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[SECT. II.—: OF THE SIMPLE FORMS OF GOVERNMENT IN SPECIAL.] - Dugald Stewart, Lectures on Political Economy, vol. 2 
Lectures on Political Economy. Now first published. Vol. II. To which is Prefixed, Part Third of the Outlines of Moral Philosophy, edited by Sir William Hamilton (Edinburgh, Thomas Constable, 1856).
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OF THE SIMPLE FORMS OF GOVERNMENT IN SPECIAL.]
Of Democracy and Democratic States.
From the foregoing observations, it may be easily inferred, that as no governments are to be found, actually existing, which correspond exactly to the general definitions of Democracy, Aristocracy, and Monarchy, these definitions are to be understood as expressing merely ideal constitutions, which exist nowhere but in the imagination of the speculative politician. The fact is, that all the governments we know are mixed governments; and, perhaps, it may even be asserted, that every government contains some mixture, in a greater or less proportion, of all the three simple forms. In some, however, the power of the people is much greater than in others, where, by a train of accidents, it has been gradually brought under subjection to the body of the nobles, or to a single monarch; and, in like manner, where the popular branch of the government is comparatively feeble and insignificant, constitutions may differ very widely from each other, according as the supreme authority is exercised by an individual, by a few, or by a multitude of rulers. Now, the words Democracy, Aristocracy, and Monarchy, are commonly employed, in a loose and popular way, to express to which of the simple forms a particular government approaches most nearly, or which of the three governing powers prevails in its constitution.
I mention this circumstance, because, in treating of the simple forms, I only follow the example of Montesquieu and all other theoretical Politicians, who are obliged to borrow their illustrations from those which are mixed in fact. This consideration, however, does not render these illustrations the less applicable to the support of their general principles; as the inconveniences resulting from those governments in which any one of the simple forms predominates beyond its due proportion, would be felt still more severely, if this simple form existed altogether pure and unmixed. The conclusions, therefore, resulting from such facts are applicable, a fortiori, to the theoretical view of Governments which these authors have exhibited.
In treating of Democracy, I shall begin with the consideration of a State, approaching as nearly to the definition as possible; but, as the subject when considered in this light affords a very narrow field for speculation, I shall proceed, after a very few general observations, to remark the various deviations from the standard that experience has suggested, in order to remedy its inconveniences, and, at the same time, to maintain the ascendency of the people, by excluding every tendency to the other forms of government.1
First, then, it may be observed, that when the supreme power in a Democracy is said to be vested in the people, it is not to be supposed that each man is his own master; for in every form of government whatever, it must be universally understood, that the minority are to abide by the determinations of the majority. If they do not, Government is at an end, and men are left in a state of anarchy. It is evident, therefore, that this is a limit beyond which Democracy cannot be carried even in theory.
I do not know, however, that this theory has ever been exactly realized in the history of mankind; or, in other words, that there has ever been a constitution in which the people met together on every affair of public concern, and where the majority exercised in their own persons all the functions of government. Indeed, we may venture to assert that no such thing ever existed; and, therefore, if we wish our reasonings to apply to facts, we must enlarge somewhat our definition of Democracy.
“As to popular government, in the strictest sense,” says [Algernon] Sidney, “that is pure Democracy; where the people in themselves, and by themselves, perform all that belongs to government, I know of no such thing.”2 And in another passage, “Being no way concerned in the defence of Democracy, I may leave our knight, like Don Quixote, fighting against the phantasms of his own brain, and saying what he pleases against such Governments as never were, unless in such a place as San Marino, near Sinigaglia in Italy, where a hundred clowns govern a barbarous rock that no man invades, and relates nothing to our question.”1 He might have added, that San Marino is by no means a pure Democracy, according to the general definition, as sufficiently appears from Addison’s account of it.
The same author, (Sidney,) after remarking, that every good government is a mixture of all the three forms, adds;—“More ignorance surely cannot be expressed than by giving the name of Democracy to those governments that are composed of the three simple species; for in a strict sense, it can only suit with those where the people retain to themselves the administration of the supreme power; and morely largely, when the popular part, as in Athens, greatly overbalances the other two, and the denomination is taken from the prevailing part.”2
From these considerations we may infer, that the most perfect Democracy which can be realized, must admit of certain delegations of power to select councils, or to individual magistrates. At the same time, to entitle a constitution to the name of Democracy, even in the more extensive sense of the word, it seems to be essential to it, that the people should appoint the councils and the magistrates, and that every person who exercises power in the State, should be accountable to the people for his conduct. This, I apprehend, forms the definition of as perfect a Democracy as is compatible, even in theory, with the circumstances of mankind;—and of a Democracy much more perfect, than seems to be compatible with the imperfections inseparable from human character, when men are called on to act in a corporate or political capacity.
In some Democracies, it has been thought necessary, on account of the numbers, to delegate, at least for a time, even the Legislative power; or, in other words, the Sovereignty of the state. At Rome and Athens, the determinations of the Senate had the force of a law for a year, but to render them perpetual, the sanction of the people was necessary.
As the determinations of the people in their public assemblies must be ascertained by their votes, and as it is these determinations which constitute law, Montesquieu reckons, among the fundamental laws of a Republic, those which fix the number of voters, and the manner of collecting their suffrages. “In this form of government,” says he, “it is as important to fix, in what manner, and by whom the suffrages are to be given, as it is in a limited monarchy to know who is the prince, and after what manner he ought to govern.”* Of this prerogative of legislation, the Athenians were so jealous that they punished with death any stranger who presumed to intrude himself into an assembly of the people.
In Sparta the number of citizens forming the public assembly was fixed at ten thousand. In Rome the number never was fixed, and this circumstance is considered by Montesquieu as one of the principal causes of her ruin.
It has been disputed among political writers, in what manner the suffrages of the people should be given; in particular, whether they should be public or private. Montesquieu decides that they should be public, and that this should be a fundamental law in a Democracy. “The body of the people,” he observes, “ought to be directed by those of better education, and to be restrained within bounds by a respect for the opinion of their superiors.”† At Athens the people voted by holding up their hands; at Rome, towards the conclusion of the Republic, different laws were passed called Leges Tabellariæ, which rendered the suffrages of the people secret. Two tablets were presented to each citizen—the first marked with an “A” for “Antiquo,” or “I forbid it;” and the other with a “U” and “R,” for “Uti rogas,” “Be it as you desire.” Cicero tells us in his oration Pro Plancio, that the people were fond of this method of voting. “Populo grata est Tabella, quæ frontes aperit, hominum mentes tegit; datque eam libertatem, ut quod velint faciant.”1 The same author, in his Third Book, De Legibus, considers these laws as having contributed to the decay of the Republic. “Quis autem non sentit, auctoritatem omnem Optimatium Tabellariam legem abstulisse?—quam populus liber nunquam desideravit, idem oppressus dominatu ac potentia principum, flagitavit. . . . Itaque isti rationi neque lator quisquam est inventus, nec auctor unquam bonus. Sunt enim quatuor leges Tabellariæ.” In this passage he also makes it a principle in his imaginary Commonwealth: “Suffragia esse nota Optimatibus, Populo libera. . . . Qua lege, libertatis species datur, bonorum auctoritas retinetur.”1
Montesquieu indeed observes, that in an Aristocracy when the body of the nobles are to vote, the suffrages cannot be too secret, for there, the great object is to exclude intrigue and faction; but in a Democracy, while the people retain their zeal for the public, these are unavoidable; and indeed, when they disappear altogether, it is a mortal symptom of the constitution.*
As it is the object of a Democracy to preserve as great an equality among the citizens as is consistent with political order, it is necessary to take some precautions against the growth of particular families,—a circumstance which can hardly fail to happen in process of time, whatever rules are adopted with respect to the transmission of property. Lycurgus and Romulus, and some other ancient legislators, are said to have made an equal division of lands. It is evident that such a measure could only be executed in some very unusual combinations of circumstances. But supposing the thing accomplished at the commencement of a Republic, how is this equality to be maintained? For if individuals are allowed to dispose of their property at pleasure, an unequal distribution of wealth will soon be introduced. Hence in such a form of government, it becomes necessary that there should be some regulations concerning women’s dowries, donations, successions, and testamentary settlements. Many laws of this kind are mentioned in the history of the Ancient States, some of which Montesquieu has very ingeniously illustrated in the fifth chapter of his Fifth Book. “In most States, however,” says Dr. Ferguson, “even the democratical spirit could attain no more than to prolong the struggle for Agrarian Laws; to procure, on occasion, the expunging of debts; and to keep the people in mind, under all the distinctions of fortune, that they still had a claim to equality.
“The citizen of Rome, at Athens, and in many Republics, contended for himself and his order. The Agrarian Law was moved and debated for ages. It served to awaken the mind, it nourished the spirit of equality, and furnished a field on which to exert its force, but was never established with any of its other and more formal effects.”
The same author very justly subjoins, that “many of the establishments which serve to defend the weak from oppression, contribute, by securing the possession of property, to favour its unequal division, and to increase the ascendency of those from whom the abuse of power may be feared. Those abuses were felt very early both at Athens and Rome.”1
Nor is it sufficient for the preservation of a Democracy, that the division of lands should be equal. Without frugality, this equality cannot long be maintained, and frugality can only be secured by the smallness of the possession belonging to each proprietor. To this general rule Montesquieu mentions one exception, that of a Democracy founded on commerce. Here he thinks private citizens may acquire great riches without a corruption of morals; for the spirit of commerce is naturally attended with that of frugality, economy, moderation, labour, prudence, tranquillity, and order; and while this spirit subsists, the riches it produces have no bad effects. These begin only to be felt when excessive wealth damps the ardour of lucrative industry, and gives birth to other pursuits less favourable to the peace of society.
