The Lie of a Monarchy and Aristocracy
If we were able to consider the existing institutions of our civilization from an artistic, esthetic point of view alone; if it were possible for us to study and criticise them with the abstract, impersonal interest of that Persian Prince Uzbek, described by Montesquieu, who travelled in foreign countries merely in search of amusement and shook their dust from his feet when he had left them behind him, we would not hesitate to accept the present arrangement of society as skillfully and consistently constructed, forming an harmonious whole. All the constituent parts are arranged in order, and are necessarily evolved from and dependent upon each other, ascending from the lowest to the highest, in an unbroken, logical sequence. When the grand gothic structure of mediaeval state and society was erected, it presented an imposing appearance, and was regarded as a magnificent and comfortable place of refuge and safety by those whom it sheltered. Today only the ornamental façade remains; the useful, habitable portions of the building have long since fallen into decay, so that any one seeking for shelter in it now, finds it impossible to discover a single nook or corner, in which he can be protected from the wind or rain. But the façade still retains its former beauty and grandeur, and arouses admiration in the beholder for the genius and skill of the architect. Nothing but one wall is left standing today of what was once a fine and solid structure. But this wall is an architectural work of art in which all the details are skillfully and harmoniously subordinated to the general design. Of course we should not examine this architectural monument from the heap of ruins behind it; but if we approach it from the front, keeping far enough away to get the effect of the perspective, and studying it merely as an artistic creation, we can not help acknowledging that the architect has produced a master-piece.
A monarchy owes its existence and perpetuation to Religion. The latter in its present and historical form was the necessary foundation of the former. An established religion however, is not necessarily dependent upon a monarchy but can be recognized by a government, whatever its constitution. Theoretically this needs no demonstration. It has been practically proved by the republics governed by the Jesuits among the natives of South America, and the United States of North America, whose constitution is based upon the principles of Religion. An hereditary monarchy on the contrary, is impossible and inconceivable without the foundation of Religion. We can imagine how a powerful and talented man might usurp the supreme command in a country and retain it by stratagem or force of arms; he could conquer the nation by some coup d’état, and support his authority by a crowd of selfishly interested dependents, whom he could attach to his fortunes by material advantages and honors, and an army of whose devotion he could make sure by a succession of victories and opportunities for plunder, by frequent gifts of money and titles; he could call himself king or emperor as he chose, dictator or president, and his authority be recognized as supreme because he would have the power to enforce it. It is even possible that the majority of the people might accept willingly the yoke placed upon them by his ambition, not only because it is a fundamental trait in human nature to be so dazzled by the sight of success that the power of judgment is temporarily suspended, but also because the average citizen would find it to his interest and advantage to sustain the existing state of affairs, and because the ruler, if a man of genius, would govern so wisely that industries and trade would flourish, the laws be administered with justice, and the masses, whose interests are centered in their material needs, find their table more abundantly supplied, and the hoard of savings laid by for a rainy day increasing. Such an usurper might venture to hold his own without the aid of Religion. He might find the sword sufficient for his support and not need the cross. He would have no cause to fear the criticism of reason, because he could oppose material force against its deductions. The logical reasoner might say to him: “You are a human being like the rest of us; as we did not appoint you voluntarily to be a ruler over us, we are surely not bound to pay homage to you and obey your commands.” To which the tyrant could reply: “Your argument is indisputable, but so is my army. You will obey my commands not because they are rational and convincing, but because I will compel you to do so.” In such a case the ruler could dispense with God’s aid; his strong arm would be sufficient. He would not feel the need of the anointing oil or the blessing of the church, as he would have plenty of powder and his bayonets to convince the subservient multitudes of his supremacy, as efficacious as any mystic or gorgeous coronation ceremonies. But circumstances might change, even for such a despot as this, if he had a son for instance, to whom he wished to ensure a continuance of his authority after his death. Then he would place self under the ægis of Religion. He would recall to mind the fact that during the Middle Ages, the churches were an asylum of refuge, and he would hasten to seek protection at the foot of the altar from the pursuit of reason The blade of the sword alone is no longer sufficient, he must have the cross welded to it for a handle.
The sources of the tyrant’s power are too clearly visible to all, he must make them fade into indistinctness by enveloping them in a cloud of incense. The hard facts of history are softened in a mist of legendary lore, and the priest is called upon to reply to the question: “Why should the feeble son, who never could carve out a throne for himself, why should he inherit the power of his father?” by a simple: “Because God so wills it.” This is the rock upon which young dynasties will strike and go down. The sons of the Nineteenth Century can not see God in the fire of a fusillade as Moses saw Him in the burning bush; neither can they accept a street-barricade skirmishes a manifestation of His will.
It is a tedious task to throw a halo c sacredness around the prosaic proclamations which form the certificate of birth of a dictatorship and if the inheritor of it is not strong enough to uphold it by force of arms it will not help him much to draw the right to govern from heaven. The catholic church has strictly forbidden the canonization of any person until at least four generations have passed away since his death. The believers must be allowed time to forget his human frailties; for even with the best intentions, we find it hard to believe that the John or Harry, who sat next to us at school has got angel wings now, and is one of the most distinguished soloists of the celestial choir. The church was even wiser on this point than those monarchs who had it proclaimed that they were demi-gods, before their contemporaries had time to forget their unpaid bills and their boots run down at the heel. The fact that the Bonapartes were not satisfied with being the absolute rulers of France, but insisted upon a grand, religious coronation ceremony before the altar of Notre Dame, was their great political blunder. The 18. Brumaire and the 2d of December made the religious coronation superfluous. The dove of the Holy Ghost ought not to have been associated with the imperial eagle.
If it is possible for a dictator to dispense with Religion, this is far from being the case with a legitimate monarchy. Religion is its natural and indispensable foundation. In the majority of cases, the monarch is endowed with rather less than more than the average of human, natural gifts. Very rarely do we find a prince who is what would be called in every-day life a capable man, and only once in centuries does a dynasty produce a man of commanding talents or of genius. Among the reigning princes of civilized countries there are some who lay claim to being great generals, others to being authors, painters, musicians, scientists or legal authorities. They take great pains to master the special branches of learning or art, to which they are most attached, and their productions in this line can be looked upon as tests of their ability. But what is the result? If we examine these productions, not from the point of view of a court hanger-on, but as an impartial critic, we are obliged to come to the conclusion that unsupported by the prestige of royalty, they would never have attained to even a moderate rank in the departments they have chosen. This prince who pretends to be such a fine soldier, would never have received promotion for his military talents; this one who is coquetting with jurisprudence, would not have been able to win many suits; this other, the would-be astronomer, would never have been appointed to even the most insignificant professorship, the would-be dramatist would never have seen one of his plays produced, nor would the painter have sold any of his paintings. If their names had been Mayer or Durand or Smith, they would have been distanced by a large majority of their competitors. It is a matter of doubt whether any one of them, as a private citizen, would have been capable of supporting himself and founding and maintaining a family. We must even make some concessions to imagine them with their actual endowments, but of course, different training, as capable of making good tradesmen, grocers, petty government officials or non-commissioned officers. Some of them at least, are gifted with some social and personal attractions. They are handsome men. They have grace in conversation. They could turn the heads of wealthy heiresses, and make brilliant marriages, which also requires a certain talent. But many of them are without even these qualities, which, if somewhat unimportant, are yet agreeable. They are far from handsome, are weakly and predisposed to disease and too unintelligent to keep even the flattest society conversation afloat for even a short time, and too desperately commonplace to ever awaken the love of a true woman for their own selves alone.
Each one of these princes in his own country holds the same exalted position among his contemporaries: Frederick the Great, the same as Ferdinand VII of Spain, Joseph II, as Ferdinand of Naples, called Re Bomba, Leopold I, of Belgium, the same as Louis XV of France, or George IV of England. They are all equally sacred, equally privileged and equally infallible. Their names shine with the same lustre upon the decrees of State; their commands are equally powerful and receive the same obedience. Every one bows in reverence before them, gives them the same title of Majesty, and calls them without distinction, gracious, illustrious and exalted. Human reason and intelligence revolt at such a spectacle. They exclaim: “You cowardly, incapable creature, how do you come to be at the head of a great army? You ignorant blockhead, who are unable to spoil your own mother-tongue correctly, why are you the high and mighty protector of the academies and universities? You criminal, why have you the right to award sentence of life or death upon those accused of crime? You fickle glutton, why are you the rewarder of virtue and merit? You weakling, why are the destinies of a nation in your hands? Why? Why?
As there can be no rational answer to this question, there is nothing left for the monarchy to reply but: “Why? Because God has so ordained it!” This stereotyped reply is used to repel any indiscreet inquisitiveness or inconvenient criticism. The majesty of God heralds everywhere the arrival of his own majesty. Whenever the monarchy wishes to assert its privileges it points to the divine source from whence they issued; “by the grace of God,” we read on the coins, “by the grace of God” in laws, decrees and announcements. “The grace of God” is a kind of reference given by the monarchy when questioned as to its credit. In order to have this reference satisfactory, the one to whom it is given must believe in God; consequently the monarchy has no more important and pressing interest than to preserve in the people, by all possible means of strategy and force, an unswerving belief in God. Confirmed monarchists are completely right in bitterly opposing any change in Religion, or its separation from the State. They are consistent when they preach: “the people must have a religion!” when they oppose the foundation of non-sectarian schools, and still more consistent when they declare that the divorce of Church and State would be equivalent to removing the pillars that support the entire structure of State. Their demand that the State must be Christian, is a necessary result of their point of view. They are not quite sincere however, when they add: “—for without Religion there is no morality, and the State when it ceases to be Christian, will become a field of evil passions, vices and crimes.” This addition should be: “—for Religion is the only foundation of an hereditary monarchy; a declaration of independence in regard to Religion, would lead at once to the sovereignty of the strongest or most capable person or persons, that is, to a dictatorship or to a republic.” It is only another proof of the falseness of our age that even the most confirmed royalists have not sufficient courage to acknowledge the true reason why they want to drive the people back into the fold of the church. They ought to say boldly: “we need Religion as a shield for the monarchy.” That would be honest and courageous. It is a piece of cowardice in them to assert that they support Religion in the name of law, order, morality and the wish of the people.
Our century has produced nothing more repugnant to common sense than the liberal, constitutional monarchy. It is an attempt to unite two separate political forms, two opposed views of the world, which are completely incompatible. It is fortunate that society is not governed by logic, but by indolence and passive endurance of that which is, or, to be more exact, that logic only awakes at long intervals, otherwise this form of government, so contrary to reason, could not have existed an hour. How comes it that a monarchy founded by God and perpetuated by Him, is content to share its privileges with common mortals? The monarch allows his prerogatives to be limited by the representatives of the people, ordinary men, and yet these prerogatives are the direct gift of God! Does he thus acknowledge that ordinary men have a right to interfere with God’s will as manifested in him? Is such a thing possible? Is it not an insult to God, a crime? And can a God-fearing monarch decree that a crime of blasphemy, such as this amounts to, is to become one of the laws of the realm? This is the way such a constitutional monarchy appears from the stand-point of the monarchy “by the grace of God.” Viewed from the standpoint of the sovereign people, the constitutional monarchy appears fully as unreasonable. Constitutionalism is founded upon the theory that the people has the right to decide its own destiny. From whence did it obtain this right? From Nature herself. It is one form of man’s vital energy. The people has the right to govern itself, because it has the strength to do so, just as an individual has the right to live, because and as long as he has the strength to do so. But if this idea is correct how came man then to yield to a monarch who had inherited his authority, whose single will has as much power as the will of the entire people, who even has the right to oppose the will of the people, as the people have the right to oppose his will? If the people should rise in their sovereignty and depose the king, or do away with the institution of monarchy altogether, would the king submit? If the king should rise in his sovereignty and abolish the Parliament altogether, would the people submit? If not, what does the sovereignty of either amount to? Two sovereignties in one state are as impossible as two Gods in nature, that is, two Gods with the attributes which Christians ascribe to their single God. The prerogatives of the people must appear to the king “by the grace of God,” as an infringement upon the omnipotence of God, and the monarchy “by the grace of God,” must appear to the enlightened people as a denial of their manifest, national power. A constitutional monarchy can only be accepted by sacrificing one’s reasoning faculties. It is, compared to an absolute monarchy, what the protestant is to the catholic church. Catholicism is consistent; protestantism is arbitrary. The former gives its superiors the right to decide upon the articles of faith, and allows no criticism of any of its arrangements. The latter allows criticism of its doctrines, by the medium of the Bible, but forbids any criticism of the Bible itself. The mind is allowed free liberty of thought as far as Revelations. The line is drawn at Revelations, where it must stop. Why? There is no reason. Because it is so, and not otherwise. It is free thought with a limited circulation; it is free criticism, with a thumbscrew, which allows it to go only to a certain point. In the same way a constitutional monarchy lays down certain premises, but forbids any one to draw the conclusions from them. It recognizes the fundamental principle of the nation’s right to self-government, but at the same time it denies it by asserting the king’s right to govern, to be higher and more sacred. It permits logic to follow in its train, but not until its teeth have been pulled out and its limbs amputated.
