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office to deliver their votes for a representative, or were to form the first link in that long chain of causes and effects which, in this compound kind of elections, ends with choosing a member of Parliament.
“Above all things (says M. Necker), langour is the most deadly to a republican government ; for when such a political association is animated neither by a kind of instinctive affection for its beauty nor by the continual homage of reflection to the happy union of order and liberty, the public spirit is half lost, and with it the republic. The rapid brilliancy of despotism is preferred to a more complicated machine from which every symptom of life and organisation is fled."
Sickness, absence, and nonage would (even under the supposition of universal suffrage) reduce the voters of any country to one fourth of its population. A qualification much lower than that of the payment of twelve livres in direct contribution would reduce that fourth one half, and leave the number of voters in France three millions and a half, which, divided by 600, gives between five and six thousand constituents for each representative ; à number not amounting to a third part of the voters for many counties in England, and which certainly is not so unwieldy as to make it necessary to have recourse to the complex mechanism of double elections. Besides, too, if it could be believed thai the peril were considerable of gathering men together in such masses, we have no hesitation in saying that it would be infinitely preferable to thin their numbers by increasing the value of the qualification than to obviate the apprehended bad effects by complicating the system of election.
M. Necker (much as he has seen and observed) is clearly deficient in that kind of experience which is gained by living under free governments : he mistakes the riots of a free, for the insurrection of an enslaved, people; and appears to be impressed with the most tremendous notions of an English election. The difference is that the tranquillity of an arbitrary government is rarely disturbed, but from the most serious provocations, not to be expiated by any ordinary vengeance. The excesses of a free people are less important, because their resentments are less serious ; and they can commit a great deal of apparent disorder with very little real mischief. An English mob, which, to a foreigner, might convey the belief of an impending massacre, is often contented by the demolition of a few windows.
The idea of diminishing the number of constituents, rather by extending the period of nonage to twenty-five years, than by increasing the value of the qualification, appears to us to be new and ingenious. No person considers himself as so completely deprived of a share in the government, who is to enjoy it when he becomes older, as he would do, were that privilege deferred till he became richer ;-time comes to all, wealth to few.
This assembly of representatives, as M. Necker has constituted it, appears to us to be in extreme danger of turning out to be a mere collection of country gentlemen. Everything is determined by territorial extent and population; and as the voters in towns must, in any single division, be almost always inferior to the country voters, the candidates will be returned in virtue of large landed property; and that infinite advantage which is derived to a popular assembly, from (he variety of characters of which it is composed, would be entirely lost under the system of M. Necker. The sea-ports, the universities, the great commercial towns, should all have their separate organs in the parliament of a great country. There should be some means of bringing in active, able young men, who would submit to the labour of business, from the stimulus of honour and wealth. Others should be there, expressly to speak the sentiments and defend the interests of the executive. Every popular assembly must be grossly imperfect that is not composed of such heterogeneous materials as these. Our own Parliament may, perhaps, contain within itself too many of that species of representatives who could never have arrived at the dignity under a pure and perfect system of election ; but, for all the practical purposes of government, amidst a great majority fairly elected by the people, we should always wish to see a certain number of the legislative body representing interests very distinct from those of the people, * The legislative part of his constitution M. Necker manages in the following manner. There are two councils, the great and the little. The great council is composed of five members from each department, elected in the manner we have just described, and amounting to the number of six hundred. The assembly is re-elected every five years. No qualification of property is necessary to its members, who receive each a salary of 12,000 livres. No one is eligible to the assembly before the age of twenty-five years. The little national council consists of one hundred members, or from that number to one hundred and twenty; one for each department. It is re-elected every ten years; its members must be thirty years of age ; and they receive the samé salary as the members of the great council. For the election of the little council, each of the five Chambers of Indication, in every department, gives in the name of one candidate ; and, from the five so named, the same voters who choose the great council select one.
The municipal officers enjoy, in this election, the same right of recommending one of the candidates to the people ; a privilege which they would certainly exercise indirectly, without a law, wherever they could exercise it with any effect, and the influence of which the sanction of the law would at all times rather diminish than increase.
The grand national council commences all deliberations which concern pub. lic order, and the interest of the state, with the exception of those only which belong to finance. Nevertheless, the executive and the little council have it in their power to propose any law for the consideration of the grand council. When a law has passed the two councils, and received the sanction of the executive senate, it becomes binding upon the people. If the executive senate disapprove of any law presented to them for their adoption, they are to send it back to the two councils for their reconsideration ; but if it passes these two bodies again, with the approbation of two thirds of the members of each assembly, the executive has no longer the power of withholding its assent. All measures of finance are to initiate with government.
