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the labyrinths of the Alps, accessible to those only who knew the ways
to them, their cattle fed unseen ; and against straggling bands of
marauders who might discover their retreats they had great facilities
for defense. These districts — which eventually became the cantons
of Schwytz, Uri, and Untorwalden, originally having but one common
center of meeting, but eventually, as population increased, getting
three, and forming separate political organizations — long preserved
complete independence. With the spread of feudal subordination
throughout Europe, they became nominally subject to the Emperor ;
but, refusing obedience to the superiors set over them, they entered
into a solemn alliance, renewed from time to time, to resist outer ene-
mies. Details of their history need not detain us. The fact of mo-
ment is, that in these three cantons, which physically favored in so
great a degree the maintenance of independence by individuals and
by groups, the people, while framing for themselves free governments,"
united on equal terms for joint defense. And it was these typical
" Swiss," as they were the first to be called, whose union formed the
nucleus of the larger unions which, through varied fortunes, eventually
grew up. Severally independent as were the cantons composing these
larger unions, there at first existed feuds among them, which were
suspended during the needs for joint defense. Only gradually did
the leagues pass from temporary and unsettled forms to a permanent
and settled form. Two facts of significance should be added. One
is that, at a later date, a like process of resistance, federation, and
emancipation from feudal tyranny, among separate communities occu-
pying small mountain-valleys, took place in the Grisons and in the
Valais — regions which, though mountainous, were more accessible
than those of the Oberland and its vicinity. The other is that the
more level cantons neither so early nor so completely gained their
independence ; and, further, that their internal constitutions were less
free in form. A marked contrast existed between the aristocratic re-
publics of Berne, Lucerne, Fribourg, and Soleure and the pure democ-
racies of the forest cantons and the Grisons ; in the last of which

VOL. XIX. — 11



210 THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

" every little hamlet resting in an Alpine valley, or perched on moun-
tain-crag, was an independent community, of which all the members
were absolutely equal — entitled to vote in every assembly, and quali-
fied for every public function. . . . Each hamlet had its own laws,
jurisdiction, and privileges," the hamlets being federated into com-
munes, the communes into districts, and the districts into a league.

Lastly, with the case of Switzerland may be associated that of San
Marino — a little republic which, seated in the Apennines, and having
its center on a cliif a thousand feet high, has retained its independence
for fifteen centuries. Here eight thousand people are governed by a
senate of sixty, and by cajjtains elected every half year, assemblies of
the whole people being called on important occasions. There is a
standing army of eighteen, " taxation is reduced to a mere nothing,"
and officials are paid by the honor of serving.

One noteworthy difference between the compound heads arising
under physical conditions of the kinds exemplified, must not be over-
looked — the difference between the oligarchic form and the more or
less popular form. As shown at the cutset of this section, if each of
the groups united by militant cooperation is despotically ruled — if the
groups are severally framed on the patriarchal type, or are severally
governed by men of supposed divine descent — then the compound
head becomes one in which the people at large have no share. But
if, as in these modern cases, patriarchal authority has decayed ; or if
belief in divine descent has been undermined by a creed at variance
with it ; or if peaceful habits have weakened that coercive authority
which war ever strengthens — then the compound head is no longer an
assembly of petty despots. With the progress of these changes it be-
comes more and more a head formed of those who exercise power not
by right of position but by right of appointment.

There are other conditions which favor the rise of compound heads,
temporary if not permanent : those, namely, which occur at the disso-
lutions of preceding organizations. Among people habituated through
countless generations to personal rule, having sentiments appropriate
to it, and no conception of anything else, the fall of one despot is at
once followed by the rise of another ; or, if a large personally-governed
empire collapses, its parts severally generate governments for them-
selves of like kind. But, among less servile peoples, the breaking up
of political systems having single heads is apt to be followed by the
establishment of others having compound heads ; especially where
there is a simultaneous separation into parts which have not local
governments of stable kinds. Under such circumstances there is a
return to the primitive state. The preexisting regulative system hav-
ing fallen, the members of the community are left without any con-
trolling power save the aggregate will ; and, political organization
having to commence afresh, the form first assumed is akin to that



COMPOUND POLITICAL HEADS. 211

Avhich wo see in the assembly of the savage horde, or in the modern
I)iiblic meeting. Whence there presently results the rule of a select
few subject to the approval of the many.

