Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XVIII: How far the examples of Nations who have lost their liberty, are applicable to England. - The Constitution of England; Or, an Account of the English Government
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CHAPTER XVIII: How far the examples of Nations who have lost their liberty, are applicable to England. - 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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How far the examples of Nations who have lost their liberty, are applicable to England.
Every Government, those Writers observe who have treated these subjects, containing within itself the efficient cause of its ruin, a cause which is essentially connected with those very circumstances that had produced its prosperity, the advantages attending the English Government cannot therefore, according to these Writers, exempt it from that hidden defect which is secretly working its ruin; and M. de Montesquieu, giving his opinion both on the effect and the cause, says, “the English Constitution will lose its liberty, will perish: Have not Rome, Lacedaemon, and Carthage, perished? It will perish when the Legislative power shall have become more corrupt than the Executive.”1
Though I do by no means pretend that any human establishment can escape the fate to which we see every thing in Nature is subject, nor am so far prejudiced by the sense I entertain of the great advantages of the English Government, as to reckon among them that of eternity, I will however observe in general, that, as it differs by its structure and resources from all those with which History makes us acquainted, so it cannot be said to be liable to the same dangers. To judge of the one from the other, is to judge by analogy where no analogy is to be found; and my respect for the author I have quoted will not hinder me from saying, that his opinion has not the same weight with me on this occasion, that it has on many others.
Having neglected, as indeed all systematic Writers upon Politics have done, very attentively to enquire into the real foundations of Power, and of Government, among Mankind, the principles he lays down are not always so clear, or even so just, as we might have expected from a Man of so true a genius. When he speaks of England, for instance, his observations are much too general: and though he had frequent opportunities of conversing with Men who had been personally concerned in the public affairs of this Country, and he had been himself an eye-witness of the operations of the English Government, yet, when he attempts to describe it, he rather tells us what he conjectured than what he saw.
The examples he quotes, and the causes of dissolution which he assigns, particularly confirm this observation. The Government of Rome, to speak of the one which, having gradually, and as it were of itself, fallen to ruin, may afford matter for exact reasoning, had no relation to that of England. The Roman People were not, in the latter ages of the Commonwealth, a People of Citizens, but of Conquerors. Rome was not a State, but the head of a State. By the immensity of its conquests, it came in time to be in a manner only an accessory part of its own Empire. Its power became so great, that, after having conferred it, it was at length no longer able to resume it: and from that moment it became itself subjected to it, from the same reason that the Provinces themselves were so.
The fall of Rome, therefore, was an event peculiar to its situation; and the change of manners which accelerated this fall, had also an effect which it could not have had but in that same situation. Men who had drawn to themselves all the riches of the World, could no longer content themselves with the supper of Fabricius, and the cottage of Cincinnatus.2 The People, who were masters of all the corn of Sicily and Africa, were no longer obliged to plunder their neighbours for their’s. All possible Enemies, besides, being exterminated, Rome, whose power was military, became to be no longer an army; and that was the aera of her corruption: if, indeed, we ought to give that name to what was the inevitable consequence of the nature of things.
In a word, Rome was destined to lose her Liberty when she lost her Empire; and she was destined to lose her Empire, whenever she should begin to enjoy it.
But England forms a Society founded upon principles absolutely different. All liberty, and power, are not accumulated as it were on one point, so as to leave, every where else, only slavery and misery, consequently only seeds of division and secret animosity. From the one end of the Island to the other the same laws take place, and the same interests prevail: the whole Nation, besides, equally concurs in the formation of the Government: no part, therefore, has cause to fear that the other parts will suddenly supply the necessary forces to destroy its liberty; and the whole have, of course, no occasion for those ferocious kinds of virtue which are indispensably necessary to those who, from the situation in which they have brought themselves, are continually exposed to such dangers, and after having invaded every thing, must abstain from every thing.
