Front Page Titles (by Subject) IV: THE ACTION OF CENTRIPETAL AND CENTRIFUGAL FORCES ON POLITICAL CONSTITUTIONS 1 - Studies in History and Jurisprudence, vol. 1
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IV: THE ACTION OF CENTRIPETAL AND CENTRIFUGAL FORCES ON POLITICAL CONSTITUTIONS 1 - Viscount James Bryce, Studies in History and Jurisprudence, vol. 1 
Studies in History and Jurisprudence (New York: Oxford University Press, 1901). 2 vols.
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THE ACTION OF CENTRIPETAL AND CENTRIFUGAL FORCES ON POLITICAL CONSTITUTIONS1
As every government and every constitution is the result of certain forces and tendencies which bring men together in an organized community, so every government and every constitution tends when formed to hold men together thenceforth, training them to direct their efforts to a common end and to sacrifice for that purpose a certain measure of the exercise of their individual wills. So strong is the aggregative tendency, that each community naturally goes on by a sort of law of nature to expand and draw in others, whether persons or groups, who have not previously belonged to it: nor is physical force the prime agent, for the great majority of mankind prefer some kind of political society, even one in whose management they have little or no share, to mere isolation. As this process of expansion and aggregation continues, the different political groups which it has called into being come necessarily in contact with one another. The weaker ones are overcome or peacefully absorbed by the stronger ones, and thus the number of groups is continually lessened. Where two communities of nearly equal strength encounter each other, each may for a time succeed in resisting the attraction of the other. But in this changeful world it almost always happens that sooner or later one becomes so much stronger that the other yields to it: and thus in course of time the number of detached communities, i.e. of groups each with its own centre of attraction, becomes very small, because the weak have been swallowed up by the strong. This is the general, though, as we shall see, not the universal course of events. There is also another force at work, which has at some moments in history developed great strength.
How the Tendencies to Aggregation and to Disjunction respectively affect Constitutions.
Of the many analogies that have been remarked between Law in the Physical and Law in the Moral World, none is more familiar than that derived from the Newtonian astronomy, which shows us two forces always operative in our solar system. One force draws the planets towards the sun as the centre of the system, the other disposes them to fly off from it into space. So in politics, we may call the tendency which draws men or groups of men together into one organized community and keeps them there a Centripetal force, and that which makes men, or groups, break away and disperse, a Centrifugal. A political Constitution or frame of government, as the complex totality of laws embodying the principles and rules whereby the community is organized, governed, and held together, is exposed to the action of both these forces. The centripetal force strengthens it, by inducing men (or groups of men) to maintain, and even to tighten, the bonds by which the members of the community are gathered into one organized body. The centrifugal assails it, by dragging men (or groups) apart, so that the bonds of connexion are strained, and possibly at last loosened or broken. That no community can be exempt from the former force is obvious. But neither can any wholly escape the latter. For every community has been built out of smaller groups, and the members of such groups have seldom quite lost the attraction which each had to its own particular centre, such attraction being of course dissociative as regards the other groups and their members1 . Moreover in no large community can there ever be a complete identity of views and wishes, of interests and feelings, between all the members. Many must have something to complain of, something which sets them against the rest and makes them desire to be, for some purposes, differently treated, or (in extreme cases) to be entirely separated. The existence of such a grievance constitutes a centre round which a group is formed, and this group is in so far an element of disjunction. Accordingly the history of every community and every constitution may be regarded as a struggle between the action of these two forces, that which draws together and that which pushes apart, that which unites and that which dissevers.
This subject, it may be thought, belongs either to History, in so far as history attempts to draw general conclusions from the facts she records, or to that branch of political science which may be called Political Dynamics, and is one with which the constitutional lawyer is not directly concerned. The constitutional lawyer, however, must always, if he is to comprehend his subject and treat it fruitfully, be a historian as well as a lawyer. His legal institutions and formulae do not belong to a sphere of abstract theory but to a concrete world of fact. Their soundness is not merely a logical but also a practical soundness, that is to say, institutions and rules must represent and be suited to the particular phenomena they have to deal with in a particular country. It is through history that these phenomena are known. History explains how they have come to be what they are. History shows whether they are the result of tendencies still increasing or of tendencies already beginning to decline. History explains them by parallel phenomena in other times and places. Thus the lawyer who has to consider and advise on any constitutional problem, and still more the lawyer who has to contrive a constitutional scheme for grappling with a political difficulty, must study the matter as a historian, otherwise he will himself err and mislead those whom he advises. Great lawyers often have so erred, and with lamentable results. A lawyer who shall deal with a constitutional problem as he would deal with a technical point in the law of real property will be as much astray as an advocate who should prosecute or defend a political prisoner with a sole regard to the law of treason or sedition which he may find in his books, heedless of the temper and opinion of those from among whom the jury will be drawn.
An obvious illustration may be found in the fact that when any particular community is studied from the constitutional point of view, and the inquiry is raised whether it ought to have a Flexible or a Rigid Constitution, the question of the comparative actual strength of these two forces becomes a vital one. Where the centripetal force is palpably the stronger, either sort of constitution will do to hold the community together: and the choice between the two sorts may be made on other grounds. But where the centrifugal force is potent, and especially where there are reasons to apprehend its further development, the establishment of a Rigid Constitution may become desirable, and yet may be a matter of much delicacy and difficulty. If the constitution be framed in the interests of a centralizing policy, there is a danger that it may assume and require for its maintenance a greater strength in the centripetal forces than really exists, and that for the want of such strength the constitution may be exposed to a strain it cannot resist. Amid the constant change of phenomena, a Rigid Constitution necessarily represents the past, not the present; and if the tendencies actually operative are towards the dissociation of the component groups of the community, a frame of government which fails to provide scope for these tendencies will soon become out of date and unfit for its work. Where, on the other hand, the existence of distinct groups, each desiring some control of its own affairs, is fully perceived and duly admitted as a factor in the condition of the community, and where it is desired to give legal recognition to the fact, and to protect the other local groups or sub-communities from being overridden by the largest among the groups, or by the community as a whole, the creation of a Rigid Constitution offers a valuable means of securing these objects. For such a constitution may be so drawn as to place the local groups under the protection of a fixed body of law, making their privileges an integral part of the frame of government, so that the whole Constitution must stand or fall with the maintenance of the rights enjoyed by the groups1 . The familiar instance of such a form of Rigid Constitution is a Federal Constitution. It is specially adapted to the case of a country where the centrifugal forces are so strong that it is clear that the groups will not consent to be wholly merged and lost in one community, as under a Flexible Constitution might befall them, yet where they are sufficiently sensible of the advantages of combination to be willing to enter into a qualified and restricted union. And in these cases it has sometimes proved to be an efficient engine for further centralization. That is to say, the best way of strengthening in the long run the centripetal tendencies has been to give so much recognition and play to the centrifugal as may disarm them, and may allow the causes which make for unity to operate quietly without exciting antagonism.
It appears accordingly that the historian who studies constitutions, and still more the draftsman who frames them, must have his eye constantly fixed on these two forces. They are the matter to which the legislator has to give form. They create the state of things which a Constitution has to deal with, so laying down principles and framing rules as on the one hand to recognize the forces, and on the other hand to provide safeguards against their too violent action. Their action will preserve or destroy the Constitution,—preserve it, if it has given them due recognition and scope, destroy it, if its provisions turn out to be opposed to the sweep of irresistible currents. The forces that move society are to the constructive jurist or legislator what the forces of nature are (in the famous Baconian phrase) to man. He is their servant and interpreter. They can be overcome only by obeying them. If he defies or misunderstands them, they overthrow his work. If he knows how to use them, they preserve it. But his difficulty is greater than that of the physicist, because these social forces are more complex than those of inanimate nature, and vary in their working from generation to generation.
Tendencies which may operate either as Centripetal or as Centrifugal Forces.
Now let us see what are the chief among the tendencies which in political society are capable of playing the part either of centripetal or of centrifugal forces.
So far as individual men are concerned, all the tendencies that work on them may be said to be associative tendencies, that is to say, every thing tends to knit individual men together into a band or group, and to make them act together. The repulsion of man from man is so rare that we may ignore it. Even the keenest individualist desires to convert other men to his individualism, and forms a league for the purpose with others who are like-minded.
