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It is not found necessary to settle a standard of freight, or to enact that a yard of cloth shall be of a determined value, when the buyer and seller neglect to adjust it. The grand error consists in considering money as capital, instead of regarding it as only the measure of capital. When dollars and cents are viewed in the same light as the yard-stick and scales, we shall cease to make a difference between the loan of money and the use of merchandise. Both resting upon the same principle, will be subject to the same rules. April 23, 1825.
A history of political knowledge would at any time afford a very agreeable and useful subject of speculation. But at present, when so many new states are forming, and so many changes are making even in established governments, it possesses peculiar interest. It is only in modern times that the theory of constitutions has formed a part of liberal studies. An account of the theories which have successively prevailed would open a path, which as yet is almost wholly unexplored. In the hope of directing the attention of others to this department of literary history, we shall occasionally publish a few remarks, the materials of which have been for some time collected. For many of them we are indebted to the industry of a valued friend.
Political inquiries into the rights and duties of sovereign and subject presuppose a degree of established order in a state, which we do not find in very early times. Of course, no such inquiries were made among the Greeks until their constitutions, irregular as they were, were in a great meas
ure fixed. Lawgivers made their appearance, says Heeren, much before the spirit of speculation had been occupied on the subject of politics. The objects of those lawgivers, therefore, were altogether practical. Among the Romans, though we find many practical applications of important political maxims in the contests between the king and the people, and afterwards between the Senate and the Plebeians, yet theoretical inquiries into the rights on which such contests were founded arose even later in the progress of society than among the Greeks. In like manner, in modern times, no trace of political science can be found till after the nations had been distinctly separated, and partial limits had been set to the different orders and powers of the state. The feudal system forbade it entirely, from its rude simplicity, which acknowledged no relations in society but those of lord and serf, and in war, of leader and follower; and even if other circumstances had tended to develope political science, the fatal torpor which had checked the spirit of inquiry in other departments of knowledge would have prevented it.
The present age has afforded the first examples of the formation of a constitution, in the modern sense of the terms; that is, of a form of government, complete in itself, established at once. There was nothing like it in former times; for the lawgivers of ancient Greece were merely reformers of existing usages; and what is called the constitution in most nations of Europe is merely ancient custom, more or less modified by legislative enactments or royal de
The reason of these usages and customs, and the
rights on which they were founded, are, comparatively speaking, the subjects of modern investigation. We shall pass at once, therefore, to the period of modern history.
It is not until the end or towards the end of the middle ages, that we find a state of government and of intellectual cultivation such as to give birth to political inquiry. The first trace of it seems to be found in the long controversy between the emperors and the popes on the great question of ecclesiastical and temporal rights over the bishops-or, as it was then called, the right of election and investiturewhich began about the year 1321, under the reign of Louis of Bavaria. The traces here however are very slight, as the question was in fact a theological one, and controverted between independent princes; so that the reciprocal rights of sovereign and subject were only incidentally examined.
The next trace is found in France in 1407, on occasion of the murder of a Duke of Orleans by a Duke of Burgundy, in which John Petit, a doctor of divinity, came forth as the champion of the criminal, in a work, entitled "The Rights of Men against Tyrants and Prodigals;" a book which the Council of Constance ordered to be publicly burnt, though the order was never executed.
In Italy where such inquiries might naturally be expected, from its division into small republics and from the activity of political parties, we find none for many years. The politics of the Italian states were confined to narrow intrigues for personal and family aggrandizement; and were altogether practical. Philosophical inquiry, systems and theories, were quite unknown; and even in Machiavel, who
published his "Prince" in 1415, and his "Discourses on Livy" a few years after, we find only detached maxims founded on experience, and no attempt to lay down general principles, or to treat the subject in a scientific form.
The Reformation in fact gave the first impulse to political inquiries in a regular form; not only because it claimed a general freedom of thinking, and excited a general spirit of investigation, but because in its very course and consequences it disturbed the most important questions of right between sovereign and subject. The demand of the reformer was religious freedom, which was denied by all the sovereigns of christendom. Hence arose at once the great question, whether the subject is bound to render unlimited obedience in all points. In 1531 the faculties of theology and law at the University of Wittemberg, under the influence of Luther, made a solemn decision, that in matters of faith, emperor and prince were alike without right to claim unconditional obedience. Zuingle, who had begun to teach in Switzerland as early as 1518, soon went beyond the Germans, and declared publicly that a bad prince might lawfully be deposed; in which he was followed and supported by Calvin. This important principle was laid at the very beginning of the Reformation, and is in fact the foundation of all modern liberty. It put at issue the important question, when and how far the subject may refuse obedience, or in other words, how far he is independent of his sovereign. It was indeed at first a theological question; but afterwards, as the Reformation itself assumed a political character, this too became a political question. In