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SECTION IV.: New Constitution of France. * - Sir James Mackintosh, The Miscellaneous Works 
The Miscellaneous Works. Three Volumes, complete in One. (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1871).
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New Constitution of France.*
A dissertation approaching to completeness on the new Constitution of France, would, in fact, be a vast system of political science. It would include a development of the principles that regulate every portion of government. So immense an attempt is little suited to our present limits. But some remarks on the prominent features of the French system are exacted by the nature of our vindication. They will consist chiefly of a defence of their grand theoretic principle, and their most important practical institution.
The principle which has actuated the legislators of France has been, “that the object of all legitimate government is the assertion and protection of the natural rights of man.” They cannot indeed be absolved from some deviations† from it;—few, indeed, compared with those of any other body of whom history has preserved any record; but too many for their own glory, and for the happiness of the human race. This principle, however, is the basis of their edifice, and if it be false, the structure must fall to the ground. Against this principle, therefore, Mr. Burke has, with great judgment, directed his attack. Appeals to natural right are, according to him, inconsistent and preposterous. A complete abdication and surrender of all natural right is made by man in entering into society; and the only right which he retains are created by the compact which holds together the society of which he is member. This doctrine he thus explicitly asserts:—“The moment,” says he, “you abate any thing from the full rights of men each to govern himself, and suffer any artificial positive limitation on those rights, from that moment the whole organization of society becomes a consideration of convenience.” “How can any man claim under the conventions of civil society rights which do not so much as suppose its existence,—which are absolutely repugnant to it?”* To examine this doctrine, therefore, is of fundamental importance. To this effect it is not necessary to enter into any elaborate research into the metaphysical principles of politics and ethics. A full discussion of the subject would indeed demand such an investigation:† —the origin of natural rights must have been illustrated, and even their existence proved against some theorists. But such an inquiry would have been inconsistent with the nature of a publication, the object of which is to enforce conviction on the people. We are besides absolved from the necessity of it in a controversy with Mr. Burke, who himself recognises, in the most ample form, the existence of those natural rights.
Granting their existence, the discussion is short. The only criterion by which we can estimate the portion of natural right surrendered by man on entering into society is the object of the surrender. If more is claimed than that object exacts, what was an object becomes a pretext. Now the object for which a man resigns any portion of his natural sovereignty over his own actions is, that he may be protected from the abuse of the same dominion in other men. Nothing, therefore, can be more fallacious than to pretend, that we are precluded in the social state from any appeal to natural right.‡ It remains in its full integrity and vigour, if we except that portion of it which men have thus mutually agreed to sacrifice. Whatever, under pretence of that surrender, is assumed beyond what that object rigorously prescribes, is an usurpation supported by sophistry,—a despotism varnished by illusion. It follows that the surrender of right must be equal in all the members of society, as the object is to all precisely the same. In effect, society, instead of destroying, realizes and substantiates equality. In a state of nature, the equality of right is an impotant theory, which inequalities of strength and skill every moment violate. As neither natural equality nor the equality of the sum of right surrendered by every individual is contested, it cannot be denied that the remnant spared by the social compact must be equal also. Civil inequalities, or, more correctly, civil distinction, must exist in the social body, because it must possess organs destined for different functions: but political inequality is equally inconsistent with the principles of natural right and the object of civil institution.*
Men, therefore, only retain a right to a share in their own government, because the exercise of the right by one man is not inconsistent with its possession by another. This doctrine is not more abstractedly evident than it is practically important. The slightest deviation from it legitimatizes every tyranny. If the only criterion of governments be the supposed convention which forms them, all are equally legitimate; for the only interpreter of the convention is the usage of the government, which is thus preposterously made its own standard. Governors must, indeed, abide by the maxims of the constitution they administer; but what that constitution is must be on this system immaterial. The King of France is not permitted to put out the eyes of the Princes of the Blood; nor the Sophi of Persia to have recourse to lettres de cachet. They must tyrannize by precedent, and oppress in reverent imitation of the models consecrated by the usage of despotic predecessors. But if they adhere to these, there is no remedy for the oppressed, since an appeal to the rights of nature were treason against the principles of the social union. If, indeed, any offence against precedent, in the kind or degree of oppression, be committed, this theory may (though most inconsistently) permit resistance. But as long as the forms of any government are preserved, it possesses, in the view of justice (whatever be its nature) equal claims to obedience. This inference is irresistible; and it is thus evident, that the doctrines of Mr. Burke are doubly refuted by the fallacy of the logic which supports them, and the absurdity of the conclusions to which they lead.
They are also virtually contradicted by the laws of all nations. Were his opinions true, the language of laws should be permissive, not restrictive. Had men surrendered all their rights into the hands of the magistrate, the object of laws should have to announce the portion he was pleased to return them, not the part of which he is compelled to deprive them. The criminal code of all nations consists of prohibitions; and whatever is not prohibited by the law, men every where conceive themselves entitled to do with impunity. They act on the principle which this language of law teaches them, that they retain rights which no power can impair or infringe,—which are not the boon of society, but the attribute of their nature. The rights of magistrates and public officers are truly the creatures of society: they, therefore, are guided not by what the law does not prohibit, but by what it authorises or enjoins. Were the rights of citizens equally created by social institution, the language of the civil code would be similar, and the obedience of subjects would have the same limits.
This doctrine, thus false in its principles, absurd in its conclusions, and contradicted by the avowed sense of mankind, is, lastly, even abandoned by Mr. Burke himself. He is betrayed into a confession directly repugnant to his general principle:—“Whatever each man can do without trespassing on others, he has a right to do for himself; and he has a right to a fair portion of all that society, with all its combinations of skill and force, can do for him.” Either this right is universal, or it is not:—if it be universal, it cannot be the offspring of a convention; for conventions must be as various as forms of government, and there are many of them which do not recognise this right, nor place man in this condition of just equality. All governments, for example, which tolerate slavery neglect this right; for a slave is neither entitled to the fruits of his own industry, nor to any portion of what the combined force and skill of society produce. If it be not universal it is no right at all; and can only be called a privilege accorded by some governments, and withheld by others. I can discern no mode of escaping from this dilemma, but the avowal that these civil claims are the remnant of those “metaphysic rights” which Mr. Burke holds in such abhorrence; but which it seems the more natural object of society to protect than destroy.
But it may be urged, that though all appeals to natural rights be not precluded by the social compact, and though their integrity and perfection in the civil state may theoretically be admitted, yet as men unquestionably may refrain from the exercise of their rights, if they think their exertion unwise, and as government is not a scientific subtlety, but a practical expedient for general good, all recourse to these elaborate abstractions is frivolous and futile; and that the grand question is not the source, but the tendency of government,—not a question of right, but a consideration of expediency. Political forms, it may be added, are only the means of insuring a certain portion of public felicity: if the end be confessedly obtained, all discussion of the theoretical aptitude of the means to produce it is nugatory and redundant.
