EXECUTIVE POWER IN FREE COUNTRIES
We thought there would be some advantage in reproducing, without alteration, the first part of this essay, such as it was printed, but not published, twelve years since. We have not, at the same time, the foolish vanity to think that we can learn nothing in politics at a time so fertile in instruction; in which experience has overthrown so many theories, shaken so many principles, and shed so much new light on the character of men, and of institutions. On the contrary, we feel the necessity of going unceasingly to the school of time and of facts, and we have learned to distrust ourselves as much as others. As, however, in a long life, we have already frequently had occasion to place ourselves in opposition to the extreme opinions which have by turns been dominant, it gives us some satisfaction in comparing what we have alleged against opposite systems, to find that we have been consistent with ourselves; and we believe that our readers will have more confidence in us, when they find us the same after ten, twenty, and thirty years of study .
Besides, the end which we propose to ourselves now, as always, is not to present a theory, or new experiment on the constitution of power, but to make men feel in every country, that they ought to ameliorate the institutions they find established, instead of overthrowing them, in order to erect others; that the formation of social power is a work of time, which depends very little on legislators; that they ought, therefore, to receive it as a fact, which they can only modify for the common advantage; that by very different ways they may arrive at the same liberty, at the same improvement of social man; that there is in politics no orthodoxy out of which there is no salvation, and that even in admitting the ingenious theories by which every constitution has been explained afterwards, so much faith must not be given to them as to wish to transport them ready made, from one country to another. We can understand that one system may be less likely to be overthrown by experiments than another, and the revolutions, in the midst of which we have lived, have only served to confirm this.
J. J. Rousseau designated by the word Prince, that power, which in a free state, whatever else might be the nature of the government, had the office of directing the power of the community. There seems to us an advantage in preserving this denomination, preferably to that of Executive Power, more generally adopted at this time, but which supposes beforehand a division of functions which does not always exist. The Prince has often, in fact, an important part in the making of the laws, and he is not always exclusively entrusted with their execution.
The Prince, as he is the first in regard to the happiness of all, is in fact the most important of all the social powers; the existence of a community is a state of continual struggle with all its neighbours, with its own members, with nature itself. It must unceasingly defend its rights against the intrigues, the cupidity, the jealousy of other states, either by skilhd negotiations, or by open force; the prince who should he the intelligence and the will of this community, who should watch over it and direct its arm, who should give a common impulse to all its efforts, prevent or repress internal disorder, provide against the calamities of the seasons, the fury of the elements, or repair the disasters they have caused; the prince would need to know everything, to foresee everything; the slightest imprudence on his part may expose the citizens to enormous sacrifices, or to their complete ruin, and to that of their country; his arrogance may provoke war, his humility compromise honour; his versatility will cause loss of confidence in him; his prodigality will multiply expenses, or destroy resources; by parsimony in small economies he may abandon great advantages. There is not one quality, not one virtue which adorns the most distinguished character, which a nation ought not to desire in her prince, the absence of which may not be to her the cause of the cruellest suffering. Vigilance, prudence, constancy, valour, mildness, economy, order, and justice, are by turns required to govern men; and there is not a weakness or a fault of the prince which nations must not grievously expiate.
Political science does not teach us how it is possible to obtain so many brilliant qualities in a government; but it can show us at least what are the defects, what are the inconveniences almost always inherent in certain forms; it teaches us also from what elements of society certain qualities may be expected: it is to the classing of these results of theory, still more of experience, that we intend to devote the following pages.
The existence of the prince is rarely the result of the combinations of the legislator, the product of a charter; it is not by the words of a man, or of a law, that authority and obedience can be created. It is very well to acknowledge as a principle that order is necessary to society, that obedience guarantees the safety of each: all obedience occasions some disorder or some sacrifice, and if before resolving to obey, each one was to exsmlne whether it would be useful to himself, obedience would be very rare, and power could only proceed by the force of punishment. This is nearly the state of a nation after a revolution, or some great social convulsion: the habit of resistance is contracted, authority seems to have only the right to persuade; each order is followed by deliberation, by hesitation; and even should the revolution have established the most liberal principles of government, the prince will find it requisite to employ more restraint, more threats, more punishments to procure the execution of much less severe orders, than were before necessary to obtain the greatest sacrifices, when the illusion was complete, and when each of his injunctions seemed to be supported by all the weight of society. In general, power has been formed by a combination of accidents, which have consolidated it in certain hands. When it exists it may be made use of, it may be regulated, but it is never created.
We shall, however, study the origin of power, as if it were the effect of the will of the people, and we shall ask what is the presiding idea in each form of government, the idea which explains it; not that this idea has been really the cause of its origin, but because being satisfactory to the reason of men, it justifies their obedience, and preserves an order which it did not establish.
It is in this way that we shall consider the power of the people, as being the establishment of the first social power, if not according to the order of time, at least in that of our conceptions. No one, said men at the commencement of society, and especially when it regarded small nations still rude, where all felt themselves nearly equal in intelligence, and equally animated by common danger, no one can take a greater interest in us than ourselves; no one can conduct our affairs more diligently, or will be so incapable of being led astray, or bribed; we will bring to a common fund all our knowledge, all our prudence, as well as all our patriotism, and the sum of all will be greater than the portion of it possessed by the most distinguished man could be. We must have, it is true, chiefs to fight, judges to settle our differences, and secretaries to write our orders; but we will choose them ourselves, dismiss them when we please; we will never permit them to be anything but our clerks, the instruments of our will, and in every important circumstance, even in the army, even before a combat, we will vote before we act.
Such was nearly the origin and the constitution of the Grecian democracies, which on the frontiers of the Persian empire organized themselves to resist the Great King; of the small Swiss cantons which made head against the house of Austria; of the Suliotes, the Sphakiotes, the Maniotes, who maintained themselves against the Turks; the immensity of danger only allowed of one thought and one interest throughout the whole population; patriotism was carried to the highest point to which it has ever risen among men, and these small democracies shone forth with a virtue, a courage, and a devotion, which will for ever excite admiration.
But the danger did not continue for ever; equality, the consequence of their poverty, could not be maintained, and when they began to know the difference of rich and poor, they also became acquainted with different interests, as well as with different degrees of information, of experience, and of skill. Instead of being moved by one common will, which might be called unanimous, as in the time of patriotism and of danger, they were divided into majority and minority, still more into leaders and led; many then changed their government; some allowed the social bond to be slowly dissolved, as the Ætolians, and many nations of Greece, remaining without glory, and without cities; or, like the Grisons in our time, democratic liberty is preserved in the villages, but the prince, the social power, is nowhere.
Some republics maintained their democracy even in their highest civilization, and at their head shines Athens. The torch of mind and of philosophy then enlightened that form of government, and showed those qualifies of it which had not been divined beforehand. The first result of observation is, that the will of the people, as it manifests itself by votes, is not the sum of the wills and the intelligence of those who compose it, and that, in every deliberative assembly, the vote of each one on every decision which is to be made, is not identical with what would have been that of this same individual, if he had had to decide alone.
