Democracy In America, Alexis de Tocqueville, 1831
This immutability of the Constitution in France is a necessary consequence of the laws. To begin with the most important of all the laws, that which decides the order of succession to the throne, what can be more immutable in its principle than a political order founded upon the natural succession of father to son? In 1814 Louis XVIII established the perpetual law of hereditary succession in favor of his own family. Those who controlled the outcome of the Revolution of 1830 followed his example; they merely established the perpetuity of the law in favor of another family. In this respect they imitated Chancellor Maupeou, who, when he erected the new Parliament upon the ruins of the old, took care to declare in the same ordinance that the rights of the new magistrates should be as inalienable as those of their predecessors had been. The laws of 1830, like those of 1814, point out no way of changing the Constitution, and it is evident that the ordinary means of legislation are insufficient for this purpose. AS the King, the Peers, and the Deputies all derive their authority from the Constitution, these three powers united cannot alter a law by virtue of which alone they govern. Without the Constitution they are nothing; where, then, could they take their stand to effect a change in its provisions? The alternative is clear: either their efforts are powerless against the Charter, which continues to exist in spite of them, in which case they only reign in the name of the Charter; or they succeed in changing the Charter, and then, the law by which they existed being annulled, they themselves cease to exist. By destroying the Charter they destroy themselves.
This is much more evident in the laws of 1830 than in those of 1814. In 1814 the royal prerogative took its stand above and beyond the Constitution; but in 1830 it was avowedly created by and dependent on the Constitution.
A part, therefore, of the French Constitution is immutable, because it is united to the destiny of a family; and the body of the Constitution is equally immutable, because there appear to be no legal means of changing it.
These remarks are not applicable to England. That country . having no written Constitution, who can tell when its Constitution is changed?
The original copyright for Alexis de Tocqueville’s, “Democracy In America,” Translated by Henry Reeve, 1899, is held in the Public Domain because its copyright has expired. Formatting of this digital copy of Democracy In America Copyright © 2011 Steve Farrell and The Moral Liberal. Non-commercial, educational use of individual chapters is encouraged with a live link back to the original copy at The Moral Liberal and a courtesy note to the editors.