To this I answer, first, that such reasoning proves too much, and that, taken in its proper extent, it impeaches the great system of morals, of which political principles form only a part. All morality is, no doubt, founded on a broad and general expediency; and the sentiment—
“Ipsa utilitas justi prope mater et æqui,”*
may be safely adopted, without the reserve dictated by the timid and inconstant philosophy of the poet. Justice is expediency, but it is expediency speaking by general maxims, into which reason has consecrated the experience of mankind. Every general principle of justice is demonstrably expedient; and it is this utility alone that confers on it a moral obligation. But it would be fatal to the existence of morality, if the utility of every particular act were to be the subject of deliberation in the mind of every moral agent. Political principles are only moral ones adapted to the civil union of men. When I assert that a man has a right to life, liberty, &c. I only mean to enunciate a moral maxim founded on the general interest, which prohibits any attack on these possessions. In this primary and radical sense, all rights, natural as well as civil, arise from expediency. But the moment the moral edifice is reared, its basis is hid from the eye for ever. The moment these maxims, which are founded on an utility that is paramount and perpetual, are embodied and consecrated, they cease to yield to partial and subordinate expediency. It then becomes the perfection of virtue to consider, not whether an action be useful, but whether it be right.
The same necessity for the substitution of general maxims exists in politics as in morals. Those precise and inflexibile principles, which yield neither to the seductions of passion, nor to the suggestions of interest, ought to be the guide of public as well as private morals. “Acting according to the natural rights of men,” is only another expression for acting according to those general maxims of social morals which prescribe what is right and fit in human intercourse. We have proved that the social compact does not alter these maxims, or destroy these rights; and it incontestably follows, from the same principles which guide all morality, that no expediency can justify their infraction.
The inflexibility of general principles is, indeed, perhaps more necessary in political morals than in any other class of actions. If the consideration of expediency be admitted, the question recurs,—Who are to judge of it? The appeal is never made to the many whose interest is at stake, but to the few, whose interest is linked to the perpetuity of oppression and abuse. Surely that judge ought to be bound down by the strictest rules, who is undeniably interested in the decision: and he would scarcely be esteemed a wise legislator, who should vest in the next heir to a lunatic a discretionary power to judge of his sanity. Far more necessary, then, is obedience to general principles, and maintenance of natural rights, in politics than in the morality of common life. The moment that the slightest infraction of these rights is permitted through motives of convenience, the bulwark of all upright politics is lost. If a small convenience will justify a little infraction, a greater will expiate a bolder violation: the Rubicon is past. Tyrants never seek in vain for sophists: pretences are multiplied without difficulty and without end. Nothing, therefore, but an inflexible adherence to the principles of general right can preserve the purity, consistency, and stability of a free state.
If we have thus successfully vindicated the first theoretical principle of French legislation, the doctrine of an absolute surrender of natural rights by civil and social man, has been shown to be deduced from inadequate premises,—to conduct to absurd conclusions, to sanctify the most atrocious despotism, to outrage the avowed convictions of men, and, finally, to be abandoned, as hopelessly untenable by its own author. The existence and perfection of these rights being proved, the first duty of lawgivers and magistrates is to assert and protect them. Most wisely and auspiciously then did France commence her regenerating labours with a solemn declaration of these sacred, inalienable, and imprescriptible rights,—a declaration which must be to the citizen the monitor of his duties, as well as the oracle of his rights, and by a perpetual recurrence to which the deviations of the magistrate will be checked, the tendency of power to abuse corrected, and every political proposition (being compared with the end of society) correctly and dispassionately estimated. To the juvenile vigour of reason and freedom in the New World,—where the human mind was unincumbered with that vast mass of usage and prejudice, which so many ages of ignorance had accumulated, to load and deform society in Europe,—France owed this, among other lessons. Perhaps the only expedient that can be devised by human wisdom to keep alive public vigilance against the usurpation of partial interests, is that of perpetually presenting the general right and the general interest to the public eye. Such a principle has been the Polar Star, by which the National Assembly has hitherto navigated the vessel of the state, amid so many tempests howling destruction around it.
There remains a much more extensive and complicated inquiry, in the consideration of their political institutions. As it is impossible to examine all, we must limit our remarks to the most important. To speak then generally of their Constitution, it is a preliminary remark, that the application of the word “democracy” to it is fallacious and illusive. If that word, indeed, be taken in its etymological sense, as the “power of the people,” it is a democracy; and so are all legitimate governments. But if it be taken in its historical sense, it is not so; for it does not resemble those governments which have been called democracies in ancient or modern times. In the ancient democracies there was neither representation nor division of powers: the rabble legislated, judged and exercised every political authority. I do not mean to deny that in Athens, of which history has transmitted to us the most authentic monuments, there did exist some feeble control. But it has been well remarked, that a multitude, if it was composed of Newtons, must be a mob: their will must be equally unwise, unjust, and irresistible. The authority of a corrupt and tumultuous populace has indeed by the best writers of antiquity been regarded rather as an ochlocracy than a democracy,—as the despotism of the rabble, not the dominion of the people. It is a degenerate democracy: it is a febrile paroxysm of the social body which must speedily terminate in convalescence or dissolution. The new Constitution of France is almost directly the reverse of these forms. It vests the legislative authority in the representatives of the people, the executive in an hereditary First Magistrate, and the judicial in judges, periodically elected, and unconnected either with the legislature or with the Executive Magistrate. To confound such a constitution with the democracies of antiquity, for the purpose of quoting historical and experimental evidence against it, is to recur to the most paltry and shallow arts of sophistry.
In discussing it, the first question that arises regards the mode of constituting the legislature; the first division of which, relating to the right of suffrage, is of primary importance. Here I most cordially agree with Mr. Burke* in reprobating the impotent and preposterous qualification by which the Assembly has disfranchised every citizen who does not pay a direct contribution equivalent to the price of three days’ labour. Nothing can be more evident than its inefficacy for any purpose but the display of inconsistency, and the violation of justice. These remarks were made at the moment of the discussion; and the plan* was combated in the Assembly with all the force of reason and eloquence by the most conspicuous leaders of the popular party,—MM. Mirabeau, Target, and Petion, more particularly distinguishing themselves by their opposition. But the more timid and prejudiced members of it shrunk from so bold an innovation it political systems as justice. They fluctuated between their principles and their prejudices, and the struggle terminated in an illusive compromise,—the constant resource of feeble and temporizing characters. They were content that little practical evil should in fact be produced; while their views were not sufficiently enlarged to perceive, that the inviolability of principles is the palladium of virtue and of freedom. Such members do not, indeed, form the majority of their own party; but the aristocratic minority, anxious for whatever might dishonour or embarrass the Assembly, eagerly coalesced with them, and stained the infant Constitution with this absurd usurpation.
