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CH A P. VI.
OF THE EFFECTS OF DENYING TRUE PRIN
true source and
TT has been usual for most writers both an
I cient and modern, in discussing the subject of our constitution, to endeavour to trace its origin from the earliest antiquity, and to identify its form and substance through all the various modifications, changes, reformations, and revolutions, which it has undergone since the first establishment of society, or of a community in this country. I beg the liberty of following a very different course. I establish Principle the a principle, which, if it ever existed, must now origin of our exist, and if it now exist, must have always existed; for what gives existence to a principle, is its universal and invariable truth, which, if it exist in one moment, must essentially have exifted from all eternity; I need not, therefore, feek for its importation into this island by the Trojan prince Brutus ; nor enquire whether it were borrowed by our British ancestors from their Gallic neighbours; nor whether it were the peculiar growth of our native Soil ; whether it grew out of the hedge-rowed towns or encampments of our warlike ances
from all eternity
tors, or issued out of the sanctuaries of their mysterious Druids; whether it were imposed upon them by heathen Rome, or infused into them by Christian Rome; whether it were transplanted from Germany with our Saxon conquerors and progenitors, nor whether it attended the despotism of the Norman conqueror; nor, in a word, whether it flourished with vigour and luxuriancy, or withered in apparent decay, under the several houses of Tudor, Stuart, Nassau, and Brunswick.
At this moment, this principle, the fovereignty of power ever did, and now does, unalienably reside in the people, exists, because it is universally and invariably true; and it must for ever have existed with the same force and efficacy, that it now does; for universal truth excludes all degrees. From this invariable and ever operative principle have arisen all the various changes, innovations, and improvements, which have at different times been effected in our constitution and government, by the means of reformation and revolution. The coercive introduction or imposition of new laws by the force of arms, can never make a part of the constitution and government of a free people, till they have been voluntarily submitted to, recognized, accepted, or confirmed by the act of the commu
nity.* I shall hereafter have occasion, and, indeed, be under the necessity of considering more minutely the application of this princi. ple to what we commonly call the reformation and the revolution.
Unfortunately for this country, the different occurrences, which have from time to time brought these political topics into discussion, have been productive of so much acrimony, venom, and heat, that the cool voice of rea- Heat of party
has prevented son has been seldom heard by either party, cool discussion. and consequently, conviction of the mind has rarely followed the discussion. For it is very certain, that few or none of the political writers of those days of animosity, either could or would separate, on one side, the principle, “ that a supreme power resides in the people” from rebellion and treason; or, on the other side, distinguish between the legal prerogative of a lawful monarch, and the unwarrantable despotism of an ufurping tyrant. It is the frequent boast of most modern writers, and of all modern theorists, that we live in an age enlightened beyond all others, and consequently, that our present existence exalts us, in ability and information, far above the level
* « Laws they are not, therefore, which public approbation hath not made so." Hooker's Eccl. Pol. I. i. fect, 10,
of our ancestors and predecessors. I have already declared myself to be little fattered with the advantage, though I will not diffemble, that the prepossession of such a conviction must, in a great measure, counteract the pernicious, though frequent, effects of hereditary and systematical prejudices. The learned bishop of Worcester, in talking of the impotent threats and attempts of the fee of Rome to depose our sovereigns, says, that the Papists used all their ingenuity to justify and establish it; and that * « one of their contrivances was, by searching into the origin of civil power,
which they brought rightly, though for this The mainte. wicked purpose, from the people; for they nance of true principles un- concluded, that if the regal power could be fairly attributed to corrupt mo. shewn to have no divine right, but to be of
human and even popular institution, the liberty, which the pope took in deposing kings, would be less invidious.” The maintenance of this doctrine cannot, I think, be fairly attributed to any such motive; for when the popes of Rome so foolishly assumed the right of deposing temporal sovereigns, they evidently founded their idle pretensions upon the spiritual supremacy, which they claimed over all Christians; they must conse
* Dr. Hurd's Moral and Political Dialogues, vòl, îi. p. 300.
quently have conceived a better, and might have set up a right more plausible in those days, in quality of Christ's vice-gerents upon earth, to dispose of rights holden by this spi. ritual jure divino tenure, than of such as were merely of a secular or temporal nature. For the popes have always been allowed, by all Roman catholics, a power to dispense, in certain cases, with spiritual, obligations, such as yows or promises made by individuals immediately to Almighty God; but never to difpense with, or annul a civil or moral obligation of one individual to another, so as to weaken or defeat the rights of a third person. The learned prelate, however, very fairly accounts for the former prevalence of the opposite doctrine throughout this nation. * « The protestant The maintedivines went into the other extreme; and to principles attrisave the person of their sovereign, preached dable motive. up the doctrine of divine right. Hooker, superior to every prejudice, followed the truth; but the rest of the reforming and reformed divines stuck to the other opinion, which, as appears from the homilies, the Institution of a Christian Man, and the general stream of writings in those days, became the opinion of the church, and was, indeed, the received pro
nance of false
buted to a lau
* Dr. Hurd's Moral and Political Dialogues, vol. ii., P. 301.
K 3 testant