For supporting the spirit of commerce, it is necessary that it should be carried on by the principal citizens, the laws making every possible provision, that the fortune of no individual should place him above the temptation of increasing it by industry; and that every man, however poor, should have an opportunity of employing his labour and his skill to the best advantage. For this purpose it is a wise law in a trading republic, to make an equal division of the father’s estate among the children, in consequence of which exorbitant fortunes are broken down, and a general spirit of industry is promoted.
The great advantage of this form of government, when we consider it merely in theory, is the happy influence it seems likely to have on the human character. A sense of the common relation in which all mankind stand to the Great Author of their being, is deeply engraved on every heart; and the conscious independence inspired by this consideration, can only be controlled by a long course of education in the world, or by a strong philosophical conviction of the utility of a subordination of ranks. Even under the deepest sense of this utility, it is a sentiment which ought never to be banished completely from the mind, for in every state of society, and under every form of government, the observation of Dr. Ferguson will be found to hold true, that “he who has forgotten the original equality of mankind, easily degenerates into a slave; or, in the capacity of a master, is not to be trusted with the rights of his fellow-citizens.”1 And surely, if it were possible to class men only according to their personal qualities, and at the same time to attain the great ends of government, such a constitution would attach men to it more than any other, by being more agreeable to their natural feelings; would secure more effectually the dignity of the human character, and would encourage and promote every respectable and useful endowment both of the understanding and the heart.
But the misfortune is, such a form of government presupposes a degree of virtue which is not to be found among men; and therefore, although some may approach nearer than others to the description, yet the thing itself exists only in imagination.
It may be fairly questioned too, how far, in the actual circumstances of mankind, those constitutions in which the deviations from the abstract theory are the least striking, are practically fitted to accomplish the important ends for which governments are instituted,—wise and equitable laws, and a vigorous and effectual execution of them. In proof of this observation, it may be remarked, in the first place, that supposing the disposition of the people to be ever so virtuous and patriotic, they are perfectly incapable, when collected into numerous assemblies, of deliberating coolly and rationally about any public measure; “all numerous assemblies,” according to an excellent remark of Cardinal de Retz, “being mere mob, and swayed in their debates by the least motive.”* It is very remarkable, that when men are in this situation, and when their physical force is the greatest, they should be more completely than at any other time under the influence of respect for their superiors in wisdom and virtue, insomuch, that Virgil in describing the powers of Neptune in stilling the waves of a tempestuous sea, has been led to borrow a comparison from this moral phenomenon,—the influence of a man of authority in a popular assembly.† The intention of this part of our constitution was obviously to fit us for government, and to enable men, when collected together in numerous bodies, to act with order and unanimity. But it is easy to see, that although it is subservient to wise purposes, it affords a fair opportunity for the intrigues of factious and ambitious demagogues. The people are incapable of making the distinction between the reality and the shew of virtue, and those are commonly the loudest in their professions, and the best acquainted with the various arts of popularity, who are at bottom the most deficient in principle. Xenophon‡ informs us that the vulgar and the vicious were uniformly more powerful at Athens than the noble and the good; that those were chosen to command who could expend the most in banquets or in pageantry; and that the wicked and the crafty could please the vulgar most, and were always the most successful: he adds, that their demagogues were commonly in the pay of their enemies.
But it is not only by misleading the affections of the multitude that demagogues have been enabled to hurry them into ruinous measures. Every person who is at all acquainted with the manner in which affairs are transacted in numerous assemblies, will readily subscribe to the reasonableness of the following reflections, with which a judicious and enlightened citizen of Geneva (M. de Lolme) concludes his account of the success of a very bold experiment of this sort in the history of his own republic:—“That, in popular deliberations, the few who are united together, who take an active part in public affairs, and whose station is conspicuous, have such an advantage over the many who turn their eyes towards them, and are without union among themselves, that even with a middling degree of skill, they can at all times direct at their pleasure the general resolutions; that, as a consequence of the very nature of things, there is no proposal, however absurd, to which a numerous assembly of men may not, at one time or other, be brought to assent, and that laws would be wiser, and more likely to procure the advantage of all, if they were to be made by drawing of lots, or casting dice, than by the suffrages of a multitude.”1
Mr. Hume, in one of his Essays, takes notice of a very singular circumstance in the Athenian government, which has escaped the attention of antiquaries and commentators. By the Γραϕὴ Παρανόμων, or indictment of illegality, “any man was tried and punished by any common court of judicature, for any law which had passed upon his motion in the assembly of the people, if that law appeared to the Court unjust or prejudicial to the public.” Of this sort of trial he gives several instances, and subjoins to them the following observations:—
“The Athenian Democracy was such a tumultuary government as we can scarce form notion of in the present age of the world. The whole collective body of the people voted in every law, without any limitation of property, without any distinction of rank, without control from any magistracy or senate, and, consequently, without regard to order, justice, or prudence. The Athenians soon became sensible of the mischiefs attending this constitution; but being averse to the checking themselves by any rule or restriction, they resolved at least to check their demagogues or counsellors, by the fear of future punishment and inquiry. They accordingly instituted this remarkable law, a law esteemed so essential to their government, that Æschines insists on it as a known truth, that were it abolished or neglected, it were impossible for the democracy to subsist.”
“The people,” he adds, “feared not any ill consequence to liberty from the authority of the criminal courts, because these were nothing but very numerous juries, chosen by lot from among the people; and they considered themselves justly as in a state of perpetual pupillage, where they had an authority, after they came to the use of reason, not only to retract and control whatever had been determined, but to punish any guardian for measures which they had embraced by his persuasion. The same law had place in Thebes, and for the same reason.”*
It is in consequence of experiencing this incapacity of large assemblies to transact business, that we find in all free governments two councils, a less and a greater; or, in other words, a Senate and a People. “The people,” as Harrington observes, “would want wisdom without the senate, the senate without the people would want honesty.”*
But here another inconvenience occurs. It appears from what has been said, that a liberty of debate in a very numerous assembly can hardly answer any good purpose. The senate, therefore, we shall suppose, deliberates, and the people only reserve to themselves the privilege of resolving. But if the senate deliberates, and the people only resolves without debating, the latter have indeed the shew of liberty, but the senate possesses, in fact, the legislative authority. This inconvenience no government, of which we have any account, has yet been able fully to remedy. There is, indeed, a plan for that purpose, and one that seems very practicable in theory, proposed by Mr. Hume in his Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth, an Essay that contains many original and profound observations. “If the people debate,” says he, “all is confusion. If they do not debate they can only resolve, and then the senate carves for them. Divide the people into many separate bodies, and then they may debate with safety, and every inconvenience seems to be prevented.” . . . .
“When an absurdity,” he continues, “strikes a member of a numerous assembly, he conveys it to his neighbour, and so on till the whole be infected. Separate this great body, and though every member be only of middling sense, it is not probable that anything but reason can prevail over the whole. Influence and example being removed, good sense will always get the better of bad among a number of people. Good sense is one thing, but follies are numberless, and every man has a different one. The only way of making a people wise, is to keep them from uniting into large assemblies.”†
Besides the inconveniences which have been hitherto mentioned as incident to democratical governments, there is another which seems to be essential to their nature. In the English constitution, it is well known that the great security we have for our liberty, and for the enactment of equitable laws, is that our lawgivers have no share whatever in the executive branch of government, but are bound by the laws, when made, in common with the rest of their fellow-citizens. But this advantage never can be enjoyed in a Democracy, because there are no persons qualified by their influence to defend the rights of the people, and, at the same time, called upon to do so by motives of self-interest. The favour of the people is indeed the road to eminence, but the moment that this eminence is attained by any individual, he is placed above that rank in life which exposes to the danger of oppression from the executive magistrates; nay, he becomes unwilling to curtail their authority, as he naturally looks forward to the time when he himself shall be placed in some similar station. In all Democratical Governments too, it will naturally be the policy of those in power to draw over to their party those aspiring men who have acquired an influence among the people. De Lolme remarks, that,—“At Rome, the only end which the tribunes ever pursued with any degree of sincerity and perseverance, was to procure to the people, that is, to themselves, an admission to all the different dignities in the Republic. After having obtained a law for admitting the plebeians to the consulship, they procured for them a liberty of intermarrying with the patricians. They afterwards got them admitted to the dictatorship, to the office of military tribune, to the censorship; in a word, the only use they made of the power of the people, was to increase prerogatives, which they called the prerogatives of all, but which they and their friends alone were ever likely to enjoy.
“But we do not find that they ever employed the power of the people in things really beneficial to the people. We do not find that they ever set bounds to the terrible power of its magistrates; that they ever repressed that class of citizens who knew how to make their crimes pass uncensured; in a word, that they ever endeavoured to regulate the judicial power,—that power which is the sure criterion of the goodness of a government, and which was always at Rome a mere instrument of tyranny.”*
It would seem, therefore, that the advantage of the English constitution in placing all executive authority out of the hands of those to whom the people entrust their liberties, cannot be obtained in a Democracy, in which the people will almost necessarily be betrayed by those whom they trust, as by this very confidence they elevate them above their own rank, and as the attainment of the executive offices is the ultimate object of ambition to which the favourites of the people naturally aspire.
From the observations which have been made, it appears how very difficult it must be in a Democracy to secure the enactment of equal laws. But supposing such laws to be enacted, it is still more difficult to secure the faithful interpretation and application of them. When the passions of the people are roused, their rulers will find it necessary to gratify them by popular regulations; but unless there are proper checks on the judicial power, the most salutary laws are perfectly inefficacious; and how to impose such checks, and, at the same time, to secure to judges that independence which is necessary for the pure administration of justice, is a problem which does not seem to have been successfully solved in any democratical establishment recorded in history. On this subject, some very judicious observations, illustrated chiefly by the history of the Roman Commonwealth, may be found in De Lolme.†
Let us now consider how far a Democratical Constitution is fitted for employing the Executive Power of the state in defending it against foreign enemies.
