Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

and Russia? If the people be sovereign in France and the Czar sovereign in Russia, it is doubtless quite conceivable that one sovereign should love another; but if it be true, as Judge Jameson makes Mr. Spencer say, that it is the people, even in Russia, who are, after all, sovereign, what are we to think of the fondness of the French sovereign for a government which is holding the Russian sovereign in subjection? If this be correct thinking, it puts us into awkward quandaries, troubling our logic as well as condemning our lives.

Apply this doctrine of our masters in American law to our actual political conditions, and see how far it simplifies the matter. In the United States (so runs the orthodox creed) the People is sovereign—the verb is singular because the people, under this doctrine, constitute a unit. And yet it is notorious that they never have acted as a unit, nor ever can act as a unit under our existing constitution. They have always acted, and must always act, in state groups. And in state groups what action do they take? They assent to constitutional provisions, or refuse to assent to them; and they select certain persons to act as law-makers, as judges, or as executive officers of government. Do they choose policies? No. Do they frame constitutional provisions? Certainly not; they only accept or reject them. In the only case

in which they speak directly, concerning specific provisions of law, they neither command nor originate. They receive or decline what is offered them. They must wait until they are asked. They have neither initiative nor opportunity to construct. They must be consulted concerning government, but they do not conduct it.

Nor is it otherwise, upon last analysis, in Switzerland, where the Referendum exists, where, that is, the people vote upon specific measures of ordinary legislation not only, but where they are also provided with means of imperative initiative in legislation. By petitions bearing a certain large number of signatures they can propose definite legislation, compel action upon the matter of their petitions by their legislatures, and an ultimate submission of the question to popular vote. But see what this is, when examined. The eyes of the community, the men of observation and progress, get up a petition; that is, an indeterminate body and a minority demand that certain laws be formulated and put to the vote. The thing is done, but the measure defeated, let us suppose, at the polls. The eyes of the community have desired certain things, have offered them to the slow digestive organs, and they have been rejected. Are the digestive organs, then, sovereign, and not the initiative parts, the eyes

and the reason? Is it sovereign to stomach a thing, and not sovereign to purpose a thing?

But turn the chase in another direction, if peradventure we may yet run the sovereign people to cover. The more absolute democratic theorists decline to restrict the sovereign body to the electorate, to those who have formal votes. Voters are simply the agents of the community, they say. The press and the pulpit, the private argument and the curtain lecture, command-voters, if they are faithful, obey. Others, no less democratic, but more precise, seek for a more determinate body, content themselves with the qualified voters, and think with relief that all difficulties are removed. The electorate is sovereign.

But is the electorate a more determinate body than the population? Does registration afford us any more certain results than the census yields? Do the electors act in determinate numbers? Is there a quorum? Have they any choice but to act under the forms and within the limits assigned by law? Can they command without invitation, or assent without suggestion? Are not the agencies which Judge Jameson calls sovereign after all more active, more self-directed, freer to criticise, to suggest, to insist? The newspapers, the clergymen, the mass-meeting orators, the urgent friends, the restless, ambitious wives, the

pert and forward children can at any rate keep on talking in the intervals, when the electors are reduced to silence, patiently awaiting an opportunity to vote. Certainly, if we can accept this miscellaneous sovereign of menwomen-and-children, the history of sovereignty is much simplified. This determinate body of persons, the free population, is always present, and always has been present, under all constitutions. All that we have to inquire is, What means had they for expressing their will? How were their dispositions and judgments made to tell upon the consciousness of those who framed the laws? True, this sovereign body has its points of resemblance to the god Baal. Those who call upon it call in vain, if it be not the season appointed for voting; there is no voice, nor any that answer, nor any that regardeth. No fire consumes the sacrifice. Perhaps the People is talking, or is pursuing, or is in a journey, or peradventure it sleepeth, and must be awaked.

Surely this is a singular undertaking, this mad pursuit of a sovereign amidst the obvious phenomena of politics! If laws be indeed commands, the commands of a determinate person or body of persons, it ought to be possible to discover this determinate source of authority without much curious research. And yet it would seem that it demands ingenious

analysis. Look how uneasily Mr. Sidgwick casts about in the last chapter of his recent "Elements of Politics," to find Supreme Political Power—which is his name for sovereignty. He has been looking forward to this inquiry, not without nervousness, throughout the chapters which precede. Political power is exercised, he perceives, through some organ of government; but he cannot conceive that the power of this organ is its own power. He engages in a study of dynamics. What moves this organ: whence does it derive its power? How is it influenced? Is it itself commanded, overawed, constrained from any quarter? This is a door to the metaphysics of government. Taking a prince as a simple and normal organ of government, he analyzes the subjection of princes to their ministers, to priests, to mistresses, to the violent protests of an insubordinate people. No influence that the prince can throw off without losing his own authority, he thinks, can be a sovereign influence; but any influence which can threaten his power if he resist is a sovereign influence, the true depository of supreme political power. Sovereignty thus becomes a catalogue of influences.

Can we accept these singular processes? If a physicist were to discard all the separate laws, all the differential analysis of his science, and were to reduce its entire body of principles to

« PředchozíPokračovat »