I consequently sing the praises of the absolute monarchy, surrounded by the mediæval institutions of slate and society. It satisfies logic, and pleases the senses that appreciate symmetry and harmony. We are only obliged to close our ears to the voice of reason for one moment, to accept but one arbitrary premise without criticism, that is, that the monarch owes his privileges to the special grace of God. This statement once accepted, all the remaining details of an absolute monarchy follow in a symmetrical and logical sequence.
There is then nothing to prevent our acceptance of its fundamental principle, that the king can do no wrong, even if he murders, steals or commits perjury. It follows as a logical consequence that the king can do with his country, his people and every individual subject, just exactly as he pleases, without any human being having the right to interfere. It also follows that his person is sacred, a fragment of the divine Providence in material form. The authorized agent of God is entitled to a position and power far beyond that enjoyed by mere mortals. Thus the imposing edifice of an absolute monarchy is complete in all its details; its symmetry is not impaired by inharmonious additions built on here and there like incongruous excrescences, such as disfigure a constitutional monarchy. It is a beautiful production of the human imagination, on whose noble outlines the eye dwells with satisfaction and pleasure. The subject, born to obey, lives and labors contentedly with the constant regularity of a machine; if he is in comfortable circumstances, he enjoys them in peace; if he is hungry, he consoles himself with the reflection that everything that is, must be right; he need never have any feeling of care or responsibility, for the king thinks for him, and regulates his present and his future life as is best for him. And if at any time a tormenting doubt arises in his mind, whether every thing is arranged for the best, in this best of all possible worlds, the church interposes and satisfies him with the assertion that the apparently inconsistent state of affairs is due directly to God’s decree, who of course, knows what is best for him, and that he has only his own short-sightedness and limitations to blame for not seeing and appreciating the supreme excellence of all the existing conditions of life. Monarchy and Religion keep side by side like sworn comrades, and fight faithfully for their mutual interests. The king sends the people to church and the minister bids them kneel before the palace.
The king chants: “There is a God, and I keep prisons and hangmen to take care of those who do not believe in Him.” The priest chants the response: “The king was set upon the throne by God Himself, and those who do not believe this will lose their chance of Heaven, to say nothing of punishment on earth.” The king maintains that what the priest says is true, and the priest denies any usurpation on the part of the king. Of course it must be truth, what two such important witnesses are constantly repeating and the people accept it with respect, all the more profound because one sits on a throne in purple and ermine, with a crown upon his head, and the other wears gold-embroidered raiment and a cross set with jewels upon his breast. A good judge would not accept the testimony of two mutually interested confederates, but the people have swallowed and believed it for thousands of years.
I am not criticising the monarchical institution in the interests of a republic. I am by no means as enthusiastic as those Liberalists who are carried away by the mere name of a republic, without taking into account the true significance of the term. A republic is the principal ideal of many of the so-called Liberalists, to me it seems very undesirable. A republic, if it is to be a progress and a truth, must be founded upon a number of social political and other institutions, entirely different from those existing at present. As long as Europe continues to live in its present forms of civilization, a republic is a contradiction and an unworthy play upon words. A simple political revolution, which would turn any one of the existing monarchies of Europe into a republic, would be merely imitating the acts of the apostles to the heathen, during the early part of the Middle Ages, who converted the pagans from their false forms of worship, by simply giving their gods, festivals and ceremonies. Christian names. The entire effect of such a revolution would be limited to pasting upon the shop-worn, unsalable goods, a lot of new labels, which would deceive the people into thinking a new stock of goods had been procured. A republic is the last link of a long chain of development. It is the form of government in which the ideal of self-government finds realization — the supreme power residing ultimately in the whole people and directly exercised by them. This form of government, if it is organically genuine, and not merely an external, pasted on or painted resemblance to a republic, is inherently incompatible with hereditary privileges and distinctions, with the enormous influence wielded by accumulations of capital and monopolies, with the power of an army of office holders and with any restrictions to the free liberty of thought, speech and action of the grand masses of the people. But to leave the organization of the State as it is, and merely to change the name of the government from a monarchy to a republic, is like the well-known trick of the publishers who manage to smuggle forbidden works into another country, by substituting for the title-page another, taken from come innocent fairy-tale or prayer-book. What was the Italian republic of 1848, or the Spanish republic of 1868, and what is the French republic of 1870, but monarchies with their thrones standing vacant for a while, monarchies parading under the mask of republicanism. They remind us of a carnival party of members of the nobility, masquerading as a set of gypsies or as a peasant wedding-party. Their clothes and appointments, their actions and speech are those of the class they are trying to represent, but through it all they remain their aristocratic selves, and deceive none of the spectators into a belief in the reality of their pretty comedy. But strange to say, the same people believe in the reality of what they see when the monarchy puts on the costume of republicanism and goes through the figures of democratic dances with a good grace; they accept it as a genuine republic and take delight in it accordingly.
Only one revolution grasped the idea that it was not sufficient to oust the king from the State, and to change its name, in order to make a republic of it. That was the great French Revolution. It annihilated with the king all the component parts of the ancient monarchy, as, when any one dies of the plague, his corpse is not only hurried away from the abode of the living, but his clothing and effects are burned. The French Revolution dug up the monarchy, with every one of its roots, and then ploughed up the soil on which it had grown. It demolished the institution of rank, and destroyed, as far as possible, the causes to which the aristocrats owed their privileges; it leveled their castles to the ground, confiscated their property, and even abolished the expressions Sir and Mr. from conversation, claiming that they were relics of feudal times, when everyone was either master or dependent. It did still more. It tried to recreate the entire intellectual world of the people. It wanted to substitute an entirely new mental horizon for the old, and prevent the ancient ideas which it had driven out by the gate of government decrees, from slipping in again by the window of an indolent and passive habit of thought. Consequently it created a new religion, invented a new calendar in which everything, the beginning of the year, the manner of reckoning time and the names of the days and the months, differed completely from the old methods of computing time, it set apart new days for holidays, arranged a new style of dress, in short, it built up an entirely new world, in which there was no room for even remembrance of the former historical evolution—and yet, what did it all amount to in the end? Clothing and speech could be altered, but the brain could not be kneaded over again. The Jews born in Egypt were not fitted to colonize Canaan. The inbred habits of centuries had more control over the French, than the laws, although they were sustained by the guillotine, When Mme. Dubarry passed in front of citizen Sanson on the bloody platform she said: “Excuse me, Mr. Executioner.” After the close of the Reign of Terror, the men who had amassed millions by plunder and theft, taking advantage of the confiscation of the emigrés’ property, and of the other opportunities which came in their way, these men acquired an influence, and were paid an outward respect, which only required the titles of nobility that Napoleon soon gave them, to be in all points an exact imitation of the ancient aristocracy, and hardly had the throes of the earthquake of the revolution subsided, than the structure of society rose up again like Aladdin’s palace, with a few new beams and foundation stones, but in its general outline and architectural plan, a duplicate of the old, and as mediaeval as before. Nothing is accomplished by disturbing part of the ancient arrangement of things and leaving the remainder intact. The execution of the inoffensive king, Louis XVI, was an objectless crime, if the French people intended to retain their former conceptions of the universe, with faith in a Supreme Being and an all ruling Providence, reverence for the Bible and a ceremonial worship. An exclusively political revolution, changing merely the form of the government from monarchical to republican, and leaving undisturbed the existing conditions of society, philosophy and economy, of which the monarchy is the logical sequence, has neither sense nor foundation. It is a violent, exclusively external disturbance such as would follow the decrees of an insane tyrant like Ivan the Terrible, if we could imagine such a being upon any throne at the present day. The logic of facts is against it from the start, and allows it only a brief period of duration. The phenomenon so often noticed in a cripple, is repeated in the organism of the people. As a man whose leg has been amputated suffers pain in the missing limb, a nation, after the amputation of the monarchy, and the substitution of a republican wooden leg, feels the twitches and agony of the missing monarchical form of government It resembles even a lower form of animal life, some of those rudimentary organisms whose amputated organs grow out again; there is an impelling force within them, that makes such organs indispensable to their existence, and reproduces the missing part in time.
Consequently I take no part in the either false or mistaken worship of a republic as conducted by some Liberalists, who bow the knee and sing hosannahs to the empty title of the republic. This religion whose god is merely a name, does not count me among its followers. In order to have the republic the necessary outward form of the internal organization of the State, the people who wish to be crystallized into this form, must comprehend the universe from the standpoint of natural science, and have swept out all the mediæval rubbish of transcendentalism and the hereditary differences of social station and property holding. A republic with religions recognized by the State, with transcendental formulas for oaths, with laws which punish the expression of contempt for God, with hereditary privileges of rank, and with the preponderating influence of inherited possessions—such a republic is no progress for humanity, and is superior in no respect to a monarchical form of government. In reality it is inferior to it, it fails to satisfy the logical mind and esthetic taste of the observer like the imposing, self-centered and grandly symmetrical structure of an absolute monarchy.
It is evident from the foregoing paragraphs that I understand and admit the historical and logical grounds upon which the monarchical form of government is based. Indeed, a people who believe that the universe is governed by a personal God, that the Bible is the authentic revelation of His will and that the clergy are men appointed by Him to make His meaning clear, are inevitably led to believe in a monarchy; for the king, answerable to no one but himself for his actions, above the jurisdiction of the legal authorities, guiding the destinies of the nation and suffering no interference, is a faithful representation of God, of His position in the universe, and of the way in which He governs. The Bible acknowledges the monarchy as an institution created by God, and the church maintains that the supreme power of the king and the absolute obedience due him by all his subjects, are God-given rights, which God will sustain. And a people who see nothing incongruous in the fact that a man can be born to wealth and rank, and in this way bring into the world with him a clear title to honors, influence and luxury, as a part of his personality like his hair or his skin, such a people shows itself logical and consistent when it admits the fact that a child may be born possessing inherently the right to rule the whole land; wherever this wonderful right may be situated, in the stomach or in the head, it is born with it, and no one questions its existence or authority. This fact is no more unreasonable nor more difficult to conceive, than that several hundred children should come into the world with some inborn organic rights to take precedence in rank and wealth over the millions around them. As an abstract conception the monarchical form of government can be easily evolved from the theological conceptions of the universe, and be defended by them with certainty of success in argument. In the man who accepts them with sincere belief, his reverence for the monarchy is no lie. But to those who look upon the world from the heights of natural science, it appears to be a lie and a fraud. Even to many who believe still in its divine origin, its present forms and practices seem to be inconsistent, and more or less of a lie. For this is the tragic side of our contemporaneous civilization, that the ancient institutions have no longer the courage and self-confidence to maintain their positions before mankind, in the stiff and unyielding forms in which alone they are true to logic and history, repeating the Jesuits’ motto: “As we are or not at all.” They attempt an impossible compromise between their premises and the convictions of modern times; they make concessions to the latter, and allow themselves to be penetrated by intellectual elements, foreign to their constitution, and sure to disintegrate it. The new ideas to which they are trying to conform themselves are in direct opposition to every one of their fundamental principles, so that they resemble a book containing on the same page some ancient fable with foot-notes criticising, ridiculing and abusing it in every possible way. In this shape these institutions, denying and parodying their true character, seem objects of ridicule and scorn to cultivated minds, and even to the uncultivated, sources of annoyance and painful perplexity.
The monarchical form of government grew from several different historical roots. It is probable that the men of the earliest prehistoric ages were social beings and lived in tribes, as monkeys and numerous other gregarious animals do to this day. Each band had its leader, who guided and defended it, and without doubt was the strongest individual of the tribe. In the early dawn of civilization whose reflection rests upon the most ancient portions of the Bible, the Vedas, and the sacred books of the Chinese, the family was the foundation of society, and the patriarch the natural ruler, judge and adviser of his family and descendants. As men increased in number the families grew until they became tribes. The father of the family was succeeded by the chief who ruled the tribe; whose authority was founded upon the fiction that all the members of the tribe were of his blood―a fiction which is even at the present day, the foundation of the clan attachments and customs of the Scotch—and partly upon the more tangible and reliable grounds, upon which herds of cattle select their leaders, that is upon his superiority, which might be due to either greater physical force or energy, or to the possession of greater wealth in flocks, pastures, implements or servants. In this phase the difference in rank between ruler and ruled is comparatively slight, and the sources of pre-eminence are apparent to everyone. He is obeyed by his son from motives of affection and respect, by the weak,, because he is strong and inspires fear, and by the poor from hope of gain, because he is rich. The right to inherit this pre-eminence was hardly recognized at this period. The actual possession of the means of power, sufficed theoretically and practically to show his right to it. No supernatural element had entered into these simple relations to complicate them; he ruled because he had the power, and the tribe obeyed because they chose or were obliged to. As civilization developed however, the leader found it necessary to strengthen his legitimate sources of superiority by adding to them the awe of the supernatural. His surpassing energy, wealth or bodily strength did not seem to him sufficient at this stage, to ensure to him the continued possession of his exalted position against the covetousness and ambition of his rivals, consequently he made the gods his mysterious and therefore doubly to be feared, confederates. He assumed the position of chief-priest of the tribe’s religion, called the invisible spirits into his service and cultivated the growth of superstition until it became one of the strongest supports of his power. This was the condition of things among all the peoples of the globe, at the moment when they entered upon the field of history. The royal family claimed to be descended in a direct line from the gods. The Pharaohs, the Incas, were the sons of the sun. The Germanic royal leaders claimed to have sprung from the loins of Thor. The Maharadschas of India, traced their origin to Vishnu. The people considered their leader a sacred being, and ascribed supernatural powers to him. In the Orient no one could look upon the light of his countenance without being stricken with blindness. The kings of England and France possessed the power of curing scrofula, St. Vitus’ dance and epilepsy, by merely laying their hand upon those afflicted with the disease.
