On Sovereignty (XIV)

individual sovereignty, that is, pure monarchy, cannot exist without the will of the people

Battle of Alcolea

***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 and publish the fourteenth installment of the series on sovereignty from the newspaper archives of LA ESPERANZA, originally published between late 1854 and early 1855. The present issue briefly summarizes the conclusions drawn in the previous articles.***

In what has been presented so far, it has been demonstrated: 1st) that it is an error to suppose that sovereignty essentially resides in the people; 2nd) that only the supreme or permanent heads of nations are the true sovereigns; 3rd) that societies have not been formed, nor can they be formed, on the imaginary basis of the supposed social contract; 4th) that which legitimizes the established governments, is not the diplomatic recognition by other powers, nor the tacit or express consent of their subjects, but rather prescription; 5th) that despotism and tyranny are almost impossible in civilized nations; and 6th) that the people have no right to insurrection. It now remains for us to reply to the newspapers which have contested some of the propositions we have defended.

The first to do so was El Iris de España, which stated that individual sovereignty, that is, pure monarchy, cannot exist without the will of the people. They argue that the sovereignty of the people consists in the ability of the nation to organize itself in the manner best suited to its interests, to exercise sovereign power, or to delegate it. They posit that by establishing it in the primary law of the State, a tribute will be paid to the enlightenment of the age, and a vast horizon will be opened to the freedom of other peoples who still suffer the chains of despotism, and thus the motive or pretext for deplorable divisions of internal strife will be avoided. They say that, with the proclamation of this principle in the Spanish Constitution, no one will have the right to ignite a civil war in our country, because only traitors to the fatherland would be bold enough to refuse obedience to the national will. They also argue that the exercise of popular sovereignty can avert all storms, because elections will replace bloody battles, and there will be no cruel spectacle of a people destroying itself by serving another master. And finally, that sovereignty can be and is today in harmony with the throne, and today it places Isabel II at its head.

From the excerpt we have just taken from our colleague’s article, the readers of LA ESPERANZA will be convinced that all the reasons put forward by the latter against the absurd principle of national sovereignty are still valid, without our challenger having found a way to refute them. The words individual sovereignty that they use either imply that we are all sovereign, or they mean nothing. Does our colleague believe that each individual is sovereign? It must be admitted that no journalist’s delusions have reached this extreme, just as no one has ever dreamed that national sovereignty is the same thing as pure monarchy. And who told El Iris that neither sovereignty nor monarchy can exist without the will of the people? If he had stopped to examine the meaning of the word sovereignty before making such a statement, he might not have made such a notorious mistake.

Sovereignty, according to the Diccionario de la Lengua, means (as we indicated on another occasion) power overall. This power, just as in pure monarchy, has been exercised over the subjects of a State despite their own repudiation; therefore, it can exist without the will of the people. We have said that it has been exercised because this is what the history of all conquerors in the world teaches, including the Visigoths, from whom the legitimacy of the Spanish monarchs is derived. Will our colleague deny that the kings of Castile exercised monarchy in the kingdom of Mexico since Hernán Cortés subjected it to his power? He cannot deny it. But the obedience of the Mexicans to our monarchs was not voluntary.

Sovereignty consists in having power over all; it is not precisely in the power to make laws, although this power will be one of its attributes. Spain has been organized, and from the moment it earned the title of nation, it was left to the supreme leader, who was responsible for governing it, to improve its organization.

What the individual has to do is to live submissively, to conform his conduct to the precepts of sound morality and justice, to expose his woes to those who can and should remedy them, and to point out the measures that could be taken for the benefit of the common good. To suppose that the nation has the faculty of exercising sovereign power is to suppose an impossibility; as we have proved elsewhere, it is impossible for the nation en masse to exercise that power, and if it fails to do so, the theory collapses upon itself.

If by chance, a nation should be left without a monarch and without any of those who should by right succeed him, it might elect another; but this one, from the time of his royal investiture, would have the power to exercise sovereignty to the full, without it being possible to say that this power had been delegated.

We are far from believing that the principle of popular sovereignty enshrined in the Constitution of the State is a tribute to the enlightenment of the age, and that all the things our colleague points out are happening. On the contrary, it is our deepest and most intimate conviction that by doing so we are solemnly testifying to our ignorance of political science, and that we have learned nothing of the art of governing the people since the end of the last century. A most pernicious principle has been established, a principle which would bring upon men more evils than Pandora’s box. It inoculates the popular masses with the germ of perpetual war, and makes us live our lives under the caprices and excesses of the most unjust and cruel of tyrants. And finally, it authorizes every one, under the pretext of despotism or oppression, to incite the discontented and rebellious against the established government, to disturb the public peace, and then we fall under the dagger of the wicked and that of the murderer.



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