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The History of the Origins of Representative Government in Europe

Francois Guizot

Publication Year: 2012

“In every society there exists a certain sum of correct ideas. This sum of correct ideas is scattered among the individuals who make up the society and is unequally distributed among them. The problem is to gather up all the scattered and incomplete fragments of this power, to concentrate them, and to constitute them into a government. What is called ‘representation’ is nothing other than the means of arriving at this result. It is not an arithmetic machine intended to collect and enumerate individual wills. It is a natural process for extracting from the bosom of society the public reason that alone has the right to govern.

—from the book

The French political philosopher and historian François Guizot (1787–1874) was one of the French Doctrinaires, thinkers who sought to avoid the interpretations of the Revolution advanced by either extreme of Left or Right. He argued that in order to understand the nature of political institutions it is necessary to study first the society, its composition, mores, and the relation between various classes. At the very center of his theory lies the principle of the sovereignty of reason.

Aurelian Craiutu, associate professor of political science at Indiana University, writes in the introduction: "A cursory look at the table of contents shows the originality of this unusual book: it combines lengthy narrative chapters full of historical details with theoretical chapters in which Guizot reflects on the principles, goals, and institutions of representative government." The first part of the book covers the period from the fifth to the eleventh century and such topics as the "true" principles of representative government and the origin and consequences of the sovereignty of the people. The second part spans the Norman Conquest to the reign of the Tudors in England and analyzes the architecture of the English Constitutional monarchy.

Guizot's historical method combined philosophy and history by passing from the exposition of facts to the examination of ideas. Readers not familiar with him will profit from an encounter with Guizot, who not only writes in a beautiful French style but also illustrates the French liberal-conservative tradition at its best, much like Constant and Tocqueville.

Published by: Liberty Fund

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-4

Table of Contents

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pp. v-

Introduction to the Liberty Fund Edition

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pp. vii-xvi

Editor's Note

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pp. xvii-

Preface

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pp. xviii-xix

Table of Contents

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pp. xxi-

Part I. Representative Institutions in England, France, and Spain, from the Fifth to the Eleventh Century

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Lecture 1

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pp. 3-19

GENTLEMEN,-Such is the immensity of human affairs, that, so far from exhibiting superannuation and decay with the progress of time, they seem to gain new youth, and to gird themselves afresh at frequent intervals, in order to appear under aspects hitherto unknown. Not only does each age receive a vocation to devote itself especially to a particular...

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Lecture 2

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pp. 20-27

I HAVE divided the history of the political institutions of modern Europe into four great epochs, the first of which extends from the fourth to the eleventh century. This long interval was required to introduce a little light and fixity into the changeful chaos of those new empires which the successive invasions of the Roman territory by the barbarians had called into being, and whence issued those mighty states whose...

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Lecture 3

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pp. 28-34

IN my preceding lecture, I gave a general outline of the decay of the Roman empire, and of the progress of the barbarian invasions; and I enumerated the principal events in the history of the Anglo-Saxons in England. I now come to their institutions, which form the subject of my present lecture. When we are about to speak of the institutions of a country at any given period, we must first understand what...

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Lecture 4

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pp. 35-40

IN my preceding lecture I pointed out the causes of the special importance of local institutions, at that epoch in the development of civilization which now occupies our attention. I now proceed to examine into those institutions. They were of two kinds. One class bound man to a superior, established a certain right of man over man, a personal pre-eminence and subordination, which were the source of mutual...

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Lecture 5, p. 41

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pp. 41-46

We have already considered the origin and composition of the Wittenagemot, or general assembly of the Anglo-Saxons, it now remains for us to speak of its attributes and method of convocation. In the infancy of society, everything is confused and uncertain; there is as yet no fixed and precise line of demarcation between the different powers in a state; and thus we find that...

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Lecture 6

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pp. 47-55

I PROPOSE to examine the political institutions of modern Europe in their early infancy, and to seek what they have in common with the representative system of government. My object will be to learn whether this form of government had then attained to any degree of development, or even existed only in germ; at what times, and in what places it first appeared...

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Lecture 7, p. 56

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pp. 56-65

I HAVE, in my previous lecture, shown the error of those superficial classifications which only distinguish governments according to their exterior characteristics; I have recognised and separated with precision between the two opposite principles, which are, both of them, the basis of all government; I have identified representative government with...

