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In a democracy, where the right of making laws resides in the people at large, public virtue, or goodness of intention, is more likely to be found, than either of the other qualities of government. Popular assemblies are frequently foolish in their contrivance, and weak in their execution; but generally mean to do the thing that is right and just, and have always a degree of patriotism or public spirit. In *aristocracies there is more wisdom to be found, than in the other frames of government; being composed, or intended to be com
[*50 posed, of the most experienced citizens : but there is less honesty than in a republic, and less strength than in a monarchy. A monarchy is indeed the most powerful of any; for, by the entire conjunction of the legislative and executive powers, all the sinews of government are knitted together, and united in the hand of the prince: but then there is imminent danger of his employing that strength to improvident or oppressive purposes.
Thus these three species of government have, all of them, their several per. fections and imperfections. Democracies are usually the best calculated to direct the end of a law; aristocracies to invent the means by which that end shall be obtained; and monarchies to carry these means into execution. And the ancients, as was observed, had in general no idea of any other permanent form
and a qualified veto is generally allowed to the executive. But, as the representatives of the people in the legislatures are elected by separate districts, it may so happen, if there are large majorities for some of the representatives, while those of different views are chosen by small majorities, that either or both branches may not truly represent the views of a majority of all the voters. While the bare numerical majority may be safely intrusted with the election of the executive magistrate, and in general, directly or indirectly, with the dispensation of the affairs of trust and profit, it has long been a prevailing opinion that something more than a bare numerical majority should be required in the passage of laws. Stability is of the highest importance in regard to measures of financial and jurisprudential policy; and, where parties are pretty nearly equally divided, a sudden gust of popular excitement_a flying camp of voters easily swayed by passion or interest from one side to another—what is still worse, a small neutral party with one idea, ready to make its terms with either of the others—will often change the politics of a state so frequently as to be very injurious to the best interests of the commonwealth. The difficulty is, and has been felt to be, how to arrange such a system which, while not denying to the numerical majority its legitimate influence, will operate to afford such a check upon it as to secure the rights and interests of the minority. Perhaps the adoption of a different basis for the two branches, as of territory for the Senate, and of population for the lower house, comes nearer practicability than any other plan.
Besides the constitutions of the several States, there is also the constitution of the United States, with paramount authority over the people of all the States. By that constitution certain specified powers were delegated to a general or federal government,-ali powers not delegated being reserved to the States or to the people. The special powers thus delegated are principally such as concern the foreign relations of the country, the rights of war and peace, the regulation of foreign and domestic commerce, and other objects most appropriately assigned to the general government. The government invested with the exercise of these powers is distributed into legislative, executive, and judicial departments. The legislative is divided into two branches,-a Senate, composed of two members from each State, elected by the legislature thereof, and a House, composed of representatives from each State in proportion to their respective numbers, determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons. The Foters in each State are such persons as by the constitution thereof are the electors of the most numerous branch of the State, legislature. The executive power is vested in a President, who is chosen by electors chosen in each State as its legislature may pre. scribe,-each State being entitled to as many electors as it has Senators and representatives. He has a qualified veto upon the acts of the legislature. The judicial power is vested in a supreme court, and such inferior courts as may be established by law,—the judges receiving their appointment from the President by and with the advice and con. sont of the Senate, and holding their office by the tenure of good behaviour. It is unnecessary to proceed with further details on this subject. The student must be referred to the instrument itself, with which he should make himself familiar at an early stage of his professional studies; and it would be well worth his while to commit it to meinory; so as to have its very words at all times at command.-SHARSWOOD.
of government but these three : for though Cicero(f) declares himself of opinion, “esse optime constitutam rempublicam que ex tribus generibus illis, regali, optimo, et populari, sit modice confusa ;" yet Tacitus treats this notion of a mixed government, formed out of them all, and partaking of the advantages of each, as a yisionary whim, and one that, if effected, could never be lasting or secure.(g)
But, happily for us of this island, the British constitution has long remained, and I trust will long continue, a standing exception to the truth of this observation. For, as with us the executive power of the laws is lodged in a single person, they have all the advantages of strength and despatch, that are to be found in the most absolute monarchy: and, as the legislature of the kingdom is intrusted to three dis. tinct powers, entirely independent of each other; first, the king; secondly, the lords spiritual and temporal, which is an aristocratical assemblage of persons *51]
selected for their piety, *their birth, their wisdom, their valour, or their
property; and, thirdly, the House of Commons, freely chosen by the people from among themselves, which makes it a kind of democracy: as this aggregate body, actuated by different springs, and attentive to different interests, composes the British parliament, and has the supreme disposal of every thing; there can no inconvenience be attempted by either of the three branches, but will be withstood by one of the other two; each branch being armed with a negative power, sufficient to repel any innovation which it shall think inexpedient or dangerous.
