Social equilibrium

As the universe, which at once creates and destroys life, is a complex of infinitely varying forces, history can never repeat itself. It is vain, therefore, to look in the future for some paraphrase of the past. Yet if society be, as I assume it to be, an organism operating on mechanical principles, we may perhaps, by pondering upon history, learn enough of those principles to enable us to view, more intelligently than we otherwise should, the social phenomena about us. What we call civilization is, I suspect, only, in proportion to its perfection, a more or less thorough social centralization, while centralization, very clearly, is an effect of applied science. Civilization is accordingly nearly synonymous with centralization, and is caused by mechanical discoveries, which are applications of scientific knowledge, like the discovery of how to kindle fire, how to build and sail ships, how to smelt metals, how to prepare explosives, how to make paper and print books, and the like. And we perceive on a little consideration that from the first great and fundamental discovery of how to kindle fire, every advance in applied science has accelerated social movement, until the discovery of steam and electricity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries quickened movement as movement had never been quickened before. And this quickening has caused the rise of those vast cities, which are at once our pride and our terror.

Social consolidation is, however, not a simple problem, for social consolidation implies an equivalent capacity for administration. I take it to be an axiom, that perfection in administration must be commensurate to the bulk and momentum of the mass to be administered, otherwise the centrifugal will overcome the centripetal force, and the mass will disintegrate. In other words, civilization would dissolve. It is in dealing with administration, as I apprehend, that civilizations have usually, though not always, broken down, for it has been on administrative difficulties that revolutions have for the most part supervened. Advances in administration seem to presuppose the evolution of new governing classes, since, apparently, no established type of mind can adapt itself to changes in environment, even in slow-moving civilizations, as fast as environments change. Thus a moment arrives when the minds of any given dominant type fail to meet the demands made upon them, and are superseded by a younger type, which in turn is set aside by another still younger, until the limit of the administrative genius of that particular race has been reached. Then disintegration sets in, the social momentum is gradually relaxed, and society sinks back to a level at which it can cohere. To us, however, the most distressing aspect of the situation is, that the social acceleration is progressive in proportion to the activity of the scientific mind which makes mechanical discoveries, and it is, therefore, a triumphant science which produces those ever more rapidly recurring changes in environment to which men must adapt themselves at their peril. As, under the stimulant of modern science, the old types fail to sustain themselves, new types have to be equally rapidly evolved, and the rise of a new governing class is always synonymous with a social revolution and a redistribution of property. The Industrial Revolution began almost precisely a century and a half ago, since when the scientific mind has continually gained in power, and, during that period, on an average of once in two generations, the environment has so far shifted that a social revolution has occurred, accompanied by the advent of a new favored class, and a readjustment of wealth. I think that a glance at American history will show this estimate to be within the truth. At the same time such rapidity of intellectual mutation is without precedent, and I should suppose that the mental exhaustion incident thereto must be very considerable.

In America, in 1770, a well-defined aristocracy held control. As an effect of the Industrial Revolution upon industry and commerce, the Revolutionary War occurred, the colonial aristocracy misjudged the environment, adhered to Great Britain, were exiled, lost their property, and perished. Immediately after the American Revolution and also as a part of the Industrial Revolution, the cotton gin was invented, and the cotton gin created in the South another aristocracy, the cotton planters, who flourished until 1860. At this point the changing of the environment, caused largely by the railway, brought a pressure upon the slave-owners against which they, also failing to comprehend their situation, rebelled. They were conquered, suffered confiscation of their property, and perished. Furthermore, the rebellion of the aristocracy at the South was caused, or at all events was accompanied by, the rise of a new dominant class at the North, whose power rested upon the development of steam in transportation and industry. This is the class which has won high fortune by the acceleration of the social movement, and the consequent urban growth of the nineteenth century, and which has now for about two generations dominated in the land. If this class, like its predecessors, has in its turn mistaken its environment, a redistribution of property must occur, distressing, as previous redistributions have been, in proportion to the inflexibility of the sufferers. The last two redistributions have been painful, and, if we examine passing phenomena from this standpoint, they hardly appear to promise much that is reassuring for the future.

Administration is the capacity of coördinating many, and often conflicting, social energies in a single organism, so adroitly that they shall operate as a unity. This presupposes the power of recognizing a series of relations between numerous special social interests, with all of which no single man can be intimately acquainted. Probably no very highly specialized class can be strong in this intellectual quality because of the intellectual isolation incident to specialization; and yet administration or generalization is not only the faculty upon which social stability rests, but is, possibly, the highest faculty of the human mind. It is precisely in this preëminent requisite for success in government that I suspect the modern capitalistic class to be weak. The scope of the human intellect is necessarily limited, and modern capitalists appear to have been evolved under the stress of an environment which demanded excessive specialization in the direction of a genius adapted to money-making under highly complex industrial conditions. To this money-making attribute all else has been sacrificed, and the modern capitalist not only thinks in terms of money, but he thinks in terms of money more exclusively than the French aristocrat or lawyer ever thought in terms of caste. The modern capitalist looks upon life as a financial combat of a very specialized kind, regulated by a code which he understands and has indeed himself concocted, but which is recognized by no one else in the world. He conceives sovereign powers to be for sale. He may, he thinks, buy them; and if he buys them; he may use them as he pleases. He believes, for instance, that it is the lawful, nay more! in America, that it is the constitutional right of the citizen to buy the national highways, and, having bought them, to use them as a common carrier might use a horse and cart upon a public road. He may sell his service to whom he pleases at what price may suit him, and if by doing so he ruins men and cities, it is nothing to him. He is not responsible, for he is not a trustee for the public. If he be restrained by legislation, that legislation is in his eye an oppression and an outrage, to be annulled or eluded by any means which will not lead to the penitentiary. He knows nothing and cares less, for the relation which highways always have held, and always must hold, to every civilized population, and if he be asked to inform himself on such subjects he resents the suggestion as an insult. He is too specialized to comprehend a social relation, even a fundamental one like this, beyond the narrow circle of his private interests. He might, had he so chosen, have evolved a system of governmental railway regulation, and have administered the system personally, or by his own agents, but he could never be brought to see the advantage to himself of rational concession to obtain a resultant of forces. He resisted all restraint, especially national restraint, believing that his one weapon--money--would be more effective in obtaining what he wanted in state legislatures than in Congress. Thus, of necessity, he precipitates a conflict, instead of establishing an adjustment. He is, therefore, in essence, a revolutionist without being aware of it. The same specialized thinking appears in his reasoning touching actual government. New York City will serve as an illustration.

