Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IX.: representative bodies. - Political Institutions, being Part V of the Principles of Sociology
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CHAPTER IX.: representative bodies. - Herbert Spencer, Political Institutions, being Part V of the Principles of Sociology 
Political Institutions, being Part V of the Principles of Sociology (The Concluding Portion of Vol. II) (London: Williams and Norgate, 1882).
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§ 496. Amid the varieties and complexities of political organization, it has proved not impossible to discern the ways in which simple political heads and compound political heads are evolved; and how, under certain conditions, the two become united as ruler and consultative body. But to see how a representative body arises, proves to be more difficult; for both process and product are more variable. Less specific results must content us.
As hitherto, so again, we must go back to the beginning to take up the clue. Out of that earliest stage of the savage horde in which there is no supremacy beyond that of the man whose strength, or courage, or cunning, gives him predominance, the first step is to the practice of election—deliberate choice of a leader in war. About the conducting of elections in rude tribes, travellers say little: probably the methods used are various. But we have accounts of elections as they were made by European peoples during early times. In ancient Scandinavia, the chief of a province chosen by the assembled people, was thereupon “elevated amidst the clash of arms and the shouts of the multitude;” and among the ancient Germans he was raised on a shield, as also was the popularly-approved Merovingian king. Recalling, as this ceremony does, the chairing of a newly-elected member of parliament up to recent times; and reminding us that originally an election was by show of hands; we are taught that the choice of a representative was once identical with the choice of a chief. Our House of Commons had its roots in local gatherings like those in which uncivilized tribes select head warriors.
Besides conscious selection there occurs among rude peoples selection by lot. The Samoans, for instance, by spinning a cocoa-nut, which, on coming to rest, points to one of the surrounding persons, thereby single him out. Early historic races supply illustrations; as the Hebrews in the affair of Saul and Jonathan, and as the Homeric Greeks when fixing on a champion to fight with Hector. In both these last cases there was belief in supernatural interference: the lot was supposed to be divinely determined. And probably at the outset, choice by lot for political purposes among the Athenians, and for military purposes among the Romans, as also in later times the use of the lot for choosing deputies in some of the Italian republics, and in Spain (as in Leon during the twelfth century) was influenced by a kindred belief; though doubtless the desire to give equal chances to rich and poor, or else to assign without dispute a mission which was onerous or dangerous, entered into the motive or was even predominant. Here, however, the fact to be noted is that this mode of choice which plays a part in representation, may also be traced back to the usages of primitive peoples.
So, too, we find foreshadowed the process of delegation. Groups of men who open negociations, or who make their submission, or who send tribute, habitually appoint certain of their number to act for them. The method is, indeed, necessitated; since a tribe cannot well perform such actions bodily. Whence, too, it appears that the sending of representatives is, at the first stage, originated by causes like those which re-originate it at a later stage. For as the will of the tribe, readily displayed in its assemblies to its own members, cannot be thus displayed to other tribes, but must, in respect of inter-tribal matters be communicated by deputy; so in a large nation, the people of each locality, able to govern themselves locally, but unable to join the peoples of remote localities in deliberations which concern them all, have to send one or more persons to express their will. Distance in both cases changes direct utterance of the popular voice into indirect utterance.
Before observing the conditions under which this singling out of individuals in one or other way for specified duties, comes to be used in the formation of a representative body, we must exclude classes of cases not relevant to our present inquiry. Though representation as ordinarily conceived, and as here to be dealth with, is associated with a popular form of government, yet the connexion between them is not a necessary one. In some places and times representation has co-existed with entire exclusion of the masses from power. In Poland, both before and after the so-called republican form was assumed, the central diet, in addition to senators nominated by the king, was composed of nobles elected in provincial assemblies of nobles: the people at large being powerless and mostly serfs. In Hungary, too, up to recent times, the privileged class which, even after it had been greatly enlarged reached only “one-twentieth of the adult males,” alone formed the basis of representation. “A Hungarian county before the reforms of 1848 might be called a direct aristocratical republic:” all members of the noble class having a right to attend the local assembly and vote in appointing a representative noble to the general diet; but members of the inferior classes having no shares in the government.
Other representative bodies than those of an exclusively aristocratic kind, must be named as not falling within the scope of this chapter. As Duruy remarks—“Antiquity was not as ignorant as is supposed of the representative system.… Each Roman province had its general assemblies.… Thus the Lycians possessed a true legislative body formed by the deputies of their twenty-three towns.” “This assembly had even executive functions.” And Gaul, Spain, all the eastern provinces, and Greece, had like assemblies. But, little as is known of them, the inference is tolerably safe that these were but distantly allied in genesis and position to the bodies we now distinguish as representative. Nor are we concerned with those senates and councils elected by different divisions of a town-population (such as were variously formed in the Italian republics) which served simply as agents whose doings were subject to the directly-expressed approval or disapproval of the assembled citizens. Here we must limit ourselves to that kind of representative body which arises in communities occupying areas so large that their members are obliged to exercise by deputy such powers as they possess; and, further, we have to deal exclusively with cases in which the assembled deputies do not replace pre-existing political agencies but cooperate with them.
