Of Government, briefly.
Government by Laws and Sanctions, why necessary.
IF there be, in any region of the universe, an order of moral agents living in society, whose reason is strong, whose passions and inclinations are moderate, and whose dispositions are turned to virtue, to such an order of happy beings, legislation, administration, and police, with the endlessly various and complicated apparatus of politics, must be in a great measure superfluous. Did reason govern mankind, there would be little occasion for any other government, either monarchical, aristocratical, democratical, or mixed. But man, whom we dignify with the honourable title of Rational, being much more frequently influenced, in his proceedings, by supposed interest, by passion, by sensual appetite, by caprice, by any thing, by nothing, than by reason; it has, in all civilized ages and countries, been found proper to frame laws and statutes fortified by sanctions, and to establish orders of men invested with authority to execute those laws, and inflict the deserved punishments upon the violators of them. By such means only has it been found possible to preserve the general peace and tranquillity. But, such is the perverse disposition of man, the most unruly of all animals, that this most useful institution has been generally debauched into an engine of oppression and tyranny over those, whom it was expresly and solely established to defend. And to such a degree has this evil prevailed, that in almost every age and country, the government has been the principal grievance of the people, as appears too dreadfully manifest, from the bloody and deformed page of history. For what is general history, but a view of the abuses of power committed by those, who have got it into their hands, to the subjugation, and destruction of the human species, to the ruin of the general peace and happiness, and turning the Almighty's fair and good world into a butchery of its inhabitants, for the gratification of the unbounded ambition of a few, who, in overthrowing the felicity of their fellow-creatures, have confounded their own?
That government only can be pronounced consistent with the design of all government, which allows to the governed the liberty of doing what, consistently with the general good, they may desire to do, and which only forbids their doing the contrary. Liberty does not exclude restraint; it only excludes unreasonable restraint. To determine precisely how far personal liberty is compatible with the general good, and of the propriety of social conduct in all cases, is a matter of great extent, and demands the united wisdom of a whole people. And the consent of the whole people, as far as it can be obtained, is indispensably necessary to every law, by which the whole people are to be bound; else the whole people are enslaved to the one, or the few, who frame the laws for them.
Were a colony to emigrate from their native land, and settle in a new country, on what would they propose to bestow their chief attention? On securing the happiness of the whole? or on the aggrandizement of the governor? If the latter, all mankind would pronounce those colonists void of common sense. But in every absolute monarchy, the aggrandizement of the governor is the supreme object; and the happiness of the people is to yield to it. Were only a handful of friends to form themselves into one of those little societies we call Clubs; what would be their object? The advantage of the company, or the power of the chair-man?
Very shrewd was Rumbald's saying in Charles II's. time, viz. 'He did not imagine, the Almighty intended, that the greatest part of mankind should come into the world with saddles on their backs, and bridles in their mouths, and a few ready booted and spurred to ride the rest to death a.'
a Burn, HIST. OWN TIMES, 11. 316.
The People the Fountain of Authority, the Object of Government, and last Resource.
ALL lawful authority, legislative, and executive, originates from the people. Power in the people is like light in the sun, native, original, inherent and unlimited by any thing human. In governors, it may be compared to the reflected light of the moon; for it is only borrowed, delegated, and limited by the intention of the people, whose it is, and to whom governors are to consider themselves as responsible, while the people are answerable only to God; themselves being the losers, if they pursue a false scheme of politics. Of which more hereafter.
As the people are the fountain of power, so are they the object of government, in such manner, that where the people are safe, the ends of government are answered, and where the people are sufferers by their governors, those governors have failed of the main design of their institution, and it is of no importance what other ends they may have answered.
As the people are the fountain of power, and object of government, so are they the last resource, when governors betray their trust. And happy is that people, who have originally so principled their constitution, that they themselves can without violence to it, lay hold of its power, wield it as they please, and turn it, when necessary, against those to whom it was entrusted, and who have exerted it to the prejudice of its original proprietors. Of all which more copiously hereafter.
Legem majestatis reduxerat, &c. says Tacitus. The antient lex majestatis among the Romans was intended against those who injured the state; and the majesty, in defence of which it was made, was the majesty of the people. But Tiberius perverted that salutary law into a protection for tyrants. So our court-sycophants cry out, on every remonstrance against misgovernment, 'Treason ! The king is betrayed; the nation is ruined,' while nobody but themselves has the least thought of hurting the king, nor of ruining any thing, but that which, if let alone, will ruin the nation.
