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DOGMA OF LIBERTY OF CONSCIENCE.
accessible to only a small number of highly-prepared understandings, are to be abandoned to the arbitrary and variable decisions of the least competent minds ? If such an anomaly could be imagined permanent, a dissolution of the social state must ensue, through the ever-growing divergence of individual understandings, delivered over to their disorderly natural impulses in the most vague and easily perverted of all orders of ideas. The speculative inertia common to most minds, and perhaps, to a certain extent, the wise reserve of popular good sense, tend, no doubt, to restrict such political aberrations : but these are influences too feeble to root out. ihe pretension of every man to set himself up as a sovereign arbiter of social theories ;-a pretension which every intelligent man blames in others, with a reservation, more or less explicit, of his own personal competency. Now the intellectual reorganization cannot proceed amidst such a state of things, because the convergence of minds requires the renunciation by the greater number of their right of individual inquiry on subjects above their qualifications, and requiring, more than any others, a real and permanent agreement. Then again, the unbridled ambition of ill-prepared intellects rushes in among the most complex and obscure questions: and these disturbances, though they must finally neutralize each other, wake terrible devastation in the interval; and each one that is destroyed makes way for another; so that the issue of these controversies is a perpetual aggravation of the intellectual anarchy.
No association whatever, even of the smallest number of individuals, and for the most temporary objects, can subsist without a certain degree of reciprocal confidence, intellectual and moral, among its members, each one of whom has incessantly to act upon views which he must admit on the faith of some one else. If it is so in this limited case, there is something monstrous in proposing the opposite procedure in the case of the whole human race, each one of whom is at an extreme distance from the collective point of view, and is the last person of the whole number fit to judge of the rules by which his personal action should be directed. Be the intellectual development of each and all what it may, social order must ever be incompatible with a perpetual discussion of the foundations of society. Systematic toleration can exist only with regard to opinions which are considered indifferent or doubtful, as we see in that aspect of the revolutionary spirit which takes its stand on Protestantism, where the innumerable Christian sects are too weak to pretend to spiritual dominion, but where there is as fierce an intolerance about any common point of doctrine or discipline as in the Romish Church itself. And when the critical doctrine was, at the beginning of the French Revolution, supposed to be organic, we know how the directors of the movement strove to obtain a general assent, voluntary or forced, to the dogmas of the revolutionary philosophy, which they regarded as the bases of social order, and therefore above controversy. We
shall see hereafter what are the due limits of the right of free
The dogma which ranks next in importance to that of free in-
Equality. taken to be absolute wlien it is only relative, and permanent, while it expresses merely the position of minds employed in breaking up the old system. It is an immediate consequence of liberty of conscience, which brings after it the most fundamental equality of all,—that of intelligence. The supposition of its being absolute was not less necessary in this case than the former : for, if all social classification had not been systematically disallowed, the old corporations would have preserved their sway, from the impossibility of their conceiving of any other classification. To this day we have no sufficiently distinct notion ourselves of such an arrangement as would be truly appropriate to a new state of civilization. When the dogma of equality had achieved the overthrow of the old polities, it could not but become an obstacle to any reorganization, because its activity must then be directed against the bases of any new classification whatever; for, of course, any classification must be incompatible with the equality that was claimed for all. Since the abolition of slavery, there has been no denial, from any quarter, of the right of every man (innocent of strong anti-social conduct) to expect from all others the fulfilment of the conditions necessary to the natural development of his personal activity, suitably directed: but beyond that undisputed right, men cannot be made, because they are not, equal, nor even equivalent; and they cannot therefore possess, in a state of association, any identical rights beyond the great original one. The simple physical inequalities which fix the attention of superficial observers are much less marked than intellectual and moral differences; and the progress of civilization tends to increase these more important differences, as much as to lessen the inferior kind: and, applied to any assemblage of persons thus developed, the dogma of equality becomes anarchical, and directly hostile to its original destination.
The second result of the dogma of liberty of conscience is the
old régime and preparing for a new one. Till the final system could be constituted, the only safeguard against the renewed supremacy of the old one was in the setting up of provisional
DOGMA OF EQUALITY.
institutions, which the peoples claimed the absolute riglit to change at will. It was only by means of the doctrine of popular sovereignty that that succession of political endeavours could take place which must precede the installation of a true system of government, whenever the intellectual renovation of society shall be sufficiently advanced to settle the conditions and natural extent of the different sovereignties. Meanwhile, in discharging its function, this dogma proves its revolutionary character before our eyes, by opposing all reorganization, condemning, as it does, all the superior to an arbitrary dependence on the multitude of the inferior, by a kind of transference to the peoples of the divine right which had become the opprobrium of kings.
The revolutionary spirit of the critical doctrine manifests itself no less clearly when we look at international relations.
Dogma of NaThe necessity of order being in this case more equivocal and obscure, the absence of all regulating power pendence. has been more ingenuously declared than in other cases. When the ancient spiritual power was politically annulled, the dissolution of European order followed spontaneously from the principle of liberty of conscience; and the most natural papal function was at an end. Till the new social organization shall show us the law by which the nations shall become once more connected, the metaphysical notions of national isolation, and therefore of mutual nonintervention, must prevail; and they will be regarded as absolute till it appears how they defeat their own end. As all attempts at European co-ordination must otherwise be directed by the ancient system, we owe to the doctrine of national independence our rescue from the monstrous arrangement of the most civilized nations being politically subordinated to the least advanced, because the latter were least changed froin their ancient state, and would be sure therefore to be placed at the head of such an association. But, if such a doctrine were more than provisional, the nations would sink below their state in the Middle Ages; and at the very time when they are marked out, by an ever-growing resemblance, for an association more extensive, and at the same time more regular, than that which was proposed by the old Catholic and feudal system. It is clear that when the dogma of national isolation has fulfilled its function of separating the nations, in order to a preparation for a new union, its further action must be as purely anarchical as that of its predecessors.
