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stracted on system. In rude societies the progress of government resembles the progress of language and of versification. Rude societies have language, and often copious and energetic language: but they have no scientific grammar, no definitions of nouns and verbs, no names for declensions, moods, tenses, and voices. Rude societies have versification, and often versification of great power and sweetness: but they have no metrical canons; and the minstrel whose numbers, regulated solely by his ear, are the delight of his audience, would himself be unable to say of how many dactyls and trochees each of his lines consists. As eloquence exists before syntax, andsong before prosody, so government may exist in a high degree of excellence long before the limits of legislative, executive, and judicial power have been traced with precision.

It was thus in our country. The line which bounded the royal prerogative, though in general sufficiently clear, had not everywhere been drawn with accuracy and distinctness. There was, therefore, near the border some debatable ground on which incursions and reprisals continued to take place, tul, after ages of strife, plain and dnrable landmarks were at length set np. It may be instructive to note in what way, and to what extent, our ancient sovereigns were in the habit of violating the three great principles by which the liberties of the nation were protected.

No English King has ever laid claim to the general legislative power. The most violent and imperious Plantageiiet never fancied himself competent to enact, without the consent of his great council, that a jury should consist of ten persons instead of twelve, that a widow's dower should be a fourth part instead of a third, that perjury should be a felony, or that the custom of gavelkind should be introduced into Yorkshire.* But the King aad the power of pardoning offenders; and there is one point at which the

• This is excellently put by Mr. Hallam, in the first chapter of his Constitutional Hlstorr.

power of pardoning and the power of legislating seem to fade into each other, and may easily, at least in a simple age, be confounded. A penal statute is virtually annulled if the penalties which it imposes are regularly remitted as often as they are incurred. The sovereign was undoubtedly competent to remit penalties without limit. He was therefore competent to annul virtually a penal statute. It might seem that there could be no serious objection to his doing formally what he might do virtually. Thus, with the help of subtle and courtly lawyers, grew up, on the doubtful frontier which separates executive from legislative functions, that great anomaly known as the dispensing power.

That the King could not impose taxes without the consent of Parliament is admitted to have been, from time immemorial, a fundamental law of England. It was among the articles which John was compelled by the Barons to sign. Edward the First ventured to break through the rule; but, able, powerful, and popular as he was, he encountered an opposition to which he found it expedient to yield. He covenanted accordingly in express terms, for himself and his heirs, that they would never again levy any aid without the assent and goodwill of the Estates of the realm. His powerful and victorious grandson attempted to violate this solemn compact: but the attempt was strenuously withstood. At length the Plantagenets gave up the point in despair: but, though they ceased to infringe the law openly, they occasionally contrived, by evading it, to procure an extraordinary supply for a temporary purpose. They were interdicted from taxing; but they claimed the right of begging and borrowing. They therefore sometimes begged in a tone not easily to be distinguished from that of command, and sometimes borrowed with small thought of repaying. But the fact that they thought it necessary to disguise their exactions under the names of benevolences and loans sufficiently proves that the authority of the great constitutional rule was universally recognised.

The principle that the King of England was bound to conduct the administration according to law, and that, if he did anything against law, his advisers and agents were answerable, was established at a very early period, as the severe judgments pronounced and executed on many royal favourites sufficiently prove. It is, however, certain that the rights of individuals were often violated by the Elantagenets, and that the injured parties were often unable to obtain redress. According to law no Englishman could be arrested ordetained inconfinementmerely by the mandate of the sovereign. In fact, persons obnoxious to the government were frequently imprisoned without any other authority than a royal order. According to law, torture, the disgrace of the Roman jurisprudence, could not, in any circumstances, be inflicted on an English subject. Nevertheless, daring the troubles of the fifteenth century, a rack was introduced into the Tower, and was occasionally used under the plea of political necessity. But it would be a great error to infer from such irregularities that the English monarehs were, either in theory or in practice, absolute. We live in a highly civilised society, through which intelligence is so rapidly diffused by means of the press and of the post office that any gross act of oppression committed in any part of our island is, in a few hours, discussed by millions. If the sovereign were now to immure a subject in defiance of the writ of Habeas Corpus, or to put a conspirator to the torture, the whole nation would be instantly electrified by the news. In the middle ages the state of society was widely different. Barely and witli great difficulty did the wrongs of individuals come to the knowledge of the public. A man might be illegally confined during many months in the castle of Carlisle or Norwich; and no whisper of the transaction might reach London. It is highly probable that the rack had been many years in use before the great majority of the nation had the least suspicion that it was ever employed. Nor were our ancestors by any means so much alive

