Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States
MONARCHY. The time is past when the word republic appeared necessarily to mean liberty. and monarchy, slavery. We have no longer to learn that there are tyrannical republics and free monarchies. Consequently, the preference to be given to a republic to a monarchy, or to a monarchy to a republic, no longer appears to us with the same absolute character as to some publicists who have gone before us, and to several generations which preceded us. As soon as it is a question of men placed in very different conditions of enlightenment and virtue, of political skill, of physical circumstances and social condition, the problem becomes altogether relative. It is reduced to the single point, of knowing which of the two forms of government, in the given situation, gives better protection to the liberty of citizens and the safety of property; which is best fitted to make the country great. It is a question which the instinct of nations seems to solve more surely than political science. Not that the reasons indicated by the latter to determine one choice or another are devoid of force. But if they are separated from each other, it will be found perhaps that there is not a single one, taken alone, which is absolutely decisive. Thus, Montesquieu, when he affirms that vast territories require a monarchy, maintains what is generally true, but very far from being an absolute truth, since two examples, gigantic, so to speak, the Roman republic and the United States of America, contradict him. Neither does the species of relationship which is established between centralization and monarchy, appear to rise to the height of necessary and universal law. In addition to the contrary example of the Roman republic, it would be necessary to admit that the converse is not absolutely true, since England is at once a country of decentralization and constitutional monarchy. If with the author of l' Esprit des lois we lay down the principle that virtue is necessary to a republic, it may be answered with many commentators that it is necessary to all governments. And still we think that Montesquieu's view was correct, and that his thought, true when applied to aristocratic republics, becomes still truer when applied to democratic republics, which require for self maintenance a particularly large amount of energy, moderation, political capacity on the part of the people; all or very nearly all of whom are called to take part in the government. Without drawing a regular comparison between a republic and a monarchy, we may say that the republic presupposes more confidence in human nature, and the monarchy less. Monarchy itself is a precaution taken against the sum of error and evil contained in societies which it proposes to protect against the outburst of ambitious and disorderly passions. Moreover, we do not intend to make this study a plea, but an examination. We shall interrogate both publicists and facts. We shall seek for the foundation of monarchy, and under what exceedingly varied aspects it was presented to nations who adopted it, and to writers who discussed it. It is only after this attempt, purely experimental and historical, that we shall try to say what this form of government may and should be among modern nations.
—Origin of Monarchy. It is not to be doubted that historically, royalty has its roots deeper in the past of the human race than any other form of government. Several of its partisans have gone so far as to see in it the only natural government, because one God governs the universe, and one sun illuminates our world. They have also produced examples from the animal kingdom, such as that of the bees. We attach little importance to these analogies which are sometimes puerile, and often deceptive, for it can not be clearly seen why, if bee-hives are on the side of monarchy, ant-hills, elephant troops and beavers should not be summoned in support of a republic. There is much more force in the opinion which considers that royal power finds its primitive type both in the family which admits only one chief, and in the unity of military command; that it has its origin in a superior capacity which may impose itself by force, or be accepted without effort, in case of necessity, or even obtain the sanction of a positive election. Whichever one of these origins presided at its cradle, it is by inheritance that the image of royalty is in a certain sense rounded and finished. When royalty had taken possession of nations, it was forced to abandon the temporary form which made of it, to use Aristotle's word, merely an "irremovable leadership." Thus it was able to produce those powerful dynasties of the Egyptians, Medes and Assyrians. Hereditary royalty supposes generally a state of society already formed, for example, ownership in land transmitted in families, that is to say, conditions of stability. The ideal and tradition of inheritance appears to us attached to power in virtue of the following reasons: 1, natural assimilation of authority with property in material things, which pass from the father to the children, an assimilation which in the feudal period went so far as to confound proprietorship with sovereignty, 2, the innate desire of heads of families to transmit their dignities and the enjoyment of their powers to their children or their relatives; 3, the prestige which in the eyes of certain nations surrounds certain names consecrated by habitual respect; 4, the political fortune of other chiefs who in a certain way are grouped around and connected with the royal establishment; 5, finally, the military force aiding all these causes. It would be difficult to say what part in the establishment of hereditary royalty was taken, in those remote ages, by social foresight, which finds in the permanence of supreme authority, in the bosom of a single family, a guarantee of good order, to such a degree that this consideration at last appears as the most decisive argument in favor of the monarchic form. It must not be supposed, moreover, that the idea of divine right, which has played so great a part in the history of royalty and which is held in such high esteem by certain modern apologists of this form of government, was foreign to the formation of hereditary royalty in those remote ages. The theory may be new enough; the idea is very old. Not only did it not await Bossuet, and de Bonald, but it was far earlier than the anointing of Pepin and of Charlemagne, as well as the benefit which their successors were to draw from it. As far back as we go, we find that religion surrounds the cradle of royalty with a mystic halo. The kings of Homer descended from gods or demigods, and are the objects of a sort of religious veneration. The same was the case with the kings of Rome. Many barbarous peoples appeared convinced that the families of their kings were descended from the families of their gods. Odin passed as the father of an entire royal race. Without doubt other governments besides those of royalty have placed themselves under the cover of religion. If Numa pretended to be inspired by the nymph Egeria, Lycurgus laid claim to be inspired by the oracles. and Solon had his laws consecrated by the Delphian Sibyl. But if this applies to all legislators, it is true, in a still higher degree, of royalty, whose age, which seems lost in the dimness of the past, and whose perpetuity, which seems to repeat eternity itself upon earth, render it peculiarly venerable. In every land, therefore, the belief appears that kings are the images of gods or of God upon the earth. This is not a purely Christian but a universal idea, and old as the world.
