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We should laugh at the idea of a Council of Five
Hundred, or a Council of Ancients, or a Parliament, or any national
assembly, who should be all children in leading strings and in the
cradle, or be all sick, insane, deaf, dumb, lame or blind, at the same
time, or be all upon crutches, tottering with age or infirmities. Any
form of government that was so constructed as to admit the possibility
of such cases happening to a whole Legislature would justly be the
ridicule of the world; and on a parity of reasoning, it is equally as
ridiculous that the same cases should happen in that part of government
which is called the Executive; yet this is the contemptible condition to
which an Executive is always subject, and which is often happening,
when it is placed in an hereditary individual called a king. When
that individual is in either of the cases before mentioned, the whole
Executive is in the same case; for himself is the whole. He is then (as
an Executive) the ridiculous picture of what a Legislature would be if
all its members were in the same case. The one is a whole made up of
parts, the other a whole without parts; and anything happening to the
one, (as a part or sec-tion of the government,) is parallel to the same
thing happening to the other.

As, therefore, an hereditary executive called a king is a perfect
absurdity in itself, any attachment to it is equally as absurd. It is
neither instinct or reason; and if this attachment is what is called
royalism in France, then is a royalist inferior in character to every
species of the animal world; for what can that being be who acts neither
by instinct nor by reason? Such a being merits rather our derision
than our pity; and it is only when it assumes to act its folly that it
becomes capable of provoking republican indignation. In every other
case it is too contemptible to excite anger. For my own part, when I
contemplate the self-evident absurdity of the thing, I can scarcely
permit myself to believe that there exists in the high-minded nation of
France such a mean and silly animal as a royalist.

As it requires but a single glance of thought to see (as is before said)
that all the parts of which government is composed must be at all times
in a state of full maturity, it was not possible that men acting under
the influence of reason, could, in forming a Constitution, admit an
hereditary Executive, any more than an hereditary Legislature. I go
therefore to examine the other cases.

In the first place, (rejecting the hereditary system,) shall the
Executive by election be an _individual or a plurality_.

An individual by election is almost as bad as the hereditary system,
except that there is always a better chance of not having an idiot. But
he will never be any thing more than a chief of a party, and none but
those of that party will have access to him. He will have no person
to consult with of a standing equal with himself, and consequently be
deprived of the advantages arising from equal discussion.

Those whom he admits in consultation will be ministers of his own
appointment, who, if they displease by their advice, must expect to
be dismissed. The authority also is too great, and the business too
complicated, to be intrusted to the ambition or the judgment of an
individual; and besides these cases, the sudden change of measures
that might follow by the going out of an individual Executive, and the
election of a new one, would hold the affairs of a nation in a state of
perpetual uncertainty. We come then to the case of a plural Executive.

It must be sufficiently plural, to give opportunity to discuss all the
various subjects that in the course of national business may come before
it; and yet not so numerous as to endanger the necessary secrecy that
certain cases, such as those of war, require.

Establishing, then, plurality as a principle, the only question is, What
shall be the number of that plurality?

Three are too few either for the variety or the quantity of business.
The Constitution has adopted five; and experience has shewn, from the
commencement of the Constitution to the time of the election of the new
legislative third, that this number of Directors, when well chosen, is
sufficient for all national executive purposes; and therefore a greater
number would be only an unnecessary expence. That the measures of the
Directory during that period were well concerted is proved by their
success; and their being well concerted shews they were well discussed;
and, therefore, that five is a sufficient number with respect to
discussion; and, on the other hand, the secret, whenever there was
one, (as in the case of the expedition to Ireland,) was well kept, and
therefore the number is not too great to endanger the necessary secrecy.

The reason why the two Councils are numerous is not from the necessity
of their being so, on account of business, but because that every
part of the republic shall find and feel itself in the national
representation.

Next to the general principle of government by representation, the
excellence of the French Constitution consists in providing means to
prevent that abuse of power that might arise by letting it remain too
long in the same hands. This wise precaution pervades every part of the
Constitution. Not only the legislature is renewable by a third every
year, but the president of each of the Councils is renewable every
month; and of the Directory, one member each year, and its president
every three months. Those who formed the Constitution cannot be accused
of having contrived for themselves. The Constitution, in this respect,
is as impartially constructed as if those who framed it were to die as
soon as they had finished their work.

