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The same Subject continued.
But this force of the prerogative of the commons, and the facility with which it may be exerted, however necessary for the first establishment of the constitution, might prove too considerable at present, when it is requisite only to support it. There might be the danger, that, if the parliament should ever exert their privilege to its full extent, the prince, reduced to despair, might resort to fatal extremities; or that the constitution, which subsists only by virtue of its equilibrium, mnight in the end be subverted. by joining provisions of a different nature to bills that had grants for their object, I only mean to show the great efficiency of that power, which was the subject of this chapter, without pretending to say any thing as to the propriety of the measure. The house of lords have even found it necessary (which confirms what is said here) to form, as it were, a confederacy among themselves, for the security of their legislative authority, against the unbounded use which the commons might make of their power of taxation; and it has been made a standing order of their house, to reject any bill whatsoever to which a money-bill has been tacked.
Indeed, this is a case which the prudence of parliament has foreseen. They have, in this respect, imposed laws upon themselves; and, without touching the prerogative itself, they have moderated the exercise of it. A custom has for a long time prevailed, at the beginning of every reign, and in the kind of overflowing of affection which takes place between a king and his first parliament, to grant the king a revenue for his life; a provision which, with respect to the great exertions of his power, does not abridge the influence of the commons, but yet puts him in a condition to support the dignity of the crown, and affords him who is the first magistrate in the nation, that independence which the laws ensure also to those magistrates who are particularly intrusted with the administration of justice. *
* The twelve judges. Their commissions, which in former times were often given them durante bene placito now must always “ be made quamdiu se bene gesserint, and “ their salaries ascertained; but upon an address of both
houses, it may be lawful to remove them.”_Stat. 13. Will. III. c. 2. In the first year of the reign of his present majesty, it was moreover enacted, that the commissions of the judges should continue in force, notwithstanding the demise of the king; which has prevented their being dependent, with regard to their continuation in office, on the heir-apparent.
This conduct of the parliament provides an admirable remedy for the accidental disorders of the state. For though, by the wise distribution of the powers of government, great usurpations are become in a manner impracticable, nevertheless it is impossible but that, in consequence of the continual (though silent) efforts of the executive power to extend itself, abuses will at length slide in. But here' the powers, wisely kept in' reserve by the parliament, afford the means of remedying them. At the end of each reign, the civil list, and consequently that kind of independence which it procured, are at an end. The successor finds a throne, a sceptre, and a crown; but he finds neither power, nor even dignity: and before a real possession of all these things be given him, the parliament have it in their power to take a thorough review of the state, as well as correct the several abuses that
may have crept in during the preceding reign : and thus the constitution may be brought back to its first principles.
England, therefore, by this mean, enjoys one very great advantage,--one that all free states have sought to procure for themselves I mean that of a periodical reformation. But the expedients which legislators have contrived
for this purpose in other countries, have always, when attempted to be carried into practice, been found to be productive of very disadvantageous consequences. Those laws which were made in Rome, to restore that equality which is the essence of a democratical government, were always found impracticable ; the attempt alone endangered the overthrow of the republic; and the expedient which the Florentines called ripigliar il stato proved nowise happier in its consequences. because all those different remedies were destroyed beforehand, by the very evils they were meant to cure ; and the greater the abuses were, the more impossible it was to correct them.
But the mean of reformation which the parliament of England has taken care to reserve to itself, is the more effectual, as it goes less directly to its end.
It does not oppose the usurpations of prerogative, as it were, in front: it does not encounter it in the middle of its career, and in the fullest flight of its exertion : but it goes
in search of it to its source, and to the principle of its action. It does not endeavour forcibly to overthrow it; it only enervates its springs.
What increases still more the mildness of the
operation is, that it is only to be applied to the usurpations themselves, and passes by what would be far more formidable to encounter, the obstinacy and pride of the usurpers.
Every thing is transacted with a new sovereign, who, till then, has had no share in public affairs, and has taken no step which he may conceive himself bound in honour to support. In fine, they do not wrest from him what the good of the state requires he should give up: he himself makes the sacrifice.
The truth of all these observations is remarkably confirmed by the events that followed the reign of the two last Henries. Every barrier that protected the people against the incursions of power had been broken through. The parliament, in their terror, had even enacted that proclamations, that is, the will of the king, should have the force of laws :* the constitution seemed really undone. Yet, on the first opportunity afforded by a new reign, liberty began again to make its appearance. + And when the nation, at
* Stat. 31 Hen. VIII. chap. 8. + The laws concerning treason, passed under Henry the Eighth, which judge Blackstone calls “ an amazing “ heap of wild and new-fangled treasons," were, together with the statute just mentioned, repealed in the beginning of the reign of Edward VI.