It will be well to set out by observing, more distinctly than we have hitherto done, what part of the primitive political structure it is from which the representative body, as thus conceived, originates.
§ 497. Broadly, this question is tacitly answered by the contents of preceding chapters. For if, on occasions of public deliberation, the primitive horde spontaneously divides into the inferior many and the superior few, among whom some one is most influential; and if, in the course of that compounding and re-compounding of groups which war brings about, the recognized war-chief develops into the king, while the superior few become the consultative body formed of minor military leaders; it follows that any third co-ordinate political power must be either the mass of the inferior itself, or else some agency acting on its behalf. Truism though this may be called, it is needful here to set it down; since, before inquiring under what circumstances the growth of a representative system follows the growth of popular power, we have to recognize the relation between the two.
The undistinguished mass, retaining a latent supremacy in simple societies not yet politically organized, though it is brought under restraint as fast as war establishes obedience, and conquests produce class-differentiations, tends, when occasion permits, to re-assert itself. The sentiments and beliefs, organized and transmitted, which, during certain stages of social evolution, lead the many to submit to the few, come, under some circumstances, to be traversed by other sentiments and beliefs. Passing references have been in several places made to these. Here we must consider them seriatim and more at length.
One factor in the development of the patriarchal group during the pastoral stage, was shown to be the fostering of subordination to its head by war; since, continually, there survived the groups in which subordination was greatest. But if so, the implication is that, conversely, cessation of war tends to diminish subordination. Members of the compound family, originally living together and fighting together, become less strongly bound in proportion as they have less frequently to cooperate for joint defence under their head. Hence, the more peaceful the state the more independent become the multiplying divisions forming the gens, the phratry, and the tribe. With progress of industrial life arises greater freedom of action—especially among the distantly-related members of the group.
So must it be, too, in a feudally-governed assemblage. While standing quarrels with neighbours are ever leading to local battles—while bodies of men-at-arms are kept ready, and vassals are from time to time summoned to fight—while, as a concomitant of military service, acts of homage are insisted upon; there is maintained a regimental subjection running through the group. But as fast as aggressions and counter-aggressions become less frequent, the carrying of arms becomes less needful; there is less occasion for periodic expressions of fealty; and there is an increase of daily actions performed without direction of a superior, whence a fostering of individuality of character.
These changes are furthered by the decline of superstitious beliefs concerning the natures of head men, general and local. As before shown, the ascription of superhuman origin, or supernatural power, to the king, greatly strengthens his hands; and where the chiefs of component groups have a sacredness due to nearness in blood to the semi-divine ancestor worshipped by all, or are members of an invading, god-descended race, their authority over dependents is largely enforced. By implication then, whatever undermines ancestorworship, and the system of beliefs accompanying it, favours the growth of popular power. Doubtless the spread of Christianity over Europe, by diminishing the prestige of governors, major and minor, prepared the way for greater independence of the governed.
These causes have relatively small effects where the people are scattered. In rural districts the authority of political superiors is weakened with comparative slowness. Even after peace has become habitual, and local heads have lost their semi-sacred characters, there cling to them awe-inspiring traditions: they are not of ordinary flesh and blood. Wealth which, through long ages, distinguishes the nobleman exclusively, gives him both actual power and the power arising from display. Fixed literally or practically, as the several grades of his inferiors are during days when locomotion is difficult, he long remains for them the solitary sample of a great man. Others are only known by hearsay; he is known by experience. Inspection is easily maintained by him over dependent and sub-dependent people; and the disrespectful or rebellious, if they cannot be punished overtly, can be deprived of occupation, or otherwise so hindered in their lives that they must submit or migrate. Down to our own day, the behaviour of peasants and farmers to the squire, is suggestive of the strong restraints which kept rural populations in semi-servile states after primitive controlling influences had died away.
Converse effects may be expected under converse conditions; namely, where large numbers become closely aggregated. Even if such large numbers are formed of groups severally subordinate to heads of clans, or to feudal lords, sundry influences combine to diminish subordination. When there are present in the same place many superiors to whom respectively their dependents owe obedience, these superiors tend to dwarf one another. The power of no one is so imposing if there are daily seen others who make like displays. Further, when groups of dependents are mingled, supervision cannot be so well maintained by their heads. And this which hinders the exercise of control, facilitates combination among those to be controlled: conspiracy is made easier and detection of it more difficult. Again, jealous of one another, as these heads of clustered groups are likely in such circumstances to be, they are prompted severally to strengthen themselves; and to this end, competing for popularity, are tempted to relax the restraints over their inferiors and to give protection to inferiors ill-used by other heads. Still more are their powers undermined when the assemblage includes many aliens. As before implied, this above all causes favours the growth of popular power. In proportion as immigrants, detached from the gentile or feudal divisions they severally belong to, become numerous, they weaken the structures of the divisions among which they live. Such organization as these strangers fall into is certain to be a looser one; and their influence acts as a dissolvent to the surrounding organizations.
