1. His most subtle advisers, moreover, did not understand this psychology any better. Talleyrand wrote him that “Spain would receive his soldiers as liberators.” It received them as beasts of prey. A psychologist acquainted with the hereditary instincts of the Spanish race would have easily foreseen this reception.

  2. General Boulanger.

  3. Persons who went through the siege of Paris saw numerous examples of this credulity of crowds. A candle alight in an upper story was immediately looked upon as a signal given the besiegers, although it was evident, after a moment of reflection, that it was utterly impossible to catch sight of the light of the candle at a distance of several miles.

  4. L’Eclair, April 21, 1895.

  5. Do we know in the case of one single battle exactly how it took place? I am very doubtful on the point. We know who were the conquerors and the conquered, but this is probably all. What M. D’Harcourt has said with respect to the battle of Solferino, which he witnessed and in which he was personally engaged, may be applied to all battles⁠—“The generals (informed, of course, by the evidence of hundreds of witnesses) forward their official reports; the orderly officers modify these documents and draw up a definite narrative; the chief of the staff raises objections and rewrites the whole on a fresh basis. It is carried to the Marshal, who exclaims, ‘You are entirely in error,’ and he substitutes a fresh edition. Scarcely anything remains of the original report.” M. D’Harcourt relates this fact as proof of the impossibility of establishing the truth in connection with the most striking, the best observed events.

  6. It is understandable for this reason why it sometimes happens that pieces refused by all theatrical managers obtain a prodigious success when by a stroke of chance they are put on the stage. The recent success of François Coppee’s play Pour la Couronne is well known, and yet, in spite of the name of its author, it was refused during ten years by the managers of the principal Parisian theatres.

    Charley’s Aunt, refused at every theatre, and finally staged at the expense of a stockbroker, has had two hundred representations in France, and more than a thousand in London. Without the explanation given above of the impossibility for theatrical managers to mentally substitute themselves for a crowd, such mistakes in judgment on the part of competent individuals, who are most interested not to commit such grave blunders, would be inexplicable. This is a subject that I cannot deal with here, but it might worthily tempt the pen of a writer acquainted with theatrical matters, and at the same time a subtle psychologist⁠—of such a writer, for instance, as M. Francisque Sarcey.

  7. The novelty of this proposition being still considerable and history being quite unintelligible without it, I devoted four chapters to its demonstration in my last book (The Psychological Laws of the Evolution of Peoples). From it the reader will see that, in spite of fallacious appearances, neither language, religion, arts, or, in a word, any element of civilisation, can pass, intact, from one people to another.

  8. The report of the ex-Conventionist, Fourcroy, quoted by Taine, is very clear on this point.

    “What is everywhere seen with respect to the keeping of Sunday and attendance at the churches proves that the majority of Frenchmen desire to return to their old usages and that it is no longer opportune to resist this natural tendency.⁠ ⁠… The great majority of men stand in need of religion, public worship, and priests. It is an error of some modern philosophers, by which I myself have been led away, to believe in the possibility of instruction being so general as to destroy religious prejudices, which for a great number of unfortunate persons are a source of consolation.⁠ ⁠… The mass of the people, then, must be allowed its priests, its altars, and its public worship.”

  9. The most advanced republicans, even of the United States, recognise this fact. The American magazine, The Forum, recently gave categorical expression to the opinion in terms which I reproduce here from the Review of Reviews for December, 1894:⁠—

    “It should never be forgotten, even by the most ardent enemies of an aristocracy, that England is today the most democratic country of the universe, the country in which the rights of the individual are most respected, and in which the individual possesses the most liberty.”

  10. If a comparison be made between the profound religious and political dissensions which separate the various parties in France, and are more especially the result of social questions, and the separatist tendencies which were manifested at the time of the Revolution, and began to again display themselves towards the close of the Franco-German war, it will be seen that the different races represented in France are still far from being completely blended. The vigorous centralisation of the Revolution and the creation of artificial departments destined to bring about the fusion of the ancient provinces was certainly its most useful work. Were it possible to bring about the decentralisation which is today preoccupying minds lacking in foresight, the achievement would promptly have for consequence the most sanguinary disorders. To overlook this fact is to leave out of account the entire history of France.

