
reverence for bodily health and prowess; its joyous and simple country
society; its sacrificial feasts, dances, games; its respect for the gods;
its belief that they helped, guided, inspired the sons of men.  It is
something to have himself believed in God; in a living God, who, both in
this life and in all lives to come, rewarded the good and punished the
evil by inevitable laws.  It is something to have warned a young prince,
in an age of doctrinal bigotry and practical atheism, that a living God
still existed, and that his laws were still in force; to have shown him
Tartarus crowded with the souls of wicked monarchs, while a few of kingly
race rested in Elysium, and among them old pagans--Inachus, Cecrops,
Erichthon, Triptolemus, and Sesostris--rewarded for ever for having done
their duty, each according to his light, to the flocks which the gods had
committed to their care.  It is something to have spoken to a prince, in
such an age, without servility, and without etiquette, of the frailties
and the dangers which beset arbitrary rulers; to have told him that
royalty, "when assumed to content oneself, is a monstrous tyranny; when
assumed to fulfil its duties, and to conduct an innumerable people as a
father conducts his children, a crushing slavery, which demands an heroic
courage and patience."

Let us honour the courtier who dared speak such truths; and still more
the saintly celibate who had sufficient catholicity of mind to envelop
them in old Grecian dress, and, without playing false for a moment to his
own Christianity, seek in the writings of heathen sages a wider and a
healthier view of humanity than was afforded by an ascetic creed.

No wonder that the appearance of "Telemaque," published in Holland
without the permission of Fenelon, delighted throughout Europe that
public which is always delighted with new truths, as long as it is not
required to practise them.  To read "Telemaque" was the right and the
enjoyment of everyone.  To obey it, the duty only of princes.  No wonder
that, on the other hand, this "Vengeance de peuples, lecon des rois," as
M. de Lamartine calls it, was taken for the bitterest satire by Louis
XIV., and completed the disgrace of one who had dared to teach the future
king of France that he must show himself, in all things, the opposite of
his grandfather.  No wonder if Madame de Maintenon and the court looked
on its portraits of wicked ministers and courtiers as caricatures of
themselves; portraits too, which, "composed thus in the palace of
Versailles, under the auspices of that confidence which the king had
placed in the preceptor of his heir, seemed a domestic treason."  No
wonder, also, if the foolish and envious world outside was of the same
opinion; and after enjoying for awhile this exposure of the great ones of
the earth, left "Telemaque" as an Utopia with which private folks had no
concern; and betook themselves to the easier and more practical model of
"Gil Blas."

But there are solid defects in "Telemaque"--indicating corresponding
defects in the author's mind--which would have, in any case, prevented
its doing the good work which Fenelon desired; defects which are natural,
as it seems to me, to his position as a Roman Catholic priest, however
saintly and pure, however humane and liberal.  The king, with him, is to
be always the father of his people; which is tantamount to saying, that
the people are to be always children, and in a condition of tutelage;
voluntary, if possible: if not, of tutelage still.  Of self-government,
and education of human beings into free manhood by the exercise of self-
government, free will, free thought--of this Fenelon had surely not a
glimpse.  A generation or two passed by, and then the peoples of Europe
began to suspect that they were no longer children, but come to manhood;
and determined (after the example of Britain and America) to assume the
rights and duties of manhood, at whatever risk of excesses or mistakes:
and then "Telemaque" was relegated--half unjustly--as the slavish and
childish dream of a past age, into the schoolroom, where it still

But there is a defect in "Telemaque" which is perhaps deeper still.  No
woman in it exercises influence over man, except for evil.  Minerva, the
guiding and inspiring spirit, assumes of course, as Mentor, a male form;
but her speech and thought is essentially masculine, and not feminine.
Antiope is a mere lay-figure, introduced at the end of the book because
Telemachus must needs be allowed to have hope of marrying someone or
other.  Venus plays but the same part as she does in the Tannenhauser
legends of the Middle Age.  Her hatred against Telemachus is an integral
element of the plot.  She, with the other women or nymphs of the romance,
in spite of all Fenelon's mercy and courtesy towards human frailties,
really rise no higher than the witches of the Malleus Maleficanum.
Woman--as the old monk held who derived femina from fe, faith, and minus,
less, because women have less faith than men--is, in "Telemaque,"
whenever she thinks or acts, the temptress, the enchantress; the victim
(according to a very ancient calumny) of passions more violent, often
more lawless, than man's.

Such a conception of women must make "Telemaque," to the end of time,
useless as a wholesome book of education.  It must have crippled its
influence, especially in France, in its own time.  For there, for good
and for evil, woman was asserting more and more her power, and her right
to power, over the mind and heart of man.  Rising from the long
degradation of the Middle Ages, which had really respected her only when
unsexed and celibate, the French woman had assumed, often lawlessly,
always triumphantly, her just freedom; her true place as the equal, the
coadjutor, the counsellor of man.  Of all problems connected with the
education of a young prince, that of the influence of woman was, in the
France of the Ancien Regime, the most important.  And it was just that
which Fenelon did not, perhaps dared not, try to touch; and which he most
certainly could not have solved.  Meanwhile, not only Madame de
Maintenon, but women whose names it were a shame to couple with hers,
must have smiled at, while they hated, the saint who attempted to
dispense not only with them, but with the ideal queen who should have
been the helpmeet of the ideal king.

To those who believe that the world is governed by a living God, it may
seem strange, at first sight, that this moral anarchy was allowed to
endure; that the avenging, and yet most purifying storm of the French
Revolution, inevitable from Louis XIV.'s latter years, was not allowed to
burst two generations sooner than it did.  Is not the answer--that the
question always is not of destroying the world, but of amending it?  And
that amendment must always come from within, and not from without?  That
men must be taught to become men, and mend their world themselves?  To
educate men into self-government--that is the purpose of the government
of God; and some of the men of the eighteenth century did not learn that
lesson.  As the century rolled on, the human mind arose out of the slough
in which Le Sage found it, into manifold and beautiful activity,
increasing hatred of shams and lies, increasing hunger after truth and
usefulness.  With mistakes and confusions innumerable they worked: but
still they worked; planting good seed; and when the fire of the French
Revolution swept over the land, it burned up the rotten and the withered,
only to let the fresh herbage spring up from underneath.

But that purifying fire was needed.  If we inquire why the many attempts
to reform the Ancien Regime, which the eighteenth century witnessed, were
failures one and all; why Pombal failed in Portugal, Aranda in Spain,
Joseph II. in Austria, Ferdinand and Caroline in Naples--for these last,
be it always remembered, began as humane and enlightened sovereigns,
patronising liberal opinions, and labouring to ameliorate the condition
of the poor, till they were driven by the murder of Marie Antoinette into
a paroxysm of rage and terror--why, above all, Louis XVI., who attempted
deeper and wiser reforms than any other sovereign, failed more
disastrously than any--is not the answer this, that all these reforms
would but have cleansed the outside of the cup and the platter, while
they left the inside full of extortion and excess?  It was not merely
institutions which required to be reformed, but men and women.  The
spirit of "Gil Blas" had to be cast out.  The deadness, selfishness,
isolation of men's souls; their unbelief in great duties, great common
causes, great self-sacrifices--in a word, their unbelief in God, and
themselves, and mankind--all that had to be reformed; and till that was
done all outward reform would but have left them, at best, in brute ease
and peace, to that soulless degradation, which (as in the Byzantine
empire of old, and seeming in the Chinese empire of to-day) hides the
reality of barbarism under a varnish of civilisation.  Men had to be
awakened; to be taught to think for themselves, act for themselves, to
dare and suffer side by side for their country and for their children; in
a word, to arise and become men once more.

