Readme.it in English  home page
Readme.it in Italiano  pagina iniziale
readme.it by logo SoftwareHouse.it

Ebook in formato Kindle (mobi) - Kindle File Ebook (mobi)

Formato per Iphone, Ipad e Ebook (epub) - Ipad, Iphone and Ebook reader format (epub)

Versione ebook di Readme.it powered by Softwarehouse.it


Le BonGustave.

The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind

 

-ii-



The
CRIMINOLOGY SERIES.
In large Crown 8voCloth6s. each.
1. The Female Offender. By Professor LOMBROSO.
Editedwith Introductionby W. DOUGLAS
MORRISON. Illustrated.
2. Criminal Sociology. By Professor ENRICO
FERRI.
3. Juvenile Offender. By W. DOUGLAS MORRISON.
-- --
LONDON: T. FISHER UNWIN.


 

-iii-




THE CROWD


A STUDY OF THE POPULAR MIND



BY
GUSTAVE LE BON

NEW YORK
THE MACMILLAN CO.
1896


 

-v-



THE following work is devoted to an account of the characteristics of crowds.

The whole of the common characteristics with which heredity endows theindividuals of a race constitute the genius of the race. Whenhoweveracertain number of these individuals are gathered together in a crowd forpurposes of actionobservation proves thatfrom the mere fact of their beingassembledthere result certain new psychological characteristicswhich areadded to the racial characteristics and differ from them at times to a veryconsiderable degree.

Organised crowds have always played an important part in the life of peoplesbut this part has never been of such moment as at present. The substitution ofthe unconscious action of crowds for the conscious activity of individuals isone of the principal characteristics of the present age.

I have endeavoured to examine the difficult problem presented by crowds in apurely scientific manner -- that isby making an effort to proceed with methodand without being influenced by

 

-vi-



opinionstheoriesand doctrines. ThisI believeis the only mode of arrivingat the discovery of some few particles of truthespecially when dealingas isthe case herewith a question that is the subject of impassioned controversy. Aman of science bent on verifying a phenomenon is not called upon to concernhimself with the interests his verifications may hurt. In a recent publicationan eminent thinkerM. Goblet d'Alvielamade the remark thatbelonging to noneof the contemporary schoolsI am occasionally found in opposition of sundry ofthe conclusions of all of them. I hope this new work will merit a similarobservation. To belong to a school is necessarily to espouse its prejudices andpreconceived opinions.

Still I should explain to the reader why he will find me draw conclusionsfrom my investigations which it might be thought at first sight they do notbear; whyfor instanceafter noting the extreme mental inferiority of crowdspicked assemblies includedI yet affirm it would be dangerous to meddle withtheir organisationnotwithstanding this inferiority.

The reason isthat the most attentive observation of the facts of historyhas invariably demonstrated to me that social organisms being every whit ascomplicated as those of all beingsit is in no wise in our power to force themto undergo on a sudden far-reaching transformations. Nature has

 

-vii-



recourse at times to radical measuresbut never after our fashionwhichexplains how it is that nothing is more fatal to a people than the mania forgreat reformshowever excellent these reforms may appear theoretically. Theywould only be useful were it possible to change instantaneously the genius ofnations. This powerhoweveris only possessed by time. Men are ruled by ideassentimentsand customs -- matters which are of the essence of ourselves.Institutions and laws are the outward manifestation of our charactertheexpression of its needs. Being its outcomeinstitutions and laws cannot changethis character.

The study of social phenomena cannot be separated from that of the peoplesamong whom they have come into existence. From the philosophic point of viewthese phenomena may have an absolute value; in practice they have only arelative value.

It is necessaryin consequencewhen studying a social phenomenontoconsider it successively under two very different aspects. It will then be seenthat the teachings of pure reason are very often contrary to those of practicalreason. There are scarcely any dataeven physicalto which this distinction isnot applicable. From the point of view of absolute truth a cube or a circle areinvariable geometrical figuresrigorously defined by certain formulas. From thepoint of view of the impression

 

-viii-



they make on our eye these geometrical figures may assume very varied shapes. Byperspective the cube may be transformed into a pyramid or a squarethe circleinto an ellipse or a straight line. Moreoverthe consideration of thesefictitious shapes is far more important than that of the real shapesfor it isthey and they alone that we see and that can be reproduced by photography or inpictures. In certain cases there is more truth in the unreal than in the real.To present objects with their exact geometrical forms would be to distort natureand render it unrecognisable. If we imagine a world whose inhabitants could onlycopy or photograph objectsbut were unable to touch themit would be verydifficult for such persons to attain to an exact idea of their form. Moreoverthe knowledge of this formaccessible only to a small number of learned menwould present but a very minor interest.

The philosopher who studies social phenomena should bear in mind that side byside with their theoretical value they possess a practical valueand that thislatterso far as the evolution of civilisation is concernedis alone ofimportance. The recognition of this fact should render him very circumspect withregard to the conclusions that logic would seem at first to enforce upon him.

There are other motives that dictate to him a like reserve. The complexity ofsocial facts is

 

-ix-



suchthat it is impossible to grasp them as a whole and to foresee the effectsof their reciprocal influence. It seemstoothat behind the visible facts arehidden at times thousands of invisible causes. Visible social phenomena appearto be the result of an immenseunconscious workingthat as a rule is beyondthe reach of our analysis. Perceptible phenomena may be compared to the waveswhich are the expression on the surface of the ocean of deep-lying disturbancesof which we know nothing. So far as the majority of their acts are consideredcrowds display a singularly inferior mentality; yet there are other acts inwhich they appear to be guided by those mysterious forces which the ancientsdenominated destinynatureor providencewhich we call the voices of thedeadand whose power it is impossible to overlookalthough we ignore theiressence. It would seemat timesas if there were latent forces in the innerbeing of nations which serve to guide them. Whatfor instancecan be morecomplicatedmore logicalmore marvellous than a language? Yet whence can thisadmirably organised production have arisenexcept it be the outcome of theunconscious genius of crowds? The most learned academicsthe most esteemedgrammarians can do no more than note down the laws that govern languages; theywould be utterly incapable of creating them. Even with respect to the ideas ofgreat men

 

-x-



are we certain that they are exclusively the offspring of their brains? No doubtsuch ideas are always created by solitary mindsbut is it not the genius ofcrowds that has furnished the thousands of grains of dust forming the soil inwhich they have sprung up?

Crowdsdoubtlessare always unconsciousbut this very unconsciousness isperhaps one of the secrets of their strength. In the natural world beingsexclusively governed by instinct accomplish acts whose marvellous complexityastounds us. Reason is an attribute of humanity of too recent date and still tooimperfect to reveal to us the laws of the unconsciousand still more to takeits place. The part played by the unconscious in all our acts is immenseandthat played by reason very small. The unconscious acts like a force stillunknown.

If we wishthento remain within the narrow but safe limits within whichscience can attain to knowledgeand not to wander in the domain of vagueconjecture and vain hypothesisall we must do is simply to take note of suchphenomena as are accessible to usand confine ourselves to their consideration.Every conclusion drawn from our observation isas a ruleprematurefor behindthe phenomena which we see clearly are other phenomena that we see indistinctlyand perhaps behind these latteryet others which we do not see at all.


 

-xi-




CONTENTS.
-- --

INTRODUCTION.

THE ERA OF CROWDS.

BOOK I.

THE MIND OF CROWDS.

CHAPTER I. PAGE

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF CROWDS -- PSYCHOLOGICAL

LAW OF THEIR MENTAL UNITY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

CHAPTER II.

THE SENTIMENTS AND MORALITY OF CROWDS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16

CHAPTER III.

THE IDEASREASONING POWERAND IMAGINATION

OF CROWDS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .47

CHAPTER IV.

A RELIGIOUS SHAPE ASSUMED BY ALL THE CONVICTIONS

OF CROWDS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .62

-- --

BOOK II.

THE OPINIONS AND BELIEFS OF CROWDS.

CHAPTER I.

REMOTE FACTORS OF THE OPINIONS AND BELIEFS

OF CROWDS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .70


 

-xii-



CHAPTER II. PAGE

THE IMMEDIATE FACTORS OF THE OPINIONS OF

CROWDS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .98

CHAPTER III.

THE LEADERS OF CROWDS AND THEIR MEANS OF

PERSUASION. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117

CHAPTER IV.

LIMITATIONS OF THE VARIABILITY OF THE BELIEFS

AND OPINIONS OF CROWDS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147

-- --

BOOK III.

THE CLASSIFICATION AND DESCRIPTION OF THE

DIFFERENT KINDS OF CROWDS.

CHAPTER I.

THE CLASSIFICATION OF CROWDS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 164

CHAPTER II.

CROWDS TERMED CRIMINAL CROWDS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 171

CHAPTER III.

CRIMINAL JURIES. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 178

CHAPTER IV.

ELECTORAL CROWDS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 189

CHAPTER V.

PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLIES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 203


 

-xiii-



INTRODUCTION.
THE ERA OF CROWDS.

The evolution of the present age -- The great changes incivilisation are the consequence of changes in National thought -- Modern beliefin the power of crowds -- It transforms the traditional policy of the Europeanstates -- How the rise of the popular classes comes aboutand the manner inwhich they exercise their power -- The necessary consequences of the power ofthe crowd -- Crowds unable to play a part other than destructive -- Thedissolution of worn-out civilisations is the work of the crowd -- Generalignorance of the psychology of crowds -- Importance of the study of crowds forlegislators and statesmen.

THE great upheavals which precede changes of civilisations such as the fallof the Roman Empire and the foundation of the Arabian Empireseem at firstsight determined more especially by political transformationsforeign invasionor the overthrow of dynasties. But a more attentive study of these events showsthat behind their apparent causes the real cause is generally seen to be a

 

-xvi-



profound modification in the ideas of the peoples. The true historical upheavalsare not those which astonish us by their grandeur and violence. The onlyimportant changes whence the renewal of civilisations resultsaffect ideasconceptionsand beliefs. The memorable events of history are the visibleeffects of the invisible changes of human thought. The reason these great eventsare so rare is that there is nothing so stable in a race as the inheritedgroundwork of its thoughts.

The present epoch is one of these critical moments in which the thought ofmankind is undergoing a process of transformation.

Two fundamental factors are at the base of this transformation. The first isthe destruction of those religiouspoliticaland social beliefs in which allthe elements of our civilisation are rooted. The second is the creation ofentirely new conditions of existence and thought as the result of modernscientific and industrial discoveries.

The ideas of the pastalthough half destroyedbeing still very powerfuland the ideas which are to replace them being still in process of formationthemodern age represents a period of transition and anarchy.

It is not easy to say as yet what will one day be evolved from thisnecessarily somewhat chaotic period. What will be the fundamental ideas on

 

-xv-



which the societies that are to succeed our own will be built up? We do not atpresent know. Still it is already clear that on whatever lines the societies ofthe future are organisedthey will have to count with a new powerwith thelast surviving sovereign force of modern timesthe power of crowds. On theruins of so many ideas formerly considered beyond discussionand to-day decayedor decayingof so many sources of authority that successive revolutions havedestroyedthis powerwhich alone has arisen in their steadseems soondestined to absorb the others. While all our ancient beliefs are tottering anddisappearingwhile the old pillars of society are giving way one by onethepower of the crowd is the only force that nothing menacesand of which theprestige is continually on the increase. The age we are about to enter will intruth be the ERA OF CROWDS.

Scarcely a century ago the traditional policy of European states and therivalries of sovereigns were the principal factors that shaped events. Theopinion of the masses scarcely countedand most frequently indeed did not countat all. To-day it is the traditions which used to obtain in politicsand theindividual tendencies and rivalries of rulers which do not count; whileon thecontrarythe voice of the masses has become preponderant. It is this voice thatdictates their conduct to kings

 

-xvi-



whose endeavour is to take note of its utterances. The destinies of nations areelaborated at present in the heart of the massesand no longer in the councilsof princes.

The entry of the popular classes into political life -- that is to sayinrealitytheir progressive transformation into governing classes -- is one ofthe most striking characteristics of our epoch of transition. The introductionof universal suffragewhich exercised for a long time but little influenceisnotas might be thoughtthe distinguishing feature of this transference ofpolitical power. The progressive growth of the power of the masses took place atfirst by the propagation of certain ideaswhich have slowly implantedthemselves in men's mindsand afterwards by the gradual association ofindividuals bent on bringing about the realisation of theoretical conceptions.It is by association that crowds have come to procure ideas with respect totheir interests which are very clearly defined if not particularly justandhave arrived at a consciousness of their strength. The masses are foundingsyndicates before which the authorities capitulate one after the other; they arealso founding labour unionswhich in spite of all economic laws tend toregulate the conditions of labour and wages. They return to assemblies in whichthe Government is vestedrepresentatives utterly lacking initiative andindependenceand reduced most often to nothing else

 

-xvii-



than the spokesmen of the committees that have chosen them.

To-day the claims of the masses are becoming more and more sharply definedand amount to nothing less than a determination to utterly destroy society as itnow existswith a view to making it hark back to that primitive communism whichwas the normal condition of all human groups before the dawn of civilisation.Limitations of the hours of labourthe nationalisation of minesrailwaysfactoriesand the soilthe equal distribution of all productsthe eliminationof all the upper classes for the benefit of the popular classes&c.suchare these claims.

Little adapted to reasoningcrowdson the contraryare quick to act. Asthe result of their present organisation their strength has become immense. Thedogmas whose birth we are witnessing will soon have the force of the old dogmas;that is to saythe tyrannical and sovereign force of being above discussion.The divine right of the masses is about to replace the divine right of kings.

The writers who enjoy the favour of our middle classesthose who bestrepresent their rather narrow ideastheir somewhat prescribed viewstheirrather superficial scepticismand their at times somewhat excessive egoismdisplay profound alarm at this new power which they see growing; and to combat

 

-xviii-



the disorder in men's minds they are addressing despairing appeals to thosemoral forces of the Church for which they formerly professed so much disdain.They talk to us of the bankruptcy of sciencego back in penitence to Romeandremind us of the teachings of revealed truth. These new converts forget that itis too late. Had they been really touched by gracea like operation could nothave the same influence on minds less concerned with the preoccupations whichbeset these recent adherents to religion. The masses repudiate to-day the godswhich their admonishers repudiated yesterday and helped to destroy. There is nopowerDivine or humanthat can oblige a stream to flow back to its source.

There has been no bankruptcy of scienceand science has had no share in thepresent intellectual anarchynor in the making of the new power which isspringing up in the midst of this anarchy. Science promised us truthor atleast a knowledge of such relations as our intelligence can seize: it neverpromised us peace or happiness. Sovereignly indifferent to our feelingsit isdeaf to our lamentations. It is for us to endeavour to live with sciencesincenothing can bring back the illusions it has destroyed.

Universal symptomsvisible in all nationsshow us the rapid growth of thepower of crowdsand do not admit of our supposing that it is

 

-xix-



destined to cease growing at an early date. Whatever fate it may reserve for uswe shall have to submit to it. All reasoning against it is a mere vain war ofwords. Certainly it is possible that the advent to power of the masses marks oneof the last stages of Western civilisationa complete return to those periodsof confused anarchy which seem always destined to precede the birth of every newsociety. But may this result be prevented?

Up to now these thoroughgoing destructions of a worn-out civilisation haveconstituted the most obvious task of the masses. It is not indeed to-day merelythat this can be traced. History tells usthat from the moment when the moralforces on which a civilisation rested have lost their strengthits finaldissolution is brought about by those unconscious and brutal crowds knownjustifiably enoughas barbarians. Civilisations as yet have only been createdand directed by a small intellectual aristocracynever by crowds. Crowds areonly powerful for destruction. Their rule is always tantamount to a barbarianphase. A civilisation involves fixed rulesdisciplinea passing from theinstinctive to the rational stateforethought for the futurean elevateddegree of culture -- all of them conditions that crowdsleft to themselveshave invariably shown themselves incapable of realising. In consequence of thepurely destructive nature of their power crowds act like those microbes which

 

-xx-



hasten the dissolution of enfeebled or dead bodies. When the structure of acivilisation is rottenit is always the masses that bring about its downfall.It is at such a juncture that their chief mission is plainly visibleand thatfor a while the philosophy of number seems the only philosophy of history.

Is the same fate in store for our civilisation? There is ground to fear thatthis is the casebut we are not as yet in a position to be certain of it.

However this may bewe are bound to resign ourselves to the reign of themassessince want of foresight has in succession overthrown all the barriersthat might have kept the crowd in check.

We have a very slight knowledge of these crowds which are beginning to be theobject of so much discussion. Professional students of psychologyhaving livedfar from themhave always ignored themand whenas of latethey have turnedtheir attention in this direction it has only been to consider the crimes crowdsare capable of committing. Without a doubt criminal crowds existbut virtuousand heroic crowdsand crowds of many other kindsare also to be met with. Thecrimes of crowds only constitute a particular phase of their psychology. Themental constitution of crowds is not to be learnt merely by a study of theircrimesany more than that of an individual by a mere description of his vices.

 

-xxi-


Howeverin point of factall the world's mastersall the founders ofreligions or empiresthe apostles of all beliefseminent statesmenandin amore modest spherethe mere chiefs of small groups of men have always beenunconscious psychologistspossessed of an instinctive and often very sureknowledge of the character of crowdsand it is their accurate knowledge of thischaracter that has enabled them to so easily establish their mastery. Napoleonhad a marvellous insight into the psychology of the masses of the country overwhich he reignedbut heat timescompletely misunderstood the psychology ofcrowds belonging to other races;
Note: [1] and it is because he thus misunderstood it that he engaged in Spainand notably in Russiain conflicts in which his power received blows which weredestined within a brief space of time to ruin it. A knowledge of the psychologyof crowds is to-day the last resource of the statesman who wishes not to governthem -- that is becoming a very difficult matter -- but at any rate not to betoo much governed by them.

[1]

His most subtle advisersmoreoverdid not understand this psychology anybetter. Talleyrand wrote him that "Spain would receive his soldiers asliberators." It received them as beasts of prey. A psychologist acquaintedwith the hereditary instincts of the Spanish race would have easily foreseenthis reception.

It is only by obtaining some sort of insight into the psychology of crowdsthat it can be understood

 

-xxii-



how slight is the action upon them of laws and institutionshow powerless theyare to hold any opinions other than those which are imposed upon themand thatit is not with rules based on theories of pure equity that they are to be ledbut by seeking what produces an impression on them and what seduces them. Forinstanceshould a legislatorwishing to impose a new taxchoose that whichwould be theoretically the most just? By no means. In practice the most unjustmay be the best for the masses. Should it at the same time be the least obviousand apparently the least burdensomeit will be the most easily tolerated. It isfor this reason that an indirect taxhowever exorbitant it bewill always beaccepted by the crowdbecausebeing paid daily in fractions of a farthing onobjects of consumptionit will not interfere with the habits of the crowdandwill pass unperceived. Replace it by a proportional tax on wages or income ofany other kindto be paid in a lump sumand were this new impositiontheoretically ten times less burdensome than the otherit would give rise tounanimous protest. This arises from the fact that a sum relatively highwhichwill appear immenseand will in consequence strike the imaginationhas beensubstituted for the unperceived fractions of a farthing. The new tax would onlyappear light had it been saved farthing by farthingbut this economicproceeding

 

-xxiii-



involves an amount of foresight of which the masses are incapable.

The example which precedes is of the simplest. Its appositeness will beeasily perceived. It did not escape the attention of such a psychologist asNapoleonbut our modern legislatorsignorant as they are of thecharacteristics of a crowdare unable to appreciate it. Experience has nottaught them as yet to a sufficient degree that men never shape their conductupon the teaching of pure reason.

Many other practical applications might be made of the psychology of crowds.A knowledge of this science throws the most vivid light on a great number ofhistorical and economic phenomena totally incomprehensible without it. I shallhave occasion to show that the reason why the most remarkable of modernhistoriansTainehas at times so imperfectly understood the events of thegreat French Revolution isthat it never occurred to him to study the genius ofcrowds. He took as his guide in the study of this complicated period thedescriptive method resorted to by naturalists; but the moral forces are almostabsent in the case of the phenomena which naturalists have to study. Yet it isprecisely these forces that constitute the true mainsprings of history.

In consequencemerely looked at from its practical sidethe study of thepsychology of crowds

 

-xxiv-



deserved to be attempted. Were its interest that resulting from pure curiosityonlyit would still merit attention. It is as interesting to decipher themotives of the actions of men as to determine the characteristics of a mineralor a plant. Our study of the genius of crowds can merely be a brief synthesisasimple summary of our investigations. Nothing more must be demanded of it than afew suggestive views. Others will work the ground more thoroughly. To-day weonly touch the surface of a still almost virgin soil.

 

BOOK I.
THE MIND OF CROWDS.

CHAPTER I.
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF CROWDS. -- PYSCHOLOGICAL
LAW OF THEIR MENTAL UNITY.

What constitutes a crowd from the psychological point of view-- A numerically strong agglomeration of individuals does not suffice to form acrowd -- Special characteristics of psychological crowds -- The turning in afixed direction of the ideas and sentiments of individuals composing such acrowdand the disappearance of their personality -- The crowd is alwaysdominated by considerations of which it is unconscious -- The disappearance ofbrain activity and the predominance of medullar activity -- The lowering of theintelligence and the complete transformation of the sentiments -- Thetransformed sentiments may be better or worse than those of the individuals ofwhich the crowd is composed -- A crowd is as easily heroic as criminal.

IN its ordinary sense the word "crowd" means a gathering ofindividuals of whatever nationalityprofessionor sexand whatever be thechances that have brought them together. From the psychological point of viewthe expression

 

-2-



"crowd" assumes quite a different signification. Under certain givencircumstancesand only under those circumstancesan agglomeration of menpresents new characteristics very different from those of the individualscomposing it. The sentiments and ideas of all the persons in the gathering takeone and the same directionand their conscious personality vanishes. Acollective mind is formeddoubtless transitorybut presenting very clearlydefined characteristics. The gathering has thus become whatin the absence of abetter expressionI will call an organised crowdorif the term is consideredpreferablea psychological crowd. It forms a single beingand is subjected tothe law of the mental unity of crowds.

It is evident that it is not by the mere fact of a number of individualsfinding themselves accidentally side by side that they acquire the character ofan organised crowd. A thousand individuals accidentally gathered in a publicplace without any determined object in no way constitute a crowd from thepsychological point of view. To acquire the special characteristics of such acrowdthe influence is necessary of certain predisposing causes of which weshall have to determine the nature.

The disappearance of conscious personality and the turning of feelings andthoughts in a definite

 

-3-



directionwhich are the primary characteristics of a crowd about to becomeorganiseddo not always involve the simultaneous presence of a number ofindividuals on one spot. Thousands of isolated individuals may acquire atcertain momentsand under the influence of certain violent emotions -- suchfor exampleas a great national event -- the characteristics of a psychologicalcrowd. It will be sufficient in that case that a mere chance should bring themtogether for their acts to at once assume the characteristics peculiar to theacts of a crowd. At certain moments half a dozen men might constitute apsychological crowdwhich may not happen in the case of hundreds of mengathered together by accident. On the other handan entire nationthough theremay be no visible agglomerationmay become a crowd under the action of certaininfluences.

A psychological crowd once constitutedit acquires certain provisional butdeterminable general characteristics. To these general characteristics there areadjoined particular characteristics which vary according to the elements ofwhich the crowd is composedand may modify its mental constitution.Psychological crowdsthenare susceptible of classification; and when we cometo occupy ourselves with this matterwe shall see that a heterogeneous crowd --that isa crowd composed of dissimilar elements -- presents certaincharacteristics

 

-4-



in common with homogeneous crowds -- that iswith crowds composed of elementsmore or less akin (sectscastesand classes) -- and side by side with thesecommon characteristics particularities which permit of the two kinds of crowdsbeing differentiated.

But before occupying ourselves with the different categories of crowdswemust first of all examine the characteristics common to them all. We shall setto work like the naturalistwho begins by describing the generalcharacteristics common to all the members of a family before concerning himselfwith the particular characteristics which allow the differentiation of thegenera and species that the family includes.

It is not easy to describe the mind of crowds with exactnessbecause itsorganisation varies not only according to race and compositionbut alsoaccording to the nature and intensity of the exciting causes to which crowds aresubjected. The same difficultyhoweverpresents itself in the psychologicalstudy of an individual. It is only in novels that individuals are found totraverse their whole life with an unvarying character. It is only the uniformityof the environment that creates the apparent uniformity of characters. I haveshown elsewhere that all mental constitutions contain possibilities of characterwhich may be manifested in consequence of a sudden change of

 

-5-



environment. This explains how it was that among the most savage members of theFrench Convention were to be found inoffensive citizens whounder ordinarycircumstanceswould have been peaceable notaries or virtuous magistrates. Thestorm pastthey resumed their normal character of quietlaw-abiding citizens.Napoleon found amongst them his most docile servants.

It being impossible to study here all the successive degrees of organisationof crowdswe shall concern ourselves more especially with such crowds as haveattained to the phase of complete organisation. In this way we shall see whatcrowds may becomebut not what they invariably are. It is only in this advancedphase of organisation that certain new and special characteristics aresuperposed on the unvarying and dominant character of the race; then takes placethat turning already alluded to of all the feelings and thoughts of thecollectivity in an identical direction. It is only under such circumstancestoothat what I have called above the psychological law of the mental unityof crowds comes into play.

Among the psychological characteristics of crowds there are some that theymay present in common with isolated individualsand otherson the contrarywhich are absolutely peculiar to them and are only to be met with incollectivities. It is

 

-6-



these special characteristics that we shall studyfirst of allin order toshow their importance.

The most striking peculiarity presented by a psychological crowd is thefollowing: Whoever be the individuals that compose ithowever like or unlike betheir mode of lifetheir occupationstheir characteror their intelligencethe fact that they have been transformed into a crowd puts them in possession ofa sort of collective mind which makes them feelthinkand act in a mannerquite different from that in which each individual of them would feelthinkand act were he in a state of isolation. There are certain ideas and feelingswhich do not come into beingor do not transform themselves into acts except inthe case of individuals forming a crowd. The psychological crowd is aprovisional being formed of heterogeneous elementswhich for a moment arecombinedexactly as the cells which constitute a living body form by theirreunion a new being which displays characteristics very different from thosepossessed by each of the cells singly.

Contrary to an opinion which one is astonished to find coming from the pen ofso acute a philosopher as Herbert Spencerin the aggregate which constitutes acrowd there is in no sort a summing-up of or an average struck between itselements. What really takes place is a combination followed by the creation ofnew characteristicsjust as in

 

-7-



chemistry certain elementswhen brought into contact -- bases and acidsforexample -- combine to form a new body possessing properties quite different fromthose of the bodies that have served to form it.

It is easy to prove how much the individual forming part of a crowd differsfrom the isolated individualbut it is less easy to discover the causes of thisdifference.

To obtain at any rate a glimpse of them it is necessary in the first place tocall to mind the truth established by modern psychologythat unconsciousphenomena play an altogether preponderating part not only in organic lifebutalso in the operations of the intelligence. The conscious life of the mind is ofsmall importance in comparison with its unconscious life. The most subtleanalystthe most acute observeris scarcely successful in discovering morethan a very small number of the unconscious motives that determine his conduct.Our conscious acts are the outcome of an unconscious substratum created in themind in the main by hereditary influences. This substratum consists of theinnumerable common characteristics handed down from generation to generationwhich constitute the genius of a race. Behind the avowed causes of our actsthere undoubtedly lie secret causes that we do not avowbut behind these secretcauses there are many

 

-9-



others more secret still which we ourselves ignore. The greater part of ourdaily actions are the result of hidden motives which escape our observation.

It is more especially with respect to those unconscious elements whichconstitute the genius of a race that all the individuals belonging to itresemble each otherwhile it is principally in respect to the consciouselements of their character -- the fruit of educationand yet more ofexceptional hereditary conditions -- that they differ from each other. Men themost unlike in the matter of their intelligence possess instinctspassionsandfeelings that are very similar. In the case of every thing that belongs to therealm of sentiment -- religionpoliticsmoralitythe affections andantipathies&c. -- the most eminent men seldom surpass the standard of themost ordinary individuals. From the intellectual point of view an abyss mayexist between a great mathematician and his boot makerbut from the point ofview of character the difference is most often slight or non-existent.

It is precisely these general qualities of charactergoverned by forces ofwhich we are unconsciousand possessed by the majority of the normalindividuals of a race in much the same degree -- it is precisely thesequalitiesI saythat in crowds become common property. In the collective mindthe intellectual aptitudes of the individualsand in consequence theirindividualityare weakened. The

 

-9-



heterogeneous is swamped by the homogeneousand the unconscious qualitiesobtain the upper hand.

This very fact that crowds possess in common ordinary qualities explains whythey can never accomplish acts demanding a high degree of intelligence. Thedecisions affecting matters of general interest come to by an assembly of men ofdistinctionbut specialists in different walks of lifeare not sensiblysuperior to the decisions that would be adopted by a gathering of imbeciles. Thetruth isthey can only bring to bear in common on the work in hand thosemediocre qualities which are the birthright of every average individual. Incrowds it is stupidity and not mother-wit that is accumulated. It is not all theworldas is so often repeatedthat has more wit than Voltairebut assuredlyVoltaire that has more wit than all the worldif by "all the world"crowds are to be understood.

If the individuals of a crowd confined themselves to putting in common theordinary qualities of which each of them has his sharethere would merelyresult the striking of an averageand notas we have said is actually thecasethe creation of new characteristics. How is it that these newcharacteristics are created? This is what we are now to investigate.

Different causes determine the appearance of

 

-10-



these characteristics peculiar to crowdsand not possessed by isolatedindividuals. The first is that the individual forming part of a crowd acquiressolely from numerical considerationsa sentiment of invincible power whichallows him to yield to instincts whichhad he been alonehe would perforcehave kept under restraint. He will be the less disposed to check himself fromthe consideration thata crowd being anonymousand in consequenceirresponsiblethe sentiment of responsibility which always controls individualsdisappears entirely.

The second causewhich is contagionalso intervenes to determine themanifestation in crowds of their special characteristicsand at the same timethe trend they are to take. Contagion is a phenomenon of which it is easy toestablish the presencebut that it is not easy to explain. It must be classedamong those phenomena of a hypnotic orderwhich we shall shortly study. In acrowd every sentiment and act is contagiousand contagious to such a degreethat an individual readily sacrifices his personal interest to the collectiveinterest. This is an aptitude very contrary to his natureand of which a man isscarcely capableexcept when he makes part of a crowd.

A third causeand by far the most importantdetermines in the individualsof a crowd special characteristics which are quite contrary at times

 

-11-



to those presented by the isolated individual. I allude to that suggestibilityof whichmoreoverthe contagion mentioned above is neither more nor less thanan effect.

To understand this phenomenon it is necessary to bear in mind certain recentphysiological discoveries. We know to-day that by various processes anindividual may be brought into such a condition thathaving entirely lost hisconscious personalityhe obeys all the suggestions of the operator who hasdeprived him of itand commits acts in utter contradiction with his characterand habits. The most careful observations seem to prove that an individualimmerged for some length of time in a crowd in action soon finds himself --either in consequence of the magnetic influence given out by the crowdor fromsome other cause of which we are ignorant -- in a special statewhich muchresembles the state of fascination in which the hypnotised individual findshimself in the hands of the hypnotiser. The activity of the brain beingparalysed in the case of the hypnotised subjectthe latter becomes the slave ofall the unconscious activities of his spinal cordwhich the hypnotiser directsat will. The conscious personality has entirely vanished; will and discernmentare lost. All feelings and thoughts are bent in the direction determined by thehypnotiser.

Such also is approximately the state of the

 

-12-



individual forming part of a psychological crowd. He is no longer conscious ofhis acts. In his caseas in the case of the hypnotised subjectat the sametime that certain faculties are destroyedothers may be brought to a highdegree of exaltation. Under the influence of a suggestionhe will undertake theaccomplishment of certain acts with irresistible impetuosity. This impetuosityis the more irresistible in the case of crowds than in that of the hypnotisedsubjectfrom the fact thatthe suggestion being the same for all theindividuals of the crowdit gains in strength by reciprocity. Theindividualities in the crowd who might possess a personality sufficiently strongto resist the suggestion are too few in number to struggle against the current.At the utmostthey may be able to attempt a diversion by means of differentsuggestions. It is in this wayfor instancethat a happy expressionan imageopportunely evokedhave occasionally deterred crowds from the most bloodthirstyacts.

We seethenthat the disappearance of the conscious personalitythepredominance of the unconscious personalitythe turning by means of suggestionand contagion of feelings and ideas in an identical directionthe tendency toimmediately transform the suggested ideas into acts; thesewe seeare theprincipal characteristics of the individual forming part of a crowd. He is nolonger himselfbut

 

-13-



has become an automaton who has ceased to be guided by his will.

Moreoverby the mere fact that he forms part of an organised crowda mandescends several rungs in the ladder of civilisation. Isolatedhe may be acultivated individual; in a crowdhe is a barbarian -- that isa creatureacting by instinct. He possesses the spontaneitythe violencethe ferocityand also the enthusiasm and heroism of primitive beingswhom he further tendsto resemble by the facility with which he allows himself to be impressed bywords and images -- which would be entirely without action on each of theisolated individuals composing the crowd -- and to be induced to commit actscontrary to his most obvious interests and his best-known habits. An individualin a crowd is a grain of sand amid other grains of sandwhich the wind stirs upat will.

It is for these reasons that juries are seen to deliver verdicts of whicheach individual juror would disapprovethat parliamentary assemblies adopt lawsand measures of which each of their members would disapprove in his own person.Taken separatelythe men of the Convention were enlightened citizens ofpeaceful habits. United in a crowdthey did not hesitate to give their adhesionto the most savage proposalsto guillotine individuals most clearly innocentandcontrary to their intereststo renounce their inviolability and todecimate themselves.

 

-14-


It is not only by his acts that the individual in a crowd differs essentiallyfrom himself. Even before he has entirely lost his independencehis ideas andfeelings have undergone a transformationand the transformation is so profoundas to change the miser into a spendthriftthe sceptic into a believerthehonest man into a criminaland the coward into a hero. The renunciation of allits privileges which the nobility voted in a moment of enthusiasm during thecelebrated night of August 41789would certainly never have been consented toby any of its members taken singly.

The conclusion to be drawn from what precedes isthat the crowd is alwaysintellectually inferior to the isolated individualbut thatfrom the point ofview of feelings and of the acts these feelings provokethe crowd mayaccording to circumstanceshe better or worse than the individual. All dependson the nature of the suggestion to which the crowd is exposed. This is the pointthat has been completely misunderstood by writers who have only studied crowdsfrom the criminal point of view. Doubtless a crowd is often criminalbut alsoit is often heroic. It is crowds rather than isolated individuals that may beinduced to run the risk of death to secure the triumph of a creed or an ideathat may be fired with enthusiasm for glory and honourthat are led on --almost without bread and without armsas in the

 

-15-



age of the Crusades -- to deliver the tomb of Christ from the infideloras in'93to defend the fatherland. Such heroism is without doubt somewhatunconsciousbut it is of such heroism that history is made. Were peoples onlyto be credited with the great actions performed in cold bloodthe annals of theworld would register but few of them.

 


 

-16-



CHAPTER II.
THE SENTIMENTS AND MORALITY OF CROWDS.

1. Impulsivenessmobilityand irritability of crowds.The crowd is at the mercy of all exterior exciting causesand reflects theirincessant variations -- The impulses which the crowd obeys are so imperious asto annihilate the feeling of personal interest -- Premeditation is absent fromcrowds -- Racial influence. 2. Crowds are credulous and readily influenced bysuggestion. The obedience of crowds to suggestions -- The images evoked inthe mind of crowds are accepted by them as realities -- Why these images areidentical for all the individuals composing a crowd -- The equality of theeducated and the ignorant man in a crowd -- Various examples of the illusions towhich the individuals in a crowd are subject -- The impossibility of accordingbelief to the testimony of crowds -- The unanimity of numerous witnesses is oneof the worst proofs that can be invoked to establish a fact -- The slight valueof works of history. 3. The exaggeration and ingenuousness of the sentimentsof crowds. Crowds do not admit doubt or uncertaintyand always go toextremes -- Their sentiments always excessive. 4. The intolerancedictatorialnessand conservatism of crowds. The reasons of these sentiments-- The servility of crowds in the face of a strong authority -- The

 

-17-



momentary revolutionary instincts of crowds do not prevent them from beingextremely conservative -- Crowds instinctively hostile to changes and progress.5. The morality of crowds. The morality of crowdsaccording to thesuggestions under which they actmay be much lower or much higher than that ofthe individuals composing them -- Explanation and examples -- Crowds rarelyguided by those considerations of interest which are most often the exclusivemotives of the isolated individual -- The moralising rôle of crowds.

HAVING indicated in a general way the principal characteristics of crowdsitremains to study these characteristics in detail.

It will be remarked that among the special characteristics of crowds thereare several -- such as impulsivenessirritabilityincapacity to reasontheabsence of judgment and of the critical spiritthe exaggeration of thesentimentsand others besides -- which are almost always observed in beingsbelonging to inferior forms of evolution -- in womensavagesand childrenforinstance. HoweverI merely indicate this analogy in passing; its demonstrationis outside the scope of this work. It wouldmoreoverbe useless for personsacquainted with the psychology of primitive beingsand would scarcely carryconviction to those in ignorance of this matter.

I now proceed to the successive consideration of the differentcharacteristics that may be observed in the majority of crowds.


 

-18-



1. IMPULSIVENESSMOBILITYAND IRRITABILITY OF CROWDS.

When studying the fundamental characteristics of a crowd westated that it is guided almost exclusively by unconscious motives. Its acts arefar more under the influence of the spinal cord than of the brain. In thisrespect a crowd is closely akin to quite primitive beings. The acts performedmay be perfect so far as their execution is concernedbut as they are notdirected by the brainthe individual conducts himself according as the excitingcauses to which he is submitted may happen to decide. A crowd is at the mercy ofall external exciting causesand reflects their incessant variations. It is theslave of the impulses which it receives. The isolated individual may besubmitted to the same exciting causes as the man in a crowdbut as his brainshows him the inadvisability of yielding to themhe refrains from yielding.This truth may be physiologically expressed by saying that the isolatedindividual possesses the capacity of dominating his reflex actionswhile acrowd is devoid of this capacity.

The varying impulses to which crowds obey may beaccording to their excitingcausesgenerous or cruelheroic or cowardlybut they will always be soimperious that the interest of the individualeven the interest ofself-preservation

 

-19-



will not dominate them. The exciting causes that may act on crowds being sovariedand crowds always obeying themcrowds are in consequence extremelymobile. This explains how it is that we see them pass in a moment from the mostbloodthirsty ferocity to the most extreme generosity and heroism. A crowd mayeasily enact the part of an executionerbut not less easily that of a martyr.It is crowds that have furnished the torrents of blood requisite for the triumphof every belief. It is not necessary to go back to the heroic ages to see whatcrowds are capable of in this latter direction. They are never sparing of theirlife in an insurrectionand not long since a general
Note: [2] becoming suddenly popularmight easily have found a hundred thousandmen ready to sacrifice their lives for his cause had he demanded it.

Any display of premeditation by crowds is in consequence out of the question.They may be animated in succession by the most contrary sentimentsbut theywill always be under the influence of the exciting causes of the moment. Theyare like the leaves which a tempest whirls up and scatters in every directionand then allows to fall. When studying later on certain revolutionary crowds weshall give some examples of the variability of their sentiments.

[2]


Note:

General Boulanger.


 

-20-


This mobility of crowds renders them very difficult to governespeciallywhen a measure of public authority has fallen into their hands. Did not thenecessities of everyday life constitute a sort of invisible regulator ofexistenceit would scarcely be possible for democracies to last. Stillthoughthe wishes of crowds are frenzied they are not durable. Crowds are as incapableof willing as of thinking for any length of time.

A crowd is not merely impulsive and mobile. Like a savageit is not preparedto admit that anything can come between its desire and the realisation of itsdesire. It is the less capable of understanding such an interventioninconsequence of the feeling of irresistible power given it by its numericalstrength. The notion of impossibility disappears for the individual in a crowd.An isolated individual knows well enough that alone he cannot set fire to apalace or loot a shopand should he be tempted to do sohe will easily resistthe temptation. Making part of a crowdhe is conscious of the power given himby numberand it is sufficient to suggest to him ideas of murder or pillage forhim to yield immediately to temptation. An unexpected obstacle will be destroyedwith frenzied rage. Did the human organism allow of the perpetuity of furiouspassionit might be said that the normal condition of a crowd baulked in itswishes is just such a state of furious passion.

 

-21-


The fundamental characteristics of the racewhich constitute the unvaryingsource from which all our sentiments springalways exert an influence on theirritability of crowdstheir impulsiveness and their mobilityas on all thepopular sentiments we shall have to study. All crowds are doubtless alwaysirritable and impulsivebut with great variations of degree. For instancethedifference between a Latin and an Anglo-Saxon crowd is striking. The most recentfacts in French history throw a vivid light on this point. The mere publicationtwenty-five years agoof a telegramrelating an insult supposed to have beenoffered an ambassadorwas sufficient to determine an explosion of furywhencefollowed immediately a terrible war. Some years later the telegraphicannouncement of an insignificant reverse at Langson provoked a fresh explosionwhich brought about the instantaneous overthrow of the government. At the samemoment a much more serious reverse undergone by the English expedition toKhartoum produced only a slight emotion in Englandand no ministry wasoverturned. Crowds are everywhere distinguished by feminine characteristicsbutLatin crowds are the most feminine of all. Whoever trusts in them may rapidlyattain a lofty destinybut to do so is to be perpetually skirting the brink ofa Tarpeian rockwith the certainty of one day being precipitated from it.


 

-22-



2. THE SUGGESTIBILITY AND CREDULITY OF CROWDS.

When defining crowdswe said that one of their generalcharacteristics was an excessive suggestibilityand we have shown to what anextent suggestions are contagious in every human agglomeration; a fact whichexplains the rapid turning of the sentiments of a crowd in a definite direction.However indifferent it may be supposeda crowdas a ruleis in a state ofexpectant attentionwhich renders suggestion easy. The first suggestionformulated which arises implants itself immediately by a process of contagion inthe brains of all assembledand the identical bent of the sentiments of thecrowd is immediately an accomplished fact.

As is the case with all persons under the influence of suggestionthe ideawhich has entered the brain tends to transform itself into an act. Whether theact is that of setting fire to a palaceor involves self-sacrificea crowdlends itself to it with equal facility. All will depend on the nature of theexciting causeand no longeras in the case of the isolated individualon therelations existing between the act suggested and the sum total of the reasonswhich may be urged against its realisation.

In consequencea crowd perpetually hovering on the borderland ofunconsciousnessreadily yielding to all suggestionshaving all the violence

 

-23-



of feeling peculiar to beings who cannot appeal to the influence of reasondeprived of all critical facultycannot be otherwise than excessivelycredulous. The improbable does not exist for a crowdand it is necessary tobear this circumstance well in mind to understand the facility with which arecreated and propagated the most improbable legends and stories.
Note: [3]

[3]


Note:

Persons who went through the siege of Paris saw numerous examples of thiscredulity of crowds. A candle alight in an upper story was immediately lookedupon as a signal given the besiegersalthough it was evidentafter a moment ofreflectionthat it was utterly impossible to catch sight of the light of thecandle at a distance of several miles.

The creation of the legends which so easily obtain circulation in crowds isnot solely the consequence of their extreme credulity. It is also the result ofthe prodigious perversions that events undergo in the imagination of a throng.The simplest event that comes under the observation of a crowd is soon totallytransformed. A crowd thinks in imagesand the image itself immediately calls upa series of other imageshaving no logical connection with the first. We caneasily conceive this state by thinking of the fantastic succession of ideas towhich we are sometimes led by calling up in our minds any fact. Our reason showsus the incoherence there is in these imagesbut a crowd is almost blind

 

-24-



to this truthand confuses with the real event what the deforming action of itsimagination has superimposed thereon. A crowd scarcely distinguishes between thesubjective and the objective. It accepts as real the images evoked in its mindthough they most often have only a very distant relation with the observed fact.

The ways in which a crowd perverts any event of which it is a witness oughtit would seemto be innumerable and unlike each othersince the individualscomposing the gathering are of very different temperaments. But this is not thecase. As the result of contagion the perversions are of the same kindand takethe same shape in the case of all the assembled individuals.

The first perversion of the truth effected by one of the individuals of thegathering is the starting-point of the contagious suggestion. Before St. Georgeappeared on the walls of Jerusalem to all the Crusaders he was certainlyperceived in the first instance by one of those present. By dint of suggestionand contagion the miracle signalised by a single person was immediately acceptedby all.

Such is always the mechanism of the collective hallucinations so frequent inhistory -- hallucinations which seem to have all the recognised characteristicsof authenticitysince they are phenomena observed by thousands of persons.

 

-25-


To combat what precedesthe mental quality of the individuals composing acrowd must not be brought into consideration. This quality is withoutimportance. From the moment that they form part of a crowd the learned man andthe ignoramus are equally incapable of observation.

This thesis may seem paradoxical. To demonstrate it beyond doubt it would benecessary to investigate a great number of historical factsand several volumeswould be insufficient for the purpose.

Stillas I do not wish to leave the reader under the impression of unprovedassertionsI shall give him some examples taken at hazard from the immensenumber of those that might be quoted.

The following fact is one of the most typicalbecause chosen from amongcollective hallucinations of which a crowd is the victimin which are to befound individuals of every kindfrom the most ignorant to the most highlyeducated. It is related incidentally by Julian Felixa naval lieutenantin hisbook on "Sea Currents" and has been previously cited by the RevueScientique.

The frigatethe Belle Poulewas cruising in the open sea for thepurpose of finding the cruiser Le Berceaufrom which she had beenseparated by a violent storm. It was broad daylight and in full sunshine.Suddenly the watch signalled a disabled

 

-26-



vessel; the crew looked in the direction signalledand every oneofficers andsailorsclearly perceived a raft covered with men towed by boats which weredisplaying signals of distress. Yet this was nothing more than a collectivehallucination. Admiral Desfosses lowered a boat to go to the rescue of thewrecked sailors. On nearing the object sightedthe sailors and officers onboard the boat saw "masses of men in motionstretching out their handsand heard the dull and confused noise of a great number of voices." Whenthe object was reached those in the boat found themselves simply and solely inthe presence of a few branches of trees covered with leaves that had been sweptout from the neighbouring coast. Before evidence so palpable the hallucinationvanished.

The mechanism of a collective hallucination of the kind we have explained isclearly seen at work in this example. On the one hand we have a crowd in a stateof expectant attentionon the other a suggestion made by the watch signalling adisabled vessel at seaa suggestion whichby a process of contagionwasaccepted by all those presentboth officers and sailors.

It is not necessary that a crowd should be numerous for the faculty of seeingwhat is taking place before its eyes to be destroyed and for the real facts tobe replaced by hallucinations unre

 

-27-



lated to them. As soon as a few individuals are gathered together theyconstitute a crowdandthough they should be distinguished men of learningthey assume all the characteristics of crowds with regard to matters outsidetheir speciality. The faculty of observation and the critical spirit possessedby each of them individually at once disappears. An ingenious psychologistMr.Daveysupplies us with a very curious example in pointrecently cited in the Annalesdes Sciences Psychiquesand deserving of relation here. Mr. Daveyhavingconvoked a gathering of distinguished observersamong them one of the mostprominent of English scientific menMr. Wallaceexecuted in their presenceand after having allowed them to examine the objects and to place seals wherethey wishedall the regulation spiritualistic phenomenathe materialisation ofspiritswriting on slates&c. Having subsequently obtained from thesedistinguished observers written reports admitting that the phenomena observedcould only have been obtained by supernatural meanshe revealed to them thatthey were the result of very simple tricks. "The most astonishing featureof Monsieur Davey's investigation" writes the author of this account"is not the marvellousness of the tricks themselvesbut the extremeweakness of the reports made with respect to them by the non

 

-28-



initiated witnesses. It is clearthen" he says"that witnesses evenin number may give circumstantial relations which are completely erroneousbutwhose result is thatif their descriptions are accepted as exactthephenomena they describe are inexplicable by trickery. The methods invented byMr. Davey were so simple that one is astonished that he should have had theboldness to employ them; but he had such a power over the mind of the crowd thathe could persuade it that it saw what it did not see." Hereas alwayswehave the power of the hypnotiser over the hypnotised. Moreoverwhen this poweris seen in action on minds of a superior order and previously invited to besuspiciousit is understandable how easy it is to deceive ordinary crowds.

Analogous examples are innumerable. As I write these lines the papers arefull of the story of two little girls found drowned in the Seine. Thesechildrento begin withwere recognised in the most unmistakable manner by halfa dozen witnesses. All the affirmations were in such entire concordance that nodoubt remained in the mind of the juge d'instruction. He had thecertificate of death drawn upbut just as the burial of the children was tohave been proceeded witha mere chance brought about the discovery that thesupposed victims were aliveand hadmoreoverbut a remote resemblance to thedrowned

 

-29-



girls. As in several of the examples previously citedthe affirmation of thefirst witnesshimself a victim of illusionhad sufficed to influence the otherwitnesses.

In parallel cases the starting-point of the suggestion is always the illusionproduced in an individual by more or less vague reminiscencescontagionfollowing as the result of the affirmation of this initial illusion. If thefirst observer be very impressionableit will often be sufficient that thecorpse he believes he recognises should present -- apart from all realresemblance -- some peculiaritya scaror some detail of toilet which mayevoke the idea of another person. The idea evoked may then become the nucleus ofa sort of crystallisation which invades the understanding and paralyses allcritical faculty. What the observer then sees is no longer the object itselfbut the image-evoked in his mind. In this way are to be explained erroneousrecognitions of the dead bodies of children by their own motheras occurred inthe following casealready oldbut which has been recently recalled by thenewspapers. In it are to be traced precisely the two kinds of suggestion ofwhich I have just pointed out the mechanism.

"The child was recognised by another childwho was mistaken. The seriesof unwarranted recognitions then began.

 

-30-


"An extraordinary thing occurred. The day after a schoolboy hadrecognised the corpse a woman exclaimed`Good Heavensit is my child!'

"She was taken up to the corpse; she examined the clothingand noted ascar on the forehead. `It is certainly' she said`my son who disappeared lastJuly. He has been stolen from me and murdered.'

"The woman was concierge in the Rue du Four; her name wasChavandret. Her brother-in-law was summonedand when questioned he said`Thatis the little Filibert.' Several persons living in the street recognised thechild found at La Villette as Filibert Chavandretamong them being the boy'sschoolmasterwho based his opinion on a medal worn by the lad.

"Neverthelessthe neighboursthe brother-in-lawthe schoolmasterandthe mother were mistaken. Six weeks later the identity of the child wasestablished. The boybelonging to Bordeauxhad been murdered there and broughtby a carrying company to Paris."
Note: [4]

[4]


Note:

L'EclairApril 211895.

It will be remarked that these recognitions are most often made by women andchildren -- that is to sayby precisely the most impressionable persons. Theyshow us at the same time what is the

 

-31-



worth in law courts of such witnesses. As far as childrenmore especiallyareconcernedtheir statements ought never to be invoked. Magistrates are in thehabit of repeating that children do not lie. Did they possess a psychologicalculture a little less rudimentary than is the case they would know thaton thecontrarychildren invariably lie; the lie is doubtless innocentbut it is nonethe less a lie. It would be better to decide the fate of an accused person bythe toss of a coin thanas has been so often doneby the evidence of a child.

To return to the faculty of observation possessed by crowdsour conclusionis that their collective observations are as erroneous as possibleand thatmost often they merely represent the illusion of an individual whoby a processof contagionhas suggestioned his fellows. Facts proving that the most uttermistrust of the evidence of crowds is advisable might be multiplied to anyextent. Thousands of men were present twenty-five years ago at the celebratedcavalry charge during the battle of Sedanand yet it is impossiblein the faceof the most contradictory ocular testimonyto decide by whom it was commanded.The English generalLord Wolseleyhas proved in a recent book that up to nowthe gravest errors of fact have been committed with regard to the most importantincidents of the battle of Waterloo --

 

-32-



facts that hundreds of witnesses had nevertheless attested.
Note: [5]

[5]


Note:

Do we know in the case of one single battle exactly how it took place? I amvery doubtful on the point. We know who were the conquerors and the conqueredbut this is probably all. What M. D'Harcourt has said with respect to the battleof Solferinowhich he witnessed and in which he was personally engagedmay beapplied to all battles -- "The generals (informedof courseby theevidence of hundreds of witnesses) forward their official reports; the orderlyofficers modify these documents and draw up a definite narrative; the chief ofthe staff raises objections and reÄwrites the whole on a fresh basis. It iscarried to the Marshalwho exclaims`You are entirely in error' and hesubstitutes a fresh edition. Scarcely anything remains of the originalreport." M. D'Harcourt relates this fact as proof of the impossibility ofestablishing the truth in connection with the most strikingthe best observedevents.

Such facts show us what is the value of the testimony of crowds. Treatises onlogic include the unanimity of numerous witnesses in the category of thestrongest proofs that can be invoked in support of the exactness of a fact. Yetwhat we know of the psychology of crowds shows that treatises on logic need onthis point to be rewritten. The events with regard to which there exists themost doubt are certainly those which have been observed by the greatest numberof persons. To say that a fact has been simultaneously verified by thousands ofwitnesses is to sayas a rulethat the real fact is very different from theaccepted account of it.

 

-33-


It clearly results from what precedes that works of history must beconsidered as works of pure imagination. They are fanciful accounts ofill-observed factsaccompanied by explanations the result of reflection. Towrite such books is the most absolute waste of time. Had not the past left usits literaryartisticand monumental workswe should know absolutely nothingin reality with regard to bygone times. Are we in possession of a single word oftruth concerning the lives of the great men who have played preponderating partsin the history of humanity -- men such as HerculesBuddhaor Mahomet? In allprobability we are not. In point of factmoreovertheir real lives are ofslight importance to us. Our interest is to know what our great men were as theyare presented by popular legend. It is legendary heroesand not for a momentreal heroeswho have impressed the minds of crowds.

Unfortunatelylegends -- even although they have been definitely put onrecord by books -- have in themselves no stability. The imagination of the crowdcontinually transforms them as the result of the lapse of time and especially inconsequence of racial causes. There is a great gulf fixed between the sanguinaryJehovah of the Old Testament and the God of Love of Sainte Thérèseand theBuddha worshipped in China has no traits in common with that venerated in India.

 

-34-


It is not even necessary that heroes should be separated from us by centuriesfor their legend to be transformed by the imagination of the crowd. Thetransformation occasionally takes place within a few years. In our own day wehave seen the legend of one of the greatest heroes of history modified severaltimes in less than fifty years. Under the Bourbons Napoleon became a sort ofidyllic and liberal philanthropista friend of the humble whoaccording to thepoetswas destined to be long remembered in the cottage. Thirty yearsafterwards this easy-going hero had become a sanguinary despotwhoafterhaving usurped power and destroyed libertycaused the slaughter of threemillion men solely to satisfy his ambition. At present we are witnessing a freshtransformation of the legend. When it has undergone the influence of some dozensof centuries the learned men of the futureface to face with thesecontradictory accountswill perhaps doubt the very existence of the heroassome of them now doubt that of Buddhaand will see in him nothing more than asolar myth or a development of the legend of Hercules. They will doubtlessconsole themselves easily for this uncertaintyforbetter initiated than weare to-day in the characteristics and psychology of crowdsthey will know thathistory is scarcely capable of preserving the memory of anything except myths.


 

-35-



3. THE EXAGGERATION AND INGENUOUSNESS
OF THE SENTIMENTS OF CROWDS.

Whether the feelings exhibited by a crowd be good or badtheypresent the double character of being very simple and very exaggerated. On thispointas on so many othersan individual in a crowd resembles primitivebeings. Inaccessible to fine distinctionshe sees things as a wholeand isblind to their intermediate phases. The exaggeration of the sentiments of acrowd is heightened by the fact that any feeling when once it is exhibitedcommunicating itself very quickly by a process of suggestion and contagiontheevident approbation of which it is the object considerably increases its force.

The simplicity and exaggeration of the sentiments of crowds have for resultthat a throng knows neither doubt nor uncertainty. Like womenit goes at onceto extremes. A suspicion transforms itself as soon as announced intoincontrovertible evidence. A commencement of antipathy or disapprobationwhichin the case of an isolated individual would not gain strengthbecomes at oncefurious hatred in the case of an individual in a crowd.

The violence of the feelings of crowds is also increasedespecially inheterogeneous crowdsby the absence of all sense of responsibility. The

 

-36-



certainty of impunitya certainty the stronger as the crowd is more numerousand the notion of a considerable momentary force due to numbermake possible inthe case of crowds sentiments and acts impossible for the isolated individual.In crowds the foolishignorantand envious persons are freed from the sense oftheir insignificance and powerlessnessand are possessed instead by the notionof brutal and temporary but immense strength.

Unfortunatelythis tendency of crowds towards exaggeration is often broughtto bear upon bad sentiments. These sentiments are atavistic residuum of theinstincts of the primitive manwhich the fear of punishment obliges theisolated and responsible individual to curb. Thus it is that crowds are soeasily led into the worst excesses.

Still this does not mean that crowdsskilfully influencedare not capableof heroism and devotion and of evincing the loftiest virtues; they are even morecapable of showing these qualities than the isolated individual. We shall soonhave occasion to revert to this point when we come to study the morality ofcrowds.

Given to exaggeration in its feelingsa crowd is only impressed by excessivesentiments. An orator wishing to move a crowd must make an abusive use ofviolent affirmations. To exaggerateto affirmto resort to repetitionsandnever to attempt to prove anything by reasoning are methods of

 

-37-



argument well known to speakers at public meetings.

Moreovera crowd exacts a like exaggeration in the sentiments of its heroes.Their apparent qualities and virtues must always be amplified. It has beenjustly remarked that on the stage a crowd demands from the hero of the piece adegree of couragemoralityand virtue that is never to be found in real life.

Quite rightly importance has been laid on the special standpoint from whichmatters are viewed in the theatre. Such a standpoint exists no doubtbut itsrules for the most part have nothing to do with common sense and logic. The artof appealing to crowds is no doubt of an inferior orderbut it demands quitespecial aptitudes. It is often impossible on reading plays to explain theirsuccess. Managers of theatres when accepting pieces are themselvesas a rulevery uncertain of their successbecause to judge the matter it would benecessary that they should be able to transform themselves into a crowd.
Note: [6]

[6]


Note:

It is understandable for this reason why it sometimes happens that piecesrefused by all theatrical managers obtain a prodigious success when by a strokeof chance they are put on the stage. The recent success of Francois Coppée'splay "Pour la Couronne" is well knownand yetin spite of the nameof its authorit was refused during ten years by the managers of the principalParisian theatres.

"Charley's Aunt" refused at every theatreand finally staged atthe expense of a stockbrokerhas had two hundred representations in Franceandmore than a thousand in London. Without the explanation given above of theimpossibility for theatrical managers to mentally substitute themselves for acrowdsuch mistakes in judgment on the part of competent individualswho aremost interested not to commit such grave blunderswould be inexplicable. Thisis a subject that I cannot deal with herebut it might worthily tempt the penof a writer acquainted with theatrical mattersand at the same time a subtlepsychologist -- of such a writerfor instanceas M. Francisque Sarcey.


 

-38-


Hereonce morewere we able to embark on more extensive explanationsweshould show the preponderating influence of racial considerations. A play whichprovokes the enthusiasm of the crowd in one country has sometimes no success inanotheror has only a partial and conventional successbecause it does not putin operation influences capable of working on an altered public.

I need not add that the tendency to exaggeration in crowds is only present inthe case of sentiments and not at all in the matter of intelligence. I havealready shown thatby the mere fact that an individual forms part of a crowdhis intellectual standard is immediately and considerably lowered. A learnedmagistrateM. Tardehas also verified this fact in his researches on thecrimes of crowds. It is onlythenwith respect to sentiment that crowds canrise to a very high oron the contrarydescend to a very low level.


 

-39-



4. THE INTOLERANCEDICTATORIALNESS
AND CONSERVATISM OF CROWDS.

Crowds are only cognisant of simple and extreme sentiments;the opinionsideasand beliefs suggested to them are accepted or rejected as awholeand considered as absolute truths or as not less absolute errors. This isalways the case with beliefs induced by a process of suggestion instead ofengendered by reasoning. Every one is aware of the intolerance that accompaniesreligious beliefsand of the despotic empire they exercise on men's minds.

Being in doubt as to what constitutes truth or errorand havingon theother handa clear notion of its strengtha crowd is as disposed to giveauthoritative effect to its inspirations as it is intolerant. An individual mayaccept contradiction and discussion; a crowd will never do so. At publicmeetings the slightest contradiction on the part of an orator is immediatelyreceived with howls of fury and violent invectivesoon followed by blowsandexpulsion should the orator stick to his point. Without the restraining presenceof the representatives of authority the contradictorindeedwould often bedone to death.

Dictatorialness and intolerance are common to all categories of crowdsbutthey are met with in a varying degree of intensity. Hereonce morereappearsthat fundamental notion of race which

 

-40-



dominates all the feelings and all the thoughts of men. It is more especially inLatin crowds that authoritativeness and intolerance are found developed in thehighest measure. In facttheir development is such in crowds of Latin originthat they have entirely destroyed that sentiment of the independence of theindividual so powerful in the Anglo-Saxon. Latin crowds are only concerned withthe collective independence of the sect to which they belongand thecharacteristic feature of their conception of independence is the need theyexperience of bringing those who are in disagreement with themselves intoimmediate and violent subjection to their beliefs. Among the Latin races theJacobins of every epochfrom those of the Inquisition downwardshave neverbeen able to attain to a different conception of liberty.

