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CHAPTER VIII.: Of Man, as a Member of a Confederation. - James Wilson, Collected Works of James Wilson, vol. 1 
Collected Works of James Wilson, edited by Kermit L. Hall and Mark David Hall, with an Introduction by Kermit L. Hall, and a Bibliographical Essay by Mark David Hall, collected by Maynard Garrison (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007). Vol. 1.
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Of Man, as a Member of a Confederation.
A number of states or societies may associate or confederate together for their mutual security and advantage. In some respects, such confederacies are to be considered as forming only one nation: in other respects, they are to be considered as still retaining their separate political capacities, characters, rights, and powers. Associations of this kind have made their appearance but seldom on the great theatre of human affairs; and when they have appeared, the part they have acted has generally been but a short one; and even that short part has, in most instances, been defaced, or mutilated, or rendered obscure by the effect of all-corroding time. The appearance, however, of personages, so peculiarly interesting to the United States, well deserves to be marked, to be traced, to be distinguished, with the most sedulous precision and exactness.
The first association of this kind, of which we have any information from history, is that of the Amphyctionick Council, so called from Amphyction, by whom it was instituted. In the time of this wise and patriotick prince, the condition of Greece demanded his most serious and deep reflection. That country was divided into a great number of small independent sovereignties. That division was likely to occasion controversies, and produce ruinous intestine wars. Weakness and confusion, the inseparable concomitants of such wars, might invite the attacks of the barbarous nations, by whom Greece was surrounded. Her destruction, total and irretrievable, might prove the necessary consequence.
To prevent calamities, so probable and so great, Amphyction meditated and formed the plan of uniting all the different states of Greece in one common bond, as well as in one common interest; that, availing themselves of the advantages and strength acquired by this union, they might labour together in maintaining their internal peace and security, and in rendering themselves respectable, and, if necessary, formidable to the neighbouring nations. With this view, and on these principles, he formed a league among twelve Grecian cities, whose deputies were to meet twice a year at Thermopylae, where Amphyction reigned.a Difference of times and circumstances produced many successive alterations in this assembly; but the general intention and invariable object of all its modellers and directers was, to form a complete representation of all Greece.b
Each city sent two deputies; and had, of consequence, two votes in their deliberations, without distinction or preeminence.
We should consider the Council of the Amphyctions as the Congress of the United States of Greece. The delegates, who composed that august assembly, represented the body of the nation; and were invested with full power to deliberate and resolve upon whatever appeared to them to be most conducive to the publick prosperity.c Besides those laws, by which each particular city was governed, others were enacted by the Council of Amphyctions, of general force and obligation on all. Those were called Amphyctionick laws. All contests between the Grecian states and cities came under the particular cognizance of the Amphyctions. To their tribunal, an appeal also lay in all private controversies.d To the same tribunal, individuals were amenable for their publick crimes.e Their authority extended to the raising of forces, and to compel the obstinate to submit to the execution of their decrees. The three religious wars, undertaken by the order of the Amphyctions, are striking instances of the extent of their power.f
Among the Grecians, it was esteemed a high honour to have a right to send delegates to this kind of states general. The least mark of infidelity to their country was sufficient to prevent their admission, or to procure their expulsion. The Lacedemonians, however important, and the Phocians were, for some time, excluded; and could not obtain a readmission, till, by unequivocal proofs of service and attachment to the publick, they had made reparation for the fault, which they had committed.
The effects, produced by the Council of the Amphyctions, fully answered the most sanguine expectations of the prince, by whom it was instituted. From the moment of its establishment, the interests of their country became the common concern of all the people of Greece. The different states, of which the union was composed, formed only one and the same republick: and this union it was, which made the Greeks so formidable afterwards to the barbarians.g To the Amphyctions we may ascribe the salvation of Greece from the invasion of Xerxes. It was by means of this association, that she performed such wonderful actions, and supported, for so long a time, the character of the pride of nations.
Amphyction ought to be esteemed one of the greatest men, that Greece ever produced; and the establishment of the Council of the Amphyctions should be admired, as a great master-piece in human politicks.
While the generous principles, on which the Council of the Amphyctions was formed, continued to preserve their due vigour, that illustrious body was respectable, august, and powerful. But when Greece herself began to degenerate, her representative body was contaminated with the general corruption. The decline of this council we may date particularly from the time, when Philip of Macedon, artful and intriguing, practised on its venal members by bribes, and succeeded in having his kingdom annexed to the Hellenick Body. It continued, however, for ages after the destruction of Grecian liberty, to assemble, and to exercise some remains of its authority.h
The next confederacy, which claims our attention, is that of the Lycians. In this republick, the just rights of suffrage were observed with great accuracy. It was an association of twenty three towns. These were arranged into three classes, in proportion to their strength. In the first class, six states were included. The numbers of which the second and third classes were composed, are uncertain. Every city had its own magistrates and government, and managed its own internal affairs. But all, uniting together, formed only one common republick, and had one common council. In that council, they deliberated and resolved concerning war, concerning peace, concerning alliances; in a word, concerning the general interests and welfare of the Lycians. The towns of the first class had three votes; the towns of the second class had two votes; and the towns of the third class had one vote, in the common council. In the same proportion, they contributed to the publick expenses, and appointed the publick magistrates of the union.
This republick was celebrated for its moderation and justice. Respected and unimpaired, it continued till the Romans, by their extending conquests, overpowered every thing in Asia.
Concerning the Lycians, one observation is made, which merits our particular notice. They observed customs more than written laws.i
“Was I to give,” says the celebrated Montesquieu,j “the model of an excellent confederate republick, I would select that of Lycia.” The happy experience, however, of the United States, has evinced, that, even upon that model, immense improvements have been made.
The Achaean League1 comes now in review before us. The cities composing it retained, like those of Lycia, the government of their interiour police, and appointed their own magistrates and publick officers. The senate, in which they were represented, had the sole and exclusive right of declaring war and making peace; of receiving and sending ambassadours; of entering into treaties, and forming alliances. It appointed a chief magistrate, called a pretor, who commanded their armies, and who, assisted by a council of ten of the senators, not only administered the government during the recess of the senate; but, when the senate was assembled, had also a large share in its deliberations. At first, there were two pretors; but experience taught them to prefer one.