The situation of the People of England, therefore, essentially differs from that of the People of Rome. The form of the English Government does not differ less from that of the Roman Republic; and the great advantages it has over the latter for preserving the liberty of the People from ruin, have been described at length in the course of this Work.
Thus, for instance, the total ruin of the Roman Republic was principally brought about by the exorbitant power to which several of its Citizens were successively enabled to rise. In the latter age of the Commonwealth, those Citizens went so far as to divide among themselves the dominions of the Republic, in much the same manner as they might have done lands of their own. And to them, others in a short time succeeded, who not only did the same, but who even proceeded to that degree of tyrannical insolence, as to make cessions to each other, by express and formal compacts, of the lives of thousands of their Fellow-citizens. But the great and constant authority and weight of the Crown, in England, prevent, in their very beginning, as we have seen, all misfortunes of this kind; and the reader may recollect what has been said before on that subject.
At last the ruin of the Republic, as every one knows, was completed. One of those powerful Citizens we mention, in process of time found means to exterminate all his competitors: he immediately assumed to himself the whole power of the State; and established for ever after an arbitrary Monarchy.3 But such a sudden and violent establishment of a Monarchical power, with all the fatal consequences that would result from such an event, are calamities which cannot take place in England: that same kind of power we see, is already in being; it is ascertained by fixed laws, and established upon regular and well-known foundations.
Nor is there any great danger that that power may, by means of those legal prero-gatives it already possesses, suddenly assume others, and at last openly make itself absolute. The important privilege of granting to the Crown its necessary supplies, we have before observed, is vested in the Nation: and how extensive soever the prerogatives of a King of England may be, it constantly lies in the power of his People either to grant, or deny him, the means of exercising them.
This right possessed by the People of England, constitutes the great difference between them, and all the other Nations that live under Monarchical Governments. It likewise gives them a great advantage over such as are formed into Republican States, and confers on them a means of influencing the conduct of the Government, not only more effectual, but also (which is more in point to the subject of this Chapter) incomparably more lasting and secure than those reserved to the People, in the States we mention.
In those States, the political rights which usually fall to the share of the People, are those of voting in general Assemblies, either when laws are to be enacted, or Magistrates to be elected. But as the advantages arising from these general rights of giving votes, are never very clearly ascertained by the generality of the People, so neither are the consequences attending particular forms or modes of giving these votes, generally and completely understood. They accordingly never entertain any strong and constant preference for one method rather than another; and it hence always proves but too easy a thing in Republican States, either by insidious proposals made at particular times to the People, or by well-contrived precedents, or other means, first to reduce their political privileges to mere ceremonies and forms, and at last, entirely to abolish them.
Thus, in the Roman Republic, the mode which was constantly in use for about one hundred and fifty years, of dividing the Citizens into Centuriae when they gave their votes, reduced the right of the greater part of them, during that time, to little more than a shadow. After the mode of dividing them by Tribes had been introduced by the Tribunes, the bulk of the Citizens indeed were not, when it was used, under so great a disadvantage as before; but yet the great privileges exercised by the Magistrates in all the public assemblies, the power they assumed of moving the Citizens out of one Tribe into another, and a number of other circumstances, continued to render the rights of the Citizens more and more ineffectual; and in fact we do not find that when those rights were at last entirely taken from them, they expressed any very great degree of discontent.4
In Sweden (the former Government of which partook much of the Republican form)5 the right allotted to the People in the Government, was that of sending Deputies to the General States of the Kingdom, who were to give their votes on the resolutions that were to be taken in that Assembly. But the privilege of the People of sending such Deputies was, in the first place, greatly diminished by several essential disadvantages under which these Deputies were placed with respect to the Body, or Order, of the Nobles. The same privilege of the People was farther lessened by their Deputies being deprived of the right of freely laying their different proposals before the States, for their assent or dissent, and attributing the exclusive right of framing such proposals, to a private Assembly which was called the Secret Committee. Again, the right allowed to the Order of the Nobles, of having a number of Members in this Secret Committee double to that of all the other Or-ders taken together, rendered the rights of the People still more ineffectual. At the last Revolution those rights we mention have been in a manner taken from the People; and they do not seem to have made any great efforts to preserve them (a) .
