Jean Paul Marat
HOWEVER, if in a critical moment, the Prince makes any concession to the people, it is generally delusive; - too jealous of his authority not to reassume with one hand what he grants with the other.
Amidst the dissensions of the Forum, the people having obtained that a consul should be elected from among them, the Patricians prevented any cause being brought before him, and thus rendered his magistracy useless.
To calm his angry subjects, the Prince sometimes orders his ministers to retire into some port during the storm, or even sacrifices them to public vengeance; but * the same plan of operations is still laid down. In the place of those dismissed or sacrificed ministers, others of the same stamp have been substituted, and the simple multitude is satisfied.
But if subjects obtain any real concession, the Prince is at the same time considering only how to deprive them of the fruits of it.
The plebeians had just obtained the privilege of sharing with the Patricians the honour of the Fascia, when, Rome being afflicted with a famine, Coriolanus made a motion in full senate not to afflict the people, unless they renounced the rights granted them on the Sacred Mount +.
King John, being obliged by his Barons to sign Magna Charta, concealed his resentment till he had found a favourable juncture for annulling his concessions. The better to deceive the people, he publicly declared that his administration was henceforth to run in such a tenor as to give his people no cause of complaint, he sent writs to all his sheriffs, ordering them to constrain every one to swear obedience to the twenty-five Barons appointed to secure the execution of the several articles of the great Charter, and then retired into the isle of Wight to plan the measures of a fatal vengeance: from his retreat he secretly sent abroad his emissaries to enlist foreign soldiers, and to invite the rapacious Brabançons into his service by the prospect of sharing the spoils of England: he dispatched a messenger to Rome in order to be absolved from all his oaths of maintaining the liberties granted to his subjects. When the foreign forces arrived, he pulled off the mask, repealed all his grants to the subjects, marched at the head of ravenous mercenaries, laid waste the lands of the nobles, pillaged their houses, carried every where fire and sword and spread devastation all over the face of the kingdom *.
Edward I. on his return to England from his expedition into France against Philip, being requested to ratify solemnly the confirmation of the charters to which he had affixed his seal, evaded as long as possible: at length, being obliged again to comply, he expressly added a salvo for his royal prerogative, - a clause which enervated the force of the whole Charter *. But after so many solemn engagements contracted, whilst he could not give full scope to his ambition, and whilst subjects flattered themselves with having secured their liberties, he applied to Rome, and procured an absolution from all his oaths.
Charles I. having given his assent to the petition of rights, repaired in haste to parliament, and protested that he had not intended to give away the profit of tonnage and poundage; ordered this protest to be entered in the Journal of the Commons; and again proceeded to seize the goods of merchants for denying the arbitrary imposition of tonnage and poundage. In the next session, he ended his speech by blaming the Commons for enquiring into the infraction of the petition of rights, and engaged the speaker to interrupt all debates on the subject. Not satisfied with this, and incensed that parliament had circumscribed royal power within so narrow limits, he resolved to overthrow them, and to accomplish his design, employed the meanest artifices. Accordingly the patriotic party, by the intrigues of the court, diminished every day. As soon as the King had secured a majority in the House of Commons, and had at his devotion almost the whole House of Lords, elated at the accounts of his courtiers respecting public affairs, he pulled off the mask, filled anew the first places of government * with his creatures, attempted to strike the fatal blow to his half-vanquished enemies; and in order to abrogate at once all his concessions to the people, charged a member of the upper house and five of the lower house, with misdemeanour, high-treason, and with having extorted by fear all the + acts made to secure public liberty, which being proved, as he pretended, rendered them null ipso facto. This scheme proving abortive, Charles spared no pains to incite discord between the English and the Scots. To accomplish this, he at first strove to outvie the parliament in courtesy towards the Scots; he forwarded every motion which had been made in their favour; every thing that they demanded for the security of their civil rights was granted them: he afterwards endeavoured to corrupt their army. Henderson, the popular covenanting preacher, was appointed his chaplain; the great officers of the army were treated with high marks of favour, and the commissaries themselves bribed. He then set out for Scotland, attempted in his journey to engage the army to prove refractory, secured a strong party in the Scotch parliament by the intrigues of his creatures, and laboured to induce the Irish catholics to rise against England.
Charles II. under colour that there were many conspirators against him, and that there were men who, under pretence that the parliament was at an end by virtue of some clause in the triennial bill, fancied they might assemble themselves to choose new members, desired the parliament held in 1663, not to leave a act in being which was such a disgrace to the crown, and they basely complied with his request.
What a trifling cause sometimes suffices to give those at the helm an opportunity for repealing their concessions, and again assuming the power into their hands !