In Achaia, all the cities had the same money, the same weights and measures, the same customs and laws. The popular government, we are told, was not so tempestuous in the cities of Achaia, as in some of the other cities of Greece; because, in Achaia, it was tempered by the authority and laws of the confederacy. Indeed it is unquestionable, that, in this confederacy, there was much more moderation and justice, than was to be found in any of the cities exercising singly all the prerogatives of sovereignty.
When Lacedaemon2 was admitted into the Achaean League; she was obliged to abolish the institutions of Lycurgus, and to adopt the laws of the Achaeans. But Lacedaemon had been long a member of the Amphyctionick Council; and, during all the time, she had been left in the full possession of her own government and laws. This circumstance discloses a very important difference between those two confederate systems.k
The Germanick Body has been generally considered as a confederate state. From the feudal system, which has itself many of the important features of a confederacy, the federal system, which constitutes the empire of Germany, has grown. Its powers are vested in a diet, representing the component members of the confederacy; in the emperour, who is the executive magistrate, with a negative on the decrees of the diet; and in the imperial chamber and aulick council, two tribunals possessed of supreme jurisdiction in controversies, which concern the empire, or happen among its members.
The diet possesses the power of legislation for the empire, of making peace and war, contracting alliances, assessing quotas of troops and money, constructing fortresses, regulating coin, admitting new members, and subjecting disobedient members to the ban of the empire; by which the party is degraded from his sovereign rights, and his possessions are forfeited. The members of the confederacy are expressly restricted from entering into compacts prejudicial to the empire; from imposing tolls and duties on their mutual intercourse, without the consent of the emperour and diet; from altering the value of money; from doing injustice to one another; and from affording assistance or retreat to the disturbers of the publick peace. The ban is denounced against such as shall violate any of these restrictions.
The members of the diet, as such, are subject, in all cases, to be judged by the emperour and diet; and, in their private capacities, by the aulick council and imperial chamber.
The prerogatives of the emperour are numerous. The most important of them are—his exclusive right to make propositions to the diet, to negative its resolutions, to name ambassadours, to confer dignities and titles, to fill vacant electorates, to found universities, to grant privileges not injurious to the states of the empire, to receive and apply the publick revenues, and generally to watch over the publick safety. In certain cases, the electors form a council to him. In the character of emperour, he possesses no territory within the empire; and receives no revenue for his support.
The fundamental principle, on which this confederacy rests, is—that the empire is a community of sovereigns—that the diet is a representation of sovereigns—and that the laws are addressed to sovereigns.m The princes and free states of Germany may treat with foreign powers.n
The Swiss Cantons are frequently mentioned as forming a confederacy; but they are improperly mentioned in that character. They are no more than states connected together by a close and perpetual alliance. They have no common treasury; they have no national troops, even in war; they have no common coin; they have no common tribunal; they have no common characteristick of sovereignty.
When a dispute happens among the cantons, there is a provision, that the parties to that dispute shall each choose four judges out of the neutral cantons, who, in case of disagreement, choose an umpire. This tribunal, under an oath of impartiality, pronounces definitive sentence. This sentence all the cantons are bound to enforce.o
The United Netherlands are generally represented as a confederacy. If the term can, with propriety, be applied to them; they are a confederacy of republicks, or rather of aristocracies, of a very remarkable texture.
The union is composed of seven coequal and sovereign states or provinces;p and each state or province is a composition of equal and independent cities. In all important cases, not only the states, but the cities, must be unanimous.
The sovereignty of the union is represented by the states-general, consisting of deputies appointed by the provinces. Some hold their seats for life; some, for six years; some, for three years, some, for one year; some, during pleasure.
The states-general have authority to enter into treaties and alliances; to make war and peace; to raise armies and equip fleets; to ascertain quotas, and demand contributions. In all these cases, however, unanimity and the sanction of their constituents are requisite. They have authority to appoint and receive ambassadours; to execute treaties and alliances already formed; to provide for the collection of duties on imports and exports; to regulate the mint, with a saving to the provincial rights; to govern, as sovereigns, the dependent territories.
The particular states or provinces are restrained, unless with the general consent, from entering into foreign treaties; from establishing imposts injurious to others; and from charging higher duties upon their neighbours than upon their own citizens.
A council of state; a chamber of accounts; and five colleges of admiralty, aid and fortify the federal administration.
The executive magistrate of the union is the stadtholder, who is now an hereditary prince. As stadtholder,4 he is invested with very considerable prerogatives. In his civil capacity, he has power to settle disputes between the provinces; to assist at the deliberations of the states-general; to give audiences to foreign ambassadours; and to keep agents, for his particular affairs, at foreign courts. In his military capacity, he commands the federal troops; provides for garrisons; regulates military affairs; disposes of military appointments, and of the government of fortified towns. In his marine capacity, he is admiral, and superintends every thing relative to naval affairs; presides in the admiralties in person or by proxy; appoints naval officers; and establishes councils of war, whose sentences are not executed till he approve them. He is stadtholder in the several provinces, as well as in the union; and, in this provincial character, he has the appointment of town magistrates; executes provincial decrees; and presides, when he pleases, in the provincial tribunals. Throughout all, he has the power of pardon.q
After the independence of the United Netherlands was recognised by Spain, the individual states began to pay very little regard to the decrees of the states-general: even particular towns and lordships seemed desirous of maintaining entire independence on the states of the provinces, within which they were situated. The Dutch government, which had greatly relaxed, and was even threatened with dissolution, recovered its tone through the dangers, to which the United Provinces were exposed by the war of thirty years, which was terminated by the peace of Westphalia. Since that time, dissensions among the Dutch have prevailed, or have been composed, according as they have dreaded or trusted their ambitious neighbours.r
In the Saxon Heptarchy,5 a confederacy certainly existed; though, perhaps, a confederacy weak, defective, and interrupted; and from all the confederated states a wittenagemote6 was frequently called.s This general superintending body was sometimes called a pananglicum.