The eternal vengeance of the gods rested on those who laid violent hands upon the person of the king, including their family and their entire tribe. In addition to his human hirelings, the king had all the gods and demi-gods of the heavens as guardians of his throne. The difference in station between the king and the people had already become immense. He was no longer merely the first among his fellows, the patriarch of the tribe, but a being of superior mould, supernatural and beyond the jurisdiction of the laws and customs of ordinary life. There was now no merely human connection between the king and the people; he was unapproachable; he lived on earth it is true, but like a god in disguise, having nothing in common with the masses around him. It sometimes happened that, owing to some inexplicable decree of Providence, he might be deposed from the throne, and some lowly born usurper wrest the crown from him to place it upon his own head. But even when forced to abdicate, the legitimate monarch did not sink to the level of the multitude; and even adorned with the crown, the usurper was without the consecration of divinity. The former remained always a dethroned monarch, the latter a man of the people, who sooner or later was obliged to subside again into the nameless multitude from which he sprang, as an ice-crystal dissolves into the water around it, while the deposed king always retained his distinctive individuality, like a diamond, no matter what his surroundings.
What a curious paradox this phase of the development of civilization presents! The monarchical form of government, which has been able to hold its own from the earliest prehistoric ages to the present day, has long since thrown away as superfluous, those reasons for its existence which could be accepted by the intellect, and only retained those which vanish into nothing at the first ray of rational criticism.
The monarchy of today depends for its authority not upon its actual power, but upon its divine origin. It commands no longer by the strength of its army, but by the “grace of God.” An army that is ready and willing to enforce the commands of the king is, even now, a most irresistible argument. But the monarch scorns to make use of it for this purpose. The assertion that the king received the title to his high estate from the hand of God, is believed by no one nowadays, not even the most credulous old woman, to be more than a legend. But the monarch keeps repeating this fairy-tale with energy while the parson and the policeman see to it that the people pay attention and believe or at least appear to.
In ancient times and during the Middle Ages, even up to a late period, as there was then no science of history, and an analysis of origins and development was entirely unknown, the halo of divinity surrounding the king was a material reality to the eyes of the people, during all those years of dawning intelligence. The memory of the nation did not extend more than one or two generations back. The darkness of the past was impenetrable, and it settled down gradually upon the origins of everything. Who could remember the beginnings of a dynasty? It was not difficult for any one to credit the legends sung by the bards, who traced the descent of the monarch to divinities, whose rank depended directly upon the rewards paid for these improvised genealogies. But in our age these ballads and traditions have lost their reliability beneath the broad glare of critical history. We are all familiar with the origin and growth of the European reigning houses, who are today the legitimate representatives of God’s will on earth, according to their own statement.
We can trace the Bourbon dynasty, the most ancient and sacred of all the royal houses of Europe, to Hugh Capet, a rebellious landed proprietor, whom some believe to be its founder, or to Robert le Fort, a butcher’s assistant in Paris, if we believe the traditions of the people. The Habsburgs of Austria, in whose veins by the way, now very few drops of the blood of the original stock, are the descendants of a poverty stricken Frankish nobleman who served various masters, first in the employ of a bishop, then of a city, like a hired prize-fighter or police-man. The less said about the Romanoffs, the reigning family in Russia, the better. Illegible documents can sometimes be deciphered by the student of history, but to solve the problem as to who was the father of a son of the Empress Catherine II, is beyond the power of any scientific investigator. The Hohenzollerns of Germany have at least a clean record of which they need not be ashamed. They are descended from poor, but honest parents. The burggraves of Nuremberg were undoubtedly good and reliable officials of the holy Roman Empire, and their appointment to be Grand Master of the German Order of Knights, then Margraves of Brandenburg, from there to electoral Prince, King and Emperor, was an honorable and straightforward rising career. The date of every upward step is duly recorded in history where it is shown to be the work of men, requiring no celestial interference. In the reigning dynasty of England we see an astonishing example of the adventurous travels which the royal blood, the bearer of the legitimate sovereignty can undertake through a dozen or more different families, without losing any of its right or title to reign. The curious zigzag line which forms the legitimate stock from the Duke of Normandy to the Duke of Saxe Coburg Gotha, seems to show that the royal blood, like a good man, is always conscious of the straight and narrow way, even when it seems to deviate most from it.
Now where in the history of these families is there room for the intervention of God, by whose grace they claim their privileges? At what point in their career did it put in its appearance? At Hastings, when William the Conqueror won the victory over the Saxon King Harold? Or when Hugh Capet rose in revolt against his lawful king of the Carlovingian dynasty, as Pepin had done against his Merovingian monarch? Or when Rudolph of Hapsburg conquered his rival Ottocar of Bohemia? And what if these three founders of legitimate dynasties had been defeated? If William had been driven back to Normandy, and Hugh strung up for the rebel that he was, and Rudolph had remained dead on the Marchfeld plains, what then? What would have become then of the “grace of God”? Would not those exalted personages, the founders of the three mighty dynasties, would not they in that case have been and remained merely robbers and adventurers? Or was it success that made them divine? Does the “grace of God” consist then only in the fact that a daring and powerful man has fought his way by force to the summit of his ambition? And does his government become legitimate from the moment he assumes the power? That seems to be its only meaning. The people seem to think: when God gives office to a man, he gives him sense to go with it. It is therefore reasonable to suppose that when he gives a crown to any one, he presents him at the same time with a legitimate right to it. But according to this view, every revolutionist becomes a legitimate monarch, if his attempt is successful. Cromwell would then be as legitimate a sovereign as Charles I. whom he beheaded, Barras and Bonaparte as legitimate as Louis XVI. who met with the same fate, Louis Philippe as legitimate as Charles X., and Napoleon III. as legitimate as Louis Phillippe. The royalists would then have no right to resist nor even to disapprove when any one usurps the sovereignty of the State; they would then be obliged to admit that Rienzi, Masaniello, Mazzini, Kossuth and Hecker would have been “sovereigns by the grace of God,” if their attempts had been crowned with success. More than this, they would be obliged to acknowledge that Lincoln, the rail-splitter, Johnson, the tailor, and Grévy, the lawyer, were persons equally as divine as a Hugh Capet or a Rudolph of Hapsburg, because they attained to success and possession of power fully as much as the latter. The standpoint of the royalist would then be the same as the frogs in the fable, who accepted with the same blind obedience whatever king Jupiter sent them, whether it was a log of wood or a stork. If success is the proof of the grace of God, then it is the only source of legitimate sovereignty, and the royalists would be obliged to recognize as legitimate rulers, any and every foreign conqueror, president of a republic, governor or potentate of any kind whose ambitious efforts had met with success.
Or has this spring of legitimate sovereignty run dry in late years? Can it be that in ancient times alone, the grace of God was manifested on earth by election frauds, revolt, perjury and the power of might over right? Can it be that the relations between heaven and the royal palace have been altered recently? If this is the case, it becomes a matter of the greatest importance to determine the exact moment when this change took place. The royalists certainly owe us the information of the year, month and day on which it occurred. For, in quite recent times, dynasties have been founded in Sweden and Norway, in Belgium, Servia, Roumania, Greece and Bulgaria. These dynasties claim the grace of God as the source of their power; their subjects acknowledge their right to sovereignty; the dynasties founded centuries ago accept them as their equals; we are thus left in doubt whether these new monarchs obtained their privileges really by the grace of God, or whether they are not bragging of titles and taking possession of privileges upon which they have no just claim. If the Bernadottes, Coburgs, Obrenoviches etc., are reigning by the grace of God, then it is proved that the grace of God is as prompt now, as during the Middle Ages, to confirm might by right, and the royalists must consent to recognize as a legitimate sovereign any socialistic democrat who might by some revolution rise to the summit of power in the German Empire for instance; and pay the same respect to his person and his authority, as they now pay to the German Kaiser. Or, if the reverse is the case, if the grace of God is exhausted like an over-cropped field, then those monarchs of recently created dynasties, are nothing more than swindlers who, by false pretences, deceive the public to their own advantage, a proceeding fully described and provided for in the criminal courts. Then they are impertinent in requiring allegiance from their subjects, and the ancient dynasties become accomplices in the fraud, when they recognize and accept the validity of their claim and admit them to their inner circle.
I hear a protest from the royalists against my arguments. But this protest does not take the shape which a logical mind would expect: viz. that these new dynasties ere invited by the people to assume the reins of government, who thus established their rights and prerogatives voluntarily. The royalists will not acknowledge that the will of the people can make a king, for in that case, the reverse would also be possible, that it could unmake a king and proclaim a republic and that no royalist will admit. No, the protest I hear is different; it says: the men who have founded new dynasties in recent years are off-shoots of ancient royal families who have reigned for centuries; they were born with a certain latent, hereditary, legitimate royal authority, which only waited for favorable opportunity to blossom into a visible crown and its appendages. This can not be asserted with truth the Bernadottes and Obrenoviches, but as it applies to the Belgian Saxe-Coburg, the Grecian Glücksburg, the Roumanian Hohenzollern, and the Bulgarian Hesse, I will accept it and let it pass. Consequently, it is understood and admitted that a legitimate sovereignty is a natural, hereditary quality in certain families; when f royal prince is born he has an innate authority to rule not over any special people, but to rule in general, t vague right to govern, which awaits patiently the appearance of the object, the people or peoples to be governed. A Coburg, a Hohenzollern brings his authority to reign by the grace of God, into the world with him; if the Belgians or Roumanians choose him for their king, they are merely affording him an opportunity to exercise his pre-existing legitimate sovereignty. He is given the grace of God as a medical graduate gets his diploma. With his diploma in his pocket the newly-fledged doctor has the legal right to carry on a practice, but the faculty do not undertake the task of supplying him with patients. And so when a prince is born to some legitimate reigning family, his grace-of-Godness gives him the theoretical authority to govern, but does not supply him necessarily with the country upon which he can exorcise this right.
This idea is imposing and satisfactory. It explains many things that might otherwise have perplexed us. We can understand now how a legitimate king “by the grace of God,” can deprive another legitimate king “by the grace of God,” of throne and country. Enlightened by this idea we see that the annexation of Hanover, Hesse and Nassau by Prussia, and of Naples, Tuscany, Modena and Parma by Sardinia, are no denials of the principles upon which the monarchies of the Hohenzollern and Savoy families are based. The conqueror does not deprive the conquered monarch of his right to govern, his diploma of legitimate sovereignty, he only takes away the country upon which the latter has been exercising his right. He remains still what he was before, a king “by the grace of God,” only he is now a king out of a situation. If he can, he is at liberty to find some other country where he can settle down and rule with undiminished legitimate sovereignty by the grace of God, and if he is successful in finding such a place, his gratitude to the grace of God ought to be exceptionally fervent this time. This distinction between the abstract right to govern and the concrete possession of a country to govern, is a necessary and elementary principle of the monarchical theory. Without this principle, the kings who conquer and annex the countries of other monarchs, would be the rankest revolutionists; without it, they would prove beyond the question of a doubt that their grace-of-Godness is a fraud, even in their own estimation, and they would show their people what they really thought of a legitimate monarch’s claims to hereditary sovereignty, and how to go to work to oust such an one from his position. By the light shed by this principle of the separability of theoretical sovereignty from actual government, we are able to comprehend without difficulty how the house of Brunswick could be ruling England with full and legitimate authority, while the no less legitimate Stuarts were living in exile at St. Germain and Rome, and we can also understand how King Humbert can succeed Victor Emmanuel in Italy “by the grace of God,” while Francis II. of Naples, has been amusing himself in Paris as best he can, for almost a quarter century, “by the grace of God.”