Whilst M. AEmilius and Q. Fabius laid waste the enemies lands, the tribunes M. Furius and Ga. Cornelius, in order to make the Agrarian laws pass, refused to levy the tribute, and incited the people to rise. But although the army, busy without, was in want of every thing, and senate dreaded a revolt within, the people at that juncture, in appearance so favourable to their claims, obtained only that a consular-tribune should be selected from among the plebeians. Elated whith this little success, the popular leaders with eagerness urged on the execution of their scheme, and succeeded in having at the next comitia chiefly plebeians elected consular-tribunes. But while the people resigned themselves to joy, and boasted of their victory, the senate was taking steps to deprive them of the advantage of it *. At first, it engaged some of the most illustrious patricians to set up as candidates, expecting that the people would not be so daring as to except against them; afterwards, exerting their utmost efforts to carry on that scheme, they vented clamours against the past comitia, they said the gods were incensed that the magistracies had been prostituted by rendering them vulgar, and alledged in proof, the sharpness of winter that had just been felt, and the plague which raged over the city and the fields. The people, dazzled with the eclat of the candidates, and terrified at the idea of the wrath of the gods, elected consular-tribunes patricians only, renounced the supreme power, and put it, trembling, into the hands of the senate.
Soon after, the waters of the lake in the forest Albana being much increased without any apparent cause, this phenomenon engaged the public attention, and the oracle at Delphos was consulted. Mean while the senate industriously propagated a rumour that the gods were incensed that the ranks in the commonwealth had been confounded, and that the only means of disarming their wrath was the abdication of the military tribunes; and an interregnum followed *.
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IN every government, a favourable juncture for the recovery of liberty sometimes offers; people let it generally slip, not perceiving it: but the juncture for establishing slavery, those at the helm seize very often. To avail themselves of the opportunity is their chief care, and their first maxim in politics.
I and Time, said Charles V. defy any two others *.
The people have but momentary leaders, and as soon as they are deprived of them, their forces are dispersed; but the council of Princes is lasting: always set up against liberty, it employs its time in forming projects, concerting measures, contriving means of execution; and this is a peculiar advantage.
By watchfulness, people succeed sometimes in making the attempts of Princes prove abortive; but how can they constantly oppose their various attacks ? The ministry having their eyes ever fixed on the people, seize, at length, a favourable moment, and this suffices to accomplish their designs.
AS soon as the cabinet council is permanent, there is no truce during the slow war Princes carry on against liberty, not even in the beginning of their reign; - a juncture where the monarch, sinking under the load of his grandeur, and his heart overflowing, with joy, entertains only sentiments of benevolence and affection, lays aside all designs, and gives some respite to his unfortunate subjects: not even when they wholly resign to pleasure or idleness; since the reins of government, they abandon, are trusted to ministers who, that they might share the authority of their master, seek continually to increase his power: not even when they have no ambitious projects, unless themselves be at the helm.
WHEN the cabinet is composed of powerful men, rivalship, jealousy, pique, and ambition, oftentimes incite them to traverse each others projects, and make them miscarry. When it is composed of many members, the various turn of their minds generally sets them at variance, respecting designs and the means of execution. Hence Princes, impatient to attain absolute power, have always composed their cabinet of few men, and men of new families. Such was the craft of Ferdinand of Arragon, of Philip II. Louis XI. Henry VII. Henry VIII. etc.
Some Princes, by a refinement of policy, have even laid down a fixed plan of operations.
It was the pursuit of the same projects during the reigns of Louis XIII. and Louis XIV. that so much increased the power of the crown: for Mazarine punctually followed the maxims of Richelieu, and le Tellier those of Mazarine.
It was the pursuit of the same projects that so much enlarged the boundaries of the prerogative of the crown of Spain, from Charles V. to this day; for a change of ministers causes no change in the Spanish cabinet, and although the hands that hold the reins of government be changed, the mind that directs them is always the same *.
It is, on the contrary, to a want of harmony in the council that the weakness of government, during inter-reigns and minorities must be attributed.
It is likewise to a want of harmony in the council, that we owe in part the slow increase of royal power among us; and this want of harmony fortunately arises from the constitution itself. Although the king disposes of all offices, as he cannot render himself formidable, he is ever obliged to keep fair with his ministers: those who are in favour are therefore oftentimes traversed by those who endeavour to supplant them. As he cannot satisfy all ambitious men, those who are admitted into the cabinet are frequently opposed by those who seek to set themselves in their place. As the designs of the King so much the less succeed, as his party is the more openly attacked, he is oftentimes obliged to trust the conduct of affairs to those who have most offended him, and to dismiss those who have served him best. In fine, as his favour is limited, and his hatred impotent, new parties ever spring up. Happy discord ! which supplies the want of the virtues among us, and like them supports liberty.