Among the ancient Germans, the genius of confederacy pervaded the whole structure of society. They sojourned in huts, which served them as strong holds, to which they carried their property in time of danger. These strong holds or pagi, as the Greeks and Romans called them, were the natural resort of the tribes in their neighbourhood, and seem to have been the embryos of the little states, with which ancient Europe so much abounded. A point of union being thus formed among a few tribes, it was natural that the warriours should frequently assemble at that point. In those assemblies, a king, or common leader in war, and an executive magistrate in peace, was chosen.t “Eliguntur,” says Tacitus,u “in iisdem consiliis principes, qui jura per pagos vicosque reddunt.”7
Though, in general, each pagus acknowledged no superiour, yet particular circumstances of society induced numbers of them to confederate; and, when wars happened, a common leader of the confederacy was chosen of course. When a confederacy of neighbouring pagi had subsisted for a considerable time, a sentiment of national union and of national character began, at last, to appear and operate. The common leader, occasionally chosen for a war, was so often elected, that he became a king, like the chief of a pagus; that he was a princeps regionis,8 with several principes pagorum9 in such a subordination under him, as the chiefs of vici, or of primary tribes, were originally held under the chiefs of the pagi.
These combined associates became, again, the members of a greater and less consolidated confederacy. According to Tacitus, the Suevi, one of the greatest communities of Germany, were not comprehended in a single people, but were divided into several nations, all bearing distinct names, though they were all included under the common appellation of Suevi. The Semnones, a single nation, though, indeed, the most noble and the most ancient nation, comprehended under this great confederacy, inhabited no fewer than a hundred pagi. Over the largest portion of Germany the confederacy of the Suevi extended.v Thus the Semnones, though but a single member of the great confederacy of the Suevi, were themselves, considered with regard to the pagi which they inhabited, a very considerable national confederacy.
Of a confederacy, whether supreme or subordinate, every member possessed, within itself, legislative, executive, and judicial powers, similar, but inferiour to those exercised by the confederacy itself. In this way the form of society was nearly indestructible.w The bonds of association were in just, though inverse, number and proportion to the extent and greatness of the parts associated.
Let us conclude this general view of confederacies with an account of one, which was established, where we should little expect to find it, in Iceland. That obscure and sequestered region—but what place or what people are there, from whence instruction may not be drawn—was peopled by a series of colonies from Norway. These colonists relinquished their country, when it was conquered by Harold10 with the beautiful hair, in the year eight hundred and seventy eight. In their new settlements, they formed small communities with elective chiefs. These, by degrees, combined together, and held assemblies, under a common leader, in each of the four great provinces, into which the ridges of Mount Hecla divide the island. At last, these four provinces likewise confederated, and formed, in the year nine hundred and twenty eight, a republick, under one chief magistrate.
The whole country was arranged into regular divisions, called provinces, hundreds, and reeps. The magistrates held their offices for life. Diets were held for the districts; and an alting, or great annual assembly, was held for the nation. In that assembly, besides the arrangement of political matters, appeals were received from the provincial courts, and rejudged, in its presence, and under its inspection, by the former judges. The duty of the lagman, or chief of the nation, was to carry into execution what the alting ordered and decreed. There was a succession of thirty eight lagmans, which continued till the year one thousand two hundred and sixty two, when the republick was destroyed by the Danes.
On a subject of such magnitude, not only that which has been done, but also that which has been proposed to be done, well deserves attention and examination. I allude to the grand plan of a general confederacy in Europe, formed by the immense genius of Henry the Fourth of France; in which he received most essential assistance from the genius, no less penetrating and active, of Elizabeth of England.
It is very remarkable, that, by several writers, and even by some very profound ones, this very enlarged plan of government is considered as nothing better than a mere visionary project; and doubts are proposed whether it could ever engage the serious contemplation of Henry the Great. To me, I confess, the matter appears in a very different light; and I feel myself justified and supported in directing your close and earnest attention to it, when I consider the fact as authenticated by the testimony of Sully, Henry’s faithful and confidential minister, and the plan itself as occupying, for a series of years, the unremitted application of Henry and Elizabeth; who were distinguished by their wisdom, as well as by their enterprise; and who knew, if ever princes knew, how to draw the important line between what is extravagant and what is great.
An investigation of this sublime system, from its commencement through the various and successive stages of its progress and preparation, must be instructive to all: to Americans, it must be interesting as well as instructive.
Sully enters upon his account of it with expressing some sagacious apprehensions, that—as, in fact, has since been the case—it would be considered as one of those darling chimeras, or idle political speculations, in which a mind susceptible of singular and uncommon conceptions, is sometimes easily engaged. He confesses, that at the first time the king suggested to him the idea of a political system, by which all Europe might be managed and governed as a single family, he received the suggestion, supposing that Henry meant by it nothing more than to amuse himself with an agreeable speculation, or, at most, to show, that his contemplations on political subjects were more profound and more extensive than those of others.
How modest is conscious merit! Henry often afterwards owned to his confidential friend, that he had long concealed even from him what he meditated upon this great subject, from a principle of shame, lest he should disclose designs, which might appear ridiculous or impracticable.
Inattentive to this great design, when it was first suggested, the cold and cautious Sully was averse to it when the suggestion was renewed. An endless series of difficulties and obstructions presented itself to his circumspect mind. The extent of a design, which supposed a union of all the states in Europe; the concatenation of events, almost infinite, that would be necessary for its accomplishment; the immense expenses, which, if it could be accomplished, would thereby be rolled upon France at a crisis, when she was scarcely able to supply her own necessities—all these considerations induced him to consider the scheme as a vain one, and even to suspect, that, in it, there was something illusory. The disposition of the princes of Europe to become jealous of France, when she should have assisted them to dissipate their fears from the overgrown power of the house of Austria, appeared, of itself, an insurmountable obstacle. His own sentiments he endeavoured to infuse into the mind of the king, with an honest desire to undeceive him, as he thought. Henry begged him to consider the plan in its several parts, and not to pass an indiscrimte sentence of condemnation upon the whole. This solicitation, so reasonable and so unassuming, it was impossible to refuse. The result of Sully’s consideration was what Henry expected it would be—the conversion of the minister to the opinions of the prince. After having seen all the parts of the fabrick from their proper points of view, after having made the necessary examinations and the necessary calculations, he found himself engaged and confirmed in the sentiment, that the plan was just in its intention, and that it would be practicable in the execution, and glorious in its consequences.