An enlightened and respectable antagonist of Mr. Burke has attempted the defence of this measure. In a Letter to Earl Stanhope, it is contended, that the spirit of this regulation accords exactly with the principles of natural justice, because, even in an unsocial state, the pauper has a claim only on charity, and he who produces nothing has no right to share in the regulation of what is produced by the industry of others. But whatever be the justice of disfranchising the unproductive poor, the argument is, in point of fact, totally misapplied. Domestic servants are excluded by the decree though they subsist as evidently on the produce of their own labour as any other class; and to them therefore the argument of our acute and ingenious writer is totally inapplicable.† But it is the consolation of the consistent friends of freedom, that this abuse must be short-lived: the spirit of reason and liberty, which has achieved such mighty victories, cannot long be resisted by this puny foe. The number of primary electors is at present so great, and the importance of their single votes so proportionally little, that their interest in resisting the extension of the right of suffrage is insignificantly small. Thus much have I spoken of the usurpation of the rights of suffrage, with the ardour of anxious affection, and with the freedom of liberal admiration. The moment is too serious for compliment; and I leave untouched to the partisans of despotism, their monopoly of blind and servile applause.*
I must avow, with the same frankness, equal disapprobation of the admission of territory and contribution as elements entering into the proportion of representation.† The representation of land or money is a monstrous relic of ancient prejudice: men only can be represented; and population alone ought to regulate the number of representatives which any district delegates.
The next consideration that presents itself is, the nature of those bodies into which the citizens of France are to be organized for the performance of their political functions. In this important part of the subject, Mr. Burke has committed some fundamental errors: it is more amply, more dexterously, and more correctly treated by M. de Calonne; of whose work this discussion forms the most interesting part. These assemblies are of four kinds:—Municipal, Primary, Electoral, and Administrative.
To the Municipalities belong the care of preserving the police, and collecting the revenue within their jurisdiction. An accurate idea of their nature and object may be formed by supposing the country of England uniformly divided, and governed, like its cities and towns, by magistracies of popular election.
The Primary Assemblies, the first elements of the commonwealth, are formed by all citizens, who pay a direct contribution, equal to the price of three days’ labour, which may be averaged at half-a-crown sterling. Their functions are purely electoral. They send representatives, in the proportion of one to every hundred adult citizens, to the Assembly of the Department directly, and not through the medium of the District, as was originally proposed by the Constitutional Committee, and has been erroneously stated by Mr. Burke. They send, indeed, representatives to the Assembly of the District; but it is for the purpose of choosing the Administrators of such District, not the Electors of the Department. The Electoral Assemblies of the Departments elect the members of the legislature, the judges, the administrators, and the bishop of the Department. The Administrators are every where the organs and instruments of the executive power.
Against the arrangement of these Assemblies, many subtle and specious objections are urged, both by Mr. Burke and the exiled Minister of France. The first and most formidable is, “the supposed tendency of it to dismember France into a body of confederated republics.” To this there are several unanswerable replies. But before I state them, it is necessary to make one distinction:—these several bodies are, in a certain sense, independent, in what regards subordinate and interior regulation; but they are not independent in the sense which the objection supposes,—that of possessing a separate will from that of the nation, or influencing, but by their representatives, the general system of the state. Nay, it may be demonstrated, that the legislators of France have solicitously provided more elaborate precautions against this dismemberment than have been adopted by any recorded government.
The first circumstance which is adverse to it is the minuteness of the divided parts. They are too small to possess a separate force. As elements of the social order, as particles of a great political body, they are something; but, as insulated states, they would be impotent. Had France been separated into great masses, each might have been strong enough to claim a separate will; but, divided as she is, no body of citizens is conscious of sufficient strength to feel their sentiments of any importance, but as constituent parts of the general will. Survey the Primary, the Electoral, and the Administrative Assemblies, and nothing will be more evident than their impotence in individuality. The Municipalities, surely, are not likely to arrogate independence. A forty-eight thousandth part of the kingdom has not energy sufficient for separate existence; nor can a hope arise in it of influencing, in a direct and dictatorial manner, the councils of a great state. Even the Electoral Assemblies of the Departments do not, as we shall afterwards show, possess force enough to become independent confederated republics.
Another circumstance, powerfully hostile to this dismemberment, is the destruction of the ancient Provincial division of the kingdom. In no part of Mr. Burke’s work have his arguments been chosen with such infelicity of selection as in what regards this subject. He has not only erred; but his error is the precise reverse of truth. He represents as the harbinger of discord, what is, in fact, the instrument of union. He mistakes the cement of the edifice for a source of instability and a principle of repulsion. France was, under the ancient government, an union of provinces, acquired at various times and on different conditions, and differing in constitution, laws, language, manners, privileges, jurisdiction, and revenue. It had the exterior of a simple monarchy, but it was in reality an aggregate of independent states. The monarch was in one place King of Navarre, in another Duke of Brittany, in a third Count of Provence, in a fourth Dauphin of Vienne. Under these various denominations he possessed, at least nominally, different degrees of power, and he certainly exercised it under different forms. The mass composed of these heterogeneous and discordant elements, was held together by the compressing force of despotism. When that compression was withdrawn, the provinces must have resumed their ancient independence,—perhaps in a form more absolute than as members of a federative republic. Every thing tended to inspire provincial and to extinguish national patriotism. The inhabitants of Brittany, or Guienne, felt themselves linked together by ancient habitudes, by congenial prejudices, by similar manners, by the relics of their constitution, and the common name of their country: but their character as members of the French Empire, could only remind them of long and ignominious subjection to a tyranny, of which they had only felt the strength in exaction, and blessed the lenity in neglect. These causes must have formed the provinces into independent republics; and the destruction of their provincial existence was indispensable to the prevention of this dismemberment. It is impossible to deny, that men united by no previous habitude (whatever may be said of the policy of the union in other respects) are less qualified for that union of will and force, which produces an independent republic, than provincials, who were attracted by every circumstance towards local and partial interests, and from the common centre of the national system. Nothing could have been more inevitable than the independence of those great provinces, which had never been moulded into one empire; and we may boldly pronounce, in direct opposition to Mr. Burke, that the new division of the kingdom was the only expedient that could have prevented its dismemberment into a confederacy of sovereign republics.
The solicitous and elaborate division of powers, is another expedient of infallible operation, to preserve the unity of the body politic. The Municipalities are limited to minute and local administration; the Primary Assemblies solely to election; the Assemblies of the District to objects of administration and control of a superior class; and the Assemblies of the Departments possess functions purely electoral, exerting no authority legislative, administrative, or judicial.
