The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 4
Lecture XVI. Government
Lecture XVI. Government.
Various theories of the origin of government—Theory derived from Phrenology—Circumstances which modify the character of a government—Government is the power and authority of a nation, delegated to one or a few of its members for the general good—General consent of the people its only moral foundation—Absurdity of doctrine of the Divine right of governors—Individuals not entitled to resist the government whenever its acts are disapproved by them—Rational mode of reforming a government—Political improvement slow and gradual—Advantages thence resulting—Independence and liberty of a nation distinguished—French government before and after the Revolution—British government—Relations of different kinds of government to the human faculties—Conditions necessary for national independence; (I.) Adequate size of brain; (2.) Intelligence and love of country sufficient to enable the people to act in concert, and sacrifice private to public advantage—National liberty—High moral and intellectual qualities necessary for its attainment—Illustrations of the foregoing principles from history—Republics of North and South America contrasted—The Swiss and Dutch—Failure of the attempt to introduce a free constitution into Sicily.
Various opinions have been entertained by philosophers regarding the origin of government. "Some have viewed it as an extension of the parental authority instituted by Nature; others as founded on a compact, by which the subjects surrendered part of their natural liberty to their rulers, and obtained in return protection, and the administration of just laws for the public benefit. Some have assigned to it a Divine origin, and held that kings and rulers, of every rank, are the delegates of heaven, and have a title to exercise dominion altogether independently of the will of their subjects. None of these views appear to me to reach the truth.
In the human mind, as disclosed to us by Phrenology, we find social instincts, the activity of which leads men to congregate in society. "We observe that they differ in natural force of character, intellectual talent, and bodily strength, whence some are powerful and some weak. We discover, also, organs of Veneration, giving the tendency to look up .with respect to superior power, to bow before it, and to obey it. There are also organs of Self-Esteem, prompting men to assume authority, to wield it, and to exact obedience. Government seems to me to spring from the spontaneous activity of these faculties, combined with intellect, without any special design or agreement on the part either of governors or of subjects. In rude ages, individuals possessing large brains (which give force of character), active temperaments, and large organs of Self-Esteem and Love of Approbation, would naturally assume superiority, and command. Men with smaller brains, less mental energy, and considerable Veneration, would as instinctively obey; and hence government would begin.
This is still seen among children; for in their enterprises they follow and obey certain individuals as leaders, who possess such qualifications as those now enumerated. A good illustration of this occurs in the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. The force of character, and fertility in expedients, arising from his large and active brain, made him a ruler in childhood as well as in mature age. "Residing near the water," says he, "I was much, in it and on it I learned to swim well, and to manage boats; and when embarked with other boys, I was commonly allowed to govern, especially in any case of difficulty; and upon other occasions I was generally the leader of the boys."
In proportion as the moral and intellectual faculties develop themselves in a tribe or nation, there is a tendency to define and set limits to the power of the rulers, and to ascertain and enlarge the boundaries of the liberties of the subjects. External circumstances also modify the character of the government. If surrounded by powerful and ambitious neighbours, the subjects of a particular state forego many individual advantages, for the sake of the higher security which they derive from placing the whole power of the nation in the hands of a single individual. They prefer a despotism, because it enables the executive government to concentrate and propel the whole physical force of the kingdom against an invading enemy. In other circumstances, where local situations, such as those of England, or the United States of North America, expose the national independence to few dangers, the subjects, in proportion to their moral and intellectual advancement, naturally limit the power of their sovereigns or rulers.page 91
I regard the form of government of any particular country to have arisen from the following causes, or some combination of them :—
First—The size and particular combination of the organs in the brains of the people.
Secondly—The temperament of the people.
Thirdly—The soil and climate of the nation.
Fourthly—The character and condition of the nations with whom they are geographically in contact. And,
Lastly—The extent of moral and intellectual cultivation which the people have undergone.
Rationally viewed, government is the just exercise, by one or a few individuals, of the power and authority of the nation, delegated to them for the general good; and the only moral foundation of it is the general consent of the people. There may be conquest, and masters and slaves; but this form of government is the result of force triumphing over right; and one duty incumbent on the people in such a state of things, is to overthrow the victor's dominion as speedily as possible. It is an error to suppose that nature requires us when we enter into the social state to abandon or limit our rights as individuals. Man is by nature a social being, and ample gratification of all his faculties, within the limits of morality and health, is compatible with his existence in that condition. "Man has a right," says Mr Hurlbut,* "to the gratification, indulgence, and exercise of every innate power and faculty of his mind. The exercise of a faculty is its only use. The manner of its exercise is one thing, that involves a question of morals. The right to its exercise is another thing, in which no question is involved, but the existence of the innate faculty, and the objects presented by nature for its gratification," p. 13. Rulers and subjects are all equally men, and equally placed under the Divine laws; and as these proclaim the obligation on each of us to do to others as we would have them to do unto us, and to love our neighbours as ourselves, the notion of right in any one man or class of men to rule, for their own pleasure or advantage, over their neighbours, against their inclination and inconsistently with their welfare, is utterly excluded. The only government which the moral and intellectual faculties can recognise as founded in nature, is that which flows from, and is exercised directly for the benefit of, the subjects. The doctrine that kings, princes, and nobles, have rights of property in the homage, services, and devotion of other men, which they are entitled to exact for their own benefit and gratification, whether agreeable to the will of the subjects or not, flows from egotism unregulated by reason and justice. It is an example of the selfish system carried to infatuation, in which princely rights become an overwhelming idea, and obliterate from the mind the perceptions of all moral and intellectual distinctions inconsistent with themselves. The Bourbons pretended to have Divine right of this kind to govern France; and when Louis XVIII. was restored by the victorious arms of the sovereigns of Europe, he, out of his mere grace, issued a charter, conferring a certain extent of freedom on the French nation. After the revolution of July 1830, when Charles X. was driven from the throne, the French abjured the principle, and, to prevent its recurrence, insisted that Louis Philippe should be styled the king, not of France, but of the French; that is, chosen by the French people to rule over them.
The idea that government is instituted and maintained exclusively for the welfare of the people, does not, however, imply that each individual is authorized to resist it, whenever he conceives that it is injurious to his particular interests, or disagreeable to his taste. The social law of our nature, out of which government springs, binds us together for good and also for evil. I have endeavoured to shew that we cannot attain to the full gratification of our own desires, even although enlightened and reasonable, until we have persuaded our neighbours to adopt the same social movements with ourselves. If we attempt to advance alone, even to good, we shall find ourselves situated like a soldier on a march, who should move faster or slower than his column. He would be instantly jostled out of the ranks and compelled to walk by himself. The same result occurs in regard to individual attempts to arrest or improve a government. The first step, in a rational and moral course of action, is to convince our fellow-men of the existence of the evils which we wish to have removed, and to engage their co-operation in the work; and until this be done, to continue to obey. As soon as the evil is generally perceived, and a desire for its removal pervades the public mind, the amendment becomes easy of accomplishment. By the social law, individuals who attempt changes, however beneficial, on public institutions, without this preparation of the general mind, encounter all the hazards of being swept into perdition by the mere force of ancient prejudices and superstitions, even although these may have their roots entirely in ignorance, and may be disavowed by reason. The principles of Phrenology are excellent guides; they teach us that the propensities and sentiments are mere blind instincts, and that they often cling to objects to which they have been long devoted, independently of reason. They shew us that when we desire to change their direction, we must do much more than simply convince the understanding. We must, by quiet and gradual efforts, loosen the attachment of the feelings to the injurious objects, and, by soothing and persuasion, incline them to the new and better principles which we desire them to embrace.
There is the soundest wisdom in this arrangement of Providence, by which political improvement is slow and gradual; because, in the very nature of things, pure moral institutions cannot flourish and produce their legitimate fruits, unless the people for whom they are intended possess corresponding moral and intellectual qualities. This fact will become abundantly evident, when we trace the progress of government more in detail.
The first requisite towards the formation of a government by a nation, is, that it be independent of foreign powers. If it do not possess independence, the people must of necessity submit to the will of their foreign master, who generally rules them according to narrow views of his own advantage, without the least regard to their feelings or welfare.
