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REPRESENTATIVES OF THE PEOPLE.
Exclusively charged with the care of public liberty, the representatives of the people will be animated by a sense of the greatness of the concerns with which they are intrusted. Distinguished from the bulk of the nation, and forming among themselves a separate assembly, they will assert the rights of which they have been made the guardians, with all that warmth which the esprit de corps is used to inspire.* Placed on an elevated theatre, they will endeavour to render themselves still more conspicuous; and the arts and ambitious activity of those who govern will now be encountered by the vivacity and perseverance of opponents actuated by the love of glory.
Lastly, as the representatives of the people will naturally be selected from among those citizens who are most favoured by fortune, and will have consequently much to preserve, they will, even in the midst of quiet times, keep a watchful eye on the motions of power. As the advantages they possess will naturally create a kind of rivalship between them and those who govern, the jealousy which they will conceive against the latter will give them an exquisite degree of sensibility on every increase of their authority. Like those delicate instruments which discover the operations of nature, while they are yet imperceptible to our senses, they will warn the people of those things which of themselves they never see but when it is too late; and their greater proportional share, whether of real riches, or of those which lie in the opinions of men, will make them, if I may so express myself, the barometers that will discover, in its first beginning, every tendency to a change in the constitution.
* If it had not been for an incentive of this kind, the English Commons would not have vindicated their right of taxation with so much vigilance as they have done, against all enterprises (often perhaps involuntary) of the Lords.
† All the above reasoning essentially requires that the representatives of the people should be united in interests with the people. We shall soon see that this union really prevails in the English constitution, and may be called the masterpiece of it.
(Undoubtedly the real interests of the members of the House of Commons are united with the interests of the whole people. Nor can we apprehend that any measure, even with the present imperfect state of the representation, can be carried by the Commons that would in the least injure or endanger the real interests, and especially the credit of the country; but the assertion that this union formed the master
THE SUBJECT CONTINUED.—THE ADVANTAGES THAT ACCRUE TO THE
PEOPLE FROM THEIR APPOINTING REPRESENTATIVES ARE VERY INCONSIDERABLE, UNLESS THEY ALSO ENTIRELY TRUST THEIR LEGISLATIVE AUTHORITY TO THEM.
The observations made in the preceding chapter are so obvious, that the people themselves, in popular governments, have always been sensible of the truth of them, and never thought it possible to remedy, by themselves alone, the disadvantages necessarily attending their situation. Whenever the oppressions of their rulers have forced them to resort to some uncommon exertion of their legal powers, they have immediately put themselves under the direction of those few men who had been instrumental in informing and encouraging them : and when the nature of the circumstances has required any degree of firmness and perseverance in their conduct, they have never been able to attain the ends they proposed to themselves, except by means of the most explicit deference to those leaders whom they had thus
But, as these leaders, thus hastily chosen, are easily intimidated by the continual display which is made before them of the terrors of power;—as that unlimited confidence which the people now repose in them only takes place when public liberty is in the utmost danger, and cannot be kept up otherwise than by an extraordinary conjunction of circumstances, in which those who govern seldom suffer thenselves to be caught more than once ;-the people have constantly sought to avail themselves of the short intervals of superiority which the chance of events had given them, for rendering durable those advantages which they knew would, of themselves, be but transitory, and for getting some
piece of the English Constitution, when De Lolme wrote, was an egregious fallacy. De Lolme must be considered as describing at that time the spirit and principles of the English constitution, and not the actual practice of legislation and government; although even at that period the English government and legislation were far superior to that of any other country in Europe. -Ed.]
TIIE ANCIENT ROMAN REPUBLIC.
persons appointed, whose peculiar office it may be to protect them, and whom the constitution shall thenceforward recognise. Thus it was that the people of Lacedæmon obtained their ephori, and the people of Rome their tribunes.
We grant this, will it be said; but the Roman people never allowed their tribunes to conclure anything definitively ; they, on the contrary, reserved to themselves the right of ratifying* any resolutions the latter should take. This, I answer, was the very circumstance that rendered the institution of tribunes totally ineffectual in the event. The people—thus wanting to interfere, with their own opinions, in the resolutions of those on whom they had, in their wisdom, determined entirely to rely-and endeavouring to settle with a hundred thousand votes things which would have been settled equally well by the votes of their advisers, -defeated in the issue every beneficial end of their former provisions: and while they meant to preserve an appearance of their sovereignty (a chimerical appearance, since it was under the direction of others that they intended to vote), they fell back into all those inconveniences which we have before mentioned.
