Victorian Critics of Democracy: Carlyle, Ruskin, Arnold, Stephen, Maine, Lecky

Victorian Critics of Democracy: Carlyle, Ruskin, Arnold, Stephen, Maine, Lecky

Victorian Critics of Democracy: Carlyle, Ruskin, Arnold, Stephen, Maine, Lecky

Victorian Critics of Democracy: Carlyle, Ruskin, Arnold, Stephen, Maine, Lecky

Excerpt

Carlyle, Ruskin, Arnold, Stephen, Maine, and Lecky were perhaps the most vigorous and distinguished critics of democracy in England in the nineteenth century. These men attacked, in varying degree, the liberal tradition which was at its zenith in the Victorian age; above all, they attacked middle-class democracy.

When they first began to write, the middle class had established its claim to power; by the franchise act of 1832 the aristocracy had abdicated in favor of the men of industry and commerce. Henceforth the chief concern of the state was to maintain the rules not of a feudal economy but of capitalism. In its rise to power the middle class had exploited the wage earner; by the thirties the poverty and suffering and the miserable conditions in which the working class lived had made an impression on the more responsible leaders of the community.

If men like Owen and writers like John Stuart Mill helped to persuade the new rulers that the plight of the workingman must be ameliorated, so also did Carlyle. In fact, the prophet of Chelsea, with a literary power unrivaled in his time, made the educated public conscious of social distress. More than anyone else he made his generation aware of the fact that the workingman was a human being, who suffered gross injustice, who was exploited as if he were no more than a mere instrument to be used, worn out, and discarded.

So degrading and chaotic for Carlyle was the lot of the mass . . .

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