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Whatever is the rule by which she,
apparently to us, scatters them among mankind, that rule remains
a secret to man. It would be as ridiculous to attempt to fix the
hereditaryship of human beauty, as of wisdom. Whatever wisdom
constituently is, it is like a seedless plant; it may be reared when
it appears, but it cannot be voluntarily produced. There is always a
sufficiency somewhere in the general mass of society for all purposes;
but with respect to the parts of society, it is continually changing
its place. It rises in one to-day, in another to-morrow, and has most
probably visited in rotation every family of the earth, and again
withdrawn.

As this is in the order of nature, the order of government must
necessarily follow it, or government will, as we see it does, degenerate
into ignorance. The hereditary system, therefore, is as repugnant to
human wisdom as to human rights; and is as absurd as it is unjust.

As the republic of letters brings forward the best literary productions,
by giving to genius a fair and universal chance; so the representative
system of government is calculated to produce the wisest laws, by
collecting wisdom from where it can be found. I smile to myself when I
contemplate the ridiculous insignificance into which literature and all
the sciences would sink, were they made hereditary; and I carry the same
idea into governments. An hereditary governor is as inconsistent as an
hereditary author. I know not whether Homer or Euclid had sons; but
I will venture an opinion that if they had, and had left their works
unfinished, those sons could not have completed them.

Do we need a stronger evidence of the absurdity of hereditary government
than is seen in the descendants of those men, in any line of life, who
once were famous? Is there scarcely an instance in which there is not
a total reverse of the character? It appears as if the tide of mental
faculties flowed as far as it could in certain channels, and then
forsook its course, and arose in others. How irrational then is the
hereditary system, which establishes channels of power, in company
with which wisdom refuses to flow! By continuing this absurdity, man is
perpetually in contradiction with himself; he accepts, for a king, or a
chief magistrate, or a legislator, a person whom he would not elect for
a constable.

It appears to general observation, that revolutions create genius and
talents; but those events do no more than bring them forward. There is
existing in man, a mass of sense lying in a dormant state, and which,
unless something excites it to action, will descend with him, in that
condition, to the grave. As it is to the advantage of society that
the whole of its faculties should be employed, the construction of
government ought to be such as to bring forward, by a quiet and regular
operation, all that extent of capacity which never fails to appear in
revolutions.

This cannot take place in the insipid state of hereditary government,
not only because it prevents, but because it operates to benumb. When
the mind of a nation is bowed down by any political superstition in its
government, such as hereditary succession is, it loses a considerable
portion of its powers on all other subjects and objects. Hereditary
succession requires the same obedience to ignorance, as to wisdom;
and when once the mind can bring itself to pay this indiscriminate
reverence, it descends below the stature of mental manhood. It is fit
to be great only in little things. It acts a treachery upon itself, and
suffocates the sensations that urge the detection.

Though the ancient governments present to us a miserable picture of the
condition of man, there is one which above all others exempts itself
from the general description. I mean the democracy of the Athenians. We
see more to admire, and less to condemn, in that great, extraordinary
people, than in anything which history affords.

Mr. Burke is so little acquainted with constituent principles of
government, that he confounds democracy and representation together.
Representation was a thing unknown in the ancient democracies. In those
the mass of the people met and enacted laws (grammatically speaking) in
the first person. Simple democracy was no other than the common hall of
the ancients. It signifies the form, as well as the public principle of
the government. As those democracies increased in population, and the
territory extended, the simple democratical form became unwieldy and
impracticable; and as the system of representation was not known, the
consequence was, they either degenerated convulsively into monarchies,
or became absorbed into such as then existed. Had the system of
representation been then understood, as it now is, there is no reason
to believe that those forms of government, now called monarchical or
aristocratical, would ever have taken place. It was the want of
some method to consolidate the parts of society, after it became too
populous, and too extensive for the simple democratical form, and also
the lax and solitary condition of shepherds and herdsmen in other parts
of the world, that afforded opportunities to those unnatural modes of
government to begin.

