Constitutional Republic Essay

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Such a weak executive could hardly balance the power of the legislature, however. John Locke, addressing this difficulty in his Second Treatise, added a third power to the balance to strengthen the executive. The "federative" power, as he called it, concerned foreign relations (the ability to federate or ally with other countries). While this federative power was theoretically distinguishable from the executive, in practice it was inseparable from the executive, because it, like the executive, presupposed the united power of society. Circumstances would frequently demand that these two powers be exercised for the common good, but in the absence of a standing law and sometimes even against the law. Locke's justification for this extra-legal but prudent action was described as the "prerogative" power, which was necessarily executive. In this fashion, Locke acknowledged what was reasonable in the claims of each side in the English Civil War--the rule of law for the Whigs and of prerogative for the Tories. But he combined them in the idea of a liberal regime freed of both excessive jealousy of the executive power and the pretensions of divine right.[2] His doctrines lived on in the thought of the so-called Commonwealthmen, a circle of eighteenth-century republican radicals who resisted the "corruption" of the House of Commons by the King and his ministers. Through their patronage power, the ministers could confer pensions and sinecures on complacent members of Parliament, compromising the legislature's independence. The practice was denounced on this side of the Atlantic as well, and figured prominently in the Americans' criticisms of the British in the 1770s and in their distrust of the colonial governors appointed by the crown. This distrust was later embodied in the weak executives formulated by the new state constitutions after the Revolution. Thus the separation of

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