Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK XV: The Outcome of Preceding Discussion Relative to the Action of Government - Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments
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BOOK XV: The Outcome of Preceding Discussion Relative to the Action of Government - 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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The Outcome of Preceding Discussion Relative to the Action of Government
The Outcome of the Preceding Discussion
We have surveyed almost all the matters on which government, exceeding the limits of strict necessity, can take action on grounds of alleged utility. We found that in all these, had people been left to themselves, less bad and more good would have resulted. “When the controls of empires are rooted in good principles,” says Mirabeau,1 “there will be only two concerns, that of maintaining external peace by a good system of defenses, and that of conserving domestic order by the exact, impartial, and inflexible administration of justice. Everything else will be left to individual effort, whose irresistible influence effecting a larger total of satisfactions for each citizen, will infallibly produce a larger amount of public happiness. A sovereign or minister cannot know the affairs even of a thousand men, while each individual in general knows his own very well.”
The governing class create duties for themselves to extend their prerogatives. Overobliging agents of the nation, they constantly assault its freedom, that is to say, the means of happiness nature has given it, and they do this in the name of rendering it happy. They want to control enlightenment, when only experience can guide it. They want to stop crimes, when only the spectacle of punishment stops them surely and without despotism. They want to encourage production, when only individual interest gives it life. They want to establish institutions; habit alone forms them. Governments must watch out that nothing trammels our diverse faculties, but must not permit themselves to take a hand therein. What would the inhabitants of a house say if the guards they had placed at the gates to stop any strangers from intruding and to calm down any domestic disturbance, gave themselves the right to control the actions of those inhabitants  and to prescribe them a way of life, under the pretext of preventing these intrusions and disturbances, or under the even more absurd one that their way of life would be sweeter following these changes? The governors are these guards, put in place by individuals who come together precisely so that nothing shall trouble their peace of mind or upset their doings. If the governors go further, they become themselves a source of trouble and upset.
The use of penal laws then becomes the most culpable abuse of the right to punish. Rather than extend this terrible right, we should strive to restrain it. Instead of multiplying the number of crimes, we should reduce it. It is not a crime in man to mistake his own interest, always supposing he does so; it is not a crime in man to want to manage himself by his own lights, even when government finds them imperfect. It is a crime in government, however, to punish individuals because they do not adopt as their interest what seems so to other men or because they do not rank their own judgments of enlightenment beneath those of others, when, after all, each person is the judge in the last resort. To subordinate individual wishes to the general will, without absolute necessity, is gratuitously to set up obstacles to all our progress. Individual interest is always more enlightened on what concerns it than collective power, whose fault is the sacrificing to its purposes, without care or scruple, of everything which opposes it. It needs to be checked and not to be encouraged.
To increase the force of collective authority is never other than giving more power to some individuals. If the wickedness of men is an argument against freedom, it is an even stronger one against power. For despotism is only the freedom of one or a few against the rest. Burke says that freedom is power.2 One can likewise say that power is freedom. 
On Three Pernicious Ideas
Three ideas are particularly dangerous when they take hold of the minds of the governing group; these are the ideas of uniformity, ideas of stability, and the ill-considered desire for premature improvement.
On Ideas of Uniformity
M. de Montesquieu, who in his admirable work grasped almost everything, in a short chapter condemns the ideas of uniformity, but in few words, without enlargement and more by way of drawing the reader’s attention to the subject rather than himself analyzing and exploring it more deeply.
“There are,” he says,3 “certain ideas of uniformity which sometimes lay hold of great minds, witness their appeal to Charlemagne, but infallibly enthuse small ones. These find in them a type of perfection they recognize, because it is impossible not to detect it in them: the same concentration on public order, the same measures in commerce, the same laws in the State, the same religion throughout. Is this always to the good, however, without exception? Is the evil of change always less than the evil of having to endure? Might not the greatness of genius consist in knowing in which cases uniformity is needed and in which cases differences?”
If the author of The Spirit of the Laws had appealed to history, he would easily have shown that absolute uniformity is in several circumstances contrary to the nature both of men and things.
It is clear that different portions of the same people, placed in circumstances, brought up in customs, living in places, which are all dissimilar, cannot be led to absolutely the same manners, usages, practices, and laws, without a coercion which would cost them more than it is worth. The small advantage of offering a smooth surface over which the lofty eye of government can freely stray, without encountering any inequality which offends it or obstructs its view, is only a puny compensation  for the sacrifice of a host of sentiments, memories, local tastes, out of which individual happiness, that is to say, the only real happiness, is composed. The chance which submits to the same government diverse local peoples does not in any way alter the inner mentality of each member of these. The series of ideas, from which their moral being has gradually been formed since their infancy, cannot be modified by a purely nominal, external arrangement, most of the time independent of their will, which has nothing in common with their ways, the private and real source of their griefs and pleasures.
It is by sacrificing everything to exaggerated ideas of uniformity that large States have become a scourge for humanity. To renounce that idealist perfection would be to retain for the large States many of the advantages of small ones and combine these with the advantages deriving from greater size.
For morality, justice, peace, a certain kind of happiness, and all natural affections, small States are preferable to large ones. For external security, which is the guarantee of private happiness, for national independence, without which a State is the plaything or victim of its neighbors, for the enlightenment which is the strongest barrier against oppression, large States have huge advantages over small ones. The mix of economic and political organization being much more varied in these adds greatly to everyday experience. Prejudice dies sooner. The kind of abuse which is reformed swiftly and almost spontaneously in a large State can be kept going forever in a country enclosed within narrow limits. It is because the Roman empire had conquered three-quarters of the world that slavery was destroyed. If that empire had been divided into a multitude of independent States, none would have given the lead with the abolition of slavery, since the immediate advantage to its own detriment this would have given its neighbors would have struck each one of them.4 There are acts of justice capable of enactment only simultaneously and which therefore never happen, because if they happen partially, the most generous become temporarily victims of their generosity.
In recognizing the advantages of large States, however, one must not underestimate their multiple and terrible drawbacks. Their  size requires an activism and force at the heart of government which is difficult to contain and degenerates into despotism. The laws come from a point so far from those to whom they are supposed to apply that the inevitable effect of such distance is serious and frequent error. Local injustices never reach the heart of government. Placed in the capital, it takes the views of its surrounding area or at the very most of its place of residence for those of the whole State. A local or passing circumstance thus becomes the reason for a general law, and the inhabitants of the most distant provinces are suddenly surprised by unexpected innovations, unmerited severity, vexatious regulations, undermining the basis of all their calculations, and all the safeguards of their interests, because two hundred leagues away men who are total strangers to them had some inkling of agitation, divined certain needs, or perceived certain dangers.
