Moral Philosophy

Chapter VIII. Of the State.

Section I. -- Of the Monstrosities called Leviathan and Social Contract.

1. THOMAS HOBBES, than whom never was greater genius for riding an idea, right or wrong, to the full length that it will go, was born in 1588: and notwithstanding his twelve pipes of tobacco daily, his vigorous constitution endured to his ninety-second year. The first half of his life fell in with the age of the greatest predominance of Calvinism. In religion he was scarcely a Calvinist, indeed he laboured under a suspicion of atheism: but his philosophy is accurately cast in the mould of the grim theology of Geneva. We may call it the philosophy of Calvinism. It has for its central tenet, that human nature either was from the first, or is become, bad, "desperately wicked," depraved, corrupt, and utterly abominable, so that whatever is natural to man, in so far forth as it is natural, is simply evil. The remedy for our evil nature Hobbes finds in no imputed merits of a Redeemer, no irresistible victorious grace, but in the masterful coercion of a despotic civil power. But, lest any one should suspect that there was at least this good in man, a propensity to civil society and obedience to the rulers of cities, Hobbes insists that man is by nature wholly averse to society with his kind: that the type of the race is an Ishmael, "a wild man, his hand against all men, and all men's hands against him:" in fact that the state of nature is a state of war all round. He writes (Leviathan, c. xiii.): "Men have no pleasure, but on the contrary a great deal of grief, in keeping company where there is no power able to overawe them all. For every man looketh that his companion should value him at the same rate he sets on himself; and upon all signs of contempt or undervaluing naturally endeavours, as far as he dares (which among them that have no common power to keep them quiet, is far enough to make them destroy each other), to extort a greater value from his contemners by damage, and from others by the example. . . . Hereby it is manifest, that during the time that men live without a power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war, and such a war as is of every man against every man. . . . In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain, and consequently no culture of the earth: no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea: no commodious building: no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force: no knowledge of the face of the earth: no account of time: no arts, no letters, no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. To this war of every man against every man this also is consequent, that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice, have there no place. Where there is no common power there is no law: where no law, no injustice. . . . It is consequent also to the same condition, that there be no propriety, no dominion, no mine and thine distinct, but only that to be every man's that he can get, and for so long as he can keep it."

2. Such is what Hobbes is pleased to call "the natural condition of mankind," a condition which man would have every natural reason for getting out of with all speed, were he ever so unhappy as to fall into it. It is true that, apart from civil government, violence would reign on earth. But it is not true that to live apart from civil government is the natural condition of mankind. It is not true that the only motive which draws men into civil society is the fear of violence, as though there were no such facts and exigencies of human nature as sympathy, friendship, intellectual curiosity, art, religion. It is not true that the one reason for the existence of the civil power consists in this, that without the restraining hand of the magistrate men would bite and devour one another. Lastly, it is not true that all rights, notably rights of property, are the creation of the State. A man is a man first and a citizen afterwards. As a man, he has certain rights actual and potential (c. v., s. i., p. 244): these the State exists, not to create, for they are prior to it in the order of nature, but to determine them, where indeterminate, to sanction and to safeguard them.

Natural rights go before legal rights, and are presupposed to them, as the law of nature before that law which is civil and positive. It is an "idol of the tribe" of lawyers to ignore all law but that upon which their own professional action takes its stand.

3. "In considering man as he must have come from the hands of nature," writes Jean Jacques Rousseau, "I behold an animal less strong than some, less active than others, but upon the whole in organism having the advantage of them all. I behold him appeasing his hunger under an oak, slaking his thirst in the first brook, finding a bed at the foot of the same tree that furnished his repast, and there you have all his cravings satisfied." (Discours sur l'origine de l'inégalité.) This noble savage -- quite a contrast to Hobbes's ruffian primeval, "nasty, brutish," and short-lived -- observes and imitates the industry, and gradually raises himself to the instinct of the beasts among whom he lives. His constitution is robust, and almost inaccessible to malady. He attains to old age, free from gout and rheumatism. He surpasses the fiercest wild beasts in address as much as they surpass him in strength, and so arrives to dwell among them without fear. Yet withal he is distinguished from brutes by free-will and perfectibility, qualities which gradually draw him out of his primeval condition of tranquil innocence, lead him through a long course of splendours and errors, of vices and virtues, and end by making him a tyrant at once over nature and over himself.

4. Rousseau's life, 1715-1778, was a continual protest against the formalism, affectation, pedantry and despotism of the age of the Bourbons. His ideal of man was the unconventional, unconstrained, solitary, but harmless and easy-going savage. Hobbes was the growth of a sterner and more serious age. The only reality to him in heaven and on earth was force: his one idea in philosophy was coercion. Human nature to him was an embodiment of brute violence ever in need of violent restraint. Rousseau, an optimist, saw nothing but good in man's original nature: to the pessimist mind of Hobbes all was evil there. Neither of them saw any natural adaptation to social life in the human constitution. To live in society was, in both their views, an artificial arrangement, an arbitrary convention. But Hobbes found in the intolerable evils of a state of nature an excellent reason why men should quit it for the unnatural condition of citizens. Rousseau found no reason except, as he says, quelque funeste hasard. The problem for Hobbes stood thus: how men entering society, might be "cribbed, cabined, and confined" to the utmost in order to keep down their native badness. Rousseau's concern was, how one might so become a citizen as yet to retain to the full the delightful liberty of a tropical savage. Hobbes's solution is the Leviathan, Rousseau's the Social Contract. The prize, we think, rests with the Englishman: but the reader shall judge.

