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The American Republic by by O. A. Brownson

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agreed that the nation is sovereign; the dispute was as to the
existence of the nation itself, and the extent of its
jurisdiction. Doubtless, when a nation has a generally
recognized existence as an historical fact, most of the
difficulties in determining who are the sovereign people can be
got over; but the question here concerns the institution of
government, and determining who constitute society and have the
right to meet in person, or by their delegates in convention,
to institute it. This question, so important, and at times so
difficult, the theory of the origin of government in the people
collectively, or the nation, does not solve, or furnish any means
of solving.

But suppose this difficulty surmounted there is still another,
and a very grave one, to overcome. The theory assumes that the
people collectively, "in their own native right and might," are
sovereign. According to it the people are ultimate, and free to
do whatever they please. This sacrifices individual freedom.
The origin of government in a compact entered into by
individuals, each with all and all with each, sacrificed the
rights of society, and assumed each individual to be in himself
an independent sovereignty. If logically carried out, there
could be no such crime as treason, there could be no state, and
no public authority. This new theory transfers to society the
sovereignty which that asserted for the individual, and asserts
social despotism, or the absolutism of the state. It asserts
with sufficient energy public authority, or the right of the
people to govern; but it leaves no space for individual rights,
which society must recognize, respect, and protect. This was the
grand defect of the ancient Graeco-Roman civilization. The
historian explores in vain the records of the old Greek and Roman
republics for any recognition of the rights of individuals not
held as privileges or concessions from the state. Society
recognized no limit to her authority, and the state claimed over
individuals all the authority of the patriarch over his
household, the chief over his tribe, or the absolute monarch over
his subjects. The direct and indirect influence of the body of
freemen admitted to a voice in public affairs, in determining the
resolutions and action of the state, no doubt tempered in
practice to some extent the authority of the state, and prevented
acts of gross oppression; but in theory the state was absolute,
and the people individually were placed at the mercy of the
people collectively, or, rather, the majority of the collective

Under ancient republicanism, there were rights of the state and
rights of the citizen, but no rights of man, held independently
of society, and not derived from God through the state. The
recognition of these rights by modern society is due to
Christianity: some say to the barbarians, who overthrew the Roman
empire; but this last opinion is not well founded. The barbarian
chiefs and nobles had no doubt a lively sense of personal freedom
and independence, but for themselves only. They had no
conception of personal freedom as a general or universal right,
and men never obtain universal principles by generalizing
particulars. They may give a general truth a particular
application, but not a particular truth--understood to be a
particular truth--a general or universal application. They are
too good logicians for that. The barbarian individual freedom
and personal independence was never generalized into the doctrine
of the rights of man, any more than the freedom of the master has
been generalized into the right of his slaves to be free. The
doctrine of individual freedom before the state is due to the
Christian religion, which asserts the dignity and worth of every
human soul, the accountability to God of each man for himself,
and lays it down as law for every one that God is to be obeyed
rather than men. The church practically denied the absolutism of
the state, and asserted for every man rights not held from the
state, in converting the empire to Christianity, in defiance of
the state authority, and the imperial edicts punishing with death
the profession of the Christian faith. In this she practically,
as well as theoretically, overthrew state absolutism, and infused
into modern society the doctrine that every individual, even the
lowest and meanest, has rights which the state neither confers
nor can abrogate; and it will only be by extinguishing in modern
society the Christian faith, and obliterating all traces of
Christian civilization, that state absolutism can be revived with
more than a partial and temporary success.

The doctrine of individual liberty may be abused, and so
explained as to deny the rights of society, and to become pure
individualism; but no political system that runs to the opposite
extreme, and absorbs the individual in the state, stands the
least chance of any general or permanent success till
Christianity is extinguished. Yet the assertion of principles
which logically imply state absolutism is not entirely harmless,
even in Christian countries. Error is never harmless, and only
truth can give a solid foundation on which to build.
Individualism and socialism are each opposed to the other, and
each has only a partial truth. The state founded on either
cannot stand, and society will only alternate between the two
extremes. To-day it is torn by a revolution in favor of
socialism; to-morrow it will be torn by another in favor of
individualism, and without effecting any real progress by either
revolution. Real progress can be secured only by recognizing and
building on the truth, not as it exists in our opinions or in our
theories, but as it exists in the world of reality, and
independent of our opinions.

Now, social despotism or state absolutism is not based on truth
or reality. Society has certain rights over individuals, for she
is a medium of their communion with God, or through which they
derive life from God, the primal source of all life; but she is
not the only medium of man's life. Man, as was said in the
beginning, lives by communion with God, and he communes with God
in the creative act and the Incarnation, through his kind, and,
through nature. This threefold communion gives rise to three
institutions--religion or the church, society or the state, and
property. The life that man derives from God through religion
and property, is not derived from him through society, and
consequently so much of his life be holds independently of
society; and this constitutes his rights as a man as
distinguished from his rights as a citizen. In relation to
society, as not held from God through her, these are termed his
natural rights, which, she must hold inviolable, and government
protect for every one, whatever his complexion or his social
position. These rights--the rights of conscience and the rights
of property, with all their necessary implications--are
limitations of the rights of society, and the individual has the
right to plead them against the state. Society does not confer
them, and it cannot take them away, for they are at least as
sacred and as fundamental as her own.

But even this limitation of popular sovereignty is not all. The
people can be sovereign only in the sense in which they exist and
act. The people are not God, whatever some theorists may
pretend--are not independent, self-existent, and self-sufficing.
They are as dependent collectively as individually, and therefore
can exist and act only as second cause, never as first cause.
They can, then, even in the limited sphere of their sovereignty,
be sovereign only in a secondary sense, never absolute sovereign
in their own independent right. They are sovereign only to the
extent to which they impart life to the individual members of
society, and only in the sense in which she imparts it, or is its
cause. She is not its first cause or creator, and is the medial
cause or medium through which they derive it from God, not its
efficient cause or primary source. Society derives her own life
from God, and exists and acts only as dependent on him. Then she
is sovereign over individuals only as dependent on God. Her
dominion is then not original and absolute, but secondary and

This third theory does not err in assuming that the people
collectively are more than the people individually, or in denying
society to be a mere aggregation of individuals with no life, and
no rights but what it derives from them; nor even in asserting
that the people in the sense of society are sovereign, but in
asserting that they are sovereign in their own native or
underived right and might. Society has not in herself the
absolute right to govern, because she has not the absolute
dominion either of herself or her members. God gave to man
dominion over the irrational creation, for he made irrational
creatures for man; but he never gave him either individually or
collectively the dominion over the rational creation. The theory
that the people are absolutely sovereign in their own independent
right and might, as some zealous democrats explain it, asserts
the fundamental principle of despotism, and all despotism is
false, for it identifies the creature with the Creator. No
creature is creator, or has the rights of creator, and
consequently no one in his own right is or can be sovereign.
This third theory, therefore, is untenable.

IV. A still more recent class of philosophers, if philosophers
they may be called, reject the origin of government in the people
individually or collectively. Satisfied that it has never been
instituted by a voluntary and deliberate act of the people, and
confounding government as a fact with government as authority,
maintain that government is a spontaneous development of nature.
Nature develops it as the liver secretes bile, as the bee
constructs her cell, or the beaver builds his dam. Nature,
working by her own laws and inherent energy, develops society,
and society develops government. That is all the secret.
Questions as to the origin of government or its rights, beyond
the simple positive fact, belong to the theological or
metaphysical stage of the development of nature, but are left
behind when the race has passed beyond that stage, and has
reached the epoch of positive science, in which all, except the
positive fact, is held to be unreal and non-existent.
Government, like every thing else in the universe, is simply a
positive development of nature. Science explains the laws and
conditions of the development, but disdains to ask for its origin
or ground in any order that transcends the changes of the world
of space and time.

These philosophers profess to eschew all theory, and yet they
only oppose theory to theory. The assertion that reality for the
human mind is restricted to the positive facts of the sensible
order, is purely theoretic, and is any thing but a positive fact.
Principles are as really objects of science as facts, and it is
only in the light of principles that facts themselves are
intelligible. If the human mind had no science of reality that
transcends the sensible order, or the positive fact, it could
have no science at all. As things exist only in their principles
or causes, so can they be known only in their principles and
causes; for things can be known only as they are, or as they
really exist. The science that pretends to deduce principles
from particular facts, or to rise from the fact by way of
reasoning to an order that transcends facts, and in which facts
have their origin, is undoubtedly chimerical, and as against that
the positivists are unquestionably right. But to maintain that
man has no intelligence of any thing beyond the fact, no
intuition or intellectual apprehension of its principle or cause,
is equally chimerical. The human mind cannot have all science,
but it has real science as far as it goes, and real science is
the knowledge of things as they are, not as they are not.
Sensible facts are not intelligible by themselves, because they
do not exist by themselves; and if the human mind could not
penetrate beyond the individual fact, beyond the mimetic to the
methexic, or transcendental principle, copied or imitated by the
individual fact, it could never know the fact itself. The error
of modern philosophers, or philosopherlings, is in supposing the
principle is deduced or inferred from the fact, and in denying
that the human mind has direct and immediate intuition of it.

Something that transcends the sensible order there must be, or
there could be no development; and if we had no science of it, we
could never assert that development is development, or
scientifically explain the laws and conditions of development.
Development is explication, and supposes a germ which precedes
it, and is not itself a development; and development, however far
it may be carried, can never do more than realize the
possibilities of the germ. Development is not creation, and
cannot supply its own germ. That at least must be given by the
Creator, for from nothing nothing can be developed. If authority
has not its germ in nature, it cannot be developed from nature
spontaneously or otherwise. All government has a governing will;
and without a will that commands, there is no government; and
nature has in her spontaneous developments no will, for she has
no personality. Reason itself, as distinguished from will, only
presents the end and the means, but does not govern; it
prescribes a rule, but cannot ordain a law. An imperative will,
the will of a superior who has the right to command what reason
dictates or approves, is essential to government; and that will
is not developed from nature, because it has no germ in nature.
So something above and beyond nature must be asserted, or
government itself cannot be asserted, even as a development.
Nature is no more self-sufficing than are the people, or than is
the individual man.

No doubt there is a natural law, which is law in the proper sense
of the word law; but this is a positive law under which nature is
placed by a sovereign above herself, and is never to be
confounded with those laws of nature so-called, according to
which she is productive as second cause, or produces her effects,
which are not properly laws at all. Fire burns, water flows,
rain falls, birds fly, fishes swim, food nourishes, poisons kill,
one substance has a chemical affinity for another, the needle
points to the pole, by a natural law, it is said; that is, the
effects are produced by an inherent and uniform natural force.
Laws in this sense are simply physical forces, and are nature
herself. The natural law, in an ethical sense, is not a physical
law, is not a natural force, but a law impose by the Creator on
all moral creatures, that is, all creatures endowed with reason
and free-will, and is called natural because promulgated in
natural reason, or the reason common and essential to all moral
creatures. This is the moral law. It is what the French call le
droit naturell, natural right, and, as the theologians teach us,
is the transcript of the eternal law, the eternal will or reason
of God. It is the foundation of all law, and all acts of a state
that contravene it are, as St. Augustine maintains, violences
rather than laws. The moral law is no development of nature, for
it is above nature, and is imposed on nature. The only
development there is about it is in our understanding of it.

