Disquisition on Government

                         John C. Calhoun

In order to have a clear and just conception of the nature and object of
government, it is indispensable to understand correctly what that
constitution or law of our nature is, in which government originates; or, to
express it more fully and accurately ! that law, without which government
would not, and with which, it must necessarily exist. Without this, it is as
impossible to lay any solid foundation for the science of government, as it
would be to lay one for that of astronomy, without a like understanding of
that constitution or law of the material world, according to which the
several bodies composing the solar system mutually act on each other, and by
which they are kept in their respective spheres. The first question,
accordingly, to be considered is ! What is that constitution or law of our
nature, without which government would not exist, and with which its
existence is necessary?

In considering this, I assume, as an incontestable fact, that man is so
constituted as to be a social being. His inclinations and wants, physical
and moral, irresistibly impel him to associate with his kind; and he has,
accordingly, never been found, in any age or country, in any state other
than the social. In no other, indeed, could he exist; and in no other ! were
it possible for him to exist ! could he attain to a full development of his
moral and intellectual faculties, or raise himself, in the scale of being,
much above the level of the brute creation.

I next assume, also, as a fact not less incontestable, that, while man is so
constituted as to make the social state necessary to his existence and the
full development of his faculties, this state itself cannot exist without
government. The assumption rests on universal experience. In no age or
country has any society or community ever been found, whether enlightened or
savage, without government of some description.

Having assumed these, as unquestionable phenomena of our nature, I shall,
without further remark, proceed to the investigation of the primary and
important question ! What is that constitution of our nature, which, while
it impels man to associate with his kind, renders it impossible for society
to exist without government?

The answer will be found in the fact (not less incontestable than either of
the others) that, while man is created for the social state, and is
accordingly so formed as to feel what affects others, as well as what
affects himself, he is, at the same time, so constituted as to feel more
intensely what affects him directly, than what affects him indirectly though
others; or, to express it differently, he is so constituted, that his direct
or individual affections are stronger than his sympathetic or social
feelings. I intentionally avoid the expression, selfish feelings, as
applicable to the former; because, as commonly used, it implies an unusual
excess of the individual over the social feelings, in the person to whom it
is applied; and, consequently, something depraved and vicious. My object is,
to exclude such inference, and to restrict the inquiry exclusively to facts
in their bearings on the subject under consideration, viewed as mere
phenomena appertaining to our nature ! constituted as it is; and which are
as unquestionable as is that of gravitation, or any other phenomenon of the
material world.

In asserting that our individual are stronger than our social feelings, it
is not intended to deny that there are instances, growing out of peculiar
relations ! as that of a mother and her infant ! or resulting from the force
of education and habit over peculiar constitutions, in which the latter have
overpowered the former; but these instances are few, and always regarded as
something extraordinary. The deep impression they make, whenever they occur,
is the strongest proof that they are regarded as exceptions to some general
and well understood law of our nature; just as some of the minor powers of
the material world are apparently to gravitation.

I might go farther, and assert this to be a phenomenon, not of our nature
only, but of all animated existence, throughout its entire range, so far as
our knowledge extends. It would, indeed, seem to be essentially connected
with the great law of self-preservation which pervades all that feels, from
man down to the lowest and most insignificant reptile or insect. In none is
it stronger than in man. His social feelings may, indeed, in a state of
safety and abundance, combined with high intellectual and moral culture,
acquire great expansion and force; but not so great as to overpower this
all-pervading and essential law of animated existence.

But that constitution of our nature which makes us feel more intensely what
affects us directly than what affects us indirectly through others,
necessarily leads to conflict between individuals. Each, in consequence, has
a greater regard for his own safety or happiness, than for the safety or
happiness of others; and, where these come in opposition, is ready to
sacrifice the interests of others to his own. And hence, the tendency to a
universal state of conflict, between individual and individual; accompanied
by the connected passions of suspicion, jealousy, anger and revenge !
followed by insolence, fraud and cruelty ! and, if not prevented by some
controlling power, ending in a state of universal discord and confusion,
destructive of the social state and the ends for which it is ordained. This
controlling power, wherever vested, or by whomsoever exercised, is

It follows, then, that man is so constituted, that government is necessary
to the existence of society, and society to his existence, and the
perfection of his faculties. It follows, also, that government has its
origin in this twofold constitution of his nature; the sympathetic or social
feelings constituting the remote ! and the individual or direct, the
proximate cause.

If man had been differently constituted in either particular ! if, instead
of being social in his nature, he had been created without sympathy for his
kind, and independent of others for his safety and existence; or if, on the
other hand, he had been so created, as to feel more intensely what affected
others than what affected himself (if that were possible) or, even, had this
supposed interest been equal ! it is manifest that, in either case, there
would have been no necessity for government, and that none would ever have
existed. But, although society and government are thus intimately connected
with and dependent on each other ! of the two society is the greater. It is
the first in the order of things, and in the dignity of its object; that of
society being primary ! to preserve and perfect our race; and that of
government secondary and subordinate, to preserve and perfect society. Both
are, however, necessary to the existence and well-being of our race, and
equally of Divine ordination.

I have said ! if it were possible for man to be so constituted, as to feel
what affects others more strongly than what affects himself, or even as
strongly ! because, it may be well doubted, whether the stronger feeling or
affection of individuals for themselves, combined with a feebler and
subordinate feeling or affection for others, is not, in beings of limited
reason and faculties, a constitution necessary to their preservation and
existence. If reversed ! if their feelings and affections were stronger for
others than for themselves, or even as strong, the necessary result would
seem to be, that all individuality would be lost; and boundless and
remediless disorder and confusion would ensue. For each, at the same moment,
intensely participating in all the conflicting emotions of those around him,
would, of course, forget himself and all that concerned him immediately, in
his officious intermeddling with the affairs of all others; which, from his
limited reason and faculties, he could neither properly understand nor
manage. Such a state of things would, as far as we can see, lead to endless
disorder and confusion, not less destructive to our race than a state of
anarchy. It would, besides, be remediless ! for government would be
impossible; or, if it could by possibility exist, its object would be
reversed. Selfishness would have to be encouraged, and benevolence
discouraged. Individuals would have to be encouraged, by rewards, to become
more selfish, and deterred, by punishments, from being too benevolent; and
this, too, by a government, administered by those who, on the supposition,
would have the greatest aversion for selfishness and the highest admiration
for benevolence.

To the Infinite Being, the Creator of all, belongs exclusively the care and
superintendence of the whole. He, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, has
allotted to every class of animated beings its condition and appropriate
functions; and has endowed each with feelings, instincts, capacities, and
faculties, best adapted to its allotted condition. To man, he has assigned
the social and political state, as best adapted to develop the great
capacities and faculties, intellectual and moral, with which he has endowed
him; and has, accordingly, constituted him so as not only to impel him into
the social state, but to make government necessary for his preservation and

But government, although intended to protect and preserve society, has
itself a strong tendency to disorder and abuse of its powers, as all
experience and almost every page of history testify. The cause is to be
found in the same constitution of our nature which makes government
indispensable. The powers which it is necessary for government to possess,
in order to repress violence and preserve order, cannot execute themselves.
They must be administered by men in whom, like others, the individual are
stronger than the social feelings. And hence, the powers vested in them to
prevent injustice and oppression on the part of others, will, if left
unguarded, be by them converted into instruments to oppress the rest of the
community. That, by which this is prevented, by whatever name called, is
what is meant by CONSTITUTION. in its most comprehensive sense, when applied

Having its origin in the same principle of our nature, constitution stands
to government, as government stands to society; and, as the end for which
society is ordained, would be defeated without government, so that for which
government is ordained would, in a great measure, be defeated without
constitution. But they differ in this striking particular. There is no
difficulty in forming government. It is not even a matter of choice, whether
there shall be one or not. Like breathing, it is not permitted to depend on
our volition. Necessity will force it on all communities in some one form or
another. Very different is the case as to constitution. Instead of a matter
of necessity, it is one of the most difficult tasks imposed on man to form a
constitution worthy of the name; while, to form a perfect one ! one that
would completely counteract the tendency of government to oppression and
abuse, and hold it strictly to the great ends for which it is ordained ! has
thus far exceeded human wisdom, and possibly ever will. From this, another
striking difference results. Constitution is the contrivance of man, while
government is of Divine ordination. Man is left to perfect what the wisdom
of the Infinite ordained, as necessary to preserve the race.

With these rernarks, I proceed to the consideration of the important and
difficult question: How is this tendency of government to be counteracted?
Or, to express it more fully ! How can those who are invested with the
powers of government be prevented from employing them, as the means of
aggrandizing themselves, instead of using them to protect and preserve
society? It cannot be done by instituting a higher power to control the
government, and those who administer it. This would be but to change the
seat of authority, and to make this bigger power, in reality, the
government; with the same tendency, on the part of those who might control
its powers, to pervert them into instruments of aggrandizement. Nor can it
be done by limiting the powers of government, so as to make it too feeble to
be made an instrument of abuse; for, passing by the difficulty of so
limiting its powers, without creating a power higher than the government
itself to enforce the observance of the limitations, it is a sufficient
objection that it would, if practicable, defeat the end for which government
is ordained, by making it too feeble to protect and preserve society. The
powers necessary for this purpose will ever prove sufficient to aggrandize
those who control it, at the expense of the rest of the community.

In estimating what amount of power would be requisite to secure the objects
of government, we must take into the reckoning, what would be necessary to
defend the community against external, as well as internal dangers.
Government must be able to repel assaults from abroad, as well as to repress
violence and disorders within. It must not be overlooked, that the human
race is not comprehended in a single society or community. The limited
reason and faculties of man, the great diversity of language, customs,
pursuits, situation and complexion, and the difficulty of intercourse, with
various other causes, have, by their operation, formed a great many separate
communities, acting independently of each other. Between these there is the
same tendency to conflict ! and from the same constitution of our nature !
as between men individually; and even stronger ! because the sympathetic or
social feelings are not so strong between different communities, as between
individuals of the same community. So powerful, indeed, is this tendency,
that it has led to almost incessant wars between contiguous communities for
plunder and conquest, or to avenge injuries, real or supposed.

So long as this state of things continues, exigencies will occur, in which
the entire powers and resources of the community will be needed to defend
its existence. When this is at stake, every other consideration must yield
to it. Self-preservation is the supreme law, as well with communities as
individuals. And hence the danger of withholding from government the full
command of the power and resources of the state; and the great difficulty of
limiting its powers consistently with the protection and preservation of the
community. And hence the question recurs ! By what means can government,
without being divested of the full command of the resources of he community,
be prevented from abusing its powers?

The question involves difficulties which, from the earliest ages, wise and
good men have attempted to overcome ! but hitherto with but partial success.
For this purpose many devices have been resorted to, suited to the various
stages of intelligence and civilization through which our race has passed,
and to the different forms of government to which they have been applied.
The aid of superstition, ceremonies, education, religion, organic
arrangements, both of the government and the community, has been, from time
to time, appealed to. Some of the most remarkable of these devices, whether
regarded in reference to their wisdom and the skill displayed in their
application, or to the permanency of their effects, are to be found in the
early dawn of civilization ! in the institutions of the Egyptians, the
Hindoos, the Chinese, and the Jews. The only materials which that early age
afforded for the construction of constitutions, when intelligence was so
partially diffused, were applied with consummate wisdom and skill. To their
successful application may be fairly traced the subsequent advance of our
race in civilization and intelligence, of which we now enjoy the benefits.
For, without a constitution ! something to counteract the strong tendency of
government to disorder and abuse, and to give stability to political
institutions ! there can be little progress or permanent improvement.

In answering the important question under consideration, it is not necessary
to enter into an examination of the various contrivances adopted by these
celebrated governments to counteract this tendency to disorder and abuse,
nor to undertake to treat of constitution in its most comprehensive sense.
What I propose is far more limited ! to explain on what principles
government must be formed, in order to resist, by its own interior structure
! or, to use a single term, organism ! the tendency to abuse of power. This
structure, or organism, is what is meant by constitution, in its strict and
more usual sense; and it is this which distinguishes, what are called,
constitutional governments from absolute. It is in this strict and more
usual sense that I propose to use the term hereafter.

How government, then, must be constructed, in order to counteract, through
its organism, this tendency on the part of those who make and execute the
laws to oppress those subject to their operation, is the next question which
claims attention.

There is but one way in which this can possibly be done; and that is, by
such an organism as will furnish the ruled with the means of resisting
successfully this tendency on the part of the rulers to oppression and
abuse. Power can only be resisted by power ! and tendency by tendency. Those
who exercise power and those subject to its exercise ! the rulers and the
ruled ! stand in antagonistic relations to each other. The same constitution
of our nature which leads rulers to oppress the ruled ! regardless of the
object for which government is ordained ! will, with equal strength, lead
the ruled to resist, when possessed of the means of making peaceable and
effective resistance. Such an organism, then, as will furnish the means by
which resistance may be systematically and peaceably made on the part of the
ruled, to oppression and abuse of power on the part of the rulers, is the
first and indispensable step towards forming a constitutional government.
And as this can only be effected by or through the right of suffrage ! (the
right on the part of the ruled to choose their rulers at proper intervals,
and to hold them thereby responsible for their conduct) ! the responsibility
of the rulers to the ruled, through the right of suffrage, is the
indispensable and primary principle in the foundation of a constitutional
government. When this right is properly guarded, and the people sufficiently
enlightened to understand their own rights and the interests of the
community, and duly to appreciate the motives and conduct of those appointed
to make and execute the laws, it is all-sufficient to give to those who
elect, effective control over those they have elected.

I call the right of suffrage the indispensable and primary principle; for it
would be a great and dangerous mistake to suppose, as many do, that it is,
of itself, sufficient to form constitutional governments. To this erroneous
opinion may be traced one of the causes, why so few attempts to form
constitutional governments have succeeded; and why, of the few which have,
so small a number have had durable existence. It has led, not only to
mistakes in the attempts to form such governments, but to their overthrow,
when they have, by some good fortune, been correctly formed. So far from
being, of itself, sufficient ! however well guarded it might be, and however
enlightened the people ! it would, unaided by other provisions, leave the
government as absolute, as it would be in the hands of irresponsible rulers;
and with a tendency, at least as strong, towards oppression and abuse of its
powers; as I shall next proceed to explain.

The right of suffrage, of itself, can do no more than give complete control
to those who elect, over the conduct of those they have elected. In doing
this, it accomplishes all it possibly can accomplish. This is its aim ! and
when this is attained, its end is fulfilled. It can do no more, however
enlightened the people, or however widely extended or well guarded the right
may be. The sum total, then, of its effects, when most successful, is, to
make those elected, the true and faithful representatives of those who
elected them ! instead of irresponsible rulers ! as they would be without
it; and thus, by converting it into an agency, and the rulers into agents,
to divest government of all claims to sovereignty, and to retain it
unimpaired to the community. But it is manifest that the right of suffrage,
in making these changes, transfers, in reality, the actual control over the
government, from those who make and execute the laws, to the body of the
community; and, thereby, places the powers of the government as fully in the
mass of the community, as they would be if they, in fact, had assembled,
made, and executed the laws themselves, without the intervention of
representatives or agents. The more perfectly it does this, the more
perfectly it accomplishes its ends; but in doing so, it only changes the
seat of authority, without counteracting, in the least, the tendency of the
government to oppression and abuse of its powers.