as we are to the importance of maintaining great general rules. We have been taught by long experience that we cannot without danger suffer any breach of the constitution to pass unnoticed. It is therefore now universally held that a government which unnecessarily exceeds its powers ought to be visited with severe parliamentary censure, and that a government which, under the pressure of a great exigency, and with pure intentions, has exceeded its powers, ought without delay to apply to Parliament for an act of indemnity. But such were not the feelings of the Englishmen of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. They were little disposed to contend for a principle merely as a principle, or to cry out against an irregularity which was not also felt to be a grievance. As long as the general spirit of the administration was mild and popular, they were willing to allow some latitude to their sovereign. If, for ends generally acknowledged to be good, he exerted a vigour beyond the law, they not only forgave, but applauded him, and, while they enjoyed security and prosperity under his rule, were but too ready to believe that whoever had incurred his displeasure had deserved it. But to this indulgence there was a limit; nor was that King wise who presumed far on the forbearance of the English people. They might sometimes allow him to overstep the constitutional line: but they also claimed the privilege of oversteppingthatline themselves, whenever his encroachments were so serious as to excite alarm. If, not content with occasionally oppressing individuals, he dared to oppress great masses, his subjects promptly appealed to the laws, and, that appeal failing, appealed as promptly to the God of battles.

Our forefathers might indeed safely tolerate a king in a few ex- „ cesses; for they had in reserve » ordu a check which soon brought the TMJJk on fiercest and proudest king to mrDy reason, the check of physical middle force. It is difficult for an "*"' Englishman of the nineteenth century to image to himself the facility and rapidity with which, four hundred Tears ago, this cheek was applied. The people have long unlearned the use of arms. The art of war has been carried to a perfection unknown to former ages; and the knowledge of that art is confined to a particular class. A hundred thousand soldiers, well disciplined and commanded, will keep down ten millions of ploughmen and artisans. A few regiments of household troops are sufficient to overawe all the discontented spirits of a large capital. In the meantime the effect of the constant progress of wealth has been to make insurrection far more terrible to thinking men than maladministration. Immense sums have been expended on works which, if a rebellion broke out, might perish in a few hours. The mass of movable wealth collected in the shops and warehouses of London alone exceeds five-hundredfold that which the whole island contained in the days of the Plantagenets; and, if the government were subverted by physical force, all this movable wealth would be exposed to imminent risk of spoliation and destruction. Still greater would be the risk to public credit, on which thousands of families directly depend for subsistence, and with which the credit of the whole commercial world is inseparably connected. It is no exaggeration to say that a civil war of a week on English ground would now produce disasters which would be felt from the Hoangho to the Missouri, and of which the traces would be discernible at the distance of a century. In such a state of society resistance must be regarded as a cure more desperate than almost any malady which can afflict the state. In the middle ages, on the contrary, resistance was an ordinary remedy for political distempers, a remedy which was always at hand, and which, though doubtless sharp at the moment, produced no deep or lasting ill effects. If a popular chief raised his standard in a popular cause, an irregular army could be assembled in a day. Regular army there was none. Every man had a slight tincture of soldiership, and scarcely any man more than a slight tincture. The national wealth consisted chiefly in flocks and herds, in Tol. j.


the harvest of the year, and in the simple buildings inhabited by the people. All the furniture, the stock of shops, the machinery which could be found in the realm was of less value than the property which some single parishes now contain. Manufactures were rude; credit was almost unknown. Society, therefore, recovered from the shock as soon as the actual conflict, was over. The calamities of civil war were confined to the slaughter on the field of battle, and to a few subsequent executions and confiscations. In a week the peasant was driving his team and the esquire flying his hawks over the field of Towton or of Bosworth, as if no extraordinary event had interrupted the regular course of human life.

