Best Form of Government

Best Form of Government. -- In the 1a 2ae, question 105, article first, we find St. Thomas' opinion on the best form of government. If we consider merely the words he uses it would be said that he pronounces in favor of a limited monarchy; but if we go below the words and consider the principles on which his conclusion is based, it will appear that the Angelic Doctor was not averse to a republic, and I believe that if he were living to-day he would be an ardent supporter of our form of government. "One of the principal things to be considered," he wrote, "with regard to the good establishment of princes [rulers] is that all should have some part in the government; for in this way peace is preserved amongst the people, and all are pleased with such a disposition of things and maintain it. The next thing to be considered is the form of government, of which there are principally two kinds: a Kingdom, in which one rules, and an Aristocracy, in which a few exercise the authority. The best form is that in which one rules over all, and under him there are others having authority, but the government pertains to all, because those who exercise authority can be chosen from all and are chosen by all. . . . Hence the best government is a mixture of a Kingdom, of Aristocracy and of Democracy, i.e., of the power of the people, inasmuch as the rulers can be chosen from the people, and the election of the rulers belongs to the people." There is a vast amount of good republicanism and of sound democracy in these words. First, by the kind or monarch St. Thomas means nothing more than some one is to represent the governing authority. Secondly, the aristocracy means those who exercise a salutary restraint on the power of the head of the government; because if there were no restraint the power of the king, says St. Thomas (ad 2um), would easily degenerate into a tyranny. Congressmen and senators, for instance, would supply the demand for an aristocracy. Lastly, St. Thomas says that neither kingdom nor an aristocracy will form a stable government unless the element of democracy is introduced by permitting the choice of the rulers from the people and by the people, that thus all may have some part in the government. These words lead us to believe that if St. Thomas were living to-day he would be a republican or a democrat.

Specimen Pages from the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas

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