Page images

member of the community I am bounden, under the penalties of high treason (and the community have a right to bind me) to keep my opinion to myself: for *“ if any person is responses Thall, by writing or printing, maintain and dedy it. affirm, that the kings or queens of this realm, with and by the authority of parliament, are. not able to make laws and statutes of sufficient validity to limit the crown, and the descent, inheritance, and government thereof, every such person shall be guilty of high treason.” This act is as coercive upon me at this moment, as it was binding upon all my predecessors, who were living at the time of its passing into a law. The act neither gives nor declares any new rights, but emphatically imports such a reverential and awful conviction, that the supreme or sovereign right and power of forming and changing our government, ever did and ever must reside in the people, that makes it treasonable (not to think) but to exprefs a thought to the con


* 4th Ann, c. vii. and 6th Ann, C. viä.





HE avowal of the principles, which 1 I have already endeavoured to establish, induces the mortifying necessity of arguing upon the revolution, in a manner different from that great personage, whose talents and virtues are the ornament and glory of the present age : *“ They threw a politic well wrought veil over every circumstance tending to weaken the rights, which, in the meliorated order of succession, they meant to perpetuate, or which might furnish a precedent for any future departure from what they had then settled for ever." No wonder that the malcontents of the present day, when not permitted to attribute effects to their real causes, should fly into any extra

vagancy, which can be proposed to them. Mischief of de- Unlimited is the mischief of not avowing, or nying or dis. sembling true of denying or dissembling true principles. I principles.

neither see the policy, nor admit of the ne

• Mr. Burke's Relections on the Revolution in France, Po 25.


cellity of putting extreme cases to elucidate the truth of our constitutional doctrine; but, though I make the largest allowances for the indelicacy, the indiscretion, the imprudence, the insolence, or the malice of this practice, still do I see less evil in the consequences, than in one attempt to deny or dissemble the truth of the first principles of civil government. Since this nation or community has de- Acts of parlia

ment the only posed its sovereign power with parliamentary acts of the peo

romantive there non hann ple of England. deputies or representatives, there can be no · act of parliament, which is not the act of the

people of England ; nor can there be an act of the people of England, which is not an act of the parliament of England; whatever, therefore, may be said of the one, may also with strictness be said of the other. If therefore this sense and meaning be properly attended to, little offence, or even displeasure, can be taken at most of the propositions, that have been lately hazarded by the different leaders or fomenters of the discontented minority. Thus, if we come truly and impartially to consider the three rights, which Dr. Price reminded his audience, at the Old Jewry, were gained by the revolution, we shall find nothing faise in his politicotheologic assertion, but that we gained


[blocks in formation]

them by the revolution ; for the revolution gave no rights to the community, which the community did not before posess; but, by affording an opportunity of calling these rights into action, like all other practical examples, it threw light upon the principles, from which the rights themselves originated.

The first of these is, the right to liberty of conscience in religious matters. I have before said, and, I hope, to the conviction of my readers, that this is a right poffesed by every individual in such a transcendent and indefeasible manner, that he essentially holds it independently of the community. The second is the right of resisting power when abused. Having before shewn, I hope also to the conviction of iny readers, that all political power given or delegated by the community, is a trust, and consequently limited within certain bounds, it is evident and clear, that the community cannot be bound to submit to any excess of power, which they themselves have not assented to. This affent is formally given by every one, who continues to remain a member of that community, which delegated the power to the parliament; and it is this assent, that constitutes the original compact between the governors and governed. The actual limitation of any


political power, is a metaphysical demonstration that it originated from; and depends upon a superior; who formed the limits. The transgression of these limits is a violation of the trust; it is either usurpation or tyranny, and consequently a direct breach of the original compact on the part of the governors; the governed cease to be bound to a power not assented to by them; there arises then a diffolution of the government, and the people have a right to resist the exactions of this assumed or usurped authority.

The third of these rights, which Dr. Price represents as gained or obtained by the revolution is, * The right to chuse our own governors, to cashier them for misconduct, and to frame a government for ourselves. The general substance of these propositions is certainly true; but the method, which this zealous apostle of liberty has adopted to convey the truth to his

• Dr. Price, in the same sermon, p: 35. “I would further direct you to remember, that though the revolu. tion was a great work, it was by no means a perfe. work; and that all was not then gained, which was ne. cessary to put the kingdom in the secure and complete poffeffion of the blessings of liberty. In particular, you shquld recollect, that the toleration then obtained was imperfect; it included only chose, who could declare their faith in the doctrinal anicles of the church of England.”



« PreviousContinue »