Great minds frequently unite, without intercommunication, upon the same great object. This exalted system presented itself to the penetration and magnanimity of Elizabeth, before it had occurred to the expansive comprehension of Henry. Indeed it appears doubtful, whether he was not indebted to her for the first hint of the design. But between two such minds, there was no mean jealousy about the right or the merit of the prior discovery. The family of Sully is still possessed of a letter written by Henry, evidently to Elizabeth, though her name does not appear either in the superscription or in the letter itself. It is addressed to “her who merits immortal praise.” In it, Henry speaks of a certain object, which he calls “the most excellent and rare enterprise that the human mind ever conceived”—“a thought rather divine than human.” He mentions, with rapture, “a discourse so well connected and demonstrative of what would be necessary for the government of empires and kingdoms,” and those “conceptions and resolutions,” from which nothing less could be hoped, than “most remarkable issues both of honour and glory.” These expressions can point, to no other person than Elizabeth—to no other object than that, in the investigation of which we are now engaged.
It is well known that Henry and Elizabeth were anxious to have a personal interview; and that, in the year 1601, the latter came to Dover and the former to Calais for this purpose. The ceremonials, established among princes, prevented the satisfaction of a conference; but those communications, which Henry could not make in person, he transmitted by the faithful Sully. This minister found that she was deeply engaged in the means, by which the great design might be happily executed; and that, notwithstanding the difficulties, which, in some points, she apprehended, she did not appear at all to doubt of success. This she chiefly expected for a reason, of the solidity and justness of which, Sully declares that he was afterwards well convinced. It was, that as the plan was, in truth, contrary only to the designs of some princes, whose ambitious views were sufficiently known to all Europe, the obstacles interposed by those princes, instead of retarding, would promote the design; since they would place its necessity in a more striking point of view.
“A very great number,” says Sully, “of the articles, conditions, and different dispositions is due to this queen; and sufficiently evince, that, in respect of wisdom, penetration, and all the other perfections of the mind, she was not inferiour to any king, the most truly deserving of that title.”
The death of this great princess gave such a violent shock to the whole plan, that Henry and his minister were almost induced to abandon their fondest hopes. The successour to the throne was the successour neither to the virtues nor to the talents of Elizabeth; and Henry had too much penetration to expect that assistance, which James12 had too much pusillanimity to give. After some time, however, favourable circumstances occurred again, which induced him to reassume the plan, and to prepare, with renewed vigour, for its execution. Of its execution, he was on the very eve, when the fatal poignard of Ravaillac13 interrupted it.
The leading object in the great design was to reduce within reasonable bounds, the formidable power of the house of Austria. With this view, it was proposed to devest that house of its possessions in Germany, Italy, and the Low Countries; and to confine it to the kingdom of Spain, bounded by the ocean, the Mediterranean, and the Pyrenean mountains. That it might, however, be equally powerful with the other sovereigns in Europe, it was intended to allot to it Sardinia, Majorca, Minorca, the Canaries, the Azores, and its possessions in Asia, Africa, and America.
“If there be any where,” says Vattel,y “a state restless and mischievous, always ready to injure others, to traverse their designs, and to foment domestick troubles within them; it is not to be doubted, that all have a right to join in order to repress it, and deprive it of the power to molest them in future. The conduct of Philip the second of Spain14 was adapted to unite all Europe against him; and it was from just reasons that Henry the Great formed the design of humbling a power, formidable by its forces, and pernicious by its maxims.”
Between Henry and Elizabeth, it was a settled point, that neither of them should, by the different dismemberments proposed to be made, receive any thing, except the glory of distributing them with equity and impartiality. Henry even sometimes said, with equal moderation and good sense, that were the meditated dispositions once firmly established, he would have consented that the extent of France should have been determined by a majority of suffrages. With regard to England, the conduct of Elizabeth was probably influenced by an observation, which she made, that the Britannick isles, in all the different states, through which they passed, and among all the variations of their laws and policy, had never experienced great misfortunes, but when their sovereigns had interfered in matters beyond the sphere of their little continent. It seems, indeed, as if they were concentred in it, even by nature; and their happiness appears to depend entirely on themselves, provided they aim only to maintain peace in the three nations subject to them, by governing each according to its own laws and customs.
The ultimate design of the great plan was, to divide Europe equally among a certain number of powers, in such a manner, that no one might have reason for either envy or fear, from the power or possessions of the others. The number of states were reduced to fifteen. They were of three different kinds; hereditary monarchies; elective monarchies; republicks. The hereditary monarchies were six—France, Spain, Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Lombardy. The elective monarchies were five—the Empire, the Papacy, Poland, Hungary, Bohemia. The republicks were four—the Venetian, the Italian, the Helvetick, the Belgick.
There was to have been a general council, representing all the states of Europe. The establishment of this would have been the happiest invention that could have been conceived for preventing those innovations, and for applying a remedy to those inconveniences or defects, which time often introduces or discovers in the wisest and the most useful institutions. The model of this general council of Europe was formed on that of the ancient Amphyctions of Greece (a delineation of which I have already laid before you) with such alterations only as rendered it suitable to the alterations of customs, climate, and policy. It was to consist of a certain number of delegates from all the governments of the Christian Republick, who were to be constantly assembled as a senate. This body was to discuss the different interests, decide the controversies, and determine all the civil, political, and religious affairs of Europe, whether within itself or with its neighbours. The senate was to consist of four delegates from each of the following powers—the Emperour, the Pope, the kings of France, Spain, England, Denmark, Sweden, Lombardy, Poland, and the republick of Venice; and of two only from the other republicks and inferiour powers. All together would have composed a senate of about sixty six persons. They were to be chosen every three years. With regard to the place of meeting, it was undetermined whether it would be better for the council to be fixed or ambulatory; united in one, or divided into three. If it were divided into three, each containing twenty two magistrates, then each of them must have been fixed in such a centre as should appear to be most commodious. If it were judged more expedient not to divide the assembly, whether fixed or ambulatory, it must have been nearly in the centre of Europe.