5. And first of the Social Contract. Rousseau proposes "to find a form of association which shall defend and protect with all the strength of the community the person and the goods of each associate, and whereby each one, uniting himself to all, may nevertheless obey none but himself and remain as free as before." (Contrat Social, i. 6.) This proposal is hopeless, it is a contradiction in terms. No man can contract and remain as free as before, but he binds himself either under a wider obligation to do or abstain, where he was not bound before, or under a stronger obligation where he was bound already. Nevertheless Rousseau finds a means of accomplishing the impossible and the self-contradictory. "Each of us puts into a common stock his person and all his power under the supreme direction of the general will; and we receive in our turn the offering of the rest, each member as an inseparable part of the whole. Instantly, instead of the private person of each contracting party, this act of association produces a moral and collective body, composed of as many members as the assembly has voices, which body receives by this same act its unity, its common Ego, its life and its will." (ib.) This awful signing away of all your rights, so that your very personality is merged in that of the community -- a self-renunciation going far beyond that of profession in any religious order -- ought certainly, as Rousseau says, to be "the most voluntary act in the world;" and he adds the characteristic reason: "every man being born free and master of himself, none can, under any pretence whatsoever, subject him without his own consent." (Contrat Social, iv. 2.) Then you ask: When have I made this large contract by the most voluntary act in the world? Rousseau replies: "When the State is instituted, consent is in residing." (ib.) But, you reply, my residence is anything but the most voluntary act in the world: it would be awkward for me to emigrate; and if I did emigrate, it would only be to some other State: I cannot possibly camp out and be independent in the woods, nor appease my hunger under an oak. To this plea Rousseau quite gives in, remarking that "family, goods, the want of an asylum, necessity, violence, may keep an inhabitant in the country in spite of himself; and in that case his mere sojourn no longer supposes his consent to the contract." (ib.) Then none of us have made the contract, for we have never had the option of living anywhere except in some State.

6. Hobbes, after laying down the necessity of men combining for protection against mutual injustice, observes that a mere promise or agreement not to injure any one will not suffice: "for the agreement of men is by covenant only, which is artificial; and therefore no wonder if there be something else required besides covenant to make their agreement constant and lasting, which is a common power to keep them in awe and to direct their actions to the common benefit." He continues: "The only way to erect such a common power . . . is to confer all their power and strength upon one man or upon one assembly of men, that may reduce all their wills by plurality of voices unto one will: which is as much as to say, to appoint one man or assembly of men to bear their person; and every one to own, and to acknowledge himself to be the author of, whatsoever he that so beareth their person shall act or cause to be acted in those things which concern the common peace and safety; and therein to submit their wills every one to his will, and their judgments to his judgment. This is more than consent or concord, -- it is a real unity of them all in one and the same person, made by covenant of every man with every man, in such manner as if every man should say to every man: I authorise, and give up my right of governing myself to this man or to this assembly of men, on this condition, that thou give up thy right to him, and authorise all his actions in like manner. This done, the multitude so united in one person is called a commonwealth, in Latin civitas. This is the generation of that great Leviathan, or rather, to speak more reverently, of that mortal god, to whom we owe under the immortal God our peace and defence." (Leviathan, c. xvii.) This idea of all the rights and personalities of the individuals who contract to live socially being fused and welded together into the one resultant personality and power of the State, has evidently been borrowed by Rousseau from Hobbes. We shall deal with the idea presently. Meanwhile several points claim our notice.

7. The hideous piece of cynicism whereby Rousseau (Contrat Social, iv. 2), after promising you that, if you join his commonwealth, you shall obey none but yourself, then goes on to tell you that you obey yourself in obeying the will of the majority, even when it puts you in irons or leads you to death -- because as a citizen you have once for all renounced your own will, and can only wish what the majority wishes, -- has its root in the position of Hobbes, that "every subject is author of every act the sovereign doth." (Leviathan, c. xxi.)

8. A real and important difference between the Leviathan and the Social Contract, is that Hobbes (c. xix.) allows various distributions of sovereign power, but prefers monarchy: Rousseau (l. ii., c. i.) will have it that sovereignty is vested inalienably in the people: of which doctrine more to follow.

9. Men are by ature equal, say Rousseau and Hobbes and many more respectable authors. Yes, in their specific nature, that is, they are all equally men. Similarly you have it that all triangles are equal, if that is a proposition of any value. But men as individuals are not all equal. One is stronger in body, another more able in mind: one predisposed to virtue, another to vice: one born in affluence and honour, another in squalor. Not men in the abstract, but living men, start at different points of vantage, and the distance between them widens as they run the race of life. We may lay it down as an axiom, in diametric opposition to Rousseau, that inequalities are natural, equalities artificial.

10. Man is born free: so opens the first chapter of the Contrat Social. If free of all duties, then void of all rights (c. v., s. i., nn. 5, 7, pp. 246, 247): let him then be promptly knocked on the head as a sacrifice to Malthus; and with the misformed children born in Plato's Republic, "they will bury him in a secret and unseen spot, as is befitting."

11. Hobbes and Rousseau go upon this maxim, which has overrun the modern world, that no man can be bound to obedience to another without his own consent. The maxim would be an excellent one, were men framed like the categories of Aristotle -- substance, quantity, quality, relation, and the rest -- each peering out of his own pigeonhole, an independent, self-sufficient entity. But men are dependent, naturally dependent whether they will or no, every human being on certain definite others, -- the child on the parent, the citizen on the State whose protection he enjoys, and all alike on God. These natural dependences carry with them natural uncovenanted obediences, -- to parents, filial duty -- to country, loyalty -- to God, piety: all which are embraced in the Latin term pietas. (See St. Thomas, 2a 2ae, q. 101, art. i, in corp.) The fatal maxim before us is the annihilation of pietas. In lieu of loyal submission we get a contract, a transaction of reasoned commercial selfishness between equal and equal. This perverse substitution has called forth Leo XIII.'s remark on the men of our time, "Nothing comes so amiss to them as subjection and obedience," Nihil tam moleste ferunt quam subesse et parere. (Encyclical on Christian Marriage.)