Of Government by Representation.
Government naturally divides itself into legislative and executive. No degree of wisdom is more than sufficient for the former. For the latter, nothing but well regulated force is wanted. To compose a system of wise and good laws is the utmost effort of human sagacity. To carry on the affairs of a nation, in a long-beaten track, requires only common sense and common diligence.
The most natural and simple idea of government is that of the people's assembling together in their own persons, for consulting, debating, enacting laws, and forming regulations, according to which all are to conduct themselves, and by which the general liberty, property, and safety are provided for. Accordingly this is the plan of government among the Indians in America, and other simple and uncultivated people; and is described by Cæsar, Tacitus, &c. as having been that of the antient Gauls, and Germans.
But such a scheme of government is thought only compatible with a small dominion. In great and populous countries, it being supposed impossible to assemble together, in a deliberative capacity, the whole body of the people, or even all the men of property, so as to avoid confusion, and to obtain the unconstrained opinion of a majority, it is thought necessary to have recourse to an adequate and freely elected representation. It may be said, 'Why might not (in Britain for instance) the inhabitants of single counties meet together to deliberate on those subjects, which are now debated in parliament, and afterwards communicate the result of their consultation to a grand national assembly?' The answer is, This would still be government by representation; because the national assembly must be the elected representatives of the people. Of all which more hereafter.
In planning a government by representation, the people ought to provide against their own annihilation. They ought to establish a regular and constitutional method of acting by and from themselves, without, or even in opposition to their representatives, if necessary. Our ancestors therefore were provident; but not provident enough. They set up parliaments, as a curb on kings and ministers; but they neglected to reserve to themselves a regular and constitutional method of exerting their power, in curbing parliaments, when necessary. Of which I shall have occasion to treat more fully in the sequel.
Advantages of parliamentary Government, which have recommended it to many Nations.
THERE is no advantage within the reach of a particular people, that may not be obtained by parliamentary government in as effectual a manner, as if every inhabitant of the country were to deliberate and vote in person. But this supposes parliament free from all indirect influence, and to have no interest separate from the general good of the commonwealth. In a country, like Britain, where a parliament is constitutionally the last resort, and where there lies no regular appeal to the people, the perversion of parliament from its original intention may prove utter ruin,
as leaving no constitutional means of redress, and compelling the people to take into their own hands the dangerous work of vindicating their liberties by force; which, in the concussion of jarring parties, may produce anarchy and end in tyranny. Of which more hereafter.
Nothing can be imagined more august than a numerous set of wise, free, and honest men sitting in consultation upon the means for securing the happiness of a whole people. Such was that most venerable antient assembly of the Amphictyons, which was the general tribunal of Greece for judging and deciding all controversies among the several states. So great was the respect in which the decisions of that council were held, that their sentences were seldom, or never, disputed, and that grievous wars were often terminated by their arbitration. The several states of Greece, in number about twelve, sent each to this grand court one, two, or three delegates, according to their respective importance a.
The Panætolium of the antient Aetolians seems to have been an assembly very much upon the plan of our house of commons. This convention met annually, or oftener, if necessity required. Representatives were sent to this assembly from all quarters, with instructions, from which they were not to deviate. In this Panætolium resided the whole majesty of the state. In it laws were made and repealed, alliances formed and renounced, peace and war declared, magistrates appointed, particularly the strategoV, or chief commander, for every year, &c b.
a Ubb. EMM. 11. 277.
b Ibid. 11. 251.
The antient Achaia was a confederacy of states, like our modern Holland, or Swisserlandc. Each of those little states had its possessions, territories, and boundaries; each had its senate, or assembly, its magistrates and judges; and every state sent deputies to the general convention, and had equal weight in all determinations a. And most of the neighbouring states, which, moved by fear of danger, acceded to this confederacy, had reason to felicitate themselves.
c Ibid. 11. 228.
a Ubb. EMM. 11. 230.
The government of the antient commonwealths of Italy, before the Roman was formed, was much upon a. free or parliamentary plan.
The Israelitish government was of the free, or parliamentary kind. The people's demanding a change of the form of their government into monarchical, was directly opposite to their constitution, and to the divine intention. Which, by the bye, shews the absurdity of the doctrine of regal government's being of divine original. Of which more elsewhere.
