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and under no pretext, prolong its own continuance beyond the period assigned by the Constitution.
The sorrows of Charles I. were accelerated by his injudicious assent to the bill on the subject we have already noticed, when presented to him by the House of Commons. Terrified by the temper of the nation, he dared not to dissolve them, and call another Parliament: he calculated that a new House would contain a more exasperated and malignant spirit than that which had already opposed and distressed him. He might however have dissolved them without calling another; and perhaps, in the straits to which he was reduced, it might have promoted his own temporal interests. But if his arms had proved successful, the conquest over his subjects would have been a conquest of the Constitution. The fierce, iron rule of William I. would inevitably have been revived ; and the short mandates of the soldier would have been substituted for the peaceful complications of civil legislation. If he had failed, his fate could not have been worse than it afterwards proved; but the nation itself would have been resolved into a state of furious and despotic anarchy. Such an alternative of evil, such an equilibrium of misery, may thus be justly predicated of the want of a fixed, constitutional duration of the legislative authority. But the power of the executive to dissolve the legislative authority, is sometimes unintentionally productive of public good. Mr. Hallam tells us, and we believe correctly, that such was the servility of the Parliament of 1691, " that if James II. had been as zealous for the Church of England as his father, he would have succeeded, by their means, in establishing a power, so nearly despotic, that neither the privileges of Parliament, nor those of private men, would have stood in his way.”
The sentence, like many others of our author, is not well ex. pressed; but the meaning is, that such laws would probably have been passed, as would have rendered James independent of Parliaments, and master of the liberties of his subjects. The religious fervour of the monarch prevailed over the natural love of power. He would not perhaps have declined to accept any base surrender of popular rights, from a sense of its injustice, or a desire to continue the freedom and happiness of the people. Some persons, and among them Mr. Fox, have conceived that James was actuated, during his short reign, more by the love of despotic power and the hope of moulding the Constitution in subserviency to it, than by an attachment to Popery. But we see no reason to doubt the sincerity or the strength of his religious opinions; and, however odious they may at that time have been to a large majority of his subjects, we, who are nurtured in the system of perfect equality on these points, ought not hastily to join in the hackseyed ridicule of a man who, as Louis XIV. observed, sacrificed
VOL. III. NO, 5.
three kingdoms for a mass. If we praise him who steadfastly adheres to our own peculiar religion, at the expense of ease and fortune, why should we refuse our approbation to another, who, apparently with the same sincerity, submits to similar privations, in behalf of certain opinions which happen to differ from our own? If the sacrifice is greater, is it not a presumption that the faith is more sincere? We are, in this country, so little accustomed to religious intolerance, that we feel an utter inability to adopt the partial and illiberal views of some of the English writers. We know not why a Roman Catholic may not be allowed to be devout; we know not why James Stuart may not be admitted to have heen sincere. And if we wanted full proof of his sincerity, we might appeal to his dissolution of this very Parliament, as a conclusive fact. To this dissolution, the people of England are not much less indebted for the preservation of their liberties, than to the decapitation of Charles I. The horrible nature of the latter outrage, the licentiousness which soon succeeded, and the military despotism engendered by that licentiousness, drove the nation back to royalty ; but if royalty had been rendered independent of legislative aid, the worst times of the close of the Commonwealth would soon have been renewed.
Mr. Hallam's observations on this power of dissolution are reasonable, and may be inserted as evidence of the general liberality and moderation of his views :
“But what seems more important than the usual term of duration, is that this should be permitted to take its course, except in cases where some great change of national policy may perhaps justify its abridgment. The crown would obtain a very serious advantage over the house of commons, if it should become an ordinary thing to dissolve parliament for some petty ministerial interest, or to avert some unpalatable resolution. Custom appears to have established, and with some convenience, the substitution of six for seven years as the natural life of a house of commons; but an habitual irregularity in this respect might lead in time to consequences that most men would deprecate. And it may here be permitted to express a hope, that the necessary dissolution of parliament within six months of a demise of the crown will not long be thought congenial to the spirit of our modern government.”
Of those assemblages which are termed Convention Parliaments, modern history has rendered us familiar with that which preceded the Restoration, and that which conducted the Revolution. We find something of the same kind so far back as the accession of Henry IV., the particulars of which are minutely related in the History of the Middle Ages.
These irregular creations of legislative power have only been resorted to in cases of great exigency; but they exhibit a radical defect in the monarchical system. The entire power of legislation is vested in the three estates. If the first is imprisoned by a rebellious subject claiming the throne, or expelled from the kingdom, or abdicates his regal seat, one branch of the legislative power is withdrawn. The third can only be called into existence by the first. The second can do nothing without the concurrence of the other two. The proceedings of a body so assembled, cannot therefore have the validity of laws. Nor would the assent of the monarch, when quietly seated on the throne, confer validity upon them. On the restoration of Charles II., a measure to this effect was attempted ; but great doubts of its curing the defect were entertained, even by those who promoted it. And the general opinion was adverse to it. It may amuse some of our readers to exhibit a specimen of the jumbled language of lawyers' reports in those days; the Norman French of the Forum, in which the author never scrupled to introduce a Latin or an English word, in case he did not recollect the French one. Siderfin begins his Reports, 12 Charles II., in the following manner :
“ Memorandum que circa le terme de Hilarii le government de c'est Common wealth (come fuit appel) fuit en le surviving members del Long Parliament qu'eux consiste del aseuns des commons house solement q fueront circa ces temps re-admit à lour trust ovec c'est intent solement que ils causer Novel Parliament d'estre summon lequel ils accordantmeut font c'est vacation.” : He then informs us, that the King went to Parliament, and passed two laws, one of which was,-“ Pour le confirming de c'est Parliament. Lequel s'il ad fist ceo un bone Parliament fuit un quere inter le learned. Et tenus per plusiors que nemy la nesteant aseum President l'ou un number de people assemble sans breve le Roy, poient estre un Parliament. Et donque aceordant al rules de nostre Ley, pur confirmer un void chose est ineffectual. Mes autrement ad estre si ceux ont estre summon per un que fuit Roy de facto coment nemy de jure.” Much sound sense is condensed in these few barbarous sentences.