A brief notice of the logical inconsistency of the revolutionary doctrine will conclude our preliminary review of it.
This inconsistency is more radical and more manifest than in the case of the retrograde or theological doctrine ; but it
Inconsistency does not imply so utter a condemnation ; not only on of the Meiaaccount of its recent formation, but because such a physical doc. vice does not prevent its fulfilling its critical office.
Notwithstanding profound differences, the adversaries of the old polity found no difficulty in uniting for successive partial demolitions about which they were agreed, postponing till their period of success their contests about the ulterior developments of their doctrine; a course which would be impossible in the case of any organic operation, in which each part must be considered in its relation to the whole. Thus far only, however, can the inconsistency be tolerated. When once the whole of any doctrine becomes hostile to its original purposes, it is condemned: and this is true of the metaphysical doctrine, which at once opposes the progress it professed to aid, and sustains the foundations of the political system it proposed to destroy.
Its culminating-point was at the most marked period of the first French Revolution, when it was, by an unavoidable illusion, taken to be the principle of social reorganization. It was then seen in its best aspect of consistency and power; and then it was that, the ancient system being disposed of, its vices became apparent. It showed itself hostile to all social reorganization, and became actually retrograde in its character by setting itself up in violent opposition to the movement of modern civilization. For one illustration, look Notion of a
at the strange metaphysical notion of a supposed state of Na- state of nature, which was to be the primitive and invariable type of every social state. This doctrine
. is not to be attributed to Rousseau alone. It is that of all philosophers, in all times and countries, who have unconsciously concurred in developing the revolutionary metaphysical doctrine which Roussean, by his urgent dialectics, only pushed to its real conclusions. His doctrine, which represents a state of civilization as an ever-growing degeneracy from the primitive ideal type, is common to all modern metaphysicians; and we shall see hereafter that it is only the metaphysical form of the theological dogma of the degradation of the human race by original sin. According to such a principle, all political reformation must be regarded as destined to re-establish that primitive state: and what is that but organizing a universal retrogradation, though with progressive intentions ? The applications of this doctrine have been in conformity to its philosophical constitution. When it was necessary to replace the feudal and Catholic régime, men did not fix their contemplation on the social future, but summoned up their imperfect remembrances of a very distant past, trying to substitute for a decrepit system a more ancient and decrepit system still, but, for that very reason, nearer to the primitive type. Instead of a worn-out Catholicism, they proposed a sort of metaphysical polytheism, at the same time that, in polity, they desired to replace the Middle Age system by the radically inferior régime of the Greeks and Romans. The very elements of modern civilization, the only possible germs of a new social state, were endangered by barbaric condemnation of the
INCONSISTENCY OF THE DOCTRINE.
industrial and artistic advancement of modern society, in the name of primitive virtue and simplicity. Even the scientific spirit, which is the only principle of intellectual organization, was stigmatized as tending to institute an aristocracy of knowledge which was as incompatible as any other aristocracy with the original equality that was to be set up again. Lavoisier was the martyr of this state of opinion; and it is his case that will illustrate the period to our remotest posterity. It is useless for the metaphysical school to l'epresent such results as portentous or eccentric incidents. Their legitimate descent from the revolutionary polity is evident and certain ; and we should witness a repetition of them if it were possible (which it is not) for this polity to become prevalent again. The tendency to social retrogradation, under the idea of returning to the primitive state, so thoroughly belongs to the metaphysical polity, that the new sects who, in their brief day, have most haughtily censured the revolutionary imitation of Greek and Roman types, have unconsciously reproduced the same error in a far more marked way by striving to re-establish the confusion between the temporal and spiritual power, and extolling, as the highest social perfection, a return to the Egyptian or Hebrew theocracy, founded on fetichism, disguised under the name of pantheism.
As the metaphysical doctrine was the issue of the theological, and destined to modify it, it was a matter of course that it should vindicate the general foundations of the worn-out. the old system, even after having destroyed its chief conditions of existence. Every reformer, for three centuries past, while urging the development of the critical spirit further than his predecessors, assumed to set immutable bounds to it; deriving his limitations from the old system. All the absolute rights proclaimed as the basis of the new doctrine were guaranteed by a sort of religious consecration, in the last resort; and this was indispensable, if their efficacy was not to be impaired by continual discussion. It was always with an invocation of the principles of the old polity on their lips that the reformers proceeded to demolish the spiritual and temporal institutions in which they were embodied ; and the whole régime fell through the conflict of its chief elements. Hence there arose, in the intellectual region, a Christianity more and more attenuated or simplified, and reduced at last to that vague and impotent theism which, by a monstrous conjunction of terms, metaphysicians have entitled Natural Religion, as if all religion were not necessarily supernatural. The pretension to direct a social reorganization by this strange conception is merely a recurrence to the old principle that social order must rest on a theological basis. This is now the most fatal inconsistency of the revolutionary school; and while armed with such a concession, the advocates of Catholicism will always have an incontestable logical superiority over the irrational defamers of the old faith, who proclaim the need of a