Page images
PDF
EPUB

establimh a de.

vernment in

Circumstances designs; distrust took poffeffion of the nawhich led to the fall of Charles I. tion; certain ambitious persons availed them.'

felves of it to promote their own views; and the storm, which seemed to have blown over burst forth anew ; the contending fanaticism of persecuting sects joined in the conflict between regal haughtiness and the ambition of individuals; the tempest blew from every point of the compass; the constitution was rent asunder, and Charles exhibited in his fall an awful example to the uni

verse. Vain efforts to “ The regal power being thus annihilated, mocratical go- the English made fruitless attempts to subEngland.

stitute a republican government in its stead.
" It was a curious spectacle;' says Montes-
quieu, ' to behold the vain efforts of the English
to establis among themselves a democracy.'
Subjected at first to the power of the princi-
pal leaders in the long parliament, they saw
that power expire, only to pass without
bounds into the hands of a protector. They
saw it afterwards parcelled out among the
chiefs of different bodies of troops ; and thus
shifting without end from one kind of sub-
jection to another, they were at length con-
vinced, that an attempt to establish liberty
in a great nation, by making the people in-
terfere in the common business of govern-,

ment,

ment, is of all attempts the most chimerical; that the authority of all, with which men are amused, is in reality no more than the authority of a few powerful individuals, who divide the republic among themselves; and they at last rested in the bosom of the only conftitution, which is fit for a great state and a free people; I mean that, in which a chosen number deliberate, and a single hand exe·cutes; but in which, at the same time, the public satisfaction is rendered, by the general relation and arrangement of things, a necessary condition of the duration of government.” : I shall reserve the consideration of the usurpation and protectorate for the last chapter, into which it will be more orderly introduced. *“ Charles the Second therefore was called Restoration of

Charles II. over; and he experienced on the part of the people that enthusiasm of affection, which usually attends the return from a long alienation. He could not however bring himself to forgive them the inexpiable crime, of which he looked upon them to have been guilty. He saw with the deepest concern, that they still entertained their former notions with regard to the nature of the royal · prerogative, and bent upon the recovery * De Lolme, ibidem, p. 54. & feq.

Lerer .

rogative.

of the ancient powers of the crown, he only waited for an opportunity to break those promises, which had procured his restoration.

“ But the very eagerness of his measures frustrated their success. His dangerous alliances on the continent, and the extravagant wars, in which he involved England, joined

to the frequent abuse he made of his authoNeceflity of li- -rity, betrayed his designs. The eyes of the miting the pre

nation were foon opened, and saw into his - projects; when convinced at length, that nothing but fixed irresistible bounds can be an effectual check on the views and efforts of power, they resolved finally to take away those remnants of despotism, which still made

a part of the regal prerogative... Liberty im. « The military services due to the crown, Charles II the remains of the ancient feudal tenures, had

been already abolished; the laws against heretics were now repealed; the statute for holding parliaments once at least in three years was enacted; the Habeas Corpus act, that barrier of the subject's personal safety, was established ; and such was the patriotism of the parliaments, that it was under a king the most destitute of principle, that liberty received its most efficacious supports.

• At length, on the death of Charles began a reign, which affords a most exemplary

lesson

proved under

an express conie,

king and peo

lution.

tion.

leffon, both to kings and people ; for when the throne was declared vacant, and a new line of succession was established, care was had to repair the breaches, that had been made in the constitution, as well as to prevent new ones; and advantage was taken of the rare Advantage of opportunity of entering into an original and pact between express compact between king and people. ple at the revo.

“ An oath was required of the new king more precise, than had been taken by his predecessors; and it was consecrated as a perpetual formula of such oaths. It was de- Liberties ascer-,

tained or gained termined, that to impose taxes without the at the revoluconsent of parliament, as well as to keep up a standing army in time of peace are contrary to law. The power, which the crown had constantly claimed, of dispensing with the laws was abolished. It was enacted, that the subject, of whatever rank or degree, had a right to present petitions to the king. Lastly the key-stone was put to the arch by the final establishment of the liberty of the press.

“ The revolution of 1689 is therefore the the revolution third grand æra in the history of the conftitu- pletion of our

liberty. tion of England. The great charter had marked out the limits, within which the royal authority ought to be confined ; some outworks were raised in the reign of Edward Еe

the

was the com

the First; but it was at the revolution, that the circumvallation was completed.

« It was at this æra, that the true principles of civil society were fully established. By the expulsion of a king, who had violated his oath, the doctrine of resistance, that ultimate resource of an oppressed people, was confirmed beyond a doubt. By the exclusion given to a family hereditarily defpotic, it was finally determined, that nations are not the property of kings. The principles of passive obedience, the divine and indefeasible right of kings, in a word, the whole scaffolding of false and superstitious notions, by which the royal authority had till then been supported, fell to the ground, and in the room of it were substituted the more folid and durable foundations of the love of order, and a sense of the necessity of civil government among mankind.” .

Mr. Acherley says, * “ That the house of commons, besides their part in the legislature, should be invested with and fhould have, as interwoven in their constitution, these special powers, rights, and privileges, (viz.) the sole right and power over the monies and treasures of the people, and of giving and

Exclusive richt
of the commons
in voting aids,
&c.

* Britannic Constitution, fec. xii. p. 45.

granting,

« PreviousContinue »