« PreviousContinue »
emplified the doctrine of resistance, when the executive magistrate endeavours to subvert. the constitution; have maintained the superiority of the laws above the king, by pronouncing his dispensing power to be illegal; have indulged tender consciences with every religious liberty consistent with the fafety of the state; have established triennial, since turned into feptennial elections of members to serve in parliament; have excluded certain officers from the house of commons; have restrained the king's pardon from obstructing parliamentary impeachments; have imparted to all the lords an equal right of trying their fellow peers; have regulated trials for high treason; have afforded our posterity a hope, that corruption of blood may one day be abolished and forgotten; have (by the desire of his present majesty) set bounds to the civil list, and placed the administration of that revenue in hands, that are accountable to parliament; and have (by the like desire) made the judges completely independent of the king, his ministers, and his successors. Yet, though these provisions have in appearance and nominally reduced the strength of the executive power to a much lower ebb than in the preceding period ; if on the other hand we throw into the opposite scale (what
A a 4
perhaps the immoderate reduction of the antient prerogative may have rendered in some degree necessary) the vast acquisition of force arising from the riot-act, and the annual expence of a standing army, and the vaft acquisition of personal attachment arising from the magnitude of the national debt, and the manner of levying these yearly millions, that are appropriated to pay the interest, we shall find, that the crown has gradually and imperceptibly gained almost as much inAuence, as it has apparently lost in preroga
С НА Р.
CHA P. XIII.
OF THE HOUSE OF PEERS.
F the two branches of the legislature
I shall first consider the house of lords, of which Mr. Acherly, in his theoretic plan or directions for the Britannic constitution, speaks thus : *«.That the house of lords, General end besides their part in the legislature, should th
and spirit of
the house of be invested with, and should have, as inter. pe woven in their constitution, these special powers and privileges, viz. that their right of peerage should be deemed a special trust for the whole government; that they should have the dernier resort only in all matters of judicature, and the sole judicature of impeachments commenced and profecuted by the commons; and that it should be deemed an essential part of that judicature to take cognizances of those impeachments, and to hear and determine the matters therein charged; and the reason he gave for investing them with the dernier resort was, lest illegal judgments in inferior judicatures should creep in, and by little and little undermine and change
the fundamental form and principles of this constitution, of which there might be some danger, in regard the judges would be necessarily of the king's sole nomination and appointment.
« But in questions of property, where the claims on either side shall not be mixed with equity, this ultimate judicature should (without additions to supply defects) give the same judgments, as are prescribed by the strict and positive laws in being; because these laws should be every man's birthright, and should have no controuler, nor be controuled by any judicature (except only by that power, which is to be legislative, in which every man's consent is to be involved ;) for if a law and rule of property be made, and a man's cafe shall not be determined by it, the law and the authority of the makers would be vain and nu
gatory.” All laues at all. In the earliest traces of any legislative acts times made with the advice palica
dvice passed in this country, we constantly find ex
press and unambiguous mention made of the advice and assistance of the great men (magnates) barons, prelates, archbishops, bishops, vavafours, earls, ( comites,) &c. under which names, appellations, and descriptions fome monarchical and aristocratical writers have indeed pretended to doubt, whether com
of the great men,
moners were included; but not even the strongest republican writers have ever questioned or denied, that the first orders and ranks of men, or the nobility and dignified clergy were regularly summoned to parliament. Notwithstanding the present rage against the aristocratic part of our constitution, it is curious to consult the opinion of a very determined and staunch republican * upon the subject. “ An army,” says he, Aristocracy ne“ may as well consist of soldiers without of- con ficers, or of officers without foldiers, as a commonwealth (especially such a one as is capable of greatness) consist of a people without gentry, or of a gentry without a people. There is something' first in the making of a commonwealth ; then in the governing of it; and last of all in the leading of its armies, which (though there be great divines, great lawyers, great men in all professions) seems to be peculiar only to the genius of a gentleman.”
In explaining and accounting for the ariftocratical part of our constitution, it may be expected, that I should trace not only the source and origin of this branch of the legisacure, but also that I should delineate
* James Harrington, the celebrated author of Oceana. Vid. Tolland's Anglia libera, p. 59. ,