If the whole community had the same interests, so that the interests of each
and every portion would be so affected by the action of the government, that
the laws which oppressed or impoverished one portion, would necessarily
oppress and impoverish all others ! or the reverse ! then the right of
suffrage, of itself, would be all-sufficient to counteract the tendency of
the government to oppression and abuse of its powers; and, of course, would
form, of itself, a perfect constitutional government. The interest of all
being the same, by supposition, as far as the action of the government was
concerned, all would have like interests as to what laws should be made, and
how they should be executed. All strife and struggle would cease as to who
should be elected to make and execute them. The only question would be, who
was most fit; who the wisest and most capable of understanding the common
interest of the whole. This decided, the election would pass off quietly,
and without party discord; as no one portion could advance its own peculiar
interest without regard to the rest, by electing a favorite candidate.

But such is not the case. On the contrary, nothing is more difficult than to
equalize the action of the government, in reference to the various and
diversified interests of the community; and nothing more easy than to
pervert its powers into instruments to aggrandize and enrich one or more
interests by oppressing and impoverishing the others; and this too, under
the operation of laws, couched in general terms ! and which, on their face,
appear fair and equal. Nor is this the case in some particular communities
only. It is so in all; the small and the great ! the poor and the rich !
irrespective of pursuits, productions, or degrees of civilization ! with,
however, this difference, that the more extensive and populous the country,
the more diversified the condition and pursuits of its population, and the
richer, more luxurious, and dissimilar the people, the more difficult is it
to equalize the action of the government ! and the more easy for one portion
of the community to pervert its powers to oppress, and plunder the other.

Such being the case, it necessarily results, that the right of suffrage, by
placing the control of the government in the community must, from the same
constitution of our nature which makes government necessary to preserve
society, lead to conflict among its different interests ! each striving to
obtain possession of its powers, as the means of protecting itself against
the others ! or of advancing its respective interests, regardless of the
interests of others. For this purpose, a struggle will take place between
the various interests to obtain a majority, in order to control the
government. If no one interest be strong enough, of itself, to obtain it, a
combination will be formed between those whose interests are most alike !
each conceding something to the others, until a sufficient number is
obtained to make a majority. The process may be slow, and much time may be
required before a compact, organized majority can be thus formed; but formed
it will be in time, even without preconcert or design, by the sure workings
of that principle or constitution of our nature in which government itself
originates. When once formed, the community will be divided into two great
parties ! a major and minor ! between which there will be incessant
struggles on the one side to retain, and on the other to obtain the majority
! and, thereby, the control of the government and the advantages it confers.

So deeply seated, indeed, is this tendency to conflict between the different
interests or portions of the community, that it would result from the action
of the government itself, even though it were possible to find a community,
where the people were all of the same pursuits, placed in the same condition
of life, and in every respect, so situated, as to be without inequality of
condition or diversity of interests. The advantages of possessing the
control of the powers of the government, and, thereby, of its honors and
emoluments, are, of themselves, exclusive of all other considerations, ample
to divide even such a community into two great hostile parties.

In order to form a just estimate of the full force of these advantages !
without reference to any other consideration ! it must be remembered, that
government ! to fulfill the ends for which it is ordained, and more
especially that of protection against external dangers ! must, in the
present condition of the world, be clothed with powers sufficient to call
forth the resources of the community, and be prepared, at all times, to
command them promptly in every emergency which may possibly arise. For this
purpose large establishments are necessary, both civil and military
(including naval, where, from situation, that description of force may be
required) with all the means necessary for prompt and effective action !
such as fortifications, fleets, armories, arsenals, magazines, arms of all
descriptions, with well-trained forces, in sufficient numbers to wield them
with skill and energy, whenever the occasion requires it. The administration
and management of a government with such vast establishments must
necessarily require a host of employees, agents, and officers ! of whom many
must be vested with high and responsible trusts, and occupy exalted
stations, accompanied with much influence and patronage. To meet the
necessary expenses, large sums must be collected and disbursed; and, for
this purpose, heavy taxes must be imposed, requiring a multitude of officers
for their collection and disbursement. The whole united must necessarily
place under the control of government an amount of honors and emoluments,
sufficient to excite profoundly the ambition of the aspiring and the
cupidity of the avaricious; and to lead to the formation of hostile parties,
and violent party conflicts and struggles to obtain the control of the
government. And what makes this evil remediless, through the right of
suffrage of itself, however modified or carefully guarded, or however
enlightened the people, is the fact that, as far as the honors and
emoluments of the government and its fiscal action are concerned, it is
impossible to equalize it. The reason is obvious. Its honors and emoluments,
however great, can fall to the lot of but a few, compared to the entire
number of the community, and the multitude who will seek to participate in
them. But, without this, there is a reason which renders it impossible to
equalize the action of the government, so far as its fiscal operation
extends ! which I shall next explain.

Few, comparatively, as they are, the agents and employees of the government
constitute that portion of the community who are the exclusive recipients of
the proceeds of the taxes. Whatever amount is taken from the community, in
the form of taxes, if not lost, goes to them in the shape of expenditures or
disbursements. The two ! disbursement and taxation ! constitute the fiscal
action of the government. They are correlatives. What the one takes from the
community, under the name of taxes, is transferred to the portion of the
community who are the recipients, under that of disbursements. But, as the
recipients constitute only a portion of the community, it follows, taking
the two parts of the fiscal process together, that its action must be
unequal between the payers of the taxes and the recipients of their
proceeds. Nor can it be otherwise, unless what is collected from each
individual in the shape of taxes, shall be returned to him, in that of
disbursements; which would make the process nugatory and absurd. Taxation
may, indeed, be made equal, regarded separately from disbursement. Even this
is no easy task; but the two united cannot possibly be made equal.

Such being the case, it must necessarily follow, that some one portion of
the community must pay in taxes more than it receives back in disbursements;
while another receives in disbursements more than it pays in taxes. It is,
then, manifest, taking the whole process together, that taxes must be, in
effect, bounties to that portion of the community which receives more in
disbursements than it pays in taxes; while, to the other which pays in taxes
more than it receives in disbursements, they are taxes in reality !
burthens, instead of bounties. This consequence is unavoidable. It results
from the nature of the process, be the taxes ever so equally laid, and the
disbursements ever so fairly made, in reference to the public service.

It is assumed, in coming to this conclusion, that the disbursements are made
within the community. The reasons assigned would not be applicable if the
proceeds of the taxes were paid in tribute, or expended in foreign
countries. In either of these cases, the burthen would fall on all, in
proportion to the amount of taxes they respectively paid.

Nor would it be less a bounty to the portion of the community which received
back in disbursements more than it paid in taxes, because received as
salaries for official services; or payments to persons employed in executing
the works required by the government; or furnishing it with its various
supplies; or any other description of public employment ! instead of being
bestowed gratuitously. It is the disbursements which give additional, and,
usually, very profitable and honorable employments to the portion of the
community where they are made. But to create such employments, by
disbursements, is to bestow on the portion of the community to whose lot the
disbursements may fall, a far more durable and lasting benefit ! one that
would add much more to its wealth and population ! than would the bestowal
of an equal sum gratuitously: and hence, to the extent that the
disbursements exceed the taxes, it may be fairly regarded as a bounty. The
very reverse is the case in reference to the portion which pays in taxes
more than it receives in disbursements. With them, profitable employments
are diminished to the same extent, and population and wealth correspondingly

The necessary result, then, of the unequal fiscal action of the government
is, to divide the community into two great classes; one consisting of those
who, in reality, pay the taxes, and, of course, bear exclusively the burthen
of supporting the government; and the other, of those who are the recipients
of their proceeds, through disbursements, and who are, in fact, supported by
the government; or, in fewer words, to divide it into taxpayers and tax-

But the effect of this is to place them in antagonistic relations, in
reference to the fiscal action of the government, and the entire course of
policy therewith connected. For, the greater the taxes and disbursements,
the greater the gain of the one and the loss of the other ! and vice versa;
and consequently, the more the policy of the government is calculated to
increase taxes and disbursements, the more it will be favored by the one and
opposed by the other.

The effect, then, of every increase is, to enrich and strengthen the one,
and impoverish and weaken the other. This, indeed, may be carried to such an
extent, that one class or portion of the community may be elevated to wealth
and power, and the other depressed to abject poverty and dependence, simply
by the fiscal action of the government; and this too, through disbursements
only ! even under a system of equal taxes imposed for revenue only. If such
may be the effect of taxes and disbursements, when confined to their
legitimate objects ! that of raising revenue for the public service ! some
conception may be formed, how one portion of the community may be crushed,
and another elevated on its ruins, by systematically perverting the power of
taxation and disbursement, for the purpose of aggrandizing and building up
one portion of the community at the expense of the other. That it will be so
used, unless prevented, is, from the constitution of man, just as certain as
that it can be so used; and that, if not prevented, it must give rise to two
parties, and to violent conflicts and struggles between them, to obtain the
control of the government, is, for the same reason, not less certain.

Nor is it less certain, from the operation of all these causes, that the
dominant majority, for the time, would have the same tendency to oppression
and abuse of power, which, without the right of suffrage, irresponsible
rulers would have. No reason, indeed, can be assigned, why the latter would
abuse their power, which would not apply, with equal force, to the former.
The dominant majority, for the time, would, in reality, through the right of
suffrage, be the rulers ! the controlling, governing, and irresponsible
power; and those who make and execute the laws would, for the time, be, in
reality, but their representatives and agents.

Nor would the fact that the former would constitute a majority of the
community, counteract a tendency originating in the constitution of man; and
which, as such, cannot depend on the number by whom the powers of the
government may be wielded. Be it greater or smaller, a majority or minority,
it must equally partake of an attribute inherent in each individual
composing it; and, as in each the individual is stronger than the social
feelings, the one would have the same tendency as the other to oppression
and abuse of power. The reason applies to government in all its forms !
whether it be that of the one, the few, or the many. In each there must, of
necessity, be a governing and governed ! a ruling and a subject portion. The
one implies the other; and in all, the two bear the same relation to each
other ! and have, on the part of the governing portion, the same tendency to
oppression and abuse of power. Where the majority is that portion, it
matters not how its powers may be exercised ! whether directly by
themselves, or indirectly, through representatives or agents. Be it which it
may, the minority, for the time, will be as much the governed or subject
portion, as are the people in an aristocracy, or the subjects in a monarchy.
The only difference in this respect is, that in the government of a
majority, the minority may become the majority, and the majority the
minority, through the right of suffrage; and thereby change their relative
positions, without the intervention of force and revolution. But the
duration, or uncertainty of the tenure, by which power is held, cannot, of
itself, counteract the tendency inherent in government to oppression and
abuse of power. On the contrary, the very uncertainty of the tenure,
combined with the violent party warfare which must ever precede a change of
parties under such governments, would rather tend to increase than diminish
the tendency to oppression.

As, then, the right of suffrage, without some other provision, cannot
counteract this tendency of government, the next question for consideration
is ! What is that other provision? This demands the most serious
consideration; for of all the questions embraced in the science of
government, it involves a principle, the most important, and the least
understood; and when understood, the most difficult of application in
practice. It is, indeed, emphatically, that principle which makes the
constitution, in its strict and limited sense.

From what has been said, it is manifest, that this provision must be of a
character calculated to prevent any one interest, or combination of
interests, from using the powers of government to aggrandize itself at the
expense of the others. Here lies the evil: and just in proportion as it
shall prevent, or fail to prevent it, in the same degree it will effect, or
fail to effect the end intended to be accomplished. There is but one certain
mode in which this result can be secured; and that is, by the adoption of
some restriction or limitation, which shall so effectually prevent any one
interest, or combination of interests, from obtaining the exclusive control
of the government, as to render hopeless all attempts directed to that end.
There is, again, but one mode in which this can be effected; and that is, by
taking the sense of each interest or portion of the community, which may be
unequally and injuriously affected by the action of the government,
separately, through its own majority, or in some other way by which its
voice may be fairly expressed; and to require the consent of each interest,
either to put or to keep the government in action. This, too, can be
accomplished only in one way ! and that is, by such an organism of the
government ! and, if necessary for the purpose, of the community also ! as
will, by dividing and distributing the powers of government, give to each
division or interest, through its appropriate organ, either a concurrent
voice in making and executing the laws, or a veto on their execution. It is
only by such an organism, that the assent of each can be made necessary to
put the government in motion; or the power made effectual to arrest its
action, when put in motion ! and it is only by the one or the other that the
different interests, orders, classes, or portions, into which the community
may be divided, can be protected, and all conflict and struggle between them
prevented ! by rendering it impossible to put or to keep it in action,
without the concurrent consent of all.

Such an organism as this, combined with the right of suffrage, constitutes,
in fact, the elements of constitutional government. The one, by rendering
those who make and execute the laws responsible to those on whom they
operate, prevents the rulers from oppressing the ruled; and the other, by
making it impossible for any one interest or combination of interests or
class, or order, or portion of the community, to obtain exclusive control,
prevents any one of them from oppressing the other. It is clear, that
oppression and abuse of power must come, if at all, from the one or the
other quarter. From no other can they come. It follows, that the two,
suffrage and proper organism combined, are sufficient to counteract the
tendency of government to oppression and abuse of power; and to restrict it
to the fulfilment of the great ends for which it is ordained.

In coming to this conclusion, I have assumed the organism to be perfect, and
the different interests, portions, or classes of the community, to be
sufficiently enlightened to understand its character and object, and to
exercise, with due intelligence, the right of suffrage. To the extent that
either may be defective, to the same extent the government would fall short
of fulfilling its end. But this does not impeach the truth of the principles
on which it rests. In reducing them to proper form, in applying them to
practical uses, all elementary principles are liable to difficulties; but
they are not, on this account, the less true, or valuable. Where the
organism is perfect, every interest will be truly and fully represented, and
of course the whole community must be so. It may be difficult, or even
impossible, to make a perfect organism ! but, although this be true, yet
even when, instead of the sense of each and of all, it takes that of a few
great and prominent interests only, it would still, in a great measure, if
not altogether, fulfil the end intended by a constitution. For, in such
case, it would require so large a portion of the community, compared with
the whole, to concur, or acquiesce in the action of the government, that the
number to be plundered would be too few, and the number to be aggrandized
too many, to afford adequate motives to oppression and the abuse of its
powers. Indeed, however imperfect the organism, it must have more or less
effect in diminishing such tendency.

It may be readily inferred, from what has been stated, that the effect of
organism is neither to supersede nor diminish the importance of the right of
suffrage; but to aid and perfect it. The object of the latter is, to collect
the sense of the community. The more fully and perfectly it accomplishes
this, the more fully and perfectly it fulfils its end. But the most it can
do, of itself, is to collect the sense of the greater number; that is, of
the stronger interests, or combination of interests; and to assume this to
be the sense of the community. It is only when aided by a proper organism,
that it can collect the sense of the entire community ! of each and all its
interests; of each, through its appropriate organ, and of the whole, through
all of them united. This would truly be the sense of the entire community;
for whatever diversity each interest might have within itself ! as all would
have the same interest in reference to the action of the government, the
individuals composing each would be fully and truly represented by its own
majority or appropriate organ, regarded in reference to the other interests.
In brief, every individual of every interest might trust, with confidence,
its majority or appropriate organ, against that of every other interest.