For the interests of morality, for the sake of the improvement of man, we must often combat selfishness, we must often require that utility, that a more immediate personal interest should be subordinate to the consideration of what is just and proper; that the individual should not see only his own safety, his own advantage, his own enjoyment, but that he should be accessible to the inspirations of imagination and of sensibility; that he should admire the beautiful for itself, that he should obey the charms of sympathy and benevolence; but continually meeting with selfishness in man, we do not, perhaps, sufficiently comprehend how necessary it is for the preservation of the individual, that self-interest should be an ever-vigilant sentinel at the bottom of his heart, to raise the cry of alarm when there is danger of his being sacrificed. It is a narrow and false philosophy which finds in self-interest the sole motive of our actions, but it would be denying evidence to refuse admitting its constant influence; we shall rather see in it a law of Providence for the preservation of the species, an ever-attentive monitor, like the fear of pain in the physical laws, without which we should not avoid evil in time to preserve our lives. Social bodies, formed by man, have need of this monitor, which God has put into the heart of every individual. There must be a national selfishness, which is not to decide alone, but whieh must be first heard in every deliberation. The Prince should he the organ of this selfishness: before every other thought he should be always alive to the interest of preservation in this body, under pain of soon seeing it perish.
Now experience has taught, that in democracies this feeling never presents itself the first. When all concur in power, no citizen strips off the individual self, to consider himself as government. Whereas, if the question is as to a decision to be taken for and by himself alone, he would see his own interest in the first place, then secondly, sympathy, sensibility, imagination, perhaps the sentiment of duty. At the moment when the citizen is called upon to vote with his fellow citizens on the conduct of the nation of which he forms a part, he sets completely aside, perhaps without perceiving it himself, the motives which determine his vote; or rather, he finds them in that order in which they relate to himself, and not to the nation. The interest of the nation discovers itself to him only in the third or fourth degree. He listens before everything else to his private interest, when by chance he finds it opposed to the public interest, on which he is going to give his suffrage; but afterwards he is influenced by all his other faculties undiminished, sympathy, generosity, anger, fear, the point of honour, the influence of eloquence or imagination. Every one speaks as loudly on public affairs as on private ones, whilst true public interest, national selfishness, is only felt last, and in proportion to the infinitely small part which the citizen, as a private man, feels in the decision which is to be made. Most frequently in public deliberations the citizen has only the most vague perception either of public interest or of his own private interest. He votes as a form, without calculation, without reflection, without fixing his thoughts, till the moment when his imagination, his sensibility, or his passions are excited; then only it is with his whole soul that he takes a part in the formation of the public will.
This supineness of national self-love, whilst all the other faculties are strongly excited, gives to the management of democracies a very peculiar character. The sovereign people, the nation as Prince, is much more susceptible of generous emotions than any other sovereign; but it also brings to the conducting of affairs much less steadiness and wisdom—it compromises itself, it exposes itself, and it brings upon itself calamities which a more constant remembrance of its own interests would have avoided. Its pity will be profound when the image of suffering is before it; its decisions, on the contrary, will be often cruel, if it is only by reflection, which it never knows, that it can imagine the evil which anger and offended pride, or vengeance, may induce it to commit. If the question is on a declaration of war, it will not calculate either the dangers or the sacrifices, because the individual risk of each citizen is very little, and his responsibility is still less, whilst the satisfaction which is caused by pursuing the dictates of passion is much more lively than if it regarded himself alone, for all passions are excited in a crowd. On the other side, when it becomes necessary to make peace, the sovereign people will perhaps humble itself more than any other sovereign, for it will then take counsel of fear, and fear is always contagious.
A very natural calculation has led to the supposition, that by uniting many heads much intelligence and many virtues are also united; experience alone has taught, that each one comes to the deliberation, from whence the common will must spring, with attention less strong, a will less firm, a less complete appreciation of consequences, than if he had to decide alone. His responsibility as to the event is diminished in proportion to the number of his colleagues; sometimes he attaches so little importance to it, that men have been seen to laugh at the folly they were going to commit. They laughed with Aristophanes at the image of the imbecile old man, Demos, which he presented to them; the most bitter derision flattered them, because they would only see that part of it which fell on others, though like them they contributed their share to making the vote irrational. Sometimes the citizen, through indolence of mind or from indecision, rests on others. Sometimes from a wish to shine he proposes the most hazardous resolution, that which will give the highest idea of his heroism, of his disinterestedness, without caring for the consequences. Sometimes, on the contrary, yielding to baser considerations, he will attach himself to the weakest, the most perfidious, the most cruel side, because, considering it as useful, he calculates that his name will be lost in the crowd, and that he shall escape blame. Sometimes, even, he will do both at a time, if the votes are secret; he will speak on one side for reputation, he will vote on the other for profit. All numerous assemblies which take a share in the government, may to a certain point give an idea of assemblies of the people, and France need only study the votes of the Chamber of Deputies to understand how a numerous body may show less knowledge of what it decides on, less consistency, less prudence and elevation of mind, than each one of the members of which it is composed would have shown if his opinion had been taken apart.
In every thing the sovereign people acts as a man would do who obeyed every motive to human action, except self-love; who should be deprived of this security to personal interest, which Providence has given to all for their preservation, and who consequently would continually risk his existence from generosity, from imprudence, or from passion. But the people as government, the nation as prince, as was the case in Athens, was besides exposed to all the seductions of power, to all the corrupting intrigues which elsewhere crowd and cross one another around kings, to obtain favours from them. The people of Athens elected generals, elected ambassadors, elected all the officers entrusted with the care of public works, with the police, with all the details of administration. Sometimes in choosing for the highest functions it showed great tact in discovering the most skilful; but often also it showed itself accessible to seduction, to flattery, to feasts, to gifts. It preferred an amusing man to a man of genius; it was infatuated with despicable favourites, such as Cleon, made famous by Aristophanes, and allowed itself to be led with as much folly as the most doting despot.
It was particularly as responsible for the safety of the state that the people of Athens exhibited a proof of the defects and dangers of democracy, whether in taking arms without sufficient motives, or in laying them down from panics; whether in ruining its allies by exacting from them exorbitant subsidies, or in dissipating its own finances in feasts and scenic games; whether by wreaking its anger on men scarcely guilty, or hiding with imprudent indulgence the most criminal enterprizes. Thus antiquity, then enlightened by experiments which are wanting in our days, stamped with unanimous reprobation democratic government, or the system which puts the executive power in absolute dependence on the people. It condemns the nation as prince, possessing the executive power, as being the most imprudent, the most inconstant, the most presumptuous in success, the soonest cast down by reverses, the most obstinate in refusing all taxation, at the same time the most prodigal in expense of any prince to whom men can be subject.
Contemporary observation, when it is applied to the small Swiss cantons, has not certainly such excesses to bring forward; but it is equally impossible to praise the prudence of democracies, whilst they can be reproached with that necessity in which all persons elected by the people find themselves, of flattering the passions of the multitude and yielding to their caprices; the difficulty of causing the laws and the magistrates to be respected by men, who after having made them think they have a right to unmake them; that want of discipline, which in the wars of the sixteenth century so often subjected the Swiss captains to the impetuous decisions of the Landsgemeinde assembled among their own soldiers; in short, that disposition to infatuation and to favouritism which, if it did not give tyrants to the cantons, as it did to the Greek democracies, subjected them, however, almost always to the dominion of some leader.
