Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECT. VII. - An Essay on Government
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SECT. VII. - Thomas Gordon, An Essay on Government 
An Essay on Government (London: J. Roberts, 1747).
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THus much, I fear too much, to defeat the false Pretensions of Monarchy to Antiquity: Let us now consider what further Progress was made in forming Governments, and finding Means for regulating and preserving them.
For a long Time as Armies were solely composed of the Members of the State, and as they served without Fee or Reward they required not an extraordinary Expence to be kept on Foot, till at length it was found necessary, not only to recompense those who lost their Time by following their military Employments, but to raise Mercenaries in Order thereby to prevent the Grounds at home becoming barren, and the Depopulation of the State by the long Absence of Husbands from their Wives.—This additional Charge required some Means to support it, the supreme Power therefore found it necessary to levy Taxes on the Particulars, and entrust the civil Magistrate with the Raising and Management of them, subject to accounting for such Management—That the People originally imposed all Taxes appears not only from Probability, but from the Nature of those antient Taxes we hear of in the Roman History, which were all very reasonable and proportionable to the Conditions of every one, and most of them perpetual, being neither arbitrary nor changeable* .
The superior Assembly (for to the executing Elders I give that Name,) having thus got Possession of the Nerves and Sinews of the State, had it more easily in their Power to betray their Trust and arrogate to themselves an Authority to which they had no Pretensions of Right, and usurp daily on the supreme Prerogatives of the People, by performing those Functions, which belonged solely to their Constituents, which they more easily could do, because the Increase of the Number of Citizens rendered the Meetings, of the supreme Council, more populous, more inconvenient; in some States the People were prevailed on to leave the convening of them, (on any Occasion that might require their Authority,) to the Senate whose Behaviour soon convinced them that their Credulity had been their Ruin, and their Magistrates by gradually increasing their own Power and decreasing the frequent Convening of the People, soon usurped all the Power and thus introduced Aristocracies into the World. To the great Number of Citizens who had a Right to assist at the Comitiæ do all Authors impute the Loss of the Roman Liberty, for by that Means the Senate got into their Hands those Branches of Power, I may say Tyranny, which the People had in the Infancy of the Republick made such glorious and successful Struggles to take from them.
By the long intrusting the supreme Magistrate with the Power of assembling and dissolving Parliaments at his Will, has this Nation been more than once in Danger of losing its Liberty.
Other People, indeed, had the Prudence to preserve themselves, by removing this Difficulty and Inconvenience of assembling the supreme Power, which they did by dividing themselves into Tribes* , and chusing Deputies from Time to Time to represent them, and this in most Places proved effectual.
Out of that tyrannical Form of Government an Aristocracy, sprung that still more tyrannical one, a Monarchy, either through the Ambition and Perfidy of some favourite General, or by Reason of the Dissentions of the Senators, or chiefly from the cruel and inhuman Oppositions of the Men in Power. No Wonder therefore, especially in the last Case, if the first Monarch found so little Resistance from the Particulars, who thought that there was very little Difference in being Slaves to the Will of one, or Power of many Masters, and had no Motive strong enough to make them resist the Charm of Novelty and trying the Experiment of a Change, which could not hurt tho’ it might better their Condition: To this Way of reasoning the French King is now beholden for his Throne, for had not the common People felt more the Oppressions of the Nobility and Clergy than those of the King himself, they would not have remained in that lukewarm State of Tranquility, which they did during the civil Wars against Mazarin, but heartily have joined those who at that time made such glorious Struggles to recover their Liberty.
In some Places the Tyrants preserved the Name of the Senate, nay, even flattered them with the Appearance of sharing their Authority; by this Means engaging the Rich to assist them in preserving their ill-gotten Power, and making them the Instruments of their Oppression. In those States which preserved their Liberty by reducing the Number of the particular Members of the supreme Power, the executive Power remained some Time in the Hands of the superior Assembly, the Members of which again increasing, made it necessary to limit their Number, but that Expedient not serving to prevent the many Dissentions which clogged and obstructed the executing the Orders of Government, the supreme Power conferr’d this Trust on one Member, giving him the superior Assembly for a Council; and on such a Scheme of Power with some Alterations is formed the Government of Kings, Lords and Commons.
Very probably at the first Institution of this Dignity it was only temporary, after that it was given for Life; but as every one aspired to gain that Trust, the Elections gave Room to many civil Feuds, Parties and Dissentions; to remedy which a Pre-election was found out by making this Trust hereditary, and either extending this Privilege to the Female, or restraining it solely to the Male Descendants of the present Chief.
Thus these chief forms of Government (if to comply with Custom we must call the two Tyrannies by that Name) arose, the first founded on the Fears and Apprehensions Mankind lay under from each other —and from a Desire to maintain their Possessions peaceably: The second from their Perfidy; and the last from Ambition and a Combination of Vices.
Tho’ this Account may to me seem very methodical and rational, it may no doubt be liable to many Objections, but I think it may be said, that there is in it no Opening to attack the Validity of the Convention whereon these Institutions are founded; nor doth it introduce any Arguments whereby to countenance either despotic Tyranny, or what is almost as bad anarchical Licentiousness.
[* ]Heinn. Ant Rom. ad [Editor: illegible word] Tom. I. p. 621.
[* ]By Tribes are here meant any inferior political Bodies.