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Lecture 8

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pp. 66-70

THE forms of a government are immediately related to its principle: the principle determines the forms, the forms reveal the principle. It does not therefore follow that the forms correspond exactly to the principle, nor that the principle can only realize itself under a peculiar form. As the principle itself is never alone nor omnipotent in its influence...

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Lecture 9

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pp. 71-74

IN order to pursue the object of this course, I now proceed to give a sketch of the Franks similar to that which I have already given of the Anglo-Saxons. I shall study with you their primitive institutions, seek out their leading principle, and compare it with that type of representative government which we have just delineated. But before we...

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Lecture 10

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pp. 75-81

I HAVE already explained to you how we must understand the historical phrase which attributes to Clovis the foundation of the French monarchy. In the sense and within the limits which I have indicated, Clovis, at his death, was king of the whole ofFrance, excepting the kingdoms of the Burgundians and Visigoths. After his decease, each of...

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Lecture 11

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pp. 82-88

I HAVE sketched the general progress of events in Frankish Gaul, under the Merovingians; I have now to give a similar outline of the reign of the Carlovingians. I shall enter neither into an examination of the institutions, nor a detailed narrative of occurrences; I shall seek to sum up the facts in the general fact which includes them all. The general tendency of events under the Merovingians was towards centralization; and this tendency...

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Lecture 12

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pp. 89-94

THE primitive institutions of the Franks are much more difficult of study than those of the Anglo-Saxons. I. In the Frankish monarchy, the old Gallo-Roman people still subsisted; they in part retained their laws and customs; their language even predominated; Gaul was more civilised, more organised, more Romanised than Great Britain, in which nearly all the original...

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Lecture 13

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pp. 95-100

I HAVE indicated some of the new relations which became progressively established between the proprietors of allodial lands and the services that resulted from them. I have to occupy you today with the consideration of military service and benefices. Originally, military service was imposed on a man by virtue of his quality,..

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Lecture 14

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pp. 101-107

FROM the time of the invasion of the Gauls by the Franks up to the moment when the feudal system was definitely constituted, we find during the whole course of this epoch: I. That benefices were revoked, not only as a consequence of legal condemnation, but also by the arbitrary will of the donor. The power of absolute and arbitrary transference of benefices was practically in existence under the Merovingian kings. It is however very...

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Lecture 15

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pp. 108-114

KINGS were not the sole donors of benefices; all the large proprietors gave them. Many leaders of bands of men were originally united under the conduct of the king; these chiefs became subsequently proprietors of large allodial estates. Portions of these were conceded as benefices to their immediate associates. Afterwards, they became large...

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Lecture 16

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pp. 115-122

We have investigated the condition of territorial properties, from the fifth to the tenth centuries. We have recognized three kinds of territorial property. First, allodial or independent; Secondly, beneficiary; Thirdly, tributary. If from this we should wish to deduce the state of persons, we should find three social conditions corresponding to these...

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Lecture 17

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pp. 123-128

The first whom we meet with at this time occupying the highest place in the social scale are the Leudes, or Antrustions. Their name indicates their quality trust expresses fidelity. They were men who had proved faithful, and they succeeded the associates of the German chiefs. After the conquest, each of the chiefs established himself...

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Lecture 18

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pp. 129-141

FROM the ancient condition of the barbarians in Germany, and from their new situation after their establishment in the Roman empire, there issued three systems of institutions, of different principles and results, which, from the fifth to the tenth century, co-existed at first for some time, and afterwards commingled and conflicted with each other with alternate success and defeat. In their primitive state...

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Lecture 19

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pp. 134-141

AFTER the Merovingian anarchy, at the accession of the Carlovingians and especially during the reign of Charlemagne, two facts, which seem contradictory, present themselves to our notice. Free institutions appear to gain new life, and at the same time the monarchical system evidently prevails. We must closely study this singular...

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Lecture 20

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pp. 142-148

NATIONAL assemblies were held among the Franks long previously to their settlement in the Roman empire, and to the establishment of monarchy amongst them. In these assemblies were discussed, in Germany, all the affairs of the confederation, tribe...

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Lecture 21

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pp. 149-153

AFTER the death of Charlemagne, and under Louis the Debonnair, national assemblies were still frequently held. The movement which Charlemagne had begun, had not yet entirely ceased. Unable to create, Louis the Debonnair sought to imitate; at the spring or autumn assemblies, he passed several useful rules, amongst...