—Among the origins as well as among the conceptions of royalty, we shall not omit that in virtue of which the king appears as the living law, as the very personification of the state, which is an advance of the same idea, as the image itself of the sovereign people. All nations have beheld in the sovereign the living law, but the idea of seeing in him a delegate and a representative of the sovereignty of the people is a Roman idea. It is the theory of the imperial monarchy which jurists applied to the monarchy of France, and which several publicists have repeated. "The Abbe Dubos," writes Montesquieu, who opposed his system, (Exprit de lois, book xxx., chap. xxiv.), "wishes to remove every kind of idea that the Franks entered Gaul as conquerors. According to him, French kings merely put themselves in the place and succeeded to the rights of the Roman emperors."
—It is evident that the temptation to base the legitimacy of the monarchy on one or another of these origins has exercised a mighty influence on writers occupied theoretically with royalty, and especially with modern royalty. Some have insisted on its characteristics of antiquity and hereditariness. They held that what was oldest in power was necessarily the most legitimate. Others dwelt upon what they called its divine character. Still others, remembering the royalty of barbarous times. were especially struck by the fact of election. Beginning with the sixteenth century, a period in which the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people appeared most prominently in speculative and even in active politics with the Protestants and members of the league, there is an entire class of minds for which popular election becomes the title itself of legitimacy and the only foundation of royal power. An entire collection of books might be cited which testify to the predominance of this theory. The "Treatise on Political Power," by John Poynet, bishop of Winchester; De Jure regni apud Scotas, by George Buchanan; the Franco-Gallia of the jurisconsults, Hotman; the Vindiciœ contra tyrannos of Hubert Languet, and so many other Protestant works which found an echo among the Catholic publicists and preachers in their struggle against Henry III., exhibit this thought most clearly: that election is the original and real title to royalty, and that the sovereignty of the people, from which it emanates, may withdraw the powers granted and crush wicked princes. Whatever may have been the interest of these controversies about the origin of royalty and the historical basis which gives it legitimacy, we think there is no value in their common claim of establishing the legitimacy of the monarchic order which has its real title in its necessity. National sovereignty, beyond a doubt, has the right to rise up and depose kings and reigning families. But national sovereignty itself has no power over what is good, just, proper and expedient according to places and times. It has no power over the nature of things. It must come to an agreement with good sense, reason, justice, experience, the laws of necessity. Otherwise it will build upon sand. It can no more give life to an impossible republic than it can give morality and usefulness to a tyrannical monarchy. Above election, as well as above the right of succession, there is a certain thing, the necessity of a power strong enough to protect society against the conflict of discordant forces, and to which unity is indispensable in order to make itself promptly and surely obeyed. When monarchy renders this service, and renders it better than any other form could, its legitimacy is beyond a doubt. What is more legitimate than a power, the necessary protector and depository of public order, of general justice, of public interest? What is more legitimate than a great magistracy, the centre and connecting bond of society? Now, these are the features under which "modern royalty has appeared to the eyes of nations," and through which it "has acquired their power by obtaining their adhesion."
—Criticism has rendered such complete justice to the legitimacy of a monarchy founded on divine right, a theory by which the pretension is raised of making power the inalienable property of a royal race, said to have received it from the hands of God himself, that there is no need of dwelling on it here. Besides, history shows that the claim of divine right has never saved a dynasty. Let royal families proclaim that they reign by the grace of God, as well as by the will of the people, there is no exception to be taken to this, as soon as it is understood that there is not a single form of government which can not place itself under the words: Omnis potestas a Deo. All power not issued from brute force contains a divine element; this element is justice. In this sense and from this point of view it is sacred. It ceases to be sacred only in becoming unjust and oppressive. "God," writes Pufendorf, "who certainly wishes that men should practice the moral law, has commanded the human race, through the lights of reason, to establish civil society, and, consequently, a sovereign power which is the soul of that society. In other words, he wishes an end without indicating at the same time the necessary means to arrive at it." In this sense, just power representing justice is divine, as the objects of men and of society are themselves divine. But if the end is immutable, the means are changing and various. It is of small import that a family was necessary at a certain time in history, or even during a succession of centuries, if it is no longer needed, if it is merely the worn-out instrument of accomplished designs. De Maistre himself, such a resolute partisan of legitimacy, seems to recognize this in the following significant passage in one of his letters: "If the house of Bourbon is finally proscribed, (de Maistre means by God and not by the people), it is well that the government should be consolidated in France; it is well that a new race should commence a legitimate succession; whether it is this or that race is of no importance to the universe."
