Front Page Titles (by Subject) V.: That the requisite Securities are not found in a Union of the Three simple Forms of Government;—Doctrine of the Constitutional Balance. - Government
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V.: That the requisite Securities are not found in a Union of the Three simple Forms of Government;—Doctrine of the Constitutional Balance. - James Mill, Government 
Supplement to the Encyclopedia Britannica (London: J. Innes, 1825).
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That the requisite Securities are not found in a Union of the Three simple Forms of Government;—Doctrine of the Constitutional Balance.
The doctrine of the union of the three simple forms of Government is the next part of this important subject which we are called upon to examine.
The first thing which it is obvious to remark upon it, is, that it has been customary, in regard to this part of the inquiry, to beg the question. The good effects which have been ascribed to the union of the three simple forms of Government, have been supposed; and the supposition has commonly been allowed. No proof has been adduced; or if any thing have the appearance of proof, it has only been a reference to the British Constitution. The British Constitution, it has been said, is an union of the three simple forms of Government; and the British Government is excellent. To render the instance of the British Government in any degree a proof of the doctrine in question, it is evident that three points must be established; 1st, That the British Government is not in show, but in substance, an union of the three simple forms; 2dly, That it has peculiar excellence; and 3dly, That its excellence arises from the union so supposed, and not from any other cause. As these points have always been taken for granted without examination, the question with respect to the effects of an union of the three simple forms of Government may be considered as yet unsolved.
The positions which we have already established with regard to human nature, and which we assume as foundations, are these: That the actions of men are governed by their wills, and their wills by their desires: That their desires are directed to pleasure and relief from pain as ends, and to wealth and power as the principal means: That to the desire of these means there is no limit; and that the actions which flow from this unlimited desire are the constituents whereof bad Government is made. Reasoning correctly from these acknowledged laws of human nature, we shall presently discover what opinion, with respect to the mixture of the different species of Government, it will be incumbent upon us to adopt.
The theory in question implies, that of the powers of Government, one portion is held by the King, one by the Aristocracy, and one by the people. It also implies, that there is on the part of each of them a certain unity of will, otherwise they would not act as three separate powers. This being understood, we proceed to the inquiry.
From the principles which we have already laid down, it follows, That of the objects of human desire—and, speaking more definitely, of the means to the ends of human desire, namely, wealth and power—each of the three parties will endeavour to obtain as much as possible.
After what has been said, it is not suspected that any reader will deny this proposition; but it is of importance that he keep in his mind a very clear conception of it.
If any expedient presents itself to any of the supposed parties, effectual to this end, and not opposed to any preferred object of pursuit, we may infer, with certainty, that it will be adopted. One effectual expedient is not more effectual than obvious. Any two of the parties, by combining, may swallow up the third. That such combination will take place, appears to be as certain as any thing which depends upon human will; because there are strong motives in favour of it, and none that can be conceived in opposition to it. Whether the portions of power, as originally distributed to the parties, be supposed to be equal or unequal, the mixture of three of the kinds of Government, it is thus evident, cannot possibly exist.
This proposition appears to be so perfectly proved, that we do not think it necessary to dwell here upon the subject. As a part, however, of this doctrine, of the mixture of the simple forms of Government, it may be proper to inquire, whether an union may not be possible of two of them.
Three varieties of this union may be conceived; the union of the Monarchy with Aristocracy, or the union of either with Democracy.
Let us first suppose that Monarchy is united with Aristocracy. Their power is equal or not equal. If it is not equal, it follows, as a necessary consequence, from the principles which we have already established, that the stronger will take from the weaker, till it engrosses the whole. The only question, therefore, is, What will happen when the power is equal.
In the first place, it seems impossible that such equality should ever exist. How is it to be established? Or by what criterion is it to be ascertained? If there is no such criterion, it must, in all cases, be the result of chance. If so, the chances against it are as infinite to one. The idea, therefore, is wholly chimerical and absurd.
Besides, A disposition to overrate one’s own advantages, and underrate those of other men, is a known law of human nature. Suppose, what would be little less than miraculous, that equality were established, this propensity would lead each of the parties to conceive itself the strongest. The consequence would be that they would go to war, and contend till one or other was subdued. Either those laws of human nature, upon which all reasoning with respect to Government proceeds, must be denied, and then the utility of Government itself may be denied, or this conclusion is demonstrated. Again, if this equality were established, is there a human being who can suppose that it would last? If any thing be known about human affairs it is this, that they are in perpetual change. If nothing else interfered, the difference of men in respect of talents, would abundantly produce the effect. Suppose your equality to be established at the time when your King is a man of talents, and suppose his successor to be the reverse; your equality no longer exists. The moment one of the parties is superior, it begins to profit by its superiority, and the inequality is daily increased. It is unnecessary to extend the investigation to the remaining cases, the union of democracy with either of the other two kinds of Government. It is very evident that the same reasoning would lead to the same results.
In this doctrine of the mixture of the simple forms of Government, is included the celebrated theory of the Balance among the component parts of a Government. By this, it is supposed, that, when a Government is composed of Monarchy, Aristocracy, and Democracy, they balance one another, and by mutual checks produce good government. A few words will suffice to show, that, if any theory deserve the epithets of “wild, visionary, chimerical,” it is that of the Balance. If there are three powers, how is it possible to prevent two of them from combining to swallow up the third?
The analysis which we have already performed, will enable us to trace rapidly the concatenation of causes and effects in this imagined case.
We have already seen that the interest of the community, considered in the aggregate, or in the democratical point of view, is, that each individual should receive protection, and that the powers which are constituted for that purpose should be employed exclusively for that purpose. As this is a proposition wholly indisputable, it is also one to which all correct reasoning upon matters of Government must have a perpetual reference.
We have also seen that the interest of the King, and of the governing Aristocracy, is directly the reverse; it is to have unlimited power over the rest of the community, and to use it for their own advantage. In the supposed case of the Balance of the Monarchical, Aristocratical, and Democratical powers, it cannot be for the interest of either the Monarchy or the Aristocracy to combine with the Democracy; because it is the interest of the Democracy, or community at large, that neither the King nor the Aristocracy should have one particle of power, or one particle of the wealth of the community, for their own advantage.
The Democracy or Community have all possible motives to endeavour to prevent the Monarchy and Aristocracy from exercising power, or obtaining the wealth of the community, for their own advantage: The Monarchy and Aristocracy have all possible motives for endeavouring to obtain unlimited power over the persons and property of the community: The consequence is inevitable; they have all possible motives for combining to obtain that power, and unless the people have power enough to be a match for both, they have no protection. The balance, therefore, is a thing, the existence of which, upon the best possible evidence, is to be regarded as impossible. The appearances which have given colour to the supposition are altogether delusive.