I am not even sure whether in terms of prestige, that noble motive of human action, large countries are not fatal. Today small States are scorned as too restrictive a field of action. But a very populous society puts an almost insurmountable barrier in the way of personal distinction. To win the admiration of one’s fellow citizens one must uplift the mass of the people. The larger the country, the heavier that mass. Therefore we see in overlarge countries a small State forming at the center. That small State is the capital. All ambitions go there to vent themselves. Everywhere else is immobile, inert, becalmed.
One could guard against most of these drawbacks by abjuring ideas of conformity or at least by restricting them to a very few objects. The government of a large country must always partake somewhat of the nature of federalism. The rules in this respect are very simple and all start from the principle which is the basis of this book. The management of the affairs of everybody belongs to everybody, that is, to the government instituted by everybody. What touches only a minority should be decided by that minority. What relates only to the individual must be referred only to the individual. It cannot be said too often that the general will is no more worthy than the individual one, when it steps  outside its jurisdiction. Suppose a nation of twenty million souls, split between a number of communes. In each commune, each individual will have interests which concern only him and which should consequently not fall under the jurisdiction of the commune. Others will concern, as well as him, all the people in the commune, and his other interests will be within the communal jurisdiction. These communes, in their turn, will have interests which are their internal business only and other interests which concern the whole society. I appreciate that I am jumping the intermediary stages. The first will be within the competence of the communal legislation, the latter of the general. Uniformity is admissible only for the latter.
Notice that under the idea of interests I include habits. Nothing is more absurd than to claim one can violate men’s habits on the pretext of better directing them in terms of their interests. Their prime interest is happiness, and habits form an essential part of their happiness.
If governments observed these rules, large States would be a better solution in several respects and would cease to be an evil in several others. The capital would cease to be a unique center, destructive of any other centers. It would become a link between diverse centers. Patriotism would be reborn, the patriotism which cannot exist save by attachment to local interests, mores, and customs. Just as man’s nature struggles obstinately, though almost always unsuccessfully, against the no less obstinate errors of government, so one sees this kind of patriotism, the only real kind, reborn from its ashes, once the government stays its hand for an instant. The magistrates of the smallest communes will be delighted to embellish them; their inhabitants will find pleasure in everything which gives them even the deceptive sense of corporate identity and of being brought together by individual links. One feels that if they were not stopped in the development of this innocent inclination, there would soon form in them a kind of communal pride, so to speak, pride in the town and province; and this sentiment would be singularly  favorable to morality. It would also be singularly favorable to the love of the metropolis itself, which would seem the protector and tutelary deity of all the little fatherlands living in the shelter of its power, instead of what it is today, their implacable adversary and ever threatening enemy. How bizarre that those who called themselves ardent friends of freedom have worked relentlessly to destroy the natural basis of patriotism, to replace it with a false passion for an abstract being, for a general idea deprived of everything which strikes the imagination and speaks to memory! How bizarre that to build an edifice, they have begun by crushing and reducing to powder all the materials they needed to use. They almost designated by numbers the different parts of the empire they claimed to be regenerating, as they did so designate the legions intended to defend it, so greatly did they seem to fear that some moral idea might manage to link itself to what they were instituting and upset the uniformity which seemed to them so beautiful and desirable. This strangeness is explained, however, when we reflect that these men were drunk with power. Local interests and memories contain a principle of resistance which government allows only with regret and which it is keen to uproot. It makes even shorter work of individuals. It rolls its immense mass effortlessly over them, as over sand. These individuals furthermore, detached from their native soil, with no contact with the past, living only in a swift-moving present and thrown like atoms on a monotonous plain, take no interest in a fatherland they nowhere perceive and whose totality becomes indifferent to them, because their affection cannot rest on any of its parts. In these large countries where local interests, customs, and habits, treated with contempt, are constantly sacrificed to what are called general considerations, “patriotism,” as M. de Pauw says, “would be a figment of the imagination even if these states were not governed in so despotic a way that no interest could be known there save that of the despot himself.”5 
Application of This Principle to the Composition of Representative Assemblies
The mania for leveling a country by uniform institutions, the hatred of local interests, the desire to make them disappear, have today led to a singular approach to the composition of representative assemblies. Montesquieu seems to have had a presentiment of this approach and to have wanted to refute it in advance. “One knows much better the needs of one’s own town,” he says, “than those of other towns. And one judges better as to the capacity of one’s neighbors than that of one’s other compatriots. Therefore the members of the legislative body should not be drawn in general from the body of the nation. It is more fitting that in each principal place the inhabitants choose themselves a representative.”6 In recent years precisely the opposite has been said. When a large population, spread over a vast area, it was asserted, appoints its representatives, without any intermediary, this operation forces it to divide itself into sections. These are set at distances which do not allow communication or mutual agreement. The result is sectional choices. Unity in elections must be sought in the unity of the electoral body.7 “The choices must not flow from below, where they will always necessarily be done badly, but from above, where they will always necessarily be done well.” The electoral body should be placed “not at the base but at the summit of the political establishment.”8 Only a body thus placed can really know the object or the  general purpose of all legislation. This reasoning rests on a very exaggerated idea of the general interest, of the general purpose, of all the things to which this phrase applies; but what is this general interest save the dealings which operate between all individual interests? What is general representation but the representation of all the partial interests which must negotiate on matters common to them? The general interest is doubtless distinct from particular ones. But it is not contrary to them. The talk is always as if it gains from their losing. It is only the outcome of these combined interests. It differs from them only as a body differs from its parts. Individual interests are what most interest individuals. Sectional interests, to use the word devised to wither them, are what interest sections the most. Now, it is these individuals and sections which make up the body politic. It is therefore the interests of these individuals and these sections which must be protected. If one protects all of them, one will thereby remove from each whatever it contains which might harm the others. Only thus can the true public interest be reached. Public interest is only individual interests prevented from harming each other. The principle on which rests the need for the unity of the electoral body is therefore completely erroneous. A hundred deputies elected by a hundred different parts of the country bring individual interests and the local preferences of their constituents inside the assembly. This base is useful to them. Forced to debate together, they soon notice respective sacrifices which are indispensable. They strive to keep these at a minimum, and this is one of the great advantages of this type of appointment. Necessity always ends by uniting them in common negotiation, and the more sectional the choices have been, the more the representation achieves its general purpose. If you reverse the natural progression, if you put the electoral body at the top of the structure, those it appoints find themselves called to pronounce on a public interest with whose elements they are unfamiliar. You charge them with negotiating for sections or regions they do not know or whose interests and reciprocal needs they scorn. I want  the representative of a section of the country to be its instrument, abandoning none of its real or imaginary rights, such that having defended them, he will be biased in favor of the section whose mandatory he is, because if each one supports his constituency, the bias of each will in union have all the advantages of the impartiality of all. Assemblies, however sectional their composition, tend all too often to contract an esprit de corps which isolates them from the nation. Placed in the capital, far from the section of the nation which elected them, representatives lose sight of the usages, needs, and way of life of their constituents. They lend themselves to general ideas of leveling, symmetry, uniformity, mass changes, and universal recasting, bringing upset, disorder, and confusion to distant regions. It is this disposition we must combat, because it is on particular memories, habits, and regional laws that the happiness and peace of a province rest. National assemblies are scornful and careless with these things. How would things fare if these instruments of the public will had no connection save with a body placed at the top of the social edifice? The larger a State is, the less admissible is a single electoral body. The stronger the central government, the more necessary is it that choices start from below rather than above. Otherwise you will have corporate bodies vacantly deliberating and inferring from their indifference to individual interests that they are devoted to the general interest.
