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count of which occupies nearly balf of the volume and after all, the fubject is left unfin led. The interval, our Author remarks, between the fall of the two empires (the Eaftern and Weitern), making a period of about a thousand years, is called the MIDOLE AGE. During this term, republics without oumber arose in Italy, whirled upon their axles or fingle centres; foamed, raged, and burst, like so many water spouts upon the ocean. They were all alike ill constituted; all alike miserable; and all ended in similar disgrace and despotism. It would be curious to pursue our fubje& through all of them, whose records have survived the ravages of the Goths, Saracens, and bigotred Christians; through those other republics of Caftile, Arragon, Catalonia, Gallicia. and all the others in Spain; through those in Portugal; through the several provinces that now compose the kingdom of France, through those in Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, England, Scotland, Ireland, &c. But, if such a work should be fufficiently encouraged by the Public (which is not probable, for mankind in general dare not as yet read or think upon CONSTITUTIONS), it is too extenlive for my forces, and ought not to be done in so much hafte.'
The Author then apologizes for his own performance, it having been written, as he says, on the • spur of the occasion;' and published with precipitatiin. Wirb due deference to Dr. Adams's judgment, we should bave thought that where so much was to be omitted, perhaps the whole of those historical deductions might bave been set aside; especially as we observe, that, in the course of his particular investigation, he rests his arguments chiefly on the histories of Rome, Athens, Carthage, and Lacedemon; which are very generally known.
The portion of this work which we think might bave conftituted the text, as being the most important and original part, and to which the following remarks solely relate, begins at the 20gth page of this volume, and is entitled The right Conftitution of a Commonwealth examined. This long and important letter profefles to be a particular examination of a once very popular treatise, printed in the year 1656, by Marcbamont Nedham , under the title of “ The excellency of a free state, or the right conftitution of a republic,” This was an able desence of the commonwealth of England, and is, we presume, a favourite book in America, where republican principles have long been highly cultivated. I is therefore with great propriety that our Author, at this time, beitows his particular attention on it; that he analyzes its principles, and traces, with great care, the effects of each inftitution recommended in that work, on the happiness of the people, and the general welfare of the community. In this particular department, Dr. Adams shows himself to be an
• It was reprinted in 1968, with a preface by the Editor, Richard Barron: See Review, vol. xxxvii. p. 38.
able and attentive observer, an acute reasoner, and particularly well acquainted with history, and the uses that ought to be made of it. He seems to have attentively studied the human heart, and he developes its natural bent and tendencies with strength, juftness, and precision. His expressions are strong, and manly; and though they may not pofless all that elegance which enchants the man of tafte, they are clear, and intelligible to the understanding. The language is, indeed, unequal, often diffuse, and abounding in repeticions of the same idea ; but these, considering the readers to whom the work is chiefly addrefied, may perhaps be thought rather excellencies than defe&ts. In fbort, had this letter, with a very few alterations, been printed by itself, we are persuaded it would have been very generally read by his countrymen, and might have proved of eflential service, to direct their judgment in the present interesting crisis.
The great point that Dr. Adams withes to establish is, that a democracy, if such a government could exift, is the very worst poffible form of government ; that those devices which have been often recommended as of such eflential consequence for preferving liberty,--such as frequency of elections into the general council, ---a general right of voting among the people, rotacions among persons in office, &c. &c. are of very little confequence to mankind, and that freedom can only be preserved by eftablishing proper checks on the different branches of adminiftration,-or, as he calls it, balances,--and by dividing the legislative from the executive power,—and rendering the judicial independent of either : in Thort, by making it in every respect as much as possible the same with the actual conftitution of Great Britain.
This is rather a practical treatise, than a speculative dissertation on the principles of government. The Author does not, with Locke and bis followers, enter into long disquisitions concerning the natural rights of mankind, or ttrive to rear up a system of government on principles of abstract speculation. Without stopping to enquire what are the natural rights of man, he proceeds directly to examine, by the test of facts and experience, what fyltem of government is most likely to insure the peace of society, and promote the happiness of the persons governed. The Au hor whole opinions he scrutinizes, was an advocate for the republican form of government in preference to all others, particularly that kind of republic which has been called a democracy, in which the supreme power is lodged with the people themselves ; and his work conlists of certain directions, regulations, and cautions, founded on the best arguments he could adduce,--all tending to prove, that under this form of government alone, liberty and happiness can be enjoyed, and effoctually secured to the people. Dr. Adams follows him, step by step, through all his arguments, and in every particular endeavours to shew that he has reasoned unfairly, and has drawn conclusions that could not be authorised from the facts adduced. It would far exceed the bounds to which we must confine ourselves, should we endeavour to give but a flight idea of the various topics insisted on at large in this dissertation ; but, after what we have already faid of the former part of this performance, it behoves us, in justice to its Author, to enable the reader to judge, in fome measure, of his mode of arguing in this part.
Nedham lays it down as a fundamental principle, “ that the people, that is, such as Mall be fucceffively chosen to represent the people, are the best keepers of their own liberties.” Dr. Adams controverts this pofition : “ If by the people,' says he, • is meant the whole body of a great nation, it should not be forgotten, that they can never act, consult, or reason together, because they cannot march five hundred miles, nor spare the time, nor find a place to meet; and therefore the proposition that they are the best keepers of their own liberties is not truethey are the worst; they are no keepers at all; they can neither act, judge, think, nor will, as a body politic, or corporation. . . If it is meant by the people,' as our Author explains himself,.' a representative assembly, “ suih as shall be successively chosen to represent the people;” they ftill are not the best keepers of the people's liberties or their own, if you give them all the power, legislative, executive, and judicial : they would invade the liberties of the people, at least the majority of them would invade the liberties of the minority, rooner and oftener than an absolute monarchy, such as that of France, or Spain, or Ruffia, or than a well checked aristocracy, like Venice, Bern, or Holland.'— Again; Nedham says, that the people never think of usurping over other men's rights; but Dr. Adams thinks this proposition thould be reversed, and that it should have been said that they mind so much their own, that they never think enough of others.'. .
