IN THE eyes Of the critics of democracy Victorian society was in danger of disruption. It was, they held, a society without unity; it was divided against itself, divided into opposing classes of rich and poor. It was a society without guidance; the aristocracy failed to lead, and the middle class was giving way to the anarchy of democracy. The aristocracy no longer commanded respect; men no longer admitted that the virtue of the few entitled the few to rule. Nor, in the eyes of these critics, were the mass of men impressed with the middle-class claim to govern; even Stephen, Maine, and Lecky, who were attached to property, were aware that power based upon property so far from inspiring loyalty often inspired discontent.
The critics, with the exception of Arnold, were convinced that the coming of democracy must mean disintegration. If, in their view, democracy did not promise the rule of ignorance and an impoverished culture, it promised dissolution of the social fabric. If the injustice of capitalist democracy, with its freedom to exploit and its freedom to be exploited, did not drive workingmen to revolt, the covetous nature of these men would tempt them to rebel and to destroy the private property order. And if, in their view, democracy led neither to stagnation nor to anarchy, it led rather to what was equally undesirable, to socialism.
In order to combat democracy and its threat of anarchy the critics championed authority and the title of the few to rule.