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The Constitution of England

Jean Louis De Lolme

Publication Year: 2012

The Constitution of England is one of the most distinguished eighteenth-century treatises on English political liberty. In the vein of Charles Louis Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws (1748) and William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765–1769), De Lolme’s account of the English system of government exercised an extensive influence on political debate in Britain, on constitutional design in the United States during the Founding era, and on the growth of liberal political thought throughout the nineteenth century.Originally published in French in Amsterdam in 1771, The Constitution of England was the first book-length analysis of the “separation of powers” proposed in Book XI of Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws, which sketched an institutional distinction between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government.De Lolme was concerned to show the manner in which the English political system provided an alternative to the republican form of government, one which supplied both a more stable and a more extensive system of political freedom than that enjoyed in republican states. In addition, and as part of this critique, De Lolme examined the political teaching of his fellow Genevan Jean-Jacques Rousseau and repudiated Rousseau’s republican attack on England’s form of representative government.This edition takes advantage of the work of nineteenth-century editors of De Lolme’s text but provides new annotations to elucidate his numerous references to classical, medieval, and early-modern political practices, along with translations of De Lolme’s citations from sources in Latin and French.Jean Louis De Lolme (1741–1806) was born in Geneva and became an advocate there. Criticism of the political authorities led him to seek refuge in England, where he lived as an author and journalist. David Lieberman is Jefferson E. Peyser Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.Knud Haakonssen Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } <!-- /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:Garamond-BookCondensed; panose-1:0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:swiss; mso-font-format:other; mso-font-pitch:auto; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:

Published by: Liberty Fund

Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. vii-

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Introduction

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pp. ix-xxii

Jean Louis De Lolme’s The Constitution of England, which first appeared in French in 1771, was a major contribution to eighteenth-century constitutional theory and enjoyed wide currency in and beyond the eras of the American and French Revolutions. Its authority and judgment were invoked in parliamentary debate and in partisan...

A Note on the Text

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pp. xxiii-xxiv

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xxv-

My greatest debt is to Knud Haakonssen, who first proposed that this volume be included in the series under his general editorship and who thereafter remained a frequent and much-needed source of guidance, patience...

The Constitution of England; Or, An Account of The English Government

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pp. 1-2

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To The King

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pp. 3-

The approbation with which the Public have been pleased to favour this Work, together with the nature of the subject, embolden me to lay the present fourth and enlarged Edition of the same at your Majesty’s feet, both as an homage,...

Contents

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pp. 5-7

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Advertisement

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The Book on the English Constitution, of which a new Edition is here offered to the Public, was first written in French, and published in Holland. Several persons have asked me the question, how I came to think of treating such a subject? One of the first things in this Country, that engages the attention of...

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Introduction

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pp. 19-21

The spirit of Philosophy which peculiarly distinguishes the present age, after having corrected a number of errors fatal to Society, seems now to be directed towards the principles of Society itself; and we see prejudices vanish, which are difficult to overcome, in proportion...

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Chapter I

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pp. 23-33

When the Romans, attacked on all sides by the Barbarians, were reduced to the necessity of defending the centre of their Empire, they abandoned Great Britain as well as several other of their distant provinces. The Island, thus left to itself, became a prey to the Nations inhabiting the shores of the Baltic; who, having first destroyed...

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Chapter II

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pp. 34-43

It was in the reign of Henry the First, about forty years after the Conquest, that we see the above causes begin to operate. This Prince having ascended the throne to the exclusion of his elder brother, was sensible that he had no other means to maintain...

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Chapter III

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pp. 44-54

The Representatives of the Nation, and of the whole Nation, were now admitted into Parliament: the great point therefore was gained, that was one day to procure them the great influence which they at present possess; and the subsequent...

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Chapter IV

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pp. 55-61

In almost all the States of Europe, the will of the Prince holds the place of law; and custom has so confounded the matter of right with the matter of fact, that their Lawyers generally represent the legislative authority as essentially attached to the character of King; and the plenitude of his power seems to them necessarily to flow from...