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THE most fatal blow Princes strike at liberty, is the subduing their subjects in the name of the law; and the expedient they most willingly employ for it, is the most analogous to their vile character -- bribery.
Considering the legislature as a formidable censor of his conduct, the Prince labours to have them his dependents, or rather, earnest to see the Sovereign * made his slave, he endeavours to have its representatives at his disposal. Thus all the arts, which influence popular assemblies, are employed to win those members who oppose his projects. Temptations are offered to the vain, the ambitious, the needy, according to their desires: all those who choose to espouse the party of the crown, may now have their price; and the rulers of the empire soon prostitute themselves to power, sell the cause of liberty to indulge their base passions, betray their country in contempt of their most sacred engagements, and the legislature themselves become the contemptible tools of tyranny.
As soon as a senator was elected at Sparta, Agesilaus presented him with an ox *.
Charles V. demanding from the cortes of Castile a new donative before the time for paying the former was expired, was openly refused. But, availing himself of a mean spirit of jealousy, which instigated the nobles against the commons, whom they saw endeavouring to secure their independence, he employed bribes, promises, caresses, threats, and even force, in order to gain members. Thus having secured a majority, he engaged them, in contempt of the fundamental laws of the constitution, to vote the grant of the subsidy for which he had applied +.
How frequently have been, and still are, such arts employed among us, to corrupt parliament ! In that august assembly, wherein none ought to be admitted but the real friends of their country, there is no less venality than elsewhere. Part of the members are pensioners of the court, or related to pensioned persons; another part are occasionally bribed by what they call douceurs; a great number seek to get into office, and affect to display their rhetoric against the court only in order to oblige it to stipulate; a greater number, dependent on the tools of the court, are constantly devoted to the minister; few are faithful to their constituents; and the rest fluctuate alternately according, to circumstances between duty and temptation. Such are the patres patriae, the rulers of the empire, the guardians of our liberties ++.
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IF the representatives are not all infatuated with a lust of dignities, if there be some who cast not longing looks towards office, if there be a few who have even such greatness of soul as to disdain a bribe, yet their want of spirit and steadiness in opposing the ministerial attempts ever renders their virtue fruitless.
Whilst the creatures of the Prince eagerly pursue some illegal scheme, let the current run ever so strongly, if the patriotic members were determined to strive against it to the last, although they may not be able to stop or turn its course, their resistance would at least restrain its fury. But instead of defending with indefatigable zeal the cause of liberty, the languid patriots give way, satisfied with having made a feeble resistance or entered a protest.
Disgusted at their little influence, many of them give not even a constant attendance, and let their antagonists obtain the advantage of an undefended cause over a scattered party.
Thus, from a want of spirit and steadiness in the unbribed representatives, power advances with rapid steps towards despotism.
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THE Prince, when his designs prove abortive, loses only his time; but when the efforts of the subjects to shake off their yoke prove unsuccessful, they generally lose the means of making a new attempt.
After Princes have plunged their dominions into the calamities of civil war, instead of reforming their administration, and regaining the affections of their injured people, they think only how to suppress their complaints, and render their efforts fruitless: They cannot renounce that supreme power, that boundless authority, that absolute empire, which has already cost them so many efforts, so many crimes.
From experience, they learn how to prevent insurrections. In the beginning of a storm, the mischief is not discovered: when it blows with fury, the remedy is not perceived. Thus they have their eyes ever open on the slightest commotions, careful to appease them as soon as raised.
Not satisfied with this, they oftentimes are intent to extirpate the seeds of them. Under colour of securing public tranquillity, they forbid all routs, conventicles, clandestine meetings, and tumultuous assemblies: some, even by a more refined craft, will not allow any persons to crowd about popular men, and are so wary as to make away with those who are the darlings of the people.
On his return to Paris, J. J. Rousseau used to pass a few moments at a coffee-house * in is neighbourhood but as his presence attracted great crowds of curious people, he was forbid by the lieutenant of the police to frequent any coffee-house.
The watermen at Venice quarrelling one day with the populace, they came to blows. As the magistrates could not suppress the disorder, a patrician of the house of Lauredano interposed, and the mutineers yielded to his entreaties; but the inquisitors of state, dreading the great influence of this nobleman over the people, dispatched him secretly +.
Nay, in order to obviate all insurrection, it is the craft of those who rule at Venice, to persecute till death the persons they have once injured; and that the friends of these unfortunate persons, or such as have escaped from their hands, might not conspire, the Council of the Ten issues out from time to time certain proclamations ++ promising large sums to any one who should reveal any crime of state, or bring the head of a proscript.
