Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER X: Fundamental difference between the English Government, and the Governments just described.—In England all Executive Authority is placed out of the hands of those in whom the People trust. Usefulness of the Power of the Crown. - The Constitution of England; Or, an Account of the English Government
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CHAPTER X: Fundamental difference between the English Government, and the Governments just described.—In England all Executive Authority is placed out of the hands of those in whom the People trust. Usefulness of the Power of the Crown. - Jean Louis De Lolme, The Constitution of England; Or, an Account of the English Government 
The Constitution of England; Or, an Account of the English Government, edited and with an Introduction by David Lieberman (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007).
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Fundamental difference between the English Government, and the Governments just described.—In England all Executive Authority is placed out of the hands of those in whom the People trust. Usefulness of the Power of the Crown.
In what manner then, has the English Constitution contrived to find a remedy for evils which, from the very nature of Men and things, seem to be irremediable? How has it found means to oblige those persons to whom the People have given up their power, to make them effectual and lasting returns of gratitude? those who enjoy an exclusive authority, to seek the advantage of all?—those who make the laws, to make only equitable ones?—It has been by subjecting them themselves to those laws, and for that purpose excluding them from all share in the execution of them.
Thus, the Parliament can establish as numerous a standing army as it pleases; but immediately another Power comes forward, which takes the absolute command of it, which fills all the posts in it, and directs its motions at its pleasure. The Parliament may lay new taxes; but immediately another Power seizes upon the produce of them, and alone enjoys the advantages and glory arising from the disposal of it. The Parliament may even, if you please, repeal the laws on which the safety of the Subject is grounded; but it is not their own caprices and arbitrary humours, it is the caprice and passions of other Men, which they will have gratified, when they shall thus have overthrown the columns of public liberty.
And the English Constitution has not only excluded from any share in the Execution of the laws, those in whom the People trust for the enacting of them, but it has also taken from them what would have had the same pernicious influence on their deliberations—the hope of ever invading that executive authority, and transfering it to themselves.
This authority has been made in England one single, indivisible prerogative; it has been made for ever the unalienable attribute of one person, marked out and ascertained beforehand by solemn laws and long established custom; and all the active forces in the State have been left at his disposal.
In order to secure this prerogative still farther against all possibility of invasions from individuals, it has been heightened and strengthened by every thing that can attract and fix the attention and reverence of the people. The power of conferring, and withdrawing, places and employments has also been added to it, and ambition itself has thus been interested in its defence, and service.
A share in the Legislative power has also been given to the Man to whom this prerogative has been delegated: a passive share indeed, and the only one that can, with safety to the State, be trusted to him, but by means of which he is enabled to defeat every attempt against his constitutional authority.
Lastly, he is the only self-existing and permanent Power in the State. The Generals, the Ministers of State, are so only by the continuance of his pleasure. He would even dismiss the Parliament themselves, if ever he saw them begin to entertain dangerous designs; and he needs only say one word to disperse every power in the State that may threaten his authority. Formidable prerogatives these; but with regard to which we shall be inclined to lay aside our apprehensions, if we reflect, on the one hand, on the great privileges of the People by which they have been counterbalanced, and on the other, on the happy consequences that result from their being thus united together.
From this unity, and, if I may so express myself, this total sequestration of the Executive authority, this advantageous consequence in the first place follows, which has been mentioned in a preceding Chapter, that the attention of the whole Nation is directed to one and the same object. The People, besides, enjoy this most essential advantage, which they would vainly endeavour to obtain under the government of many,—they can give their confidence, without giving power over themselves, and against themselves; they can appoint Trustees, and yet not give themselves Masters.
Those Men to whom the People have delegated the power of framing the Laws, are thereby made sure to feel the whole pressure of them. They can increase the prerogatives of the executive authority, but they cannot invest themselves with it:—they have it not in their power to command its motions, they only can unbind its hands.
They are made to derive their importance, nay they are indebted for their existence, to the need in which that Power stands of their assistance; and they know that they would no sooner have abused the trust of the People, and completed the treacherous work, than they would see themselves dissolved, spurned, like instruments now spent, and become useless.
