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proceed to fill
lowed almost of course. For, if the throne be at any time vacant, (which may happen by other means besides that of abdication; as if all the blood royal should fail, without any successor appointed by parliament;) if, I say, a vacancy by any means whatsoever should happen, the right of disposing of this vacancy seems naturally to result to the lords and commons, the trustees and representatives of the nation (36). For there are no other hands in which it can so properly be intrusted; and there is a necessity of its being intrusted somewhere, else the whole frame of goThe lords and vernment must be dissolved and perish. The lords and ing determined commons having therefore determined this main fundamental article, that there was a vacancy of the throne, they proceeded to fill up that vacancy in such manner as they *judged the most proper. And this was done by their declaration of 12 February, 1688 (k), in the following manner: "that William and Mary, prince and princess of Orange, be, and be declared king and queen, to hold the crown and royal dignity during their lives, and the life of the survivor of them; and that the sole and full exercise of the regal power be only in, and executed by, the said prince of Orange, in the names of the said prince and princess, during their joint lives and after their deceases the said crown and royal dignity to be to the heirs of the body of the said princess; and for default of such issue to the Princess Anne of Denmark and the heirs of her body; and for default of such issue to the heirs of the body of the said prince of Orange."
[*214] Their declara
tion, 12 Feb. 1688.
nity in a family entirely
upon what or
Perhaps, upon the principles before established, the Wherefore the convention might (if they pleased) have vested the regal did not vest dignity in a family entirely new, and strangers to the royal the regal digblood: but they were too well acquainted with the benefits of hereditary succession, and the influence which it has by custom over the minds of the people, to depart any farther from the ancient line than temporary necessity and selfpreservation required (37). They therefore settled the settled it on crown, first on King William and Queen Mary, King James's eldest daughter, for their joint lives: then on the der of successurvivor of them; and then on the issue of Queen Mary: upon failure of such issue, it was limited to the Princess Anne, King James's second daughter, and her issue; and lastly, on failure of that to the issue of King William, who was the grandson of Charles the first, and nephew as well as son-in-law of King James the second, being the son of Mary his eldest sister. This settlement included all the protestant posterity of King Charles I., except such other issue as King James might at any time have, which was totally omitted through fear of a popish succession. And this order of succession took effect accordingly.
These three princes, therefore, King William, Queen Mary, and Queen Anne, did not take the crown by here
(37) There was not the slightest pretext for vesting the regal dignity in strangers. Where no obligation had been violated by, no vindictive visitation upon relatives to James II. could be justified. Constitutional principles forbad the lords and commons to legislate without a king; and convenience suggested these limitations of the crown. But that the right, or, if that be too strong a word, the power of election, was here manifested to exist on the part of the people, as represented by the convention; and exerted by those who only represented them, no sophistry, no plausive insinu
ations, ought for one moment to render
K. William, 2. Mary, and
Q. Anne, took
ditary right or descent, but by way of donation or purchase, as the *lawyers call it; by which they mean any method he crown by of acquiring an estate otherwise than by descent. The purchase, and new settlement did not merely consist in excluding King not by descent. James, and the person pretended to be prince of Wales, [*215] and then suffering the crown to descend in the old hereditary channel: for the usual course of descent was in some instances broken through; and yet the convention still kept it in their eye, and paid a great, though not total, regard to it. Let us see how the succession would have stood, if no abdication had happened, and King James had left no other issue than his two daughters, Queen Mary and Queen Anne. It would have stood thus: Queen Mary and her issue; Queen Anne and her issue; King William and his issue. But we may remember, that Queen Mary was only nominally queen, jointly with her husband King William, who alone had the regal power; and King William was personally preferred to Queen Anne, though his issue was postponed to hers. Clearly therefore these princes were successively in possession of the crown by a title different from the usual course of descents.
The king and parliament again interfere
to limit and appoint the succession, upon whom.