As it is necessary to clear away the rubbish of errors, into which the
subject of government has been thrown, I will proceed to remark on some
others.

It has always been the political craft of courtiers and
court-governments, to abuse something which they called republicanism;
but what republicanism was, or is, they never attempt to explain. Let us
examine a little into this case.

The only forms of government are the democratical, the aristocratical,
the monarchical, and what is now called the representative.

What is called a republic is not any particular form of government. It
is wholly characteristical of the purport, matter or object for which
government ought to be instituted, and on which it is to be employed,
Res-Publica, the public affairs, or the public good; or, literally
translated, the public thing. It is a word of a good original, referring
to what ought to be the character and business of government; and in
this sense it is naturally opposed to the word monarchy, which has a
base original signification. It means arbitrary power in an individual
person; in the exercise of which, himself, and not the res-publica, is
the object.

Every government that does not act on the principle of a Republic, or
in other words, that does not make the res-publica its whole and sole
object, is not a good government. Republican government is no other than
government established and conducted for the interest of the public, as
well individually as collectively. It is not necessarily connected
with any particular form, but it most naturally associates with the
representative form, as being best calculated to secure the end for
which a nation is at the expense of supporting it.

Various forms of government have affected to style themselves a
republic. Poland calls itself a republic, which is an hereditary
aristocracy, with what is called an elective monarchy. Holland calls
itself a republic, which is chiefly aristocratical, with an hereditary
stadtholdership. But the government of America, which is wholly on the
system of representation, is the only real Republic, in character and in
practice, that now exists. Its government has no other object than the
public business of the nation, and therefore it is properly a republic;
and the Americans have taken care that This, and no other, shall
always be the object of their government, by their rejecting everything
hereditary, and establishing governments on the system of representation
only. Those who have said that a republic is not a form of government
calculated for countries of great extent, mistook, in the first
place, the business of a government, for a form of government; for
the res-publica equally appertains to every extent of territory and
population. And, in the second place, if they meant anything with
respect to form, it was the simple democratical form, such as was the
mode of government in the ancient democracies, in which there was no
representation. The case, therefore, is not, that a republic cannot be
extensive, but that it cannot be extensive on the simple democratical
form; and the question naturally presents itself, What is the best form
of government for conducting the Res-Publica, or the Public Business
of a nation, after it becomes too extensive and populous for the simple
democratical form? It cannot be monarchy, because monarchy is subject
to an objection of the same amount to which the simple democratical form
was subject.

It is possible that an individual may lay down a system of principles,
on which government shall be constitutionally established to any extent
of territory. This is no more than an operation of the mind, acting by
its own powers. But the practice upon those principles, as applying to
the various and numerous circumstances of a nation, its agriculture,
manufacture, trade, commerce, etc., etc., a knowledge of a different
kind, and which can be had only from the various parts of society. It is
an assemblage of practical knowledge, which no individual can possess;
and therefore the monarchical form is as much limited, in useful
practice, from the incompetency of knowledge, as was the democratical
form, from the multiplicity of population. The one degenerates, by
extension, into confusion; the other, into ignorance and incapacity, of
which all the great monarchies are an evidence. The monarchical form,
therefore, could not be a substitute for the democratical, because it
has equal inconveniences.

Much less could it when made hereditary. This is the most effectual of
all forms to preclude knowledge. Neither could the high democratical
mind have voluntarily yielded itself to be governed by children and
idiots, and all the motley insignificance of character, which attends
such a mere animal system, the disgrace and the reproach of reason and
of man.

As to the aristocratical form, it has the same vices and defects with
the monarchical, except that the chance of abilities is better from the
proportion of numbers, but there is still no security for the right use
and application of them.*[17]

Referring them to the original simple democracy, it affords the true
data from which government on a large scale can begin.



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