But whatever danger might be apprehended of the assumption of power by these formidable Assemblies, they are biennially renewed; and their fugitive nature makes systematic usurpation hopeless. What power, indeed, can they possess of dictating to the National Assembly?* or what interest can the members of that Assembly have in obeying the mandates of those whose tenure of power is as fugitive and precarious as their own? The provincial Administrators have that amount of independence which the constitution demands; while the judges, who are elected for six years, must feel themselves independent of constituents, whom three elections may so radically and completely change. These circumstances, then,—the minuteness of the divisions, the dissolution of Provincial ties, the elaborate distribution of powers, and the fugitive constitution of the Electoral Assemblies,—seem to form an insuperable barrier against the assumption of such powers by any of the bodies into which France is organized, as would tend to produce the federal form.
The next objection to be considered is peculiar to Mr. Burke. The subordination of elections has been regarded by the admirers of the French lawgivers as a masterpiece of their legislative wisdom. It seemed as great an improvement on representative government, as representation itself was on pure democracy. No extent of territory is too great for a popular government thus organized; and as the Primary Assemblies may be divided to any degree of minuteness, the most perfect order is reconcilable with the widest diffusion of political right. Democracies were supposed by philosophers to be necessarily small, and therefore feeble,—to demand numerous assemblies, and to be therefore venal and tumultuous. Yet this great discovery, which gives force and order in so high a degree to popular governments, is condemned and derided by Mr. Burke. An immediate connection between the representative and the primary constituent, he considers as essential to the idea of representation. As the electors in the Primary Assemblies do not immediately elect their lawgivers, he regards their rights of suffrage as nominal and illusory.*
It will in the first instance be remarked, from the statement which has already been given, that in stating three interposed elections between the Primary Electors and the Legislature, Mr. Burke has committed a most important error, in point of fact. The original plan of the Constitutional Committee was indeed agreeable to the statement of Mr. Burke:—the Primary Assemblies were to elect deputies to the District,—the District to the Department,—and the Department to the National Assembly. But this plan was represented as tending to introduce a vicious complexity into the system, and, by making the channel through which the national will passes into its public acts too circuitous, to enfeeble its energy under pretence of breaking its violence; and it was accordingly successfully combated. The series of three elections was still preserved for the choice of Departmental Administrators; but the Electoral Assemblies in the Departments, who are the immediate constituents of the Legislature, are directly chosen by the Primary Assemblies, in the proportion of one elector to every hundred active citizens.*
But,—to return to the general question, which is, perhaps, not much affected by these details,—I profess I see no reason why the right of election is not as susceptible of delegation as any other civil function,—why a citizen may not as well delegate the right of choosing lawgivers, as that of making laws. Such a gradation of elections, says Mr. Burke, excludes responsibility and substantial election, since the primary electors neither can know nor bring to account the members of the Assembly. This argument has (considering the peculiar system of Mr. Burke) appeared to me to be the most singular and inconsistent that he has urged in his work. Representation itself must be confessed to be an infringement on the most perfect liberty; for the best organized system cannot preclude the possibility of a variance between the popular and the representative will. Responsibility, strictly speaking, it can rarely admit; for the secrets of political fraud are so impenetrable, and the line which separates corrupt decision from erroneous judgment so indiscernibly minute, that the cases where the deputies could be made properly responsible are too few to be named as exceptions. Their dismissal is the only punishment that can be inflicted; and all that the best constitution can attain is a high probability of unison between the constituent and his deputy. This seems attained in the arrangements of France. The Electors of the Departments are so numerous, and so popularly elected, that there is the highest probability of their being actuated in their elections, and re-elections, by the sentiments of the Primary Assemblies. They have too many points of contact with the general mass to have an insulated opinion, and too fugitive an existence to have a separate interest. This is true of those cases, where the merits or demerits of candidates may be supposed to have reached the Primary Assemblies: but in those far more numerous cases, where they are too obscure to obtain that notice, but by the polluted medium of a popular canvass, this delegation of the franchise is still more evidently wise. The peasant, or artisan, who is a Primary Elector, knows intimately among his equals, or immediate superiors, many men who have information and honesty enough to choose a good representative, but few who have genius, leisure, and ambition for the situation themselves. Of Departmental Electors he may be a disinterested, deliberate, and competent judge: but were he to be complimented, or rather mocked, with the direct right of electing legislators, he must, in the tumult, venality, and intoxication of an election mob, give his suffrage without any possible just knowledge of the situation, character, and conduct of the candidates. So unfortunately false, indeed, seems the opinion of Mr. Burke, that this arrangement is the only one that substantially, and in good faith, provides for the exercise of deliberate discrimination in the constituent.
This hierarchy of electors was, moreover, obtruded on France by necessity. Had they rejected it, they would have had only the alternative of tumultuous electoral assemblies, or a tumultuous Legislature. If the primary electoral assemblies had been so divided as to avoid tumult, their deputies would have been so numerous as to have made the national assembly a mob. If the number of electoral assemblies had been reduced to the number of deputies constituting the Legislature, each of them would have been too numerous. I cannot perceive that peculiar unfitness which is hinted at by Mr. Burke in the right of personal choice to be delegated.* It is in the practice of all states delegated to great officers, who are intrusted with the power of nominating their subordinate agents. It is in the most ordinary affairs of common life delegated, when our ultimate representatives are too remote from us to be within the sphere of our observation. It is remarkable that M. de Calonne, addressing his work to a people enlightened by the masterly discussions to which these subjects have given rise, has not, in all the fervour of his zeal to criminate the new institutions, hazarded this objection. This is not the only instance in which the Ex-Minister has shown more respect to the nation whom he addresses, than Mr. Burke has paid to the intellect and information of the English public.†
Thus much of the elements of the legislative body. Concerning that body, thus constituted, various questions remain. Its unity or division will admit of much dispute. It will be deemed of the greatest moment by the zealous admirers of the English constitution, to determine whether any semblance of its legislative organization could have been attained by France, if good, or ought to have been pursued by her, if attainable. Nothing has been asserted with more confidence by Mr. Burke than the facility with which the fragments of the long subverted liberty of France might have been formed into a British constitution: but of this general position, he has neither explained the mode, nor defined the limitations. Nothing is more favourable to the popularity of a work than these lofty generalities which are light enough to pass into vulgar currency, and to become the maxims of a popular creed. Proclaimed as they are by Mr. Burke, they gratify the pride and indolence of the people, who are thus taught to speak what gains applause, without any effort of intellect, and imposes silence, without any labour of confutation; but touched by definition, they become too simple and precise for eloquence,—too cold and abstract for popularity. It is necessary to inquire with more precision in what manner France could have assimilated the remains of her ancient constitution to that of the English Legislature. Three modes only seem conceivable:—the preservation of the three Orders distinct; the union of the Clergy and Nobility in one upper chamber; or some mode of selecting from these two Orders a body like the House of Lords. Unless the insinuations of Mr. Burke point to one or other of these schemes, I cannot divine their meaning.
