978-0-8446-1504-2 / 0844615048

Lectures on Modern History

by Acton, Lord

Publisher:Peter Smith Pub Inc



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Excerpt: ...Genevese felt his superiority and put him on the commission which revised the Constitution. It was not changed in any important way, and the influence of the Geneva Constitution upon Calvin was greater than his influence on the government of Geneva. The city was governed by a Lesser or Inner Council of twenty-five, composed of the four syndics, the four of last year, and as many more as made up the twenty-five. These belonged to the ruling families, and were seldom renewed. Whilst the Lesser Council administered, through the syndics, the Great Council of two hundred was the legislature. Its members were appointed, not by popular election, but by the Lesser Council. Between the twenty-five and the two hundred were the sixty, who only appeared when the Lesser Council wanted to prepare a majority in the Greater Council. Its function was to mediate between the executive and the legislature. It was a system of concentric circles; for the twenty-five became the sixty by adding the necessary number of thirty-five, and the sixty became the two hundred by the addition of one hundred and forty members. Beyond this was the assembly of citizens, who only met twice a year to elect the syndics and the judge, from names presented by the Lesser Council. The popular element was excluded. Beyond the citizens were the burghers, who did not enjoy the franchise. Between the two there was material for friction and a constitutional struggle, the struggle from which Rousseau proceeded, and which had some share in preparing the French Revolution. Upon this background Calvin designed his scheme of Church government and discipline. His purpose was to reform society as well as doctrine. He did not desire orthodoxy apart from virtue, but would have the faith of the community manifested in its moral condition. And as the mere repression of scandals would promote hypocrisy, it was necessary that private life should be investigated by the same authority that was obeyed in public....

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