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FrRevol_701-750.indd 48 3/16/12 1:18 PM CHAPTER XII Ofthe Love ofLiberty. The necessity of free governments, that is to say, of limited monarchies in great states and independent republics in those which are small, is so evident that we are tempted to believe no one can refuse sincerely to admit this truth; and yet, when we meet with men of good faith who combat it, we would wish, for our own satisfaction, to account for their motives. Liberty has three classes ofopponents in France: the nobles who consider honor as consisting in passive obedience and the nobles who possess more reflection but less candor, and believe that the interests of their own aristocracy are identified with the interests of absolute power; the men whom the French Revolution has disgusted with the ideas which it profaned ; finally, the Bonapartists, the Jacobins, all those devoid of political consciousness. The nobles who connect honor with passive obedience altogether confound the spirit of ancient chivalry with that of the courtiers of the last centuries. The ancient knights doubtless were ready to die for their king, and so would every warrior for his leader; but as we have already said, they were by no means the partisans ofabsolute power: they sought to encompass that power with barriers, and placed their glory in defending a liberty which, though aristocratical, was still liberty. As to the nobles who are convinced that the privileges of the aristocracy must now rest upon the despotism which they once were instrumental in limiting, we may say to them, as in the romance of Waverly: "What concerns you is not so much whether James Stuart shall be King, as whether Fergus Mac Ivor shall be Earl."1 The institution of a peerage accessible to merit is to nobility what the English constitution is to monarchy. It is the only mode of preserving either the one or the other: for we live in an age in 1. Waverly (1 814) is a famous novel by Sir Walter Scott. FrRevol_701-750.indd 49 3/16/12 1:18 PM CHAPTER XII. Love ofLiberty which the world does not readily imagine that the minority, and a very small minority, can have a right which is not for the advantage of the majority. A few years ago, the Sultan of Persia had an account given to him ofthe English constitution by the ambassador ofEngland at his court. After having listened to it and, as we shall see, understood it tolerably well: "I can conceive," he said, "that the order of things which you describe to me is better framed than the government of Persia for the duration and happiness of your empire; but it seems to me much less conducive to the enjoyment ofthe monarch." This was an accurate statement of the question; only that it is better even for the monarch to be guided in the administration of affairs by public opinion than incessantly to run the risk of being in opposition to it. Justice is the aegis of all and of everyone : but in its quality of justice, it is the great number which has the preferable claim to protection. We have next to speak of those whom the misfortunes and the crimes of the French Revolution have terrified, and who fly from one extreme to the other, as if the arbitrary power of an individual were the only sure protection against demagogy. It was thus that they exalted the tyranny of Bonaparte, and it is thus that they would render Louis XVIII a despot if his superior wisdom did not protect him from it. Tyranny is an upstart, and despotism a grandee; but both are equally offensive to human reason. After having witnessed the servility with which Bonaparte was obeyed, it is difficult to conceive that the republican spirit is that which is to be dreaded in France. The diffusion of knowledge and the nature of things will bring liberty to France; but the nation assuredly will not spontaneously show itself either factious or turbulent. Since for so many ages every generous soul has loved liberty; since the noblest actions have been inspired by her; since antiquity and the history of modern times exhibit to us so many prodigies effected by public spirit; since we have seen so lately what nations can do; since every reflecting writer has proclaimed; since not one political work of lasting reputation can be cited which is not animated by this sentiment; since the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781614878636
Related ISBN
9780865977327
MARC Record
OCLC
836874520
Pages
834
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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