As regards political societies, the subject wherewith we are here concerned, the tendencies I am going to enumerate may be either associative or dissociative. Whether in the case of any given State they act as agglutinative and consolidating forces or as splitting and rending forces depends upon whether they are at the moment giving their support to, or are enlisted in the service of, the State as a whole, or are strengthening the group or groups inside the State which are seeking to assert either their rights within the State or their independence of it. Even obedience, the readiness to submit and follow, which might seem primarily a centripetal force, may be centrifugal as against the State if it leads the partisans of a particular recalcitrant group to surrender their wills to the leaders of that group. Even the love of independence, the desire to let each man’s individuality have full scope, may act as a centripetal force if it disposes men to revolt against the tyranny of a faction and maintain the rights and interests of the whole people against the attempts of that faction to have its own way. There are always two centres of attraction and two groupings to be considered, the larger, which we call the State, and the smaller, which may be either a subordinate community, such as a province, district or dependency, or only a party or faction. And the centripetal force which draws men to the smaller centre is a centrifugal force as regards the larger.
These two tendencies, which I have referred to as Obedience and Individualism, are so familiar, and the former is a disposition of human nature so generally pervasive, as to need no further discussion. The other tendencies which may operate either centrifugally or centripetally may be classed under the two heads of Interest and Sympathy. Under the head of Interest there fall all those influences which belong to the sphere of Property, including of course Industry and Commerce as means of acquiring property. These influences usually make for consolidation and assimilation. It is a gain to the trader or the producer that the area of consumers which he supplies without the hindrance of an interposed customs tariff should be as wide as possible. It is a gain that communications by sea and land should be safe, easy, swift, and cheap, and these objects are better secured in a large country under a strong government. It is a gain that coinage, weights, and measures should be uniform over the largest possible area and that the standard of the currency should be upheld. It is a gain that the same laws and the same system of courts should prevail in every part of a State—and the larger the State the better, so far as these matters are concerned—and that the law should be steadily enforced and complete public order secured. All these things make not only for the growth of industry and the spread of trade, but also for the value of all kinds of property. And all these influences, derived from the consideration of such gains, which play upon the citizen’s mind, are usually aggregative influences, disposing him to desire the extension of the State and the strength of its central authority. Considerations of Interest, therefore, usually operate as a centripetal force. It was through commercial interests that the States of Germany were, after the fall of the old Romano-Germanic Empire, drawn into that Zollverein which became a stage towards, and ultimately the basis of, the present German Empire. It was the increase of trade, after the union of Scotland and England, that by degrees reconciled the Scotch to a measure which was at first most unpopular among them as threatening to extinguish their national existence. It is the absence of any strong commercial motives for political union that has hampered the efforts of those who have striven, so far successfully, to keep Norway and Sweden united.
In exceptional cases, however, the influences of Interest may be centrifugal. A particular group of traders or landowners, for instance, living in a particular district, may think they will gain more by having the power to enact special laws for the conduct of their own affairs or for the exclusion of competing persons than they will by entering or by remaining under the uniform system of a large State1 . Trade considerations counted for something in making the planters of the Slave States of America desire to sever themselves from a government in which the protectionist party was generally dominant. It is partly on economic grounds that the various provinces of the Cis-Leithanian part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy have been allowed, and desire to maintain, each its autonomy. It was largely a divergence of economic views and interests that so long deterred the free trade colony of New South Wales from linking its fortunes in a federation with the protectionist colonies; nor were there wanting industrial grounds which made the adhesion of Queensland long doubtful.
To the head of Sympathy we must refer all the influences which flow not from calculation and the desire of gain, but from emotion or sentiment. The sense of community, whether of belief, or of intellectual conviction, or of taste, or of feeling (be it affection or aversion towards given persons or things), engenders sympathy, and draws men together. To the same class belong the recognition of a common ancestry, the use of a common speech, the enjoyment of a common literature. The importance of these factors has often been exaggerated. Some of the keenest Irish revolutionaries have been English by blood and Protestants by faith. The Borderers of Northumberland and those of Berwickshire did not hate one another less because they were of the same stock and spoke the same tongue. The Celts of Inverness-shire and the Teutons of Lothian are now equally enthusiastic Scotchmen, though they disliked and despised one another almost down to the days of Walter Scott1 . Mere identity of origin does not count for much, as witness the ardent Hungarian patriotism of most of the Germans and Jews settled in Hungary, with perhaps no drop of Magyar blood in their veins. Community of language does not any more than a common ancestry necessarily make for love, and indeed may increase hatred, because in an age of newspapers each of two disputant parties can read the injurious things said of it by the other. Civil wars are, like family quarrels, proverbially embittered. Tocqueville wrote, in 1833, that he could imagine no more venomous hatred than the Americans then felt for England. So it may be said that though the want of these elements of community is usually an obstacle to unity, their presence is no guarantee for its existence. Somewhat greater value belongs to identity of traditions and historical recollections, and to the possession of the materials for a common pride in past achievements. Most men find a personal satisfaction and take a personal pride in recalling the feats and struggles of the nation, or the tribe, or the party, or the sect, to which they belong, so the recollection of exploits or sufferings becomes an effective rallying point for a group. We all know how powerful a force such memories have been at various times in stimulating national feeling in Italy, in Germany, in Hungary, in Scotland, in Portugal, in Ireland.
Still less necessary is it to dwell upon the influence of Religion, which, as it touches the deepest chords of man’s nature, is capable of educing the maximum of harmony or discord. No force has been more efficient in knitting factions and States together, or in breaking them up and setting the parts of a State in fierce antagonism to one another. Religion held together the Eastern Empire, originally a congeries of diverse races, in the midst of dangers threatening it from every side for eight hundred years. Religion now holds together the Turkish Empire in spite of the hopeless incompetence of its government. Religion split up the Romano-Germanic Empire after the time of Charles the Fifth. The instances of the Jews and the Armenians are even more familiar.
There remains a large and rather miscellaneous category of sources of sympathy which we may call by the general name of Elements of Compatibility. Traits of character, ideas, social customs, similarity of intellectual culture, of tastes, and even of the trivial usages of daily life, all contribute to link men together, and to assimilate them further to one another, as the absence of these things tends to differentiation and dissimilation, because it supplies points in which the members of one group, racial or local or social, feel themselves out of touch with the members of another, and possibly inclined to show contempt, or to think themselves contemned, on the ground of the divergence. The natural repulsion which the Germans usually feel for the Slavs, and the Slavs for the Germans, seems to have its root in a difference of character and temperament which makes it hard for either race to do full justice to the other. That repulsion is powerfully operative to-day in the Austrian Empire. In the ancient world the obstinate and passionate Egyptians seem to have displayed, and provoked, a similar antagonism in their contact with other races, and particularly with the arrogant Persians.
These influences of Sympathy, like those of Interest, may figure either as centripetal or centrifugal forces, according as the centre round which they group and towards which they draw men is the main centre of that larger circle represented by the State or the centre of the smaller circle represented by the tribe, the district, the province, the faith, the sect, the faction. The same feeling may play the one part or the other according to the accident of individual view, or taste, or environment. Thus in a University consisting of a number of autonomous colleges, one man may be a centralizer, and seek to bring the colleges into subordination, pecuniary and administrative, to the University, while another man may desire to maintain their independence, and yet both may set a high value on corporate spirit, and be filled with it themselves. In one man this spirit clings to the college, in another it glorifies the University. The patriotism which makes a Magyar desire that Hungary should absorb Croatia, and that which makes a Croat desire to sever his country from Hungary, are essentially the same sentiment, though, as regards the monarchy of the Hungarian Crown, the sentiment operates with the Magyar as an attractive, with the Croat as a repulsive force. This statement is generally true of that complex feeling, based upon affinities of race, of speech, of literature, of historic memories, of ideas, which we call the Sentiment of Nationality, a sentiment comparatively weak in the ancient world and in the Middle Ages, and which did not really become a factor of the first moment in politics till the religious passions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries had almost wholly subsided, and the gospel of political freedom preached in the American and French Revolutions had begun to fire men’s minds. As regards the historical States of Europe, it is a sentiment which is both aggregative and segregative. It has contributed to create the German Empire: yet it is also a sentiment which makes Bavaria unwilling to merge in that Empire her individual existence. In Bavaria, and still more in the case of Scotland, which had a long and brilliant national history, the sentiment of local has been found compatible with a sentiment of imperial patriotism.
It is a remarkable feature of recent times that the tendency of a common interest to draw groups together and make them prize the unity of the State is often accompanied by the parallel development of an opposite tendency, based on sentiment, to intensify the life of the smaller group and in so far to draw it apart, and thereby weaken the unity of the State. This arises from the fact that the march of civilization is material on the one hand, intellectual and moral on the other. So far as it is material, it generally makes for unity. On its intellectual and social or moral side it works in two ways. It tends to break down local prejudices and to create a uniform type of habits and character over a wide area. But it also heightens the influence of historical memories. It is apt to rekindle resentment at old injuries. Filling men’s minds with the notion of social and political equality, it disposes them to feel more keenly any social or political inferiority to which they may be subjected. Raising the estimate they set upon themselves as individuals and as a race, it makes them more bold in organizing themselves and claiming what they deem their rights. And so one notes the singular phenomenon that men are stirred to disaffection, or impelled towards separation, by grievances less acute than those which their ancestors, sunk in ignorance and despondency, bore almost without a murmur. The Roman Catholic Irish since 1782 and the Transylvanian Rumans since 1848 are instances in point.
