Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

middle ages.

It may at first sight appear a thoughtless or even reckless assertion to say that States, in the sense in which we now use the term, never existed till modern times; that they were totally unknown to the ancients, and only existed in their germ during the

Yet there would be no lack of truth in the assertion. Ancient States were cities with conquered provinces attached and subjected to them ; modern States include vast territories as one of their most essential elements. It is true, Paris and London, from their antiquity and population, are formidable points in the geography and strategy of France and Great Britain. They are the capitals of those States; and the Bastile and the Tower of London have each served as terrible depositories of despotic vengeance. So also have the mobs of Paris and the London populace made important turns in the scales of empire and power; but what is Paris or London now, in the face of a few districts of either France or England, with the deadly implements of modern warfare in their hands, and the dreadful blight of famine, which they may always add to the other horrors of a siege? When the Genoese first used the then recent Dutch invention of artillery in laying siege to Venice, they struck a greater blow against the iron rule of great cities and the enslavement of provinces, than any one physical cause we can at present call to mind; and, perhaps, next to the art of printing, the use of siege trains, and of all heavy ordnance, has contributed more than any similar physical cause to the development of our modern system of States. Walled towns were once the pre-requisite of States, but now the huge mortar and the deadly Paixhan are sufficient to thunder forth the requiem of any city in Christendom. It is said, the cackling of a few geese once saved the “ Eternal City;" but in modern times, a continued shower of bomb-shells and rockets would raise such a din and commotion, that even a Cæsar would fain depart from his seven hills, and stake the fate of his empire on the open plain. But we are digressing, and must beg, by way of atonement, to return directly to the subject, in the words of another, whose writings are never irrelevant, “Had the ancients possessed other free states than city-states, they would have been forced out of this position,” says Dr. Lieber,

in discussing a subject not altogether disconnected with our own, “but there were no states in antiquity, if we take the term in the adaptation in which we use it, when we mean sovereign political societies spreading over extensive territories, and forming an organic legal whole. Even the vast monarchies of ancient Asia were conglomerated conquests with much of what has just been called a city-state. Nineveh, Babylon, were mighty cities that swayed over vast dominions as mistresses, but did not form part of a general State in the modern term."

“There was no State proper in the middle ages,” he continues. “ The feudal system is justly called a system; it was no State,' &c., &c. What, then, let us inquire, do moderns mean by State ?

In the act of 1777, establishing an oath of allegiance to South Carolina, we read, “I, — do acknowledge the State of South Carolina is, and of right ought to be, a free, independent, and sovereign State," &c. In the similar act of 1778, “I, -, do swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the State of South Carolina,” &c., and that I will, without delay, report “all plots and conspiracies that shall come to my knowledge against the said State," &c. And the 10th article of the amendments to the federal compact reads thus, “ The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” What now, in all these and a thousand other recurrencies in our constitutional documents of the word State, is meant ? This is the true question to be put and answered by the political student of this country. Ancient nations are only of incidental importance in this regard; for, since it is obvious that, in former times, very different ideas were held from the present day, it is plain that moderns, and particularly we of the United States, whose institutions are comparatively sui generis, are competent to give our own definition of so prominent a term in our political nomenclature. We cannot refrain, however, from quoting a few passages of Aristotle, as strikingly illustrative of this:

* Civil Liberty, &c., vol. 1, p.

63. † Aristotle's Politics, B. III., ch. 1 and 9.

“Every one who inquires into the nature of governments, and what and of what kind are its several forms, should make this almost his first question, what is a State ? For upon this point there is a dispute ; for some persons say, the State did this or that; while others say it was not the State, but the oligarchy, or the tyrant. We see, too, that the State is the only object which both the politician and the legislator have in view in all they do; but government is a certain ordering of those who live as members of a State. Now since a State is a collective body, and, like other wholes, composed of many parts, it is evident that our first point must be to inquire what a citizen is; for a State or city is a certain number of citizens.

“Whoever has a right to take part in the judicial and executive part of government in any State, him we call a citizen of that place; and a State, in one word, is a collective body of such persons, sufficient in themselves for all the purposes of life.