It is one of the most evident maxims in politics, that the executive power, in order to be exercised with vigour, secrecy, and despatch, must be entrusted to very few hands. And hence the extraordinary powers which the freest governments have found it expedient to commit to single persons in times of public alarm. This policy, however, although, in such cases, not only useful, but sometimes essentially necessary to the existence of the state, is always a measure fraught with danger to public liberty, which is thus confided to that very executive power, against the encroachments of which it is the great object of free constitutions to provide.
In the ancient commonwealths, the established principle was to provide against this danger by limiting the duration of the office; but, in such cases, not only the supreme power, but the actual exercise of it, remains with the people; and the affairs of the state may legally be thrown into confusion by any individual who is able, by popular arts, to inflame the passions of the multitude. We shall afterwards see how beautifully this danger is provided against in the theory of the English Constitution, by rendering the executive power dependent for the necessary supplies on the people. It is remarkable, that the Romans, who were always extremely jealous about the legislative power, seem to have had little or no jealousy about the executive. This they left almost entirely to the senate and to the consuls, reserving little to themselves but the right of choosing the magistrates, and of confirming the acts of the senate and of the generals. The share, indeed, which the senate took in the executive power was so great, that Polybius informs us, foreign nations imagined that Rome was an Aristocracy.*
This circumstance in the Roman government is accounted for by Montesquieu, from the ruling passion of that people, which was the lust of conquest, and from the constant jealousy and alarm in which they were kept with respect to their foreign enemies. “The people,” says he, “disputed every branch of the legislative power with the senate, because they were jealous of their liberty; but they had no disputes about the executive, because they were jealous of their glory.”*
It is evident, however, that when the executive power is committed to a separate body, or to a single person without a check, in so far the government ceases to be Democratical; and we may add, that when a single person acquires such an ascendant in the public councils as to carry on everything according to his own will and pleasure, the constitution differs from Monarchy only in name. This happens more frequently in democracies than is generally imagined. “Athens, from the battle of Marathon, was governed by a series of artful and intriguing men, who possessed themselves, from time to time, of the whole power of the state. Thucydides (Book II.) asserts, in direct terms, that Athens, under Pericles, was a perfect Monarchy, and that those who succeeded him in the government, being more on an equality, ruined the state by contention.”1
In England, in like manner, the long Parliament was under the necessity of intrusting a select council with the whole conduct of foreign affairs. Indeed, it appears that these affairs were chiefly transacted by a single person, Sir Henry Vane.2
The danger in a Government professedly regulated by Republican forms, of such anomalous deviations from the genuine spirit of the constitution, needs little illustration. It is justly remarked by Montesquieu, that “an exorbitant authority suddenly conferred upon a citizen in a Republic, produces something more than a monarchy:” he means something more than a limited monarchy. “In the latter the laws have provided for, or in some measure adapted themselves to the constitution, and the principle of government checks the monarch; but in a Republic, where a private citizen has attained an exorbitant power, the abuse of this power is much greater because the laws foresaw it not, and consequently made no provision against it.”1 He has shewn in his Considerations on the Causes of the Grandeur and Decline of the Romans, that it was this circumstance which ruined the Republic.
We must not therefore conclude, from the splendid exertions made in war by nominal Democracies, that this form of government is well fitted for the management of the executive power, for war can only be carried on successfully when this power is entrusted to few hands; and in so far as this is done, the government departs, at least for a time, from the idea of a perfect Democracy.
Demosthenes in one of his orations, gives a lively picture of the irresolute and dilatory operations of a State embarrassed by the deliberations of popular councils, and the intrigues of ambitious and corrupt demagogues. “You resemble,” says he to the Athenians, “an unskilful bruiser, who, when he finds himself struck in one part, endeavours to defend that, and leaves the rest defenceless. In like manner, you are never prepared beforehand, and when Philip invades one part of your dominions, before you determine on its defence, he is gone to another.”2
In a state which is poor and of small extent, such a form of government may be conceived to exist with advantage. Individuals will be too much occupied with private concerns to form plans of ambition, and the general simplicity of manners will check an inordinate love of power or of exterior distinction. The simplicity likewise of their political arrangements will prevent demagogues from attempting to mislead them by misrepresentations of facts;—and the perfect knowledge which every individual may possess of the character of those who engage in public business, will be an additional security for their tranquillity. To this we may add, that it is in a small State that the advantages of the social union are most sensibly felt, and where the patriotic attachment operates most powerfully in stifling the selfish dispositions.
In a state which is wealthy and extensive, individuals may be expected to form ambitious projects, and they will be favoured in the execution of them by the extent of territory; by the complicated nature of the political arrangements; by the ignorance of the people with respect to the real character of their leaders, and their disposition in such cases to gratify their capricious humours, by patronizing every new candidate in preference to those whose abilities have been tried; and probably by that general passion for wealth which facilitates the secret arts of corruption. The elections for public offices will become a scene of intrigue and faction. The candidates for power will attempt to supplant their predecessors by detraction and by professions of patriotism; and when they have obtained their object, will, in their turn, forget the engagements they came under, and endeavour to maintain the power they have acquired, by availing themselves of those means of supporting it which their stations put in their hands. In the midst of such intrigues, the power of the state is likely to fall into the worst hands, and genius as well as virtue to be proscribed from the public service. Thucydides remarks, in speaking of the factions throughout all the Grecian Commonwealths:—“That in these contests, those who were the dullest and most stupid, and had the least foresight, commonly prevailed. For being conscious of this weakness, and dreading to be overreached by those of greater penetration, they went to work hastily, without premeditation, by the sword and poniard, and thereby got the start of their antagonists, who were forming fine schemes and projects for their destruction.”*
This observation has been praised by Mr. Hume, as possessing at once the merit of refinement and solidity; and it has been strikingly verified by some events which have happened in our own times.
The following passage from Machiavel is so apposite to our present subject, that I shall make no apology for the length of the quotation. It is part of a speech addressed by a citizen of Florence to the Senate, and contains (as De Lolme observes) a kind of abridged history of all Republics.*
“And that nothing human may be perpetual and stable, it is the will of heaven, that in all states whatsoever, there should arise certain destructive families, who are the bane and ruin of them. Of this our Republic can afford as many and more deplorable examples than any other, as it owes its misfortunes not only to one but to several of such families. We had at first the Buondelmonti and the Huberti: we had afterwards the Donati and the Cerchi. And at present we are waging war among ourselves for the Ricci and the Albizzi.
“When, in former times, the Ghibelins were suppressed, every one expected that the Guelfs, being then satisfied, would have chosen to live in tranquillity; yet, but a little time had elapsed, when they again divided themselves into the factions of the Whites and Blacks. When the Whites were suppressed, new parties arose, and new troubles followed. Sometimes battles were fought in favour of the exiles, and at other times quarrels broke out between the nobility and the people, and as if resolved to give away to others what we ourselves neither could, nor would peaceably enjoy, we committed the care of our liberty, sometimes to King Robert, and at other times to his brother, and at length to the Duke of Athens, never settling or resting in any kind of government, nor knowing either how to enjoy liberty or support servitude.”†
Upon a general review of the foregoing considerations, it appears, that whether a Democracy be great or small, there is an essential defect in this form of government. If it be small, it is destroyed by a foreign force; if it be large, it is ruined by an internal imperfection.
Montesquieu remarks, that both Democracies and Aristocracies are equally liable to this twofold inconvenience, and that whether they be good or bad, the evil is in the very thing itself, and no form can redress it.
“It is therefore,” he continues, “very probable that mankind would have been at length obliged to live constantly under the government of a single person, had they not contrived a constitution that has all the internal advantages of a Republican, together with the external force of a monarchical government; I mean a Confederate Republic.
“This form of government is a convention, by which several small states agree to become members of a larger one which they intend to form. It is a kind of assemblage of societies that constitute a new one, capable of increasing, by means of new associations, till they arrive at such a degree of power as to be able to provide for the security of the united body.
“It was these associations that contributed so long to the prosperity of Greece. . . . .
“A Republic of this kind, able to withstand an external force, may support itself without any internal corruption. . . . As it is composed of petty Republics, it enjoys the internal happiness of each; and with respect to its external situation, it is possessed by means of the association of many, of the advantages of large monarchies.”1
In the observations which have hitherto been made, I have considered it as essential to the notion of a Democracy, that the power of legislation should be lodged in the whole body of a people. This I conceive to be the abstract or theoretical idea of this form of government, although it has never been completely realized in the history of mankind. In illustrating its tendency, I have been obliged to borrow my facts from the proceedings of popular assemblies in different states, some of which may have approached nearer than others to the general definition, but all of which have departed from it in very important respects. This, however, forms no objection to the view of the subject I have taken, or to the fitness of these illustrations; for the proceedings of a popular assembly in any form of government, may serve equally well to illustrate the advantages or the disadvantages that might be expected from a constitution in which such an assembly formed the whole body of the people, and retained in itself the power of legislation.
If we should enlarge the definition of a Democracy, and admit the people only to act by their representatives, the nature of the government becomes essentially changed, and many of the foregoing objections fall to the ground.
