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England it would have been extremely difficult to deprive him of the nominal sovereignty. But in this case, the Prince of Orange must have been invested, by some course or other, with all its real attributes. He undoubtedly intended to remain in this country; and could not otherwise have preserved that entire ascendency which was necessary for his ultimate purposes. The King could not have been permitted, with any common prudence, to retain the choice of his ministers, or the command of his army, or his negative voice in laws, or even his personal liberty; by which I mean, that his guards must have been either Dutch, or at least appointed by the Prince and Parliament. Less than this it would have been childish to require; and this would not have been endured by any man even of James's spirit, or by the nation, when the reaction of loyalty should return, without continued efforts to get rid of an arrangement far more revolutionary and subversive of the established monarchy than the King's deposition.
In the Revolution of 1688 there was an unusual combination of favouring circumstances, and some of the most important, such as the King's sudden flight, not within prior calculation, which render it no precedent for other times and occasions in point of expediency, whatever it may be in point of justice. Resistance to tyranny by overt rebellion incurs not only the risks of failure, but those of national impoverishment and confusion, of vindictive retaliation, and such aggressions (perhaps inevitable) on private right and liberty as render the name of Revolution and its adherents odious. Those, on the other hand, who call in a powerful neighbour to protect them from domestic oppression, may too often expect to realize the horse of the fable, and endure a subjection more severe, permanent, and ignominious than what they shake off. But the Revolution effected by William III. united the independent character of a national act with the regularity and the coercion of anarchy which belong to a military invasion. The United Provinces were not such a foreign potentate as could put in jeopardy the independence of England; nor could his army have maintained itself against the inclinations of the kingdom, though it was sufficient to
repress any turbulence that would naturally attend so extraordinary a crisis. Nothing was done by the multitude : no new men, soldiers or demagogues, had their talents brought forward by this rapid and pacific Revolution; it cost no blood, it violated no right, it was hardly to be traced in the course of justice; the formal and exterior character of the monarchy remained nearly the same in so complete a regeneration of its spirit. Few nations can hope to ascend up to the sphere of a just and honourable liberty, especially when long use has made the track of obedience familiar, and they have learned to move as it were only by the clank of the chain, with so little toil and hardship. We reason too exclusively from this peculiar instance of 1688, when we hail the fearful struggles of other revolutions with a sanguine and confident sympathy. Nor is the only error upon this side. For, as if the inveterate and cankerous ills of a commonwealth could be extirpated with no loss and suffering, we are often prone to abandon the popular cause in agitated nations with as much fickleness as we embraced it, when we find that intemperance, irregularity and confusion, from which great revolutions are very seldom exempt. These are, indeed, so much their usual attendants, the reaction of a self-deceived multitude is so probable a consequence, the general prospects of success in most cases so precarious, that wise and good men are more likely to hesitate too long, than to rush forward too eagerly. Yet “whatever be the cost of this noble liberty, we must be content to pay it to Heaven.”
It is unnecessary even to mention those circumstances of this great event, which are minutely known to almost all my readers. They were all eminently favourable in their effect to the regeneration of our Constitution; even one of temporary inconvenience, namely, the return of James to London, after his detention by the fishermen near Feversham. This, as Burnet has observed, and as is easily demonstrated by the writings of that time, gave a different colour to the state of affairs, and raised up a party which did not before exist, or at least was too disheartened to show itself. His first desertion of the kingdom had disgusted every one, and might be construed into a voluntary cession. But his return, to assume again the
government, put William under the necessity of using that intimidation which awakened the mistaken sympathy of a generous people. It made his subsequent flight, though certainly not what a man of courage enough to give his better judgment free play would have chosen, appear excusable and defensive. It brought out too glaringly, I mean for the satisfaction of prejudiced minds, the undeniable fact, that the two Houses of Convention deposed and expelled their Sovereign. Thus the great schism of the Jacobites, though it must otherwise have existed, gained its chief strength ; and the Revolution, to which at the outset a coalition of Whigs and Tories had conspired, became in its final result, in the settlement of the crown upon William and Mary, almost entirely the work of the former party.
