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The king is the first magistrate ; but he can make no change in the maxims and forms consecrated by law or custom : he cannot even influence, in any case, whatever, the decision of causes between subject and subject; and James the First, assisting at the trial of a cause, was reminded by the judge, that lie could deliver no opinion.* Lastly, though crimes are prosecuted in his name, he cannot refuse to lend it to any particular persons who have complaints to prefer.
The king has the privilege of coining money; but he cannot alter the standard.
The king has the power of pardoning offenders ; but he cannot exempt them from making a compensation to the parties injured. It is' even established by law, that, in a case of murder, the widow, or next heir, shall have a right to prosecute the murderer; and the king's pardon, whether it preceded the sentence passed in consequence of such prosecution, or whether it be granted after it, cannot have any
* These principles have since been made an express article of an act of parliament; the same which abolished the star-chamber. “Be it likewise declared and enacted, “ by the authority of this present parliament, that neither “ his majesty nor his privy.council, have, or ought to “ have, any jurisdiction, power, or authority, to examine “ or draw into question, determine, or dispose of the “lands, tenements, goods, or chattels, of any of the subjects of this kingdom.” Stat. 16 Ch. I. cap.
effect. * The king has the military power ; but still, with respect to this, he is not absolute. It is true, in regard to the sea-forces, as there is in them this very great advantage, that they cannot be turned against the liberty of the nation, at the same time that they are the surest bulwark of the island, the king may keep them as he thinks proper; and in this respect he lies only under the general restraint of applying to parliament for obtaining the means of doing it. But in regard to land-forces, as they may become an immediate weapon in the hands of power, for throwing down all the barriers of public liberty, the king cannot raise them without the consent of parliament. The guards of Charles the Second were declared anti-constitutional ; and James's army was one of the causes of his being dethroned. +
The method of prosecution mentioned here, is called an appeal: it must be sued within a year and a day after the commission of the crime.
+ A new sanction was given to the above restriction in the sixth article of the Bill of Rights: "A standing army, “ without the consent of parliament, is against law."
In these times, however, when it is become a custom with princes to keep those numerous armies, which serve as a pretext and means of oppressing the people, a state that would maintain its independence is obliged, in a great measure, to do the same.
The parliament has therefore thought proper to establish a standing body of troops (amounting to about thirty thousand men), of which the king has the command.
But this army is only established for one year; at the end of that term, it is (unless re-established) to be ipso facto disbanded; and as the question, which then lies before parliament, is not, whether the army shall be dissolved, but whether it shall be established anew, as if it had never existed, any one of the three branches of the legislature may, by its dissent, hinder its continuance.
Besides, the funds for the payment of these troops are to be paid by taxes that are not established for more than one year:* and it becomes likewise necessary, at the end of this term, again to establish them.+ In a word, this instrument of defence, which the circumstances of modern times have caused to be judged necessary, being capable, on the other hand, of being applied to the most dangerous purposes, has been joined to the state by only a slender thread, the knot of which may be slipped, on the first appearance of danger. *
* The land-tax and malt-tax.
† It is also necessary that the parliament, when it renews the act against mutiny, should authorize the different courts-martial to punish military offences and
desertion. It can therefore refuse the king even the necessary power of military discipline.
* To these laws, or rather conventions, between king and people, I will add the oath which the king takes at his coronation ; a compact which, if it cannot have the same precision as the laws above-mentioned, yet, in a manner, comprehends them all, and has the farther advantage of being declared with more solemnity.
The archbishop or bishop shall say, “ Will you solemnly “promise and swear to govern the people of this kingdom “ of England, and the dominions thereto belonging, ac“ cording to the statutes of parliament agreed on, and the “ laws and customs of the same?”—The king or queen shall say, “ I solemnly promise so to do."
Archishop or bishop.-" Will you, to your power, cause “ law and justice, in mercy to be executed in all your “ judgments ?"-King or queen. “ I will."
Archbishop or bishop.-—“Will you, to the utmost of your "power, maintain the laws of God, the true profession of " the gospel, and the protestant reformed religion esta“blished by the law? And will you preserve unto the “bishops and clergy of this realm, and to the churches “ committed to their charge, all such rights and privi" leges as by law do or shall appertain unto them, or
But these laws, which limit the king's authority, would not, of themselves, have been sufficient. As they are, after all, only intellectual barriers, which the king might not at all times respect; as the check which the commons have on his proceedings, by a refusal of subsidies, affects too much the whole state to be exerted on every particular abuse of his power; and lastly, as even this check might in some degree be eluded, either by breaking the promises which have procured subsidies, or by applying them to uses different from those for which they were appointed, the constitution has besides supplied the commons with the means of immediate opposition to the misconduct of government by giving them a right to impeach the ministers.
It is true, the king himself cannot be arraigned before judges ; because if there were any that could pass sentence upon him, it would be they, and not he, who must finally possess the executive power; but, on the
« any of them?”—King or queen, « All this I promise to do.”
After this, the king or queen, laying his or her hand upon the holy gospels, shall say, " The things which I have here “ before promised I will perform and keep : So help me “ God!"- and then shall kiss the book.