“It was one great fault,” says Montesquieu, “in most of the ancient Republics, that the people had a right to influence immediately the public resolutions;—a thing of which they are absolutely incapable. They ought to have no hand in the government but for the choosing of representatives.”*
If this principle of Montesquieu be admitted, that “an indirect share in the legislation, by means of delegates or representatives, is the utmost length of political freedom that is consistent with the ends of government,” some of the inconveniences now stated as incident to democratical constitutions, may undoubtedly be obviated. And it affords a curious and interesting subject of philosophical speculation, to devise the most effectual and advantageous mode of carrying the representative system into execution, a problem (by the way) of which the solution must necessarily vary with the circumstances of the country in question. A very ingenious theory on this subject is proposed by Mr. Hume, in one of his Political Discourses, and is supported by him by many plausible arguments. The Essay concludes with an observation, in which the author controverts the common opinion, that no large state could ever be modelled into such a form of government, and that it is compatible only with a single city, or a very small territory. “The contrary,” says he, “seems probable. Though it is more difficult to form a Republican Government in an extensive territory than in a city, there is more facility, when once it is formed, of preserving it steady and uniform, without tumult and faction. It is not easy for the distant parts of a large state to combine in any plan of free government, but they easily conspire in the esteem and reverence for a single person, who, by means of this popular favour, may seize the power, and forcing the more obstinate to submit, may establish a monarchical government. On the other hand, a city readily concurs in the same notions of government, the natural equality of property favours liberty, and the nearness of habitation enables the citizens mutually to assist each other. Even under absolute princes, the subordinate government of cities is commonly Republican, while that of counties and provinces is Monarchical. But these same circumstances, which facilitate the erection of commonwealths in cities, render their constitutions more frail and uncertain. Democracies are turbulent. For however the people may be separated or divided into small parties either in their votes or elections, their near habitation in a city will always make the force of popular tides and currents very sensible. Aristocracies are better adapted for peace and order, and accordingly were most admired by ancient writers, but they are jealous and oppressive. In a large government which is modelled with masterly skill, there is compass and room enough to refine the democracy, from the lower people who may be admitted into the first elections, or first concoction of the commonwealth, to the higher magistrates who direct all the movements. At the same time, the parts are so distant and remote, that it is very difficult, either by intrigue, prejudice, or passion, to hurry them into any measures against the public interest.”*
To these reasonings of Mr. Hume’s many very strong objections might be made; but I shall only mention one at present, which has always had more weight with me than any other. It is founded on an observation, (which I was formerly [supra, Vol. I. p. 21, seq.] at some pains to illustrate,) that the happiness of mankind depends immediately, not on the form of government, but on the particular system of law and policy which that form introduces; and that the advantage which one form of government possesses over another, arises chiefly from the facility it affords to the introduction of such legislative improvements as the general interests of the community recommend. Now, I do not think that in the present state of the world, Democratic constitutions in any form which it is possible to give them, are favourable to the establishment of those systematic and enlightened principles of Political Economy which are subservient to the progressive happiness and improvement of mankind. Under every form of government, (whatever it may be,) provided its general spirit be favourable to liberty, and allows an unrestrained freedom of discussion, these enlightened views of Political Economy will gradually and slowly prevail in proportion to the progress of reason and the diffusion of knowledge. And they will command the general assent of mankind soonest in those countries where a strong executive power and a vigilant police allow men to prosecute calmly and dispassionately those important but difficult studies, which lead to the melioration of the human race.
I shall prosecute this subject further when I come to treat of the peculiar advantages of the English Constitution. In the meantime, I proceed to make a few remarks on the nature and spirit of Aristocratic Governments.
In an Aristocracy, the supreme power is vested in a select body of the citizens, or (to express myself in the language of modern Europe) in a body of Nobility; but the nature and spirit of such a form of government may be widely diversified in different instances, while the general character of the constitution remains the same.
1. If the nobles be numerous, a senate will be necessary for the management of those kinds of business which cannot be transacted in a large assembly, and for preparing the business which is to come under the general consideration of the order. “Where this is the case,” says Montesquieu, “the Aristocracy is, in some measure, in the senate, the Democracy in the body of the nobles, and the people are nothing at all.”*
2. With respect to the manner in which the power of the nobles is vested in them, two suppositions may be formed. First, that it belongs to them in their collective capacity only, individuals possessing no separate authority but what they derive from the whole body; and secondly, that each nobleman has a separate and independent authority belonging to himself. The former supposition took place in the old Venetian government; the latter in that of Poland, in which every nobleman, by means of his fiefs, had a certain hereditary authority over his vassals, and the whole body had no authority but what it received from the concurrence of its parts.1
Of the two, it is easy to see that the former is likely to be by far the more tolerable; for where the whole authority of the nobles is vested in them in their collective capacity, although the laws which are made will probably be calculated to favour the interests of the ruling order, yet such acts of wanton oppression are not to be dreaded as often proceed from the bad passions of uncontrolled individuals. In the latter case, the nobles will set up as little tyrants in every corner of the country, extending their oppressions to all descriptions of men, and even to those individuals who, in an extensive monarchy, would derive some security from their insignificance. It is therefore with good reason that Mr. Hume, in his Essay entitled Politics a Science, lays it down as a universal political axiom, that the best aristocracy is that in which the nobility have no vassals. In further illustration of this maxim, Mr. Hume observes, that “a nobility who possess their power in common will preserve peace and order, both among themselves and their subjects; and no member can have authority enough to control the laws for a moment. The nobles will preserve their authority over the people, but without any grievous tyranny, or any breach of private property; because such a tyrannical government promotes not the interest of the whole body, however it may that of some individuals. There will be a distinction of rank between the nobility and people; but this will be the only distinction in the state. The whole nobility will form one body, and the whole people another, without any of those private feuds and animosities which spread ruin and desolation everywhere. It is easy to see the disadvantages of a Polish nobility in every one of these particulars.”*
3. Montesquieu remarks,† that those aristocracies are the best in which they who have no share in the legislature are so few and inconsiderable that the governing party have no interest in oppressing them. Thus, when Antipater made a law at Athens, that whosoever was not worth two thousand drachmas (about £60 sterling1 ) should have no power to vote, he formed, by this means, the best Aristocracy possible; because this was so small a sum as excluded very few, and not one of any rank or consideration in the city. The truth is, that such an aristocracy carries political liberty as far, perhaps, as is compatible with the great ends of government. In every society there must be distinctions and subordinations among men, founded on their personal qualities; and the perfection of government undoubtedly would be, to arrange men as nearly as possible by this standard. To give political power, therefore, to those who, from their situation and education, may be presumed best qualified to exercise it, and to exclude from a share in the government those who are incapable of thinking and judging for themselves, is not to counteract, but to fall in with the obvious intentions of Nature.
The invidious and unjust distinctions of an Aristocracy consist in those disqualifications founded on birth, which prevent a man, however eminent for virtue and ability, from serving his country in particular situations. No form of government secures completely the rights of mankind, in which there is not a fair field opened to a laudable ambition; but provided this is done,—provided it is in the power of every individual to raise himself to all the honours of the state, by personal merit, the constitution cannot be censured as partial or oppressive; nay, the interest even of the lower orders imperiously requires, that they should be excluded from those functions which they could only exercise to their own ruin.
But whatever be the particular nature of the Aristocracy, it will be the interest, as it undoubtedly is the duty, of the governing order, to conceal as much as possible, in the intercourse of private life, every circumstance in their situation which may have a tendency to mortify the pride, and to rouse the jealousy of their inferiors. Particular constitutions may require, that certain political functions should be confined to a particular order of men; and in such a situation, it may be the duty of this order to maintain these privileges against every encroachment; but it is their duty, at the same time, to shew, by the uniform tenor of their manners, that they consider the distinctions they enjoy, not as the rightful appendage of a separate caste, but as a trust committed to them for the purpose of general utility.
This, I presume, was in part the idea of Montesquieu, when he said that moderation is the principle of Aristocracy.† He has indeed left us in this, as in many other instances, in some measure to conjecture his meaning; but he has expressed the same sentiments, which I have now been stating, very explicitly in other parts of his writings. “Aristocratical families,” says he in one place, “ought, as much as possible, to level themselves in appearance with the people. The more an Aristocracy borders on Democracy, the nearer it approaches to perfection.”* In another place he remarks, that as “the pomp and splendour with which kings are surrounded form a part of their power, so modesty and simplicity of manners constitute the strength of an aristocratical nobility. When they affect no distinction, when they mix with the people, dress like them, and with them share all their pleasures, the people are apt to forget their subjection and weakness.” To illustrate this observation, he mentions an anecdote of the Venetians, “who, in many respects,” says he, “may be said to have been a very wise government, and who, in the present age, decided a dispute between a noble Venetian and a gentleman in Terra Firma, with respect to precedency in a church, by declaring, that out of Venice a noble Venetian had no pre-eminence over any other citizen.”†
Dr. Ferguson, too, in commenting on Montesquieu’s doctrine concerning the principles of the different forms of government, puts the same interpretation on the word moderation, in this instance, which I have done.
“To maintain for himself, and to admit in his fellow-citizens a perfect equality of privileges and station, is not the leading maxim of the member of an Aristocracy. The rights of men are modified by their condition. One order claims more than it is willing to yield; the other must be ready to yield what it does not assume to itself; and it is with good reason that Montesquieu gives to the principle of such government the name of moderation, not of virtue.”
