Page images

of every branch of the legislature upon each other, that we may reft secure in their political equipoise, that none of them will outgrow or absorb the other. If in the variety and change of political occurrences it shall be found requisite either to abridge or enlarge the prerogative of the sovereign, it behoves us to confide in the readiness and zeal of our deputies and trustees to effect it. Let no body look upon our present fovereign, as less qualified and enabled to fulfil the executive functions of government, than his ancestors, whose prerogatives were in some points more extensive and numerous than his. What has been pruned off from the precarious branches of prerogative has been engrafted upon the double bearing stock of royal influence.

* " From the revolution in 1688 to the present time; in this period many laws have paffed; as the bill of rights, the tolerationact, the act of settlement with its conditions, the act for uniting England with Scotland, and fome others; which have afferted our liberties in more clear and emphatical terms; have regulated the succession of the crown by parliment, as the exigences of religious and civil freedom required; have confirmed, and ex

The effects of royal influence.

Blak. Com. b. iv. c. 33. fub. fin:


[ocr errors]

emplified the doctrine of resistance, when the executive magistrate endeavours to subvert the constitution ; have maintained the superiority of the laws above the king, by pronouncing his dispensing power to be illegal; have indulged tender consciences with every religious liberty consistent with the fafety of the state; have established triennial, since turned into septennial elections of members to serve in parliament; have excluded certain officers from the house of commons; have restrained the king's pardon from obstructing parliamentary impeachments; have imparted to all the lords an equal right of trying their fellow

peers ; have regulated trials for high treason; have afforded our posterity a hope, that corruption of blood may one day be abolished and forgotten; have (by the desire of his present majesty) set bounds to the civil list, and placed the administration of that revenue in hands, that are accountable to parliament; and have (by the like desire) made the judges completely independent of the king, his ministers, and his successors. Yet, though these provisions have in appearance and nominally reduced the strength of the executive power to a much lower ebb than in the preceding period ; if on the other hand we throw into the opposite scale (what


A a 4

perhaps the immoderate reduction of the antient prerogative may have rendered in some degree necessary) the vast acquisition of force arising from the riot-act, and the annual expence of a standing army, and the vaft acquisition of personal attachment arifing from the magnitude of the national debt, and the manner of levying these yearly millions, that are appropriated to pay the interest, we shall find, that the crown has gradually and imperceptibly gained almost as much infuence, as it has apparently lost in preroga






F the two branches of the legislature

I shall first consider the house of lords, of which Mr. Acherly, in his theoretic plan or directions for the Britannic constitution, speaks thus : *“ That the house of lords, General end besides their part in the legislature, should and Spirit of be invested with, and should have, as inter. peers. woven in their constitution, these special powers and privileges, viz. that their right of peerage should be deemed a special trust for the whole government; that they should have the dernier resort only in all matters of judicature, and the sole judicature of impeachments commenced and prosecuted by the commons; and that it should be deemed an effential


of that judicature to take cognizances of those impeachments, and to hear and determine the matters therein charged; and the reason he gave for investing them with the dernier refort was, left illegal judgments in inferior judicatures should creep in, and by little and little undermine and change

• Acherly's Brit. Conf. Sec. xii. p. 45.


the fundamental form and principles of this constitution, of which there might be some danger, in regard the judges would be necessarily of the king's sole nomination and appointment.

« But in questions of property, where the claims on either side shall not be mixed with equity, this ultimate judicature should (without additions to supply defects) give the same judgments, as are prescribed by the strict and positive laws in being; because these laws should be every man's birthright, and should have no controuler, nor be controuled by any judicature (except only by that power, which is to be legislative, in which every man's confent is to be involved ;) for if a law and rule of property

be made, and a man's case shall not be determined by it, the law and the authority of the makers would be vain and nu

gatory.” All laws at all

In the earliest traces of any legislative acts with the advice passed in this country, we constantly find exof the great

press and unambiguous mention made of the advice and assistance of the great men (magnates) barons, prelates, archbishops, bishops, vavafours, earls, (comites,) &c. under which names, appellations, and descriptions fome monarchical and aristocratical writers have indeed pretended to doubt, whether com


times made


« PreviousContinue »