But the situation of affairs in England is totally different from that which we have just described. The political rights of the People are inseparably connected with the right of Property—with a right which it is as difficult to invalidate by artifice, as it is dangerous to attack it by force, and which we see that the most arbitrary Kings, in the full career of their power, have never offered to violate without the greatest precautions. A King of England who would enslave his People, must begin with doing, for his first act, what all other Kings reserve for the last; and he cannot attempt to deprive his Subjects of their political privileges, without declaring war against the whole Nation at the same time, and attacking every individual at once in his most permanent and best understood interest.
And that means possessed by the People of England, of influencing the conduct of the Government, is not only in a manner secure against any danger of being taken from them: it is moreover attended with another advantage of the greatest importance; which is that of conferring naturally, and as it were necessarily, on those to whom they trust the care of their interests, the great privilege we have before described, of debating among themselves whatever questions they think conducive to the good of their Constituents, and of framing whatever bills they think proper, and in what terms they choose.
This privilege of starting new subjects of deliberation, and, in short, of propounding in the business of legislation, which, in England, is allotted to the Representatives of the People, sets another capital difference between the English Constitution, and the government of other free States, whether limited Monarchies or Commonwealths, and prevents that which, in those States, proves a most effectual means of subverting the laws favourable to public liberty: I mean the undermining of these laws by the precedents and artful practices of those who are invested with the Executive Power in the Government.
In the States we mention, the active share, or the business of propounding, in legislation, being ever alloted to those persons who are invested with the Executive authority, they not only possess a general power, by means of insidious and well timed proposals made to the People, of getting those laws repealed which set bounds to their authority; but when they do not choose openly to discover their wishes in that respect, or perhaps even fear to fail in the attempt, they have another resource, which, though slower in its operation, is not less effectual in the issue. They neglect to execute those laws which they dislike, or deny the benefit of them to the separate straggling individuals who claim them, and in short introduce practices that are directly derogatory to them. These practices in a course of time become respectable Uses, and at length obtain the force of Laws.
The People, even where they are allowed a share in legislation, being ever passive in the exercise of it, have no opportunities of framing new provisions by which to remove these spurious practices or regulations, and declare what the law in reality is. The only resource of the Citizens, in such a state of things, is either to be perpetually cavilling, or openly to oppose: and always exerting themselves, either too soon, or too late, they cannot come forth to defend their liberty, without incurring the charge, either of disaffection, or of rebellion.
And while the whole class of Politicians, who are constantly alluding to the usual forms of limited Governments, agree in deciding that freedom, when once lost, cannot be recovered (a) , it happens that the maxim principiis obsta,6 which they look upon as the safeguard of liberty, and which they accordingly never cease to recommend, besides its requiring a degree of watchfulness incompatible with the situation of the People, is in a manner impracticable.
But the operation of preferring grievances, which in other Governments is a constant forerunner of public commotions, that of framing new law remedies, which is so jealously secured to the Ruling power in the State, are, in England, the constitutional and appropriated offices of the Representatives of the People.
How long soever the People may have remained in a state of supineness as to their most valuable interests, whatever may have been the neglect and even the errors of their Representatives, the instant the latter come either to see these errors, or to have a sense of their duty, they proceed, by means of the privilege we mention, to set aside those abuses or practices which, during the preceding years, had become to hold the place of the laws. To how low soever a state public liberty may happen to be reduced, they take it where they find it, lead it back through the same path, and to the same point, from which it had been compelled to retreat; and the Ruling power, whatever its usurpations may have been, how far soever it may have overflowed its banks, is ever brought back to its old limits.
