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te sagacity and steadfast, self-contained habit in self-govern- ment of the men to whom we owe the establishment of our institutions in the United States, we are at once made aware that there is no communion between their democracy and the radical thought and restless spirit called by that name in Europe. There is almost nothing in common between popular outbreaks such as took place in France at her great Revolution and the establishment of a government like our own. Our memories of the year 1789 are as far as possible removed from the memories which Europe retains of that pregnant year. We manifested 100 years ago what Europe lost, namely, selfcommand, self-possession. Democracy in Europe, outside of closeted Switzerland, has acted always in rebellion, as a destructive force: it can scarcely be said to have had, even yet, any period of organic development. It has built such temporary governments as it has had opportunity to erect on the old foundations and out of the discredited m
Alcibiades (search for this): entry 1598
y colored accounts of others; we can seldom test our impressions of their sincerity by standing with them face to face. Here certainly the ancient pocket republics had much the advantage of us: in them citizens and leaders were always neighbors; they stood constantly in each other's presence. Every Athenian knew Themistocles's manner, and gait, and address, and felt directly the just influence of Aristides. No Athenian of a later period needed to be told of the vanities and fopperies of Alcibiades, any more than the elder generation needed to have described to them the personality of Pericles. Our separation from our leaders is the greater peril, because democratic government more than any other needs organization in order to escape disintegration; and it can have organization only by full knowledge of its leaders and full confidence in them. Just because it is a vast body to be persuaded, it must know its persuaders; in order to be effective, it must always have choice of men
Archibald Alison (search for this): entry 1598
l to a hearing ; and it still more shows the horror of all innovation which the recent events of French history had impressed on our wealthy and comfortable classes. They were afraid of catching revolution, as old women of catching cold. Sir Archibald Alison to this day holds that revolution is an infectious disease, beginning no one knows how, and going on no one knows where. There is but one rule of escape, explains the great historian: Stay still; don't move; do what you have been accustomnt which are praised. The greater part of our foreign admirers find our success to consist in the achievement of stable safeguards against hasty or retrogressive action; we are asked to believe that we have succeeded because we have taken Sir Archibald Alison's advice, and have resisted the infection of revolution by staying quite still. But, after all, progress is motion, government is action. The waters of democracy are useless in their reservoirs unless they may be used to drive the wh
we know. We have to accept rumors concerning them, we have to know them through the variously colored accounts of others; we can seldom test our impressions of their sincerity by standing with them face to face. Here certainly the ancient pocket republics had much the advantage of us: in them citizens and leaders were always neighbors; they stood constantly in each other's presence. Every Athenian knew Themistocles's manner, and gait, and address, and felt directly the just influence of Aristides. No Athenian of a later period needed to be told of the vanities and fopperies of Alcibiades, any more than the elder generation needed to have described to them the personality of Pericles. Our separation from our leaders is the greater peril, because democratic government more than any other needs organization in order to escape disintegration; and it can have organization only by full knowledge of its leaders and full confidence in them. Just because it is a vast body to be persua
w scarcely realize the atmosphere of such thoughts. We are no longer wont to refer to the ancients or to the French for sanction of what we do. We have had abundant experience of our own by which to reckon. Hardly any fact in history, says Mr. Bagehot, writing about the middle of the century, is so incredible as that forty and a few years ago England was ruled by Mr. Perceval. It seems almost the same as being ruled by the Record newspaper. (Mr. Bagehot would now probably say the StandardMr. Bagehot would now probably say the Standard newspaper.) He had the same poorness of thought, the same petty conservatism, the same dark and narrow superstition. The mere fact of such a premier being endured shows how deeply the whole national spirit and interest was absorbed in the contest with Napoleon, how little we understood the sort of man who should regulate its conduct— in the crisis of Europe, as Sydney Smith said, he safely brought the curates' salaries improvement bill to a hearing ; and it still more shows the horror of all
Cornelius N. Bliss (search for this): entry 1598
stification, for such as caught a generous elevation of spirit from the speculative enthusiasm of Rousseau. For us who stand in the dusty matterof-fact world of to-day, there is a touch of pathos in recollections of the ardor for democratic liberty that filled the air of Europe and America a century ago with such quickening influences. We may sometimes catch ourselves regretting that the inoculations of experience have closed our systems against the infections of hopeful revolution. Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven! O times In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways Of custom, law, and statute took at once The attraction of a country in romance! When Reason seemed the most to assert her rights, When most intent on making of herself A prime Enchantress, to assist the work Which then was going forward in her name! Not favored spots alone, but the whole earth, The beauty wore of promise, that which sets (As at some moment might not be un
Jesse D. Bright (search for this): entry 1598
ithout such conclusions, without single and prompt purposes, government cannot be carried on. Neither legislation nor administration can be done at the ballot-box. The people can only accept the governing act of representatives. But the size of the modern democracy necessitates the exercise of persuasive power by dominant minds in the shaping of popular judgments in a very different way from that in which it was exercised in former times. It is said by eminent censors of the press, said Mr. Bright on one occasion in the House of Commons, that this debate will yield about thirty hours of talk, and will end in no result. I have observed that all great questions in this country require thirty hours of talk many times repeated before they are settled. There is much shower and much sunshine between the sowing of the seed and the reaping of the harvest, but the harvest is generally reaped after all. So it must be in all selfgoverning nations of to-day. They are not a single audience w
Thomas Carlyle (search for this): entry 1598
ay know, not only itself, but all the world as well, for the small price of learning to read and keeping its ears open. All the world, so far as its news and its most insistent thoughts are concerned, is fast being made every man's neighbor. Carlyle unquestionably touched one of the obvious truths concerning modern democracy when he declared it to be the result of printing. In the newspaper press a whole population is made critic of all human affairs; democracy is virtually extant, and dem everywhere that their influence is felt, and by rousing the multitude to take knowledge of the affairs of government prepare the time when the multitude will, so far as possible, take charge of the affairs of government—the time when, to repeat Carlyle's phrase, democracy will become palpably extant. But, mighty as such forces are, democratic as they are, no one can fail to perceive that they are inadequate to produce of themselves such a government as ours. There is little in them of co
took at once The attraction of a country in romance! When Reason seemed the most to assert her rights, When most intent on making of herself A prime Enchantress, to assist the work Which then was going forward in her name! Not favored spots alone, but the whole earth, The beauty wore of promise, that which sets (As at some moment might not be unfelt Among the bowers of paradise itself) The budding rose above the rose full blown. Such was the inspiration which not Wordsworth alone, but Coleridge also, and many another generous spirit whom we love, caught in that day of hope. It is common to say, in explanation of our regret that the dawn and youth of democracy's day are past, that our principles are cooler now and more circumspect, with the coolness and circumspection of advanced years. It seems to some that our enthusiasms have become tamer and more decorous because our sinews have hardened; that as experience has grown idealism has declined. But to speak thus is to speak wi
tic temper and method the world over. It is matter of familiar knowledge what these forces are, but it will be profitable to our thought to pass them once more in review. They are freedom of thought and the diffusion of enlightenment among the people. Steam and electricity have co-operated with systematic popular education to accomplish this diffusion. The progress of popular education and the progress of democracy have been inseparable. The publication of their great encyclopaedia by Diderot and his associates in France in the last century, was the sure sign of the change that was setting in. Learning was turning its face away from the studious few towards the curious many. The intellectual movement of the modern time was emerging from the narrow courses of scholastic thought, and beginning to spread itself abroad over the extended, if shallow, levels of the common mind. The serious forces of democracy will be found, upon analysis, to reside, not in the disturbing doctrines o
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