It results, from what has been said, that there are two different modes in
which the sense of the community may be taken; one, simply by the right of
suffrage, unaided; the other, by the right through a proper organism. Each
collects the sense of the majority. But one regards numbers only, and
considers the whole community as a unit, having but one common interest
throughout; and collects the sense of the greater number of the whole, as
that of the community. The other, on the contrary, regards interests as well
as numbers ! considering the community as made up of different and
conflicting interests, as far as the action of the government is concerned;
and takes the sense of each, through its majority or appropriate organ, and
the united sense of all, as the sense of the entire community. The former of
these I shall call the numerical, or absolute majority; and the latter, the
concurrent, or constitutional majority. I call it the constitutional
majority, because it is an essential element in every constitutional
government ! be its form what it may. So great is the difference,
politically speaking, between the two majorities, that they cannot be
confounded, without leading to great and fatal errors; and yet the
distinction between them has been so entirely overlooked, that when the term
majority is used in political discussions, it is applied exclusively to
designate the numerical ! as if there were no other. Until this distinction
is recognized, and better understood, there will continue to be great
liability to error in properly constructing constitutional governments,
especially of the popular form, and of preserving them when properly
constructed. Until then, the latter will have a strong tendency to slide,
first, into the government of the numerical majority, and, finally, into
absolute government of some other form. To show that such must be the case,
and at the same time to mark more strongly the difference between the two,
in order to guard against the danger of overlooking it, I propose to
consider the subject more at length.

The first and leading error which naturally arises from overlooking the
distinction referred to, is, to confound the numerical majority with the
people; and this so completely as to regard them as identical. This is a
consequence that necessarily results from considering the numerical as the
only majority. All admit, that a popular government, or democracy, is the
government of the people; for the terms imply this. A perfect government of
the kind would be one which would embrace the consent of every citizen or
member of the community; but as this is impracticable, in the opinion of
those who regard the numerical as the only majority, and who can perceive no
other way by which the sense of the people can be taken ! they are compelled
to adopt this as the only true basis of popular government, in
contradistinction to governments of the aristocratical or monarchical form.
Being thus constrained, they are, in the next place, forced to regard the
numerical majority, as, in effect, the entire people; that is, the greater
part as the whole; and the government of the greater part as the government
of the whole. It is thus the two come to be confounded, and a part made
identical with the whole. And it is thus, also that all the rights, powers,
and immunities of the whole people come to be attributed to the numerical
majority; and, among others, the supreme, sovereign authority of
establishing and abolishing governments at pleasure.

This radical error, the consequence of confounding the two, and of regarding
the numerical as the only majority, has contributed more than any other
cause, to prevent the formation of popular constitutional governments ! and
to destroy them even when they have been formed. It leads to the conclusion
that, in their formation and establishment nothing more is necessary than
the right of suffrage ! and the allotment to each division of the community
a representation in the government, in proportion to numbers. If the
numerical majority were really the people; and if, to take its sense truly,
were to take the sense of the people truly, a government so constituted
would be a true and perfect model of a popular constitutional government;
and every departure from it would detract from its excellence. But, as such
is not the case ! as the numerical majority, instead of being the people, is
only a portion of them ! such a government, instead of being a true and
perfect model of the people's government, that is, a people self-governed,
is but the government of a part, over a part ! the major over the minor

But this misconception of the true elements of constitutional government
does not stop here. It leads to others equally false and fatal, in reference
to the best means of preserving and perpetuating them, when, from some
fortunate combination of circumstances, they are correctly formed. For they
who fall into these errors regard the restrictions which organism imposes on
the will of the numerical majority as restrictions on the will of the
people, and, therefore, as not only useless, but wrongful and mischievous
And hence they endeavor to destroy organism, under the delusive hope of
making government more democratic.

Such are some of the consequences of confounding the two, and of regarding
the numerical as the only majority. And in this may be found the reason why
so few popular governments have been properly constructed, and why, of these
few, so small a number have proved durable. Such must continue to be the
result, so long as these errors continue to be prevalent.

There is another error, of a kindred character, whose influence contributes
much to the same results: I refer to the prevalent opinion, that a written
constitution, containing suitable restrictions on the powers of government,
is sufficient, of itself, without the aid of any organism ! except such as
is necessary to separate its several departments, and render them
independent of each other ! to counteract the tendency of the numerical
majority to oppression and the abuse of power.

A written constitution certainly has many and considerable advantages; but
it is a great mistake to suppose, that the mere insertion of provisions to
restrict and limit the powers of the government, without investing those for
whose protection they are inserted with the means of enforcing their
observance, will be sufficient to prevent the major and dominant party from
abusing its powers. Being the party in possession of the government, they
will, from the same constitution of man which makes government necessary to
protect society, be in favor of the powers granted by the constitution, and
opposed to the restrictions intended to limit them. As the major and
dominant party, they will have no need of these restrictions for their
protection. The ballot box, of itself, would be ample protection to them.
Needing no other, they would come, in time, to regard these limitations as
unnecessary and improper restraints ! and endeavor to elude them, with the
view of increasing their power and influence.

The minor, or weaker party, on the contrary, would take the opposite
direction ! and regard them as essential to their protection against the
dominant party. And, hence, they would endeavor to defend and enlarge the
restrictions, and to limit and contract the powers. But where there are no
means by which they could compel the major party to observe the
restrictions, the only resort left them would be, a strict construction of
the constitution, that is, a construction which would confine these powers
to the narrowest limits which the meaning of the words used in the grant
would admit.

To this the major party would oppose a liberal construction ! one which
would give to the words of the grant the broadest meaning of which they were
susceptible. It would then be construction against construction; the one to
contract, and the other to enlarge the powers of the government to the
utmost. But of what possible avail could the strict construction of the
minor party be, against the liberal interpretation of the major, when the
one would have all the powers of the government to carry its construction
into effect ! and the other be deprived of all means of enforcing its
construction? In a contest so unequal, the result would not be doubtful. The
party in favor of the restrictions would be overpowered. At first, they
might command some respect, and do something to stay the march of
encroachment; but they would, in the progress of the contest, be regarded as
mere abstractionists; and, indeed, deservedly, if they should indulge the
folly of supposing that the party in possession of the ballot box and the
physical force of the country, could be successfully resisted by an appeal
to reason, truth, justice, or the obligations imposed by the constitution.
For when these, of themselves, shall exert sufficient influence to stay the
hand of power, then government will be no longer necessary to protect
society, nor constitutions needed to prevent government from abusing its
powers. The end of the contest would be the subversion of the constitution,
either by the undermining process of construction ! where its meaning would
admit of possible doubt ! or by substituting in practice what is called
partyusage, in place of its provisions ! or, finally, when no other
contrivance would subserve the purpose, by openly and boldly setting them
aside. By the one or the other, the restrictions would ultimately be
annulled, and the government be converted into one of unlimited powers.

Nor would the division of government into separate, and, as it regards each
other, independent departments, prevent this result. Such a division may do
much to facilitate its operations, and to secure to its administration
greater caution and deliberation; but as each and all the departments ! and,
of course, the entire government ! would be under the control of the
numerical majority, it is too clear to require explanation, that a mere
distribution of its powers among its agents or representatives, could do
little or nothing to counteract its tendency to oppression and abuse of
power. To effect this, it would be necessary to go one step further, and
make the several departments the organs of the distinct interests or
portions of the community; and to clothe each with a negative on the others.
But the effect of this would be to change the government from the numerical
into the concurrent majority.

Having now explained the reasons why it is so difficult to form and preserve
popular constitutional government, so long as the distinction beeen the two
majorities is overlooked, and the opinion prevails that a written
constitution, with suitable restrictions and a proper division of its
powers, is sufficient to counteract the tendency of the numerical majority
to the abuse of its power ! I shall next proceed to explain, more fully, why
the concurrent majority is an indispensable element in forming
constitutional governments; and why the numerical majority, of itself, must,
in all cases, make governments absolute.

The necessary consequence of taking the sense of the community by the
concurrent majority is, as has been explained, to give to each interest or
portion of the community a negative on the others. It is this mutual
negative among its various conflicting interests, which invests each with
the power of protecting itself ! and places the rights and safety of each,
where only they can be securely placed, under its own guardianship. Without
this there can be no systematic, peaceful, or effective resistance to the
natural tendency of each to come into conflict with the others: and without
this there can be no constitution. It is this negative power ! the power of
preventing or arresting the action of the government ! be it called by what
term it may ! veto, interposition, nullification, check, or balance of power
! which, in fact, forms the constitution. They are all but different names
for the negative power. In all its forms, and under all its names, it
results from the concurrent majority. Without this there can be no negative;
and, without a negative, no constitution. The assertion is true in reference
to all constitutional governments, be their forms what they may. It is,
indeed, the negative power which makes the constitution ! and the positive
which makes the government. The one is the power of acting ! and the other
the power of preventing or arresting action. The two, combined, make
constitutional governments.

But, as there can be no constitution without the negative power, and no
negative power without the concurrent majority ! it follows, necessarily,
that where the numerical majority has the sole control of the government,
there can be no constitution; as constitution implies limitation or
restriction ! and, of course, is inconsistent with the idea of sole or
exclusive power. And hence, the numerical, unmixed with the concurrent
majority, necessarily forms, in all cases, absolute government.

It is, indeed, the single, or one power, which excludes the negative, and
constitutes absolute government; and not the number in whom the power is
vested. The numerical majority is as truly a single power, and excludes the
negative as completely as the absolute government of one, or of the few. The
former is as much the absolute government of the democratic, or popular
form, as the latter of the monarchical or aristocratical. It has,
accordingly, in common with them, the same tendency to oppression and abuse
of power.

Constitutional governments, of whatever form, are, indeed, much more similar
to each other, in their structure and character, than they are,
respectively, to the absolute governments, even of their own class. All
constitutional governments, of whatever class they may be, take the sense of
the community by its parts ! each through its appropriate organ; and regard
the sense of all its parts, as the sense of the whole. They all rest on the
right of suffrage, and the responsibility of rulers, directly or indirectly.
On the contrary, all absolute governments, of whatever form, concentrate
power in one uncontrolled and irresponsible individual or body, whose will
is regarded as the sense of the community. And, hence, the great and broad
distinction between governments is ! not that of the one, the few, or he
many ! but of the constitutional and the absolute.

From this there results another distinction, which, although secondary in
its character, very strongly marks the difference between these forms of
government. I refer to their respective conservative principle ! that is,
the Principle by which they are upheld and preserved. This principle, in
constitional governments, is compromise ! and in absolute governments, is
force ! as will be next explained.

It has been already shown, that the same constitution of man which leads
those who govern to oppress the governed ! if not prevented ! will, with
equal force and certainty, lead the latter to resist oppression, when
possessed of the means of doing so peaceably and successfully. But absolute
governments, of all forms, exclude all other means of resistance to their
authority, than that of force; and, of course, leave no other alternative
the governed, but to acquiesce in oppression, however great it may be, or to
resort to force to put down the government. But the dread of such a sort
must necessarily lead the government to prepare to meet force in order to
protect itself; and hence, of necessity, force becomes the conservative
principle of all such governments.

On the contrary, the government of the concurrent majority, where the
organism is perfect, excludes the possibility of oppression, by giving to
each interest, or portion, or order ! where there are established classes !
the means of protecting itself, by its negative, against all measures
calculated to advance the peculiar interests of others at its expense. Its
effect, then, is, to cause the different interests, portions, or orders ! as
the case lay be ! to desist from attempting to adopt any measure calculated
to promote the prosperity of one, or more, by sacrificing that of others;
and thus to force them to unite in such measures only as would promote the
prosperity of all, as the only means to prevent the suspension of the action
of the government ! and, thereby, to avoid anarchy, the greatest of all
evils. It is by means of such authorized and effectual resistance, that
oppression is prevented, and the necessity of resorting to force superseded,
in governments of the concurrent majority ! and, hence, compromise, instead
of force, becomes their conservative principle.

It would, perhaps, be more strictly correct to trace the conservative
principle of constitutional governments to the necessity which compels the
different interests, or portions, or orders, to compromise ! as the only way
to promote their respective prosperity, and to avoid anarchy ! rather than
to the compromise itself. No necessity can be more urgent and imperious,
than that of avoiding anarchy. It is the same as that which makes government
indispensable to preserve society; and is not less imperative than that
which compels obedience to superior force. Traced to this source, the voice
of a people ! uttered under the necessity of avoiding the greatest of
calamities, through the organs of a government so constructed as to suppress
the expression of all partial and selfish interests, and to give a full and
faithful utterance to the sense of the whole community, in reference to its
common welfare ! may, without impiety, be called the voice of God. To call
any other so, would be impious.

In stating that force is the conservative principle of absolute, and
compromise of constitutional governments, I have assumed both to be perfect
in their kind; but not without bearing in mind, that few or none, in fact,
have ever been so absolute as not to be under some restraint, and none so
perfectly organized as to represent fully and perfectly the voice of the
whole community. Such being the case, all must, in practice, depart more or
less from the principles by which they are respectively upheld and
preserved; and depend more or less for support, on force, or compromise, as
the absolute or the constitutional form predominates in their respective

Nor, in stating that absolute governments exclude all other means of
resistance to its authority than that of force, have I overlooked the case
of governments of the numerical majority, which form, apparently, an
exception. It is true that, in such governments, the minor and subject
party, for the time, have the right to oppose and resist the major and
dominant party, for the time, through the ballot box; and may turn them out,
and take their place, if they can obtain a majority of votes. But, it is no
less true, that this would be a mere change in the relations of the two
parties. The minor and subject party would become the major and dominant
party, with the same absolute authority and tendency to abuse power; and the
major and dominant party would become the minor and subject party, with the
same right to resist through the ballot box; and, if successful, again to
change relations, with like effect. But such a state of things must
necessarily be temporary. The conflict between the two parties must be
transferred, sooner or later, from an appeal to the ballot ! box to an
appeal to force ! as I shall next proceed to explain.

The conflict between the two parties, in the government of the numerical
majority, tends necessarily to settle down into a struggle for the honors
and emoluments of the government; and each, in order to obtain an object so
ardently desired, will, in the process of the struggle, resort to whatever
measure may seem best calculated to effect this purpose. The adoption, by
the one, of any measure, however objectionable, which might give it an
advantage, would compel the other to follow its example. In such case, it
would be indispensable to success to avoid division and keep united ! and
hence, from a necessity inherent in the nature of such governments, each
party must be alternately forced, in order to insure victory, to resort to
measures to concentrate the control over its movements in fewer and fewer
hands, as the struggle became more and more violent. This, in process of
time, must lead to party organization, and party caucuses and discipline;
and these, to the conversion of the honors and emoluments of the government
into means of rewarding partisan services, in order to secure the fidelity
and increase the zeal of the members of the party. The effect of the whole
combined, even in the earlier stages of the process, when they exert the
least pernicious influence, would be to place the control of the two parties
in the hands of their respective majorities; and the government itself,
virtually, under the control of the majority of the dominant party, for the
time, instead of the majority of the whole community ! where the theory of
this form of government vests it. Thus, in the very first stage of the
process, the government becomes the government of a minority instead of a
majority ! a minority, usually, and under the most favorable circumstances,
of not much more than one-fourth of the whole community.

