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[ [PART SECOND.)
[OF THE THEORY OF GOVERNMENT, OR POLITICS PROPER.*]
OF THE SIMPLE FORMS OF GOVERNMENT.
[SECT. 1.]—INTRODUCTION. [SUBSECT. I.—Of the Legislative, Judicial, and Executive
Powers.] BEFORÊ I proceed to make any remarks on the different forms of Government, it is proper to observe in general, that in every political establishment the laws must be enacted, interpreted, and executed. Hence, the functions of Government are three, Legislation, Juristliction, and Execution. Some writers comprehend the two last under the head of Execution, but the former division is the more distinct, and is now almost universally followed. It will afterwards appear, that the great object of the Theory of Government is to separate and distribute these powers properly, so as to guard against the abuses to which they might otherwise be liable; more particularly to organize the Legislative power, which, wherever it is freely and independently exercised, possesses, from its nature, a supremacy both over the Judicial and the Executive. It will also appear, that these ends can only be accomplished by a mixed government ; that is, by a system of policy which combines the simple forms in such a manner as to correct the inconveniences which, in their separate states, they seem all to threaten. Instead, therefore, of beginning with the abstract consideration of the functions of government, it appears to me to be a more natural
* (It will be observed, that in relegat- fact the necessity, of this change is exing the discussion on the Theory of plained in notes * and relative texts at Government, or Politics Proper, to this pp. 21, 24, and 29 of that volume. It is Second Part, I am deviating from the also to be remembered that this second order which may seem to have been section of the Lectures on Political preferred by Mr. Stewart in the last Economy, to wit, Politics Proper, was corrected copy of these Lectures; (see delivered by Mr. Stewart as pertaining p. xii. of Editorial Advertisement pre- to his course of Moral Philosophy.] fixed to their Vol. I.) The reason, in
a and intelligible arrangement, to introduce the general principles which I have to state concerning the division and distribution of powers, under those heads of the subject which are best calculated to illustrate their practical application. In the meantime, I shall only observe, that this doctrine of the division and distribution of Powers is very ingeniously illustrated by Montesquieu,* and that some of his fundamental principles are ably and eloquently commented on by Mr. Ferguson in his Essay on the History of Civil Society.T
(SUBSECT. II.—Of the Simple Forms of Government in Theory
and in general.]
The ancient Politicians enumerated three simple forms of government,—Democracy, Aristocracy, and Monarchy. In the first of these the sovereign power is supposed to be lodged in the whole body of the people ; in the second, in one particular order, (such as a body of nobility in some of the governments of modern Europe ;) in the third, in a single person.
Montesquieu$ likewise reduces the forms of government to three, the Republican, the Aristocratical, and the Monarchical. The Republican he defines in such a manner, as to comprehend both Democracy and Aristocracy. “It is a form of government,” says he, “in which the whole body of the people, or a part of the body of the people, has the supreme power.”S I
I [Esprit des Loix, Liv. II, chap. i.)
* [In his Esprit des Loix, Liv. II., &c.] + [Part I. sect. x. p. 108, seq., sixth edition.]
think it better for me, however, to follow the ancient Politicians in this particular, stating these two forms of government as essentially distinct, and assigning an appropriate definition to each. And, indeed, I cannot easily conceive what induced Montesquieu to confound them together under one generic term, when he was so completely aware of the striking contrast they present in their spirit and tendency.
Montesquieu* distinguishes Monarchy from Despotism; and the distinction is, undoubtedly, solid and important. I think, however, it may bear dispute, whether Monarchy (by which he means limited Monarchy) should have a place among the simple forms, as the limitations of the sovereign power can only arise from a mixture in the government; and, therefore, I shall, in this instance, also, follow the arrangement of the ancients, excluding limited Monarchy from my enumeration of the simple forms, and employing the word Monarchy (while I am treating of these) as synonymous with Despotism. Montesquieu was led to add limited Monarchy to the ancient enumeration by the history of Modern Europe, which has afforded examples of such governments, moderated and restrained by checks, of the nature and efficacy of which the Politicians of former times were unable to form an idea. To what purposes this speculation concerning the simple forms is subservient, will, I hope, appear sufficiently from the following considerations.
