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it, vested in one branch or one body of men, shall bear an undue relation to the others. Each must be suffici. ent to support itself, yet all must be made to harmonize and co-operate.
A constitution may combine two of the foregoing principles, like those of ancient Rome, some of the Grecian Republics, and in modern times Geneva and some of the small communities of Italy: or, like the present government of England, it may combine the three principles.
The high authority which has been often quoted (1) in favour of the last mentioned form, may be allowed its full weight without impugning the obvious position, that the whole power which is conceded to an hereditary monarch, may be vested by a democratic republic in an elective magistrate, and all the benefits derived from it enjoyed without the dangers attending it.
If an hereditary monarch abuses his power, the relief of the people is by insurrection, and thus between the ambition of princes on the one side, and the sense of injury on the other, the peace of the country is constantly endangered: if the monarch is elected for life, a young aspiring prince may continue the grievances of the state for a long time, and unless there is an express power of deposing him, the choice of another in his place would involve the whole body in tumult and disorder.
The power of choosing another supreme magistrate at the end of a reasonable time, obviates these objections. The substantial difference between a mixed monarchy and a republic formed on a proper distribution of powers, is therefore confined to the term of service of the supreme magistrate.
(1) Cicero de Republica.
The powers of every government are only of three kinds, the legislative, executive, and judicial. This natural division, founded upon moral order, must be preserved by a careful separation or distinction of the powers vested in different branches. If the three powers are injudiciously blended, if for instance the legislative and executive, or the executive and judicial powers are united in the same body, great dangers may ensue, and the effect may be the same, whether such powers are devolved on a single magistrate or on several. In the wise distribution of these powers, in the application of suitable aids and checks to each, we may attain the optimè constituta respublica, which is the object of general desire and admiration.
It has been reserved for modern times and for this side of the Atlantic, fully to appreciate and soundly to apply the principle of representation in government. The advantages, which occasionally arise to an individual, of being able to commit his cares and concerns to another, who in the exercise of such authority is considered as the principal himself, are elevated and ennobled by being transferred to the concerns of an entire community. Without the representative principle one of two consequences must follow, either the whole body must be assembled and act together, or a few, who may have possessed themselves of sufficient force, will undertake to dictate and give laws to the whole. But a wise people sees and dreads its own danger in large assemblies. Experience tells them that they cannot trust themselves when thus assembled; that sudden bursts of feeling are likely to predominate over their own judgment; that facts and causes are often misrepresented or misunderstood, and the deliberate judgment which ought to be solely exercised is overpowered by unaccountable excitement and preci
pitate impulse. It was forcibly said in reference to the popular assemblies of Athens, that if every Athenian were a Socrates, still every Athenian assembly would be a mob.
A people sagacious enough to discover this imperfection in itself, remedies the danger by selecting a suitable number to act for it upon full consideration and with due caution, and while it authorizes them to express what are to be considered its own sentiments, it gives to that expression the same effect as if it proceeded immediately from itself. The virtue of this salutary principle is impaired if it is divided. If it extends only to a part of the government, if there are other component parts which have an equal or superior power independent of the representative principle, the benefit is partial.
In England, of three co-ordinate parts, one only is supposed by the constitution to represent the authority of the people, and at what time this representation was introduced among them is not clearly settled by their own jurists and antiquarians. That it existed before the Norman Conquest in some form, now not exactly ascertained, is indeed agreed, but on the subversion of the Saxon institutions, effected by William, the practice was, at least, suspended till the reign of Henry 3d. The provincial constitations of America were, with two exceptions, modelled with some conformity to the English theory, but the colonists of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations were empowered to choose all their officers, legislative, executive, and judicial, and about the same time a similar charter was granted to Connecticut. And thus complains Chalmers, a writer devoted to regal principles, “A mere democracy or “rule of the people was established. Every power 66 deliberative and active was invested in the freemen
“ or their delegates, and the supreme executive magis“ trate of the empire, by an inattention which does lit“ tle honour to the statesmen of those days, was wholly 6 excluded.” He expresses his own doubts whether the king had a right to grant such charters. (2)
But, although in all the other provinces, the charters were originally granted or subsequently modified so as to exclude the principle of representation from the executive department, these two provinces at the time of our revolution retained it undiminished. The suggestion of the full unqualified extension of the principle of representation may therefore be justly attributed to the example of Rhode Island and Connecticut, which, when converted into States, found it unnecessary to alter the nature of their governments, and continued the same forms in all respects except the nominal recognition of the king's authority till 1818, when Connecticut made some minor changes and adopted a formal Constitution. Rhode Island, however, is still satisfied with the charter of Charles II. from which it has been found sufficient to expunge the reservation of allegiance, the required conformity of its legislative acts to those of Great Britain, and the royal right to a certain portion of gold and silver ores, which happily for that state, have never been found within it.
As representation is sometimes partial in respect to the proportion of the powers of government to be exercised, so it is sometimes confined to a portion only of those governed. In this respect it is perhaps still more objectionable. The power of electing the great officers of the state belonged in Venice to a few families; the people at large had no voice, and it was therefore indifferent to the Venetians whether they be
(2) Political Annals of the British Colonies.
came the subjects of France, or were ceded by her to Austria, or whether they continued to be governed by those in whose appointments they had not the least share. With us representation is in its nature universal, but in practice there are some exceptions which will be noticed in a subsequent place. They are few, and do not impair the principle.
It is not necessary that a constitution should be in writing; but the superior advantages of one reduced to writing over those which rest on traditionary information, or which are to be collected from the acts and proceedings of the government itself, are great and manifest. A dependence on the latter is indeed destructive of one main object of a constitution, which is to check and restrain the governors. If the people can only refer to the acts and proceedings of the government to ascertain their own rights, it is obvious, that as every such act may introduce a new principle, there can be no stability in the government. The order of things is inverted, what ought to be the inferior is placed above that which should be the superior, and the legislature is enabled to alter the constitution at its pleasure.
This is admitted by English jurists to be the case in respect to their own constitution, which in all its vital parts may be changed by an act of parliament; that is, the king, lords, and commons may, if they think proper, abrogate and repeal any existing laws, and pass any new laws in direct opposition to that which the people contemplate and revere as their ancient constitution. No such laws can be resisted or disobeyed by the subject, nor declared void by their courts of justice as unconstitytional. A written constitution which may be enforced by the judges and appealed to by the