divined that the surest stay of order, as of practical wisdom, is habit, which is a growth, and cannot be made offhand.
He believed with Aristotle that vigorous minds were intended by nature to rule,1
and that certain races, like certain men, are born to leadership.2
He calls democracies, oligarchies, and petty princedoms (tyrannides
) ‘oblique policies which drive the human race to slavery, as is patent in all of them to one who reasons.’3
He has nothing but pity for mankind when it has become a many-headed beast, ‘despising the higher intellect irrefragable in reason, the lower which hath the face of experience.’4
He had no faith in a turbulent equality asserting the divine right of I'm as good as you
. He thought it fatal to all discipline: ‘The confounding of persons hath ever been the beginning of sickness in the state.’5
It is the same thought which Shakespeare
puts in the mouth of Ulysses:—
Degree being vizarded,6
The unworthiest shows as fairly in the mask,
. . . . When degree is shaked,
Which is the ladder to all high designs,
The enterprise is sick.
Yet no one can read Dante
without feeling that he had a high sense of the worth of freedom, whether in thought or government.
He represents, indeed, the very object of his journey through the triple realm of shades as a search after liberty.7
But it must not be that scramble after undefined and indefinable rights which ends always in despotism, equally degrading whether crowned with a red cap or an imperial diadem.
His theory of