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. up only to provide for the wants of the king,

and approve of the resolutions taken by him The advantage and the assembly of the lords. But it was of legally influencing the mo- nevertheless a great point gained to have tions of govern

obtained the right of uttering their complaints, assembled in a body, and in a legal way to have acquired, instead of the dangerous resource of insurrections, a lawful and regular mean of influencing the motions of the government, and thenceforth to have become a part of it. Whatever disadvantage might attend the station at first allotted to the representatives of the people, it was soon to be compenfated by the preponderance the people necessarily acquire, when they are enabled to act and move with method, and

especially with concert. Eleven confir- “ And indeed this privilege of naming remations of magna charta presentatives insignificant as it might then reign, owing to appear, presently manifested itself by the

most considerable effects. In spite of his reluctance, and after many evasions unworthy of so great a king, Edward was obliged to confirm the great charter ; he even confirmed it eleven times in the course of his reign. It was moreover enacted, that whatever should be done contrary to it should be null and

void; that it should be read twice a year in · all cathedrals; and that the penalty of excom


in Edward's

the influence of the commons.


te de Denne had be gio ron conce

the basis of the


munication should be denounced against any one, who should presume to violate it.

“ At length he converted into an established law a privilege, of which the English had hitherto had only a precarious enjoy.. ment; and in the statute de tallagio non con- se cedendo he decreed, that no tax should be

dendo, with laid, nor impoft levied, without the joint magna charta, consent of the lords and commons; a most English constie important statute this, which, in conjunction with Magna Charta, forms the basis of the English conftitution. If from the latter the English are to date the origin of their liberty, from the former they are to date the establishment of it; and as the great charter was the bulwark, that protected the freedom of individuals, so was the statute in question the engine, which protected the charter itself, and by the help of which the people were thenceforth to make legal conquests over the authority of the crown.”

* « The representatives of the nation, and of the whole nation, were now admitted into parliament ; the 'great point therefore was gained, that was one day to procure them the great influence, which they at present possess; and the subsequent reigns afford continual instances of its successive growth. * De Lolme, c. iii. p. 41, & feq. .

Dd3 . “ Under

II. the commons annex petitions to the





subsidies till answers were given to their petitions.

. Under Edward “Under Edward the Second, the commons

began to annex petitions to the bills, by

which they granted subsidies.; this was the they granted subsidies. dawn of their legislative authority. Under Under Edward Edward the Third, they declared they would III. they claim a right of con-, not in future acknowledge any law, to which senting to every 10

they had not expressly assented. Soon after and of impeach

this, they exerted a privilege, in which consists at this time one of the great balances of the constitution; they impeached, and pro

cured to be condemned some of the first Under Hen. ministers of state. Under Henry the Fourth, IV. they re. fused to grant they refused to grant subsidies before an an

.fwer had been given to their petitions. In

a word, every event of any consequence was

attended, with an increase of the power of the The progress of

commons; increases indeed but now and gralegal and sure.

dual, but which were peaceably and legally effected, and were the more fit to engage the attention of the people, and coalesce with the

ancient principles of the constitution. Under From Hen. V. Henry the Fifth, the nation was entirely nation pre. taken up with its wars against France; and vented any further progress of in the reign of Henry the Sixth began the the influence of the commons." fatal contests between the houses of York

and Lancaster. The noise of arms alone was now to be heard ; during the filence of the laws already in being, no thought was had of enacting new ones; and for thirty years toge


their influence

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the Kars of the

the commons.

ther, England presents a wide scene of slaughter and desolation.

"At length, under Henry the Seventh, who, by his intermarriage with the house of York, united the pretensions of the two families, a general peace was re-established, and the prospect of happier days seemed to open on, the nation. But the long and violent agitation, under which it had laboured, was to be followed by a long and painful recovery. Henry mounting the throne with sword in hand, and in great measure as a conqueror, had promises to fulfil, as well as injuries to avenge. In the mean time the people wea-, ried out by the calamities they had undergone, and longing only for repose abhorred even the idea of resistance ; so that the remains of an almost exterminated nobility beheld themselves left defenceless, and abandoned to the mercy of the sovereign. .“ The commons on the other hand accuf- Wild Thimillive tomed to act only a second part in public to the firft.. affairs, and finding themselves bereft of those, house of Tudor. who had hitherto been their leaders, were more than ever afraid to form of themselves an opposition. Placed immediately as well as the lords under the eye of the king, they beheld themselves exposed to the same dangers; like them therefore they purchased their

Dd4 personal

r. Commons and

princes of the

in view the

personal security at the expence of public
liberty; and in reading the history of the two
first kings of the house of Tudor, we ima-,
gine ourselves reading the relation given by
Tacitus, of Tiberius and the Roman fenate.
.“ The time therefore seemed to be arrived,
at which England must submit in its turn
to the fate of the other nations of Europe,
all those barriers, which it had raised for the
defence of its liberty, seemed to have only
been able to postpone the inevitable effects

of power. Thenation kept

" But the remembrance of their ancient

laws, of that great charter fo often and so principles of

folemnly confirmed, was too deeply impressed on the minds of the English to be effaced by transitory evils. Like a deep and extenfive ocean, which preserves an equability of temperaturę amidst all the vicissitudes of seasons, England still retained those principles of liberty, which were so universally diffused through all orders of the people, and they required only a proper opportunity to manifest themselves.

“ England besides still continued to possess the immense advantage of being one undi, yided state.

“ Had it been like France divided into several distinct dominions, it would also have



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