Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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NATION, Definition of. The words nation and people are frequently used as synonyms, but there is a great difference between them. A nation is an aggregation of men speaking the same language, having the same customs, and endowed with certain moral qualities which distinguish them from other groups of a like nature. It would follow from this definition that a nation is destined to form only one state, and that it constitutes one indivisible whole. Nevertheless, the history of every age presents us with nations divided into several states. Thus, Italy was for centuries divided among several different governments. The same was the case, and in a measure is still the case, with Germany. The people is the collection of all citizens without distinction of rank or order. All men living under the same government compose the people of the state. In relation to the state, them citizens constitute the people; in relation to the human race, they constitute the nation. A free nation is one not subject to a foreign government, whatever be the constitution of the state; a people is free when all the citizens can participate in a certain measure in the direction and in the examination of public affairs. Empires, such as the Roman empire was, such as the Russian empire and the Austrian empire of to day are, may therefore, comprise a great number of different nations, but they are composed, in reality, of only one people. Notwithstanding the diversity of nationalities united under the government of the house of Hapsburg, there is one Austrian people, since the constitution of 1859 granted certain political rights to the population. The people is the political body brought into existence by community of laws, and the people may perish with these laws. The nation is the moral body independent of political revolutions, because it is constituted by inborn qualities which render it indissoluble. The state is the people organized into a political body. (SeeNATIONALITIES, PRINCIPLE OF.)


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