Further Thoughts on the Preceding Chapter
I have let myself get drawn into looking at a question which I confess interests me greatly, and although it breaks out of the precise limits of this work in some respects, I cannot refrain from adding a few further thoughts here on the drawbacks of the appointment of representative assemblies by a single body and on the advantages of the opposite system.
 Whatever discredit one heaps on intrigue, on efforts to captivate a fickle and emotional multitude, these things are a hundred times less corrupting than the circuitous endeavors one needs to win over a small number of men in power. Intrigue is dangerous in a senate, dangerous in an aristocratic parliament, but not in the context of the nation, whose nature it is to act from emotion. The misfortune of a republic is when there is no intrigue.9 Nothing vile is pleasing to the people as a whole. But powerful individuals are only too prone to enjoying the humility of prayers and the baseness of adulation. What has to be done to carry a large meeting has to be done in broad daylight, and modesty moderates public actions. But when people cringe before a few men whom they are imploring individually, they grovel in the shadows, and servility knows no limits. If election by the people sometimes entails culpable seduction, most often it demands honorable and useful means, kindness, benevolence, justice, and protection. When the election depends upon an electoral college, another route is mapped out. It is certainly not toward the countryman’s dwelling but toward the palace of the electoral college that the candidates direct their steps. They are dependent not on the people but on the government, and if dependence on inferiors makes citizens, dependence on superiors makes slaves. It is a sad education for the people’s mandatories which imposes on them an apprenticeship in dissimulation and hypocrisy, condemning them to humiliating supplication, to obsequious salutation, to adroitness, genuflection, and flattery, doubtless to prepare them for the unbending courage which has to check despotism and plead the cause of the weak against the strong. There are eras when anything at all resembling energy is feared, when gentleness, flexibility, and hidden gifts and private virtues are vaunted. Then are dreamed up modes of election best suited to reward these precious gifts. These, however, are eras of degradation. Let sweetness and flexibility find favor with courts, and let hidden talents declare themselves; let private virtues  find their reward in domestic happiness. The choice of the people belongs to men who command attention, who attract respect, who have acquired the right to esteem, confidence, and popular recognition. And these more energetic men will also be more moderate. People always take mediocrity as peaceful. It is peaceful only when it is locked up. When chance invests it with power, it is a thousand times more incalculable in its motion, more envious, more obstinate, more immoderate, and more convulsive than talent, even when emotions lead the latter astray. Education calms the emotions, softens egotism, and soothes vanity.
One of the greatest advantages of representative government is to establish frequent relations between the diverse classes of society. Sectional election requires on the part of the powerful classes sustained consideration for the lower classes. It forces wealth to conceal its arrogance, power to moderate its action by placing in the people’s votes a reward for justice and kindness and punishment for oppression. This advantage disappears when you entrust elections to the choice of a great electoral college.
Perhaps it will be objected that in granting political rights only to property owners, I am lessening this advantage of the representative system. But under modern social conditions there is no line of demarcation between small owners and nonowners such that the rich can win over the former by oppressing the latter. Nonproprietors, artisans in the small towns and villages, day laborers in the hamlets are all relations of small owners. They would make common cause against the oppressor. So to get the votes of those who have the vote, you will have to treat them all considerately.  This everyday device for happiness and harmony must not be lightly renounced, nor should we disdain this motive for benevolence, which may start as a mere calculation but soon becomes a habitual virtue.