New York has for two generations been noted for a civic corruption which has been, theoretically, abominable to all good citizens, and which the capitalistic class has denounced as abominable to itself. I suspect this to be an imaginative conception of the situation. Tammany Hall is, I take it, the administrative bureau through which capital purchases its privileges. An incorruptible government would offend capital, because, under such a government, capital would have to obey the law, and privilege would cease. Occasionally, Tammany grows rapacious and exacts too much for its services. Then a reform movement is undertaken, and finally a new management is imposed on Tammany; but when Tammany has consented to a satisfactory scale of prices, the reform ends. To change the system would imply a shift in the seat of power. In fine, money is the weapon of the capitalist as the sword was the weapon of the mediaeval soldier; only, as the capitalist is more highly specialized than the soldier ever was, he is more helpless when his single weapon fails him. From the days of William the Conqueror to our own, the great soldier has been, very commonly, a famous statesman also, but I do not now remember, in English or American history, a single capitalist who has earned eminence for comprehensive statesmanship. On the contrary, although many have participated in public affairs, have held high office, and have shown ability therein, capitalists have not unusually, however unjustly, been suspected of having ulterior objects in view, unconnected with the public welfare, such as tariffs or land grants. Certainly, so far as I am aware, no capitalist has ever acquired such influence over his contemporaries as has been attained with apparent ease by men like Cromwell, Washington, or even Jackson.

And this leads, advancing in an orderly manner step by step, to what is, perhaps, to me, the most curious and interesting of all modern intellectual phenomena connected with the specialized mind,--the attitude of the capitalist toward the law. Naturally the capitalist, of all men, might be supposed to be he who would respect and uphold the law most, considering that he is at once the wealthiest and most vulnerable of human beings, when called upon to defend himself by physical force. How defenceless and how incompetent he is in such exigencies, he proved to the world some years ago when he plunged himself and the country into the great Pennsylvania coal strike, with absolutely no preparation. Nevertheless, in spite of his vulnerability, he is of all citizens the most lawless.[42] He appears to assume that the law will always be enforced, when he has need of it, by some special personnel whose duty lies that way, while he may, evade the law, when convenient, or bring it into contempt, with impunity. The capitalist seems incapable of feeling his responsibility, as a member of the governing class, in this respect, and that he is bound to uphold the law, no matter what the law may be, in order that others may do the like. If the capitalist has bought some sovereign function, and wishes to abuse it for his own behoof, he regards the law which restrains him as a despotic invasion of his constitutional rights, because, with his specialized mind, he cannot grasp the relation of a sovereign function to the nation as a whole. He, therefore, looks upon the evasion of a law devised for public protection, but inimical to him, as innocent or even meritorious.

If an election be lost, and the legislature, which has been chosen by the majority, cannot be pacified by money, but passes some act which promises to be annoying, the first instinct of the capitalist is to retain counsel, not to advise him touching his duty under the law, but to devise a method by which he may elude it, or, if he cannot elude it, by which he may have it annulled as unconstitutional by the courts. The lawyer who succeeds in this branch of practice is certain to win the highest prizes at the bar. And as capital has had now, for more than one or even two generations, all the prizes of the law within its gift, this attitude of capital has had a profound effect upon shaping the American legal mind. The capitalist, as I infer, regards the constitutional form of government which exists in the United States, as a convenient method of obtaining his own way against a majority, but the lawyer has learned to worship it as a fetich. Nor is this astonishing, for, were written constitutions suppressed, he would lose most of his importance and much of his income. Quite honestly, therefore, the American lawyer has come to believe that a sheet of paper soiled with printers' ink and interpreted by half-a-dozen elderly gentlemen snugly dozing in armchairs, has some inherent and marvellous virtue by which it can arrest the march of omnipotent Nature. And capital gladly accepts this view of American civilization, since hitherto capitalists have usually been able to select the magistrates who decide their causes, perhaps directly through the intervention of some president or governor whom they have had nominated by a convention controlled by their money, or else, if the judiciary has been elective, they have caused sympathetic judges to be chosen by means of a mechanism like Tammany, which they have frankly bought.

I wish to make myself clearly understood. Neither capitalists nor lawyers are necessarily, or even probably, other than conscientious men. What they do is to think with specialized minds. All dominant types have been more or less specialized, if none so much as this, and this specialization has caused, as I understand it, that obtuseness of perception which has been their ruin when the environment which favored them has changed. All that is remarkable about the modern capitalist is the excess of his excentricity, or his deviation from that resultant of forces to which he must conform. To us, however, at present, neither the morality nor the present mental excentricity of the capitalist is so material as the possibility of his acquiring flexibility under pressure, for it would seem to be almost mathematically demonstrable that he will, in the near future, be subjected to a pressure under which he must develop flexibility or be eliminated.

There can be no doubt that the modern environment is changing faster than any environment ever previously changed; therefore, the social centre of gravity constantly tends to shift more rapidly; and therefore, modern civilization has unprecedented need of the administrative or generalizing mind. But, as the mass and momentum of modern society is prodigious, it will require a correspondingly prodigious energy to carry it safely from an unstable to a stable equilibrium. The essential is to generate the energy which brings success; and the more the mind dwells upon the peculiarities of the modern capitalistic class, the more doubts obtrude themselves touching their ability to make the effort, even at present, and still more so to make it in the future as the magnitude of the social organism grows. One source of capitalistic weakness comes from a lack of proper instruments wherewith to work, even supposing the will of capital to be good; and this lack of administrative ability is somewhat due to the capitalistic attitude toward education. In the United States capital has long owned the leading universities by right of purchase, as it has owned the highways, the currency, and the press, and capital has used the universities, in a general way, to develop capitalistic ideas. This, however, is of no great moment. What is of moment is that capital has commercialized education. Apparently modern society, if it is to cohere, must have a high order of generalizing mind,--a mind which can grasp a multitude of complex relations,--but this is a mind which can, at best, only be produced in small quantity and at high cost. Capital has preferred the specialized mind and that not of the highest quality, since it has found it profitable to set quantity before quality to the limit which the market will endure. Capitalists have never insisted upon raising an educational standard save in science and mechanics, and the relative overstimulation of the scientific mind has now become an actual menace to order because of the inferiority of the administrative intelligence.

Yet, even supposing the synthetic mind of the highest power to be increasing in proportion to the population, instead of, as I suspect, pretty rapidly decreasing, and supposing the capitalist to be fully alive to the need of administrative improvements, a phalanx of Washingtons would be impotent to raise the administrative level of the United States materially, as long as the courts remain censors of legislation; because the province of the censorial court is to dislocate any comprehensive body of legislation, whose effect would be to change the social status. That was the fundamental purpose which underlay the adoption of a written constitution whose object was to keep local sovereignties intact, especially at the South. Jefferson insisted that each sovereignty should by means of nullification protect itself. It was a long step in advance when the nation conquered the prerogative of asserting its own sovereign power through the Supreme Court. Now the intervention of the courts in legislation has become, by the change in environment, as fatal to administration as would have been, in 1800, the success of nullification. I find it difficult to believe that capital, with its specialized views of what constitutes its advantages, its duties, and its responsibilities, and stimulated by a bar moulded to meet its prejudices and requirements, will ever voluntarily assent to the consolidation of the United States to the point at which the interference of the courts with legislation might be eliminated; because, as I have pointed out, capital finds the judicial veto useful as a means of at least temporarily evading the law, while the bar, taken as a whole, quite honestly believes that the universe will obey the judicial decree. No delusion could be profounder and none, perhaps, more dangerous. Courts, I need hardly say, cannot control nature, though by trying to do so they may, like the Parliament of Paris, create a friction which shall induce an appalling catastrophe.

True judicial courts, whether in times of peace or of revolution, seldom fail to be a substantial protection to the weak, because they enforce an established corpus juris  and conduct trials by recognized forms. It is startling to compare the percentage of convictions to prosecutions, for the same class of offences, in the regular criminal courts during the French Revolution, with the percentage in the Revolutionary Tribunal. And once a stable social equilibrium is reached, all men tend to support judicial courts, if judicial courts exist, from an instinct of self-preservation. This has been amply shown by French experience, and it is here that French history is so illuminating to the American mind. Before the Revolution France had semi-political courts which conduced to the overthrow of Turgot, and, therefore, wrought for violence; but more than this, France, under the old régime, had evolved a legal profession of a cast of mind incompatible with an equal administration of the law. The French courts were, therefore, when trouble came, supported only by a faction, and were cast aside. With that the old régime fell.

The young Duke of Chartres, the son of Égalité Orleans, and the future Louis Philippe, has related in his journal an anecdote which illustrates that subtle poison of distrust which undermines all legal authority, the moment that suspicion of political partiality in the judiciary enters the popular mind. In June, 1791, the Duke went down from Paris to Vendôme to join the regiment of dragoons of which he had been commissioned colonel. One day, soon after he joined, a messenger came to him in haste to tell him that a mob had gathered near by who were about to hang two priests. "I ran thither at once," wrote the Duke; "I spoke to those who seemed most excited and impressed upon them how horrible it was to hang men without trial; besides, to act as hangmen was to enter a trade which they all thought infamous; that they had judges, and that this was their affair. They answered that their judges were aristocrats, and that they did not punish the guilty." That is to say, although the priests were non-jurors, and, therefore, criminals in the eye of the law, the courts would not enforce the law because of political bias.[43] "It is your fault," I said to them, "since you elected them [the judges], but that is no reason why you should do justice yourselves."

Danton explained in the Convention that it was because of the deep distrust of the judiciary in the public mind, which this anecdote shows, that the September massacres occurred, and it was because all republicans knew that the state and the army were full of traitors like Dumouriez, whom the ordinary courts would not punish, that Danton brought forward his bill to organize a true political tribunal to deal with them summarily. When Danton carried through this statute he supposed himself to be at the apex of power and popularity, and to be safe, if any man in France were safe. Very shortly he learned the error In his calculation. Billaud was a member of the Committee of Public Safety, while Danton had allowed himself to be dropped from membership. Danton had just been married, and to an aristocratic wife, and the turmoil of office had grown to be distasteful to him. On March 30, 1794, Billaud somewhat casually remarked, "We must kill Danton;" for in truth Danton, with conservative leanings, was becoming a grave danger to the extreme Jacobins. Had he lived a few months longer he would have been a Thermidorist. Billaud, therefore, only expressed the prevailing Jacobin opinion; so the Jacobins arrested Danton, Camille Desmoulins, and his other friends, and Danton at once anticipated what would be his doom. As he entered his cell he said to his jailer: "I erected the Tribunal. I ask pardon of God and men." But even yet he did not grasp the full meaning of what he had done. At his trial he wished to introduce his evidence fully, protesting "that he should understand the Tribunal since he created it;" nevertheless, he did not understand the Tribunal, he still regarded it as more or less a court. Topino-Lebrun, the artist, did understand it. Topino sat on the jury which tried Danton, and observed that the heart of one of his colleagues seemed failing him. Topino took the waverer aside, and said: "This is not a trial, it is a measure. Two men are impossible; one must perish. Will you kill Robespierre?--No.--Then by that admission you condemn Danton." Lebrun in these few words went to the root of the matter, and stated the identical principle which underlies our whole doctrine of the Police Power. A political court is not properly a court at all, but an administrative board whose function is to work the will of the dominant faction for the time being. Thus a political court becomes the most formidable of all engines for the destruction of its creators the instant the social equilibrium shifts. So Danton found, in the spring of 1794, when the equilibrium shifted; and so Robespierre, who slew Danton, found the next July, when the equilibrium shifted again.

