ORDINARILY there is no comparison between
the crimes of the great who are always ambitious, and the crimes of the
people who always want, and can want only liberty and equality. These
two sentiments, Liberty and Equality, do not lead direct to calumny, rapine,
assassination, poisoning, the devastation of one's neighbours' lands,
etc.; but ambitious might and the mania for power plunge into all these
crimes whatever be the time, whatever be the place.
Popular government is in itself, therefore, less iniquitous, less abominable
than despotic power.
The great vice of democracy is certainly not tyranny and cruelty: there
have been mountain-dwelling republicans, savage, ferocious; but it is
not the republican spirit that made them so, it is nature.
The real vice of a civilized republic is in the Turkish fable of the dragon
with many heads and the dragon with many tails. The many heads hurt each
other, and the many tails obey a single head which wants to devour everything.
Democracy seems suitable only to a very little country, and further it
must be happily situated. Small though it be, it will make many mistakes,
because it will be composed of men. Discord will reign there as in a monastery;
but there will be no St. Bartholomew, no Irish massacres, no Sicilian
vespers, no inquisition, no condemnation to the galleys for having taken
some water from the sea without paying for it, unless one supposes this
republic composed of devils in a corner of hell.