Chapter 2: The Nature Of Government And Its Progress In The First Ages Of Society
We shall now explain:
- the nature of government,
- its different forms,
- what circumstances gave occasion for it, and
- by what it is maintained.
- The forms of government may be reduced to three:
- These may be blended in many ways.
- We usually denominate the government from that one which prevails.
- A monarchical government is where the supreme power is vested in one who can:
- do what he pleases,
- make peace and war,
- impose taxes, etc.
- Aristocratical government is where a certain order of people in the state, either of the richest or of certain families, have the power to choose magistrates who manage the state.
- Democratical government is where the management of affairs belongs to the whole body of the people together.
- Aristocratical and democratical governments may be called republican.
- The division of government is into monarchical and republican.
To acquire proper notions of government, it is necessary to:
- consider its first form of it
- observe how the other forms arose out of it.
- In a nation of hunters there is no government at all.
- The society consists of a few independent families who:
- live in the same village,
- speak the same language, and
- have agreed among themselves to keep together for their mutual safety
- But they have no authority one over another.
- The whole society interests itself in any offence.
- If possible they make it up between the parties, if not they banish from their society, kill or deliver up to the resentment of the injured him who has committed the crime.
- But this is no regular government.
- for though there may be some among them who are much respected, and have great influence in their determinations, yet he never can do anything without the consent of the whole.
Thus among hunters there is no regular government, they live according to the laws of nature.
The appropriation of herds and flocks introduced an inequality of fortune.
Until there is property, there can be no government.
- It first gave rise to regular government.
In this age of shepherds, if one man possessed 500 oxen, and another had none at all, he would not be allowed to possess them unless there were some government to secure them to him.
- The very end of government is to:
- secure wealth, and
- defend the rich from the poor.
They therefore who had appropriated a number of flocks and herds, necessarily came to have great influence over the rest.Accordingly, we find in the Old Testament that Abraham, Lot, and the other patriarchs were like little petty princes.This inequality of fortune in a nation of shepherds occasioned greater influence than in any period after that.At present, a man may spend a great estate and yet acquire no dependents.Arts and manufactures are increased by it, but it may make very few persons dependent.In a nation of shepherds, it is quite otherways.
- This inequality of fortune makes a distinction between the rich and the poor.
- It gave the rich much influence over the ooor.
- Those who had no herds must have depended on those who had them.
- Because they could not now gain a subsistence from hunting, as the rich had made the game, now become tame, their own property.
- They have no means of spending their property, having no domestic luxury, but by giving it in presents to the poor.
- Through this, they attain such influence over them as to make them their slaves.
We now explain:
A nation consists of many families who have met together, and agreed to live with one another.
- how one man came to have more authority than the rest, and
- how chieftains were introduced.
The chieftain is the leader of the nation.
- At their public meetings there will always be one of superior influence to the rest.
- He will direct and govern their resolutions, which is all the authority of a chieftain in a barbarous country.
Thus chieftainship becomes hereditary.
- His son naturally becomes the chief of the young people.
- On the fathers' death, the son succeeds to his authority.
The number of presents which he receives, increase his fortune, and consequently his authority.Among barbarous nations, nobody goes to the chieftain, or makes any application for his interest, without something in his hand.
- This power of chieftainship comes in the progress of society to be increased by a variety of circumstances.
- In a civilized nation the man who gives the present is superior to the person who receives it, but in a barbarous nation the case is directly opposite.
We shall now consider the different powers which naturally belong to government, how they are distributed, and what is their progress in the first periods of society.
- The powers of government are three, to wit, the legislative, which makes laws for the public good: the judicial, or that which obliges private persons to obey these laws, and punishes those who disobey:
- the executive, or as some call it, the federal power, to which belongs the making war and peace.
All these powers in the original form of government belonged to the whole body of the people.
- It was indeed long before the legislative power was introduced, as it is the highest exertion of government to make laws and lay down rules to bind not only ourselves, but also our posterity, and those who never gave any consent to the making them.
- As for the judicial power, when two persons quarrelled between themselves, the whole society naturally interposed, and when they could not make up matters, turned them out of the society.
- During this early age crimes were few, and it was long before the punishment was made equal to the crime.
Cowardice and treason were the first crimes punished.
- Cowardice among hunters is considered as treason.
- Because when they went out in small numbers, if their enemy attacked them, and some of their party deserted them, the rest might suffer by it.
- Therefore those who deserted were punished for treason.
The priest generally inflicted the punishment, as it were by command of the gods.
The power of making peace and war belonged to the people.
- The government was so weak at that time.
- All the heads of families were consulted about it.
The judicial power which concerns individuals was long precarious.
In the age of shepherds this power is absolutely exerted.In Great Britain, we can observe vestiges of the precariousness of the judicial power, but none of the executive.