12. The common extravagance of the Leviathan and the Social Contract is the suppression of the individual, with his rights and his very personality, which is all blended in the State. (See Rousseau's words above quoted, n. 5, and those of Hobbes, n. 6.) The reservations in favour of the individual made by Hobbes, Leviathan, c. xxi., and by Rous- seau, Contrat Social, l. ii., c. iv., are either trifles or self-contradictions. But it is not in man's power by any contract thus to change his nature, so as to become from autocentric heterocentric (c. ii., s. i., n. 2, p. 203; c. v., s. i., n. 1, p. 244), from a person a thing, from a man a chattel, void of rights and consequently of duties, and bound to serve this Collective Monster, this Aggregated Idol, with the absolute devotedness that is due to God alone. The worship of the new Moloch goes well with the dark misanthropism of Hobbes: but in Rousseau, the believer in the perfect goodness of unrestrained humanity, it is about the most glaring of his many inconsistencies. It is of course eagerly taken up by the Socialists, as carrying all their conclusions. It is the political aspect of Socialism.

Reading. -- Burke, Warren Hastings, Fourth Day, the passage beginning, "He have arbitrary power".

Section II. -- Of the theory that civil Power is an aggregate formed by subscription of the powers of individuals.

1. The Greeks had a name epanos, which meant a feast where the viands were supplied by each guest contributing in kind. If, in a party of four, one man brought a ham, another a rabbit, a third a dish of truffles, and a fourth a salmon, no one would expect that, when the cover was raised, there should appear a pigeon-pie. That would not be in the nature of an epanos. Now not only Hobbes and Rousseau, but Locke and a great multitude of modern Englishmen with him, hold that the power of the State is an aggregate, the algebraic sum of the powers whereof the component members would have stood possessed, had they lived in what is called, by a misleading phrase, the state of nature," that is, the condition of men not subject to civil authority. These powers, -- either, as Hobbes and Rousseau virtually say, all of them, or, as Locke and the common opinion has it, only some of them, -- men are supposed to resign as they enter into the State. If therefore there appears in the City, Nation, State, or Commonwealth, a certain new and peculiar power, which belongs to no individual in the "state of nature," or, as I prefer to call it, the extra-civil state, then what we may designate as the Aggregation Theory breaks down, and another origin must be sought of civil principality. But there is such a power in the State, new and peculiar, and not found in any of the component individuals: it is the power and authority to punish on civil grounds. It is the right of the rods and axes, that were borne before the Roman magistrate. It is, in its most crucial form, the right to punish with death.

2. We are not here concerned with proving the existence of this right. It is generally admitted: we assume it accordingly, and shall prove it later on. Nor are we concerned with domestic punishment, inflicted by the head of a family within his own household, for the good of that household, stopping short of any irreparable harm to the sufferer. (St. Thos., 2a 2ae, q. 65, art. 2, ad. 2.) Leaving this aside, we say, and have proved already, that one private individual has no right to punish another, neither medicinally for the amendment of the delinquent, nor by way of deterrent for the good of the community, nor in the way of retribution for his own satisfaction. He has the right of self-defence, but not of punishment: the two things are quite different. He may also exact restitution, where restitution is due: but that again is not punishing. If he is in the extra-civil state, he may use force, where prudence allows it, to recover what he has lost. This right of private way really is surrendered by the individual, when the State is established: but war and punishment are two totally different ideas. Subjects are punished: war is levied on independent powers. (Ethics, c. ix., s. iii., nn. 4-6, pp. 171-174; Natural Law, c. ii., s. ii., n. 6, 8. 212.)

3. Opposite is the o inion of Locke, who writes: "The execution of the law of nature is in that state [of nature] put into every man's hands, whereby every one has a right to punish the transgressors of that law to such a degree as may hinder its violation: for the law of nature would, as all other laws that concern men in this world, be in vain, if there were nobody that in the state of nature had a power to execute that law." We observe that the punishment of offenders against the law of nature, as such, belongs to the Legislator, who is God alone. Certainly it is well, nay necessary, that there should be human law to bear out the law of nature: but human law is the creation of human society in its perfection, which is the State. Man is punished by man for breaking the laws of man, not -- except remotely -- for breaking the laws of God. Nor would it be any inconvenience, if the law of nature were in vain in a state wherein nature never intended men to live, wherein no multitude of men ever for any notable time have lived, a state which is neither actual fact nor ideal perfection, but a mere property of the philosophic stage, a broken article, an outworn speculation. Such is "the state of nature," as identified with the extra-civil state by Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau.

Section III. -- Of the true state of mature, which is the state of civil society; and consequently of the divine origin of power.

1. The State is defined by Aristotle (Politics, III., ix., 14): "the union of septs and villages in a complete and self-sufficient life." The first and most elementary community is the family, oikia. A knot of families associating together, claiming blood-relationship and descent, real or fictitious, from a common ancestor, whose name they bear, constitute a genos, called in Ireland a sept in Scotland a clan, nameless in England. When the sept come to cluster their habitations, or encampments, in one or more spots, and to admit strangers in blood to dwell among them, these hamlets, or camps, gradually reach the magnitude of a village. When a number of these villages, belonging to different septs, come to be contiguous to one another, this mere juxtaposition does not make of them a State. Nor does interchange of commodities, nor inter-marriage, nor an offensive and defensive alliance -- these are the mutual relations of a confederacy, Xumachia,but all these and more are needed for a State, polis. To be a State, it is requisite that these septs and villages should agree to regulate the conduct of their individual members by a common standard of social virtue, sufficient for their well-being as one community. This common standard is fixed by common consent, or by the decision of some power competent to act for all and to punish delinquents. The name of this common standard is law. (Ethics, c, vii., n. i, p. 126.) The community thus formed leads a life complete and self-sufficient, not being a member of another, but a body by itself, -- not part of any ulterior community, but complete in the fulness of social good and social authority.

