Evil men do not understand justice


What recourse does one have when a King, who rules by Divine Right, is deposed and usurped by another? The Heavens who have chosen the now usurped King cannot be thought to sit idly by while an illegitimate sovereign now reigns. Shakespeare’s second installment of his Second Tetralogy explores how the Heavens resolve the problem of the illegitimate sovereign. In particular the First Part of Henry IV explores how the Heavens attempted to solve the question of the illegitimate King. The first act of the play demonstrates that an uprising of supporters of the slain King Richard II is underway and both Prince Hal and his friend Falstaff discuss the relation of the Moon’s power to govern the affairs of men. It appears that the Law, which governs the Heavenly Bodies and men, is personified by Shakespeare in the First Part of Henry IV as a means of gaining satisfaction against King Henry IV for his usurpation of God’s chosen King, Richard II.

Some have seen Henry IV, Part One[1] as a play about the creation of a Prince and King in the character of Prince Hal; however, the play focuses on the career of a usurper.[2] Falstaff and Prince Hal discuss the new situation that they find themselves in. Falstaff says to Hal, “let men say we be men of good government, being governed, as the sea is by our noble and chaste mistress the moon, under whose countenance we steal.” (Act 1, scene 2, lines 28-31.) The moon has the power to make the ocean rise and fall at will and that same power governs men according to Falstaff. The moon is governed by God, and therefore the moon appears with water, the prominent literary image of redemption and a new beginning.  The moon will be used by God to cleanse the Kingdom of England by stirring the passions of the people into a outright rebellion.   The rebellion of the Welsh seems to be caused by stirrings of the moon in accordance with Falstaff’s belief of the moon’s power over mankind. The Prince responds to Falstaff by saying, “Thou sayest well, and it holds well too, for the fortune of us that are moon’s men doth ebb and flow like the sea, being governed, as the sea is, by the moon.” (Act 1, scene 2, lines 32-35) The question that Prince Hal now must face is how to protect stability in England despite the wrath of Heaven against his father. Yet, to demonstrate to the Heavens that he, Prince Hal, is deserving of the throne his father stole, Hal acknowledges, “And pay the debt I never promised” (Act 1 scene 2, 216) This prophetic statement by Hal indicates that his father will in fact be saved from Divine justice, instead the Prince and the English people will be forced to pay for the sins of Henry IV.

Having disposed the King, Richard II, Henry Bolingbroke is prepared to turn his attention to the restoration of time and the kingdom of England; he proposes a crusade to the Holy Land. However, as King Henry IV, Bolingbroke faces his first threat from the Welsh, who as supporters of the late King Richard II are prepared to revolt against the usurper King.[3] Because of threats to his throne the crusade must be put on hold.  The play of the First Part of Henry IV focuses around the hostilities the new king faces in the aftermath of his execution and disposition of the previous king. In particular, a theme of the play is posed by the King’s son Hal; he will be forced to pay for the actions of his father in taking the thrown. The play looks to the relationship of the Heavenly Bodies and political affairs; England’s political affairs throughout the play are chaotic. Something seems to be seeking retribution for the deposing of God’s chosen monarch. The Law appears in various forms throughout the play, each seeking retribution against the King. The threat of a Welsh uprising is also an indication that Shakespeare plans for Part 1 of Henry IV how the Heavens handle usurpers.  Henry’s rule has ushered in a period of lawlessness in England that will last until the last of the Lancaster Monarchs has reigned. As Falstaff states, “I am accursed to rob in that thief’s company.”(2, 2, 10) The only way to restore the rule of law and order in England is restore the monarchy to a King who represents lawfulness rather than lawlessness. Henry’s choice to overthrow his cousin Richard plays out in the play to show the consequences of his choice: England and his family will suffer Divine justice.

The final element of the story of Divine Justice against King Henry IV is the war against the Welsh.[4] Falstaff says, “Rebellion lay in his way….” (5.1.29.)  The rebellion, a result of the moon’s power over the passions of men, symbolizes the Divine Justice against King Henry and as Falstaff indicates the rebellion was predestined when Henry usurped Richard. Rebellion by the Welsh calls into question the English Constitution under Henry IV and even his successors; primarily the weakness and irresponsibility of the King. Prince Hal comes into his own during the war as his plan expressed in his soliloquy in the first act. He draws others to himself, much like a jeweler places a diamond against a black background. And by executing his plan, and taking part in the war, Hal has made himself the object Divine Justice will aim toward.[5] This is evident by the action of Part II of Henry IV as Henry IV is terminally ill rather than dying from an external condition. Prince Hal kills the rebel leader Hotspur at the end of the play; and if the rebellion is the heavens seeking Divine Justice upon Henry then Hotspur must be the chief sword for that Divine Justice. This action places Hal, and not Henry, in the sights of the heavens as they seek retribution for the death of their legitimate, Divine Right King Richard.  As the Kingdom is taking account of what has happened in the rebellion, the King observes, “Thus did rebellion find rebuke…”(5.5.1) The divinely ordained rebellion was rebuked by the son of the man who disobeyed the Lord’s command that Richard be King of England. The theme at the beginning of the play, the restoration of time and the Kingdom, alludes to the words of Henry after the rebellion has been put down. Time represents a temporal order, indicating that Henry has restored a temporal monarchy after a period of Divine monarchs.

Many Shakespearean critics claim that the story of the play Part I of Henry IV is the story of Prince Hal and his career on the path to becoming king of England. Yet, the story of the play focuses on the Divine Justice planned out by the heavens against the usurper King Henry IV. The Prince interferes with this plan of the heavens by intersecting himself in the rebellion and killing the leader of the rebel army. The movement of the play does involve the establishment of Hal as the true and proper heir of Henry IV but in the sense that Hal becomes the focus of Divine Justice throughout Part II of Henry IV and Henry V where Hal becomes King Henry V. The rebellion is the main object of the play whereby Prince Hal reveals himself as the proper heir to the lawless, usurper King Henry IV. Rather than being good, this event actually shows the inevitable downfall of one of Shakespeare’s most important characters.


[1] All quotes from the play taken from Folger Shakespeare Library: Henry IV, Part 1. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks: New York, 1994.

[2] David Berkeley and Donald Eidson, “The Themes of Henry IV, Part I” Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Winter, 1968), pp. 25-31 accessed from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2867838 on 5/1/10. The authors argue in “The Themes of Henry IV, Part I” that one of the themes in Henry IV, part One is the education of a prince. However, they ignore that the play also demonstrates Divine justice on usurpers. More importantly they fail to notice that Prince Hal, while “learning” to become King models himself on his father who is a lawless usurper in the eyes of the heavens. Thus, the Prince’s education is complete when he kills the leader of the divinely ordained rebel army, Hotspur.

[3] Trafton, Dain A. “Shakespeare’s Henry IV, A New Prince in a New Principality” in Shakespeare as a Political Thinker edited by John E. Alvis & Thomas G. West, (ISI Books: Wilmington, DE. 2000) pg. 94-104. This article is similar in the argument that I make in that the story of Henry IV is about Henry IV despite other underlying storylines. In addition, Trafton argues that Henry IV Parts 1 & 2 demonstrate the consequences of Henry’s decision to overthrow the Divine Right King Richard II.

[4]Leggatt, “Henry IV, Part 1: A Modern Perspective” in Folger Shakespeare Library: Henry IV, Part 1. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks: New York, 1994. Similar to the argument made by Berkely and Eidson, Alexander Leggatt in his essay “Henry IV, Part 1: A modern perspective” argues that the movement of the play is towards the establishment of Hal as the true heir to Henry. However, his focus is on the battle of Shrewsbury where Hal proves himself the heir by killing Hotspur. This point I do not disagree with, as Hal’s killing of Hotspur shows him the proper object of Divine Justice.

[5] In Hal’s soliloquy at act 1 scene 2 he hatches a plan to make himself appear as the proper heir to Henry’s thrown. He says, “I’ll so offend to make offense a skill….”(1.2.223) Indicating that he will throw off attention on his father, making himself appear as “the sun.”

Emergence of the American Military Power


Have you ever wondered where the military power of the United States came from? We haven’t always been a super power capable of destroying our enemies, our friends, and ourselves.  For most of the early years of the American republic we had to rely on allies to assists us in our military campaigns. The French aided us in the American Revolution, although we did have minor successes prior to their entry into the war. We fought to a stalemate with the English during the War of 1812, yet our Nation’s Capital was burned down.

We were able to defeat the Mexicans during the Mexican-American War, but we still weren’t a super power. We had to rely on the British to enforce the Monroe Doctrine, which stated that the Western Hemisphere is closed to European Colonization. Yet, one event in American History stands alone as ushering in the advent of American military supremacy.

During the Civil War advancements in technology were made that made obsolete all other militaries in the world. The mini ball made for more accurate gun fire, destroying a military fighting style that had spanned centuries. The CSS Hunley was only the second major attempt by Americans to create submarine power (the USS Turtle was used during the American Revolution, which was a one man submarine that operated on a similar concept as the Hunley.) And ultimately, the clash of the Iron Clads (CSS Merrimack & USS Monitor) made all other navies in the world obsolete. By the end of the Civil War there were over 1 Million soldiers in America’s Army. Within a couple years that number would drop significantly to 125,000 military personal.

In the wake of the Civil War and the assassination, and attempted assassination, of President Abraham Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State Seward two nations attempted to capitalize on a war torn nation. Emperor Louis Napoleon III had fashioned himself as a French Andrew Jackson, but like his famous ancestor became an Emperor. With the coup that destroyed the French Second Republic, Napoleon sought to take advantage of a perceived weak America.

Napoleon conspired with the Arch-Duke Maximilian of Austria to take over Mexico and create an Empire that would threaten the existence of the United States. Secretary Seward recovered from a carriage accident and being stabbed in a failed assassination attempt the night Lincoln was shot by Booth to challenge Napoleon’s plan. General Grant sent 50,000 soldiers and General Sheridan to the Texas-Mexican border to secure America from an attack. In the mean time Seward sent General Schofield to deter Napoleon from his plan. Publicly Seward published a letter to the Emperor that was more diplomatic than what Schofield was sent to deliver. Napoleon backed down and the Mexicans murdered the Arch-Duke.

