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tution. Laws are commanded to hold their
and indignation at abusive power in unworthy hands; the brave and bold from the love of honourable danger in a generous cause: but, with or without right, a revolution will be the very last resource of the thinking and the good.
The third head of right, asserted by the pulpit of the Old Jewry, namely, the "right to form a
government for ourselves," has, at least, as little countenance from any thing done at the Revolution, either in precedent or principle, as the two first of their claims. The Revolution was made to preserve our antient indisputable laws and liberties, and that antient constitution of government which is our only security for law and liberty. If you are desirous of knowing the spirit of our constitution, and the policy which predominated in that great period which has secured it to this hour, pray look for both in our histories, in our records, in our acts of parliament, and journals of parliainent, and not in the sermons of the Old Jewry, and the after-dinner toasts of the Revolution Society.-- In the former you will find other ideas and another language. Such a claim is as ill-suited to our temper and wishes as it is unsupported by any appearance of authority. The very idea of the fabrication of a new government, is enough to fill us with disgust and horror. We wished at the period of the Revolution, and do now wish, to derive all we posseiss as an inheritance from our
forefathers. Upon that body and stock of inheri. tance we have taken care not to inoculate
any cyon alien to the nature of the original plant. All the reformations we have hitherto made, have proceeded upon the principle of reference to antiquity; and I hope, nay I am persuaded, that all those which possibly may be made here after, will be carefully formed upon analogical precedent, authority, and example.
Our oldest reformation is that of Magna Charta. You will see that Sir Edward Coke, that great oracle of our law, and indeed all the great men who follow him, to Blackstone *, are, industrious to prove the pedigree of our liberties They endeavour to prove, that the antient charter, the Magna Charta of King John, was connected with another positive charter from Henry I. and that both the one and the other were nothing more than a re-affirmance of the still more antient standing law of the kingdom. In the matter of fact, for the greater part, these authors appear to be in the right; perhaps not always: but if the lawyers mistake in some particulars, it proves my position still the more 'strongly; because it demonstrates the powerful prepossession towards antiquity, with which the minds of all our lawyers and legislators, and of all the people whom they wish to influence, have been always filled; and the stationary policy of this kingdom in considering their most sacred rights and franchises as an inheritance. ✷ See Blackstone's Magna Charta, printed at Oxford, 1759.
In the famous law of the 3d of Charles I. called the Petition of Right, the parliament says to the king, “ Your subjects have inherited this « freedom," claiming their franchises not on abstract principles “ as the rights of men," but as the rights of Englishmen, and as a patrimony derived from their forefathers. Selden, and theother profoundly learned men, who drew this petition of right, were as well acquainted, at least, with all the general theories concerning the “ rights of men," as any of the discoursers in our pulpits, or on your tribune; full as well as Dr. Price, or as the Abbé Seyes. But, for reasons worthy of that practical wisdom which superseded their theoretic science, they preferred this positive, recorded, hereditary title to all which can be dear to the man and the citizen, to, that vague speculative right, which exposed their sure inheritance to be scrambled for and torn to pieces by every wild litigious spirit. • The same policy pervades all the laws which have since been made for the preservation of our liberties. In the 1st of William and Mary, in the famous statute, called the Declaration of Rights the two houses utter not a syllable of “ a “ right to frame a government for themselves." You will see, that their whole care was to secure the religion, laws, and liberties, that had been long possessed, and had been lately endangered.
Taking * into their most serious consideration “ the best means for making such an establishment,
*, W. and M.
" that their religion, laws, and liberties, might
not be in danger of being again subverted," they auspicate all their proceedings, by stating as some of those best means, “ in the first place" to do “ as their ancestors in like cases have usually « done for vindicating their antient rights and
liberties, to declare;"—and then they pray the king and queen,
" that it may be declared and « enacted, that all and singular the rights and “ liberties asserted and declared are the true an« tient and indubitable rights and liberties of the “ people of this kingdom.”
You will observe, that from Magna Charta to the Declaration of Right, it has been the uniform policy of our constitution to claim and assert our liberties, as an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers, and to be transmitted to our posterity; as an estate specially belonging to the people of this kingdom without any reference whatever to any other more general or prior light. By this means
our constitution preserves an unity in so great a diversity of its parts. We have an inheritable crown; an inheritable peerage; and an house of commons and a people inheriting privileges, franchises, and liberties, from a long line of ancestors.
This policy appears to me to be the result of profound reflection; or rather the happy effect of following nature, which is wisdom without reflection, and above it. A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity,