If some literature student (in a non-Western ideology-soaked department) is looking for thesis material, Patrick O’Brian on the evils of democracy is it.
Here, only one snippet, from The Yellow Admiral, the 18th volume in the Aubrey-Maturin series (the best novel in the English language). The scene is between the two protagonists, who are discussing a successful attempt by Aubrey, as Lord of the Manor, to stop his beloved commons from being enclosed. The time is immediately before Napoleon’s first defeat.
(Only the last ellipsis is mine. I use the pound sign to demarcate the text, because a block quote is too long.)
‘Jack,’ said Stephen, ‘I have been contemplating on your words about the nature of the majority, your strangely violent, radical, and even — forgive me — democratic words, which, with their treasonable implication of ‘one man, one vote’, might be interpreted as an attack on the sacred rights of property; and I should like to know how you reconcile them with your support of a Tory ministry in the House.’
‘Oh, as for that,’ said Jack, ‘I have no difficulty at all. It is entirely a matter of scale and circumstance. Everyone knows that on a large scale democracy is pernicious nonsense — a country or even a county cannot be run by a self-seeking parcel of tub-thumping politicians working on popular emotion, rousing the mob. Even at Brooks’s, which is a hotbed of democracy, the place is in fact run by the managers and those that don’t like it may either do the other thing or join Boodle’s; while as for a man-of-war, it is either an autocracy or it is nothing, nothing at all — mere nonsense. You saw what happened to the poor French navy at the beginning of the Revolutionary War…’
‘Dear Jack, I do not suppose literal democracy in a ship of the line nor even in a little small row-boat. I know too much of the sea,’ added Stephen, not without complacency.
‘…while at the other end of the scale, although ‘one man, one vote’ certainly smells of brimstone and the gallows, everyone has always accepted it in a jury trying a man for his life. An inclosure belongs to this scale: it too decides men’s lives. I had not realized how thoroughly it does so until I came back from sea and found that Griffiths and some of his friends had persuaded my father to join with them in inclosing Woolcombe Common…
‘Stephen, I do assure you. I was brought up rough when I was a little chap, after my mother’s death, sometimes at the village school, sometimes running wild; and I knew these men intimately as boys, and now to see them at the mercy of landlords, farmers, and God help us parish officers for poor relief, hurts me so that I can scarcely bring myself to go there again. And I am determined the same thing shall not happen to Simmon’s Lea, if ever I can prevent it. The old ways had disadvantages, of course, but here — and I speak only of what I know — it was a human life, and the people knew its ways and customs through and through.
At the beginning of Napoleon’s adventures, his ships were run, not exactly on a communist line, but close to it. Authority along traditional—make that Traditional—lines was quickly restored.
Everybody does not know, though they used to, that “large scale democracy is pernicious nonsense — a country or even a county cannot be run by a self-seeking parcel of tub-thumping politicians working on popular emotion, rousing the mob.”
Nothing but praise of large-scale democracy is had—by those on the winning side. Losers charge the winners with “populism”. As if large-scale democracy is anything but populism. Have we not already seen in the recent Democrat (!) debates a contest who could give away the most “free” stuff?
That Trump, or even the guy with mysterious origins before him, has not declared himself—openly declared himself—Ceasar is the only puzzle to be solved. Well, perhaps we’re not there yet. But we will be, eventually. Large-scale democracy guarantees it. Even if it weren’t for all the other things (immigration, the Religion of Man, et cetera), all mobs eventually go mad. All voters, that is.
The distinction of interest is when democracy does make sense. Jury trials are meant to be, in theory, comprised of equals. When something approaching real equal holds, democracy can work. But equality only holds at the very small, in very constrained circumstances.
More of this is in my upcoming book! Well I hope it is upcoming. Two rejections thus far. We’ll see!
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