* Essays on "Human Rights, and their Political Guaranties. by E. P. Hurlbut, Counsellor at Law in the city of New York" 1845. These essays are written on the principles of Phrenology, and constitute a profound, lucid, and philosophical treatise on the subject of Human Rights.
Under that sway, the French nation was independent, but the people were not free. They are now both independent and free; for no foreign nation rules over them, and they, as individuals, are protected by the law from all arbitrary interference with their private rights by their own government. The inhabitants of Britain have long enjoyed both advantages.
England has been independent almost since the Romans left the country; for although it was conquered by the Normans, in the year 1066, the conquerors fixed their residence in the vanquished territory, made it their home, and in a few generations were amalgamated with, the native population. But England was not properly free till after the revolution in 1688. The Scottish and Irish nations now form, along with England, one empire which in independent, and all the people of which are free. That is, the nation owns no superior on earth, and every individual is protected by the laws, in his person, his property, and privileges, not only against the aggressions of his neighbours, but against the government itself. The only obligation incumbent on the subject towards the state is to obey the laws; and when he has done so, the rulers have no power over him whatever for evil.
The history of the world shews that some nations live habitually under subjection to foreign powers: that other nations are independent, but not free; while a few, a very few indeed, enjoy at once the blessings of independence and liberty. It may be advantageous to investigate the causes of these different phenomena.
The social duties which we owe to our rulers are extremely important; yet we cannot comprehend them aright, without understanding thoroughly the subject of government itself, and the relations of the different kinds of it to the human faculties. On this account, the brief exposition which I propose to give of this subject, is not foreign to the grand question of our moral duty.
To secure and maintain national independence, the first requisite in the people appears to be adequate size of brain. You are well acquainted with the phrenological principle, that size of brain, other conditions being equal, is the measure of mental power. Now, all experience shews, that wherever a people possessing small brains have been invaded by one possessing large brains they have fallen prostrate before them. The Peruvians, Mexicans, and Hindoos, have uniformly been deprived of their independence when invaded by European nations, whose brains are larger. On the contrary, wherever the invaded people have possessed brains larger, or as large, as those of their assailants, and also the second requisite for independence, which I shall immediately mention, they have successfully resisted. The Caribs, Araucanians, Caffres, and others, are examples of barbarian tribes, with brains of a full size, successfully resisting the efforts of Europeans to enslave them.*
The advantages of national independence are invaluable, and these examples should operate as strong motives to the observance of the organic laws, in order to prevent deterioration and diminution of the brain in a nation, and to avoid mental imbecility, which is their invariable accompaniment. In Spain, the aristocratic class had long infringed these laws, and in the beginning of the present century her king and nobles were sunk into such effeminacy, that they became the easy prey of the men of energetic brains who then swayed the destinies of France. It was only when the great body of the people, who were not so corrupted and debased, put forth their energies to recover their independence, that, with the aid of Britain, the foreign yoke was broken.
The second requisite to independence is, that the people shall possess so much intelligence and love of their country, as to be capable of acting in concert, and of sacrificing, when necessary, their individual interests to the public welfare. You can easily understand, that, however energetic the individuals of a nation may be, if they should be so deficient in intelligence as to be incapable of joining in a general plan of defence, they must necessarily fall before a body of invaders who obey a skilful leader, and act in combination. This was the case with the Caribs. Their brains, particularly in the regions of Combativeness and Destructiveness, were so large, that, individually, they possessed great energy and courage, and could not be subdued; but their reflecting organs were so deficient that they were incapable of co-operating in a general system of defence. The consequence was, that, as individuals, they resisted to the last extremity, and were exterminated, although never subdued. The Araucanians possessed equally large organs of the propensities, but greatly larger intellectual organs. They were capable of combination; they acted in concert, and preserved their independence. The natives of New Zealand appear to belong to the same class; and if they are extirpated it must be on account of the smallness of their numbers.
