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common inheritances, to all the daughters at once; the evident necessity of a sole succession to the throne having occasioned the royal law of descents to depart from the common law in this respect; and therefore queen Mary, on the death of her brother, succeeded to the crown alone, and not in partnership with her sister Elizabeth. Lastly, on the failure of lineal descendants, the crown descends to the next collateral relations of the last king; provided they are lineally descended from the blood royal, that is, from the royal stock which originally acquired the crown.
3. It is unquestionably in the breast of the king, with the advice of both houses of parliament, to change the succession; and by particular entails, limitations, and provisions, to exclude the immediate heir, and vest the inheritance in any one else.
4. But however the crown may be limited or transferred, it still retains its descendible quality, and becomes hereditary in the wearer of it. And hence in our law the king is said never to die, in his political capacity; though in common with other men, he is subject to mortality in his natural body; because immediately on the natural death of Henry, George, or William, the king survives in his successor. For the right of the crown vests eo instante, upon his heir; either the hæres natus, if the course of descent remains unimpeached, or the hæres factus, if the inheritance be under any particular settlement. So that there can be no interregnum; but, as Sir Matthew Hale observes, the right of sovereignty is fully invested in the successor by the descent of the crown. And therefore it becomes in him absolutely hereditary, unless it is otherwise ordered and determined by the rules of the limitation.
Beyond all controversy the English government has been monarchical from the remotest period of its existence. That the royal office has always been hereditary and not elective, has never been denied but by the regicides who murdered king Charles I. These violent and infatuated men asserted the inalienable right of the people to elect their supreme governor; and soon afterwards, with great inconsistency, the crown was offered to Cromwell, by a house of commons, convened by the sole authority of the usurper. Indeed the title of Cromwell himself to the supreme power, rested merely upon the instrument of government, which was drawn up by a counsel, consisting only of his general officers. What share the people had in proposing to make him a king, may be seen in the histories of that time.
In 1656 Cromwell summoned a parliament, when, not trusting to the good will of the people, he used every art to influence the elections, which he had new-modelled, in order to fill the house with those who would be devoted to him; but after all his precautions, he found the majority would not be favourable to his pretensions: he therefore placed a guard at the door, and no one was permitted to enter the house of commons who did
not produce a warrant from his council. This packed parliament voted a renunciation of all title in Charles Stuart or any of his family; and at length, on the motion of alderman Pack, one of the members for London, passed a bill for investing the usurper with the dignity of King.-So much then for the choice of the people.
The hereditary right to the crown, acknowledged by the laws of England, has obtained the general consent and an established usage; and consequently the king has the same title to the crown, that a private gentleman has to his hereditary estate. The experience of all ages has convinced every considerate man, that popular elections are unavoidably attended with great inconvenience; and that undue influence, ambition, power, and artifice, will almost always prevail over virtue and integrity. And the fact is, as we learn from history, that the election of the ancient imperial governors was universally accompanied with bloodshed and murder. The election of the kings of Poland in former days, invariably raised the bitter waters of discontent and sedition to an alarming height, from which they subsided only in proportion to the fall of the fountain from which they flowed, deluging that unhappy country with the blood of its slaughtered people. But what Englishman who has witnessed the scenes of riot and confusion, which are exhibited at the election of representatives in parliament, will not rejoice that the succession to the crown is marked out with constitutional precision; that a rule is laid down, which is uniform, universal, and permanent, and that thereby the peace and freedom of the state are preserved?
The doctrine of representation likewise prevails in the descent of the crown, as in other inheritances; thus Richard II. succeeded his grandfather Edward III. in right of his father the Black Prince, who died whilst prince of Wales, and George III. took the crown on the demise of his grandfather George II. in right of his father Frederick prince of Wales, and each to the exclusion of their uncles.