But Blackstone considers this too nice a scruple. He argues that, as the royal prerogative was chiefly wounded by so meeting, he who alone had a right to object, waived the objection by giving his assent. The confirmatory Act of a Parliament regularly called the next year, he considers as having been passed out of abundant caution.
The exigencies we have described, were, in their nature, of a short duration ; but a case might arise, in which Blackstone's reasoning would be put to a severe test. “Let us barely suppose,” he says, “so melancholy a case as that the heir apparent should be a lunatic, an idiot, or otherwise incapable of reigning, how miserable would the condition of the nation be, if he could not be set aside. The power to do so can nowhere be so properly lodged as in the two Houses of Parliament, by and with the consent of the reigning King; and therefore, in the King, Lords,
sion had beenappen; that the partie, that a' still
and Commons, in Parliament assembled, the law has expressly lodged it.” Now let us suppose, that a still more melancholy case should happen; that the father died before any such provision had been made, and that the right to the crown was plainly vested in an idiot or a lunatic. It is obvious that the government would be at an end. The next in succession could assert no right to the crown, while the idiot or lunatic lived, and of course could give no sanction to any law, nor assume any portion of the executive power. In this political void, this strange aspect of space without matter to fill it, this cessation of all power to enforce the laws, the nation would be completely resolved into the original elements of society. Their good genius averted these possible consequences, at the time of the Revolution; and the peaceable and sober manner in which it was conducted, evinced their fears of that anarchy from which they had been so recently rescued. But such events may not always happen in times so composed; and it is one of the evils of monarchy, that, in its own characteristic, it contains a germe of self destruction which it cannot eradicate. We may be allowed again to present the contrast of our republican systems. Careful provision is made in our Constitution, in the first place, as to the persons who shall be intrusted with the executive power. It cannot be conferred on a female; nor would an idiot or a lunatic ever be elected. If the person holding it dies, or otherwise becomes incapable of performing its duties, certain officers in succession are provided to perform those duties. As the executive part of government is considered with us a power in the abstract, and not, as in monarchies, a personal power, adherent to, or, more properly speaking, existing in the monarch alone, it never dies. The legislative and judicial powers are in like manner abstract and imperishable existences; but carefully secured in their practical exercise, so that unless the people, for whose sole benefit our governments are instituted, prove faithless to themselves, the mechanism of government can never be impeded or destroyed.
While considering this part of the subject, our attention was excited by a passage in the author, professing to “distinguish the executive government, using that word in its largest sense, from the Crown itself, or the personal authority of the sovereign,” which is, he assures us, a matter of delicate inquiry. The first part of the proposition—the separation of the executive authority from the Crown
-it was somewhat difficult to comprehend ; but we soon discovered, that Mr. Hallam meant no more than to inform us, that a king, who never can perform all the executive functions himself, is obliged to employ ministers and agents. After this plain proposition, he proceeds, with as much ability as is manifested in any other part of the work, to delineate the ascendancy which, from various causes, the ministry of late has acquired. High family connexions, parliamentary influence, and the combinations of party, have, as he conceives, frequently transferred the executive power from the prince on the throne to the ministers whom he appoints; and these being responsible to the people, the public interest is thus promoted. Yet he admits that, in the reigns of George I. and II., when the ministerial power was at its height, and particularly during the last of these two reigns, the ministry were obliged to support the predominant wish of the prince. Thus Walpole, the two Pelhams, and even the sturdy Pitt, against their own judgment, were successively obliged to yield obedience to their sovereign's predilection for his German dominions. But these occasional ascendancies over a pliant prince, are mere incidents in the history, and form no part of the Constitution of England.
If our limits would permit, we should be tempted to prolong the present Article. There is abundance of curious matter collected by Mr. Hallam, from original sources, to which others have not applied. Although, as we before remarked, his style is not very graceful, and his composition is frequently far from being lucid, yet his meaning may always be perceived, and that meaning is almost always liberal and manly. He writes without party spirit; he labours to establish no particular point. He is always moderate ; and with some very trifling exceptions, appears to us to be always accurate in point of fact. We have noticed some inconsistencies in argument; and we might have adverted to a few more discrepancies between this and his former work; but we will conclude with another trite quotation, to which we shall always endeavour to conform :
Ubi plura nitent in carmine,
ART. III. A Voyage to the Moon: with some account of the
Manners and Customs, Science and Philosophy, of the People of Morosofia and other Lunarians: By JOSEPH ATTERLEY. New-York: Elam Bliss, 1827. 12mo. pp. 264.
It is somewhat remarkable, that perhaps the only 6 Voyages • to the Moon,” which have been published in the English tongue,
should have been the productions of English bishops :—the first forming a tract, re-published in the Harleian Miscellany, and said to have been written by Dr. Francis Goodwin, Bishop of Landaff, (who died in 1633,) and entitled " The Man in the Moon, or the discourse of a voyage thither, by Domingo Gonsales,”--and the second written in 1638, by Dr. John Wilkins, Bishop of Chester, under the title of “ The Discovery of a New