The first mode would neither have been congenial in spirit nor similar in form to the constitution of England:—convert the Convocation into an integrant and co-ordinate branch of our Legislature, and some faint semblance of structure might be discovered. But it would then be necessary to arm our Clergy with an immense mass of property, rendered still more formidable by the concentration of great benefices in the hands of a few, and to bestow on this clerico-military aristocracy, in each of its shapes of Priest and Noble, a separate and independent voice. The Monarch would thus possess three negatives,—one avowed and disused, and two latent and in perpetual activity,—on the single voice which impotent and illusive formality had yielded to the Third Estate.
Even under the reign of despotism the second plan was proposed by M. de Calonne,* —that the Clergy and Nobility should form an Upper House, to exercise conjointly with the King and the Commons the legislative authority. That such a constitution would have been diametrically opposite in its spirit and principles to that of England, will be evident to those who reflect how different were the Nobility of each country. In England they are a small body, united to the mass by innumerable points of contact, receiving from it perpetually new infusions, and returning to it, undistinguished and unprivileged, the majority of their children. In France they formed an immense caste, insulated by every barrier that prejudice or policy could raise. The Nobles of England are a senate of two hundred: the Noblesse of France were a tribe of two hundred thousand. Nobility is in England only hereditary, so far as its professed object—the support of an hereditary senate—demands. Nobility in France was as widely inheritable as its real purpose—the maintenance of a privileged caste—prescribed. It was therefore necessarily descendible to all male children. The Noblesse of France were at once formidable from the immense property of their body, and dependent from the indigence of their patrician rabble of cadets, whom honour inspired with servility, and servility excluded from the path to independence. To this formidable property were added the revenues of the Church, monopolized by some of their children; while others had no patrimony but their sword. If these last were generous, the habits of military service devoted them, from loyalty,—if they were prudent, the hope of military promotion devoted them, from interest, to the King. How immense therefore and irresistible would the Royal influence have been over electors, of whom the majority were the servants and creatures of the Crown? What would be thought in England of a House of Lords, which, while it represented or contained the whole landed interest of the kingdom, should necessarily have a majority of its members septennially or triennially nominated by the King? Yet such a one would still yield to the French Upper House of M. de Calonne: for the monied and commercial interests of England, which would continue to be represented by the Commons, are important and formidable, while in France they are comparatively insignificant. The aristocracy could have been strong only against the people,—impotent against the Crown.
There remains only the selection of an Upper House from among the Nobility and Clergy: and to this there are insuperable objections. Had the right of thus forming a branch of the Legislature by a single act of prerogative been given to the King, it must have strengthened his influence to a degree terrible at any,—but fatal at this period. Had any mode of election by the provinces, or the Legislature, been adopted, or had any control on the nomination of the Crown been vested in them, the new dignity would have been sought with an activity of corruption and intrigue, of which, in such a national convulsion, it is impossible to estimate the danger. No general principle of selection, such as that of opulence or antiquity, would have remedied the evil; for the excluded and degraded would have felt that nobility was equally the patrimony of all. By the abolition of nobility, no one was degraded; for to “degrade” is to lower from a rank that continues to exist in society.
So evident indeed was the impossibility of what Mr. Burke supposes to have been attainable, that no party in the Assembly suggested the imitation of the English model. The system of his oracles in French politics,—MM. Lally and Mounier,—approached more near to the constitution of the American States. They proposed a Senate to be chosen for life by the King, from candidates offered to his choice by the provinces. This Senate was to enjoy an absolute negative on legislative acts, and to form the great national court for the trial of public delinquents. In effect, such a body would have formed a far more vigorous aristocracy than the English Peerage. The latter body only preserves its dignity by a wise disuse of its power. But the Senate of M. Mounier would have been an aristocracy moderated and legalized, which, because it appeared to have less independence, would in fact have been emboldened to exert more. Deriving their rights equally with the Lower House from the people, and vested with a more dignified and extensive trust, they would neither have shrunk from the conflict with the Commons nor the King. The permanence of their authority must have given them a superiority over the former;—the speciousness of their cause over the latter: and it seems probable, that they would have ended in subjugating both. Let those who suppose that this Senate would not have been infected by the “corporation spirit,” consider how keenly the ancient judicatures of France had been actuated by it.
As we quit the details of these systems, a question arises for our consideration of a more general and more difficult nature,—Whether a simple representative legislature, or a constitution of mutual control, be the best form of government?* To examine this question at length is inconsistent with the object and limits of the present publication (which already grows insensibly beyond its intended size); but a few general principles may be hinted, on which the decision of the question chiefly depends.
It will not be controverted, that the object of establishing a representative legislature is to collect the general will. That will is one: it cannot, therefore, without a solecism, be doubly represented. Any absolute* negative opposed to the national will, decisively spoken by its representatives, is null, as an usurpation of the popular sovereignty. Thus far does the abstract principle of representation condemn the division of the legislature.
All political bodies, as well as all systems of law, foster the preponderance of partial interests. A controlling senate would be most peculiarly accessible to this contagious spirit: a representative body itself can only be preserved from it by those frequent elections which break combinations, and infuse new portions of popular sentiments. Let us grant that a popular assembly may sometimes be precipitated into unwise decision by the seductions of eloquence, or the rage of faction, and that a controlling senate might remedy this evil: but let us recollect, that it is better the public interest should be occasionally mistaken than systematically opposed.
It is perhaps susceptible of proof, that these governments of balance and control have never existed but in the vision of theorists. The fairest example will be that of England. If the two branches of the Legislature, which it is pretended control each other, are ruled by the same class of men, the control must be granted to be imaginary. The great proprietors, titled and untitled, possess the whole force of both Houses of Parliament that is not immediately dependent on the Crown. The Peers have a great influence in the House of Commons. All political parties are formed by a confederacy of the members of both Houses. The Court party, acting equally in both, is supported by a part of the independent aristocracy;—the Opposition by the remainder of the aristocracy, whether peers or commoners. Here is every symptom of collusion,—no vestige of control. The only case indeed, where control could arise, is where the interest of the Peerage is distinct from that of the other great proprietors. But their separate interests are so few and paltry, that the history of England will not afford one undisputed instance.†
“Through a diversity of members and interests,” if we may believe Mr. Burke, “general liberty had as many securities as there were separate views in the several orders.” If by “general liberty” be understood the power of the collective body of these orders, the position is undeniable: but if it means,—what it ought to mean,—the liberty of mankind, nothing can be more false. The higher class in society,—whether their names be nobles, bishops, judges, or possessors of landed and commercial wealth,—has ever been united by common views, far more powerful than those petty repugnancies of interest to which this variety of description may give rise. Whatever may be the little conflicts of ecclesiastical with secular, or of commercial with landed opulence, they have the one common interest of preserving their elevated place in the social order. There never was, and never will be, in civilized society, but two grand interests,—that of the rich and that of the poor. The privileges of the several orders among the former will be guarded, and Mr. Burke will decide that general liberty is secure! It is thus that a Polish Palatine and the Assembly of Jamaica profanely appeal to the principles of freedom. It is thus that Antiquity, with all her pretended political philosophy, cannot boast one philosopher who questioned the justice of servitude,—nor with all her pretended public virtue, one philanthropist who deplored the misery of slaves.