The republic of Lycia was a confederacy of towns, which they ranged into three classes according to their respective importance. To the cities of the first rank they allowed three votes each in the general council; to those of the second two, and to those of the third one. 'For reason taught them, that they, who have the most at stake, ought to have the greatest weight in all consultations concerning the common good b.' Sparta, as modelled by the good and wise Lycurgus, was a republican, or parliamentary government, though of a mixed kind; for there were kings, a senate elected by the people, and an assembly of the people, the consent of which last was necessary to the establishment of a law, says Plutarchc. Tou de plhqouV aqroisqentoV, k. t. l. Nor was this mixture an objection against the Spartan government's being of the free, or parliamentary kind. The Theban, the Dutch, the English, and other free, or parliamentary governments have all been of the mixed sort, having admitted kings, or stadtholders, or other chiefs. There has indeed hardly ever been known a pure commonwealth; though many an unmixed monarchy, or tyranny. The English republic, which was demolished by the villainous Cromwel, was one of the most unmixed, that ever was known. It was a true government by representation; of which more hereafter. In the mean while, now I am mentioning republican government, I take this opportunity of entering an express caveat against all accusations of a desire to establish republican principles. I do not think a friend to this nation is obliged to promote a change in the constitution. The present form of government by king, lords, and commons, if it could be restored to its true spirit and efficiency, might be made to yield all the liberty, and all the happiness, of which a great and good people are capable in this world. Therefore I do not think it worth while to hazard any considerable commotion for the sake merely of changing the constitution from limited monarchy to republican government, though I hardly know the risque it would not be worth while to run for the sake of changing our government from corrupt to incorrupt. But to return.
b Ibid. 11. 300.
c VIT. LYCURG. sub init.
Athens, as reformed by Solon, was a free, or parliamentary state, consisting of a senate of 400 elected by the people, besides the court of Areopagus. The poorest of the people had a right of speaking and voting in the ekklhsia, or assembly of the people, or, if you please, house of commons. The people indeed possessed, by this means, a degree of power above the reach of such as the vulgar were in those antient unimproved ages, before the art of printing bad made knowledge universal as in our times. The errors in the Athenian state were in the first concoction. Had Solon been concerned in the original framing of it, that state would have been longer-lived. He confessed, that all he could do was, To give the Athenians the best laws their degeneracy could bear a. 'Athens consisted, says Harrington b, of the senate of the bean proposing, of the church or assembly of the people resolving, and too often debating, which was the ruin of it; as also of the senate of the Areopagites, the 9 archons, with divers other magistrates, executing. Lacedæmon consisted of the senate proposing, of the church or congregation of the people resolving only, and never debating, which was the long life of it; and of the two kings, the court of the ephori, with diverse other magistrates, executing. Carthage consisted of the senate proposing, and sometimes resolving; of the people resolving, and sometimes debating too; for which fault she was reprehended by Aristotle, and she had her suffetes, and her hundred men, with other magistrates, executing. Rome consisted of the senate proposing, the concio or people resolving, and too often debating, which caused her storms; as also of the consuls, censors, ædiles, tribunes, prætors, quæstors, and other magistrates, executing. Venice consists of the senate or pregati proposing, and sometimes resolving too; of the great council, or assembly of the people, in whom the result is constitutively, as also of the doge, the signory, the censors, the dieci, the quazancies, and other magistrates, executing. The proceeding of the commonwealths of Switzerland and Holland is of a like nature, though after a more obscure manner: for the soverainties, whether cantons, provinces, or cities, which are the people, send their deputies commissioned and instructed by themselves (wherein they reserve the result in their own power) to the provincial or general convention or senate, when the deputies debate, but have no other power of result than what was conferred upon them by the people, or is farther conferred by the same upon farther occasion. And for the executive part they have magistrates or judges in every canton, province, or city, besides those which are more public and relate to the league, as for adjusting controversies between one canton, province, or city, and another; or the like between such persons as are not of the same canton, province, or city.'
a Plut. VIT. SOLON.
b OCEANA, 51.
Thebes, in Botia, antiently a monarchy, was afterwards changed to a republic, and was a free or parliamentary government in the times of Pelopidas and Epaminondas, who raised it to great eminence among the states of those times, and at whose demise it sunk again into its former obscurity a.
a Justin. VIT. PELOP. et EPAMIN. Plut. in PELOP.
