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Chapter 5

  • 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.