Legal Quote of the Week: “Ostendite bellum, pacem habebitis” (Make but a show of war, and you shall have peace)


Right of Resistance.

But all those privileges of the People, considered in themselves, are but feeble defences against the real strength of those who govern. All those provisions, all those reciprocal Rights, necessarily suppose that things remain in their legal and settled course: what would then be the resource of the People, if ever the Prince, suddenly freeing himself from all restraint, and throwing himself as it were out of the Constitution, should no longer respect either the person or the property of the subject, and either should make no account of his conventions with his Parliament, or attempt to force it implicitly to submit to his will?—It would be resistance.

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The Power of the People is not when they strike, but when they keep in awe: it is when they can overthrow every thing, that they never need to move; and Manlius included all in four words, when he said to the People of Rome, Ostendite bellum, pacem habebitis

Jean Louis De Lolme, The Constitution of England (4th Ed. 1784) (re-issued, David Lieberman, ed., 2007), 214 – 219.

Roman consul Marcus Manlius Capitolinus was credited with saving Rome from attack by the Gauls in 390 BCE and later led a rebellion of plebeian debtors against their patrician creditors.

From David Lieberman’s introduction to the re-issue edition:

Jean Louis De Lolme’s The Constitution of England, which first appeared in French in 1771, was a major contribution to eighteenth-century constitutional theory and enjoyed wide currency in and beyond the eras of the American and French Revolutions. Its authority and judgment were invoked in parliamentary debate and in partisan political polemic. John Adams, the American revolutionary leader, constitutional advocate, and later president, praised the work as “the best defence of the political balance of three powers that ever was written.” Even De Lolme’s contemporary critics were forced to acknowledge “a work which has been honored with the public approbation and which certainly possesses great merit.” (footnotes omitted).