And here we are brought back to the truth which cannot be too much insisted upon, that growth of popular power is in all ways associated with trading activities. For only by trading activities can many people be brought to live in close contact. Physical necessities maintain the wide dispersion of a rural population; while physical necessities impel the gathering together of those who are commercially occupied. Evidence from various countries and times shows that periodic gatherings for religious rites, or other public purposes, furnish opportunities for buying and selling, which are habitually utilized; and this connexion between the assembling of many people and the exchanging of commodities, which first shows itself at intervals, becomes a permanent connexion where many people become permanently assembled—where a town grows up in the neighbourhood of a temple, or around a stronghold, or in a place favoured by local circumstances for some manufacture.
Industrial development further aids popular emancipation by generating an order of men whose power, derived from their wealth, competes with, and begins in some cases to exceed, the power of those who previously were alone wealthy—the men of rank. While this initiates a conflict which diminishes the influence previously exercised by patriarchal or feudal heads only, it also initiates a milder form of subordination. Rising, as the rich trader habitually does in early times, from the non-privileged class, the relation between him and those under him is one from which there is excluded the idea of personal subjection. In proportion as the industrial activities grow predominant, they make familiar a connexion between employer and employed which differs from the relation between master and slave, or lord and vassal, by not including allegiance. Under earlier conditions there does not exist the idea of detached individual life—life which neither receives protection from a clan-head or feudal superior, nor is carried on in obedience to him. But in town populations, made up largely of refugees, who either become small traders or are employed by great ones, the experience of a relatively-independent life becomes common, and the conception of it clear.
And the form of cooperation distinctive of the industrial state thus arising, fosters the feelings and thoughts appropriate to popular power. In daily usage there is a balancing of claims; and the idea of equity is, generation after generation, made more definite. The relations between employer and employed, and between buyer and seller, can be maintained only on condition that the obligations on either side are fulfilled. Where they are not fulfilled the relation lapses, and leaves outstanding those relations in which they are fulfilled. Commercial success and growth have thus, as their inevitable concomitants, the maintenance of the respective rights of those concerned, and a strengthening consciousness of them.
In brief, then, dissolving in various ways the old relation of status, and substituting the new relation of contract (to use Sir Henry Maine’s antithesis), progressing industrialism brings together masses of people who by their circumstances are enabled, and by their discipline prompted, to modify the political organization which militancy has bequeathed.
§ 498. It is common to speak of free forms of government as having been initiated by happy accidents. Antagonisms between different powers in the State, or different factions, have caused one or other of them to bid for popular support, with the result of increasing popular power. The king’s jealousy of the aristocracy has induced him to enlist the sympathies of the people (sometimes serfs but more frequently citizens) and therefore to favour them; or, otherwise, the people have profited by alliance with the aristocracy in resisting royal tyrannies and exactions. Doubtless, the facts admit of being thus presented. With conflict there habitually goes the desire for allies; and throughout mediæval Europe while the struggles between monarchs and barons were chronic, the support of the towns was important. Germany, France, Spain, Hungary, furnish illustrations.
But it is an error to regard occurrences of these kinds as causes of popular power. They are to be regarded rather as the conditions under which the causes take effect. These incidental weakenings of pre-existing institutions, do but furnish opportunities for the action of the pent-up force which is ready to work political changes. Three factors in this force may be distinguished:—the relative mass of those composing the industrial communities as distinguished from those embodied in the older forms of organization; the permanent sentiments and ideas produced in them by their mode of life; and the temporary emotions roused by special acts of oppression or by distress. Let us observe the cooperation of these.
Two instances, occurring first in order of time, are furnished by the Athenian democracy. The condition which preceded the Solonian legislation, was one of violent dissension among political factions; and there was also “a general mutiny of the poorer population against the rich, resulting from misery combined with oppression.” The more extensive diffusion of power effected by the revolution which Kleisthenes brought about, occurred under kindred circumstances. The relatively-detached population of immigrant traders, had so greatly increased between the time of Solon and that of Kleisthenes, that the four original tribes forming the population of Attica had to be replaced by ten. And then this augmented mass, largely composed of men not under clan-discipline, and therefore less easily restrained by the ruling classes, forced itself into predominance at a time when the ruling classes were divided. Though it is said that Kleisthenes “being vanquished in a party contest with his rival, took the people into partnership”—though the change is represented as being one thus personally initiated; yet in the absence of that voluminous popular will which had long been growing, the political re-organization could not have been made, or, if made, could not have been maintained. The remark which Grote quotes from Aristotle, “that seditions are generated by great causes but out of small incidents,” if altered slightly by writing “political changes” instead of “seditions,” fully applies. For clearly, once having been enabled to assert itself, this popular power could not be forthwith excluded. Kleisthenes could not under such circumstances have imposed on so large a mass of men arrangements at variance with their wishes. Practically, therefore, it was the growing industrial power which then produced, and thereafter preserved, the democratic organization. Turning to Italy, we first note that the establishment of the small republics, referred to in a preceding chapter as having been simultaneous with the decay of imperial power, may here be again referred to more specifically as having been simultaneous with that conflict of authorities which caused this decay. Says Sismondi, “the war of investitures gave wing to this universal spirit of liberty and patriotism in all the municipalities of Lombardy, of Piedmont, Venetia, Romagna, and Tuscany.” In other words, while the struggle between Emperor and Pope absorbed the strength of both, it became possible for the people to assert themselves. And at a later time, Florence furnished an instance similar in nature if somewhat different in form.
