« PreviousContinue »
Greek cities of Italy, for the copies of the best laws, chose ten legislators to put them into form; and, during the exercise of their office, suspended the consular power, leaving the administration of affairs in their hands. These very men, though chosen for such a work, as the digesting a body of laws for the government of a free state, did immediately ufurp arbitrary power; ran into all the forms of it, had their guards and fpies, after the practice of the tyrants of those ages, affected kingły state, destroyed the nobles, and oppressed the people ; one of them proceeding so far, as to endeavour to force a lady of great virtue : the very crime, which gave occasion to the expulsion of the regal power but fixty years before, as this attempt did to that of the Decemviri.
The Ephori in Sparta, were at first only certain persons deputed by the kings to judge in civil matters, while they were employed in the waré. Thefe men, at several times, ufurped the absolute authority, and were as cruel tyrants, as any in
Soon * after the unfortunate expedition into Sicily, the Athenians chose four hundred men for administration of affairs, who became a body. of tyrants, and were called, in the language of those ages, an oligarchy, or tyranny of the few; under which hateful denomination they were soon after deposed in great rage by the people.
When † Athens was subdued by Lysander, he appointed thirty men for the adminiftration of VOL. II.
that * Thucyd. lib. 8. t Xenoph. de Rebus Græc. lib. 2.
that city, who immediately fell into the rankest tyranny : but this was not all; for, conceiving their power not founded on a basis large enough, they admitted three thousand into a share of the government, and thus fortified, became the cruellest tyranny upon record. They murdered, in cold blood, great numbers of the beft men, without any provocation, from the mere luft of cruelty, like Nero or Caligula. This was such a number of tyrants together, as amounted to near a third part of the whole city; for Xenophon
* that the city contained about ten thoufand houses; and, allowing one man to every house, who could have any fhare in the government, (the rest consisting of women, children, and servants) and making other obvious abatements, these tyrants, if they had been careful to adhere together, might have been a majority even of the people collective.
In the time of the second Punic war, † the balance of power in Carthage was got on the fide of the people, and this to a degree, that fome authors reckon the government to have been then among them a dominatio plebis, or tyranny of the
which it seems they were at all times apt to fall into, and was at last among the causes that ruined their state: and the frequent murders of their generals, which, Diodorus tells us, was grown to an established custom
among be another instance, that tyranny is not confined to numbers.
I shall Memorab. lib. 3. † Polyb. Frag. lib. 6. *- Lib. 20.
I fhall mention but one example more, among a great number that might be produced; it is related by the author last cited. * The orators of the people at Argos (whether you will style them, in modern phrase, great speakers of the house, or only, in general, representatives of the people collective) stirred up the commons againft the nobles, of whom 1600 were murdered at once ; and at last, the orators themselves, because they left off their accusations, or, to speak intelligibly, because they withdrew their impeachments; having, it feems, raised a spirit they were not able to lay. And this last circumstance, as cases have lately stood, may perhaps be worth noticing.
From what bath been already advanced, feveral conclusions may be drawn :
ift, That a mixed government, partaking of the known forms received in the schools, is by no means of Gothic invention, but hath place in nature and reason; seems very
with the sentiments of most legiflators, and to have been followed in most states, whether they have appeared under the name of monarchies, aristocracies, or democracies : for, not to mention the several republics of this composition in Gaul and Germany, described by Cæfar and Tacitus, Polybius tells us, the best government is that which confifts of three forms, regno, optimatium, et populi imperio ; † which may be fairly translated, the King, Lords, and Commons. Such was that of Sparta, in its primitive institution by Lycurgus ; U 2
well to agree
who, Polyb. Frag, lib. 15.
who, observing the corruptions and depravations to which every of these was subject, compounded his scheme out of all; so that it was made
of reges, feniores, et populus. Such also was the itate of Rome under its confuls : and the author tells us, that the Romans fell upon this model purely by chance, (which I take to have been nature and common reason) but the Spartans by thought and design. And such at Carthage was the summa reipublicæ, * or power in the last resort ; for they had their kings called suffetes, and a senate which had the power of nobles, and the people had a share established too.
2dly, It will follow, that those reasoners, who employ so much of their zeal, their wit, and their leisure, for the upholding the balance of power in Christendom, at the same time that, by their practices, they are endeavouring to destroy it at home, are not such mighty patriots, or fo much in the true interest of their country, as they would affect to be thought; but seem to be employed like a man, who pulls down with his right hand, what he has been building with his left.
3dly, This makes appear the error of those who think it an uncontrollable maxim, that power is always safer lodged in many hands, than in one : for, if these many hands be made up only from one of the three divisions before mentioned, it is plain, from those examples already produced, and easy to be paralleled in Other ages and countries, that they are as capable of enflaving the nation, and of acting all manner of tyranny and oppression, as it is possible for a single person to be, though we should suppose their number not only to be of four or five hundred, but above three thousand.
* Polyb. Frag, lib. 6.
Again, It is manifest, from what has been said, that, in order to preserve the balance in a mixed ftate, the limits of power deposited with each party, ought to be ascertained, and generally known. The defect of this is the cause that introduces those strugglings in a state about prerogative and liberty, about encroachments of the few upon the rights of the many, and of the many upon the privileges of the few, which ever did, and ever will conclude in a tyranny; first, either of the few, or the many, but at last infallibly of a single person : for, whichever of the three divifions in a state is upon the scramble for more power than its own, (as one or other of them generally is) unless due care be taken by the other two, upon every new question that arises, they will be sure to decide in favour of themselves, talk much of inherent right; they will nourilh up a dormant power, and reserve privileges in petto, to exert upon occasions, to serve expedients, and to urge upon neceslities; they will make large demands, and scanty concessions, ever coming off confiderable gainers : thus, at length, the balance is broke, and tyranny let in ; from which door of the three, it matters not. To pretend to a declarative right, upon any oc