Monarchy government, Where Found :- From an examination of the structural organization of the various forms and types of government, we come now to consider in the light of history and of experience the elements of strength and Weakness of each of all the known types, the monarchical form is the oldest , in the Middle Ages it was universal or very nearly so, and in one form or another it still survives in various countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The type of absolute monarchy has at last disappeared from Europe in the face of the irresistible march of democracy, but until recently it existed in varying degrees in several of the most important states of the continent.
The late Professor Sidgwick declared that in the middle of the eighteenth century absolute monarchy was regarded as
“the final form of government to which the long process of formation of orderly country-states had led up and by which the task of establishing and maintaining a civilized political order had been, on the whole, successfully accomplished, after other modes of political construction had failed to realize it.”
Mr. H. A. L. Fisher, another well-known English scholar, in a study devoted to the growth of the republican idea in Europe, published in 1911, declared that the cause of republicanism had made no substantial progress in Europe since 1870. France, he pointed out, was then the only great European state which had adopted the republican form, and he added that her experience had not been such as to invite imitation.
Republics, to be sure, had been set up in various countries of Europe, notably in the year 1848, but they were all short-lived, the monarchies which they displaced having been quickly restored. On the whole, he thought the outlook for republicanism was not promising and he pointed out that in various countries such as Germany and Italy even the Social Democrats, the most advanced of political parties, were not anti monarchical at least not militantly so but were content with demanding a more liberal suffrage and other democratic reforms Which they regarded as more fundamental than the abolition of monarchy.
Progress of Republicanism :-
Mr. Fisher attributed the failure of the republican movement to several causes. In the first place, the position of the monarchies which had seemed so precarious in 1848 had been considerably strengthened by the general elevation in the intelligence character, and ability of the monarchs Who reigned in Europe at the time he wrote, as compared With that of it he monarchs Who afflicted Europe in the earlier part of the century.
Sovereigns like Queen Victoria and Edward VII in England, Leopold II in Belgium, Christian IX in Denmark,Oscar II in Sweden, William I and William II in Germany, Francis Joseph in Austria-Hungary, and Victor Emmanuel II in Italy, commanded a popular respect and esteem in their respective countries which hardly existed before 1848, when the general level of the esteem of monarch was uniformly low.
The achievements of the monarchy in Germany and Italy in bringing about the national unification of those countries, and the extraordinary material progress which had taken place under monarchical rule in those and other European states, had also been a contributing factor to the general feeling of contentment With the monarchical system.
Mr. Fisher pointed out that in 1905 the people of Norway, a simple democratic people composed mostly of peasants, fishermen, shop-keepers, and sailors, deliberately chose the monarchical form in preference to a republic. There was a republican party in the country led, by the novelist Bjornson, but they were divided in regard to the particular form which they wished, whether the American or the French.
The argument that a monarchy would be more acceptable than a republic to both Germany and England, and the belief that the security and prestige of the country would be strengthened by the dynastic alliances which would result from the establishment of a monarchy, prevailed, and the republic was accordingly brushed aside.
In 1911 the monarchy in Portugal was overthrown and a republic was established in its place, but republicanism made no further headway in Europe until after the World War, when Germany and Austria became republics and when most of the new states which came into existence, and later also Greece and. Spain, adopted the republican form.
The Russians abolished the monarchy but the system which they established in its place is hardly that of a republic as the republican form is traditionally understood, and it is avowedly not a democracy. It may be noted however, that Yugoslavia elected the monarchical form and Hungary, whose form has not yet been definitely determined, remains a monarchy though as yet without a king. Several of the older monarchies, such as Belgium and Rumanian, revised their constitutions and introduced a larger element of democracy, but the monarchy in both countries was retained. Italy, although her system of government has undergone radical alterations in the hands of the Fascisti party, likewise continues a monarchy and there appears to be little or no disposition to displace it for the republican form.
In Great Britain, the Scandinavian countries, Bulgaria, and the Netherlands, the events of the World War effected no changes in the position of the monarchy and there is nothing to indicate that it will be displaced for the republican type in the near future. The result is that, leaving aside Russia and the petty protected states, the monarchical form survives in half of the countries of Europe.
Monarchy has never gained a foothold in North America (the French experiment in Mexico was a failure) it has disappeared from South America, where it once existed in Brazil. In Asia it exists only in Japan, Siam, Persia, and a few petty states in Africa it survives in Abyssinia and Egypt.
Elements of Strength :-
Bossuet in the eighteenth century eulogized the monarchical system of government as one which was not only recommended by the experience of history but One which, as stated above, was ordained by God. It was, he said, the most ancient, the most widely diffused, the best, and the most natural of all forms of government. All the world began with it and almost all the world had been preserved by it.