The complaint is that wealth is concentrated in the capital and the countryside drained by the continual taxation it bears, which never returns to it. Popular election pushes owners back to the properties from which they distance themselves. When they could not care less about popular suffrage, their reckoning is confined to getting out of their property the greatest possible revenue. Popular election suggests they adopt a nobler reckoning, much more useful to those who live under their domination. Without popular election they need only credit, and this need groups them together around the central government. Under election by the people they have to be popular. Bringing them back toward the source of their popularity, it roots their political existence in their possessions. The benefits of feudalism have sometimes been praised for keeping the lord in the midst of his vassels and sharing out the opulence equally between all the parts of the territory. Popular election has the same desirable effect without entailing the same abuses. People constantly talk of encouraging agriculture and honoring work. They try awarding prizes, capriciously doled out, and medals which public opinion wrangles over. It would be simpler to give the farming classes a degree of importance. But this importance cannot be created by decree or edict. Its basis must be grounded in the interests all hopes have in its being recognized and all ambitions in treating it carefully. In replacing artificial devices, which they try out and change, with respect for the principles of freedom, governments would attain more swiftly and surely the purpose they must have in mind. In letting men enjoy the rights which belong to them, you free them from having to have recourse to uncertain resources and complex improvisations with no durable effect, because their stability depends not on the nature of things but on the arrangements of a few individuals. In sum, only sectional election by the people can invest national representation with real force, and give it deep roots in public opinion. You will never surmount or render silent the feeling which cries out to us that the man we  have not elected is not our representative. And should calumny pursue him, or government menace him personally, against these attacks will he know to whom to run? To whom will he say: I have faithfully fulfilled the mission with which you entrusted me; I am persecuted for having protected you? Where will he find a voice which recognizes his own and which replies to him? What fraction of the people will believe itself bound up with him in his courage and danger? The whole nation? But the whole nation is nothing. Can a nation spread across an immense territory manifest a view or experience a spontaneous impulse? Only in always speaking of the entire nation, in destroying all fractions, in intercepting all communication between them and those who defend them, in recognizing their mandatories as mere representatives of an abstract being, who never has positive existence, only thus does despotism become impregnable in its lair. When assemblies which call themselves representative are not selected by the people, they are helpless before the executive power. If they put up some resistance to it, it demands to know by what right. What is your authority? How can you be the representatives of the people? Did they appoint you? If public opinion disapproves a law or protests against some arbitrary act, then the government cries: what are these seditious claims? Has not the national representative chamber discussed, deliberated, consented? Or perhaps, has its silence not sanctioned things? Only the legitimate institutions of the nation can express its sovereign will. The executive power is protected from all blame, since the people’s delegates approve it. Thus by turns the unfortunate nation and its so-called mandatories are treated like a game. Thus the semblance of representation never constitutes any barriers, but serves as an apologia for all excesses. It would be an error, as M. Necker observes, to believe that the part given to the people in the election of lawmakers has no purpose save ensuring further the suitability of those chosen.10 Six hundred fifty men drawn by lot from the rich and cultivated class which supplies the membership of the English House of Commons would form in my view a body as enlightened as the one which results today from the British elections. All the advantages we have just described, however, would vanish. There would be no more consideration for inferiors,  no more inviolable credentials for opposing the government, and no more of this salutary movement spreading life, strength, and health through all the parts of the body politic. Citizens are interested in their institutions only when they are called to participate in them with their votes. Now, this interest is indispensable in the formation of a public spirit, that power without which no freedom lasts, that guarantee against all the perils, always invoked in certain countries without its ever being created. Public spirit, based on popular election, has sustained Great Britain, in the midst of the most expensive and desperate war. It is through popular election that press freedom, under very easily offended ministers, has survived every crisis. Without popular election, a country’s citizens never have this sense of their importance which makes them see the glory and freedom of their country as the most important part of their individual patrimony. I know that lately some among us have conceived many prejudices against popular elections. Nevertheless, until our times all experience testifies in their favor. The people of Athens, free in their choice, says Xenophon, whom one would never suspect of overfondness for democracy and its storms, have never asked for positions touching on their city’s safety or honor to be given to men unworthy to fill them.11 Livy shows us the outcomes of the Roman Comitia, proving always that the spirit of the people was different depending on whether they were demanding the right to control the high positions in the Republic or whether, the combat over, the victory won, they were pronouncing calmly, according to conscience and reason. Despite the efforts of their tribunes and the interests of their class, their choices were constantly directed toward the most virtuous and the most  illustrious.12 Since 1688 the elections in England have brought no one into the House of Commons save enlightened property owners. One could scarcely cite a man of distinguished political talent whom that election has not honored, when he has sought it. The profound peace of America, the firm moderation she has deployed in difficult circumstances, the speeches and acts of Jefferson, the choice of such a man by representatives elected by the people, constitute a justification of its franchise which nothing can weaken, because it cannot be attributed to inaccurate or exaggerated accounts. If, in the history of the ten years which have just passed by, certain facts seem unfavorable to popular election, special causes explain this. First of all, we have never really had popular election. From the introduction of representation in our political institutions, the intervention of the people has been feared. Electoral colleges have been created, and these have distorted the effects of the election. Popular governments would be the triumph of mediocrity, were it not for a sort of moral electricity with which nature has endowed men, as though to ensure the dominance of genius. The larger the assemblies are, the more powerful is this electricity, and since, when it is a question of election, it is useful that this electricity directs the choices, the assemblies charged with the appointment of the people’s representatives must be as numerous as is compatible with good order. In England, the candidates harangue the electors who surround them from the height of a rostrum, in the middle of a public place or an open space full of people. In our electoral colleges, numbers were restricted and proceedings severe. A rigorous silence was prescribed, and no question was put such as might agitate minds or subjugate, for an instant, individual ambition or local egoism. Now, uneducated men are fair only when they are carried along. They are carried along only when, brought together in a crowd, they act and react on each other almost boisterously. You cannot attract the attention of several thousand citizens without great wealth or far-reaching reputation. In a gathering of two or three hundred, a few domestic connections can seize a majority. To be selected by the people, you need supporters beyond their purview and the positive advantages this brings. To be chosen  by a few electors, it is enough to have no enemies. The advantage lies entirely with negative qualities, and luck even favors the untalented. As regards many issues, the national representatives in France have been less advanced than public opinion. I am not speaking of party questions. During civil turmoil, education has no effect on these. I am speaking of matters of political economy. It is just that our electoral assemblies, with the obstacles they put in the way of all personal influence and their encouragement of calumny, made election a lottery with the dice often falling on mediocre or unknown men. In this first respect, we cannot judge popular election in France because it has simply not existed. Secondly, for election to be popular, it must be essentially free, which it never was at any point during the Revolution. Who is not aware that the first moves of an institution may be accompanied by troubles alien to it? The overthrow of what has been, the passions stirred in opposite directions, all these things are ordinarily contemporary with great political changes among peoples of advanced civilization, but derive in no way from the principles or nature of what one wishes to establish. To decide against popular election on the basis of the happenings of the French Revolution, is to judge national assemblies by comparison with Cromwell’s Parliament or royalty by comparison with Charles VI’s demented reign. Finally, during the ascendancy of our assemblies, no constitution placed real limits on legislative power. Now, when legislative power is quite limitless, when the nation’s representatives think themselves invested with boundless sovereignty, when no counterweight exists to their decrees either in executive or judiciary power, the tyranny of those elected by the people is as disastrous as any other, whatever name it bears. The absolute, unlimited sovereignty of the people was transferred by the nation, or as is usual, at least in its name, by those who dominated it, to representative assemblies. These exercised an unparalleled despotism. This had to be, as we have sufficiently demonstrated earlier.  The constitution13 which first put an end to this period of despotism and madness still did not sufficiently limit the legislative power. It established no counterweight to its excesses. It did not enshrine either the indispensable veto of the executive power or the equally indispensable possibility of the dissolution of the representative assemblies. It did not even guarantee, as do some American constitutions, the most sacred rights of individuals against the encroachments of legislators.14