But enough of these absurdities. It is not worth while to waste any time discussing seriously the divine origin of the monarchy, the only foundation upon which it relies at present, even to enter upon such a discussion would be the height of folly. The general familiarity with the historical facts connected with the beginnings of the different dynasties, some of whom originated hardly more than an hour ago, under the eye of some prosaic newspaper reporter, the spectacle occurring more and more frequently, of the deposition of legitimate sovereigns from their God-given positions, the small amount of respect shown by anointed kings to the supernatural rights of their fellow-monarchs—these facts combine to make it even more difficult for a Christian than for an atheist, to believe that the grace of God placed the crowns upon the heads of the potentates of Christendom. The grace of God can not be intermittent! It can not sustain a king one day and abandon him the next! Such ideas are so frivolous that the cherished convictions of a conscientious believer in God rise in rebellion against them. The entire fiction of the grace of God bestowed upon monarchs seems to an enlightened man like one of those old jokes which the soothsayers of ancient Rome used to repeat to each other with a solemn face, but a wink of sly understanding; to the religious man it is a blasphemous farce. Where the former would have the right to smile, the latter would grow indignant.
Let me now drop this discussion of the origin and legitimate authority of the reigning dynasties. I will continue, accepting as truths all that they claim to be true, and assuming the solemn aspect of a conjurer plying his trade. I accept therefore as demonstrated to be the actual fact, that the king is born with the authority to command me; I, the subject, am born with the duty to obey; God has arranged it thus, and, if I resist, I am blasphemously attacking His designs in regard to the universe. Proceeding from this point I find myself at the very next step in the midst of this grand lie of a monarchical form of government. Russia and Turkey are the only countries in Europe with absolute monarchies, and this, as I have mentioned before, is the only logical form of the monarchical institution. All the remaining European countries, except such as are republics, have combined with the monarchical form of government some constitutional forms which are diametrically opposed to it and in perpetual contradiction with it. A limited monarchy condemns every one who takes part in the farce, to an everlasting hypocrisy, and causes them to act a perpetual lie.
In those countries where the Parliament is a truth, and the monarch is only a figure-head, patiently endured, as in England, Belgium and Italy, the laws and decrees proclaim lies, when they are issued as manifestations of the royal will, for they are the results of the. Parliament’s will and take effect whether the king accepts them or not. The Cabinet ministers lie when they make use of the customary phrases; “On behalf of His Majesty we recommend,” “By His Majesty’s command,” “We have the honor to recommend to His Majesty so and so,” for they know, and every one knows, that the king has not recommended or commanded any thing of the kind, and that the “so and so” recommended to him, is usually an established fact before they lay it before him, entirely independent of his wish or decision. Every one knows too, that the monarch is obliged in reality to obey without question the designs and decisions of the Parliament and Cabinet. The king lies in every word of his address to Parliament when it assembles, if he speaks in the first person, for the address is not at all the expression of his own sentiments, but a document whose composition is due entirely to others, who place it, when finished, in his hands, and he reads it as a phonograph repeats the sentences that have been spoken into the receiver. The king lies when he accepts the fiction that the prime minister is the man of his choice, in whom he has the utmost confidence, for he is not at liberty to follow the dictates of his own wishes, but must select and conform himself to the person pointed out to him as the man for the place by the majority of the people’s representatives, although he may detest him in his heart, and vastly prefer some one else. The king lies again when he signs and allows to go forth as the expressions of his will, the documents, appointments, etc., which are brought to him by the Cabinet ministers merely for his signature, and which are sometimes exactly contrary to his genuine wishes and convictions.
This is all reversed in the countries where the monarch retains his ancient privileges conferred upon him by the grace of God, limited only in name by a Parliament which is merely an ornament attached to the ancient absolute monarchy. Germany and Austria have governments of this kind, and in these countries it is the Parliament, not the king, which lies to the people. The monarch demands recognition as the visible agent and representative of the divine will, and lays claim to infallibility of course, as an authorized agent of the infallible Supreme Being; at the same time he concedes in theory some authority to the people to influence his decisions, thus acknowledging their right to criticise, change or set aside any of the decrees of a being installed and inspired by God. By doing this he exposes God to the criticism of mere mortals, and thus commits a crime which he would punish severely in one of his subjects. But this is the case after all, only in theory. In practice the will of the king is as autocratic and powerful as ever and all these constitutional additions to the monarchy are mere shams. The Government lies to the people when it calls upon them to select their representatives; it lies to the Parliament when it lays decrees and measures before it for discussion and approval, for the choice of the people does not confer upon their representatives the power to enforce the will of the people, and the Parliament has no authority or influence to change any of the decisions of the Government.
In those countries where the will of the people is really constitutionally enforced, the position of the monarch is ignominious, but the fiction of his supreme authority is so skillfully concealed, and the external honors and personal advantages and pleasures directly connected with the maintenance of his royal position, are #o numerous and important, that we can understand how men of self-esteem and little sensitiveness, can condescend to assume the role of a puppet whose tongue and limbs are set in motion by the strings pulled by the members of the Cabinet. But in those other countries where the Parliament is a political imposition, the part of the puppet is played by the representatives of the people, and it is much more difficult to understand how men worthy of the name, can find in the petty gratification of their vanity, any compensation for the humiliations which, as members of the legislature or Parliament they are obliged to endure. We can understand how a king in his magnificent palace, in his becoming uniform, in receipt of his splendid allowance, only hearing the most exalted expressions of respect, “gracious Majesty,” “illustrious Highness” and so on, falling like snow-flakes about his ears, surrounded on all sides by luxury and the most exaggerated outward forms of homage, we can understand how he can forget that the will of the people is the actual sovereign, and that his glittering pageant of royalty would vanish entirely if he were to attempt to play the role in earnest. But how can the members of Parliament in a sham limited monarchy consent to make themselves ridiculous by speeches without effect, gestures without purposes and votes without results? This is what we cannot understand. Neither the undisguised contempt of the prime minister nor the calumnies of the press subsidized by the Government, deter them from their task. Can it be that they are sustained by a secret hope that some day the Parliament may become in reality what it now only appears to be? But such a hope or desire is impossible to any one who accepts and believes the fiction of the divine origin of the monarchy.
To any one who despises and condemns the conventional lies and liars of our modern civilization, there can be no more enjoyable spectacle than that afforded by the so-called Liberalist party in the German Reichstag between the horns of that dilemma into which that implacable logician, Prince Bismarck, has driven them, his agents in Parliament and the journalists in his pay keeping the horns of the dilemma constantly before them: either they are rank republicans and are guilty of hypocrisy and perjury when they surpass each other in protestations of loyalty, or else they are sincere in their loyalty to the Emperor, and if so, they must prove it by obedience to his will. This “either—or else” are like hammer and anvil between which the Liberalists are pounded to a jelly that not even a dog would touch. It is intensely amusing to see how these weak-spirited parties in the Reichstag writhe beneath the iron grasp of that pitiless logic. How they long to escape, and yet they cannot! They are devoted to the reigning dynasty, the Emperor has no more attached subjects than they are, a republic would be an abomination of desolation in their opinion, but at the same time, there is the constitution, which His Majesty has condescended to confirm by oath, and with his illustrious permission they would like most submissively, to venture to make use of the privileges so graciously granted, etc. But all this is of no use. The hand at their throats presses them closer and closer against the wall, until they are almost suffocated, while a voice thunders: “Do you acknowledge that the Emperor is commissioned by the Almighty to rule over you? Yes? Then how do you dare to oppose him in the very slightest degree, how do you dare to limit the imperial privileges and authority given by God? Do you doubt the fact that God endowed him with those privileges? Then you are Republicans! There is no middle course. You must be Imperialists or Republicans.”
In fact there is no middle course. An absolute monarchy on one hand, a republic on the other. Any compromise is a fraud and a lie, and a government which calls attention to the dilemma deserves the gratitude of all enlightened minds. But it ventures much in doing so. It lays itself open to the attack of some politician who might say: “If logic is trumps, then the Government is the chief liar and hypocrite. If the will of the Emperor is the will of God, how dare you set up a Parliament that even in appearance seems to limit the imperial will by the will of the people! Either you are convinced that the people are entitled to a voice in the management of the country, which means that you believe in a republic, or else you have not the slightest intention of admitting the right of the people to assist in the government, you intend to do as you please in everything, and the Reichstag to be a nonentity in every way as regards the management of affairs; in this case the entire parliamentary elections, discussions, votes, etc., are a conscious lie. Either Republicans or liars. There is no middle course.”
This is the gigantic lie of a limited monarchy, the fact that an absolute monarchy can only be changed into a limited, constitutional monarchy, by denying the divine origin of the royal authority, thus removing its entire foundation and leaving it suspended in the air like Mahomet’s coffin. During the Middle Ages the authority of the king was often intrenched upon; the nobles rose in insurrection again and again, striving to deprive him of some of his power and prerogatives. But this limitation of the royal authority, these insurrections against the crown were not founded upon any principle that contradicted the divine origin of the royal privileges; they had nothing to do with the sovereignty of the people. The barons acknowledged voluntarily that the king owed his authority to the grace of God, even when they were besieging him in his castle, but they maintained at the same time, that the grace of God had smiled upon them also. This was no denial but merely an ingenious extension of the doctrine of the supernatural authority of those in power. As the monarch asserted that he was king by the grace of God, they declared that they were barons by the grace of God. It was like the monomaniac who imagined that he was God. When another lunatic was brought to the asylum, whose mania took the same form, he began to ridicule the absurdity of the latter’s pretensions. “As if that creature could be God!” he cried. “And why not?” enquired the attendant who thought his first patient was almost cured. “Because there can not be two Gods, of course, and as I am God, he can not be.” Like this monomaniac the nobles intrenched upon the divine prerogatives of the crown, not in the name of reason, but owing to the vagaries of their own imagination. This made the mediæval belief in the divine authority of the king and also in the privileges of the favored classes, not only possible but sincere, while a belief in the sovereignty of the people and also in the sacred origin of the monarchy directly exclude each other.
In addition to its political side, the lie of a monarchy has also its purely human side, against which reason and truth revolt as much as against the former. The fiction of the augustness and supernatural attributes of the monarch humiliates and degrades in their own eyes all those who come into personal contact with him, for they laugh at it in their hearts. The spectacle of the king’s existence has always been a comedy to those who had any share in it. But each one played his part with zeal and apparent conviction of its reality, he never stepped out of his role, and while on the stage, he took every possible pains to present the spectators, from whom he was separated by the fiery barrier of the footlights, with a poetic delusion, which he never allowed to fade, and only the few confidants who were admitted through the small stage-entrance, were allowed to see that the magnificent palaces of the scenery were nothing but old canvas, that the jewels and the gold embroideries on the royal vestments were only paste and tinsel, and that the hero, between two grandly heroic declamations, whispers to some one behind the scenes his longing for a glass of beer. But the modern actors in this comedy are continually forgetting their roles, and ridiculing them, ridiculing themselves and the honorable public.
They are like the honest amateurs in “Midsummer Night’s Dream” discussing their programme: “Nay, you must name his name, and half his face must be seen though the lion’s neck; and he himself must speak through, saying thus, or to the same defect,—Ladies, or fair ladies, I would wish you, or, I would request you, or I would entreat you, not to fear, not to tremble: my life for yours. If you think I come hither as a lion, it were pity of my life: No, I am no such thing; I am a man as other men are: and there indeed, let him name his name; and tell them plainly he is Snug the joiner.”
The royal palace, a sacred place in the good old days of the monarchy, into which the common mortal only entered with awe and trembling, now stands open to the reporter. All its scandals, all its criminalities and absurdities are discussed on the street. The most insignificant subject is acquainted with the secret vices of the king, the diseases of the prince, the mistresses of this monarch, the flirtations of that princess, he knows that his king or his emperor gambles at the Exchange, that he is an idiot, he knows all about the king’s ignorance, his badly spelled letters are ridiculed and his foolish sayings quoted—and yet the subject prostrates himself in the dust before him, never mentions him publicly except in terms of the most extravagant loyalty, and takes especial credit to himself if he can lick the dust from the august feet more zealously than his neighbor. What a spectacle for an unprejudiced and enlightened looker-on! What a source of perpetual disgust at the nature of civilized man with its inherited instincts of a gregarious animal! The famous artist who has just completed some immortal master-piece, longs for no higher crown of honor than a visit from the king; from the excitement and exaltation of grand conceptions and realization, his mind sinks to the gratification of his childish vanity by the hoped for visit from his sovereign. He is perhaps a Beethoven, a Rembrandt, a Michael Angelo; he will be known and admired when nothing remains of the king but a line in the interminable list of kings’ names, which forms the superfluous appendix to the history of the world; he has a complete consciousness of his own ability; he knows that the king will not appreciate his music, his painting, nor his statue, that the king’s eye is dull, his ear deaf, and his heart dead to all beauty and harmony, that his criticism is absurd, that as far as regards esthetic cultivation he is about on a par with any street-sweeper—and yet the artist’s heart throbs with joy when he sees the king’s absent, leaden glance turned upon his work, or watches him as he listens sleepily to his music. The scientist, who has just conquered some new truth for mankind by his intellectual efforts and enlarged the mental horizon of his race, is so ambitious as to set his heart upon decking himself in some fool’s jacket, of official style, and appearing thus before the king, to say a few words to him in regard to his world-stirring invention or discovery, it may be something connected with the unity of forces, spectral analysis or the telephone; he knows that the king is incapable of understanding him, that his Majesty can not take the slightest interest in a subject so entirely beyond his comprehension and that he looks down upon science and everything connected with it, with the arrogance of a barbarian, that he prefers a well-grown corporal in his body-guard to all the scientists in creation; he knows also that he has only a few minutes in which he can hurry through what he has to say, embarrassed and stammering, while the king is thinking of other things and allows his face to reveal clearly what a bore he finds such duties, forced upon him by his exalted position, and yet the scientist crawls to the palace, weighed to the ground with these humiliating conditions, and takes his position contentedly behind some diplomate who wishes to announce his arrival in the capital, and in front of some petty officer who comes to the palace to express his gratitude for a decoration. How many poets and authors beg for permission to dedicate their works to the king, knowing perfectly well beforehand, that the book will be placed unread in the back of some library shelf, where genealogical almanacs, plates, diagrams and works on titles and heraldry fill up the front row.