Whether the people have in themselves a feeling of their own incapacity to govern, of their sufferings under their own goverument, whether their disposition to infatuation has made them deposit all their prerogatives in the hands of a favourite, or a powerful man has raised himself by violence or cunning, in spite of the popular will, the government of one has always been founded on a principle diametrically opposite to that of government by all. Experience showed that each one did his part very ill in the affairs of all; they wished to try if one, more skilful, would not manage better the affairs of all when they became his own. If the head of the people came to regard the honour of the citizens, their power, their riches, as being his own, perhaps, like the good father of a family, he would only think of increasing them; at least he could no longer think of placing his own person and advantages in opposition to the persons and advantages of his subjects. Why, said they, to the man whom they entrusted with the care of their destinies, why do you wish to increase your treasures? Your wealth is ours; the more freedom you leave us the more will we labour for you, in a profitable manner. Why would you reserve your strength to bend our will? Our will is yours; all that you have decided is law to us. Why do you think of aggrandizing your children at our expense? Your children are ours; as you have been our master, they will be our masters in their turn. We abandon to you all our interests, that between you and us there may never be occasion to say mineand thine. Whether language may or may not have expressed these thoughts, whether the contract may or may not have been put into form, is of little consequence, it is the rational idea of despotism, it is the ground on which it is at this time defended, when its partisans or its servants endeavour to explain it.
There must always be a truth at the foundation of a system to which great masses of men attach themselves; and so large a part of the human race have lived, and still live under despotism, angrily resisting every attempt to make their escape from it, that a tree idea, perhaps even without their knowledge, must be the anchor to which it is attached. In fact, the necessity of blending personal interest with the interest of the state in the minds and feelings of its governors, is a true idea. Every one's business is no one's business. As long as each depository of power will weigh public good against private good, it may be possible, by awakening his virtue, his honour, to make him acknowledge the duty of preferring the first; but all his interests, all his natural appetites, will make him lean towards the second. If he yields to them, which most often happens, there will be corruptive waste of the public possessions; if he resists them weakly, which is more frequent still, there will be want of care, even if he triumphs over them; the double impulse will always make itself felt, and he will not give himself heart and soul to the public weal, as he would have done to his own.
But though an idea may be true, it is not therefore necessary that the system which rests on it should be true also. It does not suffice for a despot to say, Iétat, c'est moi (the state, it is I), or even always to act upon this idea, in order for the state to find that it is as much cared for as his own person. There are, in this I, noble passions and base passions, elevated sentiments and gross appetites. Now our experience teaches us, that a certain restraint is necessary to habituate man to prefer the first to the last, so that he who is habitually placed beyond and above all restraint, will most habitually make the contrary choice. I am the state, says the despot, but I prefer the pleasures of to-day to the hopes of to-morrow, and all the security which his subjects expected to derive from his foresight, are lost to them by this one choice; virtue gives place to licence, and one man is “seen to consume in a day what might have sufficed all for years. Iam the state, but I am tired of seeing that nothing resists me; I require stronger emotions, I require to conquer wills opposed to mine, which do not present themselves at home; I want the great gatae of war, it is so much the mere seductive to me, the more its chances are hazardous, and after all, that suffering which I run the risk of my provinces experiencing, does not disturb my sleep. Iam the state, but there are beyond this I, wills which resist me and which offend me so much the more, because I am accustomed to have every thing yield to me. I would give my blood, as I give that of my subjects, for revenge. And despots, in fact, have shown themselves luxurious, lrrodigal, greedy of war, vindictive, cruel, not like men in general, but infinitely more so, because they have infinitely more exoitement for their passions, infinitely less restraint to form their virtue or their understandings. The blending of the state with their person, can only increase the suffering of the first when they are stupid or vicious.
The same wearings of popular convulsions, the same impatience of reverses, brought on by faults continually repeated, which have led many nations to trust themselves in the power of one, decided others to have recourse to the direction of a small number of wise men, to commit, according to the etymology of the word, force, empire,χ[w5]άτος, to the best, to the most esteemed, Ἀ[w5]ιστοι; thus arose aristocracy,'Ἀ[w5]ιστοχ[w5]άτεια. The government of the people having constantly sinned, by its nature, against the principle of making the interests of the governed be cared for by the governors as their own, there was an endeavour to introduce even into the most democratic constitutions of which we have any knowledge, bodies made almost independent of the people, councils destined to temper their authority, and to limit their sovereignty. It was thought desirable also to give representatives and guardians to the spirit of conservatism, to introduce some fixedness, some memories of the past, some foresight of the future, amidst democratic fluctuations; above all, it was wished to devote to the worship of prudence, of constancy, of economy, some old men less accessible to enthusiasm, less influenced by eloquence, less greedy of the emotions of the imagination, than assemblies where all being admitted, the young necessarily formed the great majority.
If, even now that the chances of life have been so much increased by the progress of science in preserving health and of medicine, half the individuals who are born do not arrive at the age of thirty, old men must have been infinitely more rare in the origin of nations when the probabilities of tife were so much lower. Old men cast into the middle of an assembly where all the votes were equal, formed an imperceptible minority without any political influence; the assembly must, in spite of them, retain in its decisions all the impetuosity of youth. Happily that respect for grey hairs, which we seldom find now, was in the origin of society a corrective to this legal oppression of old age. Almost all nations, even those the most jealous of their liberty, felt that the advantages of the prudence and experience of old men would be lost, if their votes were only counted with those of the crowd, and if they were always thrown into the minority. Amongst almost all nations, the name of the first social distinctions points out that they were bestowed on old age. The names of gerontes, of senators, of patricians, of seigneurs, of aldermen, all present the same idea. By making a separate body of old men, and calling upon it to give its approbation before or after the vote of all the rest, it was only putting them on a footing of equality with the generation which would soon follow; but the certainty of hearing their opinion was secured, since experience had taught that the qualities and defects of advanced age, are in general in contrast to those of the majorities where the young rule.
However, nowhere, perhaps, was age the only distinction required in order to admit old men into those senates, into those aristocratic bodies which were intended to balance the power of the people. The progress of age, which ripens and purifies elevated minds, weakens, on the contrary, and renders inert, those of ordinary qualities; it was not desirable to make dotage a support to the republic; a choice was necessary; always and everywhere the object was to find in what way to distinguish the wisest and most virtuous, that to them alone might be intrusted that moderating power the want of which was acknowledged. Above all, it was desirable that they should not be nominated by the people, for it was felt, that barriers which the people raised, changed, and overthrew at their pleasure, would be no security against their caprice. If the senators were elected by the people, at least it was desirable that it should be for life, to make them thenceforward independent of their electors; or that to the senate should be left the right of renewing itself; or at least that it should present candidates to the people, or choose from candidates named by the people. It was important to inspire those elected by such means with a sense of the value of their body, which might give them energy enough to say to the popular assembly, So far shalt thou go, and no farther.
We have said that there is not one of the democracies whose spirit we have endeavoured to explain, in the midst of which has not been seen to arise some aristocratic body, some senate commissioned to assist and direct the magistrates in whom we recognize the more immediate deputies of the people. The inconsistency, the caprice, and the improvidence of popular assemblies were so notorious, that no democracy thought it could dispense with these preservers of national prudence; but the jealousy excited by every distinction, the impatience which withstood any resistance, most frequently did not permit the senates to use their prerogatives: they were immediately attacked by the demagogues in the name of the sovereignty of the people, and the flood soon overturned the dike which they had made efforts to raise; thus the greater part of the Greek cities, of Athens, and the small Swiss cantons, remained democracies in spite of the weak aristocratic institutions which they had introduced into their constitutions.
