S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.


This liberty is best preserved, where the legislative power is lodged in several persons, especially if those persons are of different ranks and interests; for where they are of the same rank, and consequently have an interest to manage peculiar to that rank, it differs but little from a despotical government in a single person. But the greatest security a people can have for their liberty, is when the legislative power is in the hands of persons so happily distinguished, that by providing for the particular interests of their several ranks, they are providing for the whole body of the people; or, in other words, when there is no part of the people that has not a common interest with at least one part of the legislators. If there be but one body of legislators, it is no better than a tyranny; if there are only two, there will want a casting voice, and one of them must at length be swallowed up by disputes and contentions that will necessarily arise between them.

Joseph Addison: Spectator, No. 287.

Providence delegates to the supreme magistrate the same power for the good of men which that supreme magistrate transfers to those several substitutes who act under him.

Joseph Addison.

Government mitigates the inequality of power, and makes an innocent man, though of the lowest rank, a match for the mightiest of his fellow subjects.

Joseph Addison.

A tenacious adherence to the rights and liberties transmitted from a wise and virtuous ancestry, public spirit, and a love of one’s country, are the support and ornaments of government.

Joseph Addison.

If friends to a government forbear their assistance, they put it in the power of a few desperate men to ruin the welfare of those who are superior to them in strength and interest.

Joseph Addison.

If he is for an exclusion of fear, which is supposed to have some influence in every law, he opposes himself to every government.

Joseph Addison.

The care of our national commerce redounds more to the riches and prosperity of the public than any other act of government.

Joseph Addison.

Few consider how much we are indebted to government, because few can represent how wretched mankind would be without it.

Francis Atterbury.

A monarchy where there is no nobility at all is ever a pure and absolute tyranny, as that of the Turks; for nobility attempts sovereignty, and draws the eyes of the people somewhat aside from the line royal: but for democracies they need it not; and they are commonly more quiet, and less subject to sedition, than where are stirps of nobles; for men’s eyes are upon the business, and not upon the persons; or if upon the persons, it is for the business sake, as fittest, and not for flags and pedigrees.

Francis Bacon: Essay XV., Of Nobility.

When any of the four pillars of government are mainly shaken, or weakened (which are religion, justice, counsel, and treasure), men had need to pray for fair weather.

Francis Bacon: Essay XVI., Of Seditions and Troubles.

It is of perilous consequence that foreigners should have authoritative influence upon the subjects of any prince.

Isaac Barrow.

Man was formed for society; and, as is demonstrated by the writers on the subject, is neither capable of living alone, nor indeed has the courage to do it. However, as it is impossible for the whole race of mankind to be united in one great society, they must necessarily divide into many, and form separate states, commonwealths, and nations, entirely independent of each other, and yet liable to a mutual intercourse.

Sir William Blackstone: Comment.: Of the Nature of Laws in General.

The slavish principles of passive obedience and non-resistance, which had skulked, perhaps, in some old homily before James I., but were talked, written, and preached into vogue in that inglorious reign, and in those of his three successors, were renounced at the Revolution by the last of the several parties who declared for them.

Lord Bolingbroke.

All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter. We balance inconveniences; we give and take; we remit some rights, that we may enjoy others; and we choose rather to be happy citizens than subtle disputants. As we must give away some natural liberty, to enjoy civil advantages, so we must sacrifice some civil liberties, for the advantages to be derived from the communion and fellowship of a great empire. But, in all fair dealings, the thing bought must bear some proportion to the purchase paid. None will barter away the immediate jewel of his soul.

Edmund Burke: Speech on Conciliation with America, March 22, 1775.

For I never knew a writer on the theory of government so partial to authority as not to allow that the hostile mind of the rulers to their people did fully justify a change of government; nor can any reason whatever be given why one people should voluntarily yield any degree of preëminence to another but on a supposition of great affection and benevolence towards them.

Edmund Burke: Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol, April 3, 1777.

These were the considerations, gentlemen, which led me early to think, that, in the comprehensive dominion which the Divine Providence had put into our hands, instead of troubling our understandings with speculations concerning the unity of empire and the identity or distinction of legislative powers, and inflaming our passions with the heat and pride of controversy, it was our duty, in all soberness, to conform our government to the character and circumstances of the several people who composed this mighty and strangely diversified mass.

Edmund Burke: Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol, April 3, 1777.

I was persuaded that government was a practical thing, made for the happiness of mankind, and not to furnish out a spectacle of uniformity to gratify the schemes of visionary politicians. Our business was to rule, not to wrangle; and it would have been a poor compensation that we had triumphed in a dispute, whilst we lost an empire.

Edmund Burke: Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol, April 3, 1777.

If any ask me what a free government is, I answer, that, for any practical purpose, it is what the people think so,—and that they, and not I, are the natural, lawful, and competent judges of this matter. If they practically allow me a greater degree of authority over them than is consistent with any correct ideas of perfect freedom, I ought to thank them for so great a trust, and not to endeavour to prove from thence that they have reasoned amiss, and that, having gone so far, by analogy they must hereafter have no enjoyment but by my pleasure.

Edmund Burke: Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol, April 3, 1777.

There are people who have split and anatomized the doctrine of free government, as if it were an abstract question concerning metaphysical liberty and necessity, and not a matter of moral prudence and natural feeling. They have disputed whether liberty be a positive or a negative idea; whether it does not consist in being governed by laws, without considering what are the laws, or who are the makers; whether man has any rights by Nature; and whether all the property he enjoys be not the alms of his government, and his life itself their favour and indulgence. Others, corrupting religion as these have perverted philosophy, contend that Christians are redeemed into captivity, and the blood of the Saviour of mankind has been shed to make them the slaves of a few proud and insolent sinners. These shocking extremes provoking to extremes of another kind, speculations are let loose as destructive to all authority as the former are to all freedom; and every government is called tyranny and usurpation which is not formed on their fancies.

Edmund Burke: Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol, April 3, 1777.