The hereditary aristocracy is naturally more humble, more reverent to the king—if such a thing be possible—than the aristocracy of intellect. This hereditary aristocracy which surrounds the king constantly, which sees the night-cap under the crown, the flannel under the purple mantle, which is the author of all the stories and caricatures about the royal family, which ridicules his weaknesses, and acquaints the people with his vices, this aristocracy has notwithstanding all this, no higher ambition than to creep or flatter its way into the favor of the king, whether he is a Louis XV. or a Philip IV. It condescends to any dirty trick that will turn the royal glance upon it; it sells to him its wives and daughters; it accepts that disgraceful motto: “the blood of the king does not tarnish.” An aristocrat who is too proud to even look at or address his own servant directly, works hard for the privilege of being the king’s servant, and on certain occasions to wash his hands, bring his food, fill his glass, run his errands, and perform all the menial services of a waiter, lackey and messenger-boy, even if they are only symbolical. It is a well-known anecdote, but not therefore necessarily true, that Peter the Great when on a visit to Denmark, wishing to convince the king of the implicit obedience paid him by his subjects, commanded a cossack in his suite to leap from the top of a high tower. The cossack crossed himself and sprang into the air without a moment’s hesitation. There is not any doubt that the majority of courtiers, even at the present day, would respond in the same way to a similar test. Why? From heroism? These same heroes would never run the risk of catching cold by attempting to save a drowning man. From the hope of reward hereafter? This hope may have made the sacrifice of his life easier to Peter the Great’s cossack, but the aristocrats of these days are in many cases the disciples of Voltaire, and think far less of the joys of paradise than of those lying within their grasp which this earthly vale of tears has to offer them. I can not explain this wonderful phenomenon of a devotion and veneration, capable even of self-destruction, for an individual who perhaps is not distinguished by any intellectual, physical or natural attractions, and who is perhaps of an exceedingly repugnant and despicable temperament. Münchausen relates a hunting adventure: he went hunting one day with a female hound, big with young, when he started up a hare, also big with young; his hound pursued her out of sight, and when he came up with them he saw to hip astonishment, seven little hares running along with the mother-hare, and seven little hounds chafing them with the mother-hound; both of the animals had been delivered of their young on the way, And each one of the latter had at once taken their places in the chase. Something similar seems to take place between a monarch and his subjects. The subject is from the moment of his birth, devoted to the king for life and death, as the little hounds from the moment of their birth began to chase the hares. I mean this seriously, although I express it rather lightly. Only the phenomenon of atavism can account for this loyalty to a monarch surpassing the sentiment of self-respect, dignity as a man and even the instinct of self-preservation. It is evidently a return t prehistoric ideas, an indistinct trace of habits inherited without interruption for thousands of generations, when men experience or pretend to experience, an affection for an individual that they do not know personally, perhaps have never seen, who certainly will never reciprocate their sentiments, and when they let this affection surpass that which they feel for their own families or even for their own selves.
It is certainly one of the most deeply rooted characteristics of man’s nature to prostrate himself in the dust before any one whom the multitude has acknowledged and set up as pre-eminent. I say: whom the multitude has set up as pre-eminent, not: who is by nature pre-eminent. Man as an animal, was born to live in herds, and has all the instincts of a gregarious animal. The principal one of these instincts is the habit of subordination to a leader. But he only is leader who is accepted and endured as such by the entire herd. Only a small group of enlightened minds are able to judge a personality by its inherent qualities; the majority of mankind judges it by the effects of those qualities on others. A cultivated intellect examines and tests the individual, uninfluenced by his relations with other men; the man of the masses asks only for the position and situation accorded him by the world, and experiences an irresistible compulsion to accept as his own the views of the majority. This explains why every famous man, even if he is only well-known, or sometimes merely notorious, meets with an attention and devotion which are refused to the man of real worth who, indifferent to the world and its popularity, has lived in contemplative solitude. It is not necessary to be a king, to be surrounded by a court. Notoriety alone is sufficient. Actors, conjurors and circus clowns have their courtiers. There are people who force their way to notorious criminals and boast of their intercourse with them. Acts of self-abasement are being daily performed before Victor Hugo, which surpass any thing of the kind in the court of the Czar of all the Russias or of a Grand Mogul. His admirers are filled with ecstasy at every word he speaks, at the utterances of an intellect enfeebled by age, almost approaching imbecility. They crowd to kiss his hand. They reverence and admire his old mistress and esteem it an honor to follow her funeral to the grave. They extend the worship of the ancient poet to his grandchildren, of whom we know nothing except that they are exceptionally spoiled and affected children, victims even in these early years of a mania of greatness. What is it which causes men to commit such follies? What was it that surrounded Beau Brummel and Cartouche with a court like that of any great artist or scientist? The answer lies close at hand and has been often given: Vanity; but it is a superficial answer. Wherein does the gratification to one’s vanity lie, in belonging to the crowd surrounding some famous personage? What pleasure can there be in hustling around in the throng paying court to some well-known man? It lies in the fact that by so doing man is gratifying his instinct as a herding animal, the instinct of subordination to a leader. Snobbishness has an anthropological foundation, and this fact Thackeray forgot when he entered the lists to do battle with it, inspired by such bitter hatred. But loyalty, in the sense in which royalists understand the term, is the highest and most perfect manifestation of snobbishness.
It will be seen that I am trying to find ameliorating circumstances for Byzantinism. I would very much like to convince myself of the genuineness of the sentiments towards kings and princes, which so many people parade. 1 am ready to admit that the Russian peasant is not playing the hypocrite when he kisses the hem of the Czar’s garment, and that the German soldier is not lying when he declares that to die for his Emperor would be the highest happiness that could befall him. But anthropology and atavism and heredity, all the fine words which I have called upon to aid me in defending the loyalty of the ignorant and uncultivated, all these leave me in the lurch when I come to the Byzantinism of cultured and enlightened minds. Their Byzantinism is and remains, a conscious lie. It has no root in the character. It is a farce in which each one is working for pay; some for offices and wealth; others for titles and decorations, a third for some political reason, because the monarchy seems to him necessary, for the moment, to the welfare of the people, or for the interests of his caste,—all are working for an immediate or indirect personal advantage. And this is what makes the lie of the monarchy so much more repulsive than the lie of Religion. The enlightened man who bends the knee in church and murmurs prayers, does it from mental indolence or indifference, or from a cowardly acquiescence in custom; even if he is a hypocrite, and is trying to win the favor of the priests and their powerful influence by his counterfeit piety, he only humiliates himself before a symbol and does not kiss the hand from which he expects the reward. But the sycophantic courtier, the citizen illuminating and decorating his house with garlands of flowers, the poet composing odes in honor of royal marriages and the births of princes, they are all only working for the pay which they will presently receive, and are in no respect superior to the demi-mondaine, intent only upon coining money with her smiles.
Many persons who consider a king as a human being like all the rest, only more insignificant and less talented, who laugh at the preordained divine mission of the reigning dynasties, and admit that they are acting a lie when they testify to their submission, reverence and love of their monarchs and the royal families, are constantly trying to excuse their falsehood and lack of fidelity to their convictions, by maintaining that the accepted fraud of royalty is a harmless deception.
The monarchy, at least in honestly constitutional countries, is merely a bit of theatre scenery. The king has really less authority than the President of the United States of North America. England, Belgium and Italy are in reality republics with kings for the figureheads, and the inherited external forms of submission by which the crown is surrounded are mostly matters of habit, and prevent in no way the free action of the will of the people, and of the will of the people alone. This is a grave mistake which will prove fatal in many cases to the destinies of nations.
The power of the king is still immense; their influence even in such countries as Belgium and Roumania, England and Norway, is all-powerful, even if it does not affect directly the form of government, but acts with and through it. We have the moist reliable testimony of this fact. The right honorable Mr. Gladstone, who is certainly competent authority, expressed his opinion most significantly on the influence of kings in an early number of the Nineteenth Century. Certain publications of recent times throw sufficient light upon this subject, especially Martin’s Life of the. Prince Consort, with the correspondence between Prince Albert and Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, afterwards King and Emperor, and the relations between Napoleon III. and the English Court, Baron Stockmar’s Notes and Reminiscences, and many reliable portions of Schneider’s and Meding’s Memoirs. We learn from them how the web-work of intimate relations between the different sovereigns is spun over the heads of peoples, Parliaments and ministers; how the kings consult with and advise each other direct; how they pass judgment on every political occurrence from the point of view of the interests of their dynasties; how they turn a solid and united front to the movements tending to arouse the people to a recognition of their strength and rights, and how they allow themselves to be influenced by petty whims, by personal friendships and dislikes, in the most important decisions, involving the destinies of millions. Public orators, abound in phrases, the representatives of the people declaim in Parliament; the Cabinet ministers make public the result of their discussions with solemn gravity; they are all convinced that they alone have the power to guide the destiny of the nation; but in the mean while the king is smiling contemptuously and writing confidential notes to his royal friends across the border, concluding with them informally, all sorts of alliances and exclusions, wars and treaties of peace, conquests and renunciations, limitations and concessions to freedom, and when the plan is all decided upon, it is carried out, the Parliaments can say what they please.
They experience no difficulty in finding plenty of tools to do their work in the correct, constitutional way; a hundred where they need but one, are at their disposal, and in case of necessity it does not require very much of an effort to change the currents of public opinion. Thus it happens that the sovereigns who are supposed to fill only an ornamental position in the state, limited by the constitution to a mere existence without any political significance, are the ones who cast the deciding votes in matters of state, at the present time as well as during the Middle Ages, at the present time even more than ever before, for never was the combination between the monarchs of Europe as firm as today, never before did they form such a solidarity, and never before were their natural supporters, the aristocracy and the clergy, so devoted to their authority as today. The cowardliness of men who accept the conventional lie of a monarchical form of government, against their convictions, reason and comprehension of the universe, is revenged upon them, or rather upon human progress. The sly pseudo Liberalists who think they are deceiving the king by awarding him external honors and privileges, when according to their opinion, the actual power does hot go with them, are in reality, the dupes of the king who skillfully adapts himself to their views, but manages to get control of the real authority, so that the sham is after all not the monarchy, but the legislative representation of the people.
The relation between the monarchy and the aristocracy is similar to that between Religion and the monarchy. As Religion can exist without a monarchy, but the monarchy not without Religion, an aristocracy without a monarchy is possible, but a monarchy without an aristocracy could not last at all. There are some kingdoms without an hereditary nobility — such as Greece, Roumania, and Servia — others, like Norway and Brazil, have abolished it. But these are artificial formations, without a future. Either these monarchical states will depose the royal family to the ranks of the nobility and change the form of the government to a republic, or else the next or at least the second generation, will produce an hereditary aristocracy which may not have any legal position or titles, but will have privileges all the more substantial on this account. An hereditary monarchy has a natural impulse to surround itself with hereditary attachments. We know that many kinds of insects provide for their young by depositing their eggs near or in the middle of the substance which is to be the food of the young caterpillars, so that they find the table all spread for them when they emerge from the egg. In the same way every king wants to surround his heir even in the cradle, with a loyalty and submission which he could not obtain without help, and these sentiments he expects to find in the gratitude of a certain number of families whom he or his predecessors, have heaped with honors and wealth. This precautionary confidence of the monarchs is often deceived; in the moment of danger to their nearest personal interests, the living generations of aristocrats are apt to forget the debt of gratitude bequeathed to them by their ancestors along with their possessions and privileges, and abandon the prince to his adverse fate, who ought to find his safety in the dearly bought and paid for fidelity of the aristocracy. It would be a useless task to recall all the examples of such ingratitude recorded in history; it will be sufficient to mention the attitude of the English nobility towards William of Orange and George I., the relations between the legitimate aristocracy of France and the two Napoleons and Louis Philippe, and between the Napoleonic nobility and the reinstated Bourbon dynasty. But kings cling nevertheless to this untrustworthy pledge of the future, and lull themselves into a deceptive dream of security when they see themselves surrounded by a numerous set of nobles, as the soldier on the field of battle seeks shelter behind some cover which he knows at the same time, would oppose but little more resistance to the enemy’s bullet than the air alone.