Authoritativeness and intolerance are sentiments of which crowds have a veryclear notionwhich they easily conceive and which they entertain as readily asthey put them in practice when once they are imposed upon them. Crowds exhibit adocile respect for forceand are but slightly impressed by kindnesswhich forthem is scarcely other than a form of weakness. Their sympathies have never beenbestowed on easy-going mastersbut on tyrants who vigorously oppressed them. Itis to these latter that they always erect the loftiest statues.

 

-41-



It is true that they willingly trample on the despot whom they have stripped ofhis powerbut it is becausehaving lost his strengthhe has resumed his placeamong the feeblewho are to be despised because they are not to be feared. Thetype of hero dear to crowds will always have the semblance of a Caesar. Hisinsignia attracts themhis authority overawes themand his sword instils themwith fear.

A crowd is always ready to revolt against a feebleand to bow down servilelybefore a strong authority. Should the strength of an authority be intermittentthe crowdalways obedient to its extreme sentimentspasses alternately fromanarchy to servitudeand from servitude to anarchy.

Howeverto believe in the predominance among crowds of revolutionaryinstincts would be to entirely misconstrue their psychology. It is merely theirtendency to violence that deceives us on this point. Their rebellious anddestructive outbursts are always very transitory. Crowds are too much governedby unconscious considerationsand too much subject in consequence to secularhereditary influences not to be extremely conservative. Abandoned to themselvesthey soon weary of disorderand instinctively turn to servitude. It was theproudest and most untractable of the Jacobins who acclaimed Bonaparte with

 

-42-



greatest energy when he suppressed all liberty and made his hand of ironseverely felt.

It is difficult to understand historyand popular revolutions in particularif one does not take sufficiently into account the profoundly conservativeinstincts of crowds. They may be desirousit is trueof changing the names oftheir institutionsand to obtain these changes they accomplish at times evenviolent revolutionsbut the essence of these institutions is too much theexpression of the hereditary needs of the race for them not invariably to abideby it. Their incessant mobility only exerts its influence on quite superficialmatters. In fact they possess conservative instincts as indestructible as thoseof all primitive beings. Their fetish like respect for all traditions isabsolute; their unconscious horror of all novelty capable of changing theessential conditions of their existence is very deeply rooted. Had democraciespossessed the power they wield to-day at the time of the invention of mechanicallooms or of the introduction of steam-power and of railwaysthe realisation ofthese inventions would have been impossibleor would have been achieved at thecost of revolutions and repeated massacres. It is fortunate for the progress ofcivilisation that the power of crowds only began to exist when the greatdiscoveries of science and industry had already been effected.


 

-43-



5. THE MORALITY OF CROWDS.

Taking the word "morality" to mean constant respectfor certain social conventionsand the permanent repression of selfishimpulsesit is quite evident that crowds are too impulsive and too mobile to bemoral. Ifhoweverwe include in the term morality the transitory display ofcertain qualities such as abnegationself-sacrificedisinterestednessdevotionand the need of equitywe may sayon the contrarythat crowds mayexhibit at times a very lofty morality.

The few psychologists who have studied crowds have only considered them fromthe point of view of their criminal actsand noticing how frequent these actsarethey have come to the conclusion that the moral standard of crowds is verylow.

Doubtless this is often the case; but why? Simply because our savagedestructive instincts are the inheritance left dormant in all of us from theprimitive ages. In the life of the isolated individual it would be dangerous forhim to gratify these instinctswhile his absorption in an irresponsible crowdin which in consequence he is assured of impunitygives him entire liberty tofollow them. Being unablein the ordinary course of eventsto exercise thesedestructive instincts on our fellow-menwe confine ourselves to exercising themon animals. The passionso widespreadfor the chase and the acts of ferocity

 

-44-



of crowds proceed from one and the same source. A crowd which slowly slaughtersa defenceless victim displays a very cowardly ferocity; but for the philosopherthis ferocity is very closely related to that of the huntsmen who gather indozens for the pleasure of taking part in the pursuit and killing of a lucklessstag by their hounds.

A crowd may be guilty of murderincendiarismand every kind of crimebutit is also capable of very lofty acts of devotionsacrificeanddisinterestednessof acts much loftier indeed than those of which the isolatedindividual is capable. Appeals to sentiments of gloryhonourand patriotismare particularly likely to influence the individual forming part of a crowdandoften to the extent of obtaining from him the sacrifice of his life. History isrich in examples analogous to those furnished by the Crusaders and thevolunteers of 1793. Collectivities alone are capable of great disinterestednessand great devotion. How numerous are the crowds that have heroically faced deathfor beliefsideasand phrases that they scarcely understood! The crowds thatgo on strike do so far more in obedience to an order than to obtain an increaseof the slender salary with which they make shift. Personal interest is veryrarely a powerful motive force with crowdswhile it is almost the exclusivemotive of the conduct of the isolated individual. It is assuredly

 

-45-



not self-interest that has guided crowds in so many warsincomprehensible as arule to their intelligence -- wars in which they have allowed themselves to bemassacred as easily as the larks hypnotised by the mirror of the hunter.

Even in the case of absolute scoundrels it often happens that the mere factof their being in a crowd endows them for the moment with very strict principlesof morality. Taine calls attention to the fact that the perpetrators of theSeptember massacres deposited on the table of the committees the pocket-booksand jewels they had found on their victimsand with which they could easilyhave been able to make away. The howlingswarmingragged crowd which invadedthe Tuileries during the revolution of 1848 did not lay hands on any of theobjects that excited its astonishmentand one of which would have meant breadfor many days.

This moralisation of the individual by the crowd is not certainly a constantrulebut it is a rule frequently observed. It is even observed in circumstancesmuch less grave than those I have just cited. I have remarked that in thetheatre a crowd exacts from the hero of the piece exaggerated virtuesand it isa commonplace observation that an assemblyeven though composed of inferiorelementsshows itself as a rule very prudish. The debaucheethe souteneurthe

 

-46-



rough often break out into murmurs at a slightly risky scene or expressionthough they be very harmless in comparison with their customary conversation.

Ifthencrowds often abandon themselves to low instinctsthey also set theexample at times of acts of lofty morality. If disinterestednessresignationand absolute devotion to a real or chimerical ideal are moral virtuesit may besaid that crowds often possess these virtues to a degree rarely attained by thewisest philosophers. Doubtless they practice them unconsciouslybut that is ofsmall import. We should not complain too much that crowds are more especiallyguided by unconscious considerations and are not given to reasoning. Had theyin certain casesreasoned and consulted their immediate interestsit ispossible that no civilisation would have grown up on our planet and humanitywould have had no history.

 


 

-47-



CHAPTER III.
THE IDEASREASONING POWERAND IMAGINATION
OF CROWDS.

1. The ideas of crowds. Fundamental and accessory ideas-- How contradictory ideas may exist simultaneously -- The transformation thatmust be undergone by lofty ideas before they are accessible to crowds -- Thesocial influence of ideas is independent of the degree of truth they maycontain. 2. The reasoning power of crowds. Crowds are not to beinfluenced by reasoning -- The reasoning of crowds is always of a very inferiororder -- There is only the appearance of analogy or succession in the ideas theyassociate. 3. The imagination of crowds. Strength of the imagination ofcrowds -- Crowds think in imagesand these images succeed each other withoutany connecting link -- Crowds are especially impressed by the marvellous --Legends and the marvellous are the real pillars of civilisation -- The popularimagination has always been the basis of the power of statesmen -- The manner inwhich facts capable of striking the imagination of crowds present themselves forobservation.

1. THE IDEAS OF CROWDS.

WHEN studying in a preceding work the part played by ideas inthe evolution of nationswe showed that every civilisation is the outcome of asmall number of fundamental ideas that are very

 

-48-



rarely renewed. We showed how these ideas are implanted in the minds of crowdswith what difficulty the process is effectedand the power possessed by theideas in question when once it has been accomplished. Finally we saw that greathistorical perturbations are the resultas a ruleof changes in thesefundamental ideas.

Having treated this subject at sufficient lengthI shall not return to itnowbut shall confine myself to saying a few words on the subject of such ideasas are accessible to crowdsand of the forms under which they conceive them.

They may be divided into two classes. In one we shall place accidental andpassing ideas created by the influences of the moment: infatuation for anindividual or a doctrinefor instance. In the other will be classed thefundamental ideasto which the environmentthe laws of heredity and publicopinion give a very great stability; such ideas are the religious beliefs of thepast and the social and democratic ideas of to-day.

These fundamental ideas resemble the volume of the water of a stream slowlypursuing its course; the transitory ideas are like the small wavesfor everchangingwhich agitate its surfaceand are more visible than the progress ofthe stream itself although without real importance.

At the present day the great fundamental ideas which were the mainstay of ourfathers are

 

-49-



tottering more and more. They have lost all solidityand at the same time theinstitutions resting upon them are severely shaken. Every day there are formed agreat many of those transitory minor ideas of which I have just been speaking;but very few of them to all appearance seem endowed with vitality and destinedto acquire a preponderating influence.

Whatever be the ideas suggested to crowds they can only exercise effectiveinfluence on condition that they assume a very absoluteuncompromisingandsimple shape. They present themselves then in the guise of imagesand are onlyaccessible to the masses under this form. These imagelike ideas are notconnected by any logical bond of analogy or successionand may take eachother's place like the slides of a magic-lantern which the operator withdrawsfrom the groove in which they were placed one above the other. This explains howit is that the most contradictory ideas may be seen to be simultaneously currentin crowds. According to the chances of the momenta crowd will come under theinfluence of one of the various ideas stored up in its understandingand iscapablein consequenceof committing the most dissimilar acts. Its completelack of the critical spirit does not allow of its perceiving thesecontradictions.

This phenomenon is not peculiar to crowds. It

 

-50-



is to be observed in many isolated individualsnot only among primitive beingsbut in the case of all those -- the fervent sectaries of a religious faithforinstance -- who by one side or another of their intelligence are akin toprimitive beings. I have observed its presence to a curious extent in the caseof educated Hindoos brought up at our European universities and having takentheir degree. A number of Western ideas had been superposed on theirunchangeable and fundamental hereditary or social ideas. According to thechances of the momentthe one or the other set of ideas showed themselves eachwith their special accompaniment of acts or utterancesthe same individualpresenting in this way the most flagrant contradictions. These contradictionsare more apparent than realfor it is only hereditary ideas that havesufficient influence over the isolated individual to become motives of conduct.It is only whenas the result of the intermingling of different racesa man isplaced between different hereditary tendencies that his acts from one moment toanother may be really entirely contradictory. It would be useless to insist hereon these phenomenaalthough their psychological importance is capital. I am ofopinion that at least ten years of travel and observation would be necessary toarrive at a comprehension of them.

 

-51-


Ideas being only accessible to crowds after having assumed a very simpleshape must often undergo the most thoroughgoing transformations to becomepopular. It is especially when we are dealing with somewhat lofty philosophic orscientific ideas that we see how far-reaching are the modifications they requirein order to lower them to the level of the intelligence of crowds. Thesemodifications are dependent on the nature of the crowdsor of the race to whichthe crowds belongbut their tendency is always belittling and in the directionof simplification. This explains the fact thatfrom the social point of viewthere is in reality scarcely any such thing as a hierarchy of ideas -- that isto sayas ideas of greater or less elevation. However great or true an idea mayhave been to begin withit is deprived of almost all that which constituted itselevation and its greatness by the mere fact that it has come within theintellectual range of crowds and exerts an influence upon them.

Moreoverfrom the social point of view the hierarchical value of an ideaits intrinsic worthis without importance. The necessary point to consider isthe effects it produces. The Christian ideas of the Middle Agesthe democraticideas of the last centuryor the social ideas of to-day are assuredly not veryelevated. Philosophically consideredthey can only be regarded as somewhat

 

-52-



sorry errorsand yet their power has been and will be immenseand they willcount for a long time to come among the most essential factors that determinethe conduct of States.

Even when an idea has undergone the transformations which render itaccessible to crowdsit only exerts influence whenby various processes whichwe shall examine elsewhereit has entered the domain of the unconsciouswhenindeed it has become a sentimentfor which much time is required.

For it must not be supposed that merely because the justness of an idea hasbeen proved it can be productive of effective action even on cultivated minds.This fact may be quickly appreciated by noting how slight is the influence ofthe clearest demonstration on the majority of men. Evidenceif it be veryplainmay be accepted by an educated personbut the convert will be quicklybrought back by his unconscious self to his original conceptions. See him againafter the lapse of a few days and he will put forward afresh his old argumentsin exactly the same terms. He is in reality under the influence of anteriorideasthat have become sentimentsand it is such ideas alone that influencethe more recondite motives of our acts and utterances. It cannot be otherwise inthe case of crowds.

When by various processes an idea has ended

 

-53-



by penetrating into the minds of crowdsit possesses an irresistible powerandbrings about a series of effectsopposition to which is bootless. Thephilosophical ideas which resulted in the French Revolution took nearly acentury to implant themselves in the mind of the crowd. Their irresistibleforcewhen once they had taken rootis known. The striving of an entire nationtowards the conquest of social equalityand the realisation of abstract rightsand ideal libertiescaused the tottering of all thrones and profoundlydisturbed the Western world. During twenty years the nations were engaged ininternecine conflictand Europe witnessed hecatombs that would have terrifiedGhengis Khan and Tamerlane. The world had never seen on such a scale what mayresult from the promulgation of an idea.

A long time is necessary for ideas to establish themselves in the minds ofcrowdsbut just as long a time is needed for them to be eradicated. For thisreason crowdsas far as ideas are concernedare always several generationsbehind learned men and philosophers. All statesmen are well aware to-day of theadmixture of error contained in the fundamental ideas I referred to a shortwhile backbut as the influence of these ideas is still very powerful they areobliged to govern in accordance with principles in the truth of which they haveceased to believe.


 

-54-



2. THE REASONING POWER OF CROWDS.

It cannot absolutely be said that crowds do not reason and arenot to be influenced by reasoning.

Howeverthe arguments they employ and those which are capable of influencingthem arefrom a logical point of viewof such an inferior kind that it is onlyby way of analogy that they can be described as reasoning.

The inferior reasoning of crowds is basedjust as is reasoning of a highorderon the association of ideasbut between the ideas associated by crowdsthere are only apparent bonds of analogy or succession. The mode of reasoning ofcrowds resembles that of the Esquimaux whoknowing from experience that iceatransparent bodymelts in the mouthconcludes that glassalso a transparentbodyshould also melt in the mouth; or that of the savage who imagines that byeating the heart of a courageous foe he acquires his bravery; or of the workmanwhohaving been exploited by one employer of labourimmediately concludes thatall employers exploit their men.

The characteristics of the reasoning of crowds are the association ofdissimilar things possessing a merely apparent connection between each otherand the immediate generalisation of particular cases. It is arguments of thiskind that are always presented to crowds by those who know how to manage them.They are the only arguments

 

-55-



by which crowds are to be influenced. A chain of logical argumentation istotally incomprehensible to crowdsand for this reason it is permissible to saythat they do not reason or that they reason falsely and are not to be influencedby reasoning. Astonishment is felt at times on reading certain speeches at theirweaknessand yet they had an enormous influence on the crowds which listened tothembut it is forgotten that they were intended to persuade collectivities andnot to be read by philosophers. An orator in intimate communication with a crowdcan evoke images by which it will be seduced. If he is successful his object hasbeen attainedand twenty volumes of harangues -- always the outcome ofreflection -- are not worth the few phrases which appealed to the brains it wasrequired to convince.

It would be superfluous to add that the powerlessness of crowds to reasonaright prevents them displaying any trace of the critical spiritprevents themthat isfrom being capable of discerning truth from erroror of forming aprecise judgment on any matter. Judgments accepted by crowds are merelyjudgments forced upon them and never judgments adopted after discussion. Inregard to this matter the individuals who do not rise above the level of a crowdare numerous. The ease with which certain opinions obtain general acceptanceresults more especially from the impossibility

 

-56-



experienced by the majority of men of forming an opinion peculiar to themselvesand based on reasoning of their own.

3. THE IMAGINATION OF CROWDS.

Just as is the case with respect to persons in whom thereasoning power is absentthe figurative imagination of crowds is verypowerfulvery active and very susceptible of being keenly impressed. The imagesevoked in their mind by a personagean eventan accidentare almost aslifelike as the reality. Crowds are to some extent in the position of thesleeper whose reasonsuspended for the time beingallows the arousing in hismind of images of extreme intensity which would quickly be dissipated could theybe submitted to the action of reflection. Crowdsbeing incapable both ofreflection and of reasoningare devoid of the notion of improbability; and itis to be noted that in a general way it is the most improbable things that arethe most striking.

This is why it happens that it is always the marvellous and legendary side ofevents that more specially strike crowds. When a civilisation is analysed it isseen thatin realityit is the marvellous and the legendary that are its truesupports. Appearances have always played a much more important part than realityin historywhere the unreal is always of greater moment than the real.

 

-57-


Crowds being only capable of thinking in images are only to be impressed byimages. It is only images that terrify or attract them and become motives ofaction.

For this reason theatrical representationsin which the image is shown inits most clearly visible shapealways have an enormous influence on crowds.Bread and spectacular shows constituted for the plebeians of ancient Rome theideal of happinessand they asked for nothing more. Throughout the successiveages this ideal has scarcely varied. Nothing has a greater effect on theimagination of crowds of every category than theatrical representations. Theentire audience experiences at the same time the same emotionsand if theseemotions are not at once transformed into actsit is because the mostunconscious spectator cannot ignore that he is the victim of illusionsand thathe has laughed or wept over imaginary adventures. Sometimeshoweverthesentiments suggested by the images are so strong that they tendlike habitualsuggestionsto transform themselves into acts. The story has often been told ofthe manager of a popular theatre whoin consequence of his only playing sombredramaswas obliged to have the actor who took the part of the traitor protectedon his leaving the theatreto defend him against the violence of thespectatorsindignant at the crimesimaginary

 

-58-



though they werewhich the traitor had committed. We have herein my opinionone of the most remarkable indications of the mental state of crowdsandespecially of the facility with which they are suggestioned. The unreal hasalmost as much influence on them as the real. They have an evident tendency notto distinguish between the two.

The power of conquerors and the strength of States is based on the popularimagination. It is more particularly by working upon this imagination thatcrowds are led. All great historical factsthe rise of BuddhismofChristianityof Islamismthe Reformationthe French Revolutionandin ourown timethe threatening invasion of Socialism are the direct or indirectconsequences of strong impressions produced on the imagination of the crowd.

Moreoverall the great statesmen of every age and every countryincludingthe most absolute despotshave regarded the popular imagination as the basis oftheir powerand they have never attempted to govern in opposition to it"It was by becoming a Catholic" said Napoleon to the Council ofState"that I terminated the Vendéen war. By becoming a Mussulman that Iobtained a footing in Egypt. By becoming an Ultramontane that I won over theItalian priestsand had I to govern a nation of Jews I would rebuild Solomon's

 

-59-



temple." Never perhaps since Alexander and Cæsar has any great man betterunderstood how the imagination of the crowd should be impressed. His constantpreoccupation was to strike it. He bore it in mind in his victoriesin hisharanguesin his speechesin all his acts. On his deathbed it was still in histhoughts.

How is the imagination of crowds to be impressed? We shall soon see. Let usconfine ourselves for the moment to saying that the feat is never to be achievedby attempting to work upon the intelligence or reasoning facultythat is tosayby way of demonstration. It was not by means of cunning rhetoric thatAntony succeeded in making the populace rise against the murderers of Cæsar; itwas by reading his will to the multitude and pointing to his corpse.

Whatever strikes the imagination of crowds presents itself under the shape ofa startling and very clear imagefreed from all accessory explanationormerely having as accompaniment a few marvellous or mysterious facts: examples inpoint are a great victorya great miraclea great crimeor a great hope.Things must be laid before the crowd as a wholeand their genesis must never beindicated. A hundred petty crimes or petty accidents will not strike theimagination of crowds in the leastwhereas a single great crime or a singlegreat accident will profoundly impress themeven though the

 

-60-



results be infinitely less disastrous than those of the hundred small accidentsput together. The epidemic of influenzawhich caused the death but a few yearsago of five thousand persons in Paris alonemade very little impression on thepopular imagination. The reason was that this veritable hecatomb was notembodied in any visible imagebut was only learnt from statistical informationfurnished weekly. An accident which should have caused the death of only fivehundred instead of five thousand personsbut on the same day and in publicasthe outcome of an accident appealing strongly to the eyeby the fallforinstanceof the Eiffel Towerwould have producedon the contraryan immenseimpression on the imagination of the crowd. The probable loss of a transatlanticsteamer that was supposedin the absence of newsto have gone down inmid-ocean profoundly impressed the imagination of the crowd for a whole week.Yet official statistics show that 850 sailing vessels and 203 steamers were lostin the year 1894 alone. The crowdhoweverwas never for a moment concerned bythese successive lossesmuch more important though they were as far as regardsthe destruction of life and propertythan the loss of the Atlantic liner inquestion could possibly have been.

It is notthenthe facts in themselves that strike the popular imaginationbut the way in which

 

-61-



they take place and are brought under notice. It is necessary that by theircondensationif I may thus express myselfthey should produce a startlingimage which fills and besets the mind. To know the art of impressing theimagination of crowds is to know at the same time the art of governing them.

 


 

-62-



CHAPTER IV.
A RELIGIOUS SHAPE ASSUMED BY ALL THE
CONVICTIONS OF CROWDS.

What is meant by the religious sentiment -- It is independentof the worship of a divinity -- Its characteristics -- The strength ofconvictions assuming a religious shape -- Various examples -- Popular gods havenever disappeared -- New forms under which they are revived -- Religious formsof atheism -- Importance of these notions from the historical point of view --The ReformationSaint Bartholomewthe Terrorand all analogous events are theresult of the religious sentiments of crowds and not of the will of isolatedindividuals.

WE have shown that crowds do not reasonthat they accept or reject ideas asa wholethat they tolerate neither discussion nor contradictionand that thesuggestions brought to bear on them invade the entire field of theirunderstanding and tend at once to transform themselves into acts. We have shownthat crowds suitably influenced are ready to sacrifice themselves for the idealwith which they have been inspired. We have also seen that they only entertainviolent and extreme sentiments

 

-63-



that in their case sympathy quickly becomes adorationand antipathy almost assoon as it is aroused is transformed into hatred. These general indicationsfurnish us already with a presentiment of the nature of the convictions ofcrowds.

When these convictions are closely examinedwhether at epochs marked byfervent religious faithor by great political upheavals such as those of thelast centuryit is apparent that they always assume a peculiar form which Icannot better define than by giving it the name of a religious sentiment.

This sentiment has very simple characteristicssuch as worship of a beingsupposed superiorfear of the power with which the being is creditedblindsubmission to its commandsinability to discuss its dogmasthe desire tospread themand a tendency to consider as enemies all by whom they are notaccepted. Whether such a sentiment apply to an invisible Godto a wooden orstone idolto a hero or to a political conceptionprovided that it presentsthe preceding characteristicsits essence always remains religious. Thesupernatural and the miraculous are found to be present to the same extent.Crowds unconsciously accord a mysterious power to the political formula or thevictorious leader that for the moment arouses their enthusiasm.

 

-64-


A person is not religious solely when he worships a divinitybut when heputs all the resources of his mindthe complete submission of his willand thewhole-souled ardour of fanaticism at the service of a cause or an individual whobecomes the goal and guide of his thoughts and actions.

Intolerance and fanaticism are the necessary accompaniments of the religioussentiment. They are inevitably displayed by those who believe themselves in thepossession of the secret of earthly or eternal happiness. These twocharacteristics are to be found in all men grouped together when they areinspired by a conviction of any kind. The Jacobins of the Reign of Terror wereat bottom as religious as the Catholics of the Inquisitionand their cruelardour proceeded from the same source.

The convictions of crowds assume those characteristics of blind submissionfierce intoleranceand the need of violent propaganda which are inherent in thereligious sentimentand it is for this reason that it may be said that alltheir beliefs have a religious form. The hero acclaimed by a crowd is averitable god for that crowd. Napoleon was such a god for fifteen yearsand adivinity never had more fervent worshippers or sent men to their death withgreater ease. The Christian and Pagan Gods never exercised a more absoluteempire over the minds that had fallen under their sway.

 

-65-


All founders of religious or political creeds have established them solelybecause they were successful in inspiring crowds with those fanatical sentimentswhich have as result that men find their happiness in worship and obedience andare ready to lay down their lives for their idol. This has been the case at allepochs. Fustel de Coulangesin his excellent work on Roman Gauljustly remarksthat the Roman Empire was in no wise maintained by forcebut by the religiousadmiration it inspired. "It would be without a parallel in the history ofthe world" he observes rightly"that a form of government held inpopular detestation should have lasted for five centuries. . . . It would beinexplicable that the thirty legions of the Empire should have constrained ahundred million men to obedience." The reason of their obedience was thatthe Emperorwho personified the greatness of Romewas worshipped like adivinity by unanimous consent. There were altars in honour of the Emperor in thesmallest townships of his realm. "From one end of the Empire to the other anew religion was seen to arise in those days which had for its divinities theemperors themselves. Some years before the Christian era the whole of Gaulrepresented by sixty citiesbuilt in common a temple near the town of Lyons inhonour of Augustus. . . . Its priestselected by the united Gallic citieswerethe principal personages

 

-66-



in their country. . . . It is impossible to attribute all this to fear andservility. Whole nations are not servileand especially for three centuries. Itwas not the courtiers who worshipped the princeit was Romeand it was notRome merelybut it was Gaulit was Spainit was Greece and Asia."

To-day the majority of the great men who have swayed men's minds no longerhave altarsbut they have statuesor their portraits are in the hands of theiradmirersand the cult of which they are the object is not notably differentfrom that accorded to their predecessors. An understanding of the philosophy ofhistory is only to be got by a thorough appreciation of this fundamental pointof the psychology of crowds. The crowd demands a god before everything else.

It must not be supposed that these are the superstitions of a bygone agewhich reason has definitely banished. Sentiment has never been vanquished in itseternal conflict with reason. Crowds will hear no more of the words divinity andreligionin whose name they were so long enslaved; but they have neverpossessed so many fetishes as in the last hundred yearsand the old divinitieshave never had so many statues and altars raised in their honour. Those who inrecent years have studied the popular movement known under the name ofBoulangism have been able to see with what ease

 

-67-



the religious instincts of crowds are ready to revive. There was not a countryinn that did not possess the hero's portrait. He was credited with the power ofremedying all injustices and all evilsand thousands of men would have giventheir lives for him. Great might have been his place in history had hischaracter been at all on a level with his legendary reputation.

It is thus a very useless commonplace to assert that a religion is necessaryfor the massesbecause all politicaldivineand social creeds only take rootamong them on the condition of always assuming the religious shape -- a shapewhich obviates the danger of discussion. Were it possible to induce the massesto adopt atheismthis belief would exhibit all the intolerant ardour of areligious sentimentand in its exterior forms would soon become a cult. Theevolution of the small Positivist sect furnishes us a curious proof in point.What happened to the Nihilist whose story is related by that profound thinkerDostoïewsky has quickly happened to the Positivists. Illumined one day by thelight of reason he broke the images of divinities and saints that adorned thealtar of a chapelextinguished the candlesandwithout losing a momentreplaced the destroyed objects by the works of atheistic philosophers such asBüchner and Moleschottafter which he piously relighted the candles. Theobject of his religious beliefs had

 

-68-



been transformedbut can it be truthfully said that his religious sentimentshad changed?

Certain historical events -- and they are precisely the most important -- Iagain repeatare not to be understood unless one has attained to anappreciation of the religious form which the convictions of crowds always assumein the long run. There are social phenomena that need to be studied far morefrom the point of view of the psychologist than from that of the naturalist. Thegreat historian Taine has only studied the Revolution as a naturalistand onthis account the real genesis of events has often escaped him. He has perfectlyobserved the factsbut from want of having studied the psychology of crowds hehas not always been able to trace their causes. The facts having appalled him bytheir bloodthirstyanarchicand ferocious sidehe has scarcely seen in theheroes of the great drama anything more than a horde of epileptic savagesabandoning themselves without restraint to their instincts. The violence of theRevolutionits massacresits need of propagandaits declarations of war uponall thingsare only to be properly explained by reflecting that the Revolutionwas merely the establishment of a new religious belief in the mind of themasses. The Reformationthe massacre of Saint Bartholomewthe French religiouswarsthe Inquisitionthe Reign of Terror are phenomena of an identical kindbrought about by

 

-69-



crowds animated by those religious sentiments which necessarily lead thoseimbued with them to pitilessly extirpate by fire and sword whoever is opposed tothe establishment of the new faith. The methods of the Inquisition are those ofall whose convictions are genuine and sturdy. Their convictions would notdeserve these epithets did they resort to other methods.

Upheavals analogous to those I have just cited are only possible when it isthe soul of the masses that brings them about. The most absolute despots couldnot cause them. When historians tell us that the massacre of Saint Bartholomewwas the work of a kingthey show themselves as ignorant of the psychology ofcrowds as of that of sovereigns. Manifestations of this order can only proceedfrom the soul of crowds. The most absolute power of the most despotic monarchcan scarcely do more than hasten or retard the moment of their apparition. Themassacre of Saint Bartholomew or the religious wars were no more the work ofkings than the Reign of Terror was the work of RobespierreDantonor SaintJust. At the bottom of such events is always to be found the working of the soulof the massesand never the power of potentates.

 


 

-70-

CHAPTER I.
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF CROWDS. -- PYSCHOLOGICAL
LAW OF THEIR MENTAL UNITY.

What constitutes a crowd from the psychological point of view-- A numerically strong agglomeration of individuals does not suffice to form acrowd -- Special characteristics of psychological crowds -- The turning in afixed direction of the ideas and sentiments of individuals composing such acrowdand the disappearance of their personality -- The crowd is alwaysdominated by considerations of which it is unconscious -- The disappearance ofbrain activity and the predominance of medullar activity -- The lowering of theintelligence and the complete transformation of the sentiments -- Thetransformed sentiments may be better or worse than those of the individuals ofwhich the crowd is composed -- A crowd is as easily heroic as criminal.

IN its ordinary sense the word "crowd" means a gathering ofindividuals of whatever nationalityprofessionor sexand whatever be thechances that have brought them together. From the psychological point of viewthe expression

 

-2-



"crowd" assumes quite a different signification. Under certain givencircumstancesand only under those circumstancesan agglomeration of menpresents new characteristics very different from those of the individualscomposing it. The sentiments and ideas of all the persons in the gathering takeone and the same directionand their conscious personality vanishes. Acollective mind is formeddoubtless transitorybut presenting very clearlydefined characteristics. The gathering has thus become whatin the absence of abetter expressionI will call an organised crowdorif the term is consideredpreferablea psychological crowd. It forms a single beingand is subjected tothe law of the mental unity of crowds.

It is evident that it is not by the mere fact of a number of individualsfinding themselves accidentally side by side that they acquire the character ofan organised crowd. A thousand individuals accidentally gathered in a publicplace without any determined object in no way constitute a crowd from thepsychological point of view. To acquire the special characteristics of such acrowdthe influence is necessary of certain predisposing causes of which weshall have to determine the nature.

The disappearance of conscious personality and the turning of feelings andthoughts in a definite

 

-3-



directionwhich are the primary characteristics of a crowd about to becomeorganiseddo not always involve the simultaneous presence of a number ofindividuals on one spot. Thousands of isolated individuals may acquire atcertain momentsand under the influence of certain violent emotions -- suchfor exampleas a great national event -- the characteristics of a psychologicalcrowd. It will be sufficient in that case that a mere chance should bring themtogether for their acts to at once assume the characteristics peculiar to theacts of a crowd. At certain moments half a dozen men might constitute apsychological crowdwhich may not happen in the case of hundreds of mengathered together by accident. On the other handan entire nationthough theremay be no visible agglomerationmay become a crowd under the action of certaininfluences.

A psychological crowd once constitutedit acquires certain provisional butdeterminable general characteristics. To these general characteristics there areadjoined particular characteristics which vary according to the elements ofwhich the crowd is composedand may modify its mental constitution.Psychological crowdsthenare susceptible of classification; and when we cometo occupy ourselves with this matterwe shall see that a heterogeneous crowd --that isa crowd composed of dissimilar elements -- presents certaincharacteristics

 

-4-



in common with homogeneous crowds -- that iswith crowds composed of elementsmore or less akin (sectscastesand classes) -- and side by side with thesecommon characteristics particularities which permit of the two kinds of crowdsbeing differentiated.

But before occupying ourselves with the different categories of crowdswemust first of all examine the characteristics common to them all. We shall setto work like the naturalistwho begins by describing the generalcharacteristics common to all the members of a family before concerning himselfwith the particular characteristics which allow the differentiation of thegenera and species that the family includes.

It is not easy to describe the mind of crowds with exactnessbecause itsorganisation varies not only according to race and compositionbut alsoaccording to the nature and intensity of the exciting causes to which crowds aresubjected. The same difficultyhoweverpresents itself in the psychologicalstudy of an individual. It is only in novels that individuals are found totraverse their whole life with an unvarying character. It is only the uniformityof the environment that creates the apparent uniformity of characters. I haveshown elsewhere that all mental constitutions contain possibilities of characterwhich may be manifested in consequence of a sudden change of

 

-5-



environment. This explains how it was that among the most savage members of theFrench Convention were to be found inoffensive citizens whounder ordinarycircumstanceswould have been peaceable notaries or virtuous magistrates. Thestorm pastthey resumed their normal character of quietlaw-abiding citizens.Napoleon found amongst them his most docile servants.

It being impossible to study here all the successive degrees of organisationof crowdswe shall concern ourselves more especially with such crowds as haveattained to the phase of complete organisation. In this way we shall see whatcrowds may becomebut not what they invariably are. It is only in this advancedphase of organisation that certain new and special characteristics aresuperposed on the unvarying and dominant character of the race; then takes placethat turning already alluded to of all the feelings and thoughts of thecollectivity in an identical direction. It is only under such circumstancestoothat what I have called above the psychological law of the mental unityof crowds comes into play.

Among the psychological characteristics of crowds there are some that theymay present in common with isolated individualsand otherson the contrarywhich are absolutely peculiar to them and are only to be met with incollectivities. It is

 

-6-



these special characteristics that we shall studyfirst of allin order toshow their importance.

The most striking peculiarity presented by a psychological crowd is thefollowing: Whoever be the individuals that compose ithowever like or unlike betheir mode of lifetheir occupationstheir characteror their intelligencethe fact that they have been transformed into a crowd puts them in possession ofa sort of collective mind which makes them feelthinkand act in a mannerquite different from that in which each individual of them would feelthinkand act were he in a state of isolation. There are certain ideas and feelingswhich do not come into beingor do not transform themselves into acts except inthe case of individuals forming a crowd. The psychological crowd is aprovisional being formed of heterogeneous elementswhich for a moment arecombinedexactly as the cells which constitute a living body form by theirreunion a new being which displays characteristics very different from thosepossessed by each of the cells singly.

Contrary to an opinion which one is astonished to find coming from the pen ofso acute a philosopher as Herbert Spencerin the aggregate which constitutes acrowd there is in no sort a summing-up of or an average struck between itselements. What really takes place is a combination followed by the creation ofnew characteristicsjust as in

 

-7-



chemistry certain elementswhen brought into contact -- bases and acidsforexample -- combine to form a new body possessing properties quite different fromthose of the bodies that have served to form it.

It is easy to prove how much the individual forming part of a crowd differsfrom the isolated individualbut it is less easy to discover the causes of thisdifference.

To obtain at any rate a glimpse of them it is necessary in the first place tocall to mind the truth established by modern psychologythat unconsciousphenomena play an altogether preponderating part not only in organic lifebutalso in the operations of the intelligence. The conscious life of the mind is ofsmall importance in comparison with its unconscious life. The most subtleanalystthe most acute observeris scarcely successful in discovering morethan a very small number of the unconscious motives that determine his conduct.Our conscious acts are the outcome of an unconscious substratum created in themind in the main by hereditary influences. This substratum consists of theinnumerable common characteristics handed down from generation to generationwhich constitute the genius of a race. Behind the avowed causes of our actsthere undoubtedly lie secret causes that we do not avowbut behind these secretcauses there are many

 

-9-



others more secret still which we ourselves ignore. The greater part of ourdaily actions are the result of hidden motives which escape our observation.

It is more especially with respect to those unconscious elements whichconstitute the genius of a race that all the individuals belonging to itresemble each otherwhile it is principally in respect to the consciouselements of their character -- the fruit of educationand yet more ofexceptional hereditary conditions -- that they differ from each other. Men themost unlike in the matter of their intelligence possess instinctspassionsandfeelings that are very similar. In the case of every thing that belongs to therealm of sentiment -- religionpoliticsmoralitythe affections andantipathies&c. -- the most eminent men seldom surpass the standard of themost ordinary individuals. From the intellectual point of view an abyss mayexist between a great mathematician and his boot makerbut from the point ofview of character the difference is most often slight or non-existent.

It is precisely these general qualities of charactergoverned by forces ofwhich we are unconsciousand possessed by the majority of the normalindividuals of a race in much the same degree -- it is precisely thesequalitiesI saythat in crowds become common property. In the collective mindthe intellectual aptitudes of the individualsand in consequence theirindividualityare weakened. The

 

-9-



heterogeneous is swamped by the homogeneousand the unconscious qualitiesobtain the upper hand.

This very fact that crowds possess in common ordinary qualities explains whythey can never accomplish acts demanding a high degree of intelligence. Thedecisions affecting matters of general interest come to by an assembly of men ofdistinctionbut specialists in different walks of lifeare not sensiblysuperior to the decisions that would be adopted by a gathering of imbeciles. Thetruth isthey can only bring to bear in common on the work in hand thosemediocre qualities which are the birthright of every average individual. Incrowds it is stupidity and not mother-wit that is accumulated. It is not all theworldas is so often repeatedthat has more wit than Voltairebut assuredlyVoltaire that has more wit than all the worldif by "all the world"crowds are to be understood.

If the individuals of a crowd confined themselves to putting in common theordinary qualities of which each of them has his sharethere would merelyresult the striking of an averageand notas we have said is actually thecasethe creation of new characteristics. How is it that these newcharacteristics are created? This is what we are now to investigate.

Different causes determine the appearance of

 

-10-



these characteristics peculiar to crowdsand not possessed by isolatedindividuals. The first is that the individual forming part of a crowd acquiressolely from numerical considerationsa sentiment of invincible power whichallows him to yield to instincts whichhad he been alonehe would perforcehave kept under restraint. He will be the less disposed to check himself fromthe consideration thata crowd being anonymousand in consequenceirresponsiblethe sentiment of responsibility which always controls individualsdisappears entirely.

The second causewhich is contagionalso intervenes to determine themanifestation in crowds of their special characteristicsand at the same timethe trend they are to take. Contagion is a phenomenon of which it is easy toestablish the presencebut that it is not easy to explain. It must be classedamong those phenomena of a hypnotic orderwhich we shall shortly study. In acrowd every sentiment and act is contagiousand contagious to such a degreethat an individual readily sacrifices his personal interest to the collectiveinterest. This is an aptitude very contrary to his natureand of which a man isscarcely capableexcept when he makes part of a crowd.

A third causeand by far the most importantdetermines in the individualsof a crowd special characteristics which are quite contrary at times

 

-11-



to those presented by the isolated individual. I allude to that suggestibilityof whichmoreoverthe contagion mentioned above is neither more nor less thanan effect.

To understand this phenomenon it is necessary to bear in mind certain recentphysiological discoveries. We know to-day that by various processes anindividual may be brought into such a condition thathaving entirely lost hisconscious personalityhe obeys all the suggestions of the operator who hasdeprived him of itand commits acts in utter contradiction with his characterand habits. The most careful observations seem to prove that an individualimmerged for some length of time in a crowd in action soon finds himself --either in consequence of the magnetic influence given out by the crowdor fromsome other cause of which we are ignorant -- in a special statewhich muchresembles the state of fascination in which the hypnotised individual findshimself in the hands of the hypnotiser. The activity of the brain beingparalysed in the case of the hypnotised subjectthe latter becomes the slave ofall the unconscious activities of his spinal cordwhich the hypnotiser directsat will. The conscious personality has entirely vanished; will and discernmentare lost. All feelings and thoughts are bent in the direction determined by thehypnotiser.

Such also is approximately the state of the

 

-12-



individual forming part of a psychological crowd. He is no longer conscious ofhis acts. In his caseas in the case of the hypnotised subjectat the sametime that certain faculties are destroyedothers may be brought to a highdegree of exaltation. Under the influence of a suggestionhe will undertake theaccomplishment of certain acts with irresistible impetuosity. This impetuosityis the more irresistible in the case of crowds than in that of the hypnotisedsubjectfrom the fact thatthe suggestion being the same for all theindividuals of the crowdit gains in strength by reciprocity. Theindividualities in the crowd who might possess a personality sufficiently strongto resist the suggestion are too few in number to struggle against the current.At the utmostthey may be able to attempt a diversion by means of differentsuggestions. It is in this wayfor instancethat a happy expressionan imageopportunely evokedhave occasionally deterred crowds from the most bloodthirstyacts.

We seethenthat the disappearance of the conscious personalitythepredominance of the unconscious personalitythe turning by means of suggestionand contagion of feelings and ideas in an identical directionthe tendency toimmediately transform the suggested ideas into acts; thesewe seeare theprincipal characteristics of the individual forming part of a crowd. He is nolonger himselfbut

 

-13-



has become an automaton who has ceased to be guided by his will.

Moreoverby the mere fact that he forms part of an organised crowda mandescends several rungs in the ladder of civilisation. Isolatedhe may be acultivated individual; in a crowdhe is a barbarian -- that isa creatureacting by instinct. He possesses the spontaneitythe violencethe ferocityand also the enthusiasm and heroism of primitive beingswhom he further tendsto resemble by the facility with which he allows himself to be impressed bywords and images -- which would be entirely without action on each of theisolated individuals composing the crowd -- and to be induced to commit actscontrary to his most obvious interests and his best-known habits. An individualin a crowd is a grain of sand amid other grains of sandwhich the wind stirs upat will.

It is for these reasons that juries are seen to deliver verdicts of whicheach individual juror would disapprovethat parliamentary assemblies adopt lawsand measures of which each of their members would disapprove in his own person.Taken separatelythe men of the Convention were enlightened citizens ofpeaceful habits. United in a crowdthey did not hesitate to give their adhesionto the most savage proposalsto guillotine individuals most clearly innocentandcontrary to their intereststo renounce their inviolability and todecimate themselves.

 

-14-


It is not only by his acts that the individual in a crowd differs essentiallyfrom himself. Even before he has entirely lost his independencehis ideas andfeelings have undergone a transformationand the transformation is so profoundas to change the miser into a spendthriftthe sceptic into a believerthehonest man into a criminaland the coward into a hero. The renunciation of allits privileges which the nobility voted in a moment of enthusiasm during thecelebrated night of August 41789would certainly never have been consented toby any of its members taken singly.

The conclusion to be drawn from what precedes isthat the crowd is alwaysintellectually inferior to the isolated individualbut thatfrom the point ofview of feelings and of the acts these feelings provokethe crowd mayaccording to circumstanceshe better or worse than the individual. All dependson the nature of the suggestion to which the crowd is exposed. This is the pointthat has been completely misunderstood by writers who have only studied crowdsfrom the criminal point of view. Doubtless a crowd is often criminalbut alsoit is often heroic. It is crowds rather than isolated individuals that may beinduced to run the risk of death to secure the triumph of a creed or an ideathat may be fired with enthusiasm for glory and honourthat are led on --almost without bread and without armsas in the

 

-15-



age of the Crusades -- to deliver the tomb of Christ from the infideloras in'93to defend the fatherland. Such heroism is without doubt somewhatunconsciousbut it is of such heroism that history is made. Were peoples onlyto be credited with the great actions performed in cold bloodthe annals of theworld would register but few of them.

CHAPTER II.
THE SENTIMENTS AND MORALITY OF CROWDS.

1. Impulsivenessmobilityand irritability of crowds.The crowd is at the mercy of all exterior exciting causesand reflects theirincessant variations -- The impulses which the crowd obeys are so imperious asto annihilate the feeling of personal interest -- Premeditation is absent fromcrowds -- Racial influence. 2. Crowds are credulous and readily influenced bysuggestion. The obedience of crowds to suggestions -- The images evoked inthe mind of crowds are accepted by them as realities -- Why these images areidentical for all the individuals composing a crowd -- The equality of theeducated and the ignorant man in a crowd -- Various examples of the illusions towhich the individuals in a crowd are subject -- The impossibility of accordingbelief to the testimony of crowds -- The unanimity of numerous witnesses is oneof the worst proofs that can be invoked to establish a fact -- The slight valueof works of history. 3. The exaggeration and ingenuousness of the sentimentsof crowds. Crowds do not admit doubt or uncertaintyand always go toextremes -- Their sentiments always excessive. 4. The intolerancedictatorialnessand conservatism of crowds. The reasons of these sentiments-- The servility of crowds in the face of a strong authority -- The

 

-17-



momentary revolutionary instincts of crowds do not prevent them from beingextremely conservative -- Crowds instinctively hostile to changes and progress.5. The morality of crowds. The morality of crowdsaccording to thesuggestions under which they actmay be much lower or much higher than that ofthe individuals composing them -- Explanation and examples -- Crowds rarelyguided by those considerations of interest which are most often the exclusivemotives of the isolated individual -- The moralising rôle of crowds.

HAVING indicated in a general way the principal characteristics of crowdsitremains to study these characteristics in detail.

It will be remarked that among the special characteristics of crowds thereare several -- such as impulsivenessirritabilityincapacity to reasontheabsence of judgment and of the critical spiritthe exaggeration of thesentimentsand others besides -- which are almost always observed in beingsbelonging to inferior forms of evolution -- in womensavagesand childrenforinstance. HoweverI merely indicate this analogy in passing; its demonstrationis outside the scope of this work. It wouldmoreoverbe useless for personsacquainted with the psychology of primitive beingsand would scarcely carryconviction to those in ignorance of this matter.

I now proceed to the successive consideration of the differentcharacteristics that may be observed in the majority of crowds.


 

-18-



1. IMPULSIVENESSMOBILITYAND IRRITABILITY OF CROWDS.

When studying the fundamental characteristics of a crowd westated that it is guided almost exclusively by unconscious motives. Its acts arefar more under the influence of the spinal cord than of the brain. In thisrespect a crowd is closely akin to quite primitive beings. The acts performedmay be perfect so far as their execution is concernedbut as they are notdirected by the brainthe individual conducts himself according as the excitingcauses to which he is submitted may happen to decide. A crowd is at the mercy ofall external exciting causesand reflects their incessant variations. It is theslave of the impulses which it receives. The isolated individual may besubmitted to the same exciting causes as the man in a crowdbut as his brainshows him the inadvisability of yielding to themhe refrains from yielding.This truth may be physiologically expressed by saying that the isolatedindividual possesses the capacity of dominating his reflex actionswhile acrowd is devoid of this capacity.

The varying impulses to which crowds obey may beaccording to their excitingcausesgenerous or cruelheroic or cowardlybut they will always be soimperious that the interest of the individualeven the interest ofself-preservation

 

-19-



will not dominate them. The exciting causes that may act on crowds being sovariedand crowds always obeying themcrowds are in consequence extremelymobile. This explains how it is that we see them pass in a moment from the mostbloodthirsty ferocity to the most extreme generosity and heroism. A crowd mayeasily enact the part of an executionerbut not less easily that of a martyr.It is crowds that have furnished the torrents of blood requisite for the triumphof every belief. It is not necessary to go back to the heroic ages to see whatcrowds are capable of in this latter direction. They are never sparing of theirlife in an insurrectionand not long since a general
Note: [2] becoming suddenly popularmight easily have found a hundred thousandmen ready to sacrifice their lives for his cause had he demanded it.

Any display of premeditation by crowds is in consequence out of the question.They may be animated in succession by the most contrary sentimentsbut theywill always be under the influence of the exciting causes of the moment. Theyare like the leaves which a tempest whirls up and scatters in every directionand then allows to fall. When studying later on certain revolutionary crowds weshall give some examples of the variability of their sentiments.

[2]


Note:

General Boulanger.


 

-20-


This mobility of crowds renders them very difficult to governespeciallywhen a measure of public authority has fallen into their hands. Did not thenecessities of everyday life constitute a sort of invisible regulator ofexistenceit would scarcely be possible for democracies to last. Stillthoughthe wishes of crowds are frenzied they are not durable. Crowds are as incapableof willing as of thinking for any length of time.

A crowd is not merely impulsive and mobile. Like a savageit is not preparedto admit that anything can come between its desire and the realisation of itsdesire. It is the less capable of understanding such an interventioninconsequence of the feeling of irresistible power given it by its numericalstrength. The notion of impossibility disappears for the individual in a crowd.An isolated individual knows well enough that alone he cannot set fire to apalace or loot a shopand should he be tempted to do sohe will easily resistthe temptation. Making part of a crowdhe is conscious of the power given himby numberand it is sufficient to suggest to him ideas of murder or pillage forhim to yield immediately to temptation. An unexpected obstacle will be destroyedwith frenzied rage. Did the human organism allow of the perpetuity of furiouspassionit might be said that the normal condition of a crowd baulked in itswishes is just such a state of furious passion.

 

-21-


The fundamental characteristics of the racewhich constitute the unvaryingsource from which all our sentiments springalways exert an influence on theirritability of crowdstheir impulsiveness and their mobilityas on all thepopular sentiments we shall have to study. All crowds are doubtless alwaysirritable and impulsivebut with great variations of degree. For instancethedifference between a Latin and an Anglo-Saxon crowd is striking. The most recentfacts in French history throw a vivid light on this point. The mere publicationtwenty-five years agoof a telegramrelating an insult supposed to have beenoffered an ambassadorwas sufficient to determine an explosion of furywhencefollowed immediately a terrible war. Some years later the telegraphicannouncement of an insignificant reverse at Langson provoked a fresh explosionwhich brought about the instantaneous overthrow of the government. At the samemoment a much more serious reverse undergone by the English expedition toKhartoum produced only a slight emotion in Englandand no ministry wasoverturned. Crowds are everywhere distinguished by feminine characteristicsbutLatin crowds are the most feminine of all. Whoever trusts in them may rapidlyattain a lofty destinybut to do so is to be perpetually skirting the brink ofa Tarpeian rockwith the certainty of one day being precipitated from it.


 

-22-



2. THE SUGGESTIBILITY AND CREDULITY OF CROWDS.

When defining crowdswe said that one of their generalcharacteristics was an excessive suggestibilityand we have shown to what anextent suggestions are contagious in every human agglomeration; a fact whichexplains the rapid turning of the sentiments of a crowd in a definite direction.However indifferent it may be supposeda crowdas a ruleis in a state ofexpectant attentionwhich renders suggestion easy. The first suggestionformulated which arises implants itself immediately by a process of contagion inthe brains of all assembledand the identical bent of the sentiments of thecrowd is immediately an accomplished fact.

As is the case with all persons under the influence of suggestionthe ideawhich has entered the brain tends to transform itself into an act. Whether theact is that of setting fire to a palaceor involves self-sacrificea crowdlends itself to it with equal facility. All will depend on the nature of theexciting causeand no longeras in the case of the isolated individualon therelations existing between the act suggested and the sum total of the reasonswhich may be urged against its realisation.

In consequencea crowd perpetually hovering on the borderland ofunconsciousnessreadily yielding to all suggestionshaving all the violence

 

-23-



of feeling peculiar to beings who cannot appeal to the influence of reasondeprived of all critical facultycannot be otherwise than excessivelycredulous. The improbable does not exist for a crowdand it is necessary tobear this circumstance well in mind to understand the facility with which arecreated and propagated the most improbable legends and stories.
Note: [3]

[3]


Note:

Persons who went through the siege of Paris saw numerous examples of thiscredulity of crowds. A candle alight in an upper story was immediately lookedupon as a signal given the besiegersalthough it was evidentafter a moment ofreflectionthat it was utterly impossible to catch sight of the light of thecandle at a distance of several miles.

The creation of the legends which so easily obtain circulation in crowds isnot solely the consequence of their extreme credulity. It is also the result ofthe prodigious perversions that events undergo in the imagination of a throng.The simplest event that comes under the observation of a crowd is soon totallytransformed. A crowd thinks in imagesand the image itself immediately calls upa series of other imageshaving no logical connection with the first. We caneasily conceive this state by thinking of the fantastic succession of ideas towhich we are sometimes led by calling up in our minds any fact. Our reason showsus the incoherence there is in these imagesbut a crowd is almost blind

 

-24-



to this truthand confuses with the real event what the deforming action of itsimagination has superimposed thereon. A crowd scarcely distinguishes between thesubjective and the objective. It accepts as real the images evoked in its mindthough they most often have only a very distant relation with the observed fact.

The ways in which a crowd perverts any event of which it is a witness oughtit would seemto be innumerable and unlike each othersince the individualscomposing the gathering are of very different temperaments. But this is not thecase. As the result of contagion the perversions are of the same kindand takethe same shape in the case of all the assembled individuals.

The first perversion of the truth effected by one of the individuals of thegathering is the starting-point of the contagious suggestion. Before St. Georgeappeared on the walls of Jerusalem to all the Crusaders he was certainlyperceived in the first instance by one of those present. By dint of suggestionand contagion the miracle signalised by a single person was immediately acceptedby all.

Such is always the mechanism of the collective hallucinations so frequent inhistory -- hallucinations which seem to have all the recognised characteristicsof authenticitysince they are phenomena observed by thousands of persons.

 

-25-


To combat what precedesthe mental quality of the individuals composing acrowd must not be brought into consideration. This quality is withoutimportance. From the moment that they form part of a crowd the learned man andthe ignoramus are equally incapable of observation.

This thesis may seem paradoxical. To demonstrate it beyond doubt it would benecessary to investigate a great number of historical factsand several volumeswould be insufficient for the purpose.

Stillas I do not wish to leave the reader under the impression of unprovedassertionsI shall give him some examples taken at hazard from the immensenumber of those that might be quoted.

The following fact is one of the most typicalbecause chosen from amongcollective hallucinations of which a crowd is the victimin which are to befound individuals of every kindfrom the most ignorant to the most highlyeducated. It is related incidentally by Julian Felixa naval lieutenantin hisbook on "Sea Currents" and has been previously cited by the RevueScientique.

The frigatethe Belle Poulewas cruising in the open sea for thepurpose of finding the cruiser Le Berceaufrom which she had beenseparated by a violent storm. It was broad daylight and in full sunshine.Suddenly the watch signalled a disabled

 

-26-



vessel; the crew looked in the direction signalledand every oneofficers andsailorsclearly perceived a raft covered with men towed by boats which weredisplaying signals of distress. Yet this was nothing more than a collectivehallucination. Admiral Desfosses lowered a boat to go to the rescue of thewrecked sailors. On nearing the object sightedthe sailors and officers onboard the boat saw "masses of men in motionstretching out their handsand heard the dull and confused noise of a great number of voices." Whenthe object was reached those in the boat found themselves simply and solely inthe presence of a few branches of trees covered with leaves that had been sweptout from the neighbouring coast. Before evidence so palpable the hallucinationvanished.

The mechanism of a collective hallucination of the kind we have explained isclearly seen at work in this example. On the one hand we have a crowd in a stateof expectant attentionon the other a suggestion made by the watch signalling adisabled vessel at seaa suggestion whichby a process of contagionwasaccepted by all those presentboth officers and sailors.

It is not necessary that a crowd should be numerous for the faculty of seeingwhat is taking place before its eyes to be destroyed and for the real facts tobe replaced by hallucinations unre

 

-27-



lated to them. As soon as a few individuals are gathered together theyconstitute a crowdandthough they should be distinguished men of learningthey assume all the characteristics of crowds with regard to matters outsidetheir speciality. The faculty of observation and the critical spirit possessedby each of them individually at once disappears. An ingenious psychologistMr.Daveysupplies us with a very curious example in pointrecently cited in the Annalesdes Sciences Psychiquesand deserving of relation here. Mr. Daveyhavingconvoked a gathering of distinguished observersamong them one of the mostprominent of English scientific menMr. Wallaceexecuted in their presenceand after having allowed them to examine the objects and to place seals wherethey wishedall the regulation spiritualistic phenomenathe materialisation ofspiritswriting on slates&c. Having subsequently obtained from thesedistinguished observers written reports admitting that the phenomena observedcould only have been obtained by supernatural meanshe revealed to them thatthey were the result of very simple tricks. "The most astonishing featureof Monsieur Davey's investigation" writes the author of this account"is not the marvellousness of the tricks themselvesbut the extremeweakness of the reports made with respect to them by the non

 

-28-



initiated witnesses. It is clearthen" he says"that witnesses evenin number may give circumstantial relations which are completely erroneousbutwhose result is thatif their descriptions are accepted as exactthephenomena they describe are inexplicable by trickery. The methods invented byMr. Davey were so simple that one is astonished that he should have had theboldness to employ them; but he had such a power over the mind of the crowd thathe could persuade it that it saw what it did not see." Hereas alwayswehave the power of the hypnotiser over the hypnotised. Moreoverwhen this poweris seen in action on minds of a superior order and previously invited to besuspiciousit is understandable how easy it is to deceive ordinary crowds.

Analogous examples are innumerable. As I write these lines the papers arefull of the story of two little girls found drowned in the Seine. Thesechildrento begin withwere recognised in the most unmistakable manner by halfa dozen witnesses. All the affirmations were in such entire concordance that nodoubt remained in the mind of the juge d'instruction. He had thecertificate of death drawn upbut just as the burial of the children was tohave been proceeded witha mere chance brought about the discovery that thesupposed victims were aliveand hadmoreoverbut a remote resemblance to thedrowned

 

-29-



girls. As in several of the examples previously citedthe affirmation of thefirst witnesshimself a victim of illusionhad sufficed to influence the otherwitnesses.

In parallel cases the starting-point of the suggestion is always the illusionproduced in an individual by more or less vague reminiscencescontagionfollowing as the result of the affirmation of this initial illusion. If thefirst observer be very impressionableit will often be sufficient that thecorpse he believes he recognises should present -- apart from all realresemblance -- some peculiaritya scaror some detail of toilet which mayevoke the idea of another person. The idea evoked may then become the nucleus ofa sort of crystallisation which invades the understanding and paralyses allcritical faculty. What the observer then sees is no longer the object itselfbut the image-evoked in his mind. In this way are to be explained erroneousrecognitions of the dead bodies of children by their own motheras occurred inthe following casealready oldbut which has been recently recalled by thenewspapers. In it are to be traced precisely the two kinds of suggestion ofwhich I have just pointed out the mechanism.

"The child was recognised by another childwho was mistaken. The seriesof unwarranted recognitions then began.

 

-30-


"An extraordinary thing occurred. The day after a schoolboy hadrecognised the corpse a woman exclaimed`Good Heavensit is my child!'

"She was taken up to the corpse; she examined the clothingand noted ascar on the forehead. `It is certainly' she said`my son who disappeared lastJuly. He has been stolen from me and murdered.'

"The woman was concierge in the Rue du Four; her name wasChavandret. Her brother-in-law was summonedand when questioned he said`Thatis the little Filibert.' Several persons living in the street recognised thechild found at La Villette as Filibert Chavandretamong them being the boy'sschoolmasterwho based his opinion on a medal worn by the lad.

"Neverthelessthe neighboursthe brother-in-lawthe schoolmasterandthe mother were mistaken. Six weeks later the identity of the child wasestablished. The boybelonging to Bordeauxhad been murdered there and broughtby a carrying company to Paris."
Note: [4]

[4]


Note:

L'EclairApril 211895.

It will be remarked that these recognitions are most often made by women andchildren -- that is to sayby precisely the most impressionable persons. Theyshow us at the same time what is the

 

-31-



worth in law courts of such witnesses. As far as childrenmore especiallyareconcernedtheir statements ought never to be invoked. Magistrates are in thehabit of repeating that children do not lie. Did they possess a psychologicalculture a little less rudimentary than is the case they would know thaton thecontrarychildren invariably lie; the lie is doubtless innocentbut it is nonethe less a lie. It would be better to decide the fate of an accused person bythe toss of a coin thanas has been so often doneby the evidence of a child.

To return to the faculty of observation possessed by crowdsour conclusionis that their collective observations are as erroneous as possibleand thatmost often they merely represent the illusion of an individual whoby a processof contagionhas suggestioned his fellows. Facts proving that the most uttermistrust of the evidence of crowds is advisable might be multiplied to anyextent. Thousands of men were present twenty-five years ago at the celebratedcavalry charge during the battle of Sedanand yet it is impossiblein the faceof the most contradictory ocular testimonyto decide by whom it was commanded.The English generalLord Wolseleyhas proved in a recent book that up to nowthe gravest errors of fact have been committed with regard to the most importantincidents of the battle of Waterloo --

 

-32-



facts that hundreds of witnesses had nevertheless attested.
Note: [5]

[5]


Note:

Do we know in the case of one single battle exactly how it took place? I amvery doubtful on the point. We know who were the conquerors and the conqueredbut this is probably all. What M. D'Harcourt has said with respect to the battleof Solferinowhich he witnessed and in which he was personally engagedmay beapplied to all battles -- "The generals (informedof courseby theevidence of hundreds of witnesses) forward their official reports; the orderlyofficers modify these documents and draw up a definite narrative; the chief ofthe staff raises objections and reÄwrites the whole on a fresh basis. It iscarried to the Marshalwho exclaims`You are entirely in error' and hesubstitutes a fresh edition. Scarcely anything remains of the originalreport." M. D'Harcourt relates this fact as proof of the impossibility ofestablishing the truth in connection with the most strikingthe best observedevents.

