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tions of ment.
a part of it.
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 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
of it. Whatever disadvantage might attend the station at first allotted to the representatives of the people, it was soon to be compensated by the preponderance the people necessarily acquire, when they are enabled to act and move with method, and especially with concert.
« And indeed this privilege of naming re
presentatives insignificant as it might then reign, owing to appear, presently manifefted 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
Eleven confirmations of magna charta in Edward's
the influence of the commons.
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 enjoyment; and in the statute de tallagio non con- Statute de talliscedendo he decreed, that no tax should be gio non concelaid, nor impost levied, without the joint magna charta, consent of the lords and commons; a moft English constiimportant statute this, which, in conjunction with Magna Charta, forms the basis of the English constitution. 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 poffess; and the subsequent reigns afford continual instances of its successive growth. • De Lolme, c. iii. p. 41, & feq.
Under Edward II. the commons annex petitions to the
they granted subsidies. Under Edward
« Under Edward the Second, the commons
began to annex petitions to the bills, by bills, by which which they granted subsidies.; this was the
dawn of their legislative authority. Under III. they claim Edward the Third, they declared they would a right of consenting to every
not in future acknowledge any law, to which law,
they had not expressly assented. Soon after and of impeaching ministers of this, they exerted a privilege, in which constate.
fifts at this time one of the great balances of the constitution; they impeached, and procured to be condemned some of the first
ministers of state. Under Henry the Fourth, IV. they re
they refused to grant subsidies before an anfwer 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
taken up with its wars against France; and ther progrefs of in the reign of Henry the Sixth began the
fatal contests between the houses of York and Lancaster. The noise of arms alone was now to be heard ; during the silence of the laws already in being, no thought was had of enacting new ones; and for thirty years toge
fused to grant subsidies till answers were given to their petitions.
the Kars of the nation prevented any fur
the influence of the commons.
ther, England presents a wide scene of Naughter 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 fulfií, as well as injuries to avenge. In the mean time the people wearied 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 accuftomed to act only a second part in public princes of the 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
Commons and lords submissive to the first
D d 4
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 senate.
“ 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.
“ But the remembrance of their ancient Thenation kept
laws, of that great charter fo often and so principles of uberty. folemnly confirmed, was too deeply impres
fed on the minds of the English to be effaced by transitory evils. Like a deep and extenfive ocean, which preserves an equability of temperature amidst all the vicissitudes of feasons, 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, vided state.
“ Had it been like France divided into several distinct dominions, it would also have