But it was not long before there were nations who said to the aristocracies as others had said to the despots, “ Look upon us as your property, take care of us as if we were your inheritance; do not put your interest in opposition to ours, for we desire that our wealth should always be at your disposal, that our valour should extend your empire, that our glory should be yours, and that you should always be the organ of our will.” Nations in consternation at some calamity which they had drawn upon themselves, ashamed at the results of their deliberations, irritated by the vices and deceptions of their deputies, pass, sometimes with extreme rapidity, from one excess to another. After having felt the most violent jealousy of all inequality, of all distinction, they are all at once disgusted with themselves, they despond under reverses, they see in their own counsels only error and incapacity, and they throw themselves, blinded and without conditions, into the hands of those they think more skilful; but when they have once abandoned themselves to an aristocracy, it is no longer in their own power to get rid of it themselves.
Before going farther, it is necessary to protest against an abuse of language which the passions of our own times have introduced, and which makes it impossible to arrive at any clear idea on constitutive policy. We have seen not only what was the sense of the word aristocracy, the power of the best, but also what was its origin, what was the end designed for this power, distinction in old age. There exists, however, especially in modem society, a class whose origin is quite different, whose spirit is still more different; it is nobility, which almost all the world agrees to call also aristocracy. The nobility of monarchies has a double origin: part of it is feudal; it was not created for any social object, but has created itself. Amidst the convulsions of a society, which was falling into dissolution, chiefs of soldiers, and masters of slaves, seized on land sufficient to maintain the troop of men eager to obey them; they built strong castles, where they could brave every foreign attack; they persuaded those among whom they divided their lands, that it was they who fed them, and they founded their dominion on interest, force, and fear: feudalism was a federation of small despots; the good or the evil which it has done has no resemblance to the republican origin of aristocracy. On this feudalism has been engrafted, for the last four centuries, a more recent nobility, produced by the favour or service of courts, and by servility in employments given or sold by the monarch. This courtier nobility and this law nobility has also no relation to the aristocracy of republics; their qualities and their defects have quite opposite characters, and the results of experience as applied to aristocracy cannot be applied to nobility without sanctioning the most false ideas. We must submit, however, to this perversion of language, the result of political passions, which has made aristocrat and gentleman into two words almost synonymous, since we have no other to designate those peculiar creations of a totally different system, the aristocracies of Greece, and Rome, of Venice and of Berne, which present results so worthy of being studied among the elements of government.
Republican aristocracy, that is to say, the concentration of power in the hands of a body of old men, chosen as being the most able, has always, both in its virtues and its defects, presented a character diametrically opposite to that of democracy. In fact, whilst the simple citizen comes to the popular assembly with a vague desire to do what is best for his country, a desire modified, however, by his personal interest, always present to his mind; whilst scarcely interrupting his daily occupations, he preserves in regard to public affairs only an uncertain recollection of the past, has no fixed system for the present, and feels the vanity of thinking for the future; the senator, on the contrary, has made these public functions the passion of his life, and has prepared himself for them in his youth, as for the highest distinction which he can obtain in his country, the reward of all his efforts: the interest of the body to which he belongs, or the interest of the public weal which he regards as the interest of that body, surpass personal interest in his mind. That national self-love which is absolutely wanting in democracies, which is found in monarchies, but blind and corrupted, is the soul of aristocracies; it is the sole object of every mind, and of minds exercised by collision, by the study of tradition, and by emulation. It must not be expected from the senates of aristocracies, that they should listen either to generosity or gratitude, or pity, in preference to public utility; sympathy scarcely acts on them; eloquence, far from influencing them, excites their distrust; the private conscience of each senator is reduced to silence by that name of country or public good, which with all presents the idea of their first interest and their first duty. The only virtue of aristocracies is their love of this country, such as they have made it; but their qualifications are numerous, and such as are found in no other government. The most able men in the nation applying their thoughts unceasingly to calculate the results of every circumstance, the republic acquires a treasure of skill and experience, and transmits it as a tradition uninterruptedly to posterity; it embraces with its observing glance all the past, and all the future. The conduct and the spirit of monarchies are seen to change with every reign, or even to be modified from year to year, as the prince advances in age; popular assemblies are seen to run from one extreme to another, according as they yield to the impressions of the imagination, of sensibility or of passion; but the senate of an aristocracy rests immoveable in the same idea; the successive renewal of its members does not change its spirit, which the dying transmit, with their experience, to their successors, as a sacred inheritance; their prudence, their moderation in success, their constancy in reverses, make part of this immoveable system; in fact, the average of the wisdom of the wisest of a nation must always be the same.
When the people said to kings that they gave themselves to them for ever, kings believed it, and soon fancied that they had a divine right to their subjects. When the people held the same language to aristocracies, they were never deceived by it, they felt that they held their power on account of their superior ability: seeing the people asleep, they did not forget the force which they might show on awakening; and they guarded particularly against everything which might excite their passions. Distrustful and cruel in regard to affairs of state, they wished to prevent the first attacks on their authority by a system of spies and by the fear of punishment; but when their prerogative did not seem in danger, they mainrained equal justice with a vigorous hand; in economy, in the order of their finances, they surpassed all known governments, for they dreaded, above everything, to have to ask money from the people. They wished to impress on the governed fear and respect for the governors; at the same time they endeavoured to efface the idea of individuals, and to present to the mind only the abstract idea of the republic or of her image, the lion of St. Mark, the boar of Berne; no name is brought forwards; the object of all usages is an endeavour to maintain equality on two levels, one among those who command, the other among those who obey. With this object aristocracies have invented sumptuary laws, that the senators, their wives, and their children might never excite the jealousy of the people by their dress or their equipages; in almost all the aristocracies of Italy and Switzerland they were allowed to wear in the city only a uniform dress, simple, and of the colour of black; the Venetians added to this the custom of never appearing in public without a mask, that a rich or powerful man might not have the same wish to shine, since he must not be known.
Even in republics might be distinguished the aristocracy of bodies and that of races; in some, the power and the life of the state might be found concentrated in elective bodies; in others they were preserved in hereditary races. Under whatever form the government of a small number presents itself, its great aim always was, even in spite of the laws, to restrict its distinctions to some families only. But aristocracy is not Powerful, is not able, is not enriched by virtues peculiar to itself, unless election alone, distinguishing merit, opens the door of councils. It becomes corrupt, on the contrary; it tends already towards ruin when it becomes an aristocracy of race, when to be born of a patrician family is enough to be secure of arriving at power. Aristocracy is the most durable of all governments; but as all human things decay, aristocracies also fall when they seek to be confounded with the nobility of monarchies; they fall when yielding entirely to the inclination to shut themselves up in the restricted circle of some families, they admit the inheritance of power without election, and lose the stamp of age which election had impressed on them. In wonderful Venice, eldest daughter of the Roman empire, who long maintained herself on an equal footing with the most powerful monarchies, after twelve centuries of wisdom, the spirit of family distinction was seen to acquire the ascendancy over the spirit of civic bodies: then private cupidity divided the riches of the state; then young Venetian gentlemen, who were required only to prove their birth and their age of twenty-five, in order to admit them to the councils, displayed their vices and their insolence before the eyes of a people whom they had accustomed themselves to despise; and the old senators, no longer daring to depend on the virtue of former times, themselves favoured the public license, that no one might have a right to reproach the aristocracy with the corruption of manners.