It is hardly surprising that the legislative power has continued to do harm. People have laid the blame on popular election. This was a profound mistake. It was absolutely not the mode of appointment of the legislators which needed blaming but the nature of their power. The fault was not in the choices made by those represented but in the unchecked powers of their representatives. The ill would not have been less had the mandatories of the nation appointed themselves or had they been appointed by a corporate body however constituted. There was no counterweight, no suppression, no check to their will, decorated though it was with the name of the law. That was the source of the ill. When legislative authority covers everything, it can do only ill, no matter how it is appointed. If you restrict it to things in its jurisdiction, if it is asked to pronounce only on punishments for crimes in the future, on what proportion of individual property must be assigned to public use, on the means of defense to be directed against foreign enemies; if, far from being able to conspire against freedom, its only power is to guarantee and defend it, do not fear to leave to the people the choice of holders of that tutelary power. It will do only good things. For it to do so, however, it must emanate from its true source. The representatives of the nation, proud of their national mission, must place their hope and find their reward only in the votes of those they represent. I will close this digression with two considerations all the more important in their touching on power as much as freedom. The appointment of representative assemblies by an electoral college creates an authority which is neither that of the government nor of the people. And if that authority develops a feeling of hatred for the government, it is in vain that the latter may be surrounded with public affection,  in vain that it deserves it. The people who do not have right of election can change nothing in the makeup of the assemblies which speak in their name. It would be in vain too if the government had the right to dissolve them. Dissolution is nothing without popular election, for there is no longer any recourse to the wishes of the people. If the electoral college agrees with the government, the nation will be faced, without being able to make itself heard, with the removal of its most faithful mandatories, the true representatives of its will. If the electoral college is hostile to the government, it will be in vain that the people surround the latter with their love and confidence. Government and nation will see seditious representatives reelected, without any constitutionally legitimate opposition possible, whom the unanimous disavowal of their constituents will not be able to deprive of their position as their deputies. A remarkable era in the annals of the British Parliament brings out the importance of this consideration. In 1783 the English king dismissed his ministers. Almost the entire Parliament belonged to their party. The English people thought differently. The king having appealed to the people in this, via a dissolution of the House of Commons, an immense majority gave its support to the new government. Now, suppose popular election replaced by the authority of an electoral college, if the majority of that college had leaned toward a party which had neither the assent of the governors nor the governed, this party would have had control of affairs, despite the unanimous manifestation of the national will. So true is it that you do not increase the real and legitimate force of government by attacking the people’s rights and that it is impossible to create a stable organization if you budge from the principles on which freedom rests. If it were claimed that with a bit of skill or lots of force the government will always dominate the electoral body, I would reply first of all that this hypothesis of a representative assembly which is only the instrument of one or a few men is a terrible one. It would be a thousand times better to have no assemblies at all. Oppression is never so terrible in the name of one man as when it borrows the appearances of freedom. One man would never dare to wish on his own what he orders his agents to will, when they call themselves  organs of an independent authority. Think of the Senate of Tiberius or Henry VIII’s Parliament. But I would next say that a disorderly agency can react against the hand which employs it. A government which makes use of an assembly which it dominates always courts the risk of seeing it suddenly turn against it. The most enslaved corporate bodies are also the most violent when some unforeseen event occurs which breaks their fetters. They wish to break the opprobrium of their long servitude. The same senators who had voted public holidays to celebrate the death of Agrippina and to congratulate Nero for the murder of his mother condemned him to be beaten with rods and thrown in the Tiber.
I know that people want to frighten souls with exaggerated pictures of the tumults of popular elections. More than once a witness of the apparent disorders which accompany contested elections in England, I have seen how unreliable the descriptions made of them are. Unquestionably, I have seen elections accompanied by uproar, brawls, violent disputes, insults often of the grossest sort, everything which characterizes the class which physical labor deprives of any culture or elegance, any refined occupation. But election did not bear any less on men of notable talent or wealth. And once this operation was over, everything returned to the customary order. Artisans and workmen, recently obstinate and turbulent, became hardworking, docile, even respectful again. Satisfied with having exercised their rights, they complied all the more readily with social superiorities and conventions, in that they were aware, behaving thus, that they were obeying only the independent calculation of rational interest. The morning after an election there was never the least trace of last night’s disturbances. The people resumed their work, but they had become convinced of their political importance, and public awareness had received the necessary shaking to bring it alive again. Elections are like almost everything else relating to public order. It is by dint of troublesome precautionary measures that people effect them and nurture them. In France our spectacles and fairs are ringed with guards and bayonets. You might well think three French citizens incapable of meeting without two soldiers to separate them.  In England twenty thousand men assemble. Not a single soldier appears among them. The security of each one is entrusted to the reason and interest of each. The crowd, feeling itself the depositary of public order and individual security, guards this duty scrupulously. I will go further. Everything which people invent about the English elections could be proved without my changing my opinion. I would tell myself that for the sense of freedom to penetrate the heart of the nation, it is perhaps necessary sometimes that freedom clothe itself in forms, popular, stormy, boisterous ones, within its understanding. I would rather see a few unforeseen accidents as a result of this, than see the nation becoming indifferent and discouraged because of the absence of these forms. When the nation takes no interest in its rights, power will break out of its confines. Then it undertakes insane wars and allows itself to engage in illegal vexation. And if your counterargument concerns a few individual misfortunes, a few men dead through suffocation by the crowd or in unexpected brawls, I will ask you whether those who are deported to far, distant shores do not perish, or those whom a worthless whim send beyond the seas on murderous expeditions, or those who are locked up in prisons. If these things are prevented only by freely elected representation, anyone who reflects will willingly run the very improbable risk of some fatal mischance to obtain that unique safeguard against the suspicions of tyranny and the madness of ambition.
On Ideas of Stability
It is the same with ideas on stability as it is with those on uniformity. They are the source of the greatest and most troublesome mistakes.
There is no doubt that a certain degree of institutional stability may be desirable. There are advantages which develop only with time. Like freedom, habit is a natural need of man. Now, where all stability is lacking, habits cannot take birth. A man who lived fifty years in an inn, forever thinking he was due to leave next day, would learn  only the habit of having none. The idea of the future is an element in habit, no less necessary than the past. A nation which perpetually devoted all its strength to seeking political improvements would neglect all the improvements, individual, moral, and philosophical, which are obtained only through peace, and would sacrifice the end to the means. But for the very reason that institutions are means, they must naturally adapt to the times.
