The use of history for forensic purposes occurs all the time, with each side citing the evidence favorable to its own position. By Reid's argument this leads to the use of the past only to serve present purposes; historians rightly protest against present-minded history offered without context. In addition, the constitutional controversies that Reid recounts were not cases at the bar; they were political struggles that had significant consequences.
Indeed, the essence of politics has remained the offering of evidence that bolsters one's position. Political debate all too often, perhaps, privileges spin above historical accuracy. Were the constitutional theorists in the Anglo-American political universe the spin doctors of their time? Perhaps, yet no one thinks the less of other individuals who have gotten the history wrong. Even the great constitutional historian William Stubbs could not escape from the quagmire of Germanic institutional continuity at the end of the nineteenth century, yet his greatness as an historian was and is undoubted.
In the end, therefore, what does it really matter that opponents to royal power developed a theory of constitutional development at variance with the historical record as now known? They triumphed in the political arena and their historical skills mattered little. The alleged chasm between forensic and scientific history also is problematic. Among historians, who would now claim to be scientific? Historians pick and choose among their documents in order to present a thesis; if the evidence does not sustain the argument, as readers of book reviews know so well, then the conclusions are subject to criticism and sometimes rejected completely.
Royal authority may have seemed to be diminished by a confirmation of the charters, but it was also exercised. The ultimate validation of the Great Charter was the Great Seal, nothing else, and that bore the impression of the king in majesty. There was no escaping that. Nevertheless men tried. The Charter specified that dispossessions had occurred without lawful judgment of peers, Edition: current; Page: [  ] that fines had been agreed and penalties imposed unjustly and contrary to the law of the land.
By itself it did not cut a lot of ice. However, it was linked to a more practical tactic of external compulsion. Both the king and his opponents used it in In the end the process gave the reissues of and the seal of papal approval but not a lot besides. From , to be sure, the charters were reinforced by sentences of excommunication against infringers.
But the sentences were the work of archbishops and bishops themselves vulnerable as tenants-in-chief of the crown; the popes almost always backed the king. Episcopal insistence on the charters was far from disinterested. It was aimed at extending the privileges of the anglicana ecclesia confirmed in general in chapter 1; this provoked baronial as well as royal resistance. The king was careful to except royal rights and exclude new ecclesiastical pretensions from the traditional confirmations and the associated sentences of excommunication.
In any case such sentences required the secular arm and ultimately royal approval to become effective. There were vociferous demands and demonstrations along the way. Reinforce the charters by the threat of excommunication; promulgate the penalty in the most solemn assemblies of king, bishops, and nobles, as in and ; reinforce the threat by papal confirmation, as in and , have both charters and sentence published in Latin, French, and English as in , or read twice a year in cathedral churches as in ; display the Charter of Liberties in church, renewing it annually at Easter, as Archbishop Pecham laid down in ; embrace the king himself within the sentence of excommunication, as Archbishop Boniface did by implication in To modern eyes it is all repetitive and futile.
This was perhaps the best the thirteenth century could do to introduce some countervailing force to royal authority. But the crown remained resilient, its authority unimpaired. These ritual occasions were as evanescent as party conventions. All they left in the end was the sententia lata embedded, apparently so incongruously, in the manuscript collections of statutes of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries and subsequently in the Statutes of the Realm.
But at the time the effort must have seemed worthwhile. It all helped to keep the Charter alive. And it spread knowledge of it wide within and outside the church. Bishop Grosseteste of Lincoln returned home from the great council of and promptly ordered that the sentence should be promulgated in every church in his diocese. Yet this is not the whole story.
The charters were not just expressions of royal authority. Certainly, such liberties were derived from royal concession and nowhere else. But the king had conceded them. Moreover he had conceded them in a form which located them squarely within contemporary conveyancing. This prosaic, everyday mold was essential; it provided authenticity; anything else risked challenge or annulment.
Still in the thirteenth century men were conscious enough of the importance of livery of seisin and aware that no grant was so secure that it did not benefit from repeated confirmation by the grantor and his successors and from corroboration by a superior lord and other interested parties. In the case of the charters this need was met by the repeated reissues, confirmations, oaths of observance, and threat of ecclesiastical penalties.
But conveyancing had moved far beyond the primitive notion that rights conveyed reverted to the lord on the death of the recipient or that homage rendered should be renewed on the death of either party. Where in any case in the concessions of — was the element of service which underlay such insecurity? It was there certainly, but in a residual form, in the concession of the fifteenth on moveables in the final clause of the Charters of It was used to reinforce the certainty and permanence of the Edition: current; Page: [  ] transaction.
And how could the beneficiary die when defined as all free tenants or everybody in the realm? The answer to both these questions was to lead or drive men to the idea that the liberties were conceded to the regnum. But if that was the theory, practice was somewhat different. There was probably no clear precedent for the grant of At all events it seems certain for and is absolutely certain for that the charters were sent to the counties, that is to the county courts, and were held there by responsible knights of the shire or were deposited for future reference in some suitable repository.
It is reasonable to suppose that it was through such a procedure that an original of still survives at Lincoln, 34 and less certainly at Salisbury. Peter le Neve, who worked on the book in , developed this memorandum further. That is where the charters were available. It was up to the knights of the shire to exploit them. This opportunity was not entirely novel. In the decade or so before local communities, including counties, had come to purchase privileges, guaranteed by charter, which gave them some control over the office of sheriff, or the conduct of local government, or complete or partial exemption from the forest law.
Against the rights of the crown they set the liberty granted by the king. A closely similar argument was presented by the knights of Lincolnshire in Their action too lay against the sheriff and concerned his demands for suit of court in the wapentake of Ancaster. The liberty Edition: current; Page: [  ] alleged in defense was the Charter of Liberties and in particular chapter 35 of the reissue, which dealt with the session of local courts.
It also concerned suit at the shire court, and here the knights alleged:. The county court of Lincoln always used to sit at intervals of forty days; and the lord king has conceded to all men of his realm their liberties and ancient customs which are in use; and the custom was always such; and this sheriff has fixed the courts contrary to that custom at intervals of five weeks and sometimes less. Moreover the court used to meet for one day only. And because they held the aforesaid liberties through the lord king it did not seem to them that they ought to change the state of the county court without the lord king and the magnates of the realm.
