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AMERICAN REVIEW.

No. XXV.

FOR JANUARY, 1850.

DEMOCRACY IN FRANCE.*

THE author of this work is a man of great philosophical ability, and of a reputation quite equal to his deserts. He possesses moreover that which gives a higher authority with the public, a practical experience in the subject he treats. In proposing to criticise a writer thus qualified in reality, and confided in by the general opinion, we feel obliged, alike by deference to this opinion and diffidence of our own, to premise a few explanations, by means of which the reader may judge in turn of the critic as well as the author.

For this very submissive procedure-so characteristic, no doubt, of literary and all other censors-we have still a more substantial motive than modesty. The preliminaries alluded to may also shed some light upon the most important political phenomenon of this or any previous age, the revolutionary eruptions of 1848 and 9; a light which appears requisite to the speculators of all parties, and especially perhaps to the gentlemen of the press. For, respecting the true nature of this social earthquake, there seems to be as yet quite as little of discriminative agreement among those who are predisposed to regard it with predilection, as there is of comprehensive intelligence in the opposite party. The latter, are however, entirely positive, precise, dogmatic, in denouncing it. M. Guizot is their enlightened advocate, or their doctrinal exponent. In submitting, therefore, our strictures upon his book to the test of

principles, the real merits of the general subject-involved as they are in fact in these principles-must receive ample though indirect elucidation.

The first of our explanations will remove a certain presumption which would preclude all argument, all evidence whatever. With the acknowledged honesty as well as ability and experience of Guizot, how, it may be thought, can he well have been very widely misled in a matter of political science? Or supposing such the fact, how can this or that critic, inferior to him in some or perhaps all these qualifications, expect to be listened to with attention in pretending to convict him—and with him, three-fourths of Europe-of error? This, it will be observed, is the old argument from authority. But, though this logical opiate be now renounced by name, yet the thing itself retains, and salutarily, all its hold upon the instincts of the people, who distrust it rather for the oppressions which it has sanctioned than for the fallacies which it involves. As preliminary therefore to the evidence of fact, it will be well to show, concerning the errors in question, that neither is their occurrence a thing so improbable in M. Guizot, nor their detection at all presumptuous in persons differently circumstanced. It is thought no presumption that the peasant of the present day pretends to see the errors, for example, of witchcraft and astrology; and yet these had been for ages devoutly believed by unanimous

* De La Democratie en France. Par M. GUIZOT. Paris, 1849. VOL. V. NO. I. NEW SERIES. 1

vested in its triumph the sole passion of his nature, and the most obstinate of the human heart, which is pride-we need not be surprised to find him not very perspicacious into the errors of that system; especially at the hour of its downfall and his own. But this was the predicament of the standard-bearer of the Doctrinaires and ex-minister of the ex-royalty of France.

Yet the more fundamental error of Guizot's book does not proceed from the distortions of those prejudices precisely. It has its root rather in the second of our general causes of misjudgment—the inadvertence to, not to say ignorance of the variation of conditions. Guizot reasons as if men were composed of the same mental and moral elements to-day, as upon descending from the ark. He recognizes no normal progression in man or in government. He employs, indeed, the word; but it is only with a tone of resignation or an air of derision. (6 Order," as the end, "power" as the means, and the eternal statu quo which would be their necessary consequence-this is the hopeful triad of his govermental providence ;-a psychological phenomenon truly wonderful in a French philosopher of the present day, and which requires a large combination and intensity of the above influences to confirm it; but stranger still in a man who had lectured long on the history of civilization. For the principle of civilization is quite incompatible with the theory in question, which considers man, we repeat, as fixed a quantity as a metal or a stone, of which the properties are eternally the same in all

circumstances.

Europe-including, M. Guizot. But the difference of time is too, many as great or greater intellects than only one of the elements of diversity in human judgments.

Of this habitual diversity there are two general causes. The one consists in the variety of circumstances in which the same subject is seen by different persons. The other, in the variations of condition under which the subject itself may exist at different times. To the class of influences which affect the vision belong, preeminently, education, religion, the several passions, the particular pursuits, the personal interests. Now these are all so many packets of judgments made up by other parties whether man, or God, or nature and imposed upon each individual who is born into society. The process by which he applies them is therefore not judgment, but mere association. At the impression of a particular fact, the opinion originally attached to it springs up spontaneously. The man-machine does but take the labeled judgment from his packet and deposit it -much like the Laputan philosophers who conversed by means of bundles of sticks. Such is, however, the judgment of most men upon most subjects from the cradle to the grave. It is necessarily the judgment of all men, and of all ages of mankind, until they have attained that intellectual manhood which fits and sets them to review the provisional teachings of their nonage, and to transform into principles what had been hitherto but prejudices. We mean by "prejudices," not necessarily errors; but, according to the etymology, simple pre-judgments, or judgments without examination.