A great majority of every nation,' he observes, is wholly destitute of property, except a small quantity of clothes, and a few tries of other inoveables. Would Mr. Nedbam be responsible, that if all were to be decided by a vote of the majority, the eight or nine millions who have no property would not think of ufurping over the rights of the one or two millions who have ? Property is, surely, a right of mankind as real as liberty. Pero haps, at first, prejudice, habit, thame, fear, principle, or religion, would reftrain the poor from attacking the rich, and the idle from enfringing on the industrious: but the time would arrive when courage and enterprize would come, and pretexts be invented, by degrees, to countenance the majority in a division of all the property among them, or at least in sharing it equally with its present poffeffors, Debts would be abolished farft; taxes
laid heavy on the rich, and not at all on the others; and at last a downright partition of every thing be voted. What would be the consequence? The idle, the vicious, the intemperate, would rush into the utmost extravagance and debauchery, sell and spend all their share, and then demand a new division of those who purchased from them.' He supports these opinions by a variety of examples from history, and proves that many of the disorders that have so often diftreffed society have proceeded from the temporary injustice of democratic majorities. Adams has perhaps had, before his eyes, examples of the power of such popular majorities, and the uses which have been made of them, which probably left a strong impression on his mind, though he does not choose to adduce them as authorities. Abundance of others occurred to him, that, in his fituation, were less exceptionable.
Many gocd people in England seem to entertain a very high idea of the beneficial effe&ts of a quick succession of election for representatives; and it seems that in America equal confidence at least was put in this measure, as a preservative of the liberties of the people. But Dr. A. thinks that this opinion is far from being well founded; and that these frequent elections would be productive of many bad consequences. When these ele&tions, says he, are in a single city, like Rome, there will be always two sets of candidates : if one set succeeds one year, the other will endeavour to succeed the next. This will make the whole year a scene of faction and intrigue, and every citizen, except perhaps a very few who will not meddle on either side, a partizan or factious
If the elections are in a large country, like England for example, or one of the United States of America, where various cities, towns, boroughs, and corporations are to be represented, each scene of election will have two or three candidates, and two or more parties, each of which “ will study its heights (words of Nedham) and projects, disguise its designs, draw in tools, and worm out enemies." We must remember, that every party, and every individual is now ftruggling for a share in the executive and judicial power, as well as legislative, for a share of the distribution of all honours, offices, rewards and profits. Every pallion and prejudice of every voter will be applied to, every Aattery and menace, every irick and bribe that can be bestowed, and will be accepted, will be used; and, what is horrible to think of, that candidate or that agent who has fewest scruples; who will propagate lies and Nanders with most confidence and secrecy ; who will wheedle, flatter, and cajole; who will debauch the people by treats, feasts, and diversions with the least hesitation, and bribe with the most impudent front, which can confift with hypocritical concealment, will draw in tools, and worm out enemies the fastest: unsullied honour, fterling integrity, real virtue, will stand a very unequal chance. When vice, folly, impudence, and knavery have carried an election for one year, they will acquire in the course of it fresh influence and power to succced the next,' &c. &c.
Nor will these evils, he thinks, be prevented by establishing a sotation in respect to the persons elected, that is, a law forbidding the same person to be continued in office beyond a certain specified time. This he considers as, in the first place, a violation of the natural rights both of electors and candidates.
• There is no right (he observes) clearer, and few of more importance, than that the people should be at liberty to choose the ableft and best men, and that men of the greatest merit should exercise the most important employments; yet, upon the present fuppofition, the people voluntarily resign this right, and hackle their own choice. This year the people choose those members who are the ablett, wealthiest, and best qualified, and have molt of their confidence and affection. In the course of the three years [that he supposes they are allowed to continue in office] they encrease their number of friends, and consequently their influence and power, by their adminiftration, yet at the end of three years they must all return to private life, and be succeeded by another set, who have less wisdom, wealth, and virtue, and less of the confidence and affection of the people. Will either they or the people bear this? Will they not repeal the fundamental law, and be applauded by the nation, at least by their own friends and constituents, who are the majority, for so doing? But fuppofing fo unnatural and improbable a thing as that they should still respect the law, what will be the consequence. They will, in effect, nominate their successors, and govern fiill. Their friends are the majority, their successors will be all taken from their party, and the mortified minority will see themselves duped. Those who have the most weight, influence, or power, whether by merit, wealth, or birth, will govern, whether they stay at home or go to parliament, Such a rotation, then, will only encrease and multiply factions.'
Those who are well acquainted with the management of particular corporations, even in this country, will be best able to judge whether the foregoing picture is juft. The examples of Appius, Sylla, Marius, and Cæsar, among the Romans, are produced as appofite illufirations of the doctrine here inculcated. Our Author paints, in very striking colours, the devices which artful men adopt for duping the people, when all depends on their votes at an elections and continuing themselves in power; bat our limits do not permit us to follow him in these interesting details.
After having Thewn, by a variety of examples, that democracies always run into absolute power under one form or another, Dr. Adams confiders a long passage in Nedham, in which that writer discufles the various changes that took place in the government of Athens; after which the Doctor thus proceeds:
• Absolute monarchy, unlimited power, in a particular person whą governed by his own will, runs through all the history of Athens, according to Nedham? vwn -account, even when the people had placed the supreme power in an orderly revolution of persons elective by themselves. Why? " Because the people did not keep a strict