But the process, as regards the concentration of power, would not stop at
this stage. The government would gradually pass from the hands of the
majority of the party into those of its leaders; as the struggle became more
intense, and the honors and emoluments of the government the all-absorbing
objects. At this stage, principles and policy would lose all influence in
the elections; and cunning, falsehood, deception, slander, fraud, and gross
appeals to the appetites of the lowest and most worthless portions of the
community, would take the place of sound reason and wise debate. After these
have thoroughly debased and corrupted the community, and all the arts and
devices of party have been exhausted, the government would vibrate between
the two factions (for such will parties have become) at each successive
election. Neither would be able to retain power beyond some fixed term; for
those seeking office and patronage would become too numerous to be rewarded
by the offices and patronage at the disposal of the government; and these
being the sole objects of pursuit, the disappointed would, at the next
succeeding election, throw their weight into the opposite scale, in the hope
of better success at the next turn of the wheel. These vibrations would
continue until confusion, corruption, disorder, and anarchy, would lead to
an appeal to force ! to be followed by a revolution in the form of the
government. Such must be the end of the government of the numerical
majority; and such, in brief, the process through which it must pass, in the
regular course of events, before it can reach it.

This transition would be more or less rapid, according to circumstances The
more numerous the population, the more extensive the country, the more
diversified the climate, productions, pursuits and character of the people,
the more wealthy, refined, and artificial their condition ! and the greater
the amount of revenues and disbursements ! the more unsuited would the
community be to such a government, and the more rapid would be the passage.
On the other hand, it might be slow in its progress amongst small
communities, during the early stages of their existence, with inconsiderable
revenues and disbursements, and a population of simple habits; provided the
people are sufficiently intelligent to exercise properly, the right of
suffrage, and sufficiently conversant with the rules necessary to govern the
deliberations of legislative bodies. It is, perhaps, the only form of
popular government suited to a people, while they remain in such a
condition. Any other would be not only too complex and cumbersome, but
unnecessary to guard against oppression, where the motive to use power for
that purpose would be so feeble. And hence, colonies, from countries having
constitutional governments, if left to themselves, usually adopt governments
based on the numerical majority. But as population increases, wealth
accumulates, and, above all, the revenues and expenditures become large !
governments of this form must become less and less suited to the condition
of society; until, if not in the mean time changed into governments of the
concurrent majority, they must end in an appeal to force, to be followed by
a radical change in its structure and character; and, most probably, into
monarchy in its absolute form ! as will be next explained.

Such, indeed, is the repugnance between popular governments and force ! or,
to be more specific ! military power ! that the almost necessary consequence
of a resort to force, by such governments, in order to maintain their
authority, is, not only a change of their form, but a change into the most
opposite ! that of absolute monarchy. The two are the opposites of each
other. From the nature of popular governments, the control of its powers is
vested in the many; while military power, to be efficient, must be vested in
a single individual. When, then, the two parties, in governments of the
numerical majority, resort to force, in their struggle for supremacy, he who
commands the successful party will have the control of the government
itself. And, hence, in such contests, the party which may prevail, will
usually find, in the commander of its forces, a master, under whom the great
body of the community will be glad to find protection against the incessant
agitation and violent struggles of two corrupt factions ! looking only to
power as the means of securing to themselves the honors and emoluments of
the government.

From the same cause, there is a like tendency in aristocratical to terminate
in absolute governments of the monarchical form; but by no means as strong,
because there is less repugnance between military power and aristocratical,
than between it and democratical governments.

A broader position may, indeed, be taken; viz., that there is a tendency, in
constitutional governments of every form, to degenerate into their
respective absolute forms; and, in all absolute governments, into that of
the monarchical form. But the tendency is much stronger in constitutional
governments of the democratic form to degenerate into their respective
absolute forms, than in either of the others; because, among other reasons,
the distinction between the constitutional and absolute forms of
aristocratical and monarchical governments, is far more strongly marked than
in democratic governments. The effect of this is, to make the different
orders or classes in an aristocracy, or monarchy, far more jealous and
watchful of encroachment on their respective rights; and more resolute and
persevering in resisting attempts to concentrate power in any one class or
order. On the contrary, the line between the two forms, in popular
governments, is so imperfectly understood, that honest and sincere friends
of the constitutional form not unfrequently, instead of jealously watching
and arresting their tendency to degenerate into their absolute forms, not
only regard it with approbation, but employ all their powers to add to its
strength and to increase its impetus, in the vain hope of making the
government more perfect and popular. The numerical majority, perhaps, should
usually be one of the elements of a constitutional democracy; but to make it
the sole element, in order to perfect the constitution and make the
government more popular, is one of the greatest and most fatal of political

Among the other advantages which governments of the concurrent have over
those of the numerical majority ! and which strongly illustrates their more
popular character, is ! that they admit, with safety, a much greater
extension of the right of suffrage. It may be safely extended in such
governments to universal suffrage: that is ! to every male citizen of mature
age, with few ordinary exceptions; but it cannot be so far extended in those
of the numerical majority, without placing them ultimately under the control
of the more ignorant and dependent portions of the community. For, as the
community becomes populous, wealthy, refined, and highly civilized, the
difference between the rich and the poor will become more strongly marked;
and the number of the ignorant and dependent greater in proportion to the
rest of the community. With the increase of this difference, the tendency to
conflict between them will become stronger; and, as the poor and dependent
become more numerous in proportion, there will be, in governments of the
numerical majority, no want of leaders among the wealthy and ambitious, to
excite and direct them in their efforts to obtain the control.

The case is different in governments of the concurrent majority. There, mere
numbers have not the absolute control; and the wealthy and intelligent being
identified in interest with the poor and ignorant of their respective
portions or interests of the community, become their leaders and protectors.
And hence, as the latter would have neither hope nor inducement to rally the
former in order to obtain the control, the right of suffrage, under such a
government, may be safely enlarged to the extent stated, without incurring
the hazard to which such enlargement would expose governments of the
numerical majority.

In another particular, governments of the concurrent majority have greatly
the advantage. I allude to the difference in their respective tendency, in
reference to dividing or uniting the community. That of the concurrent, as
has been shown, is to unite the community, let its interests be ever so
diversified or opposed; while that of the numerical is to divide it into two
conflicting portions, let its interests be, naturally, ever so united and

That the numerical majority will divide the community, let it be ever so
homogeneous, into two great parties, which will be engaged in perpetual
struggles to obtain the control of the government, has already been
established. The great importance of the object at stake, must necessarily
form strong party attachments and party antipathies ! attachments on the
part of the members of each to their respective parties, through whose
efforts they hope to accomplish an object dear to all; and antipathies to
the opposite party, as presenting the only obstacle to success.

In order to have a just conception of their force, it must be taken into
consideration, that the object to be won or lost appeals to the strongest
passions of the human heart ! avarice, ambition, and rivalry. It is not then
wonderful, that a form of government, which periodically stakes all its
honors and emoluments, as prizes to be contended for, should divide the
community into two great hostile parties; or that party attachments, in the
progress of the strife, should become so strong among the members of each
respectively, as to absorb almost every feeling of our nature, both social
and individual; or that their mutual antipathies should be carried to such
an excess as to destroy, almost entirely, all sympathy between them, and to
substitute in its place the strongest aversion. Nor is it surprising, that
under their joint influence, the community should cease to be the common
centre of attachment, or that each party should find that centre only in
itself. It is thus, that, in such governments, devotion to party becomes
stronger than devotion to country ! the promotion of the interests of party
more important than the promotion of the common good of the whole, and its
triumph and ascendency, objects of far greater solicitude, than the safety
and prosperity of the community. It is thus, also, that the numerical
majority, by regarding the community as a unit, and having, as such, the
same interests throughout all its parts, must, by its necessary operation,
divide it into two hostile parts, waging, under the forms of law, incessant
hostilities against each other.

The concurrent majority, on the other hand, tends to unite the most opposite
and conflicting interests, and to blend the whole in one common attachment
to the country. By giving to each interest, or portion, the power of self-
protection, all strife and struggle between them for ascendency, is
prevented; and, thereby, not only every feeling calculated to weaken the
attachment to the whole is suppressed, but the individual and the social
feelings are made to unite in one common devotion to country. Each sees and
feels that it can best promote its own prosperity by conciliating the
goodwill, and promoting the prosperity of the others. And hence, there will
be diffused throughout the whole community kind feelings between its
different portions; and, instead of antipathy, a rivalry amongst them to
promote the interests of each other, as far as this can be done consistently
vith the interest of all. Under the combined influence of these causes, the
interests of each would be merged in the common interests of the whole; and
thus, the community would become a unit, by becoming the common centre of
attachment of all its parts. And hence, instead of faction, strife, and
struggle for party ascendency, there would be patriotism, nationality,
harmony, and a struggle only for supremacy in promoting the common good of
the whole.

But the difference in their operation, in this respect, would not end here.
Its effects would be as great in a moral, as I have attempted to show they
could be in a political point of view. Indeed, public and private morals are
so nearly allied, that it would be difficult for it to be otherwise. That
which corrupts and debases the community, politically, must also corrupt and
debase it morally. The same cause, which, in governments of the numerial
majority, gives to party attachments and antipathies such force, as to place
party triumph and ascendency above the safety and prosperity of the
community, will just as certainly give them sufficient force to overpower
all regard for truth, justice, sincerity, and moral obligations of every
descripion. It is, accordingly, found that in the violent strifes between
parties for the high and glittering prize of governmental honors and
emoluments ! falsehood, injustice, fraud, artifice, slander, and breach of
faith, are freely resorted to, as legitimate weapons ! followed by all their
corrupting and debasing influences.

In the government of the concurrent majority, on the contrary, the same
cause which prevents such strife, as the means of obtaining power, and which
makes it the interest of each portion to conciliate and promote the
interests of the others, would exert a powerful influence towards purifying
and elevating the character of the government and the people, morally, as
well as politically. The means of acquiring power ! or, more correctly,
influence ! in such governments, would be the reverse. Instead of the vices,
by which it is acquired in that of the numerical majority, the opposite
virtues ! truth, justice, integrity, fidelity, and all others, by which
respect and confidence are inspired, would be the most certain and effectual
means of acquiring it.

Nor would the good effects resulting thence be confined to those who lake an
active part in political affairs. They would extend to the whole community.
For of all the causes which contribute to form the character of a people,
those by which power, influence, and standing in the government are most
certainly and readily obtained, are, by far, the most powerful. These are
the objects most eagerly sought of all others by the talented and aspiring;
and the possession of which commands the greatest respect and admiration.
But, just in proportion to this respect and admiration will be their
appreciation by those, whose energy, intellect, and position in society, are
calculated to exert the greatest influence in forming the character of a
people. If knowledge, wisdom, patriotism, and virtue, be the most certain
means of acquiring them, they will be most highly appreciated and
assiduously cultivated; and this would cause them to become prominent traits
in the character of the people. But if, on the contrary, cunning, fraud,
treachery, and party devotion be the most certain, they will be the most
highly prized, and become marked features in their character. So powerful,
indeed, is the operation of the concurrent majority, in this respect, that,
if it were possible for a corrupt and degenerate community to establish and
maintain a well-organized government of the kind, it would of itself purify
and regenerate them; while, on the other hand, a government based wholly on
the numerical majority, would just as certainly corrupt and debase the most
patriotic and virtuous people. So great is their difference in this respect,
that, just as the one or the other element predominates in the construction
of any government, in the same proportion will the character of the
government and the people rise or sink in the scale of patriotism and
virtue. Neither religion nor education can counteract the strong tendency of
the numerical majority to corrupt and debase the people.

If the two be compared, in reference to the ends for which government is
ordained, the superiority of the government of the concurrent majority will
not be less striking. These, as has been stated, are twofold; to protect,
and to perfect society. But to preserve society, it is necessary to guard
the community against injustice, violence, and anarchy within, and against
attacks from without. If it fail in either, it would fail in the primary end
of government, and would not deserve the name.

To perfect society, it is necessary to develop the faculties, intellectual
and moral, with which man is endowed. But the main spring to their
development, and, through this, to progress, improvement and civilization,
with all their blessings, is the desire of individuals to better their
condition. For, this purpose, liberty and security are indispensable.
Liberty leaves each free to pursue the course he may deem best to promote
his interest and happiness, as far as it may be compatible with the primary
end for which government is ordained ! while security gives assurance to
each, that he shall not be deprived of the fruits of his exertions to better
his condition. These combined, give to this desire the strongest impulse of
which it is susceptible. For, to extend liberty beyond the limits assigned,
would be to weaken the government and to render it incompetent to fulfil its
primary end ! the protection of society against dangers, internal and
external. The effect of this would be, insecurity; and, of insecurity ! to
weaken the impulse of individuals to better their condition, and thereby
retard progress and improvement. On the other hand, to extend the powers of
the government, so as to contract the sphere assigned to liberty, would have
the same effect, by disabling individuals in their efforts to better their

Herein is to be found the principle which assigns to power and liberty their
proper spheres, and reconciles each to the other under all circumstances.
For, if power be necessary to secure to liberty the fruits of its exertions,
liberty, in turn, repays power with interest, by increased population,
wealth, and other advantages, which progress and improvement bestow on the
community. By thus assigning to each its appropriate sphere, all conflicts
between them cease; and each is made to co­operate with and assist the
other, in fulfilling the great ends for which government is ordained.

But the principle, applied to different communities, will assign to them
different limits. It will assign a larger sphere to power and a more
contracted one to liberty, or the reverse, according to circumstances. To
the former, there must ever be allotted, under all circumstances, a sphere
sufficiently large to protect the community against danger from without and
violence and anarchy within. The residuum belongs to liberty. More cannot be
safely or rightly allotted to it.

But some communities require a far greater amount of power than others to
protect them against anarchy and external dangers; and, of course, the
sphere of liberty in such, must be proportionally contracted. The causes
calculated to enlarge the one and contract the other, are numerous and
various. Some are physical ! such as open and exposed frontiers, surrounded
by powerful and hostile neighbors. Others are moral ! such as the different
degrees of intelligence, patriotism, and virtue among the mass of the
community, and their experience and proficiency in the art of
self­government. Of these, the moral are, by far, the most influential. A
community may possess all the necessary moral qualifications, in so high a
degree, as to be capable of self-government under the most adverse
circumstances; while, on the other hand, another may be so sunk in ignorance
and vice, as to be incapable of forming a conception of liberty, or of
living, even when most favored by circumstances, under any other than an
absolute and despotic government.

The principle, in all communities, according to these numerous and various
causes, assigns to power and liberty their proper spheres. To allow to
liberty, in any case, a sphere of action more extended than this assigns,
would lead to anarchy; and this, probably, in the end, to a contraction
instead of an enlargement of its sphere. Liberty, then, when forced on a
people unfit for it, would, instead of a blessing, be a curse; as it would,
in its reaction, lead directly to anarchy ! the greatest of all curses. No
people, indeed, can long enjoy more liberty than that to which their
situation and advanced intelligence and morals fairly entitle them. If more
than this be allowed, they must soon fall into confusion and disorder ! to
be followed, if not by anarchy and despotism, by a change to a form of
government more simple and absolute; and, therefore, better suited to their
condition. And hence, although it may be true, that a people may not have as
much liberty as they are fairly entitled to, and are capable of enjoying !
yet the reverse is questionably true ! that no people can long possess more
than they are fairly entitled to.

