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lution, to punish any minister for the general course of his policy, with the slightest semblance of justice; for since that time, no minister has been able to pursue any general course of policy without the approbation of the Parliament. The most important effects of that great change were, as Mr. Hallam has most truly said, and most ably shown, those which it indirectly produced. Thenceforward it became the interest of the executive government to protect those very doctrines, which an executive government is in general inclined to persecute. The sovereign, the ministers, the courtiers, at last even the universities and the clergy, were changed into advocates of the right of resistance. In
the theory of the Whigs, in the situation of the Tories, in the common interest of all public men, the Parliamentary constitution of the country found perfect security. The power of the House of Commons, in particular, has been steadily on the increase. By the practice of granting supplies for short terms, and appropriating them to particular services, it has rendered its approbation as necessary in practice to all the measures of the executive government, as it is in theory to a legislative act.
Mr. Hallam appears to have begun with the reign of Henry the Seventh, as the period at which what is called. modern history, in contradistinction to the history of the middle ages, is generally supposed to commence. He has stopped at the accession of George the Third, ‘from unwillingness,' as he says, 'to excite the prejudices of modern politics, especially those connected with personal character.' These two eras, we think, deserved the distinction on other grounds. Our remote posterity, when looking back on our history in that comprehensive manner in which remote posterity alone can, without much danger of error, look back on it, will probably observe those points with peculiar interest. They are, if we mistake not, the beginning and the
end of an entire and separate chapter in our annals. The period which lies between them is a perfect cycle, a great year of the public mind.
In the reign of Henry the Seventh, all the political differences which had agitated England since the Norman conquest seemed to be set at rest. The long and fierce struggle between the Crown and the Barons had terminated. The grievances which had produced the rebellions of Tyler and Cade had disappeared. Villanage was scarcely known. The two royal houses, whose conflicting claims had long convulsed the kingdom, were at length united. The claimants whose pretensions, just or unjust, had disturbed the new settlement, were overthrown. In religion there was no open dissent, and probably very little secret heresy. The old subjects of contention, in short, had vanished; those which were to succeed had not yet appeared.
Soon, however, new principles were announced; principles which were destined to keep England during two centuries and a half in a state of commotion. The Reformation divided the people into two great parties. The Protestants were victorious. They again subdivided themselves. Political systems were engrafted on theological doctrines. The mutual animosities of the two parties gradually emerged into the light of public life. First came conflicts in Parliament; then civil war; then revolutions upon revolutions, each attended by its appurtenance of proscriptions, and persecutions, and tests; each followed by severe measures on the part of the conquerors; each exciting a deadly and festering hatred in the conquered. During the reign of George the Second, things were evidently tending to repose. At the close of it, the nation had completed the great revolution which commenced in the early part of the sixteenth century, and was again at rest. The fury of sects had died away. The Catholics themselves practically enjoyed toleration;
and more than toleration they did not yet venture even to desire. Jacobitism was a mere name. Nobody was left to fight for that wretched cause; and very few to drink for it. The constitution, purchased so dearly, was on every side extolled and worshipped. Even those distinctions of party, which must almost always be found in a free state, could scarcely be traced. The two great bodies which, from the time of the Revolution, had been gradually tending to approximation, were now united in emulous support of that splendid administration, which smote to the dust both the branches of the House of Bourbon. The great battle for our ecclesiastical and civil polity had been fought and won. The wounds had been healed. The victors and the vanquished were rejoicing together. Every person, acquainted with the political writers of the last generation, will recollect the terms in which they generally speak of that time. It was a glimpse of a golden age of union and glory, — a short interval of rest, which had been preceded by centuries of agitation, and which centuries of agitation were destined to follow.
How soon faction again began to ferment, is well known. In the Letters of Junius, in Burke's Thoughts on the Cause of the Discontents, and in many other writings of less merit, the violent dissensions, which speedily convulsed the country, are imputed to the system of favoritism which George the Third introduced, to the influence of Bute, or the profligacy of those who called themselves the King's friends. With all deference to the eminent writers to whom we have referred, we may venture to say, that they lived too near the events of which they treated, to judge of them correctly. The schism which was then appearing in the nation, and which has been from that time almost constantly widening, had little in common with those which had divided it during the reigns of the Tudors and the Stuarts. The symptoms
of popular feeling, indeed, will always in a great measure be the same; but the principle which excited that feeling was here new. The support which was given to Wilkes, the clamor for reform during the American war, the disaffected conduct of large classes of people at the time of the French Revolution, no more resembled the opposition which had been offered to the government of Charles the Second, than that opposition resembled the contest between the Roses.
In the political as in the natural body, a sensation is often referred to a part widely different from that in which it really resides. A man, whose leg is cut off, fancies that he feels a pain in his toe. And in the same manner the people, in the earlier part of the late reign, sincerely attributed their discontent to grievances which had been effectually lopped off. They imagined that the prerogative was too strong for the constitution, that the principles of the Revolution were abandoned, and the system of the Stuarts restored. Every impartial man must now acknowledge that these charges were groundless. The proceedings of the government with respect to the Middlesex election would have been contemplated with delight by the first generation of Whigs. They would have thought it a splendid triumph of the cause of Liberty, that the King and the Lords should resign to the House of Commons a portion of their legislative power, and allow it to incapacitate without their consent. This, indeed, Mr. Burke clearly perceived. When the House of Commons,' says he, ‘in an endeavor to obtain new advantages at the expense of the other orders of the state, for the benefit of the commons at large, have pursued strong measures, if it were not just, it was at least natural, that the constituents should connive at all their proceedings; because we ourselves were ultimately to profit. But when this submission is urged to us in a contest between the representatives and
ourselves, and where nothing can be put into their scale which is not taken from ours, they fancy us to be children when they tell us that they are our representatives, our own flesh and blood, and that all the stripes they give us are for our good.' These sentences contain, in fact, the whole explanation of the mystery. The conflict of the seventeenth century was maintained by the Parliament against the Crown. The conflict which commenced in the middle of the eighteenth century, which still remains undecided, and in which our children and grandchildren will probably be called to act or to suffer, is between a large portion of the People on the one side, and the Crown and the Parliament united on the other.
The privileges of the House of Commons, those privileges which, in 1642, all London rose in arms to defend, which the people considered as synonymous with their own liberties, and in comparison of which they took no account of the most precious and sacred principles of English jurisprudence, have now become nearly as odious as the rigors of martial law. That power of committing, which the people anciently loved to see the House of Commons exercise, is now, at least when employed against libellers, the most unpopular power in the constitution. If the Commons were to suffer the Lords to amend money-bills, we do not believe that the people would care one straw about the matter. If they were to suffer the Lords even to originate money-bills, we doubt whether such a surrender of their constitutional rights would excite half so much dissatisfaction, as the exclusion of strangers from a single important discussion. The gallery in which the reporters sit has become a fourth estate of the realm. The publication of the debates, a practice which seemed to the most liberal statesmen of the old school full of danger to the great safeguards of public liberty, is now regarded by many persons as a safeguard, tan