“The elevation of one class is a moderated arrogance; the submission of the other a limited deference. The first must be careful, by concealing the invidious part of their distinction, to palliate what is grievous in the public arrangement, and by their education, their cultivated manners, and improved talents, to appear qualified for the stations they occupy. The other must be taught to yield, from respect and personal attachment, what could not otherwise be extorted by force. When this moderation fails on either side, the constitution totters.”1
It follows evidently from what has been said, that the less invidious the legal distinctions are which are made between the two orders, the more quiet and permanent the government is likely to be. How mortifying, for example, was the law at Rome, inserted by the Decemvirs in the two last tables, by which the patricians were forbidden to marry plebeians;—“a law,” says Montesquieu, “that had no other effect than to render the patricians, on the one side, more haughty, and on the other, more odious.”* It is a grievance still more liable to be abused, when an unjust distinction is made between the two orders in respect of taxation, as when the nobles assume the privilege of paying none, or when, as in some aristocracies of Italy, they commit frauds to exempt themselves. Montesquieu observes, that while Rome inclined towards Aristocracy she avoided all these inconveniences. “The magistrates never received any emoluments from their office. The chief men of the Republic were taxed like the rest, nay heavier, and sometimes the taxes fell upon them alone. In a word,” says he, “far from sharing among themselves the revenues of the state, all they could draw from the public treasure, and all the wealth that fortune threw in their way, they bestowed freely on the people, that they might not envy them their honours.”† The same author remarks, how very essential a point it is in an Aristocracy that the nobles should not levy the taxes. If they did, the property of the people would be at the discretion of those in public employments, and there would be no superior tribunal to check their power.‡
The most favourable view which can be taken of an Aristocratical government is, when we confine the attention solely to the character and manners of the superior order. There is, undoubtedly, a set of virtues, and of very splendid virtues, naturally connected with hereditary rank and the pride of family:—Independence and elevation of mind, sincerity, disinterestedness, generosity, and personal intrepidity and gallantry. I acknowledge, too, that there are aristocratical vices, originating in what a patrician historian of Rome represents as the constitutional disease of his own order;—“Contemptor animus et superbia; commune nobilitatis malum.”* But the effects of these operate chiefly in the narrow circle of private life, and are not apt to strike the attention of foreign nations. Where the lucrative arts are abandoned to an inferior description of men, the nobles may be expected to be free from those defects which are often connected with the commercial character; but it must be remembered, that in proportion as we elevate in this way one class of the community, we depress another, which is far more numerous; and it is surely not compatible with an equitable government, to sacrifice the dignity and the happiness of one order of men to those of another. We are, indeed, too often apt to forget this consideration; and, when the imagination is dazzled with the splendour of aristocratic qualities, to overlook the immense price at which they have been purchased.
In Sparta, where every freeman was relieved completely of all solicitude about private interest, a national character was formed, which, in point of elevation and heroism, exceeds everything else in the history of mankind; and although in our cooler moments, our indignation rises at the cruel and unjust degradation of the Helots; yet, “when,” in the language of Dr. Ferguson, “we think only of the superior order of men in the state; when we attend to that elevation and magnanimity of spirit, for which dangers had no terror, interest no means to corrupt; when we consider them as friends, or as citizens, we are apt to forget, like themselves, that slaves have a title to be treated like men.”†
If we should suppose an Aristocracy in which the nobles applied themselves to commerce, the evils of this form of government would be greatly aggravated, as they would probably add rapacity and fraud to the vices connected with their elevated rank. Accordingly, Montesquieu mentions this as a fundamental principle in an Aristocracy, that the nobles should be prohibited every kind of commerce. “Merchants,” says he, “of such unbounded credit, would monopolize all to themselves. Commerce is the profession of people who stand on an equality. Hence, among despotic States, the most miserable are those in which the prince applies himself to trade.
“The laws of Venice debar the nobles from commerce. One of their laws, in particular, forbids the Senatus to have any ship at sea that holds above forty bushels.”1
I before took notice [supra, p. 366, seq.] of the difficulty of securing in a Democracy a faithful execution of equitable laws after they are enacted. This has given rise to the Censorial Office. The same difficulty occurs in an Aristocracy, and has suggested the institution, either of temporary or perpetual magistrates, as a check upon the nobles. Hence the State inquisitors at Venice, magistrates who are subject to no formalities. Hence, too, the Ephori at Sparta.2
For the preservation, however, of an Aristocracy, it is necessary not only that the nobles should have a spirit of Moderation towards the people: it is farther necessary that they should have a spirit of moderation with respect to their own order; for if one family should aspire to an elevation above the rest, the constitution would be changed into a mixed monarchy. Accordingly, it appears from a variety of passages in Montesquieu, that he also included this circumstance in the principle he has assigned to this form of government. It is much to be regretted that this ingenious and profound writer is not always precise and uniform in his use of words, and sometimes employs the same expression in very different senses.
In order to maintain, as far as possible, an equality among the nobles, Montesquieu* remarks that no countenance should be given by the laws to the distinctions which vanity founds upon the nobility or antiquity of families. Pretences of this nature ought to be ranked among the weaknesses of private persons. It is farther expedient, that the right of primogeniture should be abolished, (which is the case at Venice,) that by a continual division of the inheritances, the fortunes of the nobles may be kept nearly on a level; and generally, that all those contrivances should be excluded which have been introduced into monarchical governments for the purpose of perpetuating the grandeur of families.
The corruption of Aristocracy in the language of the ancient politicians is called Oligarchy. It has been sometimes defined to be the government of the rich over the poor; but the true idea of it seems to be a government where the ruling order have in view not the public interest, but the maintenance of their own influence and authority. According to Aristotle,1 “a constitution may be excellent, whether the executive power rest in the hands of one person; whether it be divided among many; or whether it continue in the hands of the people; but that power will become fatal if monarchy degenerates into tyranny, if Aristocracy is turned into Oligarchy, or if the Democratic authority, falling again into the lower classes of the people, produces nothing but tumult and anarchy.”
He afterwards tells us more explicitly, that “a tyrant is a monarch who rules with no other view than the benefit of himself and his family. Aristocracy degenerates into Oligarchy, when the few, who are rich, govern the State as best suits the interests of their avarice and ambition; and a Republic degenerates into a Democracy, when the many, who are poor, make the gratification of their own passions the only rule of their administration. Wherever wealth alone opens the road to preferment, Oligarchy prevails; poverty, on the other hand, is the constant attendant of Democracy, and the distinctive character of those governments consists not in this, that the many or the few bear sway, but in the one case, that rapacious poverty be armed with power; and in the other, that contemptuous opulence be invested with authority. But as eminence in wealth can only fall to the share of a few, and as all may participate the advantages of equal freedom, the partisans of the rich and of the multitude agitate republican states, each faction striving to engross the government.”—(Gillies’s translation.)
Hence it appears, that by an Oligarchy, Aristotle meant an aristocratical government, in which the common good of the state (which ought to be the end of every political establishment) is sacrificed to the interest or to the passions of the rulers. That all hereditary Aristocracies have a strong tendency to degenerate into Oligarchies, is confirmed by the universal experience of mankind, and is acknowledged by the violent and tyrannical regulations (such as the institution of Inquisitors, &c.) which have been devised as a remedy against this source of corruption. At the same time it must be confessed, that an hereditary aristocratical assembly is less in danger of running into Oligarchy, than a single assembly chosen at short intervals by the people, and vested completely with the authority of the state. The leading members of the assembly possessing (in such democratic establishments) the appointment of judges, and the appointment to all lucrative and honourable offices, they have thus the power to bend the whole executive and judicial authority to their own private interest, and by this means to increase their own reputation, wealth, and influence, and those of their party, at every new election; whereas, in a simple hereditary aristocracy, it is the interest of the members in general to preserve an equality among themselves as long as they can; and as they are smaller in number and have more knowledge, they can more easily unite for that purpose, and there is no opportunity for any one to increase his power by the management of elections.1 An aspiring chief, for the same reasons, in an hereditary Aristocracy, has more obstacles in the way of his ambition, than an aspiring demagogue in a pure Democracy. We may add, that if he should succeed in the attainment of his object, the danger to the public is infinitely less alarming; for the power of a demagogue over men who acknowledge no adventitious distinctions, is but another name for despotism; whereas in an hereditary aristocracy, the elevation of an individual to the throne may prepare the way for a mixed government, composed, like our own, by a happy union of the three simple forms.
The experience which the ancient Politicians had of the turbulence of Democracies, joined to their ignorance of such Mixed Monarchies as have arisen in modern Europe, naturally produced a strong partiality in favour of Aristocracy; and, undoubtedly, in ages when the art of printing was unknown, and of consequence the general instruction of the people was impossible, much might be advanced in support of their opinion. It must, too, be acknowledged, that notwithstanding the tendency of Aristocratical Constitutions to foster in the rulers a spirit of jealousy and oppression, they have, in some instances, been administered for a long course of time with such exemplary wisdom and moderation, as to secure, in an eminent degree, all the most essential ends for which governments are instituted. The history of the Canton of Berne, which (a few years ago) was unquestionably one of the happiest and most prosperous states in Europe, furnishes a striking illustration of the truth of this remark.
By the word Monarchy, (as I employ it at present, in considering theoretically the simple forms of government,) is to be understood a political establishment, where a single person, without being limited by any law, directs everything agreeably to his own inclination, and where his subjects are understood to have no rights which they are entitled to state in opposition to his authority.
That such a form of government may, in particular combinations of circumstances, be attended with the most fortunate effects, it is impossible to deny. In certain respects, it possesses important advantages over every other that imagination can conceive; in particular, in the vigour, secrecy, and despatch which it communicates to the operations of the executive magistrate. Nay, farther, it may be safely affirmed, that it has been under a government approaching to this description that the internal happiness of large empires has been sometimes carried to the highest pitch. “If a man,” says Mr. Gibbon,* “were called to fix the period in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus. The vast extent of the Roman empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of virtue and wisdom. The armies were restrained by the firm but gentle hand of four successive emperors, whose character and authority commanded involuntary respect. The forms of the civil administration were carefully preserved by Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the Antonines, who delighted in the image of Liberty, and were pleased with considering themselves as the accountable ministers of the laws.” In general, it must be granted to the advocates for this form of government, that if it were possible to secure perfect virtue and unerring wisdom in a prince, and if his subjects, at the same time, were of such a character as to be capable of enjoying the blessings of a mild and equitable government, the internal tranquillity and prosperity of an extensive empire, as well as the force it would be capable of employing against its foreign enemies, would be secured to a greater degree under such a constitution than under any other.