Liberty, indeed, though among the greatest of blessings, is not so great as
that of protection; inasmuch, as the end of the former is the progress and
improvement of the race ! while that of the latter is its preservation and
perpetuation. And hence, when the two come into conflict, liberty must, and
ever ought, to yield to protection; as the existence of the race is of
greater moment than its improvement.

It follows, from what has been stated, that it is a great and dangerous
error to suppose that all people are equally entitled to liberty. It is a
reward to be earned, not a blessing to be gratuitously lavished on all alike
! a reward reserved for the intelligent, the patriotic, the virtuous and
deserving ! and not a boon to be bestowed on a people too ignorant, degraded
and vicious, to be capable either of appreciating or of enjoying it. Nor is
it any disparagement to liberty, that such is, and ought to be the case. On
the contrary, its greatest praise ! its proudest distinction is, that an
all-wise Providence has reserved it, as the noblest and highest reward for
the development of our faculties, moral and intellectual. A reward more
appropriate than liberty could not be conferred on the deserving ! nor a
punishment inflicted on the undeserving more just, than to be subject to
lawless and despotic rule. This dispensation seems to be the result of some
fixed law ! and every effort to disturb or defeat it, by attempting to
elevate a people in the scale of liberty, above the point to which they are
entitled to rise, must ever prove abortive, and end in disappointment. The
progress of a people rising from a lower to a higher point in the scale of
liberty, is necessarily slow ! and by attempting to precipitate, we either
retard, or permanently defeat it.

There is another error, not less great and dangerous, usually associated
with the one which has just been considered. I refer to the opinion, that
liberty and equality are so intimately united, that liberty cannot be
perfect without perfect equality.

That they are united to a certain extent ! and that equality of citizens, in
the eyes of the law, is essential to liberty in a popular government, is
conceded. But to go further, and make equality of condition essential to
liberty, would be to destroy both liberty and progress. The reason is, that
inequality of condition, while it is a necessary consequence of liberty, is,
at the same time, indispensable to progress. In order to understand why this
is so, it is necessary to bear in mind, that the main spring to progress is,
the desire of individuals to better their condition; and that the strongest
impulse which can be given to it is, to leave individuals free to exert
themselves in the manner they may deem best for that purpose, as far at
least as it can be done consistently with the ends for which government is
ordained ! and to secure to all the fruits of their exertions. Now, as
individuals differ greatly from each other, in intelligence, sagacity,
energy, perseverance, skill, habit of industry and economy, physical power,
position and opportunity ! the necessary effect of leaving all free to exert
themselves to better their condition, must be a corresponding inequality
between those who may possess these qualities and advantages in a high
degree, and those who may be deficient in them. The only means by which this
result can be prevented are, either to impose such restrictions on the
exertions of those who may possess them in a high degree, as will place them
on a level with those who do not; or to deprive them of the fruits of their
exertions. But to impose such restrictions on them would be destructive of
liberty ! while, to deprive them of the fruits of their exertions, could be
to destroy the desire of bettering their condition. It is, indeed, his
inequality of condition between the front and rear ranks, in the march of
progress, which gives so strong an impulse to the former to maintain their
position, and to the latter to press forward into their files. This gives to
progress its greatest impulse. To force the front rank back to the rear, or
attempt to push forward the rear into line with the front, by the
interposition of the government, would put an end to the impulse, and
effectually arrest the march of progress.

These great and dangerous errors have their origin in the prevalent opinion
that all men are born free and equal ! than which nothing can be more
unfounded and false. It rests upon the assumption of a fact, which is
contrary to universal observation, in whatever light it may be regarded. It
is, indeed, difficult to explain how an opinion so destitute of all sound
season, ever could have been so extensively entertained, unless we regard it
as being confounded with another, which has some semblance of truth ! but
which, when properly understood, is not less false and dangerous. I defer to
the assertion, that all men are equal in the state of nature; meaning, by a
state of nature, a state of individuality, supposed to have existed prior to
the social and political state; and in which men lived apart and independent
of each other. If such a state ever did exist, all men would save been,
indeed, free and equal in it; that is, free to do as they pleased, and
exempt from the authority or control of others ! as, by supposition, it
existed anterior to society and government. But such a state is purely
hypothetical. It never did, nor can exist; as it is inconsistent with the
preservation and perpetuation of the race. It is, therefore, a great
misnomer to call it the state of nature. Instead of being the natural state
of man, it is, of all conceivable states, the most opposed to his nature !
most repugnant to his feelings, and most incompatible with his wants. His
natural state is, the social and political ! the one for which his Creator
made him, and the only one in which he can preserve and perfect his race.
As, then, there never was such a state as the, so-called, state of nature,
and never can be, it follows, that men, instead of being born in it, are
born in the social and political state; and of course, instead of being born
free and equal, are born subject, not only to parental authority, but to the
laws and institutions of the country where born, and under whose protection
they draw their first breath. With these remarks, I return from this
digression, to resume the thread of the discourse.

It follows, from all that has been said, that the more perfectly a
government combines power and liberty ! that is, the greater its power and
the more enlarged and secure the liberty of individuals, the more perfectly
it fulfills the ends for which government is ordained. To show, then, that
the government of the concurrent majority is better calculated to fulfill
them than that of the numerical, it is only necessary to explain why the
former is better suited to combine a higher degree of power and a wider
scope of liberty than the latter. I shall begin with the former.

The concurrent majority, then, is better suited to enlarge and secure the
bounds of liberty, because it is better suited to prevent government from
passing beyond its proper limits, and to restrict it to its primary end !
the protection of the community. But in doing this, it leaves, necessarily,
all beyond it open and free to individual exertions; and thus enlarges and
secures the sphere of liberty to the greatest extent which the condition of
the community will admit, as has been explained. The tendency of government
to pass beyond its proper limits is what exposes liberty to danger, and
renders it insecure; and it is the strong counteraction of governments of
the concurrent majority to this tendency which makes them so favorable to
liberty. On the contrary, those of the numerical, instead of opposing and
counteracting this tendency, add to it increased strength, in consequence of
the violent party struggles incident to them, as has been fully explained.
And hence their encroachments on liberty, and the danger to which it is
exposed under such governments.

So great, indeed, is the difference between the two in this respect, that
liberty is little more than a name under all governments of the absolute
form, including that of the numerical majority; and can only have a secure
and durable existence under those of the concurrent or constitutional form.

The latter, by giving to each portion of the community which may be
unequally affected by its action, a negative on the others, prevents all
partial or local legislation, and restricts its action to such measures as
are designed for the protection and the good of the whole. In doing this, it
secures, at the same time, the rights and liberty of the people, regarded
individually; as each portion consists of those who, whatever may be the
diversity of interests among themselves, have the same interest in reference
to the action of the government.

Such being the case, the interest of each individual may be safely confided
to the majority, or voice of his portion, against that of all others, and,
of course, the government itself. It is only through an organism which vests
each with a negative, in some one form or another, that those who have like
interests in preventing the government from passing beyond its proper
sphere, and encroaching on the rights and liberty of individuals, can
cooperate peaceably and effectually in resisting the encroachments of power,
and thereby preserve their rights and liberty. Individual resistance is too
feeble, and the difficulty of concert and co-operation too great, unaided by
such an organism, to oppose, successfully, the organized power of
government, with all the means of the community at its disposal; especially
in populous countries of great extent, where concert and co-operation are
almost impossible. Even when the oppression of the government comes to be
too great to be borne, and force is resorted to in order to overthrow it,
the result is rarely ever followed by the establishment of liberty. The
force sufficient to overthrow an oppressive government is usually sufficient
to establish one equally, or more, oppressive in its place. And hence, in no
governments, except those that rest on the principle of the concurrent or
constitutional majority, can the people guard their liberty against power;
and hence, also, when lost, the great difficulty and uncertainty of
regaining it by force.

It may be further affirmed, that, being more favorable to the enlargement
and security of liberty, governments of the concurrent, must necessarily be
more favorable to progress, development, improvement, and civilization !
and, of course, to the increase of power which results from, and depends on
these, than those of the numerical majority. That it is liberty which gives
to them their greatest impulse, has already been shown; and it now remains
to show, that these, in turn, contribute greatly to the increase of power.

In the earlier stages of society, numbers and individual prowess constituted
the principal elements of power. In a more advanced stage, when communities
had passed from the barbarous to the civilized state, discipline, strategy,
weapons of increased power, and money ! as the means of meeting increased
expense ! became additional and important elements. In this stage, the
effects of progress and improvement on the increase of power, began to be
disclosed; but still numbers and personal prowess were sufficient, for a
long period, to enable barbarous nations to contend successfully with the
civilized ! and, in the end, to overpower them ! as the pages of history
abundantly testify. But a more advanced progress, with its numerous
inventions and improvements, has furnished new and far more powerful and
destructive implements of offence and defence, and greatly increased the
intelligence and wealth, necessary to engage the skill and meet the
increased expense required for their construction and application to
purposes of war. The discovery of gunpowder, and the use of steam as an
impelling force, and their application to military purposes, have for ever
settled the question of ascendency between civilized and barbarous
communities, in favor of the former. Indeed, these, with other improvements,
belonging to the present state of progress, have given to communities the
most advanced, a superiority over those the least so, almost as great as
that of the latter over the brute creation. And among the civilized, the
same causes have decided the question of superiority, where other
circumstances are nearly equal, in favor of those whose governments have
given the greatest impulse to development, progress, and improvement; that
is, to those whose liberty is the largest and best secured. Among these,
England and the United States afford striking examples, not only of the
effects of liberty in increasing power, but of the more perfect adaptation
of governments founded on the principle of the concurrent, or constitutional
majority, to enlarge and secure liberty. They are both governments of this
description, as will be shown hereafter.

But in estimating the power of a community, moral, as well as physical
causes, must be taken into the calculation; and in estimating the effects of
liberty on power, it must not be overlooked, that it is, in itself, an
important agent in augmenting the force of moral, as well as of physical
power. It bestows on a people elevation, self-reliance, energy, and
enthusiasm; and these combined, give to physical power a vastly augmented
and almost irresistible impetus.

These, however, are not the only elements of moral power. There are others,
and among them harmony, unanimity, devotion to country, and a disposition to
elevate to places of trust and power, those who are distinguished for wisdom
and experience. These, when the occasion requires it, will, without
compulsion, and from their very nature, unite and put forth the entire force
of the community in the most efficient manner, without hazard to its
institutions or its liberty.

All these causes combined, give to a community its maximum of power. Either
of them, without the other, would leave it comparatively feeble. But it
cannot be necessary, after what has been stated, to enter into any further
explanation or argument in order to establish the superiority of governments
of the concurrent majority over the numerical, in developing the great
elements of moral power. So vast is this superiority, that the one, by its
operation, necessarily leads to their development, while the other as
necessarily prevents it ! as has been fully shown.

Such are the many and striking advantages of the concurrent over the
numerical majority. Against the former but two objections can be made. The
one is, that it is difficult of construction, which has already been
sufficiently noticed; and the other, that it would be impracticable to
obtain the concurrence of conflicting interests, where they were numerous
and diversified; or, if not, that the process for this purpose, would be too
tardy to meet, with sufficient promptness, the many and dangerous
emergencies, to which all communities are exposed. This objection is
plausible; and deserves a fuller notice than it has yet received.

The diversity of opinion is usually so great, on almost all questions of
policy, that it is not surprising, on a slight view of the subject, it
should be thought impracticable to bring the various conflicting interests
of a community to unite on any one line of policy ! or, that a government,
founded on such a principle, would be too slow in its movements and too weak
in its foundation to succeed in practice. But, plausible as it may seem at
the first glance, a more deliberate view will show, that this opinion is
erroneous. It is true, that, when there is no urgent necessity, it is
difficult to bring those who differ, to agree on any one line of action.
Each will naturally insist on taking the course he may think best ! and,
from pride of opinion, will be unwilling to yield to others. But the case is
different when there is an urgent necessity to unite on some common course
of action, as reason and experience both prove. When something must be done
! and when it can be done only by the united consent of all ! the necessity
of the case will force to a compromise ! be the cause of that necessity what
it may. On all questions of acting, necessity, where it exists, is the
overruling motive; and where, in such cases, compromise among the parties is
an indispensable condition to acting, it exerts an overruling influence in
predisposing them to acquiesce in some one opinion or course of action.
Experience furnishes many examples in confirmation of this important truth.
Among these, the trial by jury is the most familiar, and on that account,
will be selected for illustration.

In these, twelve individuals, selected without discrimination, must
unanimously concur in opinion ! under the obligations of an oath to find a
true verdict, according to law and evidence; and this, too, not unfrequently
under such great difficulty and doubt, that the ablest and most experienced
judges and advocates differ in opinion, after careful examination. And yet,
as impracticable as this mode of trial would seem to a superficial observer,
it is found, in practice, not only to succeed, but to be the safest, the
wisest and the best that human ingenuity has ever devised. When closely
investigated, the cause will be found in the necessity, under which the jury
is placed, to agree unanimously, in order to find a verdict. This necessity
acts as the predisposing cause of concurrence in some common opinion; and
with such efficacy, that a jury rarely fails to find a verdict.

Under its potent influence, the jurors take their seats with the disposition
to give a fair and impartial hearing to the arguments on both sides ! meet
together in the jury-room ! not as disputants, but calmly to hear the
opinions of each other, and to compare and weigh the arguments on which they
are founded ! and, finally, to adopt that which, on the whole, is thought to
be true. Under the influence of this disposition to harmonize, one after
another falls into the same opinion, until unanimity is obtained. Hence its
practicability ! and hence, also, its peculiar excellence. Nothing, indeed,
can be more favorable to the success of truth and justice, than this
predisposing influence caused by the necessity of being unanimous. It is so
much so, as to compensate for the defect of legal knowledge, and a high
degree of intelligence on the part of those who usually compose juries. If
the necessity of unanimity were dispensed with, and the finding of a jury
made to depend on a bare majority, jury trial, instead of being one of the
greatest improvements in the judicial department of government, would be one
of the greatest evils that could be inflicted on the community. It would be,
in such case, the conduit through which all the factious feelings of the day
would enter and contaminate justice at its source.

But the same cause would act with still greater force in predisposing the
various interests of the community to agree in a well-organized government,
founded on the concurrent majority. The necessity for unanimity, in order to
keep the government in motion, would be far more urgent, and would act under
circumstances still more favorable to secure it. It would be superfluous,
after what has been stated, to add other reasons in order to show that no
necessity, physical or moral, can be more imperious than that of government.
It is so much so that, to suspend its action altogether, even for an
inconsiderable period, would subject the community to convulsions and
anarchy. But in governments of the concurrent majority such fatal
consequences can only be avoided by the unanimous concurrence or
acquiescence of the various portions of the community. Such is the imperious
character of the necessity which impels to compromise under governments of
this description.