All these tendencies, pulling this way and that, are among the facts which a given Constitution has to deal with, are forces which it must use in order to secure its own strength and permanence. Where, in a free country, the system of government has grown up naturally, and can be readily modified by the normal action of the normal sovereign authority, i.e. where the Constitution is a Flexible one, the presumption is that the rules and usages of the Constitution conform to and represent the actual forces, and draw strength therefrom. Yet even in countries governed on this system there is a risk that the Constitution which the will of a majority has established may leave a minority discontented and unrestful, and that such discontent and unrest may impede the working of the machinery and create an element of instability. In such countries, it may be the part of wisdom for the majority to yield something to the minority, modifying the Constitution, so far as it can safely be modified, in order to remove the obstacles to harmony. A centrifugal force which is not strong enough to disrupt the State, because the centripetal forces are on the whole more powerful, may nevertheless be able to cause a harmful friction, and may even, if the State be exposed to external attacks, become a source of peril. Everybody can now see that Rome ought to have admitted the Italian allies to the franchise long before the Social War, that Catholic Emancipation ought to have been enacted by the Irish Parliament in 1796 or by the British Parliament immediately after the Union of 1800, that Denmark ought not to have waited till 1874 before she conceded a qualified autonomy to Iceland, that the same country might probably have retained Schleswig-Holstein if she had yielded long before the war of 1864 some of the demands made by the German inhabitants of those duchies. And, if we may apply the same principle to despotically governed countries, most people will agree that Austria ought to have retired from Lombardy before 1859, and that the Turks gained nothing by clinging to Bulgaria, and may be gaining nothing now by clinging to Macedonia.
How Constitutions may use the Centripetal Forces to promote National Unity.
As we are here dealing with constitutions considered in their relation to the forces and tendencies that rule in politics (i.e. as a part of political dynamics), we may now inquire what it is that Constitutions can accomplish in the way of regulating or controlling these forces.
Every political Constitution has three main objects.
One is to establish and maintain a frame of government under which the work of the State can be efficiently carried on, the aims of such a frame of government being on the one hand to associate the people with the government, and, on the other hand, to preserve public order, to avoid hasty decisions and to maintain a tolerable continuity of policy.
Another is to provide due security for the rights of the individual citizen as respects person, property, and opinion, so that he shall have nothing to fear from the executive or from the tyranny of an excited majority. This object has fallen into the background since these rights came to be fully recognized. But in earlier times it was the chief purpose of constitutional provisions from Magna Charta down to the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. The safeguard for these rights which the Constitution of England provided, was the thing which, more perhaps than anything else, moved the admiration of foreign observers who studied that constitution during the eighteenth century.
The third object is to hold the State together, not only to prevent its disruption by the revolt or secession of a part of the nation, but to strengthen the cohesiveness of the country by creating good machinery for connecting the outlying parts with the centre, and by appealing to every motive of interest and sentiment that can lead all sections of the inhabitants to desire to remain united under one government.
In pursuing these objects, a constitution seeks to achieve by means of legal provisions that which in ruder times it was often necessary to accomplish by physical force. No doubt at all times the natural disposition to obey (the sources of which I have analysed elsewhere1 ) was an agent more constant and effective than physical force. Nevertheless, the latter was needed, sometimes from the side of the government to maintain order and compel subjects to bear their share of the public burdens, sometimes from the side of the subjects to abate the abuses into which the possession of power tempts rulers. Troops to keep order and quell revolts, and men handy with their weapons and ready to rise in insurrection to dethrone bad monarchs or expel bad ministers, were a necessary part of the equipment of political societies in the ruder ages.
A good constitution relieves the government from the necessity of frequently resorting to military force by securing that those who govern shall be persons approved by the bulk of the citizens, as well as by providing for the purposes of coercion machinery so promptly and effectively applicable, that the elements of disturbance either do not break forth or are quickly suppressed. Similarly it relieves the subjects from the need of rising in rebellion by providing machinery whereby the complaints of those who think themselves aggrieved shall be fully made known, and shall, if well founded, have due effect on the rulers by warning them to remove the grievances, or by displacing them if they fail to do so.
How constitutional machinery should be framed and worked for the attainment of the two former objects enumerated above, viz. the establishment of a proper frame of government and the safeguarding of private rights, is a matter which does not fall within the scope of our present inquiry. The third object does, so we have to ask how a constitution should be framed in order to enable it to maintain and strengthen the unity of a State.
It may do this in two ways. One is by setting various centripetal forces to work. The other is by preventing all or some of the centrifugal forces from working.
I have already enumerated the tendencies or influences which operate to draw men together and bind them into a community, be it greater or smaller, and have pointed out that these tendencies may in any given case operate in favour either of the State as a whole, in which case they preserve it, or in favour of some group or section within it, in which case they sap its unity. Let us now consider how the constitutional arrangements of a State may be so devised as to draw together all its members and all the minor groups within it.
The most generally available of these centripetal tendencies is trade, that interchange of commodities which benefits all the producers, by giving them a market, all the consumers by giving them the means of getting what they want, all the middlemen by supplying them with occupation. A Constitution can render no greater service to the unity as well as to the material progress of a nation than by enabling the freest interchange of products to go on within its limits. Nothing did more to keep the districts of each of the great European countries divided during the Middle Ages than the levying of tolls along the rivers and highways by petty potentates, or than the insecurity of those rivers and highways, as well as the want of good roads, for thus the market for the producers of the cheaper articles was narrowed to the small area immediately around them, and men were prevented from realizing, or benefiting by, the greatness of the country they belonged to. England, with an exceptionally strong and centralized government, suffered less from these tolls and this insecurity than did the large States of the Continent, and England arrived at unity sooner than they did. And so, conversely, nothing has done more to unify the vast territories of the United States than the provisions of the Federal Constitution which secure perfect freedom of trade within its limits, and empower the National Government to regulate the means of communication between the several States of the Union. So the Customs Union of the Germanic States, formed under the auspices of Prussia in ad 1829, did a great work in stimulating industry, while it showed the people the benefits of united action, and prepared the way for the formation of the new German Empire.
Another influence of moment is the establishment of a common law and a common system of courts. It is not an influence which can be reckoned on so invariably or confidently as can the influence of commerce, for any hasty attempt to change the law (whether customary or statutory) to which men are accustomed may provoke resistance and retard the growth of unity. Great Britain has wisely forborne to impose her own law on the dominions she has acquired by conquest or purchase. Roman-Dutch law remains in South Africa, in Ceylon, and in Guiana; Roman-French law in Lower Canada. So the French Code was left in force not only in Alsace-Lorraine which Germany took in 1871 but also in the German country all along the left bank of the Lower Rhine, when that region was reunited to Germany in 1814. So Roman law has remained in Louisiana, which was once French. But where one legal system can, without exciting resentment, be extended over the whole of a country, it becomes a valuable unifying force. As respects the substance of law, this happens by the formation of certain habits of thought and action, certain ideas of justice and utility. As respects the administration of law, it happens by giving to the central executive an engine for making its power felt, and usually felt for good. In the Middle Ages, the jurisdiction of the king’s courts was found the most effective means both in England, from Henry II onward, and (somewhat later) in France, of extending the power of the central government and accustoming the people to rally round the Crown as the representative of national unity as well as of justice. A somewhat similar process has been in progress during the last thirty years among those petty principalities which we call the Laos States, and which lie to the north of the kingdom of Siam. The princes of these States were practically independent, living in a country of forests and hills, and recognizing only a vague titular suzerainty as vested in the Siamese king at Bangkok. But when foresters from British Burma had come among them, desiring to cut down and export the teak trees in those forests which make their only wealth, and when disputes had arisen between the Laos chiefs and these timber traders, the Government of India found it needful to make treaties with the king of Siam, under which a Court presided over by Siamese officials was set up in Chiengmai, the principal State. By means of this Court the Siamese Government has been able gradually to obtain complete control of the forest administration and the revenues thence arising, and incidentally to strengthen its general authority over these Laos States.
Similarly, the jurisdiction of the British Privy Council as a Supreme Court of Appeal from the Colonies and India, and the action of the Supreme Court of the United States as the final Court of Appeal for the whole Union (in certain classes of cases), have done something to make the members of these vast political aggregates realize the bond that links them together. In the case of the United States, respect for the Federal Courts and the keen interest with which their development of the law by judicial interpretation is followed by a large and powerful profession has been an important factor in strengthening the sense of national unity.