Such facts show us what is the value of the testimony of crowds. Treatises onlogic include the unanimity of numerous witnesses in the category of thestrongest proofs that can be invoked in support of the exactness of a fact. Yetwhat we know of the psychology of crowds shows that treatises on logic need onthis point to be rewritten. The events with regard to which there exists themost doubt are certainly those which have been observed by the greatest numberof persons. To say that a fact has been simultaneously verified by thousands ofwitnesses is to sayas a rulethat the real fact is very different from theaccepted account of it.

 

-33-


It clearly results from what precedes that works of history must beconsidered as works of pure imagination. They are fanciful accounts ofill-observed factsaccompanied by explanations the result of reflection. Towrite such books is the most absolute waste of time. Had not the past left usits literaryartisticand monumental workswe should know absolutely nothingin reality with regard to bygone times. Are we in possession of a single word oftruth concerning the lives of the great men who have played preponderating partsin the history of humanity -- men such as HerculesBuddhaor Mahomet? In allprobability we are not. In point of factmoreovertheir real lives are ofslight importance to us. Our interest is to know what our great men were as theyare presented by popular legend. It is legendary heroesand not for a momentreal heroeswho have impressed the minds of crowds.

Unfortunatelylegends -- even although they have been definitely put onrecord by books -- have in themselves no stability. The imagination of the crowdcontinually transforms them as the result of the lapse of time and especially inconsequence of racial causes. There is a great gulf fixed between the sanguinaryJehovah of the Old Testament and the God of Love of Sainte Thérèseand theBuddha worshipped in China has no traits in common with that venerated in India.

 

-34-


It is not even necessary that heroes should be separated from us by centuriesfor their legend to be transformed by the imagination of the crowd. Thetransformation occasionally takes place within a few years. In our own day wehave seen the legend of one of the greatest heroes of history modified severaltimes in less than fifty years. Under the Bourbons Napoleon became a sort ofidyllic and liberal philanthropista friend of the humble whoaccording to thepoetswas destined to be long remembered in the cottage. Thirty yearsafterwards this easy-going hero had become a sanguinary despotwhoafterhaving usurped power and destroyed libertycaused the slaughter of threemillion men solely to satisfy his ambition. At present we are witnessing a freshtransformation of the legend. When it has undergone the influence of some dozensof centuries the learned men of the futureface to face with thesecontradictory accountswill perhaps doubt the very existence of the heroassome of them now doubt that of Buddhaand will see in him nothing more than asolar myth or a development of the legend of Hercules. They will doubtlessconsole themselves easily for this uncertaintyforbetter initiated than weare to-day in the characteristics and psychology of crowdsthey will know thathistory is scarcely capable of preserving the memory of anything except myths.


 

-35-



3. THE EXAGGERATION AND INGENUOUSNESS
OF THE SENTIMENTS OF CROWDS.

Whether the feelings exhibited by a crowd be good or badtheypresent the double character of being very simple and very exaggerated. On thispointas on so many othersan individual in a crowd resembles primitivebeings. Inaccessible to fine distinctionshe sees things as a wholeand isblind to their intermediate phases. The exaggeration of the sentiments of acrowd is heightened by the fact that any feeling when once it is exhibitedcommunicating itself very quickly by a process of suggestion and contagiontheevident approbation of which it is the object considerably increases its force.

The simplicity and exaggeration of the sentiments of crowds have for resultthat a throng knows neither doubt nor uncertainty. Like womenit goes at onceto extremes. A suspicion transforms itself as soon as announced intoincontrovertible evidence. A commencement of antipathy or disapprobationwhichin the case of an isolated individual would not gain strengthbecomes at oncefurious hatred in the case of an individual in a crowd.

The violence of the feelings of crowds is also increasedespecially inheterogeneous crowdsby the absence of all sense of responsibility. The

 

-36-



certainty of impunitya certainty the stronger as the crowd is more numerousand the notion of a considerable momentary force due to numbermake possible inthe case of crowds sentiments and acts impossible for the isolated individual.In crowds the foolishignorantand envious persons are freed from the sense oftheir insignificance and powerlessnessand are possessed instead by the notionof brutal and temporary but immense strength.

Unfortunatelythis tendency of crowds towards exaggeration is often broughtto bear upon bad sentiments. These sentiments are atavistic residuum of theinstincts of the primitive manwhich the fear of punishment obliges theisolated and responsible individual to curb. Thus it is that crowds are soeasily led into the worst excesses.

Still this does not mean that crowdsskilfully influencedare not capableof heroism and devotion and of evincing the loftiest virtues; they are even morecapable of showing these qualities than the isolated individual. We shall soonhave occasion to revert to this point when we come to study the morality ofcrowds.

Given to exaggeration in its feelingsa crowd is only impressed by excessivesentiments. An orator wishing to move a crowd must make an abusive use ofviolent affirmations. To exaggerateto affirmto resort to repetitionsandnever to attempt to prove anything by reasoning are methods of

 

-37-



argument well known to speakers at public meetings.

Moreovera crowd exacts a like exaggeration in the sentiments of its heroes.Their apparent qualities and virtues must always be amplified. It has beenjustly remarked that on the stage a crowd demands from the hero of the piece adegree of couragemoralityand virtue that is never to be found in real life.

Quite rightly importance has been laid on the special standpoint from whichmatters are viewed in the theatre. Such a standpoint exists no doubtbut itsrules for the most part have nothing to do with common sense and logic. The artof appealing to crowds is no doubt of an inferior orderbut it demands quitespecial aptitudes. It is often impossible on reading plays to explain theirsuccess. Managers of theatres when accepting pieces are themselvesas a rulevery uncertain of their successbecause to judge the matter it would benecessary that they should be able to transform themselves into a crowd.
Note: [6]

[6]


Note:

It is understandable for this reason why it sometimes happens that piecesrefused by all theatrical managers obtain a prodigious success when by a strokeof chance they are put on the stage. The recent success of Francois Coppée'splay "Pour la Couronne" is well knownand yetin spite of the nameof its authorit was refused during ten years by the managers of the principalParisian theatres.

"Charley's Aunt" refused at every theatreand finally staged atthe expense of a stockbrokerhas had two hundred representations in Franceandmore than a thousand in London. Without the explanation given above of theimpossibility for theatrical managers to mentally substitute themselves for acrowdsuch mistakes in judgment on the part of competent individualswho aremost interested not to commit such grave blunderswould be inexplicable. Thisis a subject that I cannot deal with herebut it might worthily tempt the penof a writer acquainted with theatrical mattersand at the same time a subtlepsychologist -- of such a writerfor instanceas M. Francisque Sarcey.


 

-38-


Hereonce morewere we able to embark on more extensive explanationsweshould show the preponderating influence of racial considerations. A play whichprovokes the enthusiasm of the crowd in one country has sometimes no success inanotheror has only a partial and conventional successbecause it does not putin operation influences capable of working on an altered public.

I need not add that the tendency to exaggeration in crowds is only present inthe case of sentiments and not at all in the matter of intelligence. I havealready shown thatby the mere fact that an individual forms part of a crowdhis intellectual standard is immediately and considerably lowered. A learnedmagistrateM. Tardehas also verified this fact in his researches on thecrimes of crowds. It is onlythenwith respect to sentiment that crowds canrise to a very high oron the contrarydescend to a very low level.


 

-39-



4. THE INTOLERANCEDICTATORIALNESS
AND CONSERVATISM OF CROWDS.

Crowds are only cognisant of simple and extreme sentiments;the opinionsideasand beliefs suggested to them are accepted or rejected as awholeand considered as absolute truths or as not less absolute errors. This isalways the case with beliefs induced by a process of suggestion instead ofengendered by reasoning. Every one is aware of the intolerance that accompaniesreligious beliefsand of the despotic empire they exercise on men's minds.

Being in doubt as to what constitutes truth or errorand havingon theother handa clear notion of its strengtha crowd is as disposed to giveauthoritative effect to its inspirations as it is intolerant. An individual mayaccept contradiction and discussion; a crowd will never do so. At publicmeetings the slightest contradiction on the part of an orator is immediatelyreceived with howls of fury and violent invectivesoon followed by blowsandexpulsion should the orator stick to his point. Without the restraining presenceof the representatives of authority the contradictorindeedwould often bedone to death.

Dictatorialness and intolerance are common to all categories of crowdsbutthey are met with in a varying degree of intensity. Hereonce morereappearsthat fundamental notion of race which

 

-40-



dominates all the feelings and all the thoughts of men. It is more especially inLatin crowds that authoritativeness and intolerance are found developed in thehighest measure. In facttheir development is such in crowds of Latin originthat they have entirely destroyed that sentiment of the independence of theindividual so powerful in the Anglo-Saxon. Latin crowds are only concerned withthe collective independence of the sect to which they belongand thecharacteristic feature of their conception of independence is the need theyexperience of bringing those who are in disagreement with themselves intoimmediate and violent subjection to their beliefs. Among the Latin races theJacobins of every epochfrom those of the Inquisition downwardshave neverbeen able to attain to a different conception of liberty.

Authoritativeness and intolerance are sentiments of which crowds have a veryclear notionwhich they easily conceive and which they entertain as readily asthey put them in practice when once they are imposed upon them. Crowds exhibit adocile respect for forceand are but slightly impressed by kindnesswhich forthem is scarcely other than a form of weakness. Their sympathies have never beenbestowed on easy-going mastersbut on tyrants who vigorously oppressed them. Itis to these latter that they always erect the loftiest statues.

 

-41-



It is true that they willingly trample on the despot whom they have stripped ofhis powerbut it is becausehaving lost his strengthhe has resumed his placeamong the feeblewho are to be despised because they are not to be feared. Thetype of hero dear to crowds will always have the semblance of a Caesar. Hisinsignia attracts themhis authority overawes themand his sword instils themwith fear.

A crowd is always ready to revolt against a feebleand to bow down servilelybefore a strong authority. Should the strength of an authority be intermittentthe crowdalways obedient to its extreme sentimentspasses alternately fromanarchy to servitudeand from servitude to anarchy.

Howeverto believe in the predominance among crowds of revolutionaryinstincts would be to entirely misconstrue their psychology. It is merely theirtendency to violence that deceives us on this point. Their rebellious anddestructive outbursts are always very transitory. Crowds are too much governedby unconscious considerationsand too much subject in consequence to secularhereditary influences not to be extremely conservative. Abandoned to themselvesthey soon weary of disorderand instinctively turn to servitude. It was theproudest and most untractable of the Jacobins who acclaimed Bonaparte with

 

-42-



greatest energy when he suppressed all liberty and made his hand of ironseverely felt.

It is difficult to understand historyand popular revolutions in particularif one does not take sufficiently into account the profoundly conservativeinstincts of crowds. They may be desirousit is trueof changing the names oftheir institutionsand to obtain these changes they accomplish at times evenviolent revolutionsbut the essence of these institutions is too much theexpression of the hereditary needs of the race for them not invariably to abideby it. Their incessant mobility only exerts its influence on quite superficialmatters. In fact they possess conservative instincts as indestructible as thoseof all primitive beings. Their fetish like respect for all traditions isabsolute; their unconscious horror of all novelty capable of changing theessential conditions of their existence is very deeply rooted. Had democraciespossessed the power they wield to-day at the time of the invention of mechanicallooms or of the introduction of steam-power and of railwaysthe realisation ofthese inventions would have been impossibleor would have been achieved at thecost of revolutions and repeated massacres. It is fortunate for the progress ofcivilisation that the power of crowds only began to exist when the greatdiscoveries of science and industry had already been effected.


 

-43-



5. THE MORALITY OF CROWDS.

Taking the word "morality" to mean constant respectfor certain social conventionsand the permanent repression of selfishimpulsesit is quite evident that crowds are too impulsive and too mobile to bemoral. Ifhoweverwe include in the term morality the transitory display ofcertain qualities such as abnegationself-sacrificedisinterestednessdevotionand the need of equitywe may sayon the contrarythat crowds mayexhibit at times a very lofty morality.

The few psychologists who have studied crowds have only considered them fromthe point of view of their criminal actsand noticing how frequent these actsarethey have come to the conclusion that the moral standard of crowds is verylow.

Doubtless this is often the case; but why? Simply because our savagedestructive instincts are the inheritance left dormant in all of us from theprimitive ages. In the life of the isolated individual it would be dangerous forhim to gratify these instinctswhile his absorption in an irresponsible crowdin which in consequence he is assured of impunitygives him entire liberty tofollow them. Being unablein the ordinary course of eventsto exercise thesedestructive instincts on our fellow-menwe confine ourselves to exercising themon animals. The passionso widespreadfor the chase and the acts of ferocity

 

-44-



of crowds proceed from one and the same source. A crowd which slowly slaughtersa defenceless victim displays a very cowardly ferocity; but for the philosopherthis ferocity is very closely related to that of the huntsmen who gather indozens for the pleasure of taking part in the pursuit and killing of a lucklessstag by their hounds.

A crowd may be guilty of murderincendiarismand every kind of crimebutit is also capable of very lofty acts of devotionsacrificeanddisinterestednessof acts much loftier indeed than those of which the isolatedindividual is capable. Appeals to sentiments of gloryhonourand patriotismare particularly likely to influence the individual forming part of a crowdandoften to the extent of obtaining from him the sacrifice of his life. History isrich in examples analogous to those furnished by the Crusaders and thevolunteers of 1793. Collectivities alone are capable of great disinterestednessand great devotion. How numerous are the crowds that have heroically faced deathfor beliefsideasand phrases that they scarcely understood! The crowds thatgo on strike do so far more in obedience to an order than to obtain an increaseof the slender salary with which they make shift. Personal interest is veryrarely a powerful motive force with crowdswhile it is almost the exclusivemotive of the conduct of the isolated individual. It is assuredly

 

-45-



not self-interest that has guided crowds in so many warsincomprehensible as arule to their intelligence -- wars in which they have allowed themselves to bemassacred as easily as the larks hypnotised by the mirror of the hunter.

Even in the case of absolute scoundrels it often happens that the mere factof their being in a crowd endows them for the moment with very strict principlesof morality. Taine calls attention to the fact that the perpetrators of theSeptember massacres deposited on the table of the committees the pocket-booksand jewels they had found on their victimsand with which they could easilyhave been able to make away. The howlingswarmingragged crowd which invadedthe Tuileries during the revolution of 1848 did not lay hands on any of theobjects that excited its astonishmentand one of which would have meant breadfor many days.

This moralisation of the individual by the crowd is not certainly a constantrulebut it is a rule frequently observed. It is even observed in circumstancesmuch less grave than those I have just cited. I have remarked that in thetheatre a crowd exacts from the hero of the piece exaggerated virtuesand it isa commonplace observation that an assemblyeven though composed of inferiorelementsshows itself as a rule very prudish. The debaucheethe souteneurthe

 

-46-



rough often break out into murmurs at a slightly risky scene or expressionthough they be very harmless in comparison with their customary conversation.

Ifthencrowds often abandon themselves to low instinctsthey also set theexample at times of acts of lofty morality. If disinterestednessresignationand absolute devotion to a real or chimerical ideal are moral virtuesit may besaid that crowds often possess these virtues to a degree rarely attained by thewisest philosophers. Doubtless they practice them unconsciouslybut that is ofsmall import. We should not complain too much that crowds are more especiallyguided by unconscious considerations and are not given to reasoning. Had theyin certain casesreasoned and consulted their immediate interestsit ispossible that no civilisation would have grown up on our planet and humanitywould have had no history.

CHAPTER III.
THE IDEASREASONING POWERAND IMAGINATION
OF CROWDS.

1. The ideas of crowds. Fundamental and accessory ideas-- How contradictory ideas may exist simultaneously -- The transformation thatmust be undergone by lofty ideas before they are accessible to crowds -- Thesocial influence of ideas is independent of the degree of truth they maycontain. 2. The reasoning power of crowds. Crowds are not to beinfluenced by reasoning -- The reasoning of crowds is always of a very inferiororder -- There is only the appearance of analogy or succession in the ideas theyassociate. 3. The imagination of crowds. Strength of the imagination ofcrowds -- Crowds think in imagesand these images succeed each other withoutany connecting link -- Crowds are especially impressed by the marvellous --Legends and the marvellous are the real pillars of civilisation -- The popularimagination has always been the basis of the power of statesmen -- The manner inwhich facts capable of striking the imagination of crowds present themselves forobservation.

1. THE IDEAS OF CROWDS.

WHEN studying in a preceding work the part played by ideas inthe evolution of nationswe showed that every civilisation is the outcome of asmall number of fundamental ideas that are very

 

-48-



rarely renewed. We showed how these ideas are implanted in the minds of crowdswith what difficulty the process is effectedand the power possessed by theideas in question when once it has been accomplished. Finally we saw that greathistorical perturbations are the resultas a ruleof changes in thesefundamental ideas.

Having treated this subject at sufficient lengthI shall not return to itnowbut shall confine myself to saying a few words on the subject of such ideasas are accessible to crowdsand of the forms under which they conceive them.

They may be divided into two classes. In one we shall place accidental andpassing ideas created by the influences of the moment: infatuation for anindividual or a doctrinefor instance. In the other will be classed thefundamental ideasto which the environmentthe laws of heredity and publicopinion give a very great stability; such ideas are the religious beliefs of thepast and the social and democratic ideas of to-day.

These fundamental ideas resemble the volume of the water of a stream slowlypursuing its course; the transitory ideas are like the small wavesfor everchangingwhich agitate its surfaceand are more visible than the progress ofthe stream itself although without real importance.

At the present day the great fundamental ideas which were the mainstay of ourfathers are

 

-49-



tottering more and more. They have lost all solidityand at the same time theinstitutions resting upon them are severely shaken. Every day there are formed agreat many of those transitory minor ideas of which I have just been speaking;but very few of them to all appearance seem endowed with vitality and destinedto acquire a preponderating influence.

Whatever be the ideas suggested to crowds they can only exercise effectiveinfluence on condition that they assume a very absoluteuncompromisingandsimple shape. They present themselves then in the guise of imagesand are onlyaccessible to the masses under this form. These imagelike ideas are notconnected by any logical bond of analogy or successionand may take eachother's place like the slides of a magic-lantern which the operator withdrawsfrom the groove in which they were placed one above the other. This explains howit is that the most contradictory ideas may be seen to be simultaneously currentin crowds. According to the chances of the momenta crowd will come under theinfluence of one of the various ideas stored up in its understandingand iscapablein consequenceof committing the most dissimilar acts. Its completelack of the critical spirit does not allow of its perceiving thesecontradictions.

This phenomenon is not peculiar to crowds. It

 

-50-



is to be observed in many isolated individualsnot only among primitive beingsbut in the case of all those -- the fervent sectaries of a religious faithforinstance -- who by one side or another of their intelligence are akin toprimitive beings. I have observed its presence to a curious extent in the caseof educated Hindoos brought up at our European universities and having takentheir degree. A number of Western ideas had been superposed on theirunchangeable and fundamental hereditary or social ideas. According to thechances of the momentthe one or the other set of ideas showed themselves eachwith their special accompaniment of acts or utterancesthe same individualpresenting in this way the most flagrant contradictions. These contradictionsare more apparent than realfor it is only hereditary ideas that havesufficient influence over the isolated individual to become motives of conduct.It is only whenas the result of the intermingling of different racesa man isplaced between different hereditary tendencies that his acts from one moment toanother may be really entirely contradictory. It would be useless to insist hereon these phenomenaalthough their psychological importance is capital. I am ofopinion that at least ten years of travel and observation would be necessary toarrive at a comprehension of them.

 

-51-


Ideas being only accessible to crowds after having assumed a very simpleshape must often undergo the most thoroughgoing transformations to becomepopular. It is especially when we are dealing with somewhat lofty philosophic orscientific ideas that we see how far-reaching are the modifications they requirein order to lower them to the level of the intelligence of crowds. Thesemodifications are dependent on the nature of the crowdsor of the race to whichthe crowds belongbut their tendency is always belittling and in the directionof simplification. This explains the fact thatfrom the social point of viewthere is in reality scarcely any such thing as a hierarchy of ideas -- that isto sayas ideas of greater or less elevation. However great or true an idea mayhave been to begin withit is deprived of almost all that which constituted itselevation and its greatness by the mere fact that it has come within theintellectual range of crowds and exerts an influence upon them.

Moreoverfrom the social point of view the hierarchical value of an ideaits intrinsic worthis without importance. The necessary point to consider isthe effects it produces. The Christian ideas of the Middle Agesthe democraticideas of the last centuryor the social ideas of to-day are assuredly not veryelevated. Philosophically consideredthey can only be regarded as somewhat

 

-52-



sorry errorsand yet their power has been and will be immenseand they willcount for a long time to come among the most essential factors that determinethe conduct of States.

Even when an idea has undergone the transformations which render itaccessible to crowdsit only exerts influence whenby various processes whichwe shall examine elsewhereit has entered the domain of the unconsciouswhenindeed it has become a sentimentfor which much time is required.

For it must not be supposed that merely because the justness of an idea hasbeen proved it can be productive of effective action even on cultivated minds.This fact may be quickly appreciated by noting how slight is the influence ofthe clearest demonstration on the majority of men. Evidenceif it be veryplainmay be accepted by an educated personbut the convert will be quicklybrought back by his unconscious self to his original conceptions. See him againafter the lapse of a few days and he will put forward afresh his old argumentsin exactly the same terms. He is in reality under the influence of anteriorideasthat have become sentimentsand it is such ideas alone that influencethe more recondite motives of our acts and utterances. It cannot be otherwise inthe case of crowds.

When by various processes an idea has ended

 

-53-



by penetrating into the minds of crowdsit possesses an irresistible powerandbrings about a series of effectsopposition to which is bootless. Thephilosophical ideas which resulted in the French Revolution took nearly acentury to implant themselves in the mind of the crowd. Their irresistibleforcewhen once they had taken rootis known. The striving of an entire nationtowards the conquest of social equalityand the realisation of abstract rightsand ideal libertiescaused the tottering of all thrones and profoundlydisturbed the Western world. During twenty years the nations were engaged ininternecine conflictand Europe witnessed hecatombs that would have terrifiedGhengis Khan and Tamerlane. The world had never seen on such a scale what mayresult from the promulgation of an idea.

A long time is necessary for ideas to establish themselves in the minds ofcrowdsbut just as long a time is needed for them to be eradicated. For thisreason crowdsas far as ideas are concernedare always several generationsbehind learned men and philosophers. All statesmen are well aware to-day of theadmixture of error contained in the fundamental ideas I referred to a shortwhile backbut as the influence of these ideas is still very powerful they areobliged to govern in accordance with principles in the truth of which they haveceased to believe.


 

-54-



2. THE REASONING POWER OF CROWDS.

It cannot absolutely be said that crowds do not reason and arenot to be influenced by reasoning.

Howeverthe arguments they employ and those which are capable of influencingthem arefrom a logical point of viewof such an inferior kind that it is onlyby way of analogy that they can be described as reasoning.

The inferior reasoning of crowds is basedjust as is reasoning of a highorderon the association of ideasbut between the ideas associated by crowdsthere are only apparent bonds of analogy or succession. The mode of reasoning ofcrowds resembles that of the Esquimaux whoknowing from experience that iceatransparent bodymelts in the mouthconcludes that glassalso a transparentbodyshould also melt in the mouth; or that of the savage who imagines that byeating the heart of a courageous foe he acquires his bravery; or of the workmanwhohaving been exploited by one employer of labourimmediately concludes thatall employers exploit their men.

The characteristics of the reasoning of crowds are the association ofdissimilar things possessing a merely apparent connection between each otherand the immediate generalisation of particular cases. It is arguments of thiskind that are always presented to crowds by those who know how to manage them.They are the only arguments

 

-55-



by which crowds are to be influenced. A chain of logical argumentation istotally incomprehensible to crowdsand for this reason it is permissible to saythat they do not reason or that they reason falsely and are not to be influencedby reasoning. Astonishment is felt at times on reading certain speeches at theirweaknessand yet they had an enormous influence on the crowds which listened tothembut it is forgotten that they were intended to persuade collectivities andnot to be read by philosophers. An orator in intimate communication with a crowdcan evoke images by which it will be seduced. If he is successful his object hasbeen attainedand twenty volumes of harangues -- always the outcome ofreflection -- are not worth the few phrases which appealed to the brains it wasrequired to convince.

It would be superfluous to add that the powerlessness of crowds to reasonaright prevents them displaying any trace of the critical spiritprevents themthat isfrom being capable of discerning truth from erroror of forming aprecise judgment on any matter. Judgments accepted by crowds are merelyjudgments forced upon them and never judgments adopted after discussion. Inregard to this matter the individuals who do not rise above the level of a crowdare numerous. The ease with which certain opinions obtain general acceptanceresults more especially from the impossibility

 

-56-



experienced by the majority of men of forming an opinion peculiar to themselvesand based on reasoning of their own.

3. THE IMAGINATION OF CROWDS.

Just as is the case with respect to persons in whom thereasoning power is absentthe figurative imagination of crowds is verypowerfulvery active and very susceptible of being keenly impressed. The imagesevoked in their mind by a personagean eventan accidentare almost aslifelike as the reality. Crowds are to some extent in the position of thesleeper whose reasonsuspended for the time beingallows the arousing in hismind of images of extreme intensity which would quickly be dissipated could theybe submitted to the action of reflection. Crowdsbeing incapable both ofreflection and of reasoningare devoid of the notion of improbability; and itis to be noted that in a general way it is the most improbable things that arethe most striking.

This is why it happens that it is always the marvellous and legendary side ofevents that more specially strike crowds. When a civilisation is analysed it isseen thatin realityit is the marvellous and the legendary that are its truesupports. Appearances have always played a much more important part than realityin historywhere the unreal is always of greater moment than the real.

 

-57-


Crowds being only capable of thinking in images are only to be impressed byimages. It is only images that terrify or attract them and become motives ofaction.

For this reason theatrical representationsin which the image is shown inits most clearly visible shapealways have an enormous influence on crowds.Bread and spectacular shows constituted for the plebeians of ancient Rome theideal of happinessand they asked for nothing more. Throughout the successiveages this ideal has scarcely varied. Nothing has a greater effect on theimagination of crowds of every category than theatrical representations. Theentire audience experiences at the same time the same emotionsand if theseemotions are not at once transformed into actsit is because the mostunconscious spectator cannot ignore that he is the victim of illusionsand thathe has laughed or wept over imaginary adventures. Sometimeshoweverthesentiments suggested by the images are so strong that they tendlike habitualsuggestionsto transform themselves into acts. The story has often been told ofthe manager of a popular theatre whoin consequence of his only playing sombredramaswas obliged to have the actor who took the part of the traitor protectedon his leaving the theatreto defend him against the violence of thespectatorsindignant at the crimesimaginary

 

-58-



though they werewhich the traitor had committed. We have herein my opinionone of the most remarkable indications of the mental state of crowdsandespecially of the facility with which they are suggestioned. The unreal hasalmost as much influence on them as the real. They have an evident tendency notto distinguish between the two.

The power of conquerors and the strength of States is based on the popularimagination. It is more particularly by working upon this imagination thatcrowds are led. All great historical factsthe rise of BuddhismofChristianityof Islamismthe Reformationthe French Revolutionandin ourown timethe threatening invasion of Socialism are the direct or indirectconsequences of strong impressions produced on the imagination of the crowd.

Moreoverall the great statesmen of every age and every countryincludingthe most absolute despotshave regarded the popular imagination as the basis oftheir powerand they have never attempted to govern in opposition to it"It was by becoming a Catholic" said Napoleon to the Council ofState"that I terminated the Vendéen war. By becoming a Mussulman that Iobtained a footing in Egypt. By becoming an Ultramontane that I won over theItalian priestsand had I to govern a nation of Jews I would rebuild Solomon's

 

-59-



temple." Never perhaps since Alexander and Cæsar has any great man betterunderstood how the imagination of the crowd should be impressed. His constantpreoccupation was to strike it. He bore it in mind in his victoriesin hisharanguesin his speechesin all his acts. On his deathbed it was still in histhoughts.

How is the imagination of crowds to be impressed? We shall soon see. Let usconfine ourselves for the moment to saying that the feat is never to be achievedby attempting to work upon the intelligence or reasoning facultythat is tosayby way of demonstration. It was not by means of cunning rhetoric thatAntony succeeded in making the populace rise against the murderers of Cæsar; itwas by reading his will to the multitude and pointing to his corpse.

Whatever strikes the imagination of crowds presents itself under the shape ofa startling and very clear imagefreed from all accessory explanationormerely having as accompaniment a few marvellous or mysterious facts: examples inpoint are a great victorya great miraclea great crimeor a great hope.Things must be laid before the crowd as a wholeand their genesis must never beindicated. A hundred petty crimes or petty accidents will not strike theimagination of crowds in the leastwhereas a single great crime or a singlegreat accident will profoundly impress themeven though the

 

-60-



results be infinitely less disastrous than those of the hundred small accidentsput together. The epidemic of influenzawhich caused the death but a few yearsago of five thousand persons in Paris alonemade very little impression on thepopular imagination. The reason was that this veritable hecatomb was notembodied in any visible imagebut was only learnt from statistical informationfurnished weekly. An accident which should have caused the death of only fivehundred instead of five thousand personsbut on the same day and in publicasthe outcome of an accident appealing strongly to the eyeby the fallforinstanceof the Eiffel Towerwould have producedon the contraryan immenseimpression on the imagination of the crowd. The probable loss of a transatlanticsteamer that was supposedin the absence of newsto have gone down inmid-ocean profoundly impressed the imagination of the crowd for a whole week.Yet official statistics show that 850 sailing vessels and 203 steamers were lostin the year 1894 alone. The crowdhoweverwas never for a moment concerned bythese successive lossesmuch more important though they were as far as regardsthe destruction of life and propertythan the loss of the Atlantic liner inquestion could possibly have been.

It is notthenthe facts in themselves that strike the popular imaginationbut the way in which

 

-61-



they take place and are brought under notice. It is necessary that by theircondensationif I may thus express myselfthey should produce a startlingimage which fills and besets the mind. To know the art of impressing theimagination of crowds is to know at the same time the art of governing them.

CHAPTER IV.
A RELIGIOUS SHAPE ASSUMED BY ALL THE
CONVICTIONS OF CROWDS.

What is meant by the religious sentiment -- It is independentof the worship of a divinity -- Its characteristics -- The strength ofconvictions assuming a religious shape -- Various examples -- Popular gods havenever disappeared -- New forms under which they are revived -- Religious formsof atheism -- Importance of these notions from the historical point of view --The ReformationSaint Bartholomewthe Terrorand all analogous events are theresult of the religious sentiments of crowds and not of the will of isolatedindividuals.

WE have shown that crowds do not reasonthat they accept or reject ideas asa wholethat they tolerate neither discussion nor contradictionand that thesuggestions brought to bear on them invade the entire field of theirunderstanding and tend at once to transform themselves into acts. We have shownthat crowds suitably influenced are ready to sacrifice themselves for the idealwith which they have been inspired. We have also seen that they only entertainviolent and extreme sentiments

 

-63-



that in their case sympathy quickly becomes adorationand antipathy almost assoon as it is aroused is transformed into hatred. These general indicationsfurnish us already with a presentiment of the nature of the convictions ofcrowds.

When these convictions are closely examinedwhether at epochs marked byfervent religious faithor by great political upheavals such as those of thelast centuryit is apparent that they always assume a peculiar form which Icannot better define than by giving it the name of a religious sentiment.

This sentiment has very simple characteristicssuch as worship of a beingsupposed superiorfear of the power with which the being is creditedblindsubmission to its commandsinability to discuss its dogmasthe desire tospread themand a tendency to consider as enemies all by whom they are notaccepted. Whether such a sentiment apply to an invisible Godto a wooden orstone idolto a hero or to a political conceptionprovided that it presentsthe preceding characteristicsits essence always remains religious. Thesupernatural and the miraculous are found to be present to the same extent.Crowds unconsciously accord a mysterious power to the political formula or thevictorious leader that for the moment arouses their enthusiasm.

 

-64-


A person is not religious solely when he worships a divinitybut when heputs all the resources of his mindthe complete submission of his willand thewhole-souled ardour of fanaticism at the service of a cause or an individual whobecomes the goal and guide of his thoughts and actions.

Intolerance and fanaticism are the necessary accompaniments of the religioussentiment. They are inevitably displayed by those who believe themselves in thepossession of the secret of earthly or eternal happiness. These twocharacteristics are to be found in all men grouped together when they areinspired by a conviction of any kind. The Jacobins of the Reign of Terror wereat bottom as religious as the Catholics of the Inquisitionand their cruelardour proceeded from the same source.

The convictions of crowds assume those characteristics of blind submissionfierce intoleranceand the need of violent propaganda which are inherent in thereligious sentimentand it is for this reason that it may be said that alltheir beliefs have a religious form. The hero acclaimed by a crowd is averitable god for that crowd. Napoleon was such a god for fifteen yearsand adivinity never had more fervent worshippers or sent men to their death withgreater ease. The Christian and Pagan Gods never exercised a more absoluteempire over the minds that had fallen under their sway.

 

-65-


All founders of religious or political creeds have established them solelybecause they were successful in inspiring crowds with those fanatical sentimentswhich have as result that men find their happiness in worship and obedience andare ready to lay down their lives for their idol. This has been the case at allepochs. Fustel de Coulangesin his excellent work on Roman Gauljustly remarksthat the Roman Empire was in no wise maintained by forcebut by the religiousadmiration it inspired. "It would be without a parallel in the history ofthe world" he observes rightly"that a form of government held inpopular detestation should have lasted for five centuries. . . . It would beinexplicable that the thirty legions of the Empire should have constrained ahundred million men to obedience." The reason of their obedience was thatthe Emperorwho personified the greatness of Romewas worshipped like adivinity by unanimous consent. There were altars in honour of the Emperor in thesmallest townships of his realm. "From one end of the Empire to the other anew religion was seen to arise in those days which had for its divinities theemperors themselves. Some years before the Christian era the whole of Gaulrepresented by sixty citiesbuilt in common a temple near the town of Lyons inhonour of Augustus. . . . Its priestselected by the united Gallic citieswerethe principal personages

 

-66-



in their country. . . . It is impossible to attribute all this to fear andservility. Whole nations are not servileand especially for three centuries. Itwas not the courtiers who worshipped the princeit was Romeand it was notRome merelybut it was Gaulit was Spainit was Greece and Asia."

To-day the majority of the great men who have swayed men's minds no longerhave altarsbut they have statuesor their portraits are in the hands of theiradmirersand the cult of which they are the object is not notably differentfrom that accorded to their predecessors. An understanding of the philosophy ofhistory is only to be got by a thorough appreciation of this fundamental pointof the psychology of crowds. The crowd demands a god before everything else.

It must not be supposed that these are the superstitions of a bygone agewhich reason has definitely banished. Sentiment has never been vanquished in itseternal conflict with reason. Crowds will hear no more of the words divinity andreligionin whose name they were so long enslaved; but they have neverpossessed so many fetishes as in the last hundred yearsand the old divinitieshave never had so many statues and altars raised in their honour. Those who inrecent years have studied the popular movement known under the name ofBoulangism have been able to see with what ease

 

-67-



the religious instincts of crowds are ready to revive. There was not a countryinn that did not possess the hero's portrait. He was credited with the power ofremedying all injustices and all evilsand thousands of men would have giventheir lives for him. Great might have been his place in history had hischaracter been at all on a level with his legendary reputation.

It is thus a very useless commonplace to assert that a religion is necessaryfor the massesbecause all politicaldivineand social creeds only take rootamong them on the condition of always assuming the religious shape -- a shapewhich obviates the danger of discussion. Were it possible to induce the massesto adopt atheismthis belief would exhibit all the intolerant ardour of areligious sentimentand in its exterior forms would soon become a cult. Theevolution of the small Positivist sect furnishes us a curious proof in point.What happened to the Nihilist whose story is related by that profound thinkerDostoïewsky has quickly happened to the Positivists. Illumined one day by thelight of reason he broke the images of divinities and saints that adorned thealtar of a chapelextinguished the candlesandwithout losing a momentreplaced the destroyed objects by the works of atheistic philosophers such asBüchner and Moleschottafter which he piously relighted the candles. Theobject of his religious beliefs had

 

-68-



been transformedbut can it be truthfully said that his religious sentimentshad changed?

Certain historical events -- and they are precisely the most important -- Iagain repeatare not to be understood unless one has attained to anappreciation of the religious form which the convictions of crowds always assumein the long run. There are social phenomena that need to be studied far morefrom the point of view of the psychologist than from that of the naturalist. Thegreat historian Taine has only studied the Revolution as a naturalistand onthis account the real genesis of events has often escaped him. He has perfectlyobserved the factsbut from want of having studied the psychology of crowds hehas not always been able to trace their causes. The facts having appalled him bytheir bloodthirstyanarchicand ferocious sidehe has scarcely seen in theheroes of the great drama anything more than a horde of epileptic savagesabandoning themselves without restraint to their instincts. The violence of theRevolutionits massacresits need of propagandaits declarations of war uponall thingsare only to be properly explained by reflecting that the Revolutionwas merely the establishment of a new religious belief in the mind of themasses. The Reformationthe massacre of Saint Bartholomewthe French religiouswarsthe Inquisitionthe Reign of Terror are phenomena of an identical kindbrought about by

 

-69-



crowds animated by those religious sentiments which necessarily lead thoseimbued with them to pitilessly extirpate by fire and sword whoever is opposed tothe establishment of the new faith. The methods of the Inquisition are those ofall whose convictions are genuine and sturdy. Their convictions would notdeserve these epithets did they resort to other methods.

Upheavals analogous to those I have just cited are only possible when it isthe soul of the masses that brings them about. The most absolute despots couldnot cause them. When historians tell us that the massacre of Saint Bartholomewwas the work of a kingthey show themselves as ignorant of the psychology ofcrowds as of that of sovereigns. Manifestations of this order can only proceedfrom the soul of crowds. The most absolute power of the most despotic monarchcan scarcely do more than hasten or retard the moment of their apparition. Themassacre of Saint Bartholomew or the religious wars were no more the work ofkings than the Reign of Terror was the work of RobespierreDantonor SaintJust. At the bottom of such events is always to be found the working of the soulof the massesand never the power of potentates

BOOK II.
THE OPINIONS AND BELIEFS OF CROWDS.

CHAPTER I.
REMOTE FACTORS OF THE OPINIONS AND BELIEFS OF CROWDS.

Preparatory factors of the beliefs of crowds -- The origin ofthe beliefs of crowds is the consequence of a preliminary process of elaboration-- Study of the different factors of these beliefs. 1. Race. Thepredominating influence it exercises -- It represents the suggestions ofancestors. 2. Traditions. They are the synthesis of the soul of the race-- Social importance of traditions -- Howafter having been necessary theybecome harmful -- Crowds are the most obstinate maintainers of traditionalideas. 3. Time. It prepares in succession the establishment of beliefsand then their destruction. It is by the aid of this factor that order mayproceed from chaos. 4. Political and Social Institutions. Erroneous ideaof their part -- Their influence extremely weak -- They are effectsnot causes-- Nations are incapable of choosing what appear to them the best institutions-- Institutions are labels which shelter the most dissimilar things under thesame title -- How institutions may come to be created -- Certain institutionstheoretically badsuch as centralisation obligatory for certain nations. 5. Institutionsand

 

-71-



education.
Falsity of prevalent ideasas to the influence of instruction on crowds -- Statistical indications --Demoralising effect of Latin system of education -- Part instruction might play-- Examples furnished by various peoples.

HAVING studied the mental constitution of crowds and become acquainted withtheir modes of feelingthinkingand reasoningwe shall now proceed to examinehow their opinions and beliefs arise and become established.

The factors which determine these opinions and beliefs are of two kinds:remote factors and immediate factors.

The remote factors are those which render crowds capable of adopting certainconvictions and absolutely refractory to the acceptance of others. These factorsprepare the ground in which are suddenly seen to germinate certain new ideaswhose force and consequences are a cause of astonishmentthough they are onlyspontaneous in appearance. The outburst and putting in practice of certain ideasamong crowds present at times a startling suddenness. This is only a superficialeffectbehind which must be sought a preliminary and preparatory action of longduration.

The immediate factors are those whichcoming on the top of this longpreparatory workingin whose absence they would remain without effectserve asthe source of active persuasion on crowds; that isthey are the factors whichcause the idea to take

 

-72-



shape and set it loose with all its consequences. The resolutions by whichcollectivities are suddenly carried away arise out of these immediate factors;it is due to them that a riot breaks out or a strike is decided uponand tothem that enormous majorities invest one man with power to overthrow agovernment.

The successive action of these two kinds of factors is to be traced in allgreat historical events. The French Revolution -- to cite but one of the moststriking of such events -- had among its remote factors the writings of thephilosophersthe exactions of the nobilityand the progress of scientificthought. The mind of the massesthus preparedwas then easily roused by suchimmediate factors as the speeches of oratorsand the resistance of the courtparty to insignificant reforms.

Among the remote factors there are some of a general naturewhich are foundto underlie all the beliefs and opinions of crowds. They are racetraditionstimeinstitutionsand education.

We now proceed to study the influence of these different factors.

1. RACE.

This factorracemust be placed in the first rankfor initself it far surpasses in importance all the others. We have sufficientlystudied it in another work; it is therefore needless to deal with it again.

 

-73-



We showedin a previous volumewhat an historical race isand howitscharacter once formedit possessesas the result of the laws of heredity suchpower that its beliefsinstitutionsand arts -- in a wordall the elements ofits civilisation -- are merely the outward expression of its genius. We showedthat the power of the race is such that no element can pass from one people toanother without undergoing the most profound transformations.
Note: [7]

[7]


Note:

The novelty of this proposition being still considerable and history beingquite unintelligible without itI devoted four chapters to its demonstration inmy last book ("The Psychological Laws of the Evolution of Peoples").From it the reader will see thatin spite of fallacious appearancesneitherlanguagereligionartsorin a wordany element of civilisationcan passintactfrom one people to another.

Environmentcircumstancesand events represent the social suggestions ofthe moment. They may have a considerable influencebut this influence is alwaysmomentary if it be contrary to the suggestions of the race; that isto thosewhich are inherited by a nation from the entire series of its ancestors.

We shall have occasion in several of the chapters of this work to touch againupon racial influenceand to show that this influence is so great that itdominates the characteristics peculiar to the genius of crowds. It follows fromthis fact that the crowds of different countries offer very considerabledifferences of beliefs and conduct and are not to be influenced in the samemanner.


 

-74-



2. TRADITIONS.

Traditions represent the ideasthe needsand the sentimentsof the past. They are the synthesis of the raceand weigh upon us with immenseforce.

The biological sciences have been transformed since embryology has shown theimmense influence of the past on the evolution of living beings; and thehistorical sciences will not undergo a less change when this conception hasbecome more widespread. As yet it is not sufficiently generaland manystatesmen are still no further advanced than the theorists of the last centurywho believed that a society could break off with its past and be entirely recaston lines suggested solely by the light of reason.

A people is an organism created by the pastandlike every other organismit can only be modified by slow hereditary accumulations.

It is tradition that guides menand more especially so when they are in acrowd. The changes they can effect in their traditions with any easemerelybearas I have often repeatedupon names and outward forms.

This circumstance is not to be regretted. Neither a national genius norcivilisation would be possible without traditions. In consequence man's twogreat concerns since he has existed have been to create a network of traditionswhich he afterwards endeavours to destroy when their beneficial effects

 

-75-



have worn themselves out. Civilisation is impossible without traditionsandprogress impossible without the destruction of those traditions. The difficultyand it is an immense difficultyis to find a proper equilibrium betweenstability and variability. Should a people allow its customs to become toofirmly rootedit can no longer changeand becomeslike Chinaincapable ofimprovement. Violent revolutions are in this case of no avail; for what happensis that either the broken fragments of the chain are pieced together again andthe past resumes its empire without changeor the fragments remain apart anddecadence soon succeeds anarchy.

The ideal for a people is in consequence to preserve the institutions of thepastmerely changing them insensibly and little by little. This ideal isdifficult to realise. The Romans in ancient and the English in modern times arealmost alone in having realised it.

It is precisely crowds that cling the most tenaciously to traditional ideasand oppose their being changed with the most obstinacy. This is notably the casewith the category of crowds constituting castes. I have already insisted uponthe conservative spirit of crowdsand shown that the most violent rebellionsmerely end in a changing of words and terms. At the end of the last centuryinthe presence of destroyed churchesof priests

 

-76-



expelled the country or guillotinedit might have been thought that the oldreligious ideas had lost all their strengthand yet a few years had barelylapsed before the abolished system of public worship had to be re-established indeference to universal demands.
Note: [8]

[8]


Note:

The report of the ex-ConventionistFourcroyquoted by Taineis very clearon this point.

"What is everywhere seen with respect to the keeping of Sunday andattendance at the churches proves that the majority of Frenchmen desire toreturn to their old usages and that it is no longer opportune to resist thisnatural tendency. . . . The great majority of men stand in need of religionpublic worshipand priests. It is an error of some modern philosophersbywhich I myself have been led awayto believe in the possibility ofinstruction being so general as to destroy religious prejudiceswhich for agreat number of unfortunate persons are a source of consolation. . . . The massof the peoplethenmust be allowed its priestsits altarsand its publicworship."

Blotted out for a momentthe old traditions had resumed their sway.

No example could better display the power of tradition on the mind of crowds.The most redoubtable idols do not dwell in templesnor the most despotictyrants in palaces; both the one and the other can be broken in an instant. Butthe invisible masters that reign in our innermost selves are safe from everyeffort at revoltand only yield to the slow wearing away of centuries.


 

-77-



3. TIME.

In social as in biological problems time is one of the mostenergetic factors. It is the sole real creator and the sole great destroyer. Itis time that has made mountains with grains of sand and raised the obscure cellof geological eras to human dignity. The action of centuries is sufficient totransform any given phenomenon. It has been justly observed that an ant withenough time at its disposal could level Mount Blanc. A being possessed of themagical force of varying time at his will would have the power attributed bybelievers to God.

In this placehoweverwe have only to concern ourselves with the influenceof time on the genesis of the opinions of crowds. Its action from this point ofview is still immense. Dependent upon it are the great forces such as racewhich cannot form themselves without it. It causes the birththe growthandthe death of all beliefs. It is by the aid of time that they acquire theirstrength and also by its aid that they lose it.

It is time in particular that prepares the opinions and beliefs of crowdsorat least the soil on which they will germinate. This is why certain ideas arerealisable at one epoch and not at another. It is time that accumulates thatimmense detritus of beliefs and thoughts on which the ideas of a given periodspring up. They do not grow at hazard

 

-78-



and by chance; the roots of each of them strike down into a long past. When theyblossom it is time that has prepared their blooming; and to arrive at a notionof their genesis it is always back in the past that it is necessary to search.They are the daughters of the past and the mothers of the futurebut throughoutthe slaves of time.

Timein consequenceis our veritable masterand it suffices to leave itfree to act to see all things transformed. At the present day we are very uneasywith regard to the threatening aspirations of the masses and the destructionsand upheavals foreboded thereby. Timewithout other aidwill see to therestoration of equilibrium. "No form of government" M. Lavisse veryproperly writes"was founded in a day. Political and social organisationsare works that demand centuries. The feudal system existed for centuries in ashapelesschaotic state before it found its laws; absolute monarchy alsoexisted for centuries before arriving at regular methods of governmentandthese periods of expectancy were extremely troubled."

4. POLITICAL AND SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS.

The idea that institutions can remedy the defects ofsocietiesthat national progress is the consequence of the improvement ofinstitutions and governmentsand that social changes can be effected by decrees-- this ideaI sayis still gene

 

-79-



rally accepted. It was the starting-point of the French Revolutionand thesocial theories of the present day are based upon it.

The most continuous experience has been unsuccessful in shaking this gravedelusion. Philosophers and historians have endeavoured in vain to prove itsabsurditybut yet they have had no difficulty in demonstrating thatinstitutions are the outcome of ideassentimentsand customsand that ideassentimentsand customs are not to be recast by recasting legislative codes. Anation does not choose its institutions at will any more than it chooses thecolour of its hair or its eyes. Institutions and governments are the product ofthe race. They are not the creators of an epochbut are created by it. Peoplesare not governed in accordance with their caprices of the momentbut as theircharacter determines that they shall be governed. Centuries are required to forma political system and centuries needed to change it. Institutions have nointrinsic virtue: in themselves they are neither good nor bad. Those which aregood at a given moment for a given people may be harmful in the extreme foranother nation.

Moreoverit is in no way in the power of a people to really change itsinstitutions. Undoubtedlyat the cost of violent revolutionsit can changetheir namebut in their essence they remain unmodified. The names are merefutile labels with

 

-80-



which an historian who goes to the bottom of things need scarcely concernhimself. It is in this wayfor instancethat England
Note: [9] the most democratic country in the worldlivesneverthelessunder amonarchical régimewhereas the countries in which the most oppressivedespotism is rampant are the Spanish-American Republicsin spite of theirrepublican constitutions. The destinies of peoples are determined by theircharacter and not by their government. I have endeavoured to establish this viewin my previous volume by setting forth categorical examples.

[9]


Note:

The most advanced republicanseven of the United Statesrecognise thisfact. The American magazineThe Forumrecently gave categoricalexpression to the opinion in terms which I reproduce here from the Review ofReviews for December1894: --

"It should never be forgotteneven by the most ardent enemies of anaristocracythat England is to-day the most democratic country of the universethe country in which the rights of the individual are most respectedand inwhich the individual possesses the most liberty."

To lose time in the manufacture of cut-and-dried constitutions isinconsequencea puerile taskthe useless labour of an ignorant rhetorician.Necessity and time undertake the charge of elaborating constitutions when we arewise enough to allow these two factors to act. This is the plan the Anglo-Saxonshave adoptedas their great historianMacaulayteaches us in a passage thatthe politicians of all Latin countries ought to learn by

 

-81-



heart. After having shown all the good that can be accomplished by laws whichappear from the point of view of pure reason a chaos of absurdities andcontradictionshe compares the scores of constitutions that have been engulphedin the convulsions of the Latin peoples with that of Englandand points outthat the latter has only been very slowly changed part by partunder theinfluence of immediate necessities and never of speculative reasoning.

"To think nothing of symmetry and much of convenience; never to removean anomaly merely because it is an anomaly; never to innovate except when somegrievance is felt; never to innovate except so far as to get rid of thegrievance; never to lay down any proposition of wider extent than the particularcase for which it is necessary to provide; these are the rules which havefromthe age of John to the age of Victoriagenerally guided the deliberations ofour two hundred and fifty Parliaments."

It would be necessary to take one by one the laws and institutions of eachpeople to show to what extent they are the expression of the needs of each raceand are incapablefor that reasonof being violently transformed. It ispossibleforinstanceto indulge in philosophical dissertations on theadvantages and disadvantages of centralisation;

 

-82-



but when we see a people composed of very different races devote a thousandyears of efforts to attaining to this centralisation; when we observe that agreat revolutionhaving for object the destruction of all the institutions ofthe pasthas been forced to respect this centralisationand has evenstrengthened it; under these circumstances we should admit that it is theoutcome of imperious needsthat it is a condition of the existence of thenation in questionand we should pity the poor mental range of politicians whotalk of destroying it. Could they by chance succeed in this attempttheirsuccess would at once be the signal for a frightful civil war
Note: [10] whichmoreoverwould immediately bring back a new system ofcentralisation much more oppressive than the old.

[10]


Note:

If a comparison be made between the profound religious and politicaldissensions which separate the various parties in Franceand are moreespecially the result of social questionsand the separatist tendencies whichwere manifested at the time of the Revolutionand began to again displaythemselves towards the close of the Franco-German warit will be seen that thedifferent races represented in France are still far from being completelyblended. The vigorous centralisation of the Revolution and the creation ofartificial departments destined to bring about the fusion of the ancientprovinces was certainly its most useful work. Were it possible to bring aboutthe decentralisation which is to-day preoccupying minds lacking in foresightthe achievement would promptly have for consequence the most sanguinarydisorders. To overlook this fact is to leave out of account the entire historyof France.


 

-83-


The conclusion to be drawn from what precedes isthat it is not ininstitutions that the means is to be sought of profoundly influencing the geniusof the masses. When we see certain countriessuch as the United Statesreach ahigh degree of prosperity under democratic institutionswhile otherssuch asthe Spanish-American Republicsare found existing in a pitiable state ofanarchy under absolutely similar institutionswe should admit that theseinstitutions are as foreign to the greatness of the one as to the decadence ofthe others. Peoples are governed by their characterand all institutions whichare not intimately modelled on that character merely represent a borrowedgarmenta transitory disguise. No doubt sanguinary wars and violent revolutionshave been undertakenand will continue to be undertakento impose institutionsto which is attributedas to the relics of saintsthe supernatural power ofcreating welfare. It may be saidthenin one sensethat institutions react onthe mind of the crowd inasmuch as they engender such upheavals. But in realityit is not the institutions that react in this mannersince we know thatwhether triumphant or vanquishedthey possess in themselves no virtue. It isillusions and words that have influenced the mind of the crowdand especiallywords -- words which are as powerful as they are chimericaland whoseastonishing sway we shall shortly demonstrate.


 

-84-



5. INSTRUCTION AND EDUCATION.

Foremost among the dominant ideas of the present epoch is tobe found the notion that instruction is capable of considerably changing menand has for its unfailing consequence to improve them and even to make themequal. By the mere fact of its being constantly repeatedthis assertion hasended by becoming one of the most steadfast democratic dogmas. It would be asdifficult now to attack it as it would have been formerly to have attacked thedogmas of the Church.

On this pointhoweveras on many othersdemocratic ideas are in profounddisagreement with the results of psychology and experience. Many eminentphilosophersamong them Herbert Spencerhave had no difficulty in showing thatinstruction neither renders a man more moral nor happierthat it changesneither his instincts nor his hereditary passionsand that at times -- for thisto happen it need only be badly directed -- it is much more pernicious thanuseful. Statisticians have brought confirmation of these views by telling usthat criminality increases with the generalisation of instructionor at anyrate of a certain kind of instructionand that the worst enemies of societythe anarchistsare recruited among the prize-winners of schools; while in arecent work a distinguished magistrateM. Adolphe Guillotmade

 

-85-



the observation that at present 3000 educated criminals are met with for every1000 illiterate delinquentsand that in fifty years the criminal percentage ofthe population has passed from 227 to 552 for every 100000 inhabitantsanincrease of 133 per cent. He has also noted in common with his colleagues thatcriminality is particularly on the increase among young personsfor whomas isknowngratuitous and obligatory schooling has -- in France -- replacedapprenticeship.

It is not assuredly -- and nobody has ever maintained this proposition --that well-directed instruction may not give very useful practical resultsifnot in the sense of raising the standard of moralityat least in that ofdeveloping professional capacity. Unfortunately the Latin peoplesespecially inthe last tweny-five yearshave based their systems of instruction on veryerroneous principlesand in spite of the observations of the most eminentmindssuch as BréalFustel de CoulangesTaineand many othersthey persistin their lamentable mistakes. I have myself shownin a work published some timeagothat the French system of education transforms the majority of those whohave undergone it into enemies of societyand recruits numerous disciples forthe worst forms of socialism.

The primary danger of this system of education -- very properly qualified asLatin -- consists in the

 

-86-



fact that it is based on the fundamental psychological error that theintelligence is developed by the learning by heart of text-books. Adopting thisviewthe endeavour has been made to enforce a knowledge of as many hand-booksas possible. From the primary school till he leaves the university a young mandoes nothing but acquire books by heart without his judgment or personalinitiative being ever called into play. Education consists for him in recitingby heart and obeying.

"Learning lessonsknowing by heart a grammar or a compendiumrepeatingwell and imitating well -- that" writes a former Minister of PublicInstructionM. Jules Simon"is a ludicrous form of education whose everyeffort is an act of faith tacitly admitting the infallibility of the masterandwhose only results are a belittling of ourselves and a rendering of usimpotent."

Were this education merely uselessone might confine one's self toexpressing compassion for the unhappy children whoinstead of making needfulstudies at the primary schoolare instructed in the genealogy of the sons ofClotairethe conflicts between Neustria and Austrasiaor zoologicalclassifications. But the system presents a far more serious danger. It givesthose who have been submitted to it a violent dislike to the state of life inwhich they were bornand an intense

 

-87-



desire to escape from it. The working man no longer wishes to remain a workingmanor the peasant to continue a peasantwhile the most humble members of themiddle classes admit of no possible career for their sons except that ofState-paid functionaries. Instead of preparing men for life French schoolssolely prepare them to occupy public functionsin which success can be attainedwithout any necessity for self-direction or the exhibition of the least glimmerof personal initiative. At the bottom of the social ladder the system creates anarmy of proletarians discontented with their lot and always ready to revoltwhile at the summit it brings into being a frivolous bourgeoisieat oncesceptical and creduloushaving a superstitious confidence in the Statewhom itregards as a sort of Providencebut without forgetting to display towards it aceaseless hostilityalways laying its own faults to the door of the Governmentand incapable of the least enterprise without the intervention of theauthorities.

The Statewhich manufactures by dint of textbooks all these personspossessing diplomascan only utilise a small number of themand is forced toleave the others without employment. It is obliged in consequence to resignitself to feeding the first mentioned and to having the others as its enemies.From the top to the bottom of the social pyramidfrom the humblest clerk to the

 

-88-



professor and the prefectthe immense mass of persons boasting diplomas besiegethe professions. While a business man has the greatest difficulty in finding anagent to represent him in the coloniesthousands of candidates solicit the mostmodest official posts. There are 20000 schoolmasters and mistresses withoutemployment in the department of the Seine aloneall of them persons whodisdaining the fields or the workshopslook to the State for their livelihood.The number of the chosen being restrictedthat of the discontented is perforceimmense. The latter are ready for any revolutionwhoever be its chiefs andwhatever the goal they aim at. The acquisition of knowledge for which no use canbe found is a sure method of driving a man to revolt.
Note: [11]

[11]


Note:

This phenomenonmoreoveris not peculiar to the Latin peoples. It is alsoto be observed in Chinawhich is also a country in the hands of a solidhierarchy of mandarins or functionariesand where a function is obtainedas inFranceby competitive examinationin which the only test is the imperturbablerecitation of bulky manuals. The army of educated persons without employment isconsidered in China at the present day as a veritable national calamity. It isthe same in India wheresince the English have opened schoolsnot foreducating purposesas is the case in England itselfbut simply to furnish theindigenous inhabitants with instructionthere has been formed a special classof educated personsthe Babooswhowhen they do not obtain employmentbecomethe irreconcilable enemies of the English rule. In the case of all the Babooswhether provided with employment or notthe first effect of their instructionhas been to lower their standard of morality. This is a fact on which I haveinsisted at length in my book"The Civilisations of India" -- a facttoowhich has been observed by all authors who have visited the greatpeninsula.

It is evidently too late to retrace our steps. Experience alonethat supremeeducator of peopleswill be at pains to show us our mistake. It alone will bepowerful enough to prove the necessity of replacing our odious text-books andour pitiable examinations by industrial instruction capable of inducing ouryoung men to return to the fieldsto the workshopand to the colonialenterprise which they avoid to-day at all costs.

The professional instruction which all enlightened minds are now demandingwas the instruction received in the past by our forefathers. It is still invigour at the present day among the nations who rule the world by their force ofwilltheir initiativeand their spirit of enterprise. In a series ofremarkable pageswhose principal passages I reproduce further ona greatthinkerM. Tainehas clearly shown that our former system of education wasapproximately that in vogue to-day in England and Americaand in a remarkableparallel between the Latin and Anglo-Saxon systems he has plainly pointed outthe consequences of the two methods.

One might consentperhapsat a pinchto

 

-90-



continue to accept all the disadvantages of our classical educationalthough itproduced nothing but discontented menand men unfitted for their station inlifedid the superficial acquisition of so much knowledgethe faultlessrepeating by heart of so many text-booksraise the level of intelligence. Butdoes it really raise this level? Alasno! The conditions of success in life arethe possession of judgmentexperienceinitiativeand character -- qualitieswhich are not bestowed by books. Books are dictionarieswhich it is useful toconsultbut of which it is perfectly useless to have lengthy portions in one'shead.

How is it possible for professional instruction to develop the intelligencein a measure quite beyond the reach of classical instruction? This has been wellshown by M. Taine.

"Ideashe saysare only formed in their natural and normalsurroundings; the promotion of the growth is effected by the innumerableimpressions appealing to the senses which a young man receives daily in theworkshopthe minethe law courtthe studythe builder's yardthe hospital;at the sight of toolsmaterialsand operations; in the presence of customersworkersand labourof work well or ill donecostly or lucrative. In such away are obtained those trifling perceptions of detail of the eyesthe ear

 

-91-



the handsand even the sense of smellwhichpicked up involuntarilyandsilently elaboratedtake shape within the learnerand suggest to him soonerorlater this or that new combinationsimplificationeconomyimprovementorinvention. The young Frenchman is deprivedand precisely at the age when theyare most fruitfulof all these precious contactsof all these indispensableelements of assimilation. For seven or eight years on end he is shut up in aschooland is cut off from that direct personal experience which would give hima keen and exact notion of men and things and of the various ways of handlingthem."