Here then is lodged the sovereignty of the British constitution; and lodged as beneficially as is possible for society. For in no other shape could we be so certain of finding the three great qualities of government so well and so happily united. If the supreme power were lodged in any one of the three branches separately, we must be exposed to the inconveniences of either absolute monarchy, aristocracy, or democracy; and so want two of the three principal ingredients of good polity, either virtue, wisdom, or power. If it were lodged in any two of the branches; for instance, in the king and House of Lords, our laws might be providently made and well executed, but they might not always have the good of the people in view: if lodged in the king and commons, we should want that circumspection and mediatory caution, which the wisdom of the peers is to afford: if the supreme rights of legislature were lodged in the two houses only, and the king had no negative upon their proceedings, they might be tempted to encroach upon the royal prerogative, or perhaps to abolish the kingly office, and thereby weaken (if not totally destroy) the strength of the executive power. But the constitutional government of this island is so admirably tempered and compounded, that nothing can endanger or hurt it, but destroying the equilibrium of power between one branch of the legislature and the rest. For if ever it should happen that the independence of any one of the three should be lost, or that it should be
come subservient to the views of either of the other two, there would *52] *soon be an end of our constitution. The legislature would be changed from that, which (upon the supposition of an original contract, either actual or implied) is presumed to have been originally set up by the general consent and fundamental act of the society: and such a change, however effected, is, according to Mr. Locke,(h) (who perhaps carries his theory too far,) at once an entire dissolution of the bands of government; and the people are thereby reduced to
(8) In his fragments, de rep. 1. 2.
() * Cunctas nationes et urbes populus aut primores, aut singuli regunt; delecta ex his et constituta reipublicæ forma
laudari facilius quam evenire, rel si evenit, haud diuturna esse potest.” Ann. 1. 4.
() On government, part 2, 2 212.
13 If it be true that there would be an end of the constitution if at any time any one of the three should become subservient to the views of either of the other branches, then assuredly the constitution is at an end; for it would be difficult to contend that in the times of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth the two Houses of Parliament were not subservient to the crown, or that before the Reform Act the House of Lords had not the ascendency, or that since that act the House of Commons have not had it. Indeed, it does not seem easy to name any eventful period of our constitutional history when the exact equilibrium of power, referred to by Blackstone, existed. That this supposeri theory of our constitution is now denied by political writers of different parties is, at Any rate, in lisputable.-STEWART.
a state of anarchy, with liberty to constitute to themselves a new legislativo power.
Having thus cursorily considered the three usual species of government, and our own singular constitution, selected and compounded from them all, I proceed to observe, that, as the power of making laws constitutes the supreme authority, 80 wherever the supreme authority in any state resides, it is the right of that authority to make laws; that is, in the words of our definition, to prescribe the rule of civil action. And this may be discovered from the very
end and institution of civil states. For a state is a collective body, composed of a multitude of indjviduals, united for their safety and convenience, and intending to act together as one man. If it therefore is to act as one man, it ought to act by one uniform will. But, inasmu b as political communities are made up of many natural persons, each of whom has his particular will and inclination, these several wills cannot by any natural union be joined together, or tempered and disposed into a lasting harmony, so as to constitute and produce that one uniform will of the whole. It can therefore be no otherwise produced than by a political union; by the consent of all persons to submit their own private wills to the will of one man, or of one or more assemblies of men, to whom the supreme authority is intrusted : and this will of that one man, or assemblage of meu, is in different states, according to their different constitutions, understood to be law.
Thus far as to the right of the supreme power to make laws; but farther, it is its duty likewise. For since the *respective members are bounil to conform themselves to the will of the state, it is expedient that they receive
[*53 directions from the state declaratory of that its will. But, as it is impossible, in so great a multitude, to give injunctions to every particular man, relative to each particular action, it is therefore incumbent on the state to establish general rules, for the perpetual information and direction of all persons in all points, whether of positive or negative duty. And this, in order that every man may know what to look upon as his own, what as another's; what absolute and what relative duties are required at his hands; what is to be esteemed honest, dishonest, or indifferent; what degree every man retains of his natural liberty; what he has given up as the price of the benefits of society; and after what manner each person is to moderate the use and exercise of those rights which the state assigns him, in order to promote and secure the public tranquillity.
