Page by Page Books
Read Books Online, for Free
The Ancien Regime Charles Kingsley


Page 2 of 5

Table Of Contents: The Ancien Regime

Previous Page

Next Page

Next Chapter

More Books

More by this Author

And, be it always remembered, that in introducing these men into the "balance of the Constitution," we introduce no unknown quantity. Statesmen ought to know them, if they know themselves; to judge what the working man would do by what they do themselves. He who imputes virtues to his own class imputes them also to the labouring class. He who imputes vices to the labouring class, imputes them to his own class. For both are not only of the same flesh and blood, but, what is infinitely more important, of the same spirit; of the same race; in innumerable cases, of the same ancestors. For centuries past the most able of these men have been working upwards into the middle class, and through it, often, to the highest dignities, and the highest family connections; and the whole nation knows how they have comported themselves therein. And, by a reverse process (of which the physiognomist and genealogist can give abundant proof), the weaker members of that class which was dominant during the Middle Age have been sinking downward, often to the rank of mere day-labourers, and carrying downward with them--sometimes in a very tragical and pathetic fashion--somewhat of the dignity and the refinement which they had learnt from their ancestors.

Thus has the English nation (and as far as I can see, the Scotch likewise) become more homogeneous than any nation of the Continent, if we except France since the extermination of the Frankish nobility. And for that very reason, as it seems to me, it is more fitted than any other European nation for the exercise of equal political rights; and not to be debarred of them by arguments drawn from countries which have been governed--as England has not been--by a caste.

We have hundreds more books for your enjoyment. Read them all!

The civilisation, not of mere book-learning, but of the heart; all that was once meant by "manners"--good breeding, high feeling, respect for self and respect for others--are just as common (as far as I have seen) among the hand-workers of England and Scotland, as among any other class; the only difference is, that these qualities develop more early in the richer classes, owing to that severe discipline of our public schools, which makes mere lads often fit to govern, because they have learnt to obey: while they develop later- -generally not till middle age--in the classes who have not gone through in their youth that Spartan training, and who indeed (from a mistaken conception of liberty) would not endure it for a day. This and other social drawbacks which are but too patent, retard the manhood of the working classes. That it should be so, is a wrong. For if a citizen have one right above all others to demand anything of his country, it is that he should be educated; that whatever capabilities he may have in him, however small, should have their fair and full chance of development. But the cause of the wrong is not the existence of a caste, or a privileged class, or of anything save the plain fact, that some men will be always able to pay more for their children's education than others; and that those children will, inevitably, win in the struggle of life.

Meanwhile, in this fact is to be found the most weighty, if not the only argument against manhood suffrage, which would admit many--but too many, alas!--who are still mere boys in mind. To a reasonable household suffrage it cannot apply. The man who (being almost certainly married, and having children) can afford to rent a 5 pound tenement in a town, or in the country either, has seen quite enough of life, and learnt quite enough of it, to form a very fair judgment of the man who offers to represent him in Parliament; because he has learnt, not merely something of his own interest, or that of his class, but--what is infinitely more important--the difference between the pretender and the honest man.

Page 2 of 5 Previous Page   Next Page
Who's On Your Reading List?
Read Classic Books Online for Free at
Page by Page Books.TM
The Ancien Regime
Charles Kingsley

Home | More Books | About Us | Copyright 2004