But to have a just conception of the overpowering influence it would exert,
the circumstances under which it would act must be taken into consideration.
These will be found, on comparison, much more favorable than those under
which juries act. In the latter case there is nothing besides the necessity
of unanimity in finding a verdict, and the inconvenience to which they might
be subjected in the event of division, to induce juries to agree, except the
love of truth and justice, which, when not counteracted by some improper
motive or bias, more or less influences all, not excepting the most
depraved. In the case of governments of the concurrent majority, there is,
besides these, the love of country, than which, if not counteracted by the
unequal and oppressive action of government, or other causes, few motives
exert a greater sway. It comprehends, indeed, within itself, a large portion
both of our individual and social feelings; and, hence, its almost boundless
control when left free to act. But the government of the concurrent majority
leaves it free, by preventing abuse and oppression, and, with them, the
whole train of feelings and passions which lead to discord and conflict
between different portions of the community. Impelled by the imperious
necessity of preventing the suspension of the action of government, with the
fatal consequences to which it would lead, and by the strong additional
impulse derived from an ardent love of country, each portion would regard
the sacrifice it might have to make by yielding its peculiar interest to
secure the common interest and safety of all, including its own, as nothing
compared to the evils that would be inflicted on all, including its own, by
pertinaciously adhering to a different line of action. So powerful, indeed,
would be the motives for concurring, and, under such circumstances, so weak
would be those opposed to it, the wonder would be, not that there should,
but that there should not be a compromise.

But to form a juster estimate of the full force of this impulse to
compromise, there must be added that, in governments of the concurrent
majority, each portion, in order to advance its own peculiar interests,
would have to conciliate all others, by showing a disposition to advance
theirs; and, for this purpose, each would select those to represent it,
whose wisdom, patriotism, and weight of character, would command the
confidence of the others. Under its influence ! and with representatives so
well qualified to accomplish the object for which they were selected ! the
prevailing desire would be, to promote the common interests of the whole;
and, hence, the competition would be, not which should yield the least to
promote the common good, but which should yield the most. It is thus, that
concession would cease to be considered a sacrifice ! would become a free-
will offering on the altar of the country, and lose the name of compromise.
And herein is to be found the feature, which distinguishes governments of
the concurrent majority so strikingly from those of the numerical. In the
latter, each faction, in the struggle to obtain the control of the
government, elevates to power the designing, the artful, and unscrupulous,
who, in their devotion to party ! instead of aiming at the good of the whole
! aim exclusively at securing the ascendency of party.

When traced to its source, this difference will be found to originate in the
fact, that, in governments of the concurrent majority, individual feelings
are, from its organism, necessarily enlisted on the side of the social, and
made to unite with them in promoting the interests of the whole, as the best
way of promoting the separate interests of each; while, in those of the
numerical majority, the social are necessarily enlisted on the side of the
individual, and made to contribute to the interest of parties, regardless of
that of the whole. To effect the former ! to enlist the individual on the
side of the social feelings to promote the good of the whole, is the
greatest possible achievement of the science of government; while, to enlist
the social on the side of the individual to promote the interest of parties
at the expense of the good of the whole, is the greatest blunder which
ignorance can possibly commit.

To this, also, may be referred the greater solidity of foundation on which
governments of the concurrent majority repose. Both, ultimately, rest on
necessity; for force, by which those of the numerical majority are upheld,
is only acquiesced in from necessity; a necessity not more imperious,
however, than that which compels the different portions, in governments of
the concurrent majority, to acquiesce in compromise. There is, however, a
great difference in the motive, the feeling, the aim, which characterize the
act in the two cases. In the one, it is done with that reluctance and
hostility ever incident to enforced submission to what is regarded as
injustice and oppression; accompanied by the desire and purpose to seize on
the first favorable opportunity for resistance ! but in the other, willingly
and cheerfully, under the impulse of an exalted patriotism, impelling all to
acquiesce in whatever the common good requires.

It is, then, a great error to suppose that the government of the concurrent
majority is impracticable ! or that it rests on a feeble foundation. History
furnishes many examples of such governments ! and among them, one, in which
the principle was carried to an extreme that would be thought impracticable,
had it never existed. I refer to that of Poland. In this it was carried to
such an extreme that, in the election of her kings, the concurrence or
acquiescence of every individual of the nobles and gentry present, in an
assembly numbering usually from one hundred and fifty to two hundred
thousand, was required to make a choice; thus giving to each individual a
veto on his election. So, likewise, every member of her Diet (the supreme
legislative body) consisting of the king, the senate, bishops and deputies
of the nobility and gentry of the palatinates, possessed a veto on all its
proceedings ! thus making an unanimous vote necessary to enact a law, or to
adopt any measure whatever. And, as if to carry the principle to the utmost
extent, the veto of a single member not only defeated the particular bill or
measure in question, but prevented all others, passed during the session,
from taking effect. Further, the principle could not be carried. It, in
fact, made every individual of the nobility and gentry, a distinct element
in the organism ! or, to vary the expression, made him an Estate of the
kingdom. And yet this government lasted, in this form, more than two
centuries; embracing the period of Poland's greatest power and renown.
Twice, during its existence, she protected Christendom, when in great
danger, by defeating the Turks under the walls of Vienna, and permanently
arresting thereby the tide of their conquests westward.

It is true her government was finally subverted, and the people subjugated,
in consequence of the extreme to which the principle was carried; not,
however, because of its tendency to dissolution from weakness, but from the
facility it afforded to powerful and unscrupulous neighbors to control, by
their intrigues, the election of her kings. But the fact, that a government,
in which the principle was carried to the utmost extreme, not only existed,
but existed for so long a period, in great power and splendor, is proof
conclusive both of its practicability and its compatibility with the power
and permanency of government.

Another example, not so striking indeed, but yet deserving notice, is
furnished by the government of a portion of the aborigines of our own
country. I refer to the Confederacy of the Six Nations, who inhabited what
now is called the western portion of the State of New York. One chief
delegate, chosen by each nation ! associated with six others of his own
selection ! and making, in all, forty-two members ! constituted their
federal, or general government. When met, they formed the council of the
union ! and discussed and decided all questions relating to the common
welfare. As in the Polish Diet, each member possessed a veto on its
decision; so that nothing could be done without the united consent of all.
But this, instead of making the Confederacy weak, or impracticable, had the
opposite effect. It secured harmony in council and action, and with them a
great increase of power. The Six Nations, in consequence, became the most
powerful of all the Indian tribes within the limits of our country. They
carried their conquest and authority far beyond the country they originally

I pass by, for the present, the most distinguished of all these examples !
the Roman Republic ! where the veto, or negative power, was carried, not
indeed to the same extreme as in the Polish government, but very far, and
with great increase of power and stability ! as I shall show more at large

It may be thought ! and doubtless many have supposed, that the defects
inherent in the government of the numerical majority may be remedied by a
free press, as the organ of public opinion ! especially in the more advanced
stage of society ! so as to supersede the necessity of the concurrent
majority to counteract its tendency to oppression and abuse of power. It is
not my aim to detract from the importance of the press, nor to underestimate
the great power and influence which it has given to public opinion. On the
contrary, I admit these are so great, as to entitle it to be considered a
new and important political element. Its influence is, at the present day,
on the increase; and it is highly probable that it may, in combination with
the causes which have contributed to raise it to its present importance,
effect, in time, great changes ! social and political. But, however
important its present influence may be, or may hereafter become ! or,
however great and beneficial the changes to which it may ultimately lead, it
can never counteract the tendency of the numerical majority to the abuse of
power ! nor supersede the necessity of the concurrent, as an essential
element in the formation of constitutional governments. These it cannot
effect for two reasons, either of which is conclusive.

The one is, that it cannot change that principle of our nature, which makes
constitutions necessary to prevent government from abusing its powers ! and
government necessary to protect and perfect society.

Constituting, as this principle does, an essential part of our nature ! no
increase of knowledge and intelligence, no enlargement of our sympathetic
feelings, no influence of education, or modification of the condition of
society can change it. But so long as it shall continue to be an essential
part of our nature, so long will government be necessary; and so long as
this continues to be necessary, so long will constitutions, also, be
necessary to counteract its tendency to the abuse of power ! and so long
must the concurrent majority remain an essential element in the formation of
constitutions. The press may do much ! by giving impulse to the progress of
knowledge and intelligence, to aid the cause of education, and to bring
about salutary changes in the condition of society. These, in turn, may do
much to explode political errors ! to teach how governments should be
constructed in order to fulfill their ends; and by what means they can be
best preserved, when so constructed. They may, also, do much to enlarge the
social, and to restrain the individual feelings ! and thereby to bring about
a state of things, when far less power will be required by governments to
guard against internal disorder and violence, and external danger; and when,
of course, the sphere of power may be greatly contracted and that of liberty
proportionally enlarged. But all this would not change the nature of man;
nor supersede the necessity of government. For so long as government exists,
the possession of its control, as the means of directing its action and
dispensing its honors and emoluments, will be an object of desire. While
this continues to be the case, it must, in governments of the numerical
majority, lead to party struggles; and, as has been shown, to all the
consequences, which necessarily follow in their train, and, against which,
the only remedy is the concurrent majority.

The other reason is to be found in the nature of the influence, which the
press politically exercises.

It is similar, in most respects, to that of suffrage. They are, indeed, both
organs of public opinion. The principal difference is, that the one has much
more agency in forming public opinion, while the other gives a more
authentic and authoritative expression to it. Regarded in either light, the
press cannot, of itself, guard any more against the abuse of power, than
suffrage; and for the same reason.

If what is called public opinion were always the opinion of the whole
community, the press would, as its organ, be an effective guard against the
abuse of power, and supersede the necessity of the concurrent majority; just
as the right of suffrage would do, where the community, in reference to the
action of government, had but one interest. But such is not the case. On the
contrary, what is called public opinion, instead of being the united opinion
of the whole community, is, usually, nothing more than the opinion or voice
of the strongest interest, or combination of interests; and, not
unfrequently, of a small, but energetic and active portion of the whole.
Public opinion, in relation to government and its policy, is as much divided
and diversified, as are the interests of the community; and the press,
instead of being the organ of the whole, is usually but the organ of these
various and diversified interests respectively; or, rather, of the parties
growing out of them. It is used by them as the means of controlling public
opinion, and of so moulding it, as to promote their peculiar interests, and
to aid in carrying on the warfare of party. But as the organ and instrument
of parties, in governments of the numerical majority, it is as incompetent
as suffrage itself, to counteract the tendency to oppression and abuse of
power ! and can, no more than that, supersede the necessity of the
concurrent majority. On the contrary, as the instrument of party warfare, it
contributes greatly to increase party excitement, and the violence and
virulence of party struggles; and, in the same degree, the tendency to
oppression and abuse of power. Instead, then, of superseding the necessity
of the concurrent majority, it increases it, by increasing the violence and
force of party feelings ! in like manner as party caucuses and party
machinery; of the latter of which, indeed, it forms an important part.

In one respect, and only one, the government of the numerical majority has
the advantage over that of the concurrent, if, indeed, it can be called an
advantage. I refer to its simplicity and facility of construction. It is
simple indeed, wielded, as it is, by a single power ! the will of the
greater number ! and very easy of construction. For this purpose, nothing
more is necessary than universal suffrage, and the regulation of the manner
of voting, so as to give to the greater number the supreme control over
every department of government.

But, whatever advantages simplicity and facility of construction may give
it, the other forms of absolute government possess them in a still higher
degree. The construction of the government of the numerical majority, simple
as it is, requires some preliminary measures and arrangements; while the
others, especially the monarchical, will, in its absence, or where it proves
incompetent, force themselves on the community. And hence, among other
reasons, the tendency of all governments is, from the more complex and
difficult of construction, to the more simple and easily constructed; and,
finally, to absolute monarchy, as the most simple of all. Complexity and
difficulty of construction, as far as they form objections, apply, not only
to governments of the concurrent majority of the popular form, but to
constitutional governments of every form. The least complex, and the most
easily constructed of them, are much more complex and difficult of
construction than any one of the absolute forms. Indeed, so great has been
this difficulty, that their construction has been the result, not so much of
wisdom and patriotism, as of favorable combinations of circumstances. They
have, for the most part, grown out of the struggles between conflicting
interests, which, from some fortunate turn, have ended in a compromise, by
which both parties have been admitted, in some one way or another, to have a
separate and distinct voice in the government. Where this has not been the
case, they have been the product of fortunate circumstances, acting in
conjunction with some pressing danger, which forced their adoption, as the
only means by which it could be avoided. It would seem that it has exceeded
human sagacity deliberately to plan and construct constitutional
governments, with a full knowledge of the principles on which they were
formed; or to reduce them to practice without the pressure of some immediate
and urgent necessity. Nor is it surprising that such should be the case; for
it would seem almost impossible for any man, or body of men, to be so
profoundly and thoroughly acquainted with the people of any community which
has made any considerable progress in civilization and wealth, with all the
diversified interests ever accompanying them, as to be able to organize
constitutional governments suited to their condition. But, even were this
possible, it would be difficult to find any community sufficiently
enlightened and patriotic to adopt such a government, without the compulsion
of some pressing necessity. A constitution, to succeed, must spring from the
bosom of the community, and be adapted to the intelligence and character of
the people, and all the multifarious relations, internal and external, which
distinguish one people from another. If it do not, it will prove, in
practice, to be, not a constitution, but a cumbrous and useless machine,
which must be speedily superseded and laid aside, for some other more
simple, and better suited to their condition.

It would thus seem almost necessary that governments should commence in some
one of the simple and absolute forms, which, however well suited to the
community in its earlier stages, must, in its progress, lead to oppression
and abuse of power, and, finally, to an appeal to force ! to be succeeded by
a military despotism ! unless the conflicts to which it leads should be
fortunately adjusted by a compromise, which will give to the respective
parties a participation in the control of the government; and thereby lay
the foundation of a constitutional government, to be afterwards matured and
perfected. Such governments have been, emphatically, the product of
circumstances. And hence, the difficulty of one people imitating the
government of another. And hence, also, the importance of terminating all
civil conflicts by a compromise, which shall prevent either party from
obtaining complete control, and thus subjecting the other.

Of the different forms of constitutional governments, the popular is the
most complex nd difficult of construction. It is, indeed, so difficult, that
ours, it is believed, may with truth be said to be the only one of a purely
popular character, of any considerable importance, that ever existed. The
cause is to be found in the fact, that, in the other two forms, society is
arranged in artificial orders or classes. Where these exist, the line of
distinction between them is so strongly marked as to throw into shade, or,
otherwise, to absorb all interests which are foreign to them respectively.
Hence, in an aristocracy, all interests are, politically, reduced to two !
the nobles and the people; and in a monarchy, with a nobility, into three !
the monarch, the nobles, and the people. In either case, they are so few
that the sense of each may be taken separately, through its appropriate
organ, so as to give to each a concurrent voice, and a negative on the
other, through the usual departments of the government, without making it
too complex, or too tardy in its movements to perform, with promptness and
energy, all the necessary functions of government.

The case is different in constitutional governments of the popular form. In
consequence of the absence of these artificial distinctions, the various
natural interests, resulting from diversity of pursuits, condition,
situation and character of different portions of the people ! and from the
action of the government itself ! rise into prominence, and struggle to
obtain the ascendency. They will, it is true, in governments of the
numerical majority, ultimately coalesce, and form two great parties; but not
so closely as to lose entirely their separate character and existence. These
they will ever be ready to re-assume, when the objects for which they
coalesced are accomplished. To overcome the difficulties occasioned by so
great a diversity of interests, an organism far more complex is necessary.

