The life of the nations is not contained in the lives of a few men, for th_onnection between those men and the nations has not been found. The theor_hat this connection is based on the transference of the collective will of _eople to certain historical personages is an hypothesis unconfirmed by th_xperience of history.
The theory of the transference of the collective will of the people t_istoric persons may perhaps explain much in the domain of jurisprudence an_e essential for its purposes, but in its application to history, as soon a_evolutions, conquests, or civil wars occur—that is, as soon as histor_egins—that theory explains nothing.
The theory seems irrefutable just because the act of transference of th_eople's will cannot be verified, for it never occurred.
Whatever happens and whoever may stand at the head of affairs, the theory ca_lways say that such and such a person took the lead because the collectiv_ill was transferred to him.
The replies this theory gives to historical questions are like the replies o_ man who, watching the movements of a herd of cattle and paying no attentio_o the varying quality of the pasturage in different parts of the field, or t_he driving of the herdsman, should attribute the direction the herd takes t_hat animal happens to be at its head.
"The herd goes in that direction because the animal in front leads it and th_ollective will of all the other animals is vested in that leader." This i_hat historians of the first class say—those who assume the unconditiona_ransference of the people's will.
"If the animals leading the herd change, this happens because the collectiv_ill of all the animals is transferred from one leader to another, accordin_o whether the animal is or is not leading them in the direction selected b_he whole herd." Such is the reply historians who assume that the collectiv_ill of the people is delegated to rulers under conditions which they regar_s known. (With this method of observation it often happens that the observer,
influenced by the direction he himself prefers, regards those as leaders who,
owing to the people's change of direction, are no longer in front, but on on_ide, or even in the rear.)
"If the animals in front are continually changing and the direction of th_hole herd is constantly altered, this is because in order to follow a give_irection the animals transfer their will to the animals that have attracte_ur attention, and to study the movements of the herd we must watch th_ovements of all the prominent animals moving on all sides of the herd." S_ay the third class of historians who regard all historical persons, fro_onarchs to journalists, as the expression of their age.
The theory of the transference of the will of the people to historic person_s merely a paraphrase—a restatement of the question in other words.
What causes historical events? Power. What is power? Power is the collectiv_ill of the people transferred to one person. Under what condition is the wil_f the people delegated to one person? On condition that that person expresse_he will of the whole people. That is, power is power: in other words, powe_s a word the meaning of which we do not understand.
If the realm of human knowledge were confined to abstract reasoning, the_aving subjected to criticism the explanation of "power" that juridica_cience gives us, humanity would conclude that power is merely a word and ha_o real existence. But to understand phenomena man has, besides abstrac_easoning, experience by which he verifies his reflections. And experienc_ells us that power is not merely a word but an actually existing phenomenon.
Not to speak of the fact that no description of the collective activity of me_an do without the conception of power, the existence of power is proved bot_y history and by observing contemporary events.
Whenever an event occurs a man appears or men appear, by whose will the even_eems to have taken place. Napoleon III issues a decree and the French go t_exico. The King of Prussia and Bismarck issue decrees and an army enter_ohemia. Napoleon I issues a decree and an army enters Russia. Alexander _ives a command and the French submit to the Bourbons. Experience shows u_hat whatever event occurs it is always related to the will of one or o_everal men who have decreed it.
The historians, in accord with the old habit of acknowledging divin_ntervention in human affairs, want to see the cause of events in th_xpression of the will of someone endowed with power, but that supposition i_ot confirmed either by reason or by experience.
On the one side reflection shows that the expression of a man's will—hi_ords—are only part of the general activity expressed in an event, as fo_nstance in a war or a revolution, and so without assuming a_ncomprehensible, supernatural force—a miracle—one cannot admit that words ca_e the immediate cause of the movements of millions of men. On the other hand,
even if we admitted that words could be the cause of events, history show_hat the expression of the will of historical personages does not in mos_ases produce any effect, that is to say, their commands are often no_xecuted, and sometimes the very opposite of what they order occurs.
Without admitting divine intervention in the affairs of humanity we canno_egard "power" as the cause of events.
Power, from the standpoint of experience, is merely the relation that exist_etween the expression of someone's will and the execution of that will b_thers.
To explain the conditions of that relationship we must first establish _onception of the expression of will, referring it to man and not to th_eity.
If the Deity issues a command, expresses His will, as ancient history tell_s, the expression of that will is independent of time and is not caused b_nything, for the Divinity is not controlled by an event. But speaking o_ommands that are the expression of the will of men acting in time and i_elation to one another, to explain the connection of commands with events w_ust restore: (1) the condition of all that takes place: the continuity o_ovement in time both of the events and of the person who commands, and (2)
the inevitability of the connection between the person commanding and thos_ho execute his command.