And, what is more, men had to punish--to avenge.  Those are fearful
words.  But there is, in this God-guided universe, a law of retribution,
which will find men out, whether men choose to find it out or not; a law
of retribution; of vengeance inflicted justly, though not necessarily by
just men.  The public executioner was seldom a very estimable personage,
at least under the old Regime; and those who have been the scourges of
God have been, in general, mere scourges, and nothing better; smiting
blindly, rashly, confusedly; confounding too often the innocent with the
guilty, till they have seemed only to punish crime by crime, and replace
old sins by new.  But, however insoluble, however saddening that puzzle
be, I must believe--as long as I believe in any God at all--that such men
as Robespierre were His instruments, even in their crimes.

In the case of the French Revolution, indeed, the wickedness of certain
of its leaders was part of the retribution itself.  For the noblesse
existed surely to make men better.  It did, by certain classes, the very
opposite.  Therefore it was destroyed by wicked men, whom it itself had
made wicked.  For over and above all political, economic, social wrongs,
there were wrongs personal, human, dramatic; which stirred not merely the
springs of covetousness or envy, or even of a just demand for the freedom
of labour and enterprise: but the very deepest springs of rage, contempt,
and hate; wrongs which caused, as I believe, the horrors of the

It is notorious how many of the men most deeply implicated in those
horrors were of the artist class--by which I signify not merely painters
and sculptors--as the word artist has now got, somewhat strangely, to
signify, at least in England--but what the French meant by
_artistes_--producers of luxuries and amusements, play-actors, musicians,
and suchlike, down to that "distracted peruke-maker with two fiery
torches," who, at the storm of the Bastile, "was for burning the
saltpetres of the Arsenal, had not a woman run screaming; had not a
patriot, with some tincture of natural philosophy, instantly struck the
wind out of him, with butt of musket on pit of stomach, overturned the
barrels, and stayed the devouring element."  The distracted peruke-maker
may have had his wrongs--perhaps such a one as that of poor Triboulet the
fool, in "Le Roi s'amuse"--and his own sound reasons for blowing down the
Bastile, and the system which kept it up.

For these very ministers of luxury--then miscalled art--from the periwig-
maker to the play-actor--who like them had seen the frivolity, the
baseness, the profligacy, of the rulers to whose vices they pandered,
whom they despised while they adored!  Figaro himself may have looked up
to his master the Marquis as a superior being as long as the law enabled
the Marquis to send him to the Bastile by a lettre de cachet; yet Figaro
may have known and seen enough to excuse him, when lettres de cachet were
abolished, for handing the Marquis over to a Comite de Salut Public.
Disappointed play-actors, like Collet d'Herbois; disappointed poets, like
Fabre d'Olivet, were, they say, especially ferocious.  Why not?
Ingenious, sensitive spirits, used as lap-dogs and singing-birds by men
and women whom they felt to be their own flesh and blood, they had, it
may be, a juster appreciation of the actual worth of their patrons than
had our own Pitt and Burke.  They had played the valet: and no man was a
hero to them.  They had seen the nobleman expose himself before his own
helots: they would try if the helot was not as good as the nobleman.  The
nobleman had played the mountebank: why should not the mountebank, for
once, play the nobleman?  The nobleman's God had been his five senses,
with (to use Mr. Carlyle's phrase) the sixth sense of vanity: why should
not the mountebank worship the same God, like Carriere at Nantes, and see
what grace and gifts he too might obtain at that altar?

But why so cruel?  Because, with many of these men, I more than suspect,
there were wrongs to be avenged deeper than any wrongs done to the sixth
sense of vanity.  Wrongs common to them, and to a great portion of the
respectable middle class, and much of the lower class: but wrongs to
which they and their families, being most in contact with the noblesse,
would be especially exposed; namely, wrongs to women.

Everyone who knows the literature of that time, must know what I mean:
what had gone on for more than a century, it may be more than two, in
France, in Italy, and--I am sorry to have to say it--Germany likewise.
All historians know what I mean, and how enormous was the evil.  I only
wonder that they have so much overlooked that item in the causes of the
Revolution.  It seems to me to have been more patent and potent in the
sight of men, as it surely was in the sight of Almighty God, than all the
political and economic wrongs put together.  They might have issued in a
change of dynasty or of laws.  That, issued in the blood of the
offenders.  Not a girl was enticed into Louis XV.'s Petit Trianon, or
other den of aristocratic iniquity, but left behind her, parents nursing
shame and sullen indignation, even while they fingered the ill-gotten
price of their daughter's honour; and left behind also, perhaps, some
unhappy boy of her own class, in whom disappointment and jealousy were
transformed--and who will blame him?--into righteous indignation, and a
very sword of God; all the more indignant, and all the more righteous, if
education helped him to see, that the maiden's acquiescence, her pride in
her own shame, was the ugliest feature in the whole crime, and the most
potent reason for putting an end, however fearful, to a state of things
in which such a fate was thought an honour and a gain, and not a disgrace
and a ruin; in which the most gifted daughters of the lower classes had
learnt to think it more noble to become--that which they became--than the
wives of honest men.

If you will read fairly the literature of the Ancien Regime, whether in
France or elsewhere, you will see that my facts are true.  If you have
human hearts in you, you will see in them, it seems to me, an explanation
of many a guillotinade and fusillade, as yet explained only on the ground
of madness--an hypothesis which (as we do not yet in the least understand
what madness is) is no explanation at all.

An age of decay, incoherence, and makeshift, varnish and gilding upon
worm-eaten furniture, and mouldering wainscot, was that same Ancien
Regime.  And for that very reason a picturesque age; like one of its own
landscapes.  A picturesque bit of uncultivated mountain, swarming with
the prince's game; a picturesque old robber schloss above, now in ruins;
and below, perhaps, the picturesque new schloss, with its French
fountains and gardens, French nymphs of marble, and of flesh and blood
likewise, which the prince has partially paid for, by selling a few
hundred young men to the English to fight the Yankees.  The river, too,
is picturesque, for the old bridge has not been repaired since it was
blown up in the Seven Years' War; and there is but a single lazy barge
floating down the stream, owing to the tolls and tariffs of his Serene
Highness; the village is picturesque, for the flower of the young men are
at the wars, and the place is tumbling down; and the two old peasants in
the foreground, with the single goat and the hamper of vine-twigs, are
very picturesque likewise, for they are all in rags.

How sad to see the picturesque element eliminated, and the quiet artistic
beauty of the scene destroyed;--to have steamers puffing up and down the
river, and a railroad hurrying along its banks the wealth of the Old
World, in exchange for the wealth of the New--or hurrying, it may be,
whole regiments of free and educated citizen-soldiers, who fight, they
know for what.  How sad to see the alto schloss desecrated by tourists,
and the neue schloss converted into a cold-water cure.  How sad to see
the village, church and all, built up again brand-new, and whitewashed to
the very steeple-top;--a new school at the town-end--a new crucifix by
the wayside.  How sad to see the old folk well clothed in the fabrics of
England or Belgium, doing an easy trade in milk and fruit, because the
land they till has become their own, and not the prince's; while their
sons are thriving farmers on the prairies of the far West.  Very
unpicturesque, no doubt, is wealth and progress, peace and safety,
cleanliness and comfort.  But they possess advantages unknown to the
Ancien Regime, which was, if nothing else, picturesque.  Men could paint
amusing and often pretty pictures of its people and its places.

Consider that word, "picturesque."  It, and the notion of art which it
expresses, are the children of the Ancien Regime--of the era of decay.
The healthy, vigorous, earnest, progressive Middle Age never dreamed of
admiring, much less of painting, for their own sake, rags and ruins; the
fashion sprang up at the end of the seventeenth century; it lingered on
during the first quarter of our century, kept alive by the reaction from
1815-25.  It is all but dead now, before the return of vigorous and
progressive thought.  An admirer of the Middle Ages now does not build a
sham ruin in his grounds; he restores a church, blazing with colour, like
a medieval illumination.  He has learnt to look on that which went by the
name of picturesque in his great-grandfather's time, as an old Greek or a
Middle Age monk would have done--as something squalid, ugly, a sign of
neglect, disease, death; and therefore to be hated and abolished, if it
cannot be restored.  At Carcassone, now, M. Viollet-le-Duc, under the
auspices of the Emperor of the French, is spending his vast learning, and
much money, simply in abolishing the picturesque; in restoring stone for
stone, each member of that wonderful museum of Middle Age architecture:
Roman, Visigothic, Moslem, Romaine, Early English, later French, all is
being reproduced exactly as it must have existed centuries since.  No
doubt that is not the highest function of art: but it is a preparation
for the highest, a step toward some future creative school.  As the early
Italian artists, by careful imitation, absorbed into their minds the
beauty and meaning of old Greek and Roman art; so must the artists of our
days by the art of the Middle Age and the Renaissance.  They must learn
to copy, before they can learn to surpass; and, meanwhile, they must
learn--indeed they have learnt--that decay is ugliness, and the imitation
of decay, a making money out of the public shame.