In the mean time, the British were attempting to secure Canada from the United States. War was England was eminent during the Civil War, it was only Ambassador Charles Francis Adams  (Son of John Q. Adams and grandson of John Adams) that helped prevent war from breaking out. The British, Sir John A.  MacDonald created a plan to create the Kingdom of Canada, a confederacy of the Canada territories. When northerners along the border cried for war, the English monarch Queen Victoria signed into law a bill creating the Dominion of Canada; regardless, the damage was done and a permanent reminder of the English monarchy was created. And in a major coup for the United States, Secretary of State Seward purchased Alaska from the Russians. This purchased, declared “Seward’s Folly” and “Seward’s Ice Box” was actually a tactical victory for the United States. With Alaska, the United States surrounded Canada from the South and the West. The arctic circle to the north meant that Canada only had it’s Eastern boarder free from America. In the event of a war with England, the United States could secure Canada and blockade it’s Eastern shore ports.

The United States came out of the Civil War a military power house. Over the next thirty years the US would continue to grow stronger as the industrial revolution took hold. By the time the United States went to war with Spain she had one of the strongest navies in the world, and was able to defeat the once mighty Spanish. Following the destruction of Europe in World War I, the United States stood as the most complete and most powerful military in the world. It wouldn’t be until the end of the Second World War that the U.S. was officially a super power, with enough fire power to destroy the world.

Sultans of the Legislature


We don’t have great legislators anymore. The era of great men in our national legislature is gone, never to be revived and almost barely remembered. John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster and Henry Clay are three of the most important legislators our nation has ever had, or will ever have again. While their ambition led them to strive for the President’s office, none achieved this end. Instead, they each spent their careers in the Senate working to improve upon what the Founders had given them. A connection to the Founding generation, many Americans looked to these men for guidance; and their leadership in the Senate has been matched by no one. While they all had monumental foibles (Calhoun was a secessionist, and Clay was a slave holder to be specific) they all contributed greatly to the course of the 19th century. And while ultimately their actions indirectly lead to our Civil War, they also helped preserve the union throughout the course of their lives.

While we have had men and women in the Legislature, none can match the fame and notoriety Calhoun, Clay and Webster achieved in the middle of the 19th century. And in particular, none of this Nation’s previous great Legislators remained in the the Legislature. Madison eventually succeeded Jefferson in the Presidency, and he is the only other great legislator worth mentioning in the 19th century. In the 20th century we had LBJ and Gerald Ford, both of whom eventually went on to serve lack luster terms as President of the United States. If nothing else, the three Sultans of the Senate were saved from a the failures suffered by Madison, Johnson and Ford in the oval office. While both Clay and Calhoun found themselves in the Vice Presidency and in other various cabinet positions, neither had a realistic chance of winning the Presidency. Clay was the great compromiser, and for good or ill he helped save the Union from a civil war on numerous occasions ending with the Compromise of 1850. Webster, known as “Godlike Dan” eventually became known as “Black Dan” when he saw the prudence in supporting Clay’s Compromise of 1850. And while Calhoun helped advance the policy of secession in the South, he was a pivotal player in the United States Senate.

A close study of the period in American History from 1820-1856 cannot be fully understood without examining the lives and careers of John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. It is undoubted in an age dominated by the Presidency that we will ever again see legislators that can match the legacy these three men left behind.

Roman Foreign Policy between 264 and 146 B.C: Why They Fought


From the First Punic War through the Third Punic War there was much change in the reasoning for Rome going to war.  Roman conquest of Italy in the years leading up to the First Punic War gave the Romans confidence about their military power. Their success at unifying most of Italy under the Roman banner must have given them an adrenaline rush to spur them into a war with Carthage in an attempt to take Sicily. Successive wars appear to have been encouraged by Roman desire to dominate trade throughout the Mediterranean world.

Roman involvement in the First Punic War was spurred on by ambition to add Sicily to their territory. The Second Punic War and the wars with Greece were brought on primarily through a desire to dominate trade.  The wars with Spain and the Third Punic War, however, appear to harken back to the desires which spurred on the First Punic War and the Italian wars.

According to Polybius, the First Punic War marked the first time the Romans engaged in sea warfare. Whether or not this is completely true or not does not detract from how important such an idea is to the motives of going to war. There is little doubt that the Romans probably engaged in at least some minimal trade prior to this war. Yet Polybius’ account of the construction of wartime vessels demonstrates that the Romans most likely had not yet engaged in naval battles[1]. If this account is true then the motives for going to war over Sicily were not about trade, at least not entirely. To some degree Rome must have sought to have dominion over Sicily and to remove foreign influence in Italy all together. Polybius’ account of the treaty between Rome and Carthage, which ended the First Punic War, gives further credence to the idea Rome was not fighting for the sole purpose of trade. Polybius says, “’The Carthaginians to evacuate the whole of Sicily…. The Carthaginians to give up to the Romans all prisoners without ransom. The Carthaginians to pay to the Romans by installments in twenty years 2,200 Euboen talents’’[2] Polybius also accounts that the Roman people demanded, “they reduced the time of the payment by one half, added 1,000 talents to the indemnity, and demanded the evacuation by the Carthaginians of all islands lying between Sicily and Italy.”[3] These accounts given by Polybius support the belief that Rome’s first conquest outside of Italy was spurred on by a desire to continue unifying Italy, or at least to expand the territory they possessed.

The Second Punic War and the wars subsequently with Greece on the other hand were almost entirely about improving trade and Roman economic status. The Second Punic War was triggered by Carthaginian interference with a Roman ally in Spain. While the sources concerning the war do not directly demonstrate that this war was about economic gain through trade, it is clear through the terms of the treaty that the war was at least on some level about trade. Polybius once again demonstrates, “they were to surrender their ships of war, with exception of ten triremes.”[4] Without their former naval power the Carthaginians would be hard pressed to continue trading on such a scale as they once enjoyed. This left Rome as the most dominate naval power in the Western Mediterranean both militarily and trade wise. Without war ships the Carthaginians could not protect their trading vessels from pirates and other warring states.

With the Western Mediterranean locked up Rome focused her attention on the Eastern half. Rome’s attempt to subdue the Eastern Mediterranean was not so much like their attempts in the West. Unlike the West, the Romans did not seek to have dominion over the East. Instead the Romans sought to dismantle the alliances and empires throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. By doing this Rome was successful in destroying the economic power of the East. Their tactics with the East resemble in some manner their attempts in Italy to subdue the Latin tribes.

The Third Punic War and the wars with Spanish tribes appear to be more about revenge and expansion of the Empire than about acquisition of wealth. Carthage had been the nail in the Roman’s side for better part of a century. When they finally broke the Treaty of Zama the Romans found the opportunity to finally put Carthage away for good. With Carthage completely destroyed the Romans were able to take dominion over all of North Africa and eliminated the only threat to Roman dominance in the Western Mediterranean for good. If for nothing else the Roman destruction of Carthage demonstrated for her enemies that Rome could, if brought to bear, annihilate any and all foes. The Third Punic War demonstrates an almost entirely unique episode in Roman foreign policy between 264 and 146 B.C. It was not about acquisition of land, nor of furthering trade. Rather the Third Punic War was about revenge for the Romans.

In Spain however, the attempts by the Romans were almost entirely over conquest of land. Unlike Carthage and the Eastern Mediterranean, Spain was not governed by formal empires or kingdoms. With the ever expanding population in Italy, the Romans needed more space for citizens. Spain was the prime location after the Second Punic War. Unfortunately for the Romans the Spanish tribes were troublesome and required a full on assault to attempt to subdue Spain; even then, the Spanish tribes were not completely subdue until the time of Caesar Augustus. Yet Rome’s conquests in Spain were necessary in order to provide more land for her citizens. Not only was this, but Spain was rich in minerals, specifically in silver which was important to the Romans.  However, the Roman desire to conquer Spain was not primarily out of a desire to exploit Spain but rather to incorporate it.

Rome’s foreign policy from 264-146 B.C. was spurred on by two primary motives: expansion and trade. Ultimately, however, the Romans desired to create a Mediterranean wide empire. The true motive behind the Roman foreign policy was simply and purely imperialism. While their foreign policy began with an attempt to have more sovereignty, such as in the First Punic War, it ultimately landed on the need and desire for more territory as was the case in the Spanish wars.


[1] Naphatali Lewis and Meyer Reinhold, Roman Civilization, vol. 1, Selected ReadingsThe Republic and the Augustan Age, 3rd ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), 159-160

[2] Lewis 161.

[3] Lewis, 162.

[4] Lewis, 180

The Nature of Government and of the United States as Affecting the Right to Secession


The question of Secession was raised immediately after the first Southern states began to leave the Union. President Abraham Lincoln ordered Federal troops to invade the South in hopes of unifying the nation. Following the war, Orestes Brownson wrote on the issue of whether or not Secession was in fact legal or constitutional. Secession is not constitutional, as Orestes Brownson argues in the American Republic, on the grounds that government itself is indissoluble.

Orestes Brownson divides his argument against Secession into four major themes: the origins of government, the constitution of government, the United States, and the United States Constitution. These four main arguments supply the basis upon which Brownson argues that secession is unconstitutional. In order to understand why secession is unconstitutional, it is necessary to examine Brownson’s four main arguments first.

The circumstances surrounding the secession of the southern states in 1860 stem from a long argument concerning which was superior, the state or federal government. The necessity of government and man’s place in society is self evident according to Brownson who argues, “Hence as man is nowhere found out of society, so nowhere is society found without government.”[1] As such, the question over whether or not man belongs in society and whether or not society requires government is put to rest by Brownson. From the ancient Greek philosophers Plato, Xenophon and Aristotle to the Enlightenment philosophers Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacque Rousseau the question of the origins of society and government have been argued.

