We have said that an independent nation, which, without becoming a member of another state, has voluntarily rendered itself dependent on or subject to it in order to obtain protection, is released from its engagements as soon as that protection fails, even though the failure happen through the inability of the protector. But we are not to conclude that it is precisely the same case with every nation that cannot obtain speedy and effectual protection from its natural sovereign or the state of which it is a member.
The two cases are very different. In the former, a free nation becomes subject to another state,—not to partake of all the other’s advantages, and form with it an absolute union of interests (for if the more powerful state were willing to confer so great a favour, the weaker one would be incorporated, not subjected),—but to obtain protection alone by the sacrifice of its liberty, without expecting any other return.
When therefore the sole and indispensable condition of its subjection is (from what cause soever) not complied with, it is free from its engagements; and its duty towards itself obliges it to take fresh methods to provide for its own security. But the several members of one individual state, as they all equally participate in the advantages it procures, are bound uniformly to support it: they have entered into mutual engagements to continue united with each other, and to have on all occasions but one common cause.
If those who are menaced or attacked might separate themselves from the others in order to avoid a present danger, every state would soon be dismembered and destroyed. It is then essentially necessary for the safety of society, and even for the welfare of all its members, that each part should with all its might resist a common enemy, rather than separate from the others; and this is consequently one of the necessary conditions of the political association.
The natural subjects of a prince are bound to him without any other reserve than the observation of the fundamental laws;—it is their duty to remain faithful to him, as it is his, on the other hand, to take care to govern them well: both parties have but one common interest; the people and the prince together constitute but one complete whole, one and the same society. It is then an essential and necessary condition of the political society, that the subjects remain united to their prince, as far as in their power.
When, therefore, a city or a province is threatened or actually at- tacked, it must not, for the sake of escaping the danger, separate itself from the state of which it is a member, or abandon its natural prince, even when the state or the prince is unable to give it immediate and effectual assistance. Its duty, its political engagements, oblige it to make the greatest efforts, in order to maintain itself in its present state. If it is overcome by force,—necessity, that irresistible law, frees it from its former engagements, and gives it a right to treat with the conqueror, in order to obtain the best terms possible.
If it must either submit to him or Perish, who can doubt but that it may and even ought to prefer the former alternative? Modern usage is conformable to this decision:—a city submits to the enemy when it cannot expect safety from a vigorous resistance; it takes an oath of fidelity to him; and its sovereign lays the blame on fortune alone.