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TO secure their power, Princes multiply offices and dignities: But when once secured, to enlarge its boundaries, they reduce the number of them.
Not content with being at the head of affairs, they are anxious to dispose of every thing. Having filled with their creatures the high places of government, they proceed to invest in themselves all offices which share authority, or to suppress them *. Ever fixing their eyes on those on whom high trusts have been conferred, they wait only for an opportunity to dispossess them. When an opportunity offers not itself, they start it: they raise enemies to the high officers of the state to charge them with negligence or misdemeanour. If they find any guilty, they utter loud complaints against these bad servants, and suppress the functions of their office under pretence of reforming abuses +.
To those, they cannot convict of any misdemeanour, they give many causes of disgust, they make them feel the weight of authority, and artfully provoke them to furnish reasons for being dismissed, or to resign a place they can hold no longer: but great care is taken to leave these places vacant, or to grant them as commissions under pleasure only ++.
But to veil their designs, and not to discontent every one, Princes substitute for offices of trust places without authority, dignities which flatter avarice or pride without feeding ambition, and thus secure the concerned party. Those they cannot pay with realities, they pay with promises.
When the Prince cannot seize all offices and dignities which share authority, and vest them in the crown, he associates himself thereto, places himself at the head of orders, corporations, tribunals, and soon usurps all their power *.
At other times, instead of suppressing offices, he lets them become extinct +.
At length, to remain the sole master of the state, he boasts of being the father of his people, a wholly engaged * with the care of promoting public happiness, he takes upon himself the management of affairs, orders his subjects to address directly his person, takes cognisance of every thing, examines every thing, and disposes of every thing. The simple multitude then beholds with admiration his air of benevolence, his attendance to public affairs, his zeal for their well-being; they expect their felicity therefrom, but perceive not that the Prince conceals his ambitious designs under this outside of goodness, and seeks only to render himself independent.
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POWER now advances by rapid steps towards despotism. The Prince, on the point of making any bold attempt, prepares his engines. If he can do without the legislature, he carefully abstains from assembling them; if their concurrence is absolutely necessary, he again employs his former arts to influence them, and by bribes, promises, threats, secures a strong party; when secured, he ventures to assemble this pretended sovereign, and makes it resolve what he pleases.
The subjects, wholly engaged with their private affairs, or careless of public interests, take no notice of the blind devotion of the senate to the court, and the Prince continues with eagerness to urge on the execution of his designs. Yet if any one should attempt to open the eyes of the public, the ministry, under pretence of maintaining good order, persecute this zealous patriot; then confounding the cause of the crown with that of the laws, they charge him with refractory proceedings, and have him punished as a disturber of the public peace.
If the public open their eyes and complain, they are amused by frivolous objects, calculated only to fix unquiet minds, or their attention is engaged by a politic war.
Under colour of securing national interests, or vindicating the glory of the state, the Prince arraigns a neighbouring power, demands subsidies from his people, raises new troops, nominates to military * offices restless and suspected men, gives secret orders to the commanding officers to expose them in dangerous stations, or has them dispatched in the dark.
Attentive to what passes out of the state, the people perceive not what passes within, and the Prince continues to enlarge the boundaries of prerogative, or rather to usurp power.
To carry on the war, new subsidies are demanded, a part of which are carefully laid by.
The war being, at an end, the people, elated with their victories or depressed by their calamities, resign themselves to joy, or labour to retrieve their losses: and whilst they, wholly engaged by private affairs, lose sight of public ones, the Prince eagerly pursues his ambitious projects.
During the course of a long government, liberty is destroyed by gradual alterations, and is ever recovered by violent efforts only: but the Prince takes such cautious measures that, once subdued, the subjects may never be enabled to break their yoke again. Under pretence of securing the safety of the realm, he undertakes to become absolute master of it. Accordingly he begins by having the old fortresses repaired, then proceeds to have new ones constructed *, at first on the borders, afterwards in the interior part of the country; in fine, he orders citadels to be built in every important town, increases the garrisons, and renders the military establishment numerous and formidable. Thus under the fair name of public good, the Prince seizes, by degrees, every post which leaves a communication between the inhabitants of the several parts of the state, and cuts off every means of ever uniting + their forces again, or appearing in detached parties, without being cut in pieces by mercenary troops ++. When once the people can no longer appear in a body, the sovereign is considered as being annihilated.
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HAVING incapacitated the inhabitants of the several provinces from ever uniting their efforts for their common defence, and those of the towns from making any attempt for their own safety, Princes accustom the people to military expeditions; and, under colour of securing public peace, soldiery are by degrees substituted for civil officers.