To the exertions of the privilege we mention, were owing the frequent confirmations and elucidations of the Great Charter that took place in different reigns. By means of the same privilege the Act was repealed, without public commotion, which had enacted that the King’s proclamations should have the force of law: by this Act public liberty seemed to be irretrievably lost; and the Parliament who passed it, seemed to have done what the Danish Nation did about a century afterwards. The same privilege procured the peaceable abolition of the Court of Star Chamber: a Court which, though in itself illegal, had grown to be so respected through the length of time it had been suffered to exist, that it seemed to have for ever fixed and rivetted the unlawful authority it conferred on the Crown. By the same means the power was set aside which the Privy Council had assumed of imprisoning the Subject without admitting to bail, and even mentioning any cause: this power was in the first instance declared illegal by the Petition of Right; and the attempts of both the Crown and the Judges to invalidate this declaration by introducing, or maintaining, practices that were derogatory to it, were as often obviated, in a peaceable manner, by fresh declarations, and, in the end, by the celebrated Habeas Corpus Act (a) .
And I shall take this opportunity to make the Reader observe, in general, how the different parts of the English Government mutually assist and support each other. It is because the whole Executive authority in the State is vested in the Crown, that the People may without danger delegate the care of their liberty to Representatives:—it is because they share in the Government only through these Representatives, that they are enabled to possess the great advantage arising from framing and proposing new laws: but for this purpose, it is again absolutely necessary that the Crown, that is to say, a Veto of extraordinary power, should exist in the State.
It is, on the other hand, because the balance of the People is placed in the right of granting to the Crown its necessary supplies, that the latter may, without danger, be intrusted with the great authority we mention; and that the right, for instance, which is vested in it of judging of the proper time for calling and dissolving Parliaments (a right absolutely necessary to its preservation) may exist without producing ipso facto, the ruin of public Liberty. The most singular Government upon Earth, and which has carried farthest the liberty of the in-dividual, was in danger of total destruction, when Bartholomew Columbus7 was on his passage to England, to teach Henry the Seventh the way to Mexico and Peru (a) .
As a conclusion of this subject (which might open a field for speculations without end) I shall take notice of an advantage peculiar to the English Government, and which, more than any other we could mention, must contribute to its duration. All the political passions of Mankind, if we attend to it, are satisfied and provided for in the English Government; and whether we look at the Monarchical, or the Aristocratical, or the Democratical part of it, we find all those powers already settled in it in a regular manner, which have an unavoidable tendency to arise at one time or other, in all human Societies.
If we could for an instant suppose that the English form of Government, instead of having been the effect of a lucky concurrence of fortunate circumstances, had been established from a settled plan by a Man who had discovered, beforehand and by reasoning, all those advantages resulting from it which we now perceive from experience, and had undertaken to point them out to other Men capable of judging of what he said to them, the following is, most likely, the manner in which he would have expressed himself.
“Nothing is more chimerical,” he would have said, “than a state either of total equality, or total liberty, amongst Mankind. In all societies of Men, some Power will necessarily arise. This Power, after gradually becoming confined to a smaller number of persons, will, by a like necessity, at last fall into the hands of a single Leader; and these two effects (of which you may see constant examples in History) arising from the ambition of the one part of Mankind, and from the various affections and passions of the other, are absolutely unavoidable.
“Let us, therefore, admit this evil at once, since it is impossible to avoid it. Let us, of ourselves, establish a Chief among us, since we must, some time or other, submit to one: we shall by this means effectually prevent the conflicts that would arise among the competitors for that station. But let us, above all, establish him single; lest, after successively raising himself on the ruins of his Rivals, he should finally establish himself whether we will or not, and through a train of the most disadvantageous incidents.
