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Excerpt from the Staats-Lexikon: "Constitution" (1845-1848)

In the entry "Constitution," published in the Staats-Lexikon (1845-1848), Carl von Rotteck carefully distinguishes between constitutional and absolutist forms of government, the forms between which Europe would ultimately have to choose. Von Rotteck was Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Freiburg and co-editor of the Staats-Lexikon, a dictionary of political terms, which included entries by proponents of constitutional government and authors affiliated with political liberalism.

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Thus, the constitutional system, as it has taken shape since the beginning of the North American and the French Revolution, the latter of which had a more direct impact on Europe, is in theory completely, and in practice at least approximately, in conformity with the system of a purely rational constitutional law [Staatsrecht], applied everywhere to current or historical circumstances.

1) The leading tenet of this system is as follows: The authority of the state is a social authority, accordingly an authority emanating from the whole and continuously belonging to it; i.e., it is nothing other than the overall will of society's members acting within the spheres determined by the social contract. Therefore, any authority that is lordly, any that emanates from property rights, any that comes directly from Heaven, any based on a patriarchal title, etc., or on any title other than the social contract is out of the question; or at least that authority, even if it originally emanated from another title and is now historically and lawfully extant, must be formally and substantively regulated and limited in such a way that, through its activity and orderly interaction with the governed, the rule of the general will will be realized as faithfully and as reliably as possible.

2) To this end, the first and most indispensable requirement is a lively spokesmanship for the whole of the governed, and that is – since what we have in mind here, at least chiefly, if not exclusively, are those states that, as a result of their considerable size, presumably cannot assemble the whole of their citizens in a single community of state – a representative body charged with such spokesmanship, which represents the whole [community] in nature and truth, and thus is freely elected.

3) Between this regional or popular representation and the instated regional government there must exist such a division of powers, or such a relationship of the forces of activity and resistance, that the rule of the true, sensible, and enduring general will is preserved as much as possible, and the domination of any individual will, or any will that is momentarily misled or only seems to represent the general will, is prevented.

4) This is achieved most reliably by the transfer or delegation of the overwhelming part of the legislative power, including the right of taxation, to the national representative body and, by contrast, that of the administrative power to the instated government; both, however, should not be without the controlling or inhibiting or accountability-demanding authority essential to two respective bodies that alternately confront each other and are called to common action.

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