This brought into the debate the savings clause protecting existing liberties and free customs which had been introduced into the version of the Charter. And it pointed to the contradictory position into which the crown had got itself: on the one hand the sheriff, seeking to perform his office in holding pleas in shire and wapentake, arguing that his appointment as a sheriff and bailiff of the king was sufficient warrant for his actions; on the other hand the knights, insisting upon and quoting the liberties so recently confirmed. Both sides of the argument stemmed from the king.
However, one side of the argument, the Charter, came direct from the king, while the other side came at one remove, as it were, through the sheriff. This was crucial. It must have been obvious to all that there were grave difficulties in the way of using the charters as a direct counter to the personal actions and immediate policies of the king.
The security clause of the Charter had sought to do just that.
It had led the country into civil war and had been abandoned. Further experience soon showed that further pressure in this direction was unlikely to lead to anything more than the charade of a great council, a confirmation of the charters, and a promulgation of ecclesiastical Edition: current; Page: [  ] penalties. The charters provided no solution to the problem of how to manage a willful king: hence the increasing interest in schemes for conciliar control.
For, if knights of the shire could not bring an action against the king in his own court for contravention of the charters, they could certainly do so against his local officers. The king, in short, could be put on the spot: which actions did he really intend—those imposed or demanded by his local agents or those conveyed as liberties in the charters? These were questions which only the king and his court could answer. These issues soon became general. A meeting of representatives from eight counties summoned to Lincoln was prorogued in September By intention or otherwise, chapter 1 of that Charter, which provided for perambulations, was not clearly drafted.
Its execution remained a bone of contention between the crown and local communities to the end of the century and beyond. Three of these had participated in the rebellion of ; one, John de Lacy, had been a member of the Twenty Five. The plaint against them was based on the final chapter of the Forest Charter, which laid down that all those who received these liberties from the king were to grant the same to their men.
Henry intervened in each case to emphasize the principle laid down in all versions of both charters that what the king was granting to his men they were to grant to theirs. Moreover in letters of August and October he addressed the specific point raised by the knights of Lincolnshire and gave rulings on the session of local courts. The second of these was drafted after chapter 35 had been read before archbishops, bishops, earls, and barons and was based on their advice. In Lincolnshire, Bishop Grosseteste subsequently intervened, yet again, in support of the knights; throughout the shires both local government and the extent of the forests remained raw issues.
Nothing in all these arguments and events should be read with an eye on the future. Men were quite accustomed to making and receiving grants of liberties. They were used to confirming them or to demanding their renewal. In the ordinary course of events such grants were marked by some form of livery or were corroborated on oath. No one was surprised when liberties had to be sustained or defended in the courts. Men accepted that they might have to resort to passive resistance or even to private warfare in defending their rights.
It was perhaps only in its universality, as a grant to all in the land, that the Charter of Liberties would have seemed at all novel to the casual observer of the political scene in the s and s. And liberties wore Edition: current; Page: [  ] old, became meaningless, and were forgotten. Already by the middle years of the century men were turning to other political remedies for their ills—conciliar control at the center, election of local officials in the provinces—and these too had an earlier history going back before Where, after all, was the Charter of Henry I?
Yet there were signs: two indications perhaps that the charters were unusual. First, they were granted in perpetuum. This insistence on perpetuity was included in all versions and reissues of both charters. Now a grant in perpetuity was unusual between laymen. To go beyond a transfer from a donor and his heirs to a recipient and his heirs was unnecessary and seemingly nonsensical.
Nevertheless, a layman might occasionally make a grant in perpetuity to another, especially when it took the form of a sale or quitclaim. Moreover in perpetuum became pervasive in the warranty clauses which were common in conveyances of the thirteenth century. The words also occur occasionally in charters granted to lay communities or to boroughs, especially where free borough status or the borough farm was concerned, and in grants of markets and fairs.
Perpetuity is likewise the term in almost all charters of disafforestation and in the much rarer grants of jurisdictional or administrative privileges to local communities, counties, or county subdivisions. But the most generalized, and most probably the first, use of the words was in grants in free and perpetual alms to monasteries and other ecclesiastical bodies. This too was to be enjoyed in perpetuum. But it was not restricted to that. The phrase was reintroduced into the usual formulas of a gift from grantor and heirs to recipients and heirs which prefaced the whole of the remainder Edition: current; Page: [  ] of the Charter.
All the liberties conceded were to be held forever. By the phrase was so distanced from its origin that it was now introduced into the Charter of the Forest. All these concessions too were to be held forever. With the reissues of the words were embedded in the received text of both charters. Not even King Stephen had conceded as much. There is no need to attribute personal responsibility for the intrusion of these words into the charters. After all they were common enough.
And they were not yet the source of any precise political theory, although the occasional use of finabiliter rather than in perpetuum in grants between individuals suggests that the incongruity of perpetuity in such a context might well have been appreciated. No one as yet was arguing that the charters were irrepealable fundamental statute, although clearly the words conceded that the liberties were to be permanent. No one was suggesting that the community of laymen was exactly analogous to a community of religious or even to the whole body of the church, although equally obviously the possession of liberties contributed to the emergence of the communitas regni both as a concept and as a political phenomenon.
It is more probable that the repetition of the phrase reflected a determination that there was to be no going back, a feeling that these were once and for all concessions which at last put a wide range of matters to right. In perpetuum served that purpose very well. A second feature of the charters had more to do with government. They originated in rebellion, but they were drafted in the royal chancery. They are official documents.
They are remarkable in the textual improvement which they underwent and in the additional material which they accumulated between the initial Articles of and the final versions of Two features of this are particularly striking. First, by new material was being introduced that went beyond the clarification of earlier provisions. Chapter 35 introduced new arrangements for the sessions of the courts of shire, hundred, and wapentake; we have seen that these immediately became contentious.
Chapter 36 forbade collusive alienation in free alms. Most striking of all, the Charter of the Forest, now issued for the first time, settled matters raised inconclusively in and also Edition: current; Page: [  ] dealt with many matters of forest administration which had not been covered at all in the earlier document. Second, it seems beyond doubt that these new provisions were a response to evidence accumulated by enquiries into local government initiated under chapter 48 of Magna Carta in the summer of No returns to this inquest survive, but it certainly took place.
Moreover the new material which appears in the Charters of bears all the marks of an enquiry characteristic of the operations of Angevin government. Whence else could the new material have come? So in effect the final version of the Charter was used as a vehicle for legislation, legislation drafted by royal officials on the basis of public enquiry.
