Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXI: Conclusion.—A few words on the nature of the Divisions that take place in England. - The Constitution of England; Or, an Account of the English Government
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CHAPTER XXI: Conclusion.—A few words on the nature of the Divisions that take place in 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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Conclusion.—A few words on the nature of the Divisions that take place in England.
I shall conclude this Work with a few observations on the total freedom from violence with which the political disputes and contentions in England are conducted and terminated, in order both to give a farther proof of the soundness of the principles on which the English Government is founded, and to confute in general the opinion of foreign Writers or Politicians, who, misled by the apparent heat with which those disputes are sometimes carried on, and the clamour to which they give occasion, look upon England as a perpetual scene of civil broils and dissensions.1
In fact if we consider, in the first place, the constant tenor of the conduct of the Parliament, we shall see that whatever different views the several Branches that compose it may at times pursue, and whatever use they may accordingly make of their privileges, they never go, in regard to each other, beyond the terms, not only of decency, but even of that general good understanding which ought to prevail among them.
Thus the King, though he preserves the style of his Dignity, never addresses the two Houses but in terms of regard and affection; and if at any time he chuses to refuse their Bills, he only says that he will consider of them (le Roy s’advisera); which is certainly a gentler expression than the word Veto.
The two Houses on their part, though very jealous, each within their own walls, of the freedom of speech, are, on the other hand, careful that that liberty shall never break out into unguarded expressions with regard to the person of the King. It is even a constant rule amongst them never to mention him, when they mean to blame the administration; and those things which they may choose to censure, even in the Speeches made by the King in person, and which are plainly his own acts, are never considered but as the deed of his Ministers, or in general of those who have advised him.
The two Houses are also equally attentive to prevent every step that may be inconsistent with that respect which they mutually owe to one another. The examples of their differences with each other are very rare, and were for the most part mere misunderstandings. Nay, in order to prevent all subject of altercation, the custom is, that when one of the two Houses refuses to consent to a Bill presented by the other, no formal declaration is made of such refusal; and that House whose Bill is rejected, learns its fate only from their hearing no more of it, or by what the Members may be told as private persons.
In each House, the Members take care, even in the heat of debate, never to go be-yond certain bounds in their manner of speaking of each other: if they were to offend in that respect, they would certainly incur the censure of the House. And as reason has taught Mankind to refrain, in their wars, from all injuries to each other that have no tendency to promote the main object of their contentions, so a kind of Law of Nations (if I may so express myself) has been introduced among the persons who form the Parliament and take a part in the debates: they have discovered that they may very well be of opposite parties, and yet not hate and persecute one another. Coming fresh from debates carried on even with considerable warmth, they meet without reluctance in the ordinary intercourse of life; and, suspending all hostilities, they hold every place out of Parliament to be neutral ground.
In regard to the generality of the People, as they never are called upon to come to a final decision with respect to any public measures, or expressly to concur in supporting them, they preserve themselves still more free from party spirit than their Representatives themselves sometimes are. Considering, as we have observed, the affairs of Government as only matter of speculation, they ne-ver have occasion to engage in any vehement contests among themselves on that account. Much less do they think of taking an active and violent part in the differences of particular factions, or the quarrels of private individuals. And those family feuds, those party animosities, those victories and consequent outrages of factions alternately successful, in short, all those inconveniencies which in so many other States have constantly been the attendants of liberty, and which Authors tell us we must submit to, as the price of it, are things in very great measure unknown in England.
But are not the English perpetually making complaints against the Administration? and do they not speak and write as if they were continually exposed to grievances of every kind?
Undoubtedly, I shall answer, in a Society of Beings subject to error, dissatisfactions will necessarily arise from some quarter or other; and in a free Society, they will be openly manifested by complaints. Besides, as every Man in England is permitted to give his opinion upon all subjects, and as, to watch over the Administration, and to complain of grievances, is the proper duty of the Representatives of the People, complaints must neces-sarily be heard in such a Government, and even more frequently, and upon more subjects, than in any other.
But those complaints, it should be remembered, are not, in England, the cries of oppression forced at last to break its silence. They do not suppose hearts deeply wounded. Nay, I will go farther, they do not even suppose very determinate sentiments; and they are often nothing more than the first vent which Men give to their new, and yet unsettled conceptions.
The agitation of men’s minds is not therefore in England what it would be in other States: it is not the symptom of a profound and general discontent, and the forerunner of violent commotions. Foreseen, regulated, even hoped for by the Constitution, this agitation animates all the different parts of the State, and is to be considered only as the beneficial vicissitude of the seasons. The governing Power being dependant on the Nation, is often thwarted, but so long as it continues to deserve the affection of the People, can never be endangered. Like a vigorous Tree which stretches its branches far and wide, the slightest breath can put it in motion; but it acquires and exerts at every minute a new degree of force, and resists the Winds, by the strength and elasticity of its fibres, and the depth of its roots.