We believe M. Necker to be right in his idea of not exacting any qualification of property in his legislative assemblies. When men are left to choose their own governors, they are guided in their choice by some one of those motives which has always commanded their homage and admiration : if they do not choose wealth, they choose birth or talents, or military fame: and of all these species of pre-eminence, a large popular assembly should be constituted. In England the laws requiring that members of Parliament should be possessed of certain property are (except in the instance of members for counties) practically repealed.
In the salaries of the members of the two councils, with the exception of the expense, there is, perhaps, no great balance of good or harm. To some men it would be an inducement to become senators; to others, induced by more honourable motives, it would afford the means of supporting that situa. tion without disgrace. Twenty-five years of age is certainly too late a period for the members of the great council. Of what astonishing displays of eloquence and talent should we have been deprived in this country under the adoption of a similar rule !
The institution of two assemblies constitutes a check upon the passion and precipitation by which the resolutions of any single popular assembly may occasionally be governed. The chances that one will correct the other do not depend solely upon their dividuality, but upon the different ingredients of which they are composed, and that difference of system and spirit which results from a difference of conformation. Perhaps M. Necker has not sufficiently attended to this consideration. The difference between his two assem. blies is not very material ; and the same popular fury which marked the proceedings of the one, would not be very sure of meeting with an adequate corrective in the dignified coolness and wholesome gravity of the other.
All power which is tacitly allowed to devolve upon the executive part of a government, from the experience that it is most conveniently placed there, is both safer and less likely to be complained of than that which is conferred upon it by law. If M. Necker had placed some agents of the executive in the great council, all measures of finance would, in fact, have originated in them, without any exclusive right to such initiation ; but the right of initia. tion, from M. Necker's contrivance, is likely to excite that discontent in the people which alone can render it dangerous and objectionable.
In this plan of a republic everything seems to depend upon the purity and the moderation of its governors. The executive has no connection with the great council; the members of the great council have no motive of hope, or interest, to consult the wishes of the executive. The assembly, which is to give example to the nation, and enjoy its confidence, is composed of six hun. dred men, whose passions have no other control than that pure love of the public, which it is hoped they may possess, and that cool investigation of interests, which it is hoped they may pursue.
Of the effects of such a constitution everything must be conjectured ; for experience enables us to make no assertion respecting it. There is only one government in the modern world which, from the effects it has produced, and the time it has endured, can with justice be called good and free. Its consti. tution, in books, contains the description of a legislative assembly, similar to that of M. Necker. Happily, perhaps, for the people, the share they have really enjoyed in its election is much less ample than that allotted to them in this republic of the closet. How long a really popular assembly would tolerate any rival and coexisting power in the state-for what period the feeble executive, and the untitled, unblazoned peers of a republic, could stand against it-whether any institutions compatible with the essence and meaning of a republic could prevent it from absorbing all the dignity, the popularity, and the power of the state,-are questions that we leave for the resolution of wiser heads; with the sincerest joy that we have only a theoretical interest in stating them.
The executive senate is to consist of seven ; and the right of presenting the candidates, and selecting from the candidates alternates from one assembly to the other, i.e. on a vacancy, the great council present three candidates to the little council, who select one from that number; and, on the next vacancy, by the inversion of this process, the little council present, and the great coun. cil select; and so alternately. The members of the executive must be thirtyfive years of age. Their measures are determined by a majority. The presi. dent, called the Consul, has a casting vote; his salary is fixed at 300,000 livres : that of all the other senators at 60,000 livres. The office of consul is annual. Every senator enjoys it in his turn. Every year one senator goes out, unless re-elected; which he may be once, and even twice, if he unite three fourths of the votes of each council in his favour. The executive shall name to all civil and military offices, except to those of mayors and munici. palities. Political negotiations and connections with foreign countries fall under the direction of the executive. Declarations of war or peace, when presented by the executive to the legislative body, are to be adopted, the first by a majority of three fifths, the last by a simple majority. The parade, honours, and ceremonies of the executive devolve upon the Consul alone. The members of the senate, upon going out of office, become members of the little council, to the number of seven. Upon the vacation of an eighth sena. tor, the oldest ex-senator in the little council resigns his seat to make room for him. All responsibility rests upon the consul alone, who has a right to stop the proceedings of a majority of the executive senate, by declaring them unconstitutional; and if the majority persevere, in spite of this declaration, the dispute is referred to and decided by a secret committee of the little council.
M. Necker takes along with him the same mistake through the whole of his constitution, by conferring the choice of candidates on one body, and the election of the member on another : so that, though the alternation would take place between the two councils, it would turn out to be in an order directly opposite to that which was intended.