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Chapter V

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pp. 62-63

When the Parliament is prorogued or dissolved, it ceases to exist; but its laws still continue to be in force: the King remains charged with the execution of them, and is supplied with the necessary power for that purpose. It is however to be observed that, though in his political capacity of one of the constituent parts of the...

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Chapter VI

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pp. 64-66

In reading the foregoing enumeration of the powers with which the laws of England have intrusted the King, we are at a loss to reconcile them with the idea of a Monarchy, which, we are told, is limited. The King not only unites in himself...

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Chapter VII

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pp. 67-70

But this force of the prerogative of the Commons, and the facility with which it may be exerted, however necessary they may have been for the first establishment of the Constitution, might prove too considerable at present, when it is requisite only...

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Chapter VIII

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pp. 71-79

The Commons, however, have not intirely relied on the advantages of the great prerogative with which the Constitution has intrusted them. Though this prerogative is, in a manner, out of danger of an immediate attack, they have nevertheless shewn at all times the greatest jealousy on its account. They never...

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Chapter IX

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pp. 80-88

We have hitherto only treated of general liberty, that is of the rights of the Nation as a Nation, and of its share in the Government. It now remains that we should treat particularly of a thing without which this general liberty, being absolutely...

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Chapter X1

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pp. 89-103

Concerning the manner in which Justice is administered, in civil matters, in England, and the kind of law that obtains in that respect, the following observations may be made. In the first place, it is to be observed, that the beginning of a civil process in England, and the first step usually taken in bringing an action, is the seizing by public authority...

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Chapter XI1

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pp. 104-115

However, there are limits to the law fictions and subtilties we mention; and the remedies of the Law cannot by their means be extended to all possible cases that arise, unless too many absurdities are suffered to be accumulated; nay, there have been...

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Chapter XII1

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pp. 115-122

We are now to treat of an article, which, though it does not in England, and indeed should not in any State, make part of the powers which are properly Constitutional, <155> that is, of the reciprocal rights by means of which the Powers that concur to form the Government constantly balance each other, yet essentially..

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Chapter XIII

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pp. 123-134

After having offered to the reader, in the preceding Chapter, such general considerations as I thought necessary, in order to convey a juster idea of the spirit of the criminal Judicature in England, and of the advantages peculiar to it, I now proceed to exhibit the particulars. When a person is charged w...

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Chapter XIV

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pp. 135-138

But what completes that sense of independence which the laws of England procure to every individual (a sense which is the noblest advantage attending liberty) is the greatness of their precautions upon the delicate point of Imprisonment. In the first place,...

Book II

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pp. 139-

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Chapter I

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pp. 139-149

We have seen in former Chapters, the resources allotted to the different parts of the English Government for balancing each other, and how their reciprocal actions and reactions produce the freedom of the Constitution, which is no more than an...

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Chapter II

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pp. 150-152

Another great advantage, and which one would not at first expect, in this unity of the public power in England,—in this union, and, if I may so express myself, in this coacervation, of all the branches of the Executive authority, is the greater facility...

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Chapter III

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pp. 153-159

The second peculiarity which England, as an undivided State and a free State, exhibits in its Constitution, is the division of its Legislature. But, in order to make the <219> reader more sensible of the advantages of this division, it is...

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Chapter IV

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pp. 160-166

A third circumstance which I propose to show to be peculiar to the English Government, is the manner in which the respective offices of the three component parts of the Legislature have been divided, and allotted to each of them. If the Reader will be...

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Chapter V

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pp. 167-175

But it will be said, whatever may be the wisdom of the English Laws, how great soever their precautions may be with regard to the safety of the individual, the People, as they do not themselves expressly enact them, cannot be looked upon as a free People...

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Chapter VI

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pp. 176-177

How then shall the People remedy the disadvantages that necessarily attend their situation? How shall they resist the phalanx of those who have engrossed to themselves all the honours, dignities, and power, in the State? It will be by employing...

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Chapter VII

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pp. 178-181

The observations made in the preceding Chapter are so obvious, that the People themselves, in popular Governments, have always been sensible of the truth of them, and never thought it possible to remedy, by themselves alone, the disadvantages necessarily attending their situation.Wheneverthe oppressions of their...