After law, religion, not as less potent, for it is more potent, but as more uncertain, because it has been as often a dissevering as a unifying influence. There is, however, a marked distinction between the earlier and the later forms of religion as regards the energy of the force they exert. In the earlier stages of civilization, when tradition and ritual counted for much, and abstract theology had not yet come into being, the worship of the gods of the nation or city was a part, a necessary and sometimes the most deep-rooted part, of the political constitution and the national life. In Egypt the rise or fall of a great deity is often the sign of the rise or fall of a dynasty. Moab, Edom, and Ammon, are each the people of a peculiar God. After the Captivity, when the minor Semitic peoples decline or vanish, Israel continues to be held together by the name of Jehovah, and by the Law He has given. Every Greek and every Italian city has its own distinctive public State worship. A race sometimes pays special honour to one out of its various deities, and the devotion of the Dorians to Apollo, of the Athenians to the Virgin Goddess, finds a mediaeval parallel in that of the Swedes to Odin, of the Norwegians to Thor. As the Roman Empire included so many races and cities that no one deity or group of deities could be worshipped by all, altars were erected to the Goddess Rome, and the Guardian Spirit or Genius of the reigning Emperor became a common object of devotion for the whole mass of his subjects. In modern times the strong religions are (except Hinduism) World Religions, and therefore not national or local as were those of antiquity. But they exert an even greater political power. For monotheistic religions, however they may develop into elaborate rites and forms of ceremonial observance, are primarily philosophical religions, in which abstract ideas and beliefs take not only a firm but an exclusive grasp of the mind and heart of whosoever holds them. Hence they form a closer tie than did the worships of the ancient Italo-Hellenic world. Christianity created a new cohesion when the provinces of the Roman Empire were beginning to fall asunder. Islam formed a prodigious dominion out of many diverse peoples. The mutually hostile forms of a World Religion, such as the Sunnite and Shiite sects in Islam, act as consolidating or dissevering influences just as the religion itself did before schisms had arisen. When a faith grounded in peculiar dogmas or observances is held by one section of a people and hated by another section, it becomes a formidably centrifugal force. When the great mass of a people have embraced such a faith, their political cohesion is strengthened, and they may attract from other communities persons or groups who share their beliefs. The same principle applies to beliefs which cannot be called religious, but which exert a similar power over men’s emotions. Even where no question of the supernatural is involved, the holding in common of certain ideas deemed supremely valuable whether for the individual or for society, may operate as a centrifugal or centripetal force.
A nation with a national religion which all or nearly all citizens cherish possesses a bond of unity which grows the more powerful the more its traditions become entwined with the national life. It is chiefly the influence of the Orthodox Church that has made a people so low in the scale of civilization as Russia was three centuries ago, to-day so united, so strong through its union, and so submissive to its sovereign, for it is not less as Head of the Church than as a secular prince that the Czar commands the reverence of his subjects1 . Accordingly, whenever a State Church can be set up which embraces practically the whole of the people, and when it can be associated with the government and the movements of public life, the cohesion of the nation and the power of the government which controls the church will be increased. Of the possibly pernicious influence of such arrangements on such a church and on religion I do not speak; that is quite another matter. I am only pointing out that a Constitution will gain strength, and a nation unity, if the ecclesiastical arrangements can be linked to those of the secular government, assuming the people to be all attached to the same form of faith and worship.
Similarly, in so far as those who frame a Constitution can make it provide a system of education which will give the people common ideas and common aspirations, in so far as they can persuade the inhabitants to use a common language, if the country is one where more than one tongue has been spoken, or even to enjoy and meet for the enjoyment of common festivities and games, they will be availing themselves of influences not to be despised. The Prussian Government founded the University of Bonn immediately after the recovery of the left bank of the Rhine from France in 1814, and the University of Strassburg immediately after the recovery of Alsace in 1871, in both cases with the view of benefiting these territories and of drawing them closer to the rest of the country by the afflux of students from other parts of it, an aim which was realized. Indeed the non-local character of the German Universities, each serving the whole of the lands wherein the German tongue was spoken, powerfully contributed to intensify the sentiment of a common German nationality throughout the two centuries (1648 to 1870) during which Germany had virtually ceased to be a State. The Olympian, Pythian, Isthmian, and Nemean games had no contemptible effect in fostering the sentiment of a common national unity, as against the barbarians, among the Greeks, who had never enjoyed and did not desire political union. The admission of the Macedonian king to strive at the Olympian games was a political event of high significance, for it enabled his descendants Philip and Alexander the Great to claim to belong to the Hellenic race.
Some of these various engines for promoting the cohesion of a nation may seem to lie rather in the sphere of governmental action than in that of a Constitution. Commercial freedom, however, as well as religious compulsion on the one hand, or religious freedom on the other hand, have been provided for by some Rigid Constitutions. So too has been the use of certain languages. Where the Constitution is a Flexible one, the question whether the laws regulating such matters are to be deemed a part of the Constitution depends entirely on the practical importance ascribed to them, since in such a Constitution there is no distinction of form between fundamental and other provisions.
How Constitutions may Reduce or Regulate the Centrifugal Forces.
Now let us see what Constitutions may effect in the other of the two above specified ways, viz. what they may do to meet and grapple with, and if possible disarm, the tendencies which make for disruption, i.e. the forces which, while drawing men together in minor groups within the State, are as regards the State itself centrifugal forces.
What are these tendencies? History tells us that the chief among them are race feeling, resentment for past injuries, grievances in respect of real or supposed illtreatment in matters of industry, or of trade, or of education, or of language, or of religion, where these grievances or any of them press on a part only of the population. If they press on the whole population, or on the humbler classes as a whole, they are perturbing, but not necessarily nor even probably disruptive, i.e. they threaten disaffection or a general revolt against the government, rather than the severance of a particular province or the secession of a particular section of the people. It is only with grievances which affect one section or district, and make it desire an independence to be obtained by separation, that we have here to deal. There must be in every such case either a sentiment of dislike on the part of the disaffected section towards the rest of the nation, or else a belief that great material advantages will be obtained by separation; and the latter of these causes is almost sure to produce the former. When two or more of these tendencies combine in any given case, so much the stronger does the desire for separation become.
A few illustrations will explain better than a long abstract statement what I desire to convey. In the ancient world the thing which we call National Sentiment was seldom a powerful factor, perhaps because the more advanced peoples were divided into small city communities, while the backward peoples, living under large empires like the Persian or that of the Seleucid kings, were allowed to retain their own customs and religion, and often their native princes, feeling the weight of subjection only in having to pay tribute and send a contingent in war. The only nations that gave much trouble to the Achaemenid kings of Persia were the Egyptians, a race very peculiar and very conceited, and the Greeks of Asia Minor. Under the Roman Empire there were wonderfully few national revolts, probably because the imperial government pressed equally upon all, conceded rights of citizenship pretty freely, and gave the subjects in exchange for their own national sentiment the higher pride of belonging to the majestic World State which had engulfed them. The chief source of disruptive attempts lay in the monotheistic religions. The Jews made more than one obviously hopeless rebellion. When Christianity became the religion of the Empire, schisms and heresies gave trouble. Africa was convulsed by the Donatist movement. Egypt was disaffected owing to Monophysitism, and no doubt gave herself the more readily to the Arab conquerors in respect of this disaffection. The persecuted Montanist sectaries of Phrygia revolted in the sixth century. It was the religious persecution of the Fire-worshipping Sassanid kings that provoked their Armenian vassals to rebellion1 . So in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the sentiment of nationality having not yet reached its full strength, it was chiefly by religious divisions that the unity of States was threatened. This was what lost the Dutch Netherlands to Spain. This was what split up the Romano-Germanic Empire, and made it, after the Thirty Years’ War, the mere shadow of a State. It contributed to keep the Highlanders distinct from the Lowland population of Scotland after the Reformation (though other causes also were at work), and it was of course a still more potent force in Ireland. In our own time it nearly rent Switzerland in two in the war of the Sonderbund. Conversely, any one who notices how little the unity of the nation has been threatened in Spain, a country where the populations and dialects of the different provinces still present striking contrasts, and are accompanied by diversities of character, will be disposed to attribute this fact not merely to the absence of natural boundaries between the provinces, but also to the remarkable religious unity which the nation has always preserved.