* The first phrenological elucidation of the causes of the Independence and Liberty of nations was given by Mr George Lyon of Edinburgh, in several able Essays published in the second and third volumes of the Phrenological Journal in 1825 and 1826. The evidence of the soundness of the principles then advanced, afforded by the specimens of the skulls of nations and tribes which have been conquered by European invaders, as well as those of tribes which have successfully resisted these invaders, contained in the collection of the Phrenological Society at Edinburgh, is very striking. It has received a great accession of strength from the work of Dr Morton of Philadelphia, on the "Crania Americana." Dr Pritchard, in the Natural History Section of the British Association, at a meeting held on the 29th August 1839, brought forward a paper on the extermination of various uncivilized races of mankind, and recommended a grant of money for assisting his investigations into their habits and history. He proceeded, apparently without having read the writings of phrenologists on the subject, and certainly without having examined the evidence on it contained in the Phrenological Society's Museum. Indeed, in answer to a question from Mr H. C. Watson, he confessed that he had not examined the skulls in the Museum. Dr Pritchard is a man of talents, and indeed he had need to be so, when he undertakes to elucidate the natural history of man, with a determined resolution to shut his eyes against the most important discovery that has ever been made in this branch of science. Nor does he stand alone in this determination. In 1834, when the British Association met in Edinburgh, being a member of the Association, I wrote a letter, offering to give a demonstration of the national skulls in the Phrenological Society's Museum, before any of the sections in which such a communication could be received; but the Secretaries did not even answer my letter!
These facts in the natural history of nations were unknown until Phrenology brought them to light. Formerly, all differences between different tribes of people were accounted for by differences of climate, education, and institutions; but we now see that development of brain is fundamental, and is one chief cause of the differences of national institutions. Climate certainly operates on the mind, but it does so only through the nerves and brain: and hence, a knowledge of the influence of the brain on the mind, and on the institutions which flow from it, is the basis of a sound philosophy respecting the independence of nations.
The last and best condition of a nation is when it is not only independent, but free; that is, when it owns no foreign master, and when each inhabitant acknowledges no master at home, except the laws, and magistrates, who are their interpreters and administrators.
Before a people can attain to this form of government, they must possess not only the qualities requisite for independence, but far higher moral and intellectual gifts than mere independence demands. The love of justice must have become so prevalent, that no limited number of individuals can muster followers sufficient to place themselves in the condition of masters over the rest. The community in general must be enlightened to such a degree, that they will perceive the inevitable tendency of individuals to abuse power when they possess it without control; and they must have so much of devotion to the general interests as to feel disposed, by a general movement, to oppose and put an end to all attempts at acquiring such dominion; otherwise the nation cannot enjoy liberty. They must, also, as individuals, be, in general, moderate, virtuous, and just, in their own ambition; ready to yield to others all the political enjoyments and advantages which they claim for themselves.
History confirms these principles. The original European settlers of North America were English families, who had left their country under religious or political persecution; and their numbers were recruited by industrious persons, who emigrated to that land with a view to improving their condition by the exercise of their industry and talents. When they threw off the yoke of Britain, they were a moral and an intelligent people;—they instituted the American republic, the freest government on earth, and which has flourished in vigour to the present day.
The continent of South America was peopled at first by ruffian warriors and avaricious adventurers, who waded through oceans of blood to dominion over the natives, and who practised cruelty, oppression, and spoliation, but not industry, as their means of acquiring wealth. Their numbers were maintained by a succession of men animated by the same motives, and possessing essentially the same characteristics, sent out by the corrupted government of old Spain, to a harvest of spoil. They were not the amiable, the religious, and the laborious sons of the Spanish soil, driven away by oppression, hating injustice, and flying to a new country for refuge from tyranny, as was the case in North America. In the beginning of the present century the troubles of Spain tempted these South American colonists to disclaim her authority; and they waged, for their independence, a long and a bloody war; in which they were at last successful. In imitation of the North Americans, they then formed themselves into republics, and instituted government by laws.