One circumstance more concerning the proposed Legislature remains to be noticed,—the exclusion of the King’s Ministers from it. This “Self-denying Ordinance” I unequivocally disapprove. I regard all disfranchisement as equally unjust in its principle, destructive in its example, and impotent in its purpose. Their presence would have been of great utility with a view to business, and perhaps, by giving publicity to their opinions, favourable on the whole to public liberty. The fair and open influence of a Government is never formidable. To exclude them from the Legislature, is to devote them to the purposes of the Crown, and thereby to enable them to use their indirect and secret influence with more impunity and success. The exclusion is equivalent to that of all men of superior talent from the Cabinet: for no man of genius will accept an office which banishes him from the supreme assembly, which is the natural sphere of his powers.
Of the plan of the Judicature, I have not yet presumed to form a decided opinion. It certainly approaches to an experiment, whether a code of laws can be formed sufficiently simple and intelligible to supersede the necessity of professional lawyers.* Of all the attempts of the Assembly, the complicated relations of civilized society seem to render this the most problematical. They have not, however, concluded this part of their labours: and the feebleness attributed to the elective judicatures of the Departments may be remedied by the dignity and force with which they will invest the two high national tribunals.†
On the subject of the Executive Magistracy, the Assembly have been accused of violating their own principles by the assumption of executive powers; and their advocates have pleaded guilty to the charge. It has been forgotten that they had a double function to perform: they were not only to erect a new constitution, but they were to guard it from destruction. Had a superstitious tenderness for a principle confined them to theoretical abstractions which the breath of power might destroy, they would indeed have merited the epithets of visionaries and enthusiasts. We must not, as has been justly observed, mistake for the new political edifice what is only the scaffolding necessary to its erection. The powers of the First Magistrate are not to be estimated by the debility to which the convulsions of the moment have reduced them, but by the provisions of the future constitution.
The portion of power with which the King of France is invested is certainly as much as pure theory would demand for an executive magistrate. An organ to collect the public will, and a hand to execute it, are the only necessary constituents of the social union: the popular representative forms the first,—the executive officer the second. To the point where this principle would have conducted them, the French have not ventured to proceed. It has been asserted by Mr. Burke, that the French King is to have no negative on the laws. This, however, is not true. The minority who opposed any species of negative in the Crown was only one hundred out of eight hundred members. The King possesses the power of withholding his assent to a proposed law for two successive Assemblies. This species of suspensive veto is with great speciousness and ingenuity contended by M. Neckar to be more efficient than the obsolete negative of the English princes.‡ A mild and limited negative may, he remarked, be exercised without danger or odium; while a prerogative, like the absolute veto, must sink into impotence from its invidious magnitude. Is not that negative really efficient, which is only to yield to the national voice, spoken after four years’ deliberation? The most absolute veto must, if the people persist, prove eventually only suspensive.* “The power of remonstrance,” says Mr. Burke, “which was anciently vested in the Parliament of Paris, is now absurdly intrusted to the Executive Magistrate.” But the veto of the Parliament was directed against the legislative authority; whereas the proposed one of the King is an appeal to the people against their representatives: the latter is the only share in legislation,—whether it be nominally absolute, or nominally limited,—that a free government can intrust to its Supreme Magistrate.†
§ On the Prerogative of declaring War and Peace, Mr. Burke has shortly, and M. de Calonne‡ at great length, arraigned the system of the Assembly. In it war is to be declared by a decree of the Legislature, on the proposition of the King, who possesses exclusively the initiative. The difference between it and the theory of the English constitution is purely nominal. That theory supposes an independent House of Commons, a rigorous responsibility of the King’s Ministers, and an effective power of impeachment of them. Were these in any respect realized, it is perfectly obvious, that a decision for war must in every case depend on the deliberation of the Legislature. No minister would hazard hostilities without the sanction of a body who held a sword suspended over his head; and no power would remain to the Executive Magistrate but the initiative. The forms indeed, in the majority of cases, aim at a semblance of the theory. A Royal Message announces impending hostilities, and is re-echoed by a Parliamentary Address of promised support. It is this address alone which emboldens and authorizes the Cabinet to proceed. The Royal Message corresponds to the French initiative; and if the purity of our practice bore any proportion to the speciousness of our theory, the address would be a “decree” of the Legislature, adopting the proposition of the King. No man, therefore, who is a sincere and enlightened admirer of the English constitution, as it ought, and is pretended to exist, can consistently reprobate an arrangement, which differs from it only in the most frivolous circumstances. In our practice, indeed, no trace of those discordant powers which are supposed in our theoretical constitution remains: there the most beautiful simplicity prevails. The same influence determines the executive, and legislative power: the same Cabinet makes war in the name of the King, and sanctions it in the name of the Parliament. But France is destitute of the cement which unites these discordant materials:—her exchequer is ruined.
Granted, however, that this formidable prerogative is more curtailed than it is in our theory, the expediency of such limitation remains to be considered. The chief objections to it, are its tendency to favour the growth of foreign factions, and to derogate from the promptitude so necessary to military success. To both these objections there is one general answer:—they proceed on the supposition that France will retain her ancient political system. But if she adheres to her own declarations, war must become to her so rare an occurrence, that the objections become insignificant. Foreign powers have no temptation to purchase factions in a state which does not interpose in foreign politics: and a wise nation will regard victorious war as not less fatally intoxicating to the victors, than widely destructive to the vanquished. France, after having renounced for ever the idea of conquest, can indeed have no source of probable hostilities, but her colonies. Colonial possessions have been so unanswerably demonstrated to be commercially useless, and politically ruinous, that the conviction of philosophers cannot fail of having, in due time, its effect on the minds of enlightened Europe, and delivering the French empire from this cumbrous and destructive appendage.