I before observed, that, as the political establishments which have actually taken place in the history of mankind, have been all distinguished from each other by various peculiarities, and as their number exceeds the comprehension of our limited faculties, it becomes necessary for those who wish to make them an object of study, to abstract from their more minute differences, and to reduce them to general classes according to their prevailing tendency. By doing so, while we circumscribe the field of observation, and abridge the labour of minute research, we gain another advantage of the utmost importance to the
* (See Esprit des Loir, Liv. II. chap. iv.] VOL. IX.
justness and comprehensiveness of our conclusions,—that of separating what appears to be essential from accessory circumstances of a more secondary and incidental nature. Abstractions and classifications of a similar kind are found to be useful in examining all other subjects of observation, which are very complicated in their details; in examining, for example, the agricultural qualities of different soils, the medical peculiarities of different constitutional temperaments, or the intellectual and moral varieties of human character.
It does not furnish any objection to this view of the subject, that no governments are to be found among mankind corresponding exactly to the definitions which are now to be given. Notwithstanding the diversity of political establishments, when we come to examine the subordinate details of their administration, they may all be resolved or analyzed (as far as the spirit of the government is concerned) into three simple governing powers ; inasmuch as all power must be exercised, either by a single person, or by a select body, or by the mass of the people; and these governing powers, although, in fact, always more or less blended together, may be conceived to exist apart, exhibiting their peculiar and characteristic tendencies, without any checks or modifications. In this manner, the nature and effects of each may be expected to be more clearly and distinctly comprehended than when they are all studied in their joint results; and the conclusions we thus obtain may serve as general maxims or principles, to fix the attention and guide the judgment in the examination and comparison of the complex forms exhibited in the history of human affairs. It is with a view somewhat analogous to this, that, in the theory of mechanics, we begin with studying the simple mechanical powers, before we proceed to the study of their various combinations, as they are exemplified in the contrivances of the engineer; and it is thus that the effects of these engines, even in their most complicated forms, are easily subjected to computation, when the theory of those simple powers, which enter into their composition, has been previously familiarized to the mind.
[SECT. II.—OF THE SIMPLE FORMS OF GOVERNMENT IN SPECIAL.]
[SUBSECT. 1.)–Of Democracy and Democratic States. From the foregoing observations, it may be easily inferred, that as no governments are to be found, actually existing, which correspond exactly to the general definitions of Democracy, Aristocracy, and Monarchy, these definitions are to be understood as expressing merely ideal constitutions, which exist nowhere but in the imagination of the speculative politician. The fact is, that all the governments we know are mixed governments; and, perhaps, it may even be asserted, that every government contains some mixture, in a greater or less proportion, of all the three simple forms. In some, however, the power of the people is much greater than in others, where, by a train of accidents, it has been gradually brought under subjection to the body of the nobles, or to a single monarch ; and, in like manner, where the popular branch of the government is comparatively feeble and insignificant, constitutions may differ very widely from each other, according as the supreme authority is exercised by an individual, by a few, or by a multitude of rulers. Now, the words Democracy, Aristocracy, and Monarchy, are commonlyémployed, in a loose and popular way, to express to which of the simple forms a particular government approaches most nearly, or which of the three governing powers prevails in its constitution.
I mention this circumstance, because, in treating of the simple forms, I only follow the example of Montesquieu and all other theoretical Politicians, who are obliged to borrow their illustrations from those which are mixed in fact. This consideration, however, does not render these illustrations the less applicable to the support of their general principles; as the inconveniences resulting from those governments in which any one of the simple forms predominates beyond its due proportion, would be felt still more severely, if this simple form existed altogether pure and unmixed. The conclusions, therefore, resulting from such facts are applicable, a fortiori, to