Besides this general council, it would have been proper to have constituted subordinate councils: but whatever the number or form of those subordinate councils had been, it would have been absolutely necessary that an appeal should have lain from them to the general council, whose decisions, when considered as proceeding from the united authority of all the sovereigns, pronounced in a manner equally free and absolute; must have been regarded as so many final and irrevocable decrees.
A particular account is given by Sully of the measures taken to secure the success of this great and glorious design.
Henry was indefatigable in his negotiations in the different courts of Europe, particularly in the United Provinces, and in the circles of Germany. The council of the states-general were very soon unanimous in their determinations. The states-general were, in a short time, followed by the landgrave of Hesse, and the prince of Anhalt, to whom, as well as to the prince of Orange, the confederacy was obliged for being increased by the duke of Savoy; by all of the reformed religion in Hungary, Bohemia, and lower Austria; by many princes and towns in Germany; and by a great proportion of the Swiss Cantons. But a discovery either of the true motives, or of the full extent of the design, was cautiously avoided. It was, at first, concealed from all, without exception; and it was afterwards revealed, only to a few persons of approved discretion; and even of those, only to such as were absolutely to engage others to join the confederacy.
The king, on his side, had actually set on foot two good and well furnished armies; one of which he was to have commanded in person. It was to have consisted of twenty thousand foot, all native French, eight thousand Swiss, four thousand Lansquenets or Walloons, five thousand horse, and twenty cannons. The second was to have been commanded by Lesdiguieres, consisting of ten thousand foot, one thousand horse, and ten cannons; besides a flying camp of four thousand foot, six hundred horse, and ten cannons; and a reserve of two thousand foot to garrison places, where they might be necessary. Magazines were collected and deposited in proper places, for facilitating the execution of the enterprise: and, with the same view, manifestoes were composed with the greatest care. In them, a spirit of justice, of good policy, of honesty, of disinterestedness, and of inviolable faith was universally apparent.
It is impossible to dismiss a design, so interesting to humanity, without indulging a few observations concerning its nature, and its probable effects. That it was bold and magnificent, it will be unanimously agreed: but was it nothing more? was it not presumptuous and extravagant? We have seen that, as such, it was, at first, considered by Sully. As such, even the least difficult and most unimportant parts of it were considered by the other counsellors of France: for it was only on the least difficult and most unimportant parts, that he could venture to consult them. “Could it be imagined,” says Sully, “that Henry, in his whole council, could not find one person, besides myself, to whom he could, without danger, disclose the whole of his designs; and that the respect due to him could scarce restrain those, who appeared most devoted to his service, from treating what, with the greatest circumspection, he had intrusted to them, as wild and extravagant chimeras.” So true is sometimes the poet’s exclamation—
But nothing discouraged that great prince, who was an abler politician and a better judge than all his council, and than all his kingdom. When he perceived that affairs, both at home and abroad, began to wear a favourable aspect, he then considered his success as infallible.
At this distance of time, and with our present imperfect knowledge of particular circumstances, it would be unwise to attempt a judgment, or even a conjecture, upon a detail of facts, existing at that age, and in the different states of Europe. But from general principles, and from our knowledge of some eminent characters, inferences, plausible and even satisfactory, may be drawn.
One inference may be drawn from the nature of the design, which Henry had formed. It was not a design inspired by mean and despicable ambition: it was not a design, guided by base and partial interests: it was a design, in the first place, to render France happy, and permanently happy: but as he well knew that France could not enjoy permanent felicity, unless in conjunction with the other parts of Europe; and as he was well pleased that the other parts of Europe should participate the felicity of France; it was the happiness of Europe in general which he laboured to procure; and to procure in a manner so solid and so durable, that nothing should afterwards be able to shake its foundations. May we not conclude, that, every thing else being equal, the probability is in favour of a great and good design? The fury and ravage of conquests have extended farther and wider, than the benevolent system of Henry the Great was meant or proposed to extend. Why should evil be more powerful or more enlarged in its operations than good? In private life, success is most frequently, though not universally, on the side of virtue: is it natural to expect a contrary rule in the administration of states and kingdoms? Is there not reason to hope that publick virtue will, on the whole, be triumphant; and that publick flagitiousness must, and should, and, at a proper time, will be degraded to the deepest abyss of humiliation?
These observations suggest general reasons in favour of the great design: other reasons may be drawn from the character, and talents, and virtues of the great man, who undertook its execution. It could not have been formed by one more eminently qualified to accomplish it. He possessed a courage capable of surmounting the greatest obstacles: he possessed a presence of mind, which saw and seized every opportunity of advantage: he possessed a prudence, which would not precipitate, but would calmly and patiently wait for the fit season of action: he possessed consummate experience, the result jointly of talents and of time. With all those great qualities as a soldier, as a statesman, and as a patriot, what was there, fair, or honest, or honourable, to which he could not form just pretensions? Had this enterprise failed in his hands, it would probably have failed for no other reason than this—that he was too great and too enlightened for the age in which he lived.
Had he been successful, the consequences of his success would, indeed, have been beneficial, lasting, and extensive. Those consequences would have reached not only his own subjects, not only the christian nations of Europe, but the whole world in general: of those consequences, the generation, at that time alive, the generations that have since succeeded, and those generations that are still to succeed, would have participated, down to the latest periods of time: those consequences would have been the source of all the sweets, which naturally flow from an uninterrupted and universal tranquillity.
Let me add another remark, which has been made in Europe, and which, with pride and joy, may be transferred to America. “Henry the Great has always had the honour of being considered as the author of the most important invention for the benefit of mankind, that has yet appeared in the world; the execution of which may, perhaps, be reserved by Providence, for the greatest and most capable of his successours.” This rich succession has been reaped in America. Here the sublime system of Henry the Great has been effectually realized, and completely carried into execution.