The only defect in the Constitution is that of having narrowed the right
of suffrage; and it is in a great measure due to this narrowing the
right, that the last elections have not generally been good. My former
colleagues will, I presume, pardon my saying this to day, when they
recollect my arguments against this defect, at the time the Constitution
was discussed in the Convention.(1)

1 See Chapters XXIV. and XXV., also the letter prefaced to
XXVIII., in this volume.--_Editor._,

I will close this part of the subject by remarking on one of the most
vulgar and absurd sayings or dogmas that ever yet imposed itself upon
the world, which is, "_that a Republic is fit only for a small country,
and a Monarchy for a large one_." Ask those who say this their reasons
why it is so, and they can give none.

Let us then examine the case. If the quantity of knowledge in a
government ought to be proportioned to the extent of a country, and
the magnitude and variety of its affairs, it follows, as an undeniable
result, that this absurd dogma is false, and that the reverse of it is
true. As to what is called Monarchy, if it be adaptable to any country
it can only be so to a small one, whose concerns are few, little
complicated, and all within the comprehension of an individual. But when
we come to a country of large extent, vast population, and whose affairs
are great, numerous, and various, it is the representative republican
system only, that can collect into the government the quantity
of knowledge necessary to govern to the best national advantage.
Montesquieu, who was strongly inclined to republican government,
sheltered himself under this absurd dogma; for he had always the
Bastile before his eyes when he was speaking of Republics, and therefore
_pretended_ not to write for France. Condorcet governed himself by
the same caution, but it was caution only, for no sooner had he the
opportunity of speaking fully out than he did it. When I say this of
Condorcet, I know it as a fact. In a paper published in Paris, July,
1791, entitled, "_The Republican, or the Defender of Representative
Government?_" is a piece signed _Thomas Paine_.(1) That piece was
concerted between Condorcet and myself. I wrote the original in
English, and Condorcet translated it. The object of it was to expose the
absurdity and falsehood of the above mentioned dogma.

1 Chapter II. of this volume. See also my "Life of Paine,"
vol. i., p. 311.--Editor.

Having thus concisely glanced at the excellencies of the Constitution,
and the superiority of the representative system of government over
every other system, (if any other can be called a system,) I come to
speak of the circumstances that have intervened between the time the
Constitution was established and the event that took place on the 18th
of Fructidor of the present year.

Almost as suddenly as the morning light dissipates darkness, did the
establishment of the Constitution change the face of affairs in France.
Security succeeded to terror, prosperity to distress, plenty to famine,
and confidence increased as the days multiplied, until the coming of the
new third. A series of victories unequalled in the world, followed
each other, almost too rapidly to be counted, and too numerous to be
remembered. The Coalition, every where defeated and confounded, crumbled
away like a ball of dust in the hand of a giant. Every thing, during
that period, was acted on such a mighty scale that reality appeared a
dream, and truth outstript romance. It may figuratively be said, that
the Rhine and the Rubicon (Germany and Italy) replied in triumphs to
each other, and the echoing Alps prolonged the shout. I will not
here dishonour a great description by noticing too much the English
government. It is sufficient to say paradoxically, that in the magnitude
of its littleness it cringed, it intrigued, and sought protection in
corruption.

Though the achievements of these days might give trophies to a nation
and laurels to its heroes, they derive their full radiance of glory
from the principle they inspired and the object they accomplished.
Desolation, chains, and slavery had marked the progress of former wars,
but to conquer for Liberty had never been thought of. To receive
the degrading submission of a distressed and subjugated people, and
insultingly permit them to live, made the chief triumph of former
conquerors; but to receive them with fraternity, to break their chains,
to tell them they are free, and teach them to be so, make a new volume
in the history of man.

Amidst those national honours, and when only two enemies remained, both
of whom had solicited peace, and one of them had signed preliminaries,
the election of the new third commenced.



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