There is, of course, development in nature, for nature considered
as creation has been created in germ, and is completed only in
successive developments. Hence the origin of space and time.
There would have been no space if there had been no external
creation, and no time if the creation had been completed
externally at once, as it was in relation to the Creator. Ideal
space is simply the ability of God to externize his creative act,
and actual space is the relation of coexistence in the things
created; ideal time is the ability of God to create existences
with the capacity of being completed by successive developments,
and actual time is the relation of these in the order of
succession, and when the existence is completed or consummated
development ceases, and time is no more. In relation to himself
the Creator's works are complete from the first, and hence with
him there is no time, for there is no succession. But in
relation to itself creation is incomplete, and there is room for
development, which may be continued till the whole possibility of
creation is actualized. Here is the foundation of what is true
in the modern doctrine of progress. Man is progressive, because
the possibilities of his nature are successively unfolded and

Development is a fact, and its laws and conditions may be
scientifically ascertained and defined. All generation is
development, as is all growth, physical, moral, or intellectual.
But everything is developed in its own order, and after its kind.
The Darwinian theory of the development of species is not
sustained by science. The development starts from the germ, and
in the germ is given the law or principle of the development.
>From the acorn is developed the oak, never the pine or the
linden. Every kind generates its kind, never another. But no
development is, strictly speaking, spontaneous, or the result
alone of the inherent energy or force of the germ developed.
There is not only a solidarity of race, but in some sense of all
races, or species; all created things are bound to their Creator,
and to one another. One and the same law or principle of life
pervades all creation, binding the universe together in a unity
that copies or imitates the unity of the Creator. No creature is
isolated from the rest, or absolutely independent of others. All
are parts of one stupendous whole, and each depends on the whole,
and the whole on each, and each on each. All creatures are
members of one body, and members one of another. The germ of the
oak is in the acorn, but the acorn left to itself alone can never
grow into the oak, any more than a body at rest can place itself
in motion. Lay the acorn away in your closet, where it is
absolutely deprived of air, heat, and moisture, and in vain will
you watch for its germination. Germinate it cannot without some
external influence, or communion, so to speak, with the elements
from which it derives its sustenance and support.

There can be no absolutely spontaneous development. All things
are doubtless active, for nothing exists except in so far as it
is an active force of some sort; but only God himself alone
suffices for his own activity. All created things are dependent,
have not their being in themselves, and are real only as they
participate, through the creative act, of the Divine being. The
germ can no more be developed than it could exist without God,
and no more develop itself than it could create itself. What is
called the law of development is in the germ; but that law or
force can operate only in conjunction with another force or other
forces. All development, as all growth, is by accretion or
assimilation. The assimilating force is, if you will, in the
germ, but the matter assimilated comes and must come from abroad.
Every herdsman knows it, and knows that to rear his stock he must
supply them with appropriate food; every husbandman knows it, and
knows that to raise a crop of corn, be must plant the seed in a
soil duly prepared, and which will supply the gases needed for
its germination, growth, flowering, boiling, and ripening. In
all created things, in all things not complete in themselves, in
all save God, in whom there is no development possible, for He
is, as say the schoolmen, most pure act, in whom there is no
unactualized possibility, the same law holds good. Development
is always the resultant of two factors, the one the thing itself,
the other some external force co-operating with it, exciting
it, and aiding it to act.

Hence the praemotio physica of the Thomists, and the praevenient
and adjuvant grace of the theologians, without which no one can
begin the Christian life, and which must needs be supernatural
when the end is supernatural. The principle of life in all
orders is the same, and human activity no more suffices for
itself in one order than in another.

Here is the reason why the savage tribe never rises to a
civilized state without communion in some form with a people
already civilized, and why there is no moral or intellectual
development and progress without education and instruction,
consequently without instructors and educators. Hence the value
of tradition; and hence, as the first man could not instruct
himself, Christian theologians, with a deeper philosophy than is
dreamed of by the sciolists of the age, maintain that God himself
was man's first teacher, or that he created Adam a full-grown
man, with all his faculties developed, complete, and in full
activity. Hence, too, the heathen mythologies, which always
contain some elements of truth, however they may distort,
mutilate, or travesty them, make the gods the first teachers of
the human race, and ascribe to their instruction even the most
simple and ordinary arts of every-day life. The gods teach men to
plough, to plant, to reap, to work in iron, to erect a shelter
from the storm, and to build a fire to warm them and to cook
their food. The common sense, as well as the common traditions
of mankind, refuses to accept the doctrine that men are developed
without foreign aid, or progressive without divine assistance.
Nature of herself can no more develop government than it can
language. There can be no language without society, and no
society without language. There can be no government without
society, and no society without government of some sort.

But even if nature could spontaneously develop herself, she could
never develop an institution that has the right to govern, for
she has not herself that right. Nature is not God, has not
created us, therefore has not the right of property in us. She
is not and cannot be our sovereign. We belong not to her, nor
does she belong to herself, for she is herself creature, and
belongs to her Creator. Not being in herself sovereign, she
cannot develop the right to govern, nor can she develop
government as a fact, to say nothing of its right, for
government, whether we speak of it as fact or as authority, is
distinct from that which is governed; but natural developments
are nature, and indistinguishable from her. The governor and the
governed, the restrainer and the restrained, can never as such be
identical. Self-government, taken strictly, is a contradiction
in terms. When an individual is said to govern himself, he is
never understood to govern himself in the sense in which be is
governed. He by his reason and will governs or restrains his
appetites and passions. It is man as spirit governing man as
flesh, the spiritual mind governing the carnal mind.

Natural developments cannot in all cases be even allowed to take
their own course without injury to nature herself. "Follow
nature" is an unsafe maxim, if it means, leave nature to develop
herself as she will, and follow thy natural inclinations. Nature
is good, but inclinations are frequently bad. All our appetites
and passions are given us for good, for a purpose useful and
necessary to individual and social life, but they become morbid
and injurious if indulged without restraint. Each has its
special object, and naturally seeks it exclusively, and thus
generates discord and war in the individual, which immediately
find expression in society, and also in the state, if the state
be a simple natural development. The Christian maxim, Deny
thyself, is far better than the Epicurean maxim, Enjoy thyself,
for there is no real enjoyment without self-denial. There is
deep philosophy in Christian asceticism, as the Positivists
themselves are aware, and even insist. But Christian asceticism
aims not to destroy nature, as voluptuaries pretend, but to
regulate, direct, and restrain its abnormal developments for its
own good. It forces nature in her developments to submit to a
law which is not in her, but above her. The Positivists pretend
that this asceticism is itself a natural development, but that
cannot be a natural development which directs, controls, and
restrains natural development.

The Positivists confound nature at one time with the law of
nature, and at another the law of nature with nature herself, and
take what is called the natural law to be a natural development.
Here is their mistake, as it is the mistake of all who accept
naturalistic theories. Society, no doubt, is authorized by the
law of nature to institute and maintain government. But the law
of nature is not a natural development, nor is it in nature, or
any part of nature. It is not a natural force which operates in
nature, and which is the developing principle of nature. Do they
say reason is natural, and the law of nature is only reason?
This is not precisely the fact. The natural law is law proper,
and is reason only in the sense that reason includes both
intellect and will, and nobody can pretend that nature in her
spontaneous developments acts from intelligence and volition.
Reason, as the faculty of knowing, is subjective and natural; but
in the sense in which it is coincident with the natural law, it
is neither subjective nor natural, but objective and divine, and
is God affirming himself and promulgating his law to his
creature, man. It is, at least, an immediate participation of
the divine by which He reveals himself and His will to the human
understanding, and is not natural, but supernatural, in the sense
that God himself is supernatural. This is wherefore reason is
law, and every man is bound to submit or conform to reason.

That legitimate governments are instituted under the natural law
is frankly conceded, but this is by no means the concession of
government as a natural development. The reason and will of
which the natural law is the expression are the reason and will
of God. The natural law is the divine law as much as the
revealed law itself, and equally obligatory. It is not a natural
force developing itself in nature, like the law of generation,
for instance, and therefore proceeding from God as first cause,
but it proceeds from God as final cause, and is, therefore,
theological, and strictly a moral law, founding moral rights and
duties. Of course, all morality and all legitimate government
rest on this law, or, if you will, originate in it. But not
therefore in nature, but in the Author of nature. The authority
is not the authority of nature, but of Him who holds nature in
the hollow of His hand.

V. In the seventeenth century a class of political writers who
very well understood that no creature, no man, no number of men,
not even, nature herself, can be inherently sovereign, defended
the opinion that governments are founded, constituted, and
clothed with their authority by the direct and express
appointment of God himself. They denied that rulers hold their
power from the nation; that, however oppressive may be their
rule, that they are justiciable by any human tribunal, or that
power, except by the direct judgment of God, is amissible. Their
doctrine is known in history as the doctrine of "the divine right
of kings, and passive obedience." All power, says St. Paul, is
from God, and the powers that be are ordained of God, and to
resist them is to resist the ordination of God. They must be
obeyed for conscience' sake.

It would, perhaps, be rash to say that this doctrine had never
been broached before the seventeenth century, but it received in
that century, and chiefly in England, its fullest and most
systematic developments. It was patronized by the Anglican
divines, asserted by James I. of England, and lost the Stuarts
the crown of three kingdoms. It crossed the Channel, into
France, where it found a few hesitating and stammering defenders
among Catholics, under Louis XIV., but it has never been very
generally held, though it has had able and zealous supporters.
In England it was opposed by all the Presbyterians, Puritans,
Independents, and Republicans, and was forgotten or abandoned by
the Anglican divines themselves in the Revolution of 1688, that
expelled James II. and crowned William and Mary. It was ably
refuted by the Jesuit Suarez in his reply to a Remonstrance for
the Divine Right of Kings by the James I.; and a Spanish monk who
had asserted it in Madrid, under Philip II., was compelled by the
Inquisition to retract it publicly in the place where he had
asserted it. All republicans reject it, and the Church has never
sanctioned it. The Sovereign Pontiffs have claimed and exercised
the right to deprive princes of their principality, and to
absolve their subjects from the oath of fidelity. Whether the
Popes rightly claimed and exercised that power is not now the
question; but their having claimed and exercised it proves that
the Church does not admit the inamissibility of power and passive
obedience; for the action of the Pope was judicial, not
legislative. The Pope has never claimed the right to depose a
prince till by his own act he has, under the moral law or the
constitution of his state, forfeited his power, nor to absolve
subjects from their allegiance till their oath, according to its
true intent and meaning, has ceased to bind. If the Church has
always asserted with the Apostle there is no power but from
God--non est potestas nisi a Deo--she has always through her
doctors maintained that it is a trust to be exercised for the
public good, and is forfeited when persistently exercised in a
contrary sense. St. Augustine, St. Thomas, and Suarez all
maintain that unjust laws are violences rather than laws, and do
not oblige, except in charity or prudence, and that the republic
may change its magistrates, and even its constitution, if it sees
proper to do so.

