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and will have consequently much to preserve, they will, even in the midst of quiet times, keep a watchful eye on the motions of power. As the advantages they possess will naturally create a kind of rivalship between them and those who govern, the jealousy which they will conceive against the latter will give them an exquisite degree of sensibility on every increase of their authority. Like those delicate instruments which discover the operations of nature, while they are yet imperceptible to our senses, they will warn the people of those things which of themselves they never see but when it is too late ; and their greater proportional share, whether of real riches, or of those which lie in the opinions of men, will make them, if I may so express myself, the barometers, that will discover in its first beginning, every tendency to a change in the constitution.*
* All the above reasoning essentially requires that the representatives of the people should be united in interest with the people We shall soon see that this union really prevails in the English constitution, and may be called the master-piece of it.
The Subject continued.- The Advantages that accrue
to the People from their appointing Representatives are very inconsiderable, unless they also entirely
trust their Legislative Authority to them. The observations made in the preceding chapter are so obvious, that the people themselves, in popular governments, have always been sensible of the truth of them, and never thought it possible to remedy, by themselves alone, the disadvantages necessarily attending their situation. Whenever the oppressions of their rulers have forced them to resort to some uncommon exertion of their legal powers, they have immediately put themselves under the direction of those few men who had been instrumental in informing and encouraging them
and when the nature of the circumstances has required any degree of firmness and perseverance in their conduct, they have never been able to attain the ends they proposed to themselves, except by means of the most explicit deference to those leaders whom they had thus appointed.
But, as these leaders, thus hastily chosen, are easily intimidated by the continual display which is made before them of the terrors of power ;-as that unlimited confidence which the people now repose in them only takes place when public liberty is in the utmost danger, and cannot be kept up otherwise than by an extraordinary conjunction of circumstances, in which those who govern seldom suffer themselves to be caught more than once ;-the people have constantly sought to avail themselves of the short intervals of superiority which the chance of events had given them, for rendering durable those advantages which they knew would, of themselves, be but transitory, and for getting some persons appointed, whose peculiar office it may be to protect them, and whom the constitution shall thenceforward recognise. Thus it was that the people of Lacedæmon obtained their ephori, and the people of Rome their tribunes.
We grant this, will it be said; but the Roman people never allowed their tribunes to conclude any thing definitively; they, on the contrary, reserved to themselves the right of ratifying * any resolutions the latter should take. This, I answer, was the very circum
* See Rousseau's Social Contract.
stance that rendered the institution of tribunes totally ineffectual in the event.
The people thus wanting to interfere, with their own opinions, in the resolutions of those on whom they had, in their wisdom, determined entirely to rely—and endeavouring to settle with a hundred thousand votes things which would have been settled equally well by the votes of their advisers,—defeated in the issue every beneficial end of their former provisions; and while they meant to preserve an appearance of their sovereignty (a chimerical appearance, since it was under the direction of others that they intended to vote), they fell back into all those inconveniences which we have before mentioned.
The senators, the consuls, the dictators, and the other great men in the republic, whom the people were prudent enough to fear, and simple enough to believe, continued still to mix with them, and play off their political artifices. They continued to make speeches to them, * and still availed themselves of their
Valerius Maximus relates that the tribunes of the people having offered to propose some regulations in regard to the price of corn, in a time of great scarcity, Scipio Nasica over-ruled the assembly merely by saying, “ Silence, Romans ! I know better than you what is
privilege of changing at their pleasure the place and form of the public meetings. When they did not find it possible by such means to direct the resolutions of the assemblies, they pretended that the omens were not favourable, and under this pretext, or others of the same kind, they dissolved them.* And the tribunes when they had succeeded so far as to effect an union among themselves, thus were obliged to submit to the pungent mortification of seeing those projects which they had pursued with infinite labour, and even through the greatest dangers irrecoverably defeated by the most despicable artifices.
expedient for the republic.—Which words were no
sooner heard by the people, than they showed by a « silence full of veneration, that they were more affected “ by his authority, than by the necessity of providing for “their own subsistence.” Tacete, quæso, Quirites! Plus enim ego quam vos quid reipublicæ expediat intelligo.Quâ voce auditâ, omnes, pleno venerationis silentio, ma. gorem ejus auctoritatis quam alimentorum suorum curam egerunt.
Quid enim majus est, si de jure augurum quærimus (says Tully, who was himself an augur, and a senator also), quàm posse a summis imperiis et summis potestatibus comitiatus et concilia vel instituta dimittere vel habita rescindere? Quid gravius, quam rem susceptam dirimi, si unus augur ALIUM (id est, alium diem) dixerit? See De Legib. lib. ii. § 12.