Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cycle of Democracies

The [Attributed] Tytler Cycle of Democratic Govt.
Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee
has been cited as the author of the following without verification:

A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.
The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

  • From bondage to spiritual faith;
  • From spiritual faith to great courage;
  • From courage to liberty;
  • From liberty to abundance;
  • From abundance to complacency;
  • From complacency to apathy;
  • From apathy to dependence;
  • From dependence back into bondage.


James Madison (Father of the Constitution)


" a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions."


Thomas Jefferson (Author of the Declaration of Independence)

Jefferson's Letter to Thomas Cooper, Nov. 29, 1802

"I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them."

Jefferson's First Inaugural March 1, 1801

"a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities."

James Bovard

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner." 

John Adams (Editor of the Declaration of Independence)

Adams' Letter to John Taylor April 15, 1814

"Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either. … Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never"


Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton, debates of the Federal Convention, June 26, 1787

"We are now forming a republican government. Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments."

Alexander Hamilton, on Democracy, Speech in New York, urging ratification of the U.S. Constitution June 21, 1788

"It has been observed that a pure democracy if it were practicable would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity"

George Washington

George Washington to Edumund Pendleton Jan 22 1795

“Republicanism is not the phantom of a deluded imagination. On the contrary,… under no form of government will laws be better supported, liberty and property better secured, or happiness be more effectually dispensed to mankind.”

Fisher Ames, Author of the House Language for the First Amendment

Speech Massachusetts Convention, 15 January 1788

"Faction and enthusiasm are the instruments by which popular governments are destroyed. We need not talk of the power of an aristocracy. The people, when they lose their liberties, are cheated out of them. They nourish factions in their bosoms, which will subsist so long as abusing their honest credulity shall be the means of acquiring power. A democracy is a volcano, which conceals the fiery materials of its own destruction. These will produce an eruption, and carry desolation in their way. The people always mean right, and, if time is allowed for reflection and information, they will do right. I would not have the first wish, the momentary impulse of the public mind, become law; for it is not always the sense of the people, with whom I admit that all power resides. On great questions, we first hear the loud clamors of passion, artifice, and faction. I consider biennial elections as a security that the sober, second thought of the people shall be law. There is a calm review of public transactions, which is made by the citizens, who have families and children, the pledges of their fidelity. To provide for popular liberty, we must take care that measures shall not be adopted without due deliberation. The member chosen for two years will feel some independence in his seat. The factions of the day will expire before the end of his term."

John Marshall Chief Justice of the Supreme Cour

Speaking of Washington

"In speculation, he was a real republican, devoted to the constitution of his country, and to that system of equal political rights on which it is founded. But between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos. Real liberty, he thought, was to be preserved, only by preserving the authority of the laws, and maintaining the energy of government. Scarcely did society present two characters which, in his opinion, less resembled each other, than a patriot and a demagogue."

Gouverneur Morris, Signer and Penman of the Constitution

Cyclop√¶dia of American literature, Volume 1 By Evert Augustus Duyckinck, George Long Duyckinck

"We have seen the tumults of democracy terminate, in France, as they have everywhere terminated, in despotism. What had been foreseen and foretold, arrived. The power of usurpation was directed and maintained by great talents. Gigantic schemes of conquest, prepared with deep and dark intrigue, vast masses of force conducted with consummate skill, a cold indifference to the miseries of mankind, a profound contempt for moral ties, a marble-hearted atheism, to which religion was only a political instrument, and the stern persevering will to bend everything to his purpose, were the means of Napoleon to make himself the terror, the wonder, and the scourge of nations. The galling of his iron yoke taught Frenchmen feelingly to know how much they had lost in breaking the bands of their allegiance."
John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams, The Jubilee of the Constitution. A Discourse Delivered at the Request of the New York Historical Society, in the City of New York on Tuesday, the 30th of April 1839

But this institution was republican, and even democratic. And here not to be misunderstood, I mean by democratic, a government, the administration of which must always be rendered comfortable to that predominating public opinion, which even in the ages of heathen antiquity, was denominated the queen of the world : and by republican I mean a government reposing, not upon the virtues or the powers of any one man not upon that honour, which Montesquieu lays down as the fundamental principle of monarchy far less upon that fear which he pronounces the basis of despotism ; but upon that virtue which he, a noble of aristocratic peerage, and the subject of an absolute monarch, boldly pro- claims as a fundamental principle of republican government. The Constitution of the United States was re- publican and democratic — but the experience of all former ages had shown that of all human governments, democracy was the most unstable, fluctuating and short-lived; and it was obvious that if virtue — the virtue of the people, was the foundation of republican government... stability and duration of the government must depend upon the stability and duration of the virtue by which it is sustained. Now the virtue which had been infused into the Constitution of the United States, and was to give to its vital existence the stability and duration to which it waas destined, was no other than the concretion of those abstract principles which had been first proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence — namely, the self-evident truths of the natural and unalienable rights of man, of the indefeasible constituent and dissolvent sovereignty of the people, always subordinate to a rule of right and wrong, and always responsible to the Supreme Ruler of the universe for the rightful exercise of that sov- ereign, constituent, and dissolvent power"

Dr. Benjamin Rush
A simple democracy, or an unbalanced republic, is one of the greatest of evils. I think with Dr. Zubly that " a democracy (with only one branch) is the Tivil's own government." Those words he uttered at my table in the spring of 1776, upon my giving as a toast the "Commonwealth of America." At the same instant that he spoke the words, he turned his glass upside downwards and refused to drink the toast."

Noah Webster
The American Spelling Book 

In democracy, where the people all meet for the purpose of making laws, there are commonly tumults and disorders. A small city may sometimes be governed in this manner; but if the citizens are numerous, their assemblies make a crowd or mob, where debates cannot be carried on with coolness and candor, nor can arguments be heard: Therefore a pure democracy is generally a very bad government. It is often the most tyrannical government on earth; for a multitude is often rash, and will not hear reason." 

John Witherspoon, Signer of the Declaration

John Witherspoon, The Works of John Witherspoon (Edinburgh: J. Ogle, 1815), Vol. VII, p. 101, Lecture 12 on Civil Society.

"Pure democracy cannot subsist long nor be carried far into the departments of state, it is very subject to caprice and the madness of popular rage."

Abraham Lincoln's Exhortations on the Union and Slavery [which, as I see it, are quite related to the Cycle of Democracies]

Lincoln's Address before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, January 27, 1838

"Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step over the ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! -- All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a Thousand years. At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide."

Statement to an Indiana Regiment passing through Washington (17 March 1865); The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln Volume VIII

"I have always thought that all men should be free; but if any should be slaves, it should first be those who desire it for themselves, and secondly those who desire it for others. Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on them personally."

A. Lincoln, by Ronald C. White Jr. p. 178

"Lincoln anticipated [Frederick A ] Ross’s answer: “but, slavery is good for some people!!!” and rebutted that slavery is “peculiar” in “that it is the only good thing which no man ever seeks the good of, for himself."

Lincoln's Address at a Sanitary Fair April 18, 1864

"The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatable things, called by the same name———liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatable names———liberty and tyranny."

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