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tion; and there are two leading prin- of the constitution was incapacitated ciples that govern the whole of this by disease,--when the situation of his question : First, That the powers and majesty's mind did not permit him to prerogatives annexed by the common perform the important duties apperlaw to the crown, descend by heredi. taining to his high office. Thus, then, tary succession, and not by election: there appear to have been two violent Secondly, That these powers are never
deviations from the established princi. suspended; the functions of royalty ples of the constitution, of such a nanever cease, for if they were for any ture as to be subversive of the inteperiod interrupted, the destruction of rests of the throne, and destructive of one part of the three essential branches the security of the subjects. The miof the constitution would involve a to. serable fiction which was resorted to on tal dissolution of the legal government. those occasions implied a deception too At the period referred to, these two gross to impose upon the most superleading principles were unnecessarily ficial observer ; for it seemed a most and unwarrantably departed from.
absurd consecration of an act com“The great danger which must arise pletely illegal, to get the lord chanfrom admitting the plea of necessity, cellor, without any adequate authorihas become obvious from subsequent ty, to affix the great seal to it; thus experience, for in the year 1810 this pretending to give the royal approbamischievous precedent was followed. tion to a measure of which the king In 1810 the violent usurpation was could have no possible cognizance. renewed, and that which ought to have “Many reasons call upon the House been considered as a beacon to warn at the present moment to come to a ministers from a dangerous coast, was
decision as to the mode of proceeding mistaken for a sure light to guide them on a contingency, which is possible, in safety to harbour. From the evi. though perhaps not probable, and dence of the physicians it is known, which, if not provided against, may that during the interval between 1788 again place the country in that situaand 1810, his majesty was sometimes tion in which it would be deprived of in a state of mind that rendered him all legal government, in which the maincompetent to the consideration of jority of the House might usurp and those important matters of policy retain all the powers that belong to which naturally devolve upon the sove- the crown. The object of the motion reign ; and the person whose duty it was to prevent, on future occasions, was to submit them to the king, ab- this lawless assumption of authority, stained from so doing, in con equence
to destroy that pretence of necessity of the state of the royal mind. To which it is plain never existed; bewhat degree the malady existed; how cause, in truth, by the constitution of far ministers presumed, under cover of the empire, a choice, indeed many the royal authority, to exercise the choices, of legal remedies remained. powers of majesty at a time when the On a recent occasion, however, this occupant of the throne was unable to illegal mode of proceeding was resol. discharge the duties annexed to that ved. upon, and the House not only exalted station; no one knows, although took upon itself to nominate the exe. it may be reasonable, from the testi- cutive magistrate; not only, on its own mony of the physicians, to conclude authority, resolved to supply a throne that the government of the nation was which never could be vacant, but it carried on in the name of the king by went still further, and usurped the his servants at a time when one branch power of declaring that restrictions
should be placed upon the person whom cies of incapacity, and amounts to an it invested with some of the preroga- utter
vacating of the government. tives of the crown, all of which were • The kingly office is not by the bestowed by the common law for the constitution bestowed for the benefit benefit of the people. Parliament pro- of the individual filling the throne, ceeded so far in its assumption of au- but is a trust exercised for the adthority, that the Prince of Wales was vantage of the people, and in this unwilling, under such conditions, to view it is of great consequence that take upon himself the task of govern- it should never cease. ment. In that able letter written by according to the common law, knows his royal Highness in the year 1788, neither infancy nor insanity, or any in which he so distinctly, accurately, other cause that can incapacitate the and perspicuously defined the princi- person holding it to discharge his ples of the constitution, and the insur- important duties; and if such cause mountable objections existing in his do exist, it must be viewed in the mind to the mode of proceeding sug- same light and treated in the same way gested, he at length consents to act as as the natural dea:h of the monarch, regent, with no other view than to put If insanity should unhappily visit the a period to the anarchy which pre- sovereign, the authority, by the law vailed, conceiving that the evils result of the land, immediately devolves upon ing from this line of conduct would the successor, without the interference, be less than those which might arise much less without the election, of any from the continued abeyance of the set of persons who may be anxious to third branch of the constitution : he usurp powers which do not belong to accepted the kingly power, mutilated them. Such is the obvious, simple, as it was, rather than permit the con- and legal mode of proceeding, which stitution to be further mutilated. The will meet all possible circumstances greatest evil, the most dreadful cala- and preserve the various branches of mity which the history of this country the constitution independent of each presents, arose out of a dispute regard. other. ing the succession to the crown, and “ If it be true, as is pretty generally by not decidedly maintaining the con- believed, that certain powerful indi. stitution as it has been happily esta. viduals by different means do place blished in this respect, consequences their dependants in the House of equally fatal, calamities equally dread. Commons, it becomes a matter of ful, may again be endured. Parlia. double importance, that a bill should iment is called upon, by a proper sense be passed to restrain such individuals of its duty, to guard the peopleof these from usurping and exercising illegal realms against contingencies which authority ; to remove a new motive may enable the minister of the day, on for ambition ; to shew that the crown a pretended plea of necessity, to sub. is not to become the prey of greedy vert the constitution, and usurp the cormorants, and that factions must not government of the country. Such was hope to deck themselves in the trapthe object of the motion. It is right pings of royalty. The powers now at all times to give to the regent powers exercised by the Prince Regent, as uncontrouled as those which belong therefore, should, in case of the death to the king himself. The principle or disability of his royal highness, upon which this proposition rests is be exercised by the heir to the crown, this, that the incapacity proceeding the Princess Charlotte of Wales. from insanity is like every other spe Factions should not have the power to fill the throne with whomsoever vate families are not left to the