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titled in the present circumstances of mankind, to the attention of the speculative politician.

So much with respect to the Simple Forms of Government, and the inconveniences connected with those constitutions which approach nearly to those ideal models. I now proceed to consider in what manner the simple forms may be combined together, so as to secure the peculiar advantages of each, and to correct the evils which I have endeavoured to illustrate in the foregoing analysis.


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I BEFORE observed, [p. 353,] in stating the definitions of the Three Simple Forms of Government, that they do not apply literally to any establishments which have actually existed in the history of mankind, but are merely abstractions, formed by the speculative politician, in order to simplify the objects of his attention when employed in examining and comparing the constitutions of different states. The definition of Democracy (for example) admits no ground of distinction but personal qualities; and yet we may confidently affirm, that no state was ever to be found so popular as to exclude completely all regard to wealth, to birth, and to other adventitious sources of estimation. How difficult, or rather impossible, it is to eradicate this strong bias of our nature, appears remarkably from what Xenophon himself acknowledges concerning the character and manners of the Spartans, among whom he is obliged to confess (notwithstanding his strong partiality in their favour) that there was the same love of riches and of

which are complained of in other communities. There never surely was an Aristocracy so pure as to maintain such an exact equality among the members of the governing order, as might exclude entirely every tendency to Monarchy; nor was there ever an aristocracy in which superior talents and virtues might not procure to an individual of the lower order, a certain respect and influence in the society; and where the nominal rulers were not obliged, in some measure, to share their power, by courting the friendship of the popular favourites. I need scarcely add, that there never was a Despotism in which the sovereign was literally, with respect to his subjects, absolute and omnipotent, and in which he lay under no restraint whatever, either from established customs and manners, or from political and religious opinions, or from apprehensions concerning his own personal security.


Every government, therefore, which has existed in the history of mankind, is more or less a mixed government; nay, every government will be found, if attentively examined, to contain a mixture of all the three simple forms. But as it is impossible, in common discourse, to convey, in a few words, a distinct idea of a particular constitution, and equally impossible to have separate names for all the varieties of government that may be imagined, we are obliged to use the expressions Democracy, Aristocracy, and Monarchy, with a considerable degree of latitude; and to distinguish different constitutions from each other, by the names of these simple forms to which they approach most nearly. It is easy to see, however, that it is only a very vague and imperfect notion of a constitution which we can form from merely hearing its name. We call, for example, the Athenian Government a Democracy, and perhaps there never was any which approached more nearly to the theory. “The people had both the executive and legislative power committed to them; they voted in a collective body in every law, without any limitation of property, without any distinction of rank; without control from any magistracy or senate; and the meanest among them might be raised, by the votes of his fellow-citizens, to the command of armies, or the dignity of ambassador."* Yet, in Athens, as I already observed,

I [p. 369, seq.,] from the battle of Marathon, the government was carried on by a series of ambitious and intriguing men, who possessed themselves of the whole power of the state, so that the government, though nominally Democracy, was in fact a Monarchy. Thucydides affirms, in direct terms, that, under Pericles, it differed from monarchy only in name. In Athens, too, adventitious sources of distinction were admitted, as well as in other constitutions; and we are even assured by Xenophon, that those in general were chosen to command who could expend most in banquets and pageantry. Nor is this all; the freemen at Athens bore but a small proportion to the slaves, and these surely ought to be considered as a part of the community. In this boasted constitution, therefore, a great majority of the people not only had no share in the legislature, but were deprived of their rights as men. And, consequently, however jealous the free citizens might be of their own rights, their independent spirit did not arise from the avowed principle of a democracy, a regard to justice, and a sense of that equality of rights which republican writers profess to consider as the common inheritance of mankind.

* (Hume's Essays, Vol. I. —Essay, Of some remarkable Customs.]

The names of the other simple forms of government, when applied to particular constitutions, are used with the same latitude.


There is another circumstance which deserves our particular attention in studying this branch of politics. The nature and spirit of a government, as it is actually exercised at a particular period, cannot always be collected (perhaps it can seldom be collected) from an examination of written laws, or of the established forms of a constitution. These may continue the same for a long period of ages, while the government may be modified in its exercise, to a great extent, by gradual and indescribable alterations in the ideas, manners, and character of the people. The truth is, that besides the established laws of a country, the political state of the people is affected by an infinite variety of circumstances, of which no words can convey a conception, and which must be collected from actual and personal observation. Even in this way, it is not easy to collect them. On the contrary, nothing is more difficult than for a person who has received his education in one country, to enter into all the associations which influence the mind of a subject of a different

a government, or to ascertain, especially on political subjects, all the combinations of ideas he annexes to his words. One striking proof of this is the imperfect and erroneous notions which the ablest and best instructed French writers have formed of the constitution of England. Some of the articles of the Encyclopédie upon this subject, contain mistakes which must appear ludicrous to the most imperfectly informed inhabitants of this country. These mistakes have undoubtedly arisen, in part, from the theoretical views of the constitution which have been given by some of our own writers, and which by no means apply to the government as it is carried on at present, and partly from the different views which a Frenchman and an Englishman annex to the corresponding words in their languages. Thus, a person who conceives that the English word commoner is synonymous with the French word roturier, must necessarily have a very false notion of the constituent members of our House of Commons. A similar mistake is committed by those writers who imagine that the French and the English annex the same idea to the word gentleman. In the former country, it was a maxim, that every French Gentleman was a Nobleman, but that every French Nobleman was not a Gentleman* A person to whom nobility was granted by the sovereign, or who was appointed to a charge conferring nobility, the transmissibility of which was suspended till it vested in his second descendant, was noble; but neither he nor his son was a gentleman: the grandson was the first gentleman of the family. In England, on the other hand, as no gentleman is a nobleman unless he is a peer of Parliament, the word nobility expresses an order in the state specifically and highly elevated, both by law and by public opinion, above the order of gentry. Various

1 The following passage is to be si leur naissance et la possession d'une found in Encyclopédie Méthodique, teire pairie le leur permettent. Il Commerce, Tom. III. Art. Noblesse :- faut néanmoins remarquer, que quelque "En Angleterre la loi des successions at- fière que soit la noblesse Angloise, tribue aux aînés dans les familles nobles lorsque les nobles entrent en apprentisles biens immeubles à l'exclusion des sage, qui selon le réglement doit être cadets qui n'y ont aucune part. Ces de septs ans entiers, jamais ils ne se cadets sans bien cherchent à réparer couvrent devant leur Maitres, leur parleurs pertes dans l'exercice du négoce, lant et travaillant tête nue, quoique et c'est pour eux un moyen presque sûr souvent le maître soit roturier, et de de s'enrichir. Devenus riches, ils race marchande, et que les apprentis quittent la profession, ou même sans la soient de la première noblesse.” quitter, leurs enfans rentrent dans tous * (And—that “the King can create les droits de la noblesse de leur famille ; a Nobleman, but is unable to make a leurs aînés prennent le titre de Milord Gentleman ;" i.e., a man of family.]

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