The picturesque sprang up, as far as I can discover, suddenly, during the
time of exhaustion and recklessness which followed the great struggles of
the sixteenth century.  Salvator Rosa and Callot, two of the earliest
professors of picturesque art, have never been since surpassed.  For
indeed, they drew from life.  The rags and the ruins, material, and alas!
spiritual, were all around them; the lands and the creeds alike lay
waste.  There was ruffianism and misery among the masses of Europe;
unbelief and artificiality among the upper classes; churches and
monasteries defiled, cities sacked, farmsteads plundered and ruinate, and
all the wretchedness which Callot has immortalised--for a warning to evil
rulers--in his Miseres de la Guerre.  The world was all gone wrong: but
as for setting it right again--who could do that?  And so men fell into a
sentimental regret for the past, and its beauties, all exaggerated by the
foreshortening of time; while they wanted strength or faith to reproduce
it.  At last they became so accustomed to the rags and ruins, that they
looked on them as the normal condition of humanity, as the normal field
for painters.

Only now and then, and especially toward the latter half of the
eighteenth century, when thought began to revive, and men dreamed of
putting the world to rights once more, there rose before them glimpses of
an Arcadian ideal.  Country life--the primaeval calling of men--how
graceful and pure it might be!  How graceful--if not pure--it once had
been!  The boors of Teniers and the beggars of Murillo might be true to
present fact; but there was a fairer ideal, which once had been fact, in
the Eclogues of Theocritus, and the Loves of Daphnis and Chloe.  And so
men took to dreaming of shepherds and shepherdesses, and painting them on
canvas, and modelling them in china, according to their cockney notions
of what they had been once, and always ought to be.  We smile now at
Sevres and Dresden shepherdesses; but the wise man will surely see in
them a certain pathos.  They indicated a craving after something better
than boorishness; and the many men and women may have become the gentler
and purer by looking even at them, and have said sadly to themselves:
"Such might have been the peasantry of half Europe, had it not been for
devastations of the Palatinate, wars of succession, and the wicked wills
of emperors and kings."


In a former lecture in this Institution, I said that the human race owed
more to the eighteenth century than to any century since the Christian
era.  It may seem a bold assertion to those who value duly the century
which followed the revival of Greek literature, and consider that the
eighteenth century was but the child, or rather grandchild, thereof.  But
I must persist in my opinion, even though it seem to be inconsistent with
my description of the very same era as one of decay and death.  For side
by side with the death, there was manifold fresh birth; side by side with
the decay there was active growth;--side by side with them, fostered by
them, though generally in strong opposition to them, whether conscious or
unconscious.  We must beware, however, of trying to find between that
decay and that growth a bond of cause and effect where there is really
none.  The general decay may have determined the course of many men's
thoughts; but it no more set them thinking than (as I have heard said)
the decay of the Ancien Regime produced the new Regime--a loose metaphor,
which, like all metaphors, will not hold water, and must not be taken for
a philosophic truth.  That would be to confess man--what I shall never
confess him to be--the creature of circumstances; it would be to fall
into the same fallacy of spontaneous generation as did the ancients, when
they believed that bees were bred from the carcass of a dead ox.  In the
first place, the bees were no bees, but flies--unless when some true
swarm of honey bees may have taken up their abode within the empty ribs,
as Samson's bees did in that of the lion.  But bees or flies, each sprang
from an egg, independent of the carcass, having a vitality of its own: it
was fostered by the carcass it fed on during development; but bred from
it it was not, any more than Marat was bred from the decay of the Ancien
Regime.  There are flies which, by feeding on putridity, become poisonous
themselves, as did Marat: but even they owe their vitality and
organisation to something higher than that on which they feed; and each
of them, however, defaced and debased, was at first a "thought of God."
All true manhood consists in the defiance of circumstances; and if any
man be the creature of circumstances, it is because he has become so,
like the drunkard; because he has ceased to be a man, and sunk downward
toward the brute.

Accordingly we shall find, throughout the 18th century, a stirring of
thought, an originality, a resistance to circumstances, an indignant
defiance of circumstances, which would have been impossible, had
circumstances been the true lords and shapers of mankind.  Had that
latter been the case, the downward progress of the Ancien Regime would
have been irremediable.  Each generation, conformed more and more to the
element in which it lived, would have sunk deeper in dull acquiescence to
evil, in ignorance of all cravings save those of the senses; and if at
any time intolerable wrong or want had driven it to revolt, it would have
issued, not in the proclamation of new and vast ideas, but in an anarchic
struggle for revenge and bread.

There are races, alas! which seem, for the present at least, mastered by
circumstances.  Some, like the Chinese, have sunk back into that state;
some, like the negro in Africa, seem not yet to have emerged from it; but
in Europe, during the eighteenth century, were working not merely new
forces and vitalities (abstractions which mislead rather than explain),
but living persons in plenty, men and women, with independent and
original hearts and brains, instinct, in spite of all circumstances, with
power which we shall most wisely ascribe directly to Him who is the Lord
and Giver of Life.

Such persons seemed--I only say seemed--most numerous in England and in
Germany.  But there were enough of them in France to change the destiny
of that great nation for awhile--perhaps for ever.

M. de Tocqueville has a whole chapter, and a very remarkable one, which
appears at first sight to militate against my belief--a chapter "showing
that France was the country in which men had become most alike."

"The men," he says, "of that time, especially those belonging to the
upper and middle ranks of society, who alone were at all conspicuous,
were all exactly alike."

And it must be allowed, that if this were true of the upper and middle
classes, it must have been still more true of the mass of the lowest
population, who, being most animal, are always most moulded--or rather
crushed--by their own circumstances, by public opinion, and by the wants
of five senses, common to all alike.

But when M. de Tocqueville attributes this curious fact to the
circumstances of their political state--to that "government of one man
which in the end has the inevitable effect of rendering all men alike,
and all mutually indifferent to their common fate"--we must differ, even
from him: for facts prove the impotence of that, or of any other
circumstance, in altering the hearts and souls of men, in producing in
them anything but a mere superficial and temporary resemblance.

For all the while there was, among these very French, here and there a
variety of character and purpose, sufficient to burst through that very
despotism, and to develop the nation into manifold, new, and quite
original shapes.  Thus it was proved that the uniformity had been only in
their outside crust and shell.  What tore the nation to pieces during the
Reign of Terror, but the boundless variety and originality of the
characters which found themselves suddenly in free rivalry?  What else
gave to the undisciplined levies, the bankrupt governments, the parvenu
heroes of the Republic, a manifold force, a self-dependent audacity,
which made them the conquerors, and the teachers (for good and evil) of
the civilised world?  If there was one doctrine which the French
Revolution specially proclaimed--which it caricatured till it brought it
into temporary disrepute--it was this: that no man is like another; that
in each is a God-given "individuality," an independent soul, which no
government or man has a right to crush, or can crush in the long run: but
which ought to have, and must have, a "carriere ouverte aux talents,"
freely to do the best for itself in the battle of life.  The French
Revolution, more than any event since twelve poor men set forth to
convert the world some eighteen hundred years ago, proves that man ought
not to be, and need not be, the creature of circumstances, the puppet of
institutions; but, if he will, their conqueror and their lord.