—In conclusion: reigning families, like royalty itself, draw their origin from that force of things which is made up of circumstances above the will and purely free choice of nations. Kings are not chosen by chance. The reasons which elevated in turn the Merovingians and the Capetians in France were not arbitrary. Later, when age has consecrated a family, it is not easy to supplant it. A people does not invent its dynasties, it finds them.
—Forms and Various Kinds of Monarchies. The classification of the various forms in which a monarchy may appear has sensibly varied with publicists who wrote on this subject. Each one of them has had its partisans and its detractors. Aristotle, who first applied an analytical genius to the accurate observation and strict classification of governments, placed royalty among the good governments, though he preferred, as did almost all the political writers of antiquity, and Plato, his master, aristocracy, on which he founds the perfect city. He recognizes five kinds of royalty. ("Politics," book iii., chap. ix.) The first kind. whose type is presented to him by the Spartan royalty, appears to be, he says, the most legal; it is not absolute mistress. It may be sometimes hereditary and sometimes elective. The second species is the royalty established among certain barbarous nations, especially Asiatics, with the characteristics of absolute power, though legitimate and hereditary. The third kind of royalty is an elective tyranny, for a term of years or for life, of which the ancient Greeks offer us more than one example. "A fourth kind of royalty," continues Aristotle, "is that of heroic times, accepted by the citizens and hereditary by law. The founders of these monarchies, benefactors of nations, either by enlightening them through the arts, or in guiding them to victory, by uniting them or winning for them permanent states, were called kings out of gratitude, and transmitted their power to their sons. These kings had supreme command in war, and offered all the sacrifices in which the ministry of the pontiffs was not indispensable; besides these two prerogatives, they were sovereign judges of all disputes, sometimes without oath, and sometimes with. The formula of the oath consisted in lifting the sceptre." There is finally a fifth kind of royalty, where a single chief is master of all. "This royalty has intimate relations with family power; as the authority of the father is a sort of royalty over the family, so the royalty of which we speak here is an administration of the family type applied to a city, or to one or more nations." Aristotle declared that he would stop to examine this last form; in it he recognized the pure image of monarchy, finding, like Hobbes (Imperium, chap. vii.), of a later time, no real royalty except absolute royalty. The Greek philosopher found no difficulty in condemning this form of government after such an examination, although he supposes the monarch to whom this power is given to be as virtuous as enlightened. He proves the superiority of fixed equal, impartial laws, over the arbitrary will of a single man; he claims for the majority, even when composed of individuals inferior to that eminent individual, the honor of a greater safety in judgments and superior incorruptibility. The great political philosopher might, and even should, it would seem, not have neglected to discover whether royalty was by nature incompatible with that fixity of laws and those guarantees of liberty which he desires above all. The example of the constitution of Sparta put him upon the way to do this. Why did he, in mentioning it with praise, not stop to analyze it? Besides, did Aristotle understand clearly the conditions of monarchy—he who, in order to put forward the elective system, absolutely condemned hereditary power, which he thought offered but few chances of bringing to the succession men worthy of the virtuous monarch, and capable of reigning after him? Experience, which the profound author of "Politics" habitually takes as guide, does not confirm this preference given to the elective monarchy. Is it not enough to recall that the elective system, applied to royalty in the Roman empire, and later in the kingdom of Poland, produced internal dissensions and degradation of the state? Is it not enough to recall the fatal events in unfortunate Poland, fatal to its nationality, in order to pronounce aloud its condemnation? Rousseau, who violently opposed hereditary royalty in the Contrat social, believed that he corrected the ordinary drawbacks of monarchic election in Poland, by proposing a drawing by lot among the life senators, of three names, from which the same assembly should choose the one they preferred, without adjourning the session. (Gouvernement de Pologne, chap. xiv.) It is more than doubtful whether such a means. which would have put all the chances on the side of mediocrity, would have succeeded in suppressing the defects of a system which it professed to correct. This strange mixture of chance and election would have succeeded only in creating a royalty of chance, without prestige and without permanence.
