How Republican Governments were introduced

September 28, 2015

Early societies had democratic governments. How were republican governments introduced?

Generally, a country’s location and its improvement in agriculture and trade make it favourable to the introduction of a republican government.

There is little probability that republican governments will ever be introduced into Mongolia or Arabia, because their country cannot be improved.

  • Most part of its lands are hills and deserts and is only fit for pasture
  • They are generally dry and do not have any big rivers.

The opposite of this are those countries where republican governments have been established, particularly in Greece. Two-thirds of Attica are surrounded by sea and the other side is surrounded by high mountains. Because of this, they can communicate with neighbouring countries by sea. At the same time, they are secured from their neighbours.

Most of the European countries have most of the same advantages. They are divided by rivers and branches of the sea, making them naturally fit for cultivation and other arts.

We shall now see how favourable this is to the reception of a republican government. We may suppose that the progress of government in early Attica to have been the same with that in Mongolia.

In reality, it was in the same situation during the Trojan war.

  • There was little or no cultivation then.
  • Cattle were the principal part of their property.

All the contests about property in Homer regard cattle. This meant that the chieftain’s influence was very considerable.

When its land was divided and cultivated, its people would naturally dispose of their surplus among their neighbours. This would spur their industry. But at the same time, it would tempt their neighbours to attack them. Therefore, they find some way=

  • to secure themselves from danger, and
  • to preserve what it formerly cost them so much trouble to procure.

It would be easier to fortify a town in a convenient place than to fortify the frontiers of the whole country. Accordingly, they chose this method.

  • They built fortified towns and took shelter in them with their flocks and moveable goods during invasions.
  • They cultivated the arts and sciences there.

Theseus fortified Athens and made the Atticans carry into it all their goods. This increased=

  • his power over them and
  • the authority of Athens above other states.

When people agreed to live in towns, the chieftains would soon lose their authority. The government would turn republican, because their revenue=

  • was small, and
  • could not make them so distinguished above others to retain them in dependence.

The citizens gradually increased in riches.

  • They came nearer the chieftain’s level.
  • They become jealous of his authority.

Theseus himself was kicked out. After this, nine regents were set up who were at first to have authority for life, but were afterwards continued only for 10 years. Thus, Athens and all the Greek states went from a chieftainship to monarchy to aristocracy.

In general, the revenue becomes insufficient to support the authority of many chieftains. But a few getting superior wealth, form an aristocracy.

There is a big difference between the ancient and modern aristocracies. In the modern republics of Venice, Milan, etc., the government is entirely in the hands of the hereditary nobility. They have all the three powers of government.

The people could choose the leaders both in modern and ancient aristocracies. The institution of slavery caused the ancient aristocracies to elect both nobles and non-nobles. In a modern aristocracy, only only the nobility can be elected

When the free men had all their work done by slaves, they could attend public deliberations. But when the ground came to be cultivated by free men, the lower sort could not have it in their power to attend, but, consulting their interest, they would try to avoid it.

At Venice, the people wanted to be free of it. In the same way, the towns in Holland voluntarily gave it up to the town council, which was thus vested with the whole power.

This did not happen in the Greek and Roman republics. In their early ages, the people had the whole power. But they were called aristocracies because they always chose their magistrate from the nobility. They were not hindered by any express law to do otherwise. But it was customary to do so, because the lower classes were maintained by the rich.

The lower classes=

  • became dependent on the rich and
  • gave their vote to him whose bounty they shared.

The nobility might differ among themselves about elections. But they would never propose the election of plebeians. Thus, the nobility’s influence was the law, and not any express prohibition.

At Athens, Solon enacted that=

  • none of the lower of the four classes should be elected, and
  • afterwards, magistrates were elected out of all classes.

The government became democratic.

At Rome, it was long before people had suffrage.

  • After decemvirs were appointed, the power of the people began to encroach more and more on the nobles.
  • It encroached still more when they got military tribunes elected. This was caused by the improvement of arts and manufactures.

When a man can spend on domestic luxury what formerly supported 100 retainers, his power and influence naturally decrease. Besides, the great usually had every trade done by their own slaves. Therefore, the tailors and shoemakers were no longer dependent on them. They would not give them their votes.

The popular leaders then tried to get laws passed by which they might be allowed to be elected magistrates. It was long before the generality even of the plebeians would consent to this because they thought it disagreeable to have their equals so far above them.

In time, however, they got it enacted that there should be a consul chosen out of an equal number of patricians and plebeians.


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