- The executive power came very soon to be exerted absolutely as the society first interposed as friends and then as arbitrators.
- When any private quarrel happens on the property of this cow, society is not immediately concerned.
- But it is deeply interested in making peace and war.
It was very common in the ruder ages to demand a trial by dipping their hands in boiling water.
- When a criminal was tried, he was asked how he his cause should be decided, whether by:
- the ordeal trial, or
- the laws of his country.
- The society only obliged him not to disturb them in the decision.
- In England the question still remains, though the answer is not now arbitrary.
When people were constantly exposed to the weather, boiling water could have little effect upon them, though now, when we are quite covered, it must have a contrary effect.
- In that way, almost everyone was found innocent, though now scarce any one would escape by this means.
- This choice of trial shows the weakness of the judicial laws.
- We find that the judicial combat continued in England as late as the days of Queen Elizabeth.
- It has now worn out gradually and insensibly without so much as a law or a rule of court made against it.
In the periods of hunters and fishers, and in that of shepherds, as was before observed, crimes are few; small crimes passed without any notice.
When these took place and difficult trades began to be practised, controversies became more frequent.
- In those ages no controversies arose from interpretations of testaments, settlements, contracts, which render our law-suits so numerous, for these were unknown among them.
All causes must be left undecided.
- But as men were generally employed in some branch of trade or another, without great detriment to themselves they could not spare time to wait on them.
The natural means they end up with would be to choose some of their number to whom all causes should be referred.The chieftain who was before this distinguished by his superior influence, when this comes to be the case, would preserve his wonted precedence, andwould naturally be one of those who were chosen for this purpose.A certain number would be chosen to sit along with him.
- This would cause every inconvenience, or
- they must fall upon some other method more suitable to the several members of society.
They would be afraid to trust matters of importance to a few.Accordingly, we find that at Athens there were 500 judges at the same time.By this means, the chieftain would still further increase his authority, andthe government would appear in some degree monarchical.But this is only in appearance, for the final decision is still in the whole body of the people, and the government is really democratical.
- In the first ages of society, this number was always big.
The power of making peace and war was at first lodged in the people.
This province would either:
- But when society advanced and towns were fortified, magazines prepared, stocks of money got together, generals and officers appointed, the people could not attend to deliberations of this kind.
This is properly called the senatorial power, which at Rome took care of the public revenue, public buildings, and the like.But afterwards at Rome, the court of justice and the senatorial one became quite distinct. The same may be said of the Areopagite court at Athens.
- fall to the court of justice, or
- there would be another set of people appointed for this purpose, though it would naturally at first fall to the court of justice.
We shall now observe nations in the two first periods of society, those of hunters and shepherds.
In a nation of hunters and fishers, few people can live together.
But as they live together for their mutual defence, and to assist one another, their villages are not far distant from each other.When any controversy happens between persons of different villages, it is decided by a general assembly of both villages.As each particular village has its own leader, so there is one who is the leader of the whole nation.The nation consists of an alliance of the different villages, and the chieftains have great influence on their resolutions, especially among shepherds. In no age is antiquity of family more respected than in this.The principle of authority operates very strongly, and they have the liveliest sense of utility in the maintenance of law and government.
- For in a short time, any considerable number would destroy all the game in the country, and consequently would want a means of subsistence.
- Twenty or thirty families are the most that can live together, and these make up a village.
The difference of the conduct of these nations in peace and war is worth our observation.
The exploits of hunters are never very considerable.
On the other hand, a much greater number of shepherds can live together.
- Few of them can march together.
- Their number seldom exceeds 200 men.
- Even these cannot be supported above 14 days.
- Therefore, there is very little danger from a nation of hunters.
- Our colonies are much afraid of them without any just grounds.
- They may give them some trouble by their inroads and excursions.
- But can never be very formidable.
- There may be 1,000 families in the same village.
- The Arabs and Tartars have always been shepherds.
- They have made the most dreadful havoc many times.
- A Tartar chief is extremely formidable.
- When one of them gets the better of another, the most dreadful and violent revolutions always happens.
- They take their whole flocks and herds into the field with them.
- Whoever is overcome loses his people and wealth.
- The victorious nation follows its flocks and pursues its conquest.
- If it comes into a cultivated country with such numbers of men, it is quite irresistible.
- This is how Mohammad ravaged all Asia.
There is a very great difference between barbarous nations and those that are a little civilized.
On this account, barbarous nations are always disposed to quit their country.
- People can have no attachment to the soil where:
- the land is not divided, and
- the people live in huts which they carry with them.
- All their property consists in living goods which they can easily carry.
- Thus we find such migrations among the Helvetii, Teutones, and Cimbrians.
- The Huns dwelt for a long time on the north of the Chinese wall.
- They drove out the Astrogoths on the other side of the Palus Maeotis, they again the Wisigoths, etc.
Next: Chapter 3