“Let us even give him every thing we can possibly give without endangering our security. Let us call him our Sovereign; let us make him consider the State as being his own patrimony; let us grant him, in short, such personal privileges as none of us can ever hope to rival him in, and we shall find those things which we were at first inclined to consider as a great evil, will be in reality a source of advantages to the Community. We shall be the better able to set bounds to that Power which we shall have thus ascertained and fixed in one place. We shall have the more interested the Man whom we shall have put in possession of so many advantages, in the faithful discharge of his duty. And we shall have thus procured for each of us, a powerful protector at home, and for the whole Community, a defender against foreign enemies, superior to all possible temptation of betraying his Country.
“You may also have observed, (he would continue) that in all States, there naturally arises around the person, or persons, who are invested with the public power, a class of Men, who, without having any actual share in that power, yet partake of its lustre: who, pretending to be distinguished from the rest of the Community, do, from that very circumstance, become distinguished from it: and this distinction, though only matter of opinion, and at first thus surreptitiously obtained, yet may become in time the source of very grievous effects.
“Let us therefore regulate this evil which we cannot entirely prevent. Let us establish this class of Men who would otherwise grow up among us without our knowledge, and gradually acquire the most pernicious privileges. Let us grant them distinctions that are visible and clearly ascertained: their nature will, by this means, be the better understood, and they will of course, be much less likely to become dangerous. By this means also, we shall preclude all other persons from the hopes of usurping them. As, to pretend to distinctions can thenceforward be no longer a title to obtain them, every one who shall not be expressly included in their number, must continue to confess himself one of the People; and just as we said before, let us chuse ourselves one Master that we may not have fifty, so let us again say here, let us establish three hundred Lords, that we may not have ten thousand Nobles.
“Besides, our pride will better reconcile itself to a superiority which it will no longer think of disputing. Nay, as they will themselves see us to be before-hand in acknowledging it, they will think themselves under no necessity of being insolent to furnish us a proof of it. Secure as to their privileges, all violent measures on their part for maintaining, and at last perhaps extending them, will be prevented: they will never combine together with any degree of vehemence, but when they really have cause to think themselves in danger; and by having made them indisputably great Men, we shall have a chance of often seeing them behave like modest and virtuous Citizens.
“In fine, by being united in a regular Assembly, they will form an intermediate Body in the State, that is to say, a very useful part of the Government.
“It is also necessary, our Lawgiver would farther add, that We, the People, should have an influence upon the Government: it is necessary for our own security; it is no less necessary for the security of the Government itself. But experience must have taught you, at the same time, that a great body of Men cannot act, without being, though they are not aware of it, the instruments of the designs of a small number of persons; and that the power of the People is never any thing but the power of a few Leaders, who (though it may be impossible to tell when, or how) have found means to secure to themselves the direction of its exercise.
“Let us, therefore, be also beforehand with this other inconvenience. Let us effect openly what would, otherwise, take place in secret. Let us intrust our power, before it be taken from us by address. Those whom we shall have expressly made the depositaries of it, being freed from any anxious care about supporting themselves, will have no object but to render it useful. They will stand in awe of us the more, because they will know that they have not imposed upon us: and instead of a small number of Leaders, who would imagine they derive their whole importance from their own dexterity, we shall have express and acknowledged Representatives, who will be accountable to us for the evils of the State.
“But above all, by forming our Government with a small number of persons, we shall prevent any disorder that may take place in it, from ever becoming dangerously extensive. Nay more, we shall render it capable of inestimable combinations and resources, which would be utterly impossible in that Government of all, which never can be any thing but uproar and confusion.
“In short, by expressly divesting ourselves of a power of which we should, at best, have only an apparent enjoyment, we shall be intitled to make conditions for ourselves: we will insist that our liberty be augmented; we will, above all, reserve to ourselves the right of watching and censuring that administration which will have been established by our own consent. We shall the better see its faults, because we shall be only Spectators of it; we shall correct them the better, because we shall not have personally concurred in its operations” (a) .
