A DESCRIPTION OF GOVERNMENT, AS REALLY OR FICTITIOUSLY FREE.
I Have observed; that though, in a great state, all the individuals that compose it cannot be admitted to an immediate participation in the powers of legisla∣tion Page 282and government, yet they may participate in these powers by a delegation of them to a body of representatives.—In this case it is evident that the state will be still free or self-governed; and that it will be more or less so in proportion as it is more or less fairly and adequately represented. If the persons to whom the trust of government is committed, hold their places for short terms; if they are chosen by the unbiassed voices of a majority of the state, and sub∣ject to their instructions; Liberty will be enjoyed in its highest degree. But if they are chosen for long terms by a part only of the state; and if during that term they are subject to no controul from their consti∣tuents; the very idea of liberty will be lost, and the power of chusing representatives becomes nothing but a power, lodged in a few, to chuse at certain pe∣riods, a body of masters for themselves and for the rest of the community. And if a state is so sunk that the majority of its representatives are elected by a handful of the meanest persons in it, whose voices are always paid for; and if also, there is a higher will on which even these mock representatives them∣selves depend, and that directs their voices: in these circumstances, it will be an abuse of language to say that the state possesses liberty. Private men, indeed, might be allowed the exercise of liberty; as they might also under the most despotic government; but it would be an indulgence or connivance derived from the spirit of the times, or from an accidental mild∣ness in the administration. And, rather than be go∣verned in such a manner, it would perhaps be better to be governed by the will of one man without any representation: for a representation so degenerated could answer no other end than to mislead and de∣ceive, by disguising slavery, and keeping up a form of liberty when the reality was lost.