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… read a book from1835:

But here it may be asked what we have adopted in the place of those institutions, those ideas and those customs of our forefathers which we have abandoned.

The spell of royalty is broken, but it has not been succeeded by the majesty of the laws. The people have learned to despise all authority, but they still fear it; and fear now extorts more than was formerly paid from reverence and love.

I perceive that we have destroyed those individual powers which were able, single-handed to cope with tyranny; but it is the government alone that has inherited all the privileges of which families, guilds, and individuals have been deprived; to the power of a small number of persons, which if it was sometimes oppressive was often conservative, has succeeded the weaknesses of the whole community.

From Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America at 32

This from a man who wrote, just a page earlier:

I can conceive of a society in which all men would feel an equal love and respect for the laws of which they consider themselves the authors; in which the authority of the government would be respected as necessary, and not divine; and in which the loyalty of the subject to the chief magistrate would not be a passion, but a quiet and rational persuasion.

With every individual in possession of rights which he is sure to retain, a kind of manly confidence and reciprocal courtesy would arise between all classes, removed alike from pride and servility. The people, well acquainted with their own true interests, would understand that, in order to profit from the advantages of the state, it is necessary to satisfy its requirements.

(at 30)

So this hope, that giving Jefferson’s inalienable rights to the People was even then just a hope. The idea that judges might have authority apart from their noble title was only a dream.

Democracy, he says, is a place to which we must journey and yet our path there crosses a great chasm. Shall we ford it by bridge, or by a great leap of faith. Until that chasm is passed, the power of government does not stem from the necessity of “the laws of which they consider themselves the authors” but from fear of the laws and the force of government.

Say what you will of the French, but de Tocqueville was a remarkably perceptive man.

Of course, none of that analysis really applies to Australia where we have forded the chasm from the respecting the laws out of “the royal spell” to respecting them out of the “majesty of the laws”. Very few would argue that the common man obeys the law out of love for the Queen. So, becoming a Republic is quite a simple task now, don’t you think?


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