“At the moment when ‘Florence expelled the Medici, that republic was bandied between three different parties.’ Savonarola took advantage of this state of affairs to urge that the people should reserve their power to themselves, and exercise it by a council. His proposition was agreed to, and this ‘council was declared sovereign.’”
In the case of Spain, again, popular power increased during the troubles accompanying the minority of Fernando IV.; and of the periodic assemblies subsequently formed by deputies from certain towns (which met without authority of the Government) we read that—
“The desire of the Government to frustrate the aspiring schemes of the Infantes de la Cerda, and their numerous adherents, made the attachment of these assemblies indispensable. The disputes during the minority of Alfonso XI. more than ever favoured the pretensions of the third estate. Each of the candidates for the regency paid assiduous court to the municipal authorities, in the hope of obtaining the necessary suffrages.”
And how all this was consequent on industrial development, appears in the facts that many, if not most, of these associated towns, had arisen during a preceding age by the re-colonization of regions desolated during the prolonged contests of Moors and Christians; and that these “poblaciones,” or communities of colonists, which, scattered over these vast tracts grew into prosperous towns, had been formed of serfs and artizans to whom various privileges, including those of self-government, were given by royal charter. With which examples must be joined the example familiar to all. For in England it was during the struggle between king and barons, when the factions were nearly balanced, and when the town-populations had been by trade so far increased that their aid was important, that they came to play a noticeable part, first as allies in war and afterwards as sharers in government. It cannot be doubted that when summoning to the parliament of 1265, not only knights of the shire but also deputies from cities and boroughs, Simon of Montfort was prompted by the desire to strengthen himself against the royal party supported by the Pope. And whether he sought thus to increase his adherents, or to obtain larger pecuniary means, or both, the implication equally is that the urban populations had become a relatively-important part of the nation. This interpretation harmonizes with subsequent events. For though the representation of towns afterwards lapsed, yet it shortly revived, and in 1295 became established. As Hume remarks, such an institution could not “have attained to so vigorous a growth and have flourished in the midst of such tempests and convulsions,” unless it had been one, “for which the general state of things had already prepared the nation:” the truth here to be added being that this “general state of things” was the augmented mass, and hence augmented influence, of the free industrial communities.
Confirmation is supplied by cases showing that power gained by the people during times when the regal and aristocratic powers are diminished by dissension, is lost again if, while the old organization recovers its stability and activity, industrial growth does not make proportionate progress. Spain, or more strictly Castile, yields an example. Such share in government as was acquired by those industrial communities which grew up during the colonization of the waste lands, became, in the space of a few reigns characterized by successful wars and resulting consolidations, scarcely more than nominal.
§ 499. It is instructive to note how that primary incentive to cooperation which initiates social union at large, continues afterwards to initiate special unions within the general union. For just as external militancy sets up and carries on the organization of the whole, so does internal militancy sets up and carry on the organization of the parts; even when those parts, industrial in their activities, are intrinsically non-militant. On looking into their histories we find that the increasing clusters of people who, forming towns, lead lives essentially distinguished by continuous exchange of services under agreement, develop their governmental structures during their chronic antagonisms with the surrounding militant clusters.
We see, first, that these settlements of traders, growing important and obtaining royal charters, were by doing this placed in quasi-militant positions—became in modified ways holders of fiefs from their king, and had the associated responsibilities. Habitually they paid dues of sundry kinds equivalent in general nature to those paid by feudal tenants; and, like them, they were liable to military service. In Spanish chartered towns “this was absolutely due from every inhabitant;” and “every man of a certain property was bound to serve on horseback or pay a fixed sum.” In France “in the charters of incorporation which towns received, the number of troops required was usually expressed.” And in the chartered royal burghs of Scotland “every burgess was a direct vassal of the crown.”
Next observe that industrial towns (usually formed by coalescence of pre-existing rural divisions rendered populous because local circumstances favoured some form of trade, and presently becoming places of hiding for fugitives, and of security for escaped serfs) began to stand toward the small feudally-governed groups around them, in relations like those in which these stood to one another: competing with them for adherents, and often fortifying themselves. Sometimes, too, as in France in the 13th century, towns became suzerains, while communes had the right of war in numerous cases; and in England in early days the maritime towns carried on wars with one another.
Again there is the fact that these cities and boroughs, which by royal charter or otherwise had acquired powers of administering their own affairs, habitually formed within themselves combinations for protective purposes. In England, in Spain, in France, in Germany (sometimes with assent of the king, sometimes notwithstanding his reluctance as in England, sometimes in defiance of him, as in ancient Holland) there rose up gilds, which, having their roots in the natural unions among related persons, presently gave origin to frith-gilds and merchant-gilds; and these, defensive in their relations to one another, formed the bases of that municipal organization which carried on the general defence against aggressing nobles.
