Page images

ftrates, who are particularly entrusted with the administration of justice.

« This conduct of the parliament provides an admirable remedy for the accidental disorders of the state. For though by the wise distribution of the powers of government great usurpations are become in a manner impracticable, nevertheless it is impossible, but that in consequence of the continual, though silent efforts of the executive power to extend itself, abuses will at lengh Nide in. But here the powers wisely kept in reserve by the parliament, afford the means of remedying them. ' At the end of each reign the civil lift, and consequently that kind of independence, which it procured, are at an end. The successor finds, a throne, a sceptre, and a An opportunity crown; but he finds neither power, nor even of each reign to dignity; and before a real possession of all &c. these things is given him, the parliament have it in their power to take a thorough review of the state, as well as correct the several abuses, that may have crept in during the preceding reign; and thus the constitution may be brought back to its first princi

at the beginning

review the state


Some of the rights, liberties, and privileges. of the lords and commons, which in fact greatly moderate and controul the preroga

[ocr errors]

edies against the


tive, power, and influence of the crown, will be more properly noticed, when I come to treat of those two branches of the legislature separately.

Although the constitution has placed the sacred person of the sovereign in fo fecure and exalted a station, as not to be in any manner liable to any vindictive, penal, or even mortifying and humiliating process, upon

the political principle of his inability to do Crimes of minif- wrong; yet it has not left the community

without its remedy in every case, in which it might be injured. Such crimes or offences, either of ministers or others, as amount to high treason, I shall consider hereafter. * “ But as to offences of a lower kind, fuch as the evil advice of ministers influencing the king, not indeed to exceed the limits of his power, but to abuse the discretion, with which his people have intrusted him, the proceeding by impeachment of the commons for high crimes and misdemeanors is a complete remedy, and according to the degree and height of the offences the judgment may be proportioned in parliament.” Nay the constitution is so respeĉtfully tender of the person, character, and reputation of the loves reign, that it makes his ministers responsible for every circumstance, that can operate to the prejudice or injury of any of them. *“ Measures of the greater severity may indeed in some circumstances be necessary; but the minister, who advises should take the execution and odium of them entirely upon himself. He not only betrays his master, but violates the spirit of the English con, stitution, when he exposes the chief magistrate to the personal hatred or contempt of his subjects. And the reputation of public measures depends upon the minister, who is responsible, not upon the king, whose private opinions are not supposed to have any weight against the advice of his council, whose per- The king's per.

* Considerations on the Law of Forfeiture, p. 117.

fonal authority fonal authority should therefore never be interposed in public affairs. This, I believe, me more in public is true constitutional doctrine.”

It ever is a point of peculiar delicacy and Indelicacy in tenderness, to speak of extreme cases, which, treme cases. though without all human probability, are still within the actual possibility of human occurrences. “ It is,” says Mr. Yorke, +" scarce consistent with that modesty, which the professors of the law observe in putting

not to !


* Junius, Letter xxxv. 3d April, 1770. Considerations on the Law of Forfeiture, p. 115.


cases relative to statutes of this kind, to propose any other than those, which have existed in fact, or fall clearly within the letter of them.” In order to give my readers the more complete satisfaction upon this subject, I shall again recur to the respectable authority of this learned and constitutional

author. Cases tending * « Now if any one think, in case the to a dissolution of government. king should unhappily and obstinately interest

his person, in supporting the actions of his ministers against the clear and established laws of the land, that the principles of a conftitution so limited and controuled in all the parts of it seem to warrant the providing of a judicial remedy against him, as against another magistrate or minister of state, the answer to this chimæra is plain; that every constitution of government has its peculiar cafes tending to dissolution, beyond the power of any stated remedy, even though it be the mixt form of government, which both avoids those, to which other forms are subject, and is less frequently in danger from such convulfions, as are proper to itself. The English government therefore notwithstanding its du.

* Confiderations on the Law of Forfeiture, p. 118, & feq.


rable nature, and singular advantages, partaking in so large a degree of monarchy, the case here proposed would be a case tending to dissolution, not to be subjected to the ordinary provisions of law. The reigns of Charles I. and James II. are evidence of this; and it arises from the nature of the thing; because the king of England (unlike the kings of Sparta or Arragon, with their Ephori and El Giusticia, officers appointed to inspect and judge their actions) is not only a magistrate or general, but composes an essential part of the supreme power; so that, on the one hand, should a future king attempt to subject the crown and people to a foreign yoke, or to set up a general dispensing power by proclamation, to controul the operation of all the laws, these would be cases manifestly tending to diffolution. Or should he summon the lords to assist him in making laws, without the representative body of the commons, and the lords instead of mediating, should support him in the arbitrary design of excluding the commons from a share in the legislature, it would be a case tending to dissolution; and though the law will not suppose the possibility of the wrong, since it cannot mark out or assist the remedy, yet every member of that representative body might exclaim in


« PreviousContinue »