That man thinks much too highly, and therefore he thinks weakly and delusively, of any contrivance of human wisdom, who believes that it can make any sort of approach to perfection. There is not, there never was, a principle of government under heaven, that does not, in the very pursuit of the good it proposes, naturally and inevitably lead into some inconvenience which makes it absolutely necessary to counterwork and weaken the application of that first principle itself, and to abandon something of the extent of the advantage you proposed by it, in order to prevent also the inconveniences which have arisen from the instrument of all the good you had in view.

Edmund Burke: Speech on the Duration of Parliament, May 8, 1780.

In all bodies, those who will lead must also, in a considerable degree, follow. They must conform their propositions to the taste, talent, and disposition of those whom they wish to conduct: therefore, if an assembly is viciously or feebly composed in a very great part of it, nothing but such a supreme degree of virtue as very rarely appears in the world, and for that reason cannot enter into calculation, will prevent the men of talents disseminated through it from becoming only the expert instruments of absurd projects. If, what is the more likely event, instead of that unusual degree of virtue, they should be actuated by sinister ambition and a lust of meretricious glory, then the feeble part of the assembly, to whom at first they conform, becomes, in its turn, the dupe and instrument of their designs. In this political traffic, the leaders will be obliged to bow to the ignorance of their followers, and the followers to become subservient to the worst designs of their leaders.

Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790.

To secure any degree of sobriety in the propositions made by the leaders in any public assembly, they ought to respect, in some degree perhaps to fear, those whom they conduct. To be led any otherwise than blindly, the followers must be qualified, if not for actors, at least for judges; they must also be judges of natural weight and authority. Nothing can secure a steady and moderate conduct in such assemblies, but that the body of them should be respectably composed, in point of condition in life, of permanent property, of education, and of such habits as enlarge and liberalize the understanding.

Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France.

There is no qualification for government but virtue and wisdom, actual or presumptive. No, Sir. Wherever they are actually found, they have, in whatever state, condition, profession, or trade, the passport of heaven to human place and honour. Woe to the country which would madly and impiously reject the service of the talents and virtues, civil, military, or religious, that are given to grace and to serve it; and would condemn to obscurity everything formed to diffuse lustre and glory around a state! Woe to that country, too, that, passing into the opposite extreme, considers a low education, a mean, contracted view of things, a sordid, mercenary occupation, as a preferable title to command! Everything ought to be open,—but not indifferently to every man.

Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France.

Government is not made in virtue of natural rights, which may and do exist in total independence of it,—and exist in much greater clearness, and in a much greater degree of abstract perfection: but their abstract perfection is their practical defect. By having a right to everything they want everything. Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom. Among these wants is to be reckoned the want, out of civil society, of a sufficient restraint upon their passions.

Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France.

The moment you abate anything from the full rights of men each to govern himself, and suffer any artificial, positive limitation upon those rights, from that moment the whole organization of government becomes a consideration of convenience. This it is which makes the constitution of a state, and the due distribution of its powers, a matter of the most delicate and complicated skill.

Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France.

The science of government being, therefore, so practical in itself, and intended for such practical purposes, a matter which requires experience, and even more experience than any person can gain in his whole life, however sagacious and observing he may be, it is with infinite caution that any man ought to venture upon pulling down an edifice which has answered in any tolerable degree for ages the common purposes of society, or on building it up again without having models and patterns of approved utility before his eyes.

Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France.

But the principle of Mr. Burke’s proceeding ought to lead him to a very different conclusion,—to this conclusion,—that a monarchy is a thing perfectly susceptible of a balance of power, and that, when reformed and balanced, for a great country it is the best of all governments. The example of our country might have led France, as it has led him, to perceive that monarchy is not only reconcilable to liberty, but that it may be rendered a great and stable security, to its perpetual enjoyment.

Edmund Burke: Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs, 1791.

He [Burke] has never professed himself a friend or an enemy to republics or to monarchies in the abstract. He thought that the circumstances and habits of every country which it is always perilous and productive of the greatest calamities to force, are to decide upon the form of its government. There is nothing in his nature, his temper, or his faculties which should make him an enemy to any republic, modern or ancient. Far from it. He has studied the form and spirit of republics very early in life; he has studied them with great attention, and with a mind undisturbed by affection or prejudice. He is, indeed, convinced that the science of government would be poorly cultivated without that study.

Edmund Burke: Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs.

The Constitution of a country once settled upon some compact, tacit or expressed, there is no power existing of force to alter it, without the breach of the covenant, or the consent of all the parties. Such is the nature of a contract. And the votes of a majority of the people, whatever their infamous flatterers may teach in order to corrupt their minds, cannot alter the moral any more than they can alter the physical essence of things.

Edmund Burke: Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs.

Place, for instance, before your eyes such a man as Montesquieu. Think of a genius not born in every country or every time: a man gifted by Nature with a penetrating, aquiline eye,—with a judgment prepared with the most extensive erudition,—with an Herculean robustness of mind, and nerves not to be broken with labour,—a man who could spend twenty years in one pursuit. Think of a man like the universal patriarch in Milton (who had drawn up before him in his prophetic vision the whole series of the generations which were to issue from his loins): a man capable of placing in review, after having brought together from the East, the West, the North, and the South, from the coarseness of the rudest barbarism to the most refined and subtle civilization, all the schemes of government which had ever prevailed amongst mankind, weighing, measuring, collating, and comparing them all, joining fact with theory, and calling into council, upon all this infinite assemblage of things, all the speculations which have fatigued the understandings of profound reasoners in all times. Let us then consider, that all these were but so many preparatory steps to qualify a man, and such a man, tinctured with no national prejudice, with no domestic affection, to admire, and to hold out to the admiration of mankind, the Constitution of England.

Edmund Burke: Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs.

The very confession that a government wants either amendment in its conformation or relief to great distress, causes it to lose half its reputation, and as great a proportion of its strength as depends upon that reputation.

Edmund Burke: Letter to a Member of the National Assembly, 1791.

I go on this ground,—that government, representing the society, has a general superintending control over all the actions and over all the publicly propagated doctrines of men, without which it never could provide adequately for all the wants of society: but then it is to use this power with an equitable discretion, the only bond of sovereign authority. For it is not, perhaps, so much by the assumption of unlawful powers as by the unwise or unwarrantable use of those which are most legal, that governments oppose their true end and object: for there is such a thing as tyranny as well as usurpation. You can hardly state to me a case to which legislature is the most confessedly competent, in which, if the rules of benignity and prudence are not observed, the most mischievous and oppressive things may not be done. So that, after all, it is a moral and virtuous discretion, and not any abstract theory of right, which keeps governments faithful to their ends.

