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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/653

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POLITICAL FORMS AND FORCES.

not please them, to the present time, when, as we are told of Russia, the desire of the army often determines the will of the Czar, there have been many illustrations of the truth that an autocrat is politically strong or weak according as many or few of the influential classes give him their support; and that even the sentiments of those who are politically prostrate greatly affect the political action: instance the influence of Turkish fanaticism over the decisions of the Sultan.

A number of facts must be remembered if we are rightly to estimate the power of the aggregate will in comparison with the power of the autocrat's will. There is the fact that the autocrat is obliged to respect and maintain the great mass of institutions and laws produced by past sentiments and ideas, which have acquired a religious sanction; so that, as in ancient Egypt, dynasties of despots live and die and leave the social order essentially unchanged. There is the fact that a serious change of the social order, at variance with general feeling, is likely afterward to be reversed, as when, in Egypt, Amenhotep IV, spite of a rebellion, succeeded in establishing a new religion, which was abolished in a succeeding reign; and there is the allied fact that laws much at variance with the general will prove abortive, as, for instance, the sumptuary laws made by mediƦval kings, which, continually reƫnacted, continually failed. There is the fact that, supreme as he may be, and divine as the nature ascribed to him, the all-powerful king is yet shackled by usages which often make his daily life a slavery; the opinions of the living oblige him to fulfill the dictates of the dead. There is the fact that if he does not conform, or if he otherwise produces by his acts much adverse feeling, his servants, civil and military, refuse to act, or turn against him; and in extreme cases there comes an example of "despotism tempered by assassination." And there is the further fact that habitually, in societies where an offending autocrat is from time to time removed, another autocrat is set up; the implication being that the average sentiment is of a kind which not only tolerates but desires autocracy. That, which is by some called loyalty and by others servility, both creates the absolute ruler and gives him the power he exercises.

But the cardinal truth, difficult adequately to appreciate, is that, while the forms and laws of each society are the consolidated products of the emotions and ideas of those who have lived throughout the past, they are made operative by the subordination of existing emotions and ideas to them. We are familiar with the thought of "the dead hand" as controlling the doings of the living in the uses made of property; but the effect of "the dead hand," in ordering life at large through the established political system, is immeasurably greater. That which, from hour to hour, in every country, governed despotically or otherwise, produces the obedience making political action possible, is the accumulated and organized sentiment felt toward inherited institutions, made sacred by tradition. Hence it is undeniable that, taken in its