Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Past and Present
, Book II, Chapter 7 (The Canvassing
An election, whether
managed directly by ballot-box on public hustings, or indirectly by
force of public opinion, or were it even by open alehouses, landlords'
coercion, popular club-law, or whatever electoral methods, is always
an interesting phenomenon. A mountain tumbling in great travail,
throwing up dust-clouds and absurd noises, is visibly there; uncertain yet what mouse or monster it will give birth to.
Besides, it is a most important social act; nay, at bottom, the one important social act. Given the men a People choose, the
People itself, in its exact worth and worthlessness, is given. A
heroic people chooses heroes, and is happy; a valet or flunky people
chooses sham-heroes, what are called quacks, thinking them heroes,
and is not happy. The grand summary of a man's spiritual condition, what brings out all his herohood and insight, or all his
flunkyhood and horn-eyed dimness, is this question put to him.
What man dost thou honour? Which is thy ideal of a man; or
nearest that? So too of a People: for a People too, every People,
speaks its choice, — were it only by silently obeying, and not revolting, — in the course of a century or so.