Edmund Burke: Speech on the Petition of the Unitarians, May 11, 1792.

To provide for us in our necessities is not in the power of government. It would be a vain presumption in statesmen to think they can do it. The people maintain them, and not they the people. It is in the power of government to prevent much evil; it can do very little positive good in this, or perhaps in anything else. It is not only so of the state and statesman, but of all the classes and descriptions of the rich: they are the pensioners of the poor, and are maintained by their superfluity. They are under an absolute, hereditary, and indefeasible dependence on those who labour and are miscalled the poor.

Edmund Burke: Thoughts and Details on Scarcity, Nov. 1795.

At some time or other, to be sure, all the beginners of dynasties were chosen by those who called them to govern.

To demonstrate the eternal difference between a true and severe friend to the monarchy, and a slippery sycophant of the court.

The natural effect of fidelity, clemency, kindness, in governors, is peace, good-will, order, and esteem on the part of the governed.

That modes of government have much more to do with the formation of national character than soils, suns, and climates, is sufficiently evident from the present state of Greece and Rome, compared with the ancient. Give these nations back their former governments, and all their national energies would return, and enable them to accommodate themselves to any conceivable change of climate; but no conceivable change of climate would enable them to recover their former energies. In fact, so powerful are all those causes that are connected with changes in their governments that they have sometimes made whole nations alter as suddenly and as capriciously as individuals. The Romans laid down their liberties at the feet of Nero, who would not even lend them to Cæsar; and we have lately seen the whole French nation rush, as one man, from the very extremes of loyalty, to behead the mildest monarch that ever ruled them, and conclude a sanguinary career of plunder by pardoning and rewarding a tyrant to whom their blood was but water, and their groans but wind: thus they sacrificed one that died a martyr to his clemency, and they rewarded another who lives to boast of his murders.

Charles Caleb Colton: Lacon.

Of governments, that of the mob is the most sanguinary, that of soldiers the most expensive, and that of civilians the most vexatious.

Charles Caleb Colton: Lacon.

He [Mr. Fox] declared that he did not affect a democracy: that he always thought any of the simple, unbalanced governments bad; simple monarchy, simple aristocracy, simple democracy,—he held them all imperfect or vicious; all were bad by themselves; the composition alone was good. That these had been always his principles, in which he had agreed with his friend Mr. Burke.

C. J. Fox: Speech on the Army Estimates, Feb. 9, 1790.

We are more heavily taxed by our idleness, pride, and folly than we are taxed by government.

To place the rights of man as the basis of lawful government is not peculiar to Mr. Paine; but was done more than a century ago by men of no less eminence than Sidney and Locke. It is extremely disingenuous to impute the system to Mr. Paine as its author. His structure may be false and erroneous, but the foundation was laid by other hands.

Robert Hall: Apology for the Freedom of the Press, Sect. IV.

Civil restraints imply nothing more than a surrender of our liberty in some points in order to maintain it undisturbed in others of more importance. Thus we give up the liberty of repelling force by force, in return for a more equal administration of justice than private resentment would permit. But there are some rights which cannot with any propriety be yielded up to human authority, because they are perfectly consistent with every benefit its appointment can procure. The free use of our faculties in distinguishing truth from falsehood, the exertion of corporeal powers without injury to others, the choice of a religion and worship, are branches of natural freedom which no government can justly alter or diminish, because their restraint cannot conduce to that security which is its proper object. Government, like every other contrivance, has a specific end; it implies the resignation of just as much liberty as is needful to attain it; whatever is demanded more is superfluous, a species of tyranny, which ought to be corrected by withdrawing it.

Robert Hall: Apology for the Freedom of the Press, Sect. IV.

It is incumbent on Mr. Burke and his followers to ascertain the time when natural rights are relinquished. Mr. Hey is content with tracing their existence to society, while Mr. Burke, the more moderate of the two, admitting their foundation in nature, only contends that regular government absorbs and swallows them up, bestowing artificial advantages in exchange. But at what period, it may be inquired, shall we date this wonderful revolution in the social condition of man? If we say it was as early as the first dawn of society, natural liberty had never any existence at all, since there are no traces even in tradition of a period when men were utterly unconnected with each other.

Robert Hall: Apology for the Freedom of the Press, Sect. IV.

The true prop of good government is opinion,—the perception on the part of the subject of benefits resulting from it,—a settled conviction, in other words, of its being a public good. Now, nothing can produce or maintain that opinion but knowledge, since opinion is a form of knowledge.

Robert Hall: Advantages of Knowledge to the Lower Classes.

To fill the minds of the public with hatreds, jealousies, and suspicions is to poison the fountains of public security. When this spirit is once awakened among a people, the character and conduct of its rulers seldom fail, in the long run, to be injured by it. Under disasters which the utmost wisdom cannot prevent, under burdens which the strictest economy may impose, government presents a plain, a palpable, and permanent pretext of discontent and suspicion. Misery has a sort of relief in attributing its sufferings to the conduct of others, and while it soothes its anguish by resentment and clamour it fastens on the object that first presents itself. This object will naturally be the rulers of the nation.

Robert Hall: Fragment, On Village Preaching.

Government is the creature of the people, and that which they have created they surely have a right to examine. The great Author of nature, having placed the right of dominion in no particular hands, hath left every point relating to it to be settled by the consent and approbation of mankind. In spite of the attempts of sophistry to conceal the origin of political right, it must inevitably rest at length on the acquiescence of the people.

Robert Hall: On the Right of Public Discussion.

Apart from the personal character of rulers, which are fluctuating and variable, you will find the apostles continually enjoin respect to government, as government, as a permanent ordinance of God, susceptible of various modifications from human wisdom, but essential, under some form or other, to the existence of society; and affording a representation, faint and inadequate it is true, but still a representation, of the dominion of God over the earth.

Robert Hall: Sentiments Proper to the Present Crisis.

