Mixed Constitution Essay, Research Paper
“Mixed Constitution: An Ideal Form of Government?”
Aristotle taught, that a community of any sort can possess order only if it has a ruling element or authority. He taught that this ruling principle is defined by the constitution, which sets criteria for political offices.
Since we see that every city-state is a sort of community and that every community is established for the sake of some good (for everyone does everything for the sake of what they believe to be good), it is clear that every community aims at some good, and the community which has the most authority of all an includes all the others aims highest, that is, at the good with the most authority. This is what is called the city-state or political community. Aristotle [I. 1. 1252a1-7]
One of the goals of the “founding fathers” was to establish a government that would be absent of tyranny to do this they formed a government that had some of the elements and qualities of three different forms of government a monarchy, an aristocracy, and a democracy. They desired a government that would meet the needs of the one, the few, and the many. To do this they formed a mixed constitution.
“the politician and lawgiver is wholly occupied with the city-state, and the constitution is a certain way or organizing those that inhabit the city-state” Aristotle
A fear of tyranny was the motivating force that drove the founding fathers towards forming a mixed constitution. A new government was formed that would represent the needs of the one, the few, and the many. With the power to govern being divided among all three groups.
“The accumulation of all powers legislative, executive and judiciary in the same hands, whether of one, a few or many, and whether hereditary, self appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
James Madison The Federalist No. 47
“constitutions which aim at the common advantage are correct and just without qualification, whereas those which aim only at the advantage of the rulers are deviant and unjust, because they involve despotic rule (master-slave) which is inappropriate for a community of free persons” Aristotle [III. 6. 1279a17-19]
The distinction between correct and deviant constitutions is combined with the observation that the government may consist of one person, a few, or a multitude. (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) There are six possible constitutional forms:
This six-fold classification was adapted from Plato’s Statesman, and set the stage for Aristotle’s inquiry into the best constitution, although Aristotle modified it in various ways throughout the Politics. (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) For example, he observes that the dominant class in oligarchy is the wealthy, whereas in democracy it is the poor. Also, polity is later characterized as a kind of “mixed” constitution.
Aristotle defines the best constitution as “most according to our prayers with no external impediment”; in his definition of the best constitution the citizens are fully virtuous. He states that the “best” constitution is impossible for most people. He taught that the best attainable constitution is a polity or a mixed constitution.
Our current constitution is a polity or mixed constitution with a separation of powers. In defending the current constitution James Madison claimed that it did not allow for an accumulation of powers. He then said that if it did allow for this accumulation of power that, “no further arguments would be necessary to inspire a universal reprobation of the system”. The Federalist No. 47
Our system of separate powers consists of three braches of government with constitutional checks and balances in place to prevent tyranny by any branch. The power of each branch can be check by the other two.
“there can be no liberty where the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or body of magistrates,” or “if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers,”
Federalist No. 47: Montesquieu
The structure of our government resembles three different forms of government in that the Presidency represents a government by the one, the Senate a government by the few, and the House of Representatives a government by the many. These three forms of government can also be found in popular elections, the Electoral College, and the judiciary branch.