2. Among the ancient Greeks and Italians, and to some extent also in mediaeval Italy and Germany, the city or municipality, with the small country district attached, was the State. With us the nation is the State; and accordingly we say my country where the Greek said my city. Bearing this difference in mind, as also the fact that the sept is not known amongst us except to antiquarians, and likewise that the village with us coincides with the parish, and that there are town as well as country parishes, -- upon these modern data we may amend Aristotle's definition thus: The State is the union of parishes and municipalities in a perfect and self-sufficient community.

3. The City State is well illustrated in the following narrative of Thucydides (ii., 15):

"In the time of Cecrops and the early kings as far as Theseus' Attica was always divided among several independent cities, with their own town-halls and magistrates; and when there was no alarm of an enemy, the inhabitants did not resort for common deliberation to the King, but severally managed their own affairs and took their own counsel, and some of them even went to war. But when Theseus came to the throne, he abolished the council-chambers and magistracies of the other cities, and centralised all the people in what is now the city [of Athens], where he appointed their one council-chamber and town-hall; and while they continued to occupy their own properties as before, he forced them to recognise this as their one city and State." Attica before Theseus was a confederacy, Xumachia, not a State, polis

4. A citizen is defined: "one who has access to a share in deliberative and judicial functions." (Ar., Pol. III., i., 12.) It is not necessary that he actually should share these functions, but the way to them should lie open to him: he should be a person qualified to share in them. There are various degrees of citizenship. Under a parliamentary government, we distinguish the member of parliament, the elector, and him who will be an elector as soon as he gets a house of his own; and again, the judge, and him who is liable to serve on juries. In an absolute monarchy there are no citizens, only subjects.

5. "The distribution of power in the State, and especially of the sovereign power, is called the polity" (politeia, Ar., Pol., III., vi., i), -- a word immortalised by the judicious Hooker, and happily recovered recently to the English language. The polity then is the distribution of the sovereignty. The person singular or collective, in whose hands the full sovereignty rests, is called the ruler. Be it observed that what we call the ruler is never one man, except in absolute monarchy. By the theory of the, British Constitution, the ruler is King, Lords, and Commons, together.

6. Nature requires that men generally live in society, domestic and civil, so that the individual be of the family, and families form associations, which again conspire to form one, perfect community, which is the State. The requirement of nature may be gathered from the universal practice of mankind. "If it (the word savage) means people without a settled form of government, without laws and without a religion, then, go where you like, you will not find such a race." (Max Müller, in Nineteenth Century, Jan. 1885, p. 114.) The same may be gathered from a consideration of what the State is, and of the ends which it serves. The State, as we have seen (n. 2), is a union of septs and villages, or of parishes and municipalities. The individual is born and nurtured in the family, and ordinarily becomes in time the parent of a new family. Families must combine to form septs by blood, or villages (or parishes) by locality. Municipalities we may leave aside, for a municipality is a potential State But we must consider the sept, village, or parish, which is the community intermediate between family, and State. Among the cogent reasons which require families to enter into this association, we may mention friendship, intermarriage, the interchange of services and commodities, the cultivation of the arts, the preservation of traditions and inventions.

7. But it is further necessary that these septs, villages, or parishes, should band together and combine to form a higher community, self-sufficient and perfect, -- for the determining of rights which Natural Law leaves undetermined, -- for the punishing of disturbers of the peace, if need be, even with death, -- for defence against a common enemy, -- for a union of counsels and resources to the execution of magnificent works. This self-sufficient and perfect community, which is not part of any higher community, is the State.

8. We may observe that the whole reason for the being of the State is not mutual need, nor the repression of violence. Main reasons these are, no doubt, but not the whole main reason. Even if men had no need of one another for the supply of their animal wants, they would still desire to converse for the satisfaction of their intellectual curiosity and their social affections. And even if we had all remained as void of guile, and as full of light and love, as our first parents were at their creation, we should still have needed the erection of States. In a State there are not only criminal but civil courts, where it is not wicked men alone who come to be litigants. From sundry passages of Scripture it would appear that even angels may disagree as to what is best and proper: angelic men certainly may and do. It is a mistake to look upon civil government, with its apparatus of laws and judgments, simply as a necessary evil, and remedy of the perverseness of mankind. On the contrary, were all men virtuous, States would still be formed, towering in magnificence above the States known to history, as the cedars of Lebanon above the scanty growths of a fell-side in our north country.

9. There can be no State without a tower to guide and govern it. It has indeed become the fashion to repeat, as the latest discovery in politics, that what a State needs is not government but administration. This saying comes of a theory, to be examined presently, that sovereign power abides permanently with the people at large, and that the sole function of princes, cabinets, and parliaments, is to provide means of giving effect to the popular will. This however is not quite a repudiation of government, but a peculiar view as to the seat and centre of government. Those who hold it, vigorously maintain the right of the Many to govern, control, and command the Few. The need of some governing authority in a State can be denied by none but an Anarchist, a gentleman who lives two doors beyond Rousseau on the side of unreason.

10. Every State is autonomous, self-governing, independent. Either the whole people taken collectively must rule the same whole taken distributively, or a part must rule the rest. The ruler is either the whole commonwealth, or more frequently a part of the commonwealth. An autocrat is part of the State which he governs. Sovereignty whole and entire is intrinsic to the State. A community that is to any extent governed from without, like British India or London, is not a State, but part of a State, for it is not a perfect community.

