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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/647

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POLITICAL FORMS AND FORCES.

of obscuring and even obliterating the traces of the original political form.

While, however, recognizing the fact that during political evolution these three primitive components alter their proportions in various ways and degrees, to the extent that some of them become mere rudiments or wholly disappear, it will greatly alter our conception of political forms if we remember that they are all derived from this primitive form—that a despotism, an oligarchy, or a democracy, is to be regarded as a type of government in which one of the original components has greatly developed at the expense of the other two, and that the various mixed types are to be arranged according to the degrees in which one or other of the original components has the greater influence.

 

Is there any fundamental unity of political forces accompanying this fundamental unity of political forms? While losing sight of the common origin of political structures, have we not also become inadequately conscious of the common source of their powers? How prone we are to forget the ultimate, while thinking of the proximate, it may be worth while pausing a moment to observe.

One, who in a storm watches the breaking-up of a wreck or the tearing down of a sea-wall, is impressed by the immense energy of the waves. Of course, when it is pointed out that in the absence of wind no such results can be produced, he recognizes the truth that the sea is in itself powerless, and that the power enabling it to destroy vessels and piers is given by the currents of air which roughen its surface. If he stops short here, however, he fails to identify the force which works these striking changes. Intrinsically, the air is just as passive as the water is. There would be no winds were it not for the varying effects of the sun's heat on different parts of the earth's surface. Even when he has traced back thus far the energy which undermines cliffs and makes shingle, he has not reached its source; for in the absence of that continuous concentration of the solar mass, caused by the mutual gravitation of its parts, there would be no solar radiations.

The tendency here illustrated, which all have in some degree and most in a great degree, to associate power with the visible agency exercising it, rather than with its inconspicuous source, has, as above implied, a vitiating influence on conceptions at large, and among others on political ones. Though the habit, general in past times, of regarding the powers of governments as inherent, has been, by the growth of popular institutions, a good deal qualified; yet, even now, there is no clear apprehension of the fact that governments are not themselves powerful, but are the instrumentalities of a power. This power existed before governments arose; governments were themselves produced by it; and it ever continues to be that which, disguised more or less completely, works through them. Let us go back to the beginning.