" . . . At least nine out of ten have wasted their time and pains duringseveral years of their life -- tellingimportanteven decisive years. Amongsuch are to be countedfirst of allthe half or two-thirds of those whopresent themselves for examination -- I refer to those who are rejected; andthen among those who are successfulwho obtain a degreea certificateadiplomathere is still a half or two-thirds -- I refer to the overworked. Toomuch has been demanded of them by exacting that on a given dayon a chair orbefore a boardthey shouldfor two hours in successionand with respect to agroup of sciencesbe living repertories of all human know

 

-92-



ledge. In point of fact they were thator nearly sofor two hours on thatparticular daybut a month later they are so no longer. They could not gothrough the examination again. Their too numerous and too burdensomeacquisitions slip incessantly from their mindand are not replaced. Theirmental vigour has declinedtheir fertile capacity for growth has dried upthefully-developed man appearsand he is often a used up man. Settled downmarriedresigned to turning in a circleand indefinitely in the same circlehe shuts himself up in his confined functionwhich he fulfils adequatelybutnothing more. Such is the average yield: assuredly the receipts do not balancethe expenditure. In England or Americawhereas in France previous to 1789the contrary proceeding is adoptedthe outcome obtained is equal orsuperior."

The illustrious psychologist subsequently shows us the difference between oursystem and that of the Anglo-Saxons. The latter do not possess our innumerablespecial schools. With them instruction is not based on book-learningbut onobject lessons. The engineerfor exampleis trained in a workshopand neverat a school; a method which allows of each individual reaching the level hisintelligence permits of. He becomes a workman or a foreman if he can get nofurtheran

 

-93-



engineer if his aptitudes take him as far. This manner of proceeding is muchmore democratic and of much greater benefit to society than that of making thewhole career of an individual depend on an examinationlasting a few hoursandundergone at the age of nineteen or twenty.

"In the hospitalthe minethe factoryin the architect's or thelawyer's officethe studentwho makes a start while very younggoes throughhis apprenticeshipstage by stagemuch as does with us a law clerk in hisofficeor an artist in his studio. Previouslyand before making a practicalbeginninghe has had an opportunity of following some general and summarycourse of instructionso as to have a framework ready prepared in which tostore the observations he is shortly to make. Furthermore he is ableas a ruleto avail himself of sundry technical courses which he can follow in his leisurehoursso as to co-ordinate step by step the daily experience he is gathering.Under such a system the practical capabilities increase and develop ofthemselves in exact proportion to the faculties of the studentand in thedirection requisite for his future task and the special work for which from nowonwards he desires to fit himself. By this means in England or the United Statesa young man is quickly in a position to develop his capacity to

 

-94-



the utmost. At twenty-five years of ageand much sooner if the material and theparts are therehe is not merely a useful performerhe is capable also ofspontaneous enterprise; he is not only a part of a machinebut also a motor. InFrancewhere the contrary system prevails -- in Francewhich with eachsucceeding generation is falling more and more into line with China -- the sumtotal of the wasted forces is enormous."

The great philosopher arrives at the following conclusion with respect to thegrowing incongruity between our Latin system of education and the requirementsof practical life: --

"In the three stages of instructionthose of childhoodadolescence andyouththe theoretical and pedagogic preparation by books on the school bencheshas lengthened out and become overcharged in view of the examinationthedegreethe diplomaand the certificateand solely in this viewand by theworst methodsby the application of an unnatural and anti-social régimeby the excessive postponement of the practical apprenticeshipby ourboarding-school systemby artificial training and mechanical crammingbyoverworkwithout thought for the time that is to followfor the adult age andthe functions of the manwithout regard for the real world on

 

-95-



which the young man will shortly be thrownfor the society in which we move andto which he must be adapted or be taught to resign himself in advancefor thestruggle in which humanity is engagedand in which to defend himself and tokeep his footing he ought previously to have been equippedarmedtrainedandhardened. This indispensable equipmentthis acquisition of more importance thanany otherthis sturdy common sense and nerve and will-power our schools do notprocure the young Frenchman; on the contraryfar from qualifying him for hisapproaching and definite statethey disqualify him. In consequencehis entryinto the world and his first steps in the field of action are most often merelya succession of painful fallswhose effect is that he long remains wounded andbruisedand sometimes disabled for life. The test is severe and dangerous. Inthe course of it the mental and moral equilibrium is affectedand runs the riskof not being re-established. Too sudden and complete disillusion has supervened.The deceptions have been too greatthe disappointments too keen."
Note: [12]

[12]


Note:

Taine"Le Regime moderne" vol. ii.1894. These pages are almostthe last that Taine wrote. They resume admirably the results of the greatphilosopher's long experience. Unfortunately they are in my opinion totallyincomprehensible for such of our university professors who have not livedabroad. Education is the only means at our disposal of influencing to someextent the mind of a nationand it is profoundly saddening to have to thinkthat there is scarcely any one in France who can arrive at understanding thatour present system of teaching is a grave cause of rapid decadencewhichinstead of elevating our youthlowers and perverts it.

A useful comparison may be made between Taine's pages and the observations onAmerican education recently made by M. Paul Bourget in his excellent book"Outre-Mer." Hetooafter having noted that our education merelyproduces narrow-minded bourgeoislacking in initiative and will-poweroranarchists -- "those two equally harmful types of the civilised manwhodegenerates into impotent platitude or insane destructiveness" -- he tooIsaydraws a comparison that cannot be the object of too much reflection betweenour French lycées (public schools)those factories of degenerationandthe American schoolswhich prepare a man admirably for life. The gulf existingbetween truly democratic nations and those who have democracy in their speechesbut in no wise in their thoughtsis clearly brought out in this comparison.


 

-96-


Have we digressed in what precedes from the psychology of crowds? Assuredlynot. If we desire to understand the ideas and beliefs that are germinatingto-day in the massesand will spring up to-morrowit is necessary to know howthe ground has been prepared. The instruction given the youth of a countryallows of a knowledge of what that country will one day be. The educationaccorded the present generation justifies the most gloomy previsions. It is inpart by instruction and education that the mind of the masses is improved ordeteriorated. It was necessary in consequence to show how this mind has been

 

-97-



fashioned by the system in vogueand how the mass of the indifferent and theneutral has become progressively an army of the discontented ready to obey allthe suggestions of utopians and rhetoricians. It is in the schoolroom thatsocialists and anarchists are found nowadaysand that the way is being pavedfor the approaching period of decadence for the Latin peoples.

 


 

-98-



CHAPTER II.
THE IMMEDIATE FACTORS OF THE OPINIONS OF
CROWDS.

1. Imageswords and formulæ. The magical power ofwords and formulæ -- The power of words bound up with the images they evokeand independent of their real sense -- These images vary from age to ageandfrom race to race -- The wear and tear of words -- Examples of the considerablevariations of sense of much-used words -- The political utility of baptizing oldthings with new names when the words by which they were designated produced anunfavourable impression on the masses -- variations of the sense of words inconsequence of race differences -- The different meanings of the word"democracy" in Europe and America. 2. Illusions. Theirimportance -- They are to be found at the root of all civilisations -- Thesocial necessity of illusions -- Crowds always prefer them to truths. 3. Experience.Experience alone can fix in the mind of crowds truths become necessary anddestroy illusions grown dangerous -- Experience is only effective on thecondition that it be frequently repeated -- The cost of the experiencesrequisite to persuade crowds. 4. Reason. The nullity of its influence oncrowds -- Crowds only to be influenced by their unconscious sentiments -- The rôleof logic in history -- The secret causes of improbable events.

WE have just investigated the remote and preparatory factors which give themind of crowds

 

-99-



a special receptivityand make possible therein the growth of certainsentiments and certain ideas. It now remains for us to study the factors capableof acting in a direct manner. We shall see in a forthcoming chapter how thesefactors should be put in force in order that they may produce their full effect.

In the first part of this work we studied the sentimentsideasand methodsof reasoning of collective bodiesand from the knowledge thus acquired it wouldevidently be possible to deduce in a general way the means of making animpression on their mind. We already know what strikes the imagination ofcrowdsand are acquainted with the power and contagiousness of suggestionsofthose especially that are presented under the form of images. Howeverassuggestions may proceed from very different sourcesthe factors capable ofacting on the minds of crowds may differ considerably. It is necessarythentostudy them separately. This is not a useless study. Crowds are somewhat like thesphinx of ancient fable: it is necessary to arrive at a solution of the problemsoffered by their psychology or to resign ourselves to being devoured by them.

1. IMAGESWORDSAND FORMULAS.

When studying the imagination of crowds we saw that it isparticularly open to the impressions

 

-100-



produced by images. These images do not always lie ready to handbut it ispossible to evoke them by the judicious employment of words and formulas.Handled with artthey possess in sober truth the mysterious power formerlyattributed to them by the adepts of magic. They cause the birth in the minds ofcrowds of the most formidable tempestswhich in turn they are capable ofstilling. A pyramid far loftier than that of old Cheops could be raised merelywith the bones of men who have been victims of the power of words and formulas.

The power of words is bound up with the images they evokeand is quiteindependent of their real significance. Words whose sense is the mostill-defined are sometimes those that possess the most influence. Suchforexampleare the terms democracysocialismequalityliberty&c.whosemeaning is so vague that bulky volumes do not suffice to precisely fix it. Yetit is certain that a truly magical power is attached to those short syllablesas if they contained the solution of all problems. They synthesise the mostdiverse unconscious aspirations and the hope of their realisation.

Reason and arguments are incapable of combatting certain words and formulas.They are uttered with solemnity in the presence of crowdsand as soon as theyhave been pronounced an

 

-101-



expression of respect is visible on every countenanceand all heads are bowed.By many they are considered as natural forcesas supernatural powers. Theyevoke grandiose and vague images in men's mindsbut this very vagueness thatwraps them in obscurity augments their mysterious power. They are the mysteriousdivinities hidden behind the tabernaclewhich the devout only approach in fearand trembling.

The images evoked by words being independent of their sensethey vary fromage to age and from people to peoplethe formulas remaining identical. Certaintransitory images are attached to certain words: the word is merely as it werethe button of an electric bell that calls them up.

All words and all formulas do not possess the power of evoking imageswhilethere are some which have once had this powerbut lose it in the course of useand cease to waken any response in the mind. They then become vain soundswhoseprincipal utility is to relieve the person who employs them of the obligation ofthinking. Armed with a small stock of formulas and commonplaces learnt while weare youngwe possess all that is needed to traverse life without the tiringnecessity of having to reflect on anything whatever.

If any particular language be studiedit is seen that the words of which itis composed change

 

-102-



rather slowly in the course of ageswhile the images these words evoke or themeaning attached to them changes ceaselessly. This is the reason whyin anotherworkI have arrived at the conclusion that the absolute translation of alanguageespecially of a dead languageis totally impossible. What do we do inreality when we substitute a French for a LatinGreekor Sanscrit expressionor even when we endeavour to understand a book written in our own tongue two orthree centuries back? We merely put the images and ideas with which modern lifehas endowed our intelligence in the place of absolutely distinct notions andimages which ancient life had brought into being in the mind of races submittedto conditions of existence having no analogy with our own. When the men of theRevolution imagined they were copying the Greeks and Romanswhat were theydoing except giving to ancient words a sense the latter had never had? Whatresemblance can possibly exist between the institutions of the Greeks and thosedesignated to-day by corresponding words? A republic at that epoch was anessentially aristocratic institutionformed of a reunion of petty despotsruling over a crowd of slaves kept in the most absolute subjection. Thesecommunal aristocraciesbased on slaverycould not have existed for a momentwithout it.

The word "liberty" againwhat signification could

 

-103-



it have in any way resembling that we attribute to it to-day at a period whenthe possibility of the liberty of thought was not even suspectedand when therewas no greater and more exceptional crime than that of discussing the godsthelaws and the customs of the city? What did such a word as "fatherland"signify to an Athenian or Spartan unless it were the cult of Athens or Spartaand in no wise that of Greececomposed of rival cities always at war with eachother? What meaning had the same word "fatherland" among the ancientGaulsdivided into rival tribes and racesand possessing different languagesand religionsand who were easily vanquished by Caesar because he always foundallies among them? It was Rome that made a country of Gaul by endowing it withpolitical and religious unity. Without going back so farscarcely two centuriesagois it to be believed that this same notion of a fatherland was conceived tohave the same meaning as at present by French princes like the great Condéwhoallied themselves with the foreigner against their sovereign? And yet againthesame word had it not a sense very different from the modern for the Frenchroyalist emigrantswho thought they obeyed the laws of honour in fightingagainst Franceand who from their point of view did indeed obey themsince thefeudal law bound the vassal to the lord and not to the soilso that

 

-104-



where the sovereign was there was the true fatherland?

Numerous are the words whose meaning has thus profoundly changed from age toage -- words which we can only arrive at understanding in the sense in whichthey were formerly understood after a long effort. It has been said with truththat much study is necessary merely to arrive at conceiving what was signifiedto our great grandfathers by such words as the "king" and the"royal family." Whatthenis likely to be the case with terms stillmore complex?

Wordsthenhave only mobile and transitory significations which change fromage to age and people to people; and when we desire to exert an influence bytheir means on the crowd what it is requisite to know is the meaning given themby the crowd at a given momentand not the meaning which they formerly had ormay yet have for individuals of a different mental constitution.

Thuswhen crowds have comeas the result of political upheavals or changesof beliefto acquire a profound antipathy for the images evoked by certainwordsthe first duty of the true statesman is to change the words withoutofcourselaying hands on the things themselvesthe latter being too intimatelybound up with the inherited constitution to be transformed. The judiciousTocqueville

 

-105-



long ago made the remark that the work of the consulate and the empire consistedmore particularly in the clothing with new words of the greater part of theinstitutions of the past -- that is to sayin replacing words evokingdisagreeable images in the imagination of the crowd by other words of which thenovelty prevented such evocations. The "taille" or tallage has becomethe land tax; the "gabelle" the tax on salt; the "aids"the indirect contributions and the consolidated duties; the tax on tradecompanies and guildsthe license&c.

One of the most essential functions of statesmen consiststhenin baptizingwith popular orat any rateindifferent words things the crowd cannot endureunder their old names. The power of words is so great that it suffices todesignate in well-chosen terms the most odious things to make them acceptable tocrowds. Taine justly observes that it was by invoking liberty and fraternity --words very popular at the time -- that the Jacobins were able "to install adespotism worthy of Dahomeya tribunal similar to that of the Inquisitionandto accomplish human hecatombs akin to those of ancient Mexico." The art ofthose who governas is the case with the art of advocatesconsists above allin the science of employing words. One of the greatest difficulties of this artisthat in one and the same society the

 

-106-



same words most often have very different meanings for the different socialclasseswho employ in appearance the same wordsbut never speak the samelanguage.

In the preceding examples it is especially time that has been made tointervene as the principal factor in the changing of the meaning of words. Ifhoweverwe also make race intervenewe shall then see thatat the sameperiodamong peoples equally civilised but of different racethe same wordsvery often correspond to extremely dissimilar ideas. It is impossible tounderstand these differences without having travelled muchand for this reasonI shall not insist upon them. I shall confine myself to observing that it isprecisely the words most often employed by the masses which among differentpeoples possess the most different meanings. Such is the casefor instancewith the words "democracy" and "socialism" in such frequentuse nowadays.

In reality they correspond to quite contrary ideas and images in the Latinand Anglo-Saxon mind. For the Latin peoples the word "democracy"signifies more especially the subordination of the will and the initiative ofthe individual to the will and the initiative of the community represented bythe State. It is the State that is chargedto a greater and greater degreewith the direction of everythingthe centralisationthe

 

-107-



monopolisationand the manufacture of everything. To the State it is that allparties without exceptionradicalssocialistsor monarchistsconstantlyappeal. Among the Anglo-Saxons and notably in America this same word"democracy" signifieson the contrarythe intense development of thewill of the individualand as complete a subordination as possible of theStatewhichwith the exception of the policethe armyand diplomaticrelationsis not allowed the direction of anythingnot even of publicinstruction. It is seenthenthat the same word which signifies for one peoplethe subordination of the will and the initiative of the individual and thepreponderance of the Statesignifies for another the excessive development ofthe will and the initiative of the individual and the complete subordination ofthe State.
Note: [13]

[13]


Note:

In my book"The Psychological Laws of the Evolution of Peoples" Ihave insisted at length on the differences which distinguish the Latindemocratic ideal from the Anglo-Saxon democratic ideal. Independentlyand asthe result of his travelsM. Paul Bourget has arrivedin his quite recentbook"Outre-Mer" at conclusions almost identical with mine.

2. ILLUSIONS.

From the dawn of civilisation onwards crowds have alwaysundergone the influence of illusions. It is to the creators of illusions thatthey have raised more templesstatuesand altars than to

 

-108-



any other class of men. Whether it be the religious illusions of the past or thephilosophic and social illusions of the presentthese formidable sovereignpowers are always found at the head of all the civilisations that havesuccessively flourished on our planet. It is in their name that were built thetemples of Chaldea and Egypt and the religious edifices of the Middle Agesandthat a vast upheaval shook the whole of Europe a century agoand there is notone of our politicalartisticor social conceptions that is free from theirpowerful impress. Occasionallyat the cost of terrible disturbancesmanoverthrows thembut he seems condemned to always set them up again. Withoutthem he would never have emerged from his primitive barbarian stateand withoutthem again he would soon return to it. Doubtless they are futile shadows; butthese children of our dreams have forced the nations to create whatever the artsmay boast of splendour or civilisation of greatness.

"If one destroyed in museums and librariesif one hurled down on theflagstones before the churches all the works and all the monuments of art thatreligions have inspiredwhat would remain of the great dreams of humanity? Togive to men that portion of hope and illusion without which they cannot livesuch is the reason for the existence of godsheroesand poets. During fifty

 

-109-



years science appeared to undertake this task. But science has been compromisedin hearts hungering after the idealbecause it does not dare to be lavishenough of promisesbecause it cannot lie."
Note: [14]

[14]


Note:

Daniel Lesueur.

The philosophers of the last century devoted themselves with fervour to thedestruction of the religiouspoliticaland social illusions on which ourforefathers had lived for a long tale of centuries. By destroying them they havedried up the springs of hope and resignation. Behind the immolated chimeras theycame face to face with the blind and silent forces of naturewhich areinexorable to weakness and ignore pity.

Notwithstanding all its progressphilosophy has been unable as yet to offerthe masses any ideal that can charm them; butas they must have their illusionsat all costthey turn instinctivelyas the insect seeks the lightto therhetoricians who accord them what they want. Not truthbut error has alwaysbeen the chief factor in the evolution of nationsand the reason why socialismis so powerful to-day is that it constitutes the last illusion that is stillvital. In spite of all scientific demonstrations it continues on the increase.Its principal strength lies in the fact that it is championed by mindssufficiently ignorant of things as they are in reality to venture boldly topromise

 

-110-



mankind happiness. The social illusion reigns to-day upon all the heaped-upruins of the pastand to it belongs the future. The masses have never thirstedafter truth. They turn aside from evidence that is not to their tastepreferring to deify errorif error seduce them. Whoever can supply them withillusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions isalways their victim.

3. EXPERIENCE.

Experience constitutes almost the only effective process bywhich a truth may be solidly established in the mind of the massesandillusions grown too dangerous be destroyed. To this endhoweverit isnecessary that the experience should take place on a very large scaleand bevery frequently repeated. The experiences undergone by one generation areuselessas a rulefor the generation that followswhich is the reason whyhistorical factscited with a view to demonstrationserve no purpose. Theironly utility is to prove to what an extent experiences need to be repeated fromage to age to exert any influenceor to be successful in merely shaking anerroneous opinion when it is solidly implanted in the mind of the masses.

Our century and that which preceded it will doubtless be alluded to byhistorians as an era

 

-111-



of curious experimentswhich in no other age have been tried in such number.

The most gigantic of these experiments was the French Revolution. To find outthat a society is not to be refashioned from top to bottom in accordance withthe dictates of pure reasonit was necessary that several millions of menshould be massacred and that Europe should be profoundly disturbed for a periodof twenty years. To prove to us experimentally that dictators cost the nationswho acclaim them deartwo ruinous experiences have been required in fiftyyearsand in spite of their clearness they do not seem to have beensufficiently convincing. The firstneverthelesscost three millions of men andan invasionthe second involved a loss of territoryand carried in its wakethe necessity for permanent armies. A third was almost attempted not long sinceand will assuredly be attempted one day. To bring an entire nation to admit thatthe huge German army was notas was currently alleged thirty years agoa sortof harmless national guard
Note: [15] the terrible war

 

-112-



which cost us so dear had to take place. To bring about the recognition thatProtection ruins the nations who adopt itat least twenty years of disastrousexperience will be needful. These examples might be indefinitely multiplied.

[15]


Note:

The opinion of the crowd was formed in this case by those rough-and-readyassociations of dissimilar thingsthe mechanism of which I have previouslyexplained. The French national guard of that periodbeing composed of peaceableshopkeepersutterly lacking in discipline and quite incapable of being takenseriouslywhatever bore a similar nameevoked the same conception and wasconsidered in consequence as harmless. The error of the crowd was shared at thetime by its leadersas happens so often in connection with opinions dealingwith generalisations. In a speech made in the Chamber on the 31st of December1867and quoted in a book by M. E. Ollivier that has appeared recentlyastatesman who often followed the opinion of the crowd but was never in advanceof it -- I allude to M. Thiers -- declared that Prussia only possessed anational guard analogous to that of Franceand in consequence withoutimportancein addition to a regular army about equal to the French regulararmy; assertions about as accurate as the predictions of the same statesman asto the insignificant future reserved for railways.

4. REASON.

In enumerating the factors capable of making an impression onthe minds of crowds all mention of reason might be dispensed withwere it notnecessary to point out the negative value of its influence.

We have already shown that crowds are not to be influenced by reasoningandcan only comprehend rough-and-ready associations of ideas. The orators who knowhow to make an impression upon them always appeal in consequence to theirsentiments and never to their reason. The laws

 

-113-



of logic have no action on crowds.
Note: [16] To bring home conviction to crowds it is necessary first of all tothoroughly comprehend the sentiments by which they are animatedto pretend toshare these sentimentsthen to endeavour to modify them by calling upby meansof rudimentary associationscertain eminently suggestive notionsto becapableif need beof going back to the point of view from which a start wasmadeandabove allto

 

-114-



divine from instant to instant the sentiments to which one's discourse is givingbirth. This necessity of ceaselessly varying one's language in accordance withthe effect produced at the moment of speaking deprives from the outset aprepared and studied harangue of all efficaciousness. In such a speech theorator follows his own line of thoughtnot that of his hearersand from thisfact alone his influence is annihilated.

[16]


Note:

My first observations with regard to the art of impressing crowds andtouching the slight assistance to be derived in this connection from the rulesof logic date back to the seige of Paristo the day when I saw conducted to theLouvrewhere the Government was then sittingMarshal V -- --whom a furiouscrowd asserted they had surprised in the act of taking the plans of thefortifications to sell them to the Prussians. A member of the Government (G. P-- -- )a very celebrated oratorcame out to harangue the crowdwhich wasdemanding the immediate execution of the prisoner. I had expected that thespeaker would point out the absurdity of the accusation by remarking that theaccused Marshal was positively one of those who had constructed thefortificationsthe plan of whichmoreoverwas on sale at every booksellers.To my immense stupefaction -- I was very young then -- the speech was on quitedifferent lines. "Justice shall be done" exclaimed the oratoradvancing towards the prisoner"and pitiless justice. Let the Governmentof the National Defence conclude your inquiry. In the meantime we will keep theprisoner in custody." At once calmed by this apparent concessionthe crowdbroke upand a quarter of an hour later the Marshal was able to return home. Hewould infallibly have been torn in pieces had the speaker treated the infuriatedcrowd to the logical arguments that my extreme youth induced me to consider asvery convincing.

Logical mindsaccustomed to be convinced by a chain of somewhat closereasoningcannot avoid having recourse to this mode of persuasion whenaddressing crowdsand the inability of their arguments always surprises them."The usual mathematical consequences based on the syllogism -- that isonassociations of identities -- are imperative . . ." writes a logician."This imperativeness would enforce the assent even of an inorganic masswere it capable of following associations of identities." This is doubtlesstruebut a crowd is no more capable than an inorganic mass of following suchassociationsnor even of understanding them. If the attempt be made to convinceby reasoning primitive minds -- savages or childrenfor instance -- the slightvalue possessed by this method of arguing will be understood.

It is not even necessary to descend so low as primitive beings to obtain aninsight into the utter powerlessness of reasoning when it has to fight

 

-115-



against sentiment. Let us merely call to mind how tenaciousfor centuries longhave been religious superstitions in contradiction with the simplest logic. Fornearly two thousand years the most luminous geniuses have bowed before theirlawsand modern times have to be reached for their veracity to be merelycontested. The Middle Ages and the Renaissance possessed many enlightened menbut not a single man who attained by reasoning to an appreciation of thechildish side of his superstitionsor who promulgated even a slight doubt as tothe misdeeds of the devil or the necessity of burning sorcerers.

Should it be regretted that crowds are never guided by reason? We would notventure to affirm it. Without a doubt human reason would not have availed tospur humanity along the path of civilisation with the ardour and hardihood itsillusions have done. These illusionsthe offspring of those unconscious forcesby which we are ledwere doubtless necessary. Every race carries in its mentalconstitution the laws of its destinyand it isperhapsthese laws that itobeys with a resistless impulseeven in the case of those of its impulses whichapparently are the most unreasoned. It seems at times as if nations weresubmitted to secret forces analogous to those which compel the acorn totransform itself into an oak or a comet to follow its orbit.

 

-116-


What little insight we can get into these forces must be sought for in thegeneral course of the evolution of a peopleand not in the isolated facts fromwhich this evolution appears at times to proceed. Were these facts alone to betaken into considerationhistory would seem to be the result of a series ofimprobable chances. It was improbable that a Galilean carpenter should becomefor two thousand years an all-powerful God in whose name the most importantcivilisations were founded; improbabletoothat a few bands of Arabsemergingfrom their desertsshould conquer the greater part of the old Graco-Romanworldand establish an empire greater than that of Alexander; improbableagainthat in Europeat an advanced period of its developmentand whenauthority throughout it had been systematically hierarchisedan obscurelieutenant of artillery should have succeeded in reigning over a multitude ofpeoples and kings.

Let us leave reasonthento philosophersand not insist too strongly onits intervention in the governing of men. It is not by reasonbut most often inspite of itthat are created those sentiments that are the mainsprings of allcivilisation -- sentiments such as honourself-sacrificereligious faithpatriotismand the love of glory.

 


 

-117-



CHAPTER III.
THE LEADERS OF CROWDS AND THEIR MEANS OF
PERSUASION.

1. The leaders of crowds. The instinctive need of allbeings forming a crowd to obey a leader -- The psychology of the leaders ofcrowds -- They alone can endow crowds with faith and organise them -- Theleaders forcibly despotic -- Classification of the leaders -- The part played bythe will. 2. The means of action of the leaders. Affirmationrepetitioncontagion -- The respective part of these different factors -- The way in whichcontagion may spread from the lower to the upper classes in a society -- Apopular opinion soon becomes a general opinion. 3. Prestige. Definitionof prestige and classification of its different kinds -- Acquired prestige andpersonal prestige -- Various examples -- The way in which prestige is destroyed.

WE are now acquainted with the mental constitution of crowdsand we alsoknow what are the motives capable of making an impression on their mind. Itremains to investigate how these motives may be set in actionand by whom theymay usefully be turned to practical account.


 

-118-



1. THE LEADERS OF CROWDS.

As soon as a certain number of living beings are gatheredtogetherwhether they be animals or menthey place themselves instinctivelyunder the authority of a chief.

In the case of human crowds the chief is often nothing more than a ringleaderor agitatorbut as such he plays a considerable part. His will is the nucleusaround which the opinions of the crowd are grouped and attain to identity. Heconstitutes the first element towards the organisation of heterogeneous crowdsand paves the way for their organisation in sects; in the meantime he directsthem. A crowd is a servile flock that is incapable of ever doing without amaster.

The leader has most often started as one of the led. He has himself beenhypnotised by the ideawhose apostle he has since become. It has takenpossession of him to such a degree that everything outside it vanishesand thatevery contrary opinion appears to him an error or a superstition. An example inpoint is Robespierrehypnotised by the philosophical ideas of Rousseauandemploying the methods of the Inquisition to propagate them.

The leaders we speak of are more frequently men of action than thinkers. Theyare not gifted with keen foresightnor could they beas this quality generallyconduces to doubt and inactivity.

 

-119-



They are especially recruited from the ranks of those morbidly nervousexcitablehalf-deranged persons who are bordering on madness. However absurdmay be the idea they uphold or the goal they pursuetheir convictions are sostrong that all reasoning is lost upon them. Contempt and persecution do notaffect themor only serve to excite them the more. They sacrifice theirpersonal interesttheir family -- everything. The very instinct ofself-preservation is entirely obliterated in themand so much so that often theonly recompense they solicit is that of martyrdom. The intensity of their faithgives great power of suggestion to their words. The multitude is always ready tolisten to the strong-willed manwho knows how to impose himself upon it. Mengathered in a crowd lose all force of willand turn instinctively to the personwho possesses the quality they lack.

Nations have never lacked leadersbut all of the latter have by no meansbeen animated by those strong convictions proper to apostles. These leaders areoften subtle rhetoriciansseeking only their own personal interestandendeavouring to persuade by flattering base instincts. The influence they canassert in this manner may be very greatbut it is always ephemeral. The men ofardent convictions who have stirred the soul of crowdsthe Peter the Hermitsthe Luthersthe Savonarolas

 

-120-



the men of the French Revolutionhave only exercised their fascination afterhaving been themselves fascinated first of all by a creed. They are then able tocall up in the souls of their fellows that formidable force known as faithwhich renders a man the absolute slave of his dream.

The arousing of faith -- whether religiouspoliticalor socialwhetherfaith in a workin a personor an idea -- has always been the function of thegreat leaders of crowdsand it is on this account that their influence isalways very great. Of all the forces at the disposal of humanityfaith hasalways been one of the most tremendousand the gospel rightly attributes to itthe power of moving mountains. To endow a man with faith is to multiply hisstrength tenfold. The great events of history have been brought about by obscurebelieverswho have had little beyond their faith in their favour. It is not bythe aid of the learned or of philosophersand still less of scepticsthat havebeen built up the great religions which have swayed the worldor the vastempires which have spread from one hemisphere to the other.

In the cases just citedhoweverwe are dealing with great leadersand theyare so few in number that history can easily reckon them up. They form thesummit of a continuous serieswhich extends from these powerful masters of mendown to the workman whoin the smoky atmosphere of

 

-121-



an innslowly fascinates his comrades by ceaselessly drumming into their ears afew set phraseswhose purport he scarcely comprehendsbut the application ofwhichaccording to himmust surely bring about the realisation of all dreamsand of every hope.

In every social spherefrom the highest to the lowestas soon as a manceases to be isolated he speedily falls under the influence of a leader. Themajority of menespecially among the massesdo not possess clear and reasonedideas on any subject whatever outside their own speciality. The leader servesthem as guide. It is just possible that he may be replacedthough veryinefficientlyby the periodical publications which manufacture opinions fortheir readers and supply them with ready-made phrases which dispense them of thetrouble of reasoning.

The leaders of crowds wield a very despotic authorityand this despotismindeed is a condition of their obtaining a following. It has often been remarkedhow easily they extort obediencealthough without any means of backing up theirauthorityfrom the most turbulent section of the working classes. They fix thehours of labour and the rate of wagesand they decree strikeswhich are begunand ended at the hour they ordain.

At the present day these leaders and agitators

 

-122-



tend more and more to usurp the place of the public authorities in proportion asthe latter allow themselves to be called in question and shorn of theirstrength. The tyranny of these new masters has for result that the crowds obeythem much more docilely than they have obeyed any government. If in consequenceof some accident or other the leaders should be removed from the scene the crowdreturns to its original state of a collectivity without cohesion or force ofresistance. During the last strike of the Parisian omnibus employés the arrestof the two leaders who were directing it was at once sufficient to bring it toan end. It is the need not of liberty but of servitude that is alwayspredominant in the soul of crowds. They are so bent on obedience that theyinstinctively submit to whoever declares himself their master.

These ringleaders and agitators may be divided into two clearly definedclasses. The one includes the men who are energetic and possessbut onlyintermittentlymuch strength of willthe other the menfar rarer than theprecedingwhose strength of will is enduring. The first mentioned are violentbraveand audacious. They are more especially useful to direct a violententerprise suddenly decided onto carry the masses with them in spite ofdangerand to transform into heroes the men who but yesterday were recruits.

 

-123-



Men of this kind were Ney and Murat under the First Empireand such a man inour own time was Garibaldia talentless but energetic adventurer who succeededwith a handful of men in laying hands on the ancient kingdom of Naplesdefendedthough it was by a disciplined army.

Stillthough the energy of leaders of this class is a force to be reckonedwithit is transitoryand scarcely outlasts the exciting cause that hasbrought it into play. When they have returned to their ordinary course of lifethe heroes animated by energy of this description often evinceas was the casewith those I have just citedthe most astonishing weakness of character. Theyseem incapable of reflection and of conducting themselves under the simplestcircumstancesalthough they had been able to lead others. These men are leaderswho cannot exercise their function except on the condition that they be ledthemselves and continually stimulatedthat they have always as their beacon aman or an ideathat they follow a line of conduct clearly traced. The secondcategory of leadersthat of men of enduring strength of willhavein spite ofa less brilliant aspecta much more considerable influence. In this categoryare to be found the true founders of religions and great undertakings: St. PaulMahometChristopher Columbusand de Lessepsfor example. Whether they beintelligent

 

-124-



or narrow-minded is of no importance: the world belongs to them. The persistentwill-force they possess is an immensely rare and immensely powerful faculty towhich everything yields. What a strong and continuous will is capable of is notalways properly appreciated. Nothing resists it; neither naturegodsnor man.

The most recent example of what can be effected by a strong and continuouswill is afforded us by the illustrious man who separated the Eastern and Westernworldsand accomplished a task that during three thousand years had beenattempted in vain by the greatest sovereigns. He failed later in an identicalenterprisebut then had intervened old ageto which everythingeven the willsuccumbs.

When it is desired to show what may be done by mere strength of willallthat is necessary is to relate in detail the history of the difficulties thathad to be surmounted in connection with the cutting of the Suez Canal. An ocularwitnessDr. Cazalishas summed up in a few striking lines the entire story ofthis great workrecounted by its immortal author.

"From day to dayepisode by episodehe told the stupendous story ofthe canal. He told of all he had had to vanquishof the impossible he had madepossibleof all the opposition he encounteredof the coalition against himand the disappointmentsthe reversesthe defeats which had been unavailing

 

-125-



to discourage or depress him. He recalled how England had combatted himattacking him without cessationhow Egypt and France had hesitatedhow theFrench Consul had been foremost in his opposition to the early stages of theworkand the nature of the opposition he had met withthe attempt to force hisworkmen to desert from thirst by refusing them fresh water; how the Minister ofMarine and the engineersall responsible men of experienced and scientifictraininghad naturally all been hostilewere all certain on scientific groundsthat disaster was at handhad calculated its comingforetelling it for such aday and hour as an eclipse is foretold."

The book which relates the lives of all these great leaders would not containmany namesbut these names have been bound up with the most important events inthe history of civilisation.

2. THE MEANS OF ACTION OF THE LEADERS:
AFFIRMATIONREPETITIONCONTAGION.

When it is wanted to stir up a crowd for a short space oftimeto induce it to commit an act of any nature -- to pillage a palaceor todie in defence of a stronghold or a barricadefor instance -- the crowd must beacted upon by rapid suggestionamong which example is the most powerful in itseffect. To attain this endhoweverit is necessary that the crowd should havebeen previously prepared by

 

-126-



certain circumstancesandabove allthat he who wishes to work upon it shouldpossess the quality to be studied farther onto which I give the name ofprestige.

Whenhoweverit is proposed to imbue the mind of a crowd with ideas andbeliefs -- with modern social theoriesfor instance -- the leaders haverecourse to different expedients. The principal of them are three in number andclearly defined -- affirmationrepetitionand contagion. Their action issomewhat slowbut its effectsonce producedare very lasting.

Affirmation pure and simplekept free of all reasoning and all proofis oneof the surest means of making an idea enter the mind of crowds. The conciser anaffirmation isthe more destitute of every appearance of proof anddemonstrationthe more weight it carries. The religious books and the legalcodes of all ages have always resorted to simple affirmation. Statesmen calledupon to defend a political causeand commercial men pushing the sale of theirproducts by means of advertising are acquainted with the value of affirmation.

Affirmationhoweverhas no real influence unless it be constantly repeatedand so far as possible in the same terms. It was NapoleonI believewho saidthat there is only one figure in rhetoric of serious importancenamelyrepetition. The thing

 

-127-



affirmed comes by repetition to fix itself in the mind in such a way that it isaccepted in the end as a demonstrated truth.

The influence of repetition on crowds is comprehensible when the power isseen which it exercises on the most enlightened minds. This power is due to thefact that the repeated statement is embedded in the long run in those profoundregions of our unconscious selves in which the motives of our actions areforged. At the end of a certain time we have forgotten who is the author of therepeated assertionand we finish by believing it. To this circumstance is duethe astonishing power of advertisements. When we have read a hundredathousandtimes that X's chocolate is the bestwe imagine we have heard it saidin many quartersand we end by acquiring the certitude that such is the fact.When we have read a thousand times that Y's flour has cured the most illustriouspersons of the most obstinate maladieswe are tempted at last to try it whensuffering from an illness of a similar kind. If we always read in the samepapers that A is an arrant scamp and B a most honest man we finish by beingconvinced that this is the truthunlessindeedwe are given to readinganother paper of the contrary opinionin which the two qualifications arereversed. Affirmation and repetition are alone powerful enough to combat eachother.

 

-128-


When an affirmation has been sufficiently repeated and there is unanimity inthis repetition -- as has occurred in the case of certain famous financialundertakings rich enough to purchase every assistance -- what is called acurrent of opinion is formed and the powerful mechanism of contagion intervenes.Ideassentimentsemotionsand beliefs possess in crowds a contagious power asintense as that of microbes. This phenomenon is very naturalsince it isobserved even in animals when they are together in number. Should a horse in astable take to biting his manger the other horses in the stable will imitatehim. A panic that has seized on a few sheep will soon extend to the whole flock.In the case of men collected in a crowd all emotions are very rapidlycontagiouswhich explains the suddenness of panics. Brain disorderslikemadnessare themselves contagious. The frequency of madness among doctors whoare specialists for the mad is notorious. Indeedforms of madness have recentlybeen cited -- agoraphobiafor instance -- which are communicable from men toanimals.

For individuals to succumb to contagion their simultaneous presence on thesame spot is not indispensable. The action of contagion may be felt from adistance under the influence of events which give all minds an individual trendand the characteristics peculiar to crowds. This is especially

 

-129-



the case when men's minds have been prepared to undergo the influence inquestion by those remote factors of which I have made a study above. An examplein point is the revolutionary movement of 1848whichafter breaking out inParisspread rapidly over a great part of Europe and shook a number of thrones.

Imitationto which so much influence is attributed in social phenomenaisin reality a mere effect of contagion. Having shown its influence elsewhereIshall confine myself to reproducing what I said on the subject fifteen yearsago. My remarks have since been developed by other writers in recentpublications.

"Manlike animalshas a natural tendency to imitation. Imitation is anecessity for himprovided always that the imitation is quite easy. It is thisnecessity that makes the influence of what is called fashion so powerful.Whether in the matter of opinionsideasliterary manifestationsor merely ofdresshow many persons are bold enough to run counter to the fashion? It is byexamples not by arguments that crowds are guided. At every period there exists asmall number of individualities which react upon the remainder and are imitatedby the unconscious mass. It is needful howeverthat these individualitiesshould not be in too pronounced disagreement with received ideas. Were they soto imitate them would be too difficult

 

-130-



and their influence would be nil. For this very reason men who are too superiorto their epoch are generally without influence upon it. The line of separationis too strongly marked. For the same reason too Europeansin spite of all theadvantages of their civilisationhave so insignificant an influence on Easternpeople; they differ from them to too great an extent.

"The dual action of the past and of reciprocal imitation rendersin thelong runall the men of the same country and the same period so alike that evenin the case of individuals who would seem destined to escape this doubleinfluencesuch as philosopherslearned menand men of lettersthought andstyle have a family air which enables the age to which they belong to beimmediately recognised. It is not necessary to talk for long with an individualto attain to a thorough knowledge of what he readsof his habitual occupationsand of the surroundings amid which he lives."
Note: [17]

[17]


Note:

Gustave le Bon"L'Homme et les Sociétés" vol. ii. p. 116. 1881.

Contagion is so powerful that it forces upon individuals not only certainopinionsbut certain modes of feeling as well. Contagion is the cause of thecontempt in whichat a given periodcertain works are held -- the example of"Tannhaüser" may be cited -- whicha few years laterfor the same

 

-131-



reason are admired by those who were foremost in criticising them.

The opinions and beliefs of crowds are specially propagated by contagionbutnever by reasoning. The conceptions at present rife among the working classeshave been acquired at the public-house as the result of affirmationrepetitionand contagionand indeed the mode of creation of the beliefs of crowds of everyage has scarcely been different. Renan justly institutes a comparison betweenthe first founders of Christianity and "the socialist working men spreadingtheir ideas from public-house to public-house"; while Voltaire had alreadyobserved in connection with the Christian religion that "for more than ahundred years it was only embraced by the vilest riff-raff."

It will be noted that in cases analogous to those I have just citedcontagionafter having been at work among the popular classeshas spread tothe higher classes of society. This is what we see happening at the present daywith regard to the socialist doctrines which are beginning to be held by thosewho will yet be their first victims. Contagion is so powerful a force that eventhe sentiment of personal interest disappears under its action.

This is the explanation of the fact that every opinion adopted by thepopulace always ends in implanting itself with great vigour in the highest

 

-132-



social stratahowever obvious be the absurdity of the triumphant opinion. Thisreaction of the lower upon the higher social classes is the more curiousowingto the circumstance that the beliefs of the crowd always have their origin to agreater or less extent in some higher ideawhich has often remained withoutinfluence in the sphere in which it was evolved. Leaders and agitatorssubjugated by this higher ideatake hold of itdistort it and create a sectwhich distorts it afreshand then propagates it amongst the masseswho carrythe process of deformation still further. Become a popular truth the ideareturnsas it wereto its source and exerts an influence on the upper classesof a nation. In the long run it is intelligence that shapes the destiny of theworldbut very indirectly. The philosophers who evolve ideas have long sincereturned to dustwhenas the result of the process I have just describedthefruit of their reflection ends by triumphing.

3. PRESTIGE.

Great power is given to ideas propagated by affirmationrepetitionand contagion by the circumstance that they acquire in time thatmysterious force known as prestige.

Whatever has been a ruling power in the worldwhether it be ideas or menhas in the main enforced its authority by means of that irresistible

 

-133-



force expressed by the word "prestige." The term is one whose meaningis grasped by everybodybut the word is employed in ways too different for itto be easy to define it. Prestige may involve such sentiments as admiration orfear. Occasionally even these sentiments are its basisbut it can perfectlywell exist without them. The greatest measure of prestige is possessed by thedeadby beingsthat isof whom we do not stand in fear -- by AlexanderCæsarMahometand Buddhafor example. On the other handthere are fictivebeings whom we do not admire -- the monstrous divinities of the subterraneantemples of Indiafor instance -- but who strike us nevertheless as endowed witha great prestige.

Prestige in reality is a sort of domination exercised on our mind by anindividuala workor an idea. This domination entirely paralyses our criticalfacultyand fills our soul with astonishment and respect. The sentimentprovoked is inexplicablelike all sentimentsbut it would appear to be of thesame kind as the fascination to which a magnetised person is subjected. Prestigeis the mainspring of all authority. Neither godskingsnor women have everreigned without it.

The various kinds of prestige may be grouped under two principal heads:acquired prestige and personal prestige. Acquired prestige is that resulting

 

-134-



from namefortuneand reputation. It may be independent of personal prestige.Personal prestigeon the contraryis something essentially peculiar to theindividual; it may coexist with reputationgloryand fortuneor bestrengthened by thembut it is perfectly capable of existing in their absence.

Acquired or artificial prestige is much the most common. The mere fact thatan individual occupies a certain positionpossesses a certain fortuneor bearscertain titlesendows him with prestigehowever slight his own personal worth.A soldier in uniforma judge in his robesalways enjoys prestige. Pascal hasvery properly noted the necessity for judges of robes and wigs. Without themthey would be stripped of half their authority. The most unbending socialist isalways somewhat impressed by the sight of a prince or a marquis; and theassumption of such titles makes the robbing of tradesmen an easy matter.
Note: [18]

[18]


Note:

The influence of titlesdecorationsand uniforms on crowds is to be tracedin all countrieseven in those in which the sentiment of personal independenceis the most strongly developed. I quote in this connection a curious passagefrom a recent book of travelon the prestige enjoyed in England by greatpersons.

"I had observedunder various circumstancesthe peculiar sort ofintoxication produced in the most reasonable Englishmen by the contact or sightof an English peer.

"Provided his fortune enables him to keep up his rankhe is sure oftheir affection in advanceand brought into contact with him they are soenchanted as to put up with anything at his hands. They may be seen to reddenwith pleasure at his approachand if he speaks to them their suppressed joyincreases their rednessand causes their eyes to gleam with unusual brilliance.Respect for nobility is in their bloodso to speakas with Spaniards the loveof dancingwith Germans that of musicand with Frenchmen the liking forrevolutions. Their passion for horses and Shakespeare is less violentthesatisfaction and pride they derive from these sources a less integral part oftheir being. There is a considerable sale for books dealing with the peerageand go where one will they are to be foundlike the Biblein all hands."


 

-135-


The prestige of which I have just spoken is exercised by persons; side byside with it may be placed that exercised by opinionsliterary and artisticworks&c. Prestige of the latter kind is most often merely the result ofaccumulated repetitions. Historyliterary and artistic history especiallybeing nothing more than the repetition of identical judgmentswhich nobodyendeavours to verifyevery one ends by repeating what he learnt at schooltillthere come to be names and things which nobody would venture to meddle with. Fora modern reader the perusal of Homer results incontestably in immense boredom;but who would venture to say so? The Parthenonin its present stateis awretched ruinutterly destitute of interestbut it is endowed with suchprestige that it does not appear to us as it really isbut with all itsaccompaniment of historic memories. The special characteristic of prestige is toprevent us seeing

 

-136-



things as they are and to entirely paralyse our judgment. Crowds alwaysandindividuals as a rulestand in need of ready-made opinions on all subjects. Thepopularity of these opinions is independent of the measure of truth or errorthey containand is solely regulated by their prestige.

I now come to personal prestige. Its nature is very different from that ofartificial or acquired prestigewith which I have just been concerned. It is afaculty independent of all titlesof all authorityand possessed by a smallnumber of persons whom it enables to exercise a veritably magnetic fascinationon those around themalthough they are socially their equalsand lack allordinary means of domination. They force the acceptance of their ideas andsentiments on those about themand they are obeyed as is the tamer of wildbeasts by the animal that could easily devour him.

The great leaders of crowdssuch as BuddhaJesusMahometJoan of ArcandNapoleonhave possessed this form of prestige in a high degreeand to thisendowment is more particularly due the position they attained. Godsheroesanddogmas win their way in the world of their own inward strength. They are not tobe discussed: they disappearindeedas soon as discussed.

The great personages I have just cited were in

 

-137-



possession of their power of fascination long before they became illustriousand would never have become so without it. It is evidentfor instancethatNapoleon at the zenith of his glory enjoyed an immense prestige by the mere factof his powerbut he was already endowed in part with this prestige when he waswithout power and completely unknown. Whenan obscure generalhe was sentthanks to influential protectionto command the army of Italyhe found himselfamong rough generals who were of a mind to give a hostile reception to the youngintruder dispatched them by the Directory. From the very beginningfrom thefirst interviewwithout the aid of speechesgesturesor threatsat the firstsight of the man who was to become great they were vanquished. Taine furnishes acurious account of this interview taken from contemporary memoirs.

"The generals of divisionamongst others Augereaua sort ofswashbuckleruncouth and heroicproud of his height and his braveryarrive atthe staff quarters very badly disposed towards the little upstart dispatchedthem from Paris. On the strength of the description of him that has been giventhemAugereau is inclined to be insolent and insubordinate; a favourite ofBarrasa general who owes his rank to the events of Vendémiaire who has wonhis grade by street-fightingwho is

 

-138-



looked upon as bearishbecause he is always thinking in solitudeof pooraspectand with the reputation of a mathematician and dreamer. They areintroducedand Bonaparte keeps them waiting. At last he appearsgirt with hissword; he puts on his hatexplains the measures he has takengives his ordersand dismisses them. Augereau has remained silent; it is only when he is outsidethat he regains his self-possession and is able to deliver himself of hiscustomary oaths. He admits with Masséna that this little devil of a general hasinspired him with awe; he cannot understand the ascendency by which from thevery first he has felt himself overwhelmed."

Become a great manhis prestige increased in proportion as his glory grewand came to be at least equal to that of a divinity in the eyes of those devotedto him. General Vandammea roughtypical soldier of the Revolutioneven morebrutal and energetic than Augereausaid of him to Marshal d'Arnano in 1815ason one occasion they mounted together the stairs of the Tuileries: "Thatdevil of a man exercises a fascination on me that I cannot explain even tomyselfand in such a degree thatthough I fear neither God nor devilwhen Iam in his presence I am ready to tremble like a childand he could make me gothrough the eye of a needle to throw myself into the fire."

 

-139-


Napoleon exercised a like fascination on all who came into contact with him.
Note: [19]

[19]


Note:

Thoroughly conscious of his prestigeNapoleon was aware that he added to itby treating rather worse than stable lads the great personages around himandamong whom figured some of those celebrated men of the Convention of whom Europehad stood in dread. The gossip of the period abounds in illustrations of thisfact. One dayin the midst of a Council of StateNapoleon grossly insultsBeugnottreating him as one might an unmannerly valet. The effect producedhegoes up to him and says"Wellstupidhave you found your headagain?" Whereupon Beugnottall as a drum-majorbows very lowand thelittle man raising his handtakes the tall one by the ear"anintoxicating sign of favour" writes Beugnot"the familiar gesture ofthe master who waxes gracious." Such examples give a clear idea of thedegree of base platitude that prestige can provoke. They enable us to understandthe immense contempt of the great despot for the men surrounding him -- men whomhe merely looked upon as "food for powder."

Davoust used to saytalking of Maret's devotion and of his own: "Hadthe Emperor said to us`It is important in the interest of my policy that Parisshould be destroyed without a single person leaving it or escaping' Maret I amsure would have kept the secretbut he could not have abstained fromcompromising himself by seeing that his family got clear of the city. On theother handIfor fear of letting the truth leak outwould have let my wifeand children stay."

It is necessary to bear in mind the astounding power exerted by fascinationof this order to

 

-140-



understand that marvellous return from the Isle of Elbathat lightning-likeconquest of France by an isolated man confronted by all the organised forces ofa great country that might have been supposed weary of his tyranny. He hadmerely to cast a look at the generals sent to lay hands on himand who hadsworn to accomplish their mission. All of them submitted without discussion.

"Napoleon" writes the English General Wolseley"lands inFrance almost alonea fugitive from the small island of Elba which was hiskingdomand succeeded in a few weekswithout bloodshedin upsetting allorganised authority in France under its legitimate king; is it possible for thepersonal ascendency of a man to affirm itself in a more astonishing manner? Butfrom the beginning to the end of this campaignwhich was his lasthowremarkable too is the ascendency he exercised over the Alliesobliging them tofollow his initiativeand how near he came to crushing them!"

His prestige outlived him and continued to grow. It is his prestige that madean emperor of his obscure nephew. How powerful is his memory still is seen inthe resurrection of his legend in progress at the present day. Ill-treat men asyou willmassacre them by millionsbe the cause of invasion upon invasionallis permitted you if you possess

 

-141-



prestige in a sufficient degree and the talent necessary to uphold it.

I have invokedno doubtin this case a quite exceptional example ofprestigebut one it was useful to cite to make clear the genesis of greatreligionsgreat doctrinesand great empires. Were it not for the power exertedon the crowd by prestigesuch growths would be incomprehensible.

Prestigehoweveris not based solely on personal ascendencymilitarygloryand religious terror; it may have a more modest origin and still beconsiderable. Our century furnishes several examples. One of the most strikingones that posterity will recall from age to age will be supplied by the historyof the illustrious man who modified the face of the globe and the commercialrelations of the nations by separating two continents. He succeeded in hisenterprise owing to his immense strength of willbut also owing to thefascination he exercised on those surrounding him. To overcome the unanimousopposition he met withhe had only to show himself. He would speak brieflyandin face of the charm he exerted his opponents became his friends. The English inparticular strenuously opposed his scheme; he had only to put in an appearancein England to rally all suffrages. In later yearswhen he passed Southamptonthe bells were rung on his passage; and at the present day a movement

 

-142-



is on foot in England to raise a statue in his honour.

"Having vanquished whatever there is to vanquishmen and thingsmarshesrocksand sandy wastes" he had ceased to believe in obstaclesand wished to begin Suez over again at Panama. He began again with the samemethods as of old; but he had agedandbesidesthe faith that moves mountainsdoes not move them if they are too lofty. The mountains resistedand thecatastrophe that ensued destroyed the glittering aureole of glory that envelopedthe hero. His life teaches how prestige can grow and how it can vanish. Afterrivalling in greatness the most famous heroes of historyhe was lowered by themagistrates of his country to the ranks of the vilest criminals. When he diedhis coffinunattendedtraversed an indifferent crowd. Foreign sovereigns arealone in rendering homage to his memory as to that of one of the greatest menthat history has known.
Note: [20]

[20]


Note:

An Austrian paperthe Neue Freie Presseof Viennahas indulged onthe subject of the destiny of de Lesseps in reflections marked by a mostjudicious psychological insight. I therefore reproduce them here: --

"After the condemnation of Ferdinand de Lesseps one has no longer theright to be astonished at the sad end of Christopher Columbus. If Ferdinand deLesseps were a rogue every noble illusion is a crime. Antiquity would havecrowned the memory of de Lesseps with an aureole of gloryand would have madehim drink from the bowl of nectar in the midst of Olympusfor he has alteredthe face of the earth and accomplished works which make the creation moreperfect. The President of the Court of Appeal has immortalised himself bycondemning Ferdinand de Lessepsfor the nations will always demand the name ofthe man who was not afraid to debase his century by investing with the convict'scap an aged manwhose life redounded to the glory of his contemporaries.

"Let there be no more talk in the future of inflexible justicetherewhere reigns a bureaucratic hatred of audacious feats. The nations have need ofaudacious men who believe in themselves and overcome every obstacle withoutconcern for their personal safety. Genius cannot he prudent; by dint of prudenceit could never enlarge the sphere of human activity

". . . Ferdinand de Lesseps has known the intoxication of triumph andthe bitterness of disappointment -- Suez and Panama. At this point the heartrevolts at the morality of success. When de Lesseps had succeeded in joining twoseas princes and nations rendered him their homage; to-daywhen he meets withfailure among the rocks of the Cordillerashe is nothing but a vulgar rogue. .. . In this result we see a war between the classes of societythe discontentof bureaucrats and employéswho take their revenge with the aid of thecriminal code on those who would raise themselves above their fellows. . . .Modern legislators are filled with embarrassment when confronted by the loftyideas due to human genius; the public comprehends such ideas still lessand itis easy for an advocate-general to prove that Stanley is a murderer and deLesseps a deceiver."


 

-143-


Stillthe various examples that have just been cited represent extremecases. To fix in detail the psychology of prestigeit would be necessary toplace them at the extremity of a serieswhich would range from the founders ofreligions and empires to the private individual who endeavours

 

-144-



to dazzle his neighbours by a new coat or a decoration.

Between the extreme limits of this series would find a place all the forms ofprestige resulting from the different elements composing a civilisation --sciencesartsliterature&c. -- and it would be seen that prestigeconstitutes the fundamental element of persuasion. Consciously or notthebeingthe ideaor the thing possessing prestige is immediately imitated inconsequence of contagionand forces an entire generation to adopt certain modesof feeling and of giving expression to its thought. This imitationmoreoverisas a ruleunconsciouswhich accounts for the fact that it is perfect. Themodern painters who copy the pale colouring and the stiff attitudes of some ofthe Primitives are scarcely alive to the source of their inspiration. Theybelieve in their own sinceritywhereasif an eminent master had not revivedthis form of artpeople would have continued blind to all but its naïve andinferior sides. Those artists whoafter the manner of another illustriousmasterinundate their canvasses with violet shades do not see in nature moreviolet than was detected there fifty years ago; but they are influenced"suggestioned" by the personal and special impressions of a painterwhoin spite of this eccentricitywas successful in acquiring great prestige.Similar examples might be brought forward in connection with all the elements ofcivilisation.

 

-145-


It is seen from what precedes that a number of factors may be concerned inthe genesis of prestige; among them success was always one of the mostimportant. Every successful manevery idea that forces itself into recognitionceasesipso factoto be called in question. The proof that success isone of the principal stepping-stones to prestige is that the disappearance ofthe one is almost always followed by the disappearance of the other. The herowhom the crowd acclaimed yesterday is insulted to-day should he have beenovertaken by failure. The re-actionindeedwill be the stronger in proportionas the prestige has been great. The crowd in this case considers the fallen heroas an equaland takes its revenge for having bowed to a superiority whoseexistence it no longer admits. While Robespierre was causing the execution ofhis colleagues and of a great number of his contemporarieshe possessed animmense prestige. When the transposition of a few votes deprived him of powerhe immediately lost his prestigeand the crowd followed him to the guillotinewith the self-same imprecations with which shortly before it had pursued hisvictims. Believers always break the statues of their former gods with everysymptom of fury.

Prestige lost by want of success disappears in a brief space of time. It canalso be worn awaybut more slowly by being subjected to discussion.

 

-146-



This latter powerhoweveris exceedingly sure. From the moment prestige iscalled in question it ceases to be prestige. The gods and men who have kepttheir prestige for long have never tolerated discussion. For the crowd toadmireit must be kept at a distance.

 


 

-147-



CHAPTER IV.
LIMITATIONS OF THE VARIABILITY OF THE BELIEFS
AND OPINIONS OF CROWDS.

1. Fixed Beliefs. The invariability of certain generalbeliefs -- They shape the course of a civilisation -- The difficulty ofuprooting them -- In what respect intolerance is a virtue in a people -- Thephilosophic absurdity of a belief cannot interfere with its spreading. 2. TheChangeable Opinions of Crowds. The extreme mobility of opinions which do notarise from general beliefs -- Apparent variations of ideas and beliefs in lessthan a century -- The real limits of these variations -- The matters effected bythe variation -- The disappearance at present in progress of general beliefsand the extreme diffusion of the newspaper presshave for result that opinionsare nowadays more and more changeable -- Why the opinions of crowds tend on themajority of subjects towards indifference -- Governments now powerless to directopinion as they formerly did -- Opinions prevented to-day from being tyrannicalon account of their exceeding divergency.

1. FIXED BELIEFS.

A CLOSE parallel exists between the anatomical andpsychological characteristics of living beings.

 

-148-



In these anatomical characteristics certain invariableor slightly variableelements are met withto change which the lapse is necessary of geologicalages. Side by side with these fixedindestructible features are to be foundothers extremely changeablewhich the art of the breeder or horticulturist mayeasily modifyand at times to such an extent as to conceal the fundamentalcharacteristics from an observer at all inattentive.

The same phenomenon is observed in the case of moral characteristics.Alongside the unalterable psychological elements of a racemobile andchangeable elements are to be encountered. For this reasonin studying thebeliefs and opinions of a peoplethe presence is always detected of a fixedgroundwork on which are engrafted opinions as changing as the surface sand on arock.

The opinions and beliefs of crowds may be dividedtheninto two verydistinct classes. On the one hand we have great permanent beliefswhich endurefor several centuriesand on which an entire civilisation may rest. Suchforinstancein the past were feudalismChristianityand Protestantism; and suchin our own timeare the nationalist principle and contemporary democratic andsocial ideas. In the second placethere are the transitorychanging opinionsthe outcomeas a ruleof general conceptionsof which every age sees thebirth and disappearance; examples in

 

-149-



point are the theories which mould literature and the arts -- thoseforinstancewhich produced romanticismnaturalismmysticism&c. Opinions ofthis order are as superficialas a ruleas fashionand as changeable. Theymay be compared to the ripples which ceaselessly arise and vanish on the surfaceof a deep lake.

The great generalised beliefs are very restricted in number. Their rise andfall form the culminating points of the history of every historic race. Theyconstitute the real framework of civilisation.

It is easy to imbue the mind of crowds with a passing opinionbut verydifficult to implant therein a lasting belief. Howevera belief of this latterdescription once establishedit is equally difficult to uproot it. It isusually only to be changed at the cost of violent revolutions. Even revolutionscan only avail when the belief has almost entirely lost its sway over men'sminds. In that case revolutions serve to finally sweep away what had alreadybeen almost cast asidethough the force of habit prevented its completeabandonment. The beginning of a revolution is in reality the end of a belief.

The precise moment at which a great belief is doomed is easily recognisable;it is the moment when its value begins to be called in question. Every generalbelief being little else than a fiction

 

-150-



it can only survive on the condition that it be not subjected to examination.

But even when a belief is severely shakenthe institutions to which it hasgiven rise retain their strength and disappear but slowly. Finallywhen thebelief has completely lost its forceall that rested upon it is soon involvedin ruin. As yet a nation has never been able to change its beliefs without beingcondemned at the same time to transform all the elements of its civilisation.The nation continues this process of transformation until it has alighted on andaccepted a new general belief: until this juncture it is perforce in a state ofanarchy. General beliefs are the indispensable pillars of civilisations; theydetermine the trend of ideas. They alone are capable of inspiring faith andcreating a sense of duty.

Nations have always been conscious of the utility of acquiring generalbeliefsand have instinctively understood that their disappearance would be thesignal for their own decline. In the case of the Romansthe fanatical cult ofRome was the belief that made them masters of the worldand when the belief haddied out Rome was doomed to die. As for the barbarians who destroyed the Romancivilisationit was only when they had acquired certain commonly acceptedbeliefs that they attained a measure of cohesion and emerged from anarchy.