When the political bonds, by which the American States had been connected with Great Britain, were dissolved; when they assumed, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station, to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitled them, the form of government, which each should institute for herself, and that form, if any, which all should institute for all, became objects of the most serious and interesting deliberation. With regard to this last, which is the object of our present discussion, four different systems lay before them; any one of which they might have adopted. They might have consolidated themselves into one government, in which the separate existence of the states would have been entirely absorbed. They might have rejected any plan of union or association, and have acted as distinct and unconnected states. They might have formed two or more confederacies. They might have united in one federal republick.
To support, with vigour, a single government over the whole extent of the United States, would, I apprehend, demand a system of the most unqualified and the most unremitted despotism: even despotism herself, extended so far and so wide, would totter under the weight of her own unwieldiness.
Separate states, numerous as those of America are, still more numerous as they must become, contiguous in situation, unconnected and disunited in government, would, at one time, be the prey of foreign force, foreign influence, and foreign intrigue; at another, the victims of mutual rage, rancour, and revenge.
Would it have been proper to have divided the United States into two or more confederacies? It will not be unadvisable to examine this object with accuracy and attention. Some aspects, under which it may be viewed, are far from being, at first sight, uninviting. Two or more confederacies would be each more compact and more manageable, than a single one extending over the same territory. By dividing the United States into two or more confederacies, the great collision of interests, apparently or really different or contrary, in the whole extent of their dominion, would be broken, and, in a great measure, disappear in the several parts. But these advantages, which are discovered from certain points of view, are greatly overbalanced by inconveniences, which will appear on a closer inspection. Animosities and, perhaps, wars would arise from assigning the extent, the limits, and the rights of the different confederacies. The expenses of governing would be multiplied by the number of federal governments. The danger, resulting from foreign influence and mutual dissensions, would not, perhaps, be less great and alarming in the instance of different confederacies, than in the instance of different, though more numerous, unassociated states. These observations, and many others which might be made on the subject, will be sufficient to evince, that a division of the United States into a number of separate confederacies would probably be an unsatisfactory and an unsuccessful experiment.
The only remaining system, that is to be considered, is the union of the American States into one confederate republick. It will not be necessary to employ many arguments to show, that this is the most eligible system, which could have been proposed. By adopting it, the vigour and decision of a wide spreading monarchy may be associated with the freedom and beneficence of a compacted commonwealth. On one hand, the extent of territory; the diversity of climate and soil; the number, and greatness, and connexion of lakes and rivers, with which the United States are intersected and almost surrounded, all indicate an enlarged government to be fit and advantageous for them. On the other hand, the principles and dispositions of their citizens indicate, that, in this enlarged government, liberty shall reign triumphant.
Agreeably to these principles, the United States have been formed into one confederate republick; first, under the articles of confederation; afterwards, under our present national government. The weakness and inefficiency of the former; the excellencies, the advantages, and the imperfections of the latter—for it has its imperfections, though neither many nor dangerous—we shall hereafter have an opportunity of showing. Our present purpose will be best answered by taking a general view of those principles, characters, and properties, which distinguish or ought to distinguish a confederate republick and its members.
“An overgrown republick,” says the Marquis of Beccaria, in the exquisite performance, with which he has enriched the treasures of legislation—“an overgrown republick can be saved from despotism, only by subdividing it into a number of confederate republicks. But how is this practicable? By a despotick dictator, who, with the courage of Sylla,15 has as much genius for building up, as that Roman had for pulling down. If he be an ambitious man; his reward will be immortal glory: if a philosopher; the blessings of his fellow citizens will sufficiently console him for the loss of authority, though he should not be insensible to their ingratitude.”z In the United States, there is no occasion for the assumption of dictatorial power, in order to be enabled to perform supereminent services for the publick. Powers amply sufficient for the performance of the greatest services, the enlightened citizens of the United States know how to give. As they know how to give those powers, so they know how to confine them within the proper and reasonable limits.
If a commonwealth is small, it may be destroyed by a foreign power; if it is extensive, it carries within it the internal causes of its destruction. This double disadvantage affects equally democracies and aristocracies, whether they are well, or whether they are ill constituted. The former disadvantage is selfevident; and, therefore, requires no illustration. The latter may be evinced from the following considerations. In a very extended commonwealth, it is difficult, if not impracticable, to provide, at the same time, the three following requisites—a number of representatives, which will not be too large; opportunities of minute and local information, which will be sufficiently frequent and convenient; and a connexion between the constituent and representative, which will be sufficiently intimate and binding. The experience of ages evinces, that, where a certain excess in numbers prevails, regularity, decency, and the convenient despatch of business are expected in vain. On the other hand, when, to avoid an excessive number of representatives, one representative is allotted to too great a number of constituents; it is improbable, that the former should possess a sufficient degree of accurate and circumstantial knowledge, or of an interest, common, and, at the same time, peculiar, with the latter, to qualify him for the zealous and well informed discharge of his confidential trust. Add to these considerations, that, in a commonwealth, the proceedings and deliberations are too complicated and too slow for the emergencies of an extended government; to whose affairs and interests, simplicity and secrecy in council, and vigour and despatch in execution are of indispensable necessity. For these reasons, it is not unlikely, that mankind would, at last, have been obliged to submit always to the government of a single person, if they had not invented the form of a constitution, which is recommended by all the internal advantages of a republican government, and, at the same time, by all the force and energy of a government, which is monarchical. This form is a federal republick.
This form of government is a convention, by which several states consent to become citizens of a larger state, which they wish to form.a It is a society formed of other societies, which make a new one. This new one may be enlarged and aggrandized by the union of associates still new.
This kind of republick, fitted for resistance against exteriour attacks, is equally fitted to maintain its greatness without interiour corruption. It is formed for avoiding the inconveniences of that government, which is bad; and for securing the benefits of that, which is good.
In this kind of republick, the rights of internal legislation may be reserved to all the states, of which it is composed; while the adjustment of their several claims, the power of peace and war, the regulation of commerce, the right of entering into treaties, the authority of taxation, and the direction and government of the common force of the confederacy may be vested in the national government.
