Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

How much more happy, then, is this situation than that in which the Dutch effected their independence, when they revolted against this same monarchy of Spain? How much more happy than that in which the Swiss revolted against the house of Austria; or that in which the North Americans revolted against the monarchy of Great Britain;-than that, even, in which the people of Great Britain revolted against the despotism of the Stuarts? Yet all of these experiments turned out well; and secured, at least for a long time, a greater share of human happiness within the sphere of their operation, than has ever been exhibited among any similar portions of the race. No difficulty appears to have been experienced, in any of those instances, in restraining the excesses of popular violence. How absurd is it, then, because one experiment that of France-has failed, to entertain a prejudice against all changes of government, however urgent the circumstances which call for them; when so many more have succeeded, and above all, when the French attempt affords such instruction with regard to the causes of its failure, that the same event can hardly ever happen again ?

These successful experiments afford the most important instruction for the right conduct of the change which is meditated for South America. Let us select that of Holland for an example. The South Americans can hardly choose a wiser; and it possesses this remarkable point of resemblance, that it too was a revolt against the Spanish government. What happened when the Dutch declared their independence? All those offices and powers, which more immediately emanated from the Spanish monarchy, ceased to exist. These were, the office of viceroy or governor, the great military commands, the office of intendant or master of the revenue, and some others. But, besides these, there were other offices and powers, which might more properly be considered as emanating from the country. These were, the magistracies of towns and districts, the burgomasters, the officers of peace and of justice, the barons and landed gentry, with their natural influence. These remained, when the others were struck off; and the country still continued an organized whole. What then did the Hollanders do? They built upon this foundation. All the elementary organization of the country stood entire; and was only so far modified and altered as to accommodate it to the new institutions which were devised to supply the place of the powers rendered vacant by the expulsion of the Spanish authority.

Such is the sane and temperate conduct which the renovators of South America ought to prescribe to themselves. In this manner, the people,-whose ignorance and irritability may be

worked

worked upon by men of evil intentions, require, in the crisis of any political change, the most sage precautions,-are never called upon for their interference. They remain at their homes. With regard to the institutions by which they are principally affected, the country appears to undergo no alteration. Their passions have no opportunity of being enflamed; and in every instance where matters have been conducted prudently on this plan, the quiet acquiescence of the people has followed as a thing of course.

Political science has been principally obscured, and has become the prey of prejudices and of false alarms, by confounding things that are distinct. Thus, it is one thing to form a constitution ;it is another thing, and a very different thing, to administer a constitution, (or rather, the business of the nation agreeably to the constitution), after it is established. In regard to the first, we adopt, in its full extent, the proverbial maxim, "That as much as possible should be done for the people,-but nothing by them." In this case, the people are by no means qualified to determine what is for them. In the monient, too, of forming a constitution, it can hardly ever happen that sufficient checks exist upon popular violence. But in regard to the second particular→ the conduct of the national business according to the rules of the constitution, the case is widely different. Here there is something which must be done by the people; or it is ridiculous to talk of doing any thing for them. Whenever the interests of two sets of people are combined together in one concern, if the entire management be left to one, it is perfectly clear that this managing set will draw, by degrees, all the advantages to their own side, and throw all the disadvantages to the other: and if the joint interest is so wide and unwieldy a concern as that of a nation, so far is this inequality sure to proceed, as to ruin the interest itself, and destroy all national prosperity;-witness Sicily, Poland, and all other countries where a feudal aristocracy has swallowed up the power of the people. So far, therefore, is it from being true, that, in carrying on the business of a constitution, you can do no good with the cooperation and influence of the people, that you can do no good without it. The constitution, too, can always be so contrived, as to afford, in its exercise, after it is introduced, abundant checks against any irregular impulse of the people; so that the operation of the power which, in this second stage, it is necessary to entrust to them, may be purely salutary.

Let us now fee how thefe general principles apply to the particular and remarkable cafe before us. Upon the coflation of the Spanish authority in South America, which, by the final fubverfion of the old monarchy, ceases of its own accord, what elements of organization and of government ftill remain in the country, up

on

on which wisdom may opportunely feize for the prevention of diforder, and upon which it may build, with the least risk of confufion, a fuperftructure of government and of freedom? The offices of the Spanish viceroys and governors, of the royal audienzas, which were a fort of grand councils for a kind of mixed bufinefs, partly political, partly judicative, and the offices of the grand collectors and receivers of the revenue, with fome others, fall to the ground. But there remains, as there remained in the cafe of Holland, the local magiftracies of the country, and these of a conftitution originally peculiarly good; and there remains the natural influence of the people of property and character in the country;-all together, taken, as it must be, in conjunction with that extrordinary crifis which muft unite, in a manner unparalleled, the views of all defcriptions of the community in defiring a new and happy establishment of the national affairs, affording a more fecure bafe whereon to proceed in newmodelling a government, than was probably ever presented to legislative beneficence before.