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Lecture 22

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pp. 154-166

IN conformity to the plan which I sketched out for our guidance at the commencement of these lectures, I have studied with you the political institutions of the Anglo-Saxons and Franks, from the fifth to the tenth century. I now come to those of the Visigoths, the third of the Barbarian peoples established in the Roman empire, about whom...

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Lecture 23

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pp. 167-177

AT the commencement of the fifth century the subjects of the Empire were divided into three classes, forming three very distinct social conditions: 1. The privileged classes; 2. The curials; 3· The common people. I speak only of free men. The privileged class included: 1. The members of the Senate, and all those who were entitled to bear the name of clarissimi; 2 . The officers of the palace; 3· The clergy; 4· The cohortal militia, a...

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Lecture 24

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pp. 178-184

UNDER the Roman empire, before the Barbarian invasions, Spain enjoyed considerable prosperity. The country was covered with roads, aqueducts, and public works of every description. The municipal government was almost independent; the principle of a landed census was applied to the formation of the curiae; and various inscriptions..

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Lecture 25

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pp. 185-195

OF all the Barbarian codes oflaw, that of the Visigoths is the only one which remained in force, or nearly so, until modern times. We must not expect to find in this code itself the only, or even the principal, cause of this circumstance. And yet the peculiar character of this code contributed powerfully to determine its particular destiny; and more than...

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Lecture 26

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pp. 196-218

MY last lecture, I think, convinced you, gendemen, that the code of the Visigoths, taken in itself, and in its intentions as expressed by written laws, gives the idea of a better social state, a juster and more enlightened government, a better regulated country, and, altogether, a more advanced and milder state of civilization, than that which...

Part 2. Essays of Representative Government in England, from the Conquest till the Reign of the Tudors

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Lecture 1

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pp. 221-230

I THINK it necessary to remind you, gentlemen, of the plan which I adopted last year with regard to our study of the political institutions of Europe. The essential object of that plan was to give some unity and compactness to this vast history. And this is not an arbitrary and self-chosen object. In the development of our continent, all its...

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Lecture 2

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pp. 231-239

BEFORE entering upon the history of representative government in England, I think it necessary, in the first place, to remind you of the facts which served, as it were, as its cradle-of the movements of the different nations which successively occupied England-the conquest of the Normans-the state of the country at the period of this conquest, about the middle of the eleventh century- and the principal...

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Lecture 3

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pp. 240-245

AFTER having given a summary, in the preceding lecture, of the principal historical facts, we are now about to survey Anglo-Norman institutions during the period to which we have just turned our attention, namely, from the middle of the eleventh century until the end of the twelfth. How came it...

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Lecture 4

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pp. 246-251

You have already seen what was the influence of the Norman Conquest on the political destinies of England; and what was the position in which the two peoples were placed by it. They did not unite, nor did they mutually destroy one another. They lived in a state of national and political conflict, the one people being invested with a large...

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Lecture 5

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pp. 252-257

IN order to judge accurately of the power and importance of royalty at the period we are considering, we must first ascertain its actual position and resources; and we shall see by the extent of these resources, and by the advantages of this position, how feeble in its action on the royal power must have been the influence of the assembly of barons...

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Lecture 6

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pp. 258-262

LIBERTIES are nothing until they have become rights-positive rights formally recognized and consecrated. Rights, even when recognized, are nothing so long as they are not entrenched within guarantees. And lastly, guarantees are nothing so long as they are not maintained by forces independent of them, in the limit of their rights...

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Lecture 7

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pp. 263-271

DURING King Richard's absence, the administration of the kingdom had fallen into the hands of the barons: the feudal aristocracy had begun again to interfere directly in the government, both by way of encroachment and of resistance. Still, the acts of the barons had no longer the same character which they possessed under the preceding...

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Lecture 8

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pp. 272-276

HITHERTO we have only seen, in the charters, recognitions of rights more or less open and complete; they are transactions between two rival powers, one of whom gives promises while the other establishes rights; but there is no power to guarantee that these promises shall be faithfully kept and these rights duly regarded. The only curb placed...

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Lecture 9

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pp. 277-284

DURING the two preceding reigns the struggle between the feudal aristocracy and the royal power has been really a civil war. Under Edward I. the struggle continued, but the civil war ceased. The barons did not protest in favour of their liberty with any less...

