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AN AEBITEAEY KINO AND THE BRITISH AEMT. 299
the enemy; others threw down their arms: and those who continued to stand together, showed more inclination to be spectators of, than agents in, the contest. In short, he gave all over for lost, without making any trial of their assistance.*
. From all the facts before mentioned, it is evident that the power of the crown, in England, rests upon foundations quite peculiar to itself, and that its security and strength are obtained by means totally different from those by which
* The army made loud rejoicings on the day of the acquittal of the bishops, even in the presence of the king, who had purposely repaired to Hounslow Heath on that day. He had not been able to bring a single regiment to declare an approbation of his measures iu regard to the test and penal statutes. The celebrated ballad, " Lero, lero, lillibuIcro," which is reported to have had such an influence on the minds of the people at that time, and of which Bishop Burnet says, "Never, perhaps, so slight a thing had so great an effect," originated in the army: "the whole army, and at last people both in city and country, were perpetually singing it."
To a king of England, engaged in a project against public liberty, a numerous army, ready formed beforehand, must, in the present situation of things, prove a very great impediment; he cannot give his attention to the proper management of it: the less so, as his measures for that purpose must often be contradictory to those he is to pursue with the rest of the people.
If a king of England, wishing to set aside the present constitution, and to assimilate his power to that of the other sovereigns of Europe, should do me the honour to consult me as to the means of obtaining success, I would recommend to him, as his first preparatory step, and before his real project is even suspected, to disband his army, keeping only a Btrong guard, not exceeding twelve hundred men. This done, he might, by means of the weight and advantages of his place, set himself about undermining such constitutional laws as he dislikes; using as much temper as he can, that he may have the more time to proceed. And when at length things should be brought to a crisis, then I would advise him to form another army, out of those friends or class of the people whom the turn and incidents of the preceding contests will have linked and riveted to his interest: with this army he might now take his chance: the rest would depend on his generalship, and even in a great measure on his bare reputation in that respect.
In ofl'ering my advice to the king of England, I would, however, conclude with observing to him, that his situation is as advantageous to the full as that of any king upon earth, and, upon the whole, that all the advantages which can arise from the success of his plan cannot make it worth his while to undertake it.
the same advantages are so incompletely procured, and so dearly paid for, in other countries.
It is without the assistance of an armed force that the crown, in England, is able to manifest that dauntless independence on particular individuals, or whole classes of them, with which it discharges its legal functions and duties. Without the assistance of an armed force, it is able to counterbalance the extensive and unrestrained freedom of the people, and to exert that resisting strength which constantly keeps increasing in a superior proportion to the force by which it is opp'osed,—that ballasting power by which, in the midst of boisterous winds and gales, it recovers and rights again the vessel of the state.*
* It is from the civil branch of its office the Crown derives that strength by which it subdues even the military power, and keeps it in a state of subjection to the laws unexampled in any other country. It is from a happy arrangement of things it derives that uninterrupted steadiness, that invisible solidity, which procure to the subject both so certain a protection, and so extensive a freedom. It is from the nation it receives the force with which it governs the nation. Its resources are official energy, and not compulsion, — free action, and not fear,—and it continues to reign through the political drama, the struggle of the voluntary passions of those who pay obedience to it.f
* There are many circumstances in the English government, which those persons who wish for speculative meliorations, such as parliamentary reform, or other changes of a like kind, do not perhaps think of taking into consideration. If so, they are, in their proceedings, in danger of meddling with a number of strings, the existence of which they do not suspect. While they only mean reformation and improvement, they are in danger of removing the talisman on which the existence of the fabric depends; or, like the daughter of King Nisus, of cutting off the fatal hair with which the fate of the city is connected.
t Many persons, satisfied with seeing the elevation and upper parts of a building, think it immaterial to give a look under ground and notice the foundation. Those readers, therefore, who choose, may consider the long chapter that has just been concluded as a kind of foreign digression, or parenthesis, in the course of the work.
[This chapter is written with great ability; but De Lolme dwells far more on the indivisibility of the Crown, and on the mildness, equity, and at the same time energy, of the British government and institutions, than is consistent with facts.
As to the sovereign, no one has, during more than a century and a THE ENGLISH GOVEEU'MEK'T.
HOW PAB THE EXAMPLES OP NATIONS WHO HAVE LOST THEIB LIBERTY ABE APPLICABLE TO ENGLAND.