11. We have it therefore that man is a social animal. Naturally he is a member of a family. Nature requires that families should coalesce into higher communities, which again naturally converge and culminate in the State. Nature further requires that in every State there should be an authority to govern. But authority to govern and duty to obey are correlatives. Nature therefore requires submission to the governing authority in the State. In other words, Nature abhors anarchy as being the destruction of civil society, and as cutting the ground from under the feet of civilised man. The genuine state of nature, that state and condition, which nature allows and approves as proper for the evolution of the human faculties, is the state of man in civil society. That is lost where there is no judge in the land.

12. There are men full of a sentimental deference to authority and professions of obedience, who yet will not obey any of the authorities that actually are over them. These are disobedient men. He is an anarchist in practice, who meditates treason and rebellion against the "powers that be" actually over him in the State wherein he lives. To obey no actual power is to obey no power, as to wear no actual clothes is to go naked. To keep up the comparison, as a man may change his clothes upon occasion, and thus go through a brief interval of unclothedness without injury to health or violation of decency, notwithstanding the requirement of nature to wear clothes: so it may be or it may not be consonant with the exigency of our nature at times to subvert by insurrection the existing government in order to the substitution of a new authority; that does not concern us here. We are stating the general rule under ordinary circumstances. The submission to civil authority, which nature requires of us, must be paid in the coin of obedience to the actual established "powers that be."

13. Any one who understands how morality comes from God (Ethics, c. vi., s. ii. nn. 6-9, 13, pp. 119-125), can have no difficulty in seeing how civil power is of God also. The one point covers the other. We need no mention of God to show that disobedience, lying, and the seven deadly sins, are bad things for human nature, things to be avoided even if they were not forbidden. All the things that God forbids are against the good of man. Their being evil is distinguishable from their being prohibited, and antecedent to it. Now as drunkenness and unchastity are evil for man, so too is anarchy. The one remedy for anarchy is civil government. Even if there were no God, it would be still imperatively necessary, as we have seen, for mankind to erect political institutions, and to abide by the laws and ordinances of constitutional power. But there would be no formal obligation of submission to these laws and ordinances; and resistance to this power would be no more than philosophic sin. (Ethics, c. vi., s. ii., n. 6, p. 119.) What makes anarchy truly sinful and wrong is the prohibition of it contained in the Eternal Law, that law whereby God commands every creature, and particularly every man, to act in accordance with his own proper being and nature taken as a whole, and to avoid what is repugnant to the same. (Ethics, c. vi., s. ii., n. 9, p. 120.) Therefore, as man is naturally social, and anarchy is the dissolution of society, God forbids anarchy, and enjoins obedience to the civil power, under pain of sin and damnation. "They that resist, purchase to themselves damnation" (Rom. xiii. 2): where the theological student, having the Greek text before him, will observe that the same phrase is used as in 1 Cor. xi. 29 of the unworthy communicant, as though it were the like sin to rend our Lord's mystical Body by civil discord as to profane His natural Body by sacrilege. But to enjoin obedience and to bestow authority are the obverse and reverse of one and the same act. God therefore gives the civil ruler power and authority to command. This is the meaning of St. Paul's teaching that there is no power but from God, and that the powers that be are ordained of God. (Rom. xiii. 1.)

14. The argument is summed up in these seven consequent propositions:

15. If any one asks how the State and the civil power is of God any otherwise than the railway company with its power, or even the fever with its virulence, a moment's reflection will reveal the answer in the facts, that railway communication, however convenient, is not an essential feature of human life, as the State is: while diseases are not requirements in order to good, but incidental defects and evils of nature, permitted by God. Why God leaves man to cope with such evils, is not the question here.

Readings. -- Ar., Pol., I., ii.; III., i. ; III., ix., nn. 5-15.

Section IV. -- Of the Variety of Polities.

1. One Polity alone is against the natural law; that is every Polity which proves itself unworkable and inefficient: for the rest, various States exhibit various Politics workable and lawful, partly from the circumstances, partly from the choice, of the citizens: but the sum total of civil power is a constant quantity, the same for all States. We proceed to establish the clauses of this statement in succession.

2. If a watch be necessary to a railway guard, and he is bound to have one accordingly, it is also necessary, and he is bound to procure it, that the watch shall go and keep time. A watch that will not keep time is an unlawful article for him to depend upon, being tantamount to no watch, whereas he is bound to have a watch. Otherwise, be his watch large or small, gold, silver, or pinchbeck, all this is indifferent, so long as it be a reliable timekeeper. In like manner, we must have a State, we must have a government, and we must have a government that can govern. Monarchy, aristocracy, parliaments, wide or narrow franchise, centralisation, decentralisation, any one of these and countless other forms -- apart from the means whereby it is set up -- is a lawful government, where it is a workable one; unlawful, and forbidden by God and nature, where it cannot work. A form of government that from its own intrinsic defects could nowhere work, would be everywhere and always unlawful.

3. You cannot argue from the accomplished fact the lawfulness of the means whereby it was accomplished. Nor do we say that every form of government, which succeeds in governing, was originally set up in justice; nor again that the success of its rule is necessarily due to the use of just means. The Committee of Public Safety in Paris in 1794 did manage to govern, but it was erected in blood, and it governed by an unscrupulous disregard of everybody's rights. All that we say is, that no distribution of civil power as a distribution, or no polity as a polity (s. iii., n. 5, p. 312), is unlawful, if by it the government can be carried on. And the reason is plain. For all that nature requires is that there should be an efficient civil authority, not that this man should have it, or that one man or other should have it all, or that a certain class in council assembled should engross it, or that all the inhabitants of the country should participate in it. Any one of these arrangements that will work, satisfies the exigency of nature for civil rule, and is therefore in itself a lawful polity.

