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PRIVILEGE

AND

PREROGATIVE.

(FROM HUME'S HISTORY

OF ENGLAND.)

Libertate ne feris quidem esse aliquid dulcius (dicunt). Cic. De Rep.

THE lovers of liberty throughout the nation reasoned after a very different manner. 'Tis in vain, said they, that the King traces the English government to its first origin, in order to represent the privileges of parliament as dependent and precarious. The prescription and practice of so many ages must, long ere this time, have given a sanction to these assemblies, even tho’ they had been derived from no more dignified an origin than that which he assigns to them. If the written records of the English nation, as asserted, represent parliaments as having arisen from the consent of monarchs; the principles of human nature, when we trace government a step higher, must shew us that monarchs themselves owe all their authority to the voluntary submission of the people. But in fact no age can be shewn when the English government was an unmixed monarchy: and if the privileges of the nation have, at any particular period, been overpowered by violent irruption of foreign force or domestic usurpation : the generous spirit of the people has ever seized the first opportunity of re-establishing the ancient IDEM LATINE REDDITUM.

Contra hæc libertatis vindices, quibus tota civitas erat frequentissima, longe divorsa disputare. Quid enim referre regem repetitum reipublicæ principium ita prætendere ut scilicet senatus jus neque stabili fundamento exsistere et libidini suæ obnoxium esse vinceret? Nam et quamvis illi cætus eâ originis humilitate essent quam is jactaret ; id tamen nec dubium nec obscurum esse, eos inveterato indies tot annorum usu et consuetudine jam satis sancitos fuisse.

Porro si ex reipublicæ annalibus, quod iste asseveraret, patuerit senatum regum voluntatibus esse constitutum : ipsâ humanitatis ratione, paullo altius repetito gubernandæ civitatis principio, ostendi et regum ipsorum potestatem sine ultro subjectis civium voluntatibus nullam fieri potuisse. At prorsus nullo unquam tempore unum regem penes fuisse omnium summam rerum ; et si civium jura jam antea sive subitâ alienigenarum irruptione factâ, sive ea suorum principum aliquo per dominationem invadente, oppressa succubuissent, eos tamen, fortium et bonorum animo, ut primum occasio quæque allata esset, priscum reipublicæ adminis

ex

government and constitution. Though, in the style of the laws and in the usual form of administration the royal authority may be represented as sacred and supreme; whatever is essential to the exercise of sovereign and legislative power must still be regarded as equally divine and inviolable. Or, if any distinction be made in this respect, the preference is rather due to those national councils by whose interposal the exorbitances of tyrannical power are restrained, and that sacred liberty is preserved which heroic spirits in all ages have deemed more precious than life itself. Nor is it sufficient to say, that the mild and equitable administration of James affords small occasion or no occasion of complaint. However moderate the exercise of his prerogative however exact his observance of the laws and constitution : "If he "fonnds his authority on unknown and dangerous principles, “ 'tis requisite to watch him with equal care and to oppose “him with equal vigour as if he had indulged himself in all

excesses of cruelty and tyranny."

the 66

Amidst all these disputes, the wise and moderate in the nation endeavoured to preserve, as much as possible, an equitable neutrality between the opposite parties : and the more they reflected on the course of public affairs, the more difficulty they found of fixing just sentiments with regard to them. On the one hand they regarded the very rise of opposite parties as a happy prognostic of the establishment of liberty: nor could they ever expect to enjoy, in a mixed government, so invaluable a blessing, without suffering that inconvenience which in such governments has ever attended it.

trandæ modum semper de integro instauravisse. Licere sane in legum præscriptionibus et in usitatis administrandæ civitatis formulis sacrosanctam et sine provocatione describi regiam potestatem ; tamen si quid supremæ illius et reges etiam obstringentis legum auctoritatis interesse visum fuerit, id sacrosanctum perinde et integrum habendum. Immo, siquid pluris in hac re alterutri parti tribueretur, id omnino deferendum civilibus illis cætibus quorum auctoritate nimiæ dominorum insolentiæ intercederetur, et sanctissima illa conservaretur libertas quam fortissimus quisque et optimus jam inde ab omni memoriâ tanquam ipsâ vità dulciorem semper mordax tenuisset. Jam quod isti defenderent, ut in republicâ juste moderateque a Jacobo administratâ, aut parum aut etiam nihil esse quod reprehenderetur, id inane neque argumento esse.

Quamvis enim summâ in usurpando erga cives regio jure modestiâ et in obtemperando legibus ceterisque reipublicæ institutis summâ observantiâ uteretur, tamen “si quæ nova essent et periculosa, ea potestati suæ fundamenta strueret, nec minus impensa vigilantiâ nec minore in eum obstinantiâ grassandum, quam si per omnem insolentiam et importunitatem tyrannicæ suæ libidini indulsisset.”

In tantâ dissentientium contentione boni et prudentes viri, media lapsi, quippe prono in neutros favore, æquâ quantum confici potuit pace agebant: adeo impensiore curâ civitatis vicem animo versantibus difficilius visum est ad eas sententias pervenire quæ in tali re justæ essent.

Nam ut ipsa in diversas partes scissa respublica pro nec dubio nec obscuro instaurandæ libertatis omine accipiebatur : (neque enim jure optandum esse se in junctâ et permixtâ hâc reipublicæ conformatione tam præclari beneficii fructum percipere posse, omisso eo malo quod hujusmodi civitati nunqnam non conjunctum inhæsisset)—ita cogitantibus quæ But, when they considered, on the other hand, the necessary aims and pursuits of both parties, they were struck with apprehension of the consequences, and could discover no plan of peaceable accommodation between them. From long practice the crown was now possessed of so exorbitant a prerogative that it was not sufficient for liberty to remain on the defensive, or endeavour to secure the little ground that was left her. It was become requisite to carry on an offensive war, and to circumscribe within narrower as well as more exact bounds the authority of the sovereign. Upon such provocation it could not but happen that the prince, however just and moderate, would endeavour to repress his opponents : and as he stood upon the very brink of arbitrary power, it was to be feared that he would, hastily and unknowingly, pass these limits, which were not precisely marked by the constitution.

The turbulent government of England, ever fluctuating betwixt privilege and prerogative, would afford a variety of precedents which might be pleaded on both sides. In such delicate questions the people must be divided : the arms of the state were still in their hands : a civil war must ensue : a civil war where no party or both parties would justly bear the blame, and where the good and virtuous would hardly know what vows to form, were it not that liberty, so requisite to the perfection of human society, would be sufficient to biass their affections towards the side of its defenders.

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