—Machiavelli has not tried to classify different kinds of royalty, but the different species of principalities, a more extensive subject, since he includes even ecclesiastical principalities. He seems, besides, to pay more attention to distinguishing them by the means which were used to found them, than by their intrinsic characters. The author of "The Prince" treats in a special manner civil principalities, that is. those which are based upon the free suffrage of their citizens. This is the kind of monarchy which he prefers. The advice he gives such principalities bears the stamp of a remarkable elevation of character, and proves that the evil maxims, which he nowhere presents as the beau ideal of politics, but which he has the fault to give out with the culpable coldness of a man who subjects morality to politics, are addressed only to those who have become masters of sovereignty by treason and crime. Chapter ix. of "The Prince" is devoted to describing the duties of the monarch who has arrived at power through the free choice of his subjects. For Machiavelli, consequently, there are two kinds of royalty, independent of usurpation. In one case the nobility call a man to supreme power in order to resist the people; in the other, the people wish to have a protector against the insolence and the tyranny of the nobles. He prefers the last; but in the first as in the second case, he wishes the monarch to take up the cause of national interests, and set up, for this purpose, his sole and sovereign will. In reality, the power of the state is the constant thought of Machiavelli, his only idol is the unity of the nation using above the ruins of anarchic forces.
—A disciple of Aristotle, in many points, Bodin did not follow his master in his method of classifying the different forms of royalty, and however inferior he may be to him in genius, it may be said that on this point, as on several others, he is superior to him. Bodin distinguishes three forms of monarchy. ("Republic," book xi.): first, the monarchy of lordship, in which, he says, "the prince has become master of property and person, by the right of arms, and governs his subjects as the father of a family governs his slaves": secondly, the tyrannical monarchy, "in which the monarch, disregarding the laws of nature, treats free persons as slaves, and the property of his subjects as his own"; thirdly, the royal or legitimate monarchy, "in which the subjects obey the laws of the monarch, and the monarch the laws of nature, natural liberty and rights of property remaining with the subjects." This last trait, brought forward and discussed by John Bodin in twenty passages of the "Republic," shows in the happiest manner the characteristics or at least the conditions of modern monarchy. He recognizes it as legitimate, only on condition of becoming reconciled with the rights of liberty and property, and guaranteeing them. What a distance between this liberal theory and that which was current under Louis XIV. and Louis XV., which claims that kings are the owners of all property, the mere use of which is enjoyed by the subjects, through a sort of toleration or concession altogether voluntary! Bodin opposes the conception of a mixed monarchy brought forward by several publicists and particularly by Hotman, who stated that the best government is that which "associates and tempers the three elements, royalty, aristocracy and democracy." Sovereignty, according to the author of the "Republic," endures neither division nor limit. He attacks, therefore, in very precise terms, "this sovereignty played for by two parties, of which sometimes the people and sometimes the prince would be master, which is a striking absurdity, incompatible with absolute sovereignty, and contrary to the laws and to natural reason." Bodin, nevertheless, is really a partisan of limited monarchy; he trusts in the barrier of parliaments, as well as the virtue of the prince in the exercise of his power; but he is ignorant of that which has been sought for so much since his time under the name of constitutional guarantees. In the last analysis Bodin depends on morality to moderate royalty; as Bossuet, at a later time, depended on religion.
—It is surprising that Montesquieu, coming after Aristotle and the learned author of the "Republic," did not seek to establish any strict classification of the different forms of monarchy. Perhaps he was turned away from this by the error which he committed in making despotism a government apart. He would have been obliged to classify despotism with monarchy, as a form of its abuse, and he would have then been obliged to renounce his classification of three governments which he gives as original the republican, the monarchic and the despotic. But Montesquieu recognized a monarchy which he said had liberty as its direct object: that is, the English monarchy, and monarchies which "tend only to the glory of the citizens, the state, and the prince," (Esprit des lois, book xi., chap. vii.)—a somewhat vague statement. He explains exhaustively why the ancients had no very clear idea of monarchy, it is even the title of one of his chapters. "The ancients," he says (Esprit des lois, book xi.), "were not acquainted with the form of government founded on a legislative body made up of the representatives of a nation." And further on: "The ancients, who were unacquainted with the distribution of the three powers in the government of a single one, could not form a correct idea of monarchy." Thus, with Montesquieu, monarchy is moderate government par excellence.