  11. This phenomenon, moreover, is not peculiar to the Latin peoples. It is also to be observed in China, which is also a country in the hands of a solid hierarchy of mandarins or functionaries, and where a function is obtained, as in France, by competitive examination, in which the only test is the imperturbable recitation of bulky manuals. The army of educated persons without employment is considered in China at the present day as a veritable national calamity. It is the same in India where, since the English have opened schools, not for educating purposes, as is the case in England itself, but simply to furnish the indigenous inhabitants with instruction, there has been formed a special class of educated persons, the Babus, who, when they do not obtain employment, become the irreconcilable enemies of the English rule. In the case of all the Babus, whether provided with employment or not, the first effect of their instruction has been to lower their standard of morality. This is a fact on which I have insisted at length in my book, The Civilisations of India⁠—a fact, too, which has been observed by all authors who have visited the great peninsula.

  12. Taine, Le Régime Moderne, vol. ii, 1894. These pages are almost the last that Taine wrote. They resume admirably the results of the great philosopher’s long experience. Unfortunately they are in my opinion totally incomprehensible for such of our university professors who have not lived abroad. Education is the only means at our disposal of influencing to some extent the mind of a nation, and it is profoundly saddening to have to think that there is scarcely anyone in France who can arrive at understanding that our present system of teaching is a grave cause of rapid decadence, which instead of elevating our youth, lowers and perverts it.

    A useful comparison may be made between Taine’s pages and the observations on American education recently made by M. Paul Bourget in his excellent book, Outre-Mer. He, too, after having noted that our education merely produces narrow-minded bourgeois, lacking in initiative and willpower, or anarchists⁠—“those two equally harmful types of the civilised man, who degenerates into impotent platitude or insane destructiveness”⁠—he too, I say, draws a comparison that cannot be the object of too much reflection between our French lycées (public schools), those factories of degeneration, and the American schools, which prepare a man admirably for life. The gulf existing between truly democratic nations and those who have democracy in their speeches, but in no wise in their thoughts, is clearly brought out in this comparison.

  13. In my book, The Psychological Laws of the Evolution of Peoples, I have insisted at length on the differences which distinguish the Latin democratic ideal from the Anglo-Saxon democratic ideal. Independently, and as the result of his travels, M. Paul Bourget has arrived, in his quite recent book, Outre-Mer, at conclusions almost identical with mine.

  14. Daniel Lesueur.

  15. The opinion of the crowd was formed in this case by those rough-and-ready associations of dissimilar things, the mechanism of which I have previously explained. The French national guard of that period, being composed of peaceable shopkeepers, utterly lacking in discipline and quite incapable of being taken seriously, whatever bore a similar name, evoked the same conception and was considered in consequence as harmless. The error of the crowd was shared at the time by its leaders, as happens so often in connection with opinions dealing with generalisations. In a speech made in the Chamber on the 31st of December, 1867, and quoted in a book by M. E. Ollivier that has appeared recently, a statesman who often followed the opinion of the crowd but was never in advance of it⁠—I allude to M. Thiers⁠—declared that Prussia only possessed a national guard analogous to that of France, and in consequence without importance, in addition to a regular army about equal to the French regular army; assertions about as accurate as the predictions of the same statesman as to the insignificant future reserved for railways.

  16. My first observations with regard to the art of impressing crowds and touching the slight assistance to be derived in this connection from the rules of logic date back to the seige of Paris, to the day when I saw conducted to the Louvre, where the Government was then sitting, Marshal V⁠⸺, whom a furious crowd asserted they had surprised in the act of taking the plans of the fortifications to sell them to the Prussians. A member of the Government (G. P⁠⸺), a very celebrated orator, came out to harangue the crowd, which was demanding the immediate execution of the prisoner. I had expected that the speaker would point out the absurdity of the accusation by remarking that the accused Marshal was positively one of those who had constructed the fortifications, the plan of which, moreover, was on sale at every booksellers. To my immense stupefaction⁠—I was very young then⁠—the speech was on quite different lines. “Justice shall be done,” exclaimed the orator, advancing towards the prisoner, “and pitiless justice. Let the Government of the National Defence conclude your inquiry. In the meantime we will keep the prisoner in custody.” At once calmed by this apparent concession, the crowd broke up, and a quarter of an hour later the Marshal was able to return home. He would infallibly have been torn in pieces had the speaker treated the infuriated crowd to the logical arguments that my extreme youth induced me to consider as very convincing.

  17. Gustave le Bon, L’Homme et les Societes, vol. ii p. 116. 1881.

  18. The influence of titles, decorations, and uniforms on crowds is to be traced in all countries, even in those in which the sentiment of personal independence is the most strongly developed. I quote in this connection a curious passage from a recent book of travel, on the prestige enjoyed in England by great persons.