But mark the result. The cruel, base, self-seeking, dishonest, vain, and ambitious propensities, which had distinguished them as Spanish colonists, did not instantly leave them, when they proclaimed themselves to be free citizens of independent republics. On the contrary, these feelings which had characterized them from the first, continued to operate with fearful energy. As private individuals, the new republicans devoted themselves to evading payment of all government taxes; the duties exacted on imported commodities were pocketed by the functionaries entrusted with their collection, or converted into the means of oppressing rival politicians and traders. Their public couriers were robbed. In their Senates, they formed themselves into cabals for the promotions of projects of local advantage or individual ambition; and when not successful, they obstructed all measures for the general advantage, or appealed to arms to obtain their objects. The consequence has been, that, owing solely to the ignorance, the selfishness, and the absence of general morality and love of justice in the people, these states, with the richest soils and finest climates in the world, with independence, and with the most improved forms of domestic government, have, since they acquired their liberty, exhibited almost one unvaried scene of revolution, bloodshed, and contention. This is the penalty which Providence ordains them to pay for their parents' transgressions, and for the immoral dispositions which they have inherited from them.
As a contrast to these events, the history of the Swiss and the Dutch may be alluded to. Both of these people have large brains, and considerable development of both the moral and intellectual organs. The Swiss were early distinguished by the simplicity of their manners, and their moral devotion and determination; while Holland was peopled from various countries by individuals flying, like the British Americans, from civil or religious persecution. The Swiss had been free from time immemorial, although their independence dates from 1308.
* Phrenological Journal, vol. iii., p. 247.
The Austrians soon invaded the country in great force, and the people were called on to sacrifice life and property in defence of their liberties. "Never did any people," observes Russell, "fight with greater spirit for their liberty, than the Swiss. They purchased it by above fifty battles against the Austrians, and they well deserved the prize for which they fought; for never were the beneficial effects of liberty more remarkable than in Switzerland." "In the mean time," continues Mr Lyon, "I shall confine myself to a few insulated traits of character, indicating, in an eminent degree, the possession of the higher sentiments, which we have all along predicated to be necessary to the aquisitson and enjoyment of freedom. The first that I shall notice is their conduct in regard to the assassins of Albert, the great enemy of their liberties, who, at the very moment when he was on his march to invade the country with a powerful force, was assassinated by his nephew, with the assistance of four confidential adherents. After the deed was committed, they escaped into the cantons of Uri, Schweitz, and Unter-walden, not unnaturally expecting to find an asylum among a people whom Albert was preparing unjustly to invade; 'but the generous natives,' says Coxe, 'detesting so atrocious a deed, though committed on their inveterate enemy, refused to protect the murderers,' who all subsequently suffered the punishment due to their crime."
The celebrated battle of Morgarten, in which, for the first time, the Swiss encountered and defeated the whole force of Austria, affords another striking example of the manner in which self-devotion contributes to the establishment of independence. "Leopold assembled 20,000 men, to trample, as he said, the audacious rustics under his feet; but the Swiss beheld the gathering storm without dismay. To meet it. and to dispute it 1400 men, the flower of their youth, grasped their arms, and assembled at the town of Schweitz. Veneration and all the higher sentiments were manifested, when they proclaimed a solemn fast, passed the day in religious exercises and chanting hymns, and, kneeling down in the open air, implored 'the God of heaven and earth to listen to their lowly prayers, and humble the pride of their enemies. They took post on the heights of Morgarten, and waited the approach of the enemy. If ever there were circumstances in which they might have relaxed their rigid virtue, it was at the time when their liberties and their very existence were at stake; but even at this moment they disdained to recruit their ranks from those whose lives had been sullied by the violation of the laws. The petition of fifty outlaws, that they might be permitted to share the dangers of the day with their countrymen, was, therefore, unhesitatingly rejected. The victory was complete. Besides those who fell in the battle, not less than fifteen hundred, most of whom were nobles or knights, were slain in the rout; and Leopold himself with difficulty escaped under the guidance of a peasant to Winterthur, where he arrived in the evening, gloomy, exhausted, and dismayed. A solemn fast was decreed to be held, in commemoration of the day, 'in which the God of hosts had visited his people, and given them the victory over their enemies;' and the names and heroic deeds of those champions who had fallen in defence of their country, were ordered to be annually recited to the people."