This same disposition of things also prevents in England, that essential defect, inherent in the Government of many, which has been described in the preceding Chapter.
In that sort of Government, the cause of the People, as has been observed, is continually deserted and betrayed. The arbitrary prerogatives of the governing Powers are at all times either openly or secretly favoured, not only by those in whose possession they are, not only by those who have good reason to hope that they shall at some future time share in the exercise of them, but also by the whole croud of those Men who, in consequence of the natural disposition of Mankind to over-rate their own advantages, fondly imagine, either that they shall one day enjoy some branch of this governing authority, or that they are even already, in some way or other, associated to it.
But as this authority has been made, in England, the indivisible, unalienable attribute of one alone, all other persons in the State are, ipso facto, interested to confine it within its due bounds. Liberty is thus made the common cause of all: the laws that secure it are supported by Men of every rank and order; and the Habeas Corpus Act,1 for instance, is as zealously defended by the first Nobleman in the Kingdom, as by the meanest Subject.
Even the Minister himself, in consequence of this inalienability of the executive authority, is equally interested with his fellow-citizens to maintain the laws on which public liberty is founded. He knows, in the midst of his schemes for enjoying or retaining his authority, that a Court-intrigue, or a caprice, may at every instant confound him with the multitude, and the rancour of a successor long kept out, send him to linger in the same jail which his temporary passions might tempt him to prepare for others.
In consequence of this disposition of things, great Men, therefore, are made to join in a common cause with the People, for restraining the excesses of the governing Power; and, which is no less essential to the public welfare, they are also, from this same cause, compelled to restrain the excess of their own private power or influence, and a general spirit of justice beomes thus diffused through all parts of the State.
The wealthy Commoner, the Representative of the People, the potent Peer, always having before their eyes the view of a formidable Power, of a Power from the attempts of which they have only the shield of the laws to protect them, and which would, in the issue, retaliate an hundred fold upon them their acts of violence, are compelled, both to wish only for equitable laws, and to observe them with scrupulous exactness.
Let then the People dread (it is necessary to the preservation of their liberty), but let them never entirely cease to love, the Throne, that sole and indivisible seat of all the active powers in the State.
Let them know, it is that, which, by lending an immense strength to the arm of Justice, has enabled her to bring to account as well the most powerful, as the meanest offender,—which has suppressed, and if I may so express myself, weeded out all those tyrannies, sometimes confederated with, and sometimes adverse to, each other, which incessantly tend to grow up in the middle of civil societies, and are the more terrible in proportion as they feel themselves to be less firmly established.
Let them know, it is that, which, by making all honours and places depend on the will of one Man, has confined within private walls those projects the pursuit of which, in former times, shook the foundations of whole States,—has changed into intrigues the conflicts, the outrages of ambition,—and that those contentions which, in the present times, afford them only matter of amusement, are the Volcanos which set in flames the ancient Commonwealths.
It is that, which, leaving to the rich no other security for his palace than that which the peasant has for his cottage, has united his cause to that of this latter, the cause of the powerful to that of the helpless, the cause of the Man of extensive influence and connections, to that of him who is without friends.
It is the Throne above all, it is this jealous Power, which makes the People sure that its Representatives never will be any thing more than its Representatives: at the same time it is the ever subsisting Carthage which vouches to it for the duration of their virtue.2
[1. ]For the importance of the writ of Habeas Corpus and of the 1679 Habeas Corpus Amendment Act, see De Lolme’s discussion above, book 1, chapter 14.
[2. ]De Lolme’s reference to the English constitution’s “ever subsisting Carthage” was likely offered as a rejoinder to Montesquieu’s more sober judgment that since “all human things have an end,” England eventually would “lose its liberty; it will perish. Rome, Lacedaemonia, and Carthage have surely perished.” See The Spirit of the Laws, book 11, chapter 6. De Lolme cites and discusses this passage, below, in book 2, chapter 18, p. 304.