That God, as universal Creator, is Sovereign Lord and proprietor
of all created things or existences, visible or invisible, is
certain; for the maker has the absolute right to the thing made;
it is his, and he may do with it as he will. As he is sole
creator, he alone hath dominion; and as he is absolute creator,
he has absolute dominion over all the things which he has made.
The guaranty against oppression is his own essential nature, is
in the plenitude of his own being, which is the plenitude of
wisdom and goodness. He cannot contradict himself, be other than
he is, or act otherwise than according to his own essential
nature. As he is, in his own eternal and immutable essence,
supreme reason and supreme good, his dominion must always in its
exercise be supremely good and supremely reasonable, therefore
supremely just and equitable. From him certainly is all power;
he is unquestionably King of kings, and Lord of lords. By him
kings reign and magistrates decree just things. He may, at his
will, set up or pull down kings, rear or overwhelm empires,
foster the infant colony, and make desolate the populous city.
All this is unquestionably true, and a simple dictate of reason
common to all men. But in what sense is it true? Is it true in
a supernatural sense? Or is it true only in the sense that it is
true that by him we breathe, perform any or all of our natural
functions, and in him live, and move, and have our being?

Viewed in their first cause, all things are the immediate
creation of God, and are supernatural, and from the point of view
of the first cause the Scriptures usually speak, for the great
purpose and paramount object of the sacred writers, as of
religion itself, is to make prominent the fact that God is
universal creator, and supreme governor, and therefore the first
and final cause of all things. But God creates second causes, or
substantial existences, capable themselves of acting and
producing effects in a secondary sense, and hence he is said to
be causa causarum, cause of causes. What is done by these second
causes or creatures is done eminently by him, for they exist only
by his creative act, and produce only by virtue of his active
presence, or effective concurrence. What he does through them or
through their agency is done by him, not immediately, but
mediately, and is said to be done naturally, as what he does
immediately is said to be done supernaturally. Natural is what
God does through second causes, which he creates; supernatural is
that which he does by himself alone, without their intervention
or agency. Sovereignty, or the right to govern, is in him, and
he may at his will delegate it to men either mediately or
immediately, by a direct and express appointment, or mediately
through nature. In the absence of all facts proving its
delegation direct and express, it must be assumed to be mediate,
through second causes. The natural is always to be presumed, and
the supernatural is to be admitted only on conclusive proof.

The people of Israel had a supernatural vocation, and they
received their law, embracing their religious and civil
constitution and their ritual directly from God at the hand of
Moses, and various individuals from time to time appear to have
been specially called to be their judges, rulers, or kings. Saul
was so called, and so was David. David and his line appear, also,
to have been called not only to supplant Saul and his line, but
to have been supernaturally invested with the kingdom forever;
but it does not appear that the royal power with which David and
his line were invested was inamissible. They lost it in the
Babylonish captivity, and never afterwards recovered it. The
Asmonean princes were of another line, and when our Lord came the
sceptre was in the hands of Herod, an Idumean Or Edomite. The
promise made, to David and his house is generally held by
Christian commentators to have received its fulfilment in the
everlasting spiritual royalty of the Messiah, sprung through Mary
from David's line.

The Christian Church is supernaturally constituted and
supernaturally governed, but the persons selected to exercise
powers supernaturally defined, from the Sovereign Pontiff down to
the humblest parish priest are selected and inducted into office
through human agency. The Gentiles very generally claimed to
have received their laws from the gods, but it does not appear,
save in exceptional cases, that they claimed that their princes
were designated and held their powers by the direct and express
appointment of the god. Save in the case of the Jews, and that
of the Church, there is no evidence that any particular
government exists or ever has existed by direct or express
appointment, or otherwise than by the action of the Creator
through second causes, or what is called his ordinary providence.
Except David and his line, there is no evidence of the express
grant by the Divine Sovereign to any individual or family, class
or caste of the government of any nation or country. Even those
Christian princes who professed to reign "by the grace of God,"
never claimed that they received their principalities from God
otherwise than through his ordinary providence, and meant by it
little more than an acknowledgment of their dependence on him,
their obligation to use their power according to his law and
their accountability to him for the use they make of it.

The doctrine is not favorable to human liberty, for it recognizes
no rights of man in face of civil society. It consecrates
tyranny, and makes God the accomplice of the tyrant, if we
suppose all governments have actually existed by his express
appointment. It puts the king in the place of God, and requires
us to worship in him the immediate representative of the Divine
Being. Power is irresponsible and inamissible, and however it
may be abused, or however corrupt and oppressive may be its
exercise, there is no human redress. Resistance to power is
resistance to God. There is nothing for the people but passive
obedience and unreserved submission. The doctrine, in fact,
denies all human government, and allows the people no voice in
the management of their own affairs, and gives no place for human
activity. It stands opposed to all republicanism, and makes
power an hereditary and indefeasible right, not a trust which he
who holds it may forfeit, and of which he may be deprived if he
abuses it.



VI. The theory which derives the right of government from the
direct and express appointment of God is sometimes modified so as
to mean that civil authority is derived from God through the
spiritual authority. The patriarch combined in his person both
authorities, and was in his own household both priest and king,
and so originally was in his own tribe the chief, and in his
kingdom the king. When the two offices became separated is not
known. In the time of Abraham they were still united.
Melchisedech, king of Salem, was both priest and king, and the
earliest historical records of kings present them as offering
sacrifices. Even the Roman emperor was Pontifex Maximus as well
as Imperator, but that was so not because the two offices were
held to be inseparable, but because they were both conferred on
the same person by the republic. In Egypt, in the time of Moses,
the royal authority and the priestly were separated and held by
different persons. Moses, in his legislation for his nation,
separated them, and instituted a sacerdotal order or caste. The
heads of tribes and the heads of families are, under his law,
princes, but not priests, and the priesthood is conferred on and
restricted to his own tribe of Levi, and more especially the
family of his own brother Aaron.

The priestly office by its own nature is superior to the kingly,
and in all primitive nations with a separate, organized
priesthood, whether a true priesthood or a corrupt, the priest is
held to be above the king, elects or establishes the law by which
is selected the temporal chief, and inducts him into his office,
as if he received his authority from God through the priesthood.
The Christian priesthood is not a caste, and is transmitted by
the election of grace, not as with the Israelites and all
sacerdotal nations, by natural Generation. Like Him whose
priests they are, Christian priests are priests after the order
of Melchisedech, who was without priestly descent, without father
or mother of the priestly line. But in being priests after the
order of Melchisedech, they are both priests and kings, as
Melchisedech was, and as was our Lord himself, to whom was given
by his Father all power in heaven and in earth. The Pope, or
Supreme Pontiff, is the vicar of our Lord on earth, his
representative--the representative not only of him who is our
invisible High-Priest, but of him who is King of kings and Lord
of lords, therefore of both the priestly and the kingly power.
Consequently, no one can have any mission to govern in the state
any more than in the church, unless derived from God directly or
indirectly through the Pope or Supreme Pontiff. Many theologians
and canonists in the Middle Ages so held, and a few perhaps hold
so still. The bulls and briefs of several Popes, as Gregory VII.,
Innocent Ill., Gregory IX., Innocent IV., and Boniface VIII.,
have the appearance of favoring it.

At one period the greater part of the medieval kingdoms and
principalities were fiefs of the Holy See, and recognized the
Holy Father as their suzerain. The Pope revived the imperial
diunity in the person of Charlemagne, and none could claim that
dignity in the Western world unless elected and crowned by him,
that is, unless elected directly by the Pope or by electors
designated by him, and acting under his authority. There can be
no question that the spiritual is superior to the temporal, and
that the temporal is bound in the very nature of things to conform
to the spiritual, and any law enacted by the civil power in
contravention of the law of God is null and void from the
beginning. This is what Mr. Seward meant by the higher law, a
law higher even than the Constitution of the United States.
Supposing this higher law, and supposing that kings and princes
hold from God through the spiritual society, it is very evident
that the chief of that society would have the right to deprive
them, and to absolve their subjects, as on several occasions he
actually has done.

But this theory has never been a dogma of the Church, nor, to any
great extent, except for a brief period, maintained by
theologians or canonists. The Pope conferred the imperial
dignity on Charlemagne and his successors, but not the civil
power, at least out of the Pope's own temporal dominions. The
emperor of Germany was at first elected by the Pope, and
afterwards by hereditary electors designated or accepted by him,
but the king of the Germans with the full royal authority could
be elected and enthroned without the papal intervention or
permission. The suzerainty of the Holy See over Italy, Naples,
Aragon, Muscovy, England, and other European states, was by
virtue of feudal relations, not by virtue of the spiritual authority
of the Holy See or the vicarship of the Holy Father. The right
to govern under feudalism was simply an estate, or property; and
as the church could acquire and hold property, nothing prevented
her holding fiefs, or her chief from being suzerain. The
expressions in the papal briefs and bulls, taken in connection
with the special relations existing between the Pope and emperor
in the Middle Ages, and his relations with other states as their
feudal sovereign, explained by the controversies concerning
rights growing out of these relations, will be found to give no
countenance to the theory in question.

These relations really existed, and they gave the Pope certain
temporal rights in certain states, even the temporal supremacy,
as he has still in what is left him of the States of the Church;
but they were exceptional or accidental relations, not the
universal and essential relations between the church and the
state. The rights that grew out of these relations were real
rights, sacred and inviolable, but only where and while the
relations subsisted. They, for the most part, grew out of the
feudal system introduced into the Roman empire by its barbarian
conquerors, and necessarily ceased with the political order in
which they originated. Undoubtedly the church consecrated civil
rulers, but this did not imply that they received their power or
right to govern from God through her; but implied that their
persons were sacred, and that violence to them would be
sacrilege; that they held the Christian faith, and acknowledged
themselves bound to protect it, and to govern their subjects
justly, according to the law of God.

The church, moreover, has always recognized the distinction of
the two powers, and although the Pope owes to the fact that he is
chief of the spiritual society, his temporal principality, no
theologian or canonist of the slightest respectability would
argue that he derives his rights as temporal sovereign from his
rights as pontiff. His rights as pontiff depend on the express
appointment of God; his rights as temporal prince are derived
from the same source from which other princes derive their
rights, and are held by the same tenure. Hence canonists have
maintained that the subjects of other states may even engage in
war with the Pope as prince, without breach of their fidelity to
him as pontiff or supreme visible head of the church.