A confederate republick should consist of states, whose government is of the same nature; and it is proper that their government should be of the republican kind. Small monarchies are unfriendly to the genius of confederation. The spirit of monarchy is too often dominion and war; that of a commonwealth is more frequently moderation and peace. It is not likely, therefore, that these two kinds of government should subsist, on amicable terms, in the same confederated republick. Thus Germany, which consists of free cities and arbitrary monarchies, forms a confederacy, jarring and disjointed. Thus Greece was ruined, when the kings of Macedon obtained a seat among the Amphyctions. Hence we may see the propriety and wise policy of that article in the constitution of the United States,b which provides, that they shall guaranty to every state in the union a republican form of government.
When we say, that the government of those states, which unite in the same confederacy, ought to be of the same nature; it is not to be understood, that there should be a precise and exact uniformity in all their particular establishments and laws. It is sufficient that the fundamental principles of their laws and constitutions be consistent and congenial; and that some general rights and privileges should be diffused indiscriminately among them. Among these, the rights and privileges of naturalization hold an important place. Of such consequence was the intercommunication of these rights and privileges in the opinion of my Lord Bacon, that he considered them as the strongest of all bonds to cement and to preserve the union of states. “Let us take a view,” says he, “and we shall find, that wheresoever kingdoms and states have been united, and that union incorporated by a bond of mutual naturalization, you shall never observe them afterwards, upon any occasion of trouble or otherwise, to break and sever again.”c Machiavel,16 when he inquires concerning the causes, to which Rome was indebted for her splendour and greatness, assigns none of stronger or more extensive operation than this—she easily compounded and incorporated with strangers.d This important subject has received a proportioned degree of attention in forming the constitution of the United States. “The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.”e In addition to this, the congress have power to “establish a uniform rule of naturalization throughout the United States.”f
Though a union of laws is, by no means, necessary to a union of states; yet a similarity in their code of publickg laws is a most desirable object. The publick law is the great sinew of government. The sinews of the different governments, composing the union, should, as far as it can be effected, be equally strong. “In this point,” says my Lord Bacon, “the rule holdeth, which was pronounced by an ancient father, touching the diversity of rites in the church; for finding the vesture of the queen in the psalm (who prefigured the church) was of divers colours; and finding again that Christ’s coat was without a seam, concludeth well, in veste varietas sit, scissura non sit.”h
Non omnibus facies una; sed qualis decet esse sororum.17
In a confederated republick, consisting of states of unequal numbers, extent, and power, the influence of each ought to bear a corresponding proportion. The Lycian republick was an association of twenty three towns. The large ones had three votes in the common council, the middling ones two, the small ones one. They contributed to the national expenses according to the proportion of suffrages. “Were I to give a model,” says the celebrated Montesquieu,i “of an excellent confederate republick, I would pitch upon that of Lycia.”
No one state, comprehended within a confederated republick, should be permitted to conclude an alliance with a foreign nation. This salutary regulation subsists not in the constitution of the Germanick Body. Hence the frequent dissensions and calamities, to which that great confederacy is constantly exposed, and with which it is frequently visited, through the rashness or the ambition of a single member.
With regard to foreign transactions, and with regard to those matters, which affect the general interests of the whole union, a confederated republick should be considered and should act as a single government or nation.
A union of hearts and affections, as well as a union of counsels and interests, is the very life and soul of a confederated republick. This is a subject, on which it is almost impossible to say too much, or to speak with too much zeal. We have, in former lectures,j seen how strong, how active, and how persevering are the operations and aims of our social powers. They are capable of being raised to the greatest height. They are capable of being enlarged to the greatest extent. But they partake of human imperfection: in their most useful and amiable forms, they sometimes degenerate into irregularity, abuse, and what I may call an excess of concentricity: by this I mean, overstrained exertions within a narrow and contracted sphere. Faction itself is frequently nothing else than a warm but inconsiderate ebullition of our social propensities.
How easily is the esprit du corps generated! How powerfully is it felt! How universally does it operate! How early does it appear! How ardent we see it in boys of different schools; and of different classes in the same school! With what emulation do they strive to outshine one another in their several tasks or sports! With what eagerness do the young men of neighbouring and rival towns—rival because they are neighbouring—contend for victory in their rural and manly exercises! Let the distinction be once formed—it is immaterial on what occasion, or from what cause—and its effects will be both strong and lasting. They will be beneficial or pernicious, according to the direction, which it first receives, and the objects to which it ultimately tends. How frivolous; how fierce; how obstinate; and how bloody were the contests of the Blues and Greens in the Hippodrome of Constantinople!18 The empire was sometimes shaken to its centre; and those, who produced the strong convulsions, could tell neither what they wished, nor why they were agitated. On the other hand; how often has the reputation of a regiment been preserved or heightened—how often, in battle, has victory been obtained or retrieved, by the wise encouragement and skilful application of the esprit du corps! This spirit should not be extinguished: but in all governments, it is of vast moment—in confederated governments, it is of indispensable necessity—that it should be regulated, guided, and controlled.
“The associating genius of man,” says my Lord Shaftesbury, “is never better proved, than in those very societies, which are formed in opposition to the general one of mankind, and to the real interest of the state.”k Extensive governments are particularly exposed to this inconvenience: to this inconvenience a national government, such as ours, composed of a great number of states, powerful, extensive, and separated, to a great distance, by situation, and, sometimes too, by an opinion of interest, not only from one another, but from the superintending power, by which they are connected—to this inconvenience, I say, such a national government is, of all, the most exposed—by this inconvenience, I add, such a national government is, of all, the most endangered. To embrace the whole, requires an expansion of mind, of talents, and of temper. To the trouble, though the generous trouble, of expanding their mind, their talents, and their temper, some will be averse from indolence, or what the indolent call moderation; others will be averse from interest, or what the interested call prudence. The former will encourage a narrow spirit by their example; the latter will encourage it by their exertions also. These last will introduce and recommend the government of their state, as a rival, for social and benevolent affection, to the government of the United States. The simplicity of some, the inexperience of others, the unsuspecting confidence, again, of others will be won by plausible and seducing representations; and, in this manner, and by these arts, the patriotick emanations of the soul, which would otherwise be diffused over the whole Union, will be refracted and converged to a very narrow and inconsiderable part of it.