As already mentioned, the king with the advice of his parliament, has the power to defeat the hereditary right, and entail the succession in any particular line. And the reason of this is very obvious, in order to avoid the inconvenience and distress that the whole nation must experience, were an idiot or lunatic necessarily to inherit the throne; and on the other hand, to avert the miseries that must accrue to the reigning monarch at all times, were any such authority expressly confided to the people, who are liable to be influenced by caprice, and hurried on by the most ungovernable passions. Hence it is plain, that the English constitution disclaims all such political theories, as any right inherent in the people, either to choose or set aside their king. This is clear from the bill of rights, called the "Declaration of Right," in which the lords and commons consider it "as a marvellous providence and merciful goodness of God to this
nation to preserve," king William and queen Mary, "most happily to reign over us on the throne of their ancestors, for which from the bottom of their hearts they return the humblest thanks and praises." The two houses in the bill of rights, did not thank God that they had found a fair opportunity to assert their right to choose their own governors, much less to make an election the only lawful title to the crown, after king James II. had made the throne vacant by his abdication; but on the contrary, in order to exclude for ever the doctrine "of a right to choose our own governors," a subsequent clause of that immortal law just mentioned declares, that "the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, do in the name of all the people aforesaid, most humbly and faithfully submit themselves, their heirs and posterity for ever; and do faithfully promise that they will stand to, maintain, and defend their said majesties, and also the limitation of the crown, herein specified and contained, to the utmost of their powers. It is very surprising that any sensible person can infer the doctrine of a right to choose our own governors from the conduct of our ancestors at the Revolution in 1688. Since, if we had possessed it before, it is clear that the English nation did at that time most solemnly renounce and abdicate it, for themselves and for all their posterity for ever.
The true spirit of our constitution, not only in its settled course, but in all its revolutions, is hereditary succession to the reigning monarch, whether he obtained the crown by law or by force. The regular inheritance of the British throne has indeed been often changed and usurped by fraud and violence, as will be seen by a short historical view of the kings of England. But the beautiful feature of hereditary succession marked the infancy of our government, bloomed in its manhood, and is indelibly engraven in the venerable wrinkles of its increasing age.
Egbert, who was the first king of England, and the last of the Saxon heptarchy, was king of the West Saxons, by a long and uninterrupted descent from his ancestors of above 300 years, and united the heptarchy in one monarchy under himself in the year 828. How his ancestors obtained their titles, it is in vain for us to inquire, since there are no documents in existence that will satisfy such political curiosity. However, Egbert became sole monarch of England, partly by the consent of, and partly by the Conquest over, the other six kingdoms of the heptarchy.
From Egbert the crown descended regularly for two hundred years, through a succession of fifteen princes, to the death of Edmund Ironside, without deviation or interruption; except that the sons of king Ethelwolf succeeded to each other, without regard to the children of the elder branches; and also that king Edred, the uncle of Edwy, reigned about nine years during the minority of Edwy, on account of the troubles of the times, but when of age Edwy assumed the reins of government himself.
At the death of Edmund Ironside, Canute, king of Denmark, obtained
the kingdom by violence, by which means a new family were in possession of the throne. Three of his heirs succeeded to the throne; and on the death of Hardicanute, the ancient Saxon line was restored in Edward the Confessor, who was the next of kin then in England. On Edward's decease, Harold II. usurped the government, for Edgar Atheling, the grandson of Ironside, was the lawful heir. Harold being defeated at the battle of Hastings, was dispossessed of the throne by William the Conqueror. Edgar Atheling, the true heir, retired to Scotland, and Malcom the Scottish king married his sister Margaret, who for her piety is commonly called Saint Margaret, whose descendant James I. restored to England her ancient Saxon line. Robert, the Conqueror's eldest son, being duke of Normandy by his father's will, was kept out of the possession of the crown of England by the arts and violence of his brothers, William II. and Henry I., who succeeded their father.