The English Constitution being founded upon such principles as those we have just described, no true comparison can be made between it, and the Governments of any other States; and since it evidently insures, not only the liberty, but the general satisfaction in all respects, of those who are subject to it, in a much greater degree than any other Government ever did, this consideration alone affords sufficient ground to conclude, without looking farther, that it is also more likely to be preserved from ruin.
And indeed we may observe the remarkable manner in which it has been maintained in the midst of such general commotions as seemed unavoidably to prepare its destruction. It rose again, we see, after the wars between Henry the Third and his Barons; after the usurpation of Henry the Fourth; and after the long and bloody contentions between the Houses of York and Lancaster. Nay, though totally destroyed in appearance after the fall of Charles the First, and though the greatest efforts had been made to establish another form of government in its stead, yet, no sooner was Charles the Second called over, than the Constitution was re-established upon all its ancient foundations.
However, as what has not happened at one time, may happen at another, future Revolutions (events which no form of Government can totally prevent) may perhaps end in a different manner from that in which past ones have been terminated. New combinations may possibly take place among the then ruling Powers of the State, of such a nature as to prevent the Constitution, when peace shall be restored to the Nation, from settling again upon its ancient and genuine foundations; and it would certainly be a very bold assertion to decide, that both the outward form, and the true spirit of the English Government, would again be preserved from destruction, if the same dangers to which they have in former times been exposed, should again happen to take place.
Nay, such fatal changes as those we mention, may be introduced even in quiet times, or at least, by means in appearance peaceable and constitutional. Advantages, for instance, may be taken by particular factions, either of the feeble temper, or of the misconduct, of some future King. Temporary prepossessions of the People may be made use of, to make them concur in doing what will prove afterwards the ruin of their own liberty. Plans of apparent improvement in the Constitution, forwarded by Men who, though with good intentions, shall proceed without a due knowledge of the true principles and foundations of Government, may produce effects quite contrary to those which were designed, and in reality prepare its ruin (a) . The Crown, on the other hand, may, by the acquisition of foreign dominions, acquire a fatal independency on the People: and if, without entering into any farther particulars on this subject, I were re-quired to point out the principal events which would, if they were ever to happen, prove immediately the ruin of the English Government, I would say,—The English Government will be no more, either when the Crown shall become independent on the Nation for its supplies, or when the Representatives of the People shall begin to share in the Executive authority (a) .
[1. ]De Lolme cites, with some variations, a concluding paragraph of Montesquieu’s celebrated exposition of the English constitution; see The Spirit of the Laws, book 11, chapter 6.
[2. ]Caius Fabricius Luscinus (d. 250 b.c.e.) and Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus (b. 519 b.c.e.) were Roman generals and political leaders distinguished for their virtue and poverty.
[3. ]De Lolme refers to Julius Caesar and the establishment of the emperorship.
[4. ]Before the period of the Republic, the Roman people were made up of three tribes, each of which contained ten curiae, or courts. Under Servius Tullius, who ruled as king 578–534 b.c.e., a census was introduced, which organized the citizenry into six classes and each class into centuries (centuriae), or groups of a hundred. In the political assembly called comitia centuriata, votes were cast by hundreds; in the comitia tributa, votes were cast by tribes; and in the comitia auriata, votes were cast by whole courts.
[5. ]De Lolme here describes the 1720 constitution of Sweden; see above, book 2, chapter 17, pp. 264–65 and p. 265, note 7.
[(a) ]I might have produced examples of a number of Republican States in which the People have been brought, at one time or other, to submit to the loss of their political privileges. In the Venetian Republic, for instance, the right, now exclusively vested in a certain number of families, of enacting laws, and electing the Doge and other Magistrates, was originally vested in the whole People.
[(a) ]“Ye free Nations, remember this maxim: Freedom may be acquired, but it cannot be recovered.” Rousseau’s Social Compact, Chap. VIII. [[De Lolme quotes, with slight variation, Rousseau, The Social Contract, book 2, chapter 8.]]
