Our politicians, even the best of them, regard only the distress caused by the failure of mechanical labour. The degradation caused by its excess is a far more serious subject of thought, and of future fear. I shall examine this part of our subject at length hereafter. [LE: Again a reference to the intended, but unaccomplished, sequel. Ruskin, however, returned to the subject in Time and Tide, § 103 (below, p. 402); and compare Crown of Wild Olive, §§ 2, 89, 90, and Lectures on Art, § 123.] There can hardly be any doubt, at present, cast on the truth of the above passages, as all the great thinkers are unanimous on the matter. Plato’s words are terrific in their scorn and pity whenever he touches on the mechanical arts. He calls the men employed in them not even human, but partially and diminutively human, “anqrwpiskoi,” and opposes such work to noble occupations, not merely as prison is opposed to freedom, but as a convict’s dishonoured prison is to the temple (escape from them being like that of a criminal to the sanctuary); and the destruction caused by them being of soul no less than body.—Rep. vi. 9. Compare Laws, v. 11.2 Xenophon dwells on the evil of occupations at the furnace, and especially their “ascolia, want of leisure.”—Econ. iv. 3. (Modern England, with all its pride of education, has lost that first sense of the word “school”; and till it recover that, it will find no other rightly.) His word for the harm to the soul is to “break” it, as we say of the heart.—Econ. vi. 5. And herein, also, is the root of the scorn, otherwise apparently most strange and cruel, with which Homer, Dante, and Shakspeare always speak of the populace; 3 for it is entirely true that, in great states, the lower orders are low by nature as well as by task, being precisely that part of the commonwealth which has been thrust down for its coarseness or unworthiness (by coarseness I mean especially insensibility and irreverence—the “profane” of Horace [LE: Odes, iii.1, 1.]); and when this ceases to be so, and the corruption and profanity are in the higher instead of the lower orders, there arises, first helpless confusion; then, if the lower classes deserve power, ensues swift revolution, and they get it; but if neither the populace nor their rulers deserve it, there follows mere darkness and dissolution, till, out of the putrid elements, some new capacity of order rises, like grass on a grave; if not, there is no more hope, nor shadow of turning, for that nation. Atropos has her way with it. So that the law of national health is like that of a great lake or sea, in perfect but slow circulation, letting the dregs fall continually to the lowest place, and the clear water rise; yet so as that there shall be no neglect of the lower orders, but perfect supervision and sympathy, so that if one member suffer, all members shall suffer with it.

[The references are to the Republic, vi. 495 C. (again referred to below, § 134: see the MS. facsimile for the Greek); and to the Laws, 741 E.: “No man either ought, or indeed will be, allowed to exercise any ignoble occupation, of which the vulgarity (banausia) deters a freeman, and disinclines him to acquire riches by any such means” (Jowett’s version). After “furnace” the original essay inserted “(root of banausoV)”—banausoV meaning literally “working by the fire” (from baunoV , “furnace”). For the passages in Xenophon next referred to, see Bibliotheca Pastorum, “Economist,” iv. 1. See, on the general subject, Time and Tide, § 103 (below, p. 402); Crown of Wild Olive, §§ 89, 90; and Lectures on Art, § 123.]

[Note following populace] “There is not, I think, an example in all the Iliad of a chief falling, or even being wounded, by an ignoble hand” (see Mahaffy’s Social Life in Greece, p. 12); and Thersites is the only common soldier mentioned by name in the poem. For Dante’s “scorn of the populace,” see such passages as Inferno, xv. 61, 68; Purgatorio, vi. 127 seq., xi. 113; and Convivio, i. 11. For Shakespeare see, for instance, King John, iv. 2 (“the lean, unwashed artificer”).]

. . . store-holders, the deduction being practically made in the payment of rent for houses and lands, of interest on stock, and in other ways hereafter to be examined. At present I wish only to note the broad relations of the two great classes—the currency-holders and the store-holders.1 Of course they are partly united, most monied men having possessions of land or other goods; but they are separate in their nature and functions. The currency-holders as a class regulate the demand for labour, and the store-holders holders the laws of it; the currency-holders determine what shall be produced, and the store-holders the conditions of its production.

1[Ruskin’s note:] “They are (up to the amount of the currency) simply creditors and debtors—the commercial types of the two great sets of humanity which those words describe; for debt, and credit are of course merely the mercantile forms of the words ‘duty’ and ‘creed,’ which give the central ideas; only it is more accurate to say ‘faith’ than ‘creed,’ because creed has been applied carelessly to mere forms of words. Duty properly signifies whatever in substance or act one person owes to another, and faith the other’s trust in his rendering it. The French ‘devoir’ and ‘foi’ are fuller and clearer words than ours; for, faith being the passive of fact, foi comes straight through fides fr om fio; and the French keep the group of words formed from the infinitive—fieri, ‘se fier,’ ‘se défier,’ ‘défiance’ and the grand following ‘défi.’ Our English ‘affiance,’ ‘definance,‘ ‘confidence,’ ‘diffidence’ retain accurate meanings; but our ‘faithful’ has become obscure from being used for ‘faithworthy,’ as well as ‘full of faith.’ ‘His names that sat on him was called Faithful and True.‘

Trust is the passive of true saying, as faith is the passive of due doing; and the right learning of these etymologies, which are in the strictest sense only to be learned ‘by heart,’ is of considerably more importance to the youth of a nation than its reading and ciphering.”

LE: For a further note (in the original essay) on the etymology of “faith,” etc., see below, p. 290 n.; and compare Modern Painters, vol. v. (7.326–27). The Bible quotation is from Revelation xix. 11.

Last modified 14 March 2019