Eveey government (those writers observe, who have treated on these subjects) containing within itself the efficient cause of its ruin, a cause which is essentially connected with those very circumstances that had produced its prosperity; the advantages attending the English government cannot therefore, according to those writers, exempt it from that latent defect which is secretly working its ruin; and M. de Montesquieu, giving his opinion both of the cause and the effect, says, that the English constitution will lose its liberty, will perish : "Have not Home, Lacedaemon, and Carthage perished? It will perish when the legislative power shall have become more corrupt than the executive."*
half, attempted to invade its prerogative; nor has there been any occasion to abridge that prerogative since the contract made with William the Third, in 1688. But that ministers and cabinets have, since that period, committed unjust measures, and even arbitrary acts, it would be impossible to deny. It was with difficulty that Walpole escaped being impeached, yet he was a pacific statesman: industry, trade, and navigation flourished under his administration: he did not add to the national debt: there were many worse ministers;—yet he did not scruple to corrupt the Commons; and neither he nor Bolingbroke would have hesitated in sending a pamphleteer to prison.
The extraordinary freedom which he asserts that individuals enjoy under the British constitution is perfectly just if compared with the state of France, G-ermany, Italy, and other states at that period, or even at the present day. But there have occurred arbitrary crown prosecutions, arrests, and imprisonments, in England, Scotland, and Ireland, even as late as until the last years of George III. Major Cartwright, Sir Charles Wolsely, Sir Francis Burdett, and some others, were imprisoned on not very clear charges. Muir, Palmer, and Skirving, were most unlawfully prosecuted and punished in Edinburgh. Such prosecutions would not, in the present day, be endured by the nation; and while we contend that all men ought to be punished for transgressing the laws, we can never justify any arbitrary construction of the laws, or of the executive power. If any man, in 1848, had attempted to disturb the public tranquillity, we would be among the first who would contend that they ought to be adequately punished.—Ed.']
* De Lolme refutes the comparison between those ancient republics,
Though I do by no means pretend that any human establishment can escape the fate to which we see every thing in nature is subject, nor am I so far prejudiced by the sense I entertain of the great advantages of the English government, as to reckon among them that of eternity,—I will, however, observe in general, that as it differs by its structure and resources from all those with which history makes us acquainted, so it cannot be said to be liable to the same danger. To judge of one from the other, is to judge by analogy where no analogy is to be found: and my respect for the author I have quoted will not preclude me from saying that his opinion has not the same weight with me on this occasion that it has on many others.
Having neglected, as indeed all systematic writers upon politics have done, to inquire attentively into the real foundations of power and of government among mankind, the principles he lays down are not always so clear, or even so just, as we might have expected from a man of so acute a genius. When he speaks of England, for instance, his observations are much too general: and though he had frequent opportunities of conversing with men who had been personally concerned in the public affairs of this country, and he had been himself an eye-witness of the operations of the English government, yet, when he attempts to describe it, he rather tells us what he conjectured than what he saw.
The examples he quotes, and the causes of dissolution which he assigns, particularly confirm this observation. The govern. ment of Kome, to speak of the one which, having gradually, and as it were of itself, fallen to ruin, may afford matter for exact reasoning, had no relation to that of England. The Boman people were not, in the later ages of the commonwealth, a people of citizens but of conquerors. Rome was not a state, but the head of a state. By the immensity of its conquests, it came in time to be in a manner only an accessory part of its own empire. Its power became so great, that, after having conferred it, it was at length no longer able to resume it: and from that moment it became
and England with admirable logical force. Happily we now live in an age when, in Great Britain, neither the executive, the judicial, or legislative powers are corrupt.—Ed.
STABILITY OF THE BRITISH CONSTITUTION. 303
itself subjected to it, for the same reason that the provinces were so.
The fall of Rome, therefore, was an event peculiar to its situation; and the change of manners which accelerated this fall had also an effect which it could not have had but in that same situation. Men who had drawn to themselves all the riches of the world, could no longer be content with the supper of Fabricius, or with the cottage of Cincinnatus. The people who were masters of all the corn of Sicily and Africa were no longer obliged to plunder their neighbours. All possible enemies, besides, being exterminated, Rome, whose power was military, ceased to be an army; and that was the sera of her corruption; if, indeed, we ought to give that name to what was the inevitable consequence of the nature of things.
In a word, Rome was destined to lose her liberty when she lost her empire; and she was destined to lose her empire, whenever she should begin to enjoy it.
But England forms a society founded upon principles
accumulated as it were in one point, so as to leave, every where else, only slavery and misery, consequently only seeds of division and secret animosity. From one end of the island to the other the same laws take place, and the same interests prevail: the whole nation, besides, equally concurs in the framing of the government; no one part, therefore, has cause to fear that the other parts will suddenly supply the necessary forces to destroy its liberty: and the whole have, of course, no occasion for those ferocious kinds of virtue which are indispensably necessary to those who, from the situation to which they have brought themselves, are continually exposed to dangers, and, after having invaded every thing, must abstain from every thing.
The situation of the people of England, therefore, essentially differs from that of the people of Eome. The form of the English government does not differ less from that of the Roman republic: and the great advantages it has over the latter for preserving the liberty of the people from ruin, have been described at length in the course of this work.
Thus, for instance, the ruin of the Roman republic was
power are not