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CHAPTER XXXII.

IMPERATORIAL SOVEREIGNTY.

THE Cæsars of the first centuries always claimed their power as bestowed upon them by the people, and went so far even as to assume the prætorians, with an accommodating and intimidated senate, as the bodies which represented, for the time, the people. The Cæsars never rested their power upon divine right, nor did they boldly adopt the Asiatic principle in all its nakedness, that power-the sword, the bowstring, the mere possession of power-is the only foundation of the right to wield it. The majestas populi had been transferred to the emperor. Such

1 The idea of the populus vanished only at a late period from the Roman mind; that of liberty had passed away long before. Fronto, in a letter to Marcus Aurelius (when the prince was Cæsar), mentions the applause which he had received from the audience for some oration which he (Fronto) had delivered, and then continues thus: "Quorsum hoc retuli? uti te, Domine, ita compares, ubi quid in cœtu hominum recitabis, ut scias auribus serviendum: plane non ubique et omni modo, attamen nonnunquam et aliquando. Quod ubi facics, simile facere te reputato, atque illud facitis, ubi eos qui bestias strenue interfecerint, populo postulante ornatis aut manumittitis, nocentes etiam homines aut scelere damnatos, sed populo postulante conceditis. Ubique igitur populus dominatur et præpollet. Igitur ut populo gratum erit, ita facies atque ita dices." Epist. ad Marc. Cæs. lib. i. epis. 1.

was their theory. Julius, the first of the Cæsars, made himself sole ruler by the popular element, against the institutions of the country.

If it be observed here that these institutions were effete, that the Roman city-government was impracticable for an extensive empire, and that the civil wars had proved how incompatible the institutions of Rome had become with the actual state of the people, it will be allowed-not to consider the common fact that governments or leaders first do everything to corrupt the people or plunge them into civil wars, and then, "taking advantage of their own wrong," use the corruption and bloodshed as a proof of the necessity to upset the government—it will be allowed, I say, that at any rate Cæsar did not establish liberty, or claim to be the leader of a free state, and that he made his appearance at the very close of a long period of freedom, marking the beginning of the most fearful period of decadence which is recorded; and that, in general, all rulers vested with this imperatorial sovereignty3 unfortunately never prepare a better state of things with reference to civil

2 Not unlike the conduct of the powers surrounding Poland, before they had sufficiently prepared her partition. The government of Poland was certainly a very defective one, but it was the climax of historical iniquity in Russia, Austria and Prussia to declare, after having used every sinister means to embroil the Polish affairs, and stir up faction, that the Poles were unfit to be a nation, and as neighbors too troublesome.

3 The idea which I have to express, would have prompted me, and the Latin word Cæsareus would have authorized me, to use the term Cæsarean Sovereignty. It is unquestionably preferable to imperatorial sovereignty, except that the English term Cæsarean has acquired a peculiar and distinct meaning, which might even have

dignity and healthful self-government. They may establish peace and police; they may silence civil war, but they also destroy those germs from which liberty might sprout forth at a future period. However long Napoleon the First might have reigned, his whole path must have led him farther astray from that of an Alfred, who allowed self-government to spring up, or respected it where he found it. We can never arrive at the top of a steeple by descending deeper into a pit.

Whatever Cæsar was, he did not, at any rate, usher in a new and prosperous era, either of liberty or popular grandeur. What is the Roman empire after Cæsar? Count the good rulers, and weigh them against the unutterable wretchedness resulting from the worst of all combinations-of lust of power, lust of flesh, cupidity and cruelty-and forming a stream of increasing demoralization, which gradually swept. down in its course everything noble that had remained of better times.

suggested the idea of a mordant pun. I have, therefore, given up this term, although I had always used it in my lectures. It will be observed that I use the term sovereignty in this case with a meaning which corresponds to the sense in which the word sovereign continues to be used by many, designating a crowned ruler. I hope no reader will consider me so ignorant of history and political philosophy, as to think I am capable of believing in the real sovereignty of an individual. If sovereignty means the self-sufficient primordial power of society, from which all other powers are derived and unless it mean this we do not stand in need of the term-it is clear that no individual ever possessed or can possess it. On the other hand, it is not to be confounded with absolute power. My views on this important subject have been given at length in my Political Ethics, as I have said before.

led or handled by a few or by one. The ancients knew this perfectly well, and repeatedly treated of the fact; but it is not essential that the agora, the bodily assembled multitude, have unlimited and uninstitutional power. The same defects exist and the same results are produced where, so to speak, the market extends over a whole country, and where all liberty is believed to consist in one solitary formula --universal suffrage. Many effects of the latter are, indeed, more serious."

No evolution of public opinion, no debate, no gradual formation takes place. Some one prepares measures, and Yes or No is all that can be asked.

Whenever we speak of the power of the people, in an unorganized state, we cannot mean anything else but the power of the majority, and where liberty is believed to consist in the unlimited power of the people, the inevitable practical result is neither more nor less than the absolutism of the majority and the total want of protection of the minority.

As, however, this uninstitutional multitude has no organism, it is, as I have stated, necessarily led by a few or one, and thus we meet in history with the invariable result, that virtually one man rules where absolute power of the people is believed to exist.

2 Nowhere, I believe, can the views of a large class of Frenchmen on this subject be found more distinctly enounced than in the different works of Mr. Louis Blanc. They are many, and, in my opinion, as may be supposed, often very visionary; but Mr. Blanc is the spirited representative of that French school, which believes that liberty is power, that the ouvriers are the people, that wealth consists in the largest possible amount of currency, and money is a deception, and that communism will save the world.

After a short interval, that one person openly assumes all power, sometimes observing certain forms of having the power of the people passed over to him. The people have already been familiar with the idea of absolutism-they have been accustomed to believe that, wherever the public power resides, it is absolute and complete, so that it does not appear strange to them that the new monarch should possess the unlimited power which actually resided in the people or was considered to have belonged to them. There is but one step from the "peuple toutpuissant," if, indeed, it amounts to a step, to an emperor tout-puissant.3

It is a notable fact which, so far as I know history, has no important exception, that in all times of civil commotion in which two vast parties are arrayed against each other, the anti-institutional masses,

3

This, it will be observed, is very different from the English maxim, the parliament is omnipotent. Unguarded and extravagant as it is, it only means that parliament has the supreme power. But parliament itself is a vast institution, and part and parcel of a still vaster institutional system, which is pervaded by the principle of self-government. Parliament has often found that it is not omnipotent when it has attempted to break a lance with the common law. It is as unguarded a maxim as that the king can do no wrong, which is true only in a limiting sense, namely, that because he can do no wrong, some one else must be answerable for every act of his. Besides, there is the marginal note of James the Second, appended to this maxim, which never has been understood to mean, what the ancient French maxim meant: In the presence of the king, the laws are silent; or what was meant by the famous "bed of justice," namely, that the personal presence of the monarch silenced all opposition, and was sufficient to ordain everything.

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