It was not only natural but it was also the most dignified, and calculated to insure identity of interest between the ruler and the ruled, and the most conformable to that which God Himself had established. Until the latter part of the eighteenth century it was widely believed to be the nearest approach to a perfect form of political organization that could be devised by the ingenuity of man of its merits the English philosopher and historian David Hume wrote near the middle of the eighteenth century:
“Though all kinds of government be improved on in modern times, yet monarchical government seems to have made the greatest advance to perfection. It may now be affirmed of civilized monarchies, what was formerly said of republics alone, that they are a government of laws, not of men, They are found susceptible of order, method, and constancy to a surprising degree. Property is there secure, industry is encouraged the arts flourish and the prince lives among his subjects like a father among his children.”
And, he added, there are more sources of degeneracy to be found in free governments like England than in France, which was then, in Hume’s estimation, the most perfect model of pure monarchy, a judgment which Sir Henry Maine pronounced to be quite lacking in the essential elements of truth.
A little later Turgot defended monarchy as a form of government which was peculiarly adapted to the promotion of the general happiness and welfare of mankind, since a monarch did not and could not have any interest in making bad laws or in governing his people except for their own good.
Our estimate of the value of monarchy cannot, however, be based upon the mere Opinions of those who, like Turgot, were at the time its apologists or servants, or who, like Hume, wrote in an age when it Was the almost universally accepted form of government and when it had few antagonists. It must be examined in light of both reason and experience and on the basis of sound tests as to what constitutes good government.
In passing judgment upon its merits it is also necessary to distinguish between the forms which monarchy may take or has taken in the past namely, the absolute type in which the monarch is the sole source of power and actually governs and the limited type in which he is merely the titular sovereign, restricted by constitutional limitations and actually governs through the agency of, ministers who are responsible to the legislature or one chamber of it for their acts and policies.
The first form of monarchy has been defended ,on the ground that it is a form of government which more than any other possesses the elements of strength, simplicity of organization, ability to act quickly, unity of counsel, continuity and consistency of policy, and a certain prestige in the conduct of foreign relations.
It is also claimed that the laws in an absolute monarchy are more easily enforced because the monarch has a free hand to select skilled officials and he can therefore hold them to a stricter accountability than is possible in a democracy, where they are popularly elected for definite terms and cannot be recalled or dismissed before the expiration of their fixed and limited terms.
Finally, it is claimed that monarchical government is more conducive to social justice as among the different classes of society for the reason that the monarch, not being dependent upon popular election and being himself above all parties or classes, is likely to be impartial and even sympathetic toward the masses of his subjects.
Even Rousseau, himself a radical democrat in his day,admitted that absolute monarchy was not without merits, Where such a system prevails, he said, the will of the people and the will of the prince, the public force of the state, and the individual force of the government all respond to the same motive power all the springs of the machine are in the same hand, all look to the same end.
There are no opposing movements which destroy each other and no sort of constitution can be imagined in which a slight effort produces greater action. Rousseau went, on to compare a skillful monarch governing his people throughout a vast state and making everything move while seeming himself immovable, to an engineer seated tranquilly on the shore of a sea and setting in motion without difficulty a huge vessel upon the waters.
In the early stages of civilization monarchy is undoubtedly well adapted to the needs of a people who have not yet developed a high political consciousness and who therefore lack the capacity themselves for participating actively in the management of public affairs. Perhaps no better form could be devised for disciplining uncivilized peoples, leading them out of barbarism, and inculcating in them habits of obedience.
John Stuart Mill well remarked that despotism is a legitimate mode of government for dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement and the means be justified by actually effecting that end. “Liberty,” he observed,
“as a principle, has no application to any state of things anterior to the time when mankind have become capable of being improved by free and equal discussion. Until then there is non thing for them but implicit obedience to an Akbar or a Charlemagne, if they are so fortunate as to find one.”
The absolute monarchies of the medieval and early modern times justified their existence through their work of consolidation and nationalization. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, says Bryce,
“saw many reforms in European countries which no force less than that of a strong monarchy could have carried through.”
Defects of Absolute Monarchy :-
But most of the claims that have been made for absolute monarchy have not stood the test of experience. In the last analysis it is a government constituted and administered by a single person according to his own sense of what is best and right for those over whom he reigns, and history abundantly confirms the truth of the assertion that such governments have more often been administered in the interests of the monarch himself than in the interests of his subjects.
It has long been a common form of speech, said John Stuart Mill,
“that if a good despot could be insured, despotic monarchy would be the best form of government.”
But, as he went on to remark, it is a most pernicious misconception of what good government is. Assuming for the sake of argument that absolute power in the hands of one individual would never be abused, but on the contrary would insure an honest and intelligent administration of the government granting that good laws would be enacted and enforced, that equal justice would be dealt out to all, that the public revenues would be wisely expended, in short, that the despotism were the wisest and most benevolent conceivable, there are still other considerations which render it far from being the ideal polity.