In illustration may first be taken the rise of the Italian republics.
When, during the ninth and tenth centuries, the German emperors,
who had long been losing their power to restrain local antagonisms in
Italy and the outrages of wandering robber bands, failed more than
ever to protect their subject communities, and, as a simultaneous re-
sult, exercised diminished control over them, it became at once neces-
sary and practicable for the Italian towns to develop political organi-
zations of their own. Though in these towns there were remnants of
the old Roman organization, this had obviously become effete ; for, in
time of danger, there was an assembling of " citizens at the sound of a
great bell, to concert together the means for their common defense."
Doubtless on such occasions were marked out the rudiments of those
republican constitutions which afterward arose. Though it is alleged
tliat the German emperors allowed the towns to form these constitu-
tions, yet we may reasonably conclude, rather, that, having no care
further than to get their tribute, they made no efforts to prevent the
towns from forming them. And though Sismondi says of the towns-
people, "ils chercherent a. se constituer sur le modole de la republique
romaine," yet we may question whether, in those dark days, the people
knew enough of Roman institutions to be influenced by their knowl-
edge. With more probability may we infer that " this meeting of all
the men of the state capable of bearing arms ... in the great square,"
originally called to take measures for repelling aggressors — a meeting
which must, at the very beginning, have been swayed by a group of
dominant citizens, and must have chosen leaders — was itself the repub-
lican government in its incipient form. Meetings of this kind, first
occurring on occasions of emergency, would gradually come into use
for deciding on all important public questions. Repetition would
bring greater regularity in the modes of procedure, and greater defi-
niteness in the divisions formed, ending in compound political heads,
presided over by elected chiefs. And that this was the case in those
early stages of which there remain but vague accounts, is shown by
the fact that a similar, though somewhat more definite, process after-
ward occurred at Florence, when the usurping nobles were overthrown.
Definite records tell us that in 1250 "the citizens assembled at the
same moment in the square of Santa Croco ; they divided themselves
into fifty groups, of which each group chose a captain, and thus formed
companies of militia : a council of these oflicers was the first-born au-
thority of this newly revived republic." Clearly that sovereignty of
the people which, for a time, characterized these small governments,
would inevitably arise if the political form grew out of the original
public meeting ; while it would be unlikely to have arisen had the
political form been artificially devised by a limited class.



212 THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

That this interpretation harmonizes -with the facts which modern
times have furnished, scarcely needs pointing out. On an immensely
larger scale and in ways variously modified, here by the slow collapse
of an old regime and there by combination for war, the rise of the
first French Republic and that of the American Republic have similarly
shown us this tendency toward resumption of the primitive form of
political organization, when a decayed or otherwise incapable govern-
ment is broken up. Greatly obscured by complicating circumstances
and special incidents as these transformations were, we may recognize
in them the play of the same general causes.

In the last chapter we saw that, as conditions determine, the first
element of the triune political structure may be differentiated from
the second in various degrees — beginning with the warrior chief
slightly predominant over other warriors, and ending with the divine
and absolute king, widely distinguished from the select few next to
him. By the foregoing examples we are shown that the second ele-
ment is, as conditions determine, variously differentiated from the
third : being at the one extreme qualitatively distinguished in a high
degree and divided from it by an impassable barrier, and at the other
extreme almost merged into it.

Here we are introduced to the truth next to be dealt with : that
not only do conditions determine the various forms which compound
heads assume, but that conditions determine the various changes they
undergo. There are two leading kinds of such changes — those through
which the compound head passes toward a less popular form, and those
through which it passes toward a more popular form. We will glance
at them in this order.