In our own time, while religion is a less energetic factor, what is called national sentiment has begun to threaten loosely compacted States. It compelled the transformation in 1868 of the so-called Austrian Empire into the present Dual Monarchy. It shakes the Austrian half of that monarchy now, so sharp is the antagonism between the Czechs of Bohemia and the other Slavic populations of Cis-Leithania and the Germans of the Western and South-Western Crown Lands. Iceland differs from Denmark, with which she has been politically united since 1380 (or 1397), in language, in character, and in habits, and she has therefore struggled for autonomy, a large measure of which she obtained in 1874. She has had some economic grievances, but sentiment has been an even stronger element in her discontent, which, however, stopped short of a wish to separate, as she feels herself too small to stand alone. A strong party in Norway has desired to be divorced from Sweden, to which she was unnaturally yoked in 1814 by the Congress of Vienna, not merely in respect of specific complaints regarding the Foreign Office and the consular service, but also because her people, though Lutherans like the Swedes, are far more democratic in ideas and temper than the latter, and because their high national pride makes them unwilling to appear to be in any way subordinate to the sister kingdom. The case of Poland is a simple one, because she has the memory of an independent kingdom destroyed by force and fraud, and is different in religion, as well as in speech, from the Russians who have annexed her. Had the peasant population of the country shared the patriotism of the upper and middle classes, Poland might possibly have succeeded in shaking off the yoke. Even now her disaffection is a source of weakness to Russia. In Ireland several currents of discontent have joined to produce the passion and prolong the struggle for autonomy, or, in a very few of the more ardent minds, for independence. There is the diversity of faith, which remains, though that of language has almost vanished, a diversity embittered by recollections of persecution. There are economic grievances, the memory of the destruction of an industry in the last century, the more urgent resentment at the exactions of landlords, and the peasants’ desire to have a grip of the soil. There is an incompatibility of character and temperament, due partly to historical conditions, partly to the old antagonism of Celt and Teuton. All these have gone to create a passion among the people to be recognized as a nation controlling its own affairs, a passion which is the same in essence among those who would be content with the possession of a subordinate legislature, and those, now fewer than formerly, who would like to go further.
If the sources of the centrifugal force in Ireland are easily explicable, and indeed so strong that had this force acted upon the whole nation instead of only upon a majority which consists mainly of the poorer and weaker part of the population, it would have before now prevailed, those which induced the secession of the Southern States of America are much less evident. Here there was no religious factor, nor any revengeful feeling, nor any sense of an unjust or oppressive control. The South had obtained more than its fair share of power and influence in the councils of the Union. But the planters had persuaded themselves that property in slaves and the whole slave-holding system were threatened by the growing strength in the Northern and Western States of an aversion to slavery, with a determination to check its extension; and the irritation of feeling which a long struggle had engendered, coupled with a growing dissimilarity of habits and ideas, enabled the hot-headed oligarchy which controlled the Southern population to drive it into separation. Possibly these causes would not have been strong enough to provoke an armed conflict in a unified country. It was the existence of State Governments, and the conviction that the rights of the States, supposed to be guaranteed by the Constitution, furnished a legal basis for secession, that spurred the South into its desperate venture.
What then can the framing, or the manipulation in working, of a Constitution do to reduce the power of such disruptive tendencies as we have been considering?
They may of course be resisted by the employment of physical force. If a government is sufficiently strong and resolute, and is supported by the great majority of the nation, it may crush down the discontent of a province or a section. It is however an axiom in free governments, and ought to be an axiom in all governments, that physical force should never be used when peaceful means will suffice. Coercion usually seems easier, and naturally commends itself to the dull, the impatient, and the violent, to imperious princes, arrogant ministers, and excited majorities. But coercion, besides being a fatal expedient if it fails, is often a bad expedient when it appears to succeed, for it leaves smouldering discontent behind among the vanquished, and it is apt to inflict a moral injury upon the victors, perhaps to warp for the future their frame of government and to lower their political traditions. Accordingly whenever a Constitution can be so drawn and worked as to give the disjunctive tendencies just so much recognition as may disarm their violence, and bring all sections of the nation and all parts of the country to acquiesce in unity under one government, this course is to be preferred. It may sometimes fail. Every expedient may fail. But it has generally more promise of ultimate success than force has, for in a free country force is not a remedy, but a confession of past failures and a postponement of dangers likely to recur.
Among the methods which a Constitution may employ for the purpose indicated, the following find a place.
It may enact certain securities against oppression, whether by the executive or by the legislature, giving to such securities a specially solemn sanction, and thus reassuring the minds of the citizens. This was done by Magna Charta, by the Petition of Right, and again by the American Federal and State Constitutions, and by the French Declaration of the Rights of Man of 1789. It is usually done for the protection of all subjects or citizens alike, but of course the benefit of such a protection enures with special value for any section of the population, or any province or group of provinces, likely to be specially exposed at any given time to the abuses of power, because they are a minority whom the Government, or the majority, may view with disfavour.
A Constitution may provide means for varying the general institutions or laws of the State in such a way as to exempt particular parts of the State from any legislation that might be opposed to their special interests or feelings. The retention of Scotland as a distinct kingdom after the union of the crowns in 1603, and as a distinct part of the United Kingdom after the Treaty and Act of Union in 1707, has had most beneficial effects in enabling Scotland to be treated separately where it is fitting she should be. Her faith, her laws and judicature, her system of local government, have remained almost intact, to the satisfaction of her people, and with no injury to the cohesion of the united monarchy1 . Similarly the maintenance of Finland as a separate Grand Duchy, with her own tongue, religion, laws and privileges, guaranteed by the coronation oath of the Czar, has made the Finns loyal and contented subjects, and has in no wise detracted from the strength of Russia2 . The cases of Hungary as towards the Austrian Monarchy, and of Croatia as towards Hungary, are also in point.
It may provide for relegating certain classes of affairs to local legislatures, such as those of Croatia or Finland, areas which are not only, like Scotland, political divisions retaining their old laws, but also, unlike Scotland, since the Union, communities enjoying local autonomy. All Federations are managed on this system; and one can see in the case of Canada the advantages it secures, for the Roman Catholics of Quebec are able to have legislation diverse from that which the Protestant majority desires in the other provinces of the Dominion.
It may assign certain administrative and, within limits, certain legislative functions also to the inhabitants of minor local areas, such as counties, empowering them to regulate their local affairs in their own way. Provisions of this nature are not usually embodied in European constitutional instruments. They are, however, to be found in the State Constitutions of the American States. And they are really, in substance, parts of any well-framed Constitution, for nothing contributes more to the smooth working of a central government and to the satisfaction of the people under it, than the habit of leaving to comparatively small local communities the settlement of as many questions as possible. The practice of local self-government and the love for it are not a centrifugal force, but rather tend to ease off any friction that may exist by giving harmless scope for independent action, and thus producing local contentment. It is only where there exist grievances fostering disruptive sentiments that the existence of local bodies with a pretty large sphere of activity need excite disquiet.
It may exclude certain matters altogether from the competence of the central government, and thereby keep them out of the range of controversy. This principle has been wisely followed in the American and Canadian and Swiss Federal Constitutions as regards religion in its relations to the State. In some federations it has been similarly found desirable to disable the several legislatures from dealing with topics likely to produce dissensions among the members of the federation, or otherwise to affect the cohesion of the nation. Thus in the United States no State legislature can impose any duties on goods brought from one State to another, nor in any wise interfere with commerce between the States.
By these means a Constitution may prevent the disruptive forces in a country from threatening the stability of the central government or the unity of the State. To remove part of the material on which they might work is to weaken their working, and to divert into safe channels the political activity they would evoke. Although a Flexible Constitution may accomplish this, if those who work it respect certain fundamental principles and treat their querulous minorities in a conciliatory spirit, the work is best done, and usually has been done, by a Rigid Constitution, because this latter provides a guarantee to minorities, or to subdivisions of the country, stronger than they can have under an omnipotent legislature. In fact the existence of the grounds of contention and possibilities of disruption we have been considering is among the chief causes which have called Federal Governments and Rigid Constitutions into being.
One further observation should be made before quitting this part of the subject. Racial differences and animosities, which have played a large part in threatening the unity of States, are usually dangerous only when the unfriendly races occupy different parts of the country. If they live intermixed, in tolerably equal numbers, and if in addition they are not of different religions, and speak the same tongue, the antagonism will disappear in a generation or two by social intercourse and especially by intermarriage. When the right of full legal intermarriage had been established, the fusion of the patricians and the plebs at Rome began. So the Northmen in the tenth and eleventh centuries, so the Norman-French in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, became blent with the English. The Magyars and Saxons, though generally occupying different parts of the country, and to some extent retaining each their own speech, have in Transylvania now begun to melt into one. It is the fact that they not only speak a different tongue but also profess a different faith that keeps the Rumans of that province apart from both Saxons and Magyars; and even these differences might in time cease to operate did not these Rumans look across the mountains to a large Ruman State into which they would gladly be absorbed. But in one set of cases no fusion is possible; and this set of cases forms the despair of the statesman. It presents a problem which no Constitution has solved. It is the juxtaposition on the same soil of races of different colour.