Carthage was undoubtedly a free, or parliamentary state, without a king; though I do not know, that we have a particular account of its constitution from any antient author, Greek, or Latin; for of the country itself we have not so much as the name of a writer. We read of their having a senate, and of a fatal division among the people by the Hannonian faction, which ruined Hannibal's schemes, and prevented his making a total conquest of Rome after the battle of Connæ a.
a See the Roman Historians of that period.
The Roman government down to Julius Cæsar was parliamentary. Their senate may be compared to our house of peers, as the senators sat for life, and in their own right. And though the Romans had nothing of representation comparable to our house of commons, supposing our house of commons incorrupt and independent; yet representation, or giving the people their weight in government, was what they intended by their tribunes of the people, and by dividing the people into curiæ, comitia, tribes, &c. The Roman republic was but half-formed, and the formed part was the least valuable. We read often of the tribunes sending the consuls to prison; and, we find the senate depriving the tribunes of their office b. This shews the Roman republic to have been miserably ill-balanced, when the senate was sometimes above the tribunes, and the tribunes sometimes above the consuls. Romulus had originally divided the people into three tribes, and each of these into ten curia. He chose one senator himself, and ordered each of the tribes, and curia to choose three, which amounted to 100 in all. None but patricians could be senators. Thus 99 of the 100 senators owed their seats to the people. When the 100 Sabines were added, they were all patricians, and all chosen by the people. When Tarquinius Priscus, to ingratiate himself with the people at his accession, chose 100 senators out of their body; he ennobled them first. The number of the senators probably continued to be about 300 till the time of Sylla, 530 years from Tarquinius Priscus. Sylla probably increased the number (by bringing in men for his purpose) to above 400. But these additional senators were still chosen by the people. Cæsar, to strengthen his party, increased the senate to 900, introducing all sorts of men, as new-made citizens, half-barbarous Gauls, soldiers, and sons of freed-men. It would be ridiculous to think of the people's having any hand in this transaction. For in Cæsar's time the army ruled all. And lastly the triumvirs increased the senate to above 1000. In the imperial times it is of no consequence what the number of the senate was; because all power was then engrossed by the emperors, and the senate was an empty name; that mighty senate, of which Cineas, Pyrrhus's embassador, said, it seemed to him an assembly of kings; that senate, which was for ages the scourge of tyrants, was then become a mere ergastulum of slaves, the drudges, the flatterers, and supporters of tyrants.
b ANT. UNIV. HIST. XIII. p. 143.
After Coriolanus's time, A. U. C. 263, the plebeians became eligible, without being ennobled, into the senate. And those magistrates, who were called curule, had the privilege, during a certain time, of giving their votes in the senate, though they were not senators.
The Roman senators voted either by a general Aye or No, sitting in their places, or by separately declaring each his sententia, as the censors called their names; or by dividing, those for the question going to one side of the house, and those against it to the other, which they called, ire pedibus in sententiam tuam, &c. and those senators, who only divided, without giving their reasons, were called senatores pedarii a.
a Dion. Halic. Dion. Cass. Liv. Appian, Vell. Patere. Sueton. poss.
The Roman republic was indeed never finished. For the caprice of the multitude was left to operate at random. So that every popular demagogue had it in his power to spirit up the multitude to whatever pitch of madness might suit his ambitious, or interested views. Nor was the general sense of the Roman people known by the fluctuating violence of the mob of the capital, who were often deceived, and often influenced, by largesses of corn, or by shews of gladiators; but who had more weight in the government, than the consuls, senate, and all the citizens of Italy and the other Roman dominions. The error consisted in the want of a regular subdivision, and representation of the people. The body of the people of property ought to have in their own hands the government of themselves. But the multitude in one great and debauched city ought not to be considered as the body of the people. The tribunitial power was too great. The appeals to the people at large, and their voting at large, was what first opened a door for the contests of Sylla and Marius, and of Cæsar and Pompey, which overset liberty.
The great error in the Roman republic was, That the people, or plebeians were not represented, but voted in a collective body; which occasioned continual tumult and confusion. They assembled in innumerable multitudes, and forced their tribunes upon whatever their licentious fancy dictated. They had no reading; consequently were very ignorant; and often chose the worst measure, when the senators, if left to themselves, would have chosen much better for them.
The Gauls to Pharamond's time, who died A. D. 428, managed all affairs in the assembly of the people, where they set up and dethroned their kings at their pleasure.