Even at the period when aristocracies are in possession of all their virtue, they do not answer the end which a nation ought to propose to itself in its government. No doubt when men are forgotten, that the state only may be thought of, no form of government can be found which secures it more vitality; it scarcely ever experiences any changes; it knows no internal disturbance of any kind; it provides for the safety, the prosperity, even for the splendour of the state, at less expense than any other; it takes care of the physical interests of the nation; it protects and develops its commerce and agriculture; it maintains it in peace and abundance, with honour and without sacrifices; but it opposes an almost insurmountable obstacle to that moral improvement which is also one of the great objects of association. The views of the citizens are continually circumscribed and brought down to the earth; all mental activity, all distinction excites the jealousy of power, all glory is a beginning of danger; and as soon as a citizen leaves the path which is traced out for him before-hand, he feels himself watched, persecuted, oppressed by an invisible but all powerful enmity; there no longer exists for him liberty, justice, or safety, by his domestic hearth; he is not secured by any of the common laws of humanity; the state requires, in order to be great, that all men should be small.
Till our time at least, it has been a truth long acknowledged, that none of the three simple forms of government were suited to secure to a nation what it always ought to propose to itself, the union of happiness and improvement. It was a truth acknowledged by the philosophers of antiquity, as wen as by all the publicists of the last century, that a really wise, free, and protecting constitution could only be formed by borrowing what was best from each of these three forms. Thus, in reviewing them, we have not so much proposed to ourselves to confirm this often repeated truth as to seek in each form its prominent virtue, to observe the qualities and advantages which it is desirable to borrow from each, in order to arrive at a wisely balanced constitution. However, a new system seems to prevail at this time under the name of Sovereignty of the People; it again questions all those truths so long established by experience. The violent revolution which has withdrawn the French nation from the yoke, and still more from the insolence of a feudal and comfier nobihty, has left wounds in all hearts; both parties, yielding to their hatred of one another, do not understand how they can concur in the same government. It is often repeated, that the nobility is as nothing in the customs and manners of this age, that it is dead, that its influence is extinguished for ever. Nevertheless, judging by the jealousy with which it is continually watched, by the hatred which bursts forth whenever it gains some distinction, it must be acknowledged that it still acts strongly on popular feeling; but what is strange is, that since it was attacked with that war-cry, à l'aristocratie, no other aristocracy has been acknowledged. In vain it takes for its characteristic the hierarchy of rank and of inequality; in vain it thinks to shine only by elegance, bravery, frivolity, obedience; it calls itself faithful, it calls itself young and brilliant. It is from such an aristocracy that those aristocracies are judged of, whose characteristics are the morose prudence of old age, the pride which acknowledges no superior, the suppression of all splendour and of all pomp, the practice of ceonomy and silence; it is almost established as a principle, that no aristocracy of any kind can be admitted into a free government. The monarchical element, it is true, is called upon to form a part of it conjointly with the popular element, but at the same time to the king must be left neither independence nor the right to have a will; he is only required to name the ministers which are pointed out to him by opinion, on the condition that he shall dismiss them when they have lost the favour of a purely popular assembly. The foundation is laid in the sovereignty of the people, but a confusion of ideas is thus produced which would soon deprive the” people of their liberty. Without doubt the constitutional organization of a nation, the legitimacy of all the powers she contains in her bosom, and which ought to concur in guarding and securing her happiness, exist in the name of the national will expressed or understood; for the sole end of their creation has been the greatest good of all, their only right to existence is still this greatest good. This sovereign will, also manifests itself sometimes in the midst of revolutions, a terrible remedy for extreme evils, for it then overturns long before it reconstructs. But this sovereignty, which has established the very bases of society, must not be confounded with that popular action which is exercised by forms predetermined by the constitution; then democracy is not the whole nation, the sovereign nation, it is only one of the voices which concur in the expression of the national will. It must be independent, but it must also allow their independence to the monarchical element, to the aristocratic element; if it governs them, if it pretends to exercise sovereignty over them, there is no longer any balance, there is no longer any constitution, there is no longer the possibility of government.
Thus it seems to us that the party which, calling itself republican, inscribes on its banners equality, makes a republic impossible. “Government,” we heard the Emperor Napoleon say during the hundred days, “government is like navigation, there must be two elements to be able to navigate; there must be two also to direct the vessel of the state, so that one may be a counterpoise to the other. Balloons can never be directed, because floating on only one element there is no fulcrum to resist the tempests which agitate this element. In the same way there is no point d'appui, no possibility of direction in pure democracy; but by combining it with aristocracy, one is opposed to the other, and the vessel is directed by contrary passions.” Let us resume these divers elements which it is necessary to unite in the constitution of the state, and let us see under what relation each of them is fitted to concur in the common object, the happiness and the improvement of all.
The interest of all demands one share of the government for the monarchical element, or, that in a certain number of circumstances power should be assigned to the will of one, rather than to the will either of a council or of a body. We have already seen how far the result of a common deliberation is from presenting the sum of the prudence or virtue of all those” who took part in it, how far each voter is from preparing his vote by an attention as intense, an appreciation as complete, of all the points of view of the question, as profound a feeling of his responsibility, as if the decision rested on him alone. To these motives to refer the command to one only, (it is the proper and etymological sense of the word monarchy,) is joined the necessity of prompt decision, of entire secrecy, the necessity of calling to the assistance of the state, that devotion, that enthusiasm with which one man only, by his personal qualities, can inspire other men; the need to profit by that penetrating glance with which a man discovers the talents, the virtues and defects of others, which cannot be rendered into language, and which cannot be appreciated by a council; the necessity of placing on the theatre of action a judge and appreciator of merit, who will know how to reward it.
In war, that most important and most critical function of government, when the existence of a state depends perhaps on the quick penetration of the prince, on the promptitude and secrecy of his decisions, the necessity of recurring to monarchical power has been universally felt. It is in war that all the energy of a nation is called into action, when all the citizens are called upon to make the greatest sacrifices, when they must stake, without hesitating, their fortunes, their liberties, their lives; all the advantages which social order is required to secure are then abandoned to the discretion of government, and the consequences of its faults would be terrible. It is the moment, however, when the freest nations have felt the necessity of laying aside' their mistrusts, of abandoning themselves without reserve to the power of one, and of redoubling the severity of discipline that the habit of discussion and disobedience may not pass from public assemblies to the camp.
