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The characteristic of provincialism, in society and literature, is imitation: provincials dare not be themselves; they dare do nothing for which they have not, or think they have not, a warrant from the metropolis. In regard to society, this remark is too hacknied to need illustration. It is equally true in respect to literature. In the one, as in the other, the provinces take their tone from the capital. It rarely happens that a book has any success in the provinces, unless a reputation acquired in the capital has preceded its arrival. But, in regard to literature, Boston and New York are as much provincial cities as Norwich or Liverpool, and much more so than Edinburgh (which indeed is a kind of literary and social metropolis in itself, and partakes but partially of the provincial character). There been a Franklin, and there has been a Burns: there will always be persons of extraordinary genius, or extraordinary energy, capable of making their way against one kind of obstacle as against another. But, of the illustrious men of letters in France and England, though a majority have been provincials by birth, nearly all have spent their best years in the capital, and their works have been written in and for London and Paris. The courage which has made them dare trust to their own inspirations, either in thought or in language, as well as the modesty which has saved them from (what stops the progress of most aspirants in a very early stage) the misfortune of being too easily pleased with their own performances—have been learned in the literary metropolis of the nation, and in contact with the direct influence of its leading minds.

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We have already intimated that M. de Tocqueville recognises such a thing as a democratic state of society without a democratic government; a state in which the people are all equal, and subjected to one common master, who selects indiscriminately from all of them the instruments of his government. In this sense, as he remarks, the government of the Pasha of Egypt is a specimen of democracy; and to this type (with allowance for difference of civilization and manners) he thinks that all nations are in danger of approximating, in which the equalization of conditions has made greater progress than the spirit of liberty. Now, this he holds to be the condition of France. The kings of France have always been the greatest of levellers; Louis XI, Richelieu, Louis XIV, alike laboured to break the power of the noblesse, and reduce all intermediate classes and bodies to the general level. After them came the Revolution, bringing with it the abolition of hereditary privileges, the emigration and dispossession of half the great landed proprietors, and the subdivision of large fortunes by the revolutionary law of inheritance. While the equalization of conditions was thus rapidly reaching its extreme limits, no corresponding progress of public spirit was taking place in the people at large. No institutions capable of fostering an interest in the details of public affairs were created by the Revolution: it swept away even those which despotism had spared; and if it admitted a portion of the population to a voice in the government, gave it them only on the greatest but rarest occasion—the election of the great council of the state. A political act, to be done only once in a few years, and for which nothing in the daily habits of the citizen has prepared him, leaves his intellect and moral dispositions very much as it found them; and the citizens not being encouraged to take upon themselves collectively that portion of the business of society which had been performed by the privileged classes, the central government easily drew to itself not only the whole local administration, but much of what, in countries like ours, is performed by associations of individuals. Whether the government was revolutionary or counter-revolutionary made no difference; under the one and the other, everything was done the people, and nothing the people. In France, consequently, the arbitrary power of the magistrate in detail is almost without limit. And when of late some attempts have been made to associate a portion of the citizens in the management of local affairs, comparatively few have been found, even among those in good circumstances, (anywhere but in the large towns,) who could be induced willingly to take any part in that management; who, when they had no personal object to gain, felt the public interest sufficiently their own interest, not to grudge every moment which they withdrew from their occupations or pleasures to bestow upon it. With all the eagerness and violence of party contests in France, a nation more passive in the hands of any one who is uppermost does not exist. M. de Tocqueville has no faith in the virtues, nor even in the prolonged existence, of a superficial love of freedom, in the face of a practical habit of slavery; and the question whether the French are to be a free people, depends, in his opinion, upon the possibility of creating a spirit and a habit of local self-government.