Progressive narrowing of the compound head is one of the con-
comitants of continued military activity. Beginning with the case of
Sparta, the constitution of which in its early form differed but little
from that which the " Iliad " shows us existed among the Homeric
Greeks, we see, in the first place, the tendency toward concentration
of power in the regulation, made a century after Lykurgus, that, " in
case the people decided crookedly, the senate wdth the kings should
reverse their decisions " ; and then we see that later, in consequence of
the gravitation of property into fewer hands, " the number of quali-
fied citizens went on continually diminishing " : the implication being
not only a relatively-increased power of the oligarchy, but, probably,
a growing supremacy of the wealthier members within the oligarchy
itself. Turning to the case of Rome, ever militant, we find that in
course of time inequalities increased to the extent that the senate be-
came " an order of lords, filling up its ranks by hereditary succession,
and exercising collegiate misrule " ; and then " out of the evil of oli-
garchy there emerged the still worse evil of usurpation of power by
particular families." In the Italian republics, again, perpetually at



COMPOUND POLITICAL HEADS. 213

war one with another, there resulted a kindred narrowing of the gov-
erning body. The nobility, deserting their castles, began to direct
" the municipal government of the cities, which consequently, during
this period of the republics, fell chiefly into the hands of the superior
families." Then at a later stage, when industrial progress had gener-
ated wealthy commercial classes, these, competing with the nobles for
power, and finally displacing them, repeated within their respective
bodies this same process. The richer guilds deprived the poorer of
their shares in the choice of the ruling agencies ; the privileged class
was continually narrowed by disqualifying regulations ; and newly
risen families were excluded by those of long standing. So that, as
Sismondi points out, such of the numerous Italian republics as re-
mained nominally such at the close of the fifteenth century were, like
" Sienna and Lucca, each governed by a single caste of citizens : . . .
had no longer popular governments." A kindi-ed result occurred
among the Dutch. During the wars of the Flemish cities with the
nobles and with one another, the relatively popular governments of
the towns became narrowed. The greater guilds excluded the lesser
from the ruling body, and their members " clothed in the municipal
purple . . . ruled with the power of an aristocracy ; . . . the local
government was often an oligarchy, while the spirit of the burghers
w^as peculiarly democratic." And with these illustrations may be
joined that furnished by those Swiss cantons which, physically char-
acterized in ways less favorable to individual independence, were at
the same time given to wars, offensive as well as defensive. Berne,
Lucerne, Fribourg, Soleure, acquired political constitutions in large
measure oligarchic ; and in " Berne, where the nobles had always
been in the ascendant, the entire administration had fallen into the
hands of a few families, with whom it had become hereditary."

We have next to note as a cause of progressive modification in
compound heads, that, like simple heads, they are apt to be subordi-
nated by their administrative agents. The first case to be named is
one in which this effect is exemplified along with the last — the case
of Sparta. Originally appointed by the kings to perform prescribed
duties, the ephors first made the kings subordinate, and eventually
subordinated the senate ; so that they became substantially the rulers.
From this we may pass to the instance supplied by Venice, where
power, once exercised by the people, gradually lapsed into the hands
of an executive body, the members of which, habitually reelected, and
at death replaced by their children, became an aristocracy, whence
there eventually grew the Council of Ten, who were, like the Spartan
ephors, " charged to guard the security of the state with a power
liigher than the law" ; and who thus, "restrained by no rule," con-
stituted the actual government. Through its many revolutions and
changes of constitution, Florence exhibited like tendencies. The ap-
pointed administrators, now signoria, now priors, became able, during



214 THE POPULAR SCIEXCE MONTHLY.

their terms of office, to carry out their ends even to the extent of sus-
pending the constitution — getting the forced assent of the assembled
people, who were surrounded by armed men. And then, eventually,
the head executive agent, nominally reelected from time to time but
practically permanent, became, in the person of Cosmo de' Medici, the
founder of an inherited headship.

