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ART. XXXIII. The Principles of Politic Law: Being a
Sequel to the Principles of Natural and Civil Law. By J. J. Burlamaqui, Counsellor of State, and late Professor of Natural and Civil Law at Geneva. Transated into English by Mr. Nugent. 8vo. 6s. Nourse. TH
HE Principles of Natural Law, which a few years
ago were likewise translated into English by Mr. Nugent, were intended by the author as an introduction to A compleat System of the Laws of Nature and Nations: and it will be proper for such of our readers as are not acquainted with this book, to read it before they enter upon the perufal of the performance now before us. Burlamaqui, who, we are told, was descended from one of those noble families of Lucca, which, upon their embracing the Pro, teftant religion, were obliged, about two centuries ago, to take shelter in Geneva, appears to us to be a very judicious writer: his method is ealy and natural; his sentiments just and perspicuous; and his stile such as is suited to his subject.
He has divided the work now before us into four parts: in the first of which he treats of the original and nature of civil society, of sovereignity in general, and of its peculiar characters, limitations, and essential parts. The first chapter contains some general and preliminary reflexions, which serve as an introductlon to this and the following parts: after which the author proceeds, in the second chapter, to lay before his readers the principal conjectures of political writers, in regard to the original of societies: to which he adds the following reflexions:- That, in the institution of focieties, mankind, in all probability, thought rather of redressing the evils which they had experienced, than of procuring the several advantages resulting from laws, commerce, arts and sciences, and all those other things in which the beauty of history consists:--that the natural difposition of mankind, and their general manner of acting, do not by any means permit us to refer the institution of all governments to a general and uniform principle; it being more natural to think that different circumstances gave rise to different states :- that, though the first image of governments is undoubtedly to be seen in democratic society, or in families; yet there is all the propability in the world, that it was ambition, supported by force or abilities, which first subjected the several fathers of families under the dominion of a chief:-and that we must not imagine, that the
first states were such as exist in our days, human institutions having been alway's weak and imperfect in their beginnings, and only brought to perfection by time and experience. He observes, that the question concerning the original of the first governments is rather curious than useful or neceffary; that whatever can be said upon it is reducible to meer conjectures that have only more or less probability, and that the point of importance is to know, whether the establishment of a government; and the supreme authority, was really necessary, and whether mankind derive from thence any considerable advantages ?
This point he considers in the third chapter ; where, after enumerating the inconveniencies that attended the state of nature, he shews, that cívil liberty is far preferable to natural liberty, and that the civil ftate is, of all human ftates, the most perfect, the most reasonable, and confequently the natural state of man. In the fourth chapter, he examines into the essential constitution of states, and the manner in which they are formed.
• If we suppose, says he, that a multitude of people, who had lived hitherto independent of each other, wanted to establish a civil society, there is a necessity for different covenants, and for a general decree. 1. The first covenant is that by which each individual engages with all the rest to join for ever in one body, and to regulate, with one common consent, whatever regards their preservation, and their common security. Those who do not enter into this first engagement, remain excluded from the new society. 2. There must afterwards be a decree made for fettling the form of government; otherwise they could never take
fixt measures for promoting, effectually and in concert, the public fea curity and welfare. 3. In fine, when once the form of govern. 'ment is settled, there must be another covenant; whereby, after having pitched upon one or more persons to be invefted with the power of governing, thoie on whom this supreme authority is conferred, engage to consult molt carefully the common security and advantage, and the others promise fidelity and allegiance to the sovereign. This last covenant includes a submission of the strength and will of each individual to the will of the head of the society, as far as the public good requires: and thus it is, that a regular state and perfect government is formed.'
After treating of the sovereign, and the subjects in the fifth chapter, our author proceeds, in the fixth, to confider the foundation of sovereignty. . When we enquire here, VOL. VI. S
fays he, into the source of sovereignty, our intent is, to know the nearest and immediate source of it: now it is certain, that the fupreme authority, as well as the title on which this power is established, and which constitutes its right, is derived immediately from the very covenants which constitute civil society, and give birth to government.
And in fact, upon considering the primitive state of man, it appears most certain, that the appellations of fovereigns and subjects, masters and slaves, are unknown to nature. Nature has made us all of the fame fpecies, all equal, all free and independent of each other; and was willing that those, on whom she has bestowed the same facutties, should have all the same rights. It is therefore beyond all doubt, that, in this primitive state of nature, no man has of himself an original right of commanding others; or any title to fovereignty.
