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It was reserved, however, for her progeny in another Hemisphere to accomplish this marvel by the ingenious combination of the antagonistic forces in question, and to realize in the American Constitution of 1787 the dreamy speculations of Cicero and Tacitus. No civilizations that had preceded the epoch of these great thinkers had furnished an instance of the Popular element being admitted to any participation in Government, yet their profound reflections brought them to the conclusion that the best Government was that composed of the three elements. Cicero declared that "the best constituted government is that which in moderation is composed of the three original elements -the Monarchical, the Aristocratic, and the Popular." Tacitus endorsed this opinion:-"All nations and cities," said he, "must be governed either by the People; the First Men-primores; or a Single Ruler. A Government compounded of these three it is easier to admire than to believe possible. If it should ever exist, it will be of short duration." The doubt of Tacitus had reference to the difficulty of combining the three elements naturally inimical so as to ensure harmonious action. The political mechanicians of 1787 essayed this arduous task. Will their work falsify the prediction of Tacitus; or, have they only constructed an Ideal Government irreconcilable with the passions of men?
In November, 1775, John Adams in a letter to R. Henry Lee, sketched a plan for a New Government, founded on the English model. He spoke of "a House
* The first instance, as already stated, of the popular element-that is, the majority of the population-being represented in Government was by the creation of the House of Commons in England, 1265. Previously to this, the minority alone were represented in Government; the majority-never.
of Commons, a Council, and a Governor." Here were the three elements, but he displayed rare sagacity in the following comments :-"It is by balancing each of these powers against the other two that the effort in human nature towards tyranny can alone be checked and restrained, and any degree of freedom preserved in the Constitution."
The Federal fabric of 1787 not only brought the three elements together, but gave to each an orbit of its own, with distinct action, and perfect independence. To the Monarchical element, styled President, it assigned. certain functions. The same was done with the Aristocratic element or Senate, and with the Democratic element or House of Representatives.
Each had special powers, but they were all defined, and therefore limited. This is what Cicero meant by speaking of "a Government composed in moderation of the three elements." It is this Limitation of Power which is expressed by the familiar term of "Checks."
An additional Check was applied by fixing the duration of these powers. The Monarchical element was limited to four years, the Aristocratic to six years, and the Democratic to two years.
Each was endowed with a separate vitality or independence. For example, the Democratic branch alone could originate financial measures; the Aristocratic united Executive to its Legislative duties, since it confirmed or rejected all nominations to office; whilst to the Monarchical element was accorded a Veto over all the acts of its rivals, and, also, the power of removal from office.
The Supreme Power was in this manner divided between the competing elements, and they were thus
"balanced against each other" in the sense of the astute John Adams.
Their harmonious action was secured by rendering their joint concurrence necessary to any complete result. No law was valid till all assented, though on this vital point an union of two-thirds of the Legislative branches
-that is, of the Aristocratic and Democratic elements -could make a law without the co-operation of the Executive or Monarchical element.
In a country where the Supreme Power is in the hands of the Demos-that is, where Universal Suffrage exists—there is no way of maintaining stability unless constitutional spheres are provided for the Monos and the Aristoi in which to exercise their natural authority. This has been sufficiently illustrated in the analysis given of the Constitution of the United States, where the Monos and the Aristoi have their respective orbits assigned and their intrinsic merits fully recognized, but where both are so sagaciously restricted as not to endanger the safety of the Demos or Mass.
This is true not only of the Constitution of the Nation, but equally so of those of every State and town. In these, likewise, the Monos and the Aristoi have their legal areas of action; and so long as they are confined within them the security of the Demos is guaranteed, and the harmony of society is preserved.
The simple fact that the same feature is common to all the political organizations of the United States is a recognition of the universal truth that in all societies of men—in all communities the smallest as well as the largest in the village as in the nation-are to be found for ever co-existent the dominant, the superior, and the ordinary intellect.
As civilization advances, and the intelligence of the multitude expands, the problem of Government can only be solved by political organizations similar to those of the United States, where the three elements in question are united, but so checked and balanced as to work in harmony. Whilst the balance is preserved the Constitution is imperishable. This is just what Tacitus distrusted: this is just what John Adams sought. The balance of the Federal Constitution was in danger but the other day, when the Aristocratic and Democratic elements conspired to overthrow their Monarchical rival. One vote only saved Andrew Johnson from Deposition.*
One single remark more. In the United States, íor the first time, circumstances favored the tranquil combination of these three elements. A new Society sprang up there, where neither the Monarchical nor Aristocratic elements had taken root, as in the Old World. No Revolutions, no prolonged struggles for years were necessary before the claim of the Democratic element was recognized. There, the Democracy was politically so intelligent that its fitness to share in the Government was incontestable.†
* In 1868, the President of the United States was impeached by the House of Representatives, and tried by the Senate. A single vote prevented his removal.
It is curious to note that some of the framers of the Federal Constitution doubted the capacity of the people to wield political power, notwithstanding the people of the American Colonies were more experienced and better educated in politics than any people before or since. In the debate on this point, Messrs. Roger Sherman and Gerry, as well as some of the Southern Delegates, contested the expediency of "trusting the people with a direct exercise of power in the general government.' Messrs. Madison, Mason, and Wilson thought "no republican government could be permanent in which the people were denied a direct participation." Surely to have excluded the Democratic element from the Constitution would have been a fatal error.
Up to that time in Europe, no Nation save England offered any parallel to this. Everywhere the People were not only rudimentally ignorant, but without the faintest conception of the Science of Government. To admit the Democratic element into Government before it is competent to assume such a responsibility is sure to lead to confusion, and to jeopardize the interests of all. What progress towards this consummation has been made in the various Nations of Europe since the birth of the United States, is one of the topics I propose to treat in the work already referred to, "The History of my Times."
Above all, the political organization of England will be interesting to examine, and though the three original elements are not there balanced as in the Constitution of the United States, since the Monarchical and Aristocratic elements have by usage become subordinate to their rival, yet the Administration is so judiciously conducted, and so exactly corresponds to the condition of the community, that any premature modification of the Constitution might be alike inexpedient and dangerous.
To return from this somewhat prolonged digression to the history of the United States.
It is perhaps worthy of remark that the framers of the National Constitution scarcely appreciated their own workmanship, since none were entirely pleased with it. In the State Conventions which were called to ratify it, opinions as to its merits were greatly divided. In Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia, the opposition was protracted and obstinate. During 1788, however, it was accepted by nine States, which made it the Supreme Law of the land.