But the transformation will evidently be more difficult, more imperfect, in proportion as the prejudices are reinforced by each other. Thus, if the religion second the passions, as in some infamous superstitions of antiquity, it will be more difficult to rectify the perversions of either than if they stood opposite or even isolated. Hard-getable to man, and from man himself to society. It is thus that during childhood, the individual and the state are governed respectively by the pedagogue and the priest. On advancing to maturity they demand different rulers. This continual progression of govermental forms, resulting from the aggregate and accumulated progressions of the governed, is the key,

er still must be the task, if not quite hopeless, when the early inculcations of religion are followed up by the routine of profession, and fortified by the instincts of interest. For if a statesman has devoted his life to the inculcation of a certain form of government, has risen to public honors through its temporary ascendancy, has in

It is needless to state that this is not the case with any organized being. On the contrary the normal condition of this form of existence is continual change. And the change becomes more intense and indefinite in proportion as the object ascends in the scale of organization, from the ve

as it has been the cause, of the late European revolutions; and not only these in particular, but the key to the whole history, the laws, the destinies of society. It is then against this history, these laws, that destiny, that M. Guizot has had the hardihood to erect the sandbank of his book, after their indignant flood had just submerged the barricades of his master.

In the light of these general remarks respecting the nature and occasion of the errors suggested, we now proceed to exemplify in a careful and consecutive analysis. First, however, it seems proper to advise the reader, on the other hand, that it is not errors alone which it will be our duty to point him out. The excellencies of detail are a good deal more numerous, and of incontestible truth and importance. At present these lie lost in a great degree to all parties. By the progressives they are included in the general prejudice against the known politics of the author. To the conservatives they teach no lesson, being represented as concessions or casualties, instead of general and providential causes. To the impartial they bring no firm conviction, because of their incongruity with the spirit and purpose of the publication. Now, by exposing this incongruity; by detaching this vigorous undergrowth of practical truths from the rotten trunk of "order," upon which Guizot would engraft them; by distinguishing both in his doctrines and in the principles which he combats, the chaff to be given to the fire from the grain to be stored for use, the latter may be rendered acceptable as well as instructive to all.

But it would be particularly available to the American people-because the only people that have yet appeared upon the stage of the world in the condition to organize deliberately into an harmonious and enduring system, the adverse movements that are now distracting and long shall disorder the social peace and prosperity of Europe; and not only of Europe, but after it of Asia, and so outward to the most torpid extremities of humanity. This we owe as an inheritance to our own posterity, as an example to mankind, as a debt to divine Providence, who has placed the attainment peculiarly not only within our reach, but athwart our path. It is a pride to this Journal to commend it especially to

the consideration of the Whig party, whose policy is already proficient in combining firmness of principle with flexibility of modification. There remains in fact little else than to substitute gradually the guidance of science for the sure, indeed, but less systematic impulses of patriotism and the effete phraseology of past politics. These things have served us tolerably hitherto. While confined to the native bays and inland seas of our political infancy, we might, as did the ancient mariners, contrive to get along by coasting in view of the promontories of precedent, marking the rocks and quicksands of party opposition, and looking aloft for our last bearings to the familiar stars of the Revolutionary Fathers. But this state of things is changed. We are fast and irresistibly drifting out into a shoreless ocean, where other principles of steerage are perilously indispensable. They must be something independent of all individuals, of all examples, of all times, because embracing them all. This new compass is the application of political or social science. And the party whose statesmen shall have first appropriated it in this country may reasonably count upon a long possession of the helm of affairs. Better and higher than this, by breaking loose from red-tape, and routine, and rascality of the present practice, they would introduce into the art of goverment a revolution no less remarkable, perhaps, than was effected by the magnet in the art of navigation.

But, in the third place, the mode proposed of examining the book of Guizot, will afford us also the pleasure of doing justice, amidst his faults, to a writer to whom, after all, both the letters and politics of the age are quite as much indebted as to any other individual thinker. A man whose soul, still loftier than his genius, does honor to the literary character-so much in need, heaven knows, of an occasional redemption. A man of that sublime, because self-centred dignity, which the petty stigmatize as pride, and which remained the same through his wide vicissitudes of fortune; the same when a nameless student he wrote for the newspapers from the purlieus of Paris, as when after he stood forth at the head of the French nation, that is to say, the official leader of modern civilization. And the same still in his fall,

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