    “I had observed, under various circumstances, the peculiar sort of intoxication produced in the most reasonable Englishmen by the contact or sight of an English peer.

    “Provided his fortune enables him to keep up his rank, he is sure of their affection in advance, and brought into contact with him they are so enchanted as to put up with anything at his hands. They may be seen to redden with pleasure at his approach, and if he speaks to them their suppressed joy increases their redness, and causes their eyes to gleam with unusual brilliance. Respect for nobility is in their blood, so to speak, as with Spaniards the love of dancing, with Germans that of music, and with Frenchmen the liking for revolutions. Their passion for horses and Shakespeare is less violent, the satisfaction and pride they derive from these sources a less integral part of their being. There is a considerable sale for books dealing with the peerage, and go where one will they are to be found, like the Bible, in all hands.”

  19. Thoroughly conscious of his prestige, Napoleon was aware that he added to it by treating rather worse than stable lads the great personages around him, and among whom figured some of those celebrated men of the Convention of whom Europe had stood in dread. The gossip of the period abounds in illustrations of this fact. One day, in the midst of a Council of State, Napoleon grossly insults Beugnot, treating him as one might an unmannerly valet. The effect produced, he goes up to him and says, “Well, stupid, have you found your head again?” Whereupon Beugnot, tall as a drum-major, bows very low, and the little man raising his hand, takes the tall one by the ear, “an intoxicating sign of favour,” writes Beugnot, “the familiar gesture of the master who waxes gracious.” Such examples give a clear idea of the degree of base platitude that prestige can provoke. They enable us to understand the immense contempt of the great despot for the men surrounding him⁠—men whom he merely looked upon as “food for powder.”

  20. An Austrian paper, the Neue Freie Presse, of Vienna, has indulged on the subject of the destiny of de Lesseps in reflections marked by a most judicious psychological insight. I therefore reproduce them here:⁠—

    “After the condemnation of Ferdinand de Lesseps one has no longer the right to be astonished at the sad end of Christopher Columbus. If Ferdinand de Lesseps were a rogue every noble illusion is a crime. Antiquity would have crowned the memory of de Lesseps with an aureole of glory, and would have made him drink from the bowl of nectar in the midst of Olympus, for he has altered the face of the earth and accomplished works which make the creation more perfect. The President of the Court of Appeal has immortalised himself by condemning Ferdinand de Lesseps, for the nations will always demand the name of the man who was not afraid to debase his century by investing with the convict’s cap an aged man, whose life redounded to the glory of his contemporaries.

    “Let there be no more talk in the future of inflexible justice, there where reigns a bureaucratic hatred of audacious feats. The nations have need of audacious men who believe in themselves and overcome every obstacle without concern for their personal safety. Genius cannot be prudent; by dint of prudence it could never enlarge the sphere of human activity.

    “… Ferdinand de Lesseps has known the intoxication of triumph and the bitterness of disappointment⁠—Suez and Panama. At this point the heart revolts at the morality of success. When de Lesseps had succeeded in joining two seas princes and nations rendered him their homage; today, when he meets with failure among the rocks of the Cordilleras, he is nothing but a vulgar rogue.⁠ ⁠… In this result we see a war between the classes of society, the discontent of bureaucrats and employees, who take their revenge with the aid of the criminal code on those who would raise themselves above their fellows.⁠ ⁠… Modern legislators are filled with embarrassment when confronted by the lofty ideas due to human genius; the public comprehends such ideas still less, and it is easy for an advocate-general to prove that Stanley is a murderer and de Lesseps a deceiver.”

  21. Barbarous, philosophically speaking, I mean. In practice they have created an entirely new civilisation, and for fifteen centuries have given mankind a glimpse of those enchanted realms of generous dreams and of hope which he will know no more.

  22. These remarks refer to the French newspaper press. —⁠Translator

  23. There are pages in the books of the French official professors of history that are very curious from this point of view. They prove too how little the critical spirit is developed by the system of university education in vogue in France. I cite as an example the following extracts from the French Revolution of M. Rambaud, professor of history at the Sorbonne:

    “The taking of the Bastille was a culminating event in the history not only of France, but of all Europe; and inaugurated a new epoch in the history of the world!”

    With respect to Robespierre, we learn with stupefaction that “his dictatorship was based more especially on opinion, persuasion, and moral authority; it was a sort of pontificate in the hands of a virtuous man!” (pp. 91 and 220.)