The power of the French kings was antiently restrained within very narrow limits. Liberty was the same in France, as in all the Gothic states. The power was in the assembly of the states. The frequent calling of general assemblies was thought inconvenient. Therefore they had standing committees, which gave rise to the parliaments of France, The parliament of Paris first attended the king, then was fixed to Paris, for convenience. They formerly judged the peers and great men of the kingdom, over whom the king had no power, because they were to be tried by their peers. All the great officers of state took their oaths in parliament; not bound personally to the king, but in his political capacity. Laws had no force, unless they registered them. The efficiency of all those checks is now lost. No assembly of the states now heard of. Parliaments arc only the shadow of what they were. Their tyrant has the liberties of the subject entirely at his mercy; imprisons whom he pleases; sets up what judges he pleases, to try whom he pleases, and convict them of what crime he pleases. The great officers take the oaths to him, and are responsible to him, and not at all, as formerly, to the people. This is the work of Richelieu a.
a MOD. UNIV. HIST. XLIII. p. 413.
Advices from France, Jan. 1773, signify, that the princes of the blood have yielded to the court, and that the parliaments of France will be abolished to the very name: the thing has long been lost. This abolition has accordingly taken place since.
The three estates of France, in their times of freedom, were, 1. The clergy (they will always be uppermost.) 2. The nobility. 3. The deputies of the provinces.
According to the original system of the Franks, every free subject was entituled to some share in government, either in person, or by representationa.
a MOD. UNIV. HIST. XXIII. 396.
Frequent conventions of the states of Denmark, when that country was free, were a fundamental article of the Danish constitution. They consulted concerning matters of government, laws, peace and war, taxes, and promotions to offices b.
b Ibid. XXXII. 18.
The Swedish government has always been upon a parliamentary, or free plan. In that country, till the revolution in 1772, four estates made the laws, viz. 1000 noblesse, 100 ecclesiastics (just 100 too many) 150 citizens, and about 250 peasants c. They had no nobility before A. D. 1560. Voltaire observes, that Charles XI. was the first absolute prince in Sweden, and Charles XII. his grandson, the last.
c Volt. ESS. SUR l'HIST. IV. 241.
'In Sweden, the supreme power is vested, not in the king, but the senate, which is no other than a committee of twelve chosen out of the estates, or parliament of the kingdom, to controul the king in all actions, which they dislike d.
d Clutterbuck's Speech, Tind. CONTIN. VIII. 215.
'The Bolognese, A, D. 1200, had lively ideas of the Roman republic. They had consuls, whose powers were like those of Rome; and many inferior magistrates, whom they seldom suffered to continue in power above a year a.' In a time of public danger they continued them several years, if they thought them wise and faithful b.
a MOD. UNIV. HIST. XXXVII. 3.
b Ibid. 14.
Marseilles, like Holland, was a free republic planted by a set of brave people flying from slavery c.
c Cas. BELL. GALL. V.
Grotius d celebrates the Dutch, for that, like the antient Romans, they have always been against kingly government. That in the times of Cæsar, the commands of the people had as much power over the principes, or elected chiefs, as theirs over the people, Non minus in ipsos juris, &c.e Grotius quotes Tacitus f, who observes, that all the Germans were for liberty, and that by liberty the Romans meant republican government, is evident from Tacitus's expression, Urbem Romam a principio, &c. Rome was originally under kingly government. Liberty' (in opposition to monarchy) 'and the consular power were established by Brutus;' and from Lucan g, 'Libertas ultra Tanaim, &c. Liberty' (after the decisive battle) 'fled beyond the Don and the Rhine; and what is now possessed by the German and Scythian, so often obtained at the expence of our blood, is denied to us.'
d DE ANTIQU. REIP. BATAV. cap. 11.
e Ubb. EMM. 11. 285.
f DE MORIB. GERM.
g PHARS. VII.