The church not only distinguishes between the two powers, but
recognizes as legitimate, governments that manifestly do not
derive from God through her. St. Paul enjoins obedience to the
Roman emperors for conscience' sake, and the church teaches that
infidels and heretics may have legitimate government; and if she
has ever denied the right of any infidel or heretical prince, it
has been on the ground that the constitution and laws of his
principality require him to profess and protect the Catholic
faith. She tolerates resistance in a non-Catholic state no more
than in a Catholic state to the prince; and if she has not
condemned and cut off from her communion the Catholics who in our
struggle have joined the Secessionists and fought in their ranks
against the United States, it is because the prevalence of the
doctrine of State sovereignty has seemed to leave a reasonable
doubt whether they were really rebels fighting against their
legitimate sovereign or not.

No doubt, as the authority of the church is derived immediately
from God in a supernatural manner, and as she holds that the
state derives its authority only mediately from him, in a natural
mode, she asserts the superiority of her authority, and that, in
case of conflict between the two powers, the civil must yield.
But this is only saying that supernatural is above natural.
But--and this is the important point--she does not teach, nor
permit the faithful to hold, that the supernatural abrogates the
natural, or in any way supersedes it. Grace, say the
theologians, supposes nature, gratia supponit naturam. The
church in the matter of government accepts the natural, aids it,
elevates it, and is its firmest support.

VII. St. Augustine, St. Gregory Magnus, St. Thomas, Bellarmin,
Suarez, and the theologians generally, hold that princes derive
their power from God through the people, or that the people,
though not the source, are the medium of all political authority,
and therefore rulers are accountable for the use they make of
their power to both God and the people.

This doctrine agrees with the democratic theory in vesting
sovereignty in the people, instead of the king or the nobility, a
particular individual, family, class, or caste; and differs from
it, as democracy is commonly explained, in understanding by the
people, the people collectively, not individually--the organic
people, or people fixed to a given territory, not the people as a
mere population--the people in the republican sense of the word
nation, not in the barbaric or despotic sense; and in deriving
the sovereignty from God, from whom is all power, and except from
whom there is and can be no power, instead of asserting it as the
underived and indefeasible right of the people in their "own
native right and might." The people not being God, and being
only what philosophers call a second cause, they are and can be
sovereign only in a secondary and relative sense. It asserts the
divine origin of power, while democracy asserts its human origin.
But as, under the law of nature, all men are equal, or have equal
rights as men, one man has and can have in himself no right to
govern another; and as man is never absolutely his own, but
always and everywhere belongs to his Creator, it is clear that no
government originating in humanity alone can be a legitimate
government. Every such government is founded on the assumption
that man is God, which is a great mistake--is, in fact, the
fundamental sophism which underlies every error and every sin.

The divine origin of government, in the sense asserted by
Christian theologians, is never found distinctly set forth in the
political writings of the ancient Greek and Roman writers.
Gentile philosophy had lost the tradition of creation, as some
modern philosophers, in so-called Christian nations, are fast
losing it, and were as unable to explain the origin of government
as they were the origin of man himself.

Even Plato, the profoundest of all ancient philosophers, and the
most faithful to the traditionary wisdom of the race, lacks the
conception of creation, and never gets above that of generation
and formation. Things are produced by the Divine Being
impressing his own ideas, eternal in his own mind, on a
pre-existing matter, as a seal on wax. Aristotle teaches
substantially the same doctrine. Things eternally exist as
matter and form, and all the Divine Intelligence does, is to
unite the form to the matter, and change it, as the schoolmen say,
from materia informis to materia formata. Even the Christian
Platonists and Peripatetics never as philosophers assert creation;
they assert it, indeed, but as theologians, as a fact of
revelation, not as a fact of science; and hence it is that their
theology and their philosophy never thoroughly harmonize, or at
least are not shown to harmonize throughout.

Speaking generally, the ancient Gentile philosophers were
pantheists, and represented the universe either as God or as an
emanation from God. They had no proper conception of Providence,
or the action of God in nature through natural agencies, or as
modern physicists say, natural laws. If they recognized the
action of divinity at all, it was a supernatural or miraculous
intervention of some god. They saw no divine intervention in any
thing naturally explicable, or explicable by natural laws.
Having no conception of the creative act, they could have none of
its immanence, or the active and efficacious presence of the
Creator in all his works, even in the action of second causes
themselves. Hence they could not assert the divine origin of
government, or civil authority, without supposing it
supernaturally founded, and excluding all human and natural
agencies from its institution. Their writings may be studied
with advantage on the constitution of the state, on the practical
workings of different forms of government, as well as on the
practical administration of affairs, but never on the origin of
the state, and the real ground of its authority.

The doctrine is derived from Christian theology, which teaches
that there is no power except from God, and enjoins civil
obedience as a religious duty. Conscience is accountable to God
alone, and civil government, if it had only a natural or human
origin, could not bind it. Yet Christianity makes the civil law,
within its legitimate sphere, as obligatory on conscience as the
divine law itself, and no man is blameless before God who is not
blameless before the state. No man performs faithfully his
religious duties who neglects his civil duties, and hence, the
law of the church allows no one to retire from the world and
enter a religious order, who has duties that bind him or her to
the family or the state; though it is possible that the law is
not always strictly observed, and that individuals sometimes
enter a convent for the sake of getting rid of those duties, or
the equally important duty of taking care of themselves. But by
asserting the divine origin of government, Christianity
consecrates civil authority, clothes it with a religious
character, and makes civil disobedience, sedition, insurrection,
rebellion, revolution, civil turbulence of any sort or degree,
sins against God as well as crimes against the state. For the
same reason she makes usurpation, tyranny, oppression of the
people by civil rulers, offences against God as well as against
society, and cognizable by the spiritual authority.

After the establishment of the Christian church, after its public
recognition, and when conflicting claims arose between the two
powers--the civil and the ecclesiastical--this doctrine of the
divine origin of civil government was abused, and turned against
the church with most disastrous consequences. While the Roman
Empire of the West subsisted, and even after its fall, so long as
the emperor of the East asserted and practically maintained his
authority in the Exarchate of Ravenna and the Duchy of Rome, the
Popes comported themselves, in civil matters, as subjects of the
Roman emperor, and set forth no claim to temporal independence.
But when the emperor had lost Rome, and all his possessions in
Italy, had abandoned them, or been deprived of them by the
barbarians, and ceased to make any efforts to recover them, the
Pope was no longer a subject, even in civil matters, of the
emperor, and owed him no civil allegiance. He became civilly
independent of the Roman Empire, and had only spiritual relations
with it. To the new powers that sprang up in Europe he appears
never to have acknowledged any civil subjection, and uniformly
asserted, in face of them, his civil as well as spiritual

This civil independence the successors of Charlemagne, who
pretended to be the successors of the Roman Emperors of the West,
and called their empire the Holy Roman Empire, denied, and
maintained that the Pope owed them civil allegiance, or that, in
temporals, the emperor was the Pope's superior. If, said the
emperor, or his lawyers for him, the civil power is from God, as
it must be, since non est potestas nisi a Deo, the state stands
on the same footing with the church, and the imperial power
emanates from as high a source as the Pontifical. The
emperor is then as supreme in temporals as the Pope in
spirituals, and as the emperor is subject to the pope in
spirituals, so must the Pope be subject to the emperor in
temporals. As at the time when the dispute arose, the temporal
interests of churchmen were so interwoven with their spiritual
rights, the pretensions of the emperor amounted practically to
the subjection in spirituals as well as temporals of the
ecclesiastical authority to the civil, and absorbed the church in
the state, the reasoning was denied, and churchmen replied: The
Pope represents the spiritual order, which is always and
everywhere supreme over the temporal, since the spiritual order
is the divine sovereignty itself. Always and everywhere, then,
is the Pope independent of the emperor, his superior, and to
subject him in any thing to the emperor would be as repugnant to
reason as to subject the soul to the body, the spirit to the
flesh, heaven to earth, or God to man.

If the universal supremacy claimed for the Pope, rejoined the
imperialists, be conceded, the state would be absorbed in the
church, the autonomy of civil society would be destroyed, and
civil rulers would have no functions but to do the bidding of the
clergy. It would establish a complete theocracy, or, rather,
clerocracy, of all possible governments the government the most
odious to mankind, and the most hostile to social progress. Even
the Jews could not, or would not, endure it, and prayed God to
give them a king, that they might be like other nations.

In the heat of the controversy neither party clearly and
distinctly perceived the true state of the question, and each was
partly right and partly wrong. The imperialists wanted room for
the free activity of civil society, the church wanted to
establish in that society the supremacy of the moral order, or
the law of God, without which governments can have no stability,
and society no real well-being. The real solution of the
difficulty was always to be found in the doctrine of the church
herself, and had been given time and again by her most approved
theologians. The Pope, as the visible head of the spiritual
society, is, no doubt, superior to the emperor, not precisely
because he represents a superior order, but because the church,
of which he is the visible chief, is a supernatural institution,
and holds immediately from God; whereas civil society,
represented by the emperor, holds from God only mediately,
through second causes, or the people. Yet, though derived from
God only through the people, civil authority still holds from God,
and derives its right from Him through another channel than the
church or spiritual society, and, therefore, has a right, a
sacredness, which the church herself gives not, and must
recognize and respect. This she herself teaches in teaching that
even infidels, as we have seen, may have legitimate government,
and since, though she interprets and applies the law of God, both
natural and revealed, she makes neither.

Nevertheless, the imperialists or the statists insisted on their
false charge against the Pope, that he labored to found a purely
theocratic or clerocratic government, and finding themselves
unable to place the representative of the civil society on the
same level with the representative of the spiritual, or to
emancipate the state from the law of God while they conceded the
divine origin or right of government, they sought to effect its
independence by asserting for it only a natural or purely human
origin. For nearly two centuries the most popular and
influential writers on government have rejected the divine origin
and ground of civil authority, and excluded God from the state.
They have refused to look beyond second causes, and have labored
to derive authority from man alone. They have not only separated
the state from the church as an external corporation, but from
God as its internal lawgiver, and by so doing have deprived the
state of her sacredness, inviolability, or hold on the conscience,
scoffed at loyalty as a superstition, and consecrated not civil
authority, but what is called "the right of insurrection." Under
their teaching the age sympathizes not with authority in its
efforts to sustain itself and protect society, but with those who
conspire against it--the insurgents, rebels, revolutionists
seeking its destruction. The established government that seeks
to enforce respect for its legitimate authority and compel
obedience to the laws, is held to be despotic, tyrannical,
oppressive, and resistance to it to be obedience to God, and a
wild howl rings through Christendom against the prince that will
not stand still and permit the conspirators to cut his throat.
There is hardly a government now in the civilized world that can
sustain itself for a moment without an armed force sufficient to
overawe or crush the party or parties in permanent conspiracy
against it.