A strange spectacle, arousing astonishment and indignation, incredulity and ridicule, this mediæval comedy in the very midst of our modern civilization! One class of human beings assumes the airs of ancient Egyptian or Indian caste, in the midst of our Caucasian humanity. It lays claim to titles which once signified certain offices, but today have no sense whatever. It paints, engraves and carves upon its carriages, residences and seals, unreasonable and absurd pictures, representing battle-shields, such as have not been used for several centuries, whose obstinate perpetuation affects us like the behavior of a man who should insist upon carrying a flint and steel around with him to strike a light, or one who should tattoo his face after the manner of the ancient Celts. Why should we not laugh when somebody calls himself a duke, which signifies a leader, a commander of the army, when he is some little dude, who has never led anything but a German, or when another boasts of his noble birth, and considers himself an important personage in the nation, when at the same time he is a humpback, with scrofulous tendencies perhaps, and intellectually below the level of any one of his own servants? Our civilization contains hardly any more absurd relic of ancient days than an aristocracy whose only claim to distinction is in empty titles and coats of arms.
I am far from asserting that equality of positions would be a more reasonable formation of society. Equality is a chimera of book-worms and visionaries who have never studied nature and humanity with their own eyes. The French Revolution thought it had condensed the thoughts of encyclopedists when it announced its motto to be: “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité”. Liberty? Correct. If this word has any meaning at all, it can only be that the obstacles have been removed which had hindered or entirely prevented the free play of the natural powers of the individual and of society, obstacles usually in the form of laws which owed their existence to the superstition and folly of short-sighted men. Fraternity? Oh, this is a sublime word, the ideal goal of human progress, a presage of the condition of our race at the time when it attains to the summit of its fullest development, a time still very remote. But equality? That is a mere creature of the imagination for which there is no room in any sensible discussion. In justice to the period preceding the French Revolution it must be said that it never discussed and proclaimed social equality, but merely personal equality before the laws. But the authors and leaders of the great Revolution did not publish this distinction; they sought for a striking and an appealing word, and in their famous motto, sacrificed accuracy to brevity. Thus “Egalité”, without any modifying term, appeared in the triad of the revolutionary programme, and the multitudes, who are apt to repeat party cries without reflection, adopted the term as meaning equality in the sense in which it is accepted by the democrats of the Parisian beer tunnels. Equality even before the laws, is possible only in theory, in reality it is impracticable. It is true that if a machine administered the laws they would be carried out with mechanical exactness, without prejudice or partiality, but when a living human being undertakes the task, inequality is unavoidable; the most conscientious judge, armed at all points against external influence, is yet unconsciously to himself, biased by the personal appearance, the voice, the intelligence, the cultivation and the social position of the parties before him, and the point of the law wavers and turns from favor to severity in his hands, as the magnetic needle is turned by the electric current. This source of error in the enforcement of the laws can be reduced to its minimum, but never entirely done away with.
Equality before the laws is difficult, but social equality is absolutely inconceivable. It stands in opposition to all the laws of life and development that govern the organic world. We, who stand upon the firm foundation of the scientific view of the world, we recognize in this very inequality between living beings the impulse towards all development and perfection. The struggle for existence, that inexhaustible source of the beautiful variety and wealth of form and appearance in nature, is nothing else than a perpetual demonstration of inequality. A better equipped being makes his superiority felt by his fellows, he deprives them of part of their share of the repast spread before them by nature, and prevents the possibility of the full display of their individuality, in order to attain more space for the manifestation of his own. The oppressed inferiors revolt, the oppressor overpowers them. In this struggle the powers of the weak grow stronger and the faculties of the strong attain to their highest possibilities. The appearance of any especially endowed individual in the species, is, in this way, a benefit to the entire race, advancing it one or more steps. The most imperfect individuals are destroyed in this struggle for the first place, and vanish. The average type becomes continually nobler and better. The generation of today, taken as a whole, stands where the exceptionally endowed beings stood in the last generation, and the generation of tomorrow will aspire to the rank of the leaders of today. It is an endless progression, always forward. The masses are trying to raise themselves to the level of the distinguished men and the latter are pushing forward to maintain the inequality now existing between them and the masses, and even to increase it. Continual exertion of the various faculties, untiring effort on both sides, and the result, a constant progress towards the realization of the ideal. The superior men call the struggle made by those beneath them to attain to their level, envy; the inferior call the efforts made by the superior to maintain their supremacy, pride. But these are only manifestations of that natural property of matter, inertia, which causes it to consider every effort, even if it be necessary and salutary, as unpleasant for the moment, and the apparent discontent with the compulsion to effort, can never be accepted as a proof against its usefulness.
Inequality is therefore a law of nature, and upon this fact an aristocracy founds its rightfulness. That the aristocratic position should be inherited, is also a claim which our reason can not dispute. If there is one observation whose truth can not be doubted, it is that the qualities of the individual are inherited by the offspring. If the father was fine-looking, strong, courageous, healthy, the probabilities are that the son can congratulate himself upon the possession of the same qualities, and if the former had through these qualities won his way to a distinguished station in society, there is no reason why the inheritors of his blood should not maintain it. It might be better however, for them and society, if they were obliged to fight their way up to the coveted positions and win them anew for the family; this would prevent any deterioration and retrogression in them; the chances are that even in a free-for-all race, the sons of superior men would form the majority of the victors.
An hereditary aristocracy is not only natural, it has moreover its advantages for the common welfare. In a democracy founded upon the mistaken equality of the French Revolution as its ideal, only men of a ripe age could attain to the positions in which they could first begin to exercise an influence upon the development of the people. Only in cases of the rarest occurrence would young men succeed in finding opportunities to be victorious over their rivals, and rise to the positions of legislator, party-leader, secretary and president. Such examples as the generals of the first French republic, the Bonapartes, Washingtons, Gambettas, prove nothing against my assertion. They rose to the summit of the nation in consequence of sudden revolutions. Their unexpected elevation was not due to general capability, but in the first place, to the chance that they happened to be close at hand ready to fill the positions, when the positions were ready to be filled, and in the second place, to the forbearance of their numerous and authorized rivals who would not stoop to use force to get the power into their hands at such moments of confusion. Revolutions can promote young men to the first places it is true. But revolutions are exceptional cases, occurrences which will not continue repeating themselves for ever. They are not the normal evolution of a democracy. When it has finally settled down into established forms, and is living according to rule under its natural conditions, then it has no room for the meteoric career of a Washington, Bonaparte or Gambetta. But it is of the greatest importance for the progress of humanity, to have young men take now and then a prominent part in the discussions for and against matters concerning the State. Old men are not accessible to new ideas, and have not the energy and capability necessary to grasp new principles. The physiological law according to which nerve sensations have the tendency to travel along the most accustomed paths, and only enter upon new ones with difficulty, is most important in its application here. It reveals to us the fact that an old man has become an automaton whose entire organic functions are ruled by habit, and whose thought and sensations are hardly more than reflex activity, in which the intervention of the consciousness is hardly necessary. How can we expect then novel forms of effort from these stiff, old organisms? How can we compel their trains of thought to leave the smooth, easy, accustomed track and go bumping along over newly broken ground? Where a youthful intellect has only to grasp the new idea, the old intellect has first to do the same, that is, comprehend the new thought, and secondly to conquer the tendency in his mind to formulate the idea in question in his old, accustomed way. He is thus required to make a twofold effort, and his powers far from being stronger than those of the young man are considerably weaker. This is the physiological explanation of the so called ossification of old people. They find it too much trouble to escape from the habits into which they have fallen; their central nervous system also, is often incapable of generating impulses of sufficient energy to conquer the resistance of the nerve sensations to enter upon untried paths. Consequently a community governed by elderly men degenerates into mere routine, and has the inherent tendency to become a museum of ancient traditions. But new ideas meet with a cordial welcome where young men are at the helm, making and administering the laws. All innovations are quickly accepted and the established customs have to prove at all times their title to superior excellence, or be swept away, for there is no body-guard of habit to protect them. The inexperience and rapidity of decision of young leaders are the disadvantages accompanying their youthful energy, but they can never do very much harm, on account of the fact that the machinery of the State is so complicated that it is a long way from the mental initiative to its actual realization, and the number of wheels which have to be set in motion, use up the energy of the first impulse, so that the final result is only a very small portion of the original force. Only by means of an established, hereditary aristocracy is it possible in normal times, for a number of talented men to attain to positions of trust and responsibility at the very blossoming-time of their life. For the aristocrat has over the obscure mass of the nameless multitude, the advantage of notoriety, which he finds in his cradle when he is born, while the unknown son of the people is usually obliged to devote the best years of his life to the task of winning it by a grievous waste of vital energies and deterioration of character. In the natural course of events the position won by the plebeian as the result of his life struggle, is the same as that where the patrician begins his career, and consequently the latter enters upon the fulfillment of its duties with all his youth and energy unimpaired, while the former has lost all his in the effort to get there.
Still another advantage to the commonwealth is derived from the existence of an hereditary aristocracy. The possession of an illustrious and honored name is usually a guarantee that the person to whom it belongs will have a surer and more correct comprehension of duty and a higher ideal of humanity, than an individual of a more obscure origin. Of course this universal rule can not be applied to all cases. A prince or duke of the most ancient pedigree may be a scamp, and the son of a day-laborer, or even some foundling picked up in a city gutter, may be the most brilliant example of dignity of character and self-abnegating heroism ever seen. But the former case is the exception and of the latter I know nothing as long as it is not proved. Suppose there is a position vacant that will require in its incumbent courage, reliability and fidelity to duty. I, with my fellow-citizens, am called upon to elect him. Several candidates present themselves, but I know none personally; one is a descendant of an aristocratic family, the other bears a name which I hear now for the first time. If I in such a case, follow the dictates of a superficial democracy, I shall cast my vote for the plebeian, about whom 1 know nothing, simply to manifest my adherence to the principle of equality; but if on the contrary, the interests of the community are really dear to me, if I am conscientiously anxious to increase at least the probability that the public welfare is entrusted to clean and powerful hands, then I shall vote for the aristocrat. I am not acquainted with him, it is true, but between the two unknown candidates) he is the one who has the strongest reasons for being faithful to his post; the chances are in his favor. Why? Not on account of the usual stereotyped reply: because he has received a better education, and the principles of chivalry were instilled into him at an early age. This is a reply that leaves us too often in the lurch. Aristocratic birth is no guarantee of a good moral training; every one knows examples of princes who grew up amid most deplorable surroundings and became in time not only liars, cowards and cheats, but common thieves or fine thieves, if it makes stealing any finer to steal jewels instead of cotton handkerchiefs. No, the guarantee of a higher moral level in the aristocrat does not lie in his training or education, but in his pride of family, we might call it ancestral self-conceit.
He identifies himself and his fortunes with his family to an extraordinary degree, and merges his own individuality into the higher individuality of his house, more than is possible with the plebeian. The latter is himself, otherwise nothing, hence an entity; the former is the representative of an entire family. He knows that his actions will reflect a lustre upon all the bearers of his name, as their actions and honors are reflected upon him. A member of the aristocracy is a collective individual, in whom the ancestors, contemporary members and future descendants of the family are united, and the securities which he offers are theoretically, and until proof of the contrary is given, in the same proportion to the securities offered by the nameless candidate as the strength of an union of men is to the strength of one. Even if he is personally a coward and a man of low tastes, he will feel himself spurred on to heroic efforts on certain occasions, simply because he bears an historic name, and says to himself: “Even if I fail and go down, my heroism will not have been in vain — the honor of it will be credited to my family, to the men of my blood; I will thus be adding to the lustre of my name, and increasing the positive possessions of my heirs.” The average Smith or Jones has nothing of this incentive to heroism. His self-sacrifice could not benefit any special persons, and the welfare of the people is a thought rather beyond the comprehension and self-application of a common mind in moments of danger. It is true that the masses also obey an absolute command. History presents us with abundant testimony of this fact. On the field of battle, Smith and Jones do their duty as gallantly as any Howard or Montmorency. But in the present condition of the development of mankind, it seems to me that the abstract generality of the categorical imperative forms a less firm a priori foundation for my confidence than the palpable interests of a noble family. Especially in those cases where it is a question of sacrificing their lives for the State. That powerful longing for continued individual existence, which T discussed in a preceding chapter, renders the sacrifice of life far more easy to a patrician than it can possibly be to a plebeian. The former is sure of immortality; the latter has usually the consciousness that no cock will crow his name, his heroism to the world, after he is gone. The hero has at the best, only a moment of conscious self-satisfaction before he is thrown into the ditch with the masses; the man of rank during that moment is filled with enthusiasm as he dwells upon the certainty that he will have a noble memorial tablet and an imposing monument in the consecrated ground of history, erected to the memory of his heroism.