Magna Carta then became the origin of much subsequent legislation; the next in the series, the Provisions of Merton of , acknowledged the debt in many of its provisions which elucidated matters first raised in the Charter. By the end of the century the manuscript collections of statutes, the Antiqua Statuta, gave Magna Carta pride of place. It became the first statute. It was kept in being as a source of law as well as a conveyance of liberties.
This dual function was entirely pragmatic. Later generations, especially later generations of lawyers, might wonder how a document could be both statute and privilege at one and the same time; for statute, in one way or another, governed or directed the operations of the courts, while charters were subject to their jurisdiction.
Indeed, they could treat the texts themselves in a manner which now seems cavalier. It is well known that the St. He excused himself by saying that the charters of the two kings were alike. To compound his error he tacked on to the text a variant version of the forma securitatis which is found only at St. The truth was not simply that they lacked the knowledge and expertise to criticize the texts before them, but that all their instincts and training led them to treat variants as glosses.
They were not alone in their documentary inexactitude. The so-called Statute or Provisions of Merton was not so much a statute, a product of a single time and place, as Littleton would have required, as an assemblage of material agreed and promulgated on different occasions and over several months between and To summarize, by Magna Carta embodied two elements and lines of thought, or, if we prefer, could be viewed in two ways. On the one hand it was a grant of liberties; on the other it was a legislative act.
On the one hand men and communities could appeal to it against acts of government. On the other it laid down governmental procedures and established points of law which the courts would follow and enforce. In the other the Exchequer would follow the new rulings concerning baronial reliefs, or the provision concerning the collection of debt, and the justices the rule that common pleas should be held in a certain place.
These two functions met where the Edition: current; Page: [  ] interests of the crown and local communities ebbed and flowed in the provisions which concerned local government and the sessions of the local courts. Probably no one at the time recognized these hybrid characteristics in the documents of to But they soon came to react to them, perhaps even to understand the consequences.
At least from to , in the Mirror of Justices, there survives a hard-line insistence on the Charter as a grant of liberties, made in perpetuity. The author of the Mirror of Justices attempts a sort of complete commentary, article by article. In his discussion of the statutes of Merton, Westminster II and others, he points to provisions repugnant to articles of the Great Charter.
His method was not in fact so very novel, given that he was regarding the Charter primarily as a grant of liberties made in perpetuity: it was Edition: current; Page: [  ] that any free man could pursue his free tenement in the liberties of the Charter by an action of novel disseisin. He was more logical than his critics have allowed. He was also trying to be more logical than either common sense or circumstances required.
How could law be founded in a grant of liberties? Especially one granted in perpetuity? Was each and every statute liable to be repugnant ever afterward? Was the Charter never likely to become out-of-date? Were its concessions to remain fossilized, never to be adjusted to changing ideas and social circumstances? Or, to put the same question in a contemporary context, was the Charter to be immune from glossing?
Willy-nilly our author answered the question by glossing it himself. It was only thus that it could achieve the perpetuity it proclaimed. The establishment view was looser and less contentious. Bracton simply drew on three chapters in dealing with reliefs, the writ praecipe, and the writ of life and limb. In chapter 5 of the Statute of Marlborough, the first coherently drafted statute, provided the first statutory confirmation, as Littleton later appreciated:.
The Great Charter shall be observed in all its articles, both in such as pertain to the King as in others. And enquiry shall be made before the justices in eyre in their circuits and before the sheriffs in the county courts when necessary; and writs shall be granted freely Edition: current; Page: [  ] against offenders, before the King or the justices of the Bench or before the justices in eyre when they come into those parts. Likewise the Charter of the Forest shall be observed in all its articles, and convicted offenders shall be punished by our sovereign lord the king.
That seemed to accept that enforcement of the charters was part of the ordinary judicial process. Nevertheless it did not include enforcement as part of the general eyre and only two chapters, 5 and 35 of the Great Charter, came to be included in the articles of the eyre. By then men were clearly arguing that the two charters should be treated as integral parts of their respective laws. This was repeated in the Articuli super Cartas of It must have seemed quite incongruous that a document which was the origin of so much subsequent legislation and which figured so prominently in the proliferating collections of Antiqua Statuta had not hitherto been enrolled as such.
That it spoke with the voice of a charter, not a statute, became a minor difficulty which could be reconciled. Littleton did it by reference to the Statute of Marlborough. Other lines were possible. A contemporary of Littleton, delivering a law reading on Magna Carta circa , argued:.
Bifore the makying of this statuet, that is to seie the great chartoure, there was certein lawes used, by the whiche men hade profit and also moche harme. And therfore the kyng, seyng this mischief, ordeyned Edition: current; Page: [  ] the greet charter, wherin is contened alle the fruyt of lawes bifore used turnyng to the people profit and al other put away. A document which lay at the origin of statute and was at one and the same time a grant of liberties in perpetuity called for a recurring gloss: confirmation, interpretation, and commentary.
Beginning with the parva carta of Magna Carta was confirmed in at least fifty-six great councils or parliaments by Particular chapters figure in judgments, exceptions, pleadings, and processes; the evidence proliferates in plea rolls, yearbooks, and the Register of Writs. These developments have been well treated by Faith Thompson and require no further survey here. First, interest in the charters tended to concentrate on particular Edition: current; Page: [  ] sections.
This was very obviously so in the case of the Charter of the Forest where chapters 1 and 3 and the consequent perambulations underlay the prolonged dispute over the bounds of the forest which divided the crown and local communities on into the fourteenth century.
There were also local disputes about chapter 2 dealing with summonses to the forest courts and about private rights within the forest covered in chapter 17, but these did not generate quite the same heat. The remainder of the Charter was not particularly contentious within the context of the forest law.
It was the same with Magna Carta. As we have seen, chapter 35, dealing with the session of the local courts, was of immediate concern. Chapter 29, nullus liber homo, was given great prominence by internecine aristocratic conflict under Edward II. Individual litigants made good use of all the chapters which dealt with jurisdiction and penalties: the session of common pleas, the petty assizes, the affeering of amercements, prosecution by royal officials.
The collection of debt still kept chapter 18 very much alive. The Londoners were still ardent in maintaining their liberties and in pursuing the destruction of fish weirs on the Thames. But there were also many chapters which attracted little or no attention. The crown had accepted and continued to execute some of the provisions: chapters 2 and 3, for example, largely settled the questions of reliefs and the succession of heirs; as a result appeals were few and far between.