Soldiers are appointed to arrest offenders, soldiers are appointed to wait on malefactors going to execution, soldiers are appointed to clear highways. In places of public diversion, in auction rooms, in places of public exhibition, sentinels are placed at the doors: in all places where the people meet, soldiers watch over them, and for fear of any nocturnal attempt, soldiers even then serve as guard *.
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IN order that those men who are placed at the head of the troops, might support the overgrown power of the crown, and not control it, Princes are not satisfied with having suppressed every military office of too great influence, but divide the army into many small bodies, among which they incite jealousy by means of peculiar distinctions. The command of these small bodies they confer on devoted men alone, and the better to secure their fidelity, they establish in every body several degrees of command, which officers are promoted to slowly by rotation, and rapidly by preferment. Hence every subaltern officer not only considers him who fills the next superior degree to his own as an obstacle to advancement, and looks upon him with a jealous eye: but the most ambitious among them seek to rise by fawning adulations, vile services, and assiduity in courting the Prince; whilst those who are raised labour to secure favour by a blind devotion to his commands.
In regard to the high military offices, great care is taken not to confer them on any darling of the people, and never to join them to any civil office. Distrust is sometimes carried so far as to place at the head of the army soldiers of fortune only, to change frequently the general officers, to incite between them competition, to set inspectors over them, and never to allow the troops to be long, stationed in the same place *.
When the Prince dispenses with commanding the army in person; in order to trust the command without danger into other hands he gives it to several, who have never a full power granted them to act as they should think fit; their operations being always inspected by a council of war, if not directed by the cabinet itself. Having modelled the army at will, he caresses the military, ties them to his interest by largesses, and renders them the sole objects of his favour.
Thus Princes form to themselves a devoted party, ever on foot against the people, and impatiently look for an opportunity of making use of it.
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THE soldier, being in a free country ever subject to the laws and restrained by the magistrates, acknowledges his duty, and preserves in his new station some notions of justice; he is taught to respect the citizens, and is prevented from being made conscious of his influence *. Hence the Prince, in order to teach the military to depend on + him only, and render them the devoted instruments of his will, secures them * from civil power: they are made accountable to him alone; and if they either plot, mutiny, pillage, commit rapes, or murders; always a Martial Court is appointed to judge the delinquents.
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AS the military are the instruments destined to enlarge the Prince's authority, in order to prepare them to act against the people in a favourable juncture, they are separated from them +, quartered in barracks; and afterwards inspired with contempt for every profession except their own. But to render them conscious of their pre-eminence, many marks of distinction are conferred on them ++. Used to despise the citizens, they soon become desirous to oppress them, and ever ready to fall upon that part of the realm which should attempt to make an insurrection +++.
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IT is a favourite maxim with the cabinet, that if the people are too rich, or even too much at ease, it will prove impossible to keep them submissive; whilst men rendered dependent by their wants, destitute of the means of opposing resistance, and ashamed of their poverty, are conscious of their subjection, and much more disposed to obey *. Hence, far from releasing the people, Princes ever charge them with heavy taxes. But as if this did not suffice, among the various means they have recourse to, in order to impoverish their subjects, usury, exactions, and extortions are oftentimes made use of.
The Roman senate, not satisfied with levying the taxes, disposing of the public money, and appropriating to themselves the lands of the vanquished enemies, used to prey on the plebeians by usury.
Such was the craft of the ancients, that of the moderns is much more refined: they borrow at large interest the money of the public; and these depositums of the fortunes of the subjects, like chains, tie the people two ways. On one side, they are a badge of subjection, the subjects being ever afraid to furnish a pretence for forfeiture from attempting to revolt: on the other side, they are arms in the hands of the Prince which enable him to crush those who have trusted him therewith.
Besides, when a favourable juncture offers, the Prince, either by retaining the interest for a long time, repaying the capital when the value of money is below par, or even by retaining the capital itself, reduces, by a single stroke, his subjects to that point of misery which they could not have been reduced to but gradually, by pursuing the former plan.
In these points of view, public funds trusted to government in France, Spain, the kingdom of Naples, etc. are to be considered. - A truth which those people have but too often sadly experienced.
In England such steps have never been taken, and perhaps never will; yet public loans bind us not the less strongly: for by their means the government has intertwined itself with the property of the people, in such a manner that it is impossible to lay the ax to the root of the former without destroying the latter.
As soon as the government becomes debtor, those who are creditors, made sensible that the sums intrusted are lost if government securities fail, are ever ready to subscribe fresh ones, in order to furnish it with means for defending them. And this newly raised money may be employed for a different purpose.
