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upon, and for the peace and security of the government then just recovering from the late rebellion) this term was prolonged to seven years: and, what alone is an instance of the vast authority of parliament, the very same house, that was chosen for three years, enacted its own continuance for seven (65). So that, as our constitution now stands, the parliament must expire, or die a natural death, at the end of every seventh year; if not sooner dissolved by the royal prerogative.

(65) This has been thought by many an unconstitutional exertion of their authority; and the reason given is, that those who had a power delegated to them for three years only, could have no right to extend that term to seven years. But this has always appeared to me to be a fallacious mode of considering the subject. Before the triennial act, 6 W. & M. the duration of parliament was only limited by the pleasure or death of the king ; and it never can be supposed that the next, or any succeeding parliament, had not the power of repealing the triennial act; and if that had been done, then, as before, they might have sat seventeen or seventy years. It is certainly true, that the simple repeal of a former statute would have extended their continu. ance much beyond what was done by the septennial act.

CHAPTER THE THIRD.

OF THE KING, AND HIS TITLE.

THE supreme executive power of these kingdoms is vested by our laws in a single person, the king or queen: for it matters not to which sex the crown descends; but the person entitled to it, whether male or female, is immediately invested with all the ensigns, rights, and prerogatives of sovereign power; as is declared by statute 1 Mar. st. 3. c. I.

In discoursing of the royal rights and authority, I shall consider the king under six distinct views : 1. With regard to his title. 2. His royal family. 3. His councils. 4. His duties. 5. His prerogative. 6. His revenue. And first, with regard to his title.

The executive power of the English nation being vested in a single person, by the general consent of the people, the evidence of which general consent is long and immemorial usage, it became necessary to the freedom and peace of the state, that a rule should be laid down, uniform, universal, and permanent; in order to mark out with precision, who is that single person, to whom are committed (in subservience to the law of the land) the care and protection of the community ; and to whom, in return, the duty and allegiance of every individual are due. It is of the highest importance to the public tranquillity, and to the consciences of private men, that this rule should be clear and indisputable: and our constitution has not left us in the dark upon this material occasion. It will therefore be the endeavour of this chapter to trace out the constitutional doctrine of the royal succession, with that freedom and regard to truth, yet mixed with that reverence and respect, which the principles of liberty and the dignity of the subject require.

The grand fundamental maxim upon which the jus coronae, or right of succession to the throne of these kingdoms, depends, I take to be this : “ that the crown is, by common “ law and constitutional custom, hereditary; and this in a

manner peculiar to itself: but that the right of inheritance

may from time to time be changed or limited by act of “ parliament; under which limitations the crown still con“ tinues hereditary.” And this proposition it will be the business of this chapter to prove, in all its branches; first, that the crown is hereditary; secondly, that it is hereditary in a manner peculiar to itself; thirdly, that this inheritance is subject to limitation by parliament; lastly, that when it is so limited, it is hereditary in the new proprietor.

1. FIRST, it is in general hereditary, or descendible to the next heir, on the death or demise of the last proprietor. All regal governments must be either hereditary or elective: and, as I believe there is no instance wherein the crown of England has ever been asserted to be elective, except by the regicides at the infamous and unparalleled trial of king Charles I, it must of consequence be hereditary. Yet while I assert an hereditary, I by no means intend a jure divino, title to the throne. Such a title may be allowed to have subsisted under the theocratic establishments of the children of Israel in Palestine : but it never yet subsisted in any other country ; save only so far as kingdoms, like other human fabrics, are subject to the general and ordinary dispensations of providence. Nor indeed have a jure divino and an hereditary right any necessary connexion with each other; as some have very weakly imagined. The titles of David and Jehu were equally jure divino, as those of either Solomon or Ahab; and yet David slew the sons of his predecessor, and Jehu his predecessor himself. And when our kings have the same warrant as they had, whether it be to sit upon the throne of their fathers, or to destroy the house of the preceding sovereign, they will then, and not before, possess the crown of England by a right like theirs, immediately derived from heaven. The hereditary right which the laws of England acknowledge, owes its origin to the founders of our constitution, and to them only. It has no relation to, nor depends upon, the civil laws of the Jews, the Greeks, the Romans, or any other nation upon earth : the municipal laws of one society having no connexion with, or influence upon, the fundamental polity of another. The founders of our English monarchy might perhaps, if they had thought proper, have made it an elective monarchy: but they rather chose, and upon good rea. son, to establish originally a succession by inheritance. This has been acquiesced in by general consent; and ripened by degrees into common law: the very same title that every pri. vate man has to his own estate. Lands are not naturally descendible any more than thrones : but the law has thought proper, for the benefit and peace of the public, to establish hereditary succession in the one as well as the other.

It must be owned, an elective monarchy seems to be the most obvious, and best suited of any to the rational principles of government, and the freedom of human nature : and accordingly we find from history that, in the infancy and first rudiments of almost every state, the leader, chief magistrate, or prince, hath usually been elective. And, if the individuals who compose that state could always continue true to first principles, úninfluenced by passion or prejudice, unassailed by corruption, and unawed by violence, elective succession were as much to be desired in a kingdom, as in other inferio: communities. The best, the wisest, and the bravest man would then be sure of receiving that crown, which his endowments have merited; and the sense of an unbiassed ma

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VOL.I.

jority would be dutifully acquiesced in by the few who were of different opinions. But history and observation will inform us, that elections of every kind (in the present state of human nature) are too frequently brought about by influence, partiality, and artifice: and, even where the case is otherwise, these practices will be often suspected, and as constantly charged upon the successful, by a splenetic disappointed minority. This is an evil to which all societies are liable; as well those of a private and domestic kind, as the great community of the public, which regulates and includes the rest. But in the former there is this advantage; that such suspicions, if false, proceed no farther than jealousies and murmurs, which time will effectually suppress; and, if true, the injustice may be remedied by legal means, by an appeal to those tribunals to which every member of society has (by becoming such) virtually engaged to submit. Whereas, in the great and independent society, which every nation composes, there is no superior to resort to but the law of nature }, no method to redress the infringements of that law but the actual exertion of private force. As therefore between two nations, complaining of mutual injuries, the quarrel can only be decided by the law of arms; so in one and the same nation, when the fundamental principles of their common union are supposed to be invaded, and more especially when the appointment of their chief magistrate is alleged to be unduly made, the only tribunal to which the complainants can appeal is that of the God of battles, the only process by which the appeal can be carried on is that of a civil and intestine war. An hereditary suco cession to the crown is therefore now established, in this and most other countries, in order to prevent that periodical bloodshed and misery, which the history of ancient imperial Rome and the more modern experience of Poland and Germany, may shew us are the consequences of elective kingdoms.

2. But, secondly, as to the particular mode of inheritance, it in general corresponds with the feodal path of descents, chalked out by the common law in the succession to landed

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