This result is not what was aimed at or desired, but it is the
logical or necessary result of the attempt to erect the state on
atheistical principles. Unless founded on the divine sovereignty,
authority can sustain itself only by force, for political atheism
recognizes no right but might. No doubt the politicians have
sought an atheistical, or what is the same thing, a purely human,
basis for government, in order to secure an open field for human
freedom and activity, or individual or social progress. The end
aimed at has been good, laudable even, but they forgot that
freedom is possible only with authority that protects it against
license as well as against despotism, and that there can be no
progress where there is nothing that is not progressive. In
civil society two things are necessary--stability and movement.
The human is the element of movement, for in it are possibilities
that can be only successively actualized. But the element of
stability can be found only in the divine, in God, in whom there
is no unactualized possibility, who, therefore, is immovable,
immutable, and eternal. The doctrine that derives authority from
God through the people, recognizes in the state both of these
elements, and provides alike for stability and progress.

This doctrine is not mere theory; it simply states the real order
of things. It is not telling what ought to be, but what is in
the real order. It only asserts for civil government the
relation to God which nature herself holds to him, which the
entire universe holds to the Creator. Nothing in man, in nature,
in the universe, is explicable without the creative act of God,
for nothing exists without that act. That God "in the beginning
created heaven and earth," is the first principle of all science
as of all existences, in politics no less than in theology. God
and creation comprise all that is or exists, and creation, though
distinguishable from God as the act from the actor, is
inseparable from him, "for in Him we live and move and have our
being." All creatures are joined to him by his creative act, and
exist only as through that act they participate of his being.
Through that act he is immanent as first cause in all creatures
and in every act of every creature. The creature deriving from
his creative act can no more continue to exist than it could
begin to exist without it. It is as bad philosophy as theology,
to suppose that God created the universe, endowed it with certain
laws of development or activity, wound it up, gave it a jog, set
it agoing, and then left it to go of itself. It cannot go of
itself, because it does not exist of itself. It did not merely
not begin to exist, but it cannot continue to exist, without the
creative act. Old Epicurus was a sorry philosopher, or rather,
no philosopher at all. Providence is as necessary as creation,
or rather, Providence is only continuous creation, the creative
act not suspended or discontinued, or not passing over from the
creature and returning to God.

Through the creative act man participates of God, and he can
continue to exist, act, or live only by participating through it
of his divine being. There is, therefore , something of divinity,
so to speak, in every creature, and therefore it is that God is
worshipped in his works without idolatry. But he creates
substantial existences capable of acting as second causes. Hence,
in all living things there is in their life a divine element and
a natural element; in what is called human life, there are the
divine and the human, the divine as first and the human as second
cause, precisely what the doctrine of the great Christian
theologians assert to be the fact with all legitimate or real
government. Government cannot exist without the efficacious
presence of God any more than man himself, and men might as well
attempt to build up a world as to attempt to found a state
without God. A government founded on atheistical principles were
less than a castle in the air. It would have nothing to rest on,
would not be even so much as "the baseless fabric of a vision,"
and they who imagine that they really do exclude God from their
politics deceive themselves; for they accept and use principles
which, though they know it not, are God. What they call abstract
principles, or abstract forms of reason, without which there were
no logic, are not abstract, but the real, living God himself.
Hence government, like man himself, participates of the divine
being, and, derived from God through the people, it at the same
time participates of human reason and will, thus reconciling
authority with freedom, and stability with progress.

The people, holding their authority from God, hold it not as an
inherent right, but as a trust from Him, and are accountable to
Him for it. It is not their own. If it were their own they
might do with it as they pleased, and no one would have any right
to call them to an account; but holding it as a trust from God,
they are under his law, and bound to exercise it as that law
prescribes. Civil rulers, holding their authority from God
through the people, are accountable for it both to Him and to
them. If they abuse it they are justiciable by the people and
punishable by God himself.

Here is the guaranty against tyranny, oppression, or bad
government, or what in modern times is called the responsibility
of power. At the same time the state is guarantied against
sedition, insurrection, rebellion, revolution, by the elevation
of the civic virtues to the rank of religious, virtues, and
making loyalty a matter of conscience. Religion is brought to
the aid of the state, not indeed as a foreign auxiliary, but as
integral in the political order itself. Religion sustains the
state, not because it externally commands us to obey the higher
powers, or to be submissive to the powers that be, not because it
trains the people to habits of obedience, and teaches them to be
resigned and patient under the grossest abuses of power, but
because it and the state are in the same order, and inseparable,
though distinct, parts of one and the same whole. The church and
the state, as corporations or external governing bodies, are
indeed separate in their spheres, and the church does not absorb
the state, nor does the state the church; but both are from God,
and both work to the same end, and when each is rightly
understood there is no antithesis or antagonism between them.
Men serve God in serving the state as directly as in serving the
church. He who dies on the battle-field fighting for his country
ranks with him who dies at the stake for his faith. Civic
virtues are themselves religious virtues, or at least virtues
without which there are no religious virtues, since no man who
loves not his brother does or can love God.

The guaranties offered the state or authority are ample, because
it has not only conscience, moral sentiment, interest, habit, and
the via inertia of the mass, but the whole physical force of the
nation, at its command. The individual has, indeed, only moral
guaranties against the abuse of power by the sovereign people,
which may no doubt sometimes prove insufficient. But moral
guaranties are always better than none, and there are none where
the people are held to be sovereign in their own native right and
might, organized or unorganized, inside or outside of the
constitution, as most modern democratic theorists maintain;
since, if so, the will of the people, however expressed, is the
criterion of right and wrong, just and unjust, true and false, is
infallible and impeccable, and no moral right can ever be pleaded
against it; they are accountable to nobody, and, let them do what
they please, they can do no wrong. This would place the
individual at the mercy of the state, and deprive him of all
right to complain, however oppressed or cruelly treated. This
would establish the absolute despotism of the state, and deny
every thing like the natural rights of man, or individual and
personal freedom, as has already been shown. Now as men do take
part in government, and as men, either individually or
collectively, are neither infallible nor impeccable, it is never
to be expected, under any possible constitution or form of
government, that authority will always be wisely and justly
exercised, that wrong will ever be done, and the rights of
individuals never in any instance be infringed; but with the
clear understanding that all power is of God, that the political
sovereignty is vested in the people or the collective body, that
the civil rulers hold from God through them and are responsible
to Him through them, and justiciable by them, there is all the
guaranty against the abuse of power by the, nation, the political
or organic people, that the nature of the case admits. The
nation may, indeed, err or do wrong, but in the way supposed you
get in the government all the available wisdom and virtue the
nation has, and more is never, under any form or constitution of
government, practicable or to be expected,

It is a maxim with constitutional statesmen, that "the king
reigns, not governs." The people, though sovereign under God,
are not the government. The government is in their name and by
virtue of authority delegated from God through them, but they are
not it, are not their own ministers. It is only when the people
forget this and undertake to be their own ministers and to manage
their own affairs immediately by themselves instead of selecting
agents to do it for them, and holding their agents to a strict
account for their management, that they are likely to abuse their
power or to sanction injustice. The nation may be misled or
deceived for a moment by demagogues, those popular courtiers, but
as a rule it is disposed to be just and to respect all natural
rights. The wrong is done by individuals who assume to speak in
their name, to wield their power, and to be themselves the state.
L'etat, c'est moi. I am the state, said Louis XIV. of France,
and while that was conceded the French nation could have in its
government no more wisdom or virtue than he possessed, or at
least no more than he could appreciate. And under his government
France was made responsible for many deeds that the nation would
never have sanctioned, if it bad been recognized as the
depositary of the national sovereignty, or as the French state,
and answerable to God for the use it made of political power, or
the conduct of its government.

But be this as it may, there evidently can be no physical force
in the nation to coerce the nation itself in case it goes wrong,
for if the sovereignty vests in the nation, only the nation can
rightly command or authorize the employment of force, and all
commissions must run in its name. Written constitutions alone
will avail little, for they emanate from the people, who can
disregard them, if they choose, and alter or revoke them at will.
The reliance for the wisdom and justice of the state must after
all be on moral guaranties. In the very nature of the case there
are and can be no other. But these, placed in a clear light,
with an intelligent and religious people, will seldom be found
insufficient. Hence the necessity for the protection, not of
authority simply or chiefly, but of individual rights and the
liberty of religion and intelligence in the nation, of the
general understanding that the nation holds its power to govern
as a trust from God, and that to God through the people all civil
rulers are strictly responsible. Let the mass of the people in
any nation lapse into the ignorance and barbarism of atheism, or
lose themselves in that supreme sophism called pantheism, the
grand error of ancient as well as of modern gentilism, and
liberty, social or political, except that wild kind of liberty,
and perhaps not even that should be excepted, which obtains among
savages, would be lost and irrecoverable.

But after all, this theory does not meet all the difficulties of
the case. It derives sovereignty from God, and thus asserts the
divine origin of government in the sense that the origin of
nature is divine; it derives it from God through the people,
collectively, or as society, and therefore concedes it a natural,
human, and social element, which distinguishes it from pure
theocracy. It, however, does not explain how authority comes
from God to the people. The ruler, king, prince, or emperor,
holds from God through the people, but how do the people
themselves hold from God? Mediately or immediately? If
mediately, what is the medium? Surely not the people themselves.
The people can no more be the medium than the principle of their
own sovereignty. If immediately, then God governs in them as he
does in the church, and no man is free to think or act contrary
to popular opinion, or in any case to question the wisdom or
justice of any of the acts of the state, which is arriving at
state absolutism by another process. Besides, this would
theoretically exclude all human or natural activity, all human
intelligence and free-will from the state, which were to fall
into either pantheism or atheism.

VIII. The right of government to govern, or political authority,
is derived by the collective people or society, from God through
the law of nature. Rulers hold from God through the people or
nation, and the people or nation hold from God through the
natural law. How nations are founded or constituted, or a
particular people becomes a sovereign political people, invested
with the rights of society, will be considered in following
chapters. Here it suffices to say that supposing a political
people or nation, the sovereignty vests in the community, not
supernaturally, or by an external supernatural appointment, as
the clergy hold their authority, but by the natural law, or law
by which God governs the whole moral creation.

They who assert the origin of government in nature are right, so
far as they derive it from God through the law of nature, and
are wrong only when they understand by the law of nature the
physical force or forces of nature, which are not laws in the
primary and proper sense of the term. The law of nature is not
the order or rule of the divine action in nature which is
rightfully called providence, but is, as has been said, law in
its proper and primary sense, ordained by the Author of nature,
as its sovereign and supreme Lawgiver, and binds all of his
creatures who are endowed with reason and free-will, and is
called natural, because promulgated through the reason common to
all men. Undoubtedly, it was in the first instance, to the first
man, supernaturally promulgated, as it is republished and
confirmed by Christianity, as an integral part of the Christian
code itself. Man needs even yet instruction in relation to
matters lying within the range of natural reason, or else secular
schools, colleges, and universities would be superfluous, and
manifestly the instructor of the first man could have been only
the Creator himself.

