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Democracy in France January 1849

Democracy in France
January 1849
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Title: Democracy in France January 1849
Release Date: 2018-07-29
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
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DEMOCRACY IN FRANCE.
———
FOURTH EDITION.

{ii} 

{iii} 

DEMOCRACY IN FRANCE.

JANUARY, 1849.
B Y   M O N S I E U R   G U I Z O T.
———
FOURTH EDITION.
———

LONDON:
JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET.
——
1849

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LONDON: PRINTED BY W. CLOWES AND SONS, STAMFORD STREET.

I venture to believe that nothing will be found in the following pageswhich bears the impress of my personal situation. While events of suchmagnitude are passing before his eyes, a man who did not forget himselfwould deserve to be for ever forgotten. I have thought of nothing butthe situation of my country. The more I reflect upon that, the more I amconvinced that the evil which lies at the root of all her evils, whichundermines and destroys her governments and her liberties, her dignityand her happiness, is the evil which I attack;—the idolatry ofDemocracy.

Whether the accession of M. Louis Napoléon Bonaparte to the Presidencyof the Republic will be found an efficacious remedy for this disease,the future will show. What I have said here after the election of M.Louis Napoléon Bonaparte, I should have equally said, without theslightest alteration, if General Cavaignac had been elected. It is notto individuals, but to society itself, that great social truths areaddressed.{vii}{vi}


CONTENTS.

———

CHAPTER I.
 PAGE
WHAT IS THE SOURCE OF THE PREVALENT EVIL?1
CHAPTER II.
WHAT IS THE DUTY OF GOVERNMENT WITH RESPECT TO DEMOCRACY?7
CHAPTER III.
OF THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC15
CHAPTER IV.
OF THE SOCIAL REPUBLIC25
CHAPTER V.
WHAT ARE THE REAL AND ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF SOCIETY IN FRANCE?36
CHAPTER VI.
POLITICAL CONDITIONS OF SOCIAL PEACE IN FRANCE56
CHAPTER VII.
MORAL CONDITIONS OF SOCIAL PEACE IN FRANCE70
CHAPTER VIII.
CONCLUSION84

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D E M O C R A C Y   I N   F R A N C E.

———

CHAPTER I.
WHAT IS THE SOURCE OF THE PREVALENT EVIL?

Mirabeau, Barnave, Napoleon, and Lafayette, who died at distant and verydissimilar periods, in bed or on the scaffold, in their own country orin exile, all died under the influence of one sentiment—a sentiment ofprofound melancholy. They thought their hopes deceived, their laboursabortive. They were assailed by doubts of the success of their cause,and by misgivings as to the future.

King Louis-Philippe reigned above seventeen years, for more than elevenof which I had the honour to be his minister. If to-morrow it pleasedGod to summon us into his presence, should we quit this earth veryconfident in the future destiny and the constitutional order of ourcountry?{2}

Is then the French Revolution destined to give birth only to doubt anddeception?—to bury all its triumphs under ruins?

Yes: so long as France shall suffer the true and the false, the uprightand the perverse, the practicable and the chimerical, the salutary andthe pestilent to be constantly mingled and confounded in her opinions,her institutions, and the government of her affairs, such will be theunfailing and inevitable result.

Until a people which has gone through a great revolution has passed onthe principles, the passions, and the doctrines which have led to thisrevolution, a sentence like that which shall be passed on all humanthings at the Last Day, “severing the wheat from the tares, and the cornfrom the straw that shall be cast into the fire,” it can never surmountthe perils, nor reap the advantages, of the struggle in which it hasbeen engaged.

So long as this judgment is deferred, chaos reigns; and chaos, ifprolonged in the midst of a people, would be death.

Chaos is now concealed under one word—Democracy.

This is now the sovereign and universal word which all parties invoke,all seek to appropriate as a talisman.

The Monarchists say, “Our Monarchy is a Democratic Monarchy: thereforeit differs essentially{3} from the ancient Monarchy, and is adapted to themodern condition of society.”

The Republicans say, “The Republic is Democracy governing itself. Thisis the only form of government in harmony with a democratic society, itsprinciples, its sentiments, and its interests.”

Socialists, Communists, and Montagnards require that the republic shouldbe a pure and absolute democracy. This, in their estimation, is thecondition of its legitimacy.

Such is the power of the word Democracy, that no government or partydares to raise its head, or believes its own existence possible, if itdoes not bear that word inscribed on its banner; and those who carrythat banner aloft with the greatest ostentation and to the extremestlimits, believe themselves to be stronger than all the rest of theworld.

Fatal idea, which incessantly excites and foments social war amongst us!This idea must be extirpated; for on its extirpation depends socialpeace, and, in her train, liberty, security, prosperity, dignity, allthe benefits, material or moral, which social peace alone can ensure.

The following are the causes to which the word democracy owes itspower.

It is the banner of all the social hopes and ambitions of man,—pure orimpure, noble or base, rational or irrational, possible or chimerical.{4}

Now it is the glory of man to be ambitious. He alone, of all createdbeings, does not passively resign himself to evil; he alone incessantlyaspires after good; not only for himself, but for his fellow-creatures.He respects and loves the race to which he belongs; he wishes to find aremedy for their miseries, and redress for their wrongs.