Though there be a kind of natural right in the noble, wise, and virtuous, to govern them which are of a servile disposition; nevertheless, for manifestation of this their right the assent of them who are to be governed seemeth necessary.

Richard Hooker.

The surest way of governing, both in a private family and a kingdom, is for a husband and a prince sometimes to drop their prerogative.

Thomas Hughes.

When a new government is established, by whatever means, the people are commonly dissatisfied with it.

All experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

Thomas Jefferson.

In elective governments there is a tacit covenant that the king of their own making shall make his makers princes.

Roger L’Estrange.

Civil government is the proper remedy for the inconveniences of a state of nature.

Self-love will make men partial to themselves and friends, and ill-nature, passion, and revenge will carry them too far in punishing others; and therefore God hath certainly appointed government to restrain the partiality and violence of men.

Their consciences oblige them to submit to that dominion which their governors had a right to exercise over them.

Men may put government into what hands they please.

We must know how the first ruler, from whom any one claims, came by his authority, before we can know who has a right to succeed him in it.

It is the nature of the Devil of tyranny to tear and rend the body which he leaves. Are the miseries of continued possession less horrible than the struggles of the tremendous exorcism?

If it were possible that a people brought up under an intolerant and arbitrary system could subvert that system without acts of cruelty and folly, half the objections to despotic power would be removed. We should, in that case, be compelled to acknowledge that it at least produces no pernicious effects on the intellectual and moral character of a nation. We deplore the outrages which accompany revolutions. But the more violent the outrages the more assured we feel that a revolution was necessary. The violence of those outrages will always be proportioned to the ferocity and ignorance of the people; and the ferocity and ignorance of the people will be proportioned to the oppression and degradation under which they have been accustomed to live. Thus it was in our civil war. The heads of the church and state reaped only that which they had sown. The government had prohibited free discussion; it had done its best to keep the people unacquainted with their duties and their rights. The retribution was just and natural. If our rulers suffered from popular ignorance, it was because they had themselves taken away the key of knowledge. If they were assailed with blind fury, it was because they had exacted an equally blind submission.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Milton, Aug. 1825.

In every other part of Europe, a large and powerful privileged class trampled on the people and defied the government. But, in the most flourishing parts of Italy, the feudal nobles were reduced to comparative insignificance. In some districts they took shelter under the protection of the powerful commonwealths which they were unable to oppose, and gradually sank into the mass of burghers. In other places they possessed great influence; but it was an influence widely different from that which was exercised by the aristocracy of any Transalpine kingdom. They were not petty princes, but eminent citizens. Instead of strengthening their fastnesses among the mountains, they embellished their palaces in the market-place. The state of society in the Neapolitan dominions, and in some parts of the Ecclesiastical State, more nearly resembled that which existed in the great monarchies of Europe. But the governments of Lombardy and Tuscany, through all their revolutions, preserved a different character. A people when assembled in a town is far more formidable to its rulers than when dispersed over a wide extent of country. The most arbitrary of the Cæsars found it necessary to feed and divert the inhabitants of their unwieldy capital at the expense of the provinces. The citizens of Madrid have more than once besieged their sovereign in his own palace and extorted from him the most humiliating concessions. The Sultans have often been compelled to propitiate the furious rabble of Constantinople with the head of an unpopular vizier. From the same causes there was a certain tinge of democracy in the monarchies and aristocracies of Northern Italy.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Machiavelli, March, 1827.

Let us overleap two or three hundred years, and contemplate Europe at the commencement of the eighteenth century. Every free constitution, save one, had gone down. That of England had weathered the danger, and was riding in full security. In Denmark and Sweden, the kings had availed themselves of the disputes which raged between the nobles and the commons, to unite all the powers of government in their own hands. In France, the institution of the States was only mentioned by lawyers as a part of the ancient theory of their government. It slept a deep sleep, destined to be broken by a tremendous waking. No person remembered the sittings of the three orders, or expected ever to see them renewed. Louis the Fourteenth had imposed on his parliament a patient silence of sixty years. His grandson, after the War of the Spanish Succession, assimilated the constitution of Aragon to that of Castile, and extinguished the last feeble remains of liberty in the Peninsula. In England, on the other hand, the Parliament was infinitely more powerful than it had ever been. Not only was its legislative authority fully established; but its right to interfere, by advice almost equivalent to command, in every department of the executive government, was recognized. The appointment of ministers, the relations with foreign powers, the conduct of a war or a negotiation, depended less on the pleasure of the Prince than on that of the two Houses.

What then made us to differ? Why was it that, in that epidemic malady of constitutions, ours escaped the destroying influence; or rather that, at the very crisis of the disease, a favourable turn took place in England, and in England alone? It was not surely without a cause that so many kindred systems of government, having flourished together so long, languished and expired at almost the same time.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Hallam’s Constitutional History, Sept. 1828.

In such a state of society as that which existed all over Europe during the middle ages, very slight checks sufficed to keep the sovereign in order. His means of corruption and intimidation were very scanty. He had little money, little patronage, no military establishment. His armies resembled juries. They were drawn out of the mass of the people: they soon returned to it again: and the character which was habitual prevailed over that which was occasional. A campaign of forty days was too short, the discipline of a national militia too lax, to efface from their minds the feelings of civil life. As they carried to the camp the sentiments and interests of the farm and the shop, so they carried back to the farm and the shop the military accomplishments which they had acquired in the camp. At home the soldier learned how to value his rights, abroad how to defend them.

Such a military force as this was a far stronger restraint on the regal power than any legislative assembly. The army, now the most formidable instrument of the executive power, was then the most formidable check on that power. Resistance to an established government, in modern times so difficult and perilous an enterprise, was in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the simplest and easiest matter in the world. Indeed, it was far too simple and easy. An insurrection was got up then almost as easily as a petition is got up now. In a popular cause, or even in an unpopular cause favoured by a few great nobles, a force of ten thousand armed men was raised in a week.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Hallam’s Constitutional History.