More than a hundred and sixty years have now elapsed since the English people have by force subverted a government. During the hundred and sixty years which preceded the union of the Roses, nine Kings reigned in England. Six of these nine Kings were deposed. Five lost their lives as well as their crowns. It is evident, therefore, that any comparison between our ancient and our modern polity must lead to most erroneous conclusions, unless large allowance be made for the effect of that restraint which resistance and the fear of resistance constantly imposed on the Plantagenets. As our ancestors had against tyranny a most important security which we want, they might safely dispense with some securities to which we justly attach the highest importance. As we cannot, without the risk of evils from which the imagination recoils, employ physical force as a check on misgovernment, it is evidently our wisdom to keep all the constitutional checks on misgovernment in the highest state of efficiency, to watch with jealousy the first beginnings of encroachment, and never to suffer irregularities, even when harmless in themselves, to pass unchallenged, lest they acquire the force of precedents. Four hundred years ago such minute vigilance might well seem unnecessary. A nation of hardy archers and spearmen might, with small risk to its liberties, connive at some illegal acts on the part o

of a prince whose general administration was good, and whose throne was not defended by a single company of regular soldiers.

Under this system, rude as it may appear when compared with those elaborate constitutions of which the last seventy years have been fruitful, the English long enjoyed a large measure of freedom and happiness. Though, during the feeble reign of Henry the Sixth, the state was torn, first by factions, and at length by civil war; though Edward the Fourth was a prince of dissolute and imperious character though Richard the Third has generally been represented as a monster of depravity; though the exactions of Henry the Seventh caused great repining; it is certain that our ancestors, under those Kings, were far better governed than the Belgians under Philip, surnamed the Good, or the French under that Lewis who was styled the Father of his people. Even while the wars of the Roses were actually raging, our country appears to have been in a happier condition than the neighbouring realms during years of profound peace. Comines was one of the most enlightened statesmen of his time. He had seen all the richest and most highly civilised parts of the Continent. He had lived in the opulent towns of Flanders, the Manchesters and Liverpools of the fifteenth century. He had visited Florence, recently adorned by the magnificence of Lorenzo, and Venice, not yet humbled by the confederates of Cambray. This eminent man deliberately pronounced England to be the best governed country of which he had any knowledge. Her constitution he emphatically designated as a just and holy thing, which, while it protected the people, really strengthened the hands of a prince who respected it. In no other country, he said, were men so effectually secured from wrong. The calamities produced by our intestine wars seemed to him to be confined to the nobles and the fighting men, and to leave no traces such as he had been accustomed to see elsewhere, no ruined dwellings, no depopulated cities.

It was not only by the efficiency of

the restraints imposed on the royal prerogative that England was advantageously distinguished ^bmJur from most of the neighbour- g^iii ing countries. A peculiarity •*«■>equally important, though less noticed, was the relation in which the nobility stood here to the commonalty. There was a strong hereditary aristocracy : but it was of all hereditary aristocracies the least insolent and exclusive. It had none of the invidious character of a caste. It was constantly receiving members from the people, and constantly sending down members to mingle with the people. Any gentleman might become a peer, the younger son of a peer was but a gentleman. Grandsons of peers yielded precedence to newly made knights. The dignity of knighthood was not beyond the reach of any man who could by diligence and thrift realise a good estate, or who could attract notice by his valour in a battle or a siege. It was regarded as no disparagement for the daughter of a Duke, nay of a royal Duke, to espouse a distinguished commoner. Thus, Sir John Howard married the daughter of Thomas Mowbray Duke of Norfolk. Sir Richard Pole married the Countess of Salisbury, daughter of George Duke of Clarence. Good blood was indeed held in high respect: but between good blood and tho privileges of peerage there was, most fortunately for our country, no necessary connection. Pedigrees as long, and scutcheons as old, were to be found out of the House of Lords as in it. There were new men who bore the highest titles. There were untitled men well known to be descended from knights who had broken the Saxon ranks at Hastings, and scaled the walls of Jerusalem. There were Bohuns, Mowbrays, De Veres, nay, kinsmen of the House of Plantageuet, with no higher addition than that of Esquire, and with no civil privileges beyond those enjoyed by every farmer and shopkeeper. There was therefore here no line like that which in some other countries divided the patrician from the plebeian. The yeoman was not inclined to murmur at dignities to which his own children might rise.