But the liability of the compound political head to become subject
to its civil agents, is far less than its liability to become subject to its
military agents. From the earliest times this liability has been exem-
plified and commented upon ; and, familiar as it is, I must here illus-
trate and emphasize it, because it directly bears on one of the cardinal
truths of political theory. Setting out with the Greeks we observe, in
the first place, that the tyrants, by whom oligarchies were so often
overthrown, had armed forces at their disposal. Either the tyrant
was "the executive magistrate, upon whom the oligarchy themselves
had devolved important administrative powers," or he was a dema-
gogue, who pleaded the alleged interests of the community, " in or-
der to surround " himself " with armed defenders " — soldiers being in
either case the agents of his usurpation. And then, in the second
place, we see the like done by the successful general. As Macchiavelli
remarks of the Romans : " For the further abroad they [the generals]
carried their arms, the more necessary such prolongations [of their
commissions] appeared, and the more common they became ; hence it
arose, in the first place, that but a few of their citizens could be em-
ployed in the command of armies, and consequently few were capable
of acquiring any considerable degree of experience or reputation ; and
in the next, that when a commander in chief was continued for a long
time in that post, he had an opportunity of corrupting his araiy to
such a degree that the soldiers entirely threw off their obedience to
the senate, and acknowledged no authority but his. To this it was
owing that Sylla and Marius found means to debauch their armies and
make them fight against their country ; and that Julius Ceesar was en-
abled to make himself absolute in Rome."

The Italian republics, again, furnish many illustrations. By the
beginning of the fourteenth century, those of Lombardy " all submit-
ted themselves to the military power of some nobles to whom they
had intrusted the command of their militias, and thus all lost their
liberty." Later times and nearer regions yield instances. At home
Cromwell showed how the successful general tends to become auto-
crat. In the Netherlands the same thing was exemplified by the Van
Arteveldes, father and son, and again by Maurice of Nassau ; and, but
for form's sake, it would be needless to name the case of Napoleon.
It should be added that not only by command of armed forces is the
military chief enabled to seize on supreme power, but acquired popu-
larity, especially in a militant nation, places him in a position which
makes it relatively easy to do this. Neither their own experience, nor



p - _



COMPOUND POLITICAL HEADS. 215

the experiences of other nations throughout the past, prevented the
French from lately making Marshal MacMahon executive head ; and
even the Americans, in more than once choosing General Grant for
President, proved that, predominantly industrial though their society
is, militant activity promptly caused an incipient change toward the
militant type, of which an essential trait is the union of civil headship
with military headship.

From the influences which tend to narrow compound political
headships, or change them into single ones, let us pass to the influences
which tend to widen them. The case of Athens is, of course, the first
to be considered. To understand this we must remember that, up to
the time of Solon, democratic government did not exist in Greece.
The only known forms were the oligarchic and the despotic ; and in
those early days, before political speculation began, it is certain that
there was not recognized in theory a social form wholly unknown in
practice. We have, therefore, to exclude the notion that popular gov-
ernment arose in Athens under the guidance of any preconceived idea.
As having the same implication should be added the fact that — Athens
being governed by an oligarchy at the time — the Solonian legislation
served but to qualify and broaden the oligarchy and remove crying
injustices. In seeking the causes which worked through Solon, and
also made practicable the reorganization he initiated, we shall find
them to lie in the direct and indirect influences of trade. Grote com-
ments on " the anxiety, both of Solon and of Drako, to enforce among
their fellow-citizens industrious and self-maintaining habits " — a proof
that, even before Solon's time, there was in Attica little or no reproba-
tion of " sedentary industry, which in most other parts of Greece was
regarded as comparatively dishonorable." Moreover, Solon was him-
self in early life a trader; and his legislation "provided for traders
and artisans a new home at Athens, giving the first encouragement to
that numerous town-population, both in the city and in the Peirteus,
which we find actually residing there in the succeeding century." The
immigrants who flocked into Attica because of its greater security,
Solon was anxious to turn rather to manufacturing industry than to
cultivation of a soil naturally poor ; and one result was " a departure
from the primitive temper of Atticism, which tended both to cantonal
residence and rural occupation " ; while another result was to increase
the number of people who stood outside those gentile and phratric
divisions, which were concomitants of the patriarchal type and of per-
sonal rule. And then the constitutional changes made by Solon were
in leading respects toward industrial organization. The introduction
of a property-qualification for classes, instead of a birth-qualification,
diminished the rigidity of the political form, since acquirement of
wealth by industry, or otherwise, made possible an admission into the
oligai'chy, or among others of the privileged. By forbidding self-
enslavement of the debtor, and by emancipating those who had been



