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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
From a Letter to Chamfort, 1785
By Mirabeau (1749–1791)
 
THE APPROACHES to London are of a rustic beauty of which not even Holland has furnished models (I should rather compare them to some valley in Switzerland): for—and this very remarkable fact immediately catches an experienced eye—this domineering people are, beyond everything, agriculturists in their island; and it is this that has so long saved them from their own delirium. I felt my heart strongly and deeply moved as I passed through this highly cultivated and prosperous land, and I said to myself, “Wherefore this emotion so new to me?” These country-seats compared with ours are mere country boxes. Several parts of France, even in the worst of its provinces, and all Normandy, through which I have just passed, are assuredly more beautiful in natural scenery than this country. There are to be found, here and there in France, especially in our own province, noble edifices, splendid establishments, immense public works, vast traces of the most prodigious efforts of man; and yet here I am delighted much more than I was ever surprised in my own country by the things I have mentioned. It is because here nature is improved and not forced; it is because these roads, narrow but excellent, do not remind me of forced or average labor, except to lament over the country in which such labor is known; it is because this admirable state of cultivation shows me the respect paid to property; it is because this care, this universal cleanliness, is a speaking symptom of welfare; it is because all this rural wealth is in nature, near to nature, and according to nature, and does not, like splendid palaces surrounded with hovels, betray the excessive inequality of fortunes, which is the source of so many evils; it is because all tells me that here the people are something—that every man enjoys the development and free exercise of his faculties, and that I am in another order of things.  1
  I am not an enthusiast in favor of England, and I now know sufficient of that country to tell you that if its constitution is the best known, the application of this constitution is the worst possible; and that if the Englishman is, as a social man, the most free in the world, the English people are the least free of any….  2
  What then is freedom, since the small portion of it found in one or two laws, places in the first rank a nation so little favored by nature? What may a constitution not effect, when this one, though incomplete and defective, saves and will save for some time to come the most corrupt people in the universe from their own corruption?…  3
  Will England be adduced as an objection? But that State is constituted! The English have a country!—and this is the reason why the people the most fanatic, the most ignorant, and the most corrupt in the whole world, have a public spirit, civic virtues, and incredible success, even in the midst of their delirium. This is the reason why, despite of nature, they have assumed the first rank among nations!…  4
  How great must be the influence of a small number of data favorable to the human species, since this people—ignorant, superstitious, obstinate (for they are all this), covetous, and very near to Punic faith—are better than most other nations known, because they enjoy a small portion of civil liberty.  5
 
 
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