Yet these philosophers do agree on at least a handful of axioms of government and man’s loyalty to government. Brownson sums up the responsibilities of government by stating:

“[Government] defines and protects the right of property, creates and maintains a medium in which religion can exert her supernatural energy, promotes learning, fosters science and art, advances civilization, and contributes as a powerful means to the fulfillment by man of the Divine purpose in his existence.”[2]

These axioms are agreed upon by most political philosophers throughout time, although the specific aim of government may be different. But as long as these are maintained and protected, the individual person in society is obligated to remain loyal to the society and government. As Thomas Hobbes might agree, a duly instituted regime has the authority to do as it pleases. However, if it fails to protect the people it is no longer legitimate. Tyranny is never legitimate. We are required to remain loyal as long as our liberty is secure.[3]

Yet, while the majority of political philosophy agrees that there are certain responsibilities of both society and the citizen, the origins of government differs drastically from one philosopher to the next. The six origins of government according to Brownson include:

Government originates in the right of the father to govern his child.

It originates in convention, and is a social compact.

It originates in the people, who, collectively taken, are sovereign.

Government springs from the spontaneous development of nature.

It derives its right from the immediate and express appointment of God.

From God through the Pope, or visible head of the spiritual society

From God through the people

From God through the natural law[4]

The first of these origins is taken directly from two sources, the first is Aristotle and the second is Sir Robert Filmer. Aristotle’s argument, stemming from book one of the Politics, demonstrates that the origins of society and government come from the family. Aristotle argues that because people wish to mimic the gods, they favor monarchy as their choice of government with the family ruled by the father, the village ruled by the eldest male, and the city ruled by the king. While Aristotle admits that other forms of government do exist, and may in fact be more desirable than monarchy, people will still naturally yearn for monarchy. This argument is also connected to Divine Right of Kings set forth most completely by Sir Robert Filmer.  Sir Robert Filmer, in his Patriarcha, makes an argument in favor of Divine Right monarchy stemming first from Adam’s sovereignty over his children. Brownson, however, disagrees both with Aristotle and Filmer by rejecting monarchy in favor for republican government. . “The distinctive mark of republicanism is the substitution of the state for the personal chief, and public authority for personal or private right.”[5] Governments based on the principle of fatherhood are despotic. Republicanism is the true government because the rulers rule for and on behalf of the state. Rulers who are proprietors of the land are not rulers. Aristotle is most famous for putting forth the argument that government stems from the family, is critiqued with the moderns who reject paternal rule. One must rule for the sake of the commonwealth.

Following the classical understanding, Brownson critiques the modern understanding of government as being a social compact. “The state, as defined by the elder Adams, is held to be a voluntary association of individuals. Individuals create civil society, and may uncreate it whenever they judge it advisable.” Brownson rejects the concept that society can be established and abolished at will and calls America out, “Prior to the Southern Rebellion, nearly every American asserted with Lafayette, ‘the sacred right of insurrection’ or revolution…”[6] However, sovereignty cannot be relinquished, neither by a state/nation nor by a person. The Enlightenment holds that people are sovereign in a state of nature and that they give up part of that sovereignty when they enter society. “But individuals cannot give up what they have not, and no individual has in himself the right to govern another.” Modern political philosophers suppose a state of nature, which supposes a social contract. Brownson rejects the social contract because man cannot willingly forfeit his rights and because man is bound into society. Furthermore, men in nature fail to be able to acquire the knowledge necessary to create a civil society.

While there are still four other origins of government according to political philosophy, the first two are the most important for the United States. The United States was born out of the modern understanding of government, the only enlightened government. The United States, as a result, was an independent nation and a republic before it declared independence from England. Brownson’s arguments against the ancient and modern assertion of the origins of government indicate that the United States as a society had to exist prior to the revolution. However, the question is not whether there is a United States but whether it formed as a collection of sovereign, independent nations or whether it formed as a single whole. The same principle applies to the society as it does to the individual: a sovereign society cannot give up its sovereignty. If this is the case, then the several states never gave up their sovereignty and the United States as a single entity never existed. Brownson argues against the individual sovereignty of the states by stating, “The colonies were all erected and endowed with their rights and powers by one and the same national authority, and the colonist were subjects of one and the same national sovereign.”[7]However, if the United States exists as a single entity it would be impossible for the states to be independently sovereign.[8] Thus, if the United States is a society, then the states would be inferior to the federal government. In this instance, the states would not be capable of secession from the Union because they are not sovereign nations in themselves.

The American Constitution, therefore, is the only element left in determining whether or not the southern states had a right to secession in 1861.   As discussed in his chapter on the origins of constitutions, a constitution is not something created, as man is a creature not a creator. Under the auspices of this same argument, the U.S. Constitution is understood by Brownson as, “Two-fold, written and unwritten, the constitution of the people and the constitution of the government.”[9] This unwritten constitution is what Brownson refers to as the Providential constitution. To Brownson, this Providential constitution is not something created but rather comes into existence along side the nation.[10] The American Providential constitution is unique to the United States and never seen elsewhere in the world. Our Constitution is made up of both sovereign and dependent states, and is neither a confederacy nor centralized state.[11] We are still yet one people divided into states but still united. “The Union and the States were born together, are inseparable in their constitution…”[12] The United States Constitution declares the American people as, “We the people of the United States…” And as such, the American people are united together rather than a loose confederacy of sovereign nations with mutual interests.[13]

The origins of the American system and the nature of the American Constitution are seen most clearly through Brownson’s understanding of territorial democracy. The thirteen original colonies that formed together as the United States of America did not exist under their own authority. They were created by the authority of the King of England and joined together as United Colonies under the authority of the Continental Congress. The various states that have come into the Union since the creation of the United States Constitution can only do so under the authority of the United States Congress.[14] The individuals living within a given territory are granted democracy within their given territory, but that territory does not have sovereign authority. Rather, it is subject totally to the United States Congress. The people living in the territory, “are subjects of the United States, without any political rights whatever, and, though a part of the population, are no part of the sovereign people of the United States.”[15] Or more simply put, are not citizens. The people of the territory are given the authority by the United States to, “meet in convention, draw up and adopt a constitution declaring or assuming them to be a State, elect State officers, senators, and representatives in the State legislature, and representatives and senators in Congress, but they are not yet a state.”[16]

Thus, when a territory becomes a State and the people of that territory go from being subjects to citizens of the United States that State only exists by the will and authority of the United States Congress. None of the States exist by themselves with sovereign authority. Brownson demonstrates this time and again as showing that society and government are not created and that the United States is the sovereign and not the individual states. As a result, Secession of the various states in 1861 could not be legally permitted as they had no authority independent of the United States to secede from the Union. From the time the first colonies were settled to when the territories became states, the individual states depended upon an outside authority for their creation. As such, outside the Union they are not states.

[1] Brownson, Orestes. The American Republic. ( Delaware: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2003) pg. 12

[2] Ibid. 13

[3] “But it is never lawful to resist the rightful sovereign, for it can never be right to resist right, and the rightful sovereign is the constitutional exercise of his power can never be said to abuse it.” Ibid. 17

[4] Ibid 19-20

[5] Ibid. 23

[6] Ibid. 34

[7] Ibid. 136

[8] “If the several States of the Union were severally sovereign states when they met in the convention…” Ibid. 127

[9] Ibid. 141

[10] Ibid. 141, “It is Providential, not made by the nation, but born with it.”

[11] Ibid 141, “The unwritten or Providential constitution of the United States is peculiar…”

[12] Ibid 144

[13] Ibid. 145 “united, not confederate States.”

[14] Ibid. 145 “Even then it was felt that the organization and constitution of a State in the Union could be regularly effected only by the permission of the Congress; and no Territory can, it is well know, regularly organize itself as a State…”

[15] Ibid. 146

[16] Ibid. 146


How the Constitution provides for energy and stability while maintaining liberty and republicanism through separation of powers.


Energy and stability have been the greatest questions in government since the ancients first developed the polis. Prior to the United States, no country made better efforts to perfect the art of separation of powers than England has made. Publius describes in Federalist 37 the need for stability and energy in the new government, while at the same time protecting the liberty of the people and the republican way of life. The Constitution of 1787 achieves these aims through a separation of powers between the three branches of the Federal government and the specific make up of the departments.

In order to understand Publius’ argument better, it would be best to take his argument in Federalist 37 first, followed by his discussion of the relationship between the three branches of government. Lastly I will view his discussion of the specific make up of the various branches of the United States Government.

Publius argues for the necessity of a separation of powers in the new government in order to provide for the necessary stability and energy in government while protecting liberty and republicanism. In order to do this he argues that there most be present a separation of powers between the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches of government. Furthermore, there must be a separation of powers between that of the States and Federal governments. Publius says, “Among the difficulties encountered by the convention, a very important one must have lain in combining the requisite stability and energy in government with the inviolable attention due to liberty and to republican form.”[1] The first attempt at creating a republic with the Articles of Confederation failed due to a lack of energy and stability within the government, thus it was pertinent to create in the new government fixes for these problems. Publius then goes on to explain:

The genius of republican liberty seems to demand on one side not only that all power should be derived from the people, but that those intrusted with it should be kept in dependence on the people by a short duration of their appointments; and that even this short period the trust should be placed not in a few, but in a number of hands.[2]

This is the genius of the new Constitution according to Publius, it has attained the short periods of appointment and dividing the government among many hands. In order that the liberty of the people is not offended, they must remain the source of power for the government.

Yet this is not enough, in order to understand how this present in the Constitution Publius explains further in papers 47-51. In the first of these papers, Publius addresses the allegations by opponents of the proposed plan that it lacks a separation of powers. Publius explains Montesquieu’s argument for the separation of powers by saying, “he did not mean that these departments ought to have no partial agency in, or no control over, the acts of each other.”[3] The magistrate must have the authority to not only enforce the laws passed by the legislative, but also to veto laws that violate the Constitution, and the judicial cannot create laws but can advise the legislative.[4] Publius then goes on to demonstrate that the various Constitutions of the states provide for more blending of the branches of government than the proposed Federal Constitution.

