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attempted to make laws for them: they would probably retort what, in the
fable of Antisthenes, the lions said to the hares - 'where are your
claws?' - when in the council of the beasts the latter began haranguing
and claiming equality for all. And for this reason democratic States
have instituted ostracism; equality is above all things their aim, and
therefore they ostracise and banish from the city for a time those who
seem to predominate too much through their wealth, or the number of
their friends, or through any other political influence. Mythology tells
us that the Argonauts left Heracles behind for a similar reason; the
ship Argo would not take him because she feared that he would have been
too much for the rest of the crew."

Thrasybulus, the tyrant of Miletus, asked Periander, the tyrant of
Corinth, one of the seven sages of Greece, for advice on the art of
government. Periander made no reply but proceeded to bring a field of
corn to a level by cutting off the tallest ears. "This is a policy not
only expedient for tyrants or in practice confined to them, but equally
necessary in oligarchies and democracies. Ostracism is a measure of the
same kind, which acts by disabling and banishing the most prominent

This is what we may call a constitutional necessity for the democracy.

To be quite honest, it is not always obliged to cut off the ears of
corn. It has a simpler method. It can systematically prevent any man who
betrays any superiority whatsoever, either of birth, fortune, virtue or
talent, from obtaining any authority or social responsibility. It can
"send to Coventry." I have often pointed out that under the first
democracy Louis XVI was guillotined for having wished to leave the
country, while under the third democracy his great-nephews were exiled
for wishing to remain in it. Ostracism is, in these instances, still
feeling its way, and its action is contradictory because it has not made
up its mind. This will continue till it has been reduced to a science,
when it will contrive to level, by one method or another, every
individual eminence, great and small, that dares to vary by the merest
fraction from the regulation standards. This is ostracism, and
ostracism, so to speak, is a physiological organ of democracy. Democracy
by using it mutilates the nation, without it democracy would mutilate

Aristotle often tries to solve the problem of the eminent man. "Good
men," he says, "differ from any individual of the many, as the beautiful
are said to differ from those who are not beautiful, and works of art
from realities, because in them the scattered elements are combined....
Whether this principle can apply to every democracy and to all bodies of
men is not clear.... But there may be bodies of men about whom our
statement is nevertheless true. And if so, the difficulty which has been
already raised - viz., what power should be assigned to the mass of
freemen and citizens - is solved. There is still a danger in allowing
them to share the great offices of State, for their folly will lead them
into error and their dishonesty into crime. But there is a danger also
in not letting them share, for a State in which many poor men are
excluded from office will necessarily be full of enemies. The only way
of escape is to assign to them some deliberative and judicial
functions.... But each individual left to himself, forms an imperfect

It is not only the eminent man that is the thorn in the flesh of
democracies, but every form of superiority, whether individual or
collective, which exists outside the State and the Government.

If we recollect that Aristotle coupled extreme democracy with tyranny,
it will be interesting to recall his summary of the "ancient
prescriptions for the preservation of a tyranny...." "The tyrant should
lop off those who are too high; he must put to death men of spirit: he
must not allow common meals, clubs, education and the like; he must be
upon his guard against anything which is likely to inspire either
courage or confidence among his subjects; he must prohibit literary
assemblies or other meetings for discussion, and he must take every
means to prevent people from knowing one another (for acquaintance
begets mutual confidence)." Aristotle's conclusions are subjectively
aristocratic: "In the perfect State there would be great doubts about
the use of ostracism, not when applied to excess in strength, wealth,
popularity or the like, but when used against some one who is
pre-eminent in virtue. What is to be done with him? Mankind will not say
that such an one is to be expelled and exiled; on the other hand he
ought not to be a subject, that would be as if men should claim to rule
over Zeus on the principle of rotation of office. The only alternative
is that all should joyfully obey such a rule, according to what seems to
be the order of nature, and that men like him should be kings in their
State for life." But when he speaks objectively, Aristotle comes to
another conclusion, which we shall have occasion to mention later on.

Among moderns, Rousseau declared that he was not a democrat, and he was
right, because by democracy he meant the Athenian system of direct
government, of which he did not for an instant approve. In the "Social
Contract" he has drawn up a most detailed scheme, which, in spite of
some contradictions and obscure passages, is an exact description of
democracy as we understand the word; but still we cannot tell if he is
actually a democrat, because we do not know what he means by "citizens,"
whether he means everybody or only one class, though that a numerous
one. Rousseau has written more fully than anyone else, not so much of
the influence of democracy on morals, as of the _coincidence_ between
democracy and good morals. Equality, frugality and simplicity can all be
found, according to Rousseau, in States where there is neither royalty
nor aristocracy nor plutocracy. As I understand it, his meaning is that
the same virtue which makes certain nations love equality, frugality and
simplicity is also productive of a form of government which excludes
aristocracy, plutocracy and royalty. If you have simplicity, frugality
and equality, you will probably live in a republic that is democratic or
virtually democratic. This is, I think, the clearest and most impartial
summary that we can make of Rousseau's doctrine, which, though set forth
in rigid formulæ, is still extremely vague.