On the other hand, it is no less evident that this form of government rests the happiness of the people on the most precarious of all foundations;—and that as it is capable, when well administered, of doing more good, so it is also capable, on the opposite supposition, of doing infinitely more mischief, than any other species of government whatever. And, accordingly, the eloquent historian now quoted, after remarking, that “the labours of these monarchs (the princes to whom the foregoing passage refers) were overpaid by the immense reward that inseparably waited on their success, by the honest pride of virtue, and by the exquisite delight of beholding the general happiness, of which they were the authors,” immediately subjoins,—“A just but melancholy reflection embittered the noblest of human enjoyments. They must often have recollected the instability of a happiness which depended on the character of a single man. The fatal moment was perhaps approaching when some licentious youth, or some jealous tyrant, would abuse, to the destruction, that absolute power which they had exerted for the benefit, of their people. The ideal restraints of the senate and the laws, might serve to display the virtues, but could never correct the vices of the emperor. The military force was a blind and irresistible instrument of oppression, and the corruption of Roman manners would always supply flatterers eager to applaud, and ministers prepared to serve the fear or the avarice, the lust or the cruelty, of their masters.
“These gloomy apprehensions had been already justified by the experience of the Romans. The annals of the emperors exhibit a strong and various picture of human nature, which we should vainly seek among the mixed and doubtful characters of modern history. In the conduct of these monarchs we may trace the utmost lines of vice and virtue, the most exalted perfection, and the meanest degeneracy of our own species. The golden age of Trajan and the Antonines had been preceded by an age of iron. It is almost superfluous to enumerate the unworthy successors of Augustus: their unparalleled vices, and the splendid theatre on which they were acted, have saved them from oblivion. The dark, unrelenting Tiberius, the furious Caligula, the feeble Claudius, the profligate and cruel Nero, the beastly Vitellius, and the timid, inhuman Domitian, are condemned to everlasting infamy. During fourscore years, excepting only the short and doubtful respite of Vespasian’s reign, Rome groaned beneath an unremitting tyranny, which exterminated the ancient families of the republic, and was fatal to almost every virtue and every talent that arose in that unhappy period.”*
Independently of these considerations, so forcibly stated by Mr. Gibbon, much might be urged in opposition to that argument, which the example of a few virtuous monarchs has furnished to some writers in favour of absolute power. It was only in an empire placed in the very peculiar circumstances in which Rome then stood, that such characters as Trajan and the Antonines were likely to be formed; or that they could have found themselves placed at the head of a people qualified to receive from them the happiness which they were willing to bestow. Among a people whose liberty has been suddenly overturned by a military force, the characters both of sovereigns and subjects may continue, for ages, to be influenced by the recollection of earlier and happier times. This, as we have seen, was the case in the Roman empire, under which the people long retained the independent and elevated ideas of their ancestors,—ideas which were more firmly rivetted in some of them by the study of the Greek philosophy; while, in the catalogue of sovereigns, among a multitude of the most execrable scourges of mankind, we find some of the most illustrious names that have ever adorned humanity. In order to form a judgment of the genuine nature and effects of pure Monarchy, we must suppose the government to be so long established as to obliterate, both in the case of the sovereign and his subjects, all the ideas and manners which might have been derived from earlier and happier institutions. This supposition is realized among different nations of the East. In the Persian language, it is said there is no word for any form of government but Absolute Monarchy; and excepting some faint ideas which have been communicated to the people by European travellers, of the freedom and mildness of our establishments, they believe that such has ever been the condition of mankind. It is to the East, accordingly, we must turn our views, if we wish to collect illustrations of the genuine tendency of this form of government with respect to human happiness and improvement. On this branch of our subject, I have nothing to add at present to the profound remarks of Montesquieu and Ferguson.
Where an individual is so far elevated above a community as to consider its members as born merely for his use and pleasure, it is not to be supposed that he will embarrass himself much with the cares of government. It is more natural to presume that he will make choice of some one person, to whom he will entrust the administration, and devote himself entirely to indolence and voluptuousness. Montesquieu,* therefore, states it as a fundamental law in this government, that the sovereign creates a vizier, to whom an unlimited power is delegated; and, in fact, we find that among the eastern despots the practice is universal. Among them, indeed, other circumstances concur to make it absolutely necessary; in particular, the education which is systematically bestowed on them,—an education calculated both to enfeeble their understandings and corrupt their hearts. Upon their elevation, accordingly, to the throne, finding themselves incapable of holding the reins of government, they relieve themselves of the whole burden, and abandon themselves to the pleasures of the seraglio.
The same effects which are felt in the extreme, under these despotic governments of the East, may be expected everywhere, though in a less degree, among princes possessed of sovereign authority, and not properly prepared for the exercise of it by a youth of exertion and enterprise. This observation is well illustrated by Helvetius in the following passage:—
“A despotic prince being in possession of all the pleasures which glory can promise to other men, has not motives sufficient to enable him to undergo the tiresome task of business, and to expose himself to that fatigue of attention necessary to his obtaining instruction. Such princes, therefore, are seldom reckoned among great sovereigns, except where they have cleared the way to the throne, or been long instructed in the school of misfortune. They always owe their knowledge to the interest they have in acquiring it.
“Why are little princes generally more able men than the most powerful despots? It is, because they have in a manner their fortunes to make; because they are obliged, with an inferior force, to resist that which is superior; because they live in perpetual fear of having their dominions taken from them; and because their interest, being more strictly united with that of their subjects, must enlighten them with respect to the various parts of their administration. Thus we might, in consequence of what I have said, prepare Geographico-political maps of the merit of the princes in the several empires of the East. Their understanding, measured by the scale of their power, would decrease in proportion to the extent and strength of their empires, to the difficulty of penetrating into them, and to the degree of absolute authority they have over their subjects; this scale being once established, would afford us very just conclusions. The Sophis and Moguls, for example, would be placed in the lowest rank; because, excepting some in singular circumstances, where they have accidentally had a good education, the most powerful must commonly be the most ignorant.”1
Under a despotical government, it is farther evident that an unlimited authority, in many respects, must be delegated by the vizier to his inferior officers. There is no established law but the will of the sovereign, and as this cannot be known in every instance, magistrates will necessarily follow their own. Hence the whole country will groan under the oppression of little despots, and of the most intolerable of all despots, men who are themselves slaves to their employers.
In some despotic governments the Prince is considered as proprietor of all the lands, and heir to all his subjects. Here, the extreme of servitude is felt, and every inducement, even to the practice of the lucrative arts and the acquisition of property, is taken away. Agriculture is neglected, and the earth is left in a state of nature. “Under this form of government,” says Ricaut, speaking of the Ottoman empire, “nothing is repaired or improved. Houses are built only for the necessity of habitation; there is no such thing as digging of ditches, or planting of trees; everything is drawn from, but nothing restored to the earth: the land lies untilled, and the whole country becomes a desert.”1
The river Menam, in the kingdom of Siam, overflows annually like the Nile, depositing a quantity of slime, which proves a rich manure. The river seems to rise gradually as the rice grows, and retires to its channel, when the rice, approaching to maturity, needs no longer to be watered. Nature beside has bestowed on that rich country variety of delicious fruits, requiring scarce any culture.2 “In such a paradise,” says Lord Kames, “would one imagine that the Siamites are a miserable people?” “The government,” says the same author in answer to his own question, “the government is despotic, and the people are slaves. They must work for their monarch six months every year, without wages, and even without receiving any food from him. What renders them still more miserable is, that they have no protection either for their persons or their goods. The grandees are exposed to the rapacity of the king and his courtiers, and the lower ranks are exposed to the rapacity of the grandees. When a man has the misfortune to possess a tree remarkable for good fruit, he is required, in the name of the king or a courtier, to preserve the fruit for their use. Every proprietor of a garden in the neighbourhood of the capital, must pay a yearly sum to the keeper of the elephants, otherwise it will be laid waste by those animals, whom it is high treason to molest. From the sea-port of Merguin to the capital, one travels ten or twelve days, through immense plains of a rich soil, finely watered. That country appears to have been formerly cultivated, but is now quite depopulated, and left to tigers and elephants. Formerly an immense commerce was carried on in that fertile country: historians attest, that in the middle of the sixteenth century above a thousand foreign ships frequented its ports annually. But the king, tempted with so much riches, endeavoured to engross all the commerce of his country, by which means he annihilated successively mines, manufactures, and even agriculture. The country is depopulated, and few remain there but beggars.”1 In this manner, the unlimited desire of power and of wealth frustrates its own designs. The real grandeur of a sovereign can only be founded on the wealth, the happiness, and the attachment of his subjects, and these can only be secured by civil liberty. When the savages of Louisiana wish for the fruit of a tree, they lay the axe to its root. “Behold,” says Montesquieu, “an emblem of despotic government!”* “A sentiment,” as Dr. Warton has well remarked, “worthy of the spirit of Demosthenes, and an image worthy of the genius of Homer.”
When we review, in this manner, the tendency of despotism with respect to the happiness of mankind, it cannot fail to excite our wonder how such a species of government should be suffered to exist, or by what fascination millions of men should continue for ages under its yoke. It appears, however, from the fact, that the thing is possible, and that the human mind may be so trained by education, or subdued by external circumstances, as to lose all sense of its natural rights in a childish admiration of rank and magnificence, or in a servile depression and abjectness of spirit. Tacitus informs us, that in the reign of Tiberius, the servility and adulation even of the higher orders was carried to such an excess, as to become disgusting to the tyrant himself. “Ceterum tempora illa adeo infecta, et adulatione sordida fuêre, ut non modo primores civitatis, quibus claritudo sua obsequiis protegenda erat; sed omnes consulares, magna pars eorum qui prætura functi, multique etiam pedarii senatores certatim insurgerent, fœdaque et nimia censerent. Memoriæ proditur, Tiberium, quoties curià egrederetur, Græcis verbis in hunc modum eloqui solitum:—O homines ad servitutem paratos! Scilicet etiam illum, qui libertatem publicam nollet, tam projectæ servientium patientiæ tædebat.”2
The principles in human nature on which education operates in producing this servility, were undoubtedly intended for the most valuable purposes; to fit men for government, and to give to wisdom and virtue an ascendant over the physical force of the multitude. That they have produced more good than harm, on the whole, there is no reason to doubt; but experience shews, that in some unfortunate combinations of circumstances they may be rendered subservient to the establishment of a political order, infinitely more ruinous to the happiness and the virtue of mankind, than anarchy itself. The latter may, indeed, for a time, dissolve still more completely the moral elements of social life; but the violence and bloodshed which it inevitably occasions, lead, sooner or later, by a natural and necessary process, to their own correction. The chief danger which attends it, in its ultimate result, arises from the strong tendency of the human mind to pass from one extreme to another, and which has repeatedly, in the past history of our species, hurried men at once from the insubordination and misrule of a lawless licentiousness, into the dead and hopeless repose which despotism secures.