And then in Federalist 48 Publius describes how the Federal Constitution provides a defense through a moderate blend of the branches of government. At first he argues:

But in a representative republic where the executive magistracy is carefully limited, both in the extent and duration of his power, and where the legislative power is exercised by an assembly, which is inspired by a supposed influence over the people with an intrepid confidence in its own strength; which is sufficiently numerous to feel all the passions which actuate a multitude, yet not so numerous as to be incapable of pursuing the objects of its passions by means which reason prescribes; it is against the enterprising ambition of this department that the people out to indulge all their jealousy and exhaust all their precautions.[5]

So in order to prevent the encroachments of the legislative on the rights and liberties of the people, the executive and judicial branches must have authority to reign in the power of the legislative. The legislative is also apt to encroach on the power and freedom of the other branches through pay[6], and thus they must be limited on how they are able to alter the pay of these other branches. Publius provides examples of Virginia and Pennsylvania where the powers of the legislative were not protected against and the judicial and executive branches were usurped by the authority of the legislative. Having demonstrated the dangers of allowing unbridled power to exist within the legislative branch, Publius goes on to explain how it might be possible to prevent the encroachments of one branch on the power of another.

Federalist 49 provides for this explanation and Publius defines that the people alone are the source of charter for the Constitution and its parts. Thus the people alone should be consulted when the powers of the Constitution are in question as to demolishing them, or creating a new power.[7] Appeals to the people are necessary in order to prevent the encroachments of power by the various branches. Yet frequent appeals are insufficient in protecting the freedom of the society. Not only this but it is impossible, as Publius explains, “The members of the executive and judiciary departments are few in number, and can be personally known to a small part only of the people.”[8] Yet the legislative is many in number and can be known by a larger number of the people.[9] Thus the legislative would be most likely to take advantage of the appeals from the people and thus encroach on the various powers of the other branches. As such frequent appeals of the people could turn out to be bad for the stability, energy and liberty of the society as the legislative might take their appeals as a mandate. And so how this can be moderated is discussed next by Publius.

Publius states at the beginning of Federalist 50, “It may be contended, perhaps, that instead of occasional appeals to the people, which are liable to the objections urged against them, periodical appeals are proper…”[10] In order to achieve this, Publius argues that a fixed period for appeals to the people could be detrimental to the purpose of those appeals. If they are too close together Publius argues, “the measures to be reviewed and rectified will have been of recent date, and will be connected with all the circumstances which tend to vitiate and pervert the result of occasional revisions.”[11] Yet by the same token, if they are too far apart then the people are likely not to know each other and to be unaware of the circumstances which lead to the need for revisions. [12] To demonstrate his point, Publius once again looks to the states for an example. He tells of how in Pennsylvania there had been a meeting of censorial council to remedy the defects of their Constitution. He elucidates however that the members of the council were prominent citizens who were members of the parties within the state. Secondly, some of the members of the council had served in the legislative and executive departments. Third, the proceedings of the council were disrupted by the factionalism of the members themselves. And finally, the council either did not understand the limits placed on the legislative and executive, or the legislative completely ignored the changes made by the censorial council.[13] Publius demonstrates properly the difficulty of having occasional or frequent appeals to the people for the remedy of the defects for the Constitution.

And so Publius goes on to discuss in Federalist 51 the structure of the government in regards to checks and balances. He states, “it is evident that each department should have a will of its own; and consequently should be so constituted that the members of each should have as little agency as possible in the appointment of the members of the others.”[14] The importance of each department having its own will is demonstrated in the preceding papers, where Publius demonstrates the likely chances of an encroachment and usurpation by the legislative. In order to achieve this, Publius also states, “It is equally evident that the members of each department should be as little dependent as possible on those of the others for the emoluments annexed to their offices.”[15] Thus the departments must have a will of their own and should not be made dependent on the other departments for their pay. But at the same time Publius argues that the members of the various departments must be given the constitutional means and personal motives to protect against the encroachment of another department on their own.[16] Publius argues, “The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It must be a reflection on human nature that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government.”[17] However, Publius also reminds the reader that the legislative must be predominant in republics. In order to properly control the legislative against usurpation Publius argues:

The remedy for this inconveniency is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions and their common dependence on the society will admit.[18]

By dividing the authority of the legislative, a republic is capable of controlling the growth of power and influence of the legislative. Yet this is not enough, as Publius points out it is important in a “compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate departments.”[19] By dividing the legislative, you weaken its ability to encroach on the authority of the other branches. But by dividing the government into two different governments and allotting them different powers a republic can prevent the creation of a tyranny.

However, one question still remains and that is how the different bodies of government are erected for the purposes presented in Federalist 51. The various branches must be provided with different powers so that no one branch can consolidate that power. The branches must also have varying degrees of separation from the people, so that the passions of the majority cannot rule in society. In regards to the legislative branch, the branch should be split into two distinct houses with one having more of a dependence and response to the people than the other. As the legislative branch is closest to the people, and thus lays one of legislative threats, it is proper that it be divided so as to limit this closeness with the people. The first branch of the legislative Publius discusses is thus the House of Representatives, which is designed to be the department most dependent on the people. Publius describes, “As it is essential to liberty that the government in general should have a common interest with the people, so it is particularly essential that the branch of it under consideration should have an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with, the people.”[20] The House of Representatives will only share in the legislative authority of the government and will be able to respond to the passions of the people while the upper house will be able to filter out the reason. This great authority constitutes a need for a shorter duration of power as Publius states, “It is a received and well-founded maxim that where no other circumstances affect the case, the greater the power is, the great out to be its duration…”[21] Further, the House of Representatives will be watched not only by the people through its direct dependence on them, but also by the collateral branch of the legislative.

Next Publius discusses the Senate, which serves as the connection between the States and the Federal government as directed by the un-amended Constitution.  On this Publius states, “It is recommended by the double advantage of favoring a select appointment, and of giving to the State governments such an agency in the formation of the federal government as must secure the authority of the former, and may form a convenient link between the two systems.”[22] So that the States retain some type of authority under the new Constitution, it is important that they be given the authority to appoint the members of the Senate. The advantage of this stands that now law cannot be passed without the consent of both the people and the States.[23] And it also serves as a way to prevent members of the legislative body from forgetting their constituents by requiring the laws to be passed by both distinct bodies. Publius goes on to say:

The necessity of a senate is not less indicated by the propensity of all single and numerous assemblies to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions, and to be seduced by the factious leaders into intemperate and pernicious resolutions.[24]

The Senate’s mutability is important as well, so that the members restrain their passions and tyrannical nature. By having the Senate elected by the States, the States have their own elections for government offices. By changing the government representatives in the States, the Senate will be apt to change and thus opinions will be changed. Their length of office will allow the Senate the opportunity to learn the laws of the nation as well, and so that they are not constantly changing and that the opinions and measures remain some what consistent.[25] The importance of the Senate within the make up of checks and balances and separation of powers is clear. It serves as a check on the passions of the people, while balancing the representation of the States within the Federal government. Further the two branches of the legislative provide for stability and energy in the new government by removing the passions of the people and allowing for competition within the branches.

Thus next Publius discusses the executive branch, by far the most controversial of the day and most in need of defense by Publius. Publius discusses the mode of electing the President in Federalist 68. As with the legislative, the mode of electing the President must have a way of preventing the passions of the majority from ruling. Thus the Electoral College was devised as a way of preventing the encroachments of the people’s passions from entering into the election of the President. Publius describes, “It was equally desirable that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation.”[26] By doing this the Electoral College is made up of a small number of individuals so that deliberation is permitted in the election of the new President. Publius says, “This process of election affords a moral certainty that the office of the President will seldom fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”[27] As for the proper place of the executive in the stability and energy of government, he is of the most importance. As Publius says, “A feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution; and a government ill executed, whatever it may be in theory must be, in practice, a bad government.”[28] The executive must be strong and energetic in order to properly execute the laws he is charged to enforce. Publius calls “united; duration; an adequate provision for its support; and competent powers”[29] to be what constitutes an energetic executive. Energy is found in unity as in a single person the powers of the executive can be carried out quickly without delay. If the executive power were divided among more than one person, it would be subject to deliberation which will prevent an energetic executive. [30] Likewise, the President’s tenure of office is important for his energy. The duration of office is also an important element in the stability of the executive. If he stays too long, then he is apt to be too firm and possibly encroach on the powers of the legislative. Yet if he is tenure is too short then he is apt to fall prey to the legislative.[31] Shortness in the tenure of office is also likely to prevent the interest of the executive from performing his duties. This is also the argument used by Publius in Federalist 72 in regards to the reelection of an executive; by allowing him to run for reelection, he will watch how he acts in office so that the people look upon him favorably.[32] These are the aspects which allow for an energetic and stable executive, without which the government as a whole would lack stability and energy.

Lastly, Publius discusses the importance of the Judiciary in the make up of the new Constitution. Publius calls the Federal judiciary, “the best expedient which can be devised in any government to secure a steady, upright, and impartial administration of the laws.”[33] The purpose of the Federal judiciary he proposes is to prevent “the encroachments and oppressions of the representative body.”[34] Publius counters the fears of judicial usurpation by asserting that the Federal judiciary will be the weakest of all the branches as it lacks power over the purse and sword. Publius further argues:

Whoever attentively considers the different departments of power must perceive that, in a government in which they are separated from each other, the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution; because it will be least in a capacity to annoy or injure them.[35]

The Judicial branch will have no authority over the purse or over the sword, but instead only over judgment.[36] It will thus be able to prevent against legislative and executive encroachments by striking down laws which are contrary to the Constitution and the laws and treaties of the United States. The separation of the judicial from the legislative is also important so as to allow the judges to exercise their judgment without fear of reprisal by the legislative branch. Thus, the salaries of the judges cannot be lowered so as not to influence their opinions.[37] Their tenure of office also allows for freedom of judgment in judicial matters. Their appointment is for during good behavior, which prevents their judgment from being dependent on reelection, which may have a negative effect on their opinions. Thus through the judicial department is called upon to be safeguard against the encroachments of the representative and executive bodies. It will further only have the power of judgment, not the power of the purse or the sword. And it will further lack dependence on the legislative branch because their salaries cannot be lowered and their tenure of office is during good behavior, not apt to reelection.

