Imatges de pàgina


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ARISTOCRACIES are of two kinds. First, where the power of the nobility belongs to them in their collective capacity alone; that is, where, although the government reside in an assembly of the order, yet the members of that assembly separately and individually poffefs no authority or privilege beyond the rest of the community :--this describes the constitution of Venice. Secondly, where the nobles are severally invested with great personal power and immunities, and where the power of the senate is little more than the aggregated power of the individuals who compose it :-this is the constitution of Poland. Of these two forms of government the first is more tolerable than the last; for, although the members of a senate should many, or even all of them, be proiligate enough to abuse the authority of their stations in the prosecution of private designs, yet, not being all under a temptation to the same injustice, not havin' all the same end to gain, it would still be difficult to obtain the consent of a majority to any fpecific act of oppression, which the iniquity of an individual might prompt him to prop»se: or, if the will were the same, the power is more confined;


one tyrant, whether the tyranny reside in a single person, or a senate, cannot exercise oppression at so many places at the same time, as it


be carried on by the dominion of a numerous nobility over their respective vassals and dependants. Of all species of domination this is the most odious: the freedom and satisfaction of private life are more constrained and harassed by it, than by the molt vexatious law, or even by the lawless will of an arbitrary monarch ; from wh se knowledge, and from whose injustice, the greatest part of his subjects are removed by their diftance, or concealed by their obscurity.

Europe exhibits more than one modern example, where the people, aggrieved by the exactions, or provoked by the enormities, of their immediate superiors, have joined with the reigning prince in the overthrow of the aristocracy, deliberately exchanging their condition for the miseries of despotism. About the middle of the last century, the commons of Denmark, weary of the opprestions which they had long fuff red from the nobles, and exasperated by some recent insults, presented themselves at the foot of the throne with a formal offer of their consent to establish unlimited dominion in the king. "The revolution in Sweden, still more lately brought

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about with the acquiescence, not to say the affistance, of the people, owed its success to the fame cause, namely, to the prospect of deliverance, that it afforded, from the


which their nobles exercised under the old constitution. In England the people beheld the depreffion of the barons, under the house of Tudor, with satisfaction, although they saw the crown acquiring thereby a power, which no limitations, that the constitution had then provided, were likely to confine. The lesson to be drawn from such events is this, that a mised government, which admits a patrician order into its constitution, ought to circumscribe the personal privileges of the nobility, especially claims of hereditary jurisdi&ion and local authority, with a jealousy equal to the solicitude with which it wishes its own preservation. For nothing so alienates the minds of the people from the government under which they live, by a perpetual sense of annoyance and inconveniency; or fo

prepares them for the practices of an enterprising prince, or a factious demagogue, as the abuse which almost always accompanies the existence of separate immunities.

Amongst the inferior, but by no means inconsiderable advantages of a DEMOCRATIC


conftitution, or of a cor ftitution in which the people partake of the power of legislation, the following should not be neglected.

I. The direction which it gives to the education, studies, and pursuits of the superior orders of the community. The share which this has in forming the public manners and national character is very important. In countries, in which the gentry are excluded from all concern in the government, scarce any thing is left which leads to advancement, but the profession of arms. They who do not addict themselves to this profession (and miserable must that country be, which constantly employs the military service of a great proportion of any order of its subje&s) are commonly lost by the mere want of object and destination ; that is, they either fall, without reserve, into the most fottish habits of animal gratification, or entirely devote themselves to the attainment of those futile arts and decorations, which compose the business and recommendations of a court : on the other hand, where the whole, or any effective portion of civil power is possessed by a popular assembly, more serious pursuits will be encouraged, purer morals, and a more intellectual characer will engage the public esteem ; those faculties, which qualify men for deliberation and debate, and which are the fruit of sober habits, of early and long-continued application, will be roused and animated by the reward, which, of all others, most readily awakens the ambition of the human mind, political dignity and importance.


II. Popular elections procure to the common people courtesy from their superiors. That contemptuous and overbearing insolence, with which the lower orders of the community are wont to be treated by the higher, is greatly mitigated where the people have something to give. The affiduity, with which their favour is sought upon these occasions, serves to generate settled habits of condescension and respect; and as human life is more embittered by affronts than injuries, whatever contributes to procure mildness and civility of manners towards those who are moft liable to suffer from a contrary behaviour, corrects, with the pride, in a great measure the evil of inequality, and deserves to be accounted amongst the most generous institutions of social life.

III. The satisfactions which the people in free governments derive from the knowledge and Agitation of political subjects; such as the pro


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