Setting out from this starting point, our author ends his inquiries in the common conclusions of radicalism; but shows less acquaintance than might be wished with the real difficulties of the subject, and with the point which the discussion has now reached among political philosophers. He lays it down as a maxim that there is everywhere a natural aristocracy, that is, a class who are looked up to by the community generally; that, in a rude age, nobles, or priests, or persons of large property, form this class; in an enlightened period, it consists of the persons most distinguished for wisdom and virtue. In every age, unless the natural aristocracy be the power which governs, there will be growing disaffection to the government, and at length either a peaceable or a violent change. Having established that the natural aristocracy in a highly civilised society is the aristocracy of personal qualities, he affirms, and has little difficulty in showing, that neither an aristocracy of birth nor one of wealth affords any guarantee for the existence of these qualities. He therefore recommends, wherever the community is sufficiently advanced to admit of it, a republican government by universal suffrage and ballot, as a means of selecting and installing the natural aristocracy. But this part of his doctrine, which is the part most likely to be assailed with objections, is unfortunately that which he has taken least pains to fortify against them. That the people in a democracy would know where to find the natural aristocracy, or would wish to be governed by them, is the point to be proved, not assumed. We cannot find that anything is said to prove it by our author. He thinks, indeed, that the people cannot themselves govern, but can only choose their governors, and will prefer, as they must choose somebody, to choose those to whom they already look up. “Democracy may cause its feelings and opinions to be attended to and respected, but it can never govern.” [P. 169.] We think that democracy govern: it can make its legislators its mere delegates, to carry into effect preconceived opinions. We do not say that it do so. Whether it will, appears to us the great question which futurity has to resolve; and on the solution of which it depends whether democracy will be that social regeneration which its partisans expect, or merely a new form of bad government, perhaps somewhat better, perhaps somewhat worse, than those which preceded it.


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