Once more, in countries where the antagonisms between these industrial communities and the surrounding militant communities were violent and chronic, the industrial communities combined to defend themselves. In Spain the “poblaciones,” which when they flourished and grew into large places were invaded and robbed by adjacent feudal lords, formed leagues for mutual protection; and at a later date there arose, under like needs, more extensive confederations of cities and towns, which, under severe penalties for non-fulfilment of the obligations, bound themselves to aid one another in resisting aggressions, whether by king or nobles. In Germany, too, we have the perpetual alliance entered into by sixty towns on the Rhine in 1255, when, during the troubles that followed the deposition of the Emperor Frederic II., the tyranny of the nobles had become insupportable. And we have the kindred unions formed under like incentives in Holland and in France. So that, both in small and in large ways, the industrial groups here and there growing up within a nation, are, in many cases, forced by local antagonisms partially to assume activities and structures like those which the nation as a whole is forced to assume in its antagonisms with nations around.
Here the implication chiefly concerning us is that if industrialism is thus checked by a return to militancy, the growth of popular power is arrested. Especially where, as happened in the Italian republics, defensive war passes into offensive war, and there grows up an ambition to conquer other territories and towns, the free form of government proper to industrial life, becomes qualified by, if it does not revert to, the coercive form accompanying militant life. Or where, as happened in Spain, the feuds between towns and nobles continue through long periods, the rise of free institutions is arrested; since, under such conditions, there can be neither that commercial prosperity which produces large urban populations, nor a cultivation of the associated mental nature. Whence it may be inferred that the growth of popular power accompanying industrial growth in England, was largely due to the comparatively small amount of this warfare between the industrial groups and the feudal groups around them. The effects of the trading life were less interfered with; and the local governing centres, urban and rural, were not prevented from uniting to restrain the general centre.
§ 500. And now let us consider more specifically how the governmental influence of the people is acquired. By the histories of organizations of whatever kind, we are shown that the purpose originally subserved by some arrangement is not always the purpose eventually subserved. It is so here. Assent to obligations rather than assertion of rights has ordinarily initiated the increase of popular power. Even the transformation effected by the revolution of Kleisthenes at Athens, took the form of a re-distribution of tribes and demes for purposes of taxation and military service. In Rome, too, that enlargement of the oligarchy which occurred under Servius Tullius, had for its ostensible motive the imposing on plebeians of obligations which up to that time had been borne exclusively by patricians. But we shall best understand this primitive relation between duty and power, in which the duty is original and the power derived, by going back once more to the beginning.
For when we remember that the primitive political assembly is essentially a war-council, formed of leaders who debate in presence of their followers; and when we remember that in early stages all free adult males, being warriors, are called on to join in defensive or offensive actions; we see that, originally, the attendance of the armed freemen is in pursuance of the military service to which they are bound, and that such power as, when thus assembled, they exercise, is incidental. Later stages yield clear proofs that this is the normal order; for it recurs where, after a political dissolution, political organization begins de novo. Instance the Italian cities, in which, as we have seen, the original “parliaments,” summoned for defence by the tocsin, included all the men capable of bearing arms: the obligation to fight coming first, and the right to vote coming second. And, naturally, this duty of attendance survives when the primitive assemblage assumes other functions than those of a militant kind; as witness the before named fact that among the Scandinavians it was “disreputable for freemen not to attend” the annual assembly; and the further facts that in France the obligation to be present at the hundred-court in the Merovingian period, rested upon all full freemen; that in the Carolingian period “non-attendance is punished by fines”; that in England the lower freemen, as well as others, were “bound to attend the shire-moot and hundred-moot” under penalty of “large fines for neglect of duty;” and that in the thirteenth century in Holland, when the burghers were assembled for public purposes, “anyone ringing the town bell, except by general consent, and anyone not appearing when it tolls, are liable to a fine.”
After recognizing this primitive relation between popular duty and popular power, we shall more clearly understand the relation as it re-appears when popular power begins to revive along with the growth of industrialism. For here, again, the fact meets us that the obligation is primary and the power secondary. It is mainly as furnishing aid to the ruler, generally for war purposes, that the deputies from towns begin to share in public affairs. There recurs under a complex form, that which at an early stage we see in a simple form. Let us pause a moment to observe the transition.
