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POLITICAL CONSTITUTIONS by Johannes Von Muller (1832)

As part of the Non-Revisionist Politically History of the World series. Contained here, is such a collection of eloquent words and common sense, I had to post it, by itself, alone.

All parts of the universe hold a mutual relation to each other; and in the whole empire of finite nature, nothing exists for itself alone. The universe stands in such a relation to its first cause, that it could not subsist a moment by itself. It belongs to us to study the mutual relations of beings, which are not our works, but the productions of Nature; and the result of this study constitutes our law. The knowledge of this informs us, how we may be able to turn everything which exists to our advantage. In nothing indeed is man more distinguished from the brutes, than in the faculty of acquiring this knowledge; he possesses no other claim to the dominion of the world, but by his superior intellect alone he holds it in subjection. Moreover, as man alone is endowed with the power of elevating himself to communion with the Author of all things, he stands, with respect to all subordinate beings, in the situation of those, (if we may venture to use the expression) who in monarchical governments have the exclusive privilege of entering into the presence of the sovereign.

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The Law of Nature is the result of our relations to the visible world, and especially to all beings endowed with feeling. The generality of men have comprehended indeed under this term, (fancying that they are under no obligations of duty, except towards their equals,) only that which, after abstracting all personal and local connections, every man owes to his fellow-creatures; but this part of the natural law does not embrace its whole extent, although it is obviously the most interesting to us.

Since all men possess not the faculties and industry needful for sifting to the bottom these first principles, and since it cannot be expected, from the violence of human passions, that among the various points of view in which each affair may be contemplated, men will always adopt the most generally beneficial result, as the rule of their conduct, positive regulations were required, in order to support the natural law with a sufficient power, and from time to time with effective measures, against the encroachments of ignorance and self-interest. An endless variety of circumstances soon diversified these regulations, and greatly multiplied them, by giving rise to an infinite diversity of relations. Moreover violent changes took place, which quickly gave to human society a new form, different from its primitive and simple state, and from the spirit and design of its first institutions: this was a source of more complex relations, which required new prescripts.

The increasing number of these obtained, according to the objects with which they were conversant, the designation of civil, political, public, and ecclesiastical law. The minutest affairs were regulated by positive laws, since human passions extend to all, and require in every conjuncture a prescript and distinct limitation. Yet the innumerable multitudes of ordinances are capable of being reduced to a few general principles; it is only necessary to point out the particular applications, in order to confute the sophistry of those who will not embrace the universal scheme.

In some instances the laws have either been proposed, or at least ratified, in popular assemblies; in others, the nation has submitted silently to the commands which one or more individuals, who by virtue or power have raised themselves to be rulers or lords, have issued under the character of representatives, or protectors of the people. One man or a body of men have also administered the executive power. The variations thus produced, constitute great diversities in the forms of government.

Monarchy is that government in which a single person rules, but is subject to limitations by the laws, over which a middle power presides, and watches for their conservation. The authority of the latter may flow from the splendor of a long succession of dignified ancestors, or from their destination to the defense of their country, or from their qualifications as possessors of land; they are termed accordingly the nobles, the patrician order, or the parliament, in other instances, superior knowledge in divine and human affairs imparts the privilege, as among the ancient Gauls to the Druids, and for a long period to the tribe of Levi among the Hebrews. Despotism, which knows no law, but the arbitrary will of one man, is a corruption or disorganization of monarchy.

Aristocracy, is the government of ancient families, and of those who are chosen by them into the senate. This assembly either consists, as at Venice, of the whole body to whom their birth-right gives a share in the government, or it is a select number chosen out of them, as at Berne. One branch of this form of administration is Timocracy or that constitution, in which the laws define a certain property, the possessors of which, alone, are capable of holding offices. This system, and aristocracy in general, degenerate into Oligarchy, that is, into a form of government in which the chief power, by the laws, or by descent, or accident, is confined to a very small number of men. Democracy denotes, according to the old signification of the word, that system of government, in which all the citizens, assembled, partake in the supreme power. When all the landholders, though not citizens, join with the latter in the exercise of their high privileges, Ochlocracy prevails. This name is also given to that condition of the democratic form, in which, in consequence of bad laws or of violent commotions, the power which properly belonged to the people, has been transferred to the populace.