But man is no less imperfect than he is ambitious. Amidst his ardent andunceasing struggles to eradicate evil and to achieve good, every one ofhis virtuous inclinations is accompanied by an evil inclination whichtreads closely on its heels, or strives with it for precedence. Thedesire for justice and the desire for vengeance—the spirit of libertyand the spirit of tyranny—the wish to rise and the wish to abase whathas risen—the ardent love of truth and the presumptuous temerity offancied knowledge;—we may fathom all the depths of human nature; weshall find throughout, the same mingled yet conflicting qualities, thesame danger from their close and easy approximation.

To all these instincts, at once contrary and parallel,—to allindiscriminately, the bad as well as the good,—the word Democracyholds out an interminable vista and infinite promises. It fosters everypropensity, it speaks to every passion, of the heart of man; to the mostgenerous and the most shameful, the most moral and the most immoral, thegentlest and{5} the harshest, the most beneficent and the mostdestructive: to the former it loudly offers, to the latter it secretlyand dimly promises, satisfaction.

Such is the secret of its power.

I am wrong in saying, the secret. The word Democracy is not new, andin all ages it has signified what it signifies now. But what is new andproper to our times is this: the word Democracy is now pronouncedevery day, every hour, and in every place; and at every time and placeit is heard by all men. This formidable appeal to all that is mostpotent, for good and for evil, in man and in society, was formerly heardonly transiently, locally, and among certain classes, which, thoughbound to other classes by the ties of a common country, were distinctand profoundly different from them. They lived at a distance from eachother; each obscurely known to the other. Now there is but one society;and in this society there are no more lofty barriers, no more greatdistances, no more mutual obscurities. Whether it be false or true,noxious or salutary, when once a social idea arises, it penetrateseverywhere, and its action is universal and constant. It is a torch thatis never extinguished; a voice that is never wearied or hushed.Universality and publicity are from henceforth the conditions of all thegreat provocations addressed to men,—of all the great impulses given tosociety.

This is doubtless one of those absolute and sove{6}reign facts which enterinto the designs of God with regard to mankind.

Such being the fact, the empire of the word Democracy is not to beregarded as a transitory or local accident. It is thedevelopment—others would say the explosion—of all the elements ofhuman nature throughout all the ranks and all the depths of society; andconsequently the open, general, continuous, inevitable struggle of itsgood and evil instincts; of its virtues and its vices; of all its powersand faculties, whether to improve or to corrupt, to raise or to abase,to create or to destroy. Such is, from henceforth, the social state, thepermanent condition of our nation.{7}


CHAPTER II.
WHAT IS THE DUTY OF GOVERNMENT WITH RESPECT TO DEMOCRACY?

There are men whom this fearful struggle does not alarm: they have fullconfidence in human nature. According to them, if left to itself, itsprogress is towards good: all the evils of society arise fromgovernments which debase men by violence or corrupt them by fraud:liberty—liberty for everybody and everything—liberty will almostalways suffice to enlighten or to control the wills of men, to preventevil or to cure it: a little government—the least possible—may beallowed for the repression of extreme disorder and the control of bruteforce.

Others have a more summary way of disposing of all dread of the triumphof evil in man or in society. There is, they say, no such thing asnatural and necessary evil, since no human inclination is bad in itself;it becomes so, only when it does not attain the end after which itaspires—it is a torrent which overflows its banks when obstructed. Ifsociety were organized in such a manner that each{8} of the instincts ofman found its proper place and received its due satisfaction, evil woulddisappear, strife would cease, and all the various forces of humanity,harmoniously combine to produce social order.

The former of these speculators misunderstand man; the lattermisunderstand man, and deny God.

Let any man dive into his own heart and observe himself with attention.If he have the power to look, and the will to see, he will behold, witha sort of terror, the incessant war waged by the good and evildispositions within him—reason and caprice, duty and passion; in short,to call them all by their comprehensive names, good and evil. Wecontemplate with anxiety the outward troubles and vicissitudes of humanlife; but what should we feel if we could behold the inwardvicissitudes, the troubles of the human soul?—if we could see how manydangers, snares, enemies, combats, victories, and defeats can be crowdedinto a day—an hour? I do not say this to discourage man, nor to humbleor under-value his free will. He is called upon to conquer in the battleof life, and the honour of the conquest belongs to his free will. Butvictory is impossible, and defeat certain, if he has not a justconception and a profound feeling of his dangers, his weaknesses, andhis need of assistance. To believe that the free will of man tends togood, and is of itself sufficient to accomplish{9} good, betrays animmeasurable ignorance of his nature. It is the error of pride; an errorwhich tends to destroy both moral and political order; which enfeeblesthe government of communities no less than the government of the inwardman.

For the struggle is the same, the peril as imminent, the aid asnecessary, in society as in the individual man. Many of those now livinghave been doomed to see, several times in the course of their lives, thesocial edifice tottering to its fall, and all the props that shoulduphold, all the bonds that should unite it, failing. Over what animmense extent, and with what fearful rapidity, have all the causes ofsocial war and social destruction, which are always fermenting in themidst of us, each time burst forth! Which of us has not shuddered at thesudden discovery of the abyss over which we live—the frail barrierswhich separate us from it, and the destructive legions ready to rushforth upon society as soon as its jaws are

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