« 上一页继续 »
and printed. The dislike I feel to revolutions, the signals for which have so ofteu been given from pulpits; the spirit of change that is gone abroad; the total contempt which prevails with you, and may come to prevail with us, of all ancient institutions, when set in opposition to a present sense of convenience, or to the bent of a present inclioation: all these considerations make it not unadviseable, in my opinion, to call back our attention to the true principles of our own domestic laws; that you, my French friend, should begin to know, and that we should continue to cherish them. We ought not, on either side of the water, to suffer ourselves to be imposed upon by the counterfeit wares which some persons, by a double fraud, export to you in illicit bottoms, as raw commodities of British growth though wholly alien to our soil, in order afterwards to smuggle them back again into this country, manufactured after the newest Paris fashion of an improved liberty.
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 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 inestimable value; and they conceive the undisturbed succession of the crown to be a pledge of the stability and perpetuity of all the other members 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 render the support of the just principles of our constitution a task somewhat invidious. These sophisters substitute a fictious cause, and feigned personages, in whose favour they suppose you engaged, whénever you defend the inheritable nature of the crown. It is common with them to dispute as if they were in a conflict wit hsome of these exploded fanatics of slavery, who formerly maintained, what I believe no creature now -maintains, “ that the crown is held by divine, hereditary, and indefeasible right." These old fanatics of single arbitrary power dogmatised as if hereditary royalty was the only lawful government in the world, just as our new fanatics of popular arbitrary power, maintain that a popular election is the sole lawful source of authority The old prerogative enthusiasts, it is true, did speculate foolishly, and perhaps impiously too, as if monarchy had more of a divine sanction than any other mode of government; and as if a right to govern by inheritance were in strictness indefeasible in every person, and under every circumstance, which no civil or political right can be. But an absurd opinion concerning 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 alleging a false fact, or promulgating mischievous maxims on the other.
The second claim of the Revolution Society is “a right of cashiering their governors, on misconduct." . Perhaps the apprehensions our ancestors entertained of forming such a precedent, as that “of cashiering for misconduct," was the cause that the declaration of the act which im . plied the abdication of King James, was, if it had any fault, rather too guarded, and too circumstantial.* But all this guard, and all this accumulation of circumstances, serves to shew the spirit of caution which predominated in the national councils, in a situation in which men irritated by oppression, and elevated by a triumph over it, are apt to abandon 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 settlement, and not a nursery of future revolutions. . No government could stand a moment, if it could be
* " That King James the Second, having endeavoured to subvert the constitution of the kingdom, by breaking the original contract between kiog aud people, and by the advice of jesuits, and other wicked persons, having violated the fundamental Jaws, and having withdrawn bimself out of the kingdom, haiba ab. dicated the government, and the throne is thereby vacant.”
blown down with any thing so loose and indefinite as an opinion of “misconduct.” They who led at the revolution, grounded the virtual abdication of King James upon no such light and uncertain a principle. 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 fundamental, unquestionable laws and liberties : they charged him with having broken the original contract between king and people. This was more than misconduct. A grave and over-ruling 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 impracticable 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. 2. called “ The act for declaring the rights and liberties of the subject, and for settling the sliccession of the crown," they enacted, that the ministers should serve the crown on the terms of that declaration, They secured soon after the frequent meetings of parliament, by which the whole government would be under the constant inspection and active 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 liberties 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." The rule laid down for government in the Declaration of Right, the constant inspection of parliament, the practical claim of impeachment, they thought infinitely a better security not only for their constitutional liberty, but against the vices of administration, than the reservation of a right so difficult in the practice, so uncertain in the issue, and often so mischievous in the consequences, as that of " cashiering their governors."
Dr. Price, in this sermon,* condemns very properly the practice of gross, adulatory addresses to kings. Instead of this fulsome style, he proposes that his majesty should be told, on occasions of congratulation, that “he is to consider himself as more properly the servant than the sovereign of his people.”. For a compliment, 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 obligations. The slave, in the old play, tells his master, “ Hvec commemoratio est quasi exprobatio." 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. The proudest domination that ever was endured on earth took a title of still greater humility than that which is now proposed for sovereigns by the Apostle of Liberty. Kings and nations were trampled upon by the foot of one calling himself “ the Servant of Servants;" and inandates for deposing sovereigus were sealed with the signet of “ the Fisherman." . I should have considered all this as no more than a sort of Alippant vain discourse, in which, as in an unsavory 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." In that light it is worth some observation.
Kings, in one sense, are undoubtedly the servants of the people, because their power has no other rational end than that of the general advantage; 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 situiation 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 fatter nor
* Pages, 22, 23, 24.
to insult, calls this high magistrate, not our servant, as this humble divine calls him, but“ our sovereigp lord the King;" and we, on our parts, have learned to speak only the primitive language of the law, and not the confused jargon of their Babylonian pulpits.
As he is not to obey us, but as we are to obey the law in him, our constitution has made no sort of provision towards rendering him, as a servant, in any degree responsible. Our constitution knows nothing of a magistrate like the justicia of Arragon; nor of any court legally appoiuted, nor of any process legally settled for submitting 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 couduct; although the Revolution Society chooses to assert, in direct opposi. tion 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, created 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 reudering their government feeble in its operations, and precarious in its tenure; if they had beeu 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. It will be then time enough for me to produce to them the positive stato:te 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. It then becomes a case of war, and not of constitution. Laws are commanded to hold their tongues amongst arms; and tribunals fall to the ground with the peace they are no longer able to uphold. The revolution of 1688 was obtained by a just war, in the only case in which any war, and much more a civil war, can be just. “ Justa bella quibus necessaria." The question of dethroning, or, if these gentlemen like the plırase better, “ cashiering kings," will always be, as it has always been, an extraordinary question of state, and wholly out of the law; a question (like all other questions