 

-151-


Plainly it is not for nothing that nations have always displayed intolerancein the defence of their opinions. This intoleranceopen as it is to criticismfrom the philosophic standpointrepresents in the life of a people the mostnecessary of virtues. It was to found or uphold general beliefs that so manyvictims were sent to the stake in the Middle Ages and that so many inventors andinnovators have died in despair even if they have escaped martyrdom. It is indefencetooof such beliefs that the world has been so often the scene of thedirest disorderand that so many millions of men have died on the battlefieldand will yet die there.

There are great difficulties in the way of establishing a general beliefbutwhen it is definitely implanted its power is for a long time to come invincibleand however false it be philosophically it imposes itself upon the most luminousintelligence. Have not the European peoples regarded as incontrovertible formore than fifteen centuries religious legends whichclosely examinedare asbarbarous
Note: [21] as those of Moloch? The frightful absurdity of the legend of a Godwho revenges himself for the disobedience of one of his

 

-152-



creatures by inflicting horrible tortures on his son remained unperceived duringmany centuries. Such potent geniuses as a Galileoa Newtonand a Leibnitznever supposed for an instant that the truth of such dogmas could be called inquestion. Nothing can be more typical than this fact of the hypnotising effectof general beliefsbut at the same time nothing can mark more decisively thehumiliating limitations of our intelligence.

[21]


Note:

Barbarousphilosophically speakingI mean. In practice they have created anentirely new civilisationand for fifteen centuries have given mankind aglimpse of those enchanted realms of generous dreams and of hope which he willknow no more.

As soon as a new dogma is implanted in the mind of crowds it becomes thesource of inspiration whence are evolved its institutionsartsand mode ofexistence. The sway it exerts over men's minds under these circumstances isabsolute. Men of action have no thought beyond realising the accepted belieflegislators beyond applying itwhile philosophersartistsand men of lettersare solely preoccupied with its expression under various shapes.

From the fundamental belief transient accessory ideas may arisebut theyalways bear the impress of the belief from which they have sprung. The Egyptiancivilisationthe European civilisation of the Middle Agesthe Mussulmancivilisation of the Arabs are all the outcome of a small number of religiousbeliefs which have left their mark on the least important elements of thesecivilisations and allow of their immediate recognition.

Thus it is thatthanks to general beliefsthe men

 

-153-



of every age are enveloped in a network of traditionsopinionsand customswhich render them all alikeand from whose yoke they cannot extricatethemselves. Men are guided in their conduct above all by their beliefs and bythe customs that are the consequence of those beliefs. These beliefs and customsregulate the smallest acts of our existenceand the most independent spiritcannot escape their influence. The tyranny exercised unconsciously on men'sminds is the only real tyrannybecause it cannot be fought against. TiberiusGhengis Khanand Napoleon were assuredly redoubtable tyrantsbut from thedepth of their graves MosesBuddhaJesusand Mahomet have exerted on thehuman soul a far profounder despotism. A conspiracy may overthrow a tyrantbutwhat can it avail against a firmly established belief? In its violent strugglewith Roman Catholicism it is the French Revolution that has been vanquishedandthis in spite of the fact that the sympathy of the crowd was apparently on itssideand in spite of recourse to destructive measures as pitiless as those ofthe Inquisition. The only real tyrants that humanity has known have always beenthe memories of its dead or the illusions it has forged itself.

The philosophic absurdity that often marks general beliefs has never been anobstacle to their triumph. Indeed the triumph of such beliefs

 

-154-



would seem impossible unless on the condition that they offer some mysteriousabsurdity. In consequencethe evident weakness of the socialist beliefs ofto-day will not prevent them triumphing among the masses. Their real inferiorityto all religious beliefs is solely the result of this considerationthat theideal of happiness offered by the latter being realisable only in a future lifeit was beyond the power of anybody to contest it. The socialist ideal ofhappiness being intended to be realised on earththe vanity of its promiseswill at once appear as soon as the first efforts towards their realisation aremadeand simultaneously the new belief will entirely lose its prestige. Itsstrengthin consequencewill only increase until the day whenhavingtriumphedits practical realisation shall commence. For this reasonwhile thenew religion exerts to begin withlike all those that have preceded itadestructive influenceit will be unablein the futureto play a creativepart.

2. THE CHANGEABLE OPINIONS OF CROWDS.

Above the substratum of fixed beliefswhose power we havejust demonstratedis found an overlying growth of opinionsideasand thoughtswhich are incessantly springing up and dying out. Some of them exist but for adayand the more important scarcely outlive a generation. We have

 

-155-



already noted that the changes which supervene in opinions of this order are attimes far more superficial than realand that they are always affected byracial considerations. When examiningfor instancethe political institutionsof France we showed that parties to all appearance utterly distinct --royalistsradicalsimperialistssocialists&c. -- have an idealabsolutely identicaland that this ideal is solely dependent on the mentalstructure of the French racesince a quite contrary ideal is found underanalogous names among other races. Neither the name given to opinions nordeceptive adaptations alter the essence of things. The men of the GreatRevolutionsaturated with Latin literaturewho (their eyes fixed on the RomanRepublic)adopted its lawsits fascesand its togasdid not become Romansbecause they were under the empire of a powerful historical suggestion. The taskof the philosopher is to investigate what it is which subsists of ancientbeliefs beneath their apparent changesand to identify amid the moving flux ofopinions the part determined by general beliefs and the genius of the race.

In the absence of this philosophic test it might be supposed that crowdschange their political or religious beliefs frequently and at will. All historywhether politicalreligiousartisticor literaryseems to prove that such isthe case.

 

-156-


As an examplelet us take a very short period of French historymerely thatfrom 1790 to 1820a period of thirty years' durationthat of a generation. Inthe course of it we see the crowd at first monarchical become veryrevolutionarythen very imperialistand again very monarchical. In the matterof religion it gravitates in the same lapse of time from Catholicism to atheismthen towards deismand then returns to the most pronounced forms ofCatholicism. These changes take place not only amongst the massesbut alsoamongst those who direct them. We observe with astonishment the prominent men ofthe Conventionthe sworn enemies of kingsmen who would have neither gods normastersbecome the humble servants of Napoleonand afterwardsunder LouisXVIII.piously carry candles in religious processions.

Numeroustooare the changes in the opinions of the crowd in the course ofthe following seventy years. The "Perfidious Albion" of the opening ofthe century is the ally of France under Napoleon's heir; Russiatwice invadedby Francewhich looked on with satisfaction at French reversesbecomes itsfriend.

In literatureartand philosophy the successive evolutions of opinion aremore rapid still. Romanticismnaturalismmysticism&c.spring up and dieout in turn. The artist and the writer

 

-157-



applauded yesterday are treated on the morrow with profound contempt.

Whenhoweverwe analyse all these changes in appearance so far reachingwhat do we find? All those that are in opposition with the general beliefs andsentiments of the race are of transient durationand the diverted stream soonresumes its course. The opinions which are not linked to any general belief orsentiment of the raceand which in consequence cannot possess stabilityare atthe mercy of every chanceorif the expression be preferredof every changein the surrounding circumstances. Formed by suggestion and contagionthey arealways momentary; they crop up and disappear as rapidly on occasion as thesandhills formed by the wind on the sea-coast.

At the present day the changeable opinions of crowds are greater in numberthan they ever wereand for three different reasons.

The first is that as the old beliefs are losing their influence to a greaterand greater extentthey are ceasing to shape the ephemeral opinions of themoment as they did in the past. The weakening of general beliefs clears theground for a crop of haphazard opinions without a past or a future.

The second reason is that the power of crowds being on the increaseand thispower being less and less counterbalancedthe extreme mobility of

 

-158-



ideaswhich we have seen to be a peculiarity of crowdscan manifest itselfwithout let or hindrance.

Finallythe third reason is the recent development of the newspaper pressby whose agency the most contrary opinions are being continually brought beforethe attention of crowds. The suggestions that might result from each individualopinion are soon destroyed by suggestions of an opposite character. Theconsequence is that no opinion succeeds in becoming widespreadand that theexistence of all of them is ephemeral. An opinion nowadays dies out before ithas found a sufficiently wide acceptance to become general.

A phenomenon quite new in the world's historyand most characteristic of thepresent agehas resulted from these different causes; I allude to thepowerlessness of governments to direct opinion.

In the pastand in no very distant pastthe action of governments and theinfluence of a few writers and a very small number of newspapers constituted thereal reflectors of public opinion. To-day the writers have lost all influenceand the newspapers only reflect opinion. As for statesmenfar from directingopiniontheir only endeavour is to follow it. They have a dread of opinionwhich amounts at times to terrorand causes them to adopt an utterly unstableline of conduct.

The opinion of crowds tendsthenmore and

 

-159-



more to become the supreme guiding principle in politics. It goes so far to-dayas to force on alliancesas has been seen recently in the case of theFranco-Russian alliancewhich is solely the outcome of a popular movement. Acurious symptom of the present time is to observe popeskingsand emperorsconsent to be interviewed as a means of submitting their views on a givensubject to the judgment of crowds. Formerly it might have been correct to saythat politics were not a matter of sentiment. Can the same be said toÄdaywhenpolitics are more and more swayed by the impulse of changeable crowdswho areuninfluenced by reason and can only be guided by sentiment?

As to the presswhich formerly directed opinionit has hadlikegovernmentsto humble itself before the power of crowds. It wieldsno doubtaconsiderable influencebut only because it is exclusively the reflection of theopinions of crowds and of their incessant variations. Become a mere agency forthe supply of informationthe press has renounced all endeavour to enforce anidea or a doctrine. It follows all the changes of public thoughtobliged to doso by the necessities of competition under pain of losing its readers. The oldstaid and influential organs of the pastsuch as the Constitutionnelthe Débatsor the Siéclewhich were accepted as oracles by

 

-160-



the preceding generationhave disappeared or have become typical modern papersin which a maximum of news is sandwiched in between light articlessocietygossipand financial puffs. There can be no question to-day of a paper richenough to allow its contributors to air their personal opinionsand suchopinions would be of slight weight with readers who only ask to be kept informedor to be amusedand who suspect every affirmation of being prompted by motivesof speculation. Even the critics have ceased to be able to assure the success ofa book or a play. They are capable of doing harmbut not of doing a service.The papers are so conscious of the uselessness of everything in the shape ofcriticism or personal opinionthat they have reached the point of suppressingliterary criticismconfining themselves to citing the title of a bookandappending a "puff" of two or three lines.
Note: [22] In twenty years' time the same fate will probably have overtakentheatrical criticism.

[22]


Note:

These remarks refer to the French newspaper press. -- Note of theTranslator.

The close watching of the course of opinion has become to-day the principalpreoccupation of the press and of governments. The effect produced by an eventa legislative proposala speechis without intermission what they require toknowand the task is not easyfor nothing is more mobile

 

-161-



and changeable than the thought of crowdsand nothing more frequent than to seethem execrate to-day what they applauded yesterday.

This total absence of any sort of direction of opinionand at the same timethe destruction of general beliefshave had for final result an extremedivergency of convictions of every orderand a growing indifference on the partof crowds to everything that does not plainly touch their immediate interests.Questions of doctrinesuch as socialismonly recruit champions boastinggenuine convictions among the quite illiterate classesamong the workers inmines and factoriesfor instance. Members of the lower middle classandworking men possessing some degree of instructionhave either become utterlysceptical or extremely unstable in their opinions.

The evolution which has been effected in this direction in the lasttwenty-five years is striking. During the preceding periodcomparatively nearus though it isopinions still had a certain general trend; they had theirorigin in the acceptance of some fundamental belief. By the mere fact that anindividual was a monarchist he possessed inevitably certain clearly definedideas in history as well as in sciencewhile by the mere fact that he was arepublicanhis ideas were quite contrary. A monarchist was well aware that menare not descended from monkeysand a republican was

 

-162-



not less well aware that such is in truth their descent. It was the duty of themonarchist to speak with horrorand of the republican to speak with venerationof the great Revolution. There were certain namessuch as those of Robespierreand Maratthat had to be uttered with an air of religious devotionand othernamessuch as those of CæsarAugustusor Napoleonthat ought never to bementioned unaccompanied by a torrent of invective. Even in the French Sorbonnethis ingenuous fashion of conceiving history was general.
Note: [23]

[23]


Note:

There are pages in the books of the French official professors of historythat are very curious from this point of view. They prove too how little thecritical spirit is developed by the system of university education in vogue inFrance. I cite as an example the following extracts from the "FrenchRevolution" of M. Rambaudprofessor of history at the Sorbonne:

"The taking of the Bastille was a culminating event in the history notonly of Francebut of all Europe; and inaugurated a new epoch in the history ofthe world!"

With respect to Robespierrewe learn with stupefaction that "hisdictatorship was based more especially on opinionpersuasionand moralauthority; it was a sort of pontificate in the hands of a virtuous man!"(pp. 91 and 220.)

At the present dayas the result of discussion and analysisall opinionsare losing their prestige; their distinctive features are rapidly worn awayandfew survive capable of arousing our enthusiasm. The man of modern times is moreand more a prey to indifference.

 

-163-


The general wearing away of opinions should not be too greatly deplored. Thatit is a symptom of decadence in the life of a people cannot be contested. It iscertain that men of immenseof almost supernatural insightthat apostlesleaders of crowds -- menin a wordof genuine and strong convictions -- exerta far greater force than men who denywho criticiseor who are indifferentbut it must not be forgotten thatgiven the power possessed at present bycrowdswere a single opinion to acquire sufficient prestige to enforce itsgeneral acceptanceit would soon be endowed with so tyrannical a strength thateverything would have to bend before itand the era of free discussion would beclosed for a long time. Crowds are occasionally easy-going mastersas wereHeliogabalus and Tiberiusbut they are also violently capricious. Acivilisationwhen the moment has come for crowds to acquire a high hand overitis at the mercy of too many chances to endure for long. Could anythingpostpone for a while the hour of its ruinit would be precisely the extremeinstability of the opinions of crowds and their growing indifference withrespect to all general beliefs.

CHAPTER I.
REMOTE FACTORS OF THE OPINIONS AND BELIEFS OF CROWDS.

Preparatory factors of the beliefs of crowds -- The origin ofthe beliefs of crowds is the consequence of a preliminary process of elaboration-- Study of the different factors of these beliefs. 1. Race. Thepredominating influence it exercises -- It represents the suggestions ofancestors. 2. Traditions. They are the synthesis of the soul of the race-- Social importance of traditions -- Howafter having been necessary theybecome harmful -- Crowds are the most obstinate maintainers of traditionalideas. 3. Time. It prepares in succession the establishment of beliefsand then their destruction. It is by the aid of this factor that order mayproceed from chaos. 4. Political and Social Institutions. Erroneous ideaof their part -- Their influence extremely weak -- They are effectsnot causes-- Nations are incapable of choosing what appear to them the best institutions-- Institutions are labels which shelter the most dissimilar things under thesame title -- How institutions may come to be created -- Certain institutionstheoretically badsuch as centralisation obligatory for certain nations. 5. Institutionsand

 

-71-



education.
Falsity of prevalent ideasas to the influence of instruction on crowds -- Statistical indications --Demoralising effect of Latin system of education -- Part instruction might play-- Examples furnished by various peoples.

HAVING studied the mental constitution of crowds and become acquainted withtheir modes of feelingthinkingand reasoningwe shall now proceed to examinehow their opinions and beliefs arise and become established.

The factors which determine these opinions and beliefs are of two kinds:remote factors and immediate factors.

The remote factors are those which render crowds capable of adopting certainconvictions and absolutely refractory to the acceptance of others. These factorsprepare the ground in which are suddenly seen to germinate certain new ideaswhose force and consequences are a cause of astonishmentthough they are onlyspontaneous in appearance. The outburst and putting in practice of certain ideasamong crowds present at times a startling suddenness. This is only a superficialeffectbehind which must be sought a preliminary and preparatory action of longduration.

The immediate factors are those whichcoming on the top of this longpreparatory workingin whose absence they would remain without effectserve asthe source of active persuasion on crowds; that isthey are the factors whichcause the idea to take

 

-72-



shape and set it loose with all its consequences. The resolutions by whichcollectivities are suddenly carried away arise out of these immediate factors;it is due to them that a riot breaks out or a strike is decided uponand tothem that enormous majorities invest one man with power to overthrow agovernment.

The successive action of these two kinds of factors is to be traced in allgreat historical events. The French Revolution -- to cite but one of the moststriking of such events -- had among its remote factors the writings of thephilosophersthe exactions of the nobilityand the progress of scientificthought. The mind of the massesthus preparedwas then easily roused by suchimmediate factors as the speeches of oratorsand the resistance of the courtparty to insignificant reforms.

Among the remote factors there are some of a general naturewhich are foundto underlie all the beliefs and opinions of crowds. They are racetraditionstimeinstitutionsand education.

We now proceed to study the influence of these different factors.

1. RACE.

This factorracemust be placed in the first rankfor initself it far surpasses in importance all the others. We have sufficientlystudied it in another work; it is therefore needless to deal with it again.

 

-73-



We showedin a previous volumewhat an historical race isand howitscharacter once formedit possessesas the result of the laws of heredity suchpower that its beliefsinstitutionsand arts -- in a wordall the elements ofits civilisation -- are merely the outward expression of its genius. We showedthat the power of the race is such that no element can pass from one people toanother without undergoing the most profound transformations.
Note: [7]

[7]


Note:

The novelty of this proposition being still considerable and history beingquite unintelligible without itI devoted four chapters to its demonstration inmy last book ("The Psychological Laws of the Evolution of Peoples").From it the reader will see thatin spite of fallacious appearancesneitherlanguagereligionartsorin a wordany element of civilisationcan passintactfrom one people to another.

Environmentcircumstancesand events represent the social suggestions ofthe moment. They may have a considerable influencebut this influence is alwaysmomentary if it be contrary to the suggestions of the race; that isto thosewhich are inherited by a nation from the entire series of its ancestors.

We shall have occasion in several of the chapters of this work to touch againupon racial influenceand to show that this influence is so great that itdominates the characteristics peculiar to the genius of crowds. It follows fromthis fact that the crowds of different countries offer very considerabledifferences of beliefs and conduct and are not to be influenced in the samemanner.


 

-74-



2. TRADITIONS.

Traditions represent the ideasthe needsand the sentimentsof the past. They are the synthesis of the raceand weigh upon us with immenseforce.

The biological sciences have been transformed since embryology has shown theimmense influence of the past on the evolution of living beings; and thehistorical sciences will not undergo a less change when this conception hasbecome more widespread. As yet it is not sufficiently generaland manystatesmen are still no further advanced than the theorists of the last centurywho believed that a society could break off with its past and be entirely recaston lines suggested solely by the light of reason.

A people is an organism created by the pastandlike every other organismit can only be modified by slow hereditary accumulations.

It is tradition that guides menand more especially so when they are in acrowd. The changes they can effect in their traditions with any easemerelybearas I have often repeatedupon names and outward forms.

This circumstance is not to be regretted. Neither a national genius norcivilisation would be possible without traditions. In consequence man's twogreat concerns since he has existed have been to create a network of traditionswhich he afterwards endeavours to destroy when their beneficial effects

 

-75-



have worn themselves out. Civilisation is impossible without traditionsandprogress impossible without the destruction of those traditions. The difficultyand it is an immense difficultyis to find a proper equilibrium betweenstability and variability. Should a people allow its customs to become toofirmly rootedit can no longer changeand becomeslike Chinaincapable ofimprovement. Violent revolutions are in this case of no avail; for what happensis that either the broken fragments of the chain are pieced together again andthe past resumes its empire without changeor the fragments remain apart anddecadence soon succeeds anarchy.

The ideal for a people is in consequence to preserve the institutions of thepastmerely changing them insensibly and little by little. This ideal isdifficult to realise. The Romans in ancient and the English in modern times arealmost alone in having realised it.

It is precisely crowds that cling the most tenaciously to traditional ideasand oppose their being changed with the most obstinacy. This is notably the casewith the category of crowds constituting castes. I have already insisted uponthe conservative spirit of crowdsand shown that the most violent rebellionsmerely end in a changing of words and terms. At the end of the last centuryinthe presence of destroyed churchesof priests

 

-76-



expelled the country or guillotinedit might have been thought that the oldreligious ideas had lost all their strengthand yet a few years had barelylapsed before the abolished system of public worship had to be re-established indeference to universal demands.
Note: [8]

[8]


Note:

The report of the ex-ConventionistFourcroyquoted by Taineis very clearon this point.

"What is everywhere seen with respect to the keeping of Sunday andattendance at the churches proves that the majority of Frenchmen desire toreturn to their old usages and that it is no longer opportune to resist thisnatural tendency. . . . The great majority of men stand in need of religionpublic worshipand priests. It is an error of some modern philosophersbywhich I myself have been led awayto believe in the possibility ofinstruction being so general as to destroy religious prejudiceswhich for agreat number of unfortunate persons are a source of consolation. . . . The massof the peoplethenmust be allowed its priestsits altarsand its publicworship."

Blotted out for a momentthe old traditions had resumed their sway.

No example could better display the power of tradition on the mind of crowds.The most redoubtable idols do not dwell in templesnor the most despotictyrants in palaces; both the one and the other can be broken in an instant. Butthe invisible masters that reign in our innermost selves are safe from everyeffort at revoltand only yield to the slow wearing away of centuries.


 

-77-



3. TIME.

In social as in biological problems time is one of the mostenergetic factors. It is the sole real creator and the sole great destroyer. Itis time that has made mountains with grains of sand and raised the obscure cellof geological eras to human dignity. The action of centuries is sufficient totransform any given phenomenon. It has been justly observed that an ant withenough time at its disposal could level Mount Blanc. A being possessed of themagical force of varying time at his will would have the power attributed bybelievers to God.

In this placehoweverwe have only to concern ourselves with the influenceof time on the genesis of the opinions of crowds. Its action from this point ofview is still immense. Dependent upon it are the great forces such as racewhich cannot form themselves without it. It causes the birththe growthandthe death of all beliefs. It is by the aid of time that they acquire theirstrength and also by its aid that they lose it.

It is time in particular that prepares the opinions and beliefs of crowdsorat least the soil on which they will germinate. This is why certain ideas arerealisable at one epoch and not at another. It is time that accumulates thatimmense detritus of beliefs and thoughts on which the ideas of a given periodspring up. They do not grow at hazard

 

-78-



and by chance; the roots of each of them strike down into a long past. When theyblossom it is time that has prepared their blooming; and to arrive at a notionof their genesis it is always back in the past that it is necessary to search.They are the daughters of the past and the mothers of the futurebut throughoutthe slaves of time.

Timein consequenceis our veritable masterand it suffices to leave itfree to act to see all things transformed. At the present day we are very uneasywith regard to the threatening aspirations of the masses and the destructionsand upheavals foreboded thereby. Timewithout other aidwill see to therestoration of equilibrium. "No form of government" M. Lavisse veryproperly writes"was founded in a day. Political and social organisationsare works that demand centuries. The feudal system existed for centuries in ashapelesschaotic state before it found its laws; absolute monarchy alsoexisted for centuries before arriving at regular methods of governmentandthese periods of expectancy were extremely troubled."

4. POLITICAL AND SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS.

The idea that institutions can remedy the defects ofsocietiesthat national progress is the consequence of the improvement ofinstitutions and governmentsand that social changes can be effected by decrees-- this ideaI sayis still gene

 

-79-



rally accepted. It was the starting-point of the French Revolutionand thesocial theories of the present day are based upon it.

The most continuous experience has been unsuccessful in shaking this gravedelusion. Philosophers and historians have endeavoured in vain to prove itsabsurditybut yet they have had no difficulty in demonstrating thatinstitutions are the outcome of ideassentimentsand customsand that ideassentimentsand customs are not to be recast by recasting legislative codes. Anation does not choose its institutions at will any more than it chooses thecolour of its hair or its eyes. Institutions and governments are the product ofthe race. They are not the creators of an epochbut are created by it. Peoplesare not governed in accordance with their caprices of the momentbut as theircharacter determines that they shall be governed. Centuries are required to forma political system and centuries needed to change it. Institutions have nointrinsic virtue: in themselves they are neither good nor bad. Those which aregood at a given moment for a given people may be harmful in the extreme foranother nation.

Moreoverit is in no way in the power of a people to really change itsinstitutions. Undoubtedlyat the cost of violent revolutionsit can changetheir namebut in their essence they remain unmodified. The names are merefutile labels with

 

-80-



which an historian who goes to the bottom of things need scarcely concernhimself. It is in this wayfor instancethat England
Note: [9] the most democratic country in the worldlivesneverthelessunder amonarchical régimewhereas the countries in which the most oppressivedespotism is rampant are the Spanish-American Republicsin spite of theirrepublican constitutions. The destinies of peoples are determined by theircharacter and not by their government. I have endeavoured to establish this viewin my previous volume by setting forth categorical examples.

[9]


Note:

The most advanced republicanseven of the United Statesrecognise thisfact. The American magazineThe Forumrecently gave categoricalexpression to the opinion in terms which I reproduce here from the Review ofReviews for December1894: --

"It should never be forgotteneven by the most ardent enemies of anaristocracythat England is to-day the most democratic country of the universethe country in which the rights of the individual are most respectedand inwhich the individual possesses the most liberty."

To lose time in the manufacture of cut-and-dried constitutions isinconsequencea puerile taskthe useless labour of an ignorant rhetorician.Necessity and time undertake the charge of elaborating constitutions when we arewise enough to allow these two factors to act. This is the plan the Anglo-Saxonshave adoptedas their great historianMacaulayteaches us in a passage thatthe politicians of all Latin countries ought to learn by

 

-81-



heart. After having shown all the good that can be accomplished by laws whichappear from the point of view of pure reason a chaos of absurdities andcontradictionshe compares the scores of constitutions that have been engulphedin the convulsions of the Latin peoples with that of Englandand points outthat the latter has only been very slowly changed part by partunder theinfluence of immediate necessities and never of speculative reasoning.

"To think nothing of symmetry and much of convenience; never to removean anomaly merely because it is an anomaly; never to innovate except when somegrievance is felt; never to innovate except so far as to get rid of thegrievance; never to lay down any proposition of wider extent than the particularcase for which it is necessary to provide; these are the rules which havefromthe age of John to the age of Victoriagenerally guided the deliberations ofour two hundred and fifty Parliaments."

It would be necessary to take one by one the laws and institutions of eachpeople to show to what extent they are the expression of the needs of each raceand are incapablefor that reasonof being violently transformed. It ispossibleforinstanceto indulge in philosophical dissertations on theadvantages and disadvantages of centralisation;

 

-82-



but when we see a people composed of very different races devote a thousandyears of efforts to attaining to this centralisation; when we observe that agreat revolutionhaving for object the destruction of all the institutions ofthe pasthas been forced to respect this centralisationand has evenstrengthened it; under these circumstances we should admit that it is theoutcome of imperious needsthat it is a condition of the existence of thenation in questionand we should pity the poor mental range of politicians whotalk of destroying it. Could they by chance succeed in this attempttheirsuccess would at once be the signal for a frightful civil war
Note: [10] whichmoreoverwould immediately bring back a new system ofcentralisation much more oppressive than the old.

[10]


Note:

If a comparison be made between the profound religious and politicaldissensions which separate the various parties in Franceand are moreespecially the result of social questionsand the separatist tendencies whichwere manifested at the time of the Revolutionand began to again displaythemselves towards the close of the Franco-German warit will be seen that thedifferent races represented in France are still far from being completelyblended. The vigorous centralisation of the Revolution and the creation ofartificial departments destined to bring about the fusion of the ancientprovinces was certainly its most useful work. Were it possible to bring aboutthe decentralisation which is to-day preoccupying minds lacking in foresightthe achievement would promptly have for consequence the most sanguinarydisorders. To overlook this fact is to leave out of account the entire historyof France.


 

-83-


The conclusion to be drawn from what precedes isthat it is not ininstitutions that the means is to be sought of profoundly influencing the geniusof the masses. When we see certain countriessuch as the United Statesreach ahigh degree of prosperity under democratic institutionswhile otherssuch asthe Spanish-American Republicsare found existing in a pitiable state ofanarchy under absolutely similar institutionswe should admit that theseinstitutions are as foreign to the greatness of the one as to the decadence ofthe others. Peoples are governed by their characterand all institutions whichare not intimately modelled on that character merely represent a borrowedgarmenta transitory disguise. No doubt sanguinary wars and violent revolutionshave been undertakenand will continue to be undertakento impose institutionsto which is attributedas to the relics of saintsthe supernatural power ofcreating welfare. It may be saidthenin one sensethat institutions react onthe mind of the crowd inasmuch as they engender such upheavals. But in realityit is not the institutions that react in this mannersince we know thatwhether triumphant or vanquishedthey possess in themselves no virtue. It isillusions and words that have influenced the mind of the crowdand especiallywords -- words which are as powerful as they are chimericaland whoseastonishing sway we shall shortly demonstrate.


 

-84-



5. INSTRUCTION AND EDUCATION.

Foremost among the dominant ideas of the present epoch is tobe found the notion that instruction is capable of considerably changing menand has for its unfailing consequence to improve them and even to make themequal. By the mere fact of its being constantly repeatedthis assertion hasended by becoming one of the most steadfast democratic dogmas. It would be asdifficult now to attack it as it would have been formerly to have attacked thedogmas of the Church.

On this pointhoweveras on many othersdemocratic ideas are in profounddisagreement with the results of psychology and experience. Many eminentphilosophersamong them Herbert Spencerhave had no difficulty in showing thatinstruction neither renders a man more moral nor happierthat it changesneither his instincts nor his hereditary passionsand that at times -- for thisto happen it need only be badly directed -- it is much more pernicious thanuseful. Statisticians have brought confirmation of these views by telling usthat criminality increases with the generalisation of instructionor at anyrate of a certain kind of instructionand that the worst enemies of societythe anarchistsare recruited among the prize-winners of schools; while in arecent work a distinguished magistrateM. Adolphe Guillotmade

 

-85-



the observation that at present 3000 educated criminals are met with for every1000 illiterate delinquentsand that in fifty years the criminal percentage ofthe population has passed from 227 to 552 for every 100000 inhabitantsanincrease of 133 per cent. He has also noted in common with his colleagues thatcriminality is particularly on the increase among young personsfor whomas isknowngratuitous and obligatory schooling has -- in France -- replacedapprenticeship.

It is not assuredly -- and nobody has ever maintained this proposition --that well-directed instruction may not give very useful practical resultsifnot in the sense of raising the standard of moralityat least in that ofdeveloping professional capacity. Unfortunately the Latin peoplesespecially inthe last tweny-five yearshave based their systems of instruction on veryerroneous principlesand in spite of the observations of the most eminentmindssuch as BréalFustel de CoulangesTaineand many othersthey persistin their lamentable mistakes. I have myself shownin a work published some timeagothat the French system of education transforms the majority of those whohave undergone it into enemies of societyand recruits numerous disciples forthe worst forms of socialism.

The primary danger of this system of education -- very properly qualified asLatin -- consists in the

 

-86-



fact that it is based on the fundamental psychological error that theintelligence is developed by the learning by heart of text-books. Adopting thisviewthe endeavour has been made to enforce a knowledge of as many hand-booksas possible. From the primary school till he leaves the university a young mandoes nothing but acquire books by heart without his judgment or personalinitiative being ever called into play. Education consists for him in recitingby heart and obeying.

"Learning lessonsknowing by heart a grammar or a compendiumrepeatingwell and imitating well -- that" writes a former Minister of PublicInstructionM. Jules Simon"is a ludicrous form of education whose everyeffort is an act of faith tacitly admitting the infallibility of the masterandwhose only results are a belittling of ourselves and a rendering of usimpotent."

Were this education merely uselessone might confine one's self toexpressing compassion for the unhappy children whoinstead of making needfulstudies at the primary schoolare instructed in the genealogy of the sons ofClotairethe conflicts between Neustria and Austrasiaor zoologicalclassifications. But the system presents a far more serious danger. It givesthose who have been submitted to it a violent dislike to the state of life inwhich they were bornand an intense

 

-87-



desire to escape from it. The working man no longer wishes to remain a workingmanor the peasant to continue a peasantwhile the most humble members of themiddle classes admit of no possible career for their sons except that ofState-paid functionaries. Instead of preparing men for life French schoolssolely prepare them to occupy public functionsin which success can be attainedwithout any necessity for self-direction or the exhibition of the least glimmerof personal initiative. At the bottom of the social ladder the system creates anarmy of proletarians discontented with their lot and always ready to revoltwhile at the summit it brings into being a frivolous bourgeoisieat oncesceptical and creduloushaving a superstitious confidence in the Statewhom itregards as a sort of Providencebut without forgetting to display towards it aceaseless hostilityalways laying its own faults to the door of the Governmentand incapable of the least enterprise without the intervention of theauthorities.

The Statewhich manufactures by dint of textbooks all these personspossessing diplomascan only utilise a small number of themand is forced toleave the others without employment. It is obliged in consequence to resignitself to feeding the first mentioned and to having the others as its enemies.From the top to the bottom of the social pyramidfrom the humblest clerk to the

 

-88-



professor and the prefectthe immense mass of persons boasting diplomas besiegethe professions. While a business man has the greatest difficulty in finding anagent to represent him in the coloniesthousands of candidates solicit the mostmodest official posts. There are 20000 schoolmasters and mistresses withoutemployment in the department of the Seine aloneall of them persons whodisdaining the fields or the workshopslook to the State for their livelihood.The number of the chosen being restrictedthat of the discontented is perforceimmense. The latter are ready for any revolutionwhoever be its chiefs andwhatever the goal they aim at. The acquisition of knowledge for which no use canbe found is a sure method of driving a man to revolt.
Note: [11]

[11]


Note:

This phenomenonmoreoveris not peculiar to the Latin peoples. It is alsoto be observed in Chinawhich is also a country in the hands of a solidhierarchy of mandarins or functionariesand where a function is obtainedas inFranceby competitive examinationin which the only test is the imperturbablerecitation of bulky manuals. The army of educated persons without employment isconsidered in China at the present day as a veritable national calamity. It isthe same in India wheresince the English have opened schoolsnot foreducating purposesas is the case in England itselfbut simply to furnish theindigenous inhabitants with instructionthere has been formed a special classof educated personsthe Babooswhowhen they do not obtain employmentbecomethe irreconcilable enemies of the English rule. In the case of all the Babooswhether provided with employment or notthe first effect of their instructionhas been to lower their standard of morality. This is a fact on which I haveinsisted at length in my book"The Civilisations of India" -- a facttoowhich has been observed by all authors who have visited the greatpeninsula.

It is evidently too late to retrace our steps. Experience alonethat supremeeducator of peopleswill be at pains to show us our mistake. It alone will bepowerful enough to prove the necessity of replacing our odious text-books andour pitiable examinations by industrial instruction capable of inducing ouryoung men to return to the fieldsto the workshopand to the colonialenterprise which they avoid to-day at all costs.

The professional instruction which all enlightened minds are now demandingwas the instruction received in the past by our forefathers. It is still invigour at the present day among the nations who rule the world by their force ofwilltheir initiativeand their spirit of enterprise. In a series ofremarkable pageswhose principal passages I reproduce further ona greatthinkerM. Tainehas clearly shown that our former system of education wasapproximately that in vogue to-day in England and Americaand in a remarkableparallel between the Latin and Anglo-Saxon systems he has plainly pointed outthe consequences of the two methods.

One might consentperhapsat a pinchto

 

-90-



continue to accept all the disadvantages of our classical educationalthough itproduced nothing but discontented menand men unfitted for their station inlifedid the superficial acquisition of so much knowledgethe faultlessrepeating by heart of so many text-booksraise the level of intelligence. Butdoes it really raise this level? Alasno! The conditions of success in life arethe possession of judgmentexperienceinitiativeand character -- qualitieswhich are not bestowed by books. Books are dictionarieswhich it is useful toconsultbut of which it is perfectly useless to have lengthy portions in one'shead.

How is it possible for professional instruction to develop the intelligencein a measure quite beyond the reach of classical instruction? This has been wellshown by M. Taine.

"Ideashe saysare only formed in their natural and normalsurroundings; the promotion of the growth is effected by the innumerableimpressions appealing to the senses which a young man receives daily in theworkshopthe minethe law courtthe studythe builder's yardthe hospital;at the sight of toolsmaterialsand operations; in the presence of customersworkersand labourof work well or ill donecostly or lucrative. In such away are obtained those trifling perceptions of detail of the eyesthe ear

 

-91-



the handsand even the sense of smellwhichpicked up involuntarilyandsilently elaboratedtake shape within the learnerand suggest to him soonerorlater this or that new combinationsimplificationeconomyimprovementorinvention. The young Frenchman is deprivedand precisely at the age when theyare most fruitfulof all these precious contactsof all these indispensableelements of assimilation. For seven or eight years on end he is shut up in aschooland is cut off from that direct personal experience which would give hima keen and exact notion of men and things and of the various ways of handlingthem."

" . . . At least nine out of ten have wasted their time and pains duringseveral years of their life -- tellingimportanteven decisive years. Amongsuch are to be countedfirst of allthe half or two-thirds of those whopresent themselves for examination -- I refer to those who are rejected; andthen among those who are successfulwho obtain a degreea certificateadiplomathere is still a half or two-thirds -- I refer to the overworked. Toomuch has been demanded of them by exacting that on a given dayon a chair orbefore a boardthey shouldfor two hours in successionand with respect to agroup of sciencesbe living repertories of all human know

 

-92-



ledge. In point of fact they were thator nearly sofor two hours on thatparticular daybut a month later they are so no longer. They could not gothrough the examination again. Their too numerous and too burdensomeacquisitions slip incessantly from their mindand are not replaced. Theirmental vigour has declinedtheir fertile capacity for growth has dried upthefully-developed man appearsand he is often a used up man. Settled downmarriedresigned to turning in a circleand indefinitely in the same circlehe shuts himself up in his confined functionwhich he fulfils adequatelybutnothing more. Such is the average yield: assuredly the receipts do not balancethe expenditure. In England or Americawhereas in France previous to 1789the contrary proceeding is adoptedthe outcome obtained is equal orsuperior."

The illustrious psychologist subsequently shows us the difference between oursystem and that of the Anglo-Saxons. The latter do not possess our innumerablespecial schools. With them instruction is not based on book-learningbut onobject lessons. The engineerfor exampleis trained in a workshopand neverat a school; a method which allows of each individual reaching the level hisintelligence permits of. He becomes a workman or a foreman if he can get nofurtheran

 

-93-



engineer if his aptitudes take him as far. This manner of proceeding is muchmore democratic and of much greater benefit to society than that of making thewhole career of an individual depend on an examinationlasting a few hoursandundergone at the age of nineteen or twenty.

"In the hospitalthe minethe factoryin the architect's or thelawyer's officethe studentwho makes a start while very younggoes throughhis apprenticeshipstage by stagemuch as does with us a law clerk in hisofficeor an artist in his studio. Previouslyand before making a practicalbeginninghe has had an opportunity of following some general and summarycourse of instructionso as to have a framework ready prepared in which tostore the observations he is shortly to make. Furthermore he is ableas a ruleto avail himself of sundry technical courses which he can follow in his leisurehoursso as to co-ordinate step by step the daily experience he is gathering.Under such a system the practical capabilities increase and develop ofthemselves in exact proportion to the faculties of the studentand in thedirection requisite for his future task and the special work for which from nowonwards he desires to fit himself. By this means in England or the United Statesa young man is quickly in a position to develop his capacity to

 

-94-



the utmost. At twenty-five years of ageand much sooner if the material and theparts are therehe is not merely a useful performerhe is capable also ofspontaneous enterprise; he is not only a part of a machinebut also a motor. InFrancewhere the contrary system prevails -- in Francewhich with eachsucceeding generation is falling more and more into line with China -- the sumtotal of the wasted forces is enormous."

The great philosopher arrives at the following conclusion with respect to thegrowing incongruity between our Latin system of education and the requirementsof practical life: --

"In the three stages of instructionthose of childhoodadolescence andyouththe theoretical and pedagogic preparation by books on the school bencheshas lengthened out and become overcharged in view of the examinationthedegreethe diplomaand the certificateand solely in this viewand by theworst methodsby the application of an unnatural and anti-social régimeby the excessive postponement of the practical apprenticeshipby ourboarding-school systemby artificial training and mechanical crammingbyoverworkwithout thought for the time that is to followfor the adult age andthe functions of the manwithout regard for the real world on

 

-95-



which the young man will shortly be thrownfor the society in which we move andto which he must be adapted or be taught to resign himself in advancefor thestruggle in which humanity is engagedand in which to defend himself and tokeep his footing he ought previously to have been equippedarmedtrainedandhardened. This indispensable equipmentthis acquisition of more importance thanany otherthis sturdy common sense and nerve and will-power our schools do notprocure the young Frenchman; on the contraryfar from qualifying him for hisapproaching and definite statethey disqualify him. In consequencehis entryinto the world and his first steps in the field of action are most often merelya succession of painful fallswhose effect is that he long remains wounded andbruisedand sometimes disabled for life. The test is severe and dangerous. Inthe course of it the mental and moral equilibrium is affectedand runs the riskof not being re-established. Too sudden and complete disillusion has supervened.The deceptions have been too greatthe disappointments too keen."
Note: [12]

[12]


Note:

Taine"Le Regime moderne" vol. ii.1894. These pages are almostthe last that Taine wrote. They resume admirably the results of the greatphilosopher's long experience. Unfortunately they are in my opinion totallyincomprehensible for such of our university professors who have not livedabroad. Education is the only means at our disposal of influencing to someextent the mind of a nationand it is profoundly saddening to have to thinkthat there is scarcely any one in France who can arrive at understanding thatour present system of teaching is a grave cause of rapid decadencewhichinstead of elevating our youthlowers and perverts it.

A useful comparison may be made between Taine's pages and the observations onAmerican education recently made by M. Paul Bourget in his excellent book"Outre-Mer." Hetooafter having noted that our education merelyproduces narrow-minded bourgeoislacking in initiative and will-poweroranarchists -- "those two equally harmful types of the civilised manwhodegenerates into impotent platitude or insane destructiveness" -- he tooIsaydraws a comparison that cannot be the object of too much reflection betweenour French lycées (public schools)those factories of degenerationandthe American schoolswhich prepare a man admirably for life. The gulf existingbetween truly democratic nations and those who have democracy in their speechesbut in no wise in their thoughtsis clearly brought out in this comparison.


 

-96-


Have we digressed in what precedes from the psychology of crowds? Assuredlynot. If we desire to understand the ideas and beliefs that are germinatingto-day in the massesand will spring up to-morrowit is necessary to know howthe ground has been prepared. The instruction given the youth of a countryallows of a knowledge of what that country will one day be. The educationaccorded the present generation justifies the most gloomy previsions. It is inpart by instruction and education that the mind of the masses is improved ordeteriorated. It was necessary in consequence to show how this mind has been

 

-97-



fashioned by the system in vogueand how the mass of the indifferent and theneutral has become progressively an army of the discontented ready to obey allthe suggestions of utopians and rhetoricians. It is in the schoolroom thatsocialists and anarchists are found nowadaysand that the way is being pavedfor the approaching period of decadence for the Latin peoples.

CHAPTER II.
THE IMMEDIATE FACTORS OF THE OPINIONS OF
CROWDS.

1. Imageswords and formulæ. The magical power ofwords and formulæ -- The power of words bound up with the images they evokeand independent of their real sense -- These images vary from age to ageandfrom race to race -- The wear and tear of words -- Examples of the considerablevariations of sense of much-used words -- The political utility of baptizing oldthings with new names when the words by which they were designated produced anunfavourable impression on the masses -- variations of the sense of words inconsequence of race differences -- The different meanings of the word"democracy" in Europe and America. 2. Illusions. Theirimportance -- They are to be found at the root of all civilisations -- Thesocial necessity of illusions -- Crowds always prefer them to truths. 3. Experience.Experience alone can fix in the mind of crowds truths become necessary anddestroy illusions grown dangerous -- Experience is only effective on thecondition that it be frequently repeated -- The cost of the experiencesrequisite to persuade crowds. 4. Reason. The nullity of its influence oncrowds -- Crowds only to be influenced by their unconscious sentiments -- The rôleof logic in history -- The secret causes of improbable events.

WE have just investigated the remote and preparatory factors which give themind of crowds

 

-99-



a special receptivityand make possible therein the growth of certainsentiments and certain ideas. It now remains for us to study the factors capableof acting in a direct manner. We shall see in a forthcoming chapter how thesefactors should be put in force in order that they may produce their full effect.

In the first part of this work we studied the sentimentsideasand methodsof reasoning of collective bodiesand from the knowledge thus acquired it wouldevidently be possible to deduce in a general way the means of making animpression on their mind. We already know what strikes the imagination ofcrowdsand are acquainted with the power and contagiousness of suggestionsofthose especially that are presented under the form of images. Howeverassuggestions may proceed from very different sourcesthe factors capable ofacting on the minds of crowds may differ considerably. It is necessarythentostudy them separately. This is not a useless study. Crowds are somewhat like thesphinx of ancient fable: it is necessary to arrive at a solution of the problemsoffered by their psychology or to resign ourselves to being devoured by them.

1. IMAGESWORDSAND FORMULAS.

When studying the imagination of crowds we saw that it isparticularly open to the impressions

 

-100-



produced by images. These images do not always lie ready to handbut it ispossible to evoke them by the judicious employment of words and formulas.Handled with artthey possess in sober truth the mysterious power formerlyattributed to them by the adepts of magic. They cause the birth in the minds ofcrowds of the most formidable tempestswhich in turn they are capable ofstilling. A pyramid far loftier than that of old Cheops could be raised merelywith the bones of men who have been victims of the power of words and formulas.

The power of words is bound up with the images they evokeand is quiteindependent of their real significance. Words whose sense is the mostill-defined are sometimes those that possess the most influence. Suchforexampleare the terms democracysocialismequalityliberty&c.whosemeaning is so vague that bulky volumes do not suffice to precisely fix it. Yetit is certain that a truly magical power is attached to those short syllablesas if they contained the solution of all problems. They synthesise the mostdiverse unconscious aspirations and the hope of their realisation.

Reason and arguments are incapable of combatting certain words and formulas.They are uttered with solemnity in the presence of crowdsand as soon as theyhave been pronounced an

 

-101-



expression of respect is visible on every countenanceand all heads are bowed.By many they are considered as natural forcesas supernatural powers. Theyevoke grandiose and vague images in men's mindsbut this very vagueness thatwraps them in obscurity augments their mysterious power. They are the mysteriousdivinities hidden behind the tabernaclewhich the devout only approach in fearand trembling.

The images evoked by words being independent of their sensethey vary fromage to age and from people to peoplethe formulas remaining identical. Certaintransitory images are attached to certain words: the word is merely as it werethe button of an electric bell that calls them up.

All words and all formulas do not possess the power of evoking imageswhilethere are some which have once had this powerbut lose it in the course of useand cease to waken any response in the mind. They then become vain soundswhoseprincipal utility is to relieve the person who employs them of the obligation ofthinking. Armed with a small stock of formulas and commonplaces learnt while weare youngwe possess all that is needed to traverse life without the tiringnecessity of having to reflect on anything whatever.

If any particular language be studiedit is seen that the words of which itis composed change

 

-102-



rather slowly in the course of ageswhile the images these words evoke or themeaning attached to them changes ceaselessly. This is the reason whyin anotherworkI have arrived at the conclusion that the absolute translation of alanguageespecially of a dead languageis totally impossible. What do we do inreality when we substitute a French for a LatinGreekor Sanscrit expressionor even when we endeavour to understand a book written in our own tongue two orthree centuries back? We merely put the images and ideas with which modern lifehas endowed our intelligence in the place of absolutely distinct notions andimages which ancient life had brought into being in the mind of races submittedto conditions of existence having no analogy with our own. When the men of theRevolution imagined they were copying the Greeks and Romanswhat were theydoing except giving to ancient words a sense the latter had never had? Whatresemblance can possibly exist between the institutions of the Greeks and thosedesignated to-day by corresponding words? A republic at that epoch was anessentially aristocratic institutionformed of a reunion of petty despotsruling over a crowd of slaves kept in the most absolute subjection. Thesecommunal aristocraciesbased on slaverycould not have existed for a momentwithout it.

The word "liberty" againwhat signification could

 

-103-



it have in any way resembling that we attribute to it to-day at a period whenthe possibility of the liberty of thought was not even suspectedand when therewas no greater and more exceptional crime than that of discussing the godsthelaws and the customs of the city? What did such a word as "fatherland"signify to an Athenian or Spartan unless it were the cult of Athens or Spartaand in no wise that of Greececomposed of rival cities always at war with eachother? What meaning had the same word "fatherland" among the ancientGaulsdivided into rival tribes and racesand possessing different languagesand religionsand who were easily vanquished by Caesar because he always foundallies among them? It was Rome that made a country of Gaul by endowing it withpolitical and religious unity. Without going back so farscarcely two centuriesagois it to be believed that this same notion of a fatherland was conceived tohave the same meaning as at present by French princes like the great Condéwhoallied themselves with the foreigner against their sovereign? And yet againthesame word had it not a sense very different from the modern for the Frenchroyalist emigrantswho thought they obeyed the laws of honour in fightingagainst Franceand who from their point of view did indeed obey themsince thefeudal law bound the vassal to the lord and not to the soilso that

 

-104-



where the sovereign was there was the true fatherland?

Numerous are the words whose meaning has thus profoundly changed from age toage -- words which we can only arrive at understanding in the sense in whichthey were formerly understood after a long effort. It has been said with truththat much study is necessary merely to arrive at conceiving what was signifiedto our great grandfathers by such words as the "king" and the"royal family." Whatthenis likely to be the case with terms stillmore complex?

Wordsthenhave only mobile and transitory significations which change fromage to age and people to people; and when we desire to exert an influence bytheir means on the crowd what it is requisite to know is the meaning given themby the crowd at a given momentand not the meaning which they formerly had ormay yet have for individuals of a different mental constitution.

Thuswhen crowds have comeas the result of political upheavals or changesof beliefto acquire a profound antipathy for the images evoked by certainwordsthe first duty of the true statesman is to change the words withoutofcourselaying hands on the things themselvesthe latter being too intimatelybound up with the inherited constitution to be transformed. The judiciousTocqueville

 

-105-



long ago made the remark that the work of the consulate and the empire consistedmore particularly in the clothing with new words of the greater part of theinstitutions of the past -- that is to sayin replacing words evokingdisagreeable images in the imagination of the crowd by other words of which thenovelty prevented such evocations. The "taille" or tallage has becomethe land tax; the "gabelle" the tax on salt; the "aids"the indirect contributions and the consolidated duties; the tax on tradecompanies and guildsthe license&c.

One of the most essential functions of statesmen consiststhenin baptizingwith popular orat any rateindifferent words things the crowd cannot endureunder their old names. The power of words is so great that it suffices todesignate in well-chosen terms the most odious things to make them acceptable tocrowds. Taine justly observes that it was by invoking liberty and fraternity --words very popular at the time -- that the Jacobins were able "to install adespotism worthy of Dahomeya tribunal similar to that of the Inquisitionandto accomplish human hecatombs akin to those of ancient Mexico." The art ofthose who governas is the case with the art of advocatesconsists above allin the science of employing words. One of the greatest difficulties of this artisthat in one and the same society the

 

-106-



same words most often have very different meanings for the different socialclasseswho employ in appearance the same wordsbut never speak the samelanguage.

In the preceding examples it is especially time that has been made tointervene as the principal factor in the changing of the meaning of words. Ifhoweverwe also make race intervenewe shall then see thatat the sameperiodamong peoples equally civilised but of different racethe same wordsvery often correspond to extremely dissimilar ideas. It is impossible tounderstand these differences without having travelled muchand for this reasonI shall not insist upon them. I shall confine myself to observing that it isprecisely the words most often employed by the masses which among differentpeoples possess the most different meanings. Such is the casefor instancewith the words "democracy" and "socialism" in such frequentuse nowadays.

In reality they correspond to quite contrary ideas and images in the Latinand Anglo-Saxon mind. For the Latin peoples the word "democracy"signifies more especially the subordination of the will and the initiative ofthe individual to the will and the initiative of the community represented bythe State. It is the State that is chargedto a greater and greater degreewith the direction of everythingthe centralisationthe

 

-107-



monopolisationand the manufacture of everything. To the State it is that allparties without exceptionradicalssocialistsor monarchistsconstantlyappeal. Among the Anglo-Saxons and notably in America this same word"democracy" signifieson the contrarythe intense development of thewill of the individualand as complete a subordination as possible of theStatewhichwith the exception of the policethe armyand diplomaticrelationsis not allowed the direction of anythingnot even of publicinstruction. It is seenthenthat the same word which signifies for one peoplethe subordination of the will and the initiative of the individual and thepreponderance of the Statesignifies for another the excessive development ofthe will and the initiative of the individual and the complete subordination ofthe State.
Note: [13]

[13]


Note:

In my book"The Psychological Laws of the Evolution of Peoples" Ihave insisted at length on the differences which distinguish the Latindemocratic ideal from the Anglo-Saxon democratic ideal. Independentlyand asthe result of his travelsM. Paul Bourget has arrivedin his quite recentbook"Outre-Mer" at conclusions almost identical with mine.

2. ILLUSIONS.

From the dawn of civilisation onwards crowds have alwaysundergone the influence of illusions. It is to the creators of illusions thatthey have raised more templesstatuesand altars than to

 

-108-



any other class of men. Whether it be the religious illusions of the past or thephilosophic and social illusions of the presentthese formidable sovereignpowers are always found at the head of all the civilisations that havesuccessively flourished on our planet. It is in their name that were built thetemples of Chaldea and Egypt and the religious edifices of the Middle Agesandthat a vast upheaval shook the whole of Europe a century agoand there is notone of our politicalartisticor social conceptions that is free from theirpowerful impress. Occasionallyat the cost of terrible disturbancesmanoverthrows thembut he seems condemned to always set them up again. Withoutthem he would never have emerged from his primitive barbarian stateand withoutthem again he would soon return to it. Doubtless they are futile shadows; butthese children of our dreams have forced the nations to create whatever the artsmay boast of splendour or civilisation of greatness.

"If one destroyed in museums and librariesif one hurled down on theflagstones before the churches all the works and all the monuments of art thatreligions have inspiredwhat would remain of the great dreams of humanity? Togive to men that portion of hope and illusion without which they cannot livesuch is the reason for the existence of godsheroesand poets. During fifty

 

-109-



years science appeared to undertake this task. But science has been compromisedin hearts hungering after the idealbecause it does not dare to be lavishenough of promisesbecause it cannot lie."
Note: [14]

[14]


Note:

Daniel Lesueur.

The philosophers of the last century devoted themselves with fervour to thedestruction of the religiouspoliticaland social illusions on which ourforefathers had lived for a long tale of centuries. By destroying them they havedried up the springs of hope and resignation. Behind the immolated chimeras theycame face to face with the blind and silent forces of naturewhich areinexorable to weakness and ignore pity.

Notwithstanding all its progressphilosophy has been unable as yet to offerthe masses any ideal that can charm them; butas they must have their illusionsat all costthey turn instinctivelyas the insect seeks the lightto therhetoricians who accord them what they want. Not truthbut error has alwaysbeen the chief factor in the evolution of nationsand the reason why socialismis so powerful to-day is that it constitutes the last illusion that is stillvital. In spite of all scientific demonstrations it continues on the increase.Its principal strength lies in the fact that it is championed by mindssufficiently ignorant of things as they are in reality to venture boldly topromise

 

-110-



mankind happiness. The social illusion reigns to-day upon all the heaped-upruins of the pastand to it belongs the future. The masses have never thirstedafter truth. They turn aside from evidence that is not to their tastepreferring to deify errorif error seduce them. Whoever can supply them withillusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions isalways their victim.

3. EXPERIENCE.

Experience constitutes almost the only effective process bywhich a truth may be solidly established in the mind of the massesandillusions grown too dangerous be destroyed. To this endhoweverit isnecessary that the experience should take place on a very large scaleand bevery frequently repeated. The experiences undergone by one generation areuselessas a rulefor the generation that followswhich is the reason whyhistorical factscited with a view to demonstrationserve no purpose. Theironly utility is to prove to what an extent experiences need to be repeated fromage to age to exert any influenceor to be successful in merely shaking anerroneous opinion when it is solidly implanted in the mind of the masses.

Our century and that which preceded it will doubtless be alluded to byhistorians as an era

 

-111-



of curious experimentswhich in no other age have been tried in such number.

The most gigantic of these experiments was the French Revolution. To find outthat a society is not to be refashioned from top to bottom in accordance withthe dictates of pure reasonit was necessary that several millions of menshould be massacred and that Europe should be profoundly disturbed for a periodof twenty years. To prove to us experimentally that dictators cost the nationswho acclaim them deartwo ruinous experiences have been required in fiftyyearsand in spite of their clearness they do not seem to have beensufficiently convincing. The firstneverthelesscost three millions of men andan invasionthe second involved a loss of territoryand carried in its wakethe necessity for permanent armies. A third was almost attempted not long sinceand will assuredly be attempted one day. To bring an entire nation to admit thatthe huge German army was notas was currently alleged thirty years agoa sortof harmless national guard
Note: [15] the terrible war

 

-112-



which cost us so dear had to take place. To bring about the recognition thatProtection ruins the nations who adopt itat least twenty years of disastrousexperience will be needful. These examples might be indefinitely multiplied.

[15]


Note:

The opinion of the crowd was formed in this case by those rough-and-readyassociations of dissimilar thingsthe mechanism of which I have previouslyexplained. The French national guard of that periodbeing composed of peaceableshopkeepersutterly lacking in discipline and quite incapable of being takenseriouslywhatever bore a similar nameevoked the same conception and wasconsidered in consequence as harmless. The error of the crowd was shared at thetime by its leadersas happens so often in connection with opinions dealingwith generalisations. In a speech made in the Chamber on the 31st of December1867and quoted in a book by M. E. Ollivier that has appeared recentlyastatesman who often followed the opinion of the crowd but was never in advanceof it -- I allude to M. Thiers -- declared that Prussia only possessed anational guard analogous to that of Franceand in consequence withoutimportancein addition to a regular army about equal to the French regulararmy; assertions about as accurate as the predictions of the same statesman asto the insignificant future reserved for railways.

4. REASON.

In enumerating the factors capable of making an impression onthe minds of crowds all mention of reason might be dispensed withwere it notnecessary to point out the negative value of its influence.

We have already shown that crowds are not to be influenced by reasoningandcan only comprehend rough-and-ready associations of ideas. The orators who knowhow to make an impression upon them always appeal in consequence to theirsentiments and never to their reason. The laws

 

-113-



of logic have no action on crowds.
Note: [16] To bring home conviction to crowds it is necessary first of all tothoroughly comprehend the sentiments by which they are animatedto pretend toshare these sentimentsthen to endeavour to modify them by calling upby meansof rudimentary associationscertain eminently suggestive notionsto becapableif need beof going back to the point of view from which a start wasmadeandabove allto

 

-114-



divine from instant to instant the sentiments to which one's discourse is givingbirth. This necessity of ceaselessly varying one's language in accordance withthe effect produced at the moment of speaking deprives from the outset aprepared and studied harangue of all efficaciousness. In such a speech theorator follows his own line of thoughtnot that of his hearersand from thisfact alone his influence is annihilated.

[16]


Note:

My first observations with regard to the art of impressing crowds andtouching the slight assistance to be derived in this connection from the rulesof logic date back to the seige of Paristo the day when I saw conducted to theLouvrewhere the Government was then sittingMarshal V -- --whom a furiouscrowd asserted they had surprised in the act of taking the plans of thefortifications to sell them to the Prussians. A member of the Government (G. P-- -- )a very celebrated oratorcame out to harangue the crowdwhich wasdemanding the immediate execution of the prisoner. I had expected that thespeaker would point out the absurdity of the accusation by remarking that theaccused Marshal was positively one of those who had constructed thefortificationsthe plan of whichmoreoverwas on sale at every booksellers.To my immense stupefaction -- I was very young then -- the speech was on quitedifferent lines. "Justice shall be done" exclaimed the oratoradvancing towards the prisoner"and pitiless justice. Let the Governmentof the National Defence conclude your inquiry. In the meantime we will keep theprisoner in custody." At once calmed by this apparent concessionthe crowdbroke upand a quarter of an hour later the Marshal was able to return home. Hewould infallibly have been torn in pieces had the speaker treated the infuriatedcrowd to the logical arguments that my extreme youth induced me to consider asvery convincing.

Logical mindsaccustomed to be convinced by a chain of somewhat closereasoningcannot avoid having recourse to this mode of persuasion whenaddressing crowdsand the inability of their arguments always surprises them."The usual mathematical consequences based on the syllogism -- that isonassociations of identities -- are imperative . . ." writes a logician."This imperativeness would enforce the assent even of an inorganic masswere it capable of following associations of identities." This is doubtlesstruebut a crowd is no more capable than an inorganic mass of following suchassociationsnor even of understanding them. If the attempt be made to convinceby reasoning primitive minds -- savages or childrenfor instance -- the slightvalue possessed by this method of arguing will be understood.

It is not even necessary to descend so low as primitive beings to obtain aninsight into the utter powerlessness of reasoning when it has to fight

 

-115-



against sentiment. Let us merely call to mind how tenaciousfor centuries longhave been religious superstitions in contradiction with the simplest logic. Fornearly two thousand years the most luminous geniuses have bowed before theirlawsand modern times have to be reached for their veracity to be merelycontested. The Middle Ages and the Renaissance possessed many enlightened menbut not a single man who attained by reasoning to an appreciation of thechildish side of his superstitionsor who promulgated even a slight doubt as tothe misdeeds of the devil or the necessity of burning sorcerers.