I have a firm hope that the recognition of the fellowship of the human race will gradually increase. The most enlightened men have always had a very clear comprehension of it, and as occasion offered, they accepted martyrdom without hesitation for the future welfare of the human race. But, in general, we are still stuck fast in individual isolation and egotism. Only very slowly are our limited perceptions of our immediate interests widening into a comprehension of the identity of the interests of people, species and race, and humanity must make a grand forward stride before the common man will perform an act of greatness, which requires the sacrifice of life, for the reason that he has come to look upon the advantage to the community which would result from it, as a personal advantage to himself, as the man of high rank would have the feeling that he was promoting his own personal interests, when he was bequeathing to his family the memory of an heroic deed. It is therefore of great importance for the State to possess a class of whom it is known with certainty, that it has reasons for placing the fulfillment of duty above life itself. Then in moments of danger the volunteers in the front ranks can be depended upon. Then there will always be some Winkelrieds on hand, ready to sacrifice themselves for the common good, with open eyes, conscious of their purpose and fully aware of the inevitable results.
These advantages of an hereditary aristocracy are counterbalanced by certain disadvantages it is true; this is unavoidable in human affairs. In the first place it can be said that it exerts a beneficial influence only upon the character, not upon the intellect of the people. Promoting intellectual activity, broadening the views of the masses and elevating the level of average intelligence — these are tasks which ought not to be expected from an hereditary aristocracy. The privileged class can be corporeally more finely developed than the masses, because it has better food and lives under conditions more favorable to health, and this physical superiority gained by these conducive circumstances is increased and perpetuated until it becomes a characteristic of the race, and is indelibly fixed upon the offspring. But in the matter of intellect, it will never take the lead, because mental superiority can not be inherited, and, as regards talent, every one must be literally his own ancestor, the architect of his mental fortune. This is a strange fact which has not been sufficiently dwelt upon as yet. Genius and even rare talents, are entirely distinct from genealogy. They have no lineage. They are and remain individual; they appear suddenly and disappear as suddenly in a family; I am not aware of a single case where they have been inherited by the children according to the laws regarding physical traits, in an increased or even equal measure. More than this: men of unusual talents seldom leave any offspring, and when they have children, they are weakly and less vigorous in every way than the average of mankind. We seem to see in this fact the operation of a mysterious law of nature which evidently wishes to prevent the development of beings of too marked a superiority as regards intellectual endowments, in a single species.
Consider what the consequences would be if genius could be inherited like physical beauty, muscular development and a fine figure. There would then be living in the world a small class of Shakespeares, Goethes, Schillers Byrons, Moliêres,—between this class and the great multitude there would be an enormous space; and the difference between them would be constantly growing greater. This small group could not endure the ordinary conditions of existence and would either attempt to have certain special laws enacted for their benefit, thus forming a small state incomprehensible to the masses within the State, or else they would have the common laws adapted to their necessities, which would be ruinous to the people at large, as much so as if they were compelled to live in and breathe an atmosphere of pure oxygen. The higher intelligence always conquers the lower, even if the latter is combined with far superior bodily strength. Where a mentally more developed race comes in conflict with one less developed, the latter invariably succumbs. Perhaps an aristocracy of genius even if small in numbers, would have the same influence upon the people as the whites have upon the red-skins and negroes. But such an aristocracy will never appear in this world. Genius expends so much vital energy in its ordinary activity, that none is left for the propagation of the species. What a strange division of labor there is in the human race! Common men have the task of looking after the material preservation and perpetuation of their race, while to the men of rare talents is entrusted only the work of promoting the intellectual development of the race, as occasion offers. A man can not beget both thoughts and children. Genius is like the centifolious rose, whose vital energies are all concentrated in the blossom, which thus becomes the ideal type of its species, but in this evolution the power of reproducing its kind is lost. Goethe, Walter Scott, Macaulay and Tennyson may be raised to the peerage, but their descendants if they happen to have any, will never represent in aristocratic circles the intellectual giants of the people from which they sprang. And even when a nobleman born, like Byron for instance, has the gift of genius, this does not prove that it was the prerogative of his rank.
Thus we see that the finest intelligences of a nation are not to be found in its hereditary aristocracy, which as members of a caste, are only superior to the rest of the nation by their qualities of body and character. In consequence of this fact it is to their interest to rate these qualities higher than those which they do not possess. They set up an ideal before the man and the citizen, which does not depend for its brilliancy upon intellectual endowments, and where their influence preponderates, intelligence can not count upon being accorded the rank to which it considers itself justly entitled. A second disadvantage of an hereditary aristocracy in a nation, is that its existence leads unavoidably to violations of the right of single citizens. It deprives many of them of their just share of air and sunshine. It has one advantage over the plebeian which increases the obstacles in the upward path of the latter, sometimes closing it entirely. All the laws which assert the equality of the citizens without regard to birth, are powerless in the matter: the conditions being equal between two rival candidates, the one of aristocratic birth will obtain the coveted position, and often in spite of the fact that he is known to be inferior in endowments to the other. And it can not be otherwise. Absolute justice is a theoretical conception which can not be materialized. Justice as we realize it, is the diagonal of a parallelogram whose sides are might and the ideal of right. The constitution of society imposes upon us all certain limitations, and the more favorable station of the aristocrat on the battle field of life is one of them. We must bear it with the rest. We can make the attempt to force our way to the front ranks, and if our shoulders and elbows are strong enough we can succeed. If we have not these natural advantages then our complaints of the privileges of the higher classes are about equal to the kid’s complaint of the rudeness of the lion who is about to devour her.
If we view the world from the standpoint of natural science, and admit that the universal laws regulating the organic world are also the fundamental and governing principles of human social life, then we can not hesitate to acknowledge that the institution of an hereditary aristocracy is not only natural, but in some respects even useful in a nation. Whatever philosophical speculation which does not take account of actual facts, may have to say against the existence of a privileged class, it is absolutely certain that such a class is sure to arise wherever more than two human beings combine into a permanent union of interests. The example of all communities founded originally upon the basis of absolute equality, is before us to convince us of this fact. The great republic of North America is theoretically a perfect democracy. But practicably, the slave-owners of the southern states formed an hereditary aristocracy with all its specific instincts and attributes, in the eastern states the descendants of the first Puritan pilgrims and of the early colonists from Holland lay claim to an exclusiveness and social privileges, which they deny to the thousands who came over later and their descendants, and the great financial pirates, who have amassed their wealth by making use of the most objectionable stratagems and influence, have established regular hereditary dynasties, whose members are not only in social life the models for the imitation of the crowd, but interfere in the destinies of the community and of the state with very genuine power. The instinct for equality seems to be exceptionally powerful in the French people. And yet it did not prevent them from erecting a new institution of nobility on the ruins of the old, which does not boast of titles and coats of arms perhaps, but possesses all the substantial attributes of an aristocracy, and whose ancestors—oh, irony of history!—were precisely those most fanatical equality enthusiasts of the great Revolution. I am not referring to the imperial aristocracy formed by Napoleon upon the model of the historical nobility, from the numbers of the regicides, but to those families which have inherited political influence and wealth since the days of the great Revolution, because their ancestors played more or less important roles at that time. If we examine the list of names of those who have, as ministers, senators, representatives and high public officials, governed France during the last four generations, we will find that certain names constantly reappear. The Carnots, Cambons, Andrieux, Brissons, Bessons, Periers, Aragos, etc., have founded powerful dynasties of politicians, and any one who is acquainted with the contemporaneous bearers of these name, will acquiesce in my assertion that they did not owe their first political positions to their own abilities, but to their names. The Ottoman Empire also has a strictly democratic constitution and with the exception of the Osman dynasty, and the disregarded descendants of the Prophet, is without an hereditary nobility. Every day common workmen, or barbers, become pashas, and the caprice of the Sultan, who alone has the right to distribute titles and honors, never enquires into the lineage of the favorite. And yet the country as a general thing, i governed by the sons of these parvenus, the effendis, and although the pasha can not bequeathe his title to his spring, yet he can usually manage to invest him with part of his authority. Nepotism is the very last root of hereditary privileges, which still remains alive, when the democratic hoe has chopped out all the others. It is human nature to favor one’s own son or the son of one’s friend, instead of strangers, no matter what the merits of the latter may be! The son-in-law of the professor gets the grand scientific title instead of his rival who did not choose a wife with his foresight, the diplomatic career is easily attainable by the son of the Cabinet minister, and all the youthful scions who played about the drawing-rooms and halls of their distinguished fathers’ residences, form a ring, a closed phalanx, which the outsider has great difficulty in breaking through, and he who stands nearest to the dish dips his spoon into it first and oftenest.
I have conceded that an aristocracy is a natural and therefore unavoidable and necessarily permanent institution of humanity and do not oppose the hereditary honors and privileges which are accorded to it; but only upon one condition: that the aristocracy really consist of the best and most highly qualified human material in the nation. If a caste of nobility can show an anthropological foundation for its pretensions, then its existence is justified. It must have been formed originally out of a group of selected human beings, whose natural advantages were perpetuated and increased by sexual selection. This is the historical evolution of all aristocracy. In a people originally all equal, the strongest and finest-looking men, the bravest and most sagacious, rose early to positions of power and influence among their fellows, and their children derived their pride in the family name from these natural endowments of the parents. The son had the feeling that his father did not owe his exaltation to any capricious human favor, but to Mother Nature herself, and he expressed this idea in terms corresponding to his primitive conceptions, so that he boasted of being descended from the gods of his people, or, otherwise expressed, from its ideal types. The ancient Germanic races, the modern Hindoos, and certain primitive tribes such as the North American Indians, have this demi-god nobility. But where on the contrary, a nation has been formed from a mixture of different ethnological elements, where a stronger has conquered a weaker race, the descendants of the conquerors, that is, of the more vigorous and energetic stock, better developed at least physically, form the aristocracy. This was the origin of the nobility in all the European countries, which during the Dark Ages, were obliged to submit to the irruptions of alien, mostly Germanic races. The original aristocratic stock of France was mixed Frankish, Burgundian and Saxon-Norman, of Spain, west Gothic, of Italy, Vandalian, Gothic and Lombard, partly also Suabian, French and Spanish, in Russia, Scandinavian, in England, Norman, in Hungary, Magyar, and in China, Mantchoorian. Everything that I have said in regard to the justification of the existence of a superior social class, can be applied to an aristocracy that was originally composed of the most perfect individuals of the race, or of the conquering nation. Such a noblesse will be fully justified in assuming the places of honor and responsibility, because they will have the strength to seize them and retain them. From the start, better organized and higher-minded than the masses of the plebeians, they will be obliged to practise and increase their strength and valor continually, as otherwise they could not resist the encroachments of the people. By this means their supremacy over the people is maintained. The operation of natural laws leaves them only the alternative of keeping up the advantage they have gained over the rest, or of vanishing into obscurity. They must be heroes, for if they value their lives more than their privileges, the latter will be wrested from them by those who have no fear of death. They must perform their duties as vanguard and standard-bearers in every particular, for if a chance is left for others to press in, they will be overwhelmed and forced to the rear. They can not form an exclusive caste, for in that case they would degenerate, and the moment that their would-be rivals discover that they have ceased to be the better race, they would be pushed off from their pedestals. They can not set themselves up in opposition to the natural laws to whose operation they owe their own pre-eminence. As often as a person of marked individuality arises in the people, giving evidences of great superiority above the average, compelling the masses to acknowledge his higher organization, the aristocracy are obliged to hasten and open their ranks to him and consecrate him as one of their number. This constant infusion of new and vigorous blood counterbalances the unavoidable degeneration which time produces, and this elevation of the fittest, which was the foundation of the aristocracy, should continue unchecked for all time.