[6. ]“Resist innovations.”
[(a) ]The case of the General Warrants may also be mentioned as an instance. The issuing of such Warrants, with the name of the persons to be arrested left blank, was a practice that had been followed in the Secretaries of State’s office for above sixty years. In a Government differently constituted, that is, in a Government in which the Magistrates, or Executive power, should have been possessed of the Key of Legislation, it is difficult to say how the contest might have been terminated: these Magistrates would have been but indifferently inclined to frame and bring forth a declaration by which to abridge their assumed authority. In the Republic of Geneva, the Magistracy, instead of rescinding the judgment against M. Rousseau, of which the Citizens complained, had rather openly to avow the maxim, that standing Uses were valid derogations to the written Law, and ought to supersede it. This rendered the clamour more violent than before. [[See above, book 2, chapter 16, p. 251, note a, for De Lolme’s previous discussion of General Warrants; and book 2, chapter 13, p. 209, note a, for his discussion of the condemnation of Rousseau by Genevan authorities. In the paragraph to which the note refers, De Lolme mentions previously treated constitutional episodes: see above, book 1, chapter 7, p. 69, note a (Statute of Proclamations); book 1, chapter 8, p. 73, note d (Star Chamber); book 1, chapter 3, pp. 49–50, and note 3 (Petition of Right); and book 1, chapter 3, p. 51, and note 5 (Habeas Corpus Act).]]
[7. ]Christopher Columbus sent his younger brother Bartholomew (Bartolomeo) to the court of Henry VII in hopes of securing English support for the famous trans-Atlantic voyage of 1492, which eventually occurred under Spanish patronage. Bartholomew, however, never actually reached England.
[(a) ]As affairs are situated in England, the dissolution of a Parliament on the part of the Crown, is no more than an appeal either to the People themselves, or to another Parliament.
[(a) ]He might have added,—“As we will not seek to counteract nature, but rather to follow it, we shall be able to procure ourselves a mild Legislation. Let us not be without cause afraid of the power of one Man: we shall have no need either of a Tarpeian rock, or of a Council of Ten. Having expresly allowed to the People a liberty to enquire into the conduct of Government, and to endeavour to correct it, we shall need neither State-prisons, nor secret Informers.” [[The Council of Ten, a major political institution of the republic of Venice in the medieval and Renaissance periods, operated in secret and exercised wide discretionary powers for preserving the security of the state.]]
[(a) ]Instead of looking for the principles of Politics in their true sources, that is to say, in the nature of the affections of Mankind, and of those secret ties by which they are united together in a state of Society, Men have treated that science in the same manner as they did natural Philosophy in the times of Aristotle, continually recurring to occult causes and principles, from which no useful consequence could be drawn, Thus, in order to ground particular assertions, they have much used the word Constitution, in a personal sense, the Constitution loves, the Constitution forbids, and the like. At other times, they have had recourse to Luxury, in order to explain certain events; and at others, to a still more occult cause, which they have called Corruption: and abundance of comparisons drawn from the human Body, have been also used for the same purposes: continual instances of such defective arguments and considerations occur in the Works of M. de Montesquieu; though a man of so much genius, and from whose writings so much information is nevertheless to be derived. Nor is it only the obscurity of the writings of Politicians, and the impossibility of applying their speculative Doctrines to practical uses, which prove that some peculiar and uncommon difficulties lie in the way of the investigation of political truths; but the remarkable perplexity which Men in general, even the ablest, labour under when they attempt to descant and argue upon abstract questions in politics, also justifies this observation, and proves that the true first principles of this Science, whatever they are, lie deep both in the human feelings, and understanding.
[(a) ]And if at any time, any dangerous changes were to take place in the English Constitution, the pernicious tendency of which the People were not able at first to discover, restrictions on the Liberty of the Press, and on the Power of Juries, will give them the first information.