It is evidently on the real distribution of power, and not on names and badges, that the happiness of nations must depend. The representative system, though doubtless a great and precious discovery in politics, is only one of the many modes in which the democratic part of the community can efficiently check the governing few. That certain men have been chosen as deputies of the people,—that there is a piece of paper stating such deputies to possess certain powers,—these circumstances in themselves constitute no security for good government. Such a constitution nominally existed in France; while, in fact, an oligarchy of committees and clubs trampled at once on the electors and the elected. Representation is a very happy contrivance for enabling large bodies of men to exert their power with less risk of disorder than there would otherwise be. But, assuredly, it does not of itself give power. Unless a representative assembly is sure of being supported in the last resort by the physical strength of large masses who have spirit to defend the constitution and sense to defend it in concert, the mob of the town in which it meets may overawe it; the howls of the listeners in its gallery may silence its deliberations; an able and daring individual may dissolve it. And if that sense and that spirit of which we speak be diffused through a society, then, even without a representative assembly, that society will enjoy many of the blessings of good government.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Utilitarian Theory of Government, Oct. 1829.

Wherever a king or an oligarchy refrains from the last extremity of rapacity and tyranny through fear of the resistance of the people, there the constitution, whatever it may be called, is in some measure democratical. The admixture of democratic power may be slight. It may be much slighter than it ought to be; but some admixture there is. Wherever a numerical minority, by means of superior wealth or intelligence, of political concert, or of military discipline, exercises a greater influence on the society than any other equal number of persons,—there, whatever the form of government may be called, a mixture of aristocracy does in fact exist. And wherever a single man, from whatever cause, is so necessary to the community, or to any portion of it, that he possesses more power than any other man, there is a mixture of monarchy. This is the philosophical classification of governments: and if we use this classification we shall find, not only that there are mixed governments, but that all governments are, and must always be, mixed. But we may safely challenge Mr. Mill to give any definition of power, or to make any classification of governments, which shall bear him out in his assertion that a lasting division of authority is impracticable.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Utilitarian Theory of Government.

Men are never so likely to settle a question rightly as when they discuss it freely. A government can interfere in discussion only by making it less free than it would otherwise be. Men are most likely to form just opinions when they have no other wish than to know the truth, and are exempt from all influence either of hope or fear. Government, as government, can bring nothing but the influence of hopes and fears to support its doctrines. It carries on controversy, not with reasons, but with threats and bribes. If it employs reasons, it does so, not in virtue of any powers which belong to it as a government. Thus, instead of a contest between argument and argument, we have a contest between argument and force. Instead of a contest in which truth, from the natural constitution of the human mind, has a decided advantage over falsehood, we have a contest in which truth can be victorious only by accident.

And what, after all, is the security which this training gives to governments? Mr. Southey would scarcely propose that discussion should be more effectually shackled, that public opinion should be more strictly disciplined into conformity with established institutions, than in Spain and Italy. Yet we know that the restraints which exist in Spain and Italy have not prevented atheism from spreading among the educated classes, and especially among those whose office it is to minister at the altars of God. All our readers know how, at the time of the French Revolution, priest after priest came forward to declare that his doctrine, his ministry, his whole life, had been a lie, a mummery, during which he could scarcely compose his countenance sufficiently to carry on the imposture.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Southey’s Colloquies on Society, Jan. 1830.

If I were convinced that the great body of the middle class in England look with aversion on monarchy and aristocracy, I should be forced, much against my will, to come to this conclusion, that monarchical and aristocratical institutions are unsuited to my country. Monarchy and aristocracy, valuable and useful as I think them, are still valuable and useful as means, and not as ends. The end of government is the happiness of the people; and I do not conceive that, in a country like this, the happiness of the people can be promoted by a form of government in which the middle classes place no confidence, and which exists only because the middle classes have no organ by which to make their sentiments known. But, Sir, I am fully convinced that the middle classes sincerely wish to uphold the Royal prerogatives and the constitutional rights of the Peers.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Speech on Parliamentary Reform, March, 1831.

We must judge of a form of government by its general tendency, not by happy accidents. Every form of government has its happy accidents. Despotism has its happy accidents. Yet we are not disposed to abolish all constitutional checks, to place an absolute master over us, and to take our chance whether he may be a Caligula or a Marcus Aurelius. In whatever way the House of Commons may be chosen, some able men will be chosen in that way who would not be chosen in any other way. If there were a law that the hundred tallest men in England should be Members of Parliament, there would probably be some able men among those who would come into the House by virtue of this law. If the hundred persons whose names stand first in the alphabetical list of the Court Guide were made Members of Parliament, there would probably be able men among them. We read in ancient history that a very able king was elected by the neighing of his horse; but we shall scarcely, I think, adopt this mode of election.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Speech on Parliamentary Reform, March, 1831.

On the physical condition of the great body of the people government acts not as a specific, but as an alterative. Its operation is powerful, indeed, and certain, but gradual and indirect. The business of government is not directly to make the people rich, but to protect them in making themselves rich; and a government which attempts more than this is precisely the government which is likely to perform less. Governments do not and cannot support the people. We have no miraculous powers: we have not the rod of the Hebrew lawgiver: we cannot rain down bread on the multitude from Heaven: we cannot smite the rod and give them to drink. We can give them only freedom to employ their industry to the best advantage, and security in the enjoyment of what their industry has acquired. These advantages it is our duty to give them at the smallest possible cost. The diligence and forethought of individuals will thus have fair play; and it is only by the diligence and forethought of individuals that the community can become prosperous.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Speech on Parliamentary Reform, Sept. 20, 1831.

We are desirous, before we enter on the discussion of this important question, to point out clearly a distinction which, though very obvious, seems to be overlooked by many excellent people. In their opinion, to say that the ends of government are temporal and not spiritual is tantamount to saying that the temporal welfare of man is of more importance than his spiritual welfare. But this is an entire mistake. The question is not whether spiritual interests be or be not superior in importance to temporal interests; but whether the machinery which happens at any moment to be employed for the purpose of protecting certain temporal interests of a society be necessarily such a machinery as is fitted to promote the spiritual interests of that society. Without a division of labour the world could not go on. It is of very much more importance that men should have food than that they should have pianofortes. Yet it by no means follows that every pianoforte-maker ought to add the business of a baker to his own; for if he did so, we should have both much worse music and much worse bread. It is of much more importance that the knowledge of religious truth should be widely diffused than that the art of sculpture should flourish among us. Yet it by no means follows that the Royal Academy ought to unite with its present functions those of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, to distribute theological tracts, to send forth missionaries, to turn out Nollekens for being a Catholic, Bacon for being a Methodist, and Flaxman for being a Swedenborgian. For the effect of such folly would be that we should have the worst possible Academy of Arts, and the worst possible Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge. The community, it is plain, would he thrown into universal confusion if it were supposed to be the duty of every association which is formed for one good object to promote every other good object.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Gladstone on Church and State, April, 1839.