Administrative efficiency is only one of the tests of a good government. No government which does not rest upon the affections of the people, which does not stimulate among them an interest in public affairs and create an active, intelligent, and alert citizenship, can be called ideal and, certainly no government from which the participation of the people in some form is excluded will ever be able to produce such a body of citizens.
Even if all the claims which have been put forward in defense of absolute monarchy were justified, this form of government still leaves too much to chance or accident. Where a ruler derives his office and power by inheritance, there is no guarantee that a wise, capable, and benevolent person will succeed to the office. On the contrary, there is always the possibility that an imbecile of a fool rather than a sage or a statesman may succeed to the throne and be charged with governing and determining the destinies of millions of people.
History affords numerous examples of immature, feeble minded, and incompetent rulers succeeding to thrones under the Operation of such a principle. France, for example, was governed for more than five hundred years by kings who had not reached the age of twenty five years at the time of their accession to the throne, and for nearly one hundred years by kings who had not attained the age of twenty one.
Wise, capable, industrious, and benevolent kings have by no means been lacking, especially in the nineteenth century, but the number Who have sympathized with and defended the interests of the masses as against those of the aristocratic classes has been still smaller. In this connection, Lord Bryce remarked that history, however, if it credits some kings with conspicuous services to progress, tells us that since the end of the fifteenth century, When the principle of hereditary succession had become well settled, the number of capable sovereigns who honestly labored for the good of their subjects has been extremely small. Spain, for, example, for three centuries following the abdication of Charles V, had no reason, he added, to thank any of her kings, nor had Hungary, Poland, or Naples.
Merits of Limited Monarchy :-
In the last analysis the merits and demerits of limited monarchy, if it be one in which the monarch is nothing more than the titular sovereign, the actual government being carried on merely in his name by ministers who represent the majority party in the legislature (or one chamber of it) and who are responsible to it for the manner in which they exercise their power, are mainly those which result from having a titular head of the state who is not elected by the people or by the legislature but who acquires his office by right of hereditary successions.
It is this latter feature, as has been pointed out above, which really distinguishes a monarchy from a republic. So far as the source of actual power and the processes of government are concerned, a monarchy may be as much a democracy as is a republic.
This is true to-day of Great Britain, Belgium, and some other states which are officially classified as monarchies. In Great Britain, especially, the king is little more than the titular or ceremonial head of the state, he is a sort of Merovingian roi-faine’ant subserving somewhat the same purpose that a cupola or an ornamental facade does to a building of which it is a part.
He reigns but does not govern,he has, as Bagehot remarked, the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, and the right to warn rights which may, in the hands of a Strong, vigorous, highly respected monarch, be exercised with some effect. But after all, when the advice and warning have been given, the final decision rests with the ministers, it is for them to determine whether the opinion of the king ought to be respected or disregarded.
To take a notable example, the influence of Queen Victoria of England was not without effect, especially in foreign affairs, and particularly during the later years of her life, but it was the result in large part of the respect due to her long experience, her advanced age, and her unblemished character. On the whole, her actual influence upon the policies of the government was not in proportion to the great industry and activity which she displayed.
The same thing may be said of other monarchs in England and elsewhere where the pure type of responsible cabinet government prevails. In earlier times the reverence of the masses for a hereditary ruler more or less mystical and quasi divine was at powerful bond of attachment and loyalty to the state.
Bagehot, in his work on “The English Constitution” published in 1872, considered this to be an important element in estimating the value of the English, monarchy, and in old Russia the almost superstitious veneration of the masses for the Czar produced the same result in an even larger degree.
But with the general increase of political intelligence among the people of Great Britain and other countries where monarchy exists, the masses have lost much of their reverential spirit toward the wearer of the crown and consequently the value of the monarchy as a loyalty including institution has largely declined.
Nevertheless, it must be admitted that in other respects it serves a useful purpose. Mr. Lowell has pointed out that the parliamentary system of Great Britain would be inconceivable without a titular figurehead occupying a position above the clash of parties and tumults of politics.
If, he adds, the English crown is no longer the motive power of the ship of state, it is the spar on which the sail is bent, and as such it is not only a useful but an essential part of the vessel. It is quite true that an elective presidential figurehead might subserve the same purpose, as it does in France.
In England, where the monarchy is undoubtedly very popular, it is believed that the advantages of a system under which there is an orderly and uninterrupted succession to the office outweigh the disadvantages and inconveniences inseparable from the method of popular election. Besides, the probabilities are that the masses will have greater respect for a hereditary chief of state than for one who acquires his office as a result of party strife.
In Great Britain and the dominions, it is almost universally admitted that the monarchy subserves a special purpose in holding together the different parts of the far-flung empire. This is conceded even by the leaders of the Labor party.