By a common enough misunderstanding, when an institution or a law no longer produces the good it once did, it is thought that to restore its former utility it must be established in what is called its old purity. But when an institution is useful, it is so because it chimes with contemporary ideas and enlightenment. When it degenerates or falls into disuse, it is because it chimes no longer. Its usefulness then ceases. The more you reestablish it in its original purity, the more you render it disproportionate with the rest of things.
The vagueness of words always misleads us. It has often been said that governments must conserve, but what they should conserve has not been said. People have not grasped that it should conserve only guarantees of freedom, of the independence of individual faculties and, to that end, of individual physical safety. The result is that governments have believed, or pretended to, that they must use the authority entrusted to them to conserve a certain body of opinions and practices, sometimes as they found them established, sometimes as people said they had once been. The trend of government has habitually in this sense been in the opposite direction to the nature and ends of the human race. The human race being progressive, everything opposing that progress is dangerous, whether or not the opposition is successful.
When opposition is effective, there is stagnation in human faculties, degradation, prejudice, ignorance, error, and consequently crime and suffering.
If on the contrary the static principle is not decidedly the stronger, there is struggle, violence, convulsions, and disasters.
Upheavals are rightly feared; but people go to the opposite extreme with exaggerated ideas of stability, and these ideas, opposing the progress of things, occasion a  reaction which produces upheavals. The best way of avoiding them is to fall in with the imperceptible changes inevitable in moral as in physical nature.
The exaggerated idea of stability comes from the desire to govern men by prejudices, to inspire in them just on one’s say-so an admiration for ancient things. I much esteem ancient things. I have said so more than once in this book. I esteem them because all interests share in them. Whenever an institution has lasted a long time, unless it has always been maintained by violence, there has been transaction between this institution and the interests having to coexist with it. This transaction itself has, however, modified the institution. This modification is precisely what makes it useful and applicable. To oppose this modification on the grounds of keeping the institution more intact is to take from what is old its most useful character and most precious advantage. The thinking of some writers in this respect is incomprehensible. “When it is impossible for an ancient law to achieve its purpose,” says one of them,15 “this is a clear indication . . . that the moral order contradicts this law too blatantly and, in this case, it is not the law, but mores which must be changed.” Who would not have believed that this author was going to say that the law should be changed? How, moreover, does one change mores?
The French Revolution filled many wise men and all peaceful ones with a great respect for and love of stability. The leaders of that Revolution had begun by declaring that everything must be destroyed, changed, re-created. Their successors had thought themselves no less mandated to proceed with arbitrary destructions and reconstructions. This constantly renewed operation must have led an unhappy, weary nation to want above all any kind of lasting State at all. Hence the admiration for certain peoples seemingly with no purpose save the imposition on the future of eternal institutions and the blocking of all change. This admiration has not always been thoughtful. Historians have sometimes been appreciative of these peoples for their intentions without examining whether they succeeded.
Nothing is more laughable in this respect than an article on China,  by a writer I have already cited.16 Having recognized that there has scarcely been a century without that empire undergoing civil wars, invasions, dismemberments, and conquests, and having admitted that these terrible crises exterminated entire generations each time, “honor,” he exclaims, “to the wise legislators and profound moralists” . . . who have kept all dangerous novelty away from China. And what would novelty have produced more unfortunate? It is true that he adds that these legislators had principles in mind more than people. This is just as Robespierre said: “let the colonies perish, rather than a principle.”
Men are inclined to enthusiasm, or to get drunk on certain words. Provided they repeat these words, the reality matters little to them. Two years of horrible and bloody servitude did not stop the French from dating their acts from the fourth year of liberty. A revolution, a change of dynasty, and two hundred thousand men massacred every hundred years do not discourage the panegyrists of China from vaunting the stability of that empire. This stability does not exist for the governed, since they are periodically slaughtered in huge numbers each time a usurper founds a dynasty. It does not exist for the governing class, since the throne is rarely in the same family for several generations. It does exist for institutions, however, and that is what our political writers admire. It is as if institutional stability were the sole end in view, regardless of human happiness, and the human race here on earth only as a means to this.
On Premature Ameliorations
If government acts badly when it stops the natural progress  of the human race, and guided by false ideas of stability, opposes the imperceptible changes brought into institutions by the progress of ideas, it does no less harm when it encroaches on the proper dictates of the time and devotes itself to thoughtless projects of improvement or reform.
We will have to deal in detail with this subject when we talk about revolutions, which are usually, in their intentions or at least in the language of their authors, only vast reforms or general improvements. Here we have to consider only the endeavors of proper and stable governments, less hazardous endeavors than popular revolutions, but which have nevertheless more than once been pernicious enough.
When government says to public opinion as Séide does to Mahomet, “I acted in advance of your order,” public opinion replies, as did Mahomet to Séide, “It should have been waited for,”17 and when government refuses to wait, public opinion invariably takes its revenge.
The eighteenth century was fertile in examples of this kind.
Chance brings a man of genius to the government of Portugal. He finds that country plunged into ignorance and bent under the yoke of priesthood. He fails to work out that to break this  yoke and dispel this deep night he needs a base of support in the national outlook. By a mistake common to those in power, he seeks this base in authority. He thinks by striking a rock he will make a spring flow from it.18 But his imprudent haste turns against him the few independent minds fit to support him. They oppose a vexatious government whose unjust means render its purposes at least doubtful. The influence of the priests grows with the very persecution of which they are victims. The marquis de Pombal wishes in vain to turn against them the powerful weapons they hold. Censorship, aimed at condemning works favorable to the Jesuits, itself falls victim to condemnation. The nobles rise. The prisons fill. Frightful punishments bring consternation everywhere. The minister becomes an object of horror to all classes. After twenty years of tyrannical administration, he is robbed of his protector by the king’s death. He barely escapes the scaffold, and the nation blesses the moment when an apathetic and superstitious government replaces the government claiming to be reformist.19
In Austria, Joseph II succeeds Maria Theresa. He observes sadly that the education of his subjects is inferior to that of all neighboring peoples.
Impatient to eliminate an inequality which offends him, he calls to his aid all the means with which his power provides him. He does not neglect even those promised by freedom. He establishes it for the press. He encourages writers to uncover all abuses and thinks he is helping them marvelously by lending them the support of power. What results from this unnatural alliance? That obscure monks and ignorant nobles struggle successfully against the projects of the philosopher, because the philosopher was emperor. His authority is drained in the redoubling of effort. Resistance makes him cruel. His administration becomes odious through excessive severity and iniquitous spoliation. The regrets which go with sterile good intentions, the sadness of being misunderstood, perhaps also the grief of wounded vanity, drive Joseph to his grave. His last words are a confession of his impotence and misfortune;20 and since the end of his reign, every day  we see some of the abuses he thought he had destroyed breaking out and rising anew.