The Federalist lays out a discussion of how energy and stability will be present in the new Constitution without violating the principles of republican government and the liberties of the people. As such, the basic necessity to ensure this requires a separation of powers. Publius describes how the various departments of the new government participate and uphold the principles of the separation of powers. He further demonstrates how the people and States partake in the controlling of the new government by their participation in the election of the houses of the legislative. Publius properly upholds his argument in Federalist 37 in his discussion of the following papers.


[1]Federalist 37, in Alexander Hamilton et al., The Federalist Papers, ed. Clinton Rossiter, introduction and notes by Charles R. Kesler (New York: New American Library, Mentor, 1999), 194.

[2] Federalist 37, 195

[3] Federalist 47, 270

[4] Federalist 47, 271

[5] Federalist 48, 277

[6] “as the legislative department alone has access to the pockets of the people…”Federalist 48, 278

[7] “As the people are the only legitimate fountain of power…” Federalist 49, 281-282

[8] Federalist 49, 284

[9] “The members of the legislative department…” Federalist 49, 284

[10] Federalist 50, 285

[11] Federalist 50, 286

[12] “If the periods be distant from each other…” Federalist 50, 286

[13] “Pennsylvania in 1783 and 1784, was, as we have seen….” Federalist 50, 286

[14] Federalist 51, 289

[15] Federalist 51, 289

[16] “But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several…” Federalist 51, 289

[17] Federalist 51, 290

[18] Federalist 51, 290

[19] Federalist 51, 291

[20] Federalist 52, 295

[21] Federalist 52, 298

[22] Federalist 62, 345

[23] Federalist 62, 346

[24] Federalist 62, 347

[25] “The mutability in the public councils…” Federalist 62, 348

[26] Federalist 68, 380

[27] Federalist 68, 382

[28] Federalist 70, 391

[29] Federalist 70, 392

[30] Federalist 70, 392

[31] “Duration in office has been mentioned…”Federalist 71, 399

[32] “The first is necessary to give the officer himself….” Federalist 72, 404

[33] Federalist 78, 433

[34] Federalist 78, 433

[35] Federalist 78, 433

[36] Federalist 78, 433

[37] Federalist 79, 441

American involvment in revolutions in regards to the present problem in Mexico


That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

-Declaration of Independence

These words, which some might suggest are the most important words in the Declaration of Independence suggest that when a people are being overtly oppressed and placed “under absolute Despotism” that they ought to throw off that government and institute a new one. Whether or not these lines apply simply to the American people or to the people of the world is a difficult question to answer. However, history has shown that Americans have applied these passages to various other countries as a means of world empire. Even today we justify our reasons for going to war on account that the opposing regime is despotic and that the people should be freed to choose their own regime. Yet there is one example in which modern America has yet to take this stance, arguably the most important place for us to attempt such a coup on behalf of the people: Mexico. With the large amounts of illegal and legal immigrants crossing our borders daily it would seem prudent to suggest that the Mexican government has become despotic and that the people have chosen to leave their homeland in search of a security and safety.

Our views towards Mexico have remained the same since the Mexican-American War yet since then we have helped countless countries over throw their regimes in hopes of finding successful allies. To begin the Civil War is not counted among these wars as we never officially recognized the government of the Confederate States of America and the C.S.A. had no right to secede from the Union per the arguments in the Declaration sited above. Instead, the first example comes in the Spanish-American War when the United States, under an agreement with the Spanish colony of Cuba, agreed to help overthrow Spanish rule in Cuba and give the Cubans their unconditional freedom: some will argue that this was the dumbest mistake the United States has ever made. Among other countries we helped to free from under Spanish tyranny include the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Of these only Puerto Rico and Guam remain under U.S. control as commonwealths, while the Philippines is an independent country with close ties to the United States.

The Spanish American War was partially influenced by Progressive ideas that every country should be given the opportunity to self-determination, which ultimately meant a parliamentary style democracy. This is most blatantly seen in America’s causes for going to war with Germany in World War I. Rather than going to protect American interests in Europe, President Woodrow Wilson decided we should only go to war to help throw off the reigns of Totalitarianism. We helped to create an unstable Democratic German state under the Wiemar Republic, which we all know eventually lead to the rise of the Third Reich under Adolf Hitler. World War II for France and Great Britain came under the flag of granting Polish freedom (which wouldn’t be attained until the 1990’s.) For the U.S. states World War II was not necessarily a war to free a people from under despotism, but rather to defend America’s freedom from the Japanese and later the Germans. Ultimately, however, we helped to overthrow a regime that had existed for millennia in Japan and helped to create a free and democratic West Germany.

Less than five years after war ended with Germany and Japan the United States began engagements in two separate nations: Korea and Vietnam. The Korean War was fought by the U.N. with large amounts of U.S. troops. The entire purpose of going to war in Korea was to maintain South Korean independence and democracy from the invading North Koreans, Soviet Union and Chinese. Of the two wars fought in South-East Asia the Korean War is the only one where we succeeded in our goal of creating a stable democracy. To this day the South Korean regime is a model democracy in Far-East Asia. In the late 1940’s then U.S. President Harry S. Truman sent American advisers to Vietnam to advise the French on their efforts. By the 1960’s the French had left Vietnam leaving the United States as the last hope for South Vietnam to maintain a democratic regime. With the assassination of the Diem Brothers by President John F. Kennedy, our efforts to maintain the democratic south was slipping. By 1972 the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam under the condition that if the North attempted to attack the South again we would intervene; the South Vietnamese are still awaiting our help.

Of course the most well-known U.S. sponsored coup in our history happened with Cuba. Following Communist revolutionary, Fidel Castro’s victory in Cuba the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency helped sponsor a group of Cuban Nationals invade the tiny island and overthrow Castro’s new Communist regime. Ultimately the coup failed as the U.S. failed to supply sufficient support for the Cuban Nationals allowing the oppressive and despotic regime of Fidel Castro to rule Cuba until 2008.

This brings us to the 1980s with a little known revolution that took place in a Middle Eastern nation called Afghanistan. The Afghanistan revolt revolved around two parties, one backed by the Soviet Union and the other backed by the United States via Representative Charlie Wilson (D-TX). Our support of freedom fighters called Mujahideen is one of the greatest blunders in our history. The U.S. CIA helped defeat the Soviet Union lead opposition by supplying weapons to the Mujahideen. When the Soviet Union pulled out in 1989 so did the U.S., leaving a devastated Afghanistan and the Taliban with an Anti-American flavor in their mouths.

In the 1990’s the U.S. once again attempted to help overthrow despotic regimes. The U.S. lead invasion of Iraq, in an attempt to remove Iraqi troops from Kuwait would have ended with the U.S. lead overthrow of Saddam Hussein but instead the U.N. forced troops to leave having completed their mission. We would eventually return to Iraq only to complete our overthrow of Saddam and his regime. Along the way though President Bill Clinton got the U.S. involved in a number of wars including Kosovo and Bosnia. Kosovo is the only direct evidence of this theme of American involvement in overthrowing regimes. Yet we lead efforts at least three times in the 1990’s to attempt to establish democracies throughout the Middle East and former Soviet Bloc.

By the year 2000 the U.S. was primed to go to war on behalf of other nations once again, this time under President George W. Bush. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, while continuations of efforts made in the late 80’s and early 90’s, were also fought under the old Progressive banner of self-determination. To this day the American military has maintained a presence in both nations despite popular American support against the wars. Meanwhile, the U.S. has refused to take similar actions in nations on our own continent including Mexico, and Venezuela (who happens to be the largest U.S. oil supplier in the world.) A simple observation of the Mexican regime makes it clear that it is beyond despotic and that the Mexican people need to overthrow such a regime. But Mexico has a long history of revolution followed by revolution and thus it would be prudent if the U.S. were to engage supporting a new revolution. Or maybe the long history of American involvement in revolutions is a clear indicator that it was only proper for America to revolt back in 1776. We have largely failed in our efforts to provide democratic regimes to the world. This does not mean that the U.S. should back down from securing it’s own boarders against various enemy regimes.

Mexico is a hopeless cause that we should only engage in helping if Mexico becomes a threat to the United States; which it has already become. The United States has just cause for going to war with a country that has been invading it for decades.

Religion in Modernity: The Solution of a Christian Civil Religion


Civil religion was a vital part of ancient life, religion and politics were joined harmoniously. With the dawn of Christianity, a religion whose focus is not on the state primarily but on the afterlife, the world slowly began to change. Religion was often used to divide rather than unify the commonwealth. Modernity’s problem with Christianity came at the dawn of the Reformation, where Christianity was used to pull people apart and start wars between nations who share ethnic, cultural and religious ties. America is the shinning product of modern thought; the brain child of men such as Niccolo Machiavelli and John Locke. Both men drew an outline of civil religion for the purpose of maintaining and promoting the state. Machiavelli faults Christianity while praising Roman civil religion for its aim towards the commonwealth. Machiavelli’s examination of religion, namely civil religion, in the Discourses on Livy is expanded into a natural Christian religion in John Locke’s Four Letters Concerning Toleration. Picking up on these concerns, John Locke laid down the policy of religious toleration in four letters. The issue at hand is not one of Church and State, but of religion and politics. As Jon Meacham explains in regards to the American situation, “The wall Jefferson referred to is designed to divide church from state, not religion from politics. Church and state are specific things.”[1] This definition explains what is at the heart of Locke’s argument in The Letter Concerning Toleration. Further it even comes to the heart of Machiavelli’s argument. It says that religion and politics do have a place together, but the church and state do not. The importance of civil religion in the maintenance of the state is clear; for without civil religion the state would not be able to hold together her citizens and thus dissolve into oblivion.

            According to tradition the Roman civil religion was founded by Numa Pompilius. Numa was king following Romulus’ assumption into heaven and his deification as the god Quirinus. Numa was chosen by the Roman senate to become king after a period of interregnum. Numa is said to have been a very pious man, as Plutarch tell us:

He banished all luxury and softness from his own home, and while citizens alike and strangers found in him an incorruptible judge and counselor, in private he devoted himself not to amusement or lucre, but to the worship of the immortal gods, and rational contemplation of their divine power and nature.[2]

It was Numa, who according to tradition gave to the Roman people their religion. It was important to provide the Romans with religion because without it they would have fallen victim to the brute passions of a warlike people. The impact of the Roman civil religion is explained by Machiavelli, “It will also be seen by those who pay attention to Roman history, how much religion helped in the control of armies, in encouraging plebs, in producing good men, and in shaming the bad.”[3] Numa instituted many changes to the Roman state whence he became king.

