the first Corsican Constitution
was drawn up in 1765 for the short-lived
independent from Genoa beginning in 1755 and remained in force until the
of Corsica by
in 1769. It was written in
, the language of culture and people in Corsica until the end of the nineteenth century and over. Drafted by
and others and inspired by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
, the Corsican Constitution was one of the first
of an independent republic in the modern age. It was known to some of the founding fathers of the USA that could read italian. CONSTITUTIONAL PROJECT FOR CORSICA Jean-Jacques Rousseau Drafted 1765 FOREWORD
You ask for a plan of government suitable for Corsica. It is asking for more than you think. There are peoples who, do what you may, are incapable of being well governed, for the law has no hold over them, and a government without laws cannot be a good government. I do not say that the Corsican people is in that condition; on the contrary, no people impresses me as being so fortunately disposed by nature to receive a good administration. But even this is not enough, for all things lead to abuses, which are often inevitable; and the abuse of political institutions follows so closely upon their establishment that it is hardly worth while to set them up, only to see them degenerate so rapidly.
Attempts are made to overcome this difficulty by mechanical devices designed to keep the government in its original condition; it is bound with a thousand chains and fetters to prevent it from declining, and is hampered to such an extent that, dragged down by the weight of its irons, it remains inactive and motionless and, if it does not go downhill, neither does it advance toward its goal.
All this is the consequence of an undue separation of two inseparable things, the body which governs and the body which is governed. In the original constitution of government, these two bodies are but one; they become separate only through the abuse of that constitution.
Really shrewd men, in such cases, follow the line of expediency, and shape the government to fit the nation. There is, however, something far better to be done, namely to shape the nation to fit the government. In the first case, to the extent that the government declines while the nation remains unchanged, expediency vanishes. But in the second case, everything changes simultaneously; the nation, carrying the government with it, supports it while it itself remains stable, and causes it to decline when it itself declines. Both remain at all times suited to each other.
The Corsican people are in that fortunate condition which makes possible the establishment of a good constitution; they can begin at the beginning, and take steps to prevent degeneration. Full of health and vigour, they can give themselves a government which will keep them healthy and vigorous. But even now the establishment of such a government will have certain obstacles to overcome. The Corsicans have not yet adopted the vices of other nations, but they have already adopted their prejudices; these prejudices are what will have to be combated and destroyed in order to create good institutions. PART I THE
advantageous location of the island of Corsica, and the fortunate natural qualities of its inhabitants, seem to offer them a reasonable hope of being able to become a flourishing people and to make their mark in Europe if, in the constitution they are thinking of adopting, they turn their sights in that direction. But the extreme exhaustion into which they have been plunged by forty years of uninterrupted warfare, the existing poverty of the island, and the state of depopulation and devastation in which it finds itself, will not allow them immediately to provide for an expensive form of administration, such as would be needed if they were to organise with such an end in view. Furthermore, a thousand insuperable obstacles would stand in the way of the execution of such a plan. Genoa, still mistress of a part of the seacoast and of almost all the seaports, would repeatedly crush their rising merchant marine, constantly exposed as it is to the double danger of the Genoese and of the Barbary pirates. The Corsicans would be able to control the seas only with the aid of warships, which would cost them ten times more than they could earn by trade. Exposed on land and sea, forced to defend themselves on all sides, what would become of them? At the mercy of everyone, unable in their weakness to make a single advantageous trade treaty, they would be dictated to by one and all; surrounded by so many risks, they would earn only such profits as others would not deign to take, profits which would always shrink to nothing. And if, by incredible good fortune, they were to overcome all these difficulties, their very prosperity, by attracting the attention of their neighbours, would be a new source of danger to their ill-established freedom. A constant object of covetousness to fee great powers and of jealousy to the small, their island would never for a moment cease to be threatened with a new enslavement from which it could never again be extricated.
No matter what object the Corsican nation may have in view in forming a constitution, the first thing it has to do is to give itself, by its own efforts, all the stability of which it is capable. No one who depends on others, and lacks resources of his own, can ever be free. Alliances, treaties, gentlemen's agreements, such things may bind the weak to the strong, but never the strong to the weak.
Leave negotiations, then, to the powers, and depend on yourselves only. Worthy Corsicans, who knows better than you how much can be done alone? Without friends, without support, without money, without armies, enslaved by formidable masters, single-handed you have thrown off the yoke. You have seen them ally against you, one by one, the most redoubtable potentates of Europe, and flood your island with foreign armies; all this you have surmounted. Your fortitude alone has accomplished what money could never have done; if you had sought to preserve your wealth, you would have lost your liberty. Do not draw conclusions about your own nation from the experience of others; rules drawn from your own experience are the best by which to govern yourselves.