The Spanish cortes were much the same as our parliaments, composed of prelates, matters of the military orders, nobles, and representatives sent from the cities, and towns (no mention of counties). No act could pass unless they were unanimous as our juries. And the acts must be confirmed by the king. They were assembled by summons from the king and privy council, and dissolved by order of the president of the council. But a committee of eight sat still. They have been rarely called since 1647. Their last sitting was in 1713. They were laid aside by Charles V. because they would grant no money, and because he found he could raise money without them. The Visigoths governed in Spain about 350 years, terminating about A. D. 700. During that period, Spain was very respectable. Her government was free; her church more pure than others, from popish superstition, rejecting the pope's supremacy. Her monarchs, elective and limited, as in almost all the Gothic states, commanded the army, called general councils, proposed the subjects to be considered, gave their sanction to laws, gave out edicts merely executive, coined money, gave employments, conferred honours; but all under correction of the general council, who could set aside any of the king's acts a. All the northern nations had such a mixed form of government, in which no money could be raised, nor laws made, or repealed, but with their consent. Spain is now under absolute government, occasioned by the timidity of the Castilians, who finally gave up the cause of liberty on a defeat in war, between them and Charles V. which lasted only two years (the Dutch fought for liberty 70 years). Charles told the cortes, he wanted them to grant him supplies first, and then he would pass their bills. The wretched Castilians gave up the point, and voted their tyrant, whom they ought to have destroyed, almost half a million sterling. Such is the inertia of mankind aa.
a MOD. UNIV. HIST. XIX. 480, 482, 484, 486.
aa MOD. UNIV. HIST. XLIII. 365.
The cortes of Portugal have long since sold to the crown their part in the legislature. Their government, which was once free and parliamentary, is now unmixed despotism, and their cortes like the parliaments of Franceb. The ceremony of giving Don Alonzo I. of Portugal the kingdom, by the public approbation of the people, A. D. 1140, exhibited a glorious spirit in both king and people c.
b Ibid. 389.
c Ibid. XXII. 25.
The Helvetic confederacy is the most considerable republican or parliamentary government, after the Venetian d. The Swiss cantons are not, properly speaking, a republic, but an union of several republics. But they have a common assembly, in which all matters interesting to the whole community are debated; whatever is there determined by the majority, binds the whole; they all agree in making peace, and declaring war; and the laws and customs, which prevail throughout the Swiss cantons, are (excepting the difference in religion between the protestant and popish provinces) nearly the same e. There are, indeed, some differences both in constitution and administration. But so are there differences between the three kingdoms, and the numerous colonies, which compose the British dominion; nay there are differences between the customs in the several counties of England. All this shews, contrary to a common prejudice, that the largest dominions, as well as the smallest, may be administred in the republican form with as much success as in the monarchical. The Roman republic took in a much greater extent of dominion than many modern kingdoms put together; and was, with all its imperfections, as well administered, to say the least, as most monarchies have been. But this is matter of speculation merely.
d Simleri, HELV. DESCR. p. 25.
e Ibid. 27.
The diet of Poland is constitutionally composed of king, senate, bishops, and deputies of the landholders of every palatinate. Every owner of three acres of land has a vote for a member. And the majority carries every point. But in the general diet, unanimity is necessary. Every palatinate (without regard to the towns in it) sends three members. The indigent gentry are always directed by some person of superior fortune, influence, or ability. The diet of Poland consists of an upper and lower house. The upper house contains the senate, the superior clergy, and the great officers; the lower the representatives of the palatinates a. An edict by king Jagellon, who reigned in the 16th century, found contrary to his coronation oath, was hewn in pieces before his face by the Polish sabres b. The Polish nobility will not give up the privilege of electing their kings, though they always elect the hereditary successor c. By this they impress their kings with the idea of obligation to their subjects; and at the same time, the heir to the crown is properly educated.
a MOD. UNIV. HIST. XXXIV. 10.
b Ibid. 523.
c Stanisl. Krzistanowic, POLON. DESCR. p. 27.
When liberty began to dawn (says Voltaire) a about A. D. 1300, the states general of France, the parliament of England, the states of Arragon and Hungary, and the diets of the German empire were all nearly on the same foot, as to the privileges and consequence of the third estate. [We have seen some difference arise since the above period. Let Britain take care, lest she come into the condition, into which those states are fallen.]
a ESS. SUR. l'HIST. 11. 189.
France (says the same author) b was once governed as England is now. The kings assembled the states. In the year 1355, they made their king John sign a charter much like the Magna Charta of England.
b Ibid. 128.
There was scarce an absolute prince in Europe, about the 13th century. But the nobles were tyrants, and the feudal tenures universal c. In short, to use the words of the great Alg. Sidney d, 'In Germany, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Hungary, Bohemia, Scotland, England, and generally all the nations, that have lived under the gothic polity, this supreme power has been in their general assemblies under the name of diets, cortes, senates, parliaments, &c.
c MOD. UNIV. HIST. XLIII. 521.
d ON GOV. p. 378.