—If we combine the ideas put forth by the political writers just examined, and if we understand the spirit of what we see or of what exists to-day in monarchy, its different forms may be classed, we think, much more simply according to their fundamental characters. Doubtless there is, to begin with, a great and essential difference between elective monarchy and hereditary royalty. But this distinction would be too insufficient. The most essential would be that which recognizes two kinds of monarchies, absolute and limited monarchy. Absolute monarchy is not necessarily despotism (see
—The Marks and Part of Monarchy among Modern Nations. Several important consequences follow, it appears to us, from the considerations which we have presented: it follows that monarchy can no longer, under the protection of a pretended divine right, be the object of a kind of superstitious worship, whatever may be the prestige inseparable from the exercise of sovereign power and royal personages; it follows also that force is not the only origin of royal power, and that it would be unwelcome in presenting itself at present as the title of monarchy in view of the universally admitted right of nations to dispose of themselves; finally, it follows that election, which does not create eternal legitimacy, is not a sufficient title to invest sovereigns with an absolute power, since there are, above the right of the people as well as above the right of the king, original rights, which we have reduced to two, the liberty of the citizen and the security of property. Order in a civilized society is synonymous with the maintenance of justice, which enforces the liberty of all, and makes one man respect the liberty of the other. Nations seek in monarchy a defense against the anarchy or the oppression which surrenders the weak to the strong. Monarchies, therefore, follow in their way, which, in a certain number of cases, is the best, the same end as republics and other governments of every class, which is to permit and assure the free development of all useful action, and to confine evil within the narrowest limits without curtailing legitimate and fruitful liberty. This, to our thinking, is the sense of the maxim, already old, that "Kings are made for the people"; a maxim which requires other guarantees than the purely moral obligation, imposed by duty on Christian princes, as Bossuet thought; a maxim which seeks its sanction in an organization of power, intended to make royalty a simple means of the public good. Between monarchy and peoples no other tie is conceivable than that which may be called an alliance of reason. Not that this tie should be devoid of affection, not that it should be necessarily reduced to the cold and formal relations between the sovereign and the nation dictated by simple expediency, but it can no longer have its origin in a species of chivalric devotion. The only legitimacy of government is the general interest. The only organ which gives expression to this interest is the national sovereignty. When the latter accepts the monarchic form, it does not intend to abdicate; it only wishes to regulate itself. It arms itself, so to speak, with precaution against its own errors, it condemns itself to prudence by foresight; is places a barrier before the disorder which it fears. No more, no less.
—Notwithstanding this character of modern royalty, quite rational and subordinate to public utility, there are publicists who declare monarchy to be illegitimate in itself, we do not say merely, be it noted, who declare it fatal in its consequences, open to attack as a wrong combination, from which evil alone can come, but who declare that it is contrary of itself to justice, to law, and to reason. It is not long since we heard it maintained in the press and from the tribune that a republic is the only legitimate form of government, while monarchy, even when accepted, can never be legitimate, because a people can not establish it, without alienating its will and disposing of future generations without having the right to do so. Such, in substance, is the creed of that school of which Rousseau is the mouthpiece and which goes further than its master, for Rousseau recognized, although with regret, that monarchy is fitted for certain nations. It appears to us that the most scrupulous devotion to the dogma of popular sovereignty and even the preference given republicanism do not imply such consequences. A nation does not surrender its will by establishing a monarchy for the sake of order, liberty, and national unity. It is a singular paradox to maintain that the national will is not expressed quite as clearly in allowing a form of government to continue, as by overthrowing it, quite as well by persistence as by caprices. Why should not a people wish, if it judges proper, to retain the monarchic form, one century, ten centuries, for all time? In what are the present generations of men slaves to those who established it? Is it sought to be denied that there are legitimate revolutions? Let us acknowledge the fact: the right of resistance is eternally implied in all the constitutions of this world. There have been glorious insurrections, there have been revolutions with which are connected the most beautiful memories of the human race. All peoples have placed some of these fearful and salutary crises among the greatest events of their history, and those who introduced and directed them in the number of their greatest men. All have dated from them their political regeneration, and a new era of prosperity and greatness. But wisdom forbids the declaration of a permanent revolution under pretext of national sovereignty. It forbids us to consider this necessary evil as a harmless expedient. It forbids fickle desires and an adventurous imagination, which end by creating a sickly want that is never weary of appealing to the emotions and to chance. The risk in revolutions is really terrible. If men do not issue from them more worthy and more noble, they become more degraded. If moral and political beliefs do not receive new life from them, they give way. If interests are not strengthened by them, they lose by them. Revolutions destroy the countries which they do not save. This is why it is wisdom in nations to detest and avoid revolutions, consenting to them only in cases of the most absolute necessity. The argument that monarchy is equivalent to an abdication of national sovereignty, can not bear serious criticism.
—Publicists of the too exclusively republican school find hereditary monarchy to be an odious fiction, incompatible with the reason of modern nations, because it gives rights to mediocrity, stupidity, vice, and even crime. They maintain that heredity not only permits such an evil, but that it produces it by the corruption which is fatally connected with young princes. One would think they were commenting, on the saying of the young Denys, to whom his father, while reproaching him for some shameful act, said: "Have I given you the example of such deeds?" "Ah!" answered the son, "your father was not a king."
—Monarchic publicists, obliged now to address not feeling, but reason, do not deny these drawbacks of heredity. They do not injure their cause by attributing to the institution which they defend more perfection than it possesses, or than is compatible with human weakness. They answer: Yes, heredity is a fiction, a convention; it has immense drawbacks, but what if it has greater advantages? Is not the existence of a family having the tradition of power a good thing? Charlemagne, Saint Louis, Henry IV. and many others were legitimate heirs. May not the existence of mediocre princes even have its advantages, either because they leave the government to able ministers, or liberty takes advantage of them to extend its conquests and strengthen its rights?
