Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter one: Difficulties with Regard to the Question of Resistance - Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments
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chapter one: Difficulties with Regard to the Question of Resistance - 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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Difficulties with Regard to the Question of Resistance
Political authority not being limitless, it is clear that the duties of individuals toward it are not unlimited. These duties diminish in proportion to the government’s encroachments on aspects of individual life outside its jurisdiction. When these encroachments are taken to the limit, it is impossible for resistance not to result.
Government is like taxation. Each person agrees to sacrifice a portion of his wealth in order to finance public expenditure, whose purpose is to assure him the peaceful enjoyment of what he retains; but if the state demanded from each person all his wealth, the guarantee it offered him would be illusory, since there would no longer be anything to which it could apply. Likewise each person agrees to sacrifice a part of his freedom in order to assure the remainder; but if the government invaded all his freedom, the sacrifice would be purposeless.
We know all the dangers of the only too well-known question of resistance. We know to what abuses and crimes it opens the way. No one today can utter the word revolution without an unease bordering on remorse. Nevertheless, whatever line one takes on this question of resistance, it will always present a lot of difficulties.
In countries where authority is divided, if the holders of that authority are in dispute, one has to choose between them, and resistance against one lot or the other is forced on us. The English constitution requires both chambers and the king to cooperate in the establishment of taxes and the making of laws. If the king wished  to raise taxes in opposition to one of the two chambers, to obey the king would be to resist the lawful authority of Parliament. If one or both chambers wanted to pass a law independently of the royal sanction, to obey them would be to resist the lawful authority of the crown.
Even in those countries where power is concentrated in a single person, however, the question of resistance is less simple than it appears. It certainly rests with each citizen not to resist the government. It does not rest with him, however, to prevent others from resisting and overthrowing it. Now, if this government is overthrown, should one immediately rally around the new government? This principle would sanction every violent outrage. It would become a fertile source of the very ills one is seemingly striving to avoid, since it would give audacity the continual attraction of recompense, by legitimating initial success. Movements which overthrow usurping governments are acts of resistance, just as much as those which overthrow established ones. The overthrow of the Committee of Public Safety was quite simply an act of resistance. Should we have stayed submissive forever to the Committee of Public Safety? If we say all power comes from God, then Cartouche was one such power and Robespierre another. But the problem would still not be resolved. Former government can, after its fall, still have resources, supporters, and hopes. At what time, by what indication, according to what calculation, moral or numerical, does the duty of individuals, founded on divine right or on such other basis as one may choose to give it, get transferred from their former to their new masters? Finally, could one seriously make out the case that resistance is always illegitimate? Can one condemn it under Nero, Vitellius, or Caracalla? One may think one is getting out of the difficulty by way of abstract, general maxims, which seem to oust personal judgment. But the complexities and nuances of circumstance render these maxims useless and sterile in application.