Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECT. III. - An Essay on Government
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SECT. III. - Thomas Gordon, An Essay on Government 
An Essay on Government (London: J. Roberts, 1747).
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THis Remedy thus amended, served, while the World was in its Infancy, and the Produce of the Earth yielded the Inhabitants wherewith to live, within their several Family Districts; but when some Families began to be too populous to subsist on their Portions, without travelling farther, Disputes began to break out between the particular Members of different Families, which could not be decided in the common Manner, because the Parties acknowledged not a common Superior. These could be appeased by no other Means, than the appointing an universal Arbitrator, who might decide all Disputes between any Parties whatsoever.
But as this Power carried with it a Degree of Superiority over the rest, which Men are naturally very averse to submit to, in any one, especially when no Ties of natural Affection, or Gratitude, intervene, to balance their strong Love for those valuable Rights of universal Equality, and natural Independency, it is hardly to be imagined, that they would consent, to vest any one Man, naturally their Equal, with this Power; nor can it be thought, they would more readily lodge it in the universal Assembly of the Fathers of Families, exclusive of themselves, because they were under no natural Obligation to the major Part of the Members of such Assembly.
To sooth their Humour, and at the same Time both preserve Liberty, and prevent Licentiousness, an artificial Being was to be found out, who might answer all the Ends of a natural Superior, without being liable to the Objection of one Man’s assuming an Authority over another; and where else could this possibly be found out, than in the universal Assembly of all the Members of the different Families? to which Assembly, the Right of deciding all Disputes was translated from the several Fathers with whom it was before intrusted.
The Difficulty of convening so numerous an Assembly, or rather the Inconvenience the Majority of the Members found, in absenting themselves, from thair private Affairs to decide every Dispute that might arise, by Degrees tacitly restored this Power to the Elders, who could best spare Time to attend the Meeting, as their Age prevented them from vacating other Affairs: But yet tho’ they exercised this Power solely, it was far from being exclusive of the other Members, who could not, by Disuse, lose a Right, which by Nature was inherent in them: And an Incident which happened in a much later Period of Time, will be a very corroborating Proof of this Notion; we find both by the Roman Laws, Antiquities and History, that the paternal Power was carried to a much greater Height there than in any other State,—but yet we at the same Time find, that the unemancipated Sons had not only Voices in the Comitiæ, or General Assembly of the People, but Seats in the Senate, and were capable of bearing the highest Magistracy, tho’ for a long while, even the last of these Prerogatives, did not by any Means impair or lessen the Power a Father had over his Children* .
These were the Motives which first induced Men to submit their Actions to the Cognizance of a superior Being, and by this Method were they prevailed upon to constitute a Superior, because thereby they preserved their natural Rights of Equality, and had, or might have an actual Share, in all the Actions of the supreme Power: And thus we see, that of all Forms of Government the Democratic is the most antient, and that the supreme Power is vested in the Breast of the People—But let us trace this Matter a little further.
In Process of Time many new Colonies went out and formed Societies, resembling that from whence they came: After which, incited by Avarice, whole Colonies began to attack each other. The Power of Arbitration, the Execution of which was devolved to the Elders, could not be of any Service to preserve a Community from these Attacks; it was necessary therefore for the particular Members of each Colony or State, to surrender up another Degree of their natural Liberty to the universal Assembly, and agree on Measures to defend themselves, and constitute an executive Power to put those Measures in Execution, and permit this Power to do certain Things for the Good of the Community, and at the Order of the universal Assembly, as the Exigency of the Case demanded, which were restrictive of the natural Liberty of Particulars. Of this Nature was the military Power—But when once the Danger was removed, and the executive Magistrate had obey’d the Orders of the People, this extraordinary Power ceased, and could not be executed unless they received new Orders; so that whether this Power was lodged with one, whether with a select few, it can no ways prove that the supreme Power is not vested in the People.
[* ]§ 4. Inst. quib. mod. Jus Pat. Pot. sol.