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chapter iii 91 that its councils are exposed to the caprice or treachery of a single member? We shall conclude this chapter, with observing, that a nation ought to know itself. Without this knowledge, it cannot make any successful endeavours after its own perfection. It ought to have a just idea of its state, to enable it to take the most proper measures; it ought to know the progress it has already made, and what further advances it has still to make,—what advantages it possesses, and what defects it labours under , in order to preserve the former, and correct the latter. Without this knowledge, a nation will act at random, and often take the most improper measures. It will think it acts with great wisdom in imitating the conduct of nations that are reputed wise and skilful,—not perceiving that such or such regulation, such or such practice, though salutary to one state, is often pernicious to another. Every thing ought to be conducted according to its nature. Nations cannot be wellgovernedwithout such regulations as are suitable to theirrespectivecharacters;andinorder to this, their characters ought to be known. chapter iii Of the Constitution of a State, and the Duties and Rights of the Nation in this respect. We were unable to avoid, in the first chapter, anticipating something of the subject of this. We have seen already that every political society must necessarily establish a public authority, to regulate their common affairs,—to prescribe to each individual the conduct he ought to observe with a view to the public welfare,—and to possess the means of procuring obedience. This authority essentially belongs to the body of the society; but it may be exercised in a variety of ways; and every society has a right to choose that mode which suits it best. The fundamental regulation thatdeterminesthemannerinwhichthe public authority is to be executed, is what forms the constitution of the state. In this is seen the form in which the nation acts in quality of§25. A nation ought to know itself.§26. Of public authority.§27. What is the constitution of a state. 92 book i: nations in themselves a body-politic,—how and by whom the people are to be governed,— and what are the rights and duties of the governors. This constitution is in fact nothing more than the establishment of the order in which a nation proposes to labour in common for obtaining those advantages with a view to which the political society was established. The perfection of a state, and its aptitude to attain theendsof society, must then depend on its constitution: consequently the most important concern of a nation that forms a political society, and its first and most essential duty towards itself, is to chuse the best constitution possible, and that most suitable to its circumstances. When it makes this choice, it lays the foundation of its own preservation, safety, perfection, and happiness:—it cannot take too much care in placing these on a solid basis. The laws are regulations established by public authority, to be observed in society. All these ought to relate to the welfare of the state and of the citizens. The laws made directly with a view to the public welfare are political laws; and in this class, those that concern the body itself and the being of the society, the form of government, the manner in which the public authority is to be exerted,—those, in a word, which together form the constitution of the state, are the fundamental laws. The civil laws are those that regulate the rights and conduct of the citizens among themselves. Every nation that would not be wanting to itself, ought to apply its utmost care in establishing these laws, and principally its fundamental laws,—in establishing them, I say, with wisdom, in a manner suitable to the genius of the people, and to all the circumstances in which they may be placed: they ought to determine them and make them known with plainness and precision, to the end that they may possess stability, that they may not be eluded, and, that they may create, if possible, no dissension —that, on the one hand, he or they to whom the exercise of the sovereign power is committed, and the citizens, on the other, may equally know their duty, and their rights. It is not here necessary to consider in detail, what that constitution and those laws ought to be:—this discussion belongs to...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781614878728
Print ISBN
9780865974517
MARC Record
OCLC
466082934
Pages
896
Launched on MUSE
2013-06-27
Language
English
Open Access
N
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