If to secure a fund for the payment of interest, any regulation destructive of liberty should be thought absolutely necessary, the party concerned, that is, that part of the nation which is the most regarded, would consent to it, rather than run the risk of being ruined by a state bankruptcy. If any one should treat this as a chimerical supposition, let them remember the excise laws. Moreover, as by the negotiation of loans, and the creation or management of funds, the interest of moneyed men is intimately connected with that of the court; not only the factors for administration and those dealers in the funds, who, for the sake of a lucrative share in some contract, are under ministerial influence, turn courtiers, and cringe at levees, procure themselves seats in parliament, and assist the Prince to enslave their country; but the locust tribe of subscribers, brokers, ticket-mongers, and all those who act or seek to act that dirty part, on all occasions appear the avowed advocates of every corrupt minister, induce the timid, the weak, the fickle, the sordid, and the indolent, to follow their example, furnish their patron with a pretence to urge in excuse of his misconduct, raises their clamours against the complaints of true patriots, smother the voice of the nation, and become a dangerous faction in support of tyranny.
Nor are even these the worst measures that are planned by some Princes to ruin the people.
Sometimes, in order to impoverish their subjects and enrich themselves, they debase the coin, that is, reduce its intrinsic value without altering its current one.
At other times, they prey upon the subjects by the most flagrant extortions; they even commit them to prison, in order to oblige them to recover their liberty by paying heavy ransoms.
Thus having induced their subjects to contract many wants by encouraging luxury, it is the craft of Princes to deprive them afterwards of the means of indulging them, or rather to drive them from dependence to servitude.
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THE Prince, having secured the army, now labours to secure the legislature, or to render its power vain. When on the point of making any bold attempt, if he can do without the concurrence of the representatives of the sovereign, he carefully abstains from calling them together. If their concurrence is absolutely necessary, they are not suffered to proceed to any other transaction, but that for which they have been assembled.
Charles V. having summoned the cortes of Castile to meet at Compostella, engaged them to grant him a subsidy. With this grant, the cortes laid before the king a representation of those grievances whereof his people craved redress; but he having obtained from them all that he could expect, paid no attention to their petition *.
Such was the practice of Charles I. When he was in want of money, he assembled parliament, and hurried the bill for subsidies: then to prevent them from taking cognisance of the public grievances, he lulled them into security by fair promises, assured them that he would be ever careful to preserve the liberties of his people; engaged the speaker to interrupt every debate foreign to the bill for subsidy, expelled out of the house the warmest patriots, by incapacitating them from serving as representatives, or prorogued, if not dissolved the parliament.
To accomplish their designs, Princes sometimes again put in practice their former arts, they corrupt the legislature, and make it speak as they please.
At other times they terrify the party in opposition by threats, or they have the register of the votes altered.
It was by terror that Henry VIII. kept the parliament submissive to his will. The members, free only in the senate, were, as soon as the sessions was prorogued, left defenceless to the mercy of this tyrant.
Charles I. intending to have an act passed in the parliament of Scotland, for the resumption of those church lands and titles, which had been alienated in the minority of the former reign, was careful to be present at the debate. But meeting with a great opposition, he pulled out of his pocket a list of all the members that composed the house, adding, "Gentlemen, I have all your names on this paper, and I will know who will do me service, and who will not, this day." Notwithstanding the king's threatenings, the bill was rejected by the majority; but the clerk of the register, who gathered the votes, removed this difficulty by declaring that it was carried in the affirmative *.
Princes, in order to influence at will the legislative body, oftentimes endeavour to procure a choice of representatives favourable to their designs. Thus Henry VIII. and Mary, when they desired to carry any important point, used to write circular letters to the lord lieutenants in the counties, directing a proper choice of members +.
Actuated by the same views, James II. artfully resumed the charters of all corporations in the kingdom, and granted them new ones, drawn up in such a form that it was in a manner left to the king to nominate the representatives.
If this suffices not, Princes have sometimes recourse to another method. They suffer none to fit in the senate but those who are known to have no virtue, after having excluded all others who are suspected to have any.
In the exigencies of affairs in 1656, a parliament was summoned, but Cromwell finding that the majority of the members returned would be unfavourable to his interests, placed guards at the doors of the house; and, under pretence of excluding men of corrupted principles, permitted none to enter but such as produced a warrant from his council.
Some Princes, in order that the legislature should be entirely at their disposal, have even by violence altered the constitution.