As to some of the ends of civil government, all people are agreed. That it is designed to protect our persons and our property, that it is designed to compel us to satisfy our wants, not by rapine, but by industry, that it is designed to compel us to decide our differences, not by the strong hand, but by arbitration, that it is designed to direct our whole force, as that of one man, against any other society which may offer us injury, these are propositions which will hardly be disputed.

Now these are matters in which any man, without any reference to any higher being, or to any future state, is very deeply interested. Every human being, be he idolater, Mahometan, Jew, Papist, Deist, or Atheist, naturally loves life, shrinks from pain, desires comforts which can be enjoyed only in communities where property is secure. To be murdered, to be tortured, to be robbed, to be sold into slavery, to be exposed to the outrages of gangs of foreign banditti calling themselves patriots, these are evidently evils from which men of every religion, and men of no religion, wish to be protected; and therefore it will hardly be disputed that men of every religion, and of no religion, have thus far a common interest in being well governed.

But the hopes and fears of man are not limited to this short life, and to this visible world. He finds himself surrounded by the signs of a power and wisdom higher than his own; and in all ages and nations men of all orders of intellect, from Bacon and Newton down to the rudest tribes of cannibals, have believed in the existence of some superior mind. Thus far the voice of mankind is almost unanimous. But whether there be one God or many, what may be his natural and what his moral attributes, in what relation his creatures stand to him, whether he have ever disclosed himself to us by any other revelation than that which is written in all the parts of the glorious and well-ordered world which he has made, whether his revelation be contained in any permanent record, how that record should be interpreted, and whether it have pleased him to appoint any unerring interpreter on earth, these are questions respecting which there exists the widest diversity of opinion, and respecting which a large part of our race has, ever since the dawn of regular history, been deplorably in error. Now here are two great objects: one is the protection of the persons and estates of citizens from injury; the other is the propagation of religious truth. No two objects more entirely distinct can well be imagined. The former belongs wholly to the visible and tangible world in which we live; the latter belongs to that higher world which is beyond the reach of our senses. The former belongs to this life; the latter to that which is to come. Men who are perfectly agreed as to the importance of the former object, and as to the way of obtaining it, differ as widely as possible respecting the latter object. We must therefore pause before we admit that the persons, be they who they may, who are intrusted with power for the promotion of the former object ought always to use that power for the promotion of the latter object.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Gladstone on Church and State.

Mr. Gladstone conceives that the duties of governments are paternal; a doctrine which we shall not believe till he can show us some government which loves its subjects as a father loves a child, and which is as superior in intelligence to its subjects as a father is to a child. He tells us, in lofty though somewhat indistinct language, that “Government occupies in moral the place [Greek] in physical science.” If government be indeed [Greek] in moral science, we do not understand why rulers should not assume all the functions which Plato assigned to them. Why should they not take away the child from the mother, select the nurse, regulate the school, overlook the playground, fix the hours of labour and of recreation, prescribe what ballads shall be sung, what tunes shall be played, what books shall be read, what physic shall be swallowed? Why should not they choose our wives, limit our expenses, and stint us to a certain number of dishes of meat, of glasses of wine, and of cups of tea? Plato, whose hardihood in speculation was perhaps more wonderful than any other peculiarity of his extraordinary mind, and who shrank from nothing to which his principles led, went this whole length. Mr. Gladstone is not so intrepid. He contents himself with laying down this proposition, that, whatever be the body which in any community is employed to protect the persons and property of men, that body ought also, in its corporate capacity, to profess a religion, to employ its power for the propagation of that religion, and to require conformity to that religion as an indispensable qualification for all civil office. He distinctly declares that he does not in this proposition confine his view to orthodox governments, or even to Christian governments. The circumstance that a religion is false does not, he tells us, diminish the obligation of governors, as such, to uphold it. If they neglect to do so, “we cannot,” he says, “but regard the fact as aggravating the case of the holders of such creed.” “I do not scruple to affirm,” he adds, “that, if a Mahometan conscientiously believes his religion to come from God, and to teach divine truth, he must believe that truth to be beneficial, and beneficial beyond all other things to the soul of man; and he must therefore, and ought to, desire its extension, and to use for its extension all proper and legitimate means; and that, if such Mahometan be a prince, he ought to count among those means the application of whatever influence or funds he may lawfully have at his disposal for such purposes.”

Surely this is a hard saying. Before we admit that the Emperor Julian in employing the influence and the funds at his disposal for the extinction of Christianity was doing no more than his duty, before we admit that the Arian Theodoric would have committed a crime if he had suffered a single believer in the divinity of Christ to hold any civil employment in Italy, before we admit that the Dutch government is bound to exclude from office all members of the Church of England, the King of Bavaria to exclude from office all Protestants, the Great Turk to exclude from office all Christians, the King of Ava to exclude from office all who hold the unity of God, we think ourselves entitled to demand very full and accurate demonstration. When the consequences of a doctrine are so startling we may well require that its foundations shall be very solid.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Gladstone on Church and State.

The doctrine which “must surely command universal assent” is this: that every association of human beings which exercises any power whatever, that is to say, every association of human beings, is bound, as such association, to profess a religion. Imagine the effect which would follow if this principle were in force during four-and-twenty hours. Take one instance out of a million. A stage-coach company has power over its horses. This power is the property of God. It is used according to the will of God when it is used with mercy. But the principle of mercy can never be truly or permanently entertained in the human breast without continual reference to God. The powers, therefore, that dwell in individuals acting as a stage-coach company can only be secured for right uses by applying to them a religion. Every stage-coach company ought, therefore, in its collective capacity, to profess some one faith, to have its articles, and its public worship, and its tests. That this conclusion, and an infinite number of other conclusions equally strange, follow of necessity from Mr. Gladstone’s principles, is as certain as it is that two and two make four. And if the legitimate conclusions be so absurd, there must be something unsound in the principle.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Gladstone on Church and State.