Of all monarchs who have arrogated to themselves the difficult function of speeding up their peoples’ progress toward civilization, those of Russia are certainly the most excusable. One cannot deny that from the time of Peter I,21 the monarchs of that vast empire have been much more enlightened than their subjects. With the exception of a few bizarre things inseparable from any plan spontaneously constructed in the minds of powerful men, the reforms planned and executed by the autocrats of Russia were incontestably real improvements. But the great adopted them only by calculation or imitation, without being able to convince themselves, on their own account, of their intrinsic merit, and regarding philosophy and education, just as luxury and the arts, as adornments necessary to a nation wishing to become European; the people submitted to these changes only by constraint, after numberless persecutions. None of these sound ideas, perceived by government, took root. None of the institutions it commanded became habitual. Morality suffered from the abolition of ancient usages which had always served as its base. Enlightenment made little progress, because such progress depends on a series of ideas powerless until the series is complete and which cannot be introduced by an absolutist government. Peter I’s efforts to advance reason remained fruitless because they were in principle vicious. Reason is no longer itself when it lacks freedom. In Russia there is a show of things French at the court and among the nobles, of things Prussian in the army and English in the navy, but the mass of the people in its opinions, customs, and outlook, even down to its clothes, is still an Asiatic nation.
It is only since the beginning of the reign of Alexander that Russia has some chance of enlightenment. This young prince seeks not at all to reform the people but to moderate the government. He does not direct thought; rather he restrains government.22 Now, thought is strengthened when redundant activity is removed from government. For a people to progress, it suffices that government does not shackle them. Progress is in human nature. The government which leaves it alone favors it enough.  May Alexander persevere in this at once prudent and generous way and protect himself against the mistrust which seeks to interrupt and the impatience which wants to push ahead.
If we attributed the poor results of so many reforms and innovations attempted in vain by government to the nature of the administrations which presided over these attempts, and if we claimed that, resting on improper bases and always fearful of disturbing them, they were incapable of doing lasting good, because they could want such good only half-heartedly, if we thought that less mistaken governments, ones which had not forced themselves to tread carefully when remedying abuses, would have progressed more crisply, destroyed without difficulty everything in need of destruction, established painlessly everything desirable, experience would soon come and overturn that chimerical supposition.
Doubtless the governments we have cited as examples were in a particularly difficult situation. Pulled by the spirit of the age, they aimed at honoring philosophy, but they did not dare frankly to renounce the support of prejudice. They accepted a few of the most evident rights of the human race, but from their high rank they believed they could represent this acceptance as a gracious one. They thought they owed it to themselves to keep in reserve the right to do all the harm they did not do, not that, to do them justice, they made use of it, but in disclaiming for ordinary purposes the practice of despotism, they retained the theory as part of their beloved decorative pomp. They felt strongly, nevertheless, that security alone could merit gratitude, and they strove, by way of conditional sentences and preambles full of restrictions, to produce security without giving constitutional guarantee. This inherently self-destructive double task contributed greatly, I like to believe, to their faults and reverses. But have we not seen in our country, during the first years of the Revolution, a government free of all oppositional intent finding itself first of all forsaken, then attacked by public opinion, solely for having pushed forward and precipitately carried out improvements which that very opinion had long seemed to be demanding? The government had taken a few stray and as yet uncertain inclinations and still partial reflections for a general will.
 But, someone will ask, how can you know precisely what the state of public opinion is? You cannot count votes. It is only after some particular measure has been taken that opposition appears. Then it is often too late to withdraw. To say that we should not run ahead of public opinion is therefore to say nothing.
I reply first of all that if you allow opinion the right of expression, you will know it readily. Do not provoke it, nor excite hopes by indicating the direction in which you want it to pronounce, for then, to please government, flattery will assume the shape of opinion. Put an irreligious monarch at the head of a devout people and the most flexible of his courtiers will be precisely the most unbelieving. As soon as a government declares for some philosophy, a phalanx forms around it, all the more clamorous in the favored opinion in having none at all itself; and government readily takes the supine surrounding agreement for universal feeling. If government stays neutral, however, letting people debate, opinions join combat and enlightenment is born of their clash. A national outlook forms, and the truth brings together such agreement that it is no longer possible to fail to recognize it.
Secondly, thinking tends to modify gradually laws and institutions which clash with it. Let it do this work. It has the double advantage of softening the execution of defective laws which persist and preparing their abrogation.
When you want to destroy an institution which seems improper to you, let people break free of it, but do not require them to. Allowing this, you call to your aid all educated forces. Requiring it, you arm many interests against you. I will use an example to make myself clear. There are two ways to do away with monasteries. One is to open their doors, the other  to drive away their inhabitants. The former does good, without doing bad. It breaks chains but does not violate sanctuary. The latter overturns all the expectations based on public faith. It insults old age, which it drags, listless and defenseless, into an unknown world. It undermines an incontestable right of individuals, namely to choose their way of life, to hold their property in common, and to come together to profess the same doctrine, to attend the same rituals, to enjoy the same prosperity, and to savor the same relaxation. And this injustice turns against reform the very outlook which only recently seemed to uphold it.
In short, any improvement, any amelioration contrary to the habits of a large section of the nation, must as far as possible be adjourned till the time is right. This spares the present generation and prepares the one which must follow. Youth, innovation’s collaborator, progresses. Old age has no interest in declaring hostilities, and the change anticipated in this way becomes almost a habit before it is affected.
Time, says Bacon, is the great reformer.23 Do not refuse its help. Let it go before you, so it can smooth the way. If it has not prepared what you set up, your orders will be in vain. Your institution, however good in theory, is only a mechanism and not part of your administration. It will not be more difficult to rescind your laws than you found it to rescind other ones; and all that will be left of your rescinded ones will be the harm they have done.
On a False Way of Reasoning
An error slides constantly into the arguments used to support the indefinite latitude allowed to govenment action.  From negative facts positive theories are derived. When, for example, people rave about the power of the law, about the influence of the guidance government gives to the intellectual faculties of man, they cite the corruption of Italy, fruit of superstition, the apathy and degradation of the Turks, a product of political and religious despotism, French frivolity, the result of a despotic government resting on vanity. From government’s ability to do great harm it is concluded that it can do much good. These two questions are very different.