Another obstacle, difficult to be overcome, opposes the formation of popular
constitutional governments. It is much more difficult to terminate the
struggles between conflicting interests, by compromise, in absolute popular
governments, than in an aristocracy or monarchy.

In an aristocracy, the object of the people, in the ordinary struggle
between them and the nobles, is not, at least in its early stages, to
overthrow the nobility and revolutionize the government ! but to participate
in its powers. Notwithstanding the oppression to which they may be
subjected, under this form of government, the people commonly feel no small
degree of respect for the descendants of a long line of distinguished
ancestors; and do not usually aspire to more ! in opposing the authority of
the nobles ! than to obtain such a participation in the powers of the
government, as will enable them to correct its abuses and to lighten their
burdens. Among the nobility, on the other hand, it sometimes happens that
there are individuals of great influence with both sides, who have the good
sense and patriotism to interpose, in order to effect a compromise by
yielding to the reasonable demands of the people; and, thereby, to avoid the
hazard of a final and decisive appeal to force. It is thus, by a judicious
and timely compromise, the people, in such governments, may be raised to a
participation in the administration sufficient for their protection, without
the loss of authority on the part of the nobles.

In the case of a monarchy, the process is somewhat different. Where it is a
military despotism, the people rarely have the spirit or intelligence to
attempt resistance; or, if otherwise, their resistance must almost
necessarily terminate in defeat, or in a mere change of dynasty ! by the
elevation of their leader to the throne. It is different, where the monarch
is surrounded by an hereditary nobility. In a struggle between him and them,
both (but especially the monarch) are usually disposed to court the people,
in order to enlist them on their respective sides ! a state of things highly
favorable to their elevation. In this case, the struggle, if it should be
long continued without decisive results, would almost necessarily raise them
to political importance, and to a participation in the powers of the

The case is different in an absolute democracy. Party conflicts between the
majority and minority, in such governments, can hardly ever terminate in
compromise ! The object of the opposing minority is to expel the majority
from power; and of the majority to maintain their hold upon it. It is, on
both sides, a struggle for the whole ! a struggle that must determine which
shall be the governing, and which the subject party ! and, in character,
object and result, not unlike that between competitors for the sceptre in
absolute monarchies. Its regular course, as has been shown, is, excessive
violence ! an appeal to force ! followed by revolution ! and terminating at
last, in the elevation to supreme power of the general of the successful
party. And hence, among other reasons, aristocracies and monarchies more
readily assume the constitutional form than absolute popular governments.

Of the three different forms, the monarchical has heretofore been much the
most prevalent, and, generally, the most powerful and durable. This result
is doubtless to be attributed principally to the fact that, in its absolute
form, it is the most simple and easily constructed. And hence, as government
is indispensable, communities having too little intelligence to form or
preserve the others, naturally fall into this. It may also, in part, be
attributed to another cause, already alluded to; that, in its organism and
character, it is much more closely assimilated than either of the other two,
to military power; on which all absolute governments depend for support. And
hence, also, the tendency of the others, and of constitutional governments
which have been so badly constructed or become so disorganized as to require
force to support them ! to pass into military despotism ! that is, into
monarchy in its most absolute and simple form. And hence, again, the act,
that revolutions in absolute monarchies, end, almost invariably, in a change
of dynasty ! and not of the forms of the government; as is almost
universally the case in the other systems.

But there are, besides these, other causes of a higher character, which
contribute much to make monarchies the most prevalent, and, usually, the
cost durable governments. Among them, the leading one is, they are the most
susceptible of improvement ! that is, they can be more easily and readily
modified, so as to prevent, to a limited extent, oppression and abuse of
power, without assuming the constitutional form, in its strict sense. It
slides, almost naturally, into one of the most important modifications. I
refer to hereditary descent. When this becomes well defined and firmly
established, the community or kingdom, comes to be regarded by the sovereign
as the hereditary possession of his family ! a circumstance which tends
strongly to identify his interests with those of his subjects, and hereby,
to mitigate the rigor of the government. It gives, besides, great additional
security to his person; and prevents, in the same degree, not only the
suspicion and hostile feelings incident to insecurity ! but invites all
those kindly feelings which naturally spring up on both sides, between those
whose interests are identified ! when there is nothing to prevent it. And
hence the strong feelings of paternity on the side of the sovereign ! and of
loyalty on that of his subjects, which are often exhibited in such

There is another improvement of which it is readily susceptible, nearly
allied to the preceding. The hereditary principle not unfrequently extends
to other families ! especially to those of the distinguished chieftains, by
whose aid the monarchy was established, when it originates in conquest. When
this is the case ! and a powerful body of hereditary nobles surround the
sovereign, they oppose a strong resistance to his authority, and he to
theirs ! tending to the advantage and security of the people. Even when they
do not succeed in obtaining a participation in the powers of the government,
they usually acquire sufficient weight to be felt and respected. From this
state of things, such governments usually, in time, settle down on some
fixed rules of action, which the sovereign is compelled to respect, and by
which increased protection and security are acquired by all. It was thus the
enlightened monarchies of Europe were formed, under which the people of that
portion of the globe have made such great advances in power, intelligence,
and civilization.

To these may be added the greater capacity, which governments of the
monarchical form have exhibited, to hold under subjection a large extent of
territory, and a numerous population; and which has made them more powerful
than others of a different form, to the extent, that these constitute an
element of power. All these causes combined, have given such great and
decisive advantages, as to enable them, heretofore, to absorb, in the
progress of events, the few governments which have, from time to time,
assumed different forms ! not excepting even the mighty Roman Republic,
which, after attaining the highest point of power, passed, seemingly under
the operation of irresistible causes, into a military despotism. I say,
heretofore ! for it remains to be seen whether they will continue to retain
their advantages, in these respects, over the others, under the great and
growing influence of public opinion, and the new and imposing form which
popular government has assumed with us.

These have already effected great changes, and will probably effect still
greater ! adverse to the monarchical form; but, as yet, these changes have
tended rather to the absolute, than to the constitutional form of popular
government ! for reasons which have been explained. If this tendency should
continue permanently in the same direction, the monarchical form must still
retain its advantages, and continue to be the most prevalent. Should this be
the case, the alternative will be between monarchy and popular government,
in the form of the numerical majority ! or absolute democracy; which, as has
been shown, is not only the most fugitive of all he forms, but has the
strongest tendency of all others to the monarchical. If, on the contrary,
this tendency, or the changes referred to, should incline to the
constitutional form of popular government ! and a proper organism come to be
regarded as not less indispensable than the right of suffrage to the
establishment of such governments ! in such case, it is not probable that,
in the progress of events, the monarchical will cease to be he prevalent
form of government. Whether they will take this direction, at east for a
long time, will depend on the success of our government ! and a correct
understanding of the principles on which it is constructed.

To comprehend more fully the force and bearing of public opinion, and to
form a just estimate of the changes to which, aided by the press, it will
probably lead, politically and socially ! it will be necessary to consider
it in connection with the causes that have given it an influence so great,
as to entitle it to be regarded as a new political element. They will, upon
investigation, be found in the many discoveries and inventions made in the
last few centuries.

Among the more prominent of those of an earlier date, stand the practical
application of the magnetic power to the purposes of navigation, by the
invention of the mariner's compass; the discovery of the mode of making
gunpowder, and its application to the art of war; and the invention of the
art of printing. Among the more recent are, the numerous chemical and
mechanical discoveries and inventions, and their application to the various
arts of production; the application of steam to machinery of almost every
description, especially to such as is designed to facilitate transportation
and travel by land and water; and, finally, the invention of the magnetic

All these have led to important results. Through the invention of the
mariner's compass, the globe has been circumnavigated and explored, and all
who inhabit it, with but few exceptions, brought within the sphere of an
all-pervading commerce, which is daily diffusing over its surface the light
and blessings of civilization. Through that of the art of printing, the
fruits of observation and reflection, of discoveries and inventions, with
all the accumulated stores of previously acquired knowledge, are preserved
and widely diffused. The application of gunpowder to the art of war, has
forever settled the long conflict for ascendency between civilization and
barbarism, in favor of the former, and thereby guaranteed that, whatever
knowledge is now accumulated, or may hereafter be added, shall never again
be lost. The numerous discoveries and inventions, chemical and mechanical,
and the application of steam to machinery, have increased, many-fold, the
productive powers of labor and capital; and have, thereby, greatly increased
the number, who may devote themselves to study and improvement ! and the
amount of means necessary for commercial exchanges ! especially between the
more and the less advanced and civilized portions of the globe ! to the
great advantage of both, but particularly of the latter. The application of
steam to the purposes of travel and transportation, by land and water, has
vastly increased the facility, cheapness and rapidity of both ! diffusing,
with them, information and intelligence almost as quickly and as freely as
if borne by the winds; while the electrical wires outstrip them, in velocity
! rivaling, in rapidity, even thought itself.

The joint effect of all has been, a great increase and diffusion of
knowledge; and, with this, an impulse to progress and civilization
heretofore unexampled in the history of the world ! accompanied by a mental
energy and activity unprecedented.

To all these causes, public opinion, and its organ, the press, owe their
origin and great influence. Already they have attained a force in the more
civilized portions of the globe sufficient to be felt by all governments,
even the most absolute and despotic. But, as great as they now are, they
have as yet attained nothing like their maximum force. It is probable, that
not one of the causes, which have contributed to their formation and
influence, has yet produced its full effect; while several of the most
powerful have just begun to operate; and many others, probably of equal or
even greater force, yet remain to be brought to light.

When the causes now in operation have produced their full effect, and
inventions and discoveries shall have been exhausted ! if that may ever be !
they will give a force to public opinion, and cause changes, political and
social, difficult to be anticipated. What will be their final bearing, time
only can decide with any certainty. That they will, however, greatly improve
the condition of man ultimately ! it would be impious to doubt. It would be
to suppose, that the all-wise and beneficent Being ! the Creator of all !
had so constituted man, as that the employment of the high intellectual
faculties, with which He has been pleased to endow him, in order that he
might develop the laws that control the great agents of the material world,
and make them subservient to his use ! would prove to him the cause of
permanent evil ! and not of permanent good. If, then, such a supposition be
inadmissible, they must, in their orderly and full development, end in his
permanent good. But this cannot be, unless the ultimate effect of their
action, politically, shall be, to give ascendency to that form of government
best calculated to fulfill the ends for which government is ordained. For,
so completely does the well-being of our race depend on good government,
that it is hardly possible any change, the ultimate effect of which should
be otherwise, could prove to be a permanent good.

It is, however, not improbable, that many and great, but temporary evils,
will follow the changes they have effected, and are destined to effect. It
seems to be a law in the political, as well as in the material world, that
great changes cannot be made, except very gradually, without convulsions and
revolutions; to be followed by calamities, in the beginning, however
beneficial they may prove to be in the end. The first effect of such
changes, on long established governments, will be, to unsettle the opinions
and principles in which they originated ! and which have guided their policy
! before those, which the changes are calculated to form and establish, are
fairly developed and understood. The interval between the decay of the old
and the formation and establishment of the new, constitutes a period of
transition, which must always necessarily be one of uncertainty, confusion,
error, and wild and fierce fanaticism.

The governments of the more advanced and civilized portions of the world are
now in the midst of this period. It has proved, and will continue to prove a
severe trial to existing political institutions of every form. Those
governments which have not the sagacity to perceive what is truly public
opinion ! to distinguish between it and the mere clamor of faction, or
shouts of fanaticism ! and the good sense and firmness to yield, timely and
cautiously, to the claims of the one ! and to resist, promptly and
decidedly, the demands of the other ! are doomed to fall. Few will be able
successfully to pass through this period of transition; and these, not
without shocks and modifications, more or less considerable. It will endure
until the governing and the governed shall better understand the ends for
which government is ordained, and the form best adapted to accomplish them,
under all the circumstances in which communities may be respectively placed.

I shall, in conclusion, proceed to exemplify the elementary principles,
which have been established, by giving a brief account of the origin and
character of the governments of Rome and Great Britain; the two most
remarkable and perfect of their respective forms of constitutional
governments. The object is to show how these principles were applied, in the
more simple forms of such governments; preparatory to an exposition of the
mode in which they have been applied in our own more complex system. It will
appear that, in each, the principles are the same; and that the difference
in their application resulted from the different situation and social
condition of the respective communities. They were modified, in each, so as
to conform to these; and, hence, their remarkable success. They were applied
to communities in which hereditary rank had long prevailed. Their respective
constitutions originated in concession to the people; and, through them,
they acquired a participation in the powers of government. But with us, they
were applied to communities where all political rank and distinction between
citizens were excluded; and where government had its origin in the will of
the people.

But, however different their origin and character, it will be found that the
object in each was the same ! to blend and harmonize the conflicting
interests of the community; and the means the same ! taking the sense of
each class or portion through its appropriate organ, and considering the
concurrent sense of all as the sense of the whole community. Such being the
fact, an accurate and clear conception how this was effected, in their more
simple forms, will enable us better to understand how it was accomplished in
our far more refined, artificial, and complex form.

It is well known to all, the least conversant with their history, that the
Roman people consisted of two distinct orders, or classes ! the patricians
and the plebeians; and that the line of distinction was so strongly drawn,
that, for a long time, the right of intermarriage between them was
prohibited. After the overthrow of the monarchy and the expulsion of the
Tarquins, the government fell exclusively under the control of the
patricians, who, with their clients and dependents, formed, at the time, a
very numerous and powerful body. At first, while there was danger of the
return of the exiled family, they treated the plebeians with kindness; but,
after it had passed away, with oppression and cruelty.

It is not necessary, with the object in view, to enter into a minute account
of the various acts of oppression and cruelty to which they were subjected.
It is sufficient to state, that, according to the usages of war at the time,
the territory of a conquered people became the property of the conquerors;
and that the plebeians were harassed and oppressed by incessant wars, in
which the danger and toil were theirs, while all the fruits of victory (the
lands of the vanquished, and the spoils of war) accrued to the benefit of
their oppressors. The result was such as might be expected. They were
impoverished, and forced, from necessity, to borrow from the patricians, at
usurious and exorbitant interest, funds with which they had been enriched
through their blood and toil; and to pledge their all for repayment at
stipulated periods. In case of default, the pledge became forfeited; and,
under the provisions of law in such cases, the debtors were liable to be
seized, and sold or imprisoned by their creditors in private jails prepared
and kept for the purpose. These savage provisions were enforced with the
utmost rigor against the indebted and impoverished plebeians. They
constituted, indeed, an essential part of the system through which they were
plundered and oppressed by the patricians.

A system so oppressive could not be endured. The natural consequences
followed. Deep hatred was engendered between the orders, accompanied by
factions, violence, and corruption, which distracted and weakened the
government. At length, an incident occurred which roused the indignation of
the plebeians to the utmost pitch, and which ended in a open rupture between
the two orders.