From what has been advanced, the truth of the former branch of our definition, is (I trust) sufficiently evident; that “municipal law is a rule of civil conduct prescribed by the supreme power in a state.” I proceed now to the latter branch of it; that it is a rule so prescribed, “commanding what is right, and prohibiting what is wrong."
Now in order to do this completely, it is first of all necessary that the boundaries of right and wrong be established and ascertained by law. And when this is once done, it will follow of course that it is likewise the business of the law, considered as a rule of civil conduct, to enforce these rights, and to restrain or redress these wrongs. It remains therefore only to consider in what manner the law is said to ascertain the boundaries of right and wrong; and the methods which it takes to command the one and prohibit the other.
For this purpose every law may be said to consist of several parts: one, declaratory; whereby the rights to be observed, and the wrongs to be eschewed, are clearly defined and *laid down: another, directory; whereby the subjert is instructed and enjoined to observe those rights, and to abstain [*54 from the commission of those wrongs: a third, remedial, whereby a method is pointed out to recover a man's private rights, or redress his private wrongs: to which may be added a fourth, usually termed the sanction, or vindicatory branch of the law; whereby it is signified what evil or penalty shall be incurred by such as commit any public wrongs, and transgress or neglect their duty.
With regard to the first of these, the declaratory part of the municipal law, this depends not so much upon the law of revelation or of nature, as upon the wisdom and will of the legislator. This doctrine, which before was slightly touched, deserves a more particular explication. Those rights then which God
and nature have established, and are therefore called natural rights, such as are life and liberty, need not the aid of human laws to be more effectually invested in every man than they are; neither do they receive any additional strength when declared by the municipal laws to be inviolable. On the contrary, no human legislature has power to abridge or destroy them, unless the owner shall himself commit some act that amounts to a forfeiture. Neither do divine or natural duties (such as, for instance, the worship of God, the maintenance of children, and the like) receive any stronger sanction from being also declared to be duties by the law of the land. The case is the same as to crimes and misiemesnors, that are forbidden by the superior laws, and therefore styled mala in se, such as murder, theft, and perjury; which contract no additional turpitude from being declared unlawful by the inferior legislature. For that legislature in all these cases acts only, as was before observed, in subordination to the great law. giver, transcribing and publishing his precepts. So that, upon the whole, the declaratory part of the municipal law has no force or operation at all, with regard to actions that are naturally and intrinsically right or wrong.
*But, with regard to things in themselves indifferent, the case is entirely *55] altered. These become either right or wrong, just or unjust, duties or misdemesnors, according as the municipal legislator sees proper, for promoting the welfare of the society, and more effectually carrying on the purposes of civil life. Thus our own common law has declared, that the goods of the wife do instantly upon marriage become the property and right of the husband; and our statute law has declared all monopolies a public offence: yet that right, and this offence, have no foundation in nature, but are merely created by the law, for the purposes of civil society. And sometimes, where the thing itself has its rise from the law of nature, the particular circumstances and mode of doing it become right or wrong, as the law of the land shall direct. Thus, for instance, in civil duties; obedience to superiors is the doctrine of revealed as well as natural religion: but who those superiors shall be, and in what circumstances or to what degrees they shall be obeyed, it is the province of human laws to determine. And so, as to injuries or crimes, it must be left to our own legislature to decide, in what cases the seizing another's cattle shall amount to a trespass or a theft and where it shall be a justifiable action, as when a landlord takes them by way of distress for rent.
Thus much for the declaratory part of the municipal law: and the directory stands much upon the same footing; for this virtually includes the former, the declaration being usually collected from the direction. The law that says, “thou shalt not steal,” implies a declaration that stealing is a crime. And we have seen(i) that, in things naturally indifferent, the very essence of right and wrong depends upon the direction of the laws to do or to omit them.