In this he is a far more faithful follower of Montesquieu than he will
allow. All that I have quoted is to be found literally in Montesquieu's
chapters on democracy. Even his famous saying, "the ruling principle of
democracy is virtue," means, when he uses it in one sense, no more than
that it is the synthesis of these three perfections, equality,
simplicity and frugality. For Montesquieu sometimes uses "virtue" in a
narrow, and sometimes in a broad sense, sometimes in the sense of
political and civic virtue or patriotism, sometimes in the sense of
virtue properly speaking (simplicity, frugality, thrift, equality). In
this latter case he and Rousseau are absolutely agreed.

Montesquieu only considers democracy in decadence, as his custom is in
respect of other forms of government, and though he does not actually
cite Plato, he really gives the substance of what we have already
quoted. "When the people wishes to do the work of the magistrates, the
dignity of the office disappears and when the deliberations of the
Senate carry no weight, neither senators nor old men are treated with
respect. When old men do not receive respect, fathers cannot expect it
from their children, husbands from their wives, nor masters from their
men. At length everyone will learn to rejoice in this untrammelled
liberty, and will grow as weary of commanding as of obeying. Women,
children and slaves will submit to no authority. There will be an end of
morals, no more love of order, no more virtue."

Now as to this transition, this passage from the public morals of a
democracy to the private, domestic, personal morals which exist under
that form of government, have you observed what is the common root of
our failings both public and private? The common root of both is
misunderstanding, forgetfulness and contempt of competence. If pupils
despise their masters, young men despise old men, if wives do not
respect their husbands and the unenfranchised do not respect the
citizens, if the condemned do not stand in awe of their judges, nor sons
in awe of their parents, the principle of efficiency has vanished.
Pupils no longer admit the scientific superiority of their teachers,
young men have no regard for the experience of the old, women will not
recognise the supremacy of their husbands in practical matters, the
unenfranchised have no sense of the superiority of the citizens from the
point of view of national tradition, the condemned do not feel the moral
supremacy of their judges, and sons do not realise the scientific,
practical, civic and moral superiority of their fathers.

Indeed, why should they? How could we expect these feelings to be of
anything but the most transient description since the State itself is
organised on a basis of contempt for competence, or of what is even
worse, a reverence for incompetence, and an insatiable craving for the
guidance and government of the incompetent?

Thus public morals have a great influence on private morals; and
gradually into family and social life there comes that laxity in the
daily relations of the citizens which Plato has wittily termed,
"equality between things that are equal and those that are not."

The first innovation which democracy brings into family life is the
equality of the sexes, and this is followed by woman's disrespect for
man. This idea, be it admitted, is substantially correct, it only ceases
to be true when it is viewed relatively to the varying competences of
the two sexes. Woman is man's equal in cerebral capacity, and in
civilised societies, where intellect is the only thing that matters, the
woman is the equal of the man. She should be admitted to the same
employments as men in society, and under the same conditions of capacity
and education, but in family life the same rules should apply as in
every other enterprise; (1) division of labour according to the
competence of each; (2) recognition of a leader according to the
competence of each. This is the law which women are constantly led to
misunderstand in a democracy. They will not admit the principle of the
division of labour either in the world at large or in the domestic
circle. They try to encroach upon men's work, which perhaps they might
do very successfully, if they were obliged to do it and had nothing else
at all to do; but which they really spoil by undertaking when they have
other obvious duties to perform. They will not admit that men should be
at the head of affairs; they aspire to be not only partners but managing
directors. This implies a contemptuous rejection of that form of social
competence which comes from the acceptance of convention or contract. No
doubt a woman would be just as good a tax-collector as her husband, but
since they have entered into partnership, the one to administer the
collection of taxes, the other to look after the house, it is just as
bad for the one whose business it is to keep house to begin collecting
taxes, as it is for the tax-collector to interfere with the
housekeeping. It is necessary to respect the efficiency that arises out
of the observance of convention and contract. This, with practice and
experience, will quickly become a very real and a very valuable
efficiency, but if thwarted from outside will lead to friction,
insecurity and disorganisation.

It is particularly by their contempt, which they are at no pains to
disguise, for the competence that comes from contract and later from
habit, by their refusal to recognise the position of the head of the
family, that women every day and in every minute particular are training
their children to despise their father. Democracy seems bent on bringing
up its children to despise their parents. No other construction can be
put upon the facts, however good and innocent the motives. Just sum up
the facts. In the first place democracy denies that the living can be
guided by the dead; it is one of its fundamental axioms that no
generation should be tied and bound by its predecessor. What inference
can children be expected to draw from this except that they owe no
obedience to their father and mother?

