On Sovereignty (IV)

Engraving depicting the events of July 14, 1789

***La versión original en español del artículo se puede encontrar en este enlace. La traducción al inglés la ha realizado uno de los miembros del Círculo Camino Real de Tejas con la supervisión de los traductores del Gremio San Jerónimo. We transcribe the fourth part of the series on sovereignty, originally published in LA ESPERANZA at the end of 1854***


Perhaps it will be said to us: How have you the courage to maintain that monarchs are the only sovereigns? Do you not see that they are only in existence because of the will of the people? Have you forgotten that they depose and punish them when they deem it just, that they change dynasties, that they vary systems of government and reform the established ones, and in all things act as if they were the true sovereign? Does not history tell you that Sparta condemned Pausanias and executed the wretched Agis; that the people of Rome toppled Tarquin the Superb from the throne; that France passed from the power of the Merovingians to that of the Carlovingians, from the latter to that of the Capets, from the Republic to the Consulate, from there to the Empire of Bonaparte, then to Louis XVIII, to Louis of Orleans, from there again to the Republic, and then to Napoleon III? How far is it from the time when England put the House of Orange before that of the Stuarts, and the Americas emancipated themselves from their kings and constituted themselves a republic? And without leaving Spain, do you not remember the example of Enrique IV, who was dethroned at Avila and in his place proclaimed his brother Alonso? What do you say to such an eloquent and irrefutable testimony of national sovereignty?

We will answer only one thing, and that is that the destructive power of the people is irresistible, and that, if they are determined, they will destroy the good monarch as well as the bad. The events just mentioned, and others that might be cited, prove only the fact, not the right. The hidden designs of Divine Providence make the political world, like the physical world, subject to constant alterations and changes. Each of these changes brings the people to a new state of affairs, which is confirmed by an uninterrupted tenure of office, and finally produces a legitimate right. When we speak of the origin of power, we shall develop this concept and show that national sovereignty confuses and kills everything, and only serves to disturb society and keep people in feverish agitation. But let us return to the subject at hand, and examine the facts which are invoked in support of the alleged principle which we refute.

Pausanias, with the title of king, was a true popular magistrate of a republic. At first simple in his habits, he later developed a taste for the sensual customs of the Persians, whose way of life finally led him to listen with pleasure to their proposals, which offered to make him sovereign over the whole of Greece. The Spartans learned of this, and when they were about to arrest him, he took refuge in the temple of Minerva, where he died of hunger by order of the Aphorians. What does this prove? That there was a law in Sparta punishing the leader of the army or the republic who betrayed his country, and that this law was applied by the court to the victor of Platea. Is this an act of sovereignty? No, certainly not. The Aphorians unjustly caused the death of King Agis. What does this mean? That this court, in the exercise of a usurped authority, has committed an outrage, without it being right to say that it is the work of the people. An affront to the honor of a faithful spouse produces a military insurrection against the last of the Tarquins, who are cast from the throne, to which the Republic succeeds. What can we deduce from this? That there was a lecherous monarch who, attacking the chastity of Lucretia, had a superior force raised against him, whose violence he could not resist. To him who dares to assert that this revolt and this triumph presuppose a right, we pose this question: what would have happened if, when Tarquin fled from Rome and sought the help of a powerful ally, he had defeated the insurrectionary force that dethroned them? No doubt he will tell us, if he wants to be logical, that Tarquin would have had the rebels beheaded and remained monarch as before. Several dynasties succeeded each other in France, although the ruling dynasty remained; and Charles, Prince of Orange, came to occupy the throne of England under the title of Charles III, taking it from James II. And yet, were these changes made by the virtue and grace of national sovereignty? Nothing of the sort. All these events were in their origin nothing but daring usurpations, crowned by fortune and legitimized by time. The provinces of the American continent rose up against their kings, fought, were deposed, and became independent. Did popular sovereignty produce such remarkable changes? Not at all: it was produced, yes, by a rebellion that triumphed by force or by misfortune, and that was later qualified as a fait accompli. The dethronement of Don Enrique IV of Castile was nothing more than the comedic act of some ambitious people who, dissatisfied with the behavior of the sovereign, sought to give him a successor whom they could direct according to their own will, without the obstacle of declared rivals.

So that it may be assured with all certainty that all the events we have indicated, and several others more or less remarkable, which refer to ancient and modern history, were the effect, either of chance, or of force, or of parties, or of any other cause, of those who change the face of nations; but in no way a spontaneous and solemn, authentic and legitimate act of the supposed sovereignty of the peoples.

Having concluded our observations on this matter, we will not assume responsibility for those made by El AdelanteEl Faro Nacional and El Iris de España.



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