Should it be regretted that crowds are never guided by reason? We would notventure to affirm it. Without a doubt human reason would not have availed tospur humanity along the path of civilisation with the ardour and hardihood itsillusions have done. These illusionsthe offspring of those unconscious forcesby which we are ledwere doubtless necessary. Every race carries in its mentalconstitution the laws of its destinyand it isperhapsthese laws that itobeys with a resistless impulseeven in the case of those of its impulses whichapparently are the most unreasoned. It seems at times as if nations weresubmitted to secret forces analogous to those which compel the acorn totransform itself into an oak or a comet to follow its orbit.

 

-116-


What little insight we can get into these forces must be sought for in thegeneral course of the evolution of a peopleand not in the isolated facts fromwhich this evolution appears at times to proceed. Were these facts alone to betaken into considerationhistory would seem to be the result of a series ofimprobable chances. It was improbable that a Galilean carpenter should becomefor two thousand years an all-powerful God in whose name the most importantcivilisations were founded; improbabletoothat a few bands of Arabsemergingfrom their desertsshould conquer the greater part of the old Graco-Romanworldand establish an empire greater than that of Alexander; improbableagainthat in Europeat an advanced period of its developmentand whenauthority throughout it had been systematically hierarchisedan obscurelieutenant of artillery should have succeeded in reigning over a multitude ofpeoples and kings.

Let us leave reasonthento philosophersand not insist too strongly onits intervention in the governing of men. It is not by reasonbut most often inspite of itthat are created those sentiments that are the mainsprings of allcivilisation -- sentiments such as honourself-sacrificereligious faithpatriotismand the love of glory.

CHAPTER III.
THE LEADERS OF CROWDS AND THEIR MEANS OF
PERSUASION.

1. The leaders of crowds. The instinctive need of allbeings forming a crowd to obey a leader -- The psychology of the leaders ofcrowds -- They alone can endow crowds with faith and organise them -- Theleaders forcibly despotic -- Classification of the leaders -- The part played bythe will. 2. The means of action of the leaders. Affirmationrepetitioncontagion -- The respective part of these different factors -- The way in whichcontagion may spread from the lower to the upper classes in a society -- Apopular opinion soon becomes a general opinion. 3. Prestige. Definitionof prestige and classification of its different kinds -- Acquired prestige andpersonal prestige -- Various examples -- The way in which prestige is destroyed.

WE are now acquainted with the mental constitution of crowdsand we alsoknow what are the motives capable of making an impression on their mind. Itremains to investigate how these motives may be set in actionand by whom theymay usefully be turned to practical account.


 

-118-



1. THE LEADERS OF CROWDS.

As soon as a certain number of living beings are gatheredtogetherwhether they be animals or menthey place themselves instinctivelyunder the authority of a chief.

In the case of human crowds the chief is often nothing more than a ringleaderor agitatorbut as such he plays a considerable part. His will is the nucleusaround which the opinions of the crowd are grouped and attain to identity. Heconstitutes the first element towards the organisation of heterogeneous crowdsand paves the way for their organisation in sects; in the meantime he directsthem. A crowd is a servile flock that is incapable of ever doing without amaster.

The leader has most often started as one of the led. He has himself beenhypnotised by the ideawhose apostle he has since become. It has takenpossession of him to such a degree that everything outside it vanishesand thatevery contrary opinion appears to him an error or a superstition. An example inpoint is Robespierrehypnotised by the philosophical ideas of Rousseauandemploying the methods of the Inquisition to propagate them.

The leaders we speak of are more frequently men of action than thinkers. Theyare not gifted with keen foresightnor could they beas this quality generallyconduces to doubt and inactivity.

 

-119-



They are especially recruited from the ranks of those morbidly nervousexcitablehalf-deranged persons who are bordering on madness. However absurdmay be the idea they uphold or the goal they pursuetheir convictions are sostrong that all reasoning is lost upon them. Contempt and persecution do notaffect themor only serve to excite them the more. They sacrifice theirpersonal interesttheir family -- everything. The very instinct ofself-preservation is entirely obliterated in themand so much so that often theonly recompense they solicit is that of martyrdom. The intensity of their faithgives great power of suggestion to their words. The multitude is always ready tolisten to the strong-willed manwho knows how to impose himself upon it. Mengathered in a crowd lose all force of willand turn instinctively to the personwho possesses the quality they lack.

Nations have never lacked leadersbut all of the latter have by no meansbeen animated by those strong convictions proper to apostles. These leaders areoften subtle rhetoriciansseeking only their own personal interestandendeavouring to persuade by flattering base instincts. The influence they canassert in this manner may be very greatbut it is always ephemeral. The men ofardent convictions who have stirred the soul of crowdsthe Peter the Hermitsthe Luthersthe Savonarolas

 

-120-



the men of the French Revolutionhave only exercised their fascination afterhaving been themselves fascinated first of all by a creed. They are then able tocall up in the souls of their fellows that formidable force known as faithwhich renders a man the absolute slave of his dream.

The arousing of faith -- whether religiouspoliticalor socialwhetherfaith in a workin a personor an idea -- has always been the function of thegreat leaders of crowdsand it is on this account that their influence isalways very great. Of all the forces at the disposal of humanityfaith hasalways been one of the most tremendousand the gospel rightly attributes to itthe power of moving mountains. To endow a man with faith is to multiply hisstrength tenfold. The great events of history have been brought about by obscurebelieverswho have had little beyond their faith in their favour. It is not bythe aid of the learned or of philosophersand still less of scepticsthat havebeen built up the great religions which have swayed the worldor the vastempires which have spread from one hemisphere to the other.

In the cases just citedhoweverwe are dealing with great leadersand theyare so few in number that history can easily reckon them up. They form thesummit of a continuous serieswhich extends from these powerful masters of mendown to the workman whoin the smoky atmosphere of

 

-121-



an innslowly fascinates his comrades by ceaselessly drumming into their ears afew set phraseswhose purport he scarcely comprehendsbut the application ofwhichaccording to himmust surely bring about the realisation of all dreamsand of every hope.

In every social spherefrom the highest to the lowestas soon as a manceases to be isolated he speedily falls under the influence of a leader. Themajority of menespecially among the massesdo not possess clear and reasonedideas on any subject whatever outside their own speciality. The leader servesthem as guide. It is just possible that he may be replacedthough veryinefficientlyby the periodical publications which manufacture opinions fortheir readers and supply them with ready-made phrases which dispense them of thetrouble of reasoning.

The leaders of crowds wield a very despotic authorityand this despotismindeed is a condition of their obtaining a following. It has often been remarkedhow easily they extort obediencealthough without any means of backing up theirauthorityfrom the most turbulent section of the working classes. They fix thehours of labour and the rate of wagesand they decree strikeswhich are begunand ended at the hour they ordain.

At the present day these leaders and agitators

 

-122-



tend more and more to usurp the place of the public authorities in proportion asthe latter allow themselves to be called in question and shorn of theirstrength. The tyranny of these new masters has for result that the crowds obeythem much more docilely than they have obeyed any government. If in consequenceof some accident or other the leaders should be removed from the scene the crowdreturns to its original state of a collectivity without cohesion or force ofresistance. During the last strike of the Parisian omnibus employés the arrestof the two leaders who were directing it was at once sufficient to bring it toan end. It is the need not of liberty but of servitude that is alwayspredominant in the soul of crowds. They are so bent on obedience that theyinstinctively submit to whoever declares himself their master.

These ringleaders and agitators may be divided into two clearly definedclasses. The one includes the men who are energetic and possessbut onlyintermittentlymuch strength of willthe other the menfar rarer than theprecedingwhose strength of will is enduring. The first mentioned are violentbraveand audacious. They are more especially useful to direct a violententerprise suddenly decided onto carry the masses with them in spite ofdangerand to transform into heroes the men who but yesterday were recruits.

 

-123-



Men of this kind were Ney and Murat under the First Empireand such a man inour own time was Garibaldia talentless but energetic adventurer who succeededwith a handful of men in laying hands on the ancient kingdom of Naplesdefendedthough it was by a disciplined army.

Stillthough the energy of leaders of this class is a force to be reckonedwithit is transitoryand scarcely outlasts the exciting cause that hasbrought it into play. When they have returned to their ordinary course of lifethe heroes animated by energy of this description often evinceas was the casewith those I have just citedthe most astonishing weakness of character. Theyseem incapable of reflection and of conducting themselves under the simplestcircumstancesalthough they had been able to lead others. These men are leaderswho cannot exercise their function except on the condition that they be ledthemselves and continually stimulatedthat they have always as their beacon aman or an ideathat they follow a line of conduct clearly traced. The secondcategory of leadersthat of men of enduring strength of willhavein spite ofa less brilliant aspecta much more considerable influence. In this categoryare to be found the true founders of religions and great undertakings: St. PaulMahometChristopher Columbusand de Lessepsfor example. Whether they beintelligent

 

-124-



or narrow-minded is of no importance: the world belongs to them. The persistentwill-force they possess is an immensely rare and immensely powerful faculty towhich everything yields. What a strong and continuous will is capable of is notalways properly appreciated. Nothing resists it; neither naturegodsnor man.

The most recent example of what can be effected by a strong and continuouswill is afforded us by the illustrious man who separated the Eastern and Westernworldsand accomplished a task that during three thousand years had beenattempted in vain by the greatest sovereigns. He failed later in an identicalenterprisebut then had intervened old ageto which everythingeven the willsuccumbs.

When it is desired to show what may be done by mere strength of willallthat is necessary is to relate in detail the history of the difficulties thathad to be surmounted in connection with the cutting of the Suez Canal. An ocularwitnessDr. Cazalishas summed up in a few striking lines the entire story ofthis great workrecounted by its immortal author.

"From day to dayepisode by episodehe told the stupendous story ofthe canal. He told of all he had had to vanquishof the impossible he had madepossibleof all the opposition he encounteredof the coalition against himand the disappointmentsthe reversesthe defeats which had been unavailing

 

-125-



to discourage or depress him. He recalled how England had combatted himattacking him without cessationhow Egypt and France had hesitatedhow theFrench Consul had been foremost in his opposition to the early stages of theworkand the nature of the opposition he had met withthe attempt to force hisworkmen to desert from thirst by refusing them fresh water; how the Minister ofMarine and the engineersall responsible men of experienced and scientifictraininghad naturally all been hostilewere all certain on scientific groundsthat disaster was at handhad calculated its comingforetelling it for such aday and hour as an eclipse is foretold."

The book which relates the lives of all these great leaders would not containmany namesbut these names have been bound up with the most important events inthe history of civilisation.

2. THE MEANS OF ACTION OF THE LEADERS:
AFFIRMATIONREPETITIONCONTAGION.

When it is wanted to stir up a crowd for a short space oftimeto induce it to commit an act of any nature -- to pillage a palaceor todie in defence of a stronghold or a barricadefor instance -- the crowd must beacted upon by rapid suggestionamong which example is the most powerful in itseffect. To attain this endhoweverit is necessary that the crowd should havebeen previously prepared by

 

-126-



certain circumstancesandabove allthat he who wishes to work upon it shouldpossess the quality to be studied farther onto which I give the name ofprestige.

Whenhoweverit is proposed to imbue the mind of a crowd with ideas andbeliefs -- with modern social theoriesfor instance -- the leaders haverecourse to different expedients. The principal of them are three in number andclearly defined -- affirmationrepetitionand contagion. Their action issomewhat slowbut its effectsonce producedare very lasting.

Affirmation pure and simplekept free of all reasoning and all proofis oneof the surest means of making an idea enter the mind of crowds. The conciser anaffirmation isthe more destitute of every appearance of proof anddemonstrationthe more weight it carries. The religious books and the legalcodes of all ages have always resorted to simple affirmation. Statesmen calledupon to defend a political causeand commercial men pushing the sale of theirproducts by means of advertising are acquainted with the value of affirmation.

Affirmationhoweverhas no real influence unless it be constantly repeatedand so far as possible in the same terms. It was NapoleonI believewho saidthat there is only one figure in rhetoric of serious importancenamelyrepetition. The thing

 

-127-



affirmed comes by repetition to fix itself in the mind in such a way that it isaccepted in the end as a demonstrated truth.

The influence of repetition on crowds is comprehensible when the power isseen which it exercises on the most enlightened minds. This power is due to thefact that the repeated statement is embedded in the long run in those profoundregions of our unconscious selves in which the motives of our actions areforged. At the end of a certain time we have forgotten who is the author of therepeated assertionand we finish by believing it. To this circumstance is duethe astonishing power of advertisements. When we have read a hundredathousandtimes that X's chocolate is the bestwe imagine we have heard it saidin many quartersand we end by acquiring the certitude that such is the fact.When we have read a thousand times that Y's flour has cured the most illustriouspersons of the most obstinate maladieswe are tempted at last to try it whensuffering from an illness of a similar kind. If we always read in the samepapers that A is an arrant scamp and B a most honest man we finish by beingconvinced that this is the truthunlessindeedwe are given to readinganother paper of the contrary opinionin which the two qualifications arereversed. Affirmation and repetition are alone powerful enough to combat eachother.

 

-128-


When an affirmation has been sufficiently repeated and there is unanimity inthis repetition -- as has occurred in the case of certain famous financialundertakings rich enough to purchase every assistance -- what is called acurrent of opinion is formed and the powerful mechanism of contagion intervenes.Ideassentimentsemotionsand beliefs possess in crowds a contagious power asintense as that of microbes. This phenomenon is very naturalsince it isobserved even in animals when they are together in number. Should a horse in astable take to biting his manger the other horses in the stable will imitatehim. A panic that has seized on a few sheep will soon extend to the whole flock.In the case of men collected in a crowd all emotions are very rapidlycontagiouswhich explains the suddenness of panics. Brain disorderslikemadnessare themselves contagious. The frequency of madness among doctors whoare specialists for the mad is notorious. Indeedforms of madness have recentlybeen cited -- agoraphobiafor instance -- which are communicable from men toanimals.

For individuals to succumb to contagion their simultaneous presence on thesame spot is not indispensable. The action of contagion may be felt from adistance under the influence of events which give all minds an individual trendand the characteristics peculiar to crowds. This is especially

 

-129-



the case when men's minds have been prepared to undergo the influence inquestion by those remote factors of which I have made a study above. An examplein point is the revolutionary movement of 1848whichafter breaking out inParisspread rapidly over a great part of Europe and shook a number of thrones.

Imitationto which so much influence is attributed in social phenomenaisin reality a mere effect of contagion. Having shown its influence elsewhereIshall confine myself to reproducing what I said on the subject fifteen yearsago. My remarks have since been developed by other writers in recentpublications.

"Manlike animalshas a natural tendency to imitation. Imitation is anecessity for himprovided always that the imitation is quite easy. It is thisnecessity that makes the influence of what is called fashion so powerful.Whether in the matter of opinionsideasliterary manifestationsor merely ofdresshow many persons are bold enough to run counter to the fashion? It is byexamples not by arguments that crowds are guided. At every period there exists asmall number of individualities which react upon the remainder and are imitatedby the unconscious mass. It is needful howeverthat these individualitiesshould not be in too pronounced disagreement with received ideas. Were they soto imitate them would be too difficult

 

-130-



and their influence would be nil. For this very reason men who are too superiorto their epoch are generally without influence upon it. The line of separationis too strongly marked. For the same reason too Europeansin spite of all theadvantages of their civilisationhave so insignificant an influence on Easternpeople; they differ from them to too great an extent.

"The dual action of the past and of reciprocal imitation rendersin thelong runall the men of the same country and the same period so alike that evenin the case of individuals who would seem destined to escape this doubleinfluencesuch as philosopherslearned menand men of lettersthought andstyle have a family air which enables the age to which they belong to beimmediately recognised. It is not necessary to talk for long with an individualto attain to a thorough knowledge of what he readsof his habitual occupationsand of the surroundings amid which he lives."
Note: [17]

[17]


Note:

Gustave le Bon"L'Homme et les Sociétés" vol. ii. p. 116. 1881.

Contagion is so powerful that it forces upon individuals not only certainopinionsbut certain modes of feeling as well. Contagion is the cause of thecontempt in whichat a given periodcertain works are held -- the example of"Tannhaüser" may be cited -- whicha few years laterfor the same

 

-131-



reason are admired by those who were foremost in criticising them.

The opinions and beliefs of crowds are specially propagated by contagionbutnever by reasoning. The conceptions at present rife among the working classeshave been acquired at the public-house as the result of affirmationrepetitionand contagionand indeed the mode of creation of the beliefs of crowds of everyage has scarcely been different. Renan justly institutes a comparison betweenthe first founders of Christianity and "the socialist working men spreadingtheir ideas from public-house to public-house"; while Voltaire had alreadyobserved in connection with the Christian religion that "for more than ahundred years it was only embraced by the vilest riff-raff."

It will be noted that in cases analogous to those I have just citedcontagionafter having been at work among the popular classeshas spread tothe higher classes of society. This is what we see happening at the present daywith regard to the socialist doctrines which are beginning to be held by thosewho will yet be their first victims. Contagion is so powerful a force that eventhe sentiment of personal interest disappears under its action.

This is the explanation of the fact that every opinion adopted by thepopulace always ends in implanting itself with great vigour in the highest

 

-132-



social stratahowever obvious be the absurdity of the triumphant opinion. Thisreaction of the lower upon the higher social classes is the more curiousowingto the circumstance that the beliefs of the crowd always have their origin to agreater or less extent in some higher ideawhich has often remained withoutinfluence in the sphere in which it was evolved. Leaders and agitatorssubjugated by this higher ideatake hold of itdistort it and create a sectwhich distorts it afreshand then propagates it amongst the masseswho carrythe process of deformation still further. Become a popular truth the ideareturnsas it wereto its source and exerts an influence on the upper classesof a nation. In the long run it is intelligence that shapes the destiny of theworldbut very indirectly. The philosophers who evolve ideas have long sincereturned to dustwhenas the result of the process I have just describedthefruit of their reflection ends by triumphing.

3. PRESTIGE.

Great power is given to ideas propagated by affirmationrepetitionand contagion by the circumstance that they acquire in time thatmysterious force known as prestige.

Whatever has been a ruling power in the worldwhether it be ideas or menhas in the main enforced its authority by means of that irresistible

 

-133-



force expressed by the word "prestige." The term is one whose meaningis grasped by everybodybut the word is employed in ways too different for itto be easy to define it. Prestige may involve such sentiments as admiration orfear. Occasionally even these sentiments are its basisbut it can perfectlywell exist without them. The greatest measure of prestige is possessed by thedeadby beingsthat isof whom we do not stand in fear -- by AlexanderCæsarMahometand Buddhafor example. On the other handthere are fictivebeings whom we do not admire -- the monstrous divinities of the subterraneantemples of Indiafor instance -- but who strike us nevertheless as endowed witha great prestige.

Prestige in reality is a sort of domination exercised on our mind by anindividuala workor an idea. This domination entirely paralyses our criticalfacultyand fills our soul with astonishment and respect. The sentimentprovoked is inexplicablelike all sentimentsbut it would appear to be of thesame kind as the fascination to which a magnetised person is subjected. Prestigeis the mainspring of all authority. Neither godskingsnor women have everreigned without it.

The various kinds of prestige may be grouped under two principal heads:acquired prestige and personal prestige. Acquired prestige is that resulting

 

-134-



from namefortuneand reputation. It may be independent of personal prestige.Personal prestigeon the contraryis something essentially peculiar to theindividual; it may coexist with reputationgloryand fortuneor bestrengthened by thembut it is perfectly capable of existing in their absence.

Acquired or artificial prestige is much the most common. The mere fact thatan individual occupies a certain positionpossesses a certain fortuneor bearscertain titlesendows him with prestigehowever slight his own personal worth.A soldier in uniforma judge in his robesalways enjoys prestige. Pascal hasvery properly noted the necessity for judges of robes and wigs. Without themthey would be stripped of half their authority. The most unbending socialist isalways somewhat impressed by the sight of a prince or a marquis; and theassumption of such titles makes the robbing of tradesmen an easy matter.
Note: [18]

[18]


Note:

The influence of titlesdecorationsand uniforms on crowds is to be tracedin all countrieseven in those in which the sentiment of personal independenceis the most strongly developed. I quote in this connection a curious passagefrom a recent book of travelon the prestige enjoyed in England by greatpersons.

"I had observedunder various circumstancesthe peculiar sort ofintoxication produced in the most reasonable Englishmen by the contact or sightof an English peer.

"Provided his fortune enables him to keep up his rankhe is sure oftheir affection in advanceand brought into contact with him they are soenchanted as to put up with anything at his hands. They may be seen to reddenwith pleasure at his approachand if he speaks to them their suppressed joyincreases their rednessand causes their eyes to gleam with unusual brilliance.Respect for nobility is in their bloodso to speakas with Spaniards the loveof dancingwith Germans that of musicand with Frenchmen the liking forrevolutions. Their passion for horses and Shakespeare is less violentthesatisfaction and pride they derive from these sources a less integral part oftheir being. There is a considerable sale for books dealing with the peerageand go where one will they are to be foundlike the Biblein all hands."


 

-135-


The prestige of which I have just spoken is exercised by persons; side byside with it may be placed that exercised by opinionsliterary and artisticworks&c. Prestige of the latter kind is most often merely the result ofaccumulated repetitions. Historyliterary and artistic history especiallybeing nothing more than the repetition of identical judgmentswhich nobodyendeavours to verifyevery one ends by repeating what he learnt at schooltillthere come to be names and things which nobody would venture to meddle with. Fora modern reader the perusal of Homer results incontestably in immense boredom;but who would venture to say so? The Parthenonin its present stateis awretched ruinutterly destitute of interestbut it is endowed with suchprestige that it does not appear to us as it really isbut with all itsaccompaniment of historic memories. The special characteristic of prestige is toprevent us seeing

 

-136-



things as they are and to entirely paralyse our judgment. Crowds alwaysandindividuals as a rulestand in need of ready-made opinions on all subjects. Thepopularity of these opinions is independent of the measure of truth or errorthey containand is solely regulated by their prestige.

I now come to personal prestige. Its nature is very different from that ofartificial or acquired prestigewith which I have just been concerned. It is afaculty independent of all titlesof all authorityand possessed by a smallnumber of persons whom it enables to exercise a veritably magnetic fascinationon those around themalthough they are socially their equalsand lack allordinary means of domination. They force the acceptance of their ideas andsentiments on those about themand they are obeyed as is the tamer of wildbeasts by the animal that could easily devour him.

The great leaders of crowdssuch as BuddhaJesusMahometJoan of ArcandNapoleonhave possessed this form of prestige in a high degreeand to thisendowment is more particularly due the position they attained. Godsheroesanddogmas win their way in the world of their own inward strength. They are not tobe discussed: they disappearindeedas soon as discussed.

The great personages I have just cited were in

 

-137-



possession of their power of fascination long before they became illustriousand would never have become so without it. It is evidentfor instancethatNapoleon at the zenith of his glory enjoyed an immense prestige by the mere factof his powerbut he was already endowed in part with this prestige when he waswithout power and completely unknown. Whenan obscure generalhe was sentthanks to influential protectionto command the army of Italyhe found himselfamong rough generals who were of a mind to give a hostile reception to the youngintruder dispatched them by the Directory. From the very beginningfrom thefirst interviewwithout the aid of speechesgesturesor threatsat the firstsight of the man who was to become great they were vanquished. Taine furnishes acurious account of this interview taken from contemporary memoirs.

"The generals of divisionamongst others Augereaua sort ofswashbuckleruncouth and heroicproud of his height and his braveryarrive atthe staff quarters very badly disposed towards the little upstart dispatchedthem from Paris. On the strength of the description of him that has been giventhemAugereau is inclined to be insolent and insubordinate; a favourite ofBarrasa general who owes his rank to the events of Vendémiaire who has wonhis grade by street-fightingwho is

 

-138-



looked upon as bearishbecause he is always thinking in solitudeof pooraspectand with the reputation of a mathematician and dreamer. They areintroducedand Bonaparte keeps them waiting. At last he appearsgirt with hissword; he puts on his hatexplains the measures he has takengives his ordersand dismisses them. Augereau has remained silent; it is only when he is outsidethat he regains his self-possession and is able to deliver himself of hiscustomary oaths. He admits with Masséna that this little devil of a general hasinspired him with awe; he cannot understand the ascendency by which from thevery first he has felt himself overwhelmed."

Become a great manhis prestige increased in proportion as his glory grewand came to be at least equal to that of a divinity in the eyes of those devotedto him. General Vandammea roughtypical soldier of the Revolutioneven morebrutal and energetic than Augereausaid of him to Marshal d'Arnano in 1815ason one occasion they mounted together the stairs of the Tuileries: "Thatdevil of a man exercises a fascination on me that I cannot explain even tomyselfand in such a degree thatthough I fear neither God nor devilwhen Iam in his presence I am ready to tremble like a childand he could make me gothrough the eye of a needle to throw myself into the fire."

 

-139-


Napoleon exercised a like fascination on all who came into contact with him.
Note: [19]

[19]


Note:

Thoroughly conscious of his prestigeNapoleon was aware that he added to itby treating rather worse than stable lads the great personages around himandamong whom figured some of those celebrated men of the Convention of whom Europehad stood in dread. The gossip of the period abounds in illustrations of thisfact. One dayin the midst of a Council of StateNapoleon grossly insultsBeugnottreating him as one might an unmannerly valet. The effect producedhegoes up to him and says"Wellstupidhave you found your headagain?" Whereupon Beugnottall as a drum-majorbows very lowand thelittle man raising his handtakes the tall one by the ear"anintoxicating sign of favour" writes Beugnot"the familiar gesture ofthe master who waxes gracious." Such examples give a clear idea of thedegree of base platitude that prestige can provoke. They enable us to understandthe immense contempt of the great despot for the men surrounding him -- men whomhe merely looked upon as "food for powder."

Davoust used to saytalking of Maret's devotion and of his own: "Hadthe Emperor said to us`It is important in the interest of my policy that Parisshould be destroyed without a single person leaving it or escaping' Maret I amsure would have kept the secretbut he could not have abstained fromcompromising himself by seeing that his family got clear of the city. On theother handIfor fear of letting the truth leak outwould have let my wifeand children stay."

It is necessary to bear in mind the astounding power exerted by fascinationof this order to

 

-140-



understand that marvellous return from the Isle of Elbathat lightning-likeconquest of France by an isolated man confronted by all the organised forces ofa great country that might have been supposed weary of his tyranny. He hadmerely to cast a look at the generals sent to lay hands on himand who hadsworn to accomplish their mission. All of them submitted without discussion.

"Napoleon" writes the English General Wolseley"lands inFrance almost alonea fugitive from the small island of Elba which was hiskingdomand succeeded in a few weekswithout bloodshedin upsetting allorganised authority in France under its legitimate king; is it possible for thepersonal ascendency of a man to affirm itself in a more astonishing manner? Butfrom the beginning to the end of this campaignwhich was his lasthowremarkable too is the ascendency he exercised over the Alliesobliging them tofollow his initiativeand how near he came to crushing them!"

His prestige outlived him and continued to grow. It is his prestige that madean emperor of his obscure nephew. How powerful is his memory still is seen inthe resurrection of his legend in progress at the present day. Ill-treat men asyou willmassacre them by millionsbe the cause of invasion upon invasionallis permitted you if you possess

 

-141-



prestige in a sufficient degree and the talent necessary to uphold it.

I have invokedno doubtin this case a quite exceptional example ofprestigebut one it was useful to cite to make clear the genesis of greatreligionsgreat doctrinesand great empires. Were it not for the power exertedon the crowd by prestigesuch growths would be incomprehensible.

Prestigehoweveris not based solely on personal ascendencymilitarygloryand religious terror; it may have a more modest origin and still beconsiderable. Our century furnishes several examples. One of the most strikingones that posterity will recall from age to age will be supplied by the historyof the illustrious man who modified the face of the globe and the commercialrelations of the nations by separating two continents. He succeeded in hisenterprise owing to his immense strength of willbut also owing to thefascination he exercised on those surrounding him. To overcome the unanimousopposition he met withhe had only to show himself. He would speak brieflyandin face of the charm he exerted his opponents became his friends. The English inparticular strenuously opposed his scheme; he had only to put in an appearancein England to rally all suffrages. In later yearswhen he passed Southamptonthe bells were rung on his passage; and at the present day a movement

 

-142-



is on foot in England to raise a statue in his honour.

"Having vanquished whatever there is to vanquishmen and thingsmarshesrocksand sandy wastes" he had ceased to believe in obstaclesand wished to begin Suez over again at Panama. He began again with the samemethods as of old; but he had agedandbesidesthe faith that moves mountainsdoes not move them if they are too lofty. The mountains resistedand thecatastrophe that ensued destroyed the glittering aureole of glory that envelopedthe hero. His life teaches how prestige can grow and how it can vanish. Afterrivalling in greatness the most famous heroes of historyhe was lowered by themagistrates of his country to the ranks of the vilest criminals. When he diedhis coffinunattendedtraversed an indifferent crowd. Foreign sovereigns arealone in rendering homage to his memory as to that of one of the greatest menthat history has known.
Note: [20]

[20]


Note:

An Austrian paperthe Neue Freie Presseof Viennahas indulged onthe subject of the destiny of de Lesseps in reflections marked by a mostjudicious psychological insight. I therefore reproduce them here: --

"After the condemnation of Ferdinand de Lesseps one has no longer theright to be astonished at the sad end of Christopher Columbus. If Ferdinand deLesseps were a rogue every noble illusion is a crime. Antiquity would havecrowned the memory of de Lesseps with an aureole of gloryand would have madehim drink from the bowl of nectar in the midst of Olympusfor he has alteredthe face of the earth and accomplished works which make the creation moreperfect. The President of the Court of Appeal has immortalised himself bycondemning Ferdinand de Lessepsfor the nations will always demand the name ofthe man who was not afraid to debase his century by investing with the convict'scap an aged manwhose life redounded to the glory of his contemporaries.

"Let there be no more talk in the future of inflexible justicetherewhere reigns a bureaucratic hatred of audacious feats. The nations have need ofaudacious men who believe in themselves and overcome every obstacle withoutconcern for their personal safety. Genius cannot he prudent; by dint of prudenceit could never enlarge the sphere of human activity

". . . Ferdinand de Lesseps has known the intoxication of triumph andthe bitterness of disappointment -- Suez and Panama. At this point the heartrevolts at the morality of success. When de Lesseps had succeeded in joining twoseas princes and nations rendered him their homage; to-daywhen he meets withfailure among the rocks of the Cordillerashe is nothing but a vulgar rogue. .. . In this result we see a war between the classes of societythe discontentof bureaucrats and employéswho take their revenge with the aid of thecriminal code on those who would raise themselves above their fellows. . . .Modern legislators are filled with embarrassment when confronted by the loftyideas due to human genius; the public comprehends such ideas still lessand itis easy for an advocate-general to prove that Stanley is a murderer and deLesseps a deceiver."


 

-143-


Stillthe various examples that have just been cited represent extremecases. To fix in detail the psychology of prestigeit would be necessary toplace them at the extremity of a serieswhich would range from the founders ofreligions and empires to the private individual who endeavours

 

-144-



to dazzle his neighbours by a new coat or a decoration.

Between the extreme limits of this series would find a place all the forms ofprestige resulting from the different elements composing a civilisation --sciencesartsliterature&c. -- and it would be seen that prestigeconstitutes the fundamental element of persuasion. Consciously or notthebeingthe ideaor the thing possessing prestige is immediately imitated inconsequence of contagionand forces an entire generation to adopt certain modesof feeling and of giving expression to its thought. This imitationmoreoverisas a ruleunconsciouswhich accounts for the fact that it is perfect. Themodern painters who copy the pale colouring and the stiff attitudes of some ofthe Primitives are scarcely alive to the source of their inspiration. Theybelieve in their own sinceritywhereasif an eminent master had not revivedthis form of artpeople would have continued blind to all but its naïve andinferior sides. Those artists whoafter the manner of another illustriousmasterinundate their canvasses with violet shades do not see in nature moreviolet than was detected there fifty years ago; but they are influenced"suggestioned" by the personal and special impressions of a painterwhoin spite of this eccentricitywas successful in acquiring great prestige.Similar examples might be brought forward in connection with all the elements ofcivilisation.

 

-145-


It is seen from what precedes that a number of factors may be concerned inthe genesis of prestige; among them success was always one of the mostimportant. Every successful manevery idea that forces itself into recognitionceasesipso factoto be called in question. The proof that success isone of the principal stepping-stones to prestige is that the disappearance ofthe one is almost always followed by the disappearance of the other. The herowhom the crowd acclaimed yesterday is insulted to-day should he have beenovertaken by failure. The re-actionindeedwill be the stronger in proportionas the prestige has been great. The crowd in this case considers the fallen heroas an equaland takes its revenge for having bowed to a superiority whoseexistence it no longer admits. While Robespierre was causing the execution ofhis colleagues and of a great number of his contemporarieshe possessed animmense prestige. When the transposition of a few votes deprived him of powerhe immediately lost his prestigeand the crowd followed him to the guillotinewith the self-same imprecations with which shortly before it had pursued hisvictims. Believers always break the statues of their former gods with everysymptom of fury.

Prestige lost by want of success disappears in a brief space of time. It canalso be worn awaybut more slowly by being subjected to discussion.

 

-146-



This latter powerhoweveris exceedingly sure. From the moment prestige iscalled in question it ceases to be prestige. The gods and men who have kepttheir prestige for long have never tolerated discussion. For the crowd toadmireit must be kept at a distance.

CHAPTER IV.
LIMITATIONS OF THE VARIABILITY OF THE BELIEFS
AND OPINIONS OF CROWDS.

1. Fixed Beliefs. The invariability of certain generalbeliefs -- They shape the course of a civilisation -- The difficulty ofuprooting them -- In what respect intolerance is a virtue in a people -- Thephilosophic absurdity of a belief cannot interfere with its spreading. 2. TheChangeable Opinions of Crowds. The extreme mobility of opinions which do notarise from general beliefs -- Apparent variations of ideas and beliefs in lessthan a century -- The real limits of these variations -- The matters effected bythe variation -- The disappearance at present in progress of general beliefsand the extreme diffusion of the newspaper presshave for result that opinionsare nowadays more and more changeable -- Why the opinions of crowds tend on themajority of subjects towards indifference -- Governments now powerless to directopinion as they formerly did -- Opinions prevented to-day from being tyrannicalon account of their exceeding divergency.

1. FIXED BELIEFS.

A CLOSE parallel exists between the anatomical andpsychological characteristics of living beings.

 

-148-



In these anatomical characteristics certain invariableor slightly variableelements are met withto change which the lapse is necessary of geologicalages. Side by side with these fixedindestructible features are to be foundothers extremely changeablewhich the art of the breeder or horticulturist mayeasily modifyand at times to such an extent as to conceal the fundamentalcharacteristics from an observer at all inattentive.

The same phenomenon is observed in the case of moral characteristics.Alongside the unalterable psychological elements of a racemobile andchangeable elements are to be encountered. For this reasonin studying thebeliefs and opinions of a peoplethe presence is always detected of a fixedgroundwork on which are engrafted opinions as changing as the surface sand on arock.

The opinions and beliefs of crowds may be dividedtheninto two verydistinct classes. On the one hand we have great permanent beliefswhich endurefor several centuriesand on which an entire civilisation may rest. Suchforinstancein the past were feudalismChristianityand Protestantism; and suchin our own timeare the nationalist principle and contemporary democratic andsocial ideas. In the second placethere are the transitorychanging opinionsthe outcomeas a ruleof general conceptionsof which every age sees thebirth and disappearance; examples in

 

-149-



point are the theories which mould literature and the arts -- thoseforinstancewhich produced romanticismnaturalismmysticism&c. Opinions ofthis order are as superficialas a ruleas fashionand as changeable. Theymay be compared to the ripples which ceaselessly arise and vanish on the surfaceof a deep lake.

The great generalised beliefs are very restricted in number. Their rise andfall form the culminating points of the history of every historic race. Theyconstitute the real framework of civilisation.

It is easy to imbue the mind of crowds with a passing opinionbut verydifficult to implant therein a lasting belief. Howevera belief of this latterdescription once establishedit is equally difficult to uproot it. It isusually only to be changed at the cost of violent revolutions. Even revolutionscan only avail when the belief has almost entirely lost its sway over men'sminds. In that case revolutions serve to finally sweep away what had alreadybeen almost cast asidethough the force of habit prevented its completeabandonment. The beginning of a revolution is in reality the end of a belief.

The precise moment at which a great belief is doomed is easily recognisable;it is the moment when its value begins to be called in question. Every generalbelief being little else than a fiction

 

-150-



it can only survive on the condition that it be not subjected to examination.

But even when a belief is severely shakenthe institutions to which it hasgiven rise retain their strength and disappear but slowly. Finallywhen thebelief has completely lost its forceall that rested upon it is soon involvedin ruin. As yet a nation has never been able to change its beliefs without beingcondemned at the same time to transform all the elements of its civilisation.The nation continues this process of transformation until it has alighted on andaccepted a new general belief: until this juncture it is perforce in a state ofanarchy. General beliefs are the indispensable pillars of civilisations; theydetermine the trend of ideas. They alone are capable of inspiring faith andcreating a sense of duty.

Nations have always been conscious of the utility of acquiring generalbeliefsand have instinctively understood that their disappearance would be thesignal for their own decline. In the case of the Romansthe fanatical cult ofRome was the belief that made them masters of the worldand when the belief haddied out Rome was doomed to die. As for the barbarians who destroyed the Romancivilisationit was only when they had acquired certain commonly acceptedbeliefs that they attained a measure of cohesion and emerged from anarchy.

 

-151-


Plainly it is not for nothing that nations have always displayed intolerancein the defence of their opinions. This intoleranceopen as it is to criticismfrom the philosophic standpointrepresents in the life of a people the mostnecessary of virtues. It was to found or uphold general beliefs that so manyvictims were sent to the stake in the Middle Ages and that so many inventors andinnovators have died in despair even if they have escaped martyrdom. It is indefencetooof such beliefs that the world has been so often the scene of thedirest disorderand that so many millions of men have died on the battlefieldand will yet die there.

There are great difficulties in the way of establishing a general beliefbutwhen it is definitely implanted its power is for a long time to come invincibleand however false it be philosophically it imposes itself upon the most luminousintelligence. Have not the European peoples regarded as incontrovertible formore than fifteen centuries religious legends whichclosely examinedare asbarbarous
Note: [21] as those of Moloch? The frightful absurdity of the legend of a Godwho revenges himself for the disobedience of one of his

 

-152-



creatures by inflicting horrible tortures on his son remained unperceived duringmany centuries. Such potent geniuses as a Galileoa Newtonand a Leibnitznever supposed for an instant that the truth of such dogmas could be called inquestion. Nothing can be more typical than this fact of the hypnotising effectof general beliefsbut at the same time nothing can mark more decisively thehumiliating limitations of our intelligence.

[21]


Note:

Barbarousphilosophically speakingI mean. In practice they have created anentirely new civilisationand for fifteen centuries have given mankind aglimpse of those enchanted realms of generous dreams and of hope which he willknow no more.

As soon as a new dogma is implanted in the mind of crowds it becomes thesource of inspiration whence are evolved its institutionsartsand mode ofexistence. The sway it exerts over men's minds under these circumstances isabsolute. Men of action have no thought beyond realising the accepted belieflegislators beyond applying itwhile philosophersartistsand men of lettersare solely preoccupied with its expression under various shapes.

From the fundamental belief transient accessory ideas may arisebut theyalways bear the impress of the belief from which they have sprung. The Egyptiancivilisationthe European civilisation of the Middle Agesthe Mussulmancivilisation of the Arabs are all the outcome of a small number of religiousbeliefs which have left their mark on the least important elements of thesecivilisations and allow of their immediate recognition.

Thus it is thatthanks to general beliefsthe men

 

-153-



of every age are enveloped in a network of traditionsopinionsand customswhich render them all alikeand from whose yoke they cannot extricatethemselves. Men are guided in their conduct above all by their beliefs and bythe customs that are the consequence of those beliefs. These beliefs and customsregulate the smallest acts of our existenceand the most independent spiritcannot escape their influence. The tyranny exercised unconsciously on men'sminds is the only real tyrannybecause it cannot be fought against. TiberiusGhengis Khanand Napoleon were assuredly redoubtable tyrantsbut from thedepth of their graves MosesBuddhaJesusand Mahomet have exerted on thehuman soul a far profounder despotism. A conspiracy may overthrow a tyrantbutwhat can it avail against a firmly established belief? In its violent strugglewith Roman Catholicism it is the French Revolution that has been vanquishedandthis in spite of the fact that the sympathy of the crowd was apparently on itssideand in spite of recourse to destructive measures as pitiless as those ofthe Inquisition. The only real tyrants that humanity has known have always beenthe memories of its dead or the illusions it has forged itself.

The philosophic absurdity that often marks general beliefs has never been anobstacle to their triumph. Indeed the triumph of such beliefs

 

-154-



would seem impossible unless on the condition that they offer some mysteriousabsurdity. In consequencethe evident weakness of the socialist beliefs ofto-day will not prevent them triumphing among the masses. Their real inferiorityto all religious beliefs is solely the result of this considerationthat theideal of happiness offered by the latter being realisable only in a future lifeit was beyond the power of anybody to contest it. The socialist ideal ofhappiness being intended to be realised on earththe vanity of its promiseswill at once appear as soon as the first efforts towards their realisation aremadeand simultaneously the new belief will entirely lose its prestige. Itsstrengthin consequencewill only increase until the day whenhavingtriumphedits practical realisation shall commence. For this reasonwhile thenew religion exerts to begin withlike all those that have preceded itadestructive influenceit will be unablein the futureto play a creativepart.

2. THE CHANGEABLE OPINIONS OF CROWDS.

Above the substratum of fixed beliefswhose power we havejust demonstratedis found an overlying growth of opinionsideasand thoughtswhich are incessantly springing up and dying out. Some of them exist but for adayand the more important scarcely outlive a generation. We have

 

-155-



already noted that the changes which supervene in opinions of this order are attimes far more superficial than realand that they are always affected byracial considerations. When examiningfor instancethe political institutionsof France we showed that parties to all appearance utterly distinct --royalistsradicalsimperialistssocialists&c. -- have an idealabsolutely identicaland that this ideal is solely dependent on the mentalstructure of the French racesince a quite contrary ideal is found underanalogous names among other races. Neither the name given to opinions nordeceptive adaptations alter the essence of things. The men of the GreatRevolutionsaturated with Latin literaturewho (their eyes fixed on the RomanRepublic)adopted its lawsits fascesand its togasdid not become Romansbecause they were under the empire of a powerful historical suggestion. The taskof the philosopher is to investigate what it is which subsists of ancientbeliefs beneath their apparent changesand to identify amid the moving flux ofopinions the part determined by general beliefs and the genius of the race.

In the absence of this philosophic test it might be supposed that crowdschange their political or religious beliefs frequently and at will. All historywhether politicalreligiousartisticor literaryseems to prove that such isthe case.

 

-156-


As an examplelet us take a very short period of French historymerely thatfrom 1790 to 1820a period of thirty years' durationthat of a generation. Inthe course of it we see the crowd at first monarchical become veryrevolutionarythen very imperialistand again very monarchical. In the matterof religion it gravitates in the same lapse of time from Catholicism to atheismthen towards deismand then returns to the most pronounced forms ofCatholicism. These changes take place not only amongst the massesbut alsoamongst those who direct them. We observe with astonishment the prominent men ofthe Conventionthe sworn enemies of kingsmen who would have neither gods normastersbecome the humble servants of Napoleonand afterwardsunder LouisXVIII.piously carry candles in religious processions.

Numeroustooare the changes in the opinions of the crowd in the course ofthe following seventy years. The "Perfidious Albion" of the opening ofthe century is the ally of France under Napoleon's heir; Russiatwice invadedby Francewhich looked on with satisfaction at French reversesbecomes itsfriend.

In literatureartand philosophy the successive evolutions of opinion aremore rapid still. Romanticismnaturalismmysticism&c.spring up and dieout in turn. The artist and the writer

 

-157-



applauded yesterday are treated on the morrow with profound contempt.

Whenhoweverwe analyse all these changes in appearance so far reachingwhat do we find? All those that are in opposition with the general beliefs andsentiments of the race are of transient durationand the diverted stream soonresumes its course. The opinions which are not linked to any general belief orsentiment of the raceand which in consequence cannot possess stabilityare atthe mercy of every chanceorif the expression be preferredof every changein the surrounding circumstances. Formed by suggestion and contagionthey arealways momentary; they crop up and disappear as rapidly on occasion as thesandhills formed by the wind on the sea-coast.

At the present day the changeable opinions of crowds are greater in numberthan they ever wereand for three different reasons.

The first is that as the old beliefs are losing their influence to a greaterand greater extentthey are ceasing to shape the ephemeral opinions of themoment as they did in the past. The weakening of general beliefs clears theground for a crop of haphazard opinions without a past or a future.

The second reason is that the power of crowds being on the increaseand thispower being less and less counterbalancedthe extreme mobility of

 

-158-



ideaswhich we have seen to be a peculiarity of crowdscan manifest itselfwithout let or hindrance.

Finallythe third reason is the recent development of the newspaper pressby whose agency the most contrary opinions are being continually brought beforethe attention of crowds. The suggestions that might result from each individualopinion are soon destroyed by suggestions of an opposite character. Theconsequence is that no opinion succeeds in becoming widespreadand that theexistence of all of them is ephemeral. An opinion nowadays dies out before ithas found a sufficiently wide acceptance to become general.

A phenomenon quite new in the world's historyand most characteristic of thepresent agehas resulted from these different causes; I allude to thepowerlessness of governments to direct opinion.

In the pastand in no very distant pastthe action of governments and theinfluence of a few writers and a very small number of newspapers constituted thereal reflectors of public opinion. To-day the writers have lost all influenceand the newspapers only reflect opinion. As for statesmenfar from directingopiniontheir only endeavour is to follow it. They have a dread of opinionwhich amounts at times to terrorand causes them to adopt an utterly unstableline of conduct.

The opinion of crowds tendsthenmore and

 

-159-



more to become the supreme guiding principle in politics. It goes so far to-dayas to force on alliancesas has been seen recently in the case of theFranco-Russian alliancewhich is solely the outcome of a popular movement. Acurious symptom of the present time is to observe popeskingsand emperorsconsent to be interviewed as a means of submitting their views on a givensubject to the judgment of crowds. Formerly it might have been correct to saythat politics were not a matter of sentiment. Can the same be said toÄdaywhenpolitics are more and more swayed by the impulse of changeable crowdswho areuninfluenced by reason and can only be guided by sentiment?

As to the presswhich formerly directed opinionit has hadlikegovernmentsto humble itself before the power of crowds. It wieldsno doubtaconsiderable influencebut only because it is exclusively the reflection of theopinions of crowds and of their incessant variations. Become a mere agency forthe supply of informationthe press has renounced all endeavour to enforce anidea or a doctrine. It follows all the changes of public thoughtobliged to doso by the necessities of competition under pain of losing its readers. The oldstaid and influential organs of the pastsuch as the Constitutionnelthe Débatsor the Siéclewhich were accepted as oracles by

 

-160-



the preceding generationhave disappeared or have become typical modern papersin which a maximum of news is sandwiched in between light articlessocietygossipand financial puffs. There can be no question to-day of a paper richenough to allow its contributors to air their personal opinionsand suchopinions would be of slight weight with readers who only ask to be kept informedor to be amusedand who suspect every affirmation of being prompted by motivesof speculation. Even the critics have ceased to be able to assure the success ofa book or a play. They are capable of doing harmbut not of doing a service.The papers are so conscious of the uselessness of everything in the shape ofcriticism or personal opinionthat they have reached the point of suppressingliterary criticismconfining themselves to citing the title of a bookandappending a "puff" of two or three lines.
Note: [22] In twenty years' time the same fate will probably have overtakentheatrical criticism.

[22]


Note:

These remarks refer to the French newspaper press. -- Note of theTranslator.

The close watching of the course of opinion has become to-day the principalpreoccupation of the press and of governments. The effect produced by an eventa legislative proposala speechis without intermission what they require toknowand the task is not easyfor nothing is more mobile

 

-161-



and changeable than the thought of crowdsand nothing more frequent than to seethem execrate to-day what they applauded yesterday.

This total absence of any sort of direction of opinionand at the same timethe destruction of general beliefshave had for final result an extremedivergency of convictions of every orderand a growing indifference on the partof crowds to everything that does not plainly touch their immediate interests.Questions of doctrinesuch as socialismonly recruit champions boastinggenuine convictions among the quite illiterate classesamong the workers inmines and factoriesfor instance. Members of the lower middle classandworking men possessing some degree of instructionhave either become utterlysceptical or extremely unstable in their opinions.

The evolution which has been effected in this direction in the lasttwenty-five years is striking. During the preceding periodcomparatively nearus though it isopinions still had a certain general trend; they had theirorigin in the acceptance of some fundamental belief. By the mere fact that anindividual was a monarchist he possessed inevitably certain clearly definedideas in history as well as in sciencewhile by the mere fact that he was arepublicanhis ideas were quite contrary. A monarchist was well aware that menare not descended from monkeysand a republican was

 

-162-



not less well aware that such is in truth their descent. It was the duty of themonarchist to speak with horrorand of the republican to speak with venerationof the great Revolution. There were certain namessuch as those of Robespierreand Maratthat had to be uttered with an air of religious devotionand othernamessuch as those of CæsarAugustusor Napoleonthat ought never to bementioned unaccompanied by a torrent of invective. Even in the French Sorbonnethis ingenuous fashion of conceiving history was general.
Note: [23]

[23]


Note:

There are pages in the books of the French official professors of historythat are very curious from this point of view. They prove too how little thecritical spirit is developed by the system of university education in vogue inFrance. I cite as an example the following extracts from the "FrenchRevolution" of M. Rambaudprofessor of history at the Sorbonne:

"The taking of the Bastille was a culminating event in the history notonly of Francebut of all Europe; and inaugurated a new epoch in the history ofthe world!"

With respect to Robespierrewe learn with stupefaction that "hisdictatorship was based more especially on opinionpersuasionand moralauthority; it was a sort of pontificate in the hands of a virtuous man!"(pp. 91 and 220.)

At the present dayas the result of discussion and analysisall opinionsare losing their prestige; their distinctive features are rapidly worn awayandfew survive capable of arousing our enthusiasm. The man of modern times is moreand more a prey to indifference.

 

-163-


The general wearing away of opinions should not be too greatly deplored. Thatit is a symptom of decadence in the life of a people cannot be contested. It iscertain that men of immenseof almost supernatural insightthat apostlesleaders of crowds -- menin a wordof genuine and strong convictions -- exerta far greater force than men who denywho criticiseor who are indifferentbut it must not be forgotten thatgiven the power possessed at present bycrowdswere a single opinion to acquire sufficient prestige to enforce itsgeneral acceptanceit would soon be endowed with so tyrannical a strength thateverything would have to bend before itand the era of free discussion would beclosed for a long time. Crowds are occasionally easy-going mastersas wereHeliogabalus and Tiberiusbut they are also violently capricious. Acivilisationwhen the moment has come for crowds to acquire a high hand overitis at the mercy of too many chances to endure for long. Could anythingpostpone for a while the hour of its ruinit would be precisely the extremeinstability of the opinions of crowds and their growing indifference withrespect to all general beliefs.

BOOK III.
THE CLASSIFICATION AND DESCRIPTION OF
THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF CROWDS.

CHAPTER I.
THE CLASSIFICATION OF CROWDS.

The general divisions of crowds -- Their classification. 1. Heterogeneouscrowds. Different varieties of them -- The influence of race -- The spiritof the crowd is weak in proportion as the spirit of the race is strong -- Thespirit of the race represents the civilised state and the spirit of the crowdthe barbarian state. 2. Homogeneous crowds. Their different varieties --Sectscastesand classes.

WE have sketched in this work the general characteristics common topsychological crowds. It remains to point out the particular characteristicswhich accompany those of a general order in the different categories ofcollectivitieswhen they are transformed into a crowd under the influences ofthe proper exciting causes.

 

-165-


We willfirst of allset forth in a few words a classification of crowds.

Our starting-point will be the simple multitude. Its most inferior form ismet with when the multitude is composed of individuals belonging to differentraces. In this case its only common bond of union is the willmore or lessrespected of a chief. The barbarians of very diverse origin who during severalcenturies invaded the Roman Empiremay be cited as a specimen of multitudes ofthis kind.

On a higher level than these multitudes composed of different races are thosewhich under certain influences have acquired common characteristicsand haveended by forming a single race. They present at times characteristics peculiarto crowdsbut these characteristics are overruled to a greater or less extentby racial considerations.

These two kinds of multitudes mayunder certain influences investigated inthis workbe transformed into organised or psychological crowds. We shall breakup these organised crowds into the following divisions: -- 1. Anonymous crowds(street
crowdsfor example).
A. Heterogeneous
crowds. 2. Crowds not anonymous
(juriesparliamentary
assemblies&c.).

 

-166-



1. Sects (political sects
religious sects&c.).
2. Castes (the military caste
B. Homogeneous the priestly castethe
crowds. working caste&c.).
3. Classes (the middle classes
the peasant classes&c.).

We will point out briefly the distinguishing characteristics of thesedifferent categories of crowds.

1. HETEROGENEOUS CROWDS.

It is these collectivities whose characteristics have beenstudied in this volume. They are composed of individuals of any descriptionofany professionand any degree of intelligence.

We are now aware that by the mere fact that men form part of a crowd engagedin actiontheir collective psychology differs essentially from their individualpsychologyand their intelligence is affected by this differentiation. We haveseen that intelligence is without influence in collectivitiesthey being solelyunder the sway of unconscious sentiments.

A fundamental factorthat of raceallows of a tolerably thoroughdifferentiation of the various heterogeneous crowds.

We have often referred already to the part played by raceand have shown itto be the

 

-167-



most powerful of the factors capable of determining men's actions. Its action isalso to be traced in the character of crowds. A crowd composed of individualsassembled at haphazardbut all of them Englishmen or Chinamenwill differwidely from another crowd also composed of individuals of any and everydescriptionbut of other races -- RussiansFrenchmenor Spaniardsforexample.

The wide divergencies which their inherited mental constitution creates inmen's modes of feeling and thinking at once come into prominence whenwhichrarely happenscircumstances gather together in the same crowd and in fairlyequal proportions individuals of different nationalityand this occurshoweveridentical in appearance be the interests which provoked the gathering. Theefforts made by the socialists to assemble in great congresses therepresentatives of the working-class populations of different countrieshavealways ended in the most pronounced discord. A Latin crowdhoweverrevolutionary or however conservative it be supposedwill invariably appeal tothe intervention of the State to realise its demands. It is always distinguishedby a marked tendency towards centralisation and by a leaningmore or lesspronouncedin favour of a dictatorship. An English or an American crowdon thecontrarysets no store

 

-168-



on the Stateand only appeals to private initiative. A French crowd laysparticular weight on equality and an English crowd on liberty. These differencesof race explain how it is that there are almost as many different forms ofsocialism and democracy as there are nations.

The genius of the racethenexerts a paramount influence upon thedispositions of a crowd. It is the powerful underlying force that limits itschanges of humour. It should be considered as an essential law that theinferior characteristics of crowds are the less accentuated in proportion as thespirit of the race is strong. The crowd state and the domination of crowdsis equivalent to the barbarian stateor to a return to it. It is by theacquisition of a solidly constituted collective spirit that the race freesitself to a greater and greater extent from the unreflecting power of crowdsand emerges from the barbarian state. The only important classification to bemade of heterogeneous crowdsapart from that based on racial considerationsisto separate them into anonymous crowdssuch as street crowdsand crowds notanonymous -- deliberative assemblies and juriesfor example. The sentiment ofresponsibility absent from crowds of the first description and developed inthose of the second often gives a very different tendency to their respectiveacts.


 

-169-



2. HOMOGENEOUS CROWDS.

Homogeneous crowds include: 1. Sects; 2. Castes; 3. Classes.

The sect represents the first step in the process of organisation ofhomogeneous crowds. A sect includes individuals differing greatly as to theireducationtheir professionsand the class of society to which they belongandwith their common beliefs as the connecting link. Examples in point arereligious and political sects.

The caste represents the highest degree of organisation of which thecrowd is susceptible. While the sect includes individuals of very differentprofessionsdegrees of education and social surroundingwho are only linkedtogether by the beliefs they hold in commonthe caste is composed ofindividuals of the same professionand in consequence similarly educated and ofmuch the same social status. Examples in point are the military and priestlycastes.

The class is formed of individuals of diverse originlinked togethernot by a community of beliefsas are the members of a sector by commonprofessional occupationsas are the members of a castebut by certaininterests and certain habits of life and education almost identical. The middleclass and the agricultural class are examples.

Being only concerned in this work with

 

-170-



heterogeneous crowdsand reserving the study of homogeneous crowds (sectscastesand classes) for another volumeI shall not insist here on thecharacteristics of crowds of this latter kind. I shall conclude this study ofheterogeneous crowds by the examination of a few typical and distinct categoriesof crowds.

 


 

-171-



CHAPTER II.
CROWDS TERMED CRIMINAL CROWDS.

Crowds termed criminal crowds -- A crowd may be legally yetnot psychologically criminal -- The absolute unconsciousness of the acts ofcrowds -- Various examples -- Psychology of the authors of the Septembermassacres -- Their reasoningtheir sensibilitytheir ferocityand theirmorality.

OWING to the fact that crowdsafter a period of excitemententer upon apurely automatic and unconscious statein which they are guided by suggestionit seems difficult to qualify them in any case as criminal. I only retain thiserroneous qualification because it has been definitely brought into vogue byrecent psychological investigations. Certain acts of crowds are assuredlycriminalif considered merely in themselvesbut criminal in that case in thesame way as the act of a tiger devouring a Hindooafter allowing its young tomaul him for their amusement.

The usual motive of the crimes of crowds is a

 

-172-



powerful suggestionand the individuals who take part in such crimes areafterwards convinced that they have acted in obedience to dutywhich is farfrom being the case with the ordinary criminal.

The history of the crimes committed by crowds illustrates what precedes.

The murder of M. de Launaythe governor of the Bastillemay be cited as atypical example. After the taking of the fortress the governorsurrounded by avery excited crowdwas dealt blows from every direction. It was proposed tohang himto cut off his headto tie him to a horse's tail. While strugglinghe accidently kicked one of those present. Some one proposedand his suggestionwas at once received with acclamation by the crowdthat the individual who hadbeen kicked should cut the governor's throat.

"The individual in questiona cook out of workwhose chief reason forbeing at the Bastille was idle curiosity as to what was going onesteemsthatsince such is the general opinionthe action is patriotic and even believes hedeserves a medal for having destroyed a monster. With a sword that is lent himhe strikes the bared neckbut the weapon being somewhat blunt and not cuttinghe takes from his pocket a small black-handled knife and (in his capacity ofcook he would be experienced in cutting up meat) successfully effects theoperation."

 

-173-


The working of the process indicated above is clearly seen in this example.We have obedience to a suggestionwhich is all the stronger because of itscollective originand the murderer's conviction that he has committed a verymeritorious acta conviction the more natural seeing that he enjoys theunanimous approval of his fellow-citizens. An act of this kind may be consideredcrime legally but not psychologically.

The general characteristics of criminal crowds are precisely the same asthose we have met with in all crowds: openness to suggestioncredulitymobilitythe exaggeration of the sentiments good or badthe manifestation ofcertain forms of morality&c.

We shall find all these characteristics present in a crowd which has leftbehind it in French history the most sinister memories -- the crowd whichperpetrated the September massacres. In point of fact it offers much similaritywith the crowd that committed the Saint Bartholomew massacres. I borrow thedetails from the narration of M. Tainewho took them from contemporary sources.

It is not known exactly who gave the order or made the suggestion to emptythe prisons by massacring the prisoners. Whether it was Dantonas is probableor another does not matter; the one interesting fact for us is the powerfulsuggestion

 

-174-



received by the crowd charged with the massacre.

The crowd of murderers numbered some three hundred personsand was aperfectly typical heterogeneous crowd. With the exception of a very small numberof professional scoundrelsit was composed in the main of shopkeepers andartisans of every trade: bootmakerslocksmithshairdressersmasonsclerksmessengers&c. Under the influence of the suggestion received they areperfectly convincedas was the cook referred to abovethat they areaccomplishing a patriotic duty. They fill a double officebeing at once judgeand executionerbut they do not for a moment regard themselves as criminals.

Deeply conscious of the importance of their dutythey begin by forming asort of tribunaland in connection with this act the ingenuousness of crowdsand their rudimentary conception of justice are seen immediately. Inconsideration of the large number of the accusedit is decided thatto beginwiththe noblespriestsofficersand members of the king's household -- in awordall the individuals whose mere profession is proof of their guilt in theeyes of a good patriot -- shall be slaughtered in a bodythere being no needfor a special decision in their case. The remainder shall be judged on theirpersonal appearance and their reputation. In this way the rudimentary conscienceof the

 

-175-



crowd is satisfied. It will now be able to proceed legally with the massacreand to give free scope to those instincts of ferocity whose genesis I have setforth elsewherethey being instincts which collectivities always have it inthem to develop to a high degree. These instinctshowever -- as is regularlythe case in crowds -- will not prevent the manifestation of other and contrarysentimentssuch as a tenderheartedness often as extreme as the ferocity.

