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CHAPTER XIII: The Subject continued. - 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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The Subject continued.
Another effect, and a very considerable one, of the liberty of the press, is, that it enables the People effectually to exert those means which the Constitution has bestowed on them, of influencing the motions of the Government.
It has been observed in a former place, how it came to be a matter of impossibility for any large number of men, when obliged to act in a body, and upon the spot, to take any well-weighed resolution. But this inconvenience, which is the inevitable consequence of their situation, does in no wise argue a personal inferiority in them, with respect to the few who, from some accidental advantages, are enabled to influence their determinations. It is not Fortune, it is Nature, that has made the essential differences between Men: and whatever appellation a small number of persons who speak without sufficient reflection, may affix to the general body of their fellow-creatures, the whole difference between the Statesman, and many a Man from among what they call the dregs of the People, often lies in the rough outside of the latter; a disguise which may fall off on the first opportunity; and more than once has it happened, that from the middle of a multitude in appearance contemptible, there have been seen to rise at once Viriatuses, or Spartacuses.1
Time, and a more favourable situation (to repeat it once more) are therefore the only things wanting to the People; and the freedom of the press affords the remedy to these disadvantages. Through its assistance every individual may, at his leisure and in retirement, inform himself of every thing that relates to the questions on which he is to take a resolution. Through its assistance, a whole Nation as it were holds a Council, and deliberates; slowly indeed (for a Nation cannot be informed like an assembly of Judges), but after a regular manner, and with certainty. Through its assistance, all matters of fact are, at length, made clear; and, through the conflict of the different answers and replies, nothing at last remains, but the sound part of the arguments (a) .
Hence, though all good Men may not think themselves obliged to concur implicitly in the tumultuary resolutions of a People whom their Orators take pains to agitate, yet, on the other hand, when this same People, left to itself, perseveres in opinions which have for a long time been discussed in public writings, and from which (it is essential to add) all errors concerning facts have been removed, such perseverance is certainly a very respectable decision; and then it is, though only then, that we may with safety say,—“the voice of the People is the voice of God.”2
How, therefore, can the people of England act, when, having formed opinions which may really be called their own, they think they have just cause to complain against the Administration? It is, as has been said above, by means of the right they have of electing their Representatives; and the same method of general intercourse that has informed them with regard to the objects of their complaints, will likewise enable them to apply the remedy to them.
Through this means they are acquainted with the nature of the subjects that have been deliberated upon in the Assembly of their Re-presentatives;—they are informed by whom the different motions were made,—by whom they were supported; and the manner in which the suffrages are delivered, is such, that they always can know the names of those who have voted constantly for the advancement of pernicious measures.
And the People not only know the particular dispositions of every Member of the House of Commons; but the general notoriety of all things gives them also a knowledge of the political sentiments of a great number of those whom their situation in life renders fit to fill a place in that House. And availing themselves of the several vacancies that happen, and still more of the opportunity of a general election, they purify either successively, or at once, the Legislative Assembly; and thus, without any commotion or danger to the State, they effect a material reformation in the views of the Government.
I am aware that some persons will doubt these patriotic and systematic views which I am here attributing to the People of England, and will object to me the disorders that sometimes happen at Elections. But this reproach which, by the way, comes with but little propriety from Writers who would have the People transact every thing in their own persons, this reproach, I say, though true to a certain degree, is not however so much so as it is thought by certain persons who have taken only a superficial survey of the state of things.
Without doubt, in a Constitution in which all important causes of uneasiness are so effectually prevented, it is impossible but that the People will have long intervals of inattention. Being then called upon, on a sudden, from this state of inactivity, to elect Representatives, they have not examined, beforehand, the merits of those who ask them their votes; and the latter have not had, amidst the general tranquillity, any opportunity to make themselves known to them.
The Elector, persuaded, at the same time, that the person whom he will elect, will be equally interested with himself in the support of public liberty, does not enter into laborious disquisitions, and from which he sees he may exempt himself. Obliged, however, to give the preference to somebody, he forms his choice on motives which would not be excusable, if it were not that some motives are necessary to make a choice, and that, at this instant, he is not influenced by any other: and indeed it must be confessed, that, in the ordinary course of things, and with Electors of a certain rank in life, that Candidate who gives the best entertainment, has a great chance to get the better of his competitors.
But if the measures of Government, and the reception of those measures in Parliament, by means of a too complying House of Commons, should ever be such as to spread a serious alarm among the People, the same causes which have concurred to establish public liberty, would, no doubt operate again, and likewise concur in its support. A general combination would then be formed, both of those Members of Parliament who have remained true to the public cause, and of persons of every order among the People. Public meetings, in such circumstances, would be appointed, general subscriptions would be entered into, to support the expences whatever they might be, of such a necessary opposition; and all private and unworthy purposes being suppressed by the sense of the National danger, the choice of the electors would then be wholly determined by the consider-ation of the public spirit of the Candidates, and the tokens given by them of such spirit.
