On Sovereignty (and XVI)

If the nation is the sovereign, who will be the subjects?

The Cortes of 1869

***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 publish the last article of the series on sovereignty of LA ESPERANZA. In it, we debate with the democratic newspaper EL ADELANTE and reaffirm the thesis that has been maintained. ***

The newspaper El Adelante has devoted three articles to challenging our views on this matter; we will address their arguments, although with the dismay of having to deal with a newspaper that no longer exists.

Having asked us this question: «If the nation is the sovereign, who will be the subjects?» our late confrere answered in his first article as follows: «If the individual is the absolute master and sovereign of his actions, who is the subject?» If our esteemed colleague had been pleased with such studies, he would have found that sovereignty can only be given over oneself; because it is the only kind that can be unlimited without danger of abuse, always carrying with it the penalty. The proof is as follows: «Does LA ESPERANZA believe that its sovereign monarchs of divine right have unlimited freedom, even to destroy their subjects at will? Answer this question and you will find the truth.»

We apologize for disturbing our readers by making them see the impertinence of the response: it is impossible to reply to answers of this kind. We have already pointed out that the word sovereign, in common language, means the one who has the supreme authority in a State; and if the nation, that is to say, the whole of its individuals, is the one who has such authority, it is necessary to tell us over whom it is exercised. No one has ever said, and no one will ever say, unless he has lost his senses, that there can be no sovereignty except over oneself, and that one is sovereign neither over oneself nor over one’s actions: this is incomprehensible nonsense, and we want to be spoken to in a clear and reasonable manner. The power that man has over himself (please excuse this language) is not unlimited: he is subject, among other laws, to the law of self-preservation, the most imperative of all. The sovereigns, whom our colleague calls by divine right, do not have unlimited powers; but this answer does not explain to us over whom the people exercise sovereignty, if it is the people who are really the sovereign, which is what we want to know. Having shown that El Adelante‘s answer is truly impertinent, let us see if the answers he gives us on other points in the other articles are more appropriate.

He says in the 2nd that «LA ESPERANZA, as skillful and knowledgeable in debates, has chosen the most advantageous ground for himself, and entering the field of the parliamentarians, unloads such thrusts, such slashes and blows, that he must have been truly satisfied; that sovereignty, in the mouth of the parliamentarians, is a mockery; that they proclaim it only to appropriate it, and in such a battle victory is no great triumph. That LA ESPERANZA mocks, and rightly so, the idea of reducing the sovereignty of 45 million inhabitants to a few 300 individuals who, in the end, cannot do anything without the approval of a single person, which amounts to the sovereignty of one person, or to an absurd contradiction of principles. That when LA ESPERANZA enters the field of democratic doctrines, where it does not defend any of the reasons that it uses to tear the poor parliamentarians to pieces, it will see that public sovereignty is a truth, not only in law, but in fact, since among the current sovereigns there are only children and imbeciles that must be reduced, which cannot be called an exception. And finally, that LA ESPERANZA should not recall the possibility of two, three or four million individuals legislating, because that would be a matter of practice or mechanism that would not change the philosophical truth of the principle.»

All the reasons which we have given against the sovereignty of the people are applicable to parliamentarians as well as to democrats, among whom there is no difference except in number, which, as the Scholastics say, does not change the species. It is true that the latter give more amplitude to the right of suffrage, and prohibit the royal sanction; but however much they may extend this right, they agree that it must be denied to no less than half the inhabitants of a State, who are women. Tell us, defenders of democracy, by what authority do you exclude them from the elections? Do you not always maintain that they are by nature equal to men, and that they should therefore enjoy the same rights? For there is no other solution: either you deny the principle of national sovereignty, or you admit all the consequences that follow from it, however monstrous and absurd they may seem to you. And not only do you exclude from the franchise women, idiots, and children, but also prisoners and those confined to their homes, fugitives, passers-by, servants, and those who have neither house nor home; subtract all these from the number of inhabitants of a nation, and it will be found that, if it has, say, ten million inhabitants, only two will be able to exercise the present sovereignty, and of these only one and a half million will exercise it. And what is the exercise of this sovereignty? To cooperate in the making of laws. But since a million and a half is still too many for this purpose, they must delegate their authority to a very small number, to two hundred or less. This is done in the American republics just as it is done in parliamentary England. And in the end, to what is the sovereignty of this small number of individuals in these nations reduced? That at certain times of the year they go to the capital, gather in a magnificent hall, and… our readers know the rest. Those who have studied history also know what used to happen in the old republics: there were four or six outspoken officials who, by deceiving the ignorant people with their talk, induced them to vote for whatever they proposed, whether it was lawful  and convenient or not.

The third and final article in El Adelante challenges our argument regarding the sense in which some authors have said that kings are of divine origin. Apparently, our colleague must have glossed over what we wrote: otherwise it would have been impossible for him to attribute to us statements that were not ours, but those of the authors to whose way of thinking we were referring. We have already explained, on the basis of history and sound reason, how governments are established, how they are legitimized, and who the true sovereigns are. Therefore, we could hardly have recourse to those other arguments that our confrere opposes; and we should abstain from them with all the more reason, since we promised to do so from the very beginning, because we were going to argue with men who reject the arguments of authority. Thus, it is not up to us to answer the objections that El Adelante raises against the authors to whom we allude, and even if it were up to us, we would not answer them because none of them leads to a clarification of the point under discussion.


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