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In a word, those who are acquainted with republican governments, and, in general, who this case, to draw examples from my own country, et celebrare domestica facta, I shall relate facts which will be no less to the purpose.--In Geneva, in the year 1707, a law was enacted, that a general assembly of the people should be held, every
five years, to treat of the affairs of the republic: but the magistrates, who dreaded those assemblies, soon obtained from the citizens themselves the repeal of the law: and the first resolution of the people, in the first of those periodical assemblies (in the year 1712), was to abolish them for ever.
The profound secrecy with which the magistrates prepared their proposal to the citizens on that subject, and the sudden manner in which the latter, when assembled, were acquainted with it, and made to give their votes upon it, have indeed accounted but imperfectly for this strange determination of the people; and the consternation which seized the whole assembly when the result of the suffrages was proclaimed, has confirmed many in the opinion that some unfair means had been used. The whole transaction has been kept secret to this day; but the common opinion on this subject which has been adopted by M. Rousseau, in his Lettres de la Montagne, is this: The magistrates, it is said, had privately instructed the secretaries in whose ears the citizens were to whisper their suffrages: when a citizen said approbation, he was understood to approve the proposal of the magistrates ; when he said rejection, he was understood to reject the periodical assemblies.
In the year 1738, the citizens enacted at once into laws a small code of forty-four articles, by one single line of which they bound themselves for ever to elect the four syndics (the chiefs of the council of the twenty-five) out
know the manner in which business is transacted in numerous assemblies, will not scruple to affirm that the few who are united, who take an active part in public affairs, and whose station makes them conspicuous, have such an advantage over the many who turn their eyes towards them, and are without union among themselves, that, even with a middling degree of skill, they can at all times direct, at their pleasure, the general resolutions; that, as a
of the members of the same council; whereas they were before free in their choice. They at that time suffered also the word approved to be slipped into the law mentioned in the note, p. 225, which was transcribed from a former code: the consequence of which was, to render the magistrates absolute masters of the legislature.
The citizens had thus been successively stripped of all their political rights, and had little more left to them than the pleasure of being called a sovereign assembly when they met (which idea, it must be confessed, preserved among them a spirit of resistance which it would have been dangerous for the magistrates to provoke too far), and the power of at least refusing to elect the four syndics. Upon this privilege the citizens a few years ago (A. D. 1765 to 1768), made their last stand : and a singular conjunction of circumstances having happened at the same time, to raise and preserve among them, during three years, an uncommon spirit of union and perseverance, they in the issue succeeded, in a great measure, to repair the injuries which they had been made to do to themselves for two hundred years and more.
consequence of the very nature of things, there is no proposal, however absurd, to which a numerous assembly of men may not, at one time or other, be brought to assent,—and that laws would be wiser, and more likely to procure the advantage of all, if they were to be made by drawing lots, or casting dice, than by the suffrages of a multitude.
Advantages that accrue to the People from appointing
Representatives. How then shall the people remedy the disadvantages that necessarily attend their situation? How shall they resist the phalanx of those who have engrossed to themselves all the honours, dignities, and power in the state?
It will be by employing for their defence the same means by which their adversaries carry on their attack :-it will be by using the same weapons as they do,--the same order,the same kind of discipline.
They are a small number, and consequently easily united ;-a small number must therefore be opposed to them, that a like union may
also be obtained. It is because they are a small number, that they can deliberate on every occurrence, and never come to any resolutions but such as are maturely weighed: -it is because they are few, that they can have forms which continually serve them for general standards to resort to, approved maxims to which they invariably adhere, and plans which they never lose sight of :-here, therefore, I repeat it, oppose to them a small number, and you will obtain the like advantages.
Besides, those who govern, as a farther consequence of their being few, have a more considerable share, consequently feel a deeper concern in the success, whatever it may be, of their enterprises. As they usually profess a contempt for their adversaries, and are at all times acting an offensive part against them, they impose on themselves an obligation of conquering. They, in short, who are all alive from the most powerful incentives, and aim at gaining new advantages, have to do with a multitude, who wanting only to preserve what they already possess, are unavoidably liable to long intervals of inactivity and supineness. But the people, by appointing representatives, immediately gain to their cause that
advantageous activity which they before stood in need of, to put them on a par with their adversaries; and those passions become excited in their defenders, by which they themselves cannot be actuated.
Exclusively charged with the care of public liberty, the representatives of the people will be animated by a sense of the greatness of the
with which they are intrusted. Distinguished from the bulk of the nation, and forming among themselves a separate assembly, they will assert the rights of which they have been made the guardians, with all that warmth which the esprit de corps is used to inspire.* Placed on an elevated theatre, they will endeavour to render themselves still more conspicuous ; and the arts and ambitious activity of those who govern will now be encountered by the vivacity and perseverance of opponents actuated by the love of glory.
Lastly, as the representatives of the people will naturally be selected from among those citizens who are most favoured by fortune,
* If it had not been for an incentive of this kind, the English commons would not have vindicated their right of taxation with so much vigilance as they have done, against all enterprises (often perhaps involuntary) of the lords.