Of these original spirits who helped to bring life out of death, and the
modern world out of the decay of the mediaeval world, the French
_philosophes_ and encyclopaedists are, of course, the most notorious.
They confessed, for the most part, that their original inspiration had
come from England.  They were, or considered themselves, the disciples of
Locke; whose philosophy, it seems to me, their own acts disproved.

And first, a few words on these same _philosophes_.  One may be
thoroughly aware of their deficiencies, of their sins, moral as well as
intellectual; and yet one may demand that everyone should judge them
fairly--which can only be done by putting himself in their place; and any
fair judgment of them will, I think, lead to the conclusion that they
were not mere destroyers, inflamed with hate of everything which mankind
had as yet held sacred.  Whatever sacred things they despised, one sacred
thing they reverenced, which men had forgotten more and more since the
seventeenth century--common justice and common humanity.  It was this, I
believe, which gave them their moral force.  It was this which drew
towards them the hearts, not merely of educated bourgeois and nobles (on
the _menu peuple_ they had no influence, and did not care to have any),
but of every continental sovereign who felt in himself higher aspirations
than those of a mere selfish tyrant--Frederick the Great, Christina of
Sweden, Joseph of Austria, and even that fallen Juno, Catharine of
Russia, with all her sins.  To take the most extreme instance--Voltaire.
We may question his being a philosopher at all.  We may deny that he had
even a tincture of formal philosophy.  We may doubt much whether he had
any of that human and humorous common sense, which is often a good
substitute for the philosophy of the schools.  We may feel against him a
just and honest indignation when we remember that he dared to travestie
into a foul satire the tale of his country's purest and noblest heroine;
but we must recollect, at the same time, that he did a public service to
the morality of his own country, and of all Europe, by his
indignation--quite as just and honest as any which we may feel--at the
legal murder of Calas.  We must recollect that, if he exposes baseness
and foulness with too cynical a license of speech (in which, indeed, he
sinned no more than had the average of French writers since the days of
Montaigne), he at least never advocates them, as did Le Sage.  We must
recollect that, scattered throughout his writings, are words in favour of
that which is just, merciful, magnanimous, and even, at times, in favour
of that which is pure; which proves that in Voltaire, as in most men,
there was a double self--the one sickened to cynicism by the iniquity and
folly which he saw around him--the other, hungering after a nobler life,
and possibly exciting that hunger in one and another, here and there, who
admired him for other reasons than the educated mob, which cried after
him "Vive la Pucelle."

Rousseau, too.  Easy it is to feel disgust, contempt, for the
"Confessions" and the "Nouvelle Heloise"--for much, too much, in the
man's own life and character.  One would think the worse of the young
Englishman who did not so feel, and express his feelings roundly and
roughly.  But all young Englishmen should recollect, that to Rousseau's
"Emile" they owe their deliverance from the useless pedantries, the
degrading brutalities, of the medieval system of school education; that
"Emile" awakened throughout civilised Europe a conception of education
just, humane, rational, truly scientific, because founded upon facts;
that if it had not been written by one writhing under the bitter
consequences of mis-education, and feeling their sting and their brand
day by day on his own spirit, Miss Edgeworth might never have reformed
our nurseries, or Dr. Arnold our public schools.

And so with the rest of the _philosophes_.  That there were charlatans
among them, vain men, pretentious men, profligate men, selfish,
self-seeking, and hypocritical men, who doubts?  Among what class of men
were there not such in those evil days?  In what class of men are there
not such now, in spite of all social and moral improvement?  But nothing
but the conviction, among the average, that they were in the right--that
they were fighting a battle for which it was worth while to dare, and if
need be to suffer, could have enabled them to defy what was then public
opinion, backed by overwhelming physical force.

Their intellectual defects are patent.  No one can deny that their
inductions were hasty and partial: but then they were inductions as
opposed to the dull pedantry of the schools, which rested on tradition
only half believed, or pretended to be believed.  No one can deny that
their theories were too general and abstract; but then they were theories
as opposed to the no-theory of the Ancien Regime, which was, "Let us eat
and drink, for to-morrow we die."

Theories--principles--by them if men do not live, by them men are, at
least, stirred into life, at the sight of something more noble than
themselves.  Only by great ideas, right or wrong, could such a world as
that which Le Sage painted, be roused out of its slough of foul
self-satisfaction, and equally foul self-discontent.

For mankind is ruled and guided, in the long run, not by practical
considerations, not by self-interest, not by compromises; but by theories
and principles, and those of the most abstruse, delicate, supernatural,
and literally unspeakable kind; which, whether they be according to
reason or not, are so little according to logic--that is, to speakable
reason--that they cannot be put into speech.  Men act, whether singly or
in masses, by impulses and instincts for which they give reasons quite
incompetent, often quite irrelevant; but which they have caught from each
other, as they catch fever or small-pox; as unconsciously, and yet as
practically and potently; just as the nineteenth century has caught from
the philosophers of the eighteenth most practical rules of conduct,
without even (in most cases) having read a word of their works.

And what has this century caught from these philosophers?  One rule it
has learnt, and that a most practical one--to appeal in all cases, as
much as possible, to "Reason and the Laws of Nature."  That, at least,
the philosophers tried to do.  Often they failed.  Their conceptions of
reason and of the laws of nature being often incorrect, they appealed to
unreason and to laws which were not those of nature.  "The fixed idea of
them all was," says M. de Tocqueville, "to substitute simple and
elementary rules, deduced from reason and natural law, for the
complicated traditional customs which governed the society of their
time."  They were often rash, hasty, in the application of their method.
They ignored whole classes of facts, which, though spiritual and not
physical, are just as much facts, and facts for science, as those which
concern a stone or a fungus.  They mistook for merely complicated
traditional customs, many most sacred institutions which were just as
much founded on reason and natural law, as any theories of their own.  But
who shall say that their method was not correct?  That it was not the
only method?  They appealed to reason.  Would you have had them appeal to
unreason?  They appealed to natural law.  Would you have had them appeal
to unnatural law?--law according to which God did not make this world?
Alas! that had been done too often already.  Solomon saw it done in his
time, and called it folly, to which he prophesied no good end.  Rabelais
saw it done in his time; and wrote his chapters on the "Children of
Physis and the Children of Antiphysis."  But, born in an evil generation,
which was already, even in 1500, ripening for the revolution of 1789, he
was sensual and, I fear, cowardly enough to hide his light, not under a
bushel, but under a dunghill; till men took him for a jester of jests;
and his great wisdom was lost to the worse and more foolish generations
which followed him, and thought they understood him.

But as for appealing to natural law for that which is good for men, and
to reason for the power of discerning that same good--if man cannot find
truth by that method, by what method shall he find it?

And thus it happened that, though these philosophers and encyclopaedists
were not men of science, they were at least the heralds and the
coadjutors of science.

We may call them, and justly, dreamers, theorists, fanatics.  But we must
recollect that one thing they meant to do, and did.  They recalled men to
facts; they bid them ask of everything they saw--What are the facts of
the case?  Till we know the facts, argument is worse than useless.

Now the habit of asking for the facts of the case must deliver men more
or less from that evil spirit which the old Romans called "Fama;" from
her whom Virgil described in the AEneid as the ugliest, the falsest, and
the cruellest of monsters.

From "Fama;" from rumours, hearsays, exaggerations, scandals,
superstitions, public opinions--whether from the ancient public opinion
that the sun went round the earth, or the equally public opinion, that
those who dared to differ from public opinion were hateful to the deity,
and therefore worthy of death--from all these blasts of Fame's lying
trumpet they helped to deliver men; and they therefore helped to insure
something like peace and personal security for those quiet, modest, and
generally virtuous men, who, as students of physical science, devoted
their lives, during the eighteenth century, to asking of nature--What are
the facts of the case?