In 1539, Charles V. demanded extraordinary subsidies from the cortes of Castile; but having mainly employed entreaties, promises, and threats, in order to obtain his demand, he dismissed the assembly with indignation, and excluded out of these assemblies the nobles and prelates, under pretence that such as pay no part of the public taxes had no vote to claim in laying them on. Hence none were admitted to the cortes but the deputies of the towns, who being in too small a number, and too feeble to oppose the king, were all at his devotion *.
Other Princes have divided the legislative body, and made the prostituted part pass for the whole.
During our civil war of 1641, Charles I. in order to abate the veneration paid to the patriotic representatives, and avail himself of the name of the legislature, with a view of levying the sums which were necessary to carry on the war, summoned the parliament at Oxford; and having collected there all the members of either house, who adhered to his interests, he endeavoured to insinuate, that the two houses sitting at Westminster were not a legal convention, attempted to prevail with the earl of Essex, general of the parliament, to treat with those proscripts, and engaged that prostituted assembly to pass several acts, to grant him subsidies, and to declare the faithful members guilty of high treason *.
The Prince, by engaging the legislature to yield constantly to his will, and having hereby abased them, has no more recourse to craft; he assumes the stile of a master, and if he still continues to assemble them, it is only to give law.
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ARRIVED to this point, Princes eagerly consummate their iniquitous designs. Earnest to see the people their slaves, to reduce them to servitude, they oftentimes turn against them the constitution itself.
In a government wherein the activity of the legislative power depends on the will of the executive one, the legislature never can appear but when the Prince gives his orders, and never answer but when he interrogates them: in order, therefore, to annihilate their power, they are no longer called together. When once the legislature are sunk into oblivion, the Prince imperceptibly usurps their functions: he ventures to issue, by his own authority, some ordinances, at first on trifling objects, afterwards on objects more important; he then by degrees repeats this practice, accustoms the people to that usurpation of authority, and at length finds himself invested with the power of enacting laws.
Thus the kings of France have usurped sovereignty. At the origin of that monarchy, royal prerogative was limited to the executive power; the supreme power resided in the general assemblies * of the nation, which met annually at stated seasons, and in which every freeman had a right + to assist. Their authority was extended to every department of government. Such as electing kings, granting subsidies, enacting laws, redressing national grievances, passing judgement in the last resort with respect to every cause ++, in a word, whatever related to the general welfare of the nation, was submitted to their deliberation, and determined by their suffrages +++: the King having only a right to give his assent to the public resolutions, and none to refuse it ++++. Such was the French government under the monarchs of the first race.
Notwithstanding the power and splendour which Charlemagne added to the crown by his conquests, the general assemblies of the nation continued to possess extensive authority, under the kings of the second race. They determined which of the royal family should be placed on the throne: the Prince elected, consulted them regularly with respect to every affair of importance to the state, and without their consent no law was passed, and no new tax levied.
Under the degenerate posterity of Charlemagne, royal authority was reduced almost to nothing. Every baron had formed his lands into a small state almost independent of the king. The kingdom being thus broken into so many small districts, every one of which acknowledged a distinct lord, was governed by local customs, and pursued separate interests, hardly any common principle of union remained. Hence the general assemblies scarcely considering the nation as forming one body, could no longer enact common laws; and thus part of the legislative power was left inactive.
Under the descendants of Hugh Capet, the jurisdiction of these assemblies extended no further than to the imposition of new taxes, the determination of the successor to the crown, and the settling the regency, when the preceeding monarch had not fixed it by his will.
It was left to the king to summon the national assemblies; but as the ordinary charges of government were supported by the crown demesnes, he called them together but seldom, and only when he was compelled by his wants or his fears to have recourse to their aid. Thus the obligation of summoning them regularly forming no essential point of the constitution, in order to render their power null, the Prince artfully avoided assembling them.
When the functions of this power had been a long while suspended, the kings assumed them, but ventured at first on acts of legislation with great reserve, and took every precaution that could prevent the people from being alarmed at the exercise of a new power. Concealing their authority as much as they could, they began to issue their ordinances, not in a tone of command but of request; they appeared to treat with their subjects, they pointed out what was best, and allured them to comply with it.
As the power of the crown extended, this humble stile gave place to an imperious tone; and in the beginning of the fifteenth century the king openly assumed the stile of a law-giver.
The last of the Capitularia collected by Baluze, was issued in the year 921, under Charles the Simple. In the middle of the eleventh century, were published some royal ordinances, contained in the collection of Lauriére; but the first ordinance extending to the whole kingdom, and being, properly speaking, an act of legislation, is that of Philip Augustus, issued in the year 1190. The establishments of St. Louis were not published as general laws to the whole kingdom, but as a code of laws, to be of authority within the crown domains only. The veneration of the people for this Prince procured this code a favourable reception throughout the whole kingdom, and contributed not a little to reconcile the nation to the usurpation of the legislative authority. The people, accustomed to see their monarch, by his private authority, issue ordinances in points of the greatest importance, were not surprised when they saw him issue them for levying subsidies for the support of the government. When Charles VII. and Louis XI. first ventured to exercise this new power, the minds of the people were so well prepared by the gradual encroachments of the crown, that it scarce gave rise to any murmur.
