Republican Government

CHAPTER 4 | Document 6

Gouverneur Morris, Political Enquiries

1776Amerikastudien 21:329 1978

Of Political Liberty

Political Liberty is defined, the Right of assenting to or dissenting from every Public Act by which a Man is to be bound. Hence, the perfect Enjoyment of it presupposes a Society in which unanimous Consent is required to every public Act. It is less perfect where the Majority governs. Still less where the Power is in a representative Body. Still less where either the executive or judicial is not elected. Still less where only the legislative is elected. Still less where a Part of the Representatives can decide. Still less where such Part is not a Majority of the whole. Still less where the Decisions of such Majority may be delayed or overruled. Thus the Shades grow weaker and weaker, till no Trace remains. But is it not destroyed by the first Restriction?

In England, a Majority of Citizens does not elect the Majority of Representatives. A certain Part of those Representatives being met, a Majority of them can bind the Electors. The Decisions of these Representatives are confined to the legislative Department. And the Dissent of the Lords or of the King sets aside what the Commons had determined. The Englishman therefore does not, in any Degree, possess the Right of dissenting from Acts by which he is affected, so far as those Acts relate to the Executive or judicial Departments. And in Respect to the legislative, his political Liberty consists in the Chance that certain Persons will not consent to Acts which he would not have approved. And is that a Right which, depending on a Complication of Chances, gives one thousand against him for one in his favor? Right is not only independent of, but excludes the Idea of Chance.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 1, Chapter 4, Document 6
The University of Chicago Press

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