It was no coincidence, but a connection of cause and effect, that during
the century of _philosopher_ sound physical science throve, as she had
never thriven before; that in zoology and botany, chemistry and medicine,
geology and astronomy, man after man, both of the middle and the noble
classes, laid down on more and more sound, because more and more extended
foundations, that physical science which will endure as an everlasting
heritage to mankind; endure, even though a second Byzantine period should
reduce it to a timid and traditional pedantry, or a second irruption of
barbarians sweep it away for awhile, to revive again (as classic
philosophy revived in the fifteenth century) among new and more energetic
races; when the kingdom of God shall have been taken away from us, and
given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.

An eternal heritage, I say, for the human race; which once gained, can
never be lost; which stands, and will stand; marches, and will march,
proving its growth, its health, its progressive force, its certainty of
final victory, by those very changes, disputes, mistakes, which the
ignorant and the bigoted hold up to scorn, as proofs of its uncertainty
and its rottenness; because they never have dared or cared to ask
boldly--What are the facts of the case?--and have never discovered either
the acuteness, the patience, the calm justice, necessary for ascertaining
the facts, or their awful and divine certainty when once ascertained.

[But these philosophers (it will be said) hated all religion.

Before that question can be fairly discussed, it is surely right to
consider what form of religion that was which they found working round
them in France, and on the greater part of the Continent.  The quality
thereof may have surely had something to do (as they themselves asserted)
with that "sort of rage" with which (to use M. de Tocqueville's words)
"the Christian religion was attacked in France."

M. de Tocqueville is of opinion (and his opinion is likely to be just)
that "the Church was not more open to attack in France than elsewhere;
that the corruptions and abuses which had been allowed to creep into it
were less, on the contrary, there than in most Catholic countries.  The
Church of France was infinitely more tolerant than it ever had been
previously, and than it still was among other nations.  Consequently, the
peculiar causes of this phenomenon" (the hatred which it aroused) "must
be looked for less in the condition of religion than in that of society."

"We no longer," he says, shortly after, "ask in what the Church of that
day erred as a religious institution, but how far it stood opposed to the
political revolution which was at hand."  And he goes on to show how the
principles of her ecclesiastical government, and her political position,
were such that the _philosophes_ must needs have been her enemies.  But
he mentions another fact which seems to me to belong neither to the
category of religion nor to that of politics; a fact which, if he had
done us the honour to enlarge upon it, might have led him and his readers
to a more true understanding of the disrepute into which Christianity had
fallen in France.

"The ecclesiastical authority had been specially employed in keeping
watch over the progress of thought; and the censorship of books was a
daily annoyance to the _philosophes_.  By defending the common liberties
of the human mind against the Church, they were combating in their own
cause: and they began by breaking the shackles which pressed most closely
on themselves."

Just so.  And they are not to be blamed if they pressed first and most
earnestly reforms which they knew by painful experience to be necessary.
All reformers are wont thus to begin at home.  It is to their honour if,
not content with shaking off their own fetters, they begin to see that
others are fettered likewise; and, reasoning from the particular to the
universal, to learn that their own cause is the cause of mankind.

There is, therefore, no reason to doubt that these men were honest, when
they said that they were combating, not in their own cause merely, but in
that of humanity; and that the Church was combating in her own cause, and
that of her power and privilege.  The Church replied that she, too, was
combating for humanity; for its moral and eternal well-being.  But that
is just what the _philosophes_ denied.  They said (and it is but fair to
take a statement which appears on the face of all their writings; which
is the one key-note on which they ring perpetual changes), that the cause
of the Church in France was not that of humanity, but of inhumanity; not
that of nature, but of unnature; not even that of grace, but of disgrace.
Truely or falsely, they complained that the French clergy had not only
identified themselves with the repression of free thought, and of
physical science, especially that of the Newtonian astronomy, but that
they had proved themselves utterly unfit, for centuries past, to exercise
any censorship whatsoever over the thoughts of men: that they had
identified themselves with the cause of darkness, not of light; with
persecution and torture, with the dragonnades of Louis XIV., with the
murder of Calas and of Urban Grandier; with celibacy, hysteria,
demonology, witchcraft, and the shameful public scandals, like those of
Gauffredi, Grandier, and Pere Giraud, which had arisen out of mental
disease; with forms of worship which seemed to them (rightly or wrongly)
idolatry, and miracles which seemed to them (rightly or wrongly)
impostures; that the clergy interfered perpetually with the sanctity of
family life, as well as with the welfare of the state; that their evil
counsels, and specially those of the Jesuits, had been patent and potent
causes of much of the misrule and misery of Louis XIV.'s and XV.'s
reigns; and that with all these heavy counts against them, their morality
was not such as to make other men more moral; and was not--at least among
the hierarchy--improving, or likely to improve.  To a Mazarin, a De Retz,
a Richelieu (questionable men enough) had succeeded a Dubois, a Rohan, a
Lomenie de Brienne, a Maury, a Talleyrand; and at the revolution of 1789
thoughtful Frenchmen asked, once and for all, what was to be done with a
Church of which these were the hierophants?

Whether these complaints affected the French Church as a "religious"
institution, must depend entirely on the meaning which is attached to the
word "religion": that they affected her on scientific, rational, and
moral grounds, independent of any merely political one, is as patent as
that the attack based on them was one-sided, virulent, and often somewhat
hypocritical, considering the private morals of many of the assailants.
We know--or ought to know--that within that religion which seemed to the
_philosophes_ (so distorted and defaced had it become) a nightmare dream,
crushing the life out of mankind, there lie elements divine, eternal;
necessary for man in this life and the life to come.  But we are bound to
ask--Had they a fair chance of knowing what we know?  Have we proof that
their hatred was against all religion, or only against that which they
saw around them?  Have we proof that they would have equally hated, had
they been in permanent contact with them, creeds more free from certain
faults which seemed to them, in the case of the French Church,
ineradicable and inexpiable?  Till then we must have charity--which is
justice--even for the _philosophes_ of the eighteenth century.

This view of the case had been surely overlooked by M. de Tocqueville,
when he tried to explain by the fear of revolutions, the fact that both
in America and in England, "while the boldest political doctrines of the
eighteenth-century philosophers have been adopted, their anti-religious
doctrines have made no way."

He confesses that, "Among the English, French irreligious philosophy had
been preached, even before the greater part of the French philosophers
were born.  It was Bolingbroke who set up Voltaire.  Throughout the
eighteenth century infidelity had celebrated champions in England.  Able
writers and profound thinkers espoused that cause, but they were never
able to render it triumphant as in France."  Of these facts there can be
no doubt: but the cause which he gives for the failure of infidelity will
surely sound new and strange to those who know the English literature and
history of that century.  It was, he says, "inasmuch as all those who had
anything to fear from revolutions, eagerly came to the rescue of the
established faith."  Surely there was no talk of revolutions; no wish,
expressed or concealed, to overthrow either government or society, in the
aristocratic clique to whom English infidelity was confined.  Such was,
at least, the opinion of Voltaire, who boasted that "All the works of the
modern philosophers together would never make as much noise in the world
as was made in former days by the disputes of the Cordeliers about the
shape of their sleeves and hoods."  If (as M. de Tocqueville says)
Bolingbroke set up Voltaire, neither master nor pupil had any more
leaning than Hobbes had toward a democracy which was not dreaded in those
days because it had never been heard of.  And if (as M. de Tocqueville
heartily allows) the English apologists of Christianity triumphed, at
least for the time being, the cause of their triumph must be sought in
the plain fact that such men as Berkeley, Butler, and Paley, each
according to his light, fought the battle fairly, on the common ground of
reason and philosophy, instead of on that of tradition and authority; and
that the forms of Christianity current in England--whether Quaker,
Puritan, or Anglican--offended, less than that current in France, the
common-sense and the human instincts of the many, or of the sceptics

But the eighteenth century saw another movement, all the more powerful,
perhaps, because it was continually changing its shape, even its purpose;
and gaining fresh life and fresh adherents with every change.  Propagated
at first by men of the school of Locke, it became at last a protest
against the materialism of that school, on behalf of all that is, or
calls itself, supernatural and mysterious.  Abjuring, and honestly, all
politics, it found itself sucked into the political whirlpool in spite of
itself, as all human interests which have any life in them must be at
last.  It became an active promoter of the Revolution; then it helped to
destroy the Revolution, when that had, under Napoleon, become a levelling
despotism; then it helped, as actively, to keep revolutionary principles
alive, after the reaction of 1815:--a Protean institution, whose power we
in England are as apt to undervalue as the governments of the Continent
were apt, during the eighteenth century, to exaggerate it.  I mean, of
course, Freemasonry, and the secret societies which, honestly and
honourably disowned by Freemasonry, yet have either copied it, or
actually sprung out of it.  In England, Freemasonry never was, it seems,
more than a liberal and respectable benefit-club; for secret societies
are needless for any further purposes, amid free institutions and a free
press.  But on the Continent during the eighteenth century, Freemasonry
excited profound suspicion and fear on the part of statesmen who knew
perfectly well their friends from their foes; and whose precautions were,
from their point of view, justified by the results.