In a word, whatever Revolutions may at times happen among the persons who conduct the public affairs in England, they never occasion the shortest cessation of the power of the Laws, nor the smallest diminution of the security of individuals. A Man who should have incurred the enmity of the most powerful Men in the State—what do I say!—though he had, like another Vatinius, drawn upon himself the united detestation of all parties, might, under the protection of the Laws, and by keeping within the bounds required by them, continue to set both his enemies and the whole Nation at defiance.2
The limits prescribed to this book do not admit of entering into any farther particulars on the subject we are treating here; but if we were to pursue this enquiry, and examine into the influence which the English Government has on the manners and customs of the People, perhaps we should find that, instead of inspiring them with any disposition to disorder or anarchy, it produces in them a quite contrary effect. As they see the highest Powers in the State, constantly submit to the Laws, and they receive, themselves, such a certain protection from those laws, whenever they appeal to them, it is impossible but they must insensibly contract a deep-rooted reverence for them, which can at no time cease to have some influence on their actions. And, in fact, we see that even the lower class of the People, in England, notwithstanding the apparent excesses into which they are sometimes hurried, possess a spirit of justice and order, superior to what is to be observed in the same rank of Men in other Countries. The extraordinary indulgence which is shewn to accused persons of every degree, is not attended with any of those pernicious consequences which we might at first be apt to fear from it. And it is perhaps to the nature of the English Constitution itself (however remote the cause may perhaps seem) and to the spirit of Justice it continually and insensibly diffuses throughout all orders of the People, that we are to attribute the singular advantage possessed by the English Nation, of employing an incomparably milder mode of administering Justice in criminal matters than any other Nation, and at the same time of affording perhaps fewer instances of violence or cruelty.
Another consequence which we might observe here, as flowing also from the principles of the English Government, is the moderate behaviour of all those who are invested with any branch of public authority. And if we look at the conduct of all public Officers in England, from the Minister of State, or the Judge, down to the lowest officers of Justice, we find a spirit of forbearance and lenity prevailing in England, among all persons in power, which cannot but create some surprize in those who have visited other Countries.
One circumstance more I shall observe here, as peculiar to England, which is the constant attention of the Legislature in providing for the interests and welfare of the People, and the indulgences shewn by them to their very prejudices. Advantages these, which are no doubt the consequence of the general spirit which animates the whole English Government, but are also particularly owing to that circumstance peculiar to it, of having lodged the active part of Legislation in the hands of the Representatives of the Nation, and committed the care of alleviating the grievances of the People to persons who either feel them, or see them nearly, and whose surest path to advancement and glory is to be active in finding remedies for them.
Not that I mean, however, that no abuses take place in the English Government, and that all possible good laws are made in it, but that there is a constant tendency in it, both to correct the one, and improve the other. And that all the laws that are in being, are certainly executed, whenever appealed to, is what I look upon as the characteristic and undisputed advantage of the English Constitution. A Constitution the more likely to produce all the effects we have mentioned, and to procure in general the happiness of the People, in that it has taken Mankind as they are, and has not endeavoured to prevent every thing, but to regulate every thing: I shall add, the more difficult to discover, because its form was complicated, while its principles were natural and simple. Hence it is that the Politicians of Antiquity, sensible of the inconveniences of the Governments they had opportunities of knowing, wished for the establishment of such a Government, without much hopes of ever seeing it effected (a) : nay, Tacitus, the best Judge of them all, considered it as a project entirely chimerical (a) . Nor was it because he had not thought of it, had not reflected on it, that he was of this opinion: he had sought for such a government, had had a glimpse of it, and yet continued to pronounce it impracticable.
Let us not therefore ascribe to the confined views of Man, to his imperfect sagacity, the discovery of this important secret. The world might have grown old, generations might have succeeded generations, still seeking it in vain. It has been by a fortunate conjunction of circumstances, I shall add, by the assistance of a favourable situation, that Liberty has at last been able to erect herself a Temple.
Invoked by every Nation, but of too delicate a nature, as it should seem, to subsist in Societies formed of such imperfect beings as Mankind, she shewed, and but just shewed herself, to the ingenious Nations of antiquity who inhabited the south of Europe. They were constantly mistaken in the form of the worship they paid to her. As they continually aimed at extending dominion and conquest over other Nations, they were no less mistaken in the spirit of that wor-ship; and though they continued for ages to pay their devotions to her, she still continued, with regard to them, to be the unknown Goddess.
Excluded, since that time, from those places to which she had seemed to give a preference, driven to the extremity of the Western World, banished even out of the Continent, she has taken refuge in the Atlantic Ocean. There it is, that, freed from the danger of external disturbance, and assisted by a happy pre-arrangement of things, she has been able fully to display the form that suited her; and she has found six centuries to have been necessary to the completion of her Work.
