Page images

If any of my countrymen have been deluded, by these modern pfeudo-evangelists, into their practical lessons, * “ to consider the world as new to them, as to the first man, that existed, and their natural rights in it of the fame kind; † that there is no political Adam, who has a power or right to bind all posterity for ever; that the rights of the living cannot be willed away, and controuled, and contracted for by the manuscript assumed authority of the dead, there being no authority in the dead over the freedom and rights of the living; and that, therefore, || we are not to refer to musty records and mouldy parchments for the rights of the living; and consequently, § that they are in error, who reason by precedent drawn from antiquity respecting the Rights of Man," I shall certainly make little impression upon them by the quotation of any written, historical, philosophical, or even legislative authority whatever. I must, however, in justice, remind these docile disciples of modern liberty of the lenient palliative, which their demagogue has thrown into his instructions, left they may swallow the envenomed

+ p. 13.

* Payne's Rights of Man, p. 46. P. 10. Hp. 15. • 3

p. 44.


binding effect

draught too hastily, without the application What gives of the corrective solvent. '*“ It requires to laws. but a very small glance of thought to perceive, that although laws made in one generation often continue in force through succeeding generations, yet that they continue to derive their force from the consent of the live ing. A law not repealed continues in force, not because it cannot be repealed, but because it is not repealed, and the non-repealing paffes for consent." These written authorities, or, in the fashionable phrase, these affumed ufurpations of the dead over the living, may be referred to by those, who will derive from them the satisfaction of example, illus, tration, and reason. :

In order to humour these neophites to The truth of modern liberty, I shall follow and argue upon to be proved their own avowed principles and doctrines ; quity. and I certainly so far go with them, that I do not admit, that the truth of any principle can be proved merely from its antiquity, or that every right can be established merely by its length of possession. † “ For as time can make nothing lawful or just, that is not so of itself (though men are unwilling to change

principles not

from its anti

* Payne's Rights of Man, p. 13.

# Algernoon Sydney's Discourses concerning Government, 380..


that, which has pleased their ancestors, unless they discover great inconveniences in it) that, which a people does rightly establish for their own good, is of as much force the first day, as continuance can ever give to it; and, therefore, in matters of the greatest importance, wife and good men do not so much enquire, what has been, as what is good, and ought to be; for that, which of itself is evil, by continuance is made worse, and upon the first opportunity is justly to be abolished.” Without, therefore, attempting to trace the origin, progress, and establishment of our constitution and government, through the intricate mazes of historical darkness, confusion, and uncertainty, I shall keep constantly in view the principles of civil liberty, which I have already laid down, and thereby endeavour to establish, in application to them, the force and energy of our present form of constitution

and government. The first dele. It is because the fovereignty of civil or politiin this inaad by cal power originates from the people, and con

stantly and unalienably resides in the people, that we find, from the earliest credible accounts of our anceftors, that the political community of this isand first delegated their power to an individual, by the actual election of the representative body or common council of the


gation of power

election. ,


nation : * Summa imperii bellique, adminiftrandi
communi concilio permiffa eft Casívellano. Upon
this principle, and in exercise of the inde-
feasable right and power, upon which it is
grounded, did our ancestors continue this
form of elective monarchy, till they became
a province under the Romans; the diffolution The govern

ment diffolvi
then of that government was effected, as Mr. by force of
Locke expresses, † “ by the inroad of a
foreign force making a conquest upon them.
For in that case, not being able to maintain
and support themselves as one entire and
independent body, the union belonging to
that body, which consisted therein, must ne-
cessarily cease.” $ In execution of the

• Cæsar's Commentaries. .
+ Locke of Civil Government, c. xix. p. 227.

1 No free exercise of a people's right can be fup-
posed to exist under the compulsive controul of a foreign
enemy. Thus Mr. Locke (ibid, p. 217), « Though
governments can originally have no other rise, than that
-before mentioned, nor polities be founded on any thing,
but the consent of the people; yet such have been the
disorders ambition has filled the world with, that, in
the noise of war, which makes so great a part of the
history of mankind, this consent is little taken notice of;
and therefore many have mistaken the force of arms for
consent of the people, and reckon conquest as one of the
originals of government. But conquest is as far from
Setting up any government, as demolishing a house is
from building a new one in the place; indeed, it often
makes way for a new frame of commonwealth, by de-


[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]


fame rights and power, when they were left to themselves by their Roman conquerors, did

they divide themselves into an heptarchy, or Saxan Heptar.

seven distinct kingdoms, under the Saxons ; and when they had experienced the inconveniences of these divergent sovereignties, they reconcentered the supremacy in one monarch, as it has ever since continued. In this fame fpirit, and in the exercise of these fame rights,

did the Saxon conquerors of our British an. cestors, *.« when they had subdued the

Britons, chuse to themselves kings, and required an oath of them to submit to the judg

ment of the law, as much as any of their subGeneral view. jects.” So when the Saxons, as masters of of our govern.

the vanquished Britons, began to look upon themselves as the political community of this island, they † “ established a form of administration, which limited the prince, and required that public affairs should be settled by assemblies of the chief men of the nation.

The privileges of the people were afterwards enlarged by the alterations, which the wife and virtuous Alfred introduced ; and this confir

Our monarchy. limited in its original crea. tion.


stroying the former; but, without the consent of the people, can never erect a new one."

* Mirror of Justice, c. i. sect. 2.

+ Dr. Kippis’ Sermon, preached at the Old Jewry, on the 4th Nov. 1788, p. 14.

« PreviousContinue »