Danton died on the 5th April, 1794; about three months later Jourdan won the Fleurus campaign. Straightway Thermidor followed, and the Tribunal worked as well for the party of Thermidor as it had for the Jacobins. Carrier, who had wallowed in blood at Nantes, as the ideal Jacobin, walked behind the cart which carried Robespierre to the scaffold, shouting, "Down with the tyrant;" but that did not save him. In vain he protested to the Convention that, were he guilty, the whole Convention was guilty, "down to the President's bell." By a vote of 498 out of 500, Carrier was sent before the Tribunal which, even though reorganized, condemned him. Thérézia Cabarrus gaily presided at the closing of the Jacobin Club, Tallien moved over to the benches on the right, and therefore the court was ruthless to Fouquier. On the 11 Thermidor, seventy members, officers, or partisans of the Commune of Paris, were sent to the guillotine in only two batches. On the next day twelve more followed, four of whom were jurymen. Fouquier's turn came later. It may also be worth while for Americans to observe that a political court is quite as effective against property as against life. The Duke of Orleans is only the most celebrated example of a host of Frenchmen who perished, not because of revenge, fear, or jealousy, but because the party in power wanted their property. The famous Law touching Suspected Persons (loi des suspects) was passed on September 17, 1793. On October 10, 1793, that is three weeks afterward, Saint-Just moved that additional powers should be granted, by the Convention, to the Committee of Public Safety, defining, by way of justification for his motion, those who fell within the purview of this law. Among these, first of all, came "the rich," who by that fact alone were to be considered, prima facie, enemies to their country.

As I stated at the beginning of this chapter, history never can repeat itself; therefore, whatever else may happen in the United States, we certainly shall have no Revolutionary Tribunal like the French Tribunal of 1793, but the mechanical principle of the political court always remains the same; it is an administrative board the control of which is useful, or may be even essential, to the success of a dominant faction, and the instinctive comprehension which the American people have of this truth is demonstrated by the determination with which they have, for many years, sought to impose the will of the majority upon the judiciary. Other means failing to meet their expectations, they have now hit on the recall, which is as revolutionary in essence as were the methods used during the Terror. Courts, from the Supreme Court downward, if purged by recall, or a process tantamount to recall, would, under proper stress, work as surely for a required purpose as did the tribunal supervised by Fouquier-Tinville.

These considerations rather lead me to infer that the extreme complexity of the administrative problems presented by modern industrial civilization is beyond the compass of the capitalistic mind. If this be so, American society, as at present organized, with capitalists for the dominant class, can concentrate no further, and, as nothing in the universe is at rest, if it does not concentrate, it must, probably, begin to disintegrate. Indeed we may perceive incipient signs of disintegration all about us. We see, for example, an universal contempt for law, incarnated in the capitalistic class itself, which is responsible for order, and in spite of the awful danger which impends over every rich and physically helpless type should the coercive power collapse. We see it even more distinctly in the chronic war between capital and labor, which government is admittedly unable to control; we see it in the slough of urban politics, inseparable from capitalistic methods of maintaining its ascendancy; and, perhaps, most disquieting of all, we see it in the dissolution of the family which has, for untold ages, been the seat of discipline and the foundation of authority. For the dissolution of the family is peculiarly a phenomenon of our industrial age, and it is caused by the demand of industry for the cheap labor of women and children. Napoleon told the lawyers who drafted the Code that he insisted on one thing alone. They must fortify the family, for, said he, if the family is responsible to the father and the father to me, I can keep order in France. One of the difficulties, therefore, which capital has to meet, by the aid of such administrative ability as it can command, is how to keep order when society no longer rests on the cohesive family, but on highly volatilized individuals as incohesive as grains of sand.

Meditating upon these matters, it is hard to resist the persuasion that unless capital can, in the immediate future, generate an intellectual energy, beyond the sphere of its specialized calling, very much in excess of any intellectual energy of which it has hitherto given promise, and unless it can besides rise to an appreciation of diverse social conditions, as well as to a level of political sagacity, far higher than it has attained within recent years, its relative power in the community must decline. If this be so the symptoms which indicate social disintegration will intensify. As they intensify, the ability of industrial capital to withstand the attacks made upon it will lessen, and this process must go on until capital abandons the contest to defend itself as too costly. Then nothing remains but flight. Under what conditions industrial capital would find migration from America possible, must remain for us beyond the bounds even of speculation. It might escape with little or no loss. On the other hand, it might fare as hardly as did the southern slaveholders. No man can foresee his fate. In the event of adverse fortune, however, the position of capitalists would hardly be improved by the existence of political courts serving a malevolent majority. Whatever may be in store for us, here at least, we reach an intelligible conclusion. Should Nature follow such a course as I have suggested, she will settle all our present perplexities as simply and as drastically as she is apt to settle human perturbations, and she will follow logically in the infinitely extended line of her own most impressive precedents. 


In these observations on the intellectual tendencies of capital I speak generally. Not only individual capitalists, but great corporations, exist, who are noble examples of law-abiding and intelligent citizenship. Their rarity, however, and their conspicuousness, seem to prove the general rule.


By the Law of November 27, 1790, priests refusing to swear allegiance to the "civil constitution" of the clergy were punished by loss of pay and of rights of citizenship if they continued their functions. By Law of August 26, 1792, by transportation to Cayenne.


I assume it as self-evident that those who, at any given moment, are the strongest in any civilization, will be those who are at once the ruling class, those who own most property, and those who have most influence on legislation. The weaker will fare hardly in proportion to their weakness. Such is the order of nature. But, since those are the strongest through whom nature finds it, for the time being, easiest to vent her energy, and as the whole universe is in ceaseless change, it follows that the composition of ruling classes is never constant, but shifts to correspond with the shifting environment. When this movement is so rapid that men cannot adapt themselves to it, we call the phenomenon a revolution, and it is with revolutions that I now have to do.

Nothing is more certain than that the intellectual adaptability of the individual man is very limited. A ruling class is seldom conscious of its own decay, and most of the worst catastrophes of history have been caused by an obstinate resistance to change when resistance was no longer possible. Thus while an incessant alteration in social equilibrium is inevitable, a revolution is a problem in dynamics, on the correct solution of which the fortunes of a declining class depend.

