« НазадПродовжити »
PQWEE OF DISSOLVING PAELIA1TENT. 269
of secrecy and dispatch, who, at an early part of the day, and at the same hour, surprised each member in his own house,' causing them severally to retire to distant parts of the country, which were described to them, without allowing them time to consider, much less to meet, and hold any consultation.
But the person who is invested with the kingly office in England, has need of no other weapon, no other artillery, than the civil insignia of bis dignity to effect a dissolution of the parliament: be steps into the midst of them, telling them that they are dissolved; and they are dissolved:—he tells them that they are no longer a parliament; and they are no longer so. Like the wand of Popilius,* a dissolution instantly puts a stop to their warmest debates and most violent proceedings. The peremptory words by which it is expressed have no sooner met their ears, than all their legislative faculties are benumbed: though they may still be sitting on the same benches, they look no longer on themselves as forming an assembly; they no longer consider each other in the light of associates or of colleagues.f As if some strange kind of weapon, or a sudden magical effort had been exerted in the midst of them, all the bonds of their union are cut off; and they hasten away, without having so much as the thought of continuing for a single minute the duration of their assembly.!
* A Roman ambassador, who stopped the army of Antiochus, King of Syria.—Livii Hist. lib. xlv.
t True, the Sovereign can thus dissolve the Parliament; but the Sovereign never can govern the country without assembling a new Parliament; nor can the Crown even maintain its ministers in power without the consent of the House of Commons. William IV. dismissed his ministers, but the Commons would not bear those who replaced them, and he was compelled to take back his old advisers.—Ed.
X Nor has London post-horses enough to drive them far and near into the country, when the declaration, by which the Parliament is dissolved, also mentions the calling of a new one.
A dissolution, when proclaimed by a common crier assisted by a few beadles, is attended by the very^ame effects.
To the account of the expedient used by Louis XV. of France to effect the dismission of the Parliament of Paris, we may add the manner in which the Crown of Spain, more arbitrary perhaps than that of France, undertook some years ago to rid itself of the religious society of the Jesuits, whose political influence and intrigues had grown to give it
To all these observations concerning the peculiar solidity of the authority of the crown in England, I shall add anothor that is supplied by the whole series of the English history; which is, that though bloody broils and disturbances have often taken place in England, and war been often made against the king, yet it has scarcely ever been done, but by persons who positively and expressly laid claim to the crown. Even while Cromwell contended with an armed force against Charles the First, it was in the king's own name that he waged war against him.
The same objection might be expressed in a more general manner, and with strict truth, by saying that no war has been waged, in England, against the governing authority, except upon national grounds; that is to say, either when the title to the crown has been doubtful, or when general complaints, either of a political or religious kind, have arisen from every part of the nation. As instances of such complaints, may be mentioned those that gave rise to the war against King John, which ended in the passing of the Great Charter; the civil wars in the reign of Charles the First; and the Revolution of the year 1689. From the facts just mentioned it may also be observed as a conclusion, that the crown cannot depend on the great security we have been describing any longer than it continues to fulfil its engagements to the nation, and to respect those laws which form the compact between it and the people. And the imminent dangers, or at least the alarms and perplexities, in which the kings of England have constantly involved themselves, when
umbrage. They were seized by an armed force at the same minute of the same day, in every town or borough of that extensive monarchy, where they had residence, in order to their being hurried away to ships that were waiting to carry them into another country; the whole business being conducted with circumstances of secrecy, of surprise, and of preparation, far superior to what is related of the most celebrated conspiracies mentioned in history.
The dissolution of the Parliament which Charles the Second had called at Oxford is an extremely curious event. A very lively account of it is to be found in Oldmixon's History of England.
If certain alterations, however imperceptible they may perhaps be at first to the public eye, ever take place, the period may come at which the Crown will no longer have it in its power to dissolve the Parliament; that is to say, a dissolution will no longer be followed by the same effects that it is at present.
