Images de page
PDF
ePub

sovereigns to the condition of simple presidents over their assemblies,-of mere ostensible heads of the government.

In Germany and in France, countries where the monarchs, being possessed of considerable demesnes, were better able to maintain their independence than the princes just mentioned, the nobles waged war against them, sometimes singly and sometimes jointly; and events similar to these have successively happened in Scotland, Spain, and the modern kingdoms of Italy.

In fine, it has only been by means of standing armed forces that the sovereigns of most of the kingdoms we have mentioned have been able, in a course of time, to assert the prerogatives of the crown.

And it is only by continuing to keep up such forces, that, like the eastern monarchs, and indeed like all the monarchs that ever existed, they continue to be able to support their authority.

How therefore can the crown of England, without the assistance of any armed force, maintain, as it does, its numerous prerogatives? How can it, under such circumstances, preserve to itself, the whole executive power in the state? For here we must observe, the crown in England does not derive any support from

+

or

monarchs, are in England divided into two assemblies ; and such, it is necessary to add, are the principles upon which this division is made, that from it result, as necessary consequences, the solidity and the indivisibility of the power of the crown.

The reader may perceive that I have led him, in the course of this work, much beyond the line, within which writers on the subject of government have confined themselves ; rather, that I have followed a track entirely different from that which those writers have pursued. But as the observation just made, on the stability of the power of the crown in England, and the cause of it, is new in its kind, so do the principles from which its truth is to be demonstrated totally differ from what is commonly looked upon as the foundation of the science of politics. To lay those principles here before the reader, in a manner completely satisfactory to him, would lead us into philosophical discussions on what really constitutes the basis of governments and power amongst mankind, both extremely long, and in a great measure foreign to the subject of this book. I shall therefore content myself with proving the above observations by facts ; which is more, after all, than political writers

usually undertake to do with regard to their speculations.

As I chiefly proposed to show that the extensive liberty the English enjoy is the result of the peculiar frame of their government, and occasionally to compare the same with the republican form, I even had at first intended to confine myself to that circumstance, which both constitutes the essential difference between those two forms of government, and is the immediate cause of English liberty, -I mean the having placed all the executive authority in the state out of the hands of those in whom the people trust. With regard to the remote cause of that same liberty, that is to say the stability of the power of the crown, the singular solidity, without the assistance of any armed force, by which this executive authority is so secured, I should perhaps have been silent, had I not found it absolutely necessary to mention the fact in this place, in order to obviate the objections which the more reflecting part of readers might otherwise have made, both to several of the observations before offered to them, and to a few others which are soon to follow.

Besides, I shall confess here, I have been several times under apprehensions, in the

с с

course of this work, that the generality of readers, misled by the similarity of names, might put too extensive a construction upon what I said with regard to the usefulness of the power of the crown in England ;-that they might accuse or suspect me, for instance, of attributing the superior advantages of the English mode of government over the republican form, merely to its approaching nearer to the nature of the monarchies established in the other parts of Europe, and of looking upon every kind of monarchy as preferable in itself to a republican government ;-an opinion which I do not by any means, or in any degree entertain : I have too much affection, or, if you please, prepossession, in favour of that form of government under which I was born ; and as I am sensible of its defects, so do I know how to set a value upon the advantages by which it compensates for them.

I therefore have, as it were, made haste to avail myself of the first opportunity of explaining my meaning on this subject,—of indicating that the power of the crown in England stands upon foundations entirely different from those on which the same power rests in other countries, -and of engaging the reader to observe (which for the present will suffice) that, as the English monarchy differs, in its nature and main foundations, from every other, so all that is said here of its advantages is peculiar and confined to it.

But to come to the proofs (derived from facts) of the solidity accruing to the power of the crown in England, from the co-existence of the two assemblies which concur to form the English parliament, I shall first point out to the reader several open acts of these two houses, by which they have by turns effectually defeated the attacks of each other upon its prerogative.

Without looking farther back for examples than the reign of Charles the Second, we see that the house of commons had, in that reign, begun to adopt the method of adding (or tacking, as it is commonly expressed) such bills as they wanted more particularly to have passed, to their money bills. This forcible use of their undoubted privilege of granting money, if it had been suffered to grow into common practice, would have totally destroyed the equilibrium that ought to subsist between them and the crown. But the lords took upon themselves the task of maintaining that equilibrium : they complained with great warmth of the several precedents that were

« PrécédentContinuer »