In the origin of society, judicial power was also habitually confided to the prince. Let us choose a king to judge us, is the cry which history ascribes to more than one nation. In fact, judicial decisions require that unity of appreciation, and that undivided responsibility, which can only' be found in an individual and not in bodies. At the conclusion of our long series of experiments, Bentham, who had made tribunals his principal study, and whose opinions are more democratic than those of any other philosopher, requires as a security for the knowledge, attention and conscientiousness of the judge, that he should be always alone in his tribunal. Society appeared to him to require, both the complete independence of the judge as regards the sovereign people, as well as of every other sovereign, and an unreserved confidence in his individual conscience, that his judgments may be guaranteed by his character, by his convictions, and by his moral responsibility. This appeal which nations have thought it best to make to the knowledge and conscience of the individual, to the monarchical element, in giving judgment, is found even in the institution which seems most to deviate from it, and whose singnlarity must be explained by this principle. The English have formed their jury of twelve persons, but they are required to decide unanimously; it is because they have no confidence in deliberations, or in the majority of an assembly; they appeal to the conscience of one man only; they wish each citizen to decide by his own understanding, and without regarding the opinion of another; but they require that this individual judgment should be twelve times repeated, because the question being on the evidence of a fact, they supposed that these twelve individual judgments ought to be all alike.
In all prompt decisions, on all occasions regarding public safety, the monarchical power is also called upon to act independently, in order to procure for a great nation all the advantages of the quick and comprehensive view, the promptitude and energy of one single man: in all negotiations with foreign nations, the necessity is equally felt of perfect secrecy, of prompt decision, of bringing under one point of view, and regarding in the same spirit, all the questions and all the interests which are in suspense.
If the individual to whom the command has been decreed cannot alone fulfil all the functions which the community requires from one man, the same motives seem to exact that at least he should nominate the other individuals who are to stand in his place: such are all those who will be called on to act alone, to exercise personal authority; all those who in any way represent him, and are vice monarchs, all officers of the army and navy, all judges, all defenders of public order, all ambassadors, agents, and those employed in negotiations with foreign eountries.
It is impossible not to be alarmed at this enumeration merely of the monarchical functions. The nation is called upon to place in the hands of her chief, all her means of defence or power, whether in her interior, or in her armies, or in her relations with foreign nations, but there is not one which may not occasionally become a means of attack against her and against her liberties; there is not one of them which does not, by the enjoyment which it is the means of procuring, excite in him with whom it is deposited, a longing to increase it, and to appropriate it to himself; there is not one which does not, by the contests in which it engages him, accustom his mind to the desire of suppressing all resistance. Though liberty may also perish by the usurpation, or by the faults of the two other powers, yet it is against the enterprizes of the monarchical power that the nation should habitually be on her guard.
The limitations attached to monarchical power are of several kinds; the most important is that which relates to its duration; since on that is founded the distinction between republics and monarchies. In many free states, the royal power has thus been divided between two equal clfiefs; in many, a senate is associated to the chief, so that the latter exercises only those functions in which all consultation would be impossible, whilst with respect to others the authority of the head is watched and limited by the aristocracy of bodies in republics, by the aristocracy of race in monarchies; in short it has often been made impossible for monarchs to exercise those functions which seemed created only for a single person.
I repeat it; among these different systems I do not pretend to decide which is best. I believe that in every nation a system has almost always been founded on antecedent ones; that facts govern it, that powers existed before a nation was called upon to give laws to herself, and that the great skill of the legislator consists in respecting these facts, in profiting by these powers, and in placing the future in harmony with the past. But I am a republican as regards Switzerland, and Geneva, my country; I am one as regards America and all new countries; I am one as to all countries so entirely overthrown by revolutions that the vestiges of the past have disappeared; I am one by all those recollections of love, duty, and gratitude, which connect those of my family with the republics of Pisa and Geneva. I think liberty equally possible in a constitutional monarchy as in a republic; I think this road to perfection the most sure for many nations; but if it was attempted to introduce it into my country, I hope there is not a Swiss who would not be ready to sacrifice fortune and life rather than submit to the establishment of a king.
We have seen that what constitutes the monarchical element is unity of will, and not duration. This unity may be found not only in a president chosen for four or eight years, as in the United States, but in two consuls nominated for a year, as at Rome. The consuls in fact did not deliberate together, did not act by a common will; each was king over his own part and in that province assigned to him; each was king, and exercised all the royal functions according to his own ideas, by his own will; each one was supreme chief of the army, supreme head of justice, and till the time of the institution of praetors, supreme head of the administration to ward off any injury which might threaten the republic; alone called on to name all subordinates in the army, all agents in foreign negotiations. The equality between the consuls and their independence of one another was considered as a guarantee against the usurpation of either of them; and in fact, though always at the head of armies, though often intoxicated with victory, during four hundred and twenty-two years they were never seen to attempt to make themselves absolute, or to perpetuate their power; the bosom of their country was never torn by civil war. No other government in the world has been so long secured against all temptations to usurpation: when the securities no longer sufficed, it was because Rome, corrupted by the dominion of the universe, was no longer susceptible of any good government.
Without doubt, one of the principal causes of the long duration of Roman liberty, and of the impossibility of attacking it, which was felt by all those with whom the monarchical power was deposited, even when this power was united in the hands of a dictator, was the strong constitution of the aristocratic element in the hands of the senate. In fact, the constitution of Rome was so admirably balanced, that the consuls exercised the whole of the powers, which for the good of all are better placed in the hands of one than of many, and the senate exercised all those in which aristocratic bodies display their peculiar virtues, and show their superiority over the power of one person, or that of the people. The consuls gave to the republic great military talents, unity of views, promptitude of decision, secrecy, tact to choose men and to decree rewards; the senate gave to Rome immoveable constancy to one system, the treasure of ancient traditions, a great school of political talent, constant vigilance mingled with some jealousy, order, economy, and modesty in manners. The people finally, by their direct participation in the sovereignty through the elections and through legislation, gave to Rome a security for the liberty of all, formed a barrier against every usurpation, and impressed each citizen with the sentiment of the high dignity of his character.
Two things are necessary for the constitution of the monarchical element in a free government; first, that the man on whom is conferred the power of one should be well chosen, that he should really have the talents, the virtues, the superiority of soul and mind, to which alone a nation should confide the decision of its gravest interests, and the care of its destinies; afterwards that such as he was when chosen, such he should remain. The attainment of these two objects is sought by the aptitude for power in him who is chosen, and by limiting the duration of his functions.
We have already had occasion to observe, in order to reduce to their just value the pretended advantages of the representative system, that to delegate a power is not the same thing as to keep it, and that because a nation has herself chosen her sovereign, it does not thence follow that she is sovereign. Thus we do not accuse of usurpation those who have obtained for themselves, or who have conferred on others besides the people, the right of electing the prince, if they have been able to succeed in procuring a succession of able and virtuous chiefs. Nevertheless, we believe that it is particularly in choosing the head of the government, that the discernment of the people may be most confidently reckoned on. The qualities required in the prince, in the head of an army, are almost always brilliant; often he must act by that sympathetic power which electrifies the masses, which impels them to great actions. He must have that quick glance, that decision of character, that instantaneous intelligence, that facility of elocution, above all, that valour which the people love in their favourites. A man great in action, makes himself remarked almost immediately in the crowd, whilst a great legislator may remain long unknown. Little intrigues, little rivalshlps, may decide what men are of note, but glory is independent of strict calculation, and the public voice which proclaims it is impartial. If there is a great man in a nation, a unique man, we think it probable that popular suffrage will point him out.