I shall not enter into the deep question of the origin of Freemasonry.
One uninitiate, as I am, has no right to give an opinion on the great
questions of the mediaeval lodge of Kilwinning and its Scotch degrees; on
the seven Templars, who, after poor Jacques Molay was burnt at Paris,
took refuge on the Isle of Mull, in Scotland, found there another Templar
and brother Mason, ominously named Harris; took to the trowel in earnest,
and revived the Order;--on the Masons who built Magdeburg Cathedral in
876; on the English Masons assembled in Pagan times by "St. Albone, that
worthy knight;" on the revival of English Masonry by Edwin, son of
Athelstan; on Magnus Grecus, who had been at the building of Solomon's
Temple, and taught Masonry to Charles Martel; on the pillars Jachin and
Boaz; on the masonry of Hiram of Tyre, and indeed of Adam himself, of
whose first fig-leaf the masonic apron may be a type--on all these
matters I dare no more decide than on the making of the Trojan Horse, the
birth of Romulus and Remus, or the incarnation of Vishnoo.

All I dare say is, that Freemasonry emerges in its present form into
history and fact, seemingly about the beginning of George I.'s reign,
among Englishmen and noblemen, notably in four lodges in the city of
London: (1) at The Goose and Gridiron alehouse in St. Paul's Churchyard;
(2) at The Crown alehouse near Drury Lane; (3) at The Apple Tree tavern
near Covent Garden; (4) at The Rummer and Grapes tavern, in Charnel Row,
Westminster.  That its principles were brotherly love and good
fellowship, which included in those days port, sherry, claret, and punch;
that it was founded on the ground of mere humanity, in every sense of the
word; being (as was to be expected from the temper of the times) both
aristocratic and liberal, admitting to its ranks virtuous gentlemen
"obliged," says an old charge, "only to that religion wherein all men
agree, leaving their particular opinions to themselves: that is, to be
good men and true, or men of honour and honesty, by whatever
denominations or persuasions they may be distinguished; whereby Masonry
becomes the centre of union and means of conciliating true friendship
among persons that otherwise must have remained at a distance."

Little did the honest gentlemen who established or re-established their
society on these grounds, and fenced it with quaint ceremonies, old or
new, conceive the importance of their own act; we, looking at it from a
distance, may see all that such a society involved, which was quite new
to the world just then; and see, that it was the very child of the Ancien
Regime--of a time when men were growing weary of the violent factions,
political and spiritual, which had torn Europe in pieces for more than a
century, and longed to say: "After all, we are all alike in one thing--for
we are at least men."

Its spread through England and Scotland, and the seceding bodies which
arose from it, as well as the supposed Jacobite tendency of certain
Scotch lodges, do not concern us here.  The point interesting to us just
now is, that Freemasonry was imported to the Continent exclusively by
English and Scotch gentlemen and noblemen.  Lord Derwentwater is said by
some to have founded the "Loge Anglaise" in Paris in 1725; the Duke of
Richmond one in his own castle of Aubigny shortly after.  It was through
Hanoverian influence that the movement seems to have spread into Germany.
In 1733, for instance, the English Grand Master, Lord Strathmore,
permitted eleven German gentlemen and good brethren to form a lodge in
Hamburg.  Into this English Society was Frederick the Great, when Crown
Prince, initiated, in spite of strict old Frederick William's objections,
who had heard of it as an English invention of irreligious tendency.
Francis I. of Austria was made a Freemason at the Hague, Lord
Chesterfield being in the chair, and then became a Master in London under
the name of "Brother Lothringen," to the discontent of Maria Theresa,
whose woman's wit saw farther than her husband.  Englishmen and Scotchmen
introduced the new society into Russia and into Geneva.  Sweden and
Poland seem to have received it from France; while, in the South, it
seems to have been exclusively an English plant.  Sackville, Duke of
Middlesex, is said to have founded the first lodge at Florence in 1733,
Lord Coleraine at Gibraltar and Madrid, one Gordon in Portugal; and
everywhere, at the commencement of the movement, we find either London or
Scotland the mother-lodges, introducing on the Continent those liberal
and humane ideas of which England was then considered, to her glory, as
the only home left on earth.

But, alas! the seed sown grew up into strange shapes, according to the
soil in which it rooted.  False doctrine, heresy, and schism, according
to Herr Findel, the learned and rational historian whom I have chiefly
followed, defiled the new Church from its infancy.  "In France," so he
bemoans himself, "first of all there shot up that baneful seed of lies
and frauds, of vanity and presumption, of hatred and discord, the
mischievous high degrees; the misstatement that our order was allied to
the Templars, and existed at the time of the Crusades; the removal of old
charges, the bringing in surreptitiously of a multitude of symbols and
forms which awoke the love of secrecy; knighthood; and, in fact, all
which tended to poison Freemasonry."  Herr Findel seems to attribute
these evils principally to the "high degrees."  It would have been more
simple to have attributed them to the morals of the French noblesse in
the days of Louis Quinze.  What could a corrupt tree bring forth, but
corrupt fruit?  If some of the early lodges, like those of "La Felicite"
and "L'Ancre," to which women were admitted, resembled not a little the
Bacchic mysteries of old Rome, and like them called for the interference
of the police, still no great reform was to be expected, when those
Sovereign Masonic Princes, the "Emperors of the East and West,"
quarrelled--knights of the East against knights of the West--till they
were absorbed or crushed by the Lodge "Grand Orient," with Philippe
Egalite, Duc de Chartres, as their grand master, and as his
representative, the hero of the diamond necklace, and disciple of Count
Cagliostro--Louis, Prince de Rohan.

But if Freemasonry, among the frivolous and sensual French noblesse,
became utterly frivolous and sensual itself, it took a deeper, though a
questionably fantastic form, among the more serious and earnest German
nobility.  Forgetful as they too often were of their duty to their
peoples--tyrannical, extravagant, debauched by French opinions, French
fashions, French luxuries, till they had begun to despise their native
speech, their native literature, almost their native land, and to hide
their native homeliness under a clumsy varnish of French outside
civilisation, which the years 1807-13 rubbed off them again with a brush
of iron--they were yet Germans at heart; and that German instinct for the
unseen--call it enthusiasm, mysticism, what you will, you cannot make it
anything but a human fact, and a most powerful, and (as I hold) most
blessed fact--that instinct for the unseen, I say, which gives peculiar
value to German philosophy, poetry, art, religion, and above all to
German family life, and which is just the complement needed to prevent
our English common-sense, matter-of-fact Lockism from degenerating into
materialism--that was only lying hidden, but not dead, in the German

With the Germans, therefore, Freemasonry assumed a nobler and more
earnest shape.  Dropping, very soon, that Lockite and _Philosophe_ tone
which had perhaps recommended it to Frederick the Great in his youth, it
became mediaevalist and mystic.  It craved after a resuscitation of old
chivalrous spirit, and the virtues of the knightly ideal, and the old
German _biederkeit und tapferkeit_, which were all defiled and overlaid
by French fopperies.  And not in vain; as no struggle after a noble aim,
however confused or fantastic, is ever in vain.  Freemasonry was the
direct parent of the Tugenbund, and of those secret societies which freed
Germany from Napoleon.  Whatever follies young members of them may have
committed; whatever Jahn and his Turnerei; whatever the iron youths, with
their iron decorations and iron boot-heels; whatever, in a word, may have
been said or done amiss, in that childishness which (as their own wisest
writers often lament) so often defaces the noble childlikeness of the
German spirit, let it be always remembered that under the impulse first
given by Freemasonry, as much as that given by such heroes as Stein and
Scharnhorst, Germany shook off the chains which had fallen on her in her
sleep; and stood once more at Leipsic, were it but for a moment, a free
people alike in body and in soul.

