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never to rouse. They consequently convene the assembly of the people as seldom as they can. When they do it, they carefully avoid proposing any thing favourable to public liberty. They soon even entirely cease to convene the assembly at all; and the people, after thus losing the power of legally asserting their rights, are exposed to that which is the highest degree of political ruin, the loss of even the remembrance of them, unless some direct means are found, by which they may from time to time give life to their dormant privileges; means which may be found, and succeed pretty well in small states, where provisions can more easily be made to answer their intended ends; but, in states of considerable extent, have always been found, in the event, to give rise to disorders of the same kind with those which were at first intended to be prevented.
But as the capital principle of the English constitution totally differs from that which forms the basis of republican governments, so it is capable of procuring to the people advantages that are found to be unattainable in the latter. It is the people in England, or at least those who represent them, who possess the initiative in legislation; that is to say, who perform the office of framing laws, and proposing them. And among the many circumstances in the English government, which would appear entirely new to the politicians of antiquity, that of seeing the person intrusted with the executive power bear that share in legislation which they looked upon as being necessarily the lot of the people, and the people enjoy that which they thought the indispensable office of its magistrates, would not certainly be the least occasion of their surprise.
I foresee that it will be objected, that, as the king of England has the power of dissolving, and even of not calling parliaments, he is hereby possessed of a prerogative which, in fact, is the same with that which I have just now represented as being so dangerous.
To this I answer, that all circumstances ought to be combined. Doubtless, if the crown had been under no kind of dependence whatever on the people, it would long since have freed itself from the obligation of calling their representatives together; and the British parliament, like the national assemblies of several other kingdoms,
THE FRAMING OF LAWS.
would most likely have no existence now, except in history.
But, as we have above seen, the necessities of the state, and the wants of the sovereign himself, put him under the necessity of having frequent recourse to his parliament; and then the difference may be seen between the prerogative of not calling an assembly, when powerful causes nevertheless render such a measure necessary, and the exclusive right, when an assembly is convened, of proposing laws to it.
In the latter case, though a prince, let us even suppose, in order to save appearances, might condescend to mention any thing besides his own wants, it would be at most to propose the giving up of some branch of his prerogative upon which he set no value, or to reform such abuses as his inclination does not lead him to imitate; but he would be very careful not to touch any points which might materially affect his authority.
Besides, as all his concessions would be made, or appear to be made, of his own motion, and would in some measure seem to spring from the activity of his zeal for the public welfare, all that he might offer, though in fact ever so inconsiderable, would be represented by him as grants of the most important nature, and for which he expects the highest gratitude. Lastly, it would also be his province to make restrictions and exceptions to laws thus proposed by himself; he would also be the person who would choose the words to express them, and it would not be reasonable to expect that he would give himself any great trouble to avoid all ambiguity.*
But the parliament of England is not, as we said before,
* In the beginning of the existence of the House of Commons, bills were presented to the King under the form of petitions. Those to which the King assented were registered among the rolls of Parliament, with his answers to them; and at the end of each Parliament the judges formed them into statutes. Several abuses having crept into that method of proceeding, it was ordained that the judges should in future make the statute before the end of every session. Lastly, as even that became, in process of time, insufficient, the present method of framing bills was established : that is to say, both Houses now frame the statutes in the very form and words in which they are to stand when they have received the royal assent.
bound down to wait passively and in silence for such laws as the executive power may condescend to propose to them. At the opening of every session, they of themselves take into their hands the great book of the state; they open all the pages and examine every article.
When they have discovered abuses, they proceed to inquire into their causes :—when these abuses arise from an open disregard of the laws, they endeavour to strengthen them; when they proceed from their insufficiency, they remedy the evil by additional provisions.*
Nor do they proceed with less regularity and freedom, in regard to that important object, Subsidies. They are to be the sole judges of the quantity of them, as well as of the ways and means of raising them; and they need not come to any resolution with regard to them till they see the safety of the subject completely provided for. În a word, the making of laws is not, in such an arrangement of things, a gratuitous contract, in which the people are to take just
* No popular assembly ever enjoyed the privilege of starting, canvassing, and proposing new matter, to such a degree as the English Commons. In France, when their general estates were allowed to sit, their remonstrances were little regarded ; and still less regard could the particular estates of the provinces expect. In Sweden, the power of proposing new subjects was lodged in an assembly called the secret com. mittee, composed of nobles, and a few of the clergy, and is now possessed by the King. In Scotland, until the Union, all propositions to be laid before the Parliament were to be framed by the persons called the lords of the articles. In regard to Ireland, all Bills must be prepared by the King in his privy council, and are to be laid before the Parliament by the Lord-Lieutenant, for their assent or dissent:(a) only they are allowed to discuss, among them, what they call heads of a bill, which the Lord. Lieutenant is desired afterwards to transmit to the King, who selects out of them what clauses he thinks proper, or sets the whole aside ; and is not expected to give, at any time, a precise answer to them. And, in republican governments, magistrates are never at rest till they have entirely secured to themselves the important privilege of proposing : nor does this follow merely from their ambition; it is also the consequence of the situation they are in, from the principles of that mode of government.