The only way of calling in the democratic element to a share in the constitution of the Prince, is to give to it the privilege of electing him. We have seen how variable, inconsiderate, passionate, the people show themselves in the exercise of power: they can neither govern themselves, nor watch over the government, without exposing the state to those convulsions which the democracy of Athens experienced in her worst days. They cannot even be associated in it without usurping all, by a false application of the dogma of their sovereignty, without reducing the prince to the functions of a clerk, with the threat of being dismissed for disobedience. Nevertheless, the people have virtues which are natural to them, and which the two other elements of government do not possess. They only by their indirect action, are capable of keeping the prince in the way of justice, of virtue, and of honour; it is the representative of these principles that they will seek in choosing their head. They may be deceived, it is true, in their choice, but that the consequences of this error may not be long, that their rights may not become illusory, in short, that the chosen by the people may not have time to change his character, the functions of prince must not be conferred upon him for too long a time.
The head of a small state should be in office for a shorter time than that of a larger one. The commotion excited in the republic by the entrance into office of the Gonfaloniere and of the Signoria, which was changed every two months at Florence, Lucca, Pisa, Sienna, and almost all the Italian republics, began and ended the same day; it will last, perhaps, a month in the immense extent of the United States, of Columbia, of Rio de la Plata; the president, therefore, is nominated for three years. When the Roman republic was of hnmeasureablc extent, the power of the consuls was extended beyond the year, by constituting them proconsuls. There are, however, limits to this duration, and when the French republic named her consuls for ten years, she might expect with certainty, that before the term of their functions was expired they would demand to be consuls for life.
The same republic had before made as imprudent an experiment of another theory, that of entirely suppressing monarchical power, by the institution of the Directory, and the bad success of this experiment had a great share in disgusting France with a republican government. The constitution of the year 3, repudiated in every case all those advantages which are attached to the command of one. The individual never appeared; the Prince was a body of five members, renewed successively, and by rotation. This renewing, which changed the majority every year without changing the body, must bring on revolutions, and did bring them on; but the organization was bad in every way. We have endeavoured to show the difference in the spirit with which a man decides for himself alone, and that with which he votes in a body of men. When this body is so small as the Directory was, new inconveniences present themselves; then the members make reciprocal concessions, sometimes of opinions, sometimes even of interests; between two extreme opinions they take the mean, although often less rational than the other two: the members assist one another in doing what they call business, escaping under a collective name from every honourable responsibility; then as they have never completely approved the resolutions in which they have concurred, they are the first to blame them when they do not succeed; and if the Directory fell into universal contempt, it must not be forgotten among the causes of this discredit, that it began by despising itself.
An expedient of a quite opposite nature has been much more frequently practised, that of elective monarchy for life; we have considered this at length in the first pare of this essay. It will have been remarked that this government was much more frequently the result of extraordinary circumstances, than of a clearly conceived system to temper monarchical authority by the assistance of the aristocracy and democracy of the country. Most frequently it must be regarded as the corrective of an ancient usurpation. Here the elective king was the chief of a confederation of princes, there the head of a body of priests, elsewhere of a nobility which might be regarded as the army of the country. If, however, we wish to find a philosophical idea in order to explain royalty for life, we must believe that it was proposed to satisfy so amply the ambition and the passions of the elective chief, that there would be no necessity for any struggle against him. The constant efforts of elective monarchs, sometimes to emich and aggrandize their families, sometimes to ensure their succession to the crown, show that this calculation was deceptive; whilst the nation, nevertheless, submitted to see those functions which require most vigour and activity, performed by the imbecility of sickness or old age.
There is little probability that an elective monarchy for life will ever be proposed in our times; but we have seen during a short space of time a great number of monarchs elected for the purpose of founding new dynasties: several have fallen without transmitting their crown to their heirs; but several others, in France, in Belgium, in Sweden, in Greece, still reign, and it will not be nninteresting to fix our attention on their double character of elective and hereditary kings.
Election, when it is not imposed by foreign force, always gives an able monarch, often a great man: it fulfils, therefore, completely the object proposed by calling to the head of the state the talents and decision of a single man; it gives to the monarchical principle all its vigour, at least as long as the chosen of the nation preserves the faculties for which he was chosen. Hereditary succession, on the contrary, may augment the lustre of the monarchical principle, but it destroys its efficacy; all that can be expected from the chances of hereditary succession is, that the man, born for the throne, shall be equal to any man drawn by chance from the crowd. Without doubt he will have in his favour the education of royal preceptors, who will give him the polished manners and the superficial knowledge of a gentleman; hut against him the education of the courtiers and ladies of the court, who have no surer road to their own advancement than by flattering his vices; he will have against him the intoxication of power, universal flattery, the habit of seeing all yield to his will. An enumeration of the mad or imbecile monarchs which Europe has seen during the last hundred years, would only too well prove that the chances of hereditary succession are more unfavourable to royalty than if drawn by lot from the crowd.
From this truth, never proclaimed, though known by all the world, must flow this inevitable consequence, that in hereditary monarchies, even the most absolute, the king reigns, hut he does not govern. According to the degree of respect for public opinion which is maintained in the palace, the royal power is delegated, either to ministers more or less enlightened, to favourites, or to mistresses, to freedmen, or to eunuchs. From the absolute but liberal monarchy of Prussia, to the harems of Constantinople or of Ispahan, we must not flatter ourselves that we shall find the monarchical element; all the advantages of entrusting the destinies of the state to one firm, enlightened will, disappear at the moment when the monarch resigns his power, whether he assists in council or not, whether he signs the orders of his ministers, or is ignorant of them. In the only monarchy which has given to Europe the model of what is now called constitutional government, this humiliating result of hereditary incapacity has been changed into a rule, into a maxim of liberty. A king of England contents himself with ordering a minister to form a cabinet under his responsibility, and thenceforth the minister no longer allows his master to meddle with any of the details of government. This minister becomes the elective king, he takes upon himself the whole plan of government, he puts it in action, and he must not permit any of his colleagues to dispute his will, without running the risk of anarchy. It is a temporary royalty, like that of the consuls at Rome; only the duration of power is sometimes shorter, and its term is uncertain. When in 1814 France saw an hereditary dynasty reascend her throne, she wished to adopt the rule of that monarchy which served her as a model; a rule which seemed, besides, suitable to the age and indolence of the new kings; but whether it was that these would not divest themselves absolutely of power, or that they did not understand the advantage of delegating it, that it might not be divided, or that the vanity of the ministers would not yield an entire obedience to their chief, it became impossible to give to the cabinet that unity which is only. found in individual power. It was a body like the Directory which governed, and the monarchical element was really excluded from the government of France. The executive power, losing personal unity, had no longer that powerful conservative interest wlfich it comprehended in the I myself, no longer the prompt will, no longer any secret thought, secure from being revealed by discussion, no longer the sentiment of duration: a minister may any day be overthrown; the future is unknown, he continually sacrifices it to the present; he lives from day to day, aware that he is not like the consuls, sure even of a year in which to establish his glory.
But an elective monarch is a being of quite another nature; he has always in himself the power of mind and character which has secured his election; and even when he has obtained the promise that his posterity shall reign after him, the ability which has raised him to the situation he is in, is not at all diminished, and his interest in maintaining himself in it is, on the contrary, increased. His great business is to preserve a throne on which he does not feel himself very firmly fixed, and it is absurd to require him not to meddle in its affairs, not to look after them. It is probable that he understands his position much better than any of his ministers, that he will become, consequently, the soul of government, that he will keep to himself the direction of it, and that his ministers must confine themselves to obeying him. This has been seen in William the Third, in Napoleon, in Louis Philippe. It will always be seen, when kings have ascended the steps of the throne by their own energy, instead of being placed on it.