4. Working, and therefore, as explained, lawful polities are as multitudinous as the species of animals, Besides those that actually are, there is a variety without end, as of animals, so of polities, that might be and are not. We can classify only the main types. We ground our classification upon Ar., Pol., III., vii., modernising it so as to take in forms of representative government, whereof Aristotle had no conception.

(1) Monarchy, or the rule of the Single Person, in whose hands the whole power of the State is concentrated,e.g., Constantine the Great.

(2) Aristocracy, or the rule of the Few, which will be either direct or relresentative, according as either they themselves by their own votes at first hand, or representatives whom they elect, make the laws.

(3) Democracy, or the rule, of the Many, that is, of the whole community. Democracy, again, is either direct (commonly called pure) or representative. The most famous approach in history to pure democracy is the government of Athens, b.c. 438-338.

(4)Limited Monarchy

5. All civil government is for the governed, that is, for the community at large. The perversion of a polity is the losing sight of this principle, and the conducting of the polity in the interest of the governing body alone. By such perversion monarchy passes into tyranny, aristocracy into oligarchy, and democracy into ochlocracy or mob-rule. It might appear strange that, where the power rests with the whole people collectively, government should ever be carried on otherwise than in the interest of the entire community, did we not remember that the majority, with whom the power rests in a democracy, may employ it to trample on and crush the minority. Thus the Many may worry and harass the Few, the mean and poor the wealthy and noble: though commonly perhaps the worrying has been the other way about. Anyhow it is important to observe that there is no polity which of itself, and apart from the spirit in which it is worked, is an adequate safeguard and rock of defence against oppression.

6. The wide range of polities that history presents is not drawn out by the caprice of nations. The very fact of a certain nation choosing a certain polity, where they are free to choose, is an indication of the bent of the national character, and character is not a caprice. No North American population are ever likely to elect an absolute monarch to govern them. That polity which thrives on the shores of the Caspian, can strike no root on the banks of the Potomac. The choice of a polity is limited by the character of the electors and by the circumstances in which the election is made. Not every generation in a nation is free to choose its polity: but the choice and institution of the fathers binds the children. Up to a certain point ancestral settlements must be respected, or instability ensues, and anarchy is not far off. Thus the spirit of freedom should always act as Burke says, "as if in the presence of canonized forefathers."

7. The smallest State in the world is the little republic of Andorra in the Pyrenees. Though it be a paradox to say it, there is as much political power in Andorra as in Russia, -- one and the same measure of it in every State. In every State there is power for civil good to the full height of the emergencies that may arise. The same emergencies may arise everywhere, and everywhere there is full power to see that the commonwealth take no harm by them. What a great empire can do for this purpose,e.g., proclaim martial law, search houses, lay an embargo on the means of transport, impress soldiers, the same can the tiniest commonwealth do in the like need. And the ordinary functions of government are the same in both.

8. This seems at variance with the theory of some constitutions, according to which there are certain so-called fundamental laws, which the legislature cannot call in question, nor deal with in any way, but must take them in all its deliberations for positions established and uncontrovertible. The British Constitution recognizes no fundamental laws. There is no reform that may not legally be broached in Parliament and enacted there. Parliament is said to be "omnipotent," "able to do everything, except to make a man a woman." But in many legislatures it is not so. At Athens of old there were certain measures which no one could introduce for discussion in the Sovereign Assembly without rendering himself liable to a prosecution, graphê paranomôn. And there have been many monarchs termed absolute, who yet were bound by their coronation-oath, or by some other agreement with their people, to preserve inviolate certain institutions and to maintain certain laws. It may be contended that such a government as we have in England, which is theoretically competent to pass, any law within the limits of the natural law, has a. greater range of power than a government whose, operation is limited by a barrier of fundamental positive law. But this contention vanishes when we observe that there must remain in the State, which has fundamental laws, a power somewhere to reverse them. They can be reversed at least by the consent of the whole people. Thus at Athens. the graphê paranomôn could be suspended by a vote of the Assembly. A people can release their monarch from his coronation-oath in such portions of it as are not binding absolutely by divine law. Where fundamental law obtains, a portion of the civil power becomes latent, and only a diminished remainder is left free in the hands of the person or persons who are there said to rule. Such person or persons are not the adequate ruler of the State, as they have not the full power, but the people, with whom rests the latent authority to cancel certain laws, are to that extent partakers in the sovereignty. Where there is agreement of the whole people, great and small, no part of the power remains latent, but all is set free. With us, it may be observed, the, omnipotence of parliament has become a mere lawyer's theory. On every great issue, other than that on which the sitting parliament has been elected, it is the practice of ministers to "go to the country" by a new General Election. Thus only a certain measure of available authority is free at the disposal of parliament: the rest remaining, latent in the general body of the electorate. Such is our constitution in practice.

9. If in any State the whole power were free in the hands of one Man, there we might look to see made good the dictum of the judicious Hooker (Ecclesiastical Polity, bk. i., s. x., n. 5): "To live by one man's will became the cause of all men's misery." In a monarchy untrammelled by senate or popular assembly, it were well that some of the sovereign power should remain latent, and that His Majesty should rule in accordance with certain laws, not within his royal pleasure to revoke.

10. The State and the power of the State, apart from the polity, is of God. (s. iii., n. 14, p. 318.) The State under this or that polity and this or that ruler, is also of God. But, apart from the polity, the State is of God antecedently to any determination of any human will: because, willy nilly, man must live in civil society and God commands him so to do. But the State under this polity and this ruler is of God consequently to some determination of human volition. In this consequent sense we write Victoria Dei gratia.