But we shall leave this abstract question, and look at the world as we find it. Does, then, the way in which governments generally obtain their power make it at all probable that they will be more favourable to orthodoxy than to heterodoxy? A nation of barbarians pours down on a rich and unwarlike empire, enslaves the people, portions out the land, and blends the institutions which it finds in the cities with those which it has brought from the woods. A handful of daring adventurers from a civilized nation wander to some savage country, and reduce the aboriginal race to bondage. A successful general turns his arms against the state which he serves. A society, made brutal by oppression, rises madly on its masters, sweeps away all old laws and usages, and, when its first paroxysm of rage is over, sinks down passively under any form of polity which may spring out of the chaos. A chief of a party, as at Florence, becomes imperceptibly a sovereign, and the founder of a dynasty. A captain of mercenaries, as at Milan, seizes on a city, and by the sword makes himself its ruler. An elective senate, as at Venice, usurps permanent and hereditary power. It is in events such as these that governments have generally originated; and we can see nothing in such events to warrant us in believing that the governments thus called into existence will be peculiarly well fitted to distinguish between religious truth and heresy.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Gladstone on Church and State.

The history of the successors of Theodosius bears no small analogy to that of the successors of Aurungzebe. But perhaps the fall of the Carlovingians furnishes the nearest parallel to the fall of the Moguls. Charlemagne was scarcely interred when the imbecility and the disputes of his descendants began to bring contempt on themselves and destruction on their subjects. The wide dominion of the Franks was severed into a thousand pieces. Nothing more than a nominal dignity was left to the abject heirs of an illustrious name: Charles the Bold, and Charles the Fat, and Charles the Simple. Fierce invaders, differing from each other in race, language, and religion, flocked, as if by concert, from the farthest corners of the earth, to plunder provinces which the government could no longer defend. The pirates of the Northern Sea extended their ravages from the Elbe to the Pyrenees, and at length fixed their seat in the rich valley of the Seine. The Hungarian, in whom the trembling monks fancied that they recognized the Gog or Magog of prophecy, carried back the plunder of the cities of Lombardy to the depths of the Pannonian forests. The Saracen ruled in Sicily, desolated the fertile plains of Campania, and spread terror even to the walls of Rome. In the midst of these sufferings a great internal change passed upon the empire. The corruption of death began to ferment into new forms of life. While the great body, as a whole, was torpid and passive, every separate member began to feel with a sense and to move with an energy all its own. Just here, in the most barren and dreary tract of European history, all feudal privileges, all modern nobility, take their source. It is to this point that we trace the power of those princes who, nominally vassals, but really independent, long governed, with the titles of dukes, marquesses, and counts, almost every part of the dominions which had obeyed Charlemagne.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Lord Clive, Jan. 1840.

It is only in a refined and speculative age that a polity is constructed on system. In rude societies the progress of government resembles the progress of language and of versification. Rude societies have language, and often copious and energetic language: but they have no scientific grammar, no definitions of nouns and verbs, no names for declensions, moods, tenses, and voices. Rude societies have versification, and often versification of great power and sweetness: but they have no metrical canons; and the minstrel whose numbers, regulated solely by his ear, are the delight of his audience, would himself be unable to say of how many dactyls and trochees each of his lines consists. As eloquence exists before syntax, and song before prosody, so government may exist in a high degree of excellence long before the limits of legislative, executive, and judicial power have been traced with precision.

It was thus in our country. The line which bounded the royal prerogative, though sufficiently clear, had not everywhere been drawn with accuracy and distinctness.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: History of England, vol. i. chap. i.

The Commons, faithful to their system, remained in a wise and masterly inactivity.

Sir James Mackintosh.

No government, any more than an individual, will long be respected, without being truly respectable.

James Madison.

The reason for which government exists is, that one man, if stronger than another, will take from him whatever that other possesses and he desires. But if one man will do this, so will several. And if powers are put into the hands of a comparatively small number, called an aristocracy,—powers which make them stronger than the rest of the community,—they will take from the rest of the community as much as they please of the objects of desire. They will thus defeat the very end for which government was instituted. The unfitness, therefore, of an aristocracy to be intrusted with the powers of government rests on demonstration.

James Mill: Essays on Government, etc., 1828.

That one human being will desire to render the person and property of another subservient to his pleasures, notwithstanding the pain or loss of pleasure which it may occasion to that other individual, is the foundation of government.

James Mill: Essays on Government, etc.

If government is founded upon this, as a law of human nature, that a man, if able, will take from others anything which they have and he desires, it is sufficiently evident, that when a man is called a king he does not change his nature; so that when he has got power to enable him to take from every man what he pleases, he will take whatever he pleases. To suppose that he will not, is to affirm that government is unnecessary, and that human beings will abstain from injuring one another of their own accord. It is very evident that this reasoning extends to every modification of the smaller number. Whenever the powers of government are placed in any hands other than those of the community, whether those of one man, or few, or of several, those principles of human nature which imply that government is at all necessary, imply that those persons will make use of them to defeat the very end for which government exists.

James Mill: Essays on Government, etc.

Let this stand then as a settled maxim of the law of nature, never to be shaken by any artifices of flatterers, that the senate, or the people, are superior to kings, be they good or bad: which is but what you yourself do in effect confess when you tell us that the authority of kings was derived from the people. For that power which they transferred to princes doth yet naturally, or, as I may say, virtually, reside in themselves notwithstanding.

John Milton: Defence of the People of England.

Put conditions and take oaths from all kings and magistrates at their first instalment, to do impartial justice by law.

A man must first govern himself ere he be fit to govern a family, and his family, ere he be fit to bear the government in the commonwealth.

They that govern most make least noise. You see when they row in a barge, they that do drudgery-work, slash, and puff, and sweat; but he that governs sits quietly at the stern, and scarce is seen to stir.

John Selden.

The worst kind of oligarchy is, when men are governed indeed by a few, and yet are not taught to know what those few be whom they should obey.

Sir Philip Sidney.