As was shown when treating of Ceremonial Institutions, the revenues of rulers are derived, at first wholly and afterwards partially, from presents. The occasions on which assemblies are called together to discuss public affairs (mainly military operations for which supplies are needed) naturally become the occasions on which the expected gifts are offered and received. When by successful wars the militant king consolidates small societies into a large one—when there comes an “increase of royal power in intension as the kingdom increases in extension” (to quote the luminous expression of Prof. Stubbs); and when, as a consequence, the quasivoluntary gifts become more and more compulsory, though still retaining such names as donum and auxilium; it generally happens that these exactions, passing a bearable limit, lead to resistance: at first passive and in extreme cases active. If by consequent disturbances the royal power is much weakened, the restoration of order, if it takes place; is likely to take place on the understanding that, with such modifications as may be needful, the primitive system of voluntary gifts shall be re-established. Thus, when in Spain the death of Sancho I. was followed by political dissensions, the deputies from thirty-two places, who assembled at Valladolid, decided that demands made by the king beyond the customary dues should be answered by death of the messenger; and the need for gaining the adhesion of the towns during the conflict with a pretender, led to an apparent toleration of this attitude. Similarly in the next century, during disputes as to the regency while Alphonso XI. was a minor, the cortes at Burgos demanded that the towns should “contribute nothing beyond what was prescribed in” their charters. Kindred causes wrought kindred results in France; as when, by an insurrectionary league, Louis Hutin was obliged to grant charters to the nobles and burgesses of Picardy and of Normandy, renouncing the right of imposing undue exactions; and as when, on sundry occasions, the States-general were assembled for the purpose of reconciling the nation to imposts levied to carry on wars. Nor must its familiarity cause us to omit the instance furnished by our own history, when, after preliminary steps towards that end at St. Alban’s and St. Edmund’s, nobles and people at Runnymede effectually restrained the king from various tyrannies, and, among others, from that of imposing taxes, without the consent of his subjects.
And now what followed from arrangements which, with modifications due to local conditions, were arrived at in several countries under similar circumstances? Evidently when the king, hindered from enforcing unauthorized demands, had to obtain supplies by asking his subjects, or the more powerful of them, his motive for summoning them, or their representatives, became primarily that of getting these supplies. The predominance of this motive for calling together national assemblies, may be inferred from its predominance previously shown in connexion with local assemblies; as instance a writ of Henry I. concerning shire-moots, in which, professing to restore ancient custom, he says—“I will cause those courts to be summoned when I will for my own sovereign necessity, at my pleasure.” To vote money is therefore the primary purpose for which chief men and representatives are assembled.
§ 501. From the ability to prescribe conditions under which money will be voted, grows the ability, and finally the right, to join in legislation. This connexion is vaguely typified in early stages of social evolution. Making gifts and getting redress go together from the beginning. As was said of Gulab Singh, when treating of presents—“even in a crowd one could catch his eye by holding up a rupee and crying out, ‘Maharajah, a petition.’ He would pounce down like a hawk on the money, and, having appropriated it, would patiently hear out the petitioner.”∗ I have in the same place given further examples of this relation between yielding support to the governing agency, and demanding protection from it; and the examples there given may be enforced by such others as that, among ourselves in early days, “the king’s court itself, though the supreme judicature of the kingdom, was open to none that brought not presents to the king,” and that, as shown by the exchequer rolls, every remedy for a grievance or security against aggression had to be paid for by a bribe: a state of things which, as Hume remarks, was paralleled on the Continent.
Such being the original connexion between support of the political head and protection by the political head, the interpretation of the actions of parliamentary bodies, when they arise, becomes clear. Just as in rude assemblies of king, military chiefs, and armed freemen, preserving in large measure the primitive form, as those in France during the Merovingian period, the presentation of gifts went along with the transaction of public business, judicial as well as military—just as in our own ancient shire-moot, local government, including the administration of justice, was accompanied by the furnishing of ships and the payment of “a composition for the feorm-fultum, or sustentation of the king;” so when, after successful resistance to excess of royal power, there came assemblies of nobles and representatives summoned by the king, there re-appeared, on a higher platform, these simultaneous demands for money on the one side and for justice on the other. We may assume it as certain that with an average humanity, the conflicting egoisms of those concerned will be the main factors; and that on each side the aim will be to give as little, and get as much, as circumstances allow. France, Spain, and England, yield examples which unite in showing this.
When Charles V. of France, in 1357, dismissing the States-general for alleged encroachments on his rights, raised money by further debasing the coinage, and caused a sedition in Paris which endangered his life, there was, three months later, a re-convocation of the States, in which the petitions of the former assembly were acceded to, while a subsidy for war purposes was voted. And of an assembled States-general in 1366, Hallam writes:—“The necessity of restoring the coinage is strongly represented as the grand condition upon which they consented to tax the people, who had been long defrauded by the base money of Philip the Fair and his successors.” Again, in Spain, the incorporated towns, made liable by their charters only for certain payments and services, had continually to resist unauthorized demands; while the king, continually promising not to take more than their legal and customary dues, were continually breaking their promises. In 1328 Alfonso XI. “bound himself not to exact from his people, or cause them to pay, any tax, either partial or general, not hitherto established by law, without the previous grant of all the deputies convened by the Cortes.” And how little such pledges were kept is shown by the fact that, in 1393, the Cortes who made a grant to Henry III., joined the condition that—
“He should swear before one of the arch bishops not to take or demand any money, service, or loan, or anything else of the cities and towns, nor of individuals belonging to them, on any pretence of necessity, until the three estates of the kingdom should first be duly summoned and assembled in Cortes according to ancient usage.”
Similarly in England during the time when parliamentary power was being established. While, with national consolidation, the royal authority had been approaching to absoluteness, there had been, by reaction, arising that resistance which, resulting in the Great Charter, subsequently initiated the prolonged struggle between the king, trying to break through its restraints, and his subjects trying to maintain and to strengthen them. The twelfth article of the Charter having promised that no scutage or aid save those which were established should be imposed without consent of the national council, there perpetually recurred, both before and after the expansion of Parliament, endeavours on the king’s part to get supplies without redressing grievances, and endeavours on the part of Parliament to make the voting of supplies contingent on fulfilment of promises to redress grievances.