11. There is little use in the enquiry, Which is the best polity? There is no polity which excels all other politics as man does the rest of animals. We judge of polities as of the various types of locomotives, according to the nature of the country where the are to run. Aristotle tells us that if we meet with a Pericles, we shall do best to make him our king, and hand over all our affairs to him. (Ar., Pol. III., xiii., 25: cf. Thucydides, ii., 65.) Otherwise, " for most cities and for most men, apart from exceptional circumstances, or a condition of ideal perfection, but having regard to what is ordinarily possible," he recommends a moderate republic under middle-class rule. (Ar., Pol., VI., xi., Ed. Congreve.) This he calls par excellence "a polity," politeia. Democracy, dêmokratia, with Aristotle, always means that perversion of democracy, which we call mob-rule. (Ar., Pol., III., vii., nn. 3, 5.)

12. In the English monarchy the whole majesty of the State shines forth in the Single Person who wears the Crown. The Crown is the centre of loyalty and gives dignity to the government. The Crown is above all parties in the State, knows their secrets, their purposes when in office as well as their acts, and is able to mediate, when party feeling threatens to bring government to a standstill. The British Crown has more weight of influence than of prerogatives. [Written in the month and year of jubilee, June, 1887.]

Readings. -- St. Thos., 1a 2ae, q. 105, art. i, in corp., ad 2, 5; Ar., Pol., III., xv.; ib., III., xvi., nn. 5-8; ib., VIII. (al. V.), xi. nn. 1-3.

Section V. -- Of the Divine Right of Kings and the Inalienable Sovereignty of the People.

1. " Those old fanatics of arbitrary power dogmatized as if hereditary monarchy were the only lawful government in the world, just as our new fanatics of popular arbitrary power maintain that a popular election is the only lawful source of authority."' (Burke, Reflections on French Revolution.)

We here stand between two idols of the tribe of politicians. We may call them Gog and Magog: Gog, the divine right of kings; Magog, the inalienable sovereignty of the people.

2. The position known in history as "the divine right of kings" may be best described as a political popedom. It is the belief of Catholics that our Divine Redeemer, instituting His Church by His own personal act as a perfect society and spiritual commonwealth, instituted in like manner the polity under which He willed it to be governed, namely, the Papal monarchy, begun in St. Peter and carried to completion according to our Lord's design under the line of Popes, Peter's successors. The monarchy thus established is essential to the Catholic Church. We speak not here of the temporal power which the Pope once enjoyed in the Roman States, but of his spiritual sovereignty over all Christendom The Pope cannot validly resign and put out of his own and his successors' hands, nor can the Cardinals take away from him, nor the Episcopate, one jot or tittle of this spiritual prerogative. He cannot, for instance, condition his infallibility on the consent of a General Council, or surrender the canonization of saints to the votes of the faithful at large. Such are the inalienable, Christ-given prerogatives til the Papacy. Henry VIII. feloniously set himself up for Pope within the realm of England. Blending together temporal and spiritual jurisdiction, he made out his rights and prerogatives as a monarch, even in the civil order, to be inalienable as in the spiritual. Spiritual and civil attributes together formed a jewelled circlet, one and indivisible, immoveably fixed on the brow of the King's Most Sacred Majesty. Grown and Swollen by their union with the spirituality, the civil attributes of the Crown were exaggerated to the utmost, and likewise declared inalienable. They were exaggerated till they came to embrace all the powers of government. The privileges of Parliament, and the limitations to the royal authority, set forth in the Petition of Right in 1628, were regarded as mere concessions tenable at the King's pleasure: from which point of view we understand the readiness of so conscientious a monarch as Charles I. to act against such privileges after he had allowed them. But to vest all the powers of government inalienably in the King, so that whoever else may seem to partake in them, shall partake only by royal sufferance, is tantamount to declaring monarchy the sole valid and lawful polity. This declaration the ministers, lay and clerical, of our Charleses and Jameses do not seem to have made in express terms. It is, however, contained by implication in their celebrated phrase of "the inalienable prerogatives of the Crown," as interpreted by the stretches of prerogative which they advised. They virtually asserted of one particular polity, or distribution of civil power (c. viii., s. iii., n. 5, p. 312), that which is true only of civil power taken nakedly, apart from the mode of its distribution -- they said of monarchy what is true of government -- that the sum of its power is a constant quantity (c. viii., s. iv., n. 7, p. 322), and that it is of God antecedently to and irrespectively of any determination of popular will. (C. viii., s. iv., n. 10, p. 325.)

3. Such a position is easily refuted, negatively, by its being wholly unproven, unless the English Reformation, and the servile spirit in Church and State that promoted and was promoted by the Reformation, can pass for a proof; and again the position is positively refuted, when we come to consider how all that nature requires and God commands, is government under some polity, not government everywhere under monarchy; there being many workable polities besides monarchy. (s. iv., nn. 1-4, p. 319.)

4. The same argument that demolishes Gog, also overturns Magog. The two idols, opposed to one another, stand upon the same pedestal, the identification of government in general with one particular polity, as though a polity were the polity. The great assertor and worshipper of the inalienable sovereignty of the people is Jean Jacques Rousseau. He starts from postulates which we have already rejected -- that all men are equal (c. viii., s. i., n. 9, p. 305) -- that man is born free (ib., n. 10) -- that none can be bound to obey another without his own consent (ib., n. ii) -- that civil society is formed by an arbitrary convention (ib., n. 4.) -- which convention is the Social Contract. (ib., n. 5.) From these unreasonable postulates Rousseau draws the conclusion, logically enough, that the sovereign will in every State is the will of the majority of the citizens: but the will of the majority, he goes on, cannot be alienated from the majority: therefore neither can the sovereignty be alienated, but must abide permanently with the people ruling by a majority of votes. The argumentation is excellent, but the premisses are all false. The conclusion is, vastly popular, few minds considering from what premisses it is drawn.

