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chapter four: Objection to the Possibility of Limiting Political Authority - Benjamin Constant, Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments 
Principles of Politics Applicable to a all Governments, trans. Dennis O’Keeffe, ed. Etienne Hofmann, Introduction by Nicholas Capaldi (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
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Objection to the Possibility of Limiting Political Authority
There is one obvious objection to the limitation of political authority. Is it possible to limit it? Is there any force strong enough to prevent its breaking through the barriers we have prescribed for it? Some might say we can use various ingenious combinations to limit power by dividing it. We can put its different parts in opposition and in equilibrium. But how can we ensure that its total sum is not unlimited? How can power be limited other than by power itself?
The limitation of political authority in the abstract would probably be a sterile quest, if one did not then back it up with the guarantees it needs in the organization of government. The investigation of these guarantees is not within the purview of this book. Let me merely suggest that it seems possible to me that we might discover political institutions whose foundations are such as to combine the interests of the various power-holders in such a way that their most obvious advantage, as well as the longest term and securest one, would be for them all to stay within their respective spheres and thereby be mutually  contained. Even so, the first question is still the limitation of overall authority. For before organizing anything, one needs to have determined its nature and extent.
Without wanting, as philosophers too often have, to exaggerate the influence truth has on men, I will say next that it can be affirmed that when certain principles are fully and clearly demonstrated, they work in some sense as a guarantee of themselves. The most forceful interests have a kind of sense of decency which stops them from relying on errors which have been too obviously refuted. At the exact moment when the strife of the French Revolution was again stirring up into a ferment all the prejudices still existing, some errors of the same type did not dare to reappear, for the simple reason that they had been proved to be wrong. The defenders of feudal privilege did not dream of reviving the slavery which Plato in his ideal Republic and Aristotle in his Politics thought indispensable.4
There forms around all the truths people manage to environ with incontestable proof a universal agreement which soon prevails. If it is widely recognized that political authority is not boundless, that such limitless power exists nowhere on earth, no one will ever again dare to demand such power. Experience itself shows this already. Even though political authority has not yet been limited in theory, it is nevertheless in fact more confined today than before. For example, people no longer attribute powers of life and death without trial even to society as a whole. Nor does any modern government claim such a right. If the tyrants of the ancient republics seem to us far more unbridled than the governments of modern history, this must partly be attributed to this. The most monstrous outrages by despotisms based on one man were often due to the doctrine of the boundless power of all. So political power can be curtailed. It will be guaranteed first of all by the same force which upholds all recognized truths,  that is, by public opinion. Afterward we can get busy with guaranteeing this in a more fixed way, via the specific organization of political powers. But having obtained and consolidated the first guarantee will always be a great good.
[4. ]This last sentence is very close to a passage by Madame de Staël, Des circonstances actuelles qui peuvent terminer la révolution et des principes qui doivent fonder la république en France, critical edition by Lucia Omacini, Paris-Geneva, Droz, 1979, p. 26: “In the struggle of the French Revolution, the most inveterate aristocrats did not dream of proposing the reestablishment of slavery, while Plato in his ideal Republic does not suppose we can do without it.”