On the issue of this struggle depended the establishment of popular power; as we are shown by comparing the histories of the French and Spanish Parliaments with that of the English Parliament. Quotations above given prove that the Cortes originally established, and for a time maintained, the right to comply with or to refuse the king’s requests for money, and to impose their conditions; but they eventually failed to get their conditions fulfilled.
“In the struggling condition of Spanish liberty under Charles I., the crown began to neglect answering the petitions of Cortes, or to use unsatisfactory generalities of expression. This gave rise to many remonstrances. The deputies insisted, in 1523, on having answers before they granted money. They repeated the same contention in 1525, and obtained a general law, inserted in the Recopilacion, enacting that the king should answer all their petitions before he dissolved the assembly. This, however, was disregarded as before.”
And thereafter rapidly went on the decay of parliamentary power. Different in form but the same in nature, was the change which occurred in France. Having at one time, as shown above, made the granting of money conditional on the obtainment of justice, the States-general was induced to surrender its restraining powers. Charles VII.—
“obtained from the States of the royal domains which met in 1439 that they [the tailles] should be declared permanent, and from 1444 he levied them as such, i.e. uninterruptedly and without previous vote.… The permanence of the tailles was extended to the provinces annexed to the crown, but these preserved the right of voting them by their provincial estates.… In the hands of Charles VII., and Louis XI., the royal impost tended to be freed from all control.… Its amount increased more and more.”
Whence, as related by Dareste, it resulted that “when the tailles and aides…had been made permanent, the convocation of the States-general ceased to be necessary. They were little more than show assemblies.” But in our own case, during the century succeeding the final establishment of Parliament, frequent struggles necessitated by royal evasions, trickeries, and falsehoods, brought increasing power to withhold supplies until petitions had been attended to.
Admitting that this issue was furthered by the conflicts of political factions, which diminished the coercive power of the king, the truth to be emphasized is that the increase of a free industrial population was its fundamental cause. The calling together knights of the shire, representing the class of small landowners, which preceded on several occasions the calling together deputies from towns, implied the growing importance of this class as one from which money was to be raised; and when deputies from towns were summoned to the Parliament of 1295, the form of summons shows that the motive was to get pecuniary aid from portions of the population which had become relatively considerable and rich. Already the king had on more than one occasion sent special agents to shires and boroughs to raise subsidies from them for his wars. Already he had assembled provincial councils formed of representatives from cities, boroughs, and market-towns, that he might ask them for votes of money. And when the great Parliament was called together, the reason set forth in the writs was that wars with Wales, Scotland, and France, were endangering the realm: the implication being that the necessity for obtaining supplies led to this recognition of the towns as well as the counties.
So too was it in Scotland. The first known occasion on which representatives from burghs entered into political action, was when there was urgent need for pecuniary help from all sources; namely, “at Cambuskenneth on the 15th day of July, 1326, when Bruce claimed from his people a revenue to meet the expenses of his glorious war and the necessities of the States, which was granted to the monarch by the earls, barons, burgesses, and free tenants, in full parliament assembled.”
In which cases, while we are again shown that the obligation is original and the power derived, we are also shown that it is the increasing mass of those who carry on life by voluntary cooperation instead of compulsory cooperation—partly the rural class of small freeholders and still more the urban class of traders—which initiates popular representation.
§ 502. Still there remains the question—How does the representative body become separate from the consultative body? Retaining the primitive character of councils of war, national assemblies were in the beginning mixed. The different “arms,” as the estates were called in Spain, originally formed a single body. Knights of the shire when first summoned, acting on behalf of numerous smaller tenants of the king owing military service, sat and voted with the greater tenants. Standing, as towns did at the outset, very much in the position of fiefs, those who represented them were not unallied in legal status to feudal chiefs; and, at first assembling with these, in some cases remained united with them, as appears to have been habitually the case in France and Spain. Under what circumstances, then, do the consultative and representative bodies differentiate? The question is one to which there seems no very satisfactory answer.
Quite early we may see foreshadowed a tendency to part, determined by unlikeness of functions. During the Carolingian period in France, there were two annual gatherings: a larger which all the armed freemen had a right to attend, and a smaller formed of the greater personages deliberating on more special affairs.
“If the weather was fine, all this passed in the open air; if not, in distinct buildings.… When the lay and ecclesiastical lords were…separated from the multitude, it remained in their option to sit together, or separately, according to the affairs of which they had to treat.”