The senators, the consuls, the dictators, and the other great men in the republic, whom the people were prudent enough to fear, and simple enough to believe, continued still to mix with them, and play off their political artifices. They continued to make speeches to them, t and still availed themselves of their privilege of changing at their pleasure the place and form of the public meetings. When they did not find it possible by such means to direct the resolutions of the assemblies, they pretended that the omens were not favourable, and under this pretext, or others of the
* See Rousseau's Social Contract.
† Valerius Maximus relates, that the tribunes of the people having offered to propose some regulations in regard to the price of corn, in a time of great scarcity, Scipio Nasica over-ruled the assembly merely by saying “Silence, Romans! I know better than you what is expedient for the republic.”—Which words were no sooner heard by the people, than they showed by a silence full of veneration, that they were more affected by his authority, than by the necessity of providing for their own subsistence. Tacete, quæso, Quirites! Plus enim ego quam vos quid reipublica erpediat intelligo.-- Quá voce audita, omnes, pleno venerationis silentio, majorem ejus auctoritatis quam alimentorum suorum curam egerunt.
same kind, they dissolved them.* And the tribunes, when they had succeeded so far as to effect an union among themselves, thus were obliged to submit to the pungent mortification of seeing those projects which they had pursued with infinite labour, and even through the greatest dangers, irrecoverably defeated by the most despicable artifices.
When, at other times, they saw that a confederacy was carrying on with uncommon warmth against them, and despaired of succeeding by employing expedients of the above kind, or were afraid of diminishing their efficacy by a too frequent use of them, they betook themselves to other stratagems. They then conferred on the consuls, by the means of a short form of words for the occasion, † an absolute power over the lives of the citizens, or even appointed a dictator. The people, at the sight of the state masquerade which was displayed before them, were sure to sink into a state of consternation: and the tribunes, 'however clearly they might see through the artifice, also trembled in their turn, when they thus beheld themselves left without defenders. I
At other times, they brought false accusations against the tribunes befor the assembly itself; or, by privately slandering them with the people, totally deprived them of their confidence. It was through artifices of this kind, that the people were brought to behold, without concern, the murder of Tiberius Gracchus, the only Roman that was really virtuous—the only one who truly loved the people. It was also in the same manner that Caius, who was not deterred by his brother's fate from pursuing the same plan of conduct, was in the end so entirely forsaken by the people, that nobody could be found among them who would even lend
* Quid enim majus est, si de jure augurum quærimus (says Tully, who was himself an augur, and a senator also), quàm posse a summis imperiis et summis potestatibus comitiatus et concilia vel instituta dimitlere vel habita rescindere ? Quid gravius, quam rem susceptam dirimi, si unus augur ALIUM (id est, alium diem) dixerit? See De Legib. lib. ii. 12.
† Videat consul ne quid detrimenti respublica capiat.
I “ The tribunes of the people,” says Livy, who was a great admirer of the aristocratical power," and the people themselves, durst neither lift up their eyes, nor even mutter, in the presence of the dictator." Nec adversus dictatoriam vim, aut tribuni plebis, aut ipsa plebs, attollere oculos, aut hiscere, audebant. See Tit. Liv. lib. vi. & 16.
DELEGATED POWER OF THE PEOPLE.
him a horse to fly from the fury of the nobles; and he was at last compelled to lay violent hands upon himself, while he invoked the wrath of the gods on his inconstant fellowcitizens.
At other times, they raised divisions among the people. Formidable combinations broke out suddenly on the eve of important transactions: and all moderate men avoided attending assemblies, where they saw that all was to be tumult and confusion.
In fine, that nothing might be wanting to the insolence with which they treated the assemblies of the people, they sometimes falsified the declarations of the number of the votes; and once they even went so far as to carry off the urns into which the citizens were to throw their suffrages. *
THE SUBJECT CONCLUDED-EFFECTS THAT HAVE RESULTED IN THE
ENGLISH GOVERNMENT FROM THE PEOPLE'S POWER BEING COMPLETELY DELEGATED TO THEIR REPRESENTATIVES,
But when the people have entirely trusted their power to a moderate number of persons, affairs immediately take a widely different turn.f Those who govern are from that moment obliged to leave off all those stratagems which had hitherto ensured their success. Instead of those assemblies which they affected to despise, and were perpetually
* The reader, with respect to all the above observations, may see Plutarch's Lives, particularly the lives of the two Gracchi. I must add, that I have avoided drawing any instance from those assemblies in which one half of the people were made to arm themselves against the other. I have here only alluded to those times which immediately either preceded or followed the third Punic war, as these are commonly called the best period of the republic.
+ This is an inaccurate assertion. The power of the people of England has never been entirely delegated to their representatives. The power only of those who are qualified as electors cannot be considered as the power of the whole people. If the assertion of De Lolme were true it would amount to universal suffrage.- Ed.