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There is a love of country which takes its rise principally in the unreflecting, disinterested, and undefinable sentiment which attaches the heart of man to the place of his birth. This instinctive affection is blended with the taste for old customs, with the respect for ancestors, and with historical recollections; those who experience it cherish their country with a feeling resembling the love of our paternal home. They love the tranquillity which they enjoy in it, they relish the peaceful habits which they have contracted in it, they are attached to the recollections it affords them, and even find some pleasure in passing in it a life of obedience. This love of country often acquires a still more energetic character from religious zeal, and then it performs wonders. It is itself a kind of religion, it does not reason, it believes, feels, and acts. Nations have been known to personify their country (if we may so speak) in the person of their prince. They have then transferred to him a part of the sentiments of which patriotism is composed, they have been proud of his power, and elated by his triumph. There was a time, under the old monarchy, when Frenchmen felt a kind of joy in feeling themselves irredeemably subject to the arbitrary power of the monarch, they said with pride. “We live under the most powerful monarch in the world.”
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Whenever we employ a man to do what his superior knowledge enables him to do better than ourselves, it is because the superiority of his knowledge, combined with his weaker disposition to promote our interest, will, on the whole produce a better result than our inferior knowledge, coupled with our stronger disposition. So it is when we appoint a political deputy: we can obtain the benefit of his services only by encountering the risk of trusting him. The advantage we look for at his hands is incompatible with retaining the direction of his conduct.
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With regard to the advance of democracy, there are two different positions which it is possible for a rational person to take up, according as he thinks the masses prepared, or unprepared, to exercise the control which they are acquiring over their destiny, in a manner which would be an improvement upon what now exists. If he thinks them prepared, he will aid the democratic movement: or if he deem it to be proceeding fast enough without him, he will at all events refrain from resisting it. If, on the contrary, he thinks the masses unprepared for complete control over their government—seeing at the same time that, prepared or not, they cannot be prevented from acquiring it—he will exert his utmost efforts in contributing to prepare them, using all means, on the one hand, for making the masses themselves wiser and better; on the other, for so rousing the slumbering energy of the opulent and lettered classes, so storing the youth of those classes with the profoundest and most valuable knowledge, so calling forth whatever of individual greatness exists or can be raised up in the country, as to create a power which might partially rival the mere power of the masses, and might exercise the most salutary influence over them for their own good. When engaged earnestly in works like these, one can understand how a rational person might think that in order to give more time for the performance of them, it were well if the current of democracy, which can in no sort be stayed, could be prevailed upon for a time to flow less impetuously. With Conservatives of this sort, all of corresponding enlargement of could fraternize as frankly and cordially as with of their own friends; and we speak from an extensive knowledge of the wisest and most high-minded of that body, when we take upon ourselves to answer for them, that they would never push forward their own political projects in a spirit or with a violence which could tend to frustrate any rational endeavours towards the object nearest their hearts, the instruction of the understandings and the elevation of the characters of all classes of their countrymen.
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We put it to those who call themselves Conservatives, whether, when the power in society is passing into the hands of the masses, they really think it possible to prevent the masses from making that power predominant as well in the government as elsewhere? The triumph of democracy, or, in other words, of the government of public opinion, does not depend upon the opinion of any individual or set of individuals that it ought to triumph, but upon the natural laws of the progress of wealth, upon the diffusion of reading, and the increase of the facilities of human intercourse. If Lord Kenyon or the Duke of Newcastle could stop these, they might accomplish something. There is no danger of the prevalence of democracy in Syria or Timbuctoo. But he must be a poor politician who does not know, that whatever is the growing power in society will force its way into the government, by fair means or foul. The distribution of constitutional power cannot long continue very different from that of real power, without a convulsion. Nor, if the institutions which impede the progress of democracy could be by any miracle preserved, could even they do more than render that progress a little slower. Were the Constitution of Great Britain to remain henceforth unaltered, we are not the less under the dominion, becoming every day more irresistible, of public opinion.