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of precautions taken for securing the general liberty.
Lastly, the great event which took place in the year 1689, affords a striking confirmation of the truth of the observation made in this chapter. At this æra the political wonder again appeared—of a revolution terminated by a series of public acts, in which no interests but those of the people at large were considered and provided for ;-no clause, even the most indirect, was inserted, either to gratify the present ambition, or favour the future views, of those who were personally concerned in bringing those acts to a conclusion. Indeed, if any thing is capable of conveying to us an adequate idea of the soundness, as well as peculiarity, of the principles on which the English government is founded, it is the attentive perusal of the system of public compacts to which the revolution of the year 1689 gave rise, —of the Bill of Rights with all its different clauses, and of the several acts, which, till the accession of the house of Hanover, were made in order to strengthen it.
Second Difference.—The Manner after which the
Laws for the Liberty of the Subject aré executed in · England.
The second difference. I mean to speak of, between the English government and that of other free states, concerns the important object of the execution of the laws. . On this article, also, we shall find the advantage to lie on the side of the English government; and, if we make a comparison between the history of those states, and that of England, it will lead us to the following observation, viz. that though in other free states the laws concerning the liberty of the citizens were imperfect, yet the execution of them was still more defective. In England, on the contrary, not only the laws for the security of the subject are very extensive in their provisions, but the manner in which they are executed carries these advantages still farther; and English subjects enjoy no less liberty from the spirit both of justice and mildness, by which all branches of the
government are influenced, than from the accuracy of the laws themselves.
The Roman commonwealth will here again supply us with examples to prove the former part of the above assertion. When I said, in the foregoing chapter, that in times of public commotion, no provisions were made for the body of the people, I meant no provisions that were likely to prove effectual in the event. When the people were roused to a certain degree, or when their concurrence was necessary to carry into effect certain resolutions or measures, that were particularly interesting to the men in power, the latter could not, with any prudence, openly profess a contempt for the political wishes of the people; and some declarations expressed in general words, in favour of public liberty, were indeed added to the laws that were enacted on those occasions. But these declarations, and the principles which they tended to establish, were afterwards even openly disregarded in practice.
Thus, when the people were made to vote, about a year after the expulsion of the kings, that the regal government never should be again established in Rome, and that those who should endeavour to restore it should be devoted to the gods, an article was added, which,
in general terms confirmed to the citizens the right they had before enjoyed under the king, of appealing to the people from the sentences of death passed upon them. No punishment (which will surprise the reader) was decreed against those who should violate this law; and, indeed the consuls, as we may see in Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Livy, concerned themselves but little about the appeals of the citizens, and, in the more than military exercise of their functions, continued to sport with rights which they ought to have respected, however imperfectly and loosely they had been secured.
An article to the same purport with the above, was afterwards also added to the laws of the Twelve Tables ; but the decemvirs, to whom the execution of those laws was at first committed, behaved exactly in the same manner, and even worse than the consuls had done before them; and after they were expelled, *
* At the time of the expulsion of the decemvirs, a law was also enacted, that no magistrate should be created from whom no appeal could be made to the people (magistratus sine provocatione. Tit. Liv. lib. iii. § 55.) by which the people expressly meant to abolish the dictator. ship: but this law was not better observed than the former
the magistrates who succeeded. them, appear to have been as little tender of the lives of the citizens. I shall, out of many instances, select one which will show upon what slight grounds the citizens were exposed to have their lives taken away.„Spurius Mælius being accused of endeavouring to make himself king, was summoned by the master of the horse to appear before the dictator, in order to clear himself of this somewhat extraordinary imputation. Spurius took refuge among the crowd ; the master of the horse pursued him, and killed him on the spot. The people having thereupon expressed a great indignation, the dictator had them called to his tribunal, and declared that Spurius had been lawfully put to death, even though he might be innocent of the crime laid to his charge, for having refused to appear before the dictator, when desired to do so by the master of the horse. *
About one hundred and forty years after the times we mention, the law concerning the appeal to the people was enacted for the third
* Tumultuantem deinde multitudinem, incertâ existimatione facti, ad concionem vocari jussit, et Mælium jure cæsum pronunciavit, estiamsi regni crimine insons fuerit, qui vocatus a magistro equitum, ad dictatorem non venisset. Tit. Liv. lib. iv. § 15.