Nor is this inconsistent with obtaining a considerable share of the benefits (and they are great) of what is called centralization. The principle of local self-government has been undeservedly discredited, by being associated with the agitation against the new poor-law. The most active agency of a central authority in collecting and communicating information, giving advice to the local bodies, and even framing general rules for their observance, is no hindrance, but an aid, to making the local liberties an instrument of educating the people. The existence of such a central agency allows of intrusting to the people themselves, or to local bodies representative of them, many things of too great national importance to be committed unreservedly to the localities; and completes the efficacy of local self-government as a means of instruction, by accustoming the people not only to judge of particular facts, but to understand, and apply, and feel practically the value of, principles. The mode of administration provided for the English poor-laws by the late Act seems to us to be in its general conception almost theoretically perfect. And the extension of a similar mixture of central and local management to several other branches of administration, thereby combining the best fruits of popular intervention with much of the advantage of skilled supervision and traditional experience, would, we believe, be entitled to no mean rank in M. de Tocqueville’s list of correctives to the inconveniences of .
M. de Tocqueville considers a democratic state of society as eminently tending to give the strongest impulse to the physical well-being. He ascribes this, not so much to the equality of conditions as to their mobility. In a country like America every one may acquire riches; no one, at least, is artificially impeded in acquiring them; and hardly any one is born to them. Now, these are the conditions under which the passions which attach themselves to wealth, and to what wealth can purchase, are the strongest. Those who are born in the midst of affluence are generally more or less to its enjoyments. They take the comfort or luxury to which they have always been accustomed, as they do the air they is not but An aristocracy, when put to the proof, has in general shown wonderful facility in enduring the loss of riches and of physical comforts. The very pride, nourished by the elevation which they owed to wealth, supports them under the privation of it. But to those who have chased riches laboriously for half their lives, to lose it is the loss of all; a disappointment greater than can be endured. In a democracy, again, there is no contented poverty. No one being forced to remain poor; many who were poor daily becoming rich, and the comforts of life being apparently within the reach of all, the desire to appropriate them descends to the very lowest rank. Thus,
A beautifully written, strong opening.
It is conspicuous how little formal ideology, least of all an egalitarian ideology, figured in these developments of the Victorian age. A year before the publication of Mill gave to Giuseppe Mazzini impressions of his countrymen: