Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/474

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chievous than the former. But while mobs more frequently do ill than good, corporations more frequently do good than ill.

When, by chance, a multitude in action appears to be better, more heroic, and more magnanimous than the average of those who compose it, the fact is either due to extraordinary circumstances, or the magnanimity is only apparent and fictitious, and is the deep-seated result of a hidden terror. The heroism of fear is frequent in mobs. Sometimes the beneficent conduct of a mob is simply a survival of the custom of an ancient corporation. Is not this the case in the spontaneous self-devotion which is sometimes exhibited in the crowds which in cities run to put out a great fire? I say sometimes of them, not referring to the body of the firemen, in whom these admirable traits are habitual and exhibited daily. The multitude around these, following their example, perhaps stimulated by emulation, show also a rare devotion, and confront a danger to save a life. But when we observe that these collections of the multitude are a traditional affair, that they have their rules and customs, that they portion out duties, that the full buckets go round on the right and the empty ones on the left, that their actions are combined with a customary act rather than being spontaneous, we are brought to perceive that these manifestations of sympathy and of fraternal assistance have come down from the peculiar corporative life of the communities of the middle ages.

Instances in any number might be cited to illustrate how an excited multitude, even when the majority of it are persons of intelligence, has always something in it partaking both of the puerile and the bestial: of the puerile in the mobility of its humor, in its quick passage from rage to outbursts of laughter; of the bestial in its brutality. It is cowardly, too, even when composed of individuals of average courage. It is hard to conceive to what extent mobs, and unorganized, undisciplined collections of men in general, are more mobile, more forgetful, more credulous, and more cruel than the greater part of their elements; but the proofs of the fact are abundant. In the collective mind images succeed one another incoherently, as they do in the brain of a sleeping or a hypnotized man; while most of the individual minds which compose it, and which concur in forming that great folly called opinion, are capable of consecutiveness and order in the arrangement of their ideas. M. Delbœuf tells of a poor German, just arrived at Liége, who followed the crowd to the scene of a dynamite explosion. Some one, seeing him run a little faster than the others, pointed him out as the guilty person, and the whole mob was ready to cut him to pieces. Yet that mob was composed of the best society of the place, attending a concert; and gentlemen could be heard calling for a revolver