The best form of government is that which, avoiding the above-mentioned excesses, combines the decisive vigor of monarchy with the mature wisdom of a senate, and with the animating impression of democracy. But it is rarely that circumstances allow, rarely that the sagacity of a lawgiver has conferred on his nation this good fortune; and when it has happened to be obtained, violence and intrigue have seldom conceded to it a long duration in a state of purity. Sparta, Rome, and some later republics, but particularly England, have sought more or less to attain this ideal standard of perfection, but governments of the simple form have always been more numerous and more permanent.*

At the same time, it very seldom happens, that we find a form of government wholly unmixed. Religion and prevailing opinions impose salutary restraints upon despotism: in monarchies, it is not easy for the ruler, without one of these resources, to govern the nobles according to his wishes. An aristocracy is generally indulgent to the people: it sometimes allows them a participation in the most important conclusions, as at Lucerne; or in the election to certain high offices of state, as at Freyburg: in like manner democratic governments are, for the most part, held in check by the influence of a perpetual council, which prepares affairs for the deliberation of the popular assembly.

By far the most common form of government is the oligarchical. How can the sovereign exercise his power, let him be as anxious as he may to govern for himself, without confiding on many occasions in the information and proposals of his ministers? A few party-leaders govern  the senate and the popular assembly. The ablest, the most eloquent, or the richest, will everywhere take the lead.

The essential difference between the forms of government consists in the various pursuits to which a man must direct his endeavors in order to become powerful in each. Another, important consideration relates to the greater or more limited sphere in which the ruler can exert his arbitrary will.

With respect to the former circumstance, there are scarcely any governments in which the ambition of men is directed altogether as it ought to be; under a wise prince, those obtain power who deserve it; under a sovereign of an opposite character, those are successful who possess the greatest skill in the arts of a court. Family influence decides for the most part in aristocracies. With the multitude, eloquence and corruption often obtain the victory over real merit.

The natural desire of self-preservation does not prevent the abuse of power; human passions, full of resources, provide for all contingencies: kings have surrounded themselves with standing armies, against whose accurate tactics, when no conjuncture of circumstances rouses whole nations to the contest, nothing can prevail. The party-leaders know how to put their private wishes into the mouths of the people, and thus to avoid all responsibility; moreover the depraved crowd who receive bribes, and do anything for the permission of licentiousness, would sufficiently protect them. An aristocracy is extremely vigilant over the first and scarcely discernible movements: it leaves everything else to its fate, and is willing to impede even the prosperity of a multitude which is formidable to it.

With all this, it appears wonderful, that the forms of human society could be maintained in the midst of such various corruptions. But the greater number of men are neither firmly bent on good nor on evil. There are few who pursue only one of the two, and that one with all their might; and these moreover must be favored by circumstances in order to carry their endeavors into effect. Certain attempts are only practicable in particular times, and this forms the distinguishing character of ages, the regulation of which depends on a higher power.

It is fortunate that even imperfect modes of government have always a certain tendency to order; their founders have surrounded them with a multitude of forms, which always serve as a barrier against great calamities, and which impart to the course of affairs a certain regularity for which the multitude acquire a sort of veneration. The more forms there are, the fewer commotions happen. So great is their authority, that the conquerors of Rome and of China have been obliged to adopt the laws of the conquered countries.

Herein consist also the advantages of the oriental and other ancient lawgivers: they considered as much the nature of men, as the circumstances of their particular subjects; our laws, for the most past, only concern themselves with public affairs. That simplicity of manners, temperance, industry, constancy, those military virtues, which among us each individual must enjoin to himself, became among the ancients matter of prescriptive obligation.

In fact, it is only through the influence of manners that society can be maintained: the laws may form them, but men must give assistance to the laws by their own endeavors. Everything will go well when men shall declaim less on their share m the supreme power, and each individual shall seek to acquire so much the more authority over himself. Let everyone aim at attaining a correct estimate of things; for by this means his desires will be very much moderated. Let alterations in the forms of government be left to the operation of time, which gives to every people the constitution of which it is susceptible at each particular period, and a different one when it becomes mature for the change.

I propose in the following discourses to describe the origin, growth, and alteration of many forms of government, and the fate of nations. Nothing will contribute more to afford that true estimate, which is so highly necessary, of the present condition of the European states, than a correct view of their establishment and original spirit. We shall come at length to a multitude of treaties, which, during the last century and a half, have been concluded by the most, sagacious statesmen, and again annihilated by the greatest generals: we shall moreover witness the consequences which have arisen to the prince and people, and the dangerous situation into which all states are thus brought. Examples for imitation and warning, great weaknesses and urgent necessities, conjunctures which call for temperance, and such as require a diligent investigation, will often occur to us, and will suffer us, for the future, to be led into fewer illusions by a specious exterior and finely sounding words.

*This history being brought down only to the close of the American war, the author appears not to have made the constitution and political institutions of the United States the subject of his particular attention. A great part of the work was written before the date above mentioned. This may account for our system of government not being here particularly alluded to. E,