Montesquieu has said, that the Principle of Despotism is Fear.* I before observed, [p. 379, seq.,] that by the principle of a government, this author seems to have meant that national character which is favourable to the government, and which contributes to support it. In the present instance, therefore, Montesquieu’s observation implies, that the most striking feature in the character of a people reduced to political slavery, is a universal timidity, jealousy, and mutual distrust; and the more we reflect on the remark, we shall be the more sensible of its significancy and importance. That in a despotism, the government could not subsist for a moment, unless the sovereign and his inferior officers were objects of dread to the body of the people, is a consideration too obvious to have formed the leading idea in Montesquieu’s mind, when he stated this as a fundamental maxim in the theory of government. It is more than probable, that what he chiefly alluded to was the mutual dread and distrust diffused among the members of the community by the jealousy of the prince,—a jealousy which renders it necessary in such an establishment, to prevent every combination, which, by making the subjects conscious of their own strength, might excite a spirit of liberty, and which naturally suggests the dreadful policy of destroying, as far as possible, the easy intercourse of social life, and even the confidence of domestic society. Such was the feeling of Tiberius when he called spies and informers the guardians of the state; and such was the condition of the Roman people during that melancholy period which led Tacitus to lament that “his Annals must want the grandeur and the variety of those histories which detail the transactions of free states; being little more,” as he himself observes, “than the disgusting repetition of continued acts of cruelty, accusations, breaches of trust, violated friendships, and the ruin of the innocent.”1
The idea which despotic governments have themselves entertained of the necessity of maintaining their empire over men, by a skilful management of their opinions and habits, appears remarkably from the anxious care they have uniformly taken to prevent every circumstance which might diminish the influence of royalty over the mind, by too great a familiarity with the person, or even with the name of the sovereign, and to check every idea which, by the most remote association, might lead men to conceptions unfavourable to the established authority. At Rome, it was high treason to sell a statue of an emperor; and it was doubted whether it was not high treason to hit an emperor’s statue with a stone thrown at random.2
The account which Herodian gives of the funeral rites which were observed at Rome upon the death of an emperor, illustrates still more remarkably the anxiety of despotical governments to consecrate the prince in the opinion of his subjects.3
“In Persia,” says Sir John Chardin, “when the king has condemned a person, it is no longer lawful to intercede in his favour, or even to mention his name. Though he was drunk at the time he pronounced the sentence, the decree must be executed.” “This,” he adds, “has been the established practice in that country in all ages.”1
While such is the condition of the subjects of a despotic government, that of the tyrant cannot be very secure. Where the minds of men, indeed, are completely darkened by ignorance and superstition, and where a long established despotism has deprived them of all recollection that they were born to be happy and free, the condition of the prince will necessarily be less perilous than in an empire, like that of Rome, where the memory of better times kept alive, in the breasts of a few individuals, a sense of the dignity and the rights of human nature. It is probable that the constant apprehensions and alarms which this circumstance must necessarily have produced in the minds of the Roman tyrants, was the occasion of those incredible and frantic acts of cruelty which are generally ascribed to a malignant and unrelenting disposition, delighting, for its own gratification, to diffuse misery among mankind,—a disposition, of which, I am inclined to think, human nature, in its worst state, is altogether incapable. The histories, therefore, of the cruelties of a Caligula, a Nero, and a Domitian, while they illustrate the misery of the subjects in a despotical government, illustrate, at the same time, the apprehensions which it is natural for the sovereign to entertain with respect to his own safety.2
In stating the evils of despotical governments, I must not omit to mention the violence and bloodshed which take place at the commencement of every new reign. In countries where there is no established law, it is impossible that there should be a fixed order of succession.3 The election depends on the will of the prince; but it is often productive of a civil war; and even where it is not, the new sovereign finds it expedient, for the security of his crown, either to despatch his nearest relations, or by some acts of violence on their persons, to disqualify them from ever aspiring to the government. In Turkey it is usual for him to strangle his brothers; in Persia, to put out their eyes; and in the Mogul’s country, precautions are taken to deprive them of their understanding;—where these severities are not exercised, a civil war seems to be almost inevitable. Accordingly, this is said to take place in Morocco upon every vacancy in the throne.1
After the view which has been given of the nature and consequences of despotism, how painful the reflection that this should have been the melancholy condition of so great a proportion of mankind in every age of the world, and that it should continue, at this hour, to depopulate and desolate the fairest regions of the earth! How painful the reflection, that, with all their natural and irresistible desires of happiness, and with all their capacities of attaining it, mankind should have been so often blind to their own real and best interests! We are mortified to think, that even we ourselves are indebted for the most valuable privileges we enjoy, rather to a fortunate and rare concurrence of accidental circumstances, than to the general course of human affairs; and while we feel the warmest gratitude to Providence for our own peculiar felicity, we can scarcely avoid trembling for the calamities which, amidst the possible revolutions of the world, may, at some future period, await our posterity. But is not this, in some measure, the language of a melancholy and desponding imagination; and do not both reason and experience concur in assuring us, that the condition of man is more likely to change for the better than for the worse, in that part of his history which is yet to come? Notwithstanding the lamentable effects of that awful political convulsion which has now, for so many years, agitated Europe, and which does not seem as yet to have spent its force, many important circumstances conspire to render the present situation of the human race essentially different from what it ever was in former times, and to promise a stability to science and civilisation which they never before possessed. The invention of printing is alone sufficient to change the whole face of human affairs. Formerly, the experience of each particular state was, in a great measure, confined to itself, and even there, was so completely lost to the body of the people, in the course of a few generations, that while the world was growing older, it had but little opportunity of accumulating political knowledge. It is only now that the advantages of historical information are extended to all ranks of men, and that the contemporary transactions of the various civilized nations upon earth are become subjects of daily interest and discussion to each other. The influence of this circumstance on the literary taste of the age has been very remarkable, tending everywhere, more or less, to turn the attention of speculative men from the idle subtleties of the schools, and the comparatively uninteresting pursuits of physical knowledge, to those studies which aim at the improvement and the happiness of society.
The conclusions to which these studies have already led, are, many of them, of the highest importance, and probably many more remain in store to reward the industry of our successors. But abstracting entirely from these more recondite doctrines, how incalculable is the value of those simple and elementary principles which, in this part of the world, (and more particularly in this fortunate island,) are interwoven by the daily operation of the press with all our habits of thinking; and which are sufficient of themselves, while the same cause exists to keep them in remembrance, to oppose an effectual barrier to the more violent usurpations of civil and religious tyranny? To attempt, indeed, to extirpate from the world the knowledge of such truths as these, would be no less extravagant than to think of extirpating those grains and roots to which mankind trust as the staff of life.
These comfortable views with respect to the future state of the world, receive much additional encouragement from that liberal and enlightened commercial spirit which begins now to animate the different nations of Europe, and which will probably animate, at least in an equal degree, the inhabitants of another quarter of the globe: and we may add, from that communication which has been lately opened with distant and unknown nations, in consequence of a laudable spirit of curiosity and adventure, and, it is to be hoped, in some instances, from a still more laudable spirit of beneficence. The more we can unite mankind together by their common interest, the more effectual is the security we provide for the prosperity of the human race. If it is a necessary and inevitable law imposed on all political societies, that they shall have their vicissitudes of good and bad fortune, we may, at least, by a mutual communication of light, of spirit, and of virtue, prevent the extremity of ignorance, of slavery, and corruption. Genius will be always somewhere inventive and active for the benefit of the human race; and there will be always some happy corner where the sacred sparks of liberty will be kept alive, ready to rekindle its expiring flame in other nations. In the present state of the commercial world, we no longer dread the miseries of famine, because we find that where nature withholds her bounty from one quarter, she lavishes it on another. When a more perfect intercourse among nations is established, may we not hope for a similar remedy to those melancholy vicissitudes of fortune to which human affairs have always hitherto been subject?
But what I would chiefly rest my hopes upon, in looking forward to the future condition of mankind, is the influence which the science of Political Economy (a science in a great measure of modern origin) must necessarily have, in directing the rulers of nations to just principles of administration, by shewing them how intimately the interests of government are connected with those of the people, and the authority which this science must gradually acquire over the minds both of the governors and the governed, in proportion as its fundamental principles are generally diffused and understood.
Mr. Hume has observed, that “though all kinds of government be improved in modern times, yet Monarchical governments seem to have made the greatest advances towards perfection. It may now be affirmed of civilized monarchies, what was formerly said in praise of republics alone, that they are a government of laws, not of men. They are found susceptible of order, method, and constancy, to a surprising degree. Property is there secure; industry encouraged; the arts flourish; and the prince lives secure among his subjects, like a father among his children. There are, perhaps, and have been for two centuries, nearly two hundred absolute princes, great and small, in Europe, and allowing twenty years to each reign, we may suppose that there have been in the whole, two thousand monarchs or tyrants, as the Greeks would have called them; yet there has not been one, not even Philip II. of Spain, so bad as Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, or Domitian, who were four in twelve among the Roman Emperors.”*
For this very remarkable fact, [as previously observed,] I can assign no cause equal to the effect, but the diffusion of knowledge among all orders of men by means of the press, which has everywhere raised a bulwark against the oppression of rulers in the light and spirit of the people; and the influence which the study of Political Economy has had in guiding the councils even of absolute princes, to the improvement and happiness of their subjects;—considerations which open the most encouraging prospects with respect to the future history of the world, and which furnish, at the same time, an additional proof of what I have often remarked, that the science of Political Economy, much more than the theory of government, is entitled in the present circumstances of mankind, to the attention of the speculative politician.