(a) Ireland acquired a Parliament of Lords and Commons during the American war; but as none but Protestants could exercise either elective or legislative functions, the Irish Parliament, until abolished by the Union in 1801, may be considered as having been little better than an Orange faction. It is ridiculous to say that the Irish Parliament was as free and possessed the same functions and powers as the British.-Ed.
THE KING AND THE LEGISLATURE.
what is given them, and as it is given them: it is a contract, in which they buy and pay, and in which they themselves settle the different conditions, and furnish the words to express them.
The English parliament have given a still greater extent to their advantages on so important a subject. They have not only secured to themselves a right of proposing laws and remedies, but they have also prevailed on the executive power to renounce all claim to do the same. It is even a constant rule, that neither the king nor his privy council can make any amendments in the bill preferred by the two houses; but the king is merely to accept or reject them; a provision this, which, if we pay a little attention to the subject, we shall find to have been also necessary for completely securing the freedom and regularity of the parliamentary deliberations.*
I indeed confess, that it seems very natural, in the modelling of a state, to intrust this very important office of framing laws to those persons who may be supposed to have before acquired experience and wisdom in the management of public affairs. But events have unfortunately demonstrated, that public employments and power improve the understanding of men in a less degree than they pervert their views; and it has been found in the issue, that the effect of a regulation which, at first sight, seems so perfectly consonant with prudence, is to confine the people to a mere passive and defensive share in the legislation, and to deliver them up to the continual enterprises of those,
* The King indeed, at times, sends messages to either House ; and nobody, I think, can wish that no means of intercourse should exist between him and his Parliament. But these messages are always expressed in very general words : they are only made to desire the House to take certain subjects into their consideration : no particular articles or clauses are expressed : the Commons are not to declare, at any settled time, a solemn acceptance or rejection of the proposition made by the King; and, in short, the House follow the same mode of proceeding, with respect to such messages, as they usually do in regard to petitions presented by private individuals. Some member makes a motion upon the subject expressed in the King's message ; a bill is framed in the usnal way: it may be dropped at every stage of it; and it is never the proposal of the crown, but the motions of some of their own members, which the House discuss, and finally accept or reject.
who, at the same time that they are under the greatest temptations to deceive them, possess the most powerful means of effecting it.
If we cast our eyes on the history of the ancient governments, in those times when the persons intrusted with the executive power were still in a state of dependence on the legislature, and consequently were frequently obliged to have recourse to it, we shall see almost continual instances of selfish and insidious laws proposed by them to the assemblies of the people.
And those men, in whose wisdom the law had at first placed so much confidence, became, in the issue, so lost to all sense of shame and duty, that when arguments were found to be no longer sufficient, they had recourse to force; the legislative assemblies became so many fields of battle, and their power a real calamity.
I know very well, however, that there are other important circumstances besides those I have just mentioned, which would prevent disorders of this kind from taking place in England.* But, on the other hand, let us call to mind that the person who, in England, is invested with the executive authority, unites in himself the whole public power and majesty. Let us represent to ourselves the great and sole magistrate of the nation pressing the acceptance of those laws which he had proposed, with a vehemence suited to the usual importance of his designs, with the warmth of monarchical pride, which must meet with no refusal, and exerting for that purpose all his immense resources.
It was therefore a matter of indispensable necessity, that things should be settled in England in the manner they are. As the moving springs of the executive power are, in the hands of the king, a kind of sacred depositum, so are those of the legislative power in the hands of the two houses. The king must abstain from touching them, in the same manner as all the subjects of the kingdom are bound to submit to his prerogatives. When he sits in parliament,
* I particularly mean here the circumstance of the people having en. tirely delegated their power to their representatives ; the consequences of which institution will be discussed in the next chapter.