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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/364

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

facts, one already given under another head, may be named as illustrating this effect: "The greatest national council in Madagascar is an assembly of the people of the capital and the heads of the provinces, districts, towns, villages," etc.; and, speaking of the English Witenagemot, Mr. Freeman says, "Sometimes we find direct mention of the presence of large and popular classes of men, as the citizens of London or Winchester": the implication in both cases being that all freemen had a right to attend, but that only those on the spot could readily avail themselves of the right. This cause for restriction, which is commented upon by Mr. Freeman, operates in several ways. The actual cost of a journey to the place fixed for the meeting, when a kingdom has become large, is too great to be borne by a man who owns but a few acres. Further, there is the indirect cost entailed by loss of time, which, to one who personally labors or superintends labor, is serious. Again, there is the danger, which in turbulent times is considerable, save to those who go with bodies of well-armed retainers. And obviously these deterrent causes must tell where, for the above reasons, the incentives to attend have become small.

Yet another cause coöperates. When the occupied area is large, and therefore the number inhabiting it great, an assembly of all the armed freemen, could they be gathered, would be disabled from taking part in the proceedings, both by its size and by its lack of organization. A multitude made of those who have come from scattered points over a wide country, mostly unknown to one another, unable to hold previous communication, and therefore without plans, as well as without leaders, can not cope with the relatively small but well-organized body of those having common ideas and acting in concert.

Nor should there be omitted the fact that when the causes above named have conspired to decrease the attendance of men in arms who live far off, and when there grows up the usage of summoning the more important among them, it naturally happens that in course of time the receipt of a summons becomes the authority for attendance, and the absence of a summons becomes equivalent to the absence of a right to attend.

Here, then, are several influences, all directly or indirectly consequent upon war, which join in differentiating the consultative body from the mass of armed freemen out of which it arises.

 

Given the ruler, and given the consultative body thus arising, there remains to ask. What are the causes of change in their relative powers? Always between these two authorities there must be a struggle—each trying to subordinate the other. Under what conditions, then, is the king enabled to override the consultative body; and under what conditions is the consultative body enabled to override the king?

Inevitably a belief in the superhuman nature of the king gives him an immense advantage in the contest for supremacy. If he is god--