For example, the modern English landlords replaced the military feudal aristocracy during the sixteenth century, because the landlords had more economic capacity and less credulity. The men who supplanted the mediaeval soldiers in Great Britain had no scruple about robbing the clergy of their land, and because of this quality they prospered greatly. Ultimately the landlords reached high fortune by controlling the boroughs which had, in the Middle Ages, acquired the right to return members to the House of Commons. Their domination lasted long; nevertheless, about 1760, the rising tide of the Industrial Revolution brought forward another type of mind. Flushed by success in the Napoleonic wars the Tories failed to appreciate that the social equilibrium, by the year 1830, had shifted, and that they no longer commanded enough physical force to maintain their parliamentary ascendancy. They thought they had only to be arrogant to prevail, and so they put forward the Duke of Wellington as their champion. They could hardly have made a poorer choice. As Disraeli has very truly said, "His Grace precipitated a revolution which might have been delayed for half a century, and need never have occurred in so aggravated a form." The Duke, though a great general, lacked knowledge of England. He began by dismissing William Huskisson from his Cabinet, who was not only its ablest member, but perhaps the single man among the Tories who thoroughly comprehended the industrial age. Huskisson's issue was that the franchise of the intolerably corrupt East Retford should be given to Leeds or Manchester. Having got rid of Huskisson, the Duke declared imperiously that he would concede nothing to the disfranchised industrial magnates, nor to the vast cities in which they lived. A dissolution of Parliament followed and in the election the Tories were defeated. Although Wellington may not have been a sagacious statesman, he was a capable soldier and he knew when he could and when he could not physically fight. On this occasion, to again quote Disraeli, "He rather fled than retired." He induced his friends to absent themselves from the House of Lords and permit the Reform Bill to become law. Thus the English Tories, by their experiment with the Duke of Wellington, lost their boroughs and with them their political preeminence, but at least they saved themselves, their families, and the rest of their property. As a class they have survived to this day, although shorn of much of the influence which they might very probably have retained had they solved more correctly the problem of 1830. In sum, they were not altogether impervious to the exigencies of their environment. The French Revolution is the classic example of the annihilation of a rigid organism, and it is an example the more worthy of our attention as it throws into terrible relief the process by which an intellectually inflexible race may convert the courts of law which should protect their decline into the most awful engine for their destruction.

The essence of feudalism was a gradation of rank, in the nature of caste, based upon fear. The clergy were privileged because the laity believed that they could work miracles, and could dispense something more vital even than life and death. The nobility were privileged because they were resistless in war. Therefore, the nobility could impose all sorts of burdens upon those who were unarmed. During the interval in which society centralized and acquired more and more a modern economic form, the discrepancies in status remained, while commensurately the physical or imaginative force which had once sustained inequality declined, until the social equilibrium grew to be extremely unstable. Add to this that France, under the monarchy, was ill consolidated. The provinces and towns retained the administrative complexity of an archaic age, even to local tariffs. Thus under the monarchy privilege and inequality pervaded every phase of life, and, as the judiciary must be, more or less, the mouthpiece of society, the judiciary came to be the incarnation of caste.

Speaking broadly, the judicial office, under the monarchy, was vendible. In legal language, it was an incorporeal hereditament. It could be bought and sold and inherited like an advowson, or right to dispose of a cure of souls in the English Church, or of a commission in the English army. The system was well recognized and widespread in the eighteenth century, and worked fairly well with the French judiciary for about three hundred years, but it was not adapted to an industrial environment. The judicial career came to be pretty strongly hereditary in a few families, and though the members of these families were, on the whole, self-respecting, honest, and learned, they held office in their own right and not as a public trust. So in England members of the House of Commons, who sat for nomination boroughs, did not, either in fact or theory, represent the inhabitants of those boroughs, but patrons; and in like manner French judges could never learn to regard themselves as the trustees of the civil rights of a nation, but as a component part of a class who held a status by private title. Looked at as a problem in dynamics the inherent vice in all this kind of property and in all this administrative system, was the decay, after 1760, of the physical force which had engendered it and defended it. As in England the ascendancy of the landlords passed away when England turned from an agricultural into an industrial society, so in France priests and nobles fell into contempt, when most peasants knew that the Church could neither harm by its curse nor aid by its blessing, and when commissions in the army were given to children or favorites, as a sort of pension, while the pith of the nation was excluded from military command because it could not prove four quarterings of nobility. Hardly an aristocrat in France had shown military talent for a generation, while, when the revolution began, men like Jourdan and Kleber, Ney and Augereau, and a host of other future marshals and generals had been dismissed from the army, or were eating out their hearts as petty officers with no hope of advancement. Local privileges and inequalities were as intolerable as personal. There were privileged provinces and those administered arbitrarily by the Crown, there were a multiplicity of internal tariffs, and endless municipal franchises and monopolies, so much so that economists estimated that, through artificial restraints, one-quarter of the soil of France lay waste. Turgot, in his edict on the grain trade, explained that kings in the past by ordinance, or the police without royal authority, had compiled a body "of legislation equivalent to a prohibition of bringing grain into Paris," and this condition was universal. One province might be starving and another oppressed with abundance.

Meanwhile, under the stimulant of applied science, centralization went on resistlessly, and the cost of administration is proportionate to centralization. To bear the burden of a centralized government taxes must be equal and movement free, but here was a rapidly centralizing nation, the essence of whose organism was that taxes should be unequal and that movement should be restricted.

As the third quarter of the eighteenth century closed with the death of Louis XV, all intelligent French administrators recognized the dilemma; either relief must be given, or France must become insolvent, and revolution supervene upon insolvency. But for the aristocracy revolution had no terrors, for they believed that they could crush revolution as their class had done for a thousand years.