            Among the first things he did, Numa introduced an additional month into the calendar; this month was called Mercedinus. Under Romulus there had only been eleven months, starting with the month of March in honor of Mars, the god of war. March was placed at spot of the third month and January and February went from the end of the year to the first two months. It was fitting for Numa to place January at the beginning of the year, “he wished to take every opportunity of intimating that the arts and studies of peace are preferred before those of war.”[4] January was named for the god Janus, god of doors and beginnings. February comes from the word februa; the month was one of purification filled with offerings to the dead. Within the calendar Numa instituted a number of games and festivals in honor of the gods as Plutarch explains once more, “He also began markets and games and all sorts of occasions for gatherings and festivals. By these institutions he restored to humane and gentle behavior the minds of men who had become savage and inhuman through their love of war.”[5] The intent of the festivals and games were to divert the attention of the people away from war and conquest to the gods.

Among others, Numa introduced a number of new offices, which were of religious significance; among these offices was the Pontifex Maximus whose job it was to declare divine law and to rule over sacred ceremonies; the Pontifex Maximus was fifth in the religious hierarchy behind “the rex sacrorum and three great flamens.”[6] The Pontifex Maximus was also charged to lead the six Vestal virgins. [7] Numa constructed a temple to the goddess Vesta who was the oldest of all Roman goddesses and a symbol of purity. Her priestesses, called Vestal virgins, were given the task of keeping lit the sacred flame. The virgins were to remain as such for thirty years, if they broke their vow of chastity or allowed the sacred flame to go out the offending virgin would be buried alive. This office was the most sacred of all holy offices within the Roman state. The first ten years of a Vestal’s service were spent in training, the second ten were spent performing her duties while the final ten were spent training new Vestals. The Vestal Virgins were so important that it is said when another official passed one that they would order the fasces lowered.

Numa’s legacy on the Roman people lead them to become prosperous, Machiavelli writes, “All things considered, therefore, I conclude that the religion introduced by Numa was among the primary causes of Rome’s success, for this entailed good institutions; good institutions lead to good fortune; and from good fortune arose the happy results of undertakings.” [8] It was through religion, and not war, that the Romans became a successful and great civilization. Under Romulus the Romans acquired their name and ability for warfare but under Numa they acquired their culture, their civilization. Dr. Svetozar (Steve) Pejovich defines culture as, “the synthesis of a community’s traditions, customs, moral values, religious beliefs, and all other informal norms of behavior that have passed the test of time and bind the generations.”[9] Under this definition, it is clear that Numa and not Romulus was the result of Rome’s culture. Rome was so attached to Numa that Machiavelli tells us, “Marveling, therefore, at Numa’s goodness and prudence, the Roman people accepted all his decisions.”[10] The Romans revered Numa for his qualities and virtue, and they wished to imitate them as much as they desired to follow Numa without question. This is how Machiavelli begins to praise of the importance of religion; and how he demonstrates the greatness of Roman civil religion.

Following a discussion of the Roman religion, which is similar to the one given by Machiavelli in the Discourses on Livy, he begins section twelve of the Discourses by saying:

Those princes and those republics which desire to remain free from corruption, should above all else maintain incorrupt the ceremonies of their religion and should hold them always in veneration; for there can be no surer indication of the decline of a country than to see divine worship neglected.[11]

It is the duty of the princes and magistrates of the commonwealth to uphold the religious practices of the people. Religion for Machiavelli is the glue of, and provides for allegiance to, the commonwealth. Machiavelli goes on to say, “The rulers of a republic or of a kingdom, therefore, should uphold the basic principles of the religion which they practise in, and, if this be done, it will be easy for them to keep their commonwealth religious, and, in consequence, good and united.”[12] Without religion the commonwealth cannot keep itself together. Furthermore, as Harvey Mansfield points out, Observance of the divine cult is the cause of greatness in republics.”[13]Religious observance, above all else creates the greatness in republics. But the end to which religion is important in the commonwealth is defined even further by Machiavelli, “And the more should they do this the greater their prudence and the more they know of natural laws.”[14] It is here that religion plays it’s most important role in the commonwealth; for the commonwealth must be in line with the natural laws and natural law is discovered through religion. Without religion one cannot determine the natural law fully, and so one must attach themselves and their commonwealth to religion.

            But to what religion ought the commonwealth to attach itself, whether it should be a Pagan society or a Christian society. Machiavelli denounces the Church of Rome’s attitude of religion despite calling Christianity a strong religion. Machiavelli recounts the story of the fall of the city of Veii. After the Romans conquered the city they entered the temple dedicated to Juno and asked her statue if she wished to be moved to Rome; as Machiavelli tells us, “To some it seemed that she nodded. To others that she answered, Yes.”[15] This was possible due to the religious piety the Romans were imbued with by their rulers. According to Machiavelli when the soldiers entered the temple they did not enter as marauders, but as pious and religious men. This religious attitude was promoted by the city rulers. A similar religious attitude of the Romans is found wanting in the Christians by Machiavelli. He asserts, “If such a religious spirit had been kept up by the rulers of the Christian commonwealth as was ordained for us by its founder, Christian states and republics would have been much more united and much more happy than they are.”[16] Italy, as attested to by Machiavelli, lacked religious observance in his day (as it might be even said to be lacking now.) He assaults the Church of Rome as the cause of the Italian “irreligious and perverse”[17] nature. Further, the Church did not attempt to unify the Italians under one prince. Machiavelli believes, “no country has ever been united and happy unless the whole of it has been under the jurisdiction of one republic or one prince, as has happened to France and Spain.”[18] These are the greatest faults Machiavelli finds with the Christian religion, at least in regards to Italy. Certainly the Roman religion was a means of unifying the people of the Italian peninsula, like the people of Machiavelli’s time the people of Italy at the time of the Roman republic all shared similar religious convictions. The Romans were able to use the religion to unify Italy, and much of Europe and North Africa under the banner of the Roman city. In the 1200 years of Christian dominance in Europe the continent slowly began to break apart first with a divide between East and West[i] and slowly more with the development of nation-states such as England, France and Spain. The Christian religion was even unable to keep Italy all one nation and it was not for another three hundred years after Machiavelli’s death that Italian unification was realized.

            At least one explanation can be proposed for why the Christian religion failed, while the Pagan religion of the Romans succeeded, which is as Machiavelli points out the different aims of the religions. Christianity has the aim of the after life; they are citizens first and foremost of the city of God. Romans were citizens first and foremost of their own city and the religion was focused on the temporal success rather than salvation in the after life. Christianity, until much later was unable to successfully create a civil religion of itself. The Romans used their religion in order to secure certain outcomes in the city. As Machiavelli accounts:

The Roman people, having created tribunes with consular power, all of whom, save one, were plebians, there occurred in that year pestilences and famine, and certain prodigies took place. Availing themselves of this opportunity in the next appointment of tribunes, the nobles said that the gods were angry with Rome for having abused the majesty of her authority, and that the only way to placate them was to restore the election of tribunes to its proper position.[19]

 

Machiavelli mentions two other events in the Roman republic, which used the religion in order to seduce the people. The first is in regards to the war with the city of Veii previously mentioned; the Roman generals used religion to keep the soldiers primed for attack. The second is with the tribune Terentillus who wished to pass a law, which Machiavelli does not describe, but the nobles used religion to stir the people into a fear that they did not allow for the law to pass. [20] The Romans used religion for the sake of the city, which with the devotion the people had to religion caused them to have a deep devotion to the city and so that religion could stir the people to its defense. Harvey Mansfield observes, “Machiavelli concludes that Numa’s religion was among the first causes of Rome’s happiness, because it caused good orders, which produced good fortune in successful enterprises.” [21] This observation is the issue Machiavelli has with the Christian religion in regards to the commonwealth.

            It appears that for Machiavelli the biggest concern for Christianity is her inability to rally her followers. As a result of Christianity’s inability to keep Europe unified, individual nations began to spring up. Citizens were forced to choose between remaining loyal strictly to Rome or to their new nation. The kings of France, Spain and England demanded that their subjects be loyal first and foremost to the state and second to the religion. England in a way was able to create a civil religion when Henry VIII separated himself and his kingdom from Rome. He became the new head of religion and was thus able to unify the state and the Church. However, the problem still laid in that the Christian religion is focused on the salvation of souls and not on the preservation of the commonwealth. Machiavelli’s arguments for religion are only strong enough to support that in order to be successful religion must be present in the commonwealth; and that religion be aimed at the preservation of the commonwealth. As J. Patrick Coby explains, “Religion, understood as the fear of God, produces civil obedience”[22] which is what Machiavelli praises about the Roman religion and detests about the Christian. Christianity’s lack of primary concern for the commonwealth creates a lack of concern for the commonwealth within the people and ultimately can lead to civil disobedience. By this civil disobedience, it is to be understood simply as a disobedience to the commonwealth. However, John Locke’s argument for toleration of religion permits the creation of a civil religion that is unconcerned for the salvation of souls but with the continuance of the commonwealth.

            Before divulging into John Locke’s beliefs on religious toleration and how it creates a civil religion, it should be noted that Locke himself does not officially promulgate a civil religion rather he outlines the duties of the magistrate, which in turn can be used to create a civil religion. Within his Four Letters Concerning Toleration, Locke begins by denouncing the belief that religion and/or the civil magistrate has the authority to coerce people into attending a national church. However, too much attention is often paid to that which the magistrate cannot do; that it is often over looked to what Locke says the magistrate can and must do for the preservation of the commonwealth. And it is with what the magistrate can do that the civil religion of Christianity can be born.