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Lecture 10

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pp. 285-297

WE have studied the primitive institutions of the Anglo-Norman government; we have traced the successive steps in the history of the charters, and of the struggle which was carried on by the barons to secure their confirmation by the royal power; but up to this point we have not seen anything of a representative government. We...

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Lecture 11

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pp. 298-305

BEFORE we commenced the history of the charters, and after we had for some time fixed our attention on the Anglo-Norman government, we saw that this government was composed of but two great forces, royalty and the council of barons, a unique and central assembly, which alone shared with the king the exercise of power. Such was...

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Lecture 12

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pp. 306-312

WE have seen how, in the midst of the struggles between royalty and the feudal aristocracy, an intermediate class arose-a new but already imposing power-and how the two contending powers each felt the necessity of securing an alliance with this third power; we have now to follow, by the examination of authentic documents, that...

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Lecture 13

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pp. 313-319

GREAT political institutions generally originate under feeble and incapable princes; in the midst of the troubles which arise in their reign, they are extorted from them. They are consolidated under more able princes, who know how to recognize the necessity for...

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Lecture 14

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pp. 320-327

WE have seen how county and borough deputies were introduced into Parliament; but we are still far from having obtained a complete and correct idea of representative government as it existed in England at the period at which we have now arrived. We have yet to learn by whom and in what manner these members were nominated...

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Lecture 15

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pp. 328-338

THE facts adduced in my previous lecture, prove that the electoral system of England in the fourteenth century was determined by no philosophical combination, by no general intention. This system arose naturally and spontaneously, out of facts. Its study is therefore more curious and interesting: modern times are full of science and...

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Lecture 16

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pp. 339-352

I NOW pass to the second of the great questions to which every electoral system gives rise. What are the proceedings and forms of the election? In this question many others are comprised. These may be divided into two classes: the one class relating to the manner of assembling the electors; the other, to their mode of operation when assembled...

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Lecture 17

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pp. 353-358

OUR attention has hitherto been directed only to the elements of which the Parliament was composed, and to the proceedings that took place at its formation, that is to say, to the process of election: we have now to consider another question; we must enquire what were the internal and external constitution and organisation of the Parliament...

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Lecture 18

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pp. 359-376

IN ORDER to judge in itself of the division of the legislative power into two Chambers, and to estimate its merit, we must first detach it from certain particular and purely local characteristics, which are...

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Lecture 19

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pp. 377-381

THE first name borne in England by the assembly which was succeeded by the Parliament, was, as you have seen, that of the great council, the common council of the kingdom,-magnum commune consilium regni. The same name has also been given to...

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Lecture 20

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pp. 382-388

IN order to explain the manner in which the British Parliament was formed, I have found it necessary, up to this point, to follow history step by step-to enter into all the details, and to collect all the facts, that might serve as proofs either of its existence, or of its...

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Lecture 21

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pp. 389-398

THE circumstances which occur at the origin of an institution are well calculated to make us acquainted with its nature. At such periods, events are simple, and produce themselves spontaneously. No effort has yet been made either to evade them or to change their nature, and the state of society is not sufficiently complicated to render...

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Lecture 22

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pp. 399-405

HITHERTO we have only met with political struggles between the king and his barons, or between opposite aristocratic factions; the Commons have hitherto appeared only in a second rank; they exercised as yet hardly any direct influence over general affairs, over the government properly so called; or if they occasionally interfered...

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Lecture 23

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pp. 406-413

IT was not merely in the matter of taxation and of general legislation that the House of Commons, during the reign of Edward III., extended and consolidated its rights. Its interference in the administration of public affairs, in politics properly so called, assumed at this period a development previously unexampled, and an entirely...

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Lecture 24

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pp. 414-424

IT is a remarkable fact in the history of England that, during the interval which elapsed between the years of 1216 and 1399, an able monarch always succeeded an incapable king, and vice versa. This circumstance proved very favourable to the establishment of free institutions, which never had time either to fall beneath the yoke of an...

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Lecture 25

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pp. 425-436

IT is impossible to comprehend the entire scope of the character and influence of great events. Some occurrences, which procure order and liberty for the present, prepare the way for tyranny and confusion in the future; while others, on the contrary, establish...

Index

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pp. 437-457

Publication Information

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p. 496-496


E-ISBN-13: 9781614878049
E-ISBN-10: 1614878048
Print-ISBN-13: 9780865971257

Page Count: 488
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: None

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