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ON DEMOCRACY. ______________________ A LECTURE DELIVERED TO THE Working Men's Institute Edinburgh ON THE 3RD JANUARY 1867, BY JOHN STUART BLACKIE PROFESSOR OF GREEK IN THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH 'THE best of all animals, when governed by law and justice, is man; when without them, the most terrible. This is the sentence of Aristotle, the most sagacious and the most far-sighted of political writers, and, of all speculative men, certainly the most practical. And to this undeniable dictum we may, without fear of question, add, that of all animals man is the most difficult to govern, and of all arts, the art of government is that one which at once demands the greatest talents for success, and entails the most terrible penalties by failure. Nevertheless, and in spite of the terrible lessons of history written everywhere in characters of blood, there has always been a class of persons of hasty wit and superficial conclusions, who have been of opinion that the government of human beings is one of the simplest of all arts—as simple, in fact, as any sum in addition,—and that the one infallible way to find the wisdom by which a community of reasonable beings shall be governed, is to gather them into indiscriminate masses, portion them off like sheep into separate pens, take the votes of the several pens by the poll, add the votes together, and the sum will give a verdict which, by a cunning machinery of social wire-pulling (well understood in America), will give good government. The maintainers of this opinion are known in history as democrats, and universal suffrage is the watchword of their doctrine. The social system of which they are the advocates is so flattering to human pride, and opens up so patent a road to the ignorant and the conceited, the presumptuous and the unscrupulous, that, notwithstanding its essential unreasonableness, it has always commanded a large amount of popular sympathy. Even in Great Britain, a country the most naturally averse to the practical assertion of one-sided political ideas, it has occasionally showed face; and at the present moment the country is being perambulated and agitated by popular orators, who, though in words they sometimes express a certain vague admiration for the mixed constitution under which this country has grown and prospered, do in fact maintain the most unqualified principles of democracy, and appeal to the verdict of the masses as the only standard of political rectitude. That any large influential class of this practical-minded community should have faith in a delusive conceit which every memorable fact of history contradicts, I cannot believe; but that there are thousands and tens of thousands in this island, especially among those who are called 'the working classes,' ignorant enough to allow themselves to be juggled out of reason and common sense by general assertions about the transcendental virtues of democracy, that is, about the transcendental wisdom of themselves, made by men of talent and eloquence, only an amiable and voluntary blindness could deny. Besides, in politics there are always half a dozen reasonably sensible men—men who, from their education, ought to know better,—who will allow themselves to be borne along by a popular current of unreason, and even indulge in a little flirtation with principles, from the serious assertion of which they would be the first to recoil. It has occurred to me, therefore, that I may be doing a little public service at the present juncture, by stating, not in the style of a political declamation from the hustings, but of a large philosophical survey, the fundamental fallacies which lie at the bottom of this idol-worship of the multitude which is now attempted to be imposed upon us; and, in doing so, I shall certainly not follow the example of great popular orators, by indulging in extravagant laudations of one party and equally extravagant denunciations of the other; but I will endeavour to state the case as fairly as possible for both parties, and to paint out the fair democratic delusion in the first place with colours as roseate as the most fervid apostle might desire. And I will do this with the greater confidence of being able to sketch a faithful portraiture, because I am by birth and habit a man of the people, in nowise connected with what is popularly called the Aristocracy, and earnestly desirous that all classes of the people should possess that weight in the government of this country which a fair consideration of their relative positions, and a just estimate of the quality and the quantity of their social contributions, might recommend. I start, therefore, with stating the case for democracy thus:— More at http://gerald-massey.org.uk/jones/b_blackie_democracy.htm A LECTURE DEMOCRACY VINDICATED DELIVERED TO THE EDINBURGH WORKING MEN'S INSTITUTE, ON THE 4TH JANUARY 1867, IN REPLY TO PROFESSOR BLACKIE'S LECTURE ON DEMOCRACY, DELIVERED ON THE PREVIOUS EVENING. BY ERNEST JONES, ESQ., OF THE MIDDLE TEMPLE, BARRISTER-AT-LAW. Before, however, proceeding to address you in answer to the observations made with so much ability last night, I must take exception at one line of argument pursued by the learned Professor. He assumed throughout that democracy meant the rule of the working classes, to the exclusion of all others; and then he reasoned as though the working classes were a mob, the ochlos, and not the demos. He denounces licence, and calls it "liberty;" he advocates tyranny, and names it "order." Democracy means not the rule of a class, but of a nation—it comprehends all, it tempers one class with another—it does not exclude the peer or the prince; on the contrary, it embraces them, it harmonises them—a peerage may flourish in its midst, and a throne is but the representative of one of its highest and noblest forms. There may be democracy under a king as well as under a president; and that system of checks and counter-checks, that tempering influence to which allusion has been made, is perhaps more perfectly realised under a democracy than under any other form.
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