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length recovered from its long supineness, had, at the accession of Charles the First, another opportunity of a change of sovereign, that enormous mass of abuses, which had been accumulating, or gaining strength, during five successive reigns, was removed, and the ancient laws were restored.
To which add, that this second reformation, which was so extensive in its effects, and might be called a new creation of the constitution, was accomplished without producing the least convulsion. Charles the First, in the same manner as Edward the Sixth (or his uncle, the regent duke of Somerset) had done in former times, assented to every regulation that was passed; and whatever reluctance he might at first manifest, yet the act called the Petition of Right (as well as the bill which afterwards completed the work) received the royal sanction without bloodshed. ; It is true, great misfortunes followed : but they were the effects of particular circumstances. The nature and extent of regal authority not having been accurately defined during the time which preceded the reigns of the Tudors, the exorbitant power of the princes of that house had gradually introduced political prejudices of even an extravagant kind :
those prejudices, having had a hundred and fif v Tears to take root, could not be shaken off but by a kind of general convulsion ; the ag
tation continued after the action, and was carried to excess by the religious quarrels that arose at that time.
THE Commons, however, have not entirely relied on the advantages of the great prerogative with which the constitution has entrusted them.
Though this prerogative is, in a manner, out of danger of an immediate attack, they have nevertheless shown at all times the greatest jealousy on its account. They never suffer, as we have observed before, a money-bill to begin any-where but with themselves; and any alteration that may be made in it, in the other house, is sure to be rejected. If the commons had not most strictly reserved to themselves the exercise of a prerogative, on which their very existence depends, the whole might at length have slidden into that other
body, which they might have suffered to share in it equally with them. If any other persons, besides the representatives of the people, had a right to make an offer of the produce of the labour of the people, the executive power would soon have forgotten that it only exists for the advantage of the public. *
• As the crown has the undisputed prerogative of assenting to, and dissenting from, what bills it thinks proper, as well as of convening, proroguing, and dissolving the parliament whenever it pleases, the latter have no assurance of having a regard paid to their bills, or even of being allowed to assemble, but what may result from the need the crown stands in of their assistance: the danger in that respect, is even greater for the commons than for the lords, who enjoy a dignity which is hereditary, as well as inherent to their persons, and form a permanent body in the state; whereas the commons completely vanish, whenever a dissolution takes place : there is therefore no exaggeration in what has been said above, that their very being depends on their power of granting subsidies to the crown.
Moved by these considerations, and no doubt, by a sense of their duty towards their constituents, to whom this right of taxation originally belongs, the house of commons have at all times been very careful lest precedents should be established which might in the most distant manner, , tend to weaken that right. Hence the warmth, I might say the resentment, with which they have always rejected even the amendments proposed by the lords in their money-bills. The lords however, have
Besides, though this prerogative has of itself, we may say, an irresistible efficiency, the parliament has neglected nothing that may increase it, or at least the facility of its exercise ; and though they have allowed the general prerogatives of the sovereign to remain undisputed, they have in several cases endeavoured to restrain the use he might make of them, by entering with him into divers express and solemn conventions for that purpose. *
Thus, the king is indisputably invested with the exclusive right of assembling parliaments : yet he must assemble one, at least once in three years; and this obligation on the king, which was insisted upon by the people in very early times, has been since confirmed by an act passed in the sixteenth year of the reign of Charles the Second. not given up their pretension to make such amendments; and it is only by the vigilance and constant predetermination of the commons to reject all alteration whatever made in their money-bills, without even examining them, that this pretension of the lords is reduced to be a useless, and only dormant, claim.
* Laws made to bind such powers in a state as have no superior power by which they may be legally compelled to the execution of them (for instance, the crown, as circumstanced in England), are nothing more than general conventions, or treaties, made with the body of the people.
Moreover, as the most fatal consequences might ensue, if laws which might most materially affect public liberty, could be enacted in parliaments abruptly and imperfectly summoned, it has been established that the writs for assembling a parliament must be issued forty days at least before the first meeting of it. Upon the same principle it has also been enacted, that the king cannot abridge the term he has once fixed for a prorogation, except in the two following cases, viz. of a rebellion, or of imminent danger of a foreign invasion : in both which cases a fourteen-days notice must be given.*
Again, the king is the head of the church; but he can neither alter the established religion, or call individuals to an account for their religious opinions. f He cannot even profess the religion which the legislature has particularly forbidden ; and the prince who should profess it is declared incapable of inheriting, possessing, or enjoying the crown of these kingdoms. I
* Stat. 30 Geo. II. ch. 25.
+ The convocation or assembly of the clergy, of which the king is the head, can only regulate such affairs as are merely ecclesiastical; they cannot touch the laws, customs, and statutes, of the kingdom.-Stat. 25 Hen. VIII. c. 19. # 1 Will. and M. stat. 2. c. 2.