            Machiavelli’s analysis of religion in the Discourses can viewed in the same light as Thomas Paine’s discussion of government in  Common Sense.[ii] Machiavelli discusses the role religion in both the Christian and Roman commonwealths, but fails to offer advice on how to cure Christianity’s problems. Similar in style to John Adams’s argument in “Thoughts on Government”, John Locke takes up the task of outlining a new role for religion in the modern commonwealth. Locke’s Four Letters Concerning Toleration is beneficial in helping to reorder the Christian commonwealth for a civil religion based on Christianity. Locke has the benefit of living in a post Reformation world where it is clear that there can no definite church pegged as the true church. As all churches use force and intolerance, Locke states, “That I esteem that Toleration to be the chief Characteristical Mark of the True Church.”[23]  Clearly, as no church in Locke’s time practiced toleration none can be properly said to be the “True Church.”

            Locke uses the term toleration to mean that no person or magistrate has the authority to force another individual into attending a certain church against their own conscience. Time and again Locke suggests that force should not be used by the magistrate, church or individual against anyone in regards to religion. Furthermore, the magistrate or church cannot deprive an individual who fails to attend a national church of their life, liberty or property. The ends of the Church and the Commonwealth are completely different, as Locke describes the Commonwealth as, “a Society of Men constituted only for the procuring, preserving, and advancing of their own Civil Interests.” [24] The Church’s end is for the salvation of souls and in order for this to occur members must consent in their consciences to the Church’s doctrines. No person can be forced to believe something that they themselves have not accepted as truth. In his Second Letter Concerning Toleration, Locke explains, “But that which he denies, and you grant, is, that force has any proper efficacy to enlighten the understanding, or produce belief. And from thence he infers, that therefore the magistrate cannot lawfully compel men in matters of religion.”[25] The first characteristic that Christianity must adopt in order to be successful in the modern commonwealth is toleration insofar as the magistrate cannot force any individual against their own conscience to attend a national church under penalty of loss of life, liberty or property.

            Yet this is not all that Locke promulgates in his letters. In fact, this is only the beginning. Acknowledging that the magistrate does not have the authority to force individuals to attend a national church, Locke clarifies his position as to what the role of the magistrate and the commonwealth is in the matter of religion. The magistrate, per his rights as an individual, retains the authority to use words to persuade individuals to religion. Such an example of this persuasion to the faculties of human understanding, include the posting of the Ten Commandments or calling for a day of Thanksgiving throughout the nation. Locke explains, “‘Go and teach all nations,’ was a commission of our Savior; but there was not added to it, punish those that will nor hear and consider what you say.”[26] Preaching, without physical and outward force, is permitted according to Locke within the commonwealth. In fact it “was a commission of our Savior” to “Go and tell all nations.”[27] This is the right of all mankind, including the magistrate, to tell all who they encounter of the Lord.

            However, there is something more simplistic in Locke which calls for a civil religion. All commonwealths must be in line with the natural law and cannot violate it. Therefore, Locke says of the duty of both the commonwealth and the church:

A Good Life, in which consists not the least part of Religion and true Piety, concerns also the Civil Government: and in it lies the safety both of Mens Souls, and of the Commonwealth. Moral Actions belong therefore to the Jurisdiction of both the outward and inward Court; both of the Civil and Domestick Governor; I mean, both of the Magistrate and Conscience. [28]

 

This is merely only the beginning of the duties granted to the commonwealth in regards to religion. Morality is the basis of a good regime, and morality is acquired through religion. Laws concerning morality may be created within the commonwealth in order to secure the safety and happiness of the citizens. Religion, as we have seen, can be used in the public sector as long as it is not forced upon them, or used to harm the natural rights of citizens. One of the means of incorporating religion into the commonwealth is through moral laws, which promote the laws of nature. Locke explains further in the First Treatise on Government when he says:

If this proves a right to do so, we may, by the same Argument, justifie Adultry, Incest and Sodomy, for there are examples of these too, both Ancient and Modern; Sins, which I suppose, have their Principal Aggravation form this, that they cross the main intention of Nature, which willeth the increase of Mankind, and the continuation of the Species in the highest perfection, and the distinction of Families, with the Security of the Marriage Bed, as necessary thereunto. [29]

 

This example from Locke demonstrates that not only can the magistrate ban such immoral and unnatural behavior but that he must ban it.[30] The morality of the people will thus be secured and will unify the people under a similar moral code promoted through the law of nature, which is revealed to humanity through God. In his Third Letter Concerning Toleration, Locke argues, “Indeed they all agreed in the duties of natural religion, and we find them by common consent owning that piety and virtue, clean hands, and a pure heart not polluted with the breaches of the law of nature, was the best worship of the gods.”[31] This harkens to Machiavelli’s argument for the Roman religion and further within the commonwealth the best form of worship is to keep to the laws of nature. Machiavelli’s desire for religion to be a unifying force within the commonwealth is secured in part by Locke’s mandate that immoral and unnatural behavior be banned within the commonwealth.

            Yet there is still another way in which Locke secures the commonwealth’s unification and stability and that is that no church is permitted from preaching ideas contrary to the moral law, law of nature, or the commonwealth. As Locke states in his first letter:

No Opinions contrary to human Society, or to those moral Rules which are necessary to the preservation of Civil Society, are to be tolerated by the Magistrate. But of these indeed Examples in any Church are rare. For no Sect can easily arrive to such a degree of madness, as that it should think fit to teach, for Doctrines of Religion, such things as manifestly undermine the Foundations of Society, and are therefore condemned by the Judgment of all Mankind: because their own Interest, Peace, Reputation, every Thing, would be thereby endangered.[32]

 

The magistrate is permitted to ban opinions which teach the undermining of the authority of the commonwealth. Thus, religion is molded to support the commonwealth and to promote unity within it. There is an inherent obligation of religion to teach its members to obey the laws of the commonwealth. If the religion teaches something contrary to the public good, the magistrate has an obligation not to tolerate it. The religion may also not profess authority to relieve members of allegiance to the prince of the commonwealth. Further Locke states, “That Church can have no right to be tolerated by the Magistrate, which is constituted upon such a bottom, that all those who enter into it, do thereby, ipso facto, deliver themselves up to the Protection and Service of another Prince.”[33] Thus the unity of the commonwealth is preserved in Locke’s teaching by requiring that all churches promote loyalty to the magistrate. Churches must teach the natural law and moral law as well as promote allegiance to the civil magistrate. This is a divorce from early Christian teachings which promote allegiance primarily to the city of God.

            The final piece to the civil religion of John Locke and the promise of a stable and unified commonwealth is through the banishment of those who do not profess a belief in God. In his first Letter Concerning Toleration, Locke explains:

Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the Being of a God. Promises, Covenants, and Oaths, which are the Bonds of Humane Society, can have no hold upon an Atheist. The taking away of God, tho but even in thought, dissolves all. Besides also, those that by their Atheism undermine and destroy all Religion, can have no pretence of Religion whereupon to challenge the Privilege of a Toleration. As for other Practical Opinions, tho not absolutely free from all Error, if they do not tend to establish Domination over others, or Civil Impunity to the Church in which they are taught, there can be no Reason why they should be tolerated. [34]

 

Locke’s understanding is in line with Machiavelli’s belief that religion is of the utmost importance in the commonwealth, specifically the republic. As a result those who do not profess a belief in God cannot be tolerated if the commonwealth is to survive. Furthermore, as Voltaire says, “All sects are different, because they come from men; morality is everywhere the same, because it comes from God.”[35] Morality cannot be learned by one who does not believe in God. Without the moral base, a person is apt not to follow the laws of the commonwealth, adhere to their contracts or follow the natural law.

            Simply put John Locke’s civil religion can be outlined as follows:

The magistrate and citizens have a right and divine duty to “tell the nations” of God and Jesus Christ. As such, no law should prohibit public preaching and public displays of religion.The commonwealth should prohibit immoral and unnatural behavior by the citizens. Examples of such: Sodomites, Adulterers, and Murders.The commonwealth should not tolerate religions that preach openly against the authority of the magistrate, or those which preach openly against the laws of nature and morality, which are the basis of civil society.That the commonwealth ought to not tolerate those who openly profess against a belief in God.[36]

This religion can properly called a civil religion as it is aimed not at the salvation of one’s soul, which is the proper place only of the Church as it belongs to speculative opinions, but of the promotion and security of the body politic.

            Machiavelli’s praise of Rome is clear because it promoted and made secure the Roman state. His opinions of Christianity as being a divider and not a unifier are made clear by Locke as Christianity promotes speculative opinion, which is open to interpretation. Locke promulgates a modern ideal for civil religion by permitting the state to publicly teach religion (so long as it does not force individuals to attend or believe in a national church), to create laws for the moral excellence of the people, to ban religions which preach against morality, the laws of nature and the authority of the commonwealth, and to ban individuals who openly preach that there is no God. These concepts can be found throughout the new Rome, or the United States. Religion was for Modernity the major obstacle to the creation of the modern nation state. In order to be successful religion had to be placed into a proper role. This role resembles the one religion played in the ancient cities like Egypt, Athens and Rome. Machiavelli and Locke together promulgate the necessity of civil religion within the modern commonwealth as a means of promoting unity and stability.

Notes:


 [1]Jon Meacham, American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers and the Making of a Nation. (New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks), 2006. Introduction page 19.

[2] Plutarch,  83

[3] Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Discourses. Translated  by Leslie J. Walker, S.J. New York, New York: Penguin Putnam, 2003.  Book I section 11 pg. 140

[4] Plutarch, 98

[5] Cicero, 41

[6] Hus, Alain. Greek and Roman Religion. Translated  by S.J. Tester. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1962. pg. 103

[7] Hus, 103

[8] Machiavelli,  141 Book I section 11

[9]Svetozar (Steve) Pejovich, “Why is Culture Important?”, Walter Eucken Institut. Freiburg, Diskussionpapiere/Vortragsliste Nr. 288 (2003), http://www.eucken.de/veranstaltungen/Paper_Pejovich.pdf  (accessed on September 13, 2007)

[10] Machiavelli.

[11] Ibid. section 12

[12]Ibid.

[13]Mansfield, Harvey, Machiavelli’s New Modes of Orders: A Study of the Discourses on Livy, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press), 1979. pg. 73

[14]Machiavelli, section 12

[15]Ibid.

[16]Ibid.

