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The nation is in structure a fusion and expansion of a series of units, which were originally little sovereignties, and which in their new relations as departments, or counties, or municipalities, retain portions of their old sovereign powers. Thus the nation consists, as it were, of a series of political circles through which its power is distributed. Local institutions find their beginnings in these units. National institutions are the instrumentalities which come into existence because of the aggregatian of the units.
Thus far the nation has been considered as the synonym of the sovereign state, and as a homogeneous organic being ; as one body with one will, and a common force. In such a state, theoretically, the central national will would be expressed by the authorized person or body of persons directly on all the relations existing between the individuals of the state with reference to which the national will had power to express itself. There would be one central administration which would act directly upon everybody, as we might suppose would be the case in a pure despotism where there are no laws except the will of the despot for the time being.
In fact, however, very few sovereign states have ever existed which were not, historically considered, an accretion of what may be called political units. Every nation is socially a growth, and politically, in part, a welding together of units of various sizes, and in part an expansion
of these original units. It must, however, always be borne in mind that the unit is not the man, but a group of men. Speaking of the politics of the Greeks in the earliest stages of authentic Hellenic history, Grote says that, “in respect to political sovereignty complete disunion was among their most cherished principles. The only source of supreme authority to which a Greek felt respect and attachment was to be sought within the walls of his own city,” “Political disunion—sovereign authority within the city walls—thus formed a settled maxim in the Greek mind. The relation between one city and another was an international relation, not a relation subsisting between members of a common political aggregate.”* Moreover, " the Roman territory was divided in the earliest times into a number of clan districts. * * * Every Italian, and doubtless, also, every Hellenic canton, must, like that of Rome, have been divided into a number of groups associated at once by locality, and by clanship. Such a clan settlement is the “house' of the Greeks. The corresponding Italian terms ‘house' or "building 'indicate, in like manner, the joint settlements of the members of a clan, and these come by easily understood transition to signify, in common use, hamlet or village.” “These customs accordingly having their rendezvous in some stronghold, and including a certain number of clanships, form the primitive political unities with which Italian history begins.” | And, according to Sir Henry Maine, “the true view of India, is that, as a whole, it is divided into a vast number of independent, self-acting, organized social groups-trading, manufacturing, cultivating.” In England, says Stubbs, “ the
* “ History of Greece,” ii., 257.
unit of the constitutional machinery, the simplest form of social organization, is the township, the villata or vicus."*
The political unit of every nation was, originally, a little nation usually possessing all political powers, legis
fused mixture; and in expanding into the great state, or becoming fused with other similar units, there has not ordinarily been a surrender of all power by the smaller unit. Actually, much of the old local authority has been retained in these smaller units which afterwards become the subordinate departments, counties, communes, or municipalities of the larger state. The sovereign ruling over this congeries of units which has become the nation has power to interpose his superior will to change the oldtime constitution of the original political unit, but more frequently he does not; he retains its form, and perhaps enlarges and more clearly defines its powers. Sometimes this unit is in the nature of a root from which a system
ernments grow; a series of expanding branches. Through such processes the institutions of a country grow up. What are these? They are the instrumentalities through which the general will expresses itself, and the general force acts.
It is always to be remembered that, “what the sovereign permits, he commands,” because the act of permission implies its antithesis, the power to prohibit. Hence, if a township has now certain political powers, and the county certain others, and the city still different ones, and these are exclusive within their several spheres, it by no means follows that these are subtractions from the central national will, and reduce it pro tanto. The central will permits them, therefore it wills them. These town
*“ Constitutional History of England,” i., 82.
ships and political subdivisions are not sovereign powers; they are strictly subordinate, because there is a power at some other point of the political fabric which can change and modify them. The difficulty of clearly perceiving the unity of the sovereign nation is largely because we see that all political action takes place in groups or circles, generally of no great magnitude. The nation at large, the national will and force, are more or less vague abstractions. The political movement which we see about us, is in wards of cities, or in election precincts, or townships, or counties, or, in the United States, in the state. Every subdivision has a certain jurisdiction.
The will and power of the nation distribute themselves through these, by means of political institutions. The growth of these is to be studied in the history of the expansion or the aggregation of the original units to the nation.
The political institutions of a country constitute the framework of the nation. They are the bones, heart and lungs of the commonwealth, but they are not the lifeblood which momently courses through the arteries and veins. Institutions always tend to become permanent in form, though, among progressive people, the spirit which animates them may change every half century. They may be divided into two classes, local and national. In the states which are the product of long growth, as those of Europe, the various circles or districts of administration, as a rule, represent the different points where sovereignty has resided before a further growth or fusion. The towns, counties, or departments, as the case may be, retain the substance of the original administrative powers, though, of course, modified, or more or less supervised by the superior power from time to time. When several of these smaller sovereignties are united, then the necessity for national institutions arises. The peculiarity of Asiatic political growth is that of arrested development. In the Orient, small communities have petrified, and are held together by a central despotism, without, however, arteries throughout the whole system for the free circulation of power. In Western Europe, the local institutions have been more flexible, and have expanded by degrees into those of the nation. We thus see that even in the perfectly developed nation the national will is single only in the sēnse that there is, and must be, the ability in some person or persons within the organism to form and express it in the last resort, and to use the national force to effectuate its mandates. It is through all the institutions of the state, both national and local, that this sovereign will expresses itself, and is thus apparently shared by many departments, but it will be found in every state that every district or department of administration traces its title through a superior power, and that they really all exist because of the permission of this higher power—the sovereign.