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OF THE GENERAL CONSTITUTION AND GO.
VERNMENT OF GREAT BRITAIN.
FTER the adoption of the principles, our constitu
which I have already endeavoured to upon principic. establish, it would evidently exceed the intent and purport of this publication, to enter into historical researches, in order to trace the antiquity, and delineate the gradual and progressive improvements of our constitution; for it is not to be supposed, that the community of this island pafled, uno faltu, from their first agreement to enter into society, immediately into a constitution and government of that perfection, which distinguishes the constitution and government, that we now happily enjoy. Could we even clear the dark pages of those remote histories from doubt and uncertainty, the information might gratify the curiosity of the mind, but would bring no conviction to the understanding. Principle alone is the true compass, by which we can steer steadily and safely through the treacherous perils of this fea of politics.
If any of my countrymen have been deluded, by these modern pseudo-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 same 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 au, thority 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 inftructions, left they may swallow the envenomed
+ p. 13.
• Payne's Rights of Man, p. 46. p, 10.
$ p. 44
draught too hastily, without the application What gives
binding effect of the corrective solvent.
* “ It requires but a very small glance of thought to perceive, that although laws made in one generation often continue in force through fucceeding generations, yet that they continue to derive their force from the consent of the liv, ing. A law not repealed continues in force, not because it cannot be repealed, but because it is not repealed, and the non-repealing passes for confent.”
These written authorities, or, in the fashionable phrase, these asumed ufurpations of the dead over the living, may be referred to by those, who will derive from them the satisfaction of example, illustration, and reason. In order to humour these neophites to The truth of
principles not 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 poffeffion. +
« For as time can make nothing lawful or juft, that is not so of itself (though men are unwilling to change,
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.
It is because the fovereignty of civil or politisa ebis illand by cal power originates from the people, and con
antly and unalienably resides in the people, that we find, from the earliest credible accounts of our ancestors, that the political community of this island first delegated their power to an individual, by the actual election of the representative body or common council of the
Die ürít dele.
nation : * Summa imperii bellique administrenili communi concilio permissa est Caffivellano. Upon this principle, and in exercise of the indefeasable 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 diffolved 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 necessarily cease.” # In execution of the
fame Cæfar's Commentaries. + Locke of Civil Government, c. xix. p. 227.
I No free exercise of a people's right can be fupposed to exift 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