If the English example is pleaded to us, far be it from us to lessen our praise for more than a century of public spirit and freedom. But again two things are being confused, the organization of government in the English constitution and the intervention of that government in individual relations. The latter is being seen as causing the effects of the former. England has political institutions which guarantee freedom. It has institutions of production which hinder it. It is because of the former and despite the latter that England flourishes.24 We are far from denying freedom’s benefits. We recognize them joyfully and desire them ardently; but freedom is precisely the opposite of what is being proposed to us.
[2. ]Edmund Burke, Réflexions sur la Révolution de France et sur les procédés de certaines sociétés à Londres relatifs à cet événement, Paris, Laurent; London, Edward, s.d., p. 12: “But when men act in a body, freedom is power.”
[7. ]Constant is citing a part of the discourse by Jacques-Fortunat Savoye de Rollin, given to the Legislative Body on 13 ventôse an IX (4 March 1801), in favor of the Projet de loi relatif à la formation des listes d’éligibilité. This discourse appeared in the Moniteur of 15 ventôse an IX, No. 165, p. 687.
[8. ]Pierre-Jean-Georges Cabanis, Quelques considérations sur l’organisation social en général et particulièrement sur la nouvelle constitution, Corps législatif, Commission du Conseil des Cinq-Cents, séance du 25 frimaire an VIII (16 December 1799), Paris, Impr. nat., frimaire an VIII (1799), pp. 25–26.
[10. ]Jacques Necker, Dernières vues de politique et de finance, offerte à la nation française, s.l., an X, 1802, p. 4: “It would be a mistake to reckon that by this political disposition one had had in view only to make more sure of the suitability of the chosen.”
[11. ]Constant is inspired directly by Montesquieu here: “It never happened,” says Xenophon, “that the lower class ever demanded elected officers who might compromise their safety or glory.” De l’esprit des lois, Livre II, Ch. 2, éd. cit., p. 533. It is amusing to observe that Gaëtano Filangieri uses the same quotation, and without giving his source, in La science de la législation, Paris, Cuchet, 1786, t. I, pp. 191–192. Constant, who also knew this work, could just as easily have found this example from Xenophon in Filangieri. This shows once again how far Montesquieu was read and used. Thanks to a reference supplied by Montesquieu, one can go back to Xenophon, La république des Athéniens I, 3. Compare Xenophon, Anabase, Banquet, Economique, De la chasse, République des Lacédémoniens, République des Athéniens, new translation with observations and notes by Pierre Chambry, Paris, Garnier, 1954, p. 510.
[12. ]The Titus Livy example seems to come from Montesquieu too, De l’esprit des lois, Livre II, Ch. 2 (éd. cit., p. 533).
[13. ]That of 5 fructidor an III (22 August 1795).
[16. ]Antoine Ferrand, op. cit., t. I, p. 456 (1803 edition): “There have been scarcely any centuries for four thousand years when that vast and beautiful empire has not been exposed to civil wars, invasions, conquests, and dismemberments. But it is just this which makes its moral stability most astonishing.” And on p. 457: “Honor must therefore be rendered to the wise legislators and profound moralists, who, in so to speak amalgamating China with its most ancient laws and morals, made them inseparable, and made of this amalgam the most powerful preservative against all dangerous novelty.”
[17. ]A quotation from Fanatisme, ou Mahomet le prophète, by Voltaire. Hofmann points out that Constant took the part of Zopire in this play at the beginning of 1806. Séide’s exact words are: “I have anticipated your order.”
[18. ]Like Moses on Mount Horeb, Exodus 17, 1–7.
[19. ]Constant summarizes here what Sebastien-Joseph de Carvalho e Melo (marquis de Pombal) says in his Mémoires, s.l, 1784, t. I, pp. 118–124.
[21. ][Known in modern writings in English as Peter the Great. Translator’s note]
[22. ]See the letter from F. C. de La Harpe to Alexander I, in Jean-Charles Biaudet and Françoise Nicod, Correspondance de Frédéric-César de La Harpe et Alexandre Ier, t. I, 1785–1802, Neuchâtel, La Baconnière, 1978, pp. 316–330.
[23. ]Francis Bacon, De augmentis scientiarum, Book VI, Exempla antithetorum XL,The works of Francis Bacon, collected and edited by James Spedding, Robert Leslie Ellis, and Douglas Denon Heath, London, 1858, vol. 1, p. 704.
[B. [Refers to page 322.]]Book XXIX, Ch. 18.
[ D. [Refers to page 326.]]Recherches sur les Grecs, I, 81.
[F. [Refers to page 329.]]Montesquieu, Esprit des lois, II, 2.
[G. [Refers to page 335.]]The members of the legislature of New Jersey make an oath not to vote against laws which assure periodic elections, trial by jury, freedom of conscience, and that of the press. Those of South Carolina take the same oath and moreover one promising not to enact any retroactive law nor to establish any noble titles.
[H. [Refers to page 339.]]Ferrand, Esprit de l’histoire, II, 153.
[I. [Refers to page 342.]]Joseph II demanded that after his death it should be inscribed on his tomb that he had been unlucky in all his enterprises.
Honoré-Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau, De la monarchie prussienne sous Frédéric le Grand, London, 1788, t. I, pp. viii–ix.
Here is the exact text of Cornelius de Pauw at the point indicated by Constant: “The condition in which Greece was placed made the abolition of slavery there impossible; for it would have been necessary for all the republics in that part of the world to be in exact agreement. . . . And as long as they did not free the helots who were the basis of their power, the other states could not give liberty to the slaves who were equally the basis of theirs.”
In Ch. 6 of Book XI, éd cit., p. 587.
Adam Smith, op. cit., Livre IV, Ch. 5, t. III, pp. 244–245: “This assurance which the laws of Great Britain give to each individual, to be able to count on the enjoyment of the fruits of his own labor, is on its own enough to make a country prosper, in spite of all these regulations and twenty other laws of commerce no less absurd. . . . The natural effort of each individual to improve his condition, when that effort is given the right to develop with freedom and confidence, is  a principle so powerful that, on its own and without help, not only is it capable of bringing society to prosperity and affluence, but it can even surmount a thousand absurd obstacles with which the folly of human laws comes to impede its march, although the effect of these obstacles is always more or less to undermine its freedom or attenuate its confidence.”