In proportion as kings continued to exercise acts of legislation, their subjects ceased to be surprised; they forgot at last that the crown had usurped the legislative authority; and at present the idea of this authority having been vested in the crown during every period of the monarchy, is so universal in France, that any assertion to the contrary would be deemed absurd.
WHEN the Prince cannot cause the legislature to sink into oblivion, he attempts to seize upon its authority by every mean whatever.
Justice, goodness, honour, virtue, are to be relinquished to private men alone, say the abetters of tyranny; those at the helm must act from other principles. All is permitted to the man who attempts to ascend a throne; when seated thereon, all must be sacrificed to enlarge the boundaries of his prerogative; on the least ground, suspected persons ought to be made away with; no word, no engagement, no oath ever so solemn, ought to be regarded, no blood to be spared, when an obstacle to his obtaining absolute empire. These horrid lessons are erected into maxims of policy, and these fatal maxims have been a copious source of odious crimes, covered with the specious denomination of Acts of great Policy *.
How many of these acts of great policy, are swallowed up by time and buried in the night of oblivion; yet how many are still recorded in history !
In order to seize the supreme authority at Syracuse, Agathocles summoned the senate and the people, ordered all the senators and the most conspicuous citizens to be put to death by his guards, and placed himself on the throne.
Alfonso, son of Ferdinand I. with a view to crush at once the power of the Neapolitan nobles, and render himself absolute, cut off the barons of the greatest reputation and influence among them *.
Caesar Borgia, that he might entirely reduce the Romagna to subjection, deputed Renaro Dorca thereto with full power. But fearing the shocking cruelties committed against the insurgents had rendered his authority too odious, and desiring to appease the minds of the people, he joined perfidy to barbarity, disowned the conduct of his minister, and ordered him to be quartered in the public place +.
The Venetians, weary of the long, and tyrannic domination of their Prince, reassumed, in 1171, the reins of government. They continued, indeed, to elect a doge, but fixed such boundaries to his power, that scarce any thing was left him but a title. The supreme authority resided in the people at large: however, as the concurrence of every one to every thing was impossible, they transferred the sovereignty to a council composed of 470 citizens, nominated by 12 electors; but that every one might have his turn, there was to be yearly a new election on St. Michael's day. The authority of this council was unbounded, and by leaving it so, the people were soon reduced to subjection by their representatives *. On pretence or reforming abuses, the doge Pietro Gradenigo overturned the form of government; he had an act passed by the criminal quarantia, declaring, that all those who actually composed the council, or had composed it the four preceding years, should, they or their descendants, for the future continue to compose it +; thus investing the representatives of the people with the whole administration of affairs, he wrested all authority out of the hands of the sovereign ++.
Cromwell returning victorious from his expedition into Scotland, was honoured with a deputation from parliament, and other marks of distinction. He then entered the capital in triumph, and as every one earnestly sought his favour, this crafty dissembler only thought how to reconcile to himself all parties. At first he made use of his credit to obtain for the royalists better terms, he captivated the affections of the presbyterians by an affected austerity of manners, seduced the bigots by exclaiming against the looseness of the ministers of religion, flattered the army by causing them to entertain suspicions about the parliament, and gained the affections of the whole nation by earnestly soliciting a new election of representatives. He afterwards filled with his creatures all military places, and the first civil offices, incited the malcontents to rise, repaired to parliament followed by a band of devoted satellites, charged the patriotic members with ambitious designs, and expelled them from the house. No sooner did Cromwell become sole master of the government by this act of violence, but he formed a cabinet council of the chief officers of the army who were the most in his interests, placed himself at the helm, and had a new parliament elected: but not finding them enough submissive, he engaged the prostituted members to rise, and to resign into his hands their authority: in fine, he expelled the patriotic party, and usurped the supreme power under the specious denomination of Protector.
Whilst the senators were assembled, Christian III. of Sweden, complained to his guards of the little regard these magistrates paid him; aided by them, he then secured their persons, obliged them to resign their places, which he conferred on his creatures, rewarded his adherents, assembled his troops, bestowed gratifications on the officers, exhorted his subjects to be submissive, and remained in peaceable possession of the sovereignty.
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Jean Paul Marat