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a cheap newspaper, to set forth his own merits and to libel his opponent.
Another obvious demerit of democracy, mentioned by Lord Bryce, is an inadequate sense of the necessity for keeping the law, while the law exists. It may be seen no less in Australia, France, and the United States, than in those classical republics which were always violating the provisions of their own elaborate constitutions. In America it is specially evident in some states where the executive fails to suppress lynching and other disorders which are backed by local public opinion.
"Strike riots have been frequent in Australia, France, New Zealand, and to a less extent in Canada. Though such breaches of the law exist in all countries, they are doubtless more frequent and more serious when the fear of losing many votes by offending the strikers deters an executive from action' (II, 497).
But faulty administration of justice is often produced rather by the misguided mentality of the democracy itself than by feeble or partial conduct on the part of the executive or the judiciary. An obvious failing in all democratic states in all ages has been a liability to be distracted by emotional, sentimental, or pseudo-humanitarian considerations from the strict administration of justice. It was a common device of the defendants in lawsuits of ancient Greece or Rome to parade before the enormous juries which were trying them for such offences as embezzlement, assault, or forgery, pathetic groups of infants arrayed in black or aged parents in tears, flentem producere matrem, as the Roman satirist called the 'trick. And the allegation that the accused or his ancestors had fought at Marathon or the Metaurus was a safe card to play, though it had no relation to the case on trial.
No professional lawyer would allow his attention to be distracted by such irrelevant facts. But democratic juries are made of more impressionable stuff. To-day, in America, as President Taft remarks:
The lax administration of our criminal law is due in a marked degree to the prevalence of maudlin sentiment among the people, and to the alluring limelight in which the criminal walks, if only he can give a little sentimental colouring to his mean or sordid offence' (II, 96).
For, as Lord Bryce himself puts it, “There is in the United States an almost morbid sympathy for some classes of criminals, a sentiment frequently affecting juries, which goes on increasing if a long period has elapsed between crime and punishment. A conviction for murder, especially if there was any emotional motive present, is usually followed by a torrent of appeals for clemency in the press, and the State-Governor is besieged with letters and petitions demanding commutation of the sentence. Hardly a voice is raised on behalf of the enforcement of the law.
This disregard for justice is influenced by the habits of a gutter-press which revels in giving lurid details of every crime, and, unless it can make a blood-curdling monster out of the criminal, takes the opposite line, and tries to represent him or her as a sympathetic and luckless victim of social rottenness or economic stringency.
This tendency is as well marked in France as in America. Every one knows that a jury of the Seine will acquit any accused person, or at least grant 'extenuating circumstances,' if the ingenious advocate can twist the assault, robbery, or murder into a 'crime passionnel.' Victor Hugo did an immense disservice to his country when in his poems and romances he popularised the idea that the criminal is a being to be pitied rather than hated, the unfortunate victim of poverty, ignorance, harsh laws, or oppressive administration. That sort of sentimentality—which goes back to Rousseau's dream of the natural virtue of primitive man-may be out of date in 1920. But it is quite as demoralising to the efficient administration of the state if criminals are allowed to exploit their arboreal ancestry,' by pleading heredity and uncontrollable instinct; c'était plus fort que moi,' and so forth. The jury that is touched by the appeal to common human frailty, and acquits an embezzling clerk or a jealous woman who has thrown vitriol in a rival's face, is doing its best to encourage crime and disorganise society.
We are not unacquainted with the pleas of maudlin humanitarianism in Great Britain, though fortunately they have hitherto led to fruitless petitions by outsiders rather than to the demoralisation of juries. But those
who reflect on the ease with which 20,000 signatures may be obtained for the reprieve of a murderer in these days, or the howl which is raised in certain party circles on the execution of an Irish rebel, may doubt whether we are not following in our sedate fashion on the track trodden already by the French and the Americans.