2i6 THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

self-enslaved, his laws added largely to the enfranchised class as dis-
tinguished from the slave-class. In another aspect this change, leav-
ing equitable contracts untouched, prevented those inequitable contracts
under which, by a lien on himself, a man gave more than an equivalent
for the sum he borrowed. And, with a decreasing number of cases in
which there existed the relation of master and slave, went an increas-
ing number of cases in which benefits were exchanged by agreement.
Tlie odium attaching to that lending at interest which ended in slavery
of the debtor having disappeared, legitimate lending became general
and unopposed, the rate of interest was free, and accumulated capi-
tal was made available. Then, as cooperating cause, and as ever-
increasing consequence, came the growth of a population favorably
circumstanced for acting in concert. Urban people, who, daily in con-
tact, can gather one another's ideas and feelings, and who, by quickly-
diffused intelligence, can be rapidly assembled, can cooperate far more
readily than those who are scattered through rural districts. With all
which direct and indirect results of industrial develojiment must be
joined the ultimate result upon character, produced by daily fulfilling
and enforcing contracts — a discipline which, while requiring each man
to recognize the claims of others, also requires him to maintain his
own. In Solon himself this attitude which joins assertion of personal
rights with respect for the rights of others was well exemplified ;
since, when his influence was great he refused to become a despot,
though pressed to do so, and in his latter days he resisted at the risk
of death the establishment of a despotism. In various ways, then,
increasing industrial activity tended to widen the original oligarchic
foi-m, and initiate a more popular form. And though these effects of
industrialism, joined with subsequently-accumulated effects, were for
a long time held in check by the usurping Peisistratidje, yet, being
ready to show themselves w^hen, some time after the expulsion of these
tyrants, there came the Kleisthenian revolution, they were doubtless
instrumental in then initiating the popular form of government.

Though not in so great a degree, yet in some degree, the same
causes operated in liberalizing and widening the Roman oligarchy.
Rome " was indebted for the commencement of its importance to inter-
national commerce " ; and, as Mommsen points out, "the distinction
between Rome and the mass of the other Latin towns must certainly
be traced back to its commercial position, and to the type of character
produced by that position. . , . Rome was the emporium of the Latin
districts." Moreover, as in Athens, though doubtless to a smaller
extent, trade brought an increasing settlement of strangers, to whom
rights were given, and who, joined wnth emancipated slaves and with
clients, less bound to their patrons, formed an industrial population,
the eventual inclusion of w^hich in the burgess-body caused that widen-
ing of the constitution effected by Servius Tullius.

The Italian republics of later days again show us, in numerous



COMPOUND POLITICAL HEADS. 217

cases, this connection between trading activities and a freer form of
rule. The Italian towns were industrial centers. " The merchants of
Genoa, Fisa, Florence, and Venice supplied Europe with the products
of the Mediterranean and of the East ; the bankers of Lombardy in-
structed the world in the mysteries of finance and foreign exchanges ;



Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthThe Popular science monthly (Volume 19) → online text (page 27 of 110)