The history of the Dutch is somewhat similar, although not so full of noble generosity. They resisted by force of arms, and at the expense of the greatest sufferings and sacrifices, the tyranny of Spain, for the sake of liberty of conscience; and at last established at once their independence and freedom: and both they and the Swiss continue to enjoy these advantages to the present day. How unlike was the individual character of the British Americans, the Swiss, and the Dutch, to that of the Spanish Americans; and how different the uses which they have made of their independence when obtained! The last illustration with which I shall trouble you, in proof that freedom cannot exist without intelligence and morality in the people, is afforded by Sicily.
"It is well known," says Mr Lyon,* "that, during the course of the late war, the island of Sicily was taken possession of by Great Britain; and, with a magnanimity peculiarly her own, she resolved to bestow on her new ally that form of government, and those laws, under which she herself had attained to such a pitch of prosperity and glory. Whether the zeal thus manifested to the Sicilians was a zeal according to knowledge, will immediately appear; but there can be no doubt that the gift was generously, freely, and honestly bestowed. The Sicilian government was, therefore, formed exactly after the model of the British. The legislative, executive, and judical powers were separated; vesting the first in a parliament composed of lords and commons; the second in the king and his ministers; the last in independent judges. Due limits were set to the prerogative, by not permitting the sovereign to take cognizance of bills in progress, or to interfere in any way with the freedom of debate, or the purity of election; the peerage was rendered respectable by making titles unalienable and strictly hereditary, and by forbid-ding the elevation to the peerage of such as were not already in possession of a fief to which a title had belonged, and whose annual income was not 6000 ounces of silver" (of the value of 12s. 6d. sterling to the ounce); or L.3950 a-year. "Due weight was as-signed to the commons, by fixing the qualifications of members for districts at 300 ounces (or L.187, 10s. sterling) per annum, and of members for town at half that sum,—an exception being made in favour of professors of universities, whose learning was accepted in lieu of house and land; and, lastly, that the electors should be possessed of property to the amount of 18 ounces, or L.11, 5s.; and (which was most important of all) the right of originating every tax was reserved to the commons alone."
Such is the outline of the constitution given to Sicily by the British; and the result of this experiment is contained in the following quotation from Travels in Sicily, Greece, and Albania, by the Rev. Mr Hughes:—
* Phrenological Journal, vol. ii., p. 607.
After adverting to the utter profligacy of all ranks of the people, Mr Hughes observes, that "no one will wonder that difficulties environed those who endeavoured to resuscitate the embers of a patriotism already extinct, and break the fetters of a nation who rather chose to hug them; that civil liberty was received with an hypocrisy more injurious to its cause than open enmity, and that, returning without any efforts of the people, it returned without vigour, and excited neither talent nor enthusiasm; that those amongst the higher classes who received it at all, received it like a toy, which they played with for a time, and then broke to pieces; and that the populace, having penetration sufficient to discover the weakness of their rulers, were clamorous for the English authorities to dissolve the whole constitution, and take the power into their own hands." Vol. i., p. 13.
"In this instance," continues Mr Lyon, "the institution of a representative assembly, in which unlimited freedom of debate was permitted, instead of giving rise to those calm, temperate, and dignified discussions, which characterize the British House of Commons, was only the signal and the scene for confusion and uproar, where Combativeness, Destructiveness, and Self-Esteem, reigned supreme, uncontrolled by Benevolence, Veneration, or Conscientiousness; and, like wayward children, whom an indulgent father has for a time left to their own government, to convince them, perhaps, of their utter inability to guide and direct themselves, and who, finding at length the misery of unrestrained freedom, are glad to return to his firm but parental authority, and to surrender that liberty which they had only the power to abuse; so the Sicilians, not only voluntarily, but even clamorously, required that their liberty should be taken from them, and begged for the establishment of martial law as a boon."
From these examples and illustrations, I trust that you are now able to distinguish between the independence and the freedom of a nation, and are prepared to agree with me in opinion, that there can be no real freedom without prevalent intelligence and morality among the body of the people. These can be introduced only by education and training; but the general diffusion of property, by giving a direct interest to numerous individuals in the maintenance of justice, greatly promotes the progress of morality. Hence public enlightenment, morality, and wealth, constitute the grand basis of freedom.