And that unlikeness of functions is a cause of separation we find evidence in other places and times. Describing the armed national assemblies of the Hungarians, originally mixed, Lévy writes:—“La dernière réunion de ce genre eut lieu quelque temps avant la bataille de Mohacs; mais bientôt après, la diète se divisa en deux chambres: la table des magnats et la table des députés.” In Scotland, again, in 1367—8, the three estates having met, and wishing, for reasons of economy and convenience, to be excused from their functions as soon as possible, “elected certain persons to hold Parliament, who were divided into two bodies, one for the general affairs of the king and kingdom, and another, a smaller division, for acting as judges upon appeals.” In the case of England we find that though, in the writs calling together Simon of Montfort’s Parliament, no distinction was made between magnates and deputies, yet when, a generation after, Parliament became established, the writs made a distinction: “counsel is deliberately mentioned in the invitation to the magnates, action and consent in the invitation to representatives.” Indeed it is clear that since the earlier-formed body of magnates was habitually summoned for consultative purposes, especially military, while the representatives afterwards added were summoned only to grant money, there existed from the outset a cause for separation. Sundry influences conspired to produce it. Difference of language, still to a considerable extent persisting and impeding joint debate, furnished a reason. Then there was the effect of class-feeling, of which we have definite proof. Though they were in the same assembly, the deputies from boroughs “sat apart both from the barons and knights, who disdained to mix with such mean personages;” and probably the deputies themselves, little at ease in presence of imposing superiors, preferred sitting separately. Moreover, it was customary for the several estates to submit to taxes in different proportions; and this tended to entail consultation among the members of each by themselves. Finally, we read that “after they [the deputies] had given their consent to the taxes required of them, their business being then finished, they separated, even though the Parliament still continued to sit, and to canvass the national business.” In which last fact we are clearly shown that though aided by other causes, unlikeness of duties was the essential cause which at length produced a permanent separation between the representative body and the consultative body.
Thus at first of little account, and growing in power only because the free portion of the community occupied in production and distribution grew in mass and importance, so that its petitions, treated with increasing respect and more frequently yielded to, began to originate legislation, the representative body came to be that part of the governing agency which more and more expresses the sentiments and ideas of industrialism. While the monarch and upper house are the products of that ancients régime of compulsory cooperation the spirit of which they still manifest, though in decreasing degrees, the lower house is the product of that modern régime of voluntary cooperation which is replacing it; and in an increasing degree, this lower house carries out the wishes of people habituated to a daily life regulated by contract instead of by status.
§ 503. To prevent misconception it must be remarked, before summing up, that an account of representative bodies which have been in modern days all at once created, is not here called for. Colonial legislatures, consciously framed in conformity with traditions brought from the mother-country, illustrate the genesis of senatorial and representative bodies in but a restricted sense: showing, as they do, how the structures of parent societies reproduce themselves in derived societies, so far as materials and circumstances allow; but not showing how these structures were originated. Still less need we notice those cases in which, after revolutions, peoples who have lived under despotisms are led by imitation suddenly to establish representative bodies. Here we are concerned only with the gradual evolution of such bodies.
Originally supreme, though passive, the third element in the tri-une political structure, subjected more and more as militant activity develops an appropriate organization, begins to re-acquire power when war ceases to be chronic. Subordination relaxes as fast as it becomes less imperative. Awe of the ruler, local or general, and accompanying manifestations of fealty, decrease; and especially so where the prestige of supernatural origin dies out. Where the life is rural the old relations long survive in qualified forms; but clans or feudal groups clustered together in towns, mingled with numbers of unattached immigrants, become in various ways less controllable; while by their habits their members are educated to increasing independence. The small industrial groups thus growing up within a nation consolidated and organized by militancy, can but gradually diverge in nature from the rest. For a long time they remain partially militant in their structures and in their relations to other parts of the community. At first chartered towns stand substantially on the footing of fiefs, paying feudal dues and owing military service. They develop, within themselves, unions, more or less coercive in character, for mutual protection. They often carry on wars with adjacent nobles and with one another. They not uncommonly form leagues for joint defence. And where the semi-militancy of towns is maintained, industrial development and accompanying increase of popular power are arrested.
But where circumstances have favoured manufacturing and commercial activities, and growth of the population devoted to them, this, as it becomes a large component of the society, makes its influence felt. The primary obligation to render money and service to the head of the State, often reluctantly complied with, is resisted when the exactions are great; and resistance causes conciliatory measures. There comes asking assent rather than resort to compulsion. If absence of violent local antagonisms permits, then on occasions when the political head, rousing anger by injustice, is also weakened by defections, there comes cooperation with other classes of oppressed subjects. Men originally delegated simply that they may authorize imposed burdens, are enabled as the power behind them increases, more and more firmly to insist on conditions; and the growing practice of yielding to their petitions as a means to obtaining their aid, initiates the practice of letting them share in legislation.
Finally, in virtue of the general law of organization that difference of functions entails differentiation and division of the parts performing them, there comes a separation. At first summoned to the national assembly for purposes partially like and partially unlike those of its other members, the elected members show a segregating tendency, which, where the industrial portion of the community continues to gain power, ends in the formation of a representative body distinct from the original consultative body.
[∗]Reference to the passage since made shows not only this initial relation, but still more instructively shows that at the very beginning there arises the question whether protection shall come first and payment afterwards, or payment first and protection afterwards. For the passage continues:—“Once a man after this fashion making a complaint, when the Maharajah was taking the rupee, closed his hand on it, and said, ‘No, first hear what I have to say.’”