This is a recent phenomenon in history. In the ancient world, almost all the barbarous tribes whom Rome subdued and brought into her Empire were sufficiently near the Italians and Hellenized Asiatics in physical characteristics for intermarriage to go on freely. The Carthaginians, who to be sure were not numerous, seem to have soon lost their distinctive nationality: and that the Jews remained distinct was their own doing, not that of the conquerors1 . Even as towards Egyptians and Numidians, who were certainly dark, one hears of little repulsion. Besides, both races were intelligent, and the former in their way highly civilized. With the African slave trade a new and a dolorous chapter in history opens. In our own time it is the settlement of Europeans in countries where the native holds his ground against the settler, as the Kafir does in South Africa, and the aboriginal Peruvians and Araucanians do in Western South America, or it is the influx of coloured immigrants, like that of the Chinese in Western America and the Hawaiian Isles, that raises, or threatens to raise in the future, this problem in an acute form. A community in which there exist two or more race-elements physically contrasted and socially unsusceptible of amalgamation cannot grow into a really united State. If the coloured people are excluded from political rights, there is created a source of weakness, possibly of danger. If they are admitted, there is admitted a class who cannot fully share the political life of the more civilized and probably smaller element, who will not be consoled by political equality for social disparagement, and who may lower the standard of politics by their incompetence or by their liability to corruption. If the people of colour are dispersed over the country among the Europeans, instead of dwelling in masses by themselves, they may not act as a centrifugal force, threatening secession, but they are a serious hindrance to the working of any form of popular government that has been hitherto devised, for they divide the population, they complicate political issues, they prevent the growth of a genuinely national opinion.
The most noteworthy attempts that Constitutions have made to deal with these cases have been made in the United States, where the latest amendments to the Federal Constitution provide protection for the negroes and forbid the States to exclude any person from the electoral suffrage in respect of race or colour, and where several recent State Constitutions have devised ingenious schemes for disfranchising the vast mass of those whom these very amendments have sought to protect. So far as political rights are concerned, the problem is very far from having been solved in the United States. But as regards private civil rights, it has certainly been an advantage to the negroes that the Federal Constitution guarantees such rights to all citizens: and probably in any country where marked differences, with possible antagonisms, of race exist, it will be prudent to place the private civil rights of every class of persons under the equal protection of the laws, and to make the rights themselves practically identical. It would lead me too far from the main subject to describe the ways in which similar problems have been dealt with in Algeria, in South Africa, and in some of the other colonies of European nations. Nowhere has any quite satisfactory solution been found1 . But the case of New Zealand deserves to be mentioned as one in which the experiment has been tried of giving parliamentary representation to the natives, who mostly live apart on their own reserved lands. So far, the results have been good. The conditions are favourable, for the Maoris are a brave and intelligent race, and they are now too few in number to excite disquiet.
It was the good fortune of the Roman Empire that the vast majority of the races whom it conquered and absorbed had no conspicuous physical differences from the Italians which prevented intermarriage and fusion. Race and birthplace were no great obstacle to a man of force. Two or three of the Emperors were of African or Arab extraction. Moreover, the peoples of Southern Europe seem to have less repulsion of sentiment towards the dark-skinned races than the Teutons have. The Spanish and Portuguese intermarry not only with the native Indians of Central and Southern America, but also with the negroes. The French of Canada intermarried more freely with the Indians of North America than the English have done.
Summing up, we may say that the aim of a well-framed Constitution will presumably be to give the maximum of scope to the centripetal and the minimum to the centrifugal forces. But this presumption is subject to two countervailing considerations. One is that the energy of civic life may be better secured by giving ample range and sphere of play to local self-government, which will stimulate and train the political interest of the members of the State, and relieve the central authority of some onerous duties. The other is that the centrifugal forces may, if too closely pent up, like heated water in the heart of the earth, produce at untoward moments explosions like those of a volcano. Hence it is well to provide, in the Constitution, such means of escape for the steam as can be made compatible with the general safety of the State. Where a Constitution, and especially a Rigid Constitution, has been framed with due regard to these considerations, and turns to account the methods already discussed, it may itself become a new centripetal force, a factor making for the unity and coherence of the community which lives under it. The Rigid Constitution has in this respect one advantage over the Flexible one, that it is more easily understood by the mass of the people, and more capable of coming to form a part of their political consciousness. When such a Constitution is so contrived and worked as to satisfy the bulk of the nation—and it will do so all the more if no single section dislikes it—it attracts the affection and pride of the people, their pride because it is their work, their affection because they enjoy good government under it. Time, if it does not weaken these feelings, strengthens them, because reverence comes with age. By providing a convenient channel or medium through or in which the centripetal forces may act, the Constitution increases the effective strength of those forces. It is a reservoir of energy, an accumulator, if the comparison be permissible, which has been charged by a dynamo, and will go on for some time discharging the energy stored up in it. But, like an accumulator, its energy becomes exhausted if there is not behind it an engine generating fresh power, that is to say, if the real social and political forces which called it into being have become feebler, and those which oppose it have become stronger.
Illustrations from Modern History of the Action of Constitutions.
The best instance of the capacity of a Constitution to reinforce and confirm existing centripetal tendencies is supplied by the history of the Rigid Constitution of the United States. That instrument was at first received with so little favour by the people that its ratification was, in many States, obtained with the greatest possible difficulty, and the original document secured acceptance only on the understanding, which was loyally carried out, that it should forthwith receive a number of amendments. Within fifteen years the party which had advocated it was overthrown in the country, and ultimately broke up and vanished. A generation passed away before it began to be generally popular. But after a time it secured so widespread a respect that even during the fierce and protracted struggle which ushered in the Civil War few attacked the Constitution itself, nearly all the combatants on one side or the other claiming that its provisions were really in their favour. It was not round the merits, but round the true construction, of the instrument that controversy raged. Since the Civil War, and the amendments which embodied the results of the Civil War, it has been glorified and extolled in all quarters1 , and has unquestionably been a most potent influence in consolidating the nation, as well as in extending the range and the activity of the central government.
To what is this success due? Regarded as a Frame of Government, i.e. as a piece of mechanism for distributing powers between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary, the American system has probably been praised beyond its deserts. Both the mode of electing the President and the working of Congress leave much to be desired. But the Constitution has had two conspicuous merits. It so judiciously estimated the centripetal and centrifugal forces as they actually stood at the time when it was framed, frankly recognizing the latter and leaving free play for them, and while throwing its own weight into the scale of the centripetal, doing this only so far as not to provoke a disjunctive reaction, that it succeeded in winning respect from the advocates both of States’ Rights and of National Unity1 . Thus it was able to add more strength to the centripetal tendency than it could have done had it been originally drawn on more distinctly centripetal lines. For—and here comes in the second merit—its provisions defining the functions of the central Government were expressed in such wide and elastic terms as to be susceptible of interpretation either in a more restricted or in a more liberal way, i.e. so as to allow either a less wide or a more wide scope of action for the Central Government. During the earlier years, when State sentiment was still stronger than National sentiment, the scope remained limited, because both the executive and the legislature wished to keep it so, and such extensions as there were came from judicial construction. But latterly, and especially since the prodigious development of internal communications has stimulated commerce, and since the death blow given to States’ Rights doctrines by the Civil War, the scope has been widened, and has widened quite naturally and gradually, with no violence to the words of the Constitution, but according to that expansive interpretation of them which changing conditions and a corresponding change in national sentiment prescribed2 .
Nowadays one hears in the United States less about the Constitution than about the Flag3 . But that is partly because the Constitution has done its work, and made the Flag the popular badge of an Unity which it took nearly a century to endear to the nation.
One might go on to illustrate the efficiency of a Constitution in consolidating a people composed of disparate elements from the parallel case of Switzerland, where communities speaking three (it might almost be said four) different languages have been brought much closer together by the Constitutions of 1848 and 1874 than they were before, or could have been without some such arrangement. Switzerland, however, is a more complicated case, because much has turned on the external pressure towards unity exerted by the fear felt for several great bordering Powers. The formidable neighbours of the Confederation have, so to speak, squeezed together into a Swiss people the originally dissimilar Alemannic, Celto-Burgundian, Italian, and Romansch communities.
The two instances of the United States and Switzerland1 , compared with those of unitary countries living under Rigid Constitutions, such as France, Belgium, Holland and Denmark, suggest the observation that the service which Rigid Constitutions may render in strengthening the centripetal tendency can best be rendered where a Federation is to be constructed. For in these cases what is needed is an arrangement by which the several rights of the component communities which are to form the State may be so protected that they need not fear to give their allegiance to the State and cordially support its Central Government. The existence of such communities is an expression of forces actually operative which are centrifugal as towards the State as a whole, and therefore need to be studied. By giving a carefully limited scope to these forces, and thereby diminishing their possibilities of danger, the Constitution subserves the cohesion of the States. In a truly unitary country this service is not needed. But there are cases in which States endeavouring to become unitary would have done better had they sought to apply the federal principle, placing it under the protection of a Rigid Constitution. I have already referred to Denmark. Holland might probably have saved Belgium by a concession of some such kind. Whether a similar contrivance might not have been profitably employed within the British Isles in ad 1782, or in ad 1800, or again later, is a question which will already have presented itself to one who has followed the argument thus far.