But even were the exploded villany that has obtained the name of “politics” to be re-adopted in France, the objections would still be feeble. The first, which must be confessed to have a specious and formidable air, seems evidently to be founded on the history of Sweden and Poland, and on some facts in that of the Dutch Republic. It is a remarkable example of those loose and remote analogies by which sophists corrupt and abuse history. Peculiar circumstances in the situation of these states disposed them to be the seat of foreign faction. This did not arise from war being decided upon by public bodies; for if it had, a similar evil must have existed in ancient Rome and Carthage, in modern Venice, and Switzerland, in the Republican Parliament of England, and in the Congress of the United States of America. Holland, too, was perfectly exempt from it, till the age of Charles II. and Louis XIV. when, divided between jealousy of the commerce of England and dread of the conquests of France, she threw herself into the arms of the House of Orange, and forced the partisans of freedom into a reliance on French support. The case of Sweden is with the utmost facility explicable. An indigent and martial people, whether it be governed by one or many despots, will ever be sold to enterprising and opulent ambition: and recent facts have proved, that a change in the government of Sweden has not changed the stipendiary spirit of its military system. Poland is an example still less relevant:—there a crowd of independent despots naturally league themselves variously with foreign Powers. Yet Russian force has done more than Russian gold; and Poland has suffered still more from feebleness than venality.
No analogy can be supposed to exist between these cases and that of France. All the Powers of Europe could not expend money enough to form and maintain a faction in that country. Suppose it possible that its Legislature could once be corrupted; yet to purchase in succession a series of assemblies, Potosi itself would be unequal. All the states which have been quoted were poor,—therefore cheaply corrupted: their governments were aristocratic, and were therefore only to be once bought; the people were ignorant, and could therefore be sold by their governors with impunity. The reverse of these circumstances will save France, as they have saved England, from this “worst of evils:”—their wealth makes the attempt difficult; their discernment makes it hazardous; their short trust of power renders the object worthless, and its permanence impossible.
That subjecting such a decision to the deliberations of a popular assembly will, in a great measure, unnerve the vigour of hostilities, I am not disposed to deny. France must, however, when her constitution is cemented, be, in a defensive view, invincible: and if her government is unfitted for aggression, it is little wonder that the Assembly should have made no provision for a case which their principles do not suppose.
This is the last important arrangement respecting the executive power which Mr. Burke has treated; and its consideration conducts us to a subject of infinite delicacy and difficulty, which has afforded no small triumph to the enemies of the Revolution, the organization of the army. To reconcile the existence of an army of a hundred and fifty thousand men, of a navy of a hundred ships of the line, and of a frontier guarded by a hundred fortresses, with the existence of a free government, is a tremendous problem. History affords no example in which such a force has not recoiled on the state, and become the ready instrument of military usurpation: and if the state of France were not perfectly unexampled, the inference would be inevitable. An army, with the sentiments and habits which it is the system of modern Europe to inspire, is not only hostile to freedom, but incompatible with it. A body possessed of the whole force of a state, and systematically divested of every civic sentiment, is a monster that no rational polity can tolerate; and every circumstance clearly shows it to be the object of French legislation to destroy it,—not as a body of armed citizens, but as an army. This is wisely and gradually to be effected: two grand operations conduct to it,—arming the people, and unsoldiering the army.
An army of four millions can never be coerced by one of a hundred and fifty thousand; neither can they have a separate sentiment from the body of the nation, for they are the same. Whence the horror of Mr. Burke at thus arming the nation, under the title of “a municipal army,” has arisen, it is difficult even to conjecture. Has it ceased to be true, that the defence of a free state is only to be committed to its citizens? Are the long opposition to a standing army in England, its tardy and jealous admission, and the perpetual clamour (at length illusively gratified) for a militia, to be exploded, as the gross and uncourtly sentiments of our unenlightened ancestors? “They must rule,” says Mr. Burke, “by an army.” If that be the system of the Assembly, their policy is still more wretched than he has represented it: for they systematically strengthen the governed, while they enfeeble their engine of government. A military democracy, if it means a deliberative body of soldiers, is the most execrable of tyrannies; but if it be understood to denote a popular government, under which every citizen is disciplined and armed, it must then be pronounced to be the only free one which retains within itself the means of preservation.
The professional soldiers, rendered harmless by the strength of the municipal army, are in many other ways invited to throw off those abject and murderous habits which form the perfect modern soldier. In other states the soldiery are in general disfranchised by their poverty: but in France a great part may enjoy the full rights of citizens. They are not then likely to sacrifice their superior to their inferior capacity, nor to elevate their military importance by committing political suicide. The diffusion of political knowledge among them, which is ridiculed and reprobated by Mr. Burke, is the only remedy that can fortify them against the seduction of an aspiring commander. They, have, indeed, gigantic strength, and they may crush their fellow-citizens, by dragging down the social edifice; but they must themselves be overwhelmed by its fall. The despotism of armies is the slavery of soldiers: an army cannot be strong enough to tyrannize, that is not itself cemented by the most absolute interior tyranny. The diffusion of these great truths will perpetuate, as they have produced, a revolution in the character of the French soldiery. Military services will be the duty of all citizens, and the trade of none.* If a separate body of citizens, as an army, is deemed necessary, it will probably be formed by rotation: a certain period of military service will be exacted from every citizen, and may, as in the ancient republics, be made a necessary qualification for the pursuit of civil honours. “Gallos quoque in bellis floruisse audivimus,”* may again be the sentiment of our children. The glory of heroism, and the splendour of conquest, have long enough been the patrimony of that great nation. It is time that it should seek a new glory, and a new splendour, under the shade of freedom, in cultivating the arts of peace, and extending the happiness of mankind. Happy would it be for us all, if the example of that “manifesto of humanity” which has been adopted by the legislators of France, should make an adequate impression on surrounding nations.
Tunc genus humanum positis sibi consulat armis, Inque vicem gens omnis amet.†
[* ] I cannot help exhorting those who desire to have accurate notions on the subject of this section, to peruse and study the delineation of the French constitution which with a correctness so admirable has been given by Mr. Christie.—(Letters on the Revolution in France, London, 1791. Ed.)
[† ] I particularly allude to their colonial policy; but I think it candid to say, that I see in their full force the difficulties of that embarrassing business.
[* ] Burke, pp. 88—89. To the same purpose is his whole reasoning from p. 86, to p. 92.
[† ] It might, perhaps, not be difficult to prove, that far from a surrender, there is not even a diminution of the natural rights of men by their entrance into society. The existence of some union, with greater or less permanence and perfection of public force for public protection (the essence of government), might be demonstrated to be coeval and co-extensive with man. All theories, therefore, which suppose the actual existence of any state antecedent to the social, might be convicted of futility and falsehood.