Other chapters seem to have lost the urgency they had in Disparagement of heirs was apparently a dead issue if, indeed, it had ever been very much alive 6.
Sheriffs and other bailiffs were no longer holding pleas of the crown Chapters dealing with demands for varied services 15, 20, 21 provoked little if any active interest, probably because the services were long since commuted. Legislative measures introduced into the Charter in to deal with loss of services through gift or sale 32 , with patronage of abbeys 32 , and with alienation in free alms 36 had been overtaken by circumstances or subsequent legislation.
By the Edition: current; Page: [  ] middle of the fourteenth century half the chapters of the Charter were uncontroversial, or dead, or moribund. Second, the charters seem to have come to play a less obvious political role. In the case of the Charter of the Forest there may have been a real decline of interest as the central forest administration weakened in the course of the fourteenth century.
The last forest eyre was held in Sherwood in By forest asserts and wastes were being converted into heritable socage tenures from which forest officials were excluded. The bounds, one of the crucial issues raised by the Charter, declined in importance because the forest was eroded from within. So the Charter of the Forest lost practical importance. It still deserved pride of place as the first item when the Sherwood Forest Book was composed circa , but it no longer occasioned political crises as it had done at times a century or more earlier.
Of the fifty-six conciliar or parliamentary confirmations between and , only eight came from the fifteenth century. More detailed legislation had altered or superseded the Charter in some points. A few of the old standbys still serve to support a claim or defend against an abuse, notably chapters 9, 11, 12, 14 and However, it is easy to exaggerate this decline.
Certainly Fortescue made no mention of it in his paean of praise for English law; even so, it underlay some of the main points in his argument. It would have been impossible to find chapter and verse for what he had to say about lex terrae as applied to arrest, trial, or threat to possessions without calling in the end on the Charter. It is significant that both were turned against non—common law jurisdictions of various kinds.
This was quite apart from appeals to the liberty of the church of chapter 1, which were triggered by the Reformation. In the debates and negotiations which led to the new Heresy Act of the Commons reinforced its opposition to ecclesiastical jurisdiction and the use of the ex officio oath in cases of suspected heresy by referring to chapter 29 of Magna Carta, which was noted in a full English translation. Among seven further statutes adduced in support there figured four of the six statutes of Edward III, some in summary, some with fragments given verbatim. This was at a time not of fragile monarchy but in the midst of the Henrician Reformation.
The Heresy Act itself, in final form, gives no hint that Magna Carta had stalked through its origination. In parliament it was not so much forgotten as overlain. Third, in this process the Charter of Liberties was glossed, interpreted, changed, pressed into use for objectives not originally intended. Magna Carta drew comment and interpretation like a magnet, ever more so as it acquired the standing of a statute and as the justices of the central courts of the common law took to judicial interpretation of other legislation. In their association of text and commentary the justices shared much the same method and among their varied objectives they had one in common: to appropriate received texts to current circumstances.
It is with the consequences of interpreting and glossing that serious historical difficulties arise. The purist is likely to argue that any departure from the strict or literal sense of the original text amounts to distortion or misinterpretation. Once that is allowed Coke and Selden are condemned out of hand as inventors of a figment which they foisted on seventeenth-century England and thence on half the world.
But the Edition: current; Page: [  ] argument misses two points. Second, and much more important, how could the intention of the charters as grants in perpetuum be met except by glossing, interpretation, and adjustment to new circumstances? It is not a matter here of imposing modern sociological concepts on medieval practice. Royal clerks themselves used the word interpretatio in describing the comments made by the king and magnates in on chapter And men were aware that much might depend on interpretation.
Chapter 1 of the Charter of the Forest laid down that land brought within the forest by Henry II should be disafforested where it included the woods of others and was to their damage; if it was his own demesne it might remain forest. That subsumed a crucial question. Were the afforestations of Henry II to be interpreted narrowly as those which were entirely de novo, or were they also to include forests established by Henry I which were subsequently lost to the crown under Stephen?
Lack of clarity here, which could have been deliberate, was one of the causes of the prolonged dispute over the bounds of the forest in the thirteenth century. The resulting interpretations, constructions, or glosses varied in character. Some were plain errors that nonetheless matched the intentions of the Charter. In , for example, Theobald Russell, a minor, petitioned for proper maintenance, quoting chapter 5 of the Charter. Chapter 5 mentioned no such thing; Theobald was simply asserting common practice which antedated Chapter 23, which provided for the destruction of weirs on the Thames and Medway, was concerned with navigation.
Anton Sorkin rated it really liked it Dec 27, Nor by now should the reasons for this be surprising. The resulting interpretations, constructions, or glosses varied in character. Search this Guide Search. The title varies, especially with the first 4 volumes by Dallas: Reports of Cases Ruled and Adjudged in the Courts of Pennsylvania Before and Since the Revolution 1 Dallas covers cases from to
Already Edition: current; Page: [  ] by it was applied to fishery protection, and it was given statutory blessing in this form in Meanwhile chapter 16, which was primarily concerned with hawking, was also extended to fishing rights. Would it, then, be wise to imagine that a social impulse which dates from so far back can be checked by the efforts of a generation? Is it credible that the democracy which has annihilated the feudal system and vanquished kings will respect the citizen and the capitalist?
Will it stop now that it has grown so strong and its adversaries so weak? None can say which way we are going, for all terms of comparison are wanting: the equality of conditions is more complete in the Christian countries of the present day than it has been at any time or in any part of the world; so that the extent of what already exists prevents us from foreseeing what may be yet to come.
The whole book which is here offered to the public has been written under the impression of a kind of religious dread produced in the author's mind by the contemplation of so irresistible a revolution, which has advanced for centuries in spite of such amazing obstacles, and which is still proceeding in the midst of the ruins it has made. It is not necessary that God himself should speak in order to disclose to us the unquestionable signs of His will; we can discern them in the habitual course of nature, and in the invariable tendency of events: I know, without a special revelation, that the planets move in the orbits traced by the Creator's finger.
If the men of our time were led by attentive observation and by sincere reflection to acknowledge that the gradual and progressive development of social equality is at once the past and future of their history, this solitary truth would confer the sacred character of a Divine decree upon the change. To attempt to check democracy would be in that case to resist the will of God; and the nations would then be constrained to make the best of the social lot awarded to them by Providence.
