Society is to be regarded as a whole, as a sort of living organism, in which there are many parts, distinguishable but not separable one from another. All the parts are necessary, all should be knit together in a living union, and move on in concert as a living and reasonable being. The head is not to be valued without the body, nor the body without the members: yet the body should have a head, and the head should be regarded as the more noble part. The aristocracy are not to be separated from the body of the nation, are not to be regarded as existing apart and for themselves alone, but as existing for the nation, for the service of the people, and the common good of the whole. Nobility is not a personal right, it is a trust — a trust from God for the common good of the nation. “Let him that would be the greatest among you be your servant.” When the nobility forget this, — when they live only for themselves, regard their rank and privileges as their indefeasible property, and use their superiority only in reference to their own selfish ends, they lose their character of generosi, forget their nobility, sink to mere churls, and instead of serving the nation are served by it, and instead of guiding and leading society for the common good become an intolerable burden upon the people which they will be sure to attempt to shake off. Such become the old French noblesse under the reign of Louis the XV, the new nobility under the Emperor, the Orléanist noblesse, under “the citizen king,” and hence the revolutions of 1789, 1814, 1830, and 1848, which have threatened the very existence of European society, and which though checked for the moment by the coup d’etat of December, 1851, are not yet concluded. Such are rapidly becoming our own American nobility, or aristocracy. Our gentlemen are bankers, sharpers, brokers, stock-jobbers, traders, speculators, attorneys, pettifoggers, and in general worshipers of mammon. They have sometimes the manners, uniformly the sentiments, passions, and churlishness of the lowest of the people, and use the people instead of serving them. Hence the alarm which wise men fell for the safety of our republic, and the real prosperity of our people.
(Orestes Brownson, An Oration on Liberal Studies. Baltimore: Hedian & O’Brien, 1853, pp. 14–15).