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It is necessary to observe that by Democracy M. de Tocqueville does not in general mean any particular form of government. He can conceive a Democracy under an absolute monarch. Nay, he entertains no small dread lest in some countries it should actually appear in that form. By Democracy, M. de Tocqueville understands equality of conditions; the absence of all aristocracy, whether constituted by political privileges, or by superiority in individual importance and social power. It is towards Democracy in this sense, towards equality between man and man, that he conceives society to be irresistibly tending. Democracy in the other, and more common sense, it may or may not be travelling. Equality of conditions tends naturally to produce a popular government, but not necessarily. Equality may be equal freedom, or equal servitude. America is the type of the first; France, he thinks, is in danger of falling into the second. The latter country is in the condition which, of all that civilized societies are liable to, he regards with the greatest alarm—a democratic state of society without democratic institutions. For, in democratic institutions, M. de Tocqueville sees not an aggravation, but a corrective, of the most serious evils incident to a democratic state of society. No one is more opposed than he is to that species of democratic radicalism, which would admit at once to the highest of political franchises, untaught masses who have not yet been experimentally proved fit even for the lowest. But the ever-increasing intervention of the people, and of all classes of the people, in their own affairs, he regards as a cardinal maxim in the modern art of government: and he believes that the nations of civilized Europe, though not all equally advanced, are all advancing, towards a condition in which there will be no distinctions of political rights, no great or very permanent distinctions of hereditary wealth; when, as there will remain no classes nor individuals capable of making head against the government, unless all are, and are fit to be, alike citizens, all will ere long be equally slaves.

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The theoretical grounds of Representative Government, and the solutions of the more momentous of its practical problems, are laid down by our author, in the spirit which is now nearly universal among the more advanced thinkers on the subject, but with a felicity of adaptation to the wants of the most numerous class of readers, which is peculiarly his own. In addition to this, several popular fallacies, of most extensive prevalence, and infecting the very elements of political speculation, are refuted, conclusively and forcibly, and with as much depth of philosophy as the purpose required. The thoughts succeed one another in the most lucid order. The style is perspicuity itself. To a practised student in abstract speculation, it will appear diffuse; but this, in a book intended for popularity, is far from being a defect. To common readers a condensed style is always cramped and obscure: they want a manner of writing which shall detain them long enough upon each thought to give it time to sink into their minds. Our author is not, indeed, entitled to the transcendant praise due to those who, like Hobbes or Bacon, employ at pleasure either the power of condensation or that of enlargement; dwelling on the idea until it has made its way into the understanding, and then clenching it by one of those striking images, or of those pregnant and apophthegmatic expressions, which sum up whole paragraphs in a line, and engrave the meaning as with a burning steel upon the imagination. But if our author’s style does not come up to this exalted standard, it is easy, flowing, always unaffected, and has the greatest of merits, that to which all other excellencies of manner are merely subsidiary—that of perfectly expressing whatever he has occasion to express by it.

Dec 20, 2017 · The earliest appearance of the phrase is from Chapter 12 of the Essays of Francis Bacon, published in 1625: Mahomet made …

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As a British radical, Mill from youth was profoundly interested in the United States. For him and most of his fellow utilitarians the republic was a unique experiment of a democracy in action, and hence important for all European liberals. Unlike the Tory writers of the they looked to America to demonstrate the virtues of democracy, and abundant praise of the United States became their orthodox practice. They admired it for experimenting with new social ideas, rejecting an established church, extending franchise laws, promoting popular education, recognizing a free press, and believing in a free economy. Such was Jeremy Bentham’s enthusiasm for America that to Andrew Jackson he described himself as “more of a United Statesman than an Englishman.” For him and his disciples the republic seemed to apply the principle of utility more assiduously than did Britain.

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Mill is provoked to discuss the special character of British empirical collectivism by Dupont-White’s confident case for state interventionism in France. Englishmen, he asserts, naturally distrust government and any extension of its powers (609). They employ it only when other means, especially the free market, fail to achieve what in general the community wants. National grants for education were adopted only after private associations for many years had tried their hand and demonstrated how little they could accomplish. Government regulation of emigrant ships came only when its absence had created sordid conditions that became a public scandal. In this instance the free market had allowed the shipowners to profit from the poverty, ignorance, and recklessness of emigrants (592). The Poor Law Board was established after the old laws created a situation no longer tolerable to the public.