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CONTESTS AND DISSENSIONS
between the NOBLES and the COMMONS in : Athens and Rome; with the Consequences they had upon both those States. *
-Si tibi vera videtur,
Written in the year 1701.
IT is agreed, that in all government there is
an abfolute unlimited power, which naturally and originally seems to be placed in the whole body, wherever the executive part of it lies. This holds in the body natural; for, wherever we
place * This discourse is a kind of remonstrance in behalf of King William and his friends, against the proceedings of the House of Commons; and was published during the recess of parliament in the summer of 1701, with a view to engage them in milder measures when they should meet again.
At this time, Lewis XIV. was making large strides towards universal monarchy; plots were carrying on at St. Germains; the Dutch had acknowledged the duke of Anjou as king of Spain, and King William was made extremely uneasy, by the violence with which many of his ministers and chief favourites were pur.. fued by the Commons. The King, to appease their resentment, had made several changes in his ministry, and removed some of
place the beginning of motion, whether from the head, or the heart, or the animal fpirits in general, the body moves and acts by a consent of all its parts. This unlimited power, placed fundamentally in the body of a people, is what the best legislators of all ages have endeavoured, in their several schemes or institutions of government, to deposite in such hands as would preserve the people from rapine and oppression within, as well as violence from without. Most of them feem to agree in this, that it was a trust too great to be com
mitted to any one man or assembly, and there*fore they left the right still in the whole body ;
but the administration, or executive part, in the hands of the one, the few, or the many, into which three powers, all independent bodies of men, seem naturally to divide ; for, by all I have read of those innumerable and petty commonwealths in Italy, Greece, and Sicily, as well as the great ones of Carthage and Rome, it seems to me, that a free people met together, whether by compact, or family-government, as soon as they fall into any acts of civil society, do of themselves divide into three powers.
seem his most faithful fervants from places of the highest trust and dignity. This expedient, however, had proved ineffectual, and the Commons persisted in their opposition ; they began by impeaching William Bentink, Earl of Portland, groom of the stole; and proceeded to the impeachment of John Somers, Baron Somers of Evesham, first lord-keeper, afterwards lord chancellor; Edward Russel, Earl of Orford, lord treasurer of the navy, and one of the lords commissioners of the admiralty; and Charles Montague, Earl of Halifax, one of the commissioners of the treasury, and afterwards chancellor of the exchequer. Its general purport is, to damp the warmth of the commons, by shewing, that the meafures they pursued, had a direct tendency to bring on the tyranny, which they professed to oppose; and the particular cases of the impcached lords are paralleled in Athenian characters. Hawkes.
This whole treatise is full of historical knowledge, and excellent reflections. It is not mixed with any improper failies of wit, or any light airs of humour; and, in point of style and learning, is equal, if not superior, to any of Swift's political
The first is that of some one eminent spirit, who, having signalized his valour and fortune in defence of his country, or, by the practice of popular arts at home, comes to have great influence on the people, to grow their leader in warlike expeditions, and to preside, after a sort, in their civil assemblies; and this is grounded upon the principles of nature and common reafon, which, in all difficulties or dangers, where prudence or courage is required, do rather incite us to fly for counsel or assistance to a single person, than a multitude. The second natural divifion of power, is of such men, who have acquired large poffeffions, and consequently dependencies, or descend from ancestors who have left them great inheritances, together with an hereditary authority. These easily uniting in thoughts and opinions, and acting in concert, begin to enter upon measures for securing their properties, which are best upheld by preparing against invasions from abroad, and maintaining peace at home; this commences a great council or senate of nobles, for the weighty affairs of the nation. The last division is of the mass or body of the people, whose part of power is great and indisputable, whenever they can unite either collectively, or by deputation, to exert it. Now, the three forms of government, so generally known in the schools, differ only by the civil administration being placed in the hands of one, or sometimes two, (as in Sparta) who were called Kings; or in a senate, who were called the Nobles; or in the people col.. lective or representative, who may be called the Commons. Each of these had frequently the executive power in Greece, and sometimes in Rome : but the power, in the last resort, was always meant by legislators to be held in balance among all three. And it will be an eternal rule in politics, among every free people, that there is a balance of
power to be carefully held by every state within itself, as well as among several states with each other.
The true meaning of a balance of power, either without or within a state, is best conceived, by considering what the nature of a balance is. It supposes three things: First, the part which is held, together with the hand that holds it; and then the two scales, with whaterer is weighed therein. Now, consider several states in a neighbourhood ; in order to preserve peace between these states, it is necessary they should be formed into a balance, whereof one or more are to be directors, who are to divide the rest into equal scales, and, upon occasion, remove from one into the other, or else fall with their own weight into the lightest; so in a state within itself, the balance must be held by a third hand, who is to deal the remaining power with the utmost exact. ness into the several scales. Now, it is not neceffary, that the power should be equally divided between these three; for the balance may be held by the weakeft, who, by his address and conduct, removing from either scale, and adding of his own, may keep the scales duly poised. Such was that of the two kings of Sparta, the consular power in Rome, that of the kings of Media before the reign of Cyrus, as represented by Xenophon, and that of the several limited states in the Gothic inftitution.
When the balance is broken, whether by the negligence, folly, or weakness of the hand that held it, or by mighty weights fallen into either scale, the power will never continue long in equal division between the two remaining parties, but, till the balance is fixed anew, will run entirely into one. This gives the truest account of what is understood in the moft ancient and approved Greek authors by the word tyranny, which is not meant for the seizing of the uncontrolled or abfolute power into the hands of a single person, (as many superficial men have grofly mistaken) but for the breaking of the balance by whatever hand, and leaving the power wholly in one scale; for tyranny and ufurpation in a state, are by no means confined to any number, as might easily appear from examples enow; and, because the point is material, I shall cite a few to prove it. The Romans, * having sent to Athens, and the
Greek Dionyf. Hal. lib. 1o.