[‡ ] “Trouver une forme d’association qui défende et protège de toute la force commune la personne et les biens de chaque associé, et par laquelle chacun, s’unissant à tous, n’obéisse pourtant qu’à lui-même et reste aussi libre qu’auparavant?”—Rousseau, Contrat Social, livre i. chap. vi. I am not intimidated from quoting Rousseau by the derision of Mr. Burke. Mr. Hume’s report of his literary secrets seems most unfaithful. The sensibility, the pride, the fervour of his character, are pledges of his sincerity; and had he even commenced with the fabrication of paradoxes, for attracting attention, it would betray great ignorance of human nature to suppose, that in the ardour of contest, and the glory of success, he must not have become the dupe of his own illusions, and a convert to his own imposture. It is, indeed, not improbable, that when rallied on the eccentricity of his paradoxes, he might, in a moment of gay effusion, have spoken of them as a sport of fancy, and an experiment on the credulity of mankind. The Scottish philosopher, inaccessible to enthusiasm, and little susceptible of those depressions and elevations—those agonies and raptures, so familiar to the warm and wayward heart of Rousseau, neither knew the sport into which he could be relaxed by gaiety, nor the ardour into which he could be exalted by passion. Mr. Burke, whose temperament is so different, might have experimentally known such variation, and learnt better to discriminate between effusion and deliberate opinion.
[* ] “But as to the share of power, authority, and direction which each individual ought to have in the management of a state, that I must deny to be among the direct original rights of man in civil society.” This is evidently denying the existence of what has been called political, in contradistinction to civil liberty.
[* ] Horace, lib. ii. Sat. 3.—Ed.
[* ] Burke, p. 257.
[* ] See the Procès Verbaux of the 27th and 29th of October, 1789, and the Journal de Paris, No. 301, and Les Révolutions de Paris, No. 17, p. 73.
[† ] It has been very justly remarked, that even with reference to taxation, all men have equal rights of election. For the man who is too poor to pay a direct contribution, still pays a tax in the increased price of his food and clothes. It is besides to be observed, that life and liberty are more sacred than property, and that the right of suffrage is the only shield that can guard them.
[* ] “He who freely magnifies what has been nobly done, and fears not to declare as freely what might have been done better, gives you the best covenant of his fidelity. His highest praise is not flattery, and his plainest advice is praise.”—Areopagitica.
[† ] Montesquieu, I think, mentions a federative republic in Lycia, where the proportion of representatives deputed by each state was in a ratio compounded of its population and its contribution. There might be some plausibility in this institution among confederated independent states; but it is grossly absurd in a commonwealth, which is vitally one. In such a state, the contribution of all being proportioned to their capacity, it is relatively equal; and if it can confer any political claims, they must be derived from equal rights.
[* ] I do not mean that their voice will not be there respected: that would be to suppose the Legislature as insolently corrupt as that of a neighbouring nation. I only mean to assert, that they cannot possess such a power as will enable them to dictate instructions to their representatives as authoritatively as sovereigns do to their ambassadors; which is the idea of a confederated republic.
[* ] Burke, pp. 270—272.
[* ] For a charge of such fundamental inaccuracy against Mr. Burke, the Public will most justly and naturally expect the highest evidence. See the Décret sur la nouvelle Division du Royaume, Art. 17, and the Procés Verbal of the Assembly for the 22d Dec., 1789. If this evidence should demand any collateral aid, the authority of M. de Calonne (which it is remarkable that Mr. Burke should have overlooked) corroborates it most amply. “On ordonne que chacune de ces Assemblées (Primaires) nommera un électeur á raison de 100 citoyens actifs.”. . . “Ces cinquantes mille électeurs (des Départements) choisis de deux ans en deux ans par les Assemblées Primaires,” p. 360. The Ex-Minister, indeed, is rarely to be detected in any departure from the solicitous accuracy of professional detail.
[* ] Burke, p. 271.
[† ] Though it may, perhaps, be foreign to the purpose, I cannot help thinking one remark on this topic interesting. It will illustrate the difference of opinion between even the Aristocratic party in France and the rulers of England. M. de Calonne (p. 383,) rightly states it to be the unanimous instruction of France to her representatives, to enact the equal admissibility of all citizens to public employ! England adheres to the Test Act! The arrangements of M. Neckar for elections to the States-General, and the scheme of MM. Mounier and Lally-Tollendal for the new constitution, included a representation of the people nearly exact. Yet the idea of it is regarded with horror in England! The highest Aristocrates of France approach more nearly to the creed of general liberty than the most popular politicians of England.
[* ] See his Lettre au Roi, 9th February. 1789. See also Sur l’Etat de France, p. 167. It was also, as we are informed by M. de Calonne, suggested in the Cahiers of the Nobility of Metz and Montargis. It is worthy of incidental. The proposition of such radical changes by the Nobility, is incontestable evidence of the general conviction that a total change was necessary, and is an unanswerable reply to Mr. Burke and M. de Calonne.
[* ] This question, translated into familiar language, may perhaps be thus expressed,—“Whether the vigilance of the master, or the squabbles of the servants, be the best security for faithful service?”
[* ] The suspensive veto vested in the French King is only an appeal to the people on the conduct of their representatives. The voice of the people clearly spoken, the negative ceases.
[† ] The rejection of the Peerage Bill of George the First is urged with great triumph by De Lolme. There it seems the Commons rejected the Bill, purely actuated by their fears, that the aristocracy would acquire a strength, through a limitation of the number of Peers, destructive of the balance of their respective powers. It is unfortunate that political theorists do not consult the history as well as the letter of legislative proceedings. The rejection of that Bill was occasioned by the secession of Walpole. The debate was not guided by any general legislative principles. It was simply an experiment on the strength of the two parties contending for power, in a Parliament to which we owe the Septennial Act.
[* ] The sexennial election of the Judges is strongly and ably opposed by M. de Calonne,—chiefly on the principle, that the stability of judicial offices is the only inducement to men to devote their lives to legal study.
[† ] The Cour de Cassation and the Haute Cour Nationale.
[‡ ] Rapport fait au Roi dans son Conseil, 11th Sept., 1789.
[* ] The negative possessed by the King is precisely double that of the Assembly. He may oppose his will to that of his whole people for four years,—the term of the existence of two Assemblies. The whole of this argument is in some measure ad hominem, for I myself am dubious about the utility of any species of veto,—absolute or suspensive.
[† ] Burke, p. 301.
[§ ] Calonne, pp. 170—200.
[‡ ] Ibid. p. 295.
[* ] Again I must encounter the derision of Mr. Burke, by quoting the ill-fated citizen of Geneva, whose life was embittered by the cold friendship of a philosopher, and whose memory is proscribed by the alarmed enthusiasm of an orator. I shall presume to recommend to the perusal of every reader his tract entitled, “Considérations sur le Gouvernement de Pologne,” &c.—more especially what regards the military system.
[* ] The expression of Tacitus (Agricola), quoted by Mr. Burke in the Speech on the Army Estimates.—Ed.
[† ] Pharsalia, lib. i.