Robert Turgot was born in 1727, of a respectable family. His father educated him for the Church, but lack of faith caused him to prefer the magistracy, and on the death of his father he obtained a small place in the Court of Parliament. Afterward he became a Master of Requests, and served for seven years in that judicial position, before he was made Intendant of the Province of Limousin. Even thus early in life Turgot showed political sagacity. In an address at the Sorbonne he supported the thesis that "well-timed reform alone averts revolution." Distinguishing himself as Intendant, on the death of Louis XV the King called Turgot to the Council of State, and in August, 1774, Turgot became Minister of Finance. He came in pledged to reform, and by January, 1776, he had formulated his plan. In that month he presented to the King his memorable Six Edicts, the first of which was the most celebrated state paper he ever wrote. It was the Edict for the Suppression of the Corvée. The corvée threw the burden of maintaining the highways on the peasantry by exacting forced labor. It was admittedly the most hateful, the most burdensome, and the most wasteful of all the bad taxes of the time, and Turgot, following the precedent of the Roman Empire, advised instead a general highway impost. The proposed impost in itself was not considerable, and would not have been extraordinarily obnoxious to the privileged classes, but for the principle of equality by which Turgot justified it: "The expenses of government having for their object the interests of all, all should contribute to them; and the more advantages a man has, the more that man should contribute."

Nor was this the most levelling of Turgot's arguments. He pointed out that though originally the exemption from taxation, which the nobility enjoyed, might have been defended on the ground that the nobles were bound to yield military service without pay, such service had long ceased to be performed, while on the contrary titles could be bought for money. Hence every wealthy man became a noble when he pleased, and thus exemption from taxation had come to present the line of cleavage between the rich and poor. By this thrust the privileged classes felt themselves wounded in their vitals, and the Parliament of Paris, the essence of privilege, assumed their defence. To be binding, the edicts had to be registered by the Parliament among the laws of France, and Parliament declined to make registration on the ground that the edicts were unconstitutional, as subversive of the monarchy and of the principle of order. The opinion of the court was long, but a single paragraph gives its purport: "The first rule of justice is to preserve to every one what belongs to him: this rule consists, not only in preserving the rights of property, but still more in preserving those belonging to the person, which arise from the prerogative of birth and of position.... From this rule of law and equity it follows that every system which, under an appearance of humanity and beneficence, would tend to establish between men an equality of duties, and to destroy necessary distinctions, would soon lead to disorder (the inevitable result of equality), and would bring about the overturn of civil society."

This judicial opinion was an enunciation of the archaic law of caste as opposed to the modern law of equality, and the cataclysm of the French Revolution hinged upon the incapacity of the French aristocracy to understand that the environment, which had once made caste a necessity, had yielded to another which made caste an impossibility. In vain Turgot and his contemporaries of the industrial type, represented in England by Adam Smith or even by the younger Pitt, explained that unless taxes were equalized and movement accelerated, insolvency must supervene, and that a violent readjustment must follow upon insolvency. With their eyes open to the consequences, the Nobility and Clergy elected to risk revolt, because they did not believe that revolt could prevail against them. Nothing is so impressive in the mighty convulsion which ensued as the mental opacity of the privileged orders, which caused them to increase their pressure in proportion as resistance increased, until finally those who were destined to replace them reorganized the courts, that they might have an instrument wherewith to slaughter a whole race down to the women and children. No less drastic method would serve to temper the rigidity of the aristocratic mind. The phenomenon well repays an hour of study.

Insolvency came within a decade after Turgot's fall, as Turgot had demonstrated that it must come, and an insolvency immediately precipitated by the rapacity of the court which had most need of caution. The future Louis XVIII, for example, who was then known as the Comte de Provence, on one occasion, when the government had made a loan, appropriated a quarter of it, laughingly observing, "When I see others hold out their hands, I hold out my hat." In 1787 the need for money became imperative, and, not daring to appeal to the nation, the King convoked an assembly of "notables," that is to say of the privileged. Calonne, the minister, proposed pretty much the measures of Turgot, and some of these measures the "notables" accepted, but the Parliament of Paris again intervened and declined to register the laws. The Provincial Parliaments followed the Parliament of Paris. After this the King had no alternative but to try the experiment of calling the States-General. They met on May 4, 1789, and instantly an administrative system, which no longer rested upon a social centre of gravity, crumbled, carrying the judiciary with it. At first the three estates sat separately. If this usage had continued, the Clergy and the Nobles combined would have annulled every measure voted by the Commons. For six weeks the Commons waited. Then on June 10, the Abbé Sieyès said, "Let us cut the cable. It is time." So the Clergy and the Nobility were summoned, and some of the Clergy obeyed. This sufficed. On motion of Sieyès, the Commons proclaimed themselves the National Assembly, and the orders fused. Immediately caste admitted defeat and through its mouthpiece, the King, commanded the Assembly to dissolve. The Commons refused to dissolve, and the Nobles prepared for a coup d'etat. The foreign regiments, in the pay of the government, were stationed about Paris, while the Bastille, which was supposed to be impregnable, was garrisoned with Swiss. In reply, on July 14, 1789, the citizens of Paris stormed the Bastille. An unstable social equilibrium had been already converted by pressure into a revolution. Nevertheless, excentric as the centre of gravity had now become, it might have been measurably readjusted had the privileged classes been able to reason correctly from premise to conclusion. Men like Lafayette and Mirabeau still controlled the Assembly, and if the King and the Nobility had made terms, probably the monarchy might have been saved, certainly the massacres would have been averted. As a decaying class is apt to do, the Nobility did that which was worst for themselves. Becoming at length partly conscious of a lack of physical force in France to crush the revolution, a portion of the nobility, led by the Comte d'Artois, the future Charles X, fled to Germany to seek for help abroad, while the bolder remained to plan an attack on the rebellion. On October 1, 1789, a great military banquet was given at Versailles. The King and Queen with the Dauphin were present. A royalist demonstration began. The bugles sounded a charge, the officers drew their swords, and the ladies of the court tore the tricolor from the soldiers' coats and replaced it with the white cockade. On October 5, a vast multitude poured out of Paris, and marched to Versailles. The next day they broke into the palace, killed the guards, and carried the King and Queen captive to the Tuileries. But Louis was so intellectually limited that he could not keep faith with those who wished him well. On July 14, 1790, the King swore, before half a million spectators, to maintain the new constitution. In that summer he was plotting to escape to Metz and join the army which had been collected there under the Marquis de Bouillé, while Bouillé himself, after the rising at Nancy, was busy in improving discipline by breaking on the wheel a selection of the soldiers of the Swiss regiment of Châteauvieux which had refused to march against Paris on the 14th of July, 1789. In October, 1790, Louis wrote to the King of Spain and other sovereigns to pay no heed to his concessions for he only yielded to duress, and all this even as Mirabeau made his supreme effort to save those who were fixed upon destroying themselves. Mirabeau sought the King and offered his services. The court sneered at him as a dupe. The Queen wrote, "We make use of Mirabeau, but we do not take him seriously." When Mirabeau awoke to his predicament, he broke out in mixed wrath and scorn: "Of what are these people thinking? Do they not see the abyss yawning at their feet? Both the King and Queen will perish, and you will live to see the rabble spurn their corpses."