It was towards the end of King William's reign, when all hopes of any surviving issue from any of these princes died with the duke of Gloucester, that the king and parliament thought it necessary again to exert their power of limiting and appointing the succession, in order to prevent another vacancy of the throne; which must have ensued upon their deaths, as no farther provision was made at the revolution, than for the issue of Queen Mary, Queen Anne, and King William. The parliament had previously, by the statute of 1 W. and M. st. 2, c. 2, enacted (38), that every person who should be reconciled to, or hold communion. with, the see of Rome, should profess the popish religion, or should marry a papist, should be excluded, and for ever incapable to inherit, possess, or enjoy the crown: and that
in such case the people should be absolved from their allegiance, and the crown should descend to such persons, being protestants, as would have inherited the same, in case the person so reconciled, holding communion, professing, or marrying, were naturally dead. To act therefore consistently with themselves, and at the same *time [*216 ] pay as much regard to the old hereditary line as their former resolutions would admit, they turned their eyes on the Princess Sophia, electress and duchess dowager of Hanover, the most accomplished princess of her age (i). For, upon the impending extinction of the protestant posterity of Charles the first, the old law of regal descent directed them to recur to the descendants of James the first; and the Princess Sophia, being the youngest daughter of Elizabeth queen of Bohemia, who was the daughter of James the first, was the nearest of the ancient blood royal, who was not incapacitated by professing the popish religion. On her, therefore, and the heirs of her body, being protestants, the remainder of the crown, expectant on the death of King William and Queen Anne
without issue, was settled by statute 12 and 13 W. III. c. 2. Stat. 12 and 13,
(39). And at the same time it was enacted, that whosoever W. 111. c. 2.
should hereafter come to the possession of the crown.
should join in the communion of the church of England as
by law established.
This is the last limitation of the crown that has been This the last made by parliament: and these several actual limitations, the crown from the time of Henry IV. to the present, do clearly prove made by parthe power of the king and parliament to new-model or alter the succession. And indeed it is now again made highly
(i) Sandford, in his genealogical history, published A.D. 1677, speaking (page 535) of the Princesses Elizabeth, Louisa, and Sophia, daughters of the queen of Bohemia, says, the first
was reputed the most learned, the
(39) See pa, 217, post.
c. 7, to maintain that the
bind the crown and the descent thereof, is high
By stat. 6 Ann. penal to dispute it: for by the statute 6 Ann. c. 7, it is enacted, that if any person maliciously, advisedly and king and par directly, shall maintain, by writing or printing, that the kings of this realm with the authority of parliament are not able to make laws to bind the crown and the descent thereof, he shall be guilty of high treason; or if he maintains the same by only preaching, teaching, or advised speaking, he shall incur the penalties of a prœmunire (40).
K. Geo. II.
K. Geo. III. 
that the title to
The Princess Sophia dying before Queen Anne, the inheritance thus limited descended on her son and heir King George the first; and, having on the death of the queen taken effect in his person, from him it descended to his late majesty King George the second; and from him to his grandson and heir, our present gracious sovereign, King George the third (41).
Hence it is easy to collect, that the title to the crown is Easy to collect at present hereditary, though not quite so absolutely herethe crown is at ditary as formerly: and the common stock or ancestor, Former from whom the descent must be derived, is also different. common stocks. Formerly the common stock was King Egbert; then William the conqueror; afterwards in James the first's time the two common stocks united, and so continued till
(40) The difference between the position assumed in the text, and that attempted to be established by the notes, may be stated. The position assumed in the notes is, that the facts of history shew that the crown is primarily, fundamentally, and parliamentarily elective. The tenor of the text is, that the crown once worn does, of right indefeasible, descend to the heir of him who last wore it. And, it may be added, that, whenever the facts of election attending the regal dignity down the stream of time, are forced upon the commentator's observation, he appears to treat them
as exceptions to, rather than as identified with, the general law. But the true inference from the whole eventful history of the royal dignity is, that the title to the British throne has depended upon circumstances; at one time appearing hereditary in the strict sense of the word, and at another elective in the strictest sense and application of that word.
(41) And, from him to his son and heir, the present revered and beloved King George the fourth, whose whole public career entitles him to be deemed one more example of a truly patriot king.