An old soldier, who had long served the country, and had fought with bravery
in twenty-eight battles, made his escape from the prison of his creditor !
squalid, pale, and famished. He implored the protection of the plebeians. A
crowd surrounded him; and his tale of service to the country, and the
cruelty with which he had been treated by his creditor, kindled a flame,
which continued to rage until it extended to the army. It refused to
continue any longer in service ! crossed the Anio, and took possession of
the sacred mount. The patricians divided in opinion as to the course which
should be pursued. The more violent insisted on an appeal to arms, but,
fortunately, the counsel of the moderate, which recommended concession and
compromise, prevailed. Commissioners were appointed to treat with the army;
and a formal compact was entered into between the orders, and ratified by
the oaths of each, which conceded to the plebeians the right to elect two
tribunes, as the protectors of their order, and made their persons sacred.
The number was afterwards increased to ten, and their election by centuries
changed to election by tribes ! a mode by which the plebeians secured a
decided preponderance.

Such was the origin of the tribunate ! which, in process of time, opened all
the honors of the government to the plebeians. They acquired the right, not
only of vetoing the passage of all laws, but also their execution; and thus
obtained, through their tribunes, a negative on the entire action of the
government, without divesting the patricians of their control over the
Senate. By this arrangement, the government was placed under the concurrent
and joint voice of the two orders, expressed through separate and
appropriate organs; the one possessing the positive, and the other the
negative towers of the government. This simple change converted it from an
absolute, into a constitutional government ! from a government of the
patricians only, to that of the whole Roman people ! and from an aristocracy
into a republic. In doing this, it laid the solid foundation of Roman
liberty and greatness.

A superficial observer would pronounce a government, so organized, as what
one order should have the power of making and executing the laws, and
another, or the representatives of another, the unlimited authority of
preventing their enactment and execution ! if not wholly impracticable, at
least, too feeble to stand the shocks to which all governments are subject;
and would, therefore, predict its speedy dissolution, after a distracted and
inglorious career.

How different from the result! Instead of distraction, it proved to be the
bond of concord and harmony; instead of weakness, of unequalled strength !
and, instead of a short and inglorious career, one of great length and
immortal glory. It moderated the conflicts between the orders; harmonized
their interests, and blended them into one; substituted devotion to country
in the place of devotion to particular orders; called forth the united
strength and energy of the whole, in the hour of danger; raised to power,
the wise and patriotic; elevated the Roman name above all others; extended
her authority and dominion over the greater part of the then known world,
and transmitted the influence of her laws and institutions to the present
day. Had the opposite counsel prevailed at this critical juncture; had an
appeal been made to arms instead of to concession and compromise, Rome,
instead of being what she afterwards became, would, in all probability, have
been as inglorious, and as little known to posterity as the insignificant
states which surrounded her, whose names and existence would have been long
since consigned to oblivion, had they not been preserved in the history of
her conquests of them. But for the wise course then adopted, it is not
improbable ! whichever order might have prevailed ! that she would have
fallen under some cruel and petty tyrant ! and, finally, been conquered by
some of the neighboring states ! or by the Carthaginians, or the Gauls. To
the fortunate turn which events then took, she owed her unbounded sway and
imperishable renown.

It is true, that the tribunate, after raising her to a height of power and
prosperity never before equalled, finally became one of the instruments by
which her liberty was overthrown ! but it was not until she became exposed
to new dangers, growing out of increase of wealth and the great extent of
her dominions, against which the tribunate furnished no guards. Its original
object was the protection of the plebeians against oppression and abuse of
power on the part of the patricians. This, it thoroughly accomplished; but
it had no power to protect the people of the numerous and wealthy conquered
countries from being plundered by consuls and proconsuls. Nor could it
prevent the plunderers from using the enormous wealth, which they extorted
from the impoverished and ruined provinces, to corrupt and debase the
people; nor arrest the formation of parties (irrespective of the old
division of patricians and plebeians) having no other object than to obtain
the control of the government for the purpose of plunder. Against these
formidable evils, her constitution furnished no adequate security. Under
their baneful influence, the possession of the government became the object
of the most violent conflicts; not between patricians and plebeians ! but
between profligate and corrupt factions. They continued with increasing
violence, until, finally, Rome sunk, as must every community under similar
circumstances, beneath the strong grasp, the despotic rule of the chieftain
of the successful party ! the sad, but only alternative which remained to
prevent universal violence, confusion and anarchy. The Republic had, in
reality, ceased to exist long before the establishment of the Empire. The
interval was filled by the rule of ferocious, corrupt and bloody factions.
There was, indeed, a small but patriotic body of eminent individuals, who
struggled, in vain, to correct abuses, and to restore the government to its
primitive character and purity ! and who sacrificed their lives in their
endeavors to accomplish an object so virtuous and noble. But it can be no
disparagement to the tribunate, that the great powers conferred on it for
wise purposes, and which it had so fully accomplished, should be seized
upon, during this violent and corrupt interval, to overthrow the liberty it
had established, and so long nourished and supported.

In assigning such consequence to the tribunate, I must not overlook other
important provisions of the Constitution of the Roman government. The
Senate, as far as we are informed, seems to have been admirably constituted
to secure consistency and steadiness of action. The power ! when the
Republic was exposed to imminent danger ! to appoint a dictator ! vested,
for a limited period, with almost boundless authority; the two consuls, and
the manner of electing them; the auguries; the sibylline books; the
priesthood, and the censorship ! all of which appertained to the patricians
! were, perhaps indispensable to withstand the vast and apparently irregular
power of the tribunate ! while the possession of such great powers by the
patricians, made it necessary to give proportionate strength to the only
organ through which the plebeians could act on the government with effect.
The government was, indeed, powerfully constituted; and, apparently, well
proportioned both in its positive and negative organs. It was truly an iron
government. Without the tribunate, it proved to be one of the most
oppressive and cruel that ever existed; but with it, one of the strongest
and best.

The origin and character of the British government are so well known, that a
very brief sketch, with the object in view, will suffice.

The causes which ultimately moulded it into its present form, commenced with
the Norman Conquest. This introduced the feudal system, with its necessary
appendages, a hereditary monarchy and nobility; the former in the line of
the chief, who led the invading army ! and the latter in that of his
distinguished followers. They became his feudatories. The country ! both
land and people (the latter as serfs) ! was divided between them. Conflicts
soon followed between the monarch and the nobles ! as must ever be the case
under such systems. They were followed, in the progress of events, by
efforts, on the part both of monarchs and nobles, to conciliate the favor of
the people. They, in consequence, gradually rose to power. At every step of
their ascent, they became more important ! and were more and more courted !
until at length their influence was so sensibly felt, that they were
summoned to attend the meeting of parliament by delegates; not, however, as
an estate of the realm, or constituent member of the body politic. The first
summons came from the nobles; and was designed to conciliate their good
feelings and secure their cooperation in the war against the king. This was
followed by one from him; but his object was simply to have them present at
the meeting of parliament, in order to be consulted by the crown, on
questions relating to taxes and supplies; not, indeed, to discuss the right
to lay the one, and to raise the other ! for the King claimed the arbitrary
authority to do both ! but with a view to facilitate their collection, and
to reconcile them to their imposition.

From this humble beginning, they, after a long struggle, accompanied by many
vicissitudes, raised themselves to be considered one of the estates of the
realm; and, finally, in their efforts to enlarge and secure what they had
gained, overpowered, for a time, the other two estates; and thus
concentrated all power in a single estate or body. This, in effect, made the
government absolute, and led to consequences which, as by a fixed law, must
ever result in popular governments of this form ! namely ! to organized
parties, or, rather, factions, contending violently to obtain or retain the
control of the government; and this, again, by laws almost as uniform, to
the concentration of all the powers of government in the hands of the
military commander of the successful party.

His heir was too feeble to hold the sceptre he had grasped; and the general
discontent with the result of the revolution, led to the restoration of the
old dynasty; without defining the limits between the powers of the
respective estates.

After a short interval, another revolution followed, in which the lords and
commons united against the king. This terminated in his overthrow; and the
transfer of the crown to a collateral branch of the family, accompanied by a
declaration of rights, which defined the powers of the several estates of
the realm; and, finally, perfected and established the constitution. Thus, a
feudal monarchy was converted, through a slow but steady process of many
centuries, into a highly refined constitutional monarchy, without changing
the basis of the original government.

As it now stands, the realm consists of three estates; the king; the lords
temporal and spiritual; and the commons. The parliament is the grand
council. It possesses the supreme power. It enacts laws, by the concurring
assent of the lords and commons ! subject to the approval of the king. The
executive power is vested in the monarch, who is regarded as constituting
the first estate. Although irresponsible himself, he can only act through
responsible ministers and agents. They are responsible to the other estates;
to the lords, as constituting the high court before whom all the servants of
the crown may be tried for malpractices, and crimes against the realm, or
official delinquencies ! and to the commons, as possessing the impeaching
power, and constituting the grand inquest of the kingdom. These provisions,
with their legislative powers ! especially that of withholding supplies !
give them a controlling influence on the executive department, and,
virtually, a participation in its powers ! so that the acts of the
government, throughout its entire range, may be fairly considered as the
result of the concurrent and joint action of the three estates ! and, as
these embrace all the orders ! of the concurrent and joint action of the
estates of the realm.

He would take an imperfect and false view of the subject who should consider
the king, in his mere individual character, or even as the head of the royal
family ! as constituting an estate. Regarded in either light, so far from
deserving to be considered as the First Estate ! and the head of the realm,
as he is ! he would represent an interest too inconsiderable to be an object
of special protection. Instead of this, he represents what in reality is,
habitually and naturally, the most powerful interest, all things considered,
under every form of government in all civilized communities ! the tax-
consuming interest; or, more broadly, the great interest which necessarily
grows out of the action of the government, be its form what it may ! the
interest that lives by the government. It is composed of the recipients of
its honors and emoluments; and may be properly called, the government
interest, or party ! in contradistinction to the rest of the community ! or
(as they may be properly called) the people or commons. The one comprehends
all who are supported by the government ! and the other all who support the
government ! and it is only because the former are strongest, all things
being considered, that they are enabled to retain, for any considerable
time, advantages so great and commanding.

This great and predominant interest is naturally represented by a single
head. For it is impossible, without being so represented, to distribute the
honors and emoluments of the government among those who compose it, without
producing discord and conflict ! and it is only by preventing these, that
advantages so tempting can be long retained. And, hence, the strong tendency
of this great interest to the monarchical form ! that is, to be represented
by a single individual. On the contrary, the antagonistic interest ! that
which supports the government, has the opposite tendency ! a tendency to be
represented by many; because a large assembly can better judge, than one
individual or a few, what burdens the community can bear ! and how it can be
most equally distributed, and easily collected.

In the British government, the king constitutes an estate, because he is the
head and representative of this great interest. He is the conduit through
which, all the honors and emoluments of the government flow ! while the
House of Commons, according to the theory of the government, is the head and
representative of the opposite ! the great tax-paying interest, by which the
government is supported.

Between these great interests, there is necessarily a constant and strong
tendency to conflict; which, if not counteracted, must end in violence and
an appeal to force ! to be followed by revolution, as has been explained. To
prevent this, the House of Lords, as one of the estates of the realm, is
interposed; and constitutes the conservative power of the government. It
consists, in fact, of that portion of the community who are the principal
recipients of the honors, emoluments, and other advantages derived from he
government; and whose condition cannot be improved, but must be made worse
by the triumph of either of the conflicting estates over the other; and,
hence, it is opposed to the ascendency of either ! and in favor of
preserving the equilibrium between them.

This sketch, brief as it is, is sufficient to show, that these two
constitutional governments ! by far the most illustrious of their respective
kinds ! conform to the principles that have been established, alike in their
origin and in their construction. The constitutions of both originated in a
pressure, occasioned by conflicts of interests between hostile classes or
orders, and were intended to meet the pressing exigencies of the occasion;
neither party, it would seem, having any conception of the principles
involved, or he consequences to follow, beyond the immediate objects in
contemplation. It would, indeed, seem almost impossible for constitutional
governments, founded on orders or classes, to originate in any other manner.
It is difficult to conceive that any people, among whom they did not exist,
would, or could voluntarily institute them, in order to establish such
governments; while it is not at all wonderful, that they should grow out of
conflicts between different orders or classes when aided by a favorable
combination of circumstances.

The constitutions of both rest on the same principle ! an organism by which
the voice of each order or class is taken through its appropriate organ; and
which requires the concurring voice of all to constitute that of the whole
community. The effects, too, were the same in both ! to unite and harmonize
conflicting interests ! to strengthen attachments to the whole community,
and to moderate that to the respective orders or classes; ) rally all, in
the hour of danger, around the standard of their country; to elevate the
feeling of nationality, and to develop power, moral and physical, to an
extraordinary extent. Yet each has its distinguishing features, resulting
from the difference of their organisms, and the circumstances in which they
respectively originated.

In the government of Great Britain, the three orders are blended in the
legislative department; so that the separate and concurring act of each is
necessary to make laws; while, on the contrary, in the Roman, one order had
the power of making laws, and another of annulling them, or arresting their
execution. Each had its peculiar advantages. The Roman developed more fully
the love of country and the feelings of nationality. "I am a Roman citizen,"
was pronounced with a pride and elevation of sentiment, never, perhaps, felt
before or since, by any citizen or subject of any community, in announcing
the country to which he belonged.

It also developed more fully the power of the community. Taking into
consideration their respective population, and the state of the arts at the
different periods, Rome developed more power, comparatively, than Great
Britain ever has ! vast as that is, and has been ! or, perhaps, than any
other community ever did. Hence, the mighty control she acquired from a
beginning so humble. But the British government is far superior to that of
Rome, in its adaptation and capacity to embrace under its control extensive
dominions, without subverting its constitution. In this respect, the Roman
constitution was defective ! and, in consequence, soon began to exhibit
marks of decay, after Rome had extended her dominions beyond Italy; while
the British holds under its sway, without apparently impairing either, an
empire equal to that, under the weight of which the constitution and liberty
of Rome were crushed. This great advantage it derives from its different
structure, especially that of the executive department; and the character of
its conservative principle. The former is so constructed as to prevent, in
consequence of its unity and hereditary character, the violent and factious
struggles to obtain the control of the government ! and, with it, the vast
patronage which distracted, corrupted, and finally subverted the Roman
Republic. Against this fatal disease, the latter had no security whatever;
while the British government ! besides the advantages it possesses, in this
respect, from the structure of its executive department ! has, in the
character of its conservative principle, another and powerful security
against it. Its character is such, that patronage, instead of weakening,
strengthens it ! for, the greater the patronage of the government, the
greater will be the share which falls to the estate constituting the
conservative department of the government; and the more eligible its
condition, the greater its opposition to any radical change in its form. The
two causes combined, give to the government a greater capacity of holding
under subjection extensive dominions, without subverting the constitution or
destroying liberty, than has ever been possessed by any other. It is
difficult, indeed, to assign any limit to its capacity in this respect. The
most probable which can be assigned is, its ability to bear increased
burdens ! the taxation necessary to meet the expenses incident to the
acquisition and government of such vast dominions, may prove, in the end, so
heavy as to crush, under its weight, the laboring and productive portions of
the population.

I have now finished the brief sketch I proposed, of the origin and character
of these two renowned governments; and shall next proceed to consider the
character, origin and structure of the Government of the United States. It
differs from the Roman and British, more than they differ from each other;
and, although an existing government of recent origin, its character and
structure are perhaps less understood than those of either.

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