Remembering this, and the solid benefits which Germany owed to Masonic
influences, one shrinks from saying much of the extravagances in which
its Masonry indulged before the French Revolution.  Yet they are so
characteristic of the age, so significant to the student of human nature,
that they must be hinted at, though not detailed.

It is clear that Masonry was at first a movement confined to the
aristocracy, or at least to the most educated classes; and clear, too,
that it fell in with a temper of mind unsatisfied with the dry dogmatism
into which the popular creeds had then been frozen--unsatisfied with
their own Frenchified foppery and pseudo-philosophy--unsatisfied with
want of all duty, purpose, noble thought, or noble work.  With such a
temper of mind it fell in: but that very temper was open (as it always
is) to those dreams of a royal road to wisdom and to virtue, which have
haunted, in all ages, the luxurious and the idle.

Those who will, may read enough, and too much, of the wonderful secrets
in nature and science and theosophy, which men expected to find and did
not find in the higher degrees of Masonry, till old Voss--the translator
of Homer--had to confess, that after "trying for eleven years to attain a
perfect knowledge of the inmost penetralia, where the secret is said to
be, and of its invisible guardians," all he knew was that "the documents
which he had to make known to the initiated were nothing more than a well
got-up farce."

But the mania was general.  The high-born and the virtuous expected to
discover some panacea for their own consciences in what Voss calls, "A
multitude of symbols, which are ever increasing the farther you
penetrate, and are made to have a moral application through some
arbitrary twisting of their meaning, as if I were to attempt expounding
the chaos on my writing-desk."

A rich harvest-field was an aristocracy in such a humour, for quacks of
every kind; richer even than that of France, in that the Germans were at
once more honest and more earnest, and therefore to be robbed more
easily.  The carcass was there: and the birds of prey were gathered

Of Rosa, with his lodge of the Three Hammers, and his Potsdam
gold-making;--of Johnson, alias Leuchte, who passed himself off as a
Grand Prior sent from Scotland to resuscitate the order of Knights
Templars; who informed his disciples that the Grand Master Von Hund
commanded 26,000 men; that round the convent (what convent, does not
appear) a high wall was erected, which was guarded day and night; that
the English navy was in the hands of the Order; that they had MSS.
written by Hugo de Paganis (a mythic hero who often figures in these
fables); that their treasure was in only three places in the world, in
Ballenstadt, in the icy mountains of Savoy, and in China; that whosoever
drew on himself the displeasure of the Order, perished both body and
soul; who degraded his rival Rosa to the sound of military music, and
after having had, like every dog, his day, died in prison in the
Wartburg;--of the Rosicrucians, who were accused of wanting to support
and advance the Catholic religion--one would think the accusation was
very unnecessary, seeing that their actual dealings were with the
philosopher's stone, and the exorcism of spirits: and that the first
apostle of the new golden Rosicrucian order, one Schropfer, getting into
debt, and fearing exposure, finished his life in an altogether
un-catholic manner at Leipsic in 1774, by shooting himself;--of Keller
and his Urim and Thummim;--of Wollner (who caught the Crown Prince
Frederick William) with his three names of Chrysophiron, Heliconus, and
Ophiron, and his fourth name of Ormesus Magnus, under which all the
brethren were to offer up for him solemn prayers and intercessions;--of
Baron Heinrich von Ekker and Eckenhofen, gentleman of the bed-chamber and
counsellor of the Duke of Coburg Saalfeld, and his Jewish colleague
Hirschmann, with their Asiatic brethren and order named Ben Bicca,
Cabalistic and Talmudic; of the Illuminati, and poor Adam Weisshaupt,
Professor of Canon and National Law at Ingoldstadt in Bavaria, who set up
what he considered an Anti-Jesuitical order on a Jesuit model, with some
vague hope, according to his own showing, of "perfecting the reasoning
powers interesting to mankind, spreading the knowledge of sentiments both
humane and social, checking wicked inclinations, standing up for
oppressed and suffering virtue against all wrong, promoting the
advancement of men of merit, and in every way facilitating the
acquirement of knowledge and science;"--of this honest silly man, and his
attempts to carry out all his fine projects by calling himself Spartacus,
Bavaria Achaia, Austria Egypt, Vienna Rome, and so forth;--of Knigge, who
picked his honest brains, quarrelled with him, and then made money and
fame out of his plans, for as long as they lasted;--of Bode, the knight
of the lilies of the valley, who, having caught Duke Ernest of Saxe
Gotha, was himself caught by Knigge, and his eight, nine, or more
ascending orders of unwisdom;--and finally of the Jesuits who, really
with considerable excuses for their severity, fell upon these poor
foolish Illuminati in 1784 throughout Bavaria, and had them exiled or
imprisoned;--of all this you may read in the pages of Dr. Findel, and in
many another book.  For, forgotten as they are now, they made noise
enough in their time.

And so it befell, that this eighteenth century, which is usually held to
be the most "materialistic" of epochs, was, in fact, a most
"spiritualistic" one; in which ghosts, demons, quacks, philosophers'
stones, enchanters' wands, mysteries and mummeries, were as
fashionable--as they will probably be again some day.

You have all heard of Cagliostro--"pupil of the sage Althotas, foster-
child of the Scheriff of Mecca, probable son of the last king of
Trebizond; named also Acharat, and 'Unfortunate child of Nature;' by
profession healer of diseases, abolisher of wrinkles, friend of the poor
and impotent; grand-master of the Egyptian Mason-lodge of High Science,
spirit-summoner, gold-cook, Grand-Cophta, prophet, priest, Thaumaturgic
moralist, and swindler"--born Giuseppe Balsamo of Palermo;--of him, and
of his lovely Countess Seraphina--nee Lorenza Feliciani?  You have read
what Goethe--and still more important, what Mr. Carlyle has written on
him, as on one of the most significant personages of the age?  Remember,
then, that Cagliostro was no isolated phenomenon; that his success--nay,
his having even conceived the possibility of success in the brain that
lay within that "brass-faced, bull-necked, thick-lipped" head--was made
possible by public opinion.  Had Cagliostro lived in our time, public
opinion would have pointed out to him other roads to honour--on which he
would doubtless have fared as well.  For when the silly dace try to be
caught and hope to be caught, he is a foolish pike who cannot gorge them.
But the method most easy for a pike-nature like Cagliostro's, was in the
eighteenth century, as it may be in the latter half of the nineteenth, to
trade, in a materialist age, on the unsatisfied spiritual cravings of
mankind.  For what do all these phantasms betoken, but a generation
ashamed of its own materialism, sensuality, insincerity, ignorance, and
striving to escape therefrom by any and every mad superstition which
seemed likely to give an answer to the awful questions--What are we, and
where? and to lay to rest those instincts of the unseen and infinite
around it, which tormented it like ghosts by day and night: a sight
ludicrous or pathetic, according as it is looked on by a cynical or a
human spirit.