Being sheltered, as it were, within a Citadel, she there reigns over a Nation which is the better entitled to her favours as it endeavours to extend her Empire, and carries with it, to every part of its dominions, the blessings of industry and equality. Fenced in on every side, to use the expressions of Chamberlayne, with a wide and deep ditch, the sea, guarded with strong outworks, its ships of war, and defended by the courage of her Seamen, she preserves that important secret, that sacred fire, so difficult to be kindled, and which, if it were once extinguished, would perhaps never be lighted again.3 When the World shall have again been laid waste by Conquerors, she will still continue to shew Mankind, not only the principle that ought to unite them, but what is of no less importance, the form under which they ought to be united. And the Philosopher, when he considers the constant fate of civil Societies amongst Men, and observes the numerous and powerful causes which seem as it were unavoidably to conduct them all to a state of incurable political Slavery, takes comfort in seeing that Liberty has at length disclosed her secret to Mankind, and secured an Asylum to herself.
GUIDE TO FURTHER READING
Modern scholarship has greatly increased our understanding of the historical setting and constitutional theory to which De Lolme’s The Constitution of England so significantly contributed, but it has not provided any major studies devoted specifically to De Lolme’s own work. The two most substantial treatments remain Edith Ruth, Jean Louis de Lolme und sein Werk über die Verfassung Englands (Historische Studien, Heft 240; Berlin: Emil Ebering, 1934) and Jean-Pierre Machelon, Les idées politiques de J. L. de Lolme (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1969), which also contain information concerning the impact of De Lolme’s ideas in, respectively, Germany and France. Briefer and more recent assessments for England include M. J. C. Vile, Constitutionalism and the Separation of Powers (2nd ed.; Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998), chapter 5; Mark Francis and John Morrow, “After the Ancient Constitution: Political Theory and English Constitutional Writings, 1765–1832,” in History of Political Thought (1988), 9:283–302; and David Lieberman, “The Mixed Constitution and the Common Law,” in The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Political Thought, ed. Mark Goldie and Robert Wokler (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
The larger intellectual context for De Lolme’s writing can be pursued through several major interpretations that focus on national debates and political cultures. British and American political theory is illuminated in H. T. Dickinson, Liberty and Property: Political Ideology in Eighteenth-Century Britain (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1977); J. G. A. Pocock, Virtue, Commerce, and History: Essays on Political Thought and History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985); and Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic, 1776–1787 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1969). The case of France receives masterful examination in Keith Michael Baker, Inventing the French Revolution: Essays on French Political Culture in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990). There is no single definitive study for De Lolme’s Geneva, but valuable insight can be gained from two recent contributions to Rousseau scholarship: Helen Rosenblatt, Rousseau and Geneva: From the First Discourse to the Social Contract, 1749–1762 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); and Bruno Bernardi, Florent Guénard, and Gabriella Silvestrini, eds., Religion, liberté, justice sur les Lettres écrites de la montagne de J.-J. Rousseau (Paris: Librairie Philosophique Vrin, 2005).
[1. ]The intensity and the vehemence of partisan debate in England were frequently viewed as a dangerous product of the nation’s political system; see, for example, Montesquieu’s cautious strictures in The Spirit of the Laws, book 19, chapter 27.
[2. ]Publius Vatinius, a contemporary of Cicero and Julius Caesar who held several important political offices in the years 63–47 b.c.e., was famous for his contempt of the vices and corruption of the Romans.
[(a) ]“Statuo esse optimè constitutam Rempublicam quae ex tribus generibus illis, regali, optimo, & populari, modicè confusa,”—Cic. Fragm. [[“(In my judgment,) that is the best constituted form of government, which, in moderation, is compounded of these three constituent parts: the royal, the aristocratical, and the popular.” Marcus Tullius Cicero, De re publica, II.xxiii.]]
[(a) ]“Cunctas Nationes & Urbes, Populus, aut Priores, aut Singuli, regunt. Delecta ex his & constituta Reipublicae forma, laudari facilius quàm evenire; vel si evenit, haud diuturna esse potest.”—Tac. Ann. lib. iv. [[“For every nation or city is governed by the people or the nobility, or by individuals: a constitution selected and blended from these types is easier to commend than to create; or, if created, its tenure of life is brief.” Tacitus, Annals, book 4, chapter 33; see above, book 1, chapter 3, p. 45, note a.]]
[3. ]De Lolme refers to Edward Chamberlayne’s 1669 Angliae notitia; or, The Present State of England, part 2, chapter 2, which likened England to “a huge Fortress or garrisoned Town” protected by “a wide and deep Ditch the sea,” “the strongest and best built Ships of War,” and “abundantly furnished within with Men and Horses.”