In dwelling upon the services which Constitutions may render, by fostering the centripetal forces, or by restraining the violence and softening the action of the centrifugal forces, we must not forget that no scheme of government can hope permanently to resist the action of either tendency if either develops much greater strength than it possessed when the Constitution was framed. If the centripetal forces grow, the Constitution whose provisions have recognized and given scope to the centrifugal will be practically, in some of those provisions, superseded. If the centrifugal grow, it may be overthrown. It is where the forces are nearly balanced, that the weight of the Constitution may turn the scale, and avert conflicts which would have rent the community, or caused a violent subjection of one part of it to the other. And in any case the Constitution ought, where dissimilative and disruptive forces are feared, to be so drawn as to enlist all available motives of interest, to shelter the law behind popular sentiment where possible, to oppose it to sentiment as little as possible, and to avoid challenging at the same time the hostility of several kinds of sentiment.
The Probable Action of the Aggregative and the Disjunctive Tendencies in the Future.
Whether in the long run it is the centripetal or the centrifugal force that will prevail in politics, or, in other words, whether large States or small States are more likely to commend themselves to mankind, is a question which belongs rather to history than to the doctrines of constitutions, and which could be adequately discussed only after a long investigation. History shows us first one force dominant, then the other, though no doubt the centrifugal is usually more powerful in rude times and in hilly or mountainous countries, the centripetal in countries comparatively advanced in civilization, and in level and fertile regions where wealth is more easily acquired and stored, and where military operations are easier. When the mists of antiquity begin to rise sufficiently to show us the Mediterranean and south-west Asiatic world, we discover both a few great States and a multitude of small ones. The former have a low, the latter a high and intense political vitality. From the time of Menes down to that of Attila the tendency is generally towards aggregation: and the history of the ancient nations shows us, not only an enormous number of petty monarchies and republics swallowed up in the Empire of Rome, but that empire itself far more highly centralized than any preceding one had been. When the Roman dominion began to break up the process was reversed, and for seven hundred years or more the centrifugal forces had it their own way. Europe and Western Asia were divided up among innumerable petty potentates, and even the large monarchies, such as the two Khalifates, the Romano-Germanic Empire, the kingdoms of France and Hungary, possessed so feeble a royal authority that the real organs of government and centres of attraction were to be sought rather in the vassals than in the nominal sovereign. From the thirteenth century onwards the tide begins to set the other way. One great State indeed—the Empire—first decays and then disappears under the action of centrifugal forces, but all the other chief States expand, absorbing their smaller neighbours, and giving themselves a compact and well-knit organization which makes the central power effective through the whole sphere of its action. This process culminates in the despotic monarchies of the eighteenth century, when the strength of feudal localism has been completely broken, though the picturesque relics of it still cumber the ground, and when at the same time the foundations are laid in the West of a gigantic State which proceeds to cover the temperate area of North America between the two oceans, and, in the East, of the dominion of a European nation which has absorbed the numerous and populous principalities of India. Immediately afterwards the doctrine of popular self-government and the doctrine of nationalities come upon the scene, threatening a disruption of some existing political aggregates. In point of fact, however, these new principles have done as much to unite as to sever, for though five States—Greece, Rumania, Servia, Montenegro and Bulgaria—have been cut off from an effete monarchy, and sixteen republics have been carved out of the American dominions of Spain and Portugal, the doctrine of nationality has substituted two new great States, more important than all the last-mentioned twenty-one put together, for the multitude of kingdoms and principalities which so late as 1859 filled Italy and Germany.
Thus neither Democracy nor the principle of Nationalities has, on the balance of cases, operated to check the general movement towards aggregation which marks the last six centuries.
It may, however, be said—and this question should be faced before we proceed to inquire whether the aggregative movement is likely to continue—that in all this inquiry we have been ignoring two potent factors. One is Conquest—that is to say, military power. We have been examining the forces of Interest and Sympathy, which cover a number of influences social or economic, racial or sentimental. But after all it is Conquest, i.e. the might of the strongest, which has created most States as we find them. Is Conquest one of the centripetal forces? and if so, is it not the greatest of them?
The other factor is Family Succession, which both during the Middle Ages and since has done a great deal to consolidate principalities and kingdoms. The United Kingdom owes much to this agency, Austria and France even more.
Conquest and Dynastic Succession are hardly fit to be classed among the centripetal forces, because they are not susceptible of scientific treatment like the other influences. The disposition of the stronger to subdue and annex the weaker neighbour is of course a permanent fact in human nature, and therefore in history. But in each particular instance the success of one or other combatant depends on what may be called historical accidents—on the numbers or the discipline of troops, on the possession of a commander of military genius, on alliances with other states, on the internal dissensions of one state as compared with the unity of another. Physical force belongs to a different sphere from that in which political constitutions work. Constitutions may result from a conquest or may be maintained for a time by arms; but if they are obliged to rely on and have constant recourse to physical force in order to prevent their overthrow, they are, considered as Constitutions, failures; because the very nature and object of a constitutional Frame of Government is so to express and so to adjust to existing conditions the wishes and aims of the citizens as to make the majority, and if possible the vast majority, of the people desire to support it. According to the proverb, you can do anything with bayonets except sit down on them. Physical force is of course needed to punish occasional infractions of the Constitution or to quell revolts against it. But the system of government which ex hypothesi corresponds to the permanently strongest among the moral forces, else it has no right to prevail in a free country, ought not to be surrounded by cannon.
Similarly, the devolution of princedoms or kingdoms by marriage and inheritance, much as it has done to bring States originally independent under one government, lies outside political science in the proper sense of the term. Like conquest, it brings about a new state of things by an event with which the ordinary political and constitutional phenomena of national life have nothing to do, coming into these phenomena as an incommensurable and (so to speak) irrational factor1 .
So soon as either conquest or a union due to hereditary succession has taken place, the normal centripetal and centrifugal tendencies resume their action. Where the territory of one people has been forcibly acquired by another, as Lombardy was acquired by Austria in 1815, or has been occupied in virtue of a title based on succession, as Portugal was claimed by Spain in 1580, such centripetal forces as may exist have the advantage of physical force behind them. But this advantage may be unavailing against the stronger forces which sentiment sends forth to dissever the connexion. Austria lost Lombardy after forty-four years; Spain lost Portugal after sixty. In both cases there was fighting, but it was not so much the balance of military strength as the settled hostility of the subjected people which in both caused the severance. So the acquisition by the English kings of Aquitaine and the subsequent conquest of large part of France, the conquest by the Turks of Transylvania, the union of Holstein with Denmark, the union of Belgium with Holland, the union of Alsace with France, all effected without regard to the will of the people, were all in time brought to an end. The last-mentioned case is a peculiar one. It was not because the Alsatians wished to be reunited to Germany, but because the Germans wished to be reunited to Alsace that a connexion which had lasted nearly two centuries was dissolved in 1871. Military motives, decisive as regards the annexed part of Lorraine, had something to do with the taking of Alsace also; but if Alsace had not been German in language and habits, though not in sentiment, the popular voice of Germany would not have insisted on recovering it against the will of its inhabitants.
Speaking broadly, one may say that Conquest and Inheritance give an opportunity, better in the latter than in the former case, for centripetal forces to work. If the peoples on which they operate are backward, with no pronounced national feeling, that chance may be a good one, and the influences of free commerce, joint government (especially if it is good government), together with the kind of pride which common service in war often produces, may operate to weld two peoples together into a united State. Much depends on language, much on geographical position, much on external pressure from powerful neighbours. But if one of the peoples (or both) has already developed a strong sentiment of nationality, the prospect of fusion is but slender.
The Roman Empire is the capital instance of a vast dominion established by conquest. But there it was the weakness of the centrifugal forces that secured the cohesion of the Empire. The conquered countries were either, like Gaul, Spain and Britain, occupied by tribes between whom there existed so weak a bond that no general national feeling or combined national action was possible, or had been, as in the Eastern Mediterranean World, ruled by dynasties, most of them sprung from military adventurers1 , so that the sentiment of national life had not centred in the monarchy. The centrifugal forces of interest—the desire for peace, good government, facilities for commerce, and so forth—obtained free play under the imperial administration, and to these was added after a time the sense of pride in Roman citizenship, and in the greatness of a State which included all the highest civilization of the world. So too during the Middle Ages not a few conquests ended in an assimilation of the vanquished, which enlarged without weakening the conquering nation. But during the last three centuries the experience of military powers has been that the acquisition of masses of subjects who, being already civilized, are likely to resist absorption and to remain disaffected, is a doubtful gain and may become a danger to the conquering State. The last conspicuous instance is Poland, partitioned between three Powers, to all of whom her provinces have brought trouble. Conquests continue to be made, but they are now mostly of barbarous or semi-civilized races, so inferior to the conquerors in force and in national spirit that the centrifugal forces are, or at least seem to be, practically negligible.