Government is an art above the attainment of an ordinary genius.

Robert South.

To men in governing most things fall out accidentally, and come not into any compliance with their preconceived ends; but they are forced to comply subsequently, and to strike in with things as they fall out, by postliminous after-applications of them to their purposes.

Robert South.

It is a proposition of eternal verity, that none can govern while he is despised.

Robert South.

What makes a governor justly despised is viciousness and ill morals. Virtue must tip the preacher’s tongue and the ruler’s sceptre with authority.

Robert South.

Of contempt, and the malign hostile influence it has upon government, every man’s experience will inform him.

Robert South.

A third thing that makes a government justly despised is fearfulness of, and mean compliances with, bold popular offenders.

Robert South.

Governments that once made such a noise, as founded upon the deepest counsels and the strongest force, yet by some slight miscarriage, which let in ruin upon them, are now so utterly extinct that nothing remains of them but a name; nor are there the least traces of them to be found but only in story.

Robert South.

The three forms of government have their several perfections, and are subject to their several depravations: however, few states are ruined by defect in their institution, but generally by corruption of manners.

Jonathan Swift.

Hereditary right should be kept sacred; not from any inalienable right in a particular family, but to avoid the consequences that usually attend the ambition of competitors.

Jonathan Swift.

An hereditary right is to be preferred before election, because the government is so disposed that it almost executes itself; and upon the death of a prince the administration goes on without any rub or interruption.

Jonathan Swift.

Great changes may be made in a government, yet the form continue; but large intervals of time must pass between every such innovation, enough to make it of a piece with the constitution.

Jonathan Swift.

It may pass for a maxim in state, that the administration cannot be placed in too few hands, nor the legislature in too many.

Jonathan Swift.

When the balance of power is duly fixed in a state, nothing is more dangerous or unwise than to give way to the first steps of popular encroachment.

Jonathan Swift.

In countries of freedom, princes are bound to protect their subjects in liberty, property, and religion, to receive their petitions and redress their grievances.

Jonathan Swift.

From the practice of the wisest nations, when a prince was laid aside for maladministration, the nobles and people did resume the administration of the supreme power.

Jonathan Swift.

Of the several forms of government that have been or are in the world, that cause seems commonly the better that has the better advocate, or is advantaged by fresher experience.

Sir William Temple.

All government may be esteemed to grow strong or weak as the general opinion in those that govern is seen to lessen or increase.

Sir William Temple.

A government which by alienating the affections, losing the opinions, and crossing the interests, of the people, leaves out of its compass the greatest part of their consent, may justly be said, in the same degree it loses ground, to narrow its bottom.

Sir William Temple.

The government which takes in the consent of the greatest number of the people may justly be said to have the broadest bottom; and if it be terminated in the authority of one single person, it may be said to have the narrowest top; and so makes the firmest pyramid.

Sir William Temple.

Frugal and industrious men are friendly to the established government, as the idle and expensive are dangerous.

Sir William Temple.

The breaking down an old frame of government and erecting a new, seems like the cutting down an old oak and planting a young one: it is true the grandson may enjoy the shade and the mast, but the planter, besides the pleasure of imagination, has no other benefits.

Sir William Temple.

Religion hath a good influence upon the people to make them obedient to government and peaceable one towards another.

John Tillotson.

The protection of religion is indispensable to all governments.

Bishop William Warburton.

But I say to you, and to our whole country, and to all the crowned heads, and aristocratic powers, and feudal systems that exist, that it is to self-government, the great principle of popular representation and administration—the system that lets in all to participate in the counsels that are to assign the good or evil to all—that we may owe what we are and what we hope to be.

Daniel Webster.

“This public envy seemeth to bear chiefly upon principal officers or ministers, rather than upon kings.” [Bacon.] This is a very just remark, and it might have suggested an excellent argument (touched on in the Lessons on the British Constitution) in favour of hereditary Royalty. It is surely a good thing that there should be some feeling of loyalty unalloyed by envy, towards something in the government. And this feeling concentrates itself among us, upon the Sovereign. But in a pure Republic, the abstract idea of the State—the Commonwealth itself—is too vague for the vulgar mind to take hold of with any loyal affection. The President, and every one of the public officers, has been raised from the ranks; and the very circumstance of their having been so raised on the score of supposed fitness, makes them (as was observed above) the more obnoxious to envy, because their elevation is felt as an affront to their rivals.

An hereditary Sovereign, on the other hand, if believed to possess personal merit, is regarded as a Godsend; but he does not hold his place by that tenure.

Richard Whately: Annot. on Bacon’s Essay, Of Envy.

Bacon’s remark, that a prince ought not to make it his policy to “govern according to respect to faction,” suggests a strong ground of preference of hereditary to elective sovereignty. For when a chief—whether called king, emperor, president, or by whatever name—is elected (whether for life, or for a term of years), he can hardly avoid being the head of a party. He who is elected will be likely to feel aversion towards those who have voted against him; who may be, perhaps, nearly half of his subjects. And they again will be likely to regard him as an enemy, instead of feeling loyalty to him as their prince.

And those again who have voted for him, will consider him as being under an obligation to them, and expect them to show him more favour than to the rest of his subjects: so that he will be rather the head of a party than the king of a people. Then, too, when the throne is likely to become vacant,—that is, when the king is old, or is attacked with any serious illness,—what secret canvassing and disturbance of men’s minds will take place! The king himself will most likely wish that his son, or some other near relative or friend, should succeed him, and he will employ all his patronage with a view to such an election; appointing to public offices not the fittest men, but those whom he can reckon on as voters. And others will be exerting themselves to form a party against him; so that the country will be hardly ever tranquil, and very seldom well governed.

If, indeed, men were very different from what they are, there might be superior advantages in an elective royalty; but in the actual state of things, the disadvantages will in general greatly outweigh the benefits.

Accordingly, most nations have seen the advantage of hereditary royalty, notwithstanding the defects of such a constitution.

Richard Whately: Annot. on Bacon’s Essay, Of Faction, and in his Lesson I., On the British Constitution.

The government of man should be the monarchy of reason: it is too often the democracy of passions, or the anarchy of humours.

Dr. Benjamin Whichcote.