The Christian nations of our age seem to me to present a most alarming spectacle; the impulse which is bearing them along is so strong that it cannot be stopped, but it is not yet so rapid that it cannot be guided: their fate is in their hands; yet a little while and it may be so no longer. The first duty which is at this time imposed upon those who direct our affairs is to educate the democracy; to warm its faith, if that be possible; to purify its morals; to direct its energies; to substitute a knowledge of business for its inexperience, and an acquaintance with its true interests for its blind propensities; to adapt its government to time and place, and to modify it in compliance with the occurrences and the actors of the age.
A new science of politics is indispensable to a new world. This, however, is what we think of least; launched in the middle of a rapid stream, we obstinately fix our eyes on the ruins which may still be described upon the shore we have left, whilst the current sweeps us along, and drives us backwards towards the gulf. In no country in Europe has the great social revolution which I have been describing made such rapid progress as in France; but it has always been borne on by chance.
The heads of the State have never had any forethought for its exigencies, and its victories have been obtained without their consent or without their knowledge. The most powerful, the most intelligent, and the most moral classes of the nation have never attempted to connect themselves with it in order to guide it. The people has consequently been abandoned to its wild propensities, and it has grown up like those outcasts who receive their education in the public streets, and who are unacquainted with aught but the vices and wretchedness of society.
The existence of a democracy was seemingly unknown, when on a sudden it took possession of the supreme power. Everything was then submitted to its caprices; it was worshipped as the idol of strength; until, when it was enfeebled by its own excesses, the legislator conceived the rash project of annihilating its power, instead of instructing it and correcting its vices; no attempt was made to fit it to govern, but all were bent on excluding it from the government.
The consequence of this has been that the democratic revolution has been effected only in the material parts of society, without that concomitant change in laws, ideas, customs, and manners which was necessary to render such a revolution beneficial. We have gotten a democracy, but without the conditions which lessen its vices and render its natural advantages more prominent; and although we already perceive the evils it brings, we are ignorant of the benefits it may confer.
While the power of the Crown, supported by the aristocracy, peaceably governed the nations of Europe, society possessed, in the midst of its wretchedness, several different advantages which can now scarcely be appreciated or conceived. The power of a part of his subjects was an insurmountable barrier to the tyranny of the prince; and the monarch, who felt the almost divine character which he enjoyed in the eyes of the multitude, derived a motive for the just use of his power from the respect which he inspired.
High as they were placed above the people, the nobles could not but take that calm and benevolent interest in its fate which the shepherd feels towards his flock; and without acknowledging the poor as their equals, they watched over the destiny of those whose welfare Providence had entrusted to their care. The people never having conceived the idea of a social condition different from its own, and entertaining no expectation of ever ranking with its chiefs, received benefits from them without discussing their rights.
It grew attached to them when they were clement and just, and it submitted without resistance or servility to their exactions, as to the inevitable visitations of the arm of God.
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Custom, and the manners of the time, had moreover created a species of law in the midst of violence, and established certain limits to oppression. As the noble never suspected that anyone would attempt to deprive him of the privileges which he believed to be legitimate, and as the serf looked upon his own inferiority as a consequence of the immutable order of nature, it is easy to imagine that a mutual exchange of good-will took place between two classes so differently gifted by fate.
Inequality and wretchedness were then to be found in society; but the souls of neither rank of men were degraded. Men are not corrupted by the exercise of power or debased by the habit of obedience, but by the exercise of a power which they believe to be illegal and by obedience to a rule which they consider to be usurped and oppressive. On one side was wealth, strength, and leisure, accompanied by the refinements of luxury, the elegance of taste, the pleasures of wit, and the religion of art. On the other was labor and a rude ignorance; but in the midst of this coarse and ignorant multitude it was not uncommon to meet with energetic passions, generous sentiments, profound religious convictions, and independent virtues.
The body of a State thus organized might boast of its stability, its power, and, above all, of its glory. But the scene is now changed, and gradually the two ranks mingle; the divisions which once severed mankind are lowered, property is divided, power is held in common, the light of intelligence spreads, and the capacities of all classes are equally cultivated; the State becomes democratic, and the empire of democracy is slowly and peaceably introduced into the institutions and the manners of the nation. I can conceive a society in which all men would profess an equal attachment and respect for the laws of which they are the common authors; in which the authority of the State would be respected as necessary, though not as divine; and the loyalty of the subject to its chief magistrate would not be a passion, but a quiet and rational persuasion.
Every individual being in the possession of rights which he is sure to retain, a kind of manly reliance and reciprocal courtesy would arise between all classes, alike removed from pride and meanness. The people, well acquainted with its true interests, would allow that in order to profit by the advantages of society it is necessary to satisfy its demands.
In this state of things the voluntary association of the citizens might supply the individual exertions of the nobles, and the community would be alike protected from anarchy and from oppression.
I admit that, in a democratic State thus constituted, society will not be stationary; but the impulses of the social body may be regulated and directed forwards; if there be less splendor than in the halls of an aristocracy, the contrast of misery will be less frequent also; the pleasures of enjoyment may be less excessive, but those of comfort will be more general; the sciences may be less perfectly cultivated, but ignorance will be less common; the impetuosity of the feelings will be repressed, and the habits of the nation softened; there will be more vices and fewer crimes.
In the absence of enthusiasm and of an ardent faith, great sacrifices may be obtained from the members of a commonwealth by an appeal to their understandings and their experience; each individual will feel the same necessity for uniting with his fellow-citizens to protect his own weakness; and as he knows that if they are to assist he must co-operate, he will readily perceive that his personal interest is identified with the interest of the community.
The nation, taken as a whole, will be less brilliant, less glorious, and perhaps less strong; but the majority of the citizens will enjoy a greater degree of prosperity, and the people will remain quiet, not because it despairs of amelioration, but because it is conscious of the advantages of its condition. If all the consequences of this state of things were not good or useful, society would at least have appropriated all such as were useful and good; and having once and for ever renounced the social advantages of aristocracy, mankind would enter into possession of all the benefits which democracy can afford.
But here it may be asked what we have adopted in the place of those institutions, those ideas, and those customs of our forefathers which we have abandoned. The spell of royalty is broken, but it has not been succeeded by the majesty of the laws; the people has learned to despise all authority, but fear now extorts a larger tribute of obedience than that which was formerly paid by reverence and by love.
