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In The Matter Of Aristocracy
by [?]

Aristocracies, as a rule, all the world over, consist, and have always consisted, of barbaric conquerors or their descendants, who remain to the last, on the average of instances, at a lower grade of civilisation and morals than the democracy they live among.

I know this view is to some extent opposed to the common ideas of people at large (and especially of that particular European people which “dearly loves a lord”) as to the relative position of aristocracies and democracies in the sliding scale of human development. There is a common though wholly unfounded belief knocking about the world, that the aristocrat is better in intelligence, in culture, in arts, in manners, than the ordinary plebeian. The fact is, being, like all barbarians, a boastful creature, he has gone on so long asserting his own profound superiority by birth to the world around him–a superiority as of fine porcelain to common clay–that the world around him has at last actually begun to accept him at his own valuation. Most English people in particular think that a lord is born a better judge of pictures and wines and books and deportment than the human average of us. But history shows us the exact opposite. It is a plain historical fact, provable by simple enumeration, that almost all the aristocracies the world has ever known have taken their rise in the conquest of civilised and cultivated races by barbaric invaders; and that the barbaric invaders have seldom or never learned the practical arts and handicrafts which are the civilising element in the life of the conquered people around them.

To begin with the aristocracies best known to most of us, the noble families of modern and mediaeval Europe sprang, as a whole, from the Teutonic invasion of the Roman Empire. In Italy, it was the Lombards and the Goths who formed the bulk of the great ruling families; all the well-known aristocratic names of mediaeval Italy are without exception Teutonic. In Gaul it was the rude Frank who gave the aristocratic element to the mixed nationality, while it was the civilised and cultivated Romano-Celtic provincial who became, by fate, the mere roturier. The great revolution, it has been well said, was, ethnically speaking, nothing more than the revolt of the Celtic against the Teutonic fraction; and, one might add also, the revolt of the civilised Romanised serf against the barbaric seigneur. In Spain, the hidalgo is just the hi d’al Go, the son of the Goth, the descendant of those rude Visigothic conquerors who broke down the old civilisation of Iberian and Romanised Hispania. And so on throughout. All over Europe, if you care to look close, you will find the aristocrat was the son of the intrusive barbarian; the democrat was the son of the old civilised and educated autochthonous people.

It is just the same elsewhere, wherever we turn. Take Greece, for example. Its most aristocratic state was undoubtedly Sparta, where a handful of essentially barbaric Dorians held in check a much larger and Helotised population of higher original civilisation. Take the East: the Persian was a wild mountain adventurer who imposed himself as an aristocrat upon the far more cultivated Babylonian, Assyrian, and Egyptian. The same sort of thing had happened earlier in time in Babylonia and Assyria themselves, where barbaric conquerors had similarly imposed themselves upon the first known historical civilisations. Take India under the Moguls, once more; the aristocracy of the time consisted of the rude Mahommedan Tartar, who lorded it over the ancient enchorial culture of Rajpoot and Brahmin. Take China: the same thing over again–a Tartar horde imposing its savage rule over the most ancient civilised people of Asia. Take England: its aristocracy at different times has consisted of the various barbaric invaders, first the Anglo-Saxon (if I must use that hateful and misleading word)–a pirate from Sleswick; then the Dane, another pirate from Denmark direct; then the Norman, a yet younger Danish pirate, with a thin veneer of early French culture, who came over from Normandy to better himself after just two generations of Christian apprenticeship. Go where you will, it matters not where you look; from the Aztec in Mexico to the Turk at Constantinople or the Arab in North Africa, the aristocrat belongs invariably to a lower race than the civilised people whom he has conquered and subjugated.