The grandee was not inclined to insult a class into which his own children must descend.

After the wars of York and Lancaster, the links which connected the nobility and the commonalty became closer and more numerous than ever. The extent of the destruction which had fallen on the old aristocracy may be inferred from a single circumstance. In the year 1451 Henry the Sixth summoned fifty-three temporal Lords to Parliament. The temporal Lords summoned by Henry the Seventh to the Parliament of 1485 were only twentynine, and of these several had recently been elevated to the peerage. During the following century the ranks of the nobility were largely recruited from among the gentry. The constitution of the House of Commons tended greatly to promote the salutary intermixture of classes. The knight of the shire was the connecting link between the baron and the shopkeeper. On the same benches on which sate the goldsmiths, drapers, and grocers, who had been returned to Parliament by the commercial towns, sate also members who, in any other country, would have been called noblemen, hereditary lords of manors, entitled to hold courts and to bear coat armour, and able to trace back an honourable descent through many generations. Some of them were younger sons and brothers of lords. Others could boast of even royal blood. At length the eldest son of an Earl of Bedford, called in courtesy by the second title of his father, offered himself as candidate for a seat in the House of Commons, and his example was followed by others. Seated in that house, the heirs of the great peers naturally became as zealous for its privileges as any of the humble burgesses with whom they Vere mingled. Thus our democracy was, from an early period, the most aristocratic, and our aristocracy the most democratic in the world; a peculiarity which has lasted down to the present day, and which has produced many important moral and political effects.

The government of Henry the Seventh, of his son, and of his grandchildren was, on the whole, more arbi

trary than that of the Plantagenets. Personal character may in some Gonrndegree explain the difference; {SJ"ofi for courage and force of will Tudon. were common to all the men and women of the House of Tudor. They exercised their power during a period of a hundred and twenty years, always with vigour, often with violence, sometimes with cruelty. They, in imitation of the dynasty which' had preceded them, occasionally invaded the rights of the subject, occasionally exacted taxes under the name of loans and gifts, and occasionally dispensed with penal statutes: nay, though they never presumed to enact any permanent law by their own authority, they occasionally took upon themselves, when Parliament was not sitting, to meet temporary exigencies by temporary edicts. It was, however, impossible for the Tudors to carry oppression beyond a certain point: for they had no armed force, and they were surrounded by an armed people. Their palace was guarded by a few domestics whom the array of a single shire, or of a single ward of London, could with ease have overpowered. These haughty princes were therefore under a restraint stronger than any which mere law can impose, under a restraint which did not, indeed, prevent them from sometimes treating an individual in an arbitrary and even in a barbarous manner, but which effectually secured the nation against general and long continued oppression.. They might safely be tyrants within the precinct of the court: but it was necessary for them to watch with constant anxiety the temper of the country. Henry the Eighth, for example, encountered no opposition when he wished to send Buckingham and Surrey, Anne Boleyn and Lady Salisbury, to the scaffold. But when, without the consent of Parliament, he demanded of his subjects a contribution amounting to one sixth of their goods, he soon found it necessary to retract. The cry of hundreds of thousands was that they were English and not French, freemen -and not slaves. In Kent the royal commissioners fled for their lives. In

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