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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 548 pages of information about The Ancient Regime.
founding a patrimony, and transmitting as property to his descendants his office of hereditary justiciary and born general.  Through this permanent delegation a great public office is removed from competition, fixed in one family, sequestered in safe hands; thenceforth the nation possesses a vital center and each right obtains a visible protector.  If the sovereign confines himself to his traditional responsibilities, is restrained in despotic tendencies, and avoids falling into egoism, he provides the country with the best government of which the world has any knowledge.  Not alone is it the most stable, capable of continuation, and the most suitable for maintaining together a body of 20 or 30 million people, but again one of the most noble because devotion dignifies both command and obedience and, through the prolongation of military tradition, fidelity and honor, from grade to grade, attaches the leader to his duty and the soldier to his commander. —­ Such are the strikingly valid claims of social traditions which we may, similar to an instinct, consider as being a blind form of reason.  That which makes it fully legitimate is that reason herself, to become efficient, is obliged to borrow its form.  A doctrine becomes inspiring only through a blind medium.  To become of practical use, to take upon itself the government of souls, to be transformed into a spring of action, it must be deposited in minds given up to systematic belief, of fixed habits, of established tendencies, of domestic traditions and prejudice, and that it, from the agitated heights of the intellect, descends into and become amalgamated with the passive forces of the will; then only does it form a part of the character and become a social force.  At the same time, however, it ceases to be critical and clairvoyant; it no longer tolerates doubt and contradiction, nor admits further restrictions or nice distinctions; it is either no longer cognizant of, or badly appreciates, its own evidences.  We of the present day believe in infinite progress about the same as people once believed in original sin; we still receive ready-made opinions from above, the Academy of Sciences occupying in many respects the place of the ancient councils.  Except with a few special savants, belief and obedience will always be unthinking, while Reason would wrongfully resent the leadership of prejudice in human affairs, since, to lead, it must itself become prejudiced.

III.  REASON AT WAR WITH ILLUSION.

The classic intellect incapable of accepting this point of view. — - The past and present usefulness of tradition are misunderstood. —­ Reason undertakes to set them aside.

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