I perceive that we have destroyed those independent beings which were able to cope with tyranny single-handed; but it is the Government that has inherited the privileges of which families, corporations, and individuals have been deprived; the weakness of the whole community has therefore succeeded that influence of a small body of citizens, which, if it was sometimes oppressive, was often conservative.
The division of property has lessened the distance which separated the rich from the poor; but it would seem that the nearer they draw to each other, the greater is their mutual hatred, and the more vehement the envy and the dread with which they resist each other's claims to power; the notion of Right is alike insensible to both classes, and Force affords to both the only argument for the present, and the only guarantee for the future.
The poor man retains the prejudices of his forefathers without their faith, and their ignorance without their virtues; he has adopted the doctrine of self-interest as the rule of his actions, without understanding the science which controls it, and his egotism is no less blind than his devotedness was formerly.
If society is tranquil, it is not because it relies upon its strength and its well-being, but because it knows its weakness and its infirmities; a single effort may cost it its life; everybody feels the evil, but no one has courage or energy enough to seek the cure; the desires, the regret, the sorrows, and the joys of the time produce nothing that is visible or permanent, like the passions of old men which terminate in impotence.
We have, then, abandoned whatever advantages the old state of things afforded, without receiving any compensation from our present condition; we have destroyed an aristocracy, and we seem inclined to survey its ruins with complacency, and to fix our abode in the midst of them. The phenomena which the intellectual world presents are not less deplorable. The democracy of France, checked in its course or abandoned to its lawless passions, has overthrown whatever crossed its path, and has shaken all that it has not destroyed.
Its empire on society has not been gradually introduced or peaceably established, but it has constantly advanced in the midst of disorder and the agitation of a conflict. In the heat of the struggle each partisan is hurried beyond the limits of his opinions by the opinions and the excesses of his opponents, until he loses sight of the end of his exertions, and holds a language which disguises his real sentiments or secret instincts.
Hence arises the strange confusion which we are witnessing. I cannot recall to my mind a passage in history more worthy of sorrow and of pity than the scenes which are happening under our eyes; it is as if the natural bond which unites the opinions of man to his tastes and his actions to his principles was now broken; the sympathy which has always been acknowledged between the feelings and the ideas of mankind appears to be dissolved, and all the laws of moral analogy to be abolished.
Zealous Christians may be found amongst us whose minds are nurtured in the love and knowledge of a future life, and who readily espouse the cause of human liberty as the source of all moral greatness. Christianity, which has declared that all men are equal in the sight of God, will not refuse to acknowledge that all citizens are equal in the eye of the law.
But, by a singular concourse of events, religion is entangled in those institutions which democracy assails, and it is not unfrequently brought to reject the equality it loves, and to curse that cause of liberty as a foe which it might hallow by its alliance. By the side of these religious men I discern others whose looks are turned to the earth more than to Heaven; they are the partisans of liberty, not only as the source of the noblest virtues, but more especially as the root of all solid advantages; and they sincerely desire to extend its sway, and to impart its blessings to mankind.
It is natural that they should hasten to invoke the assistance of religion, for they must know that liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith; but they have seen religion in the ranks of their adversaries, and they inquire no further; some of them attack it openly, and the remainder are afraid to defend it. In former ages slavery has been advocated by the venal and slavish-minded, whilst the independent and the warm-hearted were struggling without hope to save the liberties of mankind. But men of high and generous characters are now to be met with, whose opinions are at variance with their inclinations, and who praise that servility which they have themselves never known.
Others, on the contrary, speak in the name of liberty, as if they were able to feel its sanctity and its majesty, and loudly claim for humanity those rights which they have always disowned. There are virtuous and peaceful individuals whose pure morality, quiet habits, affluence, and talents fit them to be the leaders of the surrounding population; their love of their country is sincere, and they are prepared to make the greatest sacrifices to its welfare, but they confound the abuses of civilization with its benefits, and the idea of evil is inseparable in their minds from that of novelty.
Not far from this class is another party, whose object is to materialize mankind, to hit upon what is expedient without heeding what is just, to acquire knowledge without faith, and prosperity apart from virtue; assuming the title of the champions of modern civilization, and placing themselves in a station which they usurp with insolence, and from which they are driven by their own unworthiness. Where are we then? The religionists are the enemies of liberty, and the friends of liberty attack religion; the high-minded and the noble advocate subjection, and the meanest and most servile minds preach independence; honest and enlightened citizens are opposed to all progress, whilst men without patriotism and without principles are the apostles of civilization and of intelligence.
Has such been the fate of the centuries which have preceded our own? I cannot, however, believe that the Creator made man to leave him in an endless struggle with the intellectual miseries which surround us: God destines a calmer and a more certain future to the communities of Europe; I am unacquainted with His designs, but I shall not cease to believe in them because I cannot fathom them, and I had rather mistrust my own capacity than His justice.
There is a country in the world where the great revolution which I am speaking of seems nearly to have reached its natural limits; it has been effected with ease and simplicity, say rather that this country has attained the consequences of the democratic revolution which we are undergoing without having experienced the revolution itself.
The emigrants who fixed themselves on the shores of America in the beginning of the seventeenth century severed the democratic principle from all the principles which repressed it in the old communities of Europe, and transplanted it unalloyed to the New World. It has there been allowed to spread in perfect freedom, and to put forth its consequences in the laws by influencing the manners of the country.
It appears to me beyond a doubt that sooner or later we shall arrive, like the Americans, at an almost complete equality of conditions. But I do not conclude from this that we shall ever be necessarily led to draw the same political consequences which the Americans have derived from a similar social organization.
I am far from supposing that they have chosen the only form of government which a democracy may adopt; but the identity of the efficient cause of laws and manners in the two countries is sufficient to account for the immense interest we have in becoming acquainted with its effects in each of them. It is not, then, merely to satisfy a legitimate curiosity that I have examined America; my wish has been to find instruction by which we may ourselves profit.
Whoever should imagine that I have intended to write a panegyric will perceive that such was not my design; nor has it been my object to advocate any form of government in particular, for I am of opinion that absolute excellence is rarely to be found in any legislation; I have not even affected to discuss whether the social revolution, which I believe to be irresistible, is advantageous or prejudicial to mankind; I have acknowledged this revolution as a fact already accomplished or on the eve of its accomplishment; and I have selected the nation, from amongst those which have undergone it, in which its development has been the most peaceful and the most complete, in order to discern its natural consequences, and, if it be possible, to distinguish the means by which it may be rendered profitable.