Is it possible, then, to arrive at any conclusion regarding the respective strength which these two sets of forces are likely to display in the coming centuries? Will the tendency to aggregation continue, and does the future belong to great States? Or may new forces appear which will reverse the process, as it was reversed, though through causes most unlikely to reappear, at the fall of the Roman Empire?
At first sight the probabilities seem to point to further aggregation. Although none of the five great national States—Russia, Germany, France, Italy, Britain—is in the least likely to be absorbed by any of the others, there is reason to think that within the next century some of the smaller states will have disappeared from the map of Europe. In one or two other parts of the world—as for instance in South and in Central America—the process by which the great States are expanding is not yet complete. The influences of swifter and cheaper communications by land and sea, of increasing commerce, and of the closer intercourse which commerce brings, of the power exerted by the printing press in extinguishing the languages which prevail over a small area and diffusing those spoken by vast masses of men—all these things make for unity within each of the great States and add to the attractive power which the greater have for the smaller. These influences, moreover, all promise to be permanent.
Against them we must set the fact that Conquest, so far as civilized peoples are concerned, seems likely to play a smaller rôle in the future than in the past, because it begins to be perceived how tenacious is the sentiment of nationality in a vanquished people, and how much the maintenance of that sentiment may endanger the victor State. As was observed in an earlier page, the progress of a community in civilization often tends to intensify both its capacity for political discontent and its peculiar national sentiment, thus counterworking the influences of trade and wealth. A people, or a nationality included in a large State, while feeling the centripetal forces of material interest, may nevertheless feel the repellent instinct of an unquenched attachment to its national traditions and cling to the hope of reviving its old national life.
The problem is, however, a far more complex one than any comparison of the influences of material interest on the one side and national sentiment on the other would suggest. Many phenomena may be imagined which would affect it as the world moves on. One is a change in the conditions under which war is waged. Another is a removal of some of the causes which induce war, or a means, better than now exists, of averting its outbreak. Another is the growth of what is called Collectivism and a disposition to apply its principles in small rather than in large areas, seeing that there are obviously some things which can be better managed in the former. We are far from having exhausted the possibilities of the influence of scientific discovery upon economic life, and through it upon social and political life. Both the relations of Nations and States to one another and the relations of the groups or communities within each State to each other may be affected in ways as yet scarcely dreamt of. Neither can we foresee the modes in which the scientific way of looking at all questions may come ultimately to tinge and modify men’s habits of thought even in social and political matters. No institution was at one time more generally prevalent over the world, or seemed more deeply rooted, than Slavery; and slavery, which has now vanished from civilized communities, will soon have vanished from all countries. There is indeed hardly any institution for which permanance can be predicted except—and some will not admit even this exception—the Family.
Imagine a world in which all the hitherto unappropriated territories had been allotted to one or other of the few strongest States. Imagine tariffs abolished and the principle of equality of trade-facilities among States established. Imagine a system of international arbitration created under which the risks of war were so greatly reduced that the prospects of war did not occupy men’s minds and give a military and aggressive tinge to their patriotism. The present relations of centripetal and centrifugal forces would under such conditions be greatly altered, as respects both the wide theatre of the world and the internal conditions of each particular State.
Imagine also a great advance in the desire to use governmental agencies for the benefit of the citizens, and a general conviction that such agencies could best be used by comparatively small communities rather than by the State as a whole. A new centrifugal force, centrifugal at least in respect of each State, would thereby have been called into action. No one will venture to foretell any of these things. But none of them is impossible; and it is plain that they might produce a set of conditions, and a play of forces, unlike the present, and unlike any period in the past. We must not therefore assume that the large States and the present structure and organization of States will be permanent.
Of the more remote future, History can venture to say little more than this—that it will never bring back the past. She recognizes that, as Heraclitus says, one cannot step twice into the same river. Even when she is able to declare that certain forces will assuredly be present, she cannot forecast their relative strength at any given moment, nor say what hitherto unobserved forces they may not, in their action upon one another, call into activity. All she can do for the lawyer, the statesman and the legislator, when they have to study and use the forces operative in their own time, is to indicate to them the nature and the character, the significant elements of strength and weakness, that belong to each and every force that has been heretofore conspicuous, so as to direct and guide them in observing and reflecting on the present. This is much less than has sometimes been claimed for history. Nevertheless it is a real service, for nothing is more difficult than to observe exactly, and the ripest fruit of historical study is that detachment of mind, created by the habit of scientific thinking, which prevents observation from being coloured by prejudice or passion.
[1 ]This Essay was composed in the early part of 1885. It has been revised throughout, but the substance remains the same.
[1 ]In the pages that follow the word Group is used to denote the section of persons within a larger community who may be held together by some tie, whether of interest or sentiment or race or local habitation, which makes them a sort of minor community inside the larger one.
[1 ]Subject of course to any provisions for amending the Constitution which may have been inserted. See Essay III, p. 176 sqq.
[1 ]The case of Ireland shows the same forces of industrial or commercial interest, real or supposed, operating partly as centripetal, partly as centrifugal. The Nationalist party conceive that economic benefits would result from a local legislature, which could aid local industries. The mercantile class, especially in the north-eastern part of the island, fear commercial loss from anything which could hamper their trade intercourse with Scotland and England, or which might be deemed prejudicial to commercial credit. With the soundness of either view I am not concerned; it is sufficient to note the facts.
[1 ]A curious survival of the dislike of the Lowlander to the Highlander may be found in Carlyle’s comments upon the Highland wife of his friend Thomas Campbell the poet.
[1 ]See Essay IX, p. 467 sqq.
[1 ]There are of course dissenting sects in Russia, some of them counting many adherents, but they have seldom, and in no large measure, affected the political unity of the nation.
[1 ]The dualistic Zoroastrianism of Persia seems to have taken many of the characteristics of a monotheistic religion.
[1 ]Though it must be admitted that the passing of legislation disapproved by the majority of Scotch representatives, or the omission to pass legislation which they demand, often elicits murmurs.
[2 ]This wise policy seems unfortunately to be now (1900) on the point of being abandoned, with results which every lover of freedom and progress must regret.
[1 ]In two respects the Jews under the early Empire would seem to have been above the average level of the civilized subjects of Rome. There was apparently very little slavery among them; and there must have been an exceptionally large proportion of persons able to read.
[1 ]In Algeria the electoral suffrage is limited; but in some of the French tropical colonies it seems to have been granted irrespective of colour.
[1 ]Only since 1890 have complaints begun to be made: see Essay III, p. 202, ante.
[1 ]It has been accused of having caused a civil war by omitting to deal with the questions out of which the Civil War arose, and by failing to negative the right of secession. But to this it may be answered that an attempt to deal with those questions or to negative that right might possibly have prevented it from having ever been accepted.
[2 ]This interpretation has sometimes been at variance with the views of the older interpreters, but no instance occurs to me in which an impartial jurist could have pronounced it inadmissable.
[3 ]This is still more so to-day (1900) than it was when this Essay was first composed.
[1 ]One would like to refer to the cases of the numerous so-called republics, most of them federal, of Spanish America. But apart from the difficulty of ascertaining their constitutional history, little of which has been written, some of these republics seem to pay so little regard to their constitutions, living generally in a state of revolution, whether subsiding, or actually raging, or apprehended, like the Atlantic during a series of cyclones following one another along the same track from the Bermudas to the Fastnet, that it is hard to draw any conclusions of value from them. They are in fact republics only in name: and it is surprising that Sir H. Maine in his Popular Government condescended to go to them for arguments to discredit democracy. They are military tyrannies, the product of peculiar historical, territorial and racial conditions.
[1 ]The fact that the custom of a country permits or forbids succession through females makes a great difference in the importance of succession. The union of Castile with Aragon, like the union of England with Scotland, would not have occurred under a different rule of succession. So it may make a difference whether the throne of the larger country passes to the dynasty of the smaller, or vice versa. Had a king of England inherited the throne of Scotland, Scotland might have been more hostile to England. Had a king of Portugal inherited the throne of Spain, the two countries might have remained united.
[1 ]There were of course also a certain number of city republics, or leagues of republics, but these were too small to have developed national feeling in the modern sense; and the Roman system left most of them a certain measure of self-government which modified their regret for an independence the delight in which had been (in many cases) reduced by domestic disorders.