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injuries, or public oppressions, the law has provided a remedy in both cases. Should any person, for instance, have any just demand on the king, in point of property, he must petition him in his court of Chancery, where his lord chancellor will administer right as a matter of grace, though not upon compulsion. So likewise in cases of ordinary public oppression, as, politically speaking, he can do no wrong, impeachments and indictments will lie against those evil councillors and wicked ministers, without whose bad advice and criminal assistance he could not misuse his power, or act in contradiction to the known laws of the land."
Another political attribute of the king is his absolute perfection. The ancient and fundamental maxim, "that the king can do no wrong," does not mean that he is not subject to the same passions and infirmities as other men ; but that the constitution has prescribed no mode by which he can be personally amenable for any wrong that he may actually commit. And, in fact, the inviolability of the king is essentially necessary, not for his own private gratification, as the ignorant are too apt to suppose, but for the preservation of the liberty of his subjects. The king, like the sun, shines not so much to exhibit his own splendour, as to animate all around him. He is the centre of attraction, around which the different bodies in the political system revolve, and by whose influence they are preserved in their proper places and order. The king is not capable, politically, of even thinking wrong. For should he make any grant, for instance, contrary to reason, or prejudicial to the state, or to any individual, the law will not impute any blame to him, but suppose that he was misled and ill advised, and thereupon such grant is rendered void. The two houses of parliament, however, have a constitutional right of remonstrating and complaining to the king, even of those acts of royalty which are properly his own. This is often done in canvassing the messages to each house, signed by the king, and in deliberating on his speeches from the throne. Yet to preserve decency and the freedom of debate, the members usually consider these speeches and messages, as the composition of the ministers of state, and therefore have always thought themselves at liberty to examine any proposition in them with freedom. This privilege, however, of examining the personal acts of the sovereign, belongs exclusively to the two houses of parliament, and is even there to be exercised with all due respect.
In further pursuance of this principle, the law also determines that in the king there can be no negligence, and therefore no delay will bar his right for the law intends that the king is always busied for the public good, and therefore has not leisure to assert his right within the time limited to subjects. In the king also there can be no stain or corruption of blood; for if the heir to the crown were attained of treason or felony, and afterwards the crown should descend to him, this would ipso facto, purge
the attainder. Neither can the king in judgment of law, as king, ever be a minor or under age; and, therefore, his royal grants and assents to acts of parliament are good, though he has not in his natural capacity attained the legal age of twenty-one. The very necessity of appointing a protector, guardian, or regent, is sufficient to demonstrate the truth of that maxim of common law, that there is no minority in the king: and therefore that he hath no legal guardian.
Perpetuity is another kingly attribute. The king never dies. Because on the natural death of the sovereign the crown descends to his heir, without any interregnum or interval whatever, who becomes immediately the sovereign: and the source and fountain of all political power, throughout the kingdom, as all magistrates, and men in authority, derive their power, privileges, and authority from him. In the exercise of his royal prerogatives, the king is absolute and irresistible, and accountable to no man; nevertheless, his advisers may be called to a severe account for their bad advice. In his intercourse with other nations, his public acts are the acts of the whole community, he being the head and chief of the nation; whatever is done without his concurrence and authority, being mere private acts, are of no authority. He alone can empower and send ambassadors, who represent his person, and are entitled to the same courtesy and respect as himself. He alone can make treaties, leagues, and alliances with foreign powers, and these are binding on the whole nation; his ministers, by whose advice and instrumentality he makes those treaties, being answerable for their evil counsel. The whole power of the sword is in the king alone, he alone declares war, and makes peace; his advisers being still answerable for their advice.
At home his prerogative is exercised, in allowing or rejecting all acts of parliament which he considers proper or improper to be passed into a law. It is incorrect to say that the king has only a negative voice, all the negatives in the world could never make an affirmative; it is true he seldom exercises his negative, but he always exercises an affirmative, when he consents to enact what his councillors in parliament advise him to make a law. Notwithstanding the many and important concessions of the crown to parliament, it has never conceded the power of the sword, which is wholly lodged in the king: he is generalissimo of all the naval and military array of the kingdom, and by his prerogative he raises and regulates the fleets and armies. The danger of trusting the power of the sword in the hands of parliament, was exemplified in the reign of the first Charles, and to remedy this, and annex it irrevocably to the crown, the statute 13 Ch. II. was enacted, which declares that "Forasmuch as within all his majesty's realms and dominions, the sole, supreme government, command and disposition of the militia, and of all forces by sea and land, and of all forts and places of strength, is, and by the laws of England ever
was, the undoubted right of his majesty, and his royal predecessors, kings and queens of England, and that both or either of the houses of parliament cannot, nor ought to pretend to the same; nor can, nor lawfully may raise or levy any war, offensive or defensive, against his majesty, his heirs or lawful successors; and yet the contrary thereof hath of late years been practised, almost to the ruin and destruction of this kingdom; and, during the late usurped government, many evil and rebellious principles have been instilled into the minds of the people of this kingdom, which, unless prevented, may break forth to the disturbance of the peace and quiet thereof.” (Act 13 Ch. II. c. 6.)
By his prerogative the king can erect beacons, lighthouses, and seamarks, whenever and wherever he chooses; and if the owner of the land, or any other person, shall destroy or remove any of these, he is liable to be amerced in £100, and in failure of payment he is ipso facto outlawed. The king can prevent any one from leaving the kingdom, by issuing his writ under the great seal, or by commanding parties to return if abroad; disobedience to either is a high contempt of the king's prerogative, for which the offender's lands may be seized till his return; after which he is liable to fine and imprisonment.
