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losing all their privileges; for the Hohenzollerns made no attempt to fuse all the classes together, or to give all ranks among the people equal rights by creating a uniform system of law. Their theory of the state was an absolute monarchy, in which the citizens should be divided, as in Plato's republic, into a series of orders, each performing a special kind of duties. Hence they tried deliberately to keep the classes distinct, organizing them separately, and assigning to each definite functions. The nobles were intended to pursue agriculture on a large scale and to supply officers for the army; the peasants were to do the smaller cultivation and furnish the common soldiers; while the cities were to carry on commerce and manufactures and pay a larger share of the taxes. The hardships of excessive privilege were carefully lightened, and the condition of the peasants was vastly improved, but until this century there was no effort to abolish class privileges; and indeed they can hardly be said to have disappeared altogether at the present day. It is not surprising, therefore, that the classes are still sharply separated in Germany, and especially in Prussia.
is an obstacle to popular
The condition of the classes has had a momentous effect on political development. The Prussian nobility have never stood like the English class strife as defenders of the lowly against the crown. On the contrary, the crown has been the government. shield of the peasants against the oppressions of the great landowners. The nobles, moreover, have belonged wholly to one political party, so that Prussia has never known that division of its aristocracy into
Liberals and Conservatives, each furnishing leaders to the people, which has been of such inestimable value in England. It is, in fact, the strife of noble with peasant, of city with country, compelling every one to look to the king as an arbiter, that has given to the crown, and the bureaucracy as its tool, so great an influence and renown.1 The same cause must continue to produce the same effect, and the royal authority cannot be permanently reduced until a great party is formed which finds hearty support in every rank of life, and can speak in the name of the people without distinction of class. But this must be preceded by a long, slow process of social evolution.
Supremacy of the Reichstag
so long as
Nor is it desirable that the Reichstag should acquire supremacy in the state so long as the antagonism between the classes continues. The undesirable present system, in which the elective chamber class antag has a voice in public affairs, while the main control rests with the crown, has the advantages and the disadvantages of all hereditary monarchies. It has the merit of enabling a vigorous and capable sovereign to act for the public good, without too much regard to the prejudices of the various classes or the selfishness of particular interests; but, on the other hand, it makes the selection of the ruler depend on the hazard of birth, and the history of Prussia shows to what a point of exaltation or depression the fortunes of the nation may be brought by the personal qualities of the reigning prince.
1 This was also true at one time of the monarchy in France, but hardly to so great an extent as in Germany.
Now, whatever opinion one may hold in regard to the relative merits of monarchy and demo- Nature of
cracy, it must be observed that a transfer of true de power from the Emperor to the Reichstag would not at present produce a true democracy. Professor Freeman, in his essay on the "Growth of the English Constitution," remarks: "Democracy, according to Periklês, is a government of the whole people, as opposed to oligarchy, a government of only a part of the people. A government which vests all power in any one class, a government which shuts out any one class, whether that class be the highest or the lowest, does not answer the definition of Periklês; it is not a government of the whole but only of a part; it is not a democracy, but an oligarchy." And in a note he adds: "It follows that, when the commonwealth of Florence disfranchised the whole of the noble families, it lost its right to be called a democracy." The conception of government Vertical and by the whole people in any large nation is, of horizontal course, a chimera; for wherever the suffrage parties. is wide, parties are certain to exist, and the control must really be in the hands of the party that comprises a majority, or a rough approximation to a majority, of the people. But the principle has nevertheless an important application. If the line of division is vertical, so that the party in power includes a considerable portion of each class in the community, every section of the people has a direct share in the government; but if the line is horizontal, so that the party is substanPage 10.
tially composed of a single class, then the classes not represented in it are virtually disfranchised so long as that party maintains its ascendency. Instead of a true democracy, we have government by a single class, which degenerates easily into oppression. In this case, indeed, the tyranny is likely to be far worse than it would be if the ruling class were legally the sole possessor of power, because there is a lack of all sense of responsibility towards the rest of the people, and because the alternation in power of different classes, which must inevitably occur, breeds intense bitterness of feeling. So long, therefore, as party lines are vertical, popular government is on a sound basis. But if all the rich men, or all the educated men, are grouped together, the state is in peril; and if the party lines become really horizontal, democracy is on the high road to class tyranny, which leads, as history proves, to a dictatorship. This is the meaning of the classic publicists when they speak of the natural rotation from monarchy to aristocracy, from this to democracy, and then back again to monarchy. To them, democracy meant, not government by the whole people, but the rule of the lower classes.1 A territorial division of parties, indeed, is not as dangerous as a
1 Aristotle, who combated Plato's theory of rotation in the form of government (Politics, bk. v. ch. xii.), draws a distinction between a ro Tela, where the citizens at large rule the state for the public good, and a democracy, where the interest of the poor only is considered. (Bk. iii. ch. viii.; bk. iv. ch. iv.) Elsewhere he speaks of the former as a mixture of aristocracy and democracy, and treats it as more stable than either of them. (Bk. v. ch. vii.) He refers also to the peculiar dangers that arise when the middle classes disappear and the rich and poor are equally balanced. (Bk. v. ch. iv.)
horizontal division, because, although the former may lead to civil war, the latter leads to social anarchy and despotism. It follows that so long as the German parties are largely based on class distinctions the absolute supremacy of the Reichstag will not produce true democracy, and will not be a benefit to the country.
volve changes in the organ
At present, therefore, popular government in Germany is neither probable nor desirable. In Popular fact, the existing institutions are by no means would inadapted to it; and if the supremacy should pass from the monarch to the representatives of the people, a profound modification must necessarily take place in the organization of the Empire. The intricate connection between the Prussian and the federal machinery, which works very well so long as both are controlled by a single man, would hardly be possible if the people became the real source of power. Suppose, for example, that the Reichstag should succeed in compelling the Emperor to select a Chancellor who enjoyed its confidence; suppose, in other words, that the Chancellor should become politically responsible to the Reichstag, but that in Prussia the King remained free to choose his ministers as he pleased. It is clear the government could be made to work smoothly, only on condition that the spheres of action of the Chancellor and the Prussian cabinet became independent of each other, and this would involve a practical abandonment by the latter of all interference in federal matters.
Again, suppose that the Landtag should also acquire