The crown was carried somewhat out of the line in which it had before moved; but the new line was derived from the same stock.
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It was still a line of hereditary descent; still an hereditary de scent in the same blood, though an hereditary descent qualified with protestantism. When the legislature altered the direction, but kept the principle, they shewed that they held it invio lable. On this principle, the law of inheritance had admitted some amendment in the old time, and long before the aera of the Revolution.
Some time after the conquest great questions arose upon the legal principles of hereditary descent. This is the spirit of our consti tution, not only in its settled course, but in all its revolutions.
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Whoever came in, or however he came in, whether he obtained the crown by law, or by force, the hereditary succession was either continued or adopted. The gentlemen of the Society for Revolutions see nothing in that of but the deviation from the constitution; and they take the deviation from the principle for the principle.
They have little regard to the obvious con sequences of their doctrine, though they must see, that it leaves positive authority in very few of the positive institutions of this country. When such an unwarrantable maxim is once established, that no throne is lawful but the elective, no one act of the princes who preceded their aera of fictitious election can be valid. Do these theorists mean to imitate some of their predecessors, who dragged the bodies of our antient sovereigns out of the quiet of their tombs? Do they mean to attaint and disable backwards all the kings that have reigned be fore the Revolution, and consequently to stain the throne of England with the blot of a conti nual usurpation?
Do they mean to invalidate, annul, or to call into question, together with the titles of the whole line of our kings, that great body of our statute law which passed under those whom they treat as usurpers? If kings, who did not owe their crown to the choice of their people, had no title to make laws, what will become of the statute de tallagio non conce dendo? Do these new doctors of the rights of men presume to assert, that King James the Second, who came to the crown as next of blood, according to the rules of a then unqua lified succession, was not to all intents and pur poses a lawful king of England, before he had done any of those acts which were justly construed into an abdication of his crown?
If he was not, much trouble in parliament might have been sav ed at the period these gentlemen commemorate. But King James was a bad king with a good title, and not an usurper. The princes who suc ceeded according to the act of parliament which settled the crown on the electress Sophia and on her descendants, being Protestants, came in as much by a title of inheritance as King James did. He came in according to the law, as it stood at his accession to the crown; and the princes of the House of Brunswick came to the inheritance of the crown, not by election, but by the law, as it stood at their several accessions of Protestant descent and inheritance, as I hope I have shewn sufficiently.
The terms of this act bind us and our heirs , and our posterity , to them, their heirs , and their poste rity , being Protestants, to the end of time, in the same words as the declaration of right had bound us to the heirs of King William and Queen Mary. It therefore secures both an hereditary crown and an hereditary allegiance.
On what ground, except the constitutional policy of forming an establishment to secure that kind of succession which is to preclude a choice of the people for ever, could the legislature have fastidiously rejected the fair and abundant choice which our own country presented to them, and searched in strange lands for a foreign princess, from whose womb the line of our future rulers were to derive their title to govern millions of men, through a series of ages?
The Princess Sophia was named in the act of settlement of the 12th and 13th of King Wil liam, for a stock and root of inheritance to our kings, and not for her merits as a temporary administratrix of a power, which she might not, and in fact did not, herself ever exercise. This limitation was made by parliament, that through the Princess So phia an inheritable line, not only was to be con tinued in future but what they thought very material that through her it was to be con nected with the old stock of inheritance in King James the First; in order that the monarchy might preserve an unbroken unity through all ages, and might be preserved with safety to our religion in the old approved mode by de scent, in which, if our liberties had been once endangered, they had often, through all storms and struggles of prerogative and pri vilege, been preserved.
They did well. No experience has taught us, that in any other course or method than that of an hereditary crown , our liberties can be regularly perpetuated and preserved sacred as our hereditary right. An ir regular, convulsive movement may be necessary to throw off an irregular, convulsive disease. But the course of succession is the healthy habit of the British constitution. Was it that the legis lature wanted, at the act for the limitation of the crown in the Hanoverian line, drawn through the female descendants of James the First, a due sense of the inconveniencies of having two or three, or possibly more, foreigners in succes sion to the British throne?
But a more decisive proof cannot be given of the full conviction of the British na tion, that the principles of the Revolution did not authorize them to elect kings at their pleasure, and without any attention to the an cient fundamental principles of our government, than their continuing to adopt a plan of here ditary Protestant succession in the old line, with all the dangers and all the inconveniences of its being a foreign line full before their eyes and operating with the utmost force upon their minds.
A few years ago I should be ashamed to over load a matter, so capable of supporting itself, by the then unnecessary support of any argument; but this seditious, unconstitutional doctrine is now publicly taught, avowed, and printed. The dislike I feel to revolutions, the signals for which have so often been given from pulpits; the spi rit of change that is gone abroad; the total contempt which prevails with you, and may come to prevail with us, of all antient institu tions, when set in opposition to a present sense of convenience, or to the bent of a present incli nation; all these considerations make it not un adviseable, in my opinion, to call back our atten tion to the true principles of our own domestic laws; that you, my French friend, should begin to know, and that we should continue to che rish them.
The people of England will not ape the fashions they have never tried; nor go back to those which they have found mischievous on trial. They look upon the legal, hereditary succession of their crown as among their rights, not as among their wrongs; as a benefit, not as a grievance; as a security for their liberty, not as a badge of servitude. They look on the frame of their commonwealth, such as it stands , to be of in estimable value; and they conceive the undis turbed succession of the crown to be a pledge of the stability and perpetuity of all the other mem bers of our constitution.