The king is the sole judge of all his subjects, which is fully acknowledged in the statute 24 Henry VIII. c. 12., where he is called the " one supreme head and king-he being also instituted and furnished by the goodness and sufferance of Almighty God, with plenary, whole and entire power, pre-eminence, authority, prerogative, and jurisdiction to render and yield justice, and final determination, to all manner of folk, resiants or subjects within the realm, in all causes, matters, debates, and contentions," &c. But acting as a judge in his own proper person, would be both physically impossible and also derogatory to his dignity; he distributes justice, therefore, to all his subjects, through the channels of the different courts of justice in the kingdom, which are erected solely in his name, and by his authority, justice being rendered entirely in his name, under his seal, and executed by his officers alone, and by none other.
In the beginning of his long and glorious reign, George III. rendered the judges independent, in order to prevent the possibility of their being corrupted or biased in the administration of justice; he declared "that he looked upon the independence and uprightness of the judges, as essential to the impartial administration of justice; as one of the best securities of the rights and liberties of his subjects; and as most conducive to the honour of the crown." Accordingly he gave his consent to an act of parliament, continuing the judges in their office notwithstanding the demise of the crown; and they cannot be removed but by the joint address of both houses of parliament to the king. This is an act of concession from the crown, that cannot be too highly praised, as the perversion of justice is
thus made almost next to impossible. English courts of law are neither executive nor legislative, they are entirely judicial, which renders them preeminently conservators of the liberties of the people.
"We see then," says an excellent writer, "that this single act of our (late) gracious sovereign, in recommending to his parliament so important a measure, has been the means of fortifying our liberties with a very strong additional barrier. This alone would have endeared the king (George III.) to his subjects, had he given no subsequent proofs of his earnest desire to extend the civil and religious liberties of his people. This patriotic act of the king is unexampled in history. What was the great charter of our liberties, but the involuntary grant of a cowardly tyrant! What were the religious advantages obtained at the Reformation, but the unforeseen effects of the violence of a capricious monarch! What were the civil privileges secured during the reigns of the Stewarts, but the reluctant concessions of princes who could not resist their parliaments! What, in short, were the blessings of the glorious Revolution, but the conciliating measures of a monarch whose title rested entirely on the national feelings! But in this measure we behold the unbiased, disinterested conduct of a wise and virtuous king, solicitous to provide for the happiness of his subjects."
After the flood it pleased God to enter into a covenant with Noah, the universal sovereign, and of course through him with all sovereign princes, giving him the power of life and death; "whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God made he man,' (Gen. ix. 6.) And as mercy is one of the attributes of the Most High, in token of which "I do set my bow in the cloud-and the bow shall be in the cloud, and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature," so it is also the brightest jewel in every earthly crown, the prerogative of pardoning offences being alone its incommunicable right. At his coronation the king takes a solemn oath in presence of his assembled people, to administer justice in mercy. And although he cannot personally distribute justice, yet by a fiction of law, he is always present in every court. The judges are the mirror by which his image is reflected: and hence the king, by a similar fiction, is said to possess ubiquity.
To issue proclamations is also a prerogative of the crown. Not that a proclamation makes a new law or dispenses with an old one, or that they are any further binding on the subject, than as they promulgate any known or acknowledged law. It is a standing law, that the king can prohibit any one from leaving the kingdom; a proclamation, therefore, laying an embargo on all shipping in time of war, has the full force and efficacy of an act of parliament. But in the time of peace a proclamation, laying an embargo on vessels laden with wheat, is not legal. Proclamations which
are contrary to the laws, are not binding. Hence when James II. prosecuted the seven bishops for presenting their humble petition, showing the illegality of complying with his assumed dispensing power, they were fully acquitted.
The king is the source and fountain of all honour, and the nobility of every rank and degree hold their patents from the crown alone. When titles of honour are conferred, they are either expressed by writ or letters patent, as in the creation of peers or baronets; or by corporeal investiture, as in the creation of a knight. The king also grants privileges to individuals, such as place and precedence, and charters to corporations. He is also the arbiter of commerce, by settling the establishment of public marts and fairs, with their tolls or customs. He also regulates weights and measures. To him "tribute is due-for he is God's minister, attending continually on this very thing;" it is his authority alone which gives value and currency to "Cæsar's image and superscription." His proclamation gives value and currency to foreign coin; and he may at any time cry down any coin, and render it no longer current.
The stronger the prerogatives of the crown, the greater is the people's security; and it is absolutely necessary that the crown should be free from all coercion, for whosoever can coerce the king can oppress any other man, and the chief end of government is to preserve the people from each other's oppression. Where the king has not sufficient authority to protect the weak from the tyranny of the strong, when his prerogative is lessened and reduced, then the liberty and freedom of the people is destroyed, and they are let loose like Ishmael, every man against his neighbour, to pillage and oppress, which is the greatest and most wretched tyranny. Both a king and a parliament may be guilty of acts of tyranny and oppression; but such will neither be of so long continuance nor so fatal in their effects; for a king has bowels of compassion, God keeps his heart in his own hand, he cannot seek the destruction of his own country, for in that he would involve himself. Every member of a parliament has a stake in the country, and therefore can never desire its ruin; and although both king and parliament may, and have done, extravagant things, yet they will stop short of its utter desolation, and remedies may be applied. But different and contending factions have neither mercy nor compassion, but each seeks the ruin and extermination of the other, and neither thinks itself safe but in the destruction of the adverse faction. When the prerogatives of the crown are so weakened that it has not strength or authority to quell and keep down factions, but suffers them to contend together, then there is tyranny, -tyranny in the abstract, where there are no bowels of compassion, but blind fury and enmity, totally indifferent and reckless of consequences. And if factions divide the nation, which they almost always do, each appealing to the passions of the multitude, then the calamity becomes national