  24. It is to be remarked, in passing, that this division of crimes into those dangerous and those not dangerous for society, which is well and instinctively made by juries is far from being unjust. The object of criminal laws is evidently to protect society against dangerous criminals and not to avenge it. On the other hand, the French code, and above all the minds of the French magistrates, are still deeply imbued with the spirit of vengeance characteristic of the old primitive law, and the term vindicte (prosecution, from the Latin vindicta, vengeance) is still in daily use. A proof of this tendency on the part of the magistrates is found in the refusal by many of them to apply Berenger’s law, which allows of a condemned person not undergoing his sentence unless he repeats his crime. Yet no magistrate can be ignorant, for the fact is proved by statistics, that the application of a punishment inflicted for the first time infallibly leads to further crime on the part of the person punished. When judges set free a sentenced person it always seems to them that society has not been avenged. Rather than not avenge it they prefer to create a dangerous, confirmed criminal.

  25. The magistracy is, in point of fact, the only administration whose acts are under no control. In spite of all its revolutions, democratic France does not possess that right of habeas corpus of which England is so proud. We have banished all the tyrants, but have set up a magistrate in each city who disposes at will of the honour and liberty of the citizens. An insignificant juge d’instruction (an examining magistrate who has no exact counterpart in England. —Trans.), fresh from the university, possesses the revolting power of sending to prison at will persons of the most considerable standing, on a simple supposition on his part of their guilt, and without being obliged to justify his act to anyone. Under the pretext of pursuing his investigation he can keep these persons in prison for six months or even a year, and free them at last without owing them either an indemnity or excuses. The warrant in France is the exact equivalent of the lettre de cachet, with this difference, that the latter, with the use of which the monarchy was so justly reproached, could only be resorted to by persons occupying a very high position, while the warrant is an instrument in the hands of a whole class of citizens which is far from passing for being very enlightened or very independent.

  26. Committees under whatever name, clubs, syndicates, etc., constitute perhaps the most redoubtable danger resulting from the power of crowds. They represent in reality the most impersonal and, in consequence, the most oppressive form of tyranny. The leaders who direct the committees being supposed to speak and act in the name of a collectivity, are freed from all responsibility, and are in a position to do just as they choose. The most savage tyrant has never ventured even to dream of such proscriptions as those ordained by the committees of the Revolution. Barras has declared that they decimated the convention, picking off its members at their pleasure. So long as he was able to speak in their name, Robespierre wielded absolute power. The moment this frightful dictator separated himself from them, for reasons of personal pride, he was lost. The reign of crowds is the reign of committees, that is, of the leaders of crowds. A severer despotism cannot be imagined.

  27. The following reflection of an English parliamentarian of long experience doubtless applies to these opinions, fixed beforehand, and rendered unalterable by electioneering necessities: “During the fifty years that I have sat at Westminster, I have listened to thousands of speeches; but few of them have changed my opinion, not one of them has changed my vote.”

  28. M. Clemenceau. —⁠Translator

  29. In its issue of April 6, 1895, the Economiste published a curious review of the figures that may be reached by expenditure caused solely by electoral considerations, and notably of the outlay on railways. To put Langayes (a town of 3,000 inhabitants, situated on a mountain) in communication with Puy, a railway is voted that will cost 15 millions of francs. Seven millions are to be spent to put Beaumont (3,500 inhabitants) in communication with Castel-Sarrazin; 7 millions to put Oust (a village of 523 inhabitants) in communication with Seix (1,200 inhabitants); 6 millions to put Prade in communication with the hamlet of Olette (747 inhabitants), etc. In 1895 alone 90 millions of francs were voted for railways of only local utility. There is other no less important expenditure necessitated also by electioneering considerations. The law instituting workingmen’s pensions will soon involve a minimum annual outlay of 165 millions, according to the Minister of Finance, and of 800 millions according to the academician M. Leroy-Beaulieu. It is evident that the continued growth of expenditure of this kind must end in bankruptcy. Many European countries⁠—Portugal, Greece, Spain, Turkey⁠—have reached this stage, and others, such as Italy, will soon be reduced to the same extremity. Still too much alarm need not be felt at this state of things, since the public has successively consented to put up with the reduction of four-fifths in the payment of their coupons by these different countries. Bankruptcy under these ingenious conditions allows the equilibrium of Budgets difficult to balance to be instantly restored. Moreover, wars, socialism, and economic conflicts hold in store for us a profusion of other catastrophes in the period of universal disintegration we are traversing, and it is necessary to be resigned to living from hand to mouth without too much concern for a future we cannot control.