I shall beg leave, before I go any further, to take notice of some paltry artifices, which the abettors of election as the only lawful title to the crown, are ready to employ, in order to ren der the support of the just principles of our con stitution a task somewhat invidious. These so phisters substitute a fictitious cause, and feigned personages, in whose favour they suppose you engaged, whenever you defend the inheritable nature of the crown. The old prerogative enthusiasts, it is true, did speculate foolishly, and perhaps im piously too, as if monarchy had more of a divine fanction than any other mode of government; and as if a right to govern by inheritance were in strictness indefeasible in every person, and un der every circumstance, which no civil or politi cal right can be.
But an absurd opinion con cerning the king's hereditary right to the crown, does not prejudice one that is rational, and bottomed upon solid principles of law and policy. If all the absurd theories of lawyers and divines were to vitiate the objects in which they are conversant, we should have no law, and no religion, left in the world. But an absurd theory on one side of a question forms no justification for alledging a false fact, or promulgating mis chievous maxims on the other. The second claim of the Revolution Society is a right of cashiering their governors on misconduct. But all this guard, and all this accumulation of circumstances, serves to shew the spirit of caution which pre dominated in the national councils, in a situa tion in which men irritated by oppression, and elevated by a triumph over it, are apt to aban don themselves to violent and extreme courses: it shews the anxiety of the great men who influenced the conduct of affairs at that great event, to make the Revolution a parent of set tlement, and not a nursery of future revolu tions.
No government could stand a moment, if it could be blown down with any thing so loose and indefinite as an opinion of " misconduct.
They charged him with nothing less than a design, confirmed by a multitude of illegal overt acts, to subvert the Protestant church and state , and their funda mental , unquestionable laws and liberties: they charged him with having broken the original contract between king and people. A grave and over-rul ing necessity obliged them to take the step they took, and took with infinite reluctance, as under that most rigorous of all laws.
Their trust for the future preservation of the constitution was not in future revolutions. The grand policy of all their regulations was to render it almost im practicable for any future sovereign to compel the states of the kingdom to have again recourse to those violent remedies.
They left the crown what, in the eye and estimation of law, it had ever been, perfectly irresponsible.
In order to lighten the crown still further, they aggravated responsibility on ministers of state. By the statute of the 1st of King William, sess. They secured soon after the frequent meet ings of parliament , by which the whole government would be under the constant inspection and ac tive controul of the popular representative and of the magnates of the kingdom.
In the next great constitutional act, that of the 12th and 13th of King William, for the further limitation of the crown, and better securing the rights and liber ties of the subject, they provided, that no pardon under the great seal of England should be pleadable to an impeachment by the commons in parliament. Instead of this fulsome style, he proposes that his majesty should be told, on occasions of congratulation, that he is to con sider himself as more properly the servant than the sovereign of his people.
For a compli ment, this new form of address does not seem to be very soothing. Those who are servants, in name, as well as in effect, do not like to be told of their situation, their duty, and their obli gations. The slave, in the old play, tells his master, Haec commemoratio est quasi exprobra tio. It is not pleasant as compliment; it is not wholesome as instruction. After all, if the king were to bring himself to echo this new kind of address, to adopt it in terms, and even to take the appellation of Servant of the People as his royal style, how either he or we should be much mended by it, I cannot imagine.
I have seen very assuming letters, signed, Your most obedient, humble servant. Kings and nations were trampled upon by the foot of one calling himself the Servant of Ser vants; and mandates for deposing sovereigns were sealed with the signet of "the Fisherman.
I should have considered all this as no more than a sort of flippant vain discourse, in which, as in an unsavoury fume, several persons suffer the spirit of liberty to evaporate, if it were not plainly in support of the idea, and a part of the scheme of "cashiering kings for misconduct. Kings, in one sense, are undoubtedly the ser vants of the people, because their power has no other rational end than that of the general ad vantage; but it is not true that they are, in the ordinary sense by our constitution, at least any thing like servants; the essence of whose situation is to obey the commands of some other, and to be removeable at pleasure.
But the king of Great Britain obeys no other person; all other persons are individually, and collectively too, under him, and owe to him a legal obedience. The law, which knows neither to flatter nor to insult, calls this high magistrate, not our servant, as this humble Divine calls him, but our sove reign Lord the King; and we, on our parts, have learned to speak only the primitive lan guage of the law, and not the confused jargon of their Babylonian pulpits.
Our consti tution knows nothing of a magistrate like the Justicia of Arragon; nor of any court legally ap pointed, nor of any process legally settled for sub mitting the king to the responsibility belonging to all servants. In this he is not distinguished from the commons and the lords; who, in their several public capacities, can never be called to an account for their conduct; although the Revolution Society chooses to assert, in direct opposition to one of the wisest and most beautiful parts of our constitution, that a king is no more than the first servant of the public, cre ated by it, and responsible to it.
Ill would our ancestors at the Revolution have deserved their fame for wisdom, if they had found no security for their freedom, but in rendering their government feeble in its opera tions, and precarious in its tenure; if they had been able to contrive no better remedy against arbitrary power than civil confusion. Let these gentlemen state who that representative public is to whom they will affirm the king, as a servant, to be responsible.
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It will be then time enough for me to produce to them the positive statute law which affirms that he is not. The ceremony of cashiering kings, of which these gentlemen talk so much at their ease, can rarely, if ever, be performed without force.
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It then becomes a case of war, and not of consti tution. The Revolution of was obtained by a just war, in the only case in which any war, and much more a civil war, can be just.