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TO MY ENGLISH READERS.
This volume was not meant as a mere epitome of historical facts. Its chief aim was to trace the rise of what is usually denominated Modern Civilization; or, as I have called it, the Fourth Civilization. Both these terms have reference to what is familiarly known as the popular or democratic element. Before seeking to indicate its first appearance in the world, I thought it judicious to glance cursorily at the earlier civilizations in Asia, Africa, and Europe, in order to show that under their sway mankind was divided into two classes, the upper and the lower, and that to the former was assigned the privilege of government, whilst on the latter was enjoined the duty of obedience. In none of these anterior civilizations can be traced any vestige of the popular element. In common with many profound thinkers, I date its origin to the doctrines of the Christian religion. Certain it is that as Christianity spread, the masses awoke from the lethargy of ages. In the course of centuries the consciousness of their oppression took root; other centuries witnessed their
resistance; finally a share in the government was conceded to them.* Six centuries have elapsed since this event, and the democratic element has steadily developed. In the 17th century a new world was selected for an untried experiment. In North America a band of Englishmen founded a Government based avowedly on the democratic element. To all equal rights were accorded : to all unequal privileges were denied. The arena chosen for this attempt was favourable, for no previous Government had existed there. Two centuries and a half have elapsed, and the material result is immense. The North-American continent, with a virgin soil, and teeming with mineral wealth, has become the most productive country in the world. But what is the result of the political ordeal begun in 1620? During all this interval the democratic element has exercised unrestricted sway. Has the democratic Government of the United States proved itself incontestably the best in the world ? Is the security for life and property greater there than elsewhere ? Are the masses less burdened ; are their interests better protected ? Does no class possess any advantage over the others? The facts of current history respond unfavourably. My fellow-citizens of the United States are impressed with the belief that their Governmentmunicipal, state, and national-is unsound. The cry of corruption is universal. During the past winter I visited the United States, after an absence of five years, and in a spirit of philosophic inquiry, as well as of patriotic solicitude, conversed with various public men, many of long political experience. I was 'struck by their desponding tone. All acknowledged that our system had degenerated; that Government had descended into the hands of inferior men; that the common good was sacrificed more and more to the aggrandizement of individuals and classes. Few agreed as to the causes of this deterioration. Some thought that public employment was ill-paid and too precarious, which excluded the highest intellect. Others believed that the Government was too weak to resist the pressure of increasing population and conflicting interests. All confessed that their main dependence had failed, and that universal education was not a corrective of universal suffrage. Most thought it desirable to restore the property qualification for the franchise on which the Republic in part was founded.
* Vide page 167.
I was deeply impressed by the gloomy apprehensions of the persons indicated. It was not the material development of the future they doubted. A boundless territory, stretching from temperate to tropical regions, with incalculable deposits of precious minerals, could not fail to be productive under any circumstances. It was rather the efficacy and stability of our Institutions that had begun to awaken misgivings in grave minds,and I thought it strange and sad that before the expiration of a century patriotic men should venture to question the wisdom of committing a political system to the unchecked control of the multitude.
It might be indiscreet to name the persons alluded to, but I may quote from the published discourse of one of them. In an address delivered by Judge Edwards Pierrepont before the Alumni of the Law Department of Yale University in New Haven, in June, 1874, the following opinions are enunciated :
“No Government can prosperously endure which in the main is not administered by the higher intellect. . . Yet our people make frequent protest against this simple truth. : . They often elect Legislators to make laws who know scarce anything, and about laws and their operation, nothing."
“Our theory is, that the most ignorant must govern if they are the most numerous."
“Remember that China can send fifty millions of voters to our (western) shores, and have more left than she knows what to do with. This voting question is a difficult one, which the American people will reconsider some day.”
“Equality before the laws we can have ; equality of conditions is impossible.”
Like cowards we have shut our eyes to the truth, and revelled in delusions until we can deceive ourselves no longer. The reconstructed States, eager to prosper with the rest, issued bonds which they never hoped to pay, ruined their credit and their thrift, and tumbled into anarchy, while we of the North have piled up our debts until our taxes are a burden too grievous to be borne. We wake from the deceiving dream to learn that the American people are subject to the same laws of Nature and of Finance as other mortals are.”
“Better placed for commerce than any other great city in the globe, New York is losing her trade. A corrupt and imbecile government, neglecting the piers, docks, storehouses, and other facilities for business, has through fraudulent practices increased the taxes and other exactions upon the merchant, and thus made his expenses so enormous that other places can undersell him.”