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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/561

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MONARCHY AND ITS DRAWBACKS.

MONARCHY AND ITS DRAWBACKS.

VERY nearly a century and a half ago David Hume observed, with an air of surprise, that no form of government had proved so susceptible of improvement as monarchical government. "It may now," he writes, "be affirmed of civilized monarchies what was formerly said of republics alone, that they are a government of laws, not of men." There was only one constitutional monarchy in Hume's day—that of Great Britain, which he did not particularly love; and the only existing republics were strict aristocracies, such as the Venetian Republic and the Swiss Cantons. Hume was avowedly taking into account, not only such countries as France and Spain, but the little despotisms of Italy and Germany. "There are, perhaps, and have been for two centuries, near two hundred absolute princes, great and small, in Europe; and, allowing twenty years to each reign, we may suppose that there have been on the whole two thousand monarchs or tyrants, as the Greeks would have called them; yet of these there has not been one, not even Philip II. of Spain, so bad as Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, Domitian, who were four in twelve among the Roman Emperors." Since then the world has seen two great examples of that republican government which Hume assumes without question to be abstractedly the best—the Republic of the United States and the first French Republic; and assuredly the result has been considerable disenchantment. Nobody would nowadays deny that monarchy has proved capable of yet greater improvement than even Hume thought possible; and only a small minority of men, and those certainly not consisting of deep political thinkers, is persuaded that a country gains very much by exchanging an hereditary for an elective Chief Magistrate.

But of course a monarchy implies a dynasty; and dynasties are always raising a number of questions so perplexing that they are a considerable drawback on the value of monarchical government. In the first place, there is no subject on which men as a fact have fought and still fight so much. This country was for a hundred years at war with France on a question of the kind; and the war which it has just successfully concluded with Afghanistan sprang in great part from the same cause, since it was a doubt whether the Prince could nominate his own successor which primarily threw Shere Ali into the arms of the Russians. These questions of succession mix themselves up with the entire politics of countries in which there is no open strife about them. The position of the British monarchy and the view taken of it are strongly influenced by the double fact that our line of kings came in with a defective title, but that these defects have been practically removed by the course of circumstances and by time. The relation, again, of the Count de Chambord to his far-away cousins of