The King and Queen, the Nobility and Clergy, could not see the abyss which Mirabeau saw, any more than the lawyers could see it, because of the temper of their minds. In the eye of caste Europe was not primarily divided into nations to whom allegiance was due, but into superimposed orders. He who betrayed his order committed the unpardonable crime. Death were better than that. But to the true aristocrat it was inconceivable that serfs could ever vanquish nobles in battle. Battle must be the final test, and the whole aristocracy of Europe was certain, Frenchmen knew, to succor the French aristocracy in distress.

So in the winter of 1790 the French fugitives congregated at Coblentz on the German frontier, persuaded that they were performing a patriotic duty in organizing an invasion of their country even should their onset be fatal to their relatives and to their King. And Louis doubted not that he also did his duty as a trustee of a divine commission when he in one month swore, before the Assembly, to maintain the constitution tendered him, and in the next authorized his brother, the Comte d'Artois, to make the best combination he could among his brother sovereigns for the gathering of an army to assert his divine prerogative. On June 21, 1791, Louis fled, with his whole family, to join the army of Bouillé, with intent to destroy the entire race of traitors from Mirabeau and Lafayette down to the peasants. He managed so ill that he was arrested at Varennes, and brought back whence he came, but he lied and plotted still.

Two years had elapsed between the meeting of the States-General and the flight to Varennes, and in that interval nature had been busy in selecting her new favored class. Economists have estimated that the Church owned one-third of the land of Europe during the Middle Ages. However this may have been she certainly held a very large part of France. On April 16, 1790, the Assembly declared this territory to be national property, and proceeded to sell it to the peasantry by means of the paper assignats  which were issued for the purpose, and were supposed to be secured upon the land. The sales were generally made in little lots, as the sales were made of the public domain in Rome under the Licinian Laws, and with an identical effect. The Emperor of Germany and the King of Prussia met at Pilnitz in August, 1791, to consider the conquest of France, and, on the eve of that meeting, the Assembly received a report which stated that these lands to the value of a thousand million francs had already been distributed, and that sales were going on. It was from this breed of liberated husbandmen that France drew the soldiers who fought her battles and won her victories for the next five and twenty years.

Assuming that the type of the small French landholder, both rural and urban, had been pretty well developed by the autumn of 1791, the crisis came rapidly, for the confiscations which created this new energy roused to frenzy, perhaps the most formidable energy which opposed it. The Church had not only been robbed of her property but had been wounded in her tenderest part. By a decree of June 12, 1790, the Assembly transferred the allegiance of the French clergy from the Pope to the state, and the priesthood everywhere vowed revenge. In May, 1791, the Marquis de la Rouërie, it is true, journeyed from his home in Brittany to Germany to obtain the recognition of the royal princes for the insurrection which he contemplated in La Vendée, but the insurrection when it occurred was not due so much to him or his kind as to the influence of the nonjuring priests upon the peasant women of the West.

The mental condition of the French emigrants at Coblentz during this summer of 1791 is nothing short of a psychological marvel. They regarded the Revolution as a jest, and the flight to the Rhine as a picnic. These beggared aristocrats, male and female, would throw their money away by day among the wondering natives, and gamble among themselves at night. If they ever thought of the future it was only as the patricians in Pompey's camp thought; who had no time to prepare for a campaign against Caesar, because they were absorbed in distributing offices among themselves, or in inventing torments to inflict on the rebels. Their chief anxiety was lest the resistance should be too feeble to permit them to glut themselves with blood. The creatures of caste, the emigrants could not conceive of man as a variable animal, or of the birth of a race of warriors under their eyes. To them human nature remained constant. Such, they believed, was the immutable will of God.

So it came to pass that, as the Revolution took its shape, a vast combination among the antique species came semi-automatically into existence, pledged to envelop and strangle the rising type of man, a combination, however, which only attained to maturity in 1793, after the execution of the King. Leopold II, Emperor of Germany, had hitherto been the chief restraining influence, both at Pilnitz and at Paris, through his correspondence with his sister, Marie Antoinette; but Leopold died on March 1, 1792, and was succeeded by Francis II, a fervid reactionist and an obedient son of the Church. Then caste fused throughout Germany, and Prussia and Austria prepared for war. Rouërie had returned to Brittany and only awaited the first decisive foreign success to stab the Revolution in the back. England also was ripening, and the instinct of caste, incarnated in George III, found its expression through Edmund Burke. In 1790 Burke published his "Reflections," and on May 6, 1791, in a passionate outbreak in the House of Commons, he renounced his friendship with Fox as a traitor to his order and his God. Men of Burke's temperament appreciated intuitively that there could be no peace between the rising civilization and the old, one of the two must destroy the other, and very few of them conceived it to be possible that the enfranchised French peasantry and the small bourgeoisie could endure the shock of all that, in their eyes, was intelligent, sacred, and martial in the world.