In pursuing this theme we are getting near the border of another democratic failing, that which may be called (though Lord Bryce does not, we think, use the actual word) the danger of mob-psychology. It is generally acknowledged that the impulses and acts of a multitude are something quite different from those which would be displayed by its individual members. When a mob is a political body deciding the fortunes of a state, this fact may have no small importance. We are not alluding to wild explosions of hysterical massrage, such as those which made the Athenian assembly decree the atrocity at Mitylene, or commit the judicial murder of the generals who had won the battle of Arginusæ. Nor do we refer to the corybantic proceedings of an American National Convention choosing a presidential candidate by means of flag-wagging, prancing, and systematic bellowing, in which no sane delegate would indulge save in the midst of a mob. Undoubtedly, these are typical phenomena in a democratic state. But they are short and exceptional, and the sufferers next day find themselves in a more sober mood, like the Athenians of B.C. 427 who counter-ordered the massacre at Mitylene within twenty-four hours. A much less transient and more dangerous failing in a mob, whether assembled in one place and swayed by an orator, as of old, or scattered over a continent and absorbing its demagogy through newspapers, as in these days, is that it is liable to be hypnotised, by constant bold and unscrupulous declamation and ruthless propaganda, into accepting unproved and untested party statements as established truths.
“To speak with an air of positive assurance, especially to a half-educated crowd already predisposed to assent, is better than to reason with them. A prominent statesman of our day on being asked by a member of his party what arguments he had better use on behalf of the cause they were advocating, replied, “I sometimes think that bold assertion is the best kind of argument"' (II, 608).
No doubt the reiteration of terminological inexactitudes' has its nemesis in the end. • You may,' as Abraham Lincoln observed, 'fool all the people for some of the time, and some of the people for all of the time ; but you cannot fool all the people for all the time.' But during the space for which the majority has been 'fooled' there may have been one of those political landslides by which states have been wrecked; a party pledged to a ruinous policy may have been placed in power, or legislation with disastrous consequences put in operation. We cannot get over the fact that a democracy is more liable to be hoodwinked by suppression of the truth, or deafened by loud and blatant selfadvertisement than other ruling bodies—more especially because, as Lord Bryce owns, on page 584 of vol. II, democracies do not enlist in the service of the state nearly so many of their most capable or of their most honourable citizens as could be desired. The sordid side of politics frightens away the self-respecting man, who fears to find himself caught in the toils of a party machine. He has no wish to be perpetually rubbing elbows in the lobby with Cleon and Alcibiades, or serving on a financial commission with Æschines and Theramenes.
Lastly, Democracy has not induced that satisfaction and contentment with itself which was expected. One of the strongest arguments used to recommend Universal Suffrage was that as it gave supreme power to the numerical majority, every section of the people would bow to that majority . a resort to violence would be treason against the people and their sovereignty. Nevertheless in some countries governed under democratic constitutions revolutionary methods are now being applied or threatened, just as they were in the old days of tyrannical kings or oligarchies’ (II, 584).
Direct action by large organised minorities, like the recent Triple Alliance of miners, railwaymen, and transport workers in Great Britain-still more the violent abolition of Universal Suffrage in Russia by the armed minority which calls itself the Proletariate, were things that
were never foreseen by 19th-century
prophets when they hazarded a guess at the practical working of a democratic constitution.
The list of defects is formidable and we have not got to the end of it; administrative extravagance might, for example, ask for more notice than space allows here. But yet—here comes Lord Bryce's final judgment—mankind must be governed somehow, unless black anarchy is to supervene. And the examination of autocracy, oligarchy, bureaucracy, leads to the conclusion that all are infinitely worse than democracy as practical expedients.
It has achieved less than idealists of the 18th or 19th centuries expected; but, after all, the experiment has not failed the world is now a better place than it was under other governments, and the faith that it may be better still survives. Hope, often disappointed but often renewed, is the anchor by which the ship that carries democracy and its fortunes will have to ride out the latest storm, as it has ridden out so many storms before. There is an Eastern story of a king with an uncertain tempor, who desired his astrologer to discover from the stars when his death would come. The astrologer, having cast the horoscope, replied
. that he could not find the date, but had ascertained only this-that the king's death would follow immediately on his own. So may it be said that Democracy will never perish till after Hope has expired.'