—Hereditary royalty is the image and the consecration of perennial power. This is its object. Now, duration is one of the first elements of force. Only that is loved and feared which has a lengthened existence. The right of monarchical succession does away with the dangerous intervals left by election, and it has the inestimable advantage of withdrawing from elections this element of permanence which should be presented by the institutions of a great country. It gives, to home and foreign politics, that coherence and continuity, that mixture of strength and prudence, the condition of all greatness and repose, which republics produce only with much greater effort, whenever they do succeed in producing them. Finally, continue the defenders of monarchy, is it just, is it honest, to speak of the right of succession under constitutional governments in the same way as under absolute governments? Is it not the very object of constitutional governments to prevent bad princes from doing evil, to support the mediocre, to obtain as much as possible from the good, to prevent the greatest from becoming so powerful as to put themselves above the law? Doubtless there remain the drawbacks connected with minorities and regencies, but these are passing evils, and not of frequent occurrence. Constitutional governments, which create great powers by the side of royalty, thereby diminish the dangers to minorities so much to be feared under absolute monarchies. It is the merit of this form of government to endure, that royal authority should not have at all times the the same degree of intensity and energy. And, most important, it presents no breaks, and its ever present image is a barrier against anarchy and the claims of usurpers. To close the argument of the right of succession, sometimes add the partisans of the monarchic form, would not another consideration have weight which has never had more effect than in our day? Is not hereditary royalty, up to a certain point, the consecration and the safeguard of other hereditary rights still more sacred, that of the transmission of property for example? You speak in a tone of irony while pointing out a child subject to the most humiliating infirmities of nature: "There is a king!" Are you not afraid that others will appear, saying with the same contempt: "See that wailing child; that is a landlord!"
—We have endeavored to sum up the arguments of monarchic publicists in their most striking and correct passages, dwelling only upon those which agree with the nature and conditions of modern society. We shall now indicate how the rôle of monarchy may and should be conceived in this society.
—The royal power appears with two necessary characteristics in the new conditions created for European societies by the liberal spirit and the ascending movement of democracy: it should be limited and restraining. Neither powerful enough to pass its bounds, nor so disarmed as not to be able to accomplish its mission efficiently: such should it be and remain under pain of inevitable forfeiture.
—There is no need of stopping for any length of time to show that monarchic power should be limited, and that it can not be otherwise than limited. The paternal monarchy of de Bonald is only a dream. Benjamin Constant, an almost contemporaneous publicist, stated very justly, "The direct action of the monarch decreases inevitably in proportion to the progress of civilization. Many things which we admire and which seem very beautiful in other epochs, are inadmissible now. If you imagine the kings of France dispensing justice to their subjects, at the foot of an oak tree, you will be moved by the spectacle, and you will revere this lofty and simple exercise of a paternal authority; but what would be seen to-day in a judgment given by a king without the assistance of tribunals? The violation of every principle, the confusion of all powers, the destruction of judicial independence." (Du Pouvoir royal, vol. i., p. 295, edition Laboulaye.) Another reason will prevent modern nations from yielding to absolute monarchy, and this reason is supported by experience. Centuries ago experience condemned simple governments through the mouth of Polybius, though he was far from possessing the numerous and terrible proofs of the dangers inherent in them which are at our disposal. It is a maxim of Polybius, that "every simple form based on a single principle, can not last, because it will soon fall into the defect which is peculiar to it." (Polybius, book vi., § 10, phrase cited by Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire in the preface of the "Politics" of Aristotle, p. 115.) The theory of checks and balances sanctioned by the great names of Plato, Aristotle, Polybius and Cicero, and supported by the practice of some of the greatest constitutions of antiquity, gains force from the nature of modern societies which are so complicated in their elements. Of course there is no perfect equilibrium in a state; a system of checks and balances always meets serious difficulties in application; but it is necessary to tend toward this system, or be condemned to the excesses of a single power, whether of a king, aristocratic clique, assembly, or popular dictatorship; this is an insupportable tyranny, after eighteen centuries of Christianity have shown us the limits of the state, and several centuries of philosophy have made us proud and exacting in regard to our rights, when also the habit of individual and political liberty has made the latter dear to us in proportion to the benefits which it is intended to secure.