The knowledge of the natural law has been transmitted from Adam
to us through two channels--reason, which is in every man, and in
immediate relation with the Creator, and the traditions of the
primitive instruction embodied in language and what the Romans
call jus gentium, or law common to all civilized nations. Under
this law. whose prescriptions are promulgated through reason and
embodied in universal jurisprudence, nations are providentially
constituted, and invested with political sovereignty; and as they
are constituted under this law and hold from God through it, it
defines their respective rights and powers, their limitation and
their extent.

The political sovereignty, under the law of nature, attaches to
the people, not individually, but collectively, as civil or
political society. It is vested in the political community or
nation, not in an individual, or family, or a class, because,
under the natural law, all men are equal, as they are under the
Christian law, and one man has, in his own right, no authority
over another. The family has in the father a natural chief, but
political society has no natural chief or chiefs. The authority
of the father is domestic, not political, and ceases when his
children have attained to majority, have married and become heads
of families themselves, or have ceased to make part of the
paternal household. The recognition of the authority of the
father beyond the limits of his own household, is, if it ever
occurs, by virtue of the ordinance, the consent, express or
tacit, of the political society. There are no natural-born
political chiefs, and wherever we find men claiming or
acknowledged to be such, they are either usurpers, what the
Greeks called tyrants, or they are made such by the will or
constitution of the people or the nation.

Both monarchy and aristocracy were, no doubt, historically
developed from the authority of the patriarchs, and have
unquestionably been sustained by an equally false development of
the right of property, especially landed property. The owner of
the land, or he who claimed to own it, claimed as an incident of
his ownership the right to govern it, and consequently to govern
all who occupied it. But however valid may be the landlord's
title to the soil, and it is doubtful if man can own any thing in
land beyond the usufruct, it can give him under the law of nature
no political right. Property, like all natural rights, is
entitled by the natural law to protection, but not to govern.
Whether it shall be made a basis of political power or not is a
question of political prudence, to be determined by the supreme
political authority. It was the basis, and almost exclusive
basis, in the Middle Ages, under feudalism, and is so still in
most states. France and the United States are the principal
exceptions in Christendom. Property alone, or coupled with
birth, is made elsewhere in some form a basis of political
power, and where made so by the sovereign authority, it is
legitimate, but not wise nor desirable; for it takes from the
weak and gives to the strong. The rich have in their riches
advantages enough over the poor, without receiving from the state
any additional advantage. An aristocracy, in the sense of
families distinguished by birth, noble and patriotic services,
wealth, cultivation, refinement, taste, and manners, is desirable
in every nation, is a nation's ornament, and also its chief
support, but they need and should receive no political
recognition. They should form no privileged class in the state
or political society.



The Constitution is twofold: the constitution of the state or
nation, and the constitution of the government. The constitution
of the government is, or is held to be, the work of the nation
itself; the constitution of the state, or the people of the
state, is, in its origin at least, providential, given by God
himself, operating through historical events or natural causes.
The one originates in law, the other in historical fact. The
nation must exist, and exist as a political community, before it
can give itself a constitution; and no state, any more than an
individual, can exist without a constitution of some sort.

The distinction between the providential constitution of the
people and the constitution of the government, is not always
made. The illustrious Count de Maistre, one of the ablest
political philosophers who wrote in the last century, or the
first quarter of the present, in his work on the Generative
Principle of Political Constitutions, maintains that
constitutions are generated, not made, and excludes all human
agency from their formation and growth. Disgusted with French
Jacobinism, from which he and his kin and country had suffered so
much, and deeply wedded to monarchy in both church and state, he
had the temerity to maintain that God creates expressly royal
families for the government of nations, and that it is idle for a
nation to expect a good government without a king who has
descended from one of those divinely created royal families. It
was with some such thought, most likely, that a French
journalist, writing home from the United States, congratulated
the American people on having a Bonaparte in their army, so that
when their democracy failed, as in a few years it was sure to do,
they would have a descendant of a royal house to be their king or
emperor. Alas! the Bonaparte has left us, and besides, he was
not the descendant of a royal house, and was, like the present
Emperor of the French, a decided parvenu. Still, the Emperor of
the French, if only a parvenu, bears himself right imperially
among sovereigns, and has no peer among any of the descendants of
the old royal families of Europe

There is a truth, however, in De Maistre's doctrine that
constitutions are generated, or developed, not created de novo,
or made all at once. But nothing is more true than that a nation
can alter its constitution by its own deliberate and voluntary
action, and many nations have done so, and sometimes for the
better, as well as for the worse. If the constitution once given is
fixed and unalterable, it must be wholly divine, and contain no
human element, and the people have and can have no hand in their
own government--the fundamental objection to the theocratic
constitution of society. To assume it is to transfer to civil
society, founded by the ordinary providence of God, the
constitution of the church, founded by his gracious or
supernatural providence, and to maintain that the divine
sovereignty governs in civil society immediately and
supernaturally, as in the spiritual society. But such is not the
fact. God governs the nation by the nation itself, through its
own reason and free-will. De Maistre is right only as to the
constitution the nation starts with, and as to the control which
that constitution necessarily exerts over the constitutional
changes the nation can successfully introduce.

The disciples of Jean Jacques Rousseau recognize no providential
constitution, and call the written instrument drawn up by a
convention of sovereign individuals the constitution, and the
only constitution, both of the people and the government. Prior
to its adoption there is no government, no state, no political
community or authority. Antecedently to it the people are an
inorganic mass, simply individuals, without any political or
national solidarity. These individuals, they suppose, come
together in their own native right and might, organize themselves
into a political community, give themselves a constitution, and
draw up and vote rules for their government, as a number of
individuals might meet in a public hall and resolve themselves
into a temperance society or a debating club. This might do very
well if the state were, like the temperance society or debating
club, a simple voluntary association, which men are free to join
or not as they please, and which they are bound to obey no
farther and no longer than suits their convenience. But the
state is a power, a sovereignty; speaks to all within its
jurisdiction with an imperative voice; commands, and may use
physical force to compel obedience, when not voluntarily yielded.
Men are born its subjects, and no one can withdraw from it
without its express or tacit permission, unless for causes that
would justify resistance to its authority. The right of subjects
to denationalize or expatriate themselves, except to escape a
tyranny or an oppression which would forfeit the rights of power
and warrant forcible resistance to it, does not exist, any more
than the right of foreigners to become citizens, unless by the
consent and authorization of the sovereign; for the citizen or
subject belongs to the state, and is bound to it.

The solidarity of the individuals composing the population of a
territory or country under one political head is a truth; but
"the solidarity of peoples," irrespective of the government or
political authority of their respective countries, so eloquently
preached a few years since by the Hungarian Kossuth, is not only
a falsehood, but a falsehood destructive of all government and of
all political organization. Kossuth's doctrine supposes the
people, or the populations of all countries, are, irrespective of
their governments, bound together in solido, each for all and all
for each, and therefore not only free, but bound, wherever they
find a population struggling nominally for liberty against its
government, to rush with arms in their hands to its assistance--a
doctrine clearly incompatible with any recognition of political
authority or territorial rights. Peoples or nations commune with
each other only through the national authorities, and when the
state proclaims neutrality or non-intervention, all its subjects
are bound to be neutral, and to abstain from all intervention on
either side. There may be, and indeed there is, a solidarity,
more or less distinctly recognized, of Christian nations, but of
the populations with and through their governments, not without
them. Still more strict is the solidarity of all the individuals
of one and the same nation. These are all bound together, all
for each and each for all. The individual is born into society
and under the government, and without the authority of the
government, which represents all and each, he cannot release
himself from his obligations. The state is then by no means a
voluntary association. Every one born or adopted into it is
bound to it, and cannot without its permission withdraw from it,
unless, as just said, it is manifest that he can have under it no
protection for his natural rights as a man, more especially for
his rights of conscience. This is Vattel's doctrine, and the
dictate of common sense.

The constitution drawn up, ordained, and established by a nation
for itself is a law--the organic or fundamental law, if you will,
but a law, and is and must be the act of the sovereign power.
That sovereign power must exist before it can act, and it cannot
exist, if vested in the people or nation, without a constitution,
or without some sort of political organization of the people or
nation. There must, then, be for every state or nation a
constitution anterior to the constitution which the nation gives
itself, and from which the one it gives itself derives all its
vitality and legal force.

Logic and historical facts are here, as elsewhere, coincident,
for creation and providence are simply the expression of the
Supreme Logic, the Logos, by whom all things are made. Nations
have originated in various ways, but history records no instance
of a nation existing as an inorganic mass organizing itself into
a political community. Every nation, at its first appearance
above the horizon, is found to have an organization of some sort.
This is evident from the only ways in which history shows us
nations originating. These ways are: 1. The union of families in
the tribe. 2. The union of tribes in the nation. 3. The migration
of families, tribes, or nations in search of new settlements.
4. Colonization, military, agricultural, commercial, industrial,
religious, or penal. 5. War and conquest. 6. The revolt,
separation, and independence of provinces. 7. The intermingling
of the conquerors and conquered, and by amalgamation forming a
new people. These are all the ways known to history, and in none
of these ways does a people, absolutely destitute of all
organization, constitute itself a state, and institute and carry
on civil government.

The family, the tribe, the colony are, if incomplete, yet
incipient states, or inchoate nations, with an organization,
individuality, and a centre of social life of their own. The
families and tribes that migrate in search of new settlements
carry with them their family and tribal organizations, and
retain it for a long time. The Celtic tribes retained it in Gaul
till broken up by the Roman conquest, under Caesar Augustus; in
Ireland, till the middle of the seventeenth century; and in
Scotland, till the middle of the eighteenth. It subsists still
in the hordes of Tartary, the Arabs of the Desert, and the
Berbers or Kabyles of Africa.

Colonies, of whatever description, have been founded, if not by,
at least under, the authority of the mother country, whose
political constitution, laws, manners, and customs they carry
with them. They receive from the parent state a political
organization, which, though subordinate, yet constitutes them
embryonic states, with a unity, individuality, and centre of
public life in themselves, and which, when they are detached and
recognized as independent, render them complete states. War and
conquest effect great national changes, but do not, strictly
speaking, create new states. They simply extend and consolidate
the power of the conquering state.

Provinces revolt and become independent states or nations, but
only when they have previously existed as such, and have retained
the tradition of their old constitution and independence; or when
the administration has erected them into real though dependent
political communities. A portion of the people of a state not so
erected or organized, that has in no sense had a distinct
political existence of its own, has never separated from the
national body and formed a new and independent nation. It cannot
revolt; it may rise up against the government, and either
revolutionize and take possession of the state, or be put down by
the government as an insurrection. The amalgamation of the
conquering and the conquered forms a new people, and modifies the
institutions of both, but does not necessarily form a new nation
or political community. The English of to-day are very different
from both the Normans and the Saxons, or Dano-Saxons, of the time
of Richard Coeur de Lion, but they constitute the same state or
political community. England is still England.

