« PreviousContinue »
When I say, that all the political power, which is possessed by the king, lords, and commons in this nation, is the free gift of the people, in the same breath I admit, that by this gift the constitution and government of this country are brought to the highest possible degree of perfection, of which any human institution of this nature is capable. Superficially, indeed, must they view this investiture of power, who fancy, because the
power is a trust, that magistrates therefore have The delegation duties, but noʻrights. The perfection of a gift rights, as well depends not only upon the excellency of the
boon, but also upon the efficacy of the means, by which the receiver is enabled to defend, preserve, and improve the enjoyment of it. I have before faid, that the community can only act for its welfare and preservation ; and it is truly admirable to contemplate the wisdom and fagacity, with which, by our conftitution, each branch of the legislature is enabled to defend and preserve the rights and
powers, which have been respectively deleand prevents gated to them. The object of this delega
tion of power was, to render the dissolution of the government as difficult as possible; and the perfection of its execution is that stupendous equipoise of power, that renders it almost morally impossible, that one branch of
the legislature should out-balance another. Thus do we observe, from experience, that whatever be their derangement in a tem, porary convulsion of the state, they are fure to return, with peace and order, to their ancient level. And as in nature, the serene funfhine, which immediately succeeds a storm, adds peculiar lustre to the objects, which it irradiates, so most disturbances in our state have terminated in adding light and vigor to our constitutional rights and liberties. This is the halcyon view of our political confti. tuțion, which Dr. Kippis represents immediately after the revolution of 1688: *“ To Pleasing view be favoured with a form of government, of tion, by Dr.
Kippis. which liberty is the basis, is the greatest of all temporal blessings; and the nations, on which so noble a gift has been bestowed, appear with peculiar glory in the history of the world. It has been the happiness of Britain to possess this benefit in a high degree of perfection. The system of our government is not singly a 'democracy, an aristocracy, or a monarchy; but an excellent composition of the three. It adopts the advantages of these several schemes, and rejects their inconyeniencies; it assumes the equality of a de
• Dr. Kippis's Sermon preached at the Old Jury on the 4th of Nov. 1788, p. 24, 25.
of our constici.
mocracy, without its confusion; the wisdom and moderation of an aristocracy, in some respects, without its severity in others; and the vigour of a monarchy without its tyranny; and it admirably provides for the distinct exercise of the judicial authority. Hence, it presents a plan of power, which produces inore true freedom, than perhaps has yet been enjoyed by any community, in any period."
The rights, which attended this donation or investiture of power, I shall endeavour more particularly to illustrate, when I separately consider each branch of the legislature. I shall first however, beg leave to premise some leading observations, concerning the revolution and its principles and effects. As a member of the contented majority of this community or nation, I must from henceforth view and consider the supreme legislative power completely vested in our parliament; and in them am I to seek
the unalienable rights of the people, whom The right of the legislature they completely represent ; for in them the to alter the go- sovereignty of power to alter, change, amend,
and improve the conftitution and government of the community indefeasibly resides. Whatever mental objections I may conceive against the truth of this proposition, as a
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 High treafonto shall, by writing or printing, maintain and deny 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 predeceffors, 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 express a thought to the contrary.
4th Ann, c. yü. and 6th Ann, C. vii.
CH A P.
OF THE REVOLUTION, AND OF ITS PRINCIPLES
THE avowal of the principles, which
T 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 sembling true of denying or dissembling true principles. I principles.
neither see the policy, nor admit of the ne
nying or disc
• Mr. Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, p. 25.