Children have naturally only too great a tendency to look down on their
parents. They are proud of their physical superiority; they know that
their star is rising while that of their parents is setting. They are
imbued with the universal prejudice of modern humanity that _progress is
constant_ and that therefore whatever is of yesterday is _ex hypothesi_
inferior to that which is of to-day. They are driven also, as I am
constrained to believe, by a sort of Nemesis inspired by fear lest human
science and power should hurry forward too fast if the children were
content to pick up the burden of life where their parents left it, and
simply followed their fathers and did not insist on effacing all that
their fathers had done and beginning again - with the result that the
edifice never rises far above its foundations, and that children for
this and other reasons have a natural inclination to treat their parents
as Cassandras. Then, as it were to clench the argument, democracy is
ready with its teaching that each generation is independent of the
other, and that the dead have no lesson to impart to the living.

In the second place, democracy, applying the principle still further and
proclaiming the doctrine that the State is master of all, withdraws the
child from the family, as often and as completely as it can.
"Democracy," said Socrates, in one of his humorous dialogues, "is a
mountebank, a kidnapper of children. It snatches the child from its
family while he is playing, takes him far away, allows him no more to
see his family, teaches him many strange languages, drills him till his
joints are supple, paints his face and dresses him in ridiculous
clothes, and imparts to him all the mysteries of the acrobat's trade
until he is sufficiently dexterous to appear in public and amuse the
company by his tricks."

At all events democracy is determined to take the child away from his
family, to give him the education which it has chosen and not that which
the parents have chosen, and to teach him that he must not believe what
his parents teach him. It denies the competence of parents to rear their
children and puts forward its own competence, asserting that it is only
its own that has any value.

This is one of the principal causes of the divisions between fathers
and children in a democracy.

You may retort that democracy does not always succeed in its efforts to
separate children from their parents, because there is nothing to
prevent the children extending the contempt, which for such excellent
reasons they have been taught to entertain for their parents, to their
State-appointed teachers.

This is a most pertinent observation, for the general maxims of
democracy are just as likely to make pupils despise their masters as to
make sons despise their fathers. The master, too, represents in the eyes
of his pupil that past which has no connection with the present and
which by the law of progress is very inferior to the present. This is
true; but the end of all is that between the school which counteracts
the influence of the parents and the home which counteracts the
influence of the school, the child becomes a personage who is never
educated at all. He is in like case with a child who in the family
itself receives lessons, and what is more important, example, from a
mother who is religious and from a father who is an atheist. He is not
educated, he has had no sort of education. The only real education,
that is to say, the only transmission to the children of the ideas of
their parents consists of an education at home which is reinforced by
the instruction of masters chosen by the parents in accordance with
their own views. This is precisely the form of education to which
democracy refuses to be reconciled.

* * * * *

There is a still more cogent reason why old men are neither respected
nor honoured in a democracy. Here is yet another efficiency formally
denied and formally set aside. An interesting treatise might be written
on the rise and fall of old men. Civilization has not been kind to them.
In primitive times, as among savage races to-day, old men were kings.
Gerontocracy, that is, government by the aged, is the most ancient form
of government. It is easy to understand why this should be. In primitive
ages, all knowledge was experience and the old men possessed all the
historical, social and political experience of the State. They were held
in great honour and listened to with the profoundest respect and
veneration, in fact with an almost superstitious reverence. Nietzsche
was thinking of those days when he said: "Respect for the aged is the
symbol of aristocracy," and when he added: "Respect for the aged is
respect for tradition," he was thinking of the reason for this
assumption. That the dead should rule the living was accepted
instinctively, and it was their nearness to death which evoked honour
for the aged.

At a later stage the old man shared in the civil government with
monarchy, aristocracy or oligarchy, and retained an almost complete
control of judicial affairs. His moral and technical efficiency were
still appreciated. His moral efficiency to his contemporaries consisted
in the fact that his passions were deadened and his judgment as
disinterested as was humanly possible. Even his obstinacy is rather an
advantage than otherwise. He is not liable to whims and fancies and
sudden gusts of temper or to external influence. His technical
efficiency is considerable, because he has seen and remembered much and
his mind has unconsciously drawn up a reference book of cases. As
history repeats itself with very slight alterations, every fresh case
which arises is already well known to him; it does not take him by
surprise and he has a solution at hand which only requires very slight

All this, however, is very ancient history. That which undermined the
authority of old men was the book. Books contain all science, equity,
jurisprudence and history better, it must be confessed, than the
memories of old men. One fine day the young men said: "The old men were
our books; now that we have books we have no further need for old men."