Henry I.'s real heiress was his daughter, the empress Maud or Matilda ; but Stephen usurped the throne, having only the feeble title of being the Conqueror's grandson by his mother's side; Henry II. succeeded Stephen; he was the Conqueror's undoubted heir after his mother Matilda, and was also lineally descended from Edmund Ironside, the last of the Saxon hereditary kings. Henry was succeeded by Richard I., who dying childless, the right of succession rested in his nephew Arthur, his next brother Geoffrey's son. But John, the late king's surviving brother, seized the crown, and afterwards murdered his nephew, the doctrine of representation not being then clearly understood.
Henry III., who succeeded his father, king John, had an indisputable title; for Arthur and his sister Eleanor both died without issue, and the crown descended from Henry to Richard II. in a regular succession of five generations.
Henry IV. was the son of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, fourth son of Edward III.; he rebelled against Richard II. and compelled him to resign the crown. And history has hitherto accused that prince of adding murder to usurpation; but Mr Tytler in his excellent history of Scotland, has demonstrated that Richard took refuge in Scotland, and died a natural death in Stirling castle, in the chapel of which fortress the remains of that unhappy prince now lie.-Requiescat in pace. Henry's title, however, was not a just one; for Lionel, duke of Clarence, third son of Edward III. and John of Gaunt's elder brother, left a daughter Philippa, from whom descended the illustrious house of York, who were the true heirs of the crown. But Henry having at that time a large army at his command, asserted his defective title with effect. And it was enacted by statute 7 Henry IV. "that the inheritance of the crown and realms of England and France, and all other of the king's dominions, shall be set and remain in the person of our sovereign lord the king, and
in the heirs of his body issuing." It is obvious, from the terms of the statute, that Henry's title appeared even at that time doubtful; and it is equally clear, that the king de facto, and parliament, in this instance exercised the right of changing and limiting the succession of the crown.
But "the beginning of strife is as when one letteth out waters." No man can tell, when a river breaks through its banks and rushes from its accustomed channel, what devastation it will occasion. Henry's usurpation gave rise to the contest between the houses of York and Lancaster. The latter in maintaining their possession, and the former in asserting their just right, spread desolation and misery, fire and sword, through a peaceful land for several subsequent generations. Henry was succeeded by his son and grandson Henry V. and Henry VI. In the reign of the latter pious but weak prince, the house of York asserted its dormant title; and after watering England with native blood for seven years, at length established its legitimate rights in the person of Edward IV.
In all the acts of parliament of Edward IV. wherein the Henries of the house of Lancaster were named, they are called "lately in deed not of right kings of England;" from hence first arose the distinction of a king "de jure" and a king "de facto."
On the death of Edward, the crown descended to his eldest son; Edward V., who, with his brother the duke of York, are generally believed to have been murdered in the tower, by their uncle Richard duke of Gloucester's order; after he had insinuated into the people a suspicion of the bastardy of the two young princes, and of their sister Elizabeth, to whom the crown of right devolved, on the death of her brothers. And the wicked and unnatural uncle usurped the government, under the name of Richard III. He enjoyed, however, the fruits of his villany little more than two years, when his tyranny excited Henry, earl of Richmond, to assert his title to the crown. Richard being slain in the battle of Bosworth, Richmond took possession of the crown by the style of Henry VII., although nothing could be more preposterous than his claim; for he was descended from a natural son of John of Gaunt, whose own title had been exploded. Henry, however, was recognised as king by an act of parliament in the first year of his reign. But the right of the crown was undoubtedly in Elizabeth, the daughter of Edward IV. This princess, the heiress of the royal house of York, Henry married in the year 1486, and thus happily settled the fierce and bloody contest, of the two rival families, commonly called the wars of the roses, from each having a rose for their cognizance, the white for Lancaster and the red for York.
How mysterious are the ways of God! How often does He overrule the wickedness and ambition of man, for the accomplishment of the greatest benefits to mankind! Had Richard conducted the affairs of government with justice and moderation, instead of exhausting the people with tyranny