"They have the expansive sympathy and prompt sensibility of the Parisianworking man. At the Abbayeone of the federateslearning that the prisonershad been left without water for twenty-six hourswas bent on putting the gaolerto deathand would have done so but for the prayers of the prisonersthemselves. When a prisoner is acquitted (by the improvised tribunal) every oneguards and slaughterers includedembraces him with transports of joy andapplauds frantically" after which the wholesale massacre is recommenced.During its progress a pleasant gaiety never ceases to reign. There is dancingand singing around the corpsesand benches are arranged "for theladies" delighted to witness the killing of aristocrats. The exhibitioncontinuesmoreoverof a special description of justice.

A slaughterer at the Abbaye having complained that the ladies placed at alittle distance saw

 

-176-



badlyand that only a few of those present had the pleasure of striking thearistocratsthe justice of the observation is admittedand it is decided thatthe victims shall be made to pass slowly between two rows of slaughtererswhoshall be under the obligation to strike with the back of the sword only so as toprolong the agony. At the prison de la Force the victims are stripped starknaked and literally "carved" for half an hourafter whichwhen everyone has had a good viewthey are finished off by a blow that lays bare theirentrails.

The slaughtererstoohave their scruples and exhibit that moral sense whoseexistence in crowds we have already pointed out. They refuse to appropriate themoney and jewels of the victimstaking them to the table of the committees.

Those rudimentary forms of reasoningcharacteristic of the mind of crowdsare always to be traced in all their acts. Thusafter the slaughter of the1200 or 1500 enemies of the nationsome one makes the remarkand hissuggestion is at once adoptedthat the other prisonsthose containing agedbeggarsvagabondsand young prisonershold in reality useless mouthsofwhich it would be well on that account to get rid. Besidesamong them thereshould certainly be enemies of the peoplea woman of the name of Delarueforinstancethe widow of a poisoner:

 

-177-



"She must be furious at being in prisonif she could she would set fire toParis: she must have said soshe has said so. Another good riddance." Thedemonstration appears convincingand the prisoners are massacred withoutexceptionincluded in the number being some fifty children of from twelve toseventeen years of agewhoof coursemight themselves have become enemies ofthe nationand of whom in consequence it was clearly well to be rid.

At the end of a week's workall these operations being brought to an endthe slaughterers can think of reposing themselves. Profoundly convinced thatthey have deserved well of their countrythey went to the authorities anddemanded a recompense. The most zealous went so far as to claim a medal.

The history of the Commune of 1871 affords several facts analogous to thosewhich precede. Given the growing influence of crowds and the successivecapitulations before them of those in authoritywe are destined to witness manyothers of a like nature.

 


 

-178-



CHAPTER III.
CRIMINAL JURIES.

Criminal juries -- General characteristics of juries --statistics show that their decisions are independent of their composition -- Themanner in which an impression may be made on juries -- The style and influenceof argument -- The methods of persuasion of celebrated counsel -- The nature ofthose crimes for which juries are respectively indulgent or severe -- Theutility of the jury as an institutionand the danger that would result from itsplace being taken by magistrates.

BEING unable to study here every category of juryI shall only examine themost important -- that of the juries of the Court of Assize. These juries affordan excellent example of the heterogeneous crowd that is not anonymous. We shallfind them display suggestibility and but slight capacity for reasoningwhilethey are open to the influence of the leaders of crowdsand they are guided inthe main by unconscious sentiments. In the course of this investigation we shallhave occasion to observe some interesting examples of

 

-179-



the errors that may be made by persons not versed in the psychology of crowds.

Juriesin the first placefurnish us a good example of the slightimportance of the mental level of the different elements composing a crowdsofar as the decisions it comes to are concerned. We have seen that when adeliberative assembly is called upon to give its opinion on a question of acharacter not entirely technicalintelligence stands for nothing. For instancea gathering of scientific men or of artistsowing to the mere fact that theyform an assemblagewill not deliver judgments on general subjects sensiblydifferent from those rendered by a gathering of masons or grocers. At variousperiodsand in particular previous to 1848the French administrationinstituted a careful choice among the persons summoned to form a jurypickingthe jurors from among the enlightened classes; choosing professorsfunctionariesmen of letters&c. At the present day jurors are recruitedfor the most part from among small tradesmenpetty capitalistsand employés.Yetto the great astonishment of specialist writerswhatever the compositionof the jury has beenits decisions have been identical. Even the magistrateshostile as they are to the institution of the juryhave had to recognise theexactness of the assertion. M. Bérard des Glajeuxa former President of theCourt of Assizesex

 

-180-



presses himself on the subject in his "Memoirs" in the followingterms: --

"The selection of jurymen is to-day in reality in the hands of themunicipal councillorswho put people down on the list or eliminate them from itin accordance with the political and electoral preoccupations inherent in theirsituation. . . . The majority of the jurors chosen are persons engaged in tradebut persons of less importance than formerlyand employés belonging to certainbranches of the administration. . . . Both opinions and professions counting fornothing once the rôle of judge assumedmany of the jurymen having theardour of neophytesand men of the best intentions being similarly disposed inhumble situationsthe spirit of the jury has not changed: its verdicts haveremained the same."

Of the passage just cited the conclusionswhich are justare to be borne inmind and not the explanationswhich are weak. Too much astonishment should notbe felt at this weaknessforas a rulecounsel equally with magistrates seemto be ignorant of the psychology of crowds andin consequenceof juries. Ifind a proof of this statement in a fact related by the author just quoted. Heremarks that Lachaudone of the most illustrious barristers practising in theCourt of Assize

 

-181-



made systematic use of his right to object to a juror in the case of allindividuals of intelligence on the list. Yet experience -- and experience alone-- has ended by acquainting us with the utter uselessness of these objections.This is proved by the fact that at the present day public prosecutors andbarristersat any rate those belonging to the Parisian barhave entirelyrenounced their right to object to a juror; stillas M. des Glajeux remarksthe verdicts have not changed"they are neither better nor worse."

Like all crowdsjuries are very strongly impressed by sentimentalconsiderationsand very slightly by argument. "They cannot resist thesight" writes a barrister"of a mother giving its child the breastor of orphans." "It is sufficient that a woman should be of agreeableappearance" says M. des Glajeux"to win the benevolence of thejury."

Without pity for crimes of which it appears possible they might themselves bethe victims -- such crimesmoreoverare the most dangerous for society --jurieson the contraryare very indulgent in the case of breaches of the lawwhose motive is passion. They are rarely severe on infanticide by girl-mothersor hard on the young woman who throws vitriol at the man who has seduced anddeserted herfor the reason that they feel instinctively that society runs butslight danger

 

-182-



from such crimes
Note: [24] and that in a country in which the law does not protect desertedgirls the crime of the girl who avenges herself is rather useful than harmfulinasmuch as it frightens future seducers in advance.

[24]


Note:

It is to be remarkedin passingthat this division of crimes into thosedangerous and those not dangerous for societywhich is well and instinctivelymade by juries is far from being unjust. The object of criminal laws isevidently to protect society against dangerous criminals and not to avenge it.On the other handthe French codeand above all the minds of the Frenchmagistratesare still deeply imbued with the spirit of vengeance characteristicof the old primitive lawand the term "vindicte" (prosecutionfrom the Latin vindictavengeance) is still in daily use. A proof ofthis tendency on the part of the magistrates is found in the refusal by many ofthem to apply Bérenger's lawwhich allows of a condemned person not undergoinghis sentence unless he repeats his crime. Yet no magistrate can be ignorantforthe fact is proved by statisticsthat the application of a punishment inflictedfor the first time infallibly leads to further crime on the part of the personpunished. When judges set free a sentenced person it always seems to them thatsociety has not been avenged. Rather than not avenge it they prefer to create adangerousconfirmed criminal.

Jurieslike all crowdsare profoundly impressed by prestigeand Presidentdes Glajeux very properly remarks thatvery democratic as juries are in theircompositionthey are very aristocratic in their likes and dislikes: "Namebirthgreat wealthcelebritythe assistance of an illustrious counseleverything in the nature of distinction or that

 

-183-



lends brilliancy to the accusedstands him in extremely good stead."

The chief concern of a good counsel should be to work upon the feelings ofthe juryandas with all crowdsto argue but littleor only to employrudimentary modes of reasoning. An English barristerfamous for his successesin the assize courtshas well set forth the line of action to be followed: --

"While pleading he would attentively observe the jury. The mostfavourable opportunity has been reached. By dint of insight and experience thecounsel reads the effect of each phrase on the faces of the jurymenand drawshis conclusions in consequence. His first step is to be sure which members ofthe jury are already favourable to his cause. It is short work to definitelygain their adhesionand having done so he turns his attention to the memberswho seemon the contraryill-disposedand endeavours to discover why they arehostile to the accused. This is the delicate part of his taskfor there may bean infinity of reasons for condemning a manapart from the sentiment ofjustice."

These few lines résumé the entire mechanism of the art of oratoryand we see why the speech prepared in advance has so slight an effectit

 

-184-



being necessary to be able to modify the terms employed from moment to moment inaccordance with the impression produced.

The orator does not require to convert to his views all the members of ajurybut only the leading spirits among it who will determine the generalopinion. As in all crowdsso in juries there are a small number of individualswho serve as guides to the rest. "I have found by experience" saysthe counsel cited above"that one or two energetic men suffice to carrythe rest of the jury with them." It is those two or three whom it isnecessary to convince by skilful suggestions. First of alland above allit isnecessary to please them. The man forming part of a crowd whom one has succeededin pleasing is on the point of being convincedand is quite disposed to acceptas excellent any arguments that may be offered him. I detach the followinganecdote from an interesting account of M. Lachaudalluded to above: --

"It is well known that during all the speeches he would deliver in thecourse of an assize sessionsLachaud never lost sight of the two or threejurymen whom he knew or felt to be influential but obstinate. As a rule he wassuccessful in winning over these refractory jurors. On one occasionhoweverinthe provinceshe had to deal with a

 

-185-



juryman whom he plied in vain for three-quarters of an hour with his mostcunning arguments; the man was the seventh jurymanthe first on the secondbench. The case was desperate. Suddenlyin the middle of a passionatedemonstrationLachaud stopped shortand addressing the President of the courtsaid: `Would you give instructions for the curtain there in front to be drawn?The seventh juryman is blinded by the sun.' The juryman in question reddenedsmiledand expressed his thanks. He was won over for the defence."

Many writerssome of them most distinguishedhave started of late a strongcampaign against the institution of the juryalthough it is the only protectionwe have against the errorsreally very frequentof a caste that is under nocontrol.
Note: [25] A

 

-186-



portion of these writers advocate a jury recruited solely from the ranks of theenlightened classes; but we have already proved that even in this case theverdicts would be identical with those returned under the present system. Otherwriterstaking their stand on the errors committed by jurieswould abolish thejury and replace it by judges. It is difficult to see how these would-bereformers can forget that the errors for which the jury is blamed were committedin the first instance by judgesand that when the accused person comes before ajury he has already been held to be guilty by several magistratesby the juged'instructionthe public prosecutorand the Court of Arraignment. Itshould thus be clear that were the accused to be definitely judged bymagistrates instead of by jurymenhe would lose his only chance of beingadmitted innocent. The errors of juries have always been first of all the errorsof magistrates. It is solely the magistratesthenwho should be blamed whenparticularly monstrous judicial errors crop upsuchfor instanceas the

 

-187-



quite recent condemnation of Dr. L -- -- whoprosecuted by a juged'instructionof excessive stupidityon the strength of the denunciationof a half-idiot girlwho accused the doctor of having performed an illegaloperation upon her for thirty francswould have been sent to penal servitudebut for an explosion of public indignationwhich had for result that he wasimmediately set at liberty by the Chief of the State. The honourable charactergiven the condemned man by all his fellow-citizens made the grossness of theblunder self-evident. The magistrates themselves admitted itand yet out ofcaste considerations they did all they could to prevent the pardon being signed.In all similar affairs the juryconfronted with technical details it is unableto understandnaturally hearkens to the public prosecutorarguing thatafterallthe affair has been investigated by magistrates trained to unravel the mostintricate situations. Whothenare the real authors of the error -- thejurymen or the magistrates? We should cling vigorously to the jury. Itconstitutesperhapsthe only category of crowd that cannot be replaced by anyindividuality. It alone can temper the severity of the lawwhichequal forallought in principle to be blind and to take no cognisance of particularcases. Inaccessible to pityand heeding nothing but the text of the lawthejudge in his professional severity

 

-188-



would visit with the same penalty the burglar guilty of murder and the wretchedgirl whom poverty and her abandonment by her seducer have driven to infanticide.The juryon the other handinstinctively feels that the seduced girl is muchless guilty than the seducerwhohoweveris not touched by the lawand thatshe deserves every indulgence.

[25]


Note:

The magistracy isin point of factthe only administration whose acts areunder no control. In spite of all its revolutionsdemocratic France does notpossess that right of habeas corpus of which England is so proud. We havebanished all the tyrantsbut have set up a magistrate in each city who disposesat will of the honour and liberty of the citizens. An insignificant juged'instruction (an examining magistrate who has no exact counterpart inEngland. -- Trans.)fresh from the universitypossesses the revoltingpower of sending to prison at will persons of the most considerable standingona simple supposition on his part of their guiltand without being obliged tojustify his act to any one. Under the pretext of pursuing his investigation hecan keep these persons in prison for six months or even a yearand free them atlast without owing them either an indemnity or excuses. The warrant in France isthe exact equivalent of the lettre de cachetwith this differencethatthe latterwith the use of which the monarchy was so justly reproachedcouldonly be resorted to by persons occupying a very high positionwhile the warrantis an instrument in the hands of a whole class of citizens which is far frompassing for being very enlightened or very independent.

Being well acquainted with the psychology of castesand also with thepsychology of other categories of crowdsI do not perceive a single case inwhichwrongly accused of a crimeI should not prefer to have to deal with ajury rather than with magistrates. I should have some chance that my innocencewould be recognised by the former and not the slightest chance that it would beadmitted by the latter. The power of crowds is to be dreadedbut the power ofcertain castes is to be dreaded yet more. Crowds are open to conviction; castesnever are.

 


 

-189-



CHAPTER IV.
ELECTORAL CROWDS.

General characteristics of electoral crowds -- The manner ofpersuading them -- The qualities that should be possessed by a candidate --Necessity of prestige -- Why working men and peasants so rarely choosecandidates from their own class -- The influence of words and formulas on theelector -- The general aspect of election oratory -- How the opinions of theelector are formed -- The power of political committees -- They represent themost redoubtable form of tyranny -- The committees of the Revolution --Universal suffrage cannot be replaced in spite of its slight psychological value-- Why it is that the votes recorded would remain the same even if the right ofvoting were restricted to a limited class of citizens -- Of what universalsuffrage is the expression in all countries.

ELECTORAL crowds -- that is to saycollectivities invested with the power ofelecting the holders of certain functions -- constitute heterogeneous crowdsbut as their action is confined to a single clearly determined matternamelyto choosing between different candidatesthey present only a few of the

 

-190-



characteristics previously described. Of the characteristics peculiar to crowdsthey display in particular but slight aptitude for reasoningthe absence of thecritical spiritirritabilitycredulityand simplicity. In their decisionmoreoveris to be traced the influence of the leaders of crowds and the partplayed by the factors we have enumerated: affirmationrepetitionprestigeandcontagion.

Let us examine by what methods electoral crowds are to be persuaded. It willbe easy to deduce their psychology from the methods that are most successful.

It is of primary importance that the candidate should possess prestige.Personal prestige can only be replaced by that resulting from wealth. Talent andeven genius are not elements of success of serious importance.

Of capital importanceon the other handis the necessity for the candidateof possessing prestigeof being ablethat isto force himself upon theelectorate without discussion. The reason why the electorsof whom a majorityare working men or peasantsso rarely choose a man from their own ranks torepresent them is that such a person enjoys no prestige among them. Whenbychancethey do elect a man who is their equalit is as a rule for subsidiaryreasons -- for instanceto spite an eminent manor an influential employer oflabour on whom the elector is in daily dependenceand

 

-191-



whose master he has the illusion he becomes in this way for a moment.

The possession of prestige does not sufficehoweverto assure the successof a candidate. The elector stickles in particular for the flattery of his greedand vanity. He must be overwhelmed with the most extravagant blandishmentsandthere must be no hesitation in making him the most fantastic promises. If he isa working man it is impossible to go too far in insulting and stigmatisingemployers of labour. As for the rival candidatean effort must be made todestroy his chance by establishing by dint of affirmationrepetitionandcontagion that he is an arrant scoundreland that it is a matter of commonknowledge that he has been guilty of several crimes. It isof courseuselessto trouble about any semblance of proof. Should the adversary be ill-acquaintedwith the psychology of crowds he will try to justify himself by argumentsinstead of confining himself to replying to one set of affirmations by another;and he will have no chance whatever of being successful.

The candidate's written programme should not be too categoricalsince lateron his adversaries might bring it up against him; in his verbal programmehoweverthere cannot be too much exaggeration. The most important reforms maybe fearlessly promised. At the moment they are

 

-192-



made these exaggerations produce a great effectand they are not binding forthe futureit being a matter of constant observation that the elector nevertroubles himself to know how far the candidate he has returned has followed outthe electoral programme he applaudedand in virtue of which the election wassupposed to have been secured.

In what precedesall the factors of persuasion which we have described areto be recognised. We shall come across them again in the action exerted by wordsand formulaswhose magical sway we have already insisted upon. An orator whoknows how to make use of these means of persuasion can do what he will with acrowd. Expressions such as infamous capitalvile exploitersthe admirableworking manthe socialisation of wealth&c.always produce the sameeffectalthough already somewhat worn by use. But the candidate who hits on anew formula as devoid as possible of precise meaningand apt in consequence toflatter the most varied aspirationsinfallibly obtains a success. Thesanguinary Spanish revolution of 1873 was brought about by one of these magicalphrases of complex meaning on which everybody can put his own interpretation. Acontemporary writer has described the launching of this phrase in terms thatdeserve to be quoted: --

"The radicals have made the discovery that a

 

-193-



centralised republic is a monarchy in disguiseand to humour them the Corteshad unanimously proclaimed a federal republicthough none of the voterscould have explained what it was he had just voted for. This formulahoweverdelighted everybody; the joy was intoxicatingdelirious. The reign of virtueand happiness had just been inaugurated on earth. A republican whose opponentrefused him the title of federalist considered himself to be mortally insulted.People addressed each other in the streets with the words: `Long live thefederal republic!' After which the praises were sung of the mystic virtue of theabsence of discipline in the armyand of the autonomy of the soldiers. What wasunderstood by the `federal republic?' There were those who took it to mean theemancipation of the provincesinstitutions akin to those of the United Statesand administrative decentralisation; others had in view the abolition of allauthority and the speedy commencement of the great social liquidation. Thesocialists of Barcelona and Andalusia stood out for the absolute sovereignty ofthe communes; they proposed to endow Spain with ten thousand independentmunicipalitiesto legislate on their own accountand their creation to beaccompanied by the suppression of the police and the army. In the southernprovinces the insurrection was soon seen to spread from town to town and villageto village.

 

-194-



Directly a village had made its pronunciamento its first care was todestroy the telegraph wires and the railway lines so as to cut off allcommunication with its neighbours and Madrid. The sorriest hamlet was determinedto stand on its own bottom. Federation had given place to cantonalismmarked bymassacresincendiarismand every description of brutalityand bloodysaturnalia were celebrated throughout the length and breadth of the land."

With respect to the influence that may be exerted by reasoning on the mindsof electorsto harbour the least doubt on this subject can only be the resultof never having read the reports of an electioneering meeting. In such agathering affirmationsinvectivesand sometimes blows are exchangedbut neverarguments. Should silence be established for a moment it is because some onepresenthaving the reputation of a "tough customer" has announcedthat he is about to heckle the candidate by putting him one of thoseembarrassing questions which are always the joy of the audience. Thesatisfactionhoweverof the opposition party is shortlivedfor the voice ofthe questioner is soon drowned in the uproar made by his adversaries. Thefollowing reports of public meetingschosen from hundreds of similar examplesand taken from the daily papersmay be considered as typical: --

 

-195-


"One of the organisers of the meeting having asked the assembly to electa presidentthe storm bursts. The anarchists leap on to the platform to takethe committee table by storm. The socialists make an energetic defence; blowsare exchangedand each party accuses the other of being spies in the pay of theGovernment&c. . . . A citizen leaves the hall with a black eye.

"The committee is at length installed as best it may be in the midst ofthe tumultand the right to speak devolves upon `Comrade' X.

"The orator starts a vigorous attack on the socialistswho interrupthim with shouts of `Idiotscoundrelblackguard!' &c.epithets to whichComrade X. replies by setting forth a theory according to which the socialistsare `idiots' or `jokers.'"

"The Allemanist party had organised yesterday eveningin the Hall ofCommercein the Rue du Faubourg-du-Templea great meetingpreliminary to theworkers' fête of the 1st of May. The watchword of the meeting was `Calmand Tranquillity!'

"Comrade G -- -- alludes to the socialists as `idiots' and `humbugs.'

"At these words there is an exchange of invectives and orators andaudience come to blows. Chairstablesand benches are converted intoweapons" &c.&c.

It is not to be imagined for a moment that this

 

-196-



description of discussion is peculiar to a determined class of electors anddependent on their social position. In every anonymous assembly whateverthoughit be composed exclusively of highly educated personsdiscussion always assumesthe same shape. I have shown that when men are collected in a crowd there is atendency towards their mental levelling at workand proof of this is to befound at every turn. Takefor examplethe following extract from a report of ameeting composed exclusively of studentswhich I borrow from the Tempsof 13th of February1895: --

"The tumult only increased as the evening went on; I do not believe thata single orator succeeded in uttering two sentences without being interrupted.At every instant there came shouts from this or that direction or from everydirection at once. Applause was intermingled with hissingviolent discussionswere in progress between individual members of the audiencesticks werebrandished threateninglyothers beat a tattoo on the floorand theinterrupters were greeted with yells of `Put him out!' or `Let him speak!'

"M. C -- -- lavished such epithets as odious and cowardlymonstrousvilevenal and vindictiveon the Associationwhich he declared he wanted todestroy" &c.&c.

Howit may be askedcan an elector form an

 

-197-



opinion under such conditions? To put such a question is to harbour a strangedelusion as to the measure of liberty that may be enjoyed by a collectivity.Crowds have opinions that have been imposed upon thembut they never boastreasoned opinions. In the case under consideration the opinions and votes of theelectors are in the hands of the election committeeswhose leading spirits areas a rulepublicanstheir influence over the working mento whom they allowcreditbeing great. "Do you know what an election committee is?"writes M. Schérerone of the most valiant champions of present-day democracy."It is neither more nor less than the corner-stone of our institutionsthemasterpiece of the political machine. France is governed to-day by the electioncommittees."
Note: [26]

[26]


Note:

Committees under whatever nameclubssyndicates&c.constituteperhaps the most redoubtable danger resulting from the power of crowds. Theyrepresent in reality the most impersonal andin consequencethe mostoppressive form of tyranny. The leaders who direct the committees being supposedto speak and act in the name of a collectivityare freed from allresponsibilityand are in a position to do just as they choose. The most savagetyrant has never ventured even to dream of such proscriptions as those ordainedby the committees of the Revolution. Barras has declared that they decimated theconventionpicking off its members at their pleasure. So long as he was able tospeak in their nameRobespierre wielded absolute power. The moment thisfrightful dictator separated himself from themfor reasons of personal pridehe was lost. The reign of crowds is the reign of committeesthat isof theleaders of crowds. A severer despotism cannot be imagined.

To exert an influence over them is not difficultprovided the candidate bein himself acceptable and possess adequate financial resources. According to theadmissions of the donorsthree millions

 

-198-



of francs sufficed to secure the repeated elections of General Boulanger.

Such is the psychology of electoral crowds. It is identical with that ofother crowds: neither better nor worse.

In consequence I draw no conclusion against universal suffrage from whatprecedes. Had I to settle its fateI should preserve it as it is for practicalreasonswhich are to be deduced in point of fact from our investigation of thepsychology of crowds. On this account I shall proceed to set them forth.

No doubt the weak side of universal suffrage is too obvious to be overlooked.It cannot be gainsaid that civilisation has been the work of a small minority ofsuperior intelligences constituting the culminating point of a pyramidwhosestageswidening in proportion to the decrease of mental powerrepresent themasses of a nation. The greatness of a civilisation cannot assuredly depend uponthe votes given by inferior elements boasting solely numerical strength.Doubtless

 

-199-



toothe votes recorded by crowds are often very dangerous. They have alreadycost us several invasionsand in view of the triumph of socialismfor whichthey are preparing the wayit is probable that the vagaries of popularsovereignty will cost us still more dearly.

Excellenthoweveras these objections are in theoryin practice they loseall forceas will be admitted if the invincible strength be remembered of ideastransformed into dogmas. The dogma of the sovereignty of crowds is as littledefensiblefrom the philosophical point of viewas the religious dogmas of theMiddle Agesbut it enjoys at present the same absolute power they formerlyenjoyed. It is as unattackable in consequence as in the past were our religiousideas. Imagine a modern freethinker miraculously transported into the midst ofthe Middle Ages. Do you suppose thatafter having ascertained the sovereignpower of the religious ideas that were then in forcehe would have been temptedto attack them? Having fallen into the hands of a judge disposed to send him tothe stakeunder the imputation of having concluded a pact with the devilor ofhaving been present at the witches sabbathwould it have occurred to him tocall in question the existence of the devil or of the sabbath? It were as wiseto oppose cyclones with discussion as the beliefs of crowds. The

 

-200-



dogma of universal suffrage possesses to-day the power the Christian dogmasformerly possessed. Orators and writers allude to it with a respect andadulation that never fell to the share of Louis XIV. In consequence the sameposition must be taken up with regard to it as with regard to all religiousdogmas. Time alone can act upon them.

Besidesit would be the more useless to attempt to undermine this dogmainasmuch as it has an appearance of reasonableness in its favour. "In anera of equality" Tocqueville justly remarks"men have no faith ineach other on account of their being all alike; yet this same similitude givesthem an almost limitless confidence in the judgment of the publicthe reasonbeing that it does not appear probable thatall men being equally enlightenedtruth and numerical superiority should not go hand in hand."

Must it be believed that with a restricted suffrage -- a suffrage restrictedto those intellectually capable if it be desired -- an improvement would beeffected in the votes of crowds? I cannot admit for a moment that this would bethe caseand that for the reasons I have already given touching the mentalinferiority of all collectivitieswhatever their composition. In a crowd menalways tend to the same levelandon general questionsa voterecorded byforty academicians is no better than that of forty water-carriers. I do

 

-201-



not in the least believe that any of the votes for which universal suffrage isblamed -- the re-establishment of the Empirefor instance -- would have fallenout differently had the voters been exclusively recruited among learned andliberally educated men. It does not follow because an individual knows Greek ormathematicsis an architecta veterinary surgeona doctoror a barristerthat he is endowed with a special intelligence of social questions. All ourpolitical economists are highly educatedbeing for the most part professors oracademiciansyet is there a single general question -- protectionbimetallism&c. -- on which they have succeeded in agreeing? The explanation is thattheir science is only a very attenuated form of our universal ignorance. Withregard to social problemsowing to the number of unknown quantities they offermen are substantiallyequally ignorant.

In consequencewere the electorate solely composed of persons stuffed withsciences their votes would be no better than those emitted at present. Theywould be guided in the main by their sentiments and by party spirit. We shouldbe spared none of the difficulties we now have to contend withand we shouldcertainly be subjected to the oppressive tyranny of castes.

Whether the suffrage of crowds be restricted or generalwhether it beexercised under a republic

 

-202-



or a monarchyin Francein Belgiumin Greecein Portugalor in Spainit iseverywhere identical; andwhen all is said and doneit is the expression ofthe unconscious aspirations and needs of the race. In each country the averageopinions of those elected represent the genius of the raceand they will befound not to alter sensibly from one generation to another.

It is seenthenthat we are confronted once more by the fundamental notionof racewhich we have come across so oftenand on this other notionwhich isthe outcome of the firstthat institutions and governments play but a smallpart in the life of a people. Peoples are guided in the main by the genius oftheir racethat isby that inherited residue of qualities of which the geniusis the sum total. Race and the slavery of our daily necessities are themysterious master-causes that rule our destiny.

 


 

-203-



CHAPTER V.
PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLIES.

Parliamentary crowds present most of the characteristicscommon to heterogeneous crowds that are not anonymous -- The simplicity of theiropinions -- Their suggestibility and its limits -- Their indestructiblefixedopinions and their changed opinions -- The reason of the predominance ofindecision -- The rôle of the leaders -- The reason of their prestige --They are the true masters of an assembly whose voteson that accountaremerely those of a small minority -- The absolute power they exercise -- Theelements of their oratorical art -- Phrases and images -- The psychologicalnecessity the leaders are under of being in a general way of stubbornconvictions and narrow-minded -- It is impossible for a speaker without prestigeto obtain recognition for his arguments -- The exaggeration of the sentimentswhether good or badof assemblies -- At certain moments they become automatic-- The sittings of the Convention -- Cases in which an assembly loses thecharacteristics of crowds -- The influence of specialists when technicalquestions arise -- The advantages and dangers of a parliamentary system in allcountries -- It is adapted to modern needs; but it involves financial waste andthe progressive curtailment of all liberty -- Conclusion.

IN parliamentary assemblies we have an example of heterogeneous crowds thatare not anonymous.

 

-204-



Although the mode of election of their members varies from epoch to epochandfrom nation to nationthey present very similar characteristics. In this casethe influence of the race makes itself felt to weaken or exaggerate thecharacteristics common to crowdsbut not to prevent their manifestation. Theparliamentary assemblies of the most widely different countriesof GreeceItalyPortugalSpainFranceand America present great analogies in theirdebates and votesand leave the respective governments face to face withidentical difficulties.

Moreoverthe parliamentary system represents the ideal of all moderncivilised peoples. The system is the expression of the ideapsychologicallyerroneousbut generally admittedthat a large gathering of men is much morecapable than a small number of coming to a wise and independent decision on agiven subject.

The general characteristics of crowds are to be met with in parliamentaryassemblies: intellectual simplicityirritabilitysuggestibilitytheexaggeration of the sentiments and the preponderating influence of a fewleaders. In consequencehoweverof their special composition parliamentarycrowds offer some distinctive featureswhich we shall point out shortly.

Simplicity in their opinions is one of their most important characteristics.In the case of all

 

-205-



partiesand more especially so far as the Latin peoples are concernedaninvariable tendency is met with in crowds of this kind to solve the mostcomplicated social problems by the simplest abstract principles and general lawsapplicable to all cases. Naturally the principles vary with the party; but owingto the mere fact that the individual members are a part of a crowdthey arealways inclined to exaggerate the worth of their principlesand to push them totheir extreme consequences. In consequence parliaments are more especiallyrepresentative of extreme opinions.

The most perfect example of the ingenuous simplification of opinions peculiarto assemblies is offered by the Jacobins of the French Revolution. Dogmatic andlogical to a manand their brains full of vague generalitiesthey busiedthemselves with the application of fixed-principles without concerningthemselves with events. It has been said of themwith reasonthat they wentthrough the Revolution without witnessing it. With the aid of the very simpledogmas that served them as guidethey imagined they could recast society fromtop to bottomand cause a highly refined civilisation to return to a veryanterior phase of the social evolution. The methods they resorted to to realisetheir dream wore the same stamp of absolute ingenuousness. They confinedthemselvesin realityto destroying what stood in their way.

 

-206-



All of themmoreover -- Girondiststhe Men of the Mountainthe Thermidorians&c. -- were alike animated by the same spirit.

Parliamentary crowds are very open to suggestion; andas in the case of allcrowdsthe suggestion comes from leaders possessing prestige; but thesuggestibility of parliamentary assemblies has very clearly defined limitswhich it is important to point out.

On all questions of local or regional interest every member of an assemblyhas fixedunalterable opinionswhich no amount of argument can shake. Thetalent of a Demosthenes would be powerless to change the vote of a Deputy onsuch questions as protection or the privilege of distilling alcoholquestionsin which the interests of influential electors are involved. The suggestionemanating from these electors and undergone before the time to vote arrivessufficiently outweighs suggestions from any other source to annul them and tomaintain an absolute fixity of opinion.
Note: [27]

[27]


Note: The following reflection of an English parliamentarian of long experiencedoubtless applies to these opinionsfixed beforehandand rendered unalterableby electioneering necessities: "During the fifty years that I have sat atWestminsterI have listened to thousands of speeches; but few of them havechanged my opinionnot one of them has changed my vote."

On general questions -- the overthrow of a Cabinetthe imposition of a tax&c. -- there is no

 

-207-



longer any fixity of opinionand the suggestions of leaders can exert aninfluencethough not in quite the same way as in an ordinary crowd. Every partyhas its leaderswho possess occasionally an equal influence. The result is thatthe Deputy finds himself placed between two contrary suggestionsand isinevitably made to hesitate. This explains how it is that he is often seen tovote in contrary fashion in an interval of a quarter of an hour or to add to alaw an article which nullifies it; for instanceto withdraw from employers oflabour the right of choosing and dismissing their workmenand then to verynearly annul this measure by an amendment.

It is for the same reason that every Chamber that is returned has some verystable opinionsand other opinions that are very shifting. On the wholethegeneral questions being the more numerousindecision is predominant in theChamber -- the indecision which results from the ever-present fear of theelectorthe suggestion received from whom is always latentand tends tocounterbalance the influence of the leaders.

Stillit is the leaders who are definitely the masters in those numerousdiscussionswith regard to the subject-matter of which the members of anassembly are without strong preconceived opinions.

The necessity for these leaders is evidentsinceunder the name of heads ofgroupsthey are met

 

-208-



with in the assemblies of every country. They are the real rulers of anassembly. Men forming a crowd cannot do without a masterwhence it results thatthe votes of an assembly only representas a rulethe opinions of a smallminority.

The influence of the leaders is due in very small measure to the argumentsthey employbut in a large degree to their prestige. The best proof of this isthatshould they by any circumstance lose their prestigetheir influencedisappears.

The prestige of these political leaders is individualand independent ofname or celebrity: a fact of which M. Jules Simon gives us some very curiousexamples in his remarks on the prominent men of the Assembly of 1848of whichhe was a member: --

"Two months before he was all-powerfulLouis Napoleon was entirelywithout the least importance.

"Victor Hugo mounted the tribune. He failed to achieve success. He waslistened to as Félix Pyat was listened tobut he did not obtain as muchapplause. `I don't like his ideas' Vaulabelle said to mespeaking of FélixPyat' but he is one of the greatest writers and the greatest orator of France.'Edgar Quinetin spite of his exceptional and powerful intelligencewas held inno esteem whatever. He had been popular for awhile before

 

-209-



the opening of the Assembly; in the Assembly he had no popularity.

"The splendour of genius makes itself less felt in political assembliesthan anywhere else. They only give heed to eloquence appropriate to the time andplace and to party servicesnot to services rendered the country. For homage tobe rendered Lamartine in 1848 and Thiers in 1871the stimulant was needed ofurgentinexorable interest. As soon as the danger was passed the parliamentaryworld forgot in the same instant its gratitude and its fright."

I have quoted the preceding passage for the sake of the facts it containsnot of the explanations it offerstheir psychology being somewhat poor. A crowdwould at once lose its character of a crowd were it to credit its leaders withtheir serviceswhether of a party nature or rendered their country. The crowdthat obeys a leader is under the influence of his prestigeand its submissionis not dictated by any sentiment of interest or gratitude.

In consequence the leader endowed with sufficient prestige wields almostabsolute power. The immense influence exerted during a long series of yearsthanks to his prestigeby a celebrated Deputy
Note: [28] beaten at the last general election in con

 

-210-



sequence of certain financial eventsis well known. He had only to give thesignal and Cabinets were overthrown. A writer has clearly indicated the scope ofhis action in the following lines: --

[28]


Note: M. Clemenceau. -- Note of the Translator.

"It is duein the mainto M. X -- -- that we paid three times asdearly as we should have done for Tonkinthat we remained so long on aprecarious footing in Madagascarthat we were defrauded of an empire in theregion of the Lower Nigerand that we have lost the preponderating situation weused to occupy in Egypt. The theories of M. X -- -- have cost us moreterritories than the disasters of Napoleon I."

We must not harbour too bitter a grudge against the leader in question. It isplain that he has cost us very dear; but a great part of his influence was dueto the fact that he followed public opinionwhichin colonial matterswas farfrom being at the time what it has since become. A leader is seldom in advanceof public opinion; almost always all he does is to follow it and to espouse allits errors.

The means of persuasion of the leaders we are dealing withapart from theirprestigeconsist in the factors we have already enumerated several times. Tomake a skilful use of these resources a leader must have arrived at acomprehensionat

 

-211-



least in an unconscious mannerof the psychology of crowdsand must know howto address them. He should be awarein particularof the fascinating influenceof wordsphrasesand images. He should possess a special description ofeloquencecomposed of energetic affirmations -- unburdened with proofs -- andimpressive imagesaccompanied by very summary arguments. This is a kind ofeloquence that is met with in all assembliesthe English Parliament includedthe most serious though it is of all.

"Debates in the House of Commons" says the English philosopherMaine"may be constantly read in which the entire discussion is confinedto an exchange of rather weak generalities and rather violent personalities.General formulas of this description exercise a prodigious influence on theimagination of a pure democracy. It will always be easy to make a crowd acceptgeneral assertionspresented in striking termsalthough they have never beenverifiedand are perhaps not susceptible of verification."

Too much importance cannot be attached to the "striking terms"alluded to in the above quotation. We have already insistedon severaloccasionson the special power of words and formulas. They must be chosen insuch a way as to evoke very

 

-212-



vivid images. The following phrasetaken from a speech by one of the leaders ofour assembliesaffords an excellent example: --

"When the same vessel shall bear away to the fever-haunted lands of ourpenitentiary settlements the politician of shady reputation and the anarchistguilty of murderthe pair will be able to converse togetherand they willappear to each other as the two complementary aspects of one and the same stateof society."

The image thus evoked is very vividand all the adversaries of the speakerfelt themselves threatened by it. They conjured up a double vision of thefever-haunted country and the vessel that may carry them away; for is it notpossible that they are included in the somewhat ill-defined category of thepoliticians menaced? They experienced the lurking fear that the men of theConvention must have felt whom the vague speeches of Robespierre threatened withthe guillotineand whounder the influence of this fearinvariably yielded tohim.

It is all to the interest of the leaders to indulge in the most improbableexaggerations. The speaker of whom I have just cited a sentence was able toaffirmwithout arousing violent protestationsthat bankers and priests hadsubsidised

 

-213-



the throwers of bombsand that the directors of the great financial companiesdeserve the same punishment as anarchists. Affirmations of this kind are alwayseffective with crowds. The affirmation is never too violentthe declamationnever too threatening. Nothing intimidates the audience more than this sort ofeloquence. Those present are afraid that if they protest they will be put downas traitors or accomplices.

As I have saidthis peculiar style of eloquence has ever been of sovereigneffect in all assemblies. In times of crisis its power is still furtheraccentuated. The speeches of the great orators of the assemblies of the FrenchRevolution are very interesting reading from this point of view. At everyinstant they thought themselves obliged to pause in order to denounce crime andexalt virtueafter which they would burst forth into imprecations againsttyrantsand swear to live free men or perish. Those present rose to their feetapplauded furiouslyand thencalmedtook their seats again.

On occasionthe leader may be intelligent and highly educatedbut thepossession of these qualities does himas a rulemore harm than good. Byshowing how complex things areby allowing of explanation and promotingcomprehensionintelligence always renders its owner indulgentand bluntsin alarge measurethat intensity and violence of conviction needful for

 

-214-



apostles. The great leaders of crowds of all agesand those of the Revolutionin particularhave been of lamentably narrow intellect; while it is preciselythose whose intelligence has been the most restricted who have exercised thegreatest influence.

The speeches of the most celebrated of themof Robespierrefrequentlyastound one by their incoherence: by merely reading them no plausibleexplanation is to be found of the great part played by the powerful dictator: --

"The commonplaces and redundancies of pedagogic eloquence and Latinculture at the service of a mind childish rather than undistinguishedandlimited in its notions of attack and defence to the defiant attitude ofschoolboys. Not an ideanot a happy turn of phraseor a telling hit: a stormof declamation that leaves us bored. After a dose of this unexhilarating readingone is attempted to exclaim `Oh!' with the amiable Camille Desmoulins."

It is terrible at times to think of the power that strong conviction combinedwith extreme narrowness of mind gives a man possessing prestige. It is none theless necessary that these conditions should be satisfied for a man to ignoreobstacles and display strength of will in a high measure.

 

-215-



Crowds instinctively recognise in men of energy and conviction the masters theyare always in need of.

In a parliamentary assembly the success of a speech depends almost solely onthe prestige possessed by the speakerand not at all on the arguments he bringsforward. The best proof of this is that when for one cause or another a speakerloses his prestigehe loses simultaneously all his influencethat ishispower of influencing votes at will.

When an unknown speaker comes forward with a speech containing goodargumentsbut only argumentsthe chances are that he will only obtain ahearing. A Deputy who is a psychologist of insightM. Desaubeshas recentlytraced in the following lines the portrait of the Deputy who lacks prestige: --

"When he takes his place in the tribune he draws a document from hisportfoliospreads it out methodically before himand makes a start withassurance.

"He flatters himself that he will implant in the minds of his audiencethe conviction by which he is himself animated. He has weighed and reweighed hisarguments; he is well primed with figures and proofs; he is certain he willconvince his hearers. In the face of the evidence he is to

 

-216-



adduce all resistance would be futile. He beginsconfident in the justice ofhis causeand relying upon the attention of his colleagueswhose only anxietyof courseis to subscribe to the truth.

"He speaksand is at once surprised at the restlessness of the Houseand a little annoyed by the noise that is being made.

"How is it silence is not kept? Why this general inattention? What arethose Deputies thinking about who are engaged in conversation? What urgentmotive has induced this or that Deputy to quit his seat?

"An expression of uneasiness crosses his face; he frowns and stops.Encouraged by the Presisidenthe begins againraising his voice. He is onlylistened to all the less. He lends emphasis to his wordsand gesticulates: thenoise around him increases. He can no longer hear himselfand again stops;finallyafraid that his silence may provoke the dreaded cry`The Closure!' hestarts off again. The clamour becomes unbearable."

When parliamentary assemblies reach a certain pitch of excitement they becomeidentical with ordinary heterogeneous crowdsand their sentiments inconsequence present the peculiarity of being always extreme. They will be seento commit acts of the greatest heroism or the worst

 

-217-



excesses. The individual is no longer himselfand so entirely is this the casethat he will vote measures most adverse to his personal interests.

The history of the French Revolution shows to what an extent assemblies arecapable of losing their self-consciousnessand of obeying suggestions mostcontrary to their interests. It was an enormous sacrifice for the nobility torenounce its privilegesyet it did so without hesitation on a famous nightduring the sittings of the Constituant Assembly. By renouncing theirinviolability the men of the Convention placed themselves under a perpetualmenace of death and yet they took this stepand were not afraid to decimatetheir own ranksthough perfectly aware that the scaffold to which they weresending their colleagues to-day might be their own fate to-morrow. The truth isthey had attained to that completely automatic state which I have describedelsewhereand no consideration would hinder them from yielding to thesuggestions by which they were hypnotised. The following passage from thememoirs of one of themBillaud-Varennesis absolutely typical on this score:"The decisions with which we have been so reproached" he says"werenot desired by us two daysa single day before they were taken: it was thecrisis and nothing else that gave rise to them." Nothing can be moreaccurate.

 

-218-


The same phenomena of unconsciousness were to be witnessed during all thestormy sittings of the Convention.

"They approved and decreed measures" says Taine"which theyheld in horror -- measures which were not only stupid and foolishbut measuresthat were crimes -- the murder of innocent menthe murder of their friends. TheLeftsupported by the Rightunanimously and amid loud applausesent to thescaffold Dantonits natural chiefand the great promoter and leader of theRevolution. Unanimously and amid the greatest applause the Rightsupported bythe Leftvotes the worst decrees of the revolutionary government. Unanimouslyand amid cries of admiration and enthusiasmamid demonstrations of passionatesympathy for Collot d'HerboisCouthonand Robespierrethe Convention byspontaneous and repeated re-elections keeps in office the homicidal governmentwhich the Plain detests because it is homicidaland the Mountain detestsbecause it is decimated by it. The Plain and the Mountainthe majority and theminorityfinish by consenting to help on their own suicide. The 22 Prairial theentire Convention offered itself to the executioner; the 8 Thermidorduring thefirst quarter of an hour that followed Robespierre's speechit did the samething again."

 

-219-


This picture may appear sombre. Yet it is accurate. Parliamentary assembliessufficiently excited and hypnotisedoffer the same characteristics. They becomean unstable flockobedient to every impulsion. The following description of theAssembly of 1848 is due to M. Spullera parliamentarian whose faith indemocracy is above suspicion. I reproduce it from the Revue littéraireand it is thoroughly typical. It offers an example of all the exaggeratedsentiments which I have described as characteristic of crowdsand of thatexcessive changeableness which permits of assemblies passingfrom moment tomomentfrom one set of sentiments to another entirely opposite.

"The Republican party was brought to its perdition by its divisionsitsjealousiesits suspicionsandin turnits blind confidence and its limitlesshopes. Its ingenuousness and candour were only equalled by its universalmistrust. An absence of all sense of legalityof all comprehension ofdisciplinetogether with boundless terrors and illusions; the peasant and thechild are on a level in these respects. Their calm is as great as theirimpatience; their ferocity is equal to their docility. This condition is thenatural consequence of a temperament that is not formed and of the lack ofeducation. Nothing astonishes such personsand everything disconcerts them.Trembling with

 

-220-



fear or brave to the point of heroismthey would go through fire and water orfly from a shadow.

"They are ignorant of cause and effect and of the connecting linksbetween events. They are as promptly discouraged as they are exaltedthey aresubject to every description of panicthey are always either too highly strungor too downcastbut never in the mood or the measure the situation wouldrequire. More fluid than water they reflect every line and assume every shape.What sort of a foundation for a government can they be expected to supply?"

Fortunately all the characteristics just described as to be met with inparliamentary assemblies are in no wise constantly displayed. Such assembliesonly constitute crowds at certain moments. The individuals composing them retaintheir individuality in a great number of caseswhich explains how it is that anassembly is able to turn out excellent technical laws. It is true that theauthor of these laws is a specialist who has prepared them in the quiet of hisstudyand that in reality the law voted is the work of an individual and not ofan assembly. These laws are naturally the best. They are only liable to havedisastrous results when a series of amendments has converted them into theoutcome of a collective effort. The work of a crowd is always inferior

 

-221-



whatever its natureto that of an isolated individual. It is specialists whosafeguard assemblies from passing ill-advised or unworkable measures. Thespecialist in this case is a temporary leader of crowds. The Assembly is withoutinfluence on himbut he has influence over the Assembly.

In spite of all the difficulties attending their workingparliamentaryassemblies are the best form of government mankind has discovered as yetandmore especially the best means it has found to escape the yoke of personaltyrannies. They constitute assuredly the ideal government at any rate forphilosophersthinkerswritersartistsand learned men -- in a wordfor allthose who form the cream of a civilisation.

Moreoverin reality they only present two serious dangersone beinginevitable financial wasteand the other the progressive restriction of theliberty of the individual.

The first of these dangers is the necessary consequence of the exigencies andwant of foresight of electoral crowds. Should a member of an assembly propose ameasure giving apparent satisfaction to democratic ideasshould he bring in aBillfor instanceto assure old-age pensions to all workersand to increasethe wages of any class of State employésthe other Deputiesvictims ofsuggestion in their dread of their electorswill

 

-222-



not venture to seem to disregard the interests of the latter by rejecting theproposed measurealthough well aware they are imposing a fresh strain on theBudget and necessitating the creation of new taxes. It is impossible for them tohesitate to give their votes. The consequences of the increase of expenditureare remote and will not entail disagreeable consequences for them personallywhile the consequences of a negative vote might clearly come to light when theynext present themselves for re-election.

In addition to this first cause of an exaggerated expenditure there isanother not less imperative -- the necessity of voting all grants for localpurposes. A Deputy is unable to oppose grants of this kind because theyrepresent once more the exigencies of the electorsand because each individualDeputy can only obtain what he requires for his own constituency on thecondition of acceding to similar demands on the part of his colleagues.
Note: [29]

[29]


Note: In its issue of April 61895the Economiste published a curiousreview of the figures that may be reached by expenditure caused solely byelectoral considerationsand notably of the outlay on railways. To put Langayes(a town of 3000 inhabitantssituated on a mountain) in communication with Puya railway is voted that will cost 15 millions of francs. Seven millions are tobe spent to put Beaumont (3500 inhabitants) in communication withCastel-Sarrazin; 7 millions to put Oust (a village of 523 inhabitants) incommunication with Seix (1200 inhabitants); 6 millions to put Prade incommunication with the hamlet of Olette (747 inhabitants)&c. In 1895 alone90 millions of francs were voted for railways of only local utility. There isother no less important expenditure necessitated also by electioneeringconsiderations. The law instituting workingmen's pensions will soon involve aminimum annual outlay of 165 millionsaccording to the Minister of Financeandof 800 millions according to the academician M. Leroy-Beaulieu. It is evidentthat the continued growth of expenditure of this kind must end in bankruptcy.Many European countries -- PortugalGreeceSpainTurkey -- have reached thisstageand otherssuch as Italywill soon be reduced to the same extremity.Still too much alarm need not be felt at this state of thingssince the publichas successively consented to put up with the reduction of four-fifths in thepayment of their coupons by these different countries. Bankruptcy under theseingenious conditions allows the equilibrium of Budgets difficult to balance tobe instantly restored. Moreoverwarssocialismand economic conflicts hold instore for us a profusion of other catastrophes in the period of universaldisintegration we are traversingand it is necessary to be resigned to livingfrom hand to mouth without too much concern for a future we cannot control.

 

-223-


The second of the dangers referred to above -- the inevitable restrictions onliberty consummated by parliamentary assemblies -- is apparently less obviousbut isneverthelessvery real. It is the result of the innumerable laws --having always a restrictive action -- which parliaments consider themselvesobliged to vote and to whose consequencesowing to their shortsightednesstheyare in a great measure blind.

The danger must indeed be most inevitablesince even England itselfwhichassuredly offers

 

-224-



the most popular type of the parliamentary régimethe type in which therepresentative is most independent of his electorhas been unable to escape it.Herbert Spencer has shownin a work already oldthat the increase of apparentliberty must needs be followed by the decrease of real liberty. Returning tothis contention in his recent book"The Individual versus theState" he thus expresses himself with regard to the English Parliament: --

"Legislation since this period has followed the courseI pointed out.Rapidly multiplying dictatorial measures have continually tended to restrictindividual libertiesand this in two ways. Regulations have been establishedevery year in greater numberimposing a constraint on the citizen in matters inwhich his acts were formerly completely freeand forcing him to accomplish actswhich he was formerly at liberty to accomplish or not to accomplish at will. Atthe same time heavier and heavier publicand especially localburdens havestill further restricted his liberty by diminishing the portion of his profitshe can spend as he choosesand by augmenting the portion which is taken fromhim to be spent according to the good pleasure of the public authorities."

This progressive restriction of liberties shows

 

-225-



itself in every country in a special shape which Herbert Spencer has not pointedout; it is that the passing of these innumerable series of legislative measuresall of them in a general way of a restrictive orderconduces necessarily toaugment the numberthe powerand the influence of the functionaries chargedwith their application. These functionaries tend in this way to become theveritable masters of civilised countries. Their power is all the greater owingto the fact thatamidst the incessant transfer of authoritythe administrativecaste is alone in being untouched by these changesis alone in possessingirresponsibilityimpersonalityand perpetuity. There is no more oppressivedespotism than that which presents itself under this triple form.

This incessant creation of restrictive laws and regulationssurrounding thepettiest actions of existence with the most complicated formalitiesinevitablyhas for its result the confining within narrower and narrower limits of thesphere in which the citizen may move freely. Victims of the delusion thatequality and liberty are the better assured by the multiplication of lawsnations daily consent to put up with trammels increasingly burdensome. They donot accept this legislation with impunity. Accustomed to put up with every yokethey soon end by desiring servitudeand lose all spontaneousness and energy.They are then no

 

-226-



more than vain shadowspassiveunresisting and powerless automata.

Arrived at this pointthe individual is bound to seek outside himself theforces he no longer finds within him. The functions of governments necessarilyincrease in proportion as the indifference and helplessness of the citizensgrow. They it is who must necessarily exhibit the initiativeenterprisingandguiding spirit in which private persons are lacking. It falls on them toundertake everythingdirect everythingand take everything under theirprotection. The State becomes an all-powerful god. Still experience shows thatthe power of such gods was never either very durable or very strong.

This progressive restriction of all liberties in the case of certain peoplesin spite of an outward license that gives them the illusion that these libertiesare still in their possessionseems at least as much a consequence of their oldage as of any particular system. It constitutes one of the precursory symptomsof that decadent phase which up to now no civilisation has escaped.

Judging by the lessons of the pastand by the symptoms that strike theattention on every sideseveral of our modern civilisations have reached thatphase of extreme old age which precedes decadence. It seems inevitable that allpeoples should pass through identical phases of existence

 

-227-



since history is so often seen to repeat its course.

It is easy to note briefly these common phases of the evolution ofcivilisationsand I shall terminate this work with a summary of them. Thisrapid sketch will perhaps throw some gleams of light on the causes of the powerat present wielded by crowds.

If we examine in their main lines the genesis of the greatness and of thefall of the civilisations that preceded our ownwhat do we see?

At the dawn of civilisation a swarm of men of various originbroughttogether by the chances of migrationsinvasionsand conquests. Of differentbloodand of equally different languages and beliefsthe only common bond ofunion between these men is the half-recognised law of a chief. The psychologicalcharacteristics of crowds are present in an eminent degree in these confusedagglomerations. They have the transient cohesion of crowdstheir heroismtheirweaknessestheir impulsivenessand their violence. Nothing is stable inconnection with them. They are barbarians.

At length time accomplishes its work. The identity of surroundingstherepeated intermingling of racesthe necessities of life in common exert theirinfluence. The assemblage of dissimilar units begins

 

-228-



to blend into a wholeto form a race; that isan aggregate possessing commoncharacteristics and sentiments to which heredity will give greater and greaterfixity. The crowd has become a peopleand this people is able to emerge fromits barbarous state. Howeverit will only entirely emerge therefrom whenafterlong effortsstruggles necessarily repeatedand innumerable recommencementsit shall have acquired an ideal. The nature of this ideal is of slightimportance; whether it be the cult of Romethe might of Athensor the triumphof Allahit will suffice to endow all the individuals of the race that isforming with perfect unity of sentiment and thought.

At this stage a new civilisationwith its institutionsits beliefsand itsartsmay be born. In pursuit of its idealthe race will acquire in successionthe qualities necessary to give it splendourvigourand grandeur. At times nodoubt it will still be a crowdbut henceforthbeneath the mobile and changingcharacteristics of crowdsis found a solid substratumthe genius of the racewhich confines within narrow limits the transformations of a nation andoverrules the play of chance.

After having exerted its creative actiontime begins that work ofdestruction from which neither gods nor men escape. Having reached a certainlevel of strength and complexity a civilisation ceases to growand havingceased to grow it is

 

-229-



condemned to a speedy decline. The hour of its old age has struck.

This inevitable hour is always marked by the weakening of the ideal that wasthe mainstay of the race. In proportion as this ideal pales all the religiouspoliticaland social structures inspired by it begin to be shaken.

With the progressive perishing of its ideal the race loses more and more thequalities that lent it its cohesionits unityand its strength. Thepersonality and intelligence of the individual may increasebut at the sametime this collective egoism of the race is replaced by an excessive developmentof the egoism of the individualaccompanied by a weakening of character and alessening of the capacity for action. What constituted a peoplea unityawholebecomes in the end an agglomeration of individualities lacking cohesionand artificially held together for a time by its traditions and institutions. Itis at this stage that mendivided by their interests and aspirationsandincapable any longer of self-governmentrequire directing in their pettiestactsand that the State exerts an absorbing influence.

With the definite loss of its old ideal the genius of the race entirelydisappears; it is a mere swarm of isolated individuals and returns to itsoriginal state -- that of a crowd. Without consistency and without a futureithas all the transitory characteristics

 

-230-



of crowds. Its civilisation is now without stabilityand at the mercy of everychance. The populace is sovereignand the tide of barbarism mounts. Thecivilisation may still seem brilliant because it possesses an outward frontthework of a long pastbut it is in reality an edifice crumbling to ruinwhichnothing supportsand destined to fall in at the first storm.

To pass in pursuit of an ideal from the barbarous to the civilised stateandthenwhen this ideal has lost its virtueto decline and diesuch is the cycleof the life of a people.

CHAPTER I.
THE CLASSIFICATION OF CROWDS.

The general divisions of crowds -- Their classification. 1. Heterogeneouscrowds. Different varieties of them -- The influence of race -- The spiritof the crowd is weak in proportion as the spirit of the race is strong -- Thespirit of the race represents the civilised state and the spirit of the crowdthe barbarian state. 2. Homogeneous crowds. Their different varieties --Sectscastesand classes.

WE have sketched in this work the general characteristics common topsychological crowds. It remains to point out the particular characteristicswhich accompany those of a general order in the different categories ofcollectivitieswhen they are transformed into a crowd under the influences ofthe proper exciting causes.

 

-165-


We willfirst of allset forth in a few words a classification of crowds.

Our starting-point will be the simple multitude. Its most inferior form ismet with when the multitude is composed of individuals belonging to differentraces. In this case its only common bond of union is the willmore or lessrespected of a chief. The barbarians of very diverse origin who during severalcenturies invaded the Roman Empiremay be cited as a specimen of multitudes ofthis kind.

On a higher level than these multitudes composed of different races are thosewhich under certain influences have acquired common characteristicsand haveended by forming a single race. They present at times characteristics peculiarto crowdsbut these characteristics are overruled to a greater or less extentby racial considerations.

These two kinds of multitudes mayunder certain influences investigated inthis workbe transformed into organised or psychological crowds. We shall breakup these organised crowds into the following divisions: -- 1. Anonymous crowds(street
crowdsfor example).
A. Heterogeneous
crowds. 2. Crowds not anonymous
(juriesparliamentary
assemblies&c.).

 

-166-



1. Sects (political sects
religious sects&c.).
2. Castes (the military caste
B. Homogeneous the priestly castethe
crowds. working caste&c.).
3. Classes (the middle classes
the peasant classes&c.).

We will point out briefly the distinguishing characteristics of thesedifferent categories of crowds.

1. HETEROGENEOUS CROWDS.

It is these collectivities whose characteristics have beenstudied in this volume. They are composed of individuals of any descriptionofany professionand any degree of intelligence.

We are now aware that by the mere fact that men form part of a crowd engagedin actiontheir collective psychology differs essentially from their individualpsychologyand their intelligence is affected by this differentiation. We haveseen that intelligence is without influence in collectivitiesthey being solelyunder the sway of unconscious sentiments.

A fundamental factorthat of raceallows of a tolerably thoroughdifferentiation of the various heterogeneous crowds.

We have often referred already to the part played by raceand have shown itto be the

 

-167-



most powerful of the factors capable of determining men's actions. Its action isalso to be traced in the character of crowds. A crowd composed of individualsassembled at haphazardbut all of them Englishmen or Chinamenwill differwidely from another crowd also composed of individuals of any and everydescriptionbut of other races -- RussiansFrenchmenor Spaniardsforexample.

The wide divergencies which their inherited mental constitution creates inmen's modes of feeling and thinking at once come into prominence whenwhichrarely happenscircumstances gather together in the same crowd and in fairlyequal proportions individuals of different nationalityand this occurshoweveridentical in appearance be the interests which provoked the gathering. Theefforts made by the socialists to assemble in great congresses therepresentatives of the working-class populations of different countrieshavealways ended in the most pronounced discord. A Latin crowdhoweverrevolutionary or however conservative it be supposedwill invariably appeal tothe intervention of the State to realise its demands. It is always distinguishedby a marked tendency towards centralisation and by a leaningmore or lesspronouncedin favour of a dictatorship. An English or an American crowdon thecontrarysets no store

 

-168-



on the Stateand only appeals to private initiative. A French crowd laysparticular weight on equality and an English crowd on liberty. These differencesof race explain how it is that there are almost as many different forms ofsocialism and democracy as there are nations.

The genius of the racethenexerts a paramount influence upon thedispositions of a crowd. It is the powerful underlying force that limits itschanges of humour. It should be considered as an essential law that theinferior characteristics of crowds are the less accentuated in proportion as thespirit of the race is strong. The crowd state and the domination of crowdsis equivalent to the barbarian stateor to a return to it. It is by theacquisition of a solidly constituted collective spirit that the race freesitself to a greater and greater extent from the unreflecting power of crowdsand emerges from the barbarian state. The only important classification to bemade of heterogeneous crowdsapart from that based on racial considerationsisto separate them into anonymous crowdssuch as street crowdsand crowds notanonymous -- deliberative assemblies and juriesfor example. The sentiment ofresponsibility absent from crowds of the first description and developed inthose of the second often gives a very different tendency to their respectiveacts.


 

-169-



2. HOMOGENEOUS CROWDS.

Homogeneous crowds include: 1. Sects; 2. Castes; 3. Classes.

The sect represents the first step in the process of organisation ofhomogeneous crowds. A sect includes individuals differing greatly as to theireducationtheir professionsand the class of society to which they belongandwith their common beliefs as the connecting link. Examples in point arereligious and political sects.

The caste represents the highest degree of organisation of which thecrowd is susceptible. While the sect includes individuals of very differentprofessionsdegrees of education and social surroundingwho are only linkedtogether by the beliefs they hold in commonthe caste is composed ofindividuals of the same professionand in consequence similarly educated and ofmuch the same social status. Examples in point are the military and priestlycastes.