This was a mistake; the knowledge which is accumulated in books can
never be anything but the handmaiden of living science, the science
which is being constantly remodelled and corrected by living thought. A
book is a wise man paralysed; the wise man is a book which still thinks
and writes.

These ideas did not hold; the book superseded the old man, and the old
man no longer was a library to the nation.

Later still, for various reasons, the old men drifted from a position of
respect to one of ridicule. Undoubtedly they lend themselves to this;
they are obstinate, foolish, prosy, boring, crotchety and unpleasant to
look upon. Comic writers poked fun at these failings which are only too
self-evident and showered ridicule upon them. Then as the majority of
audiences is composed of young men, first of all because there are more
young men than old, and secondly because old men do not often go to the
theatre, authors of comic plays were certain of raising a laugh by
turning old men into ridicule, or rather by exposing only their
ridiculous characteristics.

At Athens and at Rome and probably elsewhere, the old man was one of the
principal grotesque characters. These things, as Rousseau pointed out,
have a great effect upon morals. Once the old man became a recognised
traditional stage-butt, his social authority had come to an end. In the
_de Senectute_ it is obvious that Cicero is running counter to the
stream in seeking to restore to favour a character about whom the public
is indifferent and for whom all he can do is to plead extenuating

It is a remarkable fact that even in mediæval epics, Charlemagne
himself, the emperor of the flowing beard, often plays a comic part. The
epic is invaded by the atmosphere of the fable.

During the Renaissance, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the
old man is generally, though not invariably, held up to ridicule.

Molière takes his lead from Aristophanes and Plautus rather than from
Terence and is the scourge of old age as well as "the scourge of the
ridiculous"; he pursues the old as a hound his prey and never leaves
them in peace either in his poetry or his prose.

We must do this much justice to Rousseau that both he and his child, the
Revolution, tried to restore the old man to his former glory; he makes
honourable mention of him in his writings, and she gives him important
posts in public ceremonies and national fêtes. Therein were received the
ancient memories of Lacedæmon and of early Rome, combined with a form of
reaction against the days of Louis XIV and Louis XV.

But with the triumph of democracy the old man was finally banished to
the limbo of discredited things. Montesquieu's advice was quite
forgotten (see the context Laws, v, 8). He said that _in a democracy_
"nothing kept the standard of morals so high as that young men should
venerate the old. Both profit by it, the young because they respect the
old, and the old because they are confirmed in their respect for
themselves" (for the respect of the young is an assistance to the
self-respect of the aged).

Democracy has forgotten this advice, because it no longer believes in
tradition and believes too much in progress. Old men are the natural
upholders of tradition, and we must confess that an enthusiastic faith
in the value of what we call progress is not commonly their failing. For
this very reason their influence would be a most wholesome corrective to
the system, or rather to the attitude of mind, which despises the past
and sees in every change a step in the path of progress. But democracy
will not allow that it needs a corrective, and the old man, to it, is
only an enemy. The old man upholds tradition and has no enthusiasm for
progress, but beyond this he appeals for respect, first for himself,
then for religion, for glory, for his country and for the history of his
nation. Democracy is indifferent to the sentiment of respect, or rather
it lives in constant fear that the sentiment may be applied elsewhere.

Then what does democracy want for itself?

Not respect, but adoration, passion, devotion. We all like to see our
own sentiments as to ourselves repeated in the minds of others. The
crowd never respects, it loves, it yields to passion, enthusiasm,
fanaticism. It never respects even that which it loves.

It is quite natural that the masses should not care for old men. The
masses are young. How aptly does Horace's description of the young man
apply to the people!

_Imberbis juvenis, tandem custode remoto
Gaudet equis, canibusque et aprici gramine campi;
Cereus in vitium flecti, monitoribus asper,
Utilium tardus provisor, prodigus æris,
Sublimis, cupidusque et amata relinquere pernix._

"Once free from the control of his tutors, the young man thinks of
nothing but horses, dogs and the Campus Martius, impressionable as wax
to every temptation, impatient of correction, unthrifty, extravagant,
presumptuous and light of love."

At all events respect has no meaning for the crowd, and when it rules,
we cannot from its example learn the lessons of respect. Democracy has
no love for the old; and it is interesting to note that the word
gerontocracy to which the ancients attached the most honourable meaning
is now only a term of ridicule, and is applied only to a government
which, because it is in the hands of old men, is therefore grotesque.

* * * * *

This disappearance of respect, noted as we have seen by Plato, Aristotle
and Montesquieu as a morbid system, is, regard it how we will, a fact of
the gravest import. Kant has asked the question, what must we obey? What
criterion is there to tell us what to obey? What is there within us
which commands respect, which does not ask for love or fear, but for
respect alone? He has given us the answer. The feeling of respect is the

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