The Roman empire, conquered by the Northern barbarians, has been
cut up into several separate and independent nations, but because
its several provinces had, prior to their conquest by the Roman
arms, been independent nations or tribes, and more especially
because the conquerors themselves were divided into several
distinct nations or confederacies. If the barbarians had been
united in a single nation or state, the Roman empire most likely
would have changed masters, indeed, but have retained its unity
and its constitution, for the Germanic nations that finally
seated themselves on its ruins had no wish to destroy its name or
nationality, for they were themselves more than half Romanized
before conquering Rome. But the new nations into which the
empire has been divided have never been, at any moment, without
political or governmental organization, continued from the
constitution of the conquering tribe or nation, modified more or
less by what was retained from the empire.

It is not pretended that the constitutions of states cannot be
altered, or that every people starts with a constitution fully
developed, as would seem to be the doctrine of De Maistre. The
constitution of the family is rather economical than political,
and the tribe is far from being a fully developed state.
Strictly speaking, the state, the modern equivalent for the city
of the Greeks and Romans, was not fully formed till men began to
build and live in cities, and became fixed to a national
territory. But in the first place, the eldest born of the human
race, we are told, built a city, and even in cities we find
traces of the family and tribal organization long after their
municipal existence--in Athens down to the Macedonian conquest,
and in Rome down to the establishment of the Empire; and, in the
second place, the pastoral nations, though they have not
precisely the city or state organization, yet have a national
organization, and obey a national authority. Strictly speaking,
no pastoral nation has a civil or political constitution, but
they have what in our modern tongues can be expressed by no other
term. The feudal regime, which was in full vigor even in Europe
from the tenth to the close of the fourteenth century, had
nothing to do with cities, and really recognized no state proper;
yet who hesitates to speak of it as a civil or political system,
though a very imperfect one?

The civil order, as it now exists, was not fully developed in the
early ages. For a long time the national organizations bore
unmistakable traces of having been developed from the patriarchal,
and modelled from the family or tribe, as they do still in all
the non-Christian world. Religion itself, before the Incarnation,
bore traces of the same organization. Even with the Jews,
religion was transmitted and disused, not as under Christianity
by conversion, but by natural generation or family adoption.
With all the Gentile tribes or nations, it was the same. At
first the father was both priest and king, an when the two
offices were separated, the priests formed a distinct and
hereditary class or caste, rejected by Christianity, which, as we
have seen, admits priests only after the order of Melchisedech.
The Jews had the synagogue, and preserved the primitive
revelation in its purity and integrity; but the Greeks and
Romans, more fully than any other ancient nations, preserved or
developed the political order that best conforms to the Christian
religion; and Christianity, it is worthy of remark, followed in
the track of the Roman armies, and it gains a permanent
establishment only where was planted, or where it is able to
plant, the Graeco-Roman civilization. The Graeco-Roman republics
were hardly less a schoolmaster to bring the world to Christ in
the civil order, than the Jewish nation was to bring it to Him in
the spiritual order, or in faith and worship. In the Christian
order nothing is by hereditary descent, but every thing is by
election of grace. The Christian dispensation is teleological,
palingenesiac, and the whole order, prior to the Incarnation, was
initial, genesiac, and continued by natural generation, as it is
still in all nations and tribes outside of Christendom. No
non-Christian people is a civilized people, and, indeed, the
human race seems not anywhere, prior to the Incarnation, to have
attained to its majority: and it is, perhaps, because the race
were not prepared for it, that the Word was not sooner incarnated.
He came only in the fulness of time, when the world was ready to
receive him.

The providential constitution is, in fact, that with which the
nation is born, and is, as long as the nation exists, the real
living and efficient constitution of the state. It is the source
of the vitality of the state, that which controls or governs its
action, and determines its destiny. The constitution which a
nation is said to give itself, is never the constitution of the
state, but is the law ordained by the state for the government
instituted under it. Thomas Paine would admit nothing to be the
constitution but a written document which he could fold up and
put in his pocket, or file away in a pigeon-hole. The Abbe
Sieyes pronounced politics a science which he had finished, and
he was ready to turn you out constitutions to order, with no
other defect than that they had, as Carlyle wittily says, no feet,
and could not go. Many in the last century, and some, perhaps,
in the present, for folly as well as wisdom has her heirs,
confounded the written instrument with the constitution itself.
No constitution can be written on paper or engrossed on parchment.
What the convention may agree upon, draw up, and the people
ratify by their votes, is no constitution, for it is extrinsic to
the nation, not inherent and living in it--is, at best,
legislative instead of constitutive. The famous Magna Charta
drawn up by Cardinal Langton, and wrung from John Lackland by the
English barons at Runnymede, was no constitution of England till
long after the date of its concession, and even then was no
constitution of the state, but a set of restrictions on power.
The constitution is the intrinsic or inherent and actual
constitution of the people or political community itself; that
which makes the nation what it is, and distinguishes it from
every other nation, and varies as nations themselves vary from
one another.

The constitution of the state is not a theory, nor is it drawn up
and established in accordance with any preconceived theory. What
is theoretic in a constitution is unreal. The constitutions
conceived by philosophers in their closets are constitutions only
of Utopia or Dreamland. This world is not governed by
abstractions, for abstractions are nullities. Only the concrete
is real, and only the real or actual has vitality or force. The
French people adopted constitution after constitution of the most
approved pattern, and amid bonfires, beating of drums, sound of
trumpets, roar of musketry, and thunder of artillery, swore, no
doubt, sincerely as well as enthusiastically, to observe them,
but all to no effect; for they had no authority for the nation,
no hold on its affections, and formed no element of its life.
The English are great constitution-mongers--for other nations.
They fancy that a constitution fashioned after their own will fit
any nation that can be persuaded, wheedled, or bullied into
trying it on; but, unhappily, all that have tried it on have
found it only an embarrassment or encumbrance. The doctor might
as well attempt to give an individual a new constitution, or the
constitution of another man, as the statesman to give a nation
any other constitution than that which it has, and with which it
is born.

The whole history of Europe, since the fall of the Roman empire,
proves this thesis. The barbarian conquest of Rome introduced
into the nations founded on the site of the empire, a double
constitution--the barbaric and the civil--the Germanic and the
Roman in the West, and the Tartaric or Turkish and the
Graeco-Roman in the East. The key to all modern history is in
the mutual struggles of these two constitutions and the interests
respectively associated with them, which created two societies on
the same territory, and, for the most part, under the same
national denomination. The barbaric was the constitution of the
conquerors; they had the power, the government, rank, wealth, and
fashion, were reinforced down to the tenth century by fresh
hordes of barbarians, and had even brought the external
ecclesiastical society to a very great extent into harmony with
itself. The Pope became a feudal sovereign, and the bishops and
mitred abbots feudal princes and barons. Yet, after eight
hundred years of fierce struggle, the Roman constitution got the
upper hand, and the barbaric constitution, as far as it could not
be assimilated to the Roman, was eliminated. The original Empire
of the West is now as thoroughly Roman in its constitution, its
laws, and its civilization, as it ever was under any of its
Christian emperors before the barbarian conquest.

The same process is going on in the East, though it has not
advanced so far, having begun there several centuries later, and
the Graeco-Roman constitution was far feebler there than in the
West at the epoch of the conquest. The Germanic tribes that
conquered the West had long had close relations with the empire,
had served as its allies, and even in its armies, and were
partially Romanized. Most of their chiefs had received a Roman
culture; and their early conversion to the Christian faith
facilitated the revival and permanence of the old Roman
constitution. In the East it was different. The conquerors had
no touch of Roman civilization, and, followers of the Prophet,
they were animated with an intense hatred, which, after the
conquest, was changed into a superb contempt, of Christians and
Romans. They had their civil constitution in the Koran; and the
Koran, in its principles, doctrines, and spirit, is exclusive and
profoundly intolerant. The Graeco-Roman constitution was always
much weaker in the East, and had far greater obstacles to
overcome there than in the West; yet it has survived the shock of
the conquest. Throughout the limits of the ancient Empire of the
East, the barbaric constitution has received and is daily
receiving rude blows, and, but as reenforced by barbarians lying
outside of the boundaries of that empire, would be no longer able
to sustain itself. The Greek or Christian populations of the
empire are no longer in danger of being exterminated or absorbed
by the Mohammedan state or population. They are the only living
and progressive people of the Ottoman Empire, and their complete
success in absorbing or expelling the Turk is only a question of
time. They will, in all present probability, reestablish a
Christian and Roman East in much less time from the fall of
Constantinople in 1453, than it took the West from the fall of
Rome in 476 to put an end to the feudal or barbaric constitution
founded by its Germanic invaders.

Indeed, the Roman constitution, laws, and civilization not only
gain the mastery in the nations seated within the limits of the
old Roman Empire, but extend their power through out the whole
civilized world. The Graeco-Roman civilization is, in fact, the
only civilization now recognized, and nations are accounted
civilized only in proportion as they are Romanized and
Christianized. The Roman law, as found in the Institutes,
Pandects, and Novellae of Justinian, or the Corpus Legis Civilis,
is the basis of the law and jurisprudence of all Christendom.
The Graeco-Roman civilization, called not improperly Christian
civilization, is the only progressive civilization. The old
feudal system remains in England little more than an empty name.
The king is only the first magistrate of the kingdom, and the
House of Lords is only an hereditary senate. Austria is hard at
work in the Roman direction, and finds her chief obstacle to
success in Hungary, with the Magyars whose feudalism retains
almost the full vigor of the Middle Ages. Russia is moving in
the same direction; and Prussia and the smaller Germanic states
obey the same impulse. Indeed, Rome has survived the
conquest--has conquered her conquerors, and now invades every
region from which they came. The Roman Empire may be said to be
acknowledged and obeyed in lands lying far beyond the farthest
limits reached by the Roman eagles, and to be more truly the
mistress of the world than under Augustus, Trajan, or the
Antonines. Nothing can stand before the Christian and Romanized
nations, and all pagandom and Mohammedom combined are too weak to
resist their onward march.