But while the position of the new Government was thus rendered less secure, by narrowing the basis of public opinion whereon it stood, the liberal principles of policy which the Whigs had espoused became incomparably more powerful, and were necessarily involved in the continuance of the Revolution Settlement. The ministers of William III. and of the House of Brunswick had no choice but to respect and countenance the doctrines of Locke, Hoadley, and Molesworth. The assertion of passive obedience to the crown grew obnoxious to the crown itself. Our new line of sovereigns scarcely ventured to hear of their hereditary right, and dreaded the cup of flattery that was drugged with poison. This was the greatest change that affected our monarchy by the fall of the House of Stuart. The laws were not so materially altered as the spirit and sentiments of the people. Hence those who look only at the former, have been prone to underrate the magnitude of this Revolution. The fundamental maxims of the Constitution, both as they regard the king and the subject, may seem nearly the same; but the disposition with which they were received and interpreted was entirely different.
It was in this turn of feeling, in this change, if I may so say, of the heart, far more than in any positive statutes and improvements of the law, that I consider the Revolution to have been eminently conducive to our freedom and prosperity. Laws and statutes as
remedial, nay, more closely limiting the prerogative than the Bill of Rights and Act of Settlement, might possibly have been obtained from James himself, as the price of his continuance on the throne, or from his family as that of their restoration to it. But what the Revolution did for us was this--it broke a spell that had charmed the nation. It cut up by the roots all that theory of indefeasible right, of paramount prerogative, which had put the crown in continual opposition to the people. A contention had now subsisted for five hundred years, but particularly during the four last reigns, against the aggressions of arbitrary power. The Sovereigns of this country had never patiently endured the control of Parliament; nor was it natural for them to do so, while the two Houses of Parliament appeared historically, and in legal language, to derive their existence as well as privileges from the Crown itself. They had at their side the pliant lawyers, who held the prerogative to be uncontrollable by statutes-a doctrine of itself destructive to any scheme of reconciliation and compromise between a king and his subjects; they had the churchmen, whose casuistry denied that the most intolerable tyranny could excuse resistance to a lawful government. These two propositions could not obtain general acceptation without rendering all national liberty precarious.
It has been always reckoned among the most difficult problems in the practical science of government, to combine an hereditary monarchy with security of freedom, so that neither the ambition of kings shall undermine the people's rights, nor the jealousy of the people overturn the throne. England had already experience of both these mischiefs. And there seemed no prospect before her but either their alternate recurrence or a final submission to absolute power, unless by one great effort she could put the monarchy for ever beneath the law, and reduce it to an integrant portion instead of the primary source and principle of the Constitution. She must reverse the favoured maxim, “A Deo rex, à rege lex;" and make the Crown itself appear the creature of the law. But our ancient monarchy, strong in a possession of seven centuries, and in those high and paramount prerogatives which the consenting testimony of lawyers and the submission of Parliaments had recognized-a monarchy from which the House of Commons and every existing peer, though not perhaps the aristocratic order itself, derived its participation in the legislature—could not be bent to the republican theories which have been not very successfully attempted in some modern codes of constitution. It could not be held, without breaking up all the foundations of our polity, that the monarchy emanated from the Parliament, or even from the people. But by the Revolution and by the Act of Settlement, the rights of the actual monarch, of the reigning family, were made to emanate from the Parliament and the People. In technical language, in the grave and respectful theory of our Constitution, the Crown is still the fountain from which law and justice spring forth. Its prerogatives are in the main the same as under the Tudors and the Stuarts; but the right of the House of Brunswick to exercise them can only be deduced from the Convention of 1688.
The great advantage, therefore, of the Revolution, as I would explicitly affirm, consists in that which was reckoned its reproach by many, and its misfortune by more, that it broke the line of succession. No other remedy could have been found, according to the temper and prejudices of those times, against the unceasing conspiracy of power. But when the very tenure of power was conditional, when the Crown, as we may say, gave recognizances for its good behaviour, when any violent and concerted aggressions on public liberty wouid have ruined those who could only resist an inveterate faction by the arms which liberty put in their hands, the several parts of the Constitution were kept in cohesion by a tie far stronger than statutes, that of a common interest in its preservation. The attachment of James to Popery, his infatuation, his obstinacy, his pusillanimity, nay, even the death of the Duke of Gloucester, the life of the Prince of Wales, the extraordinary permanence and fidelity of his party, were all the destined means through which our present grandeur and liberty, our dignity of thinking on matters of government, have been perfected. Those liberal tenets, which at the era of the Revolution were maintained but by one denomination of