This is the theory of an aristocracy whose right to its claims must be acknowledged by all, whose supremacy must be borne. But does the practice correspond with the theory? Is the nobility which fills up the foreground of the scene in almost every country in Europe, is it an aristocracy such as I have been describing? No one, master of his senses, can answer yes to this question. The so-called nobility, that is, the class which is distinguished by hereditary titles above the rest of the nation, fulfills not a single one of the conditions of a natural aristocracy. The demi-god nobility in those nations which have not been subjected to foreign conquest, and the victor nobility in those nations which were subjugated,—the original noble stock in all has either died out or decayed. Died out or decayed, and that too, by its own fault, because it resisted the operation of those laws of nature to which it owed its own existence, because it became exclusive, and did not understand how to renew its youth. On account of this many families wore out their fruitfulness, so that the day arrived when no heir was forthcoming; in others the descendants of distinguished ancestors became gradually stupid, cowardly and weakly; they were not able to defend either their estates or their positions from the covetousness of those beneath them, more powerful and vigorous than they, and so they have gradually sunk lower and lower into poverty and obscurity, until their blood now flows perhaps, in the veins of some day-laborer or peasant. Their positions left vacant by death or decay, are filled by a miscellaneous set of people who do not owe their elevation to higher organizations, not to nature, but to the favor of monarchs or other distinguished persons. All the aristocracy of the present day—I do not believe there are any authentic exceptions to this rule—is patent aristocracy, and in by far the largest majority of cases, of very recent date. An individual will, not an anthropological law, was the creator of their titles. But how since the Middle Ages, beyond which not a single genealogical tree in Europe spreads its branches, hew did the fortunate man gain the favor of the prince which found expression in the letters patent of nobility? By ideal human qualities, by endowments, talents, which made it desirable to use their possessor as new and fine stock for the elevation of the race? The history of all the noble houses of Europe lies open to us, we have only to read to find the reply to this question. There is hardly a single instance of the elevation to the peerage of a grand and noble nature, which could present to mankind an ideal type of its possibilities. If, as happened once in a great while, a man of genuine merit was presented with a coronet, he must have had combined with his fine qualities, others of a lower and contemptible character, and to the latter alone did he owe the royal recognition of his services. The causes of the exaltation of numerous families are such that they can not be mentioned in respectable society: these families owe their honors to the shame of their female progenitors. Their coats of arms keep in perpetual remembrance the fact that complaisant fathers and husbands and unprejudiced beauties laid the foundations of their high estate. In other cases, the patent of nobility was the reward of some rascality or crime, by which the founder of the house had served his royal master. I must admit however, that unchastity and assassination, although often enough the starting point of brilliant earthly careers, have yet been the means by which only the minority of noble families attained their privileges. The majority gained their pre-eminence in a more ordinary way. We find wealth or many years’ service in the army or government, frequent causes of the elevation of men to the peerage. How can men amass wealth sufficient to attract royal notice? By being unscrupulous or extraordinarily fortunate, and the former is of far more frequent occurrence than the latter. During the times of the Reformation they plundered the churches; at a later period they fitted out cruisers, that is, became pirates; then slave-traders or slave-owners; in modern times they become government contractors and defraud the State, or else speculators and wrest the hard-earned savings from the hand of toil, by cornering the markets, or, in the most respectable case, they become manufacturers on a large scale and extort their millions from their hundreds or thousands of wretched pauper-laborers. And what sort of people are those who obtain recognition from the prince for their services in peace or war? They are always, I say always, without exceptions, clammy mollusc-souls, slimy, cringing hangers-on, who spend their lives in stifling every sentiment of manly independence, culling out every trace of pride and self-esteem, abasing themselves before any one superior to them in station and imitating his peculiarities to flatter themselves into his favor, counterfeiting extravagant loyalty to his person, and finally, as a fitting crown for the services of a lifetime, spent in crawling in the mire, they beg for a title of nobility. Men who are made of good, solid, humanized substance, with a stiff back-bone, who can not be peaceful and happy when they are not acting out their true nature, such men will never condescend to deny their own individuality and ape the opinions of those who happen to be above them, flattering, intriguing, begging, and, by these means, the only ones that are sure of success, win the royal good-will. The prince selects such men when he has posts of danger and responsibility to fill, but forgets them when he has favors to bestow. These men press forward and are ready to sacrifice everything when it is a question of serving the country; but they do not turn their hands over to attract the monarch’s glance in processions and parades. So that a patent nobility is an institution which is to the human kind, what horse-racing is to horse-breeding. Those who win the race, and are selected to raise a new breed, are however the possessors of qualities which a common father might wish for his son, so that he might make his way in the world, as it is called, but which no poet would dare to ascribe to his hero, because poetry maintains the ideals of humanity purer than laws and customs, because the esthetic conscience still asserts itself, where the moral conscience has nothing more to say, and because we will shake hands with such men, whose success is unquestionable, but we will not allow them to be idealized in poetry and held up as models before us. Those individuals who have been exalted above the multitudes by honors and titles in each generation, are not always the poorest endowed as regards talents. They are not stupid, on the contrary, they are crafty and skillful; in perseverance, tenacity and strength of will, they are also above the average. But that which is certainly lacking in them. is character and independence, and these are the very points in which a natural, that is, a blood aristocracy, would be sure to excel, and which would create alone a social inequality in their favor and to the prejudice of the plebeian, without the intervention of written laws.
I have thus drawn the portrait of the individual by whose elevation to the peerage the family became ennobled. His descendants will usually rise to a higher moral level than their progenitor. It does not require such strenuous efforts to retain as to obtain a title. The nobleman is not obliged to be the unscrupulous egotist, the courtier or the intriguer that his ancestor was to whom he owes his rank. His character improves by the gradual action of the views inseparable from his position, which are based upon the original theory that the aristocracy is the society comprising the best and noblest persons in the State. For although the patent nobility may have nothing in common with a blood nobility, yet it maintains stoutly the theoretical fictions on which the latter is really founded. What has been the anthropological fate of the modern aristocratic families? They have either intermarried in deference to mediæval prejudices and abhorred mesalliances, as they are called, or they have in certain cases allowed these marriages with persons of inferior social station to take place. The result of constant intermarriage is a speedy and inevitable decay of the noble families. This is owing to the fact that they originally sprang from persons not endowed with superior organic strength, as would be the case in a natural aristocracy, descended from better organized individuals, and hence, inbreeding must necessarily result in a rapid exhaustion of the vital capital. This vital capital may be as large as that of any common family, but it is exhausted sooner on account of the greater expenditure of it necessary in the more intensive life inevitable in the higher and more responsible position, without being able to borrow judiciously from time to time from the inexhaustible vital capital of the people. And when a member of the aristocracy does marry outside of his circle, and brings new blood into the family, let us see what kind of blood it is and what the causes are which led to his matrimonial choice. The cases are rare in which a man of rank takes a girl from the lower classes to be his wife on account of her physical and moral superiority. In order to bring about a genuine improvement in the blood of a family, the mother of the new branch should be some woman who possesses in addition to the normal physical organization which we recognize as harmonious beauty, a soundness and equipoise of temperament, qualities which reveal themselves in a calm, or even narrow-minded, morality. Usually a mesalliance is caused by the attractions of wealth or else by some caprice of passion. Let us analyze the conditions under which these two kinds of mesalliances are usually contracted. A man of ancient lineage marries some wealthy plebeian in order to replate his coat of arms, as the saying is. In that case he is either some roué who has come to grief by his extravagances and seeks refuge in matrimony as he might in a charitable institution or else he is some decayed specimen of humanity without vital strength; for a man full of organic energy is proud and enterprising, he will only court the woman for whom he feels an affinity, and is well able to make a good appearance in the world, without the dowry of an unloved wife. The aristocratic bridegroom must be also a man of common character and ignoble views, prepared to dissemble and lie, for rich heiresses as a rule, demand that the coarse appropriation of their wealth should be concealed under the appearance of affection, at least during the honeymoon. She, the wealthy heiress, is also a very inferior type of humanity; she is the daughter of an intellectually limited and worthless father, for no other kind of a parent would sacrifice his child to external show, nor wish to enter into family relations with a society which will always look down upon him and his, and treat them with contempt, as unwished-for intruders. The girl herself, is either contented with her lot, willing to be the wife of a man to whom she is indifferent, in which case she is a creature without heart or character, a vain foolish doll, or else she experiences a longing to love and be loved, and yet resigns herself to the fate projected for her by her family, and this presupposes that she has a nature without strength of will and a spiritless character. The mesalliances which are not contracted for a dowry are yet similar to them in kind. I am not speaking of course of those cases where true and respectful love leads to the union of persons of different social stations. I can pass these by more easily as they do not occur hardly more than once in a century, and have never exercised any appreciable influence upon the improvement of the aristocracy as a race, on account of their rarity. The rule is that when a man of rank marries beneath him, it is usually some theatrical star, circus-rider or clever adventuress, known in all the watering-places and metropolitan drawing-rooms of Europe. Of the couple thus formed, the woman is an abnormal being, who has already given the world to understand that she does not conform to the average type of humanity, that she selected an exceptional, often eccentric and sometimes objectionable life-career from choice, that she tempted fate, and rebelled against the duties which modern society imposes upon its feminine members. The man is what psychiatry calls a “degenerate,” that is, an individual in whom will and reason are decayed, the moral sense rudimentary and sexual passion alone, often in a strange state of degeneration, the main-spring of the inner life. Such persons are unable to resist the desire for the possession of a woman who knows how to awaken their love; in order to win her they commit follies, ignoble actions and even crimes, if nothing else will do. If we glance through the novels which close with the marriage of the prince and the actress, we will find almost without exception that the man is a “degenerate” in the technical sense, a weak, sensual and impulsive nature. The mesalliance therefore, as experience shows that it is usually contracted, is very far removed from being of any anthropological benefit to the aristocracy; on the contrary, it seems as if it were a fiendishly shrewd plan for uniting the very worst specimens of humanity in matrimony, to produce offspring morally diseased.
This is the origin of the patent nobility, and this is its necessarily consequent fate. The ancestor is an egotist, courtier and intriguer, probably all three combined, the descendant condemned to decay as if by a decree of destiny—either by the exhaustion of the family blood by unfavorable inbreeding in a narrow circle of equally poorly qualified families, or else by contracting misalliances with undeveloped or abnormally developed exceptional types of womankind. These sociological and anthropological facts are open to the eyes of all and are known to all cultivated people. And yet — and here we see another monument of human cowardice, stupidity and hypocrisy—and yet the nobility enjoys a supreme social consideration, accorded by most men voluntarily and even with a certain inward satisfaction. Snobbishness, which so “dearly loves a lord,” is at home in all countries, even the most democratic. The Frenchman, who boasts of having discovered equality, is as proud of the acquaintance of a duke or marquis, and as interested in the daily life of his national aristocracy, as any English flunky. The American, who is supposed to adore the Almighty Dollar alone, and pretends to ridicule the differences of social station in the old world, is after all, inwardly enraptured when he can adorn his drawing-room with a live lord. He who wishes to know the exact price of a title, that is in certain countries, can easily obtain the information. The cost of a princely, or baronial coronet is well-known. We are aware that this ornament is the equivalent of a certain sum of money, and yet we pay a reverence to it which we would never think of awarding to the latter. The following little trait shows the propensity to lying of our civilization better than could be proved by volumes of argumentation. A representative laid before the French legislature a proposition to give to any one who so desired it, a title of nobility upon the payment of a certain fixed sum into the treasury; for $12,000 he could become a duke, for $10.000 a marquis, and so on in proportion, until for $3.000 he could assume the simple title of monsieur de. If this proposition were to become a law, there would be hardly any one who would take advantage of this open, honest, business transaction and buy a title before the eyes of the public as he would a coat or a watch-chain. But at the same time if an advertisement is inserted into some prominent newspaper saying that titles of nobility will be procured for wealthy people without publicity, a hundred replies to it are received by each mail. If the title of duke or marquis of the Republic of San Marino, or of the Principality of Reuss-Schleiz-Greiz, is offered for sale at the same or even higher prices than those proposed by the French legislature for a similar title, a purchaser will soon be found. And yet, in the first case, it would be a correct, straight-forward sale, in the other an underhanded and equivocal one; in the first, the title would have legal weight in a country containing thirty seven millions of inhabitants, and in the other only in a few villages. Yes, but in one case it would be publicly proclaimed that the title of nobility is free to any one who could produce the necessary cash, while in the other, the fiction would be thrown around the sale that the title was presented as a reward for services rendered, and that the newly-made nobleman is a being of a higher mould than the rest of mankind. Consequently people prefer to get their titles of nobility in some underhand way, through the intervention of some equivocal go-between, rather than by the open purchase in court, because they like to keep up, at least externally, the appearance of a nobility founded on genuine merit or royal favor.
The privileges accorded to the aristocratic class not consist of titles and compliments alone, neither are they only of a social nature. Notwithstanding the that all citizens are declared by the laws to have absolutely equal rights and duties, the nobility, in countries with a monarchical form of government, has managed to exert a very genuine and very important influence, which has obtained for it the possession of all the sinecures in the gift of the people and State. I use the word sinecure in its most comprehensive sense. According to the present conditions of holding and acquiring property, we must consider those public offices which have a certain income attached with limited duties, as presents from the State. All these offices, which require no special capability, which any average man could fill if he once got the chance, which must have been the positions referred to in the saying that when God gives a man an office He gives him sense to fill it, that is, the positions of officers, diplomates, beneficiaries, court dignitaries, etc., are all filled by members of the aristocracy. The State thus favors this small group of privileged individuals and presents them with these fine offices, upon which they have not the slightest reasonable claim; it sets the table for them with an abundant and tempting repast, all because, as Beaumarchais says, they took the trouble to be born.
The fraud of a patent nobility which has managed to creep in to all the historical forms and privileges of a blood aristocracy, whose existence had for justification an anthropological principle, because it was composed of the descendants of the most capable individuals of the race, or of a higher race of conquerors, this fraud is endured and even cherished by mankind, although history and reason are constantly holding up before us the evidences of the imposition. It is the cornerstone of the monarchical form of government. We act as if we believe that some narrow-minded, petty dandy, because he is a Sir This or Sir That, were therefore made of finer stuff than the rest of the people. We act as if we believed that a king by scribbling a man’s name upon a bit of parchment, could make a noble, superior creature out of a common human being. And, by the way, why is not this miracle possible to a king? The grace of God is at his disposal and by its aid he might well effect this metamorphosis, which would be as comprehensible and conceivable as any of the miracles described in the Bible.