Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/484

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468
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

of State-authority, is habitually regarded by citizens as having a trust-worthiness beyond that of a man who wears no such uniform; and this confidence survives all disproofs. Obviously, then, if men's judgments are thus ridiculously swayed, in spite of better knowledge, by the mere symbols of State-power, still more must they be so swayed by State-power itself, as exercised in ways that leave greater scope for the imagination. If awe and faith are irresistibly called out toward things which perception and reason tell us positively should not call them out, still more will awe and faith be called out toward those State-actions and influences on which perception and reason can less easily be brought to bear. If the beliefs prompted by this feeling of reverence survive even where they are flatly contradicted by common-sense, still more will they survive where common-sense cannot so flatly contradict them.

How deeply rooted is this sentiment excited in men by embodied power will be seen, on noting how it sways in common all orders of politicians, from the old-world Tory to the Red Republican. Contrasted as the extreme parties are in the types of Government they approve, and the theories they hold respecting the source of Government authority, they are alike in their unquestioning belief in governmental authority, and in showing almost unlimited faith in the ability of a Government to achieve any desired end. Though the form of the agency toward which the sentiment of loyalty is directed is much changed, yet there is little change in sentiment itself, or in the general conceptions it creates. The notion of the divine right of a person has given place to the notion of the divine right of a representative assembly. While it is held to be a self-evident falsity that the single will of a despot can justly override the wills of a people, it is held to be a self-evident truth that the wills of one-half of a people, plus some small fraction, may with perfect justice override the wills of the other half, minus this small fraction—may override them in respect of any matter whatever. Unlimited authority of a majority has been substituted for unlimited authority of an individual. So unquestioning is the belief in this unlimited authority of a majority, that even the tacit suggestion of a doubt produces astonishment. True, if, of one who holds that power deputed by the people is subject to no restrictions, you ask whether, if the majority decided that no person should be allowed to live beyond sixty, the decision might be legitimately executed, he would possibly hesitate. Or, if you asked him whether the majority, being Catholic, might rightly require of the Protestant minority that they should either embrace Catholicism or leave the country, he would, influenced by the ideas of religious liberty in which he has been brought up, probably say no. But, though his answers to sundry such questions disclose the fact that State-authority, when an embodiment of the national will, is not believed by him to be absolutely supreme, his latent conviction, that there are limits to it, lies so