contin. they please, and under what condi- gencies of human life, ought not to be tions they please. The gentlemen of left to a similar contingency in cases of the long robe could not pretend, that so much greater importance. We have the Princess Charlotte of Wales was already experienced the mischief re. not of sufficient age, because the sulting from the want of a fixed rule common law, as far as relates to the to follow ; and it is our duty to precrown, knows no infancy, and grants vent the recurrence of those contests may be produced, made by children by which the power of the crown was in such situations, which have been torn in pieces for private and factious held by lawyers to be absolutely bind- purposes. The danger to the crown ing: the security which the public from the late proceedings with regard require is, that there shall always be to the regency must be obvious. The an executive government zealous in two houses directed the chancellor to the discharge of its duties, and re- put the seal to an instrument appointsponsible not only for the acts done, ing a person to exercise the royal but for the advice given. But bills functions; and this they called giving for appointing regencies have at dif- the royal assent to that instrument. ferent times passed, in which it was Now what is there to prevent their provided that the king or queen making a similar use of the great should have a particular council till seal, if they choose it, to alter the he or she came to a certain age. Such descent of the crown? If the princi. provisions, however, were totally dis- ple is once admitted, there is no limit tinct in their character from those to to the mischief that may follow. In which his royal highness the Prince the interregnum which took place not Regent had been subjected after he long ago, they might have affixed the had attained a full maturity of age. seal to bills of pains and penalties. The country never before heard of The danger both to the crown and the such a regency as the present, except subject was imminent. In these great the attempt of 1788. It was enacted constitutional principles, the Prince indeed for particular purposes, in the Regent himself and the royal family reigns of Henry VIII. and Philip and concur ; for it is well known, that Mary, that the full age of the suc. in 1810 the royal dukes did protest cessor to the crown shall be 18 in the against the proceedings adopted at males, and 16 in the females. But that time, and were reviled, in the there was no occasion to dwell upon grossest manner, by the ministerial these cases, as the Princess Charlotte writers, who called them the “ College of Wales was in her 18th year, and of Princes," and made use of other therefore, by the admission of all par- abusive terms, though the royal dukes, ties, either was, or would very soon both as subjects and as persons nearly be, of age to exercise the royal connected with the throne, were perfunctions. In the event of the death fectly justified in the step which they of the King, and of the Prince Re. took on that occasion. It appeared gent, no one can doubt but the royal to be the intention of ministers to office would descend to her, without keep the crown always in a state of its being in the power of the House pupillage to the oligarchy in the of Commons to prevent it. It might be House of Commons; for in the Resaid, that there was no necessity for any gency Act, it was provided, that in such regulations as those proposed; the event of its being necessary to but those matters, which even in pri- appoint another regency, the House
should meet and take the proper steps selves to a conflict with the crown for that purpose. The object of the upon the point? In any thing represent bill was to prevent the neces- specting money, all conflict with the sity of this, and to put it beyond the crown was prevented by the necessity power
of the two houses of parliament that the crown should propose or preto render the royal authority subser- viously consent to the grant. In vient to their will, and to parcel it out common legislative measures this was as they may think proper.”
not necessary ; but it was obvious that The motion of Sir Francis Burdett there was no description of questions was seconded by Lord Cochrane. The more likely to involve the House in following is the short answer by a conflict with the crown, than those which lord Castlereagh opposed it. which touched the crown so nearly.“ He trusted that he should be able The contingency which was mentioned to show, that there was not a suffi. appeared to him to be so very re. cient necessity to induce the House to mote a one, that he thought the ho. agree to the motion before them. The nourable baronet, upon his own priohonourable baronet, who had been ciples, should rather have proposed induced by his constitutional views of a permanent Regency Bill applicable the subject to bring forward the pre- to all cases, than have confined himsent motion, appeared to him to be self to this particular contingency. more anxious to destroy the autho. It appeared to him, however, that rity of the parliamentary proceed- what the honourable baronet wanted, ings in the two former instances, than to destroy the discretionary to provide for the contingency he power of parliament upon the subject; stated. He appeared to think it of and that he preferred to have the the greatest importance to subvert all question determined on the hereditary the principles which the House had principle rather than by the discretion laid down on that subject ; and to of parliament. In determining upon get rid of what he considered a per. which of the two principles the quesnicious precedent. For his part, he tion should be decided, there was cerhad a view of the subject directly op- tainly a balance of inconveniences. posite. He thought it was a benefit, But the reason why it was better that and a blessing to the country, that the it should rest in the discretion of par. great constitutional difficulties which liament was, that parliament felt it to attended this subject had been re- be its first duty, to take care that the moved, and the point settled on the royal power should be restored unfullest discussion, which was after. diminished into the hands to which it wards revised upon the late occasion ; legitimately belonged, so soon as the and in which the greatest legal and sovereign was again capable of exerconstitutional learning had been dis- cising his royal functions; whereas played. He considered that those upon the hereditary principle, the precedents would be a great protec- royal power being fully and immedition to the country hereafter from ately transferred to the Regent, there similar difficulties. He allowed that was not the same security for the parliament had a right to enter into resumption of it by the sovereign, such considerations without a mes. when the temporary cause which sus. sage from the crown ; but it was al- pended his personal exercise of it was ways for their prudence to consider, removed. He conceived that the whether they should expose them. contingency was not sufficiently pro
bable to justify parliament, in the ex. Francis Burdett was not supported ercise of its discretion, in adopting the in this attempt to overturn the parproposition of the honourable baronet, liamentary precedents so recently estafor which reason he should certainly blished. His motion was negatived give it a decided negative.” Sir without a division.