John Robert Seeley
Introduction to Political Science
The number of Secretaries of State has largely increased. A department of local government and another of education has been formed. All this development has been contemporaneous with the development of parliamentary control over government. But observe now that the one development is wholly distinct from the other, independent of it, and proceeds from different causes. The distribution of the functions of government is made necessary by the growth of the community in magnitude and complexity. It is not an effect of the advance of popular principles, and it would take place none the less if there were no advance of popular principles. This remark is confirmed by history.
Some European states grew large and complex at a time when they were still under a despotic government. This is especially true of France, which in the earlier part of Louis XV's reign was the most civilised state, and in wealth, commerce, and colonies was still running an equal race with England, yet was under a government which was absolute and almost Byzantine. Was then France really governed by the person called Louis XV? Did he invent and issue laws, sit in law-courts, command armies and fleets? Of course he did not. He did not even exercise the general control which, if he had been an energetic man, would have been within his power. His personal government was perhaps almost as null as is that of the English Sovereign now. Yet France was under an absolute government.
The explanation is that the King's functions had been distributed among a number of officials. France was governed by a First Minister, a Chancellor, a Comptroller-General, a Minister of War, a Minister of Marine, a Minister of Police. Under these heads of departments intendants governed the provinces. But these officials in their several departments were, under a weak king, practically absolute. This shows us how despotism may take two forms. It may be completely in the hands of one man, but this is only possible where the state is small and simple. Where it is large and complex, and almost all modern states are of this kind, despotism tends to be distributed, not properly, as I said, among many, but among a number of ones. A clumsy name has been invented for despotism so distributed. It is called bureaucracy, and this is practically the chief form of despotism known to the modern world. The Assembly being absent, or if not absent insignificant, bureaucracy is none the less despotic because it divides power among many hands.