ever they have attempted to struggle against the general sense of the nation, manifestly show that all that has been above observed, concerning the security and remarkable stability somehow annexed to their office, is to be understood, not of the capricious power of the man, but of the lawful authority of the head of the state.*
SECOND PAST OP THE CHAPTEB,
There is certainly a very great degree of singularity in all the circumstances we have been describing here: those persons who are acquainted with the history of other countries cannot but remark with surprise that stability of the power of the English crown,—that mysterious solidity, that inward binding strength with which it is able to carry on with certainty its legal operations, amidst the clamorous struggle and uproar with which it is commonly surrounded, and without
* One more observation may be made on the subject; which is, that when the kingly dignity has happened in England to be wrested from the possessor, through some revolution, it has been recovered, or struggled for, with more difficulty than in other countries: in all the other countries upon earth, a king de jure (by claim) possesses advantages in regard to the king in being, much superior to those of which the same circumstance may be productive in England. The power of the other sovereigns in the world is not so securely established as that of an English king; but then their character is more indelible; that is to say, till their antagonists have succeeded in cutting off them and their families, they possess, in a high degree, a power to renew those claimB and disturb the state. Those family pleas or claims of priority, and, in general, those arguments to which the bulk of mankind have agreed to allow so much weight, cease almost entirely to be of any effect in England, against the person actually invested with the kingly office, as soon as the constitutional parts and springs have begun to move, and, in short, as soon as the machine of the government has once begun to be in full play. An universal general ferment, similar to that which produced the former disturbances, is the only time of real danger.
The remarkable degree of internal national quiet, which, for very near a century past, has followed the Revolution of the year 1689, is a strong proof of the truth of the observations above made; nor do I think that, all circumstances being considered, any other country can produce the like instance.
the medium of any armed threatening force. To give a demonstration of the manner in which all these things are brought to bear and operate, it is not, as I said before, my design to attempt here; the principles from which such demonstration is to be derived, suppose an inquiry into the nature of man, and of human affairs, which rather belongs to philosophy (though to a branch hitherto unexplored) than to politics; at least such an inquiry certainly lies out of the sphere of the common science of politics.* However, I had a very material reason for introducing all the above-mentioned facts concerning the peculiar stability of the governing authority of England, inasmuch as they lead to an observation of a most important political nature; which is, that this stability allows several essential branches of English liberty to take place, which, without it, could not exist. For there b a very essential consideration to be made in every science, though speculators are sometimes apt to lose sight of it, which is this—in order that things may have existence they must be possible; in order that political regulations of any kind may obtain their effect they must imply no direct contradiction, either open or hidden, to the nature of things or to the other circumstances of the government. In reasoning from this principle, we shall find that the stability of the governing executive authority in England, and the weight it gives to the whole machine of the state, have actually enabled the English nation, considered as a free nation, to enjoy several advantages which would really have been totally unattainable in the other states we have mentioned in former chapters, whatever degree of public virtue we might even suppose to have belonged to the men who acted in those states as the advisers of the people, or, in general, who were intrusted with the business of framing the laws.
One of these advantages resulting from the solidity of the government, is, the extraordinary personal freedom which all ranks of individuals in England enjoy at the expense of the government authority. In the Roman Commonwealth, for
* It may, if the reader pleases, belong to the science of metapolitics .in the same sense as we say metaphysics; that is, the science of those things which lie beyond physical or substantial things. A few more words are bestowed upon the same subject in the advertisement, or preface, at the head of this work.
PERSONAL FREEDOM. GREECE—FRANCE. 273
instance, we behold the senate invested with a number of powers totally destructive of the liberty of the citizens: and the continuance of these powers was, no doubt, in a great measure, owing to the treacherous remissness of those men to whom the people trusted for repressing them, or even to their determined resolution not to abridge those prerogatives. Yet, if we attentively consider the constant situation of affairs in that republic, we shall find, that though we should suppose those persons to have been ever so truly attached to the cause of the people, it would not really have been possible for them to procure to the people an entire security. The right enjoyed by the senate, of suddenly naming a dictator with a power unrestrained by any law, or of investing the consuls with an authority of much the same kind, and the power it at times assumed of making formidable examples of arbitrary justice, were resources of which the republic could not, perhaps, with safety have been totally deprived: and though these expedients frequently were used to destroy the just liberty of the people, yet they were also very often the means of preserving the Commonwealth.
Upon the same principle we should possibly find that the ostracism, that arbitrary method of banishing citizens, was a necessary resource in the republic of Athens. A Venetian noble would perhaps also confess, that, however terrible the state inquisition, established in his republic, may be even to the nobles themselves, yet it would not be prudent entirely to abolish it. And we do not know but a minister of state in France, though ever so virtuous and moderate a man, would say the same with regard to secret imprisonments, the lettres de cachet, and other arbitrary deviations from the settled course of law, which often take place in that kingdom, and in the other monarchies of Europe. No doubt, if he was the man we suppose, he would confess that the expedients mentioned, have, in numberless instances, been basely prostituted to gratify the wantonness and private revenge of ministers, or of those who had any interest with them: but still perhaps he would continue to give it as his opinion, that the crown, notwithstanding its apparently immense "strength, could not avoid recurring at times to expedients of this kind; much less could it publicly and absolutely renounce them for ever.