—Limited or constitutional monarchy was the desire of France as soon as she reflected on her destiny. This must be recognized as an historical fact, even when one's preferences seem to settle on the republican form. As soon as the notion of right is disseminated in a nation, as soon as its interests are multiplied and increased, the need of escaping from the absolute power of a single man and a single family, this need which has always exercised the upper class, descends from the aristocracy to the masses; and as the former demand privileges, the latter want liberties, with this difference, that a nobility may sell itself to royal power, while a nation does not yield itself up, at least for a long time. It is said, of course, that the assistance formerly given by royalty to the middle and lower classes against feudal oppression, that the admission of men of common birth to the highest civil and military dignities, reached such a point under the ancient monarchy that the duke de Saint-Simon characterized the reign of Louis XIV. as a reign of vile bourgeoisie, have themselves contributed to favor the establishment of absolute power. This can not be disputed; but how can it be disputed either that everything which increased the classes devoted to the professions called liberal or to industrial labor tended to liberate them? The more the feeling of their value was developed, the more considerable and prevalent became their attention to their affairs, the less were they tempted to yield their persons, their labor and their property to the oppressive action or to the capricious direction of arbitrary power.*56 If, from the fifteenth century, a Philip de Comynes was able to proclaim the principle, that "neither the king nor any one else has the power to levy taxes without the consent of his subjects"; if these positive maxims, which even then were not new, could be transmitted in the writings of publicists and in the documents of states; what must it have been in the eighteenth century, after an immense development of industry and enlightenment, and in view of a neighboring nation whose tempting example gave brilliant proof that the monarchic power might be limited without prejudice to order and to the great advantage of public liberty and general prosperity? In allowing the monarchy to remain, the revolution of 1789 could only allow it tempered or limited in its powers, since it did not admit it for its own sake, but for its supposed service to national unity, liberty and order. And this was not the effect of a passing excitement. It was the fruit of long mental labor, and was the object of persevering and inflexible will. Even in 1804, when France, weary of the anarchy which had harassed her, took refuge in the arms of military power, surrounded with the most brilliant prestige of genius and glory, she stated, while doing so, what sort of a monarchy she wished to establish by raising a new family to the throne. "France," said the tribunate, from which originated the proposition to raise the first consul to the throne, "France is justified in expecting from the family of Bonaparte, more than from any other, the maintenance of the rights and the liberty of the people and ail the institutions fitted to guarantee them." "The French have conquered liberty." said the senate in its message of May 4, 1804, in adopting this proposition; "they wish to preserve their conquest, they wish repose after victory. This glorious repose they would owe to the hereditary government of one who, raised above all, defends public liberty, maintains equality, and lowers his fasces before the sovereign will of the people which proclaimed him." This is the government which the French nation wished to give itself in the days of '89, the souvenir of which will be ever dear to patriots, and in which the experience of centuries and the experience of statesmen inspired the representatives which the nation had chosen. It is necessary that liberty and equality should be sacred, that the social pact should be safe from violation, that the sovereignty of the people should never be misunderstood, and that a nation should never be forced to resume its power and avenge its outraged majesty. The senate, in a memoir which it appended to this message, dwelt upon the dispositions which according to it seemed proper to give French institutions "the necessary force to guarantee the nation its dearest rights, while securing the independence of the great authorities, a free and intelligent grant of taxation, safety of property, individual liberty, liberty of the press and of elections, responsibility of ministers, and inviolability of constitutional laws." Ten years had not passed before these demands reappeared; they became the rallying cry of all France, which imposed them as a condition sine quá non on all its governments. The first restoration, the hundred days, the second restoration, the eighteen years of the government of July, 1830, were attempts to satisfy these persistent demands; and if they have appeared to suffer some interruption on the morrow of revolutions, which profoundly disturbed minds as well as events, it was only to resume at once their career with a daily increasing force. We do not speak here of the second empire, whose constitutional changes are so near us, and therefore can not be discussed with the impartiality of history.
—The necessity of a moderating power is a second truth, which seems little open to question. Let us not forget that the object to be attained is always this: not to allow the establishment of tyranny, neither the tyranny of an oppressive majority nor that of a minority, neither one in the name of a democracy nor one in the name of an aristocracy. Place all power in a single assembly, and experience shows the perils of this combination, which delivers, without guarantee, the rights of citizens to a power without check. If the assembly is dissolved, to what dangers are not liberty and order subject during the interval which separates this assembly from that which is to follow! If the assembly is excessively long-lived, what a number of other perils in case public opinion does not go with it! Place power in two assemblies, how are you to prevent a conflict between them from becoming envenomed and bringing on revolutions? How are you to hope that an executive power, itself very liable to change, and dependent as the ministerial power, would have sufficient authority? The necessity of a moderating power is such that republican states themselves do not always neglect to form it. Doubtless it is very weak in the United States. It is nevertheless true that the president is armed with a veto power. This veto, at least, forces the legislature to reconsider the question, and this time it can prevail only by a majority of two thirds. The veto, besides, is a sort of appeal to the people. The executive power then pleads its case and presents the reasons for its action. Besides this precaution, to which he refers. de Tocqueville points out, in the federal organization of the United States and in a peculiar combination of moral and political circumstances, the causes which serve, though imperfectly, as a counterpoise