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ration. But a limited monarchy admits not of any such stability; nor is it possible to assign to the crown such a determinate degree of power, as will, in every hand, form a proper counterbalance to the other parts of the constitution. This is an unavoidable disadvantage, among the many advantages, attending that species of government.
Whether the BRITISH GOVERNMENT inclines
more to ABSOLUTE MONARCHY, or to a REPUBLIC.
Taffords a violent prejudice against almost every
principles, dares prophesy concerning any event, or foretel the remote consequences of things. A physician will not venture to pronounce concerning the condition of his patient a fortnight or month after: And ftill less dares a politician foretel the situation of public affairs a few years hence. HARRINGTON thought himself fo certain of his general principle, that the balance of power depends on that of property, that he ventured to pronounce it impoffible ever to re-establish monarchy in ENGLAND: But his book was scarcely published when the king was restored ; and we see, that monarchy has ever since fubfifted upon the fame footing as before. Notwithstanding this unlucky example, I will venture to examine an important question, viz. Whether the British government inclines more to absolute monarchy, or to a republic; and in which of these two species of government it will most probably terminate ? As there seems not to be any great danger of a sudden revolution either way, I shall at least escape the shame attending my temerity, if I should be found to have been mistaken,
Those who affert, that the balance of our government inclines towards absolute monarchy, may support their opinion by the following reafons. That property has a great influence on power cannot posibly be denied; but yet the general maxim, that the balance of one depends on the balance of the other, muft be received with several limitations. It is evident, that much less property in a single hand will be able to counterbalance a greater property in several ; *not only because it is difficult to make many persons combine in the same views and meafures; but because property, when united, causes much greater dependence, than the same property, when difperfed. A hundred persons, of 1000 l. a year a-piece, can confume all their income, and no body shall ever be the better for them, except their servants and tradesmen, who justly regard their profits as the product of their own labour. But a man pofseffed of 100,000l. a year, if he bas either any generofity or any cunning, may create a great dependence by obligations, and still a greater by expectations. Hence we may observe, that, in all free governments, any subject exorbitantly rich has always created jealousy, even though his riches bore no proportion to those of the state. Crassus's fortune, if I -remember well, amounted only to about fixteen hundred thousand pounds in our money; and yet we find, that, though his genius was nothing extraordinary, he was able, by means of his riches alone, to counterbalance, during his lifetime, the power of Pompey as well as that of CÆSAR, who afterwards became master of the world, The wealth of the MEDICI made them masters of FloRENCE ; though, it is probable, it was not considerable, compared to the united property of that opulent republic.
These considerations are apt to make one entertain a magnificent idea of the British spirit and love of liberty; fince we could maintain our free government, during so many centuries, against our sovereigns, who, besides the power and dignity and majesty of the crown, have always been poffefled of much more property than any subject has ever enjoyed in any commonwealth. But it may be faid, that this spirit, however great, will never be able to support itself against that immense property, which is now lodged in the king, and which is still encreasing. Upon a moderate computation, there are near three millions at the disposal of the crown. The civil lift amounts to near a million; the collection of all taxes to another; and the employments in the army and navy, together with ecclesiastical preferments, to above a third million: An enormous fum, and what may fairly be computed to be more than a thirtieth part of the whole income and labour of the kingdom. When we add to this great property, the encreasing luxury of the nation, our proneness to corruption, together with the great power and prerogatives of the crown, and the command of military force, there is no one but must despair of being able, without extraordinary efforts, to support our free government much longer under these disadvantages.
On the other hand, those who maintain, that the byass of the British government leans towards a republic, may support their opinion by specious arguments. It may be said, that, though this immense property in the crown, be joined to the dignity of first magistrate, and to many other legal powers and prerogatives, which should naturally give it greater influence; yet it really becomes less dangerous to liberty upon that very account.
Were BRITAIN a republic, and were any private man poflefled of a revenue, a third, or even a tenth part as Jarge as that of the crown, he would very juftly excite jealousy; because he would infallibly have great authority in the government: And such an irregular authority, not avowed by the laws, is always more dangerous than a much greater authority, derived from them. A man, possessed of usurped power, can fet no bounds to his pretensions: His partizans have liberty to hope for every thing in his favour: His enemies provoke his ambition, with his fears, by the violence of their opposition : And the government being thrown into a ferment, every corrupted humour in the state naturally gathers to him. On the contrary, a legal authority, though great, has always some bounds, which terminate both the hopes and pretensions of the person poffefred of it: The laws must have provided a remedy against its excefles : Such an eminent magiftrate has much to fear, and little to hope from his usurpations: And as his legal authority is quietly submitted to, he has fmall temptation and small opportunity of extending it farther. Besides, it happens, with regard to ambitious aims and projects, what may be observed with regard to sects of philosophy and religion. A new feet excites such a ferment, and is both opposed and defended with such vehemence, that it spreads always faster, and multiplies its partizans with greater rapidity, than any old eftablimed opinion, recommended by the sanction of the laws and of antiquity. Such is the nature of novelty, that, where any thing pleases, it becomes doubly agreeable, if new; but if it displeases, it is doubly displeafing, upon that very account. And, in most cases, the violence of enemies is favourable to ambitious projects, as well as the zeal of partizans.