Indeed, aristocracy had, perhaps, some justification for arrogance, since the revolt in France fell to its lowest depth of impotence between the meeting at Pilnitz in August, 1791, and the reorganization of the Committee of Public Safety in July, 1793. Until August, 1792, the executive authority remained with the King, but the court of Louis was the focus of resistance to the Revolution, and even though a quasi-prisoner the King was still strong. Monarchy had a firm hold on liberal nobles like Mirabeau and Lafayette, on adventurers like Dumouriez, and even on lawyers like Danton who shrank from excessive cruelty. Had the pure Royalists been capable of enough intellectual flexibility to keep faith upon any reasonable basis of compromise, even as late as 1792, the Revolution might have been benign. In June, 1792, Lafayette, who commanded the army of the North, came to Paris and not only ventured to lecture the Assembly on its duty, but offered to take Louis to his army, who would protect him against the Jacobins. The court laughed at Lafayette as a Don Quixote, and betrayed his plans to the enemy. "I had rather perish," said the Queen, "than be saved by M. de Lafayette and his constitutional friends." And in this she only expressed the conviction which the caste to which she belonged held of their duty. Cazalés protested to the Assembly, "Though the King perish, let us save the kingdom." The Archduchess Christina wrote to her sister, Marie Antoinette, "What though he be slain, if we shall triumph," and Condé, in December, 1790, swore that he would march on Lyons, "come what might to the King."

France was permeated with archaic thought which disorganized the emerging society until it seemingly had no cohesion. To the French emigrant on the Rhine that society appeared like a vile phantom which had but to be exorcised to vanish. And the exorcism to which he had recourse was threats of vengeance, threats which before had terrified, because they had behind them a force which made them good. Torture had been an integral part of the old law. The peasant expected it were he insubordinate. Death alone was held to be too little to inspire respect for caste. Some frightful spectacle was usually provided to magnify authority. Thus Bouillé broke on the wheel, while the men were yet alive, every bone in the bodies of his soldiers when they disobeyed him; and for scratching Louis XV, with a knife, Damiens, after indescribable agonies, was torn asunder by horses in Paris, before an immense multitude. The French emigrants believed that they had only to threaten with a similar fate men like Kellermann and Hoche to make them flee without a blow. What chiefly concerned the nobles, therefore, was not to evolve a masterly campaign, but to propound the fundamental principles of monarchy, and to denounce an awful retribution on insurgents.

By the middle of July, 1792, the Prussians were ready to march, and emperors, kings, and generals were meditating manifestoes. Louis sent the journalist Mallet du Pan to the Duke of Brunswick, the commander-in-chief, to assist him in his task. On July 24, and on August 4, 1792, the King of Prussia laid down the law of caste as emphatically as had the Parliament of Paris some twenty years before. On July 25, the Duke of Brunswick pronounced the doom of the conquered. I come, said the King of Prussia, to prevent the incurable evils which will result to France, to Europe and to all mankind from the spread of the spirit of insubordination, and to this end I shall establish the monarchical power upon a stable basis. For, he continued in the later proclamation, "the supreme authority in France being never ceasing and indivisible, the King could neither be deprived nor voluntarily divest himself of any of the prerogatives of royalty, because he is obliged to transmit them entire with his own crown to his successors."

The Duke of Brunswick's proclamation contained some clauses written expressly for him by Mallet du Pan, and by Limon the Royalist.

If the Palace of the Tuileries be forced, if the least violence be offered to their Majesties, if they are not immediately set at liberty, then will the King of Prussia and the Emperor of Germany inflict "on those who shall deserve it the most exemplary and ever-memorable avenging punishments."

These proclamations reached Paris on July 28, and simultaneously the notorious Fersen wrote the Queen of France, "You have the manifesto, and you should be content." The court actually believed that, having insulted and betrayed Lafayette and all that body of conservative opinion which might have steadied the social equilibrium, they could rely on the fidelity of regiments filled with men against whom the emigrants and their allies, the Prussians, had just denounced an agonizing death, such as Bouillé's soldiers had undergone, together with the destruction of their homes.

All the world knows what followed. The Royalists had been gathering a garrison for the Tuileries ever since Lafayette's visit, in anticipation of a trial of strength with the Revolutionists. They had brought thither the Swiss guard, fifteen hundred strong; the palace was full of Royalist gentlemen; Mandat, who commanded the National Guard, had been gained over. The approaches were swept by artillery. The court was very confident. On the night of August 9, Mandat was murdered, an insurrectional committee seized the City Hall, and when Louis XVI came forth to review the troops on the morning of the 10th of August, they shouted, "Vive la Nation" and deserted. Then the assault came, the Swiss guard was massacred, the Assembly thrust aside, and the royal family were seized and conveyed to the Temple. There the monarchy ended. Thus far had the irrational opposition of a moribund type thrown into excentricity the social equilibrium of a naturally conservative people. They were destined to drive it still farther.

In this supreme moment, while the Prussians were advancing, France had no stable government and very imperfect means of keeping order. All the fighting men she could muster had marched to the frontier, and, even so, only a demoralized mass of levies, under Dumouriez and Kellermann, lay between the most redoutable regiments of the world and Paris. The emigrants and the Germans thought the invasion but a military promenade. At home treason to the government hardly cared to hide itself. During much of August the streets of Paris swarmed with Royalists who cursed the Revolution, and with priests more bitter than the Royalists. Under the windows of Louis, as he lay in the Temple, there were cries of "Long live the King," and in the prisons themselves the nobles drank to the allies and corresponded with the Prussians. Finally, Roland, who was minister, so far lost courage that he proposed to withdraw beyond the Loire, but Danton would hear of no retreat. "De l'audace," he cried, "encore de l'audace, et toujours de l'audace."

The Assembly had not been responsible for the assault on the Tuileries on August 10, 1792. Filled with conservatives, it lacked the energy. That movement had been the work of a knot of radicals which had its centre in Danton's Club of the Cordeliers. Under their impulsion the sections of Paris chose commissioners who should take possession of the City Hall and eject the loyalist Council. They did so, and thus Danton became for a season the Minister of Justice and the foremost man in France. Danton was a semi-conservative. His tenure of power was the last possibility of averting the Terror. The Royalists, whom he trusted, themselves betrayed him, and Danton fell, to be succeeded by Robespierre and his political criminal courts. Meanwhile, on September 20, 1792, the Prussian column recoiled before the fire of Kellermann's mob of "vagabonds, cobblers and tailors," on the slope of Valmy, and with the victory of Valmy, the great eighteenth-century readjustment of the social equilibrium of Europe passed into its secondary stage.