• There is none but God alone that has of himself, and in confequence of his nature and perfections, a natural, ef. fential, and inherent right of giving laws to mankind, and of exercising an absolute sovereignty over them. The cafe is otherwise between man and man: they are of their own nature as independent of one another as they are dependent of God. This liberty and independence is therefore a right naturally belonging to man, of which it would be unjust to deprive him against his will.
< But if this be the case, and there is yet a fupreme authority subsisting amongít mankind, whence can this authority arise, unless it be from the compacts or covenants, which men have made amongst themselves upon this subject? For, as we have a right of transferring our property to another by a covenant; lo, by a voluntary, submission, a person may convey to another, who accepts of the renunciation, the natural right he had of difpofing entirely of his liberty and natural strength.
• It must therefore be agreed, that fovereignty resides originally in the people, and in each individual with regard to himself; and that it is the transferring and uniting the several rights of individuals in the person of the fovereign, that constituted him such, and really produces sovereignty. It is beyond all dispute, for example that when the Romans chofe Romulus and Numa for their kings, they must have conferred upon them, by this very act, the lovereignty, which those princes were not pofleiled of before, and to.
which they had certainly no other right but what was de rived from the election of the people.
In the two remaining chapters of this first part, our author considers the essential characters of fovereignty, its modifications, extent, and limits, and the different effential rights which it includes. In the second part, he explains the different forms of
gos vernment, the ways of acquiring or losing sovereignty, and the reciprocal duties of sovereigns and subjects. This part is divided into seven chapters: in the first of which he confiders the fimple and mixed forms of government; shews 'what is necessary for the constitution of each form, and points out the defects it is liable to: after which, he proceeds, in the second, to examine which is the best form of government. He observes that liberty, which comprehends every thing valuable in human life, has two enemies to be afraid of in civil society, viz. licentiousness, and tyranny: that the height of happiness and human prudence is to know how to guard against these two enemies: and that the best governments are those which are so tempered, that, by equally avoiding tyranny and licentioufness, they secure the happiness of the subjects. There are, says he, in general, two ways of finding this temperament: the first consists in lodging the sovereignty in a council fo composed, both as to the number and choice of persons, as that there may be a moral certainty that they shall have no other interests than those of the community, and that they shall always give a faithful account of their conduct to it. This is what we see happily practised in most republics.
« The second is, by fundamental laws, to limit the fovereignty of the prince in monarchic states, or to give the person, who enjoys the honours and title of the sovereignty, only a part of the fovereign authority, and to lodge the other in different hands; for example, in a council, or parliament. This is what produces limited monarchies.
As for monarchies, it is proper, for example, that the military power, the legislative power, and that of raising taxes, should be lodged in different hands, to the end that they may not be easily abused. 'Tis easy to conceive, that these modifications can be made in different manners. The general rule, which prudence directs to follow, is to limit the power of the prince, so that nothing may be dreaded from it; but at the same time not to go to excess, for fear of weakening and enervating the government altogether.
• By following this juft medium, the people will enjoy the most perfect liberty, since they have all the moral sureties, that the prince will not abuse his power. The prince, on the other hand, being as it were, under a neceflity of doing his duty, considerably strengthens his authority, and enjoys the greatest happiness and the most solid glory: for, as the felicity of the people is the end of government, it is also the surest foundation of the throne.
• This species of monarchy, limited by a mixed government, unites the principal advantages of absolute monarchy, and of the aristocratic and popular governments; and at the same time avoids the dangers and inconveniences which are peculiar to each. This then is the happy temperament which we seek for.
• As for aristocratic governments, we must first distinguilh aristocracy by birth, from that which is elective, Aristocracy, by birth, has several advantages; but it has also very great inconveniencies. It inspires the nobility, who govern, with pride; and it entertains, between the grandees and the people, a separation, a contempt, and a jealousy, which produces great evils.
But elective aristocracy has all the advantages of the former, without its defects. As there is no privilege of exclusion, and as the door to employments is open to all the citizens, we find neither pride nor feparation amongit them. On the contrary, there is a general emulation among all the members, which turns every thing to the public good, and contributes infinitely to the preservation of liberty.
Thus, if we suppose, that, in an elective aristocracy, the fovereignty is in the hands of a council fo numerous, as to include in its bofom the most important interests of the state, and never to have any opposite to them: if, befides, this council is so small, as to maintain order, concord and secrecy; if it is chosen from among the wiseft, and most virtuous of the citizens ; and, lastly, if the authority of this council is limited and kept within rule : it cannot be doubted, but such a government is very proper, of itself, to promote the happiness of a nation.
Ć What is most delicate in thele governments, is, to temper them in such a manner, as that, at the same time, that the people are assured of their liberty, by giving them fome share in the government, not to push these aflurances too far, and make the government approach too much to