It is easy to call such a phenomenon absurd, improbable.  It is rather
rational, probable, say certain to happen.  Rational, I say; for the
reason of man tells him, and has always told him, that he is a
supernatural being, if by nature is meant that which is cognisable by his
five senses: that his coming into this world, his relation to it, his
exit from it--which are the three most important facts about him--are
supernatural, not to be explained by any deductions from the impressions
of his senses.  And I make bold to say, that the recent discoveries of
physical science--notably those of embryology--go only to justify that
old and general belief of man.  If man be told that the microscope and
scalpel show no difference, in the first stage of visible existence,
between him and the lower mammals, then he has a right to answer--as he
will answer--So much the worse for the microscope and scalpel: so much
the better for my old belief, that there is beneath my birth, life,
death, a substratum of supernatural causes, imponderable, invisible,
unknowable by any physical science whatsoever.  If you cannot render me a
reason how I came hither, and what I am, I must go to those who will
render me one.  And if that craving be not satisfied by a rational theory
of life, it will demand satisfaction from some magical theory; as did the
mind of the eighteenth century when, revolting from materialism, it fled
to magic, to explain the ever-astounding miracle of life.

The old Regime.  Will our age, in its turn, ever be spoken of as an old
Regime?  Will it ever be spoken of as a Regime at all; as an organised,
orderly system of society and polity; and not merely as a chaos, an
anarchy, a transitory struggle, of which the money-lender has been the
real guide and lord?

But at least it will be spoken of as an age of progress, of rapid
developments, of astonishing discoveries.

Are you so sure of that?  There was an age of progress once.  But what is
our age--what is all which has befallen since 1815--save after-swells of
that great storm, which are weakening and lulling into heavy calm?  Are
we on the eve of stagnation?  Of a long check to the human intellect?  Of
a new Byzantine era, in which little men will discuss, and ape, the deeds
which great men did in their forefathers' days?

What progress--it is a question which some will receive with almost angry
surprise--what progress has the human mind made since 1815?

If the thought be startling, do me the great honour of taking it home,
and verifying for yourselves its truth or its falsehood.  I do not say
that it is altogether true.  No proposition concerning human things,
stated so broadly, can be.  But see for yourselves, whether it is not at
least more true than false; whether the ideas, the discoveries, of which
we boast most in the nineteenth century, are not really due to the end of
the eighteenth.  Whether other men did not labour, and we have only
entered into their labours.  Whether our positivist spirit, our content
with the collecting of facts, our dread of vast theories, is not a
symptom--wholesome, prudent, modest, but still a symptom--of our
consciousness that we are not as our grandfathers were; that we can no
longer conceive great ideas, which illumine, for good or evil, the whole
mind and heart of man, and drive him on to dare and suffer desperately.

Railroads?  Electric telegraphs?  All honour to them in their place: but
they are not progress; they are only the fruits of past progress.  No
outward and material thing is progress; no machinery causes progress; it
merely spreads and makes popular the results of progress.  Progress is
inward, of the soul.  And, therefore, improved constitutions, and
improved book instruction--now miscalled education--are not progress:
they are at best only fruits and signs thereof.  For they are outward,
material; and progress, I say, is inward.  The self-help and
self-determination of the independent soul--that is the root of progress;
and the more human beings who have that, the more progress there is in
the world.  Give me a man who, though he can neither read nor write, yet
dares think for himself, and do the thing he believes: that man will help
forward the human race more than any thousand men who have read, or
written either, a thousand books apiece, but have not dared to think for
themselves.  And better for his race, and better, I believe, in the sight
of God, the confusions and mistakes of that one sincere brave man, than
the second-hand and cowardly correctness of all the thousand.

As for the "triumphs of science," let us honour, with astonishment and
awe, the genius of those who invented them; but let us remember that the
things themselves are as a gun or a sword, with which we can kill our
enemy, but with which also our enemy can kill us.  Like all outward and
material things, they are equally fit for good and for evil.  In England
here--they have been as yet, as far as I can see, nothing but blessings:
but I have my very serious doubts whether they are likely to be blessings
to the whole human race, for many an age to come.  I can conceive
them--may God avert the omen!--the instruments of a more crushing
executive centralisation, of a more utter oppression of the bodies and
souls of men, than the world has yet seen.  I can conceive--may God avert
the omen!--centuries hence, some future world-ruler sitting at the
junction of all railroads, at the centre of all telegraph-wires--a world-
spider in the omphalos of his world-wide web; and smiting from thence
everything that dared to lift its head, or utter a cry of pain, with a
swiftness and surety to which the craft of a Justinian or a Philip II.
were but clumsy and impotent.

All, all outward things, be sure of it, are good or evil, exactly as far
as they are in the hands of good men or of bad.

Moreover, paradoxical as it may seem, railroads and telegraphs, instead
of inaugurating an era of progress, may possibly only retard it.  "Rester
sur un grand succes," which was Rossini's advice to a young singer who
had achieved a triumph, is a maxim which the world often follows, not
only from prudence, but from necessity.  They have done so much that it
seems neither prudent nor possible to do more.  They will rest and be

Thus, gunpowder and printing made rapid changes enough; but those changes
had no farther development.  The new art of war, the new art of
literature, remained stationary, or rather receded and degenerated, till
the end of the eighteenth century.

And so it may be with our means of locomotion and intercommunion, and
what depends on them.  The vast and unprecedented amount of capital, of
social interest, of actual human intellect invested--I may say locked
up--in these railroads, and telegraphs, and other triumphs of industry
and science, will not enter into competition against themselves.  They
will not set themselves free to seek new discoveries in directions which
are often actually opposed to their own, always foreign to it.  If the
money of thousands are locked up in these great works, the brains of
hundreds of thousands, and of the very shrewdest too, are equally locked
up therein likewise; and are to be subtracted from the gross material of
social development, and added (without personal fault of their owners,
who may be very good men) to the dead weight of vested selfishness,
ignorance, and dislike of change.

Yes.  A Byzantine and stationary age is possible yet.  Perhaps we are now
entering upon it; an age in which mankind shall be satisfied with the
"triumphs of science," and shall look merely to the greatest comfort
(call it not happiness) of the greatest number; and like the debased Jews
of old, "having found the life of their hand, be therewith content," no
matter in what mud-hole of slavery and superstition.

But one hope there is, and more than a hope--one certainty, that however
satisfied enlightened public opinion may become with the results of
science, and the progress of the human race, there will be always a more
enlightened private opinion or opinions, which will not be satisfied
therewith at all; a few men of genius, a few children of light, it may be
a few persecuted, and a few martyrs for new truths, who will wish the
world not to rest and be thankful, but to be discontented with itself,
ashamed of itself, striving and toiling upward, without present hope of
gain, till it has reached that unknown goal which Bacon saw afar off, and
like all other heroes, died in faith, not having received the promises,
but seeking still a polity which has foundations, whose builder and maker
is God.

These will be the men of science, whether physical or spiritual.  Not
merely the men who utilise and apply that which is known (useful as they
plainly are), but the men who themselves discover that which was unknown,
and are generally deemed useless, if not hurtful, to their race.  They
will keep the sacred lamp burning unobserved in quiet studies, while all
the world is gazing only at the gaslights flaring in the street.  They
will pass that lamp on from hand to hand, modestly, almost stealthily,
till the day comes round again, when the obscure student shall be
discovered once more to be, as he has always been, the strongest man on
earth.  For they follow a mistress whose footsteps may often slip, yet
never fall; for she walks forward on the eternal facts of Nature, which
are the acted will of God.  A giantess she is; young indeed, but humble
as yet: cautious and modest beyond her years.  She is accused of trying
to scale Olympus, by some who fancy that they have already scaled it
themselves, and will, of course, brook no rival in their fancied monopoly
of wisdom.

The accusation, I believe, is unjust.  And yet science may scale Olympus
after all.  Without intending it, almost without knowing it, she may find
herself hereafter upon a summit of which she never dreamed; surveying the
universe of God in the light of Him who made it and her, and remakes them
both for ever and ever.  On that summit she may stand hereafter, if only
she goes on, as she goes now, in humility and in patience; doing the duty
which lies nearest her; lured along the upward road, not by ambition,
vanity, or greed, but by reverent curiosity for every new pebble, and
flower, and child, and savage, around her feet.


{1}  Mr. H. Reeve's translation of De Tocqueville's "France before the
Revolution of 1789."  p. 280.

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