All modern European revolutions result only in reviving the Roman
Empire, whatever the motives, interests, passions, or theories
that initiate them. The French Revolution of the last century
and that of the present prove it. France, let people say what
they will, stands at the head of the European civilized world,
and displays en grand all its good and all its bad tendencies.
When she moves, Europe moves; when she has a vertigo, all
European nations are dizzy; when she recovers her health, her
equilibrium, and good sense, others become sedate, steady, and
reasonable. She is the head, nay, rather, the heart of
Christendom--the head is at Rome--through which circulates the
pure and impure blood of the nations. It is in vain Great
Britain, Germany, or Russia disputes with her the hegemony of
European civilization. They are forced to yield to her at last,
to be content to revolve around her as the centre of the
political system that masters them. The reason is, France is
more completely and sincerely Roman than any other nation. The
revolutions that have shaken the world have resulted in
eliminating the barbaric elements she had retained, and clearing
away all obstacles to the complete triumph of Imperial Rome.
Napoleon III. is for France what Augustus was for Rome. The
revolutions in Spain and Italy have only swept away the relics of
the barbaric constitution, and aided the revival of Roman
imperialism. In no country do the revolutionists succeed in
establishing their own theories; Caesar remains master of the
field. Even in the United States, a revolution undertaken in
favor of the barbaric system has resulted in the destruction of
what remained of that system--in sweeping away the last relics of
disintegrating feudalism, and in the complete establishment of
the Graeco-Roman system, with important improvements, in the New

The Roman system is republican, in the broad sense of the term,
because under it power is never an estate, never the private
for the public good. As it existed under the Caesars, and is
revived in modern times, whether under the imperial or the
democratic form, it, no doubt, tends to centralism, to the
concentration of all the powers and forces of the state in one
central government, from which all local authorities and
institutions emanate. Wise men oppose it as affording no
guaranties to individual liberty against the abuses of power.
This it may not do, but the remedy is not in feudalism. The
feudal lord holds his authority as an estate, and has over the
people under him all the power of Caesar and all the rights of
the proprietor. He, indeed, has a guaranty against his
liege-lord, sometimes a more effective guaranty than his
liege-lord has against him; but against his centralized power his
vassals and serfs have only the guaranty that a slave has against
his owner.

Feudalism is alike hostile to the freedom of public authority and
of the people. It is essentially a disintegrating element in the
nation. It breaks the unity and individuality of the state,
embarrasses the sovereign, and guards against the abuse of public
authority by overpowering and suppressing it. Every feudal lord
is a more thorough despot in his own domain than Caesar ever was
or could be in the empire; and the monarch, even if strong enough,
is yet not competent to intervene between him and his people, any
more than the General government in the United States was to
intervene between the negro slave and his master. The great
vassals of the crown singly, or, if not singly, in
combination--and they could always combine in the interest of
their order--were too strong for the king, or to be brought under
any public authority, and could issue from their fortified
castles and rob and plunder to their hearts' content, with none
to call them to an account. Under the most thoroughly
centralized government there is far more liberty for the people,
and a far greater security for person and property, except in the
case of the feudal nobles themselves, than was even dreamed of
while the feudal regime was in full vigor. Nobles were
themselves free, it is conceded, but not the people. The king
was too weak, too restricted in his action by the feudal
constitution to reach them, and the higher clergy were ex officio
sovereigns, princes, barons, or feudal lords, and were led by
their private interests to act with the feudal nobility, save
when that nobility threatened the temporalities of the church.
The only reliance, under God, left in feudal times to the poor
people was in the lower ranks of the clergy, especially of the
regular clergy. All the great German emperors in the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries, who saw the evils of feudalism, and
attempted to break it up and revive imperial Rome, became
involved in quarrels with the chiefs of the religious society,
and failed, because the interest of the Popes, as feudal
sovereigns and Italian princes, and the interests of the
dignified clergy, were for the time bound up with the feudal
society, though their Roman culture and civilization made them at
heart hostile to it. The student of history, however strong his
filial affection towards the visible head of the church, cannot
help admiring the grandeur of the political views of Frederic the
Second, the greatest and last of the Hohenstaufen, or refrain
from dropping a tear over his sad failure. He had great faults
as a man, but he had rare genius as a statesman; and it is some
consolation to know that he died a Christian death, in charity
with all men, after having received the last sacraments of his

The Popes, under the circumstances, were no doubt justified in
the policy they pursued, for the Swabian emperors failed to
respect the acknowledged rights of the church, and to remember
their own incompetency in spirituals; but evidently their
political views and aims were liberal, far-reaching, and worthy
of admiration. Their success, if it could have been effected
without lesion to the church, would have set Europe forward some
two or three hundred years, and probably saved it from the
schisms of the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. But it is
easy to be wise after the event. The fact is, that during the
period when feudalism was in full vigor, the king was merely a
shadow; the people found their only consolation in religion, and
their chief protectors in the monks, who mingled with them, saw
their sufferings, and sympathized with them, consoled them,
carried their cause to the castle before the feudal lord and
lady, and did, thank God, do something to keep alive religious
sentiments and convictions in the bosom of the feudal society
itself. Whatever opinions may be formed of the monastic orders
in relation to the present, this much is certain, that they were
the chief civilizers of Europe, and the chief agents in
delivering European society from feudal barbarism.

The aristocracy have been claimed as the natural allies of the
throne, but history proves them to be its natural enemies,
whenever it cannot be used in their service, and kings do not
consent to be their ministers and to do their bidding. A
political aristocracy has at heart only the interests of its
order, and pursues no line of policy but the extension or
preservation of its privileges. Having little to gain and much
to lose, it opposes every political change that would either
strengthen the crown or elevate the people. The nobility in the
French Revolution were the first to desert both the king and the
kingdom, and kings have always found their readiest and firmest
allies in the people. The people in Europe have no such bitter
feelings towards royalty as they have towards the feudal
nobility--for kings have never so grievously oppressed them. In
Rome the patrician order opposed alike the emperor and the
people, except when they, as chivalric nobles sometimes will do,
turned courtiers or demagogues. They were the people of Rome and
the provinces that sustained the emperors, and they were the
emperors who sustained the people, and gave to the provincials
the privileges of Roman citizens.

Guaranties against excessive centralism are certainly needed, but
the statesman will not seek them in the feudal organization of
society--in a political aristocracy, whether founded on birth or
private wealth, nor in a privileged class of any sort. Better
trust Caesar than Brutus, or even Cato. Nor will he seek them in
the antagonism of interests intended to neutralize or balance
each other, as in the English constitution. This was the great
error of Mr. Calhoun. No man saw more clearly than Mr. Calhoun
the utter worthlessness of simple paper constitutions, on which
Mr. Jefferson placed such implicit reliance, or that the real
constitution is in the state itself, in the manner in which the
people themselves are organized; but his reliance was in
constituting, as powers in the state, the several popular
interests that exist, and pitting them against each other--the
famous system of checks and balances of English states men. He
was led to this, because be distrusted power, and was more
intention guarding against its abuses than on providing for its
free, vigorous, and healthy action, going on the principle that
"that is the best government which governs least." But, if the
opposing interests could be made to balance one another perfectly,
the result would be an equilibrium, in which power would be
brought to a stand-still; and if not, the stronger would succeed
and swallow up all the rest. The theory of checks and balances
is admirable if the object be to trammel power, and to have as
little power in the government as possible; but it is a theory
which is born from passions engendered by the struggle against
despotism or arbitrary power, not from a calm and philosophical
appreciation of government itself. The English have not
succeeded in establishing their theory, for, after all, their
constitution does not work so well as they pretend. The landed
interest controls at one time, and the mercantile and
manufacturing interest at another. They do not perfectly balance
one another, and it is not difficult to see that the mercantile
and manufacturing interest, combined with the moneyed interest,
is henceforth to predominate. The aim of the real statesman is
to organize all the interests and forces of the state
dialectically, so that they shall unite to add to its strength,
and work together harmoniously for the common good.



Though the constitution of the people is congenital, like the
constitution of an individual, and cannot be radically changed
without the destruction of the state, it must not be supposed
that it is wholly withdrawn from the action of the reason and
free-will of the nation, nor from that of individual statesmen.
All created things are subject to the law of development, and may
be developed either in a good sense or in a bad; that is, may be
either completed or corrupted. All the possibilities of the
national constitution are given originally in the birth of the
nation, as all the possibilities of mankind were given in the
first man. The germ must be given in the original constitution.
But in all constitutions there is more than one element, and the
several elements maybe developed pari passu, or unequally, one
having the ascendency and suppressing the rest. In the original
constitution of Rome the patrician element was dominant, showing
that the patriarchal organization of society still retained no
little force. The king was only the presiding officer of the
senate and the leader of the army in war. His civil functions
corresponded very nearly to those of a mayor of the city of New
York, where all the effective power is in the aldermen, common
council, and heads of departments. Except in name he was little
else than a pageant. The kings, no doubt, labored to develop and
extend the royal element of the constitution. This was natural;
and it was equally natural that they should be resisted by the
patricians. Hence when the Tarquins, or Etruscan dynasty,
undertook to be kings in fact as well as in name, and seemed
likely to succeed, the patricians expelled them, and supplied
their place by two consuls annually elected. Here was a
modification, but no real change of the constitution. The
effective Power, as before, remained in the senate.

But there was from early times a plebeian element in the
population of the city, though forming at first no part of the
political people. Their origin is not very certain, nor their
original position in the city. Historians give different
accounts of them. But that they should, as they increased in
numbers, wealth, and importance, demand admission into the
political society, religious or solemn marriage, a voice in the
government, and the faculty of holding civil and military offices,
was only in the order of regular development. At first the
patricians fought them, and, failing to subdue them by force,
effected a compromise, and bought up their leaders. The
concession which followed of the tribunitial veto was only a
further development. By that veto the plebeians gained no
initiative, no positive power, indeed, but their tribunes, by
interposing it, could stop the proceedings of the government.
They could not propose the measures they liked, but they could
prevent the legal adoption of measures they disliked--a faculty
Mr. Calhoun asserted for the several States of the American Union
in his doctrine of nullification, or State veto, as he called it.
It was simply an obstructive power.

But from a power to obstruct legislative action to the power to
originate or propose it, and force the senate to adopt it through
fear of the veto of measures the patricians had at heart, was
only a still further development. This gained, the exclusively
patrician constitution had disappeared, and Marius, the head of a
great plebeian house, could be elected consul and the plebeians
in turn threaten to become predominant, which Sylla or Sulla, as
dictator, seeing, tried in vain to prevent. The dictator was
provided for in the original constitution. Retain the
dictatorship for a time, strengthen the plebeian element by
ruthless proscriptions of patricians and by recruits from the
provinces, unite the tribunitial, pontifical, and military powers
in the imperator designated by the army, all elements existing in
the constitution from an early day, and already developed in the
Roman state, and you have the imperial constitution, which
retained to the last the senate and consuls, though with less and
less practical power. These changes are very great, but are none
of them radical, dating from the recognition of the plebs as
pertaining to the Roman people. They are normal developments,
not corruptions, and the transition from the consular republic to
the imperial was unquestionably a real social and political
progress. And yet the Roman people, had they chosen, could have
given a different direction to the developments of their
constitution. There was Providence in the course of events, but
no fatalism.

Sulla was a true patrician, a blind partisan of the past. He
sought to arrest the plebeian development led by Marius, and to
restore the exclusively patrician government. But it was too late.
His proscriptions, confiscations, butcheries, unheard-of cruelties
which anticipated and surpassed those of the French Revolution of
1793, availed nothing. The Marian or plebeian movement,
apparently checked for a moment, resumed its march with renewed
vigor under Julius, and triumphed at Pharsalia. In vain Cicero,

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