From the Notebooks
Is democracy better than monarchy? I’ve long thought that question deserves more attention, but I’ve long thought that a prudent American doesn’t ask it, since many Americans view such a question as either treasonous or insane. In fact, it’s a crucial question, and the answer isn’t as clear as Americans suppose.
I favor democracy, incidentally, but not for the reasons most do. I care not a whit for the right to vote; it’s a sham. But I do care about scattering power among as many diffuse elements as possible, and democracy is a step in the right direction here, even though American democracy is in the process of lodging all power with the federal government, to the extent that today’s federal government carries (far, far, far) more weight in a person’s everyday life than the strongest medieval monarch did.
Anyway, this great quote by the French painter Horace Vernet ought to be contemplated by every person who kneejerk accepts the virtue of republican forms of government:
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[B]efore you can have an ideal republic you must have ideal republicans, and nature can not afford to fool away her most precious gifts on a lot of jackleg lawyers and hobnail-booted riffraff. She condescends now and then to make an idea tyrant, but she will never make a nation of ideal republicans; you may quite as well ask her to make a nation of Raphaels, Michelangelos, Shakespeares or Molieres.
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