The Modern Regime— Volume 1

Author: Hippolyte Adolphe Taine

IV. On Unlimited Universal Suffrage.

How unlimited universal suffrage found its way into local society. - Object and mode of the French legislator.

If the government, in France, does just the opposite, it is at the height of a violent and sudden revolution, forced by the party in power and by popular prejudice, through deductive reasoning, and through contagion. According to revolutionary and French usage, the legislator was bound to institute uniformity and to make things symmetrical; having placed universal suffrage in political society, he was likewise determined to place it in local society. He had been ordered to apply an abstract principle, that is to say, to legislate according to a summary, superficial, and verbal notion which, purposely curtailed and simplified to excess, did not correspond with its aim. He obeyed and did nothing more; he made no effort outside of his instructions. He did not propose to himself to restore local society to its members, to revive it, to make it a living body, capable of spontaneous, co-ordinate, voluntary action, and, to this end, provided with indispensable organs. He did not even take the trouble to imagine, how it really is, I mean by this, complex and diverse and inversely to legislators before 1789, and adversely to legislators before and after 1789 outside of France, against all the teachings of experience, against the evidence of nature, he refused to recognize the fact that, in France, mankind are of two species, the people of the towns and the people of the country, and that, therefore, there are two types of local society, the urban commune and the rural commune. He was not disposed to take this capital difference into consideration; he issued decrees for the Frenchman in general, for the citizen in himself, for fictive men, so reduced that the statute which suits them can nowhere suit the actual and complete man. At one stroke, the legislative shears cut out of the same stuff, according to the same pattern, thirty-six thousand examples of the same coat, one coat indifferently for every commune, whatever its shape, a coat too small for the city and too large for the village, disproportionate in both cases, and useless beforehand, because it could not fit very large bodies, nor very small ones. Nevertheless, once dispatched from Paris, people had to put the coat on and wear it; it must answer for good or for ill, each donning his own for lack of another better adjusted; hence the strangest attitudes for each, and, in the long run, a combination of consequences which neither governors nor the governed had foreseen.


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Chicago: Hippolyte Adolphe Taine, "IV. On Unlimited Universal Suffrage.," The Modern Regime— Volume 1, ed. Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853 and trans. Ingram, J. H. (James Henry) in The Modern Regime—Volume 1 (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909), Original Sources, accessed April 26, 2018,

MLA: Taine, Hippolyte Adolphe. "IV. On Unlimited Universal Suffrage." The Modern Regime— Volume 1, edited by Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853, and translated by Ingram, J. H. (James Henry), in The Modern Regime—Volume 1, Vol. 36, New York, Doubleday, Page, 1909, Original Sources. 26 Apr. 2018.

Harvard: Taine, HA, 'IV. On Unlimited Universal Suffrage.' in The Modern Regime— Volume 1, ed. and trans. . cited in 1909, The Modern Regime—Volume 1, Doubleday, Page, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 26 April 2018, from