« ZurückWeiter »
as a fearful encouragement to those who, politically speaking, are the most worthless. But freedom of thought and action produces contention in all spheres, and where great tasks are to be performed, and where important interests are at stake, those who agree on the most important principles will unite, and must do so in order to be sufficiently strong to do their work. Without party administration, and party action, it is impossible that the majority should rule, or that a vigorous opposition can rise to a majority and rule in turn. Liberty requires a parliamentary government, and no truly parliamentary government can be conceived of without the principle of party administration. It became fully developed under George the First, or we should rather say under Sir Robert Walpole. Under the previous governments mixed cabinets of Whigs and Tories were common, when court intrigues and individual royal likings and dislikes had necessarily often a greater effect than national views and interests, to which it is the object of party administration to give the sway. We have to deal with parties in this place only as connected with civil liberty.
For their dangers, their affinity to faction, as well as their existence in the arts, sciences, religion, and even in trades—in fact, wherever free action is allowed; for the public inconvenience and indeed danger in having more than two parties; the necessity that political parties should be founded upon broad comprehensive and political principles, and for other important matters connected with the subject of parties, I must refer to other
7 These subjects have been considered at length in the Political Ethics. The reader will peruse with advantage the chapter on Party in Lord John Russell's Essay on the History of the English Government and Constitution, 2d edit. London, 1823.
23. A principle and guarantee of liberty, so acknowledged and common with the Anglican people that few think of its magnitude, yet of really organic and fundamental importance, is the division of government into three distinct functions, or rather the keeping of these functions clearly apart.
It is, as has been mentioned, one of the greatest political blessings of England, that from a very early period her courts of justice were not occupied with "administrative business, for instance, the collection of taxes, and that her parliament became the exclusive legislature, while the parliaments of France united a judicial, legislative, and administrative character. The union of these functions is absolutism, despotism on the one hand, and slavery on the other, no matter in whom they are united, whether in one despot or in many, or in the multitude, as in Athens after the time of Cleon the tanner. The English political philosophers have pointed out the necessity of keeping the three powers separate in a “constitutional ” government, long ago. Those, however, who have no other definition of liberty than that it is equality, discard this division, except indeed so far as the mere convenience of transacting business would require.
We have seen already that a distinguished French publicist, M. Girardin, declares himself for an undivided public power Unité de pouvoir is the watchword of the French republicans, and it is the very principle with
8 For instance, Locke. Montesquieu, at a later period, is generally cousidered the political philosopher who first distinctly conceived the necessity of the division of power. The English practised it earliest, and established it most clearly; and the French have again given it up, for at time at least, ever since the revolution of 1848, nor has it ever been properly carried out by them, their principle of centralization preventing it. See Pol. Ethics, book ii. c. xxiii.
i He has repeatedly given his views, but especially in an elaborate and brilliantly written, but, according to our opinion, superficial paper on the question, why the republic (of 1818) came to a fall.
which Louis Napoleon checkmated them. It belongs to what may well be called Rousseauism. Rousseau is distinctly against division of power. His Social Con. tract became the political bible of the convention-men, and it has ever since kept a firm hold on the mind of a very large part of the French people, probably of the largest portion. Indeed, we may say that the two great types of government now existing among the civilized and striving portion of mankind, are representative (or, as the French choose to call it, parliamentary) government, which is essentially of a cooperative character-it is the government of Anglican liberty; and unity of power, the Gallican type. The French people themselves are divided according to these two types. M. Guizot may perhaps be considered as the French representative of the first type. A pamphlet, on the other hand, on government, and generally ascribed to Louis Napoleon, published not long before the explosion of the republic, for which it was evidently intended to prepare the public mind, advocates the unity of power in the last extreme, and as a truly French principle.
We believe that the so-called unity of power is unvarnished absolutism. It is indifferent who wields it. We insist upon the supremacy, not the absolutism, of the legislature. We require the harmonious union of the cooperative whole, but abhor the unity of power.
