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pened, among other arguments, to make use of this great and just principle, that all civil power is ultimately derived from the people ; and their adversaries, in England and elsewhere, instead of shewing how they abused and perverted that fundamental principle of all government, in the case in question, did what disputants, warmed with controversy, are very apt to do; they denied the principle itself, and maintained that all civil


is derived from God; as if the Jewish theocracy had been established throughout the whole world.”- And, *“ The history of this controversy, about the doctrine of passive obedience and non-resistance, affords a striking example of the danger of having recourse to false prin

child, a religious man or a subject to defend himself against his parent, fuperior, or sovereign, if it be neceffary, even by killing the aggreifor; unless by killing him very great mischiefs indeed should happen, as war', &c.” To Englishmen, who sometimes soften their yerdia by finding a se defendendo, these principles may not seem more outrageous, than Dr. Priestley's own doctrines. “If it be asked, how far a people may lawfully go, in punishing their chief magiftrates, I ansiver, that if the enormity of the offence (which is of the same extent as the injury done to the public, be confidered, any punishment is justifiable, that a man can incur in human fociety." Elays on the First Principle of Government, p. 36. . Priestley, ibid. p. 29.

ciples in controversy. They may serve a particular turn, but, in other cases, may


capable of the most dangerous application ; whereas universal truth will, in all possible cases, have the best consequences, and be ever favourable to the true interests of mankind.”


sovereignty, which unalienably resides with
which the community hath agreed to be govemed."
Differtation upon Parties, Letter X. p. 103, printed 1739.

T is singular, that in the variety of anci-

ent and modern authors, who speak familiarly of the constitution, I scarcely find one, that

attempts to define it; and yet I think it the first duty of every writer to define, at least according to his own conceptions, that, which he undertakes to discuss

By the constitution of England, I mean Definition of those immediate emanations from the first tion,

the constitus principles of civil government, which the community have adopted as general rules for carrying into action that right or power of them, and which consequently form the immediate basis or ground, upon which all the laws of the community are founded. The transcendent force of the reasons for these

we mean, whenever we speak with propriety and exactness, that affemblage of laws, infitutions, and customs, derived from certain fixed princi. ples of reason, directed to certain fixed objects of public good, that compose the general system, according to

* “ By conftitution



rules has acquired from the community an universal and unexceptionable admission of them, which has superseded the necessity of expressing them in a given form of words, like particular laws. They are not like those metaphysical or mathematical rules, which serve to direct and regulate the practice; but they are themselves active and practical rules, which can never cease to operate their effect upon the government, whilst the government subsists; they have a political buoyancy in the state, and like a cork in the waves, which may by commotion of the element, be lost for a time from the sight, but in the calm must necessarily

resume its visible station on the surface. Instances of the *“And, indeed, we may observe the remarkways returning able manner, in which it has been maintained to its level.

in the midst of fuch general commotions, as seemed unavoidably to prepare its deftruction. It rose again, we see, after the wars between Henry the Third and his barons ; after the usurpation of Henry the Fourth; and after the long and bloody contentions between the houses of York and Lancaster; nay, though totally destroyed in appearance,

constitution al.

* De Lolme on the Constitution of England, b. ii. C. xviii.


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after the fall of Charles the First; and, though the greatest efforts had been made to establish another form of government in its stead, yet, no sooner was Charles the Second called over, than the conftitution was re-established upon all its ancient foundations."

The state of compulsive force, usurpation, or tyranny, is a temporary subversion of the government, as a tempestuous commotion of the sea is a temporary derangement or violation of the natural laws of specific gravity, by which the cork would for ever re

the water.

* " As usur- Difference of pation,” says Mr. Locke, « is the exercise of ufurpation and

tyranny. power, which another hath a right to, so tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which no body can have a right to.” And he says elsewhere, + “No polities can be founded on any thing, but the consent of

main afloat

the people.”

be improper

Before I enter immediately upon


particular nature of our constitution, it will not

to submit to my readers what this folid and perspicuous philosopher says of the general forms of a common-wealth.— $

" The majority having, as has been thew

* Locke of Civil Government, c. xviii.
+ Ibid. c. xvi.

L 2

I Ibid. c. xvi.


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