In France, the king reigns and governs; it is a fact which the minister does not deny, but which, however, excites the clamours of all the constitutional school, for it overturns the system of balance which they imagined they had brought from beyond seas. What becomes of the difference between the king and the government, between the respect and silence which is due to one, the liberty of attack and discussion retained against the other? What becomes of the responsibility of ministers who cannot be punished for their obedience to the king without a crying injustice? What becomes of the balance which was thought to be established between the king and the people, when the first is endowed with ability, firmness, and address, which the chances of hereditary succession would not have brought to the throne in a thousand years; and if the balance is to be reformed according to the measure of his ability, what will become of his successor?
Thus, when the system of hereditary monarchy is adopted, the essence of the true monarchical principle, the centralization of will, intelligence, and power in one enlightened individual, is really destroyed; when, on the contrary, the dynasty is changed, when an eminent man is made head of the state, the monarchical principle is made too strong, because there is secured to it at the same time, talent and duration. Tar from being able to look upon the introduction of an hereditary king into a free constitution as a masterpiece of policy, I can only see in it, I confess, another difliculty;—it is the organization of a perpetual conspiracy against the very arrangement it was thought desirable to establish; it is to conduct an enemy into the citadel of liberty, and to give him arms to defend himself in it.
We have said, however, and we repeat it; when there is a king, it is better to continue to have one, for every convert of social order, which is not absolutely necesscxy, is a horrible misfortune. Still more, when the foundations of liberty are to be laid, and when at the moment of the contest a king offers you, to enable you to do it, treasure, an arsenal, an army, an organization already established, were it only in a small part of the country which is breaking its chains, it is better to accept him, and to make him great: when after a great revolution there is in the country a royalist party powerful by its wealth, by its talent, by its affections, by its traditions, it is also better to accept it, and to unite it to the new order of things, for without this compliance it would perhaps be necessary to exterminate it. Many circumstances may therefore lead a free nation to give itself an hereditary king; it remains only to be considered how his authority may be contained in just limits.
But it must not be concealed, this labour of opposition to the progress of the power of the prince must be constant, for his efforts to extend his prerogative will be constant also. And the very name and idea of opposition are born of constitutional monarchies; the republics of antiquity, even the freest, knew nothing of systematic opposition; the prerogatives of each of the powers of the state were better defined, and the constitution which governed them all inspired more universal respect. On the contrary, amidst the absolute kings in Europe, the constitutional kings look upon themselves as an exception; they think their glory is interested in becoming absolute also. It seems to them that they suffer an injustice when they meet with an obstacle to their will; they believe conscientiously that they are fulfilling a duty towards all thrones, to their children, even to their subjects, when they labour without cessation at extending their prerogatives.
At the same time, royalty excites among its subjects the ideas of obsequious duties, of extravagant respect, of servility, which all make it more difficult to maintain liberty. It creates a class of men who endeavour to raise themselves by favour, and not by merit; it opposes the fashion and opinion of drawing rooms to public opinion; it makes the address of courtiers honourable; it thoroughly corrupts the spirit of the aristocracy, and this is not among its least inconveniences. As we have seen, an aristocracy has all those qualities which ought to make it a moderating power in the state—prudence, fixed principles, an immoveable will. When it is well organized, when the entrance of the senate is open only to eminent talents and to dignity of character, always enhanced by the dignity of age, its interests are mingled with those of the laws and of the country; it is sufficiently elevated to be above all seductions; it considers itself the guardian of what is, and the power of traditions perpetuated in families, gives it a fixedness of principles and of conduct, which is never found in the popular element, and which can alone form an efficacious and unchangeable barrier against power.
But most frequently where there is a throne there has been seen to arise around it, instead of an aristocracy, a nobility; not only has the spirit of caste been substituted for that of a body, but this caste from whence has been effaced all distinctions but those of birth, or of favour, has been arranged in ranks, one subordinate to another. The qualities which the throne requires in the nobility, and which are celebrated by the beaux enprits of courts, are those which are most in contrast with the old spirit of aristocracies. Valour, but “united to levity, to frivolity; devotion, but to men, and not to things; to kings, to princes, and not to laws, and to the country; forgetfulness of personal interests, contempt for money, but mose through a habit of disorder than from an attachment to more elevated objects; in short, a profound sentiment of the difference between man and man, not on account of merit, but on account of blood; a sovereign contempt for all who raise themselves, qui parvient, who are signalized by popular choice instead of owing their distinction to their forefathers.
The feudal nobility was a power which had risen from the abuse of force, but which at least owed its origin to a sentiment of dignity and independence; but a courtier nobility is only a fatal invention to inoculate with the servile manners and ideas of domestic servitude those classes which ought to serve as examples to the nation. The feudal nobility has dieaplumred, and if certain fitmilies please themselves with the remembrance of it, they have abandoned its spirit to conform to that of courts. The courtier nobility, which in our time is almost exclusively called By the name of aristocracy, has caused the hatred which its vices and its impertinence have provoked, to fall on that element of all good government; thus it has redoubled the difficulties which are met with in constituting a state.
However, nobility exists in most of those countries which aspire to liberty, and wherever it exists it is important to endeavour to introduce it into the social order; it must be satisfied, for the habitual discontent of a powerful class is a leaven of hatred and disturbance, which ends by corrupting all the state; it must bo satisfied, but by changing its spirit, by opening to it a career which will attach it to the country, which will give it importance for the benefit of all, which will restore to it true dignity.
We have, in our essay on universal suffrage, endeavoured to give an account of the action of the people, and of the constitution of the democratic element in free countries; we have afterwards endeavoured, in this and the preceding article, to give an account of the action of the prince, or of the constitution of the monarchical element; but both would remain incomplete if we did not endeavour to study the aristocratic element in free countries, to discover how in them an aristocracy is formed and maintains itself, what share ought to be assigned to it, what part it ought to take for the good of all, either in legislation or in government. The union of the three social elements in government, a union which at all times the most illustrious legislators and publicists have proposed to themselves, imposes the necessary condition of studying them all before attempting to combine them; it is only thus that we can flatter ourselves with having accomplished our task.
In endeavouring, however, to discover the power and the spirit of the different interests which exist in a nation, and the means of giving them an influence in proportion to their importance, we do not propose to place them in opposition, to arm them one against another, as has often been done in pretending thus to establish a political balance. Equal wills opposed to one another, if active, produce only a combat which wears out national strength without any advantage; if they are restrained, government remains inactive, and the government of a nation should constantly act. It is the union, the agreement of interests, of predispositions, of passions, which the legislator should seek to promote; it is the concurrence of different powers to make one strength; it is borrowing all the wills, all the talents, all the virtues that can be found in society, to amalgamate them in one, so as to represent society as a whole.
When from the monarchical system shall have been borrowed a prompt, firm, able, secret, constant will, to place it at the head of government; from the aristocratical system, economy, prudence, secrecy, regard for public opinion, distrustful and jealous vigilance, and that long experience entrusted to the immoveable spirit of a senate; from the democratic system, virtuous and disinterested impulses, life, youth, and the spirit of progress; it is then only that a nation can boast of having constituted the Prince, and with him all the other parts of the social body.