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. 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, 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. Xenophon dwells on the evil of occupations at the furnace (root of and especially their want of leisure" —Econ i. 4.(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. i. 6. And herein also is the root of the scorn, otherwise apparently most strange and cruel, with which Homer, Dante, and Shakespeare always speak of the populace; 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); and when this ceases to be so, and the corruption and the 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.