" It is evident that a State is not a mere community of place, nor established for the sake of mutual safety or traffic, but that these things are the necessary consequences of a State, although they may all exist where there is no State ; but a State is a society of people joining together with their families and their children, to live well, for the sake of a perfect and independent life; and for this purpose it is necessary that they should live in one place, and intermarry with each other. Hence in all cities there are family meetings, clubs, sacrifices, and public entertainments to promote friendship; for a love of sociability is friendship itself; so that the end for which a State is established is that the inhabitants of it may live happily; and these things are conducive to that end; for it is a community of families and villages, formed for the sake of a perfect independent life; that is, as we have already said, for the sake of living well and happily. The political State, therefore, is founded not for the purpose of men's merely living together, but for their living as men ought."

Let us now enquire what is meant by State in our constitutional documents. In the first place, powers are mentioned as being reserved to the “ States," or to the people ;” and from this it is evident that “the people” are not “the State.” It is also clear that the “ government” is not “the State;" for, says the preamble to the constitution of South Carolina, “We, the Delegates of the people of the State of South Carolina, in General Convention met, do ordain and establish this Constitution for its government.From this we see

From this we see the State" existed before the government was ordained and established; hence “the government” cannot be the State. But, says the federal compact, “the Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof;" while “the

House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several States." Senators, then, may be said to represent the State, and Representatives the people of the State. The State is the constituent of the Senator, the people are the constituents of the Representative. Now, though the Senators are chosen by the Legislature, they do not, properly speaking, represent that body alone, for it is a part of the government. and we have just seen that the government is not the State. Do they then represent what the Legislature represents? If so, the Legislature represents the State. But what does this body represent? It represents the people and their property; for one half the members of one house are apportioned according to taxable property, and all the members of the other represent arbitrary divisions of the territory. Do the Senators represent this? It is now evident that, by this course of reasoning, we will never reach any but a negative conclusion. Let us, then, adopt another.

The graceful imagination of a poet has undertaken to define a State. “What constitutes a State ?" it is asked:

“Not high-raised battlements, or labor'd mound,

Thick wall, or moated gate;
Not cities proud, with spires and turrets crown'd;

No! Men, high-minded men,
Men, who their duties know;
But know their rights; and knowing, dare maintain.

These constitute a State!

But this has merit only as a fine sentiment happily expressed. It is, indeed, admirably calculated to impress on men's minds that they and not their rulers constitute the State; and it is a refreshing antipode of the youthful unction of Louis XIV.“ L'Etat c'est moż”—but it leaves us only a vague apprehension of the truth. It is, in fact, a poetical summary of Bacon's essay on “The True Greatness of Kingdoms and Estates,” in which he says,

“ The greatness of an estate in bulk and territory doth fall under measure, and the greatness of finances and revenue doth fall under com

* Bacon's Works, London, 1824, vol. 2, Essay No. 29.

putation. The population may appear by musters; and the number and greatness of cities and towns by cards and maps. But yet there is not anything amongst civil affairs more subject to error than the right valuation and true judgment concerning thc power and forces of an estate.

“ Walled towns, stored arsenals and armories, goodly races of horses, chariots of war, elephants, ordnance, artillery and the like : all this is but a sheep in a lion's skin, except the breed and disposition of the people be stout and warlike. Nay, number itself, in armies, importeth not much, where the people is of weak courage : for, as Virgil saith, it never troubles a wolf how many the sheep be.

“ To conclude : no man can, by care taking, as the Scripture saith, add a cubit to his stature, in this little model of a man's body; but in the great frame of kingdoms and commonwealths, it is in the power of princes or estates to add amplitude and greatness to their kingdoms. For by introducing such ordinances, constitutions and customs, as we have now touched, they may sow greatness to their posterity and succession."

But neither the poet nor the philosopher thus leave us a definite idea of what a State may correctly be defined to be.

In the Encyclopedia Americana a State is defined—“A body politic; an association of men for political ends, the object of which is well expressed in the term Commonwealthi. e., common good. Experience as well as reason shows that the isolated individual can attain but very imperfectly the ends of his being, and instinct early leads men to form unions for promoting the good of each by the power of all. Such a union is a State," &c.

But, with all deference to the learned authors of that truly valuable compendium, we still need a more precise definition. We have to inquire, what is a body politic? what a commonwealth ? &c. And if a mere association of men for political ends be a State, then the political parties of the day may in a certain sense be called States; for they are such associations for such ends. But, even regarding the explanation there given in its general sense, we venture to say it is a better definition of society at large than State in its proper sense, or in the modern sense at least. The latest work of the principal editor of the Encyclopedia, however, conveys the precise idea of a modern State, and for fullness combined with concise expression, is probably the best explanation we can give :*

* Lieber's Civil Liberty, &c., vol. 1, p. 51.

« ElőzőTovább »