William Smith O'Brien

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William Smith O'Brien

William Smith O'Brien (Liam Mac Gabhann Ó Briain; 17 October 1803 – 18 June 1864) was an Irish nationalist, a leader of the Young Ireland (Éire Óg) movement, and a founder of the Ossianic Society.


Principles of Government: Or Meditations in Exile (1856)[edit]

Introductory Remarks[edit]

  • Peculiarities of national character, traditional ideas, feelings, and habits, as well as local circumstances of various kinds must be taken into account in moulding the political institutions of each country.

Chapter I. On the Origin of Different Kinds of Government[edit]

  • Oligarchies have generally sprung from the ruins either of monarchy or of democracy. When supreme power falls into the hands of a weak sovereign, the great nobles encroach upon the prerogatives of the monarch. In democracies particular families or individuals acquire, by their talents, their wealth, or their virtues, an influence which loses its original character of responsibility, and becomes permanent and self-dependent.

Chapter II. On Centralized and Local Administration[edit]

  • History supplies us with examples of almost every possible modification of government.
  • A people desirous to preserve their freedom cannot be too jealous in watching the encroachment of a centralizing spirit.

Chapter V. On the Representation of the People[edit]

  • Secret voting tends to check the mercenary traffic which often takes place between the candidate and the elector.

Chapter VIII. On the Privileges and Functions of the Legislature[edit]

  • All power which is exercised, not according to known rules, but according to discretion, is arbitrary power; and "arbitrary power" has become a synonym for tyranny. Whilst, therefore, it is essential to the public interest that each branch of the legislature should possess the privileges which are necessary for the efficient exercise of its duties, it is also expedient that such privileges should be defined and limited by law.

Chapter XIII. On the Prerogatives of the Executive[edit]

  • An officer who is liable to be dismissed upon every change of Government naturally feels little interest in performing faithfully the duties of his situation. His thoughts are rather directed to the necessity of making provision for the contingency of a change. If he be corrupt in principle, he is subjected to a temptation which is almost irresistible.

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