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And lest those principles, to which the revolution thus gave a sanction, should in process of time become mere arcana of state, exclusively appropriated, and only known to a certain class of subjects ; the same act we have just mentioned, expressly ensured to individuals the right of publicly preferring complaints against the abuses of government, and, more: over, of being provided with arms for their own defence. Judge Blackstone expresses himself in the following terms, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England.
“ To vindicate these rights, when actually “ violated or attacked, the subjects of England “ are entitled, in the first place, to the regular “ administration and free course of justice in " the courts of law; next, to the right of
petitioning the king and parliament for “ redress of grievances; and, lastly, to the
right of having and using arms for self-prea "servation and defence."
Lastly, this right of opposing violence, in whatever shape, and from whatever quarter it may come, is so generally acknowledged, that the courts of law have sometimes grounded their judgments upon it. I shall relate on this head a fact which is somewhat remarkable.
A constable, being out of his precinct,
arrested a woman whose name was Anne Dekins; one Tooly took her part, and in the heat of the fray, killed the assistant of the constable.
Being prosecuted for murder, he alleged, in his defence, that the illegality of the imprisonment was a sufficient provocation to make the homicide excuseable, and entitle him to the benefit of clergy. The jury, having settled the matter of fact, left the criminality of it to be decided by the judge, by returning a special verdict. The cause was adjourned to the King's Bench, and thence again to Serjeants’ Inn, for the opinion of the twelve judges. Here follows the opinion delivered by chief justice Holt, in giving judgment.
“ If one be imprisoned upon an unlawful “ authority, it is a sufficient provocation to all “ people, out of compassion, much more so “ when it is done under colour of justice; and “ when the liberty of the subject is invaded, it “ is a provocation to all the subjects of Eng" land. A man ought to be concerned for
Magna Charta and the laws; and if any “one against law imprison a man, he is an “ offender against Magna Charta.” After some debate, occasioned chiefly by Tooly's appearing not to have known that the constable
was out of his precinct, seven of the judges were of opinion that the prisoner was guilty of manslaughter, and he was admitted to the benefit of clergy. *
But it is with respect to this right of an ultimate resistance, that the advantage of a free press appears in a most conspicuous light. As the most important rights of the people, without the prospect of a resistance which overawes those who should attempt to violate them, are little more than mere shadows, -80 this right of resisting, itself is but vain when there exist no means of effecting a general union between the different parts of the people.
Private individuals, unknown to each other, are forced to bear in silence injuries in which they do not see other people take a concern. Left to their own individual strength, they tremble before the formidable and ever ready power of those who govern ; and as the latter well know (and are even apt to over rate) the advantages of their own situation, they think that they may venture upon any thing.
But when they see that all their actions are exposed to public view,—that, in consequence of the celerity with which all things become communicated, the whole nation forms, as it were, one continued irritable body, no part of which can be touched without exciting an universal tremor,—they become sensible that the cause of each individual is really the cause of all, and that to attack the lowest among the people is to attack the whole people.
* See Reports of Cases argued, debated, and adjudged, in Banco Reginæ, in the time of Queen Anne.
Here also we must remark the error of those who, as they make the liberty of the people consist in their power, so make their power consist in their action.
When the people are often called to act in their own persons, it is impossible for them to acquire any exact knowledge of the state of things. The event of one day effaces the notions which they had begun to adopt on the preceding day; and amidst the continual change of things, no settled principle, and, above all, no plans of union, have time to be established among them.--You wish to have the people love and defend their laws and liberty ; leave them, therefore, the necessary time to know what laws and liberty are, and to agree in their opinion concerning them ;you wish a union, a coalition which cannot be obtained but by a slow and peaceable process ;
forbear therefore continually to shake the vessel.
Nay farther, it is a contradiction, that the people should act, and at the same time retain any real power. Have they, for instance, been forced by the weight of public oppression to throw off the restraints of the law, from which they no longer received protection ?- they presently find themselves suddenly become subject to the command of a few leaders, who are the more absolute in proportion as the nature of their power is less clearly ascertained; nay, pehaps, they must even submit to the toils of war, and to military discipline.
If it be in the common and legal course of things that the people are called to move, each individual is obliged, for the success of the measures in which he is then made to take a concern, to join himself to some party; nor can this party be without a head. The citizens thus grow divided among themselves, and contract the pernicious habit of submitting to leaders. They are, at length, no more than the clients of a certain number of patrons ;
and the latter soon becoming able to command the arms of the citizens in the same manner as they at first governed their votes, make little account of a people, with one part of which they know how to curb the other.
But when the moving springs of government