[17]Ibid.

[18]Ibid.

[19]Ibid. section 13

[20]Ibid. “One note also in the siege of the city of Veii….” & “There had arisen in Rome a number of tumults occasioned by Terentillus….”

[21]Mansfield, 73

[22]Coby, J. Patrick, Machiavelli’s Romans: Liberty and Greatness in The Discourses on Livy, (New York: Lexington Books), 1999. pg. 68

[23]Locke, John, A Letter Concerning Toleration, edited by James H. Tully, (Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.), 1983. pg. 23

[24]Ibid. pg. 26

[25]John Locke, Second Letter Concerning Toleration, in The Works of John Locke in Nine Volumes, volume 5, Four Letters concerning Toleration 12th Edition, edited by T. Longman, (London: Rivington), 1824.  http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=1725&Itemid=28 John Locke did not admit to writing the first Letter Concerning Toleration until close to his death; thus in the second letter Locke writes in the third person when speaking of the initial letter.

[26]Ibid.

 [27]Ibid.

 [28]Locke, page 47

 [29]John Locke, Two Treatises of Government, edited by Peter Laslett (New York: Cambridge University Press), 1988. pg. 183 paragraph 59.

[30]A further example of this can be found in Locke’s statement, “Those that are Seditious, Murderers, Thieves, Robbers, Adulterers, Slanders, etc. of whatsoever Church, whether National or not, ought to be punished and suppressed. But those whose Doctrine is peaceable, and whose Manners are pure and blameless, ought to be upon equal Terms with their Fellow-Subjects.”, Locke, Letter on Toleration page 54.

 [31] Locke, John, Third Letter Concerning Toleration. in The Works of John Locke in Nine Volumes, volume 5, Four Letters concerning Toleration 12th Edition, edited by T. Longman, (London: Rivington), 1824.

 [32]Locke, pg. 47

[33]Locke, pg. 50

[34]Ibid.  pg. 51

[35]The Quotations Page, Voltaire, copyright 2007, http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/29134.html accessed on December 5, 2007

[i]The Great Schism of 1054 officially split Europe between East and West, or Orthodox and Catholic. A separation was already begun however when Charles the Great was crowned Caesar of the Roman Empire.

[ii]In a brief introduction to John Adams’ essay “Thoughts on Government” in The Portable John Adams, John Patrick Diggins says, “Adams’s essay was a response to Thomas Paine’s Common Sense…Adams believed, as he told Abigail, that Paine was more interested in tearing down government than in giving any thought to reconstituting it.” I believe that this is a similar situation with Machiavelli’s argument of religion in the Discourses and Locke’s argument of religion in the Letter Concerning Toleration. Machiavelli provides thoughts on how to reconstitute the Christian religion to create the proper aims religion ought to have in the commonwealth.

Plato and Aristotle’s Regimes: Republic and Politics.


There might be some confusion concerning the nature of politics and the type of regimes. Today we tend to think of a number of regimes, although many of them are simply the same regime with a different title. We call the government in England a Constitutional Monarchy, yet it simply is a Monarchy. China we say is a Communist regime, yet really all the political form of Communism is Oligarchy. All the regimes currently in use today can be boiled down to a list of just a handful. These regimes were originally defined and stated by Plato and Aristotle, two classical Greek philosophers who concerned themselves heavily with the nature of the polis. To get an idea of what the regimes are, this essay will attempt to outline the various forms of government as laid down by both men. In order to deal with the two authors it will be prudent to describe Plato’s regimes first followed by Aristotle.

In Book VIII of the Republic, Plato speaks of the degenerate regimes after having spent considerable time describing an Aristocracy. Aristocracy in the classical sense is not rule by the few, or rule by the wealthy. Aristocracy for Plato meant rule by the virtuous. The ideal city would be ruled by a Philosopher king, but because no philosopher will want to rule in the city there must be a handful of virtuous individuals willing to rule.

The first degenerate regime that flows directly from Aristocracy is Timocracy. This form of government is rarely spoken of and is largely forgotten compared to the remaining regimes. Timocracy is the rule by the honorable, or more simply a Warlord. Timocracy comes about when instead of concerning oneself with virtue itself, one concerns themselves with the seeking of honor. The primary means of attaining honor is on the battlefield, and thus the idea of a military leader leading the city falls into a Timocratic regime.

From the Timocrat comes the Oligarch, the son of the man who is more concerned about his honor than about wealth. When honor is lost and you have nothing else, then you are empty. The Oligarch as a result is a stingy person who spends little but acquires much. Oligarchy is defined by a few very wealthy individuals ruling the city over the less fortunate and often impoverished inhabitants. Oligarchy is the most popular form of government and the wealthy are often times viewed as the best individuals and therefore most worthy of ruling. Today Oligarchy is often confused with Aristocracy due to their elitist tendencies. With the fall of Oligarchy, so goes the way of the virtuous regimes. Oligarchy, Timocracy and Aristocracy represent the various parts of the soul for Plato, and also different virtues or, in the case of Aristocracy, virtue itself. The three parts of the soul that correspond with the three regimes are: Rational part with Aristocracy, the Spirited part with Timocracy and the Appetitive part with Oligarchy.

The first regime lacking virtue is democracy, or rule by the people. The democrat comes about because of the lack of equality in the Oligarchy. In the Oligarchy limits are placed on how much one can spend, preventing the democrat from being allowed to do as he sees fit. This coupled with the lack of equality brings about the Democracy. Democracy is ruled on two principles: Freedom and Equality. Because of its nature Democracy lacks virtue but it is not totally depraved. Democracy is the best possible regime while Aristocracy is the regime most wished for.

Finally Plato ends his account of the regimes with Tyranny, the most dreaded and depraved form of government developed by mankind. Tyranny is the exact opposite of Aristocracy. The tyrant comes to rule because he desires all. Tyranny is characterized by the lack of concern for one’s subjects and a desire to obtain all one wishes for. The tyrant cares nothing for his people or his city, only for his own selfish gains. Where the Aristocrat rules for the sake of the city, the tyrant rules for the sake of self. With the end of the analysis of the tyrant and tyranny comes the end of Plato’s discussion of the regimes within the Republic.

Aristotle does not entirely agree with Plato’s assessment of regimes in the Republic. His Politics is largely a rebuttal of the arguments made in the Republic. Aristotle defines three chief regimes: Kingship, Aristocracy and Polity. These regimes all have a degenerate regime corresponding with it: Tyranny, Oligarchy and Democracy. One will immediately identify that Aristotle lacks the Timocratic regime and instead replaces it with Polity, a mixture of Oligarchy and Democracy.

Kingship is a fairly self explanatory regime, for Aristotle it is the most desired regime but due to its ability to quickly turn into tyranny it is not the best possible regime. Kingship is simple, it is the rule by one person who is king. In the Kingship there is only one citizen and that is the King himself. This can be compared in some manner to Plato’s discussion of the Philosopher King, although the king in such a regime need not necessarily be a Philosopher but not a Tyrant either.[1]

Aristocracy is essentially the same regime for both Plato and Aristotle, the rule by the virtuous.

Polity as said above is a mix between Oligarchy and Democracy. Depending on the rulers it can either be more heavily Oligarchic or more heavily Democratic. The difference between the two being that an Oligarchic Polity would be ruled by a few selected wealthy individuals, while the Democratic Polity would be ruled by the people in general. This regime is what Aristotle calls the best possible regime because it involves the rule by the middling class. The middling class often makes up the most of all inhabitants in a city and thus the regime which allows for them to be citizens allows for the most participation in the operation of the city. Many often compare this to a Republic, but that is a false comparison as will be shown briefly.[2]

Oligarchy and Democracy are the same as in Plato and therefore require no additional attention. It should be noted, however, that Aristotle defines four types of democratic regimes unlike Plato. The first, considered the best and the oldest by Aristotle is democracy ruled by the farming sort. The second, similar to the first, is based around those who are herdsmen. The herding Democracy is exemplified by it’s military capabilities, as Aristotle states, “they are particularly well exercised with respect to their dispositions as well as useful with respect to their bodies and capable of living in the open.”  The third sort is made up of the middling class, or the merchants and exists in the city.[3]  This democracy is prone to more individuals being involved in the regime because of the proximity of living in the city. The fourth democracy laid out by Aristotle is where all are included in citizenship. Citizenship for Aristotle means those who are able to participate in the ruling of the polis. Therefore, this last sort admits people into the rank of citizenship who are unsuited for ruling the polis, including slaves. In this instance, slaves would apply to anyone who is unable to rule themselves and not the slaves who have been conquered in war.

Book Four of Aristotle’s Politics offers us another list of democracies, this time five. The first democracy in book four is based on the equality between the poor and rich, where neither class is preeminent in society. The second is where, “the offices are filled on the basis of assessments…”[4] The next two regimes are where those of unquestioned descent, and those who are citizens fill the offices but the law rules. The fourth is where the multitude, not the law, rules. The fifth democracy is similar in make up to the previous democracies except that the multitude, not the law, rule.

The best regime, and best way of life according to Aristotle are the same. The best way of life is the mirror image of the best regime. While Kingship is the regime most desired, and Polity the best attainable regime it is the mixed regime that is the best regime. The mixed regime contains elements of each individual regime, just as the best person is a mixture of all the different virtues. The regime must incorporate virtue, the farming class and the middling class. It is this regime, the mixed regime, which must properly be defined as a Republic. A Polity as stated before is a regime of Oligarchy and Democracy, while a Republic is a mixed regime with multiple regimes tied into it. Take for example the American regime, which is not a Polity at all but is a Republic. We have the element of Kingship in the President, we have the element of Democracy in the House of Representatives, we have the element of Oligarchy in the Senate and we have Aristocracy in the Supreme Court. Such a regime is the best possible regime because it allows for the virtues of each regime to be apart of the city; just as the the virtuous person participates in each individual virtue, so does the city participate in the virtues exemplified by the various regimes in a mixed regime.

[1]
Aristotle’s Politics Book III

[2]
Aristotle’s Politics Book IV

[3]
Aristotle’s Politics Book VI

[4]

Aristotle’s Politics Book IV

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