We perfectly acquiesce in the reasons M. Necker has alleged for the preference given to an executive constituted of many individuals, rather than of one. The prize of supreme power is too tempting to admit of fair play in the game of ambition; and it is wise to lessen its value by dividing it: at least it is wise to do so, under a form of government that cannot admit the better expedient of rendering the executive hereditary; an expedient (gross and absurd as it seems to be) the best calculated, perhaps, to obviate the effects of ambition upon the stability of governments, by narrowing the field on which it acts, and the object for which it contends. The Americans have determined otherwise, and adopted an elective presidency: but there are innumerable circumstances, as M. Necker very justly observes, which render the example of America inapplicable to other governments. America is a federative republic, and the extensive jurisdiction of the individual states exonerates the President from so great a portion of the cares of domestic government that he may almost be considered as a mere minister of foreign affairs. America presents such an immediate and such a seducing species of provision to all its inhabitants that it has no idle, discontented populace; its population amounts only to six millions, and it is not condensed in such masses as the population of Europe. After all, an experiment of twenty years is never to be cited in politics; nothing can be built upon such a slender inference. Even if America were to remain stationary, she might find that she had presented too fascinating and irresistible an object to human ambition : of course, that peril is increased by every augmentation of a people, who are hastening on, with rapid and irresistible pace, to the highest eminences of human grandeur. Some contest for power there must be in every free state; but the contest for vicarial and deputed power, as it implies the presence of a moderator and a master, is more prudent than the struggle for that which is original and supreme.
The difficulty of reconciling the responsibility of the executive with its dignity, M. Necker foresees; and states, but does not remedy. An irresponsible executive the jealousy of a republic would never tolerate ; and its amenability to punishment, by degrading it in the eyes of the people, diminishes its power.
All the leading features of civil liberty are copied from the constitution of this country, with hardly any variation.
Having thus finished his project of a republic, M. Necker proposes the
government of this country as the best model of a temperate and hereditary monarchy; pointing out such alterations in it as the genius of the French people, the particular circumstances in which they are placed, or the abuses which have crept into our policy, may require. From one or the other of these motives he re-establishes the Salique law; forms his elections after the same manner as that previously described in his scheme of a republic ; and excludes the clergy from the House of Peers. This latter assembly M. Necker composes of 250 hereditary peers, chosen from the best families in France, and of 50 assistant peers enjoying that dignity for life only, and nominated by the Crown. The number of hereditary peers is limited as above; the peerage goes only in the male line; and upon each peer is perpetually entailed landed property to the amount of 30,000 livres. This partial creation of peers for life only appears to remedy a very material defect in the English constitution. An hereditary legislative aristocracy not only adds to the dignity of the throne, and establishes that gradation of ranks which is, perhaps, absolutely necessary to its security, but it transacts a considerable share of the business of the nation, as well in the framing of laws as in the discharge of its judicial functions; but men of rank and wealth, though they are interested by a splendid debate, will not submit to the drudgery of business, much less can they be supposed conversant in all the niceties of law questions. It is, there. fore, necessary to add to their number a certain portion of novi homines, men of established character for talents, and upon whom the previous tenor of their lives has necessarily impressed the habits of business. The evil of this is that the title descends to their posterity, without the talents and the utility that procured it; and the dignity of the peerage is impaired by the increase of its numbers : not only so, but as the peerage is the reward of military, as well as the earnest of civil services, and as the annuity commonly granted with it is only for one or two lives, we are in some danger of seeing a race of nobles wholly dependent upon the Crown for their support, and sacrificing their political freedom to their necessities. These evils are effectually, as it should seem, obviated by the creation of a certain number of peers for life only; and the increase of power which it seems to give to the Crown is very fairly counteracted by the exclusion of the episcopacy, and the limitation of the hereditary peerage. As the weight of business in the Upper House would principally devolve upon the created peers, and as they would hardly arrive at that dignity without having previously acquired great civil or military reputa. tion, the consideration they would enjoy would be little inferior to that of the other part of the aristocracy. When the noblesse of nature are fairly opposed to the noblesse created by political institutions, there is little fear that the former should suffer by the comparison.
If the clergy are suffered to sit in the Lower House, the exclusion of the episcopacy from the Upper House is of less importance : but, in some part of the legislative bodies, the interests of the Church ought unquestionably to be represented. This consideration M. Necker wholly passes over.
Though this gentleman considers an hereditary monarchy as preferable in the abstract, he deems it impossible that such a government could be estab. lished in France, under her present circumstances, from the impracticability of establishing with it an hereditary aristocracy: because the property and the force of opinion which constituted their real power is no more, and cannot be restored. Though we entirely agree with M. Necker that an hereditary aristocracy is a necessary part of temperate monarchy, and that the latter must exist upon the base of the former, or not at all-we are by no means converts to the very decided opinion he has expressed of the impossibility of restoring them both to France.