The Cabildos, for example, or what we would perhaps call the municipal corporations, afford an organization fo complete, that the kings of Spain, themselves, have at times entrusted to them the entire government of whole provinces. The Cabildos of Spain were erected about the fame time, and for the fame purposes for which fimilar inftitutions, under the name of corporations in this country, communautés in France, burgs in Holland, &c. were erected throughout Europe. In no country, however, was the conftitution of thofe municipalities more free than in Spain; and in no country do they seem to have acquired fo great an influence in the general government. The principal magiftrates were of two forts; the firft Alcaldes, the fecond Regidors; the firft, two in number always; the fecond varying in number according to the fize of the municipality, but feldom exceeding twelve, and feldom fewer than fix; the regidors chofen by the people, and their office for life; the alcaldes chofen by the regidors, and their office annual. C'eft fans doute,' fays Depons, le grand refpect que la nation Espagnole avoit pour ses etabliemens municipaux, qui perfuada aux conquérans de l'Amerique, que le gouvernement de ces nouvelles poffeffions, devoit néceffairement avoir les Cabildos pour base: auffi en donnerent-ils à tous les villages qu'ils fonderent.' This, then, the acknowledged basis in America of the old government itself, remains when the Spanish authority is overthrown; and may become the basis of any new fyftem which wisdom may chuse to build upon it. The Cabildos, too, (and this may be contemplated as one inftance of the manner in which the feudal inftitutions of Europe produce new confe

quences

"

quences when tranfplanted into new fituations), fpread their inAuence beyond the limits of the town to which they nominally belonged. In Europe, the power and influence of the baron occupied all the country; and it was much if the town could preferve its own independence. In the new world, however, there were no barons; and the influence of the Cabildo extended to the whole diftrict around. The whole territory, therefore, became divided among the Cabildos; and thus, the bafis which they form for the erection of a new government is fo much the more complete and fatisfactory. The powers, too, which they engroffed, correfponded with their new fituation. Il arriva, fays Depons, "" que, n'ayant aucun autre tribunal pour contre-poids, les Cabildos, dans les provinces dépendantes de Caraccas, donnerent à leurs attributions plus d'etendue qu'elles n'en eurent jamais en Efpagne. Tous, excepte le militaire, y fut de leur reffort.' It is abundantly evident from all this, that there exists in South America such an elementary organization, emanating from the country, as affords a fecurity against confufion, and a foundation on which to build; in all refpects as good, to say the least, as existed in Holland, at the time when the threw off her dependence upon Spain, and erected a comparatively happy government for herself.

The small extent, however, of Holland, enabled her to proceed in a manner somewhat different from that which circumstances point out as the neceffary courfe for South America. Her whole territory might be confidered as included within the jurisdiction of the feven principal municipalities; and it was eafy for these to join together in a fort of a confederacy, without tumult or confufion. It is evident, on the other hand, that in a country of fuch vaft extent as South America, or even its great divifions, this is impracticable. It is the representative system alone which, in circumftances like these, can ever afford a good government. The problem, then, with regard to South America, is, how the representative system can be ingraffed upon the Cabildos, and upon that stock of organization which is rooted in the country.

The most important queftion which occurs here, is, whether the national representatives fhall be elected by the members of the Cabildos, or by the electors of thefe members. Both plans are exemplified in Great Britain. In Scotland, it is the magiftrates of the towns, corresponding to the members of the Cabildos, that vote for members of Parliament. In England, where the principles of freedom were always more powerfully afferted, it is the electors of the magiftrates, the townsmen themselves, that generally chufe the representatives.

1

Without entering into the details of this question, we shall

ftate

ftate the grand principle which ought to guide in all deliberations of this fort. There is one danger in rendering the bafis of a reprefentation too wide. There is another danger in rendering it too narrow. In rendering it too wide, you incur the inconveniences of the ignorant and precipitate paflions of the vulgar. In rendering it too narrow, you incur, what is ftill worfe, the mischiefs of bribery and corruption. If the electors of the Cabildos would form too wide a bafis, there is reafon to dread that the Cabildos themselves would form one too narrow. The diffi culty, however, might probably be got over, by establishing provincial affemblies, for the members of which almost all the inhabitants might have a vote, while the great national legislator was elected by the members of the Cabildos alone.

Much, however, ftill remains, and perhaps of the most delicate operations to the compofition of a complete government. There is the appointment of that primary magiftrate, call him King, Conful, Inca, or by whatever name fhall be moft to the public tafte, to whom thofe affairs are entrusted which require immediate decifion, and which a numerous affembly cannot perform. There is the provifion of a fabric of responsibility,-refponfibility not in name only but in fact,-which, hitherto, has hardly been regarded as a part of legiflation, but without which good legiflation will never long prevail. There is the whole, too, of that most important department, the judicative, which still, even in the best governed countries, remains in fo deplorable a ftate. But we have already exhaufted our limits. If it appear, as we trust it will, that our government is difpofed to fet about the great work in earnest, and if it feems, to men wifer than ourselves, that any good is likely to be derived from purfuing our fpeculations, we fhall gladly refume the fubject on a future occafion. In the mean time, we are anxious to warn those perfons, to whom the glorious task of regenerating South America may fall, not to be duped by the common divifion, on which fo many changes have been rung, of the powers of government, into the legislative, the executive, and the judicative. It is a divifion not inconvenient for the ordinary purposes of difcourfe; but at bottom fo vague and inaccurate, that fome of the most deep-rooted errors and the greatest mistakes in politics have arifen from it. For complete information on this point, we refer our readers to Mr Bentham, Traités de Legislation,' t. i. p. 319, par Dumont; and A Fragment on Government,' p. 96, published anonymously in 1776. For many other important objects connected

with

[ocr errors]

* It is worth mentioning, that Inca, as a name dear to South America, is what General Miranda has proposed.

« PredošláPokračovať »