The remedial part of a law is so necessary a consequence of the former two, *56]
that laws must be very vague and imperfect *without it. For in vain
would rights be declared, in vain directed to be observed, if there were no method of recovering and asserting these rights, when wrongfully withheld or invaded. This is what we mean properly, when we speak of the protection of the law. When, for instance, the declaratory part of the law has said, “that the field or inheritance, which belonged to Titius's father, is vested by his death in Titius;" and the directory part has “forbidden any one to enter on another's property, without the leave of the owner:" if Gaius after this will presume to take possession of the land, the remedial part of the law will then interpose its office; will make Gaius restore the possession to Titius, and also pay him damages for the invasion.
With regard to the sanction of laws, or the evil that may attend the breach of public duties, it is observed, that human legislators have for the most part chosen to make the sanction of their laws rather vindicatory than remuneratory, or to consist rather in punishments, than in actual particular rewards. Because, in the first place, the quiet enjoyment and protection of all our civil rights and :iberties, which are the sure and general consequence of obedience to the punes.
See page 43.
cipal law, are in themselves the best and most valuable of all rewards. Because also, were the exercise of every virtue to be enforced by the proposal of particular rewards, it were impossible for any state to furnish stock enough for so profuse a bounty. And farther, because the dread of evil is a much more forcible principle of human actions than the prospect of good.(k) For which reasons, though a prudent bestowing of rewards is sometimes of exquisite use, yet we find that those civil laws, which enforce and enjoin our duty, do seldom, if ever, propose any privilege or gift to such as obey the law; but do constantly comé armed with a penalty denounced against transgressors, either expressly defining the nature and quantity of the punishment, or else leaving it to the discretion of the judges, and those who are intrusted with the care of putting the laws in execution.
*Of all the parts of a law the most effectual is the vindicatory. For it is but lost labour to say, “do this, or avoid that,” unless we also declare,
[*57 "this shall be the consequence of your non-compliance.” We must therefore observe, that the main strength and force of a law consists in the penalty annexed to it. Herein is to be found the principal obligation of human laws.
Legislators and their laws are said to compel and oblige: not that by any natural violence they so constrain a man, as to render it impossible for him to act otherwise than as they direct, which is the strict sense of obligation; but because, by declaring and exhibiting a penalty against offenders, they bring it to pass that no man can easily choose to transgress the law; since, by reason of the impending correction, compliance is in a high degree preferable to disobe. dience. And, even where rewards are proposed as well as punishments threatened, the obligation of the law seems chiefly to consist in the penalty; for rewards, in their nature, can only persuade and allure; nothing is compulsory but punishment.
It is true, it hath been holden, and very justly, by the principal of our ethical writers, that human laws are binding upon men's consciences. But if that were the only or most forcible obligation, the good only would regard the laws, and the bad would set them at defiance. And, true as this principle is, it must still be understood with some restriction. It holds, I apprehend, as to rights; and that, when the law has determined the field to belong to Titius, it is matter of conscience no longer to withhold or to invade it. So also in regard to natural duties, and such offences as are mala in se: here we are bound in conscience; because we are bound by superior laws, before those human laws were in being, to perform the one and abstain from the other. But in relation to those laws which enjoin only positive duties, and forbid only such things as are not mala in se, but mala prohibita merely, without any intermixture of moral guilt, *annexing a penalty to non-compliance,(1) Where I apprehend conscience is
[*58 no farther concerned, than by directing a submission to the penalty, in case of our breach of those laws: for otherwise the multitude of penal laws in a state would not only be looked upon as an impolitic, but would also be a very wicked thing; if every such law were a snare for the conscience of the subject. But in these cases the alternative is offered to every man; “either abstain from this, or submit to such a penalty;" and his conscience will be clear, whichever side of the alternative he thinks proper to embrace. Thus, by the statutes for preserving the game, a penalty is denounced against every unqualified person that kills a hare, and against every person who possesses a partridge in August. And so too, by other statutes, pecuniary penalties are inflicted for exercising trades without serving an apprenticeship thereto, for not burying the dead in woollen, for not performing the statute-work on the public roads, and for innumerable other positive misdemesnors. Now these prohibitory laws do not make the transgression a moral offence, or sin: the only obligation in conscience is to submit to the penalty, if levied. It must however be observed, that we are here (4) Locke, Hum. Und., b. ii. c. 21.
See book ii. page 420. ** By stat. 54 Geo. III., c. 96, this law, and by stat. 54 Geo. III., c. 108 that for not burying in woollen, are repealed.—CHITTY.