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FIRST PRINCIPLES OF THE ENGLISH GOVERNMENT
It is now the generally received opinion, and I think a probable opinion, that to the provisions of that reign (viz. of Henry the Seventh) we are to refer the origin, both of the unlimited power of the Tudors, and of the liberties wrested by our ancestors from the Stuarts; that tyranny was their immediate, and liberty their remote consequence : but he must have great confidence in his own sagacity, who can satisfy himself, that, unaided by subsequent events, he could from a consideration of the causes have foreseen the succession of effects so different.
Fox's History of James II.
It would undoubtedly have required a sagacity of no ordinary kind to have predicted, at the commencement of the arbitrary sway of the house of Tudor, the course of weak misrule and daring opposition, - of fierce contention and alternate victory, which, marking with a line of blood the history of the Stuart dynasty, at length
ended in a peaceable revolution, and the establishment of regular liberty.
But those who have seen the harvest can have no doubt that the seed was in the ground; and at this day it ought to be within our power to point out what were the elements of freedom in the state of England, during the reign of the Tudors, which have been since developed in her matchless constitution. Among them, we may, without hesitation, enumerate the following circumstances.
In the first place, the sovereignty of England did not reside in the King solely. All matters of great state importance were made subjects of deliberation in the King's high court of Parliament, which was called together expressly for that purpose.
In case of war, it was the business of that assembly to consider of means for carrying it on : if the succession was disputed, or a regency required, an appeal was made to their judgment; and all laws intended to be permanently binding on the people received the sanction of their authority. Nor did the princes of the house of Tudor attempt by any means to diminish or undervalue the importance of parliament. The crown of Henry the Seventh rested on a par
liamentary act. Henry the Eighth repeatedly employed the name, and acknowledged the power of Parliament to change the succession. In the reign of Elizabeth, it was made a præmunire to say, that Parliament had not power to dispose of the succession to the crown. Thus, however arbitrary the acts of these sovereigns, nothing was taken from the reverence due to the great council of the king, the grand inquest of the nation, and the highest court in the kingdom. The power given to Henry the Eighth, to issue proclamations equal in validity to laws, was indeed a direct blow to parliamentary government. But this act was of force only eight years, and contained a proviso that these proclamations should not be contrary to the established laws of the realm. During the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth, the Parliament, however subservient, was yet à principal instrument in carrying on the government.
Hence arose a necessity, not indeed that a King of England should relinquish tyrannical power, but that he must have his Lords and Commons accomplices in his tyranny. If these bodies therefore should ever claim an equal share in