to the tyranny of the majority. The necessity of a moderating power appears still more urgent in a greatly centralized government. It is not enough to answer all difficulties by the sovereignty of the people. The people are not always assembled; do not govern directly. Even when it is admitted that the sovereignty resides in the nation. all difficulties are not settled by that answer. Powers are various, and from their diversity arises struggle. The great task of royalty in the eyes of modern nations is to prevent these struggles of powers and parties from degenerating into disorder and revolution. This is why representative governments leave an important share of power to loyalty, while reserving the last word to the nation, which in grave questions pronounces by means of elections, and which divides political power. It is not true, then, that in making royalty chiefly a moderating power, its fall is proclaimed. On the contrary, much force is necessary to fill such a rôle. This neutral power, elevated above accidents and struggles, interfering only in great crises, at least in a visible and striking manner, should have lofty prerogatives. The first of these is to execute the law. But that is not enough unless there be added the power of co-operation in framing it. The monarch does this by appointing one of the two legislative chambers; such at least is the order established by the different French constitutions; he co-operates by the appointment of ministers, who represent him in the chambers; he co-operates by the right of proposing the law, dissolving the elective chamber, or refusing his sanction. This right of absolute and not simply a retarding veto, has inspired one of the most remarkable discourses of a genius so profoundly political as Mirabeau. He was not afraid to surrender liberty in maintaining it. He thought that in spite of appearances liberty would gain by it, as well as the force necessary to the royal power. The same opinion was upheld by a no less jealous adherent of public liberties, Benjamin Constant. The participation of the monarchic power in the framing of laws is, in the eyes of this celebrated publicist, an essential part of this rôle of moderator which occupies us at present. "If," says he, "in dividing power you place no limits to legislative authority, it happens that one class of men make the laws without troubling themselves about the evil which they cause, and another class execute these laws while believing themselves innocent of the evil which they cause, since they did not contribute to make them. * * When the prince assists in framing the laws and his consent is necessary, their vices never increase to the same degree as when the representative bodies decide without appeal. The prince and the minister are enlightened by experience. When they are not guided by the feeling of right, they will be by the knowledge of what may come to pass. The legislative power, on the contrary, never comes in contact with experience. The impossible never exists for it. It only needs to will; another authority executes. Now, to will is always possible: to execute is not." (Esquisse de Constitution, chap. ii.: Des Prérogatives royales, p 183, Laboulaye.) The same writer afterward establishes that a power obliged to give its support to a law which it disapproves, soon finds itself without force or consideration; and that besides no power executes a law zealously which it disapproves; that the royal sanction aids free governments in preserving themselves from the danger of multiplying laws, which is the disease of representative states, because in these states everything is done by law, while the absence of laws is the disease of unlimited monarchies, because in them everything is done by men.
—All publicists, as well as all constitutions, add to the prerogatives inseparable from monarchy the most touching and the most popular of all rights, the right of pardon. The right to make war, to conclude treaties of peace and alliance, are naturally connected with the executive power. This right, besides, is generally limited by discussions of the chambers, by the power which they have of voting taxes, and in a parliamentary government by ministerial responsibility. Up to recent times, this responsibility of ministers to the assemblies appeared to the legislator as one of the most essential conditions of a free government. He had thought that in representative monarchies the irresponsibility of a monarch is a consequence of his inviolability, and important both to liberty and public order. If the monarch is responsible, it was said, what is the use of the right of succession? Is not his moderating power destroyed? Royalty becomes a party. It descends into the arena. It is no longer a judge and arbitrator in the combat. It is exposed to all the chances of the struggle, the end of which may be an overthrow. Besides, it is added, to whom is the monarch responsible? To public opinion? But what absolute prince is not? To revolutions? But what sovereign of the east is not? Is there the slightest difference between such a responsibility and the irresponsibility of former sovereigns?
—We do not intend to trace in full the programme of a monarchy which might suit modern nations, for this does not enter into our subject. It was enough to indicate its essential traits in a work intended to place before the eyes of the public the elements of politics. We have merely undertaken to show once more that if there is a monarchy founded on prejudice, there is one which rests on reason and which is capable of bearing examination. For a still stronger reason we shall not discuss the assertion, so often put forth, that representative monarchies are merely compromises between principles long at variance—compromises destined to disappear one after another, and give way, with the exclusive triumph of democracy, to the universal establishment of the republican form. Now we have either shown nothing, or we have shown that republics themselves, if they are to exist, can not dispense with certain limitations, and that a people has not fewer precautions to take against the excesses of democracy than against those of any other principle. Otherwise there would be no stop on the incline till the direct government of the people by itself was reached; the tyranny of numbers would be introduced in the name of popular sovereignty. Who knows the secret of the future? If European nations should arrive at such a degree of political maturity as to solve, under the republican form, better than has hitherto been done, the difficult problem of reconciling order with liberty, who could regret it? The great question before us is, not whether the future will be called republican or monarchic, but whether it will be free. (See
Notes for this chapter
"Arbitrary power," writes Benjamin Constant, "exercised either in the name of one or of all, pursues man through all his forms of repose and happiness." (De l'Esprit de conquéte et de l'Usurpation, chap. xi.) See the following chapter of the same work on the effects of arbitrary power on morals, intelligence and industry.
End of Notes
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