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A few additional Thoughts on the Attempts that at particular Times may be made to abridge the Power of the Crown, and some of the Dangers by which
such Attempts may be attended. The power of the crown is supported by deeper and more numerous roots than the generality of people are aware of, as has been observed in a former chapter : and there is no cause to fear that the wresting any capital branch of its prerogative may be effected, in common peaceable times, by the mere theoretical speculations of politicians. However, it is not equally impracticable that some event of the kind we mention may be brought about through a conjunction of several circumstances. Advantage may, in the first place, be taken of the minority, and even of the inexperience or the errors of the person invested with the kingly authority. of this a remarkable instance happened in the reign of George the First, while that bill, by which the order of peers was in future to be limited to a certain number, was under consideration in the house
of commons, to whom it had been sent by the lords. So unacquainted was the king at that time with his own interest, and with the constitution of the English government, that, having been persuaded by the party who wished success to the bill, that the commons only objected to it from an opinion of its being disagreeable to him, he was prevailed upon to send a message to them, to let them know that such an opinion was ill-grounded, and that, should the bill pass in their house, it would meet with his assent. Considering the prodigious importance of the consequences of such a bill, the fact is certainly very remarkable.
With those personal disadvantages under which the sovereign may lie for defending his authority, other causes of difficulty may concur, -such as popular discontents of long continuance in regard to certain particular abuses of influence or authority. The generality of the public, bent, at that time, both upon remedying the abuses complained of, and preventing the like from taking place in future, will perhaps wish to see that branch of the prerogative which gave rise to them taken from the crown: a general disposition to applaud such a measure, if effected, will be ma
nifested from all quarters; and at the same time men may not be aware, that the only material consequence that may arise from depriving the crown of that branch of power which has caused the public complaints, will perhaps be the having transferred that branch of power from its former seat to another, and having intrusted it to new hands, which will be still more likely to abuse it than those in which it was formerly lodged.
In general, it may be laid down as a maxim, that power under any form of government must exist, and be intrusted somewhere. If the constitution does not admit of a king, the governing authority is lodged in the hands of magistrates. If the government, at the same time that it is a limited one, bears a monarchical form, those portions of power that are retrenched from the king's prerogative will most probably continue to subsist, and be vested in a senate or assembly of great men, under some other name of the like kind.
Thus, in the kingdom of Sweden, which, having been a limited monarchy, may supply examples very applicable to the government of this country, we find that the power of convoking the general states (or parliament) of that kingdom, had been taken from the crown;
but at the same time we also find that the Swedish senators had invested themselves with that essential branch of power which the crown had lost: I mean here the government of Sweden as it stood before the last revolution.
The power of the Swedish king to confer offices and employments had been also very much abridged. But what was wanting to the power of the king, the senate enjoyed : it had the nomination of three persons for every vacant office, out of whom the king was to choose one.
The king had but a limited power in regard to pardoning offenders : but the senate likewise possessed what was wanting to that branch of his prerogative, and it appointed two persons, without the consent of whom the king could not remit the punishment of any offence.
The king of England has an exclusive power in regard to foreign affairs, war, peace, treaties ;-in all that relates to military affairs, he has the disposal of the existing army, of the fleet, &c. The king of Sweden had no such extensive powers ; but they nevertheless existed : every thing relating to the abovementioned objects was transacted in the assembly of the senate ; the majority decided ;
the king was obliged to submit to it: and his only privilege consisted in his vote being accounted two.*
If we pursue farther our inquiry on the subject, we shall find that the king of Sweden could not raise whom he pleased to the office of senator, as the king of England can in regard to the office of member of the privy council: but the Swedish states, in the assembly of whom the nobility enjoyed most ca
• The Swedish senate was fully composed of sixteen members. In regard to affairs of smaller moment, they formed themselves into two divisions, in either of these, when they did sit, the presence of seven members was required for the effectual transacting of business: in affairs of importance, the assembly was formed of the whole senate ; and the presence of ten members was required to give force to the resolutions. When the king could not or would not take his seat, the senate proceeded nevertheless, and the majority continued to be equally decisive. As the royal seal was necessary for putting in ex
execution the resolutions of the senate, king Adolphus Frederic tried, by refusing to lend the same, to procure that power which he had not by his suffrage, and to stop the proceedings of the senate. Great debates, in consequence of that pretension, arose, and continued for a while; but at last, in the year 1756, the king was overruled by the senate, who ordered a seal to be made, that was named the king's seal which they affixed to their official resolutions, when the king refused to lend his own.