5. If sovereignty rests inalienably with the people, the one valid polity is pure democracy. This proposition, however, Rousseau was not forward to formulate. The Stuarts had shrunk from formulating a similar proposition about monarchy, though they virtually held and acted upon, it. They were willing enough to allow of a parliament, whose privileges and functions should be at His Majesty's gracious pleasure. Thus Rousseau will allow you to have your senate, king, emperor, if you will: only remember that he is the prince, not the sovereign. (Contrat Social, 1. iii., c. i.) The people collectively are the sovereign, always sovereign. The Prince, that is, he or they to whom the administration is entrusted -- since all the citizens cannot administer jointly -- is the mere official and bailiff of the Sovereign People, bound to carry out their mandate in all things, and removable at their pleasure. The people must meet periodically, not at the discretion of the prince. "These meetings must open with two questions, never to be omitted, and to be voted on separately. The first is: Whether it pleases the Sovereign (People) to continue the present form of government. The second, is: Whether it pleases the People to leave the administration to the persons at present actually charged with it." (Contrat Social, 1. iv., c. xviii.)

6. The claim of a pure democracy like this to, supersede all other polities cannot be established by abstract arguments. That we have seen in examining the Social Contract. The alternative way of establishing such an exclusive claim would be to prove that the practical efficiency of pure democracy immeasurably transcends the efficiency of every other possible polity. There is indeed yet a third mode of proof resorted to. It is said that pure democracy everywhere is coming and must come; and that what is thus on the line of human progress must be right and best for the time that it obtains. A grand invention this of Positivist genius, the theory, that whatever is is right; and, the practice, always to swim with the stream! But supposing that pure democracy is coming, how long is it likely to last? The answer may be gathered from a review of the working difficulties of such a polity.

7. It is made only for a small State. Railway and telegraph have indeed diminished the difficulty; and have removed the need of all the voters meeting in one place, as was done at Athens. Newspapers echo and spread with addition the eloquence of popular orators, beyond the ears that actually listen to them. Still, think what it would be to have a general election upon every bill that passes through Parliament: for that is what pure democracy comes to. The plan would scarcely work with a total electorate of thirty thousand. You say the people would entrust a committee with, the passing of ordinary measures, reserving to themselves the supervision. I am not arguing the physical impossibility, but the moral difficulties of such an arrangement For either the people throw the reins of government on the neck of this committee, or they keep a tight hold upon the committee and guide it. In the former case the popular sovereignty becomes like that of a monarch who leans much on favourites, a sovereignty largely participated in by others than the nominal holder of the control. On the other hand, if the people do frequently interfere, and take a lively interest in the doings of the subordinate assembly, the people themselves must be a small body. An active governing body of three hundred thousand members would be as great a wonder as an active man weighing three hundred pounds. Only in a small State is that intense political life possible, which a pure democracy must live. There only, as Rousseau requires, can the public service be the principal affair of the citizens. "All things considered," he says, "I do not see how it is any longer possible for the Sovereign (People) to preserve amongst us the exercise of his rights, if the city is not very small." (Contrat Social, 1. iii., c. xv.) And the difficulty of size in a democracy is aggravated, if, as Socialists propose, the democratic State is to be sole capitalist within its own limits. The perfect sovereignty of the people means the disruption of empires, and the pushing to extremity of what is variously described as local government, home rule, autonomy, and decentralisation, till every commune becomes an independent State. But for defence in war and for commerce in peace, these little States must federate; and federation means centralisation, external control over the majority at home, restricted foreign relations, in fact the corruption of pure democracy.

8. Again, the perfect sovereignty of the people cannot subsist except upon the supposition that one man is as much a born ruler as another, which means a levelling down of the best talent of the community, for that is the only way in which capacities can be equalised -- a very wasteful and ruinous expedient, and one that the born leaders of the people will not long endure. Then there is the proverbial fickleness of democracy, one day all aglow, and cooled down the next, never pursuing any course steadily, in foreign policy least of all, though there the dearest interests of the State are often at stake. As one who lived under such a government once put it: "Sheer democracy is of all institutions the most ill-balanced and ill put together, like a wave at sea restlessly tossing before the fitful gusts of wind: politicians come and go, and not one of them cares for the public interest or gives it a thought." (Quoted by Demosthenes Speech on the Embassy, p. 383 A.) What they do care for and think of sedulously, is pleasing the people and clinging to office. In that respect they are the counterparts of the favourites who cluster round the throne of a despotic monarch, and suck up his power by flattering him. Peoples have their favourites as well as kings. To these persons, the Cleon or Gracchus of the hour, they blindly commit the management of their concerns, as the roi fain‚ant of old Frankish times left everything to his Mayor of the Palace, till the Mayor came to reign in his master's stead; and so has the popular favourite ere now developed into the military despot. Strong-minded kings of course are not ruled by favourites, nor are highly intelligent and capable peoples: but it is as hard to find a people fit to wield the power of pure democracy as to find an individual fit for an absolute monarch, especially where the State is large.

9. From all this we conclude that the new-fashioned Magog of pure democracy, or the perfect sovereignty of the people, is not to be worshipped to the overthrow and repudiation of all other polities, any more than the old-fashioned Gog of pure monarchy, idolised by Stuart courtiers under the name of "the divine right of kings." Neither of these is the polity: each is a polity, but not one to be commonly recommended. The study of polities admirably illustrates the Aristotelian doctrine of the Golden Mean (Ethics, c. v., s. iv., p. 77), teaching us ordinarily to affect limited monarchy or limited democracy. But as the mean must ever be chosen in relation to ourselves, a Constantine or an Athenian Demos may represent the proper polity in place under extraordinary circumstances.

Reading. -- The Month for July, 1886, pp. 338, seqq.

Previous Chapter - - - Next Chapter