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Excerpt from Clemens Prince von Metternich's Political Creed (1820)

In the following excerpt from his political creed, Clemens Prince von Metternich expands upon the argument he made in his letter to Friedrich Gentz (June 17, 1819). Above all, Metternich blamed middle-class intellectuals for revolutionary upheaval, believing that the common people were more willing to accept autocratic rule. This text was taken from a posthumous collection of Metternich’s political writings. The edition was published by his son. Both Metternich’s political texts and his memoirs were written in French. The original French text follows the English translation.

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Do other remedies against this evil exist and what might they be?

We consider it a fundamental truth that for every evil there is a remedy and that a knowledge of the true nature of the one must lead to the discovery of the other. In any case, there are few men who pause to examine in depth the evil which they are proposing to combat. There is hardly anyone who is not subject to the influence of passions or constrained by prejudices and there are many whom evil leads astray in an even more dangerous way because of its flattering and often brilliant exterior. We hear talk of conforming to a system; this idea, constantly false but tireless, audacious, unstoppable, satisfies those men whom it imbues (since they inhabit and govern a world which they themselves have created), but it is all the more dangerous for those who live in the real world, so different from that created by conformity to a system.

There is another class of men who can conceive only of the external form of an evil, who confuse its incidental manifestations with the fundamental object and who, instead of directing their efforts towards the source of the evil, are content to fight against a few transitory symptoms.

It is our duty to strive to avoid each of these pitfalls.

The evil exists, and the evil is immense. With regard to its basic cause, perpetually active everywhere and at all times, we do not think we can define it better than we have already done in making use of the word "presumption," that inseparable companion of half-knowledge, that motive for a boundless ambition which is easy to satisfy in times of trouble and upheaval.

It is principally the middle classes of society who have been infected by this moral gangrene and it is only amongst them that are found the true, prime movers of this theory.

There is no way that it can ever take hold amongst the great mass of the people, who would not be able to accept it. This class, the genuine people, has of necessity to devote itself to labour which is too continual and too positive to allow it to throw its weight behind a vague cause born of abstract theories and ambition. The people know that the best thing for them is to be able to count on tomorrow, for it is not until tomorrow that they will be paid for the toil and the cares of the previous day. The laws which guarantee a reasonable protection for the prime asset which is the safety of individuals and their families and of property are in their essence simple. The people fear change, which harms industry and brings in its wake a constant stream of new burdens for them.

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