Thus were those Parliaments formed, which suppressed arbitrary taxes and imprisonments. Thus was it, that, under Charles the Second, the People, when recovered from that enthusiasm of affection with which they received a King so long persecuted, at last returned to him no Parliaments but such as were composed of a majority of Men attached to public liberty. Thus it was, that, persevering in a conduct which the circumstances of the times rendered necessary, the People baffled the arts of the Government; and Charles dissolved three successive Parliaments, without any other effect but that of having those same Men rechosen, and set again in opposition to him, of whom he hoped he had rid himself for ever.3
Nor was James the Second happier in his attempts than Charles had been. This Prince soon experienced that his Parliament was actuated by the same spirit as those which had opposed the designs of his late brother; and having suffered himself to be led into measures of violence, instead of being better taught by the discovery he made of the real sentiments of the People, his reign was terminated by that catastrophe with which every one is acquainted.4
Indeed, if we combine the right enjoyed by the People of England, of electing their Representatives, with the whole of the English Government, we shall become continually more and more sensible of the excellent effects that may result from that right. All Men in the State are, as has been before observed, really interested in the support of public liberty;—nothing but temporary motives, and such as are quite peculiar to themselves, can possibly induce the Members of any House of Commons to connive at measures destructive of this liberty: the People, therefore, under such circumstances, need only change these Members in order effectually to reform the conduct of that House: and it may fairly be pronounced beforehand, that a House of Commons, composed of a new set of persons, will from this bare circumstance, be in the interests of the People.
Hence, though the complaints of the People do not always meet with a speedy and immediate redress (a celerity which would be the symptom of a fatal unsteadiness in the Constitution, and would sooner or later bring on its ruin) yet, when we attentively consider the nature and the resources of this Constitution, we shall not think it too bold an assertion to say, that it is impossible but that complaints in which the People persevere, that is, to repeat it once more, well-grounded complaints, will sooner or later be redressed.
[1. ]De Lolme cites two figures of humble origin who led famous campaigns against Rome’s armies. Viriatus (or Viriathus) (ca. 180–139 b.c.e.), a shepherd from the region of Lusitania in Iberia, led a successful resistance to Roman rule in Iberia during the period 147–139 b.c.e. He was finally defeated when the Roman general Servilius Caepio orchestrated his murder by bribing his servants. Spartacus (ca. 109–71 b.c.e.), a slave and gladiator from Thrace, commanded a major slave revolt in the years 73–71 b.c.e. He died in battle against Roman forces led by Marcus Licinius Crassus.
[(a) ]This right of publicly discussing political Subjects, is alone a great advantage to a People who enjoy it; and if the Citizens of Geneva, for instance, have preserved their liberty better than the people have been able to do in the other Commonwealths of Switzerland, it is, I think, owing to the extensive right they possess of making public remonstrances to their Magistrates. To these remonstrances the Magistrates, for instance the Council of Twenty-five, to which they are usually made, are obliged to give an answer. If this answer does not satisfy the remonstrating Citizens, they take time, perhaps two or three weeks, to make a reply to it, which must also be answered; and the number of Citizens who go up with each new remonstrance increases, according as they are thought to have reason on their side. Thus, the remonstrances which were made some years ago, on account of the sentence against the celebrated M. Rousseau, and were delivered at first by only forty Citizens, were afterwards often accompanied by about nine hundred.—This circumstance, together which the ceremony with which those remonstrances (or Representations, as they more commonly call them) are delivered, has rendered them a great check on the conduct of the Magistrates: they even have been still more useful to the Citizens of Geneva, as a preventative than as a remedy; and nothing is more likely to deter the Magistrates from taking a step of any kind than the thought that it will give rise to a Representation. [[In 1762, Geneva’s Council of the Twenty-Five (or Petit Conseil) condemned the publication and sale of Rousseau’s The Social Contract and Emile, and resolved that their author was to be arrested should he return to his native Geneva. “Representations” was the term given to the petitions Genevan citizens addressed to the government. The 1762 condemnation of Rousseau’s writings helped stimulate the publication of a large number of petitions and pamphlets, including De Lolme’s own contributions, that unsuccessfully challenged the legitimacy of the action. For De Lolme’s earlier discussion of Genevan politics, see above, book 2, chapter 4, pp. 160–61, note a; book 2, chapter 5, pp. 174–75, note a; and the editorial introduction, pp. x–xii.]]
[2. ]De Lolme offers the English translation of the familiar Latin aphorism “vox populi, vox dei.”
[3. ]De Lolme first discussed the constitutional significance of the reigns of Charles II and James II above, book 1, chapter 3. The last three Parliaments of Charles II, also known as the “Exclusion Parliaments” on the basis of the abortive efforts to exclude the future James II from the throne, met successively and briefly in the years 1679–81. The first of these Parliaments passed the 1679 Habeas Corpus Amendment Act, discussed and celebrated by De Lolme above, book 1, chapter 14. Charles II was forced to dissolve each of these Parliaments to prevent the passage of measures in opposition to royal policy.
[4. ]The famous “catastrophe” was the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when the crown was transferred from James II to Queen Mary and King William III.