Against this ungenerous application of one of the noblest propensities of our nature, the system of our education and of our law ought to be directed with the most vigorous and unremitted ardour. This application of that noble propensity is not merely ungenerous: it is no less unwise. It is unwise, as to the person, who makes it; it is unwise, as to the state, to the advantage of which it is supposed to be made. Apply and extend, in favour of the Union, the same train of reflection and argument which is used in favour of the state. With regard to the latter, will it not be allowed—will it not be urged—will it not be properly urged, that the interest of the whole should never be sacrificed to that of a part, nor the interest of a greater part to that of a part, which is smaller? Will it not be allowed—will it not be urged, that to think or act in a contrary manner, would be improper and unwise? Why should not the same reasoning and the same conduct be allowed—why should they not be urged—for they may be urged with equal propriety—in favour of the interests of the Union, or of the greater part of the Union, compared with those of a single member, of which that Union is composed?
But it will be seldom, if ever, necessary that the interest of a single state should be sacrificed to that of the United States. The laws, and government, and policy of the union operate universally and not partially; for the accomplishment of general and not of local purposes. On the other hand, the laws, and government, and policy of a particular state, compared with the Union, operate partially and not universally; for the accomplishment of purposes, which are local, and not general. If, then, on any subject, a difference should take place between the sentiments, and designs, and plans of the national government and those of the government of a single state; on whose side are justice and general utility likely to be found? It is to be presumed that they will be found on the side of the national government. That government is animated and directed by a representation of the whole Union: the government of a single state is animated and directed by a representation of only a part, inconsiderable when compared with the whole. Is it not more reasonable, as well as more patriotick, that the interests of every part should be governed, since they will be embraced, by the counsels of the whole, than that the interests of the whole should be governed, since they will not be embraced, by the counsels of a part?
Expanded patriotism is a cardinal virtue in the United States. This cardinal virtue—this “passion for the commonweal,” superiour to contracted motives or views, will preserve inviolate the connexion of interest between the whole and all its parts, and the connexion of affection as well as interest between all the several parts.
Let us, then, cherish; let us encourage; let us admire; let us teach; let us practise this “devotion to the publick,” so meritorious, and so necessary to the peace, and greatness, and happiness of the United States.
[a. ]2. Gog. Or. Laws. 26.
[b. ]Lel. L. P. Prel. 43.
[c. ]2. Gog. Or. Laws. 27.
[d. ]Lel. L. P. Prel. 39. 53.
[e. ]Lel. Dem. Int. to oration de corona.
[f. ]2. Gog. Or. Laws. 27.
[g. ]2. Gog. Or. Laws. 28.
[h. ]Lel. L. P. Prel. 56. 57.
[i. ]2. Ub. Em. 320. 323.
[j. ]Sp. Laws. b. 9. c. 3.
[1. ]A confederation of Greek city states in Achaea in the fifth and fourth centuries bc
[2. ]Lacedaemon was an alternative name for Sparta.
[k. ]1. Pub. 114. 2. Ub. Em. 240. 243.
[3. ]The league (or confederacy centered on the cities of Aetolia in central Greece) that was formed in 370 bc to oppose the Achaean League and Macedon.
[l. ]2. Ub. Em. 257.
[m. ]1. Pub. 119. 120.
[n. ]Vat. 171.
[o. ]1. Pub. 123.
[p. ]We may exceed the United Provinces by having, not many sovereignties in one commonwealth, but many commonwealths under one sovereignty. Milt. 370.
[4. ]The office of a viceroy or chief executive officer in the confederate provinces that would become the Netherlands.
[q. ]1. Pub. 125. 126.
[r. ]2. Anal. Rev. 337.
[5. ]A possible confederacy that existed among seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the seventh and eighth centuries.
[6. ]A wittenagemote, or witenagemote, was an Anglo-Saxon council occasionally convened to advise the king.
[s. ]Mil. 52.
[t. ]3. Edin. Phil. Trans. 18.
[u. ]De mor. Germ. c. 12.
[7. ]At the same assemblies are chosen leaders, who administer law through the towns and villages.
[8. ]Chief or leading man of a region.
[9. ]Chiefs or leading men of pagi (i.e., provincial districts, particularly in Gaul and Germany).
[v. ]Tac. de mor. Germ. c. 38. 39.
[w. ]3. Edin. Phil. Trans. 22.
[10. ]Harald I (c. 850–c. 933) was the first king and founder of Norway.
[11. ]An Icelandic historian, Jonas lived from 1568 to 1648.
[x. ]3. Edin. Phil. Trans. 23.
[12. ]James I (1566–1625) was king of England from 1603 to 1625. He was the first to call himself the king of Great Britain.
[13. ]François Ravaillac (1578–1610) assassinated Henry IV in 1610.
[y. ]B. 2. s. 53.
[14. ]Philip II (1527–1598) was king of Spain from 1556 to 1598.
[15. ]Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (c. 138–78 bc) was a skilled Roman general who was eventually appointed lifetime dictator of Rome.
[z. ]Bec. c. 26.
[a. ]Mont. Sp. Laws. b. 9. c. 1.
[b. ]Art. 4. s. 4.
[c. ]4. Ld. Bac. 243.
[16. ]Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527) was an Italian political thinker. He is best known for his works The Prince and Discourses on Livy.
[d. ]Id. 214.
[e. ]Art. 4. s. 2.
[f. ]Art. 1. s. 8.
[g. ]4. Ld. Bac. 224. 225.
[h. ]4. Ld. Bac. 215. In clothing let there be variety, but no seam.
[17. ]They have not all the same appearance; but such as it befits sisters to have.
[i. ]Sp. Laws. b. 9.c. 3.
[j. ]Ante ch. 7.
[18. ]The Hippodrome of Constantinople was a horse-racing track and social center of the city. The Blues and Greens were different teams, whose contests sometimes heated to the point of civil war. The worst of these was the riots of Nika (532), when thirty thousand people were supposedly killed.
[k. ]1. Shaft. 114.