So much with respect to the Simple Forms of Government, and the inconveniences connected with those constitutions which approach nearly to those ideal models. I now proceed to consider in what manner the simple forms may be combined together, so as to secure the peculiar advantages of each, and to correct the evils which I have endeavoured to illustrate in the foregoing analysis.
OF MIXED GOVERNMENTS.
[1 ] Consult Filangieri, [Scienza della Legislazione,] Vol. I. p. 121.
[2 ] [Discourses of Government,] p. 160.
[1 ] [Ibid.] p. 165.
[2 ] [Ibid.] p. 258.
[* ] [Esprit des Loix, Liv. II. chap. ii.]
[† ] [Ibid.]
[1 ] Cap. vi.
[1 ] See his sentiments on the subject at length in the De Legibus, Lib. III. cc. xv., xvi., xvii.
[* ] [Esprit des Loix, Liv. II. chap. ii.]
[1 ] [Essay on Civil Society, Part III. sect. vi.] p. 262, seq., fourth edition.
[1 ] [Ibid. Part II. sect. ii.] p. 147, fourth edition.
[* ] [See Hume’s Essay, Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth.]
[† ] [This affords indeed a good example of the πίστις ἠθιϰὴ, and may be quoted. It is from the Æneid, i. 148.
[‡ ] [Atheniensium Respublica, Capp. i., ii., iii.]
[1 ] [On the Constitution of England, B. II. chap. v. p. 255, edit. 1816.]
“In the year 1707, a law was enacted, that a general assembly of the people should be held every five years, to treat of the affairs of the Republic; but the magistrates, who dreaded these assemblies, soon obtained from the citizens themselves the repeal of that law; and the first resolution of the people, in the first of these periodical assemblies, (1712,) was to abolish them for ever. The profound secrecy with which the magistrates prepared their proposal to the citizens on that subject, and the sudden manner in which the latter, when assembled, were acquainted with it, have indeed accounted but imperfectly for this strange determination of the people; and the consternation which seized the whole assembly when the result of the suffrages was proclaimed, has confirmed many in the opinion, that some unfair means had been used. The whole transaction has been kept secret to this day; but the common opinion on the subject, which has been adopted by M. Rousseau in his Lettres de la Montagne, is this—The magistrates, it is said, had privately instructed the secretaries, in whose ears the citizens were to whisper their suffrages; when a citizen said ‘Approbation,’ he was understood to approve the proposal of the magistrates, when he said ‘Rejection,’ he was understood to reject the periodical assemblies.”—De Lolme, [Ibidem. p. 254, note.]
[* ] [Essays, &c., Part II., Essay x. Of some Remarkable Customs.]
[* ] [Oceana.]
[† ] [In the edition of the Essays, London, 1788, vol. i. p. 456. But in that edition, the last two sentences, beginning with “Good,” &c., do not appear. Mr. Stewart’s reference is, “Essays, vol. i. p. 533.” But I have not, at the moment, been able to ascertain whether there be a difference in the various editions. The Essay is not found in the third, that of 1748, which is at hand. It is more commonly said, “Truth is one, but Errors infinite, in number;” and in this form Hume is quoted by the Author for the apophthegm, Works, (supra,) Vol. VII. p. 212.]
[* ] [On the Constitution of England, Book II. chap. ix.]
[† ] [Ibidem, Book II. chap. xvi. seq.]
[* ] [Hist. Rom. Liv. VI. cap. xv.]
[* ] [Spirit of Laws, Book XI. chap. xvii.]
[1 ] Gregory’s Essays, p. 190, [first edit. Not the Essays Philosophical and Literary, 1793, by Mr. Stewart’s friend and colleague, the learned physician, Dr. James Gregory, but the Essays Historical and Moral, 1788, by the Anglican divine, the Rev. George Gregory. The passage quoted is from Part I. Essay viii., Republican Government compared with Monarchy, p. 168, second edition. For the example of the Roman Republic, Mr. Stewart, after Gregory, refers to Tacitus, Hist., Lib. II. cap. xxxviii.]
[2 ] [Mrs.] Macaulay, quoted by Gregory. [Ibidem, Essay vii., Of the Theory of Government, p. 147.]
[1 ]Esprit des Loix, Liv. II. chap. iii.
[2 ] I quote this passage on the authority of Gregory, who says in his Essays, that it is in the Olynthian Orations [Part I. Essay viii. p. 179, second edition.]
[* ] [Hist. Lib. III.; translated by Mr. Hume in his Essay, Of the Populousness of Ancient Nations.]
[* ] [Constitution of England, Book II. chap. i. p. 200, edit. 1816.]
[† ] Machiavel’s History of Florence, I. iii. From this passage Voltaire has borrowed the remark he applies to the English in his Henriade. Speaking of Queen Elizabeth—
“Et fit aimer son joug à l’Anglois indompté, Qui ne peut ni servir, ni vivre en Liberté.”
[As observed by Hume, (Essay, Of the Liberty of the Press,) Voltaire copied Tacitus,—“Nec totam servitutem, nec totam libertatem pati possunt.” But Machiavel also, only follows the same original.]
[1 ] [Esprit des Loix, Liv. IX. chap. i.] See the rest of Montesquieu’s remarks on this subject;—Liv. IX. chapitre ii., seq.
[* ] [Ibid. Liv. IX. chap. vi.]
[* ] [Essay, On the Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth, towards the end.]
[* ] [Esprit, &c., Liv. II. chap. iii.]
[1 ] Hume’s Essays, Vol. I. [Part I. Essay iii., Politics a Science.]
[* ] [Ibidem.]
[† ] [Esprit, &c., Liv. II. chap. iii.]
[1 ] See Hume’s Essay, On the Populousness of Ancient Nations. “This government, however, was so disagreeable to the people, that about two-thirds of them immediately left their country. Cassander reduced that census to the half; yet still the government was considered as an Oligarchical tyranny, and the effect of foreign violence.”—Hume, ibid.
[* ] [Goldsmith, Traveller, 383.]
[† ] [Esprit, &c., Liv. III. chap. iv.]
[* ] [Esprit, &c., Liv. III. chap. viii.]
[† ] [Ibid. Liv. V. chap. viii.]
[1 ]Essay on Civil Society, Part I. sect. x.
[* ] [Esprit, &c., Liv. V. chap. viii.]
[† ] [Ibid.]
[‡ ] [Ibid.]
[* ] [Sallust, Jug. cap. 64.]
[† ] [Essay on Civil Society, Part IV. sect. ii.]
[1 ]Esprit, &c., Liv. V. chap. viii.
[2 ] Montesquieu, ibid. See also De Lolme, [Constitution of England, II. xii.]
[* ] [Ibid.]
[1 ]Politics, Book III. chap. v.
[1 ] Adams On the American Constitution, Vol. III. p. 286.
[* ] [Decline and Fall, &c., Chap. iii.]
[* ] [Ibid.—Aristotle, in his Politics, clearly shews how a pure or Autocratic Monarchy is naturally either the best or the worst form of government. Hence, though unnoticed by Erasmus, the adage,—Corruptio optimi pessima.]
[* ] [Esprit, &c., Liv. II. chap. v.]
[1 ]De L’Esprit, Essai IV. chap. xiv.
[1 ]State of the Ottoman Empire, quoted by Montesquieu, [Esprit, &c., V. xiv.] This precarious state of property naturally produces usury and exorbitant interest, as each person will raise the value of his money in proportion to the danger he sees in lending it. Hence poverty is deprived even of the resource of borrowing, and extensive commerce is rendered impracticable.
[2 ] See on this subject Raynal, [Histoire Philosophique, &c.,] Book ix.
[1 ] Kames’ Sketches, Vol. I. p. 399. [Book II. sketch iii.]
[* ] [Esprit, &c., V. xiii.]
[2 ]Annales, III. lxv.
[* ] [Esprit, &c., Liv. III. chap. ix.]
[1 ] Lib. IV. cap. xxxiii., quoted by [George] Gregory, p. 345.
[2 ] [Pandectæ,] Lib. V., Ad Legem Juliam Majestatis, quoted by Kames, Sketches, Vol. I. p. 397.—[Book II. sk. iii.]
[3 ] [Historia,] Lib. IV., quoted by Kames, Sketches, Vol. I. p. 398.—[Book II. sk. iii.]
[1 ]Travels, &c., as quoted by Montesquieu, Book III. chap. x.
[2 ] Suetonius, Vit. Cel., capp. xxvii., xxviii., xxx.; Vit. Ner., capp. xxvi., xxxiii., xxxiv.; Vit. Dom., capp. x., xi.
[3 ] Gibbon, Decline and Fall, cap. vii.
[1 ] Montesquieu, Esprit, &c., Liv. V. chap. xiv.
From the fourth emperor of the Turks there has been none who has ascended the throne without the murder of some of his brothers, and hardly any who have died a natural death. Solymus I. dethroned and murdered his father, strangled his brother, and, afterwards repenting, put to death fifteen of those who had betrayed his brother into his hands. The five brothers of Amurath III. were strangled in his presence, and his mother, through grief, immediately stabbed herself. Mahomet III. began his reign by the murder of his brother, and of all his father’s concubines.—[G.] Gregory’s Essays, 1st edit. p. 348, [Essay, Of certain Causes which may Subvert British Liberty; 2d edit. p. 187.]
[* ] [Essays, Vol. I.—Essay, Of Civil Liberty.]