Old as Aristotle and older, is the distinction of governments into bad or good according as they exist for the sake of the governed; according as they are held as a spoil for the governors, or as a trust for the governed.
The binding force of States, which create, for their own and for succeeding ages, what we call grandeur, is the force of noblesse oblige. The truly strong give to the weakness of others a sympathy, born of victory over their own. The rock on which society is built is that of a noblessness conscious of the obligation to be noble. This is the origin as it is also the ideal of that ever miraculous force we call society. "It was by Rome's self abnegation," wrote Mr. Bryce, "that she romanized the world." Not by material but by moral force, man is made paulo minus ab angelis. The fevered turmoil known as "progress of the age" has not quite obscured this principle of origin. In speaking of the swift response of every citizen of Japan to his country's call, Colonel Nogi, who refuse to partake of luxury in wartime not granted to the soldier, would feel themselves insulted if asked to serve at rates of pay other than those deemed sufficient for the army. It is this spirit of self effacement for the public weal, mingled with fervent patriotism, which has won for Japan her long series of victories on sea and land." What might be called the government of Noblesse Dispense achieves dispensation from all this. Where the former principle bears sway, we have the great States which are lamps to distant ages. Where the opposite is absolute, although the monarch be called, as in ancient Persia, the great king, his realm in the tale of time is small. We read the record of a selfishness, which, in the midst of palatial graft shrivels the soul. Selfishness is contraction. Sacrifice is expansion. The human secret is this of Nobless Oblige. Obligation measures elevation. Intuitively, we impute this correlation to the Almighty height. The foundation of man's metropolis are two—reverence and sympathy—the second made in the likeness of the first. Consciousness of this caused the men of old to speak of law. As a covenant with God; of the State as Divine.