I confess that in America I saw more than America; I sought the image of democracy itself, with its inclinations, its character, its prejudices, and its passions, in order to learn what we have to fear or to hope from its progress. In the first part of this work I have attempted to show the tendency given to the laws by the democracy of America, which is abandoned almost without restraint to its instinctive propensities, and to exhibit the course it prescribes to the Government and the influence it exercises on affairs. I have sought to discover the evils and the advantages which it produces.
I have examined the precautions used by the Americans to direct it, as well as those which they have not adopted, and I have undertaken to point out the causes which enable it to govern society. I do not know whether I have succeeded in making known what I saw in America, but I am certain that such has been my sincere desire, and that I have never, knowingly, moulded facts to ideas, instead of ideas to facts. Whenever a point could be established by the aid of written documents, I have had recourse to the original text, and to the most authentic and approved works.
I have cited my authorities in the notes, and anyone may refer to them. Whenever an opinion, a political custom, or a remark on the manners of the country was concerned, I endeavored to consult the most enlightened men I met with. If the point in question was important or doubtful, I was not satisfied with one testimony, but I formed my opinion on the evidence of several witnesses.
Here the reader must necessarily believe me upon my word. I could frequently have quoted names which are either known to him, or which deserve to be so, in proof of what I advance; but I have carefully abstained from this practice. A stranger frequently hears important truths at the fire-side of his host, which the latter would perhaps conceal from the ear of friendship; he consoles himself with his guest for the silence to which he is restricted, and the shortness of the traveller's stay takes away all fear of his indiscretion.
I carefully noted every conversation of this nature as soon as it occurred, but these notes will never leave my writing-case; I had rather injure the success of my statements than add my name to the list of those strangers who repay the generous hospitality they have received by subsequent chagrin and annoyance. I am aware that, notwithstanding my care, nothing will be easier than to criticise this book, if anyone ever chooses to criticise it. Those readers who may examine it closely will discover the fundamental idea which connects the several parts together.
But the diversity of the subjects I have had to treat is exceedingly great, and it will not be difficult to oppose an isolated fact to the body of facts which I quote, or an isolated idea to the body of ideas I put forth. I hope to be read in the spirit which has guided my labors, and that my book may be judged by the general impression it leaves, as I have formed my own judgment not on any single reason, but upon the mass of evidence. It must not be forgotten that the author who wishes to be understood is obliged to push all his ideas to their utmost theoretical consequences, and often to the verge of what is false or impracticable; for if it be necessary sometimes to quit the rules of logic in active life, such is not the case in discourse, and a man finds that almost as many difficulties spring from inconsistency of language as usually arise from inconsistency of conduct.
I conclude by pointing out myself what many readers will consider the principal defect of the work. This book is written to favor no particular views, and in composing it I have entertained no designs of serving or attacking any party; I have undertaken not to see differently, but to look further than parties, and whilst they are busied for the morrow I have turned my thoughts to the Future. North America divided into two vast regions, one inclining towards the Pole, the other towards the Equator—Valley of the Mississippi—Traces of the Revolutions of the Globe—Shore of the Atlantic Ocean where the English Colonies were founded—Difference in the appearance of North and of South America at the time of their Discovery—Forests of North America—Prairies—Wandering Tribes of Natives—Their outward appearance, manners, and language—Traces of an unknown people.
North America presents in its external form certain general features which it is easy to discriminate at the first glance. A sort of methodical order seems to have regulated the separation of land and water, mountains and valleys. A simple, but grand, arrangement is discoverable amidst the confusion of objects and the prodigious variety of scenes. This continent is divided, almost equally, into two vast regions, one of which is bounded on the north by the Arctic Pole, and by the two great oceans on the east and west. It stretches towards the south, forming a triangle whose irregular sides meet at length below the great lakes of Canada.
The second region begins where the other terminates, and includes all the remainder of the continent. The one slopes gently towards the Pole, the other towards the Equator. The territory comprehended in the first region descends towards the north with so imperceptible a slope that it may almost be said to form a level plain. Within the bounds of this immense tract of country there are neither high mountains nor deep valleys.
Streams meander through it irregularly: great rivers mix their currents, separate and meet again, disperse and form vast marshes, losing all trace of their channels in the labyrinth of waters they have themselves created; and thus, at length, after innumerable windings, fall into the Polar Seas. The great lakes which bound this first region are not walled in, like most of those in the Old World, between hills and rocks. Their banks are flat, and rise but a few feet above the level of their waters; each of them thus forming a vast bowl filled to the brim.
The slightest change in the structure of the globe would cause their waters to rush either towards the Pole or to the tropical sea. The second region is more varied on its surface, and better suited for the habitation of man. Two long chains of mountains divide it from one extreme to the other; the Alleghany ridge takes the form of the shores of the Atlantic Ocean; the other is parallel with the Pacific. The space which lies between these two chains of mountains contains 1,, square miles. This vast territory, however, forms a single valley, one side of which descends gradually from the rounded summits of the Alleghanies, while the other rises in an uninterrupted course towards the tops of the Rocky Mountains.
At the bottom of the valley flows an immense river, into which the various streams issuing from the mountains fall from all parts. In memory of their native land, the French formerly called this river the St. The Indians, in their pompous language, have named it the Father of Waters, or the Mississippi. The Mississippi takes its source above the limit of the two great regions of which I have spoken, not far from the highest point of the table-land where they unite.
The course of the Mississippi is at first dubious: it winds several times towards the north, from whence it rose; and at length, after having been delayed in lakes and marshes, it flows slowly onwards to the south. Sometimes quietly gliding along the argillaceous bed which nature has assigned to it, sometimes swollen by storms, the Mississippi waters 2, miles in its course. Fifty-seven large navigable rivers contribute to swell the waters of the Mississippi; amongst others, the Missouri, which traverses a space of 2, miles; the Arkansas of 1, miles, the Red River 1, miles, four whose course is from to 1, miles in length, viz.
Peter's, the St. Francis, and the Moingona; besides a countless multitude of rivulets which unite from all parts their tributary streams. The valley which is watered by the Mississippi seems formed to be the bed of this mighty river, which, like a god of antiquity, dispenses both good and evil in its course. On the shores of the stream nature displays an inexhaustible fertility; in proportion as you recede from its banks, the powers of vegetation languish, the soil becomes poor, and the plants that survive have a sickly growth.
