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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, whenumbrage. 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.
INTERNAL NATIONAL QUIET.
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 PART OF THE CHAPTER.
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 claims 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 is 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.
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.
It is therefore a most advantageous circumstance in the English government, that its security renders all such expedients unnecessary, and that the representatives of the people have not only been constantly willing to promote the public liberty, but that the general situation of affairs has also enabled them to carry their precautions so far as they have done. And indeed, when we consider what prerogatives the crown, in England, has implicitly renounced ;-that, in consequence of the independence conferred on the judges, and of the method of trial by jury, it is deprived of all means of influencing the settled course of the law both in civil and criminal matters —that it has renounced all power of seizing the property of individuals, and even of restraining in any manner whatsoever, and for the shortest time, the liberty of their persons ;-we do not know which we ought most to admire, whether the public virtue of those who have deprived the supreme executive power of all those dangerous prerogatives, or the nature of that same power, which has enabled it to give them up without ruin to itself,—whether the happy frame of the English government, which makes those in whom the people trust continue so faithful to the discharge of their duty, or the solidity of that same government, which can afford to leave to the people so extensive a degree of freedom.*
Again, the liberty of the press, that great advantage enjoyed by the English nation, does not exist in any of the other monarchies of Europe, however well established their
* At the times of the invasions of the Pretender, assisted by the forces of hostile nations, the Habeas Corpus Act was indeed suspended (which, by the by, may serve as one proof that, in proportion as a government is in danger, it becomes necessary to abridge the liberty of the subject): but the executive power did not thus of itself stretch its own authority; the precaution was deliberated upon and taken by the representatives of the people; and the detaining of individuals in consequence of the suspension of the act was limited to a certain fixed time. Notwithstanding the just fears of internal and hidden enemies, which the circumstances of the times might raise, the deviation from the former course of the law was carried no farther than the single point we have mentioned. Persons detained by order of the Government were to be dealt with in the same manner as those arrested at the suit of private individuals ; the proceedings against them were to be carried on no oth rwise than in a public place; they were to be tried by their peers, and have all the usual legal means of defence allowed to them,-such as calling of witnesses, peremptory challenge of juries, &c.