The class is formed of individuals of diverse originlinked togethernot by a community of beliefsas are the members of a sector by commonprofessional occupationsas are the members of a castebut by certaininterests and certain habits of life and education almost identical. The middleclass and the agricultural class are examples.

Being only concerned in this work with

 

-170-



heterogeneous crowdsand reserving the study of homogeneous crowds (sectscastesand classes) for another volumeI shall not insist here on thecharacteristics of crowds of this latter kind. I shall conclude this study ofheterogeneous crowds by the examination of a few typical and distinct categoriesof crowds.

CHAPTER II.
CROWDS TERMED CRIMINAL CROWDS.

Crowds termed criminal crowds -- A crowd may be legally yetnot psychologically criminal -- The absolute unconsciousness of the acts ofcrowds -- Various examples -- Psychology of the authors of the Septembermassacres -- Their reasoningtheir sensibilitytheir ferocityand theirmorality.

OWING to the fact that crowdsafter a period of excitemententer upon apurely automatic and unconscious statein which they are guided by suggestionit seems difficult to qualify them in any case as criminal. I only retain thiserroneous qualification because it has been definitely brought into vogue byrecent psychological investigations. Certain acts of crowds are assuredlycriminalif considered merely in themselvesbut criminal in that case in thesame way as the act of a tiger devouring a Hindooafter allowing its young tomaul him for their amusement.

The usual motive of the crimes of crowds is a

 

-172-



powerful suggestionand the individuals who take part in such crimes areafterwards convinced that they have acted in obedience to dutywhich is farfrom being the case with the ordinary criminal.

The history of the crimes committed by crowds illustrates what precedes.

The murder of M. de Launaythe governor of the Bastillemay be cited as atypical example. After the taking of the fortress the governorsurrounded by avery excited crowdwas dealt blows from every direction. It was proposed tohang himto cut off his headto tie him to a horse's tail. While strugglinghe accidently kicked one of those present. Some one proposedand his suggestionwas at once received with acclamation by the crowdthat the individual who hadbeen kicked should cut the governor's throat.

"The individual in questiona cook out of workwhose chief reason forbeing at the Bastille was idle curiosity as to what was going onesteemsthatsince such is the general opinionthe action is patriotic and even believes hedeserves a medal for having destroyed a monster. With a sword that is lent himhe strikes the bared neckbut the weapon being somewhat blunt and not cuttinghe takes from his pocket a small black-handled knife and (in his capacity ofcook he would be experienced in cutting up meat) successfully effects theoperation."

 

-173-


The working of the process indicated above is clearly seen in this example.We have obedience to a suggestionwhich is all the stronger because of itscollective originand the murderer's conviction that he has committed a verymeritorious acta conviction the more natural seeing that he enjoys theunanimous approval of his fellow-citizens. An act of this kind may be consideredcrime legally but not psychologically.

The general characteristics of criminal crowds are precisely the same asthose we have met with in all crowds: openness to suggestioncredulitymobilitythe exaggeration of the sentiments good or badthe manifestation ofcertain forms of morality&c.

We shall find all these characteristics present in a crowd which has leftbehind it in French history the most sinister memories -- the crowd whichperpetrated the September massacres. In point of fact it offers much similaritywith the crowd that committed the Saint Bartholomew massacres. I borrow thedetails from the narration of M. Tainewho took them from contemporary sources.

It is not known exactly who gave the order or made the suggestion to emptythe prisons by massacring the prisoners. Whether it was Dantonas is probableor another does not matter; the one interesting fact for us is the powerfulsuggestion

 

-174-



received by the crowd charged with the massacre.

The crowd of murderers numbered some three hundred personsand was aperfectly typical heterogeneous crowd. With the exception of a very small numberof professional scoundrelsit was composed in the main of shopkeepers andartisans of every trade: bootmakerslocksmithshairdressersmasonsclerksmessengers&c. Under the influence of the suggestion received they areperfectly convincedas was the cook referred to abovethat they areaccomplishing a patriotic duty. They fill a double officebeing at once judgeand executionerbut they do not for a moment regard themselves as criminals.

Deeply conscious of the importance of their dutythey begin by forming asort of tribunaland in connection with this act the ingenuousness of crowdsand their rudimentary conception of justice are seen immediately. Inconsideration of the large number of the accusedit is decided thatto beginwiththe noblespriestsofficersand members of the king's household -- in awordall the individuals whose mere profession is proof of their guilt in theeyes of a good patriot -- shall be slaughtered in a bodythere being no needfor a special decision in their case. The remainder shall be judged on theirpersonal appearance and their reputation. In this way the rudimentary conscienceof the

 

-175-



crowd is satisfied. It will now be able to proceed legally with the massacreand to give free scope to those instincts of ferocity whose genesis I have setforth elsewherethey being instincts which collectivities always have it inthem to develop to a high degree. These instinctshowever -- as is regularlythe case in crowds -- will not prevent the manifestation of other and contrarysentimentssuch as a tenderheartedness often as extreme as the ferocity.

"They have the expansive sympathy and prompt sensibility of the Parisianworking man. At the Abbayeone of the federateslearning that the prisonershad been left without water for twenty-six hourswas bent on putting the gaolerto deathand would have done so but for the prayers of the prisonersthemselves. When a prisoner is acquitted (by the improvised tribunal) every oneguards and slaughterers includedembraces him with transports of joy andapplauds frantically" after which the wholesale massacre is recommenced.During its progress a pleasant gaiety never ceases to reign. There is dancingand singing around the corpsesand benches are arranged "for theladies" delighted to witness the killing of aristocrats. The exhibitioncontinuesmoreoverof a special description of justice.

A slaughterer at the Abbaye having complained that the ladies placed at alittle distance saw

 

-176-



badlyand that only a few of those present had the pleasure of striking thearistocratsthe justice of the observation is admittedand it is decided thatthe victims shall be made to pass slowly between two rows of slaughtererswhoshall be under the obligation to strike with the back of the sword only so as toprolong the agony. At the prison de la Force the victims are stripped starknaked and literally "carved" for half an hourafter whichwhen everyone has had a good viewthey are finished off by a blow that lays bare theirentrails.

The slaughtererstoohave their scruples and exhibit that moral sense whoseexistence in crowds we have already pointed out. They refuse to appropriate themoney and jewels of the victimstaking them to the table of the committees.

Those rudimentary forms of reasoningcharacteristic of the mind of crowdsare always to be traced in all their acts. Thusafter the slaughter of the1200 or 1500 enemies of the nationsome one makes the remarkand hissuggestion is at once adoptedthat the other prisonsthose containing agedbeggarsvagabondsand young prisonershold in reality useless mouthsofwhich it would be well on that account to get rid. Besidesamong them thereshould certainly be enemies of the peoplea woman of the name of Delarueforinstancethe widow of a poisoner:

 

-177-



"She must be furious at being in prisonif she could she would set fire toParis: she must have said soshe has said so. Another good riddance." Thedemonstration appears convincingand the prisoners are massacred withoutexceptionincluded in the number being some fifty children of from twelve toseventeen years of agewhoof coursemight themselves have become enemies ofthe nationand of whom in consequence it was clearly well to be rid.

At the end of a week's workall these operations being brought to an endthe slaughterers can think of reposing themselves. Profoundly convinced thatthey have deserved well of their countrythey went to the authorities anddemanded a recompense. The most zealous went so far as to claim a medal.

The history of the Commune of 1871 affords several facts analogous to thosewhich precede. Given the growing influence of crowds and the successivecapitulations before them of those in authoritywe are destined to witness manyothers of a like nature.

CHAPTER III.
CRIMINAL JURIES.

Criminal juries -- General characteristics of juries --statistics show that their decisions are independent of their composition -- Themanner in which an impression may be made on juries -- The style and influenceof argument -- The methods of persuasion of celebrated counsel -- The nature ofthose crimes for which juries are respectively indulgent or severe -- Theutility of the jury as an institutionand the danger that would result from itsplace being taken by magistrates.

BEING unable to study here every category of juryI shall only examine themost important -- that of the juries of the Court of Assize. These juries affordan excellent example of the heterogeneous crowd that is not anonymous. We shallfind them display suggestibility and but slight capacity for reasoningwhilethey are open to the influence of the leaders of crowdsand they are guided inthe main by unconscious sentiments. In the course of this investigation we shallhave occasion to observe some interesting examples of

 

-179-



the errors that may be made by persons not versed in the psychology of crowds.

Juriesin the first placefurnish us a good example of the slightimportance of the mental level of the different elements composing a crowdsofar as the decisions it comes to are concerned. We have seen that when adeliberative assembly is called upon to give its opinion on a question of acharacter not entirely technicalintelligence stands for nothing. For instancea gathering of scientific men or of artistsowing to the mere fact that theyform an assemblagewill not deliver judgments on general subjects sensiblydifferent from those rendered by a gathering of masons or grocers. At variousperiodsand in particular previous to 1848the French administrationinstituted a careful choice among the persons summoned to form a jurypickingthe jurors from among the enlightened classes; choosing professorsfunctionariesmen of letters&c. At the present day jurors are recruitedfor the most part from among small tradesmenpetty capitalistsand employés.Yetto the great astonishment of specialist writerswhatever the compositionof the jury has beenits decisions have been identical. Even the magistrateshostile as they are to the institution of the juryhave had to recognise theexactness of the assertion. M. Bérard des Glajeuxa former President of theCourt of Assizesex

 

-180-



presses himself on the subject in his "Memoirs" in the followingterms: --

"The selection of jurymen is to-day in reality in the hands of themunicipal councillorswho put people down on the list or eliminate them from itin accordance with the political and electoral preoccupations inherent in theirsituation. . . . The majority of the jurors chosen are persons engaged in tradebut persons of less importance than formerlyand employés belonging to certainbranches of the administration. . . . Both opinions and professions counting fornothing once the rôle of judge assumedmany of the jurymen having theardour of neophytesand men of the best intentions being similarly disposed inhumble situationsthe spirit of the jury has not changed: its verdicts haveremained the same."

Of the passage just cited the conclusionswhich are justare to be borne inmind and not the explanationswhich are weak. Too much astonishment should notbe felt at this weaknessforas a rulecounsel equally with magistrates seemto be ignorant of the psychology of crowds andin consequenceof juries. Ifind a proof of this statement in a fact related by the author just quoted. Heremarks that Lachaudone of the most illustrious barristers practising in theCourt of Assize

 

-181-



made systematic use of his right to object to a juror in the case of allindividuals of intelligence on the list. Yet experience -- and experience alone-- has ended by acquainting us with the utter uselessness of these objections.This is proved by the fact that at the present day public prosecutors andbarristersat any rate those belonging to the Parisian barhave entirelyrenounced their right to object to a juror; stillas M. des Glajeux remarksthe verdicts have not changed"they are neither better nor worse."

Like all crowdsjuries are very strongly impressed by sentimentalconsiderationsand very slightly by argument. "They cannot resist thesight" writes a barrister"of a mother giving its child the breastor of orphans." "It is sufficient that a woman should be of agreeableappearance" says M. des Glajeux"to win the benevolence of thejury."

Without pity for crimes of which it appears possible they might themselves bethe victims -- such crimesmoreoverare the most dangerous for society --jurieson the contraryare very indulgent in the case of breaches of the lawwhose motive is passion. They are rarely severe on infanticide by girl-mothersor hard on the young woman who throws vitriol at the man who has seduced anddeserted herfor the reason that they feel instinctively that society runs butslight danger

 

-182-



from such crimes
Note: [24] and that in a country in which the law does not protect desertedgirls the crime of the girl who avenges herself is rather useful than harmfulinasmuch as it frightens future seducers in advance.

[24]


Note:

It is to be remarkedin passingthat this division of crimes into thosedangerous and those not dangerous for societywhich is well and instinctivelymade by juries is far from being unjust. The object of criminal laws isevidently to protect society against dangerous criminals and not to avenge it.On the other handthe French codeand above all the minds of the Frenchmagistratesare still deeply imbued with the spirit of vengeance characteristicof the old primitive lawand the term "vindicte" (prosecutionfrom the Latin vindictavengeance) is still in daily use. A proof ofthis tendency on the part of the magistrates is found in the refusal by many ofthem to apply Bérenger's lawwhich allows of a condemned person not undergoinghis sentence unless he repeats his crime. Yet no magistrate can be ignorantforthe fact is proved by statisticsthat the application of a punishment inflictedfor the first time infallibly leads to further crime on the part of the personpunished. When judges set free a sentenced person it always seems to them thatsociety has not been avenged. Rather than not avenge it they prefer to create adangerousconfirmed criminal.

Jurieslike all crowdsare profoundly impressed by prestigeand Presidentdes Glajeux very properly remarks thatvery democratic as juries are in theircompositionthey are very aristocratic in their likes and dislikes: "Namebirthgreat wealthcelebritythe assistance of an illustrious counseleverything in the nature of distinction or that

 

-183-



lends brilliancy to the accusedstands him in extremely good stead."

The chief concern of a good counsel should be to work upon the feelings ofthe juryandas with all crowdsto argue but littleor only to employrudimentary modes of reasoning. An English barristerfamous for his successesin the assize courtshas well set forth the line of action to be followed: --

"While pleading he would attentively observe the jury. The mostfavourable opportunity has been reached. By dint of insight and experience thecounsel reads the effect of each phrase on the faces of the jurymenand drawshis conclusions in consequence. His first step is to be sure which members ofthe jury are already favourable to his cause. It is short work to definitelygain their adhesionand having done so he turns his attention to the memberswho seemon the contraryill-disposedand endeavours to discover why they arehostile to the accused. This is the delicate part of his taskfor there may bean infinity of reasons for condemning a manapart from the sentiment ofjustice."

These few lines résumé the entire mechanism of the art of oratoryand we see why the speech prepared in advance has so slight an effectit

 

-184-



being necessary to be able to modify the terms employed from moment to moment inaccordance with the impression produced.

The orator does not require to convert to his views all the members of ajurybut only the leading spirits among it who will determine the generalopinion. As in all crowdsso in juries there are a small number of individualswho serve as guides to the rest. "I have found by experience" saysthe counsel cited above"that one or two energetic men suffice to carrythe rest of the jury with them." It is those two or three whom it isnecessary to convince by skilful suggestions. First of alland above allit isnecessary to please them. The man forming part of a crowd whom one has succeededin pleasing is on the point of being convincedand is quite disposed to acceptas excellent any arguments that may be offered him. I detach the followinganecdote from an interesting account of M. Lachaudalluded to above: --

"It is well known that during all the speeches he would deliver in thecourse of an assize sessionsLachaud never lost sight of the two or threejurymen whom he knew or felt to be influential but obstinate. As a rule he wassuccessful in winning over these refractory jurors. On one occasionhoweverinthe provinceshe had to deal with a

 

-185-



juryman whom he plied in vain for three-quarters of an hour with his mostcunning arguments; the man was the seventh jurymanthe first on the secondbench. The case was desperate. Suddenlyin the middle of a passionatedemonstrationLachaud stopped shortand addressing the President of the courtsaid: `Would you give instructions for the curtain there in front to be drawn?The seventh juryman is blinded by the sun.' The juryman in question reddenedsmiledand expressed his thanks. He was won over for the defence."

Many writerssome of them most distinguishedhave started of late a strongcampaign against the institution of the juryalthough it is the only protectionwe have against the errorsreally very frequentof a caste that is under nocontrol.
Note: [25] A

 

-186-



portion of these writers advocate a jury recruited solely from the ranks of theenlightened classes; but we have already proved that even in this case theverdicts would be identical with those returned under the present system. Otherwriterstaking their stand on the errors committed by jurieswould abolish thejury and replace it by judges. It is difficult to see how these would-bereformers can forget that the errors for which the jury is blamed were committedin the first instance by judgesand that when the accused person comes before ajury he has already been held to be guilty by several magistratesby the juged'instructionthe public prosecutorand the Court of Arraignment. Itshould thus be clear that were the accused to be definitely judged bymagistrates instead of by jurymenhe would lose his only chance of beingadmitted innocent. The errors of juries have always been first of all the errorsof magistrates. It is solely the magistratesthenwho should be blamed whenparticularly monstrous judicial errors crop upsuchfor instanceas the

 

-187-



quite recent condemnation of Dr. L -- -- whoprosecuted by a juged'instructionof excessive stupidityon the strength of the denunciationof a half-idiot girlwho accused the doctor of having performed an illegaloperation upon her for thirty francswould have been sent to penal servitudebut for an explosion of public indignationwhich had for result that he wasimmediately set at liberty by the Chief of the State. The honourable charactergiven the condemned man by all his fellow-citizens made the grossness of theblunder self-evident. The magistrates themselves admitted itand yet out ofcaste considerations they did all they could to prevent the pardon being signed.In all similar affairs the juryconfronted with technical details it is unableto understandnaturally hearkens to the public prosecutorarguing thatafterallthe affair has been investigated by magistrates trained to unravel the mostintricate situations. Whothenare the real authors of the error -- thejurymen or the magistrates? We should cling vigorously to the jury. Itconstitutesperhapsthe only category of crowd that cannot be replaced by anyindividuality. It alone can temper the severity of the lawwhichequal forallought in principle to be blind and to take no cognisance of particularcases. Inaccessible to pityand heeding nothing but the text of the lawthejudge in his professional severity

 

-188-



would visit with the same penalty the burglar guilty of murder and the wretchedgirl whom poverty and her abandonment by her seducer have driven to infanticide.The juryon the other handinstinctively feels that the seduced girl is muchless guilty than the seducerwhohoweveris not touched by the lawand thatshe deserves every indulgence.

[25]


Note:

The magistracy isin point of factthe only administration whose acts areunder no control. In spite of all its revolutionsdemocratic France does notpossess that right of habeas corpus of which England is so proud. We havebanished all the tyrantsbut have set up a magistrate in each city who disposesat will of the honour and liberty of the citizens. An insignificant juged'instruction (an examining magistrate who has no exact counterpart inEngland. -- Trans.)fresh from the universitypossesses the revoltingpower of sending to prison at will persons of the most considerable standingona simple supposition on his part of their guiltand without being obliged tojustify his act to any one. Under the pretext of pursuing his investigation hecan keep these persons in prison for six months or even a yearand free them atlast without owing them either an indemnity or excuses. The warrant in France isthe exact equivalent of the lettre de cachetwith this differencethatthe latterwith the use of which the monarchy was so justly reproachedcouldonly be resorted to by persons occupying a very high positionwhile the warrantis an instrument in the hands of a whole class of citizens which is far frompassing for being very enlightened or very independent.

Being well acquainted with the psychology of castesand also with thepsychology of other categories of crowdsI do not perceive a single case inwhichwrongly accused of a crimeI should not prefer to have to deal with ajury rather than with magistrates. I should have some chance that my innocencewould be recognised by the former and not the slightest chance that it would beadmitted by the latter. The power of crowds is to be dreadedbut the power ofcertain castes is to be dreaded yet more. Crowds are open to conviction; castesnever are.

CHAPTER IV.
ELECTORAL CROWDS.

General characteristics of electoral crowds -- The manner ofpersuading them -- The qualities that should be possessed by a candidate --Necessity of prestige -- Why working men and peasants so rarely choosecandidates from their own class -- The influence of words and formulas on theelector -- The general aspect of election oratory -- How the opinions of theelector are formed -- The power of political committees -- They represent themost redoubtable form of tyranny -- The committees of the Revolution --Universal suffrage cannot be replaced in spite of its slight psychological value-- Why it is that the votes recorded would remain the same even if the right ofvoting were restricted to a limited class of citizens -- Of what universalsuffrage is the expression in all countries.

ELECTORAL crowds -- that is to saycollectivities invested with the power ofelecting the holders of certain functions -- constitute heterogeneous crowdsbut as their action is confined to a single clearly determined matternamelyto choosing between different candidatesthey present only a few of the

 

-190-



characteristics previously described. Of the characteristics peculiar to crowdsthey display in particular but slight aptitude for reasoningthe absence of thecritical spiritirritabilitycredulityand simplicity. In their decisionmoreoveris to be traced the influence of the leaders of crowds and the partplayed by the factors we have enumerated: affirmationrepetitionprestigeandcontagion.

Let us examine by what methods electoral crowds are to be persuaded. It willbe easy to deduce their psychology from the methods that are most successful.

It is of primary importance that the candidate should possess prestige.Personal prestige can only be replaced by that resulting from wealth. Talent andeven genius are not elements of success of serious importance.

Of capital importanceon the other handis the necessity for the candidateof possessing prestigeof being ablethat isto force himself upon theelectorate without discussion. The reason why the electorsof whom a majorityare working men or peasantsso rarely choose a man from their own ranks torepresent them is that such a person enjoys no prestige among them. Whenbychancethey do elect a man who is their equalit is as a rule for subsidiaryreasons -- for instanceto spite an eminent manor an influential employer oflabour on whom the elector is in daily dependenceand

 

-191-



whose master he has the illusion he becomes in this way for a moment.

The possession of prestige does not sufficehoweverto assure the successof a candidate. The elector stickles in particular for the flattery of his greedand vanity. He must be overwhelmed with the most extravagant blandishmentsandthere must be no hesitation in making him the most fantastic promises. If he isa working man it is impossible to go too far in insulting and stigmatisingemployers of labour. As for the rival candidatean effort must be made todestroy his chance by establishing by dint of affirmationrepetitionandcontagion that he is an arrant scoundreland that it is a matter of commonknowledge that he has been guilty of several crimes. It isof courseuselessto trouble about any semblance of proof. Should the adversary be ill-acquaintedwith the psychology of crowds he will try to justify himself by argumentsinstead of confining himself to replying to one set of affirmations by another;and he will have no chance whatever of being successful.

The candidate's written programme should not be too categoricalsince lateron his adversaries might bring it up against him; in his verbal programmehoweverthere cannot be too much exaggeration. The most important reforms maybe fearlessly promised. At the moment they are

 

-192-



made these exaggerations produce a great effectand they are not binding forthe futureit being a matter of constant observation that the elector nevertroubles himself to know how far the candidate he has returned has followed outthe electoral programme he applaudedand in virtue of which the election wassupposed to have been secured.

In what precedesall the factors of persuasion which we have described areto be recognised. We shall come across them again in the action exerted by wordsand formulaswhose magical sway we have already insisted upon. An orator whoknows how to make use of these means of persuasion can do what he will with acrowd. Expressions such as infamous capitalvile exploitersthe admirableworking manthe socialisation of wealth&c.always produce the sameeffectalthough already somewhat worn by use. But the candidate who hits on anew formula as devoid as possible of precise meaningand apt in consequence toflatter the most varied aspirationsinfallibly obtains a success. Thesanguinary Spanish revolution of 1873 was brought about by one of these magicalphrases of complex meaning on which everybody can put his own interpretation. Acontemporary writer has described the launching of this phrase in terms thatdeserve to be quoted: --

"The radicals have made the discovery that a

 

-193-



centralised republic is a monarchy in disguiseand to humour them the Corteshad unanimously proclaimed a federal republicthough none of the voterscould have explained what it was he had just voted for. This formulahoweverdelighted everybody; the joy was intoxicatingdelirious. The reign of virtueand happiness had just been inaugurated on earth. A republican whose opponentrefused him the title of federalist considered himself to be mortally insulted.People addressed each other in the streets with the words: `Long live thefederal republic!' After which the praises were sung of the mystic virtue of theabsence of discipline in the armyand of the autonomy of the soldiers. What wasunderstood by the `federal republic?' There were those who took it to mean theemancipation of the provincesinstitutions akin to those of the United Statesand administrative decentralisation; others had in view the abolition of allauthority and the speedy commencement of the great social liquidation. Thesocialists of Barcelona and Andalusia stood out for the absolute sovereignty ofthe communes; they proposed to endow Spain with ten thousand independentmunicipalitiesto legislate on their own accountand their creation to beaccompanied by the suppression of the police and the army. In the southernprovinces the insurrection was soon seen to spread from town to town and villageto village.

 

-194-



Directly a village had made its pronunciamento its first care was todestroy the telegraph wires and the railway lines so as to cut off allcommunication with its neighbours and Madrid. The sorriest hamlet was determinedto stand on its own bottom. Federation had given place to cantonalismmarked bymassacresincendiarismand every description of brutalityand bloodysaturnalia were celebrated throughout the length and breadth of the land."

With respect to the influence that may be exerted by reasoning on the mindsof electorsto harbour the least doubt on this subject can only be the resultof never having read the reports of an electioneering meeting. In such agathering affirmationsinvectivesand sometimes blows are exchangedbut neverarguments. Should silence be established for a moment it is because some onepresenthaving the reputation of a "tough customer" has announcedthat he is about to heckle the candidate by putting him one of thoseembarrassing questions which are always the joy of the audience. Thesatisfactionhoweverof the opposition party is shortlivedfor the voice ofthe questioner is soon drowned in the uproar made by his adversaries. Thefollowing reports of public meetingschosen from hundreds of similar examplesand taken from the daily papersmay be considered as typical: --

 

-195-


"One of the organisers of the meeting having asked the assembly to electa presidentthe storm bursts. The anarchists leap on to the platform to takethe committee table by storm. The socialists make an energetic defence; blowsare exchangedand each party accuses the other of being spies in the pay of theGovernment&c. . . . A citizen leaves the hall with a black eye.

"The committee is at length installed as best it may be in the midst ofthe tumultand the right to speak devolves upon `Comrade' X.

"The orator starts a vigorous attack on the socialistswho interrupthim with shouts of `Idiotscoundrelblackguard!' &c.epithets to whichComrade X. replies by setting forth a theory according to which the socialistsare `idiots' or `jokers.'"

"The Allemanist party had organised yesterday eveningin the Hall ofCommercein the Rue du Faubourg-du-Templea great meetingpreliminary to theworkers' fête of the 1st of May. The watchword of the meeting was `Calmand Tranquillity!'

"Comrade G -- -- alludes to the socialists as `idiots' and `humbugs.'

"At these words there is an exchange of invectives and orators andaudience come to blows. Chairstablesand benches are converted intoweapons" &c.&c.

It is not to be imagined for a moment that this

 

-196-



description of discussion is peculiar to a determined class of electors anddependent on their social position. In every anonymous assembly whateverthoughit be composed exclusively of highly educated personsdiscussion always assumesthe same shape. I have shown that when men are collected in a crowd there is atendency towards their mental levelling at workand proof of this is to befound at every turn. Takefor examplethe following extract from a report of ameeting composed exclusively of studentswhich I borrow from the Tempsof 13th of February1895: --

"The tumult only increased as the evening went on; I do not believe thata single orator succeeded in uttering two sentences without being interrupted.At every instant there came shouts from this or that direction or from everydirection at once. Applause was intermingled with hissingviolent discussionswere in progress between individual members of the audiencesticks werebrandished threateninglyothers beat a tattoo on the floorand theinterrupters were greeted with yells of `Put him out!' or `Let him speak!'

"M. C -- -- lavished such epithets as odious and cowardlymonstrousvilevenal and vindictiveon the Associationwhich he declared he wanted todestroy" &c.&c.

Howit may be askedcan an elector form an

 

-197-



opinion under such conditions? To put such a question is to harbour a strangedelusion as to the measure of liberty that may be enjoyed by a collectivity.Crowds have opinions that have been imposed upon thembut they never boastreasoned opinions. In the case under consideration the opinions and votes of theelectors are in the hands of the election committeeswhose leading spirits areas a rulepublicanstheir influence over the working mento whom they allowcreditbeing great. "Do you know what an election committee is?"writes M. Schérerone of the most valiant champions of present-day democracy."It is neither more nor less than the corner-stone of our institutionsthemasterpiece of the political machine. France is governed to-day by the electioncommittees."
Note: [26]

[26]


Note:

Committees under whatever nameclubssyndicates&c.constituteperhaps the most redoubtable danger resulting from the power of crowds. Theyrepresent in reality the most impersonal andin consequencethe mostoppressive form of tyranny. The leaders who direct the committees being supposedto speak and act in the name of a collectivityare freed from allresponsibilityand are in a position to do just as they choose. The most savagetyrant has never ventured even to dream of such proscriptions as those ordainedby the committees of the Revolution. Barras has declared that they decimated theconventionpicking off its members at their pleasure. So long as he was able tospeak in their nameRobespierre wielded absolute power. The moment thisfrightful dictator separated himself from themfor reasons of personal pridehe was lost. The reign of crowds is the reign of committeesthat isof theleaders of crowds. A severer despotism cannot be imagined.

To exert an influence over them is not difficultprovided the candidate bein himself acceptable and possess adequate financial resources. According to theadmissions of the donorsthree millions

 

-198-



of francs sufficed to secure the repeated elections of General Boulanger.

Such is the psychology of electoral crowds. It is identical with that ofother crowds: neither better nor worse.

In consequence I draw no conclusion against universal suffrage from whatprecedes. Had I to settle its fateI should preserve it as it is for practicalreasonswhich are to be deduced in point of fact from our investigation of thepsychology of crowds. On this account I shall proceed to set them forth.

No doubt the weak side of universal suffrage is too obvious to be overlooked.It cannot be gainsaid that civilisation has been the work of a small minority ofsuperior intelligences constituting the culminating point of a pyramidwhosestageswidening in proportion to the decrease of mental powerrepresent themasses of a nation. The greatness of a civilisation cannot assuredly depend uponthe votes given by inferior elements boasting solely numerical strength.Doubtless

 

-199-



toothe votes recorded by crowds are often very dangerous. They have alreadycost us several invasionsand in view of the triumph of socialismfor whichthey are preparing the wayit is probable that the vagaries of popularsovereignty will cost us still more dearly.

Excellenthoweveras these objections are in theoryin practice they loseall forceas will be admitted if the invincible strength be remembered of ideastransformed into dogmas. The dogma of the sovereignty of crowds is as littledefensiblefrom the philosophical point of viewas the religious dogmas of theMiddle Agesbut it enjoys at present the same absolute power they formerlyenjoyed. It is as unattackable in consequence as in the past were our religiousideas. Imagine a modern freethinker miraculously transported into the midst ofthe Middle Ages. Do you suppose thatafter having ascertained the sovereignpower of the religious ideas that were then in forcehe would have been temptedto attack them? Having fallen into the hands of a judge disposed to send him tothe stakeunder the imputation of having concluded a pact with the devilor ofhaving been present at the witches sabbathwould it have occurred to him tocall in question the existence of the devil or of the sabbath? It were as wiseto oppose cyclones with discussion as the beliefs of crowds. The

 

-200-



dogma of universal suffrage possesses to-day the power the Christian dogmasformerly possessed. Orators and writers allude to it with a respect andadulation that never fell to the share of Louis XIV. In consequence the sameposition must be taken up with regard to it as with regard to all religiousdogmas. Time alone can act upon them.

Besidesit would be the more useless to attempt to undermine this dogmainasmuch as it has an appearance of reasonableness in its favour. "In anera of equality" Tocqueville justly remarks"men have no faith ineach other on account of their being all alike; yet this same similitude givesthem an almost limitless confidence in the judgment of the publicthe reasonbeing that it does not appear probable thatall men being equally enlightenedtruth and numerical superiority should not go hand in hand."

Must it be believed that with a restricted suffrage -- a suffrage restrictedto those intellectually capable if it be desired -- an improvement would beeffected in the votes of crowds? I cannot admit for a moment that this would bethe caseand that for the reasons I have already given touching the mentalinferiority of all collectivitieswhatever their composition. In a crowd menalways tend to the same levelandon general questionsa voterecorded byforty academicians is no better than that of forty water-carriers. I do

 

-201-



not in the least believe that any of the votes for which universal suffrage isblamed -- the re-establishment of the Empirefor instance -- would have fallenout differently had the voters been exclusively recruited among learned andliberally educated men. It does not follow because an individual knows Greek ormathematicsis an architecta veterinary surgeona doctoror a barristerthat he is endowed with a special intelligence of social questions. All ourpolitical economists are highly educatedbeing for the most part professors oracademiciansyet is there a single general question -- protectionbimetallism&c. -- on which they have succeeded in agreeing? The explanation is thattheir science is only a very attenuated form of our universal ignorance. Withregard to social problemsowing to the number of unknown quantities they offermen are substantiallyequally ignorant.

In consequencewere the electorate solely composed of persons stuffed withsciences their votes would be no better than those emitted at present. Theywould be guided in the main by their sentiments and by party spirit. We shouldbe spared none of the difficulties we now have to contend withand we shouldcertainly be subjected to the oppressive tyranny of castes.

Whether the suffrage of crowds be restricted or generalwhether it beexercised under a republic

 

-202-



or a monarchyin Francein Belgiumin Greecein Portugalor in Spainit iseverywhere identical; andwhen all is said and doneit is the expression ofthe unconscious aspirations and needs of the race. In each country the averageopinions of those elected represent the genius of the raceand they will befound not to alter sensibly from one generation to another.

It is seenthenthat we are confronted once more by the fundamental notionof racewhich we have come across so oftenand on this other notionwhich isthe outcome of the firstthat institutions and governments play but a smallpart in the life of a people. Peoples are guided in the main by the genius oftheir racethat isby that inherited residue of qualities of which the geniusis the sum total. Race and the slavery of our daily necessities are themysterious master-causes that rule our destiny.

CHAPTER V.
PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLIES.

Parliamentary crowds present most of the characteristicscommon to heterogeneous crowds that are not anonymous -- The simplicity of theiropinions -- Their suggestibility and its limits -- Their indestructiblefixedopinions and their changed opinions -- The reason of the predominance ofindecision -- The rôle of the leaders -- The reason of their prestige --They are the true masters of an assembly whose voteson that accountaremerely those of a small minority -- The absolute power they exercise -- Theelements of their oratorical art -- Phrases and images -- The psychologicalnecessity the leaders are under of being in a general way of stubbornconvictions and narrow-minded -- It is impossible for a speaker without prestigeto obtain recognition for his arguments -- The exaggeration of the sentimentswhether good or badof assemblies -- At certain moments they become automatic-- The sittings of the Convention -- Cases in which an assembly loses thecharacteristics of crowds -- The influence of specialists when technicalquestions arise -- The advantages and dangers of a parliamentary system in allcountries -- It is adapted to modern needs; but it involves financial waste andthe progressive curtailment of all liberty -- Conclusion.

IN parliamentary assemblies we have an example of heterogeneous crowds thatare not anonymous.

 

-204-



Although the mode of election of their members varies from epoch to epochandfrom nation to nationthey present very similar characteristics. In this casethe influence of the race makes itself felt to weaken or exaggerate thecharacteristics common to crowdsbut not to prevent their manifestation. Theparliamentary assemblies of the most widely different countriesof GreeceItalyPortugalSpainFranceand America present great analogies in theirdebates and votesand leave the respective governments face to face withidentical difficulties.

Moreoverthe parliamentary system represents the ideal of all moderncivilised peoples. The system is the expression of the ideapsychologicallyerroneousbut generally admittedthat a large gathering of men is much morecapable than a small number of coming to a wise and independent decision on agiven subject.

The general characteristics of crowds are to be met with in parliamentaryassemblies: intellectual simplicityirritabilitysuggestibilitytheexaggeration of the sentiments and the preponderating influence of a fewleaders. In consequencehoweverof their special composition parliamentarycrowds offer some distinctive featureswhich we shall point out shortly.

Simplicity in their opinions is one of their most important characteristics.In the case of all

 

-205-



partiesand more especially so far as the Latin peoples are concernedaninvariable tendency is met with in crowds of this kind to solve the mostcomplicated social problems by the simplest abstract principles and general lawsapplicable to all cases. Naturally the principles vary with the party; but owingto the mere fact that the individual members are a part of a crowdthey arealways inclined to exaggerate the worth of their principlesand to push them totheir extreme consequences. In consequence parliaments are more especiallyrepresentative of extreme opinions.

The most perfect example of the ingenuous simplification of opinions peculiarto assemblies is offered by the Jacobins of the French Revolution. Dogmatic andlogical to a manand their brains full of vague generalitiesthey busiedthemselves with the application of fixed-principles without concerningthemselves with events. It has been said of themwith reasonthat they wentthrough the Revolution without witnessing it. With the aid of the very simpledogmas that served them as guidethey imagined they could recast society fromtop to bottomand cause a highly refined civilisation to return to a veryanterior phase of the social evolution. The methods they resorted to to realisetheir dream wore the same stamp of absolute ingenuousness. They confinedthemselvesin realityto destroying what stood in their way.

 

-206-



All of themmoreover -- Girondiststhe Men of the Mountainthe Thermidorians&c. -- were alike animated by the same spirit.

Parliamentary crowds are very open to suggestion; andas in the case of allcrowdsthe suggestion comes from leaders possessing prestige; but thesuggestibility of parliamentary assemblies has very clearly defined limitswhich it is important to point out.

On all questions of local or regional interest every member of an assemblyhas fixedunalterable opinionswhich no amount of argument can shake. Thetalent of a Demosthenes would be powerless to change the vote of a Deputy onsuch questions as protection or the privilege of distilling alcoholquestionsin which the interests of influential electors are involved. The suggestionemanating from these electors and undergone before the time to vote arrivessufficiently outweighs suggestions from any other source to annul them and tomaintain an absolute fixity of opinion.
Note: [27]

[27]


Note: The following reflection of an English parliamentarian of long experiencedoubtless applies to these opinionsfixed beforehandand rendered unalterableby electioneering necessities: "During the fifty years that I have sat atWestminsterI have listened to thousands of speeches; but few of them havechanged my opinionnot one of them has changed my vote."

On general questions -- the overthrow of a Cabinetthe imposition of a tax&c. -- there is no

 

-207-



longer any fixity of opinionand the suggestions of leaders can exert aninfluencethough not in quite the same way as in an ordinary crowd. Every partyhas its leaderswho possess occasionally an equal influence. The result is thatthe Deputy finds himself placed between two contrary suggestionsand isinevitably made to hesitate. This explains how it is that he is often seen tovote in contrary fashion in an interval of a quarter of an hour or to add to alaw an article which nullifies it; for instanceto withdraw from employers oflabour the right of choosing and dismissing their workmenand then to verynearly annul this measure by an amendment.

It is for the same reason that every Chamber that is returned has some verystable opinionsand other opinions that are very shifting. On the wholethegeneral questions being the more numerousindecision is predominant in theChamber -- the indecision which results from the ever-present fear of theelectorthe suggestion received from whom is always latentand tends tocounterbalance the influence of the leaders.

Stillit is the leaders who are definitely the masters in those numerousdiscussionswith regard to the subject-matter of which the members of anassembly are without strong preconceived opinions.

The necessity for these leaders is evidentsinceunder the name of heads ofgroupsthey are met

 

-208-



with in the assemblies of every country. They are the real rulers of anassembly. Men forming a crowd cannot do without a masterwhence it results thatthe votes of an assembly only representas a rulethe opinions of a smallminority.

The influence of the leaders is due in very small measure to the argumentsthey employbut in a large degree to their prestige. The best proof of this isthatshould they by any circumstance lose their prestigetheir influencedisappears.

The prestige of these political leaders is individualand independent ofname or celebrity: a fact of which M. Jules Simon gives us some very curiousexamples in his remarks on the prominent men of the Assembly of 1848of whichhe was a member: --

"Two months before he was all-powerfulLouis Napoleon was entirelywithout the least importance.

"Victor Hugo mounted the tribune. He failed to achieve success. He waslistened to as Félix Pyat was listened tobut he did not obtain as muchapplause. `I don't like his ideas' Vaulabelle said to mespeaking of FélixPyat' but he is one of the greatest writers and the greatest orator of France.'Edgar Quinetin spite of his exceptional and powerful intelligencewas held inno esteem whatever. He had been popular for awhile before

 

-209-



the opening of the Assembly; in the Assembly he had no popularity.

"The splendour of genius makes itself less felt in political assembliesthan anywhere else. They only give heed to eloquence appropriate to the time andplace and to party servicesnot to services rendered the country. For homage tobe rendered Lamartine in 1848 and Thiers in 1871the stimulant was needed ofurgentinexorable interest. As soon as the danger was passed the parliamentaryworld forgot in the same instant its gratitude and its fright."

I have quoted the preceding passage for the sake of the facts it containsnot of the explanations it offerstheir psychology being somewhat poor. A crowdwould at once lose its character of a crowd were it to credit its leaders withtheir serviceswhether of a party nature or rendered their country. The crowdthat obeys a leader is under the influence of his prestigeand its submissionis not dictated by any sentiment of interest or gratitude.

In consequence the leader endowed with sufficient prestige wields almostabsolute power. The immense influence exerted during a long series of yearsthanks to his prestigeby a celebrated Deputy
Note: [28] beaten at the last general election in con

 

-210-



sequence of certain financial eventsis well known. He had only to give thesignal and Cabinets were overthrown. A writer has clearly indicated the scope ofhis action in the following lines: --

[28]


Note: M. Clemenceau. -- Note of the Translator.

"It is duein the mainto M. X -- -- that we paid three times asdearly as we should have done for Tonkinthat we remained so long on aprecarious footing in Madagascarthat we were defrauded of an empire in theregion of the Lower Nigerand that we have lost the preponderating situation weused to occupy in Egypt. The theories of M. X -- -- have cost us moreterritories than the disasters of Napoleon I."

We must not harbour too bitter a grudge against the leader in question. It isplain that he has cost us very dear; but a great part of his influence was dueto the fact that he followed public opinionwhichin colonial matterswas farfrom being at the time what it has since become. A leader is seldom in advanceof public opinion; almost always all he does is to follow it and to espouse allits errors.

The means of persuasion of the leaders we are dealing withapart from theirprestigeconsist in the factors we have already enumerated several times. Tomake a skilful use of these resources a leader must have arrived at acomprehensionat

 

-211-



least in an unconscious mannerof the psychology of crowdsand must know howto address them. He should be awarein particularof the fascinating influenceof wordsphrasesand images. He should possess a special description ofeloquencecomposed of energetic affirmations -- unburdened with proofs -- andimpressive imagesaccompanied by very summary arguments. This is a kind ofeloquence that is met with in all assembliesthe English Parliament includedthe most serious though it is of all.

"Debates in the House of Commons" says the English philosopherMaine"may be constantly read in which the entire discussion is confinedto an exchange of rather weak generalities and rather violent personalities.General formulas of this description exercise a prodigious influence on theimagination of a pure democracy. It will always be easy to make a crowd acceptgeneral assertionspresented in striking termsalthough they have never beenverifiedand are perhaps not susceptible of verification."

Too much importance cannot be attached to the "striking terms"alluded to in the above quotation. We have already insistedon severaloccasionson the special power of words and formulas. They must be chosen insuch a way as to evoke very

 

-212-



vivid images. The following phrasetaken from a speech by one of the leaders ofour assembliesaffords an excellent example: --

"When the same vessel shall bear away to the fever-haunted lands of ourpenitentiary settlements the politician of shady reputation and the anarchistguilty of murderthe pair will be able to converse togetherand they willappear to each other as the two complementary aspects of one and the same stateof society."

The image thus evoked is very vividand all the adversaries of the speakerfelt themselves threatened by it. They conjured up a double vision of thefever-haunted country and the vessel that may carry them away; for is it notpossible that they are included in the somewhat ill-defined category of thepoliticians menaced? They experienced the lurking fear that the men of theConvention must have felt whom the vague speeches of Robespierre threatened withthe guillotineand whounder the influence of this fearinvariably yielded tohim.

It is all to the interest of the leaders to indulge in the most improbableexaggerations. The speaker of whom I have just cited a sentence was able toaffirmwithout arousing violent protestationsthat bankers and priests hadsubsidised

 

-213-



the throwers of bombsand that the directors of the great financial companiesdeserve the same punishment as anarchists. Affirmations of this kind are alwayseffective with crowds. The affirmation is never too violentthe declamationnever too threatening. Nothing intimidates the audience more than this sort ofeloquence. Those present are afraid that if they protest they will be put downas traitors or accomplices.

As I have saidthis peculiar style of eloquence has ever been of sovereigneffect in all assemblies. In times of crisis its power is still furtheraccentuated. The speeches of the great orators of the assemblies of the FrenchRevolution are very interesting reading from this point of view. At everyinstant they thought themselves obliged to pause in order to denounce crime andexalt virtueafter which they would burst forth into imprecations againsttyrantsand swear to live free men or perish. Those present rose to their feetapplauded furiouslyand thencalmedtook their seats again.

On occasionthe leader may be intelligent and highly educatedbut thepossession of these qualities does himas a rulemore harm than good. Byshowing how complex things areby allowing of explanation and promotingcomprehensionintelligence always renders its owner indulgentand bluntsin alarge measurethat intensity and violence of conviction needful for

 

-214-



apostles. The great leaders of crowds of all agesand those of the Revolutionin particularhave been of lamentably narrow intellect; while it is preciselythose whose intelligence has been the most restricted who have exercised thegreatest influence.

The speeches of the most celebrated of themof Robespierrefrequentlyastound one by their incoherence: by merely reading them no plausibleexplanation is to be found of the great part played by the powerful dictator: --

"The commonplaces and redundancies of pedagogic eloquence and Latinculture at the service of a mind childish rather than undistinguishedandlimited in its notions of attack and defence to the defiant attitude ofschoolboys. Not an ideanot a happy turn of phraseor a telling hit: a stormof declamation that leaves us bored. After a dose of this unexhilarating readingone is attempted to exclaim `Oh!' with the amiable Camille Desmoulins."

It is terrible at times to think of the power that strong conviction combinedwith extreme narrowness of mind gives a man possessing prestige. It is none theless necessary that these conditions should be satisfied for a man to ignoreobstacles and display strength of will in a high measure.

 

-215-



Crowds instinctively recognise in men of energy and conviction the masters theyare always in need of.

In a parliamentary assembly the success of a speech depends almost solely onthe prestige possessed by the speakerand not at all on the arguments he bringsforward. The best proof of this is that when for one cause or another a speakerloses his prestigehe loses simultaneously all his influencethat ishispower of influencing votes at will.

When an unknown speaker comes forward with a speech containing goodargumentsbut only argumentsthe chances are that he will only obtain ahearing. A Deputy who is a psychologist of insightM. Desaubeshas recentlytraced in the following lines the portrait of the Deputy who lacks prestige: --

"When he takes his place in the tribune he draws a document from hisportfoliospreads it out methodically before himand makes a start withassurance.

"He flatters himself that he will implant in the minds of his audiencethe conviction by which he is himself animated. He has weighed and reweighed hisarguments; he is well primed with figures and proofs; he is certain he willconvince his hearers. In the face of the evidence he is to

 

-216-



adduce all resistance would be futile. He beginsconfident in the justice ofhis causeand relying upon the attention of his colleagueswhose only anxietyof courseis to subscribe to the truth.

"He speaksand is at once surprised at the restlessness of the Houseand a little annoyed by the noise that is being made.

"How is it silence is not kept? Why this general inattention? What arethose Deputies thinking about who are engaged in conversation? What urgentmotive has induced this or that Deputy to quit his seat?

"An expression of uneasiness crosses his face; he frowns and stops.Encouraged by the Presisidenthe begins againraising his voice. He is onlylistened to all the less. He lends emphasis to his wordsand gesticulates: thenoise around him increases. He can no longer hear himselfand again stops;finallyafraid that his silence may provoke the dreaded cry`The Closure!' hestarts off again. The clamour becomes unbearable."

When parliamentary assemblies reach a certain pitch of excitement they becomeidentical with ordinary heterogeneous crowdsand their sentiments inconsequence present the peculiarity of being always extreme. They will be seento commit acts of the greatest heroism or the worst

 

-217-



excesses. The individual is no longer himselfand so entirely is this the casethat he will vote measures most adverse to his personal interests.

The history of the French Revolution shows to what an extent assemblies arecapable of losing their self-consciousnessand of obeying suggestions mostcontrary to their interests. It was an enormous sacrifice for the nobility torenounce its privilegesyet it did so without hesitation on a famous nightduring the sittings of the Constituant Assembly. By renouncing theirinviolability the men of the Convention placed themselves under a perpetualmenace of death and yet they took this stepand were not afraid to decimatetheir own ranksthough perfectly aware that the scaffold to which they weresending their colleagues to-day might be their own fate to-morrow. The truth isthey had attained to that completely automatic state which I have describedelsewhereand no consideration would hinder them from yielding to thesuggestions by which they were hypnotised. The following passage from thememoirs of one of themBillaud-Varennesis absolutely typical on this score:"The decisions with which we have been so reproached" he says"werenot desired by us two daysa single day before they were taken: it was thecrisis and nothing else that gave rise to them." Nothing can be moreaccurate.

 

-218-


The same phenomena of unconsciousness were to be witnessed during all thestormy sittings of the Convention.

"They approved and decreed measures" says Taine"which theyheld in horror -- measures which were not only stupid and foolishbut measuresthat were crimes -- the murder of innocent menthe murder of their friends. TheLeftsupported by the Rightunanimously and amid loud applausesent to thescaffold Dantonits natural chiefand the great promoter and leader of theRevolution. Unanimously and amid the greatest applause the Rightsupported bythe Leftvotes the worst decrees of the revolutionary government. Unanimouslyand amid cries of admiration and enthusiasmamid demonstrations of passionatesympathy for Collot d'HerboisCouthonand Robespierrethe Convention byspontaneous and repeated re-elections keeps in office the homicidal governmentwhich the Plain detests because it is homicidaland the Mountain detestsbecause it is decimated by it. The Plain and the Mountainthe majority and theminorityfinish by consenting to help on their own suicide. The 22 Prairial theentire Convention offered itself to the executioner; the 8 Thermidorduring thefirst quarter of an hour that followed Robespierre's speechit did the samething again."

 

-219-


This picture may appear sombre. Yet it is accurate. Parliamentary assembliessufficiently excited and hypnotisedoffer the same characteristics. They becomean unstable flockobedient to every impulsion. The following description of theAssembly of 1848 is due to M. Spullera parliamentarian whose faith indemocracy is above suspicion. I reproduce it from the Revue littéraireand it is thoroughly typical. It offers an example of all the exaggeratedsentiments which I have described as characteristic of crowdsand of thatexcessive changeableness which permits of assemblies passingfrom moment tomomentfrom one set of sentiments to another entirely opposite.

"The Republican party was brought to its perdition by its divisionsitsjealousiesits suspicionsandin turnits blind confidence and its limitlesshopes. Its ingenuousness and candour were only equalled by its universalmistrust. An absence of all sense of legalityof all comprehension ofdisciplinetogether with boundless terrors and illusions; the peasant and thechild are on a level in these respects. Their calm is as great as theirimpatience; their ferocity is equal to their docility. This condition is thenatural consequence of a temperament that is not formed and of the lack ofeducation. Nothing astonishes such personsand everything disconcerts them.Trembling with

 

-220-



fear or brave to the point of heroismthey would go through fire and water orfly from a shadow.

"They are ignorant of cause and effect and of the connecting linksbetween events. They are as promptly discouraged as they are exaltedthey aresubject to every description of panicthey are always either too highly strungor too downcastbut never in the mood or the measure the situation wouldrequire. More fluid than water they reflect every line and assume every shape.What sort of a foundation for a government can they be expected to supply?"

Fortunately all the characteristics just described as to be met with inparliamentary assemblies are in no wise constantly displayed. Such assembliesonly constitute crowds at certain moments. The individuals composing them retaintheir individuality in a great number of caseswhich explains how it is that anassembly is able to turn out excellent technical laws. It is true that theauthor of these laws is a specialist who has prepared them in the quiet of hisstudyand that in reality the law voted is the work of an individual and not ofan assembly. These laws are naturally the best. They are only liable to havedisastrous results when a series of amendments has converted them into theoutcome of a collective effort. The work of a crowd is always inferior

 

-221-



whatever its natureto that of an isolated individual. It is specialists whosafeguard assemblies from passing ill-advised or unworkable measures. Thespecialist in this case is a temporary leader of crowds. The Assembly is withoutinfluence on himbut he has influence over the Assembly.

In spite of all the difficulties attending their workingparliamentaryassemblies are the best form of government mankind has discovered as yetandmore especially the best means it has found to escape the yoke of personaltyrannies. They constitute assuredly the ideal government at any rate forphilosophersthinkerswritersartistsand learned men -- in a wordfor allthose who form the cream of a civilisation.

Moreoverin reality they only present two serious dangersone beinginevitable financial wasteand the other the progressive restriction of theliberty of the individual.

The first of these dangers is the necessary consequence of the exigencies andwant of foresight of electoral crowds. Should a member of an assembly propose ameasure giving apparent satisfaction to democratic ideasshould he bring in aBillfor instanceto assure old-age pensions to all workersand to increasethe wages of any class of State employésthe other Deputiesvictims ofsuggestion in their dread of their electorswill

 

-222-



not venture to seem to disregard the interests of the latter by rejecting theproposed measurealthough well aware they are imposing a fresh strain on theBudget and necessitating the creation of new taxes. It is impossible for them tohesitate to give their votes. The consequences of the increase of expenditureare remote and will not entail disagreeable consequences for them personallywhile the consequences of a negative vote might clearly come to light when theynext present themselves for re-election.

In addition to this first cause of an exaggerated expenditure there isanother not less imperative -- the necessity of voting all grants for localpurposes. A Deputy is unable to oppose grants of this kind because theyrepresent once more the exigencies of the electorsand because each individualDeputy can only obtain what he requires for his own constituency on thecondition of acceding to similar demands on the part of his colleagues.
Note: [29]

[29]


Note: In its issue of April 61895the Economiste published a curiousreview of the figures that may be reached by expenditure caused solely byelectoral considerationsand notably of the outlay on railways. To put Langayes(a town of 3000 inhabitantssituated on a mountain) in communication with Puya railway is voted that will cost 15 millions of francs. Seven millions are tobe spent to put Beaumont (3500 inhabitants) in communication withCastel-Sarrazin; 7 millions to put Oust (a village of 523 inhabitants) incommunication with Seix (1200 inhabitants); 6 millions to put Prade incommunication with the hamlet of Olette (747 inhabitants)&c. In 1895 alone90 millions of francs were voted for railways of only local utility. There isother no less important expenditure necessitated also by electioneeringconsiderations. The law instituting workingmen's pensions will soon involve aminimum annual outlay of 165 millionsaccording to the Minister of Financeandof 800 millions according to the academician M. Leroy-Beaulieu. It is evidentthat the continued growth of expenditure of this kind must end in bankruptcy.Many European countries -- PortugalGreeceSpainTurkey -- have reached thisstageand otherssuch as Italywill soon be reduced to the same extremity.Still too much alarm need not be felt at this state of thingssince the publichas successively consented to put up with the reduction of four-fifths in thepayment of their coupons by these different countries. Bankruptcy under theseingenious conditions allows the equilibrium of Budgets difficult to balance tobe instantly restored. Moreoverwarssocialismand economic conflicts hold instore for us a profusion of other catastrophes in the period of universaldisintegration we are traversingand it is necessary to be resigned to livingfrom hand to mouth without too much concern for a future we cannot control.

 

-223-


The second of the dangers referred to above -- the inevitable restrictions onliberty consummated by parliamentary assemblies -- is apparently less obviousbut isneverthelessvery real. It is the result of the innumerable laws --having always a restrictive action -- which parliaments consider themselvesobliged to vote and to whose consequencesowing to their shortsightednesstheyare in a great measure blind.

The danger must indeed be most inevitablesince even England itselfwhichassuredly offers

 

-224-



the most popular type of the parliamentary régimethe type in which therepresentative is most independent of his electorhas been unable to escape it.Herbert Spencer has shownin a work already oldthat the increase of apparentliberty must needs be followed by the decrease of real liberty. Returning tothis contention in his recent book"The Individual versus theState" he thus expresses himself with regard to the English Parliament: --

"Legislation since this period has followed the courseI pointed out.Rapidly multiplying dictatorial measures have continually tended to restrictindividual libertiesand this in two ways. Regulations have been establishedevery year in greater numberimposing a constraint on the citizen in matters inwhich his acts were formerly completely freeand forcing him to accomplish actswhich he was formerly at liberty to accomplish or not to accomplish at will. Atthe same time heavier and heavier publicand especially localburdens havestill further restricted his liberty by diminishing the portion of his profitshe can spend as he choosesand by augmenting the portion which is taken fromhim to be spent according to the good pleasure of the public authorities."

This progressive restriction of liberties shows

 

-225-



itself in every country in a special shape which Herbert Spencer has not pointedout; it is that the passing of these innumerable series of legislative measuresall of them in a general way of a restrictive orderconduces necessarily toaugment the numberthe powerand the influence of the functionaries chargedwith their application. These functionaries tend in this way to become theveritable masters of civilised countries. Their power is all the greater owingto the fact thatamidst the incessant transfer of authoritythe administrativecaste is alone in being untouched by these changesis alone in possessingirresponsibilityimpersonalityand perpetuity. There is no more oppressivedespotism than that which presents itself under this triple form.

This incessant creation of restrictive laws and regulationssurrounding thepettiest actions of existence with the most complicated formalitiesinevitablyhas for its result the confining within narrower and narrower limits of thesphere in which the citizen may move freely. Victims of the delusion thatequality and liberty are the better assured by the multiplication of lawsnations daily consent to put up with trammels increasingly burdensome. They donot accept this legislation with impunity. Accustomed to put up with every yokethey soon end by desiring servitudeand lose all spontaneousness and energy.They are then no

 

-226-



more than vain shadowspassiveunresisting and powerless automata.

Arrived at this pointthe individual is bound to seek outside himself theforces he no longer finds within him. The functions of governments necessarilyincrease in proportion as the indifference and helplessness of the citizensgrow. They it is who must necessarily exhibit the initiativeenterprisingandguiding spirit in which private persons are lacking. It falls on them toundertake everythingdirect everythingand take everything under theirprotection. The State becomes an all-powerful god. Still experience shows thatthe power of such gods was never either very durable or very strong.

This progressive restriction of all liberties in the case of certain peoplesin spite of an outward license that gives them the illusion that these libertiesare still in their possessionseems at least as much a consequence of their oldage as of any particular system. It constitutes one of the precursory symptomsof that decadent phase which up to now no civilisation has escaped.

Judging by the lessons of the pastand by the symptoms that strike theattention on every sideseveral of our modern civilisations have reached thatphase of extreme old age which precedes decadence. It seems inevitable that allpeoples should pass through identical phases of existence

 

-227-



since history is so often seen to repeat its course.

It is easy to note briefly these common phases of the evolution ofcivilisationsand I shall terminate this work with a summary of them. Thisrapid sketch will perhaps throw some gleams of light on the causes of the powerat present wielded by crowds.

If we examine in their main lines the genesis of the greatness and of thefall of the civilisations that preceded our ownwhat do we see?

At the dawn of civilisation a swarm of men of various originbroughttogether by the chances of migrationsinvasionsand conquests. Of differentbloodand of equally different languages and beliefsthe only common bond ofunion between these men is the half-recognised law of a chief. The psychologicalcharacteristics of crowds are present in an eminent degree in these confusedagglomerations. They have the transient cohesion of crowdstheir heroismtheirweaknessestheir impulsivenessand their violence. Nothing is stable inconnection with them. They are barbarians.

At length time accomplishes its work. The identity of surroundingstherepeated intermingling of racesthe necessities of life in common exert theirinfluence. The assemblage of dissimilar units begins

 

-228-



to blend into a wholeto form a race; that isan aggregate possessing commoncharacteristics and sentiments to which heredity will give greater and greaterfixity. The crowd has become a peopleand this people is able to emerge fromits barbarous state. Howeverit will only entirely emerge therefrom whenafterlong effortsstruggles necessarily repeatedand innumerable recommencementsit shall have acquired an ideal. The nature of this ideal is of slightimportance; whether it be the cult of Romethe might of Athensor the triumphof Allahit will suffice to endow all the individuals of the race that isforming with perfect unity of sentiment and thought.

At this stage a new civilisationwith its institutionsits beliefsand itsartsmay be born. In pursuit of its idealthe race will acquire in successionthe qualities necessary to give it splendourvigourand grandeur. At times nodoubt it will still be a crowdbut henceforthbeneath the mobile and changingcharacteristics of crowdsis found a solid substratumthe genius of the racewhich confines within narrow limits the transformations of a nation andoverrules the play of chance.

After having exerted its creative actiontime begins that work ofdestruction from which neither gods nor men escape. Having reached a certainlevel of strength and complexity a civilisation ceases to growand havingceased to grow it is

 

-229-



condemned to a speedy decline. The hour of its old age has struck.

This inevitable hour is always marked by the weakening of the ideal that wasthe mainstay of the race. In proportion as this ideal pales all the religiouspoliticaland social structures inspired by it begin to be shaken.

With the progressive perishing of its ideal the race loses more and more thequalities that lent it its cohesionits unityand its strength. Thepersonality and intelligence of the individual may increasebut at the sametime this collective egoism of the race is replaced by an excessive developmentof the egoism of the individualaccompanied by a weakening of character and alessening of the capacity for action. What constituted a peoplea unityawholebecomes in the end an agglomeration of individualities lacking cohesionand artificially held together for a time by its traditions and institutions. Itis at this stage that mendivided by their interests and aspirationsandincapable any longer of self-governmentrequire directing in their pettiestactsand that the State exerts an absorbing influence.

With the definite loss of its old ideal the genius of the race entirelydisappears; it is a mere swarm of isolated individuals and returns to itsoriginal state -- that of a crowd. Without consistency and without a futureithas all the transitory characteristics

 

-230-



of crowds. Its civilisation is now without stabilityand at the mercy of everychance. The populace is sovereignand the tide of barbarism mounts. Thecivilisation may still seem brilliant because it possesses an outward frontthework of a long pastbut it is in reality an edifice crumbling to ruinwhichnothing supportsand destined to fall in at the first storm.

To pass in pursuit of an ideal from the barbarous to the civilised stateandthenwhen this ideal has lost its virtueto decline and diesuch is the cycleof the life of a people.