« PreviousContinue »
And these are the topics we must proceed upon, to justify our exclusion of the young pretender ir France; that of his suspected birth being merely popular, and therefore not made use of, as I remember, since the revolution, in any speech, vote, or proclamation, where there was occasion to mention him.
As to the abdication of King James, which the advocates on that fide look upon to have been forcible and unjust, and consequently void in itfelf, I think a man may observe every, article of the English church, without being in much pain about it. It is not unlikely, that all doors were láid open for his departure, and, perhaps, not without the privity of the prince of Orange; as reasonably concluding, that the kingdom might better be settled in his absence. But, to affirm he had any cause to apprehend the same treatment with his father, is an improbable scandal, flung upon the nation by a few bigotted French fcribblers, or the invidious affertion of a ruined party at home, in the bitterness of their souls; not one material circumstance agreeing with those in 1648; and the greatest part of the nation having preserved the utmost horror for that ignominious murder. But whether his removal were caused by his own fears, or other mens artifices, it is manifest to me, that, fuppofing the throne to be vacant, which was the foot the nation went đpon, the body of the people was thereupon left at liberty to chuse what form of government they pleased, by themselves, or their representatives.
The only difficulty of any weight against the proceedings at the revolution, is an obvious objection, to which the writers upon that subject have not yet given a direct or sufficient answer; as if they were in pain at some consequences, which they apprehend those of the contrary opinion might draw from it. I will repeat this objection, as it was offered me some time ago, with all its advantages,' by a very pious, learned, and worthy gentleman of the nonjuring party.
The force of his argument turned upon this, That the laws made by the supreme power, cannot, otherwise than by the supreme power, be annulled : That this consisted, in England, of a King, Lords, and Commons, whereof each have a negative voice; no two of them can repeal or enact a law, without consent of the third ; much less may any one of them be entirely excluded from its part of the legislature, by a vote of the other two : That all these maxims were openly violated at the revolution; where an assembly of the nobles and people, not summoned by the King's writ, (which was an effential part of the constitution,) and consequently no lawful meeting, did, merely upon their own authority, declare the King to have abdicated, the throne vacant; and gave the crown by vote to a nephew, when there were three children to inherit; though, by the fundamental laws of the realm, the next heir
* Mr. Nelson, author of the feasts and fasts of the church of England.
is immediately to succeed. Neither doth it appear, how a prince's abdication can make
any other sort of vacancy in the throne, than would be caused by his death; since he cannot abdicate for his children, (who claim their right of succession by act of parliament,) otherwise than by his own consent, in form, to a bill from the two houses.
And this is the difficulty that feeres chiefly to stick with the most reasonable of those, who, from a mere fcruple of conscience, refuse to join with us upon the revolution-principle ; but the rest are, I believe, as far from loving arbitrary government as any others can be, who are born under a free constitution, and are allowed to have the least share of common good sense.
In this objection, there are two questions included. First, Whether, upon the foot of our constitution, as it stood in the reign of the late King James, a king of England may be deposed? The second is, Whether the people of England, convened by their own authority, after the king had withdrawn himself in the manner he did, had power to alter the fucceffion?
As for the first, it is a point I shall not presume to determine; and shall, therefore, only say, that, to any man who holds the negative, I would demand the liberty of putting the case as strongly as I please. I will suppose a prince limited by laws like ours, yet running into a thousand caprices of cruelty, like Nero or Caligula ; I will suppose him to murder his mother and his wife; VOL. II.
to commit incest, to ravish matrons, to blow up. the senate, and burn his metropolis ; openly to renounce God and Christ, and worship the devil: these, and the like exorbitancies, are in the power of a single person to commit, without the advice of a ministry, or assistance of an army. And, if such a king as I have described, cannot be deposed but by bis own consent in parliament, I do not well see how he can be refifted; or what can be meant by a limited monarchy; or what signifies the people's consent, in making and repealing laws, if the person who administers, hath no tie but conscience, and is answerable to none but God. I desire no stronger proof, that an opinion
be false, 'than to find very great absurdities annexed to it; and there cannot be greater than in the present cafe: for it is not a bare speculation, that kings may run into such enormities as are above mentioned; the practice may be proved by examples, not only drawn from the first Cæfars, or later Emperors, but many modern princes of Europe, such as, Peter the Cruel, Philip II. of Spain, John Basilovits of Muscovy ; and, in our own nation, king John, Richard III. and Henry VIII. But there cannot be equal absurdities supposed in maintaining the contrary opinion ; because it is certain, that princes have it in their power to keep a majority on their fide by any toletable administration, till provoked by continual oppressions : no man, indeed,
can then answer where the madness of the people will stop.
As to the second part of the objection. Whether the people of England, convened by their own authority, upon king James's precipitate departure, had power to alter the succession? . In answer to this, I think it is manifest from the practice of the wiseft nations, and who seem to have had the truest notions of freedom, that when a prince was laid aside for maleadministration, the nobles and people, if they thought it neceffary for the public weal, did resume the adminiftration of the supreme power, (the power itfelf having been always in them,) and did not only alter the succeslion, but often the very form of government too ; because they believed there was no natural right in one man to govern another, but that all was by institution, force, or confent. Thus, the cities of Greece, when they drove out their tyrannical kings, either chose others from a new family, or abolished the kingly government, and became free states. Thus the Romans, upon the expulsion of Tarquin, found it inconvenient for them to be subject any longer to the pride, the lust, the cruelty and arbitrary will of single persons; and, therefore, by general consent, entirely altered the whole frame of their .government. Nor do I find the proceedings of cither, in this point, to have been condemned by any historian of the succeeding ages.
But a great deal hath been already faid by other writers upon this invidious and beaten subject; therefore I shall let it fall; though the L 2