What the French republicans demand in the name of the democracy, kings insist upon in the name of divine right. Both loudly protest against the “ division of sovereignty,” which can only mean a clear division of power ; for what in a philosophical sense can truly le called sovereignty, can never be divided, and its division need not, therefore, be guarded against. Sovereignty is the self-sufficient source of all power, from
which all specific powers are derived. It can dwell, therefore, according to the views of freemen, with society, the nation only; but sovereignty is not absolutism. It is remarkable how all absolutists, monarchical or democratic, agree on the unity of power. 10
Power, according to its inherent nature, goes on increasing, until checked. The reason is not that power is necessarily of an evil tendency, but because without it, it would not be power." Montesquieu says: “It is a lasting experience, that every man who has power is brought to the abuse of it. He goes on until he finds its limits.” 12 And it is so with “ every man,” because it lies in the very nature of power itself. The reader is invited to re-peruse the Federalist on this weighty subject.13
The unity of power doubtless dazzles, and thus is the more dangerous. The French ought to listen to their own great countryman. He says: “A despotic government (and all unity of power is despotic) strikes the eye (saute pour ainsi dire aux yeux); it is uniform throughout : as it requires nothing but passions to establish it, all sorts of people are sufficiently good for it.” 14
10 Innumerable official instances might be cited. The king of Prussia, when, in 1847, le delivered his first throne speech to the united committees of the provincial estates, which were to serve as a substitute for the expected estates general, “ appealed in advance to his people," against everything we are accustomed to call constitutional. “My people does not want a participation of representatives in ruling ...... nor the division of sovereignty, nor the breaking up of the plenitude of royal power,” &c. General Bonaparte wrote to the Directory, May, 1796: “One bad general is even better than two good ones. War is like government, it is a matter of tact "-words which M. Girardin quotes with approval, and as an authority for his theory of the best government, consisting in a succession of perfectly absolute single rulers to be appointed, and at pleasure recalled by universal suffrage.
11 This I have endeavoured plainly to show in the Political Ethics. 12 Esprit des Loix, xi. 5.
13 Mr. Madison's paper on The Meaning of the Maxim, which requires a Separation of the departments of Power, examined and ascertained. Federalist, No. XLVII. et seq. 1 Esprit des Loix, book 5, c. 14.
Our own Webster, in his speech on the presidential protest, delivered the following admirable passage on the subject of which we treat, and on liberty in general-a passage which I give entire, in spite of its length, because I cannot find the courage to mutilate it. I have tried to select some sentences, but it seemed to me like attempting to break off some limbs of a master work of sculpture which has happily come down to us entire.15
Mr. Webster said: “The first object of a free people is the preservation of their liberty, and liberty is only to be preserved by maintaining constitutional restraints and just divisions of political power. Nothing is more deceptive or more dangerous than the pretence of a desire to simplify government. The simplest governments are despotisms; the next simplest, limited monarchies; but all republics, all governments of law, must impose numerous limitations and qualifications of authority, and give many positive and many qualified rights. In other words, they must be subject to rule and regulation. This is the very essence of free political institutions.
“ The spirit of liberty is, indeed, a bold and fearless spirit ; but it is also a sharp-sighted spirit; it is a cautious, sagacious, discriminating, far-seeing intelligence;
15 The speech was delivered in the senate of the United States on the 7th of May, 1834. If I might place myself by the side of these men, I would refer the reader to the Political Ethics, where I stated that despotism is simple and coarse. It is like a block of granite, and may last in its unchanging coarseness a long time; but liberty is organic, with all the delicate vitality of organic bodies, with development, growth, and expansion. Despotism may have accretion; but liberty widens by its own vital power, and gains in intensity as it expands. The long duration of some despotisms decides nothing. Longevity of states is, indeed, a requisite of modern civilization, but if we must choose, who would not prefer a few hundred years of Roman liberty, to the thousands of Chinese dreary mandarinism and despotism? Besides, we must not forget that a shoe once trodden down to a slipper, will always serve longer in the slip-shod capacity of a slipper than it did as a decent shoe.