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If; therefore, it be true, what most writers have told us, that the separation of the legislative, from the executive, power is the basis of all free governments, and that this predicament is no where to be found, in what does it consist ?
Every State, and every form of polity, reposes entirely on certain fundamental maxims, on which the whole system rests, and from whence the spirit of its laws is derived.
On these principles, the tenure of all property depends on the mode in which that is distributed; it also constitutes a principal characteristic of the government.
All these maxims have no other origin, than public opinion, acquired by circumstances, either of conquest, or colonisation; of this truth, any one may be sensible, who has considered the nature of landed property in America, as it differs from that of England.
The religion of the people contributes its share in conforming the character to this public opinion. All regulations, or laws, must depend on these maxims, for the power of the government depends on them.
When the prejudices and habits of the nation are favorable to freedom, good laws may be enacted: when they are at variance with it, the best you could propose would be disregarded, or even rejected with indignation.
Two opposite causes equally operate to the dissolution of governments; the first, when the government deviates from the opinions and maxims on which it set out; the other, when the opinions and prejudices of mankind are so changed, as to leave the government without their support. In either of these cases, the government must, sooner or later, undergo a change, although it may for some time put off the evil hour by fictions of law, and other subterfuges.
Before coming to a conclusion it is necessary to call the attention of the reader to some remarkable circumstances, which attend a British Prince.
It is an essential point, first, that he be rational; that is, that be have the use of his understanding. Thus it would appear, that this presiding mind has functions to perform; and yet, according to the theory of the constitution, there is no one point in public affairs, where he is ever supposed to make use of it. So great is the jealousy, lest his mind should be expanded by liberal knowledge, that the heirapparent is precluded, by the laws, from visiting other countries, that he may not, in his travels, imbibe principles of despotism; as if a Prince of England, after having seen the advantages, which his kingdom enjoys from the freedom of the laws, would fall in love with the miserable desolation of Turkey or Morocco: the more you cramp his mind in youth, the more probably it will become irascible and tyrannical; particularly, if you cannot prevent fatterers from surrounding him. In this respect, while we endeavour to form a Prince, capable of presiding over a free people, we give him the same education with those, who are to rule the most degenerate nations !
No reflexion is here meant to be levelled at any one ; but surely, if
our Princes-feel attached to their country, it must be rather in spíte, than in consequence, of the jealousy, with which we thus endeavour to lessen the sphere of their acquirements.
Another very illiberal jealousy subsists against the Sovereign in this country, which can never do otherwise than give occasion to factious men to render the Sovereign odious to bis subjects, and which is often maliciously used to that purpose-The outcry made against what is styled back-stair influence.
Now it is clear, that we either consider the Sovereign as a rational being, or as a mere automaton; if the latter, to what purpose does the constitution require, that he be neither a lunatic, nor an idiot? If the former, it seems somewhat paradoxical, that he should receive no light, no information, but what is given to him by a cabinet of, men, chosen from a particular faction. This curious piece of refinement is in itself nugatory; for what does it signify, whether your Prince may have formed an opinion contrary to your own, from the advice he may have received from any gentleman, whom he may honor with his notice ? or, whether he find reason to differ from you from what he has read in any author, ancient or modern ? Would you prosecute a living author, (a dead one is out of your reach,) because your Prince were to adopt from his writings, a sentiment which might militate against your political views ? This would be an excellent ground on which to overturn the liberty of the press. Would you prevent this, you had better pass an act to prevent him froin ever learning to read, teaching him only to sign bis namel! Now, it is elear, you cannot monopolise the mind of your sovereign by any other means. You do all you can to cramp his mind when young, and you wish to make a puppet of him when he is a King !
The thirst of power is at the bottom of all this: in order to govern more effectually in his name, it is laid down as a principle, that he is a tyrant at bottom; that he is watching every moment to deprive the people of their privileges; and in order to obviate this danger of your own creation, that it is highly proper he should be kept in a constant state of tutelage : and while no scope is given him for the display of virtue, or talents, you are astonished that he does not display them!
The heir-apparent cavnot improve his mind by travel; he is not permitted to follow a military life; he cannot look into the state of the fleets, or armies; he cannot interest himself about the revenues ; no foreign negociations are permitted to be shown him: to what purpose, then, can he employ bis time, but for amusement ? On acceding to the supreme power, if he is anxious on any point in public affairs, he cannot ask the opinion of any of his subjects, but those who may, perhaps, be the least of all acquainted with them, and who may feel a personal interest in keeping him as much as possible in the dark.
If, after so many exertions to deprive a Prince of those advantages, to which the noble youth of this country owe so much; and if a narrow education be the fittest method of depriving your Prince of every virtue, which can qualify him to reign over a free people, it must surely be owing entirely to the superiority of his own mind, ripened by reading and reflection, if he still have advantages sufficient to absolve him from the insidious imputations, so artfully thrown upon him.
The Emperor Joseph the Second conversed with all people, and was eager for information. He was, according to the English phrase, an absolute monarch. Yet his people, so far from having to reproach his memory with tyranny and oppression, are indebted to him for many institutions, which have rendered their condition more free and secure. But Joseph bad, in his youth, every opportunity of enlarging the sphere of his own mind; and he had every incentive to do good to his subjects, not merely by the power be held, but also by the interest he felt as an hereditary Sovereign.
How can we hope, in this country, ever to have these advantages ? Our principles have so much jealousy, lest a Prince should do harm, that we deny him the means, while endeavouring to prevent him from acquiring the science, of doing good.
Surely it is more natural for one, who has a permanent and hereditary interest in any concern, to be more sincerely attached to it, than be, who is never sure of maintaining himself in the management of it for six weeks together; and who, besides, as has been before observed, is so dependent on others for support, that in order to satisfy all his friends he is obliged to vitiate the execution of his own enterprises.
The comparison made of a simple monarchy, such as has been described and the British government, is not intended with a view to its adoption in this country. It may, at any rate, serve to defend the cause of Monarchs, and to show to those who have allowed themselves to be seduced by the declamations of pretended patriots, that a King is not such a monster, as men have generally supposed.
If they consider the British government still as perfect, let then not murmur at the factions, which often serve to paralyse its actions. If they wish to remedy the growing evil of factions, they may now have less reason to apprehend evils, and more to increase their confidence in their legitimate Sovereign.
The remarkable words of Thomas Windham, to his children, on his death-bed, in 1636, may very aptly conclude this Essay:
My children, we have hitherto seen serene and quiet times under our last three Sovereigns; but I must warn you to prepare for clouds and storms. Factions arise on every side, and threaten the tranquillity of your native country. But whatever may happen, do you faithfully honor and obey your Prince, and adhere to the crown.
I charge you never to forsake the crown, though it should hang on a bush."--See Hume's History, chap. 60.
Had the people of this country been penetrated with these principles, what evils would not have been prevented ?
A remarkable instance of the public virtue of British faction, appears in the circumstance of the Marquis of Douglas's mission to Russia ;-Opposition sending out an agent of their own to counteract the Minister. This trait, if true, must excite indignation, and under any other Government would have met with its deserts, viz.the Gallows.