It is not so much a question of becoming different as of knowing how to stay as you are. The Corsicans have improved greatly since becoming free; they have added prudence to courage, they have learned to obey their equals, they have acquired virtue and morality, and all this without the use of laws; if they could continue thus, I would see little need to do more. But when the danger that has united them grows distant, the factions which are now repressed will revive among them; and instead of joining forces for the maintenance of their independence, they will wear out those forces against one another, and will have none left for self-defence if the attack upon them is renewed. That even now is what you must forestall. The divisions of the Corsicans have ever been a trick of their masters to make them weak and dependent; but this trick, incessantly used, has finally resulted in a propensity to dissension, and has made them naturally restless, turbulent and hard to govern, even by their own leaders. Good laws and a new constitution are needed to re-establish that concord the very desire for which has hitherto been destroyed by tyranny. Corsica, when subject to foreign masters whose hard yoke was never patiently borne, was in. constant turmoil. Her people must now reconsider its position, and look in freedom for peace.
The following, then, are the principles which ought, in my opinion, to serve as the basis for their laws: to make use of their own people and their own country as far as possible; to cultivate and regroup their own forces; to depend on those forces only; and to pay no more attention to foreign powers than as if they did not exist.
Let us proceed on this basis to establish the fundamental rules of our new constitution.
The island of Corsica, being incapable of growing rich in money, should try to grow rich in men. The power derived from population is more real than that derived from finance, and is more certain in its effects. Since the use of manpower cannot be concealed from view, it always reaches its public objective. It is not thus with the use of money, which flows off and is lost in private destinations; it is collected for one purpose and spent for another; the people pay for protection, and their payments are used to oppress them. That is why a state rich in money is always weak, and a state rich in men is always strong.1
To multiply men it is necessary to multiply their means of subsistence; hence agriculture. By this I do not mean the art of theorising on agriculture, of setting up academies to talk about it, or of writing books on the subject. I mean a constitution which will lead a people to spread out over the whole extent of its territory, to settle there, and to cultivate it throughout; this will make it love country life and labour, finding them so replete with the necessaries and pleasures of life that it will have no wish to leave them.
A taste for agriculture promotes population not only by multiplying the means of human subsistence, but also by giving the body of the nation a temperament and a way of life conducive to an increased birth-rate. In all countries, the inhabitants of the countryside have more children than city-dwellers, partly as a result of the simplicity of rural life, which creates healthier bodies, and partly as a result of its severe working-conditions, which prevent disorder and vice. For, other things being equal, those women who are most chaste, and whose senses have been least inflamed by habits of pleasure, produce more children than others; and it is no less certain that men enervated by debauchery, the inevitable fruit of idleness, are less fit for generation than those who have been made more temperate by an industrious way of life.
Peasants are much more attached to their soil than are townsmen to their cities. The equality and simplicity of rural life have, for those acquainted with no other mode of existence, an attraction which leaves them with no desire to change it. Hence that satisfaction with his own way of life which makes a man peaceful; hence that love of country which attaches him to its constitution.
Tilling the soil makes men patient and robust, which is what is needed to make good soldiers. Those recruited from the cities are flabby and mutinous; they cannot bear the fatigues of war; they break down under the strain of marching; they are consumed by illnesses; they fight among themselves and fly before the enemy. Trained militias are the best and most reliable troops; the true education of a soldier is to work on a farm.
Agriculture is the only means of maintaining the external independence of a state. With all the wealth in the world, if you lack food you will be dependent on others; your neighbours can set any value they like on your money, since they can afford to wait. But the bread we need has an indisputable value for us; and in every kind of commerce, it is always the less eager party who dictates to the other. I admit that in a system based on financial power, it would be necessary to operate on different principles; it all depends on the final goal you have in view. Commerce produces wealth, but agriculture ensures freedom.
You may say that it would be better to have both; but they are incompatible, as we shall show presently.
In all countries, it will be added, the land is cultivated. True, just as there is more or less trade and commerce in all countries; but that is not to say that agriculture and commerce flourish everywhere. I am not concerned here with the consequences which flow from natural necessities, but with those which result from the nature of the government and general spirit of the nation.
Although the form of government adopted by a people is more often the work of chance and fortune than of its own choice, there are nevertheless certain qualities in the nature and soil of each country which make one government more appropriate to it than another; and each form of government has a particular force which leads people toward a particular occupation.
The form of government we choose must be, on the one hand, the least expensive, since Corsica is poor; and it must be, on the other hand, the most favourable to agriculture, since agriculture is, at the present time, the only occupation which can preserve to the Corsican people the freedom it has won, and give it the firmness it requires.
The least costly administration is that which has the shortest chain of command, and requires the smallest number of official categories. It is in general the republican, and in particular the democratic state.
source here Rousseau: Constitutional Project for Corsica