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Chapter 59


Awaiting the marvellous but tardy simplifications which the union of Europe and the democratic federation of the continent will some day bring forth, what will be in France, the form of the social edifice, of whose ill-defined and luminous outlines the thinking man already has a glimpse, through the darkness of dictatorships?

That form is this:--

The sovereign commune, ruled by an elective mayor; universal suffrage everywhere, subordinate to the national unity only in respect to acts of general concern; so much for the administration. Syndics and upright men arranging the private differences of associations and industries; the jury, magistrate of the fact, enlightening the judge, magistrate of the law; elective judges; so much for justice. The priest excluded from everything except the church, living with his eye fixed on his book and on Heaven, a stranger to the budget, unknown to the state, known only to his flock, no longer possessing authority, but possessing liberty; so much for religion. War confined to the defence of the territory. The whole nation constituting a national guard, divided into three districts, and able to rise as one man; so much for power. The law for ever, the right for ever, the ballot for ever, the sword nowhere.

Now, what were the obstacles to this future, to this magnificent realization of the democratic ideal?

There were four material obstacles, namely:--

    The standing army.
    Centralized administration.
    The office-holding clergy.
    The irremovable magistracy.

Victor Hugo