Nowhere have the great convulsions of the globe left more evident traces than in the valley of the Mississippi; the whole aspect of the country shows the powerful effects of water, both by its fertility and by its barrenness. The waters of the primeval ocean accumulated enormous beds of vegetable mould in the valley, which they levelled as they retired.
Upon the right shore of the river are seen immense plains, as smooth as if the husbandman had passed over them with his roller. As you approach the mountains the soil becomes more and more unequal and sterile; the ground is, as it were, pierced in a thousand places by primitive rocks, which appear like the bones of a skeleton whose flesh is partly consumed. The surface of the earth is covered with a granite sand and huge irregular masses of stone, among which a few plants force their growth, and give the appearance of a green field covered with the ruins of a vast edifice.
These stones and this sand discover, on examination, a perfect analogy with those which compose the arid and broken summits of the Rocky Mountains. The flood of waters which washed the soil to the bottom of the valley afterwards carried away portions of the rocks themselves; and these, dashed and bruised against the neighboring cliffs, were left scattered like wrecks at their feet.
On the eastern side of the Alleghanies, between the base of these mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, there lies a long ridge of rocks and sand, which the sea appears to have left behind as it retired. The mean breadth of this territory does not exceed one hundred miles; but it is about nine hundred miles in length. This part of the American continent has a soil which offers every obstacle to the husbandman, and its vegetation is scanty and unvaried. Upon this inhospitable coast the first united efforts of human industry were made.
The tongue of arid land was the cradle of those English colonies which were destined one day to become the United States of America. The centre of power still remains here; whilst in the backwoods the true elements of the great people to whom the future control of the continent belongs are gathering almost in secrecy together. When the Europeans first landed on the shores of the West Indies, and afterwards on the coast of South America, they thought themselves transported into those fabulous regions of which poets had sung. The sea sparkled with phosphoric light, and the extraordinary transparency of its waters discovered to the view of the navigator all that had hitherto been hidden in the deep abyss.
Every object which met the sight, in this enchanting region, seemed prepared to satisfy the wants or contribute to the pleasures of man. Almost all the trees were loaded with nourishing fruits, and those which were useless as food delighted the eye by the brilliancy and variety of their colors.
In groves of fragrant lemon-trees, wild figs, flowering myrtles, acacias, and oleanders, which were hung with festoons of various climbing plants, covered with flowers, a multitude of birds unknown in Europe displayed their bright plumage, glittering with purple and azure, and mingled their warbling with the harmony of a world teeming with life and motion.
But the air of these climates had so enervating an influence that man, absorbed by present enjoyment, was rendered regardless of the future. The ship seemed to float in air, the navigator became giddy as his eye penetrated through the crystal flood, and beheld submarine gardens, or beds of shells, or gilded fishes gliding among tufts and thickets of seaweed. North America appeared under a very different aspect; there everything was grave, serious, and solemn: it seemed created to be the domain of intelligence, as the South was that of sensual delight.
A turbulent and foggy ocean washed its shores. It was girt round by a belt of granite rocks, or by wide tracts of sand. The foliage of its woods was dark and gloomy, for they were composed of firs, larches, evergreen oaks, wild olive-trees, and laurels. Beyond this outer belt lay the thick shades of the central forest, where the largest trees which are produced in the two hemispheres grow side by side. The plane, the catalpa, the sugar-maple, and the Virginian poplar mingled their branches with those of the oak, the beech, and the lime. In these, as in the forests of the Old World, destruction was perpetually going on.
The ruins of vegetation were heaped upon each other; but there was no laboring hand to remove them, and their decay was not rapid enough to make room for the continual work of reproduction. Climbing plants, grasses, and other herbs forced their way through the mass of dying trees; they crept along their bending trunks, found nourishment in their dusty cavities, and a passage beneath the lifeless bark.
Thus decay gave its assistance to life, and their respective productions were mingled together. The depths of these forests were gloomy and obscure, and a thousand rivulets, undirected in their course by human industry, preserved in them a constant moisture. It was rare to meet with flowers, wild fruits, or birds beneath their shades. The fall of a tree overthrown by age, the rushing torrent of a cataract, the lowing of the buffalo, and the howling of the wind were the only sounds which broke the silence of nature. To the east of the great river, the woods almost disappeared; in their stead were seen prairies of immense extent.
Whether Nature in her infinite variety had denied the germs of trees to these fertile plains, or whether they had once been covered with forests, subsequently destroyed by the hand of man, is a question which neither tradition nor scientific research has been able to resolve. These immense deserts were not, however, devoid of human inhabitants. Some wandering tribes had been for ages scattered among the forest shades or the green pastures of the prairie.
From the mouth of the St. Their skin was reddish brown, their hair long and shining, their lips thin, and their cheekbones very prominent. The languages spoken by the North American tribes are various as far as regarded their words, but they were subject to the same grammatical rules. These rules differed in several points from such as had been observed to govern the origin of language. The idiom of the Americans seemed to be the product of new combinations, and bespoke an effort of the understanding of which the Indians of our days would be incapable.
The land occupied by these tribes is not very distant from Behring's Strait, which allows of the supposition, that at a remote period they gave inhabitants to the desert continent of America. But this is a point which has not yet been clearly elucidated by science. See Malte Brun, vol. The social state of these tribes differed also in many respects from all that was seen in the Old World. They seemed to have multiplied freely in the midst of their deserts without coming in contact with other races more civilized than their own. Accordingly, they exhibited none of those indistinct, incoherent notions of right and wrong, none of that deep corruption of manners, which is usually joined with ignorance and rudeness among nations which, after advancing to civilization, have relapsed into a state of barbarism.
The Indian was indebted to no one but himself; his virtues, his vices, and his prejudices were his own work; he had grown up in the wild independence of his nature. If, in polished countries, the lowest of the people are rude and uncivil, it is not merely because they are poor and ignorant, but that, being so, they are in daily contact with rich and enlightened men.
The sight of their own hard lot and of their weakness, which is daily contrasted with the happiness and power of some of their fellow-creatures, excites in their hearts at the same time the sentiments of anger and of fear: the consciousness of their inferiority and of their dependence irritates while it humiliates them. This state of mind displays itself in their manners and language; they are at once insolent and servile. The truth of this is easily proved by observation; the people are more rude in aristocratic countries than elsewhere, in opulent cities than in rural districts.
In those places where the rich and powerful are assembled together the weak and the indigent feel themselves oppressed by their inferior condition.