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Chapter VIII

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pp. 182-185

But when the People have entirely trusted their power to a moderate number of persons, affairs immediately take a widely different turn. Those who govern are from that moment obliged to leave off all those stratagemswhich had hitherto ensured...

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Chapter IX

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pp. 186-191

However, those general assemblies of a People who were made to determine upon things which they neither understood nor examined,—that general confusion in which the Ambitious could at all times hide their artifices, and carry on their schemes with safety, were not the only evils attending the ancient Commonwealths...

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Chapter X/1

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pp. 192-196

In what manner then, has the English Constitution contrived to find a remedy for evils which, from the very nature of Men and things, seem to be irremediable? How has it found means to oblige those persons to whom the People have given up their power, to make them effectual and lasting returns of gratitude?...

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Chapter XI1

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pp. 197-198

The English Constitution having essentially connected the fate of theMen to whom the People trust their power, with that of the People themselves, really seems, by that caution alone, to have procured the latter a complete security. However, as the vicissitude of human affairs may, in process of time, realize events which...

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Chapter XII

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pp. 199-207

As the evils that may be complained of in a State do not always arise merely from the defect of the laws, but also from the non-execution of them, and this non-execution of such a kind, that it is often impossible to subject it to any express punishment, or even to ascertain it by any previous definition, Men, in several States...

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Chapter XIII

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pp. 208-213

Another effect, and a very considerable one, of the liberty of the press, is, that it enables the People effectually to exert those means which the Constitution has bestowed on them, of influencing the motions of the Government. It has been...

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Chapter XIV

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pp. 214-219

But all those privileges of the People, considered in themselves, are but feeble defences against the real strength of those who govern. All those provisions, all those reciprocal Rights, necessarily suppose that things remain in their legal and settled course: what would then be the resource of the People, if ever the...

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Chapter XV

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pp. 220-230

It may not be sufficient to have proved by arguments the advantages of the English Constitution: it will perhaps be asked, whether the effects correspond to the theory? To this question (which I confess is extremely proper) my answer is ready; it...

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Chapter XVI

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pp. 231-255

The second difference I mean to speak of, between the EnglishGovernment and that of other free States, concerns the important object of the execution of the Laws. On this article, also, we shall find the advantage to lie on the side of the English Government...

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Chapter XVII

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pp. 256-303

The Doctrine constantly maintained in thisWork, and which has, I think, been sufficiently supported by facts and comparisons drawn from the History of other Countries, is, that the remarkable liberty enjoyed by the English Nation, is essentially...

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Chapter XVIII

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pp. 304-318

Every Government, thoseWriters observe who have treated these subjects, containing within itself the efficient cause of its ruin, a cause which is essentially connected with those very circumstances that had produced its prosperity, the advantages...

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Chapter XIX

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pp. 319-326

The power of the Crown is supported by deeper, and more numerous, roots, than the generality of people are aware of, as has <499> been observed in a former Chapter; and there is no cause anxiously to fear that the wresting any capital...

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Chapter XX1

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pp. 327-335

The generality of Men, or at least of Politicians, seem to consider the right of taxing themselves, enjoyed by the English Nation, as being no more than a means of securing their property against the attempts of the Crown;while they overlook the nobler...

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Chapter XXI

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pp. 336-342

I shall conclude this Work with a few observations on the total freedom from violence with which the political disputes and contentions in England are conducted and terminated, in order both to give a farther <529> proof of the soundness of...

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Guide to Further Reading

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pp. 343-344

Modern scholarship has greatly increased our understanding of the historical setting and constitutional theory to which De Lolme’s The Constitution of England so significantly contributed, but it has not provided any major studies...

Bibliography

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pp. 345-350

Index

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pp. 351-370

Publication Information

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p. 401-401


E-ISBN-13: 9781614877929
E-ISBN-10: 1614877920
Print-ISBN-13: 9780865974654

Page Count: 396
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: None